Staff Picks of 2014
A List by Luke Saunders
23 December 2014
Well another bumper year of metal is nearly behind us so as per usual the task of dissecting the gluttony of albums I’ve had the pleasure of consuming this year and trying to narrow down the albums most worthy of making the final cut has been a particularly tough.
2014 has delivered in spades and I’ve felt my own tastes have continued to diversify and branch further outside of my comfort zone as well. Death metal reigned supreme again, yet the genre didn’t dominate my list. There were plenty of surprises, including my number one pick which barnstormed its way to the top. In fact, the later year period proved especially fruitful for album of the year contenders to emerge.
On the local front, Ne Obliviscaris, Aeon of Horus, and Hadal Maw released particularly strong albums while At the Gates, Godflesh, and Eyehategod crafted excellent comeback efforts. And of course there were inevitable disappointments and plenty of albums that I just didn’t get around to hearing or fully appreciating.
Lastly, before I delve into the albums that mattered most to me in 2014, I want to thank all the loyal readers of The Metal Forge for making this all worthwhile.
The Top 10
Sweden’s Soen stepped out of the shadow of their influences on their phenomenal second album. Tellurian is a beautifully crafted, epic progressive metal opus loaded with fluid, complex songs, soaring hooks and an intensely powerful emotional core. This has modern classic written all over it.
Foundations of Burden
Sorrow and Extinction was always going to be a tough act to follow. However, with Billy Anderson providing a fuller, richer sonic platform and the band striding ahead confidently, Pallbearer enhanced and built upon nearly every aspect of their debut. Foundations of Burden is a doom masterpiece.
Although I enjoyed The Chills, I was not prepared for Horrendous to deliver a follow-up album of such quality. Some of the best riffs of the year were crammed onto this exceptional album. Horrendous upped the ante and took a forward thinking, vaguely proggy approach to their old school death metal formula with inspired results.
4. Anaal Nathrakh
Sure there were the usual grumblings that UK’s finest are treading water again, but I’ll be damned if the song-writing isn’t of the highest order for this kind of barely controlled extremity.
Arguably one of the most exciting and consistent bands on the modern metal scene, Revocation kept their impeccable track record in order with their fifth full-length release. Deathless is one of their best albums yet, an electrifying technical thrash/death masterwork filled with some of the catchiest, darkest and most thrilling songs of the band’s career. Dave Davidson is a modern day guitar hero.
6. Artificial Brain
2014 was a banner year for the often maligned technical death metal genre. However, it was newcomers Artificial Brain that stood out from the pack with their mind-bending, dystopian brand of progressive technical death metal. Dissonant, mutating weirdness that was equal parts innovative and relentlessly brutal.
7. Bastard Sapling
Instinct is Forever
Black metal has become a larger part of my metal diet over the past couple of years and although plenty of strong releases emerged in 2014, Bastard Sapling’s modern take on vintage second wave black metal garnered the most plays. Dynamic song-writing, striking melodies and a rotten core of hateful aggression and bitter self-loathing highlighted this stellar album.
8. Giant Squid
Giant Squid is a truly unique, genre bending force of eclectically heavy weirdness and innovation. Minoans marked an emotive, epic chapter in the band’s criminally underrated career.
Death by Burning
The debut album from this hard-hitting German/Turkish duo took me by surprise and delivered one of the most addictive albums of the year. Despite their straightforward approach, Mantar proved anything but one-dimensional through their dynamic song-writing and sledgehammer grooves.
10. Mors Principium Est
Dawn of the 5th Era
AFM records might have done Finland’s Mors Principium Est a disservice by scheduling their latest album for release in December, but its impact has already been felt tenfold. In just over a week of intensely concentrated listening and repeat plays I’ve determined that Dawn of the 5th Era is a worthy rounder for my Top 10 list. Once more, a bit more appreciation time may just have elevated its status even further. This is utterly vicious, expertly written and performed melodic death metal that frankly leaves At War with Reality for dead.
The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer
Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
Vehemenz – Vehemenz
Alunah – Awakening the Forest
Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer
Gridlink – Longhena
Opeth – Pale Communion
Sólstafir – Ótta
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Good, But Way Overrated
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Behemoth – The Satanist
More from Soen, Pallbearer, Horrendous, Anaal Nathrakh, Revocation, Artificial Brain, Bastard Sapling, Giant Squid, Mantar and Mors Principium Est
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