Saturday, December 31, 2011

480 - Immortal - Pyramaze - 2008

So when I heart Matt Barlow joined Pyramaze I thought that was pretty cool and the result would be something special.  Legend of the Bone Carver and Melancholy Beast are really cool albums, so I figured with a better singer, Immortal would be a can't miss great record.

Well, it is a good record, but disappointing for sure.  My real beef here is that the album is a tad boring.  I mean in theory it works, but when I play the album I am just not that impressed.  Maybe I expected Dante's Inferno of something more substantial, but what it is is a collection of solid Power Metal songs, nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, December 30, 2011

481 - Back From the Grave - Grave - 2002

Tr00 Grave fans do not like this record, and I think the Death Metal Establishment (DME?) will tell you their first album is the best; however, I disagree.

For me, this album sounds more musically mature (I hate that word but I think it's the right one) than Grave's earlier works.  It sounds like they cared more for the quality of the music and production here.

This album is just as heavy and any of the previous works, but it is more cohesive.  Hell - it is just better.  Grave would eventually top this record, but in 2002, this was their high water mark, and they were getting better. They were not selling out or going soft as the DME may have you think.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

482 - Enigmatic: Calling - Pagan's Mind - 2005

The songs on this record could all be B-sides on Dream Theater's Images and Words.  That's not an insult.  Images and Words is one of the greatest records of all time, so B-side status on that record is pretty damn good.

It is hard to deny the Long Islanders influence on this band, and I don't think they ever did.  That being said, this record is better than anything Dream Theater has done in ages.

As with many progressive metal albums, it is too long and they certainly could have trimmed a fair share of fat away, but all in all, this is a cool album and recommended for fans of the sub genre.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

483 - Evil Star - Wolf - 2004

Evil Star is the third record from Swedish traditional metal act Wolf.  There is not much flash here, just solid traditional metal.  The production is slightly fuzzy and it gives the album a nice Mercyful Fate meets Iron Maiden vibe.

Wolf is not a clone band, and they get more points for originality than Primal Fear, but Wolf won't amaze you either.

A solid record from a good band.  Not much else to say.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

484 - Nuclear Fire - Primal Fear - 2001

"This guy sounds more like Halford than Halford". This is a great quote and will always stick in my mind. I know I've used it on this blog before, but it is appropriate, and needs to be used again. Primal Fear's lead vocalist Ralf Scheepers should have been Rob Halford's replacement in Priest, rather than Ted McGinley. However, Priest's mistake is a boon for Power Metal fans as Primal Fear have been churning out competent records for over a decade. This is one of their best.

Primal Fear will not win any awards for originality. While this is quite an understatement, it still does not completely detract from the fact that they write cool songs, and execute them perfectly, and with excellent production value. The sound is so crisp and clear, I wish more bands would have this sound.

Stefan Leibing and Henny Wolter play twin leads as well as anyone in the genre, save Smith/Murray and Tipton/Downing. The bass and drums are audible, and while not brilliant, certainly are audible in the mix and add something to the songs. Sure this is formula driven power metal by numbers, but Primal Fear does it well. And on this record, they do it particularly well, and thus Nuclear Fire is number 484.

Friday, December 23, 2011

485 - No Escape - At Vance - 1999

German Power Metallers At Vance are a band that I typically do not care for. While, they are a power metal band, most of their stuff is a bit like Dragonforce, who I have no use for. However, their first album, No Escape is a bit more raw than the rest of their releases and it is more of a straight up power metal record.

Big guitars and strong vocals are the ingredients here, and other than the sappy ballad, this album is solid all the way through. Even the weird Abba cover is not bad. The album is well produced and the sound is great. Really other than this record, there is not much convergence with At Vance and me, but this album is a good piece of power metal, so I like it and it is number 485.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interlude 2

OK - so a break in the countdown, here's the deal:

When I started this thing, I already had a good list, but I was anxious to start so I figured I would and then just position the albums as I go.

While doing this process, I discovered several albums that I must have thought were good at one point, but in reality, are total crap (i.e. Eternity by Kamelot). So in any case, I have had to re-populate the list and right now, I have a lot of re-positioning to do. That, and with a busy year-end schedule, I am not prepared to continue the list until next week.

One observation is that 2010 and 2011 seem to be the best years in metal in a long time. When I started this project, I had a thought that metal was dying, and this top 500, would be a final, and really not much new material would come out and break the "Point of Entry" to the top 500. Really, how can you blame me given the poor output we saw from 2006 to 2009.

I was wrong.

So, the countdown shall continue. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

486 - Nattfödd - Finntroll - 2004

Finntroll is one of many Finnish Folk Metal bands. They are certainly not nearly as good as Moonsorrow, but they hold their own. Of their 5 or so records, this is the standout.

There is some great instrumentation here, I especially like the elements of folk and black metal. Like I said, there are better Finnish bands, and better albums that combine these elements, but this is a really solid effort and worthy of its position among the best of the Finnish albums of this era and genre.

It is ambient and atmospheric, yet brutal in the right spaces. So, to sum up, this is a really good album. Not perfect, and like many albums in this section of the countdown, the flaws are visible. But it has its merit, and is #486 on the Countdown.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

487 - Man's Trap - Trust - 1984

Clive Burr on drums. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

488 - Diver Down - Van Halen - 1982

I almost left this off the countdown, but when I decided to expand the countdown to 500, that left room for good, but flawed albums, and Diver Down may be the perfect example of a good, but seriously flawed album.

First, it is almost all covers, and second, at barely over 30 minutes, it is really an EP. However, despite these glaring weaknesses, the album is executed brilliantly. Obviously, Eddie's playing is great and the backline is perfunctory at worst. Then there is Dave being Dave, and you have a really good record. Again, cutting away the intros and instumentals , there are 8 songs. One of which is the silly Big Bad Bill.

The remainig 7 songs and covers are all Van Halen at their best. The covers are all very well done, taking older rock songs and putting the Van Halen sound to them. Plus their own Secreets and Little Guitars are terrific rock songs as well.

So, it's not perfect, heck, it's not even a great album, and Van Halen has many better, but Diver Down is a sold record and it is number 488.

Friday, December 02, 2011

489 - Crest of the Martyrs - Twisted Tower Dire - 2003

Good American Power Metal has made a bit of a resurgence in recent years (i.e. White Wizzard), but in 2003 there was not as much, and Virginia's Twisted Tower Dire were one of the better American bands of the genre. I have heard most of the Twisted Tower Dire stuff, and to me this is the best they have to offer.

Like many power metal albums, this does suffer from some inconsistency, but I think this album has a sound that stands out a little bit above the rest. It seems to have some of the ferocity of the American bands that I hate, but in a more melodic and musically sophisticated way. So it combines late era Pantera with a Cryonic Temple vibe and the end result is a not too polished, but a good gritty Power Metal album.

Sure the lyrics are pretty bad (Axes & Honor for example), but I rarely pay attention to lyrics unless they are so stupid that they become unbearable (see the Swedish band Locomotive Breath). The music is what you'll notice and after a couple of listens, many of the hooks will stick with you and you'll keep coming back.

Really, no new ground is broken here, but it doesn't have to. It’s a solid, unapologetic metal album, and it works well for the listener. The singer here, Tony Taylor, was unfortunately killed in a motorcycle accident, and while they peaked years before Taylor's demise, it is apparent this band has now completely lost their way; but in 2003, they peaked and their peak is number 489.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

490 - State of Mind - Psycho Motel - 1995

I realize this is not a metal album. That's three in a row for those of you scoring at home. First, I am going to say why this album is not better, and then I'll tell you why it is in the countdown.

Psycho Motel was the short-lived 1990's band of then former Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith (fanboy alert). Smith put this band together originally as a part time project, but decided to make a go of it full time. Unfortunately, Smith made several mistakes.

In my opinion, the biggest mistake was not doing the vocals himself. Solli is a decent singer, but Adrian's voice fits this music perfectly. I am not necessarily a fan of the guitar sound here either, but it works OK. Also, the band is somewhat unremarkable. Finally, although Smith is a great player himself, he seems to do his best work with a guitar partner. I'm not saying he needed to go hire Dave Murray, but a second guitarist would have complimented Smith's playing quite nicely.

So, what did they do right? It's about the music, Jeb. These are well written, competently performed, memorable songs. There is a groove and vibe here that most rock/metal albums of this era are sadly lacking. Sins of Your Father, Psycho Motel and Time is a Hunter are all fantastic songs. Even a ballad like Western Shore sounds great, and I hate ballads. As a side note, I do not hate ballads because I don't like slower and softer sounds; I hate ballads because they are rarely done well.

So could Psycho Motel have done better here? Of course. And they did do better on their follow-up which I'll discuss later. But for now, this imperfect debut, led by one of the premier players and songwriters of the genre finds itself at number 490.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

491 - Instant Clarity - Michael Kiske - 1996

I realize this is not a metal album. Actually, I am told by critics that there are two metal songs here, both co-written by and performed with Adrian Smith (fanboy alert). Be that as it may, those are not the only good songs on this record. They are the best two for sure, especially New Horizons (which also features Kai Hansen), but there is more.

Songs like Be True to Yourself and Thanx a Lot have a good vibe and sound. Some of the songs have a unique groove and pace (So Sick, Hunted). Kiske's voice sounds great. Sure there are a couple of duds here, including the overlong "epic" Do I Remember a Life?, but most albums at the bottom of the countdown have flaws, and clearly, Instant Clarity is no exception.

It does make me wonder why Kiske has shunned metal ever since leaving Helloween. Can you imagine how great this album would be if Kiske, Smith and Hansen did the whole thing? It probably would have been album of the year. Hell, it would be considered in the topic of album for the decade.

But instead Kiske's Instant Clarity (largely aided by Smith and Hansen) lands at number 491.

Monday, November 28, 2011

492 - Pyromania - Def Leppard - 1983

First, two points. One, I realize this is not metal. Two, this is the most recent Def Leppard album to make the countdown.

Leppard still had some traces of NWOBHM here. No matter what the band and its members proclaim, they were a Metal band in the early 1980's. Granted, they are right, and this was not a metal album, but the two previous ones were, and this is close.

Def Leppard are an MTV success story. Granted, this is a good rock record, but certainly not worthy of its ridiculous success. The only thing more mind numbing is the success of their completely bland saccharin sounding follow up, Hysteria.

Pyromania, despite is strong commercial singles, has some great tunes on it (Stagefright, Rock Rock 'til You Drop, etc.) Even the singles have that NWOBHM backbone (Rock of Ages, Comin' Under Fire). Finally, the ballads are tolerable, even good. The one thing this band always did well was cheese.

So while I am not one to lavish this band with praise, I will not castigate them for the musical direction they took (and really who could - as there are big bucks in pop music). Pyromania was a good rock record and really, in the right place at the right time for this band, and for metal in general. Also, the right place is number 492.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

493 - Crimson Thunder - HammerFall - 2002

This represents the last high quality HammerFall album. I suppose that Threshold was decent, but not really top 500 material. Clearly, the writing was on the wall when I first heard this album and at the time, we could see this was the end of the road for HammerFall. But there is no doubt that they had enough left in them for this album to be a worthy entry into the Power Metal Hall of Fame.

I especially like Riders of the Storm, Crimson Thunder and Trailblazers, but there are no bad songs here. Granted the album is not as consistent as Renegade and certainly doesn't have any all time classics like Legacy of Kings, but it is still a good listen.

Crimson Thunder was the first "new" HammerFall album I heard since I didn't discover this band until late 2000, just after the release of Renegade. It is easy then to see why this record was a disappointment at the time. But with nine years of hindsight, this album can take it's rightful place, certainly below the first three HammerFall records on the list. It lands here at number 493.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

494 - Battering Ram - Iron Savior - 2004

When this album first came out, I was disappointed. I put the CD away in its spot in my CD binder and forgot about it. Really, my expectations were unreasonable. Granted, at the time, this was the worst Iron Savior release to date, but not because this album is bad, it is because the others are so good.

So, I was expecting another Condition Red or Dark Assault, and that is not fair because greatness is fleeting. Competence however endures, and this is a damn good album.

The songs do blend together more than earlier releases, and there are no real standout tracks, other than the title track, but the album is a solid rocker and the production and playing are superb.

So, while this album does not get heavy rotation on my iPod, it is an enjoyable listen and a really good Power Metal album from a great Power Metal band. And it is the 494th best hard rock/heavy metal album to date.

Friday, November 11, 2011

495 - Saxon - Saxon - 1979

Some regard this as the first NWOBHM album. I'm not sure if it is the first. I think Quartz 1977 record would be the first, but I digress. Either way, it is the first by a significant band.

When I was in high school, I did not like this record, but I have come to appreciate it. I know it is dated, and very raw, but these 8 songs are all of high quality. The production quality is poor (John Verity is no Martin Birch) and Saxon would certainly go on to do much bigger and better things (even without a marquee producer).

Some of the songs suffer from inconsistency, dragging through the slower parts (Judgement Day, Frozen Rainbow, etc.), but tracks like Stallions of the Highway and Backs to the Wall are full fledged NWOBHM classics. Others are hard rock standouts (Big Teaser and Still Fit to Boogie).

So, this raw effort from future legends is a good start to a great career, and thus lands at number 495.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

496 - My Favorite Headache - Geddy Lee - 2000

There will be several Rush albums in this countdown, in fact all of them, with the exception of the preachy Snakes & Arrows. Geddy Lee's only solo album is a solid, if not spectacular effort. Some say he mailed it in, but I don't know for sure if I agree with that. I would have liked to see a bit more of a departure from the traditional Rush vibe. However, what we got was a Rush-esque album. It had a bit more keyboards than the recent Rush releases, so there is a distinction there, but I would have liked to see some experimentation with other genres by Lee.

The songs flow nicely, and the musicians perform flawlessly. The lyrics are not too serious and listening with hindsight, they are a refreshing departure from Peart's heavy hand. Snakes & Arrows (and to a lesser extent and for different reasons, Vapor Trails) makes me appreciate this album more 11 years after its release.

So, even Geddy "mailing it in" is good enough for #496 on the countdown.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

497 - Master of Reality - Black Sabbath - 1971

Master of Reality is hailed by many Sabbath fans as their greatest work. I find it to be the worst of the original line up's 8 records.

Let’s break this record down into it's parts. There are 8 songs listed. I think you have to take away the 2 pointless and silly instrumentals Embryo and Orchid. This leaves you with 6. To me, Solitude doesn't really work. Generally, I am not a fan of the ballad. I prefer softer intreludes and instrumental sections of songs as opposed to a sappy ballad.

So, in my book, we are left with 5. That’s right, a supposedly full-length album with 5 real songs on it. Now of those 5, included is After Forever, the original Christian Rock song. It's not a bad song, but really not spectacular.

Into the Void goes on and on and goes nowhere.

Lord of this World, Sweet Leaf and Children of the Grave are all legitimate Sabbath classics, but really it is too little to consider this an elite album.

Finally, lest I forget, Master of Reality will be forever marred by the outro in Children of the Grave.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Interlude 1

So, compiling this list has been a tad more difficult than I thought. One of the reasons is that I was not expecting to find so many new releases that I like.

Think about it; 500 albums is a large number.

As I alluded to earlier, this population of albums consists of several great albums, but the bottom half or more contains some interchangeable pieces. At 500, Point of Entry is probably just as good of an album as DoomSword's Let Battle Commence, which will be somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Anyway, I am trying to position some things and finding it challenging. I do feel the list is worth doing, but it is going to be more fluid than I originally thought. But, when you think of it, that makes a heck of a lot more sense.

Friday, October 28, 2011

498 - Unstoppable Force - Agent Steel - 1987

Here we have an interesting album. Despite this band's first album coming out in 1985, leaving little time for imitation, comparisons to "elite" 1980's bands is inevitable. Not that they are a clone of any band, but they seem to have borrowed elements from other bands. So we have Queensryche vocals, Iron Maiden guitars and Metallica (Kill 'em All era) bass & drums. The whole thing is wrapped in an early Fates Warning vibe, and the result is Unstoppable Force.

Certainly, there were better bands and albums in the era, but among the bands who died out early (there was a reunion, but it is not really worth mentioning) this is one of the better albums. I'm not sure why these guys fizzled out, maybe it was bad management or lack of support from their label, but my guess is they would have changed their style to fit in with either the thrash movement or the glam movement. Maybe it was their refusal to change that destroyed them.

In any event, this is a good example of a good band, which may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. For me, it is good enough to land at number 498.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

499 - Metallica - Metallica - 1991

I struggle with this album. In a vacuum, it's a really good traditional metal album. There are a few annoying slow songs, but face it, most good metal albums have them. Also, as with many good albums that clock in over 60 minutes, the last few tracks start to blend together.

But these minor flaws are not what brings this album down. There is an intangible here, and it is not a good one. Since music and it's enjoyment involves emotions and mood, this intangible hurts this album's ranking.

This album suffers from it's legacy, and that is why so many metal fans of my era dislike it. This album seemed to cause a wave that killed metal temporarily. Just look at the 1990's and you'll see a dearth of good metal albums, and for some reason, this album serves as a signpost for that end. On the bright side, I believe it was this dearth that opened up so many of the great albums and bands from the late 1990's and early 2000's, but that doesn't absolve Metallica and this album of its sins.

As such, "The Black Album" lands at 499. As a side note, if not for Mariano Rivera, it may not have cracked the list.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

500 - Point of Entry - Judas Priest - 1981

This is an interesting record. Also, and interesting band. After reviewing the top 500, some may argue that I hold better bands to a higher standard. For example, if Demon released this album, I would sing its praises, but because it is Judas Priest, and they have a ten or so records better than this, I have been overly critical.


All I can say is this album suffers from inconsistency. There are some really great tracks here; Desert Plains, Solar Angels and even the overrated Heading Out to the Highway are all great tracks. Unfortunately, there are some real stinkers here. You Say Yes, Troubleshooter and All the Way are unlistenable. Turning Circles and On the Run are not much better.

Really, as I type, I am thinking 500 may be too generous given how many bad songs there are here. However, sometimes a couple of great songs can salvage an entire album, and I think that is the case here. I can overlook the problems here and focus on the great songs. Really, Priest usually has a clunker or two on their albums (Take on the World, United, etc.) and this album is no different, except that the clunker to classic ration is not as favorable as other Priest albums.

As a result, it lands at number 500.

Note - so how long until I post #499. Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe never. I am noncommittal.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Top 400 (or so) - Introduction

In cataloging the top heavy metal(ish) albums of all time, I have found it interesting how the landscape of music has changed over the years. It is almost impossible to categorize Led Zeppelin II with White Wizzard, but I'll give it a try.

The other problem I am having is that the bottom 300 or so on this list can be very interchangeable. I think that when I am done, I'll find there is little difference between #317 and #483.

We shall see as I finalize the list, but my preliminary conclusion is that there are probably about 50 or so indispensable classics, another 150 or so really good releases, then a bunch (several hundred) of solid, but flawed records out there.

Again, stay tuned....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Top 400

OK so in the next few weeks, I will begin the countdown the Top 400 heavy rock albums of all time. This will be a marathon, and may take 10 years, but who cares? I know I will phase in and out. Some weeks I may be prolific, other times I will not post for months. But since, I have nothing else to say, I may as well say this.

Coming soon #400...........................

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Top 250 - One More Try

So, loyal reader(s), I have finally decided to embark on a bold project that I have been wanting to do for some time. The problem is with a Top 250 album list is that new entries come in and tend to make the list outdated. However, with so few albums that I like coming out in recent years, it seems like now is a good time to embark on this bold project.

How long will it take?

How often will I post?

How soon until I completely abandon the project like so many others?

How long until I actually post Number 250?

There are many variables, plus there is probably a hidden variable, let's call it The X Factor....

Friday, February 25, 2011

WOW - It's Been a Long Time

Yup. I have not posted in quite some time. I've been busy. So, obviously, the top albums thing was a bust. As was my favorite 660. I guess I just don't know what to do with my little corner of the web.

I've heard a few good records lately, but nothing that great.

Saros - Acrid Plains
Ansur - Warring Factions

Again, pretty good, but nothing to blog about.