Articles : Gary Carson’s 2012 Shit and Hit List
It’s that time of year for a progressive and power metal top ten list, which invariably turns into a list that’s longer than ten because one shouldn’t restrict one’s self due to conformity (is that even grammatically correct? – Editing Ed). They’re not numbered either so this has now become a top something list. But at least it’s alphabetised.
Also, some of the following may not be the pinnacle of the genre, the most creative, nor the most technical, but they are albums that have held up over the course of the year.
As the genre is open to interpretation, specifically this list covers:
- Progressive and power metal with clean vocals
- Albums that have been featured on Screaming Symphony (www.facebook.com/screamingsymphony) on 106.7 PBS-FM (www.pbsfm.org.au). So, about 180 of them.
You’ll also notice no Australian releases here that’s because I’m not even sure there was ten of them released but I’ll deal with that separately in a future post.
The Hit List
It’s safe to say I’m not a fan of religion but the lyrics on this album are stripped verbatim from the Bible. Ignoring that (surprisingly not too difficult), this crunchy guitar and keyboard heavy album will exite those who miss the old Dream Theater days. With such a theme this album could have been a disaster but Enchant’s vocalist Ted Leonard brought this to life so perfectly as to defy description.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen: Lost in the New Real
It’s not what I usually listen to but having this casual, laidback 60s approach with cheeky lyrics, familiar songs, and Arjen’s not so spectacular voice just added to the appeal. The double-disc edition is a must.
If this album was bad, there’s an obvious joke to be made about the title of this album, but featuring three vocalists, pagan lyrics, Scandinavian coldness, and a combination of black, power, progressive, and death metal there is something here for everybody. A quality band with a quality release.
Circus Maximus: Nine
Ok, it went a little too melodic and AOR in parts but for pure melodic progressive metal, this was a stunning highlight for a year not built on highlights.
Docker’s Guild: The Mystic Technocracy
From out of nowhere, Douglas R Docker created Docker’s Guild and this incredible progressive piece called The Mystic Technocracy: Season One The Age of Ignorance. Keyboardist, classical pianist, songwriter, producer, arranger, teacher and researcher, in this story religion was created by a silicon based lifeform called The Mystic Technocracy in order to control, manipulate, destroy humanity. Question everything is the general theme but with music wrapped in more melody than most progressive albums, this has touches of Rush to Dream Theater and guests coming out of every note.
Dragonforce: The Power Within
Yes, a band that’s easy to bag but this surprised the hell out of me. It’s the past, present, and future of insane power metal – all with a new vocalist. The change in pace had to come eventually and it has on this album and even though it brought them back into the fold of ‘standard’ power metal bands. This is a band still at the top of their game.
Some people hate this band but for a solid mix of folk metal, pop metal, and power metal this is Elvenking’s finest hour to date. And it’s as catchy as buggery. Although I don’t think you can catch buggery.
Grave Digger: Clash of the Gods
Every two years we get a new Grave Digger album. Sometimes they’re on song (Ballads of a Hangman, The Grave Digger), sometimes they’re not (The Clans Will Rise Again, Liberty or Death). They were definitely on song here. Strangely there’s less songs about murdering women, or having sex with corpses or whatever it is they sing about. Shame that. But still a killer album.
Headspace: I Am Anonymous
It’s not just that Threshold’s Damian Wilson was here, although that only added to the experience, it’s because this album is one of the most creative traditional progressive metal releases ever. Came out of nowhere, runs for 73 minutes, and tops out at 8 tracks, including a 15 minute number called Daddy Fucking Loves You! Of course he does!
Herman Frank: Right in the Guts
Accept’s Stalingrad was a good album (but not as brilliant as Blood of the Nations) but from their guitarist Herman Frank came this straight up, classic metal album of the year. The fact that it features Rick Altzi (Thunderstone, etc.) who literally will take on board any and all projects was the other surprise. A great combination. What’s also a great combination are the lines:
Right In Your Nuts
Right In Your Guts
In a couple of year’s time we’ll know whether the matching of Seventh Wonder vocalist Tommy Karevik and Kamelot has worked. For the moment, whilst not the greatest Kamelot album ever released, it’s certainly a step in the right direction after the disappointment that was Poetry for the Poison and Ghost Opera.
Opera Diabolicus: 1614
Where the hell did this come from pile +1. This Swedish amalgam delivered a kitchen sink approach to their progressive metal. A pinch of doom, a dash or circus, throw in some theatre and you have an album reminiscent of everything from classic Swedish bands like Tad Morose (the old Tad Morose), Momento Mori, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, and not forgetting Therion. An amazing album that takes time to get in to.
Orden Ogan: To The End
They had A LOT to live up to and thankfully with a revised release date, these German’s have delivered a powerhouse epic metal album that should be loved by all fans of recent Blind Guardian.
Important Product Information: Please avoid this album if you dislike ballads that include a line about dolphins.
Paragon: Force of Destruction
Exceptional German true heavy metal. Low vocals, epic tracks, true metal lyrics. This and Grave Digger satisfied the warrior in me.
Sabaton: Carolus Rex
There were two sides to this album. The music is typical Sabaton and didn’t have them breaking any sweat whatsoever but the lyrics took on board the Swedish king’s insatiable lust for Europe in the 17th Century. The images, the booklet, the double-dics release that also featured the Swedish version. Just outstanding.
If I had to pick one power metal band out of this whole list, this is the one I’d pick for album of the year. This Italian band have released what can only be considered a kick in the arse to all of those who think they like power metal. From the highest of high screams to the lowest of low growls, this intense and insane band have slaughtered any and all comers. This should be far more popular.
Speaking to Stones: Elements
Mark Zonder (former Fates Warning drummer) and Andy Engberg (former Lion’s Share, current Section A singer) have released an album that combines mid-career Fates Warning with the long tracks from Arch/Matheos. 5 tracks, 60 minutes. It’s seriously unbelievable.
Threshold: March of Progress
It’s taken them five years to release following the departure and then death of former vocalist Andrew MacDermott. Damian Wilson is back in the fold and they turned the tables once again tackling social issues. A march well worth considering.
Thy Majestie: ShiHuangDi
I thought they were done for, gone, kaput. Instead, they sourced a new vocalist, a far superior production, and a new concept based in China. Symphonic power metal done right.
Trail of Murder: Shades of Art
A rockier version of Bloodbound’s Nosferatu and Tabula Rasa that features one of the world’s greatest vocalist Urban Breed (who’s just beaten in the name category by former Cryonic Temple singer Glenn Metal). Melancholic, emotion charged, powerful melodic metal.
They didn’t set out to reinvent the melodic metal wheel. What it did was unite some of the best talents in metal including Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween), Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69), and Kosta Zafiriou (Pink Cream 69) and what they did was release a high quality melodic metal album.
Vision Divine: Destination Set To Nowhere
Warning. This Epic Italian album contains:
- Epic Soaring Vocals
- Epic Heartfelt Ballads
- Epic Speedy Riffs
- Epic Choirs
- Epic Keyboards
- Epic Melodies
- Epic Artwork
- And Epic Second Disc Containing Epic Re-Recordings From Each Of Their Epic Albums.
There’s something about Italian bands where they manage to combine musical cheese with lyrical cheese but make it all sound so…. divine. Great album.
Xandria: Neverworld’s End
Missing Tarja-era Nightwish? Don’t. This thing is a total Nightwish worship but done so well it’s not hard to like.
From this list I hope you found some albums that you may not have heard of or reignited your love with, or, better yet, that you completely disagree with me.
The Shit List
Thankfully the shit list is only ten long and some of these are more disappointments rather than out and out stinkers (although there’s a few of those too). Onwards to D.E.F.E.A.T!
All Too Human: Juggernaut
Frighteningly misjudged and just plain terrible. If you get a chance, grab both Entropy and All Too Human (if you can find it). Classics in the progressive genre. This is what happens when you change styles.
Andre Matos: The Turn of the Lights
Time To Be Free was my favourite album from 2006. Mentalize was also an extremely good album. Why, then, did you go and ruin it with this album? Where’s the bite? Where’s the substance? Where’s the Angra love?
Blaze Bayley: The King of Metal
I love this man. I love this man’s voice. This was the worst album released in 2012. If you doubt me, please, go and listen. The internet is only a click away.
Things you should (possibly) not trust. Bands with Dragon in their name. It was neither Dragony or Legendary. It was rank, it stank, and I’d rather wank.
Firewind: Few Against Many
This was more of a disappointment. Their live show is brilliant but I think the great man Gus G is spreading himself thinner than some metalhead’s crop of hair.
Ivory Tower: IV
Gone is the Dream Theater worship. In comes progressive nu-metal. Avoid it.
Lacuna Coil: Dark Adrenaline
Another two years, another Lacuna Coil album. Go away.
Manowar: The Lord of Steel
No words can express my dislike of this album but a thesaurus helps. Rancid. Turgid. Dull. Stale. Bland. At least it wasn’t pretentious. Haha. Only joking, of course it was.
Running Wild: Shadowmaker
They officially ended their career in 2009. Why, then, did they release again in 2012?
Spheric Universe Experience: The New Eve
A great French prog band has been listening to nu-metal a tad too much. This album is OK – but not on par with their previous releases.