Best of 2014 – Waspman
1. Primal Fear – Delivering the Black
Over the years Primal Fear has just kept on doing their Judas Priest-inspired power metal thing, for better or worse. 17 years and 10 studio albums into their career, they’ve released what I consider their best album ever. DELIVERING THE BLACK is a crushing power metal tour de force that proves that Primal Fear are still at the top of their game and quite possibly, better than ever.
2. Sabaton – Heroes
Barely missing out on the top spot are Swedish war metal mavens Sabaton. These guys have yet to release a bad album and have amazing energy live. HEROES is yet another jewel in the Sabaton crown and is as satisfying on the 50th listen as it is on the 1st.
3. Within Temptation – Hydra
I’ll admit that when I saw the list of duets the band had lined up for this album, I was very skeptical. I should have had more faith because while HYDRA is definitely a slight sidestep for the band, it is still pure WITHIN TEMPTATION at its core. Plus, the album contains arguably my favorite song of the year – the irresistible “Paradise (What About Us?)”.
4. Accept – Blind Rage
I said it in my review of the album and I’ll say it again here: the reunited Mark Tornillo version of Accept is better than anything the band ever did in its glorious history. Three albums of metallic perfection will do that for you.
5. Sister Sin – Black Lotus
I’ve read a lot of hype over Sister Sin in the last few years and, being the contrarian I am, all of the effusive praise made me ignore the band. My loss. I’ve been playing BLACK LOTUS non-stop since I got it for review and it’s easily the most attitude-filled, pure METAL album of 2014.
6. The Scintilla Project – The Hybrid
When I heard Biff Byford was doing a concept album based on a sci-fi movie, I was both skeptical and excited. I didn’t think much of this album when I first heard it, but something kept bringing me back, and now I love it. Very enjoyable metal that’s different enough from Biff’s main gig to be worthwhile.
7. Overkill – White Devil Armory
Overkill. Thrash. Awesome.
8. Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died
After all of the news, respect for the band’s early albums, and the sad dissolution of Nevermore, this album couldn’t possibly have lived up to the anticipation, could it? Maybe not for some, but it sure did for me! This album delivered everything I was hoping it would, and stomped a mud hole in the skeptics.
9. Zero Down – No Limit to the Evil
NO LIMIT TO THE EVIL is pure metal greatness from one of my favorite bands. If you don’t know them, you should.
10. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld
I didn’t hear a lot of progressive metal this year for some reason but what little I did was great. Vanden Plas qualify as elder statesmen of the genre but the keep challenging themselves and their fans with impressive pieces of art like this.
11. Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon
Second time out for Iced Earth and Canadian boy Stu Block and it’s another winning album. The Iced Earth formula may not have changed much over the years, but they are still one of the best power metal bands going.
12. Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead
And speaking of great power metal, the venerable Gamma Ray returned with yet another excellent album, with some interesting changes to their recipe as well.
13. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
‘80s nostalgia acts are nothing new, but none do it better than this gang of Swedes.
14. Freedom Call – Beyond
After a few kinda dodgy albums, Chris Bay and the boys got their act together in 2014 and released this, their best album since 2001.
15. Dragonforce – Maximum Overload
In all honesty, I’m a bit down on this album. It’s still Dragonforce, it’s still great, but fatigue set in a bit when listening to this. It’s a definite step down from THE POWER WITHIN, but still leagues better than most bands.
16. Winger – Better Days Comin’
Go ahead and laugh if you want, but Winger put out one of the best, most memorable albums of the year. Craft and quality.
17. Tesla – Simplicity
Tesla’s always been a band in a league of their own, and the hard rockin’ SIMPLICITY is further proof. Respect.
18. Hammerfall (r)Evolution
Simply put: Hammerfall’s best album in 16 years.
19. Nightmare – The Aftermath
The long-running Nightmare has escaped my notice for most of their career, but THE AFTERMATH is so damn good I will check out the rest of their discography. Power metal with grit and energy.
20. Sinbreed – Shadows
Like nightmare, Sinbreed bring the crustiness to power metal, but from a more German point of reference. Great stuff.
Best new band
The Scintilla Project
I’m cheating a bit here and putting in a “project” band but the hell with it. THE HYBRID is so good I’m highlighting it again.
Pleasant Surprise of the Year
I could easily put The Scintilla Project in here as well, but that would be Overkill. Instead I’ll highlight a band that was new to me: Conorach – Through the Ages
I didn’t really know what to expect from these guys, but was blown away by the medieval power metal with a strong folk influence of this album. Conorach are truly excellent recommended to any power metal fan.
Discovery of the Year
Halcyon Way – Conquer
What a return for Halcyon Way! I missed them before lineup changes briefly derailed the band, but repeated listens to the stunning progressive power metal on this album have made me a fan.
Best Live Album
W.E.T. – One Live In Stockholm
Unlike last year, I heard a ton of great live albums this year, but W.E.T. crushed them all with this double-length album of hard rock heaven.
Azooma – A Hymn of the Vicious Monster
I’m throwing some love at a new band here that truly deserves it. This is a nasty little concept EP filled with adventurous death metal that I’ve listened to a ton.
Ozzy Osbourne – Memoirs of a Madman
Although I fully anticipate this will be the last time Ozzy qualifies on any of my “Best Of” lists, I gotta hand it to him – MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN is one HELL of a DVD package. A must for fans.
Disappointments of the Year
- The Immortal Name Ownership Bullshit
Seriously guys? You’re a black metal band, not a boy band. Get over it.
- Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover Quit Megadeth
This is not huge news after the lacklustre SUPER COLLIDER, but it is disappointing that Mega Dave has driven two more top-shelf musicians from his band.
- R.I.P.:Dave Brockie, H.R. Giger, Randy Coven, Victor Agnello, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Wayne Static
- Missing a ton of new releases this year: As usual, time was not my friend in 2013. I missed so many albums this year, from the likes of: Primordial, Alestorm, Riot, Amaranthe, Exodus, Edguy, Persuader, Evergrey, Harem Scarem, Steel Prophet…there were more, many more. Time, I STILL just don’t have enough of it.
Greatest Hopes for 2015
- New W.A.S.P. album: C’mon Blackie! It’s been five years since BABYLON…hit us with some new music already! OK, so GOLGOTHA is set for tentative release next year – please let it be awesome!
- W.A.S.P. Retrospective / Historical Set: As JP and I have said in the past, Blackie needs to get off his duff and put out the definitive historical W.A.S.P. set. This band’s history is as interesting (and sordid) as they come and it would be a fascinating listen/viewing.
- New album releases: Looking forward to the likes of: Blind Guardian, U.D.O., Symphony X, Melechesh, Helloween, and many more.