Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Autothrall's Top Metal Albums of 2014...aaaand other best of lists you don't really care about either.

The Top 20 Metal and Vaguely Metal-Related Albums of 2014

01. Hail Spirit Noir (Gr) - Oi Magoi (95) 
02. Sólstafir (Is) - Ótta (95)
03. Thantifaxath (US) - Sacred White Noise (93)
04. John Gallow (US) - Violet Dreams (93)
05. Thy Darkened Shade (Gr) - Liber Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet (92)
06. Funereal Presence (US) - The Archer Takes Aim (90)
07. Fallujah (US) - The Flesh Prevails (90)
08. Emptiness (Be) - Nothing but the Whole (90)
09. Occultation (US) - Silence in the Ancestral House (90)
10. Behemoth (Pl) - The Satanist (90)
11. The Dagger (Se) - The Dagger (90)
12. Calm Hatchery (Pl) - Fading Reliefs (90)
13. Opeth (Se) - Pale Communion (90)
14. Spectral Lore (Gr) - III (90)
15. Morbus Chron (Se) - Sweven (88)
16. Varathron (Gr) - Untrodden Corridors of Hades (87)
17. Ripper (Cl) - Raising the Corpse (87)
18. Horrendous (US) - Ecdysis (87)
19. Howls of Ebb (US) - Vigils of the 3rd Eye (85)
20. Halberd (Inter) - Remnants of Crumbling Empires (85)

You can find a much larger, 100-item RYM list here.

Yet another year in which I didn't come across anything I rated a perfect 10. I think the last time was Enslaved in it's been awhile. Regardless, in a year where thousands of metal records are released, there is bound to be a creme de la creme, and this batch topped my coffee. The Greek scenes absolutely crushed it this year, with a fantastic record by veterans Varathron, yet upstaged by relative newcomers like Spectral Lore, Thy Darkened Shade and Hail Spirit Noir, who took the lead for me early in the year and never exactly lost it, though my feelings on Ótta are roughly equivalent. Oi Magoi is just something else. And yes, I know that and Opeth's latest might have about 3-4 actual metal riffs between them, but since they're 'ex-metal' bands and still beholden to that crowd, I threw them on the list anyway. Otherwise, a very diverse year...creative retro-death acts like Horrendous and Morbus Chron proved their debuts were no flukes, Behemoth released a triumphant album that I really feel is their strongest to date, and there were a lot of interesting black, doom and heavy metal hybrids. As I spend more and more time with my infant son, I have increasingly less time to write reviews, but my listening list for this year topped 440 new albums & EPs anyway. These were the ones that hung in there with me the most.

The Top 10 Not-Metal Albums You Could Catch Me Brooding or Dancing To If You Were in the Right Place. Don't Tell Anyone.

01. Raison D'etre (Se) - Mise en Abyme

02. Kimbra (NZ) - The Golden Echo
03. Aphex Twin (UK) - Syro
04. White Lung (US) - Deep Fantasy
05. Perturbator (Fr) - Dangerous Days
06. Killer Mike & El-P (US) - Run the Jewels 2
07. Little Dragon (Se) - Nabuma Rubberband
08. In Slaughter Natives (Se) - Cannula Coma Legio
09. Todd Terje (No) - It's Album Time
10. Liars (US) - Mess

A lot of electronic and ambient music, plus some post-punk, not a surprise since this is where my tastes generally run when I'm not headbanging and hailing Satan. As much as I dug the new Aphex Twin, it was Raison d'Etre's latest I found myself completely lost in on multiple occasions. UPDATED: Added two fantastic pop albums (Kimbra and Little Dragon), pushed back Julian Casablanca and the Voidz and Phantomgram (which are both still very much worth your time).

The Top 10 Movies That Didn't Suck This Year. There Were Others That Also Didn't Suck, but These Sucked...Less?!

01. The Grand Budapest Hotel
02. Birdman
03. The Raid 2: Berandal
04. Whiplash
05. The Salvation
06. Calvary
07. Nightcrawler
08. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
09. The Zero Theorem
10. Guardians of the Galaxy

I made a concerted effort in the last two months to check out just about every possible movie I might have enjoyed throughout the rest of the year, and I think I came damn close. 

The Top 10 PC, Video and Handheld Console Games I Played. And Played.

01. Shovel Knight (PC/3DS/Wii U/PSN)
02. Wasteland 2 (PC)
03. Civilization: Beyond Earth (PC)
04. Transistor (PC/PS4)
05. Costume Quest 2 (PC/PS3/PS4/360/XBox One/Wii U/iOS)
06. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (PC)
07. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Everything)
08. The Banner Saga (PC/PS4/iOS)
09. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC/iOD/Android)
10. South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC/PS3/360)

Less time than usual devoted to video games, thanks to a blossoming interest in designer board and card games which has led to a fairly large collection. But I still got around to most that I was interested in, and having acquired a new PC, phone and tablet I was able to check out a lot I had missed the last several years.

The Top 10 TableTop Board, Card Games and RPGs

Sort of a new category here...I mean I've played many tabletop RPGs over my life, and a healthy heaping of classics and collectible card games, but late 2013 through 2014 has marked an increased obsession with designer board games to the extent that it's currently my #1 hobby. Most of the stuff I tried out was older, since I had about a decade of classics to catch up on (including many Euros, which is why I haven't tried many of the new ones). There are likely a dozen or so really interesting 2014 titles I haven't tried yet, so the list is subject to change, but these are my early favorites.

01. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (RPG)
02. Fields of Arle (board)
03. Star Wars: Age of Rebellion (RPG)
04. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game (card)
05. The Strange (RPG)
06. Dead of Winter (board)
07. Abyss (board)
08. Doomtown: Reloaded (card)
09. Onward to Venus (board)
10. One Night Ultimate Werewolf (party)
The Top Novels and Comics...or Not

I'm afraid I've got to leave this mostly blank, friends, since there were only a handful of 2014 fantasy and science fiction novels I actually enjoyed, and I spent most of my time reading older series like The Horus Heresy or a lot of pulp sword & sorcery short fiction & comics. Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance was a nice addition to his Stormlight Archives series, Joe Abercrombie's stab at 'young adult' fantasy Half a King was nearly as engrossing as his earlier stuff. Also I really liked the latest Burton & Swinburne steampunk novel The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder. If I manage to read a bunch more and formulate some sort of list in the coming year I'll update this.

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