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.
Tag Archives: Time to Die
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.
Death is a major theme in The Dodos latest release, “Time To Die”, and it is fitting, although not in the way that they intended. Like a funeral, the album pays tribute to their past at times, but overall, the experience is one of mourning. The songs still resemble the same melodic band with Meric Long’s signature guitar strums and Logan Kroeber’s African drums keeping pace. But upon further review, the album lacks the life that made “Visiter” and “Beware of Maniacs” so irresistible.
I would hate to go as far as to say the band’s sound is dead, far from. The album features some of their most mature material to date, and is even a tighter package than their past offerings that seemed to ramble on at times. Yet, I don’t remember anyone wanting The Dodos to grow up. That youthful exuberance is what made “Visiter” such a gem in 2008; while the songs were instantly hummable, they were hidden within Meric’s playful banging upon his guitar and Krober’s unpredictable beats. You could tell they were having fun, and you joined in the fun just by listening.
“Visiter” often drew comparisons to Animal Collective due to its tribal meanderings, but those experimental dabblings are all but dead, although “Two Medicines” is a failed attempt at rekindling this sound. The album just sounds too pretty. Where’s the vibration of Meric’s guitar strings? The crack of Groeber’s stick upon the edge of a drum head? All but gone. Instead, Meric’s voice is put on center stage, caked in reverb and smoothed like a once jagged stone.
They were once like puppies, charming and mischievous, yet impulsive and often straying where they shouldn’t. Now they are in that awkward stage between puppy-hood and becoming a full fledged dog. They’ve been trained to do what an up-and-coming band should do (hire a big name producer, sell the rights to their hit song for a Miller Light Chill commercial, etc). You still gotta love them, but they just aren’t as spunky.
While they once wrote fun little dittys like “Horny Hippies” and “Elves”, they are now trying to convey messages like “The image on the board, selling things we can’t afford” or “Don’t think we need you, but you need us, this is a business!” Unfortunately, they come across about as insightful as a high school student’s term paper on global warming.
After the genius that was “Visiter”, I’d like to believe this is a bump in the road. The majority of the songs on “Time to Die” show promise, and by the time the final two tracks arrive, glimpses of where the band is going creates hope for a better day. Maybe the band is just experiencing musical puberty, that uncertain stage of trying to figure out what it is to be an indie rock powerhouse. Until then, I guess this awkward puppy will suffice.