4. Rocka Rollas - Metal Strikes Back
This is among the most brilliant metal albums ever written. It is a perfect release of speed/heavy/power metal for fans of Running Wild, Judas Priest, Grave Digger, and others. The guitar solos are fantastic, as they've always been on Rocka Rollas' albums, and the band's vocalist just screams metal. It's impossible not to like lyrics like "We were born to play the loudest metal!/Only victory and epic battles!". "Metal Strikes Back" is by far the most underrated album of 2013, and it's something you really need to hear to believe. It may take a couple of listens to sink in, but I assure everyone that this album is well-deserving of most people's year-end lists. Highlights: "Night of the Living Steel", "Metalive", "Heavy Metal Strikes Back", and "Blazing Wings"
3. Crimson Shadows - Sails of Destiny
This EP may only be 3 tracks, but those 3 tracks are just as strong as anything on the band's debut, and Crimson Shadows continues to show why they were the Wacken Metal Battle winners. This band is like Dragonforce with death and black metal vocals. It is completely brutal stuff. I completely understand why those people who don't like guitar solos wouldn't like this, but I don't understand why some metal fans don't like guitar solos in the first place! Highlights: "Freedom and Salvation", "Maiden's Call", and "Moonlit Skies and Bloodied Tides"
2. Stratovarius - Nemesis
I don't think there's a better band in metal right now. The last two Stratovarius albums have been complete masterpieces. "Elysium" topped my 2011 list, and "Nemesis" comes extremely close as well. This album was more of a grower than the last one, but it is just as good. There are songs that are ridiculously catchy ("Unbreakable" and "Fantasy"), as well as some more experimental stuff ("Halcyon Days"), and then there are songs that just rock really hard ("Abandon" and "Dragons"). There isn't a weak moment on this album, and I have to think a lot of that is because of the influence of the newest guitarist Matias Kupiainen, but even if it isn't, the band has gelled now better than ever before. Highlights: "Abandon", "Unbreakable", "Fantasy", "Dragons"
1. Avantasia - The Mystery of Time
Every single time Tobi comes out with a new Avantasia or Edguy release, he tries to test the patience of his fans. I'm sure "Lost In Space" really shocked people as a single, but "Sleepwalking" has taken this to new limits. And somehow, I ended up liking it. The good news is that the rest of the album is heavier, but this is still one of Avantasia's least-metal albums. The guest vocalists did a great job on this album (particularly Eric Martin), and Tobi always sounds amazing. There are two long epic songs on the record, and they're both interesting in their own way. The first is more of a speed metal track, whereas the second one is a grandiose end to the greatest album of 2013. Highlights: "Spectres", "Black Orchid", "Savior In The Clockwork", "What's Left of Me", and "The Great Mystery"