20. Behemoth - The Satanist
The Polish Death Metal fathers’ first studio outing since frontman Nergal rejoined following his battle with leukaemia. It seems that time away from the studio and all the pain he felt really had an effect on Nergal and his brethren. Here’s to one very catchy and enjoyable piece of Blackened Death Metal which has given Behemoth a whole new listenership.
19. Gormathon - Following the Beast
Melodic Death Metal at its finest. There is nothing ‘core’ about this release, it almost mirrors Heartwork on several occasions and has you singing along to the cleaner vocals all the time. This is that album you need to give to kids new to the scene to show them how to play melo-death correctly.
18. Tombs - Savage Gold
Post-Metal has really come into its own in the past three years. I first discovered it with Alcest and Old Silver Key, but that was confined to the black metal world. Now, we have a more experimental piece from New York which will really make anyone into My Bloody Valentine and An Autumn For Crippled Children feel very much at home. Experimenting tends to be a good move and here’s a band who know how to do it.
17. Premature Birth - A Ceremony of Power
Now I’ve ranked this band here, not because it’s a friends’ band, but because they are really coming into their own with their second EP. Premature Birth started out delivering blistering Death Metal in a similar vein to Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral, but having added in symphonic keys and more songs about dread and death related anxieties, they’ve brought us what can be best described as Cradle of Filth if they’d stuck to their ‘Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ roots.
16. Bloodred - The Lost Ones
An excellent debut from a one man DM outfit. Short, sweet, angry and vicious with all the right topics of death and murder nicely covered.
15. Alcest - Shelter
I wasn’t very impressed with the French post-black metal flagship’s third album – but they have certainly redeemed themselves. You’ll find all the regular clichés nicely melded together with some extra hints of Cocteau Twins here and there, and frontman Neige singing in English for the first time. Impressive move Alcest.
14. Unaussprelichen Kulten - Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath
For the ultimate in Lovecraftian themed Death Metal, look to Chile. The scene coming from this latin American nation certainly knows its requirements. For any keen fans of Vader, these guys will not disappoint, for their latest venture is an entire concept album on the evolution of the Cthulhu mythos.
13. Albez Duz - The Coming of Mictlan
Anyone who likes Doom Metal and Type O Negative has to seek out this band. Germans Albez Duz have done the impossible and given us the idea of what the late Peter Steele would be doing today had he started making Doom Metal and not kicked the bucket too early.
12. Arcane North - Enter the Arcane North
The most original take on English Heritage Black Metal this year. Expect all the riffs of Winterfylleth, the mythologies of Wodensthrone and enough local myths and legends to please anyone who has visited the North of England.
11. AK-11 - Once Upon a Time in Europa
An Australian band obsessed with Siberian history. Sounds downright bizarre but putting it to the right war themed riffs certainly puts these guys on the map as the Eastern Front from down under.
10. Eastern Front - Descent Into Genocide
An now for the aforementioned Eastern Front. Having made an entire first album about a very specific period of WW2, I was wondering how they would follow up. And they certainly did not fail to disappoint by dedicating the whole thing to a massacre held in Ukraine during the Nazis retreat from the bloodthirsty Red Army following the battle of Stalingrad. WW2 metal at its finest.
9. Posthum - The Black Northern Ritual
Every cliché of early Norwegian black metal thrown together to give the best record to celebrate 10 years on the road for these guys. Imagine Darkthrone in the same room as Mayhem and Carpathian Forest.
8. Ordoxe - Beyond Mankind
Once again Canada impresses me with its diverse black metal scene. Imagine Immortal if they lived in Quebec and the stories they could tell about the ongoing winters at the roof of the world. And then they took a slightly rawer root, resulting in the love child that is Ordoxe.
7. Stench - Venture
To a lot of people, Death Metal is becoming too progressive and technical and up itself. I was one of said people until I found Stench. Stench certainly know how to play basic Death Metal using all the right elements from the early days of the genre. This is that album you must recommend to children if they want to play basic death metal without being seduced by the next Deathcore act Scuzz and Kerrang overhype.
6. The Stone - Nekroza
Serbia’s leading Black Metal force give us their seventh studio release which is certainly keeping the scene alive in a country with such a bloody war torn history. Said history has certainly given them enough brutality to write about here too. Imagine Taake crossed with Cryptic Slaughter.
5. Krieg - Transient
And now for the top five. And entering that top five we have the most socially and politically aware black metal group from the USA. With covers of Crust Punk veterans Amebix and enough tracks spouting rage against the self righteous dull of everyday American life, Krieg have made the angriest piece of political metal I’ve heard all year. Using all the right clichés from the genre’s punk origins, you have black metal’s answer to Conflict.
4. Sargeist - Feeding the Crawling Shadows
I’ve always enjoyed Raw Black Metal, and the USA is becoming the haven for this genre. If you’re up for a satanic ritual conducted against a buzzsaw guitar then Sargeist are that band you need to seek out. This album is angry, offensive and downright nasty to the ears.
3. Darkenhold – Castellum
Is it possible to make black metal sound happy? Well if you’re a medieval war buff like me then yes. French outfit Darkenhold have delivered the ultimate in medieval themed metal and they’ve done so by giving it the most refreshing edge you could possibly imagine. It’s like listening to a power metal album about chivalry and crusades but in the style of Mayhem. The addition of a harpsichord makes it all the more fascinating for anyone who’s spent hours playing Medieval Total War, so check out Darkenhold. Stick this on and you’ll be riding into battle with the wind in your heart and feasting at the proverbial round table with the victors of the day.
2. Mortals - Cursed to See the Future
Whenever people say ‘female metal’ these days you presume the band to be symphonic or operatic, as that still is a place where women tend to be shunned in the global metal world. So for any feminists in this scene, who want that image forgotten and buried, check out Mortals. This is the band that pulled out all the stops to show me that women can deliver the angriest and violent sludge metal imaginable. You would not think for a minute this is an all female group from the vocals alone, so here we have the band who can tell us women can do what men have been doing in metal with pure aplomb. This is the finest band since Astarte and I hope to hear more from Mortals as this album should give hope to all the women out there who want to show the world just how angry they are with the most evil of genres.
And the Number One Metal Album of 2014 is...
Falls of Rauros - Believe in no Coming Shore
As I said at the beginning, this has been a great year for Atmospheric Black Metal. And this band, having made a superb split with fellow band Panopticon last year, are there leading the USA into the ever changing world of Black Metal with the greatest melodies you can imagine. Acoustics, dark ambience and ten minute symphonies are all compiled into this beautiful package of all things USBM. This album knows just how to tug on your heart and your nerves when you’re feeling so down and troubled and will bring you back to earth and immerse you in the most beautiful of acoustics. Perfect timing is ideal for comedians, but it is also essential in making the most impressive music when musicians want to be experimental. And Falls of Rauros have given us just that. Perfectly timed experiments that will make you want to listen to this album again and again, regardless of its prog-rock-esque length.
Happy New Year Everybody!