CastilloAnother year, another Top 10(ish) list. I’ve not written much for AMG this year, as some of you have noticed, and I kept a healthy distance from the “scene” in general. Rather than devote my time to high-profile, overhyped albums, I’ve pretty much listened to new music that I actually liked, and ignored everything else. As a result, this list is probably weird as hell.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why a particular album didn’t make the cut, it’s probably because I thought it sucked. Without further ado…

Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate

#ish. Wovenhand // Refractory Obdurate – Yes, you’re still at Angry Metal Guy, and not Pitchfork or some such bullshit. And although it puts me in some unsavory company, you can count me among those who enjoyed David Eugene Edwards’ latest foray into vaguely sinister twang rock. To these ears, it sounds like a cross between The Cult and an actual cult, if that makes any sense. It’s creepy, it rocks, and I like it.

Bodycount-Manslaughter#10. Body Count // Manslaughter – Ice-T and co. make a push for legitimacy with their long-awaited 5th album. Manslaughter finally gets Body Count up to modern standards of playing and production, while still containing enough gonzo Sabbath-meets-Bad Brains riffage and ridiculous lyrics to entertain old-school fans. Yes, there’s a few unfortunate nods to newer, more “extreme” styles, but BC also shows respect to the old-school, including a bizarre interpretation of Suicidal Tendencies‘ “Institutionalized.” Overall, Manslaughter is a worthy comeback, and I’m sure D-Rock, Beatmaster V and Mooseman are up there smiling down on their former bandmates.

KXM – KXM#9. KXM // KXM – In the six years since prog legends King’s X last released an album, vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick has indulged in a variety of projects, most of which sound like half-assed versions of his main band. KXM finally pairs him up with bandmates that can hold their own: guitar samurai George Lynch (Dokken) and drummer Ray Luzier (yes, the fucking guy from Korn). The result is a collection of damn good rock music, able to stand alongside any of these guys’ main bands, while also having its own identity. As a King’s X comeback seems increasingly unlikely, KXM helps to fill the void.

Stargazer – A Merging to the Boundless#8. Stargazer // A Merging to the Boundless – This one’s a super-last minute addition to my list, as I was unaware of this Australian trio until very recently. However, Merging is one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard all year. It’s relentlessly progressive and convoluted, with virtuoso musicianship and tenuous links to old-school metal. I wouldn’t even know what to compare it to, although I hear traces of Voivod‘s weirdness and the pure evil of early Morbid Angel. Bonus points are awarded for excellent (and audible!) bass work, as well as a raw yet crystal-clear mix.

Nicky_Thumb#7. Tie: Crowbar // Symmetry In Black, Overkill // White Devil Armory – Boy, I’m sure glad (insert name of band) is back. With their first album since (last year/the year before that), these guys have delivered a slab of (insert adjective here) metal that stands up against their masterpieces from the (1980s/1990s). It may not be as vital as (Odd Fellows Rest/WFO), but there’s something to be said for consistency, and this band can always be counted on for some (raging thrash metal / crushing sludge).

Dawnbringer_Night of the Hammer#6. Dawnbringer // Night Of The Hammer – Chris Black has been on a fucking roll in recent years with a stream of consistently solid output from both Dawnbringer and his more upbeat High Spirits project. Hammer is a bit slower and doomier than 2012’s Into The Lair Of The Sun God, revealing Black’s love of Dehumanizer-era Black Sabbath and/or a mild case of depression. Black is one of the few real songwriters in present-day metal, and Hammer is another excellent batch of the blackened classic metal that is his trademark. 

THE SKULL_For_Those_Which_Are_Asleep_COVER#5. The Skull // For Those Which Are Asleep – Years after most people had written off Chicago doom legends Trouble, this splinter group seized the opportunity and delivered a shockingly good comeback. The Skull‘s debut is a thick slab of old-school doom, referencing TroublePentagram, and of course the almighty Sabbath. Production by the legendary Billy Anderson doesn’t hurt either. I’m amazed this record even exists, and pleasantly surprised that it’s as good as it is.

Layout insert centred#4. Misery Index // The Killing Gods – After a longer-than-usual break, these Baltimore death merchants return with their fifth and most ambitious album. While rarely given credit for it, Misery Index have subtly refined and evolved their sound over the years, while remaining righteously pissed off and almost impossibly heavy. The Killing Gods continues that growth, pulling in enough diverse influences and epic structures to create a level of depth not typically heard in the genre.

Opeth - Pale Communion#3. Opeth // Pale Communion – Opeth doubles down on the direction they pursued on Heritage, to the dismay of many, Fortunately, Pale Communion makes a more compelling case for Opeth-as-’70s-prog-band than its predecessor, mostly due to being more focused and containing better songs (funny how that works). Songs like “Moon Above, Sun Below” and “Faith in Others” prove that Opeth‘s stylistic overhaul can indeed yield compelling results.

heislegend-heavyfruit#2. He Is Legend // Heavy Fruit – I don’t even know what the fuck to call this, other than “that album that never left my car stereo.” North Carolina’s He Is Legend returns from a short hiatus with an album of heavy, catchy, densely layered rock goodness. Heavy Fruit is similar in intent to its predecessor, 2009’s excellent It Hates You, but with an even more adventurous approach musically. Furthermore, I nominate the track “Be Easy” for my 2014 Riff Of The Year®.

#1. Death // Symbolic – No, Symbolic wasn’t reissued in 2014, and no, this isn’t a joke. As a symbolic gesture (pun intended), I am giving the #1 spot to an album that represents everything great about heavy metal. Symbolic is a gimmick-free platter of top-shelf riffs, excellent musicianship, and memorable, well-written songs. It’s not commercial, but it doesn’t neatly fit in a niche or subgenre either — it transcends those labels. It’s the kind of album that old-schoolers could rage to, yet it could also serve as a 14-year-old kid’s entry into the metal underground, even today. These are all qualities I expect an Album Of The Year to possess, and in my eyes, no one in the class of ’14 quite pulled it off. I suppose I could’ve named other records — Ride The Lightning, Reign In Blood, etc — and made my point, but you get the idea. So I am leaving this here as a reminder of metal music’s potential. This is the standard we’re held to. Always.

Death - Symbolic

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Jar’d Loose // Turns 13
Triptykon // Melana Chasmata
Bob Mould // Beauty & Ruin
Failure // 2 singles: “Come Crashing” and “The Focus”

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  • El_Cuervo

    Maybe the least pretentious year-end list ever

    • Our Fortress Is Burning

      As Death albums go, Symbolic is one of the more pretentious. ;)

  • Lasse Momme

    I love how few fucks were given in this top 10. bravo mr. fist, bravo.

    • I’d say no fucks whatsoever. Impressive.

      • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

        Yeah, reading this back after the fact, it definitely comes off as giving few fucks, if any.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Individual Thought Patterns is better.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Nah, The Sound of Perseverance

      • Angel R. Suarez

        Human, ladies. Human.

        • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

          Well i think we all at least agree that Symbolic was a poor choice from their oeuvre.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            we can..but I’m right

          • Angel R. Suarez

            You’re almost right, because TSoP is just beneath ‘Human.’

            But, really… I don’t think Death ever made a shit album. Just ‘great’ and ‘less great.’

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Hell yeah

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice to see stargazer here on AMG…must check out this Death band…

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Yeah, these Death guys are definitely up and coming. They’re kind of ripping off Obscura and Necrophagist obviously, but if they stick with it, they might achieve something cool one day. Ha!

      • Kryopsis

        Really derivative name, though. I mean they’re a Death Metal band and they’re called ‘Death’? It’s like a Black Metal band releasing an album called ‘Black Metal’. What utter nonsense!

      • fetusbreather

        Dude, Death has been around forever… (or maybe you’re being sarcastic and I am incredibly slow)

        • fetusbreather

          Shiyat! Om slooowwwww…

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Yeah, you might want to check the batteries in your sarcasm detector.

    • Stuart Wellington

      I am hooked on that StarGazer album.

    • Our Fortress Is Burning

      Yes. I like the new StarGazer too.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Rightly or wrongly I’ve made a conscious effort to not see, hear or know anything about this body count release..its worked well for me :)

        • Our Fortress Is Burning

          Good call.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            Given Ice-T’s lifestyle and past, I think it’s safe to say he’s not right-wing. He obviously just uses BC as a vehicle to make white people uncomfortable.

          • Our Fortress Is Burning

            You could be right. However, some people do become more right-wing once they become the establishment. Perhaps he’s changed, perhaps I have changed, or both. I did own their first album when I was younger, but I haven’t listened to it in years. It was stolen (along with my entire CD collection) a few years ago, and I have no plans on replacing it like I have with some of my favorite albums from the past that I still enjoy.

            I’ve spent years educating myself (not to mention thousands and thousands of dollars), and I find his pro-gun / “get a job” message offensive as an intellectual (and a human being), regardless of his skin color or mine. I feel the same way about James Hetfield’s trophy hunting and Dave Mustaine’s affiliations with people like Rick Santorum. He’s making this white person uncomfortable by sounding like a Republican.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            I don’t see how Ice-T is “pro-gun.” He is from a background where guns are part of daily life, and arguing for or against them is like arguing for or against gravity. I don’t recall him ever singing about how the liberals will never take his assault rifles away or something. Similarly, I don’t think the track “Get A Job” is preaching any kind of conservative message, although the title could be misleading.

            Don’t even get me started on Hetfield and Mustaine.

          • De2013

            ‘If you like sex, If you like money, betta get out ya guns to protect em’ Ice-T

          • Our Fortress Is Burning

            You make a valid point. A lot is left up to the listener to interpret. And I happen to be aware of other statements that Ice-T has made, as well as the fact that he recently narrated a pro-gun documentary called Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire. It’s pure drivel, but he narrated it nonetheless. A lot of my education has been in critical media studies, so I do tend to be critical (sometimes at the expense of just enjoying certain things). So, my interpretation is different than yours. I do hear a right-wing message on this album, but I respect your interpretation as well.

            No need to comment on Mustaine and Hetfield. ;)

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            I had no idea about the documentary — that certainly puts a different spin on things. I suspect Ice is pro-money above all else, and would narrate anything as long as they pay him.
            Or maybe he’s just been on “Law & Order” for too long.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    “Aw shit, man, BODY COUNT is back!”
    “Nigga, we don’t give a fuck about heavy metal. All we listen to in these streets is Dre, Dre, DRE!”

    TBH it’s cool to see the OG back in the biz.

    And I couldn’t agree more about Symbolic. God tier album.

    • De2013

      Fo Sho! And still 99 problems…

  • AndySynn

    He Is Legend as #1 album of the year. A ballsy choice indeed.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      He Is Legend is at #2. If I felt they deserved to be #1, I’d have put them there.

      • AndySynn

        Again though… “…of the year”.

        Of the albums actually from this year on your list, that one is at the top. Hence it’s the top album from this year.

        The symbolic gesture is all fine and dandy, but if you’re going to rank albums of the year, then at least ONE of them has to be the best.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Alright, you got me. “Heavy Fruit” was, mathematically, the thing I listened to the most this year, which strongly implies that I liked it more than anything else i heard.
          It still ain’t no “Symbolic” though.

          • AndySynn

            It has totally inspired me to check out “Heavy Fruit” btw.

            I think I’m an “Individual Thought Patterns” man, myself though.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            Cool, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

          • Grymm

            ITP is, and always will be, The Shit.

        • Grymm

          Hey, if a certain website, who shall remain nameless, can claim that a guitarist who programs drums is the best drummer of the modern metal scene, I think Mr. Fisting is well within his rights to claim Symbolic as the best album of the year. Always. Which means next year, too.

          • AndySynn

            It’s a travesty.

            Everyone knows that I’m the best drummer of the modern metal scene.

          • Grymm

            Oh REALLY?!!?!

            Where’s YOUR guitar then, Mr. Drummer?!?!?*

            *BLANK STARE*

            *-as a side note, do NOT google “Mr. Drummer” at work or on a school computer.

  • DrChocolate

    Yeah, I had no idea who He Is Legend was prior to this list and two songs into exploring them and I’m sold. It’s like Clutch’s affable younger brother started hanging around Small Stone’s Records offices on lunch break. Sign me up.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I really like He is Legend. It has been a great surprise since your initial write up. I think I am going to give Wovenhand a chance.
    Not sure if you are a Bear fan or not, but I have seen a shirt you can appreciate. It said “Cutler Makes Me Drink!” I love it.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      That shirt sounds about right, unfortunately. And I’m glad you’re checkin’ out these bands!

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Have you checked out Kenn Nardi’s latest? Great to hear some new Anacrusis after all these years.

  • Jeff Kent

    Metal isn’t just a genre of music, it’s the art and act of not giving a fuck. Well done…and bravo on the mention of KXM.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      That might have been the best description of the metal lifestyle as I’ve ever heard. Thank you!!!

  • Doomdeathrosh

    So, chuck schuldiner comes back to life here in 2014?! nice!!

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Much to the dismay of everyone involved in the Death To All tour.

  • Wilhelm

    Yes, Symbolic is probably the best Death album…if chuck would have carried the vocals and overall atmosphere to Sound of Perseverance, it could have been even better.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      If Perseverance had the older-school Chuck vocals and someone other than Richard Christy on drums, it would be a flawless victory.

  • t l

    I just love your decision to give the No. 1 spot to this magnificent album – in my opinion this one has been THE album of the year every year since its release, which is especially true of this year’s music which can only be described as good enough at most, but not really deserving no. 1 spot, or even very good. For me, the most metal release of this year is, quite paradoxically, “Why Do the Heathen Rage?” by The Soft Pink Truth, in its own tongue-in-cheek way.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Now THAT’s a hell of a band and album name. I’ll check that out immediately. Thanks!

      • t l

        BTW, hasn’t Morgoth’s “Odium” been reissued this year?

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          That’s a name I haven’t heard in a looooong time. And apparently, yes it has been reissued. Cool!

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I’m glad another person here really liked Manslaughter. Body Count’s in the house!

    • DrChocolate

      Here’s another, I really dug that album – “Talk Shit, Get Shot” had some hilarious lines. “Dusted with a musket.” Somehow, using an old formula they made a dead sound feel fresh. I guess songwriting really does means something, regardless of your style.

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        I love that part of the song, he just keeps going with increasingly ridiculous idioms for getting shot that I’m pretty sure have almost never been used (though I really hope “dusted with a musket” becomes a thing). Agreed about the songwriting, it’s like they just took the most ignorantly heavy parts of Hatebreed and Terror and ran with them, and it’s so much fun. It has no pretensions of being anything else, and it’s also God-tier gym music.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          As thug as BC tries to come off, I always pictured them as 5 dudes having some beers at band practice and trying to come up with the most ridiculous shit possible. I mean, no one could write “KKK Bitch” with a straight face.

          • Grymm

            Or “Evil Dick”.

            My brother and I *STILL* quote that song decades later!

          • Our Fortress Is Burning

            That Dick really was evil. It’s evil is legendary.

  • BarryLeFreak

    I’ve seen Misery Index mentioned in two(?) top tens now — but there still isn’t a single review :[ Will this be remedied soon?

    • Next time they release an album and if we get a promo, we WILL review it. Unless the site shuts down due to certain…issues.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Certain issues? Don’t be so mysterious Druhm!!!

        • All will be revealed.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            well that answers that….nit
            hmmmm dont like the sound of this, have they found HMG’s body?

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            No comment.

      • Our Fortress Is Burning

        Shut down? That doesn’t sound good. I’d like to see this website continue operating.

  • “Yes, you’re still at Angry Metal Guy, and not Pitchfork or some such bullshit.”

    So funny, so funny…

  • TminusEight

    As a 16HP fan I’m stoked to see Wovenhand in there (ish).

  • My name is Commander Sheppard and this is my favourite year’s end list on the whole Citadel.

    OK, you got me I’m not Commander Sheppard. Still, the point remains.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Thanks, whoever you are!

  • I don’t read these kind of lists just to see if people think the same way as I do. I read these lists, mostly because I want fresh opinions and something new to listen, which I’ve never heard before. The purpose of this list is to hype stuff that most people haven’t even listened to yet, before reading this (probably after too). Hyping a piece of art by giving it a fair, colourful review is a great skill, which most people forget, when they write their own opinion pieces. So yeah, even the shittiest album sounds a lot better when you know what to listen for and when you’ve heard someone else praise a part of it.