Best of 2014
As always, the top albums of the year are for full albums (no EP’s or demos) released in 2014. They also have to be new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live material. Below the combined TOP 30 are links to each individual staff members personal “best of” lists which besides their top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for next year, personal metal discovery of the year, and various other categories. Enjoy!
The Top 30 Heavy Metal Albums of 2014
1. Accept – Blind Rage
It’s no secret, Metal-Rules.com loves Accept. In 2010 we voted Accept’s comeback album, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS as the #1 album of the year. Then in 2012, the album STALINGRAD was voted to #3. Now in 2014, the third album since their comeback, BLIND RAGE, is voted to #1.
Accept’s Wolf Hoffmann commented on their placement: “This is fantastic news! 2014 has been an amazing year for Accept and this now comes as a nice surprise at the beginning of 2015! 🙂 We could not be happier with the reception for ‘Blind Rage’ – it’s a huge honor to be voted Number One. Thanks to Metal-Rules.com and of course a very special thanks to our fan community worldwide!! I hope to see you again soon…“
BLIND RAGE doesn’t offer much difference from its two predecessors but continues the incredibly high quality of pure heavy metal that we’ve come to expect from this band. No question, of the many great bands making a go at a second career in this millennia, Accept’s efforts have to be ranked as among the best and most consistent. While there is no reinvention here, there are also no weak moments. The end result is another consistent, high quality offering from a band that exudes metal from its pores. Accept is everything that is right with metal, and though they have grown a bit long in the tooth, BLIND RAGE still puts scores of younger upstart bands to shame.
2. Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls
Judas Priest have released another fantastic album as good as anything in their catalogue, perhaps just a shade below a couple of their all-time classics. If this is Priest’s last album, they went out with all guns blazing in a blaze of glory, ending it all on a high note. Let’s hope they have more albums left in them!
3. Primal Fear – Delivering the Black
DELIVERING THE BLACK is Primal Fear’s tenth studio album. Not much has changed. The band is still on Frontiers, the cover has the bands ‘metal eagle’ mascot and there have been no line-up changes. A recipe for success, because if it works, don’t mess with it! The tone is consistent with a Primal Fear album, lots of double kick and songs that drive along nicely. Ralf still has one of the strongest, most distinct voices in all of Metal. If you like metal at all, then there is something in Primal Fear for you.
4. Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died
It’s been 25 years since Sanctuary last released a studio album with “Into the Mirror Black”. After the announcement that Sanctuary were reuniting in 2010, it took another four years to release the album, the bands third. With the absence (hiatus?) of Nevermore, fans were of course happy to hear the return of vocalist Warrel Dane. With a 20+ year gap, of course Sanctuary will sound a littler different, perhaps a bit more modern, perhaps a little like earlier Nevermore….which to us is sound fantastic!
5. Exodus – Blood In Blood Out
“Tonight we’re gonna rage and make Paul Baloff proud!” This is the perhaps be the best expected from the Exodus in 2014 with this great masterpiece of thrash metal. It’s worth noting that this is the band’s first album with vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since 2004’s Tempo of the Damned. His return was welcomed as was the style offered on this album which remind us of the good ole Bay area thrash metal days.
6. Iced Earth – Plagues Of Babylon
Almost three years since the great DYSTOPIA Iced Earth return with their 11th album, PLAGUES OF BABYLON. On this album we see vocalist Stu Block cementing his position in the band offering the best of Barlow/Owens mixed with his own style. This is one of the finest albums Jon Schaffer and co. have unleashed.
7. Riot – Unleash The Fire
We were all very curious to hear what RIOT V (the new incarnation of their band, launched by the remaining members) could offer after the loss of its leader Mark Reale. The 80’s atmosphere that pervades the album, keeps the legacy of Mark Reale alive, giving the band the recognition, and the respect, it deserves. The dynamics of UNLEASH THE FIRE are simply staggering. This is a calculated piece of power metal art, with strong musicianship and a production job skilfully left just on the right side of raw and dirty rock n roll as only Riot can deliver.
8. Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead
After a long four year wait since their last album, Gamma Ray returned in fine form with their 11th studio album EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD. For 25 years they once again show that they are leaders of the power metal genre. On this album they mix thrashy riffing, traditional metal a la Priest/Maiden, and a of course the style that band leader Kai Hansen helped forge with his former band Helloween, power metal.
9. Overkill – White Devil Armory
Most bands struggle to even stay together for 30 years, let alone continue to write vital and uncompromising music delivered with a work ethic that makes most bands look slovenly. Following up the excellent THE ELECTRIC AGE is no easy task, but WHITE DEVIL ARMORY manages to deliver.
10. At The Gates – At War With Reality
Many of us thought that At The Gates were done releasing albums, since it has been over 20 years since they last came out with something. They surprised everyone this year by bringing AT WAR WITH REALITY to life, a new concept album about the nature of darkness, life, and death. This band is great and defined the genre of melodic death metal, welcome back!
11. Behemoth – The Satanist
The Satanist offers more depth and guile, and even a hint of subtlety – at least when it comes to the musical presentation, Darski’s vocals and lyrics are more hateful, blasphemous and vehement than ever. It’s a bold step in a new direction, but it also is smart enough to cover some familiar ground along the way.
12. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
This is the musical incarnation of your inner demons! This album is much more primitive and tight when compared to EPARISTERA DAEMONES and MONOTHEIST. This is the procreation of the wicked that Tom Gabriel Warrior spoke of some decades ago. Compared to the debut album they have nailed the sound and produced a possible masterpiece. Even for someone unfamiliar with this style of metal, it is obvious this is a modern and ground-breaking piece of work.
13. Prong – Ruining Lives
RUINING LIVES is the sound of a young man’s anger communicated through an older man’s experience. While far from a nostalgia record, the 11 tracks on the album adopt a bare knuckle, no bullshit approach that recalls the unapologetic aggression of BEG TO DIFFER, the melodic exploration of PROVE YOU WRONG, and the impeccably catchy songwriting that’s been a constant hallmark of Prong for thirty years. RUINING LIVES takes everything you’ve ever loved about Prong and makes it better.
14. Edguy – Space Police
After two so-so albums, some may of wondered if Edguy’s hearts were still in power metal with their tenth studio album. Thankfully, as evidenced with this album, there is still plenty of steel in their veins. Of course, they mix that with some hard rock tendencies and have their humor intact for a winning combination.
15. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
It’s Cannibal Corpse’s remarkable consistency that has allowed them to make a rather nice career out of Grand Guignol death metal for 25-plus years. They’ve stuck to their guns with only minor tweaks as they’ve gone along to keep the music relatively fresh without doing anything to tarnish “the brand.” And it’s been a winning formula that certainly continues with A Skeletal Domain, which gives you everything you’d expect from Cannibal Corpse, and just a little bit more.
16. Sabaton – Heroes
Sabaton’s HEROES find the band in its finest form. This album strikes a perfect balance between melodicism and might, exelling in commanding songwriting coupled with sturdy musicianship. It is the first album to feature the new Sabaton line-up with guitarists Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund as well as new drummer Hannes van Dahl after the departure of four members in 2012. The straightforward title of the record, HEROES, is spot-on as it finely embodies band’s warrior-like attitude and ongoing pursuit for excellence.
17. Within Temptation – Hydra
After the conceptualizing and theatrical ambitions of 2011’s The Unforgiven, Hydra brings the band back to their more typical rousing, grandiose metal built around fist-pumping riffs, lush keyboards and orchestration, and the soaring vocals of Sharon den Adel. Indeed, the album is somewhat surprising in its overall muscle and sometimes quite up-tempo pace.
18. Ace Frehley: Space Invader
SPACE INVADER mines the Ace man’s past, including the retro-production and loose but charming songs. Ace’s signature vibrato and slow wide bends are present in the solos while his authentic everyman vocals continue to have a special appeal. Ace is content to write and play in a style that he knows best, which is uncomplicated and rock-rooted. And at 63, few would expect the energy and vibe of 1978. Admirably, that has not stopped Ace from giving it a respectable attempt.
19. Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken
The story is well known at this point, Evergrey nearly breaking up in 2011 after the release of GLORIOUS COLLISION. Thus, album number nine for the Gothenburg’s dark progressive sons almost never happened. However, the creative spark and desire to make vital music is too strong in Evergrey to be easily snuffed out. Without question, HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN is a statement album, one that can proudly take its place amongst the hallowed halls of the bands finest releases. This is thought-provoking, introspective metal not meant for a workout at the gym, but perfectly suited to headphones and contemplation on a dark and rainy day.
20. HammerFall – (r)Evolution
(r)EVOLUTION is album number nine for Hammerfall, one of our most loved bands here on Metal Rules. Some people even go as far to say that Hammerfall ‘saved Metal’. The past eight albums had varying degrees of success and if global chart positions are any indication, including hitting #1 in Sweden, this is the biggest Hammerfall album to date. (r)EVOLUTION is not so much of a comeback, but yet another virtually flawless album of classic Metal / power metal.
21. Wolf – Devil Seed
One of the most ‘true’ heavy metal bands all over the world return with the awesome DEVIL SEED. After 15 years and six albums, clearly renouncing modern trends in metal music, Wolf continue to play what some call “retro” metal. But that’s not doing the band justice, there’s nothing retro about playing true metal, about paying homage to the bands that forged the style and who continue to define it. All hail Wolf!
22. Obituary – Inked in Blood
Florida Death Metal Godfathers Obituary are back with their 9th album, INKED IN BLOOD! INKED IN BLOOD is the rawest Obituary album since SLOWLY WE ROT and the angriest since WORLD DEMISE. The whole album has been conceived as a return to the roots, from the raw production to the sick artwork to the primitive logo on the disc. The band did exactly what it set out to do with this record and did it their way. Well done guys.
23. The Haunted – Exit Wounds
EXIT WOUNDS delivers exactly the kind of thrash excellence that you’d expect from a band of this pedigree, and it’s an album you should add to your collection. This is the sound of The Haunted at their best. EXIT WOUNDS sounds like a direct successor to MADE ME DO IT, and is a pissed off thrasher that’s intent on proving a point.
24. 1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos
1349, one of the most revered bands out of Norway, have been playing together since 1997. 1349 returned in 2014 with MASSIVE CAULDRON OF CHAOS, their sixth full length album, and what a savage beast it is! This is black metal as it was originally conceived. There is absolutely no pretense about it. There are no attempts to dazzle the listener with Benedictine chants or Peruvian nose flute solos. MASSIVE CAULDRON OF CHAOS brings an unrelenting black metal assault that delivers on a primal level.
25. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
The Swedes in Crazy Lixx have been leading the charge of the ‘80s metal/sleaze rock for nearly a decade now (their debut album dropped in 2007). First note to last, all eleven tracks, CRAZY LIXX does one thing exceedingly well: ROCK. No other modern band captures the sound and style of ‘80s hard rock quite like these guys.
26. Iron Savior – Rise of the Hero
Iron Savior is one of those staple bands that are at the core of our existence here at Metal-Rules.com. They truly represent the heart of steel and our reviewers have never rated an Iron Savior release anything less than a four out of five. Iron Savior is strong, consistent and they have now created eight albums in a row that are just truly magnificent representations of what real Metal is.
27. Belphegor – Conjuring The Dead
Blackened Death Metal (or Deathened Black Metal) titans Belphegor have returned. These caprine obsessed Austrians deliver another hellstorm of rage and bile with their tenth album. At this stage of their career the listener knows just what they are going to get from Belhegor. They have a superb formula and have distilled their core sound to a wondrously malignant purity. Magnificus In Musica!
28. Vader – Tibi et Igni
With virtually a completely new line-up, with three new members over the past few years, Peter has rediscovered his Death Metal fire without straying from the formula that made this band so iconic.
29. Sebastian Bach – Give ‘em Hell
This is easily the best album Bach has put his name to since the hallowed SLAVE TO THE GRIND. The songs, while still perhaps more modern-sounding than we might like, are memorable and feature a Baz that sounds better than he has in quite some time, certainly better than his last album.
30. Red Dragon Cartel
It’s hard to believe that ultra-talented guitarist Jake E. Lee hasn’t been in a full-time band for more than twenty years. Despite issuing a few solo albums, Lee has been exceptionally quiet. That all ended in 2014 with his return to full-band mode with Red Dragon Cartel, featuring his friend Ronnie Mancuso (of King Kobra, Beggars & Thieves etc.) on bass, along with newcomers Jonas Fairley on drums and DJ Smith on vocals. Most fans are glad to have Jake back and making music, but here’s to the next album being more consistent and fully a metallic effort.