Best Metal Albums of 2014 (So Far)
2014 has been a banner year for quality metal releases. The metal masterpieces we’ve been exposed to so far have arguably marked 2014 as one of the 21st century’s strongest years, and it’s far from over!
Several months have passed since we counted down the final seconds of 2013, so it’s time to spotlight the most impacting, brilliant and overall best metal albums released so far this year. Have your personal favorites made our Best Metal Albums of 2014 (So Far) list? Find out below!
'Redeemer of Souls'
Judas Priest is a band that constantly evolves. 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, as ‘Beginning of the End’ is expertly written and truly envelops the listener in its soft embrace. Priest reigns supreme once again!
Behemoth are early frontrunners for the coveted spot of Best Metal Album of 2014. 'The Satanist' is a masterpiece from beginning to end, with absolutely not 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!'.
'Kindly Bent to Free Us'
Cynic's 'Kindly Bent to Free Us' has proved 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.'
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.
The departure of Angela Gossow left many wondering how Arch Enemy could continue, but the queen of the scream handed the spot over to Alissa White-Gluz of the Agonist. Since releasing the 'War Eternal' title track, White-Gluz has been a hit, with that very song amassing millions of views on YouTube. Arch Enemy aren't reinventing the wheel with 'War Eternal,' but the album has resonated with fans through its solid approach to Arch Enemy's trademark sound.
'Symmetry in Black'
Crunch! Straight from the sludge mecca of New Orleans, Crowbar hit their stride with 'Symmetry in Black,' and thankfully, that stride is a slow crawl. Frontman Kirk Windstein does a fantastic job keeping Crowbar's sound solid and interesting with big, thick grooves where bending a note is the most bad ass sound on the planet. His voice comes through with force as well, reminding us why Crowbar was so awesome in the first place. 'Symmetry in Black' also successfully dabbles in experimental realms, perhaps showcased best in the harmonic vocal lines within 'The Foreboding.'
'The Serpent & The Sphere'
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.
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.
'Shadows of the Dying Sun'
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.
'Tibi et Igni'
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?
'Once More 'Round the Sun'
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. 'Once More' 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 and Brann Dailor attack each vocal line with confidence and character. Plus, Mastodon's stellar musicianship remains extremely impressive throughout each cut.
For those of you unfamiliar with Menace, it's the side project of Napalm Death guitarist Mitch Harris. Menace's debut album, 'Impact Velocity,' is incredibly ambitious, mixing heavy guitar work with space rock atmosphere and robotic pseudo-industrial dynamics. Though listeners can hear a few Napalm Death nuances throughout 'Impact Velocity,' Harris has created a completely separate entity with Menace. There are even some unapologetically beautiful parts such as the 'Positron' chorus or the final sections of 'To the Marrow.'
'The Killing Gods'
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.
'A Far Away Wonder'
Experimental metal / rock upstarts With Our Arms to the Sun caught our attention early this year, impressing us from the very first listen of 'A Far Away Wonder.' The small, upstart act specializes in atmosphere through instrumentation. Very little of 'A Far Away Wonder' is vocally driven, but the hypnotic album is balanced beautifully. With the addition of synth, shoegaze and chant dynamics, 'A Far Away Wonder' shapes up to be a brilliantly affective album.