Aeon Zen - Self Portrait E.P.

CD Scavenger Hunt – November & December 2013 update

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

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November

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

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

December

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

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

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

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

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

Final 2013 Totals

Total (Nov & Dec) = $196

Total (year) = $2230.84

Average Price (per item) = $11.93

Total CDs (year) = 169

Total DVDs & BluRays (year) = 5

Total LPs (year) = 6

Total Box Sets (year) = 7

Just a quick analysis…..

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

Let the hunt continue!

The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#21-#30)

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 it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#21 – #30):

#30

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010): A Capella Power Metal…..that’s the best way to describe the Van Canto sound. I was skeptical when I first heard about Van Canto but after a few listens to the first single, ‘Lost Forever’, I got more interested. What drew me in was the uniqueness of the project but that also made the album a little hard to take after multiple listens. I’m adding TRIBE OF FORCE to the countdown because of the uniqueness of the idea and the fact that the band pulls it off extremely well. The only instrument used was the drums, everything else is vocal instrumentation. You have to admit, it takes a lot of talent to pull something like that off! Not having proper guitars and bass may take some getting used to for some fans but Van Canto is definitely more than a novelty band. http://www.vancanto.de

#29

Human Cometh – Evolution (2010): Human Cometh has to be one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I’m not sure how I found out about the band, either I found them through other Metal websites or the band contacted me about their debut album EVOLUTION. It doesn’t matter because I found them and the album is an excellent blend of different styles including Hard Rock, Melodic Rock, Power Metal and Progressive Metal. Every song on EVOLUTION is well written with solid musicianship and it’s hard to believe that this is a new band. One of the things I thought was cool about Human Cometh was that they offered this album as a FREE download to anyone interested and, if they wanted, fans could send a donation to the band via Paypal. It’s all about getting the music out there and Human Cometh have done just that. From what I understand, there is a proper CD pressing available so head over to their website to preview the music and support the band by purchasing a CD. http://www.humancometh.com

#28

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2010): After re-reading the review I wrote on SCREAM back in July, I noticed that it may be a little too influenced by the previous two subpar albums. I sat down and gave this album a fresh listen and it’s actually pretty good. When you start to compare it to Ozzy’s last two records it sounds like a solid comeback for the Prince Of Darkness. I’m always skeptical of anything Ozzy does because of that stupid TV show that made him look like an idiot and his puppetmaster wife Sharon but I have to give Ozzy credit for trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing Metal climate. SCREAM isn’t the Ozzy of old, it isn’t the Ozzy of the ’90s, but it’s definitely the Ozzy for the new millenium. Dropping Zakk Wylde and replacing him with Gus G. added some fuel to the fire and seeing Ozzy live this past summer proved that he is back in a big way. SCREAM was a grower and it turned out to be a solid record. http://www.ozzy.com

#27

Raven – Walk Through Fire (2010): WALK THROUGH FIRE is one of those albums that got a worldwide release in 2009 except for North America. Metal Blade Records stepped to the plate and distributed the album here in the U.S. and I finally got to here the new raven at a decent price! Nothing is better than hearing new music from one of my old favorites, especially from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Raven was one of those bands I picked up on from the Metal magazines in the ’80s and I have slowly acquired a lot of their back catalogue. This new album sounds like the Raven of old, like the Raven that made WIPED-OUT (1982) and ALL FOR ONE (1983). A ton of high powered energy here and John Gallagher sounds like he hasn’t aged at all. This an album well worth waiting for, I just hope the next one isn’t another nine years in the making! http://www.ravenlunatics.com/

#26

Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra (2010): Two of my goals for 2010 was to open myself up to more extreme styles of Metal and bands that I have always wanted to check out but never get around to. Dimmu Borgir fit both goals perfectly, I have been wanting to check out more Black Metal and Dimmu Borgir has been one of those bands that I have wanted to check out for a long time. I’m very new to the whole Black Metal scene, I’ve read a ton about it and I’ve heard some songs but it’s safe to say that my personal collection and listening habits don’t include a lot of it. Dimmu seemed to be the most popular Black metal band so grabbing this new album was a perfect opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this album, it had a lot of different sounds and orchestration and the vocals weren’t completely unintelligible. ABRAHADABRA has the same effect that Immortal’s ALL SHALL FALL (2009) had on me last year, it’s opened up a new appreciation for Black Metal and now I’m starting in explore Dimmu’s previous records and check out other Black Metal bands. http://www.dimmu-borgir.com/

#25

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010): It’s kind of funny following Black Metal’s biggest band with a band name Heavenly. CARPE DIEM is another one of those albums that got a release everywhere but the U.S. in 2009, we finally got the proper release from AFM Records in early 2010. I’m a big Power Metal fan but I had never heard any songs from Heavenly’s previous four records so they were a totally new band for me. I have to admit, the reason why I got so interested in this album is the album cover, it’s so old school and so ’80s that it’s great. Seriously, album cover of the year! The music is well done with plenty of soaring vocals, orchestration and powerful guitars and I was completely surprised by the overt Queen influence on a few songs. Heavenly is a perfect example of a band that makes music I like but has fallen below my radar, CARPE DIEM has me searching out the band’s previous albums. http://www.heavenly.fr/

#24

Overkill – Ironbound (2010): When you get into discussions about Thrash Metal, the first four bands people bring up are the big four of Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. As you move along, you get the second tier of Thrash bands like Testament, Exodus and Overkill. I don’t know if it’s because Overkill was an East Coast band and the focus always went to the San Francisco Bay area scene back in the day but Overkill always seems to get forgotten. The band has been going strong for 26 years and they have released great album after great album the whole time. IRONBOUND continues the tradition and it’s one hell of an old school Thrash album following the same formula Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and D.D. Verni have been using their entire career: high powered, in your face Thrash. There’s no frills here just straightforward power and that’s why IRONBOUND is one of the best Metal albums of 2010. http://wreckingcrew.com/Ironbound/

#23

Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010): KISS is my favorite band so anytime a former member releases a solo project I run to the record store! Bruce Kulick was one of the biggest reasons KISS remained a vital entity from the mid-’80s through the mid-’90s…..his playing was always great and he added that sense of stability at the lead guitarist position that the band needed since Ace Frehley left. I never really got around to buying Bruce’s two previous solo albums but I did follow him post-KISS with Union so I knew a little of what to expect. What I didn’t expect was a high quality and very personal Hard Rock album and that’s a statement made without all the KISS fandom attached. The songwriting is great as is Bruce guitar work but the surprise is how well Bruce sings because he only ever got one song to sing in KISS (‘I Walk Alone from 1997′s CARNIVAL OF SOULS). Another great surprise is how well the collaborations went with other musicians singing like Gene Simmons, Nick Simmons, Tobias Sammet, John Corabi and Doug Fieger from The Knack…..these are some of the best songs on the album. Maybe Bruce could teach Slash how it’s done? http://www.kulick.net/

#22

Mob Rules – Radical Peace (2010): I’ve been a Mob Rules fan since 1999′s SAVAGE LAND but I missed out on the band’s last album ETHNOLUTION A.D. (2006). When I read that Mob Rules was releasing a new record, I jumped at it as soon as it came out but the problem was that it didn’t get released until 2010 in the U.S. but everywhere else got it in late 2009. This is another one of those albums from AFM Records in Germany…..I don’t know if it’s a distribution thing or what but I wish these album would come out at the same time in all territories. RADICAL PEACE is a mix of Power and Progressive Metal and it has a HUGE sound, it kind of reminds me of one of my favorite records from 2008, Cloudscape’s GLOBAL DRAMA. All the songs on this album are really good but the standout is the 18+ minute long ‘The Oswald File’, a song that is the second part of ETHNOLUTION A.D. and is broken up into six chapters. Definitely an epic! http://www.mobrules.de/

#21

Sister Sin – Sounds Of The Underground (2010): I had Sister Sin on the list of bands to check out but once I saw them open up for the Michael Schenker Group in July, I ended up putting both their albums at the top of the listening pile. Sister Sin plays a traditional style of Heavy Metal and I was blown away by how much energy and power they had live. Lead singer Liv has a great Metal voice that reminds me of Doro Pesch and she kicks a ton of ass on stage. Sister Sin’s overall sound reminds me of Doro, Warlock and also Judas Priest, the aggressiveness gives it that early ’80s Metal sound. I like the fact that the music is guitar oriented and aggressive, the only other band I can remember in recent years that kicked this much ass doing female-fronted Traditional Metal is Benedictum. Sister Sin is definitely a band to check out and watch in the future. http://www.sistersin.com/

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010)

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010, Napalm Records)

  1. Lost Forever
  2. To Sing A Metal Song
  3. One To Ten (featuring Victor Smolski from Rage)
  4. I Am Human
  5. My Voice
  6. Rebellion (featuring Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger)
  7. Last Night Of The Kings
  8. The Tribe Of Force
  9. Water Fire Heaven Earth
  10. Master Of Puppets
  11. Magic Taborea
  12. Hearted (featuring Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica)
  13. Frodo’s Dream

Band Lineup:
Inga Scharf – Lead Vocals
Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke – Lead Vocals
Stefan Schmidt – Lower “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals, “Wahwah” Solo Guitar Vocals
Ross Thompson – Higher “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals
Ingo “Ike” Sterzinger – Lowest “Dandan” Voice Chords (Bass Vocals)
Bastian Emig – Drums

Producers: Stefan Schmidt & Charlie Bauerfeind

Country: Germany

Total Time = 55:13

Van Canto
Van Canto MySpace page
Napalm Records

Every once in a while something unique comes along and grabs my attention. A few weeks ago, I received a press release promoting Van Canto’s third album, TRIBE OF FORCE, and the band’s innovative style of A Capella Metal. A Capella music is group vocal music and/or singing without musical accompaniment from instruments…..the first thing that comes to mind is barber shop quartets, doo-wop groups and choirs. A Capella singing in Heavy Metal? No instruments? I was skeptical but I read the press release and saw that it included a link to a video of the band covering Manowar’s ‘Kings Of Metal’ (from their second record HERO). I was impressed with the cover, especially with how I forgot that the only instrument used was the drums!

Based on their ‘Kings Of Metal’ cover, and their cover of Metallica’s ‘Battery’, I decided to give TRIBE OF FORCE a try figuring that at least it would be a change of pace if the concept of vocalizing the guitars, bass and keyboards didn’t work. The first single from the new album is ‘Lost Forever’ and it is a perfect way to kick start the album with it’s Power Metal style and superb vocal harmonies. At first I wasn’t too sure because the harmonized vocal intro had me thinking that this was going to be a less aggressive project but, once the drums kicked in, Van Canto really go for it! Frist the lead vocal trade-off between Philip and Inga is excellent, both have great voices with plenty of range, and the male/female co-lead vocal adds an extra dimension. Inga’s operatic style easily puts her right up there with some other female vocal heavyweights in Metal like Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Simone Simons (Epica). The cool thing is you can also hear some Medieval/Rennaissance style like Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) in her delivery as well. What is most impressive is the guys doing the bass and guitars…..Stefan, Ross and Ingo do one hell of a job sounding like their instrument counterparts that you sometimes forget that it’s really just singing. Listen to the guitar solo, that’s Stefan singing the solo, not a guitar!

Needless to say, I was impressed. Van Canto continues in the same Gothic/Power Metal direction with ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘One To Ten’ (featuring Victor Smolski of Rage), and ‘I Am Human’. The vocals are excellent and the vocal instrumentation is excellent but it’s at ‘My Voice’ where I start to get that “I’ve heard it before” feeling. ‘My Voice’ is a good original song with plenty of layers and tempo changes but I get the point and I am now listening for the guitars. Track six is a cover of Grave Digger’s ‘Rebellion’ (from 1996′s TUNES OF WAR) and features Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl on lead vocals. Normally I don’t welcome covers but this is a nice way to break the album up, especially with Boltendahl guesting. If you compare this version to the original, it’s a pretty good rendition and it is amazing to hear the band vocalize the instruments. Listen again for the guitar solo by Stefan! The second single and video is ‘Last Night Of The Kings’ and it is a ballad with a Medieval/Rennaissance sound. This song could easily fit on the first two Blackmore’s Night albums and the a capella singing fits perfectly.

The title track sounds a little more laid back, more commercial but ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’ stands out with Inga’s operatic vocals. It’s more of a Gothic Metal mid-tempo song and it’s very good due to the beauty of the lead vocal, Inga rivals her peers and is definitely a superb operatic vocalist. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of a spotlight on Inga in the future, although Philip has a great voice too and the vocal trade-off is a perfect match. The second cover on TRIBE OF FORCE is Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’…..it’s not a bad cover and I actually like Van Canto’s interpretation, I prefer the original but it’s a fun comparison piece. ‘Magic Taborea’ starts off kind of slow and subdued but, as the song progresses, the tempo picks up and it has an epic sound to it. What impresses me here is the quick keyboard vocalizations, they are like the guitar solos, very impressive. Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica guests on the faster ‘Hearted’ and I like Van Canto’s addition of some harsh vocals to the arrangement to make things more interesting. Last song is ‘Frodo’s Dream’ and it’s another epic sounding song but I’m just not getting into this one at all.

Bottom Line:
I have to admit that I was skeptical that Van Canto could pull off an A Capella album of heavy Metal songs but they are all talented vocalists and they do a superb job on each and every song. Let me add that drummer Bastiam Emig puts in a stellar performance over the entire record and really drives the songs. Being the only person playing an instrument, his performance needed to be great and it was. Overall, I liked the album, even the cover songs but, after multiple listens, I started to lose some interest. I have played TRIBE OF FORCE to death so I could really focus on those layers of vocals and the vocal instrumentation but I found that I was looking for the real thing after a while so I needed to give myself a break and come back to it with fresh ears. That doesn’t diminish the talent and solid performances because there is a lot of quality work on this album and Van Canto isn’t the novelty act that people might mistake them to be. These musicians are all extremely gifted and they do a great job creating interesting and enjoyable songs. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this somewhere in my year’s best list for 2010 and I am definitely going to check out the band’s first two records.

Favorite Songs:
‘Lost Forever’, ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘Rebellion’, ‘Last Night Of The Kings’, ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’

CD Scavenger Hunt – The Rock & Metal sale edition – 3/12/10

It’s rare that I have a Friday night off but my wife went to Connecticut to see Train in concert and I went out on a date with my two daughters. After a fun dinner I took them to Gamestop to buy them special video game presents. What was already a great night out with the kids got even better when I remembered that my local Newbury Comics was having one of it’s Rock & Metal special sales with tons of CDs specially sale priced between $7.99 – $11.88…..this is always a good time to stock up! I didn’t go overboard, and I forgot my want list again, but with the kids fed and bribed, we hit the record store! I will be hitting this sale again a few times before it ends the second week of April!

Acrassicauda – Only the Dead See The End Of The War (2010) – $5: I walked in the front door and found this CD right away! I have been following Acrassicauda since I saw the Heavy Metal In Baghdad DVD back in 2008. I remember hearing that the band’s first official album was being released but I completely forgot about it! This is a four song E.P. rather than a full-length record but with the band relocated to the U.S. and signed to a label, I expect more music from the band soon.

White Wizzard – Over The Top (2010) – $9: The new White Wizzard came out a couple of weeks ago and it was only one of two new releases I could remember from my want list! I definitely liked the old school Metal style of last year’s HIGH SPEED G.T.O. (2009) so I’ve been waiting for this follow-up. This CD was displayed right next to Acrassicauda so I was able to get the next to last copy ata great sale price!

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010) – $12: This is the second new release I could remember from my want list and this was a must have for me because of the video I saw on Youtube for the opening track, ‘Lost Forever’, from this album. I wasn’t sure of what to think about A Capella Metal but I was won over by the concept as soon as I heard the opening. This is solid Power Metal but without instruments except for the drums.

Mutiny Within – s/t (2010) – $10: I don’t usually buy into the hype on a new group right away but I heard one track by Mutiny Within and I figured it was worth taking a chance for the $9.99 price. Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore isn’t my genre of choice but I’m exploring different genres and why not try a new band? I noticed that Mutiny Within is coming locally with Sonata Arctica in a couple weeks so I might see the show if I like what I hear.

High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine (2010) – $8: Best price at $7.99 for a full length album. I’m a little late getting on the High On Fire bandwagon but I really wanted to pick this album up shortly after it was released. I’ve read a lot of good reviews so I’m looking forward to spinning it this week and maybe I can pick up a few other High On Fire albums that I saw on sale for $9.99 in the next couple of weeks.

Dream Evil – Gold Medal In Metal (2008) – $10: Best value for a 2 CD set for $9.99 on sale. I’ve been following Dream Evil since DRAGONSLAYER (2002) and I’ve been buying their albums right along as they been released…..actually, I just noticed that I don’t have EVILIZED (2003) in my collection! I remember checking this CD out when it was released a couple of years ago but the price was close to $20. Seeing that it was a live CD plus a rarities CD I wanted it but I figured I could wait for it until the price came down. I actually almost bought this just before Christmas when I saw the price lowered to $14.99 but even then I figured that was too much for a 2 year old release. The bargain hunter in me couldn’t pass up the deal at $9.99, I thought that would complete the Dream Evil collection through the new record, INTO THE NIGHT (2010), but now I realize I’m missing EVILIZED too.

I bought a few other discs in the last couple of days…..as I reported in my Hammerfall concert review, I picked up Powerglove’s two CDs for $17 total and I received Infinite Descent’s CD for free from the band. The only other disc I’ve bought is the debut album from Silent Lapse. I received an email promoting the album as a free download or a free CD…..I never pass up a free CD so I went to the band’s website and I ordered my free disc. It wasn’t completly free, I had to pay the $3 shipping charge so the Silent Lapse CD was $3.

Total = $74

Total (year) =$253

Total CDs (year) = 30

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1