Best Rock Albums of 2014 (So Far)
The script for 2014 continues to be written, but there’s enough of the year in the rearview mirror to begin reflecting on some of the year’s standout releases. And while the early months of most years are typically light on quality discs, 2014 has served up some strong offerings.
We’re pulling from a variety of hard rock options — from veteran bands cranking out some of their finest works to up-and-comers getting widespread accolades.
Keep in mind we’ll add to this list as the year goes on, but for now check below for our picks for the Best Rock Albums of 2014 (So Far).
'The Hunting Party'
For those looking to a return to the hard-rocking sounds of the band's early days, Linkin Park have stepped up with 'The Hunting Party' album. Determined to capture energy and love of good rock music, the band set their path toward a more guitar driven album. The disc spawned the lead single 'Guilty All the Same,' featuring a guest appearance from rap icon Rakim. The album also features guest spots from rockers like Tom Morello and System of a Down's Daron Malakian.
'Blood for Blood'
'Blood for Blood' will be looked at as a key album in Hellyeah's career as Chad Gray, Vinnie Paul and Tom Maxwell parted ways with two of the band's other members to make the disc they wanted to make. The end result is a heavy, hard rocking release that is strong from top-to-bottom. 'Sangre Por Sangre' and 'Cross to Bier' were simultaneously released as singles, while the shout along anthem 'Demons in the Dirt' and the change of pace track 'Moth' are also worthy of your attention.
'Time Travelers & Bonfires'
With 'Time Travelers & Bonfires' being crowd-funded by the fans, it's little surprise the care that Sevendust took in translating many of their rock staples into acoustic versions. The acoustic version of 'Black' ended up being the single, but what makes the disc special is that it's a mix of fan selected favorites with six new songs recorded acoustically. Tracks likes 'The Wait' and 'Bonfire' also show great promise off the album.
'Burn the Serum'
Kyng are quickly becoming one of the most solid rock acts around and 'Burn the Serum' is proving to be a key album in their development. The riff-heavy 'Electric Halo' is capturing the ears of listeners as the lead single, but the album also connects with such standouts as 'Faraway,' 'Self Medicated Man' and the thrashy 'Big Ugly Me.' Meanwhile, 'Paper Heart Rose' is the type of album closer that leaves listeners wanting for more.
'Catacombs of the Black Vatican'
At this point, Black Label Society have a very distinctive sound, but that being said, the band's new 'Catacombs of the Black Vatican' offers a number of memorable tracks. 'My Dying Time' is one of the year's best rock songs, highlighted by Zakk Wylde's hauntingly bluesy guitar lines and an Alice in Chains-esque vocal. There's also plenty of variety on the disc, with the ballad 'Angel of Mercy,' the twangy 'Scars' and the heavy, uptempo guitar-led 'Heart of Darkness' leading the way.
Chevelle have a definitive sound, but that's not to say that they're still not experimenting and finding new ways to keep it fresh. In that sense, 'La Gargola' is a revelation, led by the dialed-in aggression of 'Take Out the Gunman,' the sinister single 'Hunter Eats Hunter' and the distortion filled 'Ouija Board.' Other standouts include the deceptively catchy 'One Ocean and the hypnotic, whisper-heavy album closer 'Twinge.'
Though not receiving the headlines of some of the year's other breakout bands, Lionize are definitely ones to watch. Falling in the vein of their Weathermaker Music cohorts Clutch, the band called in Jean-Paul Gaster to oversee their 'Jetpack Soundtrack' album. The result is a funky journey filled with chunky riffs and groove-filled bliss. The band rides the groove for all that it's worth on 'Lazarus Style,' they let the organ take the lead on the amusing 'Evolve,' and they take listeners on a spacey journey with 'Electric Reckoning.'
Chino Moreno's experimentation outside Deftones continues, with Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom helping flesh out a more synth-filled sound on Crosses' self-titled release. 'The Epilogue' is the most accessible track on the disc, serving up a radio-ready groove and an instantly hummable chorus that will stick with you. Other standouts include the unease of 'Bitches Brew,' the haunting build of 'Thholyghst' and the tribal sounding 'Telepathy.'
Of Mice & Men are in a state of transition, but the addition of bassist / co-vocalist Aaron Pauley to the lineup has given the band a boost, with 'Would You Still Be There' showing the perfect interplay between Pauley and Austin Carlile. The band has also struck a chord with the chaotic 'Bones Exposed' and the heavy hitting 'You're Not Alone.' Add in a blend of the heavy 'Public Service Announcement,' the more straight-ahead rocker 'Feels Like Forever' and the contemplative album closer 'Space Enough to Grow' and Of Mice & Men have one of their best albums to date.
'Transgender Dysphoria Blues'
Given the transformation of frontman Tom Gabel to frontwoman Laura Jane Grace on Against Me!'s 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues,' there was going to be a lot of attention on this disc regardless. But once you get past the headline grabber, you find that the spirit of Against Me! is still there. Songs like 'F---MyLife666' and 'Black Me Out' immediately caught the ears of listeners, but it's tracks like 'True Trans Soul Rebel,' 'Two Coffins,' and 'Drinking With the Jocks' that make 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' worthy of a deeper listen.