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The Staff's Top Picks of 2005

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Pete Pardo's Top 25 CD's of 2005

  1. Opeth-Ghost Reveries...A future classic that blew away the competition
  2. Nevermore-This Godless Emperor...Perhaps their finest album yet, and the best pure metal album of the year.
  3. Magic Pie-Motions of Desire...The future kings of heavy prog.
  4. Arch Enemy-Doomsday Machine...Who knew brutal metal could be this melodic?
  5. Mercenary: 11 Dreams...One of my early favorites from 2005 that still held strong at years end.
  6. Nile-Annihilation of the Wicked...Brutally epic and technical, and also one of the best sounding productions of the year.
  7. Porcupine Tree-Deadwing...Steven Wilson & Co. can do no wrong!
  8. Riverside-Second Life Syndrome...Even better than their first, and that's saying something. Future stars.
  9. Echolyn-The End is Beautiful...Their best album in years-they are back!
  10. Deep Purple-Rapture of the Deep...The geezers can still rock!
  11. instrumental album of the year.
  12. Presto Ballet-Peace Among the Ruins...Gotta love this retro prog/hard rock gem!
  13. Russell Allen-Atomic Soul...The best 70's styled heavy rock album of the year.
  14. Glass Hammer-The Inconsolable Secret...When you are in for a fix of classic symphonic prog, GH never fails.
  15. Dream Theater-Octavarium...Less heavy, but certainly more melodic and proggy.
  16. Meshuggah-Chapter Thirty Three...Epic all the way!
  17. Strapping Young Lad-Alien...Maniacal and brutal, but oh so melodic and intelligent.
  18. Hypocrisy-Virus...Their best album in my opinion. Classic!
  19. Wobbler-Hinterland...Just oozing 70's progginess. Hammond, Mellotron, Moog...need I say more?
  20. Machine and the Synergetic Nuts-Leap Forward Neutral...Another early favorite from January that made the grade. Kickin' fusion!
  21. Stride-Imagine...A serious melodic prog metal band set for stardom.
  22. Dark Tranquility-Character...Wonderful Swedish melodic death metal from one of the originators.
  23. Arena-Pepper's Ghost...Solid heavy symphonic prog rock with balls.
  24. Man on Fire-Habitat...A CD that needs to be heard by the masses.
  25. Children of Bodom-Are You Dead Yet?...The fury never lets up!
And some VERY honorable mentions-it was a good year!
  • Sieges Even-The Art of Navigating By the Stars...A new sound for the band, less technical, way more melodic.
  • Evergrey-A Night to Remember...Classic live album.
  • Frogg Café-Fortunate Observer of Time...Classy mix of prog, fusion, and jam.
  • Brainstorm-Liquid Monster...This one's a real monster all right!
  • Iommi/Hughes-Fused...Two legends create more magic.
  • Edguy-Superheroes...Fun EP to hold you over for the next album. Title track was my favorite song of 2005.
  • K2-Book of the Dead...killer fusion.
  • God Forbid-IV: Constitution of Treason...Stellar metal concept piece sees this band continue to grow.
  • Forgas Band Phenomena-Soleil 12...Sophisticated jazz fusion
  • Underground Railroad-The Origin of Consciousness...Monster prog statement from this impressive US band.
  • NDIO-Airback...Like Canterbury styled fusion? Me too!
  • Journey-Generations...It's like 1982 all over again!
  • Talisma-Chromium...Progressive Fusion at its best!
  • Soilwork-Stabbing the Drama...Melodic yet kick ass stuff from these Swedish veterans.
  • Between the Buried and Me-Alaska...Surprise of the year. Mix of complex prog metal and hardcore.
  • Hate Eternal-I Monarch...Eric Rutan & Co. create more brutal and evil metal.
  • Enslaved-ISA...Gotta love this bands form of progressive and symphonic black metal.
  • Kamelot-The Black Halo...The symphonic power metal album of the year.
  • Dragonlord-Black Wings of Destiny...In a year that saw no new Dimmu Borgir, this band released this mighty gem.
  • Fritz Doddy-The Feeling of Far...My "feel good" album of the year. Wonderful melodies and Mellotron.
  • Zero Hour-A Fragile Mind...New singer, same results. Intelligent and technical prog metal.
  • Candlemass-Candlemass...the doomsters return!
  • Biomechanical-The Empires of the Worlds...Epic statement from a band ready to be noticed.
  • Phi Yaan-Zek-Solar Fire...Zappa/Beck inspired mayhem.
  • Symphorce-Godspeed...Didn't expect to like this as much as I did. Powerhouse melodic power metal.
  • Oliver Wakeman-Mother's Ruin... Oliver emerges from papa Rick's shadow with a heavy prog band effort.
  • Saga-The Chapters Live...Wonderful live set from Canadian legends.
  • Salem Hill-Mimi's Magic Moment...Epic and melodic gem.
  • Mangala Vallis-Lycanthrope...Like classic Genesis meets PFM. Mellotron galore!
  • Fear Factory-Transgression...Part brusing metal, part melodic pop rock. Something for everyone.
  • Neal Morse-?...Neal can still create wonderful prog rock.
  • Witchdraft-Firewood...Retro stoner/doom/heavy rock sounds like it was recorded in 1972.
  • Darkane-Layers of Lies...Kickin' Swedish thrash.
  • The Black Dahlia Murder-Miasma...Swedish styled technical death/thrash from the US upstarts.
  • Corrosion of Conformity-In the Arms of God...Stoner, doom, whatever, it's classic sludge ridden metal.
  • Helloween-Keeper of the Seven Keys-The Legacy...Still don't know if they should have used the title, but it's solid symphonic power metal nontheless.
  • Korpiklaani-Voice of Wilderness...Fun folky metal.
  • HIM-Dark Light...Irresistible gothic hard rock with killer hooks.
  • Old Man's Child-Vermin...Solid symphonic black metal from Dimmu Borgir members.
  • Nightrage-Descent Into Chaos...Raging, chaotic...that's right!
  • Judas Priest-Angels of Retribution...Solid reunion album.
  • Deadlock-Earth Revolt...German melodic death with wonderful female backing vocals.
  • Sonic Syndicate-Eden Fire...The future of Swedish melodic death metal. Pretty progressive too!
  • Twilight Odyssey-Twilight Odyssey...These classic metal mavens from Brooklyn get set to make their mark.
  • Astral Doors-Evil is Forever...Retro mix of Dio era Rainbow and Uriah Heep.
  • Chris Caffery-W.A.R.P.E.D....God Damn War gets a facelift!
  • Green Carnation-The Quiet Offspring...Alternative meets heavy rock and prog. These guys keep morphing.
  • Bruce Dickinson-Tyranny of Souls...Iron Maiden frontman releases another stellar solo album.
  • Redemption-The Fullness of Time...Awesome prog metal, now with Ray Alder on vocals.
  • Sevendust-Next...The best melodic nu-metal album I heard all year.
  • Extol-The Blueprint Dives...great mix of prog, metal, and avant-garde
  • System of a Down-Mezmerize...avant-garde metal never sounded so good, or sold so many copies!
  • Centinex-World Declension...Swedish thrashers hit the big one.
  • James LaBrie-Elements of Persuasion...Dream Theater heavy, but without the epics.
  • Behemoth-Demigod...Poland's kings of epic death metal release their masterpiece!
  • Disturbed-Ten Thousand Fists...Hard not to like this band, as the melodies and catchy riffs are just too infectious.
  • At War With Self-Torn Between Dimensions...Dark and mysterious instrumental progressive fusion.
  • Tomas Bodin-I AM...Flower Kings keyboard ace introduces part 1 of his new trilogy.
  • Soulfly-Dark Ages...Max & Co. put together their heaviest and most diverse offering yet.
  • Soul Sirkus-World Play...great hard rock from Neal Schon and Co.
  • Leaves' Eyes-Vinland Saga...the new face of atmospheric gothic metal with wonderful female vocals.
  • Trail of Tears-Free Fall Into Fear...Hard hitting symphonic & progressive death metal.
  • Nightscape-Symphony of the Night...My favorite Lion Records release of the year. Great symphonic progressive metal.
  • John Petrucci-Suspended Animation...Dream Theater guitarist steps out on his own in a big way.
  • Don Schiff-Peering Over Clouds...The Chapman Stick album of the year from Lana Lane/Erik Norlander band member.
  • Frantic Bleep-The Sense Apparatus...Very good technical and avant-garde prog metal.
  • Parallel Mind-Collossus ADEA...Great moody instrumental prog rock.
  • Spock's Beard-Octane...Not classic, but still very good hard rock & pop with proggy touches.
  • Steve Lukather and Friends-Santamental...the Holiday album of the year!
  • Thirteen of Everything-Welcome Humans...enjoyable symphonic prog from this Texas band.
  • Cryptopsy-Once Was Not...the leaders of technical tech metal return with Lord Worm once again back in the band on vocals.


    1. Evergrey-A Night to Remember
    2. In Flames-Used and Abused: In Live We Trust
    3. Deep Purple Live in Concert 72/73
    4. Edguy-Superheroes
    5. Pain of Salvation-Be
    6. Jethro Tull-Nothing is Easy-Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
    7. Miles Davis-Miles Electric-A Different Kind of Blue
    8. Yes-Songs From Tsongas
    9. MSG-Live in Tokyo 1997
    10. Larry Carlton/Steve Lukather-New Morning The Paris Concert
    11. UFO-Showtime
    12. Rush-R30
    13. Ian Anderson-Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull
    14. Fates Warning-Live in Athens
    15. Voivod-DVOD 1
    16. Robin Trower-Living Out of Time LIVE
    17. The Gathering-A Sound Relief
    18. Colosseum-The Complete Reunion Concert Cologne 1994
    19. Lana Lane-10th Anniversary Concert
    20. UFO-The Story of UFO 1959-1993
    21. Journey-Live in Houston 1981 Escape Tour
    22. Motorhead-Stage Fright
    23. Discipline-Live 1995
    24. Cradle of Filth-Peace Through Superior Firepower


    1. Journey-The Beacon Theater
    2. Opeth/Nevermore/Into Eternity-Webster Hall
    3. NEARfest-Zoellner Arts Center
    4. Meshuggah/Mnemic/The Haunted/God Forbid-BB Kings
    5. Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush-BB Kings
    6. Fear Factory/Soilwork/Strapping Young Lad/Darkane Irving Plaza
    7. Soilwork/Dark Tranquility/Hypocrisy/Mnemic-BB Kings
    8. H.I.M.- Hammerstein Ballroom
    9. Judas Priest/Queensryche-PNC Bank Arts Center
    10. Gigantour-Mid Hudson Civic Center
    11. Jon Oliva/Chris Caffery/Beyond Fear-The Brooklyn Music Terminal
    12. Children of Bodom/Amon Amarth/Trivium-Irving Plaza
    13. Frogg Cafe-Kenny's Castaways
    14. Trans-Siberian Orchestra-Madison Square Garden
    15. Arch Enemy-Irving Plaza
    16. The Flower Kings-NJ Proghouse

    Duncan Glenday's Top Picks of 2005

    Any ommission of very good records is not a reflection of their quality - it just means I haven't heard it yet. Here's my top 10 of 2005:

    Okay - my top 20

    (Okay okay - my top bunch!)

    1. Subterranean Masquerade -- Suspended Animation Dreams
    2. Magic Pie -- Motions of Desire
    3. Fritz Doddy -- The Feeling Of Far
    4. Neal Morse -- ?
    5. Opeth -- Ghost Reveries
    6. Arena -- Pepper's Ghost
    7. Satellite -- Evening Games
    8. Meshuggah -- Chapter Thirty Three
    9. Mangala Vallis -- Lycanthrope
    10. Porcupine Tree -- Deadwing
    11. Pallas -- The Dreams of Men
    12. Green Carnation -- The Quiet Offspring
    13. Van Der Graaf Generator -- Present
    14. The Mars Volta -- Frances the Mute
    15. House Of Not -- The Walkabout Of A Nexter Niode - Part 2 Sexus
    16. Willowglass -- Willowglass
    17. Riverside -- Second Life Syndrome
    18. Sieges Even -- The Art of Navigating by the Stars
    19. Shadow Gallery -- V
    20. Nevermore -- This Godless Emperor
    21. Guy Manning -- One Small Step
    22. Man on Fire -- Habitat
    23. Children of Bodom -- Are You Dead Yet?
    24. Wobbler -- Hinterland
    25. Farpoint -- from Dreaming To Dreaming
    And a DVD that really stood out (a 2005 DVD release of a 2004 album):

  • Pain Of Salvation -- Be (DVD)

    A special mention for an album in a genre I don't usually approach:

  • System Of A Down -- Mesmerize / Hypnotize

    Two important late additions:

  • Sonus Umbra -- Digging For Zeroes
  • Arcturus -- Sideshow Symphonies

    Yves Dubes' Top Discs Of 2005

    1. Echolyn- The End Is Beautiful : The Disc Is Beautiful.
    2. Miriodor- Parade/ Live at Nearfest : The band's best so far !
    3. Nil- Nil Novo Sub Sole: A surprisingly strong album which kept me coming back over and over again.
    4. Langlois,Jérôme- Molignak: ProgQuebec's first all-original material is a sublime disc by a superb musician.
    5. Guapo- Black Oni: Picks up where the sensational "Five Suns" left off. These guys will kick butt at NF'06.
    6. Talisma- Chromium: Every bit as good as their debut, maybe better.
    7. Porcupine Tree- Deadwing: These guys get enough props…NEXT!
    8. Les Batinses- Eaux-De-Vies: Great CD/DVD package featuring new material and a complete live set. This is traditional Québecois music with a modern twist.
    9. InFront- Wordless: Sneaking in at the 11th hour is this solid all-instrument disc from Russia.
    10. The Breakfast- Real Radio: My summer soundtrack. For jamband fans only.
    11. Taylor, Robin- Oyster's Apprentice: The best Robin Taylor disc I've heard so far .Very enjoyable stuff.
    12. Maneige- Live à L'Evêché 1975: The material dates back to '75 but this particular compilation was never previously released. Great music, but sub-par sound.
    13. Niacin- Orgasmik: This trio has never sounded tighter or hotter..
    14. Djam Karet- Recollection Harvest: Not their best, but money in the bank whenever you buy a DK album.
    15. Corrosion Of Conformity- In The Arms Of God: I needed my stoner quota on this list.

    Yves's Top Re-Issues Of 2005

    1. Pollen- Pollen: One of my favorite albums of all time !
    2. Contraction- La Bourse Ou La Vie: Another one of my favorites of all-time!
    3. Contraction- Contraction: Not quite as good as the follow-up, but strong from cover to cover
    4. L'Orchestre Sympathique- En Concert A La Grande Passe: Superb jazz/fusion from a lesser known Québecois outfit.
    5. Collier,Graham- Worpoints: Not even sure if this was ever issued the way Cuneiform has done so now. Great compositional jazz from England.

    Steve Pettengill's Top Ten of 2005

    1. Steve Hackett: Metamorpheus: What can I say? Absolutely beautiful classical music that resonated with me more than any rock CD of 2005.
    2. Kate Bush: Aerial: No it isn't experimental like the slightly overrated The Dreaming, but Kate's newest in 12 years (!) is as enchanting as anything she's ever done.
    3. Arena: Pepper's Ghost: The best Arena CD. Killer hooks, choruses to die for and just an all round wonderful album that straddles between progressive rock and metal.
    4. Dream Theater: Octavarium: For my taste, DT's best since Scenes From a Memory. As much as I enjoyed Train of Thought, I'm glad they eased up a bit on the chops and gave us some of their most melodious compositions ever. For best results, program out "The Answer Lies Within" and you're good to go.
    5. Deep Purple: Rapture of the Deep: I can think of no other album that grew on me the way Purple's latest did. Even after a dozen spins, it didn't hook me. Now, I love it. Sure, there's a coupla throwaway tracks but overall these old farts rock big time. Ignore my middlin' review.
    6. Russell Allen: Atomic Soul: The year's most fun album. Nothing like Russell's main gig, but every bit as essential. To die for if you grew up on classic 70s hard rock and heavy metal.
    7. Neal Morse: ?: Honestly, I'm not the world's biggest Spock's Beard fan, having burnt out on them somewhere around The Kindness of Strangers. But ? is the best thing to come out of the SB camp since…well maybe ever.
    8. Nile: Annihilation of the Wicked: Crushingly heavy but addictive death metal music guaranteed to elicit all kinds of interesting reactions from family and friends.
    9. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing: Like money in the bank. PT are arguably no longer a prog band, but when you have material and production this strong, who cares?
    10. Mostly Autumn: Storms Over Still Water: Their heaviest and darkest release so far. The folk influence is almost completely jettisoned in favor of Bryan Josh's obsessive attraction to classic Pink Floyd…and that's ok by me.

    Favorite Reissues of 2005 (No Particular Order Here)

    1. Bruce Dickinson: Chemical Wedding: Somehow, I let most of Bruce's solo career slip by me. What a mistake! Chemical Wedding is as enjoyable as your typical Maiden outing. Great stuff.
    2. Eloy: Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes/Colours/Planets/Time to Turn: My vote for most consistent European prog band. My favorites will always be the Krautrocking Inside and Floating but these four remasters come damn close. Great accessible symphonic space rock with a heavy edge that will appeal to lovers of Rush as well as Floyd and Hawkwind.
    3. Gentle Giant: Free Hand/In a Glass House: Great remasters from the classic British prog band. Too bad the packaging sucks.
    4. Jethro Tull: Broadsword and the Beast: This remaster has made me reconsider what I always thought of as a very average Tull release. Great bonus tracks too!!
    5. ABBA: The Complete Studio Recordings: Yes, I like ABBA dammit!! Hell, Peter Hammill has praised the band, IQ have covered "Mama Mia" in concert for years and many other prog and metal artists have admitted to being influenced by the band's vocal harmonies, impeccable production (seriously, some of their albums still sound amazing) and irresistible pop hooks. This box set houses all 8 of their studio albums in cardboard mini sleeves well as a 9th bonus disc and 2 DVDs. Tons of bonus tracks too.
    6. Montrose: S/T: Remastered by Steve Hoffmann and given the gold disc treatment, this limited edition CD is a must have for anyone looking to upgrade the standard WB edition. Classic album, by the way.
    7. Klaus Schulze: Mirage/X: Classic electronic albums, but give yourself plenty of time. Most of Schulze's compositions in the seventies averaged at 25 minutes each and as X is a double album with a bonus track it's nearly 3 hours long! My, those mellotrons sound incredible!
    8. Van Der Graaf Generator: The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other/H to He am the Only One/Pawn Hearts/Godbluff/Still Life: These remasters have caused no small amount of controversy on the 'net. In general, I like them. Sure, they're too loud and the bass is kind of bloated, particularly on Pawn Hearts and overall none of them sound very "warm" but most of them are still improvements over the old Virgin CD editions.

    Favorite DVDs of 2005

    1. Blackmore's Night: Castles and Dreams: A band that just gets better and better with each release and they've outdone themselves with this wonderful DVD. A full concert, tons of interviews and bonus performances spread over two discs with immaculate image and sound quality.
    2. Rush: R30: Deserves all the praise it has received. A much better sound mix than Rush in Rio and better camerawork as well that doesn't cut away every quarter of a second!
    3. Gentle Giant: Giant on the Box: I can cheat a bit here. This DVD was issued in '04 for the hefty sum of about $40 but DRT Entertainment re-released it and cut the price tag by more than half. Essential for Gentle Giant fans!!
    4. Deep Purple: Live in Concert 72/73: Finally, this classic vintage performance is released on DVD!! A full Copenhagen show as well as bonus material, this ain't perfect in terms of video (the camerawork is awful) and Gillan's voice is mixed far too high (kind of like the last two DP albums!) but well worth it.
    5. Yes: Songs From Tsongas: Perhaps not quite as engaging as the Yes Symphonic DVD, but a great one all the same. I was at this particular gig, which wasn't among their best, but modern technology fixes the bum notes and the cameras cleverly cut away so that we don't see Rick Wakeman give his keyboard tech dirty looks the way he did that night!
    6. UFO: Showtime: These guys still have it! An energetic performance in a German club, some cool interviews and an in the studio performance.

    Ryan Sparks' Top CD's of 2005

    1. Baltimoore – Fanatical
    2. Steve Hackett – Metamorpheus
    3. Spock's Beard – Octane
    4. Russell Allen's Atomic Soul
    5. Niacin – Organix
    6. James LaBrie – Elements of Persuasion
    7. Terry Bozzio – Chamberworks
    8. Freak Neal Inc. – Characters
    9. Opeth – Ghost Reveries
    10. Corrosion of Conformity – In The Arms of God
    11. American Dog – Scars 'n Bars
    12. Ram-Zet – Intra
    13. Glass – Illuminations
    14. Journey – Generations
    15. Steve Lukather & Friends - SantaMental
    16. Gary Hoey - Monster Surf

    Mike Blackburns' Best releases of 2005 (In no particular order):

    1. Robert Plant & The Strange Sensation – Mighty Rearranger: If there were still those who somehow thought that it was all Jimmy, it wasn't. An intelligent album.
    2. Russell Allen – Atomic Soul: For me, the surprise of the year. One kick-ass effort from Russell. The Battle, with Jorn Lande was an excellent follow-up as well!
    3. Opeth – Ghost Reveries: This is the one they will still be talking about ten years from now.
    4. Forty Deuce – Nothing To Lose: Ritchie Kotzen is insanely talented; it just is not fair to have those pipes and chops simultaneously.
    5. Deep Purple – Rapture Of The Deep: Probably the best work of this Mark of the band much to my surprise, as well as to the surprise of many others it would appear.
    6. Bruce Dickinson – Tyranny of Souls: Once again, Roy Z. brings out the best in Bruce. I do miss the Adrian Smith harmony guitar work a little.
    7. John Norum – Optimus: Hard edged drop-tuned release from this underrated player. Put some balls back into Europe.
    8. Baltimoore – Fanatical: Ballsy straight ahead rock with one of the very best vocalists alive today Bjorn Lodin
    9. Freak Neil Inc. – Characters: Scintillating technique without the boredom and redundancy usually inherent in mostly instrumental projects. Can't wait for more!
    10. E.Vil (Elias Viljanen) – The Leadster: Kind of an off-year for guitar histrionics, but this to me was the most interesting of a less than inspiring lot.

    Best Reissue/Collection
    Rory Gallagher – Big Guns: Brother Donal finally compiles an almost perfect and certainly long overdue tribute to his criminally underrated and immensely talented sibling. RIP Rory, ten years gone.

    Best DVD's – The staggering Montreux Jazz Festival releases, Stevie Ray, Gary Moore, Chick Corea Elektric Band and Jeff Healey.

    Best Concert
    Frank Marino – B.B. King's NYC: Over three hours of intense musicianship. Many a young whippersnapper musician could learn a thing or two about offering the fan value for their money from Frank.

    Elias Granillo's Best of 2005

    X/I Best Of 2005 (in no particular order — I think):

    I. Niacin – Organik …what a bunch of freaks. They somehow keep topping their previous release with one even more balls-to-the-wall, more over-the-top. Who the hell needs an ELP reunion when you've got John Novello shreddin' on a B3, with no less than Billy Sheehan and Dennis Chambers pulling the kinds of moves Greg Lake and Carl Palmer would never have even pondered, let alone attempted. Organik is SICK!

    II. Djam Karet – Recollection Harvest …I've been branded a DK fanboy by some peeps, so I've got a rep to own up to! While I like just about everything the band's done, DK's just really been cookin' since '97's The Devouring. The new album doesn't seem to be receiving the accolades it deserves; too bad, cuz it's a groovy beast.

    III. Nil – Nil Novo Sub Sole …this one was like a left hook — never even saw it coming. Top-shelf symph-prog that doesn't sound like the connect-the-dots fodder that's been raining down on us lately. One of my fave new acts. Everybody should check this out.

    IV. The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute …these guys blew me away with De-loused In The Comatorium and this follow-up makes the debut appear very "linear." While abstract in areas, the way Cedric and Omar like it, there's a lot here that can still be considered accessible, like "L'Via L'Viaquez," which really reminds me of old school Santana. Can't wait for the third one!

    V. Tangerine Dream – Kyoto …the best thing to come out of the TD camp for many years, even if it is a dusted-down gem. While mo' fans tend to pine for TD's Mellotron-laden days of yore, my preference lies with the Froese-Franke-Schmoelling lineup ('80-'85) — which is where the music on Kyoto comes from, as "finished" by Froese and Schmoelling after a collaborative hiatus that lasted nearly two decades!

    VI. Mats/Morgan Band – Thanks For Flying With Us …superchops don't always make for super compositions, but on this they certainly do. Plenty of shredding in, through and out but that's not always the modus operandi. Just color this the coolest M/M disc yet.

    VII. Don Schiff – Peering Over Clouds …this man's NS/Stick skillz are off da hook, homey! Schiff and percussionist-and-Erik Norlander alumnus Greg Ellis cook up some mean, not-too-lean compositions — au contraire, these two really fill out the sonic space. For its cover, Peering sports a beautiful Jacek Yerka painting, too. How about that!

    VIII. Ars Nova – Force For The Fourth –Chrysalis– …Keiko Kumagai's ongoing keyboard-prog group sounds fresher than ever with this batch of rerecorded classics, now sporting lead guitar and ex-Gerard (and subsequently ex-Ars Nova!) drummer Masuhiro Goto's untethered prowess.

    IX. Michael Manring – Soliloquy …one unreal dude. I remember watching VH-1's New Visions program, which spotlighted then-current new age artists, way back in 1987. This video (I forget which tune exactly) by a then-percussionless quartet called Montreux came on; it was a light, fluffy, feel-good instrumental consistent with Windham Hill's repertoire (though the label did release some very cool albums). It's funny to think that the bassist in that group, which secretly boasted musicians of a serious caliber, would shed his Windham Hill guise after commencing his solo career and record some gnarly stuff! On top of that, for the last decade he's been regarded as one of the best electric bassists in the instrumental or general rock/fusion-combo scene. "Manthing" coaxes sounds from his basses the likes of which I've seldom if ever heard other bassists produce (and if he didn't do it first, he still does it better). As if that weren't enough, he can record an entire album of exclusively bass-driven instrumentals with no accompaniment that doesn't resemble noodling, wanking, or running scales. Soliloquy will be hailed as a treasure for years to come.

    X. Parallel Mind – Colossus ADEA ...can it be? A new keyboard-centric instrumental prog trio — that kicks booty without sounding like yet another ELP knockoff? Parallel Mind is just that. The coolest debut of '05!

    XI. KBB – Live 2004 ...shredderiffic live CD from the violin~keyboards~bass~drums quartet, recorded in late '04. If you like 'em, this hits the spot; if KBB has just fallen betwixt your crosshairs, here's the place to start.

    XII. Dengue Fever – Escape From Dragon House …I'm really enjoying this Orange County-based sextet's sophomore CD. The organist plays a Farfisa exclusively, and these guys lucked out some years ago in chancing upon a hot Cambodian babe with golden pipes in some club hidden in Garden Grove or Little Saigon (or thereabouts). Add guitar, bass, horns & drums to the mix and you have a nicely eclectic "new world-surf-pop" sort of multi-ethnic musical collective. Check 'em out…you may like 'em. Warning: not all songs sung in English!

    The Others:

    » Arc – Arcturus …more retro electronic fury, recorded live.
    » Audioslave – Out Of Exile …minus two mediocre tracks, this is one rockin' great album.
    » Belew, Adrian – Side One, Side Two …keep 'em comin,' Ade.
    » Boards Of Canada – The Campfire Headphase …dense, soupy ambient coolness.
    » Cerebus Effect – Acts Of Deception …shades of Goblin. Well done.
    » Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness …love 'em or hate 'em, these youngsters can tear it up.
    » Darediablo – Twenty Paces …just a half-notch down, but this is one burnin' trio!
    » Elfonia – This Sonic Landscape …Stream Of Passion's vocalist's main gig. I prefer this, to be honest.
    » Goto, Tadashi – Soundscape …keyboard madness for Motoi fans.
    » Jaén Kief – Los Hadas No Vuelan Mas — I. Vagas Nubes …new Colombian prog.
    » Hines, David – Nebula …fiery fusion with bassist Hines and keyboardist Steve Hunt!
    » K2 – Book Of The Dead …the pieces fit together but there's something missing.
    » Kenso – Chilling Heat …grooves so sharp even the blunt sides leave marks.
    » King's X – Ogre Tones …sounds like "the boys are back in town"!
    » LU7 – L'esprit De L'exil …another bitchin' CD from Japan. Few countries can keep up.
    » Mars Volta, The – Scab Dates …live madness from the Volta.
    » Rule, Cyndee Lee – UFOsmosis …she's got sass, she's got skillz! Her next effort will one-up this by no small degree.
    » Stream Of Passion – Embrace The Storm …you're better off reading the reviews.
    » Toccata – Circe …this Mexican band's debut hits the spot between Matraz albums.
    » Walter, Robert – Super Heavy Organ …this cat's got the touch.
    » Vietgrove – The Little Apocrypha …no commercial potential! Recommended.
    » Wobbler – Hinterland …a debut that hints of greater things to come.

    Top Remasters/Reissues Of 2005 (in alphabetical order):

    » Bruford, Bill – Feels Good To Me; One Of A Kind; The Bruford Tapes; Gradually Going Tornado …self-explanatory! Bruford rox!

    » Colosseum II – Strange New Flesh …appropriate 2CD restoration of this mid-'70s classic! Don Airey goes nuts.

    » Deep Purple – Burn …DP's best lineup, and what an album.

    » Hackett, Steve – Voyage Of The Acolyte; Please Don't Touch; Spectral Mornings; Defector …the best albums by any Genesis alumnus! Essential stuff.

    » Leger De Main – A Lasting Impression (The Concept Of Our Reality + Second First Impression …nice reissue of LdM's only two albums to date. Melissa Rodler's vocals are fantastic.

    » Montrose – Montrose …one of my favorite mainstream albums of any decade. This is what defined the "California school of hard rock" — Ronnie's guitar, Sammy's unearthly pipes, a no-bullshit rhythm section, and a bunch of kickass songs like "Space Station $5," "Make It Last" and "Bad Motor Scooter"!

    » Pendragon – The Jewel …their first — still their best!

    » Powell, Roger – Cosmic Furnace …so overdue it's not funny. EM aficionados are required to own this.

    » Twelfth Night – Corner Of The World; A Midsummer's Night Dream …the former is a nice memento of the Art & Illusion tour; the latter, also live, draws on TN's instrumental daze!

    DVDs (…a lean year for music-oriented deeveedees for me):

    » Fates Warning – Live In Athens …I loved the energy. I loved the in-your-face approach. I loved the return of Frank Aresti. I didn't mind Ray Alder not hitting high notes the way he used to as much as I thought I would. I did not love the camera ignoring Aresti's solo in "Monument." Bah! The extras weren't much to write home about. Still a good DVD to possess!

    » Rush – R30 …Canada's best band delivers the 'two' in their one-two punch with this second mondo live DVD. These guys play like dudes twenty years their junior. Geddy seems really into it (he loves saying "danke schoen"). Since I missed the R30 tour, I would've bought this solely to see them dust off "Between The Wheels"! An overall great value if you get the video/audio set.

    » SBB – Live In Theater 2005 …I don't actually have this yet. It should arrive Thursday or Friday. Just don't tell anybody, 'kay?

    » Twelfth Night – Live In London …I can finally drop-kick my third-generation VHS dub into the tidy bowl! LiL was my introduction to TN, back in '97. Now if only The Creepshow, with Geoff Mann, could be similarly resurrected…

    Steve Ambrosius' Best of 2005


    1. RPWL: World Through My Eyes
    2. Farpoint: From Dreaming To Dreaming
    3. Aquaplan: Paperimeri
    4. Orange Sky: Upstairs
    5. Transcendence: Nothing Is Cohesive
    6. Pallas: The Dreams Of Men
    7. Man on Fire: Habitat
    8. Specimen 37: The Endless Looping Game
    9. Riverside: Second Life Syndrome
    10. Slang: Los Locos
    11. OtraBanda: Búsqueda
    12. Steve Walsh: Shadowland
    13. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing
    14. Arena: Pepper's Ghost
    15. Frank Carillo & the Bandoleros: Bad Out There
    16. Fritz Doddy: The Feeling of Far
    17. Little King: Virus Divine
    18. Labyrinth: Freeman
    19. K2: Book of the Dead
    20. Shadow Gallery: V
    21. Spottiswoode and His Enemies: Building A Road
    22. Presto Ballet Peace Amoung Ruins
    23. Kaipa: Mindrevolutions
    24. Hamadryad Safe In Conformity
    25. Green Milk from the Planet Orange: City Calls Revolution
    26. Bauer: Astronauta Olividado
    Special mention to a CD that will be released on December 16, 2005. The 4 song demo was so good it almost made my top 25: Sum Voices: Of Autumn & Insight

    Ken Pierce's Best of 2005


    1. Mercenary: 11 Dreams – One of the finest mixes of Metal genre to come out of Century Media records this year
    2. Soilwork : Stabbing The Drama – This CD made a fan out of me, and is likely to do the same for you.
    3. H.I.M. : Dark Light – First official US Release and mixes elements of their previous work to a fine blend. Try this melodic gothic act out and you will not regret it.
    4. Judas Priest: Angel Of Retribution- Reunion, simple as that, they show why they are Metal Gods to this very day.
    5. Iron Maiden: Death On The Road – The 40th live album from Iron Maiden shows up their last try and is quite enjoyable.
    6. Korpiklaani: Voice of Wilderness-Ever hear Folk Metal? You will be a changed person when you do.
    7. Leaves Eyes : Vinland Saga – Atmospheric Gothic Metal and this CD takes you to another world.
    8. Journey: Generations – Anyone who stopped supporting Journey because of Steve Perry leaving is an idiot. This is one of the best Rock records of the year.
    9. System Of A Down :Hypnotize /Mesmerize – Great stuff, very melodic, chaotic and fun all at the same time. I never thought I would rave about their stuff.
    10. Sentenced: Funeral Album – My first listen to these guys turns out to be their suicide note???? Come on guys say it isn't so.
    11. Def Leppard: Anthology – This brought me back to the days when MTV played videos, I was 16 again. Or something like that.
    12. Jon Olivas Pain : Taj Mahal – The sound of Savatage at last, too bad its not a reunion album but if you listen closely it sure sounds like one.
    13. Yngwie Malmsteen : Unleash The Fury – The guitar god returns to the format he does best. What else can be said.
    14. Kamelot: The Black Halo – Not your usual run of the mill Melodic Metal. A passionate release.

    1) Evergrey – Night To Remember: One of the best shot concert DVD's ever and so full of extras
    2) Rush – R30 – Leaders in Progressive Hard Rock show why this title is theirs and how with age grows finer and finer.
    3) Motley Crue – Carnival Of Sins: A visual souvenier of the show, recommend for the curious believe me.
    4) UFO – Showtime – Classic Hard Rock from industry Veterans. Chock full of bonus stuff that made this an enjoyable watch.
    5) Iced Earth - Gettysburg: A History lesson and a music video. More interesting than it sounds.
    6) Marillion – Marbles On The Road – Marillion delivered a solid set with this album and this live dvd is a perfect souvenier. I am a fan once again.
    7) KISS – Rock The Nation – Its out next week but I know I am going to love it.


    1. Motley Crue: Madison Square Garden – Who ever would have believed that they could once again capture that vibe, well they did.
    2. H.I.M. : Hammerstein Ballroom– I've been a fan of these guys for years now and watching them go from larger venue to larger venue is extraordinary.
    3. Soilwork and Dark Tranquility, Mnemic and Hypocrisy: BB Kings – This was a fasten your seat belt night

    Butch Jones' Best CD's of 2005, in no order:

    1. Soilwork-Stabbing The Drama
    2. Meshuggah-Catch 33
    3. Roadrunner United-All-Star Sessions
    4. Porcupine Tree-Deadwing
    5. God Forbid- IV: Constitution Of Treason
    6. Byzantine-..And They Shall take Up Serpents
    7. Project 86- ..And The Rest Shall Follow
    8. HIM- Dark Light
    9. Black Label Society-Mafia
    10. Mudvayne-Lost and Found
    11. Sevendust-Next
    12. Dark New Day- Twelve Year Silence
    13. John Norum-Optimus
    14. John 5-Songs For Sanity
    15. Trivium-Ascendancy

    Susanna Paradise's TOP TEN CDS OF 2005:

    1) Funeral for a Friend - Hours
    2) The Receiving End of Sirens - Between The Heart and The Synapse
    3) The Esoteric - With the Sureness of Sleepwalking
    4) Byzantine - And They Shall Take Up Serpents
    5) Cannae - Gold Becomes Sacrifice
    6) Cryptopsy - Once Was Not
    7) Cephalic Carnage - Anomalies
    8) Municipal Waste - Hazardous Mutation
    9) God Forbid - IV: Constitution of Treason
    10 Darkest Hour - Undoing Ruin

    Jack Toledano's Best of 2005

    1. Judas Priest – Angel Of Retribution – While I admit that at the time of my review of AOR I only gave it 4 stars, it has since grown on me immeasurably. Neither I nor Priest themselves ever expected the great success that AOR and the World Tour had in 2005. What a comeback!!
    2. Russell Allen – Atomic Soul – For the fan of 70's style hard rock, mixed in with a little bit of prog, this is probably one of the greatest masterpieces to come out in quite a few years.
    3. Dream Theater – Octavarium – Premier Prog Metal stepped up quite a few notches, and you have clearly one of the best prog metal CD's of the year. IMO, this CD does NOT take a back seat to 'Train of Thought".
    4. Hibria – Defying The Rules – These guys clearly "Defied The Rules", as they made one hell of a statement in order for me to rank them #4.
    5. Wobbler – Hinterland – If you are into classic prog and like to experiment with new bands, this CD is definitely for you, with it's exceptional instrumentation stretched into 20 plus minute songs.
    6. Falconer – Grime vs. Grandeur – This CD proves that Falconer is ready to step up into the upper echelon of great metal bands, if they haven't already.
    7. Primal Fear – Seven Seals – Another great European classic metal band who has taken the next step!!
    8. Frogg Café – Fortunate Observer Of Time – Like Wobbler, Frogg Café put together a great prog album, with great instrumentation, vocals, and some fun to boot.
    9. Hammerfall – Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken – The only thing that stopped me from ranking this excellent example of fantasy based power metal higher was one slightly long and tedious song.
    10. Mystic Prophecy – Never Ending – Of all the CD's listed in this Top 10 list, "Never Ending" possesses the best guitar work, after "Atomic Soul" of course.

    Mike Popke's Best of 2005

    Top 10 CDs (in alphabetical order)

  • Russell Allen: Atomic Soul — A collection of blues-infused, timeless classic rock; this is nowhere near a Symphony X album
  • Circus Maximus: The 1st Chapter — ProgPower USA Surprise #1: Mix Queensrÿche, TNT and Vanden Plas, stir with sophistication, enjoy.
  • DeadSoul Tribe: The Dead Word — Music that, contrary to the title, is full of life
  • Dream Theater: Octavarium — Eight times better than Train of Thought
  • King's X: Ogre Tones — Almost back to the Silent Planet
  • Magic Pie: Motions of Desire — Tasty prog baked to perfection
  • Man On Fire: Habitat — The album Spock's Beard should have made instead of Octane
  • Neal Morse: ? — !
  • Shadow Gallery: Room V — Worth the wait
  • Stride: Imagine — ProgPower USA Surprise #2: American hard rock meets American prog metal

    20 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • Arena: Pepper's Ghost
  • Cool Waters Band: A Rose Petal to the Metal
  • Daniel J: Losing Time
  • Neil Diamond: 12 Songs
  • Dimension X: So ... This Is Earth
  • Dynamic Lights: Shape
  • Flyin' Ryan Brothers: Blue Marble
  • Jaded Heart: Helluva Time
  • Journey: Generations
  • Mercenary: 11 Dreams (U.S. Version)
  • Nevermore: This Godless Endeavor
  • Opeth: Ghost Reveries
  • Sara Pace: Simpatico
  • Parallel Mind: Colossus ADEA
  • Porcupine Tree: Deadwing
  • Presto Ballet: Peace Among the Ruins
  • Redemption: The Fullness of Time
  • Sieges Even: The Art of Navigating By the Stars
  • Smoketree: Smoketree
  • Stream of Passion: Embrace the Storm

    Top 10 Reissues/Live CDs (in alphabetical order)

  • Asia: Aqua, Aria, Arena (Special Editions) — I'm convinced; the John Payne era is better than the John Wetton era
  • Bad Moon Rising: Full Moon Collection — A three-disc set of early-Nineties, blues-infused arena rock songs that got lost in the grunge but are too good to be forgotten
  • Balance of Power: Heathenology — A solid overview of an overlooked band that desperately needs the return of Lance King
  • Chicago At Carnegie Hall-Volumes I, II, III and IV — Four CDs and three posters? Sometimes excess is best, especially when it sounds this crisp
  • Evergrey: Live 2004-A Night to Remember — How can we forget?
  • Fish: Bouillabaisse-The Best Of Fish — The year's finest compilation
  • Leger de Main: A Lasting Impression — An obscure piece of modern prog-rock history
  • Steve Hackett: Voyage of the Acolyte, Please Don't Touch, Spectral Mornings, Defector (w/Bonus Tracks) — Essential reissues from one of the nicest guys I've ever interviewed
  • Seventh Key: Live in Atlanta — This band should be live all over the place
  • Ten Point Ten: 12 25 — Progressive holiday music I could (and probably will) listen to all year

    5 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • The Band: A Musical History
  • The Gathering: Accessories-Rarities & B-Sides
  • Kaipa: The Decca Years (1975-1978)
  • Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition
  • Various Artists: Children of Nuggets

    Top 5 DVDs (in alphabetical order)

  • Evergrey: Live 2004-A Night to Remember — Even better than the CD
  • Live 8 — Two words: Pink Floyd
  • Newsradio: The Complete First and Second Seasons — One of the funniest sitcoms and best ensemble casts ever
  • Pain of Salvation: Be — If the album made your head hurt, this live performance of Be should ease the pain
  • Rush: R30 — Featuring vintage footage that's a treat even for casual fans

    3 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • BoDeans: Homebrewed-Live from The Pabst
  • Fates Warning: Live in Athens
  • Rock School

    Most Overrated CD

  • Glass Hammer: The Inconsolable Secret — I like it; I just don't like it as much as everyone says I should ... Sorry.

    Murat Batmaz' Best of 2005

    In alphabetical order with bands listed in bold being absolute MASTERPIECES:

    1. At War With Self - Torn Between Dimensions
    2. Beyond Twilight - Section X
    3. Biomechanical - The Empires of the Worlds
    4. Circus Maximus - The 1st Chapter
    5. Dream Theater - Octavarium
    6. Elfonia - This Sonic Landscape
    7. Ephel Duath - Pain Necessary to Know
    8. Exsimio - Carbono 14
    9. Eyestrings - Consumption
    10. Frameshift - An Absence of Empathy
    11. Freak Neil Inc. - Characters
    12. Garden Wall - Towards the Silence
    13. Immolation - Harnessing Ruin
    14. James Labrie - Elements of Persuasion
    15. Kamelot - The Black Halo
    16. Lalu - Oniric Metal
    17. Linear Sphere - Reality Dysfunction
    18. Magic Pie - Motions of Desire
    19. The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
    20. Neal Morse - ?
    21. Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor
    22. Nil - Nil Novo Sub Sole
    23. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked
    24. NovAct - Tales from the Soul
    25. Ohm - Amino Acid Flashback
    26. Opeth - Ghost Reveries
    27. Pantommind - Shade of Fate
    28. Pendragon - Believe
    29. Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
    30. Quidam - SurREvival
    31. Redemption - The Fullness of Time
    32. Riverside - Second Life Syndrome
    33. Sieges Even - The Art of Navigating by the Stars
    34. Sonus Umbra - Digging for Zeros
    35. Strapping Young Lad - Alien
    36. Subterranean Masquerade - Suspended Animation Dreams
    37. Tandjent - No One Will Hear Us
    38. Tomas Bodin - I Am
    39. Ulver - Blood Inside
    40. Zero Hour - A Fragile Mind


    1. Pain of Salvation
    2. Fates Warning
    3. Dream Theater
    4. Evergrey
    5. Steve Vai

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