2014 Album of the Year

mushroomhead-righteous-butterfly-artwork

1- Mushroomhead – the Righteous and the Butterfly
2- The Black Keys – Turn Blue
3- Those Poor Bastards – Vicious Losers
4- Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
5- Fozzy – Do You Wanna Start a War?
6- Scott H. Biram – Nothin’ But Blood
7- Within Temptation – Hydra
8- Arch Enemy – War Eternal
9- Opeth – Pale Communion
10- Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo

Mushroomhead’s the Righteous and the Butterfly was dedicated to two of their fallen friends and they did them proud. From beginning to end, the album did not disappoint me. In fact, there’s not a single track on the album that I dislike. And also considering the lineup changes and the fact that their old singer J. Mann returned while not replacing his replacement Waylon, just joining him and Jeffrey Nothing to make Mushroomhead have three vocalists made it a very interesting dynamic. Their album prior to this one, 2010’s Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children was a weaker effort for them. The Righteous and the Butterfly is a great return to form and then some. And besides, they covered Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” which is a must hear.

Tracks I highly recommend hearing on this album include “Our Apologies,” “How Many Times,” “Qwerty,” “Portraits of the Poor,” “Childlike,” “We Are the Truth,” and “Rumor Has It.”

In early June I went for a long ride in my car and the Black Keys’ Turn Blue was the soundtrack for that ride. It was the perfect soundtrack for the day and my mood. I’m somewhat new to the Black Keys, having only been listening to them for the last few years, but they’re good. I probably should look into their old albums. But, Turn Blue is one I think most people would like. It’s got a nice moden bluesy feel to it that I really appreciate.

I recommends songs such as “Weight of Love,” “In Time,” “Turn Blue,” “Waiting on Words,” and “Gotta Get Away.”

A few years ago Hank Williams III talked about his friends Those Poor Bastards on his Facebook page. I downloaded am album and occasionally listed to it. Maybe two months ago I decided to really give it a listen and it just clicked with me. I decided to see if they had any newer releases and to my pleasant surprise, they had a new album out. I ordered it and haven’t stopped listening to it and this group has shot up to the top of my list of bands I would like to see live. Their style is described as “miserable and primitive old-time gothic country music.” That sounds good to me, literally and figuratively. If any of this sounds interesting, check out Vicious Losers.

Some of the better tracks from Vicious Losers include “I am Lost,” “Give Me Drugs,” “Lonely Man,” “Trouble at Home,” and “Born to Preach.”

Bloodbath’s Grand Morbid Funeral is their third consecutive album with a new singer. On this album, they went deep into their Death Metal roots and got Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost to return to his own Death Metal roots and be the new singer. Once I heard that news I was IMMEDIATELY interested in this album. Seriously, how could an album featuring members of Katatonia, Opeth, and now Paradise Lost disappoint? Well, it didn’t. It’s just pure Death Metal at its best. If you’ve ever been a fan of the genre, and even if you’ve fallen out of it, this is an album you need to hear. Holmes was able to belt out some good growls that we haven’t heard from him in nearly 20 years.

I suggest “Let the Stillborn Come to Me,” “Anne,” “Church of Vastitas,” “Beyond Cremation,” and “Unite in Pain” as good sample tracks.

Some people still don’t take Fozzy seriously just because it’s a band featuring a professional wrestler as its singer. Well, I can honestly say that I may not have given them a chance if that connection didn’t exist. But, I’ve been listening to them almost since day one and they’re damn good. Chris Jericho’s vocal range is not as appreciated as it should be. He’s very influenced by hard rock bands of the 1980s, but he’s able to sing a bit more than just their style of music. There’s been some lineup changes since their formation, but Fozzy pretty much started off as Stuck Mojo with Chris Jericho singing, but even with those changes, the integrity of their style has remained intact. They appeared in my Top 10 Albums List in 2010 and they’re back now in 2014 with Do You Wanna Start a War.

“Do You Wanna Start a War,” “Lights Go Out,” and their cover of ABBA’s “SOS” are some of the better tracks on this album.

I’ve been listening to Scott H. Biram for almost a full decade now. His songs range from straight up Southern Blues to Hellbilly to Punk. And he’s yet to release an album that I didn’t like. Nothin’ But Blood is no exception to that rule. This album has a mix of everything I just described. Sometimes it’s very nice to listen to something that doesn’t have a lot of production and effects. I appreciate and respect it. If you like an old fashioned Blues album with a mix of a few different influences, check out Biram and Nothin’ But Blood.

Tracks such as “Gotta Get to Heaven,” “Alcohol Blues,” “Jack of Diamonds,” “Church Point Girls,” and especially “Slow & Easy” are the highlights of this really solid album.

Within Temptation has an almost majestic sound to them. Hydra is not any different from their previous releases, in that aspect. They are one of two former Album of the Year winners to appear on this list, as 2011’s the Unforgiving won the award. Hydra is not necessarily weaker than the Unforgiving, but it didn’t pull me in as much as the Unforgiving. However, that doesn’t mean Hyrda is bad at all, obviously not, if it’s the 7th best of 2014. It’s definitely a Within Temptation album, and that’s a good thing.

“Let Us Burn,” “Paradise (What About Us),” “And We Run,” and “Covered by Roses” are some of the standout tracks, as well as their cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” which appears on the bonus disc.

Over the last years, Arch Enemy has been a band that I pretty much gave up on. It’s not that they put out any particularly bad albums, but I just lost interest in them. When I saw the news earlier in 2014 that their singer, Angela Gossow was stepping away and their new album, War Eternal would have a new singer Alissa White-Gluz, I thought I would give them another shot. Maybe they would be rejuvenated. Well, I was not disappointed. I had not liked an Arch Enemy album this much in years. Their musical style remained intact and White-Gluz fit right in to the vocal style perfectly. It also made me want to hear more of her catalog, and I may check that out as well.

“War Eternal,” “You Will Know My Name,” and ” As the Pages Burn” are my favorite tracks on this album.

Opeth, Opeth, Opeth….. Well, Pale Communion did not disappoint me. This was their first release since they’ve stopped doing Death Metal style vocals that I knew what I was getting into and didn’t miss it. That says a lot. Actually, Pale Communion makes me want to makes want to listen to the last two Opeth albums a bit more. It makes me dislike them less, because now they have more in their library that doesn’t have the Death Metal vocals and the “new” style is more focused. They’re definitely more of a progressive band than a death band now, and I don’t necessarily miss the old style anymore. I do admit that Pale Communion DID have to grow on me, but it did. And I do like it more with each listen.

My favorite tracks on Pale Communion are “Eternal Rains Will Come,” “Cusp of Eternity,” and “Voice of Treason.”

Lacuna Coil’s 2012 Dark Adrenaline was the best release they had in a decade. They followed it up with Broken Crown Halo, which was not as strong. When I first heard the name of the album, I thought it sounded like a Katatonia album without the ironic humor. But that doesn’t matter, the quality of the music does. And while it’s not a bad album, it doesn’t come close to their best work. I think it starts off great with “Nothing Stands in Our Way.” In fact, I had such incredible hopes when I first heard that track. The fact that there were some growling vocals on it got me a lot more interested in the rest of the album, but not only did they not reappear, the rest of the album didn’t live up to the opening track. I saw Lacuna Coil perform live in September and some of the songs of Broken Crown Halo were done in the show and they grew on me a little bit. The album is good enough to be in my Top 10, but they’ve done better.

Besides “Nothing Stands in Our Way” I recommend “Die & Rise” and “In the End I Feel Alive” as good tracks to hear.

So with my top 10 out of the way, that brings me to some other releases in 2014.

After waiting almost 20 years to see Downset live, I finally had the chance in July. The show was what I hoped it to be and I was 100% satisfied. They had a new album called One Blood with all new tracks. I got the album and gave it shot. It sounds exactly like their 1994 release. And while that should be a good thing, it isn’t. It’s too formulaic and cliche for them. I’m glad they’re back together and doing stuff, but this wasn’t great.

Anathema’s Weather Systems came out in 2012 and if it wasn’t for so many great albums that year, it would likely have been ranked higher than 4th on my list. It was that good, and so was 2012, in general, for new music. So, the anticipation for their 2014 album, Distant Satellites, was high. Not only did it not live up to the anticipation, it just annoyed me. There is only one track on it that really stood out, and it was for the wrong reasons. When I first heard “You’re Not Alone” I contacted some friends and told them the song sounded like Steven Wilson at his most pretentious. Later on, I found out that he actually produced that song, and it all made sense. Bottom line, Distant Satellites is not the best effort from Anathema.

There was also another new CD from Hank Williams III, but like some previous years, it’s just a money grab from his former record label. They keep releasing compilations of songs that he did on other things and making some money off of his name, so that album is not eligible for Album of the Year.

I don’t rank live albums on my list, but there were some damn good ones this year, including:
– Timeless by John Hammond
– All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman
– Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theater 1992 by the Allman Brothers Band
– Last Fair Day Gone Night from Katatonia

I am very much looking forward to 2015’s releases. I know that Clutch is working on new material and I look forward to that. Lacuna Coil has already discussed what direction they’re going in for their next album, and I hope it’s a good one. Nick Holmes has stated he’s been inspired by his work on Bloodbath and it’s possible that the next Paradise Lost record could have some more Death Metal elements in it. And that leads to the most anticipated release I’ve known of in a very long time. In early Spring, Faith No More will release their first new album since 1997. I am biased and I admit now that I hope it’s ranked #1 at this point next year. Although, I also hope it’s good enough to be there, but other albums make me question it.

A note about eligibility for my 2014 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2014
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

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