2014 was a great year for metal. We were treated to everything from big label releases to a ton of kick ass underground offerings, and even a few great comebacks. We at Zumic combed through the huge wave of new records to give you our top 20 picks of the year. With so many varying styles of metal on this list, it would have been impossible to compare these albums with any kind of objectivity, so we decided leave things unranked. Here it is in all it's glory, the 20 best metal albums of 2014:
"The Satanist" - Behemoth
There's a reason Behemoth became one of the bigger metal bands in the world, and that reason is because they write some of the best, most technically demanding songs in metal -- that, and frontman Nergal's penchant for showmanship. For the past decade, Behemoth have been giving us fantastic blackened death metal albums. But with The Satanist, they go back to their black metal roots to deliver a more varied record. Instead of filling each song with faster-than-light blast beats and impenetrable guitar riffs, the band took a more deliberate songwriting approach. The result is an album with carefully crafted songs, songs that have structure and actually go somewhere rather than just pummel the listener's eardrums. This makes The Satanist Behemoth's most accessible record, but it's still every bit as brutal.
Favorite Song: "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer"
"Crystalline" - Hark
Hark are a relatively new band from Wales, having been born out of the remnants of the British heavy rock band Taint (fantastic name). Their debut album Crystalline does well to announce their presence. They combine elements of hard rock, sludge, and even some prog to create a unique style, and as a result, a very enjoyable listen. Adding to Crystalline's bad-assery, the whole record was mixed by Converge's Kurt Ballou. Hark even managed to get Neil Fallon from Clutch to provide guest vocals on the closing track "Clear Light Of..."
Favorite Song: "Palendromeda"
"Blissfucker" - Trap Them
Angry, nihilistic, and joyless -- words that characterize Trap Them's 2014 aural assault of an album, Blissfucker. They take their familiar blend of crust, grind, and old-school Swedish death metal and bring it to a higher level. Like Trap Them's last few releases, Blissfucker was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (that's two Ballou productions on this list, if you want to keep count). Critics might condemn this record for sounding too much like their previous works, but why fix what isn't broken? With all the post-Converge punk / metal bands out there these days, Trap Them stand head and shoulders above the noise.
Favorite Song: "Savage Climbers"
"Citadel" - Ne Obliviscaris
One of the most unique metal albums of the year came from Australia's Ne Obliviscaris, Latin for "May you all not forget." And how can we forget? Citadel combines an array of styles, from progressive to black, thrash, death and melodic metal, and even classical, jazz, avant-garde and flamenco. Ne Obliviscaris aren't the first band to incorporate non-metal styles into metal compositions, but they do it better than anyone. Listening to this record makes it clear that these guys have a strong knowledge and understanding of musical theory. It's metal for music nerds.
Favorite Song: "Pyrrhic"
“ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN” – MASTODON
Perhaps the biggest release of the year came from metal superstars Mastodon. Once More 'Round The Sun takes the rock-influenced sound of The Hunter, and marries it with the etherial tone of Crack The Skye, along with the heaviness of Blood Mountain. The songs are all at once catchy and also incredibly heavy. Once More 'Round The Sun will stand out as one of the best in the Mastodon discography.
Favorite Song: "Chimes At Midnight"
"Foundations of Burden" - Pallbearer
The first time I heard Pallbearer's debut, Sorrow And Extinction, I was floored. Never before had I heard an album that was so melodic, yet so heavy. Crushingly heavy. Oppressively heavy. So when the quartet from Arkansas announced a new record, I was filled with joy and impatience. Foundations of Burden did not disappoint. Everything that made their previous record great is present on this new offering, but with the added musicality that comes with more experience. Frontman Brett Campbell has really come into his own as a vocalist, with his vocal performance sounding much more polished than it did on Sorrow. There are not enough good things to say about Foundations of Burden. Funeral doom, FTW.
Favorite Song: "Worlds Apart"
"The Divination of Antiquity" - Winterfylleth
2014 was a good year for black metal releases, and one of the best came from England's Winterfylleth, for The Divination of Antiquity. This album has enough production quality to make it sound like a modern black metal record, while still retaining some lo-fi atmosphere synonymous with the genre. The real star of The Divination of Antiquity is the guitar -- Chris Naughton & Mark Wood's melodies on this record are mind-blowing. Winterfylleth do a masterful job of combining beauty with the ice cold harshness of black metal.
Favorite Song: "A Careworn Heart"
"The Beast of Left And Right" - Lazer / Wulf
The award for most ambitious album of the year goes to The Beast of Left And Right, by proggresive metal trio Lazer / Wulf. What makes this album so ambitious is the fact that it's a palindrome, so it's the same backward and forward... in a thematic sense. Instead of just running half the album in reverse, Lazer / Wulf reversed and synched riffs, lyrics, and other elements of each song before synching them up to their mirror-image counterparts. Naturally, the best way to enjoy The Beast of Left And Right is to listen to it from start to finish to start.
Favorite Song: "Legarto"
"Dead Air" - Aminals
Aminal's Dead Air is the musical equivalent of taking a shot of adrenaline... for fun. This thing has enough energy to power a small city. This band from Boston take elements of punk, hardcore, and thrash metal to craft a unique and very fun record.
Favorite Song: "Ew, She Smells Like Brooklyn"
"Myrkur" - Myrkur
Peaceful black metal. Myrkur is a one-woman band created by Danish model and pop star Amalie Bruun. Don't let her pop status fool you, Amalie Bruun is the real deal. She puts her clean, beautiful singing voice over traditional black metal riffs to create an other-dimensional sound. If the elves from Lord Of The Rings were into metal, Myrkur would be their favorite band.
Favorite Song: "Nattens Barn"
"Down IV Part II"
In 2012, New Orleans supergroup Down released the first of four planned EPs, all making up one larger record, Down IV. 2014 saw the release of the second installment, simply titled Part II. This is Down's first album without guitarist Kirk Windstein, who left the group to focus on his primary band Crowbar. Down's guitar tech Bobby Landgraf was brought on board as his replacement, and he definitely seems to be a good fit. As always, Phil Anselmo and the guys deliver a solid record.
Favorite Song: "We Kew Him Well"
"Withered" - Earthship
The mark of a great album is having songs that possess their own unique personality. This is a feat not easily achieved in metal, as many bands will release an album that's basically one long song (Sleep's Dopesmoker is the exception). Earthship's Withered is not one those albums, but rather the former. The dense Entombed-like guitar tone, chugging riffs, and massive growling vocals help to make Withered one of the better sludge / stoner records of the year, or any year.
Favorite Song: "Serpent Cult"
"Out of Time" - Hound
Hound's Out of Time takes us back to when all you needed for an excellent rock album were loud guitars and a bad attitude. Drawing influence from bands like Motörhead and Black Sabbath, frontman Perry Shall and company deliver a most righteous, in-your-face heavy rock album.
Favorite Song: "Stupid Dreams"
"At War With Reality" - At The Gates
2014 was a year for some long awaited comebacks, and none were more anticipated than At War With Reality, by Sweden's At The Gates. Nineteen years after the release of Slaughter Of The Soul, we finally got to hear new music from one of modern metal's most influential bands, and we were not disappointed.
Favorite Song: "The Conspiracy of the Blind"
"Eyehategod" - Eyehategod
Another great comeback record from 2014 was Eyehategod's new self-titled LP. This is the group's first release of new material since 2000's Confederacy Of Ruined Lives. The New Orleans band haven't missed a step, either -- this might be Eyehategod's best album to date.
Favorite Song: "Agitation! Propaganda!"
"The Flesh Prevails" - Fallujah
If there's one thing the metal community is in no shortage of, it's technical death metal bands. To make things worse, most of them all sound the same. That said, American tech-death band Fallujah is a breath of fresh air. The Flesh Prevails sounds like it was written 100 years in the future. It's progressive, it's melodic, and it's absolutely brutal.
Favorite Song: "Carved From Stone"
“All You Can Eat” – Steel Panther
LA’s foremost neo-hairmetal rockers gave us a new record this year, and like everything Steel Panther does, the new album is a balls-out butt rock extravaganza. The aptly-titled All You Can Eat is full of ridiculous, sexy anthems and show-stopping guitar riffs.
Favorite Song: "She's On The Rag"
"Shadows Of The Dying Sun" - Insomnium
Much like thrash in the late '80s, melodic death metal eventually began to grow stagnant. Every band seemed to be ripping off of other bands like In Flames and At The Gates, creating a very derivative musical landscape that seems to continue to this day. But Finland's Insomnium are saviors to the once rich and exciting scene. Shadows Of The Dying Sun is the melo-death record we've been waiting for.
Favorite Song: "Revelation"
"Roads To The North" - Panopticon
Kentucky's Panopticon takes American folk music and bluegrass and combines them with black metal. This probably sounds like an unusual pairing at first, but remember that there are plenty of Scandinavian band's that incorporate folk music from their own regions into their music. So what we get with Roads To The North is a wholly American black metal album.
Favorite Song: "Where Mountains Pierce The Sky"
"Vermin Prolificus" - Fistula
Every list needs a wildcard, and that comes in the form of Vermin Prolificus by Akron, Ohio's Fistula. This a band that has "bathsalts" listed on their Facebook page as a genre, which is actually pretty accurate. Vermin Prolificus is ugly, dirty, and downright gross, which is exactly why you should listen to it.
Favorite Song: "Upside Down"