One of a series of articles getting into the weeds of the Metal Observer writers’ favourite music of 2014. Here, James Bushnell lists his favourite albums and songs of a great year in extreme metal, with a mercifully short ‘Worst of the Year’ list:
Top 30 albums
1) Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun; Having always enjoyed the sound Insomnium produce, but found their albums a tad monotonous, this is the first time that all of the songs stand out on their own. Includes a few utterly astounding doom/death masterpieces; just brilliant.
2) Bloodshot Dawn – Demons; Great death metal from these British upstarts, with some jaw-droppingly good guitar solos.
3) Valonkantajat – Pimentola; I may not understand a word, but these fine Finnish fellas certainly know how to craft a song; some of the biggest, most memorable hard rock choruses of the year. Unexpectedly awesome.
4) Acheron – Kult des Hasses; I really didn’t expect death metal veterans of over 20 years to release their best album yet in 2014, but for me Acheron have done just that.
5) Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral; Not as long in the tooth as Acheron, but still relative veterans of the death metal scene and another band to produce their best work yet.
6) Pyre – Human Hecatomb; Brilliant debut from Russian death metal outfit.
7) Horrendous – Ecdysis; Proof that 2014 was an incredible year for death metal, with this marvellous work of art outside the top five, but if you’re a death metal-buying consumer in 2014, you really ought to have this.
8) Shear – Katharsis; Melodic, rocking, progressive … but above all, fantastic. Great songs and really strong female vocals.
9) Teramaze – Esoteric Symbolism; As a rule, I avoid progressive power metal like the plague. Horrible stuff. But this is different – the songwriting and guitar work are both fantastic.
10) Dantalion – Where Fear Is Born; A band whose sound has changed over the years finding the style that seems to suit them best; a triumphant death/doom album.
11) Dhwesha – Sthoopa; Death metal from India … and in my opinion the best death metal from India yet. Lacks a little in variety between the songs, but a great heavy, thick sound and each song is a great example of the genre in its own right.
12) Ending Quest – The Summoning; Great death metal with tons of catchiness and headbangability.
13) Those Who Bring The Torture – Piling Up; Yet more extremely good death metal, this time courtesy of our old friend Rogga.
14) Chainfist – Scarred; If a mix of thrash and modern metal doesn’t appeal, Chainfist may force you to think again – when the songs are this good, the influences are almost irrelevant.
15) Angels Or Kings – Kings Of Nowhere; Great re-discovered British melodic rock band, with some of the best rock songs of the year.
16) Tantal – Expectancy; Melodic death metal with excellent, clean female vocals, great guitar solos and really good songs.
17) Temple of Void – Of Terror and the Supernatural; Doom/death that’s as heavy as you like, with great tunes.
18) Sonus Mortis – Propaganda Dream Sequence; One man with a lot of talent – Kevin Byrne is one to watch and this is a great symphonic / atmospheric death metal release.
19) Forensick – The Prophecy; Catchy straight-up heavy metal full of very good tunes.
20) Stormcast – Frame Of Mind; Cypriot band landing with an excellent debut of melodic, atmospheric death metal.
21) Engraved Disillusion – The Eternal Rest; Young British band show us how melodic death metal is done.
22) Sonic Station – Next Stop; It might be stick out like a (particularly tender) sore thumb fit in this list, but this is wonderful AOR with a number of truly great songs.
23) Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken; I’m a sucker for a big chorus and these guys specialise in them. Great melodic progressive metal.
24) LostPray – That’s Why; Well written, fun rock/metal with some real highlights.
25) Skyforest – Aftermath; This chap (the elusively-named “B.C.”) should be a big star – he creates some of the most atmospheric metal around. And you can pay whatever you want for it!
26) Fear Of Domination – Distorted Delusions; These guys are a bit mad if the music is anything to go by; throwing a bit of everything into the mix, including black, death and industrial metal. It usually works well though and yields my favourite track of 2014.
27) Prematory – Corrupting Influence; There are a lot of young bands playing old-school thrash metal, but few are as good as this lot who have the songs to blow most of their peers away.
28) Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died; More like Nevermore than classic Sanctuary, but not a carbon copy of the Nevermore sound, with plenty of melody and some great guitar work.
29) As Light Dies – The Love Album Vol 1; Bizarre and unsettling … but highly original and intriguing. Well worth the few listens it takes to get into.
30) Xandria – Sacrificium; Nice symphonic metal – not without filler, but sometimes very good.
Top 20 Songs
Two sublime pieces of music at the top of the list, inseparable in their genius and brilliance, but all 20 tracks rocked my world in 2014, with the hugely impressive Valonkantajat’s gift for creating incredible choruses earning them three places in the top ten.
1)= Fear Of Domination – The Great Dictator
1)= Valonkantajat – Muistoksi kaikki muuttuu
3) Valonkantajat – Onnenriistäjä
4) Shear – Whispers Follow You
5) Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun
6) Valonkantajat – Vallan kahleet
7) Chainfist – Seven Minutes Of Pain
8) Acheron – Raptured To Divine Perversion
9) Engraved Disillusion – Shadows Run Black
10) Angels Or Kings – Any Other Girl
11) Teramaze – Dust Of Martyrs
12) Chainfist – Poison Moon
13) Horrendous – Nepenthe
14) Dark Fortress – Chrysalis
15) Sonic Station – Brighter After Dark
16) Albez Duz – Feathered Snake
17) Teramaze – Bodies Of Betrayal
18) Pyre – Possessed
19) Ending Quest – Evocation of Carnal Flesh
20) Insomnium – While We Sleep
1) Swallowed – Lunarterial; Shockingly bad album, just awful. I know some people like this, but I prefer it when music contains something that at least vaguely resembles music.
Erm … that was it.