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

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  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

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  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

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  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

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  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

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  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.

CD Scavenger Hunt – July update

The Heavy Metal train keeps rolling to my 30th Anniversary of being a proud Metalhead (August 16th I turn 40!) and there is always plenty to buy! Lots of new releases, used CD treasure and great sales made of another productive, and expensive, month…..

Newbury Comics North Attleboro and Newbury Comics Warwick

Jorn Lande – Bring Heavy Rock To The Land (2012) – $13
Nile – At The Gate Of Sethu (2012) – $12
Machine Head – Unto The Locust (CD/DVD) (2011) – $15 used
Savage Messiah – Plague Of Conscience (2012) – $0 used

My first trip into the North Attleboro store was to take advantage of the sale price on the new Jorn Lande CD. Knowing it was out on Frontiers Records, it was an easy $20 but the sale price saved me $7. I didn’t have to run out for it because the label sent me the promo download but I always support my favorite artists and Jorn is one of the premier Metal singers out there. My second trip was to pick up the new Ozzy DVD and the new Nile album. When I got there, the two copies of the Speak Of The Devil ’82 DVD were sold out so I opted to take advantage of the “buy 1, get 1 free” sale on used discs…..I grabbed the last Machine Head album, Unto The Locust, and the new Savage Messiah record. The Machine Head cost me $15 used but I got the Savage Messiah free so what could have been $35 at regular price, or $23 used price, only cost the $15…..saved more than half on albums I needed. I snagged the new Nile on the way to the counter…..I never got into Nile back in the late ’90s but I’ve always wanted to pick up their 1998 debut full-length Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka. Everytime Nile releases a new record, I get the same urge to buy up some of their CDs so I fired up Spotify this time to stream their back catalog…..real solid Death Metal with Egyptian themes…..and the aren’t Egyptian, they are from South Carolina! Saved $6 buying the day of release and got the deluxe version with the two bonus instrumentals.

Ozzy Osbourne – Speak Of The Devil (Live From Irvine Meadows ’82) DVD (2012) – $13
Icarus Witch – Rise (2012) – $16
HellYeah – Band Of Brothers (2012) – $12
Defender – They Came Over The High Pass (1999) – $2 used
Glenn Tipton – Baptizm Of Fire (1996/2006 reissue) – $3 used
Broken Teeth – Viva La Rock Fantastico (2009) – $4 used
Superjoint Ritual – A Lethal Dose Of American Hatred (2003) – $4 used
Agent Steel – Skeptics Apocalypse (1985/1998 reissue) – $5 used

My trip into the Warwick store in mid-July was to get the new Ozzy DVD because it was out of stock in North Attleboro. While I was there, I picked up the new Icarus Witch and HellYeah albums. Ozzy and HellYeah were on sale so I saved a few bucks but I had to pay full price for the new Icarus Witch…..it was a must buy because they are one of my favorite traditional Heavy Metal bands of the last 6 years and I’ve been following them since their first E.P. While I was there, I decided to grab a few used CDs that were low in price and I had put together in a certain section of the used Metal CD racks…..the Defender CD was nice and cheap for a Power Metal album and I’d been watching it for awhile, same with the Superjoint Ritual album, but I scored a great newer album with the used Broken Teeth CD. The Agent Steel CD was set aside in my hiding spot because I thought I already owned it but I didn’t and I grabbed the Glenn Tipton reissue because I passed on it when it came out in 2006. Baptizm Of Fire wasn’t that great of a record back when it was first released in 1996 but I can’t resist bonus tracks forever!

Luca Turilli’s Rhaposdy – Ascending To Infinity (2012) – $12

Is it Rhapsody, Rhapsody Of Fire or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody? The whole Rhapsody name change saga is a big pain in the ass: first they were Rhapsody and I got into their Symphonic/Epic Metal, then 10 years into their career they got sued by another band named Rhapsody for copyright issues and they went on as Rhapsody Of Fire to avoid confusion. Now founding guitarist Luca Turilli has left on good terms and formed a new Rhapsody as Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and Rhapsody Of Fire is continuing on their own path. Did you get all that? All I know is that I like the Metal and I have two band’s to get my fix from. I went to the North Attleboro store quick while running a few errands and I grabbed this because it was the last copy I saw…..they had stocked at least 6 or 7 when it came out and I grabbed the last one with the sale price tag on it to save $6.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (2012) – $18
Running Wild – Shadowmaker (CD/DVD) (2012) – $18
Baroness – Yellow & Green (Deluxe) (2012) – $0
Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth (CD/DVD) (2012) – $16
Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage (2012) – $12
Crucified Barbara – The Midnight Chace – $0

Last day of the month and an awesome sale…..”Buy 2 get 1 Free on new & used CDs”. I got in the man-van (my rockin’ Kia Sedona!) and raced to North Attleboro when Newbury opened. Everytime I buy on one of these sales, the clerks always group like priced items together so I knew I had to pay a few extra dollars on a couple of CDs to get a similar one for free. Like the Jorn Lande album, I already had the digital promo of the new Crazy Lixx album from Frontiers but I wanted the actual CD for my collection and the new Running Wild disc has been on my list ever since Rock ‘n’ Ralf decided not to retire the band. Both of those CDs were regular price at $18 each but I scored the new Baroness double album for free. Yellow & Green just came out and I have the latest issue of Metal Hammer to thank for adding them to their free sampler CD, so I splurged on the deluxe packaged double disc album and saved the full $17 sale price ($22 regular). The new Testament album was the big release of the week so I bought the deluxe version on sale for $16, added the last copy of the new Gojira album that came out a few weeks ago (thanks again Metal Hammer!) and got the new Crucified Barbara CD for free and saved the full $10 sale price ($18 regular). I was going to buy the latest Dragonforce album that I didn’t get earlier in the year but I opted for the cheaper, and less available, option with Crucified Barbara.

Ebay

White Tiger – s/t (1986/1999 reissue) – $16 used
The Rods – Wild Dogs (1982/1997 reissue) – $12 used
Venom – Cast In Stone (1998) – $6 used

I got an Ebay alert for The Rods – Wild Dogs and I decided to finally try and win one of these CDs. I collect the now defunct German reissue label High Vaultage because of the genuine fan enthusiasm they put into each reissue, each one is chock full of bonus tracks, pictures and extensive liner notes. I noticed the same seller had a copy of Mark St. John’s post-KISS band White Tiger up for auction too so I bid and won on that as well. I added in the Venom album when I did some research and found out it was a 2CD set. All total with shipping was$34 for three albums I didn’t own.

Human Cometh

Human Cometh – HC II (2011) – $13

I was going through all my saved emails and I happened upon my email from the band Human Cometh promoting their second album, HC II. I ended up getting a promo download for review but I like to support the bands so, even though the band already sent me the digital download last year, I decided to go and ourchase the actual CD from the band’s website. Can’t beat any CD that has free shipping so I paid with Paypal and it was a done deal. Unfortunately, the CD hasn’t arrived in the mail yet but I checked and it’s on it’s way!

Total = $222

Total (year) = $1393

Average Price (per item) = $8.99

Total CDs (year) = 149

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15)

2008 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review (to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU), without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15):

#1

Avantasia - The Scarecrow (2008)Avantasia – The Scarecrow

Tobias Sammet (Edguy) has the magic touch this year and his new concept album THE SCARECROW takes the top spot as Album Of The Year. The album is similar to the first two Avantasia albums, METAL OPERA 1 & 2, in that it is full of guest stars (Alice Cooper, Jorn Lande, Rudolf Schenker, Michael Kiske, Eric Singer, and more) performing  this combination of epic Power Metal blended with hard Rock, Classic Rock, Classical and Folk. That’s a lot to take in at once! Every song is very melodic and I found myself easily singing along after a couple of spins. A good album is one that leaves a lasting impression and THE SCARECROW has been part of my weekly playlist since it’s release in January.

#2

Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)Ayreon – 01011001

A close second! Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Ayreon project is similar to Avantasia with all of the guest stars performing and the epic nature of the music. The difference is that Ayreon’s music is longer, more epic and follows a storyline that started on previous albums. (For a good explanation of the plot, read this album’s Wikipedia page.) This album is almost 2 hours of Progressive Rock & Metal, Power Metal, and Symphonic Metal that is both melodic and heavy…..there is a lot to take in! Even the packaging is complex! There are layers of sound in each song that you sometimes here something different the next time you here it. 01011001 is a little less accessible than THE SCARECROW due to it’s length (2 CDs) and heavy concept but it was a very close second. So close in fact that I almost called a tie!

#3

whitesnakegood_to_be_badWhitesnake – Good To Be Bad

It took 11 years but we finally got a new Whitesnake record and it is a great comeback for David Coverdale. Most of the album retains the Blues Rock that was the basis of the early Whitesnake album while leaning on that big ’80s sound. The songs are full of hooks and great guitar work (Doug Aldrich & Reb Beach) along with that thick Coverdale voice. I had seen the band tour with the Scorpions a couple of years earlier and they were awesome in concert. I knew a new record would have a great sound. It was also good to see this album get a ton of promotion, especially on U.S. television, I didn’t expect to see constant commercials on different channels advertising the CD. In a year full of comebacks (AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Journey), I have to give Whitesnake the best comeback of the year!

#4

Judas Priest - Nostradamus (2008)Judas Priest – Nostradamus

Let the debate begin! Of all the big releases this year from big time bands, no album had more debate then Judas Priest’s double concept album NOSTRADAMUS. I’ve heard all the arguements from “it’s not straight forward Judas Priest” to “it’s too long” to “the concept sucks” to “Iron Maiden could have done it better”…..I think a lot of fans were down on the project due to purely nostalgic reasons. We aren’t going to get the BRITISH STEEL era Judas Priest because they have evolved as musicians and this concept album is what they wanted to do. I’ll admit that Priest isn’t known for their albums being complete epics, they’re more straight forward in their approach, but that doesn’t mean that NOSTRADAMUS is devoid of what makes Priest great. Half the album is instrumental intros that kind of make the album drawn out but the songs do have the Metal that Priest is known for. Rob Halford’s voice sounds better than it has in years and he puts in perhaps the performance of his career. The music is really good if you listen without prejudice and I don’t want to get into that synth guitar arguement because KK Downing & Glenn Tipton have been using them all along. Give NOSTRADAMUS a spin without hoping for 1980 Judas Priest and you will find a great album. This album was tough to get through due to the length (close to 2 hours) but repeated listens have pushed this album from a grower to #4.

#5

Royal Hunt - Collision Course - Paradox II Royal Hunt – Collision Course: Paradox II

This has to be the year of the concept album because the latest offering from Royal Hunt is the 4th concept album in the Top 5! Let’s not even get into the conceptual aspect, the music alone is melodic Power/Progressive Metal with solid musicianship and  great vocal performance from new singer Mark Boals. The last few Royal Hunt albums have been disappointing but COLLISION COURSE proves that the band is still a force. I was surprised at how melodic this album really is because some of the band’s previous efforts were held down by too much keyboard noodling, I think adding Mark Boals to the band adds a fresh influence and creativity.

#6

cover_globaldramaCloudscape – Global Drama

Like the entire Top 5, GLOBAL DRAMA has remained part of my weekly playlist since it’s release. I’ve had the album since late July and I just keep playing it…..that’s the sign of a good record! Cloudscape is a Progressive Metal band but they are very melodic (like Royal Hunt) while retaining their heaviness. The first couple of spins made me think of Kamelot, Balance Of Power and Symphony X…..that’s a good group to be in. Cloudscape was on my list to check out and now they are one of the best newer bands I’ve heard in a long time, I’m currently on the hunt for the band’s previous albums.

#7

msg-in-the-midst-of-beauty-2008Michael Schenker Group – In The Midst Of Beauty

When guitar legend Michael Schenker puts his head down and stays focused, he makes truly great records. There is no denying his talent on guitar but his career has been plagued with different challenges and the subsequent results aren’t always the best musically. IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY is an almost full reunion of the original MSG: Gary Barden is back on the mic, Don Airey on keys, Simon Phillips on drums and Neil Murray handling bass instead of Mo Foster. That’s as solid a lineup as you’re going to get and I think the strong supporting cast influenced Michael because he created some of the best music of his career, it’s as if you can hear Michael’s happiness in his playing. The album is melodic and heavy with a ton of riffs for the guitar enthusiast but the music is enhanced by that cool Hammond organ Airey commands giving the album a late ’70s/early ’80s sound, almost like classic UFO. If Whitesnake was my comeback of the year then Michael Schenker is a close second.

#8

Journey Revelation (2008) Journey – Revelation

If there ever was a band that described AOR/Melodic Rock then Journey is that band. The last couple of years have been trying for the band with all the rotation at the lead singer slot (Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto) but the band grabbed a virtual unknown, Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, and made an album that is pure classic Journey. Melodic Rock at it’s finest, Journey’s new songs are full of harmonies, good melodies, soaring vocals and really good guitar. Let me add they are also well written and produced too. The band new that another new lead singer would be a gamble but Pineda puts on a great performance that is on par with Steve Perry’s legacy. There was also great value here with a second disc of re-recorded greatest hits and a bonus live DVD…..you can’t beat that for $15! All year long I have been saying that if the music industry wasn’t so screwed up then Journey would have a multi-platinum hit album with REVELATION.

#9

Def Leppard - Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (2008)Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

I know it’s not fashionable to like Def Leppard because they have “sold out” and downplayed their NWOBHM and Hard Rock roots over the years but they do make very good records. SPARKLE LOUNGE is one of those albums that just has that mix of catchy ’80s Hard Rock and current modern Rock that mainstream radio lives for. The music is full of hooks and melody and the songs are all well done except for one repetitive dud (‘C’mon C’mon’). The Leps know how to make a catchy record and this one had me hooked in and singing along. I like the trademark big sound combined with the ’70s influences and modern updates. Def Leppard takes a lot of criticism but they make good music.

#10

moonspell-night-eternal-2008Moonspell – Night Eternal

I wasn’t expecting much from a new Moonspell album but I was completely surprised by NIGHT ETERNAL and it’s variety of sound. Moonspell plays a blend of Black, Death, Gothic and Power Metals all rolled into one with grand orchestration and both clean and harsh vocals. Get all that? The album is dark and heavy but it’s also very melodic and there are some beautiful orchestrations that enhance the overall sound. As I started re-listening to my 2008 CDs to make this Top 30, NIGHT ETERNAL kept creeping closer and closer to the Top 10. I had the promo for a long time but I ended up buying a proper copy at the local shop for around $13 and the value was really good: a bonus track ‘Age Of Mothers’ and a two alternate versions of ‘Scorpion Flower’ along with a bonus DVD of live Wacken 2007 performances. This kind of music isn’t my usual first choice but I expanded my horizons this year and I rediscovered Moonspell.

#11

benedictum-seasons-of-tragedyBenedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy

I’ve had SEASONS OF TRAGEDY since it’s U.S. release in March and it is one of the best Traditional Metal albums of the year. A lot of Metal fans might be thrown off by having a female frontwoman but I can tell you that Veronica Freeman kicks a whole lot of ass on the mic! Her vocals are extremely powerful to go along with the fast pummelling music that’s behind her. This is Benedictum’s second album and they steer clear of the sophomore jinx with an album heavy on Power Metal and Thrash that I can only describe as an aural assault. One of the best new U.S. Metal bands out there.

#12

Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (2008)Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider

Another concept album making the Top 30? Of course! Especially if it’s an Alice Cooper album! I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan, always have been, and this is one of the best albums he’s released in the last few years. ALONG CAME A SPIDER has a perfect character for Alice to play (a serial killer named Spider) and he adds his own blend of shock, horror and humor to the performance. The one thing that Alice has done successfully with his last few albums is to revisit some of the classic ’70s sounds that made him the king of Shock Rock and he incorporates this sound with enough modern tendencies to make it sound fresh. the concept might not be all that original but Alice plays it perfectly and the songs are all very good with top production.

#13

uriah-heep-wake-the-sleeper-2008Uriah Heep – Wake The Sleeper

I’ll bet a lot of you are scratching your heads. If you don’t know who Uriah Heep is then you are missing out, the band has been around for close to 40 years and their sound is similar to Deep Purple but with a bit more Progressive Rock. WAKE THE SLEEPER is the first Heep album in a decade and I wasn’t really expecting much but these elder statesman have roared back with a heavy melodic album. Mick Box still plays a mean guitar and Phil Lanzon adds his Hammond organ in to fill out the sound but the performance of the album goes to long time singer Bernie Shaw who puts in one of the best vocal performances of the year.

#14

shannon-angel-in-disguiseShannon – Angel In Disguise

ANGEL IN DISGUISE turned out to be one of the surprises of 2008. I had the album in my growing pile for a couple of months before I got to it and I wasted all that listening time because the record is top flight melodic Metal. Usually, there are a couple of duds in the tracklisting but each song is well done and has plenty of melodic hooks and Euro-Metal power to satisfy a wide range of Metal fans. It’s always a great year when you discover new bands, Shannon will be a band I watch closely in 2009.

#15

testament-the-formation-of-damnation-2008Testament – The Formation Of Damnation

2008 was the year of the concept album and the year of the comeback and Testament came back in a big way with this pounding Thrash assault. This is the album that we all wish Metallica had in them, it’s an in your face old school Thrash attack by a band that I consider one of the best in the genre but sometimes overlooked. This album is one heavy record that easily blows away a lot of modern Thrash out in the last couple of years.

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Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages

Metal Masters Tour (Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, Testament) at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT) – 8/15/08

So I made it to the show Friday night, here’s how the night went…..

The Plan:
A few months ago, I received a copy of Testament’s new record, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, for review. I listened to the album, wrote the review, and passed the link along to my contact in the band’s promotional camp. I also happened to mention that I was planning on catching the show and that I would send a concert review as well. I received an email back from the promo people that I was invited to see the show as Testament’s guests. Very cool! Now this is back in May so fast forward to the beginning of last week and I email my contact in the Testament organization to confirm that I am all set: two tickets, Testament’s guest list, show my ID, enjoy the show!

The Journey:
I was flying solo to the show but I decided to invite my brother to come along. My brother is five years younger than I am, and he is not a Metalhead, but he knows all the stuff from my brainwashing him as a young child. The plan is for him to take the bus from Port Authority in New York City to the casino and we’ll hook up. Plans changed mid-week and he decided to take the bus all the way to Providence so we could hang a little more on the hour drive to the casino. No problem…..

My brother’s bus was to arrive at 5:15 giving us almost two hours to drive, get the tix, sit in our seats and relax. I get a call from him around 5, the bus is stuck in traffic and it will be a 30 minute delay. No problem. I get another call at 5:30, the bus hasn’t moved, it’s going to be 6. No problem. The third call comes 15 minutes later…..go without me. Now I can’t do that to my own brother (although I did consider it!) so I waited. Around 7pm, my brother’s bus arrives. In the meantime, Testament has just taken the stage! We are an hour away so now I’m just trying to make it in time for Heaven & Hell.

The Tickets:
I made the drive in an hour easily, cars do great things when you put the pedal to the metal! So we park in the garage behind the arena and I can hear Heaven & Hell on stage! So we run through the casino to the call window. I give my name and ID to the girl at the window and she tells me that I AM NOT ON THE TESTAMENT LIST! I give her the name of my contact and she was nice enough to check all of the guest lists, the tickets that hadn’t been picked up, and she even tried to get me a pair of tickets anyway because the show was half over. Unfortunately her boss said no. So we are screwed and Plan B is to pull out the VISA card and drop close to $200 for a pair (tix were $85 & $65). As we were debating the next move to Dio belting out ‘Die Young’, an intoxicated gambler comes over with a pair of tickets to sell. He had gotten comps for gambling so much but his wife didn’t want to go, the offer was $50 for the pair. SOLD!

Heaven & Hell:
We got into the arena just as Ronnie was introducing ‘Heaven & Hell’. We had great seats on the Iommi/Tipton side (stage left for the band, right if you’re facing it) and we were halfway down in the “high-rollers” section. We caught the last two songs of the Heaven & Hell set and they were really good: ‘Heaven & Hell’ & ‘Neon Knights’. Lucky for me I had seen the tour twice last year so I knew what to expect. I’ll say this though, from the two songs I heard, it sounds like Ronnie James Dio has strengthened his voice. The last few years he has sounded like he was straining, especially on the highs. When the band left the stage it was off to the t-shirt stand for a tour shirt. $40 got me my Heaven & Hell shirt with the U.S. dates on the back and the album cover on the front. I flirted with the idea of double dipping and also getting a NOSTRADAMUS tour shirt but another $40 was too much.

Judas Priest:
“Friday night and the Priest is back!” I saw Judas Priest twice on the ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION tour, once here at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so I expected a great show. I had seen the setlist online from the previous tour stops so I knew what was coming:

Dawn Of Creation (intro)
Prophecy
Metal Gods
Eat Me Alive
Between The Hammer And The Anvil
Devil’s Child
Breaking The Law
Hell Patrol
Dissident Aggressor
Angel
The Hellion / Electric Eye
Rock Hard, Ride Free
Painkiller

ENCORE:
Hell Bent For Leather (w/motorcycle)
The Green Manalishi
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming

This was a solid setlist geared towards dieheards like myself. I have to give Priest credit, they could have easily come out and played their most popular songs but they kept it fresh for themselves and threw in some album tracks. ‘Dawn Of Creation’ was a tape straight off the NOSTRADAMUS album but ‘Prophecy’ came off really well live. I was honestly expecting a couple more tunes from the new record but a shorter time slot stopped that even though they were the headliner. What I don’t like is Rob Halford’s staring at the ground during new songs and songs he hasn’t done for a while. My guess is he’s using notes or a teleprompter (like Ozzy!) but it was extremely annoying to have him looking at his boots and clutching the mic with both hands for half the set! He did the same thing on the last tour, especially during the songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION.

‘Metal Gods’ is a classic I never get sick of hearing but getting ‘Eat Me Alive’ off DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH was a treat, DEFENDERS is my favorite Priest record. My brother had forgotten that song and was in hysterics watching me scream the words while all the high rolling gamblers stood motionless and emotional-less. ‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ was another welcome addition to the set from the PAINKILLER album and the band was in fine form. ‘Devil’s Child’ was up next and that’s another favorite for me (off SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE). I tried to match wits with Halford on the high notes but he won easily as my voice cracked and I barely sputtered out the last few lines. I could do without ‘Breaking The Law’ but I understand the band has to play some of their big songs to keep the casual fans happy. Halford needs a new intro for that song because the one he has is easily 25 years old! It was good though, very well done.

By this time I’ve already forgotten the setlists I saw online so when another deep track from PAINKILLER, ‘Hell Patrol’, was announced by Halford, I went ballistic! Most shows I see have the bands play 2 to 4 new songs and a classic set but here we are mid-set of Judas Priest and they are laying waste with songs that haven’t played live in many a year! ‘Hell Patrol’ was blistering even if Rob was looking at his boots/notes/teleprompter the whole time. He came alive again for the ultra-heavy ’70s classic ‘Dissident Aggressor’ (from SIN AFTER SIN) but went back to his position in the middle of Glenn & KK for ‘Angel’. Not sure why ‘Angel’ made the set, especially with a new record out, but I guess they still enjoy playing songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION. It was good. I liked that album a lot so I didn’t mind at all but the crowd overall hit a quiet spot. Up to that point the crowd was rabid, especially the many diehards, so I guess they needed a little break.

The crowd rose again when ‘The Hellion’ came from the P.A. and Priest tore into ‘Electric Eye’. The band opened with this duo on the last tour so it’s always a highlight of the show and one of their more popular songs. DEFENDERS track #2 came with ‘Rock Hard, Ride Free’ and I completely lost my voice! That’s an album track, I’d expect to hear ‘Freewheel Burning’ when they do a DEFENDERS song but I was psyched for ‘Rock Hard’. There was some audience participation initiated from Rob so that took away from the overall performance but that is how 99% of the bands keep the crowds into the show: “Let’s get the crowd singing along.” It’s good that they kept the fans involved because Priest then hit everyone over the head with a killer version of ‘Painkiller’ which destroyed what little voice I had left.

The encore started with Halford riding his Harley on stage in full regalia for ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ and the surprise of ‘The Green Manalishi’. Normally, the second song of the encore is reserved for the hit ‘Living After Midnight’ but they thankfully cut it from the set for the Fleetwood Mac cover from 1978’s HELL BENT FOR LEATHER. The band could have easily just stopped right there because they had put in a masterful performance but they had to play their anthem from SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE: ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. There’s nothing I can say bad about this song, it’s like KISS playing ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ or Iron Maiden playing ‘Run To The Hills’, people expect it and want it. The band didn’t disappoint and there was some audience participation sing-a-long again.

Bottom Line:
With all the bad luck that started at 5pm, everything turned out for the better. We got in and saw Judas Priest play a superb concert geared for diehards. I don’t think you could ask for more variety wise although if they had played ‘Grinder’, ‘Riding On The Wind’, or ‘Sinner’ in place of ‘Breaking The Law’ I would have been much happier. No complaints though. The band was tight: Ian Hill & Scott Travis are a killer rhythm section, Glenn & KK are one of the best guitar tandems in Metal history, and Rob Halford took a page from the Dio playbook and sounded stronger than he did the last tour. Now if he could just look into the crowd instead of at the floor on the less popular songs! All in all, a good show…..too bad we missed Testament and most of Sabbath.

(And just to keep things clear, I don’t like the name Heaven & Hell. It will always be Black Sabbath to me! I don’t know what spell Ozzy has over Tony Iommi (who owns the name Black Sabbath) but I don’t think it’s fair to the music to call it something different than what it is.)

Metal Masters tour is tonight!

Tonight is the Metal Masters concert at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and I’m going! I get to see Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, and Testament play a full-on Heavy Metal show the day before my 36th birthday…..that’s one hell of a present! The really cool thing about it is that I am on the Testament guest list so there are 2 tickets waiting for me at the call window! I’ve never been on anyone’s guest list before so I’m hoping that there are no problems, my brother is taking the train in from New York City to make the show with me.

Unfortunately, Motorhead is not playing the Mohegan Sun. I’m not sure why but they are playing a headlining gig at The Palladium in Worcester, MA at the same time. It’s too bad because my brother was looking forward to Motorhead but he still gets Testament, Priest, & Dio-era Sabbath…..you can’t go wrong with that!

Stay tuned for a review……

— Steve

Testament – The Formation Of Damnation (2008)

Testament – The Formation Of Damnation (2008, Nuclear Blast)

  1. For The Glory Of…
  2. More Than Meets The Eye
  3. The Evil Has Landed
  4. The Formation Of Damnation
  5. Dangers Of The Faithless
  6. The Persecuted Won’t Forget
  7. Henchmen Ride
  8. Killing Season
  9. Afterlife
  10. F.E.A.R.
  11. Leave Me Forever

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Band Lineup:
Chuck Billy – Vocals
Eric Peterson – Guitars
Alex Skolnick – Guitars
Greg Christian – Bass
Paul Bostaph – Drums

Total Time = 49:40

Testament official website
Testament MySpace page
Nuclear Blast USA

It’s been nine long years since San Francisco Thrash legends Testament released THE GATHERING (1999) but the band has remained in the public’s eye: vocalist Chuck Billy fought and won his battle with cancer, Eric Peterson formed Dragonlord, Alex Skolnick kept his solo career alive, and Greg Christian played with Havochate for one album. Testament released FIRST STRIKE, STILL DEADLY in 2001, an album of re-recorded songs from the first two Testament albums, and LIVE IN LONDON in 2005 as a document of the band getting back together after so many years and a reunion with the original lineup. Still, even though they were still active, fans all over wanted a new record.

Testament does what Testament does: they play old school Thrash with high energy and pure musicianship. Chuck can growl with the best of them and sing aggressively clean and the guitar attack of Skolnick & Peterson has to be one of the best put to record this year. These two guitarists shred and solo all over this album that would make some other (former) Thrash guitarists (Hetfield & Hammett) quake in fear. I think the Jazz/Fusion music that Skolnick creates with his Alex Skolnick Trio keeps him fresh for creating heavy Thrash riffs. Of course there’s also the tight and driving rhythm section that includes the thumping bass provided by Christian and the precision rapid fire double bass attack of Paul Bostaph (Slayer) on the kit. Put all these elements together and you get a monster machine battering your ears!

‘For The Glory Of…’ opens up as a quick heavy insturmental and leads right into ‘More Than Meets The Eye’. If there were any doubts that this new offering from Testament would be in the same line as their mid to late ’90s records then they should be erased. Chuck growling, the guitars riffing and soloing, and the backline galloping with precision. This is what I want to hear! Right away the band throws the gauntlet down and challenges all the current bands out there. ‘The Evil Has Landed’ (inspired by the unfortunate events of 9/11) continues the battering and adds some melody while the title track speeds things up and Chuck goes for the old school Death/Thrash growl.

‘Dangers Of The Faithless’ slows the pace down a bit but maintains it’s heaviness until the Metallica-esque chorus while the opening of ‘The Persecuted Won’t Forget’ signals another old school speed machine that has some very interesting drumming and guitar lines, maybe Akolnick’s Jazz/Fusion influences showing underneath a little? This song is in the same direction of later Testament on albums like DEMONIC (1997) & THE GATHERING (1999) but in the context of this album it works better. My favorite so far is ‘Henchman Ride’…..you’ve got to hear Bostaph’s kit smash around those licks to believe it. Great fast driving song with a big chorus and then a frenetic mid-section with some absolutely amazing solos!

There’s a late ’90s groove to ‘Killing Season’ that I can’t put my finger on but it sounds like I’ve heard it before, the twin leads are solid though. ‘Afterlife’ would be a European Power Metal song with less aggressive vocals. I could hear the Hammerfalls and Primal Fears of the world doing this song with the higher soaring vocals over the top of the blistering riffs that are present. ‘F.E.A.R.’ is a speed showcase until it slows for the chorus, the drumming is insane making you wonder how many arms Bostaph actually has. The last song, ‘Leave Me Forever’, pounds (literally) the music home and Chuck uses that growl to perfection.

Bottom Line:
Not only is THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION the album that Testament fans have been waiting for, it’s the album that sets the standard for Thrash bands this year. The last few Testament albums were considered too modern but this new record blends both the newer Thrash elements with the old school ’80s glory years. Seriously, if Metallica released this album, we would calling it a return to form…..so Testament has thrown down the gauntlet and set the standard high for Thrash Metal with this awesome record. It’s heavy as hell with searing solos and artillery styled drumming, what more could you want? One of the best albums this year!

Favorite Tracks: ‘Henchman Ride’, ‘More Than Meets The Eye’, ‘The Evil Has Landed’, Killing Season.

Current Playlist

Most of the CDs I’ve been listening to are up for review but I also decided to give a few oldies a spin…..

Lana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007): I am kicking myself for not buying this when it came out in late 2007. If I did, this album would have easily made my Top 15 Albums of 2007. I think I have spun this CD more in the last two weeks than any album I’ve bought since the beginning of the year. It is going to be a staple on my playlist for more than a few weeks.

Testament – The Formation Of Damnation (2008): The label was nice enough to send me a copy to review but I would have been more than happy to buy my own copy. I’ve only had a few spins but I like what I hear so far.

Pharaoh – Be Gone (2008): I’ve been enjoying the latest Pharaoh album for a couple of weeks now and I should have a review soon. BE GONE is released in Europe later this week.

Asia – Phoenix (2008): Bought this today but I only had a quick listen in the car on the way home from the record store. Every year there are controversial albums, this year one of them is Asia’s PHOENIX. I have read a lot of reviews and it’s considered either a return to form or very boring and bland, there has been no middle ground.

Saints Of The Underground – Love The Sin, Hate The Sinner (2008): I heard about this “supergroup” toward the end of 2006 but I really didn’t think it would see the light of day. I picked this up with the Asia album and I gave it a spin while I walked the dog today. I’ll review this soon.

W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985): My favorite W.A.S.P. album. I never get tired of it except for maybe ‘Blind In Texas’ because it’s always on VH-1 Classic. ‘Fistful Of Diamonds’ is a great song, so is ‘Widowmaker’…..classic W.A.S.P.!

KISS – Animalize (1984): KISS is my favorite band but I know the songs so well that I don’t bother to listen to them that often. For some reason, I had to hear ‘Get All You Can Take’ so I listened to the whole album rather than skip to the song. ANIMALIZE is a solid KISS record, probably their best until 1992’s REVENGE…..there’s more to the album than ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ but that is still a great tune.

Saxon – Denim And Leather (1981): “Denim and leather, brought us all together”…..no truer words are spoken! Pure NWOBHM and classic Saxon with tracks like ‘Play It Loud’, ‘Princess Of The Night’, the title cut and ‘Never Surrender’. The band still revolves five of the songs here in and out of their current setlist.

Metal Masters Tour (Heaven & Hell, Judas Priest, Motorhead, & Testament) announced!

From Bravewords.com:

As previously reported, after weeks of speculation, LiveNation.com has announced that JUDAS PRIEST, HEAVEN AND HELL, MOTÖRHEAD and TESTAMENT will unite for the upcoming Metal Masters Tour.

The fifteen-date US trek kicks off August 6th at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey. Tickets go on sale to the public beginning this weekend at LiveNation.com.

Judas Priest mainman Rob Halford commented: “As ever, we look forward to screaming out loud with our metal maniac fans when we hit the road. Thank you once again for your devotion and support. The Priest is back!”

This tour will be limited to fifteen very special engagements, and Citi cardmembers will have pre-sale access to tickets through Citi’s Private Pass® Program, available to all Citi cardmembers at this location.

Fans seeking the ultimate concert experience can access unique VIP ticket and fan experience packages that offer premium seats, meet & greets, pre-concert parties and more brought to you by the band’s official websites, JudasPriest.com, HeavenAndHellLive.com.VIP packages for the first events will be on sale by 10 AM Eastern time on Friday, April 25th. Also, not all VIP packages are the same, so be sure to pick the right one that suits you best.

Dates on the Metal Masters Tour include:

August
6 – Susquehanna Bank Center – Camden, NJ
7 – Nissan Pavilion – Bristow, VA
9 – PNC Bank Arts Center – Holmdel, NJ
10 – Nikon at Jones Beach – Wantagh, NY
13 – Molson Amphitheatre – Toronto, ON
15 – Mohegan Sun Arena – Uncasville, CT
16 – Post Gazette Pavilion – Pittsburgh, PA
18 – DTE Energy Music Theatre – Detroit, MI
19 – First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre – Chicago, IL
22 – Superpages.com Amphitheatre – Dallas, TX
23 – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – Houston, TX
24 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – San Antonio, TX
27 – Journal Pavilion – Albuquerque, NM
28 – Cricket Pavilion – Phoenix, AZ
30 – Glen Helen Pavilion – San Bernardino, CA
31 – Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA

September
1 – Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort – Las Vegas, NV

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Well this has been in the works for awhile. I’ll be at the Mohegan Sun show on August 15th. My birthday is the 16th so it will be a cool way to ring in year 36! My only complaint is the Citibank presale. It’s cool to let people have a chance at decent seats but I don’t want to get shutout.

— Steve