Best of 2014 – Robert Williams
1. Evil United – “Honored By Fire”
I’m proud to say that Metal-Rules.com was one of the first online outlets to cover Evil United being provided with an advance copy of their debut self titled full-length prior to it’s release in mid September of 2011 by vocalist Jason McMaster himself. So I thought I knew pretty much what to expect when Jason handed me a copy of their new album “Honored By Fire” but I’ll have to admit that I was really and truly blown away by the latest Evil United material. Melody, Speed and Brutality duke it out in an epic battle for supreme metal dominance as the technical speed metal merchants fire off hit after hit with “Dead Can See” “Caesar” “Ripping Flesh” “Tombspawn” and “Viking Funeral” and that’s all before side two!
2. Portrait – “Crossroads”
Sweden’s Portrait are a close runner up for my 2014 album of the year. If you are a fan of Mercyful Fate inspired heavy metal draped in ghastly imagery then “Crossroads” delivered on all fronts and then some. This album could have just as easily been released in 1984 as 2014 as the eight tracks in question are timeless sounding metal, haunting even and should warrant many future listening sessions. It’s also pretty cool to note that Metal Blade Records actually still releases quality heavy metal from time to time, here and there!
3. Skelator – “King of Fear”
This marks the second time that Seattle true metal champions Skelator make my top three, following up 2012’s excellent “Agents Of Power” with the newly released “Kings Of Fear” through underground North American label Swords & Chains Records this past November, we now have nine new tracks of true blue American steel to carry us into the New Year! My band Witches Mark were fortunate enough to perform with Skelator in Portland, Oregon this past September during opening night of the Project Pabst Festival and these five put on an amazing action packed show of neck snapping proportions! Be sure to catch them if they come to your town and you can expect to hear vocalist Jason Conde-Houston also fronting Mexico’s speed metal assassins Split Heaven in 2015.
4. Accept – “Blind Rage”
5. Judas Priest – “Redeemer of Souls”
6. RIOT V – “Unleash The Fire”
7. Onward – “New Fathoms Down”
8. Immortal Guardian – “Revolution Part I”
9. Primal Fear – “Delivering The Black”
10. Mayhem – “Esoteric Warfare”
11. HI-GH – “Till Death And After”
12. Outrage – “We The Dead”
13. Cannibal Corpse – “A Skeletal Domain”
14. Exodus – “Blood In Blood Out”
15. Albert Bell’s Sancro Sanctus – “Deus Volt”
16. Panzer – “Send Them All To Hell”
17. Cropsy Maniac ” Shear Terror”
18. Krigblast – “Power Till Demise”
19. Rigor Mortis – “Slaves To The Grave”
20. Grave Digger – “Return Of The Reaper”
Jack Starr featuring Rhett Forrester “Out Of The Darkness” 30th Anniversary Edition
Italian record label Limb Music did a fantastic job re-issuing “Out Of The Darkness” Jack Starr’s first solo record post Virgin Steele that also featured the inimitable vocals of former RIOT frontman Rhett Forrester. Hearing Jack scorch the fretboard alongside Rhett is worth the price of admission alone but joining them on “Out Of The Darkness” was Gary Bordonaro (The Rods) and Ned Meloni (Burning Starr) on bass and Carl Canedy (The Rods) and Gary Driscoll (Rainbow) on drums solidifying a super group of classic New York heavy metal all-stars. This re-issue is housed in a cardboard sleeve with updated artwork and crammed with deluxe liner notes, archival photos, lyrics and six bonus-tracks providing maximum heavy metal bang for your buck. What are you waiting for?
Best Metal Festival
Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse
Not only did I get to attend North America’s premier heavy metal festival but I got to perform at Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse with my band Witches Mark too! Leather Leone of Chastain introduced us to the main stage Saturday evening and later on we were joined onstage by Skelator vocalist Jason Conde-Houston for our last song of the evening “Witching Metal Ritual” the title track from our latest album. Grim Reaper, RIOT V, Axxion, Visigoth, Black Death Resurrected, Night Demon, our local metal brethren Eternal Champion and all of the other bands threw down the metal gauntlet with some amazing performances. It was a blast partying with many old friends and road warriors and making some new friends as well. The security guard at our hotel went all commando trying to crash all of the after hours parties but in the end the metal heads conquered yet again. Only regret was missing Power Theory’s set due to our flight schedule.
How long have you and I waited for the return of our King? What seemed like an unending wait was finally laid to rest as King Diamond donned the face paint and upside down crosses once more falsetto shrieking across North American concert stages this past fall. Was the stage show over the top by King Diamond standards where you saw him? I saw King Diamond headline Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas and it was an incredible production of lights and props and smoke and unholiness. King’s voice (now accompanied at times by his wife Livia Zita) is still in tip top, fantastical shape and I left the festival feeling like that was the best King Diamond show I’ve ever seen. Here’s to an encore in 2015!
What do you get when you have a metal band comprised of current and former members of Twisted Tower Dire, October 31, Viper, Widow, Praetorius and Hellrazor? You get the best EP of 2014 is what you get. Released as both a four track cassette via underground label Swords & Chains Records and as a deluxe vinyl/CD combo via No Remorse Records, the initial offering from Walpyrgus is sure to leave masses of rabid denim and leather clad heavy metal fans chompin’ at the bit for more…
Best local band
You know what? I happen to know a few of these dudes pretty well and I gotta admit it was pretty cool to have shared the stage with them a few times, especially this past April in Chicago where the rest of the world seemed to catch on to what I already knew about my friends. Eternal Champion are a “Real Deal, Holyfield” dyed-in-the-wool heavy metal band and are making a name for themselves built upon the strength of their recent “Last King Of Pictdom” cassette released through Swords & Chains Records last year.
Best debut full length
Savage Master “Mask Of The Devil”
Formed in 2013, Louisville, Kentucky’s own traditional metal miscreants burst onto the scene this past Halloween with their debut full length “Mask Of The Devil” issued via Skol Records. With a sound incorporating hallmarks of early Priest, Saxon and Diamond Head; the Stacey Savage fronted fearsome fivesome delivered up one hell of a debut full length album and should be considered as a metal band to keep at least one bloodshot eye fixated on in 2015.
Hellion “To Hellion and Back”
This definitive double-disc collection showcases an amazing thirty-plus years career in heavy metal. Ann Boleyn has just about done it all, fronted her own band, founded and operated her own New Renaissance Records label; being instrumental in the up and comings of many now well established metal acts. “To Hellion And Back” walks us up and down the proverbial memory lane along her storied path in metal music and acts as an amazing testament to the extremely prolific musical history of the very talented Ms. Ann Boleyn.
Alice Cooper “Super Duper Alice Cooper”
I thought this rock doc was just great. You know what? You can never have too much vintage seventies era Alice Cooper footage and there was a lot of stuff on here that I’d never even seen before and I’ve been collecting Alice Cooper music and videos for years and years. I’d definitely recommend this to all hardcore Coop worshippers and those that’d like a glimpse at the formative years of every mother’s worst nightmare.
Best Chest In The West
Jesse Jane – Amazing fucking titz!
DOS-A-RITA 24oz cans
2013 was spent going back and forth to the corner store, securing one or two 24oz Dos Equis at a time. Sometime in 2014 (can’t really remember when) the Dos-A-Rita was born. At first sip I insisted it tasted like Mountain Dew and vodka. Yet on my second try something magical happened and a union was struck between me and my new favorite synthetic margarita malt liquor. Perfect at 8.5% as a supplemental beverage for regular Dos Equis and loud and proud screaming heavy fucking metal decimating your neighbor’s skull at maximum ear shattering volume! Oh yeah!
Greatest Hopes For 2015
I hope that Angel Witch will release a new album. I’m still jamming 2012’s comeback album “As Above, So Below” in heavy rotation. Something needs to happen, Angel Witch needs to return to the United States. That’s my greatest hope for 2015. That and I would like to win the Texas Lottery Mega Millions jackpot too and be able to say “Take this job and shove it!” and have champagne nights and limousine dreams every day for the rest of my life.
Also, and I’ve been saying this for years… if anyone at Fender is reading this and can hook me up with a Yngwie Malmsteen signature series Fender stratocaster with scalloped frets we can be friends for life dude! Thanks in advance.