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.