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01.15.13 Video Games, Soon To Be Playing...01.11.13 Rec Me Some Bands Like These?
01.06.13 Finally, My Top Albums From 201212.28.11 Favorite Albums From 2011 (w/ Mini Revi
08.10.11 Rec Any Good Power/prog Metal02.25.11 Bands I Just Don't Get
02.18.11 Pissed Off/Bad Mood02.16.11 Today's Playlist - PUNK RAWK
02.09.11 Rec Me Good Prog/Power Metal!02.04.11 SB XLV: Steelers 26, Packers 20
01.28.11 Video Games, Soon To Be Playing...01.25.11 Albums I'm Embarrassed To Say I Like
01.20.11 Top Punk & Ska Albums Of My Life12.22.10 Top Albums From 2010!
12.16.10 Top Albums Of 2010 That Aren't From 201

Favorite Albums From 2011 (w/ Mini Reviews)

Here's my 2011 list, where quantity seems to overpower quality. That doesn't mean there weren't some good releases in 2011. I have a particular way of determining the score for when I "review" an album. Here's the closest key I can come up with. Rating system: 100-95 = Masterpiece 94 ? 90 = Excellent 89 ? 85 = Great 84 ? 80 = Good 79-75 = Okay I rated each song using a 5 star system, added them up and divided by the amount of songs, times 20 to come up with a sum out of 100.
Back Through Time

Final Thoughts: Alestorm is one of those bands that you just cannot take seriously, and for some reason a lot of metal fans fail to grasp that concept. Back Through Time had me a little dissatisfied the first few listens because the album turns the gimmick up a notch. I didn?t give up on it and kept listening as I knew it would eventually grow on me, and it did even though some songs left you wanting more. Death Throes of the Terrorsquid was a nice surprise as there are definitely some black metal influences (guest vocalist from Abigail Williams) present in this epic tale. Barrett's Privateers , one of my favorite tracks on Back Through Time was discovered to be a cover song so that?s a little disappointing. Alestorm doesn?t really bring anything new to the table with this release, but they are keeping up? for how much longer, is the question.
Highlights: Back Through Time, Barrett's Privateers, Death Throes of the Terrorsquid
Score: 82/100
Heathen Warrior

Final Thoughts: This is what I can call as a surprise release. One of those, ?Oh hey, look? new Stormwarrior, sweet?. I can?t even recall how I came across Stormwarrior, I?m sure I was just looking for new music as usual and stumbled across their myspace page, or a recommendation from and liked what I heard. Heathen Warrior is the second release since I started listening to these guys and it does hold up well compared to their last release Heading Northe, but falls just a little short. Reason for this is there aren?t many tracks from this album jump out at you/pull you in (besides the highlights listed below), but that?s not to say that Heathen Warrior isn?t a solid album from start to finish. Worth checking out of you?re into this genre of music.
Highlights: Heathen Warrior, Fyre & Ice, Ravenhearte
Score: 82/100
Gaia's Legacy

Final Thoughts: Gaia's Legacy is the second album I?ve gotten into from this Italian progressive metal band named Eldritch. The first of which was their last release from 2007 called Blackenday. I?ve read that it?s pretty mandatory that I should check out their earlier work from the 90?s as that is their best material, but until then I only have one album to compare Gaia's Legacy to and that?s Blackenday. My first impression was the single Everything's Burning, from their video release of the song. The video was dreadful to put it bluntly, but the song was pretty decent and a little more upbeat and more progressive than I remember Eldritch being. This of course peaked my interest. The rest of the album turned out to be in the same vein of the single, with a couple tracks that were needed to be given more time, but an unexpected and pleasant release for sure.
Highlights: Deviation, Our Land, Everything's Burning
Score: 83/100
Tales of the Sands

Final Thoughts: Myrath hails from Tunisia and you don?t know how excited I am to be listening to a metal band from that country, let alone from Africa. I first heard the single Merciless Times, by watching the video release on Youtube that I stumbled on randomly browsing metal videos. To be completely honest, the first minute I was confused by the music but by the middle of the song, I was hooked. So therefore I got my hands on Tales of the Sands and was completely impressed by the album and the overall mix of the oriental style and progressive metal approach. If you?re into that sound, and are looking for a new touch, check out Myrath.
Highlights: Braving The Seas, Merciless Times, Time to Grow
Score: 84/100
20Symphony X

Final Thoughts: I just wanted to make note that I am reviewing the two-disc special edition of Iconoclast. My expectations going into this album were pretty high; especially since 2011 was the year I really got involved with the entire Symphony X discography and not just a couple albums and few songs here and there like before. But unfortunately, Iconoclast as a whole has let me down a bit, but should have been expected since over the years they are getting away from the neo-classical, symphonic metal that they once used to play. Now the progressive side is much more involved and heavier than ever before? but what bothers me the most is Russ? vocals. I miss the clean vocals, and not his ever so ?angrier? or ?in your face? style of singing. All of which could be forgiven, because there are some quality tracks present, but with that there are also a couple tracks that just fall flat and leave me unimpressed? Songs like Dehumanized and Heretic are good examples (though both songs have some nice solos). I?m not going to fault the band, but more of me just looking for what I really enjoyed from them? their style from earlier releases.
Highlights: Iconoclast, Electric Messiah, Reign in Madness
Score: 84/100

Final Thoughts: Firefight is Blackguard?s third release since 2007?s debut So It Begins (when Blackguard was once named Profugus Mortis). They used to play an almost folk-black metal style on their debut when they used violin instead of the now symphonic elements. Their second album titled Profugus Mortis was heavy on the speed/epic style of metal. With this release they seem to be stuck in between the power metal/melodic death metal stage, which is fine by me. When I first heard the title track Firefight, I was extremely excited for this album, and raised expectations up a few levels. Sadly, Firefight never quite met those expectations, but can still be considered a solid album nonetheless. Paul ?Ablaze? Zinay?s extreme vocals can be harmful on the ears to some, unless you?ve generated a withstanding for his style. Otherwise, they fit the music very well from his low growls to his shrieking bursts.
Highlights: Firefight, Farewell, The Fear Of All Flesh
Score: 84/100
18Power Quest
Blood Alliance

Final Thoughts: Power Quest has been active since 2001, and is a band I have heard of before and may have even sampled their music, but nothing further. When I heard that Chitral "Chity" Somapala was the vocalist on their newest album Blood Alliance (who has since left the band), I knew I had to get my hands on this. For those of you who don?t know, he was the vocalist on one of my favorite power metal albums, Echoes of a Nightmare by Moonlight Agony. Chity?s vocals aren?t the highlight of this album; believe it or not he seems to have regressed. What are really great about Blood Alliance though are the melodies and the hooks in the music that really pull you in with every listen. There is some great guitar work present on this and any power metal fan out there should look into at the least sampling Blood Alliance.
Highlights: Rising Anew, Crunching the Numbers, City of Lies
Score: 85/100
Ukon Wacka

Final Thoughts: Ukon Wacka (which refers to an ancient pagan sacrificial feast, dedicated to Ukko) is Korpiklaani?s 10th album in the past three years. Okay, it?s actually their 6th album since 2005. That can be viewed negatively though, because some people like to think they put out the same album every year without adding much creativity or variation in their music. I?d be okay with that if that were the case but clearly it?s not. That trend stopped with their last release Karkelo. They started incorporating some changes like the vocal style of Jonne and the overall oddness of most of the songs on the album. Ukon Wacka has that same feel to it, but just perhaps a little less odd, and some more basic tracks that any Korpiklaani fan will enjoy. Besides the goofy single Tequila, comparable to Vodka, the most notable tracks are the title track Ukon Wacka and the closer Surma, which at times is a total shred fest. A solid release from these guys, but nothing groundbreaking.
Highlights: Tequila, Ukon Wacka, Surma
Score: 85/100
16Iced Earth

Final Thoughts: This is my first review of an Iced Earth album; I?ve just come to the realization of that while typing this sentence. The reason for this is simple, my favorite Iced Earth albums are The Dark Saga, Something Wick This Way Comes and Horror Show, all from 1996-2001 with singer Matt Barlow. Another reason why this is my first review is because I heard vocalist Stu Block (from Into Eternity) will be taking over as the lead man. I was a little weary of what was to come? and even when I sampled the re-recording of Dante?s Inferno with Stu, I had some mixed thoughts. When I got a hold of Dystopia and listened to the album my mixed thoughts quickly vanished. While Stu sounds a lot like Barlow in my opinion, he really pulls off the job rather well and almost fits in flawlessly. With the way Into Eternity has been headed with their recent album, it makes you wonder if Stu will return with that band now that he?s cemented his place with Iced Earth, for the time being that is? they can?t seem to keep a lead vocalist.
Highlights: Dystopia, Dark City, Tragedy and Triumph
Score: 85/100

Final Thoughts: Interestingly enough, here I am reviewing a Nightwish album? which I never thought would happen. The video release of Storytime is the reason I?m writing this review. The video was intriguing and the song itself was so catchy that I kept coming back for more. Got my hands on the album and from there I realized that Imaginaerum was truly a solid release. Imaginaerum can be considered a concept album based on a Finnish-Canadian film by the same name set to be released in 2012. The orchestrations present on this album is what I like the most as it set several moods, some beautiful, some dark, and some even twisted. An example of the twisted can be seen in Scaretale, which is simply one of the finer tracks on the album. No song on Imaginaerum can really be compared to another, and that is also fascinating. The final track Imaginaerum, worth noting, is an orchestration journey that revisits the entire album over a 6 minute span.
Highlights: Storytime, Ghost River , Scaretale
Score: 85/100
14World Under Blood

Final Thoughts: World Under Blood is a melodic death metal band from the US that was created by the front man of CKY Deron Miller and drummer of Divine Heresy Tim Yeung. I was told about these guys by a close friend a couple of years ago and have kept a eye on when the debut would hit the shelves. Instantly in the first track A God Among The Waste you can hear the heavy influences of CKY?s music (Deron?s singing and his riffs) in World Under Blood, but just hyper speed. Though, throughout most of the album Deron shows off his heavy screams; you would never know it was him if not told so. Tactical, overall, is probably one of the heavier and fastest albums I?m reviewing in 2011, and that was greatly needed for when I?m feeling that mood to just bounce off walls and terrorize cities like I?m some maniacal overgrown beast looking for bloodshed.
Highlights: A God Among The Waste, Pyro-Compulsive, Under The Autumn Low
Score: 86/100
13Amon Amarth
Surtur Rising

Final Thoughts: Amon Amarth is certainly the most popular band I?m reviewing in 2011. They are known by most of the metal community, globally recognized. I got into them because of this; I had to see what the hype was with this group. Surtur Rising is now the 3rd album from Amon Amarth that I have got my hands on, and it?s comparable to the others. It?s heavy, mean, fast and melodic? all of which are good characteristics that form a melodic death metal band. But unfortunately, with these guys, you know exactly what the album is going to sound like before it even hits your ears, and I don?t know if that?s truly a good thing. I really enjoy Amon Amarth, since the release of With Oden on Our Side (their best album in my opinion), they just haven?t done anything original on Twilight of the Thunder God or Surtur Rising that astonished me. Still, any fan of this genre should get their hands on this album.
Highlights: War of the Gods, Destroyer of the Universe, Live Without Regrets
Score: 86/100
One for Sorrow

Final Thoughts: One for Sorrow is Insomnium?s second album I?m reviewing from the band, the other being their 2009 release Across The Dark. It just so happens that they have incorporated clean vocals into their music on Across The Dark, and you see some more of that in One for Sorrow. As I?ve read, most fans particularly don?t care for those, but I?m okay with it as I think it breaks up Niilo Sevanen?s extreme low growls and gives the music a more basic melodic death metal approach. One for Sorrow is one of those album?s that I can tell will surely grow on me more and more over time just like Kalmah?s 12 Gauge album did (which ended up being album of the year). It?s very heavy and sometimes that can take me a little longer to break down the music compared to most of the stuff I listen to. I?m sure whatever score I?m giving this album now, in month?s future I?ll look back and disagree with it. Solid album from Insomnium all around, but I might prefer Across The Dark just a little more.
Highlights: Through the Shadows, Unsung, Every Hour Wounds
Score: 86/100
The Writ of Sword

Final Thoughts: Crimfall pulls off what most other bands cannot and that is the switching off between female clean vocals and male harsh screams. As I mentioned in one of my other reviews, bands that have two vocalists singing two different styles always draws me in. When I first heard their debut As The Path Unfolds (2009) I knew I?d be a fan of this band for the long run and couldn?t wait for their upcoming material. The Writ of Sword has the more mature sound that I knew they?d be capable of and can?t express how epic this album is at times, it?s just magical really. Most notably the folk-like chants of Helena in songs like Frost Upon Their Graves, Son Of North & the title track The Writ Of Sword just send chills down my spine. Not many bands are capable of making me feel that way. As mentioned in my review of the debut, the only thing that hurts Crimfall in my opinion is their intros and interludes. Sometimes they can use a little more build up and a little less of a quiet, soft score that hurts the flow of their albums.
Highlights: Storm Before The Calm, Frost Upon Their Graves, The Writ Of Sword
Score: 86/100
10Before The Dawn
Deathstar Rising

Final Thoughts: I discovered Before The Dawn just about a month ago through a friend?s profile on He had them listed highly on his top albums of 2011. Seeing that they were labeled as a melodic death metal band, I had to check them out. I?ve always been a sucker for bands that have an even dose of harsh growls and clean vocals; it just changes up the pace so well in most situations. Deathstar Rising is Before The Dawn?s 6th studio album; being as I just discovered them I unfortunately cannot compare this album to their preceding. I will undoubtedly be venturing into their earlier work when I get the time. To describe their music, I?d almost have to say they have a touch of Insomnium (musically) and Amorphis (vocally) in their sound.
Highlights: Winter Within, Deathstar, Butterfly Effect
Score: 87/100
Blind Ride

Final Thoughts: Several years back, I discovered Hibria by a recommendation on some metal forum, so I grabbed their debut album Defying The Rules (2004) and it completely blew me away. Still to this day I consider it one of the best heavy metal albums in my collection. Since then they have released one other album (besides Blind Ride) called The Skull Collectors (2008) and have changed their style, just a little. Unquestionably, they still have the blazing speed, roaring vocals and shredding guitar solos (what they are best known for)? but any Hibria fan will be able to tell you that it?s just not the same sound we?ve come to love on Defying The Rules. They appear to have transformed from traditional heavy metal to more of a speed metal band, in addition to the vocals getting a little angrier. Blind Ride is still a great album regardless; they just put themselves in a tough spot to live up to their debut and an even more superior album The Skull Collectors.
Highlights: Nonconforming Minds, Welcome To The Horror Show, The Shelter's On Fire
Score: 88/100
The Beginning Of Times

Final Thoughts: What I really like about Amorphis (beside their insanely catchy melodies), is that they are that perfect change of pace for when I?m feeling in the mood for something a little more chill. That?s not to say that their music isn?t heavy at times, because Tomi?s harsh vocals are some of the meanest I?ve ever heard. The Beginning of Times is a little heavier than its predecessor Skyforger, and I couldn?t be happier about that. Also present, are more female vocals, mainly backing? but in 2011, that?s become my thing. I feel Skyforger had a couple tracks that just left me uninterested and I was slightly worried in their direction for The Beginning of Times. It was comforting to know that this album ranks just as highly as Eclipse and even Silent Waters. If I had one criticism on the release is that it seems all the best tracks are in the first half of the album, not to put down the second half tracks, but it was just noticeable. Still a must buy for all Amorphis fans.
Highlights: Mermaid, Song of the Sage, Reformation
Score: 88/100
7Ancient Bards
Soulless Child

Final Thoughts: Ancient Bards are a power metal band from Italy, with similarities of Dragonland, Rhapsody of Fire and even speeds equal to Dragonforce. What sets them apart from those bands are the female vocals that blend perfectly with their epic sound, and since 2011 is the year of the female led bands; this is an ideal fit for me. Soulless Child is Ancient Bards? second release in just two years. Their debut was released early in 2010 called The Alliance of Kings. One thing I must stress is surely you will be overwhelmed when first listening to Ancient Bards? mainly because of their speed and the overall power delivered; you just need a few listens to break down what?s going on in their music. To The Master of Darkness is a good example. When I first viewed the video release of the single, I knew right away that I like what I heard but took some time to develop and breakdown the song in my head. That?s why with every listen Soulless Child just gets better and better.
Highlights: To The Master Of Darkness, Soulless Child, Through My Veins
Score: 88/100
Under the Grey Banner

Final Thoughts: It?s been 5 years since Dragonland?s last release Astronomy, which means the anticipation is larger for this year?s release of Under The Grey Banner. Jonas Heidgert is one of my favorite vocalists and that?s the main reason I?ve been looking forward to this album as well as the sampling of the single Fire And Brimstone. The song just blew my mind is in contention for song of the year. While some may believe his voice too high pitched, I consider it to be a perfect blend for the type of music they play, in the likeliness of Daniel Heiman from Lost Horizon. Also sharing their talents on Under The Grey Banner are all three vocalist from Amaranthe. Elize Ryd?s striking voice can be heard in songs like Lady Of Goldenwood, Ivory Shores & I believe the chorus of The Black Mare. Perhaps my favorite guest appearance is Fred Johanson who can be found on tracks like Fire And Brimstone, Throne Of Bones & the title track Under The Grey Banner. While Dragonland isn?t among one of my favorite bands, this was quite the surprise this year.
Highlights: Fire And Brimstone, The Black Mare, Under The Grey Banner
Score: 88/100
Book of Dowth

Final Thoughts: Since I?ve gotten into Suidakra back with the release of Caledonia (2006) they really haven?t missed a beat since. Each album is packed with just madness type melodic death metal with your folk influences blended in perfectly. Suidakra has also proven that they can change things up with their heavily folk-like medleys nicely added into their albums. Songs like Biróg's Oath (guest female vocalist), Mag Mell & Stone Of The Seven Suns will prove this. They are quite needed, because they transform the flow of their albums seamlessly. Book of Dowth (shockingly their 10th studio album) doesn?t really bring anything new to the table, but in this case it?s a good thing. While definitely not Suidakra?s best material, it?s indisputably a solid addition to their discography.
Highlights: Dowth 2059, Biróg's Oath, Fury Fomoraigh
Score: 89/100

Final Thoughts: Several years back I downloaded Battlelore?s album Evernight but never really got into the album. I?ve overlooked it many times in my collection but just never put much thought into listening to it. My guess is because they weren?t what I was looking for at the time when I saw they were labeled as folk metal. This year, two albums later Battlelore released Doombound. I don?t know what has changed from then until now, but I got my hands on the album, listened to it and loved it. They aren?t the fastest, nor the heaviest band? they just have that sound that blends the soft female vocals of Kaisa Jouhki and harsh male vocals of Tomi Mykkanen seamlessly. Their epic melodies built into their music hook you in and are another reason that keeps me coming back for more. Doombound is a strong surprise contender for album of the year.
Highlights: Bow and Helm, Fate of the Betrayed, Last of the Lords
Score: 91/100

Final Thoughts: Amaranthe is the debut album from the band of the same name. I remember the moment I stumbled on Amaranthe pretty vividly. I was viewing the official video for Hunger for the first time on Youtube and couldn?t believe how cheesy the video/song was, that I wanted to post it on Facebook for other people to see. Then about halfway through the song, something just hit me. It?s upbeat, cheesy, heavy, and there are 3 lead vocalists... all of which are characteristics that I prefer. After a few more views of the video, I was addicted and got my hands on the album. 3 vocalists can be a bit much, but when you have the stunning voice of Elize Ryd mixed in with two male singers, one harsh and one clean, you can?t go wrong. While the music won?t blow you away with its technicality, Amaranthe touches base on a lot of different genres of music. Throughout the album, you?ll hear power metal, death metal, synth, dance, and even a smidge of metalcore. For a debut release, even from a so called ?supergroup?, they just seem to do everything right.
Highlights: Hunger, Automatic, Act of Desperation
Score: 92/100
Stand Up and Fight

Final Thoughts: Stand Up and Fight is Turisas? first release since their 2007 masterpiece and album of the year The Varangian Way. That means Stand Up and Fight has a load of expectations. This makes me think of Equlibrium after the release of Sagas (2008 album of the year) and how much Rekreatur (their next album) was put in to a tough spot after losing some band members. The album was set up for a fall from the beginning, even though it turned out to be pretty good in my eyes. Turisas has taken a slightly different approach with Stand Up and Fight, a little more modern this time with their theme. They have incorporated real string and horn sections for the recording of the album as well as adding some stadium rock influences into some of the tracks. It?s much bigger this time around, adding to their vibrant sound. What I mean by that is if you removed the vocals from Stand Up and Fight, some songs could even be used for a musical of some sort. But why would we want to do that to Mathias Nygĺrd? After all I think this his best work with Turisas. Stand Up and Fight is an outstanding album and has lived up to it?s expectations, almost matching The Varangian Way in some ways. Get your hands on this Turisas fans.
Highlights: Take the Day!, The Great Escape, Fear the Fear
Score: 94/100

Final Thoughts: myGRAIN is the 3rd release from the band of the same name, hailing from Finland. myGRAIN isn?t well known; I happened to discover them right around their 2008 sophomore release Signs of Existence (a little comical, huh?), which is a very solid album. When I first heard they were releasing a new one in 2011, I knew I had something to look forward to because I?m a huge admirer of their thrash groove style of metal. Come to think of it, they sort of remind me of Soilwork of old, but maybe a little more melodic in some ways with a little more synthesizer. What can be said about myGRAIN? Besides that I feel that it?s a flawless album from start to finish and an easy a competitor for album of the year. One of the strong points of the album are the harmonious chorus? in songs like Dust Devils And Cosmic Storms, Of Immortal Aeons and Trapped In An Hourglass that will stick in your head for days upon days. myGRAIN doesn?t have the originality, because we?ve seen bands like this before? but their performance (energetic, aggressive and experimental) alone on this album make it a must have for fans of melodic death metal.
Highlights: Into The Parallel Universe, Dust Devils And Cosmic Storms, A Clockwork Apocalypse
Score: 96/100
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