Honorable Mentions, Part 1:
I heard close to 90 albums this year. Technically these are the albums ranked 26th-37th, in some randomized order. So all of these albums are pretty strong, just not quite strong enough to make the proper list.
01 Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate
Ranking this all the way back on the list kinda depresses me, but the truth is this album just didn't quite "do it" for me like the last two Anubis Gate records, especially 2007's Andromeda Unchained. I don't think it's necessarily the singer change, just something about the songs don't really do it for me as much as they should. Nevertheless, the band still does really shine at times and I really respect these guys for being a pretty damn original and unique sounding band in a sea of derivatives.
Featured Track: "Golden Days" (Official Video)
02 Serpentine - Living and Dying in High Definition
2011 has been a great year for the Melodic Rock / AOR genre, as will be reflected by several selections elsewhere on my list. This was one of those "I'll check it out on a whim" sort of things, and I was quite impressed. Certainly nothing new going on here (is there ever in this genre?), just damn catchy and solid songwriting with some memorable performances and hooks - including vocals from TNT vocalist Tony Mills. Definitely worth the time for fans of Journey and the like.
Featured Track: "Dreamer"
(Literally my 3rd or 4th choice, but very, very little of this album is on YouTube)
03 Demon's Eye - The Stranger Within
Demon's Eye began as a Deep Purple tribute band, who have now made their own, original album fronted by iconic hard rock vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rata Blanca, etc). The result is a delightfully "retro" sounding 70's hard rock record, as one would expect from a band who began as a Deep Purple tribute. In the right mood this really does it for me, but ultimately I merely really like it, I don't really love it or anything.
Featured Track: "The Best of Times"
04 Hibria - Blind Ride
This was a bit of a disappointment for me. Hibria holds my pick for one of the greatest debut albums of all-time with 2004's Defying the Rules, and the follow up in 2008, The Skull Collectors was a damn strong record as well. One of the things that always set this band apart was the virtuosic bass work on their stuff, which sadly, since the departure of their original bassist, is now gone. The band has since turned to a slightly heavier, more down-tuned sound. The songs are a bit more concise than on previous efforts as well. Still, if you really love the idea of Power/Speed metal with balls and some great players, Hibria should be on your "to hear" list.
Featured Track: "Beyond Regrets of the Past"
05 Enbound - And She Says Gold
Holy hell - a new power metal band that doesn't suck. Hell, at this point in the game, a power metal album period that doesn't suck is enough to warrant attention from me. Enbound are a great new outfit from Sweden, playing what is best described as traditional, Melodic Power Metal. Hard to say too much beyond that. If this band matures in the right direction from this debut, they may actually have a career ahead of them.
Featured Track: "Combined the Souls" (Official Video)
06 Iron Savior - The Landing
After about four years, Piet Sielck's power metal outfit Iron Savior is back in action with The Landing, which is about as solid of an album as they've ever put out. Iron Savior are honestly just one of those bands who are forever destined to be a "B Circuit" band, and this album does not change that. As I said though, if you like this band and this style (German Power Metal), you can't go wrong, and there's a number of really enjoyable songs. Actually, the record is enjoyable pretty much all the way through.
Featured Track: "Starlight"