Once again it’s time for my Annual Best of Top 30 lists. I often get asked how I come up with the lists and what criteria I use to create them.
During the year I receive hundreds of records from each of the 7 genres that I create lists for. There is so much amazing music floating around out there, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to showcase it all. I try to cover as much as humanly possible but it’s simply not possible for me to get to everything or give each record as much time as I’d love to give them all.
With that being said, my tastes in music as unconventional at best and eclectic at worst. I love the independent spirit of music and find myself much more attracted to underground music than the mainstream stuff that corporate radio pushes.
When choosing the music that makes my year end lists I keep 4 basic rules in mind:
1) No greatest hits, re-issues, live, cover albums or box sets are eligible.
2) A record must contain a minimum of SEVEN songs thus no EP’s qualify.
3) The list is NEVER based on record sales or commercial numbers.
4) Music is Subjective and these are simply MY favorites that have impacted me in personal ways, thus staying on my heavy rotation for the entire year.
Now, let’s get to the fun!
30) Dream Child – Until Death Do We Meet Again
Supergroup featuring former members of Dio, Ozzy, and AC/DC with singer Diego Valdez, one of the greatest new voices in heavy rock. The band is super tight with songs that take their cue from Dio’s inspiration while still adding their own personality to the mix.
29) Freak Kitchen – Confusion To The Enemy
It’s almost a given that any record by this group will make the list. No exception here. It’s only because it’s an exceptional year for hard rock that it’s so far back on the list. They’re still one of the coolest and most innovative bands in the business and Mattias’ guitar playing is second to none!
28) Theia – The Ghost Light
UK based Trio is back with their 2nd record that grooves in major ways with big, fun songs that will leave your ears ringing! If you haven’t heard them yet, you need to change that NOW…you can thank me later!
27) Motor City Mayhem – Shitfaced and Outta Luck
Balls out sleazy hard rock from this German band. No ballads in sight here, just beat you in the face and kick your dick in the dirt rockers that are best heard with the volume cranked to 11!
26) Steel City – Fortress
Thumping hard rock with amazing vocals that remind of Stryper in places but with better hooks and more memorable tunes. A great debut that should set them up nicely for future releases.
25) Blood Red Saints – Love Hate Conspiracies
Solid hard rock from start to finish that is really made by the vocals of Pete Godfrey. He has just the right amount of grit and harmony to carry these songs and make them first class rockers!
24) Hardcore Superstar – You Can’t Kill My Rock N’ Roll
Few do big, bombastic sleaze rock better than these guys and this is yet another example why many consider them one of the best in the genre. This checks all the boxes for what I look for in a hard rock record and more.
23) The Lazys – Tropical Hazards
Aussie rockers come stormin’ into port here with a major dose of adrenaline fueled hard rockers that while heavily inspired by AC/DC, have far more personality than anything that band ever wrote. “Half Mast Blues” is worth the price alone!
22) Nordic Union – Second Coming
Erik Martinsson has once again written a sickeningly catchy dose of tunes that will have your feet tapping along while you air guitar like a maniac.
21) The Cruel Intentions – No Sign of Relief
Lizzy Devine returns with killer new band and record that is top notch in every way.
20) Striker – Play To Win
One of the best surprises this year, Striker had written a record that will be a cult classic for years to come. With a ton of metal influences while still maintaining a distinct hard rock vibe, this is one of those records that will be grossly overlooked by the masses but highly sought after by the TRUE rockers!
19) Turbo Vixen – Drive Into The Night
Canadian rockers that have written a hard rock record that goes straight for the throat. Guitarist JJ Rowlands is one of the best new guitarists I’ve heard in a good long while and will be a name that will definitely be heard more after this! The dude can seriously ROCK!
18) DC4 – Atomic Highway
Maybe the best Van Halen record that Van Halen never wrote. I absolutely DO NOT mean that as an insult either! If you can’t have new music from the real thing, it’s awesome to know there are rockers out there that will wear their influences on their sleeves and write original music that keeps the spirit alive!
17) SKoR – Rubus Tellus
One of the most pure fun records this year, this is PARTY music they way it was meant to be written! If Slade, Nazareth, and Iggy Pop all got together for a massive jam session, it’d sound something like this. Crank this one and let the neighbors know you mean business!
16) Salems Lott – Mask of Morality
Let’s call this one Thrash Sleaze for the sake of a better term to use. Absolutely massive sounding record that crushes musically while still maintaining the sleaze style vocals that gives it the true personality. Highly technical in places, the band has achieved a masterpiece with this record!
15) Brand of Julez – Forward
Hard rock from The Bronx that mixes dramatic singing with modern vibes that make the band a new school band with old school influences.
14) Doll Hazard – Transatlantic Meltdown
Sleaze rock with serious punk influences that make for one badass record that is instantly singable while still having that snotty attitude that rips your face off. The world needs more music like this!
13) Neil Merryweather & Janne Stark – Carved In Rock
Hard rock steeped in tradition that screams of the musicality than Janne is so well known for. Huge grooves with killer vocals that will blast the plaster off your walls and keep that rager going til 3 in the morning!
12) Love Stallion – Unforgettable Ride
70’s style hard rock with 80’s style vocals and modern production make this record instantly likable! Big hooks, killer rhythm section, and purely fun tunes put this over the top and make it one of the most enjoyable this year! Looking forward to hearing more from them in the near future!
11) Ryan Roxie – Imagine Your Reality
Ryan has taken all the influences from the different projects he played in over the years, assembled them in one place, and used them to write a kick ass record that rocks with total abandon and showcases why he’s such a sought after musician! Total class here!
10) Pleasure Maker – Dancin’ With Danger
Brazilian hard rockers land here with a record that should make them a household name in this genre for a long time to come. They have serious musical chops that set them far ahead of the rest of the pack and let you know they take their craft very seriously while still being after to have fun doing it!
09) Maverick – Cold Star Dancer
Irish rockers blast in here with a mega-dose of Hard Rock that borders on pure metal in places. Super tight musicianship with giant sounding vocals that make for one glorious sounding record.
08) The Slyde – Awakening
So, basically if you like Rush and Coheed, you’re gonna flip for this record. If you don’t, well, maybe you should get better taste in music! Seriously though, these Canadians showcase that they can write super technical stuff while still rocking out like maniacs. I had the pleasure of interviewing singer, Nathan, earlier this year for the radio show and he informed us that there is tons more to come from them still!
07) Station – More Than The Moon
Super hooky Hard Rock that is heavily influenced by Def Leppard in places while still maintaining it’s own personality, there’s no denying these guys know how to write a damn fine tune!
06) Midnite City – There Goes The Neighborhood
It only took one listen to this record to instantly fall in love with it. Like early Bon Jovi, Danger Danger, and TigerTailz had a musical gang bang and this was the result! The perfect record for cruising down the highway with the windows down, cranked to 10!
05) REECE – Resilient Heart
Smoking hot tunes based around the legendary voice of David Reece, the rest of the players more than hold up their end of the record. Hard Rock the way that hard rock was meant to be written and played. Another one that demands to be played at full volume!
04) Dizzy Reed – Rock N’ Roll Ain’t Easy
This is one of those record that came out of nowhere but instantly became a favorite and was an early contender for record of the year. Dizzy shows that he’s more than just the guy backing up Axl. He proves he can write a hell of a record that deserves as much praise as anything Axl has written. Easily one of the best surprises this year.
03) Little Caesar – Eight
Ron Young has always had one of the greatest voices in hard rock and is grossly underrated as a performer! He puts those vocal chops to full use here on a collection of tunes that are damn near flawless in every espect. Crank this sucker up and become a believer!
02) Roxanne – Radio Silence
Returning after 30+ years, these guys drop a record that sucker punches you right in the mouth and says, “Listen up, Bitches! We’re here to rock faces!” Mixing huge Queen style harmonies with early Foreigner style guitars, they achieve a sound that is absolutely masterful. Guest spots from dUg Pinnick and George Lynch just put it even further over the top. A Must Have for any serious hard rock fan! Easily record of the year on a normal year!
01) Animal Drive – Bite
While there was some back and forth on the other lists about who might land where, this one was NEVER in doubt. It only took one listen to this one to know it was gonna be at the top of the heap, when it was all said and done.
Rarely do you get a record from a band that mixes influences from multiple genres flawlessly. Lead singer Dino Jelusic puts on an absolute masterclass here. Flawless vocals that remind of Whitesnake mixed over Dream Theater style musical passages with a production that is second to none this year.
Whether you like hard rock, Euro style metal, progressive metal, or melodic AOR, you’ll find it here in all it’s fabulous glory! Guaranteed this is not the last time you hear the name of this band! Huge things are in store for them, I’d bet money on it!