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Δευτέρα 19 Δεκεμβρίου 2022

2022 - THE BEST OF METAL

2022 was just like the previous year: It had countless albums! Everything is easier and everyone can record an album easier. It is easy to release it also, even if many of them sell just a few hundred copies. Everyone can become a "recording artist" and the music industry has changed a lot over the past two decades. And keeps changing.  

Everything you will read below was written within a few hours or something. This is not filtered or worked within a bigger time frame of days just like other features, just the first things that come to mind.


The Top-20 list was already completed in late November since it was asked from Metal Hammer magazine in Greece (where I am also a scribe) but let me add one short comment: No one really cares of what's added in place 18 or 19. In this list or any other list. It's all about what's in and what's not, but this also can be somehow "wrong". You know why? Because almost everything that's from 10 to 20, might change in a few years and one could add something that didn't make it to the list. For example, on a second thought, I really like a lot SAVAGE MASTER's Those Who Hunt at Night and I should add it, while the song "The Pilgrimage" from SAXON's Carpe Diem is better than most of the songs in any 10 to 20 albums of that list. Go figure...

However, the Top-5 albums on that list, are really TOP-5, 9/10 albums, with the first two ones (sharing the TOP spot) being future classics, possibly 10/10 albums. These are the best of the best, albums that we will mention many times in the future, albums that will take place in future "best of" lists.

Among the rest (most of them 8/10 albums) there are albums I really enjoyed, albums I listened to countless times, albums that I am going to listen to for a long time in the future too, and of course I bought all of the albums in that Top-20 list, plus the majority of the rest that are mentioned.

Let's go to Crystal Logic's Top-20 (plus many more you should check also!)

written by Andreas Andreou



20. FRIENDS OF HELL - Friends of Hell

Looks like a dream team including Master Tas and Albert Witchfinder. The debut release of the international group, named after the classic WITCHFINDER GENERAL album, is traditional Sabbathian doom with one of the most iconic doom metal figures on vocals, that will attract fans of early CATHEDRAL, doom-y NWOBHM and PENTAGRAM.


19. ACHELOUS - The Icewind Chronicles

From the cold winds of Olympus to the flames of war, the Mediterranean epic heavy metal of ACHELOUS is praised by the underground metal hordes.


18. MIRROR - The Day Bastard Leaders Die

Master Tas strikes again with a grower that will be appreciated more in the future. MIRROR's third album is their most "metal" one, including killer songs such as "Souls of Megiddo", meeting also Arthur Rizk's approval of a great album.

Check  also: CLARENT BLADE Return Into Forever : That's a special case that starts with the best epic metal song of 2022 most people won't listen to! It's probably because of the vocals and I can't blame them for that but the songwriting here is ace. This is something that can be huge. Remember the name.


17. SAKIS TOLIS - Among the Fires of Hell

During the covid months and lockdown days, Sakis Tolis of ROTTING CHRIST wrote an album that brings in mind late '90s vibes of his main band.


16. WHITE WARD - False Light

When multi-instrumentalist, composer and guest musician in False Light Mykola Lebed was asked to describe the art of WHITE WARD in his own words, the reply was:

"I would describe it with a picture: it is like you are strolling through the woods in the mountains while the storm is becoming more intense and harsher. But all this happens inside of you. The themes of their lyrics are resonating with me very much. It can be a song about personal feelings, about the grace of nature, or also about Kateryna Handziuk – the activist from Kherson - who was killed by an acid attack."

WHITE WARD is definitely one of the most innovative bands in the wider field of black metal, mixing experimental black metal, blackgaze and dark jazz.


15. SONJA - Loud Arriver

Often mentioned as "sounds like" UNTO OTHERS (former IDLE HANDS), this is actually a zero-fucks-given heavy metal album with an all-around-mentallity filled with different moods. Strong candidate for best debut album of 2022.

Check also: SANHEDRIN Lights On

 


14. KONQUEST - Time and Tyranny

In the debut album they sounded like modern day HEAVY LOAD but now they managed to add a strong MAIDEN's somewhere-in-time guitar sound. Just listen to the majesty of "The Light that Fades Again". A beautiful and a feel-good album!


13. GARGANTUAN BLADE - Gargantuan Blade

HEAVY. EPIC. DOOM. METAL.


12. BLOOD TYRANT - Codex Cruor

The blackest and truest black metal album of 2022. The spirit of black metal dwells in those songs. Just for the few; the brave ones, the black souls.


11. CAULDRON BORN - Cold Steel for the Necromancer

Master Bentley returned after many years with new CAULDRON BORN music and maestro's sword is still sharp. Poserkiller, true US technical power metal.


10. DAEVA - Through Sheer Will and Black Magic

Evil and blackened thrash metal with CRYPT SERMON members can't go wrong.


9. LUZIFER - Iron Shackles

"Free yourself from iron shackles!" is one of the most addictive lines and songs of 2022! The German lads sound like '80s Swedish kids that moved to England.



8. PHANTOM SPELL - Immortal's Requiem

SEVEN SISTERS' Kyle McNeill heart is all over an emotional album coming from the depths of his soul. Beautiful melodies, a warm sound, excellent songwriting.

Check also: IRON GRIFFIN Storm of Magic


7. OZZY OSBOURNE - Patient Number 9

Teaming again with old friends, Ozzy recorded a few of the most emotional and best songs of the year, including "No Escape from Now" (with Lord Iommi), "One of Those Days" (with Eric Clapton) and "Mr. Darkness" (with Zakk Wylde).

Check also: A-Z A-Z, TONY MARTIN Thorns, SCORPIONS Rock Believer


6. GRAVESPAWN - Scourge of the Realm

Battles, swords, demons in the mist, the impaler and blood. The best black metal album of 2022 is probably the epic black metal release you ignored and need to listen to. Perhaps you think you listened to better black metal albums this year but you definitely didn't listen to more epic ones or more suitable guitar solos in a black metal album.

Check also: CIRKELN A Song To Sorrow, KARMANJAKA Gates of Muspel



5. THE TEMPLE - Of Solitude Triumphant

The DOOM METAL MANIFESTO of 2022. The purest, the truest, the saddest, the deeper. True Doom Metal.


4. SMITH & SWANSON - Smith & Swanson

Crystal Logic admires Phil Swanson. The iconic performer is teaming up again with his old friend from SEAMOUNT, Tim Schmidt, and they deliver a heavy Sabbathian doom metal debut album that obeys the RIFF. The most riff-driven album of 2022, a favourite one that will be revisited forever.

Check also: EARLY MOODS Early Moods, ERIC WAGNER In the Lonely Light of Mourning


3. DOOMOCRACY - Unorthodox

This is art. A deep concept and music worked in every detail. Technical power doom metal, not your REVEREND BIZARRE style of doom, but the one that's written and performed just by a few. Simply because just a few can record this kind of music that has an epic doom metal heart but it's not regressive and allows elements from US power and progressive metal filtered by the band's character creating something new. Do you want name dropping? SOLITUDE AETURNUS, MEMORY GARDEN, MEMENTO MORI, CONCEPTION playing doom, even SAVIOUR MACHINE vibes.

Check also: DISHARMONY Gods Made of Flesh



1. SUMERLANDS - Dreamkiller

There is a lengthy feature written for this album already. This is a classic, best album of 2022 part one.

Check also: SPLINTERED THRONE The Greater Good of Man


1. RIOT CITY - Electric Elite

Best album of 2022 part two. Everything is on fire here. The blood of a legendary classic metal album runs in Electric Elite. One of the most praised classic heavy metal albums of 2022, from both underground and mainstream media, a speed metal mayhem, an electric power metal vengeance. Many claim to be the next big thing but don't get fooled by false prophets. This is the real thing.

Check also: EVIL INVADERS Shattering Reflection



More heavy, trad, epic, doom, power and a bit of thrash metal too: AFTERIMAGE II: Beyond Horizons Infinite, AMKEN Passive Aggression, CANDLEMASS Sweet Evil Sun, FER DE LANCE The Hyperborean, FLAMES Resurgence, FALL OF THE IDOLS Contradictory Notes, INCURSION Blinding Force, INFINITY DREAM Memories, KNIGHT & GALLOW For Honor and Bloodshed, KREATOR Hate Uber Alles, MEGADETH The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!, MIDAS Midas, MYTHOSPHERE Pathological, QUEENSRYCHE Digital Noise Alliance, SACRAL NIGHT Le Diademe d'Argent, SAVAGE MASTER Those Who Hunt at Night, SAXON Carpe Diem, SORDID BLADE Every Battle Has Its Glory, SPELL Tragic Magic, SPITFIRE Denial To Fall, STRAY GODS Storm the Walls, SWORD III, VALIDOR Full Triumphed, WITCHSLAYER Witchslayer, WOLF Shadowland


More black metal: AARA Triade II: Hemera, DOLDRUM The Knocking, or the Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance, GAEREA Mirage, GEVURAH Gehinnom, GLEMSEL Forfader, MIST OF MISERY Severance, NEGATIVE PLANE The Pact..., WATAIN The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain




Πέμπτη 15 Σεπτεμβρίου 2022

When passion, talent and shining souls unite: A study on Sumerlands' "Dreamkiller".

What do most musicians think nowadays when they're recording new music? There are many answers but let's put this aside for now. What do I believe Sumerlands had in mind when they recorded Dreamkiller? "Let's have a record that will stand the test of time". And so they did.

written by Andreas Andreou



You can go as far back as possible (literally many decades) and still can find things and techniques that inspired Dreamkiller's sound. Sometimes, the basic and old recording techniques can be the most important base to build up your sound. The automatic double tracking effect and chorused guitar signal, the synthesizer technology, even walking around the studio and the recording place in order to find the best sounding spot to place the drumkit and the mics. Everything is important, including of course the equipment and how you can use it. Once you have the songs, you always need the proper sound. The recordings also need air and space, they need to breathe, and modern recording technologies should not drink the blood of your art. Just like in life, there has to be a balance.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Arthur Rizk (with additional engineering by John Powers), Rizk, the most important and talented new producer out there nowadays, produced an album that will stand the test of time in all terms. While having a skillful usage of textural sound design, Arthur is also based in a production and recording style rooted in all-things classic (rock, hard rock, heavy metal) techniques, adding a strong work ethic and discipline. Every idea and opinion is welcome and every reference can be used. Old and new methods, doubling vocals, bass coming from everywhere, synths, lots of guitar riffs (Fender guitars only!) and melodies. Nothing is weird and crazy, everything can be placed somewhere for a reason. A couple of years ago, this site hosted a feature about the future that belongs to the brave with Arthur Rizk on top of that list, foreseeing somehow the future. Brendan Radigan was also there.

When the band was working on Dreamkiller's songs, the news of the passing of best friends Riley Gale (Power Trip) and Wade Allison (Iron Age) within a few days, broke Arthur Rizk into pieces, just like all of their common friends and circle. That happened when Eternal Champion's Ravening Iron album was already completed and scheduled for release but for a while, Dreamkiller was put on hold after Riley's and Wade's passing in late August and early September of 2020. The album’s songwriting was probably already completed by the summer of 2020, but upon listening to Dreamkiller now, you can feel a strong vibe of melancholy on it.

Eternal Champion's highly acclaimed second album Ravening Iron was released on November 6th of 2020 and Sumerlands' sophomore album took its final shape, sharing a few common members with Eternal Champion besides Arthur. The recording line-up of Dreamkiller is Brendan Radigan (vocals), Justin DeTore (drums), John Powers (guitar), Brad Raub (bass) and Arthur Rizk (guitar/synth).

Brendan Radigan replaced previous (legendary) singer Phil Swanson and just like Phil, Brendan is also a veteran underground singer with a strong background and a notable history of many different bands including Magic Circle, the cult heroes Stone Dagger, the iconic Pagan Altar, Battle Ruins and more hardcore bands, often with Justin DeTore who is also known for his hardcore background and also drumming for traditional doom metal outfit Solemn Lament, fronted by... Phil Swanson! Both bassist Brad Raub and guitarist John Powers are also part of Eternal Champion.


Sumerlands' debut album of 2016 was an artistic success, one of the best albums of the 2010s according to the author and you can read a brief review written for Iron Fist UK upon its release HERE.

Six years is a long time though... September 16th of 2022 is the street date of Dreamkiller and the 35-minute album that will be released by Relapse Records in various formats is a strong candidate for Album of the Year. But let's leave aside for a while the "Album of the Year" tag. Forget also the "Top" lists you're going to see (or not going to see) including (or not including) Dreamkiller. Just listen, feel and experience that album, because it's happening NOW. This is a future classic and you don't want to ignore it NOW.

Just like 2016's debut album, the opening track "Twilight Points The Way" also starts with a guitar solo part following the main riff and when the vocals are coming in, it sounds different and yet familiar. The guitar solo part after the bridge of "fading shadows covered by the light / such memories lost from sight" sounds like a bittersweet memory of names time forgot but you're trying to preserve.

"Heavens Above" is the first song of the album that was presented in public, part of the Ageless Life single that was also released as a limited edition cassette tape by Sword Worship, including the Fleetwood Mac cover of "I'm So Afraid". The vibes from the debut album are stronger here and the first song we listened to from Dreamkiller sounds like the perfect link and continuation to 2016 while the vocal melody also brings in mind the way Phil Swanson handles his vocal lines and words. Starting also with a beautiful guitar solo part when the chorus hits, you listen to this guitar riff that brings in mind Jake E. Lee during his Ozzy Osbourne Ultimate Sin era, something that is an important inspiration for the album and Sumerlands so far.

In the third track and the first video clip of the Philly band, "Dreamkiller", they deliver an up-tempo track with a mid-section of classical Johann-Sebastian-Bach-inspired guitar harmonies, an Yngwie-Malmsteen-vibe and Ozzy-fuelled vocals. "Night Ride" that follows has the most suitable title for its music. A perfect night ride song in an empty highway with the stars above you, with a rhythmic background that could be the soundtrack of Snake Plissken's last night-time walk before escaping from New York. Brad Raub's bass line is the heartbeat of little gain and many losses, the pulse of an uncertain tomorrow. It's extraordinary how perfectly each instrument and performance is placed within the songs in order to give life to the songs and create images for every listener. Not everyone will "see" the same things but everyone can feel the life of the songs.

"Edge of the Knife" is one of the album's highlights with the Jake E. Lee riffing style (is "Bark at the Moon" the greatest heavy metal riff?) meeting George Lynch of the '80s Dokken era while they're listening to In Solitude's "To Her Darkness" after a drunken '80s Scorpions night party. Another highlight that links Dreamkiller with the debut album and besides the massive chorus power, we need to mention the incredible work Rizk and Powers have done in the guitar solo parts. Each and every song has the most suitable and inspired solo (and there are many of them!) in this masterful guitar-driven album.

"Force of a Storm" starts with synths followed by a specific aura and style that bring an AOR and '80s hard rock touch to its metal. Once again, we have a thick and rich sound, and it’s the time to praise Brendan's beautiful vocal lines and phrasing. He is also the lyricist and just like the best ones out there, he finds the exact words to fit the vocal lines and the music, something that's very important but sometimes we're missing it from many new bands. You don't have to scream all the time, cut or pull out the words... Just find the suitable ones, the words that will also be a part of the music and Brendan shines in this part. But it's not just that, beneath the lyrics of Dreamkiller, you can feel a wider idea of hopes and dreams that in the end are crushed by reality and the fact that nothing lasts forever. That song is huge. A hit that should be included in modern series like Stranger Things or Cobra Kai, the perfect soundtrack watching Maverick touching the sky, or Lieutenant Cobretti hunting villains in the streets of Los Angeles.

"The Savior's Lie" is another example that Sumerlands can add a variety in their songwriting without losing their cohesion. In that specific song I get a Ritchie Blackmore's '70s Rainbow era touch, an imaginary Perez-and-Edling jamming, and some mid '80s Tony Iommi's Seventh Star meets Eternal Idol vibes. And while I can hear the word "badlands" in the lyrics, an instant thought of Ray Gillen comes to mind, adding another connection to Jake E. Lee and a possible influence for Brendan's performance in Dreamkiller.

Closing track "Death to Mercy" is definitely one of the best songs here with its Spector Sound. That song is huge! And there is also the line, "Warlords have gathered their soldiers..." and after a while at 2:40 you can listen to a Warlord / Lordian Guard inspired passage that's Arthur's tribute to William J Tsamis, bringing shivers to those who feel it. And you can feel the songs once you will close your eyes. You will feel them touching your soul, and you will feel them moving your body. This albums moves you!

I don’t drive, so I need around an hour to get from my home to the headquarters of No Remorse Records where I am working. I get on a bus and then I change to the urban rail transport until I reach the center of Athens. And when I return home, I also need another hour. I have the album since a few weeks, so I uploaded it on my phone and I am listening to Dreamkiller four times every day for almost a month. Two times until I reach my work, and two times until I’ll return home. The perfect album to start your day and the perfect album to finish a hard-working day. This album moves me. Physically too. It makes you shake your body. It really does. And people watching me with the headphones, moving my feet and hips but I don't care. But most important though, this album is already part of my DNA and I can say that for just a handful of records released the last decade, including Sumerlands’ debut, Agatus’ The Eternalist and the albums of Eternal Champion, Atlantean Kodex and Crypt Sermon.

Dreamkiller has its own character. It's the songs but it's also the players, the sound and the production. It's not like all those same-sounding albums from bands coming even from different genres but still sound alike, with the same drumsound and the same settings that are digitally drowning.

The performance of each member is ace! It's like a team of players where everyone is pushing and pulling each other to bring their best out. They know what they can do, they know that they can do it well, but they're not stopping there. They evolve, they're on the top of their game and they're getting even better.

Finally, you can have a great singer or a virtuoso guitarist but if you don't have the songs, you have nothing. Sumerlands have the songs and Dreamkiller is an album with a monumental songwriting. Your band is not just as good as your singer or guitarist or bassist or drummer is. Your band is as good as your songs are and how good are the performers for those specific songs. And Sumerlands, is one of the best, modern heavy metal bands, releasing one of the best albums one can listen to over the last many years. And the years that will follow.

Those dreams are not killed. Listen to this album. Now.  



Photos by Jaclyn Woollard.


Δευτέρα 29 Νοεμβρίου 2021

The greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020.

It's already 20 years since the turn of the new millennium and Crystal Logic thought to present you the greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020. For start we will have a brief look of how metal music has changed and evolved over the years, reaching the present day and the recent years where those albums are part of. And then, you'll have the albums!

written by Andreas Andreou

Chapter I: The evolution and changes of heavy metal music and industry through the decades.

The '70s were the years where giants shaped heavy music. It was the decade where record labels' executives gave a chance to everything new or everything they couldn't understand. The albums of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Scorpions and Uriah Heep (to mention a few) shaped what we learned in the '80s as Heavy Metal. Just within a year in the '80s (the year 1980) you already had the albums that completed the template of heavy metal music. Albums like Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Judas Priest's British Steel set new standards, even in terms of the "sound" (production) thanks to producers like Martin Birch. And it took no long for heavy metal to even reach the top of Billboard Charts with Quiet Riot's Metal Health in 1983, in a time where charts really mattered.

During the '80s, there were just a few metal genres and the melodic and glamorous part of it dominated the charts, the radio stations and MTV. Still though, even more traditional metal acts like Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne had a huge commercial and artistic success. An industry was formed around (that new then) metal music, with record labels specialized in all the genres of heavy metal, magazines and festivals.

Repeating once again Warrel Dane's line "so ends a decade now what will the nineties hold" from Sanctuary's "Future Tense" track of the 1990's album Into the Mirror Black, the page actually turned a year later even if we were already in the '90s. During September of 1991, Nirvana's Nevermind was released and suddenly, many record labels that used to release metal albums, turned into the grunge scene and alternative rock music. You still had a couple of major '80s acts ruling over the industry and selling millions (like Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, even Queensrÿche with Empire) but in its majority, metal music also followed different paths and changed. The '90s was the period of changes.

Traditional heavy metal remained mostly in the underground, power metal met success in Europe and Japan, Dream Theater with Images and Words (1992) established progressive metal, the new face of Pantera with Cowboys from Hell (1990) brought something new with their groovy heavy and thrashy metal that dominated the decade, while Sepultura's change with Chaos A.D. (1993) and mostly Roots (1996), was a main influence for Nu Metal. At the same time, Doom Metal actually became a subgenre since in the '80s there were just a handful of bands and not even a scene, and many new subgenres appeared. Different things where you can place many bands like Paradise Lost, Therion, Type O Negative, Tiamat, Nightwish and countless more. The tags vary depending each band's period, even album, but subgenres like Gothic Metal, Doom/Death Metal, Symphonic Metal, Atmospheric Metal were there and shaped in the '90s, while the (old) spirit of Heavy Metal could mainly found in the second wave of Black Metal, that also dominated the '90s.

In the 2000s, there was everything. Not everything had a huge success, but you had everything and even more. So much more, that sometimes you couldn't properly describe a band and suddenly, there was a new generation of fans that didn't care how someone would label a band. A few bands even evolved to something that didn't have a connection with heavy metal (like Anathema and The Gathering), and they didn't care, just like a few of their fans, even if they were mainly marketed by metal media and labels.

During that decade, the music industry started to change rapidly, just like technology's evolution. The more technology was evolving, the more the music industry started losing power and the decline of the physical formats was already there. Physical sales were already low and digital became the new standard in the music industry. And that was in general during the new years of technology and mobility. It wasn't just the actual music, but everything. Printed media were selling less and in the years to come many of them didn't manage to survive, and the internet was the new face of everything, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

In the 2010s though, the underground and the traditional metal scene became more powerful. The festivals became stronger, older underground metal bands were already reformed and were relevant again, media started covering all of them, new labels were formed, older labels felt more powerful and during the digital years, physical products started selling again. Definitely not like 20 years ago, but better than the recent (then) years. That brought a few more changes in the music industry. The charts didn't matter. Actually, they were no longer subjectively correct and the physical sales have many different faces. The top bands of a mid-range metal record label can sell many more copies than the mid-range bands of a major metal record label. And you might not see these sales in "charts" (since the "charts" don't really include everything, therefore they're not "real"), but you can definitely understand it by their impact on the fans. Or simply by checking online sites like Discogs where you can see those bands of mid-range labels having more different formats of each album already (meaning more sales and represses), than other bands of top labels that might "chart" but you can still find their first-1000-copies vinyl pressing everywhere.

At the moment you're reading these lines, the music industry has changed so much that vinyl factories are working with overcapacity, something that looked impossible 10 years ago. In the end, everything is coming in circles and besides the morality and the inexplicable changes in the music industry we wrote for the first time in this blog a few years ago, a few bands have become masters of their music and more and more bands deal with record labels on their own terms. That's another important change in the music industry. Of course, not everyone can make it, and a few bands might underestimate their will and power over the music industry, but many of the established ones deal in their own terms. For example, bands like Dream Theater, even Triptykon, release their albums in record labels like Century Media, but those albums are "under exclusive license to Century Media" and bands retain both copyright and publishing. Bands don't really care about joining a "powerful" record company as they were known in the '90s, since most labels don't offer tour support anymore.

What does a band really need? A professional label with people they can communicate easily, a label with a proper distribution and promotion. A label that really "exists", and you can really see it all the time. You can find its releases in record stores and distros worldwide, printed media, festivals. And then, the band should build the tour campaign themselves or with a booking agency. If they're signed to a professional label and the albums are widely available, it will help them more. You don't have to be on a "major" label, whatever "major" means nowadays.

In 2018, Believe (formerly Believe Digital) from France, acquired a majority stake in Germany-headquartered metal record label, Nuclear Blast. Just a few days ago (November 2021), Nuclear Blast founder Markus Staiger with two former Nuclear Blast employees (Florian Milz and Markus Wosgien) launched a new record label called Atomic Fire. Bands like Helloween, Opeth, Meshuggah and Michael Schenker Group will be released (effective immediately) with the new label. In the end, all that the artists need is professionalism and people who know their business, not a "brand name". That's how the music industry works today. And that's what new bands need to look for.

Most of the "greatest" debut albums you're gonna read about below didn't owe everything to the labels that released them. The main factor was the music itself while in the "old" days, the record label was a major factor for the album's success (whatever "success" means).
 

Chapter II: The greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020.

It's not just new bands but debut albums. And there are new bands too. A few of them had a huge impact in their genre, others instantly, others over the years. A few of them include iconic musicians in a new beginning, others are just a new beginning by passionate youngsters. These are the Top-10 greatest metal albums according to Crystal Logic.

Additionally, you will find 10 more albums noted (listen also), and a third chapter is next, with 3 more debut albums from each year during 2000 - 2020. That means that Crystal Logic offers you a database with 83 metal debut albums released during 2000 - 2020 and worth checking out.

Let's go!

10. HALFORD - Resurrection (2000)


The wizardry of Roy Z meets the spells of the Metal God and his saints, putting to shame the Ripper-era of Judas Priest, just like Bruce Dickinson did to the Maiden's Blaze-era with Accident of Birth. And while fans still remembered the failed 2wo project and the later Fight stuff (War of Words rules) Emperor Dickinson joins for a duet at "The One You Love to Hate" while later the vultures who spitted all those small deadly spaces, voyeurs and skunkworks would praise both returns to their throne. That was indeed a resurrection, a return much needed, a great modern traditional metal album with highlights such as the same-titled track and "Silent Screams".

Listen also: RIOT CITY - Burn the Night (2019)
You might have the future of priest-trad-maiden metal here. Over the top, screaming, wild heavy metal.
 

9. LOST HORIZON - Awakening the World (2001)


There are a few European power metal albums that put our beloved USPM to bed with nightmares, and one of them is the debut album of the intergalactic bringers of metal salvation. Their human form came from Sweden but their music and that album have a cosmic power that's not really appreciated by the masses. As for the voice of Daniel Heiman, it still sounds unbeatable. No fate. Only the power of will.

Listen also: SHAMAN - Ritual (2002)
Leaving Angra and its guitarists in 2000, Andre Matos, Luis Mariutti and Ricardo Confessori recorded more power metal magic.
 

8. JACOBS DREAM - Jacobs Dream (2000)


We've said that there are a few European power metal albums that put our beloved USPM to bed with nightmares, but there will always be albums like the same-titled debut of Jacobs Dream that put things in order. That's a huge and perfect US power metal album with massive songs like "Kinescope" and "Funambulism", that was probably released at the wrong time and still remains unappreciated. The album is full with majestic riffs, bittersweet melodies, an amazing rhythm section, a godlike voice, a matched use of keyboards and excellent lyrics. Just listen to "The Bleeding Tree" that combines all those elements creating pure perfection. One of the greatest power metal albums ever recorded!

Listen also: SACRAL RAGE - Illusions in Infinite Void (2015)
There aren't many bands out there creating and performing the technical and powerful kind of metal, Sacral Rage do. They're at the top of their game.
 

7. ATLANTEAN KODEX - The Golden Bough (2010)


Following the Kodex since their early Hidden Folk and Pnakotic Demos years, meeting them and seeing them live many times here and there, there is no doubt that they create and perform the kind of epic metal that the subgenre needed in order to be relevant again. Having a deep knowledge of the story and the myths of Europa, they combine the best lyrics the subgenre has to offer with music that dwells in old Manowar, the Asatru period of Bathory and Solstice, offering the best epic metal albums of modern times. Even if the "modern" word is crushed by the invincible puritan blade.

Listen also: CALADAN BROOD - Echoes of Battle (2013)
The epic and atmospheric black metal of Caladan Brood is based in the Malazan Book of the Fallen and their Summoning-like music is already an underground classic.
 

6. CRYPT SERMON - Out of the Garden (2015)


What the Philly band really did with Out of the Garden (and the follow-up album) is offer us the best doom metal of the 2010s. Sounds bold? It's not. Actually, the Crypt Sermon albums can look in the eye many doom metal classics, and they're even better than a few of them. Flawless songwriting and the best performance you can get by the genre. Songs like "Byzantium" and "Into the Holy of the Holies" could be placed into the greatest doom metal albums you can think of. Really. Yes. Crypt Sermon's alchemical epic doom metal is a "paradox" of a modern release that's better than most of the classics you know.

Listen also: KRUX - Krux (2002)
Somewhere between the 13th Sun and the second coming of the Monk, Doomfather Edling is joined by a team of diverse musicians releasing the album that contains "Omfalos",  "Pococatépetl" and doom metal weirdness.
 

5. SUMERLANDS - Sumerlands (2016)


The visionary Arthur Rizk is spinning Ozzy's The Ultimate Sin and brings the underground legend that is Phil Swanson to sing about the seven seals, guardians, blind eyes and splinters of lucidity, creating a modern classic heavy metal album. Perfect from start to finish, Sumerlands' debut album is a celebration of traditional metal in its full glory. An exciting modern classic deeply rooted in pure talent and passion. If you haven't heard this album yet, you're missing your modern favourite metal album.

Listen also: HOUR OF 13 - Hour of 13 (2007)
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with singer and lyricist Phil Swanson created a spectral occult doom metal album with a ghastly power. That's the sound of darkness.
 

4. THORNS - Thorns (2001)


There are no borders in black metal. It's the most evolving and wide metal genre. The phenomenal frenziness of the Thorns debut album is a mechanical adrenaline shot of futuristic blackness right to the neck. Snorre Ruch might (co-) created what we know as "black metal riffing" but there isn't any standard black metal formula in Thorns. It was the turn of the new millennium when Thorns embraced a new black metal world and offered us a glimpse of a cyberfuture we haven't reached yet.

Listen also: TRIPTYKON - Eparistera Daimones (2010)
Thomas Gabriel Fischer formed Triptykon when he left Celtic Frost (the band was laid to rest) and continued creating and performing cold, deathly and dark art, as a true originator of extreme metal.
 

3. ETERNAL CHAMPION - The Armor of Ire (2016)


Mostly in the '70s and the '80s, but in the '90s too, there were albums that upon their release, it was like pressing a button and instantly the next day, you had bands influenced by them. At once. On a smaller level, Eternal Champion's debut album is a modern classic that achieved the same. One of the Top-20 metal albums of the decade according to The Encyclopaedia Metallum (Metal Archives) poll, was a turning point transforming fans of Mastodon to fans of Manilla Road and swords & sorcery. At once. Other and new bands started sounding like Eternal Champion even if the reincarnating hero had just one album released at that moment, but what an album! The album that established them along with Atlantean Kodex as the pioneers of "modern" epic metal. The Hammer!

Listen also: WRATHBLADE - Into the Netherworld's Realm (2012)
Original and true, the epic heavy metal of the Greeks remained deep underground but their followers are few in number, huge in passion!
 

2. HELL - Human Remains (2011)


The story of Hell from England is one of those legendary yet obscure, unknown chapters in the book of heavy metal. One of the greatest heavy metal stories. Formed in 1982 and disbaned in 1987 when singer Dave Halliday commited suicide, without releasing any album. Hell were reunited in 2008 thanks to producer and guitarist Andy Sneap who was a huge fan of the band and also learned to play the guitar thanks to Dave Halliday, who was also young Andy's mentor in the early '80s. The remaining members, with Andy Sneap (who also funded the project on his own) and David Bower, a professional actor and voiceover artist on vocals, recorded all those old songs, presenting the best classic heavy metal album of the 2010s.

Listen also: HEAVEN & HELL - The Devil You Know (2009)
Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and the Old Nick. Just the Devil you know.
 

1. REVEREND BIZARRE - In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002)


When the debut album of the Finnish band was released, it shook the traditional doom metal community. It was the essence of doom metal, that according to their guitarist Peter Vicar, as once said at Crystal Logic, is "The traditional Sabbathian riffing, clean vocals, full of intensity and power. It’s music that will, if done right, shake your foundations." And so it did. The archaic deep accent of Sir Albert sounded like echoes from an ancient past. He feels each and every word and every song sounds personal. Even if the lyrics look like something that cannot be personal... He makes them personal and deeply emotional. Darkness, biblical themes, misery, when you listen to "In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend" for the first time, there is a feeling of sin. The tone and behemoth riffage, the low frequencies, the crushing drums of doom, the Lovecraftian atmosphere of decay and slumber, everything sounds like sin; like something that is forbidden and opens the gateways to Hell and sorrow. Reverend Bizarre isn't an easily accessible band but no one said that true doom metal is easily accessible for everyone. Shocking album.

Listen also: LORD VICAR - Fear No Pain (2008)
After hammering the final nails to the coffin of Reverend Bizarre, Kimi Kärki (Peter Vicar) followed his vision of a new doom metal band and brought to life Lord Vicar, joined by the mighty Christian "Chritus" Linderson on vocals. Doom metal is alive and well, even if it smells rotten at times.



Chapter III: More and more debut albums (3 more per year).

2000: IOMMI - Iommi, PAGAN'S MIND - Infinity Divine, SHADOWKEEP - Corruption Within

2001: AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera, GRAND MAGUS - Grand Magus, ONWARD - Evermoving

2002: DREAM EVIL - DragonSlayer, FIREWIND - Between Heaven and Hell, ZOOL - Zool

2003: CIRCLE II CIRCLE - Watching in Silence, MASTERPLAN - Masterplan, ORODRUIN - Epicurean Mass

2004: CANS - Beyond the Gates, EVIL MASQUERADE - Welcome to the Show, FEINSTEIN - Third Wish

2005: COMMUNIC - Conspiracy in Mind, ISOLE - Forevermore, RAM - Forced Entry

2006: BULLET - Heading for the Top, CRESCENT SHIELD - The Last of My Kind, I - Between Two Worlds

2007: BLAZE - Blaze, BLOTTED SCIENCE - The Machinations of Dementia, CRYSTAL VIPER - The Curse of Crystal Viper

2008: DEAD CONGREGATION - Graves of the Archangels, ENFORCER - Into the Night, IN SOLITUDE - In Solitude

2009: FUTURES END - Memoirs of a Broken Man, SINISTER REALM - Sinister Realm, VEKTOR - Black Future

2010: BRITON RITES - For Mircalla, GHOST - Opus Eponymous, WHITE WIZZARD - Over the Top

2011: ARCH/MATHEOS - Sympathetic Resonance, DEMONAZ - March of the Norse, HIGH SPIRITS - Another Night

2012: AIR RAID - Night of the Axe, PALLBEARER - Sorrow and Extinction, TRAIL OF MURDER - Shades of Art

2013: AVATARIUM - Avatarium, BLACK TRIP - Goin' Under, POWER TRIP - Manifest Decimation

2014: CROSSWIND - Vicious Dominion, DÄNG - Tartarus: The Darkest Realm, DOOMOCRACY - The End Is Written

2015: NIGHT DEMON - Curse of the Damned, TERMINUS - The Reaper's Spiral, VISIGOTH - The Revenant King

2016: ASSASSIN'S BLADE - Agents Of Mystification, TAROT - Reflections, THE TEMPLE - Forevermourn

2017: LUNAR SHADOW - Far from Light, PAINFUL PRIDE - Lost Memories, SANHEDRIN - A Funeral for the World

2018: GATEKEEPER - East of Sun, MANACLE - No Fear to Persevere..., WOLFTOOTH - Wolftooth

2019: IDLE HANDS (changed name to UNTO OTHERS) - Mana, SMOULDER - Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, TRAVELER - Traveler

2020: LORD OF LIGHT - Morningstar, SACRED OUTCRY - Damned for All Time, STYGIAN CROWN - Stygian Crown


What's your favourite debut albums in metal music during 2000 - 2020?



Παρασκευή 6 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The metal albums we enjoyed most in 2016

2016 was a great year for metal music. When you are working in music industry and being part of a record label, store, magazine and website, you are associated with musicians, labels, promoters and editors daily, so metal besides of music, is your reality. One more year, I had the opportunity to listen to many new albums, but still, no one can say that listened everything. Everyone who claims that, is wrong. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. There are also the unlucky ones (the albums that released during December) that haven't got all the proper attention, since a few plays are not enough.



Below you will find (for start) 10 albums that I enjoyed most in 2016, and some of them (like 'The Eternalist') will follow me for the years to come, as pure classics.

1. AGATUS - The Eternalist
14 years have passed since the last Agatus album ('The Weaving Fates', 2002) but this long wait worth’s every single day, because with this release we witness history in the making. 'The Eternalist' is a genre-breaking album that captures the soul and passion of metal music through the visionary mind of its creator, Eskarth The Dark One. The Dark is without doubt a pure artist, a multi-instrumentalist, a creator with original ideas and vision. With the precious help and creative input of Vorskaath (Zemial), The Dark is offering to the metal universe an artistic creation that combines elements like the passion of Bathory, Warlord and ’70s-inspired prog melodies (in the vein of Eloy); epic majesty and pure metal that through the eyes and heart of The Dark transcends to a unique soundscape of dark heavy metal.


2. ETERNAL CHAMPION - The Armor Of Ire
Hammers, balls, guts and epic metal. One of the underground metal highlights of 2016 inspired by the Legends.


3. SUMERLANDS - Sumerlands
Genuine 80s metal worship and Phil Swanson on mic. Catchy, inspired, riff-driven and passionate, this is the kind of heavy metal we are looking (and praying) for, in the years to come.


4. FATES WARNING - Theories Of Flight
A great album by an old 80s established band. This is not something you see very often but Fates is not an ordinary band. 'Theories Of Flight' is the band's best album since 'A Pleasant SHade Of Gray' and it is filled with melody, their "regular" top notch songwriting, the best Ray Alder since ages and the heavy presence of Bobby Jarzombek. 


5. TAROT - Reflections
Do you miss Pagan Altar? 'Reflections' is the first full-length album of Tarot from Australia, after 'The Warrior's Spell', that was actually a compilation of the band's EPs. Nostalgic and beautiful, 'Reflections' is made of dreams, eerie landscapes and poetry, transformed in pure artistic music.


6. ASSASSIN'S BLADE - Agents Of Mystification
Another great debut album for 2016. A Swedish mob join forces with singer Jacques Belanger (ex-Exciter) and deliver us a pure metal offering inspired by Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Manilla Road and the spirit of Heavy Metal.


7. KHEMMIS - Hunted
Just a year after their debut full-length album ('Absolution'), the doomsters from Denver, Colorado, return with the perfect follow-up keeping their momentum strong. Once again, a great cover catches your eye before you even listen to the five songs herein. 'Hunted' is dominated by melody, the emotional vocal performance and along with gigantic riffs and the menhir-solid rhythm section it is irritant bizarre and defies the borders of traditional doom metal. 


8. THE TEMPLE - Forevermourn
Doom metal is perhaps the hardest sub-genre of our precious music sphere to get right. It really needs spirit and true passion to achieve the right result. All the songs on 'Forevermourn' seem to be forged and conceived from sorrow, regret and struggle, inspired by bands like Solstice, Warning and Isole. This is true doom metal indeed and so few new bands can truly claim that heavy crown.


9. SPELLCASTER - Night Hides The World
These guys, from Oregon, USA, have a great evolution and you won’t believe how good their third (and best so far) album is. 'Night Hides The World' is diverse and full of catchy, feel-good melodies. It might bring you in mind to a few of the (real) greats in metal, from bits of the Alder-era Fates Warning to Queensryche and Iron Maiden.


10. SACRED STEEL - Heavy Metal Sacrifice
Well, if you want to experience Heavy Metal in its purest form, you can't go wrong with Sacred Steel. Every time I listen an album by this German metal armada, I pray to transferred in their live shows at once.



 

Top 5 + 1 EPs / singles

1. SOLSTICE - To Sol A Thane
Loud uncompromised epic metal. Not for cunts.


2. WATCHTOWER - Concepts Of Math: Book One
Decades in the making, the line-up of 'Control And Resistance' cannot fail.


3. THE DOOMSDAY KINGDOM - Never Machine
The Doomfather (Leif Edling) with Niklas Stalvind (Wolf) on vocals, deliver us 4 tracks from the Sabbath catacombs. 


4. ASCALON - Reflections
UK vigilantes and probably the best newcomers of the so called "new wave of traditional heavy metal"


5. MAUSOLEUM GATE - Metal And The Might
A unique blend of 70s sounds, obscure metal and personality.


+ BLACK SABBATH - The End
Available only during their first live shows of the final tour, this is a special edition that contains 4 new studio tracks and 4 live recordings. Those 4 new tracks are in the usual Sabbath standards. Meaning, best of the best.




2016 was a great year for metal music. After many many years, QUICKSAND DREAM released their second album 'Beheading Tyrants' and that was a really nice surprise for 2016! Doomy epic metal with beautiful melodies and a great aura surrounding the songs. Portoguese metal warriors RAVENSIRE released their best effort yet, 'The Cycle Never Ends', in the beginning of 2016 and this is what you need before the battle in order to destroy your enemies and drink blood from their skulls.

DANG 'Monstrum Ex Machina' is the absolute outsider of 2016. A great multi dimensional album with 70s rock and prog elements, doom metal, heavy atmosphere and monsters from the underworld. Completely "outside of the box" is also the latest artistic creation of ZEMIAL 'The Repairer Of Reputations' that is available only digital at the moment, but you need to check it yourself.


Two classic US power metal acts had a killer comeback. HELSTAR with 'Vampiro' and METAL CHURCH with 'XI'. The latest album of METAL CHURCH was marked by the return of vocalist Mike Howe and even if few of the previous albums with Ronny Munroe on vocals were really good, it seems that this album was what fans wanted. On the other hand, the latest HELSTAR albums were not really good and had a more aggressive edge, that wasn't welcome by many of their fans, but 'Vampiro' is their best effort since their golden years in the 80s.


From older bands, the line-up change in German power metal legends RAGE was a relief for captain Peavey and 'The Devil Strikes Again' was indeed a strike we were looking for, from this great band. However, the real captain Rock n' Rolf returned with RUNNING WILD and 'Rapid Foray', and even if there are some strongs ideas and songs in the album, he really needs to consider again the band's line-up. I think that a call to Jorg Michael (drums) will be something that fans will really appreciate.


New (or close to "new") bands had also their share in 2016 with cool and enjoyable albums like MONUMENT ('Hair Of The Dog'), DEXTER WARD ('Rendezvous With Destiny'), HIGH SPIRITS ('Motivator') BLAZON STONE ('War Of The Roses'), HITTEN ('State Of Shock'), MONASTERIUM ('Monasterium') and WYTCH HAZEL ('Prelude') but few other not so new bands like SPIRITUS MORTIS ('The Year Is One') and WIDOW ('Carved In Stone') were nearly to the very best.


Besides what I really liked in 2016, there were many more albums and bands that must be mentioned if you want to have a right and correct retrospect, but this is not the point here. However, it is always important for the metal universe when a brand name like METALLICA or MEGADETH has a new album out there, but let's keep this for other sites.


What should we expect in 2017? A new album from the other few brand names is needed. Let's say that in my dreams I am expecting an album from OZZY in the vein of 'Bark At The Moon' and 'The Ultimate Sin' but let's stay on earth, where we are waiting for new albums from HEIR APPARENT, SOLSTICE, PAINFUL PRIDE and SAXON.


News are expected on the MANILLA ROAD family, too. Three albums are ready and scheduled for release during 2017. The new MANILLA ROAD album, the new HELLWELL album where Mark Shelton is working again with Randy 'Thrasher' Foxe on drums, and also a project where Mark Shelton is working with Rick Fisher on drums.


While BLACK SABBATH is coming to an end, Tony Iommi will probably compose music easier and according to some rumors he will might write few songs with Tony Martin that probably will be part in the future (?) reissues of albums like 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr'. Meanwhile, since he already wrote a song like 'How Good It Is', we are expecting more surprises.


Have a great, healthy and lucky 2017.