Class of 2014: Children of the Damned

Metal Albums

As with the past few years, the image above is slightly deceiving. It is not a true representation of my favorite metal albums of 2014. What it does represent is another impressive run by Profound Lore Records — the one man operation from Canada that continues to ship outstanding releases year-round.

I didn’t think I’d have much to say when it came time to put together my year-end list for extreme music this year. I bought and listened to every Profound Lore release, but other than those, I didn’t feel like I had spent a lot of time with extreme music in general…at least not nearly as much as I had in previous years. So, as other people’s lists started trickling out, some as early as Halloween, I realized there were many, many albums I hadn’t even heard. I created a playlist to get myself through everyone else’s highlights, but at the end of it all the playlist didn’t factor too much in my picks for the Children of the Damned 2014. As it turns out, there were already well over 30 albums that had made my year without me even realizing it.

I did decide to separate the extreme albums from the non-extreme ones this year. There will be an Overachievers post, but it will not include anything from this list. The Damned stand alone this year.

The albums that follow are ranked by my tastes while working on this list — which is to say that they are not necessarily ranked by musical excellence or artistic merit. My ranking would have probably been different if I would have done this a week earlier, or a week later.

This list is flawed, as they all are, but I seriously believe that although I might regret the order as time passes, I will stand by my picks. There isn’t anyone out there who will agree with this list in its entirety, but that’s not really the point. This is my list. Mine alone. These are the metal albums I spent the most time with in 2014. These are the metal albums I spent (or will spend) my money on. I just hope you take the time to browse through it. I hope you take the time to find something you didn’t already know about. I hope you agree with some of my picks. I hope you make fun of some of my picks. Let’s start a conversation — only then will we both get something out of it. But if not, no worries, this will just serve as my own personal document of yet another year listening…so others don’t have to.

Helms Alee

#30. Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
(Sargent House)

all around, songs that change their sound

Helms Alee – Dangling Modifiers

Mastodon

#29. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
(Reprise)

take a deep breath and return to life

Mastodon – The Motherload

Thantifaxath

#28. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
(Dark Descent)

lost in static between worlds

Thantifaxath – The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel

A Pregnant Light

#27. A Pregnant Light – My Game Doesn’t Have a Name
(Colloquial Sound)

digging through the trash in my wake, you’ll find nothing

A Pregnant Light – Unreachable Arc

Artificial Brain

#26. Artificial Brain – Labyrinth Constellation
(Profound Lore)

swirling gaseous halo, leaving embers of entire systems

Artificial Brain – Brain Transplant

Blut Aus Nord

#25. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
(Debemur Morti)

faithful to its nature and its infinite power

Blut Aus Nord – Paien

AENAON

#24. Aenaon – Extance
(Code666)

the scars of an obscene life

Aenaon – Deathtrip Chronicle

YAITW

#23. Young And In The Way – When Life Comes To Death
(Deathwish)

tainted by the blood that stains

Young And In The Way – Betrayed by Light

Cormorant

#22. Cormorant – Earth Diver
(self-released)

an incoherent choir

Cormorant – Daughter of Void

Panopticon

#21. Panopticon – Roads to the North
(Bindrune)

the sigh of the summer

Panopticon – The Echoes of a Disharmonic Evensong

Primordial

#20. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
(Metal Blade)

this dreadful history we have sired

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

Sivyj Yar

#19. Sivyj Yar – From the Dead Villages’ Darkness
(Avantgarde)

Из тьмы вымерших деревень

Sivyj Yar – Now Only Abyss Hears Us

Dawnbringer

#18. Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer
(Profound Lore)

their graves are shallow, their numbers unknown

Dawnbringer – Hands of Death

Floor

#17. Floor – Oblation
(Season of Mist)

memorized your face for all

Floor – New Man

Full of Hell

#16. Full of Hell – Full of Hell & Merzbow
(Profound Lore)

the folded repetition of a thousand moments

Full of Hell – Burst Synapse

Nux Vomica

#15. Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica
(Relapse)

rest your head, you worry too much

Nux Vomica are a band that like to color outside the lines. What starts out as a hardcore album, delves into the depths of crust, death and black metal before the first song comes to a close. Unlike other albums on this list that mix genres into something more approachable for the masses, Nux Vomica use these devices to dig deeper and deeper into the unknown, seemingly unconcerned with who they leave behind in the process. And many will be left behind. The shortest of the three tracks on this record is 12 minutes 40 seconds long, the longest is almost 20 minutes. Those with ADHD need not be concerned though, because each track spans the history of subgenres. So if you don’t like the weather where you’re standing, just wait a minute, it’ll all change in a blink of the eye.

Nux Vomica – Sanity is for the Passive

Killer Be Killed

#14. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
(Nuclear Blast)

the silence is so deafening, the end is just the beginning

Supergroups can get messy. Too many egos can be a bad thing. That’s why I didn’t have high hopes for Killer Be Killed. The fact that Puciato, Cavalera and Sanders were able to create an album this fun proves that these guys don’t let ego (or seriousness) get in the way of making good music. This album doesn’t breaking any new ground, it literally sounds like Dillinger meets Mastodon, but that didn’t stop it from being on heavy rotation since it came out in May.

Killer Be Killed – Wings of Feather and Wax

The Atlas Moth

#13. The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer
(Profound Lore)

one last glimpse into the bitter cold

The Atlas Moth are a band who refuse to remain within the confines of any specific genre. Sludge, post-rock and black metal all exist in a single song. The problem with this approach in the past is that it was hard to enjoy an album from cover-to-cover. That has changed with The Old Believer. The band has found a balance of influence that extends to the scream/sing dichotomy of Giannopoulos and Kush’s vocals. They have finally figured out how to create something interesting, without it being off-putting. The Old Believer is a great album because it’s cohesive.

The Atlas Moth – Jet Black Passenger

Agalloch

#12. Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
(Profound Lore)

a voice deep in the darkest places

Agalloch’s follow-up to Marrow of the Spirit is disappointing, let’s just get that right out there. Marrow was my Album of the Year in 2010, and it gained that status the first time I listened to it. It is truly a masterpiece. That being said, there was no doubt in my mind that Serpent would be disappointing. Not that I didn’t have faith in the band to follow up, I just knew that I would have a hard time accepting anything besides Marrow Pt. 2. The fact that Agalloch didn’t try to create a sequel, or try to completely reinvent themselves, is admiralable. The fact that a disappointing album from the band is still leaps and bounds above what so many others tried to do this year, is not surprising. The Serpent & The Sphere would probably be my favorite album of the year if I could just get Marrow off repeat. Agalloch are still the undisputed masters of a genre they created — a blend of progressive folk metal with a black tint. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they do next.

Agalloch – The Astral Dialogue

Woods of Desolation

#11. Woods of Desolation – As The Stars
(Northern Silence)

and if all the stars faded away

Back in 2011 I sang the praises of Australia’s Woods of Desolation, comparing their sound to my own experience of being lost in the Outback in the middle of the night. I also sang the praises of Deafheaven. Both bands were very different, but they both blended elements of shoegaze with elements of black metal into something that would be labeled blackgaze. Deafheaven went on to be one the most loved/hated bands on the planet, while Woods of Desolation decided to take over where Alcest and Wolves in the Throne Room left off. As The Stars might be a little too short, and I still believe Sunbather to be the better album, but it’s just nice that I can enjoy this one without all the outside noise that surrounds those other bands these days.

Woods of Desolation – Like Falling Leaves

Botanist

#10. Botanist – VI: Flora
(The Flenser)

from the flames of purification it rises anew

We are now on the fifth chapter in the story of the Botanist — a story that takes place in the Verdant Realm, where the protaganist pines for the end of mankind and the reclamation of the planet by plantlife. This is a story told in the form of black(?) metal(?) compositions written for a dulcimer (rather than guitar) by a man from San Francisco who calls himself Otrebor. The concept has always intrigued me, but the music has been too abrasive. The first four chapters sounded like something went wrong in the recording process. VI: Flora is a major step forward in production value, even though it’s still lo-fi by any definition of the term. This is repetitive music, but there is something beautiful about it — something soothing. This is an album I can go to sleep to. It’s calming, but powerful. Something about this album just moves me.

Botanist – Stargazer

Witch Moutain

#9. Witch Mountain – Mobile of Angels
(Profound Lore)

sometimes my heart wilts inside

This album probably isn’t as good as its position on this list might suggest, but I can’t get enough of it. Quite often I want to listen to something heavy, but with nice, clean, female vocals. There is no shortage of female led doom metal bands these days, but they all lack one thing…Uta Plotkin. The Ann Wilson of doom is above and beyond any other vocalist in the genre. It really is a shame that she left the band after this album was completed, but I’m looking forward to what she does next. In the meantime, Mobile of Angels will be on repeat.

Witch Mountain – Psycho Animundi

Triptykon

#8. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
(Century Media)

‘as the forest drowns in black snow

It may not have made my top spot, but history just might prove Melana Chasmata the best album of the year. Thoughts of Tom Warrior have always invoked a certain chill in my mind. His music equates to the deepest, darkest of winters, but also the deepest and darkest depths of the human condition. Warrior has not had the easiest of lives, but the way he channels the blackness into his art creates beauty from pain. I’m not sure where I would place this album against his previous releases, but I do know it stands alone atop the highest snow-capped peak in the Winter of 2014.

Triptykon – Tree Of Suffocating Souls

Dead Congregation

#7. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
(Profound Lore)

burning all that is conscious and real

Every year I try to pick out one old school death metal album, then I dig in until my fingernails are caked with dirt and blood. It’s never been easy choosing that one album. I don’t have an ear for death metal, so I end up spending a long time searching for something I can wrap my head around. This year was different. The answer came in the mail from Canada. From the minute I put Promulgation of the Fall in the CD player, I knew it would not only be my old school death metal pick for the year, but that it would make my Top 10 extreme albums of the year. I will never be able to explain why one death metal song appeals to my bad scenes while another bores the living hell out of me, but Dead Congregation have held my attention since they showed up on my doorstep.

Dead Congregation – Only Ashes Remain

Mantar

#6. Mantar – Death By Burning
(Svart)

all that you learned must be destroyed

Death By Burning has been on repeat since I first discovered the band back in February, but I never bothered to do any research into Mantar. It wasn’t until a friend sent out his year-end list that I realized they were a duo. I don’t know if I was more surprised that two German dudes were making this much noise, or that my buddy and I only had a few picks in common, and that Mantar was one of them. Having only been a band for two years, it’s hard to believe they released an album this damn good. Think Motörhead meets Sabbath, but with whiskey-soaked, black metal vocals. If there was only one album that physically moved me this year, it was Death by Burning. I don’t care if I’m in the car, cooking dinner, or sitting at my desk, I cannot hold still when this album is on. The only complaint I have is that a lot of the songs sound similar. But when a band is this good, I’ll trade variety for energy any day.

Mantar – Spit

Behemoth

#5. Behemoth – The Satanist
(Nuclear Blast)

this universe has never been enough

Behemoth’s tenth album is huge in every way. The first release in half a decade also marks Nergal’s return to the studio since being diagnosed with leukemia with 2010. It’s been a scary ride for the band and their frontman, but The Satanist puts to bed any doubts as to the future of Nergal and Behemoth. This is down and dirty blackened death, but the production value makes it almost accessible to those who fear the dark. Too many years have passed since Evangelion, but this album was worth the wait.

Behemoth – Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Thou

#4. Thou – Heathen
(Gilead Media)

abandoned to the cruel orphanage of modern society’

This Baton Rogue band has been working its way into my life through a slew of splits and EPs since 2010’s Summit. Calling Thou prolific is an understatement. Heathen is just one of five releases this year, but it’s the album that solidified Thou as one of my favorite extreme bands. It’s not an easy listen. The blackened sludge moves at a snail’s pace across the debris of modern society for an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s almost meditative — a meditation on all that went wrong. One of the great things about Thou is that Bryan Funck’s vocals are decipherable, so there is a script to go along with the soundtrack. This is the one extreme album that I have played more than any other this year.

Thou – Free Will

Pallbearer

#3. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
(Profound Lore)

soul of the world in the mouths of all

Pallbearer came out of nowhere a couple years ago to reinvent doom metal. It wasn’t only the extremely mature riffage from such a young band, it was also Brett Campbell’s crystal clean vocals. Somehow they were able to sound like nothing I had ever heard before, but without breaking a single rule of traditional doom metal. Sorrow and Extinction was a classic before it arrived — leaving the band with the seemingly impossible task of creating something able to follow in its wake without drowning. But Pallbearer weren’t statisfied with just creating something as good, they wanted something better. Foundations of Burden is something better. It’s another instant classic.

Pallbearer – Worlds Apart

YOB

#2. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
(Neurot)

‘while the storm rages forth

The fact that this album scored such a high spot on this list is a testament to my love for YOB. This is a band that has always required patience and multiple listens, but four tracks spanning over an hour was even too much for me. I gave up on this album quite a few times this year. But I kept coming back. And it paid off. The best extreme music transports you someplace else, and that’s just what this album does if you give into it. Light a fire, put on good headphones, turn it up and close your eyes. As the flames flicker through your eyelids, you wil travel the path..and ascend to the planes of YOB.

YOB – In Our Blood

Darkspace

#1. Darkspace – Dark Space III I
(Avantgarde)

found the hatch…no lights, no power…we’re going in

There was a review of Ben Frost’s A U R O R A that compared it to Alfonso Cuarón’ Gravity. It claimed that the album managed to “evoke both the vast emptiness and loneliness of space and the visceral harshness of the environment in the same vein as that critically acclaimed film”. I agreed with that statement at the time, but that was before I heard the latest release from Switzerland’s ambient black metal band, Darkspace. Dark Space III I not only does a better job of evoking the vast emptiness, it is also the most terrifying album I have heard this year. It might be the most terrifying album I have ever heard. Where a lot of black metal bands explore the cruelest places on planet Earth, or the deepest depths of hell, Darkspace suffocates the listener in the farthest reaches of space. Once the album starts, you are literally more alone than you have ever been — surrounded by a complete lack of color. It’s something blacker than the darkest night you have ever experienced. The music (and I use that term lightly) consists of guitar, bass, drum machine, other electronic elements, samples and buried vocals (all blended together in the mix), but the sound is that of complete isolation. This is not an album I can listen to all the time. That would be insane. But it is, without a doubt, the most extreme thing I have come across this year. That being said, I wouldn’t have listed it as my #1 pick if I did not enjoy it. In the right mood, in a dark room, this is a journey worth taking. I have explored the droning depths of this album countless times this year, and while it might have long term negative effects on my well-being, I feel fortune that Darkspace opened the wormhole into their world.

Darkspace – Dark 4.18

Favorite Metal Albums of 2014:
#30. Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
#29. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
#28. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
#27. A Pregnant Light – My Game Doesn’t Have a Name
#26. Artificial Brain – Labyrinth Constellation
#25. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
#24. Aenaon – Extance
#23. Young And In The Way – When Life Comes To Death
#22. Cormorant – Earth Diver
#21. Panopticon – Roads to the North
#20. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
#19. Sivyj Yar – From the Dead Villages’ Darkness
#18. Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer
#17. Floor – Oblation
#16. Full of Hell – Full of Hell & Merzbow
#15. Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica
#14. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
#13. The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer
#12. Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
#11. Woods of Desolation – As The Stars
#10. Botanist – VI: Flora
#9.   Witch Mountain – Mobile of Angels
#8.   Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
#7.   Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
#6.   Mantar – Death By Burning
#5.   Behemoth – The Satanist
#4.   Thou – Heathen
#3.   Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
#2.   YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
#1.   Darkspace – Dark Space III I

Favorite Metal Shows of 2013:
#10. Mastodon / Gojira / Kvelertak @ Ogden Theater
#9.   Amon Amarth / Enslaved / Skeletonwitch @ Summit Music Hall
#8.   Metal Alliance Tour: Behemoth / 1349 / Goatwhore / Inquisition @ Gothic Theatre
#7.   Deafheaven / SubRosa @ Marquis Theater
#6.   Thou / Primitive Man @ Mutiny Information Cafe
#5.   Agalloch / Thrones @ Gothic Theatre
#4.   The Dillinger Escape Plan / Vattnet Viskar @ Marquis Theater
#3.   Neurosis / SubRosa @ Gothic Theatre
#2.   The Decibel Magazine Tour: Carcass / The Black Dahlia Murder / Gorguts / Noisem @ Summit Music Hall
#1.   King Diamond / Jess and the Ancient Ones @ Paramount Theatre

Class of 2014: The Overachievers
Class of 2014: The Soundtrack
Class of 2014: The Performers
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Favorite Metal Albums 2014