Another year over. Another year closer to death's sweet embrace. Another year end list! I know many of you skip the body of these things and go straight to the list. I understand; it's important to save as much time for complaining and name calling in the comments section as you can. But I'd be remiss if I didn't at least make an effort to explain the process I went through in choosing these 15 bands over all the hundreds of other albums that came out this year. There are plenty of writers who carefully rank and re-rank their choices until they have what they feel is the perfect list. I'm not one of those writers. My process involves keeping a rough tally of how many times I listen to an album and then listing the ones I revisited the most in no particular order. It's very scientific, I know.
I'm sure I've forgotten some albums I loved. That's bound to happen when you listen to a few hundred heavy metal albums over the course of 12 months. There are also albums that probably would have been included if I had been able to spend more time with them. Foreseen HKI released a solid crossover thrash album a few weeks ago, but I've only listened to it once. I still haven't gotten around the new Mortuary Drape album, and I'm almost certain it should be on this list. But them's the breaks. No doubt you'll be upset that I've skipped over one or more of your favorite records from this year. Behemoth is nowhere to be found, and I didn't even bother listening to the new Mastodon or At the Gates. Feel free to tell me I suck and am wrong, but tastes differ. No writers rank these lists objectively, and if they say they do they're full of it. So that's what I have to say. Enjoy my list and I hope you find at least one new record you love. These are the 15 songs that made me smile, bang my head, or shake my fist at the heavens the most this year.
Maybe I'm starting this list off on the wrong foot by listing an album that's not particularly metal first, but any of you haters with a taste for heavier psychedelic or space rock will change your tune as soon as you hear the album opening "Blast Magic." Comet Control spends all 8 track of this album enveloping listeners in a haze of guitars and bass that alternates between stoned bliss and straight forward, foot-stomping psychedelia.
Epic isn't usually an adjective that springs to mind when you think about crust bands. But the Relapse Records debut of Portland's Nux Vomica lives up to that incredibly overused word. Over the course of 45 minutes and just 3 tracks, the band drags listeners through a gauntlet of emotionally charged crust with elements of sludge, doom and black metal. This is a bleak album, but it's deeply affecting as well.
Workin' For the Devil is, hands down, the funnest metal album I heard all year. The Lurking Corpses blend horror punk, thrash, and rock n' roll into a ridiculously catchy, campy mess that commands you to pump your fist and bang your head. I know some of you Gloomy Guses think heavy metal has to be dour all the time, but The Lurking Corpses are here to wag a middle finger in your nay-saying face.
One of Dead Congregation's strongest attributes is their ability to balance technical prowess with a suitably sinister atmosphere. Too many bands focus solely on one or the other and end up sounding either masturbatory or impenetrably murky in the process, but Dead Congregation do an excellent job at writing songs that demonstrate their formidable musical ability while also sounding legitimately frightening. This ability, more than anything else, is what sets the band apart from the sea of also-rans that makes up the modern death metal landscape.
2014 marks Freedom Call's 15th year as a band, and Beyond is a suitable commemoration of that milestone. Since their first album, Stairway To Fairyland, was released back in 1999, Freedom Call have consistently released album after album of fun, hyper-melodic power metal that's only gotten better with time, and Beyond may be the band's best album yet. These Germans may not be the most creative or adventurous power metal band out there, but they're definitely one of the most enjoyable. Unless you're a total sourpuss, it's impossible to listen to this album without feeling the urge to smile (or battle a dragon while soaring on the wings of an eagle).
Check out the video for "Union of the Strong" right here.
10. Yellow Eyes – The Desert Mourns/Stillicide
This is a bit of a cheat but I'm combining both EPs that Yellow Eyes released this year into a single entry. There's a very good chance you've never heard of Yellow Eyes before, but, if you're a black metal fan, you better get on their level immediately. This Brooklyn band has been releasing some of the best USBM available since 2012, and they're only getting better with age. These two EPs represent their most mature compositions to date, and you're missing out like a sucker. Stillicide is only available on cassette right now, and you have to catch the band on tour right now to buy one. But keep you eyes out for a digital release in the near future.
In the realm of heavy music, "progressive" has taken on a fairly standard meaning. When you hear that term in relation to heavy metal, you know to expect noodly guitar playing, weird time signatures, and esoteric scales. But Roads to the North is progressive in the purest sense of the word. The music on Roads to the North is progressive because it transcends all genre boundaries in a way that hasn't been done before. There simply aren't albums that sound like this.
It's been a few albums since Edguy recorded a truly great LP. The band began as a traditional power metal outfit, but started incorporating more mainstream rock elements a few years ago. The results were mixed; their last 3 albums have ranged from ho-hum to yuck, but with Space Police, Edguy have struck a nice balance between the band's power metal roots and their newer Van Halenesque tendencies. The result is an exceedingly fun album that hasn't gotten stale over 6 months of regular listening.
Check out the video for "Love Tyger" right here.
I don't know what to say about Schammasch. This band of weirdos defies categorization. Schammasch's sound primarily incorporates black metal and death metal, but there's so much more to it than that. The opening track prominently features flamenco guitar mixed over a pulverizing wall of death metal. What?! Oh yeah, the album is nearly an hour and a half long and is stretched over two CDs, too. There are so many reasons this album should be a disaster, but it's not. It's completely insane, yes, but it's also majestic and compelling enough that it doesn't get boring despite the daunting run time. I don't know how often I'll be listening to Contradiction in the future, but everyone needs to hear this album at least once.
New Zealand has become a hotbed of fantastic extreme metal. It seems hard to believe that one of the most beautiful countries in the world could spawn so much wretched music, but spend some time delving into the underbelly of Kiwi metal and you're likely to come away from the experience permanently tainted by evil. Diocletian's Gesundrian is the embodiment of that evil. This is sick metal of death straight from the bowels of Hades, and it's glorious!
Is there any explanation necessary for Eyehategod's inclusion on this list? The band hasn't released an album since 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives and they just burst back into the spotlight without missing a step. And that's despite addiction, jail, Hurricane Katrina, and the death of drummer Joey LaCaze. If you can't get down with EHG, you need to leave the hall.
Those of you reading this who aren't already familiar with Midnight should take note; if you're looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany a methed up biker gang beating some hapless bystander to a pulp with chains and clubs, No Mercy For Mayhem is the album you need to get your grubby mitts on. If ou're a fan of sleazy trash like Venom and Motörhead, you just found your new favorite album.
A nigh impenetrable mass of atavistic black/death chaos. Teitanblood spits in the face of the stately iconoclasm that bands like Behemoth employ. In terms of sheer primal evilness, Teitanblood is untouchable.
Listen to "Anteinfierno" right here.
Blut Aus Nord is one of the greatest black metal bands that's ever existed. Every album they release is a revelation. They're know primarily for their experimentation and avant-garde leanings, but on Memoria Vetusta III Blut Aus Nord demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can still create amazing traditional black metal, as well. If you call yourself a black metal fan, there is no excuse for not owning this album.
The atmosphere Primordial have created on Where Greater Men Have Fallen is relentlessly crushing and emotional. Only a few truly great albums come out every year, and this is one of them. This is heavy metal for metalheads. If you ever find yourself complaining about the state of heavy music, this album will shut you up immediately. This is a desert island album if ever there was one.