I know what you’re thinking. Who the hell needs another end of the year Top 10 lists. Well to be fair, no one. But if everyone else gets the fun of making one so should I. Let’s be honest, these are fun. I love sitting and writing down all the great releases that came out. Crossing out and revising the list over and over again. The scanning other peoples list and cursing the fact that I forgot something. Then going back and redoing my list one more time.
I am a but more anal about making lists than others. There has to be rules. If its a Top 10, then there should only be 10 on the list. No two way tie for first or 5 honorable mentions.
Top 10 is 10.
End of story.
10-Europe-Walk The Earth
If you would have told me in 1985 when “The Final Countdown” was earworming its’ way into our brains. That I would be a huge fan of Europe, so much that I would pre-order their albums, I would have wondered what gave me brain damage. Yet, I am a huge fan and you should be too. I heard a interview with the drummer that when the band reformed they changed the way they wrote songs. Apparently, the old method was singer Joey Tempest writing everything and then bring it to the band. Now they get together to create. Thankfully those annoying keyboards have been replaced with powerful old school organs. Europe seems to have given in to their childhood and have channeled the bands they grew up on. Influences ranging from Rainbow and Deep Purple are evident. The title track would have been a monster hit back in the day. Honestly, it still could be if someone uses it in a sports highlight reel.
It was so refreshing to hear some new Godflesh. I remember the first time I heard them. I was drinking at Emo’s, R.I.P., and Streetcleaner came on. It was a revelation. The heaviness and dissonance was so different that anything I had every heard. Godflesh was first of the industrial bands that soon flooded the scene. However,to me they were always different. Maybe it’s because they were on Earache and there was an extra level of heaviness. There was always level of noise in their sound that was amazingly inviting. Post Self gave me the same feeling. I’ve seen people say that it doesn’t have metal leanings but it sure does sound like it to me. Still brutal and awesome. Like an army of orcs rampaging over a field of keyboards.
I’d venture to guess that most people have no idea who the Riverdogs are and why I would have them on my Top 10. Those people are seriously ignorant and deprived. At first glance people will assume that since Vivian Campbell, of Dio, Whitesnake, and Del Leppard fame, that it would be in that vein. Riverdogs are so much more. The key to the band is singer Rob Lamothe. His voice is magical. Emotional like a mutha fucka. First time I heard these guys was when they were doing a radio tour promoting their debut album in 1990. Vivian and Rob were on Z-Rock, R.I.P. again, and they played acoustic versions of the songs. It was amazing. Those two gave the songs such life and meaning that I was instantly hooked. Great thing about it was that it showed how good the songs were that they would work with just two guys with guitars. So I was ecstatic to see that California was coming out. Frontiers Records did something brilliant by having the band play acoustic versions of these new songs in advance of the release.
Describing their sound is tough. While it is definitely rock there are hints of soft rock, alternative, and alt-country mixed in with Jeff Buckley. It worked. “Welcome To The New Disaster” and “You’re Too Rock N Roll” drip with brilliance that make you wonder if you’re worthy. It’s the perfect record for driving with the top down and sun glaring down on you.
7-Tau Cross-Pillar Of Fire
I had never heard of Tau Cross until December. Sarah Kiteeringham from Banger TV was talking about them on her Album on the Year list. Naturally, she violated the rules and had about 10 different albums. Nonetheless, one of her choices was Tau Cross. When she said Away from Voivod was in the band, my ears pricked up. This is a really interesting band. It does have some of Voivod-ness on here, this is a bit more abrasive. Rob Miller, formerly of Amebix, plays bass and sings with a gravely tone that elevates this above the fray. He shows his range by smoothing it out some and injecting some bass and it gives the band a Killing Joke vibe. The title track showcases that with the added acoustic guitars and violins.
Only complaint is the album is a tad long. Sort of. The vinyl is 11 songs which I think is perfect. But the CD/MP3 version adds 3 songs. Not that they’re bad but as I’ve gotten older i’ve realized that Aerosmith’s Rocks has only 8 songs and that kind of tough to top. Get in, get out leave them wanting more.
6-Power Trip-Nightmare Logic
You remember what I just wrote about getting in and getting out? Well that is perfect exemplified on Nightmare Logic by Power Trip. This is 8 tracks and 32 minutes of Texas thrash that if these guys had access to a DeLorean and flux capacitor would tear it up at Ruthie’s Inn in 1987 San Fran. It is note perfect old school thrash but doesn’t sound dated. These guys wear their influences on their sleeves. Proudly. Heavy, nasty riffs with dive bombs that would make Slayer proud. Riley Gale’s vocals are very reminiscent of Kurt from D.R.I. but with more intensity. They aren’t afraid to tackle some big lyrical issues. From the dependence on OTC drugs to extreme right wing religious politics feel their wraith. Not a bad note on this.
5-L.A. Guns-The Missing Peace
It’s been a rough couple decades for L.A. Guns. After having some solid success in the 80’s and 90’s, they rapidly became a punchline. They went from being known as a solid act to having two versions of the same band touring around the country. Silly fighting through the media made it even worse. However, time heals all wounds and singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns kissed and made up. Thankfully so, because we got The Missing Peace.
THIS IS A MONSTER ALBUM!!
They did not miss a beat and it sounds like it was recorded by their 20-something selves not the 50 year olds they are now. They looked father time in his face and spit on him. High energy guitar rock that traverses time. Phil’s voice hasn’t aged at all and the British snarl he had in Girl is still present. Tracii is one of the most underrated guitarist of his generation. He can play with feel as well as power, plus writes terrific riffs. He also shows some humility by deferring to Michael Grant whose playing injects some adrenaline into the album. From opener “It’s All the Same To Me” to “Sticky Fingers” (not that Sticky Fingers) to “Baby Got Fever” the album transports you to a packed Gazzarri’s and you don’t care that you have half a can of hair spray on your head and you’re a dude. Rarely does a successful band make their best album 3 decades into the game.
I have a system for the way I listen to new albums I’ve never heard of. I’ll look up what’s coming out that Friday, then find it on Google Play Music and add it to a playlist called Decide. That’s how I came to hear Code Orange. I was not prepared.
HOLY SHIT, is this a brutal album.
They’re called a deathcore band but I don’t know how accurate that is. Mainly because I have no idea what deathcore is. These kids and their uber specific genres . Anyway. Code Orange is power personified. Not fast but HEAVY. Starting with the title track, it’s just simple quarter notes that are delivered with such force its unbelievable. They get schizophrenic with some hardcore stuff on “Kill the Creator” but the power is still there.
OK, I get what deathcore is now.
I think what’s impressive is they are not afraid to record a song like “Bleeding In The Blur”. They use clean vocals and the song is more Octane than Liquid Metal. Or something like “Spy” with is a hybrid stoner metal song with electronic elements. “Ugly” is more industrial/alternative than metal but fits right in with the other songs. Forever is actually a very diverse album and shows that Code Orange will do whatever they want.
Forever is a fantastic album that has put Code Orange on the map. I am really curious what they’ll do next, should be interesting.
3-Mutoid Man-War Moans
Someone on Metal Riot had the best description of Mutoid Man. They described them as the perfect blend of cockrock and mathcore. There is plenty of harmonies in their music balanced out with some insane technical playing. The songs are very catchy, fun and surprisingly smart. I don’t want to make it seem like they are tough to grasp like a Dragonforce or Dillinger Escape Plan. A song like “Kiss of Death” is a standard hard rock song but they put enough of a twist on it to make it their own. Imagine High on Fire guitars with a Josh Homme melody. Without assaulting a camera woman though.
“War Moans” and “Irons In The Fire” would be prototypical metal songs in anyone else’s hands. Here they are delivered crisply but with enough attitude making them Mutoid Man.
Look at the two bands that preceded them on the list. If they opened for L.A. Guns or Code Orange they would be received quite well. Honestly I think Mutoid Man would like both of the gigs too.
2-Integrity-Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume
I seem to have a love/hate relationship with SiriusXM. In theory it should be a godsend for music lovers. Unfortunately, what you end up finding out is that they have the same lazy programming as terrestrial radio. That’s why I end up listening to MLB Radio more than any of the music channels. The one time I was listening to Liquid Metal and they weren’t playing a Soulfly or Sepultura song. Honestly, you would think these were the biggest bands ever the way Jose rams them down everyone’s throat. Anyway, that’s where I heard the new Integrity. The song “Hymn for the Children of the lack Flame” came on and I was entranced. These brutally fast guitars came out of the speaker accompanied by some nasty shedding. Very reminiscent of early Slayer. Back when Kerry had hair. Then Dwid Hellion’s vocals came on. He’s got a big shouty growl that works so well on the metal tracks as well some of the more hardcore ones. Most of the songs are barely over 3 minutes long but I don’t think the human neck could sustain much more headbanging. Then the second half of the album and it changes. The songs get longer and the band starts stretching their wings.”7 Reece Mews” has Dwid channeling Tom Waits over bursts of stoner metal. Then on “Unholy Salvation of Sabbatai Levi”his voice sounds like its pleading or warning us over ominous droning guitars. Even though Integrity is Dwid and whomever he wants, he gives a lot of room to guitarist Domenic Romeo. Domenic shows lots of old school flash while maintaining a contemporary feel.
1-Wayward Sons-Ghosts Of Yet To Come
I realize this is the 3rd album from Frontiers Records on my list. What can I say, they had a good year. Like other titles, they released several songs ahead of the albums release. The first Wayward Sons track available was “Until The End”. I was hooked instantly. Just a quality hard rocker accompanied by some sharp pointed lyrics about dealing with less than honorable people.
They are the ones that try to hurt you
They are the ones that cause it all
They are the ones that have no virtue, at all
Toby Jepson’s words take what would be a good song to a great one by injecting some thought and wit into them. Some may know him from the band Little Angels. Some may know him from acting in Gladiator, Angela’s Ashes, Band of Brothers. Or from him producing Saxon, Chrome Molly and the Virginmarys. Either way, you need to know him for Wayward Sons. It’s a little dismissive to say this is just a hard rock band. While they are, the music is so good it’s almost insulting to lump them in with others. There is a definite English feel to the songs, ala Wildhearts, Therapy, Terrorvision. However, Wayward Sons songs seem to have an extra layer to them. The music is very simple, but Toby’s voice is truly an extra instrument. As the guitars are playing 4 chord rock . He’s singing in a style that adds another riff to the song while adding a harmony to it as well. “Crush” and “Give It Away” are audio heroin with the way it sucks you in and wraps it self around you.
Good rock songs are simple yet tough to write. Every track on here is a diamond. This is the bar band you want to see that is so good the lady you meet at the show ends up being your wife.
Two wrap it all up, Wayward Sons has been the definite #1 in all incarnations of this list. I will say that numbers 2 through 6 could be rearranged in any order and I would be fine with it. It was tough keeping Enslaved off the list but I thought Godflesh was a stronger album. Hopefully you’ve found some new music to listen to. So grab your phone and open Spotify or Beats or Google and get to searching.