Critics' Choice 2014: The Year In Review

It was a year in which metal’s biggest band continued to break new ground while a hotly contested newcomer provided one of the most controversial albums of recent times. Oh, and something called Babymetal happened. Yes, 2014 has been a typically bonkers and brilliant 12 months for metal, so, without further ado, it’s time to cast an eye on the big talking points from the year that was. Oh, memories…


Arguably the biggest story of the year has been the long-awaited return of Slipknot. Iowa’s finest had been bouncing around various festivals for a few years since the shocking loss of Paul Gray, but it was an album that we all wanted to hear. And, despite the additional setback of Joey Jordison leaving the fold late last year, the Des Moines heavyweights came up trumps. With new masks, new incarnations of Knotfest and some cracking new songs in their arsenal, the future suddenly looks very bright indeed for the most important metal band of recent times. Bring on that January tour./o:p


It started with a video. It ended with an appearance at one of the UK’s biggest festivals and a batshit insane follow-up gig at Brixton fucking Academy. If there’s any band that can sum up just how crazy a year it’s been, then Babymetal are most definitely it. Gimme Chocolate! was released onto an unsuspecting public back in February, eventually racking up nearly 18m views (and counting) on YouTube and installing the Japanese kiddy-metal heroines as the world’s new favourite cult band. With no sign of the phenomenon running dry yet, this is still looking like much more than a fad band. Satan help us all./o:p


Without a doubt the most mainstream attention-grabbing event that metal has offered up since The Osbournes was a thing, Metallica’s history-making debut at Glastonbury in June was either a majestic triumph or a curious distraction, depending on who you ask. “I’ve played almost every festival on the planet,” beamed Lars, “and I can tell you, there’s no other experience like playing Glastonbury.” Just how big an impact their set at Europe’s biggest festival has had will remain to be seen (though those AC/DC rumours for next year don’t seem to want to go away), but one thing is for certain: once again, Metallica proved that they’ll continue to do whatever the hell they want, whenever they fancy it./o:p


What happens when a supremely gifted band clashes with a backstory that’d make Freddy Krueger wince? One of the most fascinating, controversial and, ultimately, brilliantly crafted metal debuts of the decade. Few bands have been subject to as much heated debate as King 810 following our eye-opening feature from the band’s troubled hometown of Flint, Michigan in July, but once the dust had settled and the music was left to do the talking, only a wally would doubt the force that we had on our hands. Where David Gunn and his crew will go from here remains to be seen, but as far as 2014 talking points go, few have overshadowed these guys./o:p


Covers albums are always an interesting idea, but when many of metal and rock’s greatest names combined to produce a world-class tribute to the late, incomparably great Ronnie James Dio, everyone took notice. As well as the ace resulting album, This Is Your Life (our highlight is still Papa Het smashing Stargazer like an absolute pro), there was also this year’s heartwarming Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund gig, featuring appearances from the likes of Corey Taylor, Lzzy Hale, Scott Ian and many more covering a host of Dio classics. We can’t help but think the man himself would have been rather proud./o:p


A rather unexpected talking point of the year centred around Mastodon’s not-so-subtle video for flawless banger The Motherload. Starring a not-so-camera-shy horde of furiously twerking ladies – all filmed in rather eye-popping slo-mo – the clip caused a sexism debate that ended up running for months. While no side of the argument showed any signs of backing down, at least we could all agree that the song itself is a screamer and that Mastodon, in general, still fucking rule./o:p


As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis brought a turbulent few months to a grim end by pleading guilty in his controversial and much-publicised murder-for-hire trial. The singer, charged with trying to facilitate the murder of his estranged wife, was sentenced to six years in prison. Thankfully, his former bandmates bounced back under the guise of Wovenwar, releasing an acclaimed album earlier this year and landing a big European tour with In Flames and the UK’s own While She Sleeps./o:p


Metal Hammer was stunned and delighted to hear that Indonesia’s new president is, in fact, a diehard metalhead! Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, former Governor of Jakarta and a man fond of donning the t-shirts of Napalm Death, Lamb Of God and more, can seemingly lay claim to being, as LOG’s own Randy Blythe labelled him: “The world’s first heavy metal president!” Receiving 53.13% of the vote, it was a decisive knockout for the riff!/o:p


We’ve been big on The Defiled very much #SinceDayOne, but even we were surprised to see their faces beaming at us from the pages of some of the UK’s biggest papers. The reason? Becoming the first band in history to play on an iceberg, of course! “This has to be one of the most insane gigs we’ve ever played!” insisted Stitch D soon after. Just ‘one of’, mate?!/o:p


Mötley Crüe’s decadent three-plus decades of existence looks set to finally be drawing to a close, with the glam metal icons announcing their farewell tour in typically grandiose fashion at a press conference in LA. The awesome foursome even went so far as to sign contracts that allegedly prevent them from ever touring again following this final flurry of dates. Will they buck the music trend and actually stay true to their words? Only time will tell…/o:p


It was, of course, a sombre year in many respects, with some of metal’s mightiest names passing onto that great Viking longboat in the sky. Among those dearly missed are Gwar frontman and perennial quote machine Dave Brockie – AKA Oderus Urungus – who was given a fitting fiery send-off, as well as Static-X frontman and beloved nu metal survivor Wayne Static, Black Tusk’s much-loved bassist Jonathan Athon, and The Devil’s Blood genius Selim ‘SL’ Lemouchi, who received a stirring tribute at the incredible Roadburn festival back in April. It’d also be remiss to not give a special shout-out to the inspirational HR Giger, whose passing in May has left behind one of the most unique and engrossing bodies of art ever produced. RIP, comrades. We’ll miss each and every one of you./o:p


There has been a lot of action right here at your friendly neighbourhood metal magazine, too! This year Metal Hammer was proud to be a part of the almighty launch of TeamRock+ - the world’s biggest and best platform for delving into the world of all things hard, heavy and rock’n’roll! And we’re only just getting started, by the way. Bank on 2015 to be bigger and better than ever. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…/o:p



Cinema pretty much smashed it this year, too…/o:p


Anyone worried that franchise fatigue could be creeping into Marvel’s cinematic universe sat up and stared when the films took an unexpected left turn into another galaxy altogether. Calling this the Star Wars for a new generation wasn’t quite as hyperbolic as it might have seemed at first…/o:p


Following up a surprisingly decent franchise reboot can’t be an easy task, but DOTPOTA rarely faltered. Putting the humans to one side and going deeper into the lives of the apes, this sequel lived up to expectations of a darker second entry with stunning results./o:p


An unexpected winner in a year that offered up a healthy smattering of decent horrors, this haunted house number featuring That Scottish Lady Who Was In Doctor Who packed scares and suspense in equal measure, with a satisfying ending and a plot that forever kept you guessing./o:p

THE RAID 2/o:p

If 2012’s The Raid had all the spiky energy of a Rancid single, this year’s sequel was Master Of Puppets. Never anything less than crushingly violent, The Raid 2 proved that story and action can co-exist and leave you breathless.