CD Scavenger Hunt – August, September, October, November & December update

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here at Heavy Metal Addiction…..a real long time! Sorry to all my loyal readers but I just haven’t had the time or the inspiration to write about anything Hard Rock or Heavy Metal but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been buying my fair share of music! Seeing that we are at the end of the year, I figured it was about time I posted something and why not be a full update of everything I’ve bought since August? Enjoy and please leave some comments…..

(WARNING — This is going to be a long post!)

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August update

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Rainbow – Difficult To Cure (1981/1999 remaster) – $8
Fozzy – Sin & Bones (2012) - $13
Loudness – Eye To Dawn (2012) – $13
In This Moment – Blood (2012) – $10
Jackyl – Best In Show (2012 Best Buy Deluxe Edition) – $10
MSG – The Michael Schenker Story Live (1997/2001 re-release) – $0
Loverboy – Rock N Roll Revival (2012) – $0
Baroness – Red Album (2007) – $0
House Of Lords – Sahara (1990) – $0
Marshall Law – Power Games (1992) – $0
Headcat – Walk The Walk…Talk The Talk (2011) – $0
Exciter – Unveiling The Wicked (1986) – $0
Enuff Z’nuff – Welcome To Blue Island (2003) – $0
Zyklon – Aeon (2003) – $0
Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain (Tour Edition) (2007) - $0
707 – The Bridge (2004) – $0
707 – Anthology (2009) – $0
Starz – Brightest Starz (2000) – $0
Petra – Still Means War (2002) – $0
Rob Zombie – The Sinister Urge (2001) – $0
Sentenced – The Cold White Light (2002) – $0
Frameshift – An Absence Of Empathy (2005) – $0
KISS – Destroyer Resurrected (2012) – $13
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975) – $0
Helix – Breaking Loose (1979) – $26.50 used
Mass – Voices In The Night (1989) – $9 used
Tokyo Blade – Camp 334 E.P. (2012) – $3 (iTunes download)

Where to begin? Obviously August was a good month! One thing that happens evey August is that my birthday rolls around and I get a lot of gift cards to Newbury Comics, my favorite record store, so that will account for all the CDs with zeros for amounts. Let’s analyze these purchases…..

I bought the new albums by Fozzy, Loudness, In This Moment, and KISS on the day of release and on sale…..I had to have the new Destroyer Resurrected the moment the doors to Newbury Comics opened because my KISS collection isn’t complete without the latest new album! The Bruce Springsteen disc was a gift from my best friend’s son who loves Springsteen and is trying to turn me on to his music. I like myself some Bruce, mostly the stuff I hear on classic rock radio, but this is the album I would pick to start getting into The Boss if I were buying it myself. The Helix and Mass CDs were auctions I won on ebay from the same seller, both are original pressings and the Helix album is especially rare and it’s been on my radar for a long time. The last album listed is a digital only E.P. by NWOBHM legends Tokyo Blade that I got from iTunes. I have NEVER bought anything from iTunes because I believe in physical media but there are no plans to release this on any other format so I had to bite the bullet and spend the $3. On to the freebies…..

Birthday = gift cards. I decided to head up to a different Newbury Comics, this time Norwood, MA, to see if there were any bargains to be had. Now this is the BIG Newbury Comics so they have excellent selection when I make the 45 minute trip a few times a year and right off the bat I found a used copy of Baroness – Red Album (2007) for what would have been $10 ($14 for the regular priced one that was there. Among the other highlights from this shopping trip, the Michael Schenker Group live double disc rerelease that would have been $14, the new Loverboy album that would have been $13 on sale ($20 regular price!), and a tour edition copy of Ozzy’s Black Rain used that has all the bonus material for all the different versions of the original album for a mere $6 used price. Of course I padded the collection with used CDs that ranged in price from $2 to $8 but they were all free for me.

September update

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last of a Dyin’ Breed (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $10
Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition (2012) – $14
The Darkness – Hot Cakes (2012) – $16
Cloudscape – New Era (2012) – $15
ZZ Top – La Futura (2012) – $0
Steve Harris – British Lion (2012) – $13
Bullet – Full Pull (2012) – $13
Dokken – Broken Bones (2012) – $0

As September hits we have back to school for the kids, house preperations for winter, the beginning of football season and fantasy football and starting to think of the holidays…..that means money is at a premium and CDs have to wait. I was able to pick up some new releases in my two trips to the record store in September and I caught a great sale at the end of the month – Buy 2 get 1 Free on all regular and sale priced CDs.

On my 1st trip of the month, I had to have the deluxe edition of the new Lynyrd Skynyrd CD to get the 4 bonus tracks and was lucky to grab the last sale priced copy they had for $10 which saved me $7. Take a listen to the Skynyrd records with Johnny Van Zant on vocals, they are all excellent and rival the classic 70s era of Skynyrd with his late brother Ronnie fronting the band. Of course the legend of Skynyrd back in the day overshadows everything newer but the quality is definitely there. The other major purchase was the 30th Anniversary Edition of the classic Screaming For Vengeance from Metal legends Judas Priest. I love all the bonuses on these special anniversary releases and it makes it worth it to re-buy the album, this time around the big deal was the included DVD of Priest’s performance at the US Festival in 1983 but the live tracks and the bonus studio track ‘Prisoner Of Your Eyes’ add to the value. You can’t beat $14 for a CD/DVD combo and I still saved $3 buying it on sale.

The 2nd trip of the month was towards the end but that’s where I caught the special sale and picked up a bunch of new releases I was waiting on. My strategy is to always group the CDs by price from high to low so when I get to the register I get some of the higher priced CDs free. I had been waiting on Hot Cakes from The Darkness and missed the sale price so I had to pay the full $16 regular price and the new Cloudscape was the same deal at $15 regular price but I put them together with the new ZZ Top to get that one free and saved $14 right off the bat! The $14 was the sale price for ZZ Top but regular price was $17 so I really saved $17 in the long run. My second grouping was the new Steve Harris solo album ($13 sale/$17 regular) + the new Bullet ($13 sale/$17 regular) with the new Dokken ($12 sale/$18 regular) for free and saved more money. You have to love those Frontiers Records albums that are $17+ regular price, I would have choked if I had to pay that much for the new Dokken! At least I got it on a double sale!

October update

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KISS – Monster (2012) – $12
KISS – Monster (2012) – $15 (Wal-Mart exclusive limted edition zine-pak)
Arch Enemy – Stigmata (1998) – $4 used
Allen-Lande – The Revenge (2007) – $8 used
Dream Evil – Evilized (2003) – $8 used
Rob Rock – Garden Of Chaos (2007) – $8 used
Motorhead – March Or Die (1992) – $4 used
Cloudscape – Crimson Skies (2006) – $4 used
Kotipelto – Serenity (2007) – $4 used
Dragonforce – The Power Within (2012) – $13
Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 (2 CD/DVD/Blu) (2012) - $18
Ten – Heresy And Creed (2012) – $12
Sister Sin – Now And Forever (2012) – $12
Night Ranger – 24 Strings & A Drummer (CD/DVD) (2012) - $10
The Sword – Apocryphon (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $12
Praying Mantis – Time Tells No Lies (1980/2011 remaster) – $13.50 (Ebay)

September was a slow CD buying month but October’s prospects improved and there were a few new releases that were must haves. Starting the month of right was the new KISS album…..Monster. I was out front banging on the door fo the record store so I could get this album as soon as the store opened, got it on sale for $12 and saved $4 off the regular price. Of course, KISS is my favorite band and they can’t do anything simple so I ran over to Wal-Mart right after to buy the limited edition zinepak exclusive to Wal-Mart.

My second CD hunt was at the Newbury Comics in Warwick, RI (about 20 mins from home) when the family and I were out for the day and they allowed me to go and search. Actually, they dropped me off and went to the Target down the road! Nothing is better when you walk into a record store and you start to find a lot of cheap CDs that you’ve been looking for…..obviously, I hit the store after someone dumped part of their collection because I’d never seen these CDs at this location before. Right away I found a copy of the latest Dragonforce record, The Power Within (2012), still on sale for $13 while the other two copies with it were regular price at $19. Then I started through the Metal section in alphabetical order and I found the Allen-Lande, Cloudscape and Dream Evil all used and immeadiately crossed them off my want list. I only had $60 in disposable CD income so I had to make wise purchases and I already had $33 worth of discs in my hand so I had to ignore some more higher priced used gems but I did make my way over to a sale table towards the front of the store. Score! Arch Enemy for $4 used, Motorhead for $4 used and Kotipelto for $4 used and Rob Rock for $8 used…..the Motorhead – March Or Die was a missing album in my collection and both the Kotipelto and Rob Rock CDs replaced very plain promotional CDs I received from the record label years earlier. I spent $53 on this trip so i was pretty psyched to come under budget just a little.

The last trip of the month also included an Ebay auction I actually won while I was in the record store! New releases everywhere during the last week of the month: the new Motorhead, Ten, Sister Sin, Night Ranger and The Sword were all high priority buys and the Ebay auction was the Praying Mantis reissue from Rock Candy Records. I saved $35 off the regular prices of the new releases by buying them on sale the day of release with the biggest savings coming from the Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 release at $12 off. I also saved $6 on the Ten CD and $8 on the Night Ranger (both imports from Frontiers Records), $3 on the new Sister Sin and another $6 on the limited edition of the new CD from The Sword.

November update

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Mob Rules – Cannibal Nation (2012) – $14
Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $20
Kamelot – Silverthorn (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $0
Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (2012) – $13
Twisted Sister – A Twisted Xmas Live In Las Vegas (2012) – $0
Butcher Babies – Butcher Babies E.P. (2012) – $5 (from Butcher Babies merchandise website)

Another slow month with the holidays looming…..I only made one trip to the record store but I made it count when they had a “Buy 2 get 1 Free” sale on all CDs. Of course they ring the CDs from highest to lowest so I paid for the limited edition version of the new Aerosmith record and the new One Direction limited edition new album (I have a daughter that loves that boy band!) for $20 each and I got the new Kamelot – Silverthorn limited edition for free. I forget what the regular price on the One Direction CD was but that wouldn’t count here but the regular on the Aerosmith was a crazy $29 and the new Kamelot was on sale for $18 but the regular price would have been $22. My second bundle at this sale was the new Mob Rules album for $14 and the new Geoff Tate solo album for $13, both on sale, and I got the new Twisted Sister live Xmas album from Las Vegas for free. The Twisted Sister CD was on sale for $12 with a regular price of $16 and both the Mob Rules and Geoff tate albums had a regular price of $18. The last purchase I made was the debut E.P. from the Butcher Babies for $5. I had been hearing a lot about the band on various podcasts and I finally decided to pick up the E.P. towards the end of the month.

December update

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King Kobra – Ready To Strike (1985) – $8
King Kobra – Thrill Of A Lifetime (1986) – $8
U.D.O. – Live In Sofia (2CD/DVD) (2012) – $14
Bloodbound – In The Name Of Metal (2012) – $14
Municipal Waste – Massive Aggressive (2009) - $10 used
Ring Of Fire – The Oracle (2001) - $10 used
Tankard – Beast Of Bourbon (2004) – $0 used
Avian – Ashes And Madness (2009) - $10 used
Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985) – $9 used
Doro – Classic Diamonds (2004) – $0 used
Iced Earth – The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Pt.2) (2008) – $8 used
Municipal Waste – Hazardous Mutations (2005) – $8 used
Tristania – Midwinter Tears (CD/DVD) (2005) – $0 used
Grave Digger – 25 To Live (2CD) (2005) – $7 used
Grave Digger – Rheingold (2003) – $7 used
Gwar – Live From Mt. Fuji (2005) – $0 used
Scorpions – Taken By Force (1977) – $6 used
Overlorde – Return Of The Snow Giant (2004) – $6 used
Tristania – Ashes (2005) – $0 used
Straight Line Stitch – When Skies Wash Ashore (2008) – $6 used
Fates Warning – Inside Out (1994) – $4 used
Tristania – World Of Glass (2001) – $0 used

With the Christmas holiday looming, there was no extra money for CD shopping during December but that’s OK because the end of the year is always the slowest time for new releases. I knew there was a shopping spree coming at the end of the year because of all the gift cards I get to Newbury Comics for holiday gifts. This year was no exception, I netted $135 in gift cards so I held out as long as I could after Christmas (3 days!) and I was able to catch a year end used CD sale, Buy 2 Used CDs and Get 1 Free! The strategy for gift cards and a great sale was to get as much music as possible and to get some of those used CDs that I’d been passing over in my travels and, seeing that everything was basically free and nothing coming out of pocket, I spent a long time combing every rack in the Warwick, RI Newbury Comics. I put up all the prices above, including the sale freebies, so you could get an idea of what I would have spent.

I couldn’t pass on the King Kobra CDs because both were recent reissues in album style cardboard sleeves and brand new sealed at awesome cheap prices…..turns out they should have been $17.99 instead of $7.99 but that’s OK with me! I also couldn’t pass up the latest U.D.O. 2CD/DVD live release, Live In Sofia (2012), or the latest release from Bloodbound…..both were still on sale and they weren’t at my normal closer location. Both of these were $18 regular price so I saved $4 on each theoretically. So those are the new CDs, on to the used!

I put everything up by price because that’s how the store separates them and denotes the free ones. I like the fact that they give you a free CD closest to the price of the ones you buy so the Tankard CD should have been $10 used but it was free because the Municipal Waste and Ring Of Fire CDs were the same price. Obviously, I picked up a lot of back catalog from Municipal Waste, Grave Digger and Tristania with the biggest bargains being the two Municipal Waste and two Grave Digger CDs because you never see these albums used and, if you do, they are $12+ used because of the demand for Municipal Waste and Grave Digger is usually imports. Of the $0 CDs, the Tankard shuld have been $10, Tristania and Doro were $8 each, Gwar and another Tristania were $6 each and the last Tristania was $4 used. The final total on this hunt was $135 all paid with gift cards so I paid nothing out of pocket and I saved an additional $42 on the free used CDs!

Final 2012 Totals

Total (year) = $1804

Average Price (per item) = $7.71

Total CDs (year) = 227

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

Total iTunes Downloads (year) = 1

Just a quick analysis…..

Compared to 2011, I bought 85 more items (227 this year and 142 last year) and I spent $659 more than I did the previous year. My DVD total is low because a lot of bands/labels are packaging DVDs or Blu-Rays with live CDs now and I count those as CD packages. Also, 2012 was the first time I bought a Blu-Ray and paid for an iTunes download. I’m not sure what 2013 will hold for CD hunting but I’m hoping that I find more gems, fill a lot of holes in my collection, acquire more and spend less.

Let the hunt continue!

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

Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008)

Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008, Roasting House/Golden Core/Nightmare Records)

  1. Mind Diary
  2. Darkest Legacy
  3. Cloak & Daggers
  4. Paid In Blood
  5. The Silence Within
  6. One Silent Moment
  7. Alagoas
  8. Static
  9. Fragile
  10. Eyes Of Jealousy
  11. Ritual Of The Blade
  12. Justice

Band Lineup:
Mike Andersson – Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Björn Eliasson – Guitars & Keyboards
Patrick Svärd – Guitars
Haynes Pherson – Bass & Backing Vocals
Roger Landin – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Casper Andersen – Bagpipes (on ‘One Silent Moment’)

Producer: Pontus Lindmark

Total Time = 1:07:06

Cloudscape official website
Cloudscape MySpace page
Nightmare Records (U.S. distribution)
Roasting House Records (European distribution)
Golden Core Records MySpace page (European distribution)

Sweden’s Cloudscape has been on many a Progressive Metal fan’s radar since their self-titled debut in 2005 and sophomore release CRIMSON SKIES in 2006. The band blends Progressive Metal and Power Metal effortlessly with a keen sense of melody and rhythm. The band has all the elements of solid musicianship: an excellent singer, duelling twin lead guitars, complimentary keyboards and a pounding rhythm section. GLOBAL DRAMA was released in August and, on first listen, I immeadiately compared Cloudscape to Balance Of Power, Kamelot, Pagan’s Mind and Symphony X…..not bad company to keep!

Opening track ‘Mind Diary’ is a powerful monster of Power Metal riffing, a driving rhythm section and soaring melodic vocals from Mike Andersson. The keyboards swirl and enhance the overall sound to create a symphonic element as the song changes pace. One listen to ‘Mind Diary’ and I immeadiately drew a comparision to Balanace Of Power and knew that they rest of the album was going to be excellent. A simple keyboard introduction opens the heavy ‘Darkest Legacy’ that showcases some serious double bass drumming from Roger Landin amid the chugging guitars. Cloudscape has serious chops and they start to stretch their Metal muscles as they weave through a variety of styles.

‘Darkest Legacy’

‘Cloak & Daggers’ is another melodic prog feast that incorporates an exotic Middle Eastern sound with more prominent keyboards. The sound is very big and grand with a lot of layers, you have to listen very closely to hear the subtle touches the band has employed with the keyboards, percussion, acoustic guitar and what I believe is a sitar. ‘Cloak & Daggers’ also has my favorite performance from Mike Andersson, he shows complete range vocally and is able to move from a powerful delivery to a soft one with ease.

‘Cloak & Daggers’

‘Paid In Blood’ starts out very heavy but becomes more melodic as the song progresses. The chorus is catchy and I found myself singing along by the middle of the song. An immeadiate comparison to Balance Of Power and Kamelot is heard on ‘The Silence Within’. The guitars sound like something from Balance Of Power’s BOOK OF SECRETS (1998) and the vocals remind me of Kamelot’s Roy Khan. ‘The Silence Within’ starts out with haunting keyboards and moves into the main riff to set up a strong base for the melodic vocal delivery. You can tell the mark of a good song if you are singing along, doing your best air guitar, and banging your head back and forth…..that’s me on ‘The Silence Within’! Cloudscape brings in another international element to their music with the opening bagpipes on ‘One Silent Moment’, a mid-tempo song that builds into the chorus and starts to pick up more and more as the song progresses. The song actually starts out almost like a ballad and just continues until halfway where the keyboard has a quick spotlight solo. There are also some really cool bass lines that are more prominent in the mix.

‘Alagoas’ is one of two epic songs on GLOBAL DRAMA and it cocks in at just over 8 minutes. The song is mostly mid-tempo but builds up towards the melodic chorus. Halfway through the song everything slows down completely for an eerie New Age feel and moves into the solo section. The vocals are perfect and the guitar/keyboard combination compliment each other extremely well. Vocals are melodic, soaring, powerful and full of range, Mike Andersson is fast becoming one of my new favorite vocalists! ‘Static’ has a programmed feel to it with the opening keyboard tones but it immeadiately moves into chugging Power Metal riffing and the keys move more to the background. This song makes me think of Kamelot around the KARMA (2001) and EPICA (2003) era but with more crunch to the guitars. The opening piano of ‘Fragile’ is a perfect introduction for a song that is the closest thing to a ballad that you are going to get from Cloudscape. It’s a sweeping mid-tempo song that is near perfect in it’s diverse harmonies and instrumentation to create something beautiful. There are some melodic elements that makes me hear a bit of Angra from around the FIREWORKS album but not as speedy, more controlled.

The second epic on GLOBAL DRAMA is the 9 minute opus ‘Eyes Of Jealousy’. The song is pure Prog Metal that recalls Dream Theater in some spots but retains the overall melodic sense that is a mainstay of the enitre record. ‘Eyes Of Jealousy’ is different from it’s epic twin ‘Alagoas’ in that it follows the Progressive path more closely and incorporates more time changes and a varied musical landscape. ‘Ritual Of The Blade’ opens with an exotic Oriental/Middle Eastern keyboard intro and builds into a guitar/drum driven track with the exotic keyboard passage supplementing the song thoughout. The solos here are very good and the double bass pounding drives the song. Album closer ‘Justice’ reminds me of the album’s opener ‘Mind Diary’ with it’s straight forward Power Metal drive and soaring vocals, a smart way to bookend the album.

Bottom Line:
Cloudscape has been on my Metal radar for a couple of years but I never really had the chance to acquire their first two records, listening to GLOBAL DRAMA has changed that mistake! If you want to hear really good Progressive Metal that is hard, melodic and technically sound then GLOBAL DRAMA is the album to buy. The production is well done without sounding over-processed, the musicianship is top notch and Mike Andersson has become one of my favorite vocalists. I got this album back in early August just before the release date and I have kept this in my weekly rotation ever since. I can’t find a weak song on the album. My recommendation is that everyone should check out GLOBAL DRAMA, it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

Favorite Songs: ‘The Silence Within’, ‘Fragile’, ‘Cloak & Daggers’, ‘Alagoas’. I wanted to showcase a few songs but the truth is that there isn’t a bad song on GLOBAL DRAMA and I like each one!

Vacation Playlist – 8/31 thru 9/7

I’m back from a quick vacation! I didn’t realize that I had to use some vacation days up quick or I would lose them so i took a quick unscheduled vacation from work. I love being in a union! I decided that I was going to also take the week to get away from my dependence on the Internet and television and just concentrate on listening to music and reading a good book or two. I won’t lie and say I cut both totally out but I did limit my time to an hour for each every day. Sometimes I just need to tune out!

Some other things I did last week involved birthdays, my youngest daughter turned 5 and my mom turned 59 the same day, so there was a birthday barbecue. The return of regular season NFL Football came last Thursday with the reigning champion New York Giants facing the Washington Redskins. As many long time readers know, I’m a New England Patriots season ticket holder so I had the opening regular season game today (I am not discussing Tom Brady’s injury at this time), so I tried out a few new recipes on the grill for the pre-game tailgate in the parking lot. Add my 4 hour fantasy football draft Saturday morning and you can see that I may have been on vacation but I still had a lot going on!

I spent a lot of time with new albums and live albums this past week. I have to catch up on reviews and I want to do a “live album week” at the end of the month so I pulled out a few candidates for those reviews.

Metal Church – This Present Wasteland (2008)
Iced Earth – The Crucible Of Man (2008)
Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider (2008)
Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008)
Maiden Heaven: A Kerrang! Tribute To Iron Maiden (2008)
Venom – Hell (2008)
Motorhead – Motorizer (2008)
Ayreon – 01011001 (2008)
Royal Hunt – Collision Course – Paradox II (2008)
Avantasia – The Scarecrow (2008)
Judas Priest – Nostradamus (2008)

These are the new albums that I have been rgiving serious rotation to the last couple of weeks. I’ve never really taken Avantasia and Judas Priest out of my weekly playlist, same goes for the new Ayreon but I’ve given it just a little more focus because there is so much to hear. The new albums from Royal Hunt, Motorhead, Cloudscape and Alice Cooper are all very good and I haven’t stopped enjoying them. I just picked up the new Venom recently (along with something else I know I’m forgetting, watch for an update on my purchases soon) and it’s…..well, Venom! Venom and Motorhead are so much alike in that they do the same thing over and over. Most of my listening went to advances of the new Iced Earth and Metal Church that I’ve had a few weeks now…..I’m preparing the Iced Earth review for this week, Metal Church next week.

KISS – Alive! (1975)
KISS – Alive II (1977)
Iron Maiden – Live After Death (1985)
Scorpions – World Wide Live (1985)
UFO – Strangers In The Night (1979)
UFO – Werewolves Of London: Live In Wolverhampton 1998 (1999)
Royal Hunt – Live In Japan 1996 (1996)
Michael Schenker Group – Live Unforgiven World Tour (1999)
Black Sabbath – Live Evil (1982)
Black Sabbath – Reunion (1998)
Queen – Live At Wembley ’86 (1992)
Queen – On Fire: Live At The Bowl ’82 (2004)
Judas Priest – Priest In The East (1979)
Judas Priest – Priest…..Live! (1987)
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed (1982)
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Pt.2 (1998)
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Pt.3 (2006)
Krokus – Alive & Screamin’ (1986)
Jeff Scott Soto – Live At The Gods (2003)

That’s a pretty good list of live albums! Some of these albums were instrumental in my discovering studio albums from the bands, some were important in my understanding of different eras of the bands, but all of them had a profound influence on me. The first two KISS ALIVE albums are cornerstones of my love for Heavy Metal and KISS but I would also have to put LIVE AFTER DEATH and WORLD WIDE LIVE right there with them because they were cassettes I played to death back when I was kid. I should probably add the Krokus and Judas Priest live records to that list too.

I did a lot of comparisons: PRIEST IN THE EAST vs. PRIEST…..LIVE!, LIVE EVIL vs. REUNION, all 3 Saxon live albums. Some are no brainers so I expect everyone to comment how bad PRIEST…..LIVE! & REUNION are to two all-time classic live albums. Some of these albums like the UFO records, the Royal Hunt, MSG and Jeff Scott Soto have become favorites over the years and you can’t dispute Queen’s legacy in the live arena. My plan for the “live album week” is to pick 7 out of this list, or maybe pick 6 and throw in a surprise, for reviews and memories.

Late Sunday Playlist — 8/24/08

I’m off work tonite due to a last minute schedule change. Am I tired? Of course! I slept all day after I got home from work this morning so I’m good, I could always use extra sleep though! So I’m unexpectedly off from work, the family is asleep, and I am locked in my music room spinning CDs…..

Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008): What a great album this is! Cloudscape is high quality Power/Progressive Metal, akin to Balance Of Power. GLOBAL DRAMA came out last Tuesday officially but I have been enjoying the disc for a few weeks now. Review this week!

Biloxi – III -In The Wake Of The Storm (2007): Another album I’ve been enjoying a lot lately and it’s a top candidate of my year end list of albums I missed in 2007. Founding vocalist/guitarist Clyde Holly sadly passed away during the recording process so he only sings on 2 songs and contributes guitars to 5. Mark Allen Lanoue has filled in very well in place of Clyde and the band pays tribute to him by creating some good melodic Hard Rock.

Iced Earth – The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Pt. 2) (2008): This doesn’t come out for two more weeks but let me tell you this…..it’s awesome! Bringing Matt Barlow back to the band is probably the smartest thing Jon Schaffer has done since the original SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in 1998. Another solid release for 2008!

Iced Earth – Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt. 1) (2007): I’ve been a big Iced Earth fan since BURNT OFFERINGS (1995) but I just didn’t get into the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era of the band. I thought that THE GLORIOUS BURDEN (2004) was boring and I didn’t get into this album until the end of last year. It made my list of the Top 15 Albums Of 2007, coming in at lucky #13! I figured I’d give it a fresh listen.

Metal Church – This Present Wasteland (2008): Another album that doesn’t come out until the end of September. I will be reviewing this one soon so I’m not giving much away right now.

Grim Reaper – See You In Hell (1984): I had to put a classic in there with all the new releases! I haven’t given this a listen in a long time and I needed a NWOBHM fix. I remember being a kid in ’84 and getting a poster of the album cover from a metal mag, I had that poster on my wall until I moved out of my mom’s house…..14 years!