Staff Picks 2014: James Conway’s Top 5 Disappointments in Metal



When I got the word from my editor that he was planning to publish individual staff lists to finish off the year in suitable retrospective style, I have to admit that my heart sank a tiny bit. Now, while I am an obsessive list writer, carefully ranking everything from my favourite underrated horror films (the merits of Halloween 4, 5 & 6 far outweigh the flaws) to potential holiday destinations based on a seemingly endless list of variables, I felt that yet another top 10 where I enthuse over a set of albums that everyone knows are great, from the writers to the readers would be superfluous.

So instead, in a diabolical attempt to ruin the spirit of Christmas for everyone and a reminder that music writing is at the end of the day just the highly biased opinions of one, quite possibly bitter and twisted individual rather than the role of sycophantic arse-kisser that some labels and fans would prefer, may I present the five albums that have left me cold and unimpressed this year. All attempts have been made to give each album a fair hearing, but considering some of the dreck on display below, it hasn’t always been possible. Merry Christmas!




Burzum – The Ways of Yore (Byelobog Productions)

Where to start with this steaming heap of orc shit? Once again ditching the guitars (not Aryan enough or something) in favour of flimsy, drippy ambient that would have been rejected by the makers of a late 90s RPG for being too nerdy, the latest collection of odes to some completely imaginary European pre-historical past was toothless tripe worthy only of utter scorn. Don’t get me started on those hideous, slurred vocals either.



King 810 – Memoirs of a Murderer (Roadrunner Records)

If you thought that metal had become soft, the preserve of weak-armed bearded hipsters who sing about abstract concepts rather than the tough realities of life on the street, then your prayers were answered by King 810, four swaggering hoods from Flint, Michigan wearing their convictions for assault like badges of honour. Unfortunately, the childish and derivative sub-deathcore served up alongside oh-so predictable macho posturing and woe-is-me lyrics that you hoped had been consigned to the nu-metal dustbin proved again why metal is often viewed as music for the terminally dumb. If you want street-smarts, do yourself a favour and listen to Sick Of It All instead.


babymetal - apollo - 3


Babymetal – Babymetal (BMD Fox Records)

Look, I’m not a joyless curmudgeon. I’ve occasionally laughed at light entertainment. My heart melts when I see a cute animal and I still visit my Grandmother, despite her views on immigration. But there are some cultural phenomenons that bring out my inner Pol Pot and leave me angrier than a French child denied their lunchtime wine. I’ve mentioned the name once (actually twice because the album’s self-titled, eugh!) and that was bad enough. Others may disagree but this was the worst thing to happen to metal, nay music, nay the Local Interstellar Cloud in 2014. Kill it with fire.


In Flames – Siren Charms (Epic Records)

Why you do this to me Anders? Huh? Was it something I said? I stuck by you through thick and thin. When you flirted with nu-metal eleven years ago I brushed it off as teenage experimentation. When you collaborated with artists of dubious merit I thought it was just a cry for help. I even forgave you wearing that ridiculous shirt and tie get-up. But this was beyond the pale. Do you even want to be in a metal band anymore? Where were the riffs? Where was the power, the bite, the passion? ‘Monsters in the Ballroom?’ Dollar signs in your eyes more like. I’m sorry Anders but it’s over. We have irreconcilable differences and I’m giving up on you and this whole, sloppy mess forever.


Arch Enemy – War Eternal (Century Media Records)

Humans are strange creatures. We blow each other up because we can’t decide which imaginary friend to believe in. We wilfully inhale poisonous smoke into our lungs on a daily basis. We watch The Big Bang Theory en masse; meaning new episodes of it get produced and shown on national television. In the case of Michael Amott, we decide not to record a new album with Carcass, but opt to return to making über-generic melodeath that promises so much yet delivers so little. How a recording like War Eternal, which has so much going on, which presses so many of the right metal buttons manages to stay so utterly dull and unlikable is a mystery which will surely puzzle our most learned scribes for decades to come. Oh and a word to the new vocalist; blue hair doesn’t make you rebellious, it just makes you look silly.