The Best Miscellaneous Releases of 2010

Not every album released is a new studio album…..but it sure seems like they are! Every year there are a ton of live albums, greatest hits packages, reissues, remasters, box sets, special edition and limited edition releases that flood the marketplace. Sometimes there are multiple versions of these releases depending on which part of the world they are released in!

The one important criteria I have each year for the best and worst albums lists is that the albums have to be new studio albums…..or at least promoted as new studio albums. The problem is that some of these live records and greatest hits packages are quality releases and there’s nothing like getting a really good reissue of some long out of print album you’ve been searching years for. That’s why this year I’m creating this new list to recognize some of the quality non-studio, non-original releases that have found their way into my collection. There were a lot of different releases that I picked up that weren’t studio albums so I’m only going to list my ten favorites. So here are my Best Miscellaneous Releases of 2010…..

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol Deluxe Edition (1987/2010): Black Sabbath is one of my favorite bands and the Tony Martin era of the band is one of the most underrated eras of any band. It’s no secret that I prefer the Dio era and the Martin era to the Ozzy era (I like the Ozzy era too!) so I’ve been collecting these Sabbath deluxe editions all along. The original release of THE ETERNAL IDOL was in 1987 and was the last album under Sabbath’s Warner Bros. contract but did you know that Tony Martin wasn’t the original vocalist that recorded the album? Sabbath fans know that Ray Gillen, who replaced Glenn Hughes on THE SEVENTH STAR tour and would go on to front Badlands, did the original sessions. When Gillen left Black Sabbath, Tony Martin was brought in to re-cut the vocals and properly join the band. The original album is remastered and it sounds great but the gems here are the two B-Side singles ‘Black Moon’ and ‘Some Kind Of Woman’. Disc Two is the collectible for fans who don’t trade bootlegs: the Ray Gillen sessions! These sessions have been widely available in traders’ circles but I could never acquire a copy…..now I don’t have to!

Dio – At Donington, UK: Live 1983 & 1987 (2010): As a huge Dio fan, Ronnie’s death in May really affected me, the thought of my heavy metal heroes passing away was unbelievable because the music and the bands have meant so much to me for the last 28 years. With no new music coming from the Dio camp, unless there’s some unreleased material, it’s good to see that Ronnie’s wife and manager, Wendy Dio, is releasing archival material like this live set. Both shows have been cleaned up and sound great, you can hear the awesome power in Ronnie’s voice and both lineups are extremely tight. Both the 1983 and the 1987 sets are awesome but I keep reaching for the second disc for the DREAM EVIL setlist with tracks like ‘Dream Evil’, ‘Naked In The Rain’ and ‘All The Fools Sailed Away’ among the other Dio anthems and the Black Sabbath and Rainbow classics. Disc 1, the HOLY DIVER set, is no slouch either and might be most fans’ favorite of the two but I like the deeper tracks on Disc 2. A great live CD set that truly honors one of the greatest singers in Metal history.

Judas Priest – British Steel (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (2010): Judas Priest have been my second favorite band since 1982 and BRITISH STEEL (1980) has been a big reason why. This 30th anniversary set was hard to come by because I wanted the three disc version rather than the two disc and it was definitely worth the search. The remastered album is already in my collection because it’s the same as the 2001 remaster but the reason to buy this is the live CD and DVD recorded in Florida on the 30th Anniversary tour. I saw the show in Mansfield 10 days before this show so the performance is like a tour souvenir for me. There are a lot of deluxe edition and limited edition reissues of older albums flooding the marketplace now and it’s good to see that some of them have the quality bonus material that this package does. My only complaint is that the label put out two versions: this one and a 2 disc without the live CD, it makes things confusing for the fans and harder to find what you want.

Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary Edition) (2010): Has it really been 25 years since THE RIGHT TO ROCK came out? 1985 doesn’t seem that far away! The Keel reunion and new album was one of the reasons why THE RIGHT TO ROCK got a proper reissue on Frontiers Records. I’m putting this album in this list because I’ve had this album on both vinyl and cassette but a CD version is very hard to find. There may have been a Japanese CD edition back in 1985 but I have no information and the Metal Mayhem reissue from 2000 seemed a little basic, a little “bare bones”, even though it was officially endorsed by Ron Keel himself. The remastering sounds great and it’s cool to get a couple of bonus tracks but I would have like a little more in the way of extras. The selling point for me was getting a definitive official CD reissue to add to my collection.

Jorn – Dio (2010): This album wasn’t without some controversy with it’s release coming quickly after Ronnie James Dio’s passing but this album was already made and ready for release when Dio passed so it was just a matter of bad timing. I’m not a fan of cover songs but I can do a tribute or covers album…..odd, isn’t it? The selling point here was the original song and video ‘Song For Ronnie James’ that was to be Jorn’s special tribute to the man who influenced him as a singer. Then the balance of the album would be Jorn and band covering different Dio songs. What made this one of the better non-studio releases was the tracklisting, Jorn went through the Dio catalogue and picked out a lot of songs that don’t normally make it into Dio’s “greatest hits”. Songs like ‘Invisible’, ‘Sunset Superman’, ‘Push’, and ‘Shame On The Night’ were all good to hear as part of the tribute instead of the usual fare like ‘The Last In Line’ and ‘Holy Diver’.

MainEEaxe – Shout It Out (1984/2010 reissue) & Going for Gold (1985/2010 reissue): One of the things I like to collect is bands and albums from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and these two MainEEaxe albums have been on my radar for a long time. These two reissues are great because they have all the criteria needed: bonus tracks, extensive liner notes and credits and pictures. A lot of care on the part of Cherry Red Records/Lemon Recordings went into these packages because everything is here including album and single artworks. What makes these reissues worth it is that all the bonus tracks are songs from MainEEaxe’s hard to find singles and E.P.s…..if you do the research, every song the band recorded is on these two reissues in proper order and the singles and E.P.s are noted in the credits. When you’re talking hard to find records from the mid-80s, it’s good to get everything together on CD, I wish every reissue could be done so well.

Savage Grace – The Dominatress/Master Of Disguise reissue (2010) & After The Fall From Grace/Ride Into the Night reissue (2010): As if the two MainEEaxe reissues weren’t enough, Limb Music takes reissuing to another level with these two sets from Savage Grace. I have had the album cover for MASTER OF DISGUISE in my mind for years from when I was a record store junkie as a kid, and I just recently got around to buying it on vinyl, but I wanted proper CD versions of all the band’s albums to preserve my pristine LPs. You can tell Limb went above and beyond with these reissues by adding in all the songs from Savage Grace’s hard to find demos and the RIDE INTO THE NIGHT E.P. (1987). That alone is the selling point aside from a proper CD pressing but then there are lyrics to all the songs, pictures, extensive liner notes and band history. One of the things I was looking for on these reissues was to see if the original album artwork would be retained because it’s a bit X-rated for our time 25 years later and it is. Image this album artwork on store shelves today!

Triumph – Greatest Hits Remixed (2010): Normally a greatest hits collection wouldn’t get my juices flowing but Triumph always puts out great releases when they have full control. Back in 1989, a greatest hits package titled CLASSICS was released by MCA Records but, by then, Triumph was basically over as far as the classic lineup went and CLASSICS was a quick cash in as the band’s contract ended. There hasn’t been a Triumph compilation since but, now that the band has the rights to their music catalogue, they have created their own. This is a two disc set including a DVD of 14 music videos and the Canadian Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, that’s the selling point because it’s a great package for the price. The music CD sounds great and you can tell that the band took good care in remixing the songs for the best sound. The only problem I have is that some of the songs, when compared to the originals, sound different. I’m not one for redoing the original to the point where you can pick out obvious differences and I picked up on this when I sat down and compared these remixes to the originals…..yes, I did compare the two! Aside from that small complaint, it’s great to get so much music for so little money. I paid $12 for two discs (14 songs & 14 videos), similar packages released this year were much more expensive and didn’t have that much content.

Albums I Missed In 2009

It never fails…..every year goes by and there are always a ton of albums I end up missing. There are so many new 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. 2009 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 2009 that I picked up in 2010…..some of the albums I just didn’t buy until 2010, some I bought but never got around to listening to and some I just forgot about! As many of you collectors know, if you acquire a lot of albums, they tend to pile up, and my pile kept growing! The more the pile grows, the more albums get pushed to the bottom of the pile. With all the submissions coming in and all the albums out there to buy, things can get lost in the shuffle quick. The following list of albums are CDs that were either in a pile on my desk waiting to be listened to but never got around to giving them a proper spin until the new year or albums I picked up in early 2010. Some of these albums might have made my Top 40 Albums of 2009 or at least extended it to a Top 45 or 50!

3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom (2009): Here’s a case of an album being bought and getting lost in the shuffle! I picked up this new album by 3 Inches Of Blood back between September 2009 and mid-October 2009 for $10. If I’m not msitaken, I picked this album up around the release date because the price I paid reflects what would be the sale price at the record store. I’ve been a fan of 3 Inches Of Blood since their second album FIRE UP THE BLADES (2007) and I’ve gone backward and picked up their previous two releases but I completely ignored HERE WAITS THY DOOM. I know exactly what happened: I bought it, put it in the “BOUGHT” pile and other CDs got put on top of it as my CD hunts continued. I think I may have listened to it once before the year ended! I even forgot about it as this year started and I went back and started to listen to it around the Spring. HERE WAITS THY DOOM is a pretty good record and I kind of wasted time by not getting to it sooner!

Cage – Science Of Annihilation (2009): Here’s another album that I picked up in 2009 but never got around to listening. I’m a big Power Metal fan and Cage has been on my radar since 2003’s DARKER THAN BLACK, I own that album and 2007’s HELL DESTROYER. Back in mid-2009, I was sent a digital download of the album for review purposes so I didn’t plan on picking it up right away. I had the album download link but it didn’t work so I started looking for the CD…..nothing in the record stores and the prices online were way too high so I waited. I ended up picking this album up through an online store that was having a sale about five months after it was released. By then I had deep piles on my desk, SCIENCE OF ANNIHILATION got added in and lost in the shuffle. I did get a the album uploaded to my iPod so I gave it a couple late night spins but not nearly enough for a review or to be eligible for my year end awards.

Charm City Devils – Let’s Rock ‘N’ Roll (2009): I had no intention of buying this album because of all the hype. First, the singer, John Allen, was the drummer in the punk band SR-71. Second, the band signed to Nikki Sixx’s Eleven Seven label. Third, there were all the comparisons saying that the band was a combination of AC/DC and Jet. Now I like AC/DC but I think Jet sucks, I didn’t like SR-71 and most of the bands on Nikki Sixx’s label aren’t for me…..with that stacked against them, there was no buying Charm City Devils’ debut. Then I started reading all these positive reviews and seeing decent sale prices at the record shops…..but I still passed. It wasn’t until early January 2010 that I found this CD used for half price and I finally decided to pick it up. It went in the pile and stayed there because I just couldn’t get over the initial reasons NOT to buy it. I ended up playing this a few times early in 2010 but not revisiting it until August and September. Definitely an AC/DC clone and I can hear the modern similarities to Jet. Overall, not a bad record, I just never gave it a fresh chance.

Epica – Design Your Universe (2009): I bought this album on the same trip as Charm City Devils in January. DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE came out in mid-October 2009 and I passed on it even with the good sale price. I’m not sure what I was thinking about because I’ve been an Epica fan since 2007’s THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, going backwards to explore their previous releases. Obviously, Simone Simons has a beautiful voice but a lot of people I’ve spoken with seem to think that’s all Epica is about. Actually, the band’s music is aggressive and orchestrated at the same time and Simons isn’t the only singer because Mark Jansen provides the more aggressive vocals. Definitely Power Metal and the selling point is Simone Simons especially in the seemingly endless sea of female-fronted Metal bands. I ended up grabbing this album early in 2010 and I have been listening to it on and off for the entire year…..had I just picked it up when it was released, it would have easily made the 2009 Top 40.

House Of Lords – Cartesian Dreams (2009): That first shopping trip of 2010 was a good one because this CD by House Of Lords is the third record of five on this list that came from that trip. I was a fan of House Of Lords back in the ’80s because of the Gene Simmons connection and the Giuffria connection but you couldn’t escape the singles ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ and the cover of ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ on FM radio in 1988 and 1990. I had those first two albums (HOUSE OF LORDS and SAHARA) on cassette back in the day but I lost touch with the band as the ’90s closed in and I missed a whole bunch of albums. I rediscovered the band in 2006 when they released WORLD UPSIDE DOWN  and 2008’s COME TO MY KINGDOM but this new record wasn’t high on my priority list when it came out in October 2009. I ended up buying CARTESIAN DREAMS on the basis of seeing the it end up in a lot of Best of 2009 lists and, well, name recognition. I’ve played it a few times over the course of 2010 and I liked what I heard…..time to revisit the House Of Lords back catalogue!

GWAR – Lust In Space (2009): With all the copycat bands out there like Mushroomhead and Lordi, the originators of taking Shock Rock to the ultimate level is undeniably GWAR. I’ve been listening to GWAR since my last year of high school when SCUMDOGS OF THE UNIVERSE (1990) was released and I’ve been picking up their albums here and there over the years. When the band announce the August 2009 release of LUST IN SPACE, I started to go back and listen to a lot of GWAR and then I picked this album up. Maybe it was too much GWAR at one time or too many new albums to go through but I ended up losing this one to the growing pile. I pulled this album back out when I heard that the band was releasing their new album, BLODDY PIT OF HORROR. Usually there’s a couple of years between GWAR records so getting a new one before I really got into the previous one put me in a bind because I hate missing out on music and I like to listen to bands I’ve followed in order. Seeing that I’m missing more than few GWAR albums, that idea goes out the window, but it’s cool to at least hear the last record before the new one. I enjoyed LUST IN SPACE and I see it easliy bouncing an album out of last year’s Top 40.

W.A.S.P. – Babylon (2009): Here’s the fourth album from the first shopping trip of 2010! I have been a W.A.S.P. fan since the first album and I have picked up, and enjoyed, every W.A.S.P. album through HELLDORADO (1999). Actually, I didn’t like HELLDORADO, it sucked and that album has made me delay buying every new W.A.S.P. record since. I picked up both UNHOLY TERROR (2001) and DYING FOR THE WORLD (2002) years after they were released but they were good records. This is W.A.S.P.’s second time on a list like this because they made the Albums I Missed in 2007 list with DOMINATOR (2007). DOMINATOR made the list because of the bad hangover I had from both NEON GOD albums released in 2004, they were awful and DOMINATOR suffered from that and no proper U.S. distribution until late in the year. BABYLON suffered the same fate but I played it a lot in 2010 and it easily would have made last year’s Top 40.

W.E.T. – self-titled (2009): Jeff Scott Soto is involved? I’m buying! The problem is that the import prices both in store and online were way too much for me so I waited until January of this year. The W.E.T. debut is the fifth album from the first shopping trip of the year and I ended up still paying a high price ($17) but all was good because I had gift cards to burn! Couldn’t go wrong with the value here with the bonus DVD of videos included. Seriously, Jeff Scott Soto could sing the alphabet and I would buy it but add in Robert Sall from Work Of Art and Erik Martensson from Eclipse and you have a solid group of musicians. This debut is an extremely great melodic rock album and I can definitely hear why it made a lot of top album lists for 2009…..if I had bought this right away and given this proper listening time, it would have easily cracked last year’s Top 40.

White Wizzard – High Speed G.T.O. (2009): This is more of an E.P. than a full-length album with only seven songs but it’s a solid seven songs! HIGH SPEED G.T.O. was released in July 2009 but I waited a few months to pick it up. I grew up with the NWOBHM and traditional Heavy Metal so White Wizzard sounded like a band I would get into but it seemed like everyone was giving them high praise. When that happens, I get skeptical. I picked this up, gave it a couple introductory spins and put it in the pile. Big mistake on my part because this ended up being one of my favorite albums of 2009. I revisited this album because White Wizzard’s second release, and first full-length, OVER THE TOP, was released in February and I quickly got attached to it. I would have put this in last year’s Top 40…..or by this point, extended it to a Top 45 or 50! Traditional, old school Heavy Metal is alive and well coming from the U.S. with bands like White Wizzard around.

Winger – Karma (2009): Winger has had a stigma attached to them since the Beavis & Butthead cartoons aired on MTV back in the ’90s but they have released some of their best music in the ’90s and beyond. The first two Winger albums were huge during Hard Rock’s heyday in the ’80s and early ’90s but PULL was released in 1993 and that was a solid album. I didn’t get into Winger’s last album, IV (2006), but it got them back on my radar so, when my friend bought the album and recommended it, I decided to grab it on my last CD Scavenger Hunt of 2009. This album really surprised me because it’s not the ’80s Hard Rock Winger is well-known for, it’s grittier and heavier, but it also retains that ’80s sound. Make sense? KARMA is a pretty good album but I still haven’t given it enough listening time because of the backlog of CDs to listen to but it’s been cool to revisit this album over the last few weeks.

Heavy Metal Addiction 2010 Awards Week

2010 is almost over so that means it’s time for my year end awards! It’s been another awesome year for Hard Rock and Heavy metal and I have listened to more new albums, discovered more new bands and watched more new DVDs than any other year in Heavy Metal Addiction’s almost five year history! I have had more albums submitted for review this year than any other year as digital promos have taken over as the easiest way to get the word out as quickly as possible and I have done my part as a consumer and purchased plenty of new and old albums & DVDs from record stores, Ebay, online vendors and direct from bands and labels.

With all this music it’s been every hard to keep up so this has been the worst year for posting but I have made a serious push in November and December to listen to as many CDs, and watch as many DVDs, as possible to prepare for my year end lists. I have piles on my desk and boxes right next it chock full of CDs and DVDs released in 2010, as well as, albums I missed in 2009 so there’s a lot to write about and I will try and catch up on as many 2010 reviews as I can in early 2011. I have been re-listening to as many 2010 albums that I can so I can post my best and worst of 2010 lists, last year I did a Top 40 Best Of but this year I will pair it back down to a Top 30 again. I will post those picks along with my top 5 DVD picks, albums I missed in 2009 that could have made my best of 2009 list, and the last CD Scavenger Hunt of 2010…..a new feature will be The Top Miscellaneous Releases of 2010 and that will include any live albums, greatest hits packages, reissues, etc. that were released and need to be mentioned. I’ve got my sights set on 2011 and I expect and even bigger year in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal as I keep checking out new releases and catching up on things I missed from 2010!

Here is the schedule for the 2010 Awards Week:

Friday 12/24The final CD Scavenger Hunt of 2010

Saturday 12/25Albums I Missed in 2009

Sunday 12/26The Best Miscellaneous Releases of 2010

Monday 12/27The Top 5 DVDs of 2010

Tuesday 12/28The 5 Worst Albums of 2010

Wednesday 12/29The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#21-#30)

Thursday 12/30The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#11-#20)

Friday 12/31The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#1-#10)

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For the last few years, a bunch of us bloggers/writers out there have linked our year end lists together and 2010 continues the tradition. The best thing about these lists is that there is always room for debate and there are always many albums some of us may have missed during the year. Please check out the websites below for more best of/worst of 2010 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 2010 archives for everyone’s picks. There may also be some lists that extend into January 2011 so bookmark these excellent websites and check them out daily for superb Hard Rock and Heavy Metal coverage.

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.com

Heavy Metal Addictionhttp://heavymetaladdiction.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/

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10)

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.

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25)

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.

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40)

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.

The 5 Worst Albums of 2009

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.

The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2009

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.

Albums I Missed in 2008

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.

Heavy Metal Addiction 2009 Awards Week

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)

—————————————————————————————-

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

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15)

2008 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 buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of 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.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 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 doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15):

#1

Avantasia - The Scarecrow (2008)Avantasia – The Scarecrow

Tobias Sammet (Edguy) has the magic touch this year and his new concept album THE SCARECROW takes the top spot as Album Of The Year. The album is similar to the first two Avantasia albums, METAL OPERA 1 & 2, in that it is full of guest stars (Alice Cooper, Jorn Lande, Rudolf Schenker, Michael Kiske, Eric Singer, and more) performing  this combination of epic Power Metal blended with hard Rock, Classic Rock, Classical and Folk. That’s a lot to take in at once! Every song is very melodic and I found myself easily singing along after a couple of spins. A good album is one that leaves a lasting impression and THE SCARECROW has been part of my weekly playlist since it’s release in January.

#2

Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)Ayreon – 01011001

A close second! Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Ayreon project is similar to Avantasia with all of the guest stars performing and the epic nature of the music. The difference is that Ayreon’s music is longer, more epic and follows a storyline that started on previous albums. (For a good explanation of the plot, read this album’s Wikipedia page.) This album is almost 2 hours of Progressive Rock & Metal, Power Metal, and Symphonic Metal that is both melodic and heavy…..there is a lot to take in! Even the packaging is complex! There are layers of sound in each song that you sometimes here something different the next time you here it. 01011001 is a little less accessible than THE SCARECROW due to it’s length (2 CDs) and heavy concept but it was a very close second. So close in fact that I almost called a tie!

#3

whitesnakegood_to_be_badWhitesnake – Good To Be Bad

It took 11 years but we finally got a new Whitesnake record and it is a great comeback for David Coverdale. Most of the album retains the Blues Rock that was the basis of the early Whitesnake album while leaning on that big ’80s sound. The songs are full of hooks and great guitar work (Doug Aldrich & Reb Beach) along with that thick Coverdale voice. I had seen the band tour with the Scorpions a couple of years earlier and they were awesome in concert. I knew a new record would have a great sound. It was also good to see this album get a ton of promotion, especially on U.S. television, I didn’t expect to see constant commercials on different channels advertising the CD. In a year full of comebacks (AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Journey), I have to give Whitesnake the best comeback of the year!

#4

Judas Priest - Nostradamus (2008)Judas Priest – Nostradamus

Let the debate begin! Of all the big releases this year from big time bands, no album had more debate then Judas Priest’s double concept album NOSTRADAMUS. I’ve heard all the arguements from “it’s not straight forward Judas Priest” to “it’s too long” to “the concept sucks” to “Iron Maiden could have done it better”…..I think a lot of fans were down on the project due to purely nostalgic reasons. We aren’t going to get the BRITISH STEEL era Judas Priest because they have evolved as musicians and this concept album is what they wanted to do. I’ll admit that Priest isn’t known for their albums being complete epics, they’re more straight forward in their approach, but that doesn’t mean that NOSTRADAMUS is devoid of what makes Priest great. Half the album is instrumental intros that kind of make the album drawn out but the songs do have the Metal that Priest is known for. Rob Halford’s voice sounds better than it has in years and he puts in perhaps the performance of his career. The music is really good if you listen without prejudice and I don’t want to get into that synth guitar arguement because KK Downing & Glenn Tipton have been using them all along. Give NOSTRADAMUS a spin without hoping for 1980 Judas Priest and you will find a great album. This album was tough to get through due to the length (close to 2 hours) but repeated listens have pushed this album from a grower to #4.

#5

Royal Hunt - Collision Course - Paradox II Royal Hunt – Collision Course: Paradox II

This has to be the year of the concept album because the latest offering from Royal Hunt is the 4th concept album in the Top 5! Let’s not even get into the conceptual aspect, the music alone is melodic Power/Progressive Metal with solid musicianship and  great vocal performance from new singer Mark Boals. The last few Royal Hunt albums have been disappointing but COLLISION COURSE proves that the band is still a force. I was surprised at how melodic this album really is because some of the band’s previous efforts were held down by too much keyboard noodling, I think adding Mark Boals to the band adds a fresh influence and creativity.

#6

cover_globaldramaCloudscape – Global Drama

Like the entire Top 5, GLOBAL DRAMA has remained part of my weekly playlist since it’s release. I’ve had the album since late July and I just keep playing it…..that’s the sign of a good record! Cloudscape is a Progressive Metal band but they are very melodic (like Royal Hunt) while retaining their heaviness. The first couple of spins made me think of Kamelot, Balance Of Power and Symphony X…..that’s a good group to be in. Cloudscape was on my list to check out and now they are one of the best newer bands I’ve heard in a long time, I’m currently on the hunt for the band’s previous albums.

#7

msg-in-the-midst-of-beauty-2008Michael Schenker Group – In The Midst Of Beauty

When guitar legend Michael Schenker puts his head down and stays focused, he makes truly great records. There is no denying his talent on guitar but his career has been plagued with different challenges and the subsequent results aren’t always the best musically. IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY is an almost full reunion of the original MSG: Gary Barden is back on the mic, Don Airey on keys, Simon Phillips on drums and Neil Murray handling bass instead of Mo Foster. That’s as solid a lineup as you’re going to get and I think the strong supporting cast influenced Michael because he created some of the best music of his career, it’s as if you can hear Michael’s happiness in his playing. The album is melodic and heavy with a ton of riffs for the guitar enthusiast but the music is enhanced by that cool Hammond organ Airey commands giving the album a late ’70s/early ’80s sound, almost like classic UFO. If Whitesnake was my comeback of the year then Michael Schenker is a close second.

#8

Journey Revelation (2008) Journey – Revelation

If there ever was a band that described AOR/Melodic Rock then Journey is that band. The last couple of years have been trying for the band with all the rotation at the lead singer slot (Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto) but the band grabbed a virtual unknown, Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, and made an album that is pure classic Journey. Melodic Rock at it’s finest, Journey’s new songs are full of harmonies, good melodies, soaring vocals and really good guitar. Let me add they are also well written and produced too. The band new that another new lead singer would be a gamble but Pineda puts on a great performance that is on par with Steve Perry’s legacy. There was also great value here with a second disc of re-recorded greatest hits and a bonus live DVD…..you can’t beat that for $15! All year long I have been saying that if the music industry wasn’t so screwed up then Journey would have a multi-platinum hit album with REVELATION.

#9

Def Leppard - Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (2008)Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

I know it’s not fashionable to like Def Leppard because they have “sold out” and downplayed their NWOBHM and Hard Rock roots over the years but they do make very good records. SPARKLE LOUNGE is one of those albums that just has that mix of catchy ’80s Hard Rock and current modern Rock that mainstream radio lives for. The music is full of hooks and melody and the songs are all well done except for one repetitive dud (‘C’mon C’mon’). The Leps know how to make a catchy record and this one had me hooked in and singing along. I like the trademark big sound combined with the ’70s influences and modern updates. Def Leppard takes a lot of criticism but they make good music.

#10

moonspell-night-eternal-2008Moonspell – Night Eternal

I wasn’t expecting much from a new Moonspell album but I was completely surprised by NIGHT ETERNAL and it’s variety of sound. Moonspell plays a blend of Black, Death, Gothic and Power Metals all rolled into one with grand orchestration and both clean and harsh vocals. Get all that? The album is dark and heavy but it’s also very melodic and there are some beautiful orchestrations that enhance the overall sound. As I started re-listening to my 2008 CDs to make this Top 30, NIGHT ETERNAL kept creeping closer and closer to the Top 10. I had the promo for a long time but I ended up buying a proper copy at the local shop for around $13 and the value was really good: a bonus track ‘Age Of Mothers’ and a two alternate versions of ‘Scorpion Flower’ along with a bonus DVD of live Wacken 2007 performances. This kind of music isn’t my usual first choice but I expanded my horizons this year and I rediscovered Moonspell.

#11

benedictum-seasons-of-tragedyBenedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy

I’ve had SEASONS OF TRAGEDY since it’s U.S. release in March and it is one of the best Traditional Metal albums of the year. A lot of Metal fans might be thrown off by having a female frontwoman but I can tell you that Veronica Freeman kicks a whole lot of ass on the mic! Her vocals are extremely powerful to go along with the fast pummelling music that’s behind her. This is Benedictum’s second album and they steer clear of the sophomore jinx with an album heavy on Power Metal and Thrash that I can only describe as an aural assault. One of the best new U.S. Metal bands out there.

#12

Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (2008)Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider

Another concept album making the Top 30? Of course! Especially if it’s an Alice Cooper album! I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan, always have been, and this is one of the best albums he’s released in the last few years. ALONG CAME A SPIDER has a perfect character for Alice to play (a serial killer named Spider) and he adds his own blend of shock, horror and humor to the performance. The one thing that Alice has done successfully with his last few albums is to revisit some of the classic ’70s sounds that made him the king of Shock Rock and he incorporates this sound with enough modern tendencies to make it sound fresh. the concept might not be all that original but Alice plays it perfectly and the songs are all very good with top production.

#13

uriah-heep-wake-the-sleeper-2008Uriah Heep – Wake The Sleeper

I’ll bet a lot of you are scratching your heads. If you don’t know who Uriah Heep is then you are missing out, the band has been around for close to 40 years and their sound is similar to Deep Purple but with a bit more Progressive Rock. WAKE THE SLEEPER is the first Heep album in a decade and I wasn’t really expecting much but these elder statesman have roared back with a heavy melodic album. Mick Box still plays a mean guitar and Phil Lanzon adds his Hammond organ in to fill out the sound but the performance of the album goes to long time singer Bernie Shaw who puts in one of the best vocal performances of the year.

#14

shannon-angel-in-disguiseShannon – Angel In Disguise

ANGEL IN DISGUISE turned out to be one of the surprises of 2008. I had the album in my growing pile for a couple of months before I got to it and I wasted all that listening time because the record is top flight melodic Metal. Usually, there are a couple of duds in the tracklisting but each song is well done and has plenty of melodic hooks and Euro-Metal power to satisfy a wide range of Metal fans. It’s always a great year when you discover new bands, Shannon will be a band I watch closely in 2009.

#15

testament-the-formation-of-damnation-2008Testament – The Formation Of Damnation

2008 was the year of the concept album and the year of the comeback and Testament came back in a big way with this pounding Thrash assault. This is the album that we all wish Metallica had in them, it’s an in your face old school Thrash attack by a band that I consider one of the best in the genre but sometimes overlooked. This album is one heavy record that easily blows away a lot of modern Thrash out in the last couple of years.

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Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30)

2008 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 buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of 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.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 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 doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16 – #30):

#16

motorhead-motorizerMotörhead – Motörizer

The only thing that Motörhead does year in and year out is make really good Heavy Metal albums and this year is no exception. MOTÖRIZER isn’t groundbreaking, it sounds just like all the other Motörhead records before it, but it’s a solid consistent effort from a band that is legendary but never gets the success it deserves. Any year with a new Motörhead album in it is a good one.

#17

acdc-black-iceAC/DC – Black Ice

It only took 8 years but AC/DC finally came roaring back with a really strong album in BLACK ICE. It’s more Blues than in your face Hard Rock but the typical AC/DC punch is still there. Brian Johnson sounds like he turned back the hands of time and the team of Angus & Malcolm Young on guitars still has the fire that burned in the ’70s & ’80s. A great comeback!

#18

Gypsy Pistoleros - Para Siempre (2008)Gypsy Pistoleros – Para Siempre

Technically, PARA SIEMPRE is a reissue of the Gypsy Pistoleros’ debut, WILD, BEAUTIFUL, DAMNED (2007), remastered with two additional songs added in. I wasn’t sold on taking traditional music from Spain and mixing it into a Hard Rock blender but the Pistoleros do a great job of channelling the Crue, GNR, and Hanoi Rocks mixed with flamenco and Spanish music. I’m half Colombian so I dig the Spanish influences and I really like the mix of English & Spanish (the band calls it “Spanglish”) to give it an added dimension.

#19

jorn-lonely-are-the-brave-2008Jorn – Lonely Are The Brave

Jorn Lande continues to make some of the best Metal records of the last decade and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE is no exception. Jorn is a monster vocally and the surrounding cast is as solid as they come. Unfortunately, I bought this very late in the year so I haven’t had much time to enjoy it.

#20

Brainstorm - Downburst (2008)Brainstorm – Downburst

Another great album from one of the most underrated bands in Heavy Metal. Brainstorm plays great epic Power Metal but DOWNBURST shows a band that is willing to evolve it’s sound and becoming more dynamic. It’s not a groundbreaking album but the band follows the path laid down by Primal Fear and Kamelot.

#21

dokken-lightning-strikes-again-2008Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again

Dokken’s best album since 1999’s ERASE THE SLATE, the band continues to play melodic Hard Rock with a great musicianship and songwriting. Jon Levin adds some George Lynch style playing back into the overall Dokken sound and the rhythm section of Barry Sparks and Mick Brown is as solid as ever. Don Dokken’s vocals are a little underwhelming because he doesn’t hit the highs he used to and there really isn’t a solid backing track. Still a very good album.

#22

nightranger-holeinthesun-usa coverNight Ranger – Hole In The Sun

HOLE IN THE SUN is a more modern sounding Night Ranger but there is still the trademark melodic sound that made them a big success back in their ’80s heyday. Best performance on the album goes to drummer/singer Kelly Keagy because his vocals were excellent. This album didn’t really get me at first but it grew on me as I played it more.

#23

temujin-1000-tears-2008Temujin – 1000 Tears

I’m a big fan of female-fronted Gothic/Ambient Metal and Temujin debuts with an album that has the guitars leading the way and the vocals keeping the listener entranced. Temujin vocalist Kelly has a beautiful voice that reminds me of The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen in that her performance is powerful without going over the top. A solid debut.

#24

tyr-landTýr – Land

LAND was my first experience listening to Týr and I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the terms Pagan Metal or Viking Metal throws fans off but what really is happening is Metal mixed with Nordic influences. Týr blends traditional folk to their Metal and uses their native language, as well as choir style backing vocals, to enhance their sound. This album got me into a whole new genre of Metal.

#25

Pharaoh - Be Gone (2008)Pharaoh – Be Gone

Pharaoh creates gool old traditional U.S. Metal based on good guitars, a solid rhythm section and good vocals. The band puts the power forward but you get the general idea after the first few songs. The album gets better as it continues and the band stretches out a little.

#26

the-sword-gods-of-the-earth (2008)The Sword – Gods Of The Earth

I didn’t get into The Sword’s first album but, when I put on this new album, I immeadiately heard what I was missing. GODS OF THE EARTH has an early Thrash and NWOBHM element added to a sludgy Doom Metal groove. It’s a very heavy record that’s grown on me all year long.

#27

Griffen - Linked In Eternity (2008)Griffen – Linked In Eternity

I found out about Griffen because of my obsession with ’80s Swedish metallers Torch: two current members of Torch are in Griffen. Technically, LINKED IN ETERNITY is a promo demo E.P. but it’s done so well I’m throwing it in the countdown. The band plays a really good blend of Traditional Metal and melodic Hard Rock so I have no idea how these guys aren’t signed to a label.

#28

uli-jon-roth-under-a-dark-skyUli Jon Roth – Under A Dark Sky

Anytime guitar maestro Uli Jon Roth releases a new album it’s a good year! How can you deny the talent of a man that was so unsatisfied with regular guitars that he went out and invented one (the Sky Guitar) that suited his ability? I gues you could call this a true Rock opera with all the classical elements and orchestral movements but the underlying focus is Roth’s playing.

#29

Black Tide - Light From Above (2008)Black Tide – Light From Above

A strong debut from a band whose members are only a couple years removed from high school. I was surprised with all the old school Metal influences in the music from such a young band. What the band lacks in experience they more than make up for in attitude and energy. A solid debut.

#30

metallica-death-magneticMetallica – Death Magnetic

See what happens when a band goes back and listens to their previous records, they make a Heavy Metal album! This is the album that Metallica needed to make to prove that they can still play Metal. Some of the songs are a little long but that’s a small complaint, the songs are really good…..better than I expected. Hopefully Metallica continues in this direction.

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Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages