Nov 192014


Above is the cover of the January 2015 issue of DECIBEL Magazine. It includes DECIBEL’s list of the Top 40 Albums of 2014. I haven’t received my copy yet, and for all I know, it hasn’t been mailed yet. But the Top 40 list has leaked, appearing yesterday on a Reddit thread. When I first saw that thread, I decided not to post about the list until I had received my copy of the magazine, but the list has started spreading around pretty fast, and the closely guarded secret isn’t a secret any more, so…

As is true every year, DECIBEL’s list is an interesting one that’s sure to spark spirited debate. The album in the No. 1 position is Pallbearer’s Foundations of Burden, followed by At the Gates, Horrendous, Tryptikon, and Godflesh in the #2 – #5 positions, in that order. The Top 10 also includes Thou, YOB, Vallenfyre, Panopticon, and Morbus Chron. Though I think all 10 of these albums are excellent, I’m especially happy to see HorrendousThou, Vallenfyre, and Panopticon in such high positions because I dearly love those albums and because the bands don’t have quite the high profile of most other bands in the Top 10 — though they deserve to be in that company.

The balance of the list includes many high-profile names I expected to see (e.g., Behemoth, Agalloch, and Mastodon) and others from deeper underground that, like those four I mentioned above, deserve this kind of exposure (e.g., Dead CongregationKrieg, Cult of Fire, Teitanblood, Trap Them, CretinMidnight, Thantifaxath, and Lord Mantis). 

As usual, there will be disagreements over the rankings — I would have put Solstafir’s album higher on the list and At the Gates’ lower, just to pick two examples — as well as complaints about omissions. But as usual for DECIBEL, I think it’s overall a solid list — and for my money DECIBEL still remains the best print metal publication money can buy. Also, since I’m incapable of making a “Best of the Year” list myself, I’m hardly in a position to be critical.

Also as usual, DECIBEL obviously compiled the list with more than a month left in the year, in part because of the lead time required for a magazine to be put to bed, printed, and mailed, and in part because of the tendency of just about everyone to role out end-of-year lists in December rather than January. So some recent and forthcoming releases missed out that deserved consideration. The person who posted the list on Reddit also noted that the list includes releases that came out in December 2013, perhaps to make up for the fact that some December releases don’t make it into DECIBEL’s hands, even as advance copies, before these lists are assembled.

Without further ado, here’s the list that appeared on Reddit:


  1. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
  2. At The Gates – At War With Reality
  3. Horrendous – Ecdysis
  4. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
  5. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire
  6. Thou – Heathen
  7. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
  8. Vallenfyre – Splinters
  9. Panopticon – Roads to the North
  10. Morbus Chron – Sweven
  11. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
  12. Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
  13. Woods of Desolation – As The Stars
  14. Tombs – Savage Gold
  15. Krieg – Transient
  16. Iron Reagan – The Tyranny of Will
  17. Cult of Fire – मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान
  18. Gridlink – Longhenna
  19. The Oath – The Oath
  20. Behemoth – The Satanist
  21. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
  22. Autopsy – Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves
  23. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
  24. Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution
  25. Wreck & Reference – Want
  26. Teitanblood – Death
  27. Trap Them – Blissfucker
  28. Young and in the Way – When Life Comes to Death
  29. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
  30. Eyehategod – Eyehategod
  31. Cretin – Stranger
  32. Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem
  33. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
  34. Lord Mantis – Death Mask
  35. Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
  36. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
  37. Solstafir – Otta
  38. Execration – Morbid Dimensions
  39. Incantation – Dirges of Elysium
  40. Floor – Oblation

  29 Responses to “LISTMANIA 2014: THE DECIBEL TOP 40”

  1. First thoughts…

    “Wow, Machine Head look really out of place on that list…”

    “Damn, I would certainly have put Behemoth and Agalloch higher… I wonder if they’re trying to avoid being predictable?”

    “Both Mayhem and Cannibal Corpse feel like editorially-mandated inclusions… I can’t imagine the magazine honestly trying to say that either album (though both are solid) are among the TOP 40 best metal albums this year…”

    “Does this list seem REALLY biased towards the American underground, or is it just me?”

    • Did _Torture_ make the list the year it came out? I don’t have my copy of that year’s top 40 issue in front of me, but I’m thinking not.

      And yes, the list, as it always does, seems really skewed toward American underground metal. But Decibel is published in the US, and is as “underground” as a glossy high-circulation newsstand magazine is probably ever going to be, so no surprise there.

      Happy to see Panopticon and Thou in the top 10. Add Gridlink and you have my three favorite albums of the year (though not sure in what order I’d put them).

      As for omissions, I like the new Crowbar as much as (maybe even more than) I did the last one, which I think I recall made a bunch of year-end lists. For whatever reason, the critical consensus about _Symmetry in Black_ seems to be that it’s “more of the same” (isn’t that true of every Crowbar album) so not stunned it was left off.

      Death metal wise, I would have had Misery Index on there over the new Incantation, Cannibal Corpse, and Autopsy albums, all of which I thought were good but not among the best from those bands. The new MI, on the other hand, is their best work.

    • Honestly, theres maybe four albums on there that I would even consider underground, most of that stuff is on the bigger metal labels

  2. I’d really like to have seen Black Crown Initiate’s “The Wreckage of Stars” on the list.

  3. Although I haven’t had as much time and money to devote to music this year, I’m still surprised that I only own two of these albums (Thantifaxath, Beyond Creation). I’ve been meaning to check out the new Primordial, and the Cult of Fire release completely passed me by, so that may change. My biggest surprise is probably the lack of Cormorant – Earth Diver.

  4. Isn’t Cult of Fire’s album from 2013?
    I’m surprised about solstafir’s position after it got high praise everywhere.

    • Yes, Cult of Fire’s was a December 2013 release, but Decibel’s Top 40 for that year was obviously prepared before December, so they seem to have included albums from the preceding December for consideration in this list.

  5. pitchfork for metalheads =/ i’m surprised being on mayhem festival doesn’t automatically disqualify behemoth and machine head by their standards. at least godflesh got some love.

  6. I find it to be a weird list. Mine will look much more like something youd expect from From the Dust Returned or this very place.

    I feel like a lot of this list was editorially mandated inclusions. But I dont want to be negative.
    Some of these things I need to hear, like Thou, and others I just know I wouldnt even put on this list, like At The Gates. I suppose thats the glory of my own list. Trying to whittle down 100+ albums to a top 20.

  7. Any list without the new Ne Obliviscaris and Falls of Rauros albums are simply incorrect 😛

  8. I’ve heard each of those top 10 albums but the only ones that really left an impression on me were Triptykon and Morbus Chron. I’m gonna give Horrendous another shot because it’s in a similar vein to the MC album and I had to listen to that one a bunch to really appreciate it.

    I’ve actually heard all of these save for Wreck & Reference, Cretin and Primordial (I’ll be remedying that for the latter two). Execration would also have a good shot at making my best of list. The rest, probably not (maybe Solstafir), but I can’t really complain about it. It covers a pretty wide swath of metal and there’s definitely some quality albums here.

    Assuming Cult of Fire is fair game, I would have put it at least at #3 on this list.

    • You should consider checking out that W&R release as well. I wouldn’t go as far as putting it in the top 20 releases of the year, but it’s a fascinating and enjoyable listen.

  9. One of the great things about the end of year celebrations here at NCS is that there’s no “party line” we have to stick to, and no sense of expectations that we have to fulfil (which I would say probably occurs – as a necessity- at a lot of print mags).

    So you tend to get a lot of variety and a lot of unexpected entries. Simply because we’re all able to stick to our personal tastes, without bowing to the weight of public opinion or fulfilling some sort of quota.

  10. I’m struggling to figure out how Machine Head and Cannibal Corpse make this list and Septicflesh and Misery Index does not. It’s a solid list for sure but that really stuck out as omissions for me.

  11. First gut reaction: Foundations of Burden was great, but nowhere near the best album of the year.

    • This. It’s a good album, but certainly not as good as their first.

      And the lack of Inter Arma, Falls of Rauros, and Opeth is disappointing.

  12. This list in really underwhelming, I think theres maybe eight albums in total that I agree with on there

  13. Many good stuff up there…but among them I probably will only enjoy Gridlink early next year as much as I do now. In terms of big names, I’d change Cannibal Corpse and Machine Head to Decapitated and Revocation. And I really think Nero Di Marte and Inter Arma would get a spot…

  14. they have the new Cannibal Corpse on there, so i can’t complain : )

  15. where the fuck is fallujah?

  16. No Bloodbath or Septic Flesh… incredible!

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