Albums I Missed in 2007

There are so many albums released every year that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Usually I spend the first two months of the new year acquiring all the albums I didn’t buy the previous year before all the new releases start to flood the market. 2007 was no exception, I missed more than a few notable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums, but I made up for it in 2008. The following is a list of albums I missed in 2007 and picked up at some point in 2008. Some of these records might have cracked my Top 15 Albums of 2007 or at least extended it to a Top 20 or 25.

after-forever-2007After Forever – s/t (2007): I picked up this album January 2nd and it has remained in my playlist pile the entire year. I have always been a fan of female-fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal bands and bands like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania have made me take a good look around the scene for bands I overlooked. What I like about After Forever is their use of beautiful operatic female vocals courtesy of Floor Jansen mixed with Death Metal growls while keeping everything heavy. This album would have easily made my Top Albums list if I had bought it last year.

anvil-this-is-thirteen-2007Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): I’m an old school Metal guy and it doesn’t get more old school than Anvil! Independently released and limited to 1000 copies through their website, Anvil created an album that is straight forward Heavy Metal. The band is like AC/DC in that they don’t stray too far from their original sound. Heavy riffs, solid drumming and gritty vocals…..that’s all that’s needed. Like I said in the review, THIS IS THIRTEEN is one of the most underrated albums of 2007!

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007): I stumbled on Armory when I was looking up local New England Metal bands on MySpace. I heard the songs on their page and I was hooked! The guys in the band were kind enough to submit their album for review and I got one of the best Metal albums of 2007! I can even tell you that it would easily have made the best of list from last year at #7. Traditional/Power Metal blended with Progressive and Thrash Metal…..Armory is a band that has shot to the top of my list for a band to watch.

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II (2007)Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free II (2007): LAND OF THE FREE II was released in 2007 in Europe and Japan, we had to wait until January in the U.S. I picked up the European version in January from a CD sale at the local record store the same day the album was officially released here in the States. Is there really any difference? Nothing bothers me more than when a CD gets released eveywhere else and we have to wait a few weeks, or months, for a proper U.S. release. It’s either that or buy the import! It’s an excellent Power Metal record by one of the best in the genre but it seemed to get lost in my playlist with all the new albums coming out.

Helix - The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007)Helix – The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007): This album is a re-release of the GET UP! promotional disc with four more songs added in for good measure. Helix hasn’t changed their sound over the years, they still play the good time party Hard Rock that made them a success in the ’80s. Another album that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

King Diamond - Give Me Your Soul... Please (2007)King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul…Please (2007): Nothing can beat a new King Diamond album and I passed on this one too many times in 2007. Not sure why because it was on my list all year long and I just kept leaving it the racks. I bought this CD the same day I bought the Gamma Ray disc at a really good price and playing this regularly over the last year got me to fill some of the King Diamond/Mercyful Fate holes in my collection.

Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard artworkLana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007): I passed on this album in 2007 because I was disappointed with the last few Lana Lane albums. There are so many live records and covers collections you can take before you need real songs and it had been 5 years since 2002’s PROJECT SHANGRI-LA. The conceptual LADY MACBETH was in there somewhere but I couldn’t get into it at all. This album is exactly what I was hoping for from Lana Lane and it’s another release that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (2007)Nightwish – Dark Passion Play (2007): I have never been a big Nightwish fan because of the Opera style vocals of former vocalist Tarja Turunen but I had a couple of their CDs. Nightwish split with Tarja and the news wasn’t taken lightly by many of the band’s fans. When the band announced that former Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzen would replace Tarja, I knew that it was a great move. I liked Alyson Avenue a lot and Olzen’s style is more to my liking. This is another one of those albums that had an international release in 2007 but a U.S. release in 2008. I ended up grabbing the last sale copy of the collector’s edition that included an expanded booklet and a 2nd CD of orchestral versions of the album.

U.D.O. - Mastercutor (2007)U.D.O. – Mastercutor (2007): I missed the release date on MASTERCUTOR and I was trying to hold out until I could find the European limited edition with the bonus tracks. Unfortunately, that search continues but I picked up a U.S. copy used for $7 and it was one of the best purchases all year. I’ve been an Accept/U.D.O. fan all along and I usually pick up anything these bands put out but I missed out on one of the best releases of the 2007.

Wasp - Dominator (2007)W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007): I passed on DOMINATOR for the same reasons I passed on Lana Lane’s RED PLANET BOULEVARD, I wasn’t thrilled with W.A.S.P.’s last few albums and I wasn’t going to waste my time with an album that wasn’t good enough to get U.S. distribution. It just had to be bad. W.A.S.P. had released two stinkers with the NEON GOD records and I just figured that this one would follow suit. This album blew me away and ended up becoming one of my 2007 favorites, just like the U.D.O. album.

Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)

Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007, independent release)

  1. The Tempest
  2. Faith In Steel
  3. Riding The Cosmic Winds
  4. Forever Triumphant
  5. Heart Of Dreams
  6. Warrior Forlorn
  7. Forged In Dragon Flames
  8. The Eyes Of Time
  9. Mystic Star
  10. The Dawn Of Enlightenment
  11. Flight Of Icarus* (bonus track)
  12. Dr. Wily* (bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Adam Kurland – Vocals
Joe Kurland – Rhythm/Lead/Acoustic Guitars, Session Drums
Chad Fisher – Rhythm/Lead/Acoustic Guitars
Thomas Preziosi – Bass
Peter Rutcho – Keyboards
Tom Vieira – Live Drums

Produced by: Armory

Total Time – 1:09:48

Armory official website
Armory MySpace page

Armory is a Heavy Metal band from Townshend, Massachusetts… backyard! Living in Rhode Island, I have a very sparse scene, you have to go seek it out. I look all over New England for new Hard Rock/Heavy Metal bands but I totally missed Armory.  The band was formed in 2001 by Chad Fisher and Joe Kurland and, by 2004, they had recorded their first album, THE DAWN OF ENLIGHTENMENT. The 2004 version got some attention but the band decided that they would be better served if they went back to the studio and re-recorded the album and produced a more professional looking package. The result is the 2007 version of THE DAWN OF ENLIGHTENMENT and the 2004 is now considered a demo.

So what does the band sound like? Armory is a blend of Traditional Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Progressive, and Thrash. There are times I compare them to Blind Guardian, Primal Fear or Hammerfall, sometimes Dragonforce, Helloween, and Gamma Ray, there’s also some Manowar in there. There’s a superb twin axe attack with some really fiery guitar solos, pounding double bass drums, keyboards that enhances the Metal and isn’t overbearing, and great lead vocals. Now many people may roll their eyes and say that if you’ve heard one Power Metal band then you’ve heard them all but this isn’t the case with Armory. I’ve sat with this record for weeks comparing it to classic albums from my collection and, while there are influences from the bands above, there is a uniqueness, a freshness to the music.

‘The Tempest’ is an atmospheric instrumental intro that leads right into the blazing ‘Faith In Steel’, a song title worthy of the mighty Manowar and music lead by blazing guitars and that trademark double bass drum. Right away, I noticed that lead vocalist Adam Kurland has great pipes and doesn’t have to hit the highs all the time, there’s a control that Adam has that keeps him within the song rather than way above it… annoying aspect many more famous bands use. ‘Riding The Cosmic Winds’ is a classic waiting to be discovered by the Metal masses and is probably the best example of what Armory is all about. It’s epic, has twin leads and double bass but the vocals are really great. The band sounds like Power Metal veterans three songs in.

The slower ‘Forever Triumphant’ starts out with a clean soft guitar and keyboard background. The Manowar influence comes out with the chorus, the background vocals make it big and bombastic and it sounds almost exact. What I like is the guitar solo about two minutes in that seems a little out of place but keeps the song fresh. ‘Heart Of Dreams’ has a more melodic approach that really sets it apart but it’s all Metal. I’d say this would be a single because the chorus has a catchy hook, one of my favorite tunes on the album. The dueling guitars on ‘Warrior Forlorn’ do not disappoint and I find that Adam Kurland keeps getting better with every song and he has to be considered one of the best up and coming U.S. singers in the genre.

‘Forged In Dragon Flames’ is an instrumental track that lets the band loose and show off what they can do. Want to hear amazing musicianship from a new band? Listen to this. ‘The Eyes Of Time’ has some amazing drumming that just duels the guitar. The bass is a little higher in the mix, or maybe it’s my system, but I like that bass. One of the highlights of the album is the bass playing and it can be hard to notice with everything going on. ‘Mystic Star’ is another melodic song with some really soaring guitarwork but the jewel of the album is the 13+ minute title track. Talk about epic! This song has so many layers to it, so much to listen to, that the listener can get a little overwhelmed. I’m glad they left it as the last proper album track because it feels like the other nine songs were building momentum to get to ‘The Dawn Of Enlightenment’. The song may be a little too long for some people but I really enjoyed it…..I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a Metal band with 20 years under their studded belts, that’s what makes this song and album so good.

Armory decided to add a couple of cool bonus covers in for good measure. As you all know, I hate covers but ‘Flight Of Icarus’ is probably my favorite Iron Maiden song and Armory does one of the best dead on covers I’ve ever heard. It’s extremely close to the original. Where these guys came up with the ‘Dr. Wily’ theme from Nintendo’s Mega Man 2 video game is beyond me but it’s really amazing. I would never think to cover a video game theme! I went online to find the original because it’s been many moons since I last played Mega Man 2 but I got shutout and I couldn’t compare the two.

Bottom Line:
Hard to believe that Armory is basically a rookie band with only one proper album because they are leaps and bounds better than some of the Metal bands signed to labels right now. Usually you find this quality Power Metal coming from Europe but it’s nice to see a band from the U.S. staking their claim and releasing a powerful record. I’m looking forward to another Armory album in the future because these guys are the real deal. People need to check this album out, I haven’t stop playing it since it came in the mail. Favorite songs: ‘Faith in Steel’, ‘Riding The Cosmic Winds’, ‘Heart Of Dreams’, ‘Mystic Star’, ‘The Dawn Of Enlightenment’, and ‘Flight Of Icarus’