It’s that time of year. Everyone is looking back at the rock and metal albums of the year and pulling their hair out to put them in numerical order. But that’s not me, I like my hair and intend to keep it. Which is why last year I began my “Must Have Albums” list. And it’s time for this years list. There’s no particular order in this list and these are the albums from this year that I think belong in your library.
Babymetal – Babymetal (iTunes / Amazon)
This album and band made headlines this year in the world of rock and metal because most people didn’t know how to react to it. The truth of it is you either HATE it or you LOVE it. There is no in between for this one, at least not to my knowledge. But to be honest it works. When I first heard of it my gut reaction was I should hate it. But I’m always willing to give things a chance. The trick is to not look at it as three barely teen Asian girls trying to be metal. Turn it on and don’t look at the pictures of the band. Once you focus on it musically you realize that for whatever reason it works. The heavy riffs work perfectly with the K-Pop vocals. It’s unique and new and just fits.
Men of Honor – Adrenaline Mob (iTunes / Amazon)
The second full length album (if you’re not counting the Coverta EP) from Adrenaline Mob hit early this year and hit hard. While I loved their debut album Omertà I feel that this album really shows what they can do as a band. It has soft moments on it that show there’s still a time for the ballad in the world of rock and metal. “Crystal Clear” should’ve been ALL OVER Top 40 radio this summer but got overlooked. Guess the blood pumping tracks of “Dearly Departed” and “Come On Get Up” was too much for those Top 40 guys to get past. I’m still singing along to this album when I play it.
Out IV Blood – JennCity (iTunes / Amazon)
I was personally waiting for this debut EP for a while now. Many people know Jennifer “JennCity” Arroyo as an ex-Kittie member and most recently a houseguest on Big Brother. But what some didn’t know was she’s been working on this album for some time now and we finally got it. “VengeDance” is a blood pumping open track on this EP that I could easily see, in time, being used in sports Arena’s cause it screams for a crowd. And then there’s the slower but still bad ass “Murder On Broadway” which definitely highlights her singing ability. And it’s quickly become a fan favorite here in her home town of NYC. Even though this EP just arrived this year I’m anxious and excited to hear what else she’s got for us cause this is only the tip of the iceberg for her.
Vae Victis – IKILLYA (iTunes / Amazon)
This one is for those whose library includes the really heavy stuff. Granted that isn’t for everyone this album could be that bridge for those who are on the fence between hard rock and metal to the extreme side of metal. My personal favorite on this (you might know if you’ve listened to THE ASYLUM) is “Jekyll Better Hyde”. The rhythm on this track is just mind blowing for how heavy this track it is. Then the switch the a little bit mellower chorus that is so catchy it’s scary. I’ve found myself singing the chorus at random times just cause it pops into my head. This could easily be the album to finally get people to wake up and see IKILLYA as one of the next big bands for the metal world.
Blind Rage – Accept (iTunes / Amazon)
The third album with Mark Tornillo on vocals though it feels like he’s always been in the band. No disrespect to Udo and the other singers Accept has had over the years but it’s hard to think of Accept without Tornillo anymore. This album is quite possibly the best of the albums they’ve done with Tornillo. There isn’t a bad track on the album. “Dying Breed”, “200 Years”, and “Dark Side of My Heart” are the ones that always jump out at me when I listen to this album. Especially the latter, for some reason that one has been permanently engrained in my brain. You know a song is good when you wake up and you hear it in your head.
Pure Heavy – Audrey Horne (iTunes / Amazon)
This album came my way this year and it grabbed me instantly. Here’s an album from a relatively new band from Norway with a sound reminiscent of what rock and metal ruled the air here in the states. The title of this album says a lot. But what it doesn’t say is the amazing melodies and riffs that are laced throughout this album. “Holy Roller” is a great example of it. Just amazing riffs that flow seamlessly. I also dig the track “Out Of The City”. It’s a fun track with a very obvious Thin Lizzy influence in it that you pick up from the opening chords, which is no surprise for a European based band. Ice Dale and Thomas Tofthagen are definitely on track to be big names in the guitar world if this band keeps going strong.
White Devil Armory – Overkill (iTunes / Amazon)
Overkill hit hard this year with their latest album. Many have said that they have been making their best music in recent years and this album speaks to that. They truly are firing on all cylinders as a group, “Armorist” was the first track we got prior to release and the intensity of it was nearly a taste of what this album is. Heavy, loud, and fast but not without being inaudible. The rhythms are there and Bobby Blitz sounds as bad ass as ever. My other favorite track off this one “Freedom Rings” starts of in a very haunting fashion before kicking in. And the guys still know how to have their fun, if you get the Deluxe Edition you also get “The Fight Song”. It’s a kickass anthem for just standing up together for what you believe in. I personally would love to see them work this into their live set.
Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life – Various Artists (iTunes / Amazon)
Normally I’d never put a compilation album on my list but this one is an exception. While several of the songs on this have been released previously like Killswitch Engage’s version of “Holy Diver” and Adrenaline Mob’s version of “The Mob Rules” there’s others that are totally new. Metallica does an epic track called “Ronnie Medley” which has parts of classic Dio tracks “Kill The King”, “Stargazer”, “Tarot Woman”, and “A Light In The Black”. And the closing track on the physical CD is Dio himself singing “This Is Your Life” with just a piano that’ll bring a tear to any rocker or metalheads eye. Plus money for the album goes to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, that alone is reason enough to purchase the album.
.5: The Gray Chapter – Slipknot (iTunes / Amazon)
As a Slipknot fan I’ve been wondering for years if we’d ever get new material from them. With Corey Taylor have major success with Stone Sour and the passing of Paul Gray it seemed as if this album would remain a dream to many. But that dream became a reality this year and it delivers. To me it picks up where All Hope Is Gone, the band shows their growth musically while still staying true to the sound that first put them on everyone’s radar and eventually household names in the metal world. While “The Negative One” and “Devil In I” are great tracks I personally feel that there isn’t enough talk about “Killpop”. It jumped out at me on first listen because it’s both haunting and heavy at the same time. At times it feels like a sequel to “Snuff” on All Hope Is Gone. With this album there’s no need to worry about the future of Slipknot or metal.
This one went under everyone’s radar this year. I can’t figure out why but this band and album just got lost in the shuffle this year. KXM is Dug Pinnick of King’s X, George Lynch of Lynch Mob, and Ray Luzier of Korn. A trio that I’m sure many wouldn’t have thought would get together to form a group. This trio just has so much going for it that I think it was just a lack of promotion and touring (Korn being out almost all year) forced this album to be missed. Just amazing grooves throughout this album with plenty of heavy riffs to strum along to while listening. “Faith Is A Room” is my go to track on this album. It’s heavy, groovy, and a definite pick me up type of track. I always find myself bopping along with this track every time I listen to it.
Redeemer Of Souls – Judas Priest (iTunes / Amazon)
This one is here just so you guys don’t bombard me with tweets and emails that I left it off my list. This album should’ve been an automatic buy for any rocker or metalhead once it was announced. More so considering it was just two years ago that we were told that Judas Priest was going to begin a slow disappearing act towards retirement. And while K.K. Downing took that retirement statement to heart the rest of the guys just couldn’t with so much more music in them and the addition of Richie Faulkner was seamless. While everyone is going nuts for the albums title track and “March of the Damned” there’s still better tracks on the album. To me “Halls of Valhalla” shows the metal god Rob Halford still had it vocally and “Sword of Damacles” shows that as a band they can still do stuff that’s a little different from previous stuff but still has enough of what we’ve come to expect from them as a band to say “oh yeah, that’s Judas Priest” as soon as we hear it.
Evolution – Mongrel (iTunes / Amazon)
I’ve been lucky enough to see this band evolve (no pun intended) into the amazing band that they are now. Their early stuff that I have was punk meets thrash and was good but didn’t seem to be the full identity of the band. With their latest album they’ve found that identity big time. They’ve become a band who are taking the mixture of heavy riffs with bluesy undertones to a new level. Because it’s a five song EP it’s really tough for me to single out a track as a personal favorite when they’re all strong tracks. I honestly believe this could be the album that future fans will be hunting for once Mongrel breaks through that proverbial glass ceiling and into the next level of stardom.
Space Invader – Ace Frehley (iTunes / Amazon)
If you know me you should know that this would’ve made my list. Forget that I’m a Kiss fan but if I could play guitar Ace Frehley would be why I picked one up. This album from him is definitely the album many long time fan of his wanted. Loaded with the riffs that are solely his that made people like me join the Kiss Army years ago and follow Ace throughout his career. This album has that old school feeling without feeling old. While the big single is “Gimme A Feelin'” there’s much better tracks on the album. The opening track which is the title track let’s you know right away it’s the Ace we all know and love. A truly strong album from one of the best guitarists in the game.
There you go, my Must Have Albums of 2014. It wasn’t easy to put this list together with all the great albums we got this year. Looking forward to what we get in 2015.