Let’s keep it brief, okay folks? This is the second part of our Top 50, Album of the Year list. At the end, you’ll find our Top 10, while tomorrow we’ll have individual staff members’ top 10 lists and our Outliers section: albums that were placed on individual top 10’s but didn’t make the Top 50 list.
The albums you’ll find here were ones that had broad consensus among our large group of staff writers and editors as truly excellent representations of the worlds of metal and other heavy music this year. No doubt you’ll find things to quibble with, but we’re proud of this list and the entries therein.
If you haven’t yet, check out Part I of this list, listing numbers 50 to 26. Alright, OK, no more words. Let’s get to it!
25) Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool
The drug-free, post-SYL career of Devin Townsend is sometimes difficult for old school fans to swallow. He’s more prolific than ever, stretching himself so thin that a lot of his output in the past few years comes off as slightly derivative (Epicloud from Addicted, Sky Blue from Epicloud). All of them are great albums no doubt, but one thing Devin is best at is creating an entirely new musical landscape from the ground up; a separate world unto itself i.e.- Ocean Machine, Terria, Ki, and now Casualties of Cool. He has professed in interviews that this is the most honest and up-to-date representation of his musical self, and the result is one of subtle, brooding, and beautiful mystery. Casualties of Cool is the aural equivalent of being deserted on a random moon in space, which is exactly what he was going for given the concept. “Haunted Johnny Cash songs” is a fitting description, with renowned sticksman Morgan Agren propelling many of the tracks forward with a country shuffle. Che Dorval returns from Ki as the mysterious “voice” in the radio that lures the traveler to the sentient planet described in the concept. Casualties of Cool is the perfect album for a brisk, slightly windy spring or summer night in solitude. (Dan Wieten)
24) Inter Arma – The Cavern
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of doom, sludge and all their myriad meeting points and this year has been great for that. The Doom Revival™ has brought us some truly astonishing albums this year and many of them are on this list. But the best one is by far Inter Arma’s The Cavern. It blends all the different styles found within the larger genre with such grace it sometimes sounds as if three or four bands are playing on this record. Faster sludge-rock a la Mastodon, slower, older stuff that echo YOB and violin and vocal passages to break the heart with longing and sadness. It’s important to also recognize the amazing guest appearences this album enjoys and wields so effectively; from Meg Mulhearn (Divine Circles) on the violin to Dorthia Cottrell (Windhand) in an amazing vocal passage, this album utilizes every inch of talent it has been graciously given and wields it to precise effect. Now, with the length of a month or so from its release, I can also say that it only grows more powerful with time. Like a map of a land you’re not familiar with or a massive Renaissance painting, there are levels and layers to this album which can have you gazing into it for hours. And when you gaze long enough into the feedback, sometimes the feedback gazes back at you. This is a communicative album like no other, containing a message for just about anyone. (Eden Kupermintz)
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23) Intervals – A Voice Within
With the proliferation of djent in the metal scene, it’s often easy to disregard or even completely write off bands that jump at the chance to carry a “gimmick” outside of the proliferated pursuance of palm mutes. Intervals began life as an instrumental outfit full of furious fretting and gaggles of grooves, but evolved into something greater when Mike Semesky stepped out from behind the bass and made the transition to vocals. This dynamic took the band into the stratosphere, adding a brand new element with which to garnish the already present hooks. Semesky’s vocals were a delectable complement to the superb riffing that both Aaron Marshall and Lukas Guyader brought, as well as the rhythmic pounding of Anup Sastry’s drumset. From the headbanging onslaught in ‘Ephemeral‘ to the somber outro of the title track, A Voice Within is a landmark for the scene in 2014. (Kyle Gaddo)
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22) A Sense of Gravity – Travail
Early in this year I was sent Travail by fellow writer and editor (and artist earlier on this list), Noyan. His description mentioned Between the Buried and Me and was pretty enthusiastic so I thought I knew what was waiting for me. Boy, was I wrong. From start to finish, Travail is what progressive metal always should have been: fresh, exciting and always changing. No song on this album sounds the same and the sheer amount of influences one could cite here are absurd. However, due to a common voice and a very solid sense of identity, A Sense of Gravity have managed to pull all the disparate parts into one whole. And that whole is fantastic. Beyond the impressive technical skills displayed by all members of the band (and they are impressive indeed) this album is simply sincere and carries across the digital media with an astonishing impact. Lastly, it’s replayability value is immense: a lot of these prog creations get tired after several plays, as the veneer and flash of technical skill fades away. Not so here for a special core and heart lie at the base of this album, and it’s a joy to discover it each time, again and again. (Eden Kupermintz)
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21) Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
When you’ve been kickin’ for as long as metalcore vets Every Time I Die have been, the task of creating an album capable of surprising can undoubtedly become daunting. Admittedly, I went into my first listen to their seventh full-length, From Parts Unknown, a little jaded, expecting more of the same southern rock-infused metalcore sound that has become unmistakably their own over the past decade and a half. Not to say that’s a bad thing. Rather, I simply did not expect to be surprised by this release. By the end of my first listen, however, to say I was surprised would be an understatement. With From Parts Unknown, ETID solicits a sound more characteristic of their earlier works (dare I say Hot Damn!?) featuring a raucous intensity that, though not completely lacking from recent releases, was noticeably scaled back, and that I didn’t entirely realize I’d missed until this album hit me like a tonne of bricks. Perhaps it was a fresh perspective provided courtesy of Converge’s Kurt Ballou, who was enlisted for production duties on this album, that inspired this reversion. Perhaps it was a simple desire to return to their roots. Whatever the reason, From Parts Unknown comes as a breath of fresh air. From the moment Keith Buckley unleashes a guttural “blow your fucking brains out” just seconds into the opener, this album rages forth and never looks back. Though From Parts Unknown clocks in at just thirty-two minutes, it is thirty-two minutes of relentlessness featuring some of the most memorable music moments of 2014. (Elizabeth Wood)