– Best of 2003

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Best of 2003

It’s that time of year once again, the time when we, the staff of, compile our best of lists to derive the top albums of the year. Below is the overall top 50 derived from each staff member’s top 20 of the year. Points are scored with 20 points for #1, 19 for #2,….1 point for #20. Within each staff members lists you can also see each person’s selections for best DVD of 2003, best new band, greatest hopes for 2004, and of course their disappointments of the year.

Some restrictions were placed on the lists. The top album are for releases from 2003 that all full albums, not EP’s or demos. They also had to be new albums for 2003, 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) had to be a 2003 release.


The Top 50 Heavy Metal Albums of 2003

#1. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
Even though Iron Maiden’s new album didn’t top the majority of our staff’s personal lists, it was placed in nearly all of our top 20 lists. As such, it scored very highly with a whopping 247 points (in comparison, the #2 spot trailed behind with 147 points). DANCE OF DEATH was a welcome comeback from Maiden. This is NOT the quintessential Maiden CD by any means, but tracks like “Paschendale,” “Montségur” and “Dance of Death” have ushered the band back into the minds of yet another generation of metalheads.


#2. King Diamond – THE Puppet Master
THE PUPPET MASTER is King Diamond’s best CD in years.  He is still able to keep the concept album fresh by creating macabre tales and backing them up with outstanding music and players.  “Magic,” “Emerencia” and “Blood To Walk” are all standout tracks on what is clearly one of the year’s best albums.


#3. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
The kings of German power metal have returned to the sound they are best known for: the “happy happy helloween” style that has taken the band to new heights on the tongue in cheek entitled RABBIT DON’T COME EASY.


#4. Grave Digger – Rheingold
Grave Digger’s RHEINGOLD is a concept album based on composer Richard Wagner’s The Ring/The Nibelungs operas. Grave Digger unload with both barrels on this album. The speed metal side of Grave Digger and the epic power metal side of the band come together seamlessly into what is simply a monstrously heavy, absolutely incredible work.


#5. Black Label Society – THE Blessed Hellride
THE BLESSED HELLRIDE continues the tradition of southern blues-influenced American metal from Zakk Wylde. The sound Wylde gets out of his cavalcade of axes is always stunning and he continues to make himself comfortable among this generation’s greats. If you’ve yet to check out a BLS album, then this is the one to get as it is easily the best BLS to date!


#6. Cage – Darker Than Black
Power metal, American style. With Halford-like influences, Sean Peck is one of the best vocalists to come from this side of the Atlantic in years. The perfect synergy of memorable riffs, chugging rhythms and catchy choruses establishes Cage as a powerhouse of American underground metal.


#7. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
The sweeping sounds of an orchestra are perfectly interlaced with black metal riffs and blastbeats. This is the band’s most ambitious work yet and deserves to be the crossover success that it is.


#8. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
The Amott brothers have taken Arch Enemy in a slightly new and catchy direction on ANTHEMS OF REBELLION. Thankfully, the guitar wizardry we’ve come to expect is very much intact, if not at the forefront. The sophomore effort for Angela Gossow also features her distinct presence in the writing and lyrics dept., which no doubt added to the album.


#9. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
Seattle’s own unclassifiable, yet metal, band has returned with a vengeance.  Stellar solos from Jeff Loomis and the soaring and haunting vocals of Warrel Dane highlight this short but sweet release.


#10. Usurper – Twilight Dominion
This is primal fucking metal. Twilight Dominion is a stripped down, bare bones, shitkicker; the ugliness rises to the top of the heap and so it stands as our number 10 pick. Need more? Usurper is a no bullshit, blue collar American metal band and this is their finest album to date. In Usurper We Trust.


Number 11 to 20………….

Agent Steel – Order of the Illuminati
Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild
Alice Cooper – Eyes Of Alice Cooper
Children Of Bodom –
Hate Crew Deathroll
Dream Evil – Evilized
Tarot – Suffer Our Pleasure
Overkill – Killbox 13
Rage – Soundchaser
Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All
Masterplan – S/T

Number 21 to 50………….

#21 Moonsorrow
#22 Poisonblack
#23 Seven Witches
Passage To The Other Side
#24 Morbid Angel
#25 Lynch Pilson
Wicked Underground
#26 Lost Horizon
A Flame to the Ground Beneath
#27 Bathory
Nordland II
#28 Brainstorm
Soul Temptation
#29 Nightrage
Sweet Vengeance
#30 Evergrey
Recreation Day
#31 Soilwork
Figure Number 5
#32 Dark Moor
#33 Kamelot
#34 Falkenbach
Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
#35 Krisiun
Works of Carnage
#36 Destruction
Metal Discharge
#37 Old Man’s Child
In Defiance of Existence
#38 The Darkness
Permission To Land
#39 Doomsword
Let Battle Commence
#40 Dream Theater
Train of Thought
#41 Entombed
#42 Skid Row
#43 Circle II Circle
Watching in Silence
#44 Cradle of Filth
Damnation and a Day
#45 Queensryche
#46 The Haunted
One Kill Wonder
#47 Firewind
Burning Earth
#48 Twisted Tower Dire
Crest of the Martyrs
#49 Type O Negative
Life Is Killing Me
#50 Mago de Oz

Top 20 Staff Selections For 2003
Includes: best new band, best DVD, greatest hopes for 2004, and disappointments of the year.


#1. Seven Witches – Passage To The Other Side

This album kind of crept it’s way up my list as it took shape. I didn’t set out to make this #1, but when I was thinking of all the albums I’ve heard in 2003, and the ones I’ve kept in heavy rotation since their release, this one came out on top. This album is easily the best that Seven Witches has done with their strongest song writing, production, solos, etc. Hopefully Jack Frost can keep this line-up together for another album.

# 2. Cage – Darker than Black

Nailing down the top 3-4 albums in a top 20 is so damn hard to do because depending on my mood, I felt that I could have rearranged any of the top few. At #2 for this year I’m going with Cage’s album DARKER THAN BLACK. What put this over the top for me is the vocal acrobatics of Sean Peck mixed with a solid heavy metal sound full of excellent riffing. Built  upon a strong foundation in traditional metal some thrash and black metal elements peek through here and there offering something for almost everyone. Like the Seven Witches album, I also think this is the best Cage album to date.

3. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
4. Agent Steel – Order of the Illuminati
5. Kamelot – Epica
6. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
7. Overkill – Killbox 13
8. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
9. Lost Horizon – Flame To The The
Ground Beneath
10. Grave Digger – Rheingold
11. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
12. Stratovarius – Elements Pt. I & II
13. Sinner – There Will Be Execution
14. VoiVod – VoiVod
15. Dream Evil – Evilized
16. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
17. Soilwork – Figure Number Five
18. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
19. Dark Moor – S/T
20. Moonspell – The Antidote

Best New Band

As a big fan of Savatage, I’ve been looking forward to the return of vocalist Zak Stevens to the metal realm. He finally returned earlier in 2003 with a new band and album.

Best DVD
Saxon – Chronicles
This DVD has it all from the excellent concert filmed at Wacken, the interview with Biff, the videos, etc. The only other DVD that came close to knocking this one out of the #1 spot for 2003 is the new excellent new Primal Fear DVD.

1. Skid Row – Thickskin
I do like some of this album and I am very glad that Skid Row are back. Half of this album is great and makes me ALMOST forgive the other half. The best part of the album are the rocking songs like “Thick Is The Skin” “Hittin’ A Wall”, & even “New Generation”. Then there are the forgettable alternative radio rock songs like “Ghost”, “Mouth Of Voodoo”, and the blasphemous punk version of a classic Skid Row song now entitled “I Remember You Two”. After all the years with no Skid Row I was hoping for a much stronger album with less of a radio friendly face.

2. Timo K. and Jorg M. leaving Stratovarius
Stratovarius are one of my favorite bands. The loss of two key members from the band is a major blow. Even if Timo T. is able to find an excellent replacement singer the sound of the band will be forever altered.

3. Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild
It’s not that this is a bad CD, but for some reason nothing on this album grabbed my attention like the material on ECLIPTICA or SILENCE. Maybe I didn’t spin it enough times, or maybe I’m getting tired of too many overly happy power metal bands? hmm…

Greatest Hopes For 2004
My greatest hope is for the new Death Angel CD. I am hoping it will be as memorable as ACT III with some of the raw thrash appeal of THE ULTRA VIOLENCE. Other albums that I have high hopes for would be the new Judas Priest with Halford back in the band, the new Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden, and Primal Fear – Devil’s Ground amongst others too numerous to list.


1. Brainstorm – Soul Temptation

Brainstorm have outdone themselves on their latest offering, SOUL TEMPTATION. Their style of aggressive power metal has taken 5 albums to perfect but the wait has been worth it. With the addition of vocalist extraordinaire Andy B. Franck for the 2000 release AMBIGUITY, Brainstorm have cut a wide swath through the power metal ranks with few bands able to match them and their blend of power, aggression and melody. Soul Temptation is the culmination of the Franck era and hopefully only a beginning of the dominance of Brainstorm.

2. Circle II Circle – Watching in Silence

Zak Stevens returned in 2003 with a new band called CircleIICircle and a new CD called WATCHING IN SILENCE. With a little help from his former Savatage mates Jon Oliva and Chris Caffrey, Stevens released one of the strongest discs of the year. Though similarities between CIIC and Savatage abound Zak was finally given the opportunity to be the master at the helm of his own project and the results are stellar.

3.Tarot – Suffer Our Pleasures
4. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
5. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
6. Kamelot – Epica
7. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
8. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
9. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
10. Overkill – Killbox 13
11. Firewind – Burning Earth
12. Agent Steel – Order of the Illuminati
13. Seven Witches – Passage To The Other Side
14. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
15. Evergrey – Recreation Day
16. Grave Digger – Rheingold
17. Dream Evil – Evilized
18. Burning Point – Feeding the Flames
19. Stratovarius – Elements Pt.1&2
20. Rage – Soundchaser

Best New Band

Zak Stevens returned in 2003 with a new band called CircleIICircle and a new CD called WATCHING IN SILENCE. With a little help from his former Savatage mates Jon Oliva and Chris Caffrey, Stevens released one of the strongest discs of the year. Though similarities between CIIC and Savatage abound Zak was finally given the opportunity to be the master at the helm with his own project and the results are stellar.

Best DVD
Being a huge fan of one of metals greatest vocalists has no doubt lead me to this particular choice for best DVD. The disc might not have the extras of some of the other DVDs that came along this year but what it lacks in quantity of material it makes up for in quality as Dio and his mates deliver a solid performance that runs the gamut of his years with Rainbow through Black Sabbath and onto his varied solo material. Truly a great performance from one of metal’s GODS!!!!

1. Skid Row – Thickskin
After such a long wait this is the best that they could do? Being a huge fan of Skid Row I was hoping that the band could recapture some of their former glory now that Snake and Rachel seemed musically refreshed and new singer Johnny Solinger was firmly established in the band. Instead what we got was 1 good new song and a plethora of Matchbox 20 cast offs. Not exactly a return to form.

2. Queensryche – Tribe
I should have learned my lesson by now……

Greatest Hopes For 2004
Velvet Revolver
Slash’s history of working with mentally unstable vocalists is the only handicap of this much hyped unit. First it was W. Axl Rose and now Scott Weiland ex-Stone Temple Pilots. If Slash and his former Guns-n-Roses mates can straighten out this wingnut then maybe Velvet Revolver will be an impact player.

JP (Just Power)

1. Rage – Soundchaser

The perfect blend between the melody of “Welcome To The Other Side” and the heaviness of “Unity”. The perfect lineup for rage, stabilized at last?

2. Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild
3. Bob Cately – When Empires Burn
4. Space Odyessy – Embrace The Galaxy
5. Firewind – Burning Earth
6. Nostradameus – The Third Prophecy
7. Ark Storm – Beginning Of The New Legend
8. Bathory – Nordland II
9. Soulless – Agony’s Lament
10. Omnium Gatherum – Spirits and August Light
11. Madder Mortem – Deadlands
12. Norther – Mirror Of Madness
13. Summer Dying-One Last taste of Temptation
14. Goathorn – Storming The Gates
15. Lake of Tears – The Neonai
16. Elvira Madigan – Witches
17. Unearthly – Infernum
18. Nail Within – Nail Within
19. Type O Negative – Life Is Killing Me
20. King’s X – Black Like Sunday

Best New Band
Space Odyessy – Embrace The Galaxy

Best Metal DVD


1. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
Unfortunate decision to play for commercial acceptance which succeeded in terms of sales but lost credibility with me.

2. Grave Digger-Rheingold
Didn’t meet expectations. Lewis is sorely missed.

3. Genius – A Rock Opera
With the calibre of talent involved it should have been better.

Greatest Hope For 2004
Aina – Days Of Rising Doom A Metal Opera
Could this be Paeth’s greatest triumph and the project that knocks Rhapsody and Avantasia off the top of the heap?

Luxi Lahtinen

1. Iron Maiden – DANCE OF DEATH

Despite a somewhat horribly shocking cover, the most successful British Heavy Metal band of all time proved that they still have an incredible ability to write excellent songs (“No More Lies,” “Dance of Death,” “Paschendale,” “Face in the Sand,” etc.). This makes them the absolute biggest and most adored band by many metalheads worldwide in 2003. Therefore DANCE OF DEATH has rightfully earned its 1st place spot on my personal TOP 20 list this year. Up the fucking irons!!

2. Moonsorrow – KIVENKANTAJA

I have always been a fan of epic and bombastic sounds. Since I heard Finland´s own ´Heathen Pagan Metallers´ 2nd full-length album VOIMASTA JA KUNNIASTA (OF STRENGTH AND HONOR) in 2002, I was immediately blown away. On their 3rd album Moonsorrow brought their epic sound even further, writing more lengthy, atmospheric, colossally moving, nearly soundtrack-ish ´battle sagas´ and really proving to be leaders in the department of all epic and bottomlessly folkish sounds. In the name of glory, honor and death… Moonsorrow´s KIVENKANTAJA reached the 2nd position on my album list in 2003 because of all those very strong ingredients listed above. ´No Johan on perrrkelettä…!!´.

7. Melechesh – SPHYNX
9. King Diamond – THE PUPPET MASTER
11. Vital Remains – DECHRISTIANIZE
12. The Haunted – ONE KILL WONDER
13. Luciferion – THE APOSTATE
14. Dew-Scented – IMPACT
15. Mokoma – KURIMUS
16. Kalmah – SWAMPSONG
17. Krux – S/T
18. Naglfar – SHEOL
19. Destruction – METAL DISCHARGE
20. Reverend Bizarre – IN THE RECTORY OF

Best New Band
I had heard many good things about this relatively young Finnish band in advance, people basically praising and hyping them as ´The New Metal Hopes´ of the Finnish Metal scene for churning out their fast and furious, a bit Slayer-tinged ´deathrashing´ metal with such a devoted and ambitious way that makes an ´ol-skool´ Thrash/Death banger cry in joy…

Well, it metaphorically nearly did for me indeed when I eventually placed the band´s debut album called DEADMEAT DISCIPLES into my CD-player for the very 1st time. Oddly all the huge talk about them was so true after all…

Best Metal DVD

I just have never seen a bad live show from these German Thrash -heroes and this DVD from them only proves that the entertainment level of the band´s live performance is very high all the time. ´nuff said, I guess…

Retallica – ST. “Cancer”
Well, my shameless twist both from the band name and the album title should say it loud and clear already, shouldn´t it? There were a few other albums that were slight disappointments to me in 2003, but none of them even came near or topped these ´millionaires – wanna – play – for – their – own – funl´ latest package of shitty songs with a real shitty sound. Please do us metalheads a big favor and split up for good. You should realize that you have lost the game a long time ago.

Greatest Hopes For 2004
Without no question… the Bay Area Thrash -veterans Exodus has returned to the very top of the Thrash Metal elite by a storm with their BEST album to date since their both BONDED BY BLOOD and PLEASURES OF THE FLESH albums. TEMPO OF THE DAMNED is not only a fantastic Thrash Metal album, full of great songs that truly stand out, but also gives a good lesson (in catchiness and kick-assness.  for younger generations how basically Thrash Metal can sound Thrash Metal without ´pretending´ to be Thrash just for the sake of this particular genre.

A new revival of a testosterone-filled Thrash Metal starts off right from TEMPO OF THE DAMNED in February 2004… and the year 2004 will unquestionably be a great year for the whole Thrash Metal genre all in all (just keeping your eyes out and ears bleeding f.ex. for the new albums of Dark Angel and Death Angel!! ;.

Lord of the Wasteland

1. King Diamond – THE PUPPET MASTER

Not only is THE PUPPET MASTER my pick for Best Album of 2003, it is also among the top releases from King Diamond EVER! The music and the story are nothing less than perfect and King should be proud to bounce back from last year’s crappy sequel, ABIGAIL II: THE REVENGE, to take top honors. Cool idea for the bonus disc, too!

2. Morbid Angel – HERETIC

Trey Azagthoth has made a bold, artistic move with this CD. Not only has the band streamlined itself into a 3-piece once again, but the final third of the album is nothing but instrumental tracks. Despite subtle reminders of their first album present, what should have been a disaster is one of 2003’s highlights.

3. The Devin Townsend Band – ACCELERATED
5. The Crown – POSSESSED 13
6. Dream Theater – TRAIN OF THOUGHT
8. Children of Bodom -HATE CREW DEATHROLL
9. Six Feet Under – BRINGER OF BLOOD
12. Vital Remains – DECHRISTIANIZE
13. Skid Row – THICK SKIN
14. Iron Maiden – DANCE OF DEATH
15. Bruce Kulick – TRANSFORMER
16. Strapping Young Lad – SYL
19. The Haunted – ONE KILL WONDER
20. Akercocke – CHORONZON

Best New Band

Will there be another Nightrage album? Who knows? Featuring members of The Haunted, Dream Evil and Evergrey and Tomas Lindberg on vocals, this was a “supergroup” of sorts. Given everyone’s other musical priorities, I hope they can reconvene for another album because SWEET VENGEANCE is…well, SWEET!

Best Metal DVD

Kiss has always been about “the show” and going over-the-top. This 2-disc set features the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and embodies everything that is great about Kiss. All the hits are here and some cool extras, too.


With Down and his fifty other bands, Phil Anselmo has spread himself a bit thin and it shows on this CD. Last year’s USE ONCE & DESTROY was a great disc. Its follow-up is not.

2. Sepultura – ROORBACK
Oh, how I’d hoped the omission of tribal beats and dozens of guests would create a Sepultura album more in the “classic” vein. ROORBACK IS better than NATION and AGAINST but still a far cry from the glory days of ARISE and CHAOS A.D.

Greatest Hope for 2004
The new CD from Judas Priest & Rob Halford.
The “metal god” has returned! This CD will be the most scrutinized release of 2004 and anything less than stellar will be considered a failure. Topping their dismal DEMOLITION CD won’t be difficult, but being responsible for creating a worthy follow up to their last Halford-era CD, PAINKILLER, is not an envious position to be in. Here’s to the mighty Priest and let’s all cross our fingers!!


1. Nightrage – Sweet Vengeance

Nightrage hit the metal scene like a nuclear bomb in 2003. Led by Greek guitarist Marios Iliopoulos and vocal legend Tomas Lindberg, the band intensified and improved on Swedish melodic death metal in every way. Both crushing and catchy, this album stands tall above all others.

2. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death

After the great comeback in 2000, these old English sods came back and proved that it wasn’t a mere fluke. Dance of Death is simply the best Iron Maiden album since 1988, and one of the best albums of this century.

3. Brainstorm – Soul Temptation
4. Throttlerod – Hell and High Water
5. Pharaoh – After the Fire
6. Swallow the Sun – Morning Never Came
7. Old Man’s Child – In Defiance of Existence
8. Sargeist – Satanic Black Devotion
9. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
10. Goat Horn – Storming the Gates
11. Cradle of Filth – Damnation and a Day
12. Dream Theater – Train of Thought
13. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
14. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
15. Labyrinth – Labyrinth
16. Twisted Tower Dire – Crest of the Martyrs
17. Freya – As the Last Light Drains
18. Gordion Knot – Emergent
19. Five Horse Johnson – The Last Men on Earth
20. Chinchilla – Madtropolis

Best New Band
Swallow the Sun
Their Morning Never Came debut is a devastating knockout. Slow and gloomy, the album is everything that a fantastic doom album should be. These guys will rule for years to come.

Best Metal DVD

Slayer – War at the Warfield
I admit that I haven’t seen too many new metal DVDs this year, but I highly doubt that any of them could match this one for pure intensity and sheer number of awesome songs. Yeah, this is the best, in spite of the lame “fan” segment.


Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
This album has exactly seven great songs. The other five are naff at best. After the brilliance of The Dark Ride and Better Than Raw, that just doesn’t cut it.

Greenleaf – Secret Alphabets
I’ve never been let down by a stoner rock band on Small Stone Records before, but I guess there’s a first for everything. This album just didn’t have the riffs.

Transport League – Grand Amputation
Their previous album was actually OK, but for whatever reason they decided to descend into mallcore idiocy here.

Greatest hope for 2004
The new Heathen album! Death Angel’s new one will come close, but I’ve always felt closer somehow to Heathen. A needed kick in the thrash ass is coming!

Michael De Los Muertos

1. At Vance ~ THE EVIL IN YOU

For an album that I didn’t have high hopes for, At Vance’s new effort totally took me by surprise. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but even without longtime vocalist Oliver Hartmann, At Vance have climbed higher with this album than any of their previous discs. An amazing, catchy and extremely well-done collection of songs, THE EVIL IN YOU epitomizes what power metal should be.

2. Moonsorrow ~ KIVENKANTAJA

This full-on assault of melodic metal is masterful in drawing together elements as disparate as folk and power metal, to go the farthest down the trail this year that band like Finntroll and Vintersorg have done in years past. Full of very listenable, hard-hitting tunes, KIVENKANTAJA is one of the albums I’ve played the most during 2003.

3. Grave Digger ~ RHEINGOLD
5. Galloglass ~ LEGENDS FROM NOW
7. Dark Moor ~ S/T
8. Iron Maiden ~ DANCE OF DEATH
10. Finntroll ~ VISOR ON SLUTET
11. Runemagick ~ DARKNESS DEATH DOOM
12. Vhaldemar ~ I MADE MY OWN HELL
13. Graveworm ~ ENGRAVED IN BLACK
14. Black Label Society ~ THE BLESSED
15. Mourning Beloveth ~ THE SULLEN SULCUS
16. Sonata Arctica ~ WINTERHEARTS GUILD
17. Mago de Oz ~ GAIA
19. Divine Rapture ~ THE BURNING PASSION

Best New Band

There were many disappointments for me in 2003, which generally I thought was the weakest year for metal releases in quite some time. Lost Horizon’s A FLAME TO THE GROUND BENEATH fell incredibly short of expectations, as did Stratovarius’s ELEMENTS. Even DANCE OF DEATH (which I suspect may make the top of the collective M-R list, simply because it will be somewhere on everyone’s list.  was disappointingly simple for Iron Maiden. A new Iron Maiden album should automatically be the best album of the year, regardless. The fact that DANCE OF DEATH had to claw to get to #8 on my list is itself disappointing!

Greatest Hope for 2004
Hard-hitting, bloodthirsty Finnish death metal–after the crushing success of their 2003 EP UNLEASHED CARNAGE, I hope they reduce Europe to a smoking ruin in 2004!

John (Night Of The Realm) 

1. Cage – Darker than Black

I called this one as “Album of the Year” on its very first spin, and my word still holds true. This is a textbook example of heavy metal: leads, riffs, catchy songs, heavy guitars, great lyrics, killer songwriting, incredible packaging. I’m glad that these US Power Metallers are finally getting the attention they deserve as they just keep improving with each album.

2. Grave Digger – Rheingold

Ok, I got RHEINGOLD the very same day as I got the Cage disc, and I also called it album of the year. I was hard-pressed to choose my favourite of the two, but Grave Digger’s best album to date fell just short of Cage’s masterpiece. RHEINGOLD is a great theme/concept album; the songs are heavy, catchy as hell, and to the point. A little basic in the songwriting department, but damn is it ever headbangable.

3. Twisted Tower Dire – The Crest of Martyrs
4. Agent Steel – Order of the Illuminati
5. Falkenbach – Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
6. Hammers of Misfortune – The August Engine
7. Drudkh – Forgotten Legends
8. Doomsword – Let Battle Commence
9. Usurper – Twilight Dominion
10. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
11. Lord Weird Slough Feg, The – Traveller
12. Mago De Oz – Gaia
13. Dragonforce – Valley of the Damned
14. Aria – Christening by Fire
15. Majesty – Reign in Glory
16. Type O Negative – Life is Killing Me
17. Summer Dying – One Last Taste of
18. Tierra Santa – Indomable
19. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
20. Paragon – The Dark Legacy

Best New Band
It was really difficult to pick a best new band this year as no other debut album made it into my top 20 this year, save Dragonforce – Valley of the Damned. Although Dragonforce has become quite well known before VotD was released due to their internet release of their demo 3 years ago, the full-length debut is one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2003.
(NotR’s note: Drudkh, the Ukranian epic pagan black metallers have put out the best debut full-length with FORGOTTEN LEGENDS, but I’m being nit-picky here and considering them a side project..

Best Metal DVD

Mago De Oz – A Costa Da Rock
I’m not big on DVDs myself, mostly because I rarely find an hour or two to sit down in front of the TV to watch one, but A COSTA DA ROCK is one of the best live DVDs I have ever seen. This DVD is perfect in every way. The sound and video quality is immaculate, and the tracklist could not be better. A COSTA DE ROCK only confirms the fact that I am at a loss because I have not yet seen this amazing band perform live.

As good as the 2003 releases have been, I have also had a lot of disappointments this year.

Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
For the first time in their career, Arch Enemy have let me down with an insipid, uninspired offering. Is this just a temporary stagnation, or, as much as I dig Angela Gossow’s vocals, is it time to bring Liiva back in?

Falconer – The Scepter of Deception
I really miss Mathias Blad, but Kristoffer’s vocals fill in Blad’s shoes quite well. As such, it is the weakness in songwriting that brings this CD down. The musicianship still holds the Falconer riffs and gallop, but the songs have no teeth.

Rakoth – Tiny Deaths
Is this the same band that released the most excellent PLANESHIFT and JABBERWORKS? It certainly doesn’t sound like it. Sounds like they’ve gone down the “avant-garde” and “experimental” way of such crap bands as labelmates Ephel Duath. The Rakoth doom/folk elements that I loved on the first albums are still here with “Tiny Deaths,” “Planekeep the Crypt,” and “Just another Lament,” but the rest is just crap.

Greatest Hope for 2004
I have some high hopes for the upcoming year, especially since the new Iced Earth and Exodus albums are even better than I could have hoped. What do I see in store, or at least hope to have?

1. The new Dark Angel, Death Angel, and Heathen(?) albums will all live up to my hopes, and all 3 bands will team up with Exodus for a massive thrash tour.
2. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest will be the headlining tour of the summer.
3. Blackie Lawless will bring WASP back around for the massive double album and an even more massive tour.
4. I’m hoping for new releases from Skyclad, Stormlord, and Elvenking to come soon. It’s been too long for each.
5. Although Jeff Plate seemed a little doubtful when I spoke to him at the TSO concert, a new Savatage album or at least a tour would be the best 2004 event.

That’s all for now guys. Happy New Year and a Metal 2004 to you all!

Celtic Bob

1. Bret Michaels – Songs Of Life

A great CD from start to finish. Good party rock music from the Poison frontman.



2. Alice Cooper – The Eyes Of Alice Cooper

Great to see Alice back doing classic material that made him big in the first place.

3. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
4. Skid Row – Thickskin
5. Harem Scarem – Higher
6. The Darkness – Permission To Land
7. Rikki Rockett – Glitter 4 Your Soul
8. Dream Evil – Evilized
9. Wycked Synn – The Vision
10. Lynch Pilson – Wicked Underground
11. Michael Monroe – So Watcha Want
12. Queensryche – Tribe
13. XYZ – Letter To God
14. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
15. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
16. Kamelot – Epica
17. Lost Horizon – Flame To The The
Ground Beneath
18. Sinner – There Will Be Execution
19. VoiVod – VoiVod
20. Stratovarius – Elements Pt. I & II

Best New Band
The Darkness
I know they are not 100% metal but they are borderline and do cross it at times. This is the best “New” band I heard all year despite the fact that the vocals are annoying at times.
Best Metal DVD

Zakk Wylde`s Black Label Society – Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned




David Lee Roth – Diamond Dave
I always got high expectations for Dave but this time he let me down slightly.

Greatest Hopes for 2004
There are 2 things I am hoping for in 2004 and both are Motley related.

1. A reunion tour and album by the 4 original members.

2. Nikki’s band Brides Of Destruction hit it big and become huge putting good music back in the public’s face.

Arto Lehtinen

1. Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death

2. Agent Steel – Order Of The Illuminati
3. Necrodeath – Tones Of Death
4. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
5. Usurper – Twilight Dominion
6. Krisiun – Works Of Carnage
7. Morbid Angel – Heretic
8. Tarot – Suffer Our Pleasure
9. Force Of Evil – S/T
10. Strapping Young Lad – S/T
11. Entombed – Inferno
12. Machine Head – Through The Ashes
Of Empires
13. Murder Squad – Ravenous Murderous
14. VoiVod – S/T
15. Torture Squad – Pandemonium
16. Arch Enemy – Anthems Of Rebellion
17  Destruction – Metal Discharge
18. Vital Remains – Dechristianize
19. Maple Cross – The Next Chapter
(Hyva Jarkka.
20. Invocator – Through The Flesh To The Soul

Best New Band 2003
Force Of Evil
A new band featuring Hank Shermann and Michael Denner axe duet of the mighty Mercyful Fate.

Best DVD

Primal Fear – The History Of Fear

A kick ass DVD package from the German power metallers!!!!



Still around and still unleashing several crap albums in a row. What an utter shame from these fallen and former thrash metal gods. Maybe they should drag their asses back to the jungle?

Stratovarius – Elements I & II
Both albums are perfect examples of how bands can start writing so-so stuff after great albums. Fortunately some line up changes happened at last!!

Type O Negative
The most boring live band ever seen!!!

Greatest Hopes for 2004
1. will survive thru these hard times!

2. More and More brutal bands from Brazil!!!

3. Wacken and Sweden Rock – Heavy Metal parties!!!!!!!

Anders Sandvall

1. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death

2. Entombed – Inferno
3. Opus Atlantica – S/t
4. Backyard Babies – Stockholm Syndrome
5. Passenger – S/t
6. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
7. Dream Evil – Evilized
8. Machine Head – Trough The Ashes of Empires
9. Dimension Zero – This is hell
10. Hardcore Superstar – No regrets
11. Denata – Art of the Insane
12. Poisonblack – Escapexstay
13. Nightrage – Sweet Vengeance
14. Carnal Forge – The More You Suffer
15. Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All
16. Sepultura – Roorback
17. Richard Andersson’s Space Odyssey –
Embrace the Galaxy
18. Murder Squad – Ravenous Murderous
19. Disfear – Misanthropic Generation
20. Last Tribe – The Uncrowned

Best New Band 2003
The band/project Passenger with their brilliant and impressive self-titled debut album represents the best new band for 2003..

1. Ricky Warwick’s – Tattoos and Alibis
Here is an old hero that nowadays apparently does singing / song writing music that sucks. One of the most disappointing releases this year.

2. Dungeon – A Rise to Power
Standard power metal from Australia. This years second most unnecessary release.

3. Thin Lizzy – Live
Scott and John, maybe it’s time to do something by yourselves and not abuse this band name anymore. You only do it for the money and nothing else.

4. Last Tribe
This band has released 3 albums and still not made a live show, I’m still waiting!

Greatest Hopes for 2004
Debase – the metal icons from Malmö, Sweden will release their third album UNLEASHED and to conquer the world with their new company and album which is due to be released at the beginning of ’04. My expectations are very high on this album!

Denata their third album “ART OF THE INSANE” were released late -03 were brilliant. Hopefully it will sell enough to put the guys out on the road.

Marko Syrjälä

1. King Diamond – Puppet Master

2. Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death
3. Alice Cooper – Eyes Of Alice Cooper
4. Arch Enemy – Anthems Of Rebellion
5. Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All
6. Masterplan – Self-titled
7. Black Label Society – Blessed Hellride
8. Krokus – Rock The Block
9. Hughes Turner Project – HTP 2
10. Force Of Evil – Self-titled
11. Lullacry – Crucify My Heart
12. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
13. Dream Theater – Train Of Thought
14. Dream Evil – Evilized
15. Glenn Hughes – Songs From The
Key Of Rock
16. Rage – Soundchaser
17. Queensryche – Tribe
18. Deep Purple – Bananas
19. Skid Row – Thickskin
20. Victory – Instinct

Best New Band 2003
Force Of Evil

1. Stratovarius – Elements 1 & 2
What has happened for this band who once released high quality albums like Destiny and Visions? Maybe Tolkki noticed that himself and decided to do something about that?

2. Sepultura – Roorback
This is their third album with Derrick. Still the whole album is really weak as are it’s two predecessors. Beats Soulfly but that’s not  much!

Best DVD

KISS – Symphony

Looks good, sounds great. Also I was at that show myself!





Greatest Hopes for 2004
1. Lot’s of new albums coming from my old fave bands: Judas Priest, Lizzy Borden, Exodus, Annihilator and Death Angel.

2. Many interesting re-unions and tours:
Judas Priest, Europe, Mötley Crüe … etc.

3. Nu/Rap-metal / Mallcore will die slowly but surely.  :.

Keith McDonald

1. Britny Fox – Springhead Motorshark

Even I was surprised by this release. Maybe I was expecting some sappy 80’s rock but what I got was a great guitar record.

2. Lynch Pilson – Wicked Underground
3. Alice Cooper – Eyes of Alice Cooper
4. Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All
5. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
6. Queensryche – Tribe
7. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
8. Hatebreed – The Rise of Brutality
9. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
10. Opeth – Damnation
11. Overkill – Killbox 13
12. Superjoint Ritual  – A Lethal Dose…
13. Michael Monroe – So Watcha Want
14. Type O Negative – Life is Killing Me
15. Cradle of Filth – Damnation and a Day
16. Bret Michaels – Songs of Life
17. Living Colour – Collidescope

Best New Band 2003

Best DVD
Mötley Crüe – ‘Greatest Hits’
You just gotta love the Crüe!

Skid Row – Thickskin
I expected a little more from such great writers like Snake and Rachel. This isgood music but I’d rather see them get back with Bas and write they way they should.

Greatest Hopes for 2004
Judas Priest new album and tour…enough said right there.

Ice Maiden

1. Dark Moor – Dark Moor

2. Skyforger – Thunderforge
3. Falkenbach – Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
4. Ancient Rites – And The Hordes Stood as One
5. Paragon – The Dark Legacy
6. Tierra Santa – Indomable
7. Grave Digger – Rheingold
8. Cage – Darker Than Black
9. Mago de Oz – Gaia
10. Moonsorrow – Kivenkantaja
11. Lost Horizon – A Flame to the Ground
12. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
13. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
14. Vhaldemar – I Made My Own Hell
15. Dream Evil – Evilized
16. Falconer – The Sceptre of Deception
17. Seven Witches – Passage to the Other Side
18. Twisted Tower Dire – Crest of the Martyrs
19. Children of Bodom – Hate Crew Deathrow
20. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon

Best New Band

The newest Dimmu Borgir release. Although I still think it is a strong album, and worthy of my Top 20, it doesn’t have the same visceral appeal of Enthroned or Puritanical.

Greatest Hope for 2004
I’d like to see Manowar and Stormlord play Wacken 2004.

Best Concert 2003
As usual, nothing compares with the Wacken experience, but that sort of seems like cheating. The best non-festival concert experience for me in 2003 was probably Motorhead/Dio/Iron Maiden at the Cricket Pavillion in Phoenix, Arizona.


1. Children Of Bodom – Hate Crew Deathroll

2. Monstrosity – Rise To Power
3. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride
4. Masterplan – S/T
5. Cage – Darker Than Black
6. OverKill – Killbox 13
7. Nightmare – Silent Room (A Virtual Drama.
8. Destruction – Metal Discharge
9. Lost Horizon – A Flame To The Ground
10. Gorgasm – Masticate To Dominate
11. Nightrage – Sweet Vengeance
12. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
13. Evergrey – Recreation Day
14. Grave Digger – Rheingold
15. King Diamond – Puppet Master
16. Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality
17. CircleIICircle – S/T
18. Steel Attack – Predator of the Empire
19. Krisiun – Works of Carnage
20. Rage – Soundchaser

Beat New Band
You just can’t beat the combination of the amazing Jorn Lande on vocals with former Helloween members Roland Grapow and Uli Kisch. When it’s all said and done, it’s better that Grapow and Kusch are no longer with their former band. The result of the break from Helloween has produced a solid new band, a superior album and a permanent home for a great vocalist.

Best Metal DVD

Judas Priest – Electric Eye

I’m not big on music DVDs. Most are good for one, maybe two, viewings and then it’s off to eBay to be sold. This one is a real keeper. Great chronology of videos and a full Priest concert. Can’t go wrong with that!


Only two albums released in 2003 were truly ass-kicking experiences for me. Those were Children of Bodom’s Hate Crew Deathroll and Monstrosity’s Rise To Power. CoB has been kicking my ass all year, but Monstrosity just started beating me senseless when I picked their new one up this week! There are usually a half dozen or more albums every year that totally kick my ass, but not this year. A solid year for good metal releases, but it was a down year for great metal releases. I expect great things for 2004 though!

1. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
After the amazing album that was The Dark Ride we get this mediocre slab of mostly generic, rehashed power metal with some of the worst lyrics the band has ever done. We all expect that Helloween will add some cheese to what they do, but this whole “something’s growing in my pants” things is just plain limburger cheese. Rabbit Don’t Come Easy is good for maybe 3-4 decent songs and the rest goes quickly down the crapper. Anybody wanna buy my copy?

2. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
The mix on the new Nevermore album. Absolutely gawd-awful! So muddy that I could barely stand to listen to it when I first picked up my copy. Though the mix makes it hard to appreciate the very solid metal to be found on Enemies Of Reality, in the end the album is still a keeper.

Greatest Hopes for 2004
I originally called this one about 4-5 months ago and I still hold to this … a world tour featuring a lineup of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Iced Earth. EvilG’s requirement on this category was that the “greatest hope” be something realistic. Call me crazy for this prediction, but in 2004 you’ll be calling me a prophet. Count on it!


1. Usurper – Twilight Dominion

2. Cage – Darker than Black
3. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
4. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
5. Metal Shop – Hole Patrol
6. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
7. Enuff Z’nuff – Welcome to Blue Island
8. Carpathian Forest – Defending the Throne
of Evil
9. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
10. Gorgoroth – Twilight of the Idols
11. Lynch/Pilson – Wicked Underground
12. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
13. Morbid Angel – Heretic
14. Darkthrone – Hate Them
15. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
16. Marduk – World Funeral
17. Grave Digger – Rheingold
18. Lamb of God – As the Palaces Burn
19. Overkill – Killbox 13
20. Nebula – Atomic Ritual

Beat New Band
Metal Shop
Remember Danger Kitty (i.e. Love Rocket)? Well, these are the same dudes. Do you want to experience 1987 all over again? If you answered yes, go grab yourself some Metal Shop.

Best Metal DVD

Motley Crue – Greatest Video Hits
In 2003, new Maiden, Priest and Crue video compilations hit the shelves. Even though Priest is my favorite band of all time, Motley videos are second to none. It was a difficult decision, but I had to go with the Crue.


The Dance of Death album cover. We were hoping for a classic album cover and we got a dud. Oh well, we haven’t had a classic cover from Maiden since Seventh Son. Actually, I find the new cover sort of amusing, what with the little kid on the wolf and all. However, Killers it is not.

Greatest Hope for 2004
My greatest hope is going to happen. Judas Priest will indeed return to the throne of metal domination. Against the adamant tide of many o’ metal authority (ahem, JP, cough), I’ve been predicting the reunion for years. Not only did the reunion announcement occur in 2003, but Ripper Owens switched over to Iced Earth and that’s pretty fucking cool as well. In 2004, one thing is for sure…

Wisco’s Top 5 Songs of 2003
1. Ravage – Terror’s Head
2. Usurper – I Am Usurper
3. Cage – Eyes of Obsidian
4. Lamb of God – 11th hour
5. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death


1. Usurper – Twilight Dominion

I picked this album as the top album for 2003 because of it pure headbang – ability! Every time I listen to this blackened thrash masterpiece, I find my head banging of it’s own free will.

2. Grave Digger – Rheingold

Valhalla is possibly one of the best metal songs ever written (even with the crappy lyrics. . This album is class from start to finish, and continues Grave Digger’s trend of releasing great albums.

3. The Lord Weird Slough Feg – Traveller
4. Virgin Black – Elegant…and Dying
5. Doomsword – Let Battle Commence
6. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
7. Destruction – Metal Discharge
8. Forest Stream – Tears Of Mortal Solitude
9. Farmakon – A Warm Glimpse
10. How Like A Winter – … Beyond My
Grey Wake
11. Bathory – Nordland II
12. Concerto Moon – Life On The Wire
13. Dismal (I)  – Rubino Liquido
14. Runemagick – Darkness Death Doom
15. Cryptic Wintermoon – A Coming Storm
16. Cage – Darker Than Black
17. Cult of Luna – The Beyond
18. Geasa – Fates Lost Son
19. Pantheïst – O Solitude
20. Carpathian Forest – Defending the
Throne of Evil

Best New Band 2003
Forest Stream
This band formed back in 1995, but released their first full-length album in 2003. That album reached number 8 in my top 20 list, and hopefully these guys can do more great things in the future.

Voivod – s/t

Greatest Hope for 2004
New My Dying Bride album.


1. ENSLAVED – Below The Lights

When I first heard this album, I would not have expected it to appear at the top of my picks for this year. However, as with all brilliant albums, listening to this album has been a gradual process of discovery. The blend of 70’s synths with slow and epic guitar solos, black metal vocals, sparse and tasteful clean chants, and the all-pervasive buzz of blackened guitars was mind-blowing, adding up to my most-listened album of the year.

2. OLD MAN’S CHILD – In Defiance Of Existence

Much more difficult than the top spot, I eventually decided on “In Defiance” as runner-up to this year’s metal harvest (even though any of my Top 10 could have made it. . Old Man’s Child always struck me as playing in the Norwegian Black Metal minor leagues. Then came this brilliant slab of beautiful dark art featuring some of the strongest songwriting to date in Symphonic Black Metal – a genre often plagued by clichéd and generic composition. In defiance of my prejudice, this album proves that symphonic black metal still remains a compelling and feasible genre.

3. Arch Enemy – Anthems Of Rebellion
4. Rage – Soundchaser
5. Agro – Forthcoming
6. Bathory – Nordland Ii
7. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
8. Grave Digger – Rheingold
9. Finntroll – Visor Om Slutet
10. Children Of Bodom – Hate Crew Deathroll
11. Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death
12. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
13. Lacrimosa – Echoes
14. Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild
15. Type O Negative – Life Is Killing Me
16. The Haunted – One Kill Wonder
17. Stratovarius – Elements Part II
18. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
19. Opeth – Damnation
20. The Devin Townsend Band – Accelerated

Best New Band 2003
An album that has helped me to channel my frustration during the final stretch and stress of this year is the new Century Media (US) band WATCH THEM DIE with their self-titled debut. Nothing ground-breaking or exceptionally original, but nonetheless oddly compelling. PS: Although not strictly speaking newcomers, the two Southern African bands ARCANA XXII and AGRO impressed me with their first internationally distributed full-length albums (both of which were released earlier this year in Europe. .

Best DVD

ENSLAVED – Live Retaliation

This has been, arguably, the best year thus far for DVD’s. There have been excellent offerings from KISS, Slayer, Nightwish, Primal Fear, Saxon and Dark Tranquillity, to name but a few (and I have not even seen the much-anticipated December releases by Doro and Manowar!). However, for me this has been the year of Enslaved. In addition to their album which I rate as the best of 2003, the Norwegian veterans have provided a gem of a DVD: showcasing a confident and mature (and still heavy!) delivery, with superlative and artful production by Poland’s Metal Mind. A truly impressive and mandatory product!


Only one album this year has really made me angry (pun most definitely intended!) at myself for having bought it against my better judgment (or shall we call it optimism?). But let us not dwell on that. An album that is bound to appear on many “Best Of” lists this year, but which I found rather mediocre even by the band’s own fluctuating standards, was CRADLE OF FILTH’s “Damnation and a Day”. I had hoped that Dani and his rotating roster of musical minions would have been able to use Sony’s vast resources to better effect. The album unfortunately ended up musically thin, boring, tepid and uninspired. By no means the worst album of the year, “Damnation” simply fell far short of the pre-release hype.

Greatest Hope for 2004
May the long promised new Black Sabbath album finally see the light (or darkness!) of the world. May Stratovarius successfully sort out the mess they have gotten themselves into. And a new Manowar album at some point would be a nice little present at any time.


1. Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild

Simply the BEST new Power Metal act in years, this band continues to improve, progress, and blow my mind with each new emotionally breathtaking release. This band can do no wrong.

2. Children of Bodom – Hatecrew Deathroll

Yet another Finnish metal wonder, Bodom returned with a vengeance this year, delivering the album of their career. This one kicked my ass with stellar song writing, brilliant arrangements, and electrifyingly memorable execution. Simply stunning.

3. To Die For – Jaded
4. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
5. Poisonblack – Escapextacy
6. While Heaven Wept – Of Empires Forlorn
7. Soilwork – Figure Number Five
8. Evergrey – Recreation Day
9. Cradle of Filth – Damnation and a Day
10. Anaal Nathrakh – When Fire Rains Down
From the Sky, Mankind Will Reap What It
Has Sown
11. Farmakon – A Warm Glimpse
12. The Duskfall – Frailty
13. The Old Dead Tree – The Nameless Disease
14. Naglfar – Sheol
15. King Diamond – The Puppet Master
16. Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
17. Watch Them Die – S/T
18. Axis of Perdition – The Ichneumon Method
19. Dark Fortress – Profane Genocidal Creations
20. Leviathan – The 10th Sub-Level of Suicide

Best New Band
The New Opeth. Succeeding where that band has failed as of late, Farmakon bring me back back to when I first heard albums like “Still Life” and “Morningrise”, yet add to the mix an insanely infectious mix of old school deathrash and prog. The solos alone are worth the price of admission.

Best Metal DVD

Iron Maiden – Visions of the Beast

Simply a must for Maiden fans. Totally comprehensive…and the Camp Chaos renditions are classic!!




1. Dimmu Borgir – Death Cult Armageddon
Dimmu BORING is more like it. This release was over-hyped, with not enough going on musically to back it up. Dumbed down, simplified, and commercialized, this album lacks all of the power and atmosphere “Black Metal” should have. See “Damnation and a Day” as an example of how this style SHOULD be done, by a band who still remembers their roots.

2. Arch Enemy – Anthems of Rebellion
The ultimate commercial cash-grab, this released started out promising, then quick degenerated into an all out denial of everything that got this band where they were in the first place: guitar work. “Anthems” is a plea to the American Nu-Metal scene for acceptance, where real musicianship and songwriting talent were replaced with one-eyed riffage, and washed-up song ideas. Pathetic.

3. Nevermore – Enemies of Reality
A simple case of not quite good enough. The title track rocks, and there were moments of interest here. I just expect a lot more from these guys than what I got. I’ll just chalk it up to a slight misstep, which I’m sure they’ll rectify next time. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

4. Nightrage – Sweet Vengeance
If this “supergroup” wasn’t as hyped up as they were, they might have avoided this. The band performs the Melodic Death style quite fine; it’s just that there was way too much emphasis placed upon the clean vocals of Tom Englund, whose presence is barely felt on the songs here. Each track suffers from “almost, but not quite”; missing out on prime clean vocal opportunities, abandoning song ideas before their time, and settling for fade outs rather than learning how to end a damn song. Either use Englund or don’t: just don’t advertise it next time.

The Crown – Possessed 13
Ya know…I really hate this trend of my favorite bands all releasing lackluster albums. For the first time in their career, The Crown delivers a slight miss. It’s not that the album is terrible; it just doesn’t electrify with the power I KNOW The Crown can deliver, and HAVE delivered on their 5 previous longplayers. Ah well, nothing lasts forever; maybe the band’s just out of ideas. Let’s just hope their much publicized “style change” doesn’t follow in the footsteps of this disappointment.

Greatest Hopes for 2004
The return of the Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles Festival for another year. It was by far the best Festival and best weekend of my life.


1. Sonata Arctica – Winterheart’s Guild

There isn’t a day this CD hasn’t been played at least once since I first got the CD. The speed, the melodies and the complex vocal lines just make it a perfect CD.

2. Poisonblack – Escapexstacy

The writing of Ville (Sentenced) and singing from JP (Charon) make this CD the sexiest sound for 2003. If a guy played this CD as background music at his place, I’d ask him to marry me!

3. Masterplan – Masterplan
4. Tarot – Suffer Our Pleasures
5. Charon – The Dying Daylights
6. Apocalyptica – Reflections
7. Rage – Soundchaser
8. Daysend – Severance
9. Alchemist – Australalien
10. Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality
11. Evergrey – Recreation Day
12. Nightingale – Alive Again: The Breathing Shadow Part Iv
13. Lacuna Coil – Comalies
14. Opeth – Damnation
15. Type O Negative – Life Is Killing Me
16. Circle Ii Circle – Watching In Silence
17. Black Majesty – Sands Of Time
18. For My Pain – Fallen
19. Altaria – Invitation
20. Dungeon – A Rise To Power (Technically A 2002 Release In Australia, But
It Was Released World-Wide In 2003)

Best New Band
MASTERPLAN – Masterplan
This was a tough decision between Masterplan, an Aussie and a Finnish band, but after seeing them live, they definitely deserve the title. How can a band with this much pedigree not produce a brilliant CD?!

Best Metal DVD
NIGHTWISH – End of Innocence
My November review explains why.

STRATOVARIUS – Elements Part I

What happened to the days when they released a consistently strong CD?

Greatest Hopes for 2004
My hope is that the content of the new EDGUY CD for 2004 will overcome the unfortunate title of Hellfire Club.


1. Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death

An excellent follow-up to their last studio effort “Brave New World” proving to the new breed how it once and still is done!!!


2. Black Label Society – The Blessed Hellride

This is BLS strongest album to date. Makes you wish that Zakk had more of a say on Ozzy’s studio efforts.

3. The Darkness – Permission To Land
4. Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All
5. Audioslave – S/T
6. Dream Evil – Evilized
7. Alice Cooper – The Eyes Of Alice Cooper
8. Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality
9. Overkill – Killbox 13
10. The Haunted – One Kill Onder
11. Helloween – Rabbit Don’t Come Easy
12. Soilwork – Figure Number 5
13. Voivod – S/T
14. Seven Witches – Passage To The Other Side
15. Marilyn Manson – The Golden Age Of
16. Sheavy – Syncronized
17. Stratrovarious – Elements Pt. 1
18. Arch Enemy – Anthems Of Rebellion
19. Skid Row – Thickskin
20. Devin Townsend Band – Accelerated

Best New Band
The Darkness
Being touted as the best rock band to come out of England in a long time, with these guys, you either love ’em or hate ’em. Their Debut Permission To Land pretty much owned my CD player since it’s release. A mix of Thin Lizzy, Queen, AC/DC, and a bit of Spinal Tap thrown in, we still don’t know if these guys are serious, or even if they know themselves.

Best Metal DVD

Dio – Evil or Divine

A great collection of Dio’s catalogue throughout the years,showing why he is regarded as one of the best voices in rock/metal. (Runner up – The Led Zeppelin S/T DVD.



Metallica – St. Anger

I know people didn’t really expect much, but really, it could actually be this bad??? Fraid so! Hell, and I even like the “Load/Reload” era…

Greatest Hopes for 2004
The debut from Damageplan (ex-Pantera / Halford members), hoping Dimebag and co. will keep it metal, unlike Phil Anselmo’s ‘Superdope Ritual’….. Honorable mention goes to the Judas Priest reunion as well.



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