Featured Articles

The XS ROCK Top 15 Best Rock Albums Of 2021

The XS ROCK Top 15 Best Rock Albums Of 2021

#1 Ministry

Album: Moral Hygiene
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: October 1, 2021

Never one to shy away from expressing his feelings about societal problems, Uncle Al returns with all guns blazing and a firm middle finger for those he deems a threat to the underdogs who are fighting to just keep their head above water.  Moral Hygiene is an appropriately named album title as Jourgensen laments the fact that greed, power-lust, and cleverly laid political disinformation bombs have divided not only the people of the United States but also the entire world.  Starting with the track “Alert Level”, the band asks how concerned are you?  Essentially, this entire album is a punk album set to an industrial metal soundtrack with Ministry bringing the rallying cry of its time to resist the wrongs of society and use the power of the people in numbers to stand up for themselves.  Every song on the album could easily be a current news headline and the album is timely in its approach to addressing our most important issues and problems. “Good Trouble”, in a tribute to the late John Lewis,  encourages “necessary” or good trouble when needed to protect our rights and freedoms. The harmonica parts included take me back to the sound of the Filth Pig album somewhat and it’s an entertaining endeavor. “Sabotage Is Sex” proves that no matter how full you get, there’s always room for Jello. Jello Biafra that is, as he guests on vocals on this aggressively fun song. The interesting cover version of the “Iggy And The Stooges” song “Search And Destroy” is a track that’s fateful to the original but also its own unique animal in the hands of mastermind Jourgensen. “Death Toll” is a classic Ministry track showing the absurdity of televangelism which leads into the latest entry in the TV Song series that takes us right into the hypocrisy of today.  Uncle Al’s fans will be right at home with Moral Hygiene and its topics. Not only is this a solid follow-up to the last album Amerikkkant, but I would rate it as the best album Ministry has released since Rio Grande Blood back in 2008.  Al Jourgensen is a rock music legend and this album has his thumbprint all over it. You absolutely need to pick this album up and give it a spin, it’s an easy 4-star album, and one of the best albums that I’ve heard in 2021, so far.

https://ministryband.com/


Iron Maiden announce the release of their 17th studio album 'Senjutsu'#2 Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Up The Irons! Iron Maiden returns with an instant classic and frankly one of their best albums in years. Sure, Bruce’s vocals are starting to fade a bit with age, but this is pure classic Iron Maiden. The guys prove after all of these years, they still have plenty of gas left in the tank. And Senjutsu is not an album to overlook if you’re a metal fan. It’s brilliant in its delivery and it’s everything you expect from a band that has rightfully claimed the throne of heavy metal for so many years.

 

 

 

https://www.ironmaiden.com/


Holy Mother - Face The Burn (Review)#3 Holy Mother – Face This Burn

Review: I absolutely love it when an album comes across my desk that surprises me with how good it is. As rock a journalist I receive a lot of stuff for review on a daily basis and honestly, only about 5-10% of it is actually good, interesting, or worth listening to.  Holy Mother’s Face The Burn is one of those albums that simply surprises and blows you away. Lead by the excellent vocals of former Riot V vocalist Mike Tirelli this album is simply outstanding. It’s classic-sounding metal with just the slightest amount of modern touches that actually work really well and make this a cut above your standard metal album. Holy Mother isn’t new. The band started back in 1995 and they have released six full-length albums prior to this one with the last one being released in 2003. This album sees a reunion of vocalist Tirelli and drummer Jim Harris to bring back the band. The album is dedicated to former band bassist Randy Coven who died in 2014. The songwriting and structure are really, really good and it elevates the entire album.  This album has everything that you love and nothing to dislike. The sound quality and production are near perfect and the band really nails it song after song. You may think I’m exaggerating about how great this album is, but I’m not. This is is my first recommended “Must Hear” metal album of 2021! Don’t sleep on this one! The entire album of Holy Mother’s Face This Burn is any metalhead’s dream come true. It gets released on February 12. 2021. Put it at the top of your list of albums to listen to!

Tracklisting:

01. Face This Burn
02. Love Is Dead
03. Legends
04. No Death Reborn
05. The Truth
06. Prince of the Garden
07. Wake up America
08. Mesmerized by Hate
09. Today
10. The River
11. Superstar

https://www.facebook.com/holymotherband


If You Crossed Ministry With The Sex Pistols You'd Get The Joy Thieves! Check Out The American Parasite Video!#4 The Joy Thieves

It’s rare that I get surprised by anything these days, but I am simply blown away by “American Parasite” by The Joy Thieves.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of industrial rock bands, especially Ministry. Chris Connelly helms the vocals on this entire album. You probably remember Chris from his time with Ministry providing vocals on the legendary track “So What?” and fronting the Revolting Cocks. Another genre that I’m always ecstatic about was the late 70s, early 80s punk movement, especially the Sex Pistols. To my surprise, The Joy Thieves sound pretty damn close to a mix of Ministry and The Sex Pistols.  And the biggest surprise is that this hybrid fuck-all sound works brilliantly.  Written during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, this album is pure angst, aggression, and anarchy. This album is pure unadulterated bliss for fans of these genres and shouldn’t be missed out on. Seek this album out now! With culturally, politically, and blunt relevant lyrics to modern society, American Parasite is nothing sort of a masterpiece. My favorite songs are “American Parasite”, “Drown By Invitation”, “Valley Of Pistols” and. “Complicity” but there isn’t any filler or sub-par material to be found anywhere on this entire album.  The pure simplicity and raw aggression of this album is undeniably great.  Yet, this is music with a message as well, the band wears their hearts on their sleeves and pulls no punches when addressing many of the problems facing the world today and it’s quite refreshing. Not since Rage Against The Machine debuted, have I heard a band that dedicated to their music and message to represent their art to illuminate social issues. “American Parasite” rates a full five stars. It doesn’t get better than this! This should be on every critic’s best albums of 2021 list. 

The Joy Thieves Album Lineup:

Chris Connelly, Dan Milligan, Gordon Young, James Scott & Marcus Eliopulos.

https://thejoythieves.com/


GUITAR ICON GEORGE LYNCH TO RELEASE FIRST-EVER INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM SEAMLESS#5 George Lynch -Seamless

With the tragic and much too early death of Edward Van Halen, George Lynch becomes the greatest living hard rock/metal guitarist alive in my humble opinion. If you don’t believe me, check out this all-instrumental album Lynch that sees him letting loose and showing a varied and impressive array of material that puts his incredible talents on full display. Even if you don’t rank him the best, he still ranks among the most talented guitar shredders of the genre including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen. Surprisingly, this is Lynch’s first all-instrumental guitar album of his long career. A brilliant and impressive album from beginning to end.

 

 

https://georgelynch.com/


The End Machine - Phase 2 (Review)#6 The End Machine – Phase2

The End Machine return with their second album called Phase 2.  And, what an album it is! This album sees the band take a more aggressive, bluesy hard rock style that far exceeds what they did with the first album. Featuring guitar virtuoso George Lynch and Jeff Pilson from Dokken, former Dokken drummer Mick Brown’s brother Steve Brown fills in on the drums this time out, and Robert Mason from Warrant and Lynch Mob handling lead vocals.  Dare I say, that this album sounds a lot like classic Dokken, just without Don?  Obviously, with the guys from Dokken being in the band, it’s going to sound similar to what they’ve done in the past.  When I recently spoke with bassist Jeff Pilson about the direction of this album, he indicated that they purposely went in this direction, which is a departure from the first album.  And while the former Dokken members have been staying busy with other band projects, it’s no secret that they’d really like to do another Dokken album.  Robert Mason’s vocals are well-suited for these songs and vocally he tears it up with a gritty, and yet somehow smooth delivery. New drummer, Steve Brown is a chip off of the old block that his brother Mick was formed from.  Ironically, Steve sounds remarkably like Mick with his drumming style.  Standout tracks for me include “Blood And Money”, “Devil’s Playground”, “We Walk Alone”, “Crack The Sky” and the pseudo-ballad “Scars”. This entire album is an instant hard rock classic and is one of the best, if not the best, hard rock albums released so far in 2021.  Fans of Lynch’s guitar work will be overjoyed with this album and it certainly has some similarities with Lynch Mob and the classic Dokken sound.  This is an incredible album that should not be missed by any fan of hard rock.  Phase 2 is absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Tracklist:
The Rising
Blood And Money
We Walk Alone
Dark Divide
Crack The Sky
Prison Or Paradise
Plastic Heroes
Scars
Shine Your Light
Devils Playground
Born Of Fire
Destiny

Line-up:
George Lynch – guitar
Jeff Pilson – bass, keyboards and background vocals
Steve Brown – drums and background vocals
Robert Mason – lead and background vocals

https://www.facebook.com/TheEndMachine


THUNDER announce brand new album release in 2021#7 Thunder – All The Right Noises

British rockers Thunder return to the scene with a great new album called “All The Right Noises”.  Thunder released their debut album “Backstreet Symphony” in 1990 and did quite well on the charts in the U.K and The U.S. with the single for “Dirty Love”.  I was impressed with the band then and I’m still impressed with them now.  For the somehow uninitiated, Thunder sounds to me like a brilliant crossing of the rocking sounds of AC/DC and Bad Company mixed together.  So, you get a nice melodic-metal bluesy rock sound with vocals similar to Paul Rodgers.  Admittedly, I had lost track of the band for a few years, but I’m happy to report that “All The Right Noises” is an excellent return to form of their early sound.  It’s as if they went back in time and just picked up where they left off after “Backstreet Symphony”. Opening the album with “Last One Out Turn Out The Lights” is a perfect choice, a great up-tempo rocker with a little social commentary thrown in. Following up behind it is “Destruction” which takes things in a slightly heavier direction. It’s one of my favorites on the album.  Thunder has some great material on this album which runs the gambit of different styles while still staying absolutely true to the overall sound they’re known for. “Going To Sin City” is another nice heavy rocker that again puts the album in the realm of greatness. Reminiscent of early AC/DC riffage but completely it’s own animal, this track is another standout song from the album and rightfully released as a single. Overall, Thunder has created one of the best albums of their career years after their fantastic debut. As a hard rock and melodic metal fan, I’m simply ecstatic to see these guys return with such a great album. Catchy songs, insightful lyrics, and great sound quality. Be sure and check this album out on March 12th, 2021 when it’s released, because the Thunder boys are back in a big way!

Tracklisting:
1. Last One Out Turn Off The Lights
2. Destruction
3. The Smoking Gun
4. Going To Sin City
5. Don’t Forget To Live Before You Die
6. I’ll Be The One
7. Young Man
8. You’re Gonna Be My Girl
9. St George’s Day
10. Force Of Nature
11. She’s A Millionairess

Thunder is:

Danny Bowes
Luke Morley
Ben Matthews
Chris Childs
Gary “Harry” James

https://www.facebook.com/thunderonline


QUEENSRŸCHE FRONTMAN TODD LA TORRE TO RELEASE SOLO ALBUM "REJOICE IN THE SUFFERING"#8 Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering

Current Queensryche vocalist Todd La Torre has released his first solo album and its balls to the walls metal. Taking things heavier than the sound of most Queensryche albums, Rejoice In Suffering is simply incredible.  While you will find the occasional song or verse that will remind you of Queensryche, most of this album is much, much heavier. The fact that he went full blast metal on this album is really refreshing.  While it’s not quite death metal, it is closer in sound to bands like Nevermore and the heavier side of Judas Priest, and Accept.  The separation in sound from his other band is good too because it gives you more than one style of music to like from La Torre. Todd is a well-trained musician in various musical instruments as well as having quite the vocal range.  That vocal range is on full display in this album. Starting out with Dogmata, (one of my personal favorites) La Torre wails like a possessed Banshee in an incredible performance that shouldn’t be missed.  It’s quickly followed up by another outstanding track called “Pretenders” where his vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. La Torre gets the benefit of creating a modern-day metal masterpiece while keeping his current day job fully intact with “Rejoice In Suffering”.  Songs like “Crossroads to Insanity” and “Critical Cynic” lean a little more into Queensryche territory and I hear a little bit of the Bruce Dickinson style in La Torre’s performance here. If nothing else what you get here is a fantastic metal album and one hell of a resume for Todd La Torre himself as he shows off his full vocal capabilities with a chameleon-like quality that is simply outstanding. Pick this album at your first opportunity. If you’re a metal fan, you’ll never regret adding this to your collection. Rejoice In Suffering will be on a lot of “Best Metal Album” lists for 2021 and rightfully so! This gets a full five out of five stars review!

Tracklist:
Dogmata 3:31
Pretenders 4:11
Hellbound and Down 3:40
Darkened Majesty 4:08
Crossroads to Insanity 5:08
Critical Cynic 3:56
Rejoice in the Suffering 4:35
Vexed 5:53
Vanguards of the Dawn Wall 3:39
Apology 6:01
Fractured (Bonus Track) 3:51
Set it Off (Bonus Track) 4:06
One by One (Bonus Track) 5:57

http://www.toddlatorre.com/


# 9 Flotsam & Jetsam – Blood In The Water

Blood in the Water Proves That Flotsam And Jetsam Are A Force To Be Reckoned With!

After playing a once-through of this disc and soaking it all in, the first thing I realized was that there was no filler. I don’t care what band it is, you always get filler (KISS made a career on it). Not this time, and that’s a statement when you have 12 songs clocking in at 54 minutes, not to mention a brutal trifecta that began with 2016’s self-titled release. These three distinctive releases have shown a constant, continual musical growth and bar-raising ferociousness that the band just can’t help but raise eyebrows. Hopefully, big tour promoters are taking note.

Straight out of the gates, the first four songs (Blood in the Water / Burn the Sky / Brace for Impact / A Place to Die) are everything you want from Flotz – brutal, fast, melodic, and straight up in your face. Ken Mary has really added a missing piece/link element to an already tight band, and his drumming here just solidifies the songs themselves. Within these first few songs (as well as later in the disc) you can clearly hear the legendary mesh of Smith/Murray sonically and effortlessly coming from Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley. This duo has easily surpassed the likes of Peterson/Skolnick, and are setting their sights on the crowns of Tipton/Downing, Hammett/Hetfield, and Hanneman/King. Just crank Undone and try to disagree.

With the assistance of Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, UDO), whatever you use to listen to these tunes becomes a deadly utility. Yet while this aggression is highly devoured, the band does showcase Eric AK’s vocal range during Cry for the Dead and Walls. The guy’s voice has gotten progressively stronger throughout the years, clearly emphasizing its power during melodic times, and remains distinctively world renown.

It’s time the band gets some real touring here in the US, and the last 5 years have shown exactly why. I think the only reason they are not on the current Megadeth trek, for example, is due to the fact Mustaine would be too intimidated by Gilbert/Conley, and they would give Lamb of God a frightening run for their money. Even in a support role, they would be a better fit than InFlames. InFlames? Seriously? No offense to the band whatsoever, but seriously? Both InFlames (here in the US) and Trivium don’t have the fan base Flotz has been growing.

Alright, I digress. July 4th marks the 35th anniversary of the acclaimed Doomsday for the Deceiver (it was the first in Kerrang!’s history to achieve the 6K rating), and amid a couple of stumbles, the band has raged on. Blood in the Water proves they are a force to be reckoned with as the crowns of metal are being rearranged. Overkill, Testament, Exodus take note ….you’ve just been surpassed.

(Review by CRPNDETH (DAVID) SVENDSEN R.I.P. 2021)

https://www.flotstildeath.com/


The Dead Daisies - Holy Ground (Review)#10 Dead Daisies – Holy Ground

Review:

The Dead Daisies are one of those bands with a unique concept.  While it’s consistently a band, it doesn’t always have the same members. Recently, former Motley Crue and Scream vocalist John Corabi was fronting the band, but former Deep Purple, Black Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes takes the helm on the new “Holy Ground” album. I have to admit I was quite used to hearing Corabi’s voice with the band as he had performed that role on three of the first four albums by The Dead Daisies.  However, things change and I know Hughes’ work very well as he is now legendary in the hard rock world as both a bassist and vocalist.  The album starts out with a full-throttle rocker “Holy Ground (Shake The Memory)”. Hughes’ smoother voice actually works quite well here and throughout the album.  One of the catchiest songs on this release has to be “Like No Other” (Bassline).  It’s got a great groove and locks into your brain almost immediately. The band mixes a nice rock n’ roll sound with bluesy influences, which Glenn Hughes is really suited for. One of my favorites is the single “Bustle And Flow”, which has a bit of a Led Zeppelin sound to it courtesy of guitarist Doug Aldrich.  The band works seamlessly on this outing with Doug Aldrich ripping up the fretboard as always, Deen Castronovo is one of the best drummers on the planet, and Hughes’ vocals sweeten the deal like a little bit of honey in a cup of tea. As much as I miss Corabi, there is no doubt that Glenn Hughes has performed at a top-notch level which morphs the band just a little with a smoother overall feel.  Sure, it’s not as gritty as the past few albums, but this is one hell of an album that deserves its rightful place in a year where good rock albums are few and far between. Check this one out when it’s released on January 22nd, 2021…it’s a modern-day classic album with a nod to the rock n’ roll sound of days gone by.

Tracklisting:
01. Holy Ground (Shake The Memory) 4:49
02. Like No Other (Bassline) 3:39
03. Come Alive 3:50
04. Bustle And Flow 3:40
05. My Fate 4:28
06. Chosen And Justified 3:43
07. Saving Grace 4:08
08. Unspoken 4:47
09. 30 Days In The Hole 3:40
10. Righteous Days 4:11
11. Far Away 7:03

https://thedeaddaisies.com/


At The Gates Release First Single "Spectre of Extinction"#11 At The Gates – Nightmare Of Being

At The Gates Take Death Metal To A Higher Level

Mortality is a big question for us all. It’s also the only level playing field. Our own death is inevitable.  It matters not if we’re rich or poor, strong or weak, enlightened or confused, we all suffer the same eventual fate. Everyone born dies.  This is the subject matter of the latest album by metal masters At The Gates.  And while it’s a heavy subject for most to tackle, At The Gates seems to have the sound and the intellect to handle death as it relates to each of us.  While this is definitely not a party album, the subject is approached with the anguish and fear that we all have about death and like most of us, life is filled with more questions than answers.  While the album is filled with pessimism, perhaps there isn’t always a bright side. At The Gates takes this attitude and magnifies it throughout the whole album. But, hey, they call it Death Metal for a reason.  Songs like Paradox, The Fall Into Time and  The Spectre Of Extinction are all dark masterpieces, but the entire album, while dark as hell, is great in the same way that a really great horror movie moves you. This album is all about philosophical ideas that surround our death and it is meant to make you think. This is a solid album by these Swedish metal legends and resonates like an art-house film. While, maybe not for everyone, those who understand the underlying sentiments will enjoy this album fully.

Tracklisting:
1. Spectre of Extinction
2. The Paradox
3. 3 The Nightmare of Being
4 Garden of Cyrus
5 Touched by the White Hands of Death
6. The Fall into Time
7. Cult of Salvation
8. The Abstract Enthroned
9. Cosmic Pessimism
10. Eternal Winter of Reason

http://atthegates.se/


#12 Dirty Honey – Dirty Honey

Dirty Honey has been around since 2017 but is still new to the scene and boy do they know how to make a splash in 2021 with their self-titled full-length album. Mixing classic rock sounds of everything from Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen together in a bluesy hard rock wrapper, these guys prove they’re here to stay. Great singles like California Dreamin’ and The Wire only show a glimpse of the talent that they have. Scoring a tour with The Black Crowes didn’t hurt and you can expect to see more of these guys in the coming years as they prove that they’re indeed the real deal.

 

 

 

https://www.dirtyhoney.com/


Watch Dee Snider I Gotta Rock (Again) In New Video#13 Dee Snider – Leave A Scar

Dee Snider effectively leaves the sound of Twisted Sister behind and embraces full-on heavier than thou metal on “Leave A Scar”. Not only does he pull it off, but it truly fits Dee’s madman alter ego when he hits the stage and grabs the mic. If this is any indication of what the future may bring for Dee Snider as a solo artist, I’m completely sold! Great, brutal, and energetic stuff that any fan of metal could and should embrace as the new collection of heavy metal anthems that deserve to be heard and blasted at full volume!

 

 

 

https://deesnider.com/


#14 L.A. Guns – Checkered Past

The classic duo of Tracii Guns and Phillip Lewis returns with a really surprising album. L.A. Guns has always had what I would call a signature sound. Similar to AC/DC, you already kind of know what the album will sound like before you hear it. But, Guns & Lewis take a different approach this time out and have created a unique album that seems them exploring new territory and sounds, while still being the L.A. Guns that we know and love. Dare, I say it has a Zeppelin-esque quality to it at times? Yes, it does and that’s meant to be a compliment. L.a Guns prove that they still have a few tricks up their sleeve and Checkered Past is an absolute treat.

 

 

https://www.lagunsmusic.com/


 

Q & A With Eric Jayk From Wildstreet#15 Wildstreet – III

Wildstreet Returns WIth Their Best album To Date

Wildstreet hails from New York and brings a bit of the city grit along with a lot of glam slam attitude.  The band has definitely hit their stride this time out with an album of great, energetic songs soaked in pure rock n’ roll swagger.  Vocalist Eric Jayk brings smooth but sleazy vocals to the mix which helps the band reach a level of rock n’ roll debauchery not seen since the 1980’s Sunset Strip scene took Hollywood by storm.  My favorite tracks are “Raise Hell”, “Tennessee Cocaine”, “Three-Way Ride” and “Mother”. With “Mother” the band treads into dark territory and it’s a great song in all its epic creepiness.  Overall, this album is a great outing for the Wildstreet and sees the band continue to improve and evolve into a more perfect animal.

 

III -Tracklisting:
01 Tennessee Cocaine 3:39
02 – Three Way Ride 3:44
03 – Set It Off 3:23
04 – Still Love You 4:56
05 – Midnight Children 4:20
06 – Born To Be 3:36
07 – Raise Hell 2:53
08 – Mother 7:21

https://www.wildstreetmusic.com/

About the author

Bobby Caughron

Bobby Caughron is a music journalist and Editor-In-Chief for XS ROCK. He began a life-long fan of hard rock and metal music after hearing KISS as a kid. He is still an avid fan of the 80s metal scene and continues to discover and write about new music in all rock genres today.

XS ROCK Back Issues

Listen To The XS ROCK Podcast On Amazon

Hard Rock & Metal

80s Rock & Pop

Industrial & Electronic Rock

Alternative Rock & Punk

Check Out Bang Your Head Apparel!

Get All The Latest News From XS ROCK In Your Email

Subscribe to our mailing list and get pdates to your email inbox.

Buy Hair Metal!