Chuck & Godless’ Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2014


Chuck and Godless 2013


You know we’ll do an episode of the podcast and talk about our top fifteen, but we had to submit to the printed form from whence we came, right? If you have listened to The MetalSucks Podcast before, you probably know that our tastes are somewhat conventional. We do not dig deep into the underground to find that one nugget of a band that no single soul would know about other than you and the drummer’s Mom; rather we, or at least I, tend to try and find the stuff that is able to cut through the noise of the metal world and grab me by the nards. Ultimately, I want to hear what might make the masses jam, but that isn’t total crap. There’s a ton of stuff out there designed to forced the weak-minded to jam, but I don’t think any of those bands made my list. You be the judge…

Behemoth - The Satanist15. Behemoth – The Satanist (Metal Blade)

Made whole for me by their live performance, Behemoth created one of the only death metal albums of the year that actually stood out amongst the noise of imitation metal. Many in the genre take the same Dying Fetus riffs, try to slap new rubber on the bottom and drive off into the sunset, and then wonder why no one discovers them. But Behemoth takes stock of where they are at the moment and make valid attempts to evolve their music. It also doesn’t hurt to have a sex symbol as your lead singer.

Listen: “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”

 Cynic - Kindly Bent to Free Us14. Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us (Season of Mist)

Gentle and expansive, Cynic is a beautiful band that progressively stretches what it means to be metal, not just in their personal lives, but their indefinable type of sound. Loosening the boundaries and leaving the growl at the door for the most part on this album was an expected move, but the balancing act was what I loved the most about Focus and Traced In Air. Its absence, though, never lessened the potency of what Cynic assembled with their latest album.

Listen: “True Hallucination Speak”

 Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase I- Neohumanity)13. Scar Symmetry – The Singularity (Nuclear Blast USA)

This was the latest addition to my list, the album released just a few weeks ago, the first in a trilogy about some kind of existential exploration of the future of humankind a very heady concept. But that wasn’t the reason for latching to this record, which features what is honestly some of the strangest-yet-palatable songwriting I have heard in years. It sounds like a terrible imitation the first time you hear it, but as you dig deeper, you realize that Scar Symmetry have created an album that is equal parts pop and death metal. Not for everyone, but a fun album.

Listen: “Limits to Infinity”

Pallbearer Foundations Of Burden12. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)

Pallbearer should appear on every list this year. Does not matter where, number one or forty — this band demonstrated a tremendous amount of perseverance, making an album that screws themselves over during every live performance, turning songs into marathonic monoliths of sound, the sheer duration of which defies the audience to look away (to say nothing of having to keep the drummer from passing out). Sonically the best thing Pallbearer have released to date.

Listen: “Worlds Apart”

Agalloch - The Serpent and the Sphere11. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore)

Although I wanted to put this a little higher on my list, Agalloch will not go unnoticed. Applying their unique balance of blackened metal against euphoric and sensual movements, Agalloch prove again that no other band sounds even similar to what they’re able accomplish. The Serpent & The Sphere is compelling on so many levels, I find it difficult to describe its magnitude.


Darkest Hour10. Darkest Hour – Darkest Hour (Sumerian)

So many people have jumped off their bandwagon I can’t even count them anymore. Admittedly, I am a fanboy for them, and have been since So Sedated, So Secure, and I will never apologize for it. Their presence changed when they split from their long time label home of Victory Records, and with Sumerian on board, the even more dramatic changes seemed inevitable. Not whiplash-inducing, but truly the first substantive variant in their fifteen year history.

Listen: “The Misery We Make”

Trap Them - Blissfucker Small copy9. Trap Them – Blissfucker (Prosthetic)

Brutal, edgy, crunchy and dirty, Blissfucker felt like Trap Them were about to come unglued at any moment. One of the best live shows I have ever seen, their intensity on record only serves to mimic where their stage show, where they truly come to life. Fuck Bliss.

Listen: “Salted Crypts”



Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown8. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown (Epitaph)

Every band will tell you their latest work is their best. So when Keith Buckley told me just that about Unknown, I kind of rolled my eyes a bit. But, somehow, he was right. Regardless of how highly I hold Hot Damn! and Gutter Phenomenon in my personal canon, From Parts Unknown achieved the unachievable. Stepping to the brink of blowing itself to pieces, Unknown grooves. ETID always wrote intense songs, but the level of maturity displayed here surpasses anything they ever put out before.


wvwar7. Wovenwar – Wovenwar (Metal Blade)

They cannot be split from their sordid past, or at least that of their incarcerated former singer. But from the ashes of As I Lay Dying rose Wovenwar. With the addition of Shane Blay from Oh, Sleeper, the band’s debut album saw them doing what they did best in the AILD era: writing some of the catchiest metal songs of the year. “All Rise” alone itslf is one of the best songs on the metalcore era. These dudes were always at the top of the heap of that genre, but this record really solidifies that distinction.

Listen: “All Rise”

Opeth - Pale Communion6. Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)

You can all bite me on this one. I love this new record, and I know it’s not metal, not really, anyway. This is a progressive rock albu. And, yes, I loved the way Mikael Åkerfeldt used to growl, and I miss the death metal side of the band, but I cannot find a fly in the ointment here — I just love Åkerfeldt’s singing voice and Joakim Svalberg’s noodly keyboard jaunts so much. This is a beautifully recorded album, full of intricate melodies. It’s esoteric, but it really just seemd to piss off fans and critics who just cannot accept this is not Blackwater Park II.

Listen: “Faith in Others” 

Devin Townsend Z2 large5. Devin Townsend Project – Z²  (InsideOut)

No one can explain a Devin Townsend Project album. There are simply no words to describe how immensely creative and impressive anything that man touches really turns out. From the tongue-in-cheek Ziltoid storyline continued on the second disc or the wall of chords and voices that make up the first CD, it makes me glad I quit making music and just get to listen.

Listen: “Deathray”

Anaal Nathrakh - Desideratum4. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum (Metal Blade)

Not sure what the hell they were doing on this new record, conjuring some industrial sounds from the eighties, underpinning the driving force they have brought to the scene for over a decade — frankly, they almost lost me. Then I heard another one of those choral interludes and they had me bound once again. Not much can be done to pull this band off my list, although they spun a little too close to Dimmu Borgir-territory for my tastes in some instances. Still, I have not let this one out of my rotation since I picked it up.

Listen: “Idol” 

Job for a Cowboy - Sun Eater3. Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater (Metal Blade)

A band that has reinvented itself, never stopping to ask whether or not the audience will see what they’ve done as improvement. Sun Eater flies in the face of the style for which JFAC are known. But the songwriting is their most mature and fully fleshed out. People’s idea of “what JFAC is” has always preceeded them; hopefully, this album will change all that.

Listen: “Sun of Nihility”

At the Gates - At War with Reality2. At the Gates – At War With Reality (Century Media)

At War With Reality is the most divisive record of 2014. There are some who want to pin all the hopes of their storied past onto this single album… after all, we did it last year with Carcass, and they completely delivered. At the Gates have done nearly the same thing. I can’t crown it the best album of the year, but it’s goddamn close. They were able to pick up the sword and carry on to battle after so many years in a way befitting the birthers of a genre. I get why some fans are not completely enamored, but I think it mostly has to do with looking through the Surgical Steel goggles of less than a year ago. You simply cannot compare the two albums. Listen to this album again, without thinking about it too much, and just fucking submit already.

Listen: “Death and the Labyrinth”

1. Black Crown Initiate – The Wreckage of Stars (eOne Entertainment)Black Crown Initiate - The Wreckage of Stars

I have a feeling I will be the only one with BCI’s new — nay, debut — album as their number one pick for 2014, and I am totally fine with that. I can see the hesitation reagrding a new, untested group, whose music, if not listened to carefully, might appear to be that of just another deathcore outfit working within the system to make something for the masses.

But when I stumbled on them — literally stumbled into one of their performances — I stopped dead in my tracks. They have something completely different going on. Sure, they can totally shred, and manage to work pieces of deathcore, djent, prog, and who knows what else into their sound. But they’re so much more than that. If nothing else, the level of balls it takes to put such insanity into your fledgling band is admirable; it would be a mark of stupidity if they couldn’t pull it off. Luckily, they can!

Listen: “A Great Mistake”


2013 was the best year in the history of metal, and one year later, every album in my 2013 top fifteen continues to be in my heavy rotation. But while last year’s top picks soared high above the pack, selecting the list for 2014 was far more challenging, with many albums left on the bench despite being nearly as deserving as those listed below. Building on last year’s trend, metal continues to be the most adventurous genre of them all, and 2014’s best exemplify this.

Cynic - Kindly Bent to Free Us15. Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us (Season of Mist)

One of the most influential bands in music over the last twenty years came out with their most streamlined, song-based album of their careers. A slow-burn of a record, I don’t expect to see this on too many others’ lists, but this will be another influential album in the genre.

Listen: “True Hallucination Speak”

14. Babymetal – Babymetal (BMD Fox)

Have I listened to this more than a few times? No. Will I listen to it ten years from now? I probably won’t even remember they existed. But Babymetal’s debut has been a joy to listen to anyway. It’s not important. It’s just fun.

Listen: “Death”



Chuck & Godless’ Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 201413. The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer (Profound Lore)

On the contrary, there is nothing fun about The Atlas Moth’s latest. The Old Believer is a crushingly depressing, angst-filled swan dive through broken glass. And I love it. There is something truly special in what Stavros and his team are doing. It’s unique and promisingly influential.

Listen: “The Sea Beyond”

Job for a Cowboy - Sun Eater12. Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater (Metal Blade) 

I preface this by saying I’ve been a casual fan of JFAC for years. I never got what made them such a polarizing force for the metal scene – nothing stood out about them for me. But Sun Eater is a special album. The songwriting is light-years beyond anything they’ve done before and the arrangements are progressive while still awesomely catchy. There’s nothing to hate on here.

Listen: “Sun of Nihility”

Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase I- Neohumanity)11. Scar Symmetry – The Singularity, Phase I (Nuclear Blast) 

Scar Symmetry’s mix of death and power metal has always felt forced to me. Where other genres seem to blend seamlessly (black metal and shoegaze, punk and thrash metal, etc.), these two subgenres always seemed sewn together into a Frankenstein’s monster of mediocrity. But – now I get it. Whether through sure force of will or sheer persistence, SS have figured out to make the different elements of their music awesome enough that the lack of blending is more than forgivable. This is a salad, not a soup, but it’s still incredibly fun to listen to.

Listen: “Limits to Infinity”

Septicflesh - Titan10. Septicflesh – Titan (Prosthetic Records) 

The mix of orchestral music and death metal has been treated by many critics as a one-off trick, now past its relevance. However, Septicflesh prove on 2014’s Titan that the possibilities are limitless. Through amazing arrangements, Titan shows how this genre can continue to be mined for great creative possibilities. Crucial listening.


Nightfell-The_Living_Ever_Mourn9. Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn (Parasitic)

This album fell below most people’s radar, and it’s a damn shame. The Living Ever Mourn is dirge-death – Type O Negative’s darker, brooding younger brother.

Listen: “I Am Decay”



Chuck & Godless’ Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 20148. The Hell – Groovehammer (Prosthetic)

The Hell are pissed off; sustainably, irrationally, unconditionally pissed off. The best part about this album is how much fun it is to listen to so much unfocused rage. The Hell’s blitzkrieg bop is heavy on the former and light on the latter – the dual-vocals are the source of joy. No matter how bad a mood you’re in, it has to be better than that of The Hell. And that makes you feel better.


Anaal Nathrakh - Desideratum7. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum (Metal Blade)

It continues to be odd how the musicians doing the most to destroy the rules of their genre are the ones multiple albums into their careers rather than making their debuts. Anaal Nathrahk were awesome on 2012’s Vanitas, but here, they ratchet up their industro-black metal with epic melodic sweeps, sometimes out front like on “Idol” or “Monstrum in Animo” but also sometimes buried as in “A Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair.” Always awesome. Anaal Nathrakh are among the top three most important bands to the future of metal.

Listen: “Idol”

Whitechapel - Our Endless War6. Whitechapel – Our Endless War (Metal Blade)

Whitechapel have always had hooks, but Our Endless War brings more, bigger, heavier hooks than any other album in recent memory. “The Saw is the Law” is one of the best songs of the year – and there are a half dozen other songs on here with nearly as much heft. These guys may never write a concept album in four parts with a book of poetry to accompany it – but they’ll pound your head in with a four-four beat and a six or seven word chorus you’ll never forget. Sign me up.

Listen: “The Saw is the Law”

monuments The Amanuensis5. Monuments – The Amanuensis (Century Media)

The Amanuensis caught me completely by surprise. Monument’s 2012 debut was somewhat of an also-ran, but new vocalist Chris Barretto (ex-Periphery) is the Mike Patton to Monuments’ Faith No More. To draw that line further – this is their The Real Thing. Watch Monuments have the career every other djent band wants. “I, The Creator” proves it’s possible.


The Contortionist - Language4. The Contortionist – Language (eOne)

It’s almost not right to include this album in a “Best of Metal” list – while The Contortionist are unmistakably metal, it is when they are willing to abandon the growls and djent-inspired time signatures for melody and, well, stuff chicks will dig, that the band is at their best, most progressive, and truly most adventurous. If all goes well, an Alcest-like abandonment of all that is metal will follow along with riches and mainstream success.


Audrey Horne - Pure Heavy3. Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm)

Regular listeners of the podcast know I am partial to music that moves things forward, and I’m probably unfairly negative on music stuck in the past. But Pure Heavy is an exception. 80s rock, in retrospect, is pretty easily delineated between those who were style first (Poison, Bulletboys) and those who were substantive and could write a damn good song (Def Leppard, Van Halen/Hagar). Audrey Horne, featuring members of Enslaved and Gorgoroth, are 100% steeped in the latter. The challenge the band has undertaken is to compete with the best of a genre thirty years on, and they have succeeded.

Listen: “Out of the City”

Chuck & Godless’ Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 20142. Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun (Century Media)

How this album is not discussed more often as one of the best of the year completely baffles me. There may not be a better song this year than “Ephemeral,” and six albums deep into a career stretching nearly twenty years has done what seemed so impossible until Carcass and Enslaved did it last year – showcased an old band more focused and more inspired to create excellent metal than everyone else in the genre. Shadows of the Dying Sun has been in heavy rotation for me all year and will be for a lifetime. Huge kudos.

Listen: “Ephemeral” 

1. Wovenwar – Wovenwar (Metal Blade Records)wvwar

Wovenwar’s debut will be heralded, along with Cowboys From Hell and Kill ‘Em All, as one of the greatest metal debuts in history. And no, nothing before Cowboys From Hell counts for Pantera just as we’ll soon enough be forgetting most of Wovenwar recorded a few things together before this as well. Melodic and Jesus-free, this collection of earworms make songcraft seem so effortless it’s easy to attempt to dismiss it. But great songwriting like this is mother-fucking hard to do. Songs like “The Mason” and “Death to Rights” layer huge vocal hooks on top of gigantic monster riffs while others like “All Rise” jam more hooks of more types into the first sixty seconds than the last three non-Metallica albums you bought, combined. This is a crucial album for not just the metal genre, but music as a whole.

Now, the album has its flaws. Shane Blay still has the same non-sensical lyrical style he cultivated in Oh, Sleeper. Wovenwar’s anthemic chorus melodies require anthemic lyrics the audience can relate to and believe in, however simple they may be. Instead of a “We Will, We Will Rock You” or “Are you talking to Me?” we get “How can we let ourselves continue this routine? The artificial beat of a heart that’s long since deceased.” Yeah. Um… not so catchy.

But the vocal melodies and riffs are so great, so unique, and accompanied by music so mature and satisfying, this is easily the best album of the year and will go down in history as one of the greatest debuts in music history. At a certain point, Hall & Oates stopped writing “Maneater” and “Method of Modern Love” and started releasing the shit on “Change of Season” and “Marigold Sky” so even the greats can’t keep it up forever. Let’s hope Wovenwar haven’t pulled everything out of their creative well for their debut and can follow this up with their own Vulgar Display of Power or Ride the Lightning.

 Listen: “All Rise”

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