Once again, like every year I see myself in the difficult task of picking the best albums of the year. This year was again difficult as not only the quantity and quality of music that passed through my desk was higher and better than the one in previous years. You might not find many of the usual suspect on this list, as this is a more personal and individual list, rather than a list based on the trends & hype created by pistol magazine or sucky website. So, without more delays, here is my top 20 albums of 2014.
20. Lovelorn Dolls – Japanese Robot Invasion
Lovelorn Dolls was a surprise for me this year, even though they been around forever, Japanese Robot Invasion comes out as a really good goth/darkwave album. They are heavy, catchy, and their lyrics are fun and totally weird (in a positive way) Songs like; Happy Valentine, or Blood Moon are just amazing. I know that this might be a very underrated band, but the style of the album and how they contrasted the heavy parts and the electronic parts is just genius.
19. Amaranthe – Massive Addictive
I got hooked on Amaranthe‘s Massive Addictive since the moment I received the promo, Amaranthe continues improving their sound and carving their own style. About Massive Addictive, I have to say that Drop Dead Cynical, Digital World, Massive Addictive, and Over And Done are some of the best song in the record. Their formula of three vocalists gives texture and color to the songs, and the guitar riffs of Olof Mörck drop the quota of heaviness into the record.I had the chance to see them live in L.A opening for Within Temptation last September and as usual they put a hell of a show.Massive Addictive is a good album from a really promising band.
18. Savn – Savn
The début album of Savn, the band composed by ex The Sins Of Thy Beloved members Stig Johansen &
Anders Thue, and Midnattsol‘s vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs was just good as it was expected. The elements of TSOTB mixed with the iconic voice of Carmen gave light and sense to the album. The whole album is a trip from beginning to end, it has folk, black, doom & gothic metal elements right and left, it’s just an amazing piece of music, and definitely a comeback for the guys of TSOTB. Songs that impacted me the most on this record were Hang On, and I Am Free (which is a duet of Carmen with her sister Liv Kristine of Leaves Eyes). A really powerful album that delivers a perfect mix of old gothic metal and folk metal.
17. Starkill – Virus Of The Mind
Chicago’s very own brew of melodic death metal delivered a huge album on Virus Of The Mind. Starkill surpasses their previous effort (Fires Of Life) with this new musical master piece. The album is raw, visceral and shows a lot of maturity in respect to where Starkill is coming from. They not only show proudly their influences of European metal, but they also took the best of that, create something original, and blast it on Virus Of The Mind. Songs like; Winter Desolation, Before Hope Fades, and God Of This World are the proof of how much they had grown, and how much their sound had mature. Really good tunes.
16. Xandria – Sacrificium
I got the chance to see Xandria play some of the material of Sacrificium in three different occasions during their North American tour supporting Sonata Arctica, and they delivered a powerful experience with this songs every night. Nightfall & Stardust were really powerful live, Even though they played a short set during that tour, I wish they could play songs like Betrayer or Temple Of Hate. I hope we can see more of them in a future tour. This album reflects the new path that Xandria had decided to take, and the one fits them best. Definitely I can stop to recommend this record enough.
15. Septicflesh – Titan
Septicflesh deliver a masterpiece on Titan, their keep that dark epic symphonic vibe, yet very technical. This makes the album a masterpiece itself, when you listen to songs like Burn, Order Of Dracul, or Prototype you understand the work behind this album. Septicflesh delivered two amazing shows this year on two different tours, we get to listen first hand the beauty of this record live, plus some oldies from the band’s back catalog. Titan, reflects the current state of inspiration on Septicflesh, and delivers not only a powerful technical album, but a symphonic one, all in one amazing piece of musical genius.
14. Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken
Evergrey with Glorious Collision (2011) show us that a band can reborn from its own ashes, and I guess they got around that idea pretty well, as Hymns For The Broken presents a mixed line up composed by new and old members, But once again the band gains their trademark sound back on this record. Not only the result is a mixture of melancholic progressive metal with a lot of melodies and complex parts on them. Songs like Archaic Rage, Black Undertow, and The Grand Collapse are emotionally changed songs that deliver that old Evergrey sound in the form of a punch of melodic sorrow. The album on itself is a manifestation of what Evergrey is capable of and a sign that they are here to stay.
13. Behemoth – The Satanist
Heavy, Dark & Dense is how I can describe The Satanist. Once again Behemoth shows why they are the flag bearers of the black metal modernism. They keep the spirit of the great old bands, but added their own modern touch of dense darkness, like a sort of dark matter that encompassed their music, and make it so appealing that you can’t put it down. They delivered an amazing show when they came through town with the Metal Alliance tour early this year, besides Watain‘s show, I can’t recall a dense and darker show than Behemoth, they really owned that stage from beginning to end.
12. Diabulus In Musica – Argia
Diabulus In Musica surprised me a lot with Argia this year, as they got back to their basic sound and delivered a powerful album, very symphonic that fits perfectly with what they did in the beginning with their début album Secrets (2010). Diabulus In Musica who was in the edge of disbanding, like the Phoenix they rebirth out of their own ashes. Argia is a gorgeous collection of symphonic gothic metal that had put the band on the vanguard of the genre along with bands like Delain, Xandria, and Sirenia.
11. Vallenfyre – Splinters
Greg Mackintosh once again delivered a raw and straight forward extreme metal album with Vallefyre‘s Splinters, I believe the album title fits perfectly the music on this record. Every song will pierce your ears and brain without compassion, every riff is like a giant wood maze made of splinters that brushes your soul to the point of not return. I don’t know if it was their intention to sound this way or it was the result of their individual talents, but the result of them as a band are definitely destructive. I sincerely can’t wait to see this band live on the Decibel Magazine Tour next year, for sure they will be the surprise band.
10. Vesania – Deus Ex Machina
Another jewel delivered from Poland, this time Vesania‘s Deus Ex Machina evokes the great sounds of bands like Old Man’s Child, Agathodaimon and Mactatus. Vesania‘s style has shifted as expected after seven years of inactivity, and even though they keep their trademark sound, the band has moved towards more captivating sounds, as their brew of black metal had acquired a more catchy appeal. Deus Ex Machina, is a melodic album that delivers a dark sound, not as dense as Behemoth, but dense enough to form a heavy texture if you ask me. Even though their early sound has faded a bit, they still sound strong on this release.
9. Mayan – Antagonise
Mayan hasn’t stop to surprised me since their début album Quarterpast (2011). This year the band released their sophomore album Antagonise, the album is not only technically heavy, but the symphonic parts are just over the top. The character of Antagonise could come out as political at times, but listening more deeply is more like a social critique of the modern state of affairs. Mark Jansen‘s idea of have a side band heavier than Epica is a total success, not only the band had left out the shadow of Epica, but it has become an entity on its own. Songs like; Burn Your Witches, Faceless Spies & Paladins Of Deceit are not only strong lyrically, but musically challenging too.
8. Exodus – Blood In Blood Out
With Blood In Blood Out, Exodus returned to their basic sound, a more aggressive thrash metal style, that keeps the sound of the band classic and explosive at the same time. The return of Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza to the microphone gives the band the edge on thrash metal releases this year. Blood In Blood Out is a more comprehensive album, full of riffs, and it carries a more bombastic drum sound, and is in general a bigger album. Is easy to expect a heavy Exodus album, but till last-minute, we could not expect the change of vocalists twist, that resulted on this album being a high quality and a better version of Exodus.
7. Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence
Abysmal Dawn‘s new album Obsolescence is my death metal album of the year, not melodic theater, not amendments, not bullshit, just straight forward raw riffs, blastbeats and rational lyrics. While other bands try to out done one another in the grounds of who can be more technical than who, Abysmal Dawn comes out and delivers unadulterated and passionate death metal at its finest. Its like drinking pure vodka out of the bottle, yeah! you might want to keep your mixed cocktails, margaritas and zimmas. This is pure, raw, and fast death metal. Tracks like; Perfecting Slavery, and The Inevitable Return of Darkness are just insane songs from beginning to end that give you an example of what this four Angelinos are capable of in terms of death metal.
6. Within Temptation – Hydra
When it was announced that a new Within Temptation album was in the making, it was a very intriguing moment as their latest album The Unforgiving didn’t cause a great effect on me. But, after listening Hydra a couple of times it win me over. They returned to their symphonic roots, but they also keep some of the elements that made The Unforgiving a steady and catchy album. I can say that Within Temptation jumped into the modernity of the genre that they once helped to create. Hydra also marks a historic milestone as it features the amazing duet between Sharon Den Adel and Tarja Turunen (ex Nightwish), something that lovers of the genre had waited to happen for a long time. I would say that Within Temptation‘s Hydra is a progressive album that puts the band into the new waves of symphonic gothic metal.
5. Delain – The Human Contradiction
If bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, and After Forever were the roots of the symphonic metal movement Delain had consolidated their legacy as the cornerstone of the new age of the genre. Their new album The Human Contradiction not only continues lyrically with an open critique towards the concept of ‘otherness’ and questions the self-giving right of humanity to declare itself above all the species and the self-centered right to decide if other species are capable to feel the same we do or not. A very philosophical record, that not only is heavy in its lyrical approach, but it’s also musically speaking heavy on its own way. Songs like; Tell Me Mechanist, The Tragedy Of The Commons, and Army Of Dolls are the crown jewels of this album.
4. Hammerfall – (r)Evolution
Its been 3 years since the ‘Templars Of Metal‘ released a new album, but this 2014 Hammerfall returned in full form and in full battle armor. (r)Evolution, brings back the band to their very roots, songs like Hector’s Hymn, Bushido, Live Life Loud, and We Won’t Back Down are just the pure essence of heavy metal. Hammerfall‘s (r)Evolution is a great release that brings back the best kind of heavy metal, the one that inspire us to love this genre. The whole album is an adventure, I really hope they tour the US soon, as next year will be 5 years since they last played in American soil.
3. Lyriel – Skin And Bones
I do love last-minute surprises from time to time, as by last September Hammerfall was seating as number 3 on my list, until Lyriel arrived with Skin And Bones. An album that I still have not be able to put down to rest. This album has all the characteristic of an old symphonic folk metal album, but once again has its modern moments. Songs like; Numbers, Skin And Bones, Falling Skies, and Black And White are just lyrically and musically genius songs. The melodies and the heavy sections on this record are just so well-arranged that will hit you right in the core. Definitely one record that I am can’t get tired of recommend is this one, amazing metal from Germany.
2. Arch Enemy – War Eternal
They changed vocalist, yes, they got better or worse?. Well, that depends of the point of view, but I must say that they did a hell of a job on this album, and they moved pass Khaos Legions to a more fierce cycle. The voice of Alissa White-Gluz gave Arch Enemy a more savage approach, it feels that at times they sound heavier, more technical, but at the same time is just pure heavy extreme metal. Arch Enemy changed? yes, they did, as many bands should change in order to keep up with the demands of their listeners. War Eternal, certainly wages war on their past, and challenges their future with this album.
1. Conquering Dystopia – Conquering Dystopia
Since I saw this band live last January at NAMM, they blew me away, I am a skeptic when it comes to instrumental bands, but when a band brings the talents of Cannibal Corpse, Nevermore, and The Faceless. I would sit, shut up and listen. After they wow me completely at NAMM, then they dropped this 12 kilotons of musical goodness that pretty much blew everything out of the water. The complexity, technicality, precision, and musically madness of this record is just fucking insane. Conquering Dystopia gets my # 1 album of the year, not because of their members, but because how good musically they are together, this release deserves to be recognized more for its musical quality rather than for who is on it. In the past (and still, I don’t get too surprised by technical/djent/or modern metal bands). But, I must recognize that this guys are not aiming to be on any of the before mentioned genres, they just play insane metal, and even yet they push it to the limit. I hope to see more of this band in the near future.