Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of 2020
Welcome to the sixth edition of the Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of the Year!
Just like in past years, I invited the most prolific Sleaze Roxx contributors to participate. This year has been quite different with the music concert industry practically decimated by the advent of the Covid pandemic. This in turn had a negative impact on the contributions of many Sleaze Roxx writers who didn’t have anymore concerts to review and/or were personally affected (loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, etc.) due to the pandemic.
There were two Sleaze Roxx contributors who really stepped up this year so I want to say a big thank you to each of them. During the last few years, John Stoney Cannon had done many retro CD reviews but this year, he also reviewed many new releases to the tune of more than 50 total CD/DVD reviews in 2020 alone (more than 25% of Sleaze Roxx‘s output for the year). If you’ve been reading interviews on Sleaze Roxx, odds are that you are familiar the name Ruben Mosqueda. Ruben started contributing to Sleaze Roxx more than a decade ago and he provided a whopping 16 interviews (more than 25% of Sleaze Roxx‘s output in 2020) along with many CD reviews.
I also want to say a big thank you to Joe Schaeffer and Christopher Carroll (thank you to each of you for the continued use of your killer photos), Chris Clark (who has been designing the Sleaze Roxx posters for many years), Ed DeGagne (for getting the website back on track IT wise over a span of 3.5 years) and the many podcasts and in particular The Metal Voice who regularly provide transcribed excerpts of their interviews from which Sleaze Roxx‘s News Articles are often derived from. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the Sleaze Roxx Crew Members‘ contributions that help propel Sleaze Roxx from a “good” site to a “great” one (I am bias) so I am truly grateful and appreciate the passion displayed by all of the crew members.
Concert of the year: I only got to see three concerts in 2020 — KISS with opener David Lee Roth, Löve Räzer and Geoff Tate — and all of them were prior to the concert industry pretty much shutting down in mid-March of that year. All three concerts were good ones but I’ll have to go with the KISS / David Lee Roth concert as the best one that I saw in 2020. There is no denying that KISS bring a lot of firepower (pyros galore) and visual stimulation at a concert so anytime you get to see them play, even if you didn’t like the music, there is a lot to see. Throw in that KISS were at one point my favourite band of all-time and knowing that this was likely the last time that I would see a KISS concert in person, this felt like an incredible show. The added bonus was seeing Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth opening. While Roth definitely continues to struggle along singing wise, he makes up for it with charisma and that “it” factor. It was really cool hearing him sing some of his solo tunes again in a live setting.
Live stream of the year: While I am not a big fan of live stream concerts, it was nice to be able to see bands perform in that manner when concerts in person were suddenly unavailable due to the Covid pandemic. There is no doubt that I really enjoyed Sister Sin’s “comeback” live stream show in mid-June, but by that time, I had gotten a little tired of live stream shows in general so my favourite remains seeing Eclipse playing at Studio Gröndahl at the beginning of April. Eclipse were one of the first bands to charge for a live stream concert so that they could presumably put on a way better viewing experience.
Favorite contribution of 2020: This is a hard one since nothing really sticks out that much but I did really enjoy interviewing H.E.A.T’s frontman at the time — Erik Grönwall in late February. Unlike some other musicians that I interviewed, I felt that Erik was more up front in answering questions including discussing the shortcomings of the band’s album Into The Great Unknown (2017). It was also the first time that I had a “chaperone” on the line while conducting an interview as I am pretty sure that a record label representative sat in throughout the entire interview, which was conducted by telephone.
Christopher Carroll’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2016
Contributions: Photos, CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, News Articles, Interviews
Affiliations: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography, Your Backstage Pass! (Facebook group)
01. Gardner/James — Synergy
02. Stryper — Even The Devil Believes
03. Alcatrazz — Born Innocent
04. House of Lords — New World, New Eyes
05. Dirty Shirley — Dirty Shirley
Number one choice: Gardner/James’ Synergy. Janet Gardner and Justin James have become the ultimate writing team. This is their third album in less than three years and there is not a bad song in the bunch. They never set out to write music together. It just happened organically and that shows in their songs. There are no ‘hammered out’ cookie cutter songs. Each song is like its own movie! They use dynamics in every song that carry you from section to section, building tension, then releasing, cuddling you then throwing you into a wall. It’s truly impressive songwriting.
Favorite contribution of 2020: Doro Pesch interview with Photo Shoot. I had the opportunity to get together with Doro for a photo shoot on the balcony of her cabin on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Of course, she looked gorgeous but it was enjoyable just letting her pose the way she wanted to, with the blue waters of Belize as the background. Often people start getting a little uncomfortable during a photo shoot and want you to direct them so, part way through I did ask, “Doro, are you feeling good or would you like me to direct you” and she answered, “No, Chris, I feel like I have a really good vibe with you, we’re great together, let’s keep going” and so we did. I loved the results. I mean, WHO else has photos of Doro with a tropical background!?
Concert of the year: The Monsters of Rock Cruise, specifically Doro! Anyone who has seen Doro Pesch live knows that she lays it out, physically! Her energy is endless and the passion she has for the songs shows throughout the entire concert. Her voice is ALWAYS right on! She’s one of my favorite live performers and after 30 years, she still doesn’t disappoint! An added bonus for this show (and many in the US) is that she was joined by former Warlock guitarist Tommy Bolan (who played on Triumph And Agony)! His enthusiasm adds so much to the show! He can’t stand still and play! It runs through his body and I honestly don’t even know how he can play while performing such explosive moves! These two together are an amazing team.
Live stream of the year: The L.A. Guns live stream from the Monsters of Rock Cruise Studios! Some people whine about the live stream shows but when the sound and video is good, I like them! THIS was definitely a great one! Aside from some audio issues in the beginning, everything sounded great and there’s something to be said about being able to sit back on the sofa at home and watch this without disturbance or distractions. Phil Lewis’ voice is every bit as strong today than it was when he first started. It’s truly impressive. These guys really seem to enjoy being onstage together. Tracii and Phil gathering at the mic occasionally, Ace Von Johnson and Johnny Martin playing and joking together onstage — it really was a good time!
Gardner/James‘ “Wounded” video:
Darren ‘Daz’ Humphries’ Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2017
Contributions: CD Reviews, News Articles
Affiliation: Random Acts of Rock (website)
If I had to list something positive that came out of the events of 2020, it would have to be that I realized how pivotal music and the overall music industry is to me. Without it, my life is pretty void. None of my other hobbies hold a candle to my musical activities and 2020 basically left me demoralized and unmotivated on all fronts. In Melbourne, Australia, we were put into lockdown earlier in the year and we eventually had restrictions enforced on us where we couldn’t travel outside a 5 km radius from our homes. It was indeed a bleak year, but the sun did shine through on a few occasions with the release of certain albums. Being more a fan of thrash metal, I have culled my list to include bands that are more rock orientated.
Number one choice: Pröwess’ Blacktop Therapy. My album of the year goes to North Carolina’s Pröwess who released Blacktop Therapy back in January, right before the world went to hell. Admittedly, I am a big fan of the band and I played the album at least once a week throughout 2020. It’s simply just a great rock ‘n’ roll album that doesn’t get boring or feel repetitive. It’s a testament to the album’s quality and enjoyment that it has been able to stay on top of my favorites list for the whole year. I did say to someone that if AC/DC released an album during 2020, they would potentially knock Pröwess off my top spot. Well, as we now know, the AC/DC album did happen, but Pröwess refused to budge from the top of the pedestal. Blacktop Therapy is a great album. Get it if you haven’t heard it yet.
Number two choice: Thundermother’s Heat Wave. I have never been a fan of female bands or female fronted bands. I don’t really know why. I do have Joan Jett and Doro Pesch in my music collection. But I feel like the music loses a bit of its edge when performed by females. The balls if you will. That has started changing over the last couple of years though, particularly when Thundermother’s line-up underwent a complete overhaul and Guernica Mancini took over lead vocals. The band’s former vocalist was really good, but not good enough for me to pay them any attention. Guernica blew my mind though. Heat Wave is nothing you haven’t heard before and it isn’t breaking any new ground. But it is good to hear the ladies having a real crack at some straight up riff driven rock, and they have produced a very enjoyable album that is guaranteed to top a lot of best of 2020 lists.
Number three choice: Wicked Smile’s Delirium EP. Wicked Smile are a new band, once again from my hometown. I have been a fan of guitarist Steve Janevski’s since back in the ’90s when I used to watch his band at the time, Cyclone Tracy. He eventually moved on to power metal band Black Majesty and then melodic rock band The Radio Sun. Each band has had a completely different musical style and he has done it again with this new project, which features Danny Cecati (ex-Pegazus and Eyefear) on lead vocals. Delirium is only a four track EP but it sounds bombastic (much like Slave To The Grind-era Skid Row) and the songs are really catchy, well thought out and contain great meaningful lyrics. I can’t wait to hear more! There is an album scheduled for 2021 and their debut gig is scheduled for March — fingers crossed.
Number four choice: AC/DC’s Power Up. The masters of big riffs released Power Up to great fanfare thanks to a big budget marketing campaign. When the first hints starting appearing online, people were blowing their minds proclaiming that “2020 has been saved.” There is no denying that Power Up has that classic AC/DC sound. It’s what fans want, expect and are guaranteed to get each time. It is simply groovy, good time music, that puts a smile on your face. And 2020 definitely needed that.
Number five choice: The Casanovas’ Reptilian Overload. The Casanovas are a band from my hometown who released their fourth album after something like 20 years together. If you like big AC/DC style riffs mixed with a ’70s classic rock vibe, then you should definitely check them out. In my opinion, Reptilian Overlord is their best release yet.
Pröwess‘ “Lookin’ For A Bullet” video:
Jeff Onorato’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2019
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews
Number one choice: Stryper is a band that continue to outdo themselves with each new album. From memorable songs to stellar musicianship (and brilliant album cover art), the records that they’ve released since reforming have all been quality output and Even the Devil Believes is the pinnacle of that statement. Regardless of passing trends or what the flavor of the month might be, Stryper have continued to defy industry fads and churn out one great record after another. Honorable mention to Davey Suicide’s “Rock Ain’t Dead” album; while it may not fit into the Sleaze Roxx scope of coverage, it’s simply a killer Hard Rock record that I recommend everyone check out. At the very least, one has to appreciate the album title.
Favourite contribution of 2020: Back in February, I reviewed Baltimore’s Frozen Harbor Festival featuring Charm City Devils and American Jetset. Little did I know that this would be my sole intake of live music for 2020 (and perhaps beyond). Not only were both of those bands phenomenal, I got to check out a lot of new acts that I wasn’t already familiar with such as 51 Peg.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: My favorite concert of the year was the Charm City Devils & American Jetset at the Frozen Harbor Festival back in February. Not a difficult choice given that this was my only concert of the year due to the pandemic. Even so, it was a fantastic show with “something old and something new”. The Charm City Devils are fantastic live and it was a bit of a trip down memory lane seeing John Allen (formerly of Child’s Play) perform live. It was also American Jetset’s album release event for their triumphant sophomore release “Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop”. Sadly, I had many, many concerts on my calendar for 2020 that unfortunately did not come to fruition. I’m sure is the case for many music fans.
Stryper‘s “Divider” video:
John “Stoney” Cannon of Dirty Rock Scars’ Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2017
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, News Articles
Affiliation: Lokal Loudness Music
Top albums: Despite 2020 being a weird year, it was a musically great year. So maybe it was all the great music or maybe it was just have the extra free time to listen to new music, either way 2020 turned out to be filled with more killer new music for me than in recent years. It was all I could do to narrow so many great choices down to just five with some pretty cool albums by Styper, Bill Leverty, and more just missing landing in my top five and quite honestly, any of them could have easily been up there. The only thing I was certain about is that AC/DC’s return release Power Up was easily the top pick for my Sleaze Roxx Writer’s List. I guess some would question, with so many great releases in 2020, why?
While Michael Grant & the Assassins’ Always the Villain crept into the five spot over some others due to its infectious youthful energy, and the Riley/Nickel version of L.A. Guns delivered a way more rock and roll album that those other El Lay Gunners to grab number four, it is not lost on me the ironic connection or that in all reality I coulda just as easily flip flopped them on this list. As cool as both records are though, they didn’t grab my rock and roll heart quite like the swagger and stagger of numero tre – The Compulsions’ Ferocious or another great consistently killer album from David Reece ala Cacophony of Souls which hard rocked itself to number two but at the end of the day, or um year, there was only one album for me that stole my attention in 2020 and that was AC/DC return Power Up.
What was not to get excited about? One of my fave childhood bands returning with not only inspiration from the late Malcolm Young but also the returns of drummer Phil Rudd and singer Brian Johnson along with recently retired bassist Cliff Williams and of course Angus Young? Toss in tunes that quite simply, sound like classic AC/DC (OK so that is the case more often than not) all at a time when the world could use a blast of just good plain rock and roll during a year of tension, violence, controversy, and just more and more and more madness and I could just feel my daily anxiety float away with each note that was teased. With the whole crazy mix of all the things going on in the world, the result was this feeling that was the closest I have felt to my teenage self in a very long time.
Favorite contribution of 2020: In addition to a way larger than normal amount of reviews this year, I feel like my favorite contribution to Sleaze Roxx in 2020 was the combined reviews of a pair of bands near me – Give It All You Got by metalheads Bona Lisa and Brandy & the Butcher’s raw Dick Circus record. Both bands hail from Columbia, South Carolina and are fronted by killer front women and it was cool to show some love not only to a pair of rocking ladies but also to a couple of great acts from the southeastern U.S.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: As far as my fave concert it really has to be a toss up between any of Steel Panther’s live stream shows and the year ending live performance of Lil’ Caesar’s classic first album in it’s entirety. While I’m not a big fan, Steel Panther brought it each time and was a nice fun break from life and being a big fan of Lil’ Caesar’s first record it was cool to sit back and hear some songs, stories, and just groove on the band’s cool, positive vibes.
AC/DC‘s “Shot in The Dark” video:
Kelley Simms’ Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2020
Contributions: CD Reviews
Affiliations: Illinois Entertainer (reviewer / columnist), Outburn Magazine, (writer), Metalegion Magazine (writer / copy editor)
Number one choice: On its second full-length album, Mach II (released on March 20 via Perris Records), melodic rockers SteelCity deliver 11 fiery tracks that captures the ’80s glam metal flavour with a fresh and energetic sound. On Mach II, SteelCity push it into overdrive.
Number two choice: When speaking of Christian metal, bands such as Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Whitecross and Petra (less metal, more rock) deserve a mention. However, Stryper remains the top Christian metal band of all time, even becoming hugely popular within the secular metal world as well. Formed in 1983, the quartet has been going strong by putting out quality albums ever since. Even The Devil Believes may just be the band’s defining moment.
Number three choice: American power/thrash metal veterans Vicious Rumors may be out of most Sleaze Roxx fans’ comfort zone. However, the band has mastered its infectious, harmonized guitar melodies, soaring vocal harmonies and anthemic choruses for four decades. The quintet has gloriously returned to its classic roots on its 13th full-length album Celebration Decay. I haven’t heard Vicious Rumors sound this vicious in years as they do on Celebration Decay.
Number four choice: Canadian melodic power metal band Unleash the Archers’ fifth full-length album, Abyss (released Aug. 21, 2020 through Napalm Records), is a sci-fi/fantasy-laden concept album that serves as a sequel to the band’s 2017 critically-acclaimed album Apex. Featuring powerhouse vocalist Brittney Slayes, Unleash the Archers are surging with worldwide attention at the moment.
Number five choice: The Symbol Remains is hard rockers Blue Oyster Cult’s first new album in 20 years, encapsulating everything the band is about. All 14 tracks exude classic Blue Oyster Cult-isms; featuring bluesy riffs, grooved-based rhythms, catchy choruses and captivating vocals from long-time members Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma.
Favorite contribution of 2020: It’s a toss up between my Cheap Trick All Shook Up 40th anniversary retrospective record review and Ted Nugent’s self-titled debut album retrospective review. All Shook Up remains one of Cheap Trick’s strongest albums in its catalog, while although Nugent does a lot of unnecessary political talking these days, this album ranks as one of the best hard rockers ever recorded, consisting of a star-studded lineup and a spectacular track listing.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: Sevendust’s Live In Your Living Room (Friday, Oct. 23, 2020). Since concerts and touring were cancelled in March due to the global pandemic, live streaming concerts began to be the norm for bands. On Live In Your Living Room, Atlanta-based alt-metal / hard rockers Sevendust played an energetic and perfectly-balanced 15-song set that spanned their whole career, including tracks off their newest record Blood & Stone.
SteelCity‘s “Hearts On Fire” lyric video:
Lance Lumley’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2017
Contributions: CD Reviews
Affiliation: Lances Writes (blog including book reviews)
Like many people, 2020 was a year that was difficult for me for many reasons. However, when some get down, they turn to entertainment like films, television, and music to get their minds off of things. A major problem with this is that even those venues were shut down at times, postponing releases until next year, which made audiences have to dig harder to find some new releases at times.
I write two “Best Of’s:” one for my blog (which is more on a pop or mainstream musically), and have the honor to write here, where I focus on the hard rock style. In my opinion, there was one album that was hands down the best of the year in ANY genre (let’s say that the Heart of Rock and Roll is still beating, and that group gave us a great EP to weather the storm of this year) , but I will keep to knowing my audience and gear it to the music of you great rock listeners. Here are my favourites of this past year:
Number one choice: This may end up of on several fellow Crew Members’ list. We will see as none of us know what the other choices are until we read them on the site, just like you all do. I know many of AC/DC’s music and songs, but in my lifetime, I only have owned maybe three of their albums. I have much respect Ac/DC, but just never could listen to many of their albums fully. Well, this proved me wrong. I’m glad to see that Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, and Cliff Williams have returned to the line-up. Although it is sad that we lost Malcolm Young, this album is a perfect tribute to the sound and grooves that he helped create, much like Back In Black did with Bon Scott.
The radio friendly “Through The Mists of Time” fits all the categories that I previous mentioned in what I love in songs, and “Shot In The Dark ” was a wonderful lead single from the release. “Demon Fire” has a different style vocally and guitar groove, which has a John Fogerty style at times, shows the band isn’t just leaning on their past style, but yet not straying too far from it to disengage the listener. I know many die-hard fans were hoping for an Axl Rose led studio album, but I’m personally glad that all the differences and health issues of the band are in the past for now. By bringing Johnson and the crew back, this is a pleasant listen from start to finish, and for a person who is not a die-hard fan of the band, it shows their greatness in able to convert me to list this number one on my list.
Number two choice: I saw this band live on the Poison tour in 2001 with a fellow drummer pal who loved the band. I admit I only had one of their cassettes and rarely listened to it. They were too musically eclectic for me to wrap around at the time. Now that I’m older, I thoroughly respect the musicianship, especially on this release which has guests like Dax Nielsen, Mike Portnoy, Donnie Vie, and Ace Frehley (the story behind Ace getting credit is funny enough to read). The first song with vocals on it, “Fatal Distraction,” lyrically is about a love gone wrong, but it is such a fun listen that is a throwback to the 1960s pop hits with a catchy chorus that is hard NOT to sing along to, or have the melody stuck in your head (which is awesome for me who enjoys 1960s music). “It’s All In Vain” has a late-era Beatles vibe (a common theme with the band’s work), and “Broken Love” is a gem in itself. Much like my number five pick, this album isn’t heavy throughout, but the artistic work throughout is expertly done.
Number three choice: The musicianship of the band has never been better, especially drummer Robert Sweet. For those who haven’t followed the band’s work since the Reborn album, let me assure you that the band’s musical output has been heavy and filled with guitar solos, which alienated some of the fans when they returned from their break in the early 1990s. “Do Unto Others” has wonderful, strong vocals, and the title track has the classic sound of the group while not sounding dated. “Let Him In” is a strong, highway driving song. The opener “Blood From Above” doesn’t disappoint and sets a nice rocking tone for the album. I have been critical in the past about some of the production sounds on their releases, but Stryper are continuing the wonderful rocking sounds from their last two albums, without falling short. The Gospel is still being spread with a powerful, heavy sound, thanks to this release.
Number four choice: In the 1980s, Adrian Vandenberg was one of the guitar gods who was frequently featured in the guitar magazines. My two best friends were guitar players (I was a drummer), and I was constantly around their discussions of the guitar greats. Flash forward to 2020, and the band named after him is back with a solid release that doesn’t disappoint. I always have enjoyed music that had a hard side at times, but still had a radio-friendly feel to it. I’m not into the speed metal sound, so this release was right down my alley. Vocalist Ronnie Romero brings a wonderful sound that fans of ’80s and ’90s rock will enjoy. The double solid openers of “Shadows of The Night” and “Freight Train” gets the album rocking, and “Let It Rain” is wonderful with its Slaughter-like style to the song. Being a drummer, the drumming on the record is well done. The song “Shout” throws back memories of something the band Steel Dragon from the movie Rock Star would have performed. This release went under the radar and needs more love.
Number five choice: Anyone not familiar with Orianthi’s music, they need to check it out. Although not as heavy throughout as Nita Strauss, there is still great guitar playing that mixes blues, pop, and rock. Orianthi’s latest release will please fans of Prince (especially the song “Sorry”), experimenting with different tones and sounds to create an experimental musical experience. Songs like “Sinner’s Hymn,” and the crunching sound of “Contagious,” were some of my favorites. This isn’t hard rock all the way through (“Crawling Out of The Dark” is just all guitars and gives a peaceful sound), but this is a mix of different styles for those that like true artists who experiment with their sounds and skills.
Favorite contribution of 2020: It’s not only an honour to get to share my thoughts on reviews on this site (being a fan of the site for years), but the fact that I sometimes get something that I wrote for my blog shared on here is a highlight. So, my favourite written piece this year has to be having my book review of Greg Prato’s ‘Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked’ shared on here. It’s about time the KISS non-makeup era was covered in a book (especially for a die-hard Eric Carr fan like me, who also loves the work of Bruce Kulick), but having this page share my writing is an honour for me, letting other people read my love of books who normally may not follow my page. On top of that, if you do not have this book, it’s a wonderfully written text that KISS fans need to have to add to their collection. My excitement in reading the book was as high as sharing the review with my readers.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: Due to the pandemic and other personal issues, I did not have the chance to go to a concert this year, or see any live music, so I am looking forward to read what the other writers have picked for their live choices, so I will leave that section to those that had the honour to see live acts.
AC/DC‘s “Realize” video:
Mark Hovarth’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2012
Number One Choice: Power Up was my favorite album because in a time where everything was going downhill during a global pandemic — layoffs, people dying, social unrest — and a few days after the unexpected loss of Eddie Van Halen, we had our old familiar favorites AC/DC come roaring back with what we needed — a classic AC/DC album to lift our spirits. And for me, that’s exactly what it did.
Favorite Contribution of 2020: My interview with Derek Welsh from McQueen Street was my favorite contribution because it was very interesting to get the perspective from a young rising star who had his dream suddenly snuffed out from the grunge era that was ushered in so unapologetically.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: My favorite live stream in 2020 was BulletBoys via Monsters of Rock Cruise’s Facebook page because it was great to see four original members put their differences aside and sound so good when they got back together. I’m hoping for a bit of the same situation for BulletBoys as what L.A. Guns is experiencing now.
AC/DC‘s “Kick You When You’re Down” single:
Metal Mike’s Top Ten Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2016
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, Interviews
Number one choice: Armored Saint’s Punching The Sky. For some reason, we at Sleaze Roxx let this album fall between the cracks. It is everything one should expect from this age-old band… the quality, creativeness, and talent.
Number two choice: The Wild!’s Still Believe In Rock And Roll. I recall that our leader Olivier introduced me to this band a few years ago, and I’ve paid attention. It’s not often one of my Top Five lands on a bigger list, but in this case, The Wild! deserve recognition for a tremendously sleazy album.
Number three choice: The Scent’s Follow. This Aussie band, formerly known as KAATO, has always captured my attention. Sure, I wasn’t as high on Follow as their previous two albums, it still has swagger and attitude. I’m looking forward to what’s next from Kurt and Mika.
Number four choice: Hell In The Club’s Hell of Fame. It’s been a slow year. Back in my September album review, I said, “Hell In The Club have always been “quirky” with their song selections and reflecting their influences. Big props to Frontiers Music for continuing to support this band. While I don’t always love their sounds, I do always appreciate where they are coming from. As a whole, Hell of Fame is a very good album, from veterans of the sleaze scene for the last 12+ years, that deserves to be recognized.”
Number five choice: Bonfire’s Fistful of Fire. There were certain elements of this album I did not like, but overall it was a solid melodic rock album that added to my playlist. Bonfire are one of those bands where you know what to expect, so you simply let it play out sonically and crank up the good stuff.
Favourite contribution of 2020: I guess my favourite contributions to Sleaze Roxx this year are twofold. Writing the retro-review for Extreme’s Pornograffitti brought back so many memories. But ultimately, it was the retro review of the Sam Dunn documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. Released in 2005, it saw a Canadian boy travelling around the world to document how metal music changes lives and impacts culture. To watch it again 15 years later still brought a tear to my eye.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: What concerts did I see? My neighbour frequently bangs out her rugs on the driveway to the rhythm of “We Will Rock You.” I’m generally not a fan of metal bands doing acoustic sets of their rock songs, so I passed on many of the Facebook / YouTube live streams. Two that stood out for me were Nitroville in the UK and Love And A .38 from Los Angeles. Instead, I spent more time this year streaming live blues rock acts like David Gogo, Kim Mitchell and Colin James. Frankly it was nice to explore both my own roots in music, and those of rock music in general.
Armored Saint‘s “End of The Attention Span” video:
Rob Colaiacovo’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2016
Contributions: Concert Reviews
01. Brother Firetribe – Feel The Burn
02. Rob Moratti – Paragon
03. Dynazty – The Dark Delight
04. Damnation Angels – Fiber of Our Being
05. Girish And The Chronicles – Rock The Highway
Number one choice: As you can see, I’ve got quite a diverse range of sub-genre’s in my Top Five. A bit of AOR-infused melodic rock in Brother Firetribe and Rob Moratti, a touch of prog in Damnation Angels, melodic power metal in Dynazty and of course some good ol’ fashioned hard rock / heavy metal in Girish And The Chronicles. I tell you what though — Ambush’s Infidel came almighty close. Love that album! Brother Firetribe’s latest album is my Top Album for 2020 and continues the band’s trend of producing catchy melodic rock. This is easily their best release since ‘Heart Full of Fire’ (2008) and in time, may even top it for their finest achievement to date. Every time I listen to it, I feel like I am taken away in a time warp right back to 1985. Pekka Heino is at the top of his game singing on this release and the album is filled with catchy sing along hooks that make it impossible for me to not wanna rock!
Concert of the year: My favourite gig in 2020 was the Melodic Rock Fest. It provided the chance for me to see some bands that I was really hanging out for and they all produced great sets. The highlight would have to be seeing Midnite City for the first time. I had heard that their live shoes were excellent and even though my expectations were high, they still blew me away! I still think about that gig frequently! Their third album ‘Scratch You Can’t Itch’ is slated for a release in early 2021 and this is high on the priority list. I would also like to mention Australia’s own Poizon’Us (Poison cover band). I saw them (again) in my home city in October and these guys never disappoint. If you’re a massive Poison fan like me, then you will not be disappointed. They provide so much energy on stage and Matty Bee nails Bret Michaels’ vocals. They are taking their show around Australia in 2021 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Look What the Cat Dragged In and I simply can’t wait.
Brother Firetribe‘s “Night Drive” video:
Ruben Mosqueda’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
01. Armored Saint – Punching The Sky
02. Lamb of God – Lamb of God
03. Body Count – Carnivore
04. The Nuclear Power Trio – Clear And Present Danger
05. Sons of Apollo — MMXX
Number one choice: Armored Saint’s Punching The Sky. Armored Saint are a band from my youth. In my opinion, their last album Win Hands Down captured the glory years of ‘The Saint’ in the modern day. Punching The Sky builds on that and then some. It’s a great record and it’s also fantastic to see some of the legacy acts teach the new kids a thing or two.
Number two choice: Lamb of God’s Lamb of God. I didn’t expect much out of Lamb of God. Their last three to four records haven’t connected with me. Lamb of God issued their ‘self-titled’ album this year. I bought it on the strength of their performance I saw in August of 2018 when the band supported Slayer. There’s not a clunker on this album. Kudos to Lamb of God as they issued one of the best albums of their career.
Number three choice: Body Count’s Carnivore. Body Count issued their third consecutive opus. While not virtuosos, they offer up some potent street influenced melodic hardcore. There’s a ‘so-so’ cover of Mötorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” I could have done without “When I’m Gone” which featured Amy Lee of Evanescence. That said, it’s a solid album that I played regularly and still do. Not bad for a band that’s led by a 62 year old rapper turned actor turned hardcore frontman.
Number four choice: The Nuclear Power Trio’s Clear And Present Rager. This is a quirky, satirical, all instrumental three piece progressive / thrash / jazz-fusion act. They released their EP in the fall of 2020 with their lead guitarist taking on the persona of Donald Trump, the bassist taking on the persona of Vladimir Putin and the drummer, Kim Jung-Un. In November, this band seemed to have had a short shelf life. I have received information that the band will continue but there are no details if there will be a shift in the cast of characters. I strongly encourage you to check this band out. The songs are heavy, smooth and catchy with titles that are incredibly amusing, like “Grab ‘Em by The Pyongyang” and “Ukraine In The Membrane.”
Number five choice: Sons Of Apollo’s MMXX. The supergroup that consists of drummer Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), bassist Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, Talas), keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Billy Idol, Black Country Communion), singer Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Journey, Eyes) and guitarist Bumblefoot (ex-Guns ‘N Roses) released their brilliant sophomore album and it was spectacular. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the band didn’t get a chance to properly promote the album stateside. Will this album get a second wind in 2021? Only time will tell if the band will be able to hit the road and finish the touring cycle that was put on hold in the spring of 2020.
Favorite contribution of 2020: My favorite contributions were a three way tie. I know it’s kind of a cop out, but it’s how I really feel. I chose my interviews with Steve Whiteman of KIX, Bruce Kulick and David Ellefson of Megadeth with the latter promoting his solo band Ellefson. Why? They are great subjects and they are passionate about what they did and it comes through in print. I love the old school print media. If you can hear their voice in the piece and feel the emotion in print, that can go toe to toe with any video or audio video any day.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: I caught countless live streams which are the 2020 equivalent of what ’80s kids knew as ‘Pay-Per-View’ concerts. While there were some great ones, especially from the Monsters of Rock Cruise, Steel Panther, Damon Johnson and Death Angel, nothing beats being there. Some didn’t even have an audience! The last physical show that I attended was a great gig. It was stripped down, fly-in, by the mighty Blue Oyster Cult at the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon. It was a basic back line with the songs being showcased and executed to perfection. That night in February before the lockdown, renewed my interest in Blue Oyster Cult, which I hadn’t had in a decade, when I saw them at Spirit Mountain Casino in Lincoln City, Oregon. They had Rudy Sarzo of all people on bass! Stellar performance that predated their latest studio album ‘The Symbol Remains.’
Armored Saint‘s “Standing On The Shoulders of Giant” video:
Sam Burgh’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Country: United States of America
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2020
Contributions: CD Reviews
Number one choice: AC/DC’s Power Up. This album was probably one of the most anticipated releases for most classic rock / metal fans this year. Over the decades, we have had many more good albums than bad from AC/DC, and this one is definitely in the “good” category. For me, this album helped kick me through the last bit of 2020 with plenty of energy to put an end to this circus of a year. With the band’s most popular line-up back together (aside from Malcolm Young), this release showed us that AC/DC can still bring it.
Number two choice: Dokken’s The Lost Songs: 1978-1981. With Don Dokken’s health problems, there hasn’t been a lot of releases lately from the Dokken camp, which left fans chomping at the bit for this album featuring work from the band’s early years. This release contains remastered unreleased material that any hardcore Dokken fan would be quick to snatch up. This album is definitely a great addition to the band’s discography and to collectors’ shelves.
Number three choice: Tesla’s Five Man London Jam. Similar to Tesla’s 1990 release, this acoustic-driven album was fantastic. Tesla maintained their sound over the years although I am not including their train-wreck album Shock from 2019, and it is showcased on this collection of songs. It’s definitely an easy going album you can pop in and listen to the entire way through without skipping a song.
Number four choice: Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man. It’s hard not to be excited for a new Ozzy album, and boy, did I have high hopes for this one. Though it is not perfect by any means, it also stands on its own. It is obvious that Ozzy needs to be auto tuned a bit these days, but the songs (and guitar work especially) are still solid and overall a fun listen.
Number five choice: Metallica’s S&M2. Nothing more than a live album with the add-on of the San Francisco Symphony, it is always interesting to hear a metal band collaborate with the antithesis of its own sound. Even though Metallica have not released anything too impressive as of late, this album was a welcomed one and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.
Favorite contribution of 2020: This year, I really enjoyed the retro album reviews. Some of my favorites were Back In Black by AC/DC and the ever-so controversial opinions of Bon Jovi’s Burning Bridges.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: This year put a hold on a lot of my concert plans, which included the likes of Jackyl, Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne (for the third time). That gave me an opportunity to check out some live streams and collaboration performances. I didn’t dig the live streams too much, but I did enjoy some bands and their buddies getting together via Zoom or Skype to put some kind of performance together. My favourite would have to be Winger performing “Better Days Comin.’’
AC/DC‘s “Demon Fire” video:
Tyson Briden’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2016
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, Interviews, Articles
Affiliation: Non-Stop Rock Talk with Tyson Briden (podcast)
Number one choice: Butch Walker’s American Love Story. If you read my Top 5 from last year, I was very optimistic that 2020 would be better than 2019. Ha! Possibly I jinxed myself and the rest of the world because 2020 may go down in history as the year that everyone wants to forget. Good riddance and welcome all to 2021. With that said, 2020 wasn’t necessarily all that bad. There were some good musical spots. When it came to choosing my top 5, I honestly had a difficult time. It wasn’t until Christmas time that my number one was chosen. All year, I raved about the Black Swan album ‘Shake The World.’ Why wouldn’t I? It’s amazing, but once the needle dropped on Butch Walker’s ‘American Love Story’, I was hooked. Now, generally an album termed as a ‘rock opera’ isn’t my cup of tea, but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill ‘rock opera’. This is an album of extreme talent and depth. Walker really dove deep into his heart and it really comes across in the music.
Favorite contribution of 2020: My favorite contribution of 2020 was an interesting album review I did for former Tesla guitarist Tommy Skeoch’s band ‘Skin Suit’. As it has made my Top 5, I must explain further. I was lucky enough to have Skeoch and singer Rob McManus on my podcast back earlier in the year. That was a great experience and really helped to write the review. It gave me insight into the material and how Skeoch approaches what he does. What I took from that album was seeing how Tesla’s music changed. Right from the beginning of that album, it became so apparent that something was lost when Skeoch left the band. Skeoch has a fine sense of melody and the intensity he puts into his guitar parts really showed through on the Skin Suit release. I hope Skeoch will continue to write and record music because frankly the world needs Tommy Skeoch’s fine abilities. It must also be noted, that the vocal abilities of Rob McManus on that album, really were a pleasure to listen to as well. I think the two working together is a great duo and I hope they will consider recording another album.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: Well, when it comes to concerts, the best ones this year were live streams from artists’ basements and rehearsal spots. My concert of the year was an easy one. Back in March, just as Covid-19 had started to effect us all, Swiss band Gotthard was about to release their 13th studio album, simply entitled ‘13’. Of course there were plans of a listening party, but those were shot down and Gotthard were forced to revert to their rehearsal spot of some 20 years where they performed a half hour live show. The concert consisted of many tunes from their fantastic new release and a few older songs. There was something really special about this show. The energy captured the viewer immediately. The band was tight and precise. It generally sounded as the band does on record.
During this show, I finally realized what I had missed since the death of original lead singer Steve Lee. The band chose the perfect replacement in Nic Maeder and I had not realized it until the band’s fourth release with Maeder. This show got me pumped and addicted. Suddenly, I found myself in lockdown, running on my treadmill daily with this performance on again and again. I then had to hunt down ‘13’ on vinyl. From there, I realized that I loved the track, from this performance “Feel What I Feel” so much, that I was listening to it constantly. I was going on YouTube to look at all the band’s videos that featured Maeder. I was becoming increasingly interested in the band’s work. I then decided to go on Discogs and track down the previous three releases with Maeder on vinyl — that were very pricey I may add. Within months, I now owned vinyl copies of Firebirth, Silver and Bang. I even friended bassist Marc Lynn on Facebook, to which he accepted my request. I messaged him immediately to find out who I talked to about getting possibly Maeder or guitarist Leo Leoni on my podcast. Within a week that happened and Maeder spoke with me. I also started spreading the word of this great band to my friends.
My good friend Brian Weatherbee, was so taken by what he heard that he was sending me screenshots of himself watching the same performance I had discovered back in March. The bottom line is this — yes, the pandemic has been very hard on so many of us and our lives have changed drastically, but throughout, again music in some way has had an effect on me and so many others. Artists have found ways to remain relevant. They’ve kicked it up a notch for their fans. Had Covid-19 never happened, I would not be speaking of this today. I would have still loved Gotthard with Steve Lee, but I would not have expanded myself in realizing that the band is just as good as it has always been. These songs have brought me so much this year. For that I am grateful. I will say this as I close out, I cannot wait for life to get back to normal because I have a feeling that live music is going to be what it was back in the ’80s. People are going to be wanting to get out. What they had taken for granted for some many years with the fact that “Oh, if I don’t go, it’ll still be there” is no more. We somehow realize how important live music is in our lives and we’ll try our best to not let that go away again!
Butch Walker‘s ‘American Love Story’ film:
Wrestlingepicenter.com’s Top Five Albums of 2020:
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2005
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews
Affiliation: Wrestling Epicenter (website)
Number one choice: Black Swan’s Shake The World is such a great album with unbelievable vocals by Robin McAuley who is so underrated and under appreciated in the hard rock world. Reb Beach delivers some of the best guitar hooks he has played since Dokken’s Erase The Slate album which, strangely enough, also had Jeff Pilson on it. From tender ballads to grooving Dokken style hard rock to Dio level metal, this album has it all.
Favorite contribution of 2020: My favorite contribution to Sleaze Roxx this year was my L.A. Guns (feat. Lewis and Guns) live stream review. I enjoyed writing the review almost as much as watching the show because I cracked myself up making references with the Brady Bunch on a heavy metal website.
Concert and/or live stream of the year: I am going to take a surprising turn and say the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s live stream for Christmas, which featured Jeff Scott Soto stealing the show vocally and many pieces of bands I love rocking out for the Christmas holiday. It is the only concert I ever watched with my whole family including three different generations and they all enjoyed it. Sure, it isn’t “sleaze rock” but the picking was slim this year because of the virus and I thought I’d pick one out of left field.
Black Swan‘s “Big Disaster” video: