After reading that title you’re probably a bit confused so I’m going to explain what I mean. For several kinds of media (e.g. TV shows, books, music, video games, etc.) I’m going to create categories (e.g. Most Shocking Episode for TV shows or Most Depressing Album for music) and put my personal winner in that category. Of course, this is just my opinion so feel free to disagree. Anyways, let the awards begin!

 

BOOKS

 

Author with Best Writing Style: Gail Carriger – She’s possibly the funniest author I’ve ever read, her use of vocabulary is exemplary and her turn of phrase is something else so this award simply had to go to her.

 

Honourable Mention: Derek Landy

 

Best Book Series: The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) – While not personally my favourite books to just pick up and read (don’t get me wrong, I love them, they’re just a bit tough to read at times) these books are classics of the fantasy genre and paved the way for many more fantasy books to follow and so they definitely deserve this accolade.

 

Honourable Mention: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

 

Favourite Book Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians/The Heroes of Olympus (Rick Riordan) – I know, I know, they’re kids books. Wrong. They’re well written, very enjoyable stories, which work accurate bits of Greek and Roman mythology into modern fantasy, and that’s why they get the award.

 

Honourable Mention: The Infernal Devices/The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare)

 

Favourite Romance Book: A Kiss in the Dark (Cat Clarke) – I picked this book up at a book event at school (I even got it signed by the author!), and I have to admit that after reading the blurb I was expecting another cheesy YA romance novel. I was wrong…very wrong. The twist was genuinely surprising and the ending was just adorable. It’s really rather unique in a genre full of clichés and therefore it deserves its place on this list.

 

Honourable Mention: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

 

FILMS

 

Best Film Series: The Lord of the Rings – LotR, LotR, so good it won an award twice…

 

Most Enjoyable Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – This film stars Johnny Depp as a pirate, of course it was going to be ridiculously fun! Also it’s the only really great movie in the franchise so it wins this category.

 

Most Confusing Film: Inception – I’ve finally sort of got my head around this film now. When I first watched it however I thought it was cool but it made zero sense to me therefore it receives this award.

 

Worst Book to Film Adaptation: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief/Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – Literally the only good thing about these films was Logan Lerman. OK, they weren’t that bad, but they failed completely at retelling the story of the books well so it gets this…disaccolade…is that a word?

 

MUSIC

 

Best Album: Epica/The Black Halo (Kamelot) – Combined they’re one of the greatest concept albums ever released. They’re masterpieces and they deserve their place on this list.

 

Favourite Album: Once (Nightwish) – This album just has so many great individual songs on it that I had to give it this award even if as a cohesive album it’s not incredible.

 

Favourite Band: Nightwish – Ghost Love Score…that’s all. That song alone would almost be enough to earn them this spot. That’s what a brilliant song it is.

 

Most Depressing Album: Dear Agony (Breaking Benjamin) – Ben Burnley has never exactly been a well of happiness with his lyrics but he took it a step further on this album with lines like “I’m already dead/I will rise to fall again” taking the very miserable cake. This album has absolutely nothing in common with sunshine, rainbows or pink fluffy unicorns and that’s why it gets this commendation.

 

TV SHOWS

 

Best Episode: The Body (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – With no music, an excellent script and sublime performances from the entire cast, this desolate episode has to take this award.

 

Best Scene: Buffy making the ultimate sacrifice in “The Gift” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – Everything about this scene is so perfect, from Buffy realising what the phrase “death is your gift” really means, to her last words to Dawn being “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it”, to her gravestone saying “she saved the world…a lot”, this scene is the epitome of great and heart breaking television and that’s why it gets this spot.

 

Best Show: Game of Thrones – This is a fantastic show in every respect and even if they do kill all of your favourite characters (ALL OF THEM!) you’re guaranteed to keep coming back for more so it must be doing something right, and that’s why it gets my badge of honour.

 

Best Comedy Show: Futurama – Sometimes it’s weird, sometimes it’s sad and very, very often it’s hilarious but it’s always awesome. In my opinion Futurama is far superior to Matt Groening’s other creation, The Simpsons, and it’s a spectacular show so it’s awarded this place.

 

Honourable Mentions: Blackadder and Father Ted

 

Favourite Episode: Once More, with Feeling (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – The series’ only musical episode is a classic, with great songs and a good plot to explain the sudden musicality of Sunnydale. It also helps that the actual cast sing all the songs and do a damn fine job of it too. For all these reasons it is an episode I keep coming back to so it gets this award.

 

Favourite Scene: Gabrielle vs. a squad of Roman soldiers in “The Ides of March” (Xena: Warrior Princess) – It took me quite a while to process what was happening the first time I watched this scene. It’s probably the first (and only) time on the show that we see Xena physically helpless, and so that’s pretty powerful by itself. Beyond that, however, after 6 episodes as a complete pacifist who refuses to fight, Gabrielle kills around 8 men in the space of a couple of minutes. Even though this scene contains about a quarter of the amount of blood usually used in the average Game of Thrones fight scene, it’s still brutal thanks to throat cutting, impaling with spears and swords, not to mention an awful lot of stabbing. Neither of these things are why this is my favourite TV scene though. In the end it’s the fact that when Amarice or Eli were in danger Gabrielle had no problem sticking to her convictions and keeping out of the fight but the second Xena‘s life is at stake Gabrielle’s going at those soldiers like a crazed Energiser Bunny with a very big sword that makes this scene so brilliant. This scene emphasises that Xena is one of very few people Gabrielle would kill for and, for me, instead of making Gabrielle a killer it makes her a really great friend. It shows that she won’t take life to defend herself, but if she has to in order to protect someone she loves then she will and that’s why it earned this place.

 

Favourite Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Xena: Warrior Princess – I genuinely couldn’t choose between these two wonderful shows. In some ways they’re fairly similar and yet they’re also completely different but I love them both equally so they’re tied for this spot.

 

Favourite Comedy Show: Ellen – It might not be the greatest show ever with regards to consistency or character development but it’s made me laugh out loud more than just about any other show I’ve watched and therefore it deserves this commendation.

 
Honourable Mention: The Big Bang Theory
 

Most Disappointing Character Death: Ephiny (Xena: Warrior Princess) – I don’t think I’ve come across a single Xena fan that didn’t like Ephiny. She could be brusque and rather fierce but she was also an extremely loyal and caring friend and an intelligent, devoted regent of the Amazons. Danielle Cormack is a wonderful actress and I think they could have done so much more with the character. She deserved a better death than being stabbed by Brutus, who is of course an honourable man, before the opening credits even rolled after far too few appearances on the show.

 

Most Painful Episode to Watch: Maternal Instincts (Xena: Warrior Princess) – it sort of goes without saying that an episode that includes two funeral pyres and a character seriously considering suicide is never going to be a particularly happy affair. This episode, arguably the climax of the infamous “Rift” story arc, basically consists of gut punch after gut punch, and still finds time to rip the hearts of both main characters to pieces and utterly destroy their relationship. If it wasn’t for the final scene, which is even more heart-wrenching than the rest of the episode, and the fact that after two and a half series of the show you care too damn much about these characters for your own good then maybe The Body would have won this category too but as it is this is the closest TV’s ever got to exquisite torture, for me anyway, and so it gets this…well I guess it’s more of a warning than an award!

 

Most Shocking Episode: The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones) – Even if you’ve read the books and know what’s coming there is nothing that can prepare you for this. The Red Wedding is one of the most brutal scenes ever shown on television and it has certainly earned this place on the list.

Before I start you should know that unlike other “Albums to Listen to Before You Die” lists, I intend to make sure you actually have fun by firstly, keeping the list to 10 albums so there’s a chance you could actually listen to them all before you die, and secondly, not including albums based solely on how good they are objectively but by taking enjoyment factor into account as well.

 

1. Epica/The Black Halo by Kamelot

Kamelot - Epica

I know, I know, technically they’re two separate albums. However, they’re both concept albums telling one cohesive story so I’m counting them as one. They’re the epitome of what a concept album should be and they’re brilliant. The songs work on their own just fine but for the full experience I’d recommend sitting down with the lyrics and the Wikipedia summary of each song’s part of the plot and listen through them both from beginning to end. But that’s just my suggestion.

 

2. Once by Nightwish

I’m aware that this is a controversial choice but I maintain that just going by the songs on here this is Nightwish’s best release. I mean it’s got Ghost Love Score, Dark Chest of Wonders, Nemo and Wish I Had an Angel on it for crying out loud; I had to pick this one to put on the list!

 

3. The Unforgiving by Within Temptation

Here’s another concept album, although admittedly a very loose concept going just by the lyrics. There was a comic released telling the story behind the album though, so that’s cool. This is simply a great album and it’s responsible for introducing me to the whole genre of symphonic metal and therefore most of my favourite bands so I had to put it on here.

 

4. Fallen by Evanescence

This album has gone multi-platinum and sold millions and millions of copies for a reason. A cynical person might say that Daredevil is that reason. The truth is though that this album sold so well because it’s incredible. Apart from the obvious singles stand outs include Taking Over Me and Hello, which is a haunting ballad written about Amy Lee’s younger sister who died when she was 3 years old (Amy Lee was 6 at the time). This is probably Evanescence’s best release and it fully deserves to be considered a modern classic.

 

5. Metallica by Metallica

Also, perhaps better, known as “The Black Album”, this album divided Metallica’s fans but received universal acclaim from music critics everywhere, topping charts all over the world. This is my favourite release out of Metallica’s first 5, all of which are rightly considered metal classics. The difference with this album was that it’s appeal stretched much further than simply metal fans and probably contains at least something that everyone will like.

 

6. Black Holes and Revelation by Muse

Most people have probably heard Supermassive Black Hole and Starlight, both of which are excellent songs. However there’s much more amazing material on Muse’s fourth release, all the way from the cutting opener Take a Bow to the epic finale that is Knights of Cydonia the preposterousness and brilliance never let up.

 

7. Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi

Yes, it’s very over the top, and yes, it’s more than a little bit silly but this is just a really fun album and it has a good heart. It’s cheese, but it’s the best quality cheese. That was a rubbish analogy but this is still a wonderful album.

 

8. Meteora by Linkin Park

A lot of people say that Hybrid Theory is Linkin Park’s best album. However, this is my list and to me Meteora is a more sophisticated and consistent release. It’s a great showcase for how good Linkin Park’s mix of rock, rap and electronica can be when they do it right.

 

9. The Defamation of Strickland Banks by Plan B

This album was a far cry from his usual urban rap but by mixing the rap with his soulful and surprisingly great voice, plan B created an album that ends up sounding pretty unique. Combine that with the fact that it tells the story of a singer who is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and you definitely have a winner.

 

10. City of Evil by Avenged Sevenfold

Whether you love them or hate them, you’ve probably heard of Avenged Sevenfold. Waking the Fallen is widely considered their strongest release but for me City of Evil is the definitive Avenged Sevenfold album. It’s full of great tracks and fantastic guitar work, and should appeal to any rock or metal lover.

Persuader - When Eden Burns

I’m going to get straight to the point and say that this is one of the best power metal albums that I have listened to in a long, long time. When Eden Burns is the third studio effort by Swedish power metal band Persuader, and it’s one hell of an album. The music you’ll find here is mostly classic power metal, and that’s a good thing because Persuader do it very, very well. Some of the heavier songs on the album have hints of thrash influences and a few death growls are scattered sparsely throughout the album for effect.

The musicianship on this album is consistently fantastic all the way through. Some highlights include the beautiful acoustic guitar solo in “Judas Immortal”, the outstanding lead guitar work on “Sending You Back”, the melodic guitar solo played over the pounding of frantic drums about two thirds of the way into “When Eden Burns” and the ominous piano during the intro of “Doomsday News”. The guitars sound crisp and melodic but have enough bite to satisfy the listener’s desire to headbang. The drums pound their way through the tracks with ferocity and impressive technicality. The bass isn’t hugely audible, as is common in this genre of music, but it keeps the rhythm very nicely.

Now we get onto the vocals on the album. Jens Carlsson’s voice is absolutely perfectly suited to this kind of epic music. I’ve seen him compared to Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian’s vocalist) a lot but I really don’t think the two singers sound that much alike. That isn’t to say, however, that there aren’t a few moments on When Eden Burns that channel classic Blind Guardian vocally. The final thing I’d like to say is that, although I’m not usually a fan of grunted or screamed vocals, I think they work well on the few occasions they are used here. They add emphasis and contrast and are used sparingly and therefore, for me at least, work better than if they were used more often.

There are 10 songs on this album and I have to say it’s definitely all killer, no filler. The only track that even came close to boring me in the slightest was Zion, an instrumental that is still good, and its relatively short length of 3:08 keeps it from becoming dull or repetitive. The other 9 tracks contain heavier, fast paced cuts such as album opener “Twisted Eyes” and album closer “Enter Reality”. There’s classic power metal numbers like “Sending You Back” or “The Return”. There’s also “Judas Immortal”, which mixes both the aforementioned styles with wonderful results, and the slower, insanely catchy song that is “Doomsday News”. The title track “When Eden Burns” is suitably epic, living up to its name with a wonderfully theatrical chorus.

For me, this album blows any release by better-known bands in the power metal genre like DragonForce or Sabaton. That is in no way intended to be a criticism of either of those bands as I like them both and think they’re both great and have put out some great material over the years. However with When Eden Burns Persuader have managed to release an album that maintains a consistently high level of quality, both in musicianship and songwriting, all the way through; in any genre that is a great achievement, and perhaps even more so when it comes to power metal. All of the songs on this album are expertly written and performed and none of them outstay their welcome despite 7 of them reaching over 5 minutes in length. A standout, at least with regards to songwriting, has to be “Judas Immortal”, which has two choruses (both ridiculously catchy); one chorus is repeated twice over the course of the first section of the song, then an acoustic guitar solo comes in, and the other chorus repeats until the fade out after it. It has to be heard to be truly believed and appreciated but rest assured that it’s brilliant.

In conclusion, this is an album that anyone who likes power metal, or even melodic metal, to any degree whatsoever, should listen to at least once. If you can’t take a little bit of over the top drama in your music then this may not be the album for you but I would still recommend you give it a shot, you might be surprised. Well done Persuader, for releasing an album which has truly set the landmark for the quality of classic style power metal.

Recommended tracks to check out: Sending You Back, The Return, Judas Immortal and Doomsday News