There were some duds too - the new Muse album was an almost-unmitigated disaster (of 'what were they thinking' proportions).
There were also some very good albums that missed the cut, so a quick tip of the hat to them first.
Worth a mention...Projected - Human
A side project that was the brainchild of John Connolly (Sevendust) and also included Vinnie Hornsby (Sevendust), Scott Marshall (Alter Bridge) and Eric Friedman. Punchy, catchy hard rock, well worth checking out.
Orange Goblin - A Eulogy for the Damned
A welcome and overdue return to form... Orange Goblin ditch the more direct hard rock approach of their more recent (and less interesting) material in favour of the more bluesy and occasionally psychedelic feel of their earlier records.
Black Country Communion - Afterglow
Album number three made it out despite some internal strife within the supergroup. Personally, this is my favourite BCC album yet, the songs feel a lot tighter whilst still giving individuals opportunity to shine. Also - Glenn Hughes just seems to keep getting better as both a singer and songwriter despite now being 61.
Cherri Bomb - This is the End of Control
Debut album from a group of teenage girls (the oldest is just 17!). Tell you what, they're showing a few much more experienced rock / hard rock bands up. Well-constructed songs, with some great riffs and catchy hooks, demonstrate abilities well beyond their years.
Anyway, on to the list...
12. Jeff Loomis - Plains of Oblivion
Plus, we're unlikely to ever get another Nevermore album, and this is the next best thing.
11. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - Lost Songsprevious blog material, this is an album which sees the never-static Trail of Dead at their best, this time mixing great melodies with an almost punk aggression in places.
10. The Sword - Apocryphon
9. POS - We Don't Even Live Hereblogged about this album, but it really highlights how under-rated POS is. Musically and lyrically consistent, and I am personally a big fan of the way POS seems to deliver incisive lyrics with a smooth flow, without ever needing to resort to most of the usual hip-hop cliche's. There's up-tempo tracks, there's slower tracks, there's even an excellent percussion-less track - and they're all good.
8. Adrenaline Mob - Omerta
7. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
6. Overkill - The Electric Age
5. Mark Tremonti - All I Was
You may well be totally sold on the album from the chorus of opener Leave It Alone - I certainly was. Big thanks to my friends Amy and Antony who introduced me to this album - I may well have missed it otherwise.
4. Call Me No One - Last Paradehere, so suffice to say that this is a great album, an engaging listen across all of its 12 tracks, and a showcase of great rock songwriting and musicianship from two of the hardest-working guys in the game.
3. Soundgarden - King Animalthey took a real risk with this album - and it paid off.
2. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
(I said all that WITHOUT mentioning White Pony, too)
1. Testament - Dark Roots of Earth
And there is an awful lot to enjoy here. Whereas previous album The Formation of Damnation took a very aggressive, direct approach, this time Testament vary it up a lot more, both in terms of tempo and dynamics. Dark Roots of Earth starts with all guns blazing - opener Rise Up is a huge call to arms, with its main refrain of "When I say rise up, you say war", and its followed up with Chuck Billy's nod to his native American roots on Native Blood. Balancing out tracks like this - and the utterly brilliant and brutal True American Hate (best intro EVER!) - are epics like Cold Embrace and the outstanding Throne of Thorns, which steadily crescendoes to a stunner of a solo from Alex Skolnick. No doubt Skolnick can shred with the best of them - but what really shines about this solo is the sheer feel that he plays it with. But that's just one of a number of stunning moments, not just from the dual guitar attack of Skolnick and Eric Peterson either - vocalist Chuck Billy is a regular menace, and the rhythm section of Greg Christian and Gene Hoglan are outstanding. Hell, sometimes Hoglan is playing a whole counter-melody on the kick-drum.
If this wasn't enough, the extended version features some pretty cool bonus tracks, including covers of Queen's Dragon Attack, the Scorpions' Animal Magnetism and Iron Maiden's Powerslave. The first, in particular, is quite something to behold - as is the way Chuck Billy does Powerslave justice despite probably being a few octaves short of Bruce Dickinson's considerable vocal range.
Testament have one helluva musical pedigree, and they really bring their considerable experience, talent and power to bear on this album. Great stuff - an album that just keeps me coming back for more.