While 2014 might not have had the star-studded power of 2013, in which revered eighties acts Bride, Stryper, Bloodgood, Deliverance and Sacred Warrior released new albums, it certainly was not without its share noteworthy moments. Consider how the likes of Harmony (six years), Veni Domine (seven years), Jupiter VI (eight years), Letter 7 (six years) and The Brave (twenty years!), returned following extended hiatus to put out highly regarded albums. Mainstays such as Teramaze (second album in two years), Atkins May Project (third in four years), LNJ (seventh since 2006), Sombre Holiday (three in six years) and AdrianGale (second in as many years) continued their run of consistency. The presence of several notable new artists finds the scene to be every bit healthy and vibrant, as the likes of Empire 21, Four Star Revival, Chaotic Resemblance, Promise Land and True Strength aptly attest.
In looking forward, 2015 promises to be every bit productive. Six weeks into the year and potential top 5 albums have already been released by The Neal Morse Band (The Grand Experiment) and Sweet & Lynch (Only To Rise). Exciting new material is also on the way from Impellitteri, Stryper, Armageddon USA (formerly Armageddon) and Theocracy, while Worldview promises to rank alongside the better new acts to hit the scene. CD re-issues of Deliverance’s Weapons Of Our Warfare and Recon’s Behind Enemy Lines are scheduled for release as well.
21. Deliverance - Stay Of Execution (re-issue)
Best re-issue of 2014 (on Roxx Records) when taking into account re-mastering, packaging and bonus material. Front man Jimmy P. Brown joins forces with guitarist George Ochoa (Recon) for a masterful re-recording of the classic Deliverance track “What A Joke”.
20. Stryper - Live At The Whiskey
Second Stryper live album, as its namesake implies, was recorded at the the Whiskey A Go Go at the start of the No More Hell To Pay tour. Live At The Whiskey saw release as a 16-track CD/DVD combination.
19. Chaotic Resemblance - Get The Hell Out
Glam and hair metal from Oklahoma based group drawing moniker from Isaiah 40:18: To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will you compare unto him? Oz Fox (Stryper) handles production duties.
18. White Lighter - White Lighter
White Lighter joins aspects of hard rock on the lighter side of things, modern and alternative rock nuances and Ozzy influenced lead vocals. The upshot is a group that stays true to both current and old school sounds.
17. Sweet, Michael - I'm Not Your Suicide
I’m Not Your Suicide represents by far the best (and heaviest) of the solo projects from Stryper front man. The album includes the timekeeping of Kenny Aronoff (Chickenfoot) in addition to guest appearances by guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) and vocalist Electra Mustaine (daughter of Megadeth main man Dave Mustaine).
16. Sombre Holiday - An Hour Of Light
Melancholic and brooding metal with strong Gothic, doom and progressive overtones from project featuring brothers Terry (vocals & guitars) and Trevor (drums) Friesen. Production proves a step up in comparison to previous Sombre Holiday releases.
15. Sardis - Escape
Independently released debut of Missouri based act walks a fine line between traditional metal and classic US power metal. Escape is also a concept album about an individual opposed to the idea of God but ultimately finds purpose and meaning in him.
14. Razorigami - Truths From Beyond The Machine
Sophomore album from hi-octane vocalist Luke Richard Weber’s Razorigami project touches upon a seventies influenced sound heavily rooted in acoustic laced classic rock, blues based hard rock and intricate progressive rock. Twenty-minute epic “Star Of David” ranks alongside the best songs from 2014.
13. Pÿlon - Homo Homini Lupus
Switzerland’s Pÿlon maintains its traditional doom metal leanings on sixth full-length album. The presence of new vocalist Jordan Cutajar (Nomad Son) lends an element of accessibility to the Pÿlon material. Album title is a Latin phrase meaning “man is a wolf to (his fellow) man”.
12. AdrianGale - Defiance
Fifth AdrianGale album represents by far the heaviest from melodic hard rock partnership between vocalist Jamie Rowe and guitarist Vic Rivera. “Speed” is a cover of the Billy Idol track recorded for the hit movie of the same name.
11. Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope
Progressive rock ‘super group’ featuring members from USA and Europe, including keyboardist and vocalist Neal Morse, Transatlantic has gained renown for composing mega epic tracks up to 30 minutes or longer. Kaleidoscope includes subtly spiritual lyrics reflective of Morse’s faith
10. Liberty N' Justice - The Vow
Swan song album from LNJ eschews all star project ways of the past as groups first full piece band release since 2000. The Vow is conceptually based upon the struggles of a “relationship that started great, (that you) wanted to end and then did not want it over”.
9. Four Star Revival - Knights Of The Revival
Knights Of The Revival stands out as eleven songs of top-notch classic US power metal from “four veteran musicians (who) were brought together by a mutual love of Jesus and a desire to use their talents for His glory”. “Let Love” is one of the better ballads of the year.
8. Empire 21 - Empire 21
New project of guitarist CJ Grimmark, widely regarded as one of the top players within the power and progressive metal segments. The groups self-titled debut draws upon a melodic power metal influence not unlike Grimmark’s previous band Narnia.
7. Atkins May Project - Empire Of Destruction
Partnership between original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins and Christian guitarist Paul May prove that (figuratively speaking) good and evil can continue to work together. Empire Of Destruction takes the same NWOBHM heading as previous two Atkins May Project releases.
6. Halcyon Way - Conquor
Atlanta, Georgia based continues its penchant for joining aspects of the aggressive, melodic and progressive on third full-length album. The group includes former Siloam vocalist Steve Braun and former Final Judgement guitarist Jon Bodan.
5. Letter 7 - Trust
Third release of eighties influenced melodic metal and hard rock from project of guitarist JD Evans. Trust also features the return of original vocalist Thomas Collett, who performed on the 2007 debut Letter 7 album Salt Of The Earth.
4. Jupiter VI - Moveable Walls
Deliverance front man Jimmy P. Brown II returns with sophomore Jupiter VI album in which he takes a progressive rock heading heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. “Sleepless End Pt. I-IV”, “Wasting Away” and “A Message from Home Pt. I” represent some of the finest songs ever from the artist.
3. Veni Domine - Light
Swedish epic progressive doom metal act Veni Domine - meaning “Come Lord” as taken from the last part of Revelation 22 – closes out its career with one of its finest efforts ever in Light. Twelve minute epic “In Memoriam” deserves to challenge for song of the year.
2. Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism
Esoteric Symbolism finds Melbourne, Australia natives Teramaze at its most progressive best on second comeback album. You will not encounter a bad moment throughout the albums 78 minute length.
1. Harmony - Theatre of Redemption
Harmony delivers melodic metal masterpiece on Theatre of Redemption in which the highly regarded Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon) handles lead vocals. “Inhale” is as inspired a track as you will find.
Black Fate - Between Visions & Lies
Third melodic power metal album from Larissa, Greece based Black Fate.
The Brave - Rise
Comeback The Brave album features re-recorded versions of songs from the groups first two albums, Battle Cries 1991) and Trust (1994), in addition to new material as well.
Florio, Mike - Reconcile
Reconcile highlights a crossover of progressive rock and other forms of hard music on sophomore album from Westchester County, New York vocalist and keyboardist Mike Florio.
GX Project - Sinner
Rex Scott returns with second high energy and hard rocking GC Project release!
Promise Land - Harmony In Ruins
Full-length debut of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based act gives rise to symphonic metal with lower register male vocals.
Saint - Broad Is The Gate
Classic Christian metal veterans Saint are back with new vocalist Brian Phyll Miller on sixth album since reforming in 2004
Saint - Warriors Of The Son 04
Re-recorded version of Saint debut EP re-mastered and re-issued on Retroactive Records.
Sound of Eternity - Visions & Dreams
Female fronted melodic rock from the Honduras (also known as the English version of Codigo Eterno)
Supernal Endgame - Touch The Sky Volume II
Eighty minutes of seventies influences progressive rock with a worshipful slant on Supernal Endgame sophomore effort.
True Strength - The Cross Will Always Prevail
True Strength delivers power metal with variety on its full-length debut, ranging from classic to progressive to European to epic.
Missed The Final Cut
Guardian - Almost Home
Not that it is a bad album, but I am sure you can agree that Guardian could have stretched a bit more from an artistic standpoint.