Contributor Chris Warunki’s Best Of 2014
2014 has been an absolutely abundant year for new music and new metal (not nu-metal…okay, well maybe that too!), in fact even as I compile my top 10 list I’m exploring newly released albums that could very well have made the cut but you gotta hit pause and draw the line somewhere. For each pick I’ve decided to include a closely related (in most cases) BONUS PICK or “RUNNER UP”. Perhaps a Top-20 list in disguise?? Enjoy!
At The Gates
At War With Reality
For many, this album (a long overdue follow-up to the legendary Slaughter of the Soul) is an absolute dream-come-true. I’d go as far as saying it’s a miracle. NOBODY does the Gothenburg style of metal better than the godfathers of it themselves, and god knows a countless amount of bands have tried! This is the strongest comeback since Carcass last year with Surgical Steel, and certainly does not disappoint whatsoever! You wanted a follow up to Slaughter of the Soul? You got it, and then some!!! THANK YOU, Century Media and AT THE GATES for making dreams come true!
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: The Haunted – Exit Wounds
The Divination Of Antiquity
This pagan/folk black metal band from the UK came out of nowhere. The album’s cover and description caught my eye. I downloaded it and have listened to it about 20 times within the last couple of months.
There’s really something magical about this album which is in the vein of older Opeth, Agalloch and Primordial combined. If you enjoy the aforementioned bands then you owe it to yourself to check this superb album out.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Doom:VS (what’s up with that name?!) is the solo/side-project of mastermind Johan Ericson of doom/gothic metal band Draconian.
On the monolithic Earthless he cranks the doom factor to 11 by enlisting Saturnus vocalist Thomas A.G. Jensen, whose ever-present vocals both caress with spoken-word passages and crush with aggressive attacks – a perfect pairing for the dynamic guitar work of Ericson.
This is melodic doom at its very finest and the closing track “The Slow Ascent” is nothing short of EPIC; and also features a rare vocal appearance by Johan himself in its climactic outro.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Sólstafir - Otta
Woods Of Desolation
As The Stars
I vividly remember hearing this album at the very beginning of 2014 and just KNOWING that it would make my year-end top 10 list and sure enough here it is. For those that are familiar with the multi-instrumentalist known simply as “D.”, you know he can do no wrong. Everything he touches turns to blackened gold and “As The Stars” might be his very finest offering to date – despite the unfortunate departure of collaborator Tim Yatras prior to this album’s inception. This is pretty much a how-to of atmospheric post-black metal with some nice twists as well, such as the very BMD-era Katatonia inspired instrumental “Anamnesis”.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Spectral Lore – III
Job For A Cowboy
Here we have another “wtf is up with that band name” band. In fact, I remember avoiding these guys for years, passing them off as “another attention seeking deathcore band with a dumb name”, BUT, am I ever glad that I gave them a chance after hearing the hype over Sun Eater.
I kept reading about how this band had reinvented themselves and had also enlisted Danny Walker (Intronaut) on drums so I thought “OK, let’s give this a whirl” and thanks to the deadly musicianship, it’s been whirling in my CD player ever since! Yes. I still have a CD player.
There’s nary a dull moment on this record, and faces are sure to be melted by this technical display of metal mastery – on all accounts.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Revocation - Deathless
Mors Principium Est
Dawn Of The 5th Era
Gotta love it when a Finnish band does Swedish melodic death metal better than most Swedish bands!
On this album, as well as other Mors Principium Est albums, the riff is king, and Dawn Of The 5th Era packs some of the best swedish-style riffery you’ll hear all year. Staccato picking and skank beats with soaring leads/solos and acid-soaked vocals – sounds like a MDM crowd pleaser to me, and this album is very pleasing – not to mention consistent.
The bonus cover of “California Dreamin’” is a fun addition!
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Following the trend of “wtf band names”…heh. Anything this duo will do will be on my radar because of their unparalleled quest to push the sonic limits of brutality. Every AN album has been a sheer onslaught of tortured vocals, pummelling drums, raging guitars, buried bass (haha) and electronic/industrial flourishes, all the while dabbling in atmosphere and melody which is prevalent throughout this album. “The Joystream” is a prime example of this and a standout/memorable track. Though somewhat “experimental” this band is ridiculously consistent and their stranglehold over the listener will NOT let up throughout the entirety of this magnetic black hole known as “Desideratum”.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Svffer - Lies We Live
Typically I wouldn’t be into the whole celtic metal thing, but I gave this album a chance based on liking the band’s former album under the moniker of Arsaidh, and it won me over almost immediately.
The scope of Aura is enormous and has a really sweeping/cinematic feel – while not being over-produced. The album cover is very fitting, given all the peaks and valleys within the musical journey. This album has an immediacy, yet also growing power; I liked it the first time, but by the 3rd or 4th time I LOVED it. The fierce and yet musical drumming of Panopticon‘s mastermind A.Lunn.
And, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL as they say…
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Panopticon – Roads to the North
Hymns For The Broken
There’s something about the way Evergrey manage to merge hard rock, power metal, gothic metal, prog metal and shred that really sets them apart from their peers. To top it off, they have one of the most talented lead-vocalists and songwriters around in Tom Englund, AND have even reunited with some former band mates for this new opus, making the lineup the strongest it’s been.
The songs are more epic and anthemic than ever before; “Black Undertow” and “King of Errors” are simply infectious, and “The Aftermath” shows the band at their peak in terms of their songwriting craft. It’ll be VERY tough for the band to beat this album, which some (myself included) would consider their finest hour.
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: Katatonia – Last Fair Day Gone Night
Animals As Leaders
The Joy Of Motion
As everyone knows, the musicianship in this band is pretty much second to NONE. This statement is validated not only by their latest album The Joy Of Motion, but also by their flawless live shows. So good, so flawless that it either makes you sick or have to pick up your jaw from the floor.
If aliens came down to earth and wanted to hear what progressive metal sounded like in 2014, this is exactly what I’d play for them. Then their heads would explode. Oops. It’s OK, it happens to humans too.
I actually wonder if the guys in AAL are in fact humans or super advanced beings from another realm. Oh wait, yeah they are super advanced beings from another realm, and it’s called Berklee College of Music.
THAT EXPLAINS IT!
Bonus Pick/Runner-up: The Contortionist – Language