"Miles, you must do this list... FOR 2010 WAS A GREAT YEAR FOR METAL. DO ALL YOU CAN TO PROMOTE THESE BANDS, EVEN IF THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO WILL SEE IT ARE YOUR 100 OR SO FACEBOOK FRIENDS!"
And so, I am heeding the call. Today is the day, my friends! Make sure you give all of the albums I am about to bring to your attention their due, as they truly deserve to get some attention. Click the links at the end of each review to feel the MAJESTY.
Avantasia - Angel of Babylon
Angel of Babylon is one half of what I've heard described as "The World's Weirdest Opera", and it's an absolutely wonderful ride filled with power metal bombast all the catchy hard rock-esque hooks we've all come to know and love from Tobias Sammet. The dude's knack for writing catchy metal tunes shows itself in spades on this album. From the masterfully epic "Stargazers" to the straight forward and driving "Alone I Remember", there's a hell of a lot to like about this album. It does have a weak track or two, especially "Death is Just a Feeling" and "Symphony of Life". The latter being weak because of an annoying female vocalist reminiscent of a goth rock starlet, and the former because Jon Olivia manages to sound like a Pedophile. Otherwise, a stellar romp for sure, with the other guest vocalists giving wonderful performances.
Avantasia - Stargazers
Accept - Blood of the Nations
There are precious few things out there that make me happier than a band coming back from adversary and straight up pissing all over their naysayers. I loved it when Nightwish returned with a vengeance and made sure hundreds of Tarja fangirls slit their wrists in terror as Dark Passion Play set sales records all over the world, I loved it when Megadeth came back after Dave Mustaine's injury to eventually release their best album in over a decade, and I love it how Accept have put out an ass kicker of an album without their "indispensable" former lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. This album is just a straight up old school ass kicker. It takes names, and then kills them. Awesome.
Accept - Teutonic Terror
Grand Magus - Hammer of the North
So, after hearing great things about these Swedish doom/power/trad/nwobhm guys, I figured I'd finally take the plunge and give them a shot. You'll notice that I threw in a lot of genres to describe them. I'm pretty sure I've heard them described as all of them at one point or another. I suppose the best way to describe them is a Traditional metal band with doomy AND power metal tendencies. Listen to them, and maybe you will agree. A singer who has a very powerful mid range voice, but can also belt out a wail when he pleases, along with some very cool riffage means I'll probably be a happy man.
Grand Magus - I, The Jury
Overkill - Ironbound
New Jersey's resident thrash masters really brought it this year, and I'm not sure anyone expected it to be THIS good. Really fantastic east coast thrash, but with none of the annoying sloppiness or tomfoolery that can come with it. These guys are tight as FUCK on this album, in particular the drums and rhythm guitar work, which just fucking KILL. Great, great stuff men. On a related note, I'd love to get a chance to see them live again.
Overkill - Bring me the Night
Metsatöll - Äio
Metsatoll - Vaid Vaprust
The Top 10
Helloween fucking rule, as any self respecting fan of the genre will tell you. Wimps and posers have been weeping into their Lucky Charms for almost two decades now about how Michael Kiske leaving has ruined this band forever, but I'm here to punch those fools directly in their taints. Lo, Helloween with Andi Deris have been kicking ass for a very long time now, and their latest album is just the icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned. This album has been touted as their heaviest one ever, which I would say is pretty accurate, although The Dark Ride and Gambling With the Devil are no slouch in that department to be sure. Anyways, this album delivers all the great stuff we expect from modern Helloween, along with some shocking surprises in some BLISTERINGLY fast double kick drums and a flute solo. Great stuff, boys! Happy, happy HELLOWEEN!
Helloween - Raise the Noise
9. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Well, here's a band that needs no introduction as we all know. Maiden these days are a different beast than they were in the 80's as anyone could tell you. That said, while their old stuff is without question better, and the stuff everyone wants to hear to this day in concert, the new stuff has an air of class and maturity about it that is very hard not to respect. In not so many words, this band just doesn't give a fuck if you want to hear carbon copies of Piece of Mind or Powerslave. They will do as they please, and frankly, that's admirable. This new version of Maiden is proggy, and epic, with 8+ minute songs and sometimes sprawling soundscapes that would make Tull or Yes blush. To me, this album ranks as the 2nd best album they have done since Bruce's return (with Brave New World 1st), and that is no small feat with Dance of Death waiting in the wings. Now that I've given your album a glowing review, tour the US again!
Iron Maiden - Satellite 15... The Final Frontier
8. Rhapsody of Fire - The Frozen Tears of Angels
The gods of outrageously over the top symphonic power metal have returned after their contract dispute (with none other than Joey Demaio) with what is their best album since Power of the Dragonflame of perhaps even earlier. This album starts off with a bang and really doesn't let up much at all for it's duration, at least in terms of quality as Rhapsody love to slow it down and bard it up once in a while. As they should! Anyways, it appears through their years away from the scene due to record label issues, they used the time to craft some seriously punchy melodic metal, even throwing in some extreme stuff from time to time to make this one of their most varied albums, as well as one of their best.
Rhapsody of Fire - Sea of Fate
7. Elvenking - Red Silent Tides
So you listen to Metal, do you? So I bet you have a love for at least one thing that could qualify as "geeky" or "nerdy" to the mainstream correct? Hey now, I'm not judging. In fact, I love many a nerdy delight. I just figured all us nerds could look at this album cover and just how much it reminds us all of "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask". Please tell me you see it.
Anyways, Elvenking have been the subject of much controversy over the last few years. They began their careers with a very well respected power/folk metal album in "Heathenreel", and had two good followups afterward. Then, tragedy struck as they decided to write the only powercore (power metal and metalcore) album to ever surface from hades in "The Scythe", which went over like a lead balloon as one would expect. They immediately righted the ship with an almost entirely acoustic album in "Two Tragedy Poets", which was critically hailed as a return to quality. Now, we get this little gem.
Elvenking basically attempted to throw all their eras into a blender and combine it with some SERIOUSLY poppy hooks for their newest album, "Red Silent Tides". Somehow, even though it should have been a colossal failure based on that clusterfuck, it is absolutely divine. Granted, I enjoy my share of hooky and poppy rock from time to time, so maybe my threshold is higher for saccharine sweet choruses and such, but god damn can these guys bring it. Listen to the hooks on "Silence de Mort" if you don't believe me. For those who want the long story short, this album is Power/Folk metal + Bon Jovi. Minus all the bullshit we associate with the Jove.
Elvenking - Silence de Mort
6. Seven Kingdoms - Seven Kingdoms
Where the FUCK did this band come from? Completely unheard of by me until I heard they were opening for the mighty BLIND GUARDIAN on their US tour last year, I wasn't sure of what to expect. Sadly, we don't get much in the way of Power Metal coming from the states these days, so I know I wasn't wrong to be somewhat skeptical at first, and I'm incredibly glad I was wrong. This band smokes on all levels, with amazingly well played drums with wild fills, to great guitar pyrotechnics and basswork, and a female vocalist that sounds like no other female vocalist you have ever heard. Forget those operatic wanna-bes, Sabrina Valentine's classy and powerful delivery is a breath of fresh air. I usually describe this band as Iced Earth on steroids to whoever I talk to them about, but that's actually sort of selling them a bit short because they actually vary their sound quite a bit from song to song. That said, they are at the core a very riff driven melodic power metal band and the mighty Iced Earth/Maiden gallop makes it's appearance from time to time. And I love it. Awesome.
Edit: Yes, the band is named after Westeros George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series
Seven Kingdoms - Seven Kingdoms
5. Finntroll - Nifelvind
It's everyone's favorite group of Trolls in at number 5! To me, this band has grown by leaps and bounds since Midnattens Widunder thanks to the outrageously catchy and infectious melodies of Moonsorrow member "Trollhorn" Henri Sorvali, who may be the best keyboard player and arranger in heavy metal these days. This band is just a shitload of fun, and this album continues in that vein. Really the only band I've ever seen that can go from a menacing, dark black metal rampage to a god damned polka in the same song, if you've never heard them you owe it to yourself to check them out. This album is a great starting point.
Finntroll - Under Bergets Rot
4. Heljareyga - Heljareyga
Yet another, "Where the fuck did these guys come from" band, this time a side project of the already well established and awesome band Tyr. These guys play in a style very similar to Tyr, but with heaping gobs of Prog and Power thrown in to up the intensity to maximum capacity. The vocals are all in their native language of the Faroe Islands, sung by Tyr frontman Heri Joensen whom anyone in the know could tell you has a stellar voice. The songs are all long, but just flow by thanks to their epic delivery and energy that just reaches out and grabs the inner warrior by his (or her) mighty loincloth (or chainmail bikini). All hail!
Heljareyga - Regnið
3. Angra - Aqua
Angra never fail to deliver it seems. Being THE authority on progressive power metal, these Brazilians have been churning out masterful albums for a very long time, but when the band reformed after a break with 3 members leaving just the guitarists to restart from scratch, that is when the real brilliance began.
This album just has Angra continuing down their path of basically doing whatever the fuck they want while staying in the safety and glow of power and prog metal, never quite going too far in either direction aside from a track or two. Their south american roots show up from time to time in the occasional beat or instrumental passage that sounds straight from Brazilian folk music, but it's never offensive and always delivered so it doesn't compromise the metalness of the whole package. Also of note is that it's a concept album based upon Shakespeare's "The Tempest", but honestly this album could have been about Thomas the Tank Engine and still ruled. Well, maybe not as much, but still.
Angra - Awake from Darkness
2. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
Oh, BEHOLD THE UPSET! Anyone who knows me will tell you of my undying love for Blind Guardian, the mighty pinnacle of all things Power Metal has to offer. And It will probably come to the surprise of many that their latest album, which is also their best album since 2002 (funny, since they have only had 2 albums since then) is not my number one for the year. Let me explain.
This album owns. It's fucking wonderful and even managed to exceed my expectations. The best songs on this album are the best songs of the year, by a significant margin. So why am I not awarding it number 1? Two reasons.
Two: To shock those closest to me
Ok, so admittedly I partially did it because I wanted to not make it obvious for my wife and closest friend Paul, who probably expected it since the Bards announced their album release date. But my first reason is not flawed, as the album is slightly inconsistent. Curse My Name, Valkyries, and Control the Divine are all, to me, noticably weaker than the rest of the album although still very good. If the entire album was as good as "A Voice in the Dark" and "Tanelorn" We'd be putting this up with Nightfall and Imaginations. Still an AMAZING album. Blind Guardian are just flawless. Maybe we'll say it's tied for first, now that you have read this far. ;)
Blind Guardian - A Voice in the Dark
1. Avantasia - The Wicked Symphony
And here it is, my top album of the year! Oh Tobias, you brilliant motherfucker you. While I love and absolutely adore the first two Avantasia albums, this album has a certain something about it. I think it might be the fact that I know that Tobias is now doing the exact kind of music he wants to be doing and because of that it is so pure and straight from the heart that you can actually feel it oozing from the speakers as you listen. The hooks, the conviction, the power, it's all here and I will say that this album completely shocked me in terms of quality. EVERY. SONG. RULES. Every single one. There is no filler, only melodic excellence of the highest order. The guest vocalists are really something special too, with Russell Allen in particular just KILLING it. Good god is he fucking incredible. You're good too, Jorn Lande, don't get your panties in a bunch.
There is just a certain quality in the writing and story of this album that just tugs at your heartstrings and won't let go. It's everything good music should be, and dispite moving away from the speedy power metal of it's predecessors, it manages to be better through superior songwriting and honesty. Fuck. Yes.
Avantasia - The Wicked Symphony
There you have it folks, let me know what you think. Paul, if you read this let me know how wrong I am about the Avantasia albums! HAIL. AND. KILL!!!!