Posts Tagged ‘Masterplan’

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 3, the Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#1 – #10):

#10

Mass – Sea Of Black (2010): The new Mass album was a complete surprise for me because I honestly really didn’t expect much. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get into Mass too much back in the ’80s, which is surprising because the band is from Massachusetts and that’s basically my backyard here in Rhode Island! I remember hearing a song called ‘Do You Love Me’ on the radio and I’ve seen the the albums on vinyl and cassette in old record stores but I never really got into the band. SEA OF BLACK is basically my formal introduction to the band it’s a great Melodic Rock/Melodic Metal album that has a serious ’80s retro sound. Opening track ‘Falling From Grace’ starts the album off right with a high powered Metal guitar crunch but with a great melodies and harmonies…..and that’s a perfect way to describe the album! Mass has re-released most of their back catalogue on Retrospect Records and they are also available on their website so now I will be filling the holes in my collection! http://www.massrocks.com/

#9

Keel – Streets Of Rock & Roll (2010): Keel was one of those bands from the ’80s that I got into because of the Gene Simmons connection but, as time went on, I forgot about the KISS connection because the band itself was really great. It’s been 21 years since the band released a true studio album so getting a reunion record as good as STREETS OF ROCK & ROLL is a major comeback. I liked the fact that the album sounds like classic ’80s Keel but with a grittier and deeper sound. Ron Keel’s voice sounds as good as it ever has, the band is as tight as it’s ever been and the quality of the songwriting is really great. A lot of times you get a reunion where the band is just going through the motions, and I thought that was going to be the case with Keel because of the 25th Anniversary of THE RIGHT TO ROCK, but the band stepped to the plate and made a Hard Rock album that could easily sit alongside the rest of their discography. http://keelnation.com/

#8

Krokus – Hoodoo (2010): 2010 was a year that a lot of bands who hadn’t been around in a while got back together and made a comeback album. Krokus has never really gone away because they’ve been releasing albums all along, the problem is that it’s never really been a true reunion, only just a member or two with a supporting cast. 2010 is the 30th anniversary since METAL RENDEZ-VOUS (1980), the band’s worldwide breakthrough album. Krokus had released three albums in the ’70s but the Metal really started in 1980. Back in the day, I was the only rocker I knew that new about Krokus so they were always like “my” band so I was looking forward to HOODOO a lot. HOODOO marks the reunion of the classic Krokus lineup from the ’80s and the band goes back to doing what they do best…..boogie woogie Hard Rock like AC/DC. That’s where Krokus sometimes gets a bad rep because AC/DC were the originators and it’s hard to imagine a band from Switzerland doing the same thing! It doesn’t matter if it’s a similar style, it’s good music that’s catchy and melodic all the while having great riffs that stick in your head.  HOODOO came out in April or early May but the single ‘Hoodoo Woman’ was released ahead of the album’s release, I still can’t get that chorus out of my head! A solid comeback, I hope this lineup does another album. http://krokusonline.seven49.net/Web/

#7

Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010): This is the third album in the row on this year’s countdown that’s a reunion and/or a comeback for a major band. The big selling point with Masterplan in 2010 is that Jorn Lande is back in the vocalist spot for the first time since 2005. The first two Masterplan albums were awesome but things happen sometimes and Jorn left in 2005 to be replace by ex-Riot singer Mike DiMeo for MKII (2006). This is another Power Metal/Progressive Metal album that really took hold of me as soon as I heard it. Maybe it’s because Jorn’s voice is so unique and he’s one of the top Metal singers around but all the songs are well-written, the musicianship is flawless and even the packaging is cool as a gold-embossed digipak. Just a quick mention here, drummer Mike Terrana is one of the most underrated drummers in Metal and he puts in an awesome performance on TIME TO BE KING. Definitely the best Power Metal album of the year and getting Jorn back in the band puts Masterplan right at the top of the heap again. http://www.master-plan.net/

#6

Crazy Lixx – New Religion (2010): Sweden’s Crazy Lixx have been on the scene for a few years now releasing single until their 2007 studio album LOUD MINORITY. When I heard that the band was releasing their second album in late March/early April, I really didn’t pay much attention to it because I really haven’t jumped on the Swedish Glam/Sleaze/Hard Rock scene that has really started to make waves around the world. I had an advance of the album and I gave it a quick listen and I was blown away! Here’s a band from Sweden that’s relatively unknown and they do ’80s Hard Rock better than some of the bands of that era! NEW RELIGION is one of the best Hard Rock albums to come out this year and I still haven’t taken it out of my weekly playlist. Big hooks and harmonies, guitar solos, and good time party Rock. I really enjoyed the Wig Wam’s NON STOP ROCK ‘N ROLL that also came out this year but NEW RELIGION takes it to a higher level and easily outshines that record. Definitely an album that travels back in time to the fun and excess of the ’80s and sounds fresh here in the 2000s. http://www.crazylixx.com/

#5

Black Country Communion – s/t (2010): Wow! Where did this album come from? Where did this band come from? Supergroups come and go and usually disappoint but, when you put Glenn Hughes on vocals & bass, Joe Bonamassa on guitars, Jason Bonham on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards, that’s a lineup of awesome musicians. But does it work? That’s the main thing and I was pretty skeptical, so much so that I blew off buying this CD for a couple of months and I didn’t pick it up until November. I put this in and I haven’t taken it out of my weekly rotation, Black Country Communion is a band that has a Classic Rock sound based on a combination of the Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It sounds like old school ’70s Rock that really sounds fresh today. Glenn Hughes is an amazing singer and Joe Bonamassa is a truly fantastic guitarist with a great feel, if you don’t know anything about these two musicians then you should Google them immeadiately and listen to some of their previous works. I almost put this in the #1 slot on this year’s countdown but, as I started re-listening to a lot of the albums from earlier in the year, I had to put four others ahead because of their impact. Black Country Communion is a band and album everyone should  check out. http://www.bccommunion.com/

#4

Scorpions – Sting In The Tail (2010): As soon as the Scorpions announced the release of STING IN THE TAIL, they also announced that this will be their last studio album and that the band is retiring. Sad news indeed to hear from a Hard Rock band that has been around for nearly 40 years but, if this is how they are going to go out, then STING IN THE TAIL is the way to do it! I was a huge fan of the updated sound the band created on their last studio album, HUMANITY HOUR 1 (2007), that I made it the Best Album of 2007 so I was looking for a continuation of that direction. This new record is really a continuation of the classic Scorpions Hard Rock sound from the BLACKOUT (1982) and LOVE AT FIRST STING (1984) eras. At first, I felt like this was a big step back for the band because they had done such a great job on HUMANITY but, after constant listens, this album grew on me and it’s become one of my favorites of the year. I got into the Scorpions with BLACKOUT and LOVE AT FIRST STING so this new album really brought me back in time and made me go back over the entire Scorpions discography…..they are one of the most consistent bands in the scene. Think about it, aside from EYE II EYE (1999), when was the last time you heard that a Scorpions album sucked? This may not be the best Scorpions album compared to the classics they have but it’s a great Hard Rock album and one I enjoyed a lot this year. http://www.the-scorpions.com/english/

#3

Accept – Blood Of The Nations (2010): In a year full of reunions and comebacks, Accept was really one of those bands that could have either hit it big or crashed and burned. One listen to BLOOD OF THE NATIONS and it’s easy to hear that they easily hit it big! A classic Accept lineup reunited headed by lead guitarist Wolf Hoffmann but the distinct Accept vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, refused to take part. That meant the band needed a singer and the biggest question mark would be former T.T. Quick frontman Mark Tornillo. The band wrote an album of killer Heavy Metal songs, put in a ton of great riffs and then Mark put in a brilliant performance on vocals. Not every band can replace such a unique singer like Udo, Accept tried that back in 1989, but Accept really hit with Mark. I can’t say enough about how Mark sounds like Udo but really puts his own stamp on the songs and takes everything to another level. I’m not sure that BLOOD OF THE NATIONS would have the same impact if Udo did re-join the band. Here’s hoping the band continues making new records because they have set the bar high, one of the best comeback albums of the year! http://www.acceptworldwide.com/

#2

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (2010): Iron Maiden is no stranger to my year end countdowns because they always release such high quality albums and DVDs that it’s hard not to automatically install them at #1. So 30 years have gone by since the band’s self-titled debut and it’s been four years since the band’s last album A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (2006), so how did Maiden do? Well, I called this the album of the year in my review and it came so damn close! Say what you want about Metallica but I would argue that Iron Maiden is the biggest Heavy Metal band in the world and they make better albums then Metallica could ever hope to make. There is a tradition, a pedigree, a reputation that Iron Maiden has and they always rise to the task and create albums that just blow every other album away. THE FINAL FRONTIER gets better with every listen with some much to hear in every song. I know a lot of old school and/or casual fans prefer to hear the quick ‘Run To The Hills’ style Iron Maiden but the band is at their best when they write new material that has a Progressive edge to it. THE FINAL FRONTIER is a 76 minute album that reflects both styles and I haven’t stopped listening to it. A lot of that has to do with being a fan for 28 years and Maiden being in my Top 5 favorite bands of all-time but the album is high quality crafted Metal. Iron Maiden are legends and innovators and everyone else should follow their lead. http://www.ironmaiden.com/

One album to go everyone! The #1 album is next but before I get to it let me say again how great this year was for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal…..my Best of 2010 list, along with the other websites’ lists, will attest to that. I’ve listened to more new releases this year than any other year that I can remember and this year’s list was a hard one to make, there were so many really good albums, so many comebacks and reunions that it became one of the hardest lists to make in the site’s 5 year history. I really had a tough time with this list because I kept going back and forth between the new Iron Maiden record and this next album…..so here is my #1 Album of 2010…..

#1

Ratt – Infestation (2010)

2010 was definitely the year of the Ratt! I never thought that after eleven years since the last reunion and album that Ratt would ever get back together with founding vocalist Stephen Pearcy since there was so much bad blood and legal issues but the band put that stuff aside and set out to make INFESTATION. I’ve been a Ratt fan since OUT OF THE CELLAR (1984) and they have always been one of my favorite ’80s Hard Rock bands. I was psyched to see them on the 1999 Poison reunion tour and I thought they blew Poison away so I was hoping for a full tour after this album was released. Unfortunately, it seems like the band have gone their separate ways again and the future is in doubt for a follow-up album. INFESTATION is the classic Ratt sound: sleazy old school Hard Rock. Right from the opening rocker ‘Eat Me Up Alive’ to the classic ’80s style single ‘Best Of Me’ to the swagger of ‘Look Out Below’, Ratt has really pulled out all the stops writing some really solid songs. The founding trio of Pearcy, drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarist Warren DeMartini are all on board, as is long time bassist Robbie Crane, but the addition of former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo really stabilizes the band’s sound in a way that hasn’t been heard since the glory days when the late Robbin Crosby traded licks with DeMartini. I bought this album the day it was released in April and it still gets plenty of playing time in my weekly rotation and if I had to name a song of the year, it would easily be ‘Best Of Me’, that song alone brings the band right back to the classic Ratt style of the ’80. Of all the albums I heard this year, INFESTATION is the one I enjoyed the most. Great album, great comeback…..too bad it’s probably over already! http://www.therattpack.com/

Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Fiddle Of Time
  2. Blow Your Winds
  3. Far From The End Of The World
  4. Time To Be King
  5. Lonely Winds Of War
  6. The Dark Road
  7. The Sun Is In Your Hands
  8. The Black One
  9. Blue Europa
  10. Under the Moon
  11. Kisses From You (bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitars
Axel Mackenrott – Keyboards
Jan S. Eckert – Bass
Mike Terrana – Drums

Producer: Roland Grapow

Country: Germany

Total Time = 47:49

Masterplan
Masterplan MySpace page
AFM Records

Masterplan is back again with their fourth album, TIME TO BE KING, but that isn’t the big news…..original lead singer Jorn Lande has returned to the microphone once again! I’ve been a Masterplan fan right from the self-titled debut in 2003 through to MK II (2007) that featured ex-Riot lead singer Mike DiMeo on lead vocals…..I have also been a fan of Jorn’s since the first Ark album in 1999 so I have no idea how I missed this announcement. The change from Jorn to DiMeo in 2007 took my by surprise but the album was really good, very powerful Power Metal. DiMeo was Riot’s singer for close to 15 years and through 6 studio albums so he had the voice but I identified Masterplan with Jorn Lande.

Masterplan is always going to be thought of as a Power Metal group because of the long list of bands that the members have been involved with. Founding guitarist Roland Grapow is formerly from Helloween, drummer Mike Terrana from Rage, Yngwie and Axel Rudi Pell, then you’ve got Jorn’s long history. Add Jan Eckert’s time in Running Wild & Iron Savior and Axel Mackenrott’s involvement in Gamma Ray and you can see what direction the band is going to go in. The Power Metal tag is going to scare some fans away because of the backlash against the genre, something I have never undertsood. I’m a big Power Metal fan, I find it as close to the traditional ’80s Metal that I grew up with as you can get. The good thing about Masterplan is that, although they are considered Power Metal, the band incorporates a lot of Progressive elements into the music to give it a more epic sound. You can also hear a more traditional Hard Rock style creeping in to many songs…..maybe that’s part and parcel of Jorn’s versatile vocal ability channelling the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale. Sometimes a classic voice like Jorn’s influences the songwriting more than is expected. MK II with DiMeo was more Power Metal while TIME TO BE KING with Jorn is diverse blend of styles.

Opening track ‘Fiddle Of Time’ starts out with a very prominent swirling keyboard but moves into more guitar oriented territory until that keyboard riff returns again after the chorus. It’s a heavy song, definitely a good way to start the album, and it has a very classic sound like Uriah Heep or Deep Purple but more Progressive Metal like a Royal Hunt. ‘Blow Your Winds’ follows a catchy ’80s Hard Rock path like a Joe Lynn Turner fronted Rainbow and ‘Far From The End Of The World’ is pure Power Metal with heavy keyboard arrangements. I can’t help but be reminded of Royal Hunt again by the keyboards and guitars playing off each other making ‘Far From The Edge Of The World’ sound so lush and epic. The title track has the same elements also and that kind of makes things a bit repetitive, the band using the same formula on the first and third songs already, but it’s still a solid performance. The band mixes things up a little with the quiet keyboard/acoustic guitar/marching drum intro on ‘Lonely Winds Of War’, a song that I would categorize as an epic ballad. There’s a lot of power in the song but it’s not fast by any means, Roland Grapow’s guitar solos are very melodic and Jorn’s vocal is my favorite on the record, a blend of power and emotion.

‘The Dark Road’ opens similarly to ‘Time To Be King’ and ‘Fiddle Of Time’ with the big guitar/keyboard riffs but it moves into unexpected territory of a second epic ballad in a row. Jorn does his best David Coverdale and the slower parts of the song remind me of ’70s Dio-era Rainbow mixed with the bluesier side of Whitesnake or Coverdale-era Deep Purple. Such a huge sound here, very layered and grand…..best song on the album! The music gets heavier on ‘The Sun Is In Your Hands’ but you can hear a little of that Hard Rock style mixed in with the Power Metal. Listen to the guitar solo but pay attention to the drums…..Mike Terrana is a beast on this entire album and his double kick style is as subtle as it is powerful. I like ‘The Black One’ just for it’s thick bassline that starts it off and comes back to start each verse. There’s a thick sound here, plenty of layers between the guitars, bass, keys and drums but Jorn pulls it all together with a gritty vocal. Add another solid guitar solo by Grapow, and the big drum fills by Terrana, and it’s another favorite of mine. ‘Blue Europa’ is another harder track that grabs me with it’s World War II inspired lyrics and heavy guitar while ‘Under The Moon’ is a more progressive and epic song that slows everything down but gets more powerful as the song continues. There’s an ambient tone to the song during the quieter parts when it’s really just the keyboard and the vocal, definitely subdued. I like ‘Under The Moon’ because it’s more straight-forward with not a lot of swirling keyboards and intricate guitars, it reminds me a little of the symphonic Pink Floyd-ian style The Gathering used on HOW TO MEASURE A PLANET? (1999) but with Jorn’s rich voice.

The version I picked up was the European limited edition, gold-embossed digipak with the bonus track ‘Kisses From You’. On first listen, you would swear that ‘Kisses From You’ was a Queen cover song that was done extremely well. Everything from the guitar tone, to the piano, to the complete arrangement is pure Queen. I sat in front of my Queen collection looking for the song on one of the album, maybe as a B-side or a bonus track but it wasn’t there! Turns out ‘Kisses From You’ is an original and it’s dead on Queen inspired…..definitely a favorite!

Bottom Line:
Masterplan has continued where they left off in 2005 with AERONAUTICS now that Jorn Lande has returned to the vocal slot, TIME TO BE KING is a solid album and a great comeback. I don’t get all this backlash toward Power Metal…..is it the imagery? The higher vocals? The clean musicianship? Not everything has to be harsh or extreme to be vital and comtemporary. Masterplan is a band of five solid musicians that are at the top of their game delivering a grand performance that us truly one of the best of the year. Some of the songs follow the same formula but that can be said of any song on any album in any genre. There isn’t a weak song on TIME TO BE KING and the Progressive elements outweigh and enhance the pure Power Metal formula. If you’re a fan of Power Metal then this is going to be a top album of 2010 but if Power Metal isn’t your thing then you might not like it. So far, this is one of the best albums of the year for me.

Favorite Songs:
Not a weak song on the album and I like them all but if I had to pick five highlights they would be: ”Fiddle Of Time’, ‘Lonely Winds Of War’, ‘The Dark Road’, ‘The Sun Is In Your Hands’, & ‘Under the Moon’

I was doing so well this month posting albums reviews and catching up on my listening…..then Ronnie James Dio passed away and I’ve been a little “off”. Not sure what the deal is but when RJD passed away, I didn’t really feel like listening to music all that much. I still bought things though so I figure today is a good day to update what I’ve acquired…..

Ebay
(prices include shipping)

Casanova – s/t (1990/2010 reissue) – $14: I’ve had my eye on this reissue since Divebomb Records sent me the press release. I was hoping to get an advance copy but it never came so I started trolling online shops and Ebay. Found this sealed copy starting at 1 cent but it quickly moved over $10. One of the key selling points was the free shipping, the other was that the seller was actually an online store I order from often. Good reissue here…..the original 1990 debut casanova album and 5 bonus tracks. Saved $6 with free shipping and decent price.

Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010) – $23: I paid a little extra for this with BUY IT NOW but the shipping was free and it was the same seller as the Casanova CD. The selling point here was the limited edition European digipak pressing and the bonus track ‘Kisses From You’. I had to have this album because Masterplan with Jorn Lande on vocals is a superb band and this CD is in the running for 2010 Album of the Year easily. Saved $0 (I actually spent a little extra!).

Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony & Angel Of Babylon box set (2010) – $23: The last installment of CD Scavenger Hunt was the “Buyer Be Aware” edition and I recalled a couple of quick purchases that I didn’t properly think through. I bought THE WICKED SYMPHONY but didn’t want to wait for ANGEL OF BABYLON so I returned it when i saw this limited edition box set for a $20 BUY IT NOW. The seller basically bought it, uploaded it to iTunes and put it on Ebay. This was a steal for me because I have seen this box set going for $50+ at online shops…..you get the limited edition slipcase and booklet, both album in digipak and codes for downloadable content. This was basically a used copy and when I got it in the mail, the packaging was shoddy so the slipcase got bent. The CDs and booklet are mint so I can live with a couple creases to the slipcase…..even though my OCD kicks in everytime I see it! Saved $30 compared with online retailers and free shipping.

Newbury Comics

Iced Earth – Box Of the Wicked (2010) – $28: I have been a big Iced Earth fan since THE DARK SAGA (1996) and I try to collect all the singles and albums to keep the collection up to date. I didn’t really get into the post-Matt Barlow era starting with FRAMING ARMAGEDDON (2007) and I neglected buying a couple of the singles. When I saw this box announced, I wanted it! It includes both FRAMING ARMAGEDDON and THE CRUCIBLE OF MAN (2008), the OVERTURE OF THE WICKED single (4 songs) and the I WALK AMONG YOU single (3 songs). The bonus CD has 4 tracks with Matt Barlow on vocals, 3 live and a re-recorded version of ‘A Charge To Keep’. So I knock out both singles, replace the promo copy of CRUCIBLE and get a bonus CD. I’m sure there are more bonuses inside but I haven’t opened it yet, I think there’s a poster or something. Regular price was $40 so I saved $12 on sale.

Extreme – Take Us Alive: Boston 2009 (2010) – $14 CD and $15 DVD: Extreme has always been one of my bands and always a local favorite here in rhode Island. I was trying to attend this show last summer but some things came up and I couldn’t make it. Now I get to find out what I missed! I bought both the CD and the DVD so I had the full documentation. They are identical performances but the DVD has four extra videoclips. Compared to online stores, the sale prices at Newbury Comics were really good. Regular price for the CD was $18 and the DVD was $20 so I saved a total of $9 for both.

Triumph – Greatest Hits Remixed (CD/DVD set) (2010) – $12: Can’t beat a 14 song greatest hits CD with a 14 video DVD that includes the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame induction. That’s a lot of music for $12! I don’t have much Triumph in my collection, something I need to fix quickly, so this greatest hits compilation is a good starting point. The other thing is that the guys in Triumph are always up to date on current technology and Gil Moore and Mike Levine own their own studio so you know the quality here is top of the line! Regular price was $16, saved $4.

Exodus – Exhibit B: The Human Condition (2010) – $10: I love old Exodus but I haven’t really kept up with the band since Rob Dukes took over the vocals in 2005. I always mean to pick up a few of those albums but I just never seem to get around it but I saw the sale price on the new album and I figured it was about time I gave Exodus another shot. The extra good news is that I can pick up the albums I’m missing used for around $7-$8 each. Regular price was $16, saved $6.

Stephen Pearcy – Under My Skin (2008) – $7 used: I’m a big Ratt fan but I haven’t really gone out of my way to pick up all of Stephen Pearcy’s solo work. I have all the Ratt and Arcade albums, I have Vertex and Vicious Delite but I have neglected the actual solo albums…..another problem I need to fix in the collection! UNDER MY SKIN was Pearcy’s last solo record before the Ratt reunion and it was a cheap $7 for a used copy so this was a no-brainer, I saved at least $8 compared to a regular priced CD.

Eddie Ojeda – Axes 2 Axes (2006) – $4: I love a great bargain and that’s exactly what I got with this Eddie Ojeda solo record. Ojeda released this album hot on the heels of Twisted Sister’s success with A TWISTED CHRISTMAS (2006) but I never bothered to grab it because the reviews I read were all bad. There has been a sealed copy of this album at the record store for months at the $16 regular price, somehow this used copy landed right in front of it last week. Saved $12.

Mail

Tempest – Hard Night (1996) – $15: I did an Ebay Madness post that featured this CD way back in mid-October 2007. Back almost three years ago, this CD went for $185.50 on Ebay and it was one of the highest priced indies that I had never even heard about. Who was Tempest? What year was the album recorded? Where are they from? What is the music like? At the beginning of the year, Alan Hicks (Tempest guitarist) got in touch with me about the post and we got to talking about the band and CD. Alan was nice enough to offer me an extra sealed copy of this album for what the band used to charge at shows…..$15. Compared to the $185, Alan saved me $170! I just want to take the time here to thank Alan for the CD and point out his current band Alice Sweet Alice, who have an album that can be downloaded at their website. Thanks again Alan!

Total = $145

Total (year) = $685

Average price (per item) = $10.07

Total CDs (year) = 63

Total DVDs (year) = 2

Total Box Sets (year) = 2

Total LPs (year) = 1

It’s been another solid year for new releases, hundreds of bands released new albums in 2007 and it’s been very hard to keep up. I missed out on many new releases in many different genres because I spend my hard earned money. That money I put aside for my music fix has to be spent wisely and some bands/albums just fall through the cracks. I’ve started to get the attention of some labels and distributors so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to review more new releases in 2008.

Another factor is availability. Today anything can be bought online but the prices can be too high, sometimes it’s better to save a few dollars by holding off on a European or Japanese import and waiting for the U.S. release. In a few of those cases, some albums released around the world in 2007 won’t be released properly in the U.S. until early 2008 (Night Ranger, Airbourne, Primal Fear).

Looking back on 2007, I noticed that some bands got more of my attention than others and I picked up a lot of new releases from 2006 that I had missed. I only expect more of the same as my Want List grows and my musical tastes expand. The only criteria I followed for my Top 15 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. So here it is, my Top 15 Albums of 2007:

#1

Scorpions - Humanity Hour 1 (2007)Scorpions – Humanity Hour 1

The surprise of the year! The Scorpions experimented enough over the last few years but they planted the seeds with 2004′s UNBREAKABLE for a major comeback, not that they ever went away. I admit that I was apprehensive when I found out Pop Rock guru Desmond Child was aboard but the relationship produced a solid Hard Rock album full of melody, emotion, and attitude. This album has remained in my playlist rotation since it’s release and I haven’t tired of it yet, that’s the mark of a great album. I missed the band when they came to Boston this past Fall but their is a rumored tour with Judas Priest in 2008, that will make HUMANITY HOUR 1 even better. Another surprise was the advertised price ($7.99 at Best Buy) and the exclusive bonus track ‘Cold’. A great album AND value!

#2

Joe Lynn Turner - Second Hand Life (2007)Joe Lynn Turner – Second Hand Life

Very close to being my #1 album of 2007. So close in fact that I’ve had to listen to this and the Scorpions more in the last week to make the final decision. All the songs are strong and the music is a pure blend of classic AOR and Melodic Hard Rock. The songwriting is intelligent and emotional and the vocals are the best I’ve heard in 2007, JLT is in fine voice, probably the strongest of his career…..he just sounds so smooth, so effortless in his delivery. There were also a couple of Rainbow influences that gave the album a classic sound without sounding dated. Like the Scorpions album, there was a lot of value: the U.S. release on Friday Music was $12.99 and included an exclusive track (‘Freedom’s Wings’) and all the European and Japanese bonus tracks.

#3

Saxon - The Inner SanctumSaxon – The Inner Sanctum

THE INNER SANCTUM was the album of the year for me until the Scorpions and JLT released their albums. Saxon are one of my favorite bands and they have consistently produced great albums since the late ’90s, this record is no exception. Saxon blends their current approach of blazing fast Power Metal with their NWOBHM roots and creates an album of ten really great songs. Saxon are elder statesmen in the realm of Heavy Metal but they do things better than many of the younger bands. The focus is on the songwriting and then translating it to the live show. Every one of these songs could be played alongside the classics, that’s how strong they are. Add the bonus DVD to the studio album and it turns into a great package, also one of my favorite album covers of the year.

#4

Great White - Back To The Rhythm (2007)Great White – Back To The Rhythm

A successful comeback by a band no one expected to do anything. After all that has happened, did anyone think that Great White would actually make an album? They did and they made a great Blues based Hard Rock record. Getting the classic lineup back together rejuvenated the writing and getting singer Jack Russell sober made all the difference as he put in probably the best vocal performance of his career.

#5

Icarus Witch - Songs For The Lost (2007)Icarus Witch – Songs For The Lost

One of the best new bands out there playing a cross between NWOBHM and Traditional Metal. This is their second album and it doesn’t suffer from the “sophomore jinx”, this is a solid slab of straight up Heavy Metal. I even like the cover of Def Leppard’s ‘Mirror Mirror’! A band worth watching for the future.

#6

Primal Fear - New Religion (2007)Primal Fear – New Religion

Primal Fear just make good Heavy Metal records…..period. NEW RELIGION has a bit more melody and harmony within the power of their Metal assault, making the album more accessible and diverse. Everytime I hear a new Primal Fear record, I always wonder how vocalist Ralf Scheepers lost the Judas Priest gig to Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Ralf has grown from being complete Halford clone to being one of the best Metal singers alive. Had to pick this up on import in September, the U.S. release is January 2008.

#7

Airbourne - Runnin’ Wild (2007)Airbourne – Runnin’ Wild

I bought into all the hype and rave reviews and I picked this up very late in the year. I was skeptical because I had heard only two songs and I wondered if AC/DC clones could produce a strong album. Everyone likes AC/DC, and with them out of the picture for now, Airbourne has picked up where Angus & company left off. It’s simple bluesy Hard Rock like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and The Angels but with a youthful energy built for party Rock. Had to get this one on import late in the year also because their U.S. distribution starts in January 2008.

#8

3 Inches Of Blood - Fire Up The Blades (2007)3 Inches Of Blood – Fire Up The Blades

A big thanks to a loyal reader, and devout Metalhead, Rene for pushing me to check out this band. Good thing I listened because 3 Inches Of Blood is a great young band that blends many different styles of Metal into their overall sound. Cam Pipes is one of the better Metal vocalists that can incorporate clean/traditional singing with growls. grunts, and groans. Another young band making their mark.

#9

Ted Nugent - Love Grenade (2007)Ted Nugent – Love Grenade

Terrible Ted came roaring from the woods to deliver his best album in years. Continuing with his gonzo attitude and hunter instinct, Ted took his love of the Blues, added his Hard Rock blend and tongue-in-cheek humor, and built the LOVE GRENADE. Jack Blades’ (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees) produces and co-writes here and does a spectacular job at getting the best from the Nuge. One listen to ‘Girl Scout Cookies’ and ‘Funk U’ and you’ll understand.

#10

Kamelot - Ghost Opera (2007)Kamelot – Ghost Opera

Another end of the year addition and it’s a shame I waited so long, it’s a good album. A little more Progressive and Symphonic than their past Power Metal style but still good. Kamelot proves that heavy music can be intricate and diverse while retaining the power…..I really dig the orchestration and strings and the lush backgrounds. Is Roy Khan one of the most underrated singers in Metal or what? Added value to this one is the bonus DVD on the limited edition.

#11

Megadeth - United Abominations (2007)Megadeth – United Abominations

At first, I wasn’t excited or impressed, Megadeth hadn’t regained my trust from 1999′s RISK debacle even though there had been two decent studio releases since. It wasn’t until mid-May when I saw Megadeth open for Heaven & Hell that I stood up and took notice. It’s having classic Megadeth back with Dave Mustaine more focused than ever.

#12

Helloween - Gambling With The Devil (2007)Helloween – Gambling With The Devil

Helloween were kind of put in the same category as Megadeth because I just couldn’t get into their last two albums: RABBIT DON’T COME EASY (2003) & KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS – THE LEGACY (2005). There was too much experimentation and enhancements on those records while the band tried to regain their signature sound and promised fans such. This album was more straight ahead Power Metal that Helloween is known for. Andi Deris puts in a spectacular performance and the band has shown that all the lineup changes of recent years hasn’t disrupted their core.

#13

Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1) (2007)Iced Earth – Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1)

Hard to believe that this is only Iced Earth’s third album since 1998′s masterpiece SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. It’s also hard to believe that after releasing two very spotty concept records, the band would come roaring back to form with another concept album based on the SOMETHING WICKED theme. Unfortunately, recent lineup changes (Owens out, Barlow back in) and some late year additions to my collection have pushed this album down the list, I had it Top 10 easily up until the last couple of weeks.

#14

Endeverafter - Kiss Or Kill (2007)Endeverafter – Kiss Or Kill

Endeverafter came out of nowhere to deliver solid party time Hard Rock. A blend of classic L.A. Hard Rock with today’s edge, I couldn’t find a bad song. I’d like to hear how the do on their next record.

#15

Masterplan - MK II (2007)Masterplan – MK II

I’ve had this CD since early April and I’m still enjoying it. Unfortunately, it ranks a little lower due to my getting used to Mike DiMeo replacing Jorn Lande at the mic and the fact that many top bands released excellent albums later in the year. Really good Power/Progressive Metal here, hopefully the lineup stays stable.

In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2007:

Axeman

Bring Back Glam

Hard Rock Hideout

Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes

Layla’s Classic Rock Faves

The Metal Minute

Raise Your Fists

Rock & Roll And Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages (Dave’s Best of 2007)

Rock Of Ages (Bill’s Best of 2007)