I've spent a lot of time relistening to the majority of these albums, assessing how I feel and have felt about them. However, this has truly been a labor of love, as many of these albums are some of my favorites, bar none, and also helped greatly to shape who I am today musically.
To say the least, there are many albums I really wish could have made this list. Something not being on this list doesn't mean I don't like it, hell, it doesn't even mean I don't love it. There are a good 10-20 albums that fell short of this list I easily consider 9/10-worthy albums. This was initially only intended to be a top 10 list, but I just found that I love some of these albums too much to give them the shaft.
So, with all that being said, I gotta make my typical disclaimer: These are my opinions. Yeah, I know, I generally just listen to Traditional/Progressive/Power Metal, and this list is a reflection of that. Feedback is welcome, provided it's not bashing.
NOTE: Images start at #14, because I was limited to having 14 images in one post.
20.Firewind - Allegiance (2006)
Favorite tracks: Till the End of Time, Allegiance, Ready to Strike
In my opinion, the pinnacle of this band's career thus far. Chock full of great guitar work, catchy melodies and song structures, and really enjoyable melodic power metal. This album also does very to display one thing I've always loved about Firewind - the marriage of very melodic qualities with almost melodic-death metal-type riffs. It makes for some really cool counterpoints.
19.Angra - Rebirth (2001)
Favorite tracks: Nova Era, Rebirth, Unholy War
A few years after their Andre Matos-lead incarnation fell apart, Angra was resurrected with a new rhythm section and singer, and released what I feel is probably one of the best prog/power albums out there. One thing I have always loved about Angra is that you can hear that they're Brazilian in their music, some of the passages have a very latin sound and feel to them. Great production, great songwriting, and in general just a great album from start to finish.
18.Evergrey - Recreation Day (2003)
Favorite tracks: Recreation Day, I'm Sorry, Blinded
Evergrey's 2001-2005 run is easily among my favorites of all-time, as this list will prove. On this record the band took a much more straight-forward, song-based approach, akin to that of a "live record" - basically just creating songs that they would want to play live and would work well in that environment. A few of the numbers here tend to get list in the shuffle, but in general it's a fantastic testament to the emotional power of what Evergrey is all about.
17.Allen / Lande - The Battle (2005)
Favorite tracks: Wish For a Miracle, Another Battle, My Own Way Home
This album's release was a colossal event for me, as I consider Russell Allen and Jorn Lande to be 2 of my favorite vocalists. The project is dominated by Magnus Karlsson's great, catchy songwriting and guitar-work, married by some fantastic vocal performances. Jorn's not exactly on the top of his game here, but Russell sounds as good as he ever has. If you love melodic metal with a bit of an AOR twist, this is a must-hear.
16.Masterplan - Aeronautics (2005)
Favorite tracks: Crimson Rider, Wounds, I'm Not Afraid
My introduction to Jorn Lande's vocal wizardy, and in my opinion, a truly fantastic album. Masterplan's first two records managed to combine a great sound and writing approach with an awesome voice and forged something truly one-of-a-kind. As mentioned for the above album, this is a requirement for anyone who loves hook-driven melodic metal.
15.Blind Guardian - A Night at the Opera (2002)
Favorite tracks: And Then There Was Silence, Punishment Divine, Battlefield
Many have criticized this album for sounding too "busy", rife with orchestral elements and choirs at times overpowering the actual guitars and rhythmic work. I agree that this is indeed a VERY orchestral album, driven by the majestic added elements, but I think they add to the big picture, not detract from it. Blind Guardian have had a very praise-worthy career, and this dramatic left-turn from their earlier work is just another gold star on their chart, proving that they can tackle operatic orchestral metal as well as speed metal.
14.Dungeon - One Step Beyond (2004)
Favorite tracks: Against the Wind, The Hunger, One Step Beyond
Dungeon's short-lived career was punctuated by amazing albums that the majority of the world and metal community will forever overlook. It's a damn shame considering Dungeon managed to marry Power, Thrash, Speed, Progressive, and 80s metal all in one awesome package dominated by killer songs and guitar work. There truly is a little bit of something here for everyone. This was my introduction to the band who have become one of my favorites as well as a huge influence on me musically.
13.Redemption - The Fullness of Time (2005)
Favorite Tracks: The Fullness of Time, Threads, Sapphire
Redemption have newly risen to become arguably the hottest new band in progressive metal today, but before their two highly acclaimed latest records, Nick Van Dyk and co. produced an even better album in The Fullness of Time. The combination of Nick's powerful songwriting musically and lyrically with Ray Alder's arguably strongest vocal performances to date is just a winning result on so many levels. This album has crushing heaviness and undeniable melodic power in one awesomely progressive package. Not to mention some of my favorite songs of all-time from a lyrically and emotional perspective.
12.Primal Fear - Seven Seals (2005)
Favorite tracks: Demons and Angels, Rollercoaster, All For One
This album stands head-and-shoulders above every other album Primal Fear has released, in my opinion. On this record, the band stepped into a slightly more melodic, songwriting-based direction, and the result is an album that is 100% kickass heavy metal but stacked with substance. These songs have a ton of hooks but they are still undeniably heavy and awesome. The band truly found their niche on this album - Somewhere between Judas Priest worship and Melodic Metal, they created one of my favorite guitar-based albums of all-time.
11.Nocturnal Rites - Grand Illusion (2005)
Favorite tracks: Deliverance, Still Alive, Fools Never Die
Another tragically unsung band in my eyes, and also another band who produced their greatest work in the process of a bigger evolution. Grand Illusion managed to capture the band on the bridge between Traditional Power Metal and what I would basically describe as "Pop Metal". The result is fantastic song-based record that kicks ass from start to finish, driven by Johnny lindquist's underrated vocals and Nils Norberg's incredible soloing.
10.Dungeon - Resurrection (2005)
Favorite tracks: The Legend of Huma, Paradise, Resurrection
This is essentially just a rerecording of the band's proper debut album, but it has become far more well-known than the original version. As I mentioned before, Dungeon managed to combine aspects of nearly every subgenre of metal into one awesome package, and this album was their crowning achievement in my opinion.
09.Masterplan - Masterplan (2003)
Favorite tracks: Spirit Never Die, Soulburn, Crystal Night
Even better than Masterplan's second album was their debut album, which although it was certainly more of a traditional power metal record, still had a ton of identity. From Jorn's incredibly powerful vocals to Roland Grapow's beefy and awesome guitar sound, this album is truly a masterpiece. Every song is a winner on so many levels, it's hard to choose favorites. Everything just came together here to basically create the perfect storm of melodic metal.
08.Edguy - Mandrake (2001)
Favorite tracks: The Pharaoh, Golden Dawn, Tears of a Mandrake
Remember when Edguy was still a majestic power metal band? Indeed, these days seem long behind us. This album was the final the band would produce before moving away from their epic power-driven sound in favor of a more melodic, 80's hard-rock-infused one, for better or worse. The result is what is probably one of the best power metal albums of all-time, showing that Edguy knew how to kick ass, be ridiculously epic, and also have a sense of humor... and balance it all in a great package.
07.Evergrey - The Inner Circle (2004)
Favorite tracks: A Touch of Blessing, In the Wake of the Weary, Harmless Wishes
The second, yet not final Evergrey showing on this list. The band's final work before their arguable "fall from grace" came in the form of this amazing concept record about a religious cult and it's effect on (and more or less destruction of) an average man's life. This is the sort of concept that only this band could've brought to life like this, with Tom S. Englund's beautiful and heart-wrenching vocals driving this orchestral progressive metal album forward. The story and music alike are emotionally overwhelming. I find it nearly impossible to listen to this and not "feel" it in a huge way, so I must award big points for that.
06.Seventh Wonder - Mercy Falls (2008)
Favorite tracks: Unbreakable, Welcome to Mercy Falls, The Black Parade
Compared to all of these other albums, this is the obvious newcomer, my relationship only beginning about 7 or 8 months ago. However, in that time it has easily become one of my top 20 albums of all-time. This band's combination of technical prog-prowess with insanely catchy and melodic hooks has impressed me beyond belief. Everywhere you turn on this album there is another amazing chorus, another unbelievable vocal hook. And yet, it doesn't get old, because the band also brought the substance in full force, full of amazing instrumentation and creative songwriting structures. I have spun this album an insane amount, but yet it ceases to get old or boring.
05.Symphony X - V: The New Mythology Suite (2000)
Favorite tracks: Communion and the Oracle, Evolution, Rediscovery
This was my introduction to the mighty Symphony X, and I have to say this still stands as one of the most amazing sounding albums I've ever heard. This truly transports the listener to another sonic dimension for its duration. It's very hard to really classify this musically because I've really never heard anything else that sounds quite like it. Russell Allen's vocals take on another form here, often found in choir-like form, with Romeo's chugging riffs and Pinella's orchestral atmosphere filling out the sound. This album remains almost untouched in the world of Prog Metal in my opinion.
04.Evergrey - In Search of Truth (2001)
Favorite tracks: The Masterplan, Rulers of the Mind, Mark of the Triangle
This is very likely my favorite "sounding" album ever made. I just love the production and sound of this to death. Much like "The Inner Circle", this is another concept album that only a band with the emotional depth of Evergrey could make seem convincing and honest. Another album that's hard to pick favorite songs, because it really is one big piece of Prog Metal perfection from start to finish. The keyboards really help to add depth to this, making it (appropriately) sound like the soundtrack to an X-Files episode at times. Again, Tom's vocals really lead things forward, though in general the whole band really shines on this one.
03.Iron Maiden - Brave New World (2000)
Favorite tracks: Blood Brothers, Brave New World, Ghost of the Navigator
Well, we couldn't have a list like this without a Maiden record, could we? The band's first reunion (and my first Maiden) album still stands as my personal favorite. I'm honestly not sure I could say this is the most technically sound of the reunion records, but it's still far-and-away my favorite. The production on this album actually really works, and the sound of the band in general is just very full and powerful, there's a certain charisma and energy to this record that I'm not sure exists on any other Maiden album. Strong performances from everyone, and as I mentioned earlier, this just holds such a special place in my heart.
02.Circle II Circle - Burden of Truth (2006)
Favorite tracks: Heal You, Sentenced, Burden of Truth
Man, do I love Zak Stevens' voice. That is not to be understated. However, more than any Savatage record, I love his vocal performance on this album. Again, this is one of those cases where the songwriting and performances of the band on the whole merged perfectly to create something I just find to be amazing. Despite being a concept record, this is a generally straight-forward, song-based album, just with something extra to it. Again, just about every song is killer, and another album I have spun and absolutely insane amount of times since its release, and yet it still always sounds awesome whenever I listen to it.
01.Edguy - Hellfire Club - Hellfire Club (2004)
Favorite tracks: The Piper Never Dies, We Don't Need a Hero, Mysteria
This is an album which has had an absolutely profound effect on me. There are very few albums you will hear in your life that will change your perception and expectations of music as a whole, and this was one of the few that did that for me. It's important to remember that when this album dropped in April 2004, I was still very new to the world of power metal, and when I popped this in, it literally blew my mind. I was taken aback by how much every single track ruled. On this album Edguy managed to keep a lot of their classic power metal sound in tact but yet married it with this awesome 80's-inspired hard rock vibe to make something infectiously good. We still have the really epic moments, we still have the kickass power metal moments, and the band's humor is still generally kept in check so that it remains funny, not annoying. I'm sure this is not the technically best record on this list in my opinion, but the bottom line is that it's effect has been absolutely colossal on me, and I still really, really enjoy listening to it. I feel it really deserves this spot.
And lastly, here are a few honorable mentions. All albums I really love and wish I had room for on this list:
Iron Maiden - A Matter of life and Death (2006)
Royal Hunt - Collision Course: Paradox II (2008)
Riot - Army of One (2006)
Kamelot - Epica/The Black Halo (2003/2005)
Pagan's Mind - Celestial Entrance (2002)
Circus Maximus - Isolate (2007)
Pyramaze - Immortal (2008)
Gamma Ray - Majestic (2005)
Thanks for reading.