Tag Archives: Top Albums of 2014

The HMO Top 10 Reissues & Compilations of 2014

2014

I’ve already agonised over my favourite new music of the past year but regular readers will know I’m a big fan of reissues and archive releases. And, as usual (or increasingly?) 2014 found plenty of old music being repackaged and resold with the usual bells, whistles and (hopefully) some unheard or rare tracks added.

So I would like to present my Top 10 archive/reissue/compilation releases of 2014. Naturally my personal listening moods and enjoyment played a huge part in my choices but I’ve also weighed up some other crucial factors in deciding these:

  • Bonus tracks – A big factor, especially if I’m re-purchasing albums I’ve bought in the past, so reasonably worthwhile reissues like Hear No Evil’s reissues of Motorhead’s 1916 and Deep Purple’s Slaves and Masters didn’t quite make the cut.
  • Curation and selection – I can forgive a lack of bonus material if the reissued material is relatively rare or interesting in the first place. So, despite me absolutely adoring it, Mayhem’s Grand Declaration of War reissue missed the cut as it was already readily available and not in particular need of a reissue.
  • Sound quality – This is always arguable and I’m no hi-fi purist but extra points are awarded if I feel reissues are sonic improvements on previous versions. Although they narrowly failed the cut its worth mentioning Earache’s “Full Dynamic Range” releases here. They sound excellent and I hope other labels will follow their example.
  • Value for money and packaging – Generally I tend to shy away from expensive “super-deluxe” affairs but I do appreciate it when a particularly plush or expansive release manages to avoid breaking the bank. Bon Jovi’s New Jersey box and the Super Duper Alice Cooper set are good examples of expansive and luxurious, but still affordable, sets that didn’t quite make the cut.

So now that I’ve got all that off my chest…

THE HMO TOP REISSUES AND COMPILATIONS OF 2014

71Gkks5PFPL._SL1181_NUMBER TEN: KISS – Love Gun (Deluxe Edition)

Classic album bolstered with nice packaging, liner notes and an extra disc of bonus tracks. I’ve always banged on about how KISS should be doing more archive releases so I had to include this solid reissue here. If they had pushed the bonus track boat out a bit more it might have placed higher but I still hope there’s more where this came from and if their other albums get this treatment I’ll be a happy bunny.

HT RLOLLAIHNUMBER NINE: Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance – Ooh La La: an Island Harvest

Quality 2CD anthology from the ex-Small Faces/The Faces legend. Many of his solo albums are hard to come by now so this was a welcome release for me. And the inclusion of a BBC session makes it a worthwhile buy for fans of longer standing. This was my first exposure to his post-Faces output and it is charming and heart-warming stuff.

2014-04-06 14.58.15-1NUMBER EIGHT: Pantera – Far Beyond Driven (20th Anniversary Edition)

I’ve been enjoying the previous Pantera reissues and looked forward to this immensely. It’s missing B-Sides from the album’s era which is a shame but it’s still a great sounding reissue with a fantastic live show as a bonus disc. This caught me in the right mood and got heavy rotation.

2014-05-11 14.06.50-1NUMBER SEVEN: Coroner – Death Cult

I’m very excited that this Swiss band’s incredible demo has been given an official band-approved release by the No Remorse label. A couple of bonus tracks sweeten the deal but it’s fantastic to have such a great sounding copy of this that plays at the right speed! Not enough people know how incredible Coroner are and on this demo they are also fronted by no less than Hellhammer/Celtic Frost/Triptykon legend Tom G. Warrior himself.

A1SiG3X7H8L._SL1500_NUMBER SIX: The Allman Brothers Band – The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings (6CD Box Set)

I wavered about this but I’m glad I bought it. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the many shows and alternate takes that were whittled down to the perfect At Fillmore East album. I wouldn’t replace the original but this is well worth hearing if you’re a fan of it. It’s a very thorough and plush package for the agreeable price. A great follow-up to 2013’s excellent Brothers and Sisters reissue.

2014-05-11 13.55.16-1NUMBER FIVE: Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: The Darkscorch Canticles (2LP Set)

This superbly curated labour of love from The Numero Group is the only vinyl release to make my list. It’s a charming and fun set of underground US Zep and Sabbath worship from the 70s. It’s very rare stuff and a must-have for fans of Stoner Rock and proto-Metal. The appeal of the music is further enhanced by the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired greatness of the packaging which you can see and read more about it here… with added Lego!

51P6CB1WE7LNUMBER FOUR: Demilich – 20th Adversary of Emptiness (2CD Deluxe)

Demilich’s only studio album Nespithe is a stunning Death Metal masterpiece and receives a well-deserved reissue here. It comes with a brilliantly designed and entertaining booklet and absolutely tons of bonus tracks. It’s a truly thorough and well-researched release but special mention has to made of the stunning sound quality too. Congratulations to Svart Records for this: it should be the benchmark for all future Metal reissues.

Christ noooo!
Christ noooo!

NUMBER THREE: Various Artists – One and All, Together for Home (2CD Deluxe)

A fascinating compilation with an interesting theme: Metal bands playing their native country’s Folk music. A lot of thought and attention went into this one and it’s a mix of old and new. Some new offerings from the likes of Winterfylleth and Primordial made this a must-buy but it also introduced me to some great bands like Ava Inferi and Haive that I may not have discovered otherwise.

712mqCedbLL._SL1500_NUMBER TWO: Queen – Live at the Rainbow ’74 (2CD Deluxe)

Not one, but two powerful live recordings from Queen’s early years. I love Queen so any live release of theirs is going to be up my street but it’s especially inspiring to hear them at this early stage playing the heavy, epic tracks like Father to Son and Ogre Battle. I love it when the classic bands I love release archive live material and this release enjoyed repeated listens and kicked off a period of full-on Queen worship.

71-rKQCjI3L._SL1500_NUMBER ONE: Ulver – Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-97 (5CD Box Set)

Ulver’s first three studios are classics of provocative and adventurous Black Metal and they have been done full justice with this stunning box set by Century Media. The three albums alone are must-haves and personal favourites but there are also some tantalising rarities here too and it’s all wrapped up in a stunning box set with a fantastic hardback book with essays, photos and translated lyrics. One of my more expensive standalone purchases of the year but still great value for five superb discs and a seriously luxurious package. It’s a release that effortlessly satisfies all my criteria for a top-drawer reissue. Buy it while you can.

The HMO Top Albums of 2014

2014

Welcome to the inaugural HMO best albums of 2014 list! At the beginning of the year I read a great article by Keith Kahn-Harris on the challenges of musical abundance in the world of Metal. It proved prophetic as 2014 seemed to be absolutely overflowing with highly-rated Metal releases. Even with my attempts to limit my music-buying I found it difficult to whittle my favourites down to a Top 10. There were many albums I enjoyed that narrowly failed to make the cut (particular apologies to Dead Congregation, Winterfylleth, Vallenfyre, Judas Priest and Space Ace).

I concede that it was a good and plentiful year for music but I did feel that in comparison to the stellar 2013, much of what I was hearing was a little disappointing. But, as with 2013, I found the latter stages of the year produced the best releases and I’m now feeling much more positive about the year and its musical output. And, despite the tough decisions, I had a brilliant time figuring out my list: it was a really enjoyable way to review and re-evaluate my purchases. I found myself enjoying albums I’d written off and also finding I now had no time for some that I previously enjoyed. But, in either case, the process made it feel like none of my musical purchases had been a waste.

So without further ado, let the run-down commence! And, as always, please chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

THE HMO TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014

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NUMBER TEN: Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral

Teaser photos of a red telephone box and a beard signified the unexpected return of Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes – sorry, Old Nick – to guttural Death Metal vocals when he joined Bloodbath this year. It’s deeply satisfying to hear him pulling off this type of vocal performance after all these years and Bloodbath responded with a celebratory blast of an album. Following this and PL’s Gregor MacKintosh’s excellent DM forays with Vallenfyre, it’ll be very interesting to see where Paradise Lost go from here.

[Bloodbath – Church of Vastitas]

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NUMBER NINE: The Scintilla Project – The Hybrid

A sci-fi concept album and collaborative project involving Saxon’s Biff Byford, Hell’s Andy Sneap and some guys from Balance of Power (who, I have to admit, I’ve never heard). It has a Progressive Metal vibe but based around catchy, melodic songs and riffs. This is a great set of moody Heavy Rock with spacey sounds and lively lead guitar. It’s especially great to hear Biff singing over a different musical approach to Saxon and I have even more respect for him after hearing his charismatic and dynamic performance here.

[The Scintilla Project – Beware the Children]

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NUMBER EIGHT: Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

Even as a relative newcomer to the band’s post-Mysteriis career I have learned to expect the unexpected with these guys. And on their fifth full-length release the last thing I was expecting was a lesson in straight-up Extreme Metal. While this approach could have proved disappointing I found it refreshing and the strength of Esoteric Warfare is in the delivery, an abhorrent maelstrom topped with Atilla Csihar’s remarkable vocal weirdness. But basically I love any album where the word “conquer” is pronounced “conkwer.”

[Mayhem – Psywar]

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NUMBER SEVEN: The Wounded Kings – Consolamentum

Another big year for Doom Metal, especially if it’s retro, occult-themed and female fronted. Kudos to Devonshire’s retro, occult-themed and female-fronted doomsters The Wounded Kings for coming out ahead of the pack with this confident and impressive release. Cathedral-grade heaviness, adventurous song-structures, expert pacing and Sharie Neyland’s moreish wailing make this my Doom pick of the year and a band to watch.

[The Wounded Kings – Lost Bride]

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NUMBER SIX: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

Tom G. Warrior returns with yet another “fierce boulder of abhorrence” improving and sharpening the style already established with their excellent debut Eparistera Daimones. Melana Chasmata proves that Tom is still a unique musical personality at the top of his monumentally heavy game. Sadly, the renowned artist H.R. Giger passed away not long after its release. Triptykon’s dark, musical art and the stylish use of Giger’s “Mordor VII” as the album’s artwork is a fitting tribute.

[Triptykon – Tree of Suffocating Souls]

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NUMBER FIVE: Sólstafir – Ótta

These Icelandic rockers were one of my most exciting discoveries this year. This dense, lush album hit the spots that Anathema’s disappointing Distant Satellites failed to. It’s all in Icelandic but I’m told that it’s a concept album about the different parts of the day which puts it in the same wheelhouse as the awesome Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. As elegant, stormy and elemental as the excellent album cover suggests.

[Sólstafir – Lágnætti]

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NUMBER FOUR: Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

An album that crept up in my appreciation as the year progressed! I was initially a bit underwhelmed by its mild-mannered delivery but as the year wore on it proved remarkably resilient: charming warrior Metal that proved to be right up my Manowar-loving street. Strong songwriting, JB’s confident and personable vocals and the earnest sword and sorcery vibe make this the best traditional Heavy Metal album of the year. But if they want to raid the ultimate top prize in future they’re going to have to get a bit more bloodthirsty.

[Grand Magus – Steel Versus Steel]

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NUMBER THREE: Behemoth – The Satanist

Despite being one of the first major Metal releases of the year Behemoth’s The Satanist is still enjoying a high profile and appearing on many end-of-year lists. And its reception has been well-deserved: it’s a startling statement of intent by a band coming back strong from life-threatening illness and enough controversy to scare off Blackie Lawless. A deeply personal and fully realized vision, performed with heart and conviction and enhanced with fantastic production and artwork, The Satanist is an unholy monument to blasphemy and defiance.

[Behemoth – Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel]

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NUMBER TWO: Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

With their eighth album I wondered if Ireland’s Primordial might begin to sink into a comfortable groove of diminishing returns. But full credit to the band for still having the will to excel, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a stunning release. In addition to the rolling and beefy Pagan riffs there is a welcome Freezing Moon-style Black Metal atmosphere in Babel’s Tower and the band unleash some primitive savagery on The Seed of Tyrants. A. A. Nemtheanga also continues to be one of Metal’s most compelling and intelligent vocalists and lyricists, expressing a wide range of emotions and enigmatic material bound up in the weight and struggles of history.

[Primordial – Babel’s Tower]

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NUMBER ONE: Voices – London

The only band on my list to have also released an album last year (the excellently-titled From the Human Forest Create a Fugue of Imaginary Rain) Voices return with their even-better sophomore album London. A rich and harrowing concept album set in the titular city it chronicles a character’s descent into madness, jealousy and sexual obsession. Whereas much Black Metal seems to aim for the ancient and/or the rural, the music here is an entirely urban modern hell: claustrophobic and crowded. Pulverising, mechanistic assaults jolt into tranquil, proggy sections and intriguing narrative passages. It’s a genuinely unhinged masterpiece and a magical, cinematic album that has enthralled me with each listen.

[Voices – The Fuck Trance]

The podium!
The podium!