The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#21-#30)

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 it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#21 – #30):

#30

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010): A Capella Power Metal…..that’s the best way to describe the Van Canto sound. I was skeptical when I first heard about Van Canto but after a few listens to the first single, ‘Lost Forever’, I got more interested. What drew me in was the uniqueness of the project but that also made the album a little hard to take after multiple listens. I’m adding TRIBE OF FORCE to the countdown because of the uniqueness of the idea and the fact that the band pulls it off extremely well. The only instrument used was the drums, everything else is vocal instrumentation. You have to admit, it takes a lot of talent to pull something like that off! Not having proper guitars and bass may take some getting used to for some fans but Van Canto is definitely more than a novelty band. http://www.vancanto.de

#29

Human Cometh – Evolution (2010): Human Cometh has to be one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I’m not sure how I found out about the band, either I found them through other Metal websites or the band contacted me about their debut album EVOLUTION. It doesn’t matter because I found them and the album is an excellent blend of different styles including Hard Rock, Melodic Rock, Power Metal and Progressive Metal. Every song on EVOLUTION is well written with solid musicianship and it’s hard to believe that this is a new band. One of the things I thought was cool about Human Cometh was that they offered this album as a FREE download to anyone interested and, if they wanted, fans could send a donation to the band via Paypal. It’s all about getting the music out there and Human Cometh have done just that. From what I understand, there is a proper CD pressing available so head over to their website to preview the music and support the band by purchasing a CD. http://www.humancometh.com

#28

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2010): After re-reading the review I wrote on SCREAM back in July, I noticed that it may be a little too influenced by the previous two subpar albums. I sat down and gave this album a fresh listen and it’s actually pretty good. When you start to compare it to Ozzy’s last two records it sounds like a solid comeback for the Prince Of Darkness. I’m always skeptical of anything Ozzy does because of that stupid TV show that made him look like an idiot and his puppetmaster wife Sharon but I have to give Ozzy credit for trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing Metal climate. SCREAM isn’t the Ozzy of old, it isn’t the Ozzy of the ’90s, but it’s definitely the Ozzy for the new millenium. Dropping Zakk Wylde and replacing him with Gus G. added some fuel to the fire and seeing Ozzy live this past summer proved that he is back in a big way. SCREAM was a grower and it turned out to be a solid record. http://www.ozzy.com

#27

Raven – Walk Through Fire (2010): WALK THROUGH FIRE is one of those albums that got a worldwide release in 2009 except for North America. Metal Blade Records stepped to the plate and distributed the album here in the U.S. and I finally got to here the new raven at a decent price! Nothing is better than hearing new music from one of my old favorites, especially from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Raven was one of those bands I picked up on from the Metal magazines in the ’80s and I have slowly acquired a lot of their back catalogue. This new album sounds like the Raven of old, like the Raven that made WIPED-OUT (1982) and ALL FOR ONE (1983). A ton of high powered energy here and John Gallagher sounds like he hasn’t aged at all. This an album well worth waiting for, I just hope the next one isn’t another nine years in the making! http://www.ravenlunatics.com/

#26

Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra (2010): Two of my goals for 2010 was to open myself up to more extreme styles of Metal and bands that I have always wanted to check out but never get around to. Dimmu Borgir fit both goals perfectly, I have been wanting to check out more Black Metal and Dimmu Borgir has been one of those bands that I have wanted to check out for a long time. I’m very new to the whole Black Metal scene, I’ve read a ton about it and I’ve heard some songs but it’s safe to say that my personal collection and listening habits don’t include a lot of it. Dimmu seemed to be the most popular Black metal band so grabbing this new album was a perfect opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this album, it had a lot of different sounds and orchestration and the vocals weren’t completely unintelligible. ABRAHADABRA has the same effect that Immortal’s ALL SHALL FALL (2009) had on me last year, it’s opened up a new appreciation for Black Metal and now I’m starting in explore Dimmu’s previous records and check out other Black Metal bands. http://www.dimmu-borgir.com/

#25

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010): It’s kind of funny following Black Metal’s biggest band with a band name Heavenly. CARPE DIEM is another one of those albums that got a release everywhere but the U.S. in 2009, we finally got the proper release from AFM Records in early 2010. I’m a big Power Metal fan but I had never heard any songs from Heavenly’s previous four records so they were a totally new band for me. I have to admit, the reason why I got so interested in this album is the album cover, it’s so old school and so ’80s that it’s great. Seriously, album cover of the year! The music is well done with plenty of soaring vocals, orchestration and powerful guitars and I was completely surprised by the overt Queen influence on a few songs. Heavenly is a perfect example of a band that makes music I like but has fallen below my radar, CARPE DIEM has me searching out the band’s previous albums. http://www.heavenly.fr/

#24

Overkill – Ironbound (2010): When you get into discussions about Thrash Metal, the first four bands people bring up are the big four of Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. As you move along, you get the second tier of Thrash bands like Testament, Exodus and Overkill. I don’t know if it’s because Overkill was an East Coast band and the focus always went to the San Francisco Bay area scene back in the day but Overkill always seems to get forgotten. The band has been going strong for 26 years and they have released great album after great album the whole time. IRONBOUND continues the tradition and it’s one hell of an old school Thrash album following the same formula Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and D.D. Verni have been using their entire career: high powered, in your face Thrash. There’s no frills here just straightforward power and that’s why IRONBOUND is one of the best Metal albums of 2010. http://wreckingcrew.com/Ironbound/

#23

Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010): KISS is my favorite band so anytime a former member releases a solo project I run to the record store! Bruce Kulick was one of the biggest reasons KISS remained a vital entity from the mid-’80s through the mid-’90s…..his playing was always great and he added that sense of stability at the lead guitarist position that the band needed since Ace Frehley left. I never really got around to buying Bruce’s two previous solo albums but I did follow him post-KISS with Union so I knew a little of what to expect. What I didn’t expect was a high quality and very personal Hard Rock album and that’s a statement made without all the KISS fandom attached. The songwriting is great as is Bruce guitar work but the surprise is how well Bruce sings because he only ever got one song to sing in KISS (‘I Walk Alone from 1997’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS). Another great surprise is how well the collaborations went with other musicians singing like Gene Simmons, Nick Simmons, Tobias Sammet, John Corabi and Doug Fieger from The Knack…..these are some of the best songs on the album. Maybe Bruce could teach Slash how it’s done? http://www.kulick.net/

#22

Mob Rules – Radical Peace (2010): I’ve been a Mob Rules fan since 1999’s SAVAGE LAND but I missed out on the band’s last album ETHNOLUTION A.D. (2006). When I read that Mob Rules was releasing a new record, I jumped at it as soon as it came out but the problem was that it didn’t get released until 2010 in the U.S. but everywhere else got it in late 2009. This is another one of those albums from AFM Records in Germany…..I don’t know if it’s a distribution thing or what but I wish these album would come out at the same time in all territories. RADICAL PEACE is a mix of Power and Progressive Metal and it has a HUGE sound, it kind of reminds me of one of my favorite records from 2008, Cloudscape’s GLOBAL DRAMA. All the songs on this album are really good but the standout is the 18+ minute long ‘The Oswald File’, a song that is the second part of ETHNOLUTION A.D. and is broken up into six chapters. Definitely an epic! http://www.mobrules.de/

#21

Sister Sin – Sounds Of The Underground (2010): I had Sister Sin on the list of bands to check out but once I saw them open up for the Michael Schenker Group in July, I ended up putting both their albums at the top of the listening pile. Sister Sin plays a traditional style of Heavy Metal and I was blown away by how much energy and power they had live. Lead singer Liv has a great Metal voice that reminds me of Doro Pesch and she kicks a ton of ass on stage. Sister Sin’s overall sound reminds me of Doro, Warlock and also Judas Priest, the aggressiveness gives it that early ’80s Metal sound. I like the fact that the music is guitar oriented and aggressive, the only other band I can remember in recent years that kicked this much ass doing female-fronted Traditional Metal is Benedictum. Sister Sin is definitely a band to check out and watch in the future. http://www.sistersin.com/

CD Scavenger Hunt (October 2010 update)

I’m trying to get back into regular posting, especially catching up on what I’ve been buying. With two months full of purchases sitting on my desk, the goal was to catch up quick and, hopefully, be prepared for November’s and December’s updates. I got September’s update posted a couple days ago so here’s the October update, it’s a small one because I made only one shopping trip to the record store…..

Newbury Comics

Angra – Aqua (2010) – $12: I got into Brazil’s Angra back in 1998 when I first got hooked up to the Internet, that was the year of Metal re-birth for me because I discovered all these bands that I had read about briefly in the few fanzines I subscribed to. My first Angra album was 1998’s FIREWORKS and I have collected every album since. I had no idea Angra was releasing a new album and I only found out when my Newbury Comics e-newsletter arrived in my inbox. This has happened with a bunch of releases lately and it’s due to my not being attached to the computer as much as I’ve been in the last few years…..if you’re not paying attention, then you might miss out! This was one of the two albums on my list this week so it was a definite purchase whether it was on sale or not. Regular price was $16 so I saved $4 buying the day of release.

Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra (2010) – $9: I don’t own any Dimmu Borgir albums but I have kept my eye on the band over the years reading about them in magazines and online and sampling their music from time to time on MySpace or their official website. I just never got around to buying any of their albums but, with my purposeful committment to try out more extreme Metal, I have been waiting for an excuse to buy a Dimmu Borgir album. The $9 sale price helped a lot considering that the regular price would eventually be $15 so I saved $6. I wasn’t going to buy this album but I saw it in the new release rack and I figured I would take a chance and check it out. The CD includes deluxe cardboard packaging, a bonus track and bonus video.

Grave Digger – The Clans Will Rise Again (2010) – $12: I’ve been a Grave Digger fan for a long time and their last album, BALLADS OF A HANGMAN (2009), just came out last year so I was surprised to see this new album on the new release list. The problem was that the store only had one copy and it was sold immeadiately at 10am when they opened. I got to the store 15 minutes later so I was a little pissed that I didn’t get the album right away. Rather than drive the half hour to the next closest location, I decided to go back to the store a couple days later when two more copies would be available! Inconvenience due to my own lateness aside, a new Grave Digger album is a must have and this was the only other album on my list along with the new Angra. The U.S. pressing includes the bonus track ‘Watch Me Die’.

Angel Dust – Of Human Bondage (2002) – $3 used: Bargain of the month! Since I had to make the 10 minute trip back to my local Newbury Comics a couple days later to pick up the new Grave Digger record I might as well take some time and browse again! I go to the same store every week because it’s so close to my house so I usually get my new releases right away but the store’s regular stock and used CD stock generally stays the same…..there’s not a lot of turnover in the North Attleboro location like there is in the busier Warwick location 25 minutes away. I pretty much have the place memorized so it was a great surprise to find this Angel Dust CD in the bargain bin that I just checked two days earlier…..and for $3! The added bonus to the whole thing is that the album comes with a bonus CD sampler from Centruy Media…..I will always take basically 2 CDs of music for $3. Assuming regular price is around $12 then I saved $9.

Ebay

Lana Lane – Ballad Collection I (1998), Ballad Collection II (2000) & European Tour 2003 Souvenir CD (2003) – $12: All three CDs were bought from the same seller who I believe is Think Tank Media, Lana Lane’s label that is run by her husband and fellow musician Erik Norlander. I have been trying to fill the holes in my Lana Lane collection but a lot of the earlier albums are out of print and hard to find, especially all of her albums prior to, and including, 2000 because they were al released exclusively in Japan on the Avalon/Marquee label. Both BALLAD COLLECTON CDs are sealed Japanese pressings and the Euro Tour 2003 CD is also sealed, usually the Ballad CDs go for $20 at the Think Tank website and $25+ on Ebay and the Euro Tour 2003 CD for $15 at Think Tank and about the same at auction. Getting all three albums for an average of $4 each was a huge score and I estimate that I saved at least $43 based on the average regular prices I’ve seen in the last few years.

Total = $48

Total (year) = $1460

Average Price (per item) = $10.28

Total CDs (year) = 130

Total DVDs (year) = 4

Total Box Sets (year) = 6

Total LPs (year) = 2

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America DVD (2009)

severed_ways

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2009, Heathen Films/Magnolia Pictures)

(Region 0, NTSC, Total Running Time = 147 minutes)

Director: Tony Stone

Severed Ways
Severed Ways MySpace Films page
Severed Ways on IMDB
Heathen Films
Magnolia Pictures

I enjoy good movies but I’m hardly film aficionado. I took a few film classes in college and I did well in them so I understand, and look for, things that most people might miss when they sit in front of the screen and veg. I enjoy independent films because most offer an alternative point of view and/or subject matter than big budget blockbusters that Hollywood crams down our throats. I got my first exposure to SEVERED WAYS through a news item I read at Bravewords.com that included the two trailers (first one is normal, second is Metal):

Anything that combines Metal music to a unique film concept is right up my alley so I’ve been anticipating watching this DVD for a few weeks. Once I got my copy in my DVD player I kicked back and watched one really good independent film! The film centers around two Viking explorers that have been abandoned by their expedition after a losing battle with the natives (Skrealings) of this newly discovered land (North America). The film tracks their survival and journey as they try to make their way North to rejoin their comrades. The Vikings hunt, build shelter, encounter Christian priests (complete with a church burning), and ultimately meet their demise. The plot doesn’t seem like much but it’s the realism that really hooks you in. Nothing is as real as watching the Vikings survive in the lush forest landscape from their hunting and fighting to actually taking a dump and wiping off with leaves! Honestly, I could have done without a Viking taking a dump but think about it…..isn’t that something that would need to be done? The fight scenes and the killing that is done in the film is brutal in it’s rawness but not gory like a B Horror flick. It’s all about bringing the viewer into the adventure with as much reality as possible. I don’t want to simplify everything here but that is essentially the plot, there really isn’t too much to it. The sub-plot is each Viking’s personal attitudes and their personal journey of self-awareness.  

What makes the film for me is the way it was shot. Obviously this isn’t a Hollywood action flick with millions behind it but I liked the way director Tony Stone used regular cameras as well as handhelds to give the proper perspective. When watching scenes from the handheld cameras you get the sense of urgency and the sense of actually being in the thick of the forest as the events unfold. I also like the fact that there was minimal dialogue and that the actors spoke in what seems to be a Norse language but the subtitles kind of kill the vibe. The film is all about authenticity and realism, I would have rathered heard the dialogue with no subtitles so I could interpret the communication my own way. There is a particular scene in the beginning where the Vikings are feasting on some game and one turns to the other and mentions how “killer” the food is. “Killer”! Seriously, couldn’t someone come up with something less Hot Topic!

The Metal aspects of the film are obvious. First…..Vikings! If there was ever a subject that the Metal world understood it’s Vikings. Second…..Norse mythology vs. Christianity. If there’s another subject that the Metal world undertands it’s Norse mythology. Take a look at most of the Scandinavian Black Metal scene and there are plenty of examples and influences of how pro-Norse/anti-Christian attitudes permeate the music. Third…..the soundtrack. It’s a more subdued Metal soundtrack than I expected, more atmospheric and ambient but still containing the heaviness of Old Man’s Child, Dimmu Borgir, and Burzum among others. There is one scene that seems way out of place…..the headbanging scene in Chapter 2 – Camp. In Chapter 1 – Stranded, the Viking pair make a shelter to survive. At the beginning of Chapter 2, the shelter is built, the Metal music starts out and you see the Viking called Orn headbanging in celebration. Totally out of place! Why go through all the effort of being as authentic as possible and then put in a quick scene of a Viking rocking out?

Bottom Line:
I really enjoyed SEVERED WAYS because of the way the film was presented, the more real it became the more I liked it. The actors did a great job and the way the film was shot added to the realism of being stuck in primitive North America in 1007 A.D. There really isn’t anything Metal about the film except for the underlying soundtrack but it is a cool connection with the Norse theme. If you’re looking for a fantasy based epic from Hollywood then this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking for some sort of Heavy Metal themed video, this isn’t the movie for that either. What you get is a basic journey of two stranded Vikings in a foreign land: they eat, they sleep, they crap, they kill, they die. It’s all very basic but the way it’s all presented is the key. Well worth checking out…..