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The Best of 2014!

In addition to my top picks for 2014, you can also read the top 5 picks from Mike, Pete, Jez, anr Terry. Since we all have different tastes, it makes more sense to see different folks' opinions.

Feel free to comment, chastise, argue, etc. over on the Heavy Harmonies message board or add your own Top 5 or 10 list at the bottom of the page.


Dan's Picks for the Best of 2014

2014 was a weird year. It started off fairly lacklustre, and for the first several months, the best albums (IMO) were metal rather than melodic/hard rock. The second half of the year took off like barnburners. My final 'Best of' list looks nothing like what it was in July. There were no albums that stood head and shoulders above the rest, but a more than typical roster of VERY good releases. Winnowing down from the Honorable mention list to a top 5 was very difficult this year.

The Also Rans

A Sound of Thunder - The Lesser Key of Solomon
AC-DC - Rock or Bust
ALLEN-LANDE - The Great Divide
AOR - L.A. Connection
Age Sten Nilsen's Ammunition - Shanghaied
Anubis Gate - Horizons
Avalon - Angels of the Apocalypse
Axenstar - Where Dreams Are Forgotten
Azoria - Seasons Change
Babylon A.D. - The Lost Sessions
Bailey - Long Way Down
Berggren Kerslake Band - The Sun Has Gone Hazy
Black Fate - Between Vision and Lies
Brainstorm - Firesoul
Bulletrain - Start Talking
California Breed - Self-Titled
Captain Black Beard - Before Plastic
Cea Serin - The Vibrant Sound of Bliss and Decay
Cold Shot - Self-Titled
Cosmic Punch - FM Stereo
Crazy Lixx - Self-Titled
Crystal Viper - Possession
Cullooden - Silent Scream
DAD - 30 Years of Hits
Dalton - Pit Stop
Dawn - Darker
Deceptic - The Artifact
Delain - The Human Contradiction
Diesel - Into the Fire
Dimension - Revolution
Dire Peril - Queen of the Galaxy EP
Dirty Rockers -From Hell
Dragon's Kiss - Barbarians of the Wasteland
EZ Livin - Firestorm
Edge of Thorns - Insomnia
Elvenking - The Pagan Manifesto
Emil Bulls - Sacrifice To Venus
Empire 21 - Self-Titled
Enceladus - Journey to Enlightenment
Evergrey - Hymns for the Broken
Fallen Angel - Crawling Out of Hell
Gaeleri - Gates of Rome
Gloryful - Ocean Blade
Gotthard - Bang!
Gun Barrel - Damage Dancer
Heliosaga - Towers in the Distance
Helix - Bastard of the Blues
Helldorados - Lessons in Decay
House of Lords - Precious Metal
House of X - Redemption
In Faith - There's a Storm Coming
Iron Savior - Rise Of The Hero
J.B.O. - Nur Die Besten Werden Alt
Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls
Julian Angel's Beautiful Beast - Kick Down the Barricades
Kix - Rock Your Face Off
LRS - Down to the Core
Lake of Tears - By the Black Sea
Laney's Legion - Self-Titled
Lawless - R.I.S.E
Linda & the Punch - Obsession
Lordi - Scare Force One
Lover Under Cover - Into the Night
Lyriel - Skin and Bones
Mind Maze - Back from the Edge
Miracle Master - Tattooed Woman
Moonshine - Self-Titled
Morning Dwell - Self-Titled
Mother Road - Drive
Nickelback - No Fixed Address
Night By Night - NxN
Nightmare - The Aftermath
Nothing More - Self-Titled
Outloud - Let's Get Serious
Overland - Epic
Pavic - Is War the Answer
Pretty Maids - Louder Than Ever
Primal Fear - Delivering the Black
Project Arcadia - A Time of Changes
REO Speedwagon - Live at Moondance Jam
Red Dragon Cartel - Self-Titled
Ring of Fire - Battle of Leningrad
Saracen - Redemption
Sarea - This Is Not Goodbye
Scar for Life - Worlds Entwined
Scream Maker - Livin' in the Past
Seven - Self-Titled
Seventrain - Self-Titled
Silent Force - Rising From The Ashes
Sinbreed - Shadows
Skintrade - Refueled
Slears - Far Away from Getting Somewhere
Steel Panther - All You Can Eat
Storm Warrior - Thunder & Steele
Stryper - Live at the Whisky
Ten - Albion
Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism
The Committee - Power Through Unity
The Prophecy 23 - Untrue Like A Boss
Theory of a Deadman - Savages
Thomsen - Unbroken
Three Lions - Self-Titled
Threshold - For The Journey
Vanden Plas - Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld
Vanishing Point - Distant Is the Sun
Vega - Stereo Messiah
Voices of Destiny - Crisis Cult
Voyager - V
WET - One Live - In Stockholm
White Widdow - Crossfire
Within Temptation - Hydra
Within Temptation - Let Us Burn
Work of Art - Framework
Wovenwar - Self-Titled
X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On
dEMOTIONIAL - Tarassis

Honorable Mentions

21 Octayne - Into the Open. Crunchy modern hard rock, with some heavy metal underpinnings, yet some extremely melodic elements. 'Into the Open" is a GREAT ballad.

Amaranthe - Massive Addictive. Nothing amazingly new from Amaranthe, but very polished and well executed. If you deig Scandi pop crossed with heavy metal elements, this one is for you!

Babymetal - Self-Titled. This is one you either love or hate. There is no middle ground on this one. J-Pop vocals on top of heavy metal instrumentals. Their concerts have been taking the world by storm, selling out everywhere. It's crazy, insane, quirky, and distinctly Japanese, but the heavy metal musicianship is first rate.

Brother Firetribe - Diamond in the Firepit. If this had been their first album, people would be spooging all over the place over this one, but let's face it, it's no longer innovative. That said, it is very consistent melodic rock and if you liked the first 2 albums, you'll undoubtely love this one.

Devils Heaven - Heaven on Earth. This was in my top 5 earlier in the year. Melodic hard rock slightly on the raw and gritty side, but with some interesting use of keyboards throughout.

Harem Scarem - Thirteen. This is my #6 for the year and bounced into and out of my top 5 over the last month. An extremely solid album across the board, and these guys never go wrong. The only thing that kicked it out of the top 5 for me was that the songs kinda blurred together after a while, and I found myself without any specific songs that jumped out as memorable.

Harmony - Theatre of Redemption. Melodic power metal with great vocals and choruses. Very polished.

Moonland - Self-Titled. This was a serious surprise. Well-produced melodic rock with sold female vocals. Reminds me of Delain, but with more traditional hard rock/melodic rock themes and instrumentation.

Pretty Wild - Self-Titled. Another one that was in my top 5 earlier in the year. If you're looking fopr a slice of stereotypical '80s hard rock with good production and mix, this is what you want. Good gang vocals on the choruses. The ballad 'High Enough' is a monster.

State of Salazar - All the Way. This year's entry from the West Coast AOR camp. Very lush melodic stuff... with elements of Toto and Styx throughout.

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover Kissin' Dynamite - Megalomania. Those wacky Germans... they are capable of some great melodic metal and hard rock. This band's debut was one of my honorable mentions in 2008, but I felt their second and third albums didn't quite measure up. No such problems this time around. They have hit on a formula that works, with their most consistent and enjoyable release yet. Anthemic to the Nth degree, the songs tend to go over the top a bit, but I for one, can not get them out of my head. The lead single, 'DNA' is a high point, as is 'Legion of the Legendary" and the very radio-friendly and dare I say it, danceable 'Running Free' (view below).

4th Place

cover Neonfly - Strangers in Paradise. This UK band wasn't even on my radar, and their sophomore release hits on all cylinders. Take melodic rock and mix it with European power metal, and you have Neonfly. At times very AOR but at others most definitely metal. I think that's one of the reasons it hasn't received much acclaim: AOR fans won't dig the powert metal elements and vice versa. There is a fair amount of orchestration throughout. While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, it works for me. The ballads are the standout moments on the album My #1 song of the year is from this album, Rose in Bloom, which starts off a bit slow, but the payoff the second time through the chorus is immense. Falling Star (view below), which rounds out the album, is another strong moment.

3rd Place

cover Arion - Last of Us. "Follow the wacky adventures of Justin Bieber as he is kidnapped by a prog/power metal band and the musical mayhem that ensues!" That, in a nutshell, is Arion... at least from an image standpointt. These teenagers look like a Teen Beat cover, but somewhere in their teen angst have somehow learned to put out some damned good melodic prog metal. Not so self indulgent as most prog, and the vocals and choruses are first rate. The band has a great future ahead of them! Standout tracks: 'Lost', 'Seven', and 'Shadows' (view below).

2nd Place

cover Free Spirit - All the Shades of Darkened Light. This one came out of nowhere and blew me away. Ear candy all over the place. I'm completely flummoxed as to why this release isn't getting more love. Bombastic keyboards, great choruses, great hooks, memorable toe-tapping choruses... what's not to love? The only thing I can come up with is that the accented vocals are a turnoff for some. Standout tracks: 'Dew of the Rose' (view below), 'Living Tattoo' (view below), and 'Hysteria'.



Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2014 CD of the Year

cover H.E.A.T. - Tearing Down the Walls. Right out of the gate with the majestic 'Point of No Return', Erik Gronwall and Co. just grab your balls and never let go. The production is first rate and the musicianshop top notch. More impressive though, the songs are well written and memorable, with lots of replay potential. Yet there is enough stylistic variety throughout the album to not get stale at any point... from the bluesy 'Shot at Redemption' to the pop 'Mannequin Show.' Too many highlights as far as individual songs go, but for the sake of showcasing a song, here is 'We Will Never Die'. Tell me that the first vocal verses don't sound like Billie Jean-era Michael Jackson?




Mike's Picks for the Best of 2014

The Also Rans

Accept - Blind Rage
Buckcherry - Fuck
California Breed - S/T
Crazy Lixx - Crazy Lixx
D.A.D. - 30 Years 30 Hits - Best of D-A-D 1984-2014
Ace Frehley - Space Invader
Sammy Hagar - Lite Roast
House of Lords - Precious Metal
Billy Idol - Kings And Queens Of The Underground
Jaded Heart - Fight The System
Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz - The Further Adventures Of ...
KXM - KXM
The Last Vegas - Sweet Salvation
Johnny Lima - My Revolution
Loud Lion - Die Tough
L.R.S. - Down to the Core
Lynch Mob - Sun Red Sun
Mr. Big - Stories We Could Tell
Pretty Maids - Louder Than Ever
Red Dragon Cartel - Red Dragon Cartel
Rubicon Cross - Rubicon Cross
Skid Row - Rise of the Damnation Army
Stryper - Live at the Whisky
Sunstrike - Rock Your World
Vandenberg's MoonKings - Vandenberg's MoonKings
White Widdow - Crossfire
Wicked Sensation - Adrenaline Rush
Winger - Better Days Comin'

Honorable Mentions

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust. Hard to believe it's already been 6 years since their previous release "Black Ice"; this one picks right up where that one, and the preceeding 15 or so releases for that matter, left off. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Sebastian Bach - Give 'Em Hell. A much more melodic and much more listenable affair than his previous solo efforts. Great stuff!

Brother Firetribe - Diamond In The Firepit. It pains me not to include this one in my top 5, but it's just not up to the lofty standards of their previous efforts, and there were a handful of better overall releases in 2014. Still, another damn fine effort from Brother Firetribe! I will always look forward to their output.

Dalton - Pit Stop. Wow. One helluva comeback from Swedish melodic rockers Dalton. This one barely missed my top 5 for the year; be sure to check it out if you haven't already done so!

H.E.A.T. - Tearing Down The Walls. This one would be my 5B. Awesome release from Erik Gronwall and company that will deservedly top many Best of 2014 lists. "Mannequin Show" is one of the most memorable songs of the year.

Kix - Rock Your Face Off. Excellent comeback from Baltimore bad boys Kix featuring the infectious "Love Me With Your Top Down"!!

Krokus - Long Stick Goes Boom. A top notch live release featuring a nice mix of Krokus classics along with a handful of more recent tunes.

Silent Force - Rising From Ashes. Michael Bormann takes over the vocal duties here, with damn impressive results! This one puts the MELODIC in the term melodic metal.

Slash - World On Fire. This disc is too long by at least 6 tunes, but still, a damn fine effort overall from Slash and Myles Kennedy!

Tesla - Simplicity. This one took a while to grow on me, but they've won me over again with their perfect blending of the classic Tesla sound with a modern twist.

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover Night Ranger - High Road. 2011's "Somewhere in California" was a return to the classic Night Ranger sound, and on "High Road" they cut loose with another disc full of great melodic rock. This one didn't leave the car very often.

4th Place

cover Michael Sweet - I'm Not Your Suicide. Stryper took my top spot last year, and now Michael Sweet is back with an excellent solo release. "Strong" is one of my favorite songs of 2014 and a fine example of just how powerful Sweet's vocals remain to this day. I can't wait to hear his 2015 collaboration with George Lynch!

3rd Place

cover Sixx: A.M. - Modern Vintage. Awesome modern hard rock from Nikki Sixx and crew (pun intended). From the fantastic opener "Stars", to their intensely melancholy cover of the Cars' "Drive", this is one helluva effort.

2nd Place

cover Gotthard - Bang! Fantastic release that really solidifies Nic Maeder's place within the band. "Feel What I Feel" and "Red on a Sleeve" are my personal faves, but this one delivers from start to finish, with even the bonus tracks being great tunes.

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2014 CD of the Year

cover Harem Scarem - Thirteen. I have never been what you would call a huge Harem Scarem fan. While I agree that their first two releases are AOR/melodic rock masterpieces, their output beyond said discs had pretty much left me cold. Well, that has changed in a BIG way with Thirteen. When I began compiling my "Best of 2014" list, I knew immediately that my top five was Harem Scarem and then four others. This was far and away my favorite release of 2014, with the opener "Garden of Eden" and two excellent ballads "Whatever It Takes" and "All I Need" being my overall faves. Make no mistake though, the entire disc is excellent. Welcome back Harem Scarem!



Pete's Picks for the Best of 2014

The Also Rans

Acacia Avenue - Cold
Accept - Blind Rage
Adrenaline Rush - s/t
Axel Rudi Pell - Into the Storm
Bailey - Long Way Down
Black Stone Cherry - Magic Mountain
Brainstorm - Firesoul
California Breed - s/t
Dalton - Pit Stop
Delain - The Human Contradiction
Diesel - Into the Fire
Donnie Vie - The White Album
Dynazty - Renatus
EZ Livin - Firestorm
Fahran - Chasing Hours
Fatal Smile - White Trash Heroes
Fatal Smile - White Trash Heroes
Ferreira - V
Freedom Call - Beyond
Gotthard - Bang!
Hollywood Monsters - Big Trouble
House of Lords - Precious Metal
Humbucker - King of the World
KXM - s/t
Kaisas - Degitalize
Kissin' Dynamite - Megalomania
L.R.S. - Down To The Core
Lawless - R.I.S.E.
Legion - Tempest
Lover Under Cover - Into The Night
Michael Sweet - I'm Not Your Suicide
Miss Behaviour - Double Agent
Mr. Big - Stories We Could Tell
Night By Night - NXN
Overland - Epic
Platens - Out of the World
Pretty Wild - s/t
Red Dragon Cartel - s/t
Scream Arena - s/t
Sebastian Bach - Give 'em Hell
Seven - 7
Seven Hard Years - No Place In Heaven
Silent Force - Rising From Ashes
Sound of Eternity - Visions and Dreams
Stan Bush - The Ultimate
Sunstrike - Rock Your World
Tango Down - Charming Devil
Tesla - Simplicity
The Last Vegas - Sweet Salvation
Three Lions - s/t
Unisonic - Light of Dawn
United Nations - 2014
Uriah Heep - Outsider
Vandenberg's Moonkings - s/t
Wild Rose - Hit 'N' Run
Winger - Better Days Comin'
X-Drive - Origins

Honorable Mentions

Brother Firetribe - Diamond in the Firepit. As usual these guys do not disappoint with another release full of lush, bombastic heavy pop

Crazy Lixx - s/t. Possibly their best yet, cohesive production, nice and hooky songs.

H.E.A.T. - Tearing Down The Walls. Any other year this would've made my Top 5 easy, but they set the bar way too high for themselves with "Address the Nation", still an excellent release by any measure though!

Harem Scarem - Thirteen. Solid release, great songwriting, killer harmonies, and I never have a problem listening to Lesperance on guitar!

Night Ranger - High Road. These guys just keep putting out quality melodic rock, and this release is no exception.

Rubicon Cross - s/t. Chris Green and C.J. Snare really put together a solid hard rock album here, a tad modern but at it's core just well written, well played melodic hard rock.

Wicked Sensation - Adrenaline Rush. Solid stuff here, great guitar sound, driving songs, and David Reece on vocals... I'll take it!

AdrianGale - Defiance. Always loved Vic's songwriting and Jamie's voice, but with the addition of a little roughness to the mix and guitars a bit more forward, I'm sold and looking forward to what's next with these guys!

Dead End Heroes - Roadkill. Solid well written hard rock from Paul Logue and company.

Bombay Black - Walk of Shame. Solid hard rock with one of the best productions in the biz. Throw in Erik's slightly twisted lyrics and new guitarist Justin Velte and you've got another winner from these guys.

Black Tora - s/t. Solid, balls out rock'n'roll... a personal favorite of mine. Plenty of guitar in this mix.

Allen-Lande - The Great Divide. Was a little leery of Timo replacing Magnus at the helm of this project, but they've delivered a nice euro style hard rock album here.

Johnny Lima - My Revolution. Catchy as hell, and with great production sensibilities... everything I expect from a Johnny Lima release!

Outloud - Let's Get Serious. Another solid release from these guys, nice production and some really high caliber songwriting enhanced by Chandler's voice.

Sixx A.M. - Modern Vintage. I love every album they've done so far, and while this one is maybe not quite as amazing as the last two, it's still very, very good.

The Treatment - Running With The Dogs. Straight up rock'n'roll with a great production.

White Widdow - Crossfire. Walking the line between AOR and hard rock depending on which track you're listening to, but either way they do it right!

Work of Art - Framework. A little lighter than my usual fare, but these guys are so freaking talented, and the production is so clear I can't not give it a mention!

Angels or Kings - Kings of Nowhere. New stuff on the UK melodic rock scene, these guys won the privilege of playing the last Firefest, and this album will show you why.

Grand Design - Thrill of the Night. Poppy hard rock with excellent hooks. Beefed up sound on this release with the addition of the mighty Janne Stark on guitar.

Diamond Lane - Terrorizer. Metallic hard rock played really well, solid riffs, beefy hooks, check it out...

Pete's Winners

5th Place

cover Age Sten Nilsen's Ammunition - Shanghaied. Great to see Age back in action, and with Erik Martensson in the mix you know it won't suck... and it doesn't! Whereas the last Wig Wam release really sounded like they phoned it in, and had just run out of ideas. This renews my faith in Age's ability to write some great pop/rock songs. The hooks are huge as you'd expect, but with Erik's guitar it lends a really nice edge to the whole thing. I love how he can write such cheesy anthems like "Hit Me With Your Bombs" or "Shanghaied" and somehow he makes it work, and work really well. In addition to the aforementioned "...Bombs", song highlights for me are "Tie Me Down", "Wild Card", and "Give Me A Sign", but really not a weak track on it!

4th Place

cover Laney's Legion - s/t. This release just knocks me on my ass every time I listen to it... Chris Laney is the King of Swedish Sleaze IMHO, and he does not fail to deliver on this 11 track rocker. From the first snare hit of "On and On" to the final explosion of "Legion" this album takes you on a hard rock ride through some sleazy territory, with tons of hooks and a solid pop sensibility just below the surface. It also makes me drive fast... Fav tracks here include "On And On", "Poptastic", "Beneath the Surface", and "Assassin Of Our Love".

3rd Place

cover Vega - Stereo Messiah. I just love these guys... from the first time I heard "Kiss of Life" on the debut, through the stellar "What the Hell!" release, and now with Stereo Messiah, they've sucked me in to their hook laden paradise once again. It's the kind of album I crank up when I'm alone in the house, and sing along with all the choruses. Some really stellar songwriting as expected, and great production along with it. I love how it's extremely poppy, but still plenty of guitar and a big drum sound, hard balance to achieve without going too far in either direction. Fav songs on this include the title track, "All or Nothing", "The Fall", and "10 X Bigger Than Love" among others...

2nd Place

cover Hell In The Club - Devil On My Shoulder. These guys have a way of writing hooks that just make me want to go back and listen again and again. I absolutely loved "Let the Games Begin", and this one picks up where it left off. Just absolutely killer hooks, really solid production, and some excellent guitar work. They really layer in some nice melodies without sounding like an album full of overdubbed guitar layers. My favorite tracks here are "Bare Hands", the title track, "Proud", and "Toxic Love" to name a few

Pete's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2014 CD of the Year

cover In Faith - There's a Storm Coming. Wasn't sure what to expect from this, and the buildup of hype surrounding it kinda made me shy away from it. But damn, when I heard the first couple tracks I was completely hooked. It stayed in my car stereo for several weeks straight, I kid you not. Really strong hooks, some powerful riffs and solid songwriting are what sold me on it. Elements of Winger, Harem Scarem, but still maintains it's own identity. I think I'm going to go listen to it again right now... fav tracks on this beast include "Radio", "Does It Feel Like Love", "Church of Rock 'n' Roll", and "Addicted".



Jez's Picks for the Best of 2014

The Also Rans

AC/DC Rock Or Bust
Accept - Bind Rush
Alien - Eternity
Julian Angels's Beautiful Beast Break Down The Barricades
AOR - L.A. Connection.
Arion Last Of Us
Asia Gravitas
Asia Feat. John Payne Recollections: A Tribute To British Prog
The Babys I'll Have Some Of That
Stan Bush The Ultimate
Kjetil By Feat. Robin Beck Better Days
Captain Blackbeard Before Plastic
Care Of Night Care Of Night EP.
Chicago XXXVI: Now
Colton Dixon Anchor
Deathstars The Perfect Cult
Delain The Human Contradiction
Down 'n' Outz The Further Adventures Of...
James Durbin - Celebrate
Dynazty Renatus
FM Futurama EP.
Ace Frehley Space Invader
Gotthard Bang!
Harem Scarem - Thirteen
Tuomas Holopainen Music Inspired By The Life And Times Of Scrooge
House Of Lords Precious Metal
In Faith There's A Storm Coming
Caleb Johnson - Testfy
Kix Rock Your Face Off
Loud Lion Die Tough
Magnum Escape From The Shadow Garden
Richard Marx Beautiful Goodbye
Moonland Feat Lenna Kuurmaa S/T
Mr. Big The Stories We Could Tell
Night By NIght - NxN
Ted Nugent Shutup&jam!
Osukaru Covered Up EP.
Outloud Let's Get Serious
Point Blank Volume 9
Pretty Wild - S/T
David A. Saylor Strength Of One
Neal Schon Feat Mendoza & Castronovo So U
Shakin' Street - Psychic
Sixx: A.M Modern Vintage
Steel Panther All You Can Eat
Michael Sweet I'm Not Your Suicide
Tempt - Under My Skin EP.
Ten Albion
Threshold For The Journey
Tokio Hotel Kings Of Suburbia
Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope
Vandenberg's Moonkings S/T
Yes Heaven And Earth

Honorable Mentions

7th Heaven Spectrum. As with past releases, some seriously good stuff on offer here. It's very light, verging on the 'Pop' at times and they fall into their usual trap of padding it out with 4 or 5 too many songs (quality not quantity lads), but an extremely enjoyable slice of Pop/Rock all the same

Adrenaline Rush S/T. Excellent Erik Martensson Project which maybe loses a few marks for the slightly weak vocals, but makes that up with some huge songs. Well worth picking up for fans of FF hard rock ala Laos, Femme Fatale, Saraya etc

Amaranthe Massive Addictive. Huge, poppy choruses, yet plenty of heavy riffs, melody (and growls) in equal measure. Album number 3 and their best yet.

Aniday S/T. Mostly written, played and produced by Robby Valentine with female vocals courtesy of Mariah Catharina. Fans of Mr. Valentine and his most recent releases should put this to the top of their list pronto as it is an excellent slice of modern melodic rock, with all the Valentine twists and turns.

Babymetal S/T. J-Pop crossed with Metal. Absolutely Huge and packing arenas throughout Japan, but certainly not for everyone and the 'Traditionalists' will probably run in terror at the mere thought of it, but there's no denying it is very well done, played, executed and most importantly completely bonkers.

Brother Firetribe Diamond In The Firepit. Not as strong as the excellent 'Heart Full Of Fire' but still a good, consistent album, with some great, hooky tracks.

Dark Horse Let It Ride. Paul Laine' new project of melodic rock served up with a country 'twang'...or is it country 'twang' served up with a melodic rock edge?. No matters, its great with great songs, so just listen to it

Free Spirit All Shades Of Darkened Light. 5 years in the making after the promising debut, and a really impressive follow up it is too. Tasty keys, great guitars and a very strong set of material, make this an absolute winner in all departments

H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls. This very nearly made my top 5, but just missed out due to the horrible ballad 'All The Nights' and 'Laughing At Tomorrow' with its inane, annoying chanty chorus.. Whether it's as good as 'Address The Nation, the jury is still out, but what it is, is a belting slice of melodic rock, with some of the best songs the band has presented thus far and worthy of anyone's top 10.

Billy Idol Kings And Queens Of The Underground. One of the big surprises of the year here and a brilliant album, featuring some excellent, varied material, covering all of the styles Billy is known for. Steve Stevens' adds some great guitar flourishes & Trevor Horn puts in a lovely production to round it all off. Very highly recommended indeed and another that just missed my top 5

IQ The Road of Bones. Atmospheric and musically powerful, as well as being lyrically dark at times, but it is also a beautifully structured piece of work. One of the finest albums of the year and a tour de force in progressive rock music, from one of the scene's longest standing and finest bands.

Judas Priest Redeemer of Souls. The Priest return with a new album and new guitarist Richie Faulkner. This maybe a little safe and predictable in places, but It's their best album in a long time. Extra marks for the excellent tracks on Disc 2, if you go for the Limited Edition version

Kissin' Dynamite Megalomania. The band finally hit the winning formula on album number 4. Less metal, with more than a nod at the Swedish sleaze sound this time around, so fans of Hardcore Superstar, Crashdiet and Crazy Lixx will be amply rewarded for checking this out.

Loverboy Unfinished Business. A 'new' album of 'archive' material, taking you back to the bands 80's hey day. Very retro, very 80's, and although it lacks the production on a couple of tracks, very very good in places

Miss Behaviour Double Agent. 3rd instalment and a very strong, contemporary melodic rock album, with some fine songs and a great production.

Newman Newman 2014. A very timely release for this (limited edition) re-recording of the debut album, which kills the original version stone dead in all departments. For fans of top quality British AOR/melodic rock, look no further. Get it now while you can.

Night Ranger High Road. Pretty much the same, familiar Night Ranger formula as previously, with a slight modern edge, tight production and some excellent guitar interplay between Gillis and Hoekstra. Great 'Retro' artwork too.

Overland Epic. Fantastic AOR with the magic Mike Slamer at the helm. THE best disc with the Overland name on it since 'Tough It Out' back in the day and just missing a top 5 placing.

Michael Paynter Weary Stars. Aussie Pop/Rock of the highest standard. A nice mix of rockers and ballads, although maybe a little ballad heavy if I am being over critical. Definitely an artist to watch though and a top quality disc.

Pendragon Men Who Climb Mountains. A slightly more understated album than the previous 'Pure' and 'Passion' releases, but still a band that releases emotive, finely crafted progressive rock from the top drawer.

Pink Floyd The Endless River. The final chapter in the Pink Floyd story and a very fine instrumental album (bar one track) dedicated to Keyboard player Richard Wright. It's quite beautiful in places, and features all the bands trademarks along the way. For best results use Headphones.

Pretty Maids Louder Than Ever. Great re-workings of older PM songs, bolstered with 4 quality new tracks.

Saga - Sagacity. A more cerebral, almost laid back Saga on this, their 21st studio album. Lacks one or 2 really big songs, but excellent and highly recommended non the less

The Scintilla Project Featuring Biff Byford. Huge Metal project featuring Balance Of Power Members and Saxon's Biff Byford on vocals. Melody, Hooks and riffs galore make this a sure fire winner.

Seven 7. 25 years in the making, the debut Seven album finally sees the light of day. Consummate 80's AOR of the highest calibre. Hopefully this won't be just a one off.

Sonic Station Next Stop. Top class Swedish West coast AOR and one of the best of the year of its type. Very highly recommended

State Of Salazar All The Way. Super slick, Pompy AOR ala Toto, Survivor and Styx, with some very fine harmonies. Another Swedish AOR winner

Three Lions S/T. Very solid Brit Melodic rock, in the Whitesnake, UFO and Thin Lizzy mould, featuring the excellent vocals of Nigel Bailey and guitar from ex Ten/Dare man Vinny Burns.

Toseland Renegade. Debut album from former Superbike Champion James Toseland and a fine mix of energetic classic rock with a modern edge, produced by Little Angels Toby Jepson.

Toto 35th Anniversary: Live In Poland. I don't normally include live albums in my best of list, but an exception had to be made in this instance, as it is captures this band and what they are all about so perfectly (the Blu-ray is an absolute treat to watch too). A band still at the top of their game 35 years on

Uriah Heep Outsider. Veteran rockers return with their 24th studio album. Punchy hard rock, in the Classic Uriah Heep mould and one of their strongest releases in 2 decades.

Valensia Gaia III Aglaea - Legacy. A heady mix of Queen inspired pomp rock with pop and progressive elements and multi-layered instrumentation. You won't get it all in one spin, but when/ if you do, it pays off handsomely.

Robby Valentine The Queen Album. Robby' 3rd inclusion in my 'best of' year list and a cracking tribute to one of the best bands ever. Some people may ask 'Why' and 'What's the point', but when the songs are recreated this well, with so much attention to detail, believe me when I say, all Queen fans need to hear it and marvel at how good this really is.

White Widdow Crossfire. 3rd outing for the Aussie melodic rockers. It's Slick and hooky, but it's also one of the most formulaic and safe releases you are likely to hear. A bit more variation wouldn't go amiss next time please boys. Saying that, it's the best album they have released so far and I enjoyed the hell out of it in a non-challenging kind of way, so it just manages a recommended spot

Winger Better Days Comin'. A bit of a Marmite album in opinions, but a mix of all the things that make this band great, from the darker, more progressive tracks, to the highly melodic side of the band, with everything in between. A winner in my books and one of their best yet

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Vega Stereo Messiah. Excellent modern melodic rock band that over the course of 3 albums, have delivered, unlike quite a few, more than the 'same old same old' in this category and really by now, should have made it to a wider audience, such is their appeal. With 'Stereo Messiah', what you get is Infectious song writing, hooks galore, a great production, courtesy of It Bites/Arena main man John Mitchell, all adding up to their finest album so far and one of the essential releases of this year without doubt.

4th Place

cover Lordi Scare Force One. I love this band and make no bones about it. They have steadfastly stuck to their formula, which has produced some huge, hook laden songs over the course of 7 albums. Thankfully, 'Scare Force One' serves up much of the same as before, no real surprises for anyone, just another solid set of quality songs. 'House Of Ghosts', 'Hell Sent In The Clowns 'She's a Demon, 'The United Rocking Dead' and 'Cadaver Lover', all undeniably great songs, perfectly executed and a spot on advert for what this band do best (with tongue firmly in cheek too of course). All of this will of course, be lost on most who refuse to see past the tacky image and costumes, but as they say, a band is 'all about the songs' and this lot have them in abundance.

3rd Place

cover Work Of Art Framework. The flag bearers of modern AOR return with their much anticipated 3rd album. Over the course of the 3 releases, the formula has pretty much stayed the same, although this time around, the guitars have been beefed up slightly in places, giving a slightly toughened up sound, but those magical keys and vocals are also still to the fore and the sound is unmistakably WOA. Personally, I found 'Framework' a step up from 'In Progress' and overall I think the material here is the strongest the band has come up with thus far. One slight niggle is that sometimes it all flows together too much and can sound quite samey, especially the more upbeat material, but when the material is this good, that seriously is only a minor flaw, in what is an expertly crafted slice of modern Westcoast AOR. WOA yet again come up trumps, thus proving with 'Framework', that they really are the leaders of the pack when it comes to this type of stuff.

2nd Place

cover Within Temptation Hydra. 'The Unforgiving' is for me, undoubtedly the bands finest album, although it saw them sounding more commercial than they ever had before. 'Hydra' sees them go another step further into commercial territory, especially on the songs with guest vocalists on, the Xzibit 'And We Run' and the excellent Dave Pirner duet 'The Whole World Is Watching' being particular cases in point, All in all though, the songs stand up really well and I can honestly say, I enjoyed every single one presented here, which made this one of my most played albums of the year.

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2014 CD of the Year

cover Robby Valentine Bizarro World. It's been a very busy year for Mr. Valentine, with the excellent 'Queen Tribute' and 'Aniday' discs being released earlier in the year (both in my honourable mentions list), as well as the 'Bizarro World' album, which turned up in November and grabbed me hook line and sinker from the word go. It's got the lot, Robby' trademark super slick Queen multi-layered harmonies & guitar parts, bombastic rock tunes, modern pop and of course the power ballads, which all adds up to THE most varied and consistently great album I have heard all year, totally deserving of my number one spot.



Terry's Picks for the Best of 2014

The Also Rans

Beggarz Fix-Rouse The Rabble
Diamond Lane-Temrrorizer
Dog Fashion Disc0-Sweet Nothings
Framing Hanley-The Sum Of Who We Are
Grand Slam-Waiting For Tomorrow
King Zebra-Greatest Hits
Kingnaldo-Memorandum
Maxx 12-S/T
Mushroomhead-The Righteous & The Butterfly
PLeaser-One Night In Paradise
Paul Gilbert-Stone Pushing Uphill Man
Pavic-Is War The Answer
Shaft Of Steel-EP
Sweet Leopard-Shock Me! Thrill Me! Love Me!
Tempt-Under My Skin
The Mercy Kills-Paradise Hotel
These Raven Skies-S/T

Honorable Mentions

Chrome Public - S/T. This disc is really nice. A little modern, but super heavy with tons of pounding drums, squealing guitars and gang vocals. Then a nice ballad and then more heavy. A real good band!

Honeycomb Love - Sleep When Your Dead. Sleazy, thrashy, hard rockin' mofo's from England."Run For Your Money" is unrelenting and the album just gets tougher and more better from there!. RAWK N BLOODY ROLL!

Insanity Alert - S/T. Thrash or be thrashed! Insanity Alert takes off were the maestro Billy Milano left off with SOD, MOD (the first album) and Nuclear Assault-Something Wicked and these surf punks from Tyrol Austria just flippin shred! If you LOVE LOVE LOVE tunes that are quick and full of vim and vigor than this disc will not disappoint. Only downfall, but it is to be expected this disc had 15 songs and clocks in at an impressive 29 minutes and 7 seconds. Highlights are Weedgrinder, The Claw and the ode to beer drinking injuries Twist-Off Betrayal.

Nasty Nuns - Sick in the Head. Really nice sleazy hard rock. Very reminiscent of Under The Blade like Twisted Sister and Blind In Texas WASP. Fun stuff, but quality.

Rik Preim's-Prime. Rik is a killer guitar player and has the sense to craft a really tasty and sing alongable song. Dripping with AOR sensibilities and a vocalist that will make your ears very happy melodic and raspy similar to David Fefolt imho. This one should be in my top 5 too!

Sunset Mob - Under My Skin. Some poop hot hard rock with very solid vocalizing (both real clean and powerful but then a tinkling of rasp too) and harmonies and guitar work that is very tasty in deed! For fans of the harder side of AOR still with keys and the melodic side of hard rock.

Terry's Winners

5th Place

cover Crash Midnight - Lost In The City. This one came late in the year and floored me. Everything I want in a sleazy, blues filled Junkyard inspired hard rock band! No lie if you love the Junkyard this is a great band to fill that emptiness in your heart the yard left. Highlights are 151 and Nowhere To Go, but you will not skip a song if you ask me.

4th Place

cover Undone - Words From An Innocent Man. This disc is the best thing since beset things! These Swede's kill it and I can only imagine they will continue when we see a full length. The 5 tracks on this EP are just dripping with sleazy swagger that is far more mature than their 20 something pedigree should allow. the vocals are fantastically raw and raspy with harmonies and melodies to spare and the band is solid as solid can be. The production on the EP lends itself well to the rawness of the tunes, big bass drums, thoughtful bass fills and the ryhthm and lead work from up and comer Van Noice. Highly recommended and future releases are highly anticipated. Tough to pick a fave, but Blackout and Betrayed are leading the pack today!



3rd Place

cover Lucid Scream - S/T. What is it with those darned Canuk's anyways! :) This 5 piece Skid Row, Slikk Toxik influenced youngsters have released a 5 song EP of monumental proportions that mixes a killer blend of hard rock and heavy metal and the sons a bucks look good and shred like seasoned pro's twice there age and for goodness sakes they are rocking a 5 piece band how frickin' vintage is that! My fave today on the disc is Speed Demon, but the entire disc is killer. Again if the 80's metal sound and scene are what keeps your blood pumping than nab this EP from Lucid Screams it won't disappoint.

2nd Place

cover Smokin' Aces - 24/7 EP. his little slip sleeved son of bitch just about killed me. I dropped the disc in the player and The Ruckus blasted out and from the opening riff I was gone, hook, line and sinker. Speaking of The Rukkus the song is a voice box guitar fueled Guns N Roses on steroids anthem that is pretty damned flawless. I kid you not if you heard this song back in the day you would be like is that Seb Bach singing for GNR??? Or wait maybe Jeff Keith?

These boys are too damned good for their own good, I hope we hear more and more. 24/7, track 2 is equally as fulfilling as The Rukkus and the rest of the disc is just as tasty, tons and tons of sleaze fueled, hard rock driven and crashed into the interstate underpass at 120 rhythm section works its way into the flash ball explosion that is the leads laid down by Julian McGourty OMG!!! And then the album closes with the cigarette lighter ballad of any damn year, I mean in the chorus Anthony's vocals are about as wrenching as you can get bringing new meaning to leaving it all on the stage, just plain WOW! Easily a contender for album of any year let alone 2014.



Terri's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2014 CD of the Year

cover Stop! Stop! - Join The Party. I had to add this one in cause it is my all time fave of the year. I can't stop spinning it and I know the rest of the world can't stop hating it. :) All around song, writing, musicianship, et al is just famous on this disc and for a damned 3 piece they absolutely destroy and look like the glam mega stars they should be.

Standouts on this disc, hmmm Bad Hair Day, Toilet Party, Love Machine, Poser awww hell they all are great! :) Here are a few samples of this amazing band. I would kill to see these guys throw down live I bet it would truly be a party I'd want to join.




Existing comments about Best of 2014

From: juan carlos Date: January 27, 2015 at 12:40
These are my 5 best albums: Alien - Eternity (The Best of 2014!!!!!) 7th Heaven - Spectrum H.E.A.T. - Tearing Down the Walls Ten - Albion Work of Art - Framework.

From: 123charpenay Date: January 27, 2015 at 13:48
my top eight (no more average year ) for 2014. 1 UNBREAKABLE "knock out" 2 GRAND DESIGN "thrill of the night"+2 jap cd 3 FREE SPIRIT "all the shades of darkened night" 4 BROTHER FIRETRIBE " diamond on the fire pit"=2 JAP CD 5 ALIEN "eternity"+ 3 jap cd 6 LANESLIDE "flying high" +1 jap cd 7 BAILEY "long way down"+1 jap cd 8 H E A T "tearing down the walls"+1 jap cd

From: Evil Rick Date: January 27, 2015 at 18:43
I'm surprised, not a single mention for Maverick - Quid Pro Quo. Easily my favorite album of 2014

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: January 27, 2015 at 21:16
1. Exodus: Blood In Blood Out; 2. Nashville Pussy: Up The Dosage; 3. The Treatment: Running With The Dogs; 4. Black Stone Cherry: Magic Mountain; 5. Arch Enemy: War Eternal; 6. American Dog: Neanderthal; 7. Bombay black: Walk Of Shame; 8. Bullet: Storm Of Blades 9. Whitechapel: Our Endless War; 10. Primal Fear: Delivering The Black ... Honorable Mentions: Accept, Adrenaline Mob, Crowbar, Evergrey, Job For A Cowboy, Kix, Machine Head, Overkill, Sanctuary, Slash, Texas Hippie Coalition, Vader.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: January 27, 2015 at 21:18
Dishonorable Mentions: Black Label Society, Opeth, Tesla.

Heavy Harmonies Volunteer
From: Blue Charvel Date: January 28, 2015 at 7:53
Excellent point Rick, I should've at least had the Maverick listed in my also rans, but I didn't hear it until very late in the year (actually I think it was this year), and I've still only listened to it all the way through once or twice. I would most likely at least give it an honorable mention though, it's a solid disc! - Pete

From: 123charpenay Date: January 28, 2015 at 12:24
to evil rick. maverick "quid pro quo" is an atomic bomb.this is the first cd that i add in my collection in 2015 (last week).so this masterpiece of hard rock will be for sure in my top 5 for 2015. to blue charvel maverick deserve more than an honorable mention this record is more than solid.ok they invent nothing but what pleasure to listen their music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to doghouse. the treatment will be in concert in my town,lyon, friday february 6 ,my friends of "one night only" a thin lizzy french cover band will play in guest of the treatment.

From: YNGWIEVIKING Date: January 29, 2015 at 2:55
1.(1).A.C.T ,,circus pandemonium" (MODERN PROG ROCK) 98% 2.(-).Harem Scarem ,,thirteen" (AOR) 96% 3.(2).H.E.A.T ,,tearing down the walls" (MODERN SCANDI AOR) 95% 4.(3).Primal Fear ,,delivering the black" (POWER METAL) 95% 5.(4).220 Volt ,,walking in starlight" (SWEDISH MELODIC METAL) 95% 6.(5).Age Of Artemis "the waking hour" (MELODIC POWER METAL) 95% 7.(7).Allen/Lande ,,the great divide" (SCANDI MELODIC METAL) 94% 8.(8).Arion ,,last of us" (SCANDINAVIAN MELODIC POWER METAL) 94% 9.(9).Kissin' Dynamite ,,megalomania" (HEAVY SLEAZY MODERN METAL) 94% 10.(10).Xerath ,,III" (XTREM SYMPHONIC METAL) 93% 11.(6).Mustasch ,,thank you for the demon" (SWEDISH MODERN DOOM) 93% 12.(-).Ammunition ,,shangaied" (SCANDI MELODIC METAL) 92% 13.(11).Malrun ,,two thrones" (MODERN METAL) 92% 14.(12).Kattah ,,Lapis Lazuli" (MELODIC POWER METAL) 92% 15.(13).Scar Symmetry ,,the singularity-phase 1: neohumanity" (XTREM PROG METAL) 92% 16.(23).XThirt13n ,,a taste of the light" (AMERICAN POWER METAL) 92% 17.(14).H

From: Doug Date: January 29, 2015 at 15:13
I always love the end of the year Best Of Picks! The "HH Gang" of Mike, Pete, Jez, and Terry, you guys know your stuff! Awesome.

From: Doug Date: January 29, 2015 at 15:18
...and of course Dan! My bad.

From: giantsun Date: February 1, 2015 at 7:55
I'm similar tastes than Pete, but I would put WOA-Framework on first possitions!

From: 123charpenay Date: February 23, 2015 at 13:41
i add in n 9 the excellent MOONLAND "same".

From: giantsun Date: March 8, 2015 at 20:41
Angels or kings - kings of nowhere, by far the best 2014 stuff! Keep Calm an listen this pretty soon classic

From: juan carlos Date: January 8, 2016 at 13:49
http://juancarlos2020.blogspot.pe/2016/01/mejores-albumes-de-rock-melodico-aor.html Here it's my top 10 from 2015!


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