Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tom's Top 15 Albums of 2014

2014 has been a pretty interesting year for Brutalitopia's lone Jersey boy, buying a house, having a baby in the coming months; life comes at you fast. Such is a love for heavy metal music in its many different flavors 2014 had plenty to offer from one of the most diverse styles of music the planet has to offer, but how did "X" band fair on this list? My list will feature plenty of the usual suspects as well as the "oh, I missed those" types of albums. So sit back and read about my ramblings about my musical listenings during the last calendar year. (I linked a ton of my album reviews in here as well so for further reading on some in here give 'em a click and check them out.)

Honorable Mentions

Corrosion Of Conformity - IX
Trenchrot - Necronomic Warfare
Morbus Chron - Sweven
Witchaven - Blood Sacrifice
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

15. Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun

Let me get this album out of the way first. I have always been kind of a big Mastodon fan boy and it should come as no surprise to those that know me, that this album is on here. Mastodon sure has streamlined things since their beastly days of Remission and Leviathan but as long as they continue to churn out songs like "High Road" and "Ember City" you can sign me up. 

14. Young And In The Way - When Life Comes to Death
Anger; nearly the perfect word to describe this album. All of the crust, black metal, and lack of polish bring this album to life, or was it death? This sophomore release caught me by surprise as I hadn't even heard of the band prior to this. This is the rudimentary d-beat hardcore created by Discharge plus added velocity. This may not be shiny but it sure is good.

13. Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain
Cannibal Corpse may have hit a new high with vocalist George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher on A Skeletal Domain; I say this because, as a fan of death metal, Cannibal Corpse was always a fun band but ultimately never the most serious on the lyrical or technical aspect but guitiarist Alex Webster sure has upped the ante here. The vocals blared through your speakers, basically strangling the listener as Webster "Fires up the chainsaw" and swings for the fences.

Rocking into this list are the doomy heavy metal collective Death Penalty. The combination of ex-Serpentcult vocalist Michelle Nocon and ex-Cathedral guitarist Gaz Jennings is pretty incredible. It almost feels as though Gaz is making up for those last 2 lackluster Cathedral albums with a plethora of riffs that sound like they could have been ripping it up next to tracks like "Midnight Mountain" and "Utopian Blaster". What the band is doing here isn't anything new, but it is old done right with blistering solos and vocals that give them an extra edge. Everything in this package works.

11. Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere
There is not much I can add to Agalloch's already heralded discography, but I can certainly say that with The Serpent & The Sphere they have continued with their great atmospheric tradition. Swirling guitars envelop the listener and bring you to place of solitude just before hitting you hard with the dueling vocals. This Pacific Northwestern quartet continues to strengthen their core sound and create beautiful music. As much as I loved Marrow Of The Spirit, this album follows it with aplomb. 

10. Autopsy - Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves
After quite a long hiatus, Autopsy have become one of the busiest bands in all of death metal; putting out 3 albums and an EP in just the past 4 years. The band hasn't changed all that much from the days of Mental Funeral but that is a good thing. The death metal sprawls in between Trouble inspired riffs and Chris Reifert's signature growl sounds as good as it ever did, combine that with production that works to enhance the music behind it. Another year another solid Autopsy album; perhaps it can become a tradition.

Purveyors of old school grind mixed with death metal; Cretin take the scene back about 25 years to when Repulsion's Horrified and Terrorizer's World Downfall reigned supreme. Add in the humorous elements of Pungent Stench and you have quite the veritable tour de force of speed and pain. Vocalist Melissa Martinez can shred her vocals with the best of them and can play the guitar quite well, while ripping through guitar solos with fellow guitarist Elizabeth Schall. Welcome back Cretin, Stranger is an instant classic. 

Bay area death metal unit Rude help to display my unending love of Pestilence's Consuming Impulse; the dry-throated vocal style of Yusef Wallace showcases an absolute tribute to Martin Van Drunen. The riffs are loud and the bass is mixed well within this putrid package. How fitting that the album's longest track is called "Memorial" when you put the already mentioned Pestilence together in a package with Morbid Angel; a new album with an eye towards death metal's glory days. Perhaps more glory days are to come.

7. Horrendous - Ecdysis
After fans were first introduced to Horrendous' debut, The Chills back in 2012, all we wanted was more; in 2014 what we got was more than we could have ever asked for. With the slow open to "The Stranger" you might think of some of the intros to some of the most revered albums of all time (see Ride The Lightning, Beneath The Remains) but the powerful main riff that gallops in between sections of crushing death metal and guitar solos taken right from some of your favorite heavy metal albums, this is a perfectly balanced death metal attack; how often can you say that a death metal album rocks? Philadelphia should be proud of their boys with this one. We need more east coast death metal to help balance out the west coast these days and Horrendous are doing their part.

Sludge lords of the French Quarter; Eyehategod return from a long album hiatus and unfortunately for them it was under some rather sad circumstances as the band lost their long time drummer Joey LaCaze, but not before he and the rest of the band put out their self-titled 5th album and their first in 14 years. With tracks like "Quitter's Offensive" and "Nobody Told Me" you get the same Black Sabbath meets hardcore meets pure pain with Mike Williams' blared vocals and you even get some of those jazzy swings that sound a bit like Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots". Eyehategod have delivered their best album since Dopesick and a sludge album that fans will have a tough time switching off. 

Midnight returns from their obscure and darkened corner, where they were placed for atrocious levels of partying caused from their debut album, Satanic Royalty. Be prepared to be placed right back in that same spot because No Mercy For Mayhem treads the same areas and might even do it better than the last time. Their Venom inspired silliness and overall black metal meets NWOBHM is something of their shtick at this point and they continue to deliver on all fronts.

This album does everything it can to make you both air guitar and bang your head at the same time. Hard and heavy riffs meet guitar solos that really sound polished, yet add to this album's aesthetic. At no point does Midnight go above and beyond their sheer simple brilliance of powerful heavy metal, only to be tempered with lyrics that are just plain silly. A fun ride to be sure, if you enjoy the old school made new, Midnight is for you.

The UK has certainly done their part in churning out great rock groups in the past and if there were ever a band that sounded like it was clearly born 40 years too late it would undoubtedly be Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. This filthy and grimy kind of rock was the progenitor for much of today's stoner rock and eventually doom metal. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, this is not really a metal album as it is just a great hard rock album that would find a better home back in 1971 among bands like Blue Cheer, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Leaf Hound to name a few.

This sophomore release picks up right where their debut Don't Hear It... Fear It left off and really sticks to the pure rock vibes even more than its predecessor did. Vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla is the real star of the show here with his excellent riff writing and overall gruff biker takes no bullshit style of vocals. Hard rocking jam sessions are clearly the style of choice here and one that stands out above many other rockers in 2014.

Insane Italians, Mortuary Drape have been at the black/death metal game since 1986 and as such they are firmly rooted in a sound that is quite rudimentary by today's overproduced death metal scene. Elements such as having the bass high in the mix (as they've always done) and riffs that constantly change and eventually evolve into some excellent solo work are an added bonus. This album is yet another on this list that may have been better served being released many moons ago; yet people still pine for the past (as this reviewer does) so this album certainly has a home.

Mortuary Drape are also an excellent combination of aesthetic (the album art) and their sound both reflect exactly what you should be feeling when listening to Spiritual Independence; fear, emptiness, despair. This can be mysterious music at times but at others you are simply going through the motions making just enough of a minor variation here and there to give the album the right tweak. Any fan of death metal and classic heavy metal can get behind this monster of a comeback.

2. Triptykon - Melana Chasmata
Tom Gabriel Fischer's most recent project, Triptykon has continued to garner critical success for the band's combination of sprawling death metal being suffocated by the doom metal pace of most of the music on this album. Following Eparistera Daimones is a tall task considering the massive piece of music that it was all of 4 years ago; it reinvigorated Celtic Frost fans that were sad to see it all end after Monotheist. Now 3 albums into this style of music you can feel the power behind Fischer's voice and the "beauty-through-pain" approach of Melana Chasmata.

Stand out track "Breathing" starts out as a slow song but then jumps into a frantic pace much like the previous album's "A Thousand Lies". The riffs are thick and heavy and eventually pace Fischer's vocals, continually changing pace but always remaining consistently powerful no matter what is going on in the album. This album is immediately a classic of the genre and one that fans of extreme metal should have no difficulty getting behind.

If I were to describe this album in just one word it would be "chills"; the chills I get each and every time I hear this album from start to finish. Austin Lunn's brand of atmospheric black metal meets folk metal and crosses cultures is surely something to behold. Whether it be about becoming a father, or writing songs while basking in the snows of Norway or bringing that folk metal side of things to his experiences in North America; Lunn makes you feel as though you are experiencing it all through his eyes and his vision is clear as day.

The "Long Road" trilogy is very integral to this album's success and it showcases Lunn's transition to where he is today and you can feel what he is going through some very deeply personal things as each emotional riff is a part of the burden being lifted off of his person. It wouldn't be Lunn also if he weren't able to throw in some excellent bluegrass riffing, as he is true to where he comes from and makes sure that is felt in his music. So there you have it a clear #1 album and one that makes for an absolutely incredible listen each and every time; we as fans of heavy metal should be thankful to have been privy to such aural excellence and again a huge thank you to Austin Lunn for allowing us into his ever-growing heart. Panopticon again have changed what we all think of black metal.

So what did you all think? Did I hit the nail on the head? Or did I just screw it up like all of the other lists on the internet? Leave your comments below. Thanks for reading.

- Tom


  1. Good stuff, Tom! I really need to check out that Rude \m/

  2. I can't find myself getting into that Agalloch album. The only two tracks I liked were the acoustic ones bookending the album.