Year In Review 2014: A Golden Age for the Underground

So, 2014. The year where I basically became a completely normal working 9-6 stiff, cutting down on my blogging time. Also the year where I returned to Japan, not once but twice, experiencing several sides of Japan I'd scarce imagined believable. Considering last year's Year in Review was so successful (I mean, it's got 16k hits in one year. That's more than double any other post on this site) I figured I'd do the same thing this year. Screw the review everything stuff I used to do, I'll just give out random awards and then do the top albums of the year at the bottom. I don't have time to review everything anyway. At least this year the top albums bit should be a bit more difficult to guess than previous years, as I've only reviewed two albums this year.

So, onwards then to the awards.

Biggest Twat of 2014

Gotta be me. I've trolled idols. I've trolled management. I've trolled producers. I've trolled friends. I've somehow gotten away with all of it. A brief rundown: I told 9nine's Hiroro, who was blatantly crushing on Dean, that he was married. I told Asakura Ayaka that Dean had oshihenned but I'd try to get him to oshihen back. I was pretty mean to Oz's Koume (though everyone laughed) and Eren. I kept pretending to forget who Kai was everytime she changed costume at the Mad Tea Party (which, to be fair, was about four or five times). Even in my normal life, I got promoted, got someone fired, now I'm quitting at the same time as two others leaving the place woefully understaffed. And I sent off my resignation letter for the 23rd of December, when I knew no one would open it until close to the end of my notice period.

Definitely deserve it.

Best Music Video of 2014

As with the previous two years, this one is really a foregone conclusion. There's one music video director who, at the time of writing, stands head and shoulders above everyone else. And this year he's made a PV for the same band that have possibly the greatest music video of all time in my estimation. Well, shit.

Iceland. Scenery porn. Stuff on fire. Communist jeep. And a narrative.

Because Bowen Staines directed another music video last year that I missed out when taking into consideration videos for last year's award, I'll link that too:

(Have your best recreational mind-expanding substances close to hand)

Best Photobook of 2014

Umika released a photobook this year. Usually that would be assured first, but this year, shockingly, H!P have released a photobook that isn't brutally overexposed at every juncture. And it has some brilliant shots in it too. Umika's photobook is obviously more technically proficient, but Umika hasn't aged in about 5 years so it's pretty much very similar to her last one. On the other hand, Ishida Ayumi's shine more is quite lush.

The levels of Daiishi Feeling are off the charts. Not much else could defeat Umika in a straight fight.

Most Sadistic Idol of 2014

Sorry Kanatomo, but it's Montero. By a country mile.

Biggest Disappointment of 2014

Opeth. Their previous album, Heritage, was met with mixed reviews. Either people loved the shit out of its shameless lovemaking to 70s prog, or they hated it because it wasn't Death Metal or something. Either way, Akerfeldt wasn't going to change anything about it. Then this year, they released Pale Communion. Critics fell over themselves to jizz over it. It was lauded from absolutely every angle. And I hated it.

Certainly, it's nothing to do with the lack of death metal. I loved Heritage. I loved Damnation. But where those two albums were unashamedly progressive, Pale Communion seems to be somewhat embarassed by its progressive bits and attempts to cover them up with slow ballad-y bits or soft-rock. It seems to owe more to early Sabbath than anything else, the occasional hammond organs the only reminder that it's supposed to be prog. Listen to River and attempt to find prog. At first it sounds more like it escaped from a Nickleback record. Then there's some organs, but instruments alone can't make something prog, otherwise everything that ever used a hammond would be prog. There is a funky solo in it. Then it ends pop rock. The last two songs make up a lot of points but the record as a whole is an abject disappointment.

The reason I've always loved Opeth is because it has challenged me as a listener. This is easy listening.

Runner up is Devin Townsend's Z2. Have been looking forward to the Ziltoid sequel for years. And then Dark Matters.

Mindfuck Use Of Flash On a PV of 2014

Uesaka Sumire - Enma Daiou ni Kiitegoran

Warning: The object physics may bugger your RAM. Uesaka Sumire proving once again that sanity is for lesser beings.

Best 80s Throwback Idol of 2014

Not today, Milky. NOT. TO. DAAAAAAAAAY. Tentenko beat the hell out of dat.

Most Idiotic Filming Location in a PV in 2014

Really, Alice Project? You're going to film a beach and bikinis PV... in a typhoon. Mad props.

Still got more budget than a H!P PV though...

Most Epic Sounding Idol Songtitle of 2014

Would probably also win the awards for "Biggest Letdown After an Epic Sounding Songtitle of 2014" and "Idol Song That Tries Hardest To Be Harlem Shake of 2014". Anything with "GALAXY BOMB!" in the title needs to at least blow up the fucking galaxy. Or a Galaxy.

Most Random Popularity Raising Gimmick of 2014

Tsuki to Taiyou are a group I saw in March just after they debuted. At the time they were playing at events with Lolisyn and 2&, which is basically the "really indie" bit of the underground of idoldom. Now they've moved up a bit to the next level above. They have real costumes (look at bit like Momusu costumes, come to think of it) and released their first single on the 23rd of December. So why did their producer decide, in all his wisdom (his pseudonym is AkeyP, if that gives any indication of his wisdom), to challenge the members of Tsukitai to attempt to do 100 keepie-uppies so that they could go to Russia to do some reporting at the World Cup in 2018? And possibly a support song? Fuck knows. Either way, they're on the way up pretty fast, so they're a group I'd recommend keeping an eye on to get in and see now and pick an oshi so they remember you when they're famous.

PV That Most Transcended Time And Space (and Budget) of 2014

Goodbye, next two years of Momusu PV greenscreen budget.

Shittiest Death Vocals in an Idol Group of 2014 Ever

Ah, Death Rabbits. Seriously, where the fuck did they find that guy? I could deathgrowl better than that before my balls dropped. And with the rise of idols who do their own death growling (Halu from Lolisyn; Rei and Saki in Guso Drop; Shuri, then Nono, now Mai in Next Shoujo Jiken) they really just need to kick his ass out at the soonest opportunity. Which apparently they plan to do soon, after the one man live or something. Buchou is also really weak. Got moshed to death in both Zekkyousuru 60do and Lolisyn moshpits. Despite wearing armour.

Best Metal Scream of 2014

Tsukitai again. So, it sounds pretty idolish. Where, you ask, might this metal scream be? Well, after spending the entire song singing about wanting to scream, Megu actually does at 3:43. So unexpect. Wow. 

Sexy Saxman Saxogram of 2014

Most of you are probably sitting back and thinking "who the fuck is this guy?" Well, more pity you. His name is Jørgen Munkeby, and he owns your soul. His main band is a group called Shining, who took jazz, stuck it in a blender and then jizzed metal all over it. It sounds something like this:

Note the glorious saxophonious saxophonousness at 2:30. In recent years he's also worked with Ihsahn, the genius behind Emperor, Hardingrock, Peccatum and... um... Ihsahn. He's worked with Enslaved. With In Lingua Mortua. It all seems to stem from Ephel Duath's penchant for jazz-heavy black metal and hardcore on Painter's Palette all those years ago.

Anyway, this year Munkeby performed on possibly the craziest thing yet: a duel/duet with Marty Fucking Friedman. No doubt you'll hear that later in this post, so I won't link it for now.

Either way, Sexy Saxman Saxogram. Shwing.

In related news, Embertone released a Sensual Saxophone VST (virtual instrument, for those who don't make music). The only VST in the world where the only variable is how much sex the saxophonist is having with his saxophone.

Best Instructional Video on How to Crash a Party of 2014

Alestorm once again debauching wenches, drinking mead (rum, beer, whisky, buckfast, etc) and having a shitload of fun. So just remember, if you're crashing a party, don't forget to do it in your pirate ship.

Most Angry Idols of 2014



Seriously, I'm never going to say that in a normal voice. Going to death vocal it every time I hear it. Might have to write a death metal song to take the piss too.

Best Musical of 2014
Most Glorious Attempted Suicide Scene of 2014
Best Song From a Musical of 2014

All of these awards go to Lilium.

And the suicide scene is obviously Riho near the end. Even though I don't really like S/mileageANGERME they impressed me in this. Pretty much everyone impressed me, actually. I used to hate H!P musicals more than anything. And then in a short space of time we've had C-ute as devils, Morning Musume zombies being cut into 362 pieces and now vampire suicides. It does give me hope, I must admit. And Eli Eli Lema Sabachtani is amazing. Where the fuck was Meimi hiding that voice? Hopefully not in her hair because that's gone now.

Most Blasphemous Music Video of 2014

You know you've got a fight on your hands when Behemoth go head to head with Tokyo Girls' Style.

Wait, what?

Baphomet literally (as well as figuratively) cloaking Ayano in sin at the end there is glorious.

After that, how can Behemoth compare?

Well... Starts out sedately enough. For Behemoth. Then all chaos breaks loose.

Still, both fail next to Gorgoroth.

Best Time Travel of 2014

Ah, Denpa... this song is nuts. So is the PV. I like. Also, ooh, Moga.

Top Five Albums of 2014

5.  Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age

Songs to listen to: Magnetic North, 1747 (The Battle of Cartagena), Wooden Leg, Sunset on the Golden Age.

Once again Alestorm crack my list. So, the answer to the age old question, "has Christopher Bowes grown up?" is of course, a resounding no. However, he's now keeping most of his randomness to asdfgfa and writing damn good stuff with Alestorm. Drink, as I linked above, is a wonderful little song with a brilliant chorus. And it's still probably only the fifth best song on the album. Magnetic North has some glorious folkiness, another catchy chorus, some Turisas/Bal-Sagoth epic bits, Death Metal, and fuck knows what else. They also used it as a collaboration with Lady Gaga... Wait, that was just Bowes' humour again. 1747 and Sunset both showcase the ability of the band to hold one's attention for long spans of time, which usually folk or power metal don't attempt. After Death Throes of the Terrorsquid on Back Through Time, it's good to see them pursue some more of that. Wooden Leg is possibly the only way you can scream "ARR YOU JAPANESE BASTARDS!" and get away with it. Elsewhere, they've experimented with surf music in Surf Squid Warfare, and and covering shitty pop songs with Hangover. Most fun I've had listening to an album this year.

4. Hail Spirit Noir - Oi Magoi!

Songs to listen to: The Mermaid, Satan is Time, Demon for a Day, Blood Guru.

If you've been reading my blogs for a really fucking long time, you might have spotted an addendum in my first FAKSM on Beat Laments the World about a Greek experimental black metal band called Transcending Bizarre?. I moaned that they hadn't pursued more crazy shit in their last album, Misanthrope's Fable. It turned out that that was because they had formed a new band, called Hail Spirit Noir, and made it basically the melding of 1969 Pink Floyd, Änglagård and the rawest, most brutal black metal possible. This year they released a their second album, Oi Magoi, which basically fucks your brains out with soundwaves. Everything is either gorgeous or grotesque. Reminds me slightly of Sigh if they ever decided to devote themselves to going in one direction instead of all directions at once. Or, in a more idol-centric version, the melding of Bellring Shoujo Heart and BiS.

3. Babymetal - Babymetal

Songs to listen to: Megitsune, Benitsuki -Akatsuki-, Akumu no Rondo, Headbanger, IDZ.

Really a damn good album. Can't say much more than I did in my review earlier this year. Except fuck me their live gig in London was amazing. The first one, anyway, I was in Japan when they did the second one.

There are moments in musical history when you sort of wonder if you're standing on the verge of something new. I think Babymetal hit that this year. They've achieved public consciousness. All that's left is for Moa to throw pig heads into the crowds, sacrifice Yui to Satan, assassinate the prime minister, take over Japan, conquer the earth, blow up some stars, then usurp the throne of god.

I'll give her until 2016.

2. Bellring Shoujo Heart - Undo the Union

Songs to listen to: Rainy Dance; get rid of the Chopper; 男の子、女の子; Revelry!!!

Fucking Bellheart. They left this late. Released on 23rd of December. Limited to very few copies which are already sold out. They've basically created a legend, because this is fucking amazing. Very few misses are present (c.a.n.d.y being the most obvious standout, being a pretty basic clone of Blur's Song 2). There are pretty rock songs (Rainy Dance), pretty 60s and chill prog songs (most of the album), songs that are heavy as a really heavy thing (Chopper), exercises in complete experimental music (Otoko no ko, Onna no ko) and jazz with a random waltz in the middle (Revelry!!!). The production level has jumped up hugely. The quality of the songwriting is just as high as the first album. Honestly, even with Tira gone, and Mizuho splitting her time between Bellheart and a unit with a girl from Yurumerumo, this is going down as one of the best idol albums ever. Along with the first Bellheart album. Will review this properly at some point. I would like to meet their producer. Shake their hand. Then probably die of awesomeness.

1. Marty Friedman - Inferno

Songs to listen to: Inferno, Steroidhead, Meat Hook, Sociopaths, Undertow, Horrors.

Shit, Marty Friedman has basically melded all of his influences, all his experiences from Cacophony up to Momoclo into this one album. And holy shit is it amazing. The only "weak" point on this thing is the fact that the track Hyper Doom was previously used as part of Chai Maxx on the Metal Clone X album. His guitar work is, as ever, brilliant. Unlike a lot of the other neoclassical crowd, he doesn't rely simply on sweeping the shit out of everything to wow people. The song Undertow is incredibly slow and poignant, but still somehow showcases his neoclassicalness. If that's a word. Horrors was written by Jason Becker and features some of his original guitar work, despite him having had ALS since the early 80s. The darkness and light combine on this album. Nowhere more noticably than the two tracks Wicked Panacea and Meat Hook. Wicked Panacea features Rodrigo y Gabriela, everyone's favourite classical guitarists who were metalheads. Meat Hook features SEXY SAXMAN SAXOGRAM and fuck me it blows my mind.

Honestly, this album can be streamed on youtube for free by the label. Generous or what? Do so while you can. It's genius.

Anyway, in 2015 I'm moving to Japan. See you there, fuckers.



  1. looking forward to the BellHeart review, since you're the one who brought them to my attention. :)