Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 20 of 2010: 6 - 10

Day two of the top 20. Again these are in no real order, other then alphabetical. It was almost impossible to trim it all down to 20, let alone rank them. These are the 20 Best of 2010, if you haven't heard these yet, make sure they are the first thing you do in 2011!

6. Fireball Ministry - Fireball Ministry (See Review)
Simply superb, one of Fireball Ministry's more solid efforts. While it doesn't contain the usual mix of great songs with so-so songs, this release does deliver for the full album-length. Longtime fans of the group may find this album a bit boring or repetitive, but I see an act that has discovered what is their 'core' sound and has decided to push that forward. As I said (both here and in my short review), does not have songs that stand far beyond the rest, all of the songs are of like quality and style. Instead of a mix of all the sub-genres of stoner, Fireball Ministry (album) is filled with the fuzziest, groove-laden stoner rock that you have ever heard. Every song is filled to the brim with moving bass lines, rocked out guitars (and the fuzz), and solid drum beats. The vocals are all above average; in style, content and delivery. In all possible aspects, this album delivers.

7. Grand Magus - Hammer of The North
Another album I jammed in at the last minute, and I wish I hadn't waited so long. Hammer of The North makes me question how much of Grand Magus I have been missing over the years. With their fresh mix of doom/NWOBHM mix - with a splash of power metal for good measure - makes this one of the most unique doom releases of the year. The beginning half of the album is much more rock n' roll oriented then the later parts; not to say that it is true rock n' roll, but it seems to create a doom n' roll atmosphere (which seems to be a growing trend, at least in my perspective). When you reach the second half of the album, beginning mostly (there is no clear line) with "At Midnight They'll Get Wise," the focus of the record drifts more and more into straight-forward doom. The semi-NWOBHM/power metal influences are still there, but it is clearly a doom album from then on. On my ever-growing list of next year bands to hear (mostly finishing off what I couldn't fit into 2010), the Grand Magus discography is high on it. If you haven't had the pleasure, use this top 20 review (and the dozens on the web like it) to urge yourself into picking up this album. It is something to behold.

8. High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine
The best stoner/doom album of 2010 according to me! High On Fire takes the place of Electric Wizard on this list, and I think every other list-maker should follow suit. If I was organizing all of this in numerical order, Snakes For The Divine would have to be within the top 5, easy. I'll have this album featured in another 5 Quick Album Reviews, launching on the 31st (that day may have several posts, finishing out the year with a bang), so you can read my praises and hear me drooling over this album all you want there. What I've noticed from this album, and from several of the few dozen new albums I've heard this month, I really need to be more up-to-date with my music selection. This jamming all of my year's listeneing requirement into two months is crap, I've been missing out on some amazing artists and albums. Next year will not be the same, I swear it!

9. Holy Grail - Crisis In Utopia (See Review)
One of the fast up-and-comers of the power metal genre, it seems I can't go a week without hearing of some new award, recognition, or tour that involves Holy Grail. Actually, in all honesty, today was one of those days, reading about how the group is just about to finish touring, opening for Blind Guardian, directly into their own headlining tour! Now that is progress if I have ever heard it. As I said in my review, Holy Grail's Crisis In Utopia sounds like it was taken directly out of the hey-day of the late 80s power metal scene and dropped into our laps, here in 2010. It is both old and new, fresh and retro, pushing the boundaries and being sedentary. It's an enigma in a jewel casing, and I love it for that. While the group and this album don't seem to be breaking any new ground, sometimes you need to look back to look forward. Sounding as Helloween or Blind Guardian did in their third or fourth album, while the thrash elements were still of equal relevance as the power, is a great place to start. I can't wait to hear what is next from Holy Grail, but until then I'll have to give Crisis In Utopia a few more listens.

10. Jorn - Dio
The only cover album to make it anywhere close to this list, and I only include it because; A) It is Dio B) Jorn does a great job!  Almost cover to cover with Dio hits (from his whole metal career; Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Solo), this disc is a must-have for fans of both Dio and Jorn. While Jorn can't hit all of the range of the mighty Dio, he doesn't try, he keeps it all within his able-scope and the record is amazing for it. One of the best songs off this album is the only original recording on the album, "Song for Ronnie James," which begins the record and sends it off into an amazing path. I would like to hear more songs of this magnitude and feeling; while the covers are all pretty damn good, this song is the stand-out by far. Dio (the album) contains all of the Dio (the artist) hits, and some that the non-diehard fan may not recognize. All of the covers give the originals fair credit; they differ enough to make it an original version, but not so far as to not understand where it all came from. This is what defines a great cover/tribute album, a careful combination of retro with new. As both men are only known by one name, I think it is a commendable release, and a grandiose tribute to one of the greats of heavy metal. Rest in peach Ronnie James Dio, I will think of you every time I listen to this album.

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