Wow! 2014 really proved to be a high watermark for the metal world. More insanely great albums than anyone could possibly keep up with came down the pike this year. I have been doing my very best to weed (hehe) through this embarrassment of riches so that I might compile an informed “Best Of” list, but I must admit something of a defeat this year.
There are probably still a ton of records out there that flew under my radar and, yes, some of them are probably more deserving of being on the list than these. But, hey… after all, it’s just one old metalhead’s opinion and musical tastes are subjective. So take it with a grain of salt and definitely check out the ones that you are unfamiliar with, because this is a fairly wide-ranging list with a little something for everyone to enjoy. By the same token, if you feel that I have omitted something, please let me know. I’m always up for checking out things that I’ve not yet heard. Meanwhile, enjoy the crazy amount of superb records from this year with this selection of The Best Metal Albums of 2014and formulate your own list.
Triptykon- Melana Chasmata
Fronted by former Celtic Frost/Hellhammer leader Tom G. Warrior, this Swiss powerhouse turns in a masterpiece to rival the very finest of Warrior’s legendary works on its second full-length outing. Avant garde, black metal perfection. Was released one day before the death of the album’s cover artist, the great H.R. Giger.
At The Gates- At War With Reality
Pioneers of “the Gothenburg sound” return 19 years after their last record to prove themselves still the gods of melodic death metal. An absolute masters class in the genre. Without a doubt, one of the greatest and most unexpected comebacks in metal… ever!
2) Behemoth- The Satanist
Adam “Nergal” Darski survived his bout with leukemia to emerge more intensely channeled in his crusade against religion than ever before. The album sounds like Darski leading these Polish, blackened death metal veterans through the very fires of Hell itself to deliver, arguably, the best record in their 20-plus years. An absolute tour de force.
3) Fallujah- The Flesh Prevails
San Francisco’s Fallujah reach technical death metal nirvana on their sophomore full-length album. If they’re this good now, I can NOT wait to see where they’re headed. Also of note: the most gorgeous album cover in ages.
4) Anaal Nathrakh- Desideratum
There must be something in the water of Birmingham, England, that turns mere mortals into metal gods. Industrial black metal duo Anaal Nathrakh stand on the shoulders of their hometown brethren Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and do their city proud with metal as hard as Birmingham steel.
5) Judas Priest- Redeemer of Souls
“The Metal Gods” lose founding member K.K. Downing to retirement and his replacement, Richie Faulkner lights a fire under one of the most important bands to ever storm the metal landscape. Hands down Priest’s best album since 1984’s Defenders of the Faith.
6) Revocation- Deathless
The bar is really being raised constantly in the technical death metal genre and Boston band Revocation has somehow managed to consistently top their own contributions to the cause with every release. On their fifth album and first for legendary label Metal Blade, Revocation continue to blow minds.
7) Killer Be Killed- Killer Be Killed
I generally consider “supergroup” to be a four-letter word. Well, there’s an exception to every rule, I guess. Take three iconic frontmen in Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Nailbomb, Cavalera Conspiracy), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and throw in drummer Dave Elitch (The Mars Volta) and what sounds like a recipe for disaster turns out to be an addictive concoction.
8) Blut Aus Nord- Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
Vindsval is a black metal sonic architect from France who has been producing epic and otherworldly symphonies of blasphemy for over 20 years. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that if black metal was a movie, this would be its soundtrack.
9) Slipknot- .5: The Gray Chapter
Haters be damned, Slipknot is an institution now. Having survived the death of one founding member and the acrimonious ousting of another, Slipknot roar back with their best album in a dozen years thanks in no small part to guitarist Jim Root’s riffage and songwriting.
10) Job for a Cowboy- Sun Eater
Talk about out of left field! I (like many people I suppose) have always sort of been repelled by this band’s unbelievably horrible name. I saw them a couple of summers ago in the 108-degree San Bernadino sun when they were on the Rockstar Mayhem tour and thought they were OK. When I heard this beautifully brutal piece of death metal perfection, I could not believe it was the same band. Do yourself a favor and check out this album as well their back catalog. You can’t always judge a book by its cover.
11) Beyond Creation- Earthborn Evolution
The two guitarists and bass player of this Canadian technical death metal juggernaut have more strings on their instruments that your average orchestra and they utilize every last note on them to perfection. This is a complex onion, worth the peeling of every layer.
12) Machine Head- Bloodstone & Diamonds
Somehow, in his downtime from trolling the fans of other metal bands this year Robb Flynn managed to steer his band through the creation of another modern thrash masterwork that rivals the strongest efforts in their back catalog. Phil Demmel turns in what may be the guitar solo of the year on album opener “Now We Die.”
13) Sanctuary- The Year The Sun Died
Picking up the pieces after the breakup of Nevermore, Warrel Dane decided to reunite one of the most underrated bands in history after a 20 year hiatus. I’m not sure what’s up with all of these bands that we thought were long gone resurfacing with unbelievably awesome shit after all of this time, but there was an undeniable onslaught of them this year.
14) Cavalera Conspiracy- Pandemonium
Max Cavalera and brother Igor return to their Sepultura roots with the most brutal lineup of songs that either has produced since their former band’s classic albums Arise and Beneath The Remains.
15) Exmortus- Slave to the Sword
Los Angeles thrash unit Exmortus has two of the best new guitar players that I’ve seen in a long time. These guys stock continues to rise as they school all of their competitors in the finer points of shredding.
16) Unearth- Watchers of Rule
Unearth’s 2004 album The Oncoming Storm stands to this day as one of the benchmarks by which all metal core is judged. Here, they very nearly top themselves. Go crank “Guards of Contagion” and see what I mean. You’re welcome!
17) Eluveitie- Origins
Ok, follow me here… melodic death metal played on traditional Swiss folk instruments and with lyrics that are partially in the dead celtic language known as Gaulish! I know… who would think that I would be including a record that features flutes, violins, tin whistles, bagpipes, and hurdy gurdys. One listen to “King” or the very uncharacteristic and infectious “Call of the Mountains” and you may just become a believer too.
18) Archspire- The Lucid Collective
Something about freezing your ass off must inspire technical death metal greatness. Another masterpiece out of Vancouver’s Archspire proves that Beyond Creation have a run for their money in the bid to be Canada’s tech death darlings.
19) Pallbearer- Foundations of Burden
Arkansas doom merchants set out to create the heaviest matter in the universe on their second album. The results? Riffs as big as the great Smoky Mountains.
20) Tombs- Savage Gold
Tombs hail from the hipster-laden Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and produce a modern fusion of black metal, post metal, and shoe-gaze that stands head and shoulders above most of their American contemporaries. Singer/guitarist Mike Hill is also quite the entrepreneur: he has his own brands of beer and coffee on the market, both of which have received positive reviews from experts in their respective industries.
Arch Enemy- War Eternal
The Atlas Moth- The Old Believer
YOB- Clearing the Path to Ascend
Code Orange- I Am King
Obscure Burial- Epiphany (demo)
1349- Massive Cauldron of Chaos
Exodus- Blood In Blood Out
Electric Wizard- Time to Die
Orange Goblin- Back From The Abyss
Belphgor- Conjuring the Dead
Mayhem- Esoteric Warfare
Nachtmystium- The World We Left Behind
Mount Salem- Endless
Whitechapel- Our Endless War
Mastodon- Once More ‘Round the Sun
Chelsea Grin- Ashes to Ashes
Decapitated- Blood Mantra
Thanatos- Global Purification
Goatwhore- Constricting Rage of the Merciless
Obituary- Inked In Blood
Black Crown Initiate- The Wreckage of Stars
Bloodbath- Grand Morbid Funeral
Iced Earth- Plagues of Babylon
Down- Down IV: Part 2 (EP)
Disclaimer: If you ask me again next week, this list will probably look totally different (aside from the top 3) depending on my mood that day!