Thursday, January 29, 2015

6:33 - Deadly Scenes (2015)

Out of all the weird band names I have encountered during my life time, this one might take the prize. I mean, who names their band after a bunch of numbers one see on a digital watch? Well, these Frenchmen did it, and they have now released their third full length album entitled "Deadly Scenes".

Just like their weird band name, the sound of 6:33 is... well, weird. It is a vast mix of Devin Townsend, jazz, Tim Burton movie music, and a whole bunch of other bands and styles that I cannot comprehend. It is definitely a unique sound that lives on chaos and confusion, but some how it feels so well thought out that it makes perfect sense, making it very interesting listening to it. But the real treat with 6:33 is the shear joy that surrounds everything. The infectious groove in the music is unstoppable, forcing all of your bones to rattle until you cannot sit quietly in your chair. It is a disease that you do not mind having.

All of this insanity is also mixed with a good dose of comedy, whether it is in the silly sound, a pun in "The Walking Fed" or some inappropriate children stories, you can be sure that these guys will try to give you a good laugh or two. And as I have said before, it feels good that there are some people in the metal world that has a sense of humour and shows it through their music, so it does not become dead serious all the time.

As a big fan of Devin Townsend, I off course get attracted to those songs that have most of the influences from the Canadian mad man. "Lazy Boy" has a peculiar mix of ambient music and space like licks that is both beautiful and mesmerizing. The jazzy groove in "Ego Fandango" is incredibly catchy and silly, and it has a sweet drive that not even a semi bad rap part can destroy. It is like the took the Devin song "Bad Devil" and just remodeled it. And then we have "I'm A Nerd", a song title that more or less speaks for itself with its silly, but yet confident sound.

The biggest accomplishment I think 6:33 pulled off in "Deadly Scenes" is the enormous variation in the album. During the entire album, you will never have a clue to what will hit you next. To do that, and still contain a huge catchiness factor is very impressive. Hell, they even have variation when it comes to their stage names. We have Rorschach, Dietrisch Von Schtrudle, S.A.D, and the guy with the very funny name, Niko. And for those wondering, yes, they also have masks when performing, which of course would scare a lot of listeners, thinking the band is too silly for their own good. My thought is, as long as the band is performing well and write good music, they can do whatever they want with their image. It certainly does affect them to a certain extent, but the music should not suffer because of it.

This album could end up as one of the bigger surprises this year, because I did not see before me that I would enjoy such a odd album, but whatever 6:33 is doing, they are doing a hell of a nice job. The controlled chaos in "Deadly Scenes" is weird, but also very intriguing, giving you a urge to want more of it. The infectious grooves and wacky influences blend well together, creating a highly memorable album. If you are going to get out of your own comfort zone and listen to something crazy just once this year, please let this album be you choice. You can thank me afterwards.

Songs worthy of recognition: Ego Fandango, I'm A Nerd, Lazy Boy

Rating: 7,5/10 Black Widows

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor (2015)

Some people and bands can go on with one style or image forever more, while others changes their direction from time to time. And then there are those who just cannot do the same thing that made them famous because they do not have that youthful spirit anymore. Brian "Marilyn Manson" Warner seem to have finally realized that he can't be the Antichrist Superstar forever, and that he needs to tone down the insanity to even be a part of the music industry any more. A realization that may have come a little too late, but was necessary for him.

"The Pale Emperor" is a soft, almost bluesy kind of album were Manson tries to bring out other types of emotions than just chock. The sound does not get a complete overhaul, it has just gotten several tweaks here and there to make it seem brand new, but I can assure that for those of you who have listened to Manson's last couple of albums, you will recognize the music in "The Pale Emperor". There is also minor hints of the old Marilyn Manson (especially in the song "Deep Six"), but it is the calm melancholy that is the star of the show.

Despite its overall gloomy mood, "The Pale Emperor" is a surprisingly catchy album, and it succeeds in that part with either a slow, but effective groove, or with a easy, memorable chorus. Now that I think of it, I actually think it is Manson himself who makes the songs so catchy. His voice tone is mesmerizing, it entrances you to the point were you just sit back and let it all flow inside of you. A true work of a true professional.

But even if I do enjoy the whole album and do dig out to most of the songs, like "Killing Strangers", "Third Day of A Seven Day Binge", "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles" and "Cupid Carries A Gun", it just tends to be boring when listening to this album for a long period of time. If the fast old school piece "Deep Six" did not exist, this album would become a snooze fest. It is obvious that Manson still needs to find some sort of balance with the old and new sound to really hit the head on the nail, but he is on a good way of doing just so.

I can definitely imagine that Marilyn Manson recorded this album while sitting in the exact same position he is on the cover. This album is laid back, soft blues metal that could reignite a flame that has been put out for a long time. Well, I do not think Manson will reach the same fame as he did during the 90's, but there is no denying that "The Pale Emperor" is a fine album and the sound fits Manson like a glove. However, next time I think he better hire someone else to handle the camera work. The image did not quite come out as razor sharp as it should have been.

Songs worthy of recognition: Deep Six, The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles, Cupid Carries A Gun

Rating: 7/10  Birds of Hell Awaiting

Friday, January 23, 2015

Megadeth - Youthanasia (1994)

With the release of "Youthanasia", Megadeth continued their transforming journey from one of the founders of thrash to something more mainstream, a transformation that saddened the thrash loving side of myself. To see a band that made some of the greatest thrash metal albums of all time making completely different music feels weird. But thanks to "Youthanasia", that weird feeling is now a positive one, instead of negative.

Just like "Countdown To Extinction", I would not count "Youthanasia" as a pure thrash release, but the album still has small hints of thrash in it, which of course makes it easier for the common Megadeth fan to listen to the album, but it is not only the small thrash injections that make "Youthanasia" a good album. The songs in the album feels more well thought through, having nice flowing structures and is a cohesive unit that is standing strong. Hell, even the ballad "A Tout Le Monde" (French for "To All The World") sounds good even if you are not used to hear such a slow and beautiful Megadeth song. This album really shows how much Mustaine has grown as a song writer.

For those of you who are only in it for the old school Megadeth sound, let me lead you to the solo in "The Killing Road", the heavy drive in "Reckoning Day", and the sweet groove in "Victory" that is obviously borrowed from "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?". However, I do advice that you also check out the other tracks in the album since most of them are fine heavy metal pieces that together builds a sturdy record with a very interesting artwork (even if it misses good ol' Vic).

As usual when it comes to works made by Mustaine, it comes with a pinch of controversial lyrics in it. "A Tout Le Monde" could easily be mistaken as a song about suicide, something that made MTV ban its music video from airing and has been connected to the Dawson College shooting in 2006. I find the lyrics in it beautiful, but I had to admit that I also thought it was about suicide, but it is still a fantastic song. I also like the lyrics in "Blood of Heroes", which acts as a response to those who believed that the band was sell outs, and the title track's lyrics about the lost generation is pretty nice as well.

Even if this album was created by the desire of that number one spot on the selling lists, it still feels like a album that comes from the heart. Mustaine shows a lot of maturity in "Youthanasia", something he did not show in "Countdown To Extinction". It is a nice little album that may easily get dismissed, just because it is another catchy and melodic effort by the thrash legends. So do not miss out on this album, because I do not want this album to end up to the album equivalent of Youthanasia and let it be forgotten among Megadeth's discography. Also, it is true, that heroes never dies, they just fade away from time to time.

Songs worthy of recognition: A Tout Le Monde, Reckoning Day, Blood of Heroes

Rating: 8/10 Family Trees

Monday, January 19, 2015

Battle Beast - Unholy Savior (2015)

Ever since their emergence on the stage of Wacken Open Air in 2010, Finnish band Battle Beast has been one of my go to bands whenever I want to listen to some fast power metal with a lot of force in it. Their first two albums, "Steel" and "Battle Beast", have been a nice, new storm wind in a time where power metal have not really changed too much. But there comes a time for most bands who tries to reinvent the wheel when the inspiration is gone and they either get stuck in a trench or they join the others and become a normal act. That time seem to have come now for Battle Beast with the release of "Unholy Savior", the band's third full length album.

The album does have a fair share of power and speed, but it just feels so sluggish compared to its predecessors, which does not surprise me one bit since it is extremely hard to keep upping the tempo every time. However, I am not upset over that, especially since there are other things in the albums that annoys me even more, like the two ballads "Sea of Dreams" and "Angel Cry". I like it that the band actually tries to variate their sounds, but these ballads just does not hold it since the singer, Noora Louhimo, is much better with her screaming, Rob Halford like vocals.

I also find it strange that they put two short instrumentals right after each other in "The Black Swordsman" and "Hero's Quest". Just bake them into one song, because they obviously fit together. I know I am petty over it, but I had to say it. I am also annoyed over "Touch In The Night", whom sounds like a cheesy 80's pop song. Not metal, pop. I can almost guarantee that I can play this song to my mother, who is a huge fan of 80's music, and she will enjoy it. Speaking of the 80's, the band also did a cover of "Push It To The Limit" by Paul Engemann (best known from the movie "Scarface") as a bonus. Pretty decent, but nothing that really impress me.

There are some parts of this album that does hint of what quality the band possesses. Songs like "I Want The World... And Everything In It" and "Madness" has a good drive that the band can handle with ease, and they also deliver with simple, straight forward heavy metal in "Far Far Away". However, I miss that real top song that just defines the album and takes it to another level.

So yeah, this is without a doubt the worst Battle Beast album up to date. The band needs to find a new direction to head towards, otherwise they will reach a place were mediocrity rules. "Unholy Savior" still has small glimpses of quality, but it just feels too safe so it can reach maximum listening time through the radio stations. I know you can do better than this, so just do it.

Songs worthy of recognition: I Want The World... And Everything In It, Madness, Far Far Away

Rating: 5,5/10 Black Swordsmen

More reviews of Battle Beast
Bringer of Pain

No More Hollywood Endings

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction (1992)

My first encounter with the song "Sweating Bullets" from Megadeth's 5th album "Countdown To Extinction" was in the video game Guitar Hero 5. After seeing songs like "Hangar 18" and "Peace Sells" going through the same medium, I was underwhelmed with the surprisingly simple guitar track, and I just thought to myself that this was the wimpiest Megadeth song that I have ever heard.

I cannot help but thinking that the exact same feeling probably came to a lot of Megadeth fans in 1992 when "Countdown To Extinction" came out. Following thrash filled albums such as "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" and "Rust In Peace", "Countdown To Extinction" is kind of a weird Megadeth album, being slower and containing less riffs and solos. I would not even consider this to be a thrash album, it is more like a generic hard rock album. The lack of speed and frenzy could potentially chock the common Megadeth fan, so I find it strange that it does not have a warning label on the album addressing that.

I can definitely understand that Dave Mustaine wants to evolve his song writing since he seems to be that kind of guy who do not want to do the same thing over and over again, but his musical direction took a humongous leap towards something that did not seem to be fully thought-out. The album still does have some nice moments in it though. The main riff to the most well known song in the album, "Symphony of Destruction", is an all time classic, being very simple, but also containing a nice force in it, the title track shows how good this type of music can be with its groovy tempo and sweet solo, "Architecture of Aggression" does have some bite to it, and after hearing the other songs in the album, "Sweating Bullets" does not seem so bad after all with its psychotic dialogue and big drum sound.

Unfortunately, the mediocre and bad songs overpower the good songs almost completely, mostly because there are so many of them. I mean, what in the hell is hick songs like "High Speed Dirt" and "Foreclosure of A Dream" doing here? They don't fit in the Megadeth discography, nor this album. Then we also have the fact that none of the songs here could be classified as a thrash song, which I guess is good since it would mix up this album too much, but it almost feels like the band has left everything of what made them famous in the first place behind.

Ultimately, "Countdown To Extinction" does have some neat ideas when it comes to stable hard rock, but I feel like it was the wrong time for Dave and Co. to present this album to the public. A sort of middle album between "Rust In Peace" and this one would have made the musical transition much smoother and not make the band seem like such a big sell out. This record is decent, but I think we can all agree on that the band is a lot better when they are just bombarding the listener with riffs instead of slow grooves.

Songs worthy of recognition: Symphony of Destruction, Sweating Bullets, Countdown To Extinction

Rating: 6/10 Psychotrons

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mechina - Acheron (2015)

The industrial death metal band Mechina continues their new year's tradition of releasing new music, and the trend has been that they have increased the quality of their craft with each year. This year, the new material is called "Acheron" and is the band's 5th full length album. A album that I have looked forward too, but also dreaded that it would be too much alike its predecessors.

Those fears were gone almost instantly after hearing "Acheron" for the first time. This album is a further development of the typical Mechina sound, which means a grand sound picture, heavy drum beats, smooth flow from song to song and a overall space like, apocalyptic mood. But what separates "Acheron" from albums like "Empyrean" and "Xenon" is mainly two things. the first is that the orchestral musicality gets much more room in this album, making it less heavy, but more beautiful. The second thing is the acquisition of female vocalist Mel Rose, whom increases the beauty factor even more with her soft vocals. Speaking of vocals, David Holch uses very little of his clean vocals, which is a shame since I like it more than his harsh vocals. He still does a good job though in this album, just like the rest of the band.

Even if the band has worked with this release for only a year, the craftsmanship in the songs is still at a high level, making it seem like they have worked with these songs for quite some time. Although it is still pretty obvious that the band has some sort of template to work with, which is fine as long as one does not follow it completely throughout the album.

Most of the heavy music is put on the start of the albums, in the songs "Earth-Born Axiom" and "Vanquisher", two steam rollers that shows most of Mechina's repertoire. However, the most impressing song is actually the song that defines the new style that the band has embraced. "On The Wings of Nefeli" is a beautiful track with a delicate vocal structure and a catchy groove. really wished that more songs in "Acheron" was like this. Also take notice of the ballad "Ode To The Forgotten Few" were Mel Rose takes the spotlight and shines with her perfect suiting voice.

Even if this album is an enjoyable one, it still has some flaws that I find hard to ignore. Some of the spots where they cut off the tracks are not fully optimized, a problem the band has had before. It does not bother me when I am listening to the full album, but it makes a difference when you are listening to a single song. I also feel like the amount of soft intros/instrumentals are at least one too many, but that is maybe because I do not like those kind of songs, especially when they almost take half of the track slots.

I do appreciate that Mechina keeps on evolving with their music and not make the same thing over and over again, but I feel like "Acheron" is just missing some key things to really make it a fantastic record. This more melodic approach does have something to it and could make the band even more versatile than what they already are. "Acheron" is without a doubt another strong, solid effort from the Chicago band, but they still have some way to go before hitting the jackpot.

Songs worthy of recognition: On The Wings of Nefeli, Earth-Born Axiom, Ode To The Forgotten Few

Rating: 8/10 Lethean Waves

Friday, January 9, 2015

My respect for The Project Hate has increased immensly

There are bands that say that they are against illegal downloading, and then there is The Project Hate MCMXCIX.

The Swedish progressive death metal band released their 10th studio album on Christmas day, the 25th of December, entitled "There Is No Earth I Will Leave Unscorched", a album that has been funded by the fans and has had no promotion what so ever by magazines, review blogs or other media. The only way to get this album is to buy it at the band website. It is not available on Spotify, Bandcamp, Pandora, YouTube or any other streaming service.

The band has made this decision since they want to feature the art itself. They of course want to make money out of it, but also feel like people care enough to buy their music, something I think all musicians agree on that they want. But there is a difference between saying that you are against illegal downloading and actually take actions against it.

I saw a YouTube video like one week ago that linked to a site where you could download the new album illegally, and in the comment section was one comment. It was the official TPH YouTube channel that said something like this. "Thank you for sharing our new album, you have now been charged for illegal sharing". Then we also have all the statements Lord K. has done over and over again in the band's website and other media over this topic. Just another proof of that they are damn serious over this subject.

This shows how much the band, and especially their founder and leader, Lord K. Philipson, love to create music. They really want to feel like they are creating something that matters to people, and not something that assholes just takes for granted and spread it around the cesspool we call the Internet.

This decision however, has one downside. This will make it difficult for the band to gain any bigger amount of newer fans, since a lot of music lovers finds new artists through streaming services like Spotify (yours truly found the band, like many other bands, on Rock Band, were they released their amazing song "Descend Into The Eternal Pits of Possession"). I am not saying that it is impossible, especially since their old material exists there, but it will be more difficult.

And for those wondering, no, I have not listened to the new album. I would love to buy it, but at my current economic status, it is not worth it, and since I respect and love these guys, I am not going to illegally download the album (something I never do) and report anyone who tries to share it illegally. I really wish the band good luck in their future and hope that they get a lot of support for their cause. And finally, I hope that more bands follow this example, so we can stop illegal downloading of metal music once and for all.

For those of you who are interested in purchasing the album "There Is No Earth I Will Leave Unscorched" or find more about the band and their cause, visit their official website

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Megadeth - Rust In Peace (1990)

Out of all the 14 Megadeth albums in their discography, this particular album released in 1990 is the most critically acclaimed one, often mentioned when one discusses over which album is the best one ever released. And I totally understand why it is so. Ever since I first heard the whole album, around the time it was released in Rock Band as DLC, I was hooked with those fast guitars, the endless amount of solos and the insane bass lines. It was a blast to play these songs, but even more fun to listen to them.

So I am already well known with "Rust In Peace" before this review, so I am mostly going with what it was like the first time I heard it. And to be honest, it was the same feeling that I still have over this album, that it is a thrash masterpiece. The band has written 9 + 1 killer songs that takes up various discussions in the lyrics, such as religious wars, alien life forms, nuclear warfare, and more. Dave Mustaine and co. has really stepped up their game after the half experimental "So Far, So Good... So What!".

We got two new additions to the band in this album, two members that would put a huge mark on the band forever. Guitarist Marty Friedmann and drummer Nick Menza joined the band after Mustaine fired Jeff Young and Chuck Behler, and to say that they made a mark on "Rust In Peace" is more or less an understatement. Menza's drum beats contains a power that is almost unstoppable, giving the songs bigger playroom, while Friedmann comes in as the perfect playmate for Mustaine, matching him in both riffs and solos.

And believe me when I say that there are a lot of riffs and solos in this album. In "Hangar 18" itself, I count up to a total of 11 solos in this 5 minute song, but then again, this song has very little singing in it, almost making it an instrumental track. The guitar attacks keeps on coming in several other songs. Just listen to the great trademark Megadeth riffing in the start of "Take No Prisoners", the frenetic finish in "Five Magics", the catchy groove in "Tornado of Souls", and the steady march in "Rust In Peace... Polaris". But the biggest assault comes in the beginning with the classic track "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due", a amazing track about the religious conflict in Northern Ireland that mixes frenetic riffing with slower, darker melody loops, making the song look like the Batman villain Two-Face. A very versatile track that should not be missed up on by any metal fan in the world.

But "Rust In Peace" is of course more than a big riff off between Mustaine and Friedmann, Ellefson also gets his share of the spotlight with his fantastic bass lines. He especially takes the centre stage in the slow and dark "Dawn Patrol", the first Megadeth song that does not contain any guitars. Yes, you read that right, no guitars at all. Feels weird to hear a Megadeth song without any six strings, but it helps to bring some diversity to the album. Ellefson also shines with a insane lick in "Take No Prisoners".

This album finished the process of making Megadeth a world class band, mixing amazing song writing with impeccable performance. "Rust In Peace" does not contain a single weak track, not even the bonus track "My Creation" fails to impress me. Mustaine has finally found a good, stable line-up that is ready to keep the Megadeth legacy at its top. A real thrash master piece that also aspires to be the absolute best album ever created in all of metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: Holy Wars... The Punishment Due, Hangar 18, Five Magics, Tornado of Souls, Rust In Peace... Polaris

Rating: 10/10 Lucretias

Friday, January 2, 2015

Best of 2014: Albums

I have to be honest here, 2014 have of course had its fair share of great metal, but the pickings were pretty slim this year. Only 7 albums this year got a rating of 9 or higher, compared to 2013 that had 13 albums with 9 or higher, and none of those album got a perfect 10 (2nd year in a row now without that one and zero). So no, 2014 will not go to the history as one of the finest years in metal, but there has been some music that is worthy of a listen. Here are my top 20 favourite metal albums of 2014

note: grey album names means that I have review the album during the year. Click on it to come to the review.

20. Insomnium - Shadows of The Dying Sun
Insomnium has created some high quality music during the years, so it came as no surprise that "Shadows of The Dying Sun" would become a album that matched the expectations. Great melodic death metal from the land of the thousand lakes.

Listen To: While We Sleep, Collapsing Words, Out To The Sea

19. IQ - The Road of Bones
If someone is going to impress me with a calm album, they have to nail close to everything perfectly, and that is exactly what IQ did. "The Road of Bones" is a beautiful piece were smooth melody loops is the main factor. A better way to relax than a day at the spa.

Listen To: The Road of Bones, Without Walls, Ten Million Demons

18. Persuader - The Fiction Maze
Despite sounding like Blind Guardian wannabes, Swedish Persuader impresses with its unstoppable force, turning you outside in with "The Fiction Maze". This is exactly how true, modern power metal should sound like.

Listen To: One Lifetime, InSect, Heathen

17. Conquering Dystopia - S/T
The first ever death metal instrumental album was one of the more pleasant surprises this year. Created by experienced artists from Nevermore, Cannibal Corpse and more, "Conquering Dystopia" became a great showing of what several years of experience can do together.

Listen To: Prelude To Obliteration, Inexhaustible Savagery, Lachrymose

16. Crucified Barbara - In The Red
Coldheart, Force, Evileye and Nicki Wicked has created what I consider their finest album up to date. "In The Red" is showing off exactly how good female power can be when harvested correctly. Without a doubt the best rock album this year.

Listen To: I Sell My Kids For Rock'N'Roll, To Kill A Man, Don't Call On Me

15. Epica - The Quantum Enigma
Epica came out stronger than expected with "The Quantum Enigma", showing that they are not done yet. This album is just what an awesome Epica record should sound like. Epic, melodic and diverse. Oh, and did I mention the album was epic?

Listen To: The Second Stone, Chemical Insomnia, Omen - The Ghoulish Malady

14. Vampire - S/T
The brute force that Vampire is showing in their self titled debut is astounding, mixing youthful passion with old school tactics. Hitting you time and time again with just excellent song writing and killer riffs. Still think it is lame that they hide behind pseudonyms, just like Ghost.

Listen To: Howl From The Coffin, At Midnight I'll Possess Your Corpse, Ungodly Warlock

13. Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel
The Australians took another step in their development with "Citadel", perfecting their unique and progressive sound. I could have wished for more songs, but the band does a great job with what exists that I cannot look past their effort. But as said, bring more songs to next album please.

Listen To: Tripych Lux, Pyrrhic, Blackholes

12. Behemoth - The Satanist
Not only is "The Satanist" one of the best albums made by the Polish death metal legends Behemoth, it is a big middle finger towards cancer and a huge victory for Nergal. A demonic album that is sure to make your heart go 666 bpm.

Listen To: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, O Father O Satan O Sun!

11. Aeon Zen - Ephemera
I would probably describe Aeon Zen as a techno metal band, but that would probably be an insult towards them because they are extremely better than techno. There is however no denying that "Ephemera" is a very technically sound piece that

Listen To: The Entity, Unite, Remembrance

10. Triosphere - The Heart of The Matter
The speed and ferocity that Triosphere came at me with in "The Heart of The Matter" is astounding, and so is also the excellent song writing were the frenetic guitars and catchy melodies are mixed nicely. And with Ida Haukland's powerful voice, this album is a killer.

Listen to: My Fortress, Steal Away The Light, The Sentinel

9. Mechina - Xenon
Despite releasing new albums every year on the 1st of January, the guys in Mechina does not seem to run out of steam yet. "Xenon" is everything that "Empyrean" was, but with a little more of everything. More blast beats, more epicness, more production value. Cannot wait to get my hands on their latest creation "Acheron".

Listen To: Xenon, Terrea, Thales

8. Devin Townsend Project - Z²
My expectations for this double album was stupidly high, mostly thanks to the fact that one of the albums was the follow up to "Ziltoid the Omniscient". Even if "Z²" was not the overwhelming experience I was hoping for, it still gave me much satisfaction, some nice throwbacks to the Strapping Young Lad era, and a whole lot of Poozers. Hail Ziltoid.

PS: The link is for the first part of the review. To get to the second part, click here

Listen To: Fallout, March of The Poozers, Ziltoid Goes Home

7. Opeth - Pale Communion
This album is what "Heritage" could have been. With its smooth sound and intriguing melodies, "Pale Communion" lifts Opeth to the same heights as during their prime time, only this time without the death metal. A calm record that could possibly launch Opeth into a new golden era.

Listen To: "Moon Above, Sun Below", River, Voice of Treason

6. Novembers Doom - Bled White
With a darkness that is as black as the night and some nice performance, Novembers Doom takes its rightful place in this list with an amazing doom metal album. The beauty of "Bled White" is that it feels grander than what it actually is.

Listen To: Heartfelt, The Grand Circle, The Silent Dark

5. Vanden Plas - Chronicles of The Immortals: The Netherworld (Path 1)
The first part of this saga is a fantastic progressive masterpiece that just screams Vanden Plas. The band has really translated the stories of Wolfgang Hohlbein well into musical form and expanded it to a much broader audience. Can't wait for the next album in this series.

Listen to: The Black Knight, Godmaker, Soul Alliance

4. Delain - The Human Contradiction
I originally had this album at number 2 on this list, but after another listening session I decided to take it down a couple of spots. That still does not mean that "The Human Contradiction" does not deserve all the praise, it is a fantastic symphonic piece despite being very simplistic. It is just 9 killer songs accompanied with excellent musicianship. Nothing more, nothing less.

Listen To: Stardust, Sing To Me, Army of Dolls

3. Anubis Gate - Horizons
Denmark is not known for their progressive metal bands, but Anubis Gate impressed me so much this year that I want them to be overly popular instead of the metal wannabes Volbeat. "Horizons" flows through your mind without any resistance, giving you tons of catchy melodies, beautiful solos and a fair share of heaviness. This album is smooth as silk.

Listen To: Never Like This (A Dream), Hear My Call, A Dream Within A Dream

2. Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism
Before listening to "Esoteric Symbolism", I had no idea who Teramaze were. I just randomly found their profile on Metal Storm and saw that they recently released this album. After just one listen, I became a fan of the band. The heaviness they bring together with the progressive song structures makes "Esoteric Symbolism" a mighty force. Another proof that Australia keeps producing fine metal bands.

Listen To; Punishment By Design, The Divulgence Act, VII Darkest Days of Symphony

1. Mastodon - Once More 'round The Sun
I do not know how they do it. Album after album, Mastodon just puts out amazing stuff, and they do it with a new sound almost every time. No matter if it is sludge metal ("Blood Mountain"), progressive metal ("Crack The Skye") or just a straight forward assault ("The Hunter"), they keep hitting jackpot. And they do it once again in "Once More 'round The Sun". This album is their most easily accessible record yet, but thanks to a grand variety and a musicality that is unique and mysterious, they make this album sound bigger than any band could have ever done it. No matter if you are into catchy tunes ("The Motherload"), slower anthems ("High Road"), fast and crazy steam rollers ("Chimes At Midnight"), or just want something out of this world (the title track and "Asleep In The Deep"), "Once More 'round The Sun" is the album to find it. It is my clear winner out of the albums released in 2014. Congrats Mastodon, you truly deserve it.

Listen To: The Motherload, Chimes At Midnight, Asleep In The Deep

Honorable mentions: At The Gates - At War With Reality, Equilibrium - Erdentempel, Words of Farewell - The Black Wild Yonder, Twilight Force - Tales of Ancient Prophecies

So a happy 2015 to everyone. Hope you all experience some excellent metal music this year.

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson