Friday, May 10, 2013

10 Forgotten Gems of the Last 10 Years:

Every year there are seemingly endless releases, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t get to them all. Eventually, it’s pretty easy to get around to the bigger albums, but some records get completely forgotten. Even if an artist is well-known, sometimes people assume they know what the album will sound like without listening to it. What follows are 10 great releases from the past 10 years. These are not necessarily the best releases of those years, but they are ones that your metal collection is incomplete without.

2003: Isen Torr - Mighty & Superior

This two track EP is the very definition of heavy metal. It features some of the most manly riffs in existence, and the fantastic vocals of the late Tony Taylor only add to the sheer masculinity of this release. While both songs are quite similar (especially the use of triplets in the drumming), they are both epic enough that it doesn't matter. If you have some time, read up on the history of this cult band, as they originally had some interesting plans for future releases.

2004 - Insane - Wait and Pray

Do you like Slayer (hint: the answer is yes!)? Then you will love Insane's "Wait and Pray". This isn't even a rip-off of "Show No Mercy"; it is straight-up worship. Everything from the band logo, album artwork, song titles, and sound of the record is straight from Slayer's debut record. There has never been an album that accurately captures the sound of another as well as "Wait and Pray" does. While the songwriting is obviously not as good, it is a lot stronger than you would probably expect.

2005 - Dark Illusion - Beyond The Shadows

This one is for the power metal fans. "Beyond The Shadows" is an ode to simplistic, enjoyable European melodic power metal. Similar to bands like HammerFall and Helloween, it is very riff-based, as opposed to the airy sounds of a band like Stratovarius. At 14 songs (but only 49 minutes), there are sure to be at least a few that catch your attention. Personally, the hilariously titled "Night Knight" and the ballad "Warrior" are amongst my favourite power metal tunes.

2006 - Angelus Apatrida - Evil Unleashed

Angelus Apatrida are definitely a band that have garnered more attention recently, but their humble beginnings are less known. "Evil Unleashed" is exactly what you would expect from Pantera if they played thrash 100% of the time. It even has a cover of "Domination"! The rhythm work (particularly the drums) is crushing, and there is an endless number of guitar solos. This record has a ton of standout tracks, but my favourite is "Negotiating The Clowns" simply for its stellar lead guitar work.

2007 - Iron Fire - Blade of Triumph

Iron Fire is another band that is certainly not unknown, but "Blade of Triumph" does not get recognized as the power metal masterpiece that it is. The songs are frighteningly catchy, starting with "Dragonheart" all the way to the title track. While this is another record that has solid riffing, it also uses plenty of guitar melodies to lead the songs. I haven't really kept up with the rest of the band's discography, but if you think you've heard all power metal has to offer, and haven't heard "Blade of Triumph", give this a shot.

2008 - Mortifier - Underground Noise

This is where things get really tough. Starting in 2008, bands started popping up out of nowhere and there are a crazy number of good releases. I picked Mortifier's "Underground Noise" because it's exactly the type of album I could never review. Yes, it is another thrash band that conveniently put out a record in 2008, but it's much more. The main reason I couldn't do a full review for this band is because the only thing that need's to be said is that they write far better riffs than most of their contemporaries. That's all there is to it. Nothing else is done that is outside of the box; you really just need to hear these solid riffs. Check out "Mountain Killings" for a sample of what I'm talking about.

2009 - Metalium - Chapter VIII: Grounded

The final album for Germany's Metalium would prove to be their best. Gone are the mostly speedy, yet characterless songs, and in are the pounding, powerful riffs of Metalium's later era. The attitude hits you from the opener, "Heavy Metal" and never truly lets up. If you've heard some of Metalium before, but haven't heard this power metal record, you should give this a shot.

Honourable Mention for 2009: Mutant - Laserdrome (thrash)

2010 - Instanzia - Ghosts

Hailing from the Great White North, Instanzia are a definite force to be reckoned with. "Ghosts" reminds me a lot of Wintersun in the sense that it was created by a perfectionist. There are layers upon layers of vocals and guitar melodies. Musically, however, the band sounds more like any number of Finnish or Swedish power metal bands. Each song features uniquely crafted melodies that are instantly memorable. I've pretty much only listened to this thing on YouTube (haven't tracked down a copy yet) and I can think of most of the choruses without re-listening to them. My favourites are "Ghosts of the Past" and "Power of the Mind", but any of these songs should hook you.

Honourable Mentions for 2010: Hellcannon - Infected With Violence (thrash), Icewind - Again Came the Storm (power metal)

2011 - Rocka Rollas - The War of Steel Has Begun

You may know Rocka Rollas from my review of "Conquer", but their debut album is a whole different beast. Rather than being the continuation of Running Wild, "The War of Steel Has Begun" is simply an ode to speed metal, and really just metal in particular. Expect blazing tempos, wickedly fast harmonized guitars (see "Dark Future" for a mindblowing example of this), and energetic vocals. While I prefer the new direction the band has taken, their debut needs to be heard because it is sure to be a cult classic.

Honourable Mentions for 2011: Glen Drover - Metalusion (shred), Power Quest - Blood Alliance (power metal)

2012 - Air Raid - Night of the Axe

Sweden's Air Raid join the legion of bands playing a classic style of heavy/speed metal, and they do it with more conviction than most. If you are a fan of other SFM favourites such as Enforcer and Screamer, you'll know what to expect. Air Raid's vocals differ from the crowd quite a bit, but that only helps them to stand out. The two most enjoyable songs are the title track, and "The Lost City", but there are no weak spots on this rager!