Best of 2014 – Erich Heintzelman

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Best of 2014 – Erich Heintzelman

The year 2014 proved to be a difficult one, which included many personal tragedies. Thankfully there was an abundance of great albums to dig into, and while I might have missed a few of the better ones, the following 20 albums were the best of what I actually heard this year.

1. Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon

Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon
Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon

Since Stu Block joined the band, Schaeffer seems to have hit a true creative spurt. PLAGUES OF BABYLON contains the bands signature mechanistic riffs, melodic intros and the inspired god-like vocals of Block. It was a great album to kick off 2014, released way back in January and one that holds its own among the best of the band’s catalog.

2. Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls

With K.K. Downing leaving the band, a career arc spanning over 40 years, and legacy firmly established as one of the most important metal bands in history, there was every reason to expect REDEEMER OF SOULS to serve as nothing more than an album vehicle for touring. Not so. Should this be the band’s final chapter, then what a hell of way to finish. Richie Faulkner’s energy has re-invigorated the band, much like when Scott Travis came on for Painkiller. Halford tells us “It’s not over yet, not over my friend.” I hope he is right. More like this is welcome

3. Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken

The return of drummer Jonas Ekdahi and guitarist Henrik Danhage gave Evergrey the much needed kick in the butt to put out as good an album as HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN. “King Of Errors” is one of the best songs the band ever did, and while I have never considered myself a huge fan, I could not help but note that I played this album more times than almost anything this year.

4. Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died

I must admit it took a few listens to get this, the band modernizing and going more for a Nevermore sound than the classic Sanctuary. Then, as I assimilated the album, much of the old Sanctuary began to reveal itself. Warrel Dane’s lyrics and vocal lines continue to be unconventional and inspired. The production is absolutely like a bulldozer, and “Arise And Purify” is just the thing to kick your ass out of bed in the morning.

5. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

Featuring the cover art of H.R. Giger, the music within lives up to the expectation of the disturbing art. MELANA CHASMATA is a masterwork, Tom G. Warrior creatively composing within the limits of his skill set, the man’s uneven past thus far not presenting itself on either of Triptykon’s albums.

6. Accept – Blind Rage
7. Prong – Ruining Lives
8. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
9. Tesla – Simplicity
10. Crystal Eyes – Killer
11. Harem Scarem – Thirteen
12. Primal Fear – Delivering The Black
13. Bloodbound – Stormborn
14. Hammerfall – (r)Evolution
15. Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out
16. Slough Feg – Digital Resistance
17. Overkill – White Devil Armory
18. Edguy – Defenders Of The Crown
19. Medieval Steel – Dark Castle
20. Grand Magus – Triumph And Power

Honorable Mention
The following 5 albums deserve mentioning. They did not make my top 20 but they were still worthy albums that either were not quite heavy enough for inclusion, or just barely missed top 20 status, but still within top 30.
Daylight Robbery – Falling Back To Earth
Reason – Beyond The Dark Horizon
Within Temptation – Hydra
Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun

Best Live Album

Lake Of Tears – By The Black Sea
Notorious for not touring at least a couple of their albums due to label woes and abject poverty, this live offering was most welcome amongst longtime fans of this underrated band.

Best EP

Reason – Beyond The Dark Horizon
A most promising band from the Midlands of England.

Best Remake Album

Flotsam And Jetsam – No Place For Disgrace
The value of these things is often questionable and rarely surpasses the original album. The sole purpose is frequently just to make the record company and band some easy money. Considering this, I refuse to purchase album remakes, but I have no problems with listening to this one on Spotify. One of the better remakes, along with last year’s Mood Swings II by Harem Scarem.

Best Local Band

Absolon – www.youtube.com/watch?v=01bSyBkAoRk

Best Discovery

Medieval Steel
I missed these dudes during their 80s run and only just heard them for the first time in 2014. Classic US Power Metal, and the new album smokes, even with subpar production.

Major Triumphs in Metal

Kiss inducted into The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame – All I can say is that it is about time. Dimebag Darrell is smiling inside his Kiss casket.
Steven Souza returns to Exodus – A no brainer that resulted in a fantastic album.

Biggest Disappointments

Death of GWAR front man Dave Brockie – It is hard to envision the band ever continuing without Dave.

The Fall of Lacuna Coil – I used to like this band but their constant desire to sell albums and become a Nu Metal band have completely alienated me. BROKEN DOWN HALO is likely the final nail in their coffin. The departure of their drummer and guitarist this year prior to releasing the travesty of BROKEN DOWN HALO is no coincidence.

Obituary’s INKED IN BLOOD – I expected better, especially from one of the most influential bands of the Death Metal subgenre.

Slayer’s “Implode” & “When Stillness Comes”. – Lombardo gone, and Hanneman dead, Arraya and King starring in Toyota/Scion promotionals. Sounds like Slayer’s shelf life is nearing expiration, and neither song gives me much hope for the new album slated in 2015.

Greatest Hopes For 2015

Savatage playing Wacken 2015 Leading To New Album – I just do not get it, but whatever. I understand TSO is their money train but I do not want to hear that at any time but Christmas. Here is to a new album 15 years overdue.