steel druhmAs I walk through the valley where I harvest my grain, I take a look at my list and realize it’s very plain. Barring an oddity or two, this feels like the most predictable list I’ve assembled since joining the AMG crusade. I can’t even blame 2014, since it was a decent if not amazing year for metal during which we all learned to enjoy of deep sadness and worship at the altar of the all-seeing Sphere of I-ruhn.

Most of my AMG brethren have compiled more outlandish and quirky lists than I, thereby making me feel even more the crusty curmudgeon of the staff, forever stuck listening to Frank Sinatra while everyone else rocks out to Devo with plastic flower pots adorning their post-modern heads. Oh well, someone has to be the bastion of metallic sensibility and refined tastes, so it might as well be your beloved Steelness.

As always, thanks must go to all our loyal readers for making AMG such a pleasure to write, edit and bleed for. Hell, even our disloyal readers are pretty respectable and praiseworthy. Whatever your reader status, thanks for your support and we’ll see you all in 2015. Now get off my damn lawn and get a haircut, you trend whoring mall bitches!

Nightsatan_Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom(ish) Nightsatan // Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom – This is the cheesy synth soundtrack to every Grade Z post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick released from 1975 through 1987, but I couldn’t stop listening to it. Every spin conjures images of blasted cities, cannibalistic mutants and buxom babes in leather undies. If you like that kind of stuff, this is a ridiculously catchy score to a movie that exists only in your warped little mind. My mental movie is called Blast Radius Bloodbath, starring Steel “Justice” Druhm. What’s yours?

Blackfinger_Blackfinger#10. Blackfinger // Blackfinger – For those who grew up worshipping 80s doom, Eric Wagner was the one-of-a-kind voice of the legendary Trouble and without him, they just aren’t the same band at all. That may be why it’s so great to hear from him again, now rocking a more introspective variation on his Trouble-d days of old, with his love of The Beatles and 60s rock front and center. Blackfinger is moody, intimate and solemn, Eric sounds as good as ever and there’s a nicely diverse collection of styles and emotions on display here. Nostalgia, here is thy sting.

THE SKULL_For_Those_Which_Are_Asleep_COVER#9. The Skull // For Those Which Are Asleep – Speaking of Trouble and nostalgia, Wagner returns with his other band to completely poach, pillage and ransack his former unit’s vintage sound for his own selfish ends, and yes, The Skull does it far better than the current incarnation of Trouble. This sounds like the album that could have come after Run to the Light and before their eponymous platter, and everything you once loved about those doom pioneers is here in rich shades of grey and other grey. Wagner for the Double Trouble win in 2014!

Vyrion_Geo#8. Vyrion // Geo – Australia’s best kept secret remains under the radar despite releasing crackingly atmospheric and progressive black metal. Geo takes the elements that made their debut so successful and expands on the core vision, fusing traditional black metal ideas with post-rock, blackened death and classic heavy metal. Sure, there are traces of Agalloch to be found, but this is progressive in a much different way and far more suffocating and oppressive than anything those artsy wood gnomes ever did. When, oh when will people pay attention to these downers from down under?

Death-Penalty-Death Penalty#7. Death Penalty // Death Penalty – Despite the fact that this is the new project of former Cathedral riff master Gaz Jennings, this rocking mix of doom and NWoBHM got shockingly little buzz or press this year. That’s a shame, because this is a really well done and infectious blend of styles and genres and for the first time in his career, Gaz’s mighty riffs are teamed with a vocalist who can actually sing. Think of the possibilities and prepare for a burly throwback to the simpler days of Witchfinder General and Pentagram.

Stitched Panorama#6. Castle // Under Siege – The Lords of the Vest return with their third superb album in a row, mixing occult rock with 70s hippie culture and a sizeable dose of “true metal” like Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road. Though the whole “occult vestment” style is getting overdone, Castle sits above the fray, easily outclassing their contemporaries with superior song writing and a talent for ambiance, mood and hooks. Equally suitable for cultish brainwashing and quiet evenings at home.

threshold-for-the-journey#5. Threshold // For the JourneyThreshold continues their stellar recovery from the death of long time singer Andy “Mac” McDermott with the second album helmed by Damien Wilson. It’s more slick, highly polished prog for those who prefer their prog with actual songs. Forget those Dream Theater wank-fests, these guys only wank in the small gaps inside well structured and accessible tunes and that makes all the difference. Top-notch writing and amazing musicianship make Threshold the kings of non-obnoxious prog-metal.

RIOT_Unleash the Fire#4. Riot V // Unleash the Fire – Don’t look now but Johnny’s back again. Somehow surviving the death of founder and guitar virtuoso Mark Reale and the defection of vocalist Tony Moore, Riot lives on as Riot V and Unleash the Fire provides an unexpectedly great companion piece to classics like Thundersteel and Immortal Soul with all the elements long time fans hunger for. Old school American power metal rarely sounded this good and addicting. This is the feel good album of the year because you know Mark Reale is looking down and smiling upon it. R.I.P.

Audrey Horne - Pure Heavy3. Audrey Horne // Pure Heavy – There’s something completely irresistible about the kind of hard rock and metal these cats traffic in. Despite roots in much heavier bands, this odd collective has such a genuine knack for writing sweater snagging, mind numbing rock, it’s a wonder they don’t scrap their main gigs and make a play at big time radio fame. Pure Heavy is the album you’d get if Bon Scott Jammed with members of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Van Halen, and if that doesn’t work for you, perhaps it’s time for a forensic autopsy. Party rock with serious attitude and chops.

Dawnbringer_Night of the Hammer#2. Dawnbringer // Night of the Hammer – Chris Black has been impressing me more with every Dawnbringer release and Night of the Hammer keeps the momentum moving forward with a strange and unusual collection of songs. There’s a lot of Blue Oyster Cult weirdness here and plenty of proto-doom as well, and though it’s not as immediate as prior albums, it may be deeper and more penetrating. This is a unique little gem and it’s difficult to describe or put into words exactly what makes it so compelling; it just is. Haunting stuff.

#1. Darkest Era // Severance – What do you get when you seamlessly blend Primordial, Immortal, Candlemass and Thin Lizzy? Album o’ the Year, that’s what. No 2014 platter caught me quite as off guard as Severance did and none left as big of an impression. The way the band blends disparate genres and influences is impressive and the quality of the song craft is outstanding. From Krum’s rich vocals to the all over the map guitar work, the writing is just quirky enough to hold you captive, but it’s the staying power of the songs that wins the day. This thing got played to death and I spent so much time selling it to others that I should have delivered the motivational speech in Glengarry, Glen Ross. As close to perfect as 2014 got and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Darkest Era_Severance

Honorable Mention: (in no particular order or disorder)

  • Overkill // White Devil Armory  – The feistiest dose of New Jersey knuckle sandwich to come out in forever
  • Brainstorm // Firesoul – The best piece of power metal this year featured 20 lbs. of extra testicle
  • Fallujah // The Flesh Prevails – Only with the DR 10 version did the album’s beauty truly reach me
  • Horrendous //Ecdysis – Easily the best “old school” death platter this year
  • Mike Lepond // Silent Assassins – To get more old school than this, you’d have to invent the word “school”
  • Pallbearer // Foundations of Burden – A victim of over hype perhaps, but a rich dose of doom nonetheless
  • Morbus Chron // Sweven – A weird, clusterfucky mess of death, black and traditional metal with that alternates between brilliant and insane
  • Autumnal // The End of the Third Day – A slab of gloomy doom that just kept growing and growing on me
  • High Spirits // You Are Here – The other thing Chris Black did well this year was rocking your socks
  • DoomVS // Earthless – some of the most emotional doom of the year, full of exquisitely beautiful melodies

Biggest Disappointments:

  • Agalloch // Serpent and the Sphere  – Even a nifty sphere couldn’t save this art house conceptual piece
  • Judas Priest // Redeemer of Souls  – Indicative that the time is nigh to hang up thy mighty chaps

Worst Song Title: Decaying‘s “Frequent Wind”

Worst AMG Moment: Having our reviews stolen and passed off as someone else’s by a seventh-rate Spanish language webpage.

Most Anticipated Album of 2015: Jorn o’ Claus doing an Operation: Dracula concept album, and pretty much anything else from our favorite Jornish game hen.

Song o’ the Year: Autumnal – “A Tear from a Beast”

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  • Mmmm. That Darkest Era record is nommy. It’s got a great Primordial feel, but is an old school flair. I do like.

    Also: your honorable mentions list is expansive. You took a lot more away this year than I did.

    • On the Shores of Metal, I found the shiny pebbles amid the ugly boulders.

    • KingKuranes

      Yet Primordial themselves didn’t make this list… Otherwise this is a great list with a few things I have to check out.

      • Yeah, the new Primordial was solid but didn’t stick with me as much as I’d hoped.

  • El_Cuervo

    I think Dawnbringer and Pallbearer are the most common picks across the staff so far (granted Pallbearer was only an honorable mention here). I wonder what the overall list would be if we assigned numerical values to each place on the list then combined… I’ll do that tomorrow after we see AMG’s list!

    In other news, I like this list.

    I said list far too many times in that short paragraph.

    • Time to break out your thesaurus!

    • Stop ruining my mighty list with your stat geekery!

    • Angel R. Suarez

      I am disappointed with the lack of Thou on these lists.

      ‘Heathen’ is sickeningly great.

  • Antorus

    I’ve been listening to the darkest era record nonstop since I read the review here a couple months ago… thanks for bringing it up! definitely my record of the year.

  • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

    An Eric Wagner Double Dose? Fuck yeah.
    Great list though. I look forward to checking out the records on here that I haven’t heard yet.

  • El_Cuervo

    This Nightsatan lark is similar to Powerglove, who I quite like.

    • DrChocolate

      It reminded me of Perturbator. Which isn’t a bad thing.

      • Checking Perturbator out now. Fun stuff!

        • DrChocolate

          Word. I’m really, really into that stuff. Dangerous Days is so much Blade Runner-y fun. I also love the fact that the album covers look like the product of some alternate reality where Boris Vallejo read a lot of Phillip K. Dick rather than Robert Howard.

        • tomasjacobi

          Perturbator’s “Dangerous Days” is a great album.

          • They have an EP called Sexualizer, so you know they have to be good.

  • Kryopsis

    “Fallujah // The Flesh Prevails – Only with the DR 10 version did the album’s beauty truly reach me”

    Et tu, Druhm?

    • Are we feudin’ now?

      • Kryopsis

        Not at all! Also that Vyrion album is indeed quite good.

  • SuperBakaKing

    According to imdb, Nightsatan and the loops of doom IS a movie

    • They did a very weird 23 minute movie to promote the album. It’s funny and messed up.

      • SuperBakaKing

        I feel like you’re holding out on me. Where can I view/purchase this spectacle of jaw-dropping magnificence?

  • André Snyde Lopes

    No longer doing top 10(ish) songs of the year? I am of deep sad.

    • We would have list overload if we still did that. Too many damn lists!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        There are never enough lists! Even Sñr. Cuervo is doing a list about lists! There was a list of best spheres for Jørn’s sake!

        • You’re obviously a list fiend and should find a support group post haste.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        What do we want MORE LISTS when do we want them NOW…

      • Zadion

        if y’all ain’t gonna do a top 10 songs of the year, it would be nifty to see them included in your AOTY lists next time, mates. I look forward to the top 10 songs more than the top 10 albums!

        • We’ll take it under advisement at the next AMG Rules Committee meeting.

  • swlong

    I just listened to “A Tear from a Beast” 10x in a row. Thanks!

  • DrChocolate

    So I’ve weirdly remained ignorant to Riot (V) despite knowing the name seeing the reviews, and of course the album covers, over the last 20 years. Just never stopped to listen for some reason. However, after Unleash the Fire has appeared on some many year end lists I decided to rectify that and….HOLY SHIT. I’m not sure how I ever felt like my metal knowledge/enjoyment was ‘enough’ without listening to these guys prior to this week. I’m penitent and converted. (I had almost the exact same experience with Overkill with Ironbound a few years back too.)

    • Now immediately (if not sooner) go find Thundersteel and Immortal Soul, followed by The Privilege of Power and maybe Nightbreaker.

      • DrChocolate

        Already started down that path. The previous post was predicated on me picking my jaw off my desk after finding an Immortal Soul album stream. I will definitely dig into the others.

      • cirkus-lizard

        Don’t forget Fire Down Under…

  • El Lado Oscuro

    quite some agreement here…. nonetheless I miss in this list the records of Behemoth, Ne Obliviscaris and Insomnium, but great selection anyway

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This is a very quirk free, dignified list that I can appreciate. The only things missing are Gormathon, Iced Earth, and Noble Beast. I should know, I haven’t been wrong since 2013.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Plagues of Babylon was good, but the waste of Hansi’s guest spots on a couple of songs still makes me sad. It was like getting guest guitars by Christian Muezner on a song, and making him play rhythm guitar the whole time.

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        The guest vocals were not as much planned as they were logistically convenient.

      • Yeah, I was really confused by that as well when I reviewed it. Here you have one of the all time greats and you relegate his contribution to a bunch of ooo’s and ahh’s. Weird.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Iced earth got a very lukewarm response from memory,

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Yes it did, but the people that bashed it also like the horrendous Horrendous ;) Opinions vary, mine is right.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Booooo….if not for artificial brain, horrendous would easily be the premier death metal record this year…I prefer to think of my opinions as fact…;-)
          I’ll give iced earth another go tho.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Audrey Horne wins the 2014 award for Best Music to Speed To While the Winows Are Down. Apart from the striking lack of music piracy, I quite like this list. Nightsatan is just too awesome.

    • As soon as Running Wild releases a killer album, my year end list will be rife with profiteers.

      • Kryopsis

        You got to hand it to Diabolus, by publicly declaring ‘Sunset on the Golden Age’ album of the year, he set himself up for a lot of ridicule. I like Alestorm and Nekrogoblikon as much as everyone else but if I were to write a top 10 list, I’d probably spend three paragraphs praising Voices or Panopticon and never admit that I had ‘Wooden Leg!’ playing on repeat the whole time.

        Keep fighting the good fight, DiM!

        • He will now be forced to wear a pirate shirt to the AMG offices.

          • Angel R. Suarez

            Considering the office is probably an alley in some Swedish slum… probably wouldn’t look out of place.

          • It’s actually above a charming bakery and just next to a delightful chocolate shop.

          • Angel R. Suarez

            Grim Chocolate and Fresh Bvns

  • Feeblejocks

    Thanks for the Vyrion tip-off, Mr. Druhm! Aside from that, this was a very respectable, understandable, dare I say predictable? list. Very solid choices on all fronts. Personally, I’m still rocking out to Audrey Horne, High Spirits, and Nightsatan with a stupid grin on my face, and I don’t plan on stopping!!

    • I dared to say “predictable” in my introductory paragraph, so you’re more than welcome to dare as well.

      • Feeblejocks

        Considering how mentions of one Druhmlord’s age are treated ’round these parts, it wouldn’t have surprised me if his predictability was treated likewise.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    your list ,Mr.Druhm, not so much “predictable” as “balanced” or “diverse”, a great mix of different albums with different influences in here! A tear from a beast is just so awesome!

  • Good stuff Druhm! I haven’t had time to listen to everything this year so I am going to have to use these year end lists to play catch up.

    Happy 2015 guys, keep up the Jorn jokes!

  • Luke_22

    Much to check out here, looking forward to expanding my horizons. Darkest Era is already growing on me rapidly.

  • ‘To get more old school than this, you’d have to invent the word “school”’

    Flawless victory.

  • basenjibrian

    Autumnal’s newest is not on their Bandcamp or iTunes yet.
    Oh well. Patience.

  • De2013

    Thanks for the list. So much music to explore in 2015! Best whishes for 15!

    On a side note: your reference to Nightsatan somehow brought back some memories from a television show called Starfleet, mixed with flashbacks from the Hellraiser movie.

    • I don’t remember Starfleet. Was it a cartoon?

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Enjoy of frequent wind…What a retro doomy occult year you’ve had Mr Druhm. Love the double Wagner on your list, shamefully I haven’t spend enough time with those releases.
    You’re not so predictable BTW. I was surprised not to see While Heaven wept, Overkill, Primordial and Pure Heavy loud and proud at number 1…
    I’ve really enjoyed at lot of your recommendations this year the new Dawnbringer and Death Penalty are two recents that I would have otherwise skipped/missed.

    • You’re right! I’m an enigma wrapped in mystery.

  • We all need some sobering truths on our year’s end lists, this one is the great equalizer I think. I mean, I’ve read everywhere that 2014 was a horrible year for metal and then I see here a lot of great music that probably wasn’t even considered by other people, not even me. I think we all got something different to gush about and that may mean this wasn’t such a bad year after all.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yep and I’d go one further and say this year has been superb.
      Despite big swings and misses from some scene heavy weights there have been so many artists rising up with breakthrough releases. Bands like Castle, Giant Squid, Morbus Chron, Solstafir, Dreamgrave, Horrendous and Artificial Brain have all raised the bar, Pioneering characters like Eric Wagner, Tom G Warrior and Justin Broadrick reappearing with killer releases. Nergal beat actual death to come back with the best Behemoth record yet and one of the most powerful songs ever in O Father O Satan O Sun. US bands like Panopticon, Yob, Tombs, Pallbearer and Mastodon took their art to the next level releasing big, visionary and appealing records. Opeth set a new standard for how good a record can sound.
      And I’m just circling the tip of the iceberg!
      We should all be falling to our knees and praising the dark lord for these dark blessings.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    “Having our reviews stolen and passed off as someone else’s by a seventh-rate Spanish language webpage”

    When did this happen? What seventh rate moron does that and gets away with it? URL for reference?

    • We aren’t going to name names and give them any publicity, but they suck and they’re hacks.

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    That Vyrion album is really quite good. Like Enslaved with just a twist of Death Metal thrown in to taste.