Dan and Arno’s 2014 in Review: Greatest Disappointments
That’s right! We’re back to fling our collective poop at the greater metal scene once more with what we perceive to be some of the year’s letdowns in our favorite field. These albums aren’t necessarily bad, but they’ve somehow fallen short of our expectations. They are also not listed in any particular order. Note that albums missing here that one might think would be obvious, given our tastes, are probably excluded because we either weren’t disappointed, or (and much more likely) we just didn’t expect them to be that good in the first place.
Machinae Supremacy – Phantom Shadow
Dan: After several albums of surprisingly hard-hitting, gimmicky power metal, said gimmick seems finally to be wearing thin. This is evidently not just the case for listeners, but also for the band, which strays increasingly from power metal into considerably more generic heavy metal and hard rock throughout the course of Phantom Shadow. While it’s not poor and I don’t get the sense that the band is giving up, this album trembles feebly in the shadow of The Machinae’s several previous works.
Equilibrium – Erdentempel
Dan: After the brute melodic strength of Rekreatur, many fans of the uptempo melodic death metal scene were left hotly anticipating a new album from Germany’s “epic” “symphonic” melodic death metallers in Equilibrium. 2013’s Waldschrien EP was met with some enthusiasm that was combined with a decent amount of skepticism, and it left no few of us fretting a bit after hearing only one original song of “pretty good” material. Sure enough, Erdentempel’s release was greeted by some muted approval and an unexpected chorus of crickets chirping. This isn’t a shabby album, and some say that with the over-saturation of the melo-death arena in modern times (and this year in particular), it’s just been overlooked. There’s some truth to that, but I suspect it also has to do with Equilibrium’s inability to attain the high standards set by Sagas and Rekreatur.
Age Of Artemis – The Waking Hour
Arno: Angra who? Back when the Brazilian power metal pioneers were on a break, Age Of Artemis rose in their absence with an album that could have just been excellent b-sides from Rebirth, for all we knew. More’s the pity then, to announce that in the year where Angra has resurfaced, Age Of Artemis squandered most of its promise on an album that admirably tries to take things in a different direction, but tragically loses the sharpness, focus, and splendid melodicism of the debut. The Waking Hour is in no way a bad album, it just doesn’t have any lasting power, and now we fear, neither may Age Of Artemis.
Threshold – For The Journey
Arno: Threshold has been on one of the most impressive winning streaks I have ever seen. Ever since Hypothetical, the band hasn’t let down. We can easily forgive them, then, for this year’s For The Journey, a complete victory lap of an album which left our jaws firmly in place for the first time in years. As with many of the releases on this list, For The Journey is still a very good prog release (heck, it’s easily the best album amongst these six), but we have come to expect nothing less than complete excellence from this band. I guess you can chalk this one up to us being spoiled.
Evil Masquerade – The Digital Crucifix
Arno: Evil Masquerade has been among my favorite bands ever since I first discovered it. So when the band radically switched from neoclassical power metal to…some sort of rock, I defended them. After all, Pentagram had some outstanding tunes, and at least didn’t come across as a weird, experimental joke, but rather just a bunch of guys playing gothic-flavored rock ‘n’ roll. Anno 2014, however, I feel like even a die-hard fan like myself can’t defend them anymore. The Digital Crucifix again has a few good songs, but at this point the whole thing feels estranged from the first four albums. I find it hard to consider that both the old and new output belong to the same band. Here’s hoping they find their “Bozo The Clown” groove again, before the rest of the fans stop caring.
Spellblast – Nineteen
Dan: Nineteen is another example of an album that I was actively looking forward to (heck, I even contributed to the band’s Kickstarter campaign) – and even liked (see review above) – but which ultimately fell short of expectations. While I understand and respect that Spellblast opted to take a more artsy, expressive, and narrative direction with its new album, I was unprepared for the lack of free-flowing hooks that have been the band’s trademark to date. Without them and the same rowdy energy that made Horns Of Silence and Battlecry so infectious, Spellblast becomes somewhat more exchangeable – especially for a first time listener.