Another year is history. As in the past few years, things have been looking good for rock and metal. It hasn't dominated like it has decades ago, but it feels like it is in a pretty decent place. Sure, things could be better, but for now, there are some good things happening. There is a lot of variety in the genre these days and if you like that variety, it can be a lot of fun.
There are down sides as there always are. I think the biggest is the ticket price and verified reseller thing that has being going on. Back in my days of hitting as many shows as possible, we called it scalping. It's pretty bad when the resellers have the opportunity to get a higher cut per ticket than the band. Maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Just know this, I used to get a ticket, shirt and parking for a fraction of what one ticket costs now. Anyway, that's my gripe for now.
As those who frequent the website know, I have been covering melodic hard rock as well as metal. Modern sounds as well as more traditional classic sounding stuff. The variety I talk about basically. With that being said, I break my top 10 albums down into melodic hard rock on one list and metal on the other. It was a good year for releases once again. Just as an additional not, I'm not big into death metal, metalcore and stuff like that. I don't tend to cover that stuff. If you like it great, it's just a personal taste issue. On to the lists!
Metal Album of the Year Devin Townsend-Empath
This is an album that was a bit hard to define in terms of genre. Townsend has really hit it out of the park with this album and I felt it needed to be recognized as the best metal album of 2019. So many different things going on here and you could just feel the effort put into this album. All details were gone over very carefully. Production quality is excellent. If this isn't cool enough, apparently Devin has been working on a multi-channel mix as well. If you haven't had a chance to check this one out, be sure you at least give it a shot. The most genuine release of 2019!
2. Spread Eagle-Subway to the Stars
Was so glad to see this band resurface and release a new album. They actually hit the scene some years back, but it wasn't until 2019 that this new album was released via the Frontiers label. If you are familiar at all with the band's first couple of releases, you are probably going to like this one. I'm betting fans of the earlier stuff already have this one. There is some melodic stuff here, but also some heavier stuff as well. I felt it fit a bit better into the metal category, but you could go either way I guess.
3. Pretty Maids-Undress Your Madness
This band is known for quality when it comes to their releases. 'Undress Your Madness' is no exception. This is a fantastic release that has some great heavy stuff and a few more melodic tracks. With the announcement of Ronnie Atkin's health troubles, we send our best for a speedy recovery. This band still has a ton to offer the community and the music has not fallen off at all even with as long as this band has been around. We'll be pulling for the best outcome and more great music from the band in the future. This album was top notch!
I had listened to this band a little prior to this release. Can't say I was overly familiar, but this release really stuck with me. Good heavy stuff with a modern vibe. I enjoyed the trilogy of videos that the band did with this album early on after it's release. Very entertaining with a continuing story. This one packs a punch and as mentioned will appeal most to more modern heavy fans, but you never know. If you go into it with an open mind, I'm sure most will come away a new fan of the band. It is worth looking back in their catalog as well!
5. The Dark Element-Songs the Night Sings
This was one of my more anticipated releases of the year. The chemistry felt on the debut album was amazing. The songwriting on this second release is right in line with what I expected. I feel Anette Olzon has found an excellent avenue to showcase her vocal talent teaming up with Jani Liimatainen and his abilities. This one still gets a lot of play time by me and will in coming days as well. I am hoping that this project continues well into the future. Excellent sophomore release! If you dig female fronted symphonic metal, this one is a must have!
6. Overkill-The Wings of War
Anyone that knows me knows that I love Overkill. I always look forward to each release and the band is always pretty consistent in their output. This release really churned out the old school thrash sound. The band has always played it fast, but the sound has differed slightly here and there. This album to me was a more traditional thrash offering with a taste of punk on occasion. I felt the band once again lived up to their standard with this album. It's amazing that they are still as loyal to the genre as other veteran bands have fallen off. Solid release!
7. Queensrÿche-The Verdict
There was a lot of talk earlier this year about this one making many best of lists. For good reason too. There was a lot of heavy stuff on this album and at times you were getting flashes of the sound the band had early on. The Todd La Torre version of the band is still hitting on all cylinders at this point and not showing signs of slowing down as far as I can tell. Todd also handled drum duties for this release with the absence of Scott Rockenfield. There is good chemistry with the current lineup and the music has been really good.
8. Beast in Black-From Hell With Love
This band made a pretty big splash with their previous release. There is a lot to like with this album. I really liked the throwback feel of the title track. Just watch the video for this song and you'll see what I mean. There was also some very cool melodic stuff like the track 'Oceandeep. I also have become a big fan of Yannis Papadopoulos and his amazing vocal work and range in general. I will be looking forward to where the band goes next time. This was a very fun release and earned a top 10 spot this year. Keep an eye on these guys.
9. Deaf Rat-Ban the Light
This was a more recent release that I almost missed. Really wasn't familiar with the band, but went back to the promo and gave them a shot and was happy I did. A lot of traditional hard rock maybe even some sleaze with a bit of an updated sound. The music has a bit of a darker feel at times and just an overall cool vibe. You can hear bands like Guns 'n Roses or even Black Sabbath in Deaf Rat's sound. There is just something cool about the scene in Sweden. That market is turning out great bands and Dead Rat will definitely stay on my radar in the future!
10. Dream Theater-Distance Over Time
I never could get into 'The Astonishing'. It seemed ambitious enough in it's own way, but just didn't work for me. Probably the only Dream Theater album I do not go back to. 'Distance Over Time' saw the band get back to more of what they do. Good heavy vibe on this one and although the songs didn't have the length most fans came to expect, they worked quite well in my opinion. The album this reminded me of in ways was 'Train of Thought'. That one was always considered the heavier of their catalog. Now this one joins it. Good return to form!
Melodic Rock Album of the Year The Defiants-Zokusho
There were big expectations with this release. With a great debut and a good deal of chemistry shown in the Paul Laine verion of Danger Danger, you knew this one was going to be good. It lived up to the hype in my opinion. Great melodic songs with a bit of edge here and there. There was also a lot of mention with this album about end of the year best of lists and I'm sure this one will populate many of those. Frontiers Records had another great year with their melodic releases and The Defiants album was one of my favorites!
Another great release from Eclipse. I have said before that I feel this band has become one of the more elite melodic hard rock bands of our time. This latest album continued the formula that has the band seeing success release after release. I feel there is a great amount of respect based on the band's consistency as well. The music on 'Paradigm' has a bit of bite here and there, but with the choruses and song structure, melody rules the day. Excellent release once again by one of my favorite bands!
3. Work of Art-Exhibits
This is one of those bands that I had got into a bit late. I dove in with the 'Framework' album a few years ago and really liked their melodic sound. This new release is up to their standard as I have been able to check the back catalog out a bit more extensive now. I liked the album initially, but it got even better with more listens. This band is a very good bet for fans of band's like Journey and any of the European melodic bands. Another great release offered through Frontiers Records.
4. Lovekillers feat. Tony Harnell-Lovekillers feat. Tony Harnell
It came late in the year, but better late than never as they say. Tony kept busy with a couple of great releases this year including Starbreaker. This album had a bit different feel than the Starbreaker album. I feel Harnell is at his best in this type of band. His vocal ability is still top notch and really enhances melodic hard rock. Been a big fan of his for many years and would love to see more from this project. If you were a fan of TNT or just melodic rock in general, this one is easy to recommend!
5. Tarja-In the Raw
Wasn't sure if I wanted this one in the metal or melodic rock list. I went with this list as it could go either way, but the melodic stuff that is here is excellent. There is also a lot of melody in the music on this album. With Tarja's vocal style it lends to a lot of atmosphere, depth and melody. I found a lot to like with this album and really felt it was some of her best work to date. The post Nightwish years have been good to her and I think she probably still has a lot left to say!
6. Find Me-Angels in Blue
This band has a bit of a strange name, but the music is absolutely fantastic. I came back to this one in the past couple of weeks and it was every bit as good as I remembered it from earlier this year. Those familiar with Blanc Faces will be familiar with Robbie LaBlanc who also fronts this band and has an amazing voice. This album has quite a few very good melodic tracks that really stood out to me. Once again, another Frontiers release. That label really is paving the way for this genre. Find Me is a favorite from their roster.
A more modern sounding band, but really good band nonetheless. Been following them for quite a few years now. This latest release doesn't break any new ground. Instead, it just offers up some very good catchy songs that will stick with you throughout the day. Takida has been very good at offering up melodic modern rock through the years. I would love to see this band become a bit better known in the States as they are in the European market. At a minimum check out some of their videos on YouTube. You'll see why I like them so much. Great record!
8. First Signal-Line of Fire
If you haven't heard this band, but are familiar with Harem Scarem, then you need to check this one out. First Signal features Harry Hess on vocals and the style of the music on this album is similar to Harem Scarem. Plenty of great songs made me come back to this album throughout the year. Everything offered on this one is pretty straight forward and fits in with your typical 80's style melodic hard rock sound. A great collection of songs that are memorable immediately.
9. The Murder of My Sweet-Brave Tin World
Very good female fronted cinematic symphonic rock. I have been listening to this band for a few albums now, but there was something that really stuck with me with this new album. The songs were really consistent and the atmosphere was really good. I also felt the album flowed very well. This band fits well in their genre, but also offer something different due to the cinematic feel they deliver. Very visual record that you can close your eyes and just absorb into. Well worth a listen and another different sound from the Frontiers label.
10. Roxy Blue-Roxy Blue
This was a very interesting release. It was nice to see the band come back after so many years. The music was a bit of a departure from what fans would have expected, but ended up being very good anyway. I was a bit surprised after the first single dropped and didn't want to like the album as a result. I still gave it an honest listen and it won me over. The sound is a bit heavier, but when it comes to the melodic stuff, this album was worth it due to the track 'Collide' all by itself. Go in to this one with an open mind and you could enjoy it as much as I did.
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