5 - Eremita by Ihsahn
This is a superb progressive metal album with black metal influences. The songs here range from beautiful to brutal, and the riffs from simple to wonderfully complex, but it all flows together very nicely. The musicianship across the album is brilliant with lots of absolutely fantastic guitar playing and great drumming. It's a very heavy album at times, but there is always subtle melody to the heaviness and the songs will often go in unexpected directions. It also has some guest vocals by Devin Townsend on one of the songs, which is always good.
4 - Phantom Antichrist by Kreator
I'm not too big on thrash metal, but this album really clicked with me like few other thrash albums have.
It's an anthemic and infectious album, full of stellar guitar playing with catchy riffs, blazing solos and melodic bridges. It often sounds very grandiose and melodic, while retaining the heaviness of thrash metal.
This is a fantastic album that is everything good thrash is, and then more. If not for Anthrax's Worship Music, I'd likely call this the finest thrash metal album of the century so far.
3 - Epicloud and Epiclouder by Devin Townsend Project
I wasn't sure whether to treat this as two albums, but decided to treat it as one, as Epiclouder is a set of demos that comes together with the deluxe edition of Epicloud, although it could have easily been released as an album in its own right.
Epicloud is a much more simple and accessible Devin Townsend album than usual, especially when compared to 2011's Deconstruction, with Devin even calling it pop-metal. But then again, there is rarely anything 'usual' about Devin's music. He always creates very unique albums with none being the same as another, and this is no exception.
This is an album about love, and apart from being, as the title would suggest, epic and loud, it is also very positive and beautiful. Anneke van Giersbergen makes a return to provide her beautiful female vocals which go very well with Devin's clean vocals and contrast just as well with his harsher vocals, although the latter don't have much presence here.
The musicianship is brilliant as expected, and although the album is mostly simple and catchy, it does become complex at times. It also has its heavy moments on songs like More! and Kingdom, which are reminiscent of some of his earlier work.
As I said, this is a very beautiful and uplifting album, and despite being much less complex than one would expect from Devin Townsend, it's still a gripping and original record, breaking quite a few metal cliches by being a positive album about love.
Also, I have to say that seeing him perform Grace was one of my greatest live music experiences.
Epiclouder retains the same vibe, but is a more complex and musically diverse piece. I do feel it's a shame that it was only released as a bonus disc, as it deserves to be an album on its own, at times being even better than Epicloud.
2 - Awoken Broken by Primal Rock Rebellion
I've done a review of this album on my blog earlier, so if you care you can read that.
A collaboration between Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and SikTh's Mikee Goodman, this is a very unique record, the sound of which is hard to describe. It's eccentric and often quite heavy, but not overwhelmingly so. Adrian Smith's guitar work is as excellent as ever, as are Mikee Goodman's vocals. As he did with SikTh, Goodman will use four or five different vocal styles or techniques in a song, which creates a very unique sound which is only further aided by the intriguing lyrics and Adrian Smith's fantastic riffs and solos.
1 - Tragic Idol by Paradise Lost
For the third time in a row, Paradise Lost have released an album that has completely blown me away.
This record is the fathers and masters of gothic metal doing what they do best. A strong, gripping and melancholic atmosphere accompanied by absolutely brilliant guitar and powerful vocals. It's heavy, but it's melodic and it has a haunting beauty about it that only Paradise Lost can create.
I can not put into words how much I like this album. Paradise Lost are a band that constantly evolve and are not afraid to experiment, and almost 25 years of doing so have led to this masterpiece of melancholic beauty. I don't know where they can go from here, but then again, that's what I thought the last two times.