Hellbound’s end-of-the-year metal coverage continues with the first batch of the heaviest hitters – the releases that came in #6-10 in our best metal albums of 2014 tally. There might be a touch of nostalgia here, or a hint of our relative agedness in our tastes, or maybe it’s just that these bands just really know what they’re doing. Join us in celebrating this step closer toward our pick for best metal record of the year.
Time to party with the people who cheer as the effigies burn. The second full-length from Midnight continues their revelry in high-speed Satanism, flesh, and death. The sound is still a jagged, thrashing version of Motorhead blues, but this time multi-instrumentalist Anthenar has pushed in some NWOBHM-style guitars to add more flash to the upbeat debauchery. Soaring leads and solos match the roaring tongue-in-cheek nihilism of songs celebrating metal’s ridiculous awesomeness, like “Try Suicide” or “Whiplash Disaster.” Absolutely the most fun album of the past year.
#9: MASTODON – Once More Round the Sun (Reprise)
Immensely listenable as always, Mastodon’s particular brand of sludge blended with perky psychedelic overtones is tough not to enjoy. Having twelve years’ worth of solid full-lengths under their belts since 2002’s Remission, instead of becoming predictable with time and success these guys have managed a straight uphill progression with their sound. A breath of fresh air among many acts that attempt to be as crowd-pleasing, they continue to stand out and add new flourishes that prevent a feeling of repetition. Longtime fans were surely satisfied with this release as it delivered the expected goods – some solid anthems with plenty of potential to stick around in your mental jukebox for days, as well as well-placed doses of crunching bass grooves and overall lots of upbeat fun. First-timers can float away on the spacey intros that give way to galloping riffs which dissolve into whirling maelstroms of breakdowns. After giving the album a spin while writing this I find myself itching to hear tracks like “High Road” performed live, as it’s sure to elicit a full sing-along reaction from any crowd.
Read Bill Adams’ interview with Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor: hellbound.ca/2014/07/inside-mastodons-next-revolution.
#8: AT THE GATES – At War With Reality (Century Media)
At the Gates’ At War With Reality was in my personal top 10 and for good reason. Like Carcass with their return last year, At the Gates released a monster of a CD after 17-plus years since their classic Slaughter of the Soul opus… think Terminal Spirit Disease meets Slaughter of the Soul. Their unique layering of razor-sharp riffing and underlying melody meshed to perfection makes this a melodic death metal fan’s wet dream. Top-notch tight playing and production make this the death metal release of 2014.
Read Matthew Elliott’s review of At War With Reality here: hellbound.ca/2014/12/at-the-gates-at-war-with-reality.
#7: PRIMORDIAL – Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade)
Ireland’s greatest export since my bloodline, Primordial have graced us with the astounding Where Greater Men Have Fallen. Over an hour of proud and powerful melodic metal backing the inimitable Alan “A.A. Nemtheanga” Averill. With sweeping melodies and a measure of bombast Primordial create massive and towering tracks befitting the beauty of the Emerald Isle. But there is no denying that Averill is what takes it to the next level. His stirring performance is the stuff of legend, especially on “Babel’s Tower.” Where Greater Men Have Fallen is simply a fantastic and inspiring folk-tinged metal journey through the ages.
Check back in the new year for Matthew Elliott’s interview with Nemtheanga – coming soon.
#6: TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
Metal not only adores its iconic figures more than any other musical genre, but it also relies on them to an enormous degree. The more metal’s most influential figures put out strong music, the better off metal seems. Helmed by Tom Gabriel Fischer, one of the sound’s greatest innovators, Triptykon’s second album plays to all of Fischer’s strengths as a songwriter, tapping into nearly every aspect of his multifaceted oeuvre. It’s an album of extremes, from the rampaging assault of “Tree of Suffocating Souls,” to the torpid doom of “Demon Pact,” to the gothic strains of “In the Sleep of Death” and the desolately beautiful “Boleskine House,” and capped off by the bleak “Black Snow.” It’s a case where it all feels like familiar territory for longtime fans of Fischer’s work, but Melana Chasmata feels vital and relevant, exuding the confidence and supremacy that can only come from a master artisan. Fischer was back in 2014 sounding as good as he ever did. All is well.
Read Steve Earles’ Melana Chasmata review here: hellbound.ca/2014/07/triptykon-melana-chasmata.
Stay tuned for our top five picks of 2014, coming up New Year’s Eve morning.