Friday, 25 December 2015

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!

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