Hi there! You may not know me, but I go by Bear Wiseman and I used to be the editor-in-chief of Musicalypse (www.musicalypse.net), an online music media that precedes Tuonela Magazine by nearly 10 years. Now that Musicalypse has merged into Tuonela, I’m just a regular old editor and head journalist!
Back in the day, Musicalypse had a slightly different style of reviewing albums, awarding them a score out of 10. Now, Tuonela Magazine prefers to leave you readers the agency to decide if the album is any good or not, so here, we don’t do scores. But when Musicalypse was still around, it had been noted that I almost never awarded an album a full score. Many of my selections for album of the year have failed to draw a 10/10 out of me, and that includes years like 2015 when there were incredible albums coming out week after week. So, if I’m such a hardass then, you might wonder what some of my favorite albums are. What do I consider a 10/10 – or perfect – album?
One of initial questions is, what are my criteria? First of all, I have to like every song on the album. Secondly, I have to be able to listen through the whole album without feeling the need to skip a song on most occasions. On top of that, it has to be an album that makes me feel something – it can’t just be good, it has to be memorable, to strike something in me. It also has to be a musical style that I can go back to in any mood, though that’s a bit subjective… album reviews will never be 100% objective though. That in mind, here are a few of my picks (compilations not included):
1. Amorphis – “Under the Red Cloud“ (2015)
I didn’t write the review for this album in 2015, but I certainly could have. AMORPHIS was, until this album’s release, a band that I enjoyed live, and could name a few hits that I thought were great, but were ultimately a band that I felt rather neutral about as a whole. However, “Under the Red Cloud” is one of those perfect sorts of albums that you can listen through without feeling any sort of annoyance (yes, I’m even giving the radio-friendly “Sacrifice” a pass due to its catchy melody), without wanting to skip a single song. The concept is great, the lyrics are great, the music is great, and Tomi Joutsen‘s vocals are great. Because of this album, I now officially consider myself a fan of AMORPHIS.
2. Machinae Supremacy – “A View from the End of the World“ (2010)
I discovered MASU back around the release of “AVftEotW” when my partner bounced dancing into the room declaring, to some then-unfamiliar music, “I’m gonna do you a favor and not teabag you for your behavior” (the chorus from “Crouching Camper, Hidden Sniper”), to which I declared with great amusement, “No. Those are not lyrics. No band is that silly.” I was wrong. This is one of MASU‘s less risky or experimental albums, certainly, yet the lack of risk makes nearly every song on the album an instant hit. Perhaps the riskiest song on the album is “One Day in the Universe,” a song that Spinefarm was hesitant to allow the band to include, which is in my opinion one of the greatest love songs ever written. Combined with classics like “Indiscriminate Murder is Counterproductive” and another tasty piece of the “March of the Undead” series, there’s nothing I don’t love on this album. While “Rise of a Digital Nation” easily gets a 9/10 and “Phantom Shadow” earned itself a near-perfect 9.5/10, their predecessor is one of my all-time favorite albums, and one that I can go back to any day when I need a pick-me-up.
3. Ayreon – “The Human Equation“ (2004)
Concept albums are hard to nail, but Arjen Lucassen has been fairly consistent in his efforts to make true and proper concept albums that really dig deep and hit hard. While the entire album series that follows the concept of the Forever has been incredible as a whole, the only album that I would call truly perfect is “The Human Equation” – with a cast of legends at his disposal, including James Labrie, Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt, and so many more, not a single voice or instrument went to waste. Every song (and there are many) serves a deep and touching purpose to the storyline, and every time I listen to the album, the final crescendo makes me shed a tear. It’s hard to listen to any song on this album out of context – to listen to one song means you have to listen to them all, and there is nothing that I ever want to skip. Each song is vital, integral to the story, and exactly zero of them fail to hold up the musical or vocal standard. This is a concept album in all its glory, and the success of the live production of The Theater Equation will back me up on this.
Bruce Dickinson managed to nail it twice within a year with “Accident of Birth” and “The Chemical Wedding.” While these were some of my starter albums as a metalhead, there is just something about both of these albums and all of the songs on them (extended editions not included) that pleases me. “Accident of Birth” was one of the first “heavy” songs I really enjoyed and every year I listen to the album I have a different favorite song, while pretty much everything on “TCW” appealed to me straight out of the gate. There was something fantastical about both albums and when I discovered them, I was in a place where I needed that. These are two albums that are very close to my heart to this day.
6. Ensiferum – “From Afar” (2009)
If the fault I find in this album is the fact that the two “Heathen Throne” songs are a bit long and epic… that’s not really a fault. It’s more an issue with my attention span, because those are both excellent songs. As for the rest of the album, it has some of my favorite songs from Enska, and their CD release show back in September 2009 is still one of my fondest live memories, so I’m going to have to give this one a full score.
7. Wintersun – “Time I“ (2012)
I might get some scorn from the Mäenpää haters for this, but fact is, this is a great album. I don’t even enjoy listening to the songs without the other songs present. This album is one whole, complete unit, and it’s beautiful. Even though “The Forest Seasons” hardly lived up to its own hype, I will simply say that this album is beautiful and pretty much perfect. Let’s see if “Time II” can live up to it… if it ever gets released.
8. Blind Channel – “Revolutions” (2016)
When this album came out, for some reason, I gave it a 9.5/10 on its official review. After a great deal of consideration, I asked myself what held this album back? What kept it from being a 10/10 album? I listened to “Unforgiving” and “Don’t” a fair bit over the summer before the album officially came out, so by the time the album had come out, I was sick of the latter two songs, but that was more a result of over-listening than the songs not actually being as good. Ultimately, if I gave BRING ME THE HORIZON‘s latest album a full score, this easily deserves one too, as it’s a great and expressive debut.
9. Ember Falls – “Welcome to Ember Falls“ (2017)
Much like BLIND CHANNEL‘s debut, EMBER FALLS absolutely kicked the shit out of their self-defined genre. Blending dance/electronica/pop/EDM sounds with heavy metal growls, sweet guitar solos, stylish bass, and rock solid drumming, along with the glorious vocal stylings of Thomas Grove, this album is pretty much a pure blend of pop nostalgia and metal awesomeness. There isn’t a second of this album I don’t love.
10. Iron Maiden – “Brave New World“ (2000):
One of my all-time favorite albums and one that was foundational to my creation as a human being. Okay, that sounds like my parents were listening to it when I was conceived, which is about 14 years too early to have been the case. Nevertheless, this album shaped my life immensely, to the extent that even if I’m not hugely in love with “The Mercenary,” I still consider this album perfect enough to be perfect.
So that’s that! Now you can peg my taste in music against yours to see if you have anything in common with me, and can see how my feelings towards some albums compare to your feelings, to see if you want to trust my judgment or not!
Written by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2016 (original, updated for 2021)