The HMO Top Albums of 2014

2014

Welcome to the inaugural HMO best albums of 2014 list! At the beginning of the year I read a great article by Keith Kahn-Harris on the challenges of musical abundance in the world of Metal. It proved prophetic as 2014 seemed to be absolutely overflowing with highly-rated Metal releases. Even with my attempts to limit my music-buying I found it difficult to whittle my favourites down to a Top 10. There were many albums I enjoyed that narrowly failed to make the cut (particular apologies to Dead Congregation, Winterfylleth, Vallenfyre, Judas Priest and Space Ace).

I concede that it was a good and plentiful year for music but I did feel that in comparison to the stellar 2013, much of what I was hearing was a little disappointing. But, as with 2013, I found the latter stages of the year produced the best releases and I’m now feeling much more positive about the year and its musical output. And, despite the tough decisions, I had a brilliant time figuring out my list: it was a really enjoyable way to review and re-evaluate my purchases. I found myself enjoying albums I’d written off and also finding I now had no time for some that I previously enjoyed. But, in either case, the process made it feel like none of my musical purchases had been a waste.

So without further ado, let the run-down commence! And, as always, please chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

THE HMO TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014

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NUMBER TEN: Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral

Teaser photos of a red telephone box and a beard signified the unexpected return of Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes – sorry, Old Nick – to guttural Death Metal vocals when he joined Bloodbath this year. It’s deeply satisfying to hear him pulling off this type of vocal performance after all these years and Bloodbath responded with a celebratory blast of an album. Following this and PL’s Gregor MacKintosh’s excellent DM forays with Vallenfyre, it’ll be very interesting to see where Paradise Lost go from here.

[Bloodbath – Church of Vastitas]

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NUMBER NINE: The Scintilla Project – The Hybrid

A sci-fi concept album and collaborative project involving Saxon’s Biff Byford, Hell’s Andy Sneap and some guys from Balance of Power (who, I have to admit, I’ve never heard). It has a Progressive Metal vibe but based around catchy, melodic songs and riffs. This is a great set of moody Heavy Rock with spacey sounds and lively lead guitar. It’s especially great to hear Biff singing over a different musical approach to Saxon and I have even more respect for him after hearing his charismatic and dynamic performance here.

[The Scintilla Project – Beware the Children]

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NUMBER EIGHT: Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

Even as a relative newcomer to the band’s post-Mysteriis career I have learned to expect the unexpected with these guys. And on their fifth full-length release the last thing I was expecting was a lesson in straight-up Extreme Metal. While this approach could have proved disappointing I found it refreshing and the strength of Esoteric Warfare is in the delivery, an abhorrent maelstrom topped with Atilla Csihar’s remarkable vocal weirdness. But basically I love any album where the word “conquer” is pronounced “conkwer.”

[Mayhem – Psywar]

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NUMBER SEVEN: The Wounded Kings – Consolamentum

Another big year for Doom Metal, especially if it’s retro, occult-themed and female fronted. Kudos to Devonshire’s retro, occult-themed and female-fronted doomsters The Wounded Kings for coming out ahead of the pack with this confident and impressive release. Cathedral-grade heaviness, adventurous song-structures, expert pacing and Sharie Neyland’s moreish wailing make this my Doom pick of the year and a band to watch.

[The Wounded Kings – Lost Bride]

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NUMBER SIX: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

Tom G. Warrior returns with yet another “fierce boulder of abhorrence” improving and sharpening the style already established with their excellent debut Eparistera Daimones. Melana Chasmata proves that Tom is still a unique musical personality at the top of his monumentally heavy game. Sadly, the renowned artist H.R. Giger passed away not long after its release. Triptykon’s dark, musical art and the stylish use of Giger’s “Mordor VII” as the album’s artwork is a fitting tribute.

[Triptykon – Tree of Suffocating Souls]

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NUMBER FIVE: Sólstafir – Ótta

These Icelandic rockers were one of my most exciting discoveries this year. This dense, lush album hit the spots that Anathema’s disappointing Distant Satellites failed to. It’s all in Icelandic but I’m told that it’s a concept album about the different parts of the day which puts it in the same wheelhouse as the awesome Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. As elegant, stormy and elemental as the excellent album cover suggests.

[Sólstafir – Lágnætti]

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NUMBER FOUR: Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

An album that crept up in my appreciation as the year progressed! I was initially a bit underwhelmed by its mild-mannered delivery but as the year wore on it proved remarkably resilient: charming warrior Metal that proved to be right up my Manowar-loving street. Strong songwriting, JB’s confident and personable vocals and the earnest sword and sorcery vibe make this the best traditional Heavy Metal album of the year. But if they want to raid the ultimate top prize in future they’re going to have to get a bit more bloodthirsty.

[Grand Magus – Steel Versus Steel]

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NUMBER THREE: Behemoth – The Satanist

Despite being one of the first major Metal releases of the year Behemoth’s The Satanist is still enjoying a high profile and appearing on many end-of-year lists. And its reception has been well-deserved: it’s a startling statement of intent by a band coming back strong from life-threatening illness and enough controversy to scare off Blackie Lawless. A deeply personal and fully realized vision, performed with heart and conviction and enhanced with fantastic production and artwork, The Satanist is an unholy monument to blasphemy and defiance.

[Behemoth – Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel]

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NUMBER TWO: Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

With their eighth album I wondered if Ireland’s Primordial might begin to sink into a comfortable groove of diminishing returns. But full credit to the band for still having the will to excel, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a stunning release. In addition to the rolling and beefy Pagan riffs there is a welcome Freezing Moon-style Black Metal atmosphere in Babel’s Tower and the band unleash some primitive savagery on The Seed of Tyrants. A. A. Nemtheanga also continues to be one of Metal’s most compelling and intelligent vocalists and lyricists, expressing a wide range of emotions and enigmatic material bound up in the weight and struggles of history.

[Primordial – Babel’s Tower]

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NUMBER ONE: Voices – London

The only band on my list to have also released an album last year (the excellently-titled From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain) Voices return with their even-better sophomore album London. A rich and harrowing concept album set in the titular city it chronicles a character’s descent into madness, jealousy and sexual obsession. Whereas much Black Metal seems to aim for the ancient and/or the rural, the music here is an entirely urban modern hell: claustrophobic and crowded. Pulverising, mechanistic assaults jolt into tranquil, proggy sections and intriguing narrative passages. It’s a genuinely unhinged masterpiece and a magical, cinematic album that has enthralled me with each listen.

[Voices – The Fuck Trance]

The podium!
The podium!
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65 thoughts on “The HMO Top Albums of 2014”

  1. HMO is first outta the gates with a Best Of The Year list! Attaboy! You are our conkwerer!

    I’m with Dekester on this one, holy crap man that’s some serious, paint-stripping, soul-sucking, demon-baiting music right there. In other words, right up our HMO’s alley!

    You know what I see in this post, Scott? Your next year’s way of writing reviews. You have a pic, a track, and a paragraph that sums up your thoughts on records. Post one of these once a week, with however many records you’ve heard, and you’re really onto something! I think the KMA would benefit from such clear thinking, come to think of it. Cool stuff.

    Also congrats to your winner, Voices, for writing a song entitled The Fuck Trance.

    Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers A! You might have a point about the review style. We’ll see what happens.

      I’d say any album with a song called The Fuck Trance deserves to be on every self-respecting end-of-year list surely? It turns out its not out in the US until January so maybe it’ll be on plenty of lists next year too!

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    1. Thank you very much Rich. Appreciate it. Looking forward to reading your exhaustive end of year post(s). I always get a lot out of them. I recommend the Solstafir, I’m 100% certain that will be your kind of thing. All the best to you and yours! Hope you have a great Xmas and New Year.

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      1. I will definitely check out Solstafir sometime in the next week when I have some free time. I assume I should start with the clip you linked to in this post, right? I will start putting together my end-of-year list of favorite music purchases soon. I was sidelined last week by hernia surgery which kept me off the computer and (sadly) away from music for 5-6 days, but I’m feeling a lot better and ready to return to action. 2014 was another awesome year of music for me and I’m looking forward to looking back (does that make sense?).

        Thanks for the Christmas/New Year’s wishes, and the same to you & your loved ones.

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      2. Rich, that’s miserable. Glad you’re on the mend and back in action. The clip is a good place to start. If you like that you’ll like the album.

        I was a bit more ambivalent about 2014 but I feel much more positive about it now. It was a great year and doing this list really put it in perspective and boosted my appreciation of it.

        I’m looking forward to you looking back too, haha.

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    2. Aw man Rich, that sucks! Glad you’re feeling better though! Was it laproscopic? My Dad has had 5 hernia surgeries… or is it 6 now…? Anyway, he’s an old pro at it. Lemme tell you for sure, believe the doctors when they tell you to lift properly and be careful not to re-do it. Because it’s like a twisted ankle… once you do it, and it heals, it’s still somehow easier to repeat the injury! You’ll be back in fighting form in no time, man!

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      1. Yikes, sorry to hear about all your dad’s hernia surgeries. Mine was traditional, not laproscopic. It’s supposed to last longer even though the initial discomfort is worse & healing time is longer. I work out at least 5 days a week so I already knew the next six weeks were going to be an adjustment, since I’m not allowed to lift more than 20 lbs during that time. That’s why I chose wintertime for the surgery. Looking forward to getting back to normal at the end of January. Thanks for the concern & good wishes. Hope all is well by you

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      1. I did! The only word I can think of to describe it, and this is not hyperbole, is… EPIC!

        Also, any music video with a jeep fast driving through a river in the mountains is cool by me! 😉

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      2. Man, if I had a nickel for every time we’ve said that… I’d probably have enough money to buy this album, honestly! I mean, if they’d only asked our HMO, or Lebrain or any of us, they’d have got it PERFECT! Alas.

        Yeah I’m adding this one to the search list, based on its inclusion in your year-end, and that one track. Awesome!

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      1. He’s thrown a few interesting albums my way – including … a Saxon best of! Yas! As for year end lists, I’m currently pondering my best o’ 2014, as well as my favourite vinyl purchases (two lists I done last year) and possibly get a wee list from the stuff my friend has thrown my way!

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      2. Nice one! Friends that give you Saxon albums are the best kinds of friends I always think. Look forward to seeing your lists. I like the idea of the separate vinyl list. I’m thinking of doing a Top 5 or 10 of other stuff like reissues and whatnot.

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      3. Indeed they are, sir. Saxon are brilliant. Really digging them. I’d like to see your reissues / other bits and pieces list, so I’d encourage this.

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      4. Yeah, still to pick up a slice o’ Saxon vinyl, but I feel more confident that I’d be picking a winner if there’s a choice o’ a few.

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  2. When I heard about the news of “Old Nick” joining Bloodbath, I was immediately horrified knowing how Paradise Lost’s sound has changed over the years. I immediately had the thought of never checking out the album. How wrong I was….

    Needless to say, there are so many albums that could have made my list, and Bloodbath’s newest foray in brutal DM should’ve been one of them. However, it sits somewhere in the regions of my 11 – 20 ‘best of’ category. It’s a hugely enjoyable and satisfying torrent of DM.

    Behemoth, Solfastir, Triptykon, Mayhem. This is indeed a fantastic list.

    And yes, possibly the most saddening event of the year was the legend H R Giger passing away. Though, in all fairness, he has left behind an amazing legacy.

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    1. Hey Nick, just spotted your comments in my spam folder. So sorry for not replying sooner!

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the Bloodbath album. I was never hugely into them but I’m a massive Paradise Lost fan so I was really excited to hear Old Nick going back to the growling vocals. I’m really impressed with the results and I’m enjoying it way more than I expected.

      I’m glad you like the list too. Quite a lot of crossover with your own excellent list! Great minds think alike, eh? All the best for 2015.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey now – more bands to look into – thank you very much! PS. Love the Mayhem album, been a BIG fan of theirs since Wolf’s Lair Abyss, also the 1st proper black metal album I ever bought!

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      1. Hehehe can’t win them all, now can they? Still lots of time to include them…any list will do really. I think WLA is great, but then again, I’m biased. I’m enjoying Primordial, btw and Voices, too! As if I don’t already have enough music to listen to – let’s add some more albums to find *muahahaha*

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  4. Really, really enjoyed this thank you Scott.

    I’m a big sucker for Grand Magus myself but its the Scintila Project that’s caught my eye here. Wonder if it exists on vinyl?

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