Metal has clearly been alive and well throughout all of 2014, as the year has been vividly highlighted by exceptional new releases from new combative collectives and forerunners of the genre alike. With such an extensive catalog of studio albums that arrived over the course of these past twelve months, many of us here at Music Enthusiast have been pressured with the task of installing new shelves to store our expanding collections of high octane material – as well as deciding which releases stood out the most, which we decide in our rundown of the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014.
10) ‘Men of Honor’
The heavy metal supergroup founded by members from Symphony X and Dream Theater prominence unveiled a new wrecking crew alongside the release of their sophomore studio album. ‘Men of Honor‘ marks the first Adrenaline Mob effort to gallivant the protruding percussion skills of former Twisted Sister drummer A.J. Pero, who sets the pace for a ferocious compilation of engaging guitar harmonies and lung busting lead vocals.
Similarly falling beneath the aforementioned all-star classification, newly unified collective KXM introduced what for many was a heavy metal fantasy team, centered around King’s X mainman Dug Pinnick, guitar virtuoso George Lynch of Dokken fame, and drummer Ray Luzier from Korn. The end result of their abbreviated collaborative period was a self-titled studio album driven by uncanny group refrains and some exceptional guitar stylings.
8) ‘Delivering the Black’
Formed soon after ex-Gamma Ray lead vocalist Ralf Sheepers auditioned to serve as Rob Halford‘s replacement in Judas Priest in the late 1990s, the German power metal collective Primal Fear erupted into existence, taking few prisoners with their distinctively high octane attitude. ‘Delivering the Black‘ is clearly no exception, and such selections as the ferocious “Rebel Faction” and “Road to Asylum” stand as proud exemplifications of Primal Fear’s ability to still craft standout heavy metal compositions.
7) ‘White Devil Armory’
Thrash metal veterans Overkill continue to assert their dominance over the genre with the release of their seventeenth studio album, ‘White Devil Armory.’ With only the core of lead vocalist Bobby Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni remaining from the founding Overkill lineup, some casual listeners might be quick to assume that much has similarly changed in regards to the band’s characteristically excessive approach, however it’s through the blistering opening number “Armorist” that all doubtful notions swiftly recede. Then it’s only uphill from there.
6) ‘Blood In, Blood Out’
The members of Exodus reintroduced some familiar talents when it came down to the construction of the fifth studio album since their reformation. ‘Blood In, Blood Out’ serves as the band’s first offering to feature lead vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since 2004’s ‘Tempo of the Damned,’ which alone was enough to engage the interest of dedicated followers who weren’t entirely keen on the band’s recent efforts with Generation Kill mainman Rob Dukes. When you incorporate the choice solo contribution on “Salt the Wound” from Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, who co-founded Exodus back in 1980, the end result becomes all-the-more standout.
5) ‘Red Dragon Cartel’
Red Dragon Cartel
Estranged Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee underwent a highly anticipated return to the mainstream upon his announcement of the formation of a new band largely centered around unknown names within the heavy metal community. The end result arrived in the form of Red Dragon Cartel, who released their eponymous studio album earlier this year. The album gallivants the always impressionable approach of the “Bark at the Moon” riff master, which when paired with a solid backing lineup and guest appearances from former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno and Cheap Trick‘s Robin Zander results in an appludable return-to-form.
4) ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’
Mastodon unapologetically continues the largely varietal trend previously established with the release of 2011’s ‘The Hunter’ with their sixth full-length installment, which transitions between Thin Lizzy-esque guitar harmonies, crunching heavy metal chord progressions, and brooding free-for-all jam sessions. ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ could easily serve as Mastodon’s most experimental offering to date, and while the end result often alternates from their sludge metal foundation towards a heavily progressive character, it also stands as one of the band’s finest releases.
3) ‘Pale Communion’
The decision to abandon their death metal origins to favor of complaisant progressive elements was considered almost sacrilegious by longtime listeners, but there is not point in arguing with the superlative performance found throughout Opeth’s anticipated follow-up to 2011’s ‘Heritage.’ The articulate instrumentation on ‘Pale Communion’ is a stark contrast to the previously brooding approach of nearly twenty years ago; now largely comprised of synthesizer-laced chord progressions and melodic refrains, the members of Opeth have underwent a radical stylistic alternation which largely plays out to their benefit.
2) ‘Blind Rage’
German heavy metal forerunners Accept‘s third studio album with newly appointed frontman Mark Tornillo at the helm easily serves as the finest release from their latest incarnation, not to mention one of the strongest efforts in their catalog. ‘Blind Rage‘ develops upon the combative nature of the preceding 2010 comeback ‘Blood of the Nations’ and 2012’s ‘Stalingrad’ by introducing several elements from such classic releases as ‘Metal Heart’ and ‘Balls to the Wall.’ The emphasis on dueling guitar harmonies and anthemic choruses installs a nostalgic quality to the effort, while keeping one foot firmly planted in the present.
1) ‘Redeemer of Souls’
The introduction of guitarist Richie Faulkner was all the members of Judas Priest apparently required to conjure their finest studio effort in more than twenty years. While purists may be quick to scoff at the notion of any incarnation which lacks founding member K.K. Downing, who announced his retirement from the band in 2011, what’s for certain is that the remainder of the veteran Priest lineup is in their finest form since ‘Painkiller.’ It’s through such instant staples as “Halls of Valhalla,” “Crossfire” and “Battle Cry” that these heavy metal forerunners reassert their status as one of the leading forces within the genre, and it’s through such a performance that ‘Redeemer of Souls‘ tops our countdown of the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014.