#10. HALLAS – Conundrum: Based on the strength of just one full-length album and one EP, Swedish band Hällas gained much love and admiration from listeners worldwide for their instantly attractive style of “adventure rock” through the past few years. Their second full-length Conundrum came out this year and it takes the band to the next level, presenting a set of eight tunes that are right up the alley for anyone who loves classic hard rock, old-school prog rock and proto-metal. Conundrum is love on first listen.
#9. WAR CLOUD – Earhammer Sessions: In this day and age, it is extremely rare for a band to go into a studio and crank out a full album’s worth of material recorded in the style of a live album. Austin, Texas (formerly San Francisco CA) based War Cloud did exactly that, and the outcome is truly fantastic. This is a splendidly unique release which presents the band at its tightest, fiercest and most compelling. Eight rip-roaring tunes that channel Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Metallica and the like, Earhammer Sessions is ear-candy for any true fans of classic heavy metal and rock ‘n roll.
#8. KATATONIA – City Burials: Some bands are simply expected to release a good album every three or four years. Swedish group Katatonia is definitely one such band. Opinions on past vs present always exist and vary, but the quality of musicianship on Katatonia’s recent albums is unquestioned in an absolute sense. City Burials carries on this trend, decorated by Jonas Renske’s evergreen vocals and classy songwriting, brought to full justice by the production of Anders Nyström and Renske himself. City Burials lives up to the Kataonia sonic repertoire and does so with a very dynamic palette of songs.
#7. HORISONT – Sudden Death: Swedish band Horisont have excelled in their interpretation of ’70s classic hard rock throughout their 14-year existence. Their sixth album Sudden Death maintains their sonic identity but notably infuses more of the classic prog rock element, a la ELO, with great success. Horisont is the kind of band that can go in a number of directions in terms of musical styles and influences they draw from, which is what makes every album of theirs exciting and something to look forward to. Sudden Death might take some listeners by surprise, but it has the Horisont stamp all over it, and as such, is a worthwhile listen and then some.
#6. TRIVIUM – What The Dead Men Say: Some bands achieve widespread success and get automatically branded as “mainstream”, a wildly subjective term invariably meant as some kind of insult to undermine the actual musicianship that resulted in success and popularity. Trivium comes under this category, as a band that has not received its fair share of credit from the so-called purists over the years. Album after album, Trivium has showcased its prowess as a group and as individual musicians. From the songwriting to the performances to the production, the band’s ninth LP What The Dead Men Say is undeniably stellar in every aspect one can think of, extending Trivium’s reign as undisputed modern metal greats.
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