Death Penalty – Self Titled (Rise Above Records) – One of the finest Riff Merchants of our time, Gaz Jennings (ex-Cathedral), has put together a phenomenal band and record for 2014. The weight and heft of the cascading riffs on this record are glorious. Michelle Nocon has some incredible pipes and her vocal performance is spectacular. Memorable, catchy, mid-tempo stomp ‘n swagger, infectious thick groove, with deadly doses of doom. Can’t stop listening to this slab of supreme deliciousness. Also check out the 2 song EP called “Sign Of Times”.
John Garcia – Self Titled (Napalm Records) – I was rather disappointed with the debut Vista Chino record and so I was a little wary when I saw that John was putting out a solo record. The worry was for naught as this record kicks so much fuckin ass. The re-make of an unreleased Slo Burn song (“All These Walls”) is incredible. I feel like this was the record that John has been destined to make after the demise of the great Kyuss. An absolute rock ‘n roll gem.
Trap Them – Blissfucker (Prosthetic Records) – The Crust kings return with a seethingly heavy record that could easily be the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. There’s such an eerie and creepy quality to the songs. There’s blistering fast stuff, dirgy slow stuff, and killer mid-tempo stuff too. Another ferocious mix of D-beat, Crust, Hard-core, Punk, and Metal.
Lo Pan – Colossus (Small Stone Records) – Ohio’s Fuzz masters are back with their third long player for Small Stone. Aptly titled as this record is monstrous. Wicked bouncy groove all over this thing with riffs galore and a rhythm section that is tighter than an unviolated pussy. Jeff’s soaring vocals add awesome beauty and melody to a solid foundation of Heavy Rock perfection.
Ringworm – Hammer of The Witch (Relapse Records) – Another Ohio band makes my list. This record has my favorite album cover of the year. These Metallic-Hardcore monsters pack some serious muscle on a record full of roaring vocals, groovy break-downs, and killer speed. Great production without sounding over-produced. Definitely the most relentlessly pummeling offering on this list.
Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died (Century Media) – After 22 years, Warrel Dane has resurrected Sanctuary with four fifths of the original line-up intact. Brad Hull from the incredible Seattle Thrash band Forced Entry is filling in for guitarist Sean Blosi. The new record is a bit more of a Thrashy affair with modern day production and technology beefing it up sonically. Dane’s voice is ever so majestic and gone are the ultra-high pitched screams…which is a good thing. It’s a good cross between Dane’s solo record - “Praises To The War Machine”, which was a monumental album and Sanctuary’s last record – “Into The Mirror Black”.
Overkill – White Devil Armory (eOne Music) – New Jersey’s Thrash titans cannot be stopped. These guys just keep getting heavier and faster the older they get. All the kiddie Thrash resurgence bands should be looking to Overkill as the blue print of how Thrash Metal is done. Although I can do without the Right Wing under-tones; this is definitely the Thrashterpiece of the year.
Mos Generator – Electric Mountain Majesty (Listenable Records) – This trio from Washington State can do no wrong. They consistently output high quality records that fuse Classic Rock, Doom, Boogie, Soul, and Psychedelic into a glorious wall of sound. I was really happy to see them picked up for this year’s HellFest in France at which they were received very well. All killer and no filler from three dudes with serious chops.
The Haunted – Exit Wounds (Century Media) – The future was uncertain for this Swedish power-house after 3 of the 5 members quit the band in 2012. Dolving, Jensen, and Bjorler all jumped ship, but fear not because The Haunted are back with a vengeance. Armed with a new guitar player (Ola Englund) and marking the return of Marco Aro (vocals) and Adrian Erlandsson (drums). This is a true return to form after the major backlash the band received after the last record – “Unseen”. This is an ultra-heavy modern Thrash record, which is what this band has been heralded for in the past. Valkommen tillbaka guys!
Arch Enemy – War Eternal (Century Media) – Who would have thought that Angela Gossow would ever step down from Arch Enemy. She did just that and was partly responsible for bringing in her own replacement in the ultra-sexy Alissa White-Gluz. Alissa doesn’t miss a beat and takes over the vocal duties right where Angela left off. Alissa has her own style, but she keeps the classic Arch Enemy vocal style intact, so it doesn’t sound like a whole new band. Amott and Cordle shred and dice through amazing riffs and fantastic leads. Erlandsson’s drumming is clever, creative, and incredibly powerful. A bad-ass collection of modern Thrash/Melodic Death Metal anthems.
Royal Blood – Self Titled (Warner Bros.) – This British duo cranks out some incredible Hard Rock/Post Grunge ditties on their awesome debut album. These two guys make some big sounds and the songs are very well crafted. The musicianship is stellar and they weave through a diverse backdrop of moody and hazy numbers that contain equal parts of bite and edge.
The Oath – Self Titled (Rise Above Records) – This German-Swedish duo of blonde babes gives us a great addition to the burgeoning Occult/Traditional Metal category. Stripped down production that harkens back to a 70’s Deep Purple-esque sound. Johanna Sadonis is a power house on vocals and Linnea Olsson wields the six-string with killer licks, leads, and plenty of swagger. The band is backed up by Simon Bouteloup of Kadavar on bass and Andrew Prestridge on drums.
The Shrine – Bless Off (Tee Pee Records) – This So-Cal trio’s sophomore record is the party-rock record of the year. With a sound akin to playing living rooms and basements across America; these guys bring the fun and bring it hard. Fuzzy, groovy, skate-rock, with a healthy dose of 70’s and 80’s influence for serious cred. Throw back some brews, crank this album, and break some shit.