Best of 2014 – EvilG
#1. Primal Fear – Delivering the Black
I had no problem picking what album would be number one for 2014. In fact, when the album came out way back in January 2014, I suspected that nothing would top this album all year. It seems some casual PF fans have been saying this is their best album in a long time…however, as I love all their albums, to me it’s another serving of great heavy metal from one of the very best bands going!
#2. Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead
It was a tough call to put my favorite band as number two, but that is not at all to say this album isn’t full of awesomeness. Again, a lot of casual fans have been calling this the best in years from them, and again, I disagree, as I love all their stuff and consider this just another fine example of what great metal sounds like.
#3. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls
You can see a trend forming here…#1 and #2 are both bands who have taken the flame from Priest and carried on the Priestly power metal style rather well, so it’s no surprise that I would rank the new Judas Priest album up near the top as well. If there would of been a few more fast songs and higher pitched screams, this album could of been my #1 of the year. I do like that the songs on here offer nods to all era’s of the mighty Priest. There are clear nods to their 70’s styles, the 80’s (with one song that keeps reminding me of the intro to “Bloodstone”) and of course the more modern era of the band from Painkiller-onward.
#4. Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon
Canadian, Stu Block, shows that he is one of the best metal vocalists to come along. For years, Iced Earth has been one of the shining lights of the American metal scene offering up some of the best thrashy power metal there ever was, and possibly ever will be.
#5. Crystal Eyes – Killer
Don’t let the album cover fool you, the music on the album is a million times better than its campy cover art. I’ve heard of Crystal Eyes before 2014, but never gave them a proper listen until this year. I should of sooner, but better late than never. The way I found them was via googling for Daniel Heiman from the defunct Lost Horizon (a band whom I sorely miss). I found that he sang vocals on a single Crystal Eyes album (Confessions of the Maker) in 2005. After listening to that, I ordered a copy of their new album KILLER which has Mikael Dahl on vocals, and he sonuds very similar to Daniel Heiman. Mikael has the soaring highs, that sometimes remind me of King Diamond, and the rougher grit to give it the edge that is required to make power metal special. Since I obtained this CD, it’s been on repeat. If you like melodic yet aggressive power metal with a few nods to 80’s arena metal, then please check this album out! They should be much more widely known, revered, and touring the world so I can get to see them!
#6. Metsatöll – Karjajuht
This may seem as an odd choice, and does kind of stand out on my list, but this band really captivated me in 2014. All thanks/blame for this can be attributed to Tyr. I had tix to see Tyr live for months and knew that Metsatöll were the openers. I had read their name in various news releases etc. over the past few years but only with them on the tour with one of my fav bands (Tyr) did I really get around to listening to them. It’s odd that I like this band so much because they lack lead guitar and those ever-soaring high powerful vocals that I never tire of. However, Metsatöll are just so damn unique. At times they remind me of a strange folky version of VoiVod with their complex drum arrangements and headbanging riffs….but then you throw in folk instrumentation provided by Lauri “Varulven” Õunapuu and you get some very unique Estonian folk metal…and all lyrics are sung in the Estonian language…so I don’t know what they are saying at all, but I still love it!
#7. HammerFall – (r)Evolution
HammerFall’s newest is a return to the sound from the bands first 2-3 albums. For me, that is a good move as it’s to those albums that I most often return to whenever I listen to HammerFall.
#8. Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died
I’ve been bummed about the dissolution (long term hiatus?) of Nevermore since they stopped all activities in 2011. With the return of Sanctuary, the blow is greatly lessened. Sanctuary announced that they would do a new studio album appx 4 years ago, so its been a long wait for their return. I could say its been worth it, as the album is excellent, but it was still such a long wait for us fans nowhere near any shows. Hopefully they won’t wait so long for another album.
#9. Sabaton – Heroes
I wasn’t sure what this album was going to sound like as there was a drastic line-up change. However, the changes didn’t rock the Sabaton boat much at all as the bands signature sound remains intact.
#10. Iron Savior – Rise of the Hero
Iron Savior are one band you can count on to provide excellent Priestly power metal. There is one cover song on the album that I skip every time as it’s just weird and not metal sounding. Besides that misstep, all the original material is top notch. It would be nice to have a new album from them in 2015 and not have a 3-4 year wait between albums. I’ve heard there are plans for a live album / video in 2015, so I’m looking forward to that as Iron Savior sadly do not tour in Canada/USA.
#11. Bloodbound – Stormborn
Sweden’s Bloodbound have always been a solid band, but on Stormborn they have stepped things up a notch. I hear nods to bands like Sabaton, Orden Ogan, and classic power metal. Such a great band!
#12. Brainstorm – Firesoul
It’s been a glorious year for German metal as you can see from all the German bands in this list. The vocals of Andy B. Franck are as always excellent showing yet again why he’s one of the best vocalists in metal. If it’s powerful power metal that you seek, Brainstorm are a sure bet as they always deliver the goods.
#13. Triosphere – The Heart of the Matter
This album was a long time coming and was something I’ve been waiting for for a few years. For those who think that all female metal lead vocalists are operatic and sing in symphonic and gothic metal bands (not that I have a problem with that style, I love Nightwish more than most I know), then you live under a rock and have yet to hear Ida Haukland. The music on here is at times technical, with bits of power, prog, and thrash. Otherwise, it’s awesome, and the band should be much more known.
#14. DragonForce – Maximum Overload
Are Dragonforce the kings of cheesey / saccharin power metal or underneath that layer is there something more? As they are in my top 20, I do believe they have more to offer than sillyness and endless guitar noodling. While those things are there, so are some very cool riffs, melodies, and memorable songs like “Three Hammers”. (Note: I have the extended version which has all the bonus tracks, which greatly add to the album).
#15. Riot V – Unleash the Fire
The big question on this album was, what would Riot be without it’s heart, without main man Mark Reale (R.I.P.)? Also for me was the question of what the vocals would be like with Todd Michael Hall replacing my fav Riot vocalist Tony Moore. And to a lesser (but still important) extent, one of the best drummers around, Bobby Jarzombek, is also replaced by Frank Gilchriest. I wasn’t sure what the end result would be, but after hearing UNLEASH THE FIRE, I’m sure it’s as close as we can expect to the band’s previous album Immortal Soul (2011) which for me was perhaps the best Riot album ever. I think Mark Reale would be proud of the guys and that his legacy lives on and continues to be respected and celebrated.
#16. Accept – Blind Rage
BLIND RAGE is the third album with the best line up Accept has ever had. It is a very slight step down from the two albums that preceded it, but when you’re stepping down just a bit from an album as great as BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, you are still way up near the top of the metal spectrum. With the December 2014 announcement of the departure of drummer Stefan Schwarzmann and guitarist Herman Frank, the winning line-up and chemistry will no doubt change, time will tell what that will mean.
#17. Xandria – Sacrificium
I was a little concerned with what would happen to Xandria as they parted ways with their vocalist and replaced her with Dianne van Giersbergen. However, they picked a winner who equals her predecessor. As a result, SACRIFICIUM is the best symphonic metal album of 2014 in my books and (sorry for bringing up Nightwish, but they are the leaders in this symphonic realm) have an album here that in terms of riffs and overall style is what I hope Nightwish will deliver with their first album with Floor Jansen.
#18. Edguy – Space Police
Edguy return with their best album since 2006’s ROCKET RIDE. I remember reading pre-release publicity bragging about the return to form / speed / power metal, and there is some of that, but it’s not like this is a complete return. Thankfully it’s not like their Tinnitus Sanctus album which hasn’t stood up well since it’s release. Edguy do have a number of traditional/classic Edguy power metal songs on here and it’s those songs that really made the album for me. Their inclusion of humor is also welcomed, even the cover artwork with a Burt Reynolds space cop is hilarious! The only negative thing to say is about the unnecessary Falco cover song.
#19. Wolf – Devil Seed
Wolf continue to deliver NWOBHM-inspired heavy metal and are one of the few bands who play straight up heavy metal in an age when everything is labeled with some sub-genre tag. Now if only the millions of fans of straight up metal bands like Priest, Maiden, and Saxon would check them out! 🙂
#20. Overkill – White Devil Armory
Overkill. Solid. You can always trust in these guys.
Best Live Album: None..I didn’t buy a single live album in 2014. I’d much prefer live concert blu-rays.
Best DVD / Blu-Ray: SAXON: Warriors Of The Road – The Saxon Chronicles Part II
Best EP: I didn’t buy a single EP this year.
Stratovarius: Parts 1 & 2 – The Complete Edition
While the two ELEMENTS albums do not represent my favorite Strato material, between the two of them you have one great album. I was especially keen on hearing the 5.1 mix of the original albums on DVD. It is good, but I was hoping for more of a separation of the instruments. I’ve heard 5.1 audio mixes on material that I’ve much preferred to this, but it is still cool.
Best Remake Album/Compilation
Lord: The Dungeon Era
What a fine release this is! The Lord re-recordings of the Dungeon material are fantastic. The USB key containing everything is a great addition, but the mini-bio about the band / Lord Tim really was cool to read. I bet it could be expanded into a full length book someday as I found reading it very interesting.
King Diamond, Toronto, Oct. 18th 2014.
While I’ve seen some great bands in 2014 whose performances were amazing (Primal Fear, Iced Earth, Sabaton, Tyr, Doro, etc.) there was some black magic in the air at this particular show. King had brought his full stage show with him and it looked fantastic. As well, it was the first time I’ve ever seen him live which made it a long wait as I’ve been a fan since the 80’s. His vocals live sounded fantastic and the band was ripping.
Sweating Bullets: The Deth And Rebirth Of Megadeth
By Martin Popoff
PowerChord Press, 2014
Any serious fan of Megadeth should check out this biography. It’s the best there is about the band. It’s cool how all eras of the band are covered equally, even if I prefer the first four albums.
Best New Band: While I got into many new bands, none of them had their debut album in 2014.
Metsatöll and Crystal Age. Can’t pick just one…these two bands are the ones I got majorly into in 2014.
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Angels of the Apocalypse: I don’t know what happened, there was so much promise after Avalon’s debut. This album, despite my best efforts and repeated listens, just didn’t stick. Hopefully Timo will be back with new music in 2015 as the official website for Avalon is currently offline. After the release of this album there was very little fanfare and publicity, which is odd because prior to its release there was a lot of publicity. Since its release I haven’t heard much at all from Timo and that’s disappointing as I very much look up to his musical contributions and know how much he has helped shape modern melodic power metal.
Unisonic – Light of Dawn: It’s not that this band is “bad”…it’s just that the pairing of Hansen and Kiske (IMO) should revisit, revive, and return to the Keeper Pt. I and II era. Instead, we have unmemorable melodic hard rock…almost entirely witten by Unisonic bassist Dennis Ward. Even though Kai doesn’t write in this band, it does result in less time for Gamma Ray, which means less Gamma Ray touring, no promo videos from Gamma Ray’s 2014 album, again no North American tour for Gamma Ray, etc.. As Gamma Ray is my favorite band, you can begin to understand why this situation is disappointing.
Babymetal – Why is this a “thing”? Japanese Minipops children singing over D-grade melodeath metal. Silly…who actually listens to this?!
Hopes for 2015
Nightwish – VERY high hopes for the first album with the vocalist they should of had in the band the day that Tarja was ousted.
Blind Guardian – New album and tour!
Jag Panzer – They are recuiting a new singer….which is weird, but I have faith they will find someone worthy. I hope they get an album out in 2015.
King Diamond – The reunion has been a success, now lets get a new studio album out!
Slayer – C’mon with the new album….can’t wait! I have faith it will be good!
Savatage – As they are reuniting for a single show at Wacken 2015, all of us long time fans are hoping it spawns new Savatage music and a tour for the band.