Monday, 26 December 2016

#1 - Top of 2011

Opeth- Heritage (Roadrunner Records)

At the very top of the 2011 best albums, we have Opeth, continuing to create discussion around their music with their 10th album, Heritage! Although the album (and Mikael Åkerfeldt's statements about the band's direction and goals) has been controversial, Heritage is an amazing record (completed by the unique imagery that is depicted in the cover art) filled with full-on progressive rock! Starting with the instrumental song that gave its name to the album, Heritage is filled with prog yet groovy and catchy songs that grow on you every time you hear them, such as "The Devil's Orchard"  and "Slither".
Even if you are a fan of Opeth before their major turn towards progressive and their experimentation with 70's vibes and rock elements, you will have to admit that Opeth took a huge step (starting a couple years back and continuing on this road with following albums) proving that great musicianship can evolve between genres maintaining its core and substance! The best response is the one given by Åkerfeldt, the man behind Opeth:  "If I can compare it to any other band, it would have to be Opeth, but it's different from the stuff we've done before...I hope you'll like it once you hear it."


Below is the trippy music video for the song "The Devil's Orchard".

#2 - Top of 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Ghost (Inside Out)

The second best album of 2011 is ... another Devin Townsend Project Album! Yes, DTP released two albums in this year, concluding the first 4 album period of DTP with a whisper! This album abandons the heavy feeling of "Deconstruction" and returns to the low-key sound of "Ki", coming full circle! This a very mellow and laid back release and among the best albums there are to lay back and relax with.
Right from the beginning, you know that this is something special; a slow and dreamy melody and a song that emulates almost to a fault the feeling of floating through the sky on a warm summer day. 'Fly' sets the mood of the album, which continues through 'Heart Baby' and 'Feather' as a journey begins through various shades and tones of light, peaceful music with Devin's vocals, clean electric guitars, Kat Epple's flute and woodwinds, Katrina Natale's beautiful additional vocals and Mike St-Jean's minimal drumming.  . 'Kawaii' and 'Ghost' give us acoustic guitar and strumming and are a little more upbeat, with 'Ghost' being a phenomenal piece of music. The upbeat feel to the album gets a bit more boost with 'Blackberry', with banjo excerpts added in (!). The next three tracks move away from the acoustic guitars, turning to a more atmospheric synth sounds, ('Monsoon', 'Dark Matters' and 'Texada').
'Seams' returns to a more guitar oriented piece, that hints at some form of melancholy, and then the last two tracks are long, slowly developing pieces with further emphasis on a meditative atmosphere, with ambience, which includes seagulls and waves.
This album is a true masterpiece, coming from a different, introversive side of Devin that might just be what led to the creation of the superb album of Casualties of Cool, 2 years down the road.


Below is the song Ghost performed live in 2011

Sunday, 25 December 2016

#3 - Top of 2011

Karmakanic - In a Perfect World (Inside Out)

As we near the top, we have yet another flawless progressive rock record gracing the top spots of 2011. This one is from Jonas Reingold's (Flower Kings) project Karmakanic, that combines what The Flower Kings do with a pinch of Yes. This is their 4th studio effort and possibly their best one yet.  It starts with "1969", an ambitious introduction, spanning 14 minutes combining epic moments with quiet and solemn ones. "Turn it up" has a more mellow sound and has eerie echoes from Spock's Beard. 
"The World is Caving in" starts with  a capella, slowly adding first some piano, then, drums and keyboards, combining a certain heaviness with a soft background. "Can't take it with you" is a very curious track, creating  kind of latin- american feel, later becoming chaotic and is an excellent experimental track. "There's Nothing Wrong With the World" is top-notch. The bass sound is  present as a main character, creating good lines and helping building up the structure, while constructing one of the most memorable pieces of the album. "Bite the Grit" is short and clearly to the point with some dramatic moments that leave you wanting for more. The final track,"When Fear Came to Town" completes the album, with a soft creeping sound that turns into melancholy before an explosion shortly before the album ends, on a bittersweet note. Another excellent Swedish prog rock album that dares to experiment at times while keeping your interest high at all times, trying to explore new space in a genre that is desperately in need of it.


Below is the audio for "Turn it Up".

#4 - Top of 2011

Arch-Matheos Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade)

In number 4 of the top albums of 2011 we have what has been pegged as the best Fates Warning album in over a decade: the collaborative project between the perennial lead guitarist of Fates and their old singer John Arch. This project is realistically the closest thing to a Arch reunion with Fates and to be honest it really sounds like not a single day has passed since Arch left the band! The chemistry is there, the epic vocals are there, everything just ... fits! The album  opens with 'Neurotically Wired', and immediately the vocals of Arch shine through, along with some stunning time signature changes and an overall a strong prog metal vibe. 'Midnight Serenade' has a sick chorus and is followed by the longest track ,'Stained Glass Sky'. This features amazing lead guitar work and is truly a Fates Warning Classic. 'On the Fence' is more emotional, a power ballad of sorts, and particularly shines with Matheos' lead breaks and guitar tones. 'Any Given Day (Strangers like me)' begins with wonderful instrumentation, and acoustic vibrations, building up into an amazing music break. The closer 'Incense and Myrrh', is a short and powerull track with many emotional vibes in it.
This is truly a collaboration that no fan of early progressive metal should miss.


Below is the music video for  'Midnight Serenade'.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#5 - Top of 2011

Celtibeerian- Tirikantam (Independent)

Moving up the Top of 2011 is a less known folk metal band from Spain, Celtibeerian which is worth checking out! Tirikantam is the the band's first full-length album, which despite its short duration (29:32 minutes!), is pure folk journey guided by Vasco (in guitars), Dave (in pipes, flutes and backing vocals), Patri (in violin), Gus (in bass and lead vocals) and Vity (in drums)! The album starts with the amazing flute-driven instrumental "Tirikantam" which gave its title to the record and doesn't lose its folk elements between songs. The peaks of the album would have to be "Sacred Wine", a medieval song fulled with flute and violin tunes, "The Great Feast", a song that is bound to stick to you and the quick-paced "Riding Home"! A mix of ballads ("Warrior's Sorrow"), folk ("An Dro") and metal tunes (" The Path"), leave the listener wanting to join the party and looking forward to more material by the Celtibeerian!


Below is the official music video for the song "The Great Feast".

#6 - Top of 2011

Van Canto- Break the Silence (Napalm Records)

For those who don't know about Van Canto's unique power a capella style (although you must have come across one of their covers songs), the band consists five singers (whose voices substitute for the guitars and bass) and one drummer, with no guitars, bass or keyboards! The only exception is the ballad "Spelled in Waters," where Marcus Siepen (from Blind Guardian) guests with an acoustic guitar. Break the Silence is their 4th full length album and is a mix of new songs by the band and cover songs of well-known metal songs. The songs might lack guitars but the singers make up for it perfectly in songs like " If I Die in Battle", "The Seller of Souls" and "Neuer Wind", leaving you wondering how these vocalist can emulate the sound of a guitar and how that would sound live! There are also a number of more melodic tunes like the "Black Wings of Hate" and "Spelled in Waters! Another fitting guest appearance is that of Sabaton's frontman Joakim Broden n the cover song of Sabaton's "Primo Victoria"! The album closes in an epic and powerful way, with a cover song of Manowar's "Master of the Wind" power ballad, which sounds amazingly great with female vocals! Ram dam dam ram dam dam dam!


Below are the music videos for the songs "If I Die in Battle", "Seller of Souls" and the cover song "Primo Victoria".

Monday, 19 December 2016

#7 - Top of 2011

Comedy of Errors - Disobey (ACH Media)

Comedy of Errors hail from Glasgow and have been around since 1984 and remarkably this is their debut album! OK, to put some things into perspective, the band was initally formed in the 1980s but disbanded after some years and an EP release. In 2011, the band was re-imagined and returned with their first ever album. This release  combines new ideas with old material that never saw the light  back in the day. The result is an excellent album of neo-prog infused with newer ideas, marking this album (and its two successors) as some of the more interesting "hidden gems" of the progressive rock scene in the current decade. The album opens with the title track, a grandiose opener which fuses power chords with a massive synth sound.  'Jekyll' is an upbeat one, built around the synth sound of Jim Johnston and acoustic passages uniting with choral vocals. 'Prelude, riff and fugue' is a three-parter  instrumental, with obvious ELP influences. 'Carousel' is a self-reflective song describing the ageing process as seen through the eyes of an old man, with symphonic prog elements uniting with neo-prog to offer the biggest epic of the album. 'American rodeo' is a more straight rock tune and a semi-tribute to Deep Purple. 'Could have been yesterday', is another fine prog rock song which brings the tempo down again. 'Joke' is a fine prog rock ballad which nicely acts as a lead to the album's epic four parter  'The student prince', which has been in development since the 1980s and is a grandiose and at the same time exhilarating way of bringing this album to a close. Brilliant comeback and resurrection from a band that despite its age sounds as fresh as ever.


Below is the music video for "Jekyll"

Sunday, 18 December 2016

#8 - Top of 2011

Doomsword - The Eternal Battle (Dragonheart Records)

Italians Doomsword have never been one to disappoint their audience, and you can tell this by the amount of time they spend carefully concocting each new album, at least over the course of the 21st century. Four years between Let Battle Commence and My Name Will Live On, and another four years to produce The Eternal Battle, which turns out to be not only another fine offering, but the very best the band has yet released on this Earth. More than this, the band offer us something so rare, a brand of traditional and epic heavy/doom. The album begins with the mind-blowing "Varusschlacht", which sings of sunken glory through the whispered, dark narrative and the 'whoa oh oh' that marches gallantly into the verse. "Eternal Battle" eschews some of the shadowy atmosphere for the glint of glorious melodies, but it's just as dire and potent, and "Wrath of the Gods" is just balls out fucking heavy metal plugged with soothing, powerful vocals carried over the lamentations of the verse guitars. There is not a track here that will fail to eclipse your soul if given the breath and patience, but  "Soldier of Fortune" and "The Fulminant" excel for the heft of the riffing and the massive atmosphere conjured through the interplay of drums and vocals, not to mention those leads in the latter and how they gracefully transition to the river-like bridge.
Doomsword deliver, and this 5th full-length is a proud scar to wear, a bloodied nose from a steel gauntlet you will not soon forget.


Below is the audio for the entire epic album for each Warrior to draw (and quarter) its own conclusions. To Battle!

#9 - Top of 2011

Krux - III: He Who Sleeps Among the Stars (GMR Music Group)

The Swedish doom metal band, Krux, is back with their III album with the uniquely heavy vocals by Mats Levén and riffs (by Fredrik Åkesson and Jörgen Sandström) that ooze doom vibes but don't hesitate to experiment with heavy metal tunes. Starting with the song that gave its title to the album, " He Who Sleeps Amongst the Stars" is an amazing introduction that gets the listener hooked and hyped! "The Hades Assembly" and "The Death Farm" are examples of pure doom metal songs and are titled accordingly, with the latter being a song that would satisfy Krux and Candlemass fans. The "Prince Azaar and the Invisible Pagoda" and "A Place of Crows" are the longest in duration songs during which the band shifts towards heavy tunes, while the shorter "Emily Payne (and the Black Maze)" is definitely a highlight of the album that captures the interest of anyone (fan or not)! Overall, the record manages to balance melodic with doom and epic elements making it among the top 10 albums of 2011!


Below the audio for the song that gave its name to the album.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

#10 - Top of 2011

Riot - Immortal Soul (SPV)

This is the final album of truly legendary heavy metal band Riot, that disbanded after Mark Reale sadly passed away in 2012. Releasing their debut back in 1977, they span 4 decades of awesome music and truly inspired songwriting. Although the band never broke to the "mainstream" it will always be remembered as one of the true pioneers of heavy metal. Their final album is a special one and has everything a fan of the band could ask for,  by combining different elements of their repertoire: We have the relentless speedy songs, such as "Riot", "Wings Are For Angels" and "Sins Of The Father", but at the same time one can hear more mid / up tempo pieces that bring to mind the Di Meo season, with most typical examples including the "Whiskey Man", "Fall Before Me", "Believe" and "Immortal Soul". We will be confronted with sometimes furious, sometimes mellow riffs, nice solos and harmonies, with Moore perhaps gives the more mature performance of his career. Mark Reale delivers here one of his best performances as a composer/lead guitar player and leaves this world with an album which rivals the legendary "Thunderseel" and is a fitting swan song for the band.

PS: It is worth noting that surviving members of the band have since reunited as Riot V and have released an interesting album in 2014 - worth checking out for fans of the band.


Below as a rare treat, a video containing the entirety of the Immortal Soul album.

Monday, 12 December 2016

#11 - Top of 2011

Pain of Salvation- Road Salt Two (Inside Out Records)

Pain of Salvation are following the path they took with Road Salt One towards a 70's prog rock sound, with their album Road Salt Two which is an example of excellent song-writing both in terms of melodies and lyrics. Of course, Daniel Gildenlöw plays a major part in this the band and this album through both his amazing vocals and lyrical themes. The album shifts between melodic-driven tunes with examples such as "Through the Distance" and the piano-driven "1979" and darker bluesy tones in "Softly She Cries" while adding solid riffs in songs like "Conditioned" and more complex tunes in "The Deeper Cut". "To the Shoreline" is a memorable song (that could be described as the most progressive song in this record) and one of the peaks of the album with its contrasts between the piano and the unbelievably catchy chorus that will stick to your mind!
Some of the songs that were first performed in this record (such as "1979") were also recorded with a few twists and changes, and included in their later album Falling Home. Although the album sticks to the concepts introduced in the first part of the Road Salt saga (Road Salt One), it manages to stand out from it as an amazing and unique album both in terms of lyrical and musical themes, adding another great release to Pain of Salvation's career!


Below is the music video for the song "1979" that was also featured in the album Falling Home.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

#12- Top of 2011

Turisas- Stand Up and Fight (Century Media Records)

Stand Up and Fight is undeniably one of the best albums released by Turisas to date, as it manages to capture the epic feeling that the Finnish symphonic/ folk metal band represents inviting the listener to join in the journey to battle and glory! The record starts of with the powerful "March of the Varangian Guard" and keeps going with blasting tunes and strong (clean and brutal) vocals along with amazing choruses. The songs throughout are full with excitement and great melodies, with examples like the "Take the Day!", unique and uplifting "βένετοι! - πράσινοι!" (with its amazing orchestration) and refreshing pirate-themed "Hunting Pirates" that invites you to sing along. The album doesn't slow down with one of the peaks being the excellent "Stand Up and Fight" and the melodic "End of an Empire"!
The choirs and orchestras along with all the metal elements erupt into a bombastic album with unique replay value, especially when you are filling low and looking for something like a catchy battle anthem that can be uplifting and melodic!


Below is the official music video for the song "Stand Up and Fight".

Saturday, 10 December 2016

#13 - Top of 2011

Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion 2 (Mascot)

Black Country Communion were created in 2009 by Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham. That sentence should be more than enough for hard rock fans to go and have a listen at their releases. This is the second album (of a total of three) they released and probably the best among them. The sound of the band combines hard rock elements with the distinct vocals of Glenn and here they present their most cohesive work, with clear references to Led Zeppelin.
Among the best moments of the album are the dynamic "The Outsider",  Glenn Hughes' vocals in the chorus of "Man In The Middle", with an epic Zeppelin feeling, Joe Bonamassa's singing in the "The Battle For Hadrian's Wall" and the equally epic  and trully rocking "Save Me". These four constitute the core of the album, and are truly awesome tracks, guaranteed to be excellent additions in any rock tracklist. Beyond that things are more or less expected; "Smokestack Woman" is straight out of  "Physical Graffiti", while "Faithless" and "An Ordinary Son" are in the same vein with the latest personal works of Hughes (the first) and Bonamassa (the second). Nevertheless, the cohesiveness between the tracks is better than last time, with adrenline-pumping "Crossfire" and bluesy "Cold" flawlessly combining to close out the second attempt of BCC. An album in the true spirit of rock and roll by some big names of the genre that show that they are not ready to retire yet offering one of the most pure "retro" rock sensations of this year.


Below is the music video for "Man in the Middle".

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#14 - Top of 2011

Edguy - Age of the Joker (Nuclear Blast)

Another year, another top position for an Edguy record. This is the 2011 release by German power metallers who, as in their previous 2 records slowly phased out the "Europower" elements from their sound in favour of a more modern sound, complimented by hard rock overtones and the humoristic attitude that the band always had.
Again, as with previous and later releases (their 2015 release was included in the top list for that year here ), there is a constant level of quality in their releases, with hit songs (along the lines of "Robin Hood" , "Rock of Cashel" ), an epic track ( "Behind the Gates to Midnight World"), at least one  humorous track ("Two Out of Seven")and some lesser songs that despite not being extraordinary still remain memorable (for example, "Nobody's Hero"  and "The Arcane Guild" ).  This release is not the finest of the band, but it is impeccable throughout and keeps reaffirming the place of the band as one of the essential/ breakthrough bands of the European power metal scene.


Below is the music video for "Robin Hood"

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

#15 - Top of 2011

Amorphis- The Beginning of Times (Nuclear Blast)

Amorphis are back with their 10th album, The Beginning of Times, adding another record to their lengthy list of interesting releases, partly due to the amazing vocalist Tomi Joutsen as well as a mix of heavy and melodic tunes. The band doesn't hesitate to experiment (considering that they started from death metal) adding female vocals (by Netta Dahlberg) and flutes (along with folk elements) in songs like the "Mermaid" and the "Song of the Sage", while the rhythm changes especially in the "Soothsayer" and the "Beginning of Time" (that gave its name to the album), which can be described as the peak moments of the album. The album sets off with the amazing "Battle for Light" with themes that range from more radio-friendly songs such as the "You I Need" without missing out powerful tracks like the "Three Words" and the anthemic chorus in the "My Enemy"! Overall, the Finnish band sticks to the musical themes of the previous albums while developing new ideas and adding unique elements at each step. An excellent addition to their extensive back-catalogue.


Below is the official video for the song "You I Need".

Sunday, 4 December 2016

#16 - Top of 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction (Inside Out)

This year graced us with not one, but TWO DTP albums, "Deconstruction" and "Ghost". Both made it into the the list for this year with "Deconstruction" being in number 16. Of the two, this represents the "wild" and "heavy" side of the artist, while Ghost is the "pensive" and "introspective" side of Devin. Since the dissolution of Strapping Young Lad, this is the heaviest record of Devin and the third part of the four-part initial DTP experiment. In addition, it is a quasi-concept album of a man's journal to discover the inner workings of truth, leading him to hell, all acting as a metaphor to overcoming fears and difficulties in life. In a track by track examination of the album, we begin with "Praise the Lowered" , the sole relaxing moment of the album, with guest vocals from the singer of Novembers Doom (Paul Khur) . It is followed by "Stand", a complex composition which bears striking similarities thematically to the Devin Townsend Band album "Terria" and has guest vocals (or rather, roaring) from Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. "Juular" which follows, has since become a live concert favourite and is an extremely heavy and aggressive piece, complimented by guest vocals from Ihsahn.  "Planet of the Apes" is a paranoid piece of true progressive metal with influences from bands like Messugah as well as the aforementioned late Strapping Young Lad.  Again there is a guest vocalist here, Tomy Giles Rodgers (Between the Buried and Me).  "Sumeria"  features the great Paul Masvidal of Cynic and is along with "Juular" the two more listener-friendly moments of the record. This comes in stark contrast with "The Mighty Masturbator" which starts in a very pompous manner and ends up being an absolute mindfuck of a song, justly complimented by the insanity that is Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan. "Pandemic", is more structured as a song, but just as heavy, and is full of Strapping Young Lad influences, complimented by operatic vocals provided by Miss Floor Jansen (Nightwish, Star One etc.). "Deconstruction" veers again into complete insanity with Jazz improvs followed by blastbeat attacks and GWAR guesting to throw the whole song into a nearly perfect chaos. "Poltergeist" which closes out the album features no guests, but is again extremely aggressive and justly summarises the whole album, acting as a good finisher to one of the most Townsend albums Devin Townsend has ever done. Not recommended to outsiders and a very rough listen, but engaging nonetheless!


Below is the music video for the infernal "Juular".

Saturday, 3 December 2016

#17 - Top of 2011

Hugh Laurie - Let Them Talk (Warner Bros)

Everybody that has watched any show that Hugh Laurie has performed in (with many examples in episodes of the series House) knows that he is a great musician and really into the New Orleans bluesy music genre, but still Let Them Talk is a pleasant and interesting surprise from an amazing artist! This album is the exception to the rule that albums made by actors should be avoided, as it is full of an R&B vibe with great songs like the "St James Infirmary", the "John Henry" (featuring Irma Thomas) and "You Don't Know My Mind". The "Battle of Jericho" and "The Whale Has Swallowed Me" are two of the peak moments of the album, succeeding in being both true to the genre they represent (and Laurie is passionate about), while at the same time adding something new!
Everything is wrapped up with the song that gave its name to the album, "Let Them Talk", perfectly serving as a closing song and as a comment to those who were quick to dismiss this daring attempt.
Although the album is far from being described as either metal or prog, it still is one of the most interesting releases of 2011 and worth checking out even for those that are not fans of the genre!


Below is the music video for "Swanee River"

#18 - Top of 2011

Vexillum - The Wandering Notes (My Graveyard Productions)

The Wandering Notes is the first full-length album of the power/ folk metal band from Italy, Vexillum, which shows their potential in creating powerful melodies to tell about fantasy stories and adventures. The record starts strongly with the energized "Neverending Quest" setting the mood for album and is elevated by Dario Vallesi's amazing power metal vocals! "Avalon" is an interesting and epic song that gets you pumped to sing along the chorus. "The Brave and the Craven" is filled with great guitar riffs by Michele Gasparri and Andrea Calvanico, while "Ranger Runs Again" has a more folk vibe with the addition of acoustic guitars and choruses. Quick-paced songs like the "Rising from the Ruins" and the"The Wood of Chances" are balanced with more melodic songs like the "Hunter and Prey" throughout this record.The are also some guest-treats such as the one-and-only Fabio Lione in the "The Traveller" which should not be missed!
The album's cover art ties in perfectly with the themes of the songs as it perfectly captures a old fashioned tavern, filled with people drinking and a band playing on the background. To add to this vibe the album begins with a stranger outside the tavern (and the crickets chirping) who then enters the tavern, while a "tavern noise" can be heard between the songs (with drinks being poured and background chats) tying the storytelling together!


Below is the audio for "The Brave and the Craven".

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

#19 - Top of 2011

Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street (Metal Blade Records)

In number 19 we have "17th Street" by Hammers of Misfortune.
This is the sixth release of the band and is on the same style as previous releases, blending modern metal riffing with mellotron and classic 70s prog. The album starts with "317" which acts as an intro to the album. "17 Street" is fast paced with a catchy refrain sung ethereally. "The Grain" is the second best song of the album and a  driving force for the inclusion of the band in this top list, with amazing twists and turns without loosing its pace. Simple yet impeccable "Staring (The 31st Floor)" is more slow-paced and veers toward a more doomy side of the band, while still being an excellent track.  "The Day the City Died" ups the speed again and has roots on 70s/80s songs, while adding more modern elements with some very soft guitar work, being the best moment of the album. "Romance Valley" is a more straight progressive metal piece,  "Summer Tears" is slower almost ballad-like rock anthem, "Grey Wednesday" starts doomy before turning into a guitar-driven 80s anthem, while "Going Somewhere" is the "obligatory" epic  with a powerful repetitive tune by which the album comes to a close. This is an excellent release, as almost all the albums by Hammers of Misfortune are, that despite not breaking new grounds, in terms of what the band has achieved so far, cements their place as one of the most trustworthy bands in their niche style , which can surprisingly appeal to fans of many different genres, from prog rockers to typical metalheads.


Below is the lyric video for "The Grain" and a live performance of "The Day the City Died".

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#20 - Top of 2011

 Brymir - Breathe Fire to the Sun (Spinefarm Records)

Breather Fire to the Sun is the first full length album of the Finnish melodic death band Brymir. The band might initially sound as a standard melodic death band but the use of symphonic and folk elements in their music gives them a more unique sound. The album is full with fast paced songs such as the "Burning Within" and blasting riffs in "Withering Past", without being afraid to experiment with longer and more epic songs like the "Breathe Fire To The Sun" and the "Unconquerable"! The songs "In Silence" and "Ragnarök" could be described as the most interesting songs of the record showing that, even though this is the first piece of work we have seen from Brymir (with the second album being released in 2016), we should keep an eye on them to allow them to show their full potential!


Below is the music video for the song "Retribution".

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

#21 - Top of 2011

Welcome to another top list! This will be the last list we will be doing in chronological order before coming to the present to review the top 31 albums of 2016!

Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand (Metal Blade)

Primordial are, in a sense a historical band. They came out of the second wave of black metal back in the mid nineties along with all bands all over Europe (Mayhem, Rotting Christ, Moonspell etc.) that changed the landscape of how modern metal sounds like. Each of these bands followed its own road and the sound of Primordial changed by incorporating folk and post elements, forging a unique and personal sound, built around the heartfelt vocals of A.A. Nemtheanga (Alan Averill). Their song are grim and yet powerful, channelling the Irish spirit. "Redemption at the Puritan's Hand" is the seventh album of the band and follows the same powerful recipe that its predecessor ("To the Nameless Dead ") did. The album's lyrical themes revolve around the issue of death and how humanity tries to cope with it. It kicks off with "No Grave Deep Enough", an aggressive opener eager to tear you down. "Lain With the Wolf", which  follows, is a passionate mid-tempo track, angry and bitter. "The Mouth of Judas" is a sorrowful ballad, which climaxes almost flawlessly with excellent guitarwork throughout. The title track moves slowly from slow  melodies into wild Celtic folk riffs , full of energy. Finally, "Bloodied yet Unbound" sounds like a terrfiying recitation of AA Neamthanga speaking on the behalf of the spirits, declaring his anger and determination, Bloodied Yet Unbound indeed!. Overall it is one of the finest moments of Primordial and a good album to listen if you are unfamiliar with the band and want to see if they are "doing it" for you.


Below is a live performance for "Bloodied Yet Unbound".

Saturday, 12 November 2016

#1 - Top of 2012

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (Inside Out)

There are some  albums that are immaculate masterpieces that redefine their genre, and then there is Epicloud. This album is not revolutionary, rather it is the culmination of the first phase of DTP integrating what has been excellent about the four prior releases of DTP and mixing it to create the perfect Devin Townsend brew, destined to be adored by fans and newcomers and resulted in the awesome Retinal Circus show that took place in London in 2012.
The album starts with a chorus chanting:  "Everyone into forever, Everything a part of me, Dancing all into whenever, Effervescent quality". Once the chant stops we are treated to the opener, "True North", a very energetic song full of positive energy which acts as a catalyst to enter the world of Epicloud. Choral vocals and melodic lines are very groovy, smoothly leading to the "funny" song of the album, "Lucky Animals"; there is not much to say here, except to check the awesome music video made out of fan contributions and adds to the surreal comedy of it. The album continues with "Liberation", adding electronic elements, but conserving the essential Devin Townsend character and is an absolute party anthem. "Where we belong" starts as a more relaxing tune and continues as a relaxed soundscape, musically very close to the  "Ki" album, with additional backing vocals by Anneke. "Save our Now" is again a high energy feel good song starting with whispers of Devin and Anneke and exploding into the refrain. "Kingdom" was initially recorded in the album "Physicist",  and is re-released here as a more polished version with Anneke again contributing backing vocals and considerably changing the dynamic of the original, making it sound as a brand new song! In "Divine", Devin sounds really personal and soft, and is a very solemn moment, giving us reprieve from the storm that was "Kingdom" and preparing us for "Grace". It starts by Anneke singing, before the choir joins in, in an epic song that gives a very positive message while at the same time has an extremely dynamic attitude. "More!" which follows, is a high energy tune with more aggressive tendencies, "Hold On" is a pop tune that blends in flawlessly, again with heartfelt vocals by Devin and Anneke. "Angel" that concludes this colossal album, is an epic all-out song that culminates all the themes of the album and closes the record as it started: "Everyone into forever, Everything a part of me, Dancing all into whenever, Effervescent quality"


Below is the music video of "Lucky animals" created by fan contributions.

Friday, 11 November 2016

#2 - Top of 2012

Grand Magus - The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)

Grand Magus is a Swedish band that keeps re-inventing their music at each album without losing the Heavy Metal element! The band started with a doom sound in their initial releases and has been steadily moving towards more heavy riffs and infectious choruses creating anthemic songs while maintaining mentions to their Viking heritage! This influence is evident in songs such as "Valhalla Rising"and "Draksådd", as well as one of the best moments of the album "Son of the Last Breath", which highlights the amazing baritone voice of  vocalist/ guitarist JB Christoffersson!! Kicking off with "Starlight Slaughter", a hooky but heavy intro to the record that is representative of what Grand Magus are good at, creating powerful songs and Viking-themed albums that are bound to stick to your mind! JB plays a major part in Grand Magus' achievements as he is a gifted lead singer, guitarist and song writer! He is of course accompanied by the amazing bassist Fox Skinner (who has been in Grand Magus since the beginning) and drummer Ludwig Witt (from Spiritual Beggars, who joined the band for this album)! "The Hunt" is a solid album with no weak moment, making one of the top records of 2012!


Below is the lyric video for the title song of the album, "The Hunt"

Thursday, 10 November 2016

#3 - Top of 2012

Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead (Napalm)

As we slowly approach the top, in number 3, we have the third and final album of the band with Solitude Aeternus' lead singer Robert Lowe. As with the previous 2 albums with Lowe that had been excellent, Psalms for the Dead  is also an album of the highest possible doom metal quality. The album kicks off with "Prophet"
that starts off with a quick-fire riff and killer melodic lines throughout. It is an overall classic Candlemass piece that is very reminiscent of songs from "King of the Grey Islands", and finishes with  truly heavy outro. Next is "The Sound of Dying Demons", that starts with a Black Sabbath riff and thunder in the back. The song is slow and crawls out of doom metal's darkest dungeons. Rob Lowe's vocals are chilling and you can feel evil is lurking near. A hauntingly beautiful Candlemass opus. Third song of the album is "Dancing in the Temple", which offers a reprieve from the darkness, with keyboards and beautiful solos being on the forefront, before you plunge back into it with "Waterwitch", another incredible Doom song with very solemn passages full of the beautiful voice of Rob, framed by extra heavy riffing. Next up is "The Lights of Thebe " which is another excellent song with an Egyptian feel and a very catchy refrain. The title track "Psalms for the Dead" is next and it is engaging, drawing obviously influences both lyrically and musically from My Dying Bride and sounds from a 70s mellotron that combine to create an awesome modern doom metal song. "The Killing of the Sun" is another obviously Black Sabbath - inspired anthem that drags you into its rhythm and beckons you to bang your head to its riffing. " Siren Song " is one of the few songs here that is just good, without being special, although, once again, the mellotron steals the show, and in the final minute the song becomes almost an anthem . The final track of this album, "Black as Time" and the last ever with Rob Lowe, sounds truly epic, dark and chilly, almost like a farewell from the band. Bleak narration over a clock ticking gives its way to a riffing assault and a Doom finale worthy of an awesome album. TIME IS BLACK.


Below are the audio tracks for the spine-chilling "Black as Time" AND "Psalms of the Dead"

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

#4 - Top of 2012

Kaipa  - Vittjar (Inside Out)

In number 4, we have the 11th full length album by Swedish Prog Rock veterans Kaipa. Kaipa have been around for a long time, with their history very closely intertwined with Flower Kings. The album has 8 tracks, and starts off with the instrumental  "First Distraction" which serves as an intro to the majestic "Lightblue and Green" which is an exceptional track to open the album with. This is followed by "Our Ballroom Band" which is a very melodic and sentimental piece that intertwines the proggy vocals of Patrick Lundstrom with folk female vocals by Aleena Gibson. The song is 22 minutes long and is really a breathtaking songwriting achievement. The rest of the album flows just as easily with instrumental interludes interjecting between beautifully crafted songs that combine folk and progressive rock in a familiar and yet, fresh way. An absolute blast of an album that doesn't immediately impress upon you how good it is, but grows on you, getting better every time you hear it.


Below is a video from the band which eloquently serves as an introduction to the album

Monday, 7 November 2016

#5 - Top of 2012

Rival Sons - Head Down (Earache Records)

Moving on to the top 5, Head Down is the third and arguably the best studio album by 70's blues-rock band from California, Rival Sons. It starts strongly with the groovy "Keep on Swinging" that introduces the listener to the powerful and confident vocals by Jay Buchanan, catchy bluesy guitar riffs by Scott Holiday and great drums by Mike Miley. The songs "You Want To", "Jordan" and "Three Fingers" also showcase the range of Buchanan's vocals who is not afraid to show of, setting the vibe for the album and maintaining a balance without overpowering the other members."Wild Animal" sticks to the rock elements while "Until the Sun Comes" and "All the Way" add a more quirky note and "Nava" turn to a more peaceful tone. The record doesn't lack the bluesy vibe with songs like "Run from Revelation" as well as a more epic atmosphere in both parts of "Manifest Destiny"! Overall, this is an excellent album demonstrating the true heart of the Southern spirit!


Below is the music video for the groovy "Keep on Swinging".

Friday, 4 November 2016

#6 - Top of 2012

Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In the New Real (Inside Out Records)

What has the unique Arjen Anthony Lucassen been doing when he is not splitting his busy schedule between Ayreon, Star One and Gentle Storm? The answer is creating his own solo album "Lost In The New Real", the 3rd one and first one in a while since 1996. The singer/ songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist narrates to the listener the story of Mr L, a 21st century modern-day man who is revived (from being cryogenically preserved at the point of his death) in a distant future where everything has changed and is trying to come in terms with the "new real" with the help of his psychological advisor Voight-Kampff (a tribute to the apparatus that is use in Philip K Dick's story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). The album discusses a number of issues that could also apply to contemporary situations, including separating music originality and piracy (noted in "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin"), concerns considering overpopulation (in "Parental Procreation Permit") and the environment (with theories about the "Yellowstone Memorial Day"), as well as drawing the line between reality and digital facade (seen in "Don't Switch Me Off"). It combines enjoyable positive songs and the more negative aspects of the realization of someone waking up to a dystopian future.
An interesting note is that, although the concept is not directly related to Ayreon, there are some connections with the project as the Dream Sequencer can be spotted in the cover art and the main character is Mr L who has previously appeared in the "01011001"  Ayreon album.!


Below is the music video for "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin"

Saturday, 29 October 2016

#7 - Top of 2012

 Beyond the bridge - The old man and the spirit (Frontiers Records)

Going further down on the list of top albums for 2012, there is the debut (and sole album to date) of this relatively unknown progressive metal outfit from Germany. There is little information on the band, other than the fact that they have been active for almost a decade before the release of this album, and it clearly shows, as this is not a rushed or amateurish debut but rather a very well thought out album which demands respect as one of the most hopeful progressive metal debuts of this decade.

The album starts off with "The Call" with a short intro before male vocals joining in, after the four minute mark the dynamic changes with the music slowing down in a interlude before expanding into a dynamic sound again."The Apparition" is a very strong song, which expands on the themes of its predecessor while being an individual marvel of modern music craftsmanship. "Triumph of Irreality" starts with keyboards with instruments coming in slowly and i excellent and strongly reminiscent of Ayreon. "World of Wonders" also kicks off with a mellow keyboard sound, while female vocals enter later on to give an ethereal vibe to this tune.
"'Doorway to Salvation'" is a metal track through ad through with dynamic riffing and powerful melodic lines. "The Struggle" starts with male voice singing a repetitive but addictive line, soon after the female voice interjects and creates one of th most powerful and human moments of the album. "The Difference is Human" is a typically long prog song, with mood changing throughout, creating a solid prog metal anthem. "Where the Earth and Sky Meet"is more quiet but has an amazingly emotional ending that will grip your heart. The album finishes with "All a Man Can Do" which is also a long prog track, with excellent flow which brings to end an amazing debut from a very promising band. Kudos guys and I am eagerly waiting to hear what's next!


Below is a live sample of the band performing "The Difference is Human"

Thursday, 27 October 2016

#8 - Top of 2012

Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata (Candlelight Records)

In number 8, we have one of the more unusual bands in this list that are certainly... very interesting although their accessibility to the average listener is debatable to say the least. DSO are an avant-garde band from Norway and they sure are pushing the boundaries of their music.The present is their third and last (to date) album with a new release upcoming(?). The album starts with "Voodoo Mon Amour", a jazzy/swing song with operatic vocals and a frantic rhythm. The album continues with "Guerilla Laments" with a lot of brass and rhythms that take you on a trip to Cuba or the carnival of Rio, and a highly dancing vibe to boot. "Kevlar Sweethearts" that follows, starts heavily with a string arrangement and drumming, before evolving into a lamenting latin melody with ethereal vocals and a folk-tale like feeling, before a mid-piece heavy metal/brass breakdown. "Black-box messiah" in sharp contrast has a very modern and avant-garde feeling, without engaging intertwining of male, female and "alien" vocals and an operatic feel. "Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball" is the next track, continues with the more modern and industrial feel blending it with an almost epic theatrical feeling in vocals and orchestral breaks. "Aurora", is an eerie song that is very close in feel to Chaostar and is highly operatic, feeling like a genuine opera piece. "Mass Rapture" has an oriental melody excellently blended with modern metal riffs and is at time reminiscent of the more quiet moments of Orphaned Land. "Honey Trap Aftermath" is a return to a jazzy/swingy song form with the brass section being again very prominent and n excellent tapping rhythm. "Of Kali ma Calibre" is the penultimate song of the disc and is another operatic piece with music and choral parts  resembling military anthems mixed with hints of industrial metal. The final song of the album,  "Justice for Saint Mary" is the pinnacling of the album with an epic haunting melody closing "Pandora's Pinata" with a whisper that sounds like a scream. This album is an experience!


Below are music videos for "Voodoo Mon Amour" and "Back Box Messiah"

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

#9 - Top of 2012

Ye banished Privateers- Songs and Curses (Record Union)

Ye Banished Privateers welcome you along with an album full of "Songs and Curses"! The crew consists of Major John (Piper), Blackpowder Pete, William  "One Eye" O'Sullivan (Accordion), Monkey Boy (Drummer), Fiddler Eve, Old Red, Scurvy Ben, Val & Emilio DuMonde (Guitarra), "Hog Eye" (Banjo), One Chou Zhong (Strings) and the extended crew. All the tracks are true to the pirate spirit telling stories about travels, exotic places, drunkard parties and violence! The tracks could not be classified as metal (in contrast to other similar bands that combine the two elements), however, their tone is representative of the pirate genre and makes their approach unique. Starting the journey with "The lamentation of the Marooned Sailor (Bottle of Rum)", you instantly get hooked to the vibe. The most uplifting songs are "Welcome to Tortuga" and "It Matters Not", while the best examples of intense story-telling are the aggressive "Colour of Sin", the melancholic "Drowned Walz" and the gloomy "When ye Dead Come Sailing Home Again". Songs like the "Yellow Jack", "Waves Roll High", "Fire Down Below" and "'Bout Me Father" are bound to make you wanna drink and sing along with the crew!


This is the official video clip for the cheerful song "Welcome to Tortuga".

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#10 - Top of 2012

Big Big Train - English Electric Pt One (Eer/Gep)

Moving down to the ten best albums of 2012, in number ten we have the first part of the English Electric by the ever crafty Big Big Train. This is the second album with Nick D'Virgilio on Drums and David Longdon on Vocals, and essentially the first record that the new members had a real creative input. The album is musically very close to its predecessor, but at the same time is the more approachable of the two English Electric releases (the second released in 2013), having no song exceed the 10 minute mark. The album achieves that without compromising its artistic integrity or becoming more simple but by compressing its artistry into pieces that are shorter but definitely not less proggy than they should. 
Going in a track by track exploration,  "The First Rebreather" is an amazing opener with nods to Genesis and with amazing lyrics and pioneering storytelling. "Uncle Jack" is an off-beat tune with banjo excerpts in it. "Winchester from St. Giles' Hill" is easily among the finest tunes of the album with jazzy guitars and vocal arrangements lending themselves to recount one hell of a story. "Judas Unrepentant" is more mellow and again alludes to Genesis without loosing the band's individual identity. "Summoned by Bells" begins with a  piano arpeggio before reinventing itself through the use of cello, doo-wap b-vox and recorders with an emotional outro with King Crimson influences abundant throughout. "Upton Hill"is quirky with cello sounds giving it a unique a distinct vibe. "A Boy in Darkness" is a powerful and emotional piece with D'Virgilio leading the way and again one of the best moments of the album Hedgerow has a Beatles feel with amazing vocal lines, slow guitars and violin arrangements leading to an explosive progressive piece which might also qualify as one o the best progressive songs of the year. An incredible end to an incredibly consistently awesome album which, at least for me, is probably the best in the long career of Big Big Train and a true masterpiece equal to very few others in the 21st century.


Below is the band performing Judas Unrepentant live and an audio clip of Hedgerow


Monday, 24 October 2016

#11- Top of 2012

Arraigo- Fronteras y Horizontes (Independent)

Fronteras y Horizontes is the first full length album by the Argentinian heavy/ folk metal band that is entirely in Spanish. The band which is composed of singer Pablo Trangone, guitarists Federico Bertoli and Leandro Ramogida, drummer  Federico Prieto and bassist Javier A. Espeche succeeds in mixing Heavy metal with Tango and Folk elements using amazing guitar riffs along with traditional Argentinian instruments such as the "bombo leguero" and the "charango". The album (which has amazing replay value and is bound to be stuck in your music list for a while) starts with the heavily cheerful "Carnaval de soledade" but has songs for every taste with acoustic songs such as the "Zamba para los huérfanos", guitar&drums-based songs like the "En el nombre del padre" and the "Crías de crías" and songs that combine both elements such as the "Para aquel que sabe oír".
The final two songs, the vibrant "Cadenas y antifaces" combining both heavy guitar riffs and an uplifting vibe followed by the tango-based "Que sangre madera" provide a unique wrap-up of the album leaving the listener hoping that a new album will be coming out soon!


Below is the video clip for the song "Nehuen (Fuego del Alma)".

#12- Top of 2012

Mostly Autumn- Ghost Moon Orchestra (Mostly Autumn Records) 

Ghost Moon Orchestra is the 2012 release of British prog-rock band Mostly Autumn and is their 10th studio album in a career spanning almost two decades. It has all the engaging elements that are representative of the band, including amazing female vocals by Olivia Spernnan and male vocals by Bryan Josh, excellent musicianship filled with guitar and keyboard tunes (by Iain Jennings) and an overall engaging flow from beginning to end! The powerful vocals can be noted especially in the equally great "King of the Valley" and "Wild Eyes Skies". The album is full of eerie ambient ballads such as the "Unquiet Tears" without missing out on heavier songs lead by powerful male vocal such as the "Ghost Moon Orchestra" and songs guided by acoustic guitars such as the "Working Man". The mood is set by rather dark melodies and lyrics which are describing a scary and eerie environment around a campsite.  Overall, it is a very good example of English and Celtic folk/ prog that can be appreciated by both prog fans and first timers in this particular music field!


Below is a lyric video for the song "Wide Eyed Skies"


Sunday, 23 October 2016

#13 - Top of 2012

Witchcraft -Legend (Nuclear Blast)

In the lucky number 13 of the 2012 top list, we have the 4th album of Swedish heavy rockers Witchcraft, aptly named Legend. The album follows in its predecessors' steps and is marked by Witchcraft's traditional sound. This release would be followed by a 4 year break from releases followed by an excellent successor in this year's Nucleus. Two new guitar players were added for the needs of this album and the band's main-man Magnus Pelander who also played guitars in the previous records is only in vocal duty here, leaving the guitar duties to his two new bandmates. Highlights of the album include the single "It's not because of you"  and the epic "Dead End" which acts as a closing act to the album. The rest of the songs are also of genuinely excellent quality and there are very few flaws in this otherwise immaculate record which acts as a magical gateway back to 70s psychedelia.


Below is the lyric video for the single of the record, "It's not because of you"

Saturday, 22 October 2016

#14- Top of 2012

Therion - Les Fleurs du Mal (End of the Light)

In number 14, we have the latest, to date full-length album of Therion who have since been put on a mini-hiatus to prepare a grandiose operatic album, while still occasionally hitting the road for a live or two. This is an endeavour unlike what Therion have produced ever before, as it contains exclusively covers of old songs from the 60s interpreted through the distorted lens of the very talented Mr Johnsson.  There is abundant talent here as the membership of the band has remained relatively unchanged from Sitra Ahraagain Johnsson here joined by Thomas Vikstrom of Candlemass fame, who also lend his voice in the previous Therion album (Sitra Ahra), the soprano Lori Lewis and Nalle Påhlsson (bass), Johan Koleberg (drums) and |Christian Vidal (lead guitrars). If you are a fan of old "golden age" pop songs and Therion, look no further! This one is for you!


Below are the music videos for three of the cover songs of the album

#15 - Top of 2012

GravelRoad -Psychedelta (Knick Knack Records)

Psychedelta is a the third album of the Seattle-based trio: guitarist Stefan Zillouxs, drummer Marty Reinsel, and bassist Jon "Kirby" Newman who make up GravelRoad. The record starts of by setting up the mood with a dirty and  alt-bluesy vibe with "Devil Eyes", "Keep on Movin" (introducing a psychedelic blues rock element) and "In the Woods" (with its southern country-like guitar riffs). Throughout the album a familiar feeling is created without repeating but by enhancing known tunes. "Caves" (with its "crying" guitars and prog-rock sound) and "Deep Blues Theme" are excellent examples of the blues, while "Nobody Gets Me Down" is a funky cover to the original song by T-Model Ford and "Furry" is closer to the traditional deep blues feel. The final song "I Was Alone" is a classic bluesy song and a perfect track to wrap up a disc that blends perfectly new and old sounds taking the listener into a trip to the Deep South!


This is the music video for the album track "Keep On Movin"

Friday, 21 October 2016

#16 - Top of 2012

Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm Records)

Viking folk metallers Ensiferum released in 2012 one of their most epic records, in Unsung Heroes. The album starts off with the epic intro "Symbols", leading into the first awesome song of the record, "In my Sword I trust", a fast Viking metal sing-along which sets the tone for what is to follow. The eponymous track who follows brings the speed down and has a more epic feel to it with folk metal overtones. "Burning Leaves" follows with a fully blown folk tune that breaks into power intermitted by folkloric interludes. "Celestial Bond", which follows is mainly dressed in the voice of Laura Dziadulewicz, singer of Medeia and acts as an acoustic interlude to the album's frantic energy. Speedy folk is back in "Retribution Shall Be Mine", while the folky Star Queen is simply a melodic elegy. "Pohjola" is another folk song, which is more reminiscent of older Ensiferum records with a more "black" feel and an added grandiosity to it. "Last Breath" is more solemn with an acoustic vibe and acts as an intro to the final 17 minute epic "Passion Proof Power" which acts as a perfect close to the album. There is an added bonus track of a loose cover of Bamboleo which is a fun note to an otherwise cool and solemn epic folk record. An excellent effort, truly a gem for its genre.


Below is the music video for "In my Sword I Trust"

#17 - Top of 2012

Baroness -Yellow and  Green (Relapse Records)

After a short break we are moving on to number 17, taking a small leave from all things progressive that defined the last 4 posts of this list and heading towards a more hard rocking album. "Yellow and Green" is Baroness's third full length album and it came out during a year that became challenging for the band (while touring for the album's promotion, the band's bus crashed in the UK, severely injuring the vocalist/guitarist John Baizley, as well as drummer Allen Blickle and guitarist/vocalist Matt Maggioni who later left the band). The record is split into two discs both equally interesting and filled with psychedelic, heavy and hard-rock vibes! The first disc starts with the heavy-paced instrumental "Yellow Theme" followed by a range of different tunes including the rocker "Take My Bones Away", the psychedelic "Cocainium", the melodic "Twinkler" and the atmospheric "Eula", which constitutes as a transition to the second part of the album. The second disc starts with the airy instrumental piece "Green Theme" followed by the radio-rock "Board Up the House", the captivating "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)" and "Foolsong", wrapping up with the more alternative "The Line Between" and the instrumental tunes of the "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry". The intriguing cover art by Baizley completes the album with a great visual depiction of the record's vibe and amazing song-writing!


 Below is the music video for "Take My Bones Away"