Mattie’s Top 10 albums of 2014
This year was yet another year that was full of amazing heavy metal records, so much so that I will unhappily admit all of the albums released this year did not get the full attention they deserved from me. Due to an adjustment in my day job, my 9 to 5 listening habits had to change. That being said, I have spent the majority of this past month diving into this list to make the most objective and fair ranks as possible. In my humble opinion, the following list of albums were the Best of the Best in 2014.
25. Persuader – The Fiction Maze
24. While Heaven Wept – Suspended at Aphelion
23. Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
22. Disforia – The Age of Ether
21. Falconer – Black Moon Rising
20. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
19. Neonfly – Strangers in Paradise
18. Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel
17. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
16. Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun
15. Primal Fear – Delivering the Black
14. Dragonforce – Maximum Overload
13. Solstafir – Otta
12. Stormwarrior – Thunder & Steele
11. Derdian – Human Reset
If you are at all involved in the power metal scene in the United States, chances are you have heard of the female fronted progressive power metal band, MindMaze, and for good reason. In October of 2014, the band released their sophomore follow-up, Back from the Edge, through Inner Wound Recordings. All of the hype and the attention surrounding this album was answered with yet another fantastic release full of catchy melodies, strong vocal talent, and riffs galore. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine a stronger band to represent American power metal. The progressive elements added to the strong power metal music means the band is not just galloping guitar, bass, and drum lines with a pretty front woman. They know what they’re setting out to do and they are nailing it, perfectly.
Songs to check out: “Back From the Edge”, “Dreamwalker”
Swedish six-piece, Bloodbound has been releasing nothing but strong power metal records since 2004, and their tenth year anniversary was marked forever in power metal history with the release of Stormborn, through AFM Records. While I wouldn’t sit here and say this is a genre-defining work of originality and technicality, I can sit here and confidently say that this album is capable of delivering some heavy and hard-hitting riffs while still being a total blast to listen to. I only spun it a few times before I had the melodies and hooks stuck in my head all day, and could sing along to the tracks not too long after. It is still sitting in the CD player in my car for those days I need a few smiles with my metal. Top it off with Game of Thrones references galore, and this is a definite keeper.
Songs to check out: “Nightmares From the Grave”, “When All Lights Fail”
Noble Beast has been a band since 2007, but their first full length wasn’t released until this year. The self-titled debut album from Tridroid Records flew under my radar until last month when I asked for some nominations of album of the year from my friends. This one appeared likely a dozen times, if not more, so I had to get my hands on it and I am so glad I did. Seven years in the making, this record is near perfection of catchy power metal that still hits harder than steel. For weeks I listened to this record non-stop at the gym, as it is some of the most high energy, fantastic music I have heard all year. As such a young band, I can not wait to see where they go from here!
Songs to check out: “We Burn”, “On Wings of Steel”
2014 marks the tenth anniversary for my favorite Edguy album of all time, Hellfire Club, but Edguy has been releasing what I can only call ‘happy metal’ pretty consistently over the years with a few misses here and there. Space Police, released in April through Nuclear Blast Records is a nice blend of the same Edguy style that we all know and love, with some surprising additions here and there. Full of catchy hooks and straight forward heavy metal with hilarious lyrics, this release is a definite go to for my more light-hearted days. After their last two albums, I was so excited to hear this return to the 2000’s sound that really launched Edguy to where they are now.
Songs to check out: “Sabre & Torch”, “Do Me Like A Caveman”
Sabaton is a serious power metal band that will teach you more about history than any textbook possibly could, and in the best way possible. They have quickly become infamous as one of the best live shows you will ever see in the metal world, and have yet to release a less-than-perfect album. 2014’s Heroes released through Nuclear Blast Records in May shows off the band’s newest lineup and it is nothing short of a flawless debut. Full of that loved Sabaton sound with amazing guitar driven leads, galloping bass and drums, and strong vocals, this album was nothing unexpected, but it was still perfection nonetheless.
Songs to check out: “To Hell & Back”, “Resist & Bite”
My beloved Sonata Arctica returned in 2014 with Pariah’s Child releasing in March on Nuclear Blast Records. After Stones Grow Her Name released in 2012, fans were all but ready to give up on the classic Sonata Arctica style that they learned to love over the years. This release however, was their homage to the past, while still focusing on their growth and progression as a band. The second I heard the first single released, I knew it was going to be a fantastic album and it truly was. Pariah’s Child is full of beautiful melodies, lyrics, and is all topped off with one of the most chillingly beautiful songs the band has written to date. That alone, plus the sheer amount of listens I put into this album, the biology lesson, and a fitness routine place it at the #5 slot for the best albums of 2014.
Songs to check out: “The Wolves Die Young”, “Larger Than Life”
In the world of folk and power metal, there really isn’t another band as widely known as Alestorm. They’re infamous for their pirate themed lyrics and numerous beer (or rum) swinging drinking songs, but up until Sunset on the Golden Age, releasing in August on Napalm Records, an entire album hasn’t really stuck with me. I liked bits and pieces of previous work, and I am in love with the musical genius and hilarity of Christopher Bowes, but this album really set itself apart from any other. Every album is strong, catchy, and fun, while still hitting hard and heavy. Their cover of “Hangover” is so perfect that I had no idea it was a cover song in the first place, and the over eleven-minute epic closing the record is flawless beyond reason. I can’t get enough of this record!
Songs to check out: “Drink!”, “Mead From Hell”, “Sunset on the Golden Age”
I know a lot of my friends are reading this quite surprised. I am not one for modern death metal bands, in all honesty. Not too many of them catch my attention all that well, but Septicflesh is absolutely an exception. A friend of mine showed this band to me a couple of years ago, and I was instantly hooked on their previous album, Sumerian Daemons. But in June, on Season of Mist Records, Septicflesh released a true monster of an album, Titan. This album is full of some of the heaviest death metal out there with some equally beautiful orchestrations and atmospheric touches that can send chills down your spine.
Songs to check out: “Burn”, “Titan”, “Prometheus”
Elvenking is one of those bands that for whatever reason, seems to fly under the radar of a lot of folk and power metal fans. I am not sure how this is the case, as from the very beginning this band has released a massive series of great albums. In 2012, Elvenking released Era which also made it near the top of that year’s ‘Best of’ list. I wasn’t expecting the band to be able to top that release with such brilliance but they did. The Pagan Manifesto is Elvenking‘s finest release, and hasn’t left my ears since the release in May through AFM Records. It shows some true growth and evolution through catchy melodies and amazing lyrics, but the musicianship all around is spot on and the production is perfect.
Songs to check out: “Twilight of Magic”, “Black Roses for the Wicked One”, “King of the Elves”
Here it is folks. AFM Records has had one hell of a year, that’s for sure, and the September release of Evergrey‘s Hymns for the Broken really sealed the deal. I have admitted in the past that Evergrey has released some great music, but albums as a whole never really seemed to get my full attention. This isn’t just fandom talking when I say that this album is completely flawless. It is the strongest effort I have ever heard the band put forth. The music is haunting in the greatest way possible and the lyrics are stunningly personal and beautiful. Every moment of every song is strong, passionate, and well thought out, and I just can’t stop listening to it. When I first heard the record, I said it was album of the year material, and here we are! Perfection deserves recognition, so cheers to you, Evergrey!
Songs to check out: “Black Undertow”, “Hymns for the Broken”, “The Grand Collapse”