The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25)

2009 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 am still very lucky to have 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 and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that 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 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 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 more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 2, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11 – #25):

#25

Ravage – The End Of Tomorrow (2009): Living in the New England area, there really isn’t much of a local scene like there used to be, especially in Rhode Island, but there are a few bands worth checking out. Ravage has been a fixture on the Massachusetts scene for over a decade but this is only their second full-length album! With most bands on the local, and national, scene playing mostly Metalcore and/or Hardcore it’s refreshing to hear a band play old school Traditional Metal. You could call this Power Metal too, maybe even Thrash in some spots. The bottom line here is that Ravage released a solid record that reminds me of my early ’80s roots…..great to have another local band in this year’s countdown.

#24

Artillery – When Death Comes (2009): WHEN DEATH COMES was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, as well as, one of the albums I was really looking forward to. Thrash is on a major comeback and it was good to hear a new Artillery album, this one with new lead singer Søren Nico Adamsen. I feel that Artillery has expanded their overall sound and added enough melodic touches to their Thrash base to make this album even better than expected. I didn’t take WHEN DEATH COMES out of my regular weekly rotation until mid-November so I really spent a lot of time with it and it hasn’t disappointed.

#23

Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009): Any year with a new Slayer album is a good year and anytime you get a new Slayer album then you know it’s going to be good. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Slayer fan but I have been following the band since the early ’80s. 2009 was a year for me to fill all the holes in my Slayer collection and give the entire catalog a serious listen. Then the new album was released and I’ve given that all my attention. The more I listen to WORLD PAINTED BLOOD, the more I like it. It’s brutal, heavy, and dangerous…..just like a Slayer album should be!

#22

Bloodbound – Tabula Rasa (2009): The only reason I picked this album up because Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, current Pyramaze) was the lead singer. Besides Urban, I knew nothing about Bloodbound but TABULA RASA turned out to be a great buy! I’d call this heavy Power Metal incorporating great guitarwork, a solid rhythm section and, of course, awesome vocals. This is more or less a concept album with most of the songs having the tabula rasa (Latin for “blank slate”) idea but each song stands out on there own. Another big surprise for 2009 and an album I have kept in my weekly rotation for most of the year.

#21

Mastodon – Crack The Skye (2009): I only started listening to Mastadon in 2006 with BLOOD MOUNTAIN so I’m not as familiar with the band’s style as others might be. I’m not going to lie…..I had a hard time getting into this album at first, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the wall of sound that Mastodon is. I bought this when it was released and gave it serious listening time but I didn’t get it. After letting it sit and coming back to it, I get it! Mastodon is going to be like Dream Theater for me where I have to stop listening and then come back later for more, especially with Mastodon as they continue to evolve their sound from album to album. I didn’t rank this as high as other websites’ but this is definitely one of the year’s best.

#20

Candlemass – Death Magic Doom (2009): When Messiah Marcolin left Candlemass again in 2006 I didn’t think that a new record would be anything short of a letdown. That’s why I passed on 2007′s KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS. I picked this album up because the sale price was right and I figured I’d check out what the band sounded like with their current vocalist Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus). One listen to ‘Hammer Of Doom’ and I was hooked into the pure Doom influenced by Ozzy-era Black Sabbath…..after that, I was hooked. Robert Lowe puts in a great performance and the band hasn’t lost a step…..another great surprise for me in 2009 and definitely in the Top 20.

#19

Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009): I only bought MURDER BY PRIDE because I have been a Stryper fan since the early ’80s and I still support the bands I grew up with. I had a lot of doubts about this album because the band’s last album, REBORN (2005), was awful. Then there is the Boston connection, lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet now fronting the Classic Rock band…..I wasn’t sure about a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’ being added to a new Stryper record. Talk about a comeback, Stryper does a complete about-face and shelves the grungy sound they used on REBORN for a return to their classic melodic ’80s sound. The difference between 2009 and 1983-1990 is that the overall religious message isn’t constantly crammed into the listener, the message is still there but it’s more subtle. Stryper had me singing along almost right away and that’s always a good sign…..and the Boston cover? It’s pretty good!

#18

U.D.O. – Dominator (2009): If you’re an old school Metal fan, then you should be an Accept fan. If you’re an Accept fan, then being an U.D.O. fan is basically the same thing. Udo Dirkscheider continues to fly the Accept flag through his namesake by playing uncompromising Traditional Heavy Metal that is always high quality. Every year U.D.O. releases a new record you know exactly what you’re going to get and DOMINATOR is definitely follows the same path as other U.D.O. albums. It’s great to have a veteran band that’s consistent year in and year out releasing solid Metal albums, now if they could just find a better album cover for this one!

#17

Outloud - We’ll Rock You To Hell And Back Again! (2009): First let’s settle the confusion on the album title. The band’s label, Frontiers Records, lists this as “Self-titled” or “Outloud” but there is the title of “We’ll Rock You to Hell And Back Again!” above the band logo on the album cover. Which is it? The Metal websites & blogs are split down the middle and so are the online retailers. All year I went with “s/t” but I will use what’s on the album cover for this list. Back to the music…..remember the late ’80s? Outloud does! This album is a heavy melodic Hard Rock record that is full of hooks and bombastic arena tailored riffs…..fans of Dokken, Europe, early Bon Jovi and definitely Riot will all like this. I had this ranked higher but it fell as other albums moved up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on a lot of year end lists.

#16

Jorn Lande – Spirit Black (2009): I swear that everything Jorn Lande does is near perfect! Doesn’t matter if it’s with Masterplan, Ark, solo or part of projects, Jorn always puts in a masterful performance. It’s hard to believe that SPIRIT BLACK is Jorn’s seventh studio album in ten years but he just keeps releasing album after album of great Metal. SPIRIT BLACK is a record that still has a ton of melody and hooks but a lot heavier, more Heavy Metal. When I was putting this list together, Jorn Lande was an obvious choice…..just listen to that voice, he’s becoming one of my favorite singers alongside Halford, Dio, Turner, Hughes, Bonnet, Soto and D.C. Cooper.

#15

Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009): This is one of the biggest surprises of 2009! I only picked up VAGABOND BONES a few weeks ago but it has been the most played album on a daily basis ever since. Helix always puts out consistently good albums and I have to give Brian Vollmer credit for following his musical formula and keeping everything sounding fresh. Sure, the Helix sound is rooted in AC/DC and the big ’80s but isn’t that what’s so good about them? VAGABOND BONES is an absolutly fun record with a ton of hooks that had me singing right along almost immeadiately. Some of the great songs here are ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’, ‘Jack It Up’ and ‘Vagabond Bones’. Go to the excellent PlanetHelix to give this album a listen and then go buy it!

#14

Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009): The best thing Primal Fear did in the last few years was to expand their Power Metal sound by adding in a lot of different melodic styles. They did it with NEW RELIGION in 2007 and they have continued with 16.6. You’ve got serious heavy metal with ‘Riding The Eagle’ and then  melodic balladry with ‘Black Rain’ moving into more traditional Metal on ‘Killbound’. Basically, Primal Fear keeps you guessing as to what’s next and the expansion of their overall sound makes them more diverse and exciting then a lot of other Power Metal bands crowding the scene. This album took a few listens to take hold but it became one of my favorite albums of the year and stayed in the weekly rotation for most of 2009.

#13

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): The best Thrash album of 2009 without a doubt! I’ve had HORDES OF CHAOS since mid-December 2008 when the kind  people at SPV sent me a promo and I have been playing it regularly for the entire year. I know that Megadeth, Slayer and Artillery all released great Thrash albums this year but kreator set the bar high early on and no one has matched it. The intensity is there, the blistering guitar is there, the brutality is there too but what sets HORDES OF CHAOS apart is that Kreator wasn’t afraid to expand their Thrash formula and add in some melodic flourishes to the overall sound. I hope we don’t have to wait another four years again between new Kreator albums.

#12

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009): SANCTUARY is one of the big reasons why 2009 was such a great year for music, it was one of those albums that came out of nowhere and was just excellent. I grew up with bands from the NWOBHM so I know all about Praying Mantis but I really didn’t expect much from the band 20+ years after I discovered them. SANCTUARY is one of the best AOR/Melodic Rock albums of the year…..there are enough fast songs, mid-tempo songs and ballads that blend together to create a diverse wall of sound filled with melody and hooks a plenty. Current singer Mike Freeland puts in as smooth and effortless performance as  Joe Lynn Turner would and the music is striking in it’s power and beauty. Tino and Chris Troy have kept the Praying Mantis flag flying and SANCTUARY is one of their crown jewels…..I certainly enjoyed this album all year long and it just barely missed out on the Top 10.

#11

FarCry – High Gear (2009): Another band, and album, that came out of nowhere to really captivate my attention and turn in one of the best Melodic Rock albums of 2009! FarCry is a new band and HIGH GEAR is an awesome debut filled with some of the best ’80s styled AOR/Melodic Rock I’ve heard in a long time with big harmonies, hooks and guitars. The music reminds me of classic Danger Danger, Tyketto, Firehouse and Warrant with a bit of Survivor and Journey mixed in. Sounds like good music? It is. Bottom line is FarCry isn’t reinventing the wheel here, their sound is easily 20+ years old for a new band, but they do this kind of music extremely well…..they have great songwriting, good performances, and huge production. HIGH GEAR is one of the best purchases I made this year and it just missed my Top 10. Well worth checking out, I’ve listened to it daily for months!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

CD Scavenger Hunt – catching up edition

It’s been a long time since I updated what I’ve picked up at the local shops and online so here’s a list of what I’ve bought in the last couple of months…..

Ebay

UFO – No Place To Run (1980/2009 reissue), The Wild, The Willing & The Innocent (1981/2009 reissue), Mechanix (1982/2009 reissue), Making Contact (1983/2009 reissue), Misdemeanor (1985/2009 reissue) – $50: OK, that’s a lot of albums! I already own all the UFO album except for MISDEMEANOR and I had been searching for the 2000 Japanese pressing to complete my set…..it goes for $50+ on Ebay. Same thing with MAKING CONTACT, I own a Japanese copy but not the 2000 import with the bonus tracks. So what is so special about these new reissues? The first thing is that they are remastered, that doesn’t really affect me. The second is the bonus tracks from the 2000 reissues plus more bonus tracks added in. Third, these new reissues are cheaper and easier to get! I ended up buying MISDEMEANOR from one seller and the other four from another. I wasn’t planning on buying so many of these reissues but I ended up getting a good deal from the second seller on CD price and shipping. I ended spending $50 total for 5 CDs, that includes the shipping charges.

CD Inzane

Want to try a good online store? Visit CD Inzane, I use them all the time and they always have what I want at a slightly better price than a couple other stores I use. They also have things in stock, some places advertise titles before the have it in stock and then you have to wait until they get it in. Here’s my last order, $101 total with free shipping…..

U.D.O. - Dominator (2009)U.D.O. – Dominator (2009) – $25: This was my most expensive purchase but I couldn’t wait for the U.S. release. I ended up spending an extra $10 for the European edition with the bonus track ‘Pleasure In The Darkroom’ and the video for ‘Black & White’. Usually Udo Dirkschneider is good about releasing the album bonus tracks on a pre-release E.P. but this time around it didn’t happen. I’m a big U.D.O. fan so I didn’t mind spending the extra money, I already knew what the album sounded like because I was lucky enough to get a digital promo copy from AFM Records, you can read the review here.

cage-science-of-annihilation-2009Cage – Science Of Annihilation (2009) – $11: I have been waiting to pick up the latest Cage album for a while now. Just like the U.D.O. album, I was lucky to receive a digital promo download of the album so I could review it. The problem was that the download didn’t go through and I was left with nothing to review. I was going to pick this up anyway, download or not, because Cage is an excellent U.S. Power Metal band and all of their albums are great.

Jorn Lande - Spirit Black (2009)Jorn Lande – Spirit Black (2009) – $14: The new Jorn Lande album has been on my list for a while but I just never got around to picking it up. I saw one copy at the local record store and they haven’t restocked it since. CD Inzane had a great price for the European import digipak with the bonus track ‘The Sun Goes Down’ so I decided not to wait any longer. I’m not sure if the U.S. version has the bonus track but I know that I paid at least two or three dollars less than I would have in the record store.

FarCryHighGearFarCry – High Gear (2009) – $11: I’m not sure where I heard about FarCry first but all of a sudden most of the websites I frequent were raving about the band and this debut album. Usually solid melodic Hard Rock like this comes from Europe but FarCry is an all American band and they sound similar to bands like Danger Danger, Bon Jovi, Tyketto and Firehouse. So far, one of the best new bands I’ve heard this year!

outloud-cdOutloud – We’ll Rock You To Hell And Back Again! (2009) – $16: Another new band that I’ve had on my list to check out. Outloud has been getting a ton of great reviews and it’s another ’80s styled melodic Hard Rock album Frontiers Records is well known for. I had been watching Ebay and other online vendors but I saved close to $4 + shipping by ordering it through CD Inzane. So far it’s a great record…..you have to love the album cover, it reminds me of some old obscure ’80s record.

Bitchfire2009Bitchfire – s/t (2009) – $10: All I know about Bitchfire is that lead singer Sharyn Peach had been a singer on the Boston, MA rock scene for a number of years. I was researching local bands and I somehow landed on Bitchfire, found a few reviews and decided to give the band a shot. This is an independent release from the band so I was able to track it down at a decent price. I haven’t given it a spin yet but I’m hopeful.

UZI - MadhouseUZI – Madhouse (2009) – $13: UZI is one of those obscure late ’80s/early ’90s Hard Rock bands that came out just when the overblown L.A. scene was starting to unravel. MADHOUSE is a reissue of 10 long lost songs from UZI’s recording sessions close to 20 years ago. I like hearing obscure bands from back in the day and I read a lot of positive reviews so I ordered this one too. I was a sucker for the band name and the album cover, I might have given this a shot if I had found it in the record stores.

Record Stores

Megadeth endgameMegadeth – Endgame (2009) – $12: One of the most highly anticipated albums of the year! I ran out the day ENDGAME was released and pick it up at the great sale price but I still haven’t unwrapped it! That’s the thing with me and Megadeth…..I buy all the band’s albums but I end up getting around to them weeks/months later. I did the same thing with UNITED ABOMINATIONS and felt like an idiot after I finally gave it a listen.

ace-frehley-anomaly-2009Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009) – $10: Of course I ran out to Best Buy the day ANOMALY came out, I’ve been waiting 6 or 7 years for Ace to finally release this album after so much talk about it when he left KISS again. It’s been 20 years since Ace released TROUBLE WALKIN’ (1989), and his contributions to KISS – PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998) were limited, so it’s cool to hear Ace take flight with an all new record. Pretty cool artwork and packaging on top of a great album.

KISS - Sonic Boom (2009)KISS – Sonic Boom (2009) – $12: If I ran out the day of release for the new Ace Frehley album then you better believe this KISS diehard was at Wal-Mart at 9am after I dropped my kids at school! The first all new KISS studio album in 11 years, Paul Stanley in full control, and a bonus CD and DVD for $12…..that’s a deal! I already have the greatest hits bonus CD because I bought the Japanese import last year. The DVD is a nice preview of the tour but the real reason to buy this is the new songs…..so far I’m really enjoying it.

anvil-this-is-thirteen-2007Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007/2009 reissue) – $10: I’ve had this album since late 2007 when I bought it directly from the Anvil website. Two years later, the band is re-releasing the album on VH-1 Classic Records due to all the hype and success of the documentary ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL. Why not capitalize on the success and get the latest album distributed to a wider audience? The reissue gets a bonus track, the previously unreleased ‘Thumb Hang’.

3inches_doom3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom (2009) – $10: 3 Inches Of Blood has become one of my favorite new Metal bands so I’m always on top of their new records. This was another highly anticipated release for me but I haven’t given this a spin yet! I’m not really sure what my problem is, I bought it right away and it’s made it’s way into the famous “pile”. I’m going to have to pull this out and listen this week.

SUNSTORM - house of dreamsSunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009) – $16: The smoothest singer in all of Rock is back with another Sunstorm project…..I will buy anything Joe Lynn Turner sings on. I had the first Sunstorm album when it first came out and it was excellent AOR/melodic Hard Rock so I was expecting much of the same from this new record. Nothing is better than a JLT record, his last solo album was one of my top albums of 2007.

Trouble - Simple Mind ConditionTrouble – Simple Mind Condition (2009) – $15: What did this take, a decade to finally get released? Trouble was one of those bands back in the day that I always thought would be HUGE! Great records like THE SKULL, PSALM 9, and MANIC FRUSTRATION. This album has had so many delays and so the U.S. release date was pushed back so many times. It’s been out in Europe since 2007 but the prices were high and the availability limited. It’s out now and time to enjoy some Trouble.

white-wizzard-high-speed-gtoWhite Wizzard – High Speed GTO (2009) – $9: Another new band that I really don’t know much about except that they are from Los Angeles and they play old school Heavy Metal. I like the band name, the logo and the cover art of the album…..it all screams NWOBHM or early U.S. Metal. It’s a 7 song disc so it’s more of an E.P. that a full length album, the band has another 7 song E.P. from 2008 titled WHITE WIZZARD that I am seeking out.

death - scream bloody goreDeath – Scream Bloody Gore (1987) – $10: My quest for trying out more extremem forms of Metal brought me to Death’s classic debut album, SCREAM BLOODY GORE. I’m determined to try out as many classic and newer Black & Death Metal bands as I can so I decided to go with what is regarded as one of the first proper Death metal albums. I’ve listened to it a few times and it’s really good, I can’t believe that I never got into Death during all these years.

Immortal - All Shall FallImmortal – All Shall Fall (2009) – $10: I’ve read a ton online about how reat Immortal was but I’ve never bothered to listen to a song. Again, I’m not the biggest Black Metal fan but I want to at least check out some of these bands so I know if I’m missing something. I had no idea that Immortal had a new album coming out so I picked it up to check out what they had to offer. Usually I like to buy the first album and work my way up but I couldn’t remember the name of their debut. Spending $10 to try something new is OK in my book.

The Story Of Anvil movie picAnvil – The Story Of Anvil DVD (2009) – $20: I have been waiting for this documentary to come out on DVD all year. Europe and Japan have had it for a few months but now VH-1 Classic Records is properly releasing the movie on DVD with extras. I already saw the movie back in May but I will still give this a full review soon, I can’t wait to watch it again. Good for Anvil, they deserve all their success!