Friday, 25 December 2015

Best thrash and death metal albums of 2015

It's not been a great year for thrash by any means but it's been solid enough overall. I've still found some wicked albums to enjoy though but it's far from a vintage crop perhaps. The rethrash movement has stagnated somewhat it seems. Aussie band Harlott was an easy overall winner for me. The band is just fucking awesome through and through.

I was hope free for Slayer but I have to admit they pulled it off somehow and made an album worthy of their name even though I didn't love every song by any means. The other thrash albums I liked were all pretty high quality and very enjoyable but not totally amazing either when you dig deep. Hatchet released a good album but expectations were a bit higher I must admit.

Gama Bomb tightened up the production even more and released their best album of neckbreaking riffage. One man band Morti Viventi's album came out in 2014 probably but the blogs list it as 2015 so I went with it. It's got some hefty riffing. Hopefully that guy can make a follow up soon. Annihilator returned with an all Jeff sung album and I must admit I thought it was actually gonna be a bit better than it turned out. I was expecting top 5 but it didn't quite make it but it's still pretty fun. Other notable releases were UK's Dendera, Spain's Angelus Apatrida and Holland's Distillator. Good head banging times indeed.  Next year, my total faves, Suicidal Angels will be back so I'm expecting a mammoth riff fest there. For now the 2015 thrash list looks like this:

27. Dr. Living Dead! - Crush the Sublime Gods
26. Abstracted - Ophidian EP
25. Satyrasis - Of The Dead EP
24. Viking - No Child Left Behind
23. Anihilated - Anti Social Engineering
22. Wolf Spider - V
21. Arsenite - Apophis
20. Comaniac - Return to the Wasteland
19. Perzonal War - The Last Sunset
18. Leave Scars - Chains Of Redemption
17. 4Arm - Survivalist
16. Exarsis - The Human Project
15. War Agenda - Night of Disaster
14. Annihilator - Suicide Society
13. Hatchet - Fear Beyond Lunacy
12. Angel Of Sodom - Divine Retribution
11. Morti Viventi - The Day The Dead Returned
10. Spellbound - Nothing But The Truth
9. Weresquatch - Frozen Void                                        
8. Angelus Apatrida - Hidden Evolution
7. Gama Bomb - Untoucheable Glory                                                            
6. Slayer - Repentless
5. Dendera - Pillars of Creation                                                              
4. Distillator - Revolutionary Cells                                                    
3. Mynded - Dead End Paradise                            
2. Polarized - Western Hypnosis                              
1. Harlott - Proliferation

Death metal used to be an obsession for me back in glory days when Chuck was alive and the big four of Death, Carcass, Morbid Angel and Obituary were ruling the roost. Over the years death metal's impact on my listening habits has lessened to a degree that I no longer consider it something that I must seek out religiously.

I used to hit 50 and more liked death metal albums no problem in years gone by but this year I'm really scratching the bottom of the barrel trying to get anywhere near that number. I mean I still enjoy a rollicking good death metal album and 29 albums is not bad but there are no big names on my list. In fact the big names disappointed me. Psycroptic and Gorod whilst releasing competent albums did not float my boat and I will leave them off my list.

My number one is pretty easy with the Necrophagist worship of A Loathing Requiem. Gruesome made one remember Chuck back in his "evil" days hehe. There were some solidly riffed affairs such as the old school Skeletal Remains. Good old Napalm never lets me down. They are getting more and more brutal though. Borderline too brutal for this listener in fact but I still can unearth that neanderthal groove that they muster from time to time. Melodeath was in complete retreat for me this year with Sympuls-E and Orpheus Omega being the best and to be honest I tried very little in that style. Bodom's release was ok and acceptable.

I got into some other normal standard death albums as well. Subconcious's Veil was more latter day Chuck inspired and was the token offering for that style of death metal. Horrendous have improved tremendously since their early album which I found almost unlistenable. There's hope for them to become even better in the future. I expected more from I Chaos having loved the previous disk. This time they got the production spot on unlike the debut, only the riffing was just not as good. Death metal will be back one day but it lies dormant this year with just plenty of reasonable releases but nothing amazing. ALR take the honours with ease by releasing what is basically the latest Necro album since Muhammed can't be arsed any more!

29. The Devils Of Loudun - Entering Oblivion ep
28. Entheos - Primal EP
27. Atlas Entity - Enceladus ep
26. Children of Bodom - I Worship Chaos
25. Sympuls-E - Solarstorm
24. Anachronism - Reflecting the Inside
23. Defloration - Created to Kill
22. Regurgitate Life - The Defiled Face Of Existence
21. Kronos - Arisen New Era
20. Fungus - Predatory Harvest
19. Orpheus Omega - Partum Vita Mortem
18. The Ritual Aura - Laniakea
17. I Chaos - Masterbleeder
16. Incinerate - Eradicating Terrestrial Species
15. DayOne - st                        
14. Mortiferous Scorn - Visceral Nemesis
13. Subconcious - Veil
12. Weak Aside - The Next Offensive                              
11. Sickening - The Beyond
10. Napalm Death - Apex Predator: Easy Meat
9. Horrendous - Anareta
8. Demiurgon - Above the Unworthy
7. Skeletal Remains - Condemned to Misery
6. Sothoth - Rise To Conquer
5. Gruesome - Savage Land                                            
4. Revulsed - Infernal Atrocity                                  
3. Serial Butcher - Brute Force Lobotomy                                                        
2. Continuum - The Hypothesis                                                    
1. A Loathing Requiem - Acolytes Eternal        

Top 50 Albums of 2015

And so here it is. The big list of all things melodic, happy and rocking for 2015. Yet another amazing year for music. I will start by listing albums that I liked which failed to make my top 50. I still enjoyed them a lot and on another day they could well make the list as there's some great albums amongst them. After that the top 50 will follow in reverse order. My thrash and death metal lists will follow in further posts after.

Unranked faves:

21Octayne - 2.0 - modern yet melodic rock with cool tunes.
Airstream - Kingdom of Isolation - catchy, slightly quirky melodic rock/aor
Amorphis - Under The Red Cloud - anthemic epic dark melodic metal
Arida Vortex - The Illustrated Man - Russian catchy melodic power
At The Dawn - Land in Sight - Italian melodic power
Beyond the Black - Songs Of Love And Death - German symphonic female fronted metal
Blackslash - Sinister Lightning - trad true metal ala Iced Earth/Manowar/Jag Panzer etc
Claymorean - Unbroken - Slovakian epic true metal with female vocals
Dead of Night - The Dead Shall Rise - UK symphonic power metal ala Nightwish/WT etc
Def Leppard - st - Enjoyable mixed set of tunes from rock legends.
Emerald Sun - Metal Dome - Swiss Euro melodic power metal.
Endomain - Step In The Machine - Heavy Greek power/prog mix.
Evil Invaders - Pulses of Pleasure - hell for leather speedy trad metal
FM - Heroes & Villains - classic aor/melodic rock
Fierine - Rise Through The Flames - symphonic melodic power with epic vocals
Forefather - Curse of the Cwelled - Very catchy and melodic pagan metal
Galneryus - Under The Force of Courage. A bit late to make the top 50 but with more plays it will easily do so. In my opinion the best Japanese band and by some distance too.
Guardians of Time - Rage and Fire - heavy melodic power.
Inlegend - Stones at Goliath - guitarless piano metal.
Issa - Crossfire - melodic aor chanteuse
Judicator - At the Expense of Humanity - Heavy melodic US styled power ala Blind Guardian/Iced Earth etc.
Lancer - Second Storm - Traditional throwback metal ala Maiden
Lazy Bonez - Alive - Melodic metal from Finland
Leather Heart - Comeback - Throwback trad 80s metal
Manimal - Trapped in the Shadows - Heavy and melodic power metal ala Priest, Iced Earth. Could probably make the top 50 sooner rather than later.
Martina Edoff - Unity - Swedish Pop rock siren with hot tunes.
Mindslip - st - modern melodic metal
Newman - The Elegance Machine - classy melodic rock/aor
Nightmare World - In the Fullness of Time - melodic prog/power from the UK
Ozone - Self Defense - melodic rock from the two 'O's Ousey and Overland.
Praying Mantis - Legacy - Catchy melodic metal from stalwarts of the NWOBHM.
Ram - Svbversvm - Trad heavy metal with much better melodies than before
Radioactive - F4ur - AOR project with slightly prog parts with Tommy Denander
Rocka Rollas - Pagan Ritual - Speedy catchy trad metal ala Running Wild.
Room Experience - st - Cool AOR project with David Readman on vox
Shadowbane - Facing the Fallout - Heavy galloping German metal.
Signum Regis - Through The Storm ep - Melodic power metal with catchy melodies.
Signum Regis - Chapter IV: The Reckoning. Good quality but I was expecting more actually. Singer seems to be struggling a bit at times.
Simulacrum - Sky Divided - Progressive melodic metal with nice vocals and long sections.
Smash Into Pieces - The Apocalypse DJ - Modern rock with catchy melodies.
Stash - A Matter Of Time - classic 80s metal return from Dutch unknowns
Stormzone - Seven Sins - Northern Irish trad metallers with their best album yet.
The Darkness - Last of Our Kind - catchy melodic hard rock
The Gentle Storm - The Diary - catchy, dreamy, anthemic metal with fine female vocals.
The Storyteller - Sacred Fire - Solid Swedish melodic power.
Three Days Grace - Human - catchy modern rock
Triddana - The Power & The Will - Too late to make the top 50 but this is really enjoyable folk metal with chest beating vocals.
Trust X - Paradox - Epic, Russan, progressive Sym X styled metal.
Visigoth - The Revenant King - epic US styled true metal
Wind Rose - Wardens Of The West Wind - Much heavier Rhapsody worship from Italy
Within Silence - Gallery Of Life - Melodic and slightly proggy metal
Xandria - Fire & Ashes EP - female fronted symphonic metal - fine stop gap ep

And here is the top 50 in more depth:

50. The Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment
You'll find very few out and out prog albums in my list but Prog metal's number one Christian made an awesome album this year. I don't tend to have the attention span required for prog listening but this album completely won me over with scrumptious melodies and superlative instrumental skills. So much goodness in fact that I even forgave the preachy lyrics!

49. Peterik & Scherer - Risk Everything
Frontiers AOR project with Survivor mainstay Peterik and a new guy on vox by the name of Mark Scherer. Basically like a new Pride of Lions disk but with more hints of classic Survivor. Some really beautiful tunes from the pen of Mr Peterik and a great new vocal find in Scherer. Aor fans, it's a no brainer.

48. Helloween - My God-Given Right
I gave this album a fairly high score when I reviewed it at the Powerzone but I think I was maybe a little over enthusiastic. It's dropped off a touch since then but it's a solid latter day Helloween album. I think I may have liked the previous album more but My God-Given Right has some really catchy tunes in its own right and deserves to make my top 50 just about. I know Helloween can do better though as they are usually in my top 10-15 of any given year.

47. Dragony - Shadowplay
This melodic power metal band want to be Helloween basically and probably did a better job at being Helloween than Helloween did this year. The album is light years ahead of the band's debut album. Everything is much more memorable and better basically. Cheesy Euro power metal with sing along choruses galore that puts a grin on your chops!

46. Veonity - Gladiator's Tale
Swedish power metal with a true epic metal feel. Something like a mix between Gamma Ray, Running Wild, Hammerfall and Manowar. It's cheesy as hell but of course when the songs catch your ear with tales of glory and battle what's not to love. These Swedes should be more popular in the Euro power metal community that's for sure.

45. Revolution Saints - st
A Frontiers side project from the now Disgraced ex Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, Jack Blades (Night Ranger) with lead guitar by Doug Aldrich (ex Whitesnake, Dio). Basically a long lost Journey album but with modern sound. When they ramp up the guitars they sound awesome and the shamed Deen is really great on the mic. There are a few too many ballads though like a typical Journey album actually. Frontiers basically must have told Ale Delvecchio (in house Frontiers man) to make a Journey album in all but name. Guess what? He did!

44. The Poodles - Devil in the Details
The vibes for the new Poodles album was that it was going to be a slight departure from their usual catchy melodic rock into newer more modern waters. And yes it proved to be a fine step indeed. I think the old school melodic rockers were maybe a bit disappointed but I fully embraced this change as the songs were still very easy on the ear and noticeably melodic and catchy. In the song The Greatest, they had one of the catchiest anthems of the year. It almost sounded Coldplay-esque and would've been a huge hit if Chris Martin and co had written it I believe.

43. Toto - XIV
Toto are one of those old timer bands you can rely on good new music whenever they decide to make an album. This album being no different on that count. The only songs I don't really like are the bluesy jazz oriented ones but that's only a couple really. The song writing other than that is very strong and the melodies are rather enjoyable indeed.

42. Scorpions - Return To Forever
I remember loving Humanity: Hour 1 from 7-8 years ago but the last Scorpions album was not as good. RtF however sparks my interest considerably again. There are perhaps a couple of fillers on the album and they could have cut some of the less interesting songs but when it's good it's really catchy and well done indeed for a band that was supposed to retire from the scene.

41. Darktribe - The Modern Age
I don't really recall these French men on their previous albums but I doubt that it would be as accomplished as this turned out to be. Yes it's typical Euro melodic power metal but the songs are strong and the French accent which usually bugs tremendously, doesn't annoy much at all here. Not every song is completely amazing but there are plenty of good ones that bring a smile to one's face and the urge to raise a fist and sing along.

40. Eldritch - Underlying Issues
The Italians were back with their best album since the masterpiece El Nino. Granted their recent albums have been average to say the least and it wasn't hard to top those but melodically speaking this album has the right spread between prog sections and heavier power metal chest beating parts. With perhaps a heavier accent on power than prog hence gaining more of my praise.

39. Blackwelder - Survival Of The Fittest
A project from a Brazillian shredder guy whose name I forget and the mighty Ralfie of Primal Fear on vox. These sorts of albums can always be half-hearted but not in this case by any means. The song writing is really rather strong and Ralf sounds as good if not better than the day job. He sings more melodically in this album and tones down some of the wailing somewhat and it sounds much better to these ears. There are some shredding parts as well where the guitarist gets to show his chops off which can get a bit much but I'll forgive that as the good songs are really good enough to grace more well known names in the melodic power metal field.

38. Conquest - Taste of Life
Ukrainian melodic power album very much in the Stratovarius crossed with Cain's Offering mould. The singer could have been a problem but he actually turns in a very reasonable performance. The music is typical speedy, happy melodic power with cool melodies. Yes we've heard it all before but if a band's songs are good enough you've got to give them a little time and Conquest deliver on that count.

37. Stargazery - Stars Aligned
I loved the previous album from these Swedes and Stars Aligned proved no different really but perhaps a small step down from the debut. Still if you like big melodies, high pitched vocals and clean production then Stargazery is so easy to love.

36. Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls
I love Iron Maiden to death and their albums should really rank much higher but perhaps this album was a little too ambitious in the end. Having said that there are some bona fide Maiden classics on there that I would love to hear live. Unfortunately the production is far too basic and raw for my tastes. If the album was produced a bit cleaner and punchier the album would probably reach the teens in ranking. I hope there is another Maiden album yet but this is definitely an epic way to leave if there isn't.

35. House Of Lords - Indestructible
I liked Precious Metal, the last HoL album, but didn't love it. Indestructible followed quickly on from that one and brings back some of the glory of Come to My Kingdom again with a much better production as well. James Christian sounds pretty good as usual and though his voice is a bit raspy, he sounds so distinct so you can tell it's him straight away. The song writing is much stronger too with better choruses all round. Jimi Bell is always ace on the shredding as well. Great melodic hard rock!

34. Enforcer - From Beyond
God knows how many Swedish bands make my list but here's another one anyway to add to the long list. Enforcer are from the re-trad movement of which there are quite a few bands doing the rounds, but Enforcer are definitely one of the higher echelons of that ilk and From Beyond more than proves it. It's a little more refined than their previous effort with greater emphasis on melodic song writing rather than the hell for leather stuff. Not that it doesn't still pack a hefty punch but the songs breath a little more with finesse whilst still allowing the traditional elements to shine.

33. Amberian Dawn - Innuendo
Typical Finnish melodic power metal with the new singer Capri now on her second album with the band and this time it's much better than her debut effort. The song writing and melodies are much stronger making for a much more rewarding listen. They even grant some influences from Abba and the pop melodies are pristine and abundant in general. One of the year's best female fronted albums for sure.

32. Trivium - Silence in the Snow
If they carry on like this Trivium are gonna really make a name for themselves in the melodic metal field. They've more or less completely abandoned the metalcore traits in their music and it's all the better for it of course. Their last album was their best yet and Silence in the Snow builds on that effort with even more melody than before. Some of the thrashy edge that used to be part of albums like Shogun is also almost completely gone and can be perceived by some as a lack of energy and a loosening of the sound to commerciality. However once you get past that, you're left with a handsome melodic metal album with Matt Heafy's best vocal performance yet and subtly melodic song writing.

31. Crystal Ball - Liferider
German hard rockers returned with a much heavier affair than their previous albums and it was all the better for it. The melodies were still intact and very enjoyable. A guest vocal by Noora from Battle Beast helped elevate the album further still. The song writing was pretty strong all the way and the album was a real solid affair all round.

30. Shadowquest - Armoured IV Pain
An album with the singer of Bloodbound and some other Swedish guys from the power metal underground. Vocally you know you are gonna get a powerful and melodic performance. Musically it's not so true metal as Bloodbound and it has more of a heavy and pounding feel which is all good. The song writing is very good for the most part. The album deserved much more attention when it was released but in the overly crowded power metal waters, it's hard to stand out and some gems get lost, this being one of them in my opinion.

29. Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville - City Of Heroes
Yet another Frontiers project album with their famous team of song writers and a large helping held from Mat Sinner. With that team of producers and songwriters it's pretty hard to go wrong and go wrong they most certainly did not. This really is an excellent release of melodic metal with two finely matched singers in Michael and Amanda. They both turn in great performances and what's more they've been given very cool and catchy tunes to sing. The playing and production are all top notch as you would expect. I think Amanda just about takes the honours in the battle of the two voices. She really turns in a stellar performance. Let's hope there's a part three in the future as this album was a big success all round.

28. Find Me - Dark Angel
A Frontiers AOR project with the amazing voice of Robbie LeBlanc and Daniel Flores, drummer, producer and songwriter from the band Mind's Eye amongst others. The first Find Me album was a superb effort and they had a hell of a lot to live up to. Unfortunately I don't think they quite managed it but Dark Angel is still an awesome record in its own right. I can listen to Robbie sing all day anyway. He's got such a soulful voice with some wonderful melodies throughout the songs. The production is crystal clear as with all Frontiers albums. Not quite a masterpiece but a worthy follow up to an amazing debut album that was hard to top.

27. Von Hertzen Brothers - New Day Rising
I didn't even really know the Finnish Brothers existed before this year and this album. I may have heard the name in passing and moved on as this type of epic prog modern rock is not normally my thing. However on more or less accidentally hearing and watching the first song and video of the album on youtube I was sort of mesemrised by their sense of anthemic song writing and general coolness. Once I had heard the full album I was completely won over by their great sense of melody and a dark feeling which was slightly melancholic but still upbeat as well. I've even seen them live twice this year which speaks well of their live skills as they were great to watch and deliver the songs as perfect as the album. I look forward to their future albums immensely.

26. Teramaze - Her Halo
The Aussies left prog thrash behind and went into full melodic prog metal mode on this album. They had a new singer on board which allowed them to explore the melodic angle much further which they did do with glee making the songs much more melodic than before. They still have a lot of progressive sections though to allow the instrumentalists to shine. This is a top class melodic prog metal release with a million dollar production job to boot.

25. Impellitteri - Venom
Chris is my favourite shredder and he doesn't make albums very regularly but when they come along you're guaranteed a good shredding time. Especially if Rob Rock is on the mic which he has been for the last two. Wicked Maiden was pretty awesome and Venom basically follows that release with a similar sound and feel although it's been six years since that release. The songwriting was perhaps not as strong at first but with a few more plays it fixated itself in my brain and I enjoyed it much more. As with all Impellitteri disks you have to listen to a few songs about how great the almighty is but it's no problem when the music rocks. If I ever get to see Imp and Rob Rock live one day I know it'll be a miracle similar to Jesus coming back himself, but you live in hope!

24. Tank - Valley Of Tears
After two really solid albums with Doogie White, the band lost the velvet toned Scottish crooner to Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock so they needed a new singer. Step forward Mr ZP Theart, ex Dragonforce sceamer to the plate. Surely this wasn't going to work. A band like Tank needs a heavy and powerful vocal not a screaming high pitched banshee right? Well it turned out not to be the case at all. ZP has made valley of Tears their best album since their comeback. People who like the original Tank still have it as far as I know with Algy, so let this Tank exist as well, as it's a totally different and in my opinion better beast. The album is very heavy and mid paced but with a lot of great melodies by ZP in sometimes long drawn out songs like the title track which is one of the songs of the year. I'd like to see this incarnation of Tank live one day. For now Valley of Tears is the best of the three comeback albums of the band.

23. UDO - Decadent
I have never been a huge fan of Udo's distinct gurgle but his metal credentials are undeniable. He may be at war with his old buddies in Accept these days but he's not doing bad for himself either. Decadent is a typical modern day UDO album with groove, stomp and typical chugging Hammerfallish riffs all over the shop. The song writing is very consistent indeed and whilst the album may not blow you away a good heavy metal time is almost guaranteed.

22. Art Nation - Revolution
A new band from Italy playing edgy melodic rock with boyish vocals. The singer could do with growing a pair but he's actually a very good singer really. The songs are mostly anthemic melodic hard rock with choruses made to be sung in stadiums. The band really deserves more recognition in the melodic rock/AOR community but once again in a very saturated field, it's hard to stand out. But Art Nation are definitely a band to keep an eye on as this is a superb debut and a great base on which to build.

21. Serious Black - As Daylight Breaks
This project would make any power metal nut worth his salt sit up and take note which you see who's involved. With none other than vocal king Urban Breed on the mic you just knew this was gonna be the real deal. And so it proved as the album is really great. Having said that I still expected more and I know the band can deliver more. This is a real strong start and a no brainer for melodic power metal fans but I believe and hope that the next album should and will be better still. For a start it's great but I hope they really kick ass next time as they grow into the band and let the magic happen.

20. C.O.P - State of Rock
A Swedish melodic rock project from members of Grand Illusion. Now I love me a bit of Grand Illusion so I was all over this when it was released and not without good reason. The album is a genuine killer debut of edgy melodic rock/AOR. The singing is super high pitched but crystal clear as is the super shiny production. The song writing is solid all the way with about 5-6 absolute top notch killer cuts. Maybe next time it will be killer all the way but as a start it's already up there with the AOR kings of today.

19. Pyramaze - Disciples Of The Sun
The Danes have another new singer on board after Lance King and Matt Barlow moved on but it hasn't hurt them one jot. If anything they've grown stronger on this release. The melodies from the new singer are super lush and even more sugar coated than before. The production is crystal clear as expected whilst the song writing has a few tasty gems that send your brain into a spin as you're listening. Their best album yet!

18. S.a.Y - Orion
Another new Swedish AOR project and another resounding success. The band consists of two guys in the main I believe and what they deliver is typical Scandi AOR with the main influence being TNT and Tony Harnell. Now I love me a bit of classic lush TNT and since Tony left that band again, S.a.Y is a great replacement. They've got some really stellar eargasmic harmonies and the sweetest guitar tone ever. It's not super heavy at all but sounds crisp and fresh as a daisy as it booms out of the speakers. Highly recommended to all AOR freaks out there.

17. Constancia - Final Curtain
This band returned after a long while and the album was really worth the wait. The band plays a style called Melogressive Metal which they first coined on their debut album way back. It's actually a perfect term for the band as they use a lot of melody and have slight prog tendencies as well. However their AOR bent is just mouth watering at times and sends your spine tingling to heaven. David Fremberg does an amazing job on the mic with both his melodies and powerful delivery and lifts the album to a much higher level than it would otherwise  have had. I hope it's not so long before the next Constancia album as this was a joy to listen to.

16. Triaxis - Zero Hour
Manchester based heavy power metallers made their best album yet and by far as well. The female fronted band have a knack for killer pounding riffs ala Firewind, Iced Earth and Mystic Prophecy like you wouldn't believe. Some people may find it a tad difficult to reconcile the lady vox with the power riffing but she fits in rather well in the end. The band does sound musically very manly and I'm left thinking how would the band sound with an amazing male singer. Probably a bit better still is my guess but I'm not denigrating the lady, she's doing a fine job. The music is full of power and melody and shreds harder than most. The band is criminally underrated in power metal circles and really deserves more attention. A brilliant effort!

15. Orden Ogan - Ravenhead
I'm one of those late comers to the Orden Ogan fandom as I never really got into their earlier albums. They weren't that interesting to me as their brand of bombast seemed to be lacking in the song writing department but since To The End and now the mighty Ravenhead, I am fully on board with the oddly named German troop. Ravenhead sees Seeb and the band at their very best with a totally anthemic, bombastic feel to the songs and a wonderful vocal performance from main man Seeb. The choirs are also huge and fantastic sounding giving the music a grand and epic feel like no other band. Blind Guardian fans should be lapping this stuff up, in fact you will notice a lack of BG in my list, hence reflecting where my loyalties lie. Ravenhead is a no-brainer for epic power metal fans.

14. Symphony X - Underworld
The kings of progressive power metal returned with a truly powerful release. People have huge expectations from Symphony X and they are not always met but it's so hard to please all their wide range of fans. Personally I like my Sym X to be more straight ahead Power metal than proggy and I am very happy with this release. The pedal is most certainly set to the metal on this one. The prog fans who don't like it so heavy may be a little disappointed but I find the album has a little bit of everything for everyone. They've tried their best to incorporate all the traits that the band is known for and keep the majority happy. There's always a debate over the Angry/melodic Russ style vocals but there's plenty of both from what I can tell as the song calls for it. Musically and production wise, the band are also at their peak. A wide ranging album that should please most of their fan base apart from the ultra picky prog ones maybe!

13. Jorn Lande & Trond Holter - Dracula: Swing Of Death
A project with Jorn and the chap from Wig Wam was intriguing to say the least and the initial sound clips didn't disappoint in the least. Jorn's album whilst pretty enjoyable in my book seemed to displease quite a few people who bemoaned the song writing. Well in this case, I guess Trond was responsible for the music and melodies and Jorn of course must've helped too. The partnership bore great fruit indeed as there are some cracking tunes on display here. The subject matter is of course a bit cheesy and been done to death by many bands but I could care less about that really. I just need a cracking set of songs and Jorn singing at the top of his game. I hope he feels inspired by this album for his next solo effort or that Jorn and Trond capitalise on the success of this album by releasing a quick follow up next year.

12. Gloryhammer - Space 1992 - Rise of the Chaos Wizards
That Christopher Bowes guy from Alestorm is batshit crazy! So the band reaches the difficult second album syndrome and cheese hounds the world over are wondering can it possibly match the amazing debut? You betcha! It takes everything the debut had and doubles, trebles, quadruples it to lengths you won't believe. The concept has moved on to outer space but the characters from the first album of course remain. The song writing is not an exact replica of the previous album either. It's somehow even more though out with choruses given more room to pole axe the listener. That Bowes fellow is one amazing song writer. I mean I like me some Alestorm but I'd never have believed that he could do power metal so good as well and even better than his day job. I don't quite know where GloryHammer can go on the next album but I'm sure that loony Bowes fellow has a few more rabbits to pull out of the hat yet!

11. Diviner - Fallen Empires
The debut offering from these Greek chaps blew me clean away in recent weeks and I just can't get enough of it. The band has a lot of ex members from the band Inner Wish which I actually used to love a lot as well. Their new incarnation however is much heavier and held together by the amazing vocals of the front man, Yiannis. This guy really has a divine voice and sings with a lot of power and emotion. The band's song writing is very strong and they take influences from quite a broad range of bands such as Priest, Iced Earth, Manowar etc. It's all about the choruses for me and in this band I find them totally addictive. I wish I had space in my top ten for this band as I enjoy it that much but those spaces are booked as below. For now Diviner have made a fantastic debut to be proud of and a must listen for all melodic heavy metal fans.

10. Battle Beast - Unholy Savior
Since Noora took over on vox, I've been totally fixated with Battle Beast. Their last album was a stupendously cool melodic power metal album with anthem after anthem and the pressure was on with Unholy Savior. When they released the first single Touch in the Night, panic buttons were being pressed by all power metal enthusiasts the world over! It was so poppy and 80s sounding - where on earth had the metal gone? Admittedly, I had my figure hovering over the panic button myself  but I was refusing to press it as the song itself was quite good if very light. Soon enough sanity was restored with the release of the next song which was more usual BB fare with the pedal to the metal and Noora laying waste. So the full album came along and all of power metal fandom breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was still good old BB metal with Noora screeching like the female Dio and with more caressing tones as and when required. The album was perhaps still below the s/t album previously but I wasn't complaining in the end. I still love the album to bits, soft 80s song and all!

09. Kyrbgrinder - Chronicles of a Dark Machine
A side band of the Threshold drummer released an album of more modern and straightforward heavy melodic metal earlier this year and what a corker it was too. The songs have huge guitars and a massive punchy production whilst Johannes voice is quite thin it actually works very well within the songs. He also sings some very cool melodies. Every song has a decent melody on offer and the lyrics are always quite interesting too being very political at times and critical of society on others. I don't really remember their previous material but this is a great work that I go back to on a regular basis.

08. Tremonti - Cauterize
Mark Tremonti is an amazing song writer pure and simple. Whether he's doing drawn out epics with Alter Bridge or shredding hard with his solo band he knows how to pen a memorable tune. I was looking forward to Cauterize immensely and he amazed me even more than I thought possible. A lot of these songs could have been Alter Bridge songs especially the more balladesque ones, however when Mark cuts loose on the riffing he really goes to town and melts your face. He never forgets that you need melody in the song and whilst his voice is not quite as good as Myles Kennedy, he can more that hold his own. The brother album to Cauterize is due in early 2016 so I'm looking forward to that immensely, however, it's gonna have to be totally orgasmic to get anywhere near this bad boy.

07. Ghost - Meliora
The first Ghost album I've liked and their best effort by some considerable distance. Every time I've tried to like the band in the past I just failed to get past the rather insipid songs that tended to meander nowhere. All that is history with Meliora. They took all the mystery and occult moods in the music and turned them into actual songs with memorable hooks that left you singing along with an evil grin on your face. The production was also much better than their previous albums being heavier and punchier. I don't recall the other Papa Emeritus's but this version whilst having a rather nasal thin voice was absolutely perfect for the songs. The album has a couple of dullish moments for me one being Mummy Dust which is OK but pales next to the classic songs. However with the other superbly, moody evil songs, you're left grinning with the devil!

06. Magnus Karlsson's Freefall - Kingdom Of Rock
Magnus is just an amazing song writer period. He's a formula guy pretty much like Erik from Eclipse, but when the style works he ain't going round trying to fix it. The first Freefall album was great but I think this one easily tops it. There isn't a single dud anywhere to be found. Each singer makes their mark on the songs and Magnus writes to their strength and allows them to shine. Magnus himself has a go at singing a couple of times with great success as well. A marvellous album for fans of melody in metal and rock.

05. Care Of Night - Connected
These bunch of Swedes easily released my favourite pure AOR album of the year. I was playing this noon and night in the earlier part of the year, I just couldn't get enough. The band has a knack for memorable song writing that few in the AOR field could match this year. Every single song was an anthemic gem of gorgeous AOR. The singer was also amazing. If you love 80s AOR but with a modern pristine sound ala Work of Art, then CoN is the band for you. I hope to catch them live one day and I look forward to a follow up but it's gonna have to go some to beat this album that's for sure.

04. Stratovarius - Eternal
Well with Nemesis being my number one for that year Eternal had a lot to live up to and do you know what? I think they just about equalled if not slightly bettered it. The fact that they reach fourth position in my list in a stellar year for melodic metal/rock music is a great achievement indeed. In another year they would've been a shoe in for the number one slot I tell ya. The album is really quite ambitious indeed and I think Timo felt some pressure from Cain's Offering with that disk being so amazing. He knew that the day job had to deliver the goods just as much. It's not quite as good as CO but as a latter day Strat disk it's up there with their best IMO.

03. Powerwolf - Blessed and Possessed
My fanboy status for the Germans is fully confirmed by now and they've never even come close to letting me down. I also like the fact that they release albums roughly every two years so I don't have long to wait to get another dose of the wolfy ones! Some people say they always make the same album, well yeah..that's what we want you know! The thing is the song writing always remains extremely strong and you can hear little repeats of previous songs here and there but the production is always a ton of bricks and the performances always amazing. Special mention to Atilla - he's singing more powerfully than ever. One more note the limited edition of the album came with a second disk of metal classics that influenced the band and it was brilliant too and a great addition. One last thing - they are amazing live!

02. Cain's Offering - Stormcrow
I'm not sure when the last Cain's Offering album came out but it's been long enough that most power metal fans probably forgot about the band. However on hearing the news earlier in the year that the follow up would finally be released by Jani and Timo, there was a good bit of excitement and not without reason. This really is a superb power metal album from front to back. Jani the ex Sonata man is just an amazing song writer both musically and vocal melody wise. Timo sings them brilliantly as well it must be said. I was never a huge fan of his slightly whiny vocals but along with his day job in Strat and CO, the guy is doing a phenomenal job. The good thing about this album is that each listen provides you with a rush of excitement and layers of melodies that you might have missed on a previous listen. The production is superb with layer upon layer of sound. I hope it's not so long before the next CO album that's for sure. So nearly the year's best!

01. Eclipse - Armageddonize
I've run out of superlatives for Erik Martensson and Co, I really have. The guy is just a phenomenal songsmith. Yes he has a formula and he sticks to it rigidly, but Goddamn the guy knows how to pen a mighty tune that sticks to your ears like superglue. I don't know what it is but every single Eclipse song is blessed with a stadium sized chorus like you wouldn't believe. Everything the band does just sounds huge and Erik thinks really big when it comes to song writing. He doesn't tend to have small ideas in songs at all. The production on Eclipse records also packs an almighty punch which once again re-enforces this BIG feeling that the listener gets when listening to the record. Erik now has three stone cold classic albums in a row with Eclipse. What an amazing hot streak. Is this album as good as Bleed and Scream? Well that's really debatable. But why compare when you can just see that the boy's song writing skills are literally endless. I'm looking forward to his forthcoming side projects but I always get the feeling Erik sees Eclipse as his number one child and saves his best stuff for this amazing band. Keep'em coming Erik!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Def Leppard with Whitesnake and Black Star Riders live at Wembley

My 42nd and final gig of the year! Man it's been a long haul..phew!! To be honest I'm actually glad it's all over for a few weeks anyway. My first gig of 2016 is on January 15th so a few weeks recuperation. Anyhow this was a pre xmas party gig basically with a lot of the old crowd letting their hair down and singing along to their old fave rock stars from the 80s.

First up were the new incarnation of Thin Lizzy in all but name, Black Star Riders. These guys were actually really very good and enjoyable. They played a short and sweet 8 song set of Lizzy classics and their best original tunes. Ricky Warwick is a very enthusiastic front man indeed but he can belt it out as well with his full bodied earthy voice. The Lizzy tunes were fun to hear and so were their own tracks. A perfect support act for the two big hitters to follow.

All Hell Breaks Loose
Are You Ready
(Thin Lizzy cover)
The Killer Instinct
(Thin Lizzy cover)
Bound for Glory
Kingdom of the Lost
Finest Hour
Whiskey in the Jar

Whitesnake were the main support as they were the last time these two giants of 80s arena rock shared this very stage a couple of years ago now. Now last time all the talk was that Mr Coverdale had lost his vocal abilities and it was the same this time too. Anyway I waited to judge for myself and I can say in no uncertain terms that the rumours are indeed true. Cov is screaming and almost growling through the songs now. I know he'd probably say that's how they're supposed to be sung but it just ends up sounding so rough on the ear that all finesse is lost. He's still a pretty funny guy with the banter though. He always says something stupid like "Here's a song for ya London!" or his usual "Make some fuckin' noise! I can't hear ya!" He actually has that motto emblazoned across one of his shirts.

Anyway more on the songs as Whitesnake are promoting the Purple album, they played quite a few cuts from that. I didn't like the dirge-like Mistreated at all which went on and on and on like it would never end. Thankfully it did finally! I wasn't too enamoured with the other Purple songs either but they were ok. The 'snake classics were aired towards the end and sounded fine but again Cov was rough sounding in Is This Love when he should be a little smoother. The crowd seemed to enjoy it though but I'm wondering how many were thinking Cov should be just about packing it up by now. He shows no sign of stopping though although a proper new Whitesnake album is probably not on the agenda but whop knows. The final airing of the band's heaviest cut Still of the Night was pretty awesome though I must admit and even Cov's screaming felt more in place on that heavy song. A note about the band. They are all fucking ace and make the band sound amazing. Reb Beach was great as was the new guy Joel Hoekstra. Drummer Tommy Aldridge looks so funny behind his kit with his grey hair whizzing and flying round every where during his drum solo. He even did a pretty neat hand played section on his solo with no sticks and got hoots and hollers galore!

Michele Luppi was brought into the band by Mr Coverdale to plays keys and backing vox of course. The guy is a great singer in his own right but I couldn't really hear him over Cov's screaming and growling so if he was brought in to cover when Cov's voice cracks then I couldn't hear him. Oh he plays a decent keyboard does Mr Luppi.

(Deep Purple cover)
Bad Boys
Love Ain't No Stranger
The Gypsy
(Deep Purple cover)
Give Me All Your Love
Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City
(Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
(Deep Purple cover)
You Fool No One
(Deep Purple cover)
Drum Solo
Soldier of Fortune
(Deep Purple cover)
Is This Love
Fool for Your Loving
Here I Go Again
Still of the Night

So Whitesnake left and at 9.25pm or so the stage was finally ready for Sheffield's finest steel to deliver the classics to the legions of oldies out for a pre xmas Friday night rockathon!

They started with newie Let's Go which was actually very cool indeed. The song is basically Pour Some Sugar On Me in all but name with a very similar riff. The melodies and woooahhs are super cheesy but the crowd seemed well into it as it's such a typical Leppard style song. The mega hit Animal followed and sounded great with the whole of the arena singing the chorus of course. The sound was crystal clear as well which is quite lucky as the Arena can be echoey and cavernous making the sound swirl around. No such problems for the Leppard though.

Joe sounded good but I think I recall him sounding a bit better last time. Maybe age is catching up a little with him as well but at least he's nowhere near like Mr Coverdale in screaming and growling. The band each gets their solo spot in between the songs and each is afforded grea respect from the crowd. In fact the band is pretty much treated like living legends. Another newie is aired with the very catchy Dangerous with nice harmony vocals during the chorus by the other guys. After which we are back to the greatest hits set of songs that the band must of course play if they wanna bet let out  back to their hotels tonight. A lot of people are singing a long and enjoying themselves to these famous rock tunes. Maybe DL are now a pure nostalgia band but their recent album is pretty good if not quite amazing. People just don't really care to hear it but like I said the two new cuts are classic Leppard so I don't see the problem.

The boys reluctantly have to leave as the final song of the night the classic Photograph is played with mass sing along on the chorus and a rousing crescendo ending. Joe makes an impassioned speech at the end about the fans not forgetting DL and in return the band not forgetting the fans and coming back again and again. Judging by the sold out 11,000 crowd the band has enough fans for many years yet even if they don't buy the albums like they used to. The diehards still love to hear the classics live and Leppard gives'em what they want and then some.

Let's Go
Love Bites
Armageddon It
Rock On
(David Essex cover)
Two Steps Behind
(acoustic/Joe only)
When Love and Hate Collide
Switch 625
Let's Get Rocked
Pour Some Sugar on Me

Rock of Ages

Tremonti Live Report

My penultimate live experience of the year with Mr Tremonti's solo band was a great night indeed. I nearly didn't go to this gig as I only found out about it at the 11th hour. Three supports were listed and I'll go through them quickly.

Wearing Scars were up first and they were really rather good. I heard of them a while back. They feature the guitar talents of Andy James ex of Sacred Mother Tongue. These guys were great. They really have some cool melodic tunes and in Mr James a guitarist who shreds like a mother. The singer has a great voice but walks around the stage rather awkwardly and doesn't have a metal look but he has the pipes and the band has the tunes.

Next were The Raven Age. A band I've heard quite a bit about and heard a little bit in passing. They are of course the band of George Harris son of Steve. He plays guitar in the band and not the bass as you might possibly suspect. Anyway the band doesn't resort to growls thankfully and doesn't have a whole heap to do with the emocore scene either. They play a melodic sort of modern metal with a small foot in the past and a bigger foot in the present aping bands like Trivium etc. They have some cool riffs for sure but their songs are a bit boring. They have cool sections but it never materialises into memorable metal. The odd Maiden section rears its head her and there which is cool to see and hear as the father hands the reigns down to the son. The singer is OK but he's a bit annoying as well. The sound mix was a bit muddy for TRA as well. I think the band would sound better in a small club. They just don't have the songs to carry a big hall like the Forum.

Main support were Chicagoans Man The Mighty. I've never heard of them bu Tremonti hand picked them so he must like them. They sort of sound like a more bluesy or heavy grooving Volbeat but without the cool vocals and melodies. They were OK but I failed to get into them to be honest. I was just waiting for Tremonti to blow me away.

Tremonti came on at 9.30 and played up till round about 11 which was the curfew time. They started like a house on fire with a blisteringly heavy version of the title track from Cauterize. That was a bloody amazing start. Mark's voice is fucking loud live I tell you. He really booms out the vocals just how I like it. The guitar mix was actually a little poor or they just played too fast I don't know which. It was kinda hard to tell one fast song from another. It was only when they played the slower numbers that the songs became more recognisable from the beginning.

Having said all that the band was on serious fire I tell ya. Tremonti's band are all very tight players but of course the star of the show is Mark himself and boy does he go off on his guitar! The guy shreds when needed and then plays the hammering riffage and head bangs like mad at the same time and don't forget he has to sing and remember all the words. Don't know how he does it really! Every song they played was great. The two albums don't really have any duff tunes so people were going nuts for every track with moshpits starting up on the fast tunes. Flying Monkeys is the only song I don't really like from the new CD but it sounded monstrously heavy live. The other highlights were the amazing Another Heart, The Things I've Seen from the first album, Providence and the amazing and awesome Sympathy from the new album my absolute fave song sung brilliantly by Mark. I think I might possibly like Tremonti more than Alter Bridge if that's possible. Alter Bridge is more heart rending and emotional maybe but Tremonti mixes power as well as emotion and melody into a wonderful package. A great gig indeed at a packed out venue tells you all you need to know about Mr Tremonti's capabilities as a singer front man and most of all song writer.

You Waste Your Time
So You're Afraid
All I Was
Radical Change
The Things I've Seen
Arm Yourself
Dark Trip
Flying Monkeys
Another Heart
Wish You Well

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Vektor - Live at the Underworld

Underground thrash metal is not exactly a great draw for London's metal loving elite, but this gig was surprisingly well attended indeed with the final crowd approaching 300 or so. It was of course my first time seeing tech thrashers Vektor and Dutch band Distillator though I have seen Angelus Apatrida on this very stage some years ago. This gig was supposed to have taken place at Our Black Heart which is basically a room above a pub. That place would've collapsed if all 300 people went up there so it's a good job the venue was upgraded to the Underworld round the corner. It allowed for a more comfortable night for every one including the numerous moshers that started pits to have their fun without bashing into the regular headbangers.

First up were Dutch thrashers Distillator, whose album Revolutionary Cells is definitely one of the year's best in that genre no doubt. I didn't know they were actually a three-piece band before as on record they pack such a punch, but there they were just the three of them ready to kick ass. And kick ass they surely did indeed! These guys were super tight with the guitarist playing neck breaking riffs throughout their allotted thirty minutes. I really enjoyed their set with the title track being completely awesome. They finished with a cover of Slayer's Black Magic which went down a storm with the moshers at the front. A great start indeed for all the thrash nuts on a dreary Sunday night.

Next up were Spaniards Angelus Apatrida. Their album this year also makes my thrash with ease. They sounded much heavier than Distillator thanks to being a two guitar attack. The singer's vocals were a bit drowned out at times from my vantage point at the side of the stage but it's a small quibble. Thrash singing ain't exactly something to worry about! It's all about the riffage melting your face and boy do the Apatrida have some face melting riffs! A few crazy pits soon started up when they hot those wicked staccato grooves and the kids go crazy. They played a touch longer than Distillator and every one loved them. A crazy whirlwind of a performance and played at unrelenting warp speed to keep the punters necks wrecked. Great stuff and the main band was still to come.

Vektor were treated like royalty as they got the stage ready and huge cheers erupted as they got ready to play. Vektor is a band that I like but don't love. I should love them but there are a couple of factors which slightly detract. First of all those OTT screaming vocals can really annoy and secondly I find the songs a bit too long at times and lacking in focus. The things I love however are some of the totally awesome technical riffs they display and their general coolness in the music.

Oddly enough the singer's vocals don't annoy as much live as they do on record. Live he sounds pretty much like any other thrash screamer but perhaps a little bit more grim than the usual screecher. I must admit though I was amazed by their technical skills and their ability to breath more life into the songs in a live setting. The songs are of course very long but still pretty catchy when they dazzle you with their fingers dancing across their fret boards. The lead guitarist on the right of the stage is especially a wiz. Some of his leads and riffs leave you pretty amazed. The singer/guitarist is a relaxed looking dude playing awesome rhythm and he makes it all looks so effortless.

They played a number of new songs which went down very well with the moshers although they seemed a bit long to me. I like my thrash a bit more concise but I guess Vektor are not that kind of band. Their sc-fi themes fit very well though with their technical playing which was pretty much flawless as a live spectacle. The song Black Future was perhaps the most enjoyable of the night and got the best response. The band played almost 90 minutes including a 2 song encore before they left to huge cheers and a tired but very satisfied crowd. This was the last night of this European tour and the bands bade each other farewell and you could tell that they genuinely enjoyed themselves on this very cool threesome of thrash with all three having slightly different styles making for a very cool night indeed.

Cosmic Cortex
Deoxyribonucleic Acid
Ultimate Artificer
Tetrastructural Minds
The Cygnus Terminal
Black Future
Accelerating Universe

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Gamma Ray - Best of the Best Euro Tour

2015 - The year that keeps on giving. That's how I'll remember 2015 when it comes to gigs that is. This year is by far the most shows I've seen in one year and there's a few more to go yet, the latest of which was Gamma Ray celebrating 25 years of metal with the Best of the Best European tour with special guests Serious Black and London boys Neonfly. A three band bill that excites all the way basically.

The Islington Academy is a pretty cool venue that holds probably around 800 or so when packed but thankfully it was nowhere near that on Tuesday night with an estimated crowd of between 4 and 500 at a push turning up to celebrate with the Rays.

First up were local heroes, Neonfly and their very melodic brand of power metal. I've seen them a few times already and they always put on a good show. In front man Willy Norton, they have a very engaging and talkative guy who can gee up the most comatose crowd with his enthusiasm and he can really sing melodically as well. The band's songs are very easy on the ear with a slight AOR bent making the songs very catchy indeed. Although on the recent album they did push the boat out a bit into more progressive and heavier waters which suited them down to the ground. Willy Norton looks way more metal these days with his long hair and beard than a few years ago when he had much shorter hair and was clean shaven. The early comers were treated to a short and sweet 30 minutes or so of Neonfly's finest tunes including a cool medley of three songs. The best songs were The Enemy and Heart of the Sun from the latest album. Props to the guitarist for wearing a roman warrior head feather towards the end of their set. You might as well push the boat out a bit when it comes to stage gear!

Next up were the all international Serious Black. I thought Roland Grapow was supposed to be in the band but he wasn't there and Bob Katsionis of Firewind and Outloud was playing guitar for them. Alex Holwarz of Rhapsody of Fire was on drums with the bass and second guitar being filled by some German guys I believe. Of course you all know who was on the mic, none other singer extraordinaire Mr Urban Reed. Of course everyone knows that Urban can sing up a power metal storm and he did this no problem as his band played most of their one and only album.

Their best songs are hard to gauge and all of them sounded good and immediate as I haven't heard the album in a good while so didn't have good recollection of the songs. Urban was singing great and although the crowd was sometimes a bit lukewarm to the band, they did get a fair response. I just think quite a lot of the crowd were a little unfamiliar with the band apart from the die hards like me that is. Personally I thought they were great all the way and Urban was singing at his best though the sound mix wasn't vocal heavy as the drums were as usual louder than everything else. I don't know why metal gigs have to have the drum louder than everything else but that's the way it's gotta be. SB left to fine applause and soon enough the stage was readied for Kai and co to celebrate their metallic overtures over the last quarter of a century.

When you think about it's that quite a long time to be a leading light in the Euro power metal scene and for the band leader to be considered an all time great and much revered. So well done to Kai and the band for that. The band strides on like they are playing a hometown gig with huge grins and are cheered liked long returning heroes before opening with Ray classic Heaven Can Wait with the whole crowd helping Kai out on the chorus. There's no sign of Kai's new sidekick, Frank Beck as Kai sings the opening numbers alone. He doesn't even sound that bad either and I'm wondering what is the point of the new guy but he's soon introduced on to the stage by Kai and gets a warm response. Although it's rather odd indeed to have someone else on stage singing with Kai as he never really takes over either. He sings some lines but never sings a song in full himself. He'll start a song Kai will help with the chorus or take a couple of the more memorable lines and then Frank will finish the song or the whole band will finish it as there are mix stands in front all the band. It helps that Frank is a pretty decent singer and his voice is quite similar to Kai's and it's all pretty seamless.

The set list is a mixed bunch from the entire breadth of the band's career but for my taste there's a little too much of the old and not enough of the new. The over extended drum and bass solos which must have stretched past or close to 15 minutes was pushing it as well. I guess that's how they pad shows out these days allowing to Kai to have a breather but I thought that's what Frank was there for! Oh well hehe! After the introduction of the band we get an excellent stretch of songs starting from the speedy Dethrone Tyranny leading on to recent material such as Master of Confusion and then delving backwards to unmissable band classic, Rebellion in Dreamland which segues in the middle into the Manowaresque Heavy Metal Universe and ends with Ride the Sky. The band concludes the main set with an extended band jam with Somewhere Out in Space followed by a super long Kai solo. It was cool but it was bloody long too hehe. I'm not really one for extended solo section and I would say a good 30 minutes of the whole 100 minute stage time was given over to solo spots for each instrument.

The band came out for an encore after considerable encouragement from the crowd and played the title track of the debut Heading For Tomorrow. A song I don't actually know since I've never really heard the debut album at all. It sounded mighty and epic as it segued into Avalon though. The band closed with probably one of the catchiest Gamma Ray tunes ever in Send me a Sign with the whole crowd going for one last hurrah before the Rays leave us to rapturous cheers. A nice way to celebrate 25 years in metal ideed. No mean feat guys, so well done indeed.

Heaven Can Wait
Last Before the Storm
One With the World
I Want Out
(Helloween cover) (with raggae jam)
Valley of the Kings
The Silence
Drum & Bass Solo
Dethrone Tyranny
Master of Confusion
Rebellion in Dreamland / Heavy Metal Universe / Ride the Sky
Somewhere Out in Space
(With extended jam)

Heading for Tomorrow / Avalon
Send Me a Sign