Wait… is 2014 already over? What the fuck just happened? I feel like this year just started and we’re already shovelling snow and talking about what tours we want to see in 2015. This year may have passed quickly, but it was not without some fantastic records being contributed by a few of my favorite bands, and some bands I didn’t expect.
No. 10: Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls
Judas Priest fans took to the band’s 2014 release of “Redeemer of Souls” with mixed emotions and for reasons I can’t understand. This record is the band getting back to the core of what they are good at; writing solid heavy metal songs and being creative without compromising their sound.
I was a fan of the “Nostradamus” record and I’m a fan of “Redeemer of Souls.” ‘Haters gonna hate’ as the kids say, but I am going to stand by the Priest on this one and I think anyone looking for some old-school, in-your-face heavy metal will love this record. Check it out for yourself.
No. 9: Revocation, Deathless
This band is one of the most exciting active groups out there right now in my opinion and I think they’re doing something particularly special. Revocation is a hard-working, creative band that has a lineup of skilled players and high-energy performers that makes their live shows particularly brutal and their albums unique. It’s really a win across the board and so it’s no surprise that “Deathless” would be a fantastic record.
This is an album that I consider a “must have” for anyone who likes aggressive music. If you haven’t heard any “Deathless” music yet (you need to click on more SkullsNBones links) you really need to stop where you are, grab a beer, put your headphones on and listen to the steam below. Revocation is doing something really special. Pay attention!
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No. 8: The Haunted, Exit Wounds
I was lucky enough to catch these guys on tour a month ago in Helsinki and it was a great reminder of just how powerful The Haunted is. They played several tracks from the “Exit Wounds” record and the audience fucking loved it.
Front to back this record is a really solid release that showcases the best of what these guys have to offer. It also features the return of frontman Marco Aro which has a lot of people really excited. If you’re a fan of aggressive music from Gothenburg, Sweden, then look no further that one of the long-standing staples of that unique sound. Quite simply, you need this album.
No. 7: Kuolemanlaakso, Tulijoutsen
If you’re looking for something that sounds both interesting and new (but still metal), look no further. Kuolemanlaakso released “Tulijoutsen” this year which features not only a unique groove to the doomy & aggressive sound the band created on their first record, but also a good rendition of a traditional Finnish pop song that came out perfectly. This record is an experience like nothing else out there and you need to give it a good listen.
If you’re one of those people who think Finnish metal is pretty cut & dry, give this record a listen.
No. 6: IKILLYA, Vae Victis
Probably the hardest working band in Metal that I know of right now is the mighty IKILLYA. From taking every penny they have and converting it into miles on the road both in the US and Europe, to working night and day to better themselves as musicians and performers, this band deserves some serious recognition. “Vae Victis” is a superb record that showcases IKILLYA‘s ability to innovate while still staying true to their signature sound, and it’s easily earned a place in my top ten list for 2014.
I got a chance to sit in the studio with these guys last week and the new lineup is definitely going to bring the band to a whole new level. I can’t wait to see what these guys do on their next release, although I’m thoroughly enjoying this one on repeat.
No. 5: Junius, Days of the Fallen Sun
This is the record that wins for surprising me the most this year. I don’t usually like this kind of stuff but the guys in Junius really created something special here and it caught me off guard. The story, the sound and the overall experience of the music on this record all comes together in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching a movie rather than simply listening to songs.
“Days of the Fallen Sun” is a really good example of how to take melody and use it to make something beautifully heavy without having to push too hard. It’s a special thing to be able to accomplish what Junius has done with this EP and I’m very excited to give it a spot in my top ten for the year. This is a must have for anyone looking for something a little outside the box.
No. 4: Insomnium, Shadows of the Dying Sun
Insomnium has always does a fantastic job with their records but I think the recent years and lineup change have allowed the band to evolve in a way that lets them reach out a little further and capture some new elements for their signature brand of melodic death metal. These guys have never really fucked around with what they do best and “Shadows of the Dying Sun” is no exception, but what you get on this record is a whole lot more than you would expect.
Insomnium has been one of the most important bands to come out of Finland and now they’re taking that responsibility to a whole new place, showing the world even a staple like Finnish melodic death can evolve into something new and even more exciting than before, without compromising the credibility of that style. This band owns a spot in my top ten and you should probably own “Shadows of the Dying Sun” if you are a fan of melodic death. Here’s a little sample:
No. 3: Decapitated, Blood Mantra
This. This. This. If you don’t own this already, you can unfriend me. Wait, this isn’t Facebook? Well then… fuck off! Seriously though, I am so excited for Decapitated, both because of what they’ve gone through, (powered through) and what they continue to accomplish. This is my go-to band for aggression. This is my go-to band for modern groove in extreme metal. This is my go-to band for when I just want to close my eyes put my fucking fist in the air and scream along.
Honestly, this would be my album of the year over many of my past year’s lists if not for the two particularly amazing albums that come after it. That means a lot coming from a dude who would only post a top 7 if I didn’t like any other albums that year. If you want a powerhouse, you need to look no further than Decapitated, and “Blood Mantra” is the album for it. Buy this fucking album now… you can thank me later.
No. 2: At The Gates, At War With Reality
What’s really surprised me about At The Gates‘ release of “At War With Reality” has been the mixed response from bloggers and fans. My reaction at first was that I needed to hear it again. When I heard it again I realized I needed to hear it a third time. And so went the process of me immersing myself in a world of At The Gates for several weeks. This was the same as how several of my friends in the blogging world needed to experience the album… after all, did you think the metal titans would write something so simple that you would get it the first time through? They’re not pioneers for nothing you idiots!
I think what many people might not get is that At The Gates is not trying to recreate the wheel here. Take into account that “At War With Reality” is the next album in line from an album released in 1995! Think about how much these guys have changed as people, as musicians, as creatives… what were you expecting, Slaughter of the Soul Vol. 2? We’d all love to hear that but these guys were innovators way back in the early 90’s, they’re certainly not going to shy away from that now.
When I listen to “At War With Reality,” I hear a fantastic standalone record. If you’re looking for a carbon copy of what they’ve done in the past you’re going to be disappointed, even though I feel they stayed true to the sound. So my advice for those of you who haven’t heard the record yet is to give it a spin and listen as if you didn’t know who the band is. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And for all you At The Gates experts who don’t like the album, stop being an elitist. This is a fantastic metal record.
No. 1: Behemoth, The Satanist
If you didn’t see this coming then you’re most certainly blind. “The Satanist” is the album that I waited all of 2013 for while they teased it to no end, and there is not a single note that wasn’t worth the wait. This band is writing flawless, real music and it’s everything I hope the rest of the metal world could be. There is an aura around Behemoth that makes me envious… their success, carried on the backs of those of us who love them, shows that you don’t need to compromise to take extreme metal to the next level.
Behemoth is the example that all of us musicians should look up to as the inspiration for creating music that is unwavering from the desire of its creator. All too often I see bands compromise to try to sell more records. Behemoth proves you wrong by putting together music that is just fucking good. This is what these guys inspire, and this is what “The Satanist” represents. The music on this record is just as evil as it’s predecessor, just as ‘catchy’ and equally as brutal as the Behemoth of days past. “The Satanist” is the culmination of uncompromising aggression combined with the beauty of everything dark in this universe. This unquestionably my number one album of the year, if not my number one album of the decade. Behemoth is fucking unstoppable.