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Metal-Rules.com Best of 2004

Best of 2004

Wow, another year has passed us by! This was a year with many great metal releases and of course some disappointments in terms of albums and moreso with two major blows to the metal world with the senseless murder of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and the untimely death of Bathory legend, Quorthon.

If you've been reading Metal-Rules.com for a while, you know that we compile our "best of" lists to derive the top albums of the year. Below is the overall top 35 derived from each staff member's top 20 of the year. As usual, points are scored with 20 points for #1, 19 for #2,....1 point for #20. Within each staff members list you can also see each person's selections for best DVD of 2004, best new band, greatest hopes for 2005, and of course their disappointments for 2004.

Some restrictions are placed on our lists. The top albums are for releases from 2004 that all full albums (no EP's or demos). They also have to be new studio albums for 2004, not re-recordings, re-releases, or live material. For best new band, the restriction is that the band's debut full-length album (not including demos or EP's) has to be a 2004 release.

 

The Top 35 Heavy Metal Albums of 2004

#1. Exodus - Tempo Of The Damned

The thrash masters, Exodus easily took the top spot this year. 2004 was an eventful year for Exodus with the release of the monumental TEMPO OF THE DAMNED, to the ill-fated and poorly-timed sacking of returned lead vocalist Steve Souza. After struggling through personal tragedy and downtime, the band returned in '04 to show the upstarts how real thrash metal is executed. As put by one of our staffers, this album represented the true thrash metal comeback of 2004. What the future might hold for Exodus is anyone's guess...with Souza out of the picture, they have some big shoes to fill. We all hope they can pull it off and thrash us till death!!

#2. Nightwish - ONCE

Finland's melodic metalers were high on many of our lists this year. Nightwish's unstoppable climb to the top of the melodic metal world continued in 2004 with the band reaching to new areas and becoming in many regions (especially outside of North America) quite a mainstream band. ONCE is easily the band's most ambitious album so far containing stunning orchestration, atmosphere, and some of the band's heaviest and lightest songs. Many of us wonder, just where will they go from ONCE? Time shall tell...we just have to wait and see. Until then, feel free to enjoy this masterpiece called ONCE.

[Review]

#3. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden

With THE GLORIOUS BURDEN, Jon Schaffer really outdid himself. Schaffer is a renowned history buff and has perfectly melded his love of history with music. On THE GLORIOUS BURDEN, Schaffer has tackled real-life battles, conflicts, and wars that have shaped world history, though the focus is mainly on American history. Whether it is the horrific World Trade Center tragedy, World War I, The Hun, or the famous Battle of Gettysburg, Schaffer touches on the destruction and suffering that man has caused to himself in the name of freedom. (Note: If you haven't already picked this up, the 2-CD version is the one to get!)

[Review]

#4. Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones

Jag Panzer went for a slightly heavier approach on CASTING THE STONES, and with their #4 ranking, it seems they did the right thing. Their songwriting is top notch, the vocals are heaven-sent, and the lead playing is not of this earth. For the untrained ear, this CD might seem like a lot to swallow since it is complex with different song styles, timings, etc. After a couple listens you will begin to appreciate the album more as melody lines take root. Jag Panzer have been  the underdogs of metal, a band that has never been given the support and attention they rightly deserve. Everyone who is into metal should be given the chance to hear this band, and a great place to start is with this album.

[Review]

#5. Evergrey - The Inner Circle

This band just keeps getting better and better! THE INNER CIRCLE is flawless from beginning to end with dual guitar riffing, a thunderous rhythm section, jaw-dropping vocals courtesy of Tom S. Englund and stellar production filled with haunting background samples used for maximum effect. Bonus points for its socially-conscious concept, too.

#6. Edguy - Hellfire Club

Edguy reached to new levels in 2004 with extensive touring and more exposure in mainstream outlets. The German power metal powerhouse blew many minds with their brilliant album HELLFIRE CLUB. This is power/heavy metal on the highest level and Edguy is easily one of the better bands in their genre.

[Review]

#7. Saxon - Lionheart

This is the fastest and heaviest Saxon album ever. The sound is driven by new addition Jorg Michael who adds double kick to some of the songs which until now was rare on Saxon songs. Excellent production helps Biff’s delivery of standard lyrics, tales of war, adventure, parties and history. LIONHEART stands alongside Unleash The Beast as one of the best Saxon CD’s ever, credited in part to the elements mentioned above but mostly due to the strength of the songs.

[Review]

#8. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory

Persuader have proven that they really are 'Young Metal Gods' by demonstrating their ability to rebound after a break-up with such power and momentum to create an album that easily equals, if not surpasses the excellence of their first offering THE HUNTER. This is not just a power metal disc, but something that any heavy metal fan would enjoy. In the event that you have not heard Persuader yet, fans of Blind Guardian, Iron Savior, Twisted Tower Dire, Running Wild, Cage, and Grave Digger would do well to check out both Persuader albums or be forever branded a poseur.

[Review]

#9. Motörhead - Inferno

Like the sun, moon, and stars, Lemmy is eternal. For a man whose blood has been called “not human” his ability to persevere and continue to beat the odds and lay down album after album of top rate metal has to rank up there with the seven wonders. If you like Motörhead at all, INFERNO is a sure bet. What we have here is typical Motörhead with no major surprises, as it should be. It's great to have a band that doesn't throw you an unexpected curve ball with every album which thereby pisses off 1/2 of the fan-base. With Lemmy and co. you know what you'll get - rocking heavy metal! We continue to be impressed with Lemmy's ability to kick ass into his 60's outplaying and outlasting just about everyone.

[Review]

#10. Megadeth - The System Has Failed

We all knew, or hoped, that Mustaine would not wait too long before putting out new material...and thankfully we now have that new material with THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED. While this album is not RUST IN PEACE Part II, it is arguably the best they’ve done since then. It’s fast, catchy and has that quirky and unmistakable Megadeth signature sound. This is a very nice return to form but it may be a last kick at the can, end on a high note, (aka) the beginning of Dave Mustaine's solo career. Will he be like Jeff Waters with Annihilator and keep the Megadeth name or go truly ‘solo’? As long as the material is this strong, it probably doesn't matter.

[Review]

 

Number 11 to 20

#11 Scorpions - Unbreakable Unbreakable
#12 The Haunted - rEVOLVEr rEVOLVEr
#13 Dream Evil - The Book of Heavy Metal
#14 Dio - Master of the Moon Master of the Moon
#15 Death Angel - The Art Of Dying Art of Dying
#16 WASP - THE NEON GOD PART 1:
THE RISE
The Neon God: Part One - The Rise
#17 Brides Of Destruction - Here Come The Brides Here Come The Brides
#18 Shadows Fall - The War Within
#19 Tad Morose – Modus Vivendi Modus Vivendi
#20 3 Inches Of Blood – Advance
and Vanquish
Advance and Vanquish

Number 21 to 35

#21. Therion - Lemuria / Sirius B
Lemuria/Sirius B

#22. Behemoth - Demigod
 


#23. W.A.S.P. - The Neon God: Part 2 - The Demise
WASP


#24. Viperine - The Predator Awakens
Viperine


#25. Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm
Dragonforce


#26. Ayreon - The Human Equation
Ayreon: The Human Equation


#27. Into Eternity - Buried in Oblivion
Into Eternity

#28. Primal Fear - Devil`s Ground
Devil's Ground

#29. U.D.O. - Thunderball
Thunderball

#30. My Dying Bride. - Songs Of Darkness Words Of Light
Songs of Darkness Words of Light

#31. Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Sonata Arctica

#32. Velvet Revolver - Contraband
Velvet Revolver

#33. Thunderstone - The Burning

#34. Wuthering Heights – Far From the Maddening Crowd
WH
 
#35. Lamb Of God - Ashes Of The Wake
LoG

Individual Staff Lists For 2004
Includes: top 20, best new band, best DVD, greatest hopes for 2005, and disappointments of 2004.

EvilG

Top 20 Albums

#1. Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones
Despite being miles ahead of many other “power” metal bands, Jag Panzer do not seem to get the superstar status that they deserve. Perhaps it’s marketing? Perhaps it’s because their power metal is powerful, and not filled with simple happy melodies? Either way, know that they are at the top of their game with CASTING THE STONES and have possibly released their best album ever. This is pure heavy metal executed to perfection.

#2.  Into Eternity - Buried in Oblivion
Into Eternity is the greatest band to emerge from Saskatchewan, Canada, and are one of the greatest Canadian bands ever. Their true brilliance emerged on their previous release DEAD OR DREAMING and BURIED IN OBLIVION followed in fine form. If this album doesn’t get the band the recognition it so rightfully deserves, the listening public is deaf. This is so many miles ahead of most prog/technical bands and so much above a lot of the melodic metal bunch that never dare add in the brutalizing elements or overly technical riffing. I wouldn’t want every band to emulate Into Eternity’s style, but some bands (and listeners) could no doubt take a pointer or two on how seemingly polar opposite metal styles can peacefully exist in one band!

3. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory
4. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
5. Death Angel - The Art of Dying
6. Viperine - The Predator Awakens
7. Edguy - Hellfire Club
8. Seven Witches - Year of the Witch
9. Primal Fear - Devil`s Ground
10. Quo Vadis – Defiant Imagination
11. Motörhead - Inferno
12. Kotipelto - Coldness
13. Heavenly - Dust to Dust
14. Steel Attack - Enslaved
15. Iron Savior - Battering Ram
16. Megadeth - The System Has Failed
17. Rhapsody - Symphony of Enchanted Lands II
18. Overlorde - Return of the Snow Giant
19. Dionysus - Anima Mundi
20. Nightwish - Once


Best New Band

VIPERINE
Viperine - THE PREDATOR AWAKENSYes I have a bias here, but either way, truth is this is the best new band for 2004 to my ears. I wouldn't of invested in them if I didn't believe in them. THE PREDATOR AWAKENS is an album filled with strong vocals, shredding, killer drums and best of all catchy songs like the infectious "Heart Blood" and of course the song that first won me over - "Like A Viper". The band obtained a lot of great reviews, so hopefully they will begin to see some success this year because they well deserve it!!!


Best DVD

Iron Maiden - THE EARLY YEARS VOL. 1
Until late in the year I was expecting to list nothing here since I had hardly bought any metal DVD's in 2004 that I really loved. That all changed in one week when I got both the new Maiden DVD and the new Helix DVD (my runner up to best DVD of 2004). If you are a fan of Iron Maiden, even a casual fan, or someone who doesn't normally keep up with their newer stuff, this DVD is something you need to see. The classic live footage and new interviews with members past & present has set a new bar for quality for metal DVD's. With 2 DVD's worth of material, and this being just VOL. 1 in the set, this is sure to be the definitive tome overlooking the history of one of heavy metal's greatest bands.

Runner up:
Helix - 30th Anniversary Concert
This has been an awesome year for Helix fans with the release of a great new studio album (ROCKIN' IN MY OUTER SPACE) some best-of's, an amazing 30th anniversary gig, 2 DVD's (this one along with the 30 YEARS OF HELIX DVD), live dates across Canada (I got to see them twice!) etc. To end the year, the release of the 30th Anniversary Concert DVD is a celebration of the achievements of one of Canada's best hard rock / metal bands. Besides the concert, the DVD has unseen 8mm footage and great interviews. Brian Vollmer has outdone himself this year with putting the Helix band back on the map, instead of just the history pages. Helix has never seen this much activity since their pinnicle in the 80's. I hope the momentum contuines with a new studio album in 2005 and Brian's anticipated biography.


Disappointments

1. Murder of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott
As a big fan of Pantera (especiually CFH and VDoP), I was quite stunned with the news of Dimebag's murder.

2. W.A.S.P. - The Neon Got Pt.1
With unmemorable songs and a lack of riffs, this album has virtually no hooks. This is not even close to THE CRIMSON IDOL. The guitar is played more like a background keyboard or something to add atmosphere. The lack of riffs and hooks on this album was disappointing. I'd like to hear a cross between the first album and THE HEADLESS CHILDREN, not this. (Note: Pt. 2 was slightly better.)

3. Motley Crue - Red White and Crue
What is up with this? I love the Crue...but seriously, what were they thinking with recording a shitty Simple Plan reject song for their comeback album? And make that a comeback album which is nothing but ANOTHER useless "best of" package? Can the boys write new material? Why didn't we get a new CD? Damn it all to hell...let's crank SHOUT AT THE DEVIL and remember their glory days.

4. Dio - MASTER OF THE MOON
While not a bad album, it does have it moments, overall this was not the sound I wanted to see Dio return to...slow and sleepy.

5. Dokken - Hell To Pay
There are 2-3 really good songs on here, but the rest is pop-rock filler. Where are songs like "Into The Fire", "Kiss of Death", "Erase The Slate" etc? There is only one song on the album even close...such a let down.


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Judas Priest – Angel of Retribution
My #1 is the same as I had last year! Last year with the news of Halford back in Priest, I expected we'd have a new album sometime in 2004...but it's gonna be 2005! Bring it on already!!

2. New Albums From...
New albums from IMAGIKA, MORGANNA LEFAY, PRIMAL FEAR, KAMELOT, etc.

3. Pipe dreams for 2005
New Savatage album, Slayer releases an album worthy of following up SEASONS IN THE ABYSS, Viperine go double platinum (hehe!)...

Rick

Top 20 Albums

1. Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones
How does this band keep getting better? 20 years after releasing their classic debut AMPLE DESTRUCTION Jag Panzer have unleashed what is arguably the best CD of their career. Harry Conklin, Mark Briody and Company have combined the melodic and epic grandeur of THANE TO THE THRONE with the aggression of MECHANIZED WARFARE to create what is sure to become one of the classics of the genre.

2. Thunderstone - The Burning
Lost in the shuffle because of its early 2004 release date Thunderstone has fortunately found their way to the top of my list. THE BURNING picks up where the debut disc THUNDERSTONE left off but with added helpings of aggression, power and melody. The progression is astounding as Thunderstone take their sound to the next level and solidify their position at the top of the crowded powermetal heap.

3. Edguy – Hellfire Club
4. Tad Morose – Modus Vivendi
5. Saxon – Lionheart
6. Nightwish - Once
7. Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden
8. Symphorce – Twice Second
9. Viperine – The Predator Awakens
10. Dream Evil - The Book of Heavy Metal
11. Primal Fear - Devil’s Ground
12. Iron Savior - Battering Ram
13. Motorhead – Inferno
14. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory
15. Evergrey - The Inner Circle
16. Velvet Revolver – Contraband
17. Exodus - Tempo of the Damned
18. Megadeth – The System Has Failed
19. Threshold – Subsurface
20. Rhapsody - Symphony of Enchanted Lands II


Best New Band

Viperine - THE PREDATOR AWAKENSViperine
From the first chords of “Like a Viper” these guys had me hooked. Their brand of raw, shredding powermetal can easily send you to the hospital with a bad case of whiplash. Their debut CD THE PREDATOR AWAKENS gave us a glimpse of what these guys are capable of now only time will tell if they have what it takes to sustain their momentum.


Best DVD

Blind Guardian – Imaginations Through the Looking Glass

A strong case could be made for Iron Maiden having the best DVD but being jaded by all of Maiden’s DVD output I have to go with this offering from Blind Guardian. Hansi and Crew put on a great show that reminds me of why Blind Guardian is one of the greatest bands in metal.


Disappointments

1. Murder of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
The senseless murder of Dimebag Darrell by a mentally unstable fan had to be the worst moment in metal this year and possibly in the last 20 years. In the minutes after the bullets started flying a family’s life was changed forever and metal lost one of its six string legends. R.I.P. Dimebag.

2. Dio - Master of the Moon
With KILLING THE DRAGON it looked as if Dio was back to his classic self but Master of the Moon sees the slow boring Craig Goldy return to help Dio take 3 big steps backward.

3. Stratovarius Fiasco
The unfortunate events and stories which swirled around the Stratovarius camp this year looked more like an edition of the NATIONAL ENQUIRER than the workings of a metal band. Timo Tolkki’s bizarre behaviour was comical to some and sad to others but it signaled the end of the band. Fortunately things are looking up as rumour has it the band is at least talking about reuniting.


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Judas Priest – Angel of Retribution
Now that the band has finally gotten their collective heads out of their asses and reunited, the only thing they need to do is deliver the goods with a spectacular CD. If the product can live up to the hype we might have our #1 CD for 2005.

2. The Reunion of Motley Crue
Hopefully now that the Crue have finally gotten back together for their reunion tour, they will realize that they made some great music together and we will see a new CD. If this does happen I hope I don’t see it in my disappointment list for 2005.

Luxi Lahtinen

Top 20 Albums

1. Exodus – TEMPO OF THE DAMNED
The true Thrash Metal comeback of the year... Here´s a couple of quotes taken out from one certain review for TEMPO OF THE DAMNED to state all the reasons for my album pick of the year:

“... totally hammering, relentlessly moshing songs that shamelessly nail you to the wall, spiced with some really nasty, brutal and ´in-yer-fuckin´-face´ -riffs into the well-known recipe created by a dynamic duo Holt/Hunolt, offering you a true thrashing ´war dance´ from the 1st tune “Scar Spangled Banner” all the way to the closing track of the album, “Tempo of the Damned”. The whole band would have seemed to rise back from the dead again just to give us a lesson what they can do best: Thrash!!! And there´s just no question about that the Exodus -team can still fuckin´ thrash the similar way like they used to do back in those ´good & old days´...”

“TEMPO OF THE DAMNED is a fuckin´ fine retro trip back to the true essence of what Thrash Metal should be all about. First and foremost, it´s about unpretendedly heavy brutal and menacingly thundering riffs, damn catchy rhythm – and tempo changes, memorable choruses and it´s also about vicious and pissed-off vocals that not that many guys can spit out in Thrash Metal these days. Mr. Souza sounds convincing enough to sound like a really pissed-off man on this brilliant comeback album of the Exodus -troops and that´s of course just one of those positive things that can be said about TEMPO OF THE DAMNED. Such songs as all-out thrashing and ear-mangling “Scar Spangled Banner”, “War Is My Sheppard” and the old Exodus demo song classic “Impaler”, album´s dead-heavy rollers as f.ex. “Blacklist” and “Shroud of Urine”, all speak for great volumes about these fellows´ burning ambition and devotion to conquer the most gigantic Thrash –throne back for these mighty Bay Area Thrash veterans Exodus again and I honestly see that happening for them unless a couple of other almost recently happened Thrash –comebacks won´t prove it otherwise later this year?”

2. Nightwish – ONCE

...during the last 3 or 4 weeks rather regularly, one question crawls into my mind each time when causing a gentle multi-dimensional ear orgasm for myself by spinning the album in my CD –player over and over and over again. How are they ever going to top this?! On ONCE the band has developed breath-takingly their own brand of distinctive sound even further toward extremely pompous yet epic atmospheres that are nearly impossible to describe in a mere few words. Each song on ONCE is sort of a little miniature of a movie soundtrack of its own – no more or no less.

For me, the whole album represents everything that I have always hoped Nightwish to achieve musically in the long run. Now it seems like all my prayers have been answered. In my opinion they have finally succeeded to make the songs ´click´ with each other so perfectly and indelibly that you simply couldn´t ask for much else from their songs.

3. Iced Earth – THE GLORIOUS BURDEN
4. Satan´s Host – BURNING THE BORN AGAIN
    (A NEW PHILOSOPHY)
5. Behemoth – DEMIGOD
6. Crucified Mortals – CONVERTED BY
    DECAPITATION
7. The Mighty Nimbus – THE MIGHTY NIMBUS
8. Infernäl Mäjesty – ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH
9. Mokoma - TÄMÄN MAAILMAN RUHTINAAN HOVI
10. Suffocation – SOULS TO DENY
11. W.A.S.P. – THE NEON GOD: PART 1. –
      THE RISE
12. Sacred Crucifix – AEON OF CHAOS
13. Jag Panzer – CASTING THE STONES
14. Dismember – WHERE THE IRONCROSSES
      GROW
15. Bloodbath – BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH
16. Malevolent Creation – WARKULT
17. Chaosbreed – BRUTAL
18. Wintersun - WINTERSUN
19. Helion – FOOL´S PARADISE
20. Decapitated – THE NEGATATION


Best New Band

Jumalation
A couple of straight quotes being ripped out one review for Jumalation:

“... if you have always considered such Thrash Metal acts such as Slayer, Infernäl Mäjesty and Canadian Sacrifice as some of your very favorite Thrash Metal acts ever, then it definitely would be nearly an unforgettable, screaming act of a crime if you missed out on Jumalation. Only on rare occasions has old school Thrash Metal sounded THIS fuckin’ good in the hands of Finnish thrashers”.

“Frenzied, violent, addictive and balls-to-the-wall Thrash Metal in the 80s old school spirit of some of the best bands from that time, that´s what Jumalation offers. I’m 100% positive this absolutely deadly and ripping package should get them signed to some label any day now. Wanna bet with me for that, you pathetic loser?”

A honorable mention to the Swedish thrashers Pandemonic who have also found a damn killer recipe for slaying people by their frenzied and aggressive Exodus/Testament/Slayer –tinged Thrash Metal… \,,/


Best DVD

Immolation –
BRINGING DOWN THE WORLD

Well, what can I say really…? It´s the goddamn Immolation, the BEST Death Metal band on the whole globe right now!! Immolation simply CRUSHES on stage! ´nuff said, I think.


Disappointments

1. Death Angel – THE ART OF DYING
Unlike Exodus´ damn splendid comeback album TEMPO OF THE DAMNED, Death Angel unfortunately couldn´t live up my expectations as far as their long-awaited comeback album, THE ART OF DYING, is concerned. I honestly expected it to be a bit more ´Thrash´ -orientated album, a bit more into vein of their classic debut album THE ULTRA VIOLENCE, so it´s fair to say that I was kinda disappointed as I didn´t get what I originally expected from them in the first place. Oh well, maybe I should stop childish dreaming regarding to Death Angel these days...

2. The death of Quorton (Bathory)
The news about his death came like a sharp bold from a crystal-clear sky. Quorthon was a true genius of his own kind; a godfather of the whole ´Viking Metal´ genre! An enormous loss not only for the whole Viking/Battle/Folk Metal community, but also for the whole Metal –loving world. He´ll always live in our hearts and through his music. Keep your Viking sword bright´n´high in Valhalla, too. Long live the mighty Bathory... HAIL THE HORDES! \,,/

3. Steve ´Zetro´ Souza leaving Exodus
After a totally successful comeback, it felt unjustified to hear ´Zetro´ had left Exodus due to his other commitments in his life. I´m even afraid to imagine how the next Exodus album is gonna sound having someone else to fill up the vocal duties in the band…


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Judas Priest - ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION
At least one thing is already certain: Rob “The Metal God” Halford is back in Judas Priest, so let´s just hope chemistry between him and the rest of the band could be something similar when they recorded the mighty PAINKILLER album back in the day… ;)

2. Usurper - CRYPTOBEAST
The band´s TWILIGHT DOMINION was one of the best Metal albums in 2003, so I strongly believe Usurper´s forth-coming album CRYPTOBEAST won´t be that much a letdown either.

3. Immolation – HARNESSING RUIN
Just saw the video for the title track “Harnessing Ruin” which already proved that the Immolation –guys haven´t been resting on their laurels for too long. The song writing in that song is absolutely on a very high level. There´s a great chance that HARNESSING RUIN will probably be close to be the best Death Metal album that will be released during 2005. Immolation fuckin´ owns your worthless soul forever… \,,/

Also, I´m looking forward to hear new albums from Sentenced, Dew-Scented, Children of Bodom, Demigod (?) and Iron Maiden (?); at least I´m already running pretty high hopes for the new albums of the aforementioned bands…

Lord of the Wasteland

Top 20 Albums

1. Dream Evil - THE BOOK OF HEAVY METAL
Dream Evil continues to put the fun back in heavy metal with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics and anthemic song structure. The loss of Gus G. on lead guitar after the album was completed may be a chink in the armor, but THE BOOK OF HEAVY METAL is chock full of power metal riffing, sing-along choruses and a throwback to the over-the-top fist pumping anthems that populated the 80s.

2. Evergrey - THE INNER CIRCLE
This band just keeps getting better and better! THE INNER CIRCLE is flawless from beginning to end with dual guitar riffing, a thunderous rhythm section, jaw-dropping vocals courtesy of Tom S. Englund and stellar production filled with haunting background samples used for maximum effect. Bonus points for its socially-conscious concept, too.

3. Iced Earth - THE GLORIOUS BURDEN
4. Ayreon - THE HUMAN EQUATION
5. Cannibal Corpse - THE WRETCHED SPAWN
6. My Dying Bride - SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT
7. Exodus - TEMPO OF THE DAMNED
8. Meliah Rage - BARELY HUMAN
9. Shadows Fall - THE WAR WITHIN
10. Demonoid - RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE
11. God Forbid - GONE FOREVER
12. W.A.S.P. - THE NEON GOD PART 1: THE RISE
13. The Haunted - rEVOLVEr
14. Fear Factory - ARCHETYPE
15. Tesla - INTO THE NOW
16. The Dillinger Escape Plan - MISS MACHINE
17. 3 Inches of Blood - ADVANCE AND VANQUISH
18. Lamb of God - ASHES OF THE WAKE
19. Nightwish - ONCE
20. Wintersun - WINTERSUN


Best New Band

Demonoid
Whether or not this is an actual band or just a side project of three members of Therion and the drummer from Soilwork, RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE is one of the most powerful debuts in recent memory.

Runner-up: Wintersun


Best DVD

Iron Maiden - THE EARLY YEARS VOL. 1

This early footage is like the Holy Grail for fans of Paul DiAnno-era Iron Maiden. The 90-minute documentary is just the icing on the cake. What’s better is that there are still Volumes 2 and 3 to come!

 


Disappointments

1. The Murder of Dimebag Darrell
This could not only be the biggest disappointment of 2004 but of the decade. If there is any solace to this senseless tragedy, it’s that the influential axeman was cut down doing what he loved.

2. Gene Simmons - ASSHOLE
As a KISS fan, it pained me to give this CD a low rating but the poor production, second-rate songs and unmerited hype continue to drag the KISS legacy down further.

3. Black Label Society - HANGOVER MUSIC VOL. VI
Zakk Wylde was born to play guitar, not sing. This CD focuses on his singing and that is not a good thing.

4. Marduk - FUNERAL MARCHES AND WAR SONGS (DVD)
For those of us in North America, the chance to finally see Marduk live was plagued by including three shows with identical setlists performed a week apart. How about some variety?

5. W.A.S.P. - THE NEON GOD PART 2:
THE DEMISE

THE NEON GOD PART 1 was W.A.S.P.’s best release in twelve years so how did the second part of the story end up so terrible?

6. Van Halen Reunion Tour
Grossly overpriced tickets caused many fans to miss the shows. What ever happened to doing it for the music and the fans?


Greatest Hopes for 2005

1. Judas Priest - ANGELS OF RETRIBUTION
The band’s follow-up to PAINKILLER has a lot riding on it but early buzz sounds pretty good. March 1st, 2005 is circled on every metalhead’s calendar so hopefully this return of Rob Halford has not hyped itself out of the ballpark.

2. The return of Meliah Rage, Kick Axe & Tesla
Three of my favorite 80s bands reunited after years to release amazing CDs in 2004. Instead of getting rehashed crap from Poison, Warrant, etc., good bands are getting back together to put some respect back in 80s metal and hard rock.

3. Ozzfest 2005 Lineup
The 2004 run was the best ever as REAL metal bands replaced a lot of the nu-metal crap that had taken over the Ozzfest stages in previous years. Topping Sabbath, Priest and Slayer on one stage will be nearly impossible, but as long as the festival organizers don’t drop the ball and build on the momentum of 2004, The Prince of Darkness could regain some credibility lost on booking acts like Chevelle and passing them off as “metal.”

Anders Sandvall

Top 20 Albums

1. Exodus – Tempo of the Damned

Old School Bay Area Thrash at its best! Everyone who counted out this band was totally wrong. They have delivered a totally brilliant album and this is probably the comeback of this millenium.

2. Evergray – The Inner Circle

Once again Sweden proves that they are the leading nation in progressive metal. There’s not a bad track on the album.

 

3. Debase – Unleashed
4. The Haunted – rEVOLVEr
5. Dio – Master of the Moon
6. Damageplan – New Found Power
7. Carnal Forge – Aren’t You Dead Yet?
8. Tak Matsumoto Group – TMG 1
9. Dream Evil – The Book of Heavy Metal
10. Saxon – Lionheart
11. Motörhead – Inferno
12. Grave – Fiendish Regression
13. Velvet Revolver – S/t
14. Primal Fear – Devil’s Ground
15. Over the Edge Featuring Mickey Thomas
16. In Flames – Soundtrack To Your Escape
17. Jorn – Out To Every Nation
18. Nightwish – Once
19. Blaze – Blood and Belief
20. Mercenary – 11 Dreams


Best New Band

Tak Matsumoto Group
Tak Matsumoto Group with the debut TMG 1 are the best melodic hardrock album of the year. A perfect match between 80’s melodic hardrock and a updated production for the 21st century.


Best DVD

Anthrax – Music of Mass Destruction

(Runner up: Dismember – Live blasphemies)


Disappointments

1. The reunion of Europe – why?

2. Paul Di’Anno’s anniversary tour for the album Killers – it was 25 years ago  that Killers came out. The guy hasn’t been in Maiden for numerous years then why is he trying to make money off Maiden? Just pathetic and sad!

3. The fact that Debase’s album Unleashed didn’t sell more than it did, they deserve more.

4. Iced Earth’s canceling of their European tour, strangely they did manage to tour in US and Canada with Jon’s ill back.


Greatest Hopes for 2005

1. Iron Maiden are going out on the road and they’re going to totally destroy Europe once again.

2. The legendary Jorn Lande and Masterplan are scheduled to release album number 2, and we hope for a long following tour.

3. The reunion of the metal legends and heroes Accept!!

4. Hopefully a new album with The Hellacopters during 2005.

5. The lead vocalist Pete Sandbergs third solo album is going to be released in Europe.

JP

Top 20 Albums

1. Aina - Days of Rising Doom

The best Metal Opera of them all.

 

 

2. Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm

The need for speed!

 

 



3. Magic Kingdom - Metallic Tragedy
4. UDO - Thunderball
5. Saxon - Lionheart
6. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory
7. Scorpions - Unbreakable
8. Tad Morose - Modus Vivendi
9. W.A.S.P. - The Neon God-The Rise
10. W.A.S.P. - The Neon God-The Demsie
11. Amaran - Pristine In Bondage
12. Imperanon - Stained
13. Susperia - Unlimited
14. Hodson - This Strange World
15. Yyrkoon - Occult Medicine
16. Tvangeste - Firestorm
17. Forefather - Ours Is The Kingdom
18. Torchbearer - Yersinia Pestis
19. Unleashed - Sworn Allegiance
20. Impious - Hellucinate


Best New Band

Odyessa - Tears In Floods
Incredibly catchy and fun.


Best DVD

Manowar - Hell On Earth III
Nothing but but the highest quality.


Disappointments

1. Queensryche - The Art of Live

2. Anthrax-Music of Mass Destruction
(Still grasping at straws)

3. Six Feet Under-Graveyard Classics II
(Cool idea but dull, uninspired execution. It could have been so much more.)

4. Metal Blade Records jump on the Metalcore bandwagon and start releasing crap.

5. Death of Quorthon


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Priest
2. Maiden
3. Manowar
4. Malmsteen
5. Mallcore and Metalcore go away permanently.

Marko Syrjälä

Top 20 Albums

1. Brides Of Destruction - Here Come The Brides

It was a tough competition between this and Velvet Revolver, but Brides won because they were a little bit better on stage earlier this year. Hopefully this isn't last release from this brilliant band.
 

2. Velvet Revolver - Contraband
Almost the album of the year for me. This album continues where Gn'R left off several years ago. No weak links on this band"

3. TNT - My Religion
4. Scorpions - Unbreakable
5. Motörhead - Inferno
6. Megadeth - The System Has Failed
7. Death Angel -  The Art Of Dying
8. U.D.O - Thunderball
9. Dio - Master Of The Moon
10. Europe - Start From The Dark
11. Nightwish - Once
12. Annihilator - All For You
13. Saxon - Lionheart
14: W.A.S.P - Neon God I & II
15. Pink Cream 69 - Thunderdome
16. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
17. Exodus - Tempo Of The Damned
18. Dokken - Hell To Pay
19. UFO - You Are Here
20. Feinstein - Third Wish


Best New Band

N/A


Best DVD

1. M.S.G. (Michael Schenker Group): World Wide Live 2004
Finally a reasonable DVD release from this legendary guitarist. Absolutely brilliant!-

2. Iron Maiden: The Early Years Vol I
Lot's of interesting stuff from the past. Some of my old VHS tapes can be retired now.

3. Anthrax: Music Of Mass Destruction
Great concert from great band. Unfortunately it's the last performance of Frank Bello with this band.


Disappointments

1. Tragic death of Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott.
...just really sad and shocking!!

2. Gene Simmons - Asshole album.
What the hell he was thinking when he put this out????

3. Still no new G'n'R ...
Next year? Right, sure... ;)


Greatest hopes for 2005

1. Mötley Crüe re-union.
One band after another are now making re-unions with their classic lineup. That's good news for me and this one is one of my all-time favorite bands.

2. Paul Stanley solo album.
At least it should not be too difficult to beat Gene in this case?

3. New Judas Priest album and tour.
- Needs no words !!!

Waspman

Top 20 Albums

1. W.A.S.P. – The Neon God Pt.2

2. Nightwish – Once

3. Evergrey – The Inner Circle
4. Tad Morose – Modus Vivendi
5. Therion – Lemuria/Sirius B
6. Wuthering Heights – Far From the Maddening Crowd
7. Jag Panzer – Casting the Stones
8. W.A.S.P. – The Neon God Pt.1
9. Ayreon – The Human Equation
10. Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden
11. Melechesh – Sphynx
12. Unearth – The Oncoming Storm
13. Cradle of Filth – Nymphetamine
14. Shadows Fall – The War Within
15. Forsaken – Anima Mundi
16. Persuader – Evolution Purgatory
17. Killswitch Engage – The End of Heartache
18. Megadeth – The System Has Failed
19. Viperine – The Predator Awakens
20. Mar De Grises – The Tatterdemalion Express


Best New Band

Viperine - THE PREDATOR AWAKENSViperine – The Predator Awakens
Power metal gets a much-needed kick in the ass!

Ruinner up: Mar De Grises – The Tatterdemalion Express. Brazilian doom metallers show great promise on this crushing debut.


Best DVD

Slayer – Still Reigning


Disappointments

1. Wolverine – Cold Light of Monday
After showing promise with THE WINDOW PURPOSE, Wolverine drop the ball a little bit on this awesomely-titled disc. There’s just not enough metal on this disc. Fire up the guitars next time!

2. Crematory – Revolution
If ripping off The Kovenant and Rammstein is what you guys reformed for, it’s probably best if you go away again.

3. Tvangeste – Firestorm
An absolutely worthless bunch of Cradle and Dimmu rip-offs that can’t even write a good song. Stunningly dull from first note to last, this disc is just another in a virtual cascade of mediocre discs put out this year. Don’t even get me started on the laughable “radio edit” song on here.


Greatest hopes for 2005

N/A

Arto Lehtinen

Top 20 Albums

1. EXODUS - Tempo Of The Damned
The Bay Area thrash legends did a real strike of the beast on this awesome comeback album. Souza hasn’t sounded as vicious on any Exodus album. Definitely one of the best and greatest thrash metal albums released for a loooonnggg time. Therefore Exodus’ Tempo Of The Damned deserves to be the best 2004 album in my metal book.

2. Behemoth - Demigod

3. Samael - Reign Of Light
4. The Haunted - Revolver
5. My Dying Bride - Songs Of Darkness Words Of Light
6. Motorhead - Inferno
7. Rotting Christ - Sanctus Diavolos
8. Dismember - Where IronCrosses Grow
9. Therion - Lemuria / Sirius B
10. Graveland - Dawn Of Iron Blades
11. Vulcano - Tales From The Black Book
12. Hell-Born - Legacy Of The Nephilim
13. Unleashed - Sworn Allegiance
14. Krisiun - Bloodshed
15. Marduk - PlagueAngel
16. Napalm Death - Leaders Not Followers Pt 2
17. To Separate From The Flesh - Utopia Sadistica
18. Ajattara - Tyhjyys
19. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
20. Devils WhoreHouse - Revelation Unorthodox


Best New Band

Spawn Of Possession
Was there interesting one?!? Well yes indeed as Sweden’s extreme technical death metal mongers called Spawn Of Possession who toured with Cannibal Corpse thru Scandinavia. Brutal technical and great stuff indeed.


Best DVD

DESTRUCTION:

LIVE DISCGARGE: 20 years of total Destruction

The German thrash legends unleashed one hell of a great DVD in 2004. Pure old school thrash whipping from the beginning to the end and even a lot of great pics (a few ones taken by me ha!) included!!!


Disappointments

The whole year has had positive as well negative issues. But two main negative issues definitely arise above all other negative things having happened in the metal and hard rock world, the metal world lost two leading and influential persons and musicians during 2004; Quorthon from Bathory and Dimebag Darrell from Pantera/DamagePlan. Both of them shaped and created new metal sounds and styles by being big influences on younger metal bands all around the world. It is definitely obvious that the legacy of these two metal icons will be carried forever…

I for one am willing to turn the page by welcoming 2005 with open arms, not facing setbacks of any kinds, seen them more than enough.

1. The latest Danzig effort, unfortunately the album proves Danzig has lost his magic touch and finally realized to pull the plug from the touring life.

2. The new Venom incarnation with only Cronos left from the classic line-up.

3. Souza pulled out of Exodus (Damn!!!)


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Necrodeath - new album
2. Mayhem - new album with Attila on vocals
3. Seeing/hearing David Vincent with Morbid Angel

Crashtest

Top 20 Albums

1. Evergrey - The Inner Circle

Not only is this the album of the year for me, but it may be the album of the new millennium. I love everything about this majestic work.

 

2. Exodus - Tempo Of The Damned

This is just a rip-roaring tour de force. I’ve been listening to this CD at least once a week ever since it was released. Not a bad track on the album. It’s heavy, it’s angry and it rips your face off.

3. Tankard - Beast Of Bourbon
4. Pain Of Salvation - BE
5. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
6. Arsis - A Celebration Of Guilt
7. Hirax - The New Age Of Terror
8. Shadows Fall - The War Within
9. Decapitated - The Negation
10. Edguy - Hellfire Club
11. Megadeth - The System Has Failed
12. Lamb Of God - Ashes Of The Wake
13. Behemoth - Demigod
14. Ayreon - The Human Equation
15. Death Angel - The Art Of Dying
16. Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh
17. My Dying Bride - Songs Of Darkness,
      Songs Of Light
18. Finntroll _ Nattfödd
19. Metal Church - The Weight Of The World
20. The Black League - Man’s Ruin Revisited


Best New Band

Arsis


Best DVD

The History Of Iron Maiden Part I - The Early Years


Disappointments

Aina - Days Of Rising Doom.
I expected so much more. This may actually be the worst metal release I heard all year and I listened to nearly 200 new albums in 2004!


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Just like last year, one of my hopes is that we’ll see a Priest, Maiden and Iced Earth tour. Priest and Maiden may be more realistic than you think.

2. The Dark Angel album. Death Angel and Heathen had solid returns. Exodus and Hirax had brilliant returns. I expect something stellar from Dark Angel as well, if they ever get around to it. Thrash lives!

 

Metal George

Top 20 Albums

album cover1. Entwine - DieVersity
A dark horse for sure, but an album which changed my life the moment I heard it. It arrived just at the right time in my life to make a serious impact. I even have the logo tattooed on my arm. Absolutely stunning from first note to last.

2. Edguy - Hellfire Club
For my money, the best damn Power Metal album money can buy. Memorable songs, catchy melodies, a glorious performance all around from these German pranksters.

3. Beyond the Embrace - "Insect Song"
4. Exodus - Tempo of the Damned
5. Into Eternity - Buried in Oblivion
6. Death Angel - The Art of Dying
7. Susperia - Unlimited
8. Lilitu - The Delores Lesion
9. The Haunted - rEVOLVEr
10. Anaal Nathrakh - Domine Non Es Dignus
11. Nightwish - Once
12. Therion - Lemuria/Sirius B.
13. Witchcraft -S/T
14. Killswitch Engage - The End of Heartache
15. Withering Surface - Force the Pace
16. Brave - Passages
17. Finntroll - Nattfodd
18. The Black League - Man's Ruin Revisited
19. Firebird - No. 3
20. Vader - The Beast


Best New Band

Witchcraft
This Swedish act possesses the mustiest, shadowed 70s doom vibe I've ever heard. Witchcraft bleed rock.


Disappointments

1. Shadows Fall – The War Within
Just that Shadows Fall still exists, and is bigger than ever. The most overrated band in Metal right now.

2. Judas Priest's abysmal "return"
Judas Priest's abysmal "return" to metal, and the live environment. I was never more disappointment in a band's set in my life than Priest's hackneyed, slow, and boring Ozzfest set.

3. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
Only Ripper Owens was the saving grace for this.

4. Behemoth - Demigod
Once an innovator of extremity, they have now become generic Ameri-death Nile copycats.

5. Evergrey - The Inner Circle
Not terrible, just terribly uninspiring.


Greatest Hopes for 2005

1. Dissection. Fear the Return.

2. Celtic Frost's new album. UGH!! HEYYYYY!!!

3. A single title: "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part III". Yeah, baby!

4. That Candlemass works out whatever internal struggles they have, and kick all our asses with some true DOOM magic!

5. That Impaled continue on their glorious path to Carcass-esque greatness.

 

Aryn

Top 20 Albums

1. Dragonforce – Sonic Firestorm

This was the full realization of Dragonforce’s potential and a precursor to the future status of legends in the power metal scene. I’ve said on record that this is the most important power metal release since Keeper Of The Seven Keys, and I stand by it. Most fans of Dragonforce have been paying attention since their undisputed reign at the top of MP3.com’s Power Metal charts, and those are the fans who were most pleased with this release. They progressed with longer song structures and superior vocal work. The blinding speed and raging shredding sessions increased in quality and quantity. Dragonforce is a bit of a divisive band, but for those who appreciate the uber-happy, warp drive “extreme power metal” these guys invented and mastered this is a release for the ages.

2. 3 Inches Of Blood – Advance & Vanquish

With the departure of the entire lyric and songwriting force of this band shortly after the recording if it, this will likely be 3 Inches Of Blood’s swansong. But what a way to go out. Improving on the Maiden-inspired thrash riffery from their previous independent release with more solid lyrical work and improved vocals this proved to be a surprise hit for these Canadians. The unlikely garnering of mainstream media attention and praise and rotation on rock radio for an arguably “true” metal band was shocking to say the least. Releases like this remind you of when you were young and dreamily listened to Maiden while wishing you could live the swords and sorcery life they sang about. Music that undeniably forces your head to bang and your fists to pump and makes you want to strap on your denim vest and queue up for the next show.

3. Persuader – Evolution Purgatory
4. Nightwish – Once
5. Sonata Arctica – Reckoning Night
6. Rhapsody – Symphony Of Enchanted Lands Part II: The Dark Secret
7. Edguy – Hellfire Club
8. Wintersum – s/t
9. Wolf – Black Wings
10. Dream Evil – The Book Of Heavy Metal
11. Saxon – Lionheart
12. Fall Of The Bastards –
Dusk Of An Ancient Age
13. Ensiferum – Iron
14. Jag Panzer – Casting The Stones
15. Turisas – Battle Metal
16. Megadeth – The System Has Failed
17. Cruachan – Pagan
18. Yob – The Illusion Of Motion
19. Splatterhouse – The House That Dead Built
20. Dragonland – Starfall


Best New Band

Wintersun
When I heard that Jari Maenpaa had left Ensiferum I didn’t know what would happen to them. Turns out Jari formed Wintersun and released an album just as good as anything Ensiferum ever did. The self-titled debut proved to be a perfect cross between Ensiferum and Children of Bodom with tons of inherent folk influences. I hope to hear much from this group in the future.


Best DVD

Blind Guardian - Imaginations Through The Looking Glass
It’s Blind Guardian, it’s their first DVD, that’s all that really needs to be said. Some people have complained that the camera movements are too sweeping and fast. But let’s face it, Hansi isn’t the most animated guy on stage, they had to make it exciting somehow. The packaging is great, the production is amazing, plus it’s Blind fucking Guardian! How can you go wrong?


Disappointments

1. Murder of Darrell Abbott
I never really liked Pantera all that much, but I recognized them as influential and always knew “Dimebag” was a very talented guitarist. This senseless tragedy has had echoes throughout the entire metal scene and it will likely have a lasting impact for years to come.

2. Delay of new Judas Priest album.
Jeez come on guys, just by virtue of the fact that it would have been released in 04 you could have been at the top of the M-R Best of 2004 list!

3. Death of Quorthon
 I was never a big Bathory fan, with the exception of the Viking-themed albums. Those were amazing pieces of work and it seemed as though that was the direction Quorthon was taking for the time being. So young, what the hell happened?!

4. Van Halen “Reunion”
It’s not a reunion unless Diamond Dave is on board.

5. The Continuing Saga of Timo Tolkki
The man went completely mad, but from recent reports he may have regained his sanity and made amends with the rest of Stratovarius!


Greatest Hopes for 2005

1. Judas Priest – Angels Of Retribution
Who hasn’t been waiting for this since ohh.. 1990?

2. Judas Priest US Tour
Who hasn’t been waiting for this since ohh.. 1990?

3. Nightwish/Sonata Arctica US Tour
The only way this Finnish bill could be any better is if the reformed Stratovarius joined them. Then I could just die there happy.

Wisco

Top 20 Albums

1. Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
I wasn’t sure how the Ripper would sound fronting Iced Earth. I should not have doubted. “The Glorious Burden” far exceeded my expectations. Tim Owens sounds much more comfortable and, most importantly, metallic within his new environment. I dug Matt Barlow, but this works and works well. I can’t think of any other person that could’ve pulled this off. Hats off to Iced Earth for another magnificent album. “Gettysburg (1863)” is an instant metal classic.

2. Lamb of God - Ashes of the Wake
This is the album that rekindled my waning interest in Lamb of God. In the future, if they write a more diverse collection of songs, they could well deliver an album of the year. Hell, they almost did it this year.
 

3. Evergrey - The Inner Circle
4. Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones
5. Shadows Fall - The War Within
6. Exodus - Tempo of the Damned
7. Blaze - Blood and Belief
8. Scorpions - Unbreakable
9. Saxon - Lionheart
10. Brides of Destruction - Here Come the Brides
11. Viperine - The Predator Awakens
12. Edguy - Hellfire Club
13. 3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish
14. Dio - Master of the Moon
15. Primal Fear - Devil’s Ground
16. Electric Wizard - We Live
17. Amon Amarth - Fate of Norns
18. Velvet Revolver - Contraband
19. Mastodon - Leviathan
20. Megadeth - The System Has Failed


Viperine - THE PREDATOR AWAKENSBest New Band

Viperine
It would appear as though I’m biased...fuck that shit, this band grows on you like no other and will only get better.


Disappointments

Mastodon - Leviathan
Leviathan made my top 20, but I fully expected it to be the album of the year. This was, of course, my projection before I actually heard the record. It’s funny how shit works out. Anyway, the album is solid, but it just didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped.


Greatest Hope For 2005

ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION
There is only one hope for 2005. Suffice to say, I hope the new Priest fuckin’ rules. I’m very optimistic.

 

Night of the Realm

Top 20 Albums

1. Brocas Helm - Defenders of the Crown
Although I have been a Brocas Helm fan for several years now, DEFENDER OF THE CROWN turns out to be the surprise hit of 2004 for me. Start to finish, this album simply RIPS…a barrage of quirky, creative, and unique old-school heavy metal the way metal is meant to be played. It’s a little old-school, a little punkish, a little folkish, and a hell of a lot of ass kicking. Now all I need is a few more Brocas Helm albums, and perhaps a tour with The Lord Weird Slough Feg and/or Hammers of Misfortune in 2005.

Wuthering Heights - Far From The Madding Crowd2. Wuthering Heights - Far from the Madding Crowd
2004 seems to be the year of surprises for me, and my second pick is no exception. While I found the first two Wuthering Heights albums to be rather uninspiring, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD kicks the band into high gear, bringing forward cleaner, more creative, and focused songwriting as well as an absolutely stellar performance by one of the best new voices in metal…Nils Patrik Johansson. Certainly, this is the album that places Wuthering Heights near the pinnacle of the power and folk metal genres.

3. Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones
4. Skyclad - A Semblance of Normality
5. Nightwish - Once
6. 3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish
7. Enforsaken - The Forever Endeavor
8. Airged L’amh - The Silver Arm
9. Stormlord - The Gorgon Cult
10. Overlorde - Return of the Snow Giant
11. Drudkh - Autumn Aurora
12. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory
13. Exodus - Tempo of the Damned
14. Sauron - Thrash Assault
15. Council of the Fallen - Deciphering the Soul
16. Ensiferum - Iron
17. Countess - Heiling Vuur
18. Dismember - Where Ironcrosses Grow
19. Amon Amarth - The Fate of Norns
20. Seven Witches - The Year of the Witch


Best New Band

Enforsaken
These guys have what it takes: the strong skills of musicianship and creative songwriting, a great metal attitude and strong commitment to slagging it out in the underground. With THE FOREVER ENDEAVOR, their first full-length album, Enforsaken have made a great mark on the melodic metal scene. Here’s to a strong 2005 and a hope for more great albums from this new band.


Best DVD

Blind Guardian – Imaginations through the Looking Glass

Need I comment on this DVD? A full Blind Guardian concert should be enough to convince any fan, but wait, there’s more…bonus songs, lots of interviews and tons of behind-the-scenes footage on an entire second disc make this the best DVD ever.


Disappointments

1. Borknagar – Epic
How the mighty have fallen. Unfortunately, what we have here sounds like a collection of half-baked, rehashed, and half-assed songs that sounds to me like Øystein G. Brun has run out of ideas. At least Vintersorg’s solo project is back on the right track with his latest release.

2. Dissection – Maha Kali
This is not the Dissection we all know and love; this is bland, uninspired, and without any emotional impact on artist or listener. Hopefully, this EP is just a warm-up disc for Jon, so that when Dissection hit the studio again, they will be in full form.

3. Dio – Master of the Moon
I must say that I have always been a fan of all albums Dio, and that I may be one of only six people who truly enjoyed MAGICA, but MASTER OF THE MOON is just boring throughout. Dio is still God, but MASTER OF THE MOON certainly is at the bottom of his catalog.


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Judas Priest - new album
The inevitable reunion with Rob Halford brings back to the band the old spirit of Judas Priest, and the momentum that he has carried through two successful solo albums. Hopefully this will breathe fresh live into Judas Priest, and the new studio album will reflect that rekindled spirit. At the very least, we shall all enjoy seeing the reunited line-up put on what is certain to be one of the best tours ever.

2. Savatage - new album
Oh where Oh where has the mighty ‘Tage gone? I know I brought up the same hopes last year, but come on already! Although Jon Oliva’s Pain managed to put out a very good release with ‘TAGE MAHAL, and the new Trans-Siberian Orchestra album is their best release yet, my appetite for a new Savatage album (and tour) only grows stronger.

3. U.S. Metal Festivals
With the success of ProgPower, Brave Words, Bloody Knuckles festival, as well as a better, stronger Classic Metalfest, it is good to see more Metal Festivals popping up around the United States.

 

Keith McDonald

Top 20 Albums

1. Metal Church - The Weight of the World

A real surprise. A very good metal album.

 

 

2. Brides of Destruction - Here Come The Brides

Nikki sure can write great music - any style.

 

 

3. Dio - Master of the Moon
4. Cradle of Filth - Nymphetamine
5. Megadeth - The System Has Failed
6. Gene Simmons - Asshole
7. Tesla - Into The Now
8. Saxon - Lionheart
9. Scorpions - Unbrekable
10. Motorhead - Inferno
11. Black Label Society - Hangover Music
12. Dokken - Hell To Pay
13. Ministry - House of the Mole
14. Iommi - Hughes - Dep Sessions '96
15. Bang Tango - Ready To Go
16. Ancient - Night Visit
17. WASP - Neon God - Pt. 2
18. UDO - You Are Here
19. N/A
20. N/A


Best New Band

Brides of Destruction
Nikki Sixx's new band was a great change-up for any Motley Crue fan. Great punk rock.


Best DVD

Jackyl - Live at the Full Throttle Saloon
Great live band - very underrated.


Disappointments

1. Dimebag's death - a senseless act.

2. KISS tour - Great set list - just missing Peter and Ace.

3. Poison tour - I would have rather seen them headline a bigger show rather than see them open for KISS.


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. Motley Crue tour - Gotta love these guys - great rock band.

2. Union back on tour - I would like to see this band record a new album and tour.

Brat

Top 20 Albums

1. Vision Divine - Stream of Consciousness
I'm surprised this CD made No1 for me this year. When I first heard the sample hosted by the official site, I couldn't wait to hear the whole album. New singer, Michele Luppi, has given the band so much more energy and power on CD (I still maintain, Fabio Leone was and excellent singer live at Wacken 2002). Out of all the new releases for 2004, this CD has had the most play, surprisingly as my 3 most favourite bands also had new releases this year. Definitely a release that I constantly crave to listen to really loud and belt out along with Michele.

2. Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Yet another excellent release this year by one of my top 3. However, I didn't take to it as much as last year's release, Wintersheart Guild, so it's missed out on my No1 spot. Sonata seem to have taken a step back in production with slightly simpler songs and arrangements with very little layered vocal lines - maybe the other members of the band weren't comfortable being tied to the microphone so much during the Wintersheart Guild tour. However, the Sonata Arctica quality and style is still at it's full strength and speed keeping Reckoning Night at the top of my listening stack.

3. Dionysus - Anima Mundi
4. Nocturnal Rites - New World Messiah
5. Nightwish - Once
6. Thunderstone - The Awakening
7. Mob Rules - Among the Gods
8. Angra - Temple of Shadows
9. Edguy - Hellfire Club
10. Schandmaul - Wie Pech & Schwefel
11. Pink Cream 69 - Thunderdome
12. Kotipelto - Coldness
13. Haggard - Eppur Si Muove
14. Therion - Sirius B/Lemuria
15. Rammstein - Reise, Reise
16. Cryonic Temple - Blood, Guts and Glory
17. In Extremo - Weckt die Toten
18. Evergrey - The Inner Circle
19. Dungeon - One Step Beyond
20. Epica - We Will Take You With Us
      (minus the awful acoustic stuff)


Best New Band

Have my ears and eyes been closed or has 2004 been starving for extraordinary signings/releases from new bands? Maybe I should get myself on some mailing lists. Not even new bands to hit the live scene in Australia have made a lasting impression.

Potential best new band (Nov 2004 release)
Eyefear featuring ex Pegazus singer Danny Cecati backing vocals by Gio Cavaliere of Black Majesty) has just released their debut commercial release even though they've been around for many years and released a couple of CDs independently. Looking forward to hearing this soon.


Best DVD

Rage - From the Cradle to the Stage
Great footage and interviews. It's amazing how effective and entertaining a simple live concert can be when you have extremely talented musicians in the band.

Runner Up:
Manowar - Hell On Earth III

I'm not a Manowar fan and don't know their music, but I've seen about 10 minutes live footage and this DVD release looks like great value for money. It's even got me interested in buying it to watch the whole thing and learn more about this super group.


Disappointments

1. Ayreon - The Human Equation
After reading so much praise for this release on the forums, I found it lacking in substance and energy. CD2 is saved by some great powerful vocals but overall it's just too wishy-washy for my taste. I've since heard some older Ayreon releases and I've got the same opinion of the older stuff! Give me speed! Give me galloping horses! And give me power metal men who sound like women!

2. After Forever - Invisible Circles
I love this band, love their music, love their performances but the dialogue just ruined this CD for me.


Greatest Hopes For 2005

1. South African band Agro can get some label interest and release a new CD in 2005. Their demo Work in Progress is strong enough to be released as is--and no, it's not power metal ;)

2. For more international acts to take the risk and tour in Australia. 2005 is looking great: Shadows Fall in February, Nightwish in March, Angra show in March. I wish the promoters and bands successful tours so more bands come to Hell.

3. And generally for the local Aussie metal scene to strengthen. It seems none of our established bands want to do local gigs and/or their own tours anymore, but when a festival or international tour is announced, everyone's got their hands up - surely they're not all in the studio.

 



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