15. Saor - Aura (Northern Silence Productions)
Saor has undergone a name change and they were once known as Arsaidh. Usually it's pretty hard for a folk-ier style of metal to hit my top list, but Saor have put together a pretty beautiful album this time around. They've really blended the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal in with the Celtic elements very well to make a really great listening experience.
14. Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight Records)
Even though Winterfylleth hasn't really deviated from the sound on their previous albums and it feels like a continuation of "The Threnody of Triumph", I can't deny that I really quite enjoy listening to their music. It's really due to this rotation that I feel compelled to include them in my list.
13. Mortuus - Grape of the Vine (The Ajna Offensive)
I was so ecstatic when I saw a new Mortuus was entering the world of Black Metal. I really enjoyed their debut full-length and I'd been following the band since the release of their 7". While I really enjoyed "Grape of the Vine", I'm finding that it's not in my rotation nearly as much as some of the other things I got this year. There's aspects of this that make me want to objectively put this with the top 5, because the musicianship is that good and I really do consider this a must buy for 2014, but I'm just not listening to it as much as the other releases. Whenever I do give this a listen, I quite enjoy it!
12. Blood Stronghold - From Sepulchral Remains... (Witches Sabbath Records)
This band was a new find for me and I was really excited when I heard them. This band plays an excellent style with haunting and melodic atmospheres. As with many bands like this from Australia they have a bit of that Pestilential Shadows/Nazxul (modern) style to their feel, which is nothing to complain about!
11. Gratzug - Offenbarung (Hammerbund)
Gratzug plays really awesome Atmospheric Black Metal derived from the likes of Paysage d'Hiver given the thinness and harsh feeling of the guitars, but they add a layer of majesty that the rawer Paysage d'Hiver lacks. The major complaint I have with Gratzug is how difficult it is to acquire their releases. However, if you do manage to get your hands on one, I do not think you will be disappointed and "Offenbarung" is an absolutely excellent release.
10. Pestilential Shadows - Ephemeral (Seance Records)
Pestilential Shadows has had a strong string of output for quite a few years. The latest release "Ephemeral" is really no exception to that rule. It really stands as a continuation of their "Depths" album, but I feel the sound is even more refined. This really stood as a really beautiful and haunting piece this year.
9. Totale Vernichtung - Ritualmordlegenden (Darker than Black)
Totale Vernichtung is kind of an odd band, the vocals are merely okay and sometimes they're a bit loud in the mix, but the music is really quite excellent. It's very strange, because a lot of the structuring is based on major chords and scales, but Totale Vernichtung really manages to make this sound raw and grim at the same time. I feel this would be a challenging thing for a lot of bands and to consistently perform it so well is quite a feat. They really captured my ears with their debut full-length "Feuerbestattung" and "Ritualmordlegenden" doesn't really have a massive difference from that album, which is okay, because I really just wanted more and more from this project!
8. Туман - The Past is Alive (No Colours)
I've enjoyed Туман's music for quite a while now, but "The Past is Alive" really took their sound in a new and haunting turn. It really captured my imagination so much more than their previous works and I truly loved it. Hearing Dim's spout her sinister vocals really added a whole new dimension into their shift in guitar work. Their vicious and raging style, took a bit of a step back, to compose songs that seem to linger in the consciousness rather than blasting our heads in for a whole album.
7. Stworz - Cóż Po Żyznych Ziemiach (Werewolf Promotion)
Stworz really caught my ear this year. It has moments of Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum shining through, but with a vocal performance that is rather different from both. While there was merely one moment on the album that I felt was a bit out of place, I can't help, but love the album Stworz has given us. It's majestic and expansive in scope and truly a wonderful journey!
6. Infamous - Rovine e Disperazione (Eremita Produzioni)
Infamous was another new one for me this year and "Rovine e Disperazione" really nailed the raw and majestic feel I really look for in some Black Metal. The writing is just spectacular and really captures the listener in their dense and harsh atmospheres. While their earlier works were pretty good, none of them are really as strong as this album and this seems to be bringing the project in a more mature and refined direction.
5. Grisâtre - Paroxistique (Dusktone)
I really enjoyed "Esthaetique" and this new release came out of nowhere for me. One minute I turned around and it was released. I feel this sort of really upped the ante on the foundation that was laid with "Esthaetique" and the songwriting and riffs, in general, are much stronger. The songs are also vastly longer, so prepare for quite an involved journey!
4. Blut aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III
After "Memoria Vetusta II", I really wasn't expecting this release at all. Which makes sense, since it does state on my release that "Memoria Vetusta II" was supposed to be the end of that arc. So, it was with great surprise and pleasure that many of us saw the announcement that "Memoria Vetusta III" was announced. This is actually a far more involved album than "Memoria Vetusta II" if that's possible, but I feel I find them both equally enjoyable. So, why is this number 4? Well, I did rank this as number one originally, but then I realized I haven't been playing it as much as I play the first three. The next three releases I seem to listen to a lot more regardless if "Memoria Vetusta III" may be objectively better in some respects.
3. Earth and Pillars - Earth I
It always surprises me to see a band debut hit so high on my listening. However, Earth and Pillars really put together a truly amazing atmospheric experience. One I've enjoyed returning to frequently over the years. Their packaging and layout really mirror the music perfectly, so this band is truly the full package experience and if you're looking for a very good Atmospheric Black Metal experience from 2014, I feel Earth and Pillars will not steer you wrong.
2. Darkspace - III I
I guess this will come as no surprise ranked at number two, given my love for their third album. While not much has changed from the third album, Darkspace still prove they are very strong authors of very compelling music. Coupled with the long wait between releases, they built quite a bit of anticipation and then really delivered on that with quite a good album.
1. Kriegsmaschine - Enemy of Man
This was another wholly unexpected release. Due to their focus on Mgła, I thought, perhaps, this project was forgotten, but then Kriegsmaschine returned with a truly amazing album and something very different from what I was expecting. This release truly grew on me over the year and it really wound up being the release I return to and listen to most. It's a pretty stunning and wonderful piece of art.
What Death Metal did I buy?
The new Vader came out and that was pretty decent. Behemoth's "The Satanist" hit and amidst all the fanfare I still enjoyed "Evangelion" a bit more. Deathcult's "Pleading for Death" was a really excellent experience and I highly recommend that band to everyone looking for some old school styled Death Metal. At the Gates' "At War with Reality" hit to mark their big return... I still haven't listened to it yet. I listened to a track and it was okay.
Who else was up for considering?
The real tragedy is Pest's "Buried". Sadly Pest's drummer Mrok was killed in a car accident and completion of this album never really happened. What we have is a few rehearsal songs of new material that was from the upcoming release, and let me tell you, it's incredible. Seriously, it's easily top 5 level of awesome. They did the best they could with "Buried" to show off some of the new material and give the listeners a few rarities, but it was a very difficult choice to eliminate it from the top 10. My reasoning had more to do with the fact that it wasn't a full album, which may sound unfair in some ways, but realize I literally spent months thinking about this in the back of my head and I just decided to take it out of the running and mention it here. Here's my full review
After this, there's just so much to list, albums from the likes of Zorn, Sühnopfer, Death Fortress, Blood of Kingu, Erebus Enthroned, Skogen, Sorcier des Glaces, just more stuff than I know what to do with... maybe I'll make a list later.