Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums

5. Pallbearer
Foundations of Burden
(Profound Lore)

In a year when Mastodon seemed to have lost the plot musically — we're not about to go near that whole twerking video worm-can — a number of younger bands picked up the slack when it came to proggy doom metal. Leading them was Pallbearer, who followed up their impressive 2012 debut with the epic scope of Foundations of Burden. Lush and foreboding, this sophomore effort from the Little Rock, AR quartet traverses a wide variety of grooves and moods, from the Iron Maiden-esque guitarmonies of "Worlds Apart" to the sludgy main riff of "Foundations" to the Pink Floyd–style comedown of "Ashes."

With four of the six songs clocking in at over ten minutes apiece, Pallbearer clearly weren't courting any sort of mainstream airplay, yet this is one of the year's most listenable metal albums — carefully orchestrated, structurally intriguing, packed with sumptuous guitar textures and never too abrasive to harsh a good mellow. (The only strike against them might be that singer/guitarist Brett Campbell delivers his vocal lines a little too sweetly.) While Foundations of Burden wasn't exactly a massive leap forward for Pallbearer, they've clearly bypassed the sophomore slump in what's looking to be a promising march toward the peak of Mount Metal. (Chris Bilton)