Monday, 30 January 2017

#20 - Top of 2016

Magnum - Sacred Blood, "Divine" Lies (Steamhammer)

Prolific rockers Magnum returned this year with the 19th studio album in their long and successful career, and boy they are still awesome. This album is a continuation of a "second youth" for the band, seeing them release excellent albums in the last years such as Escape from the Shadow Garden. The record starts with the dynamic title-track "Sacred Blood, Divine Lies" which showcases melodic guitar riffs (by Tony Clarkin) and Bob Catley's clear vocals, before moving to the unique power ballad-feeling "Crazy Old Mothers" (with great piano strokes by Mark Stanway)! The is no lack of catchy tunes with examples like the groovy "Gypsy Queen", the drums-based rocker "Princess In Rags (The Cult)" and pounding "Quiet Rhapsody" with its superb guitar solo! The dramatic "Afraid of the Night" (one of the personal highlights of the record!) is another melodic song which mixes perfectly heavy riffs and imposing symphonic elements that is followed by the interesting "A Forgotten Conversation" which starts off with a subtle introduction before giving us some amazing choruses. The album wraps up with the epic storytelling "Twelve Men Wise And Just" (and its upbeat sing-along chorus) and the equally amazing "Don't Cry Baby"! The album is bound to stay in your playlist for a while and can be a great introduction to Magnum's long song-writing career!


Below is the music video for the song "Crazy Old Mothers".

Saturday, 28 January 2017

#21 - Top of 2016

Avatar - Feathers and Flesh (eOne)

The top albums of 2016 continue with the latest release from Avatar, a very unique avant-garde project from Sweden. Avatar have slowly but steadily been building a very devoted fan-base and
creating their personal sound by combining Swedish Death Metal motifs with a "circus" framework, along with very catchy and quirky songs. This is their 6th full-length release and the band continues refining their sound, even more than their previous very successful release (2014's "Hail the Apocalypse"). "Feathers and flesh" kicks off with a short interlude ("Regret") which transforms into "House of Eternal Hunt", a true epic hymn, with lyrics exploring the experience of hunting. The next song "The Eagle has landed" is a much more pompous song, almost sung from within a circus tent, complete with a catchy chorus and over-the-top lyrics.  The album is unrelenting in mood shifts, as "New Land" demonstrates clear 70's prog rock elements with a solemn atmosphere, while its successor "Tooth, Beak and Claw" combines groovy lines with a deep aggression, and an over-the-top chorus. "For the Swarm" is a frantic piece of circus madness, followed by dark and claustrophobic "Fiddler's Farewell". “One More Hill” is a chaotic piece of progressive extreme music, "Black Water" is a downbeat southern tune, while “Night Never Ending” is very upbeat with the vocalist leading the joyous parade. "Pray the Sun Away" is another piece of chaos, at time reminiscent of Messugah and others of soft esoteric prog rock. “When the Snow Lies Red” swings between true epic moments and sick beats that are close to the spirit of early Slipknot. The album closes out with “Raven Wine” and “Sky Burial”. The former fluctuates between sudden attacks and jazz interludes, while the latter is more solemn and quiet as the album comes to a whispering end, in stark contrast to some of its louder moments.

A very interesting and multifaceted release, that needs multiple hearings in order to be fully appreciated, but can still be a fun listen at face value.


Below are the music videos for the tracks "For the Swarm", "The Eagle has landed" and "Night Never Ending".

Friday, 27 January 2017

#22 - Top of 2016

Serenity - Codex Atlanticus (Napalm Records)

Moving up the top is a symphonic power prog band from Austria, Serenity, who released their 5th album Codex Atlanticus in 2016! The clear and powerful voice of lead singer, Georg Neuhauser blends perfectly with the metal vibes and the orchestrated elements that are present throughout the album. One of the highlights of the record is the imposing "Iniquity" with its theatrical feeling, amazing symphonic orchestration and captivating melodies as well as the melodic "Caught in a Myth" with its awesome choruses. But this is not all! The record has a range of interesting songs including the powerful "Fate of Light", the piano-based "The Perfect Woman" and the epic "Spirit in the Flesh". It is also enhanced by amazing female guest vocals by Amanda Sommerville and Tasha, that add a more elegant note to the songs with "Sail" being one of the best examples! Overall, Codex Atlanticus is a great show of excellent musical craftsmanship and lyrical themes from an intriguing symphonic power metal band that is definitely worth a listen! 


Below is the music video for the song "Follow Me".

Thursday, 26 January 2017

#23 - Top of 2016

Marauder - Bullethead (Pitch Black Records)

The epic power metal band from Greece are back with their 6th full length album Bullethead and it lives up to the expectations! Equipped with a new vocalist, Nikos Antonoyiannakis (with his imposing and metal voice) but still loyal to playing heavy metal music their way, Marauder start with the heavy and epic battle cry of "Son of Thunder", an amazing intro song with a very Manowar feeling! The record is full of melodic riffs and amazing guitar solos that add to the epicness of the themes of the songs with examples like the rhythmic "Metal Warriors", the quick-paced "Spread Your Wings", "Dark Legion" (with its powerful chorus) and the guitar-based "The Fall". From start to end, the listeners are bound to have tunes and choruses stuck in their mind as the album is packed with infectious grooves and lyrics that are made for headbanging! Marauder manage to deliver all the elements that are expected from a heavy metal album, with a release that is destined to become an awesome sing-along in their live concerts!


Below is the lyric video for the song "Son of Thunder".

Monday, 23 January 2017

#24 - Top of 2016

Hammers of Misfortune - Dead Revolution (Metal Blade Records)

Hammers of Misfortune, after 5 long years of silence finally return to deliver et another progressive metal/rock masterpiece. with the "Dead Revolution", a much more heavy and dark record  than its predecessor. Classic metal elements are much more prevalent than the prog quality of the double "Fields / Church". Within the 46 minutes that this album lasts, it most closely approximates the sound of previous masterpieces "The Locust Years" and "The August Engine". The riffs,  are heavy but at the same time witty and playful, with no need to drag to distinguish themselves. Keyboards  give a distinct 70's sound and their interplay with the more dry guitar sounds creates a distinct sound rarely heard from any other band.
Despite the uniformity of vocal performances all across the record, if you compare the highly aggressive "Flying Alone" with the folk/doom/epic "Days Of '49", the range and technique are obvious. The best songs of the record are as follows: First, the uplifting title track, in which  the brilliant guitars rage along with the keys to a vocal soundscape/background. Second, the "Here Comes The Sky", a very different composition of this album, with a haunting piano, the excellent vocals of guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf, and trumpets. Hammers of Misfortune are no longer one of the bands that show us that there may be a future to the heavy metal sound, like ten years ago. They are  the kings of an in-between genre, whereas they might too soft for metallers or too heavy for progsters, but they are truly beloved by those few that have come to know them as the wonderful band that they are. 


Below is the promo video for the title track

Sunday, 22 January 2017

#25 - Top of 2016

Anthrax - For all Kings (Megaforce Records)

Anthrax released in 2016 their second album since the return of Joey Belladona, and while 2011's "Worship Music" sounded at times all over the place due to the many changes in the band line-up during its recording, the new album sounds very focused and an excellent piece of craftsmanship, sounding almost as "the album that could have been", instead of "Sound of White Noise", if Belladona had never left. The album's quality is of a similar calibre to "Sound of White Noise" and combines the maturity of musicianship that Anthrax achieved during the Bush era, with the powerful vocals of Belladona, creating an extremely volatile and equally powerful mix.

The album kicks off with an atmospheric intro, straight into "You Gotta Believe" - a straightforward old-school groovy thrash song that serves as a warning - Anthrax are back! "Monster at the end" is on the more melodic end of the Anthrax, with a trademark sing-along chorus and very emotional vocals by Joey. The album continues with "For all Kings", a very fresh song from the band which combines their trademark sound with a very epic atmosphere and frantic riffing. "Breathing Lightning" brings the speed down and is by far the more radio-friendly track of the album with Metallica-sounding riffs and an alt-rock feel, straight out of the 90s. The next two track "Suzerain" and "Evil Twin" are more straightforward and aggressive, without loosing their catchiness. "Blood Eagle Wings" is where we slow down again, in a very alternative-sounding track, straight out of the Bush era, with the emotional strength that only Joey's voice can give. "Defend Avenge", one of the weakest moments of the album, still manages to impress with its groovy intro, even though the track falls a bit short of its initial promise. "All of them thieves" is a heavy as hell, live firestarter, "The Battle Chose Us" is typical Anthrax mosh pit material, while "Zero Tolerance" is a hell of an aggressive piece, which closes the album with the foot on the pedal, the same way the album started. A pleasant surprise from Anthrax, in an era where the other Big 4 have failed to produce anything of real substance, they are  able to record their best album in decades.


Below are the music videos from "Monster at the End" and "Blood Eagle Wings"

#26 - Top of 2016

Wings of Destiny - Kings of Terror (Power Prog Records)

Wings of Destiny is an interesting and fresh power metal from Costa Rica who released their 2second full length album in 2016, under the title "Kings of Terror. The album starts of with the heavy and quick-paced "We Bring You the Night" and is followed by the amazing "Angels & Demons" which is bound to stick to your mind for a long time! The band even provides an alternative version of the song at the end of the record which features an awesome cameo by Fabio Lione (best known as the lead singer of Rhapsody & Vision Divine) who brings an extra touch of epic element to the song! "Eye of the Storm" is another highlight with its melodic riffs while the theatrical "Siren's Song" is a showcase of the lead singer's (Anton Darusso) vocal abilities and guest vocals by Rebecca Malavassi! The melodic "Lie to Me", the captivating "Touch the Sky" (with its amazing intro of bagpipes!) and the acoustic "Eternity" (full of keyboards and violins) are also great examples of the band's ability to balance all the positive aspects of power metal while at the same time having a unique personal sound!  
Wings of Destiny are a great representative of the new era of the power metal genre, keeping true to the roots o the genre but adding their own personal elements to the music. This is an album full of great lead vocals, catchy choruses and epic/heavy guitar riffs (by Cristian Jiménez and Allan "Kalay" Murillo) that will make you look forward to hearing more from the band!


Below the music video for the song "Eternity".

Saturday, 21 January 2017

#27 - Top of 2016

Arrayan Path - Chronicles of Light (Pitch Black Records)

Arrayan Path (previously known as Arryan Path), have always been consistent in producing excellent albums of epic power metal. However, their latest attempt with "Chronicles of Light", might be their greatest album yet. With excellent riffs, powerful choruses and tight songwriting, this album exceeds the expectations of their previous very good album "Stigmata".  The album starts with the two superb tracks epic power tracks  "Solomon Seed" and "Gabriel is Rising". "The distorted looking glass" flirts with a more theatrical side of the band while "Ignore the pain" is an old school power ballad with a lot of emotion. "Scorpio" is a cover of a cheesy 90s pop rock anthem, while the title song brings the album back into a more epic path. This is echoed in "Lex Talonis" a 7 minute track of Epic awesomeness, which is the most representative track as to where the band finds itself right now. The album finishes with "December", an old-school heavy metal anthem with emotional undertones.
Recommended release for all fans of the heavy/power/epic sound!


Below is the music video for the track "Gabriel is rising".

Friday, 20 January 2017

#28 - Top of 2016

Stonerider - Hologram (Self-released)

Stonerider is an interesting band from Atlanta that oozes with a 70s blues rock vibe! Their new album,  "Hologram", opens up with amazingly catchy "Sleepwalking Awake" that gives you a taste of guitar riffs and smooth vocals by Matt Tanner, drums by Jason Krutzky, magic keys by Noah Pine and solid bass by John Pratt.
"Hologram"which gave its name to the album, is a dreamy song that travels the listener through a journey of rock riffs and great vocals, while the psychedelic "Dayrunner" is a great change of pace full of groovy guitars and keyboards. "War, Traffic, and Blind Faith" is a 70s throwback song with an awesome guitar interlude (a real treat in the middle of the song) that is followed by the funky and feel-good "Elevator Operator"! The instrumental "Your Chains" gives of a definitely Pink Floyd vibe (with its amazing intro, great keyboards/guitars and its length, reaching a bit over 11 minutes) that smoothly passes on to the equally groovy "Undertow" before wrapping up with the "The Great Divide" that perfectly captures the 70s nostalgic feeling.An excellent blues/retro prog rock album from a really promising up and coming band.


Below is the music video for the title-song "Hologram".

Sunday, 15 January 2017

#29 - Top of 2016

Sixx:A.M. - Prayer for the Blessed Vol.2 (Eleven Seven Music) 

Nikki Sixx, who is known from Motley Crue, along with DJ Ashba and James Michael, are having a good year as they released two albums in 2016, starting with Prayers for the Damned and continuing with Prayers for the Blessed (which completes and surpasses the former)! The album kicks off with groovy and of course catchy "Barbarians(Prayers for the Blessed)" giving us a taste of the attitude of this record.  "We Will Not Go Quietly" remain on the same dynamic track while "Wolf At Your Door" has a rougher vibe along with a very catchy chorus theme! "Maybe It's Time" changes the tone only as a classic rock ballad with acoustic elements can, while "The Devil's Coming" is definitely made for sing alongs! "Catacombs" is an amazing guitar solo interlude that is followed by "That's Gonna Leave a Scar" which is bound to grab your attention and "Without You" an interesting cover of an all time classic. Wrapping up the album, "Suffocate" succeeds in the combination of grooviness and heaviness, "Riot In My Head" adds a dramatic and theatrical note and finally "Helicopters" is an interesting mix of guitar and tambourine tunes!

Even if you are not a fan of this genre, Sixx:A.M. will manage to get you hooked with a range of hard rock and melodic songs, and make you look forward to singing along in a live show!


Below is the official music video for the song "We Will Not Go Quietly".

#30 - Top of 2016

Fates Warning - Theories of Flight (Inside Out)

Gracing number 30 of the top 2016 albums, we have the twelfth release by perennial Prog Metallers Fates Warning. With their return in 2013 being a success, the band released last year its successor, which sees the band return to more familiar grounds, with an album with a distinct sound that, at the same time, feels very close to the renowned concept album of the band back in the 90s ("A Pleasant Shade of Gray").
The album opens with "From The Rooftops", a  very dynamic song featuring melodic lines reminiscent of the early lines of the  band, incorporated into a more fresh sound. "Seven Stars" starts off with amazing guitars with the vocals culminating into a pretty classic-sounding FW chorus. "SOS" opens with guitars grinding away as emotional vocals join in. Riffs galore at times and this would sound awesome live. "The Light And Shade Of Things" is dark and laid back with atmosphere as soft vocals arrive. The chorus is heavy and catchy with really angry interludes integrating flawlessly within the song. "White Flag" is a killer track that has very deep emotion and seems to be one of the best tracks of the album. "Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen" starts with an all out assault from Jarzombek, as Adler joins in with attitude!
"The Ghost Of Home" starts with speech samples which suddenly stop, before a Maiden-like guitar riff appears to kick-start a magnificent song with a very emotional culmination. "Theories Of Flight" is the interesting atmospheric closer which bring to mind the aforementioned "A Pleasant Shade of Gray most vividly and with its melancholic atmosphere brings the album to an end. This album, along with the Arch/Matheos collaboration rank as the two best albums that Fates Warning (and their offshoots) have created in the 21st century, and show a deep vein of creativity that not only is still rich in beautiful music but can also be surprisingly innovative at times! Well-worth your time.


Below are the music videos for "SOS" and "Seven Stars".

Saturday, 14 January 2017

#31 - Top of 2016

Welcome back to the Metal and Prog Tops blog, where today we will begin to unravel the music masterpieces of a whirlwind of a year that was 2016. Given that we will be including 31 albums in this list, no honourable mentions will be awarded; instead we dive straight through the list of the most amazing albums of 2016.

Thundershield -Thundershield (Independent)

The countdown starts with the debut album of Thundershield, a fresh power metal band from Dallas, Georgia who have made a great and promising start! Few info are available on the band other than their single which came out in 2014 (Crown of Blood) and the band's self-description as "The most ridiculous Traditional Power Metal"! But this is all you need to know! Thundershield consist of Mikel Hutchings (Vocals), Joshua Street (Drums), Austin Dix (Bass), and Sam Bryans and Chris Holter (Guitars). The album starts with the mighty "Specter of Light" which makes an amazing 8:55 minute intro and continues strongly with the epic "Red Mountain" and the awesomely catchy "Hammerhead"! There is no low point in the record with songs like the "DragonCycles (Dragons on Motorcycles)" which is a classic-heavy tune (with a unique title), the quick-paced "Draconia",  the melodic "Done Dirty", the infectious "Selfish Lover" and the heavier "The Doctor Is In" wrapping up with the epic"Thundershield" which gave  the album its title! This is an intriguing release that shows great potential and a true metal spirit that is truly rare to find these days!


Below is the audio for the self-titled song which epically closes out the album.