Angus Jung’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2014
2014 was another great year to be a metal fan, and not just if you’re an elitist who hates melody in their metal (aside from melodic death metal, which we all know is not very melodic at all). Here are fifteen stellar albums which weren’t necessarily very popular on the internet, but will probably have shelf lives well beyond the more underground releases spotlighted on my colleagues’ lists.
Max Cavalera has clearly passed his immense talents down to his son, Richie, who fronts this band. Up in Hell is the perfect amalgamation of Sepultura and Soulfly, an album that manages to be heavy as hell without ever becoming just noise. I’ve heard people complain that Richie and his bandmates could maybe do a little more to distinguish themselves from Max’s projects, but that criticism doesn’t hold water with me: what jerks ever complain about something that sounds like Sepultura or Soulfly?
Listen: “Up in Hell”
Howard Jones was born to be the singer for a first-rate hard rock band like Avenged Sevenfold or Five Finger Death Punch, and hopefully, at some point, he’ll feel less obligated to keep pandering to the metalcore crowd and let that beautiful voice of his truly soar. Think of how much better “Seven Years Alone” would be without all the screaming, or the AC/DC-esque anthem “A New Beginning” is just BEGGING to be turned into! Still, this album is REALLY catchy and REALLY fun and WAY better than the last Jones-era Killswitch Engage album. And it’s good to hear someone putting guitarist Francesco Artusato’s talents to good use playing something that won’t appeal purely to music dorks and the perpetually single.
Listen: “It’s Over”
For Reincarnate, Motionless in White once again enlisted former Marilyn Manson bassist Tim Skold as both a producer and a songwriter, and, once again, Manson’s loss was MiW’s gain. This album launches the sextet to the top of the industrial heap, and it features a really cool guest appearance by In This Moment’s Maria Brink. If only Manson would make an album this exciting again!
Every part of what happened with Tim Lambesis was terrible, except for one thing: the other members of As I Lay Dying were forced to move on. Joined by Shane Blay, they have now become the band they were always meant to be (someone please play this album for Howard Jones!). In fact, I strongly suspect that someday, AILD will be to Wovenwar as The Yardbirds are to Led Zeppelin.
Listen: “All Rise”
People hate Bob Rock because he allegedly ruined Metallica. The truth is, the guy’s one of the greatest rock producers of the past thirty years, and his worst Metallica-related crime is not pushing them harder to make another Black Album (although I like the Loads… yeah, I said it). This is Black Veil Brides’ first collaboration with the lauded producer, and he really got them to step up their game. I sincerely hope this marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship… maybe Rock can lead the band to the creation of their Dr. Feelgood?
Listen: “Devil in the Mirror”
The ‘Smack are back! And they are now officially one of hard rock’s most reliable bands. Like AC/DC, they absolutely refuse to buckle to trends. I can understand kids who weren’t around for Godsmack’s heyday saying this is dated, but for the rest of us… well, it’s just what we wanted. Every song is so perfectly designed to get stuck in your head… and, yeah, it’s perfect motorcycle music, too.
I wonder if people who make fun of the fact that all of Linkin Park’s songs allegedly sound the same have even heard this album? The Hunting Party is the very definition of “artistic evolution.” As the group continues to mature, they just keep incorporating a more vast array of influences, lending their music an expansiveness most bands can only dream about.
Listen: “Final Masquerade”
Speaking of artistic evolution… what modern Mastodon lacks in heaviness, it more than makes up for in songwriting ability. Once More ‘Round the Sun features the band’s catchiest material to date, and deserves to be remembered for so much more than just the twerking scandal.
Listen: “The Motherload”
7. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast)
A supergroup that more than lives up to expectations (and I say that as someone who hates every Dillinger Escape Plan song that doesn’t sound like Nine Inch Nails). Max Cavalera continues to prove that legends don’t have to be embarrassing — he makes me wish James Hetfield had quit Metallica and gone solo after The Black Album or Load. Maybe Troy Sanders can bring some of this band’s spirit into sessions for the next Mastodon album, ’cause this is even catchier than Once More ‘Round the Sun.
Listen: “Wings of Feather and Wax”
Nobody should be surprised if King 810 are the new Slipknot in a few years. The anthemic opening track, “Killem All,” gives me the same chills I got when I first heard “(sic),” and it’s similarly cathartic. And the album just gets better from there! Even as someone who appreciates melody in metal, I think there are a few too many ballads here, and singing clearly isn’t David Gunn’s strong point. Still, I predict big things in this band’s future.
Listen: “Murder Murder Murder”
In This Moment’s major label debut is so great; only in a year featuring releases from Slipknot, Black Label Society, AC/DC and Judas Priest could Black Widow just barely crack the top five. I hate to cop out, but I’m just going to quote my own review here: this album “satisfies nostalgia for late-90s metal that borrowed heavily from Nine Inch Nails: Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Static-X, and even some of the bands in this vein that came after the turn of the century, like Dope and American Head Charge… This is one spider you’ll be happy to let infect you.”
Listen: “Sick Like Me”
Anyone who doesn’t include a new Judas Priest record on their year-end list never gets to question anyone else’s cred ever again. Anyone who says they like other Judas Priest albums but don’t like Redeemer of Souls is full of it. This is just the kind of high-octane, larger-than-life rock we’ve depended on JP to deliver for four decades, and while it might not be as classic as some of their more vintage work, it’s still a head above the rest. I hope they never throw in the towel.
Listen: “Sword of Damocles”
Some people whine that the band just keeps making the same album over and over again; I just marvel at their seemingly bottomless well of great riffs! This album is sexy, and makes a great soundtrack for dancing and, well, sex (overshare?). I sincerely hope this isn’t AC/DC’s swan song, but if it is, well, they’re going out on the very highest of notes.
Listen: “Rock or Bust”
When a metal fan tells me he doesn’t like Black Label Society, I just assume he’s lying. Like Angus Young, Zakk Wylde never seems to run out of excellent riffs, and like Judas Priest, he has very much come to define everything that metal is. But I’m not putting Catacombs so high on this list “just because.” I’m putting it on this list because it’s the best BLS album in years. Wylde is still one of the best metal guitarists in history, and these songs are top notch. The man is a god.
Listen: “My Dying Time”
YES! This is the one we’ve all been waiting for… and it was worth the wait! It’s ironic that for years we’ve been told that Paul Gray and Joey Jordison did all the songwriting for this band, and then they went and made their best album since Iowa without the late bassist or former drummer. .5: The Gray Chapter is another epic journey from one of this century’s most important metal bands; it will take you from the highest peaks to the lowest valleys and back again. SLIPKNOT, PLEASE DON’T MAKE US WAIT SO LONG FOR YOUR NEXT ALBUM!!!