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/

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

Vacation is over! Back to work…..

Well, vacation is over and I’m heading back to work this afternoon. How depressing!

It was a nice quiet 7 days off from work with the family. We went to the shore a couple of times and did a few other things but the main thing was that I got to relax. I did some things around the house and spent time with the kids without being exhausted but the thing I did for myself was catch up on some music.

Here’s a few albums I listened to on vacation, I didn’t keep a list but I pulled out a ton from my collection:

The Who – Tommy (1969): A legendary band, a legendary album. I happened to hear a block of three TOMMY songs on one of the classic rock radio stations so I pulled this out for a few spins.

Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977/2008 deluxe reissue): More Classic Rock! I picked this up last Tuesday when it came out (more on that when I post a Hunt!) and I have been listening ever since. My wife and I went to the Billy Joel concert on July 3rd so I’m still on a bit of a Billy Joel kick.

Judas Priest – Nostradamus (2008): The album that will not go away! I keep listening and finding something new but it’s still a long listen at close to 2 hours over two CDs. I’m trying to get ready for a review but there is so much music, and Priest is my second favorite band, that I want to give the album a lot of time.

Motley Crue – Saints Of Los Angeles (2008): One of the biggest releases of the year and I’m definitely still listening. There’s plenty of good songs here but I’ve had to hit the “skip” button on a few songs.

Avantasia – The Scarecrow (2008): So far, my album of the year. Tobias Sammet has really created a masterpiece project with Avantasia, something that was supposed to be a side project that’s now as big as his main band, Edguy. Best song is the Alice Cooper sung ‘The Toy Master’.

Rogue Male – First Visit (1985) and Animal Man (1986): Both of these are reissues from Metal Mind Productions and I have been giving both CDs some serious time. I haven’t heard FIRST VISIT in about 20 years! Reviews coming…..

TKO – Let It Roll (1979) and In Your Face (1984): These two albums are officially reissued CDs from Tribunal Records with tons of bonus tracks. Another time travel back to my early days because I haven’t heard IN YOUR FACE in over 20 years too! I always meant to pick up the vinyl on Ebay but Tribunal has done a solid job with the reissues. Look for reviews soon…..

Temujin – 1000 Tears (2008): The band was nice enough to pass a copy along for review and I have to admit, I was surprised by the excellent music. I had never heard of Temujin but I know them now! The music is like MANDYLION-era and NIGHTTIME BIRDS-era The Gathering with a little Lacuna Coil in there.

Infernophonic – Spark It Up (2007): Another solid Hard Rock band i missed out on in 2007. Solid album, review soon.

Benedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy (2008): It’s a really good album but I think their frist record, UNCREATION (2006), is better. I’m still enjoying it though.

Gene Simmons – Asshole (2004): I was picking through my KISS related albums and I decided that this deserved it’s annual spin to see if it’s as bad as I remembered. Unfortunately, this is just a bad album with maybe one or two songs I like. This ties with Peter Criss – One For All (2007) as the worst KISS related album ever.

Paul Stanley – Live To Win (2006): I had to pull this out to compare it to Gene’s album…..light years better! I haven’t given this a spin in a while but it’s obvious who the true creative force is behind KISS.

Griffen – Linked In Eternity (2008): Just reviewed this one and I thought it was great. Only a 5 song demo but professionally done and very cool to listen to.

There were so many more albums that I pulled from my collection that I hadn’t heard fro a long time. I started to pull out different albums from Ratt, Dokken, Scorpions, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, UFO, ZZ Top, and Bruce Dickinson solo. I listened to a few live albums as well from KISS, Maiden, Priest, UFO, Sabbath, Royal Hunt, Motley Crue, Scorpions, Triumph because I want to do a “live album week” in the next couple of months.

It was a great week of music!

Griffen – Linked In Eternity (2008)

Griffen – Linked In Eternity (2008, self-released promo demo)

  1. Linked In Eternity
  2. Secret Fire
  3. Falling Inside
  4. The Hydra
  5. Life Is On The Way

Band Lineup:
Jörgen Söderberg – Lead Vocals
Tomi Peltonen – Guitars, Vocals
Harri Tuovila – Bass, Vocals
Stefan Törnblom – Guitars, Vocals
Kristian Huotari – Drums, Vocals

Total Time = 25:36

Griffen official website
Griffen MySpace page

Up until about a month ago, I had never heard of Griffen. The band was kind enough to contact me and send me a copy of LINKED IN ETERNITY for review. I did a little research and found that Griffen is from Sweden and has two current members of Torch among their ranks (Peltonin &  Huotari)! I have had a fascination with Torch for a long time so my interest got sparked big time. Turns out that this is Griffen’s second promo demo (the first was in 2007) and it is one of the most professionally done demos I’ve heard in the last couple of years.

The music is basically a blend of melodic Hard Rock and traditional Heavy Metal that really has it’s roots in the ’80s…..it’s all straight forward Metal with strong vocals, a great twin axe attack, and a powerful rhythm section. The guitars really form a solid groove on every track without being overbearing. It’s not about overplaying and fitting in as many notes as possible, it’s about attitude. The blend of heaviness and melody cannot be overstated, this is the basis of good old fashioned Metal. Yes, the songs’ roots sound like they’re from the ’80s but it’s far from “dated”, the production is top notch and the mix crystal clear. The music is excellent but Söderberg’s vocals are particularly impressive, he can move from low/mid-range to hitting all the highs while maintaining a melodic presence. It seems very easy for Söderberg to move between straight up Hard Rock to the heavier Metal songs, I would take a close listen to both ‘The Hydra’ and ‘Life Is On The Way’ as perfect examples.

Bottom Line:
For a second demo, everything is crystal clear and evenly mixed, very professional work. Every song has solid musicianship and vocals but the key is that they songs themselves were well-written and stayed true to the attitude and style of the band. I’m very surprised that a European label has not snapped these guys up yet for a full-length album, there is some major talent here and Griffen would do well in today’s crowded Metal scene. Frontiers would be a solid fit, maybe even Nightmare Records in the U.S., whoever signs Griffen will end up with a solid, well-tuned band. I’m hoping to acquire the band’s first demo CD as well so keep your eyes here for more news on Griffen in the future, I’m sure we will be hearing good things from them.

Favorite songs: all of them