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Articles : Samuel Maher’s Best Albums of 2014

By on January 15, 2015

How to write a “Best of” end-of-year article:

Step 1: Say how great this year was, even though it was probably about the same as any other year

Step 2: Say how it was soooo difficult to cut your list down to just 10 albums. In fact, most people ignore that one basic stipulation of a Top 10 list and include as many albums as they want, so go ahead, don’t even worry about that number in your title.

Step 3: Include at least one cop-out “Honourable Mention” because your lazy arse couldn’t be bothered figuring out just ten albums.

Step 4: Once you have your cop-outs out of the way, proceed to talk about your favourite 10 albums of a given year in the most boring, uninteresting way you can possibly manage, just to make sure nobody ever actually wants to listen to those albums.

I’ve included my own list below, just for example’s sake. Try your best not to enjoy.

Honourable Mention: Album of 2015

arcaneArcaneKnown/Learned

Spoiler alert: album #1 on my list in 12 months’ time will be this piece of aural intercourse. Although not technically being released until 2015, anyone with an advance copy will be able to tell you this is the most heart-stopping, spine-tingling way you can spend two of your hours next year. But please—don’t take my word for it.

Ok, enough cop-outs, here’s 10 albums that didn’t make me want to defenestrate my CD collection this year.

hadalmaw10) Hadal MawSenium

According to Wikipedia, Blessed Be Its Name, the heaviest thing in the universe is the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall. Now, being a mere mortal, I am always hesitant to question the unfailing acumen of the great human wisdom collective, but unfortunately I am forced to say that in this case the source of all unfailing erudition is wrong. Hadal Maw is the heaviest thing in the universe. Anyone who disagrees has clearly not clicked the little hyperlinked words just below nor seen the human Her-CrB-GW live. You should rectify both of those things.

Recommended track: Altar of Ire

Lugal_ki_en9) Rings of SaturnLugal Ki En

I think my favourite thing about this album is the intro to “Godless Times” which is literally a Guitar Pro midi track, just to troll their haters. Any band that includes an aural middle finger to the tabloid schlemiels at metalsucks.net gets a big thumbs up from me. This band will always be known for the inhuman technical insanity of their music (and the usual whining about it being fake) but I think Rings of Saturn have actually taken a big step forward with this album. Lugal Ki En actually has groove! And melody! And a roided-up Phil Bozeman on vocals! It’s all rather quaint.

Recommended track: Natural Selection

dcdadd0efadd0ec4ddc796a24e5e40a08) FallujahThe Flesh Prevails

When I was in the studio earlier this year, I joked to our producer that we should re-amp all of the guitars with reverby-lead tones and call it a day. He looked over to me and just said “So, you want to be Fallujah?”. And it’s so true. I have never heard atmospheric death metal done like this before. The whole album is soaked in thick, echoing atmospheric leads while Decapitated-style riffs and drumming pound underneath. Depending on what you choose to focus on, the album can be either relaxing or ferocious. Appreciating all of it at once is kind feels a little bit like being lulled to sleep by a machine gun. Wielded by Jesus. During a cyclone. In the middle of the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall. Whilst laughing at lame callback humour.

Recommended track: Sapphire

a2840060758_27) Glass OceanGlass Ocean

This here is what we call the obligatory non-metal entry to the list. Glass Ocean share the immersive atmospheric guitar work of Fallujah but instead of blending that with death metal, it is accompanied all sorts of blues, soul, and other genres more likely to get you laid. As gorgeous as the music is though, it is the seductive voice of Tobias Atkins that really makes this EP shine; as rich and emotive as it is dynamic and varied, it’s easily the best vocal performance of the year. On a side note, if someone could let the band know that they should really make it possible for people to exchange currency for this EP that would be great. Never thought I’d say that about a band in 2014, but there you go.

Recommended track: Alchemy

0002750992_106) AnubisHitchhiking to Byzantium

Ok, I lied. Here’s another non-metal album. Welcome to metalobsession.net! I’ve been a big fan of Anubis for a while but I’ve always felt that their songs were somewhat hit-and-miss. With Hitchhiking to Byzantium (which is about seven syllables too long) they have really hit the nail on the head. Even at a whopping 72 minutes, every song is packed full of prog-rock deliciousness. The lead guitar work on the album is worthy of special mention, with some of the solos easily being up there with some of David Gilmour’s best. As weird as it feels, Anubis are on this list and the new Pink Floyd is not. I regret nothing, but I think we should move on before I get assaulted by 70s prog fans.

Recommended track: Silent Wandering Ghosts

a1884807404_105) Hannes GrossmanThe Radial Covenant

I was absolutely devastated in the middle of this year when Hannes Grossman and Christian Muenzner left Obscura, but thankfully they both made up for it with some excellent solo albums. If you like some seriously tasteful serious shred you should definitely check out Christian’s sophomore album Beyond the Wall of Sleep, but Hannes’ debut is where the real money is at. It’s pretty clear listening to this that Hannes is responsible for many of the crazier, more progressive songs in Obscura‘s catalogue as this is exactly the style of insanity that permeates The Radial Covenant. If this is the sort of music to expect from Hannes and Christian’s new band Alkaloid then I think we already have the album of 2015. Wait, have I already given that out? Dammit, I need to stop getting ahead of myself.

Recommended track: Aeon Illuminate

a2276940674_104) Destiny PotatoLUN

If you are looking for something different to whet your musical appetite, it’s pretty difficult to go past a band with a name like that. Now, let me make something clear before we go any further: I despise pop “music”. I don’t care which decade it is from, pop is invariably a pathetic, vacuous, ignominious caricature of real music. Pop and metal in particular has never been a particularly successful mixture…until now. Pop-infused prog metal is apparently now a thing, in the form of Serbia’s Destiny Potato and I could not be more surprised at how addictive it is. Apparently when you combine one hell of a guitarist/composer and an incredible singer you get good music. What are the odds?

Recommended track: Walls of Thoughts

a4133913609_103) SERDCETimelessness

What happens when you combine Cynic, Athiest, Unexpect, and some sick album art? I have no idea, but the result must sound something like SERDCE. What might at first remind you of a terrifying blonde with a sexual relationship with her brother is in fact a vichyssoise of smooth fretless bass, weird lilting keys, sexophone, melodious clean vocals and old-school death metal. These disparate elements come together to form a truly bizarre sound that is, somewhat Unexpectedly, one of my favourite discoveries of this year.

Recommended track: Quasar

The_Quantum_Enigma_(2014)_-_Epica2) EpicaThe Quantum Enigma

Come on home
And I’ll sing you the song that has painted your canvas of life.

I have given this band praise-filled reviews twice in the past and have always managed to avoid using the word “epic”. Obvious puns are just no fun at all, so let’s try to avoid them once again. Now, as stunning as Epica‘s past catalogue is, I was really not expecting them to completely blow the rest of the metal world out of the water with their new album but that is exactly what they did. The Quantum Enigma is absolutely massive: vocally, symphonically, compositionally, rhythmically, lyrically, bombastically, and otherwordsendinginlly. Look, it’s fucking epic. Bite me.

Recommended tracks: Canvas of Life, The Quantum Enigma (Kingdom of Heaven part II)

NeObliviscaris21) Ne ObliviscarisCitadel

I fell in love with NeO’s debut Portal of I almost instantly and to this day it remains (possibly) my favourite album of all time. The follow-up had a huge standard to live up to but it certainly reached that standard with flying, colliding colours. Citadel is a noticeably different beast to its predecessor but is just as jaw-dropping and every bit as enthralling. It took me a little while to figure out the difference between the two albums, but I think I have finally put my finger on it. Portal of I is beauty disguising complexity; it is gorgeous and rapturous, but if you listen long enough you start to appreciate just how skilled the delivery is. Citadel, on the other hand, is complexity disguising beauty; on the surface it is astoundingly complex, both technically and compositionally, but the more you listen to it the more you notice the artistry and feeling woven throughout. I have listened to this album more than any other this year and I still feel that I am only just scratching the surface of what this masterpiece has to offer.

Scent of the earth

Touch of the light

Here, where colours collide

This blackhole ignites

My world in bloom

Recommended track: Devour Me, Colossus

About

Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.