Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014: The Year of Female-Fronted Metal

From left to right: Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Simone Simons of Epica, Dianne van Giersbergen of Xandria, Elize Ryd of Amaranthe.

It's no secret that 2014 was a huge year for female-fronted metal bands. Nearly all of the biggest names ranging from metalcore to symphonic metal released an album this year, with the exception of Nightwish, who are preparing to release their first studio album with Floor Jansen next year. I listen to so many of the groups that had new releases this year, so my ears were made quite happy by a portion of these albums. Even when an album seemed to fall flat in my opinion, it's always wonderful to anticipate new releases from favorite artists.

Right at the beginning of the year symphonic metal fans had a reason to be excited with Within Temptation's Hydra. With a killer lead single and a tantalizing album trailer, I was counting down the days until a copy would be in my hands. Every one of Within Temptation's albums tend to sound different from one another, and Hydra is no exception. The sound is heavier than the previous album and there's plenty of variety; between "Silver Moonlight," a song with growls like in the days of Enter and The Dance EP; "And We Run," a duet with rapper Xzibit; and "Edge of the World," an extremely powerful ballad with an intense second half. Within Temptation impressed me once again.
A few more albums were released in the spring, starting with Lacuna Coil's Broken Crown Halo. I overall have respect for Lacuna Coil, but a lot of their songs are hit-and-miss for me. This was generally the case for Broken Crown Halo (that poor, unfortunate album title) though I see it as a step of improvement from Dark Adrenaline, with highlights like "Nothing Stands in Our Way" and "I Burn in You." Epica, on the other hand completely floored me with The Quantum Enigma. This album is phenomenal. It's easily my favorite of 2014; it was in my CD player for two months straight and has made plenty of trips back in there since then. I'm not exaggerating. Catchy and complex tracks fill this album in a way that puts it in the same league as even The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe, and the way everything is mixed sounds so crisp!
Also in the spring, Xandria released their latest album, Sacrificium. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to really listen to this album yet aside from three tracks, but from what I've heard thus far, I'm sure it's a great piece of work. While I'd always heard of Xandria, I never heard many of their songs. I know they've had quite a few singers in their past, and I'm sure they were all fine musicians, but I never heard them receive so much unabashed praise until Dianne van Giersbergen joined. Based on what I've heard, I can understand why. Her voice is very well-honed and very beautiful.
Fast forward to October: the still up-and-coming modern metal band Amaranthe released Massive Addictive, the third studio album they've recorded since their debut in 2011. I only began listening to their music this year, and while Massive Addictive has a number of incredible tracks, like "Dynamite," "Digital World," "Massive Addictive," and "Drop Dead Cynical," I just don't hear enough variety between many of their songs. Not bad, but they could be better.
The final major release of the year is the one that manage to truly disappoint me: Black Widow by In This Moment. I've been listening to this metalcore band since 2007 and have therefore been a fan for seven years, but I only liked about two songs from Black Widow. They're trying too hard to form an image and I find the music under par for my taste.
In addition, metal fans were treated to a wonderful cover of "The Power of Love" that we were to donate money to purchase in order to raise money for the Red Cross. This single consisted of several Dutch metal artists, including Simone Simons, Dianne van Giersbergen, Anneke van Giersbergen, Floor Jansen, Charlotte Wessels, and more. Within Temptation released their fourth live DVD of two shows in late fall called Let Us Burn: Elements and Hydra Live in Concert, and DVD releases from them will always get me pumped since they're one of the best live acts EVER. Delain and Tarja also released albums this year (I don't listen to either much), and even though she isn't part of the metal world, many fans of female-fronted metal enjoy Amy Lee's music, and she released Aftermath (containing songs from a movie she scored called War Story). Unfortunately nothing new from Nightwish was released in 2014, but their next album is scheduled for the first half of 2015. This will be their first album with Floor Jansen, and while I always get excited to hear new music from them, I am especially excited to hear how their music will evolve with Floor.

But alas, 2014 completely spoiled female-fronted metal fans so much that I'm afraid next year may seem anti-climatic in comparison. Just think of the loads and loads of new music we got this year! I can't imagine a niche audience ever being so pleased. 2014 will certainly be remembered for its remarkable set of releases.

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