2014 is coming to a close, and we’ve experienced a deluge of new material across the genre spectrum. As part of the new Zen Metal column, Anthony Carioscia and newcomer Lauren Gornik share their picks for the best heavy metal albums of 2014. Note that even though they didn’t choose Mastodon’s latest effort, it was nominated by our readers as Album of the Year 2014.
Metal Soundtrack Of The Year – Noisey Nola
Anthony: The list starts off with the most metal soundtrack of the year. Soundtrack to Noisey Nola is the soundtrack to the documentary film NOLA: Life, Death, and Heavy Blues from the Bayou. The soundtrack includes classic bands such a Melvins, Pantera, Rigor Mortis and Exhorder.
Howls of Ebb – Virgils of the Third Eye
Electric Wizard – Time to Die
Anthony: The eighth album by these British stoner doom masters. On the previous album, Black Masses, the band caused controversy among some fans due to it being catchier and a little faster then their usual stuff. This album brings the band back to the sound of its heyday, when albums such as Dopethrone were released.
Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
Lauren: The new Pallbearer is pure, unadulterated doom with wonderful harmonies and perfectly pitched vocals. What makes this album stand out is how many strides they made compared to their first album, which was also good. They’re experimenting with more tempo shifts, sharp musical turns, and fantastic hooks that keep your attention.
YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
Lauren: I must admit that it’s very tempting to pair Yob with Pallbearer, since both bands are on making huge strides in doom metal this year, but I must say that this album not only feels intense and powerful, this album is monumental. It’s one of their angriest albums, but very progressive for them as well.
Thou – Heathen
Lauren: Thou hasn’t released a new full length since 2010, so it was nice to see something new from them. There are so many interesting melodic spins and soft harmonies that pair with drudging breaks and ethereal clean sung sections.
Eyehategod – Eyehategod
Anthony: New self titled by New Orleans sludge pioneers and their first album in 14 years. Released through Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records, and is considered a posthumous album for their drummer, Joe LaCaze, who died last year. This album shows that Eyehategod are a band that is able to stay true to their sound, but at the same time, find a way for all of their albums to sound fresh.
Behemoth –The Satanist
Anthony: Now here is the part where black metal elitists will most likely decide to stop reading. After all the health issues lead vocalist Nergal experienced in recent years, Behemoth are back on their feet. This new album is their best in a while. With a sound that tributes their early work, while at the same time as continuing their current sound, this album is a must have for any fan of the band.
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity
Lauren: For those unfamiliar with Winterfylleth, they are a British Pagan black metal band in the vein of Drudkh. Like all of their albums, this ones fantastic, though it doesn’t shift very far from their usual sound. The way this album does shift is that the usual folk elements are toned down and the technical aspects of the songwriting are intense. Each album is something to definitely look forward to!
The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li
Lauren: The Great Old ones have this ambient atmosphere that is also so sonically crushing. Compared to Al Azif, this album is a bit more frenzied but still restrained. This album unconventionally blends contradictory sounds within black metal to create something gritty yet sophisticated and unique.
Sargiest – Feeding The Crawling Shadows
Anthony: An album that was pretty under the radar, which is shocking considering all the hype this band has gotten in recent years. Sargiest has always been known for their riffs, and this album’s no exception. Also, the vocals on this album sound more sinister than past releases. Definitely this year’s best for black metal.
Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere
Anthony: The first album of their’s in four years, The Serpent and the Sphere is the fifth album by Portland’s multi-influenced metal band, one which feels like a throwback to their second album, The Mantle.
Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails
Anthony: Back in 2008, this band was playing generic metalcore. Starting in 2011 the band evolved into more of a tech death band. Now, in 2014, the band evolves even further by upping the atmosphere are well as all the elements that made the 2011 album work. The artwork on the album is pretty damn good to!
Cormorant – Earth Diver
Lauren: Cormorant is an interesting band that’s under most people radars. They’re a bit of a mix between some progressive folk metal and black metal, but that’s not very telling about how adventurous their sound is, and how completely unique they are. This album is incredibly creative and unpredictable, going beyond genre definitions. Earth Diver draws you in with it meticulous melodies and doom undertones.
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
Anthony: One of the leading bands in the old school death metal revival, and this album clearly shows why. This album continues the mix of old school death metal and dark atmosphere that the first album brought us. This time it’s done even better! Dead Congregation is the best band to come out of Greece next to Rotting Christ.
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith
Lauren: Yet another great black metal album from the year. This album offers great intensity along with some very dynamic soft sections making it very powerful and atmospheric. It’s only four tracks but they’re a bit longer than usual. Very impressive writing on behalf of Jacob Buczarski.
Necrophagia – White Worm Cathedral
Anthony: Newest offering from Ohio s Death Metal pioneers, and like usual it delivers. Most of the bands later albums will mix in other sub genres such as thrash and traditional heavy metal. This album is more straight up death metal. Some may see this as a step backwards but in this case it works. It’s almost like they are reminding us that this band has been around since death metal beginnings, just didn’t get the credit that bands like Death and Possessed did.
Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun
Lauren: This album feels more thought out and slightly budging away from their usual sound. They’ve not only increased the amount of solo sections, but they’ve also added skilled guitarist/songwriter Markus Vanhalla, making it sound more akin to Omnium Gatherum. I’ve always loved the lyrics and lyrical themes in their music particularly, and this album is even more interesting than the last in that regard.