A year’s worth of fresh metal has invaded our ears once again, and it’s time to name the greatest achievements of 2014. From thrash and extreme metal to experimental music, these are our picks for the 20 Best Metal Albums of 2014.
In creating this list, we focused on critical acclaim, fan response, creative progression, originality, songwriting prowess, technical achievements and many more dynamics. Having exposed ourselves to a ridiculous amount of metal throughout 2014, we’re ready to bring you our Top 20 list!
'White Devil Armory'
Overkill's hot streak continued this year with the release of 'White Devil Armory.' The way Overkill can keep classic thrash fresh is astonishing, as monster tracks such as 'Armorist' and 'Bitter Pill' unapologetically prove. Vocalist Bobby Blitz is as sharp as ever, while guitarist Dave Linsk brings the heavy as one of thrash's most valuable shredders. Overkill's sound is air-tight in 'White Devil Armory' and the band shows no signs of fading out.
Oregon doom act Yob is one of the genre's most consistent acts. The band has been commanding respect since releasing 'Elaborations of Carbon' in 2002, allowing Yob massive opportunities such as touring with Tool in 2012. With some great exposure under Yob's belt, the band unleashed 'Clearing the Path to Ascend' this year, earning praise once again from the metal community. Looking for some deep, deep, deep doom? Yob is your answer.
Melodic death metal / metalcore blueprinters At the Gates returned in 2014 with their first studio album in 19 years, 'At War With Reality.' Fans and critics have been going nuts for this album since its October release. The raw qualities of 'At War With Reality' endeared fans to the album immediately, as did At the Gates' unique approach to a fresh throwback.
More metal fans should be buzzing about this album. Sure, Vader is one of the most reliably awesome bands in the world of brutal death metal, but you just can't take an album like 'Tibi et Igni' for granted. That classic Vader character absolutely gleams throughout 'Tibi et Igni,' which boasts the top-shelf gutturals and maniacal shredding of Piotr Wiwczarek. Vader understand their sound, but unlike many of their contemporaries, Vader can stick to their roots and still create exciting death metal with plenty of huge leads and addictive vocal hooks. 'Triumph of Death' anyone?
Cynic's 'Kindly Bent to Free Us' has proven to be polarizing, as it's a fair departure from both 'Focus' and 'Traced in Air.' Though Cynic's third full-length isn't based in tech-death, the soundscape painted by Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert and Sean Malone is transfixing. The ayahuasca trip that is 'Kindly Bent to Free Us' is full of inventive compositional peaks, such as 'The Lion's Roar,' 'Infinite Shapes' and 'Gitanjali.'
Misery Index's fifth full-length, 'The Killing Gods,' is yet another strong piece of the band's impressively brutal and consistent. The album is almost bi-polar in nature, switching from calm to ultra-violent in the recording's first half, but from there on, it's all pulverizing. 'The Killing Gods' shows off phenomenal musicianship, with Adam Jarvis (Pig Destroyer) proving once again why he's one of the best drummers in metal.
Writing a 71-minute album isn't normal procedure for Machine Head, but it was a very successful venture for the veteran metal band. Each track offers a straight-forward vibe, but is also challenging and progressive at the same time. Few tracks fall under the four-minute mark, but fans wouldn't take 'Bloodstone & Diamonds' any other way.
There's still plenty to say in the world of technical death metal. Craftsmanship was the key for Allegaeon's third studio album, 'Elements of the Infinite.' The record is quality from front to back, thanks in part to new guitarist Michael Stancel and drummer Brandon Park. 'Elements of the Infinite' is likely Allegaeon's best work so far, and we might see more great things from the band's new lineup in the future.
"This is a f--king dynasty of thrash notoriety!" Exodus welcomed back vocalist Steve 'Zetro' Souza for 'Blood In, Blood Out' -- the band's 10th studio album. Though many mourned the departure of Rob Dukes, Zetro came to bat with some of his most ferocious vocals to-date. Gems such as 'Collateral Damage,' the album's title track and 'Salt the Wound,' the last of which features guest guitar work from Metallica's Kirk Hammett, confirm 'Blood In, Blood Out' as an essential 2014 record.
Agalloch have been underground favorites for nearly two decades, and thankfully, they've reach their widest audience yet with 'The Serpent & The Sphere.' The sheer quality of Agalloch's fifth full-length is stunning. They balance black metal and doom aspects to create an immersive atmosphere, beginning the album with the 10-minute 'Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation.' This album is heavy in a unique way -- a quiet way. Beautiful acoustic guitar parts surround John Haughm's harsh whispers, while tracks like 'The Astral Dialogue' nail a more familiar metal sound.
Insomnium scream triumph throughout their sixth studio album, 'Shadows of the Dying Sun.' To call Insomnium "melodic" just doesn't give the band enough credit. The atmosphere throughout is almost folk-like while filling 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' with enough ambience to reach every horizon. The vocals of Niilo Sevänen demands praise as the singer floats seamlessly through gorgeous, soaring clean singing and demonic gutturals. 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' is death metal's answer to a warm bath; so palatable in its heaviness and beauty that complete immersion is the sole effect.
Thanks in part to bands like Pallbearer, doom metal is becoming more popular than ever. 'Foundations of Burden' is the band's second album, and this is far from a "sophomore slump." While trudging along at a snail's pace, Pallbearer keep their music progressive and immersive. The band's multilayered vocals separates itself from the doom pack, creative a more beautiful hypnotizing listen.
Every Time I Die's 'From Parts Unknown' is a 30-minute punch in the mouth. The record captures ETID's unwavering aggression, but comes from a place of fun as well. With vocalist Keith Buckley in a happier place mentally, tracks such as 'Decayin' With the Boys' and 'Thirst' get crowds moving in all the right ways. In all honestly, 'From Parts Unknown' may truly be ETID's magnum opus.
When you make a long-awaited return, you'd better come back with guns blazing. After the death of bassist and creative centerpiece Paul Gray, Slipknotwere unsure if they could still produce a great album. The departure of drummer Joey Jordison added to fan doubt, but with '.5: The Gray Chapter,' Slipknot captured lightning in a bottle, re-energizing the band's rabid fan base. With landmark tracks such as 'The Negative One,' 'Sarcastrophe' and 'The Devil in I,' Slipknot tap into hate once again in a fresh and exciting way.
Judas Priest are a band who constantly evolve. With new guitarist Richie Faulkner on board, Priest brandish a new attitude with 'Redeemer of Souls,' delving into contemporary heaviness while battling dragons and wielding swords. Epic tracks such as 'Halls of Valhalla' and 'Sword of Damocles' are sure to become new fan favorites, and ‘Beginning of the End’ is expertly written and truly envelops the listener in its soft embrace. Priest reign supreme once again!
Due to the band's near-flawless discography, fans expect Mastodon to create brilliance second only to expecting the Sun to rise and fall each day. Thought it may not quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Leviathan' or 'Blood Mountain,' 'Once More 'Round the Sun' is a fantastic listening experience. The album is light on the riffs, but heavy on the hooks. Vocally, 'Once More 'Round the Sun' could be called the band's best effort to date, as Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds andBrann Dailor attack each vocal line with confidence and character. Plus, Mastodon's stellar musicianship remains extremely impressive throughout each cut.
It's the album that almost didn't exist due to frontman Tom Warrior's flirtation with suicide. We hope that Triptykon's 'Melana Chasmata' has cheered the metal legend up, because it's one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2014. For good reason too, as 'Melana Chasmata' boasts unique spoken-word vocals, huge production, crushing guitars and ripping solos. The album delivers a gothic edge to doom and death metal, truly at its best when listened to in full rather than picking out single tracks.
Greece's finest have made their mark yet again with 'Titan.' Septicflesh isn't just a powerful death metal act, Septicflesh is metal's answer to the great composer Richard Wagner. The compositions scored by guitarist Christos Antoniou are breathtaking, and it can't hurt when you recruit the Prague Philharmonic to bring those compositions to life. Through many twists and turns, Septicflesh remain grounded during 'Titan,' featuring some of the most evil guttural vocals ever put to tape, a hair-raisingly creepy children's choir, cinematic themes and a level of sophistication above any symphonic death metal act.
‘Pale Communion’ explores the heavy progressive rock elements covered in ‘Heritage,’ takes a page from ‘Damnation’ and injects brand new dynamics intoOpeth’s vast sonic library. Furthermore, ‘Pale Communion’ features perhaps the most straight-forward approach to showcasing the band’s massive Steven Wilson influence. ‘Pale Communion’ is a true Opeth album, and its unmistakably an album that Opeth have been dying to create.
And the best metal album of 2014 goes to Behemoth's 'The Satanist.' The disc is a masterpiece from beginning to end, with absolutely no filler to be skipped over. The opening track, 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,' has even become a new battle cry for fans on top of being a phenomenal song, capturing the imagination of metalheads in 2014. As metal gets heavier, it becomes more difficult to create a truly evil sounding album, but 'The Satanist' is straight from hell, raising goosebumps up until its brilliant finale, 'O Father O Satan O Sun!'.