Over the holidays, a good friend of mine suggested I create a “Top Metal Albums” list to go along with my plethora of other year-end lists. I at first scoffed at the idea. I’m far from an expert in metal, and when I do listen to it, my interests almost exclusively lie within the genre of doom. I completely ignored some of the most lauded metal albums of the year (Thou, Old Man Gloom, Godflesh) due simply to my inability to get past the grating vocals. Calling me a metal aficionado is like calling a guy who orders ShockTop a beer snob. Despite my limited metal knowledge, I do take pride in the fact that there were five metal albums on my “Top 40 Albums of 2014” list. In fact, my year end list featured more metal albums than all of the following publications’ year-end lists combined: All Music Guide, Alternative Press, A.V. Club, CMJ, Consequence of Sound, Drowned in Sound, Entertainment Weekly, Magnet Magazine, MOJO, NME, NPR, Paste, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Under the Radar (Rolling Stone put YOB at #50, NPR featured Pallbearer, and Spin had Earth – yes, I spent time scouring every single list). Now, more than any other genre, metal is mutating and evolving in fascinating ways, yet major music media outlets don’t give these innovative musicians the credit they deserve. I stand by the following “Top 10 Metal Albums” list, but please keep in mind this small caveat: I’m still just a metal-neophyte. However, if you have also found yourself intrigued by the allure of the dangerous world of heavy metal, follow me as I introduce you to some of the fiercer beasts of 2014.
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For me, this list is the most important thing I write all year. While I enjoy all the various writing avenues I take, the “Top Albums” list is really the end-all-be-all. I’m not blind to the list of other music websites, and as I peruse them, I always find myself scoffing or shaking my head in frustration. Sometimes it’s because of the thinly veiled politics behind picks; other times it’s the unwarranted hype given to an artist who still needs time to grow. I like to believe that I’m so outside the industry and that I can give you a list that is based solely on my passion for music that lurks outside the mainstream. Once again, I’ve compiled a list of some incredible albums that hail from a wide range of genres. Give the first 20 a read through and a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find something that strayed beyond your listening peripheral in 2014.
We are almost to the mid-point of 2014, and there have already been some outstanding releases. With a promising second half of the year ahead of us, I’d like to take a moment to spotlight some of my favorite albums from the year so far. To try to keep some semblance of control, I’ve limited my list to albums released prior to June 1st.