12 great albums from 2014 | Revolver

12 great albums from 2014

From Killer Be Killed to 'I Am King'
Mastodon 2014 Travis Shinn digging 1600x900, Travis Shinn
photograph by Travis Shinn

2014 was an interesting year for heavy music. There weren't an overwhelming wealth of landmark releases from the scene's biggest bands, though several big-wigs did deliver new (and polarizing) albums

But below the genre's upper echelon, many subgenres thrived in 2014. Bands from the late 2000s deathcore and metalcore boom were evolving their sound and scaling to new heights of popularity. A new league of hardcore heavyweights were entering the ring. Genre-blurring renegades were making some serious noise.

A decade onward from this pivotal epoch, we looked back on 12 great albums that first hit our ears in 2014, yet continue to leave a big impression today.

Architects - Lost Forever // Lost Together

After issuing the hugely influential metalcore screed Hollow Crown in 2009, Architects had a rocky start to the decade as they tested out different styles. On Lost Forever // Lost Together, they not only re-asserted their heavy side, but took their songwriting to new levels of crushing epicness

The towering metalcore sound they mastered here is both haggard and precise, bludgeoning and unexpectedly tuneful. Architects have since constructed even more beloved albums, but Lost Forever // Lost Together kickstarted their generation-defining run of excellence.

Avatar - Hail the Apocalypse

Don't worry: There's not a single tall, skinny, blue alien hunter-gatherer to be seen here. Hailing from Sweden, not Pandora, the theatrical metal troupe Avatar were a scrappy, promising bunch before their fifth album, grinding it out on the road with everyone from Avenged Sevenfold to Sevendust.

Hail the Apocalypse took them next level — and for good reason. The album is bombastic groove-metal at its finest, with the stomping, anthemic, instant-classic title track rivaling Slipknot at their most psychosocial.

Babymetal - Babymetal

Babymetal easily could have been a gimmicky one-hit-wonder doomed to be remembered only for their viral oddity "Gimme Chocolate!!" Instead, amazingly, they're most popular than ever a decade on.

The kawaii-metal trio's debut album set the stage for their improbable staying power. The delirious sugar high of "Gimme Chocolate!!" is matched by live staples like "Megitsune," "Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!" and "Ijime, Dame, Zettai," which are cute as shit, yes, but also pack legit heavy-metal punch.

Behemoth - The Satanist

Once frontman Behemoth ringleader Adam Nergal Darksi beat leukemia, he buckled down with the Polish blackened death-metal band and created an album that far surpassed their previous efforts in terms of raw, emotional passion and icily empowering riffs.

With a powerful cover painting literally infused with the singer-guitarist's own blood, The Satanist struck a chord with a wider international audience and positioned Behemoth as one of the 2010s' biggest and most talented extreme-metal acts.

Code Orange - I Am King

Code Orange's first album without the "Kids" in their name remains their darkest, grimiest, most unrelenting release. The Pittsburgh crew reigned in the Converge worship of their convulsive debut and honed a sound built on lashings of distortion, brutalizing chugs, and vocals that alternately muttered and shrieked. 

The title-track's eerie tension-and-release and "Dream in Inertia"'s doomy churn hinted toward their artistic progression, while the battering "Unclean Spirit" and cacophonous "My World" ushered in a new wave of knuckle-dragging hardcore that still bears Code Orange's influence today. 

Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown

While many of Every Time I Die's early 2000s peers were losing their edge, the Buffalo bruisers were catching a remarkable second wind. From Parts Unknown is the the second knockout in a career-capping run of unfuckwithable albums that began with 2012's Ex Lives and sadly concluded with 2021's Radical.

They never sounded gnarlier than on "Decayin' With the Boys" and "Thirst," while the piano-plunking doom churn of "Moor" stands as one of ETID's most moving numbers.

Killer Be Killed - Killer Be Killed

Supergroups are often less than super, but a band with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan, Better Lovers), Mastodon's Troy Sanders and the Mars Volta's David Elitch? C'mon, that had to be good — and it was.

Killer Be Killed's fire-breathing debut is packed with hard-charging groove-metal wallops and moody alt-metal dirges that altogether sound like a conglomerate of the members' other bands. It could've been messy and awkward, but it ended up being cohesive and powerful.

Knocked Loose - Pop Culture

Knocked Loose's Coachella feats were inconceivable when they dropped Pop Culture, a five-song assault of loose-cannon hardcore designed for clobbering heads and screaming 'til your voice is gone.

For as far as they've come since, the essence of Knocked Loose is still in-sync with these songs. Bryan Garris wails against religion ("The Gospel") and screams unspoken mental health woes ("All My Friends"), while his bandmates deliver one serrated, chugging mosh section after another.

Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

Once More 'Round the Sun is by no means Mastodon's strongest body of work, but even a less-than-stellar Mastodon album is, by their own sky-high standards, still really damn good. To wit, "The Motherload" and "High Road" are Mastodon classics at this point.

Furthering their divestment from sludgy prog metal that began with 2011's underrated The Hunter, Once More saw the Atlanta boys tangle with shorter, punchier songs that don't have the dynamic range of, say, Crack the Skye, but make up for it with head-hammering efficiency.

Motionless in White - Reincarnate

Motionless in White evolved from metalcore spooky kids to industrial-metal renegades on 2012's Infamous, but 2014's Reincarnate feels like their first definitive statement.

On this ambitious hour of material, Chris Motionless and Co. dance between goth-metal epics ("Reincarnate"), symphonic black-metal scourges ("Puppets 3"), industrial rave-ups ("Generation Lost") and more, with esteemed guest appearances from Dani Filth, Maria Brink and Tim Sköld buffing out the badassery.

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

The stakes were high for The Gray Chapter. In 2014, Slipknot were still mourning their dearly departed bassist Paul Gray, drummer Joey Jordison had acrimoniously split with the band the year before, and it was to be the 'Knot's first album in six long years.

Few Maggots would call this the Iowa Nine's crowning achievement, but a Slipknot album is always a standout. The heavy-hitting "Custer" and "The Devil In I" remain live staples a decade onward, and many of the slower tribute songs to Gray display a uniquely vulnerable side of the band.

Whitechapel - Our Endless War

Whitechapel had already conquered deathcore by 2014, but Our Endless War took them to another level — landing at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, making it the best-selling deathcore album of all time.

It's easy to hear why it resonated so hard. The band met the moment by adding djenty groove and slightly more melodic vocal patterns to their bludgeoning sound, while still attaining the skull-knocking standard set by their prior albums.