Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 20 Albums of 2014

It's kind of interesting how important these lists have become in the metal community.  Everyone from reviewers to journalists to everyday fans are compiling their top albums for the ever expanding global audience to see.  The upsurge of social media has given people a platform to make themselves heard.  As trying as it can be to endure countless simpleminded comments from some, I do enjoy reading people's lists and getting a perspective on what they are listening too.

Looking through my top 20 picks for 2014, I realize that this year was about variety.  It was difficult to rank them in numeric order so regardless of where they fall in the list, all of these albums kicked my ass in one way or another. 

  # 20 -  Job For a Cowboy - Sun Eater
Metal Blade

The evolution of this band is remarkable.  Arguably their best output yet.

# 19 - Necrophagia - WhiteWorm Cathedral
Season of Mist

Listening to Necrophagia is like watching an old school horror movie.  A fun album when you're in the mood for heavy riffs and horror.

# 18 - Brutally Deceased - Black Infernal Vortex
Doomentia Records

Crushing Swedish style death metal from the Czech Republic.  They may not be pushing the boundaries of originality but they keep it interesting with some catchy guitar work and punishing blast beats. 

# 17 - Vinterbris - Solace
Nordavind Records

A hidden gem of 2014.  This melodic black metal band basically came out of nowhere with this magnificent 2nd album.

# 16 - Human Infection - Curvatures in Time
Blast Head Records

I did a review for this one earlier this year.  Check it out here.

# 15 - Aborted - The Necrotic Manifesto
Century Media

Maybe not quite as gripping as "Global Flatline" but definitely another blood soaked slab of brutality from Aborted.

# 14 - Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain
Metal Blade

Longtime Cannibal Corpse fan here and "A Skeletal Domain" is top shelf.

# 13 - Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall
Martyrdoom Productions / Profound Lore

Very impressive sophomore release from these guys.  "Promulgation of the Fall" is raw, evil and uncompromising death metal.

# 12 - drowned - Idola Specus
Sepulchral Voice Records

Germany's drowned have been around since 92 but only just released their first full length this year.  Great riffs topped off by a killer guitar tone. 

# 11 - dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer
Profound Lore

A latecomer to the list.  Catchy early hard rock influenced heavy metal with some black metal thrown in the mix.

# 10 - Misery Index - The Killing Gods
Season of Mist

Hard to believe it's been 4 years since Misery Index's last album.  On "The Killing Gods", the boys deliver their brand of deathgrind with the precision and integrity that they're known for.  Most noteworthy is the vicious drum performance by Adam Jarvis.  This guy is always on top of his game and he completely destroys the kit on this album.  The only real draw back for me here is track 3.  Having a second instrumental track so close to the intro kind of disrupts the flow.

Choice Cuts:  Conjuring the Cull / The Killing Gods / Cross to Bear / The Weakener

# 9 - Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity
Candlelight Records

Winterfylleth craft majestic soundscapes meant to evoke an emotional response in the listener.  They rely on atmospheric passages to carry their songs rather than sheer brutality.  At times they can boarder line on repetitive but the way they mix elements of folk with their brand of melodic black metal keeps things interesting.  An album best enjoyed in full. 

Choice Cuts:  The Divination Of Antiquity / Whisper of the Elements / Over Borderlands

# 8 - Winter of Sin - Violence Reigns Supreme 
Cyclone Empire

The 4th album from this Dutch band and the first with God Dethroned members Henri Sattler and Michiel van der Plich.  A little different than their early stuff but definitely a step in the right direction.  Some really intricate guitar work going on here combined with some stellar drums and vocals.  It's too bad the master is totally brickwalled because the mix sounds great.  Also one of my favorite cover art pieces this year.

Choice Cuts:  Astral Death Reign Algorithm / Eternal Winter / Violence Reigns Supreme / Inheritors Of Pain

# 7 - Behemoth - The Satanist
Metal Blade

I have to admit I was very surprised by this one.  Up until now I never considered myself a huge fan of Behemoth (although "The Apostasy" is great.)  "The Satanist" presents a very dark and mystical side of Behemoth.  The songs are multi-layered and listening to them feels almost ritualistic.  Nergal's vocals are some of the most tortured I've heard from him and I love the way the bass guitar sits in the mix.  Very well done. 

Choice Cuts:   Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel / Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer / The Satanist / O Father O Satan O Sun!

# 6 - Insomnium - Shadows Of The Dying Sun
Century Media

Insomnium once again come out on top of the melodic death metal food chain.  Hope to see these guys keep up this level of consistency. 

Choice Cuts:  While We Sleep / Black Heart Rebellion / Lose to Night / Collapsing Words

# 5 - doom:vs - Earthless
Solitude Productions 

doom:vs captivating 3rd release "Earthless" is nothing short of impressive.  Equipped with some tasteful songwriting, crushing production and eerie cover art, "Earthless" is brilliant listening experience for fans of melodic funeral doom and beyond.

Choice Cuts:  A Quietly Forming Collapse / Oceans of Despair / The Slow Ascent

# 4 - Incantation - Dirges of Elysium
Listenable Records

The forefathers of darkened death metal showing the younger bands how it's done.  I have to applaud Incantation for being one of the most consistent bands in the scene.  "Dirges of Elysium" has all the elements of their impressive 2012 "Vanquish in Vengeance" album but slightly faster and darker.  The mixing/mastering was once again handled by mastermind Dan Swano.  "Dirges" is a testament to how death metal should sound.

Choice Cuts:  Dirges of Elysium / Debauchery / Bastion of a Plague Soul / From a Glaciate Womb / Impalement of Divinity

# 3 - Bloodbath - Grand Morbid Funeral
Peaceville Records

Swedish death metal at it's finest.  The haunting melodies and raw heaviness of this album really hit home for me. I try to stay away from the new vocalist debate but for what's it worth - Nick doesn't have the deep tone of his predecessors but his delivery has a unique and sinister quality that is just not found in a lot of modern vocalists.  Along with some razor sharp guitars and top notch drumming, the CD version comes in a high quality digibook.  Killer stuff!

Choice Cuts:  Let the Stillborn Come to Me / Church of Vastitas / His Infernal Necropsy / Grand Morbid Funeral   

# 2 - Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Profound Lore

"Foundations of Burden" takes the bands' signature brand of doom metal into even deeper depths of sorrow.  The song writing has improved from their debut and is brought to life by some crushing production courtesy of Bill Anderson.  Each track on the record stands on it's own displaying a variety of different elements and emotions.  Front man Brett Campbell brings forth an amazing vocal performance here paired with some very heavy and melodic guitars.  "Foundations of Burden" received a considerable amount of critical praise and is bound to put Pallbearer on the map.  

Choice Cuts:  Worlds Apart / Foundations / The Ghost I Used to Be

# 1 - Horrendous - Ecdysis 
Dark Descent Records

Horrendous made a fairly large impact on the death metal scene with their impressive 2012 debut album "The Chills".  Their somewhat unique take on traditional Swedish death mixed with Floridian and Dutch elements was refreshing to say the least.  There has been a plethora of bands surfacing over the past few years sporting the "new wave of old school death metal" sound, but Horrendous are one of the few who are able to present it in an infectious and meaningful way.  Even their 5 song demo from 2009 is leaps and bounds better than a lot bands' outputs who are signed to high profile labels.

With "Ecdysis", we see the band shed their skin and re-emerge as a slightly altered being.  The dark haunting melodies of their debut are still present but Horrendous take their sound to a whole new level.  I read a recent interview with Damian Herring (Vocals/Guitars) who stated that they spent a lot of time writing and recording "Ecdysis" to ensure they were happy with every single aspect of the record.  It definitely shows.

The evocative build of the first track "The Stranger" gives you an idea of what you're in for.  What's interesting about this song is that despite it's lengthy intro (doesn't really get going until the 2 min mark), it doesn't feel like it's being dragged out.  The driving force of "Weeping Relic", "Resonator" and "Nepenthe" shows the band more aggressive side while still showcasing the more progressive nature of "Ecdysis".  The biggest surprise of the album is the instrumental heavy metal/rock influenced track "When the Walls Fell".  The traditional heavy metal influence makes an appearance on a few other songs but this particular track really rocks out NWOBHM style.  Well done.  The final song "Titan" is an epic and melodic journey into madness.  One of the best album closers I've heard in a long time.

On top of some killer song writing, the production on "Ecdysis" is superb.  The sound is raw but offers amazing clarity and outstanding dynamics.  The mix is well balanced with each instrument sitting on it's own little shelf.  I really love the way they did the vocals this time around with Matt taking a more active role trading off with Damian.  Over all "Ecdysis" is everything I want in a death metal record (maybe a few more blast beats would have be nice:)  Highly recommended! 

Choice Cuts:  The Stranger / Resonator / Nepenthe / When the Walls Fell / Titan

Check out the album on Bandcamp:


Honorable Mentions:

Megascavenger - At The Plateaus Of Leng 
Chaos Records

One of many Rogga Johansson projects.  I'm not usually into albums with a buffet of different vocalists but this one actually works very well.

Tyranny Enthroned - Our Great Undoing
Blast Head Records

Blackened Death Metal from a young Missouri band.  These guys have a lot of potential and it shows here.

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