Album of the Year
- Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet. It feels as if the whole of their 15 year career has been working up to this album. It combines metal influences of their recent work with the soaring atmospheric soundscapes of earlier albums to produce the most consistently good album they’ve ever recorded. Just six songs, the longest clocking in at 17 minutes, with not a weak moment among them.
- Fish – 13th Star. A major return to form by an artist too many have written off as a has-been who can’t sing any more. This emotionally-charged album seems him singing in a lower register, half-spoken in places, that suits his present-day vocal range, backed by a hard-edged guitar-driven groove-orientated sound. His best album since at least “Sunsets on Empire”.
- Odin Dragonfly – Offerings. Not a prog album, or even really a rock album, but an acoustic work with guitar, piano, flute and two voices. The result is a stunningly beautiful album that perfectly captures their live sound. Yes, they really do create those harmonies on stage with just two people.
- The Reasoning – Awakening. Remarkable debut album marking the welcome return of Karnataka’s Rachel Jones. Best described as prog-tinged hard rock, with some remarkable harmonies from their three lead vocalists, and full of melodies that get permanently stuck in your head.
- Breathing Space – Coming Up For Air. Effectively the debut for the lineup of the band that’s been playing live over the past year, it’s a well-crafted mix of 80s pop/rock numbers and the sort of sweeping rock ballads Iain Jennings used to write when he was with Mostly Autumn.
- Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos. Complex, epic prog metal by the band that really defined the genre, and a rather more consistently strong album that their previous couple.
- Joe Bonamassa – Sloe Gin. Part acoustic, and part guitar-shredding electric blues. The title track has to be one of my songs of the year.
- Epica – The Divine Conspiracy. The European rock scene is awash with female-fronted symphonic metal bands, and this album is perhaps the best out of a whole bunch of good ones.
- Therion – Gothic Kabbalah. Scandinavian choral death metal, totally bonkers but compellingly brilliant. Because a lot of the arrangements are a bit off-the-wall it does take repeated listenings to really get in to.
- Apocalyptica – Worlds Collide. One of the most metal albums of the year, except it’s all played on cellos rather than guitars. 50/50 mix of manic instrumentals and songs featuring a variety of guest vocalists.
- Rush – Snakes and Arrows. Return to form after the disappointing “Vapor Trails”. I find my enjoyment of any Rush album is directly proportional to how prominent Alex Lifeson is in the mix. He’s to the fore on this one.
- Marillion – Somewhere Else. The album that’s really divided the fanbase. While this is no ‘Marbles’, it’s still a good album once you get into it, simpler songs with more straightforward arrangements rather than the multi-layered epic approach some might have expected.
And there were plenty of other great ones, making 2007 such a great year for music. And then there are a few albums people have raved about although I have yet to hear them, such as the new ones by The Pineapple Thief and Riverside.