A full dozen years after leaving his former band Metallica, in not entirely amicable terms, bassist Jason Newsted finally released his own solo album. And it's not bad! Just not that memorable. Didn't help that the initial four-song EP lasted 22 minutes, with each track averaging 5 1/2 minutes long. Metallica itself had been known time and time again to take good material and spread it out to the point that the listener stops paying attention. He could have easily shaved off 2 to 3 minutes of filler off each one and not have to endlessly repeat verses and choruses. The full length album came out later in August, but I haven't listened to it yet. I'll get around to it eventually.
Hatebreed - The Divinity Of Purpose (January 28)
An album I acquired purely out of completionism, I have yet to listen to this in full. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it's just another Hatebreed album. Either they haven't released an interesting record in about a decade, or I've just grown out of motivational hardcore. Still love 'em though.
Meshuggah - Pitch Black (February 5)
This EP was released for free via their label's website, and included just one previously unreleased track and a live version of "Dancers To A Discordant System." But, I was still reeling from the phenomenal "Koloss," which had been unleashed just the year before. And besides, it was free! Decent metal at a low price is always a good bargain.
Clutch - Earth Rocker (March 15)
Kvelertak - Meir (March 25)
Anciients - Heart Of Oak (April 12)
I discovered this band when they opened for Tesseract and Scale The Summit on their USA tour. And personally, they would have been my favorite performance that night if it weren't for Tesseract themselves, who executed their technically-demanding music flawlessly and made sure to interact with the crowd and get more than a few laughs out of everyone. But Anciients sure as hell blew Scale The Summit out of the water, who were staring at their fret-boards the entire time. They made sure to engage the audience as well, and their brand of progressive sludge as pioneered by the likes of Mastodon and Baroness is the kind of metal that all kinds of music fans can enjoy, or at the very least tolerate. Coincidentally, I first discovered Baroness in a similar situation when they opened for Deftones, and now they're one of my all-time favorite bands. It's too soon to say the same for Anciients just yet, but I'm certain that in the near future they'll take "Heart Of Oak" to its logical next step and win me over.
Mindless Self Indulgence - How I Learned To Stop Giving A Shit And Love Mindless Self Indulgence (May 14)
A looong overdue album, which I wanted to slam as harshly as I did the unequivocally disappointing "If" album, but I couldn't. It's pretty decent. Don't get me wrong, it ain't "Frankentstein Girls," but it certainly reminded me of why I love the band in the first place. With that said, the album's title is humorously fitting. It was also one of many albums funded entirely through Kickstarter, which more and more bands are trying (and failing) to take advantage of. They may not be affluent enough to support their music through traditional means, but at least they still have their insane fan-base after all these years of insane music.
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (May 17)
The long awaited new album by the venerable Daft Punk, which the public largely accepted whole-heartedly. I, however, was one of the few holdouts. I couldn't help but hold it up in comparison to the iconic "Discovery," or even "Human After All," which everyone loves to bash but which happens to be my personal favorite of the duo's. It was much too 'pop' for my tastes, even though they're one of the poppiest bands in the world. Far too much emphasis on the 70's era of dance in my opinion, and not enough of the futuristic electronica that brought to mind space exploration and robotics, such as on their soundtrack of "Tron: Legacy." Oh well. I can always put my hope in The Prodigy, who've promised a new album for the last few years now.
Tesseract - Altered State (May 27)
Progressive rock and metal have gone through many different changes in style and approach since its inception in the late 1960s. The classic era of prog could be easily defined by the big bands of the genre, such as Rush, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson. In a time muddled with blues, psychedelic, punk, disco, and early heavy metal, the prog bands dared to play sophisticated and challenging music, and to sing melodically over this carefully composed sonic arsenal of poly-rhythms. The original style ultimately fell to the wayside as simpler yet more aggressive music took the stage in the 80's, but prog found new life in metal itself by the 1990s, with the rise of such bands as Tool, Dream Theater, Opeth, Strapping Young Lad, and Meshuggah. The popularity of the latter band itself inadvertently led to the spawning of the often-maligned micro-genre of 'djent,' of which Tesseract is a pioneer. Many of the members of this wave of metal either incorporate the style into the already successful genre of deathcore, and play easily-accessible watered-down prog metal for angsty teenagers, and others simply play without vocals at all, and produce instrumental concept albums in the same vein as Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Tesseract is one of a handful that dares to play heavy progressive metal with clean, operatic singing that soars over the quick and harsh guitar-chugging. "Altered State" improves upon the formula established by their previous release and ventures further than they dared to before, even going as far as to introduce saxophone solos on more than one track. And if you catch them playing live, apart from the music itself you wouldn't be able to guess that they were a stereotypical experimental band, comprised of pretentious hipsters hijacking extreme music for a quick buck and some street cred. They look like a young 80s thrash band thrown into the present through a portal in the space-time continuum, and they have the attitude and sense of humor to match. Doesn't hurt that their new album happens to share its name with a song from one of the greatest thrash records of all time. If you aren't listening to Tesseract now, you should.
Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (May 28)
(At this point, I'm winded from writing the last paragraph). My verdict? Surprisingly good! And thankfully superior to their previous release. And they have one of the best live performances ever, even without the late, great Layne Staley.
Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork (June 3)
My verdict? Unsurprisingly disappointing. Josh Homme has been in a downward spiral since "Songs For The Deaf," and at this point, I think I should give up any hope that they'll return to their glory days and stick to their classics. Doesn't help that this album came after a long hiatus, just like Daft Punk. It was inevitable that I would have low expectations, which were more or less met.
Maximum The Hormone - Yoshu Fukushu (July 31)
This album was also long delayed and long awaited, but my patience was rewarded handsomely by this latest release from the Japanese alt-metal quartet. Ever since the jaw-dropping "Bu-ikikaesu," they put the majority of their recording and touring activities on hold while they took the time to start families and raise children. This of course never stopped them from assembling this laboratory monster in pieces, which were released periodically over the course of roughly six years. Most of the tracks come from earlier EPs, with only a handful of brand new unreleased songs, but that doesn't make the album as a whole any less golden. The music is solid, and I still have no idea what they are singing about. Here's to a whole 'nother decade of the weirdest band in all of Japan, which is saying a lot.
Mike Doughty - "Circles" (September 17)
Most people probably have no idea who this guy is, or who his former band was. Long story short, Mike used to be the frontman for the marginally-successful alternative rock band, Soul Coughing. Most people who know them nowadays may recognize them from the Cartoon Network commercials that used their music. The band eventually split, and Mike went on to record a truckload of solo albums. The latest of which is a collection of re-recorded Soul Coughing songs, which was financed through yet another online fundraiser. For the most part, the tracks remind me to just go back and listen to the originals, but there are nuggets of gold in here.
Metallica - Through The Never (September 24)
This year, Metallica made a concert film that came out in very few theaters for a very short time, and surprise, very few people saw it, including hardcore fans such as myself. The film was accompanied by an official soundtrack, which is essentially yet another live Metallica album. Moving on...
Dethklok - The Doomstar Requiem (October 27)
"Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem A Klok Opera" is my nomination for the best animated anything in the last 10 years, and its official soundtrack (which is the entirety of the audio of the TV special), is my nomination for metal album of the year. And it's not even a real band! Brendon Small, you're going places, if you're not in those places already. Thankfully, this 'conclusion,' is hardly the last we'll see of Dethklok, as I hope that many more episodes, soundtracks, and hour-long death-metal operas are coming in the near future.
Jeff Williams - RWBY Volume 1 (November 12)
"RWBY" is the original animated series by Rooster Teeth contributor Monty Oum, who animated those badass fight sequences from the later seasons of Red vs. Blue. However, unless you've never watched an anime in your life, neither the story nor the animation will hold up even in comparison to a simple machinima like RvB. It's hardly the show that was promised by those early trailers, which demonstrate more effort than what was presented in the entire season. Personal reservations aside, the official soundtrack is nothing to scoff at, and easily the highlight of the series. You won't get these melodies out of your head until you've listened to the record a few dozen times, and then some. Kudos to Jeff Williams, composer for a few of the official Red vs Blue soundtracks as well, for concocting such an infectious mix of anime-inspired ear-candy.