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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 — http://allmetalresource.com/

Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/

The Crash Pad of Ray Van Horn, Jr. – http://www.rayvanhornjr2.blogspot.com/

Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/

Hard Rock Hideout — http://hardrockhideout.com/

Hard Rock Nights — http://hardrocknights.com

Heavy Metal Addiction — http://heavymetaladdiction.com/

Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/

Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/

Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/

The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/

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Journey – Eclipse

Journey – Eclipse (2011, Nomota LLC)

1. “City of Hope” … 6:02
2. “Edge of the Moment” … 5:27
3. “Chain of Love” … 6:10
4. “Tantra” … 6:27
5. “Anything Is Possible” … 5:21
6. “Resonate” … 5:11
7. “She’s A Mystery” … 6:41
8. “Human Feel” … 6:44
9. “Ritual” … 4:57
10. “To Whom It May Concern” … 5:15
11. “Someone” … 4:35
12. “Venus” … 3:34

Band:
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Backing Vocals
Deen Castronovo – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain –Keyboards, Guitar, Backing Vocals

Producer: Kevin Shirley with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain

(And now for a really long review…)

After the incredible success of Revelation as a Wal-Mart exclusive in the United States, it was a no-brainer for Journey to ink a new deal with the world’s largest retailer for Eclipse (in other markets the album was released on the Frontiers Records label), their 15th studio album. Despite not having two extra discs to help boost sales like Revelation did, Eclipse still debuted at a very respectable #13 on the Billboard charts with 21,000 copies sold.

With that said, THIS is a Journey I could really grow to love! Obviously the band has delivered many classic radio staples over the years and the “hits” I have never had a problem with but for the longest time I could not fall in love with any of the band’s albums no matter who the singer was (and let’s be honest, no matter your preference, the vocalists have always delivered even when songwriting maybe did not). Sure, Journey’s albums have been “good” or even “very good” to my ears but there’s always been a certain wimp factor to AOR/melodic rock. A band like Journey has always been especially disappointing to me because Neal Schon has always seemed so content to rein in his guitar playing so that Jonathon Cain can deliver another keyboard-drenched ballad. Schon could’ve been a true guitar hero.

Well, I don’t know how it happened. I guess after the success of Revelation, the band finally decided to take somewhat of a chance because I’m happy to say the guitars are all over this album and Schon is standing center stage on this release. The keyboards have taken a backseat (as much of a backseat that they’re ever going to take in this band). Neal is dropping solos and inspired riffs all throughout the album but don’t get it twisted — this is not a “guitar” album as I have read other reviews state. Yes, Journey is rocking harder than they have in YEARS but it’s still Journey and you’re still gonna get some sticky sweet ‘n’ pleasant AOR sap in your ears after listening to this one.

It’s really the first half of the album that is most impressive. “City of Hope” is a good selection to open the album. It is a larger than life uplifting melodic rock song. “Edge of the Moment” is all Schon and is one of the album’s best songs. “Chain of Love” starts off with the keyboards but then kicks into a nice heavy guitar riff that reminds me of Led Zeppelin. “Tantra” is the album’s only true ballad and quite frankly, it’s a powerful and majestic one at that, almost sounds like something I’d expect to hear from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “Anything Is Possible” is next and it’s acceptable but nothing essential, just the standard positive AOR message.

Halfway through the album is Eclipse‘s crown jewel: “Resonate”. Just a fantastic piece of work, very catchy, the chorus will stay in your head for days and it’s on par with the band’s classic material. I had see a live performance of this song on YouTube month’s before the album’s release. I loved the song then and I still love it now. Next up is “She’s A Mystery” which is a bit laid back sounding for Journey I think and does’t really go anywhere until closer to the end where it turns into a hard rocking number with Schon going mad on guitar. Too bad the first five minutes or so of the song weren’t like this.

Oh well, we’re saved by “Human Feel” which has a really cool tribal drum beat to it and more good riffs. My second favorite song off the album. Just a really fun song, I could see this going over really well live. “Ritual” is a high energy number but yet still a bit bland. Along with “To Whom It May Concern” you can pretty much count it as filler. “Someone” is a step in the right direction, pure upbeat AOR but still good. The album closes on a high note with the instrumental “Venus”. Yet another showcase for Neal Schon.

After all this time of talking about Schon firing up the guitars for this album, I should also point out that on his second Journey album, Arnel is starting to come into his own. On Revelation, he seemed like he was trying to sound like Steve Perry. He wasn’t doing a bad job of it but it’s nice to hear him now using his “real” singing voice in the band.

This is a must buy for AOR fans and anyone with even the slightest interest in melodic rock should definitely give this album a listen. The old masters are back and sounding as vital as ever and re-energized. Hopefully Journey will continue down this more hard rockin’ road… or at the very least I hope Neal gets inspired to give us a blistering solo album some day.

I was expecting a few good tracks and for this album to be a decent casual listen but it’s shaping up to be one of 2011’s best releases.

Highlights: “City of Hope”, “Edge of the Moment”, “Chain of Love”, “Tantra”, “Resonate”, “Human Feel”, “Venus”

http://www.journeymusic.com
http://www.facebook.com/journey

The Top Ten Albums of 2008 (#6-10)

2008 has been a phenomenal year in the rock & metal world. Legends returned with a vengeance and were met with  praise and success (AC/DC, Metallica, Motley Crue) and other legends returned to be met with confusion and/or slower than expected sales (Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses). There were a few surprises, and a few disappointment as well. Today, we take a look at #6-10, tomorrow #1-5.

6. Motley Crue – Saints of Los Angeles

The Crue really upped their game with this release. After hearing the new songs from Red, White and Crue, I was excited to hear a full new albums from these guys and they delivered. The title track is a killer Crue song and stands with all of the classics in their catalog. It also debuted with respectable sales and was supported by the fun and successful Crue Fest tour.

7. SteelHeart – Good 2B Alive

Out of nowhere, SteelHeart delivers in 2008! I was blown away by how good this album was. SteelHeart’s never been a bad band, so I didn’t expect anything horrible, but who knew modern hard rock and the 80s melodic hard rock sound could be fused together so perfectly? Milijenko Matijevic’s voice is STILL one of the most powerful in rock. Shame not many people seemed to notice this album when it came out. Many tracks were worthy of radio play.

8. Judas Priest – Nostradamus

I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed by this album (though not as much as others) when it first came out. Concept albums don’t do much for me in general, but after giving the album a few closer listens, it’s really grown on me. It’s still bloated, overproduced and has way too much filler in the form of instrumentals, but underneath all of that, between those two discs, is a very good Priest album.

9. Buckcherry – Black Butterfly

Another album that took me by surprise. I’ve always been a fan of the idea and image of Buckcherry more than the music itself, but Black Butterfly has definitely proven the band’s worthiness to me. From top the bottom, the album is enjoyable and the band has begun to broaden their tastes a bit. This album seems to have failed to replicate the success of their last album, 15, which is a shame because it’s superior in nearly every way.

10. Various Artists – We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year

Seriously. Who woulda thunk an indie release full of heavy metal takes on Christmas songs would be good, let alone great? I absolutely love this album and I know I’ll be playing it for years to come. I almost feel a bit guilty for ranking it above some of the honorable mentions, but when I’m having this much fun listening to an album, I can’t worry about that!

Honorable Mentions. A couple of albums that were very good, but as whole, didn’t receive as many listens and weren’t as consistent. Not bad albums by any means, all are worth picking up, but they just lacked that extra something to warrant a Top 10 spot.

Tesla – Forever More

A solid effort, but just didn’t come close to Into the Now for me.

Journey – Revelation

This was actually another nice surprise, but as good as it was, I’m a hard rock guy at heart, not an AOR guy.

Avantasia – The Scarecrow

Avantasia started off 2008 in a great way, and it almost made the list, but I my interests wanes listening to nothing but an album full of power metal. That’s why Edguy made the list and this album didn’t.

Extreme – Saudades de Rock

Really strong record that featured one of my favorite songs of the year (“King of the Ladies”). A bit too slow at times to get into the Top 10 though.

Stop by tomorrow as I present numbers 1-5 of 2008! And be sure to check out these fine sites for even more best of ’08 lists:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hard Rock Hideout
Hair Metal Mansion
Heavy Metal Addiction
Heavy Metal Time Machine
Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense
Rock Of Ages

JOURNEY – Revelation

Journey – Revelation (2008, Nomota LLC)

Track Listing:

DISC 1

1.  “Never Walk Away” … 4:19
2.  “Like a Sunshower” … 4:29
3.  “Change for the Better” … 5:52
4.  “Wildest Dream” … 5:02
5.  “Faith in the Heartland” … 6:18
6.  “After All These Years” … 4:10
7.  “Where Did I Lose Your Love” … 5:02
8.  “What I Needed” … 5:28
9.  “What It Takes to Win” … 5:23
10.  “Turn Down the World Tonight” … 4:56
11.  “The Journey (Revelation)” … 5:25

DISC 2

1.  “Only the Young” … 4:14
2.  “Don’t Stop Believin'” … 4:55
3.  “Wheel in the Sky” … 5:01
4.  “Faithfully” Cain 4:47
5.  “Any Way You Want It” … 3:25
6.  “Who’s Crying Now” … 5:16
7.  “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” … 5:27
8.  “Lights” … 3:16
9.  “Open Arms” … 3:22
10.  “Be Good to Yourself” … 4:29
11.  “Stone in Love” … 4:27

Live In Concert DVD:

1.  “Sky Light”
2.  “Any Way You Want It”
3.  “Wheel in the Sky”
4.  “Lights”
5.  “After All These Years”
6.  “Never Walk Away”
7.  “Open Arms (Prelude)”
8.  “Open Arms”
9.  “Mother Father”
10.  “Wildest Dream”
11.  “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”
12.  “Faithfully”
13.  “Don’t Stop Believin'”
14.  “Be Good to Yourself”

Band:
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain – Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Deen Castronovo – Drums, Vocals

Produced by: Kevin Shirley

I’ve never been a huge fan of Journey. They definitely have some great songs, but from the few albums I own, I couldn’t get into them. I last tried Journey with Arrival, Steve Augeri’s first album with the band. It was okay, but nothing special, so I didn’t bother with their next release. I think, in general, Augeri’s time with the band was considered fine, but to write home about.

Well, Augeri is gone, Jeff Scott Soto is gone (he never even got the chance to record with’em!) and here comes the man who I believe is the true successor to Steve Perry… Arnel Pineda!

The buzz surrounding this album was strong, as were the sales for it at Wal-Mart (debuted #5 on Billboard, 100,000+ sold in the first week), where it was an exclusive release in the U.S. So… I FINALLY broke down and gave this album a shot after debating for awhile about buying it.

The verdict is that this is a great album. As I said, I’m not a huge Journey fan, I don’t know how hardcore Journey fans would compare this to the Perry years, but Arnel’s sweeping vocals rival that of Steve’s and the music is just great all around. This is a re-energized sounding Journey and I don’t think any of these songs would sound out of place on a Journey album in the early 80s. Journey never really stopped sounding like Journey, but with Revelation, they actually do it while pulling out tons of quality songs.

“Never Walk Away” is a great tune and the album’s first single, it’s definitely Journey but the beginning reminds me of Van Halen as well. Definitely the rocker of the album. “Faith in the Heartland” is great track and was actually on Generations, the band’s (and Augeri’s) last album. I don’t know why it was re-recorded or how it compares to the original, but I love this song. “Where Did I Lose Your Love” is a classic Journey song that would (and should) feel right at home in the middle of the band’s live setlist. “What It Takes to Win” has a bit of a modern vibe to it, while still sounding very much like Journey. “The Journey (Revelation)” is a great closing instrumental showing off Neal Schon’s abilities.

And if there was any doubt about what Arnel could do, Disc 2 is re-recordings of some of the band’s biggest hits and Arnel absolutely nails every single one of’em. Not sure why they would do the re-recordings though. My guess is maybe this helps the band better financially when Hollywood & commercials want to license their songs (so they won’t have to give Perry a cut for singing on the songs). All the songs here were great in original form and are just as good here. Though it was unncessary, Disc 2 still makes for great extras.

FINALLY, also included is a DVD called Live In Concert. So you’ve got 22 songs (half classics & half brand new) plus a concert DVD and makes this an amazing release and one of my favorite albums of 2008.

Highlights: “Never Walk Away”, “Like a Sunshower”, “Faith in the Heartland”, “After All These Years”, “Where Did I Lose Your Love”, “What I Needed”, “What It Takes to Win”, “The Journey (Revelation)”

www.journeymusic.com
www.myspace.com/journey

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