I love music. The one thing that pains me to no end is when I hear people say that there is no good music around anymore. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s evident in the extreme metal genre, that there are piles of fantastic, awe-inspiring bands and albums just waiting to be discovered. 2014 was a banner year for the genre, producing so many brilliant and amazing albums that it became almost a joke about halfway through the year. This year produced my my new all-time favorite album, tons of instant classics and numerous albums that I will be returning to years after the fact.
This list is long (40+ with some footnotes and an extensive honorable mentions list) but I implore you to dig through it and try some of this stuff out. It’s not meant to be a “holier than thou” sort of statement, merely a way of sharing things that are awesome. I scour these lists every year and always find hidden gems, things I overlooked or albums I never would have tried and often more times than not, they would have ended up on my year end list if only I had discovered them earlier.
This is the metal list. My most loved genre. I’ll post a follow up list of my favorite non-metal albums of the year as well if this just isn’t your cup of tea, but again, try something new, you’ll never know how it will affect you. Just click on the title of any album and it will take you to where you can listen to, or buy this music.
1. Panopticon – Roads to the North
As soon as I found out Panopticon was going to release a new album this year I knew it would be an album that would be in my rotation constantly. His previous album Kentucky took the spot of my favorite album of all time and now Roads to the North is my new favorite album ever. How he topped Kentucky is a testament to his writing and musical talent and it must be heard. This album is so epic in scope and yet so personal all at once. This is what music should be like all the time. A perfect album. A masterpiece.
2. Falls of Rauros – Believe In No Coming Shore
2A. Falls of Rauros/Panopticon Split
An extremely close second is the new Falls of Rauros, who are making some of the best black metal this country as ever seen. My expectations were high for this album all year and it did not disappoint. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the phenomenal split album that both Falls and Panopticon released earlier in the year which was also amazing and only made my appetite for both of their full lengths that much stronger.
3. Saor – Aura
Saor came blasting out of nowhere last year with his phenomenal album Roots, which was as strong as atmospheric black metal got last year. Not one to slow down, word soon followed of a new album in the works and I eagerly awaited the release of this album. Aura is a mountain of awesome only made stronger by the incredible riffs and impeccable drumming of Panopticon’s Austin Lunn. This album is breathtaking.
4. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Since the dissolving of Celtic Frost, Tom Fischer has soldiered on with Triptykon and has released, in my opinion, his best work to date. Melana Chasmata is thundering in it’s bleak and dismal presentation bring heaviness to a whole new realm of existence. There’s no other band out there that sounds close to Triptykon.
5. Eternum – The Devouring Descent
Along with Iceland, Australia seems to be blowing up with incredible extreme metal acts and Eternum is among the best, if you ask me. Eternum take atmospheric black metal to a whole new level, throw in a generous portion of viking era Bathory and come up with one of the most compelling albums of the year. Not to mention the insanely amazing cover art.
6. Blut aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
One of the enduring features of black metal is the amount of bands that while having been around for ages, still manage to produce mind blowing music. Blut aux Nord always plays to win and I dare you to mind a clunker in their overwhelmingly amazing discography. This is the final installment in their Memoria trilogy and it’s a doozy. While little is known about the mysterious entities that make up Blut aus Nord, their music speaks for itself and this album is another shining victory in their catalog.
7. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
The only death metal album to crack my top 10 and for good reason. While a lot of death metal this year was throw-back, homage style or line towed by the old guard, Dead Congregation showed up to remind us that they crush death metal and there is still plenty of fertile soil there, if only you have the gall to gather it. I dare you to find a better death metal release this year. One more original, invigorating and awe-inspiring. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
8. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
This Irish horde are the reigning kings of epic metal and their new album is a testament to that. Glorious in it’s scope, it makes you want to charge head first into a bloody battle against a Protestant horde and claim their lands for your heathen brothers and sisters. That’s the affect Primordial has with their music, and none do it better.
9. Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith
This one came out of nowhere and took my playlist by storm. Amazing cosmic themed, atmospheric black metal. The cosmic is a bit misleading as Mare Cognitum has less to do with bands like Dark Space and more to do with the mislabeled “Cascadian” black metal. The album is lush and beautiful and is comprised solely by one member. How bands with multiple members can’t get as much right as these solo black metal artists is beyond me.
10. Noble Beast – Noble Beast
Every year I hope that power metal will come out on top and release a genre defining album as the sub genre is in desperate need of some new breath, and this year, while for the most part it remained stale, at least we got Noble Beast. While not changing the genre, Noble Beast fully embrace all that is great about the genre and present it with such gusty, such love, such enthusiasm that it’s hard not to get caught up in their vigor. This is power metal as it should be. Epic, fist pumping, singalong at the top of your voice power metal.
11. Spectral Lore – III
It took me awhile to actually sit down and listen to this given it’s lengthy run time. Once I did I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. I wasn’t familiar with Spectral Lore until hearing this but I was blown away with this album. The 1.5 hour run time just cruises by and leaves you lost in a realm of beautiful and serene black metal populated with incredible sounds, multiple instruments and a triumphant feeling that you’ve just heard one of the best black metal albums of the decade. To top it all off, it’s another one-man band. Amazing.
12. Ered Wethrin – Tides of War
Something is in the water in Salt Lake City as they have been producing some devastatingly, jaw dropping metal as of late. Along with Winterlore, Gallowbraid, Caladan Brood and Visigoth, Ered Wethrin are taking epic, battle-themed, heathen black metal (well, Visigoth is more power metal) to new heights and doing it so well, I’m beginning to wonder if Summoning and Bathory had a bunch of love babies in Utah.
13. Darkenhold – Castellum
Black metal is already a niche genre of a niche genre so for a band to go even further and focus almost the entirety of their songs to the subject of castles seems a bit extreme but Darkenhold do it so well I wonder if a new genre needs to be created just for them. Old style, gothic-like black metal all about castles and medieval imagery will make you think you’ve been whisked away to some crumbling European castle, covered in an eerie fog, reflecting only the light of the moon. Amazing stuff here.
14. Nightbringer – Ego Dominus Tuus
Hailing from my backyard (Colorado) Nightbringer have been making truly incredible black metal for some time now but their most recent release may just be their best. They don’t focus on typical, riff driven black metal. They go for a dense, atmospheric, resoundingly evil sound that permeates your mind and leaves you trembling with fear. Few bands sound as scary, or as impressive as Nightbringer.
15. Horned Almighty – World of Tombs
Horned Almighty are determined to present their brash, juggernaut like satanic black metal in the most abrasive and in your face way as possible and if they didn’t have the chops to back it, I wouldn’t give them a second thought. This band is the definition of the so casually used term “brutal.”
16. Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity
16a. Drudkh/Winterfylleth – Thousands of Moons Ago/The Gates
While I hold all the Winterfylleth albums in high regard I think this new one may be my favorite so far. These guys are just masters at the black/folk/atmospheric metal. Overwhelmingly beautiful and crushing in weight, Winterfylleth have reached a new level on this album. Also, their contribution to the split with Drudkh was just as amazing.
17. Merkaba – Bones of the Sacred Forest
Technically a re-release but it might as well be new to me, Merkaba’s brand of Kentucky based black metal has been a constant in my rotation since it came out this year. A tremendous band that deserves way more attention.
18. Overkill – White Devil Armory
Overkill has been on a hot streak since they released Ironbound in 2010 and reclaimed their spot as trash heavy weights and White Devil Armory, their third release since proves it hasn’t been a fluke. Over thirty years in the game and they are still not only killing it, but running circles around all the newer thrash metal bands and the established guard, this is easily the trash album of the year for me and I’ve played this record so much my neck is starting to deteriorate.
19. Waldgeflüster – Meine Fessein
The first release from Bindrune Records this year and one that was in constant rotation all year long for me. This German one-man black metal band (recently expanded to a full band) gets so much right with black metal it’s staggering. It’s full of triumphant melodies that sing the praise of the nature oriented themes and beautiful passages of intense black metal. I can’t wait to see where they go next.
20. Horrendous – Ecdysis
I was hooked on their previous album The Chills so this one was highly anticipated for me this year. Where The Chills was definitely a homage to classic Swedish Death metal, Ecdysis sees the band coming into their own and using that influence to create something different and special. If Dead Congregation hadn’t obliterated death metal this year, this would have been the album to beat.
21. Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica
I have a weakness for these multiple genre mash-up bands. Nux Vomica are playing with black metal, post-rock, death metal, doom and topping it all off with a crust sound and sneer and making something remarkable. Similar to my favorite band from last year, Agrimonia, the mix sounds like it could be jarring or hectic but it turns out to be captivating and beautiful all at the same time.
22. Woods of Desolation – As the Stars
I played the previous Woods album into the ground and this was one of the earlier releases this year I was looking forward too. Again, another one-man black metal project and it kills. Atmospheric black metal gets thrown around a lot but this is like atmosphere on top of atmosphere. It’s a mesmerizing listen and all in under 40 minutes.
23. Devin Townsend – Sky Blue
I’ve become a bit of a Townsend fanboy over the past couple years and am truly enamored with the wealth of creativity in this man. His previous album Epicloud was one of my favorites of 2012 and contains so much ethereal beauty it’s insane. While Sky Blue is but half of his new release (the other half being the sequel to Ziltoid) I found myself obsessed with this half. Not to say the Zitloid half is bad. It does manage to capture the frantic, crazed parts of Devin’s personality beautifully, I just thought it paled in comparison to Sky Blue which is much more along the lines of Epicloud. Again, his creativity and output are signs of beauty.
24. Drudkh – Eastern Frontier in Flames
This is a compilation of covers and b-sides but it never for once second feels like that. The fact that Drudkh can make this feel like one, cohesive album, from so many disjointed parts is a real testament to how amazing this band is.
25. Falconer – Black Moon Rising
Falconer, to me, are one of the most perfect power metal bands. They capture the soaring majesty, fantastical elements and over triumphant nature of the genre so perfectly that it takes all the cheese out of it even though it’s so cheesy it could give you a heart attack. So sincere in their approach it’s hard not to hold your fist up in brotherly support and sing at the top of your voice along with every word on this album.
26. Darkest Era – Severance
Speaking of triumphant, Darkest Era are playing in the same arena as Primordial and given that they are fellow countrymen, it’s hard not to hear that influence on them, but instead of going down the heathen battle path like Primordial, they are focusing more on folklore and fables. They implore the galloping, battle style of music but add an element of sheer pristine and beauty to the mix that makes them stand apart. And those vocals… Epic.
27. Nasheim – Solens Vemod
While this album had apparently been a long time coming, I wasn’t aware of this band until this year. Solens Vermod is yet another example of the treasures that are ever present in metal, just waiting to be discovered. I know I’ve said atmospheric a lot in this list but Nasheim do the atmospheric black metal thing with so much gusto and vigor that you can’t help but get swept away in it. The album art is beautiful as is the music and proof that if you look for it, you can still have your mind blown by music.
28. Abigor – Leytmotif Luzifer
Abigor have released some of my all time favorite black metal albums so regardless of what they are doing, I’ll eager to check it out. This album seemed to come out with not much notice or hype and upon first listen, I was blown away. You never know what you’re going to get with this band and this one is a frenzied blast of a black metal assault. Abigor is always demanding of their listeners and if you have the wherewithal, the challenge is exceptionally rewarding.
29. While Heaven Wept – Suspended At Aphelion
While I’ve been trying to expand my appreciation of the doom genre, this is the sort of doom I gravitate to. Majestically soaring, with epic vocals and musical passages, Suspended At Aphelion is technically just one 40 minute song, broken down into 7 parts. Tranquil, serene, heavy and again, just epic I’m always into what these guys are doing.
30. Woman is the Earth – Depths
This album took me by storm as I was unaware of this band until this came out. Only 25 minutes but it is packed to the gills with some of the most transcendent and beautiful black metal you’ll hear all year. It’s atmospheric, oh how is it atmospheric, angry and heartfelt, making it another great addition to the already incredible United States Black Metal crowd.
31. Fluisteraars – Dromers
I was really taken with Fluisteraars debut album this year. I didn’t know until later that Bob Mollema was an ex-vocalist from the recently ended Mondvolland and there’s a little crossover there if only in some of the “folkier” guitar parts but for the most part Dromers is an old-styled, european black metal assault, repetition is used to great affect with the raspy, croaked vocals and it revels in a sort of lo-fi approach like the earlier black metal releases.
32. The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li
Using the works of H.P. Lovecraft is not new in metal, but doing it in a way that is unique and original is. Tekeli-Li is a concept album following the Lovecraft story At The Mountains of Madness (my personal favorite of his) and The Great Old Ones do that story so much justice with their post black metal sounds. The album is haunting and puts you perfectly in the atmosphere of that story with it’s chilling isolated surroundings and slumbering ancient evils. If ever a band (aside from maybe Portal) has captured what Lovecraft would have sounded like, this is that band.
33. Sargeist – Feeding the Crawling Shadows
There’s always room for some good old-fashioned, hate-filled, satanic black metal in my heart and Sargeist delivered just that in spades this year.
34. Anathema – Distant Satellites
I’m sure what Anathema is doing is no longer in the realm of metal, or even doom metal, a genre they played a big part in during their infancy but for some reason I can’t disassociate them with the genre. Anathema have assembled such a strong stable of players and the ethereal and sublime sounds they are crafting are so beautifully well crafted I can’t not include them on my list.
35. Cross Vault – Spectres of Revocable Loss
35a. Latitude Egress – To Take up the Cross
Cross Vault present a more classic take on doom with this album. More down trodden and plodding, sad, mournful vocals but beautiful in it’s agony. Cross Vault is another project from N. of Horn fame (check them out immediately) and he also put out the equally impressive, but slightly more progressive doom album To Take Up The Cross, by his other band Latitude Egress.
36. High Spirits – You are Here
I’m a huge fan of Chris Black’s main project Dawnbringer, which in an of it’s self is a love letter to numerous genres, so I was excited to check out the newest release from his one-man band High Spirits and as much as it pains me to say this, High Spirits beat out the new Dawnbringer by a mile this year. Fully planting his foot in 80’s hard rock territory, Black pays loving homage to the days of just rocking out and playing catchy as all hell hard rock. Similar band Audrey Horne tried to get there this year but didn’t succeed in the same way High Spirits have. Just great songwriting, catchy songs and great songs to sing along with.
37. Teitanblood – Death
Teitanblood just pummel you with a ruthless battery of blackened death metal for the entirety of this albums 60+ minutes. It’s unrelenting, cacophonous and violent and it truly makes you think that this is what death might actually sound like.
38. Yellow Eyes – The Desert Mourns
Yellow Eyes have been on my radar for the past couple years now and it’s been interesting seeing them progress their take on black metal and climbing up the ranks. Their melody heavy sound is in full force on this EP and is an excellent follow up to their also incredible Hammer of the Night from last year.
39. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
As I mentioned before, I’m slowly gaining more and more interest in Doom metal and one of the reasons for that is YOB. This album is a crushing example of doom metal and it boggles my mind that Pallbearer seems to be garbing all of the praise this year when YOB just knocked it out of the park, yet again. In true doom styling, the album is 4 songs long and clocks in at over an hour of plodding, heavy as hell, transcendent, doom awesomeness.
40. Veldes – Skyward
This was a random discovery I made while cruising Bandcamp and an album I kept coming back to all year. It’s only an EP but it’s melody heavy, atmospheric black metal is mind numbingly beautiful. A pleasant surprised that kept me smiling all year long.
Avichi – Catharsis Absolute
Alcest – Shelter
Kampfar – Djevelmakt
Sivyj Yar – From Dead Villages’ Darkness
Fen – Carrion Skies
Grue – Casualty of the Psychic Wars
Caïnan Dawn – Thavmial
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
Swallowed – Lunarterial
Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
Graveborne – Through the Window of the Night
Skull Fist – Chasing the Dream
Cloud Rat – Blind River
Alaskan – Despair, Erosion, Loss
A Pregnant Light – My Game Doesn’t Have a Name
The Flight of the Sleipnir – V.
Nightfell – The Living Mourn
Taake – Stridens Hus
Death Fortress – Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable
Wayfarer – Children of the Iron Age
Kriegsmaschine – Enemy of Man
Morbus Chron – Sweven
Cretin – Stranger
Aenaon – Extance
Rauhnåcht – Urzeitgeist
Hour of Penance – Regicide
Cara Neir – The Overwatch EP
Cormorant – Earth Driver
Nocturnal Breed – Napalm Nights
Old Wainds – Nordraum
Skogen – I Döden
Portrait – Crossroads
Ifing – Against this Weald
Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
Vallenfyre – Splinters
Torrid Husk – Caesious
Hoth – Oathbreaker
Ahamkara – The Embers of the Stars
Trap Them – Blissfucker
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
Master’s Hammer – Vagus Vetus
Vader – Tibi et Igni
Diocletian – Gesundrian
Tombs – Savage Gold
Eyehategod – Eyehategod
Cauldron Black Ram – Stalagmire
Zgard – Contemplation
Wolvhammer – Clawing into Black Sun
Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem
Wrought Iron – Rejoice and Transcend
Oubliette – Apparitions
Mutilation Rites – Harbinger
Van Helga – Langton
Ad Infinitum – Woven Within
Krisgrav – The Carrion Fields
Slugdge – Gastronomicon
Ulvegr – The Call of Glacial Emptiness
Eternal Valley – Screams of Eternal Emptiness
Death Penalty – Death Penalty
Drowned – Idola Specus
Sinmara – Aphotic Womb
Witch Mountain – Mobile of Angels
Krieg – Transient
Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel
Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy
Iron Reagan – The Tyranny of Will
Goatmoon – Voitto Tai Valhalla
Bulletbelt – Rise of the Banshee
Posthum – Black Northern Ritual
Locktender – Rodin
Varathron – Untrodden Corridors of Hades
The Deathtrip – Deep Drone Master
Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum
Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer
The House of Capricorn – Morning Star Rise
Menace Ruine – Venus Armata
Latitude Egress – To Take up the Cross
Vorde – Vorde
Sivyj Yar – From the Dead Villages’ Darkness