Friday, December 26, 2014

An Empirical Look at 2014's Top Metal Releases

Being the curious type, I visited 40 different websites and gathered data on who showed up within the top ten of their “best of” metal lists for the year 2014. A single person’s opinion may not say much about the year, but looking at 40 may give some insight on metaldom’s feelings as a whole. I don’t pretend that this was a scientifically rigorous process, and I made plenty of arbitrary decisions in collecting and arranging this information, but hopefully some will find it interesting. Feedback and suggestions are encouraged.

Notes on My Methods:
  • In an attempt to avoid imputing my own taste biases, websites were selected from the top results from two major search engines (with cookies/tracking disabled) for terms like “top/best 2014 metal” and the like. 
  • I excluded mid-year lists, sub-genre lists, and “most underrated” type lists.
  • I accessed 40 websites because this was about as many as I could find using the above method. I was having an increasingly difficult time yielding further relevant search results. You’d be surprised how many reviews for metal detectors and spam websites show up after the first couple of pages of semi-relevant results.
  • No bands were excluded for not being metal. If a list included a band, I included it.
  • Only the top 10 from any list were included. This was done to have some continuity across websites in terms of the weight of their data. I excluded sites with lists of less than 10; this way each author is on equal footing.
  • Since different websites can have in-house tastes, websites with multiple lists were selected only once, and by using the list that was indexed highest in the search engine.
  • Other than looking at only the top 10, rankings were not considered or averaged. Rankings like these are what is known as ordinal data and typically cannot be averaged in a meaningful way.
  • As a quick example, suppose List 1’s author thinks we had a weak year and would rate their #9 album at 73/100 and their #2 spot only 75/100. We can’t meaningfully compare this with List 2’s author rating their #9 album a 80/100 and their #2 100/100 because we have only rankings, and not ratings.
  • No individual website’s list is reproduced here, neither is the entire dataset.
  • Information on genres, whether a band was metal or not, and label data were pulled from the Metal Archives (hyperlink).
  • I gathered label data only on metal bands. It’s also important to keep in mind that not every label releases music every year.

The Results


This is a look at the bands that showed up most often in the top ten lists. This chart shows only those that were in 10% or more of the lists, in an effort to succinctly show the results. These 23 bands comprised 44% of the top ten list occurrences. In other words, they showed up 177 times out of the total 400 available slots (40 websites with ten slots each). The top six comprised 19% of the totals. All of the other bands were mentioned on only three or less of the websites I accessed.

As you can see, Behemoth took the top spot, appearing on 37.5% of the websites (15). Given the sample size of only 40, it’s important to keep in mind that this only means that they were mentioned on one more website than Triptykon.

I’m interested in how people feel about this. Is six bands taking up a fifth of the spots on top-ten lists a sign that metal or metal listeners need more variation, less, or does that sound right? Another way of looking at this is to ask whether metal is too fragmented when the top band only shows up on 37.5% of year-end list.

The chart became unwieldy when including the names of the band’s releases, so here they are in list form and same order:

Behemoth - The Satanist
Triptykon - Melana Chasmata
At the Gates - At War with Reality
Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Yob - Clearing the Path to Ascend
Agalloch - The Serpent and the Sphere
Opeth - Pale Communion
Electric Wizard - Time to Die
Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails
Godflesh - A World Lit Only by Fire
Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls
Revocation - Deathless
Machine Head - Bloodstone & Diamonds
Slipknot -.5: The Gray Chapter
Thou - Heathen
Devin Townsend Project - Z2
Accept -  Blind Rage
Blut Aus Nord -Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry
Nux Vomica - Nux Vomica
Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain
Eyehategod - Eyehategod
Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel


This add to over 100% because bands can be more than one genre.

This second chart shows the genre breakdown of the 400 available slots. Bands appearing on multiple top-ten lists give multiple counts, and a prog/thrash/death/sludge band would be create a count for each. Death, black, and doom metal were the top three most popular sub-genres.

“Hybrid Genres” means any band with more than one genre listed. This is interesting to look at because aside from death metal, this approach is more common than having a single subgenre. Also included is a breakdown of how many bands were black/death, because this was the most common mix.

Bands that were not metal (as per the Metal Archives), showed up more often than bands with thrash influences. There was no further breakdown on non-metal bands by genre, but I can say that I recall seeing metalcore, nu metal, rock, blues, glam, and noise.

This visually reinforced my overall impression of what people were listening to. I think this is also a good indicator that when certain mainstream outlets ignore black and death metal, they are really missing a large chunk of what is going on. I’m reminded of a certain documentary series on metal that treated these two sub-genres as an afterthought.


In the third chart, we are basically looking at what record labels dominated these lists. Like the sub-genre counts, were are looking at the total available slots in the 40 top-ten lists. This means that the percentages here are out of 400 slots, where the bands in the first chart were out of 40 lists. This means that Nuclear Blast for example showed up in 41 entries/slots, or 10.25% of the entries; compared to Behemoth appearing on 15 lists, or 37.5% of the lists. Labels have multiple bands, and can show up more once on a list. I suppose it’s also possible for someone to make a top ten listen with a release showing up multiple times, but I didn’t see that happen.

Here, the top 17 labels accounted for 60.25% of the available slots, not accounting for any non-metal bands that may be signed to these labels. The top 8 labels held 46.25% of the available spaces, and the top 2 (Nuclear Blast and Century Media Records) had 20%. Unsurprisingly, the label data shows more concentration than the band data. I’d also like to hear about how people feel about this, while also pointing out that the unsigned and band-run labels cumulatively outnumbered all but four of the record labels. The cutoff for this chart excludes labels occupying 4 or less available slots, again this was just for brevity’s sake.

(** Side Note for Economics Types** If you were to view the top-ten releases as their own separate market just for fun, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index for the dataset would be .041, indicating a competitive market.)

Websites Accessed (All During December 2014):

No comments: