Leaves' Eyes - Symphonies of the Night - (Napalm Records)
    Leaves' Eyes has released an album of epic proportions combining vast quantities of symphonic music with some of the best guitar and  drum work executed by Sander van der Meer, Felix Born, and Thorsten 'Tosso' Bauer, mixed in with the best vocal arrangements ever performed from Liv Kristine  and Alex Krull, making this their finest release ever. This concept album is filled with amazing songs that have given me a  constant battery of chills and goose bumps that still attack me to this day, beginning with the opening song 'Hell  to the Heavens', and ending with the infecting chorus, and my favorite off the CD, 'Ophelia'. In between is a rich  collection of beautiful melodic tunes such as 'Saint Cecelia' and 'Nightshade', mixed in with a hardened core collection of songs such as 'Angel and the Ghost', 'Maid of Lorraine', and the title track, 'Symphonies of the Night', which contains reflections of some of Leaves' Eyes' past tunage.
     Truly a treat for the ears, and will definately please every Leaves' Eyes fan around. 'As I fade away to black waters!!'
Revamp - Wild Card - (Nuclear Blast)

     An unfortunate health development came about shortly after Floor Jansen's first release with Revamp, which subsequently resulted in her taking a break. With the band's new release 'Wild Card', we're given hints and clues as to what she did while taking a short hiatus to deal with her issues. Each and every song deals with an emotion, a reaction, a thought, an event, or a result. Floor takes all of these feelings and adds a dimension which I'm sure many fans were not prepared for; a new octave; her growls!
      This release is heavy, VERY heavy, and Floor doesn't hold back on her talents on one single song, opening with the massive 'The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown': On The Sideline', the first of a trilogy of songs (the others being 'The Limbic System' and the excellent 'Neurasthenia', with special guest Devin Townsend!) in which she explains the status of her condition. Other treats within are the title track (and my favourite) 'Wild Card', 'Precibus', in which we witness her full range of vocals, the decadent 'Nothing', the rich 'Distorted Lullabies' and the brilliant 'Misery's No Crime' with special guest Mark Jansen from Epica!!
      A tip of the hat to this band, and especially to Floor, for taking a possible life debilitating condition, coming out of it, and presenting us with the results in such an amazing way!!!

Tristania - Darkest White (Napalm Records)

    Tristania's singer, Mariangela Demurtas, was given a royal welcoming with the first release of a Tristinia album with her as singer called Rubicon, and all though it received mixed reviews, I found it enlightening and subsequently placed into my top 10 for  2010.
     Now, three years later, they have released 'Darkest White', which completely overshadows their first release, and in this reviewers opinion, puts them in as one of the top bands for 2013. My fondness for the darker side of gothic metal has been brought to the forefront with this, starting with the morbidly heavy intro of the first song 'Number', with other numerous songs that will tempt you into putting this creation on repeat. 'Himmerfall' is amazing and a headbangers delight, while 'Requiem' is, to put it bluntly, absolutely outstanding and allows Mariangela's vocals to shine brighter than any sun can in any galaxy within the universe.
     Kjetil Nordhus is incredible in songs such as the title track 'Darkest White' and another gem, '  Cypher', while the growls of Anders Hidle add that scruffy edge on such pieces as 'Artries' and again, the opening track, 'Number'!
    Sitting within my top 3 releases, bouncing from one position to another with the other two, proves just how difficult it as been to find positioning between the top three on my list.
Hydria - Freakshow (European Music Group)

     Got an email from the Hydria’s camp, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with this attached to it, and fell in love with this band and their sound right away, making Hydria my favourite ‘new’ band for 2013. The album shines in its great, yet simple, combination of excellent percussion, solid guitars, sweet bass (which is really prominent), Raquel Schüler's great vocals, and especially the keyboards and programming. Raquel's voice really shines throughout the album, but especially on such cuts as ‘Not the Same’, ‘Brilliant People’, and the single ‘Reality Shows’.
     It's too bad about their breakup in October, but such solid metal from Brazil is new for me, and I’ll be searching for some other great sounds from down there, and all of South America! This release is an awesome start!! Fantastic!!
Battle Beast - Battle Beast (Warner Music Finland)

      A brilliant collection of some of the best hard rock that I’ve ever heard from a female fronted metal band, Battle Beast’s self titled release contains enough awesome rhythm and hard core play to satisfy any fan of this genre, whether a female fronted metal fan or not! Noora Louhimo’s vocals are amazing, possessing enough heat and fire to ignite a stage, yet maintaining an amazing clean vocal at times to ease the temperature at just the right moment, as is evident in the second track 'Out Of Control' and the third cut 'Out In The Streets'! The album is laced with potential anthems such as 'Machine Revolution (along with a massive introduction)', 'Over the Top' and 'Kingdom', and even the small instrumental piece introducing Kingdom called 'Golden Age' is excellent and very well placed within  the album, allowing for some breathing time before we are hit once again with the massive Battle Beast machine.
     Solid performances by the band members throughout this release guaranteed constant play on my player, whether it be in the car, at work, or at home!
Tarja - Colors in the Dark - (Edel, Universal)

    Tarja has ported us a release in 'Colours in the Dark' that goes above and beyond her previous two releases which she made after leaving Nightwish. Backed by an extremely excellent band, the opening song, 'Victim of Ritual' starts things off nicely with some unique vocal effects. The following song, '500 Letters', is one of my favourites from the album, with a beautiful opening of her with an acoustic guitar, flowing into a great beat that rocks.  An excellent example for this 'experimental' sound is 'Lucid Dreamer', containing abundant vocal effects,  and a wonderful mash of the band combined with harp, pipes, and orchestral arrangements.          
     The 'kick me in the face'  opening of 'Never Enough' is certain to bring your attention to the rythimic song that follows, featuring Tarja's upper vocal range, something that she has always excelled at, and finishing off with an ensenble of metal surely to get you headbanging.  'Deliverance' also allows this and has to be another one of my favourites off of this release.
     I find that this experimentation in 'Colours in the Dark' has been wonderfully successful, and has allowed her and her band to give us her finest performance yet since leaving Nightwish.
Trail of Tears - Oscillation - (Massacre Records)

    The unfortunate breakup of the band didn't prevent their new creation from getting released, and thank goodness for that. Oscillation is hard, heavy and filled with fantastic songs that overshadow anything this line-up has released in the past. Ronny Thorsen, one of my favorite growlers, along with front woman Cathrine Paulsen, give us a treat in metal that can not be copied, beginning with the opening song 'Wave of Existence', and carrying on right through the collection, ending with 'Eradicate'. The fever doesn't stop throughout, carrying a high temperature with such gems as  the title track 'Oscillation', and 'Path of Destruction', where Catherine displays her brilliance in vocals.
     Yes,  as Cathrine so quietly and eloquently sings in the opening number, 'nothing lasts forever', but it's great to see something left behind by a band that will be embed into the archives of female fronted metal for years to come! 
Devilish Great!!!
Amaranthe - The Nexus - (Spinefarm Records)

     This conceptual album contains everything that we would expect from Amaranthe; heavy guitars and beat, and some of the best harmonies that three lead singers in one band could give you in the metal industry. This release has all three sharing the vocals throughout this ensemble of art, and for a sophomore album, I find this equally as great as their first, with songs such as the opening 'Afterlife', the following 'Invincible' and one of the singles from the album and the title track 'The Nexus', in which Elize really is great. Another single from the album, 'Burn With Me', is amazing and must be my favourite from the release, as is 'Electroheart' with an addictive beat and a fun feeling sound to it.
     So much metal, and so much harmony, can not be ignored, especially in an industry that is dominated by single and duo singers. Writing songs for a band of this calibre can not be easy I'm sure, but Amaranthe makes it sound easy!
Serenia - Perils of the Deep Blue (Napalm/Nuclear Blast)

     With the grand opening number 'Ducere Me In Lucem' heading into their best song yet 'Seven Widows Weep', I consider Perils of the Deep Blue much better than the previous two releases with Alyn as their singer. She demonstrates her amazing talents within with such songs as 'My Destiny Coming to Pass' which has Alyn at her best and contains such a beautiful flow, something you'll find within many of the songs on this release. Morten has come out of hiding and growls wonderfully throughout this album, showing his talents in such songs as 'Darklings', 'Decadence' and the massive 12 minute plus wonder, Stille Kom Døden!
Edenbridge - The Bonding (Steamhammer)

     Though, in my opinion, not their best, The Bonding is still excellent containing many songs with their infamous harmonies starting with the opening numbers 'Mystic River', and the single released from the album, 'Alight a New Tomorrow'. The pace rocks seriously in cuts such as 'The Invisible Force' and 'Shadows of My Memory' but there are also a number of ballads on this CD such as 'Star Crossed Dreamer' and 'Into a Sea of Souls', which had a tendency to slow the pace, but for fans of Sabine Edelsbacher and Edenbridge, this is sure to be no issue as they are excellent throughout them. Sweet!!
Honorable Mention
Top 10 Favorites