Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Top 10 Concept Albums

I will go through my top 10 concept albums, and it took me some time to create this list because I started by listing all the concept albums I enjoy then I had to narrow down a list of at least 30 or more down to 10. Now, I've been told there are 2 kinds of concept albums; ones with a story and ones that are just about the same subject but have no real story line connecting them. I tend to favor the albums with a story line to them, but I still have a few of the other type that I hold in high regard.

The first one on this list is one that a friend told me I should listen to and the moment I heard the 13 minute closer I was hooked. Coincidentally the album with The Last Baron on it takes the last spot on my list, number 10 is... Crack The Skye by Mastodon
I can't really help but to put this one on here, I mean Rasputin is really the central character and that is pretty awesome. Though the lyrics and the theme take a back seat to the musicianship and songwriting/composition on this album, which is just superb. I don't think any band could have pulled off something quite like this, and Mastodon has really raised the bar for musicians inside or outside of prog-metal.

I spent a fair amount of time arguing with myself over which album would take this spot, and both albums were released by the same artist. The one I went with was the follow up to this band's first concept album, which was excellent, number 9 is... Still Life by Opeth
My Arms Your Hearse was an amazing concept album and it was well written, but I just like Still Life more: from The Moor to White Cluster this album is a masterpiece. The story is about a man who was banished from his village for not conforming to their religious views and he returns for his girl. The story is really well paced considering how simple it is and the music is just amazing. The growls are monstrous, the clean vocals are just great, the music is just what you'd expect from Opeth at that time (considering that this album was released after My Arms Your Hearse and before Blackwater Park, which was certainly a magical time in music).

This next one is a modern adaptation of The Count of Monty Cristo from a German prog-metal band. Number 8 is... Christ-0 by Vanden Plas
It's the story of a man who has just gotten out of prison after spending years growing into a cruel man, someone devoid of any of those Jesus teachings of peace and love... Christ-0. Basically he goes on a killing spree and a detective tries to catch him, but must go through his own demons first before he can confront this demon. The story is extremely well written, nowadays I really expect nothing less from Andy Kuntz since he's quickly become one of my favorite lyricists/singers. The music is also amazing and I really love how the instrumentation is handled, unlike most prog bands Vanden Plas's focus more on the melody rather than just mindlessly shredding for hours. Don't get me wrong, there is shredding, but it's done in a very melodic way that a lot of bands don't really do at all. I've heard that they'll be releasing a new concept album later on this year, and I couldn't be more excited.

There's no way I could leave out a concept album from Arjen A. Lucassen, and I chose this one completely because growing up I was really really into Sci-Fi (Star Trek, Star Gate, The Day The Earth Stood Still, etc). Number 7 is... Space Metal by Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One
From the standpoint of a prog fan it is a dream come true with Dan Swano (Nightingale), Russel Allen (Symphony X, Allen Lande, guest spots with Avantasia), Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish - live and hopefully the new permanent vocalist) and Damien Wilson (Threshold and millions of other appearances) on vocals. There also happens to be a guest appearance by the one and only Jens Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Stratovarius). As a fan of Sci-Fi one can't help but love the fact that the songs are about classic Sci-Fi movies and shows like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Gate, Star Wars and Alien to name a few. The music is what you'd expect from Lucassen, just great, and the vocals are done just as you'd expect from this all-star cast, amazing. There was also a second album called Victims of The Modern Age, but Space Metal was the best anyone could have hoped for.

Next up is an American metal band that wrote a multi-album story (2 albums plus 3 songs as a prelude), and changed vocalists between the 2 albums. That pretty much gave it away, number 6 is... Something Wicked parts I & II and the Something Wicked trilogy
It started with the Something Wicked Trilogy, then Barlow left the band and the Ripper joined on for 2 concept albums, the first about the American revolution and the second Framing Armageddon. The story is basically that the Setians were the original inhabitants of earth and humans came from the stars, killing all but 10,000 of them. Their revenge was to make us forget who we were and where we came from, influence the evolution of humanity and await their savior who would be the destroyer of humanity. The Crucible of Man was released with Barlow back on vocals and it picks up with the birth of Set Abominae, the savior of his kind, and his conditioning/training as the destroyer of mankind. Eventually he starts his quest and he makes his decision on what he will do after watching mankind over the ages. The story basically ends with a good moral; the only way for us as a species to survive is to reject human nature (greed, selfishness, etc). The album Dystopia had 2 songs that were still about the story, just during Set's spree of destruction, and apparently we can expect the occasional song or 2 down the road about this epic tale.
The music is what you'd expect from Iced Earth and the vocals on all songs relevant to this story are amazing (yes I actually like the Ripper's work on Framing Armageddon), and it is just great in every way I can think of.

Sir Russel Allen is making his second appearance on this list. Number 5 is... Paradise Lost by Symphony X
Not many bands could possibly take on the task of writing a concept album about the garden of eden story and it turn out so amazing. This album is, in my opinion, Symphony X's best work to date. It's fast, heavy, epic, progressive, it's got a couple ballads which can leave you speechless and the songwriting is superb. I really don't know what else to say other than it is amazing.

Not surprising at all that this next album is from a power metal band and it's about Middle Earth, number 4 is... Nightfall On Middle Earth by Blind Guardian
I know it makes more sense to put up the studio version since the army of vocals is just epic, but I love the live versions just as much... plus you get a real large army of vocals with the crowd. Anyways, the album is basically the Similarion and the music is epic. There are a lot of spoken word tracks on the album and they really add something that I can't quite put my finger on. Not much to say other than... this is epic in far too many ways (did I forget to say: EPIC).

If this didn't make the list then I don't think I would be able to go on with this blog, this is probably one of the most well-known concept albums from a band that has gone through recent issues and is technically 2 bands now. Number 3 is... Operation Mindcrime by Queensryche
This doesn't need to be justified, it should make any list on the best concept albums. I did not put it higher because I think the 2 that are above are as close to perfect as possible and this album does have it's weaker points. I don't know why, I can listen to most of the songs endlessly, but I can't listen to Suite Sister Mary unless I'm listening to the album the full way through and reading the lyrics. Other than that, the songs on this album are memorable and can stand as amazing songs on their own. For that matter all of the albums on this list really have that quality, but Operation Mindcrime is one of the most memorable albums with some of the most memorable songs on it.

With a second appearance on this list is their 2010 and, until a new album is released, is their most recent work. Number 2 is... The Seraphic Clockwork by Vanden Plas
Time travel, the idea that an alternate history occurred where Jesus's destiny was never fulfilled and Judas protected him, the idea that a clock maker's destiny is to save mankind (until the end of time) with the greatest act of betrayal... wow. I'm not a religious person, I don't believe that organized religion is right, but I think this album's story is genius. If religions had stories like this I would be in church every week front and center paying attention to every word spoken. The story has a really good human element to it to, the clock maker has to struggle with the idea that Christianity got rid of the prophecies of Jesus dying for the world's sins and trying to get past the fact that he feels completely betrayed so that he can take his rightful place in history to save mankind. On top of all that the music is more refined and miles above that of Christ-0, which may be hard to believe. There is not one song that isn't a masterpiece by itself, and together they create one of the best albums I've ever listened to.

And at last, the top spot on this top 10 concept albums list has been reached. After all of the albums that made the list I finally get to reveal my favorite and it also happens to include Russel Allen once again (though not in a prominent role this time). Number 1 is... The Scarecrow Trilogy by Avantasia
These were the 3rd, 4th and 5th albums by Avantasia, the 2nd story and thankfully not the last. The Scarecrow, Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon create a story that is interesting, emotional and epic (there's that word again). The main character (Tobias Sommet) is basically an outsider who has unrequited love for someone (Amanda Somerville) and is exploring the left-hand path with the help of his guide (Micheal Kiske) while being tempted to abandon that path (by Jorn Lande) with a ton more guest spots along the way (like Roy Khan, Alice Cooper, Russel Allen, Cloudy Yang and Klaus Meine). There is of course much more to the story, but I'll move onto the music.
The music is epic and awesome, but also extremely melodic and catchy as ****.
I consider Avantasia's latest album The Mystery of Time to be even better than any of the prior releases but it is not yet a completed story (so I hear) and even if it was, The Scarecrow Trilogy had 3 albums to get out the story and each album is a masterpiece by itself and the same can be said about each of the songs. If I had only listed individual albums then 4 spots would be taken up by Avantasia (the trilogy plus The Mystery of Time) and that hardly seemed fair considering all the concept albums I had to cut out to make this list.

Hopefully someone enjoyed this list and, as always, I welcome any comments and suggestions so long as they are appropriate (If you think I missed some albums, let me know).

No comments:

Post a Comment