Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Year in Metal 2014

2014 was a great year for metal. I was exposed to some incredibly good new bands that just blew me away with their sound and their ability to execute amazing metal songs. Other highlights do actually include some great albums by established metal heavy weights. There were even more albums that I listened to and did not get to review but were very solid. This was actually a hard decision to make because of the quality year it's been. There were a few disappointments but not enough to make a huge difference. Due to so many great releases that not only will there be a top 10 but I'll expand to 25. But first, the top 10 albums of 2014...

10. Falconer - Black Moon Rising

Falconer seems to have found that magic that made their first two albums so special. The riffing, the solos, the melodies...all the things that defined this band are here.

9. Anubis Gate - Horizons

This was my first exposure to this band and what a great thing I found them. This album is prog metal done properly. The balance between melodies, song structure and wankery is perfect. This is still a regular in my play list eight months later.

8. Stormwarrior - Thunder & Steele

This album is just plain kick ass speed metal. Nothing flashy or innovative...and they have not gone over to the pretentious side to become something they are not. Instead they do what they do best, they play kick ass speed metal and they are one of the best at it...period.

7. Halberd - Remnants of Crumbling Empires

So what do you get when a few guys from the Metal-Archives forum, living on different continents, get together to make some music? In this case, perfection. This is some bad ass death/doom. The songs are excellently written and the execution is flawless. Some of the best solos of the year are on this album.

6. Vinterbris - Solace

This is another one of my 2014 discoveries. This album is really good. It's melodic blackened epic metal. Damn, a new genre? Seriously this is an album that caught me by surprise. One of a on...

5. Hoth - Oathbreaker

So here we have another band and album that completely caught me by surprise. This is epic as fuck and another album that I would throw into the epic blackened metal category. Actually it is quite hard to place this band into any one genre because they are all over the place. This album is nothing short of brilliant.

4. Vader - Tibi et Igni

This band is so consistent that you could almost guarantee that a new Vader album will be just a brilliant slice of death/thrash. It's almost as if they are incapable of putting out a truly bad album. All these years later and Vader is still creating top 10 worthy albums. That's consistency.

3. Galneryus - Vetelgyus

Symphonic Euro-power metal has always been one of my favorite genres of metal and when the bands that defined the genre are letting me down, leave it to these talented guys from Japan to deliver. This is fast and melodic with a truly classy neo-classical sound. 

2. Vintersorg - Naturbål 

Everything that Andreas Hedlund (Vintersorg or Mr. V as he is commonly known) touches turns to gold. His ninth solo album is no different. This album is truly a masterpiece that only Mr. V. can produce. Haunting and beautiful with just enough of the folk element this album touches on the darker forces of nature.

1. Opeth - Pale Communion

When Opeth announced that they were giving up on the death metal elements to concentrate on the prog rock sound that they have always had buried beneath the metal, this shit storm that followed was partially justified when they released Heritage. However, they redeemed themselves a hundred times over. This is nothing short of a brilliant album and is officially my album of the year for 2014!

11 though 25 was a bit harder for me because, although the top 10 are untouchable, these were very close to being as good and in no way means they are any less essential.

11. Primalfrost - Prosperous Visions
This is amazing shit! This actually could be my Find of the Year...of there was such a thing. This young Canadian is a seriously talented guy and I would love to see what comes next for this band.

12. Noble Beast - Noble Beast
Another of of the fantastic new bands that I discovered in 2014. I still stand by everything I have ever said about this band. They are talented songwriters and they execute it brilliantly.

13. Unisonic - Light of Dawn
This marks the second album of Michael Kiske's return to metal. I actually think this is better than the debut and possibly Kiske's best performance.

14. Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer (The 7 Temptations of Man) 
This marks a return to form for this Austrian band. This band once had Silenius of Summoning fame and this album actually has him and his Summoning partner Protector providing guest vocals. This is pure evil black metal.

15. Accept - Blind Rage
This reaches back to the 80s and shows that this band still has a lot to say. This album is a bit more laid back than the previous two but still a great release from one of my all time favorite bands.

16. Misery Index - The Killing Gods
This is a great album by a band that went unnoticed by me for years even though they are from my hometown of Baltimore. There is more death metal in this album and sees a departure from their grindcore roots.

17. Behemoth - The Satanist
This album caught me by surprise. I was not expecting to like it since I'm not the biggest fan of later era Behemoth but this album is very good. This is epic and full of killer riffing.

18. Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall
Another new find, Dead Congregation play old school death metal and they do it really well. This album is loaded with riffs and solos and down right evil vocals. This is death metal how it's supposed to be done.

19. Iskald - Nedom og nord 
This is some really good black metal that teeters on the edge of progressive black metal. The riffs are huge and the songs are really good. I've become a huge fan of this band.

20. Alvenrad - Habitat
This band adds a new dimension to folk metal. They infuse traditional metal as well as prog rock and, of course, folk music to create a really cool album. I'm looking forward to what comes next for these guys.

21. Iron Savior - Rise of the Hero
Another quality release from a veteran of the business. There is not much in the German metal scene that does not have Piet Sielck's fingerprints all over it. This band has released quality albums time and time again and this album is no exception.

22. Kampfar - Djevelmakt
This Norwegian pagan metal band his been quite consistent and this album is more proof of the quality of songwriting that shows on each of this band's albums. A bit more progressive than their previous releases, this is still a damn fine album.

23. Elvenstorm - Blood Leads to Glory
This was an unexpected find but Elvenstorm's sophomore release was very good. This is a female fronted band but not in the Nightwish style but more in the Crystal Viper/Warlock style. Piet Sielck has a hand in the sound of this album as does Lars Ramcke since they are both behind the knobs for this one.

24. Grave Digger - Return of the Reaper
The name Grave Digger is synonymous with heavy metal and this album actually solidifies that. This is such a great album of in your face heavy metal riffing. There is still a lot of life left in this band and this album proves it.

25. Helstar - This Wicked Nest
Last, but in no way the least, is Helstar's ninth full length album is a crushing collection of in your face heavy metal. James Rivera is an absolute GOD....he just can not stop sounding in top form. Another great album from a criminally underrated band.

Disappointments of 2014

Of course, the year wasn't perfect. There were a few disappointments this year. I was really looking forward to the new HammerFall album after they released the teaser clip, "Hector's Hymn" but what the album wound up being more of the same shit they've been releasing but with Hector's Hymn thrown in to make us think they released a good album. Same with Sonata Arctica. They hyped up their latest as a return to form but instead the just fell flat. Judas Priest released another album of them trying to hard to be true metal rather than making good songs. Timo Tolkki's Avalon was just horrible...but, just like Judas Priest, I wasn't expecting it to be much. So what was the most disappointing album of 2014?

Turd of the Year...

Harmony - Theatre of Redemption

This album should have been incredible. This is my first exposure to this band and even though Harmony are a third rate prog metal band, this album could have been much better. Why such disappointment in an album by a band that I've never heard? Daniel Heiman was the guest lead vocalist on this album. His melodies and range is one of the best in metal but it was not enough to make this album good. In fact, it's down right boring. The product did not match the hype.

Well there it is, the year in metal 2014. From what I understand, 2015 may turn out to be just as good. We shall see.

1 comment:

Giovanni Carlo said...

hammerfallThe Swedish saviors of Heavy Metal