The 5 Worst Albums of 2009

2009 was another banner year for new albums. Bands from all different genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal released good albums this year and I was on the frontlines buying them up as they were released. Of course there were some bad albums too. I acquired more new releases in 2009 than I have any other year that Heavy Metal Addiction has been active so there were bound to be some bad ones in the pile. Last year I got a lot of email about my decision to call this the “Worst” albums, some people thought that was too negative. My feeling is that no matter if the album is a major disappointment because you were looking forward to it so much, or the album is just plain awful from the packaging to the production to the performance, then it qualifies under the heading of “Worst”. Of all the albums I picked up some releases were just plain bad, some were huge disappointments, some I just couldn’t stand…..so here is my list of The 5 Worst Albums of 2009:

#1

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009): This had to be the easiest pick for the absolute worst album of 2009! Just one listen was all it took for me but I made the mistake of listening to it twice, even three times. WICKED WONDERLAND was supposed to be Lita’s big comeback but it turned out to be the worst album I have ever heard her release. Gone is the Melodic Metal sound that made her career and now we have this down-tuned Industrial drone full of sexually specific lyrics about her marriage to former Nitro singer Jim Gillette. I’m all for changing styles, for trying to be current, but WICKED WONDERLAND is a complete opposite of everything that Lita Ford has released previously. Of all the albums I have heard in the last four years of this website, this is by far the worst of them all. A wasted comeback.

#2

As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009): If Lita Ford didn’t release WICKED WONDERLAND then As Cities Burn would be the winners of the worst album of the year. Actually, I almost moved Lita to #2 and this album up because at least Lita attempted something Metal. The press releases for HELL OR HIGH WATER billed the album as an Christian Indie Progressive Rock album so I figured that there would be something worth listening to, I like Prog Rock & Metal and Christian Rock & Metal. Unfortunately, there was nothing really “Rock” about this album. This was like bad, whining, mellow Smashing Pumpkins and that’s being kind. I listened to this album exactly 10 times to find anything redeeming and I fell asleep 2 or 3 times…..probably the most boring album of my 2009!

#3

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009): My hopes were high for a band that I have been following since 1997 and I figured a change at the lead vocalist position would add some spark. Unfortunately there wasn’t much spark after all. New singer Silje Wergeland is excellent vocally, and the band still performs well, but the material is monotonous and boring…..all the songs started to sound the same. This technically wasn’t a bad album I guess, more of a major disappointment and there were definitely a ton of better albums out there this year.

#4

Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life (2009): I wasn’t going to put Lacuna Coil on this list but I gave this a fresh listen the other day and I remembered why I had them on my initial draft. I’ve been into Lacuna Coil since 1998 when they released their first E.P. so I like to think that I have an idea of how they sound. Over the years the band has progressed in their sound and songwriting but SHALLOW LIFE didn’t have that progression I had hoped for, it all sounded the same and just like their last few albums. Lacuna Coil were the leaders of the Gothic Metal movement but there are other bands experimenting with their sound and doing it better. This was a major disappointment for me because I was really looking forward to it.

#5

Sepultura – A-Lex (2009): The last spot on my Worst of 2009 list had a lot of contention and I narrowed it down to 3 candidates: Sepultura, Bon Jovi and Chickenfoot. I went back and listened to all three albums and tried to find any tracks that would gain my attention and, unfortunately for Sepultura, A-LEX bored me to tears. Now I know that there are a lot of people out there who disagreed with my review back in March (I had a lot of email!) but I have to go with my gut response and I was just bored. The album is based on the novel A Clockwork Orange and that didn’t help me out either, it was just another boring concept album to me with all the songs sounding the same. I like a lot of the bands earlier work and I gave A-LEX a lot of stereo time to make sure that I was paying attention but I was just disappointed that nothing really stood out. At least Bon Jovi & Chickenfoot had a few songs that stood out even though both releases were disappointing too.

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009)

the gathering - the west pole

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009, Season Of Mist/Psychonaut Records)

  1. When Trust Becomes Sound
  2. Treasure
  3. All You Are
  4. The West Pole
  5. No Bird Call
  6. Capitol Of Nowhere
  7. You Promised Me A Symphony
  8. Pale Traces
  9. No One Spoke
  10. A Constant Run

Band Lineup:
Silje Wergeland  – Vocals & Piano
René Rutten – Guitars
Marjolein Kooijman – Bass
Hans Rutten – Drums
Frank Boeijen – Keyboards & Piano

Producer: René Rutten

Country: The Netherlands

Total Time = 54:17

The Gathering
The Gathering MySpace page
Psychonaut Records
Season Of Mist Records

Sometime in early 1998 I discovered The Gathering through a Century Media CD sampler. the song was ‘In Motion #1′ from the band’s 1995 record MANDYLION. I fell in love with the heavy and melodic music and the beautiful singing of Anneke van Giersbergen, it was a new style of Metal for me. Turns out that female fronted Metal bands would start forming all over the world and now we have bands like Lacuna Coil, Stream Of Passion and Epica carrying on where The Gathering began. Then again, The Gathering had two previous album that were more Death/Doom Metal with a male singer so I was completely confused. I got online shortly after I got the sampler and I found out about the band’s then current album NIGHTTIME BIRDS (1997) and I was hooked on The Gathering. I have followed the band ever since but I have been disappointed with the band’s output for over a decade…..as the band continued to release new material, the music became more ambient, more progressive, more Pink Floyd-ish and the core Metal sound took a backseat. I’ll be honest, I got so fed up by the band’s evolving Floydian sound that I actually stopped buying their albums after 2000’s if_then_else.

What made me come back to The Gathering was the change at the vocal position: Anneke van Giersbergen has left the band to pursue a solo career and former Octavia Sperati singer Silje Wergeland has taken over. Sometimes a change in vocalists is good for giving the music a fresh start and I decided to give the band a fresh listen. When I put THE WEST POLE in the stereo the first track, ‘When Truth Becomes Sound’, turned out to be heavy (compared later to the rest of the album) and an almost 4 minute instrumental. I figured this was a great start and when I heard Wergeland’s vocals on ‘Treasure’ I knew that the band had picked a solid replacement for the popular Giersbergen. As THE WEST POLE continued, the problem for me was that the songs basically took the same route: slow or mid-tempo pace, an atmospheric/progressive/trippy sound and plenty of beautiful vocals…..they all sounded the same! It wasn’t until the 9th song, ‘No One Spoke’, that the pace quickened and the guitars got a little heavier but there were subdued parts of this song as well. I liked the uptempo ‘A Constant Run’ also because it harkened back to the band’s mid to late ’90s sound the most.

Bottom Line:
Obviously The Gathering has found their niche in the crowded Gothic Metal scene by continuing to push their unique atmospheric, Pink Floyd influenced music. I decided that I would give the band a fresh listen in the hopes that there was something heavy contained within THE WEST POLE but I am still disappointed because I was hoping for a little more uptempo and Metal. Most of the album is slow and and mid-tempo with the band concentrating on the “quieter” side of Gothic Metal. The songs are really good, well-written and performed beautifully, but they all seem to sound the same after a while. The good news is that The Gathering have definitely found themselves a high quality singer in Silje Wergeland, she can easily handle any Giersbergen-era song because she has an extremely similar voice. There were times that I noticed no difference at all between the two. I’ve given this a lot of spins over the last few weeks and there really isn’t much that will bring me back in the future save for maybe a couple of songs.

Favorite Songs:
The standout tracks for me coincidentally are the last three songs on the album: ‘Pale Traces’, ‘No One Spoke’, ‘A Constant Run’. Too bad the band saved them for last because I think they might have helped break up the monotony in the middle of the album.

CD Scavenger Hunt — New Release Tuesday edition 6/2/09

Has it really been over a month since I went out on a Hunt? Sad to say but it has been a month since I went wild in the record store. I’m not sure what was up with May but I made up for things the right way by scooping up a bunch of new releases that came out the last couple weeks, grabbing a CD that I featured in a WANTED! post, and a couple of Ebay purchases. The weird thing was that I walked into my local Newbury Comics and the store was completely changed around! I had no idea where anything was! So let’s get to this week’s finds…..

Online

SAVANNAH - S-TSavannah – s/t (1998) – $15: Once I posted the WANTED column for this CD, I decided to go out and get it right away. I went to Amazon and found the Nightmare Records store where they had a brand new copy for $12 ($3 shipping). The listing stated that it was the U.S. version but it turned out to be the Japanese pressing with the bonus track: ‘Too Young Hearts’ (Soul Version). I was surprised to get the Japanese pressing because it usually goes for $50-$75 in most places…..definitely a bargain!

alyson avenue omegaAlyson Avenue – Omega (2004) – $11: I read online somewhere that both Alyson Avenue albums were going to be re-released but then I couldn’t find the article again. I have the band’s first album PRESENCE OF MIND (2000) and that goes for big bucks at auction now so I figured I might as well find OMEGA and have a complete set of original pressings. This album was easy to find but at inflated prices but I found this auction because the band’s name was misspelled…..I won for $8 + $3 shipping.

JLT - Rescue YouJoe Lynn Turner – Rescue You (1985) – $12: I love Joe Lynn Turner, he has one of the finest voices in Rock and I’ve taken an interest in picking up everything he’s done in the last few years. RESCUE YOU has been on my wishlist for quite some time now and it’s an easy album to find on CD because Wounded Bird Records reissued the album in 2004. I’ve actually seen a copy or two in my record store hunts! I was watching an auction for one of the reissues and I found this one ending soon for a Japanese pressing from ’85. I always prefer an original over a reissue especially when there is nothing extra on the reissue so winning this one for $9 + $3 shipping was a great deal!

Record Store

whitesnake-lovehunter-1979Whitesnake – Lovehunter (1979) – $12 used: I know $12 is a lot of a used CD but I haven’t been able to track down LOVEHUNTER in a few years, once I saw it I grabbed it right away! I posted a WANTED column for this album just over a year ago and I’ve been giving this the weekly search online…..you can’t find this online for less than $10 and, if you do, a bidding war starts! Another hole in the collection filled!

Candlemass_DeathMagicDoomCandlemass – Death Magic Doom (2009) – $12: This album came out last week but I never went to the record store…..I ended up missing the $9.99 sale price and had to settle for the new $12 sale price. I haven’t really paid much attention to Candlemass lately, especially when Messiah Marcolin left again in 2006, but I decided to give the band a fresh listen. This U.S. version has a bonus track ‘Lucifer Rising’ (album outtake).

Stratovarius-PolarisStratovarius – Polaris (2009) – $9.99: Here’s another band that I haven’t paid much attention to in the last few years and another album that came out last week. The good news is I got the special first week $9.99 sale! Power Metal is one of my favorite genres of Metal so Stratovarius should be one of the bands I really enjoy but I haven’t bothered to pay attention to the band since they released INFINITE in 2000. Something about the album cover really interested me this time around and the sale price helped out as well.

Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight (2009 limited edition)Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009 limited edition) – $13: Pirate Metal! I’ve been getting into Alestorm a lot lately by listening to their first album, CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE (2008), online and the LEVIATHAN E.P. (2009) that I picked up a couple months ago. I couldn’t resist picking up this CD when I saw that the limited edition included a DVD of the band’s performance at 2008’s Wacken Open Air festival. Comes in a nice digipak slipcase with the original artwork on the booklet.

doro_fear_no_evil_limited_edition_2009Doro – Fear No Evil (2009 limited edition) – $9.99: The reigning queen of Metal is back with another album and it just seems like she just keeps releasing new albums every year. This album has been out everywhere but the U.S. since January and this version says it’s a limited edition because of the online access to bonus content with the CD. That really makes no difference to me because the digipak version from Europe has 2 bonus tracks AND the online bonuses. A little disappointed brcause I’d want the other 2 songs but the price was good, I’ll keep my eye out for the European version though.

the gathering - the west pole The Gathering – The West Pole (2009) – $12: I got into The gathering back in 1995 when I heard ‘In Motion #1′ from MANDYLION…..after that I became a big fan of the band and vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen. I followed the band closely, buying every new album, until they released IF_THEN_ELSE (2000). By that time I was getting bored with the direction the band was taking into a more atmospheric realm. Now Anneke is gone, having left after the tour for 2006’s HOME, and new singer Silje Wergeland (ex-Octavia Sperati) is on board. I’m interested in how Silje sings and if the music will be different with a new vocalist.

streamofpassion_flameStream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009 limited edition) – $12: I’m going into this CD blindly because I have never heard a Stream Of Passion song before but I read quite a few positive reviews from some well respected Metal websites so I figured I’d take a chance. Arjen Anthony Lucassen from Ayreon used to be in the band so I figure the music has a Power/Progressive/Ambient quality. The limited edition digipak release for the U.S. has a bonus track called ‘Far And Apart’.

tyr_bythelightTýr – By The Light Of The Northern Star (2009 limited edition) – $12: Well Napalm Records surely got my business this week with Týr, Alestorm and Stream Of Passion all coming out the same day and all U.S. limited editions! Big fan of Týr since I picked up LAND (2008) and I started into their back catalogue. I didn’t realize they had a new record coming out but I know it’s going to be good.

Current Playlist

Now that I’ve seen the Anvil movie and read the book, I feel rejuvenated! Nothing like seeing/hearing an inspirational story about Heavy Metal to get you out of a rut and back on track. There have also been some really good albums that I’ve rediscovered by adding them into my iPod so it’s been all about the music and getting myself into a Metal frame of mind. Here’s what I’ve been spinning…..

Anvil – Anthology (1999): I have a lot of holes in my Anvil collection but I’m taking care of that as we speak. This anthology cane out on Metal Blade Records back in ’99 and has 18 songs that come from everything from the debut HARD ‘N HEAVY (1981) to SPEED OF SOUND (1998). It’s a nice overview of Anvil’s career to that point.

Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): Watch the new Anvil movie and you’ll get an inside look at the recording of this album. I never really took this album out of my playing rotation for the last year and a half…..if the CD is sitting next to the stereo then it’s in the “Now Playing” pile. When I actually file it away in the cases, then it’s out of normal rotation. What a great album, a serious comeback from a band that’s never really gone away.

Wolf – Ravenous (2009): I really wasn’t expecting much from Wolf but that just goes to show you that I’m an idiot! I never picked up 2006’s THE BLACK FLAME even though 2004’s EVIL STAR was an awesome record. I ended up grabbing this CD a week after it came out as an afterthought because it was still on sale. This is probably going to be in my list of top albums of 2009! Review coming soon…..

MSG – Gipsy Lady: The Schenker Barden Acoustic Project (2009): Always a big fan of MSG and Michael’s solo work, especially his acoustic THANK YOU series which are some of the best work he’s ever released. Now that the Schenker/Barden team is here for a while, they are exploring the acoustic realm together. It’s a little different with vocals but they are a solid team. Review this week…..

UFO – The Visitor (2009): One of my favorite releases of 2009 and June 2009’s album of the month. Review this week…..

Aerosmith – Nine Lives (1998): Everyone remembers this album as the one with ‘Pink’ on it but I picked this up over a decade ago the day it came out. It had been 4 years since GET A GRIP (1993) and I bought the album just because it was a new Aerosmith record. Every song on the album is great and I remember thinking that this was going to be the Aerosmith album that would closely resemble the ’70s but not be as commercially successful. They had a few singles but when ‘Pink’ hit the radio then NINE LIVES skyrocketed! I skip ‘Pink’ when I play the CD. Two quick details: I have the original pressing with the original cover art and I saw the tour on New Year’s Eve that year…..what a party!

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987): I know this album by heart and KISS is my favorite band but I wouldn’t have listened to it 10 times in the last week if my daughter wasn’t playing it constantly!

Rhapsody – Legendary Tales (1997): I got into Rhapsody (now Rhaposdy Of Fire) back in 1998 and I heard a newer song on an internet radio show last week so I figured I would give the band a fresh listen from the beginning and start to search out some of the holes in my Rhapsody collection.

The Gathering – Mandylion (1995): With the band’s new album (THE WEST POLE) coming out Tuesday, I figured I would revisit the album that got me into the band. If I buy the new album it will be the first Gathering record I’ve picked up since 2000’s IF THEN ELSE.