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.