It is hardly believable, but here we are, half-way through 2014. Where does the time go? The older I get, the faster it seems to fly by. But enough of all that. The reason you’re here is because you want to discover some of the best rock and metal that the first half of 2014 has brought us. Well don’t say I don’t give the people what they want, because here goes.
Part one of this mini series features three very different bands but are all, in their own way, deserving of a special mid-way mention such is the quality of their recorded output during the first half of 2014.
Vanishing Point – ‘Distant Is The Sun’
Australian melodic progressive metal band Vanishing Point are responsible for one of my all-time favourite albums, 2000’s ‘Tangled In Dream’. It is a true ‘desert island disc’, one that never gets old and that i listen to on a very frequent basis. You can read more about that album here if you’re interested.
With that in mind, subsequent releases have never quite lived up to this massive gem. Until now that is. This is not to say that the past few albums are not good, far from it. Brand new album ‘Distant Is The Sun’ though, is the best this quintet have sounded for a decade and a half and has really impressed me. It is a heavier, darker affair with a true metal vibe that permeates through the huge riffs and the overall tempo of the music. Sometimes melodic metal gets criticised for not having enough bite, but that’s not the case here at all.
But neither is there a dilution in the melody on this record. ‘Distant Is The Sun’ features some of the best and most memorable choruses of the band’s career. When all is said and done, this album is arguably Vanishing Point’s most consistent body of work since the turn of the millennium, meaning that in my eyes, they are one of the best melodic prog metal bands out there at the moment.
Alcest – ‘Shelter’
It wasn’t until the second or maybe even the third full listen that I realised how good this album really is. The reason for this is because the first couple of listens had me reeling slightly and getting to grips with something that I wasn’t altogether expecting. Known and regarded highly for creating a cohesive blend of black metal and shoegaze, French act Alcest, led by the principle creative force of Neige, have all but abandoned elements of extreme metal on ‘Shelter’.
The result however, is a really beautiful album that brings to the fore the more sensitive and introspective elements of the band’s sound that have admittedly been increasingly prominent in recent years.
There are hints of the magnificent Sigur Ros with plenty of post-rock leanings amongst the eight-track album. And, dare I say it, there’s even an occasional echo of Coldplay et al here and there. The difference between Alcest however and those interminably dull pop rock bands that saturate the current popular music scene these days is that Alcest’s music is genuinely emotionally deep and beautiful. The melodies are fantastically poignant and the song writing touches the listener in ways that other bands simply cannot achieve. This is heartfelt and honest music, neither vacuous nor soulless. Give ‘Shelter’ a listen and you’ll see what I mean.
H.E.A.T. – ‘Tearing Down The Walls’
This choice of album will not come as any kind of a shock to those familiar with my blog. I reviewed it in full prior to its release and some months later, I stand by what I wrote. (read the full review here)
In a nutshell, ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ is the very epitome of what I love about melodic hard rock music. It is fun, it is uplifting, it is catchy and it has plenty of cocksure attitude and a very definite, brazen swagger. Crucially though, the self-confidence, some may say arrogance, is not misplaced. Listen to this album once and I guarantee that you’ll find yourself humming along. Listen to it a few more times and it’s likely that just about every song will make a mark and something within each track will lodge itself securely within your brain, refusing to let go. And, to be honest, would you really want them to let go? Probably not. I certainly don’t.
Stand out tracks for me would include ‘Inferno’ and ‘A Shot At Redemption’, although there genuinely is not a weak moment anywhere on the album. It can be hard to write one truly memorable song, but these talented Swedes who go under the moniker of H.E.A.T. should be given the credit they deserve for giving us no less than twelve memorable compositions of the very highest calibre. And that’s why this album features in this round-up; simple.