Here’s a review of my thoughts on metal for the year 2014, including my favorite studio records, live albums, and compilations. I’ll also take a short look back at the best concerts and festivals I have assisted with over the past year. Finally, I will talk about my anticipations for 2015.
2014 was a great year for metal music in my opinion. Without any further ado, here are my twelve favorite new studio records of the year 2014, as well as a few honorable mentions.
12. Back To R’Lyeh – The Awakening / Last Flight Of The Primordial
The debut of this Spanish avant-garde progressive metal quintet requests some patience and isn’t the kind of music one could listen to each day. The record is based on Lovecraftian literature, the music has a technically challenging approach, and the album is atmospherically bleak. The rest is a fascinating potpourri of different genres that recalls completely disparate bands, from Voivod, Opeth, and Mastodon to System Of A Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Carlos Santana. This is my weirdest and probably most interesting discovery of the year. Back To R’Lyeh has tons of potential, and should get more attention in progressive metal circles for this experimental release. My three stars of the record are: “Basil Abscond”, “Ghosts & Vengeance”, and “Nuclear Warhead”.
11. Over Kill – White Devil Armory
The American thrash metal legend from the East Coast continues its stunning streak of high quality records. White Devil Army convinces with pitiless thrash metal wrecking balls, menacing groove metal vibes, mean punk anthems, and a superb hard rock cover of Nazareth’s “Miss Misery”, with guest vocals provided by Accept’s Matk Tornillo. My three favorite tracks of the album are: “The Fight Song”, “In The Name”, and “Armorist”.
10. Einherjer – Av Oss, For Oss
The Norwegian trio offers by far the best viking metal record of the year by delivering a short and consistent record that mixes black, doom, and folk metal in an atmospheric, emotional, and consistently interesting way. My three favorites on this record are: “Av Oss, For Oss”, “Nidstong”, and “Nord Og Ner”.
9. In Flames – Siren Charms
The Swedish melodic death metal icon continues to frustrate its fans from the early days by coherently following the path of the previous five records. Younger audiences, however, can probably make more sense of the band’s fascination with alternative metal and indie rock. In Flames keeps experimenting with electronic soundscapes, emotional ballads, and concise songwriting, but maintains its talent for New Wave off British Heavy Metal-style twin guitar melodies, a passionate mixture of melodic and harsh vocals, and tons of catchy choruses filled with emotional lyrics about inner struggles. My three stars of this output are: “Rusted Nail”, “Monsters In The Ballroom”, and “Filtered Truth”.
8. Epica – The Quantum Enigma
The Dutch sextet delivers what I consider to be its best studio record to date with The Quantum Enigma. Cinematic orchestration and enchanting Asian folk sounds meet a brutal rhythm section, gripping riffs, and two completely different emotional vocalists who harmonize well despite their contrasts. This powerful mixture of symphonic, power, and death metal hasn’t one bad song over seventy epic minutes. My three picks from this release are: “The Essence Of Silence”, “Omen (The Ghoulish Malady)”, and “The Fifth Guardian”.
7. Unisonic – Light Of Dawn
The German all-star band delivers an honest and positive record that should conquer the hearts of heavy and power metal fans alike. The band fuses uplifting lyrics with depth, provides technically convincing instrumentals, and delivers unforgettably catchy choruses in a mixture of charming nostalgia and fresh new energy. The band has found its fountain of youth, and the different members have put out their very best release of the last fifteen years (including all their main bands and side projects). My three favorites of the record are: “Night Of The Long Knives”, “Blood”, and “Exceptional”.
6. Deep Mountains – Lake Of Solace
Last year, the collaborative project “East And West” – between Chengdu-based multi-instrumentalist Kasasis, the mastermind behind one-man project Darkness Over Depth, and his Chinese label colleague Zwrust, the mastermind behind the one-man project of the same name – managed to make it into my top list of the year. In 2014, the profound neofolk project Deep Mountains from Tai’an makes my list with a similar effort that unites hauntingly bleak black metal and appeasing nature-bound folk melodies. My three stars of this release are: “Ballad Of River Nai”, “Detachment”, and “Sin”.
5. Kypck – Имена на стене
This Finnish quintet has an authentic weakness for Russian history and language, and delivered a highly atmospheric, emotional, and philosophical doom metal pearl. My three picks of this album are: “Deti Birkenau”, “Prorok”, and “Voskresenie”.
4. Serdce – Timelessness
The quartet from the Belarus capital of Minsk delivers a creative, passionate, and technically appealing mixture of folk-inspired and jazz-driven progressive rock soundscapes, sophisticated and extensive instrumental passages, and extreme vocal outbursts. My three stars of this progressive extreme metal jewel from the underground are: “Last Faith”, “Loss Of Feelings Or Feeling Of Loss”, and “Samadhi”.
3. Cea Serin – The Vibrant Sound Of Bliss And Decay
This American band delivered a highly diversified progressive metal masterpiece which varies from calm and enchanting ballads to technically stunning, intellectually challenging, and atmospherically unpredictable epics. My three stars of this output are: “The Illumination Mask”, “The Victim Cult”, and “Ice”.
2. Leviathan – Beholden To Nothing, Braver Since Then
Leviathan is another veteran progressive metal band from the United States of America that delivers an impressive mixture of progressive rock and power metal. Their most recent output is even more impressive, as this creative conceptual record is gripping and never becomes redundant despite a running time of over seventy-six unforgettable minutes. My three favorites from this album are: “Beholden To Nothing, Braver Since Then”, “If The Devil Doesn’t Exist…”, and “Intrinsic Contentment”.
1. Xandria – Sacrificium
My favorite record of the year from German symphonic metal band Xandria, which sounds more ambitious, mature, and versatile than ever with new singer Dianne van Giersbergen. Highlight after highlight hits hard on the bombastic and surprising Sacrificium, which includes thirteen excellent songs. This masterpiece sounds epic, powerful, and progressive, and is easily my favorite genre album of the decade. My three stars of this fantastic record are: “Sacrificium”, “The Undiscovered Land”, and “Temple Of Hate”.
13. Axel Rudi Pell – Into The Storm (Germany) // 14. Edguy – Space Police – Defenders Of The Crown (Germany) // 15. Subway To Sally – Mitgift: Mördergeschichten (Germany) // 16. Allen / Lande – The Great Divide (Norway, United States of America, Finland) // 17. Lord Symphony – The Lord’s Wisdom (Indonesia) // 18. Nanowar Of Steel – A Knight At The Opera (Italy) // 19. Exmortus – Slave To The Sword (United States of America) // 20. Alestorm – Sunset On The Golden Age (United Kingdom) // 21. Eintritt – Tempel Der Meere (Poland) // 22. Vital Science – Imagination On The Subject Of Infinity (Estonia, Latvia) // 23. Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call (China) // 24. Babymetal – Babymetal (Japan) // 25. HammerFall – r(E)volution (Sweden)
Favorite concerts and festivals of the year:
1. Black Sabbath, Reignwolf (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
2. Blaze Bayley, Shock, Joe Thrasher & Rusted (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
3. Sonata Arctica, Delain & Xandria (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
4. Over Kill, Prong & A Darker Day (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Ottawa)
5. Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Exmortus & Sawed-Off Shogun (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Ottawa)
6. Dream Theater (Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
7. Yes (National Arts Centre (Southam Hall), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
8. B.A.R.F., Insurrection, My Shadow & …From the Deep (Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada)
9. Death Angel, Tyr, & Signs Of Chaos (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
10. Ensiferum, Crematory, Delain, Lost Area, Sündenklang, Cain & Eisenherz @ Castle Rock XV (Mülheim an der Ruhr, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
11. Grim Skunk & Greta Knights (Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada)
12. Eisbrecher, Apoptygma Berzerk, Corde Oblique, Persephone @ Amphi Festival X (Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
Best compilation of the year:
King Diamond – Dreams Of Horror
Best live CD/DVD of the year:
Anthrax – Chile On Hell
My Most anticipated releases for 2015:
Acrassicauda – Gilgamesh (Iraq) / Coppelius – Hertzmaschine (Germany) / Eisbrecher – Schock (Germany) / Ensiferum – One Man Army (Finland) / Haggard – Grimm (Germany) / In Legend – Stones At Goliath (Germany) / Jorn Lande & Trond Holter – Dracula – Swing Of Death (Norway) / Jupiter – The History Of Genesis (Japan) / Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus (Italy) / Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (United States of America) / Melechech – Enki (Israel) / Moonspell – Extinct (Portugal) / Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Finland) / Orden Ogan – Ravenhead (Germany) / Scorpions – Return To Forever (Germany) / Tanzwut – Freitag Der 13. (Germany) / Waltari – You Are (Finland) / and many more…
For further reviews and lists of the year 2014, please visit my personal blog: http://kluseba.eklablog.com/