While 2014 has not nearly been as interesting music-wise as 2013, there has still been some incredibly noteworthy releases this year from a wide variety of genres. There is still plenty of time left in the year, but here is a short list of the highlights thus far, not ranked and with a few surprises left off to keep my end of the year list a bit more “mysterious”.
1. I Killed the Prom Queen – Beloved
Metalcore veterans I Killed the Prom Queen are back this year with a new LP, and they certainly haven’t lost any steps during the time that they were inactive. New vocalist Jamie Hope (ex-The Red Shore) fills the big shoes, and the music is considerably more spacious and grandiose than on previous releases, boasting some orchestral sections (“Kjærlighet”) and more melody than you can shake a stick at (“Beginning of the End”). The punishing breakdowns are still present, and the melodic leads are everywhere, so it’s certainly no question that this is the best version of the band that we have seen yet.
2. Behemoth – The Satanist
Behemoth have obviously been around the block a time or two, but instead of the stagnancy that some veterans of the genre display after a certain period of time, the band have returned with one of their best releases to date. The Satanist is an evil record with plenty of aggressive riffs, to be sure, but the key to this album is atmosphere. The band has included quite a few breathable passages with a tiny bit of melody which makes the impact of the album just a bit more than past releases. And in case you’re wondering; yes, it Satans harder than anything else this year so far.
3. Comeback Kid – Die Knowing
Comeback Kid haven’t lost a step since they were a young, hungry band; rather, they have upped the passion and aggression in their music. Die Knowing is the perfect combination of their punishing breakdowns and catchy vocal lines. The true spirit of hardcore bleeds through with gang shouts aplenty (“Wasted Arrows”), while not being afraid to be infectious as well (“Unconditional”, “Didn’t Even Mind”). It’s not a crazy departure from their previous releases, but rather the band taking all of the interesting aspects of past releases and mashing them together. Die Knowing is a not-so-gentle reminder that the electronic-laden, overly-polished hardcore will never fully replace the passionate grit that came before it, and for that I am thankful.
4. Aborted – The Necrotic Manifesto
Aborted have shown quite a bit of progression throughout their career; they have adopted many different tempos and styles into their gore-laden approach. The Necrotic Manifesto feels like a culmination of their entire illustrious career; vocalist Sven has never sounded more varied and the music is technical but never sacrifices that for the heaviness of the record. The drums are absolutely inhuman, especially in tracks like “Coffin Upon Coffin” and “The Extripation Agenda”, and the band is also not afraid to adopt a doomier approach as evidenced by passages in “Cenobites”. If this album is any indication, Aborted not only have plenty left in the tank but are also only getting better with age.
5. Insain – Enlightening the Unknown
Insain have given brutal death metal listeners one of the genre’s strongest offerings this year with Enlightening the Unknown. I was genuinely surprised at how much I have enjoyed this one, as Insain isn’t afraid to use melodic guitar lines sometimes in addition to incredibly interesting solos. When they aren’t destroying everything in their sonic path, they are using atmosphere and theatrics to keep the dark undercurrent consistent throughout the album. The machine-like technicality doesn’t take away from the obvious passion in Enlightening the Unknown, and it is certainly unfortunate that they have broken up and are releasing this posthumously.
Well, these are the my cream of the crop so far from this year, and though I have said before that 2014 hasn’t been incredible, these releases are definitely the exception to the rule. Here’s to many more head-turning releases this year and hopefully a need to have a huge end of year list in December.