2014 started much slower than last year with regard to great new heavy metal albums, but things really began to pick up as the time went on. This was truly an excellent year for fans of metal music. Now that things are finally coming to a close, we bring you our picks for the 50 best metal albums of 2014. As always if you want to see the full review of one of the records, just click the album cover to the right of the description. If we have written about the album, you will be brought to our review. Also be sure to check out our list of The Best Metal Songs of 2014.
1. Gormathon – Following the Beast: The Naplam Records debut of Swedish metal band, Gormathon, is one damn incredible record. This is a new era melodic death metal band that totally gets what the music is all about. Following The Beast is one of the most coherent and appealing albums of it’s kind in quite some time. Nothing about it is overdone. Every nuance and element has a purpose. Gormathon is still relatively new to the scene but we expect big things to come for them in the very near future.
2. Allegaeon – Elements Of The Infiinite: Allegaeon’s third full length album is complex technical death metal carried out with mathematical precision. The album also boasts great grooves, wonderful guitar melodies while still diving into dark sounds and subjects. It is both brutal and ethereal. There is so much going on here that you really have to make an effort to give the album your full attention and be willing to give it multiple listens in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.
3. Accept – Blind Rage: Accept has brought us their best album since the 1980’s and their absolute best so far with Mark Tornillo on vocals. If you are looking for an album that can both teach people about the early history of metal and offer a sound that fits into the current metal era, this is definitely the one. Accept is able to seamlessly blend the 1980’s style traditional metal elements that helped give birth to all the various metal subgenres with a somewhat updated style that will play well with contemporary metal fans.
4. Cloudkicker – Live with Intronaut: After years of writing, recording, mixing and mastering his own progressive metal, Cleveland solo artist Ben Sharp brings us his major label debut. The album brings all his great material to the masses through a live studio recording with progressive/doom heavyweights, Intronaut. Sharp’s great songs come together perfectly with the excellent musicianship of Intronaut making for one of the most brilliant instrumental metal albums of all time.
5. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun: The newest album from progressive metal masters, Mastodon, is easily their most complete and well rounded album yet. Their evolution and experimentation over the last few years has finally fully come together in one place. The album seamlessly mixes prodding sludge, faster thrash pacing, catchy grooves, great hooks and tremendous vocal harmonies all while retaining the progressive time signatures and excellent musicianship that makes Mastodon so great. Even if you have never identified with Mastodon’s sound, you have to make sure to check this one out.
6. At The Gates – At War With Reality: After an almost 20 year recording hiatus, the melodic death metal pioneers have made their triumphant return. At The Gates has picked up right where they left off with 1995’s benchmark album, Slaughter Of The Soul. There are also a few new wrinkles on the this most recent album that help it to stand totally on its own but this is still the classic style melodic death metal album that many of us have been patiently waiting for. If you are looking for a truly superior melodic death metal album, this is the one.
7. Behemoth – The Satanist: The tenth studio album from Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth might just be their best yet. It is the culmination of their 20 plus year career featuring an excellent blending of their early black metal years with their amazing and ever evolving death metal skills. The album even features some great avant-garde elements and some slight doom metal influences. This is an album that you can easily fall in love with after only one listen.
8. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata: Once again the founder of legendary extreme metal bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, Tom G. Fischer, has outdone himself. The second release from his latest project Tripykon coherently blends doom metal, Gothic metal, death metal, thrash and avant-garde elements into one amazing masterpiece. Mixing all of these differing sounds and paces would be a difficult task for most, but Fischer and crew make it seem to easy.
9. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed: Here we have the advent of progressive groove metal with the debut album from supergroup Killer Be Killed. The band features Max Cavalera of Soulfly, Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Troy Sanders of Mastodon and Dave Elitch of The Mars Volta. Each band member brings their various influences to each track creating a crazy mix of tempos and subgenres within each song. There is a lot going on here, but somehow, the band is able to mix these musical styles and the three very varied vocal styles of Cavalera, Sanders and Puciato together flawlessly on each song without sounding chaotic.
10. Dictated –The Deceived: The Metal Blade debut and second full length from Dutch death metal band, Dictated, is purely awesome. The band employs two female guitarists that can hold their own with the best that extreme metal can boast. The songs have great coherent shifts from fast blast beats to slow, catchy grooves. There is nothing fancy here, just pure ass kicking death metal. Dictated is definitely one of the best young metal bands around right now and they prove it with the wrecking ball that is The Deceived.
11. King of Asgard – Karg: The third album from King of Asgard is another solid entry into the world of Viking and melodic death/black metal. The riffs and music are catchy, yet raw. The music has been stripped down to the fundamentals leaving absolutely no room for bullshit. There are so many hidden layers that it will take you multiple listens to even begin to grasp everything that is going on. Each song on Karg is different and its own individual piece of music. However the album’s sound is fully united.
12. Soulburn – The Suffocating Darkness: The sophomore album from the Dutch metallers was sixteen years in the making but definitely worth the wait. If you love old school death/doom with smatterings of blackened thrash, this album is for you. It it is like traveling back to a time when extreme metal was just starting to come into its own. Fans of old school Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom will absolutely love The Suffocating Darkness.
13. Wretched – Cannibal: The fourth studio release from North Carolina’s Wretched may just be one of the biggest surprises of 2014. With it’s perfect balance of technical death metal, thrash and melodic death metal, Cannibal comes out of nowhere and absolutely kicks you in the ass. The album boasts excellent musicianship, complicated song arrangements and great vocals. Fans of death metal, thrash and progressive metal can all find something to love about this album.
14. Kyng – Burn The Serum: The first major label record from Los Angeles natives, Kyng, picks up right where the band left off with 2011’s Trampled Sun. The new album shows off Kyng’s very original mix of traditional heavy metal, southern/stoner metal, grunge, classic hard rock, psychedelic rock and post-hardcore with smatterings of thrash and sludge metal. At a time where it seems like every new metal band is either metalcore or djent, it is nice to see a band that “gets it”.
15. Goatwhore – Constricting Rage Of The Merciless: This is the album that proves once and for all that Goatwhore is much more than just blackened death metal, a subgenre they are constantly pigeon holed into by critics and fans alike. Their latest album contains influences from thrash, black metal, death metal, NWOBHM, traditional heavy metal and more. Certainly the major overlying sound here is the album’s fast thrash riffs, but the band makes sure to mix a lot more than that into every song.
16. Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out: This is a triumphant return for lead vocalist Steve Souza. Exodus had absolutely everything clicking on their latest album and fans of both their 1980’s thrash/speed metal and their more recent epic song lengths and mid tempos should all be really pleased with their latest effort. There are even a couple of cool guest appearances from Testament’s Chuck Billy and Exodus founding member and current Metallica guitarist, Kirk Hammett.
17. Crowbar – Symmetry In Black: The new album from Crowbar features more evolution in sound from the sludge metal veterans. Each song has different wrinkles to them, yet fit together perfectly into one fluid musical movement. There are even some odd time signatures and influences from bands like Motorhead. There are psychedelic, atmospheric and dirge tones throughout the entire album. This is probably Crowbar’s most complete and well rounded effort to date.
18 Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon: Jon Schaffer has certainly outdone himself with this one and it’s certainly refreshing to see that many of the band members from Iced Earth’s last release have managed to stick around. This includes lead singer Stu Block who puts on an absolutely amazing performance on Plagues of Babylon. This is an excellent heavy metal album that will please fans of traditional metal, thrash and power metal.
19. Decapitated – Blood Mantra: We almost missed out on this album as we expected much more of the same from Decapitated. Thankfully we checked it out, because we were totally blown away. This time around the band brings a conglomeration of influences including thrash, melodic death metal, stoner metal, groove metal and djent, along with really cool spacey atmospheres giving this album a certain uniqueness that was lacking on most of their previous albums.
20. Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater: JFAC has taken the plunge into the technical death metal pool and it is a welcome evolution. Although their previous three albums were excellent, their particular talents were made for this more complicated death metal style. The album’s most notable elements come in the form of spectacular bass work from Nick Schendzielos and the equally perfect drumming of session drummer Danny Walker.
21. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere: The fifth album from Oregonian extreme metallers, Agalloch, is the perfrct combination of black, doom and folk metal influences. Pretty good for an American band huh? This is a nine track album with a great mix of songs from short to epically long. This is one of those rare albums that is able to strike a perfect balance between the very heavy and the quietly beautiful.
22. Hellyeah – Blood For Blood: This may be a total surprise to some, but Hellyeah’s fourth album is really amazing. The record is ripe with heavy grooves, great production, excellent lyrics and perfect social commentaries. This is a record that really makes you want to listen over and over again. Blood for Blood shows off huge growth from the Hellyeah including a much thicker and richer sound with tons of passion.
23. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain: After almost 25 years of excellent death metal, Cannibal Corpse may have turned out their darkest and most sinister album yet. The musicianship is amazing, especially the crazy bass lines of Alex Webster. As always the lyrics and song titles are fully tongue in cheek. However, the best part of this album is the seamless pace shifting within each track. A Skeletal Domain is one of those rare albums that you can throw on repeat to enjoy over and over again.
24. Corrosion Of Conformity – IX: 2014 has been the year of the riff. We been treated some really great ones from the likes of Crowbar, Eyehategod, Down and many more and C.O.C.’s latest album is no exception. In fact IX may contain some of the best riffage of the year so far. The album finally sees the band revisit their 1990’s southern metal glory days. However, the album also serves as a seamless amalgamation of all the band’s sounds and influences over their thirty year history.
25. Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium: Max Cavalera has sure had a busy calendar year. Toward the end of 2013, the excellent album, Savages, was released. Then there was the debut album from Supergroup, Killer Be Killed, that dropped earlier this year. Now we get the latest Cavalera Conspiracy record. Pandemonium is exactly what death thrash is supposed to be. The grooves are killer, the songs are intense and the lead guitar work courtesy of Marc Rizzo is spectacular. We only wish Sepultura was still this good.
26. Noctem – Exilium: The Prosthetic Records debut of Spain’s Noctem is blackened death metal at its very best. The album boasts phenomenal percussion, original harsh vocals and great musical arrangements. This is not your typical blackened death metal. Exilium is an animal all it’s own and it must be heard before you can truly believe.
27. Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails: The sophomore release from San Francisco death metallers delivers music the likes of which you have never heard. Fallujah mixes sheer metal brutality with complicated progressive music and then binds them together through beautiful atmospheric arrangements. The music is all consuming, causing the listener to delve deep into their brain in order to enjoy every speck of wonderment that the album has to offer.
28. Crimson Shadows – Kings Among Men: There has been a fair amount of talk surrounding the relative new comers from Canada and rightfully so. Their Napalm Records debut is an amazing mix of epic power metal and super heavy melodic death metal. The album is chock full of great guitar melodies and insane percussion. It is no wonder the band won the Wacken Metal Battle contest in 2013. Crimson Shadows should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
29. Epica – The Quantum Enigma: For those of you who have not heard Epica before, Simone Simons is one of the the best and possibly most overlooked female vocalists in symphonic metal. On the band’s newest album, The Quantum Enigma, her vocal skills have reached bigger heights than even we thought she was capable of. On top of that, all thirteen track offerings are nearly flawless with excellent and epic arrangements, great musicianship and a more modern twist to their traditional sound.
30. Hour Of Penance – Regicide: The sixth release from Italian death metal band Hour Of Penance is is one of the band’s best so far. The seamless shifts from hyper fast deathgrind like tempos to slow, catchy classic death metal grooves is like nothing you have ever heard. The musicianship is flawless, especially the crazy blast beat and double bass drumming of James Payne. This time around the band even adds in some very slight guitar harmonization on a few songs to really help set this one apart.
31. Revocation – Deathless: The Metal Blade Records debut from Massachusetts technical thrash/death metal unit, Revocation, is their best release to date. The band shows great range from speedy riffs to heavy, slow songs and even some more melodic arrangements. Revocation has finally gotten a bit away from their comfort zone while still hanging on to the core elements that make them who they are.
32. Lord Mantis – Death Mask: We did not get the chance to check out this record when it was released back in April. At the behest of many of our readers, we recently took the plunge and we are damn glad we did. This is forty-seven minutes of pure, raw blackened sludge metal. Please do not let the sick and twisted artwork or lyrical subject matter turn you off. This is amazing music that cannot and should not be missed.
33. Black Crown Initiate – The Wreckage of Stars: The full length debut of Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate boasts great production and musicianship as well as tons of innovation and experimentation. The album is much different than any other technical death metal/progressive metal that you will hear. The band throws their own personal spin on the music; an original sound that will inspire both dark rage and surreal calm.
34. Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us: Cynic returns after six years to bring us their third album. There have always been long gaps between their releases and it is always worth it. This is what progressive metal and jazz fusion music are all about. The band has taken giant steps with regard to their progression creating what could become a benchmark album. Cynic blends the old with the modern quite perfectly. Newer era progressive bands could learn a thing or two from Kindly Bent to Free Us.
35. Eluveitie – Origins: Many of you who enjoy metal also enjoy other forms of music. For some of you, it’s a great Celtic folk band playing live while you’re enjoying some pints at an Irish pub. If you like that sort of thing, Eleuveitie brings a great mix of extreme metal and Celtic music. The band has released some excellent music over their twelve year career but with well crafted musical arrangements and great folk/metal combinations, this is surely their best album yet.
36. Septicflesh – Titan: The latest album from “symphonic” death metal pioneers, Septicflesh, is a conglomeration of excellent songwriting, seamless tempo changes, quality symphonic arrangements and haunting atmospheres. The differing sounds are weaved together perfectly so that literally nothing sounds out of place. Don’t worry, there is plenty of death metal brutality to go around too. There is certainly a lot going on on their latest effort, so make sure you give the album your fullest attention.
37. HammerFall – (r)Evolution: Finally a power metal album that’s not competing for the fastest riffs or most over the top vocals. The ninth album from the Swedish veterans in HammerFall proves to be the perfect blend of old school heavy metal and the best that power metal has to offer. The album boasts great solos, awesome vocals and wonderful song arrangements. On (r)Evolution, HammerFall shows the deep respect that they have for metal’s origins.
38. Freedom Call – Beyond: The eighth album from Germany’s Freedom Call is an amazing power metal epic that clocks in at just about an hour in length and boasts fourteen excellent tracks. The sound hearkens back to the days of 1980’s traditional heavy metal leaving you with a great nostalgic feeling. The guitar harmonies from Chris Bay and Lars Rettkowitz are both beautiful and haunting. Bay’s vocals are top notch as always and the rest of the band also brings the fire with crazy fast drumming and excellent bass work.
39. Bloody Hammers – Under Satan’s Sun: Bloody Hammers is one of the most promising up and coming metal bands to come along in quite some time. Their latest album is an excellent mix of doom metal music and Gothic atmospheres. The songs manage to be both gloomy and catchy which is always a very hard balance to strike. This is the style of metal and rock that many of us grew up with that has virtually been left behind by the newer generations.
40. Falconer – Black Moon Rising: For the eighth time since their debut in 2001, the Swedish metallers bring their unique style of folk infused power metal to the table. The record is full of excellent lead and melodic guitar work, soaring solos, and some of the catchiest, arm swinging arrangements that the band has ever produced. Black Moon Rising is an absolute must own record for devotees of folk and epic metal.
41. Whitechapel – Our Endless War: We know it seems strange to have a Whitechapel album this far up on the list, but there is no denying how amazingly great their fifth album is. After years of slightly mixing other elements into their signature deathcore sound, the band has finally embraced a style that incorporates a heavy dose of thrash and traditional death metal. For those of you that have preconceived notions of Whitechapel or deathcore, toss those to the side, because this album may just surprise you.
42. Within Temptation – Hydra: The thought of all the different collaborations featured on Hydra can certainly be off putting when you first hear about them, especially the thought of Xzibit being on the album. However, they all work and quite well at that. Howard Jones formerly of Killswitch Engage and Tarja Turunen give some absolutely spot on vocal performances. Plus the songs with just the band on their own feature some of the most well written and well played music in the career of Within Temptation.
43. Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare: The fifth full length album from black metal legends Mayhem is a throw back to old school abrasive black metal. With it’s low-fi production, gritty musicianship and out of tune vocals, this album blows away any of the modern blackened infused hipster metal that is currently popular. This is what black metal is supposed to sound like and fortunately we still have bands like Mayhem around that know how to do it.
44. Belphegor – Conjuring The Dead: On their newest release, Belphegor proves that brutal, blast beat driven blackened death metal can still be catchy. The songwriting, riffs, musicianship and production are all top notch. This is easily the band’s most accessible album to date as both extreme metal and traditional heavy metal fans will be able to find things to appreciate about the album. Conjuring The Dead literally contains the best of both worlds.
45. Misery Index – The Killing Gods: Misery Index’s fifth album is probably their best one to date. It continues with their deathgrind style, but the band also evolves by adding in elements of hardcore, extreme metal and crust punk. This record is undeniably heavy and may be one of the loudest albums of 2014 so far. Definitely make sure to give this one your full attention though. There are certainly many layers to comb through.
46. Prong – Ruining Lives: Prong’s latest release is an excellent mix of thrash, progressive, hardcore and alternative metal. Much of the sound on the album slightly hearkens back to the early days of the band when they were popular for songs like “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” while adding in new twists that help to update their sound for the modern era. On Ruining Lives the band continues to show a willingness to experiment helping to lay the groundwork for one of their best albums in recent years.
47. Eyehategod – Eyehategod: After a 14 year hiatus, Eyehategod is back with a vengeance. Their self-titled album will remind fans of sludge metal exactly why they fell in love with this type of metal in the first place. This is grimy, no excuses old school sludge metal with spectacular riffs and great hardcore style vocals. The guys have not forgotten their roots even after a long layoff. This record should serve as a benchmark to show the newer era of overproduced sludge metal bands how it’s really done.
48. Doom:VS – Earthless: Funeral doom is certainly a small subgenre of metal that few bands have taken on over the years. Sweden’s Doom:VS is one of the more recent acts to take a crack at it and their third album is a clinic on how to make the perfect funeral doom record. This is a truly powerful album that deals in very depressive atmospheres, so be prepared. The musicianship is spectacular and the album may boast the best lyrical content of the year so far.
49. Vader – Tibi Et Igni: 2014 has definitely been an excellent year for death metal of all kinds and Polish veterans, Vader, have dropped one of the best classic death metal albums of the year thus far. It is exactly what you would expect from a Vader album; punishing riffs, catchy grooves and really fun songs. There is also a solid amount of thrash mixed in this time around to really give their latest record a more well rounded feel.
50. Our Last Enemy – Pariah: Another up and coming metal band that is beginning to make some waves is Our Last Enemy. Their second full length album, produced by former Fear Factory member Christian Olde Wobers, represents what industrial metal is meant to be. The album is gritty and heavy with complex arrangements. Pariah easily mixes old school industrial with updated elements of extreme groove metal and metalcore to complete the band’s very unique sound.
These are our picks. What are some of your favorite heavy metal albums of 2014? Did we miss anything? Leave a comment and let us know.