“It takes courage to confront the weaknesses we share” – Mina Caputo
Go buy music. I’m doing my year end list early this year instead of butted right up against New Year’s Eve on the pretext that some of you might actually want to purchase albums and support bands as well as share and trade and be hippies. It is great we can share and be exposed to more music these days, which also gives us the choice to choose what succeeds, directly interfacing with our heroes and/or peers in the “scene”.
Black Friday is pure “Mob Rules” insanity at the chain stores, so why don’t you order any of the albums on my list online (or at least stream them)? This year instead of 5 best records I chose one for each of Metal Riot’s sub-genre catagories, though all are basically one form or another of heavy or edgy rock. Best music video is also included.
This year was a stunning series of highs and lows, from triumphs of death metal to huge tours to Oderus, Wayne Static and Athon leaving us too soon (also R.I.P. Johnny Winter)!
This list is a sample of some of the best albums (or certain songs) that moved me in 2014. Songs about unity needed in this Fergusson-tense environment , songs for self growth or songs that just kicked ass.
Click HERE to read the top picks.
1. Alt Metal - Hellyeah Blood For Blood Sevendust’s acoustic record got 5 stars from me and Wovenwar are to be commended for making such an amazing debut while under the pressure of the Lambesis trial . Lionize grooved and Korn’s Paradigm Shift showed strong creative growth. Islander had the enthusiasm and enough PMA to kick start tons of enthusiasm, but…when it came to the most songs and a sense of the band finally nailing what they’d been about from the start…Hellyeah’s latest took the cake. Slipknot is good but the drumming is not on par to prior releases, whereas this Hellyeah album has Vinnie Paul at his best since Pantera plus Chad Gray delivering trademark quirks , odd melodies and the rage that made Mudvayne famous. Catch ‘em this album cycle or wish ya hadn’t been so jaded later. ”Black December” is the key track, in my opinion, though “Moth” and the title track also seal the deal.
When it was just me and Chad’s idea to make a band. When we were getting together and writing songs. THIS is that album that I’ve been waiting to do. Obviously if you’ve known me from Nothingface, that’s the type of music that I play. I like the balance of ultra heavy and somber songs. We’re not throwing a ballad on the record for the sake of doing it. “Heavy” comes in a lot of forms. - Tom Maxwell of Hellyeah.
2. Black Metal – Tombs Savage Gold
Some people would refute the claim that Tombs still have much black metal influence but Savage Gold is weighty and bold beneath a powerful Rutan veneer. As much dissonance and sprawling disquiet as ferocity. The Chicago saga of grief, strained friendships and pain between the Atlas Moth, Nachtmystium’s agony riddled The World We Left Behind, Twilight, Krieg and Wolvhammer records yielded some timelessly brilliant pathos and grim sounds. Many other bands had cold and frozen works of baleful blackness to cheer for or scowl at, but it’s Savage for the Gold.
3. Death Metal – Behemoth The Satanist
The Polish titans managed to surpass even Septic Flesh’s ambitious Titan and many brilliant tech death albums this year, plus staggering efforts by their own countryman (Decapitated, Vader, Calm Hatchery). The Satanist was huge in scope and power plus the band stayed as intimidating as ever and managed to not only upset Putin’s Russia but play Israel in the name of free speech and to show Behemoth is not to scared to play anywhere that others feared to tread.
4. Doom Metal – Godhunter City Of Dust This category was hard. The Skull, Mournful Congregation, The Order Of Israfel and especially Electric fuckin’ Wizard put out monstrous records this year. In the current social climate of America however, no doom album came as close to the heart of darkness buried in the festering wound of these divided states. And Godhunter are still willing to poke at it. From domestic spying and militarization to social tensions and personal grief, this one is serious.
5. Extreme Metal (and my pick for ALBUM OF THE YEAR)- I Am Heresy Thy Will
My pick for album of the year is also winner of best extreme metal. Boysetfire’s Nathan Gray led his band through real hardship this year but the music was thrilling, unflinching and at times heart breaking. That is extreme. Sure, it’s not gargling pushpins and razorblades but “March Of Black Earth” is the smartest video concept I saw this year, about stripping away illusions to find a truer sanctity. Like the Pope acknowledging evolution, this record also weds post-hardcore to black metal and is more forward thinking than anything going (besides maybe some of the gasping post-rock and death of the Venereal Dawn record by Dark Fortress or the bleaker than void Emptiness record).
This is about future generations and hopes, fears, the battle for self respect (even at time’s with the self and a “higher power”).
It takes a lot of focus and I guess passion for the point. If you don’t have that passion for what you are saying you’re gonna lose your train of thought real quick. As far as the lyrics and idea behind Thy Will, something I point out a lot in the album is confronting the simplicity of good and evil. How dangerous it is to label things as such. It’s such a simplistic thing to put on complex problems. We can say Pol Pot or Stalin is evil, but that ends the conversation. How do we get past things that are honestly part of human nature? And animal nature. Classism. Homophobia. Sexism. Those are complete animal desires. Whether it’s good for society is a different argument, but it’s not good or evil. From the devil or from God. It is what it is and if we choose simplistic labels for it, we’re never gonna come up with a solution. Society needs to evolve past certain behavior that hurts us. - Nathan Gray
6. Folk Metal (and best music video!) – Sabbath Assembly Quaternity
Sabbath Assembly continue to unify Lucifer and Christ in a splendor of shadowplay. Visually arresting and musically on another plane, the band are way over the heads of most people. “Lucifer” gets my pick for video of the year.
7. Glam Metal – Sister Disguised Vultures
Jamie led his band through the a sexy gutter crawl of rock intensity not seen since Amen burst on the scene with a blood curdling howl. This aint Look What The Cat Dragged In but it’s marvelous.
8. Gothic- Within Temptation Hydra The Euro-symphonic champions delivered a breathtaking collection with Januar’y 2014′s Hydra. Refreshing team ups (Xzibit, Howard Jones, Tarja, Dave Pirner) and towering, romantic moments of epic and gloriously grandiose opera metal. Plus “Dangerous” was the most death defying (literally) video of the year.
9.Grind- Jucifer: District Of Dystopia
Torchrunner almost took it with Southern Lord head fuck Endless Nothing, but the truly classy vagabond duo, legendary Jucifer destroyed everyone on timely District Of Dystopia. Direct, topical and vital 4 track blasting from one of the most important bands in the world. Unafraid to tackle real problems with humanity’s decline.
10. Hard Rock- Foo Fighters Sonic Highways
Nirvana unified the underground’s sub genres and broke alternative rock and punk wider into the mainstream than ever before. Other bands tried to be the “next” Nirvana but forgot to be an island other bands could port at. Foo Fighters nailed it on their Sonic Highways HBO series and the only album that references Bad Brains and also features Joe Walsh. The marrow in the bones of these power pop/ hard rock gems is nothing less than the musical heritage of America’s own story.
11. Heavy Metal – Castle Under Seige
The record I plugged most this year was Castle‘s heavy metal opus Under Seige, a burning ember of chemistry with big ass cymbals and riveting guitar and bass interplay. Cool bluesy vocals on a highway to and all the way through hell, kickin’ up dust in your wake. Sanctuary, Iced Earth, Amulet all slew but Castle wins my vote.
12.Industrial- Emigrate Silent So Long These are Family Values! The new album from Rammstein’s guitar god is 100% bad ass. Lemmy over an industrial speed riff fest to die for plus other great and name worthy performances from Marilyn Manson, Jonathan Davis and a soul bending ass mover from Peaches (among other guests). The climbing dark dance of the vines growing through the title track and the dance floor worthy “Rainbow” and other tracks really layer great production with innovation. Pre-order the album below:
Google Play: http://smarturl.it/EmigrateSSL_Google
13. Melodeath – Arch Enemy War Eternal
Arch Enemy managed to move on fine post-Angela (who will always be remembered as super awesome). The band also ended the year recruiting Jeff Loomis. Not too shabby. At The Gates will be everyone else’s pick but had a long time to work on that great record. Arch Enemy just kept the foot on the gas.
14. Metalcore – downset. One Blood
Downset’s unity focused PMA and social concsiousness is the vital spark we need right now in hardcore and metalcore. Gideon, Acacia Strain, Whitechapel , The Royal and others had worthy efforts. Polar on Prosthetic Records especially killed it on Shadowed By Vultures, but downset remind us that we are one tribe and need to focus on community over hate.
15. Power Metal – “Rainbow In The Dark”, performed by Corey Taylor
Last year Stratovarius was in my top 5 albums of 2013 for Nemesis. This year the genre barely lit my radar. But Corey Taylor with my pal Jason Christopher from Prong on bass (who has often performed with Corey in the past) knocked this cover of Dio out of the park. This and Slipknot’s killer song “Kilpop” prove Corey has completely mastered his clean vocal attack.
16. Prog Metal – Wings Denied Mirrors For A Prince While Cynic’s Kindly Bent To Free Us was a liberated tour de force from the veterans and featured the catchiest, actually good ear worm hooks of 2014 in “The Lion’s Roar” and while White Arms Of Athena thrilled on their S/T sophomore album, my pick for prog metal record this year is the sleeper Mirrors For A Prince by D.C. rebels Wings Denied. Dynamic song writing, an Intronaut member cameo and chops, tone s and intuitive, heartfelt lyrics put this one ahead of even brain scaling efforts from Job For A Cowboy and Fallujah’s much hyped The Flesh Prevails. Wings Denied could cross over to almost any metal crowd and yet don’t seem to kiss ass sonicaly to be “marketable”. Prince was Recorded with Jamie King (BTBAM, The Human Abstract, Scale the Summit) at The Basement Recording in Winston-Salem, NC. That said, some of the vocals wouldn’t be out of place on a Wovenwar album and that might not be for fans with a tech-death preference to their prog. Still, listen to “Signs” (not a cover of the Tesla classic) and kick out the jams.
17. Punk – Cold World. How The God’s Chill
I shouldn’t have to tell you why Cold World’s How The God’s Chill is the cream of the punk/hardcore/deathwish crop this year, but Kool G Rap will do it for me.
18. Thrash – Hammercult Steelcrusher
Exodus reunited with Steve have been killing it live, not to mention they reunited with Kirk from Metallica and had a Chuck Billy cameo on their record. Goatwhore’s constricting rage wove morbid tales and bashed in doors. Iron Reagan ruled almost all comers. Hammercult from Israel almost got blown up on a regular basis and stayed in party mode anyway. Steelcrusher is fucking relentless fun.
Steelcrusher… there was no other word that can describe this album than it’s title. THRASH METAL ON STEROIDS! Combine a powerful album and a strong record label with SPV, the impact was nothing but EXPLOSIVE! 2014 was our best year so far, with a new wild album under our belt, a fresh attitude, and new conquests which took part in over 2 full blown European tours, one of them with Napalm Death and the other our first headline tour – along with many many festival performances across the board, we had such a great time… it was a year to remember.
As a young band in 2014 being on the road is tough business. There are no dollars pouring down on you from the sky, no blowjob-fests at the backstage and forget about expensive and luxury hotels with spa and cock&balls massage. No. It’s a tough business, a rugged business – one that will eat you up and spit you on the fucking road. It’s takes blood and sweat and piss. The blood and sweat will be pouring out of your body on a daily basis. The piss is the vile stuff you have to drink over and over. So why bother? Because of the people. Some call them ‘fans’ – I hate this word. They are the warriors of the modern world. The people. My people.
They are the fuel that makes us burn, no matter how much piss they throw at us, no matter how much blood and sweat we lost – WE BURN! They are Hammercult. For them we will conquer all. - Yakir Shochat
19. Other – Mina Caputo As Much Truth As One Can Bear
It’s fitting we have an “other” category for Metal Riot (usually where I place weirder Melvins releases or stuff too cray cray to classify). Mina Caputo embodied otherness literally via transgender rights breakthrough masterpiece As Much Truth As One Can Bear . And Life Of Agony’s East Coast return show in NJ was the best show of the year, by faaaaaaar.
20. 2x LP – die so fluid. The Opposites Of Light
Grog Rox and Die So Fluid took grunge, metal, balladry and catchy song craft to an all time new oasis of greatness. “Black Blizzard” should be the new anthem of every make up clad lost soul, night walker or kid with a head full of cryptic writings.Blare it loud.
Extra Credit: BEST LIVE ALBUM – Prong Unleashed In The West (Live In Berlin)
Tommy Victor is so consistent and Prong in 2014 are meaner and leaner than hundreds of yound, dumb and full of chump bands on the scene. Prong’s official live European bootleg is a can’t miss that will make you grasp why the staying power of Prong is unshakable. Horns!!!!