Matt Coe Best-of 2014

Wednesday, 10th December 2014

Musicians often lament the chore of picking their favorite songs from an album – so many times in interviews you hear the analogy to children, so how can you choose a particular favorite over another? The hope is that every song has this unique, special quality to differentiate itself from the pack. To my criteria for favorites in 2014, it’s all about that spark, that hook, whether musical or vocal, that keeps me coming back for more.

Here are my selections for this year. Discover something you maybe didn’t give a chance before, and know that sometimes the best heavy metal requires intense headphone playbacks for thorough appreciation.

1. High Spirits – “High Spirits” (from You Are Here)
In reality, this is the first song Chris Black released for this true/traditional metal band, but the version on their latest album You Are Here is probably the best. A simple harmonized chorus and loads of dual guitar melodies make these so easy to entertain you: alone or with friends, in your bedroom or at a live show.

2. Son Of Aurelius – “Long Ago” (from Under a Western Sun)
The struggle in full appreciation of technical death metal for me lies to the songwriting theme. Fortunately, California’s Son of Aurelius know how to create memorable, distinct songs – and this is one of their best. Featuring dual clean/extreme vocals, a boatload of shimmering guitar lines, and a bass solo to boot – 6 minutes and 52 seconds of mesmerizing music.

3. Anathema – “The Lost Song, Part 3” (from Distant Satellites)
Starting off subtly and sparsely and building to an electrical crescendo, Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas send chill bumps through their dramatic vocal melodies. I love all three parts of “The Lost Song” – originally developing because of a hard drive failure when the initial composition was lost – but if cornered to pick the favorite, this would be it.

4. A Sound of Thunder – “Elijah” (from The Lesser Key of Solomon)
Epic songs to be successful need a strong lyrical theme and equally exciting musical movements to attain my complete interest. A Sound of Thunder did this on all fronts with “Elijah” – between the multi-level vocal presentation and epic/power riffs and old school keyboards, this will remind a lot of people of Mercyful Fate to the good.

5. Riot V – “Bring the Hammer Down” (from Unleash the Fire)
Todd Michael Hall is the best fit for the band – impressive high caliber melodic vocals are on display, and keep me coming back to this track. Beyond the fact that one of the guitar lines has a little “Mr.Scary”/George Lynch nod… power anthems will never die in metal, and Riot V should make this one mandatory in all future set lists.

6. Mors Principium Est – “Monster in Me” (from Dawn of the 5th Era)
Their first official video ever, Finland’s melodic death metal masters Mors Principium Est continue to obliterate the masses through speedy trills, a maniacal sense of mid-tempo time changes, and those twin echoing guitar harmonies that are a staple of their sound. Shredders and emotive lead players alike will also enjoy the instrumental break action here.

7. Accept – “Dying Breed” (from Blind Rage)
Three albums into their resurrection, Accept has nothing left to prove to their audience. “Dying Breed” is firmly 100% Teutonic in outlook and execution- Mark’s vocal sneer and screams working in tandem with that chorus that will resonate for days on end… along with Wolf and Herman’s guitar nuances that make you hum along.

8. Amaranthe – “Drop Dead Cynical” (from Massive Addictive)
Call it a guilty pleasure if you will – but this act has a triple threat vocally and ridiculously catchy riffs/grooves. The first single from their new album Massive Addictive, this Swedish/Danish act are taking the modern melodic metal world by storm.

9. Vanishing Point – “King of Empty Promises” (from Distant is the Sun)
Another Australian act in the final countdown you say? Well… this particular track contains a killer main hook and once again a stellar vocal performance that brings a tear to my eye from time to time. Melodic power/progressive metal still has a lot of life left in the tank, and Vanishing Point are one of many bands delivering the goods consistently.

10. Sabaton – “To Hell and Back” (from Heroes)
Infusing their military based power metal foundation with a touch of Celtic/Folk-like keyboards, this first single off their latest album Heroes is an instant hit, encouraging crowd sing a longs. Another European act prime for major headlining in North America for decades to come.


Biggest surprise: Musician Biographies. Shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise that once a musician attains a certain level of notoriety, a tell-all book about their life will eventually hit book shelves. Given the nature of our instant communication world we live in, it’s nice for a diversion to cozy up to a couch and read about the favorite behind the scenes stories from the likes of Scott Ian (Anthrax), Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly) or even the post 80’s years of Metallica and pre-Powerslave Iron Maiden era. Expect this to continue for years to come.


Best newcomer of 2014: The Dagger. Given the massive attention to retro/proto-metal these days, I’m placing this Swedish act near the top of the class through their addictive self-titled debut album on Century Media. Probably unfair to really call them ‘new’ as three of the four members spent a lot of time together in veteran death metal act Dismember – but this is a fresh entity indeed. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, and UFO come up often on this engaging release. Don the denim and leather, hold your fists high, and sing the choruses as if your life depended on it.


Biggest disappointment of the year: In Flames. In a unique turn of events, pioneers in the melodic death metal movement In Flames seem to be drifting further into lifeless Americanized modern rock/ groove metal pastures on this platter. Vocalist Anders Fridén clean propensities and effects would drive Bono fans crazy – but not those who champion The Jester Race or Whoracle. And since the old-timers are folding faster by the second to heavier/truer bands, maybe In Flames are content to be the winners of Hot Topic/mall kids everywhere.


Best cover art: MindMaze’s Back from the Edge. The best covers through the years when it comes to metal albums are ones that force me to continuously return in the quest for discovery. Pennsylvania power/progressive metal band MindMaze prove with Back from the Edge in its cover art the importance of that visual representation of what listeners hope to hear once they put the record on. Artist Carl-André Beckston creates multi-sensory images between the staircase, shimmering light, mountains, and opposing faces to interpret hundreds of unique ways – bringing me back to my teenage years studying Derek Riggs front art through Iron Maiden.


Most anticipated album of 2015: King Diamond (again). Yes, astute readers… if you looked at last year’s top list, I fully expected King Diamond and his unique falsetto to appear on a new studio platter prior to his touring escapades here and abroad. Well, he and his band felt it more than necessary to switch things up, prove to the world that he still has the theatrics and vocal chops to deliver the goods, then hit the studio for a new album. Who knows at what point the new record will arrive, but given the recent comeback efforts for At The Gates, Carcass, and Sanctuary, he has a lot to live up to – and will surely delivery another horror-filled affair that should delight the minions whether new or old.

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