Rustyn’s Top 10 albums of 2014
Picking the Top 10 albums for any given year is an unfathomable task, especially given the depth and breadth of the hard rock and metal genres. This year proved to be one of the richest in recent years making the task all the more difficult. While I fully appreciate the dark majesty of some of the year’s most brutal efforts from the likes of Behemoth, Triptykon, Vader, Cannibal Corpse, At the Gates and Septicflesh, I looked to the more melodic side of metal for my personal list. I looked back over the year to find the albums that I listened to the most frequently, and those that I played on my Metal Nation Radio broadcasts regularly, week after week.
Without further fanfare, the following is my Top 10 list of the records that would not go away this year because they were simply too addictive and powerful!
Rubicon Cross reminds us of what made 80’s metal so good; furious fretwork, big melodies, and memorable lyrics, all powered by a charismatic voice, addictive riffs and a propulsive rhythm section. They have brought all of that together on an explosive debut that is polished off with an inspired modern framework.
With each passing effort, Sweden’s Sister Sin strips away more of its early punk roots and dips deeper into traditional metal waters. Black Lotus is the quartet’s strongest and easily its’ most memorable and infectious album to date. It is a non-stop sonic eargasm of traditional metal and rock and roll revelry. Vocalist Liv Jagrell shows more command and diversity on Black Lotus, and the songwriting raucous and addictive.
With Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza back in the fold, Exodus returned to its vintage thrash devastation and trademark aggression on Blood In, Blood Out. Easily the band’s most complete effort in a decade. Blistering fretwork, and pulverizing rhythms combined with Zetro’s caustic vocal attack to create a slab of neck-snapping mayhem.
Riot returned in 2014 in the wake of the loss of founder Mark Reale. With his spirit in mind, the band pressed on, and channeling their fallen comrade the quintet created one of the most valiant inspired albums of its storied career. Driven by the songwriting of bassist Don Van Stavern and guitarist Mike Flyntz, along with the powerful vocal prowess of new front man Todd Michael Hall; Unleash the Fire taps into vintage elements signature Riot sound.
The Lesser Key of Solomon is an album that bears repeated listens to truly appreciate the depth and dimensions A Sound of Thunder achieves. Every performance delivers without exception, with deft performances and stunning consistency. The enigma of A Sound of Thunder can be found in the band’s ability to evolve with each record, staying true to its unique style while aspiring to new heights, or in the case of The Lesser Key of Solomon, dark caverns. The quartet continues to stymie critics and metal elitists who cannot handle an artist not readily labeled by genre and sub-genre. The Lesser Key of Solomon is the band’s darkest and most ambitious album to date and the sound defies labeling beyond simply—metal. A Sound of Thunder have created another masterpiece with The Lesser Key of Solomon, so stick that in your sub-genre and smoke it.
While it may well be heresy to say this, I thoroughly enjoy the Tornillo era of Accept more than the classic Udo era. Blind Rage marks the third effort since vocalist Mark Tornillo joined the band, and guitarist Wolf Hoffman and bassist Peter Baltes have once again delivered another metric ton of air-guitar-worthy riffage and catchy melodies. The Teutonic titans remain masters of their game.
Within Temptation has created another masterful record with Hydra. The album taps into the prototype elements that are the foundation of the band’s trademark sound while still managing to channel their collective talents into expanding the Within Temptation palette. Hydra is a behemoth–a dynamic specimen of sonic beauty and bombast filled with bold, aural flourishes and dark, compelling depths. This was my first album review of 2014 and nearly a year later, my passion for this record has not diminished.
Throughout Redeemer of Souls, Judas Priest redefine the band’s iconic sound by blending all eras of the legacy of its sonic signature. Inspired performances all around and well-crafted songs make Redeemer of Souls the best Judas Priest album since Painkiller, and arguably would have been the successor to said album had Halford not taken hiatus from the band in ’92. In short–a hellacious slab of classic Metal Gods mastery, Redeemer of Souls marks a new chapter in the Book of Priest.
With Back From the Edge, MindMaze has created an album that is quite cohesive and displays excellent continuity throughout. The band has managed an impressive symbiosis of progressive and power metal that hints at traditional roots. The record delivers one addictive ear nugget after another, laden with infectious melodies, exhilarating vocals, and outstanding musicianship all around. One cannot say enough about the band’s instrumental performances, and vocalist Sarah Teets has taken ownership of her unique vocal style and pushed it to the next level. Back From the Edge is an ambitious effort, and the best part of all is the realization that the band is just getting started.
Norway’s Triosphere dropped its third studio effort, The Heart of the Matter just as the year was coming to a close, but the disc has seldom left my stereo since it crossed my desk this fall. Vocalist/bassist Ida Haukland and guitarist/composer Marius Silver Bergesen have combined to create a nearly flawless masterpiece of progressive metal tinged with power and traditional metal elements. Haukland’s lyrical content feels like poetry, and the songs are riveting and cinematic in scope.