Monday, 26 December 2011

Recommended melodic albums for 2011

So here it is the final list of 2011! I was going to make a top 50 but realised I had to add two more so it's the top 52! At the end you will find my top 20 songs of the year in reverse order. 2012 will have to go some to match the brilliance of 2011 that's for sure cause it's once again been a fantastic year for fans of melody in metal and rock music.

52. Fergie Frederiksen - Happiness is the Road
Fergie is an old time AOR singer dude with countless singing slots and collaborations under his belt including solo albums and here is his latest after recovery from cancer. As a result the album is a triumphant return and his voice still sounds pretty much intact though slightly older or shall I say wiser than in his youth. The songs mainly written by his partner in crime Tommy Denander are full of brilliant musicianship and big choruses. An AOR gem and a must for any AOR fan worth his salt.

51. Reinxeed - 1912
Probably the best ReinXeed album yet from Tommy Johansson. Brilliant production and fast melodic Helloweeny tunes mean the fun factor is kept high. The Titanic theme is also quite interesting.

50. Lionville - st
Debut Italian AOR project from Stefano Lionetti hence the "Lion" part of the band name. The music is classy hook filled AOR with various name singers of the seen such as Lars from Work of Art, who happens to have a masterful voice for this style of music.

49. Wisdom - Judas
Hungarian power metal with surprisingly great vocals for a guy that doesn't have English as his mother tongue. The music is melodic and catchy power metal with quite epic songs.

48. Serpentine - Living and Dying in High Definition
The sophomore release from the English newcomer AOR band and the last to feature Tony Mills on vocals as they have a new singer now. This album is light years ahead of the debut release. Philadelphia is one of the AOR gems of the year as far as individual songs go. If you like AOR, you're sure to like Serpentine. Oh and watch out for their new singer that boy has huge pipes.

47. Edguy - Age of the Joker
I think this album reflects Edguy's complete abandonment of all things power metal. Mind you they can still broadly fit in with the other German power metal bands but those type of speedy guitar based songs are history as far as Tobi and co are concerned. Having said all that the album is still very melodic and has a few gems hidden inside as well as a few mundane songs. The Celtic feel is really nice to listen to but those blues experiments are not to my taste. Still a decent effort from them but I know longer go giddy like a schoolgirl at the thought of an Edguy which might have possibly been the case back in the day!

46. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
Perhaps the most melodic and song based set of songs that DT has delivered in a long time. I'm never going to be a huge fan but this album completely won me over with both the melodic content and the musically adventurous parts. Portnoy is not missed at all not that I cared either way since I'm not really a fan of the band nor drums in particular. I just expected high quality prog metal and that's what was delivered and then some.

45. Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Land of the Dead
This is a real quality release from ex Virgin Steele man Jack Starr. What we have is epic and bombastic true metal with powerful, chest beating vocals. If you are a fan of epic melodic metal you'll find plenty to enjoy here.

44. Evanescence - st
Didn't like The Open Door at all so I approached this album with mild curiosity but I must admit that Amy Lee and co have come up trumps this time. This is a wonderfully produced piece of modern melodic metal with Amy's beautiful enchanting vocals to the fore. In fact this could be her best performance on album yet and even better than the debut vocally speaking if not song wise. Her performance is really top class throughout and if you too were disappointed with the last Evanescence, I would lend an ear to this one and prepare to be blown away.

43. Liquid Horizon - The Script of Life
A German prog metal band that I'd never previously heard of, surprised the hell out of me with this release. The album is heavy, crunchy prog metal with thick manly vocals. The Coasts of Holland is also one of the prog metal songs of the year with an outstanding chorus. I'd give this one ago if you like your prog heavy, moody and melodic and are not after a speed fix.

42. Wildpath - Underneath
Another big surprise was the third album from french Nightwish wannabes, Wildpath. Sure they want to be like their Finnish heroes something rotten, but the thing is on this album they completely pull it off. The orchestral arrangements sound as good and epic as Nightwish's whilst the guitar riffs are not as heavy, they hearken back to the Oceanborn days which suits me down to the ground. The young girl's vocals are a touch accented and it's hard to pick her words a touch but the actual tone of her voice is absolutely perfect. They also released a complete orchestral version of the album which is pretty cool and I believe Nightwish did the same with Imaginaerum so another link with their heroes. If you love Imaginaerum but haven't heard Wildpath's new album then you really ought to as it's pretty close to being it's equal in my opinion.

41. Megadeth - 13
My Megadeth fanboyism knows no boundary and whilst this is not the best Mega album by a long chalk I still like it a lot. The production is especially amazing and credit must be given to producer Johnny K for a stellar job. Of course quite a few of the songs are re-records which is slightly off putting, but the thing is those are some of the songs I like best in this release. Songs like New World Order and Black Swan. The new songs take repeated plays before revealing their charms but if you have the patience to persevere with this 13th 'deth offering you'll be rewarded in the end.

40. Amaranthe - st
This modern melodic power death amalgamation caused some controversy earlier on in the year but in the end if the songs are catchy and good who can resist their charms even if they are slightly flawed. In this case Amaranthe had a pocket full of hit single ready songs under their belts and that could not be denied. A rather enjoyable album and I look forward to the follow up.

39. Iron Savior - The Landing
It was great hearing Piet's voice again after so long. I know he's been in a few project bands like Savage Circus but I liked Iron Savior more than these and was glad when I heard that they were coming back. Was it worth the wait? You betcha it was. This is like almost the best Iron Savior yet and it feels like they never went away. The songs are catchy as hell and Piet sings as well as ever. I hope to catch them live one day given the chance.

38. Ilium - Genetic Memory
When I first heard Ilium's new album I was a touch bowled over by the melodic tunes and Mike DeMeo's great vocal performance, however with the passing months I realised the album is not quite as brilliant as I first thought it was. Mind you this does happen rather a lot for me with over-excitement about certain releases leading on to the realisation that they were not quite as good as I first thought. This is the case with Ilium's album though it is still a rather worthy melodic metal album with some beautiful guitar playing and Mike on top form and easily makes it one of the best albums in their career if the not THE best.

37. Coldspell - Out From The Cold
The debut was good and the new one continues that trend. It's not a mind blowing release but the heavy crunchy guitar sound helps lift the album no end. The vocal melodies are well sung and the tunes are memorable making Coldspell a pretty enjoyable melodic metal band.

36. Royal Hunt - Show Me How To Live
This is Royal Hunt back in full neoclassical melodic mode with the return of DC Cooper on the mic. The only major downside of this album is the lack of length, although the fact that the album is short is also a plus in one sense, as you feel like quickly put it back on again after it's finished. The lush production alongside DC's smooth voice brings back the classic RH sound to the fore which is I think what the fans have wanted all along.

35. Nemesea - The Quiet Resistance
I had only previously heard of the band as a name before I listened to The Quiet Resistance and was very pleasantly surprised. Yes it's very typical European melodic goth metal like the Within Temptation's of this world, but it's done with such class and panache that you have to sit up and take note. Her vocals are perfectly smooth and lilting whilst the odd male vocal part is meticulously placed to counteract the female. In the end as my motto goes,"you have to bring the songs" and Nemesea do that with ease as this album is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end.

34. Golden Resurrection - Man on a Mission
You have to admit praising the almighty can be a hell of a lot of fun when you do it with Golden Resurrection blasting in the background. The debut album only came out a year ago and Jesus can't be kept waiting too long for his next fix of praiseworthy symphonic power metal, so they quickly made the follow up and it was more of the same only even more over the top. There's praising the lord the way some Christian metal bands do it and then there's the way Golden Resurrection do it! Even though the lyrics are sometimes laughable I still find the band to be awesome and right up my alley in terms of production, vocals and songwriting ability.

33. Rhapsody of Fire - From Chaos to Eternity
Well now we all know the band has split into two but thankfully their last recorded output before the split showed no sign of any internal struggles at all. This album was Rhapsody of Fire at their almost best. I say almost because Symphony of Enchanted lands still remains by far the best Rhapsody album IMO, but From Chaos to Eternity was a worthy final chapter in the Emerald Sword saga. I look forward to see how both parties handle the split and which one delivers the better album. Let Rhapsodic power metal battle commence!

32. Ancient Bards - Soulless Child
I enjoyed the debut Ancient Bards album a lot but the new one blows it out of the water. The album is very close to being a Rhapsody clone but with a female vocalist of course. Musically the symphonic elements have been improved a whole bunch and the production values have also been turned up to the maximum. The songwriting is also pretty good but it's the fantastic orchestral arrangements which make this album a joy to listen to. The female singer has a very pleasant voice when staying in lower registers but has a tendency to go chipmunky when hitting the higher registers but it's a minor complaint. This album is an ambitious beast and a must listen for any symphonic epic power metal fan.

31. Lechery - In Fire
The previous Lechery album was so so but this album grabbed me by the short and curlies the first time I heard and didn't let go for a good while. Eventually I managed to release my delicates from it's shackles, but for a while it was touch and go for my nether regions! Musically this album is pretty heavy and yet still melodic with big memorable choruses. The singer is a slight draw back as his rather gruff voice is a little bit grating, but you will get used to his rougher style after a while. Altogether a really enjoyable melodic metal album.

30. White Widdow - Serenade
The Aussie boys delivered a classy slab of AOR magic on Serenade of that there is little doubt. The keyboard sound was especially fantastic to listen to as well as the tasty melodic guitar on offer. The only thing that held the album back a touch was the singer's tendency to whine a touch on some parts. The choruses however were pretty much perfect and Cry Wolf is easily one of the songs of the year. All in all a melodic AOR gem from the underground.

29. Astral Doors - Jerusalem
This band just can't do much wrong at all it seems. Even an average album by them is still rock solid. Ok the songs are starting to sound a little samey but it's still a joy to hear Nils Patrik Johansson powerful vocals over those crunchy riffs and this album was no different. A strong set of songs altogether with a few stand outs. In years past I placed AD albums in my top 10 but alas some of the novelty has worn off and they place lower these days. Still a quality release by the Swedes and to keep the run going of never having released a bad album is no mean feat.

28. Nightwish - Imaginaerum
Not being a fan of Annette's and nor the way Nightwish has moved away from the original sound in recent albums, I was not really looking forward to this album all that much. To my incredulity I was very pleasantly surprised upon hearing this album. I don't like all the songs by any means but the ones I do like are some of the best the band has penned since my fave Oceanborn/Wishmaster era so credit where credit's due to the band. The album is a triumph of orchestral melody and mastery in metal form with an enchanting saga behind it all.

27. Turisas - Stand Up And Fight
I've gone off Turisas a touch since falling in love with Battle Metal all those years ago but Stand Up and Fight was a huge turn around for me. The songs just sat better with me and the move into more orchestral and film score type background music was a welcome one as far as I was concerned. Once since this was released at the beginning of the year some of the novelty and longevity of the album has worn off but it maintains a healthy mid table position in my list for 2011.

26. Kimball Jamison - st
Two giants of AOR vocals collide head on in this Frontiers project and the results are exemplary. The usual suspects of the Frontiers production and songwriting are at force in this release doing exactly what you'd expect which is delivering the melodic goods. Of the two singers I think Jimi fairs slightly better overall as Bobby has the odd difficult moment although I must admit he does cover the harder vocal parts of the album. It maybe a typical manufactured Frontiers project but everyone puts their heart and soul into the songs and therefore it gets my stamp of approval.

25. Cage - Supremacy of Steel
Sean Peck's true metal mob make me laugh. They shit out true metal from every single pore and they make you believe it by the album's end. There is no subtlety at all on this album when it comes to delivering blistering heavy true metal anthems. The opening song even has a black metal blast beat which has you worried for a second or two but soon a regular thunderous power metal riff centers in the speakers and you're back in powerful heavy metal land. The album is not perfect cause the production is a bit raw and lacks finesse but I think this is probably intentional on their part. Oh and a mention for Mr. Peck doing his complete nuts on the vocals. One final point - Metal Empire is the true metal song of the year!

24. Grand Illusion - Prince of Paupers
Absolutely adored Brand New World from last year or so and they are back again with another great release. These Swedish old boys know how to deliver melodic pomp rock with massive sound like taking drinking water. The harmony vocals especially are fabulous and a real joy to listen to as well as the fantastic layered production. This band really deserves to be far bigger than they are because they have yet to make anywhere near an average album.

23. Ten - Stormwarning
Been a fan of Gary Hughes' melodic rock troop for a long time now and I had fears that Ten might be over but luckily Gary finally sorted out his problems and delivered the best Ten album since Babylon more than ten years ago now. The production problems of recent albums became mere footnotes as this album is blessed with a fantastic and thick warm production thanks to Dennis Ward, the in house Frontiers guy for fat sound. Gary also managed to gain inspiration to deliver a punchy set of tunes with his usual lyrical skill and smooth vocal delivery. If you are a fan of the band and melodic rock in general you should be pleased with this album.

22. Galneryus - Phoenix Rising
The Japanese boys are very prolific with barely a year between albums. This one was even better than Resurrection the first to feature the new singer. Now he's settled in and is a perfect fit for the band to completely go crazy and shred off melodic anthem after melodic anthem. Japan's best band quite possibly and at the moment I think a touch better than counterparts Versailles.

21. Iron Mask - Black as Death
Been a fan of Dushan Petrossi's for a good while and I wasn't expecting this album as he normally works quite slowly but this album is out quickly after Shadow of The Red Baron and it leaves that album clambering in dust. This really is the type of album Yngwie should be writing these days instead of the badly produced crap he's doing. The songs on this album, aided by the have mic will travel vocals of legend Mark Boals, are nigh on perfect examples of a marriage between musical shred metal wonder and vocal power. The production is also by far the best it has ever been on an Iron Mask. Mr Malmsteen - this is how it's done - take note!

20. Stargazery - Eye On The Sky
A newly formed melodic metal band from old hand Finnish metal guys with just a fantastic singer to top it all off. Not every single song is amazing but at least 3/4 of the album is high quality melodic metal with memorable songs and a crystal clear heavy production. Stargazery deserve their place in the top 20 and could easily have placed higher had the competition not been so hot this year. Another of those jewels from the melodic metal underground and I hope they follow up the success of this album with another that is the equal if not better than Eye On The Sky.

19. Within Temptation - The Unforgiving
It's hard not to fall in love with Sharon as soon as she opens her delectable mouth on every WT album and it's no different on The Unforgiving. This could very well be the best WT album yet for my tastes as they made the songs as melodic as possible and gave Sharon free reign to wow us with her beautiful, lilting, damsel in distress vocals. It's simple really as WT are probably the premier goth metal band in Europe playing to huge audiences that only Nightwish can hope to match and I far prefer Sharon to Anette so WT are easily my fave female fronted goth metal band in Europe today.

18. Iced Earth - Dystopia
Easily the best Iced Earth album since Horror Show and probably even better than that album. It seems like the band is re-energised with the presence of new singer Stu Block and his amazing Barlow sound alike vocals. Ok it's a bit odd at first to hear almost sound exactly like Matt, but once you've gotten over the shock you're left the best set of song Schaffer has penned in a long time. It seems like he thought let's be less ambitious, let's get to the meat of the song which is the riffs and the chorus and let's kick ass and give the fans what they want. The quality is of a pretty high standard throughout and it's hard to pick favourites and there in lies my slight criticism which is that the album lacks a centerpiece like in previous Iced Earth albums. Regardless of that the album is a triumphant fresh start with Stu at the helm and I hope future albums will build on the success of Dystopia.

17. Mastodon - The Hunter
I liked the last Mastodon album a fair deal though they will never be my fave band ever but the increased use of clean vocal melody helped no end and so The Hunter continues on from where the previous effort left off. I hear some people complaining about the dumbing down of the sound or the lack of metal but I really can't hear that much difference. This album is the logical follow up for me and although there are one or two moments which sound a bit messy, overall I find the album to be a blinding listen. I applaud them also on getting the best sound they've ever had. I am not a fan of their regular sludgy guitar sound and this album is more or less devoid of that. Some of the songs are truly mesmeric especially the rather odd Creature Lives and the awesome tune All The Heavy Lifting which is my fave song on the album. I think this is their most melodic album yet and by that definition alone becomes my fave album yet from their back catalogue.

16. Mecca - Undeniable
An AOR band that came out from hibernation to release a truly wonderful Westcoast/AOR record. Their debut came out in 2002 so it's taken Joe Vanna and co nine years to come up with the follow up but boy has it been worth the wait. This is destined to be a future AOR classic as the performances, song writing and production values will melt the heart of the most hard hearted believe me. The songs are beautifully crafted with super smooth melodies, which are not hard edged but not completely light either. There is just a perfect balance between melody and edge to make the album not far from perfection. The only one small gripe that I have is that the album could have had a couple of more rockers or upbeat numbers but it's a very minor complaint. As far as Westcoast, Toto influenced music goes this is about as good as it gets in the modern age.

15. Eden's Curse - Trinity
The recent news about Michael Eden's meltdown and departure from the band was untimely indeed as Trinity is probably the best Eden's Curse to date. Mind you if you're gonna leave you might as leave on a high and Trinity is one magnificent high by my reckoning. Ok some people won't be a great fan of Mr. Eden's vocals but I think they are perfect for the band. On this occasion it seems they worked very hard on the songs and production to make them the best that can possibly be and it shows in the final product. I also enjoy James LaBrie's backing vocals on many of the songs which add further depth and melody to the tunes. Not to sound like a broken record but in the end it's all about the memorable song writing and this album proved that Eden's Curse are melodic metal masters. What happens from now on is a bit of a dilemma for the band as they need a new singer and they'll also have to change the name you would think. I hope they continue and I hope Eden finds a new vehicle for his voice as he is a good singer and it'll be shame if he's not fronting any more melodic metal albums as good as Trinity.

14. Outloud - Love Catastrophe
Their debut album was good but to me the song writing wasn't quite there but they've totally remedied that problem on the sophomore release. The album is now chock full of catchy melodic metal songs with hooks galore both musically and especially vocally. I love the way the singer shapes his vocals so well to the music. The flawless thick production helps to lift the songs no end and we are left to enjoy this happy go lucky melodic metal album to the full.

13. Neonfly - Outshine The Sun
London based melodic power metal band with slight prog tendencies and also slight AOR lightness. I caught the band live twice before I got the album and I was very lukewarm to them to be honest. Their singer doesn't really sound like a power metal singer which was the main problem. he sounds more like an indie pop guy but thankfully the album is a complete corker. The guitarist especially is sizzling away on his axe with a few tasty riffs and super melodious solos to spice things up even further. There are a few amazing moments on this release that lift it up so high on my list such as the song The Enemy and it's massive hook. All in all an amazing debut release by this young band and if it's a sign of things to come we're in for a melodic treat on future albums from Neonfly.

12. Dragonland - Under The Grey Banner
Dragonland have been missing in action since the mid 2000s when Astronomy came out which was their best album by far up to that point. Then I got news of this release with the posting of the lead promo song and I was completely wowed by the spectacular sounds coming from the speakers. These guys went for the over the top symphonic power route and boy did they do it justice. The album is as a whole a concept story of the usual preposterous proportions dealing with a story of good fighting evil etc. The music is completely triumphant and features ambition beyond their earlier works. This is one of those albums that reveals it's glory and majesty with headphones. Any epic symphonic power metal fan should surely get hours and hours entertainment here. A triumphant and majestic return from Dragonland!

11. Rob Moratti - Victory
Unfortunately Mr. Moratti got kicked out of Saga because they wanted Sadler back which is understandable as he is THE voice for that band, however Rob was undeterred and when news of this solo album filtered through, the AOR community had to sit up and take note and then some. This really is a full and unequivocable 'victory' for Rob and a fantastic pure AOR record. Rob has a very high pitched but highly melodious voice that takes some getting used to the first time you hear him, but believe me as an AOR afficionado, the guy has one of the best voices in the business and this album proves it. There are countless AOR gems here and you'll be looking a long time for an average tune that's for sure. It's hard to even pick a fave tune from this bunch as the quality is that high and Rob gathered a stellar cast of underground AOR musos to help him make this awesome album. Next in the pipeline is the new album from Final Frontier his band before he left for Saga and I expect another classy AOR masterpiece judging by Victory. Rob may not quite be a household name in AOR circles folks, but you'd be a fool to miss out on this release!

10. Morton - Come Read The Words Forbidden
Probably the biggest and best surprise debut album of all this year came from the Ukrainian band led by Max Morton and his cohorts with their fantastically melodic debut. What an album this is with it's gloriously anthemic melodic power metal hymns and powerful vocals from Mr. Morton and to think English isn't his first language as his vocals are nigh on perfect. I can hardly find any fault with this album for a debut release and it all bodes well for future albums were they can improve matters even further not that they need to cause this is some record as it is.

09. Dark Forest - Dawn of Infinity
This band is as English as they come. They have this underlying theme of medieval Englishness to the songs with some really wonderful lyrical motifs about olden days English fortitude and endeavour. Having said all that you still need the tunes and Dark Forest delivered an album full. Three of my favourite songs of the year are by DF actually make that four come to think of it with the best of the bunch being Under The Greenwood Tree which is just a joyous romp of classic old school metal. Their new singer's vocals are also light years ahead of the previous guy as are the band's playing style. The guitars are rampant classic metal with thundering drums and songs about ancient classical times. My one and only major criticism is that the production is far too raw and lacking n bottom end for a really professional finish. Mind you I think it was their intention to sound as authentic and under produced as possible to reflect the mood and subject matter of the songs. Probably the biggest surprise off all the releases in my list and it's number 9 position is more than worthy.

08. Theocracy - As The World Bleeds
Just a wonderfully over the top adventurous symphonic power metal album with meaty musical passages galore. The ambition of this band knows no boundary it seems as they throw in everything but the kitchen sink into their music and they've probably loosened the fittings on that as well! There are wonderful passages of musical drama to wade through, going from a killer riff, a symphonic keyboard revel, or a vocal hook from heaven. The album takes a few plays to grab you but once it does then you're in for the long haul on this roller coaster. Strap in tight and enjoy a hell of a musical ride!

07. Symphony X - Iconoclast
I think this could be my favourite Symphony X album of all and I really mean that. I didn't expect it to be but having lived with the album for a long time now and going back to it again recently I can't ever remember enjoying an album of theirs as much as Iconoclast. Sure I am not the biggest Symphony X fan to begin with and I'm still not a huge fan I find this album to be very enjoyable indeed. It's also probably one of their heaviest efforts and some complaints centre around the lack of melodic content and smoother vocals but that note doesn't really resonate with me. Oh and When All Is Lost is easily one of the most brilliant songs of the year.

06. Myrath - Tales of the Sands
What a beautiful album this turned out to be. The oriental theme is just perfect and wonderful to listen to. The songs are very catchy. This is by far my fave Myrath album cause they got the songs just right, almost poppy in feel if you like which is right up my alley in any case. A great album overall and could have easily challenged for my top 3 I enjoyed it that much.

05. Power Quest - Blood Alliance
Chity's performance on this album made it the best Power Quest album ever released but unfortunately he's left the band now. Looking back at this album and it's No 5 position in my list means it has stood the test of time well, as it was released way back in early January. The songs remain the strongest Steve Williams and co have penned in their history and the production is also the heaviest and best on a Power Quest album. If you like your power metal on the happy side with wonderful memorable songs then you're sure to love Power Quest's Blood Alliance.

04. Work of Art - In Progress
There is genius at work in this band and this album proves it. A wonderfully melodic AOR gem from these fine Swedish gentlemen and you can better you bottom dollar there's plenty more to come. For now they have blessed us with their strongest set of AOR tunes yet and in Lars Safsund they have truly one of the best AOR singers in many a year. If you like AOR you love Work of Art it's pretty simple really.

03. Powerwolf - Blood of the Saints
This band is just a complete riot to me and they've yet to let me down. I had them on number one but in the end I went by the basis of plays and the other two had more and hence Powerwolf dropped to number 3. The album is still a monstrously catchy slab of heavy, tongue in cheek, quasi-satanic power metal with songs to remember till your dying day. I also love the humour and image somewhat in this band. I've heard people say that they don't like Atilla Dorn's vocals however I totally love his voice and he suits the songs to a tee. His big throaty melodic roars are a perfect fit for the band's heavy and melodic sounds in my book. I think I still slightly prefer Bible of the Beast to the new album but it's like splitting hairs really. A stupendously fun and epic power metal release. Hope to catch them live one day!

02. The Magnificent - st
A manufactured Frontiers project with Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus and Torsti Spoof of Finnish melodic metal masters Leverage. On paper it sounds good but the reality was even better! This really is a magnificent release indeed and a phenomenal set of tunes by Mr. Spoof and brilliantly melodic vocals from Mr. Eriksen. There's absolutely no hope of a clunker anywhere to be heard although of course some songs send me into ecstasy a little more than others. The production is also a million bucks being edgy, chunky and crystal clear. The vocal melodies are pure ear candy and will be the musical equivalent of dunking your head in a vat of candy floss. I hope Frontiers books them for a follow up cause the debut is a monumental success.

01. Pagan's Mind - Heavenly Ecstasy
Finally my number one album of the year and it wasn't easy choosing between the top three albums as I love them all so much. All three have spoken to me immensely and given me many hours of enjoyment but if I have to settle for one then let it be Pagan's Mind. The band stripped back on all or most of their progressive chops on this release and went for melody as the focus for the songs which suits me down to the ground. I still enjoy their more rifftastic elements but this is an album about vocal hooks in the main with Nils K Rue allowed full reign to cut loose with his vocal acrobatics. The guy really delivered an outstanding performance on this occasion with more thought given to making the songs as accessible as possible which they achieved with ease. Some people may miss the instrumental acrobatics but instead we got songs that booked themselves into our brain hotels and not just for the weekend! A brilliant melodic prog/power metal album with less for the prog enthusiast but tonnes for the power and melodic metal fans out there to sink their teeth into musically but more importantly vocally speaking.

Top 20 songs of the year with only one per band and in reverse order.

20. Amaranthe - Hunger
19. Outloud - Waiting For Your Love
18. White Widdow - Cry Wolf
17. Grand Illusion - Gates of Fire
16. Mecca - Ten Life Times
15. Nemesea - It's Over
14. Cage - Doctor Doom
13. Ten - Endless Symphony
12. Stargazery - How Many Miles
11. Iced Earth - Anthem
10. Dark Forest - Under the Greenwood Tree
09. Neonfly - The Enemy
08. Rob Moratti - Jeannie
07. Symphony X - When All Is Lost
06. Myrath - Braving The Seas
05. Power Quest - Glorious
04. Powerwolf - We Drink Your Blood
03. Pagan's Mind - Eyes of Fire
02. Work of Art - The Great Fall
01. The Magnificent - Cheated By Love

Friday, 23 December 2011

Fave thrash metal albums for 2011

27. Sabretung - Conquest
Unknown Aussie thrashers come up with a good album. It's slightly melodic but mostly very energetic, jumping rubber bean thrash metal with medium strength vocals.

26. Invection - Facet of Aberration
Another unknown underground band delivers some decent jumpy, riffy thrash with quite bad vocals but I can get by on them. The riffs are meaty and enjoyable so worth a bang for your buck.

25. Headshot - Synchronicity
Very heavy Finnish modern thrash here with blistering riffage and very harsh almost death metal vocals. I often find the bands that use death metal vocals with thrash backing less to my liking. However on this occasion the riffing wins the day.

24. Face Down Hero - Divisions and Hierarchies
Another new discovery for me. The band has industrial undertones or shall we call it slightly futuristic in feel but the playing and production are both very good. The songs are quite enjoyable too as are the shouted semi-melodic vocals which are powerful but not death metal level thankfully.

23. Crown the Lost - Cold Pestilent Hope
A top quality melodic thrash release with slight links to the heavy power metal scene but let's just call'em melodic thrash for now. These guys are skilled musicians and know a cool riff when they hear one. Not a world beater but enjoyable nevertheless.

22. Skirmish - Through The Abacinated Eyes
Another new discovery of mine and I forget where they are actually from. This is one of those borderline thrash/death albums which veers dangerously close to being brutal enough to be death but with one foot still firmly in the thrash camp. The band plays sizzlingly fast most of the time but the production is nice and heavy and the songs tear new assholes all over the place. Not a band for subtlety at all then and worth trying if you want your face removed in a thrashy deathly way!

21. One Man Army and the Undead Quartet - The Dark Epic
This band has been doing the rounds for a good while now without a whole heap of success but this is their best album by far IMO. The sound is thick, heavy and groovy. Ok it's not a classic styled rethrash album, but modern efforts can be good too. I think they toned down the growls a little bit as well to move away from death metal and the riffs got a bit more thrashy hence their inclusion here. Not a world beater but I found it good enough to include and the rather fat production helped me make up my mind.

20. Machine Head - Unto The Locust
I have never really liked Rob Flynn's vocals and a lot of times I find Machine Head's music to be a touch boring for my tastes however the last album pretty good and surprisingly I think I like the new one better. It sounds a little bit tighter and not so long winded as the last album. The music is pretty intricate for what I know about MH and their previous albums. The production is almost flawless. Mr. Flynn can still be a whiny bitch on occasion when he is trying to go all gooey and melodic but I'll have to get over it. Musically a very decent latter day MH album.

19. Injury - Unleash The Violence
Pretty vicious Italian thrash band come up trumps with a rottweiler of a thrash record. The bite and attack of the production renders the album a touch too aggressive but it's a minor complaint. The riffing is sharp as hell and the songs will soon have your head moving. If they could make the production slightly less acidic next time that would help matters no end. Still a really solid record.

18. Harm - Demonic Alliance
If I'm not wrong the band is Norwegian but I could be wrong. They play pretty evil catchy thrash metal with harsh vocals. If I'm not mistaken they have connections with the black metal scene, but the riffing in the band is straight up rip-roaring thrash metal with punchy clear sound. They sound very inspired on this release and it's by far their best album to date.

17. Dark Serpent - M.K.C
Another new band again with a cool rethrash release that hearkens back to late 80s early 90s tight trousered, white sneakered thrash sound. The production is lo-fi being a bit murky as I recall but it's heavy enough. The riffs are classic jumpy intricate thrash metal something like Death Angel mixed with Megadeth. They are also one of those slightly joky tongue in cheek thrash bands and don't take themselves that seriously I think. Worth a go for any old school thrasher.

16. Exeloume - Faiytale of Perversion
Never heard of them but Exeloume delivered an excellent almost melodic thrash metal album but with raspy growling vocals which is the only thing holding me back from placing this in the top 10 somewhere. The riffage in this band is just excellent, fully melodic and fully head bangable. The songs are a little samey but it's hard not to be in rethrash activities so I won't hold it against them.

15. Vektor - Outer Isolation
I see the thrash loving world and his wife going gaga over the new Vektor album but personally speaking there are some factors holding back my love. First of all how do you guys get over that dude's vocals? The guy is rasping, yelping and screaming his way through the album and is diminishing my enjoyment of the music. Secondly the production is a little bit flat and thirdly the songs are a bit long. And having said all that they album still has some great technical riffs to marvel at and fluid thrashy passages to enjoy. No doubt a good album but my personal taste holds me back from offering greater honours on this occasion.

14. Anthrax - Worship Music
Well who'da thought it - a good Anthrax album! This is really a good album with many positives and a few negatives. First the positives. The production is absolutely immense and crystal clear. Belladonna whips up a storm on vocals and sounds clear as a bell. The songwriting is also mainly pretty catchy however this leads on to the negative which is that they can't keep up the quality all the way through. Towards the end of the album the songs become a bit boring and some of the gusto and power of earlier tunes goes missing. Still Worship Music is a pretty unexpected and worthy comeback from a band I have never really been into in my life.

13. Megadeth - TH1RT3EN
Ok many people are saying this is not a proper Megadeth record cause so many of the tunes have been around for years and some even decades and it's a point I take, but a Megadeth record still should have the stamp of quaity on it and 13 does have that with some reservations. First of all the production is absolutely amazing. Whoever this Johnny K guy is he done an amazing job. The guitars especially sound punchy and powerful as hell. Some of the pre-hype was mentioning a more melodic affair than Endgame which is true to a point but not something I exactly concur with. Actually on my first few plays I was a bit disappointed with the new songs and their lack of a catchy vocal hook or guitar melody like I am used to with Dave's writing style. However I completely warmed to some of the songs that were lacking after repeated plays. This album is definitely a grower and after numerous plays you'll get into it more for sure. Having said all that of all the songs on the album i still find myself enjoying the older tunes more than the new ones apart from Public Enemy No 1 which is just has a great old school classic metal feel. Oh and note I placed this at No.13!

12. Martyrd - Maniac
This is an actual 2008 release reissued in 2011 but as no one gave a shit then they tried again and it has to be said they did the right thing! This is a really powerful melodic thrash record somewhere between Metallica, Megadeth and Iced Earth. The main influence is however classic Metallica around AJFA era with some Megadeth and Iced Earth circa Stormrider era. The singer in this band does a rather dodgy take on Hetfield but believe it or not he's actually rather good at it. The negatives for this album are that it's a bit too long winded and it takes them time to get going. The songs are a little samey as well but that's minor. The production is warm and fat but could be clearer and crisper if I'm being pedantic and finally the singer needs to be a little more powerful. So there is not any originality on offer but if you like to hear some classic old metallica then a listen to Martyrd is on the cards.

11. Sylosis - Edge Of The Earth
English band playing very tight and almost technical melodic thrash with unfortunately pretty savage hardcore vocals. Musically this band is through the roof but because they are originally from the deathcore scene the singing is of that variety. The production and riffing quality is completely ace in this band. The one slight problem they have is lack of focus to make the songs a touch shorter as they do tend to go on a bit and the album is very long. Even with all these criticisms, Sylosis can hold their heads proudly high with regards to playing ability. The singer/guitarist Josh Middleton really is a pretty amazing front man. How he plays all these intricate tight riffs and screams his nuts off at the same time I'll never know. Try Sylosis for amazing music but watch out for those vocals!

10. Demolition - Kill Zone
A recent discovery and a very impressive heavy thrash record. They don't really feel retro to me as the sound is thick and modern with punchy vocals and drums. Thankfully he doesn't scream his lungs out too much and sticks to understandable barks. The music is just great, in your face, thrash metal with cool tunes. The riffs never get too tech but they sound pretty involved and flow well from one to another, making the songs sound cohesive rather than disjointed.

09. Mortal Sin - Psychology of Death
Long running Aussie thrashers return with a quality release with simple headbanging riffage and a strong melodic edge. The vocals are also clear and melodic but not of amazing brilliance. It's the songwriting in the band that wins me over in the end as they are not so ambitious and make the songs concise and catchy. Some of the lyrics are a bit dodgy here and there but I'll over look it as I don't care too much it's the music that counts. I also enjoy the gang vocal sections quite a bit. A very good effort indeed by the Aussies.

08. Godslave - Into the black
Can't remember where Godslave are from but they make an almighty angry thrash racket on this release. The music is heavily produced, with razor sharp thrashy riffage to sink your teeth into. The vocals are very harsh evil rasps and take some getting used to but I have managed it over time. The riffs in this band will definitely win the heart of any thrasher out there. Give it a go and prepare for headbang armageddon!

07. Accu§er - Dependent Domination
The previous album from these stalwart Germans was terrible but they have realised the error of their ways and then some. This is a blistering, heavy thrash record with vicious almost death metallish growling for vocals. This is one of those album that removes your face from the word go and doesn't let up until the last note. there is zero subtlety in this band, no fancy acoustics, no smooth transition sections. They fire up the heavy piston guitars and blast you with one heavy riff after another until you get the message. Very samey sounding, but what a power packed neck wrecker it is!

06. Destruction - Day of Reckoning
Everyone knows Destruction and what they stand for as German thrash pioneers so they need no introduction. I have never been huge into them but I appreciate many of their songs and albums. Since their comeback which was actually many years ago now, they've done about 4 or 5 albums all of pretty much similar quality with the odd dip. Day of Reckoning however is not a dip at all, no sir. In fact it's probably one of their best if not THE best since they came back. I find Schmier's voice a touch abrasive and grating at times but riff wise they really shine on this release. If you enjoy Germanic thrash this is a no brainer.

05. Bywar - Abduction
A huge surprise to me as this release by pretty much unknown Brazilians came out of the blue one day and floored me. I was so taken aback by the melodic angle of the songs with lots of tasty riffage to enjoy. I liked their previous album as well but nothing like this album. This is a nice mix between melody and thrashiness and works a treat for me. The songs are simple in the main but on occasion get cerebral with a tech line or two to spice things up a bit. I even hear a little Death in their sound on occasion. An unexpected underground gem.

04. Cavalera Conspiracy - Blunt Force Trauma
I am a big supporter of Max these days with both Soulfly and CC providing me with great recent albums. There's something about the simplicity of Max's style that appeals to me a lot. The riffing is just simple, heavy and rocking and allows Max's barking vocals to provide you with their usual rhythmic bite. The songs on the latest CC album had their usual attack and catchiness and although I realise it won't be every one's cuppa, I found myself often reaching for CC when in need of a good head bang session and a catchy listen. I also found the production to be rather excellent with great crunch. Lastly Marc Rizzo is an excellent guitarist both in CC and Soulfly. The guy can shred his ass off and plays off well with max's simplicity.

03. Revocation - Chaos Of Forms
Are they thrash or death?; I think I lean towards technical thrash but with some death metal blasting as well but anyway here they are at number 3 in the list and that should tell you I liked the album rather a lot. These guys are just stupendous players. They can't always write a succinct song but what they can do is wow you with riff after riff amazing technical dexterity. The production on this release is also fantastic allowing all instruments to be heard clearly. The album sometimes sounds very adventurous as well and not so one dimensional. They really tried out a few cool ideas here and there to spice things up but in the end it boils down to how the riffs grab you and Revocation did a real solid job on this occasion.

02. Evile - Five Serpent's Teeth
English worshippers of all things Metallica came up with possibly their best album yet. I say possibly because I still find Infected Nations to be an amazing disk and need more time with Five Serpent's Teeth cause it is a very long and rather complex record. Not complex in a musical or technical sense, but in the sense that the songs are sometimes not as immediate as I would like. I say all that and still it proudly sits at number 2 cause it is no doubt a brilliant thrash record. The sound is masterful and the vocals especially on this album are immense. He sounds much more confident in his vocal abilities and delivers a more melodic vision than he was able to on previous albums. The riffage on this albums sways between fast to mid paced but always with a sense of foreboding or darkness. It sounds like quite a dark thrash album, there is not much happiness here and it's a bit gloomy all round. Not that it is a negative in my mind as it seems to give the songs added depth. Special mention of the ballad which is actually awesomely sung and played and is an ode to their deceased bass player - a great tribute on an intriguing and quality laden melodic thrash record.

01. Havok - Time Is Up
Finally we arrive at my favourite thrash record of the year with the American boys of Havok. I was supposed to see them a few weeks ago but the gig got cancelled for some reason which is a shame. Anyway what to say about this record. This is a huge turn up in quality from their previous album which was already good but everything's been turned up a notch or two. The production is crystal clear, heavy and precise. The instrumental skills are developed to the maximum. The songwriting is catchy, but in the end the thrasher in me wants to have amazing riffs and boy do the Havok boys come up with them. Not much more I can say other than any thrasher worth his salt needs some Havok in their life.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

All 20 gigs in order

Now that I've seen my final gig of 2011, I thought I would put them in order of preference. I never expected the top one to be that band but it's good to be surprised like that. Here is the list in reverse order:

20. Lazarus AD and Bonded by Blood - An ok thrash gig. I went for BBB in the main. They were fun. Laz AD were a little bit boring.

19. Paradise Lost and Ghost - Quite a disappointing gig. It was being recorded live for a DVD but the sound was completely lacking in balls although they did play the whole of Draconian Times which was good to hear. I'm not a fan of Ghost either. Don't get the hype.

18. Atheist and Exhumed - A good gig although Exhumed were boring for me. In the end it was worth it to finally see tech death giants, Atheist and especially their fantastic young bassist.

17. Redemption and Kingcrow - Not into Kingcrow but Redemption were really solid and played well and sounded tight.

16. Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth and Ensiferum - Strangely enough I enjoyed CoB more than AA on this occasion.

15. Symphony X and Power Quest - Enjoyed PQ a lot. Sym X were less impressive. The sound was unclear and Russell was sounding too brutal on the mic.

14. Cynic and Chimp Spanner - No interest in CS but Cynic were musically perfect even if they didn't play all of Focus like i had hoped.

13. Firewind, Breed 77, Primitai - Not fresh in the memory as it was in January but I always enjoy Firewind live and Apollo's vocals were ace as always.

12. Houston, Vega and Serpentine - AOR extravaganza. All 3 bands were cool. The new singer of Serpentine blew us all away with his amazing vocals that night and it was the band's first ever ever live gig would you believe. Houston were fun with very memorable if somewhat cheesy tunes.

11. Orphaned Land and Arkan - Both bands were cool and interesting to watch with OL being musically more compatible with my taste. The oriental theme of the night made it a unique experience and I would go to see OL again given the chance.

10. Power Quest and Neonfly - Neonfly were cool but PQ were excellent with Chity as their front man in their own headline gig rather than as support.

9. Saxon and Hammerfall - Just yesterday so fresh in the mind it was a great gig with both bands doing well but not a classic in the end.

8. Journey, Foreigner and Styx - Melodic rock overlords got together for a great gig although the sound could have been better. Foreigner probably stole the show.

7. Cathedral and Grand Magus - Cathedral's last gig and they went out with a bang and GM were also good.

6. Pagan's Mind and Neonfly - First time with PM and they did not disappoint despite Nils being injured with his broken hip. They somehow replicate the amazing sound of their records pretty closely in the live arena.

5. Sabaton and Hell - Sabaton were there usual amazing energetic selves and Hell were fun to watch.

4. Evile, Elimination and Mutant - This gig was fucking mental. Love Mutant and they killed it. Elimination were good but not great. Evile tore the place to shreds!

3. Iron Maiden and Trivium - Trivium were ok but not my cuppa. Maiden were absolutely fucking amazing! As good as I have ever seen them probably.

2. Iced Earth and Fury UK - Fury UK were average but Iced Earth were phenomenal and Stu made us forget about Barlow although the gig was pretty short. Even so the band was on top form and sound like a band reborn with Stu at the helm.

1. Accept and Wolf - Wolf were merely solid but not totally energised however what I can I say about the Teutonic Terrors. They completely blew the place apart! I think my ears are still ringing now from the sound that night! Their energy levels for a pretty old band were also amazing and when I left the venue I remember thinking holy shit did they kill it that night!

That's it so let's hope there's a few more great gigs to come in 2012. I've got a ticket for Edguy so far.

Saxon and Hammerfall Live at the Koko

After seeing Sabaton there on Friday, I was back at the Koko once again to witness my 20th and final gig of the year with Saxon head lining and support from Swedish kings Hammerfall. can't say I am a huge Saxon fan but I have seen them live before and they never fail to deliver. Hammerfall I have seen numerous times and they are a fun band to watch. The venue was suitably packed though probably not a sell out as they were selling tickets at the door but not far off. This was the last night of the Call to Arms world tour so I think a lot of the fans made an effort seeing as it was so close to Xmas as well.

First up we had Hammerfall for a short but sweet 45 minute set. They got a very good response from the crowd, especially the younger members of course. They played 9 songs in all including two new ones from infected which sounded much better and heavier live than they do on record. The band hasn't toured the UK yet for Infected and Joacim promised that they will be back in 2012 with a proper headline tour in support of the album. What they did play last night was the usual Hammerfall classics like Let the Hammer Fall which got the best response and mass singing of the chorus. Like I said the new songs Bang Your Head and One More Time especially sounded much better live than I remember them being on record. They left after their short set to cheers whilst the roadies got the stage ready for Saxon.

At 8.45 sharp the intro music for Saxon started and the band finally took to the stage and even though it was the last night of a long long tour it seemed as though the band was ready to give it their all one final time. Biff sounded in fine voice as they tore into Hammer of the Gods before a mammoth set list was slowly played out in fine style. can't say I am massive fan of the early Saxon era but I recognise songs as they come along and enjoy them for what they are which is some classic NWOBHM. The new album Call To Arms is also a disappointment for me being a little too classic in style. I prefer the more up to date power metal version of the band which reared it's head from time to time last night but in the main this was a night for classic Saxon which is more than understandable. The band played all of the Denim and Leather album in full although not in order as Biff indicated from the stage. This really was a marathon set from the old boys of British metal and whilst they do look quite old on stage, they do still keep delivering true heavy metal song after song, like their life depended on it.

For the first hour of the set I was very close to the front, however a call of nature and tiredness set in and I made my way to the back and finally the balcony to watch the rest of the gig from a more comfortable setting. I didn't expect the moshers to be out in force so much for a Saxon gig but the pit was a little rowdy to say the least. Finally at close to 11pm and after more than 2 hours on stage, the band finally played the last song which was Strong Arm of the Law if memory serves me correctly which included full crowd sing along to it's memorable chorus. A great way to end the gigging year with a night of pure heavy metal from two veterans of the game.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Recommended Death Metal for 2011

Here is what I liked and loved death metal wise in 2011.

51. Puteraeon - The Esoteric Order
Heavy as hell, rumbling old school death with massive sound and vocals. Works for me but the songs could and should have been stronger to lift it higher up the table. Good to put on when you just want to play something brutal, groovy and classic sounding.

50. Amentia - Incurable Disease
Deathbringer side band which is good but not quite as good as the main band. The riffing is nice and tech but the production lets them down pretty badly IMO. If they sort that out they could make a few small waves in the tech death field.

49. Pestilence - Doctrine
A disappointment compared to the previous comeback album which I must be the only idiot in the world to love. The vocals are completely stupid but there are some great riffs and bass playing which saves it from being dumped out of the top 50 on sheer talent alone.

48. Deviant Syndrome - Inflicted Deviations
Quality melodeath again from Russia or one of those ex Soviet states I forget which. They are very good at ripping melodic riffs out though and worth a listen for any melodeathster worth his salt.

47. Symbolic - Scarvest
Semi technical death metal band with clean choppy riffs and a pristine production which helps no end. They have the ability to write groovy succinct tunes that stay catchy and don't get too boring.

46. Incise - From The Crypt They Rise
Somewhat melodic chugging death metal with big riffs bouncing here there and everywhere. The production could have been a touch more polished for my tastes but the songs on this short album are more than enjoyable and very easy to head bang along to.

45. Charnier - Humanicide
Standard old school death metal with fat riffs that rumble along with a little hint of melody here and there. Not an amazing release but catchy enough for the likes of me or any regular old school death metal fan.

44. Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions
A decent and enjoyable Arch Enemy record with cool riffing. I'll never be a huge fan of her vocals but the riffing and solos are excellent as always.

43. Vallenfyre - A Fragile King
A vehicle for old school death rumbling with decent snappy riffs and typical Swedeath sound. I like it but don't love it, but it's very solid as the participants are all old hands at this game. If they make another album it should be stronger still.

42. Turbid North - Orogeny
Unknown band that caught my ear with their so called "mountain metal" which was pretty technical and interesting at the same time. The songs were a bit difficult and long winded but eventually I got a fair amount of joy from this album as they approached death metal from a fairly unique angle.

41. Trifixion - A Utopia For The Damned
Standard but well played death metal with tons of riffs thrusting to and fro. The good production as usual helps the band to move above average as far as I'm concerned plus they are from the UK and almost everyone plays deathcore here so when some one doesn't you have to give them the time of day.

40. Orpheus - Bleed The Way
An Aussie band playing super clean and fast melodeath with somewhat cheesy dance keys. The riffs are excellent and very fast and melodic all the way. Easily one of the year's best melodeath release for me.

39. Vader - Welcome to The Morbid Reich
A bit surprised by this release from the Polish Gods of classic death metal as I didn't expect to like it much. The sound is very pristine with clean, fast, catchy riffing and Peter's usual great vocals. However the best thing about this release are the wonderful melodic solos by the Esqariaal dude. Their best album since De Profundis.

38. Burning Casket - To Burn A False Prophet
Chunky well played death metal with heavy riffage from mid to fast pace. Regular death growls and cool grooving are prevalent to allow this band to reveal their catchy arsenal of death metal riffs. A good start for them to build on in the future as this is a long EP more than a full album. By the way the last song is a cover of Megadeth's Wake Up Dead with bad growled vocals and doesn't quite work IMO. It is quite fun to listen to though cause the original is so awesome.

37. Jungle Rot - Kill on Command
Swedish deathgrind machine with fantastic clinical sound. I like the way they switch with ease between a grind or blast to a chuggy groove within the same song. The vocals are also excellent. If you like your death metal to sound monstrous then Jungle Rot is the band for you.

36. Lock Up - Necroplis Transparent
Blistering grindcore from this supergroup of deathgrind merchants. I always found them too brutal in the past but this album is more palatable to my taste whilst right on the threshold of heaviness that my poor ears can take. Anymore brutal and it would do my head in! As it is this is gargantuan grind with mammoth earth shaking riffs and enough blasts to send you to hell and back.

35. The Rotted - Ad Nauseam
When they were Gorerotted they sucked bad. When they became The Rotted and learned how to play their instruments properly they became a half decent professional deathgrind band. On their new album they polish up all their skills pretty well and deliver a well produced nice mix between death, grind and some punk pretty similar to Lock Up or Napalm Death. This album has some very cool grooves and some rancid angry punk elements but overall it all comes to a pleasingly savage whole and works well IMO.

34. Demisery - Hive of Mutation
Surprisingly classic death metal effort from the djent guy. Good job he never included any djent riffs in this as that would have pissed me right off as I don't have any interest in that genre at all. So all in all this is some cool regular death metal with above average songwriting and loads of memorable riffing in each song. The cover of Death's Flattening of Emotions is also masterful at the end.

33. Revolting - In Grisly Rapture
Classic old school death metal with nice clean sound, great vocals and catchy tunes. Of course it's one of Rogga Johansson's countless death metal projects. The guy knows all about this style like the back of his hand and delivers yet again.

32. Undead Creep - The Ever-Burning Torch
Unknown cult old school death metal from Italy. The feel and sound reeks of pure Gothenburg from every pore. The songs are very simple but have a great evil feel and catchiness to make you feel like you're in a rotting cave while ghouls are clawing at your back. I find the production could have been a touch better but the songs are just perfect old school death.

31. Dim Mak - The Emergence of Reptillian Altars
Well played and tight semi tech death metal with the usual interesting historical and mythological subject matter from these guys. Nice growled vocals which are very understandable with almost a spoken delivery at times. The music is very cool with enjoyable fast riff patterns and some cool blast sections.

30. Archspire - All Shall Align
A new breed tech death band with immense quality and brilliance in their playing. It was not a full album to me though and more like a long EP as such, but the quality was so high that it had to place fairly high in my list. These guys could and should be huge once they get a full album released. For now they are a top class tech death band with whirling, jamming riffage that should have the tech death heroes of today looking over their shoulders for sure.

29. Fallujah - The Harvest Wombs
A technical deathcore band that I'm loathed to include, but this one was just too good to ignore. I loved their clean sound and technical ability and they did not annoy me like many bands of this style with incessant breakdowns and stupid yelping vocals. A slight black metal blasty feel in some parts were not to my taste, however in the main I found them to be one of the best in this style I heard this year.

28. Last Chance to Reason - Level 2
A band that came out of nowhere with impressive Cynic worship on a more heavy level with some tiny core elements which I shall forgive. The riffing was excellent indeed and showed off the band's amazing abilities with their instruments. I need to play this more often!

27. Burning at the Stake - Nefarious Campaign
A new band with a very cool album indeed. Pretty technical whirling riffs, good solid production and decent songs made this album rather enjoyable for me. I look forward to more music from these guys as surely they can get better still.

26. Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
The kings of marauding Viking death metal delivered yet again this year. Surely it wasn't their best effort song wise or production wise but you can rely on Amon Amarth to delivery quality, head banging music and then some. Could have been better, but even an average AA disk is worth it's weight in gold for head bangers and fist bangers alike.

25. Vile - Metamorphosis
The return of the American kings of straight up death metal was nigh on timely as we needed a good dose of classic death after a fairly barren run in the last month or so as I recall. Vile returned with a very interesting record with their usual sound with a slightly more relaxed take on things. They play fast but yet it's quite accessible and even melodic without being melodic death. The vocals are very good too. Overall a very cool death metal release.

24. MyGrain - st
Their past albums have been decent melodeath but this time round the inspiration was stronger with a wonderful shiny and layered production helping no end to lift the songs out of the mere mundane. The choruses were sung all melodic which helped with the memorability factor and the musicianship was at a high level enabling the band to deliver song after song of catchy powermelodeath music.

23. Ribspreader - The Van Murders
It's my old mate mate Rogga again with another of his death metal bands. This was Rogga delivering the classic death metal goods again. Rumbling catchy riffs, heavy vocals and rampant drums. What more could an old school fan ask for?

22. Lost Conception - Paroxysm of Despair
A quality tech death release from Russia I believe. Thanks to Mr. Miller for pointing this one out though I guess I would have got round to it eventually. However with his urgings and regular coreboy hype machine persuasion, I lent this an ear sooner than I was going to and was mightily impressed. These guys are experts at the tech death game and know tons of killer riffs. From memory I would say that they need to tighten up the production on future efforts to really make a name for themselves as they have the skills in abundance.

21. Origin - Entity
Probably one of the fastest tech death metal bands in history returned once again with a blistering album. Sure they slow down a touch from time to time but it's rare. These guys probably start playing fast in the studio and then halfway through press the record button! There's no build up or finesse, it's face removal from the word go but at least they have the technical skill to back it up. Entity was a fine return and sated my need for speed!

20. Nightrage - Insidious
Didn't really expect to like this melodeath band's album but I was completely won over by the guitar melodies and playing in general. Very catchy riffs flowed freely from the guitar players fingers making this album a joy to listen to. The odd part was a little bit slower or mundane but that was easily forgivable when the majority was of such beautiful melodic quality.

19. Neuraxis - Asylon
Canadian tech death merchants returned with an excellent album and by far their best in my eyes. The songs were well crafted and showed off their playing abilities to the full. A slightly more relaxed affair at times as well allowing the songs to breathe a little more rather being frenetic technicality 100% of the time. Great production also helped the album to easily be worthy of a top 20 spot in my list.

18. Alarum - Natural Causes
A really cool and quirky tech death metal release. The clean vocals are a bit difficult but in the main the music more than makes up for it. Very much like a more metal version of Cynic. A really positive and enjoyable come back disk.

17. Abraxas - Damnation
The true Morbid Angel album of 2011! If this album said Morbid Angel on the cover no one would have batted an eyelid it's that close to 'ancient ones'. The riffing is totally Morbid Angelish in style as are the vocals. A very strong release of classic death metal with room for improvement in production maybe. I was surprised I enjoyed this unknown band so much but you can never be sure when a band turns up with an album that far super cedes their main influence.

16. Illogicist - The Unconsciousness of Living
The Italian Death worshippers came back with a very strong effort indeed. It took a couple of plays to convince but it got there in the end. I am not 100% convinced by the vocals which are a bit harsh but I'll get over it. The riffing is pure Chuck to the bone but on a slightly less focused or song based level. The only thing that holds the album back slightly for me is the lack of memorability in the song writing. Everything else is top class Death worship. Better than their last album and a fine effort overall.

15. Nervecell - Psycogenocide
It can't be easy being a death metal band in Dubai but Nervecell show such immense quality that you can easily forget the struggles they have in their homeland living out the life of a death metal band. You'd expect the band to be struggling to deliver quality music and production, but not a bit of it. This is high quality ,precise, chunky death metal with catchy songs galore. The production is nice and fat allowing all instruments to be heard clearly. Their influences lie on both classic and more modern death metal bands but it's the song writing abilities that shine through most. Just an enjoyable slab of catchy, groovy death metal with no little technical ability.

14. Anterior - Echoes of the Fallen
Amazingly an English melodeathcore band makes my list and in a quite high position. Anterior really stepped it up many notches on this release. I don't like the vocals of course but I can tolerate them. The guitars are completely wonderful in this release though. The riffs are melodic as hell but it's the solos that really showcase their talent. Along with the solos in the new Vader album, these guys made my heart leap the most with their wonderfully fluid and anthemic solos. Top job!

13. Brought By Pain - The Dreamer's Will
Side project by Beyond Creation people showcasing a slightly less technical version of their main band. It's still pretty tech at times though with some brilliant passages of music. The harsh black rasping vocals annoys me somewhat and holds me back from placing this higher still cause the music is surely up there with the best. Some nice audible bass lines in this band too. Might go up in my estimation given a few more plays.

12. Vomitory - Opus Mortis VIII
A very surprise high entry by the long running Swedish death metal merchants. Their previous albums have been ok but fairly average affairs for me but their 8th album as neatly indicated by the title, is an amazing slab of punishing heavy death metal. The production is really something and easily one of the best I've heard this year on a death metal album. It's crisp and clean but heavy as lead to boot. The songs are fast to mid paced affairs with plenty of change up groove riffs along with the blast beats. The vocals are perfect for the band as well, being deep growls in a catchy rhythmic style. Their best album after so many years bashing away at this death metal game.

11. The Soulless - Isolated
The Ignominious Incarceration boys stripped away all the technicality of their previous incarnation and went to straight ahead melodeathcore on this release. The riffing on this album is just stupendous I must say. I love the way the guy can manage to pull out killer riff after killer as if it's a piece of cake. Only the deathcore vocals stop me from loving this more as the music is such brilliance to listen to.

10. Volturyon - Coordinated Mutilation
Their previous disk was excellent and I think they even managed to step it up a notch. This is the definition of great standard death metal beautiful fat chunky riffage and heavy vocals. The riffs pound you into dust and the songs are catchy to boot. Not too much more I can ask for as a regular death metal fan.

09. Obscura - Omnivium
The Necrophagist spin off band delivers on all accounts on this occasion. I am not sure their songwriting capabilities are still quite up to Muhammed's but everything else is. What more can I say other than if you like tech death then you like Obscura.

08. Entrails - The Tomb Awaits
I went nuts when I first heard this album let me tell ya! It was one of the best old school albums I'd heard in years. Their first album was good but everything had been turned up a notch on this release especially the production. The sawblade guitars were especially rabid and cut through the mix like vicious shards of cut glass whilst the singer gurgled away like a maniac and the drummer pounded like his life depended on it. Over a little more playing time, some of the novelty and brilliance of this classic old school death metal release was dampened a touch with the realisation that not all the songs were as fantastic as some, and hence the drop down the table. However this is still my fave classic death metal release of 2011 and boy does that guitar sound rule!

07. Ouroboros - Glorification of a Myth
An Aussie troop that came out of nowhere with this superb thrashy tech death release. Once again the sound is not heavy or crunchy but features a huge load of whirling, killing riffs that zip round your head like a swarm of angry bees. These boys are already at the top level and can improve further with a slightly fatter production in the future. A great release in any case.

06. Beyond Creation - The Aura
Fantastic Necrophagist worship from Canada. Since the real thing seems to have gone comatose, we have to see what the necro-worship bands can do and Beyond Creation fill that void nicely. The production is not heavy, but clean and warm as you would expect. The playing is just perfect. The catchiness of the songs is good but not amazing. A great start for this band and hopefully the follow up will be even better when they tighten up the songs a little more.

05. Blood Red Throne - Brutalitarian Regime
I have liked the last two BRT releases but they have improved even further since the last album. The production is comletely savage, being heavy as lead and yet with great sharpness and bite to the guitars. The songwriting is very catchy and succinct. They still have the odd black metal blast which is accepted with the roots of the band being in Emperor of course with Tchort. In the main they play chunky brutal death metal with great vocals and memorable riffing bouncing off the walls like a crackerjack! Love it!

04. Vale of Pnath - The Prodigal Empire
These boys have delivered a masterpiece of tech death on this album though this is about as frenetic as I can take, any more and it starts to grate on me. These chaps know how to shred like maniacs but still deliver catchiness or grooves to make the songs acessible and memorable. The production is also amazingly super clean allowing for all instruments to be heard to the minute detail. Probably one of my best full on tech death release of all time.

03. Sectu - Inundate
Another new comer Swedish thrashy death metal band with absolutely monstrous production and chunky crunchy riffing. This held the number one spot for a long before dropping slightly due to the other two having more plays overall. This is still a phenomenal debut release by this band. I am sure they can improve even further on the next album and deliver more of this fantastic death metal mastery that they willfully display on Inundate.

02. I Chaos - The Human Repellent
I loved this one and almost put it at the top cause it was very close. I often reach for this if I want to play something with class and a heavy production. The riff attack on this album is just very cool indeed. The riffs are full of chunky fatness and yet have a great groove to them. The album is a little samey sounding but this bothers me little as each song is blessed with countless killer riffs to enjoy. A very pleasant surprise and I hope they continue to develop and make a great follow up.

01. Anatomy of I - Substratum
I had this album placed a little lower in the top 10 a while back but then every time I had the urge to listen to some death metal I found myself wanting another dose of Anatomy of I. When I first heard the album the vocals were what pained me most. I felt they were far too blackened for the music and I still feel that way to a degree but I have become far more accustomed to them. However the music which I was initially pleased about has completely won me over now. There are so many wonderous riffs on this album. Chunky, technical and melodic with great flow from one section to another. The lovely thick fuzzy production also helps no end. The album doesn't sound too clinical or mechanical like in most tech death bands which is another plus in my book. It sounds less like a machine and more like actual humans playing the music. Mr. DiGiorgio's bass is also something special to behold. His lines give the music added warmth and propel this album to the top of my list for 2011. I do hope there is another album from these guys in the future although this could possibly be just a project, we shall see. For now Substratum is a joyous listening experience for any fan of melodic and technical death.

Some notes about albums that didn't make the list:

Morbid Angel's crap. Why go industrial when you are the kings of death metal. The album has 3 or 4 cool tunes but that doesn't make the album worthwhile. WHY??? And now they are doing an industrial remix of some songs which doesn't make sense to me as the songs are already industrial!

Paganizer - Into The Catacombs. Rogga's final death metal project of 2011 was a big let down. Very few cool riffs. Once too often to the well eh Rogga?

Hate Eternal - Phoenix Amongst the Ashes. I so want to like Hate Eternal but they continue to offer me nothing. Rutan is a great player but the guy can't write a memorable song if his life depended upon it IMO at least.

Deicide - To Hell With God. Where has the catchiness and memorability gone Mr. Benton?

Decapitated - Carnival is Forever. They could not capture the glory of old for me. Too industrial in feel. Some decent riffs but a disappointment for me.

Monumental Torment. Did my head in with blurry note filled tapping riffs. Just more than I can take.