One of a series of articles that gets down and dirty, where Metal Observer writers’ favorite music of 2014 is uncovered. Here, Shawn lists his favorite albums of the past year.
Click the titles for our reviews of the albums, where applicable:
Top 20 Albums:
1) Ningen-Isu – Burai Houjou – Once again, the tightest trio on the planet returns to school the outside world on consistency and groove. Burai Houjou sees Ningen-Isu at their heaviest and catchiest in quite some time, taking the progressive groove of 2013’s Mandoro and building in heavier and rawer sound. “Namahage” is likely to become a staple of the band’s live set; now we just need them to tour outside of Japan. (See also: Ningen-Isu Interview).
2) A Sound of Thunder – The Lesser Key of Solomon – I said it before when A Sound of Thunder released Time’s Arrow, I just fail to see how the band can improve on this album. Thankfully I was proven wrong when the band released The Lesser Key of Solomon, an album that opts for mixing their classic heavy metal sound with more progressive song structures and a dash of classic hard rock. Led by the unstoppable Nina Osegueda, A Sound of Thunder proves why they continue to sit upon the throne of independent heavy metal in the US.
3) Falconer – Black Moon Rising – After releasing an album in their native tongue, Sweden’s Falconer returned to the drawing board. They returned with their most aggressive and riff-laden album of their career. Full of folky melodies, ripping guitar passages and tons of double bass runs, Black Moon Rising is perhaps Falconer’s best album yet. (See also: Falconer Interview).
4) Mekong Delta – In a Mirror Darkly – Never mind the atrocious cover art, because In a Mirror Darkly is heavy, thrashing and beyond tight. Sporting the band’s trademark frenetic blend of classical, progressive and thrash, Ralf Hubert and crew are in fine form with, possibly, their finest album since resurfacing in 2007. It really is a shame that the cover art is so bad, though.
5) Accept – Blind Rage – Accept’s third post-Udo album, Blind Rage, continues the indestructible rage of the Tornillo-era. Featuring the always impressive one-two punch of Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank, this is an album full of classic heavy metal riffing and that anthemic style Accept has always excelled at. Time will tell how future Accept albums fare, as Herman Frank and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann left the band to focus on their new project Panzer, but this could be the end of an era.
6) Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica – Blending melodic death metal, crust, doom and punk, Nux Vomica’s genre-bending sophomore album is one of the most diverse and substantially dynamic albums of the year. Equal parts speed, aggression, atmosphere and maturity blend together for an amalgamous album that begs to be listened to from start to finish. The true beauty of Nux Vomica is their ability to force-feed every type of influence into a nifty package without sounding pretentious or overly ambitious.
7) Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem – Cleveland street metal troupe Midnight have been lighting the underground on fire and No Mercy for Mayhem shows exactly why. With an evil attitude, Midnight brings their catchy as hell brand of rock ‘n’ fucking roll on stroll through the gutters. Fans of Venom and Motörhead rejoice, No Mercy for Mayhem is better than anything either those bands have released in decades.
8) Nunslaughter – Angelic Dread – Another foul and evil band from Cleveland (is it really that bad there?), Nunslaughter has been lurking in the dark alleys since 1987. The band’s fourth full length, Angelic Dread, showcases Nunslaughter in fine form, playing their self-described “devil metal”, which is basically dirty and evil death metal. The new material on here is stellar, but what seals the deal is a second CD full of re-recorded classics. Death metal fans should not be without this.
9) Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral – Bloodbath had a little fun at the metal community’s expense in early 2015, playing a great big game of “Guess Who the New Vocalist Is”. There were some wild guesses lobbed at the band, but not many could have imagined that long time Paradise Lost vocalist, Nick Holmes would be taking the spot. I mean, really, the guy hasn’t done harsh vocals in quite some time. Those dusty pipes were just what Bloodbath needed, as Grand Morbid Funeral is a sick slab of morbid death metal, and the raw, twisted vocals are just push the album onto another level.
10) Halberd – Remnants of Crumbling Empires – Hands down, Remnants of Crumbling Empires is the reason why Triptykon’s latest didn’t crack my top albums of 2014. Formed by a few Metal Archives regulars, Halberd’s debut album does what Tryptikon does, only better with crushingly power riffs and monstrous vocals. Amazing cover art inspired by the fantastic war-themed lyrics, if you missed this album go get it now.
11) Voyager – V
15) Slow – Unsleep
17) Aureole – Alunar
Honorable mentions for the year: Kult Ofenzivy, Satanic Warmaster, Horned Almighty, Krieg, Hoth, The Lurking Corpses, Stoic Dissention and Fuoco Fatuo.