(The esteemed Professor D. Grover the XIIIth once again provides us with his year-end list of personal favorites, and an eclectic list it is.)
Greetings and salutations, friends. I apologize for my recent silence, but real-life intrusions (growing children, job promotions, that sort of thing) have made it all but impossible for me to write. Still, I listen when I can find the time, and as such, I return to provide you with my annual year-end review. As always, my list has reached an absurd size, with fifty albums and a separate list of fifteen demos and EPs. However, my comments about each album may not be quite so in-depth due to the aforementioned lack of time.
First, we have the EPs, demos, and singles that I enjoyed this year. Sometimes a shorter release can better capture my memory due to its short run-time, because I can listen to it more and really, truly digest it. These fifteen are all excellent releases.
EPs, DEMOS, AND SINGLES
15 – Chainbreaker – Constant Graving
Filthy speed metal with Motörhead influences.
14 – Cloudkicker – Little Histories
Ben Sharp has still got it, releasing yet another free batch of poignant post-metal tunes.
13 – Carcosa – Demo
Blistering UK-based grindcore violence.
12 – Trepalium – Voodoo Moonshine
Brilliant mix of jazz/swing and death metal, not unlike Diablo Swing Orchestra.
11 – Contrastic – Jařmo
The long-overdue return of these truly underrated Czech experimental grind weirdos.
10 – Nightmare City – Nightmare Tape
Lo-fi speedmetalpunk from members of Antichrist and Witchgrave.
9 – Sims – Field Notes
The latest release from Sims of the Minneapolis-based Doomtree rap collective. Features some very creative beats
8 – Pryapisme – Blastbit Rococollider
The creators of my #2 album from last year reinvent several of their songs using only chiptunes. The result is still fantastic.
7 – Odyssey – The Turning Tide
Spokane-based instrumental prog trio venture further into prog rock territory and continue to refine their sound.
6 – Tonedeff – Hunter
Part 3 of the 4-part Polymer album, Tonedeff displays once again one of the deftest tongues and most creative minds in rap.
5 – Testimony – The Beast That Prays
The brilliant sophomore release from up-and-coming Indiana prog-death-thrash wizards.
4 – Persisting Absolution – MMXIV
Blistering death-thrash from Halifax. Utterly insane.
3 – Ranger – Shock Skull
Speed metal, the old way, by way of Sweden.
2 – Celldweller – End Of An Empire Chapter 01: Time / End Of An Empire Chapter 02: Love
The first two of four EPs comprising the new Celldweller album, the four main tracks (not counting the instrumental/story interlude tracks) are some of the best work Celldweller has done since his self-titled debut album.
1 – Bölzer – Soma
These two tracks, totaling around 20 minutes, now give us approximately enough Bölzer material to comprise a full album (if you combine their first three EPs). The distinctive riffs are on full display here, and although maybe none of the tracks quite reaches the delirious heights of ‘Entranced By The Wolfshook’, the material here is perhaps more consistently brilliant throughout. Supposedly Bölzer are working on a full-length album, and I for one cannot wait.
Next, we have the albums, the real meat of the list. I felt that I needed to expand to 50 this year, simply because there were so many albums that I felt deserved inclusion.
50 – Coffin Dust – This Cemetery, My Kingdom
Wonderful old-school death metal with a nice heavy bass tone and catchy riffs.
49 – Vintersorg – Naturbål
Vintersorg’s fire album in their elemental cycle is perhaps the best of them thus far, pairing heavy riffs with their usual folky vocal harmonies.
48 – Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy
“I’m bad at sarcasm so I work in absurdity.” This phrase, from Dark Comedy’s opening track, sums things up quite nicely, setting the stage for Open Mike Eagle’s whimsical art rap and biting wordplay.
47 – Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Eric Church, take note… this is what real country music sounds like, instead of your sissified pop music bullshit, you fucking hacks.
46 – Uncommon Nasa – New York Telephone
Uncommon Nasa takes us back 15 years to the glory days of Def Jux’s fearlessly experimental roster of rappers and producers.
45 – Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
I’m not a big fan of black metal or Agalloch. That said, I rather like this album. I can’t quite explain why.
44 – Primus – Primus & The Chocolate Factory
It’s the music from (and occasionally inspired by) the classic film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, given the full Primus treatment. It’s weird, dark, twisted, and somehow it just makes sense.
43 – Opeth – Pale Communion
Opeth may be committed to their old-school prog dad-rock style, but at least they’re refining what they’re doing. Pale Communion is closer to Damnation than to Heritage, and that can only be a good thing.
42 – Ripper – Raising The Corpse
Raising The Corpse is quite probably the nastiest, most vicious thrash release of the year.
41 – Allegaeon – Elements Of The Infinite
I have previously been ambivalent toward Allegaeon’s melodic brand of tech-death. Elements Of The Infinite managed to seize my attention and refused to let go.
40 – Busdriver – Perfect Hair
It’s a shame that all of Perfect Hair isn’t as good as ‘Ego Death’, the album’s lead single featuring brilliant guest spots from Aesop Rock and Danny Brown, but Busdriver reasserts himself as one of the most technically gifted, lyrically absurd, musically adventurous rappers out there, and it’s a welcome return to form.
39 – Black Magic – Wizard’s Spell
Wizard’s Spell is a gloriously old-school bit of speed/heavy metal, a love letter to the 80s in a time when that sort of retro-worship has become commonplace, and Black Magic still find ways to make sure that they stand head and shoulders above the crowd.
38 – Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution
Beyond Creation take above-average technical death metal and launch it further into the stratosphere, thanks to the absurd fretless bass talents of Dominic “Forest” Lapointe, whose presence saturates Earthborn Evolution and makes for a stunning, challenging listen.
37 – Ass To Mouth – Degenerate
If you guessed by the name that this was a grindcore album, congratulations, pat yourself on the back. Poland’s Ass To Mouth made some of the year’s best, riffiest, and catchiest deathgrind.
36 – Sage Francis – Copper Gone
Sage Francis returns with his first new full-length in four years, filled to the gills with his slam-poetry lyricism.
35 – Scar Symmetry – The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)
At this point, Scar Symmetry are almost as much a pop band as they are a melodic death metal band, and they’ve never exactly shied away from that, instead embracing that identity and cranking out some of the cheesiest, catchiest songs of the year.
34 – Perturbator – Dangerous Days
“This is Nocturne City. The year is 2088 and you are about to embark on a journey into an urban nightmare.” This is a small part of the description of Dangerous Days, a concept album of vintage 80s synth electro that would have felt right at home as the soundtrack to a Dolph Lundgren film, or something featuring a main character named Rex Phoenix.
33 – Miasmal – Cursed Redeemer
I don’t know if Miasmal would be considered death’n’roll or just riff-driven death metal, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Cursed Redeemer melts faces.
32 – Trent Reznor And Atticus Ross – Gone Girl
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done it again. In scoring their third David Fincher film, they have continued to demonstrate a singular gift for bringing forth a whole host of emotions in some unexpected ways. Gone Girl isn’t as immediately listenable as The Social Network, but more so than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and when the score is combined with the film itself, it takes on a whole new life.
31 – Watsky – All You Can Do
George Watsky may be viewed in some circles as a cornball rapper, and I can see why, but the truth is, he has some absurd skills and writes some brilliant hooks. All You Can Do can be a bit uneven at times, but when it’s good, it’s really, really good.
30 – Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel
Ne Obliviscaris had a tall task, following up their debut album, which featured some of the most beautiful, intricately crafted progressive metal ever made. That they did so in such a triumphant fashion is a testament to their talent and skill.
29 – Dog Fashion Disco – Sweet Nothings
I never thought we would get another Dog Fashion Disco album, after my favorite disciples of Mike Patton split up. Polkadot Cadaver was a solid substitute, but when the band announced not one but TWO new albums (thanks to a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign), I couldn’t help but get excited. While Sweet Nothings doesn’t reach the heights of the band in their prime, the chemistry is still definitely there, and all is right with the world.
28 – Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call
I was not a fan of the throat singing on the previous Tengger Cavalry album that I heard, and on Ancient Call I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had been scaled back. This is easily one of the best folk metal albums of the year, and the fact that it’s Mongolian folk just helps the band stand out from all the other folk metal bands out there.
27 – Sockweb – Werewolf
Sometimes, a gimmick band can still be really good. Case in point: Sockweb, the father/daughter grind band featuring a then 7-year-old girl as a vocalist, who garnered a lot of attention for their gimmick, and then went out and made a damn fine album anyway.
26 – Panopticon – Roads To The North
As good as Kentucky was (and Kentucky was a really, really good album), Roads To The North might be even better. Panopticon’s mix of American folk music and black metal continues to surprise.
25 – Hoth – Oathbreaker
For a melodic black metal band named after the ice planet from Star Wars, it seems almost obvious to make a concept album about Darth Vader, and while the lyrics make no specific mention of anything or anyone from Star Wars, a simple reading of the lyrics makes it quite obvious who the album is about. That the album itself is this beautiful and well-crafted is just an added bonus.
24 – Children Of Technology – Future Decay
Easily the best Italian post-apocalyptic thrashpunk album of the year.
23 – Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum
Anaal Nathrakh continue to deliver the goods while evolving their sound. On Desideratum, the decision to incorporate more electronic elements (by way of UK DJ/Producer Gore Tech) and even some metalcore riffs is an interesting one that undoubtedly may offend some of the longtime fans, but it shows a willingness to experiment that I can appreciate.
22 – Fu Manchu – Gigantoid / Truckfighters – Universe
The more I tried to decide which of these albums I liked better, the more I realized that I couldn’t choose. Both albums are eagerly-awaited returns from fuzz-rock legends, and both albums are worthy additions to each band’s discography. Put these albums on repeat, open your windows, and go for a drive through the desert.
21 – Mortuary Drape – Spiritual Independence
On the subject of eagerly-awaited returns… Mortuary Drape released their first album in ten years, and the result was a perfect return to the eerie atmosphere of their previous work. The audible bass is just as much a driving force as it was on the classic All The Witches Dance, and remains one of my favorite parts of the band’s sound.
20 – P.L.F. – Ultimate Whirlwind Of Incineration
The band known as Pretty Little Flower released one of the most appropriately titled albums of the year, a deathgrind maelstrom of pure destructive force.
19 – Moodie Black – Nausea
Death Grips didn’t invent industrial-influenced noise rap, but they certainly brought it to the forefront of peoples’ minds, and their influence has really begun to seep into the rap scene. Moodie Black may or may not have been directly influenced by Death Grips, but the similarities at times are unavoidable, and that’s okay with me, because Moodie Black puts enough of a spin on the style to differentiate themselves.
18 – Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
After the brilliance of the first Run The Jewels album, the collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike, my anticipation of RTJ2 was at an all-time high. Unfortunately, RTJ2 failed to meet those expectations. That’s not to say that it’s not a great album; after all, it is sitting here at number 18 on my list. But I just didn’t enjoy it as much as its predecessor.
17 – Töxik Death – Speed Metal Hell
Vicious Norwegian speed metal? Yes please!
16 – Gridlink – Longhena
Gridlink’s swan song is grindcore, but like much of Jon Chang’s work, it transcends that simple description and defies labels. Whatever you call it, it’s a brilliant, beautiful, chaotic piece of art.
15 – clipping. – CLPPNG
Another noise rap project that rose to prominence in the last few years, clipping. take a completely different approach thanks to the agile tongue of Daveed Diggs and the harsh noise soundscapes that provide the backbone of these songs. CLPPNG is actually much more accessible that clipping.’s first full-length, and it features a number of brilliantly-made music videos and creative tracks (the incrementing time signatures of ‘Story 2’, the alarm clock beep beat of ‘Get Up’). This is a rap album unlike any other.
14 – Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails
Fallujah was another band where I didn’t buy into the hype. They were simply “okay” in my book, and then I listened to The Flesh Prevails and that opinion changed. I can’t really put my finger on what I like so much about this album, but the layers of melody atop the technical riffs and drumming just appeal to me.
13 – Sabbatory – Endless Asphyxiating Gloom
Of the riff-laden death metal albums released this year that caught my fancy, Sabbatory’s managed to climb to the top of the heap and remain there. Endless Asphyxiating Gloom sounds like it would be a death/doom album if you went off the title alone, but the reality is quite the opposite. Sabbatory’s riff-fest is not to be missed.
12 – Death Grips – The Powers That B (Disc 1) – Niggas On The Moon
After mentioning several noise rap acts in this list, you’d better believe that Death Grips made the list. Part 1 of their reputed swansong The Powers That B was released in true Death Grips fashion, overnight with little fanfare and made available for free, with Part 2 coming sometime soon (hopefully). Niggas On The Moon features vocal contributions from Björk, more or less, in the form of vocal samples that permeate every song, and while this is an odd choice, it’s just another experiment by a group that was really one big experiment to begin with.
11 – MC Frontalot – Question Bedtime
MC Frontalot gets very little of the respect that he deserves because he is considered a nerdcore rapper first and foremost, but his lyrical skill and his way with a hook are unparalleled. Question Bedtime is a concept album, with each track based around bedtime stories from various cultures, and the result is utterly, devastatingly brilliant.
10 – Midnight – No Mercy For Mayhem
No Mercy For Mayhem is Midnight at their sleazy, thrashy, filthy best, and if it were possible to transmit STDs via sound waves I’d probably be on some sort of drug cocktail right now to fight off the raging ear-syphilis this album would have undoubtedly given me from repeat listens.
9 – Rob Sonic – Alice In Thunderdome
The leaked demos for this album managed to make the #6 spot on my list last year, so it’s not really a surprise that the final version should score highly as well. And in truth, while all but one of the songs on the demo made the final version, some of them have changed quite drastically, making the final version of Alice In Thunderdome its own unique experience.
8 – Falconer – Black Moon Rising
I don’t listen to a great deal of power metal, mostly Falconer and Blind Guardian, but when one of those bands releases an album, it’s a major event for me. As such, Black Moon Rising’s release made me a very happy person. It features some of Falconer’s heaviest, fastest material yet, and of course it showcases the vocal talents of Mathias Blad, whose unique voice is what sets Falconer apart.
7 – Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
The early demise of Death From Above 1979, after the release of only a single album and a few EPs/singles, was always lamentable, and so when I discovered that the band had reunited I was ecstatic. The Physical World may not have the edge that You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine had, but it’s an excellent release in its own right.
6 – Bloodshot Dawn – Demons
Bloodshot Dawn’s self-titled debut established them as one of the best melodeath bands out there, and Demons does nothing to change my opinion. It is filled with all the riffs and blazing leads that made the first album great, and it simply further entrenches Bloodshot Dawn as a band to watch.
5 – Ideamen – Schemata
Of the bands in the 2000s who drew influence from Mike Patton’s various works (Dog Fashion Disco, Tub Ring, Retard-O-Bot, Screaming Monkey Boner, among others), the Ideamen were sort of an afterthought for me for a long while. I listened to their debut May You Live In Interesting Times a few times and then sort of forgot about it until earlier this year, when I resurrected it and fell in love. I then found that the Ideamen had a 2014 release and proceeded to fall in love all over again. Ideamen go heavier on melody than most of the bands I listed above, placing them closer to the likes of early Foxy Shazam and later Tub Ring, but the way that they do things is distinctly their own. Schemata is an engrossing, entertaining album from the first piano notes.
4 – Angelspit – The Product
Angelspit’s first release without co-vocalist DestroyX definitely felt like it was missing her iconic presence, and yet somehow I couldn’t stop listening to it. (Reportedly she was on hiatus but will be back for the next album, something that makes me very happy.) It’s every bit as glitchy and angry as their past work, and was an improvement after Hello, My Name Is, which was a bit of a disappointment.
3 – Exmortus – Slave To The Sword
Pure. Fucking. Shred. Exmortus did not hold back on the guitar pyrotechnics on Slave To The Sword, and I’m a sucker for that sort of extravagance, especially when it’s paired with such brilliant songwriting. I’m not entirely sure if Exmortus are melodeath, tech-death, tech-thrash, or some amalgam of all of those, but it ultimately doesn’t matter, because Slave To The Sword is a brilliant album. The band’s cover of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)’ is a personal highlight.
2 – Fartbarf – Dirty Power
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that my heart and mind would be captured by three guys in coveralls and Neanderthal masks playing analog synths and singing through vocoders, I likely would have assumed that you were dabbling in psychedelics. However, that is precisely what happened thanks to the sheer odd genius of Fartbarf’s Dirty Power, where analog synths and vocoders merge with live drums and create a groove unlike anything I’ve ever heard. There was a long stretch of the summer where I simply could not stop listening to this album, and so it is very deserving of its lofty spot.
1 – Hail Mary Mallon – Bestiary
Yes, on a site called No Clean Singing, my top two albums are not actually metal albums. My number one album is a rap album, a collaboration between Aesop Rock and the aforementioned Rob Sonic, who kept quite busy this year. Bestiary is the followup to the amazing Hail Mary Mallon eponymous album, and it further illustrates how well the lyrical and vocal stylings of Messrs. Rock and Sonic are suited to one another. Replace one of these rappers with another, and HMM simply doesn’t work the same. Bestiary is not only the best rap album of the year, it’s my favorite album of the year in any genre, bar none.
Finally, we end with the honorable mentions, albums that I listened to and enjoyed but finished outside of the list proper. These albums are presented in alphabetical order and are all worth your time in some manner.
Aborted – The Necrotic Manifesto
Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Check ’em Before You Wreck ’em
Alchemist – Damnation
Alterbeast – Immortal
Ambush – Firestorm
Amogh Symphony – Vectorscan
Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion
Archspire – The Lucid Collective
Asurim – Deus-Ex Novus
At The Gates – At War With Reality
Barbarian – Faith Extinguisher
Behemoth – The Satanist
Bitch Witch – Too Old Too Punk
Black Anvil – Hail Death
Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
Bloody Hammers – Under Satan’s Sun
Boy Hits Car – All That Led Us Here
Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
Cognizance – Cognizance
Columns – Please Explode
Conquering Dystopia – Conquering Dystopia
Cormorant – Earth Diver
Crucifyre – Black Magic Fire
Cultfinder – Hell’s Teeth
Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us
Dead Congregation – Promulgation Of The Fall
Decapitated – Blood Mantra
Destrage – Are You Kidding Me No
Devin Townsend Project – Z²
Diocletian – Gesundrian
Disinterred – Incantation
Dungortheb – Extracting Souls
Electrocution – Metaphysincarnation
Eluveitie – Origins
Ewig Frost – Dirty Tales
Exordium Mors – The Apotheosis Of Death
Exxxekutioner – Fear The Priest
Fuck The Facts – Abandoned
Giant Of The Mountain – Moon Worship
Goatwhore – Constricting Rage Of The Merciless
Hail Spirit Noir – Oi Magoi
Horrendous – Ecdysis
Hour Of Penance – Regicide
Human Cull – Stillborn Nation
Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon
Inferi – The Path Of Apotheosis
Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun
Internal Rot – Mental Hygiene
Iron Reagan – The Tyranny Of Will
Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater
K.Flay – Life As A Dog
Keitzer – The Last Defence
KMFDM – Our Time Will Come
Knife Party – Abandon Ship
Leander Rising – Öngyötrő
Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang – Four Foot Shack
Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
Martyrdöd – Elddop
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – Are We Not Men We Are Diva!
Milo – A Toothpaste Suburb
Misery Index – The Killing Gods
Morbus Chron – Sweven
Mordbrand – Imago
Nausea – Condemned To The System
Nine Treasures – Nine Treasures
NoCanDo – Jimmy The Burnout
Nuclearhammer – Serpentine Hermetic Lucifer
NYN – Eventuality
Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss
Origin – Omnipresent
Portrait – Crossroads
Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Question – Doomed Passages
Reactory – High On Radiation
Revocation – Deathless
Ribspreader – Meathymns
Rigor Mortis – Slaves To The Grave
Rodrigo y Gabriela – 9 Dead Alive
Rort – Warpath
Rude – Soul Recall
Sabaton – Heroes
Saccage – Vorace
Satanika – Nightmare
Septicflesh – Titan
Serdce – Timelessness
Six Brew Bantha – Intravenously Commodified
Skeletal Augury – Bless Of Destroyed, Raped, Dismembered Flesh
Skindred – Kill The Power
Soen – Tellurian
Son Of Aurelius – Under A Western Sun
Soreption – Engineering The Void
Step Brothers – Lord Steppington
Striker – City Of Gold
Teitanblood – Death
The Algorithm – Octopus4
The Kennedy Veil – Trinity Of Falsehood
TrenchRot – Necronomic Warfare
TrollfesT – Kaptein Kaos
Under The Church – Under The Church
Vader – Tibi Et Igni
Vampire – Vampire
Vanhelgd – Relics Of Sulphur Salvation
Whispered – Shogunate Macabre
White Empress – White Empress
Witchaven – Blood Sacrifice
Wretched – Cannibal
ZOM – Flesh Assimilation