It's only a month late this time! My Top 20 list for last year is probably pretty stable, but here are some albums that I suspect might make it on if I could hear them in full: Doomsword, Let Battle Commence, Chalice, Augmented, Graveworm, Engraved in Black, Greyswan, Thought: Tormented Minds, Nightrage, Sweet Vengeance, Rage, Soundchaser, Xandria, Kill the Sun, and Yearning, Evershade.
20. Tourniquet, Where Moth and Rust Destroy
Tourniquet has done (much) better, but this still has some great moments.
19. Soilwork, Figure Number Five
Nice and polished, with good songwriting, not my favorite of theirs but still pretty good.
18. Circle II Circle, Watching in Silence
A pleasant surprise: melodic, very slightly progressive metal with a great vocalist, the former singer of Savatage.
17. Galloglass, Legends from Now and Nevermore
Pretty standard power metal, may seem formulaic to some but has an undeniable energy. Better than most bands plowing this furrow.
16. Masterplan, Masterplan
All-around well-done, non-cliched power metal.
15. Edenbridge, Aphelion
How can you resist those vocals?
14. Bethlehem, Schatten aus der Alexander Welt
Avant-garde metal for the adventurous only.
13. Stratovarius, Elements Pt. 1
Slagged by some, I actually thought this was quite solid, a definite improvement over their previous two.
12. Kamelot, Epica
Another power metal band getting back into fine form.
11. Alchemist, Austral Alien
Glad I found out about these guys. Very solid.
10. Nevermore, Enemies of Reality
The lowest position I've put a Nevermore album for a long time. Good but not outstanding.
9. Septic Flesh, Sumerian Daemons
Really intense. You can always count on these guys to deliver.
8. Iron Maiden, Dance of Death
A really pleasant surprise, better than Brave New World. Bruce sounds as good as ever.
7. Arch Enemy, Anthems of Rebellion
Maybe not quite as good as Wages of Sin, but very tasty all the same.
6. Kalmah, Swampsong
Delicious and addictive melodeath.
5. Evergrey, Recreation Day
Emotional, slightly progressive metal. Evergrey remain unique.
4. While Heaven Wept, Of Empires Forlorn
Awesome Vast Music Lachrymose (Epic Doom Metal).
3. Naglfar, Sheol
Last year's best melodic death metal album.
2. Dream Theater, Train of Thought
Not their best, but shows an interesting side of their sound. The fact that it makes #2 of 2003 shows you how little competition there was out there.
1. Poverty's No Crime, The Chemical Chaos
The only album of 2003 that breaks into "instant classic" territory. Advances progressive metal well beyond its previous frontiers.