My Top 10 Albums of 2014

One of the things I’ve wanted to do for some time now is write about music. I love music; I listen to hours and hours of music, but I never actually write about it. Let’s change that, and to start off 2015 on a music front, I’m going to list my top 10 albums of 2014. But before I begin, I must state thus: 2014 was an awesome year for music, and I still haven’t purchased/listened to every album I want to.

I can only rate what bought and listened to.

So, with that being said, let us begin!

10 Babymetal – Babymetal

Genre: Kawaii Metal

Odds are you heard about Babymetal the same way I did: Someone linked you to a song and said, “What the hell did Japan just do?” Well, the answer is, “Japan made something awesome.” Babymetal’s debut album is an insane affair that blends genres many thought should stay far apart: It has pop, it has death metal, it has rap breakdowns, it has reggae breakdowns, and it has moments that remind me of Metallica and Saliva.

It also has a song about chocolate.

Yet it’s masterfully executed, being both catchy and complex. It’s also completely charming and too badass for having teenage girls as lead singers.

Standout tracks are “Megitsune” “Doke Doke Morning” and “Iine!”

09 Alestorm – Sunset on the Golden Age

Genre: Folk Metal

Bands I love evolving their style for the better is something of a theme of this list, and Alestorm proves to be our first example. They could have just gone with more pirate-themed folk metal and called it good, but they didn’t; instead, Sunset on the Golden Age is a massive jump in diversity for a band that already sounded distinct.

Alestorm have brought a heavy orchestral sound to their new album, which features strings and horn sections aplenty. The extra instruments add a layer that was previously missing, giving Sunset on the Golden Age a wide emotional range. There are some very emotional songs about loss and finality here, and they work damn well despite being dressed up in the guise of pirates.

The album is also really, really fun to listen to, so that helps.

Standout tracks are “Magnetic North” “Quest for Ships” and “Drink

08 Crimson Shadows – Kings Among Men

Genre: Death Metal/Folk Metal

Kings Among Men is the first thing I’ve ever helped crowdfund, which is pretty cool. It’s also a fantastic blend of death metal and folk metal, bringing the best heavy elements of Amon Amarth with the crazy-fast guitar work of Dragonforce. That’s even cooler.

With three different types of singing—screeching, growling, and clean vocals—Crimson Shadows deliver on the metal front, giving us a ratio of 70:30 growls to clean vocals. While I normally prefer something closer to 50:50, the growls here are so well executed and distinct that I can’t help but love them. They’re also the perfect delivery method for songs about Canadian barbarians, partying with kings, and braving the harsh elements of the north.

Standout tracks are “Maiden’s Call” “Braving the Storm” and “Rise to Power

07 Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

Genre: Metal

.5: The Gray Chapter might be the most cohesive album I’ve listened to this year. There are so many clever callbacks and reused bits of sound that constantly conjure up memories to other songs within the album. It’s an amazing piece of musical craftsmanship while also being hilariously dark, amazingly angry, and well worthy of headbanging to.

I’ve never been much for Slipknot, so .5: The Gray Chapter was a bit of an impulse buy, but I’ll be damned, it’s a great album and I’m glad I own it.

Standout tracks are “Killpop” “Custer” and “The Negative One

06: Sixx A.M. – Modern Vintage

Genre: Rock

Sixx A.M. have always had a penchant for delivering gorgeous rock music—both lyrically and musically—and Modern Vintage continues that trend. James Michael has an amazing voice with a crazy range, and he brings all of his abilities here. I love listening to him sing. I just love it.

But Modern Vintage is more than just rock music, and it’s certainly more than just another Sixx A.M. record. Here is an album that has pulled back on the heavier drums/guitar fans expect and picked up something akin to old-fashioned swing. Modern Vintage feels like a pleasant anachronism, and it’s easily one of the most interesting rock albums I’ve listened to this year.

Standout tracks are “Gotta Get it Right” “High On the Music” and “Get Ya Some

05 Iced Earth – Plagues of Babylon

Genre: Metal

2014 was a year of impulse buys, as I purchased Plagues of Babylon simply because the album art is badass. I don’t normally do that, but in this case, it was a happy chance of luck. Plagues of Babylon is a killer album.

It’s dark and heavy as hell, and the singing is this strange blend of melodic-opera yet rough. I don’t know how to describe it, but I love it. I love it so much!

Lyrically, I love the theme of a Biblical purge because the human race has gotten so disgusting that it can’t be redeemed. When the album isn’t about that, it’s giving us songs about Cthulhu, gunslingers, and an amazing Johnny Cash cover.

Standout tracks are “Plagues of Babylon” “If I Could See You” and “Highwayman

04 Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Genre: Metal/Hard Rock

Much like how I’ve been lucky enough to physically grow up with Harry Potter, I too was born at the perfect age to grow up with Linkin Park. Their first album had an unabashed angst that appealed to my elementary-school self, yet as the band matured in content and sound, so have I.

The Hunting Party is a grownup affair that drops the digital sounds of their last two albums and places metal as its center. It’s heavy and harsh, and it’s critical of everything about our current society. I still hold a fondness for the rage and angst of their first two albums, but I really appreciate the added substance of their newer works.

Here is everything I want from a Linkin Park album. There’s plenty of screaming, clean vocals, and rapping, meaning every song has its own flavor and sound. Linkin Park have always refused to remake the same album, and that hasn’t changed with their sixth effort.

This might be their best album yet.

Standout tracks are “Rebellion” “Final Masquerade” and “Keys to the Kingdom

03 Starset – Transmissions

Genre: Rock

I purchased this album at a concert some three months ago and am still surprised at how good it is. Starset were supposed to just be another opening band, but they shattered that idea with their first song. What followed was a solid hour of beautiful rock music that proved to be the highlight of the entire show.

Starset mix digital sounds flawlessly with not only rock music but classical sounds as well. There’s plenty of violin and cello to go in with the electronic distortions, and the package is a gorgeous concept album about space and love.

They also get extra points for just being really cool people. I’ve happily added their signed album to my growing collection of signed albums.

Standout tracks are “Halo” “Telescope” and “My Demons

02 New Medicine – Breaking the Model

Genre: Rock

Breaking the Model is the perfect sequel. It’s everything awesome about Race you to the Bottom, yet it changes and evolves on itself enough to be different. New Medicine didn’t try to top their previous efforts by trying to be quicker or more clever, and I deeply respect that. It’s easier to try and recapture the past; it’s hard to try something new.

In all honesty, Breaking the Model is just a really well-crafted rock album. It has an attitude and flavor that rock bands of today seem to lack, and even when songs get vulgar and trashy, I just want to party along and start swearing for the fun of it. It’s an inclusive, captivating set of music from a band that I hope one day makes it very, very big.

Breaking the Model also has some of the best vocal melodies of the year. Every song is catchy and unique, but it feels good to have a New Medicine song stuck in your head.

Standout tracks are “Dead Love Song” “One Too Many” and “Heart with your Name on It

01 Godsmack – 1000hp

Genre: Metal/Hard Rock

I very rarely admit to being a fanboy of something, but I’ll gladly admit to being a huge fanboy of Godsmack. They’ve been my favorite band since their self-titled album back in the 1998, and I don’t ever expect that to change. I love their sound. I love Sully’s voice. I love their band logo. I love their general attitude, both on album and on stage.

1000hp is a mix of every Godsmack sound in one album, giving long-time fans the dark metal/hard rock blend we’ve wanted, lighter stuff in the vein of IV, and room enough to experiment. Lyrically, it’s very introspective, looking both backwards at the journey to the present and forwards to the ultimate demise everyone faces.

It just might be their best album yet, and their first three are very much drowned in nostalgia.

I saw Godsmack live this year, so the album gets a few unfair bonus points in that I got to hear four songs in person while moshing and screaming to an hour-and-forty minute live set that brought tons of fire and other stage theatrics.

Standout tracks are “FML” “Something Different” and “I Don’t Belong

 

Well, there you have it. 2014 was a great year for music, and I still have plenty of catching up to do. Yet I look forward to 2015 and only see more promise: new Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Halestorm, Powerwolf, Bobaflex, Nightwish, All Hail the Yetti (if we’re lucky), Wintersun (if hell freezes over), and Thomas Rakowitz will be releasing his first full-length album too. Can’t wait for all of em!

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