The problem is that there's simply too much music out there. Most of it is shit, I'll give you that, but as I said in my songs list, once you uncover the diamonds in the rough, you feel positively overwhelmed. More often than not, so many are at your disposal that choosing is a bitch.
But we'll persevere. We'll get though this list, and push happily into 2015 as we fondly reminisce on the best albums of last year (and, unlike 2013, in no particular order!).
ADX - Ultimatum
ADX has always been a favorite of mine, from their nearly perfect debut to their newest effort, Ultimatum. Be aware that the entire record is, lyrically, written in French, which has been the case for the band since their inception. Be aware that it takes nothing away from the record, either.
ADX's brilliantly catchy songwriting is in place on Ultimatum and little has changed from the old days. If you go into the record expecting material like Exécution, you're going to get that. ADX doesn't mess around and hasn't slowed down with age. Long live these French masters.
Delain - The Human Contradiction
Delain is a band I feel needs no introduction on this blog because of how passionate I am about their music. The Human Contradiction was one of the first records of 2014 to hook me--and subsequently received an excellent review--and the struggle to stay away from it was, and still is, very real. In particular, the band's mix and match of pop with heavier elements is done so well that it's, against all odds, a match made in heaven.
Benighted - Carnivore Sublime
Something I strictly hold myself to is "practice what you preach" but, occasionally, I'll find myself ignoring my own advice. Like a book, my motto is to never judge a record by its cover and, in the case of Carnivore Sublime, I originally dismissed the album, thinking it was a silly brutal death metal record. But the thing is, "X2Y" knocked the wind out of me at first listen, making me hungrily dig in for more.
What a hypocrite, right?
Absolutely. We all make mistakes. But I also must give credit where it's due; without That's How Kids Die, I would have never given Carnivore Sublime a chance, so "thanks" to a fellow blogger for helping me see the light. Cheers!
Abysmal Dawn - Obsolescence
Admittedly, Obsolescence only came into the picture in late 2014--I heard it back in October, but absentmindedly set it aside in a favor of pressing listening matters. And what a mistake that was: Obsolescence is a bit like Vader thrown into a blender for a few passes only to discover that an entirely different beast pops out. Sure, Vader's influence is still there, but there's more to the music than that--Abysmal Dawn isn't a merely a cookie-cutter copy, as the band explores the deepest confines of death metal.
Obsolescence is an enriching experience, no doubt, but what gets me about it is how consistent and varied the writing is. Like Vader's Welcome to the Morbid Reich, Obsolescence keeps its feet planted firmly in an established sound, but it has an ear for avoiding repetition to back it up. Guitar playing ranges from rapid tremolo picking, grinding palm-muted riffs, and the expected mid-paced buffoonery. And don't even get me started on the vocals--they're the perfect match for the style, being guttural and vicious. Nothing ever gets boring or same-y here.
Dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer
Night of the Hammer has been described as boring, uninspired, and tired, but very few of us see eye to eye on the matter. In fact, my review proclaimed the record as a very enjoyable piece of work, save for one or two tracks, and quite possibly the best of what's come across my plate from Dawnbringer.
With that being said, Night of the Hammer is more accessible than previous efforts--the music, for instance, often plods, rather than speeds around, and is effortless to remember. Is this a bad thing, you ask? No, not at all. It's a new direction for Dawnbringer and one I can stand behind.
Riot - Unleash the Fire
My review of Unleash the Fire couldn't have been clearer--Riot is back, even without Reale standing at the helm. First and foremost, the music is fun. But it's also well written and evokes feelings of the late '80s when Riot rebounded with Thundersteel, one of their most universally loved records to date.
Ultimately, it seems Riot's goal was to keep their established fan base around, so a change in sound wasn't an option. But one question lingered much to naysayer's delight: could it be done without Reale? ...to which the positive folks shouted a resounding yes, as they simultaneously pumped their fists in the air. Take one look at the track listing, and you'll see subject matter from steel-winged birds traversing the sky, songs in memory of Reale, and general metal cheesiness that Riot has been known for since, well, forever. There's something satisfying about the mix of subject matter because, when it's coupled with Riot's brand of power/speed/heavy metal, you can't help but bob your head along and revel in the fact that feel-good metal like this is still being made today. What more could you want?
Accept - Blind Rage
Contrary to what the title and cover suggest, there's nothing blind or rage-y about Blind Rage. The music is concise, adheres to a blueprint, and has a clear goal in mind--that of accessibility and massive appeal factor.
Since the record hit shelves, I've been of the opinion that it's the best of the three comeback records--Blood of the Nations, Stalingrad, and Blind Rage--because the music expertly avoids being a chore to sit through and has a song for everyone. Like Riot's Unleash the Fire, the music is fun, but it also has a more serious side that manifests itself in tracks like "200 Years," with the Earth's decay and loss of all life.
The jury is out--Blind Rage is a well-rounded winner.
Horrendous - Ecdysis
Much has been written about Horrendous on this blog and, as such, I don't feel the band needs any introduction. Two blurbs about Horrendous and Ecdysis can found here and here.
Cyntia - Limit Break
Limit Break is an album I'm sure you expected to see here--I bestowed it with a glowing review back in July, and much to my enjoyment, the replay value hasn't let up yet. Coming from Cyntia's previous records, the musicianship--particularly vocally--is a massive improvement, and that's partly why I harbor such a fondness for Limit Break. Any compliment given to Saki and her wonderful set of pipes would be an understatement--words can't describe how much she's stepped up her game since Lady Made.
But, of course, she's nothing without a group of great musicians behind her, and Cyntia delivers in that regard, too. Limit Break is a rocking good time with an abundance of sparkling guitar solos and lucid synths--it's devoid of the seriousness metal has been known for in recent years. It doesn't try to be anything it isn't, either. It's just one excellent song after another.
Uriah Heep - Outsider
Uriah Heep may not be a metal band, but they get a pass--their influence on the genre is tremendous and continues to inspire new artists with each passing day. Like Accept, of the three records the band has released since making a comeback, Outsider is the best, although it is neither the heaviest or most adventurous in songwriting.
What makes Outsider worth mentioning is that it's like listening to old Heep. The spirit is back. The classic songwriting is back. And the boys have hit their stride again. All and all, there's very little to dislike here. A modern-day classic? Perhaps.
Bonus: Four that Just Missed the List
Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age
Bloodbath - Grand Morbid Funeral
On Top - Top to Bottom
Nightfell - The Living Ever Mourn
What are you waiting for? Dig in!