TOP TWENTY ALBUMS OF 2013 – READERS’ CHOICE:
It’s finally here… the eighth annual Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Choice Awards.
2013 was a year filled with countless new bands vying for listener’s attention, along with the return of several hard rock staples, in an ever crowded marketplace. The last few years have seen Sweden at the forefront of the sleaze revival, but the rest of the world is finally catching up in their own right as the resurgence of hard rock music has definitely become global. So without further ado, here are the top 20 albums as voted by you — readers of Sleaze Roxx.
Thanks again to everyone from around the world who voted and be sure to check out the Sleaze Roxx Top 10 of 2013 for even more great music.
There was little doubt Stryper were going to do extremely well in this year’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Not only do they have a massive online social media following of rabid and dedicated fans, but they even managed to impress indifferent listeners such as myself with their latest offering. No More Hell To Pay, the Christian rockers’ seventh studio release of original material, was consistent throughout — recapturing the band’s trademark sound some 25 years after their commercial peak. The album’s success has also given Stryper a new creative spark, as they have quickly become one of the busiest bands on the scene today with several more releases, including solo albums and autobiographies, being thrust upon the public.
It took what seemed like an eternity to see the light of day, but the long-awaited solo album from Tom Keifer delivered exactly what fans of Heartbreak Station era Cinderella were longing for. Despite battles with vocal-cord problems, that at times have derailed Keifer’s career, the frontman sounded excellent throughout The Way Life Goes. The album really is a testament to the man’s talents and influences, offering the sounds of his past along with heartfelt tracks that venture deeper into the blues than the casual fan may have expected. Keifer is back — lets hope his next album doesn’t compete with Axl Rose again in the ‘will it ever get released’ sweepstakes.
Supergroups rarely live up to their billing, but The Winery Dogs proved to be one of the exceptions to that rule. Consisting of Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy, The Winery Dogs collected their years of experience to put together an album that many felt completely lived up to expectations. One could argue this band simply expands upon Kotzen’s solo career, but with the added name recognition and musical chops he was able to reach a much larger audience this time around The future looks bright for The Winery Dogs and their soulful brand of hard rock, and with such capable musicians working together for a common goal the possibilities are endless.
Hardcore Superstar may have set a record by making their fourth appearance on the Reader’s Choice Top 20 — and their third #4 finish. Not only that, but with some stiff competition Hardcore Superstar won the ‘battle of Sweden’ in 2013, proving to be the top dogs in the Scandinavian country’s crowded hard rock scene. Year after year Hardcore Superstar satisfies their rabid fan base while recruiting more loyal listeners. C’mon Take On Me was just the latest in a long line of top-notch sleaze offerings — a discography that is quickly becoming one of the strongest in all of present day hard rock.
After two second place finishes on the Sleaze Roxx Top 20, Crashdiet stumbled down the list with their latest album. While the songs and attitude for the most part lived up to expectations, the raw production of The Savage Playground had many fans scratching their heads. Perhaps the Swedish sleaze veterans were trying to capture their live sound on album, however it appears as if the gamble failed to deliver the desired results. The good news is Crashdiet can still write a damn good song, so there is little doubt the guys will be able to resurrect themselves — after all, they’ve bounced back from far bigger tragedies in the past.
Reckless Love, the Finnish band featuring former Crashdiet frontman Olli Herman, continue to be perennial favorites among Sleaze Roxx readers. By treading further into glam territory than his former band ever did, Herman and company take listeners back to the teased hair, tight pants and excessive make-up of hair metal’s glory days. With sugar-coated riffs, sing-along choruses and crystal clear production, Reckless Love is the type of well-oiled machine that would have been a radio staple in the late ’80s. That may not be the case in today’s segmented rock scene, but Reckless Love have carved themselves a niche that any young glam band can only dream of.
They say you can’t teach a dog new tricks, and in the case of Airbourne that is completely true — however they can certainly perfect those tricks. The Australians did just that with Black Dog Barking, improving upon their hyperactive AC/DC driven formula and garnering their highest placement on the Sleaze Roxx Top 20 in the process. It’s a sound that has been performed to death ever since AC/DC catapulted into the mainstream, but Airbourne does it with such ferocity and energy that they have become the face of the three-chord delivery’s commercial comeback and have begun spawning countless imitators in their own right.
To say that the metal community had been waiting a long time for the original Black Sabbath line-up — minus drummer Bill Ward — to get back together to record an album is an understatement. Black Sabbath released their first studio album in 35 years with Ozzy Osbourne at the helm and the world responded by making 13 a number one album in nine different countries, including the UK and USA. It is therefore no surprise that Sleaze Roxx readers embraced 13 as one of the year’s top albums. 13 proved that the founders of heavy metal still have lots of game with such epic tracks as “God Is Dead?”, “Loner” and “End Of The Beginning”.
The music industry can be a cruel beast, eating up and spitting out musicians before they can truly find their footing. That is why the recent resurgence of former Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe is not only an oddity but also a refreshing change. By all accounts Monroe should be rotting in obscurity in his home country of Finland — instead the timeless rock veteran is releasing some of his most powerful work to date. Second chances are hard to come by, but Monroe is taking full advantage of his comeback by giving his loyal following solid music while showing young upstarts how it should be done.
2013 was a big year for Santa Cruz as the young Finnish sleaze rockers landed a major label deal and saw their full-length debut album reach #1 on the Sleaze Roxx Top 10. New bands are always at a disadvantage when it comes to the fan voted top 20, simply because they haven’t had time to establish the large followings that weathered veterans have. But when you release album filled with such ’80 debauchery as Screaming For Adrenaline, even listeners who are increasingly overwhelmed with new music have to take notice. If Santa Cruz sticks to their formula they have a long and bright future ahead of them.
When singer Geoff Tate left — or was fired from — Queensryche in 2012, the remaining members soldiered on with new vocalist Todd La Torre to release Queensryche. If replacing your frontman wasn’t difficult enough, Queensryche had to compete with a Tate led version of the band when both entities released albums around the same time. Clearly, Sleaze Roxx readers preferred the new revamped band over the ousted singer’s album. The cover of Tate’s Frequency Unknown may have the not so implicit message of ‘Fuck You’ to his former bandmates, but it is Queensryche that are getting the last laugh with their critically acclaimed self-titled album.
Buckcherry is no stranger to the Sleaze Roxx Reader’s Top 20, having charted in the top 10 with every release including landing the coveted number one spot with 15 back in 2006. Accordingly, it would be surprising if any Buckcherry release did not make it onto the Top 20. Confessions, a concept album based loosely around the seven deadly sins, keeps Buckcherry’s streak alive, despite slipping to the lowest chart position in the band’s history. If anything, Confessions is a return to form for Buckcherry, bringing them closer to 15 then any of their other subsequent releases.
13. MOTORHEAD – Aftershock
Band Website – Buy The CD
(Total Points: 151)
There are a handful of bands in existence who never fail to deliver, and love them or hate them, you know exactly what to except when you purchase a Motorhead album. Pushing the envelope means nothing when it comes to Motorhead’s near 40 year career — instead it is all about delivering the goods. Aftershock, like almost every album in the massive catalogue, does just that as Metal God Lemmy Kilmister continues to bark over furious speed-punk leads as if time has stood still since commercial peak in the early ’80s. It’s almost unfathomable that Lemmy continues rocking like a teenager despite creeping up on the age of 70 — can you imagine your parents or grandparents living his life?
Fans of true melodic rock once again propelled W.E.T. to the Sleaze Roxx Reader’s Top 20. The main architects behind the band continue to be Jeff Scott Solo, Erik Martensson and Robert Sall, and Rise Up doesn’t depart from their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Rather, the band keeps their winning formula going by taking the best elements from the member’s other endeavors — Work Of Art, Eclipse and Talisman — and in doing so, have come up with another melodic rock gem that satisfied many Sleaze Roxx readers.
15. AVENGED SEVENFOLD – Hail To The King
Band Website – Buy The CD
(Total Points: 119)
Every year, there is a band that sticks out and does not fit the musical genre that Sleaze Roxx mostly caters to. Avenged Sevenfold likely would have fit that moniker in years past but with Hail To The King the American band is starting to sound closer than ever to a classic but somewhat progressive metal group — which is a step closer to being embraced by Sleaze Roxx. Given the commercial success that Hail To The King enjoyed as it reached number one in at least six countries, and with major label support, it is no real surprise to find Avenged Sevenfold making their Reader’s Top 20 debut.
Although the Pretty Maids have been around for more than 30 years, and despite consistently releasing studio albums, the Danish band has finally cracked the Sleaze Roxx Reader’s Top 20 with Motherland. It seems odd that the Pretty Maids would suddenly be recognized by readers after all this time, but they have always been one of those underrated metal bands that have never quite broken through to the popularity level of many of their peers. Perhaps the Pretty Maids are simply getting better with time? Whatever the case, the Pretty Maids continued their fine tradition of melodic metal with Motherland and show no signs of slowing down.
It was fun while it lasted. Like a bright shining star, De La Cruz lit up the night sky with their hair metal influenced debut album — only to fade to black as quickly as they arrived. Securing a major label deal made it look as if the Australian rockers were finally getting the breaks needed to burrow into the crowded hard rock scene. Street Level, with a sound eerily similar to early Def Leppard, was the perfect vehicle to begin De La Cruz’s rise to stardom. Then guitarist and producer Casey Jones abruptly left the band and their fate was sealed — leaving us only with an impressive EP and debut album.
One of many first timers on the Sleaze Roxx Reader’s Top 20 is Alter Bridge. Although the band already had three studio albums under their belt prior to Fortress, vocalist Myles Kennedy was thrust in the spotlight last year after being recruited by none other than Slash to sing on the guitarists’ very well received solo album Apocalyptic Love. That record landed the number three spot on 2012’s Top 20, so it isn’t unreasonable to think Kennedy has recruited a lot of new fans thanks to his partnership with the former Guns N’ Roses shredder — and is likely one of the main reasons why Alter Bridge have cracked this list for the first time.
A lot of ‘older’ bands are cracking the Top 20 this year and some will understandably, and justifiably, state that the Black Star Riders are a new band (because technically they are). But the reality is that the Black Star Riders are really the remnants or what was left from Thin Lizzy. Almost thirty years after the death of Thin Lizzy leader Phil Lynott, guitarist Scott Gorham soldiered on and offered up some more modern Thin Lizzy influenced material with All Hell Breaks Loose. It will be interesting to see for how long the Black Star Riders last and whether Gorham will eventually be tempted to cash in once again on the Thin Lizzy name.
Making their second appearance on the Sleaze Roxx Top 20 is King Kobra. For a band that spent their heyday in a hairspray induced fog, King Kobra has aged incredibly well. The addition of former Rough Cutt singer Paul Shortino has taken the band from outrageous hair metal territory to blues based hard rock — and so far the evolution has worked wonders. Their sound is far removed from their Mark Free fronted days, but this direction has resulted in two extremely solid albums to date — a consistency that the original group could never muster.