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The Top 10 From Down Under

This year was a feast for metal fans; we engorged ourselves on some brilliant releases from newcomers and old favorites alike. 2005 for me personally was an epiphanous and joyous time in my musical sphere of life, with my home country of Australia recieving some excellent bands from abroad to play in our fair land - our metal scene had exploded with a renewed and increasing interest, recognized by the major labels internationally. In Melbourne (where I hail from), the metal scene was revitalized, with three weekly metal clubs opening, including a live club. A bi-monthly rock and metal club run by the legendary and nationally renowned metal specialist shop Metal Mayhem also opened (albeit under a highly unimaginitive name...). My Top 10 was mostly shaped by time-honored favorites that had returned with such a thunderous force, their releases presence was heightened to palpable levels - for instance, the return of Helloween to reclaim the crown of power metal was a wonderful event for me personally. So what of a definitive Top 10 of 2005 from an Aussie perspective, you say? Look no further, as I divulge the Top 10 from Down Under!

1. Dark Tranquillity - Character
This album was going to be in my Top 10 no matter what. DT are my all time favorite band, and there's absolutely nothing that could fault this release. The grinding new-romanticism of 80's past fuses with the death metal of the modern age on every superbly crafted track. Stannes' charismatic, emotionally-charged vocals bleed through effortlessly as the criminally brilliant Henriksson/Sundin attack enthralls with their cunning displays of mastery. I still haven't stopped spinning it obsessively since I purchased it almost a year to go. Simply Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

2. Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor

The Dane/Loomis double creative force reaches it's zenith on this album; each track pounding on the psyche of all who listen to it. Dark power metal is no longer confined to bassy tones and not much else; they're accompanied by darkly tinged poeticism, soaring progressive licks and riffs forged in the fires of hell itself. Unequivocally and thoroughly fantasic.

3. Helloween - The Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy

"They will crown the king for 1000 Years...so they sing." And Helloween snatch the crown yet again from the power metal pretenders to the throne. Excellently written in the spirit of the original Keepers albums, replete with hints of progressive, genre defying riffing and melodic lines. This is the release that has and will redefine power metal as we know it today.

4. Madwork - Overflow
The superb debut from post-prog Italian outfit Madwork. Great melodies, brilliant musicianship and memorable songwriting place them among the echelons of the greats such as Pain of Salvation and Evergrey. Jago, the baritone extraordinare should be considered for a seperate award for his vocals; he could sing all over the register without fault.

5. Arcturus - Sideshow Symphonies
Post-black metal at its finest. Upping the ante of the avant-garde, Vortex belts out his twisted vocal lines amid a swathe of torrid textures and macabre melodies. Move over Ulver, your messiah as come. Better than Garm! (Did I just say that?) While others (Wayf!) will disagree, this release certainly exceeeded my expectations.

6. Sentenced - The Funeral Album

The perfect swansong to the sultans of suicide. Gothic-style metal doesn't get much better; taking cues from Frozen, Crimson and The Cold White Light, fans will continue to mourn their passing with reverence every time they spin this disc. It even hearkened back to their pre-Amok days. Their affinity to Black Sabbath was heightened with some excellently concieved textures and rhythms to be found.

7. Demons and Wizards - Touched by the Crimson King
Hansi Kursch and Jon Schaffer in one room. Together. Writing songs. What more could you ask for? Richie Blackmore inspired riffs, Blues style songs and the distilled essence of 70's and 80's arse kick applied liberally within. I'm a sucker for power metal, and this release certainly took me right in.

8. Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine
Who said Michael Amott was old? Amott proves that his Carcass days weren't his golden years now fading into twilight - their most sustained and vivid release since Wages of Sin.

9. Dream Theater - Octavarium

Ballad Kings Dream Theater keep themselves at the forefront of Prog Metal in the form of Octavarium. The 28 minute musical title "odyssey" is to be heard to be believed - a track to rival their latest opus, The Dance of Eternity . A modern prog metal symphony on a disc - very very good stuff.

10. Children of Bodom - Are You Dead Yet?
The CoB thrash album - still melodic, still catchy and still kicks arse. The influence of Stone legend Roope Latvala shines through on many of the tracks, including some 80's rock and Punk Rock as well. Many will disagree, but this disc is still solid as far as i'm concerned.

Honorable Mentions:

Chain Collector - The Masquerade - the honorary "11th" disc, due to it's late addition to the list.
Kamelot - The Black Halo
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
Shadow Gallery - Room V
Hypocrisy - Virus
Kreator - Enemy of God
Mirador - The Azrael Tales
Darkane - Layers of Lies

Gigs and Shows

Australia had it's share of some top-shelf acts visit this year - a year that many say will struggle to be rivalled.

1. Megadeth (supported by Dungeon) - Their final ever appearance went out with a bang - 2 hours of pure, unadulterated metal from the master of thrash, Mr. Dave Mustaine.
2. Arch Enemy (supported by 5 Star Prison Cell and Synthetic Breed) - an outing that went mostly unnoticed by Melbourne metalheads. They missed out on a show full of energy, guitar wizardry and killer riffs. A spectacle to be long remembered.
3. Nightwish (supported by Vanishing Point) - An intimate setting (although oversold) brought a special radiance to the (formerly) female fronted quintet, playing songs from new and old, including solos from Tarja and a special rendition of High Hopes.

Discuss this in the forum!

January 1, 2006
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