Hard Rock / Classic Metal
O1. Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (Frontiers)
It seems like it’s been an incredibly long wait for an album of new material from Whitesnake. While their last release 2015’s “The Purple Album” wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, it also felt more like a David Coverdale solo album, with David paying homage to his past with the almighty Deep Purple.
Flash forward four years and Whitesnake has blasted back into action with an incredible new album called“Flesh & Blood”. When I heard the first single “Shut Up And Kiss Me”, I was intrigued. It was only after hearing “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” did I start to realize that not only is this album going to be something special, but after a full listening, it became apparent that this was going to rank among the band’s classic albums like 1987’s “Whitesnake” and 1989’s “Slip Of The Tongue”.
The album starts out with a massive riff that leads into “Good To See You Again”. It has some really nasty and down and dirty blues-based slide guitar, which reminds me of the “Slide It In” era. You have to give Coverdale credit. Whitesnake has had quite a few lineup changes over the years, but remarkably, the band still maintains a pretty consistent and recognizable sound. Reb Beach really gets a chance to shine on this album with some amazing solos and fiery riffs that bring the classic sound of Whitesnake back to the masses. The guitar tandem of Beach and Joel Hoekstra seems to work really well throughout the entire album. Of course, having a classic drummer like Tommy Aldridge at the helm doesn’t hurt either. Some of Tommy’s drum fills from the 80’s Whitesnake albums are still burned into my memory and that style is still prevalent on “Flesh & Blood”. Rounding out the rhythm section is Michael Devin, who provides an excellent heavy end bass to keep everything balanced nicely. While a lot has been said about David Coverdale‘s voice over the years, I have to say that it sounds pretty good here, especially considering how many years that he has been wailing and screaming. It’s amazing that his vocal cords aren’t completely destroyed by now. Coverdale still manages to hit some high screams on this albums and the changes to his voice over the years only make it more fitting for that gritty blues-rock sound that’s made Whitesnake a household name.
“Flesh & Blood” seems like a real return to form for Whitesnake. This album will be definitely be included on many people’s list for the best hard rock album of 2019, and rightfully so. If you’re looking for that album that brings back a lot of memories and reminds you of why you became a rock fan in the first place, Whitesnake’s “Flesh & Blood” is the answer. It’s a truly outstanding album, that proves once and for all, that rock n’ roll is not only still alive but can be a dominant force in music again.
02. L.A. Guns – The Devil You Know (Frontiers)
Who would have thought that L.A. Guns would have released one of the best albums of the entire career 31 years after their debut album? However,
that is exactly the case with “The Devil You Know”. There’s an undeniable chemistry between the musical combination of Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns that’s rare in music these days. This album is right up there with their debut album and Cocked & Loaded. When I spoke with vocalist Phil Lewis recently, I asked if the sound of this album was a purposeful retro throwback or just what happens when He and Tracii work together and he answered with a rousing “That’s exactly what fucking happens when you put Tracii and I together. The two reconciled their differences and put out a great album with “The Missing Peace” in 2017, I loved that album. but “The Devil You Know” is so much better that I feel like I’ve been transported back to the late 1980s with every listen. I can only think of a small handful of bands that have reunited and were actually able to capture the magic of their glory years. Now, …you absolutely have to add L.A. Guns to that list. This album has an underlying fire like the one that propelled the band to superstardom with the very first album. The album starts off with “Rage”, which has that little bit of punk edge meets traditional hard rock. It’s energetic and incendiary. Songs like “Stay Away”, “Loaded Bomb”, “Needle To The Bone” and “Going High” sound like they could have easily been included on the first two albums by L.A. Guns. The band isn’t afraid to go heavy either with songs “Like The Devil You Know”, “Rage” and “Boom” which makes this feel like a real honest album with songs that the band just really wanted to do. “The Devil You Know” may very well end up being the best classic hard rock album of 2019. If there’s anything better out there I’ll believe it when I see it ( or hear it) because L.A. Guns have managed to do something with this album that so many bands haven’t. They prove that great rock music is alive and well and fly a big middle finger to anyone that says rock is dead! This is why I started to listening to rock music so many years ago, this kind of musical passion and fire doesn’t come along often and you’d be a fool not to get this album the minute it’s released!
03. Deaf Rat – Ban The Light (AFM)
Wow! This is one of the best debut albums by a band that I’ve heard in a really long time. Deaf Rat hit the scene with a darker image, but all of the sound and rebellion of the ’80’s Sunset Strip Heavy Metal scene. Vocalist Frankie Rich often reminds me of Jamie St. James from Black N’ Blue. I’ve heard quite a few bands try to mix a more modern rock sound with classic metal and fall short, but that’s not the case with Deaf Rat. In fact, this the first time that I’ve heard this combination actually work. The end result is simply fantastic. Every single song on “Ban The Light” is brilliant. Opening the album with “Fallen Angels”, the band has you hooked and just continues to reel you in, song after song. The songs are both melodic and heavy with a perfect balance that makes these rockers really memorable. Musically and lyrically the band is in the zone with perfectly crafted songs to leave you wanting more. The excitement and energy of this band is something different than what I’ve seen from so many other new bands. I’m not saying they’re the second coming of the 80’s metal scene, but Deaf Rat is to that music scene what Greta Van Fleet is to the Led Zeppelin sound. It’s the closest thing that I’ve heard in a long time that has the fire and feeling of that time period. Deaf Rat has made a damn near perfect album for their debut release and I for one, can’t wait to hear more from these guys.
04. Queensryche – The Verdict (Century Media)
The Verdict is Queensryche‘s fifteenth studio album and it’s third to feature Todd La Torre as the vocalist. Over the last six years, the band’s chemistry has only gotten better. And “The Verdict” is the best album so far with this lineup. But, it goes much deeper than that. “The Verdict” is one of the best albums since Queensryche‘s inception. This album officially heralds the second coming of “Queensryche”. A resurrection, if you will, of one of the most original and inspiring bands in the metal genre.
Todd La Torre has been put in one of the most difficult positions as the lead singer who has had to step up and front a band which previously had, arguably one of the best vocalists in modern metal history in Geoff Tate. When Tate and the other band members split in an ugly, and very public fashion, many of the band’s fans felt like children of divorced parents, unsure of which camp they should side with.
Rock bands, throughout history, haven’t been immune to these types of breakups with Black Sabbath and Van Halen being just two examples of bands who successfully changed lead singers and continued on. Just for the record, I’m still a fan of Tate as well, and he continues to do well in his solo career. While the split was a source of friction for many of the fans, I think it was absolutely necessary for both parties to go their separate ways and follow their own unique musical visions.
Todd La Torre has more than proved his loyalty to not only the band but all of the Queensryche fans as well. With their longtime drummer, Scott Rockenfield out on hiatus, La Torre stepped up and provided both lead vocals and the drums for “The Verdict”. If that’s not dedication to the band, I don’t know what is. Vocally, La Torre soars on this album, with some of the best material in years with great standout tracks like “Blood Of The Levant”, Light-Years, “Dark Reverie”, “Bent” and “Launder The Conscience”.
The band is simply on fire this time around, sounding incredibly tight as a band. If you’re a fan of the band’s earlier material like self-titled EP, The Warning, and Rage For Order, this is the album you’ve been waiting for. Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren‘s guitars complement each other perfectly, with Wilton providing some great solos in an album that is much more on the energetic and heavier side than any of the albums in recent years. The bass by Eddie Jackson, is once again, pounding and solid, providing a great backbone for these outstanding songs. I simply can’t stop listening to this album. It’s really that good. “The Verdict” is officially in… and Queensryche has created one of the greatest albums of their entire career.
05. Airbourne – Boneshaker (Spinefarm)
Airbourne has returned with another spectacular album, filled with the sweaty, alcohol-soaked sound that we’ve all come to expect. If you’re not familiar with Airbourne, where the hell have you been? These Aussie guys don’t mess around and get right to the point with this straight-forward rock album called “Boneshaker”. Although people often compare their sound to that of another Australian band, AC/DC, Airbourne have been doing this long enough to claim their own stake in the rock-n’ roll game. Make no mistake, “Boneshaker” is a top-notch, nitro-fueled rock n’ roll rollercoaster ride from the opening riff. This is exactly what I want from a rock band. Not only is this album a blazing good time, but it’s also well-executed by a band of great musicians.
If you’re already a fan of the band, one listen to “Boneshaker” will seriously make your day. Every song included is fantastic. Nowhere on the entire album, do you ever feel like the band is just putting their time with filler songs. “Boneshaker” is superb from beginning to end. If you’re going to compare them to Australian bands, you might as well throw in the raw, gritty energy of “Rose Tattoo” as well. I mean just look at the song titles….”Sex To Go, Blood In The Water, Switchblade Angel and Rock N’ Roll For Life”. This album is practically filled with more street-level than grit than Motley Crue’s “The Dirt”. Airbourne does what they do best, time and time again. No reason to change their sound drastically or bend to current trends. This is what Rock N’ Roll is all about.
06. Pretty Maids Undress Your Madness
The Pretty Maids have been making consistently great albums for several decades now. Their latest, “Undress Your Madness” is no exception to that rule. Reviewing this album is bittersweet though because lead vocalist, Ronnie Atkins recently announced that he had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. According to a statement by Ronnie, his prognosis is good and I certainly wish him well in battling this illness. It certainly did not affect his vocals on this album, as his voice sounds stronger than ever. While Pretty Maids have always been one of those bands that should have seen a much larger audience, they climbed to fame over the years with the “Futureworld” album finally breaking them into the American metal scene. If you haven’t listened to the band in recent years, you’re really missing out. Like a fine wine, the band just seems to get better and better with age.
The title track ‘Undress Your Madness” is really quite heavy and I for one love it. While the band has always been known for incorporating great melody into their infectious metal sound, “Undress Your Madness” is proof that they still have what it takes to rock with the best of them. Ken Hammer is simply incendiary on the guitar in many of these songs. Another great example of the heavier side of this album is “If You Want Peace (Prepare For War). For my money, this is one of their best albums since the classic “Futureworld” album was released. It’s really that good. I highly recommend this album to any and all metal fans.
Buckcherry gets their mojo back with an energetic and rocking album which sounds more like the bands earlier albums. It’s a great return to form for a band that keeps the rock flame lit at all times.
07. Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar (Nuclear Blast)
Motorhead may be finished as a band without Lemmy, but guitarist Phil Campbell has released a really impressive sol album that’s filled with rock royalty as guest stars.
08. Tora Tora – Bastards of Beale (Frontiers)
Tora Tora has finally returned after a long hiatus to deliver a fun, hard rocking album filled with bluesy, distorted rock. It’s the kind of music that rarely gets produced these days. The band stays true to their rock roots throughout Bastards Of Beale. The bar room infused blues swagger is a very welcome sound that permeates the songs like a stain in a whiskey barrel. The songs are aged to perfection and show a more mature feel and sound that some of the bands more hair metal excursions in the past. This is just plain down and dirty rock n’ roll and like Mick Jagger says “I like it”. Over the past few years, the band had released some previously unreleased material, but this album shows a huge leap since the last material was recorded. Songs like “Sons Of Zebedee”, “Everbright” and “Son Of A Prodigal Son” really deliver the goods. The album as a whole is a treat to listen to and has a nice cohesive flow throughout. The band went far beyond my expectations and then some with “Bastards Of Beale”. Fans of the band know how talented they are and for the uninitiated, wrap this around your ears and enjoy the rock goodness. They just don’t make them like this anymore. An outstanding release by a band that has been overshadowed for far too long.
09. Sweet Oblivion – Sweet Oblivion (Frontiers)
Geoff Tate returns to provide vocals for Sweet Oblivion and it’s some of his best sounding work since exiting Queensryche. Unfortunately, it looks to be a one-time collaboration.
10. Black Star Riders – Another State Of Grace (Nuclear Blast)
The Black Star Riders have done it again and might I say, even better this time around. With their new album “Another State Of Grace” the band are firing on all cylinders. And let’s be honest, if you’re a Thin Lizzy fan, this is right line with the rest of their outstanding discography, as well. Ricky Warwick‘s vocals are incredible and powerful throughout this whole album. These songs have all of the energy, plus a lot of heartfelt emotion in the lyrical content. One song that’s bound to be controversial, depending on your political leanings, is “Why Do You Love Your Guns?” It’s an emotionally charged song that’s timing is more than relevant, considering the number of recent mass shootings in the U.S. lately. Depending on your point of view regarding the 2nd Amendment, you might love it or hate, but either way, the statement is profound and leaves you contemplating the question of how can we fix the problems of our world today. Opening the album is “Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down”. An excellent track that Phil Lynott surely would have been proud of. I honestly couldn’t find a single track that feels like “filler” in any way. The band has indeed outdone themselves with an album of all “A” side material that really deserves your attention. In a time when so many people are quick to proclaim that rock music is either dead or on life support, this is a prime example of how great a rock album can be. “Another State Of Grace” deserves to be on everyone’s lists for top rock albums of the year, if not the top spot itself. Do yourself a favor and go out and pick this album up, download it or stream it ASAP. It’s simply an instant classic in every way.
11. Liv Sin – Burning Sermons (Despotz)
Liv Sin, featuring the former vocalist for “Sister Sin” has come out swinging with their sophomore album “Burning Sermons”. Wasting no time, “Blood Moon Forever” kicks it all off with an in-your-face, full-on metal track with a catchy chorus. If you were a fan of Sister Sin, this album will remind why you were. While I thoroughly enjoyed Liv Sin‘s debut album, this one is absolutely spectacular and far superior in every way. One reason is that the band sounds like they now have real chemistry, playing together. The sound is tight and heavy, which has provided both whiplash beats and catchy melodic musical phrases that allow Liv Jagrell to really give these songs the star treatment. You’ll find riffs that would make Judas Priest proud as the guitar duo of Patrick Ankermark and Chris Bertzell simply shred throughout its entirety. The thundering bass of Tomie Winther and pounding drums of Pen Njevoluk, deliver the heavy backbone to deliver songs that should chart on the Richter scale. The lyrical content also seems to be a little more imaginative this time around. If you like classic metal, there’s no way that you won’t really dig this album. “Burning Sermons” feels like a complete album from beginning to end with all great tracks and no filler. Standout songs include “War Antidote”, Blood Moon Forever” and “Hope Begins To Fade”. Liv Jagrell seems to have arisen from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix to deliver one of the best straight-ahead metal albums of 2019.
12. Blackrain – Dying Breed (SPV/Steamhammer)
BlackRain channels the best of the 1980’s hair metal style with their debut album, “Dying Breed”. The vocals are often reminiscent of W.A.S.P. singer, Blackie Lawless and musically it’s a mixed bag of influences of everyone from Kix to Motley Crue. Basically, they sound a lot like everyone from the 80’s Sunset Strip scene without really sounding like a rip off of any one of them. The songs are catchy as hell while covering the spectrum lyrically that you would expect with this type of music. These guys have done their homework and have a really great retro feel that transports back to the time of hair metal greatness. The title track is a great opener and it puts the bands’ talents on full display. Vocalist Swan has a nice gritty voice that is well suited for their sound. Musically the band is spot-on throughout the album, delivering just the right elements at just the right time to make this album feel like more than a debut. Other standout tracks are “Hellfire”, “Nobody Can Change”, “We Are Mayhem” and the surprisingly good power ballad, “All Angels Have Gone”. Fans of bands like Skid Row, WASP, Motley Crue, Ratt, etc are bound to really enjoy what this group of guys has brought to the table with this really good, in your face hard rock album.
13. A New Revenge – Enemies & Lovers (Golden Robot)
This debut album by a supergroup of sorts succeeds in delivering some fresh sounds filled with energetic vocals by Tim “Ripper” Owens. If the whole album delivered at the same level as the singles, this would have ranked much higher on our list.
14. Last in Line – II (Frontiers)
So prior to this release I had heard only the first single “Landslide”. I thought it was a good track and it sounded on par with the band’s debut album. Following the albums’ opening intro track, we get the fantastic “Black Out The Sun” which is a great driving metal song that made me curious for more. Some of the guitar parts of “Gods And Tyrants” sound a bit like Led Zeppelin. I’m actually okay with this because it’s a well-done song that delivers some decent moments, including a blistering solo from Campbell. I’m not really sure what all of the fuss is about with some people complaining about them forming this band after Ronnie James Dio’s death. While these guys may have been Dio’s band at one time, they certainly don’t sound like they’re trying to imitate the sound of Dio. In fact, many of these great songs are quite different from anything that I would have expected from a Dio album. Vocalist Andrew Freeman doesn’t sound like Ronnie James Dio at all. For me, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, It might seem a bit cheesy and contrived if they had found a vocalist that sounded like Dio. Standout tracks for me are Blackout The Sun, Landslide, Year Of The Gun, Give Up The Ghost and Sword From The Stone. All in all, this is a nice follow up to their debut album. It sees the band spreading their wings a bit this time around with more variation and most importantly, without losing their signature sound. While the first album might have been viewed more as a project, this album feels like a real band and it shows in the great material these guys have delivered in album number II,
15. The Ferrymen – A New Evil (Frontiers)
THE FERRYMEN released their self-titled debut album in June 2017, taking the fans of European Melodic Metal sound by surprise. Now the band returns with the follow-up, “A New Evil”.
With songwriting handled by ace Swedish guitarist Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall), awesome vocals by the Chilean-born singer Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, CoreLeoni), and drummer Mike Terrana (Rage, Axel Rudi Pell, and more) brining the thunder, there is no stopping this trio. THE FERRYMEN takes the classic heavy metal sound and combines that style with some heavier and updated songwriting textures and arrangements.
The new album is a shot of adrenaline for all lovers of melodic heavy metal!
Musically, you can expect very heavy melodic metal fusing the songwriting and epic structures of the great ALLEN/LANDE records (of which Magnus Karlsson was the main architect of the first three widely praised releases) with the Ronnie James Dio-Esque vocal approach of Romero. Let’s not forget that Romero was hand-picked by Deep Purple and Rainbow’s legendary guitarist Richie Blackmore to be the lead vocalist for Rainbow’s recent reunion shows, so the Dio comparison is more than accurate.
With stunning artwork, courtesy of Stan W. Decker and an outstanding mix courtesy of Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Pretty Maids, etc.), THE FERRYMEN’s new album, “A New Evil” will take the metal world by storm in 2019!
16. Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper – At The Gates (Dissonance)
Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper has returned with a fantastic follow up to “Walking In The Shadows”. For those unaware, Steve Grimmett battled through some very serious health issues after the last album was released, which ultimately resulted in the amputation of one of Steve’s legs. Opening with the title track “At The Gates”, which references the gates of Hell, is a triumphant return for both the band and personally for Steve Grimmett following his life-threatening health scare. The entire album is filled with great classic sounding metal songs that continue to delight and do justice to the Grim Reaper name and legacy. This album features a brand new rhythm section with the addition of Julian Hill on bass and Mark Pullin on drums. They supply a great heavy backbeat that not only compliments Steve’s voice but also Ian Nash‘s fiery guitar solos. Standout tracks for me are “At The Gates”, Venom”, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” “Rush” and “Under The Hammer”. It’s a really solid album all the way through and a welcome sound to fans of real classic metal. As I mentioned before, Steve almost lost his life after the last album and it’s great to have him back. Steve Grimmett is one of only a handful of singers from the era that brought us bands like Iron Maiden, Dio, and Grim Reaper that can deliver a solid, operatic type metal voice. Both lyrically and musically “At The Gates” excels in every way. It’s great to see such a great album released by a singer that started out over 35 years ago. I fully expect to see this album mentioned on music critics’ “Best Of” lists by the end of 2019.
17. Edge Of Paradise – Universe (Frontiers)
Edge Of Paradise continues to impress with their latest release entitled “Universe”. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the band move up the ranks from being an unknown independent band to gaining serious notoriety by charting on iTunes, Billboard and Amazon Music. Singer Margarita Monet has a powerful yet gentle sounding voice. With “Universe” the band expand on what they have done in the past and move into the same modern metal territory as Halestorm, Within Temptation and In This Moment. This album features a little more electronic sounds and industrial style keyboards than previous albums, but never loses the heaviness or the subtle sounds that have made them popular.
One thing that has always impressed me about Edge Of Paradise is the bands’ hard work ethics and their ability to connect with their fans, through both their music, online social media and fan interaction. Make no mistake, this band has worked hard for everything that they’ve earned. The title track “Universe” is extremely catchy and hook-laden. Other great tracks that stand out to me are Fire, Perfect Disaster and Electrify. Electrify is another great song that will have the chorus stuck in your head for days. Overall, the band have done a great job with this album, blending Symphonic, Modern and Classic Metal together for a larger than life sound.
18. West Bound – Volume 1 (Frontiers)
Chas West has been around the L.A. music scene for years, although many of you might not be that aware of him. He’s sung for bands like Bonham, Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel, Lynch Mob and many more. Chas is fronting his own band this time around appropriately called West Bound. When the opening track “Never Surrender” kicks off, I was hooked. First off, the album is much heavier than I was expecting it to be. Roy Z burns up track after track with incredible riffs and solos. West Bound can go from a classic 80’s metal sound on one song to a more Led Zeppelin-esque sound on the next. There’s a lot of fun Sunset Strip style hard rock happening throughout this album and West Bound has officially got my attention. I highly recommend this album for fans of Whitesnake as there are some similarities in style that are unmistakable. I find myself playing this album over and over again, which is always a sign of a good album. It’s filled with catchy hooks and memorable songs that make you want to put it on repeat. Some of my favorite tracks are “Dance Of Life”, “Ain’t Gonna Drown”, Never Surrender” and “Keeper Of The Flame”. This is an outstanding debut album by West Bound. If this is Volume 1, I can’t wait to hear Volume 2!
19. Soto – Origami (InsideOut)
Jeff Scott Soto has been making music since he was literally a teenager. Soto’s spectacular vocals became known early on, thanks to being chosen as Yngwie Malmsteen’s vocalist on his first two solo albums. Following his tenure with Malmsteen, Soto has been almost constantly active in music and is one of the true journeymen of rock music. Jeff Scott Soto has an incredible range and is quite an adaptable vocalist, singing everything from straight-up heavy metal, to soul music. He’s accomplished a lot in the AOR scene as well as the metal genre. Having been a fan of his work for many years, I was excited to hear that he was indeed releasing a new SOTO album in 2019 entitled “Origami”.
It’s great to hear Jeff returns to his heavier metal roots on this album. I like the mixture of sounds that the band brings here with HyperMania as the opening track. It’s an electronically fused metal song that has a unique quality to it as opposed to other bands that I have heard which tried to mix these two distinct sounds. While most bands can’t quite pull it off without it sounding cliche’ and boring, SOTO does a great job of making it sounds fresh, interesting and above all, a great treat to listen to. The title track “Origami” is one of my favorites and gives both the band and Jeff a chance to rip it to shreds in the best possible way. Origami almost sounds like it could have been a Yngwie track with a more updated sound and modern approach. It’s a fitting title track and one listen should make you a fan if you’ve never been properly introduced to SOTO‘s work before. Other standout songs for me include BeLie, Dance With the Devil, Give In To Me and World Gone Colder.
Musically the band is simply on fire. Guitarist Jorge Salan has some amazing solos that simply have to be heard to be believed. His technique is fantastic and some of these solo runs are blazing with speed and style. I mentioned the electronic overtones earlier, and they are tastefully done throughout the entire album. They add a lot of depth without ever being overpowering or over-used. The rhythm section of Tony Dickinson and Edu Cominato is heavy and super tight. Jeff’s vocals really shine on this album and have a distinct maturity both in sound and lyrics that many singers only dream of having.
SOTO has created an album with Origami that you will want to listen to again and again. With each repeated listen it just gets better. I would venture to say that many of these tracks will be considered modern-day classics, especially the title song “Origami”. If you’re a fan of melodic metal, you simply can’t afford to miss this one. It’s truly spectacular!
20. KXM – Circle Of The Dolls (RatPak)
To say that I’m blown away by KXM‘s new album “Circle Of Dolls” is an understatement. Each album by the band has shown a musical progression and the willingness to take chances. But this new album is simply the best of the output to date. From the first few notes of “War Of Words,” you know this one is going to be a banger. Hell, why shouldn’t it be? The combined members of the band have had phenomenal success with their respective bands. I mean, come on, you’ve got one of the best living rock guitarists in the world with George Lynch, an incredible bassist, and vocalist with King’s X‘s Dug Pinnick and Korn‘s hard-hitting drummer, Ray Luzier. Anytime that you bring musicians of this caliber together, you’re bound to get something creative. You get all of that an more.
Music critics, like myself, are always complaining that rock radio has gotten boring and stale with every band sounding the same and no one taking any chances. Well, I’m here to tell you that KXM have made Rock N’ Roll dangerous again. Simply put, this album is brilliant in every way.
One of the best tracks on the album “Mind Swamp”, is deliciously evil with George Lynch‘s guitar riffs setting the mood and making the track hypnotizing to listen to. The band isn’t pulling any punches with this outing and it shows. This is what rock n’ roll should be.
The band stretches their boundaries and have created a unique album that demands your attention and stands up to repeat listens, which just gets better and better. The title track is a cool, swaggering rocker with some Beatles-Esque harmonies in the chorus. “Lightning” is another stand out track for me and really gives Pinnick a chance to bring the soulful vocal tones that he’s so good at.
They don’t make records like this anymore. It’s a pure immersive experience from beginning to end with every song being spectacular. Lynch’s wicked guitar sound simply brings this album to an almost organic life-form of its own. You’re not likely to hear a more inspired, creative and musically superior rock album in 2019. This is hands down the best hard rock album that I’ve heard all year. If you buy only one rock album this year, make it KXM’s “Circle Of Dolls”.
Death Metal / Extreme Metal/ Black Metal
01. Amon Amarth – Berserker (Metal Blade)
The kings of Viking metal return with an outstanding album that will smash you harder than Thor’s hammer. Like a fine wine, Amon Amarth just gets better with age. Their latest album Berserker is a testament to that fact. Amon Amarth follows a long line of rock and metal royalty like Motorhead and Iron Maiden by simply sounding like themselves and kicking ass and taking names on each and every album. I often hear people ask who will follow the legends of metal as each one of the bands retires. For my money, your looking at one of them with Amon Amarth. This album takes no prisoners starting with opening track “Fafner’s Gold” and my personal favorite, “Crack The Sky”. “Shield Wall”, “Raven’s Flight”, and “Ironside” are also standout tracks for me. Berserker is an all-out assault from beginning to end. An album of all killer and no filler songs seems like a rarity these days. If you’re already of fan of the band you’ll love this new album and if you haven’t been properly introduced to the band, this is an excellent album to start with. If Game of Thrones had a metal soundtrack it would be done by Amon Amarth. Beautiful, brutal and majestic all in one outing.
02. Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Metal Blade)
03. Entrails – Rise Of The Reaper (Metal Blade)
Metal super-beast Entrails has returned with another spectacular album of exceptional brutality. Rise Of The Reaper is a full-on punch in the teeth metal assault. Often times, metal bands are so pigeon-holed by being labeled into a specific sub-genre of metal that they don’t reach their proper audience. While on the surface, Entrails looks like a Death Metal band, their sound is far more than just that. Fans of Thrash bands like Testament, Metallica and Kreator will no doubt appreciate the band’s latest output, without losing fans that liken them to bands like Obituary and other heavyweights in the Florida Death Metal scene. With songs like “Crawl In Your Guts”, “For Whom The Head Rolls”, and “For Hell”, Entrails bring the heaviness and then some. While the vocals of Pontus Samuelsson tend to lean more toward guttural Death Metal, the difference is that the lyrics are quite clearly heard and not buried in a deep growl that is indiscernible. The band is fully in sync musically, bringing this aurally bludgeoning album to metal greatness. Entrails are a band that I feel haven’t received the recognition that they truly deserve, but are poised for greatness. Hopefully, this album will help them gain a larger mass of followers because it would be a real shame if “Rise Of The Reaper” doesn’t appear on everyone’s “Best Of” metal list for 2019, because it’s such a great follow up and worthy successor to 2017’s “World Inferno” album.
04. Rotting Christ – Heretics
05. Children of Bodom – Hexed
06. Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion
07. Soilwork – Verkligheten
08. Gatecreeper – Deserted
09. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
10. Borknagar – True North (Century Media)
11. Infected Rain – Endorphin (Napalm)
Wow! This album really caught me off guard. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special. Man, was I wrong! There are some really creative musical ideas going on with this album, which sound completely fresh to my ears. There’s a heaviness that pummels you throughout the album, but it’s also filled with unique time breaks and interesting layers of unique vocals and effects in the mix. Although they’re classified as an “extreme metal” band, I’d find it very hard to classify their sound, because it contains elements of jazz, hip-hop-like floating vocals and a dash of electronica. Listen to the opening song “The Earth Mantra” for a nice sample of what I’m referring to. Vocalist Lena has the pipes to handle rough vocals and beautiful melodies alike. If I were to make a comparison of another band out there, it would be Jinjer, but only at times, as Infected Rain truly has a sound that’s all their own. If you’re a fan of modern metal and want an album that will simply blow you away, by all means, go get Endorphin by Infected Rain. I have no doubt that I will be hearing much more from this band in the future. What they’ve achieved on this album far exceeds any expectations for a debut album.
12. Jinger – Macro (Napalm)
01. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Roadrunner)
02. Tool – Fear Inoculum (RCA)
03. Korn – The Nothing (Roadrunner/Elektra)
04. Sabaton – The Great War (Nuclear Blast)
Sabaton has returned with a remarkable new album entitled “The Great War”, referring to World War I. Lyrically, the subject matter makes for a great metal record. Like many metal bands before them, Sabaton has taken a cue from the likes of Iron Maiden with historical themes interwoven into their music. I have to say that Sabaton does it very well. Musically, the band explodes on this album with some of the hardest-hitting beats you’ve heard, while still maintaining a melodic power metal edge. I had the chance to catch the band on their last tour and they put on an astounding live performance. I was particularly taken aback by the masses of younger metal fans that were lined up around the block to get into the concert. Sabaton is obviously doing something right as they continue to improve with each and every album that they release. “Red Baron” is an interesting track and one that the band moves outside their usual sound a bit for. It adds nice diversity to the material. It’s a keyboard-heavy track that’s reminiscent of classic Uriah Heep or Deep Purple. “82nd All The Way” will definitely be a crowd sing-a-long when presented live. It has a rousing chorus that is irresistible. Other great tracks like “The Future Of Warfare”, “Great War” and “The End Of The War To End All Wars” are standouts that make this album rise above the rest of the album to deliver a knockout blow. Sabaton’s “The Great War” is an energetic metal masterpiece that pays homage to one of the darkest times in modern history.
05. Kobra And The Lotus – Evolution (Napalm)
06. Killswitch Engage – Atonement (Metal Blade)
07. Within Temptation – Resist (Spinefarm)
We tend to think that our values are based on our own perspective of the world, but we don’t really think about how that perspective came to life. In fact, the way we look at things is biased: it is based on what our parents have taught us and increasingly polished by the evolution of the digital age. Though evolution is the driving force of life, we always have to stay vigilant. Vigilant for a society that is able to dominate us and shape our values more easily by the misuse and abuse of techs.
Slowly but surely, our awareness is emerging. We are all trying to escape – and admit it, so are you. We are trying to break free from our fixed patterns and our social commitments. We are in search of freedom to live life the way we want to live it, without anyone or any algorithm having to tell us what to do or what to think.
The message of WITHIN TEMPTATION’S seventh studio album is clear: RESIST. Sharon den Adel: “It’s important to resist, because in today’s society people increasingly get oppressed by social subjection – a process fueled by authorities, dictators but also multi-nationals that manipulate and control. We have to break free in order to develop ourselves, especially when we are constantly being controlled and monitored by a higher power.”
This wake-up call soars through the album tracklist as a sharpened knife. Four years after the release of HYDRA, WITHIN TEMPTATION is back with a brand new album called RESIST – a record armed with ten anthemic tracks, driven by grand melodies and dark hooks. “RESIST is a true milestone for us. If it wasn’t for RESIST, WITHIN TEMPTATION wouldn’t be here anymore.”
Following up on the release of HYDRA in 2014, the new musical era of WITHIN TEMPTATION has never been stronger as RESIST brings a futuristic take on metal to the table. “We were done with orchestras and classic metal riffs. We’ve done it a thousand times before! This time we’ve expanded our horizon and started listening to powerful artists from other genres that implement bombastic sounds and huge basses into their tracks. All of a sudden we thought: we need these new exciting sounds too – but not the slick artificial feel that so often is connected to it. We started finding ways to roughen up these modern sounds, resulting in a surprisingly new musical world that is heavier, dirtier and more futuristic than we’ve ever created before.”
RESIST is a record that shows the diversity of WITHIN TEMPTATION’S new-found metal sound and represents the here and now: “After HYDRA we didn’t feel inspired anymore, up to a point where for the very first time we could see the end of the band coming near. After so many years of making music, only creative inspiration and innovation can motivate you to make a new record. And a very long break, no hasty decisions plus refilling your battery with new experiences. Like I did with recording my solo record My Indigo. It eventually turned the tide. Our hunger to create and innovate awoke again.”
Sharon continues: “With this record, we’ve taken inspiration from modern music and gave it a face – a very dark one. Sometimes it feels that today’s pop music lacks a rebellious edge. Our main goal was to collect pieces from sounds we did like and roughen it up as much as we could. RESIST is our take on metal in a new way: to give modern music its rebellious edge.”
WITHIN TEMPTATION has never been bounded by frontiers but by expanding the horizon, the band gave its creative writing process a new blast. The new sound of RESIST cuts through bombastic tracks such as ‘The Reckoning’ (featuring Jacoby Shaddix of legendary rockers Papa Roach) and the uttermost heartfelt ‘Firelight’, that was originally written for Sharon’s solo project My Indigo and features Belgium’s best alternative rock singer Jasper Steverlinck. One of the singles to be, ‘Endless War’, could best be described as a vivacious track that thrives on the melodic hook in the chorus. “The more we worked on this track, the heavier it became. It really reflects the vibe of the entire album: a modern-sounding theme with blunt riffs and a brutal hybrid drum kit playing hip hop beats.”
Upbeat tempos and heavy wobbles tear through the tracklist and leave you almost no room to breath. ‘Raise Your Banner’ grabs you around the neck with an Alice In Chains-like darkness but enables some air thanks to the grand chorus. On this track, Sharon is joined by Anders Fridén, lead singer of infamous metalcore band In Flames. “Anders combines melancholic hooks with heavy grunts all at once. It’s amazing to see how he has developed himself as a screamer as well as a singer. It really gives the song an extra dimension.”
After two decades, WITHIN TEMPTATION is ready to break with the past. It’s safe to say that RESIST is an utterly distinctive metal record that takes inspiration from our modern and future society – both musically and personally – and casts it into mind-blowing arrangements and dark melodies. And the most important message?
“Arm yourself against organizations hidden behind the other end of your computer. Open your eyes to an institution that’s currently developing programs to track your behavior. Open your eyes to a world that is dominated by governments that like to make you think you are a free person, while it watches every move you make and controls every next step you take. Wake up and protect your freedom!”
08. Puppy – The Goat (Spinefarm)
09. Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Beast have been steadily building a huge following with metal heads worldwide and their latest album, “No More Hollywood Endings” should only cement their reputation further as one of a truly epic metal band. I absolutely love the opening track “Unbroken”. So much so, that I often replay it several times before moving on to the other tracks on the album. That’s not to say that I don’t like the rest of the album, because the entire album is a masterpiece of melodic metal, but if I didn’t state that “Unbroken” is my favorite song, I’d be lying. Vocalist Noora Louhimo has one of the most enchanting voices in rock, combining the power of singers like Doro and Lzzy Hale with the timelessness of Heart’s Ann Wilson. Another standout track for me is “Unfairy Tales”. It’s a great classic sounding track with an extremely memorable hook. For a full on metal song with blazing guitars, check out “Piece Of Me”. The band sounds incredibly tight musically and the production quality is top notch. This is a turn it up to 10 album that’s great for hitting the highway at full blast. While Battle Beast can rock with the best of them, they also have an incredible pop sensibility that makes these songs unforgettable, as I often am still humming them in my mind, long after the album is over. Simply put, with “No More Hollywood Endings”, Battle Beast have released the best album of their career thus far. If you’re not familiar with the band, this is the album to start with and if you already know the band, you’re not going to want to miss this one. One of the best straight-up melodic modern metal releases of the year.
10. Skillet – Victorious (Atlantic)
01. Death Angel – Humanicide (Nuclear Blast)
If the new Death Angel album Humanicide was your opponent in a boxing match, you’d be pummelled into unconsciousness before you even knew what happened. This an exceptional dark, brutal outing that demands to be heard. Aggressive doesn’t even begin to cover the tone of this album. Death Angel goes straight for the kill with the opening song and title track ‘Humanicide”. If this isn’t a modern day thrash metal masterpiece I don’t know what would be.
This album is all the proof you’ll ever need to prove that metal is alive and well. I absolutely love this album! With standout tracks like “I Came For Blood”, the intensity of “Alive And Screaming” and possibly my favorite ‘The Pack”. If “The Pack” doesn’t get your blood pumping then you’re probably fucking dead! Not since the first three Metallica albums have I heard a thrash album with this level of intensity and pure balls-to-the-wall ferocity. I review a lot of albums every year, but this one of the rare times that I lack the words to describe how great this album truly is. If you’re searching for the metal album of the year, you can stop….your search is over.
Once again Mark Osegueda brings incredible lyrical delivery with powerful vocal performances. And Rob Cavestany is just off the fucking hook with these riffs and incendiary solos. The rhythm section is so synchronized and incredibly heavy that its power will shake your very foundation. Every track on Humanicide is a top-notch song. Sure, I have my favorites, but there’s absolutely no filler here. If you only take my advice on one album this year, go out and buy this one. Death Angel’s Humanicide is as close to a perfect metal album as you’re likely to ever hear!
02. Overkill – The Wings of War (Nuclear Blast)
Overkill do exactly what they do best and destroy everything in sight with another great metal album. Overkill never fails to deliver outstanding albums and “The Wings Of War” rank with the best of them.
03. Flotsam and Jetsam – The End of Chaos (AFM)
Flotsam and Jetsam return to deliver one fo the best and most brutal sounding albums in years. The addition of Ken Mary on drums only propels the band even further into greater territory.
04. Suicidal Angels – Years Of Aggression (NoiseArt)
Suicidal Angels are one of the best of the newer breed of thrash metalers. This album probably didn’t get as much attention as it should have, but it’s a brilliant album and definitely worth your time to check it out.
05. Destruction – Born To Perish (Nuclear Blast)
Destruction continues to deliver the goods again with another great, solid metal outing. The band are now legends of the genre and continue to cement their presence as such.
01. Rammstein – Rammstein (Universal)
02. KMFDM – Paradise
03. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – In The House Of Strange Affairs (Sleazebox)
04. Combichrist – One Fire (Out Of Line)
05. Deflore/Jaz Coleman – Party In The Chaos EP (Subsound)
Anytime Killing Joke‘s frontman, Jaz Coleman is involved in a project, you have my interest. This 3 song EP, Party In The Chaos is certainly no exception. The title track “Party In The Chaos” is astounding in every way. If you’re a Killing Joke fan you’ll want and need this in your collection. Coleman’s primitive styled, yet futuristic, vocals fuel the fire to a song that could have just as easily, been included on any recent Killing Joke album. Musically, this is a great find. Ultimately, I would have loved for this to be longer than three tracks, but I’m happy to report that it’s a very enjoyable listen. The material is quite diverse, but any fan of electronic music should be pleased with the entire output. “Sunset In The West” is both beautiful and powerful at the same time with a nice ebb and flow between tranquility and madness. “Transhuman World” treads closer to industrial rock territory and has a menacing beat throughout. This EP, in many ways, reminds me of Killing Joke’s Pandemonium album, especially the title track and for me, that’s a very good thing. I’d love to hear more from this collaboration in the future. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and pick this up or download it. You won’t be sorry.
06. 3Teeth – Metawar (Red)
If you’re looking for the right album to rock during the apocalypse, Metawar by 3TEETH should be at the very top of that list. A dark and heavy indictment of modern society, Metawar is a fair warning of what is to come if humans refuse to change our ways. With song titles like Affluenza, which relates to our incessant need to consume as many products as possible, the self-explanatory American Landfill and a brilliant cover of “Pumped Up Kicks” complete with a video that comments on the recent school shootings, this is not a feel-good album, at least lyrically. However, being a fan of industrial music, this is outstanding compared to most of the stuff being released these days. The mood of this album could easily be summed up by imagining Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot created an album together. While being brutally honest about society’s ills, it also delivers a powerful message. Standout tracks for me are Affluenza, Exxxit, Sell Your Face 2.0 and Pumped Up Kicks. Overall, the entire album rocks and the band is blazing a trail for others to follow. Going out on the road with Ministry is certainly going to help them to develop an even larger audience. Keep your eyes and ears open when it comes to 3TEETH. They seem poised for a break-through with this release. And it seems like the future for the band may be burning bright, even if society is collapsing.