The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#11-#20)

I think I say the same things every year when I write the introduction to my Best of the Year list…..this year was one of the greatest years for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Every year it seems like more and more new albums come out from a wide variety of bands and 2010 was no exception, this was the biggest year for Heavy Metal Addiction as far as promotional review copies go. Usually, I physically buy all my new albums but this year I partnered with more labels, more promotional people and more bands and I received more albums for review than any other year. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up and I came nowhere close to listening to all of them properly. Looking at the piles on my desk, the boxes next to it and the separate iTunes folder I reserve for promo downloads, it’s easy to estimate that I have more new 2010 albums submitted to Heavy Metal Addiction than the last two years combined! Add in all the new releases I bought on my weekly trips to the record stores, and my daily online searches, and it’s fair to estimate that the total number of new releases from 2010 that I have right now at my desk is over 200.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was the same criteria I’ve used for the last few years: 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 2010. Just like previous years, an album that was released in 2009 overseas, but was released in 2010 for the U.S., qualified as a 2010 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 could have continued with a Top 40 list but I got so far behind listening and writing so there are definitely albums I haven’t heard yet or didn’t give proper time to. We’re talking a couple hundred albums though so anything that got missed might end up in an expanded “Albums I Missed in 2010″ post during next year’s awards week. Just like last year, I will be splitting the Top 30 into three posts so it’s easier to read. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is Part 2, the Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#11 – #20):

#20

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010): MEMORIAL ROOTS was one of the best surprises of 2010 because I didn’t really get into their last album DOWNBURST (2008). I liked DOWNBURST but it took a lot of listening for me to warm up to it and I was concerned that this album would be the same thing. What made the album more accessible to me was the fact that the songs had more hooks this time around instead of being a straight up Power Metal feast. Brainstorm expands their sound a little on this album instead of following the same old formula by becoming a bit more melodic and they really did a great job. I wanted to spend extra time with this album because I was a little letdown by DOWNBURST to I made sure to give MEMORIAL ROOTS a lot of playing time and it paid off. http://www.brainstorm-web.net/

#19

Wig Wam – Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll (2010): I’m a child of the ’80s and the new Wig Wam record sounds like it came straight from 1986 with it’s big sound, party anthems and slick production. Wig Wam is a Glam band and influenced by all the big ’80s bands like Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, etc. Name a Hard Rock/Glam/Sleaze bands from the mid-’80s and you can definitely hear some influence in the overall Wig Wam sound. That doesn’t mean that the music is generic but it does have a dated feel to it in a good way. I like all the big sounding party anthems and the ballads break things up a little and are a good fit. The only problem I have is that Wig Wam take too long between albums, this one being four years after 2006’s WIG WAMANIA. http://www.wigwam.no/index.html

#18

Kiske-Somerville – s/t (2010): Here’s an album that I was eagerly awaiting and had a hard time acquiring. When I heard that Amanda Somerville and former Helloween singer Michael Kiske were collaborating I had to get a hold of it because both are great vocalists. Michael Kiske goes without saying, listen to the early Helloween records and you know how good he is and I really haven’t explored his post-Helloween career. I know Amanda Somerville from her work with After Forever, Epica, Avantasia and Kamelot but, again, I’ve never explored her actual solo work. It’s a great pairing and both of them singing together on each song is a really great idea. The problem with acquiring the album turned out to be a combination of limited availability at my local record store and high import prices online but I found it in late Fall and I ended up buying the limited edition with a bonus track and two music videos. Definitely an album worth checking out. http://www.amandasomerville.com/ http://www.michaelkiske.net/index_en.php

#17

Griffen – Life: A Way To Die (2010): I found out about Griffen back in 2008 when the band sent in their second demo, LINKED IN ETERNITY (2008), for review. I was so impressed then with Griffen that I put them in my Top 30 of 2008 at #27! I never got to hear Griffen’s first self-titled demo from 2007 and now both are unavailable. The good thing is that LIFE: A WAY TO DIE compiled all nine songs from both demos and added three new songs to create Griffen’s first proper album. Now you may ask what the difference is between Griffen re-releasing their demo material versus a guy like Bret Michaels re-releasing previously released material as a new album…..the answer is that Griffen has never officially released their material. Demos can also be rough takes, although the one Griffen sent me a couple of years ago was so well done. If you want to hear some great Melodic Metal, then check Griffen out. It’s good to see the band signed and I can’t wait to hear what the come up with next. http://www.myspace.com/griffentheband

#16

Black Label Society – Order Of The Black (2010): A lot was riding on the latest Black Label Society album because of the events going on outside the band with Zakk Wylde: getting the ax from Ozzy’s band and then getting very ill with blood clots. I have just about every Black Label release and this was one of the better ones that I’ve heard in a few years. I bought this album right away and gave it a few initial spins and then I put it aside. One of the reasons why I put it down was because I was giving it a ton of time with Ozzfest coming to town two weeks after the album came out…..of course, Black Label didn’t play due to weather and equipment problems so I kind of put the record on the backburner. About a couple months later, I saw the video for ‘Overlord’ on Headbanger’s Ball and I got back into it. Zakk has always been focused on the projects he’s working on whether it be Black Label or stuff with Ozzy but I think leaving Ozzy’s band is probably the best thing for him. ORDER OF THE BLACK sounds more focused, more ferocious and more complete. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than SHOT TO HELL (2006) and I’m looking forward to a more powerful Black Label in the future. http://www.zakkwylde.com/

#15

White Wizzard – Over The Top (2010): I really like White Wizzard! HIGH SPEED G.T.O. (2009) just made the Albums I Missed in 2009 list and I wasn’t going to let OVER THE TOP be one of those missed albums in 2010. I think one of the reasons why the first album got missed was because I spent a lot of listening time on OVER THE TOP. I grew up with Heavy Metal and White Wizzard definitely carries the flag high for old school Heavy Metal. I like everything about the band: the music, the albums covers, the logo…..this is a band I would have listened to back when I was a kid. I had a few doubts on this initially because of all the upheaval with the band’s lineup, especially at the vocalist slot, because the debut was solid and a massive lineup change can screw up a band’s sound. I think White Wizzard have come back stronger and the future looks bright. If you like old school Metal, check them out…..http://www.myspace.com/whitewizzard

#14

Halford – IV: Made of Metal (2010): With Judas Priest being my second favorite band and Rob Halford being one of my favorite heavy Metal singers, anything Rob releases outside Priest is definitely on my radar. I picked up Halford III – WINTER SONGS (2009) last year and it was a good record, just unexpected and not as Metal as previous Halford efforts. When I read online that Rob was making the fourth Halford album while taking a break from Judas Priest, I was ready for a Metal feast. MADE OF METAL picks up for me where Rob left off with his CRUCIBLE (2002) and where Priest should have maybe gone instead of  NOSTRADAMUS (2008). I got a preview of the title track when I saw the band perform brilliantly at Ozzfest 2010 and I had already heard ‘The Mower’ online so I knew it was going to be another solid Metal album from the Metal God. What makes this album stick out is that it’s more traditional heavy Metal, more Melodic Metal than the first two Halford albums and the songs get you singing along right away. I almost feel bad for not putting this Top 10! http://www.robhalford.com/madeofmetal/

#13

Kamelot – Poetry For The Poisoned (2010): I have been a Kamelot fan since KARMA (2001) and I always expect every new album to beat that album. The last few Kamelot albums have been hit or miss for me but when I read that the band was going for a darker sound on POETRY FOR THE POISONED, I got interested. Then the band announced a local concert about 40 minutes from my house so I was definitely all hyped up for a new Kamelot album. This album definitely has the darker edge to it and it’s still the same Power Metal and Progressive Metal mix that Kamelot has been known for. There’s female background vocals and plenty of orchestration to fill out the overall sound but what I like is when Roy Khan uses a little bit of an aggressive growl here and there, it adds a different element to his excellent vocal style. I keep listening to this album and I keep discovering different sounds everytime and it always sounds fresh. That’s the mark of a really good album, when it makes you keep coming back for more. I might have rated this a little higher if I was able to catch the band in concert, that didn’t happened when they cancelled the entire U.S. tour! http://www.kamelot.com/

#12

Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (2010): Like I mentioned when I added the new Dimmu Borgir to this year’s countdown, I wanted to open myself up to more extreme forms of Metal and to bands I may have missed in the past. One of those bands was Celtic Frost and it was easy to do both with Tom G. Warrior’s new band Triptykon. I’ll admit that it took a little while to get used to it but I really started to get into it as I kept listening. You’ve got a mix of Black, Death and Thrash with some Doom and the sound it just plain heavy. What drew me in was the guitars on the first song, the 11 minute epic ‘Goetia’. The guitar playing on ‘Goetia’ made me take notice and I kept playing just that tune over and over, it has such an early Black Sabbath influence to it. Anyway, Triptykon led me to more Celtic Frost (I only have 1985’s TO MEGA THERION) and Hellhammer and onto some other extreme bands. I know that ESPARISTERA DAIMONES is going to be high up on a lot of Metal websites’ best of lists this year and I might have ranked it higher if I was more familiar with more of this kind of Metal. Definitely one of the top albums of the year! http://triptykon.net/

#11

Treat – Coup De Grace (2010): I really didn’t think much of the news of Treat’s new album, COUP DE GRACE, because it had been 18 years since the band released a new studio album. I ended up being sent a digital promo of the album for review and I knew as soon as I heard the first song (‘The War is Over’) that this was going to be one of the best Melodic Rock albums of the year. Despite the 18 year hiatus, Treat doesn’t compromise their sound, it’s still a combination of ’80s era AOR, Melodic Rock and Hard Rock. It’s still a huge sound that compares to the better known bands from back in the day like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi but Treat is doing it better than those bands in 2010. The production here is so good and the songs are great, I really had a hard time keeping this out of the Top 10. This is one of the best comebacks of 2010 and one of the best albums, definitely worth picking up if you grew up with that ’80s sound. http://www.treatnews.com/

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010)

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Forsake What I Believe
  2. Shiver
  3. The Conjunction Of 7 Planets
  4. Cross The Line
  5. Nailed Down Dreams
  6. Blood Still Stains
  7. Ahimsa
  8. The Final Stages Of Decay
  9. Victim
  10. When No One Cares
  11. Would You

Band Lineup:
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Milan Loncaric – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Antonio Ieva – Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums

Producers: Sascha Paeth & Miro

Country: Germany

Total Time = 54:44

Brainstorm
Brainstorm MySpace page
AFM Records

For the last 10 years, Brainstorm have been one of my favorite Power Metal bands and I have bought every album that vocalist extraordinaire, Andy B. Franck, has sung on (I am missing the first two records!). 2006’s LIQUID MONSTER was an awesome album and DOWNBURST (2008) continued the band’s tradition of solid albums but with an expansion of the overall sound to a more progressive and melodic direction. DOWNBURST turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2008, despite my shelving it for months after it’s release, so I was looking forward to this new record’s North American release in January. I was lucky enough to get an advance download of MEMORIAL ROOTS from AFM Records back in December 2009 so I have been giving this a lot of time on the computer and iPod but, true to my collecting form, I was able to pick this CD up towards the end of January.

I’ve kept MEMORIAL ROOTS in my weekly playlist because some days I think it’s a brilliant album and some days I think it’s too much of a diversion away from the band’s earlier straightforward Power Metal sound. I was thrown off initially by the Progressive and melodic tones of the opening ‘Forsake What I Believe’, a definite epic track with an orchestrated intro. The opening guitar kicks in and you think it’s going to be one of those powerful speed tracks Brainstorm is known for but the song goes for a more subdued nature with Franck showing his range by utilizing his lower register well. ‘Forsake’ is a very melodic track, very dark and ambient in spots, giving the listener the immeadiate impression that MEMORIAL ROOTS is going to be a comlex album. That straightforward, in your face power is saved for ‘Shiver’, a song that sounds like a more commercial Brainstorm, maybe flirting with ’80s Judas Priest? Thick riffs and solid vocals make this song great but I get a very dated feel from it, it’s still a solid track. Another Progressive Metal epic arrives with the opening tones of ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ (sounds like a title from an Avantasia or Ayreon record!), one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s similar to ‘Forsake What I Believe’ as far as pace and mood but the overall sound is bombastic and layered. There are so many sounds, tempos and details put into this song that it has to be the most technical yet one of the most melodic. I find myself singing along to ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ easily and scorching my air guitar, this is the masterpiece of the album.

‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘Victim’ put the speed back into the Brainstorm sound but the melodic direction is also put on display by the commercial Hard Rock sound of ‘Nailed Down Dreams’. You come to expect powerful riffs from a band with Brainstorm’s history but you don’t expect to hear something so melodic and mainstream. ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ has the word “single” written all over it, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some of the more opemnRock radio stations in the U.S. embrace it, it’s a very American sounding song. ‘Blood Still Stains’ chugs right along and Andy Franck switches from the smooth melodic tone on ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ to a more aggressive, yet controlled, vocal. Halfway through this album, I sit and wonder why Andy B. Franck isn’t always in the discussion when it comes to the top Metal vocalists, he absolutely puts on an impressive display on every song and his voice adapts to so many different styles and ranges. Obviously, Franck defines the Brainstorm sound.

‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ starts out with a basic traditional Metal riff but the song quickly follows the same progressive and melodic plan as ‘Forsake What I Believe’ and ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’. This song is definitely another epic and complex song with different tempos and sounds but I feel like I’ve already heard it before. I’m not saying that ‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ is a bad song, it’s a good song but just a little too much like the other two epics. ‘When No One Cares’ is another song that I’m just not really into, it’s more simple and there really isn’t much going on here, I think the chorus is especially weak. The final song, ‘Would You’, puts everything right again and ends MEMORIAL ROOTS with a song that combines the best of the Progressive elements and the speed and heavy power that compete on the album. I don’t want to go as far as comparing this song to something from Iron Maiden’s catalog but you can definitely hear some direct influences.

Bottom Line:
Despite being thrown off by the opening song’s Progressive sound, I decided to keep listening and the conclusion, after hours of listening, is that MEMORIAL ROOTS is definitely another triumph for Brainstorm. Power Metal can be a restrictive genre at times and the great bands find a way to explore and expand on their Power Metal roots. Brainstorm has followed the path that Primal Fear and Kamelot have blazed with epic Power Metal and the band is wisely writing longer, diverse songs that stretch their musicianship. There is a good balance of power and melody making MEMORIAL ROOTS a solid headbang and a catchy sing-a-long. There are a couple of fillers here, some of the songs sound too much like the others, but that is a small complaint because those songs are still done very well…..they just sound too formulaic. Comparing this to their last album, I find that I like MEMORIAL ROOTS better than DOWNBURST…..maybe because I’ve spent more time listening to it? I like the expanded direction and the exploration of new sounds, this puts Brainstorm right at the top of the Power Metal heap,  MEMORIAL ROOTS is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year.

Favorite Songs:
‘Forsake What I Believe’, ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’, ‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’, ‘Nailed Down Dreams’

Current Playlist

A lot of you may be wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last month or so…..well, I’m still here! Sorry for the lack of posts but I got a few new “toys” with my tax refund (new furniture, a 52″ LCD HD TV, and a Playstation 3) and I’ve been spending most of my time away from the computer. I’m still listening to Metal, that never stops, so here’s what I’ve been listening to in the last couple of days…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): This is an obvious must to keep playing because KISS is my favorite band, SONIC BOOM is clearly the best KISS record since REVENGE (1992) and it keeps getting better everytime I listen to it.

Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010): Another KISS-related release! Bruce Kulick has always been one of the most underrated guitarists but he has always been one of my favorites because he lent stability and versatility to KISS during his tenure. I like the different sounds on this album: a little KISS, some Union, some alternative, some Hard Rock, some Melodic Rock. It’s a pretty good record and I will be reviewing it soon (I should have done this in the beginning of February!).

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010): I’m still listening to January’s album of the month and I will be reviewing it soon. I definitely like this album better than their last, DOWNBURST (2008).

Keel – The Right To Rock (1985/2010 reissue): I was a big Keel fan back in the day based solely on my ability to draw both Keel logos (the band changed logos after their 1984 debut album LAY DOWN THE LAW). I did get into the music and I bought both the first three Keel records when they came out. Re-listening to this record was great because I hadn’t heard it in a long time…..’The Right To Rock’, ‘Easier Said Than Done’ and ‘Electric Love’ are still cool songs 25 years later! One thing I will say, Keel’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ is still awful!

Keel – Streets Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (2010): I never thought there would be a new Keel album but I’m psyched the band came back and released new material, it’s been a long time coming. The band sounds great and the songs are strong…..so far it’s one of the best records of the year for me.

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010): Just got the new Gamma Ray disc from the label, it comes out in 2 weeks. I’ve been looking forward to this album since it was announced and I was surprised to find it in my mailbox. I’ve given it only one spin but I heard some pretty good songs right away.

Hammerfall – (all albums): Guess who I’m going to see in concert Saturday night? That’s right! Hammerfall is coming to the Worcester Palladium and I am making the 45 minute drive to finally see them live. I’ve been listening to all their studio albums in preparation for the show, my favorites are still the first two: GLORY TO THE BRAVE (1997) and LEGACY OF KINGS (1998).

CD Scavenger Hunt – 2/2/2010

Took a quick trip to the Newbury Comics in North Attleboro, MA to see what was there and maybe pick up a couple of new releases. The last couple of times I went out on a hunt I drove the 20 mins to the Warwick, RI store because the selection and setup is better. What keeps me going back to North Attleboro is the separate Metal section and the fact that it’s less than 10 minutes from home. Here’s today’s finds…..

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010) – $12: I’ve had a digital promo for the few weeks courtesy of AFM Records so this has been the main album in my daily playlist. I’m a collector so I need the physical product and I would have bought this album regardless of the digital promo because I like Brainstorm and I have most of their records. This came out in Europe in late 2009 and it’s a limited edition with 2 bonus tracks, I bought the regular 11 song U.S. edition that came out on 1/12 at a great sale price.

Mob Rules – Radical Peace (2010) – $12: Same situation as Brainstorm…..digital promo from AFM Records but I haven’t given it a spin yet. I would buy this CD anyway because I have been following Mob Rules since their 1999 debut SAVAGE LAND and the collection just wouldn’t be complete. Just like Brainstorm, and a few other AFM releases, RADICAL PEACE has been out worldwide since Fall 2009 but it’s official U.S. release was on 1/12. Another great sale price that saved $4 off the regular price.

 Anvil – Metal On Metal (1982) – $13: I’ve been trying to replace old Anvil cassettes with the CD versions for the last year. The popularity of the Anvil documentary and the band’s resurgence has made these CDs shoot up in price online upwards to the almost $20 range without shipping. I already picked up HARD ‘N’ HEAVY (1981) and FORGED IN FIRE (1983) to replace my old tapes but METAL ON METAL is either unavailable to order or it sells quick whenever a single copy ships to the store. I saw this and grabbed it quick and saved myself $7+ compared to online prices.

Total = $37

Total (year) = $37

Total CDs (year) = 10

Current Playlist – Sunday A.M. work edition

Today is NFL Championship Sunday and I had to rearrange my work schedule so I can sit on my couch and watch the AFC and NFC Championship games like most football fans. Instead of working my Sunday gig in the afternoon, I did the early morning (12am-8am)…..that gives me plenty of time to put the iPod on and listen to some Metal! Here’s what I listened to…..

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010): The new Brainstorm was released everywhere but the U.S. in late 2009 so I was lucky to get a digital promo from AFM Records so I could give this a listen and review. I made this my Album of the Month and I like this new record better than 2007’s DOWNBURST.

Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009): I bought this late in 2009 and it’s been in my playlist every since. It’s got some great songs, most about drinking! Favorite song here is ‘Jack It Up’.

Circus 51 – s/t (2009): A six song independent release from Amarillo, Texas. I wanted to give this an extra spin because I listened to it a few times on the stereo and I noticed the production was a little “muddy”, I figured that headphones might clear some stuff up. The songs are there but the production lacks.

Epica – Design Your Universe (2009): I missed this album in 2009 but picked it up last week. This was my first listen and my first impression is a good one…..Simone Simons has a great voice and there is a ton of orchestration making the music very layered. This one needs a lot more time!

UZI – Madhouse (2009): Eonian Records keeps releasing great long lost ’80s gems and MADHOUSE keeps getting better with every listen. Makes you wonder how/why UZI wasn’t signed back in the ’80s.

Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood (1989): Went with a classic to end my shift and I wanted to hear some Crue. This album is just so good, the Crue was at the top of their game and the biggest band around back then. Favorite track – ‘Without You’.

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

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008)

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008, Metal Blade)

  1. Falling Spiral Down
  2. Fire Walk With Me
  3. Stained With Sin
  4. Redemption In Your Eyes
  5. End In Sorrow
  6. How Do You Feel
  7. Protect Me From Myself
  8. Surrounding Walls
  9. Frozen
  10. All Alone

Band Lineup:
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars & Bass
Milan Loncaric – Guitars & Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums
Antonio Iewa – live & “future” Bass

Additional Musicians:
Miro – Keyboards

Produced by: Sascha Paeth, Miro, & Brainstorm

Total Time = 43:21

Brainstorm official website
Brainstorm MySpace page
Metal Blade Records

Power Metal bands were making a big comeback in the late ’90s/early 2000s riding the waves that Hammerfall and Iced Earth had made with near perfect albums. Brainstorm was on the scene since the mid-’90s but I ignored them until I plucked their third record, AMBIGUITY, from a used bin shortly after it’s release in 2000. Since AMBIGUITY, this German outfit has released three more top quality Traditional Metal albums in METUS MORTIS (2001), SOUL TEMPTATION (2003) and the band’s crowning achievement LIQUID MONSTER (2005). With such a solid string of albums, Brainstorm has become one of my favorite Power Metal bands of the last 10 to 12 years and I was really looking forward to the January 2008 release of DOWNBURST.

I picked up DOWNBURST on it’s release date (Jan 22) and I listened to it regularly for weeks but then, for some strange reason, the CD went into the growing pile on my desk and I never relistened to it. I think my shelving the album had a lot to do with my ears being saturated with Power Metal and the consistent new releases by many different bands in the following weeks of early 2008. Taking a fresh listen to the album now I realize that my initial instincts on DOWNBURST were correct: this is a really great record! Brainstorm doesn’t break new Heavy Metal ground, it can be argued that Traditional Metal all sounds the same, but the band does play to their strengths of great musicianship, with a sense of melody mixed with power, and excellent production. Andy B. Franck’s vocal style reminds me of lower register Rob Halford on many songs but he also has his own aggressive style. The guitar duo of Ihlenfeld and Loncaric compliment each other with solid leads and pounding rhythms while Dieter Bernert hits the drums with ferocious intensity. The bass duties fall to both guitar players as the band parted ways with Andreas Milander (replaced after this recording by Antonio Iewa) and the keyboards are added by producer Miro. The overall sound is tight and very melodic with solid guitars and keyboards that enhance the sound instead of drowning it out.

Opening track ‘Falling Spiral Down’ showcases the power of Brainstorm with driving guitars and Franck’s intense delivery and background vocals that give the song a big sound. ‘Fire Walk With Me’ is very melodic with a catchy chorus and ambient keyboards, I hate to say that this is mainstream but I could hear this being played on current Rock stations. It’s a very ’80s Metal sound song in the same area as BALLS TO THE WALL-era Accept and early ’80s Judas Priest. Same thing goes for ‘Stained With Sin’, it’s another good track that has a melodic ’80s Metal style with modern touches. Actually, I would put both songs in the same style as the material on Primal Fear’s last album NEW RELIGION.

Brainstorm moves into more speed and power with ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’. This song is more straight forward in it’s delivery until the chorus where you can hear the subtle keyboard flourishes and melody vocals, it also has one of the best solo breaks on the record. We go from fast to slow with ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’, a moody mid-tempo number that briefly reminds me of Tiamat at the beginning but sounds more like current Primal Fear as the song continues. It’s still riff oriented but the keyboards are more prominent to set a sad and desperate mood. I like ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’ because it’s definitely different from the true Power Metal formula, slows down amd creates a defined tone. ‘How Do You Feel’ picks up the tempo again but has that mainstream sound like ‘Fire Walk With Me’ that makes both songs way too similar. It’s a good song with the same solid elements but it sounds like it’s all benn done before.

Speed dominates ‘Protect Me From Myself’ to the point that the band reminds us that they is power in Power Metal. The riffs are fast but it’s Bernert’s drumming that really drives the song and delivers the punch. Keyboards seem to dominate ‘Surrounding Walls’ but there are guitars here. I’d say the song has more of an epic feel to it with the keyboards and the melodic style kind of like the last few Kamelot albums. Same goes for ‘Frozen’ although the guitars have more tenacity to them and the song overall is faster with the drums really taking charge. I like Franck’s vocals a lot here because he shows off his wide range from low to high, melodic to gruff. The album closer is ‘All Alone’ and it sounds similar to ‘Falling Spiral Down’ in that it starts out hard and heavy and weaves in the epic elements that develop over the course of the entire record. It’s a solid bookend to close out DOWNBURST.

Bottom Line:
My initial thoughts on this album were true: DOWNBURST is another successful Metal album from one of the most underrated bands on the scene today. When I started listening in January I was really into this album but I shelved it for months…..my loss. A fresh set of spins shows a band building on the success by evolving their sound and becoming more dynamic. Everything is in perfect form from the vocals and music to the songwriting and production. My only complaint is that it feels like the overall sound is a little behind the times, maybe by a year or so. Not to continue to compare but Primal Fear and Kamelot are leaders of this epic style of Power Metal and it seems like Brainstorm is coming in a little late with an album that sounds similar to these two bands’ last recordings. That doesn’t mean that DOWNBURST loses points, it’s still a great record.

Favorite Songs: ‘Falling Spiral Down’, ‘Stained With Sin’, ‘End In Sorrow’, ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’, ‘Frozen’

Current Playlist

I’m trying like crazy to get back into the groove and catch up on a ton of new releases that are sitting on my desk but it’s hard to find the time. The holidays are right around the corner and that’s when my job gets harder, the hours get longer and the day gets more hectic. I’ve been spending more of my free time sleeping than listening to music but I have spun a few discs……

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008): I decided to revisit this album this weekend because I’ve pretty much ignored it since March. When DOWNBURST was released back in January I was really into it but it got put on the back burner for other new albums. I’ve been a Brainstorm fan since 2000’s AMBIGUITY and every album since has been really good but this album hasn’t had staying power with me.

Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion (2008): I’ve had Sammy’s new album for about a week and I’ve been listening regularly, I’ll save my thoughts for the review. I always liked Sammy Hagar, even in Van Halen, and I have been looking forward to this release. Sammy has put out some solid records since his first departure from Van Halen back in 1997 but I wasn’t a big fan of his last album LIVIN’ IT UP (2006).

AC/DC – Black Ice (2008): Still enjoying this album…..AC/DC needs to stop waiting eight years to release new material.

Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008): I’m already in the holiday spirit with three Classic Rock stations in my area playing non-stop Xmas music so the new Helix Xmas record has been a cool addition.

Riot – Fire Down Under (1981): One of my all-time favorite albums from one of my all-time favorite bands. ‘Swords & Tequila’, ‘Outlaw’ and ‘Altar Of The King’ are all early Heavy Metal classics. Guy Speranza had a cool voice and the first three Riot records are some of the best early U.S. Metal going.

Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (1987): CHINESE DEMOCRACY is about a week away from it’s long awaited release so I’m starting to listen to some GNR to get ready.

CD Scavenger Hunt – Two week update

I may have disappeared from writing but definitely not from BUYING! I’ve had to hit the stores and Ebay to pick up some mandatory new releases and I won a CD that I needed to add to my collection. This is two weeks worth of hitting the stores, it’s a small list but definitely big on quality!

Brainstorm - Downburst (2008)Brainstorm – Downburst (2008) – $10: Good thing comes to those who wait! I tried to pick this up the day of release two weeks ago but the local shop only stocked one copy. I didn’t understand this because it’s a Metal Blade release and they are usually well-stocked. I still got the sale price because there were two price tags and I asked for the lower one. Saved $5!

Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)Ayreon – 01011001 (2008) – $18: When Arjen Anthony Lucassen puts together an Ayreon project, it’s usually one of the best releases of the year. I got into Ayreon late but I’ve started to go back and collect all the back catalogue, it’s hard to find all the limited editions with the bonuses. This album had 3 versions: the regular 2 CD version, the limited edition 2 CD & DVD in a small box, and the deluxe edition with the 2 CDs, DVD, and expanded booklet in a special case. I opted for the limited edition at $18 so I could have the special DVD. I would have paid for the deluxe edition but the extra $12 was all for packaging. I know this will compete for Album of the Year on many lists.

Avantasia - The Scarecrow (2008)Avantasia – The Scarecrow (2008) – $10: Edguy’s Tobias Sammet really has a great side project in Avantasia. Another concept project chock full of guests, kind of like Ayreon, I’ve been lookin forward to this release for a while. What I find interesting is that there were over ten copies of this stocked at the local shop. Either Avantasia is a huge seller in Rhode Island or the person doing the ordering is a huge fan! Actually, the guy running the Metal section is a big fan and I was able to listen to most of the album while browsing.

Iron Maiden - Live After Death DVD (2008)Iron Maiden – Live After Death DVD (2008) – $14: This is an absolute must fave DVD! I have been waiting for this to be released for years, I had a copy of the VHS a friend made me but that died years ago. Disc 1 is the original concert. Disc 2 has the History of Maiden Pt.2, the documentary Behind the Iron Curtain, Rock In Rio ’85, and a 15 minute ‘Ello Texas. Maiden really knows how to put together a DVD package because this is way over five hours of classic footage. This DVD will be hard to take from the #1 spot of my Top DVDs of 2008 in December. I think I’ve watched it four times already!

Dio - Intermission (1986)Dio – Intermission (1986) – $15: Picked this up from a great seller on Ebay that I’ve dealt with many times. This is a Japanese pressing of Intermission and is in mint condition. There are more than a few copies on Ebay but they have prices in the $20+ range for the regular release, I got a deal of the Japanese import. The CD was $10 and the shipping $5, very affordable from Japan. This purchase takes Intermission off the WANTED list.