Sunday, 25 December 2016

Top 50 Songs of 2016

One song per band only in this list. Better try and make a playlist with as many of these as possible and ring in the new year and say goodbye to 2016 with a hell of a party!

50. Eternal Champion - I am The Hammer
49. Running Wild - Rapid Foray
48. Twilight Force - Flight of the Sapphire Dragon
47. Gemini Syndrome - Remember We Die
46. Dark Forest - The Wild Hunt
45. Mob Rules - Dykemaster's Tale
44. Metal Law - In Metal We Trust
43. Innerwish - Needles in my Mind
42. Alter Bridge - My Champion
41. The Defiants - Waiting on a Heartbreak
40. The Neal Morse Band - Slave To Your Mind
39. Agonizer - All Alone
38. Soul Seller - Get Away From The Light
37. Votum - Satellite
36. Wisdom - Hero
35. Sabaton - Rorke's Drift
34. Suicidal Angels - Set The Cities On Fire
33. Poem - Weakness
32. Serenity - Spirit in the Flesh
31. Primitai - Night Hunter
30. Seven - World of Make Believe
29. Trick or Treat - United
28. Symphonity - Children of the Light
27. Raveneye - Hero
26. Flotsam and Jetsam - Iron Maiden
25. Enbound - Falling
24. Theocracy - Ghost Ship
23. Raven's Gate - Powerlife
22. Amon Amarth - On A Sea Of Blood
21. Avantasia - Babylon Vampires
20. DGM - The Secret pt 1
19. Great Master - Oldest
18. Sixx AM - That's Gonna Leave A Scar
17. Volbeat - The Devil's Bleeding Crown
16. Nordic Union - Hypocrisy
15. Metallica - Spit Out The Bone                                  
14. Hands Like Houses - Perspectives
13. Testament - The Pale King                                                        
12. Serious Black - Mirrorworld
11. Megadeth - Dystopia                                  
10. Iron Savior - The Sun Won't Rise In Hell
09. Grand Magus - Varangian                            
08. Sunburst - Dementia                                      
07. Dynazty - I Want To Live Forever                                            
06. Artillery - Penalty By Perception                                          
05. Veonity - When Humanity Is Gone        
04. Primal Fear - Bullets & Tears            
03. Titanium - Torn Reality                  
02. Evergrey - Passing Through              
01. Myrath - Believer

Recommended Death Metal For 2016

It is patently obvious that my love for death metal has waned or that I am much more choosy in my listening habits when it comes to that genre of metal. This year has been pretty slim pickings when it comes to all things grim and deathly. I've enjoyed quite a few albums but death metal just doesn't excite like in the old days. Or even if it does it's merely a temporary surge before I settle for other forms of metal and rock. In any case, here are 30 titles that managed to float my boat somewhat

30. Renascent - Praise of the Lord God Almighty
Christian Melodic death metal in case you were wondering. My fandom for melodeath has almost totally gone. I haven't even listened to the new In Flames album. This is good as far as melodeath goes though. I enjoy it for what it is. The riffing is interesting and has loads of spacey keys and is still melodic whilst showing good technical skill.

29. Invoking The Abstract - Aural Kaliedoscopes
Instrumental tech death merchants. I have no info about them but I enjoyed this vocal-free exercise in finger acrobatics!

28. Nothgard - The Sinner's Sake
I believe it's a side project or side band from the Equilibrium guys. It's not quite as good as the main band it's a fairly enjoyable and energetic listen to symphonic melodic, folky, death metal.

27. Bestial Deform - ...Ad Leones
Unknown Russian death metal. Very heavy and groovy and enjoyable with a crystal clear punchy sound.

26. Destroying the Devoid - Paramnesia
Interesting, symphonic tech death done by one man basically. The guy can serious shred his axe and is a pretty neat tech death smith. His vocals are a bit shitty but who cares they ain't that bad. Nice atmospheric parts too for someone that doesn't really do atmosphere.

25. Divinity - The Immortalist pt2 - Momentum
Only a 4 tracker but it kills. Awesome sound and riffs. Furious and catchy too!

24. Absendent - Decaying Human Conditions.
Choppy thrashy death with big sound. Cool choppy riffs everywhere. Vocals annoying but just about stomach-able.

23. Ahtme - The Demonization. 
Excellent, bullet fast, death blasting with an expert drummer. Like a mix between Vader and Decapitated.

22. Allegaeon - Proponent For Sentience
Hmm at first I wasn't sure about this melodic tech death but then by the middle and towards the latter parts of the album it got really good suddenly. You need patience with this but you'll be rewarded in the end. I wish it was a bit more concise but it still rules anyway.

21. Destroyers Of All - Bleak Fragments
Groovy and tech and a bit weird but a very interesting listen. These guys have their own ideas that's for sure. They play a mix of technical death and groove metal and I managed to listen on a regular basis for a good while.

20. Entheos - The Infinite Nothing
These guys whilst not amazing have a knack for choppy tech riffs and a cyber space atmosphere and groove that make them sound like Fear Factory gone uber tech. Pretty interesting and cool release.

19. Omnium Gatherum - Grey Heavens
High quality melodeath. I loved their debut way back and since then it's mainly miss but they worked some kind of magic into the riffs this time. Enjoyable effort by the Finns.

18. Equilibrium - Armageddon
I was all set to be lukewarm towards this as the lead single Born to be Epic was so so. Well I needn't have worried. I love it. It's a joy to listen to this album. I love the gorgeous happy keyboards that Equilibrium use whilst the riffs are played with total abandon. A nice ride indeed!

17. Bloodshed - Rising
Grooving heavy death metal with great riffs. This is how I like my death metal. Heavy and grooving with awesome vokills. Neat and concise song writing as well make this a very listenable piece of angry music.

16. Open Surgery - Post Mortem Mutilation
I was expecting this to be some lo-fi shit looking at the cover but I was actually surprised. I heard quite cool semi-melodic death metal. Like a slower Cannibal Corpse with loads of catchy riffs and grooves. Palatable to a regular death metal supporter.

15. Ribspreader - Suicide Gate - A Bridge to Death
Old school death metal from Rogga Johansson, the guy who has a shed load of these albums in a million bands under his belt. I find that he doesn't come up with the goods all the time but I enjoyed this latest offering from Ribspreader enough for it to make my list. Production, is good, riffs roll and rock and twist, whilst the vokills are typically old school and cool. If you enjoy old school death, you'll probably like Ribspreader.

14. Harmony Dies - Indecent Paths of A Ramifying Darkness
Just a 6 tracker but very heavy and catchy death. Great grooves and great heavy vocals. Everything I seek in simple catchy death.

13. Deceptionist - Initializing Irreversible Process
Back to tech death we go and this time a more brutal and tight version when compared to Vale of Pnath. These guys are not a band I have heard of before but this album is filled with precise double kicks and fierce riffage to help me make my mean faces when I'm on the train in the morning!

12. Syrinx - Black Spring
Imagine Morbid Angel heavy grooves with a polished production and you have Syrinx somewhat. Some parts tend to get a bit too pedestrian but I really enjoyed this every time I played it. Great grooves!

11. Mithras - On Strange Loops
The long awaited return of the Uk's over the top, sci-fi atmospheric death metal band. They play so fast it sounds like their playing backwards, you know that sound. They still strongly sound like a punchier and ethereal Morbid Angel to me. These songs have some majestic passages that bewilder with intensity. Best thing about the album is probably the other-worldly solos that mess with the space time continuum.

10. Cognizance - Illusory EP
Fluid, extra shiny and tight melodic tech death EP. Lovely, tingly, techy guitar riffs rail along with complete abandon throughout. Fingers setting frets alight at a million notes per second!

09. Bloodbeat - Murderous Art
Damn this is some catchy shit! Old school death riffs everywhere and a Chuck like vocal. Really really sick and catchy shit!

08. Orphalis - The Birth of Infinity
Fuck yeah! Death metal blasting suckers! This is how I like death metal basically. Unrelenting madness but with a lot of skill.

07. Blood Red Throne - Revocation of Humankind
Norwegian guys who've been missing for a while but I've always liked their albums. The new one sounds pretty similar to the others only they've completely done away with any black metal elements which is ok with me. The band has stomping groovy riffs and crisp sound. Only thing I noticed is that the vocals have become deeper and are slightly less good, but it's still better than black metal shrieking. The riffs and stomping grooves are still there in copious supply.

06. Carnophage - Monument
Holy fuckin' shit, The Turks are back! This turned up out of the blue it did. Damn it all to hell this is just insane fuckin' shit. Makes me pull the fuckin' meanest faces ever. Fast as a bullet, tighter than a gnat's snatch, pound you into fuckin' dust, death fuckin' metal if you 'scuse my language! Welcome back my Turkish brothers...!

05. Vale of Pnath - II
I loved these guys debut and I love this follow up. The screechy vox are a bit annoying but the music more than makes up for it. It's fluid, wondrous and melodic with a million notes from beginning to end.

04. Amon Amarth - Jomsviking. 
Sounds even heavier and more crushing than usual at times. Some of the melody in the riffing is super enjoyable. AA never lets their fans down that's for sure!

03. Virvum - Into the Void
Heads down! Let's go! Tech death whirling machine time. Drums at warp speed and riffs on high tech overdrive. Virvum sounds like when your wash is on the fastest spin cycle and there's no bloody end in sight!

02. Deviant Process - Paroxysm
I was slow to appreciate this but would've tried eventually tried it as it blew me away. Excellent, fantastically produced tech death machines these chaps. A joy to listen to the array of mastery on display. Guitar Hero Wizard level metal!

01. Volturyon - Cleansed By Carnage
When I saw this bad boy I thought fuckin' cool the Swedes are back! And boy are they back..This shit freakin' rules and then some. Super groovy, heavily crunched guitars and stunning vokills that shake the foundations. All very catchy indeed and a standard of death metal mastery that was pretty much unsurpassed this year.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Recommended Thrash Metal Albums for 2016

A solid year for Thrash metal indeed. I managed to find 32 titles that I liked overall which is not a bad return at all. Here they are in reverse order.

32. Poltergeist - Back to Haunt
The return of the old Swiss band. I don't really remember but they're back from the dead with a rethrash offering. It has a nice thick sound which is the first reason for making the list and the second is the riffs are truly headbanagble. When they slow down it does get a bit boring. So my advice is forget about slow riffs and put the pedal to the metal and Slayerize!

31. Helstar - Vampiro
Yeah it's good and makes my list but it's not great all the way. It get bogged down here and there but they still have those classic galloping Helstar riffs in abundance. Not as good as the last album for sure but Helstar still have quality although it's hit and miss this time round.

30. Revolution Within - Annihilation
The band is pretty much thrashcore and the only band of that ilk in this list. They remind me of my old faves Stampin' Ground. The riffing is groovy and headbangable with a few breakdowns typical of thrashcore bands of old. The riffing and production is ace even if the vocals are not great. The rage is long and hard with these guys.

29. Vektor - Terminal Redux
I don't like this ultra raspy blackened vocals at all and it detracts from my enjoyment somewhat but I can't deny the band has great riffs here and there. It's a bit long winded though and I like my thrash more concise and to the point but it should make the list in any case for the convoluted, spacy ideas the band has.

28. Godslave - Welcome to the Green Zone 
Fun Germanic ripping thrash with thick riffs. Vocals sound much less black metal than before. I enjoyed this. Bouncy and cool goodness.

27. Abduction - From Uranus to Your Anus
Funny and goofy thrash this time not to be taken too seriously but still enjoyed. Songs like Raped by Aliens tell you all you need to know as does the album title of course!

26. Dust Bolt - Mass Confusion
German thrashers return with their 3rd album. The first I didn't like at all. The second was a vast improvement and now the 3rd has arrived and it's a little bit more refined still than the second. The riffs are intricate and will test air guitar fans that's for certain. There is utter sonic overload and then more groovy tunes and there's even a touch of hardcore punk crossover at times that I can hear. Their best yet no doubt.

25. Woslom - A Near Life Experience
Pretty cool thrash from South America. Some cool riffs to get the old neck wrecked...what's left of it that is! Production is pretty groovy and crisp. Vocals usual shouty affair, no worse or better than most bands. Regular thrashing fun!

24. Drunkard - Inhale The Inferno
Modern ripping thrash with heavily distorted death metal vocals. I like their last album and this ain't no different despite the shitty vocals. He really does not belong in a thrash band but you get used to his under water garble after a song or two. The riffs meanwhile crush you to death with much gusto.

23. Aggravator - Sterile Existence
Not perfect but pretty enjoyable riffy thrash with aggressive, grunted vocals. All about the riffage and Aggravator works well enough for me in the end.

22. Exumer - The Raging Tides
The Germans returned with some killer thrash way back in January. Mem sounded great and the band sounded energised like a mix between old Metallica and Kreator. Great stuff although it was released nearly 12 months ago now.

21. Revocation - Great Is Our Sin
Revocation have slowly toned down the OTT speed and brutality for a more refined and modern technical approach and this album reinforces that move. The riffing is still wondrous at times and leaves you breathless and then slows down to a more relaxed pace. The songwriting is still a bit disjointed for my taste and I find songs can be "messy" sounding. I quite like the shouty semi clean vocals used and to be honest if they dropped the growls and went that route completely I wouldn't be disappointed at all. Guitarwise the band is shit hot but there's just a little something missing memorability wise to really wow me enough to allow it to reach the top

20. Metallica - Hardwired.. To Self Destruct
SO yes Metallica makes the list. The album is pretty enjoyable though not very thrashy at all apart from about three songs. Still have to say well done that it's the best album since the Black Album at least. Next time don't take 8 years and also do 3 more faster songs!

19. Exmortus - Ride Forth
The American neo-classical thrashers slightly disappointed me at first but then I realised yeah this still kicks ass. The production is crystal clear but it lacks the heaviness of Slave to The Sword. It's also not quite as catchy even though the guitar work is totally incredible. These guys are thrashing shred masters. The vocals are however better than the previous CD being a bit less annoying raspy. Good stuff overall!

18. Game Over - Crimes Against Reality
Italian thrashers return with a somewhat tongue in cheek rethrash effort. The production is great as are the jumpy, energetic riffs. It gets a bit jokey at times but I can abide by that. The production is fat and crystal clear and it ticks all my thrash boxes. Better than Anthrax and in similar territory by my reckoning.

17. Space Chaser - Dead Sun Rising
This band plays rethrash that sounds pretty much exactly like Northern Irish boys Gama Bomb. In other words super speedy thrashy speed metal with very high pitched vocals that carry quite a bit of melody strangely enough. Someone in the comments on youtube said this is what happens when Bruce Dickinson fronts Slayer! Pretty apt description indeed!

16. Mass Deception - Revelations
Very cool melodic thrash with rough vocals. Great riffs and cool songs to boot. This one came from out of nowhere basically to get the adrenaline pumping yet again.

15. Crisix - From Blue to Black
The Spaniards return with a much heavier but still fun thrash album with a slightly goofy flavour. Riffs hurtle along and make you raise your fist and bang your head. The screamy vocals are a bit shit but I don't even care as usual. Some killer breakdowns as well. Well worth any thrasher's time!

14. Bull Riff Stampede - Enraging the Beast
English band with stomping speedy ripping thrash with a very aggressive vocal. In fact the singer is almost slightly annoying to me but I'll get over it. The band's name is perfectly in unison with the music on offer here. The riffs pummel like a maniacal bull on the loose but they still have a lot of crispness as well. Aggressive thrashers will be happy with this release as it doesn't take no prisoners no sir!

13. Accuser - The Forlorn Divide.
Germans go super heavy this time. Everything is set to the maximum that it can be. More groovy than usual and borderline death metal at times. When in the mood for something to break shit to then this will do!

12. Violblast - Conflict
Another very cool recent release for thrash nuts to enjoy. I like these guys' last album so this was a no brainer for me. This time round they sound crisper and more polished than before. They've beefed everything up to make it as heavy as possible. They still go hell for leather which is always cool to hear and haven't slowed down for nobody some jump in and fasten your seat belt!

11. Warfect - Scavengers
Fast and clean ripping thrash with overtly aggressive almost death rasping vocals. Guitars and drums are completely over the top with a relentless barrage though which makes this very enjoyable to listen to. It's so fast it's almost impossible to head bang to. Still can't help but love the sheer audacity to play at this breakneck speed and still maintain a high technical level!

10. Devastation Inc - No Way For Salvation
A recent discovery that sounds like Megadeth's angry snotty nosed little brother. That sounds quite good to me indeed. It has Rust in Peace like riffs and also sounds a bit like old Anthrax as well. Cool band name too!

09. Flotsam and Jetsam - st
The Cold didn't even make my list last time out for Flots but I know most folks loved it but the self title opus from this year has knocked it out of the park for me. It has a great, clean production with all instruments in perfect harmony to create melodic thrash metal. This allows Erik AK to do the business over the top. The melodic aspect is very cool this time with memorable choruses all over the place. The song Iron Maiden is one of the thrash songs of the year written as a tribute to the band. The rest of the songs are all flat out very enjoyable with loads of melodic content and Eric's melodic but slightly psychotic vocal delivery adding further character to the proceedings.

08. Toxic Ruin - Subterranean Terror
Haha awesome semi-tech thrash! Countless great riffs and I mean countless. These guys wrap their fingers round their collective frets like a spider on his web! They jump here there and everywhere. Production is light and clean and could do with being polished up a touch. Vocals average and get the job done. I enjoyed this unknown band a lot!

07. Unhoped - Sonic Violence
What a stupid name but what a fuckin' ragin' thrash record! Unhoped really turn the screw on this release. Thrash pits the world over would explode with fury on hearing some of these fearsome riffs I tell ya. The singer is a bit harsh for my taste but to be honest I didn't even have time to get annoyed as colossal riff passages hurtled at me one after another. Thrashers the world over will be going ape shit to these guys if there's any justice. Face melting Sonic Violence indeed!

06. Xenophile - Systematic Enslavement
An album and band that came out of nowhere with a superb slice of melodic thrash. Very cool and unexpected indeed. These guys somehow remind me of some old American tech thrash bands like Forbidden and bands of that ilk. These guys won't make waves in the thrash scene but they really are excellent. I love how the singer has a very clear voice and you can understand most lines. The riffing is top level tech thrash although the production could be sharper. The song writing is totally insane being just all over the place. These guys have their own ideas about thrash which is quite refreshing. Very enjoyable and slightly odd!  

05. Destruction - Under Attack
I don't recall liking any recent Destruction album as much as Under Attack. I've always been a lukewarm fan of the band in any case but this alum really brought it home to me and then some. The riffing is crisp and catchy as hell and Schmier's vocals which normally rasp too much are quite acceptable here. In the end as usual I say the same thing. It's all about the riffs man! Destruction pulled out all the stops this time, there's enough tech in it to keep you guessing but it's not so much to get progressive either. They always make the songs pretty memorable, with a catchy chorus guaranteed to pop up sooner or later. they even added some nice shredding here and there. Horns up for Schmier's crusty old crew!

04. Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake
I liked the last Testament album but didn't love it in the end. People say this is a bit below that album but oddly I am of the opposite opinion. This seems to be the best Testament album to me in an age. I am not a huge fan of the opener and title track but after that I love most of it. The production is massive and better than before with a much thicker guitar sound. I was expecting the lack of more melodic parts to be off putting as the band tries to sound heavy and angry, but you know what I can still hear classic Testament underneath it all. There is still the classic Testament riffing style that I can hear and Alex's solo still shred like hell.

03. Megadeth - Dystopia
Of course I'm a Mega fanboy of the highest order, I even like Risk for Christ's sake! That I was gonna like Dystopia was a given, but it was just a matter of how much I was gonna like it. Well I like it a lot..a bloody lot in fact! This is the best Mega album since Endgame at least or United Abominations. It has elements and little clues throughout about old songs and you can hear cool little riffs or ideas which reek of classic Megadeth. It has a little bit of everything really. I think those expecting full on thrash would've been slightly disappointed in this at first but you have to consider the Megadeth fan in general and it has songs for every type of fan. Sometimes you shouldn't cater to every part of your fan base but I think Dave did great this time. I look forward to how the band progresses next time when Kiko will unleash more or his killer melodic solos.                                    
02. Suicidal Angels - Division of Blood  
My Greek bros came back with more savage Slayer worship. They still have that knack for great grooves and Slayeresque breakdowns like no one else and I guess they'll never run out of 'em either! The solos have gotten a bit better and more melodic over the years which is always good. Another really solid thrash record to add to their already great discography. SA give you a guaranteed good head bang session make no mistake.                        

01. Artillery - Penalty by Perception.
The best Artillery album in the new era of the band IMO. This thing frigging' rages hard! Very heavy and yet with a great sense of melody too thanks to the new singer. To me they are not out and out thrash any more as they mix so much more melody which brings them to regular speedy classic metal. The singer is awesome too and he really lifts the band to the premier league of melodic thrash whilst the music rattles your brains and leaves you breathless. Hard to pick out fave tunes as most of them rock but the title track really rips and is very catchy indeed with a vast array of great riffage. Headbanger's paradise this album.                  

Top 50 Recommended Albums of 2016

It's that time again folks. Another year has absolutely flown by and as usual I can safely say it's been a great year for fans of melody in metal and rock. The albums above the top 50 are given without ranking. I don't like them all the same of course but we'd be splitting hairs with ranking so I'll just list them in no particular order.

Overland - Contagious
I love Steve Overland's vocals but I was slightly disappointed in this at first but it grew on me. Steve still sounds amazing of course. It's not as good as his last album Epic though.

Sellsword - An Now We Ride
A recent release from this unknown UK power metal band. Very much in the Falconer vein but unfortunately not as good as I was hoping. Still good enough to easily make my list though. Well worth a listen for any of epic underground melodic metal music.

Thunder and Lighting - The Ages Will Turn
Another recent release from this power metal outfit with little to no profile. But boy is this shit heavy. Sitting firmly in the heavier waters of power metal that's for sure. I am somewhat reminded of last year's magical Diviner only it's just not as good. The riffs are heavy and mean though so it's easy to like.

ABO - Bucket List
Swedish melodic rock guy with some very cool tunes. Nice female vocals here and there too. Totally unheralded but a very pleasant outing.

Axel Rudi Pell - Game of Sins
ARP albums used to penetrate my top 20-30 albums easy but they just don't have that staying power any more. Having said that this one is much better than the one before. Still not as good as the late 90s early 2000s material though. Hearing Johnny sing is always good though!

Rage of Angels - Thre Devil's New Tricks
Getting Rob Moratti on vocals was a good move for this band. Love the smooth melodies in this hard edged melodic band. Good solid album.

Agonizer - Visions of the Blind
Cool guitars and a lot of melody. Vocals a bit rough but I actually like him strangely. His melodies are infectious. Guitar melodies remind me of Bodom.

Dyscordia - Words in Ruin.
Heavy Belgian prog/power with some heavy vocals as well as cleans. Perfectly played and produced with a lot of crushing riffs.

Endless - The Truth, The Chaos, The Insanity
This should be second or third division really but ends up scraping into the first by the skin of its teeth. That means it ain't amazing but still enjoyable. Production sounds a bit mixed for my ears. I love the guitars though and vocals are acceptable too. Makes the list..just.

Mystic Prophecy - War Brigade.
I am a huge fan of early to mid period MP but latter albums seemed to be focused less on melodic song writing and more on power and heavy groove. Well this album brings it back a touch. I still don't like it as much as those pre 2010 albums but I can't deny the ground shaking power. I don't like Lia's Devil's Train project and there are one or two influences from that creeping into MP which I don't like but when the band tears up the riffs, then who ain't gonna 'ead bang?!

Paragon - Hell Beyond Hell.
After a long absence German power metallers Paragon return with a bang. The album sounds very similar to their previous material but the years away haven't dampened their spirit one iota. If anything the pedal is put to the metal even harder and faster and they sound even more energised. Plus they still have that knack for writing a bombastic chorus. Welcome back!

Sinbreed - Master Creator.
The second Sinbreed album is a slight disappointment compared to the debut. The initial play had me thinking that but a subsequent outing had me pulling mean faces in the street as I was pumping this one out! Not a step forward probably but more of a sideways lurch from the debut but still the band can deliver what power junkies want and then some.

Votum - Ktonik
Not my usual thing but something about this album is enchanting. Dark and brooding melody for when you're feeling a bit melancholic. That doesn't happen to me very often at all but I never felt the urge to switch these miserable Polish fuckers off when I was listening to their album so in the list it goes.

The New Black - A Monster's Life.
Enjoyable modern melodic rock. Not amazing but never felt the urge to skip. Everything is acceptable by my standards of modern rock.

Theander Expression - Wonderful Anticipation
Last year's Care of Night blew me away with a wonderful AOR record and TE comes close to it but not quite in the end. Still a very nice AOR record. I enjoy almost all of this soothing melodic rock music.

Lost Brethren - Cosmological Constant
Technical instrumental metal. I played this a few times and never felt the urge to skip. The music was interesting and melodic enough to keep me listening.

Perseus - A Tale Whispered In The Night
Another debut Italian power metal band. This is a modern day concept story and the hero's name is Nathan lol. The music is built around his life from rise to downfall and rising again or some such thing. The music is typical power metal but the singer is very good and has goodish melodies. Not a world beater but I was happy as a pm junkie card carrier to listen a few times.

Tremonti - Dust
Well I heard some great songs but you know what? Cauterize was better. According to Tremonti himself, Dust was gonna blow Cauterize out of the water with more powerful songs but I'm not sure about that. It does sound a bit heavier in places but I feel the melodies were more hooky and immediate in the earlier album. Good companion piece to Cauterize and I'm glad he's so prolific.

Hypersonic - Existentia
Very melodic Italian power metal with a crystal clear production. Enjoyable and smile inducing but very cheesy of course.

Massive Wagons - Welcome to the World
So underrated this unknown UK band. I'm not sure why no one gives a shit. They have a knack for memorable tunes that many bands could learn from. They play fairly standard pub rock but the singer's melodies are very infectious. Please someone - give a shit!

PEO - Welcome to the Party
Nice quality AOR project from old timers in the Swedish scene, well it's mainly one man, Peo himself. Guys knows the AOR song book...backwards.

Universal Mind Project - The Jaguar Priest
Melodic progressive metal project extravaganza. Very diverse but very melodic always. Interesting for people who like varied projects of power and progressive metal.

Derdian - Revolution Era
Italian power metal extravaganza. Very good quality, lots of guest singers all doing a great job in their respective songs. Strong melodies throughout. Maybe it's only for the power metal diehards but I'll be one of those till they stop making the damn thing!

Jorn - Heavy Rock Radio
OK it's not a proper album but I still enjoy Jorn's versions. I just like hearing the man sing. Pop songs, rocks songs whatever.

Wings Of Destiny - Kings of Terror
I can't off hand remember where these guys are from but it's in central America somewhere so not exactly a hot bed of power metal but by heck this album has a lot of quality. Everything from production to musicianship is of a good standard as is the singer.

Monument - Hair of the Dog
UK trad metallers with a very Maiden inspired release. I love how the singer sounds so English in the way he pronounces the words, sometimes even sounding very camp! The music is fun, rapid melodic shred metal with happy go lucky Maidenesque melodies.

Poem - Skein Syndrome
This sort of eclectic prog is not normally my bag and I don't love everything on it but I do love a few songs and most of all the singer's voice is totally captivating at times with epic and towering melodies.

Early Grey - Secrets of the Heart
Very odd band with a gory cover but they play classic melodic rock with a polished production. Strangely they are Russians! The singer has no noticeable accent and sings in a very pleasant voice. The production is also perfect. In the end it's down to the songs and Early Grey have some good ones and a few average ones as well. Still I somehow enjoyed playing this and came back a few times. The lyrics are sometimes really stupid and funny as well, though
because his voice is crystal clear and he has no accent you can hear every word haha!

Kissin' Dynamite - Generation Goodbye
Melodic hard rockers return with an interesting follow up to their already cool previous album. Making them a socially aware party hard rock band if you will. Not so much of the mindless party anthems, but they are trying to add some kind of sarcasm to the proceedings about how everyone is fixated on social media. I don't like all the tunes but when they're good I like them a lot they are fun.

Fury - Lost in Space
Melodic trad metal from the UK. Interesting stuff with a lot of Maidenesque melody. Just how I like it basically. Good singer too.

Delain - Moonbathers
Melody is king in this band. I love Charlotte's sweet vocals and the symphony aspects are a little heavier than before and it's not always so poppy. Maybe their best album yet.

Gemini Syndrome - Memento Mori
Delving into Disturbed territory for some modern bouncy metal with huge sound and melodic vocals. I like it but don't love but it's a damn good listen as far as delving into modern waters goes.

Running Wild - Rapid Foray
Unfortunately the production is a bit below par but The songs are good but not amazingly better than Resilient. There are still some great Rock n Rolf riffs that will have you tapping you toe or raising a fist. There are some ideas that he rips himself off of but that's normal for Rolf so nothing to moan about. I love RW and I'm glad he's still trying hard old Rolf!

Charred Walls of the Damned - Creatures Watching Over The Dead
Another big WTF moment when you press play. This is some serious shit. Power metal with death metal drumming mayhem from Mr Christy! Even Ripper sounds fuckin' possessed. And what about the there is coolness and melody and memorability! I think I recall liking the last Charred disk but not this much. This was an intense listen to speedy ball busting power metal by guys who are veterans at this game! Don't ignore CWOTD!

Eternal Champion - The Armor of Ire
Super cult, fist pumping epic metal from the underground. Vokills like old Jon Oliva and super arcane true metal sounds ala Manilla Road, old Sava and old Manowar. Cool underground shit from the depths!

King Company - One For The Road
Classy, heavy melodic rock from Finland with Pasi from Thunderstone on vocals doing a very good job indeed. This is a real solid listen for fans of Whitesnake and other classic rock bands with pretty cool, melodic songs all the way.

Miss Behaviour - Ghost Play
Melodic rock AOR from Sweden. Of course it's very good. Singer could be better but he's not terrible just not perfect. Production is superb and the songs are memorable.

Narnia - st
The Jesus crew are back and sounding good! Don't love all the songs but when they put to the pedal to the metal and Christian does his best Rob Rock impression I'm bang there and ready to praise hail Jesus! Oh and the lyrics are like wow..Stryper actually has nothing on these guys. Nothing cryptic or subtle about their worship though!

Ragdoll - Back to Zero
I was gonna leave this out as I wasn't sure but have decided to leave it in. This band plays modern rock with heavy groovin' riffs and decent songs with quite nice melodies come chorus time. Not amazing always and has filler but I must admit I didn't wanna leave it out so it keeps its place.

Another Lost Year - Alien Architect
Melodic modern rock. Good heavy guitars and clean vocals with decent catchiness and melody. I'm always on the look out for catchy modern rock and ALY fits the bill pretty well.

Art of Dying - Nevermore
I believe they are Aussies but I could be wrong. These guys are another modern alterna band and have a knack for big choruses. This is only a 5 track ep but has some really great tunes for the post grunge age. The last song really sucks though. Lame tune lads.

Demon - Cemetery Junction
Well this is a surprise as I didn't even know Demon were making an album their profile is so low. Anyway I am very pleasantly surprised by this effort. Dave Hill's vocals are a bit iffy here and there as is the production which is a little on the rough side. I am also not a fan of the ballads but there's plenty of melody and catchy song writing here as you would expect from a band with a 35 year career.

Hardline - Human Nature
Johny Gioeli can sing the phone book and make it sound good to use that old cliche. The guy is blessed with a very powerful yet superbly melodic voice. The new Hardline showcases his talents very well indeed. The songs are all very good to great but not totally amazing either, but the standard is maintained throughout and therefore the album easily makes the list.

Poets of the Fall - Clearview
Finnish pop rockers return again and I love it again. These guys find it difficult to write a really bad song. They just have a knack for a melody or hook that few bands can muster. Sure they're a bit light and you have to forget about heavy metal for a while but isn't it good to that for a while? PotF will help you in that case.

RavenEye - Nova
This should not really be my thing at all but I find myself addicted to about half of the tunes for this three piece blues rock outfit from the UK. Production is a bit too raw for my tastes but I love some of these tunes damn it. So catchy and memorable. The other half goes meandering and bluesy and doesn't hold my attention so much but I can't stop playing the energy laden tunes like lead single Hero.

Sinnergod - st
Completely unknown low profile band from Northern England with a really surprisingly good album. A production sound that a band with 5 albums under their belts would be proud of and a sense of song writing and memorability not to be sniffed at. These guys play soaring modern gothic metal with epic choruses. The sound is huge and special kudos to the singer for refraining from screaming. A big surprise and more people need to now about Sinnergod. Not my usual style of music but it's hard to find much fault in this debut effort.

Wardrum - Awakening
Another in the quite long line of cool Greek power metal bands now. Their new album sees them continue in their true metal path with epic melodic metal. The singer needs to control the wailing at times, but since this is true metal we can forgive his over exertions at times!

Blazon Stone - War of the Roses
So RW already released this year and it was good but not amazing. Here's RW tribute act Blazon Stone to help us out further. It's about as good a RW copy as you're gonna get. The vocals are just not as good and characterful as the Captain but everything else rules.

Graham Bonnet Band - The Book
The last album was not my cuppa but this is so much better. Graham sounds half decent and the songs are very catchy. Well done old man!

Hemina - Venus
Not big on prog but this warm, fuzzy prog was easy on the ear and I wasn't bored. Very good instrumental skills in this band.

LeBrock - Action & Romance EP
A duo make a tribute EP to 80s soundtrack music and it sounds pretty cool and catchy!

Metal Law - Hellrider
Manowar is dust but metal is still the law! Manowar for me! \m/

Nightmare - Dead Sun
Surprised how heavy the Frenchies have got with the new gal singer. I miss Joe the old guy though, he had a lot more melody and character. Still this beast pounds and is enjoyable and very heavy power metal. I wish the melody was a little bit more memorable come chorus time.

Pretty Maids - Kingmaker
I wasn't 100% sold on this but I've come round. It's no Nordic Union but there are many good songs that leave the listener well satisfied.

Rising Steel - Return of the Warlord
Surprisingly cool trad metal between Priest and Manowar. Vocals could be a bit better but the riffs get my horns up and the songs are catchy for true metal fiends to bang to!

Sacred Gate - Countdown to Armageddon
I think I've heard these guys before and I don't remember them being this good. This has great mid tempo melodic riffs and baritone vocals. I'm happy and banging!

Silver Fist - Fe Ciega
The only foreign language album I've really been able to get into this year. These guys are like the Spanish Iced Earth. They still have the Maiden melody but also have thrashy riffs ala the 'Earth. These guys are fucking great checke'm out!

Sixx A.M. - Prayers For the Blessed
First time I've liked any of this band. The singing is really great and the songs are pretty good. I didn't feel the urge to skip. The "Without You" cover whilst ok I can do without. The song That's Gonna Leave a Scar is plain awesome.

The Silent Rage - The Dealist Scourge
Nice melodic power metal. Makes me happy-ish. :-)

Almanac - Tsar. 
Solid and heavy power with two great singers and some really cool songs. Victor is wicked on the riffage and I far preferred this to what Peavy did with Rage this year. I look forward how Victor progresses with the band next time.

White Widdow - Silhouette
Classy, pristine AOR. The shrill vocals sometimes gets iffy but I love most things about this, it's so polished and well executed.

Hammer King - King Is Rising
I remember these German's previous cd and I enjoyed its true metal but they've improved since then. They use Maidenesque gallop mixed with Hammerfall choirs to create their own brand of cheese! The singer is not the best but you know what it doesn't even matter that much. Chest beating power metal always works for me!

And here's my top 50 in reverse order:

50. Wild Rose - 4
When this was actually released, I ignored it for some reason. That was silly as this is really great. The Greek melodic rock/AORsters have a new singer who doesn't have an accent unlike their own guy and he delivers a great performance. If you don't like soft rock steer well clear but AOR fans can safely proceed without fear. An underrated Gem.
Best 3 songs: Desperate Heart, Love Can Change You and Love Games.

49. Eden's Curse - Cardinal
I am not sure if this is as good as the last album but it'll do. What I love about this is the production. It's really pin sharp and every member is heard perfectly. The song writing is above average but not completely amazing. If you are a fan of the band you can proceed without caution as EC deliver the goods once again without fail.
Best 3 songs: Prophets of Doom, Sell Your Soul and Messiah Complex.

48. Alter Bridge - The Last Hero
I expressed minor disappointment on first listen but if you persevere it does get better. I still stand by the opinion that this could be the least good AB album but it's still miles better than most modern rock out there. The songs are pretty solid but a couple of them flat out bore me, one being The Other Side. Don't get that tune at all. It's a bit strange that an AB album sits as low as 48 in my list but I hold the band in such high esteem that I cannot go much higher on this occasion.
Best 3 songs: Show Me A Leader. My Champion and Cradle To The Grave.

47. Soul Seller - Matter of Faith
Melodic rock/metal from Italy with a really cool singer. I don't remember their previous CD, but they've got a lot of new members including said singer who's the star of the show as far as I'm concerned. He really sings some great melodies on this disk. Melodic rock fans should be happy with this although the production could do with being a bit sharper and beefier which would've meant a higher placing for SS.
Best 3 songs: Tide Is Down, Get Away From The Light and Matter of Faith.

46. Hands Like Houses - Dissonants
Probably my most played album for the month of April and defo the album of that month. These Aussie boys play modern melodic rock with heavy riffs and great melodies. The singer's voice is a touch from the emo scene which would normally be a huge turn off but in this case he brings so many addictive melodies that I don't even care.
Best 3 songs: Perspectives, Colourblind and Glasshouse.

45. Treat - Ghost of Graceland
You know this album is a bit different than Coup de Grace. The title track is an amazing start but then I was a little disappointed in the rest. I heard good stuff but it was not as good as CdG by a long chalk. However repeated plays have started to reveal it's charms. The melodies are more under stated and not so in your face and a bit more modern than the classically old school CdG album.. Overall a worthy follow up to what was supposedly their swansong album. Glad their back in the end.
Best 3 songs: Ghost of Graceland, Inferno and Do Your Own Stunts

44. Spellcaster - Night Hides the World
These guys sound really young but their talent is limitless. They already sound very professional as far as power metal goes with a lot of great playing and crystal clear production values and most importantly of all a crystal clear singer. Spellcaster should make some waves in the already super crowded power metal waters if there's any justice.
Best 3 songs: Night Hides The World, I Live Again and The Accuser.

43. Twilight Force - Heroes of Mighty Magic
I had been looking forward to the second Twilight Force immensely since the great debut and initially I was truly disappointed in the powder puff production especially. But then the "magic" they speak of started to happen and I found myself being lost in a different world altogether. I started to feel the passion in the album that the band undoubtedly has. It's not a totally mind blowing album like I was expecting but it's the most glorious, over the top cheesy album of 2016 by far. I still think they have it in them to release an album that will bother my top 10 albums of the year in the future.
Best 3 songs: Powerwind, Flight of the Sapphire Dragon and Keepers of Fate. 

42. Raven's Gate - Blackstar Machinery
Very catchy, well played and sharply produced melodic power metal. Love the crystal clear melodic sound they create. The singer has a dodgy accent and a half but I forgive my eyetie bro! It will be dismissed by most PM fans which is a shame as they have what it takes to match if not better many of their peers in this genre of metal.
Best 3 songs: The New Wave, Powerlife and Nylibrium fields.

41. Rob Moratti - Transcendent
Loved Rob's debut solo album Victory from a few years ago and Trascendent is no different though it's not quite as good. Still very enjoyable and good enough though. Rob has perhaps the clearest voice in AOR today and the highest pitched as well of course. Some would call it weak even but I just love the way he sings. The songs are pretty good all the way but perhaps missing a real masterful gem but the more I listen the more I love. Sucker for shiny, happy, AOR
what can I say!
Best 3 songs: Answer of Life, I'm Back and Lost and Lonely.

40. Civil War - The Last Full Measure
The best CW album yet. They have lived in Sabaton's shadow but this time they are almost the equal of their former brothers in arms. I say almost because I still love Sabaton more but CW is great too now and we have two bands doing similar music. How about Sabaton/CW tour?
Best 3 songs: Road To Victory, Gladiator and The Last Full Measure.

39. Burning Point - The Blaze
The Finns returned with ex the Battle Beast singer on vocals which was a very good move for the band. She sounds very cool on these tunes and the melodies are strong and replay worthy. This Will do until the new Battle Beast in Feb 2017!
Best 3 songs: Master Them All, The Lie and Lost In Your Thoughts.

38. Dark Forest - Beyond the Veil
I was disappointed by their last album with the new singer but now I love DF again. This time the singer delivers a more confident performance although he's still not as good as the previous guy. The melody in the tunes is mesmeric however. The Maidenesque gallop and melody is unmatched by many bands. I can only think of Monument who does Maiden as good. DF are the kings of underground UK trad metal!
Best 3 songs: On The Edge of Twilight, Where The Arrow Falls and The Wild Hunt.

37. Final Chapter - Legions Of The Sun
This is some cool shit for this unknown band. Mix of male and female vocals but no tralllala happy stuff here. It's more forceful and epic sounding etc. The choruses are wind in the hair majestic variety, The kind of shit that goes down a storm on European metal stages in the summer. An unknown delivering the goods for PM junkies.
Best 3 songs: Trace of Fate, Garden of Fear and The Journey.

36. Mob Rules - Tales From Beyond.
Probably the best MR album ever and they've had some good ones although they've always been a bit second division to me. Now with this album they gain promotion to the top tier of German acts. This album is a near flawlessly produced affair with every member at the top of their game. The Maiden influence is strong but whilst Maiden can sound a bit flat, these guys have the chops and production that lifts them to spectacular highs. The album has dropped in favour with me over the last few months but it's still makes my top 50 with ease.
Best 3 songs: Dykemaster's Tale, Signs and The Healer

35. Grand Magus - Sword Songs
The Swedes are back with another fist pumping, anthemic, hero metal album. This thing has songs that put hairs on your chest! Manowar are dust but with bands like Grand Magus around we are in good hands. I find this album to be more enjoyable than their previous effort. Horns up!
Best 3 songs: Varangian. Forged in Iron and Born for Battle.

34. Amaranthe - Maximalism
So yes I want to hate it. But it's just not an option. It's even more poppy than ever but still the melodies are totally addictive. Take out guitars and growls and you're left with Britney meets Backstreet Boys. The growls don't really add anything IMO and I don't really know why they persist with them. Like I said you really wanna hate it and some can, but when you hear it, you just don't wanna turn off. Strangely enough the song that gets the most hate "That Song" is one
of my faves.
Best 3 songs: Boomerang, That Song and Endlessly.

33. Enbound - The Blackened Heart
When I played this I had no idea my good man Lars from Work of Art was singing! I literally adore the guy's vocals in his main band and he sounds nothing like that one here. He steps up the power whilst of course still sounding melodic as hell. Melodic metal heaven on this one. A couple of the songs are less interesting but when it's good it leaves you breathless.
Best 3 songs: Falling, Crossroad and Feel My Flame.

32. Symphonity - King of Persia
I forget exactly where these guys are from but they managed to get Herbie Langans from Sinbreed to do vocals instead of a local guy and that was a great move for the band. This really is a great effort by the band to create a conceptual epic power metal piece. Production is perfect and Herbie sings great. If you like power metal this album is worth your time indeed!
Best 3 songs: King Of Persia, The Choice and Children of The Light.

31. Cry of Dawn - st
A Frontiers project can sometimes fail but this one doesn't even come close to failure. The vocal master Mr Goran Edman turns in a spectacular performance with melody and song writing. There is a couple of ballads which whilst good are not my fave but when they up the tempo and let Goran do the business over the top then I'm in business too. Cry of Dawn is like this year's Find Me another cool Frontiers project.
Best 3 songs: Listen To Me, Tell It To My Heart and Life After Love.

30. Thunderstone - Apocalypse Again
I'm glad Rick Altzi is not singing on this album. Rick is a good singer but he's on way way too many albums and it's good to hear their old singer Pasi back again. The songs are all pretty strong and good. The album doesn't crush you with pm joy but keeps the grin on your face long enough for repeated plays.
Best 3 songs: Veterans of the Apocalypse, Fire and Ice and Wounds.

29. Meridian - Breaking the Surface
I love almost everything about this release and it's hard to find much fault at all. Great production, memorable songs and great vocals all the way. If you enjoy melody in metal then you need Meridian - simple as!
Best 3 songs: Hero Forever, Bricks To The Wall and Pure Celebration.

28. Astralion - Outlaw
The follow up album to a really great debut is always a difficult one but Astralion really nailed it in every aspect. A highly polished effort of melodic power metal majesty in the Stratovarius mould.
Best 3 songs: Deathphone, Black Adder and Nightmares Never Give Up.

27. Innerwish - st.
At first I was slightly disappointed in this compared to the brother band Diviner but now I can see that it friggin' rules. The singer is great and his melodies slowly get more and more contagious. I still say it's not as good as Diviner though. That band captured my true metal heart last year and Innerwish whilst still great did not quite reach Diviner levels. Still great!
Best 3 songs: Roll the Dice, Needles in My Mind, Rain of a Thousand Years.

26. Primitai - Night Brings Insanity
My UK homies delivered a great follow up that was perhaps not as good as the previous album but that album is a huge fave of mine. The new one is perhaps a little chunkier riff wise and a heavier vocal but perhaps less melodic, but still so cool to listen to. One of the best UK bands in existence in the melodic metal field.
Best 3 songs: Black Rider, Conclusion Foregone and Night Hunter.

25. Eternity's End - The Fire Within
A tech death guy turns out to be a melodic shred master supreme! This beast is tremendous. Neo-classical metal will have to go some to get any better than this album. Oh and I never thought I'd like Ian Parry so much. I tried his Rock Emporium album this month and it wasn't my cuppa. His performance on this however is astounding. Guy sounds like a monster born to sing over neo-classical similar to Boals but only 10 times better and I like Boals!
Best 3 songs: The Fire Within, Demonblade and Eagle Divine.

24. Great Master - Lion & Queen
This pretty much unknown pm band from Italy really delivered the goods this year. Well if not unknown, not huge anyway. I liked these guys' debut effort but Lion & Queen beats it with ease. This is blessed with memorable melodies throughout. No one else may like, understand, or care but I love Great Master!
Best 3 songs: Oldest, Stargate and Traveller of Time

23. The Defiants - st
A Frontiers project that brought together Danger Danger alumni to record a melodic rock album. Thankfully it all came together brilliantly with a superb vocal performance from ex DD man Paul Laine. The album has so many gems of pure ear candy that it's hard to find fault.
Best 3 songs: Love and Bullets, Waiting on a Heartbreak, Underneath the Stars

22. The Neal Morse Band - The Similtude of a Dream
This is astonishing! If you pardon the pun. Move over DT. Your former boy has you beat! OK so it's not exactly his, Mr Morse is the man responsible for this sprawling extravaganza but Portnoy must be given credit too. Hands down better than DT this year. Some of the album is a little namby pamby for me but the heavy prog sections are truly marvellous. Fucking epic Mr Morse you God freak!
Best 3 songs: Draw The Line, Slave To Your Mind and The Man In The Iron Cage.

21. Seven - Shattered
The second comeback of these old time brit AORsters and it's another huge one. Perfect crunchy production, yet crystal clear vocals on top and ace song writing. I think I might like the first comeback more but this is a perfect follow up and a must have for any AOR junkies out there.
Best 3 songs: Light of a 1000 Eyes, Last Illusion and World of Make Believe.

20. Serenity - Codex Atlanticus
This was a big surprise for me earlier on in the year as I enjoyed the album so much. It's very melodic and slightly progressive but the vocals from George are always very catchy and cool. Serenity knocked it out of the park this year!
Best 3 songs: Spirirt in the Flesh, Follow Me and Reason.

19. Evergrey - The Storm WIthin
I was slightly worried by first single Distance. It's good but it seemed to be not as good as King of Errors the lead single from the previous cd. Again I needn't have worried. The melodies soon become totally captivating. The song Passing Through is worth the admission price alone. Just another great Evergrey album.
Best 3 songs: Passing Through, Someday and The Lonely Monarch.

18. Sabaton - The Last Stand
There was a day and age when Sabaton albums would be a shoe in for mt top 5 albums. There was a freshness and energy that Sabaton had in those days and maybe some of that has been lost over the years but Sabaton is still Sabaton to the core on this album. They do what they do to the maximum but I think they have it in them to create another top 5 masterpiece. Still love Sabaton!
Best 3 songs: Last Dying Breath, Rorke's Drift and Hill 3234.

17. HammerFall - Built to Last
Well after the huge comeback of the last album the Swedish boys put the foot on the monitor once again and unleash the cheese! I love gang choirs and multi layered choruses and this album has 'em in spades! Hammerfall are on safe ground this time and deliver the goods as you would expect. Nothing major to say other than if you seek something new from the Hammers you'll be disappointed. This is Hammerfall at their most straight forward. Raise them high!
Best 3 songs: Hammer High, Built to Last and The Sacred Vow.

16. Freedom Call - Master of Light
The kings of happy metal return after the brilliant Beyond. Is it as good? Not sure as I thought Beyond was their best ever but this is not far behind. They had been in a complete lull but the inspiration has returned big time. Master of Light is a guaranteed fun ride of fist raising, happy metal!
Best 3 songs: Metal Is For Everyone, Masters of Light and Hail The Legend.

15. Veonity - Into The Void
Swedes Veonity are starting to make a name for themselves! The Swedes are back so soon and the album continues where the previous left with more bombastic, epic chest beating choruses than you can shake a stick at. I love a melodic gang or choir chorus me and Veonity deliver it by the bucket load and the songs are so bloody infectious it just puts a big cheesy grin on your face. Veonity FTW!
Best 3 songs: When Humanity Is Gone, Frozen and A New Dimension.

14. Theocracy - Ghost Ship
It's great to have Theocracy back again with a great new album. If you enjoy melodies and a strong story then you'll love this. Everything is pretty much perfect and the power metal fan will be left with a happy grin on their face by the end. Special mention to the choruses on this thing, they are just sublime.
Best 3 songs: Ghost Ship, The Wonder of It All and A Call To Arms.

13. Sunburst - Fragments of Creation 
This was release way back in February if I recall and it made some small waves in our community and by the Gods it's worth all the waves it made. This is very powerful prog/power mix with heavy guitars and the soulful Khan-esque vocals. Immediately very easy to like for any fan of melodic heavy metal and sits easy in my top 20.
Best 3 songs: Out of the World, Dementia and Reincarnation

12. Wisdom - Rise of the Wise.
Probably the best Hungarian power metal band ever with an extremely sing along new album. I like my choruses to be super catchy, almost pop if you will, and Wisdom does that and then some. Yes they are cheesy but I love true metal anthems and I love anything with high memorability factor and Wisdom wins the title for that hands down with this spectacular effort.
Best 3 songs: Raven's Night, Hero and Rise of the Wise.

11. Trick or Treat - Rabbit's Hill pt 2
Italians ToT return with the second part of the Rabbit's Hill saga based on the Watership Down books and it's a really great follow up I must admit. I liked part 1 but part 2 beats all ends up no sweat. The music is so well written and catchy as a power metal album should be. Star of the show is no doubt Alex Conti from Luca's Rhapsody. He turns in a performance that Kiske would have been proud of in his hey day with Helloween. Not many people will give ToT a chance but damn the album is a joy to listen to from start to finish.
Best 3 songs: Cloudrider, United and The Showdown.

10. DGM - The Passage
This album starts off with a one two punch that has you reeling! The two guitarists are absolute monsters. This reminds me of a mix between recent Symphony X and Pagan's Mind. Until the next PM album sate yourself with DG fuckin' M! This album is almost prog/power perfection. They could make the choruses a touch more memorable here and there but that'll be being real picky. A monster release.
Best 3 songs: The Secret 1 and 2, Animal.

09. Avantasia - Ghostlights
The inspiration was strong with Tobi on Ghostlights. He really pulled out all the stops to make the songs as good as they can be. All the singers performed admirably and the songs were both dramatic and memorable. Tobi will be struggling to top Ghostlights next time that's for sure.
Best 3 songs: Let The Storm Descend Upon You, Ghostlights and Babylon Vampires.

08. Iron Savior - Titancraft
Piet Sielck never lets me down. The guy is slowly taking over from Kai as the king of German power metal. Iron Savior albums in recent years are pretty regular and the quality always stays the same. The last album was brilliant but I think they've somehow managed to surpass it with Titancraft. I find this album to be highly enjoyable from start to finish. Heavy Metal at it's melodic best!
Best 3 songs: Titancraft, Beyond The Horizon, The Sun Won't Rise In Hell.

07. Nordic Union - st
This project featuring Erik from Eclipse and Ronnie Atkins from Pretty Maids was of course highly touted and anticipated by all melodic rock fans across the board and boy was it worth the wait! Anything Erik does turns to gold pretty much. I must admit first of all that I am not a huge fan of Ronnie's vocals but singing Erik's songs even he can't spoil with too much rasping. The album is not as good as Eclipse that's for certain but there are some golden tunes here with melody to die for. I can't really wait for the new Eclipse album in 2017.
Best 3 songs: The War Has Begun, Hypocrisy and 21 Guns.

06. Dynazty - Titanic Mass
This slowly grew on me and rapidly became my go to album for joy in 2017. The choruses on Renatus where way more immediate but this got better and better the more I played it. Nils Mols is just an amazing singer and is gonna be a huge star if he gets a bit more well known. He should do like a duet album with somebody in a Frontiers project or something so he can get more exposure. Or maybe Magnus Karlsson or Erik Martensson should write a solo album for him or something. It would be so cool. Right now Titanic Mass has won me over completely.
Best 3 songs: Untamer of Your Soul, Keys To Paradise and I Want To Live Forever.

05. Volbeat - Seal The Deal and Let's Boogie
Yes it's way more poppy but I still love it anyway. I just love the style of rock and roll boogie mixed with melodic metal. People complain about them going too soft but when they do it so well what's not to love. Plus they still have plenty of metal songs so Volbeat stays a huge part of my listening habits. Plus I've always loved Michael's voice and my love affair continues strong hehe!
Best 3 songs: The Devil's Beeding Crown, For Evigt, Seal the Deal and Let's Boogie

04. Primal Fear - Rulebreaker
The best and most consistent power metal band in existence. You can rely on Primal Fear not to let you down but Rulebreaker was a constant soundtrack to my music listening in 2016. The power and melody and most importantly the voice of melodic heavy metal, Mr Ralf Scheepers.
Best 3 songs: Bullets & Tears, We Walk Without Fear and Constant Heart

03. Myrath - Legacy
Tunisians Myrath delivered a melodic gem early on in the year and boy does this album have staying power. The vocal melodies are so infectious and memorable that you'll have trouble keeping them out of your brain all day! This really is a gorgeously produced and played album. The middle eastern aspects are perfectly executed and are a major factor in why the album has such appeal. Believer is probably the song of the year for me!
Best 3 songs: Believer, The Needle and Duat

02. Titanium - Atomic Number 22
I loved the debut album from the Polish Stratovarius and I was excited to see AN 22 was released from outta nowhere. I started playing the album and was immediately floored with a pristine production and a wondrous sense of melody that was unrelenting song after song. A wonderful vocal as well and I was as happy as in pig in the proverbial doodoo! This really is an incredible album for fans of bands like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and any Scandi melodic metal band. This album will be ignored by most and that's a shame as it really is a great addition to the list of great power metal albums released over recent years.
Best 3 songs: Atomic Number 22, Torn Reality and Future of Mankind.

01. Serious Black - Mirrorworld
Here it is my number one album of the year. The amazing and fantastic sophomore album from Serious Black. The first album from this supergroup of sorts was very good in it's own right but I wasn't quite prepared for this effort. They've really outdone themselves with their sense of melody and power this time. Of course the star of the show is Swedish legend of the mic, Mr Urban Breed. His vocals are slightly different than usual being much softer and more melodic at times than his Tad Morose days. He can still bring in the power when required but he also uses the kind of melody that demands full attention. The album is probably not really heavy as the guitar tone is crystal clear and very sharp. What make this album so memorable is the consistently strong songwriting. Of course there was controversy in that the bonus tracks were many and plentiful and were some of the best tracks but of course this review is based on the full limited edition album. However I unfortunately  hastily ordered this from Amazon a while back, not realising or paying enough attention since I was ordering the normal version. I was a bit bummed about that, however the number of utterly memorable tunes made this a sublime listen throughout including of course some magical bonus tracks which I don't have on my CD. I think the band should send me a ltd edition version haha! So there you have it Urban Breed and crew delivered the ultimate this year in melodic power metal perfection as far as I was concerned. Next time put all the songs on one CD to stop idiots like me making that mistake again!
Best 3 songs: Castor Skies, Mirrorworld and This Machine Is Broken.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Iced Earth headling MTV's Headbanger's Ball

My 30th and final gig of 2016 saw a mixed bill celebrating MTV's legendary old show. Four bands made up this tour which had been in Europe and would return after the London show. The venue was one I had never been to before but I would say it's about as big as the Scala maybe a touch bigger.

As I said four bands made up this bill and they were all very different from each other. First up were Unearth, the American metalcore bruisers, followed by Canadian Death metal stompers, Kataklysm, main support were Vikng metal heroes Ensiferum with the bill being headlined by American power metal vets, Iced Earth. Quite a diverse bill indeed and something for most fans.

As I walked in Unearth were already well into their set. The crowd was sparse and about a 1/3 full but I guess many hadn't bothered with Unearth. I recall liking an album from these yanks many moons ago but now I'm not bothered. It's just metalcore, I have no real interest. They actually sounded ok but they used all the metalcore cliches to the full so I wasn't fussed that I only saw three songs from these guys.

Next up were Canuck heavy bruisers Kataklysm. I think I have liked a few of their songs in passing with their heavy barrage of riffs and double bass but I wouldn't call myself a fan at all. They played solid but their songs don't excite really but they have that heavy, slow headbanging groove thing down to a fine art and when the main man says "Bang your fuckin' heads!" Everyone does more or less. They went down well with the filled out crowd but it wasn't really my cuppa.

Main support Ensiferum is a band I've seen a couple of times at least over the years and they never disappoint live. This year's album didn't really move me but they are a great live act to be sure as the Irish say. They have a much cleaner and more melodic sound and it's easy to be taken in by the sing along tunes like In My Sword I Trust and the general grin inducing music. They got a great response from the pretty packed crowd as they finally left to much applause. Ensiferum is one of those Viking bands that you're always guaranteed a good time with and it was no different on this occasion.

Finally at just about 9.45 the Iced Earth intro begins and it's time to Travel in Stygian! Well we didn't actually get that song of course but you get my drift! Iced Earth sounded very heavy and much louder than the other bands. The bass especially was booming and jarring. I'm gonna sound old here but there's a point when music is so loud it just sounds a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless the band sounded very good especially on the thumping great Burning Times.

Stu Block does his usual best Barlow impersonation whilst Schaffer gets the riffs pumping and the other guitarist does the leads. Highlights of the night were The Hunter, which never fails with its insistent melodic chorus. Pure Evil was played at breackneck speed and was another huge hihglight. Dystopia was also a rapidfire work out in power/thrash mayhem. The band ended with Watching Over Me which was dedicated to a friend of the band that had died so was quite emotional and was sang by the whole crowd. I missed hearing the band's namesake song Iced Earth which they normally end with but this was a curtailed set due to time constraints. A good if not amazing end to a long gigging year.

Last year I managed 42 gigs which for me was a colossal amount that I couldn't match this year but 30 gigs is still pretty good going. Roll on January and more live action!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Champions Tennis at the RAH

Just a bit of light hearted fun with old timers. McEnroe v Leconte was the order of the day. Unfortunately Henri pulled a muscle in his calf and had to retire injured. Mac played well though against replacement Wayne Ferreira. A nice doubles match with Tim Henman followed. I think the doubles was even more enjoyable than the singles. Timmy still hits hard!