Clayton's Best of 2014 - Part I: Top 10 Metal Albums

2014 turned out to be one of the strongest years for metal in recent memory, making the compiling of this list something of a challenge. It seemed like a particularly strong year for black metal, which comprises half of my list. (Editor's Note: The names of each release below is hyperlinked to either the band's website or another site where you can listen to the full album.)

10. Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity

I didn’t have particularly high expectations for these British black metalers’ new album, mostly since I found their previous album, 2012’s The Threnody of Triumph, to be as long and off-putting as its name. They really nail it on The Divination of Antiquity, though; the songs are still epic in length, but the songwriting is much tighter and the riffs more memorable.

 9. Woods of Desolation – As the Stars

I know it isn’t a very kvlt thing to say, but there’s something about major-key black metal that hits the sweet spot for me. This album went a long way towards filing the void left by Alcest’s move to a full-on shoegaze band. Depressive black metal never sounded so uplifting.

8. Opeth – Pale Communion

They may no longer play death metal, but who cares? Opeth is the best full-out prog band on the planet right now, and Pale Communion is going to be remembered as the Blackwater Park of Opeth, Mk. II. Read my full review here.

7. Panopticon – Roads to the North

I’m kind of surprised this one dropped so far on my final list, but (as I mentioned in my review of the record) it just doesn’t hit me the same way Lunn’s previous album, 2012’s Kentucky, did. Still, it’s an excellent album from arguably the most creative musician in the USBM scene.

6. Giant Squid – Minoans

Doomy, water-obsessed (apparently this is a concept album about the island-dwelling Minoan civilization) prog metal featuring prominent cello from the always awesome Jackie Perez Gratz (also of Grayceon) and wonderful interplay between a trio of vocalists, this is one of the more unique sounding albums of 2014. Track “Sir Arthur Evans” even seems to channel Tom Waits.

5. Gridlink – Longhena

The swan song for one of grind’s finest and possibly the last we’ll ever hear from guitarist Takafumi Matsubara due to a serious brain infection that paralyzed part of his left hand, Longhena is a beautiful, emotive album that will challenge everything you think you know about grindcore. 

4. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

I didn’t much care for anything I heard off of Primordial’s last album, 2011’s Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, so I almost didn’t even listen to this record. Obviously, I’m glad that I did. Billed as pagan/black metal but sounding more to my ears like a brawnier version of Slough Feg, this has become my go-to album at the gym.

3. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

I was among those who were floored by Pallbearer’s 2012 damn near perfect debut Sorrow and Extinction. This new album might be even better--epic, melodic, emotive, and heavy as fuck, and deserving every ounce of hype that preceded it.

2. Pharmakon – Bestial Burden

Not too much to add here beyond what I said in my review of the album—equal parts intimate and repulsive, harsh yet accessible, this is the first noise album that’s ever truly resonated with me.

1. Falls of Rauros – Believe in No Coming Shore

I had fairly high expectations for Believe in No Coming Shore, the latest release from Portland, Maine’s Falls of Rauros. I was a big fan both of their last album, 2011’s The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood, and their split with Panopticon from this past February, but neither fully prepared me for how much the band grew as musicians and songwriters on Believe in No Coming Shore. They still broadly play a style of black/folk metal not dissimilar to early Agalloch, but they’ve taken their sound in a more melodic direction, adding more acoustic sections and honest-to-goodness guitar solos--I’ve had the gorgeously lyrical solo from “Ancestors of Smoke” stuck in my head for weeks.