Another year passed, another year full of music. Time to write up a "short" roundup of my personal discoveries that year in a summary style. You'll get to read short statements or rants about memorable (positive or negative) records from 2014, this means not on all of the releases I kept track of. This way I can say things about CDs I didn't want or felt like to review but would like to express my opinion on it. Ordered alphabetically. I did something like this on last.fm for some years but somehow it lost its focus on music and I lost any interest on keep doing it on there. So, let's revive the idea of it and do it differently.
- Anberlin - Lowborn
- Any Given Day - My Longest Way Home
- At The Grave - At The Grave
- Babymetal - Babymetal
- Buried In Verona - Faceless
- Caliban - GhostEmpire
- Crematory - Antiserum
- Emil Bulls - Sacrifice To Venus
- In This Moment - Black Widow
- Kontrust - Explositive
- Megaherz - Zombieland
- One Hour Hell - Interfectus
- Ost+Front - Olympia
- The Duskfall - Where The Tree Stands Dead
- The Project Hate MCMXCIX - There Is No Earth I Will Leave Unscorched
- Tuoni - Kuolonpyörä
- Unheilig - Gipfelstürmer
Alternative / Rock - 40:09mins
The allegedly last album from Anberlin. Sad to see this band go, I discovered them - like so many good bands - by accident. And being primarily a metalhead they are a welcome change of pace every once in a while with songs that aren't too soft but aren't that heavy (throughout). Speaking of great songs like Audrey, Start The Revolution!, There Is No Mathematics To Love And Loss, or even Pray Tell that is somehow able to bring a smile to my face when listening to it.
Since it's the last record, they wanted to do the record in another way, each band member would work separately on ideas and afterwards they put the pieces together. The result is a good mix of different styles of songs. Sadly, all in all it is a disappointing record nontheless. Anberlin was always a band that tries new things, but here the only good song is the opener We Are Destroyer, other songs like Dissenter sound like demo songs, or plainly unfitting for Anberlin like Birds Of Prey. I rather remember them for the songs mentioned earlier. Also, award winner for worst cover 2014.
Metalcore - 44:54mins
A debut record. Metal and *core in particular seem to be in sort of a crisis these days. Recycled riffs everywhere, one band copies another band, everything sounds the same. Not to forget the childish and groundless hate against core by nature. Luckily, this band appears out of nowhere, having members from previous band The Mercury Arc this band stirs up the boredom in this genre with a very distinguishable overall sound and fresh riffs.
In short: Almost one of my personal Top 5s for 2014. With such great songs as Darkness Within, Dead And Gone, or Never Say Die Any Given Day shows how you can put meaningful texts into metalcore songs without sounding hilariously stupid. Especially Darkness Within is in my Top 10 songs of the year, never get bored by its incredible catchiness. Despite being a really heavy core band with djent influence, they aren't afraid to use clean vocals and it works greatly. Dennis Biehl got a great, powerful voice. Hopefully they won't go the same way as so many other core bands, recycling themselfs over and over and over again.
Death Metal - 43:07
One of the surprises this year. All in all this record is mediocre Death Metal. But what makes this kind of special and noteworthy is the fact that this is a not (really) advertised record and side project of Illdisposed singer Bo Summer. Since Bo is the only remaining founding band member of Illdisposed, you could see this as Illdisposed 2. Although ATG would probably dislike reading the last sentence, they do sound different and much more varied in their sound than Illdisposed do in their more recent records. I fell in love with Illdisposed after listening to their best work The Prestige and the overall deep guitar sound, so The Burial Ballad is totally down my alley. Even deeper sound than in the recent Illdisposed stuff and I love it. Top 10 song. The guitar riffs in Open Casket are noteworthy as well.
Idol Metal - 55:40
Some time in 2013 a band arised from Japan and went viral with the song Do・Ki・Do・Ki☆MORNING, gathering the hate of countless "trve" metal heads, self-proclaimed child protection activists and alike. Ah, I loved that. I'd call myself a very open person, I prefer to try things out before I judge 'em and you know what? Despite the rather simple song writing involved in this band, it is fresh, it pushes boundaries, it is good for what it is. Sure, one could argue the children are exploited, metal fans are exploited, this is only a commercial project. Even if, so what? What mainstream band isn't commercial these days? Also, it doesn't change the fact that this band was able to bring a fresh wind to the stale metal scene, a common enemy if you want and those girls aren't forced to do what they do. Stereotypes even suggest that these girls are bound to work as hard as they probably do.
But besides all that, Babymetal is a great example that a mix of metal with any kind of mainstream songwriting is listenable for people who are not into mainstream for the general softness. On the other hand, it gives people a chance who are not into metal to discover the great world that metal actually is despite all the sh*ttalking in the scene these days and what is considered good metal in mainstream media. But most of all, as easy as the songwriting is, the leadsinger Suzuka "Su-Metal" Nakamoto has a fantastic voice and hopefully a long successful career still ahead of her. Maybe even in Babymetal, would be great, I like the Japanese language alongside Finnish the most.
Metalcore - 40:36
One of many underlistened bands (according to last.fm). Although, as titled as a Metalcore band, BIV are a very melodic Metal band. Using growls, shouts, clean vocals, there are some attempts at using rap as well. The melodic part is what makes me like this band very much. Songs like Illuminate, The Damned, or Revival make me come back to this album. Especially the latter is a candidate for Top 10 songs, maybe even Top 5 songs. Buried in Verona often sound like a better version of Bury Your Dead, like when they had Myke Terry on vocal duties. Yes, I said it implicitly and say it explicitly, too. Bruso sucks at vocals and holds the band back, deal with that opinion. Not the best record on this list, but definitely worth to check out. A very solid metal record by a mostly unjustly overlooked band. Give it a try, they are really great!
Metalcore - 1:04:33
In the recent years, Caliban got heavier and more similar to Heaven Shall Burn. I welcomed that change but now look where it got us. The above mentioned recycling of riffs that we heared somewhere else and a record that sounds too uninspired. The great songs are missing, songs like Salvation, Another Cold Day, the ingenious Rise And Fight and similar. Songs that have a heavy base with great outbreaks of guitar riffs giving it a unique touch. Now it's a replaceable band, without the greatness they once had. Even though they try to put in a mix of different sounds, with clean vocals here, sprechgesang there or even djent influences but mostly songs get destroyed by it. Vertigo or Who We Are as examples for that. The predecessor I Am Nemesis had similar problems but I was able to find good songs on there nevertheless. Something that I can't on Ghost Empire. One of the biggest disappointments.
Gothic / Industrial Rock - 51:24mins
This band exists since at least 1994 and was never that great of a band. Although, in 2008 I discovered Left The Ground and ever since kept my eyes on them. They came a long way, improved a lot and now we've got Antiserum. Their best record and a great one. This is another big surprise considering the previous mediocrity of the band. The songwriting isn't overly complex or anywhere near that but it's solid, slow but catchy Gothic / Industrial Rock, the song Welcome convinced me of this being a good record. Definitely worth checking out with this album.
Metal - 61:48mins
Another band releasing their best record so far. I discovered this band long ago but only with the last two releases they have reached a certain level that I can appreciate and enjoy very much. Not to say the earlier works are bad but the newer two have more songs that have a very good punch to it that make me come back to it much more frequently. A few of those songs would be Hearteater, I Wanna Feel You or the incredible good mood song The Night is Our Weekend that is a bonus track. Another reason for me liking them more is the fact of having a very distinct sound that are the guitars and the vocals. Christoph von Freydorf has a great voice, suitable for shouts and clean vocals. One of my Top 10, probably even Top 5 records 2014.
Metal - 60:00mins
This is a weird one. I've got my opinion about this band and it's a very mixed one. You know, they underwent some crucial line-up changes and with that some changes in style of their music and mindset. All fine as it is, especially considering they improved their sound, even to such lengths that I am willing to call this into the Top 3 of 2014. However, they changed in appearance to an extent that I can't really support at all.
Let's face it: In This Moment deteriotated into a band that uses sex to sell their record and fill their concerts. But they wouldn't need to. Black Widow is a fantastic metal record. Sure, it has some really weak songs but some of the strongest released in the entire year as I have heared, among them Black Widow, my most listened song, according to foobar2000, Big Bad Wolf, or Sick Like Me.
Maria Brink is a really cute one but she doesn't need to dress the way she does, there's no reason to use the provocative song titles like Whore or corresponding videos, the music speaks for itself. But then again, Maria is an expressed strong woman, so she can dress like that and it's the fault of others to think it's for the money and one should stop trying to say what she is "allowed" to wear, right? Wrong. There's so much contradiction here in this band that I can't stand, with support of people who don't understand what they support when they say it's okay for Maria to wear what she wears. Because it's not. It's inappropriate. It's a deliberate attempt at being relevant in the swamped metal music industry, trying to get attention, be it positive or negative, with only a very few exceptions having any kind of connection to the music they do and distract otherwise from the music. That's too bad since this band got really great after their last line-up changes.
Crossover - 47:26mins
Crossover has always been an interesting genre for me. I like contrusts in music after all and crossover is kind of prone for that. This band, fittingly named Kontrust, does a great mix of genres. I discovered them randomly by looking at the thumbnail of Hey DJ! paired with a Napalm Records name to it on Youtube so that I just had to check it out and I was pleasantly surprised. Fell in love with this band after listening to Sock'n'Doll and the ingenious Monkey Boy, a song that is in my Top 15 most played songs overall according to last.fm. What I like the most about this band is that they don't take themselves too serious in what they do as it can be seen in Hey DJ!, I love the fact that they play around with their sound, without entirely alienating it and that they are comparatively heavy at it. Among a few others I was mostly looking forward to this record in 2014. However, before release they said they want to go back to their roots with this new record. Making a record with the "pure" sound of Kontrust, no knick-knack, so to say as they did have on the predecessor Second Hand Wonderland. Well, a little bummer to be honest but still okay, this band is overly creative after all. Sadly, I was really disappointed by it. It is a mediocre record. The good songs are missing, although some okayish songs are here, like Just Propaganda with a great, great music video or the best song Ladies. But overall it just is like awesome food that tastes bland because spices are missing and this band got my attention by having a lot of varying spices in their music.
Neue Deutsche Härte - 49:08mins (CD 1), 16:43mins (CD 2)
Incidentally, one of the earliest NDH bands ever, alongside Rammstein and Oomph! but in opposite to the aforementioned Megaherz lost all the founding members in the meantime and were never that successful. The oldest members are from 1997 now and MH had several vocalists. What I find noteworthy about this is the incredible Megaherz sounding songs like in the earlier years.
The more changes the line-up had, the more the sound changed with it, alienating from the original idea of this band, mainly hearable in voice, although they were all very fitting, even if Matthias Elsholz was probably not challenged enough and was a better fit for Die! anyway, no matter how short that pleasure was. The songs are overall very like the more recent Unheilig releases but true to their Metal roots and much more varied. The song Fanatisch sounds almost like a song that was a B side from one of the earlier works, while Himmelsstürmer and Unter Strom are the heavier songs on here. Composition-wise the songs are very well written and a great improvement over previous works. In those regards it was a very surprising record. In addition to the weird image it uses.
When you look at the predecessor Goetterdaemmerung and its cover, the cover of Zombieland fits the same style but while the sound of Goetterdaemmerung fits the cover, you'll be surprised of what you hear on Zombieland. Understandable, when people are disappointed by it due to wrong impressions but overall it's a surprisingly good Megaherz record with a very varied sound but still true maybe even truer to their sound than other recent works.
Death Metal - 39:49mins
Biggest surprise of the year, with that even bigger than Any Given Day mentioned above. This band plays incredibly heavy Death Metal with a significant Thrash influence to it - and come from Sweden. winkwink While this is definitely Death and Thrash, it has very melodic rhythms and a very distinct sound to it, the vocals are very harsh but fitting. Considering that the majority of heavier bands got softer over time and didn't convince me on that aspect all too much, this band was a needed change. A new sound and approach to heavy Death Metal without being repetitive as Illdisposed for example are the last two or even three records or being plainly bad as a lot of newer bands are these days.
This band exists since 2008, Interfectus is the second album. The debut has the production quality of a professional garage band, it's bearable to listen to but not quite enough for me personally on the long run. However, the distinct sound was hearable there already and they perfected it on this record, basically. I am eager to find out how this band will develop with future records. If there are any, you never know with these Swedes. Bodybags made me love this band and Covered In Sin set it in stone. The songs are very varied in sounds, the vocals are mostly shouts with only a very few attempts at cleans in one or two songs, the focus lies on the instruments here and that is great. Penetrate Obliterate is a great example for the variation and the riffs at 1:30 in context are very yummy to my ears. Some resemblance in sound could be drawn from Devastating Enemy, Illdiposed, Within Y, maybe even Miseration. This is a band that I hope will get f*cking big instead of just existing somewhere with 3 or 4 records over 20 years of existence. If you're into heavy Death, this one is highly recommended. If you're not, then that's your loss!
Neue Deutsche Härte - 71:21mins
Copycats of Rammstein and a much better one, probably the best out there. While the influence that Rammstein has on this band is more than just obvious (stealing the sound from the song Moskau for one of their own), Ost+Front are much more independent from Rammstein and their sound in general. They do NDH and with that there's always a certain resemblance in sound, though. Just as it is with German lyrics. Have a Metal band and a vocalist singing in German? Rammstein copycat. That's how it is perceived anyway, no matter what.
However, this band set the bar very high for any similar band, even for the original. Ost+Front are able to pull-off very provocative lyrics, with heavy riffs a la early Rammstein without sounding cheesy or stupid. Maerzfeld comes to mind with their nonsense lyrics, or Rammstein with more recent songs like Pussy, a song that creates a certain uncomfortable feeling in me when I think about being a fan of Rammstein. But Ost+Front isn't entirely unguilty in those regards, they did Liebeslied, a song about oral sex. But in opposite to Pussy, this song has the anger, raw power and heaviness of early Rammstein works and does a good job at it. If Pussy would have been done in the same style, I'd be able to like it but it isn't and I don't. At all. Liebeslied is the fitting continuation of Heimaterde and Heimkind from the debut in terms of sound. But Ost+Front show on Olympia their own creativity with songs like Freundschaft or the fantastic song Anders that is a pun, the German word for different is "anders" and the song is hinting at Anders Breivik, a right-winged terrorist who shot several people, among them a lot of kids in Oslo in 2012 and killed 69 people in total (hinted at as well in the song). A repeated line in this song is "Ich bin anders" as in "I am Anders (Breivik)" or "I am different". I love this song, it's brilliant in its simplicity while still having an ambiguous meaning. It shows you can still find bands here and there who "dare" to provoke with their songs. Political correctness is a cancerous disease in todays society and nothing else than actual Newspeak, we need bands like this. A reason why I started listening to Rammstein around times of Mutter. If we'd go by playcount alone, this would be #1 with 858 plays according to foobar2000. Well, it's in my Top 3 for sure.
Melodic Death Metal - 43:14mins
This is a very noteworthy album. The singer of Engel quit the band or was fired and became the new singer of the re-grouped The Duskfall, a band that disbanded in 2008. What's so noteworthy is, I always thought Markus Klavborn holds Engel back with his one dimensional vocal style and therefore I was thrilled to hear that Engel got a new singer, although somewhat skeptical about the choice. The first time, I was happy with a change like that. While Engel strive to a new level of greatness with the new singer, The Duskfall got Markus now. And let's say, The Duskfall is a completely new band despite having the mastermind behind the band back. It's not even close to what they were before. That alone isn't that bad, actually. The instrumental part got much more melodic, refined and has some great melodies here and there throughout. But what ruins it totally, you guessed it, is Markus. He does what he did in Engel: ruining great melodies with his f*cked up lazy vocals. To be fair, he had some good performances on Engel songs and fit their overall industrial influenced sound more often than not, otherwise I wouldn't have started listening to Engel. But he lacks variation, or progression on those songs. It's incredible how long this guy is in a band without any kind of improvement to his singing/shouting/voice. This record is a joke, it's easily the worst of 2014.
Progressive Death Metal - 79:55mins
Armageddon March Eternal (Symphonies of Slit Wrists) is one of my most favourite records of all time. Even though due to its progressiveness it doesn't show that in playcounts. It had Jo Enckell on vocals, probably the best female vocalist this band ever had and K probably gets tired of hearing. Progressive songs are always difficult for me to enjoy, they tend to bore me with a particular rhythm used throughout or along the lines but The Project Hate always had so much going on in their songs and was usually great throughout. The last two albums were kind of crowdfunded. K gets really defensive about criticism and would probably dislike to read the following. The 2012 work was underwhelming, especially the female vocals were bad, simply bad, so my hopes for this record were not really that much up until K released some teaser snippets on Youtube. But as it turns out, this record is even worse than the 2012 work. If this is the pure sound that K had in mind for his band, I am glad it didn't turn out sooner to be like this, otherwise I'd never started listening them. Ellinor Asp, the new female vocalist, has a good voice but is nowhere near the perfection K praised her to be, I am not sure if it is the mix or if this singing style was exactly what was wanted, but Jo is better in every single aspect. But it's not only the voice that bothers me, it's the composition, it lacks the finesse previous works had, the unique guitar riffs, the overall greatness this band once had. I think I won't even bother with future releases anymore, this band is done. Alongside The Duskfall at the bottom and it figuratively breaks my heart writing this.
Thrash Metal - 39:59mins
Now, I discovered by accident that Tuoni had a new music video out in 2013 claiming to release a new album in 2014. Man, I was so surprised and hyped like I wasn't for years, last time was probably after hearing the leaked version of Liebe Ist Für Alle Da by Rammstein - 5 years earlier. Discovered this band when I was on my Finnish music trip after discovering Ruoska, the Finnish version of Rammstein. I've kind of built my music taste around Rammstein, so don't be surprised reading that name as often as you do, I branched out from this core. What can I say, Karu Totuus is #3 of my most listened song overall according to last.fm, a song from the last record in 2007. It took 'em 7 years to release a new record. And while I tried not to be too much hyped, it usually leads to being disappointed, I couldn't resist after hearing Piina that was previously released and is a cover song Breathe from The Prodigy. Still, I wasn't disappointed at all. This right here is my #1 of 2014. It's an absolutely fantastic album. While I loved them before, my love for this band grew even more with this album. It's such a thrashy album, it offers so much to be indulged in. It improves the sound they had on their previous work and is still very much Tuoni. My favourite song is Totaalisen Hulluuden Tila where Aksu Hanntu shows off his incredible clean vocals. Although I must admit that I can understand people who can't get into this. It isn't a very easily approachable album. But I would definitely recommend it, maybe start out with the first two albums and decide for yourself if you want to listen to this style of music in much heavier.
Neue Deutsche Härte - 64:39mins
Another allegedly last record, but this time announced to make as much money as possible with it. Unheilig became worse over time, recycling his songs with new texts, spitting out one record, special edition, whatnot after the other without any real substance. Commercial success was the Graf's driving force. The little I liked this band in most recent releases, the more I am surprised how much back to the roots his last record is. It still suffers a bit trying too hard to appeal to mainstream but is a noteworthy effort giving the fans of earlier years a proper chance to say goodbye. Even if the lyrics for the most part are as incredible cheesy as they have become over time, this is the best record since Puppenspieler from 2008. Especially Hand In Hand, Wir Sind Die Gipfelstürmer and Hinunter Bis Auf Eins are songs that appeal to older fans.
Well, this took some time to write. If I had to decide what albums are my Top 5, I'd probably settle with this:
- Tuoni - Kuolonpyörä
- Ost+Front - Olympia
- In This Moment - Black Widow
- Emil Bulls - Sacrifice To Venus
- Babymetal - Babymetal | One Hour Hell - Interfectus