SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2015
Welcome to the tenth edition of Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top Twenty Albums!
To say that the race for the number one spot on this year’s Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of the Year was wide open would be an understatement. There was a whopping 169 different albums that received at least one vote this year and 75 albums received multiple votes. In addition, 80 of the 169 albums that were voted in were for bands that have not been featured on Sleaze Roxx in the past year. That being said, there were no surprises with which albums finished among the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top 20 albums for this year. Once again and not surprisingly just like in prior years, it is the bands that experienced their heyday back in the ’80s such as Def Leppard, W.A.S.P., Stryper and the Scorpions that dominated the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top albums of the year. What was surprising was how there was no clear cut favorite to emerge from this year’s albums, which either means that there were too many good albums or perhaps a lack of a really good one that stood out over the others.
Just like last year, there were four albums (from The Wild!, Diemonds, Queensrÿche and Stryper in 2015) that found themselves on the top album lists of both Sleaze Roxx and its readers. What is encouraging for newer bands is that there were nine out of 20 bands or artists that are featured on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015 which were not in existence back in the ’80s. That being said, only three of those bands or artists have been around for ten years or less, and have no ties to the ’80s era (The Wild!, Diemonds and Santa Cruz) proving that for new bands to crack the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top albums of the year remains an ever difficult task to do.
Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015!
Def Leppard‘s new self-titled album will most likely never sell even two tenths of the copies that Pyromania or Hysteria sold back in the ’80s but there is no doubt that the British rockers’ newest album resonated strongly with Sleaze Roxx readers to take the top spot on the Readers’ Top 20 Albums for 2015. I had received a small hint that this might occur earlier in the year but didn’t think anything of it when Sleaze Roxx’s review of the Def Leppard album received the most views out of any Sleaze Roxx album review in the latter half of the year. While a lot of the reviews for Def Leppard have been mixed including the one from Sleaze Roxx, there was certainly enough good to great songs for the album to nudge ahead and claim the coveted top spot for the year. The Sleaze Roxx readers have spoken — enough said!
The fact that W.A.S.P.‘s leader and frontman Blackie Lawless has gone from shock rock king to born again Christian who refuses to play the group’s most controversial and explicit song “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” has not hindered Lawless‘ ability to deliver quality albums more than 25 years after W.A.S.P.‘s ’80s era heyday. For many, Golgotha represents a true return to form for W.A.S.P. with excellent hooks and melodies punctuated by Lawless delivering one of his best vocal performances on an album in decades. Lawless has steadfastly and consistently released album after album under the W.A.S.P. banner and even though they have become more sporadic in the last ten years, Lawless has proven with Golgotha that he still has the Midas touch to come up with albums that will resonate with Sleaze Roxx readers.
Stryper continue to defy time and the normal course for ’80s era bands by coming up with their second simply amazing studio album in three years. After the Christian rockers’ No More Hell To Pay topped the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2013, it is now Fallen‘s turn to finish at a very impressive number three in 2015. While fans will likely debate which of Stryper‘s last two studio albums are better, the one thing that most will agree upon is that the group’s last two studio albums are their best since To Hell With The Devil, if not their best ever. While the ’80s era Stryper did not really qualify as a “heavy metal” band, this should not be an issue anymore with the group’s heavier direction. The only question remains whether Stryper can come up with a third stellar studio album in a row?
As Sleaze Roxx writer Eduardo pointed out in his review of The Book Of Souls, whatever heavy metal genre you like, the one common denominator time after time seems to be the mighty Iron Maiden. Not content with sitting on their laurels, Iron Maiden are back stronger than ever with an ambitious double studio album with three songs clocking over ten minutes each and their longest song ever (“Empire Of The Clouds”) toppling the 18 minute mark. There are no hit singles of any kind on The Book Of Souls but a journey into everything that has made Iron Maiden so great over their more than 35 year history. Whether the legendary group has one more studio album in them remains to be seen but one thing is for certain, the heavy metal community seem to always embrace whatever Iron Maiden have to offer.
While my predecessor Skid opined that Swedish melodic rockers Eclipse have often flown under the radar in his review of the band’s latest album Armageddonize, it seems that this is no longer the case with Sleaze Roxx readers vaulting Eclipse‘s latest album to the number five album in their year end list. Spearheaded by melodic rock specialist Erik Martensson, Eclipse have delivered in Armageddonize what has to be considered their best album to date. Can the group top Armageddonize with its next release? Judging by Eclipse‘s track record, it seems that this is indeed within the realm of possibility since the Swedish rockers keep getting better and better with every release and even though the group formed way back in 1999.
It is no surprise that Devil City Angels‘ self-titled debut album has rocketed to number six on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ top 20 Albums of 2015. After all, the new group had some very well known players among its midst including Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, ex-L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns and Cinderella bassist Eric Brittingham (the latter who played on the album but was then replaced with Rudy Sarzo). Throw in Brandon Gibbs‘ vocals and you have what a lot of people touted as the best rock album of the year. Devil City Angels‘ debut album would have likely gotten even more accolades if the band had toured in support of the album but Rockett‘s eventual successful fight against oral cancer for a good portion of 2015 meant Devil City Angels may not have received the push it rightfully deserved.
Not only have The Winery Dogs lived up to their “supergroup” billing with their debut album, they have been able to follow it up with an equally impressive sophomore effort with Hot Streak. Even with expectations sky high from fans and critics alike, the talented trio of bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist/singer Richie Kotzen seem to feel no pressure in delivering the goods time and time again. The complex technical musical wizardry that is often exhibited by the trio has resonated with a lot of Sleaze Roxx readers once again and it seems that The Winery Dogs can do no wrong. If anything, The Winery Dogs have proved with Hot Streak that they are not a flash in the pan and that they can meet or even surpass people’s lofty expectations.
While Diemonds‘ Never Wanna Die may have “only” reached the number eight spot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015, it is in my eyes the most impressive finish out of any albums simply because 2015 is the first year that Diemonds have charted on any Sleaze Roxx year end list and the band’s members were not playing music during the golden ’80s hard rock/metal era. Truth be told, Diemonds‘ previous studio album The Bad Pack would have likely figured on Sleaze Roxx’s year end lists a few years back had Sleaze Roxx known about the Canadian rockers a little sooner. With Diemonds featured in ten Sleaze Roxx concert reviews in the last four years and the group releasing another killer studio album in Never Wanna Die, it was only a matter of time before Sleaze Roxx readers would catch on.
One almost wonders which Return To Forever album that Sleaze Roxx readers voted for. Was it the 12 song album released in March 2015? Or was it the 19 song album released in September 2015? The Scorpions are almost cheating having released the same album twice albeit with seven bonus tracks later on in September. Was this a tactic to sell more copies of Return To Forever forcing die-hard Scorpions fans to pick up the album again to access those bonus tracks? Whatever the case, the Scorpions‘ return to catchy hooks and melodies resonated with Sleaze Roxx readers and was the catalyst for another worldwide tour from the mighty German rockers as well as a full length documentary on the band. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Scorpions became the first big hard rock band to celebrate its 60th year anniversary.
Just like in 2013, Queensrÿche and their former frontman Geoff Tate have released albums within a few months of each other. Queensrÿche have once again left Tate far behind in their rearview mirror as the Seattle rockers’ new album Condition Hüman has been hailed as possibly the best album Queensrÿche have ever done and easily the best since Empire. Tate‘s band Operation: Mindcrime on the other hand continued Tate‘s musical experimentation which resulted in The Key not receiving one vote for the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015. With Queensrÿche clearly demonstrating that they are able to recapture the magic of their glory years with Condition Hüman, there seems little to no doubt now that the person who led them astray for almost two decades was none other than Tate.
La Raza might have been Armored Saint‘s comeback studio album but Win Hands Down is the one that has signalled that the heavy metal group is back to its hard hitting ways. Sleaze Roxx readers have responded by having Armored Saint figure in its top 20 albums for the first time in its career. With singer John Bush firmly back in the line-up, Armored Saint came up with the type of album that could rival their best albums from their ’80s / early ’90s heyday. Filled with energy and power, Armored Saint‘s Win Hands Down is the type of release that is not for the faint of heart. It will be interesting to see how Armored Saint follow up Win Hands Down because the heavy metal group surely has gained and silenced a lot of critics with its latest album.
Swedish sleaze veterans, Hardcore Superstar, have never been afraid to change their sound over the years and once again, the sleaze rockers have come up with a somewhat different album in HCSS by combining melodic metal with a modern pop twist. Gone are the heavier sounds from the past few albums. Whatever the case, Hardcore Superstar are mainstays on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ top albums of the year although HCSS is the group’s lowest finish on the readers’ year end list since C’Mon Take On Me (2013), Slit Your Lip (2010) and Beg For It (2009) all finished at the number four position while Dreamin’ In A Casket (2007) finished sixth. Will Hardcore Superstar go back to a heavier sleazier sound on their next album? Only time will tell.
Reinventing yourself and your musical sound are two of the toughest things for a band to do, especially when you have sold millions of albums worldwide but that is exactly what Europe have been able to do in their second half of their musical career. War Of Kings sees Europe delving even further into their Deep Purple like and blues filled classic rock sound that they have opted for ever since reuniting back in 2003. While War Of Kings seems to have garnered reviews all over the range from critics and fans loving everything about it to pundits missing the hooks and melodies from the group’s ’80s era heyday, there is no question that War Of Kings is the album that has pushed Europe back onto US soil. After a ten year hiatus, the Swedish rockers are in the midst of their second US mini-tour following War Of Kings‘ release.
Many people have touted Trixter‘s Human Era album as the record of the year. Human Era sees the group transporting themselves back into a time machine to twenty years earlier when catchy hooks and great melodies were a must for any hair metal band. Trixter are no strangers to the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end lists having charted at #12 with their comeback album New Audio Machine released in 2012. It’s hard to believe that if Trixter release one more studio album, they will have already released more studio albums (if you exclude the band’s 1994 covers album Undercovers) since their comeback album in 2012 than when their self-titled debut album first came out in 1990 and before disbanding in 1995. In any case, it’s great to have Trixter back in the fold.
One of the most consistent performers in terms of one solid album after another has to be ex-Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe. The man just has a knack for coming up with great sleaze infused rockers time after time. Blackout States is no exception and continues Monroe‘s fine tradition of music that will just want to make you move. Funny enough, Monroe who was interviewed a few months ago by Sleaze Roxx contributor and Lipstick frontman Greg Troyan rejected the whole sleazy label when interviewed. Nevertheless, there is no question that Monroe has a lot of sleaze rock loving fans as his last three studio albums including Sensory Overdrive (2011) and Horns And Halos (2013) have all charted on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end lists.
The one entry that has seemingly come out of nowhere is The Wild!‘s debut album GxDxWxB, which was released in April 2015 but only reviewed by Sleaze Roxx in late August 2015. The Canadian rockers received a rave review from Sleaze Roxx and landed the #2 album in Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015. It seems that many Sleaze Roxx readers agreed with this assessment as the Canadian rockers’ debut album clawed its way into the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums for the year despite the group getting fairly limited coverage on this site and being a relatively unknown band compared to all the other bands featured in the readers’ top 20. The Wild!‘s combination of hillbilly recklessness yet melodic and memorable tunes with a tinge of AC/DC is definitely a winning formula.
One of the most consistent bands ever has to be Motörhead and it is only fitting that the legendary group’s last album would figure among the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top 20 albums of the year, especially since the band is no longer with the sad passing of the iconic Lemmy Kilmister only a few days before the new year was to come. Bad Magic sees Motörhead do what they do best which is delivering uncompromising, balls to the wall, ferocious, hard driving punk meets metal tunes. Bad Magic will likely never go down as the best album that Motörhead have ever done but it’s a solid album and pretty much everything that you would expect from them. It is sad to think that Motörhead are no longer but their music and the legendary stories surrounding their leader will remain forever.
Just like in 2012, The Darkness‘ studio album has reached the number 18 position on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end list. The Darkness‘ Last Of Our Kind album is the only album featured on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015 which did not get reviewed by Sleaze Roxx. I suppose that I have to shoulder some of the blame for that since I have always been somewhat ambivalent towards The Darkness and singer Justin Hawkins‘ high pitched delivery ever since the group’s Permission To Land album was released back in 2003. That being said, many think that The Darkness was at one point destined to be the next great band before addiction issues derailed Hawkins and ultimately the group.
Once upon a time and during Sleaze Roxx’s inaugural Readers’ Top 20 Albums of the year in 2006, Buckcherry topped that year end list with their 15 album. Fast forward nine years and Buckcherry‘s latest album Rock N Roll is barely making it into the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of the year. While Buckcherry‘s albums have usually charted (with the exception of 2014’s Fuck) in the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ top albums of the year ever since 2006, recapturing the coveted number one position appears unattainable for this now veteran band. Nevertheless, Buckcherry continue to come up with new studio albums. Some are better than others and Rock N Roll likely has to be considered as one of the better Buckcherry albums and certainly their best in recent years.
From the penthouse (Sleaze Roxx’s #1 album of 2013) to the doghouse (a “colossal disappointment”), Santa Cruz are probably one of the bands that have fallen the most out of grace with Sleaze Roxx itself for their 180 degree turn in their musical direction. Santa Cruz followed up their sensational full-length debut album Screaming For Adrenaline with their self-titled “modern rock” album which felt like a real snub to everything that they had achieved in the first place. Given that Santa Cruz‘s Screaming For Adrenaline placed at the 16th spot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums for 2013 and their sophomore self-titled effort got to the 20th spot this year, it would seem that Sleaze Roxx readers were not as disappointed as Sleaze Roxx itself for the change in musical direction adopted by the young Finnish rockers.