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It’s been a pretty good year for music. We had quite a few bands get back together and make some excellent music. There was also quite  a few other artists that just continue to churn out quality releases, and of course there were also a few surprises. Anyway, different people use different criteria to make their end-of-year lists. Some want to worry about an album’s impact on a genre or how unique an album is. Me — I only worry about how much I enjoyed listening to it. These are my top 25 most enjoyable albums of the year.

25. Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Technical Death Metal with emphasis on the bass.

I love technical death metal just so long as the technical doesn’t overpower the death. This is one of those rare bands that manages to straddle the line between the two elements without losing track of either. My favorite thing about this album has to be the bass playing. It’s all over the music and is mixed right up front. Some might find that a bit overbearing, but it’s right where it should be.

24. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Noisy Extreme Metal

I first heard Anaal Nathrakh when they released Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here. It took a few listens to get into simply because it was so damn noisy. After awhile I got used to the industrial-tinged, noise-filled, black metal. Subsequent albums pushed the extremity too far for my tastes and I kind of wrote them off; Desideratum throttles back on enough of the extremity and noise to make me love the band again. It’s (almost) equal parts melodic black metal mixed with industrial noise and extreme metal — and the vocals are still just inhuman.

23. Grey Skies Fallen – The Many Side of Truth

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Doomy, melodic, atmospheric death metal.

At its core, The Many Sides of Truth is one of those atmospheric metal albums similar to Atoma or Mar De Grises. It spends a lot of its time using lethargic tempos and droning vocals, but there are other facets as well. There is just the slightest hints of black and progressive metal littered throughout the songs’ extended run times to keep things from bogging down and the listener from tuning out. Some of the clean vocals take some getting used to, but otherwise the album is excellent.

22. Banks – Goddess

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Chill, Downtempo, Pop

‘Downtempo R&B’ is what we have listed on the site. Isn’t Downtempo R&B basically just trip hop? I don’t know if genre purists would agree or not, but this album shares enough in common with that genre to make it enjoyable for me. Lots of cool beats and the  vocals are excellent.

21. Adimiron – Timelapse

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Thrashy, technical metal similar to early Meshuggah.

To me, this album sounds like the album that could have fit somewhere between Contradictions Collapse and Chaosphere. The vocalist has that raspy Hetfield-ish shout was used on Contradictions… and the music definitely uses the same thrashy technicality as that album, too, but there’s also more. The song writing on Timelapse is much better and less monotonous and it kicks in some modern metal influences and even a bit of Cynic and Voivod.

20. Necropoli – I

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Atmospheric funeral doom with bouts of death metal speed.

This is probably one of the more diverse funeral doom albums that I’ve ever heard. A large part of the album is played at the super-slow-mo pace that you would expect, but the riffs are good enough to keep it going. Also, the songs are apt to burst into straight-up death metal at a moment’s notice in order to jar you from any self-induced comas. There’s also an atmospheric undercurrent that runs through the whole album and even the occasional sampling.

19. Skrew – Universal Immolation

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Industrial metal with a prominent post metal influence.

Skrew started out in the early 90s as an excellent and diverse industrial metal band. Unfortunately, they started hoping on trends and diluting their sound — accelerating their eventual demise only six years (and four albums) later. Universal Immolation picks up where the band’s debut left off. It’s dark, heavy industrial metal, but there’s a difference. The band has integrated a pretty strong post metal influence into the songs that helps the album from just sounding dated.

18. Yellowcard – Lift a Sail

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Well-composed ‘mature’ alt. rock.

This album reminds me a lot of New Found Glory’s Coming Home. That was NFG’s attempt at growing up and writing some serious grown up music about being all grown up. Ha ha, I know that sounds lame and a lot of their younger fans would agree. It took me a long time, but eventually I came to appreciate that album. So, it’s probably with Coming Home‘s help that I was able to approach this in a way that helped me appreciate this much sooner than I otherwise would have. Lift A Sail shares nothing with the band that released Ocean Avenue and their violinist is still under-utilized, but it’s an excellent album if you don’t yearn for a return to their past releases. It’s a serious, no-frills, alt rock album that seems to spend most of its time belting out catchy, mid-paced songs that try to prove how grown up we’ve all become. Except it’s much better than that makes it sound…

17. MiXE1 – Starlit Skin

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Electronic Alt Rock with occasional heavier sections.

I swear to god that this band sounds exactly like Kill Hannah if they decided to pick up some of the mainstream heaviness that Linkin Park occasionally plays with. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing because I like Kill Hannah and I like Linkin Park. The songwriting isn’t as strong as either of those bands, but they make up for it with an increased use of electronics and a lot of energy.

16. LagWagon – Hang

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Solid Punk/Pop-Punk from one of the founders.

The guys in Lagwagon have been through a lot. There’s the inevitable line-up changes that plague many long-running bands, but these guys also had to deal with the loss of their original drummer to suicide. That event affected the vocalist Joey Cape and every project that has come since. Things went from upbeat, energetic and sarcastic to dark, retrospective and cynical (by punk standards). That trend started with Resovle, but Hang finishes what that album started. This album is pretty damn riffy by LagWagon standards and it has also lost the last bit of childish sarcasm that filled previous releases.

15. Wayfarer – Children of the Iron Age

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Solid epic melodic black metal

Wayfarer sounds like the name of yet another cheesy folk metal band, but it’s not. Children of the Iron Age is actually a very well-done epic melodic black metal album. There’s nothing here that’s going to shake the foundations of the genre, but it’s also one of the better, more consistent, releases to come from it in a long time.

14. Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Diverse mainstream metal

Remember in my introduction when I said that my only criteria for this list is how much I enjoyed listening to the album? Well, I enjoyed the shit out of this album. If people don’t see that this is probably one of the more diverse and varied releases to come out of the mainstream metal world in a long time, then they’re just not listening. The band are finally close to actually utilizing the members that don’t play guitars or drums, and it has made for some great songs. The samples and additional sounds are really what gives the songs an additional edge and it doesn’t hurt that they decided to mix the best of Iowa with the best of All Hope is Gone. This is definitely the first Slipknot release without any filler and the diversity makes it something that can be enjoyed from start to finish. Again, for a mainstream release this has a lot going for it. Great riffs, diverse influences, strong choruses and it’s definitely heavy. If you can’t hear Corey Taylor belt out a line like “I know why Judas wept, Motherfucker” and not just chuckle and move on, then you take your music too serious.

13. Marissa Nadler – July

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Dark, haunting, atmospheric indie pop

Marissa Nadler has some of the most hauntingly beautiful vocals that I’ve ever heard, and her moody music compliments them perfectly. Granted, she has been doing the exact same album for years with only slight variations, but it’s so good. Plus, I really like the increased use of those atmospheric parts that add to the overall ambiance of each song. I think it was the thing that was missing from a lot of her older albums.

12. Soen – Tellurian

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Progressive Metal in the vein of the new Opeth.

Whereas the band’s first release was a homage to Tool (… and why not, they don’t make music anymore), Tellurian is basically taking the proggy Opeth formula and doing a better job of executing it. The vocals are better, the choruses are stronger, the music is much more focused and the overall body of work is heavier. I mean, it’s not really doing Soen any favors to compare them so closely to Opeth, but the similarities are undeniable. The fact that these guys are doing it better has to count for something.

11. Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: No-Frills melodic death metal

These guys don’t ever really do anything different. They’ve found a formula based on cyclical guitar melodies, doomy riffing and death vocals combined with terrible clean vocals and it works. So, what makes one album any better than another? I don’t really have an answer, but this one is better than a lot of their previous releases. It’s like the best of their new stuff combined with a bit more of the moodiness that filled their first few releases. Nothing about this is going to blow you away, but it is very well done and the clean vocals aren’t used enough to ruin anything.

10. Mekong Delta – In a Mirror Darkly

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Watchtower, Psychotic Waltz, technical metal

This is the kind of progressive metal that is only going to appeal to those that can handle the higher-pitched vocals and precision of bands such as Watchtower and Spiral Architect. Another good description would be early Fates Warning meets early Psychotic Waltz. If you don’t know who any of these bands are, then this will probably drive you crazy.  For the rest of us, this is an excellent slab of technical progressive metal that should satisfy anyone that’s still pissed about Watchtower releasing one song and then disappearing again.

09. Arkan – Sofia

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Within Temptation, Atmospheric metal without all the cheese.

Arkan started out as a death metal band that liked to integrate oriental/middle eastern influences into their songs, as well as female vocals. This album pretty much drops the death metal vocals and goes for a more somber and subdued approach that is dominated by their female vocalist. Apparently, one of the members lost someone close to them and this album is the end result. While listening to this, it’s not hard to hear the album as kind of a cathartic release of melancholic emotions.

08. Teramaze – Esoteric Symbolism

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Modern Fates Warning, Queensryche at their peak, moody progressive metal

Moody, semi-heavy, progressive metal. Definitely an album that requries a few listens to before it fully clicks. These guys’ brand of prog is closer to the no-frills of Porcupine Tree or modern Fates Warning than the wankery of Dream Theater. Songs definitely come first here. This stuff is moody, atmospheric and pretty mellow in places. Well worth checking out.

07. Gates – Bloom and Breathe

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Latter-day Thrice meets post rock.

The music definitely pulls the best of what post rock has to offer. It’s melodic, catchy, atmospheric and it makes you feel like you’re moving forward with the song. What it doesn’t have are the lame-ass extended build-ups that lead to a brief few moments of actual quality. This post rock sound is mixed with the style that Thrice had evolved towards right before their breakup. That on its own would probably be good enough, but the vocals (yes, there are vocals) are also well done and also kind of remind me of Thrice. Hence my ‘Thrice goes post rock’ description.

06. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Thrashy death metal with a slight technical edge.

Ever since the band kind of changed up their style on Kill, they’ve been getting better and better, and A Skeletal Domain is probably their best so far. The band went and got a new producer which made everything clearer and more powerful with a particular emphasis on making the bass guitar audible. Also, they let the ex-Nevermore guy write a bunch of the music which has resulted in some cool technical thrash-style stuff integrated into the mix.

05. The Birthday Massacre – Superstition

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Goth-tinged Electro Industrial with female vocals.

I admit that I was upset about the abrupt change that came with the release of Pins and Needles. The album was slick, huge, and the emphasis was placed on making infectiously catchy songs that contained little of the dark atmosphere or electronics that were featured throughout the earlier releases. The album eventually grew on me and it is now my favorite. I say this because Superstition tries to retain the slick, hook-oriented, formula of Pins and Needles while restoring the underlying darkness and cold synth sounds of Violet. I’d say that they basically achieve their goal; although the emphasis is still more on the Pins and Needles side. If there is an issue, it’s that the album probably doesn’t hit any of those elements as well as the releases that originally featured them. On the other hand, it’s easily the best since Pins and Needles, and those that really missed the older style might even call this the best since Walking With Strangers or Violet. No matter what, though, this is definitely an excellent return to form after the disappointing Hide and Seek.

04. The Jezabels – The Brink

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Upbeat, poppy, female-fronted indie rock.

The Jezabels’ debut album was excellent. The band had a knack for creating songs that seemed to build up before peaking at just the right time and moving on. The Brink is a different beast. The band seemed to have moved in an 80s electro-pop direction, but it’s a nice change that I definitely approve of. They’ve still got the kind of songs that Prisoner featured, but now they’re interspersed with more upbeat, poppy tracks that add a whole new dimension.

03. Behemoth – The Satanist

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Diverse Blackened Death Metal

They brought back some black metal influences. They added a ton more dynamics. They made the bass audible. Somehow they also made the songs very catchy and memorable despite it being black/death metal. The overuse of blast beats has been fixed and just about every tracks has its own identity that finally makes a Behemoth album listenable from start to finish.

02. Nero Di Marte – Derivae

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Cult of Luna, Ulcerate, Post Metal meets atmospheric death metal.

Imagine the post metal of Cult of Luna meets the poly rhythms of Meshuggah meets the dissonant atmospheres of Ulcerate, and you have Nero Di Marte. At its heart, Derivae is a post metal album but where most post metal bands start out super quiet and sparse and slowly build towards a wall of sound, Nero Di Marte starts where most would end. They begin with the post apocalyptic walls of sound and throat shredding vocals and slowly build towards the dissonance and walls of double bass more common with a band like Ulcerate. If you like Amia Venera Landscape, you should be able to get into this.

01. Kenn Nardi – Dancing With the Past

[Spotify] // [Review]

RIYL: Anacrusis, technical thrash meets moody progressive metal.

It’s hard to fit into a few short sentences a description that would do justice to the 28 songs that make up the double CD that is Kenn Nardi’s first solo album. Over the album’s 2+ hours of music, you’ll get the technical thrash that Kenn made famous with Anacrusis. You’ll get moody, doomy tracks. You’ll get symphonic stuff… what I’m saying is that it’s a very diverse album that pretty much embodies what ‘progressive’ music should be.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Honorable Mention:

– Mors Principium Est: Dawn of the 5th Era (RIYL: Insomnium, Melodic Death Metal)
– Alcest: Shelter (RIYL: Anathema, atmospheric alt/post rock)
– Sadistik: Ultraviolet (RIYL: Mellow, atmospheric hip hop)
– At the Soundawn: Visionaries (RIYL: Post metal meets alt rock meets stoner rock)
– Anomalie: Between the Light (RIYL: Post Black Metal that is still mostly black metal)
– Emilie Simon: Mue (RIYL: Quirky French pop)





Willie
12.08.14
So, my top 25. I'm sure it agrees with nobody else in the entire site.... but that's okay.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
12.08.14
Gates are getting a ton of love here. didn't anticipate that, but I'm not complaining

DikkoZinner
12.08.14
Great calls on Behemoth & Cannibal Corpse.

emester
12.08.14
I saw Dancing With The Past being your AOTY from a mile away Wille :D

Ryus
12.08.14
3, 5, 6, 11, 22. nice.

TalonsOfFire
12.08.14
Great list, will check the ones I haven't heard yet

Tunaboy45
12.08.14
Fucking 3 man, fucking 3.

Sabrutin
12.08.14
The Birthday Massacre have yet to release a bad album, Superstition is pretty good.

Artuma
12.08.14
7 is cool but haven't heard the rest. apparently i need to check 2 and 20, the others don't look very interesting

ChoccyPhilly
12.08.14
Great list man

deathschool
12.08.14
14 is a surprise

Cygnatti
12.08.14
Banks is alternative r&b.

ExplosiveOranges
12.08.14
Some really great stuff on here.

Gameofmetal
12.08.14
Some good stuff here agreed, and Wayfarer sounds like something I should check out. My issue is that little note about Insomnium's "terrible clean vocals"

like wut?

Judio!
12.08.14
Sweet list Willie, nice to see some more Insomnium love around these parts. Surprised to see the new slipknot on here though. While I still really wish I could get into The Gray Chapter, it's honestly done nothing but grow more and more off of me since I've first listened to it.

Metalstyles
12.08.14
Good stuff Willie, I like a good few of these (22,17,15,11,3) and will most definitely check out Gates and especially Nero Di Marte as well at some point. Really should have gotten to the latter earlier this year, but as always, I was lacking either time or the will - something which I've become used to already.

greg84
12.08.14
#1 is the best one here... obviously

Ignimbrite
12.08.14
Just discovered the Nero di Marte album. It's almost *too* similar to Ulcerate, but god damn is it spectacular.

Willie
12.09.14
--Gates are getting a ton of love here. didn't anticipate that, but I'm not complaining--

I had never heard of them before we got the promo. It caught my attention immediately.

--I saw Dancing With The Past being your AOTY from a mile away Wille :D--

Really? I thought my number one would be a surprise ;)

--The Birthday Massacre have yet to release a bad album, Superstition is pretty good.--

I liked their last one, but it wasn't the same quality as the rest of their discography.

--14 is a surprise--

It's Slipknot. Your average Sputnik user is already predisposed to hate it. They almost have to. I can appreciate it for what it is. A easily digestible mainstream metal album that is not afraid to take chances, experiment with their sound and get heavier than what is normally acceptable. Plus, it still manages to be pretty catchy.

--Banks is alternative r&b. --

Ha ha. It's good whatever it is.

--My issue is that little note about Insomnium's "terrible clean vocals" --

They really aren't good. Thankfully they're used sparingly.

--#1 is the best one here... obviously--

Obviously :)

--Just discovered the Nero di Marte album. It's almost *too* similar to Ulcerate, but god damn is it spectacular.--

That album is awesome. I love the energy.

tempest--
12.09.14
One day I'm gonna be in a band, and we'll win a Willie. All I've ever wanted was a Willie!

titanslayer
12.09.14
Awesome list man. I'll check a few of these out

Lord(e)Po)))ts
12.09.14
willie you and grade 8 me would have a lot to talk about musically

Mister Twister
12.09.14
a bit surprised Willie hadn't found albums like Necrogenesis by Reek or some other obscure thrash/prog affair

TheCrocodile
12.09.14
2 looks sweet...

RadicalEd
12.09.14
needs more methul.

SowingSeason
12.09.14
I like how high Gates and The Jezabels are. Nice list overall.

Deviant.
12.09.14
Adimiron sounds interesting, will investigate posthaste

Tyrael
12.09.14
There's a new The Birthday Massacre record out? FUCK

Great list Willie, quite a few gems here like the new Anaal Nathrakh, Insomnium and Behemoth. Would pos if I could ;)

Thibs
12.09.14
props for 8. love that album

Willie
12.09.14
--a bit surprised Willie hadn't found albums like Necrogenesis by Reek or some other obscure thrash/prog affair--

Sounds interesting. Will check it out.

--Adimiron sounds interesting, will investigate posthaste--

It is. I like the first Meshuggah album, but it kind of drags by the mid-point. Adimiron takes that initial blueprint and does enough with it to make it good from start to finish.

--There's a new The Birthday Massacre record out? --

Check it out. Not their best, but definitely a step back in the right direction.

--props for 8. love that album--

Me too. It's one of those albums that just sticks with you quick.

Question... has anyone actually tried the Spotify player? I have Spotify Premium and when I click 'play' on the player it opens the desktop application. Has anyone tried it that doesn't have that application installed?

Jom
12.09.14
Adimiron, MiXE1, and Soen seem up my alley; need to check those out. Thanks for including a Spotify stream!

Obligatory "this looks very nice" comment as well.

Voivod
12.09.14
Great list which reminds I got to keep listening to the Kenn Nardi album

hogan900
12.09.14
Glad you put Gates on here, everything else is pretty sweet too. Dug 1 a lot when it came out.

Voivod
12.10.14
Adimiron are awesome, though I would describe them as a Mastodon/Baroness hybrid meets tech metal.

tempest--
12.10.14
That sounds like I would like them a lot.

EvoHavok
12.10.14
Awesome list and great picks.

clercqie
12.10.14
So great to see Marissa popping up on here. I'm still enamoured by that album. Beautiful stuff.

Zettel
12.10.14
"Question... has anyone actually tried the Spotify player? I have Spotify Premium and when I click 'play' on the player it opens the desktop application. Has anyone tried it that doesn't have that application installed?"

I don't have Spotify, and it asks me to download the application. So, I guess it doesn't work.

Great list, even though I'm not into metal anymore. I'm surprised to see you liked so much the new Slipknot album. I was on the minority who thought The Subliminal Verses was their best work. All Hope Is Gone was a disappointment and I stop listening. You think there's a pretty good chance I might like this? I've always thought that Slipknot were first and foremost a "fun" metal band, If that make sense...

Zettel
12.10.14
^ Nevermind. Listening to it now.

Flugmorph
12.10.14
heard the playlist. read your words. great list. few new jams for me as well :)

Flugmorph
12.10.14
great picks for best 3!

n60storm
12.10.14
There is nothing Alternative about Banks.

ThyCrossAwaits
12.11.14
should have called the awards "The Willies" so you could say at the beginning "I give you...the Willies!"

DoctorDoom
12.11.14
Glad to see Behemoth in the top three. I feel like everyone was super into this album when it dropped at the beginning of the year but I'm not seeing it on too many lists.

TheNotrap
12.11.14
It’s been a pretty good year indeed. Nice too see The Satanist among your favorites.

Phlegm
12.13.14
trash

SputnikSweetheart
12.16.14
finally someone who appreciates Nero di Marte!

JamieTwort
12.18.14
Heard bits and pieces of Marissa Nadler's previous albums and none of it sounds as good as July. Maybe it's the atmospheric parts that you mentioned that separates her new one from her other material for me.

Wizard
12.31.14
Always loved your picks dude, way out of the norm.

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