Well, it’s that time of year again at the Urb Thrasher Flower Hour on 420Radio. Time to make sure all the jars are stocked with goodness, to begin preparing for the New Year, and to reflect back – not only on achieving the dream of Legalization in Oregon, but also on the tunes we listened to while getting there. I wouldn’t say anything was invented musically this year, but 2014 had some very strong, time-tested albums. Supporting so many types of music makes it difficult for me to have a numbered, Top-10 kind of list so instead, I like to go with “10 Favorite Albums in 2014” and “10 Bong’erable Mentions” for you to smoke on. So get your bong loaded, because here are our 10 favorites we’ve heard throughout the year – either sent to us by record labels, bands, you, or through our own discovery (because that’s how we roll!):
EYEHATEGOD – “EyeHateGod”
Ignited by their greatly-anticipated 2014 self-titled release “EyeHateGod,” the dudes from New Orleans deliver a filthy and menacing album to much acclaim by their loyal fans (perhaps the best sign of dankness). Always consistent spreading riffs of daggars with their NOLA sludge-doom-southern rock sound, Mike IX Williams, Jimmy Bower, Aaron Hill, Brian Patton and Gary Mader are as current and potent as ever! Back together, after a 14 year period of semi-hibernation marked by lineup changes, inclement weather and personal growth, EyeHateGod‘s 5th studio and self-titled album couldn’t be more deserving of a place in our “10 Favorite Albums in 2014” list. Released 27 May, 2014 (Housecore Records).
SOEN – “Tellurian”
If you were awake in 2012 and above ground in the underground, you might have heard Soen’s debut release “Cognitive” and thought it too good to be true. Well, it wasn’t. In 2014, Soen, with their excellent blend of technical euphoria, soul-cleansing melodies, and otherworldly vocals (resembling the accomplished sounds of TOOL & Opeth), still maintained plenty of space for originality, releasing sophomore album “Tellurian.” Possibly Rock/Metal’s answer to the successful, depressed soft rock leaders of Radio, Coldplay (but with energy, soul and musicianship), Soen has the potential to lead a once-thought taken Metal sub-genre to that same level of success. Hailing from Sweden, drummer Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth, Amon Amarth), vocalist Joel Ekelöf (Willowtree), guitarist Joakim Platbarzdis and bassist Stefan Stenberg have answered with a quality spot on our “10 Favorite Albums in 2014” of 2014. Release: 11 November 2014 (Spinefarm Records).
Grand Magus – “Triumph and Power”
Going all the way back to the beginning of the year, January brought us “Triumph and Power,” the 7th release from Swedish Viking Metal warriors Grand Magus, which couldn’t have been a better start to the Metallic year. The album is packed with 10 powerful anthems of triumph, resilience, wealth and accomplishment, and is a testament to the traditional rigors of the past in a modern fist-pumping way. A three man army, members JB (lead guitars/vocals), Fox (bass), and Ludwig (drums) have gradually began taking Grand Magus to the next level of Universal metal acceptance. Listening to tunes like “Steel vs Steel,” “Fight,” “Dominator,” and final track “The Hammer Will Bite,” you can feel the wind, experience the journey, and be etched in STEEL for life or simply appreciate this “Top 10 Favorite” of 2014 for what it is. Release: 1 January 2014 (Nuclear Blast Records).
Lo-Pan – “Colossus”
Lo-Pan‘s canorous fragrance of Rock, when set aflame, ignites your deepest inner consciousness! When it comes to Rock these daze, there seems to be a void of simple Rock-N-Roll-influenced bands! Yet this void is slowly being filled. Enter Columbus, Ohio riff-rockers Lo-Pan. With a deep sensibility regarding their touches of catchy hooks, heavy fills, and a touch of fuzz, this band knows what they want and how to record it. Well-schooled, with a following growing legally by the day, members Jeff Martin (pipes), J. Bartz (drums), Skot Thompson (bass) and Adrian Zambrano (guitar) have brought their 4th release, “Colossus,” which has grooved them among the “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”. Release: 7 October 2014 (Small Stone Records).
PRONG – “Ruining Lives”
When it comes to the Heavy Metal world, very few have the total package of leadership, technical skill, and songwriting precision that we see in Tommy Victor of Prong. With a smoking career starting all the way back in 1986, the 3-piece band is here again in 2014 with another beast, “Ruining Lives,” a follow up to 2012’s “Carved In Stone.” Releasing 11 albums of original dominance, Prong has dedicated themselves to the essential blends that have helped to shape the band into an underground juggernaut over the years. The riffs, power, production and sound are all present in “Ruining Lives,” earning members Tommy Victor, Jason Christopher, and Art Cruz one of our “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”, poising Prong to go forth and ruin lives! Release: 23 April 2014 (Steamhammer/SPV).
Sturgill Simpson – “Metamodern Sounds In Country Music”
It seems like we’ve been waiting about 420 years for Deep-grounded, Real Country music to finally make it to our whiskey-filled bongs. If you follow 420Radio and the Urb Thrasher Flower Hour in any fashion, you understand while completely made of Metal, we also love our grass -Blugrass, Shredgrass, and Rockgrass, (Among others). Looking at Rock/Metal in comparison with Country music, one thing that has always stood as a common thread is the “Outlaw” factor. Simpson, obviously schooled from the great traditional sounds of Cash, Haggard, and Jennings, also seemed to hang out with hippies while learning his outlaw ways. The tracks on ”Metamodern Sounds In Country Music” come off as the tunes of a classic western cowboy who’s tripping on mushrooms, smoking grass, drinking whiskey while traveling in a space ship! You might not see Sturgell Simpson on CMT or on tour with today’s CMT appointed like Brad Shelton and Blake Paisely, but this album should be the future of country music and noted to be very worthy of a “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”. Don’t be afraid to step out of your usual bag and give Sturgill Simpson a spin. Release: May 13th 2014
Exodus – “Blood In, Blood Out”
It seems like ever since 2010’s Big 4 Tour-come-together (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth), Thrash Metal has been reinvigorated with a fresh blast of energy, becoming reignited with unstoppable fire. Four years later, we have San Francisco’s Bay Area top-shelf Thrashers, Exodus, drawing their metallic sword to take claim of the vacant and ready-to-be-had 5th spot with their brand new release “Blood In, Blood Out.” Welcoming former Exodus lead man Steve “Zetro” Suzsa back to the mic, Lee Altus, Tom Hunting, John Gibson and badged metal captain Gary Holt have put together a blazing 9th studio album. This album is full of tracks derived from the old-school formula Exodus and others helped to create with great dueling riffs, on-point time changes, and heavy power, making “Blood In, Blood Out” defiantly a “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”. I’d have to be too stoned to smoke anymore if I failed to mention that Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett put a little solo in on “Salt the Wound,” (but I did mention it 😉 ). Release: 14 October 2014 (Nuclear Blast Records).
YOB – “Clearing the Path to Ascend”
I’m always preaching about the great music that comes from my home state, so I couldn’t be happier to see a band from Salem, Oregon make the list. Enter YOB, an over 20 years-experienced, heavy doom 3-piece band consisting of Mike Scheidt, Travis Foster, and Aaron Rieseberg. YOB has created an epic journey only to be heard through tumultuous-turned-down distortion and there is a reason everyone is adding YOB to their “Best Of” 2014 list, including 420Radio. The album consists of 4 blazing, prolonged tunes that take you on what could be described as a guided journey through decrepit lows, only to ultimately lift you up with the resurrecting power known as DOOM! These guys put their hearts, souls, and instruments into this blazing album, making ”Clearing the Path to Ascend” a “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”. Release: 2 September 2014 (Neurot Records).
Wo Fat – “The Conjuring”
Rock has done it again, “large-size,” in the form of Texas Stoner Blues Rockers Wo Fat. The trio from Dallas, Texas has a straightforward southern groove with piercing guitar tones/solos over various hard driven blues jams. In fact, the whole album can be interpreted as a Rock jam. Releasing their 5th full length album “The Conjuring“, lead guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Williams, and drummer Michael Walter have put together one of the more energetic and scorching albums of the year. The guitar solos are precise and blistering, and the entire album feels like the legendary long solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s classic track “Free Bird!”! ”The Conjuring“, which features five long (5th tune “Dreamwalker” weighs in at 17:10) and blazing tracks highlighted by one of the year’s best Rock tunes period, “Read the Omens,” is definitely one of our “10 Favorite Albums in 2014”! Release: 17 June 2014 (Small Stone Records).
Judas Priest – “Redeemer Of Souls”
Argued kings of classic heavy metal, Judas Priest is back after 17 studio albums with an epic release of metal fortitude and spirit. It should probably be mentioned that these dudes know a thing or two about writing and playing music with classic tracks like “Victim of Changes” and “Hell Bent for Leather” eternally etched in Metallic history. With 2014’s drop of “Redeemer Of Souls,” Rob Halford, Glen Tipton, Ian Hill, Scott Travis, and new axe-man Richie Falkner (replacing all-star K.K. Downing) are feeling some of their greatest commercial success in recent years. If you thought Judas Priest would suffer with the loss of K.K., you should probably take another hit while listening again. Richie Falkner is a perfect match for Glen Tipton. And if you thought Judas Priest would suffer with the loss of Rob Halford’s voice, you need to take yet another hit because while his screams may be a bit reduced, they still affect the listener as only Rob can. Epic guitars, amazing vocals, soulful melodies, and the fact that this is after all, Judas Priest, adds up to “Redeemer of Souls” taking a “10 Favorite Albums in 2014” spot. Release: 8 July 2014 (Epic Records)
Favorite Track of the Year:
• Corrosion of Conformity (COC) “IX” (Candlelight Records)
• Darkest Era “Severence” (Cruz del Sur Music)
• Earth “Primitive and Deadly” (Southern Lord)
• Goatwhore “Constricting Rage of the Merciless” (Metal Blade Records)
• Machine Head “Bloodstone and Diamonds” (Nuclear Blast Records)
• Mothership “Mothership II” (Ripple Music)
• Obituary “Inked In Blood” (Relapse)
• Orange Goblin “Back from the Abyss” (Candlelight Records)
• Lionize “Jetpack” (Weathermaker Music)
• Downset “One Blood”
These “Bong’erable mentions” albums could have made our “10 Favorite Albums in 2014” as well, but there is only so much goodness we can smoke!
Special Shoutout Album: Ronnie James Tribute Album (Rhino Records)
Don’t be afraid to give all these great bands and albums a spin, it’s always good to find something new. See you next year!