Best of 2014 in Metal and Hard Rock – Part I

Starting a countdown of the best albums for this year
By Peter Lindblad

Separating the wheat from the chaff from 2014's heavy metal and hard rock is not really difficult, demanding work, but it does call for the kind of stupid courage that comes from drinking heavily.

These are dangerous times in the blogosphere, a wild west where expressing a harmless opinion is likely to set off gunfights of moral outrage and blistering condemnations. This is music, though, a thing that is said to soothe savage breasts and all that. Of course, talking about it can be akin to conversations about politics or religion.

In the spirit of throwing gasoline on a fire, here's a best albums list for 2014, starting with Nos. 6-10. The rest come later. You've been warned.

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium 2014
10. Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium: What do you want from Max and Igor Cavalera at this point? A reunion of the classic Sepultura lineup? Jake E. Lee has a better chance of getting Sharon and Ozzy to give him writing credits on "Bark at the Moon." Just give Cavalera Conspiracy's Pandemonium a chance. It is devastatingly violent aural chaos, a mad, multi-layered symphony of thrash-metal ferocity and rusted-out, punishing industrial grind for frustrated children of the digital revolution that'll make your head explode.

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls 2014
9. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls: Not ready just yet to fly off into the sunset on sad wings of destiny, Judas Priest confounded expectations with this monstrous beast of a record. They sound as hungry as ever on Redeemer of Souls, an unholy communion of epic, expansive melodies with menacing, rugged riffs and electrically charged solos and dual-guitar flights that scream like tortured souls bound for hell. God bless this Priest.

California Breed - S/T 2014

8. California Breed - California Breed: Nobody knew Andrew Watt from Adam before hitching his wagon to Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham – the drummer having bailed on the project just as it was gaining traction, only to be replaced by former Queens of the Stone Age punisher Joey Castillo –  in the vibrant new power trio California Breed. A young guitar slinger with great feel, fiery versatility and raw ability, Watt is the partner Hughes has been waiting for all these years, able to wring out soulful leads, tough riffs and blazing solos with ease on a debut album that pays off with surefire hooks, lean and mean Zeppelin-like stomp and swaggering groove, and some of the best singing of Hughes' career.

KXM - S/T 2014
7. KXM – KXM: Another trio, this one a supergroup made up of King's X front man dUg Pinnick, former Dokken axe man George Lynch and Korn drummer Ray Luzier, KXM came out swinging on their emotionally powerful eponymous debut. Just as happy grinding out rough-and-tumble, slow-burning riffs as he is reeling off sizzling solos, Lynch seems comfortable in the grungy world of KXM, where Luzier's complex drum patterns and Pinnick's grumbling bass provide a pulpit for spiritual profundities, damaged introspection and sharp socio-political commentary.

Revocation - Deathless 2014
6. Revocation – Deathless: Immensely talented, the technical death-metal outfit Revocation upped the ante with Deathless, showing off dizzying musical chops on a record that was both frenzied and brutally heavy. And yet, amid the controlled chaos there are strains of melody that somehow survive all the destruction and carnage going on around them. Down the line, they'll be using the word "seminal" to describe Deathless.

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