As 2014 closes it’s time to take stock of the year and revive the annual End of Year tradition once more. So, are you ready for another best of 2014 list? Of course you are…
As always, the order below is potentially fluid due to the subjective nature of music, etc.
A lot of good music was released in 2014. Before we delve into the main event, (this year it’s a top 25 list), I want to acknowledge a few runner ups. The following bands all produced some great sounding releases in 2014 but ultimately didn’t reach into the 25 best ones. So here they are, in no particular order –
What a great bunch of albums! There are loads more that I could mention of course, but those are the cream of the crop that spring to mind at the moment. I know I’m bound to be accidentally overlooking some though – it’s inevitable.
Okay then, starting at the bottom and working our way up – I give you the Wonderbox Metal-approved Best of 2014 list…
Fallujah start us off at number 25 with their unique take on Death Metal with their very impressive album The Flesh Prevails. Boasting Progressive/Technical Atmospheric Death Metal songs that positively drip with emotion and feeling, Fallujah unleashed a monster on the Death Metal world. After living with this album for a while now it really is a very enjoyable listen, and any band trying to do something a bit different from the norm – and doing it extremely well – should be supported.
At number 24 we have Insense with De:Evolution. Theirs is a highly developed take on Modern Metal that’s full of atmosphere, feeling and top quality songwriting. Insense have a great singer and music to match; full of melody, hooks and enough heaviness to sink a battleship. They also have a suitably massive sound that allows them the space to do what they do best. Insense are the real deal.
Tongues are at number 23 with Thelésis Ignis. Actually an EP rather than an album, it’s so damn good it still warrants inclusion in this list. They play otherwordly Black Metal that immediately grabs your attention and forces you to recognise that a new and important player has just burst into the Black Metal arena. All fans of soul-eating Black Metal should seek this out and pay tribute.
At number 22 sit Columns with their devastating début album Please Explode. This is groovy and passionate Grindcore that’s dynamic and purposeful. There are no wasted moments on this album and Columns are poised to become forerunners of the genre if this collection of tracks is anything to go by. As the only Grind band to sneak into my list this year, (despite some notable releases), Columns have everything to play for in the future.
The mighty Threshold are at number 21 with For the Journey. Threshold are always a pleasure to listen to and this latest album of theirs, (their tenth), is no exception. This is an album of masterly crafted songs full of Progressive Metal treasures and catchy melodies. Threshold have released an album that does them justice as the veterans and leaders that they are.
At 20th place we have Salvaticus with Hidden Manna. A little-known Black Metal band from the US, this album made a huge impact with me as it really drew me into its dark embrace and is an album very easy to get lost in. A raw brand of Black Metal that’s almost on the cusp of bordering on Post-Black Metal but doesn’t quite fully transition due to the inherent Blackness and purity of intent of the music. An exceptional release.
At number 19 is The Great Old Ones with Tekeli-li. This is a real journey of an album that spans Black Metal with a good spread of Post-Metal thrown in. Depth, longevity and class are synonymous with The Great Old Ones and Tekeli-li is a great example of why. In an album of dark moods and emotional resonance there is enough here to satisfy any Extreme Metal fan.
Fisthammer dominate position 18 with the infallible Infallible. Cheap puns aside, this is a truly remarkable album, full of exceptional songs and crushing delivery. Melding a Brutal Death Metal core with a varied and wider Metal approach, Infallible is an album that combines a lot of different influences. Death Metal may be at the beating heart of Fisthammer but there’s a lot of enhancements here too. Pulverising.
At 17 is the enigmatic Dust Sculptures with Far Above the Pines. A Post-Black Metal album that seemingly came out of nowhere, fully realised and ambitious in scope. Taking a Black Metal base and building into it elements of Shoegaze, Progressive Rock and latter-day Anathema; Far Above the Pines is a very impressive release. If you enjoy expansive music that is both intimate and revealing then this is a release you must track down.
In at number 16 is the legendary Cannibal Corpse with A Skeletal Domain. Who can argue with the Death Metal masters? Whenever they release an album you know at the very least it’s going to be good. A Skeletal Domain though was a very, very good release. With such choice cuts as High Velocity Impact Spatter, Kill or Become and Vector of Cruelty A Skeletal Domain has featured heavily on my playlist this year.
A change of pace at number 15; here we have Lethe with When Dreams Become Nightmares. An intriguing project featuring members of Eluveitie and Manes, Lethe play dark and multi-textured experimental music that combines catchiness and intellect to produce a very accomplished and sophisticated dark Rock album. With a wide range of moods and emotions to explore, When Dreams Become Nightmares is an album that keeps on giving.
The Wolves of Avalon take the 14th spot with Boudicca’s Last Stand. An ambitious and impressive release, this is a heavily orchestrated album that features wonderfully diverse instrumentation and female accompaniment. Iceni Queen Unfurl’d In a Tempest of Crows is definitely one of my favourite songs of the year and the whole album is rich in delights and highlights. It’s an hour of interesting, captivating and unique Metal.
Riddle of Steel by Sons of Crom takes the 13th position. An album of epic Viking-influenced Heavy/Black/Folk Metal that’s awash with so many gorgeous melodies and harmonies it’s a veritable embarrassment of riches. This is a shockingly grandiose album that is very easy on the ear and doesn’t just hold up to repeated listens it positively demands them. Epic Viking-Metal rarely sounds as good as this.
At number 12 we have Apostle of Solitude with Of Woe and Wounds; crunchy Doom Metal with a flavour half-way between old and new. This is an album that connected with me instantly and has the kind of direct appeal of a band who are hitting their stride. Strong songwriting, massive grooves and catchy harmonies mean this is an album I’ll regularly revisit. The songs on this album have a longevity about them that most bands would kill for. Great stuff.
In 11th position is the mythical Eyehategod with their self-titled album, the first in 14 years. I love Eyehategod and this album being in my end of year list is a no brainer really. The band that essentially invented Sludge have done it again with an album filled with negative anthems and a flawless delivery of everything I love about them. Why they aren’t higher up this list is beyond me. What was I thinking?
Usnea are in 10th position with Random Cosmic Violence. Usnea are pretty much the best Blackened Doom band there is, and ever since 2013’s amazing self-titled début I’ve been wanting more. After a brief tease with their split with Ruins, they unleashed their new album and I was a very happy camper indeed. For a band that’s swathed in darkness it’s an important plus that they still write actual songs, just long, heavy, grim ones.
At number 9 is Hyperion by Dirge. This is an album that I fell in love with from the cover alone, and I was extremely pleased that the music matched expectations. Hyperion is crushingly heavy Doom with elements of Post-Metal, Sludge and an Electonic/Industrial flavour. A wide vocal variety and expertly compsoed tracks elevate Hyperion to the ranks of the very best the genre has to offer.
In 8th position are Enabler with La Fin Absolue Monde. Well, what can you say about an album that’s the aural equivalent of an adrenaline shot? This is aggressive Hardcore that specialises in dynamic, emotive songs that are just master crafted examples of the angry arts. Putting lesser bands to shame, Enabler have created a top quality album that screams out to be heard again and again. Leaders, definitely not followers.
At 7th is All Seeing Eyes with Trinity Road. An almost obscenely long release at 1 hour, 48 minutes in length; this duration is only matched by the equally-obscenely talented musicians and their formidable songwriting skills. The album never gets tiring or boring; this is Power Metal at its best and most engaging. As I stated in the review – this is a stunning album and I absolutely love it. What more can I say?
Sorxe are at number 6 with Surrounded by Shadows. Sorxe play textured Doom/Sludge with layered vocals and two bassists. It’s heavy and it’s pretty, both at the same time. With diverse and well-written songs, Surrounded by Shadows is a masterpiece of light and shade. An album this good is just pure listening gold and everyone should get to experience Sorxe as they were intended to – loud.
Wolvhammer are in position 5 with Clawing Into Black Sun. A colossal album and the highest-placed Black Metal release this year. Clawing Into Black Sun has it all, from the groovy catchiness of tracks like Slaves to the Grime to the dark majesty of A Light That Doesn’t Yield. This is a phenomenal album that places songs at the centre of the darkness and no other band has managed to touch them this year for sheer blackness of heart.
At number 4 is Lae with Break the Clasp. This was an unexpected hit with me as I hadn’t heard of them before and wasn’t expecting much but they just blew me away with their hauntingly beautiful sound. Featuring the vocal talents of Steve Austin from Today is the Day; this is an album of heartbreaking depth and personal revelation. The songs managed to connect with me intimately with real passion and feeling. A stunning album.
In the 3rd position is Temple of Void with Of Terror and the Supernatural. Doom Metal and Old-School Death Metal collide to create one of the year’s best releases. This album boasts exceptional songs; crawling Death Metal-laced Doom has never sounded so good. This is an album that gives the listener that rarest of things – real substance and content combined with an excited adrenaline rush at hearing something that’s ultimately just pure-blood Metal.
At number 2 is Execration with Morbid Dimensions. This is non-typical Death Metal that takes elements of other genres, (Doom, Progressive Metal, Black Metal), and makes it their own. Morbid Dimensions is such a ridiculously strong release it’s just silly. The sheer quality of the songs here…these are the rightful heirs to the throne of Death in my mind. This very nearly made it into the coveted number 1 position, as this album is just that damn good.
Finally we come to the number 1 slot, and this is taken by Inter Arma with the absolutely amazing The Cavern. What can you say about this? It’s just a perfect slab of colossal Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal. At three quarters of an hour in length this single, phenomenal track does pretty much everything you could want it to. I cannot stop listening to this and show no signs of getting bored with it in the future, either. Releases like this are the reason that I still love heavy music so much. The Cavern is definitely my pick of 2014 and it’s going to be a long time before something tops it I feel. Just brilliant.
And there you have it! It’s been a great year for quality Metal, and here’s to 2015!
Happy New Year!