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The Metal Excess Awards: 2010 Edition

I’m really surprised by how many albums I enjoyed this year. I have a pitiful memory so I had to go back through my blog to remind myself what came out this year but I was floored when my Top 10 list was changed to a Top 20 list, then to a Top 30 list! I knocked it back down to a Top 25 list to make it seem a tiny bit more exclusive.

If you haven’t checked out any of these 25 albums, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. 2010 was an amazing year for rock & metal, much MUCH better than 2009. I don’t see how 2011 can compete!

I’ll keep it short and sweet with my awards. As always, check the links for full reviews.

Best Albums of 2010

1. Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
2. Buckcherry – All Night Long
3. Scorpions – Sting in the Tail
4. Halford – Made of Metal
5. Slash – s/t
6. Black Country Communion – s/t
7. Avantasia – Angel of Babylon
8. Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony
9. Accept – Blood of the Nations
10. Hinder – All American Nightmare
11. Jettblack – Get Your Hands Dirty
12. Reckless Love – s/t
13. Bad City – Welcome to the Wasteland
14. Stone Temple Pilots – s/t
15. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
16. Krokus – Hoodoo
17. Helloween – 7 Sinners
18. Sister Sin – True Sound of the Underground
19. My Darkest Days – s/t
20. Stereoside – s/t
21. Y&T – Facemelter
22. Danko Jones – Below The Belt
23. Grave Digger – The Clans Will Rise Again
24. Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival
25. Ratt – Infestation

Top Cover Albums

Seems like every year a few established artists like to cover a few *other* established artists, not to mention all those various tribute albums that small labels will slap together. Well, here’s my official ranking of the three cover albums I bothered to listen to this year. Luckily, all three albums were good fun and I think they all deserve another mention.

1. Jorn – Dio
2. Vince Neil – Tattoos & Tequila
3. Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz – My ReGeneration Vol. 1

Top Live Albums

Again, I don’t buy a lot of live albums, but here’s how I rank what I listened to this year.

1. Dio – Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987
2. Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live In Europe
3. Megadeth – Rust In Peace Live
4. The Michael Schenker Group – The 30th Anniversary Concert: Live in Tokyo

Top EPs

1. Razorwyre – Coming Out
2. Skull Fist – Heavier Than Metal
3. DesDemon – The Awakening

Most Disappointing Albums

1. Ratt – Infestation
The album was good, don’t get me wrong. It landed at #25 on my Best Of list for Dio’s sake! But… most of the songs had trouble living up to the promise of “Eat Me Up Alive” and “Best Of Me”.

2. Armored Saint – La Raza
A bland album from a band that has done so much better. They seemed to be going through the motions (to which John Bush has basically admitted in regards to himself). Symbol of Salvation this ain’t.

3. White Wizzard – Over The Top
The High Speed GTO EP garnered this group a lot of hype and buzz. We all fell for it, I know reviews for this album have been positive and it’s not bad but I expected more. Hopefully a second album will get these guys where they need to be.

4. Raven – Walk Through Fire
The terrible cover art should’ve tipped me off that this album was nothing special.


Check out these other sites for even more lists and year-end awards:

All Metal Resource —

Bring Back Glam —

Hair Metal Mansion —

Hard Rock Hideout —

Hard Rock Nights —

Heavy Metal Addiction —

Heavy Metal Time Machine —

Imagine Echoes —

Layla’s Classic Rock —

The Metal Minute —

Metal Odyssey —

The Ripple Effect —



Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival (2010, AFM records)

1. “Lies” … 6:19
2. “Death Rides A Black Horse” … 6:15
3. “Festival” … 5:00
4. “Afterglow” … 6:50
5. “Living On The Edge” … 5:11
6. “Looking For Nothing” … 3:05
7. “The Evil Within” … 5:15
8. “Winter Haven” … 7:39
9. “I Fear You” … 5:11
10. “Now” … 4:22

Jon Oliva – Lead Vocals, Piano, Guitar, Keyboards
Matt Laporte – Guitar, Hammered Dulcimer, Backing Vocals
Tom McDine – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Kevin Rothney – Bass, Backing Vocals
Christopher Kinder – Drums, Percussions, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Howard Helm – Piano, Keyboards
Casey Grillo – Percussion
Jason Blackerby – Percussion
Tom Morris – Guitar
Jim Morris – Guitar
Laurien Moahi – Guitar
Dana Piper – Guitar

Producer: Christopher Kinder, Jon Oliva and Tom Morris

Thanks to AFM I had a digital copy of this album at my disposal but didn’t bother listening to it because I wanted to actually buy the CD because I’m a fan of Oliva’s vocals and early Savatage albums. I’ve listened to it a number of times and have been sitting on this review for quite some time. I think Savatage itself is an acquired taste but there’s just something about Jon’s work outside of Savatage that I have a hard time getting into. I didn’t think Doctor Butcher was all that great and I felt the same about the debut JOP album ‘Tage Mahal. After that initial disappointment, I didn’t bother with 2006’s Maniacal Renderings. I had good intentions to pick up 2008’s Global Warning because the reviews were so positive but I never did. Well, I finally get around to picking up another “Pain” album and it’s actually pretty decent and I’m enjoying much more than the first release.

With the continued success of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a reunited Savatage is unlikely anytime soon so by Jon’s own admission this is about the closest to Savatage as fans are gonna get in terms of sound, if not band members. I have to say that I agree when it comes to Festival, there are many Savatage worthy moments to be found on this disc.

Most of this album is very dark & heavy throughout, there’s not a lot of melodic, mid-tempo numbers and that’s a good thing in my book because that’s when Jon begins to lose me. The album only slows up for the ballad “Looking For Nothing”, goes mid tempo for “Winter Haven” (though that song starts to get a bit heavier towards the end) and “Now” sounds like a lost TSO song complete with orchestrations. The rest of the album features Jon’s trademark wail (with hasn’t lost a step over the years) and some nice heavy riffs. As with previous albums, many of these songs were developed with or based around ideas and recordings Jon had kicked around with his late brother Criss (along with a few unused TSO ideas too). The song “Festival” has parts going all the way back to 1979!

If we can’t have Savatage, Festival is a good consolation because the spirit of that band lives on within these songs.

The CD is an “enhanced” one, featuring live clips, video footage with Jon talking about the album, photos and wallpaper.

Highlights: “Lies”, “Death Rides A Black Horse”, “Festival”, “Afterglow”, “Living On The Edge”

JON OLIVA’S PAIN – ‘Tage Mahal

Jon Oliva’s Pain – ‘Tage Mahal (2004, SPV/Steamhammer Records)

1. “The Dark” … 5:11
2. “People Say – Gimme Some Hell” … 4:08
3. “Guardian Of Forever” … 7:44
4. “Slipping Away” … 4:29
5. “Walk Alone” … 4:32
6. “The Nonsensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind” … 5:31
7. “No Escape” … 3:23
8. “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” … 5:54
9. “All The Time” … 4:58
10. “Nowhere To Run” … 5:23
11. “Pain” … 3:13
12. “Outside The Door” … 4:00
13. “Fly Away” … 4:11

Jon Oliva – Vocals, Keyboards
Matt LaPorte – Guitars
Kevin Rothney – Bass
Christopher Kinder – Drums
John Zahner – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Steve Wacholz – Drums (“No Escape” and “Nowhere to Run”)

Producer: Jon Oliva & Paul O’Neill

This is the debut from Jon Oliva’s post-Savatage band and I was pretty excited to get this album. I think I picked it up about a year or so after its release, but I was becoming a big Savatage fan by that point. I’ve seen plenty of reviews claiming this to be basically be an unofficial Savatage album and I suppose that’s true, but it doesn’t hold a candle to earlier Savatage releases. Or so I thought when I first heard it. Honestly, I thought the album was garbage and I gave it only a few spins before throwing it into my ever-increasing pile of CDs soon to be forgotten.

I much prefer what-you-see-is-what you get heavy metal of their earlier years over the dramatic, melodic stuff they would later go on to do. From Streets onward, they’re just a totally different band to me that I have no interest in, so expectations were high for ‘Tage Mahal now that Oliva was on his own (even if O’Neill hung around as producer).

Looking back, it isn’t as bad as I remember it being because there are a number of bright spots. The problem I have with the album really boils down to Paul O’Neill, I think. The album is too melodic and there are too many slow spots and it’s just overproduced and too majestic sounding for its own good at times. I’ve read later Savatage described as “Broadway metal” and I guess that fits because this album is a follow-up of that era of the band and not their earlier sound. It has that TSO vibe to it, which is fine for TSO but I’d rather Oliva got back to his heavy metal roots for this one.

Call it thumbs in the middle for this one. A few songs show some heavy metal fire, but the rest is a bit pompous and bloated.

Many of these songs were fleshed out from incomplete works that Jon had worked on with his brother, the late Criss Oliva.

Highlights: “The Dark”,  “People Say – Gimme Some Hell”, “Slipping Away”, “The Nonsensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind”, “No Escape”

SAVATAGE – Hall of the Mountain King

Savatage – Hall of the Mountain King (1987, Atlantic Records)

Track Listing:
1. “24 Hrs. Ago” … 4:56
2. “Beyond the Doors of the Dark” … 5:07
3. “Legions” … 4:57
4. “Strange Wings” … 3:45
5. “Prelude to Madness” … 3:13
6. “Hall of the Mountain King” … 5:55
7. “Price You Pay” … 3:51
8. “White Witch” … 3:31
9. “Last Dawn” …1:15
10. “Devastation” … 3:37

Jon Oliva – Lead Vocals, Piano
Criss Oliva – Guitar
Johnny Lee Middleton – Bass, Backing Vocals
Steve Wacholz – Drums
Robert Kinkel – Keyboards

Produced by: Paul O’Neill

My favorite Savatage release and one of my favorite albums ever. It was the first Savatage album I tried and that was because it was the cheapest Savatage album I could find at FYE one day. I think it had the “NICE PRICE” of $9.99. Score!

I was blown away by this album and I still am to this day. Creepy and atmospheric, nothing before or since by the band has come close to this release, IMO.

My favorite track is “Hall of the Mountain King” where Jon Oliva really goes insane.

Highlights: Everything, one of the best albums I’ve ever heard

2008: The Rock Strikes Back!

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time where all the bands are gearing up for a tour or they already are on tour. It’s also the time they start rolling out the new albums.

2008 kicked off in an awesome way with Avantasia’s The Scarecrow, but let’s take a look at other hopefuls and what’s out now, what will be out soon, and what will be out later in the year.

Jon Oliva’s Pain – Global Warning
Release Date: May 6?
I’m a fan of early Savatage (before they got all progressive), so I checked out Jon’s Tage Mahal hoping for a Savatage-worthy release. I didn’t get it. BUT… The songs I’ve heard on JOP’s MySpace page for this new album are pretty good and reviews are saying THIS album *is* worthy of Savatage. There’s some conflicting reports (at least to me) as to what day it has been/will be released. I’ve seen quite a few supposed release dates for March, April, and May. Amazon & CD Universe are listing May 6 though…

Whitesnake – Good to Be Bad
Release Date: April 15
While I don’t own it yet, I have been able to listen to this album numerous times in it’s entirety and it complete rocks. It stands right beside their 1987 self-titled and Slip of the Tongue. Great, great guitar work. I can already say this is one of the year’s best releases.

Def Leppard – Songs from the Sparkle Lounge
Release Date: April 29
A lot of places (such as Rolling Stone magazine) are giving the album so-so reviews. But I’m liking what I’ve heard so far and it seems like YEAH! really inspired Def Lep to rock again.

Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again
Release Date: May 13
Admittedly, I’ve never followed Dokken closely. I own Tooth and Nail, but I always found them a bit bland. They just didn’t stick out for me amongst other bands of the era. Again, thanks to MySpace, I’m able to hear the new stuff and I’m loving it. It definitely sounds like Dokken and I’m loving the song “Heart to Stone”.

Motley Crue – Saints of Los Angeles
Release Date: June 17
Crue Fest has been announced (I have my tickets for the 7/15 Detroit show) and the Crue has released their new single “Saints of Los Angeles” and it absolutely rocks. It has that old-school Motley sound, I can’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to get this album and to see them play it live.

Judas Priest – Nostradamus
Release Date: June 17
June 17th– the best day of the year in 2008! Priest AND Crue! The newly released song gives me hope.

Release Date: September
Okay, so St. Anger was a huge dud, but the band seems to realize and admit that now. They say they’re going old-school (somewhere between ...And Justice For All and the Black Album), but don’t all the veteran bands say that to keep the old-school fans coming back? Hopefully, they can pull it off. I’ll be buying it to find out.

Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider
Release Date: July?
Alice really hasn’t disappointed over the years. He had a few missteps in the 80s, but everything from Trashed onward has been either solid or great. I wonder if they garage sound he went back to on The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds will continue here. It was originally scheduled for May ’08, that date was pushed back a long time ago. His official website says it’ll be released sometime in the summer to coincide with the tour that starts in July.

Steelheart – Samurai
Release Date: 2008?
The Just A Taste EP was released in 2006 and featured three tracks from Samurai plus the original version of “We All Die Young” (before it was re-recorded for Rock Star). I can’t find any release date other anymore specific than 2008. I’ve heard the songs off the EP, and they’re great. Especially “LOL (Laughing Out Loud)” very heavy, very modern. Not what I was expecting from Steelheart, but that’s okay because it still rocks.

Release Date: Fall/Winter
Again, I can’t anything definite on this release other than “2008”, but I’m assuming it’ll be released in the fall. I’m really looking forward to this. Much like YEAH! inspired Def Leppard to start rocking again, I’m hoping Honkin’ On Bobo did the same for Aerosmith. Please no more trash like Just Push Play! “Devil’s Got A New Diguise” was classic Aerosmith, so hopefully we’ll get more of the same. Although, I’m reading some rumors that the album will be a mix of new material, plus re-recordings of older stuff that didn’t make any previous albums. That’s kinda lame if it’s true, why do I want to listen to stuff that wasn’t good enough the first time around?

Heaven and Hell
Release Date: 2008
I’m really looking forward to this one. The new songs they recorded for the Black Sabbath: The Dio Years compilation were really good and I’m always game for Black Sabbath without Ozzy. No definite date set, I’m not even sure if they’re recording anything right now, but Dio says 2008 and that’s good enough for me.

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