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Articles Home » Best Of » Best of 2009 - 2009 englandashes
Best of 2009 - 2009 englandashes

ARTICLE: Best of 2009: Englandashes (Chris)
YEAR: 2009


In a year that I resurrected my London record buying trips, only to find many of my old haunts closed down, out of business and turned into discount shops. With records shops closing quicker than Manchester City change managers you would have thought record collecting is on the decline. But I am still excited by the recommendations being dug up by my fellow contributors and forum posters to keep my wants lists ever increasing. This year I have discovered the delights of Pilot, Stackridge, The Who, Alan Parsons and most recently Gravy Train and even the Bee Gees. Back to the modern day, please find below in order of preference, my albums of the year.

The Albums
01 - SHINEDOWN - The Sound Of Madness
Yes, technically released in 2008, but here in old Blighty were always abit behind the times so it's 2009 for me. A fresh look on metal, chock full of potential hits and as they have already shown, some realised hits. No flash in the pan as this was already their third release.

02 - SONATA ARCTICA - The Days Of Grays
Yes, a high position, well, did you expect anything less from me. It's abit like a children's Football Coach picking his own son first to be in the team. Pleasingly this time more emphasis on orchestration and probably more inviting to the masses than the dark Unia (which I still prefer, but only just). These Finns are still very much on top of their game.

Devin is nothing but unpredictable, but this is one of his major qualities. Best deadline signing of the year is adding ex Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen to the ranks. A totally inspired performance by her, which has got me, scurrying to buy her previous recordings. Addicted being part 2 of a massive undertaking of 4 albums to be release in relatively quick succession will leave many of his peers completely panic stricken to try to produce just a quarter of this output in the same time and to the quality standard set by Devin.

04 - SHINING - VI Klagopsalmer
This being the follow up to the absolutely immense V Halmstad, released in 2007 (appearing soon in a Best of the Decade) is one scary opus, but beautifully textured and crafted. Blast beats scattered over the recording, wonderful riffs together with quiet moments that make Shining more than just a Black Metal behemoth and do the unexpected by starting to appeal to a wider audience.

05 - PRAYING MANTIS - Sanctuary
These British boys provide yet another melodic helter skelter. Less fashionable and probably less appealing than the likes of W.E.T and Sunstorm, but this team provide a more cohesive group performance that edges for me above any one off (granted two with Sunstorm) collaboration. My favourite AOR album of the year.

06 - STURM UND DRANG - Rock N Roll Children
Those young scallywags from Finland put many rock elders to shame with their fresh, entertaining, exciting melodic rock anthems. Under the close tutorage of aor grandee Patrick Linman they have gone from strength to strength. The future of melodic rock is in safe hands.

07 - HEAVENLY - Carpe Diem
Even though this was released only 10 days before the end of 2009 this still managed to make such a great impression on me to make it into my final cut. Highly adventurous, brave and even at times foolhardy. Sprinkled with Queen Influences but never forgetting their power metal roots. If you thought Valensia and Robbie Valentine were overblown, then listen to 'A Better Me' and 'Farewell' (review due early 2010).

08 - IQ - Frequency
British prog veterans return with an excellent collection of thoroughbred songs. Listenable, intriguing and perfectly constructed. Containing suitable relaxing pleasantries for those who once craved for the days that Marillion, Pallas. Twelfth Night ruled the airwaves.

09 - THE DEVIL'S BLOOD - The Time Of No Time Evermore
Sound of the 70's. If this could sound anymore authentic, it would have only been available on 180 gram vinyl. Covering so many genres of which some I couldn't even explain (i.e. psych) you are treated with quality songs and amazing female vocals. At no point do they resort to a wall of feedback and fuzzy guitars to get the power across either. Cramped packed of melodies and with the group adopting the same name as one of Black Metal heavyweights Watain tunes (but you already deduced that, no?) they had to be special.

10 - HOT LEG - Red Light Fever
'Fun fun fun, until the daddy takes the T-Bird away', yes this album is 100% fun. Steel Panther with a degree of decorum, songs streaming from every pore, but seemingly still failing to lure the public into actually buying this album. Tunes magnificently detailed in their attractiveness.

Honourable Mentions : Optimystical, Last Autumns Dream, Steevi Jaimz, Status Minor, Mob Rules, Mama Kin and Charlie (I wonder what odds I would've got for this to be missing from everybody's Top 10 when it was first muted for release?)

In Summary
Apologies for the lack of bonafide AOR releases in my top 10. Well could this be due to Frontiers marketing policy of issuing potentially great albums from the likes of Blanc Faces, Mastedon, Over The Rise, Winger, Spin Gallery, Los Angeles and W.E.T all in a matter of weeks at the end of the year? Unbelievable that I have the audacity to criticise a surplus of AOR albums, shame on me. At least I have 2010 to really get to the bottom of these and enjoy them more fully, together with the likes of Grand Design and AOR.

Sad to see the mothballing of AOR FM, maybe to help labels to continue producing quality obscure releases AOR/Melodic fans could form co-operatives to keep them going, at least we would all have a stack in a record company, without paying a fortune to buy one (who mentioned Renaissance Records?). Congratulations to Avenue of Allies, Eonian, AOR Heaven, Escape, Retrospect, Rock Candy and of course the mighty Frontiers for keeping the blood pumping.

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