I will start by talking about the albums that were released in 2014 that I found noteworthy. Some of these releases I haven't quite listened to enough to write proper reviews but I have listened to enough to talk about my first impressions.
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
In 2012 I was vaguely aware that the album, Sorrow and Extinction had been released but I never listened to it or really paid attention. I am definitely going to listen to it now because I am thoroughly impressed by Foundations of Burden. I was always into the band Warning but I had trouble listening to their full length do to the lack of truly crushing riffs but Pallbearer manages to take that same atmosphere and infuse some undeniable heaviness and variation, perfect for a doom metal project. There are a lot of influences at play and Pallbearer have a truly unique sound but if I were to compare them I would say that they sound like a modern version of "Into the Depths of Sorrow" which is a pretty high complement. This is an album worth anyone's purchase, sweet cover, cool lyrics and kickass music.
Origin - Omnipresent
I've never listened to Origin. To be perfectly honest I have always viewed technical death metal as a stupid genre filled with talent but devoid of soul. I appreciate skilled musicianship as much as the next guy but I've always felt that the majority of technical death metal bands spent too much time learning guitar techniques and not enough time actually writing good songs. Origin seems like an exception to that rule; I was legitimately impressed by this album and it has a lot of really catchy moments and decidedly non technical riffs that serve the songs rather than the musician's egos. There is also an unprecedented amount of variety, for example: The song "Redistribution of Filth" sounds like it could have been lifted from one of Napalm Death's newer albums and the SOD cover as a bonus track is also really cool. Even the sweep picking interludes are enjoyable to listen to. I don't know why this album has received such lousy reviews because I really liked it. Maybe it pails in comparison to their earlier releases? I guess I will have to hit up my nearest CD store and find out for myself!
Linkin Park - The Hunting Party
Okay, you probably weren't really expecting this one to be on here, fair enough. Linkin Park were one of the bands that got me interested in heavier music. When I was a kid and I heard Chester screaming, something within me resonated with the expression of anger within the music and there was no looking back for me. In hindsight Linkin Park comes across as quite shallow compared to Burzum but I still receive nostalgic feeling whenever I listen to them that I've never been able to shake. This new album is the first new release that I have listened to since Meteora and a lot has changed musically for the band. Apparently a lot of these songs were composed in the studio rather than written before hand which may explain why many of the compositions deviate from your standard verse chorus formula that the band was so fond of decade ago. The vocals are as processed as usual but the guitars are surprisingly raw and aggressive, just give the song War a listen and you will see what I mean. This albums sports some wicked cover art, a really unique and cool production job and some legitimately awesome riffs. Don't write this band off as another manufactured plastic pop act, I really do believe that the band members are trying to create something artistically valid and relevant in everything they do.
Corpsessed - Abysmal Thresholds
Cool album art, crushing evil riffs, malevolent atmosphere, unholy vocals, wicked riffs and a suffocating atmosphere. What more could you want? I don't know maybe some originality? I don't want to make it sound like I am running down this release or this band but I am a little bit disappointed by how generic it sounds. I would be lying to you if I said this album wont get a lot of play from me in the years to come but probably not as much as if it had more of its own identity. The band is talented at song writing and this album stands head and shoulders above the majority of Incantation worship out there but it still sounds too much like Incantation for me. If your budget is limited and you need some evil ass death metal I would recommend the newest Incantation album but if you've already heard all ten million Incantation releases and still want more you should listen to this. I am going to keep an eye on Corpsessed. I am confident that they will develop their own identity over time; this is their first album after all and it is pretty awesome for what it is. Solid album.
Incantation - Dirges of Elysium
Speaking of Incantation, some people forget that they are still a band that regularly releases consistent albums. I haven't heard every Incantation album but it is a goal that I am striving towards. They have approximately ten million albums that are probably all pretty consistent from the handful I have heard. This album delivers as usual. We are lucky enough to be treated to a 16 minute epic which is always a pleasant surprise (if it is good, which it is.) The epic stays at a slow pace gradually building up toward a mid paced stomp, speeding up toward a climax and crashing back down into almost funeral doom territory, great song. It's not easy to write long and interesteing death metal songs but Incantation are veterans that know what they are doing and haven't lost their touch. Every song on this release is great but my favorite would have to be Carrion Prophecy, if that main riff doesn't get stuck in your head after first listen you probably have no business listening to death metal. Great album from a great band.
Judas Priest (along with Blind Guiardian) have been my favorite band for many years, I own every album and listen to them frequently. Judas Priest always seem to know how to write quality music while constantly reinventing their style weather they're playing almost progressive metal on Stained Class, speed metal on Painkiller or pop rock on Turbo they've always been able to deliver the goods (sorry.) When I listen to this album I can't help but get the feeling that they were trying to please fans which I appreciate, (being a fan.) The problem is that you can tell the band is finished, as much as I hate to admit it, it's probably a good thing that they are ending their discography on this album because it IS a good album. The songs we are treated with sound almost like a compilation, like they were trying to represent an era within their discography with each song on this release. Needless to say, they did an excellent job. On the previous album I saw a band that despite being as old as the dinosaurs still wanted to release something original and unique. Who writes a concept album about Nostradamus? Seriously? It seems like something a new band would do, clouded with youthful enthusiasm but instead it came from a veteran band with 40 years experience that was still excited about creating something different. Unfortunately we don't hear that same enthusiasm on this release, which is to be expected. I enjoy this album because it gets me excited about the band and makes me want to listen to their older material again and again. This album is the perfect chapter to end the book of Priest and every Priest fan will find something to love here.
Mysticum - Planet Satan
Your ship has been away from earth for quite sometime, you've drifted through space for eighteen long years. You awaken from stasis to realise that you are being drawn towards a planet's surface at an unholy speed. Flames fly from the wings of your craft as you fall through the atmosphere, the metal within you ship is hot to the touch. You pray to God to give you a soft landing but God can't hear you in this place; you're entering Satan's planet now, bitch. As you look out the window you see Lucifer in sky with demons, you keep descending until you reach the planets surface and somehow survive annihilation. While rebuilding your space craft you witness all sorts of horrible, unspeakable events. All around you is disgusting, evil and ugly yet there is some strange dissonant beauty that keeps you enthralled for the 47 minutes that you remain within the gravitational field of Satan's world. As the final track Dissolve into Impiety fades into silence you can see the planet growing smaller in the distance as you are gratefully free, yet longing to return to Planet Satan.