Alan’s Top Ten Albums of 2014

Snow is falling all around us, children playing, having fun – that can mean only one thing – it’s time to cut around twenty to thirty albums into a top ten for the year twenty-fourteen.

It’s been an awesome year in which Glasgow has hosted a major international event in the Commonwealth Games, Scotland has endured a failed attempt at Independence and a bunch of humans managed to remotely land a spacecraft on a comet moving at speed, thousands of miles from Earth. But, who cares about all that? Who made it on my shortlist, that is the question – so without further ado, here is the answer.

slipknot-5-the-gray-chapter-album-cover10. Slipknot – 5: The Gray Chapter
Four years on from the death of founding member and bass player Paul Gray and a further two years from their last studio release, Slipknot returned with an absolute belter. In typical ‘knot style they give an album filled with an almost operatic depth mixed with thumping drums and a guttural vocal provided by the instantly identifiable Corey Taylor.

With a heavy undertone involved with everything from the layers of guitar to the frantic double-kick-drums – this time not produced by Joey Jordison – it’s an album clearly dedicated to Gray and his untimely passing, not just by the name of the album but by its content. Slipknot back to their best with an explosive bang. Listen to ‘The Devil In I’ up as loud as you can take it – shivers.

9. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sunmastodon-once-more-round-the-sun-album-cover
The definition of a “grower” for me. At first I really felt this album didn’t live up to the hype built by both the media and my own head. I thought The Hunter was immaculate. The production quality and writing on that album set a bar for me and upon my first few listens to Once More ‘Round The Sun I was extremely underwhelmed by comparison. However, after chatting about the album with like-minded friends I agreed to give it more time. Now it’s a must have on the top ten list.

Brent Hinds’ ability to create a sound that gets right under the skin accompanying a lyric that appeals to my inner-sci-fi-geek just blows my mind. A complete turnaround in terms of enjoyment but if you’re in the same place I was a week or so after this album hit the shelves I’d recommend you dig it out and give it another go.

mongol-horde-album-cover8. Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde
The jazz lounge intro throws you – then it gets awesome. Mongol Horde were recommended by a friend and at first I thought he was winding me up. With tracks like ‘Tapeworm Uprising’, ‘Staff to Refund Counter’ and ‘Stillborn Unicorn’ you’d be forgiven for thinking the same on the face of things.

It’s when you look beyond the satirical lyrics that you see the magic. A fresh sound that seems to be sweeping across the UK at the moment to shake the hardcore punk-metal scene up. A mix of punk, metal and heavy-folk with Eton-educated Frank Turner quipping throughout with some interesting lyrical content this debut is an instant winner.

7. The Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments To An Elegythe-smashing-pumpkins-monuments-to-an-elegy-album-cover
Those of you who know me personally will understand my fear surrounding this album. I’ve had a love affair with The Smashing Pumpkins over the past twenty years and for latter half of that I’ve been pushed further and further away by the likes of Zeitgeist and Oceania so you could say Monuments To An Elegy was going to be make or break for our relationship.

Corgan has never been one to shy away from his personal opinions and whimsical flights of fancy and you could say that this album isn’t a million miles from his recent efforts but it just feels more balanced and rounded. With some pop and electronica elements mixed with more traditional rock – see ‘Anaise!’ for example – we see a return to form by a guy who can be the most frustrating and amazing musical talent on the planet.

My faith is still a long way from being fully restored but this album is a major step in the right direction and I may even be tempted to buy a ticket for their 2015 tour – oh wait, no – they haven’t announced anything yet. How you torment me Mr Corgan!

royal-blood-album-cover6. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
When this band exploded onto the scene it was no surprise. The two lads from the South Coast of England have managed to produce a sound that would make you think that they were a four-piece who’ve been in the game for many years. Nope – a two piece with no guitar, formed last year.

The rise to fame isn’t just due to a couple of over-played hits picked up by Radio 1. This album is packed full of top tracks. Yeah, it has a couple of standouts but there’s no samey-samey stuff on here. Each track in its own right is blindingly good and is as close to the complete album as you’ll find out there.

The bar is set high with this and a follow-up will take an enormous amount of genius to keep up, never mind surpass. So, an interesting year ahead for Royal Blood. I’ll be very interested in seeing where things go from here.

5. Architects – Lost Forever // Lost Togetherarchitects-lost-forever-together-album-cover
I’ve never been a massive Architects fan and to be honest I just never got over the fact that almost every song melded into the next. In fact, I tolerated them more than anything. However, with tracks like ‘Broken Cross’ and Dead Man Talking’ you can see why my opinion has been changed with the release of Lost Forever // Lost Together.

Guitarist Tom Searle openly stated he wrote about his brush with melanoma via ‘C.A.N.C.E.R.’ which lies among other life experiences given life on the album which seems to have given it a more genuine feel. ‘Red Hypergiant’ is an oddly satisfying instrumental, overlayed by a sample from an astronomy film by Carl Sagan. Slightly out-of-place, it offers some respite and breaks up what is a deep and heavy album perfectly.

foo-fighters-sonic-highways-album-cover4. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
A concept album which saw the Foos traverse the United States of America on a whistle-stop tour of eight major musical cities. Looking for inspiration in cities steeped in traditional and modern musical history. Locking themselves into the way of life that each city emits – harnessing the stories of yesterday’s heroes, landmarks and different genres – the band would then finish off a partially complete song fueled by the week spent absorbing the musical history of that particular venue.

I’m a big fan of the Foo Fighters and in particular Grohl’s ability to turn his hand to pretty much anything in the musical world. It’s the addition of the accompanying documentary that maps out each one of their stops in the making of Sonic Highways that helps you understand each song and is also maybe the reason the album makes it into my top ten.

Never before have I had an insight to the knowledge behind a full album and it’s been such a positive experience. I am able to see the meaning of each word and note on every track. Those of you who’ve seen or heard one or the other but not both, I urge you to sort that out as soon as possible.

3. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adamsryan-adams-album-cover
I’d listened to Ryan Adams on and off for a long while and was able to dip in and out of his collection but never really enjoyed a full album before his self-titled release this year. ‘Am I Safe’ and ‘Stay With Me’ are possibly his strongest tracks to date and is a small portion of what is a very consistent offering from one of the coolest cats around.

With more of a traditional rock feel to it, giving way to country here and there but not as much as previous efforts, we see a darker side to Adams’ songwriting. It’s not all plugged in and we see the softer approach with ‘My Wrecking Ball’ which is a beautifully painful listen.

Ryan Adams doesn’t have the popularity he deserves in my eyes – especially here in the UK – and if I ever have to recommend an album to someone, this’ll be the one I mention – a beautiful piece of art from start to finish.

slash-world-on-fire-album-cover2. Slash – World On Fire
Slash will forever be idolised for his role in Guns ‘N’ Roses but he really does break free from those shackles when hooking up with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. World on Fire is packed with more hits and ballads than you can shake a mop of hair and a top hat at.

The chemistry between Hudson and Kennedy is almost tangible and it’s been the topic of a few discussions in Musicscramble HQ over recent weeks. It would seem the pair were made for each other and having finally experienced their live show I can say the album converts to a live arena as well as it possibly could.

There are some clear influences from earlier bands within the mix but with guys who’ve been around for such a long time individually you’d expect that and there’s something awesome in the familiarity of it all. With Slash’s solo efforts these days you get what you expect – a superb, frantic, riff-heavy hooks from start to finish.

You can read our full review of World On Fire to see our in-depth opinion but in short, this is one of the top albums of any year, not just 2014.

killer-be-killed-album-cover1. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
If you’ve had the same album on in your car every day for several months there’s a good reason for it, one of those reasons could be that you’re just lazy in your choices or it could be that you only own one CD. My reason is that it’s just too damn good to replace.

With an absolutely monster line-up we’re treated to four of the biggest names in metal at the moment. The guitars are provided by Max Cavalera and Greg Puciato, Bass from Troy Sanders with Dave Elitch slapping the skins. Each of the string-masters supplying vocals across the eleven tracks.

Killer Be Killed was hyped to be the supergroup to overshadow all other supergroups – they delivered. Massive on riffage, massive on drums and bass, massive on interchanging vocals, this album checks all the boxes and then some. The only thing I’d love more than another listen of Killer Be Killed’s debut album is to see them live. Whether that will ever happen is anyone’s guess but here’s bloody hoping!

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