kronosFriends, Romans, metalheads, lend me your ears;
I come to bury 2014, but also to praise it.
The evil that bands do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
Let it not be with these albums. The noble Angry Metal Guy
Hath told you 2014 was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath 2014 answer’d it.
Here, under leave of AMG and the rest–
For AMG is an honourable man;
So are we all, all honourable men and women–
Come I to speak in 2014’s funeral.

Through my own charm, genius and palpable immodesty, I have single-handedly, along with Grymm, convinced the Angry Metal Elders to grant me a big boy year-end list. My year’s tenure in the catacombs of AMG headquarters has proved fruitful beyond measure thanks not only to my brilliant colleagues and our dedicated readers, but to an incredible number of high-quality releases from  high-profile legends, newcomers, and artists who, until now, were almost completely overlooked.

2014 was full of surprises, whether from the unexpected impact of records from newcomers, or the disappointing offerings from genre stalwarts. It also produced some completely unexpected dividends for me, including an unreleased master of one of the year’s best albums and the comforting knowledge that I and many of my colleagues have been plagiarized. But enough tidbits. The paragraph grows long, and you lust only for the knowledge that I agree with your shitty opinions. Without much more ado, I present to you the only comprehensive and wholly objective year-end list in existence, systematically replicable across hundreds of trials and peer-reviewed by the world’s experts before publication.

JACKET(ish): Archspire // The Lucid Collective – A lot of tech-death gets a lot of hate for a lot of good reasons. The Lucid Collective deserves none of it. In a year where the genre produced a lot of sophomore slumps, this album managed to outdo its predecessor along with most of its peers. It’s not quite innovative, but it is excellently executed and enjoyable through and through, which is quite the accomplishment for this young band. If you want a bunch of Canadians to pour golden note-piss all over you, look no further.

Unearth Watchers of the Rule 01#10: Unearth // Watchers of Rule – 2014 is not a year in which metalcore was expected to flourish. After the genre’s 2000s boom and rapid decay, its very name has become a slur. Unearth apparently don’t know that they’re not supposed to be cool anymore and proceeded to release what might be the best straightforward metalcore record of the past five years or more. Watchers of Rule is nonstop aggression and continuous fun delivered by the genre’s most consistent players and writers. It’s infectious, full of excellent riffs and melodies, and devoid of the pop choruses and poorly written breakdowns that have doomed the band’s peers – the sort of music that’s as effective during a frantic all-nighter as it is during a laid-back afternoon.

Nebelung - Palingenesis 01#9: Nebelung // Palingenesis – Didn’t see this one coming, did you? Well, neither did I, but Palingenesis proved to be the best not-metal album I’ve encountered this year. Deep, brooding and introspective, Nebelung conjure visceral and unmistakable feelings of autumnal forest. For anyone who has walked through graying underbrush across a carpet of sweetly decaying leaves, Palingenesis is an extremely emotional experience.

Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails#8: Fallujah // The Flesh Prevails*- Caveat emptor: this is not the album you think it is. After I raised a ruckus about he Flesh Prevails‘ mastering, producer Zack Ohren kindly delivered a less compressed and much more listenable DR 10 (yeah, it’s that much higher) version of the album to our staff. While he’s right in saying that the difference between the version you’ll get on CD and the version I’ve been listening to since August is not night and day, it’s a huge improvement and makes this brilliant album a joy rather than a chore to spin through. It’s a shame that Fallujah and their label decided on a louder, more compressed version of The Flesh Prevails, but it’s likely that, because of the small but vocal few who voiced their disapproval, they’ll consider taking a different approach for their next album.

Wretched_Cannibal#7: Wretched // Cannibal – It’s taken a few years, bit Wretched has finally emerged from their core-doused chrysalis and fluttered off in search of the highest echelons of tech-death. Cannibal makes expectations its playthings, rewarding predictions as often as they defy them. From straightforward thrashy melodeath numbers to blaring post-metal riffs, it traverses the band’s influences and hints at greater things to come. The album is not only one of the year’s most unexpected gems, but simultaneously interesting and incredibly accessible.

Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion#6: Animals as Leaders // The Joy of Motion – I live above 40° N Latitude, which means most of the year the weather gods are intensely focused on releasing their sordid, offensive coldness shits directly into my uncooperative eyes, nose and mouth. In their finite but arbitrarily large wisdom, Tosin Abasi and company decided to cut me and my ilk some slack this year through The Joy of Motion, which simulates summer quite a lot more effectively than any of the expensive lamps we buy in order to survive our sunless abyss.

Indian_From All Purity#5: Indian // From all Purity – There were those (namely, every other contributor for this blog) who laughed at me for insinuating that a noise-doom record released in January was going to make end-of-the-year lists. Let them laugh, I said as I fondled a peromyscus pelvis. And howl and point they did, insisting that this “pabst-core” would be remembered only as an outlet for my own pretentious (and to some, objectifiably verbose) ramblings. They laughed and yet here it is, drenched in feedback and bile, still vicious, still noisy, still fantastic.

Serdce - Timelessness 01#4: Serdce // Timelessness – Before its brutal cred is solidified, this Top Ten(ish) list is allowed one last time to veer into touchy-feely music with pretty melodies and keyboards. And synths. And a saxophone. Timelessness is not only beautiful and emotional, but the best Cynic album that saw release this year (sorry, actual Cynic, but I still love you). It’s relentlessly progressive and unapologetically introspective, packed with as many great riffs as moving melodies. Despite running for over an hour and lifting a piano melody from “Chocolate Rain” this album has seen continuous play in my neck of the woods since summer and it hasn’t tarnished a bit.

Origin - Omnipresent#3: Origin // Omnipresent – I loved this album from the moment I got my perverse little hands on it and the attraction hasn’t waned a bit. Omnipresent rushes through what I refuse to believe is a finite number of notes in just over half an hour and thanks to its peerless production sounds more restless, thrilling and alive than any of the sterile, clipped and precision-obsessed wank-sculptures tech-death bands seem so fond of producing. The disc is radioactive, wrapped in razors, and dripping raw sewage, and I check under my pillow every night to make sure it’s still there to keep me company.

Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation 01#2: Artificial Brain // Labyrinth Constellation – Nearly as aesthetically innovative as their colleagues further down this list, Artificial Brain are 2014’s gift to the metal world. Labyrinth Constellation pummels and permeates, saturating its every second with bizarre, grimy death metal imported from a universe somewhere off to the left. It’s difficult to believe that an album this stunningly mature is a debut, and just as confusing to think that for two years in a row, one of the most innovative records released has been solidly grounded in brutal death. Artificial Brain is headed places, and given their grimy debut, they may not be entirely inviting.

#1: Pyrrhon // The Mother of Virtues – Beyond the shadow of a doubt, The Mother of Virtues is the most unique and important work of extreme metal the year had to offer. Not since Everything is Fire has a death metal album been this ambitious, fearless and challenging; and like Everything is Fire, The Mother of Virtues succeeds on every level. The album is peerless – its bouts of improvisation and cancerous melodies cut to the bone, just as disquieting and seductively hideous as the groaned, screamed and rasped lyrics that beg to be read again and again. The quartet’s performances exemplify passion and artistry, a commitment to making every scraped string, pummeled head and strangled gasp count.

Pyrrhon - The Mother of Virtue

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

• Thantifaxath // Sacred White Noise – The next best thing to Dodecahedron, and the only black metal I’ve been observed to actively enjoy this year.
• Sólstafir // Ótta – Beautiful, melancholic but also subtly triumphant – you ótta check this out if you haven’t already.
• Decapitated // Blood Mantra – What I anticipated to be one of the year’s duds turned out to be quite possibly the best  album yet from the polish titans.
• Hannes Grossman // The Radial Covenant – otherwise known as Omnivium part II by Obscura & friends.
• Gluttony // Beyond the Veil of Flesh – Seriously stupid, embarrassingly good. Excellent workout music.
Baring Teeth // Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins – While it’s not as stunning as its predecessor Atrophy, the Texans’ second offering proves their worth as innovators in death metal.

Disappointments of 2014 (in no particular order):

• Trap Them // Blissfucker – Despite some great cuts, this album was too mid-tempo and tepid to live up to expectations.
• Septicflesh // Titan – With a poor mastering job and much less solid songcraft than The Great Mass, Titan failed to live up to the high expectations set for it.
Bloodshot Dawn // Demons – The pinnacle of sophomore slumpage, killed by hurriedly-put-together drumming and unneeded flourishes.

Best Thing We Missed Last Year:

• Ovid’s Withering // Scryers of the Ibis – Seriously creative symphonic metal, drawing from death, thrash Greek mythology and even djent to create some of the most epic music out there.

Best Album Cover:

• Horrendous // Ecdysis – Sorry, Fallujah, you gave it a good shot.

Song of the Year:

Pyrrhon // “Invisible Injury” – I’ve probably listened to this song about a hundred times this year and it never gets old. The opening motif haunts and draws you in, keeping you tethered by sneaking back in after every bout of madness, assuring you that there is a method. That method is finally revealed in the last third of the song, when the screaming guitar line returns to usher in the most memorable solo I’ve heard in years. Perfectly constructed, teased and performed, Dylan DiLella’s solo makes excellent use of the brilliantly placed 2/4 pickup bars at the end of each phrase, taking time to artfully shamble and slip through each of them and lift himself and his bandmates back into the groove each time. The solo not only completes the song, but completes the album, the initial, hidden moment of brilliance that doesn’t unlock, but proves the existence of keys for the rest of The Mother of Virtues.

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  • Great list dude! Lots in common with mine:

    http://unluckydevil.com/2014/12/top-10-metal-albums-2014/

    I saw Wretched along with Battlecross a couple of weeks ago. Hadn’t heard them before, but Wretched really brought the thunder live. They’re great musicians and really cool guys. Been jamming Cannibal for like a week now and it’s a great album.

    Not gonna lie, I’m pretty jealous that you guys have a better mastered copy of that Fallujah album. I would absolutely love to hear that version. The Flesh Prevails is still incredible, but the mastering is just a bit obnoxious.

  • El_Cuervo

    Not enough death metal – 0/10

    • El_Cuervo

      Further to this, this Serdce lark is thoroughly wondrous and enjoyable

  • AndySynn

    Good stuff sir, good stuff.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Pyrrhon is to me what regular heavy metal is to my mom: just a bunch of incoherent noise.

    Yes, I do feel like an ignorant idiot after saying that.

    PS: What’s this about being you guys being plagiarized?

    • Kronos

      I’d link it but I don’t want to give them that sort of traffic.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Do tell,
        i often see other sites (they mean nothing to me I promise) give us a hint I wouldn’t want to be accidentally supporting plagiarists.

  • lacsativ

    This list screams “experimental”.

  • Schmitzel

    Since you brought up Fallujah again, I saw them live a couple of weeks ago (they were awesome as expected) and talked a bit with they vocalist about the production. He admitted that the vinyl release will have (has?) a very different sound and actually recommended it to everybody complaining. So I’m definitely looking forward to hearing that one.

    Anyway thanks for all the awesome reviews this year! Cheers!

    • Kronos

      If I got into vinyl, I would definitely try to get my hands on that.

    • DId you namedrop us?

      • Schmitzel

        i intentionally avoided mentioning any specific on-line discussions since I wanted to get his unbiased opinion on the whole thing (sorry AMG, no free publicity here). Also he seemed (at least to me) a bit disappointed (maybe slightly annoyed) when I brought up the production. It really felt that he was aware of the issue and it was not in any way an uncommon complaint. I didn’t really push the subject for this reason.

        In any case you guys are still fighting the good fight with respect to production and we should all keep requesting this from band-members/sound guys.

        • Name’s Dalton

          Yeah the last thing AMG needs is more readers.

          • Schmitzel

            Well if you follow the whole discussion (spanning multiple reviews and blog posts here), you will find that Fallujah’s engineer actually contributed a lot to the discussion so I’m pretty sure that the whole band knows the site and topic. Would you prefer a un-tethered response from a band member or just “well, our guy already said…”. That’s what I was going for. Cheers!

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    So that Serdce album has a song that sounds like good Cynic playing “Chocolate Rain”? That’s magical, and I’m sure that it was some minor editing error that put it at #4 instead of #1 where it clearly belongs. Good list though, glad to see Unearth there too. The more I listened to “Watchers…” the better it got. Still not “Oncoming Storm” good, but their second best by far.

  • Luke_22

    Nice list, a few albums I need to check out. With you all the way on Artificial Brain, and Serdce’s largely overlooked album deserves attention. I was also very impressed by Pyrrhon but the extremely challenging nature of the album meant I didn’t revisit it too often.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yes me too, it didn’t help that there were a lot of great releases coming out at that time as well. i’ll definitely be going back to this one

  • Kryopsis

    As I was reading the first part of this list, I was thinking how much I appreciate your and Grymm’s contributions to this site and how much you two have matured as writers since your first articles here.

    Then I got to the Fallujah part.

    The Flesh Prevails is my favourite release this year bar none. I never heard of the band before and the sheer beauty of the album blew me away. I still have it on every portable device I own and I listened to it no less than 20 times. Having said that, in order to actually get a proper listening experience, I have to be in a quiet room, use a specific pair of headphones, fiddle with the EQ, offer a blood sacrifice to forbidden Lovecraftian entities and disable a few sound-enhancing features I use for literally every other record…

    Now that I know about your DR 10 master of the album, I don’t think we could ever be friends, Kronos.

    • In his defense, it’s actually my DR10 master.

      • Kryopsis

        Horrible people, all of you!

        Incidentally, can we expect an article about the gear you and the rest of the contributors use for critical listening? Headphones, DACs, that sort of thing? Surprisingly, I haven’t seen a lot of these on Metal sites.

  • Awesome list! You hit some of my favorites from this year: Pyrrhon, Artificial Brain, Thantifaxath and Horrendous. I’ll also check out Dodecahedron and “Everything is Fire”!

    • BlameHoffman

      Everything is fire is an album by the band Ulcerate, not a band.

      • Oh, I know. That’s why I put it in quotation marks. I love “Vermis”, haven’t listened to their previous albums.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great list! Good to see Artificial Brain getting some love!
    Congrats on the Fallujah piece that was a real AMG highlight this year. I’d say that despite it’s mastering issues Its a great record. Seems crazy to me not to make a DR10 version digitally available to fans.
    Thanks for the Serdce tip, listening now and its hitting the spot.

  • Grymm

    “I have single-handedly, along with Grymm…”

    THEN IT’S NO LONGER SINGLE-HANDEDLY!!!

    Sure, take ALL the credit… *sob*

  • Siege Bantayan

    Awesome list! Wretched has been on regular rotation for me ever since I got it; Cannibal is my favorite there and it completely blew me out of the water when I first heard it.

    • Kronos

      Cannibal really surprised me and is a real accomplishment for the band.

    • Worldeater

      Totally agree. Cannibal was a real suprise and kept me interested for a long time.

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    well for me titan is the 2nd of the year 1st is melana chamata

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Its great to see Fallujah, origin and pyrrhon in a year end best list! And by the looks of it you seem to prefer fast, extreme metal, if i guess right.

  • Schmitzel

    Man, taking another look over your list, and I must THANK YOU for the Serdce recommendation. Two songs into the album and it was an instant- buy. Never heard of these guys before and it’s one of the best stuff I listened to lately.

    Cheers Kronos, thanks again.

    This is why I love AMG :)

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      huh me too! I never would have picked that up otherwise it’s a cracker. I’ve pretty much had it on repeat the las couple of days!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    The thing I like about your list Kronos is that bands 1-3 are all either produced, mixed and/or mastered by Colin Marsten.
    Of those 3 Artificial Brain is my pick, love that album.

    • Kronos

      I’m glad someone else picked up on that. It’s no coincidence that they’re all Marston productions. I certainly didn’t pick them specifically because of the fact, but their excellent mixing and mastering made them stand out.

  • Zadion

    That Pyrrhon cover is fucking whacked out but I love it.

  • PropsToOrpheus

    Thanks for re-highlighting Pyrrhon. First I was impressed by the intensity, then felt my skin crawl as I tried to immerse and predict what was coming next (in vain). I’m listening to the title track now, and it’s really sealing the deal on this album. I really like it—lurching, pummeling, claustrophobia that opens up just enough for me to feel lost… and then it feels like the ground is giving way… decent into madness. Holy shit this is good.

  • Feeblejocks

    This list is probably the closest to my picks that I’m going to find here. Indian, Pyrrhon, Baring Teeth and Origin all made my Top 10, with Artificial Brain and Thantifaxath making honorable mentions. To be honest, the rest of my list is really weird, with Hexis and Abyssal being the only other AMG-reviewed albums on it. Oh, and Dimesland, if that counts as a review. Great list, Kronos. There were a couple on here I still needed to check out, and I have yet to be disappointed.