2. ZUUL - "Out Of Time" - As metal as it gets, these guys deliver a tour de force of NWOBHM riffing, gorgeous harmony leads and songs to rival the best of Bible Of The Devil or Colossus. A staggering debut.
3. U.S. CHRISTMAS - "Run Thick In The Night" - Perennial Raysrealm favorites, North Carolina's USX do everything right on what's easily their finest hour so far. Dark, heavy and disturbing psych from the rural U.S.
4. CORSAIR - "Alpha Centauri" - Had this 5-track EP been longer, it would've possibly placed even higher in the list. You mix Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Hawkwind in outer space and you've got yourself a helluva band. Full-length platter on the way!
5. LA OTRACINA - "Reality Has Got To Die" - Their name apparently has no definition but this Brooklyn bunch has music that means everything: NWOBHM, psychedelic rock & extended jams collide with "2001: A Space Odyssey." Screw reality, then!
6. GHOST - "Opus Eponymous" - From what I can tell online, these cats are either loved or hated. My opinion's well into the former. After all, how do you expect Ray to react to a cross between Mercyful Fate & mid-period BOC that also sports pop hooks?!
7. TAME IMPALA - "Innerspeaker" - I spent a couple weeks including buying an empty digipak for $27 trying to get this album. Full story in my review, but it was worth every penny and second as "Innerspeaker"'s sweet mix of low-fi psych/prog has spun the Realm-o-Matic as much as anything this year.
8. AGAINST NATURE - "Cross Street / Chasing Eagles" - Once again John, Bert & Steve (that lovable Baltimore trio!) has re-invented themselves with a top-shelf set of bluesy hard rock. Mr. Brenner continues to rival Billy Gibbons in 6-string tone usage.
9. SOUL MANIFEST - "White Season" - France has produced some awesome bands over the years, from politico/Bon Scott rockers Trust to prog-killers Eclat. SM throw their hats into the ring with a riveting take on psychedelic hard rock as a jam band.
10. SOUVENIRS YOUNG AMERICA - "The Name Of The Snake" - Tumbleweed dances across the windswept plains and forms a backdrop for what can only be described as dark, heavy Americana. Music that is beautifully foreboding occupies SYA's latest offering.