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Rather than boring Sputnik’s readership with a numbered list of all the metal albums I liked and then spending three paragraphs bitching about how much metal sucked this year and how xSPONGECOREx is neither funny nor well made, I’ll instead bore you with a wall of text regarding the dichotomy that was metal in 2014. You see, this was one of the truly great years for metal – perhaps the best one in over a decade – but it was also filled with a smattering of laziness or just plain filth. Not filth in the way Innsmouth spewed out disgusting death metal riffs on their fantastic Consumed by Elder Sign, but filth in the way In Flames basically smeared some melodic guitar riffs with feces and then recorded Anders Friden crying and babbling as if he mistook a piss-flavored lollipop for a tasty and tangy lemon one.

So there was a lot that really isn’t worth mentioning in 2014, but for the sake of making this blog a presentable length I’m going to go ahead and talk about them anyway. As if we needed more of an indication that Agalloch were falling off their own bandwagon they managed to somehow defy expectations and release an album that was worse than Marrow of the Spirit. I’ll admit it: Marrow wasn’t all bad, in fact there are tons of moments that were pretty damn good, it’s just that it was all surrounded by moments where the band decided “Well, we’ve already included all the awesome riffs we managed to come up with in 4 years, so let’s just sort of play ad hoc and mask it with a sweet analog production” (read: make the drums ridiculously loud and the guitars like they are recorded through a pillow). I digress, because that’s child’s play compared to The Serpent and the Sphere, an album where they managed to come up with but one or two good riffs in the 4 year span since Marrow. I saw them play live for the first time this past July, and never in my life have I been more disappointed at a show than I was during their hour and a half set. In fact, the only thing that kept me there was the amusement drawn from watching drummer Aesop Dekker make some of the most humorous faces ever seen by man as he crashed away on his kit.

I’m being hard on Agalloch, though, because deep down I do still truly think they are one of my all-time favorite bands, so I’ll stop there. I’d rather talk about Empyrium anyway, as they displayed so much potential with “Dead Winter Ways” that I thought for a fleeting second that The Turn of the Tides was going to be the AOTY, but once again my expectations were utterly wrong. The album was quite simply a flop, and for much of its run time treads water amidst a complete lack of inspiration or direction. It is quite sad for a number of reasons, because aside from the promise set by the single it was also the return of the venerable act; veterans of the scene that have shown they know how to make a classic record. Alcest’s Shelter wasn’t much better, especially considering it was a follow-up to a really good album that contained my favorite Alcest song “Autre Temps”. Shelter was so bland it was almost sterile, and lacked completely the fine line between serenity and heaviness that the band’s previous two albums showcased with mastery. Instead we were left with a one-dimensional plod through a monochrome world, leaving behind the colorful landscapes of yore.

Empyrium couldn't deliver on the promise of The Turn of the Tides

Opeth remained Opeth, and continued their string of mediocre albums with Pale Communion, and the return of At The Gates signaled the return of run-of-the-mill melodic death with At War With Reality, and even Drudkh managed to release a money-grab with Eastern Frontier in Flames, an odd collection of useless tracks from a band that is completely foreign to the term “filler”. The list really goes on and on, with such unsurprisingly awful records as In Flames’ Siren Charms, Arch Enemy’s War Eternal, or Cynic’s Kindly Bent to Free Us. Let’s leave all this negativity behind us, though, because I’m tired of being an eternal pessimist and I think it would do us all well to talk about the records that made 2014 truly special.

There’s a lot of things I didn’t expect that surprised me in the best way possible, and perhaps no album made me shut my mouth more than Wolves in the Throne Room’s Celestite. When they announced this record I immediately dismissed it, but as things turn out it is actually a very, very good record that is about as good as could ever be imagined given the way the band initially described the record. It is a sojourn in the world of electronic ambiance; a way of breaking away from their signature Cascadian black metal sound if only for a moment, and it proves to be creatively invigorating as the keys and unearthly synths wander from movement to movement. Similarly pleasant was Behemoth’s The Satanist which is their best record in decades, and Panopticon’s return to black metal form on Roads to the North. Even Rippikoulu emerged from whatever fetid hole they were hiding in for 21 years to unleash Ulvaja, an EP which showed serious rust but also serious, doomy death metal riffage.

“I found the hatch. I got the airlock status display panel here. There’s no lights...No power... We’re going in...”

Nothing quite took my breath away, though, like Spectral Lore. III came out of nowhere to steal the top spot as my album of the year, and through pure realization of concept turned out to be the most well-made black metal record I have heard in years. It drags black metal out of the nihilistic depths that it was born in and instead asks questions about finding our place in a universe we really don’t understand, and does all that through mind-boggling progressive black metal the spews out tremolo riffs like most second-wave bands could only dream of. “Cosmic Significance” is so god damn good I lack the creativity and will to attempt to describe it through metaphor, but let’s just say it builds from a synthetic beginning up through a gargantuan crescendo that basically had me looking like Randy Marsh after he finally got his internet porn back. Couple this monumental release with the return of Darkspace and you have, through two albums alone, an amazing year for black metal, as Darkspace spun us through another sci-fi epic by way of buzzizng tremolos and crushing chords. Don’t forget: It wouldn’t be Darkspace without a movie sample!

Lest we forget the festering lairs that contain this year’s death metal offerings, with Dead Congregation leading the charge of well-produced riffage on Promulgation of the Fall, proving to be a staple for how to mix and master modern death metal in a way that is clear yet retains that crunch and vivid texture of more amateur production values. Diocletian killed my whole family by blasting them with Gesundrian, and then Swallowed cannibalized their corpses (hehe) with the maniacal dirges of Lunarterial. Being without a family and in shock by the state of their half-eaten, mangled bodies I jammed some death metal that wasn’t so depraved, and found that Morbus Chron were absolute masters of their craft. Sweven was my favorite death metal record of the year, and proved that being formulaic was the bane of creativity, and that sometimes it was ok to rummage around and pull influences into death metal that aren’t traditionally considered complementary to the genre. It turned out to be a weaving epic consumed with riff after riff after riff until I discovered that, had Diocletian not already killed everyone I knew and loved, Morbus Chron would have stolen their affection away from me because it’s simply impossible to not forsake your loved ones and bow in worship at the altar of Morbus Chron riffage.

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There was more to 2014 than just death and black metal, though, with some albums crossing genre lines or just straight up not being metal while still being more than worthy of mention. Musk Ox pulled at heart strings with Woodfall, and had Vali not released Skogslandskap last year I would say it was the best neofolk album in recent memory, but Woodfall tackles soundscapes that Vali never has the complexity to touch. Rather than being a pure, earthy, natural record, Musk Ox aim for more grandeur, and through the use of string movements and mournful tones seizes these more complex emotions with vigor, creating a record that makes you ask questions that don’t necessarily have easy answers. Falls of Rauros’ Believe in No Coming Shore is another album that makes you think, proving itself a more than worthy follow up to The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood as my local black metal act attempt to break the world stage – a place they surely belong with their unique blend of folky atmospheric black metal that is distinctly different from the Cascadian crowd. Woods of Desolation showed once more with As the Stars that post black metal doesn’t have to forsake the raw, abrasive roots that it owes its existence to, and Vindensang prove that less is more in the lumbering fear that builds on the oceanic Alpha – an ambient record with extremely dark underpinnings. Even my beloved Insomnium showed a willingness to adapt and bridge the gap between the old sound I am enamored with and the new sound I’m still apprehensive about. I still listen to Shadows of the Dying Sun on a regular basis.

I could write for 2 or 3 thousand more words about every album I liked in 2014, and if that doesn’t reveal my true feelings I’ll just go ahead and say it: 2014 was just superb for metal. I know I made a lot of fuss early on about how there were some really awful records that found their way into the light, but the reality is that they pale in comparison to the records that stole the show and proved that this year was a special one. All of the genres and sub-genres I love had multiple 4.5 offerings this year – in the past I’d be hard pressed to find one single album in a year that deserved a 4.5. Am I getting softer as a critic? If my In Flames review didn’t already clue you in to the answer, I will go ahead and say no. I can’t possibly list every album I loved and keep this thing a reasonable length, as I’m sure the few of you who are still reading are ready to fall asleep in your chair, so I’ll end it here. Just know that if you haven’t heard what metal has given us in 2014, you better stop complaining about Casualties of Cool or D’Angelo in the staff year-end list and krieg.





Crysis
12.21.14
itt: i talk about nothing and make bad jokes

Ryus
12.21.14
looks cool, ill read later, but i love the mention of both III and consumed by elder sign, two of my favorites too.

Keyblade
12.21.14
Great article, disagree about Empyrium though.

Rowan5215
12.21.14
"but filth in the way In Flames basically smeared some melodic guitar riffs with feces and then recorded Anders Friden crying and babbling as if he mistook a piss-flavored lollipop for a tasty and tangy lemon one."
pos
"basically had me looking like Randy Marsh after he finally got his internet porn back."
POS
"Being without a family and in shock by the state of their half-eaten, mangled bodies I jammed some death metal that wasn’t so depraved"
FUCKING POS


Crysis
12.21.14
My review elaborates on my reasoning but that record is such a disappointment. I wanted to love it.

Relinquished
12.21.14
awesome post, m/ bump on taking shits on the records already reeking of excrement

Rowan5215
12.21.14
also just pointing out
"Casualties of Cool of D’Angelo"
should be Casualties of Cool and D'Angelo

Crysis
12.21.14
sssh let's keep that our little secret

Rowan5215
12.21.14
:-)

ComeToDaddy
12.21.14
Good to see you mention Insomnium, loved the new album and it completely disappeared from discussion really quickly around here. Also glad you enjoyed Spectral Lore so much, in the 4 months before I reviewed it there had only been some 15 votes so glad it managed to pick up all that steam, really deserving of the top spot.

Great post, gotta get around to checking that new Diocletian and Vindensang. Really enjoyed reading all this

ComeToDaddy
12.21.14
Also the Lunarterial album art was the perfect choice for the opening picture \m/

ScuroFantasma
12.21.14
This was a cool read man, great stuff

EvoHavok
12.21.14
Awesome read, Kyle! Some paragraphs were simply priceless :D.

Tyrael
12.21.14
This is incredibly well written. This is why I always look forward to reading more stuff from you, Kyle ^^

Crysis
12.21.14
Glad you all like it guys!

@ComeToDaddy - Your Spectral Lore review got me to listen to the album, so thank you for writing it. I also love Insomnium far too much to forget to at least give them a mention here.

emester
12.21.14
probably one of the better staff reads of the year.

That In Flames part made me chuckle quite a bit

Cygnatti
12.21.14
So basically, you're saying that I wasn't missed out on anything. Good to know. ^__^

TalonsOfFire
12.21.14
Great article, still need to hear spectral lore

Jom
12.21.14
Lovely read. Who said metalheads can't make jokes?

Crysis
12.21.14
We're all supposed to be cynical assholes.

cryptside
12.21.14
Awesome read, Crysis. I loved the new Insomnium and WitTR this year, and just recently started digging into Promulgation of the Fall but it's pretty amazing as well. Cool to see that you enjoyed Musk Ox and Panopticon too. What did you think of Horrendous' new album?

Crysis
12.21.14
Horrendous was great (read my review for it) but underwhelming as I thought it would be better. I could have mentioned it here but there were better albums imo

cryptside
12.21.14
Nice, will check out the review. I agree, the albums you've mentioned here (at least what I have heard from those listed) were better than Horrendous. I still really enjoyed it though.

Metalstyles
12.21.14
This is really really well written, man. You should totes make this a monthly thing.

Thoroughly disagree about Alcest though: monochrome that record was not. It was one of my most listened to albums of 2014 and I really loved the atmosphere throughout. I can see why some Alcest fans might've felt (and still feel) let down by it, but I embrace the new style. To me, it works.

Crysis
12.21.14
I don't know why but I had no idea you liked Alcest. The record is just so boring and I don't think it carries the emotional variances of his past albums, which makes it feel quite one dimensional.

I would make this a monthly or quarterly thing but I feel like I don't listen to enough albums...but that could change haha

theacademy
12.21.14
um atreyu reunited in 2014

/thread

theacademy
12.21.14
also i know im an old fart now but i liked Shelter

Keyblade
12.21.14
Which is a shame because it has 2 really good songs on it. The rest is just boring fluff

TheCrocodile
12.21.14
Great read. Will go jam some m/ now.

Metalstyles
12.21.14
"I don't know why but I had no idea you liked Alcest. The record is just so boring and I don't think it carries the emotional variances of his past albums, which makes it feel quite one dimensional."


You're right, the emotional variances are basically nonexistent this time around, but I really dig the general vibe of the record. It's simultaneously relaxing and cerebral (imo of course).

RogueNine
12.22.14
Kyle, what did you pack into this article? I'm getting another malware warning.

Crysis
12.22.14
Nothing I did. Everyone is getting it across the site, not just on the blog. See the forums, people have been bitching all day about it.

RogueNine
12.22.14
More or less joking with you but yes.

Crysis
12.22.14
As you can see I am a master at picking up sarcasm

Flugmorph
12.22.14
good article. resparked my intentions to hear even more music from 2014.

Thibs
12.22.14
m/ good stuff

greg84
12.23.14
Mad props, Kyle. Great article!

Mort.
12.23.14
yeah great article

did you listen to artificial brain's debut? if so what did you think of it?

Crysis
12.23.14
I did not. Wish I had time to listen to everything from this year but sadly time isn't a luxury that was given to me. I'll be sure to check it out though.

Judio!
12.24.14
Very nice read Crysis. I really enjoyed reading your reviews this year man. On another note, I would love to hear your opinion on the new Saor LP. Since you enjoyed the new Panopticon so much I don't see why you wouldn't dig.

Artuma
12.24.14
the 2nd paragraph made me rather angry but otherwise this was a great read

Crysis
12.24.14
"I would love to hear your opinion on the new Saor LP"

I thought it was good, but nothing more. I don't really understand why people love it so much, as I thought it was missing something to make it more than just another folk black metal record. Sure, at time's it is beautiful and the folk parts are superb, but the black metal itself is dreary IMO and serves more as a means to just slam away behind the folk aspects rather than complement them. The record just doesn't use its heaviness to its full potential which makes the length of the songs a hindrance rather than an asset.

"the 2nd paragraph made me rather angry"

Was waiting for someone to say that haha

Judio!
12.24.14
Ah ok. Not what I expected to hear and I disagree pretty hard obviously but I can see where you're coming from. Personally I thought that, overall, Aura was a lot more balanced and consistent than the new Panopticon, but I get why you'd prefer one over the other. One things for sure though; the guy behind Saor can drum like a motherfucker.

Crysis
12.25.14
"One things for sure though; the guy behind Saor can drum like a motherfucker."

Austin Lunn from Panopticon did drums on the latest Saor record hahaha

Judio!
12.25.14
Oh yeah haha, I totally forget. Such a badass.

Inveigh
12.25.14
good read man, agreed on all fronts. what were your thoughts on the Thou record?

Zettel
12.25.14
Great article, thanks for posting. Very helpful, since I missed most of this year's metal.

MO
12.25.14
fucking crysis with the killer post m/

ShadowRemains
12.25.14
great work here my friend

Crysis
12.25.14
"what were your thoughts on the Thou record?"

I enjoyed it, it was on my top 20 of the year although low down. Not as good as their previous work though.

Relinquished
12.25.14
disagree hard dawg that was by far their best output overall

Stryfe14
12.26.14
no mention of ghost brigade?

wacknizzle
12.26.14
Sorry but this write-up is out of touch and lame. Mostly feels like trying to wish has-beens to their legendary status. This not at all how I viewed metal this year. Lets hope next year has more metal that more sputnik users can relate with. Good number of my favorite albums hardly even had reviews and I'm sick of trying to put up with that job with little to no acclaim.

SputnikSweetheart
12.26.14
Question is... why there's basically no metal in the year-end list

Relinquished
12.26.14
"Sorry but this write-up is out of touch and lame."

if anything, the bands that he blasted were out of touch and lame. have you even heard them?

"Lets hope next year has more metal that more sputnik users can relate with."

look who's out of touch now

"Good number of my favorite albums hardly even had reviews and I'm sick of trying to put up with that job with little to no acclaim. "

promote promote promote

Voivod
12.26.14
"Question is... why there's basically no metal in the year-end list"

1 out of every 5 albums in the year's end list is metal alright, a very good proportionality from where I stand.

deezer666
12.26.14
I find it hard to entertain people who believe this has been anything less than a stellar year for metal.

Keyblade
12.26.14
That Lunarterial cover is just so damn cool

Crysis
12.27.14
" Good number of my favorite albums hardly even had reviews and I'm sick of trying to put up with that job with little to no acclaim."

He says while not naming a single one of those albums.

"if anything, the bands that he blasted were out of touch and lame. have you even heard them?"

123

"That Lunarterial cover is just so damn cool"

Tied with Horrendous for my favorite from this year.

Totengott
12.29.14
Loved the read, I absolutely love the new Darkspace album. though I don't think the new Agalloch was that bad, but was definitely a disappointment.

roypriyanka
12.30.14
Wish your loved ones residing in South Korea for all their kindness and hope for their happiness by presenting them enthralling arrangements of Flowers and Gifts on this Christmas. Send Xmas Flowers to South Korea as a token of remembrance and how much you love them.


Wizard
12.31.14
Dude, your blog is pretty much the exact opposite as to what I thought minus a few items here and there. Spectral Lore to me was bunch of great ideas with nothing gelling them together, Diocletian wrote the same damn riff throughout the whole album, Darkspace was just Darkspace being Darkspace (which we've heard a bunch of times already, mostly just rehash) and Swallowed are just muddled boring death doom.

Still, I love your writing and I'm proud you've stuck around as long as me (and gained much more notoriety then myself as well). I'm going on 10 years for this site and still feel like I'm the only one who defends specific albums with a passion. Great write-up and hoping 2015 is as good, if not better than 2014.

Crysis
12.31.14
Seems like not much has changed in those years since we still completely disagree with each other's top albums haha keep it m/ karl

Wizard
12.31.14
But that's why I've always loved our time on here because we are the only ones who challenge the conventional norms of popular metal. So really, we agree with each other on a much larger scale rather than the mundane back-and-forth arguments we could have over petty disagreements on particular albums. We both know what's alive and kicking and what's sucking a polished turd (ie. new watered-down ATG and Camel humping Opeth were the most overrated pieces of shit in 2014).

What do you think ruled the most in 2014, black or death metal? My money was on bm.

Check out the new Fen if you have a chance. They dropped a lot of the post-metal in favour of more blackened folk metal.

Crysis
12.31.14
Hard to say honestly. I think all in all this was the best bm year in recent memory, although Morbus Chron and Dead Congregation did kick ass too.

Voivod
01.03.15
Great read Crysis, there some albums I should check here.

zaruyache
01.03.15
is the drummer for Agalloch wearing a Weakling shirt, or is that some other unreadable band logo there?

BladeRunner
01.07.15
Oh, Sput has a blog? lol

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