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Critics' Choice: The Metal Hammer Top 50 Albums Of 2014

Thirty-five contributors, 20 ranked votes each, all collated into the 50 top albums and one year's worth of metal brilliance.

  1. MESSENGER: ILLUSORY BLUES (Svart) It's rare nowadays to find a debut as measured, beguiling and accomplished as Illusory Blues, a languid, pastoral timewarp of blissful acoustic strumming, emotional vocal harmonies, burnished flutes, solemn strings and even the odd tasteful rock-out. These savvy London hippie musos – from a wide variety of underground musical backgrounds – channelled their old soul through a modern, metropolitan sensibility, rejecting the lazy straitjacket of contrived retro with confident, considered craftsmanship.

29. PALLBEARER: FOUNDATIONS OF BURDEN (Profound Lore)

The rise of Pallbearer has been incredible to watch. Following their low-key demo of 2010, and their debut full-length, Sorrow & Extinction, in 2012, this year’s beautifully rendered Foundations Of Burden epitomised the Arkansas quartet’s knack for percolating mournful music shot through with hope. Transcending their genre boundaries to provoke a widespread buzz and deeply personal emotional response in anyone who strayed into its path, Pallbearer arguably became this year’s Deafheaven.

28. ORANGE GOBLIN: BACK FROM THE ABYSS (Candlelight)

With 2012’s return to form, A Eulogy For The Damned, steadying the good ship Orange Goblin, the stoner rockers set sail for uncharted waters on eighth album Back From The Abyss. The sound of a band rejuvenated, the opus flirted with Maiden-like gallops and Motörhead-esque punk bursts, while retaining their trademark grooves, yielding one of their best records yet. 

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