Total Guitar's top 20 albums of 2014
The Total Guitar team and contributors have deliberated, brawled and bantered, but now they've finally chosen their favourite 20 guitar albums of 2013. Read on for the full countdown.
Behemoth - The Satanist
From the violent grandeur of Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel to the furious blasting on Amen and the malevolent grace of O Father O Satan O Sun, this is an album born of turbulence and delivered with pure emotional wonder. A death metal masterpiece.
Rise Against - The Black Market
They may never recapture the raw edge of 2004’s Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, but 2014’s Rise Against are still a potent force, especially when mixing McIllrath’s brutally effective riffs with some lovely melodic counterpoints from lead man Zach Blair.
Pink Floyd - The Endless River
An almost entirely instrumental and ambient affair, there’s a more experimental vibe here than was present on The Division Bell, bringing to mind tracks such as One Of These Days and Echoes from the Meddle era. Gilmour’s solos (all recorded this year) see him in fine form.
Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter
The sound of a band in transition. Unsurprisingly dark, brooding and intense lyrically (the loss of bass player Paul Gray is a clear theme throughout), musically it sits somewhere between the anger of Iowa and the experimentation of The Subliminal Verses.
Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams
The reverb of Adams’ Fender Princetons rings true across this album. There’s an 80s Petty vibe to the moody hooks of Trouble, and I Just Might simmers with Springsteen State Trooper tension; Adams uses guitar dynamics chiming with minimal fuss.
Joe Bonamassa - Different Shades Of Blue
Bonamassa tackles horn- embellished, funky rock, scuzzy shuffles, ballads and Zep-esque riffs, but every song has an unexpected chordal, rhythmic or soloing twist. Having said that, the standout track is the most traditional of the lot – I Gave Up Everything For You, ’Cept The Blues.
Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End
The decisions to allow Cuomo more writing time and to reunite with Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek have paid dividends, with the band’s dense rhythm sound, artfully skewed lead breaks and timeless melodies returning.
At The Gates - At War With Reality
Guitarists: Anders Björler, Martin Larsson
Nearly two decades is a long break after you’ve defined and refined melodic death metal. However, At The Gates’ signature strengths remain undiminished. The band spawned a riff style with their classical thrash, and nobody else paints with such grand strokes.
Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie
Once again, Sons guitarist Holiday cuts an extremely formidable figure, his gnarly octave fuzz fueling the bulk of the album’s tones. With some huge, swaggering choruses and a wealth of raw guitar tones, Great Western Valkyrie is an utterly convincing rock album.
Architects - Lost Forever // Lost Together
Lone guitarist and songwriter Tom Searle rises to the occasion. He adeptly balances subtle melodies and atmopsheric meanderings with belligerent riffs and intricate breakdowns on the likes of C.A.N.C.E.R and Naysayer. Vocalist Sam Carter hits a career high on the band’s best album yet.
Marmozets - The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets
The five-piece have matured since their spiky, early offerings with a formula that melds Paramore’s energy with Rush’s outrageous musicality. Cover Up’s circular riffing showcases their lust for Lifeson, and Captivate You points to a growing songwriting skill set.
Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
Shorter songs are the order of the day again on Mastodon’s sixth studio album – and it suits them. Hinds and Kelliher layer dynamic swatches of arpeggiated majesty and bullish riffs, with The Motherload and Ember City showing them at their most grandiosely catchy.
Opeth - Pale Communion
Åkesson continues to transcend his pre-Opeth rep as a ‘metal shredder’ and his bandmates showcase just how far they’ve come too, arriving a place where the guitars no longer drive everything, but instead play their essential part in colouring a fuller band sound.
Royal Blood - Royal Blood
The Brighton duo unleash savage, hooky riffs and pulverising drums from the get-go on this exhilirating debut. Mike Kerr’s pitch-shifted bass-as-guitar lines evoke early Muse, and on the standout single Little Monster, Royal Blood have a cast-iron contender for the riff of the year title.
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators - World On Fire
The synergy of the whole band seems honed; the songs are simply stronger and hit harder than 2012’s Apocalyptic Love. Many try but nobody can deliver proper balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll like an on-form Slash.
The Black Keys - Turn Blue
Expansive opener Weight Of Love sets the tone for the cinematic sounds that follow on the two-piece’s latest, as we take the back seat for a hazy late-night drive through 1970s Los Angeles, stopping occasionally to sip poolside cocktails, while looking over the shimmering city skyline.
Lonely The Brave - The Day's War
Their first few singles suggested that the good will growing around this band was justified, and this debut serves as confirmation that Lonely The Brave really are something special. Among these songs are future anthems that deserve to win over a lot of hearts and minds.
Jack White - Lazaretto
White successfully tries on a range of musical styles here, including acoustic folk and Americana. But the main thing that elevates Lazaretto above his previous record, Blunderbuss, is simply that it contains his best collection of songs since The White Stripes went their separate ways.
Animals As Leaders - The Joy Of Motion
The gentler moments provide contrast with the dissonant onslaught of Vai-like modal lead lines, syncopated rhythms and Abasi and Reyes’ brutal octave- down dual eight-string riffing. This is some of the most creative guitar playing around today.
Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were
This further distances Howard from an unplugged troubadour pigeonhole. She Treats Me Well and In Dreams are the only clear acoustic fingerpickers here, the guitarist bouncing rich reverb and delay tones elsewhere to create a whole new grandeur.