Matt’s Top 15 Albums of 2014!!!
Posted by RiffRaff
It’s that time of year again for arbitrary lists of really great albums that were released since the last time I did one of these things. Contributing to my absolute burnout of writing about kick ass metal bands, I can not think of another year where there were just so damn many stellar records released. I simply had to say fuck it, step back, and enjoy the great stuff I already had. Sure, I missed out on some great stuff, but on the other hand, all killer no filler. To try to make up for the insane amount of great albums this year I’ve expanded my usual 10 to 15 and will have an honorable mentions post sometime in the near future. I hope you find yourself something cool to listen to with this list or at least nod in agreement with some of my picks. Thanks for reading, sticking with AMSOM, and being awesome and stuff. Enjoy!!! Peace Love and Metal!!!
15. Primus – Primus and the Chocolate Factory
Primus plus Willy Wonka. Seriously, what more can a fan of both the band and film ask for. Claypool and Co.’s twisted re-imaginings of the classic songs are able to give new and interesting perspectives to each track while retaining the originals whimsical feel (especially their rendition of ‘I Want it Now!’). Fun, heady, and quite unlike anything you’ve ever heard, just like a Primus album should be. Top Tracks: ‘I Want it Now!’; ‘Pure Imagination’
14. Saor – Aura
Never heard of this one man Scottish nature metal band until this summer and damn what a find. Folk melodies that roll like the wind, drums clashing like waves on the cliffs, and a sense of Earthen beauty that simply transcends you while you soar around on the back of an eagle. A simply shattering record that deserves your ears time and attention. Top Tracks: ‘Aura’; ‘Pillars of the Earth’
13. Castle – Under Siege
Pure fun heavy metal. No frills, no bullshit. Castle waste not a single moment of your time as they siege you eardrums for a rip-roaring half hour of all killer, no filler classic heavy metal (with hints of doom). Outstanding riffs, dance-able grooves, and sultry vocals really make Under Siege stand out well above the pack in the traditional heavy metal scene. This is easily Castle’s best record yet and at the rate they’re going I can only imagine how mind-blowing they will be in the future. Top Tracks: ‘Powersigns’; ‘Temple of the Lost,
12. Crimson Shadows – Kings Among Men
Take Dragonforce and fix a set of big, burly testicles and a Viking beard on them and you’d get Crimson Shadows. Bombastic power metal instrumentals and anthemic choruses mixed with death metal vocals has created on of the most fun and uplifting records I’ve heard this year. If you happen to need a shot of musical adrenaline to your vein, you can’t do better than Kings Among Men. Top Tracks: ‘Braving the Storm’; ‘Rise to Power’
11. Panopticon – Roads to the North
While Panopticon’s latest didn’t shatter me emotionally like Kentucky did, this record of nature metal still put many cracks in the foundation. Objectively, one could say it’s his most well-rounded record to date. I loved that there is some experimentation with melo-death mixed in with the black and folk metal and the epic song lengths never become a chore to listen through. This is a perfect record for hiking through a mountainous forest with (or zoning out to while you pretend you’re enveloped in nature). Top Tracks: The ‘The Long Road’ Suite; ‘Where Mountains Peirce the Sky’
10. Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend
No one really does psychedelic doom quite like Yob. Beyond the slow, elephantine riffs transcendent and philosophical lyrics meld with a wall of music that crushed me into another dimension while listening. And while only 4 tracks are on the album, the places Yob take you on this journey are their most varied to date. Beyond the outstanding tunes, I really appreciated the bump up in recording quality from the wonderfully written but abysmally recorded Atma. Having this thick but breathable music makes it hit even harder than it has ever been able to before. Clearing the Path to Ascend definitely deserves a spot among Yob’s (and doom’s) best. Top Tracks: ‘In Our Blood’; ‘Nothing to Win’
9. Eluveitie – Origins
Easily one of the strongest bands in the folk metal army, Eluveitie have made a name for themselves by consistently releasing solid and exciting record after record. While I highly enjoy each entry in their discography, I had believed that they peaked early with Slania. Origin has proved me wrong. From blistering death metal to catchy (and listenable 😛 ) symphonic metal Eluveitie just stun on every single track here and provide so much variety that the record is over before you know it. Big, bold, and jam-packed with historical recounts of the Gualish Wars, Origins is must have for anyone with even a passing interest in folk metal. Top Tracks: ‘The Nameless’; ‘Celtos’; ‘King’
8. Revocation – Deathless
Last year I awarded Revocation’s self-titled my record of the year, and if they were to release Deathless instead of that one, I would put it right at the same place (that also says a lot of how damn good the next 7 records on this list are). While still being undoubtedly Revocation, the tech-thrashers delve deeper into uncharted territories and continue to expand their wholly unique brand of thrash. What really gets me is how Deathless is all around a much darker record, but somehow still remains fun and catchy like their previous masterpieces. And holy fuckballs, that solo at the end of ‘Witch Trails’ where David Davidson channels his inner-Steve Vai, fucking bliss man…. Fucking bliss. Top Tracks: ‘Witch Trails’; ‘Madness Opus’; ‘A Debt Owed to the Grave’
7. Machine Head – Bloodstone and Diamonds
Three things in life are guaranteed. Death, taxes, and when Machine Head release a new record, it’s going to be a corker. I don’t think these guys have been filled with this much piss and vinegar since their shattering debut 20 years ago. This is one pissed the fuck off record, as well as one of their finest. It amazes me how MH can be so brutal yet incredibly accessible. This is the most headbaningest record this year and will probably be next year too. And on a side note: I saw them tour for the record last month and it was hands down the best show I’ve seen in recent years. These guys are a live show no metal fan should ever miss. Top Tracks: ‘Now We Die’; ‘Night of Long Knives’; ‘Take Me Through the Fire’
6. Blood and Banjos – Blood and Banjos
Fun, fun, and even more fun. This bluegrass meets metal hybrid rock opera record about a guy who has visions from God and goes on a banjo-fueled murder spree is a barrel of monkeys. It also happens to have a surprising amount of emotional depth. And seriously, the creators should really think about bringing this record to the stage in the form of a musical. If you happen to be in the mood for something different, well written, and just damn fun you owe it to yourself to check out Blood and Banjos. Top Tracks: ‘Kings’; ‘Judge, Jury, and Executioner’; ‘Anti-Annunciation’
5. Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere
While nature is the usual theme on any given Agalloch record, they decided to ascend into the stars they were gazing upon down on Earth. Dealing with the theme of endlessness (put the record on repeat all, it all loops together really neatly) The Serpent and the Sphere has Agalloch taking us to the Astral Plains. Again Agalloch expand their well realized style and have honed their craft of creating transcendent and engaging songs. One of my favorite additions of this record is the hired help of Musk Ox’s guitarist to provide stunning acoustic guitar interludes that really tie the whole record together. Dare I say this is my favorite Agalloch record second to The Mantle? Top Tracks: ‘Plateau of the Ages’; ‘The Astral Dialogue’, ‘Serpens Caput’
4. The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer
Trying to put into words why I like this record is really hard for me to do. It just simply resonates with me. The astral themes, thick grooves, dreamy atmospheres, it all just clicks. The lyrics flow without destination and the music just takes me to strange planes of existence. It’s just a damn fine and unique record that deserves your attention. Top Tracks: ‘The Sea Beyond’; ‘City of Light’; ‘Blood Will Tell’
3. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
Many popular publications have called Pallbearer the future of doom, and after being simply shattered by Foundations of Burden, I damn well hope their right. Proggy, introspective, and so, so, so heavy this album is sure to please any respectable doom fan. I’ve even had a couple of people, who don’t even listen to this style of metal, tell me how great this album is. Breaking boundaries man. Lyrically this record really hit a nerve for me as it explores the ups and downs that life throws your way and while carrying a melancholic note left me feeling uplifted and grateful to have the chance to be. While slow and thunderous there is nary a single dull moment throughout and chunks will stick with you long after you’ve finished your listen. Top Tracks: The Ghost I Used to Be’; ‘Worlds Apart’; ‘Watcher in the Dark’
2. Cormorant – Earth Diver
Cormorant are easily one of my favorite recent discoveries. Since I stumbled upon their sophomore full length Dwellings 4 years ago they have sky-rocketed as one of my all time favorite bands. This third record pretty much solidifies them in that exclusive upper echelon of my favorite bands. Always expanding, reinventing, and refining Earth Diver has Cormorant exploring even more avenues of blackened prog metal. Stunning instrumentals range from visceral black metal assaults to jazzy flamenco guitars to chunks of hardcore to tear-inducing solos. The songs again never fail to be anything less than engaging and each carries its own unique flavor. If you haven’t given these guys a listen yet, I can not implore enough that you check them and this album out. Top Tracks: ‘Sold as a Crow’; ‘The Pythia’; ‘Mark the Trail’
1. TIE Opeth – Pale Communion & Black Crown Initiate – The Wreckage of Stars
Nope, I just couldn’t pick just one. Both albums blew me right the fuck away. Here we have an Yin Yang, the young and the old, the trailblazers and the hikers, the proggers and the proggers… Opeth have finished their 36o and have stepped down from being the premier prog metal band and started to hike down the path that the classic prog bands of yesteryear blazed tidying it up and modernizing it. Black Crown Initiate in turn did the same down that prog metal path that Opeth blazed and even opened up some new alleyways along the way.
With intelligence, gravitas, and gumption BCI have crafted one of the most unforgiving, intense prog metal albums I’ve ever heard. In it immediacy there also lays layers of subtlety that just keeps opening up every time I listen to it (and trust me, I’ve been listening to it a lot). And while stylistically nothing like the grandfathers of modern prog metal, they really hone in that sophisticated energy that Opeth carries. The bending song structures, the clever, philosophical lyrics, and knowing exactly when and how much to push the listener and when to take a step back. This is one of the best debut albums I’ve ever heard. Period.
Opeth on the flip side have found a youthful energy in their new-found journey into prog rock. On Pale Communion they embrace their love of the genre much like a fledgling band would before years on the road make them jaded. The result is a reinvigorated band that is doing nothing but pleasing themselves, and pleasing us listeners in the process. There isn’t anything close to resembling a half-baked track and every song is packed to the brim with fresh new ideas from the old-timers. This is also their ‘happiest’ album to date as I find myself grinning all to often as I get lost in the prog grooves and landscapes. If you can get past the fact Opeth will never be a metal band again, this is grade A Opeth and the best non-metal album I’ve heard this year.
Top Tracks (BCI): ‘The Wreckage of Stars’; ‘The Human Lie Manifest’; ‘Withering Waves’
Top Tracks (Opeth): (also my pick for my favorite song of the year) ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’; ‘River’; ‘Moon Above, Stars Below’
About RiffRaffJust takin' it easy for all you sinners.
Posted on December 12, 2014, in Best of 2014, News and tagged Agalloch, Best of 2014, Black Crown Initiate, Blood and Banjos, Castle, Cormorant, Crimson Shadows, Eluveitie, Machine Head, metal, Music, Opeth, Pallbearer, Panopticon, Primus, Revocation, Saor, The Atlas Moth, Top 15, YOB. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.