Thumbs up: +14
I doubt I'll have the time to sample enough music to match the 201 albums I covered in 2013, but hopefully I'll be able to listen to a fair few things and pass on me ol' thoughts.

Created by: musclassia | 08.02.2014



1. Sleepmakeswaves - Love Of Cartography
2014 [9.2] - A massive step up from their previous albums and one of the best post-rock albums I can remember hearing. On their previous albums, their sound reminded me of something between God Is An Astronaut's constrained songs and use of synths and the loud-soft shifting and dainty peaceful melodies of something like Explosions in the Sky or Mono; now this sounds like the band I perhaps thought/hoped God Is An Astronaut might eventually develop into. The songs are relatively short for the genre, and the sound no longer relies on loud/soft freeform song structures. The songs are more like instrumental rock now, with harder riffing, nice use of lead guitar melodies and song shapes that for the most part rely on more standard structures, with regular verse/chorus style feels and natural-sounding tangential movements. It also has significant use of synths/electronics to fill out the sound, which is rather a lot heavier than previous works. The electronics sometimes work by themselves, slowly building the first half of the lengthy and more post-like crescendoing final track, which eventually explodes into a delightful finale. I'm not particularly satisfied with how I've described both this album and their previous works, so I'll end by just recommending people give both this album and 2011's ...And So We Destroyed Everything a listen to see both how promising they were and also how far they've come. Cracking release.
2. Infestus - The Reflecting Void
2014 [9.0] - One of the best atmospheric black metal bands around right now. The music is intense and extreme, but the black metal parts avoid the 'wall of noise' that some bands achieve, making engaging fast, aggressive section, and the slower parts are suitably epic, whether being powerful and sinister, or melodic and dainty. Great album.
3. Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere
2014 [8.9] - Whilst I'm not universally in love with their EPs, I hold all of Agalloch's LPs in very high regard, especially The Mantle and Ashes Against The Grain. However, this one, at least for the first 10-15 minutes, looked to be their least convincing since their somewhat raw and under-developed debut Pale Folklore. However, from the 20 minute mark, the magic that they are capable of providing through their mix of black metal, neofolk, and beautiful melancholic tendencies started shining through, and gradually grew through the album. Whilst it exists as a multi-song package, the album flows together very well as a complete work and gradually builds towards the grand emotional black-lead finale. Not as stunning as Ashes or complete as The Mantle, but it acts as a worthy addition to their stellar catalogue.
4. Ortega - Crows
2014 [8.8] - Another extended single-track release from these guys, and one to embrace. The track is on the surface admittedly somewhat repetitive, but the repeated riffs are engaging and general sound of it makes the whole thing very entrancing and somewhat hypnotic. As it develops, it continues to stay fresh and interesting, and by the end you're fully won over. If you loved The Serpent Stirs like I did, you won't be disappointed.
5. Dirge - Hyperion
2014 [8.7] - An extremely accomplished atmos-sludge/post- album with a nice heavy sound. It occasionally vies a somewhat cold, slightly industrial vibe, but often pulls out powerful, emotionally forceful material that really makes an impression. Tracks like Circumpolaris, Hyperion Under Glass and Filigree, really show what they're capable of, whilst huge closer Remanentie is a brooding, hypnotic closer comparable to Cult of Luna's Vicarious Redemption. I was slightly turned off on first listen, but much like their previous record, subsequent listens have awakened me to its greatness. The first great post- release of the year.
6. Anubis Gate - Horizons
2014 [8.7] - Starting off with a really strong opener, this album matches, and maybe even surpasses its predecessor, my introduction to the band. Bands like this prove to me that melodic metal still has a lot to offer as long as bands keep a clear personality - the progressive elements of this help the band to separate from standard melodic heavy/power metal, as do the strong vocals carrying good vocal melodies. Highly enjoyable, and likely going to be one of the strongest melodic metal albums this year.
7. Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
2014 [8.7] - If anything, in Mastodon's progression this one feels like it should've come before rather than after The Hunter. It's a bit proggier and a bit sludgier, and also, a little bit better. Don't get me wrong, I rather liked The Hunter (Black Tongue, Octopus... and especially Dry Bone Valley are among my favourite songs by the band), but anything that takes us closer to their 00s stuff is fine by my, considering how much I love their output from Crusher Destroyer right up until The Last Baron. The two singles released prior to the album didn't promise to come from an album as good as this, but I enjoyed them at the time. However, when coming straight after two outstanding opening tracks like Tread Lightly and The Motherload, High Road just sounds a tad mediocre. I wouldn't say any of the songs are flat-out amazing like several from the first few albums were, with moments in all of them where the quality dipped a bit (Aunt Lisa is definitely the best song on the album but whether the gang shouts at the end of the song are beneficial to the song is debatable), but there's a large number of great moments on this album throughout that makes the whole package thoroughly enjoyable. Mastodon manage to once again reinvent their sound whilst staying obviously Mastodon in both sound and quality.
8. Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails
2014 [8.6] - A really solid prog death record. The album mixes up heavy riffing, with technical capabilities matched by sensible writing resulting in enjoyably melodic and hooky technical riffs that vary from Ouroboros-like heaviness to more upbeat playing, alongside atmospheric/ambient inclinications using strong levels of synths, which either act individually, or in conjunction with muted guitars or full-blown death sections. Add on top of these two bases the regular introductions of neat guitar leads and cool extreme vocals, and you're left with a really strong album that uses technicality, intensity and atmosphere to break away from the tech-death crowd following a couple of very promising previous tech-death albums.
9. When Icarus Falls - Circles
2014 [8.6] - A fine post-metal release. People may bemoan the sheer number of new post- bands forming and saturating the market, but when you find new music as fucking lovely as this, who really cares? This band is nothing unconventional, clearly working within the domain of Cult of Luna, but with a softer sound than that band. There are very few faults, although I wasn't keen on the spoken vocals towards the end of Celestial Bodies, and the first two tracks are truly delightful, particularly when considering the horrific tortured scream vocals that introduce The Great North, disguising the wonderful instrumental accompaniment soon to follow.
10. Mechina - Xenon
2014 [8.6] - Following hot on the heels of last year's great Empyrean, these guys are back with another fine album of industrial/djent-laced symphonic death metal. The album does slightly blow its load with the opening title track, which is likely going to be in the top 10 best metal songs released this year - it's that good. After that atom bomb, the rest of the album isn't quite as stunning, stabilizing at a 'really good/great' level which is still very enjoyable. The album is something of a progression from Empyrean - more impressive clean vocals, heavier death parts, more ambitious instrument choices - but still has a fairly similar sound. Clearly a band comfortable in their sound and producing great stuff from it.
11. Rodrigo y Gabriela - 9 Dead Alive
2014 [8.6] - Another great release from these acoustic guitar wizards. A shift in sound away from latin music towards a more acoustic rock sound has been noted, but the music is still clearly identifiable as the pair's own, and they show off their great technical abilities and songwriting knowhow. Not quite as good as 11:11 or Area 52, but a worthy addition to their impressive discography.
12. Slugdge - Gastronomicon
2014 [8.5] - Despite the name, this band isn't really sludge. It's more a blackened death metal base, but not necessarily like Necrophobic or 90s Behemoth. The band can cover, within the scope of a single song, black aggressive 'tremolo&blastbeats' fare, bouncy headbang-friendly groovy riffs, more restrained riffs combined with invading ominous guitar leads, and low-mid-tempo atmospheric grooves like the best black metal bands dream of achieving with powerful leads on top. This is all layered with fierce black metal vocals, and contained within well-written mid-length songs. All in all, a very enjoyable slab of extreme metal.
13. Spectral Lore - III
2014 [8.5] - The large length of this and it's regular rawness could have become grating, however for a one-man band, there is some very accomplished composition here. The raw BM parts can be alienating at times, but when they go into more melodic or atmospheric turns the BM parts can appeal, like the triumphant feel of the penultimate track. And then it gives up on extremity and goes softer riffing, unplugged sections, or even keyboard/electronic driven tracks, like the standout final one, with begins solely with electronics before building up into a BM explosive instrumental before its time is out, it manages to maintain engagement throughout its hefty runtime. Very impressive album.
14. Cormorant - Earth Diver
2014 [8.4] - A remarkably strong progressive black album which ups the ante on their previous album. The first track or so don't quite shine, with a little too much of the full-pelt black, but when they move away from that into great melodic guitar leads, neat guitar grooves and riffs, intriguing build-ups and accomplished long songs like the final three, along with some nice occasional clean vocals, they have a very well-conceived and performed album that knows when to be intense and when to breathe a little and bring out the great stuff.
15. Behemoth - The Satanist
2014 [8.3] - I consider myself a greater fan of this band's 00s death metal phase than the blackened death period prior to that; however, the mentions of returning black elements on this album did get me excited, as did the rest of the furore over the album. Time to report: it's quite a varied album - starts with a plodding riff intro before ending the opening track with a big ol' cacophony. The album clearly has a far greater black vibe than the 00s stuff, and it works really well on the album, whatever type of track is going on. Throughout the album there's more intense tracks like Amen, groovier mid-tempo ones like Ben Sahar and Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, and ones that mix both well, like the title track. There's also some great guitar solo work, examples on said title track and Messe Noire, and even some curved balls, like the acoustic mid-part of In The Absence Ov Light. Is the album as great as some are saying? Perhaps not; the slower tracks aren't uniformily hits and can occasionally appear a bit meandering, particularly with some of the more one-note black riffs, and tracks which have a bit of an Immortal/I (the band) vibe don't match up to some of the more intimately Behemoth stuff. However, songs like the title track and emphatic epic closer O Father O Sun O Satan rank among their finer songs, and, even if I do love several tracks off Evangelion, this is their best album since Demigod.
16. Triptykon - Melana Chasmata
2014 [8.3] - A rather impressive gemitsh of styles. The blackened thrash sections did rather leave me unsatiated, but they were mostly brief and eventually gave way to the more mid-tempo sections, featuring elements of doom, gothic, and sometimes sludge - certain segments gave a definite post- vibe. The primary vocals I imagine are a bit love or hate, but the female vocals that are occasionally introduced are rather enjoyable. At its best, the album offers a base of sinister, heavy pounding riffs which are built upon by softer ominous breaks, as well as diversions to Paradise Lost-esque gothic sections. It is very long, and the thrash elements don't work for me, but for the most part it's an impressive and enjoyable effort.
17. Rintrah - Salt Of The Earth
2014 [8.3] - Stoner is rapidly approaching progressive and post-metal as one of my favourite current genres. This is another fine addition to the scene, with a nice mix of groovy, fuzzy riffs and foggy vocals incorporated into extended songs with interesting writing, enjoyable guitar leads, and pleasant accompaniments including acoustic segments. The double-hitter of Masters of Our Fate followed by the extended title track offer up a delicious conclusion to a very solid album.
18. Terra Tenebrosa - V.I.T.R.I.O.L. - Purging The Tunnels
2014 [8.3] - I rather liked these guy's previous album The Purging, but I can't remember even that having the oppressive atmosphere of dread that this one has at times. Starting off the first track Draining The Well with some menacing dissonant riffing, the song eventually descends into a protracted period of truly disquieting dark ambient brood that develops with addition of punishing guitar distortion into something really disturbing. The second track is more straightforward, with a mid-tempo pace throughout which sounds a bit like Cult of Luna gone twisted. Really impressive effort, and as far as dissonant, esoteric music goes, these guys definitely resonate with me better than most other bands.
19. Opeth - Pale Communion
2014 [8.3] - Whilst Heritage was a fairly enjoyable album and an okay stab at a new direction, it always felt rather emotionally barren and I never found myself hooked on it - it must've been years since the last listen I gave it. However, whilst still a retro-influenced prog rock album, I found this album to be rather more enjoyable. Cusp Of Eternity has never felt right, but it's still okay, and I found myself enjoying the other tracks rather a lot, including the instrumental Goblin and in particular some of the later tracks. It's prog, so there's still complexity, but I never felt a sense of wankery, and the melodic instrumental leads on the album really rubbed me up the right way. Nowhere near their top quintet of albums, but a clear step up from Heritage, and a fair enough addition to their hugely impressive discography I feel.
20. Emptiness - Nothing But The Whole
2014 [8.3] - A rather unique blackened death metal album. The predominant feeling is a rather subdued yet menacing, mid-tempo sound with a black metal aura and sense of extremity lurking in the background but not leaping out into the usual fury associated with the style. This is definitely noticeable on All Is Known. However, on other tracks e.g. the subsequent song, they're willing to explode out into full-on intensity, and can offer up some atypical, dissonant-sounding aggression when they do. Probably not the best description of the album, but it's definitely unlike most music you'll hear in extreme circles and certainly warrants a listen.
21. Allegaeon - Elements Of The Infinite
2014 [8.3] - Carrying on their impressive career start with a solid third album. They carry on their more technical, less cheesy style of melodeath, but the melodic elements feel more to the front of the album compared to the previous two, which decreases the feel of repetition found on those albums. It also uses some clean acoustic guitar sections, and even lets the odd keyboard or orchestral arrangement peek its nose in very occasionally. The band still has the chuggy riff base found on the last album, but relies on it less, showing a clear development of their sound to ultimate result in a stronger final product. Some of the melodic leads, especially around the centre and very end of the album, really grab your attention, and whilst the album still doesn't entirely evade the 'been there, done that' feel their music can sometimes provide, in general it offers a rather enjoyable experience and shows a band looking to build.
22. Tombs - Savage Gold
2014 [8.2] - Some very cool atmos/post-black stuff, with some piercing tremolo sections, but also a lot of crunching riffs and intensely structured songs. There isn't a large amount of melodic inclination; this is a harsher and more menacing effort than some post albums, but it does offer up rewards from time to time to go alongside the darker, sludgier sound also displayed. Very enjoyable effort.
23. Insomnium - Shadows Of The Dying Sun
2014 [8.2] - I feel this is a step up from the previous album, which I rather overrated at the time, but it still has the problem of being obviously from the band. They need some variety, and I do feel they offer some on here - Epheremal is a more upbeat melodic track than their usual sorrowful selves offer, and Lose To Night also deviates from the generic Finnish melodeath sound somewhat. There's also some aggression in Black Heart Rebellion not usually associated with the band. These hints at variety are nice, and hopefully they'll persevere with some variety in the future because their current sameness does offer real concerns over their long-term vitality. Still, they do what they do well, and there's enough enjoyable music in their well-defined sound to certainly please diehard fans, and to sound pleasant enough to casual fans despite the difficulty of more casual listeners of the band (like myself) to tell one song/album apart from another these days.
24. Ethereal Riffian - Aeonian
2014 [8.2] - More good stoner doom coming out this year. The first couple of minutes, with the intense stoner riffs and noisy sound, didn't really get me, but when it went slower and heavier and let the guitar leads loose, it started to become as satisfying as one might hope. As far as the genre goes, it's heavier and more Sleep-esque than, say, New Keepers, but has enough lighter/slower parts to avoid becoming a constant riff attack. Neat.
25. Hark - Crystalline
2014 [8.2] - Another fine stoner release, following up from the likes of Windhand, Weedpecker and New Keepers Of The Water Towers from last year. Perhaps not quite up there with the best of those releases, there's still a whole bunch of great riffs and talented songwriting going on here that should keep you plenty entertained if this is your thing. The highlight is the stunning, multi-faceted closer Clear Light Of..., featuring Clutch's own Neil Fallon. Great.
26. Pet Slimmers Of The Year - Fragments Of Uniforms
2014 [8.2] - A (mostly) instrumental band sounding rather like Isis. A poor man's Isis, clearly, but considering that great band is no longer active it is acceptable for others to fill the void, especially when they're actually capable like these guys are. To be fair, the band doesn't totally mimic Isis's sound; for example, on the track Days Since I Disappeared, there is a definite post-rock vibe to a level that was mostly absent from Isis's work, and there are certain elements here and there that distinguish the band. Combining them with clearly developed songwriting abilities, and they justify themselves pretty well.
27. Words Of Farewell - The Black Wild Yonder
2014 [8.2] - This album isn't especially original, but it's a piece of very well done melodeath. The songs are well constructed and filled with hooky but not cheesy melodies. The keyboard mix roles between background sheen and lead instrument; the tone of the keyboard might annoy people, but I find them fine and think they produce nice melodies. The style is somewhere between the aggressive directness of Gothenburg and the melancholy of Finnish melodeath, failing to really conform to either style totally. The songs are heavy but do not rely around choruses, cleans are almost entirely absent, with competent growls leaving the way, and the riffs, whilst sometimes following the bouncy chug style of Swedish/US bands, provide a more rounded sound than those bands sometimes do. All in all, the music is very obviously melodeath, but has enough interesting about its sound to avoid getting labelled as following one specific band or style. Add in that well-written songs and an enjoyable mix of melody and bite and it ends up being a rather neat release.
28. Herder - Gods
2014 [8.2] - Another good stoner/sludge release. This is more aggressive than some of the other ones I've praised recently, with harsh sludgy vocals. The songs are also generally quite short, whether fast-paced and aggressive (Maelstrom) or more mid-paced groovy (Pythia). In whatever case, the songs all have good riffs and engaging lead guitar work, with the onus set in the very nice opening instrumental. The longer tracks are also very good, particularly Asylums of the Forgotten. Nice release.
29. Aenaon - Extance
2014 [8.2] - I did hear this group's previous album, but have little memory of it. However, this one was very impressive. A good mix of black intensity, restrained avant-garde quirkiness, and melodic tendencies, both with clean vocals and instruments, to keep the package an engaging listen. I will agree with others that Funeral Blues doesn't work quite as well as the other songs, but that aside it's very solid across the board, and Palindrome is a crack finale.
30. Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us
2014 [8.2] - A very weird-sounding album, like most of Cynic's comeback stuff I guess, but this is far more enjoyable than, say, Carbon-Based Anatomy. I've been truly hooked by the epic The Lion's Roar, which is clearly the standout cut on the album, but there's plenty of other intriguing songs throughout to perk your curiosity. I can't imagine it being for everyone, especially due to the vocals, which have pushed the vocoder effect even further than previously, but also the songs do have an offbeat sound that even Traced In Air didn't have; plus the extreme elements that lingered on that album have truly left the building now. An album with the potential to be highly divisive, but I really enjoyed it.
31. Coffinworm - IV.I.VIII
2014 [8.2] - The kind of album to bite your face off to. Truly filthy blackened sludge which, when it's not pounding you with eerie black metal, is drowning you in punishing murky sludge riffs, all topped with vile vocals alternating between belchy growls and violent shrieker growls. Not something to listen to everyday, but when you fancy putting on something dark and alienating, it certainly does the job.
32. Harakiri For The Sky - Aokigahara
2014 [8.2] - A depressive black/blackgaze album which mixes the core extremity of black metal with a need for melody and mellow emotions well. The standout track by quite some way is Homecoming, Denied, definitely the most tonally downbeat track, with a sorrowful guitar lead line and sad black lines on top, as well as a relative lack of extremity. The depressive elements do raise their heads occasionally after that, giving a Woods of Desolation vibe to some tracks, but the second part of the album brings Alcest more to mind, in particular Ecailles de Lune, with more optimistic sounding black parts and a generally higher level of intensity, with prominent blast beats that actually worked for me pretty well within the context of the album. There's even the occasional introduction of solo guitar lead lines, including on Homecoming, Denied, and also prominently on Nailgarden. Overall, a very nice dep/gaze black album with one clear standout track lifting the other decent songs up.
33. Wildernessking - The Devil Within
2014 [8.2] - An impressive black metal release, with regular controlled bursts of BM fury countered by well-judged build-up and more melodic sections; the final track in particular undergoes a good 4-5 minutes in the middle of crescendoing subdued riffs intertwined with clean guitar and melodic guitar leads, finally culminating in a final full-out black explosion that soon calms down into an enjoyable BM groove. Nice stuff.
34. Bast - Spectres
2014 [8.1] - A pretty cool black/doom album. The first couple tracks maybe lack a little that the other tracks have, but throughout there's a solid mix of intense and sometimes groovy extreme doomy riffing, some really nice atmospheres and buildups (Psychonauts works especially well as an example of this) and some creepy croaks with occasional cleans mixing things up.
35. Voyager - V
2014 [8.1] - At first I thought this was a new band to me, but then I remembered I had tried listening to them before, but didn't pursue them after a couple songs. Still, I gave this one a listen and rather liked it. With the song-orientated prog style and the heavy riff base with lightly layered leads and keys, along with the emotional melodic voice, I know they remind me of someone, but I just can't think of who right now, except maybe Anubis Gate, if not quite as good as them. The song that I enjoyed the most was A Beautiful Mistake, but most of them are good, although I wasn't keen on the soft ballad-like Summer Always Comes Again. Not amazing but pretty solid and should please fans of song-driven, or what I've started mentally referring to as 'condensed' prog.
36. Nero Di Marte - Split MMXIV [Split]
2014 [8.1] - A pretty decent effort for a fundraiser EP split. I wasn't previously aware of Void of Sleep, but I found their song to be enjoyable hooky stoner doom with a kick at the end. NdM's effort was somewhat different to the music on their self-titled 2013 album - whilst those songs commonly had a sinister heavy atmosphere throughout, the first half of this song is uncharacteristically melodic and uplifting, but still good, and the second part is more extreme and works well. I have strong hopes for their sophomore full-length (under this name at least) later in the year.
37. Goatwhore - Constricting Rage Of The Merciless
2014 [8.1] - Full-out blackened punky thrash metal assault here, doing precisely what it should. There are moments where the constant pounding gets tedious, but thankfully it then reverts back to hooky riffs. The thrashy music usually varies between "snare every second beat" pounding intensity and groovier sections, punctuated with really neat guitar solos. However, it isn't entirely devoid of variety, and benefits from it. Cold Earth Consumed In Dying Flesh is for the most part a very solid extreme doom track, rounded out at the end with a thrash burst, whilst Schadenfraude is the most enjoyable melodic end to an extreme album since Endstille on Global Flatline. This strong melodeath/black track (with emphasis on the extreme portion) is followed with one final blistering song, rounding out a very solid extreme speedfest of an album.
38. Wo Fat - The Conjuring
2014 [8.1] - Pretty neat lengthy stoner metal which alternates between pounding forward-driving riffs and more laid-back Weedpecker-style sections. I personally prefer the second style but both are done very well here and make for a fun listening experience.
39. Lascaille's Shroud - Interval 02: Parallel Infinities - The Abscinded Universe
2014 [8.1] - Props to the sheer ambition of this album, a 2-hour mammoth with 2 tracks exceeding 20 minutes each. The music is extreme progressive metal with sci-fi influences, and it has a pleasant variety of sounds to avoid too much repetition over the huge length. Whilst the core sound is rather melodeath-esque albeit expanded and proggified, there are other parts that sound like (extreme) power, a feeling only amplified on one of the later tracks with a guest vocalist obviously channeling Hansi Kursch. Additionally, the last 'proper' track (the final track is an extended sample-based outro) features a very melodic lead guitar-driven conclusion that is rather satisfying. The various clean vocal special guests display varying levels of decency and the playing across the board is very impressive. The major problem is that within the sheer length a lot of the individual moments get drowned by the huge swathes of music surrounding it. Additionally, whilst I quite enjoyed the listen, the general base sound just didn't overly appeal to me, much like the last one. However, the single person responsible for this deserves a lot of credit for what he's accomplished and if you enjoy prog with some extremity you'll get at least some level of satisfaction from this.
40. Intervals - A Voice Within
2014 [8.1] - I rather liked this album. I don't know whether it counts as djent or not, but it's pleasantly softer than most of those bands e.g. Periphery and whoever else; even at the riffiest of times it never gets extreme or especially dense, and the softer parts are pretty enjoyable. Also, it would appear these guys used to be entirely instrumental, and the addition of a singer has received a very mixed response, but I think he's pretty good - not the greatest singer, but he does his job well and serves up a lot more interesting vocal lines than a lot of these bands manage (most djent bands I come across think dramatic soaring vocals suffice but fail to write interesting hooks, something these guys manage). The lead guitar work is also very enjoyable too, with a really nice solo towards the very end of the album. All in all, rather good album.
41. Devin Townsend - Casualties Of Cool
2014 [8.1] - A rather enjoyable effort by Devin's new project. Almost entirely laid-back, hazy, space-y country, commonly marched on by persistent drum beats, and willing to go weird (check Deathscope and it's Shining-esque sound effects), all of which works pretty well. The music perhaps can come across as same-y over the 70+ minute album length, but the album does sound more geared to background music, for which it serves the job well. Particularly nice songs include Flight and Forgive Me, and the ending 10 or so minutes is rather epic.
42. Xandria - Sacrificium
2014 [8.1] - Once again this is a clear copy of Nightwish's early sound, and of Xandria's own previous album. Therefore it shouldn't be surprising that it sounds good, as both of those things also did. Nevertheless, despite its unoriginality there's something so persuasive about this album's strength that I ignore those things and go along with it. Shamelessly unoriginal and probably offers nothing of note to those more experienced in/dedicated to the genre, yet still highly enjoyable.
43. Saor - Aura
2014 [8.1] - An enjoyable atmos-black/folk album with extended songs filled with controlled aggression, pleasant melodies and interesting use of celtic instruments and sounds. It doesn't deviate noticeably from the black/folk work of previous groups but the celtic touches to separate it a bit from, say, Moonsorrow, and everything offered on the album is very pleasant to listen.
44. IQ - The Road Of Bones
2014 [8.1] - A pretty neat neo-prog release, with a sound somewhere between Porcupine Tree and Riverside. It admittedly falls into the sphere of melodic prog that can sound a bit same-y and difficult to stand out in, but is certainly one of the more impressive such albums I've heard recently.
45. Helms Alee - Sleepwalking Sailors
2014 [8.1] - Some really nice mid-tempo melodically-inclined sludge/stoner riff-driven stuff here. The songs could maybe have been a bit more developed, and some vocals parts don't quite work or feel rather lacking, but for the most part it's very engaging and enjoyable.
46. Descend - Wither
2014 [8.1] - A rather well-constructed melodeath album. Neither from the straight-forward, hooky, aggressive Gothenburg scene, nor conforming to the melancholy Finnish style, this music, with extended song lengths a quite dark, not always overtly melodic, sound, sits somewhere a bit in-between. From the black metal-inclined opening track, the rhythmic third track, and the fantastic crunching song Diabolic, the music is nevertheless replete with melodic riffs and gorgeous guitar leads and clean segments. No Be'lakor, but still a rather enjoyable and mature listen.
47. Major Parkinson - Twilight Cinema
2014 [8.0] - A good fun piece of work, described as a trip by prog rock to the cabaret by some. It's got a similar quirky-yet-accessible feel to Diablo Swing Orchestra, and a similar air of fun to that band too. Very solid left-field album.
48. Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare
2014 [8.0] - I never liked DMDS (or much at all of the early 90s BM sound), and I've also struggled to get into Ordo ad Chao, even as my tolerance for dissonance and esoteric music has increased. Still, I gave this album a go and ended up rather liking it. Whether fast and furious like the surprisingly hooky opening track, or more slowed down and menacing, the album works well, thanks to a combination of interesting arrangements, great drum work (check Pandaemon for an example) and chilling vocal work (some truly horrifying shrieks on I believe MILAB that made a far greater impression than your average BM croak). The bonus track isn't great, particularly due to the frankly awful clean vocals, but the main album was a pleasant surprise.
49. Nadja - Queller
2014 [8.0] - When I saw this described as ambient drone, I expected something freeform and melody-free. However, whilst repetitive, the music here seemed relatively (remember that word) pacy, structured and hooky compared to my expectations. It still involved long songs with one or two primary riffs comprising the entire base of said songs, but they were enjoyable hooks with some direction to them, and layered on top there were percussion beats that you could track, and soft, dreamy vocals layered on top sifting in and out of songs. The album intensifies as it goes from start to finish; the opener has a rather soft atmosphere and with those dreamy vocals reminded me a bit of Devin Townsend's more atmospheric stuff (think Terria or Ghost), as well as Perdition City and something else I can't quite remember, whilst the final track was heavy and distorted with a definite industrial vibe, whilst still using the same vocals. Not exactly an album to rock out to, but perfectly good to use as occasional background music if you want a somewhat mechanical and subdued atmosphere.
50. Ocean Districts - Expeditions
2014 [8.0] - Fairly conventional instrumental post-metal. The music is heavy, but not in the atmospheric sludge sense of Isis/Neurosis, more in the sense of powerful heavy riffing applied to the post-rock sound. The music is built upon melodic riffing, but also includes softer sections and also parts led by guitar leads. Perhaps cut from the same general cloth as this year's sleepmakeswaves release, the music doesn't do much to stand out from the crowd but performs a fairly normal style very well.
51. Mekong Delta - In A Mirror Darkly
2014 [8.0] - I must say that my interest in thrash metal has deteriorated over the past few years (aside from Sylosis), likely fuelled in part by the waves of uninspiring retro-thrash bands. However, I am willing to try out new thrash albums in the hope of hearing something interesting (Black Fast's release last year was quite good), and I've heard good word-of-mouth about Mekong Delta in the past so decided to give them a go, and I was quite impressed. Definitely not a 'chuga-chuga-chuga' straight-up thrash band, these guys are rather technical and proggy, which on the one hand does prevent it delivering nice fun grooves, but does instead offer up quite fun songs, especially given the fairly melodic inclinations of the music. Admittedly I wasn't that impressed by the vocals and the song sections accompanied by them, but when the songs become instrumental I do rather dig them, for example the opening two tracks and Inside The Outside Of The Inside. Cool technical thrash album.
52. Epica - The Quantum Enigma
2014 [8.0] - I do have a suspicion that the beauty and the beast symphonic metal style is coming to the end of its life, with bands rather approaching an endstage of amorphic inseparable sound. However, there is still some life left in the mix of synth-boosted heavy riffs with growls combined with dramatic fem-vox choruses and melodic breaks, and Epica are one of the better bands at it. The problem with a lot of these bands is that the songs simply fail to offer up the required personality to make them worthwhile repeat listens in the way most of Nightwish's material has provided, for example. However, whilst I wouldn't class anything off this band as essential, there are a number of tracks throughout the album with evocative Simone sections and passionate orchestra+choral arrangements that stir up endearing feelings, especially some of the early songs and the standout final track. I still feel that the heavier parts just sound like filler contrast, but this album offers up some really nice melodic parts that place it above at least the previous effort and show the band's capability.
53. Animals As Leaders - The Joy Of Motion
2014 [8.0] - A pleasantly restrained instrumental djent album. If memory serves me correctly, neither of the two previous albums were mindless wankery either, but still this one has a more subdued vibe, even with virtuoso playing coming in and out. The use of electronics add to the feel of the album, and produce a collection of enjoyable, cohesive instrumental tracks.
54. Morbus Chron - Sweven
2014 [8.0] - A rather unusual and subdued prog/death album, which has a multitude of calm melancholic sections with clean guitar chords, and a relatively small number of outbursts into old-school tech death-esque quirky extreme metal. Comparison's to Tribulation's colossus from last year are a bit misleading given the calmer nature of this album, and IMO lesser nature of it, but there's a fair amount of good stuff to be found here, including the really nice closer, with it's gradual wind-down led by a neat guitar ostinato. Some rather cool stuff here.
55. Corpsessed - Abysmal Thresholds
2014 [7.9] - Satisfying old-school-influenced cavernous death metal which is dark and aggressive without being impenetrable. The production gives the music an edged but full sound, and the vocals a truly vile and echoed sound, with the growls amongst the most delightfully putrid I've heard in recent years. Not revolutionary, but good fun for what it is.
56. Bölzer - Soma
2014 [7.9] - With only 2 EPs and 40 minutes of music to their name, these guys are building up quite the underground following. This is an impressive blackened death release, with the first song a shorter and more intense one, filled with various black/death riffs and interesting structural choices, and the second a 12 minute giant that utilises occasional synths in quiter atmospheric sections to counteract the collection of extreme riffs. Didn't totally win me over, and perhaps inferior to Aura, but still impressive.
57. Nasheim - Solens Vemod
2014 [7.9] - A pretty darn solid black metal release. One that is fuzzy but not tinny, and which can go blasty-fast, or more midpaced, and with howls of anguish, or haunting cleans. It even pops into slowed-to-a-halt single-tone guitar segments or acoustic sections. Not groundbreaking at all, but rounded and nice to listen to.
58. Long Distance Calling - Nighthawk
2014 [7.9] - Anything these guys do at the moment inherently sounds enjoyable, with a nice increasingly calm and laid-back kinda feel to their post-, and this one, a live instrumental jam EP, sounds their most relaxed thing to date. Obviously, with a live jam some things (track 2) are likely to work better than others (track 6), but this is generally pleasant to listen to throughout with a fair share of really good moments. Not quite up there with the full-lengths but enjoyable nevertheless.
59. Axxis - Kingdom Of The Night II
2014 [7.9] - My first encounter with the band, so I cannot comment on their older stuff, including the 'prequel' to this album, but seeing that they started in the 80s, it makes sense as they have a similar 'hooky but heavy' heavy/power metal style as the late 80s German power metal bands. It's nothing original, but often rather enjoyable with some solid songs, alongside the occasional duffer. The length is also somewhat excessive, but generally the album is a good listen.
60. Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope
2014 [7.9] - One of the stronger releases by these guys. It has the mix of bookending epics with more song-sized tracks filling in between, and both types of song are well done here. Both the 25+ minute tracks have consistently good things going on throughout to avoid boredom, and the shorter songs, particularly Black As The Sky, have nice vocal work and instrumental arrangements to complement the long songs well. There's perhaps not enough of an identity to the songs to truly stand out in the genre, but they're solid enough for any progger to at least somewhat enjoy.
61. Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1)
2014 [7.9] - A progressive power metal with the ambitious musical style, technical ability and pleasant melodic tendencies of that style, but one which perhaps lacks the important hooks that albums namedropped in related threads (e.g. Kamelot's brilliant The Black Halo) have which holds it back from being a truly great album.
62. Primordial - One And All, Together, For Home
2014 [7.9] - In a similar vein to Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings, a neofolk-styled album with contributions from several prominent metal bands. I would say this collection is superior to that one, although perhaps the heavier tendencies of it put it more in line with my tastes. There are a number of strong songs in the collection; I enjoy both of Drudkh's contributions, and Axa Inferi's single piece is a definite highlight. Haive's tracks are quite nice too, although a bit too similar to just a standard Tyr song, say, without the folkier tendencies of the rest of the album. Overall it's a rather nice collection, although it's size is perhaps excessive given the musical style of the album.
63. Oruga - Blackened Souls
2014 [7.9] - A rather decent sludge/doom album, with plenty of capacity to be heavy with cool riffs (the closer is particularly potent), but perhaps not special enough to stand out from the crowd. A shoutout however to track 'Dead Among The Living' which has some very moving melodic riffing that completely deviates from the standard crushing sound quite wonderfully, far and away the strongest song on the album.
64. Down - Down IV - Part Two
2014 [7.8] - This band has never managed to match the incendiary riff-tastic brilliance of their debut, NOLA, which is packed to the rafters with intense, hooky monolithic tracks. However, this EP is closer to that sound to the first of these EPs, a more psychedelic and rather lacklustre effort. The opener Steeple takes a while to get truly going, offering up plenty of riffs but failing to truly hook, but as the song progresses it gets heavier and really begins to reel you in, before an 'epic' break that rounds it out. Other standout tracks include the slower, brooding Conjure and big closer Bacchanalia, with its eerie closing minutes. The vocals, it pains me to say as an Anselmo admirer, just aren't as hot as they used to be here; the parts which cry out for the savage power of NOLA-era don't receive them, and some of the softer parts take cues from Ozzy without offering up the same unique style. He does decently, but it just doesn't quite cut it compared to what he has been capable of. And that in a microcosm covers the band as a whole. Nevertheless, a nice sampling of riff-driven Southern US metal.
65. The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-li
2014 [7.8] - An impressive album, one with predominantly aggressive black metal features (well-produced though, so no saw to the ears), but which ambitious atmospheric aspirations. However, aside from perhaps The Ascend, it never truly won me over and got me to pay full attention to it during the run-through. Maybe further listens would give more reward, but it just doesn't have quite enough on first listen to shine in the atmos/post-black crowd. Very cool artwork though.
66. This Social Coil - After The Day Before
2014 [7.7] - A quite pleasant post-rock/metal album with a decent ability to build light-but-ominous 'Deadhead'-esque atmospheres, and also often some rather dainty mellow sorrowful parts. However, both the slightly thin sound and slightly limited songwriting drags it down a bit, and so do the well-meaning but rather amateur-sounding fuzzy stoner-esque vocals.
67. Conquering Dystopia - Conquering Dystopia
2014 [7.7] - I have seen some very cynical reviews or assessments of this album, but even though my appetite for solo guitar-driven instrumental metal has shrunk hugely over the previous years, I still find some rather positive things in this album. This style is inherently limited by the problem of developing a clear individual voice against all the other bands, especially given Loomis' clearly recognisable playing style and previous instrumental albums. However, although I'd heard accusations of constant guitar-wankery on the album, I think there's a surprising amount of musical diversity within the genre boundaries. The first time I really took note was some track halfway through which was clearly more upbeat melodic and restrained than other tracks, and I found it rather enjoyable. I also approved very much of the final track, which involved both borderline-extreme segments, and a rather pleasant melodic finale that decided to forgo potential extravagance for a more fulfilling outcome. My main problem with it, and what will likely prevent me coming back to it, is the simple fact that musicians operating within this style of music eventually blend together due to the limited range of things to do with heavy guitar-driven instrumental metal, and this band doesn't really aim to break beyond the limits, nor does it beat some of the more interesting bands operating in instrumental progressive metal like Scale The Summit or Exivious. Still, for what it is I think it's a worthwhile listen if you enjoy this style of metal.
68. Ancient Ascendant - Echoes And Cinder
2014 [7.7] - A rather enjoyable black/melodeath/thrash release, with aggressive but hooky riffs that very from midpaced to rather faster, and features growls and shrieks. The music isn't hugely challenging or particularly variable, but there are some really neat riff grooves to headbang along to, particularly towards the end of the album (The Toll Of Mourning is very nice), and the calm interlude Embers is rather neat too. Good fun.
69. Tuomas Holopainen - The Life And Times Of Scrooge
2014 [7.7] - I gave this a listen merely out of slight curiosity, despite being a big Nightwish fan, just because their more recent work (particularly Imaginaerum) had been come increasingly willing to let symphonics take over from the band, and had at the same time declined in quality, so I really didn't know what to expect. However, this album clearly beats at least Imaginaerum, and is certainly not all that far off Once and Dark Passion Play either (and I like both albums quite a bit). The album is almost entirely non-metal, purely a piece of somewhat folky symphonic stuff, but it conjures up plenty of pleasant melodies and arrangements, and the female vocals that dominate the album are enjoyable and well-judged, rather more subdued than the likes of Tarja. The most memorable tracks are The Last Sled, Goodbye Papa and A Lifetime Of Adventure - give those a listen, and if you dig, try the whole album, it's actually rather nice and enjoyable.
70. Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls
2014 [7.6] - Actually a pretty enjoyable album. Not up with the great comeback heavy metal albums like 13 or Accept's recent output, but it's a step up from the past couple of albums. It's very generic in terms of style, but not the full-pelt power of Painkiller and more modern-sounding than Screaming for Vengeance. There's enough variation in style, between the kinda laid back style of March of the Damned and some of the more powerful tracks, to avoid boredom setting in, although the standard style and cliche lyrics mean some of the songs blend together over the overly long hour runtime. Also, Rob's vocals have clearly faded with time, although they're not as finished as some would like to paint. Honestly, the album probably deserves to be rated between .5 and a whole point lower, but it's my fault for rating the albums below as high as I did, because this is just too enjoyable to fall beneath them. At the very least, it's a far stronger album than Iced Earth's latest.
71. Auriga - Reflection Of The Majestic
2014 [7.6] - Some might question when ambient black metal becomes atmospheric black metal. Some ambient albums appear to be atmos albums with the odd ambient track in between; one might hope instead for a cohesion of BM elements into an ambient background. This album, filled with space-like sounds and prolonged ambient tracks, also has a couple of tracks (3&5) which seem to alternate standard atmos-black with ambient sections. However, track 2, with its BM guitar sheen behind the ambient sounds, comes quite close to an effective mix. The album generally sounds a bit like Progenie Terrestre Pura's album from last year (but, unsurprisingly, doesn't quite live up to the brilliance of that album), and is generally quite pleasant, with the BM parts, even at their most extreme, never becoming truly fierce, but lacks something to make it truly great. I'm not a great judge of ambient music, but the pure tracks come across as solid background music but nothing more engaging, whilst the BM tracks are fine but unremarkable.
72. Hannes Grossmann - The Radial Covenant
2014 [7.6] - A pretty neat tech-death album from a member of genre big guns Necrophagist and Obscura, so the guy clearly knows how to do this music well. In all truthfulness, there are times when the more extreme parts get a tad tedious, even though good riffs are provided, but each song has a chance to shine, often in the more melodic parts. Aeons Illuminate and The Radial Covenant I. II. show this off pretty well. Also, the piano cover of Euclidean Elements from Obscura's Omnivium was quite dull and very unrewarding, and a bit of a bum note to end the album. Still, rather nice.
73. Ea - A Etilla
2014 [7.6] - A pretty solid funeral doom album, but one which doesn't necessarily sound FDM all the time. There is clearly a slow, plodding riff&drum feel throughout, with sections that focus on the crunch or others which lay guitar lines over prominently. However, it is willing to vary; around 10 minutes in there's an uptempo part which wouldn't sound out-of-place on a melodeath album, whilst there's one section where isolated choral mourns transition into a single guitar playing. This shifting around keeps the album fresh, but does give off an impression at times that the band isn't confident enough in the core sound to stick with it, in the way that Monolithe IV was so successful at being. In the end it has plenty going for it in terms of being a heavy, sorrowful piece of work that doesn't get too tedious before its time is over, but one which doesn't wholly captivate either.
74. Benevolent - The Covenant
2014 [7.6] - An interesting ambient djent album, with variation from more intense extreme tendencies to mellowed clean vox sections. The latter are more successful - whenever the album is into the heavy djent-driven growly parts it loses a fair bit of its appeal as it fails to offer much in the way of interesting rhythm, riffs or melodies. However the album is capable of pulling some good stuff out in the more melodic parts, and songs such as standout track Ascension show what the band is capable of.
75. Gazpacho - Demon
2014 [7.5] - An interesting art/prog atmospheric release, with little to no heaviness in it, instead mostly built around soft, eerie atmospheric landscapes directed by interesting emotional clean vocals and use of varied elements, including accordion, piano and whatever else. I was slightly disappointed in it following some of the hype of its beauty; I felt it was pleasant and interesting, but I wasn't truly captivated by it. At times I felt it lacked direction and some of the decisions it took failed to really do much. However it's still a fairly enjoyable soft release for those looking for a break from heavy material.
76. Appearance Of Nothing - A New Beginning
2014 [7.5] - A reasonable follow-up to the really neat All Gods Are Gone, but most of the tracks go by with nothing of true note happening to really elevate the music, lacking something as exciting as 2nd God or as offbeat as The Call Of Eve. In the end it's a perfectly enjoyable melodic prog album but nothing to truly shine.
77. Woods Of Desolation - As The Stars
2014 [7.5] - A slightly disappointing follow-up to one of the best albums of 2011. Gone is the melancholy, longing feel of Torn Beyond Reason's depressive BM, and in its place is a 'euphoric' sounding blackgaze album not wildly dissimilar to Deafheaven's Sunbather and Alcest's Ecailles De Lune. As it is, it's a reasonable but flawed attempt at the genre, with the harsher sections failing to produce the level of atmosphere they previously achieved, and the uplifting tone not so naturally suited to them. I went to check the previous one after hearing this to see if I was overrating it at all, but I agreed with my previous assessment, and feel this is a slight step down, if still a decent album.
78. Anathema - Distant Satellites
2014 [7.5] - I can't see anyone expecting 'more of the same' from this band will be particularly disappointed, and I do think this is arguably a tad superior to Weather Systems, although it does lack a killer track like The Beginning And The End. However, it does feel rather 'samey' and certainly doesn't have the strength in its material to rival We're Here Because We're Here. The major problem with softer, dreamy music like this (although this album can be a bit darker than some of their other albums) is a real tendency to blend together without truly inspired songs, which this doesn't offer, just some nice pieces. The song which stood out as strongest was Anathema; perhaps they put most effort into their own self-titled song. Pleasant and I doubt fans will be disappointed, but for mild appreciators, it doesn't truly excite.
79. Grey Widow - I
2014 [7.5] - An incredibly harsh and filthy blackened sludge doom album that trudges through mirky swamps pretty much throughout. It's a little bit too misanthropic for my liking, but there's something admirable about music this acidic.
80. Lantlôs - Melting Sun
2014 [7.4] - Slightly black-influenced post-rock/metalgaze varying between Explosions In The Sky twiddling and slow hazy atmosphere with 'dreamy' vocals on top. Reasonably decent and enjoyable but ultimately failed to grab my interest.
81. Monolord - Empress Rising
2014 [7.4] - I've been in quite a stoner phase recently, so a riff-driven stoner doom album should've theoretically been right up my street. Well, it kinda was, but whilst the sheer fuzziness of it is enjoyable enough to listen to, the riffs aren't classics and are just overly repetitive.
82. Hail Spirit Noir - Oi Magoi
2014 [7.3] - The first half of the album sounds like a slightly steroided-up version of 70s prog, aside from the horrific black metal shriek-growls that totally didn't fit the otherwise nice music. About halfway through, the black metal elements move further towards the core of the sound, making the vocals seem less out of place; at the same time, the music got a bit weirder and more avant-garde-y. Whilst this gave it a more unique identity, the music provided was not as appealing. A step up from the previous album, but can't claim to be a fan of these guys.
83. Greenleaf - Trails And Passes
2014 [7.3] - Pretty standard stoner rock without much originality or engagement, but perfectly okay, and the middle tracks Humans and With Eyes Wide Open are both pretty good.
84. Thou - Heathen
2014 [7.2] - A perfectly reasonable sludge doom album, with lengthy tracks packing crunchy slow riffs. However, this has been done before better, and it does eventually become somewhat monotonous, as the music is mostly one-note (although occasional diversions, even if sounding like interludes more than anything, offer some welcome respite). Considering last year SubRosa released a rather good album in a very similar style, this album does fall short of great in comparison. Nevertheless, very decent sludge doom that works fine as background music.
85. Kypck - Имена на стене
2014 [7.2] - A reasonably decent doom album, with a good range of riffs, melodic guitar arrangements and so on, but one which ultimately fails to fully engage, particularly in it's more drawn-out funeral-y moments, and one where the vocals could do with a fair bit of work to reach a standard befitting the music.
86. Alaskan - Despair, Erosion, Loss
2014 [7.2] - A reasonable sludgy post- album with some decent stuff on, but one which seems ultimately too focussed on being overly heavy than producing a fine atmosphere. The first track starts with some needlessly violent playing, but does eventually calm into a really nice heavy riff. Some other tracks try to go soft or brooding without real success, and one or two even include strings, maybe to try and manage what SubRosa have accomplished, without the same success. It's generally good but not a whole lot more than that.
87. Rise Against - The Black Market
2014 [7.2] - One of the lighter bands I sing the praises of, especially considering my favourite work of theirs is Appeal To Reason, arguably their most commercial effort. This album follows Endgame in being a perfectly competent album with a slightly harder edge than ATR, but simply put most of the songs lack a real cutting edge, just coming across as fairly enjoyable up-tempo melodic 3-chord songs with a bit more balls than pop-punk. I would probably rate the album lower if I hadn't rated the albums surrounding it as I did; this album is weaker but more enjoyable than those efforts so I compromised and stuck it in here. Ultimately a pleasant listen but for the most part pretty forgettable.
88. Palefeather - Palefeather
2014 [7.1] - A relatively pleasant soft atmospheric prog rock album, with some nice guitar melodies, but hampered by limited songwriting talents. Still, okay to stick on in the background.
89. Wijlen Wij - Coronachs Of The Ω
2014 [7.1] - A reasonably decent funeral doom album, although its best moments are when it's not funeral doom. Some moments, especially in the 3rd track, where a trudging drum beat and guitar chords, just bored me to tears, as there was so little going on, but then when they diverged from that, most notably in the almost epic black metal-esque finale of A Solemn Ride To Ruin, they came up with good stuff, and that finale, followed by the decent synth outro track, left a good parting impression. Still, nothing too extraordinary, even in its best moments.
90. Dephosphorus - Ravenous Solemnity
2014 [7.1] - As someone who definitely wouldn't class as a grindcore fan, I found certain things in this worth liking. For a start, whilst there is the typical overdose of blastbeats (although even these sections have their appeal more than some other grind bands), the album's actually capable of moving away from that, such as the death n' roll featured in earlier tracks and the start of the closer, and certain more black metal-orientated moments on the album. The album peaks on the penultimate track, with a really slowed down almost atmos-black feel, with a nice guitar lead and even acoustics interlaced into the sound. Even though I struggle to enjoy the genre, the amount of variety and songwriting ability when they stick to the typical sound helps this album stand out.
91. Blood Stain Child - Last Stardust
2014 [7.0] - Clearly an extension of what they did on Epsilon, although this isn't at that album's level for two reasons. First, the new vocalist just isn't as infectious as Sophia was. Second, the trance has gone into overdrive on this one, and it's reaching a point where it's more focussed on being a bowl of super-hyper music that been the hookfest that Epsilon was. Still, the two original tracks are fun enough and suggest that they might be able to avoid Epsilon being one brilliant flash in the pan as far as this stylistic move is concerned.
92. Blut Aus Nord - Debemur MoRTi
2014 [7.0] - My only encounters with BaN are the 777 albums; I would place the music on this album somewhere in between the dissonance of Sects (my least favourite of the three) and the atmospheric industrial pounding of The Descantification (my favourite). The first track, whilst more accessible than the Sects material, was a little too chaotic-sounding to appeal to me. However, the second track and the bonus cover were closer to the more atmospheric sound I was quite fond of, sounding like a black metal esoteric-sounding version of Ministry's Scarecrow. Not great, but a reasonable package.
93. Iced Earth - Plagues Of Babylon
2014 [6.9] - This received it's fair share of negative criticism upon release, so I was quite skeptical about listening to this, especially since my once-huge interest in the band has considerably dwindled in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, although this is clearly inferior to Dystopia, it's certainly not a failure. The songs do generally sound like B-sides for the previous album, but the title track, If I Could See You, Peacemaker and others have interesting parts to them, whether riffs, choruses or solos. There's nothing here to overly excite you but as a listening experience it's sufficiently pleasant to not be too disappointing, and it definitely doesn't beat The Crucible Of Man for their worst.
94. Pervy Perkin - Ink
2014 [6.9] - One the one hand I admire the ambition of produced such a long and complex prog album, especially for a debut, and I also enjoy sections of it, including some of the more melodic and 'epic' parts and other bits where they go rather quirky and almost carnival-esque. However, as far as the songwriting goes, perhaps they should walk before they run, as the cohesion between parts, and the combination of lead and rhythm sections, need work, and the vocals are so totally amateurish that listening to the album became a huge chore.
95. Altar Of Betelgeuze - Darkness Sustains The Silence
2014 [6.8] - Traverses an unusual line between fuzzy groovy stoner and punishingly oppressive death/doom metal, without a real working balance between the two. The stoner is decent enough, although not as good as some other recent releases, and the d/d is suitably imposing but not that enticing, and the two sides either exist completely separate, or sometimes try to fuse together with middling results. Interesting idea but feels more of a jack than a master.
96. Alcest - Shelter
2014 [6.7] - Alcest have completely abandoned their black metal roots and released a post-rock/dream-pop album, albeit with clearly notable elements of their sound. What this achieves is producing a pleasant background album with moments of excitement, but also one that sounds highly derivative of bands within the genres that actually specialize in the sound, and which ends up being ultimately forgettable. Whilst Deafheaven are off making the blackgaze genre their own and blowing it up into levels of mainstream unthinkable of extreme metal (even if I don't ultimately buy the Deafheaven hype), Alcest have abandoned the genre they helped popularize and were so good at (Ecailles de Lune easily warrants Sunbather's accolades), and instead become a follower of other, better bands. There's promise here, and the album's pleasant enough, but I can only hope they manage on the next record to make something more substantial, and noteworthy.
97. Mayan - Antagonise
2014 [6.6] - naff (ran out of space)
98. Murmur - Murmur
2014 [5.9] - not good



Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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