The Best Albums of 2014 - So Far
As we reach the halfway point of the year, we've compiled our list of the top 33 albums of 2014 so far. Our picks range from commercial-rock icons Linkin Park's heaviest album yet to extreme-metal stalwarts Behemoth's epic comeback from the brink. We've got records by supergroups including current and former members of veteran groups like Sepultura, Deftones, and Killswitch Engage, as well as LPs from fast-rising breakthrough bands like Of Mice & Men and Nothing More.
It's been a good year so far--as the list below demonstrates--which only makes us more eager to see what other crushing music 2014 will bring us over the next six months.
Animals As Leaders - \'The Joy of Motion\'
Guitar prodigy Tosin Abasi shreds like a motherfucker on another head-spinning instrumental prog-metal maelstrom that\'s as joyous as it jaw-dropping.
Arch Enemy - \'War Eternal\'
New frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz proves her chops, replacing the irreplaceable Angela Gossow, while Michael Amott & Co. lay down some of their hookiest melodic death-metal licks yet.
Architects - \'Lost Forever//Lost Together\'
Six albums into their career, British metalcore act Architects show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the dynamic, emotionally heavy anthems that make up this new disc prove the U.K. metalcore crew is actually getting better with age.
Avatar - \'Hail the Apocalypse\'
They may dress like evil clowns, but these Swedes are deadly serious, delivering a Manson-fronting-Five-Finger wallop that already has many new fans running away with this circus.
Behemoth - \'The Satanist\'
Having beaten back cancer, main man Nergal hailed the dark lord loudly and proudly with his band\'s most crushing yet diverse statement of Luciferian intent.
Body Count - \'Manslaughter\'
On their first album in eight years, Ice-T, Ernie C, and crew pull no punches on pop rappers, inveterate junkies, and gangsta posers, while also paying deserved tribute to the \"bitch in the pit.\"
Lacuna Coil - \'Broken Crown Halo\'
Led by the always beguiling Cristina Scabbia, Lacuna Coil managed to find a compelling middle ground here between the poppier side they introduced on 2009\'s \'Shallow Life\' and their earlier, heavier sound.
Black Label Society - \'Catacombs of the Black Vatican\'
Zakk Wylde & Co. sound burlier than ever on BLS\' latest offering, which boasts all the hirsute heaviness and ballsy balladry that Berserkers have come to love and expect.
Chevelle - \'La Gárgola\'
These alt metallers\' seventh studio album was inspired by frontman Pete Loeffler\'s love of horror movies including \'Rosemary\'s Baby\' and \'Friday the 13th.\' Fittingly, the album is creepy, dark, and hard to get out of your head.
††† (Crosses) - \'†††\'
Deftones\' Chino Moreno, Far\'s Shaun Lopez, and multi-instrumentalist Chuck Doom conjured up a haunting electro-rock offering that\'s part Depeche Mode, part John Carpenter soundtrack, part \"witch house\"--whatever the fuck that is.
Crowbar - \'Symmetry in Black\'
Singer and \"Riff Lord\" Kirk Windstein quit NOLA supergroup Down to focus on his band Crowbar--and the renewed dedication shows on this, the sludgecore pioneers\' finest record in nearly a decade.
Devil You Know - \'The Beauty of Destruction\'
In 2014, former Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones reclaimed his place as one of modern metal\'s best vocalists with a new band and a new album that simultaneously capture the melodicism of KsE and the technicality of Jones\' other band Blood Has Been Shed.
Down - \'Down IV – Part II\' EP
Phil Anselmo has said that Down would go mellow and acoustic on one of the supergroup\'s planned EPs--well, this ain\'t the one. Lumbering out of the bayou, \'Down IV\' is impressively weighted down by gargantuan Sabbathian riffage and Anselmo\'s gravelly bellow.
Eyehategod - \'Eyehategod\'
2014 has been a great year for NOLA sludge fans, with Crowbar, Down, and Eyehategod all dropping new slabs. EHG\'s latest, their first full-length in 14 years and late drummer Joey LaCaze\'s last before his death, is as misanthropic, surreal, and groove-heavy as anything in the group\'s catalog.
Godflesh - \'Decline & Fall\' EP
The first original new music from industrial-metal trailblazers Godflesh in over 10 years, \'Decline & Fall\' couldn\'t be much more ironically titled. The EP is a triumph, its four songs (and two dub remixes) could easily pass for lost tracks from the band\'s classic \'Pure\' album.
Hellyeah - \'Blood for Blood\'
\'Blood for Blood\' is punchy and vitriolic, full of unforgiving tracks like “Soul Killer” and “Say When,” the latter featuring Vinnie Paul’s most acrobatic drumming since Pantera.
Killer be Killed - \'Killer be Killed\'
Soulfly\'s Max Cavalera, Mastodon\'s Troy Sanders, and Dillinger Escape Plan\'s Greg Puciato joined forces for this truly super supergroup, crafting a debut album that\'s way catchier and more melodic than anyone could have imagined--including the band members themselves.
Kyng - \'Burn the Serum\'
Highly touted by James Hetfield, Dave Grohl, and Rex Brown, stoner rockers Kyng had a lot of hype to live up to with album Numero Dos--but they managed to do just that with their Soundgardenesque howl and groove.
Linkin Park - \'The Hunting Party\'
For longtime fans of Linkin Park, it\'s finally happened: The band that made \'Hybrid Theory\' and \'Meteora\' has returned to rock--and to do it harder than ever before. Guest turns by members of System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, and Helmet don\'t hurt, but the members of Linkin Park themselves are the real stars here, making modern alternative metal that never sounds like a throwback to their trendsetting nu-metal beginnings.
Mastodon - \'Once More \'Round the Sun\'
On their latest, Atlanta\'s finest split the difference between their proggiest excursions and their most straightforward hard rock. The result is still trippy, but no one should be getting lost on the band\'s current high road.
Misery Index - \'The Killing Gods\'
On their fifth full-length album, Baltimore’s premiere death-metal crew display symptoms of progression, the nonstop assault of their previous efforts replaced with moments of atmosphere and melancholy. The result might initially irk diehards, but should ultimately leave them far from miserable.
Mount Salem - \'Endless\'
This Chicago four-piece wallows in the same doomy muck tread by Black Sabbath, but mixes in a swirl of hazy psychedelia, as well as the clean, atmospheric vocals—and organ playing—of 23-year-old frontwoman Emily Kopplin, for good measure. The results, as heard on \'Endless,\' are positively enrapturing.
Nothing More - \'Nothing More\'
Evoking Coheed and Cambria and The Mars Volta, this much-buzzed-about Texan quartet specialize in high-flying prog-ish rock that wisely never sacrifices hooks and songwriting for showing off.
Of Mice & Men - \'Restoring Force\'
Much like Avenged Sevenfold with their breakthrough \'City of Evil,\' frontman Austin Carlile and his cohorts finely honed their sound on \'Restoring Force\' to create something that\'s still undeniably heavy but also hooky and human enough to resonate far beyond the underground.
Various Artists - \'Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life\'
Metallica, Corey Taylor, Rob Halford, Anthrax, Halestorm, and more salute the late, great Ronnie James Dio with devil horns and surprisingly worthy covers of some of his greatest cuts.
The Pretty Reckless - \'Going to Hell\'
Frontwoman Taylor Momsen may never fully escape the \"actor-turned-musician\" tag and the skepticism that comes with it, but her band\'s sophomore offering goes a long way in establishing her as a genuine rocker with husky pipes and sexy charisma bar none.
Tombs - \'Savage Gold\'
2011’s acclaimed \'Path of Totality\' set the bar high, but Tombs prove up to the challenge with \'Savage Gold,\' which explores even darker, deeper terrain.
Trap Them - \'Blissfucker\'
Known for their mostly sub-two-minute jams, these hardcore firebrands upped the song lengths and, more important, the songwriting quality on \'Blissfucker,\' an album that easily lives up to its awesome title.
Triptykon - \'Melana Chasmata\'
Celtic Frost mastermind Tom G. Warrior turns up the heat with the second offering from his current band, pulling hell fire from gothy doom-death depths.
The Word Alive - \'Real.\'
On their third full-length, Phoenix metalcore veterans perfect the sound they’ve crafted since their formation in 2008, demonstrating that metalcore can still sound fresh and exciting when done right.
Demon Hunter - \'Extremist\'
Beloved by everyone from members of Five Finger Death Punch to (oddly) members of Goatwhore, Christian-metal faves Demon Hunter are at their catchy, crunchy best on \'Extremist.\'
Chiodos - \'Devil\'
\'Devil\' is the first album Chiodos have recorded since reuniting with original vocalist Craig Owens and original drummer Derrick Frost, and the first to feature Thomas Erak of The Fall of Troy as lead guitarist. The record effectively makes the argument that this is the definitive Chiodos lineup, and that the soul-baring Owens is certainly the group\'s definitive frontman.
Miss May I - \'Rise of the Lion\'
Album No. 4--which was produced by the great Terry Date (Slipknot, Pantera, Soundgarden, Deftones)--shows a more eclectic side of this metalcore group by fully embracing Benton’s heart-felt lyric-writing style while drawing on the heaviest roots of the band’s sound.