[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Dismemberment - Embrace The Dark (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Debut full-length contains nine tracks of ridiculously tight blackened thrash from this Ohio quartet. Carcass-esque vocals fit perfectly in the mix, while tandem guitars shred and weave melodic lines over top of a brutal rhythm section. This is one of the top thrash/death releases of 2014 so far. These guys are probably tired of the comparisons, but if you dig Skeletonwitch, don't miss out on Embrace The Dark.
Existance - Steel Alive (Mausoleum)
This French quartet channels NWOBHM on their full-length debut. This isn't just a throwback, tribute act. These guys have their shit together. Steel Alive is a well done album, start to finish, with all of the elements that we loved about 80's metal (the real stuff). Twin lead guitars, pounding drums, throbbing bass, and melodic vocals combine for one of the coolest records I've heard in a while. Dust off your denim vest and headbang along.
Floor - Oblation (Season Of Mist)
Stoner rock legends return with their first album in 12 years. Oblation is as thick as you would expect from an album produced by Kurt Ballou. Massive riffs steal the show here, with the vocals sitting slightly in the background. If you liked Floor the first time around, or spinoff band Torche, you're not going to be disappointed. There's a little more doom/drone here than were used to from these guys, but it works.
Fu Manchu - Gigantoid (At the Dojo)
Eleventh album and first in five years from stoner rock legends is pretty much exactly what we've come to expect from Fu Manchu. Killer, fuzzed-out riffs, huge drums and Scott Hill's surfer dude vocals are all present here. There's a little more aggression on Gigantoid than we've seen from the Fu in a long time. This is my favorite Fu Manchu release since 1997's The Action Is Go. Definitely one of the can't-miss albums of 2014.
Insomnium - Shadows Of The Dying Sun (Century Media) [Full Review]
The sixth release from the Finnish masters of melodic death metal doesn't disappoint. Insomnium have a rare talent for creating somber, morose passages in the middle of crushing death metal. The harsh vocals are as brilliant as ever, though there's a little more emphasis on clean vocals on this album. There's really not a bad track to be found on Shadows Of The Dying Sun. This is just the latest in an astonishing string of consistently excellent albums.
Lord Mantis - Death Mask (Profound Lore)
This is the filthiest, most disgusting album that you're going to listen to this year, maybe ever. The Chicago band starts with some black metal and adds some sludge and some noise. It's just too hard to describe. You'll have to listen for yourself. I have to admit that I haven't made it all the way through in one listen yet. It's just too intense for those purposes. I have to recommend Death Mask, though, because it's one of those rare releases that forces you to take notice.
Portrait - Crossroads (Metal Blade)
The third album from this Swedish quartet stays right on track with more of the awesome Mercyful Fate-inspired classic metal that we've come to expect. Fans of 80's thrash and speed metal will find plenty to like here as the Swedes keep pace with fellow countrymen In Solitude in the race to recreate that classic sound while staying relevant in the 21st century. Solid album here, full of no frills heavy metal at its finest.
Salem's Pot - ...Lurar ut dig på prärien (EasyRider) [Full Review]
Salem's Pot came out of nowhere to deliver one of my favorite albums of 2014. The three epic tracks that make up this record are full of some of the weirdest, creepiest doom I've ever heard. Add in one of the all-time great album covers and you have yourself a doom masterpiece. Killer riffs, haunting vocals, stunning production...I can't recommend this album highly enough. Stop whatever you're doing right now and give this a listen.