Saturday, 30 April 2016

#14 - Top of 2014

Celtic Legacy- The Lie Of The Land (Eternal Legacy Records)

"The Lie of the Land" is the fourth album of Celtic Legacy, a heavy/folk metal band from Ireland. Although this was initially pegged as a solo release from Dave Morrissey, as the band had disbanded since 2009, it was eventually developed into the fourth full length record by Celtic Legacy, with the addition of vocalist  Ciarán Ennis.
This album is a exquisite blend of classic heavy metal music with Irish folk undertones, which while not apparent throughout the record, give it a genuine feel and set it apart from other records of the same sub-genre. Some of the highlights of the record include the single "My People" and the song from which the album took its name "The Lie of the land". The band has since not released anything else and there are no news regarding its future, which given the state of the line-up does not seem to bode too well. Let's hope we will hear some new music from them soon!


Below is a tribute video for Gary Moore with the Celtic Legacy song "Emerald Eye" (from this record)  playing on the back . This was the only video relevant to this album that we could find!

#15 - Top of 2014

Edguy - Space Police: Defenders of the Crown  (Nuclear Blast)

This is the latest Edguy album to date and the tenth studio album from Tobias Sammet's outfit. This is another stellar european power metal release with hard/glam rock elements, as were  the last 3-4 albums by Edguy. Although you will not be hearing the classic power metal of the earlier days of Edguy, or Avantasia for the matter here, this is still an excellent record and an excellent example of how Edguy sound at the moment.  Highlights of this record include "Defenders of the Crown", the humorous "Do me like a Caveman" and the epic "The Eternal Wayfarer", mixing up all different styles that Edguy have been playing in the post "Hellfire Club" era.  An excellent record with many songs that are tailor-made for inciting the crowd in the band's live concerts.


Below is the music video for "Love Tyger"

Sunday, 17 April 2016

#16 - Top of 2014

The Merlin Bird- Chapter and Verse (Self-Released)

The Merlin Bird are a prog rock band from Australia. They were founded circa 2000 and since then they had just two releases: an EP ("Reason and Rhyme") released in 2003 and this full-length release in 2014. The band seemed to be bigger in the beginning but by this album had been reduced to just two members with a number of external collaborators brought in to contribute. This record is, as rightly described by the band itself "...Jethro Tull meets Enya in a bar that's owned by Genesis, but full of people arguing about Pink Floyd". Overall the record has a variety of songs that are cohesive between them, but at the same time have an individual identity and are influenced by classic Prog rock, folk music and acoustic elements. Highly recommended!


Below is the audio from the track "Truth is a lady".

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

#17 - Top of 2014

Falconer- Black Moon Rising (Metal Blade Records)

Falconer are back with their 8th album and they only seem to be getting better with time! "Black moon rising" is a melodic power metal album with folk elements and amazing guitar riffs and solos. All the songs are memorable and instantly stick with you, thanks to Mathias Blad's incredible vocals that light up each song and make it sound epic. There are some slower paced songs like "Scoundrel And The Squire" that act as intermissions to more powerful pieces like "Locust Swarm" and "Halls and Chamber" but are equally interesting and melodic!


Below is a lyric video for the song "Halls and Chambers".

Saturday, 9 April 2016

#18 - Top of 2014

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie (Earache)

Released in June 2014, this is the fourth work from Rival Sons and their most well-rounded work to date. Rival Sons are a southern rock/ hard rock band from California. They became well known with their second work, Pressure and time (2009) and were further propeled into fame by their third album and the single "Keep on Swinging". With this, their fourth full-length release, they reached the top of the US Heat Charts as well as a very respectable no 14 on the UK charts. This is well-deserved for this release as it strays from the southern sound of their predecessors and veers towards a more pure blooded hard rock record who is bound to appeal to a more broad audience while at the same time keeping true to their southern influences.


Below is the music video from "Electric Man", the opening track of the album.

Friday, 8 April 2016

#19 - Top of 2014

Messenger - Illusory Blues (Svart Records)

Moving further down the top is UK progressive band Messenger with their captivating record "Illusory Blues", which might be one of the most interesting debuts of 2014. Filled with amazing progressive and psychedelic influences the album merits the listener with stunning and elegant melodies that mix perfectly with powerful vocals by Khaled Lowe. "The Perpetual Glow of a Setting Sun" is the highlight of this whimsically melodic journey and is bound to stick to your mind!
If you are looking for a proggy chill-out experience with some heavy twists that will take you back to a 70's psychedelic rock era, this is a must-hear album.


Below is the music video for "Dear Departure".

Thursday, 7 April 2016

#20 - Top of 2014

Jonne- Jonne (Massacre Records)

Jonne is a new acoustic folk project by Jonne Järvelä, the vocalist of folk metal band, Korpiklaani. Jonne's unique voice blends perfectly with the traditional folk elements in this album, which is following a different route from his previous work with Korpiklaani. There are many interesting songs including "Metsään On Iäksi Mieli" which incorporates Native American chants in the folky sound. Jonne also has "Joki", a Finnish version of the well-known Styx song "Boat on a river" and a traditional cover of Simon and Garfunkel‘s "The Boxer"! Although, the fact that the album is in Finnish (except for the final song) might turn some people away, I would recommend this project to anyone who is into traditional folk music or just wants to see how would an acoustic Korpiklaani would sound like!


Below is the music video for "Metsään On Iäksi Mieli" (The age of the wood mind)

#21 - Top of 2014

The tea party- The ocean at the end (Anthem Entertainment) 

Next on this list is "The ocean at the end", the new installment to "The Tea Party" saga after an absence of 10 years. Although, the album was received with some mixed reactions, to which Jeff Martin responded, saying that: "we’re making music for ourselves and we’re having fun, that’s the whole point of it all”. No one can dismiss some very interesting and catchy songs that the band has produced here, such as "The black Sea", “Submission” and “The Cass Corridor”. The album is filled with an abundance of  different string and percussion instruments, that adds to  the classic progressive rock sound of the album with the highlight being the almost Latin-like track "Brazil". Overall, this album is a powerful world music inspired journey through different sounds and scenery!


Below is the music video for the dreamy title song "The ocean at the end".

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

#22 - Top of 2014

Dream spirit - Jiangshan( 江山) (Independent)

梦灵 or Dream Spirit is a very interesting folk metal band from China who released their first full album 江山 in 2014. With the lyrics being entirely in Chinese, someone would expect that it would be hard to follow, but the great clear vocals by 曹洪顺 and the amazing melodic riffs by 李时嘉 and  谷旭 in the guitars and 王曦 in keyboards make the listen worth it! Although, my information on the band is limited due to my lack of knowledge of the Chinese alphabet, I would definitely recommend this album and this band to anyone interested in folk metal.


Below is a video from one of the band's live performances.

#23 - Top of 2014

Evil masquerade- The digital crucifix (Dark Minstrel Music)

"The digital crucifix" is the new album by Evil masquerade, a band from Denmark that is too heavy to be called hard rock and too melodic to be power metal, but mixes all these aspects and the result is amazing. Despite the band's dark look, the music is melodic throughout the album and it goes along with the great vocals by the new vocalist Tobias Jansson. This is the band's sixth album that was produced by the guitarist Henrik Flyman ten years after their first full album release and it doesn't lack anything in creativity or intensity! From the instrumental "the Hangover" to the engaging "The Nature Is Calling", "The digital crucifix" is a surprisingly excellent album!


Below is the  music video for "Like Voodoo"

#24 - Top of 2014

Killer be Killed -Killer be killed (Nuclear Blast)

Next album for 2014, is again a self-titled debut, but this time not from an unknown underground band but rather, from a well known collaboration project among some of the most influential artists in extreme metal bands. This project came into being from the collaboration of, mainly 3 artists that have been very influential in the realm of extreme metal since the early 00s and late 90s Max Cavalera (ex-Sepultura, Cavalera's Conspiracy, Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon) and Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan). The collaboration of these three artists, along with an excellent drummer (Ben Koller - Converge) resulted in the release of one of the best extreme metal products of 2014 that was also capable of appealing beyond the audiences of the usual output of these three bands. All three vocalists take turns singing - howling -growling and spun out tracks that are catchy and energetic while keeping a dark ragefull undertone, in the same vein with early groove metal records. Melodic lines also exist throughout the album, revealing some more rock-oriented influences from Mastodon's legacy.

All in all a must-listen for fans of the above mentioned bands but an excellent choice for an outsider that is not that into the whole scene.


Below is the music video for the stomping "Wings of Feather and Wax"

#25 - Top of 2014

The Order of the Solar Temple - Order of the Solar Temple (I, Voidhanger Records)

The next album in the countdown for 2014 is the self-titled debut album from the Canadian occult rockers, the Order of the Solar Temple. There is not a lot of information on the band other than the fact the lead singer is Matt Emery, member of the Canadian underground doom metal scene. Other than that, the album was released by a small record company (link to buy the album is here). The album is certainly unique in that it certainly evokes the mix of 70's cult rock/metal in ways that very few contemporary bands can. The vibe of the band is very reminiscent of Blue Oyster Cult, something that the band freely admits by including a cover from them in this release. Additionally, the vocals are high pitched with many falsettos and elements from early Mercyful Fate releases, culminating in an excellent and uncompromising release that was a hidden gem for every fan of true rock and metal music.


Below is an audio clip from this release (as the band did not release any video promo material).

Monday, 4 April 2016

#26 - Top of 2014

Need - Orvam (Trailblazer Records)

Moving further down the list of 2014, we meet a progressive metal band from Greece, Need. Need have existed since 2003 and Orvam is their third album. Now, in this review it needs to be said that this band is not for everyone. Classic metallers and proggers may not like this band; in all honesty, I would say they are an acquired taste. Orvam is not an easy listen. It is an album mixing elements of Fate's Warning (of the Ray Alder era) with heavier groove resonant with Mastodon or Metalcore crowds. This is an impressive record that delves into deep and spiritual records while at the same time keeps a lyrical musical tone all throughout. Have a listen to the offering below and if it is to your liking feel free to explore their album some more.


(The aforementioned video)

#27 - Top of 2014

Opeth - Pale Communion (Roadrunner)

 Since 2011, Opeth with Heritage have decided to turn completely to their Progressive side eschewing all death metal elements from their music in favor of mellow long tunes and intricate melodies. I am 100% behind that decision of the band. This is the second album in that direction and continues in as much the same direction with 2011's Heritage but with more melodic and less complicated songs, with Åkerfeldt's vocals being the focus in many of the tunes.

This is a pure progressive album with many great moments and only falls slightly short of its predecessor. 


 Below is the music video from the "Moon above, Sun below"

Sunday, 3 April 2016

#28 - Top of 2014

Epica - The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast)

For me this was a surprise pick from 2014. I always thought of Epica as a one-trick pony - and with a lame trick too! In the beginning of the last decade with the unexpected success of Nightwish as well as the precedent of Theater of Tragedy, a new wave of female-fronted bands with "angelic" female vocals started to pop-up around the power/melodic metal scene, especially in Europe. Enter Epica, with Simone Simmons as their front-woman who gained fame on the back of her looks as well as cameos in some big hits from the much better known and far more talented metal act Kamelot. Since then more than ten years have passed and this latest offering from Epica could not be more different from what I just described. The music is orchestral and epic. The album is full of inspiration and catchy tunes that are at the same time intimate and grandiose. It feels that Epica have finally grown to a version of themselves that is deserving of their name. I think this is their best album to date by far and it has to be listened to, to be believed that this is from the same band. If you are a fan of epic choral bands like Therion, this is one of the top releases of 2014.


Below is a music video, for the album track "Victims of Contigency"

#29 - Top of 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls (Epic)

Let's start with some common knowledge: This is not the best Judas Priest album of all time. In all honesty it probably wouldn't even reach the top 8 best Judas Priest records of all time. Despite all these, it IS the latest offering by the Metal Gods and the only album released by them in the 10's as well as the first without KK Downing. Additionally, it reached no 6 on the Billboard charts and was received well by music "critics".
Now we reach the critical question: Is it any good? The answer to that is FUCK yes! This has all the hallmarks of a good priest album, catchy fast songs, hymns with a lot of sing along opportunities, Rob has realised that he is not anymore thus offering us tracks that more upto his current vocal abilities rather than those of yesteryear and there are some new ideas, partly courtesy of the long break the band took between records and partly due to the new blood (Richie Faulkner). If you are a fan of Judas Priest you have already heard the record, liked it and it still has a place in your playlist. For the rest, this is simply the latest offering of a great band that has had plenty other more brilliant moments in their career before that and you would be better served checking one of their seminal 70's and 80's offerings before checking this one.


PS. Below is a live performance of Halls of Valhalla.

#30-Top of 2014

Alestorm- Sunset on the Golden Age (Napalm Records)

Alestorm are back, 3 years after their previous album and the "Sunset on the Golden Age"! The Scottish pirates are determined to put you in a good mood and sing along with Christopher Bowes and the rest of the band-crew! Although they are experimenting with longer songs, like "The Battle of Cartagena" and the "Sunset on the Golden Age" they manage to add a more epic feeling to this album. This album is made for anyone that wants to have fun by getting hooked to feel good music without listening to mindless or regular songs. So join along to listen to great riffs, catchy lyrics and all the enjoyable elements that make Alestorm what they are. Arrr!


Below is the music video from the album track "Drink"

Saturday, 2 April 2016

#31- Top of 2014

Gandalf's fist - A forest of fey (Gandalf's Fist)

As we had many favorite albums in 2014, we decided to do a top 31 instead of a top 21 for this year.

We begin at number 31, with the fifth release of the British quartet Gandalf's Fist. Voted as #3 best progressive rock album of 2014 by Classic Rock UK magazine, this is the first release featuring 4 members in the band and probably their best work to date. The album combines melodic and psychedelic progressive sounds with great vocals and an interesting concept. The "Forest of fey" talks about a girl who walks through a magical forest and encountering creatures and experiencing adventures on her way...
If you like concept albums, you need to hear this!


Below is the video from one of the tracks, taken from the album, as we await their new triple (!!) album release in 2016.