20) Behemoth – The Satanist
Even when we heard that Nergal had won his battle with cancer and would be going back to making music, I was sure that Behemoth would never be the same again. The only question was, how different it would be? The band has always been his vehicle for channeling his emotions, and The Satanist is his response: He is angry and he is reborn. With this album they’ve put a new spin on their sound that they have been long teasing at, the black metal sound has finally completely merged with the death metal and it’s impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. This is perhaps a feature of 2014: albums that we expected to be somewhat strong but came out monolithic in power. The Satanist is nothing more than the culmination of Behemoth’s career, sinking two hands deep into their roots and tearing out the bowels of what made them so successful for so many years. The end result? A thrill ride of death metal riffs, black metal backbone and a whole lot of power, grace and, of course, the dark lord himself. Hail Satan. (Noyan Tokgozoglu)
19) Architects – Lost Forever // Lost Together
I had fallen out of love with Architects with the release of The Here And Now and put them even further into the naughty corner with Daybreaker. Both albums could not hold a candle next to the impeccable Hollow Crown for me, and I had written them off altogether until this year. Lost Forever//Lost Together has the Brits back to their beautiful, brilliant best. The cleans, gang vocals and positive messages are still here but there is a far more mature edge to tracks like ‘C.A.N.C.E.R’ and ‘Colony Collapse’. I am a sucker for huge sounding choruses which grow like that warm feeling you start to feel when you begin tucking into a delicious yet devilish dessert. At first you’re going to feel guilty for enjoying it but it won’t take long for that feeling to subside, leaving all of the glorious melodic metalcore in this album to be devoured sans gluttony.
Not since ‘Follow The Water’ and ‘Early Grave’ have Architects combined mosh and melody together to create the uplifting and riotous sound that has seen them playing on some of the biggest bills of the year. Lost Forever//Lost Together is the culmination of experimentation, hard work and a touring schedule that borders on masochistic. A giant leap forward for the boys from Brighton. You have my vote again lads. (Matt MacLennan)
18) Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
I love pretty much everything Cannibal Corpse have released. Even some of their more recent material still gets a spin now and again in Chez MacLennan. When lucky number thirteen, A Skeletal Domain dropped into our grubby laps however, the long haired, bass playing teenager that lies dormant within me got to freak out and join the world again for a short time. I was playing the air bass and tapping double bass patterns on the train to and from work for weeks upon hearing this for the first time. The death metal heavyweights have not done anything here which would have critics turn up their nose, except maybe in Russia, as this is death metal at its purest. Every juddering bass note and every burst of powerful kick drum hits is precisely where they should be, making instant Corpse classics, i.e. ‘Kill Or Become’ and ‘High Velocity Impact Spatter’. Stellar performances from Corpsegrinder and my personal death metal hero Alex Webster are brought to life (death) by an exemplary job in the studio, produced to a precise, stabbing point by Mark Lewis. A Skeletal Domain is the finest Corpse album in some time and I am probably just being greedy when I say that I just want even more. (Matt MacLennan)
17) Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
If you had told me that Max Cavalera, in all his redundancy with Cavalera Conspiracy, was putting together a supergroup, the eye roll that followed may have knocked you and I both unconscious. However, when you get Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta) involved, the miniscule glimmer of hope suddenly becomes a glorious and iridescent beam of light. Filled with the bouncy rhythms that Cavalera Conspiracy is known for, but adding in elements from both The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon take what would otherwise be an incredibly formulaic project and turns it into something really special. Underlaid by Elitch’s superb drumming, the entire album is littered with superb tracks, ranging from blisteringly aggressive to surprisingly melodic. (Kyle Gaddo)
16) Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion
In the five years since Animals as Leaders’ debut, their niche in the progressive metal genre has faced an overabundance of talented shredders in their bedrooms, painstakingly putting together instrumental music that likely would have been considered complex beyond comprehension for the once relatively sparse genre not more than a decade ago. But Tosin Abasi and company continue to lead the pack with The Joy of Motion, pushing forward with a sound that is unmistakably theirs yet expanding the boundaries of eight string guitar-based sound with unbridled experimentation. Tracks such as the jazzy ‘Air Chrysalis’ and the lovely (if incredibly fast-paced) nylon-stringed guitar piece that is ‘Para Mexer’ provide as much fare for absolute guitar diehards as they do for casual listeners; their complexity plainly apparent, yet restrained enough to still remain within the boundaries of good taste as instrumental music goes in this day and age.
Where The Joy of Motion really succeeds, however, is where the band decides to push into darker territory: ‘Lippincott’ is an exercise in dark augmented riffs and quiet atmospheres, ‘Crescent’ unrelentingly roars ahead for most of its duration (a glimmering fingerstyle sequence halfway through being the only solace from the seemingly incessant riffage) while ‘Mind-Spun’ is more or less an ineffable season in hell and back. I’m not going to pretend that my favourite record of theirs still isn’t the electronically tinged Weightless, but there’s no denying Animals as Leaders have well and truly hit their stride with this record. (Ahmed Hasan)