I already mentioned whilst writing my list of my favourite 25 albums of 2014 that I’ve taken to extending my list of favourite albums of each year since 2010 because there’s just so much amazing stuff out there lately. The truth is I could easily make a top 50 these days without breaking a sweat, but if I started doing that, it would (a) take me ages to write and (b) you’d fracture your wrists and/or bust your mouse’s scroll wheels scrolling down it. So here are more fabulous records that didn’t make my top 25, all of which are more than deserving of your attention, with direct links to places you can buy ’em direct from the bands where possible…
There were plenty of great metal records this year. Judging from the best of 2014 lists published elsewhere, one I absolutely have to mention is Behemoth‘s The Satanist, a truly amazing record that might well have broken into my top 25 – and indeed was in the list for some time, until later releases forced it down the pecking order. A blistering assault on the senses – and the emotions, because this one has real heart – metal fans should run out and pick it up now. Other great metal records included The Great Old One‘s icily menacing and atmospheric re-telling of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness, Tekeli-Li; Lacuna Coil‘s reliably great Broken Crown Halo; Mayan‘s elaborate Antagonise, a gnarly and articulate protest at governmental erosion of personal freedoms; UK symphonic metallers Winter In Eden‘s superb Court Of Conscience; Cormorant‘s scabrous progressive black metal opus Earth Diver; Witch Charmer‘s epic Sabbath-quoting doom masterpiece The Great Depression (seriously, if you like your Sabbath, you should get yourself over to their Bandcamp page now and pick it up); Arch Enemy‘s triumphant return with new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, War Eternal; Amaranthe‘s slick and appropriately titled hybrid of of metal and European dance music, Massive Addictive; Soen‘s progressive metal hybrid Tellurian; and Devin Townsend‘s dazzling Z2, an album that would collapse into a black hole if it was any denser or more full of ideas. A wild card entry here too, for Xandria‘s imitative but polished and beautifully performed Sacrificium – it may sound very much like Nightwish‘s Once, almost to the point of parody, but it’s a polished effort that shows some real development.
On the prog and rock front, 2014 saw no end of great releases. Amplifier returned with their heads-down, no-nonsense Mystoria; hugely inventive guitarist Matt Stevens turned in his best work to date with the hypnotic Lucid; 2:54 turned in the heavily-layered, mesmerising The Other I; Devin Townsend served up an unexpected treat with his richly atmospheric country and Americana-tinged Casualties Of Cool album; Alcest delivered Shelter, a modern shoegaze classic; Se Delan delivered a stunning debut album of gothic Americana in the shape of The Fall; Primus made a welcome return with a bonkers but brilliant re-telling of a Roald Dahl classic, Primus & The Chocolate Factory (trust me, it’s even more insane than you might imagine); veterans Yes made a welcome return with the controversial Heaven & Earth (I loved it; Close To The Edge it ain’t, but it is unmistakably Yes in both sound and content); Warpaint served up a winner with their self-titled second album; and Mike Oldfield released Man On The Rocks, a chilled-out, thoughtful but sun-dappled album that seems to demonstrate that the Tubular Bells legend has finally found the peace he deserves and that his muse is none the worse for it.
There are plenty more, of course. Lykke Li‘s snow-frosted paens to lost love and loneliness I Never Learn; Mogwai‘s positively hallucinogenic Rave Tapes; Tori Amos‘ more piano/vocal-based Unrepentant Geraldines, all the more powerful for being largely stripped back from band arrangements; and the Brian Eno/Karl Hyde collaboration High Life, which picks up the baton from their previous album Someday World and continues to demonstrate the magic of one of the best collaborations of recent years.
As always, this is basically just scratching the surface. I have no doubt that I’ll find plenty more 2014 releases to admire in the fullness of time, as always happens. But as First World Problems go, it’s a nice one to have. If you’re going to give any of these a try, enjoy; if I’ve missed out a favourite or two, feel free to leave me a comment so I can check them out.
Happy listening, everyone. Here’s hoping 2015 is as good to our ears as 2014 has been!