In case you missed my Top 25 that ran in Metal As Fuck last week, here's my Top 30 albums of the year - a list I'm sure you've all been waiting on tenterhooks for.
30. John Waite: 'Rough And Tumble' (Frontiers)
Easily his most satisfying and consistent release since 'Rovers Return'.
29. Within Temptation: 'The Unforgiving' (Roadrunner)
Contained 'Sinead', my top single of the year. Marvellously pompous hard rock. The more Eurovision they become, the better they get.
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28. Wolverine: 'Communication Lost' (Candlelight)
Thoughtful, intense, affecting... 'Communication Lost' is all these things and more. A marvellous slice of progressive rock.
27. Jack Starr's Burning Starr: 'Land Of The Dead' (Limb Music)
Classic old school guitar hero Metal, with big nods to the likes of Manowar and Riot, this was a welcome breath of fetid air. And, at my insistence, Jack is reworking the instumental on the album, 'Twilight Of The Gods, into a full blown 'Into Glory Ride' style vocal epic!
26. Nightranger: 'Somewhere In California' (Frontiers)
They've had a few ups and downs this century, especially lineup wise, but here the all important triumvirate of Gillis, Blades and Keagy are all present and correct and the result is a delerious trip back to the band's mid-eighties heyday. If you still own a pair of stripey spandex trousers, you'll have them on before the end of album opener 'Growin' Up' in California...
25. Vallenfyre: 'A Fragile King' (Century Media)
Gregor Mackintosh could easily have let this settle at 'vanity project' level, but there's too much class and commitment on offer for that to happen. Rumours suggest they'll tour a fair bit this year, and I for one hope Australia is on their list.
24. Malefice: 'Awaken The Tides' (Metal Blade)
I don't have a lot of time for Metalcore, but you can't help but be swept away by the sheer filth and fury deployed by these youthful, brutal Britishers.
23. Amorphis: 'The Beginning Of Times' (Nuclear Blast)
Amorphis have the great knack of being able to keep moving forward yet seemingly standing still at the same time; TBoT emphasizes this theory by weaving together all of the bands sounds and styles in one easiily digestible product.
22. Evile: 'Five Serpents Teeth' (Earache)
A lot of people think Evile are the new Gods of Brit Metal, but, although FST has all the ingredients needed for greatness, it hasn't quite got there yet. Still bloody good though, and with bags of potential to actually fulfill the prophecies being made on their behalf in the future.
21. Magnum: 'The Visitation' (SPV)
It will indeed be a sad, tearful day when Catley and Clarkin finally decide to give the game away. 'The Visitation' sees them right back in the saddle, sounding as good, if not better, than at any time this century.
20. Twisted Tower Dire: 'Make It Dark' (Cruz Del Sur Music)
Sometimes unintentionally hilarious (if you don't laugh yourself silly whilst singing along to the run! snow leopard - run! chorus of the song Snow Leopard there may be something wrong with your sense of humour settings) but always Metal, TTD inhabit the same twilight, forgotten domain as Jack Starr. I'd love to live there too.
19. Sebastian Bach: 'Kicking & Screaming' (Riot Entertainment)
So, so much better than the half arsed nonsense contained on his last 'Angel Down' opus. This is the sound of a man finally coming to terms with his past and moving on. Obviously there are large chunks of 'Slave To The Grind' here and there, but overall this album looks forward rather than back. And Bas can still sing a bit too, which helps...
18. Symphony X: 'Iconoclast' (Nuclear Blast)
Something of a disappointment, if truth be told, but any album containing the golden throatal contributions of Russel Allen is always going to be a contender, and there are just enough nuggets of brilliance on display here to merit a top twenty berth.
17. Absolute Power: 'Absolute Power' (Feto)
Utterly brilliant tribute to the days of Tokyo Blade and, um, Wildfire, the likes of Shane Embury and Simon Efemey join forces to make an album that is pure, unadulterated British steel. Apart from the bits with Ripper Owens screaming all over them - but they're good too.
16. Uriah Heep: 'Into The Wild' (Frontiers)
Surprisingly brilliant collection of songs from Mick Box and his band of grizzled veterans. Pomp rock, Heavy Metal, AOR, hard rock - it's all here, all performed with class and panache. The craft and skill of songwriting may be on the wane worldwide, but not in these parts.
15. Edguy: 'Age Of The Joker' (Nuclear Blast)
And talking of great songwriters, here's Tobi Sammet with this years slice of pomp-heavy power metal from his mega-talented mind. Not as good as Avantasia, the likes of the Maidenesque 'Nobody's Hero' were still good enough to set the pulse racing everytime they came on the radio/stereogram.
14. Nightwish: 'Imaginaerium' (Roadrunner)
Had this come out earlier in the year it might well have been closer to top spot. A deleriously mixed bag of show tunes, late night jazz, fairground music and out n'out HM thunder topped off with a musical version of Walt Whitman's 'Song Of Myself', this is about as ambitious as its able to be without turning into over the top self gratifying nonsense.
13. Airrace: 'Back To The Start' (Frontiers)
This took a while to sink in, but it was worth the wait. Keith Murrell, who sings backup for Cliff Richard as a day job, shines on every track here. The band's finest hour is the Survivoresque strut of 'So Long', but drop the needle anywhere and you're guaranteed some slick, expertly crafted AOR mayhem.
12. Barn Burner: 'II: Scum of the Earth' (Metal Blade)
Carrying on aptly from where 'Barn Burner I: Bangers' left off, BB's hoarse-thoated punk-metal anthems are ideal for drinking, smoking and, well... drinking some more actually. Basic but still built to thrill, these Canadian party machines look set to be the sort of band that doean't deviate from the template much, but, its a blood-curdlingly good template, so who's worrying? Not me.
11. Amon Amarth: 'Surtur Rising' (Metal Blade)
Beards. Thrashing. Heavy consumption of Mead. Songs. Anything more required for a top Swedish Metal night out? Nope. Which makes 'Surtur Rising' the best album of its type by some way in 2012. They seem unstoppable, so their next album should be an absolute monster.
10. House of Lords: 'Big Money' (Frontiers)
Quite simply the best, most consistent work they've produced since their late eighties/early nineties heyday. Melodic hard rock in excelcis, with an earth shattering vocal performance throughout from James Christian. Of course if he didn't have any decent songs to sing that wouldn't matter, but there are at least half a dozen stone classic hard rock anthems on 'Big Money', which makes this album a very enticing prospect indeed.
9. Symfonia: 'In Paradisum' (Avalon/Marquee)
The best power Metal album of the year by a country mile. What a tragedy they've already decided to call it a day.
8. Amebix: 'Sonic Mass' (Easy Action)
From out of nowhere, the venerable crusties came up with a scintillating melange of psychedelic punk madness. Equal parts Sabbath, Killing Joke and Hawkwind, this particular Sonic Mass has had your correspondent down on his knees in supplication since the moment he heard it.
7. Brian Robertson: 'Diamonds And Dust' (SPV/Steamhammer)
A set of classy hard rock and blues from the ex-Thin Lizzy/Motorhead axepert. Will he be arsed to follow it up? Probably not, so let's make the most of this album now.
6. Diamond Dogs: 'The Grit And The Very Soul' (Legal Records)
Gritty and indeed very soulful, the latest outing from these classically styled Swedes is a pleasure to listen to if you're in the market for some smokey, acoustical rabble rousing. Bumford and Sons? I don't think so.
5. Opeth: 'Heritage' (Roadrunner)
Quite literally gobsmacking. The sound of a band going out on a career threatening limb and loving every minute of it. A devilishly good album that'll keep giving new delights each time you return to it, which will be often.
4. Danmaku: 'Turn Up The Gas' (Thrash Lizard)
A brutal, unforgivingly vulgar display of thrash dynamics. If you're looking to do a bit of decorating this holiday season, and need some paint stripping, set up some speakiers near the paintwork in question and simply unleash this bugger into the atmosphere.
3. Hell: 'Human Remains' (Nuclear Blast)
A staggering return from the wilderness for these long-presumed-dead East Midlanders. When Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, this is what it would have sounded like. Quintessentially British Heavy Metal as it always used to be made.
2. The Gloria Story: 'Shades Of White' (Sound Pollution)
Take a group of Thin Lizzy-fixated Swedes, equip them with a stellar set of pop rockin' tunes than run from Phil Lynott and co, through Cheap Trick to the Foo Fighters and then release them into the wild. You'll find the results are quite staggering.
1. Machine Head: 'Unto The Locust' (Roadrunner)
Taking the majestic heaviness of The Blackening to the next level, Machine Head wiped the floor with the straight-up Heavy Metal opposition in 2011 with ...Locust. Quite simply this album has everything the discerning Heavy Metal fan could ever want, and then some.
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