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

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