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The Metal Excess Awards: 2011 Edition

Last year I said 2010 was a better year for music than 2009 was. I went on to wonder how 2011 could even begin to top it. Well, guess what… 2011 did indeed top 2010! I’m looking back at my Top 25 list for 2010 and while those albums are all still good, this year’s Top 25 list is much stronger top to bottom.

2011 was a great year that saw classic rock/metal acts like Whitesnake, Warrant, Riot, Alice Cooper, Journey, Black N’ Blue and King Kobra deliver some of the best albums of their career while younger acts like Steel Panther, Reckless Love, Savage Messiah, Evile (who missed the list by this much) and Black Veil Brides have shown that they are more than capable of carrying rock & metal into the future.

Top 25 Albums of 2011

1. Whitesnake – Forevermore
2. Sixx:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt
3. Riot – Immortal Soul
4. Warrant – Rockaholic
5. Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare
6. Steel Panther – Balls Out
7. Megadeth – Thirteen
8. Anthrax – Worship Music
9. Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming
10. Reckless Love – Animal Attraction
11. Edguy – Age of the Joker
12. Hurtsmile – s/t
13. Journey – Eclipse
14. Chickenfoot – III
15. Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz – Stand Your Ground
16. Black Country Communion – 2
17. The Poodles – Performocracy
18. House of Lords – Big Money
19. King Kobra – s/t
20. Saliva – Under Your Skin
21. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
22. Black N’ Blue – Hell Yeah!
22. Savage Messiah – Plague of Conscience
24. George Lynch – Kill All Control
25. Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl

Best E.P./Single
In light of a few non-album singles being released this year, I’ve decided to make this a hybrid category.

1. Sixx:A.M. – 7
2. Black Veil Brides – Rebels
3. Who Cares – Out of My Mind / Holy Water
4. Wildstreet – II …Faster …Louder!
5. The Last Vegas – The Other Side E.P.

Best Compilation/Cover/Live/Reissue Albums
Kind of a catch-all category this year. Instead of listing each category individually, I decided to lump them all into one list and rank them that way.

1. Black Sabbath – Born Again [Deluxe Edition]
2. Stryper – The Covering
3. Vains of Jenna – Reverse Tripped
4. Whitesnake – Live at Donington 1990
5. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy – Live: Made In Stoke 24/7/11
6. Hell – Human Remains
7. Scorpions – Comeblack
8. Def Leppard – Mirrorball: Live & More
9. Eric Carr – Unfinished Business
10. Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer [Deluxe Edition]

Want to read more about the year in music? Check out some of the fine sites & blogs listed below! And be sure to keep checking back for more Year-End posts here at Metal Excess!

All Metal Resource —

Bring Back Glam —

The Crash Pad of Ray Van Horn, Jr. –

Hair Metal Mansion —

Hard Rock Hideout —

Hard Rock Nights —

Heavy Metal Addiction —

Heavy Metal Time Machine —

Imagine Echoes —

Layla’s Classic Rock —

Metal Odyssey —

The Ripple Effect —

Who Cares (Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi & Friends) – Out Of My Mind / Holy Water

Who Cares (Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi & Friends) – Out Of My Mind / Holy Water (2011, earMUSIC/Eagle Rock Records)

1. “Out of My Mind” … 5:19
2. “Holy Water” … 7:00

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Linde Lindstrom – Guitar
Jason Newsted – Bass
Nicko McBrain – Drums
Jon Lord – Keyboards

How’s THIS for a super group: Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Iron Maiden’s Nick McBrain, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, ex-Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord and HIM’s Linde Lindstrom! Well, um, nothing against Lindstrom but, wow, he feels a bit out of place doesn’t he? I think his connection is he’s either dating or married to Iommi’s daughter.

Who Cares was initially a project put together by Gillan & Iommi to help benefit the rebuilding of a music school in Armenia but there was always the vague promise that Gillan & Iommi would continue to work together on some new material. I imagine with a reunited Black Sabbath that won’t be happening… ever (Sabbath will probably take up the next few years and these guys are old enough already). Shame. I’d much rather hear a Iommi & Gillan record (Geezer can tag along too) than a new Sabbath album with Ozzy.

Initially released as a digital single, the album has been made available on 7″ vinyl (limited to only 1,000 copies) and as a deluxe CD single featuring a video clip and a 30 minute documentary.

Despite being a one-off super-group that implied Tony & Ian might continue to work together, Who Cares went a bit under the radar, I think. Yes, it was done for charity so it’s not like there was any huge label or promotion backing this but given the talent involved I would have expected more buzz from the rock/metal community.  The songs are just phenomenal and while I haven’t heard any of Gillan’s recent work with Deep Purple, the guy can still sing and scream like a rock ‘n’ roll god (even if his voice is a tad bit weathered, but at 66 years old, I’ll give him a break).

“Out of My Mind” is just plain heavy. Not Born Again heavy, but still heavy nonetheless, stomping along and sounding Black Sabbath & Deep Purple put in a blender: Iommi pulling out a great riff and solo, Gillan singing with venom and Jon Lord doing what he does best. Musically, it’s really not too far off from what we might’ve heard from Heaven & Hell.

“Holy Water” is a bit more majestic in scope with a taste of the Middle East. I’m not all that well-versed on Deep Purple with Steve Morse but from what I have heard, this sounds like the type of song you might hear from them as Jon Lord’s keyboard factors heavily into this track and Gillan is a bit more subdued.

Who Cares was put together for a great cause and features great music so it’s definitely worth buying. It also shows us what a great pairing Gillan & Iommi can still be and hopefully we can get some more music of out this duo in the future.

Black Sabbath – Born Again [Deluxe Edition]

Black Sabbath – Born Again [Deluxe Edition] (2011, Universal Music/Sanctuary Records – UK Import)
Original Release: 1983, Warner Bros. Records

Disc One
1. “Trashed”
2. “Stonehenge”
3. “Disturbing The Priest”
4. “The Dark
5. “Zero The Hero”
6. “Digital Bitch”
7. “Born Again”
8. “Hot Line
9. “Keep It Warm”

Disc Two
1. “The Fallen” (Previously Unreleased)
2. “Stonehenge” (Extended Version)
3. “Hot Line” (live)
4. “War Pigs” (live)
5. “Black Sabbath” (live)
6.. “The Dark” (live)
7. “Zero The Hero” (live)
8. “Digital Bitch” (live)
9. “Iron Man” (live)
10. “Smoke On The Water” (live)
11. “Paranoid” (live)

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar, Flute
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bill Ward – Drums
Bev Bevan – Drums (Disc Two – Tracks 3-11)

Additional Musicians:
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Producer: Black Sabbath & Robin Black

So this is the third time I’ll be reviewing this album (click for my original review and unmixed demos review). The original album itself is great and I count it as one of Sabbath’s best records. Born Again is notorious for the muddy mix it has and while this 2011 edition is a remaster and NOT a remix and has been cleaned up a bit. Honestly, I really can’t tell the difference between this edition and the 2004 reissue. It still sounds muddy and muffled and granted there is a certain atmosphere it gives to the album but I would still love to hear a remixed and clean version but it looks like that is basically an impossibility given the condition of the source tapes.

Now, just like before with previous Sabbath “Deluxe Editions”, the main reason I bought this was for the second disc. Previous to this release, “The Fallen” and the extended version of “Stonehenge” were being passed around on bootlegs. I guess Iommi wanted to finally “officially” get them out there so good for him and both songs are good tracks anyway so it’s good that Tony can finally make some money off them.

The real jewel of this release is the live tracks. Again, Born Again-era concert bootlegs are available (like Purple Sabbath Definitive Edition) but it’s nice to have a legit live release of Ian Gillan fronting the band. The songs are taken from the band’s performance on August 27, 1983 at the Reading Festival in Reading, Berkshire, England. In comparison to the Purple Sabbath bootleg, much of the set is the same except “Children of the Grave” and “Heaven and Hell” are not present while “The Dark” intro is. I’m not sure whether if what is presented here is the full set from the Reading show but the bands plays a few notes from “Heaven and Hell” at the end of “Paranoid”.

I know to this day there is great controversy surrounding the album, Gillan’s involvement with the band and of the band’s choice to cover “Smoke On The Water” in concerts (BTW – it goes over well with the Reading crowd) but Born Again is a great and special moment in the band’s history. Even if the reaction at the time from critics and fans alike was lukewarm, the Born Again album stands tall in the Sabbath catalog and the live show was just as good. If Ronnie can cover Ozzy songs, why not Gillan? He does a fantastic take on “Black Sabbath”. Although to be honest, I’d rather hear Gillan’s take on the Ronnie songs.

And going off of what I said earlier about the reaction to this album being lukewarm, I definitely think a big part of that ws because the album was never released in the U.S. for some reason (not a single U.S. reissue either!). So maybe the lack of excitement over this album and lineup was due word of mouth with those words coming from disgruntled fans who either wanted Dio or Ozzy in the band. I imagine in those days it was harder to get your hands on an import so if you knew a guy who sayid the album sucked, you took his word for it and passed that critique along to the next guy.

While Ozzy/Dio loyalists will probably ignore this release, I highly recommend this release for fans of the Gillan era. Even if you have the original album, it’s worth picking up for the second disc.

Buy the Deluxe Edition on

BLACK SABBATH – Born Again: Unmixed Demos & The Fallen

Black Sabbath – Born Again: Unmixed Demos & The Fallen (CDR bootleg)

1. “Hot Line” … 4:54
2. “Keep It Warm” … 5:44
3. “The Fallen” … 4:28
4. “Digital Bitch” … 3:44
5. “Stonehenge” … 4:54
6. “Trashed” … 3:47
7. “Zero the Hero” … 9:09
8. “Born Again” … 6:33
9. “Disturbing the Priest” … 5:38

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar, Flute
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bill Ward – Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Producer: Robin Black and Black Sabbath

Surfacing in 2004, this release is as the title explicitly states, a bootleg of the unmixed demos from 1983’s classic Born Again album. Demos usually don’t appeal to me because they are what they are: demos. An unfinished product. Not so in this case. These unmixed numbers are actually mixed a bit better than the final product (which reportedly was the victim of the master tape’s exposure to humidity) and darn near close to being complete other than a few extra solos and altered lyrics.

In comparison to the officially released album, there are only two major differences with this bootleg: the absence of the short instrumental called “The Dark” and the inclusion of “The Fallen”. “The Fallen” fits in well with the rest of the album so I’m not sure why the band decided not to include it on the official release. Perhaps they were saving some of their ammo for the follow-up which never occurred?

Click here for my thoughts on the official Born Again release.

BLACK SABBATH – Purple Sabbath Definitive Edition

Black Sabbath – Purple Sabbath Definitive Edition (CDR bootleg)
Recorded: November 4, 1983 at The Centrum in Worchester, MA

1. “Captured Live Intro” … 1:12
2. “Black Sabbath Intro” … 2:20
3. Children of the Grave” … 5:05
4. “Hot Line” … 5:01
5. “War Pigs” … 7:30
6. “Iron Man” … 8:59
7. “Zero the Hero” … 7:46
8. “Heaven and Hell” … 8:42
9. Guitar Solo … 8:42
10. “Digital Bitch” … 3:51
11. “Black Sabbath” … 7:52
12. “Smoke on the Water” … 5:18
13. “Paranoid” … 3:51

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bev Bevan – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

With all of the singers Sabbath has had, it’s very interesting to listen to them having to cover each other. In this bootleg of Captured Live radio show featuring a performance in ’83, we not only get to hear then-current singer Ian Gillan sing a few his own killer songs from Born Again (and Deep Purple!), but also the works from Ozzy and Dio. He does a very good job on “War Pigs” especially, I think. I’ll take a live Gillan version of “War Pigs” over the Ozzy studio version any day (yes, my dislike for Ozzy knows no limits).

I even enjoy the lengthy guitar solo. I don’t see how so many rock fans can hate it when solos come up. I often think they’re the most interesting part of live performances. You already know the songs by heart, you don’t want to listen to some different and live that you’ve never heard before? There’s also a fine performance of “Smoke on the Water”, from Gillan’s old band Deep Purple. Apparently, this cover didn’t go over well with the Sabbath fanbase at the time when they would play it at concerts, but I don’t see what the big deal was.

It’s really unfortunate that after this tour Gillan ended up leaving Sabbath to rejoin Deep Purple (even though they would would deliver a great comeback with Perfect Strangers) because this line-up produced some great live performances and one of Sabbath’s best (and heaviest) albums. It would’ve been really interesting to see where they went from here.

Highlights: “Hot Line”, “War Pigs”, “Zero the Hero”, “Heaven and Hell”, Guitar Solo, “Smoke on the Water”, “Paranoid”

DEEP PURPLE – Perfect Strangers

Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers [Remastered] (1999, Mercury Records)
Original Release: 1984, Mercury Records

1.”Knocking at Your Back Door” … 7:04
2.”Under the Gun” … 4:38
3.”Nobody’s Home” … 3:59
4.”Mean Streak” … 4:21
5.”Perfect Strangers” … 5:28
6.”A Gypsy’s Kiss” … 5:12
7.”Wasted Sunsets” … 3:55
8.”Hungry Daze” … 4:58
9.”Not Responsible” … 4:47
10.”Son of Alerik” … 10:07

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar
Roger Glover – Bass
Jon Lord – Organ, Keyboards
Ian Paice – Drums

Produced by: Deep Purple

I bought this album close to 10 years ago basically just for “Knocking at Your Back Door”. I ended up liking “Perfect Strangers” as well, but quickly disregarded the rest of the album. It was nothing more to me than bad 70s keyboard/organ heavy rock. That was then, this is now and this album rocks!

I’ve become much more easy going when it comes to 70s hard rock/metal acts like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple (all three of these bands kinda ran in the same circles, didn’t they). After initially passing this album off as an oddity for something released during the 80s, I can now appreciate the “classic” sound Deep Purple brought to this comeback release. In striving to to match their “classic” sound, Deep Purple ended up putting out something in 1984 that didn’t really sound like anything else going on at the time and as much as I love the 80s, that’s really cool of them and it payed off in a big way.

This would be the popular “Mark II” line up of the band making the comeback. Deep Purple hadn’t released an album since 1975 and the Mark II grouping hadn’t released one since 1973. The reunion was a success with the album reaching #6 on the Billboard charts and the subsequent tour selling out. The album went on to go platinum in the States and double platinum in the UK.

The 1999 remastered version features the instrumental bonus track “Son of Alerik” which previously had only been released as a B-side to the “Perfect Strangers” single.

Highlights: “Knocking at Your Back Door”, “Under the Gun”, “Mean Streak”, “Perfect Strangers”, “A Gypsy’s Kiss”, “Wasted Sunsets”, “Hungry Daze”, “Not Responsible”


Black Sabbath – Born Again [Remastered] (2004, Sanctuary Midline – UK Import)
Original Release: 1983, Warner Bros. Records

1. “Trashed” … 4:16
2. “Stonehenge” … 1:58
3. “Disturbing the Priest” … 5:49
4. “The Dark” … 0:45
5. “Zero the Hero” … 7:35
6. “Digital Bitch” … 3:39
7. “Born Again” … 6:34
8. “Hot Line” … 4:52
9. “Keep It Warm” … 5:36

Ian Gillan – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar, Flute
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bill Ward – Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Produced by: Robin Black and Black Sabbath

What do you get when you make Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan the lead singer for Black Sabbath? Purple Sabbath! However you wanna name’em, both bands’ influences show up on Iommi & Co.’s third try at a singer. Ronnie James Dio (along with then-drummer Vinny Appice) had exited the band after a battle of egos between Dio and Iommi. Supposedly, a mixing war between Iommi/Butler and Dio/Appice for the 1982 live album Live Evil was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ronny and Vinny would go on to form the band Dio, which itself has gone on to become a legendary hard rock/heavy metal band itself while Bill Ward was coaxed back behind the drum kit and ex-Deep Purple front man Ian Gillan was installed as the new voice for Sabbath.

And what Gillan and Sabbath delivered is one Sabbath’s heaviest! I really love Gillan’s voice used in a Sabbath setting. The album didn’t set the the world on fire or garner many positive reviews at the time (even now, All Music Guide completely trashes it), but I happen to think it’s one of the best from the band’s catalog and it’s criminal that it hasn’t seen an official CD release in the United States. It’s funny how once people get perspective on something they can go, “oh yeah — this album rocks”, after trashing it for decades.

I don’t see why this album never got proper credit though. The riff in “Zero the Hero” is just plain MEAN and “Disturbing the Priest” is a manic and ugly (in a good way) heavy metal song where Ian does an amazing over-the-top performance. Toss in “Born Again” which is a slow ‘n’ gloomy number that sounds like a song from the Ozzy era and the Purple-esque “Hot Line” and that’s more than enough to give this album a thumbs up from me. Not that the rest is filler though!

The mix is fairly muddy, but the music is so amazingly evil and heavy, it actually adds to it, but I would still love to hear a cleaned up version some day, but unfortunately, Sanctuary didn’t do that with this issue. They only remastered the already muddy mix. The demos for this album actually have better production values, that’s where Sanctuary should have gone for a proper mix. I’ve read that the cause of the poor mix had something to do with humidity getting into the studio and screwing up the tapes. The band wasn’t around at the time of this accident, so off the tapes went and by the time they discovered the error, it was too late — the album was already pressed. Both Iommi and Gillan have mentioned they would like to eventually give us a remixed version to match what they originally intended. Hopefully, that’ll happen someday.

I had owned a CD-R copy of this album for a few years, but I’ve always wanted a real CD copy, so when I found out an import was available from Sanctuary Midline over in the UK, I went for it. Sanctuary seemingly holds the European rights to most Sabbath releases and they do a really great job with the reissues, giving band photos and a back story on each album in the booklet. My only complaint is that the 2004 reissues all feature the same kind of purple printing featuring the Black Sabbath fallen angel on the actual CDs. This type of printing seems to work for Seventh Star (which was a fairly light album), but to use it on a heavy metal monster like Born Again? It strikes me as silly.

Highlights: All of it. One of my favorite albums.

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