Son-of-Aurelius-Under-a-Western-Sun-620x62030) Son of Aurelius – Under a Western Sun

This album was admittedly a latecomer to my year-end list, but once I “got” it, it ended up becoming one of my favorite albums of the year. Son of Aurelius are one of the most adept and exciting technical/melodic death metal bands on the scene, and Under A Western Sun is a gosh darn masterpiece. Sure, it’s a little on the longer side, clocking in at just over 70 minutes, but since when was more music a bad thing, especially if it’s THIS good? Similar to Allegaeon, who appeared earlier on this list, Son of Aurelius have a classical music element in their compositions that’s simply irresistible, and Under A Western Sun is a testament to their complete and utter mastery of their craft. (Aaron Lambert)

 [bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1951003410 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=333333 tracklist=false artwork=small]

decapitatedbloodmantra29) Decapitated – Blood Mantra

Decapitated are one of death metal’s greatest mainstays, and they are as legendary as they are excellent. The band’s motto has become “From Pain to Strength”, and in spite of the many hardships they’ve faced over the years as a band, Decapitated mastermind Vogg has remained vigilant is still churning out some of the greatest and grooviest death metal can buy. Blood Mantra is no different, as it features Vogg’s most focused and streamlined songwriting to date. If you like your death metal to cause whiplash as much as you like it to shake ya ass, then Blood Mantra is the album for you. Check out the title track if you want to know what I’m talking about. (Aaron Lambert)

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/nuclearblastrecords/decapitated-the-blasphemous-psalm-to-the-dummy-god-creation[/soundcloud]

revocation deathless28) Revocation – Deathless

Another year, another stellar release by Boston death/thrashers Revocation. Their fourth new outing in as many years, Deathless also holds a special place as the band’s first album on Metal Blade Records. By now we’ve come to know exactly what to expect from Dave Davidson and co, which Deathless delivers in spades, but that doesn’t leave it without its unique merits and identity. Slight improvements are present on all fronts – the production is crisper, the playing is tighter, and the songwriting is more refined. The album also takes a turn for the darker, as hinted by its ominous cover art, and actually reminds me of debut LP Empire Of The Obscene more than anything. It’s bewildering then, how the songs on display here are some of the band’s heaviest and most pummeling material yet, while remaining as some of their catchiest. Dave’s vocals in particular sound gnarlier than ever, resulting in perhaps his best performance to date. For these reasons and more, it’s easy to see why Revocation are one of modern metal’s most exciting and talented bands, and Deathless only further solidifies that claim. (David Aleksov)

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/metalbladerecords/revocation-deathless/[/soundcloud]

 

thou-heathen27) Thou – Heathen

Heathen is the most sonically massive and daunting album since Cult of Luna’s Vertikal. It towers above you like some massive pillar of blackened sludge metal, enticing you, daring you forward. And you cannot resist. Heathen is as suffocating as it is liberating, and the band drags you headfirst into the deepest darkness before you’re thrust back, ever so briefly, into the warm, beautiful light. The only other records that even come close this kind of emotional rollercoaster this year are Inter Arma’s The Cavern and Mono’s The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness, and Thou have written an album that blends the two extremes even more cohesively than the aforementioned acts. Heathen is another masterpiece from a criminally underrated band that deserve even more recognition than they’ve already received. Let the towering presence of Heathen drown you in darkness and light. It’s worth the ride. (Colin Kauffman)

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=494687384 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14 tracklist=false artwork=small]

 

panopticon roads to the north26) Panopticon – Roads to the North

To the surprise of pretty much everyone, one-man black metal project Panopticon demonstrated that black metal and bluegrass actually work quite well together with the released the breakout 2012 album Kentucky. After the initial shock of the novelty wears off, it begins to make more sense; black metal and European folk music have gone hand in hand for decades, so why has it taken this long for someone to meld the genre with American folk? The follow-up in this year’s Roads to the North was just as potent, further expanding the Panopticon playbook to include melodic death metal and further elaboration on the act’s post-rock influences. What really sells this record is the fact that it’s all done in earnest. Roads to the North feels like an epic that is unafraid of branching out, not some ADD-addled collection of vignettes. Panopticon is perhaps one of the most important modern acts when it comes to the furtherance of black metal, and hopefully the trend continues. (Jimmy Rowe)

 [bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3456041268 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=63b2cc tracklist=false artwork=small]

Check back tomorrow for the second half of our Top 50 list, feel free to voice your inevitable displeasure below, though remember: it’s okay to not like thing.

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