Archive for December, 2009

We finally made it to the Top 10!

Something you may have noticed by now is that some of my favorite bands are missing from the countdown so far…..guess where they are?

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 3, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1 – #10):

#10

Wolf – Ravenous (2009): I completely missed 2006′s BLACK FLAME so I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this latest album from Wolf. Needless to say, I was blown away and I immeadiately knew that this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. Wolf has this classic retro Metal sound with major influences from Iron Maiden, Helloween and Judas Priest so I ate this up immeadiately! The songs are all excellent and the twin lead guitars really make this album what it is, especially at the solos. I have been singing along, headbanging and playing air guitar to RAVENOUS since March and it definitely set the bar high to get into this year’s Top 10.

#9

Cheap Trick – The Latest (2009): THE LATEST album from Cheap Trick turned out to be the biggest comeback of the year from a band that never really went away! Cheap Trick has always been one of the most underrated Classic Rock bands coming out of the mid-’70s/early ’80s and I always make the huge mistake about waiting to buy their new records until a few weeks after they are released. This year was no different and I waited until I caught part of their opening performance on Def Leppard’s summer tour before I picked it up. The odds were against the band when they basically started the album off with a Slade cover (‘When The Lights Are Out’) but it turned out to be one of the best songs of the year for me! Cheap Trick has always been a band with excellent musicianship and songwriting skills and THE LATEST is just another example of how great this band is. If I could describe this album in one word: Beautiful. After I gave this album a full listen, I played it again to make sure my ears didn’t deceive me…..I knew immeadiately that this was one of the best records of the year.

#8

Sunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009): The Joe Lynn Turner factor! There is no doubt in my mind that JLT could sing me the menu at a McDonald’s and I would absolutely worship it! This is the best AOR/Melodic Rock album of the year without a shred of doubt…..it’s like it came straight from 1985. Now a lot of people are going to say that the album sounds too retro, too ’80s, too keyboard friendly but that is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Add in some awesome songwriter like Jim Peterik and Desmond Child lending a hand and you’ve got AOR gold, I swear if this record came out 25 years ago then it would have been a Top 10, multi-platinum album. The sound is Joe Lynn Turner meets Survivor meets Journey meets Pride Of Lions…..just plain old feel food melodic music that has great overall songwriting and musicianship (the guitars and keyboards complimenting each other perfectly) to go along with one of the greatest singing voices in all of Rock.

#7

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): One of my most highly anticipated albums of 2009, Heaven & Hell (or Black Sabbath if you want) did not disappoint with their first true full-length album since 1992′s DEHUMANIZER. As many of you know, my favorite incarnation of Black Sabbath is the Ronnie James Dio era and it’s safe to say that Black Sabbath as a whole is one of my favorite bands of all-time. When I gave THE DEVIL YOU KNOW it’s inaugural couple of listens I was a little disappointed by the lack of fast and furious Metal songs like previous classic ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘The Mob Rules’ but I kept listening and it turned out that this is one heavy Doom record with a few well-placed fast numbers (‘Double The Pain’, ‘Eating The Cannibals’) to break the heaviness up a bit. Tony Iommi continues to write the best Metal riffs and Dio continues to sing better than vocalists half, even two-thirds, his age! The rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice are still as high-powered and brutal as ever and hearing them in concert proved to be a thunderous experience. Say what you want about this album not being HEAVEN & HELL (1980) or MOB RULES (1981), THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is definitely a great Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album that can easily sit alongside those classics.

#6

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another one of my favorite bands…..one of Top 5 in fact! There is now way I could have a Best of 2009 countdown without putting in THE VISITOR because it was easily in the running for my favorite record of the year since I got it. You have to give UFO credit, they have been doing it longer than most of their peers (40 years and counting!) and they consistently put out solid records. Since the band reunited in 1995 with the classic lineup, there have been many lineup changes but the mainstay is founder and singer Phil Mogg who puts in a brilliant performance vocally and as a songwriter…..no one writes or turns a clever phrase quite like Phil. The lineup still isn’t stable with founding bassist Pete Way out again due to health reasons and founding drummer Andy Parker coming back again to replace Jason Bonham when he left for Foreigner. Vinnie Moore proves that hes is more than capable of handling the guitar duties and holding back the Michael Schenker legend while Paul Raymond continues to be an integral part of the UFO sound on keybords, guitars and harmonies. Not a bad song on the album and well worth checking out.

#5

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I received the promo for INTO THE LABYRINTH in December 2008 and I reviewed it mid-January…..I almost declared this the album of the year right there! Saxon has been one of the most consistent bands from the early days of the NWOBHM movement and, since 1997, have released some great albums that combine pure Power Metal with that classic NWOBHM style. Take the first two songs from the album, ‘Battalions Of Steel’ and ‘Live To Rock’: the first is Traditional/Power Metal and the latter is pure NWOBHM as if it was 1981. What Saxon is doing is what I keep emphasizing throughout this year’s countdown…..they are expanding/enhancing their trademark sound. You have to evolve and Saxon is showing a lot of the younger Metal bands out there just how to do it. Any other year and this would be my favorite album but there was stiff competition this year and a Top 5 showing is not bad at all.

#4

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I had been reading all about Johnny Lima and this album for a couple of months before i actually broke down and ordered it from Johnny’s website. First, let me give Johnny a ton of credit for emailing me within 10 minutes of my order and personally thanking me and then sending the CD out same day including an autograph. Then he emails me a couple days later to make sure the album arrived! Keeping a connection with the fans is what it’s about and Johnny Lima gained an instant fan. And the music is good too! After spinning this once I knew this would be the best Glam/Hard Rock album of the year. If you like Poison, Def Leppard, early Bon Jovi, Dokken, Ratt, Cinderella and Motley Crue then you are definitely going to find a song on LIVIN’ OUT LOUD that could easily fit into any of the bands’ catalog. That’s not to say that the album is a carbon copy of what these big bands have done in the past rather it’s a statement that revisiting and reinterpreting the classic ’80s Hard Rock style is OK. That’s something that these bigger bands are afraid to do! Every song is catchy with a ton of hooks, big harmonies and great guitar…..this is the kind of record that is so infectious that you can’t help but sing along and have a great time. This was a major contender for the top spot for 2009.

#3

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009): Early in the year I started to read more and more about Sacred Oath and their forthcoming new album being an iTunes exclusive…..I don’t download, I buy CDs, so I didn’t pay much attention to the press releases. Then I read that the band was releasing the album on CD on their own label so I emailed the band for the release date. I received a promo copy in late May/early June and was completely blown away! Like I said in the review, if you took Metallica, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head and Metal Church and rolled them all into one, you would get Sacred Oath. The band takes influences from all the great bands and blends them together for an American Metal feast that goes from Heavy Metal to Power Metal to Progressive Metal and then the NWOBHM. It’s a huge sound to live up to and the album does just that. Searing riffs, pounding rhythm section and soaring vocals added to great songwriting…..it’s a wonder why the band broke up 20 years ago, I’d bet they would have been huge. Well, they are huge this year because this was my #1 album hands down until the next two in the countdown showed up. This record is still in my weekly playlist, I don’t see it leaving anytime soon, and ‘High And Mighty’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#2

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Ace Frehley has always been my favorite member of KISS and, with KISS being my favorite band, anything a current of former member of KISS does is a big deal. The last time Ace released a solo album was TROUBLE WALKIN’ in 1989…..20 years later ANOMALY has finally arrived! I have followed Ace’s career in and out of KISS since I was a little kid and he has talked about a new record since the early ’90s but nothing has ever come of it. Then there was the KISS reunion that lasted 6+ years and Ace started talking about a new solo record after he left the band in 2002 but nothing was released again. The only time I believed that Ace was releasing anything was when the album cover was released in June…..but would an actual record come out? September 15, 2009…..I was outside Best Buy before the store opened to get my hands on ANOMALY. One listen was all it took to hear that Ace Frehley had made a huge comeback with his solo career, ANOMALY is a well-written Hard Rock album and Ace sounds as focused as ever. Of all the albums he’s released as a solo artist or in Frehley’s Comet, ANOMALY ranks just below his KISS solo album. ‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Pain In The Neck’ and even the cover of Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ are all solid Hard Rock songs that are catchy and full of that signature Ace guitar tone. The surprises here are the acoutically driven ballads like ‘Change The World’ & ‘A Little Below The Angels’ that show Ace’s diversity. This whole album is top notch from the music, to the album cover Ace designed to the special digipak packaging that tuens into a pyramid. I gave this album a ton of listening time and I still haven’t taken it out of my daily rotation! When I started to make this year end best of list I installed ANOMALY near the top because I enjoyed it so much. The bottom line on this list is that I enjoy the album and, between the excellent songs and my KISS worship, Ace Frehley has gained the #2 spot for 2009.

One album to go everyone! The #1 album is next but before I get to it let me say again how great this year was for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal…..my Best of 2009 list, along with the other websites’ lists, will attest to that. I’ve listened to more new releases this year than any other year that I can remember and this year’s list was a hard one to make, there were so many really good albums that got left out of the countdown so maybe next year I will expand again to a Top 50. Let’s move on though to my pick for the Top Album of 2009…..

#1

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009)

So what album did you all expect? Of course my top album for 2009 is the new KISS record! I’m a KISS diehard after all! Seriously though, of all the 2009 albums I listened to this year, SONIC BOOM was the one I wanted the most, listened to the most, and enjoyed the most. Any year that your favorite band releases a new album is a good year but I had no hopes that KISS would actually follow through with releasing an album of all new material. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have been saying that they weren’t interested in releasing a new album for the last 7 years and I had no reason to doubt their conviction. Who knows why they did now? Maybe Paul Stanley liked working on his solo album a couple years ago? Maybe the Wal-Mart deal was in place ahead of time? Maybe they were just bored? Who cares! The bottom line is that KISS has released an album that is their very best since REVENGE (1992) and it completely blows away the reunion album PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998). I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from SONIC BOOM because most KISS albums are half good songs and half filler. If the band was dead set against releasing a new record, why should they release a quality one? First thing the band did right was give Paul Stanley full control in the studio…..he’s the one that guided the band from 1983 to 1992 and his track record as a producer, performer and songwriter are proof enough. Ever notice that all the singles in the ’80s were Paul’s songs? After Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley is my favorite and I have always told people the he is the talent in KISS. The second thing the band did right was actually write. Paul & Gene actually wrote songs, and performed them, together for the first time in a long time in addition to what they brought in individually. The songs are high quality, catchy and there is an element of true ’70s KISS mixed with the KISS of today. Third thing the band did correctly was to involve Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the writing and in the singing to make it a true band effort. Nothing beats a band unit, compare SONIC BOOM and the sham that is PSYCHO CIRCUS and the winner is clear. I bought this album at my local Wal-Mart on October 6 (day of release) and I have played it everyday, many times more than once. I have been a diehard KISS fan since 1978, I’ve lived and died with this band and I am actually proud of them for releasing such a great record. I haven’t felt this good about KISS’ future since REVENGE and the 1996/1997 Reunion Tour…..SONIC BOOM is my favorite album of 2009!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 2, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11 – #25):

#25

Ravage – The End Of Tomorrow (2009): Living in the New England area, there really isn’t much of a local scene like there used to be, especially in Rhode Island, but there are a few bands worth checking out. Ravage has been a fixture on the Massachusetts scene for over a decade but this is only their second full-length album! With most bands on the local, and national, scene playing mostly Metalcore and/or Hardcore it’s refreshing to hear a band play old school Traditional Metal. You could call this Power Metal too, maybe even Thrash in some spots. The bottom line here is that Ravage released a solid record that reminds me of my early ’80s roots…..great to have another local band in this year’s countdown.

#24

Artillery – When Death Comes (2009): WHEN DEATH COMES was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, as well as, one of the albums I was really looking forward to. Thrash is on a major comeback and it was good to hear a new Artillery album, this one with new lead singer Søren Nico Adamsen. I feel that Artillery has expanded their overall sound and added enough melodic touches to their Thrash base to make this album even better than expected. I didn’t take WHEN DEATH COMES out of my regular weekly rotation until mid-November so I really spent a lot of time with it and it hasn’t disappointed.

#23

Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009): Any year with a new Slayer album is a good year and anytime you get a new Slayer album then you know it’s going to be good. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Slayer fan but I have been following the band since the early ’80s. 2009 was a year for me to fill all the holes in my Slayer collection and give the entire catalog a serious listen. Then the new album was released and I’ve given that all my attention. The more I listen to WORLD PAINTED BLOOD, the more I like it. It’s brutal, heavy, and dangerous…..just like a Slayer album should be!

#22

Bloodbound – Tabula Rasa (2009): The only reason I picked this album up because Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, current Pyramaze) was the lead singer. Besides Urban, I knew nothing about Bloodbound but TABULA RASA turned out to be a great buy! I’d call this heavy Power Metal incorporating great guitarwork, a solid rhythm section and, of course, awesome vocals. This is more or less a concept album with most of the songs having the tabula rasa (Latin for “blank slate”) idea but each song stands out on there own. Another big surprise for 2009 and an album I have kept in my weekly rotation for most of the year.

#21

Mastodon – Crack The Skye (2009): I only started listening to Mastadon in 2006 with BLOOD MOUNTAIN so I’m not as familiar with the band’s style as others might be. I’m not going to lie…..I had a hard time getting into this album at first, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the wall of sound that Mastodon is. I bought this when it was released and gave it serious listening time but I didn’t get it. After letting it sit and coming back to it, I get it! Mastodon is going to be like Dream Theater for me where I have to stop listening and then come back later for more, especially with Mastodon as they continue to evolve their sound from album to album. I didn’t rank this as high as other websites’ but this is definitely one of the year’s best.

#20

Candlemass – Death Magic Doom (2009): When Messiah Marcolin left Candlemass again in 2006 I didn’t think that a new record would be anything short of a letdown. That’s why I passed on 2007′s KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS. I picked this album up because the sale price was right and I figured I’d check out what the band sounded like with their current vocalist Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus). One listen to ‘Hammer Of Doom’ and I was hooked into the pure Doom influenced by Ozzy-era Black Sabbath…..after that, I was hooked. Robert Lowe puts in a great performance and the band hasn’t lost a step…..another great surprise for me in 2009 and definitely in the Top 20.

#19

Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009): I only bought MURDER BY PRIDE because I have been a Stryper fan since the early ’80s and I still support the bands I grew up with. I had a lot of doubts about this album because the band’s last album, REBORN (2005), was awful. Then there is the Boston connection, lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet now fronting the Classic Rock band…..I wasn’t sure about a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’ being added to a new Stryper record. Talk about a comeback, Stryper does a complete about-face and shelves the grungy sound they used on REBORN for a return to their classic melodic ’80s sound. The difference between 2009 and 1983-1990 is that the overall religious message isn’t constantly crammed into the listener, the message is still there but it’s more subtle. Stryper had me singing along almost right away and that’s always a good sign…..and the Boston cover? It’s pretty good!

#18

U.D.O. – Dominator (2009): If you’re an old school Metal fan, then you should be an Accept fan. If you’re an Accept fan, then being an U.D.O. fan is basically the same thing. Udo Dirkscheider continues to fly the Accept flag through his namesake by playing uncompromising Traditional Heavy Metal that is always high quality. Every year U.D.O. releases a new record you know exactly what you’re going to get and DOMINATOR is definitely follows the same path as other U.D.O. albums. It’s great to have a veteran band that’s consistent year in and year out releasing solid Metal albums, now if they could just find a better album cover for this one!

#17

Outloud - We’ll Rock You To Hell And Back Again! (2009): First let’s settle the confusion on the album title. The band’s label, Frontiers Records, lists this as “Self-titled” or “Outloud” but there is the title of “We’ll Rock You to Hell And Back Again!” above the band logo on the album cover. Which is it? The Metal websites & blogs are split down the middle and so are the online retailers. All year I went with “s/t” but I will use what’s on the album cover for this list. Back to the music…..remember the late ’80s? Outloud does! This album is a heavy melodic Hard Rock record that is full of hooks and bombastic arena tailored riffs…..fans of Dokken, Europe, early Bon Jovi and definitely Riot will all like this. I had this ranked higher but it fell as other albums moved up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on a lot of year end lists.

#16

Jorn Lande – Spirit Black (2009): I swear that everything Jorn Lande does is near perfect! Doesn’t matter if it’s with Masterplan, Ark, solo or part of projects, Jorn always puts in a masterful performance. It’s hard to believe that SPIRIT BLACK is Jorn’s seventh studio album in ten years but he just keeps releasing album after album of great Metal. SPIRIT BLACK is a record that still has a ton of melody and hooks but a lot heavier, more Heavy Metal. When I was putting this list together, Jorn Lande was an obvious choice…..just listen to that voice, he’s becoming one of my favorite singers alongside Halford, Dio, Turner, Hughes, Bonnet, Soto and D.C. Cooper.

#15

Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009): This is one of the biggest surprises of 2009! I only picked up VAGABOND BONES a few weeks ago but it has been the most played album on a daily basis ever since. Helix always puts out consistently good albums and I have to give Brian Vollmer credit for following his musical formula and keeping everything sounding fresh. Sure, the Helix sound is rooted in AC/DC and the big ’80s but isn’t that what’s so good about them? VAGABOND BONES is an absolutly fun record with a ton of hooks that had me singing right along almost immeadiately. Some of the great songs here are ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’, ‘Jack It Up’ and ‘Vagabond Bones’. Go to the excellent PlanetHelix to give this album a listen and then go buy it!

#14

Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009): The best thing Primal Fear did in the last few years was to expand their Power Metal sound by adding in a lot of different melodic styles. They did it with NEW RELIGION in 2007 and they have continued with 16.6. You’ve got serious heavy metal with ‘Riding The Eagle’ and then  melodic balladry with ‘Black Rain’ moving into more traditional Metal on ‘Killbound’. Basically, Primal Fear keeps you guessing as to what’s next and the expansion of their overall sound makes them more diverse and exciting then a lot of other Power Metal bands crowding the scene. This album took a few listens to take hold but it became one of my favorite albums of the year and stayed in the weekly rotation for most of 2009.

#13

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): The best Thrash album of 2009 without a doubt! I’ve had HORDES OF CHAOS since mid-December 2008 when the kind  people at SPV sent me a promo and I have been playing it regularly for the entire year. I know that Megadeth, Slayer and Artillery all released great Thrash albums this year but kreator set the bar high early on and no one has matched it. The intensity is there, the blistering guitar is there, the brutality is there too but what sets HORDES OF CHAOS apart is that Kreator wasn’t afraid to expand their Thrash formula and add in some melodic flourishes to the overall sound. I hope we don’t have to wait another four years again between new Kreator albums.

#12

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009): SANCTUARY is one of the big reasons why 2009 was such a great year for music, it was one of those albums that came out of nowhere and was just excellent. I grew up with bands from the NWOBHM so I know all about Praying Mantis but I really didn’t expect much from the band 20+ years after I discovered them. SANCTUARY is one of the best AOR/Melodic Rock albums of the year…..there are enough fast songs, mid-tempo songs and ballads that blend together to create a diverse wall of sound filled with melody and hooks a plenty. Current singer Mike Freeland puts in as smooth and effortless performance as  Joe Lynn Turner would and the music is striking in it’s power and beauty. Tino and Chris Troy have kept the Praying Mantis flag flying and SANCTUARY is one of their crown jewels…..I certainly enjoyed this album all year long and it just barely missed out on the Top 10.

#11

FarCry – High Gear (2009): Another band, and album, that came out of nowhere to really captivate my attention and turn in one of the best Melodic Rock albums of 2009! FarCry is a new band and HIGH GEAR is an awesome debut filled with some of the best ’80s styled AOR/Melodic Rock I’ve heard in a long time with big harmonies, hooks and guitars. The music reminds me of classic Danger Danger, Tyketto, Firehouse and Warrant with a bit of Survivor and Journey mixed in. Sounds like good music? It is. Bottom line is FarCry isn’t reinventing the wheel here, their sound is easily 20+ years old for a new band, but they do this kind of music extremely well…..they have great songwriting, good performances, and huge production. HIGH GEAR is one of the best purchases I made this year and it just missed my Top 10. Well worth checking out, I’ve listened to it daily for months!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26 – #40):

#40

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle (2009): I have been waiting five years for a new TSO album and they announced the release of NIGHT CASTLE back in December 2008! Nothing like waiting a full year but the wait was worth it. A double album full of TSO expert Rock orchestra with enough guest vocalists (Jeff Scott Soto sings) to make it interesting. I prefer TSO’s holiday albums but NIGHT CASTLE fits in great.

#39

Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I’ve always read a ton of great reviews and articles about Immortal but Black Metal has never really been my genre of choice. I picked up ALL SHALL FALL to try the band out and I ended up really getting into it! What impressed me most was that it wasn’t stereotypical Black Metal but there were melodic layers to the overall sound using orchestration and some great guitarwork. I’ve started to backtrack and explore the rest of the Immortal back catalog as a result.

#38

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): Old school Power Metal at it’s best, Grave Digger has been doing it longer than most and they always seem to put out a solid album. I got this early in the year and it turned out to be a standout album for most of the year…..being a Grave Digger fan for a long time, I enjoyed it. Unfortunately there were better Power Metal albums that came out this year and I kept moving this one lower, a result of good competition.

#37

Nashville Pussy – From Hell To Texas (2009): Nashville Pussy is one of those bands I started to follow with their debut album and forgot about, subsequently missing out on a few records. I love this Southern-fried, hard drinking, sex crazed Hard Rock, it’s a cross between Motorhead, Ted Nugent and AC/DC mixed with Black Oak Arkansas & Lynyrd Skynyrd. I didn’t really expect much from this album and it turned out to be a great one, especially for the car! ‘Drunk Driving Man’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#36

Great White – Rising (2009): Despite my living in Rhode Island and the whole Station Nightclub Fire, Great White is still one of my favorite bands. In 2007 they released one of the biggest surprises with BACK TO THE RHYTHM so I expected another Hard Rock classic. RISING is acoustic based and slower than it’s predecessor but it’s still a solid record that reminded me of the acoustic SAIL AWAY (1994). This album grew on me over the course of 2009 but I’m still a little disappointed that it didn’t have more of the Blues Hard Rock the band is known for.

#35

Tragik – Outlaw (2009): Good to have a local Rhode Island band in this year’s countdown! Led by local AOR/Melodic Rock artist Phil Vincent, Tragik’s second album was a solid Hard Rock record with plenty of guitar and a great overall tone. Tragik follows the footsteps of ’80s AOR/Melodic Hard Rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi and Night Ranger but there was a more modern sound. Good solid melodies and plenty of hooks to go along with the great guitar sound made this an album I enjoyed all year.

#34

Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009): I know a lot of people don’t get into the whole Pirate Metal concept but I’m definitely a sucker for a good gimmick and I really got into Alestorm this year. This album has some good songs but the one thing that pushed this album above a lot of others was that it was fun. I bought into all the whole concept and imagery of and the Pirate Power Metal is definitely different…..I really like all those traditional pirate styled instruments mixed in. Added bonus was the DVD from Wacken 2008 included inthe limited edition.

#33

Behemoth – Evangelion (2009): Kind of like Immortal, I knew nothing about Behemoth except for what I had read online. After I saw the ‘Ov Fire And The Void’ video, I had the obsession with checking out the band. Just like Immortal, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed EVANGELION because Black Metal isn’t usually my thing but what struck me was just how brutal the music sounds. The guitars, bass and drums are just so fast and heavy that you have to take notice. EVANGELION helped me start to open my Black Metal horizons and I went from trying to understand Behemoth to enjoying Behemoth.

#32

Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctis (2009): This latest album from Edguy was originally released in late 2008 but it didn’t receive a proper U.S. release until January from Nuclear Blast so I’m going with what the back of the CD says and it’s a 2009 album. I’ve been an Edguy fan since basically the beginning so their Power Metal style is what i like best but the band has gone for more of a Hard Rock style here. I had a hard time getting into this album at first because I kept comparing it to the old Edguy sound, once I got past that I started to enjoy the album a lot more. Turns out I played TINNITUS SANCTUS more as the year progressed and I kept coming back to it.

#31

Saga – The Human Condition (2009): Saga has been churning out melodic Progressive Rock for 38 years and I have been keeping up with the band on and off since 1982. One of the things that helped define the overall Saga sound through the years was the superb vocals from founding member Michael Sadler…..but he left the band in 2007 after a 36 year tenure. Enter ex-Final Frontier vocalist Rob Morrati and he puts on a performance that makes you forget that Sadler just vacated the mic. This was one of the greatest comebacks of the year!

#30

Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009): When Dream Theater releases an album I always know that it’s going to be a good one, then band just releases good albums every single time. Six songs spanning 75+ minutes and that’s just Disc 1! I always have to listen closely to Dream theater records because there are so many layers of sound and this one was no exception, what really stood out was that there was a song that clocked in just under 6 minutes (‘Wither’)! Add the 2 bonus discs and this turned out to be a great package to listen to.

#29

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): My review is long and it may not reflect the fact that I really enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER, the first Queensryche album I’ve enjoyed since 1997. The first thing I needed to do was accept the fact that old ’80s Queensryche is gone and that the band has gone into more Progressive and Epic musical directions. The overall sound is full and layered but it’s the subject matter that really made the album, what is more relevant in today’s society than how soldiers cope with war? Some of the record was repetitive lyrically but the album just flowed every time I listened to it. I bought this when it first came out and I waited until late October to finally unwrap it, I think I would appreciate it more if I had listened to it all along. ‘At 30,00 Ft.’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#28

Megadeth – Endgame (2009): Like I said in my review, I haven’t fully recovered from 1999′s RISK debacle. UNITED ABOMINATIONS (2007) started me back on the Megadeth bandwagon and ENDGAME follows closely to cement the band back into my good graces. ENDGAME isn’t a pure Thrash record but it’s heavy, I think it’s more traditional Heavy Metal with some Thrash moments. It’s clear that Dave Mustaine and company have a solid direction and a desire to re-conquer the Metal world.

#27

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): If it wasn’t for me discovering Hammerfall in 1997 then I wouldn’t be the big Power Metal fan I am today. They basically single-handedly revived the Power Metal scene with it’s traditional style and soaring vocals. The problem with the last few albums is that they all just sounded the same and Hammerfall started to become a footnote in the now overly crowded Power Metal world. This album reminds me of the first three Hammerfall albums and it’s the first one since 2000 that I’ve really enjoyed. I had this ranked higher but, as 2009 progressed, there were better albums in the same genre. That said, this is still a solid album full of great powerful songs and Joacim Cans sound better than ever but I’m still not sure what the band was thinking with a cover of The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’!

#26

Stratovarius – Polaris (2009): Remember what I said about better Power Metal albums? POLARIS is one of the big reasons why both Grave Digger and Hammerfall fell a little in this year’s best of list. I really didn’t expect much from Startovarius…..I had actually forgotten all about the band because it has been four years since the bands last album. Add a lot of new members, especially replacing guitarist Timo Tolkki, and this was a recipe for disaster. I got this album when it came out and left it in the pile, I just started listening to it a couple months ago and I missed out on some serious music. Had I started listening to this record when I got it, I probably would rank it higher because it hasn’t left my daily playlist. Another great comeback this year!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

2009 was another banner year for new albums. Bands from all different genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal released good albums this year and I was on the frontlines buying them up as they were released. Of course there were some bad albums too. I acquired more new releases in 2009 than I have any other year that Heavy Metal Addiction has been active so there were bound to be some bad ones in the pile. Last year I got a lot of email about my decision to call this the “Worst” albums, some people thought that was too negative. My feeling is that no matter if the album is a major disappointment because you were looking forward to it so much, or the album is just plain awful from the packaging to the production to the performance, then it qualifies under the heading of “Worst”. Of all the albums I picked up some releases were just plain bad, some were huge disappointments, some I just couldn’t stand…..so here is my list of The 5 Worst Albums of 2009:

#1

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009): This had to be the easiest pick for the absolute worst album of 2009! Just one listen was all it took for me but I made the mistake of listening to it twice, even three times. WICKED WONDERLAND was supposed to be Lita’s big comeback but it turned out to be the worst album I have ever heard her release. Gone is the Melodic Metal sound that made her career and now we have this down-tuned Industrial drone full of sexually specific lyrics about her marriage to former Nitro singer Jim Gillette. I’m all for changing styles, for trying to be current, but WICKED WONDERLAND is a complete opposite of everything that Lita Ford has released previously. Of all the albums I have heard in the last four years of this website, this is by far the worst of them all. A wasted comeback.

#2

As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009): If Lita Ford didn’t release WICKED WONDERLAND then As Cities Burn would be the winners of the worst album of the year. Actually, I almost moved Lita to #2 and this album up because at least Lita attempted something Metal. The press releases for HELL OR HIGH WATER billed the album as an Christian Indie Progressive Rock album so I figured that there would be something worth listening to, I like Prog Rock & Metal and Christian Rock & Metal. Unfortunately, there was nothing really “Rock” about this album. This was like bad, whining, mellow Smashing Pumpkins and that’s being kind. I listened to this album exactly 10 times to find anything redeeming and I fell asleep 2 or 3 times…..probably the most boring album of my 2009!

#3

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009): My hopes were high for a band that I have been following since 1997 and I figured a change at the lead vocalist position would add some spark. Unfortunately there wasn’t much spark after all. New singer Silje Wergeland is excellent vocally, and the band still performs well, but the material is monotonous and boring…..all the songs started to sound the same. This technically wasn’t a bad album I guess, more of a major disappointment and there were definitely a ton of better albums out there this year.

#4

Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life (2009): I wasn’t going to put Lacuna Coil on this list but I gave this a fresh listen the other day and I remembered why I had them on my initial draft. I’ve been into Lacuna Coil since 1998 when they released their first E.P. so I like to think that I have an idea of how they sound. Over the years the band has progressed in their sound and songwriting but SHALLOW LIFE didn’t have that progression I had hoped for, it all sounded the same and just like their last few albums. Lacuna Coil were the leaders of the Gothic Metal movement but there are other bands experimenting with their sound and doing it better. This was a major disappointment for me because I was really looking forward to it.

#5

Sepultura – A-Lex (2009): The last spot on my Worst of 2009 list had a lot of contention and I narrowed it down to 3 candidates: Sepultura, Bon Jovi and Chickenfoot. I went back and listened to all three albums and tried to find any tracks that would gain my attention and, unfortunately for Sepultura, A-LEX bored me to tears. Now I know that there are a lot of people out there who disagreed with my review back in March (I had a lot of email!) but I have to go with my gut response and I was just bored. The album is based on the novel A Clockwork Orange and that didn’t help me out either, it was just another boring concept album to me with all the songs sounding the same. I like a lot of the bands earlier work and I gave A-LEX a lot of stereo time to make sure that I was paying attention but I was just disappointed that nothing really stood out. At least Bon Jovi & Chickenfoot had a few songs that stood out even though both releases were disappointing too.

2009 wasn’t the greatest year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVDs. Maybe there weren’t that many released this year? Maybe I just flat out missed them? One factor could be that a lot of bands are packaging bonus DVDs into their proper album releases as bonuses for fans. Slayer, Alestorm, Saxon and KISS were just a few of the bands that did this in 2009, maybe next year I should include these as part of this list criteria? I’m not really sure what the deal is because I didn’t buy nearly as many DVDs in 2009 as I have in the past couple of years. The good news is that bands are still taking great care when producing these DVDs by adding extra content, bonus footage and CDs of live performances to the overall packages and the overall prices have been extremely reasonable. Money has to be spent wisely and the following list of DVDs gave a lot of bang for my hard earned buck! Here’s my list of The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2009:

#1

Iron Maiden – Flight 666 (The Film) DVD (2009): No surprise here! Iron Maiden consistently puts out the best DVDs every single time and FLIGHT 666 was no exception. 2 DVDs packed with a 2 hour documentary a 100+ minute concert performance and a ton of extras…..other bands need to take notice, this is how you release a DVD! FLIGHT 666 gives Iron Maiden the top spot again in the Top 5 DVDs of the year, they were the winner in 2008 with their official release of LIVE AFTER DEATH. I wonder what 2010 will bring?

#2

Anvil – The Story Of Anvil DVD (2009): Just a quick note: the link is for the movie review I did in late May when I went to see it at a local theater. Production started in November 2005 and the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2008. The band played select tour dates in 2008 with the movie as support and I missed the show in Worcester, MA…..the good news was the actual theatrical debut in the U.S. was February. I waited on the DVD until it finally arrived in early October and it is basically the same movie as the one I saw in the theaters with the added bonus section with unedited and bonus footage. This was almost a tie for the top spot because I had more of an emotional attachment to the Anvil film seeing that I had cassettes of FORGED IN FIRE and METAL ON METAL back in the day.

#3

Global Metal DVD (2009): I was witing on this documentary to be released for all of 2008 and it NEVER came out. If you have heard of Sam Dunn & Scot McFadyen then it’s from their first film METAL: A HEADBANGER’S JOURNEY, the beginning chapter of the duos’ quest to find out how Metal is perceived, loved, enjoyed and revered by fans all over the world. GLOBAL METAL expands on A HEADBANGER’S JOURNEY and goes to different countries like India, Colombia, Japan and Brazil. It was great seeing the absolute dedication fans in different countries had, it reminded me of my days growing up as a kid and discovering Hard Rock & Heavy Metal…..I still have that same dedication. this set has 2 DVDs with the proper film on the first and all the outtakes and bonus content on the second. Any other year and GLOBAL METAL would easily take the top spot but it had to contend with FLIGHT 666…..coincidentally, Dunn & McFayden also filmed FLIGHT 666 and worked on GLOBAL METAL at the same time!

#4

Jeff Scott Soto – One Night In Madrid DVD (2009): This is a late addition that just made the cut, I just picked this DVD (and the 2 CD set) last week! I’ve been a Jeff Scott Soto fan since the Yngwie days in the early ’80s so I usually buy anything I can with his name attached to it. ONE NIGHT IN MADRID is a solid performance from Jeff’s just completed world tour and it includes a 21 song live show and a ton of bonuses including 8 music videos and bunch of outtakes. A ton of value for the price and a solid performance made this an instant favorite.

#5

Motley Crue – Cruefest 1 DVD (2009): I went with a sentimental choice for my #5 DVD, beating out the other 3 DVDs I had competing for the slot. I’ve been a Crue fan since TOO FAST FOR LOVE (1982) and I’ve seen a ton of Crue tours over the years but I skipped Cruefest 1 when it came to town because I didn’t like the lineup. I even passed on Cruefest 2 this past summer! So why does this get the #5 slot here? Because I like Motley Crue. I liked their last studio album SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES (2008) and I caught their show at Mohegan Sun Arena this past March so I was riding high on Motley Crue when I bought this DVD a couple weeks after the show. The Crue performances make the DVD, and the Buckcherry songs were good, but I could do without the live footage of Trapt, Sixx AM, and Papa Roach. A few bonuses were added in: a behind the scenes road documentary and 6 Crue videos.

There are so many albums released every year that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Usually I spend the first two months of the new year acquiring all the albums I didn’t buy the previous year before all the new releases start to flood the market. 2008 was no exception as I missed more than a few notable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums. The following is a list of albums I missed in 2008, the reason is simple: I was lazy! As many of you collectors know, if you acquire a lot of albums then they tend to pile up, my pile kept growing! The more the pile grows, the more albums that get pushed to the bottom. The following list of albums are CDs that were in a pile on my desk waiting to be listened to but I never got around to giving them a proper spin until the new year. Some of these records might have cracked my Top 30 Albums of 2008 or at least extended it to a Top 20 or 25.

1977 – Rock ‘N Roll (2008): The missing KISS album! 1977 is a tribute/original band that draws their major influences from…..KISS! The songs all sound like vintage KISS circa the mid-1970s but there is a touch of originality with good songwriting and a fresh performance. As I wrote in the album review: “The real KISS hasn’t done anything new since 1998’s PSYCHO CIRCUS so I’m calling this album the next best thing, it just sounds like KISS!” I received this CD straight from the band in late December 2008 and I started listening in January.

Brother Firetribe – Heart Full Of Fire (2008): I have been wanting to check out Brother Firetribe since 2006 when their debut record, FALSE METAL, was getting great reviews across the Internet. I actually bought the album when it came out in June 2008 but it got lost in the pile on my desk. Aside from a quick initial listen, I didn’t even give this album a second thought until this January. That was a big mistake because Brother Firetribe’s AOR/Melodic Rock is top notch with songs full of hooks and melody.

Buckcherry – Black Butterfly (2008): I have been a Buckcherry since I received a promo copy of their debut album back in early 1999, that debut album is still one of my favorites. I bought TIME BOMB (2001) and 15 (2006) when they were released, the latter before ‘Sorry’ and ‘Crazy Bitch’ became hit singles. BLACK BUTTERFLY was a day of release purchase (September 2008) too but I couldn’t get pass the novelty song ‘Too Drunk’. I’m all for a gimmick but I felt Buckcherry was always a solid Hard Rock band so they didn’t need to resort to a song like ‘Too Drunk’ to get people interested. You already had ‘Lit Up’, ‘Porno Star’ and ‘Crazy Bitch’ from previous albums so I thought it was too formulaic. I should have paid attention because I listened to the album a lot in 2009 and the album was even better after I saw the band open for KISS.

Extreme – Saudades de Rock (2008): Always been a big Extreme fan dating back to their self-titled debut back in 1989 so I was looking forward to a new album when it was announced in 2006 after the band’s reunion tour. I bought this back at the end of August 2008 and I still hadn’t taken the shrinkwrap off the CD through October! I gave it a quick listen, liked the updated sound and put the album in my growing pile. I actually forgot I had the CD until I started digging around making my “Best of” and “Worst of” lists last December. I should have kept this album out because it’s really good, no surprise it made a lot of “best of” lists last year.

Grand Magus – Iron Will (2008): talk about missing an album! I blew it with Grand Magus’ IRON WILL record! I read great reviews from June 2008 through December 2008 but I never got around to picking up the album. Then I saw IRON WILL on most of the year end lists online and in print…..I knew I missed it. I picked up IRON WILL back in early February at the local record store and have enjoyed it all year long.

Yngwie Malmsteen – Perpetual Flame (2008): I’ve been buying Yngwie albums since Yngwie was in Steeler so I’ve been a fan for a long time. The problem is I hadn’t been excited about an Yngwie album in over a decade, the last one I looked forward to and really enjoyed was FACING THE ANIMAL (1997). Then I read that Yngwie had enlisted Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens for lead vocal duties…..now it was a whole different ball game! Ripper is a great singer and he has given life to the likes of Judas Priest and Iced Earth when their distinctive singers left the band. The best thing about this album, aside from Ripper on the mic, was that Yngwie played within the songs and not totally over the top. And there were actual songs with good lyrics and melody, not just guitar noodling. Had it since it came out in October 2008 but it remained in the pile until early 2009.

Rose Tattoo – Blood Brothers (Special Tour Edition) (2008): Of all the albums I missed out on in 2008, this was my favorite! BLOOD BROTHERS was originally released in 2007 but I received a promo copy of the special edition in the summer of 2008. Same tracklisting as the original release but with different artwork, packaging and a bonus live DVD of the band’s appearance at Wacken 2006. Always compared to their fellow Aussie countrymen AC/DC, Rose Tattoo has maintained their classic barroom boogie Rock style through the years…..this easily beats out AC/DC’s BLACK ICE on sheer power and force. Is it possible for another band to do AC/DC better than AC/DC? Rose Tattoo are a band not too many people know but they are top notch, BLOOD BROTHERS would have easily cracked my Top 15 in 2008 and ranked higher than BLACK ICE.

Talon – Fallen Angels (2008): I had the Talon debut from 2002 and loved it. When I read about a new Talon album to be released in early 2008, I wrote it down and forgot about it. When all the year end lists came out last December, I made sure to put this at the top of my Want List. I never got around to buying FALLEN ANGELS until the end of November when I went on an Ebay shopping spree and got it for a really great price. I’m not sure why I kept procrastinating on picking this album up because it’s an excellent melodic Hard Rock album that would have easily been all over my daily playlists had I bought it when it originally came out in 2008.

Tesla – Forever More (2008): I saw Tesla open for Def Leppard on 10/12/1987 on the HYSTERIA tour in Providence, RI…..I was 15 years old. Tesla was the hot new band with the hot new single ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ that they opened with. From then on I was a Tesla fan. I didn’t buy FOREVER MORE until a week after it came out in October 2008 and I didn’t even play it, aside from the initial spin, until early 2009. Like the Extreme & Yngwie CDs, it got lost in the growing pile! I couldn’t help but notice this album ranking near the top of many “best of” lists last year so I knew I missed out on a good record.

Venom – Hell (2008): Not a lot of people like Venom…..not a lot of people really know anything about Venom! I grew up with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) so venom has been burned into my brain sonce 1982! I had no idea that Venom was releasing a new album in 2008 and I read all the Metal news daily so I was surprised to find this as a new release the same day in October 2008 that I bought the Tesla and Yngwie CDs. This had actually come out earlier in August but I completely missed it! A lot of people may not like the crazed and distorted sound Venom prides themselves on but I thought it was a real heavy record.

True to form this year…..I have been taking my time posting my weekly hunts for new treasures to add to my collection. I haven’t updated my purchases since the end of November, and I haven’t set foot in a record store in about a month! There have been some great sales online lately through some of my favorite online shops, and I’ve been searching Ebay as usual for those rarities I crave, so here’s everything I picked up online in December…..

CD Inzane

For most of 2009, CD Inzane has been my only online Metal retailer. I have found the best prices, selection and shipping there consistently all year long…..up until the last 4 weeks. I started my final orders on Black Friday (11/27) and December’s Black Saturday (12/12 )when CD Inzane had their 30% off sales. Not one to miss a bargain, I placed a $100+ order on Black Friday that came to $70+ after the 30% off but I got shut out of all but 2 of my picks. I woke up late that morning and got my order in 4 hours into the 5 hour sale! On the Black Saturday sale I was up an hour BEFORE the sale began and had everything I wanted the previous sale in my cart, along with a few more new releases, and was ready to log in at 7am sharp with a $150+ order. Unfortunately, I only got one of my selections. Don’t ask me how I didn’t get what I wanted the second time around but I was more than a little disappointed…..hopefully I will catch a few breaks next year with these great sales!

Winger – Karma (2009) – $14.99: I wasn’t too high on the last Winger CD so I went into this purchase a bit wary. One of my good friends picked this album up and recommended it highly so I decided that I would buy it during the 30% off sale. My version is the European that has the bonus track ‘First Ending’ and the video extra on the making of the album. I’m not sure if my friend’s copy is the same, he bought it at a local big box store, but I paid the same price he did after the 30% off.

Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009) – $12.29: Helix is one of those bands from my formative Metal years that I still love to this day. Who am I kidding? I love ALL the bands from when I was growing up! In the last couple of years though I have been slowly picking up Helix’s back catalog and buying the new records straight from Planet Helix. The price was $15 at most online retailers, at the band’s website and even in the weekly ad from Newbury Comics so I added this to my order to save some cash!

Jeff Scott Soto – One Night In Madrid (2009) – $22.09 (3 disc value pack): The Winger & Helix CDs were part of the first order on Black Friday, this Jeff Scott Soto release was the only item I received from my order on the December Black Saturday sale. The regular prices for the double CD and the DVD separately was $20 but the package deal was $36…..already saving $4! Add the 30% off and this was a no-brainer of a purchase!

Ebay

Billy Idol – Happy Holidays (2006) – $22: I have this thing for buying up different holiday albums, especially from Rock bands, and the Billy Idol holiday album has been on the Want List for a couple years. I just wrote a WANTED post for this album a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t wait when I saw a BUY IT NOW for $19. I have been watching this album go well over $25-$35 over the last year or so so $19 + $3 shipping was a good deal to me!

Lord Grey – Lady Of The Lake (2002) – $35: I have been looking for this CD since 2002 when I saw it only once in my favorite record store (that is now long gone). I got into a local New England Melodic Rock band called Savannah in the late ’90s and I found out that Lord Grey was actually the band that pre-dated Savannah for three of the musicians. This album saw a release independently on Shire Records in 2002, I saw 2 copies one day in 2 Guys Music and passed. A week later…..both were gone! I paid a few extra dollares on this one but the last couple of copies at auction have gone well over $50.

Lion’s Share – Dark Hours (2009) – $11: The latest from Lion’s Share was one of the albums I tried ordering from CD Inzane and got shut out from. I decided to give Ebay a look and I found a new, but opened, digipak copy for $8 from a reliable seller that I have bought from in the past. The grand total came to $11 with shipping and I saved $2 more then I would have if I had received this with my CD Inzane order.

Christmas is finally here and we are entering into the last few days of December 2009, that means it’s time for my year end awards! It’s been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and I have listened to more new releases by many different bands in many different genres than any other year. I have a huge pile of albums released in 2009 that I have been re-listening to over the last few weeks so I can post my picks for the best and the worst albums of 2009. I will post those picks along with my top DVD picks, albums I missed in 2008 that could have made my best of 2008 list, and the last CD Scavenger Hunt of the year. I’ve got my eye on 2010, along with some catching up on 2009 albums I missed, and it looks like it’s going to be a very busy Metal New Year!

Here is the schedule for the 2009 Awards Week:

Friday 12/25The final CD Scavenger Hunt of 2009

Saturday 12/26 — Albums I Missed in 2008

Sunday 12/27The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2009

Monday 12/28The 5 Worst Albums of 2009

Tuesday 12/29The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40)

Wednesday 12/30The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25)

Thursday 12/31The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10)

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For the last couple of years, a few of us bloggers out there have linked our year end lists together and 2009 is no different. The best thing about these lists is that there is always room for debate and many albums some of us may have missed during the year. Please check out the websites below for more best of/worst of 2009 lists by some excellent writers with a serious passion for music. Some of the websites published their lists earlier in the month, some later and some as a month long daily post so check out the websites’ December 2009 archives for everyone’s picks.

All Metal Resourcehttp://allmetalresource.com/

Bring Back Glamhttp://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/

Hair Metal Mansionhttp://hairbangersradio.ning.com/

Hard Rock Hideouthttp://hardrockhideout.com/

Hard Rock Nightshttp://hardrocknights.wordpress.com/

Heavy Metal Time Machinehttp://metalmark.blogspot.com/

Imagine Echoeshttp://www.imagineechoes.com/

Layla’s Classic Rockhttp://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

Metal Excesshttp://metalexcess.com/

The Metal Minutehttp://rayvanhornjr.blogspot.com/

Metal Odysseyhttp://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/

The Ripple Effecthttp://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/

Rock of Ageshttp://rockofages.wordpress.com

Bitchfire – s/t (2009, independent release)

  1. Headlines
  2. Fly High
  3. Pleasure Is Pain
  4. Bitchfire
  5. Found Me Again
  6. Toxic Waste
  7. Vampire
  8. Breathe
  9. Selfish Heart
  10. Run To You

Band Lineup:
Sharyn Peach – Vocals
Donny Sutton-Brown – Guitars
Robbie Plast – Bass
Eddie D. – Drums & Percussion

Producers: Mark Karmatz & Bitchfire

Country: USA

Total Time = 46:45

Bitchfire
Bitchfire MySpace page

I have no idea sometimes why I want certain CDs. Over the last few months I kept reading mixed reviews on Ft. Lauderdale’s Bitchfire and I somehow got it in my head that I just had to have their debut disc. Maybe it was the album cover? Maybe it was the New England connection (lead singer Sharyn Peach is from the Boston music scene)? Maybe the band’s name juts kept coming up? Needless to say, I bought it.

Bitchfire plays your basic melodic Hard Rock bordering on all out Melodic Metal with a ton of aggression and emotion. The band is tight and music is completely guitar driven with a solid rhythm section. The obvious selling point is singer Sharyn Peach, just look at the album cover. Not sure how old she is, I’m going to guess late 30s like myself, and she looks really good. Disregard the album cover picture that makes her look like Pop diva Pink (I swear I thought it was Pink at first!), check out the pictures inside for a better idea. Sharyn isn’t all looks, she has the pipes to match, her delivery reminding me a lot of early Lita Ford, some Doro Pesch and maybe Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale). Songs like the melodic opener ‘Headlines’, the metallic ‘Fly High’ and ‘Pleasure Is Pain’ have this cool old school ’80s Metal vibe. You can hear the basic influences on these three tracks: early Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Accept. These tracks are also the best tracks because after that there is a string of similar sounding songs that do not benefit from the Alanis Morrisette styled lyrics of love scorned and revenge. The lyrics to ‘Bitchfire’ take away from the music and the overall Accept vibe of ‘Found Me Again’ sounds less brutal with the simplistic lyrics. Makes you wonder if Sharyn Peach just had a real bad relationship recently.

‘Toxic Waste’ opens with an siren and a cool bassline that moves into the main riff…..sounds heavy but the love torn lyrics just kill it. I like the spooky old school guitar intro to ‘Vampire’ and the main riff sounds like your meat & potatoes style ’80s Metal like early Crue or maybe Bitch. ‘Breathe’ heads into more of a straight ahead Hard Rock direction but the lyrics, and this time the vocals, bring the song down…..the simple vocal on this song could use a little more attitude and the harmonies seem a little off-balance. The good news is that ‘Selfish Heart’ surprises with it’s power ballad/mid-tempo style, I like the haunting guitar lines and the subtle basslines and Sharyn does a great job with the vocals. The lyrics are more of the well worn love scorned theme but the music really outshines the actual words and the pace of the song breaks the monotony of the album up, they should have put this in the middle at like Track #4 or #5 to break things up a bit. The bass intro to ‘Run To You’ has a very Steve Harris feel to it and the song follows along at a meaty mid-paced chug. The lyrics and chorus are a little weak but I like the song more than some of the others. Maybe the slower track before it helps?

Bottom Line:
I wanted it, I bought it and I’ve listened to it…..the Bitchfire debut isn’t bad at all. The band has this retro early ’80s Metal sound that is centered around the guitar and vocals and they are all solid players. Sharyn Peach is going to be the focus both vocally and visually and it works, she has talent and is good looking. The question remains: What is going to set Bitchfire apart from all the other femake-fronted Metal bands? It has to be the songs, if you have good songs then you will standout from the pack. I would say half this album is solid Hard Rock/Metal and the other half is filler. There are some great ideas here but half the album keeps following the same pattern and the same songwriting…..there’s just so much love scorned/vengeful woman themes I can take in one CD. There’s a lot of potential here if the band tightens up the songwriting and finds just a couple different topics to focus on.

Favorite Songs:
‘Headlines’, ‘Fly High’, ‘Pleasure Is Pain’, ‘Selfish Heart’

You might remember that I wrote a recent Ebay Madness column on Militia – THE SYBLING E.P. (1985) back in October. A couple of months ago this auction blew the roof off and ended at an insane $2550. So other copies were bound to show up…..

Militia – The Sybling E.P. (1985) sells for $1685

Seller: sambb2000
Country: Austin, Texas (USA)
Starting Price: 99 cents
Bids: 17

Like most copies of THE SYBLING E.P., this auction is from Texas. Militia was part of the underground Metal scene in Texas so it only makes sense for a few copies to be hanging around down there. This copy of THE SYBLING is unique in that it has one flaw…..water damage (see next picture) on the right side from the upper corner down.

I have to give the seller credit for being so detailed and reporting the water damage because some people might not considering the big bucks this goes for. As an added bonus, the seller will include a picture of Militia singer Mike Soliz holding this actual copy…..how’s that for authenticity! It’s still a lot of money and a crazy price…..I still wouldn’t mind finding one, I would keep it for my collection!

Check out the other Ebay Madness column for links where you can get more information, buy a compilation with THE SYBLING on it or just listen to the record.

Megadeth – Endgame (2009, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Dialectic Chaos
  2. This Day We Fight!
  3. 44 Minutes
  4. 1,320′
  5. Bite The Hand
  6. Bodies
  7. Endgame
  8. The Hardest Part Of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss
  9. Head Crusher
  10. How The Story Ends
  11. The Right To Go Insane

Band Lineup:
Dave Mustaine – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Broderick – Guitars, Backing Vocals
James LoMenzo – Bass, Backing Vocals
Shawn Drover – Drums

Producers: Andy Sneap & Dave Mustaine

Country: USA

Total Time = 45:05

Megadeth
Megadeth MySpace page
Roadrunner Records

I have been a Megadeth fan since their debut album KILLING IS MY BUSINESS…AND BUSINESS IS GOOD in 1985. When I was growing up back then the Metal world was diverse and intertwined, you could listen to Megadeth or Anthrax alongside Poison and Motley Crue and sprinkle in AC/DC and Yngwie Malmsteen in for good measure. It was less about labels and categories and just about the music, success was based on street cred as well as gold & platinum records. I have bought every Megadeth record when it was released, even RISK (1999)! Somewhere in the middle of his career, Dave Mustaine cared more for competing with his old band Metallica and catering to the fashionable trends the Metal world went through. For me, the last pure Thrash album Megadeth made was RUST IN PEACE (1990). That’s not to say the other albums are bad…..just different. For about 10 years, Megadeth released albums that failed to live up to their old school legacy even though they had quality performances. In 2007, UNITED ABOMINATIONS came out and I was skeptical but the band’s live performance impressed me and I listened more closely to the album…..it became #11 in my Top 15 Albums of 2007. Now ENDGAME is here and I’ve given it a closer listen…..another solid Metal record for Mustaine and company! It’s an album that harkens back to the Megadeth of old.

The album opens with the powerful thrashing instrumental ‘Dialectic Chaos’ that showcases the solo tradeoffs between Dave Mustaine and new Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick (ex-Jag Panzer. ex-Nevermore). The instrumental immeadiately leads into the ultra fast ‘This Day We Fight!’, a song that truly sounds like early thrashing mad ‘Deth. So it’s a great start to another highly anticipated album but ’44 Minutes’ is bound to bring a bit of controversy. Most older fans (like myself) always want bands to stay true to their early/classic sound and they usually revolt against any stylistic change. I’m not really one of those fans (unless the music just suck, remember RISK?) so I’m cool with the fact that ’44 Minutes’ is Heavy Metal but not pure Thrash. One of the controversies around UNITED ABOMINATIONS a couple years ago was that there were a lot of heavy tracks and driving riffs but the songs weren’t fast enough. I liked the diversity of that album and I’m glad to see the band continue that pattern now, it breaks up the album a little and shows off a different side of the band, a groove if you will. It’s an expansion fo the overall sound not a detraction. Get all that?

Anyway, more thrashier moments occur in ’1,320′, including a great solo section, and ‘Bite The Hand’, a song that starts off with a grooved main riff but moves into speed territory. ‘Bodies’ has a solid bassline from James Lomenzo that really makes the song but it reminds me of something from the radio friendly CRYPTIC WRITINGS (1999). The chorus on ‘Bodies’ has that melodic touch to it that might scare some people off but the twin guitar work is superb and saves the song, especially the solo that moves into breakneck speed. If you follow anything Mustaine has done then you know that many of his songs are politically charged and the title track ‘Endgame’ is exactly that. Another Heavy Metal track that moves into faster paces thoughout, Mustaine waxes poetic on the current status of the U.S. government, the President, FEMA, the Patriot Act and the state of the country in general. ‘Endgame’ could easily fit on UNITED ABOMINATIONS or THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED (2004) and it’s definitely one of the better songs on the album. The pace slows right down with ‘The Hardest Part Of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss’ for the first half and then speeds up with the second. It’s a tale of two songs really, the beginning and end being the almost ballad style of ‘The Hardest Part Of Letting Go’ and the middle being the frantic speed of ‘Sealed With A Kiss’. I like the two dynamics coming together so this is definitely a highlight for me. Old School fans will like the straightforward Thrash of ‘Head Crusher’, even if the lyrics aren’t that strong. Same with ‘How The Story Ends’ but it has a more rhythmic groove to it. The last song on ENDGAME is ‘The Right To Go Insane’ and it starts with a simple bass intro and moves into a pulsating main riff. Again, it’s another solid track with a great solo trade-off.

Bottom Line:
ENDGAME is not a pure Thrash record, although it has some old school Thrash moments, it’s definitely more regular Heavy Metal with a slightly slower pace. Maybe it’s the fact that the lines that define what Thrash is today are blurred but Thrash doesn’t always have to be about speed. If that was the case then a ton of Black, Death, Power and Progressive Metal bands out there are a lot faster than Megadeth is. Today’s Thrash has more to do with heaviness and power rather than pure speed, would you call Dragonforce Thrash? Dave Mustaine has taken the best elements of old school Megadeth and the Megadeth of the last 10 years and combines them to make another solid album. I’ll be honest, I still haven’t fully recovered from the experimental Nu-Metal of 1999′s RISK so any new Megadeth record I’m going to approach with caution. The good news is that ENDGAME is a solid record and sits alongside UNITED ABOMINATIONS as a powerful counterpart. ENDGAME may not be the pure old school Thrash album older fans desperately want but it is a formidable album with many Thrash elements and it’s very heavy.

Favorite Songs:
‘Dialectic Chaos’, ‘This Day We Fight!’, ’44 Minutes’, ‘The Hardest Part Of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss’, ‘Endgame’

Sunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009, Frontiers Records)

  1. Divided
  2. Don’t Give Up
  3. The Spirit Inside
  4. I Found Love
  5. Say You Will
  6. Gutters Of Gold
  7. Save A Place (In Your Heart)
  8. Forever Now
  9. Tears On The Pages
  10. House Of Dreams
  11. Walk On

Musicians:
Joe Lynn Turner – Vocals
Dennis Ward – Bass, Guitars, Backing Vocals
Uwe Reitenauer – Guitars
Thorsten Koehne – Solo Guitars
Gunther Werno – Keyboards
Chris Schmidt – Drums
Marco Bayati – additional Solo Guitar on ‘I Found Love’

Producer: Dennis Ward

Total Time = 49:15

Joe Lynn Turner
Frontiers Records

“Joe Lynn Turner has one of the best voices in the Rock world. Doesn’t matter who you put him up against, JLT has one of the smoothest voices and it keeps getting better album after album.”

I stole that line from my December 2007 review of the last Joe Lynn Turner solo album, SECOND HAND LIFE. That album was so good that it threatened the Scorpions’ excellent HUMANITY HOUR 1 for my top album of 2007. The bottom line is this: no matter what Joe Lynn Turner puts his voice to (Fandango, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie, solo or voiceover work), it’s always going to be a great performance. Sunstorm is not a band but more of an album project. The original idea came from Frontiers Records president Serafino Perugino to have JLT complete unfinished demos from his shelved mid-’80s solo album, the follow-up to the excellent solo debut RESCUE YOU (1985). The self-titled Sunstorm debut was released in 2006 and it was one of the best Melodic Rock albums of the year full of melodic hooks, guitar and keyboard driven songs and solid ballads all delivered with the smooth as silk Joe Lynn Turner vocals. The first release was a great album so a follow-up was a no brainer. JLT is always at his best doing early ’80s AOR/Melodic Rock and the latest Sunstorm release, HOUSE OF DREAMS, is another high quality album in the extensive JLT discography. Joining JLT in the songwriting department are some notable names in the AOR world: Paul Sabu, Jim Peterik from Survivor, Russ Ballard and Desmond Child among others. With songwriting partners like that, you know the songs are high quality and extremely melodic.

Kicking the record off is ‘Divided’, a melodic rock song that blends the guitars and keyboards perfectly for that true ’80s AOR sound. ‘Divided’ is uptempo and shows some muscle but it sounds so smooth with JLT’s vocals…..put this on the radio in 1985 and you’ve got a hit! Same with ‘Don’t Give Up’, pure melodic rock that has perfect production and vocals and an uptempo hook that keeps me singing right along. Slowing things down a bit, JLT and company go into a mid-tempo AOR feast with ‘The Spirit Inside’. This could almost be a revved up power ballad at times with it’s lush layered sound, JLT crooning as only he can with the smoothest delivery. Definitely a song for the lighters (or cell phones)! The pace picks up again with the fastest rocker on the album, ‘I Found Love’. Now this is a retro ’80s track if I ever heard one! The keyboards are layered all over while the guitars weave in and out around a fat bassline, all very melodic, fast and full of life. The chorus is infectious and fun…..the whole point of good Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The first true ballad arrives with the Jim Peterik penned ‘Say You Will’. This is a pure AOR ballad based on the piano and JLT’s vocals, this could easily be a Survivor song with Jimi Jamison singing., one of the best ballads I’ve heard all year! If you really want to hear how well Joe Lynn Turner can sing, play this song , he is fantastic! Another Jim Peterik written song is next, the fast rocker ‘Gutters Of Gold’. When I first saw the tracklisting for HOUSE OF DREAMS, I wondered if this was the same song as the one Peterik’s World Stage project recorded back in 1999. That song remains unreleased as far as I knw and the only way I heard it was when it was included on Melodicrock.com’s first CD. This version of ‘Gutters Of Gold’ is re-recorded and the vocals re-done by JLT so it sounds a little more aggressive than the original World Stage version. It’s a barnstormer of a song and probably the best and most memorable of the album, it’s so infectious that you can’t help singing along right away and it really sticks in your memory. The Paul Sabu co-written ‘Save A Place (In Your Heart)’ treads the mid-tempo/uptempo line carefully and is lined with piano and keyboards around plenty of guitar flourishes. It’s a cool song and has a very familiar sound, upon further investigation I found that it’s a song originally recorded in 1988 for the self-titled debut album Sabu’s Hard Rock band Only Child. Technically it’s a cover, as is ‘Gutters Of Gold’, but this is a project not a band so I’m giving a pass to Sunstorm & JLT because these songs aren’t well known and the quality of the updated performances are excellent. Either that or I’m starting to soften my position against cover songs!

More incestuous songwriting and re-recording is delivered with the JLT original ‘Forever Now’, a feel good uptempo rock song that originally appeared on Terry Brock’s 2001 album BACK TO EDEN. Technically not a cover because JLT wrote it and it’s a great song with a very uplifting chorus and harmonies. It’s a little on the “light” side for me but a lot of Melodic Rock and AOR sounds like this no matter the years so it’s still a quality song and has plenty of guitars. Proper ballad #2 is ‘Tears On the Page’ and it is another perfect Turner vocal accompanied by a piano and subtle guitars. The song is a Jim Peterik/Russ Ballard co-write so it’s extremely melodic and it has that signature Survivor style to it, again I could easily hear Jimi Jamison singing this and have it on any Survivor album. I like this ballad better than ‘Say You Will’ and both are really great. The title track picks the momentum back up again with another solid guitar and keyboard mix but it kind of sounds too similar to other songs on the album. The chorus is the highpoint and JLT puts in yet another great vocal but I’m not really getting into it. Hearing it separate from the other album tracks makes it standout more, maybe the song holds too much to the specific pattern of the album? Ending the album is ‘Walk On’, another keyboard heavy ballad that is pure AOR. No coincidence that one of the most notable songwriters of the ’80s, Desmond Child, is credited with JLT as the writers. This is another song that has made an appearance before, this time on the 1987 album FREIGHT TRAIN HEART by Jimmy Barnes. I don’t have that record (but I will look for it now!) so the song is new to me but it ends the albums on a soft note and it’s kind of a letdown, not the song but the sequence.

Bottom Line:
If you have ever heard a Joe Lynn Turner sung album then you have an idea of what the new Sunstorm album will sound like. It’s a great melodic Rock album with flawless production, great music and, of course, perfect vocals. The sound is a little dated, a little too rooted in the early to mid ’80s, but if you grew up at that time with that music then you will like this record. All the songs are well written, the list of songwriters is a testament to that, and the performances are high quality, I couldn’t find one song that I didn’t like or could be called a “filler” track. I admit that at the end ‘House Of Dreams’ and ‘Walk On’ seemed to follow the same patterns as the rest of the tracks but they are still good solid songs that could easily be a single if either the radio industry got it’s collective heads together or we turn the calendar back 20 years. This is another great album from Joe Lynn Turner and it is definitely one of the best I have heard this year.

Favorite Songs:
I like every song on the album but if I had to pick a few that stand out above the rest they would be: ‘Gutters Of Gold’, ‘I Found Love’, ‘Tears On The Pages’ and ”Divided’.