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/

Heavenly - Carpe Diem (2010)

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010)

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Carpe Diem
  2. Lost In Your Eyes
  3. Farewell
  4. Fullmoon
  5. A Better Me
  6. Ashen Paradise
  7. The Face Of Truth
  8. Ode To Joy
  9. Save Our Souls

Band Lineup:
Benjamin Sotto – Vocals
Charley Corbiaux – Guitars
Matthieu Plana – Bass
Olivier Lapauze – Guitars
Pierre-Emmanuel “Piwee” Desfray – Drums

Guest Musicians:
Oliver Hartmann – Vocals on ‘Save our Souls’
Geraldine Gadaut – Vocals on ‘Carpe Diem’ & ‘Ashen Paradise’
Nicolas Marco – Orchestration, piano & keyboards

Producers: Philip Colodetti & Heavenly

Country: France

Total Time = 45:15

Heavenly
Heavenly MySpace Page
AFM Records

European Power Metal.

Some of you may stop reading right now because Power Metal is a hotly debated genre in the world of Heavy Metal. I’m a Power Metal fan, I like the soaring vocals and the duelling guitars…..I grew up with bands like Judas Priest, Helloween, Manowar and Grave Digger, some of the pioneers of the genre. Then I moved on to bands like Blind Guardian, Angra, Gamma Ray, and Hammerfall but I always enjoy discovering a band that may have fallen under my radar. I had never really heard of Heavenly, maybe a passing review online, but the release of the band’s new album, CARPE DIEM, in December 2009 (U.S. release was in late January 2010) gave me a closer inspection. I’ve had a digital promo copy of the album since late December 2009 but I wasn’t going to pay the high import prices, I waited until the U.S. release date in January to pick this up for my collection.

The title track opens the album with blistering double bass pounding from Piwee Desfray and lightning fast riffs from the Corbiaux/Laspauze guitar duo but the song quickly moves in and out of orchestrated parts with guest vocals by Benighted Soul’s Geraldine Gadaut. The song is very good and the trade-off between Gadaut and Ben Sotto works well because she compliments his lead vocal. ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ follows with over the top, technical speed…..basically your typical Power Metal styled song. This track reminds me of the faster songs from Angra’s FIREWORKS (1998) album, it has that huge sound with the multi-layered background vocals and swirling guitars. Honestly, if your not a fan of Power Metal, then ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ is going to turn you off because it’s pretty formulaic in it’s performance but fans like myself will enjoy it.

The thing about Power Metal is that you need to expand your sound and add different elements to it in order to have the music and band stand out. For Heavenly, this means showcasing their obvious love of British Rock icons Queen. ‘Farewell’ is a grand Queen-styled showcase complete with Sotto delivering an extremely high falsetto to an opening piano and weaving in and out of Freddie Mercury’s range (but falling short). Sotto does a decent impression but Mercury is the master! ‘Farewell’ has the orchestration, the piano and almost the exact guitar tone that Brian May uses on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…..this is Heavenly’s ‘Rhapsody’, even copying the ending of the song for the most part. Queen is one of my favorite bands so I have no problem with the overt influence, it breaks the album up and gives you something different. ‘Fullmoon’ follows the same pattern as ‘Lost In Your Eyes’…..fast paced, guitar and double bass heavy with soaring vocals, sounding like Angra again. It’s definitely repetitive and I feel like I’ve heard this all before and I even pulled out Angra’s FIREWORKS for further comparison! Speaking of repetitive, Heavenly gives us another Queen-inspired song with ‘A Better Me’. There are Queen elements all over this song from the Brian May guitar sound, to the background vocals, to the piano accompaniment and the various pacing added to Sotto’s flamboyant Freddie impression. I like this song too but I definitely would have moved it down the track order so there wasn’t any Queen overkill. It’s definitely over the top with that really large sound and that could be the thing that turns other fans off.

The band returns to the pure speed of ‘Ashen Paradise’, complete with Desfray’s pummelling double bass drumming (he is a force on the entire record!), some airplane sound effects and special guest Oliver Hartmann contributing vocals. The guitar duel between Corbiaux and Lapauze at the solo is very frantic, a little DragonForce maybe, but the speed fits well with the song and there is a lot of melody within those bombarding notes. Another great song follows with ‘The Face Of Truth’, a slower song compared to ‘Ashen Paradise’ but not devoid of speed and power. ‘The Face Of Truth’ has a little more grit and strength to it especially around the main riff. The keyboards compliment the song well but I wouldn’t have minded a tougher vocal from Sotto…..the falsetto is very good but sometimes a lower register adds a lot more. Like many Power Metal bands, Classical Music plays a big part in the overall influence of the band, hence ‘Ode To Joy’. Obviously, the inspiration comes from Beethoven’s 9th symphony and the band weaves a speed metal journey around it. It’s a good song but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, kind of like classical Helloween but with higher vocals. The good news is that Heavenly gives one more solid track with ‘Save Our Souls’ and builds on the “power” in Power Metal rather than the obvious speed. The song opens with some sort of sci-fi intro but moves into a really good, less frantic pace. The speed is still there, especially at the solo, and the layered background vocals give the song that huge sound but there is a bit more control on this song and that makes it one of the better songs on CARPE DIEM.

Bottom Line:
From my description of the songs one might think that I didn’t like this album but I actually like it a lot. That’s the thing about Power Metal, you either love it or you hate it. I like the over the top huge sound, the speedy guitar work, the grand orchestrated passages and the soaring high vocals but that doesn’t appeal to everyone. There is a Power Metal backlash out there that has been brewing for at least the last 10 years so I figured I would describe the songs so people know what they are getting into. I thought the Queen influence was a highlight, although I would have spaced those two tracks out to avoid overkill. The music is performed expertly and there is plenty of power and melody throughout, I would have preferred that Ben Sotto used a little more grit on some of the songs rather than focusing completely with his falsetto but he still has a great voice. For me, there was enough good songs and interesting pieces on CARPE DIEM for me to go back and check out Heavenly’s back catalogue. This is the band’s fifth album and, from what I’ve read, the first four albums are really good. Overall, I liked the album but it did get a little repetitive at times and I found myself checking other bands’ (Angra, Gamma Ray) albums for similar sounding songs. If you like Helloween, Angra, Gamma Ray and Queen then you can’t go wrong with this record. By the way, great album cover!

Favorite Songs:
‘Carpe Diem’, ‘Farewell’, ‘A Better Me’, ‘Save Our Souls’, ‘Ashen Paradise’

CD Scavenger Hunt – 30 day update

I got my taxes done in early February so the annual refund windfall my family receives is always a welcome event to start the new year. I’ve spent a lot of money in the last 30 days between paying down debt, buying new furniture, a big T.V. and a long-awaited Playstation 3. I spent a little bit of money on music but not a lot, I’ve just been keeping up with some of the newer releases and a few that I missed in 2009. So here’s what I picked up in the last month or so…..

Foreigner – Can’t Slow Down (2009) – $12: This was one of the albums that I missed in 2009 that I had heard so many good things about but never got around to setting foot in a Wal-Mart because I hate it so much. If I have to go into a Wal-Mart for any reason then it means that either my wife has brought me in or whatever I need is only available there. The last time I was in Wal-Mart was when I bought another exclusive, KISS – SONIC BOOM (2009). I should have just bought this new Foreigner album then but I didn’t for some strange reason. Same deal as other Wal-Mart exclusives: a 3 disc set including the new record, a CD of re-recorded hits and a live concert DVD. Great value, bad retail environment.

Overkill – Ironbound (2010) – $10: I hadn’t set foot in the record store in a couple of weeks so I went in specifically to get the new Overkill after I went to the Wal-Mart to buy the Foreigner album. I can’t remember the last time I missed an Overkill record and I wasn’t going to miss this one especially with a great release day sale price! How can you beat saving $6 off the regular price by picking the album up the day of release, or at least the week of release?

Icarus Witch – Draw Down The Moon (2010) – $9: Of course going to the record store means that you’re probably going to buy more than one CD and I started going through the Metal section. I completely forgot that the new Icarus Witch album had come out and I was shocked by the low sale price. If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you know that Icarus Witch is one of my favorite new bands of the last 4 to 5 years so this was an easy purchase.

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010) – $15: Can you guess by the album cover what type of Metal this is? If you guessed Power Metal…..you’re correct. CARPE DIEM was released on AFM Records everywhere but North America in the Fall of 2009 and I’ve had the digital promo from the label since then. I just can’t embrace downloading as a form of ownership yet (a topic for another time!), I’m an old school collector and I still like the CD, cassette, vinyl, or DVD in my hands. Like I said, AFM Records sent me the digital promo and the album is really good so I put this on my want list to physically own. The problem is that all the online stores I shop at, including Ebay, offered the European import from 2009 for $20+ and then a shipping charge on top of that! I wasn’t about to pay $25+ for a CD when I could wait patiently for a U.S. release. Same label, same packaging, same music but at least $10 cheaper by waiting.

Keel – Streets Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (2010) – $13: Same situation as Heavenly: I received the digital promo from the label, it’s a great album, put it on the want list because I want to own the physical product. I always wondered why Keel never got back together during the reunion boom of the last 15 years but it was definitely worth the wait because this new record is solid. Sale price was unadvertised and there was only one copy at the store so I snatched it up and saved a few bucks off the regular price and the online price at my online shops.

Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary Edition) (2010 reissue) – $13: It’s hard to believe that 25 years has gone by since this album came out. I have been a Keel fan since 1984 when they released their debut LAY DOWN THE LAW and I bought THE RIGHT TO ROCK on cassette when it came out back in the day. In the late ’90s when I got the Internet, I started to fill holes in my collection and there were a few Keel albums I needed to get on CD. I picked up a used copy of the 2000 reissue CD on the Metal Mayhem label but there has been some debate over the years if that was an official release or a bootleg (I always considered it an official release). Same situation as the new Keel album: I received a digital promo from the label and put it on the want list even though I already owned it…..I got a little excited over the reunion, the new record and the bonus track – ‘The Right To Rock (Reunion version)’.

Manowar – Hell On Earth V DVD – $30: I have been waiting for the latest installment of HELL ON EARTH to hit my local record store ever since Manowar’s website announced the release for all territories due in late November 2009. Unfortunately, North America was skipped! It’s been available through the Manowar website, online stores and Ebay ever since but for $40 – $50 + shipping depending on where you look. I was going to buy it directly from the band but it was $40 + shipping and I thought that was too much for a 2 DVD set. I caught the Newbury Comics weekly email on Monday and saw this was a new release with a $30 sale price so I figured I better get down there first thing Tuesday morning in case there was only a couple of copies. Manowar may have released some subpar albums in the last 10 years but their DVDs are awesome…..they rival both Iron Maiden and KISS for the top spot in Heavy Metal DVD releases. The only problem I had was that I got home and found out I’m missing HELL ON EARTH (Part IV) from 2007! Guess what just made the want list?

I spent a few bucks online at Ebay and a couple of shops also…..here’s the online take…..

Lynzee – Lost In America (2009) – FREE: That’s right…..a free CD! I entered a contest over at the Hair Metal Mansion and Andrew picked my name to win one of the three Lynzee releases he was giving away. Not a bad deal! This album is released through the excellent reissue label Retrospect Records and it’s a compilation of songs from Lynzee’s first two demos, some unreleased material and four new tracks re-done from the original masters way back in the day. If it’s free then it’s for me! It’s a cool way to discover a new band.

Dream Evil – In The Night (2010) – $15: I could have bought this one in the record store but it was the regular jewel case version and not the limited edition with the 2 bonus tracks, extended artwork and patch. Which one do you think I wanted? I checked all the online stores and the limited edition was going for $22+ so I started watching Ebay. I found a seller I’ve done business with in the past and he/she had 5 sealed copies with a BUY IT NOW price of $15…..one click of the mouse and it was mine!

Uncle Slam – Say Uncle (2010 reissue) – $15: The original pressing and the Japanese import always go for big bucks on Ebay and I have had this on my want list for a long time. When I got the press release from Tribunal/Divebomb Records about the reissue, I made a mental note to watch the street date closely. Of course, then I forgot all about it. The label had a special sale that ran for a limited time where you could get this reissue for $12 + $3 shipping, saving at least $5 off the regular price. I received a reminder email that the sale was ending soon and, with an hour to spare, I ordered my CD.

Krokus – Pay It In Metal (1978) – $10: I’m a big Krokus fan and I have always kept the first few Krokus albums on my Ebay watch list. I’ve had the opportunity before to buy PAY IT IN METAL but I’ve always passed because there was always something else to buy. This is actually a vinyl LP, in mint condition, and I won it at auction for $5. Add $5 for shipping and you get the total paid. PAY IT IN METAL is the third Krokus record and it is the same exact album as PAINKILLER (1978)…..the only difference is that the artwork and album title were changed for different countries. There are supposed to be five different covers for this record but I have only seen three: the PAINKILLER album, this U.S. version of PAY IT IN METAL and the German version of PAY IT IN METAL that has the peeled banana of coins. See the Krokus website for more details.

Knightmare – Unholy (2008) – $5: Another Ebay purchase at a great price! I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Australia’s Knightmare but I did and I did some research. UNHOLY is a 5 track E.P. that was limited to 500 copies worldwide and it is now out of print…..that means I had to have one! I found this one on Ebay for $1 and I waited until the last minute of the auction to make a bid…..add the $4 shipping and I got a great bargain on a rare CD.

Total = $142

Total (year) = $179

Total CDs (year) = 20

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1