Personally speaking, 2014 has been a big year for me and not just musically. As far as my life “off the internet” goes, it’s been one of the busiest and rewarding years I’ll ever have. I’m now a qualified chef earning a salary and in the last month I welcomed my first child into the world, it’s something different to say: “I’m a dad”. Sure, you’re probably wondering why I bring so much consequential jibba-jabba to a music based list highlighting what I feel are the best the industry as a whole offered up this year, but for me the music I listen to relates to the aspects of my life undefinable by any music. If this is confusing you, think of it as a nostalgic kick. For those not really interested in anything other than my musical opinion, start reading here:
Each year has something new to offer, and while I can’t say I’ve listened to every major release this year (just to prevent the why haven’t you got Band’s album “A” on here?) I feel I have enough music here to seriously put you behind on next year’s listening. So here’s how I’ll do it: The top 10 albums of the year will be ranked in reverse order (but I highly recommend you read the entire of this list) so my number one album of 2014 will sit at the end of the page.
Here’s the album/s I was let down by this year. I don’t want you thinking that these are ‘bad’, rather I was simply expecting a lot more.
Slipknot – .5 The Gray Chapter
This was always going to be “one of those records”. Slipknot have had a turbulent few years after the passing of bassist Paul Gray but whether there’s an emotional attachment to this album or not, ‘.5 The Gray Chapter’ could/should have been so much better.
Opeth – Pale Communion
If you thought ‘Heritage’ was a step in the wrong direction for this now multi-faced group from Sweden, Pale Communion will only add to your prog-rock laced let down. I mean sure it’s nice enough for what it is, and would probably be considered a ground breaking record if released 30+ years ago, but where is the Opeth we fell in love with. Even a failed attempt at ‘Blackwater Park #2’ would probably see fans rejoicing in all corners of the globe.
Linkin Park – The Hunting Party
Linkin Park continue to defy popular opinion with what their music “should sound like” in the eyes of both fans and critics and good on them. Unfortunately, they haven’t got enough of a nostalgic presence to keep the good feelings going.
That’s enough on the let down’s of this year, although there are a few more in the vein of the predictable ACDC records, Alcest and Obituary that leave something to be desired. It’s time to get to what you should be checking out as soon as you’re finished reading this post.
Swallowed – Lunarterial
The deathly atmosphere of your every day murky doom album lingers here, it’s no wonder why a band like Swallowed can have such an impact. Records in doom have come and gone during the last few years, with only a few with a sincere impact on the listener (trust me, I’m a self-confessed doom addict). Lunarterial takes a sound reminiscent of Disembowlment and transform it with their own rough, semi-raw soundscapes.
Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum
I’ll be the first to admit I was expecting some pretty big sounds from this U.K. bred extreme metal act. After the last record, I honestly wondered if they could bring their wave of terrifying blackened industrial grind to a new level. They may have fallen short of reaching the utmost levels of Vanatis, but not by much. If you love anything in the group’s back catalog, this is a must.
Behemoth – The Satanist
The fact that this came out so early in the year has sort of left Behemoth’s 2014 record forgotten and left behind. This is a hell of a record and frankly should probably have a spot further down this page. “Blow Your Trumpet…” may be a little bloated, but the rest of the record more than makes up for it. ‘The Satanist’ confirms that Behemoth are still relevant, still kicking and can still stand heads and shoulders above their peers.
Thou – Heathen
Thou have created a self made sludge royalty vibe over the years with their brand of unrelenting original sludge. If you ever wondered what kind of metal should be played in churches; Thou have been doing it for years. ‘Heathen’ is more of the same without repetition, a continuation of sorts for a band that will continually…. well, continue. Take what you will from Thou, the momentum has already shifted.
Lethe – When Dreams Become Nightmares
This is one the year’s most beautiful and haunting records. With a soundscape hard to pin to any particular genre, the culmination of art pop, avant-garde, shoe-gaze and dabbles in black metal stereotypes with the vocal work of Anna Murphy coupled with the musical awareness of Tor-Helge Skei leaves the listener with an aural atmosphere rarely heard of in modern music.
Wreck And Reference – Want
The… weirder side of music continues. The highly atmospheric, tension filled ‘Want’ builds on itself. Flenser Records have hit a home run with most of their 2014 releases and for good reason; the quality of acts they have on the label’s roster is up there with some of the best in the world.
Impetuous Ritual – Unholy Congregation Of Hypocritical Ambivalence
Long album titles aside, Impetuous Ritual have released the murkiest death metal record of the year. If you’re a fan of bands like Portal, this Australian display of metal is as dark as the album cover that sports the Unholy Congregation Of Hypocritical Ambivalence name. It’s atmospheric, unrelenting, and as heavy as any avid fan would like. If death and panicked despair came on disc, Impetuous Ritual would be the reaper.
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
It’s pretty difficult to make any “best of” list without including metal heavyweights Mastodon when they release new music. It’s years of experience, coupled with an ability to reinvent themselves in the most subtle and welcoming ways. ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’ is a somewhat transcendental record in terms that only Mastodon can create. It doesn’t seem to matter which direction these boys take, it simply works.
While the above records are largely un-ranked, they’re all worthy of some serious play time. These are the better records of the year, whether you dispute their location or relevance on this page. Here’s the ranked top 10 and my best of the year 2014.
10. Sidious – Revealed In Profane Splendour
Kaotoxin Records have been on fire for the last few years. Frankly, it’s a little scary. As for Sidious if you like Behemoth or Dimmu, this will be right at home for you. Modern death sweeps into stereotypical facets of the bands mentioned above. It’s not quite as simple as calling this group a copy-cat act, rather they do what they need to in order to bring life to their own breed of modern death metal.
9. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
They’re a name synonymous with death metal, as well as metal across the board. I’m sure to a certain extent, those not into metal will have heard of Cannibal Corpse at one stage in their lives. It’s heavy sure, but it’s not a blast beat affair. There’s more groove than you could poke a bloody stick at and it’s pretty hook-y considering the genre of music, and the obvious lyrical content.
8. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
How do you like your super groups? Personally, they don’t come much better than this (more on that later). With names from Sepultura/Soulfly, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mars Volta and Mastodon it’s hard to imagine anything bad from this collaboration of big names. Take this for example, it’s all the justification you’ll need.
7. Eye Of Solitude – Dear Insanity [EP]
Normally, I’m quite unforgiving about EP’s being in End Of Year lists, simply under the assumption that twenty minutes of rushed material doesn’t really deserve a place in the year’s top releases. I’m about to make an exception, after all Eye Of Solitude’s Dear Insanity is a fifty minute plus slab of monolithic doom metal, dabbling in death and funeral doom in equal measures. After Canto III last year (which was an easy entry into many a 2013 best of lists last year), most would guess that this would be pretty great. In fact it smashes most other doom ‘albums’ from this year and creates a whole new chapter for the guys of Eye Of Solitude. That new chapter is also shown in the track’s form. Typically, Eye Of Solitude will write 6 to 10 minute slabs of death inspired doom, Dear Insanity trades a multi-tracked format for a single monolithic take on funeral doom highlighted by Daniel’s menacing growls. Arguably, the man has the best pipes in the industry. I dare you to find better.
6. Venowl – Patterns Of Failure
I’ve already told you, I’m a sucker for anything with ‘doom’ in its description. Venowl’s Patterns Of Failure ticks all the right boxes, making it one of the year’s visceral doom metal records bringing together high shrieks, tormented ritualistic instrumental passages and themes that would make your every day suicidal black metal record seem tame. If you’re into long track times and deep and meaningful passages, Venowl are making headway into an ever-growing genre pool.
5. Eluveitie – Origins
Eluveitie make some of my favourite music, period. It’s been an interesting journey through their catalog of releases. Origins sees a culmination of sorts, bringing a modern sound to matured folk metal soundscape. It’s hard to get these albums without some level of ‘cheese’, but honestly that’s what makes it fun to listen to, again and again and again.
4. Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
Now this is where things get difficult, not only do I have to sort through a bounty of quality releases based on opinion, relevance, staying power as well as a host of other categories. It becomes a challenge to separate nostalgia and objectiveness. Some bands continue to make these factors harder, and easier to sort out. Machine Head are just one of those acts that appear above the noise. No matter how tumultuous the mainstream music scene is, there’s some acts that transcend critical opinion and fan thoughts alike. Bloodstone & Diamonds keeps the same vein as The Blackening and Unto The Locust but breaks away in typical Machine Head fashion.
3. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
There’s nothing bad to say about a release that brings everything you’d like from a metal record. Primordial have had a surge of popularity over the years and the cult following turned into a massed fan base. Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a testament to a hard working act, making the music they want to make. It’s an added bonus that Primordial’s 2014 effort is some of the best metal to be released this year. It’s late release will be a great entry to many stockings. Where Greater Men Have Fallen is equal parts ritualistic black metal, traditional and death metal akin to the likes of the legendary Darkthrone but with their own unique soundscape. This is one record you won’t want to miss.
2. Saor – Aura
Take a look at that artwork for a minute. Get lost in the majestic landscape, the running river, flowing mountains and a seemingly endless horizon. Snow caps grace mountain tops and a few spare trees grace the sky line. It’s beautiful, breath taking, almost out of this world. Saor’s Aura comes a close second, but could easily be the album I regret putting in second. It grows, swells and bursts before sewing together the pieces with grace and precision. Transcending the over-saturated industry is no easy feat, Aura takes hold of Scottish heritage behind the writing process, making the fact that this act is the child of a one man project. I have the full album below for you – – soak it in:
1. Clouds – Doliu
Here it is, the one and only album of the year for 2014. I’ve already said there’s at least one close second but that takes nothing away from Clouds, a culmination of doom royalty, a super-group to dismiss most others. If you’ve read this through all the way I applaud you, not only because there’s a bit here to digest but also to a point that you can understand just how great these records are. Clouds is an album unlike what you would expect from a doom record. The amount of depth here is inseparable from the fact that without members of Eye Of Solitude, Shape of Despair (as well as others) this album wouldn’t have the same impact. Doliu portrays some real emotion highlighting that the passing of love ones can affect each and every one. The amount of grief, misunderstanding, passion, and then understanding brings a new light on the darkest of our emotions. Read my review here:
This is an album deep, vast and can relate to people individually.
Again, here’s the entire album for your pleasure:
Normally I’d add a list of ‘Honorable Mentions’ but I’ve actually spent some time listening to music this year and to list some, but not other great albums would seem all too wrong. I don’t want to leave any out, but i’ll leave them all out in the interest of keeping things above board.