SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2013:
Welcome to the eighth edition of the annual Sleaze Roxx Top 10 list.
One of these years, I will get this Top 10 list out in a more timely fashion, but judging by the countless emails asking if I would be composing this list some readers are willing to wait. Once again, the endless supply of new music being released these days proves that the hard rock and heavy metal scene is alive and well. Some listeners like to complain that the music being released today fails to capture the magic of our favorite ’80s artists — and that is where this list comes in. Often the stand-outs in a particular year fly completely under the radar with no radio, video or even written press at their disposal — so one often has to dig deep within the trash to find that needle in the haystack. Of course listening to every single hard rock album released in 2013 would be virtually impossible, and a full-time job in itself, so some of your own personal favorites will undoubtedly be missing here. But here it is, the Sleaze Roxx Top 10, filled with some names you’ll recognize and others I suggest you quickly add to your collection.
Also check out the Sleaze Roxx Top 20 as voted on by readers of the website.
In a year that saw new releases from sleaze heavyweights such as Crashdiet and Hardcore Superstar, who would ever have dreamt that a fresh young band from Finland would trump them both? Santa Cruz did the unthinkable, smashing their way to top spot with their hard-hitting full-length debut ‘Screaming For Adrenaline’. With equal parts Skid Row metal mastery and Spread Eagle sleaze, Santa Cruz caught the eye of Spinefarm Records and the ear of every hard rock fan that longs for the return of flowing hair, leather pants and endless alcohol filled nights.
Essential Tracks: Anthem For The Young And Restless, Let’s Get The Party Started, Aiming High
After the slight hiccup that was ‘No Guts. No Glory.’ it would have been easy to write Airbourne off as a band whose best days were in their rearview mirror. Then came ‘Black Dog Barking’, a flawless album from top to bottom that proved this ‘dog’ still had some bite and several tricks up its sleeve. Power and aggression is the blueprint for Airbourne‘s sound and the Australian head-bangers didn’t disappoint — in fact, in their short existence they have already inspired countless copycats. If the majority of hard rockers were able to capture the energy of Airbourne the genre would be unstoppable.
Essential Tracks: Ready To Rock, No One Fits Me (Better Than You), Live It Up
Yet another hungry group from Finland, Guns Of Glory‘s debut album perfectly captured the tried and true Scandinavian sound of bands such as D-A-D — except with an annoying STD that made the youngsters very cantankerous. With gritty vocals and a wall of memorable guitars, Guns Of Glory were not only fun to listen too but also hard-hitting from beginning to end. While the pedal was firmly driven to the metal throughout ‘On The Way To Sin City’, the band never wore out their welcome or became monotonous. Being released early in the year, this album was (without a doubt) one of the most played throughout 2013 at Sleaze Roxx headquarters.
Essential Tracks: El Savior, Sisters Of Sin, Rock N’ Load
If there was a musical chameleon in 2013 The Burning Crows were it. Their debut album ‘Behind The Veil’ took more twists and turns than a boa constrictor putting the final touches on ‘dinner’, yet the entire fourteen song release flowed exceptionally well. Put all your favorite moments from the decadent ’80s into a blender with the commercial appeal of the genre’s biggest names and you’d come up with a concoction known as The Burning Crows. ‘Behind The Veil’ had a little of everything, but most importantly it was filled to the brim with everything that made hard rock a force to be reckoned with almost thirty years ago.
Essential Tracks: You Me Tonight, So Wrong, Slow Up Get Down
As frontman for legendary rockers Cinderella, Tom Keifer made a name for himself as one of the genre’s finest and most unique voices. However life can be cruel, as vocal cord problems throughout his career almost robbed us of Keifer‘s signature gravel-throated sound. Thankfully the singer’s voice has held up long enough to deliver the long-awaited ‘The Way Life Goes’, a collection of bluesy rock songs that represent the logical progression to Cinderella‘s ‘Heartbreak Station’. The album is far removed from Keifer‘s earliest recordings, but the voice is the same, the songwriting top-notch, and solid through and through.
Essential Tracks: Solid Ground, Cold Day In Hell, Mood Elevator
Several readers of the website suggested I check out Norway’s Baby Snakes, and I owe each and every one of them a drink and handshake. Some of the year’s best guitar fretwork can be found throughout ‘Gunslingers’, which leads me to believe the album’s title wasn’t a complete accident. With members of Wig Wam in tow, one imagined Baby Snakes would contain their fair share of harmonies and melodies, but the crunch and heaviness of the album as a whole was a welcome surprise.
Essential Tracks: Diagnosis Nymphomania, Judgement Day, Deadman City
Voodoo Vegas are yet another determined young band that are proving the UK hard rock scene is alive and well. The group’s twin guitar attack is the perfect foundation for the energized songs contained within their full-length studio debut. Five of the tracks found here were released on a live album several years ago, but they deliver a much more devastating punch this time around thanks in part to the great production work. With a strong fanbase behind them, who helped fund this release through a successful crowdsourcing campaign, Voodoo Vegas may finally be ready to break on through.
Essential Tracks: King Without A Crown, Bullet, Jimmy Silver
The pairing of glamsters King Kobra and former Rough Cutt belter Paul Shortino still seems like an odd coupling to me, but ‘II’ picks right up where their critically acclaimed 2011 self-titled release left off. That’s two albums now with this revamped line-up and it is quickly proving to be far less erratic than the classic Mark Free fronted version. Once again the glam aspects that used to propel King Kobra have been turned down, opting instead for a classic ’80s hard rock sound. The hairspray has been dialed back, but to make up the deficit the band have cranked the guitars up to 11.
Essential Tracks: Hell On Wheels, Knock ‘Em Dead, Don’t Keep Me Waiting
For someone who has always followed the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ ethos of hard rock, I never envisioned the day Christian rockers Stryper would rank among my favorites. But good music is good music, and ‘No More Hell To Pay’ is a great disc regardless of your beliefs. Michael Sweet sings with such conviction on this album that you’d swear his end is near and he is bellowing for all he is worth one last time. Of course that’s not true, as not only has Stryper been one of the busiest bands around the last couple years but this album proves they will be delivering some class, and a positive message, to hard rock fans for many years to come.
Essential Tracks: No More Hell To Pay, Saved By Love, Water Into Wine
Second chances are all but unheard of in the music industry, which makes the resurgence of Michael Monroe not only an abnormality but also a welcome change. The former Hanoi Rocks frontman has been on the scene for what seems like an eternity, but his last two studio albums have revitalized his career. With ample amounts of glam, punk and sleaze, Monroe digs deep within his soul throughout ‘Horns And Halos’ to give listeners a glimpse into the legendary performer. Throw a group of accomplished musicians behind the timeless blonde warrior and you have the recipe for success.
Essential Tracks: Ballad Of The Lower East Side, Child Of The Revolution, Half The Way