Another year has passed with new music and what a year it has been. With over 100 releases for me to go through to try and break it down to my personal top 10 favorite, wasn’t easy! As a fan of different styles of music, it was hard to pick what I feel as my Top 10. One day it might be some heavier music where other days more melodic.
So many other great releases came close but here are a few well worth mentioning. Tango Down (best release to date) Almanac (David Readman no more to say), Phantom V (If you love old Bonfire then this is it), Magnum (best release in years), Iron Savior, Hardline, The Radio Sun, Rage Of Angels, Eden’s Curse, Mob Rules, First Signal (Harry Hess – one of my all time favourite singers).
In the end, this is what I came up with as My Top 10 Albums of 2016.
One of my most anticipated releases for 2016 from my favorite symphonic metal band. I admit I was very disappointed about the lead vocalist change. Ailyn was the vocalist and heart of the band for the last four albums only to be replaced for the new release by Emmanuelle Zoldan. It was time to move on from the politics of band changes and accept or disagree with the change. In the end, Dim Days Of Dolor is a great album and follows suit for what Sirenia is known for. I was expecting this to be a lot higher in my Top 10 but it took a bit for me to really love it. Not as high ranked as last years’ release but I was happy to see Sirenia make my Top 10 two years in a row.
The Gods of Denmark are back and even though the new release barely made it in after a handful of listens, I knew it had to be up top. When your expectation is so high, it makes anything hard to live up to. The album starts off with the powerful “When God Took A Day Off” and continues throughout with a few slower tracks but a good amount of classic rocking tunes.
8 – Epica – The Holographic Principle
As one of the biggest symphonic metal bands, Epica is back in 2016 with their new CD The Holographic Principle. A remarkable story as Epica goes beyond the universe to release their best material to date. With an intense global tour, I had the chance to see them in Toronto. They were amazing at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto which was packed and they left us breathless.
This album came out early 2016 and I have played it many times. It may not be ranked as high as their last release in 2014 as #3 but I knew Rulebreaker would be in my Top 10 for 2016. I was able to catch them on their last 2 tours coming through Toronto. They are one of the best heavy metal bands around the world. Primal Fear hailing from Germany, just does not get the recognition they deserve. If you are a fan of bands like Judas Priest, then you do not want to overlook Primal Fear. Rulebreaker is hard hitting, head banging, heavy metal heaven! Lead singer Ralf Scheepers‘ vocal range is spectacular even when slowing the mood down. There is so much talent with Magnus Karlsson, Alex Beyrodt, and Tom Naumann on Guitars, Mat Sinner on bass and Francesco Jovino on drums.
Read my Album Review: Primal Fear – Rulebreaker
With their release in 2014, The Human Contradiction, I became a fan after hearing Stardust. What an amazing song along with the back catalog of 10 years. Earlier this year they released the EP Luna Prelude with 2 new songs. This EP was a sign of what is to come. August 2016 they didn’t let us down with the release of Moonbathers.
With the powerful first song featuring Alissa White-Gluz to the slow beautiful ending of “The Monarch”, Moonbathers has a variety of musicality throughout this album that has me listening to it over and over. Brian May gives a thumbs up on their version of “Scandal” originally done by Queen. With a co-headlining tour next year in North America I can’t wait to see a full set of Delain live.
Read my Album Review of Moonbathers.
It was 2001 when their Power Ride album came out that I first heard of Swiss rockers Shakra. Not only are they back with a new album for 2016 but Mark Fox, after taking a break, is back on vocals. Likely my 3rd most anticipated album of the year, I was not disappointed. Album after album Shakra brings everything to the plate with great riffs and hard hitting melodic rock. I may have thought this would be higher in my Top 10 but the competition was not easy. In March a dream will come true as I will finally get my chance to see Shakra. They will open for Krokus & Gotthard for the Rock Monsters Of Switzerland shows.
Check out my Album Review of High Noon.
Last year I first heard of Crystal Ball and did the review for their release Liferider. I was blown away with that album and it ended up being 5th in my Top 10. Deja-Voodoo continues to see Crystal Ball grow into one of my favorite hard hitting melodic rock bands. From Switzerland, Crystal Ball is as much as a powerhouse as fellow Swiss bands Gotthard, Krokus, and Shakra. I didn’t think they could top Liferider, but with Deja-Voodoo, I believe they did.
What do you get when you put Denmark and Sweden together?
Nordic Union. featuring Danish singer Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids and Swedish guitarist Erik Martensson singer for Eclipse. On drums is Magnus Ulfstedt also from Eclipse. As a fan of Pretty Maids since the early 90’s, Atkins distinctive vocals might be the best I have ever heard on this new release. Adding a touch of Eclipse makes this an original sound with a cross between the two bands.
My Review of Nordic Union. and check out my video interview with Erik Martensson below
Having the chance to see Avantasia this year in Toronto and at Sweden Rock Festival this will be my best year to date for my concert life. I first heard Avantasia back in 2013 and this is the band that really opened my eyes to what Europe has to offer us in music. Quickly picking up all their CDs and concert Blu-rays/DVD’s I had the chance to study the band and find out where all the band members come from. Through Avantasia, I found Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske and the creator of Avantasia, Tobias Sammet from Edguy. As my music collection grew quickly it was all about Avantasia. This year Ghostlights, the new release of Avantasia came out January 2016. With amazing talent on this album such as Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Ronnie Atkins and many more this easily became one of my most played CDs of 2016. At the Toronto concert I was disappointed not being able to see the legend Bob Catley of Magnum but at Sweden Rock Festival my wish came true. Fighting to see through the tall Norwegian fans and with tears of joy, there was Catley at last.
A truly remarkable album from a project that was never going to take it on the road has become a remarkable sensation worldwide.
If anyone knows my musical taste, you won’t be surprised with my #1 pick of 2016. 2013 was a good year for me as I found so many European bands that I have never heard of. Hailing from Sweden I found out this band was coming to Toronto opening for Iced Earth. I clicked on the link for the video and WOW! I became an instant fan and just like my #2 pick I bought everything Sabaton had released. Seeing them 3 times in Toronto opening for others, this year I was able to see them headline Sweden Rock Festival and play their full set live and not on Blu-ray. The greatest thing about this festival is I was one of 4 people who got the chance to listen to the new album in its entirety as part of the press before anyone else. Sitting on the Marshall bus with headphones and Ipad, we got our first experience of The Last Stand. My feeling was at first, amazing but sad I couldn’t listen to it again till I got my copy 2 months later. Their original concept of The Last Stand might be their best writing to date, but for me, new or old Sabaton music is all perfect.
Through Decibel Geek we were able to interview Par Sundstrom and Chris Rorland of Sabaton at Sweden Rock Festival.
For 2017 there will be some great new releases. A few of these exciting releases would be Gotthard, Xandria, Battle Beast, Place Vendome, The Murder Of My Sweet, Stephen Pearcy and Grave Digger to name a few.
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin