Metal Essentials for 2014
By David Moya
Whether you believe it or not, 2014 has swiftly come to an end. If you’re like me you’re probably asking yourself, “Where did the year go?” Well, the good thing about the 12 months ending is the emergence of year-end lists. And like any other music critic wannabe, I offer you a list of metal albums that, in my forgettable opinion, are fundamental for any seasoned metalhead or inquisitive individual courageous enough to enter the realm of Metal. There is no particular preference as to which album you should listen to first. The list is arranged in alphabetical order but you can tackle it however which way you prefer. I do my best at including as many sub-genres of metal as possible. Unfortunately, I am merely a mortal. Let’s hope the metal Gods forgive me. As always, I wish you the very best this coming year! Memento mori.
Abigor – Leytmotif Luzifer
A very creative concept album about mankind’s seven deadly sins. Every track feels like you’re descending deeper and deeper into the depths of hell, much like Dante’s Inferno… brutal!
Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Accomplished black metal outfit Agalloch released their fifth studio album this year, continuing their beautiful exploration and blending of avant-garde, black, doom, and folk metal. Definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan of any of those genres or if you’re simply curious.
Arch Enemy – War Eternal
Melodic Death Metal hasn’t drastically changed much over the last few years. While Swedish super group Arch Enemy didn’t reinvent the wheel on this record, they did, however, offer audiences with clean and firm production values.
Archspire – The Lucid Collective
Brutality meets technicality in this monstrosity of a record. Note that monstrosity is a compliment in the world of metal. You will hear and feel every riff played, every bassline tapped, every drum struck, every cymbal hit, every scream belched. Each note played is like a punch to the guts while demonic souls pry open your back and remove your spine. If you can survive through this record, you can call yourself a true metalhead.
Avichi – Catharsis Absolute
One-man black metal outfit Avichi conceived one of the most elegant releases this year. Haunting melodies, dark overtones, and energizing drums make up for a very enjoyable LP.
Behemoth – The Satanist
If baseball were metal, these guys would bat cleanup. Crucial to the establishment of the extreme metal scene in Poland, Behemoth comes back with an album that is as vibrant as it is sinister. Ambitious and innovative, Behemoth stays fresh without getting any softer. Hell of an album (ha!).
Blood of Kingu – Dark Star On The Right Horn Of the Crescent Moon
This album hits with its ferocity from the start. Implementing blood-curdling and hair-raising Tibetan chants, this release from the Ukrainian black metal band further expands the sounds of the genre. Great for gym workouts!
Bongripper – Miserable
Doom metal gods Bongripper bring to 2014 a heavy, mesmerizing record that drowns the listener in its thick waves of sounds. Few records will absorb your soul as much as this one. If you haven’t listened to Bongripper or doom metal in general before this album, I encourage exploring their extensive discography.
Botanist – Flora
Plants and metal come together as long lost brothers in this colorful release. Each song is with filled with delicate passion that can be easily overlooked if one is not paying close attention. This is a masterfully constructed record that ends very quickly, making replay very common.
Cormorant – Earth Diver
Back in 2011, Cormorant released Dwellings, a record that I deeply love and cherish. In 2014, the band released Earth Diver, a record that did everything but disappoint. Ambitious as they are skilled, Cormorant shows no sign of slowing down and I couldn’t be any happier.
Culted – Oblique to All Paths
Menacing and deranged. Sometimes you must step out of your comfort zone in order to learn something new about yourself. Oblique to All Paths will help you do just that.
Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us
One of the most progressive albums on this list, Cynic gifts 2014 with an astounding and surprisingly gorgeous record. The band is no stranger to testing the bounds of genres. After one listen you’ll be scratching your head, asking yourself if this is even metal. It is.
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
Chances are you’re not a commander of a legion of demons but Promulgation of the Fall will make you feel that way. The bone-crushing riffs and pummeling drums will destroy your enemies. Try not to cause too much havoc when listening to cries of this beast of an album.
Downfall of Gaia – Aeon Unveils The Thrones of Decay
The celebrated poet Homer would be jealous of Downfall of Gaia’s epic known as Aeon Unveils The Thrones of Decay. No mind is adept enough to encompass the entire frenzy and trance found on this record in just one listen through. This release is like a fine, aged wine; you must sit down, take your time, and enjoy it sip by sip and satisfaction is soon to come.
Eyehategod – Eyehategod
After a 14-year break, Eyehategod returns with an electrifying record that will make anyone mosh, including your lovely grandmother! Pop this baby in and watch as chaos elegantly replaces order.
Fall of the Albatross – Enormous Cloud
Instrumental music has never sounded this good. Each song is delicately built with complex layers of bass, drums, and guitars, creating a stunning panorama of music. Fall of the Albatross proves that there is artistry in intricacy. Your ears will thank you.
Giant Squid – Minoans
Take a trip to the times of Ancient Greece were philosophical thinking was on the rise and much of the Earth remained untouched by western civilizations. Like many albums on this list, it is hard to classify Minoans under one specific genre. Let’s just say it’s post-progressive historical metal and leave it at that. Either way, it is an astonishing and compelling piece of work.
Godflesh – World Lit Only By Fire
Their first record in over ten years, Godflesh keeps delivering seamlessly orchestrated but raw rage. Although originally disbanded in 2002, the British industrial metal outfit sounds like they haven’t missed a thing. A head-banger of a record!
Goodthink – Interim [EP]
Although only four songs long, this instrumental EP packs enough power to blow your face off while enchanting your ears. Great for individuals who love hard music but can’t stand the vocals.
Hark – Crystalline
Without a doubt, Hark’s debut record establishes them as sludge metal professionals. From captivating grooves to dynamic rhythms, Hark will become one of your new favorite bands. It wont be long before these guys will be mentioned among giants like Mastodon or Baroness.
Indian – From All Purity
Indian’s 2011 release Guiltless caught my attention for a moment. I’m sad to admit that I did not pay that album its deserved due. However, 2014 was a different story. From All Purity was not only a head-turner but it also fiercely grabbed my eyes, ripping them from the sockets, never to be returned. It will do the same to yours, consider yourself warned.
Job for A Cowboy – Sun Eater
The fourth album from death metal group Job for a Cowboy fully displays the band’s mastery of technicality and harshness. With memorable guitar solos, passionate percussion rhythms, and marvelous bass licks from bassist Nick Schendzielos, Sun Eater establishes JFAC as a band that separates itself from the pack and flourishes handsomely.
Krieg – Transient
Although considered black metal, Krieg play in a style and pace of their own. These fellows are not your (stereo)typical Satanic-inspired black metal outfit. Nihilism, isolation, individual struggle, are some of the subjects Krieg’s music deals with. Transient is the culmination of all negative emotions, expelled out into the world for all to see and understand. Emotional and powerful.
Mastodon – Once ‘Round the Sun
An improvement from 2011’s The Hunter, sludge kings Mastodon return to their harsher and more banging roots on this release. A must for rock fans of all shapes and sizes.
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
The end of mankind is near and no one knows that better than the veteran Norwegian black metal outfit called Mayhem. The world has not ended just yet but Esoteric Warfare certainly makes it feel like its about to.
Nasheim – Solens vemod
Beautiful, atmospheric black metal that will fill your cranium with infecting tones. The strings in this album will make any fan of music fall in love with black metal. Nasheim crafts breath-taking soundscapes like a humble artisan of ancient times.
Nightbringer – Ego Dominus Tuus
This is the kind of album to will make you start a cult. Monumental buildups, chaotic melodies, grim track progressions. After just one listen, the occultist in you will come out in full force.
Old Man Gloom – Ape of God (I) & (II)
Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Old Man Gloom blessed us with not one but two releases in 2014. You might think two albums is enough to satisfy, however, their intoxicating songs will leave you perpetually hungry for more. Ape of God will taint you with an unquenchable thirst for brutality, guaranteed.
Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
Doom metal outfit Pallbearer have gain well deserved praise in recent years. In 2014, they continued their display of engaging songwriting. Pallbearer are expert lyricists that will have you entertained throughout the entire album. In other words, these guys are the musical representation of a wise old man who sits by the campfire, retelling extravagant tales of times long passed.
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Listening to Roads to the North will take you on an audial adventure as grandiose as the album itself. Kentucky black metal outfit Panopticon coherently implements elements of folk and Americana music into this graceful record. A monumental release that fully displays the amplitude and majesty of American black metal.
Serdce – Timelessness
Death Metal is a gangster of a genre with a notorious reputation. Throw the word ‘progressive’ in there and things change up a bit. While for many folks Death Metal is a hard thing to get into, Serdce’s Timelessness can serve as the stepping-stones to a world forsaken by most.
Stam1na – SLK
You don’t need to know Finnish to understand the passion behind each track on SLK. The fine guitar harmonies will make anyone a fan of Stam1na. Get those horns up and that head banging!
Slomatics – Estron
Another sludge/doom/heavy metal outfit similar to Mastodon, Slomatics hail from Ireland bringing with them a banging of a record. You’ll catch yourself helplessly jamming out to these guys´ memorable LP. Be on the look out for this amazing band.
So Hideous – Last Poem/First Light
Gorgeously combining bloodthirsty pandemonium with organized, symphonic orchestration, New York’s So Hideous created a unique musical portrait on their 2014 release. At times soothing, at other times chaotic. This record comforts both body and mind.
Teitanblood – Death
I’ll be honest with you and admit that, at first, I was scared to listen to this album. But like all fears, one most overcome them to become a better person. And while I did not piss my pants after a listen through Death, I did, however, learn that some of the things that scare us can actually be quite fascinating. With an open mind, one can discover beauty in what initially appears grotesque
Thou – Heathen
Thou’s latest LP is a prime example of music as art. Thou is an eye-opening exhibition of creativity, emotions, and prowess. The composition of the album as a whole is enough to make any art snob stand up and slowly clap.
Tombs– Savage Gold
On their third studio album, Brooklyn’s Tombs further experiment with the amalgamation of hardcore, black, doom, sludge, and post-metal. These guys cooked up a bombastic
Trap Them – Blissfucker
A true rager of an album. Blissfucker will get your blood flowing and muscles pumping quicker than any steroid. You’ll be ready to mess up any bastard stupid enough to fuck with you. If you’re looking to let all that stress out and just mosh, this album is what you need.
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
As humans, we often forget that invincibility is not one of our traits. Well, Triptykon’s Melana Chasmata is here to remind us of our mortality. From bone-chilling screams to earth-shattering grooves. This LP contains everything to haunt your dreams as well as appease your soul.
Vallenfyre – Splinters
On Splinters, Vallenfyre flawlessly balance moments of madness with moments of peacefulness. The colossal harmonies on this record feel like a complete metal opera, manifesting pain and suffering, and eventual triumph over those woes. If you are going through some shit, listen to this album. Do not face your demons alone, friend.
Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity
Sharp, full, engaging. These are just a few words that describe Winterfylleth’s latest LP. Who needs drugs when you have black metal this good? The Divination of Antiquity will leave your mind in a state of existentialism, lost in the woods, searching for the answers to humanity’s purpose. Talk about an out-of-body experience.
Witch Mountain – Mobile of Angels
Witch Mountain shows us that you don’t need speed to sound ferocious. They go at their own pace, hammering you with every note played. Mobile of Angels has as much energy and intensity as any death metal record. Singer Uta Plotkin adds a sense of sternness not found on any other album on this list. Her voice is that of a mother, loving yet critical whenever you mess up.
Woods of Desolation – As The Stars
What do you get when you mix black metal with shoegaze? Black gaze shoemetal. And As The Stars perfectly illustrates that blend. As dense as it is moving, this album will take you to a level high above the cosmos.
Yautja – Songs of Descent
You’ll find that experience Yautja’s debut album Songs of Descent is like venturing into uncharted territory. It may seem intimidating at first, but work up enough courage and you’ll find a place where you can scream your head off and let go of all the anger caused by misfortunes. Yautja will help you rid of the beast that is preying on you by slitting its throat.
Yob – Clearing The Path To Ascend
Doom specialists Yob are master craftsman when it comes to storytelling through enthralling lyrics complemented with powerful guitar strokes and soothing drum blows. This album is a hurricane of turbulent but composed sound.
1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos
I started this list with a black metal record so I might as well end it with one. This release from Norwegian outfit 1349 is like a horrid goblin shunned from society, returning to lay its vengeance on mankind. Harsh but righteous.
**Special thanks to Solomon, Eduardo, and Dan Dan for showing me some of the records that are on this list. Sharing music makes the world go round!
**Another HUGE thanks to Joe and the gang over at Ravedeaf for letting me contribute to their amazing website.
If the albums listed above were not enough to fill up your gut then 1) you’re a sick bastard and 2) I like your attitude. Here are more records released in 2014 worth a listen if you have extra time. Enjoy!
Boris – Noise
Drudkh & Winerfylleth – Thousands of Moons Ago (Split)
Einherjer – Av Oss, For Oss
Electric Wizard – Time to Die
Impaled Nazarene – Vigorous and Liberating Death
Misery Index – The Killing Gods
Periphery – Clear
Epistasis – Light Through Dead Glass
Singularity – Singularity
Stam1na – SLK
Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
Slough Feg – Digital Resistance
Dark Fortress – Venereal Dawn
Warforged – Essence Of the Land