Just realised that I hadn’t added my own thoughts to the top tunes of the year, so here we go… and it’s not going to be easy. I’m tempted to include albums I encountered this year as well as those released since January 1st but that would be cheating! So albums and EPs released this year, it is. If I make a mistake, please correct me.
This does mean, though, that I can’t include some new releases I do have and already am getting into as they’re not formally out until 2015. So here’s hoping that the likes of the new Hayseed Dixie and People on Vacation albums stand the test of time for next year’s list!
Trying to put them in order would be futile, though, so this is a simple list of highlights. Some I’ve reviewed on here, some I haven’t. Either way, they’re on this list because I like them.
Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
This took me a few listens to get into, and it’s not as good as Unto The Locust, but it further entrenches Machine Head into the legendary camp. A great mixture of songs and styles – slow, fast, heavy, thrashy, choral… so many techniques and some great songwriting and musicianship. The previous album is still my favourite from them and, in fact, one of my favourite albums to come out since 2000. But this ain’t half bad as a follow-up.
Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
Their best album for some years, in my opinion, with great production. Given the length of time they’ve been going, it’s incredible to see them not only keeping things alive but changing and improving. If there’s a band that could afford to settle back on their laurels, it’s these guys… but they’ve not.
Electric River – The Faith & Patience
This one’s pushing for album of the year, in my opinion. A band I’d not heard of until being invited to interview them and review their support slot with Lit, I received a copy of the album shortly afterwards and almost immediately fell for it. Sure, it’s not the heaviest album of the year but it’s a superb light rock outing with not a single bad track on it. This is an album that an established, arena-filling act could be proud of. The fact that it’s from an act still trying to break through is incredible. Very radio-friendly, very good live – if they can follow this one up with anything nearly as good then they deserve to be huge.
Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
Louder, ruder and cruder than their previous album, this ranks as my favourite of the three Steel Panther albums out so far. Musically as good as anything they’ve done, and far less subtle. very much appeals to the rock fan and the Viz reader in me.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – Are We Not Men? We Are Divas!
Something I’d actually thought of some time ago – “Why don’t Me First do an album all by female artists?” – came to near-reality this year with the release of Divas. OK, so there’s Boy George and so on in there, but the main idea has been carried over. It’s, as ever, a great selection though it does include a couple of covers of songs I’ve never heard of. Such is the problem with being out of touch with modern music, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay given how awful the charts are these days.
Dust Bolt – Awake The Riot
In a year full of resurgent thrash acts and newcomers taking the classics as obvious influences, this was one of my favourites. If a breath of fresh air can, at the same time, carry an air of staleness from being so old then this is it. At once new yet familiar, a quality slab of old-fashioned thrash. No new tweaks, no updates, just fast-paced, frenetic fun.
In This Moment – Black Widow
A long-running band who I only encountered this year with their new release, InThis Moment impressed with this dark, sexy, sleazy collection. I’m very much interested in seeing them touring in the new year, but their Glasgow date coincides with the wife’s birthday. Grr.
Hellyeah – Blood For Blood
A slow burner that took me a while to get into, this finally made it into fairly heavy rotation in the car. I did like it on the first couple of listens and reviewed it on that basis, but with continued listening it just got better and better.
Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out
Still going strong after all these years and with Zetro back on vocals, this was one of those albums I was really looking forward to… but with a sense of trepidation. What if it wasn’t good? What if Zetro had lost it? Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about. Best album in years – love it.
Cancerous Womb – Born of a Cancerous Womb
Up there with Skeletal Domain as one of the best death releases of the year, Cancerous Womb came out of nowhere (well, Edinburgh) with this incredible album. I’ve not had a chance to catch them live yet, but I hear good things about them on stage as well. Ones to watch, for sure.
Seprevation – Consumed
Straddling the death / thrash divide, we met Seprevation twice on tour this year as they impressed crowds in Glasgow. A great bunch of lads with a great sound, they’re well worth a listen if you like the heavier stuff. Consumed has been well received across the board at the Moshville Times and deservedly so.
Algebra – Feed The Ego
Another one that’s survived since early in the year is Feed the Ego. Angry hardcore/thrash with a great range of sounds, this is a very strong release and made Algebra a band I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Sabaton – Heroes
A band that seemingly can do no wrong released one of their best albums this year. Based on real-life stories, Heroes is a quality release from a band on top of their game. Followed up by a storming live tour at the end of the year, Sabaton are a band you can’t afford to ignore.
Blackberry Smoke – Leave A Scar (Live in Carolina)
The only live album to feature in the list this year, and it would likely have topped a list made up only of live recordings. Sadly, a band I’ve not had a chance to actually catch live yet! I’ve heard nothing but good things, and if they match up even closely to the quality of this album then they’re on the “to see” list next time around.
Skalmold – Með vættum
In a year where I finally got to see Skalmold live, this was a tremendous album to see them supporting. Another epic tale, following a cyclical journey around Iceland and the adventures of a female hero battling off invaders, it comes across like a musical. With their unique sound and modern attitude to the history and traditions of their country, Skalmold are very much up and running.
Eluveitie – Origins
Another band returning to release one of their strongest albums to date was Eluveitie. With a typically broad mix of catchy numbers and heavy songs, Origins really grabbed me from the off and is still listened to quite a bit.
Alestorm – Sunset on the Golden Age
Confirmed as not being their final album, Alestorm came out with another classic pirate metal release featuring silliness, catchy riffs and – this time – a couple of epic-length songs. Their best album to date, in my opinion, and one I’m glad it seems they will be following up.
So there you go, in no real order (other than predominantly alphabetical by album title), my top albums of the year. I’m really glad to have been able to include several debut albums and unsigned bands next to the long-standing stalwarts of the metal world. Knowing that even in this age, I can find new acts to entertain me bodes well for the future.