Aeon Zen - Self Portrait E.P.

CD Scavenger Hunt – November & December 2013 update

I know it’s late but here’s the updates for November & December 2013 and the totals for the year…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

November

Aeon Zen – Self Portrait E.P. (2013) – $12

I only bought one CD in November…..ONE CD! That itself is amazing! Seriously though, getting close to the holidays and it’s better to save money. I picked up this E.P. from Aeon Zen from their website because I wanted the actual CD and not the download, seeing that the CD was limited to 100 copies, I bought it immeadiately.

December

Alestorm – Live At The End Of The World (CD/DVD) (2013) – $15
Stryper – No More Hell To Pay – (CD/DVD) (2013) – $14
Saxon – Unplugged And Strung Up (2013) – $0
Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed (2013) – $10 used
Newsted – Heavy Metal Music (2013) – $10 used
Ghost B.C. – If You Have Ghost E.P. (2013) – $0
Boston – Life, Love And Hope (Best Buy Exclusive) (2013) – $12
Black Oak Arkansas – Back Thar N’ Over Yonder (2013) – $10
Epica – Retrospect 10th Anniversary Box Set (3CD/2DVD) (2013) – $36
Nightwish – Showtime, Storytime (2CD/2DVD) (2013) – $25
Ayreon – The Theory Of Everything (2CD/DVD) (2013) – $20
Rhapsody Of Fire – Dark Wings Of Steel (2013) – $12
Seventh Seal – The Black Dragon’s Eyes (2003) – $4 used
Van Canto – A Storm To Come (2006) – $6 used
Bal Sagoth – The Chthonic Chronicles (2006) – $5 used
Meliah Rage – The Deep And Dreamless Sleep (2006) – $5 used

Let’s start December at Newbury Comics in Warwick. There was a sweet sale (Buy 2 Get 1 Free) on CDs so I decided to spend a few bucks. I didn’t know the Alestorm album was out so I dropped the $15 sale price (saved $5 off regular price) and paired it with the new Stryper studio album on sale for $14 (saved $4) to get the new Saxon unplugged album for free (saved $12). The Saxon CD was on sale for $12 for the regular edition ($16 regular price) but there was also the limited edition with the bonus CD of re-recorded classics. Turns out this bonus disc is Heavy Metal Thunder re-recorded compilation from 2002 so I didn’t need another version of that. I forget the price on the 2 disc set but I think it was around $20 on sale, maybe $24 regular price. Keeping this trip under $50 was a goal so I grabbed three used CDs: the new Skeltonwitch for $10 (saved $6), the new Newsted for another $10 (saved $5) and the new Ghost B.C. disc for free (saved $8). The Ghost B.C. album was listed as used but it was sealed and brand new. This whole trip saved me $40.

The second trip was actually on the same day. I was Xmas shopping so I decided to grab the new Boston album at Best Buy for the exclusive bonus track but I couldn’t find the new Black Oak Arkansas album. Pulled out the phone, added the CD to the Amazon Xmas wish list and, when I got home, I placed the order with other Xmas gifts. Very easy!

Made a second trip to Newbury Comics in Warwick, RI while Xmas shopping a few days later. I bought what I needed for presents and decided I needed a couple presents! I bought the new Epica – Retrospect box set on sale for $36 (saved $10 on the 3CD/2DVD set) and I added the new Nightwish live album (2CD/2DVD) for $25 (saved $5).

The last trip of the year went to the same record store after the holiday. I won $50 on a scratch ticket so I spent it on CDs. I didn’t really see much aside from the new Ayreon and Rhapsody of Fire releases (saving a total of $8 on both) and 4 cheap used CDs that I didn’t own. I ended up spending an extra $2 over the lottery winnings so it was a solid trip.

Final 2013 Totals

Total (Nov & Dec) = $196

Total (year) = $2230.84

Average Price (per item) = $11.93

Total CDs (year) = 169

Total DVDs & BluRays (year) = 5

Total LPs (year) = 6

Total Box Sets (year) = 7

Just a quick analysis…..

Compared to 2012, I bought 46 less items this year but I spent about $427 more. A lot of that money goes to a few higher priced Ebay purchases and some new releases that were CD/DVD combo packs. I bought 58 fewer CDs and 1 less DVD/Blu-Ray but I did pick up 7 box sets and 6 vinyl LPs so the collection is getting more diverse. Maybe I will add some cassettes in 2014! I’m not sure what 2014 will be for CD hunting but I’m hoping that I find more gems, fill a lot of holes in my collection, acquire more and spend less. I say that every year but I’m really going to concentrate on obvious and glaring holes in the collection that are more mainstream and/or popular. I still like the rarities but I’m going to go for more accessible releases from past years.

Let the hunt continue!

CD Scavenger Hunt – March update

February may have been slow but I certainly made up for it in March with some great new releases, some used bargains and more than a few deals on Ebay and Amazon. Get ready, this is a long update!

Newbury Comics

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Krokus – Dirty Dynamite (2013) – $13
Hatriot – Heroes Of Origin (2013) – $9 used
Halcyon Way – Building The Towers (2010) – $6 used
Jeff Scott Soto – Live At Firefest V 2008 (2CD) (2010) – $6 used
Mass – ’84 Unchained (1985/2010 reissue) – $4 used
DC4 – Electric Ministry (2011) – $4 used
Psycho Motel – Welcome To The World (Japanese import) – $2 used

Flotsam & Jetsam – Cuatro (1992) – $3 used
Firewind – Allegiance (2006) – $6 used
Skid Row – Revolutions Per Minute (2006) – $7 used
Witch Mountain – Cauldron Of The Wild (2012) – $9 used
Anthrax – Anthems E.P. (2013) – $7
Adrenaline Mob – Coverta E.P. (2013) – $7
Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) – $10
Lordi – To Beast Or Not To Beast (2013) – $13
Orden Ogan – To The End (2012) – $14
Rival Sons – Head Down (2012) – $14

Sinergy – To Hell And Back (2002) – $4 used
Ram Jam – Golden Classics (1996) – $4 used
Delain – April Rain (2009) – $6 used
Lost Horizon – A Flame To The Ground Beneath (2003) – $6 used
7th Heaven – Silver (2CD) (2003) – $6 used
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Dreams Of Fireflies E.P. (2013) – $7
Firewind – Few Against Many (2012) – $8 used

TNT – Tell No Tales (1987) – $10
DeAllen – Deceptions Of Reality (2002) – $6 used
Trivium – The Crusade (2006) – $6 used
Evergrey – Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy (1999) – $4 used
Evergrey – A Night To Remember Live 2004 (2005) – $4 used
Saxon – Sacrifice (Limited Edition) (2013) – $12
Stryper – Second Coming (2013) – $12

Enforcer – Death By Fire (2013) – $13
Sebastian Bach – Abachalypse Now (2CD/DVD) – $16
Iron Maiden – Maiden England ’88 (2CD) (2013) – $20

Iron Maiden – Maiden England ’88 (DVD) (2013) – $15

Like I said…..this is going to be a long update!

The first trip to Newbury Comics in Warwick, RI was your basic run of the mill shopping trip, I was heading there to buy the new Krokus record, Dirty Dynamite. The cool thing about this trip was when I walked into the store, I noticed a new section labelled USED NEW ARRIVALS. I got the Krokus disc and went over to the new bin and found some great deals, the first of which was the new Hatriot album for $9 used. I went back over to the METAL section later and found a brand new copy of the Hatriot CD in the rack for $17, so I saved almost half! Other great buys from the new section: Halcyon Way, Jeff Scott Soto, Mass, DC4 and Psycho Motel. The Psycho Motel was an awesome find for $2 used because it was a Japanese import complete with all inserts and the OBI strip. I had just put the Psycho Motel records on my want list because I never really got into Adrian Smith’s work outside of Iron Maiden and then I find one extremely cheap…..not a bad deal!

My second CD hunt of March was a return to the scene of the previous week’s crime, I had to go back to the Newbury Comics in Warwick because of the great deals in that USED NEW ARRIVALS bin. Unfortunately, that bin had no new Metal in it and it was basically everything I already owned so I had to head over to the Metal section and see if any bargains came in during the week. Sure enough I found used copies of Flotsam & Jetsam’s Cuatro and Firewind’s Allegiance right away but the real gems were the Skid Row and Witch Mountain albums especially since they were both added to my want list within the last couple of weeks. The Skid Row CD was the only one I needed to complete their spot in my collection and I hadn’t seen a copy in the local stores in years but this one was actually sealed but marked used…..even better! I read about Witch Mountain online and sampled some of their songs so I put them on the want list too but I’ve held off because the regular price was between $15 – $17 depending on the store. I found this copy on the hunt for $9 used and saved around $6 compared to the one new copy that was also there. I also picked up some new albums as well from Anthrax, Adrenaline Mob, Clutch, Lordi, Orden Ogan and Rival Sons…..all on sale.

My third and fourth trip out on the hunt were on the same Sunday in March when my family and I headed to the closest Ikea store about an hour away for a bookcase. In the back of my mind, I know that there was a Newbury Comics near the entrance to the Ikea about a quarter mile away so, after the trip to Ikea, I was able to get to the Avon, MA Newbury Comics store and look for treasures. Now Newbury Comics is an independent record store chain in the Massachusetts/Rhode Island area that I’ve shopped at for the last 18 years, they are the closest thing we can get to “mom & pop” record stores in this area. Unfortunately, the Avon Newbury Comics sucks…..no selection at all. You can usually tell how a store is when you walk in and see their inventory size…..when the t-shirts, toys, comics and other paraphernalia has more floor space then the CDs & DVDs, you know you’re in trouble. I found used CDs from Sinergy, Ram Jam, Delain, Lost Horizon, 7th Heaven, and Firewind all for decent prices so there was a few things there but the gem of this rare visit was the latest Trans-Siberian Orchestra E.P. that I blew off when it first came out and I haven’t seen it since.

After the Avon store visit, it was time to head for home but I knew that if I went a certain route, I would drive by the Newbury Comics Norwood, MA store (basically the biggest one they have). I wasn’t going to leave without buying something but I found a few used bargains from TNT, DeAllen, Trivium, and Evergrey but I also decided to buy the latest from Stryper and Saxon (Sacrifice limited 2 disc edition) for $12 each.

The last trip of the month was back to the Warwick location for the new Enforcer, Sebastian Bach and Iron Maiden releases, all of which were new and on sale. Here’s my one complaint: Why do some bands decide to put out live releases with the CDs & DVDs packaged together and some who separately release each format? And a second complaint: Why are double CD live albums more expensive than double DVD live videos? The case for my arguement is Sebastian Bach vs. Iron Maiden. Sebastian Bach’s Abachalypse Now was released around the same time as Maiden England ’88 and it was a very similar package, a 2 CD/DVD package vs. Maiden’s separate 2 CD release and 2 DVD release. Now it’s probably a label thing but why can’t it be packaged together? $16 for Sebastian Bach and $35 for both Iron Maiden releases. It’s more than double for the complete Iron Maiden package! Then you add that the Maiden double CD is $5 more on sale than the Maiden double DVD! It’s just one of those things that bother me but I still spend the money anyway.

Best Buy, Amazon, Ebay and Bandcamp

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

KISS – Monster (Exclusive Best Buy edition with 3D cover) (2012) – $12

Saxon – Saxon, Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law, Denim And Leather, Power And The Glory, Crusader, Rock The Nations (2009 remasters with bonus material)
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Live (2006 remaster)
Triumph – Live At Sweden Rock (CD/DVD) (2012)
Steel Panther – British Invasion DVD (2013)

(Total Amazon order = $119)

Helix – Back For Another Taste (1990) – $12 used
Killer Dwarfs – Dirty Weapons (1990) – $9 used
Loudness – Lightning Strikes (1986) – $10 used
Return Of The Comet (A Tribute To Ace Frehley) (1997) – $15 used
Corsair – s/t (2013) – $9

Dreamer – Turn It Up (2011) – $10

So we start off the miscellaneous purchases with another version of KISS – Monster, this time from Best Buy with the 3D cover and supposed bonus track. Unfortuately, there is no bonus track on this edition, all the Best Buy CDs are just like the normal version. Bonus tracks were included on the iTunes download of the full album and the Japanese release. I have the regular CD and the Wal-Mart version in the special tour magazine so why not have all the versions? All I need now is the vinyl LP, the picture disc and the Japanese import!

I decided that I wanted to complete my Saxon remasters collection from 2009 and get all those bonus tracks so I put aside a few dollars from my tax refund and I picked up the 7 studio albums I needed to get it done. I also picked up The Eagle Has Landed Live 2006 remaster because they never re-did it in 2009. I also decided to get a couple of items off my Amazon wish list with the Triumph live release and the Steel Panther live DVD. The total came to $119 (less than $12 each item) and the Triumph and Steel Panther releases were priced significantly lower than the advertised sale prices that Newbury Comics had!

Ebay was another great way I picked up some older albums from Helix, Killer Dwarfs and Loudness but the two gems this month were the Ace Frehley tribute album and the latest album from Corsair. I read good things about the Corsair album so I decided to give it a try but I kept passing it over at the record shops because the regular price was $14. When I saw a brand new sealed copy going for $9 plus free shipping, I placed the bid and won the auction. The Return Of The Comet tribute album is one I’ve been searching for since 1997. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick this up when it first came out in 1997 during the KISS reunion hype and I’m not sure why I didn’t pull the trigger, I was devouring anything KISS at that time! I remember seeing it at an old mom & pop store back then but I passed probably figuring I could get it anytime and no one really cared about an Ace Frehley tribute CD. The the label, Shock Records, went under and the CD went out of print and that’s when I had to have it! I’ve been watching Ebay for years but have been unwilling to pay the $40 to $100 I’ve seen it end for. I started watching a certain auction for this CD back in January and it was going for $75 Buy It Now. I watched as the seller relisted the CD four times and lowered the price four times until the disc was $50. That’s when I stepped up and put in a “best offer” of $30…..the seller countered with $47. I waited again for the auction to end and the seller relisted the same CD again but back up to $75! I offered $30 again and was countered $65. Auction ends, no buyers, relist $70. Offer $30 again, auction ends, relist $70 again! finally I just shot the seller a nice email through Ebay saying that he was obviously not selling the item and I had been watching for almost two months and I was willing to buy it for $30 plus $5 shipping. I made the case that the CD wasn’t that rare (you can get it at KISS expos) and that it was way overpriced but I was willing to pay half. Basically the response was a “drop dead” sort of reply. About a couple of days later, a different seller listed a used copy of the same CD with free shipping for $15. It was a 5 day auction, I bid $30 and won it for the listed $15. After I paid via Paypal and secured the deal, I then emailed the first seller direct with a link to the completed auction…..needless to say, that first seller ended up relisting for the umpteenth time but this time at $35…..there are still no buyers! The last purchase was through Bandcamp.com for a local Rhode Island band Dreamer and their latest CD, Turn It Up. I always like to support local music, especially good local Rock music.

Total = $489

Total (year) = $867.50

Average Price (per item) = $9.43

Total CDs (year) = 87

Total BluRays or DVDs (year) = 2

Total Box Sets (year) = 3

The 2012 Heavy Metal Addiction Awards

2012 is over so that means it’s time for my year end awards! It’s been another awesome year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal with so many releases on CD, DVD, Vinyl and Digital formats, not just new studio albums but also live records, reissues and special edition releases. I have had more albums submitted for review this year from bands, labels and PR agents as digital promos have taken over as the easiest way to get the word out as quickly as possible and I have done my part as a consumer and purchased plenty of new and old albums & DVDs from record stores, Ebay, online vendors and direct from bands and labels. The only problem has been finding the time to do through everything!

With all this music it’s been every hard to keep up so this has been the worst year for posting but I have made a serious push in November and December to listen to as many CDs, and watch as many DVDs, as possible to prepare for my year end lists. I said the same thing at the end of 2010 & 2011 but 2012 was in fact the worst year for posting at Heavy Metal Addiction…..I only managed to post 19 times! I couldn’t even break 20 posts on a blog I started 7 years ago as an extension of my hobby! Pathetic! Obviously sitting in front of a computer writing wasn’t something that interested me again this year.

I did listen to a lot of albums this year but I stayed mainly with albums in my collection even though I have piles on my desk, and in boxes right next it, chock full of CDs and DVDs released in 2011 and 2012. I bought a ton of new releases as they came out and I’ve spent some time listening to them, I just didn’t get around to writing about them. I haven’t completely abandoned this website as I plan to continue it because there’s a lot to write about and I will try and catch up on as many reviews as I can but the reality is that there’s no way to “catch up”. I think it’s best to try and concentrate on 2013 and add in what I can from previous years.

I have been re-listening to as many 2012 albums that I can since November so I can post my year end awards. Usually I break this up into a week’s worth of posts but I decided to take advantage of a couple new WordPress features and do it all as one big article. I’m pairing down my lists a bit to give you the absolute cream of the crop in each category and I’ve also decided to re-define a couple categories. This year the Best DVD category will include DVDs that came with CD releases, because that seems to be the current trend,  and the Worst Album category will get a name change to Most Disappointing Album so I can try and maintain some positive spin…..but if an album makes it into this category, then I thought it sucked! Last is the Miscellaneous Release category, that stays the same but there could be some crossover between this and the Best DVD category with all the multiple CD and DVD or Blu-Ray combo releases coming out. I tried to limit the crossovers but the best package is going to get on both lists.

That’s all I’ve got for changes so I hope you enjoy the 2012 awards, please leave comments and give me your thoughts on what was the best & worst of the past year. I’ve got my sights set on 2013 and I expect and even bigger year in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal as I keep checking out new releases and catching up on things I missed from the last couple of years.

The Top 15 Albums of 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
  2. UFO – Seven Deadly
  3. 3 Inches Of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal
  4. KISS – Monster
  5. Accept – Stalingrad
  6. Nightwish – Imaginaerum
  7. The Darkness – Hot Cakes
  8. Kamelot – Silverthorn
  9. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
  10. Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth
  11. Rush – Clockwork Angels
  12. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last Of A Dyin’ Breed
  13. Lita Ford – Living Like A Runaway
  14. L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever
  15. Lamb Of God – Resolution

There were a ton a great albums in 2012 but only one album can earn the top honor of being the best of the year and that is reserved for A Different Kind Of Truth from the “reunited” Van Halen. By reuniting with David Lee Roth a few years ago, the only thing the Van Halen brothers had to do was release a new album with Diamond Dave on lead vocals. Let’s call it like it truly is: this isn’t a TRUE Van Halen reunion because Michael Anthony is out of the band and replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang. The good news is that A Different Kind Of Truth is a great album! Forget the fact that Eddie and Alex went through the Van Halen tape vault for ideas because EVERY band does it…..hasn’t the father of Heavy Metal, Tony Iommi, stated often that he has tapes of riffs for miles? Every band looks for ideas and revisits demos and music they created years before, it’s the updating that counts. This album has that unmistakable classic Diamond Dave/Van Halen sound circa the late ’70s and early ’80s and, even though he’s a bit older, Dave does a great job on the mic. The first single, ‘Tattoo’, wasn’t the best song on the album and might have been better suited to a follow-up single but everything after is classic Van Halen. ‘She’s The Woman’ is a re-worked demo from the ’70s that is clearly the best song on the album for me and it definitely fits that 1984 album era well. ‘China Town’, ‘Blood And Fire’, ‘Stay Frosty’, ‘Big River’…..all new Van Halen classics that sit right up against anything in their back catalog. A Different Kind Of Truth is the true follow-up to 1984, unfortunately 28 years after the fact, and it’s my top album of 2012.

Taking a look at the rest of the Top 5…..UFO released Seven Deadly and earned the 2nd spot with another excellent album of bluesy Hard Rock. UFO has done much wrong since they came back in 1995 and I can’t find a weak track on the album. Phil Mogg’s lyrics are modern poetry and there is no slack in the guitar department because Vinnie Moore has more than a few albums under his belt with the band. Hard to pick a favorite track here but ‘The Last Stone Rider’ is my favorite this week! Had Van Halen not released their new record, UFO would easily be #1. The third best goes to 3 Inches of Blood with Long Live Heavy Metal, probably the best pure and traditional Heavy Metal record of the year. Take one listen to the opener ‘Metal Woman’ or the Judas Priest influenced ‘Leather Lord’ and that’s a great example of not only this record but the band’s career. Of all the Metal albums I heard this year, 3 Inches of Blood got the most rotation on my stereo and iPod. My favorite band KISS comes up a bit short of the top spot but still maintains the #4 album with Monster. When it comes to KISS, I’m extremely critical because they are my favorite band and they have barely released anything since new in 15 years. We got Sonic Boom in 2009 and it took the top spot that year and Monster is just as good but I had a harder time getting into it like I did with Sonic Boom. Maybe it was the anticipation of the previous album, or the travelling circus atmosphere that KISS creates with everything they do, but after repeated listens the album is just as good if not better. Anyone worrying about Dave, Eddie and Alex recycling should give Gene Simmons grief too because it’s obvious he does it but his songs are the better ones on the album. Paul Stanley has great moments too but I worried about his vocal issues going in and Gene hasn’t lost a step vocally. a lot of good songs here: ‘Wall Of Sound’, ‘Back To The Stone Age’, ‘Shout Mercy’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out’…..here’s hoping they give us another one! Rounding out the Top 5 is Accept’s Stalingrad, the second record to feature new vocalist Mark Tornillo (formerly of TT Quick). The last Accept album with Mark debuting on vocals, Blood Of The Nations, was a superb record and Stalingrad is a great follow-up and it might be more powerful. I think Accept shares the same fate as KISS here, the anticipation for the first new album was so high on my part that a second release suffers just a little. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Hung, Drawn and Quartered’, the title track, and ‘Shadow Soldiers’ are awesome tunes but can anyone explain the meaning behind ‘Flash To Bang Time’?

Rounding out the Top 15…..Nightwish’s Imaginaerum was very close to the Top 5 but came up short because they first 5 albums were so good. I expected nothing from The Darkness but I bought Hot Cakes when it came out and I loved it immeadiately, same thing with Silverthorn from Kamelot despite the change at singer. Gojira was a surprise of the year because I’d never bought an album from them before and L’Enfant Sauvage kicked major ass, so did the new Testament album at #10 and the new Lamb of God at #15, giving the more extreme side of Metal a presence. Rush picked up #11 with Clockwork Angels but I expected a great album so their was no surprise there but Lynyrd Skynyrd surprised with their latest album proving that good music always prevails despite the genre, time or legacy. Lita Ford had a great comeback with Living Like A Runaway, a very introspective Hard Rock record, especially after the debacle of Wicked Wonderland and L.A. Guns proved that they still write great songs and that usually the lead singer’s version of the band will always out do the founding guitarist’s version because the singing voice is the most identifiable thing to most fans.

The 5 Most Disappointing Albums of 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension
  2. Steve Harris – British Lion
  3. Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves
  4. Slash – Apocalyptic Love
  5. Great White – Elation

Usually I call this “the worst albums” of whatever year it is but I wanted to keep a positive spin on this category because who am I to say an album sucks? I have no musical talent, I don’t write songs or play an instrument. I could change it back next year if a bunch of albums do indeed suck but, for 2012, these are the most disappointing records of the year. I heard the first two singles from the new Aerosmith album and I was hooked right away, especially with ‘Lover A Lot’, but the bulk of Music From Another Dimension sounded formulaic and forced. Too many outside writers, too many ballads, too many predictable songs. Do we need another Diane Warren ballad? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and the ballad is what gave the band ultra-success from the Pump record straight through Nine Lives. I was really looking forward to a reunited Aerosmith and a bunch of rocking songs but there’s too much filler. Take a page from KISS…..lock the band in the studio and do it mostly yourself.

There was a lot of surprise when it was announced Iron Maiden’s founding bass player, Steve harris, was releasing a solo album that he had been working on for a long time. With Maiden’s hectic schedule, who knew? Apparently Steve did and he enlisted musicians from a band he had been producing called British Lions, to create the British Lion record. It’s supposed to be a throwback album to the days of classic Thin Lizzy and UFO that had a big impact on a young Harris but, aside from the hard Rock style, I didn’t hear much of the influences. Let’s call it like it is: anything Steve Harris does outside of Iron Maiden will always be compared to Iron Maiden. There’s a different style to the music on this album compared to Maiden but I expected the same excellent quality from Steve. The songwriting seems too pedestrian, too simplistic……then again, we are used to epic lyrics on Maiden albums. The band can play well but Steve seems pushed back purposely in the mix (probably due to the Hard Rock style) and the singer has no range…..then again, we are spoiled with Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden. There’s no helping the comparisons to Iron Maiden but the quality of the material just lacks on this solo album from Steve Harris.

Rounding out the Top 5 here…..Geoff Tate’s new solo album comes on the heels of his split with the Queensryche camp, who are no strangers to this category! In the back of my mind, I knew this wouldn’t be good but I had hope but Kings And Thieves was just plain boring. Same thing with Apocalyptic Love from Slash. Slash is an iconic guitarist and hopes were high for this album with lead singer Miles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) but it was just boring. remember that Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose were the creative forces in Guns ‘N Roses, not to say Slash didn’t contribute, but anything he does will always come back to Guns…..and even then, Guns only had two albums of classic material with Appetite For Destruction and if you cherry pick off the Use Your Illusion albums. Last album in this category is Elation from Great White, featuring former XYZ singer Terry Ilous on vocals replacing the fired Jack Russell. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on this album but, for me personally, it comes down to the voice and Jack Russell’s fits the bluesy Hard Rock of Great White’s music better than Terry Ilous. It’s by no means a bad album and, considering the vocalist change, it a solid effort. I just couldn’t get into it and I expected a bit more after the last two records, Back To The Rhythm and Rising.

The Top 5 DVDs of 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Scorpions – Live In 3D: Get Your Sting & Blackout
  2. Iron Maiden – En Vivo!
  3. Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009
  4. Queen – Days Of Our Lives
  5. Ozzy Osbourne – Speak Of The Devil: Live At Irvine Meadows ’82

This year I decided to included DVDs and/or Blu-rays that came with CD releases or box sets because this seems to be the way bands and labels are adding something extra for fans. My favorite DVD of the year is also the first Blu-ray release I ever bought…..Scorpions – Live In 3D: get Your Sting & Blackout. An excellently produced concert film with plenty of extras, this got the top spot because I saw this tour live over the summer and that put Live In 3D over the top. The Scorpions needed that emotional attachment because iron Maiden delivered another excellent DVD in a long line of excellent DVDs with En Vivo! Does Iron Maiden ever do anything wrong went it comes to video releases? Plenty of awesome concert footage from Santiago, Chile and plenty of documentary film as well the only thing I could complain about is to package the DVD or Blu-ray with the double CD live album for a special package (that’s the next category). The new Saxon DVD is solid and part of the Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009 release, the DVD incorporates the band’s best performances from the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany for 2004, 2007 and 2009…..that’s 31 songs! and some behind the scenes footage and you’ve got a Saxon fan’s dream DVD, only bettered by the super limited edition box set of this release that included separate DVDs of the full concerts. Had I been able to get one of those, Saxon would own the top spot easily. Rounding out the Top 5 is the Queen documentary, Days of Our Lives, finally getting a proper DVD release and the famous often duplicted, VHS only Ozzy Osbourne concert Speak Of The Devil: Live At Irvine Meadows ’82.

The Top 10 Miscellaneous Releases of 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009
  2. UFO – The Chrysalis Years (1980 – 1986)
  3. Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2: Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else
  4. Motorhead – The world Is Ours Vol.1: Everywhere Further Than Everywhere Else
  5. U.D.O. – Celebrator
  6. Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance (30th Anniversary Edition)
  7. KISS – Destroyer Resurrected
  8. U.D.O. – Live In Sofia
  9. Dio – The Very Beast Of Dio Vol.2
  10. Quiet Riot – Live At The US Festival ’83

I never like to put these kind of releases into my top albums category because I like to reserve that for albums of new material but there are always other great new releases aside from new studio albums and 2012 was no exception.

The #1 spot goes to the 2CD/DVD release from Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009 because that was my favorite release with the DVD of the best of the band’s last 3 appearances at Wacken Open Air and the double audio CD from Glascow on the Call To Arms Tour in 2011. My only regret is not knowing about the preorder for the limited edition that came with extra DVDs and CDs but it was also a couple hundred bucks. The second slot goes to the second volume of the UFO back catalog on Chrysalis Records from 1980 thru 1986. You get 5 CDs that include the 5 post Michael Schenker albums (No Place To Run, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, Mechanix, Making Contact, & Misdemeanor) all with bonus tracks, plus a full BBC In Concert from February 1980 and the live tracks from the Headstone compilation from Hammersmith 1983. I was lucky to have the label send me a copy but to get all this at retail for around $50 is a steal! I already have all the UFO albums on Japanese import with bonus tracks but this is another great compilation for a great band.

The #3 and #4 spots belong to Motorhead with The World is Ours Vols 1 & 2. I couldn’t decide which was better so I put the second volume first because it was fresher in the memory. Both sets have 2CD live sets and a live DVD in great packaging just like the Saxon set. Their label UDR is really putting out great stuff! U.D.O. also gets 2 slots in this Top 10 with the Celebrator two disc compilation of rare tracks and the Live In Sofia 2CD/DVD set. I put Live In Sofia at #8 but it’s a solid live package, AFM Records doing what UDR is doing and, for $14 on sale, it was a no brainer. The Celebrator album is really great because it collects all those hard to find Japanese bonus tracks remixed, some previously unreleased songs and a few songs from various tribute albums. I could have done with out the remix treatment and had the originals but I’m sure that was done to get thru legal label red tape. Its a great compilation of 25 songs on two discs with a great full color booklet. I put the Judas Priest Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition in at #6 more for the DVD from the US Festival ’83 than anything else, same with Quiet Riot at #10…..now that makes three bands that have released live DVDs of their US Festival performances (Triumph did it a few years ago). KISS released Destroyer Resurrected and it made #7, basically it was a 36 year celebration release restoring all the original artwork and having producer Bob Ezrin remix the album. It’s a nice novelty to have especially for the original guitar solo on ‘Sweet Pain’ as a bonus track but I will admit that my KISS fanaticism pushed this higher. Last to mention is The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2 covering the best of the Dio band’s work from the ’90s up until Ronnie’s death, the track here to have is ‘Electra’ the first completed song from what would have been from the Magica II album that the band was working on when Ronnie James Dio passed away.

3 Releases I Missed In 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Royal Hunt – Future Coming From The Past DVD
  2. Benedictum – Dominion
  3. Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination

Just a quick note on a couple releases I missed out on in 2011…..the Royal Hunt DVD is a formal worldwide release of the Japan only video release of Live 1996 and, even though it’s all over Youtube, it’s a welcome addition to my collection. Benedictum keeps churning out great albums and their third, Dominion, is awesome as is Forever Abomination from Skeltonwitch, a band I finally got around to checking out in 2012.

WANTED: Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken limited edition box set (2012)

WANTED

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken limited edition box set (2012)

Had I been paying attention back in April, I would have definitely pre-ordered this set! The pre-order price was 60 British Pounds which comes to about $95 USD + the cost of shipping so I estimate it would have been around $130 USD. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this box set until it had already sold out (in 3 days!) and it’s going on Ebay anywhere from $300 to almost $900 at auction and Buy It Now. There were only 500 copies made so it’s a rarity for sure…..read the press release below to see what was inside.

From the Saxon online store:

Strictly limited, this exclusive package contains the “Best Of Wacken” DVD, a double audio CD recorded live in Glasgow (2011) on the Call To Arms tour,

plus the full and complete Saxon W:O:A performances from 2004/2007/2009 – each on a separate DVD and, a Saxon flag.

The real surprise is that 10 ‘Golden Tickets’ are randomly included in the box sets, which will allow the 10 lucky winners to visit any Saxon concert in any city around the world (excluding festival appearances).

‘Silver Tickets’ giving access to special online content are for the remaining boxes so there are no losers – only winners.

SAXON “Heavy Metal Thunder – Live – Eagles Over Wacken”
• DVD 1: Best Of W:O:A (2004/2007/2009)
• Double CD: Glasgow Live, Recorded On The Call To Arms World Tour, April 14th, 2011
• DVD 2: W:O:A 2004 – full show
• DVD 3: W:O:A 2007 – full show
• DVD 4: W:O:A 2009 – Fan’s Choice Setlist – full show
• Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder – W:O:A flag
• “Golden Ticket” / “Silver Ticket”

I already paid $18 for the limited edition 2 CD/DVD version so I would have easily shelled out the extra $112. Full DVDs of each Wacken show and a commemorative Saxon flag are highly collectible as is the special box and the Golden and Silver tickets that allowed buyers to either see Saxon in concert ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD and/or access bonus contect online. Even with the DVDs being PAL format I would have been fine because my DVD player is region free.

Saxon is one of my all-time favorite bands, I can’t believe I missed out on this. I will be watching and, if I find one at a decent price (albeit higher than the pre-order), then I will be on the hunt!

CD Scavenger Hunt (June update)

Finally! Once I post this update for June then I’m all caught up! June was a good month with a ton of new releases so I spent some extra dollars…..

Newbury Comics

Rush – Clockwork Angels (2012) – $13
Meshuggah – Koloss (CD/DVD) (2012) – $12
Kreator – Phantom Antichrist (CD/DVD) (2012) – $14

My first trip of the month to Newbury Comics was pretty uneventful. I went in to pick up the new albums by Rush, Kreator and L.A. Guns but the store never got in the new L.A. Guns. Why? Because they were moving locations and their shipments were minimal. I got the Rush and Kreator albums no problem, and I was willing to wait until the next shipment for the new L.A. Guns rather than go to another store, so I started to browse. With the staff boxing up inventory, some of the selection was a little thin but I did manage to find the deluxe version of the new Meshuggah album, KOLOSS, for a sale price of $12. The other couple of copies were regular price around $18 so I decided to grab this while I could still get it a little cheaper.

L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever (2012) – $9.50
Lita Ford – Living Like A Runaway (2012) – $10.30
Malice – New Breed Of Godz (CD/DVD) (2012) – $15.20
U.D.O. – Celebrator (2012) – $9.50
Mantas – Death By Metal (2012) – $8

My second trip into the North Attleboro Newbury Comics came as the store started their moving sale — “Everything 20% off”. I immeadiately hit the new release rack for the new L.A. Guns (finally in stock!), the new Lita Ford (I hope it’s better than her last album!) and the new U.D.O. double disc package with all the unreleased/bonus/special material. I had great sale prices of $12, $13 and $12 respectively but knowing an additional 20% off was coming at checkout I knew I could buy more! I read about the new Malice album but never wrote down the release date so I was surprised to see it in the rack, unfortunately it was $19 regular price. A new album on Frontiers Records with a bonus DVD is always going to cost a little more but the 20% discount made it a little more manageable price wise. I calculated that I was going to save about $10 with the extra discount so that meant I could buy another new CD! I decided to buy the Mantas album because it is Chuck Schuldiner’s pre-Death band and I wanted to hear these demo recordings. I’m starting to get into more extreme forms of Metal and I like Death so I figured the extra savings made this CD free in theory.

Venom – Metal Black (2006) – $4.80
Brand New Sin – Recipe For Disaster (2005) – $1.60 used
Eidolon – The Parallel Otherworld (2006) – $3.20 used

Last trip into the old store before they closed the door and the inventory was all but gone. Everything was still an additional 20% off so it was still worth the trip especially since I had been watching the Venom CD and a Superjoint Ritual CD for a while. Unfortunately the Superjoint Ritual album was gone (it was only $4) but I was able to pick up the Venom CD new and two used discs from Brand New Sin and Eidolon. The prices were a cheap $6, $2 and $4 respectively so I was spending under the regular price of a normal CD as it was but getting another 20% off on top was icing on the cake.

Sleep – Dopesmoker (2003/2012 reissue) – $10

Well, the new Newbury Comics store opened in the Emerald Square Mall about a half mile down the road from the original location and they opened a day early. I checked the North Attleboro store’s Facebook page and saw they were open so I went down with the family to check it out. It’s a little smaller than the old store but it’s in a great location in the mall and there seemed to be a ton of foot traffic so maybe this store won’t go the way of other independent chains! I had to make an inaugural purchase so I decided on the DOPESMOKER reissue because it was cheap. I’ve heard the edited version of ‘Dopesmoker’ (titled ‘Jerusalem’) only once but the original 63 minute song continues to be a benchmark of Stoner/Doom Metal. The full album is one song, recorded in 1996, and released four different times without band authorization…..the 1999 release was re-titled JERUSALEM with an alternate cover and an edited song losing about 10 minutes. This new reissue is fully authorized by the band and I’ll bet that the other versions price and collectibility goes down.

Music Box (Newport, RI)

Pop Evil – Lipstick On The Mirror (2009) – $2.50 used

I caught Pop Evil a few years ago opening for Judas Priest so I’ve always had the band name in my head but I never got around to buying any of their albums. My family and I went to Newport for the day and we took a walk through the Brick Marketplace and I had to make my way to the long time Newport record store Music Box. There’s never anything exciting in there because I either own it already or it’s your basic run of the mill inventory but, one thing I’ve learned over the years, there’s always a treasure somewhere and sometime! This time I checked the cut-out/used bin at the very back of the store and found this Pop Evil CD for less than $3. It’s a promotional CD but it’s intact. I compared it to a regularly priced copy that was $15 and it looks exactly the same.

Amazon.com

Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken (2 CD/DVD) (2012) – $18.20
Great White – Elation (2012) – $10
Kill Devil Hill – s/t (2012) – $10

I went into my usual record store looking for the new Saxon limited edition set with the DVD and double CD but they didn’t have it in stock with no idea when they would have it. They did have the regular double CD but I wanted the DVD. As soon as I got home, I went to Amazon and started filling my cart: Saxon for just over $18 and I added the new Great White and Kill Devil Hill albums for $10 each. Both great White and Kill Devil Hill were priced at $17 regular price at the record store so I saved $7 each buying them with Saxon…..unfortunately, the record store stocked the Saxon limited edition a few days later at a $15 sale price but I spent an extra $3 to save an extra $14!

Total = $151.80 ($159 rounded off)

Total (year) = $1171

Average Price (per item) = $8.87

Total CDs (year) = 127

Total DVDs (year) = 4

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

Metal Mixtape – 5/6/12

Tale of the Tape
Ipod 120
9983 songs (858 albums)

  1. Gwar – ‘Parting Shot’ – Lust In Space (2009)
  2. Thunder – ‘An Englishman On Holiday’ – Backstreet Symphony (1990)
  3. AC/DC – ‘Walk All Over You’ – Highway To Hell (1979)
  4. Night Ranger – ‘Penny’ – Dawn Patrol (1982)
  5. Saxon – ‘Rockin’ Again’  – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985)
  6. AC/DC – ‘Live Wire’ – High Voltage (1975)
  7. Accept – ‘Sick, Dirty And Mean’ – Objection Overruled (1993)
  8. Black Country Communion – ‘Stand (At The Burning Tree)’ – Black Country (2010)
  9. Extreme – ‘Play With Me’ – Extreme (1989)
  10. Airbourne – ‘No Way But The Hard Way’ – No Guts, No Glory (2010)
  11. Megadeth – ‘Guns, Drugs & Money’ – Th1rt3en (2011)
  12. Riot – ‘Heart Of Fire’ – Rock City (1977)
  13. The Doors – ‘Back Door Man’ – The Doors (1967)
  14. KISS – ‘Lick It Up’ – Jikogu Retsuden (2008)
  15. Buckcherry – ‘Cream’ – Black Butterfly (2008)
  16. UFO – ‘Borderline’ – High Stakes And Dangerous Men (1992)
  17. Symfonia – ‘Rhapsody In Black’ – In Paradisum (2011)
  18. Blue Tears – ‘Innocent Kiss’ – Blue Tears (1990)
  19. Primal Fear – ‘Conviction’ – Unbreakable (2012)
  20. Tesla – ‘I Wanna Live’ – Forever More (2008)
  21. Accept – ‘Bound To Fail’ – Metal Heart (1985)
  22. Autograph – ‘Everytime I Dream’ – Loud & Clear (1987)
  23. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – ‘Now Is The Time’ – Odyssey (1988)
  24. Anvil – ‘Shadow Zone’ – Forged In Fire (1983)
  25. Chickenfoot – ‘Down The Drain’ – Chickenfoot (2009)

Bonus Track — Def Leppard – Switch 625 – High ‘N” Dry (1981)

Current Playlist

I’m back on the attack! Maybe I’ll post a little more now that music has just re-energized me completely! I’ve been listening to a ton of albums the last couple of weeks, old and new, and it just feels great. I’m not going to list every album I’ve played, just a few notable highlights and a couple podcasts so here’s what I’ve been listening to recently…..

Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth (2012): Say what you want about this reunion album being 16 years late (should have happened in 1996!) and say what you want about the material being old (they went through the VH archives like other bands do in theirs!) but this is one smokin’ record! Like everyone else, I was skeptical and I didn’t get into ‘Tattoo’ right away but I didn’t hate the tune. After hearing ‘She’s The Woman’ and the rest of the record, it’s one of the best of the year and I haven’t stopped playing it.

UFO – Seven Deadly (2012): UFO just keeps putting out solid records every couple of years and it’s always great to hear one of your favorite bands stay creative and vital, I marvel at singer Phil Mogg’s songwriting. Here’s another CD that I just can’t get enough of, I play it at least once everyday since it’s release earlier in the year.

Accept – Stalingrad (2012): After hearing Accept’s 2010 comeback record, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, I knew that it would be a tough album to follow but, after a couple of spins, STALINGRAD could actually overtake it! Founding guitarist Wolf Hoffman hadn’t really been doing Metal until the Accept reunion shows with Udo Dirkschneider in the late 2000s so the fact that he’s churning out awesome Metal riffs is legend. Add Mark Tornillo again at the mic doing his best Udo and you’ve got another top record this year!

Iron Maiden – En Vivo! (2012): Iron Maiden live albums are always great and I always buy them. Granted, LIVE AFTER DEATH is the benchmark by which all others will be compared but the energy and sound of the band 27 years after is still there and they are, dare I say, better! Maiden is THE Heavy Metal band of all-time, forget Metallica. Maiden has never sold out and their fans are rabid all over the globe. Listen to this crowd from Chile…..amazing! I’ll be seeing this summer’s tour.

Saxon – Call To Arms (2011): Just like UFO, Saxon is one of my favorite bands and they have been releasing consistently excellent albums for the last 19 years. There was a little lull in the late ’80s & early ’90s but since 1997 Saxon has released a prolific string of studio and live albums that have made the second half of their career. I got CALL TO ARMS when it came out in 2011 but I didn’t give it a lot of time on the stereo or iPod so I’ve been really enjoying a fresh listen the last couple of weeks.

Ghost – Opus Eponymous (2011): I just can’t get enough of Ghost! A mix of NWOBHM, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Black Sabbath and old church music. What a haunting sound and the gimmick is awesome. http://ghost-official.com/

I’ve also been listening to a couple of sampler CDs I received with Metal Hammer and Classic Rock presents AOR #6. The Metal Hammer CD came with the latest issue with James Hetfield on the cover and it’s titled BONESNAPPERS. New tracks from Soulfly, Dragonforce, Meshuggah, Moonspell and Overkill are on there but the jewel of the CD is a track by Huntress called ‘Spell Eater’. On the AOR CD (titled SILK & STEEL) there’s a new UFO track off SEVEN DEADLY, the new Beggars & Thieves, Sunstorm (featuring Joe Lynn Turner), and Donnie Vie from Enuff Z’nuff but the tune I wanted to hear the most was from De La Cruz – ‘Lust Fame Money’.

Check out Huntress — http://huntresskills.com/
Check out De La Cruz — http://www.facebook.com/DeLaCruzAustralia

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently…..well, trying to catch up on all the podcasts I subscribe to. I’m going to list a few of the ones I subscribe to and you should check them out either by the website of getting them for free through iTunes. The following podcasts are part of a website that links them all together called The Cast Iron Ring and there are 8 podcasts there but I’ve only been through three so far. I’m listing the podcasts’ websites but you want to go to The Cast Iron Ring because it’s just easier…..one stop shopping!

Iron City Rocks — http://www.ironcityrocks.com/
Focus On Metal — http://www.focusonmetal.net/
Radioactive Metal — http://www.facebook.com/radmetal

The Top 25 Albums of 2011

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! More and more new albums come out from a wide variety of bands and 2011 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 2011 albums submitted to Heavy Metal Addiction than in 2010! 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 is on par with what I had for 2010. Unfortunately, I’ve let the website go a little in the last couple of years so, while I’ve been listening to almost everything, I just haven’t posted about it.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 25 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 2011. Just like previous years, an album that was released in 2010 internationally, but was released in the U.S. in 2011, qualified as a 2011 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 25 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 2011″ post during next year’s awards week. Just like last year, I will be splitting the Top 25 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 25 Albums of 2011:

25. Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011)
24. Michael Monroe – Sensory Overdrive (2011)
23. U.D.O. – Rev-Raptor (2011)
22. Riot – Immortal Soul (2011)
21. Tokyo Blade – Thousand Men Strong (2011)

Starting at the bottom of the countdown is the new Nelson album that surprised me with it’s huge melodic hooks and vocals, former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe’s latest solo album that I bought late in the year but ended up enjoying a lot and the steadiness of U.D.O.’s Traditional Metal REV-RAPTOR. I still can’t figure out what a “rev-raptor” is aside from the machine on the cover but there you go. Two huge surprises were from Riot and Tokyo Blade! Riot scored #22 with a solid record from the THUNDERSTEEL-era lineup (a record I was looking forward to big time!) but the band had to endure the loss of Riot founder/guitarist Mark Reale…..at least he left a lasting legacy with this last album. The big surprise was NWOBHM legends Tokyo Blade, who came out of nowhere with THOUSAND MEN STRONG, one of the biggest comebacks of 2011! I’ve been a Tokyo Blade fan for a long time but I really didn’t expect much when I heard the band was releasing a new album but I was completely surprised and excited, sounds like old school NWOBHM with a modern touch.

20. Stratovarius – Elysium (2011)
19. Journey – Eclipse (2011)
18. Iced Earth – Dystopia (2011)
17. Royal Hunt – Show Me How To Live (2011)
16. Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions (2011)

I came late to the Stratovarius party even though I’ve acquired a few albums over the years, ELYSIUM was another epic Power Metal record. Journey’s ECLIPSE was a leader for the Top 5 this year but, as other bands released new records, and I kept comparing this album to 2008′s REVELATION, ECLIPSE fell a little. It’s still a solid AOR album Arnel Pineda still shines as the new Steve Perry but it wasn’t as good as REVELATION. Iced Earth made another vocalist change adding Stu Block from Into Eternity but they released one hell of an album with DYSTOPIA…..another late year purchase that might have gone higher with more time. Same for Royal Hunt but their reunion with D.C. Cooper is just what I needed to add their new Progressive/Power Metal album into the Top 25. I know a lot of fans of the more extreme side of Metal look at Arch Enemy as somewhat of a commercial band, especially with Angela Gossow front and center, but they are still kind of new to me. As I open myself up to more extreme bands, a band like Arch Enemy is a good starting point. I’m more of a Traditional/Power Metal fan and a AOR/Hard Rock fan but KHAOS LEGIONS sounded great to my ears and I had to rate it higher than some of my favorite bands (Iced Earth, Royal Hunt, Riot).

15. Anvil – Juggernaut Of Justice (2011)
14. Scheepers – Scheepers (2011)
13. Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
12. Chickenfoot – III (2011)
11. Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming (2011)

Gotta give some love to Anvil because THIS IS THIRTEEN (2007) was a great comeback album (even though they never left!) even without the movie and they had four busy years to release a follow-up. JUGGERNAUT OF JUSTICE continued where THIS IS THIRTEEN left off and exceeded all my expectations…..great to see the band still getting success even with the movie hoopla dying out, hard work pays off! Ralf Scheepers didn’t stray too far from the more commercial side of Primal Fear’s last few albums but his first solo album was just as good as those. What can you say about Dream Theater? They always release one great record after another and, yes, Mike Portnoy is a huge loss on drums but Mike Mangini does a great job! Another big surprise in 2011 was the new Chickenfoot album, III, because I didn’t really feel the debut album. Not to say I didn’t like the first Chickenfoot record but the songs weren’t as catchy, as memorable. On III, the songs instantly stuck too me and the harmonies were awesome between Mike Anthony and Sammy, they can take the “supergroup” label off and just be a band now. Talk about a comeback! Sebastian Bach came back and kicked his former band in the teeth with this new solo album, KICKING & SCREAMING.  Baz sounds as great as he ever did and his band is blazing! I always get disappointed with Baz because I always think he should be doing more music than interviews, or reality shows, or VH-1 related things but he really came back strong with this record.

10. Warrant – Rockaholic (2011)
9. Saxon – Call To Arms (2011)
8. Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011)
7. Motorhead – The World Is Yours (2011)
6. Black Country Communion – 2 (2011)

Despite original singer Jani Lane passing away, Warrant recruited former Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason (who replaced Black ‘N Blue singer Jamie St. James) and released a wicked Hard Rock record with ROCKAHOLIC. The first two songs, ‘Sex Ain’t Love’ and ‘Innocence Gone’, are two of the best Hard Rock songs of the year! Saxon is one of my Top 5 favorite bands of all time and they released another great album with CALL TO ARMS. I was a little worried when I read they were stripping back their current sound for something more like the early ’80s because they have released a string of great Traditional/Power Metal albums since 1997′s UNLEASH THE BEAST…..the good news is that the old NWOBHM guard still maintained their excellent track record of the last 15 years! I’ve been a Night Ranger fan since the early ’80s and I thought they easily made the best Melodic Rock record of 2011 after one spin of the new album, once I heard this album, the  Journey and Nelson records started to pale in comparison. Like Saxon, Motorhead is a favorite band and a staple when it comes to my year end countdowns. You know what you’re going to get from Motorhead before they album is released but you know it’s going to rip your face off and punch you in the gut! Lemmy, Mikkey and Phil just keep making great album after great album every other year…..see you in 2013 Motorhead! Coming is at #6, and just missing the Top 5 by a hair, is the sophomore album by Black Country Communion (the other supergroup in the countdown). Just hearing Glenn Hughes sing ’70s styled Hard Rock is enough to catapult any band or album into year end lists but the songs are so good and the performances so perfect that I knew this was going to be a top album of 2011 after the first spin. Hard working band too, this album came out a year after the debut, they released a live record and DVD and have toured constantly…..that’s old school work ethic and it pays off.

5. Whitesnake – Forevermore (2011)
4. Mr. Big – What If… (2011)
3. Anthrax – Worship Music (2011)
2. Michael Schenker – Temple Of Rock (2011)

Making the Top 5 is no easy task when hundreds, if not thousands, of new albums get released each year but these four albums had the #1 spot on my countdown and really put me to task to pick the best album of 2011. Whitesnake started the year off with the album to beat, FOREVERMORE being a continuation of GOOD TO BE BAD but just a shade behind that awesome 2008 album. Maybe it’s because FOREVERMORE didn’t have 11 years of waiting and then hit you between the eyes but the new album did keep David Coverdale and the band at the top again. This year’s countdown has a lot of Hard Rock comebacks with Baz and Warrant turning in solid albums but Mr. Big really made the superior Hard Rock album of 2011 and then toured the album hard with more than just a few making the live set. I expected nothing from a new Mr. Big album but WHAT IF…. was a great album from a band reuniting and not just going out for the quick nostalgia buck. I’ll tell you what, they were definitely one of the best concerts I saw this past year too! Mr. Bog would have had the top album of 2011, and the best comeback of 2011, if Anthrax decided not to release WORSHIP MUSIC! Are you kidding me? WORSHIP MUSIC is an album that should be my top record of 2011 because it’s so good, so thrashy, so hard and so melodic all rolled into one. The band is tight as usual, no problems there, but the wild card in all of this was whether the band reuniting with Joey Belladonna would make a difference. No offense to the John Bush-era of Anthrax but Belladonna is just a better fit! Joey sounds as good as he ever has, the band sounds as brutal as ever and there isn’t a throwaway song on the album. A lot of year end countdown’s have Anthrax at the top of the list and, in a year of comebacks, they have the best one but the band got trumped by one of my favorite guitarists of all-time…..Michael Schenker! The #2 album of 2011, and a serious contender for the #1 spot right to the end, was Schenker’s new TEMPLE OF ROCK solo album. Is it the Michael Schenker Group? Is it him by himself, hence a solo album? TEMPLE OF ROCK follows the lead of 2006′s TALES OF ROCK ‘N ROLL where Michael and his regular backing band teamed up with another new vocalist for the half of the new album and then did a few songs each with a different singer from Michael’s career. This time around it’s new singer Michael Voss for 10 of the 12 new songs with Robin McAuley and Doogie White each singing one…..I kind of expected Gary Barden to fit in here somewhere considering he’s done Michael’s last two albums but he’s not here. Voss sounds great, the guitar is pure Schenker mastery and the songs are all well written with big memorable hooks and solos. Best song on the album is the McAuley led ‘Lover’s Sinfony’, which I got to see live when the band came through town, with a close second being ‘Miss Claustraphobia’ performed by Michael Voss. Michael Schenker had some rough years since the mid-’90s but the guy is such a talented musician, so prolific on guitar, that the music is a reflection of the man’s genius. Definitely a tough task to beat out anyone in the Top 5, especially Anthrax, but Schenker and company came out of nowhere and blew me away.

Up until the last minute, up until I had written this post this far, I finally made the decision to place the next album as the best album of 2011…..the top album of 2011 is…..

(drum roll please…..)

#1

Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)

This was a hard one to call with the Top 5 albums being so good and Anthrax and Michael Schenker being in a virtual three-way tie with Alice Cooper right up until the end. Actually, I didn’t make up my mind until I gave each album a spin one last time before I wrote this up. In the end…..Alice is the winner!

WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is not a sequel to the iconic WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE (1975) but a continuation of Alice’s nightmares…..that’s exactly how this album won. Alice and producer Bob Ezrin weren’t trying to best one of the greatest Rock albums of all-time, they were trying to continue the tale and putting a current spin on what Alice would be dreaming about 37 years later! Turns out Alice’s nightmares just get worse! Every song on the album is well written with the usual Alice Cooper trademark humor and horror mix, the production is perfect and the performances are flawless. There are more than a few guest stars, including the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band and notable names like Vince Gill and Ke$ha, and they all move into the dreamworld effortlessly. I was especially impressed with the reunion of the original Alice Cooper band members because it just shows how much impact the original band had and how much creativity they still have because they are all great musicians. Now Alice Cooper is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and now Alice has a #1 album at Heavy Metal Addiction…..what could be better?

CD Scavenger Hunt (September update)

The hunt for CDs always continues but September is always a slow month because of back to school and getting the house ready for Fall/Winter. September is also slow because there aren’t as many new releases because the Summer concert/release season has come and gone and a lot of new albums are planned closer to the Winter holidays. There were more than a few big releases though and I was at the record store buying them up on sale…..

Newbury Comics

Anthrax – Worship Music (2011) – $12: One of the most anticipated releases of 2011 for me because of the reunion with singer Joey Belladonna but also because there hasn’t been a new Anthrax record since 2003′s WE’VE COME FOR YOU ALL. That’s 8 long years! There’s been a lot of drama in the Anthrax camp at the singer slot with John Bush leaving and Belladonna coming in for a reunion tour, then Dan Nelson replacing Belladonna for a new record. When that didn’t work, Bush came back for festival dates and to try and record the Nelson material but that didn’t work and Belladonna came back for the Big 4 tour dates. Get all that? WORSHIP MUSIC has the classic lineup intact, save for Rob Caggiano on guitar, and it sounds like the band never parted ways with Belladonna back in 1992. I’ve been an Anthrax fan since the beginning and this is a classic ’80s styled release and it sounds great. Regular price was $16 so I saved $4.

Edguy – Age Of The Joker (2011) – $10: I have this love/hate releationship with Edguy. When they first came out in the late ’90s, they were a pure Power Metal band that I discovered while getting completely immersed in the growing Power Metal resurgence. As time went on, I had a harder time with the change in sound on albums like HELLFIRE CLUB (2004) and ROCKET RIDE (2006) to a more Hard Rock sound…..at least that’s what I hear. I always buy Edguy’s albums though and they’re always really good but I think they get overshadowed now by Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia projects. I couldn’t pass up the album though and it was on sale the day of release for $10, a $6 savings compared to the $16 regular price. I’ve read online that there’s a limited edition two disc version with six bonus tracks but it wasn’t available at the record store the day of release. Actually, I had no idea there was a special edition or I might have waited and bought online.

Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011) – $16: The only reason why this new Dream Theater album seems so expensive is because I bought the special edition with the bonus DVD documenting the drummer auditions the band held to replace the departed Mike Portnoy. I thought that was pretty interesting and I wouldn’t mind seeing new drummer Mike Mangini’s (ex-Annihilator, Extreme, Steve Vai) induction to the band. Not really a surprise pick seeing that Mangini already worked on some of James LaBrie’s solo projects. This is Dream Theater though and I’m going to buy the album anyway, the only difference being do I want to shell out an extra $3 for a bonus DVD? The standard version was $13 on sale with a regular price of $16, the special edition was $16 on sale with a regular price of $22…..I saved $6 and got the bonus DVD that I’ll probably watch once!

Doro – 25 years In Rock…..And Still Going Strong (2011) – $20: Now here’s the reason I made the trip out to the record store this particular week! Doro Pesch has been around a long time and she is still kicking ass! I’ve been following her since the Warlock days and it seems that I’ve acquired a large Warlock/Doro collection over the years. Back in 2008, Doro celebrated her 25th year in Metal with a huge concert in her hometown of Dusseldorf, Germany with a ton of special appearances and guests from across the Metal world including a Warlock reunion! I’ve only seen and heard bits and pieces online and through various Doro releases but now the entire collection is finally seeing the light of day in the U.S…..it seems that this was released in Europe in november 2010 through Nuclear Blast Germany. The package includes 5 hours of concert footage & a documentary on 2 DVDs and a 43 minute audio CD of parts of the live 25th anniversary concert. The DVDs include the full anniversary show, the behind the scenes look at the show and a bunch of live extras from various festivals over the last few years. I would have preferred the full show on audio so I’m going to see if it’s available on that earlier European release. Regular price was $30, paid $20, saved $10.

Saxon – Call To Arms (2011) – $10: The new Saxon record was the only reason I made a second trip to the record store during September…..like I said, it was a slow month but I’m not missing a new album from one of my favorite bands! CALL TO ARMS was released a few weeks earlier in Europe and I’d read some great reviews so I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the cover doesn’t impress but the music sure does! There were two versions of this CD: the standard and the special edition that included the Live At Donington 1980 live album. That Donington ’80 live album has been repackaged so many times that it’s become kind of a joke, if you already own the original like I do then there’s no reason to buy the special edition. The original Donington ’80 is relatively easy to find as well. Regular price here was $13 (the special edition was $16) and the sale was $10 ($13 for the special) so I saved $3.

Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming (2011) – $14: Just like Edguy, I have this love/hate thing going with Sebastian Bach. Most of the time, I find the guy to be full of himself and he really hasn’t released much since Skid Row’s SUBHUMAN RACE (1995). Granted that he did Braodway and a lot of work on television with MTV Networks and reality TV but his solo projects haven’t been barnburners for me. He had the group The Last Hard Men, a half studio/half live album, a covers album, ANGEL DOWN (2007) and the Frameshift collaboration in 2005. For me the Frameshift record is the best of them all so I wasn’t expecting much. Then I look at the guy and he embodies that “rock star” persona and you know the talent is there so I always have hope. I heard the first single, the title track, and it sounded pretty good so I decided to take the chance.  I ended up buying the special edition with the bonus DVD that include the making of the album, live bonuses and videos while the proper CD has a bonus track ‘Jump Off The Wagon’. Regular price was $20, paid $14, saved $6.

House Of Lords – Big Money (2011) – $13: One thing I like about the Newbury Comics I shop at is that they group all the Frontiers Records’ new releases together in the new release section, I end up buying albums I totally forgot about all the time! Right next to the Sebastian Bach was the new House Of Lords which, just like Doro, I seem to have acquired almost all of the band’s albums very quietly. The problem with that is I usually end up not giving these House Of Lords albums enough time on the stereo…..maybe it’s because the first two albums were so good? Frontman/co-founder James Christian is back again as the only one left from the glory days and he’s done a great job of keeping HOL alive, the guy also still has a great voice. I forgot about this album so I grabbed the only copy in the store for the $13 sale price. Regular price for this Frontiers import was $17 so I saved $4. Just a quick thought…..I realize the crest is the band’s trademark but couldn’t we vary some of these album covers a little?

Michael Monroe – Sensory Overdrive (2011) – $10: This CD was a complete out of the blue purchase. I’m not a big Hanoi Rocks or Michael Monroe fan because I just never got around to buying most of the albums. I have a few but I bought them years ago and haven’t revisited them in years. So I’m browsing the regular priced Rock section and I notice one of the clerks stocking a section so I asked the guy if he had good stuff. The guy told me to give this disc a try so I took it and added it to my shopping basket. If you’ve read this website long enough then you know I always grab a handbasket when I walk in and I fill it with all the good stuff I find. When I’m done, I make my decisions, keep what I’m buying and I restock the other CDs back on the shelves where they belong. When it came down to decision time, the reason why I took a chance on Michael Monroe was because the other competing albums had multiple copies and this had only one, the others were a few dollars more, this was a lower price and I quickly pulled up a few reviews on my phone. I figured $10 sale price was worth a chance…..regular price was $13 so I saved $3.

Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising (2011) – $12 used: I ended up find ing the latest Amon Amarth album on my third and final trip to Newbury Comics in September, I actually went back to the store the day after I bought the Saxon, Bach, Monroe and Lords albums because I forgot to buy my wife a CD she asked me to pick up. So I go back in and I decide to do a quick double check of the Metal section because how much is really going to change in 24 hours? Well SURTUR RISING wasn’t there the day before and there were two copies: a new one for $20 and this used one for $12! This is the special edition digipak that includes the 10 song CD and the 33 track DVD – BLOODSHED OVER BOCHUM, GERMANY 12/28-12/31/2008. I saved the $8 over the regular price and the content value is great for that price but this was a solid purchase because 1) the digital download I received from the promo company had a glitch in it and I couldn’t download the entire album and 2) I haven’t seen a copy of SURTUR RISING stocked in any of the various Newbury Comics locations I’ve been in since a month after the album’s release. The search is over and I paid just under what the original sale price was on the new release date.

Kik Tracee – No Rules (1991) – $3 used: If you find one great bargain then there’s bound to be another! Nothing else of any significance cam out of the quick check of the Metal section so I went over to the bargain bin for a quick check and there it was right in front of the ‘K’ section. I’ve been looking for a good copy of NO RULES for a long time but everytime I search Kik Tracee on Ebay, the available copies are either going through a bidding war or the BUY IT NOW is set extremely high. I quickly checked Ebay for some current prices and the range was as low as $15 for a used CD and as high as $75 for the Japanese import. Either way, $3 for a mint condition used CD is an awesome price, especially considering the demand and my quest for the album. Instant purchase! Of course, I forgot my wife’s CD when I was ready to check out but I did go back and get it. Average price on Ebay is around $25 but I will go with the lowest price I saw of $15 so I saved $12.

Best Buy

Chickenfoot – III (2011) – $13: There is never any reason to go to a big box retailer like Best Buy, Target or Wal-Mart for a CD unless there is some exclusive release or variation. I walked into Best Buy about an hour after the doors opened the morning the new Chickenfoot was released and I couldn’t find a copy! I asked a sales associate and he looked at me like I was insane. I asked the cashier I saw reading a magazine, she had no idea. I even got the sales flyer and showed these people the CD…..they searched the FOUR racks of CDs they had and there was nothing. New release rack? Nothing. Finally I asked for the store manager because why advertise a limited edition release exclusive to Best Buy if you aren’t going to display it on the sales floor? The manager comes up, makes a call, and a fresh box of CDs arrives from the stockroom! I got one, another guy grabbed one and the fresh out of high school sales associate stocked the other 20 or so CDs in the new release rack. All this for a simple CD? No wonder the business is in shambles! Regular was $16, sale price $13, so I saved $3.

Total = $133

Total (year) = $802

Average Price (per item) = $8.72

Total Savings (month) = $65

Total Savings (year) = $735

Total CDs (year) = 86

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Box Sets (year) = 0

Total LPs (year) = 1

CD Scavenger Hunt – update 4/12/10

This is going to be a good update because I have been picking CDs off Ebay for great prices and the local independent record chain I frequent, Newbury Comics, had their 32 Year Anniversary sale last Tuesday…..one day only, everything in the store 32% off. If the item was on sale then you either got the sale price or the 32% off the regular price depending on which was lower. Can you imagine how much money I spent! I bought a few DVDs for my kids and a Lady Gaga CD for my wife but the rest is all mine!

Newbury Comics

(I will list the price I paid rounded up to the nearest dollar and I will let you know what the original price was for comparison.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Gods & Guns (2009) – $16: This album was on the Wanted list in January because I missed out on it in 2009. I was not going to buy anything but the 2 CD special edition with the 6 bonus tracks so, after I missed the sale price when the record was released, I waited because the regular price was $24! I couldn’t pass this CD up on such a great sale so this was the first CD I went for because I knew from my previous week’s adventure that there was only one copy! Saved $8.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007) – $7 used: I have put off buying this CD for three years but I finally decided that I would pick this up during this sale. Of course I had my choice between the $15 brand new CD or the $10 used disc…..I went used to maximize my buying power. I haven’t heard any songs from this album but everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to said it’s great. I figured that if Plant was involved then it had to be interesting and high quality. This will be a change of pace album for me, somthing different. Saved $3.

Slash – s/t (2010) – $9: This was on my list of new releases and I was going to head over to Best Buy to pick it up because it was $7.99 advertised but I bought it at Newbury Comics and gave the extra dollar to the independent store. This CD was cheaper on the sale price (reg. $15.99) so it didn’t qualify for the 32% off. I’m very interested in this album because of all the guest vocalists like Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy Pop, and Chris Cornell…..I thin the track with Fergie is going to suck but I’ll save it for the upcoming review. Saved $7.

Armored Saint – La Raza (2010) – $10: I’ve been an Armored Saint fan since MARCH OF THE SAINT in 1984 so I don’t miss a new record when they decide to put one out. It’s been 10 years since REVELATION (2000) and the NOD TO THE OLD SCHOOL (2001) compilation was just a stop-gap so LA RAZA was at the top of my list for 2010. Regular price was around $14 and the sale price was $11 so I saved a extra dollar…..that’s makes up for giving the store the extra buck for the Slash CD! Saved $4.

Raven – Walk Through Fire (2010) – $10: After a year since being released in Japan, Raven’s WALK THROUGH FIRE finally gets a U.S. release on Metal Blade Records. I’m a huge fan of the NWOBHM, and I support a lot of that era’s bands when it comes to new music, so this record was on the WANTED list as soon as I saw it was only available as an expensive Japanese import. I read a lot of good reviews on this album so I have been psyched for this album for a year! I found only one copy, at a $14 price. Saved $4.

Charred Walls Of The Damned – s/t (2010) – $11: I know absolutely nothing about this band except that Richard Christy (ex-Iced Earth) is on drums and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens has the vocal spot. I’ve read a few reviews online and I saw Richard Christy promoting the band/album on a recent episode of VH-1 Classic’s THAT METAL SHOW so I figured I would take a chance on something new. I’m not sure if there is a regular version but the one I picked up has a bonus DVD that shows the behind the scenes making of the album. Regular price was $16, sale price was $12, I got the 32% off for more savings. Saved $5.

Saxon – Destiny (1988/2010 reissue) – $11: I already have an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t pass up this reissue, with it’s 6 bonus tracks, at 32% off. Saxon is one of my favorite bands so picking up the latest round of reissues is a priority, there are two other albums reissued: INNOCENCE IS NO EXCUSE (1985) and ROCK THE NATIONS (1986)…..albums I already own on CD. Regular price $16, saved $5.

Saxon – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985/2010 reissue) – $11: I already own an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t resist the 7 bonus tracks that EMI tacked on this reissue. 32% off is a good excuse to add expensive, imported reissues to the collection so I bought this and DESTINY (1988). I would have bought ROCK THE NATIONS (1986) too but it wasn’t in stock! Regular price was $16, saved $5.

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010) – $11: I have had a promotional copy of this album for a couple of months now but it had no booklet, artwork or information like a regular CD would so the collector in me wanted an official CD. I saw that there were two versions of this album: the regular CD and the CD/DVD combo that includes the making of the album. I was going to grab the double disc but it was $5 more so I went the cheaper route. Regular price $16, sale price $12, the 32% discount saved $5.

Ebay

Riot – Shine On (1998) – $16: riot is one of my favorite band sand I spent most of the late ’90s collecting every album they released. Missing in action is SHINE ON, the 1998 live record. I had plenty of opportunities to buy this album from 1998 through 2001 at my favorite record store but, when it closed it’s doors, it was the last time I saw the CD. This particular version is the rarer Japanese import released by the Zero Corporation, there is another version on Metal Blade with a different cover.

Heavy Bones – s/t (1992) – $12: About 10 years ago, I could have found multiple copies of this album in used bins and clearance racks across Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $5 – $8. Now I can’t even find one for the price of a regular new CD! I’ve been watching this CD on Ebay for a while but I was not willing to pay more than $10 for it knowing that it’s in a used bin somewhere for half the price! Surprisingly, this CD was commanding high prices in excess of $20+! I happened to get an email in the early morning hours stating that this particular CD was just listed as a BUY IT NOW for $10…..I pulled the trigger immeadiately! Shipping was extremely reasonable at $2. Came with the price tag the seller bought it for…..a dollar!

Mark Free – Long Way From Love (1993/1998 – 2 CD reissue) – $22: Now this CD has been a long time coming! I like King Kobra, so when I got the Internet in 1998, I found out that King Kobra singer Mark Free had released this solo record in 1993. What made this album even better was that Frontiers Records rereleased the CD as a “Special 5th Anniversary Reissue” in 1998 with a second CD added. The second CD has 16 extra songs: a 10 song live set from The Gods Festival 1993 and 6 new studio tracks. I never dropped the $20 for this 2 CD set at the record store and, like the Riot disc above, it was gone after the store ceased operations. I’ve been tracking this set for years but the price always gets high because it is out of print in it’s 2 disc format…..you can still get the single disc version but I didn’t want that one! I’ve seen this reissue sell on Ebay anywhere from $30 to as high as $100 so I was definitely waiting until I found a good deal.  I found this auction 2 weeks ago and I watched it closely, the end time was after 2am so I stayed awake and snatched the CD with a high bid of $25. I ended up paying $19 with $3 shipping.

Total = $146

Total (year) = $399

Total CDs (year) = 42

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10)

We finally made it to the Top 10!

Something you may have noticed by now is that some of my favorite bands are missing from the countdown so far…..guess where they are?

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 3, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1 – #10):

#10

Wolf – Ravenous (2009): I completely missed 2006′s BLACK FLAME so I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this latest album from Wolf. Needless to say, I was blown away and I immeadiately knew that this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. Wolf has this classic retro Metal sound with major influences from Iron Maiden, Helloween and Judas Priest so I ate this up immeadiately! The songs are all excellent and the twin lead guitars really make this album what it is, especially at the solos. I have been singing along, headbanging and playing air guitar to RAVENOUS since March and it definitely set the bar high to get into this year’s Top 10.

#9

Cheap Trick – The Latest (2009): THE LATEST album from Cheap Trick turned out to be the biggest comeback of the year from a band that never really went away! Cheap Trick has always been one of the most underrated Classic Rock bands coming out of the mid-’70s/early ’80s and I always make the huge mistake about waiting to buy their new records until a few weeks after they are released. This year was no different and I waited until I caught part of their opening performance on Def Leppard’s summer tour before I picked it up. The odds were against the band when they basically started the album off with a Slade cover (‘When The Lights Are Out’) but it turned out to be one of the best songs of the year for me! Cheap Trick has always been a band with excellent musicianship and songwriting skills and THE LATEST is just another example of how great this band is. If I could describe this album in one word: Beautiful. After I gave this album a full listen, I played it again to make sure my ears didn’t deceive me…..I knew immeadiately that this was one of the best records of the year.

#8

Sunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009): The Joe Lynn Turner factor! There is no doubt in my mind that JLT could sing me the menu at a McDonald’s and I would absolutely worship it! This is the best AOR/Melodic Rock album of the year without a shred of doubt…..it’s like it came straight from 1985. Now a lot of people are going to say that the album sounds too retro, too ’80s, too keyboard friendly but that is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Add in some awesome songwriter like Jim Peterik and Desmond Child lending a hand and you’ve got AOR gold, I swear if this record came out 25 years ago then it would have been a Top 10, multi-platinum album. The sound is Joe Lynn Turner meets Survivor meets Journey meets Pride Of Lions…..just plain old feel food melodic music that has great overall songwriting and musicianship (the guitars and keyboards complimenting each other perfectly) to go along with one of the greatest singing voices in all of Rock.

#7

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): One of my most highly anticipated albums of 2009, Heaven & Hell (or Black Sabbath if you want) did not disappoint with their first true full-length album since 1992′s DEHUMANIZER. As many of you know, my favorite incarnation of Black Sabbath is the Ronnie James Dio era and it’s safe to say that Black Sabbath as a whole is one of my favorite bands of all-time. When I gave THE DEVIL YOU KNOW it’s inaugural couple of listens I was a little disappointed by the lack of fast and furious Metal songs like previous classic ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘The Mob Rules’ but I kept listening and it turned out that this is one heavy Doom record with a few well-placed fast numbers (‘Double The Pain’, ‘Eating The Cannibals’) to break the heaviness up a bit. Tony Iommi continues to write the best Metal riffs and Dio continues to sing better than vocalists half, even two-thirds, his age! The rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice are still as high-powered and brutal as ever and hearing them in concert proved to be a thunderous experience. Say what you want about this album not being HEAVEN & HELL (1980) or MOB RULES (1981), THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is definitely a great Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album that can easily sit alongside those classics.

#6

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another one of my favorite bands…..one of Top 5 in fact! There is now way I could have a Best of 2009 countdown without putting in THE VISITOR because it was easily in the running for my favorite record of the year since I got it. You have to give UFO credit, they have been doing it longer than most of their peers (40 years and counting!) and they consistently put out solid records. Since the band reunited in 1995 with the classic lineup, there have been many lineup changes but the mainstay is founder and singer Phil Mogg who puts in a brilliant performance vocally and as a songwriter…..no one writes or turns a clever phrase quite like Phil. The lineup still isn’t stable with founding bassist Pete Way out again due to health reasons and founding drummer Andy Parker coming back again to replace Jason Bonham when he left for Foreigner. Vinnie Moore proves that hes is more than capable of handling the guitar duties and holding back the Michael Schenker legend while Paul Raymond continues to be an integral part of the UFO sound on keybords, guitars and harmonies. Not a bad song on the album and well worth checking out.

#5

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I received the promo for INTO THE LABYRINTH in December 2008 and I reviewed it mid-January…..I almost declared this the album of the year right there! Saxon has been one of the most consistent bands from the early days of the NWOBHM movement and, since 1997, have released some great albums that combine pure Power Metal with that classic NWOBHM style. Take the first two songs from the album, ‘Battalions Of Steel’ and ‘Live To Rock’: the first is Traditional/Power Metal and the latter is pure NWOBHM as if it was 1981. What Saxon is doing is what I keep emphasizing throughout this year’s countdown…..they are expanding/enhancing their trademark sound. You have to evolve and Saxon is showing a lot of the younger Metal bands out there just how to do it. Any other year and this would be my favorite album but there was stiff competition this year and a Top 5 showing is not bad at all.

#4

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I had been reading all about Johnny Lima and this album for a couple of months before i actually broke down and ordered it from Johnny’s website. First, let me give Johnny a ton of credit for emailing me within 10 minutes of my order and personally thanking me and then sending the CD out same day including an autograph. Then he emails me a couple days later to make sure the album arrived! Keeping a connection with the fans is what it’s about and Johnny Lima gained an instant fan. And the music is good too! After spinning this once I knew this would be the best Glam/Hard Rock album of the year. If you like Poison, Def Leppard, early Bon Jovi, Dokken, Ratt, Cinderella and Motley Crue then you are definitely going to find a song on LIVIN’ OUT LOUD that could easily fit into any of the bands’ catalog. That’s not to say that the album is a carbon copy of what these big bands have done in the past rather it’s a statement that revisiting and reinterpreting the classic ’80s Hard Rock style is OK. That’s something that these bigger bands are afraid to do! Every song is catchy with a ton of hooks, big harmonies and great guitar…..this is the kind of record that is so infectious that you can’t help but sing along and have a great time. This was a major contender for the top spot for 2009.

#3

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009): Early in the year I started to read more and more about Sacred Oath and their forthcoming new album being an iTunes exclusive…..I don’t download, I buy CDs, so I didn’t pay much attention to the press releases. Then I read that the band was releasing the album on CD on their own label so I emailed the band for the release date. I received a promo copy in late May/early June and was completely blown away! Like I said in the review, if you took Metallica, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head and Metal Church and rolled them all into one, you would get Sacred Oath. The band takes influences from all the great bands and blends them together for an American Metal feast that goes from Heavy Metal to Power Metal to Progressive Metal and then the NWOBHM. It’s a huge sound to live up to and the album does just that. Searing riffs, pounding rhythm section and soaring vocals added to great songwriting…..it’s a wonder why the band broke up 20 years ago, I’d bet they would have been huge. Well, they are huge this year because this was my #1 album hands down until the next two in the countdown showed up. This record is still in my weekly playlist, I don’t see it leaving anytime soon, and ‘High And Mighty’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#2

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Ace Frehley has always been my favorite member of KISS and, with KISS being my favorite band, anything a current of former member of KISS does is a big deal. The last time Ace released a solo album was TROUBLE WALKIN’ in 1989…..20 years later ANOMALY has finally arrived! I have followed Ace’s career in and out of KISS since I was a little kid and he has talked about a new record since the early ’90s but nothing has ever come of it. Then there was the KISS reunion that lasted 6+ years and Ace started talking about a new solo record after he left the band in 2002 but nothing was released again. The only time I believed that Ace was releasing anything was when the album cover was released in June…..but would an actual record come out? September 15, 2009…..I was outside Best Buy before the store opened to get my hands on ANOMALY. One listen was all it took to hear that Ace Frehley had made a huge comeback with his solo career, ANOMALY is a well-written Hard Rock album and Ace sounds as focused as ever. Of all the albums he’s released as a solo artist or in Frehley’s Comet, ANOMALY ranks just below his KISS solo album. ‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Pain In The Neck’ and even the cover of Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ are all solid Hard Rock songs that are catchy and full of that signature Ace guitar tone. The surprises here are the acoutically driven ballads like ‘Change The World’ & ‘A Little Below The Angels’ that show Ace’s diversity. This whole album is top notch from the music, to the album cover Ace designed to the special digipak packaging that tuens into a pyramid. I gave this album a ton of listening time and I still haven’t taken it out of my daily rotation! When I started to make this year end best of list I installed ANOMALY near the top because I enjoyed it so much. The bottom line on this list is that I enjoy the album and, between the excellent songs and my KISS worship, Ace Frehley has gained the #2 spot for 2009.

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 2009 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 that got left out of the countdown so maybe next year I will expand again to a Top 50. Let’s move on though to my pick for the Top Album of 2009…..

#1

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009)

So what album did you all expect? Of course my top album for 2009 is the new KISS record! I’m a KISS diehard after all! Seriously though, of all the 2009 albums I listened to this year, SONIC BOOM was the one I wanted the most, listened to the most, and enjoyed the most. Any year that your favorite band releases a new album is a good year but I had no hopes that KISS would actually follow through with releasing an album of all new material. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have been saying that they weren’t interested in releasing a new album for the last 7 years and I had no reason to doubt their conviction. Who knows why they did now? Maybe Paul Stanley liked working on his solo album a couple years ago? Maybe the Wal-Mart deal was in place ahead of time? Maybe they were just bored? Who cares! The bottom line is that KISS has released an album that is their very best since REVENGE (1992) and it completely blows away the reunion album PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998). I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from SONIC BOOM because most KISS albums are half good songs and half filler. If the band was dead set against releasing a new record, why should they release a quality one? First thing the band did right was give Paul Stanley full control in the studio…..he’s the one that guided the band from 1983 to 1992 and his track record as a producer, performer and songwriter are proof enough. Ever notice that all the singles in the ’80s were Paul’s songs? After Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley is my favorite and I have always told people the he is the talent in KISS. The second thing the band did right was actually write. Paul & Gene actually wrote songs, and performed them, together for the first time in a long time in addition to what they brought in individually. The songs are high quality, catchy and there is an element of true ’70s KISS mixed with the KISS of today. Third thing the band did correctly was to involve Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the writing and in the singing to make it a true band effort. Nothing beats a band unit, compare SONIC BOOM and the sham that is PSYCHO CIRCUS and the winner is clear. I bought this album at my local Wal-Mart on October 6 (day of release) and I have played it everyday, many times more than once. I have been a diehard KISS fan since 1978, I’ve lived and died with this band and I am actually proud of them for releasing such a great record. I haven’t felt this good about KISS’ future since REVENGE and the 1996/1997 Reunion Tour…..SONIC BOOM is my favorite album of 2009!

——————————————————————————————-

Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

Start of vacation Mixtape

So I got to listen to a few CDs today but I got lazy and didn’t really want to change discs in the stereo so I plugged in the iPod and hit Shuffle. Here’s the first 20 songs…..

  1. Twisted Sister – ‘Leader Of The Pack’ (1985)
  2. Black ‘N Blue – ‘Action’ (1984)
  3. Saxon – ‘Denim And Leather’ (1981)
  4. D.C. Cooper – ‘Chained’ (1999)
  5. Mogg-Way – ‘Fortune Town’ (1997)
  6. Anvil – ‘Bondage’ (1981)
  7. UFO – ‘A Self-Made Man’ (1995)
  8. Dio – ‘Otherworld’ (2000)
  9. FarCry – ‘Heaven’ (2009)
  10. KISS – ‘Get All You Can Take’ (1984)
  11. Tygers Of Pan Tang – ‘Euthanasia’ (1980)
  12. Balance Of Power – ‘Miracles And Dreams’ (1999)
  13. Lillian Axe – ‘The 2nd Of May’ (2007)
  14. AC/DC – ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ (1977)
  15. Phil Vincent – ‘How Long’ (2008)
  16. Iron Maiden – The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’ (1986)
  17. KISS – ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ (1987)
  18. Bullet – ‘No Mercy’ (1983)
  19. Black Sabbath – ‘No Stranger To Love’ (1986)
  20. Loudness – ‘Gravity’ (2008)

Bonus Track: Whitesnake – ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’ (1984)