The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40)

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26 – #40):


Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle (2009): I have been waiting five years for a new TSO album and they announced the release of NIGHT CASTLE back in December 2008! Nothing like waiting a full year but the wait was worth it. A double album full of TSO expert Rock orchestra with enough guest vocalists (Jeff Scott Soto sings) to make it interesting. I prefer TSO’s holiday albums but NIGHT CASTLE fits in great.


Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I’ve always read a ton of great reviews and articles about Immortal but Black Metal has never really been my genre of choice. I picked up ALL SHALL FALL to try the band out and I ended up really getting into it! What impressed me most was that it wasn’t stereotypical Black Metal but there were melodic layers to the overall sound using orchestration and some great guitarwork. I’ve started to backtrack and explore the rest of the Immortal back catalog as a result.


Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): Old school Power Metal at it’s best, Grave Digger has been doing it longer than most and they always seem to put out a solid album. I got this early in the year and it turned out to be a standout album for most of the year…..being a Grave Digger fan for a long time, I enjoyed it. Unfortunately there were better Power Metal albums that came out this year and I kept moving this one lower, a result of good competition.


Nashville Pussy – From Hell To Texas (2009): Nashville Pussy is one of those bands I started to follow with their debut album and forgot about, subsequently missing out on a few records. I love this Southern-fried, hard drinking, sex crazed Hard Rock, it’s a cross between Motorhead, Ted Nugent and AC/DC mixed with Black Oak Arkansas & Lynyrd Skynyrd. I didn’t really expect much from this album and it turned out to be a great one, especially for the car! ‘Drunk Driving Man’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.


Great White – Rising (2009): Despite my living in Rhode Island and the whole Station Nightclub Fire, Great White is still one of my favorite bands. In 2007 they released one of the biggest surprises with BACK TO THE RHYTHM so I expected another Hard Rock classic. RISING is acoustic based and slower than it’s predecessor but it’s still a solid record that reminded me of the acoustic SAIL AWAY (1994). This album grew on me over the course of 2009 but I’m still a little disappointed that it didn’t have more of the Blues Hard Rock the band is known for.


Tragik – Outlaw (2009): Good to have a local Rhode Island band in this year’s countdown! Led by local AOR/Melodic Rock artist Phil Vincent, Tragik’s second album was a solid Hard Rock record with plenty of guitar and a great overall tone. Tragik follows the footsteps of ’80s AOR/Melodic Hard Rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi and Night Ranger but there was a more modern sound. Good solid melodies and plenty of hooks to go along with the great guitar sound made this an album I enjoyed all year.


Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009): I know a lot of people don’t get into the whole Pirate Metal concept but I’m definitely a sucker for a good gimmick and I really got into Alestorm this year. This album has some good songs but the one thing that pushed this album above a lot of others was that it was fun. I bought into all the whole concept and imagery of and the Pirate Power Metal is definitely different…..I really like all those traditional pirate styled instruments mixed in. Added bonus was the DVD from Wacken 2008 included inthe limited edition.


Behemoth – Evangelion (2009): Kind of like Immortal, I knew nothing about Behemoth except for what I had read online. After I saw the ‘Ov Fire And The Void’ video, I had the obsession with checking out the band. Just like Immortal, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed EVANGELION because Black Metal isn’t usually my thing but what struck me was just how brutal the music sounds. The guitars, bass and drums are just so fast and heavy that you have to take notice. EVANGELION helped me start to open my Black Metal horizons and I went from trying to understand Behemoth to enjoying Behemoth.


Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctis (2009): This latest album from Edguy was originally released in late 2008 but it didn’t receive a proper U.S. release until January from Nuclear Blast so I’m going with what the back of the CD says and it’s a 2009 album. I’ve been an Edguy fan since basically the beginning so their Power Metal style is what i like best but the band has gone for more of a Hard Rock style here. I had a hard time getting into this album at first because I kept comparing it to the old Edguy sound, once I got past that I started to enjoy the album a lot more. Turns out I played TINNITUS SANCTUS more as the year progressed and I kept coming back to it.


Saga – The Human Condition (2009): Saga has been churning out melodic Progressive Rock for 38 years and I have been keeping up with the band on and off since 1982. One of the things that helped define the overall Saga sound through the years was the superb vocals from founding member Michael Sadler…..but he left the band in 2007 after a 36 year tenure. Enter ex-Final Frontier vocalist Rob Morrati and he puts on a performance that makes you forget that Sadler just vacated the mic. This was one of the greatest comebacks of the year!


Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009): When Dream Theater releases an album I always know that it’s going to be a good one, then band just releases good albums every single time. Six songs spanning 75+ minutes and that’s just Disc 1! I always have to listen closely to Dream theater records because there are so many layers of sound and this one was no exception, what really stood out was that there was a song that clocked in just under 6 minutes (‘Wither’)! Add the 2 bonus discs and this turned out to be a great package to listen to.


Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): My review is long and it may not reflect the fact that I really enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER, the first Queensryche album I’ve enjoyed since 1997. The first thing I needed to do was accept the fact that old ’80s Queensryche is gone and that the band has gone into more Progressive and Epic musical directions. The overall sound is full and layered but it’s the subject matter that really made the album, what is more relevant in today’s society than how soldiers cope with war? Some of the record was repetitive lyrically but the album just flowed every time I listened to it. I bought this when it first came out and I waited until late October to finally unwrap it, I think I would appreciate it more if I had listened to it all along. ‘At 30,00 Ft.’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.


Megadeth – Endgame (2009): Like I said in my review, I haven’t fully recovered from 1999’s RISK debacle. UNITED ABOMINATIONS (2007) started me back on the Megadeth bandwagon and ENDGAME follows closely to cement the band back into my good graces. ENDGAME isn’t a pure Thrash record but it’s heavy, I think it’s more traditional Heavy Metal with some Thrash moments. It’s clear that Dave Mustaine and company have a solid direction and a desire to re-conquer the Metal world.


Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): If it wasn’t for me discovering Hammerfall in 1997 then I wouldn’t be the big Power Metal fan I am today. They basically single-handedly revived the Power Metal scene with it’s traditional style and soaring vocals. The problem with the last few albums is that they all just sounded the same and Hammerfall started to become a footnote in the now overly crowded Power Metal world. This album reminds me of the first three Hammerfall albums and it’s the first one since 2000 that I’ve really enjoyed. I had this ranked higher but, as 2009 progressed, there were better albums in the same genre. That said, this is still a solid album full of great powerful songs and Joacim Cans sound better than ever but I’m still not sure what the band was thinking with a cover of The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’!


Stratovarius – Polaris (2009): Remember what I said about better Power Metal albums? POLARIS is one of the big reasons why both Grave Digger and Hammerfall fell a little in this year’s best of list. I really didn’t expect much from Startovarius…..I had actually forgotten all about the band because it has been four years since the bands last album. Add a lot of new members, especially replacing guitarist Timo Tolkki, and this was a recipe for disaster. I got this album when it came out and left it in the pile, I just started listening to it a couple months ago and I missed out on some serious music. Had I started listening to this record when I got it, I probably would rank it higher because it hasn’t left my daily playlist. Another great comeback this year!


Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

Phil Vincent – Passion & Pain (2009)

Phil Vincent - Passion & Pain (2009)

Phil Vincent – Passion & Pain (2009, independent release)

  1. New Way To Live
  2. Locked Up In Love
  3. Comin’ Apart At The Seams
  4. Rumors (Part 1 & 2)
  5. All Because Of You
  6. One Chance
  7. Keep Runnin’
  8. Top Of The World
  9. Will You Remember?
  10. Wastin’ My Time
  11. Who Do You Think You Are?
  12. I Want You Now

Phil Vincent – All Vocals, Lead/Acoustic/Rhythm Guitars, Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Bass & Drums
Michael Riesenbeck – Lead Guitars on tracks 9 & 11
Steven Albanese – Lead Guitars on tracks 1, 5 & 6
Michael J. Sprague – Electric Guitar fills & Acoustic guitar on track 6
William Roux – Lead Guitar on track 4

Producer: Phil Vincent

Country: Rhode Island, USA

Total Time = 51:24

Phil Vincent
Phil Vincent MySpace page

New England melodic rocker Phil Vincent has released another album this year, this time a solo release, titled PASSION & PAIN. You might remember reading about Phil when I reviewed another album that he did, OUTLAW, with other local musicians in the band Tragik. If you read that review and checked out the album then you know that Phil Vincent and quality AOR/Melodic Rock go hand in hand. If you take a look at Phil’s website, you’ll see the influences he lists: The Beatles, Boston, Journey, Dokken, Harem Scarem, Talisman, Pink Floyd and Survivor. With this being album #11, Phil has made himself a solid career just under the radar of the national spotlight by tapping those influences and creating some exciting Hard Rock.

The album kicks off with the hard charging ‘New Way To Live’ that features some excellent guitar work from Steven Albanese and the heavy groove of ‘Locked Up In Love’. These two songs set the tone for the rest of the album right away: solid production, good songwriting, lots of guitars and passionate lyrics. Definitely a winning formula! ‘Comin’ Apart At The Seams’ continues the heavy guitar rock but with some subtle keyboard touches and intricate guitar solos… of my favorites from the album.

The longest song on the album is ‘Rumors (Pts. 1 & 2)’ with it’s mid-tempo pace and accompanying piano and harmonies. It’s got that power ballad feel to it but there’s enough gritty guitar and a good beat to kind of keep it out of pure ballad criteria, love the sweeping guitar and the soulful vocals. More pure Hard Rock pumps with ‘All Because Of You’, a track that sounds like the more modern and heavier side of Dokken, while the heavier mid-tempo crunch of ‘One Chance’ with the Dokken influence and a heavy Rainbow/Uriah Heep Hammond Organ. There’s always something about songs with that organ sound in it that I like. Same thing with ‘Keep Runnin’, it has that ’70s Rock sound going for it with the heavy guitars and space prog opening but it actually moves into a more melodic state. I really like the ’80s melodic rock of ‘Top Of The World’, one of the best songs on the album full of melody and hooks.

‘Will You Remember?’ continues the Hard Rock punch with some good harmonies but a heavy modern rock sound while ‘Wastin’ My Time’ has a more melodic delivery. Both songs are quality Hard Rock and they fall in line with the rest of the album but I kind of get the feeling that I’ve heard them already. I like the change-up with the mid-tempo/ballad ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, the song has this thumping bass that puts in a certain groove and the melodies really drive the song. There’s an ’80s influence and the guitars sound really good, they actually get heavier as the song progresses, and the keyboards are subtle…..a very cool tune. Closing out the record is the modern rock of ‘I Want You Now’. For some reason I just can’t get into this song, it just sounds too simplistic especially in the chorus and the vocals sound processed.

Bottom Line:
Overall a solid record! Like I said when I reviewed the Tragik album, it’s always good to hear quality music from local bands. Phil Vincent has been a mainstay on the RI/MA local scene for a long time and he always releases quality albums, PASSION & PAIN keeps the streak alive.  The album is excellent melodic Hard Rock with a few ballad/mid-tempo tracks thrown in for good measure. Everything here is top notch from the songwriting, to the performances, to the production. Phil Vincent should get more exposure worldwide, he’s definitely a hidden gem that people need to discover.

Favorite Songs:
‘New Way To Live’, ‘Locked Up In Love’, ‘Comin’ Apart At The Seams’, ‘One Chance’, ‘Top Of The World

Tragik – Outlaw (2009)


Tragik – Outlaw (2009, indepentdent release)

  1. …..In the Name Of…..
  2. Two Timer
  3. On The Other Side
  4. You Are Everything To Me
  5. What You Give
  6. Everything Changes
  7. Forgive Me
  8. Just Can’t Get Enough
  9. Loneliness
  10. Who’s Gonna Make The First Move
  11. Go Down Fightin’
  12. Give It Up

Band Lineup:
Phil Vincent – Vocals, Keyboards, Rhythm Guitar
Damian D’Ercole – Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Bass
Dirk Phillips – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Steven Albanese – Lead Guitar (tracks 5, 7, 11)
Billy Roux – Lead Guitar (tracks 3 & 12)
Paul Colombo – Lead Guitar (track 9) & Rhythm Guitar (tracks 2, 8, 9, 12)

Producers: Phil Vincent & Dirk Phillips

Total Time = 53:36

Tragik MySpace page
Phil Vincent

It’s always really cool to get an album from a local artist…..Phil Vincent has been a part of the local Rhode Island/Massachusetts scene for a long time, his debut solo album, RISING, was released in 1996. Using his extensive talents as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Phil has also been a catalyst in the bands Circular Logik and Tragik. The first Tragik album, POETIC JUSTICE, was released in 2007 and now the follow-up, OUTLAW, has hit the shelves.

Taking a quick glance at the cover (you can’t help it!), one might expect an ’80s Hard Rock feast but the album starts off unexpectedly with a piano-based ballad ‘…In The Name Of…’, nothing like throwing in a curveball right away! I expected to get a rocking track right off the bat but instead there is this very melodic pure ballad that sounds a bit like ‘Love Walks In’ from the Hagar-era Van Halen crossed with some mid ’70s Queen. Listen to the guitar solo, it screams Brian May, very well done. The pace picks up right away with the uptempo ‘Two Timer’ and ‘On The Other Side’. Both songs are heavy on guitar but they stay melodic and have that hook that drags you in and gets you singing along. Both songs remind me a little of Dokken, especially ‘On The Other Side’ which sounds like something off SHADOWLIFE (1997) or LONG WAY HOME (2002). ‘You Are Everything To Me’ is the second ballad, although it does Rock up with the guitar solo, and it has this quirky keyboard sequence running through it. The sound gets filled out after the solo and it’s better for it, I wouldn’t mind hearing the guitar through the whole song.

‘What You Give’ is similar to ‘You Are Everything To Me’ and is very melodic in a Beatles/Journey/Styx kind of way but with a heavier classic rock style guitar throughout. Listen for the guitar solos on this one and try to pick out a little Brian May again, very cool. I like how the song builds up and by the end really rocks with a second solo. More heavy Melodic Rock on ‘Everything Changes’ with plenty of guitar and vocal harmonies… of my favorites on the album. I wasn’t sure what to think about ‘Forgive Me’ because the opening piano and percussion had a something of a slow dance beat to it but as the song progresses the guitars kick in and the song gets heavier. It stays in it’s melodic mid-tempo groove but has a lot of bite to it while retaining the piano throughout…..another unpredictable track that has become a favorite on the album. Same thing with ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, I wasn’t sure about it at first but repeated listens has hooked me in with it’s melody and harmonies with heavy modern guitar. It reminds me of the direction on the latest Night Ranger album HOLE IN THE SUN, modern & melodic.

‘Loneliness’ is slow and brooding and has this early ’80s Rock thing to it, not my favorite off OUTLAW but definitely something different. Same thing for ‘Who’s Gonna Make The First Move’, it has that early ’80s ballad sound kind of like Foreigner or Journey and is definitely a companion track to the album opener ‘In The Name Of…’. Tragik really has a knack for capturing that AOR/MHR sound that was big two decades ago and is missing from today’s radio, ‘Who’s Gonna Make The First Move’ is perfect for popular Rock radio. While the melodic side has been displayed throughout the album, the band doesn’t forget to throw out the Hard Rock and the final two songs (‘Go Down Fightin’ and ‘Give It Up’) definitely conclude the record with some serious power chords and solos recalling some early Dokken, a little Bon Jovi, and a touch of Sammy Hagar.

Bottom Line:
It’s always good to hear an album from a band in the local scene and getting a listen to the latest Tragik has to offer proves that good solid Rock music hasn’t died here in the southern New England area. What I like most about OUTLAW, and Tragik as a band, is that there is a lot of diversity to the sound. There are smooth ballads mixed in with driving rockers mixed with powerful mid-tempo tracks…..the band retains the heavy guitars throughout and uses the piano/keyboards in many tracks as a base. The guitar tones especially grabbed me throughout the album and I was definitely trying to pick out some of the influences. There are a lot of different styles to enjoy here but if AOR/Melodic Hard Rock is your thing, then this is an album to get a hold of. I grew up on Metal but also the Journeys, Bon Jovis and Night Rangers of the Rock world so this is definitely an album I’ve been playing constantly. Now I have to track down Tragik’s first album POETIC JUSTICE (2007) and give that a spin!

Favorite Songs: ‘Two Timer’, ‘Everything Changes’, ‘Forgive Me’, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Who’s Gonna Make The First Move’

Overnight Playlist – 4/26/09

I had a couple of guys call in for the overnight shift Saturday into Sunday so I had to pull a double shift of 16 hours: 4pm Saturday to 8am Sunday. Normally it sucks but I was able to get most of the work done on my first shift and the overnight 8 hours was a piece of cake! My MP3 player is still dying a slow death, now I’m having issues with a loose headphone jack, but it still worked long enough for me to get through most of the night…..

Great White – Rising (2009): I’ve been giving this a lot of spins because of the great work the band did on their comeback album BACK TO THE RHYTHM (2007) but RISING is a lot more mellow. It’s more of a companion piece to 1994’s SAIL AWAY, one of my favorite records of all-time, but I’m a little disappointed. I was expecting more of a kick ass Rock record then a melodic acoustic based album. It’s a decent album but a grower.

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): Hammerfall’s latest has been in my playlist since I bought it for two reasons: because I’m a Power Metal geek and because I haven’t really gotten into the last few Hammerfall albums. I’m not sure what it is but since RENEGADE (2000) I have bought every new record but I haven’t enjoyed them as much as the first two. So far, I’m liking NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY a lot…..maybe I’ll review it before the month runs out!

Tragik – Outlaw (2009): Tragik are from my home state of Rhode Island and they play a cool Melodic Rock with a lot of guitars. Phil Vincent (vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitars) has been a fixture on the RI music scene for years and Steven Albanese (lead guitars) used to sell me a lot of my Hard Rock and Metal CDs at my favorite, and missed, record store: 2 Guys Music.

UFO – The Visitor (2009): I just received a promo copy of this new album Saturday morning so I uploaded it to my MP3 player right away. Good thing because UFO is in my Top 5 favorite bands and I was able to listen closely to the entire album.

Heaven & Hell – Live From Radio City Music Hall (2007): With the new Heaven & Hell album, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009), coming out Tuesday I figured I would re-live the two tours I’ve seen in the last couple of years. I’m so glad that Black Sabbath heaven & Hell has continued to make new music and tour because they are true Metal masters! Can’t wait for the new album Tuesday!

KISS – Paul Stanley (1978): I wanted to listen to something familiar to end my shift so I decided to go with my favorite band (KISS) and my favorite member (right now) and give a listen. The Paul Stanley solo album is the most classic KISS-sounding album in a time where the band was struggling for an identity and sound as the world went Disco/Pop. This album proves my longstanding point that the talent in KISS is Paul Stanley.