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