I think I say the same things every year when I write the introduction to my Best of the Year list…..this year was one of the greatest years for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Every year it seems like more and more new albums come out from a wide variety of bands and 2010 was no exception, this was the biggest year for Heavy Metal Addiction as far as promotional review copies go. Usually, I physically buy all my new albums but this year I partnered with more labels, more promotional people and more bands and I received more albums for review than any other year. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up and I came nowhere close to listening to all of them properly. Looking at the piles on my desk, the boxes next to it and the separate iTunes folder I reserve for promo downloads, it’s easy to estimate that I have more new 2010 albums submitted to Heavy Metal Addiction than the last two years combined! Add in all the new releases I bought on my weekly trips to the record stores, and my daily online searches, and it’s fair to estimate that the total number of new releases from 2010 that I have right now at my desk is over 200.
The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was the same criteria I’ve used for the last few years: the album had to be a studio album (not a live record, best of, or covers collection) AND the album had to be released in 2010. Just like previous years, an album that was released in 2009 overseas, but was released in 2010 for the U.S., qualified as a 2010 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown.
The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I could have continued with a Top 40 list but I got so far behind listening and writing so there are definitely albums I haven’t heard yet or didn’t give proper time to. We’re talking a couple hundred albums though so anything that got missed might end up in an expanded “Albums I Missed in 2010″ post during next year’s awards week. Just like last year, I will be splitting the Top 30 into three posts so it’s easier to read. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is Part 2, the Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#11 – #20):
Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010): MEMORIAL ROOTS was one of the best surprises of 2010 because I didn’t really get into their last album DOWNBURST (2008). I liked DOWNBURST but it took a lot of listening for me to warm up to it and I was concerned that this album would be the same thing. What made the album more accessible to me was the fact that the songs had more hooks this time around instead of being a straight up Power Metal feast. Brainstorm expands their sound a little on this album instead of following the same old formula by becoming a bit more melodic and they really did a great job. I wanted to spend extra time with this album because I was a little letdown by DOWNBURST to I made sure to give MEMORIAL ROOTS a lot of playing time and it paid off. http://www.brainstorm-web.net/
Wig Wam – Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll (2010): I’m a child of the ’80s and the new Wig Wam record sounds like it came straight from 1986 with it’s big sound, party anthems and slick production. Wig Wam is a Glam band and influenced by all the big ’80s bands like Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, etc. Name a Hard Rock/Glam/Sleaze bands from the mid-’80s and you can definitely hear some influence in the overall Wig Wam sound. That doesn’t mean that the music is generic but it does have a dated feel to it in a good way. I like all the big sounding party anthems and the ballads break things up a little and are a good fit. The only problem I have is that Wig Wam take too long between albums, this one being four years after 2006’s WIG WAMANIA. http://www.wigwam.no/index.html
Kiske-Somerville – s/t (2010): Here’s an album that I was eagerly awaiting and had a hard time acquiring. When I heard that Amanda Somerville and former Helloween singer Michael Kiske were collaborating I had to get a hold of it because both are great vocalists. Michael Kiske goes without saying, listen to the early Helloween records and you know how good he is and I really haven’t explored his post-Helloween career. I know Amanda Somerville from her work with After Forever, Epica, Avantasia and Kamelot but, again, I’ve never explored her actual solo work. It’s a great pairing and both of them singing together on each song is a really great idea. The problem with acquiring the album turned out to be a combination of limited availability at my local record store and high import prices online but I found it in late Fall and I ended up buying the limited edition with a bonus track and two music videos. Definitely an album worth checking out. http://www.amandasomerville.com/ http://www.michaelkiske.net/index_en.php
Griffen – Life: A Way To Die (2010): I found out about Griffen back in 2008 when the band sent in their second demo, LINKED IN ETERNITY (2008), for review. I was so impressed then with Griffen that I put them in my Top 30 of 2008 at #27! I never got to hear Griffen’s first self-titled demo from 2007 and now both are unavailable. The good thing is that LIFE: A WAY TO DIE compiled all nine songs from both demos and added three new songs to create Griffen’s first proper album. Now you may ask what the difference is between Griffen re-releasing their demo material versus a guy like Bret Michaels re-releasing previously released material as a new album…..the answer is that Griffen has never officially released their material. Demos can also be rough takes, although the one Griffen sent me a couple of years ago was so well done. If you want to hear some great Melodic Metal, then check Griffen out. It’s good to see the band signed and I can’t wait to hear what the come up with next. http://www.myspace.com/griffentheband
Black Label Society – Order Of The Black (2010): A lot was riding on the latest Black Label Society album because of the events going on outside the band with Zakk Wylde: getting the ax from Ozzy’s band and then getting very ill with blood clots. I have just about every Black Label release and this was one of the better ones that I’ve heard in a few years. I bought this album right away and gave it a few initial spins and then I put it aside. One of the reasons why I put it down was because I was giving it a ton of time with Ozzfest coming to town two weeks after the album came out…..of course, Black Label didn’t play due to weather and equipment problems so I kind of put the record on the backburner. About a couple months later, I saw the video for ‘Overlord’ on Headbanger’s Ball and I got back into it. Zakk has always been focused on the projects he’s working on whether it be Black Label or stuff with Ozzy but I think leaving Ozzy’s band is probably the best thing for him. ORDER OF THE BLACK sounds more focused, more ferocious and more complete. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than SHOT TO HELL (2006) and I’m looking forward to a more powerful Black Label in the future. http://www.zakkwylde.com/
White Wizzard – Over The Top (2010): I really like White Wizzard! HIGH SPEED G.T.O. (2009) just made the Albums I Missed in 2009 list and I wasn’t going to let OVER THE TOP be one of those missed albums in 2010. I think one of the reasons why the first album got missed was because I spent a lot of listening time on OVER THE TOP. I grew up with Heavy Metal and White Wizzard definitely carries the flag high for old school Heavy Metal. I like everything about the band: the music, the albums covers, the logo…..this is a band I would have listened to back when I was a kid. I had a few doubts on this initially because of all the upheaval with the band’s lineup, especially at the vocalist slot, because the debut was solid and a massive lineup change can screw up a band’s sound. I think White Wizzard have come back stronger and the future looks bright. If you like old school Metal, check them out…..http://www.myspace.com/whitewizzard
Halford – IV: Made of Metal (2010): With Judas Priest being my second favorite band and Rob Halford being one of my favorite heavy Metal singers, anything Rob releases outside Priest is definitely on my radar. I picked up Halford III – WINTER SONGS (2009) last year and it was a good record, just unexpected and not as Metal as previous Halford efforts. When I read online that Rob was making the fourth Halford album while taking a break from Judas Priest, I was ready for a Metal feast. MADE OF METAL picks up for me where Rob left off with his CRUCIBLE (2002) and where Priest should have maybe gone instead of NOSTRADAMUS (2008). I got a preview of the title track when I saw the band perform brilliantly at Ozzfest 2010 and I had already heard ‘The Mower’ online so I knew it was going to be another solid Metal album from the Metal God. What makes this album stick out is that it’s more traditional heavy Metal, more Melodic Metal than the first two Halford albums and the songs get you singing along right away. I almost feel bad for not putting this Top 10! http://www.robhalford.com/madeofmetal/
Kamelot – Poetry For The Poisoned (2010): I have been a Kamelot fan since KARMA (2001) and I always expect every new album to beat that album. The last few Kamelot albums have been hit or miss for me but when I read that the band was going for a darker sound on POETRY FOR THE POISONED, I got interested. Then the band announced a local concert about 40 minutes from my house so I was definitely all hyped up for a new Kamelot album. This album definitely has the darker edge to it and it’s still the same Power Metal and Progressive Metal mix that Kamelot has been known for. There’s female background vocals and plenty of orchestration to fill out the overall sound but what I like is when Roy Khan uses a little bit of an aggressive growl here and there, it adds a different element to his excellent vocal style. I keep listening to this album and I keep discovering different sounds everytime and it always sounds fresh. That’s the mark of a really good album, when it makes you keep coming back for more. I might have rated this a little higher if I was able to catch the band in concert, that didn’t happened when they cancelled the entire U.S. tour! http://www.kamelot.com/
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (2010): Like I mentioned when I added the new Dimmu Borgir to this year’s countdown, I wanted to open myself up to more extreme forms of Metal and to bands I may have missed in the past. One of those bands was Celtic Frost and it was easy to do both with Tom G. Warrior’s new band Triptykon. I’ll admit that it took a little while to get used to it but I really started to get into it as I kept listening. You’ve got a mix of Black, Death and Thrash with some Doom and the sound it just plain heavy. What drew me in was the guitars on the first song, the 11 minute epic ‘Goetia’. The guitar playing on ‘Goetia’ made me take notice and I kept playing just that tune over and over, it has such an early Black Sabbath influence to it. Anyway, Triptykon led me to more Celtic Frost (I only have 1985’s TO MEGA THERION) and Hellhammer and onto some other extreme bands. I know that ESPARISTERA DAIMONES is going to be high up on a lot of Metal websites’ best of lists this year and I might have ranked it higher if I was more familiar with more of this kind of Metal. Definitely one of the top albums of the year! http://triptykon.net/
Treat – Coup De Grace (2010): I really didn’t think much of the news of Treat’s new album, COUP DE GRACE, because it had been 18 years since the band released a new studio album. I ended up being sent a digital promo of the album for review and I knew as soon as I heard the first song (‘The War is Over’) that this was going to be one of the best Melodic Rock albums of the year. Despite the 18 year hiatus, Treat doesn’t compromise their sound, it’s still a combination of ’80s era AOR, Melodic Rock and Hard Rock. It’s still a huge sound that compares to the better known bands from back in the day like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi but Treat is doing it better than those bands in 2010. The production here is so good and the songs are great, I really had a hard time keeping this out of the Top 10. This is one of the best comebacks of 2010 and one of the best albums, definitely worth picking up if you grew up with that ’80s sound. http://www.treatnews.com/