SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2021
Welcome to the 16th edition of Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums!
I have to apologize for the even longer delay than last year in getting this put together. If anything, the Covid pandemic has pushed me to acquire some new interests, which have admittedly taken my time away from Sleaze Roxx to a certain extent. You might also be surprised how long it takes me to put all of this together. Clearly, releasing the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021 in early July is less than ideal as 2021 is almost forgotten and especially with all the great releases that 2022 has bestowed on us so far. In fact, it feels a little odd even releasing this list at this time but judging from the amount of e-mails that I have received inquiring when it will come out, it’s better late than never. In any case, I will endeavour to do better for the 2022 edition!
For the people who enjoy statistics:
• There were 194 different albums that were voted for in 2021, down from 230 in 2020.
• Six of the 10 albums featured on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021 appear on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021.
• Tough times — just like last year, two of the 10 albums featured on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021 did not even receive one vote for the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021.
• Smith/Kotzen were the only band to have two albums (the full-length Smith/Kotzen released in March 2021 and the Better Days EP released in November 2021) receive votes. That being said, they were one of the only bands to release two albums in 2021.
• Has the novelty worn off? After receiving 220 votes from Sleaze Roxx readers for their album Anthems of A Peaceful Army which landed them the #12 spot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 albums of 2018, Greta Van Fleet only managed a meagre 60 votes for their follow up record The Battle At Garden’s Gate (2021).
• There were three bands that I thought for sure would make the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021 but Helloween (with their “reunion” album Helloween), Resist & Bite (featuring former Tesla guitarist Tommy Skeoch) and hot newcomers The L.A. Maybe (with their debut album Dirty Damn Tricks) just didn’t get enough votes to make the cut.
• Four albums — Stryper‘s Even The Devil Believes, AC/DC‘s Power up, Black Swan‘s Shake The World and H.E.A.T‘s H.E.A.T II — received more votes from Sleaze Roxx readers in 2020 than the top album generated in 2021.
• Italian record label Frontiers Music Srl released seven albums (including the top three records) that are featured on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top 20 Albums of 2021.
• A whopping ten bands appeared for the first time this year on a Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end top album list.
Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021!
Eclipse are only the second band to ever achieve the yearly double ogiven that they landed the top spot on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021 and also received the most votes to take top honours on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021. Prior to that, only KIX had achieved that feat back in 2014 with their comeback album Rock Your Face Off. It seemed like it was just a matter of time before an Eclipse album would get voted in to the top spot as the Swedish rockers are seemingly always in the running with one quality album after another with their last four albums finishing in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ Top 10 with Armageddonize at #5 in 2015, Monumentum at #2 in 2017, and Paradigm at #10 in 2019. The big difference in 2021 was simply the number of votes that Eclipse received as they pretty much doubled their usual amount of votes with Wired. The reality is that Wired is simply filled with one quality song after another starting with the fantastic anthem “Saturday Night (Hallelujah)” to the gorgeous ballad “Carved In Stone” (which totally deserves the video treatment). I couldn’t think of a more deserving band to get the #1 album this year and a good chunk of the Sleaze Roxx readers apparently thought so as well.
Eclipse‘s “Saturday Night (Hallelujah)” video:
Whether you like how singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns got back together as L.A. Guns (and seemingly screwed Steve Riley over) or not, there is no question that their reunion in late 2016 has had a positive impact on L.A. Guns‘ album output in recent years and has caused a resurgence in the eyes of their fans. The proof is in the pudding so to speak as L.A. Guns‘ last three studio albums have been very well received by Sleaze Roxx readers with The Missing Peace snatching the #1 spot in 2017, The Devil You Know slipping a bit but still finishing at #9 in 2019, and Checkered Past doing very well with a runner up place finish this year. Yes, I do realize that Hollywood Forever (with Steve Riley on drums and without Tracii Guns) was voted to #5 by the Sleaze Roxx readers in 2012 but that was the only L.A. Guns studio album that was released in Riley‘s last decade with the band. That is of course if we do not count Renegades in 2020 which was released under the L.A. Guns name but Riley and company have since had to change the band name to Riley’s L.A. Guns. It’s obvious that the renewed union between Lewis and Guns has paid great dividends for L.A. Guns who are seemingly more appreciated than ever by Sleaze Roxx readers.
L.A. Guns‘ “Get Along” video:
It seems that Crazy Lixx are destined to get to the #1 spot on a Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end poll as three of the last four years has seen their Swedish contemporaries snatch the top spot with Hardcore Superstar in 2018, Crashdïet in 2019 and now Eclipse in 2021. Unfortunately for Crazy Lixx, 2021 was not the year for them to finally get that top spot despite releasing a very good album with Street Lethal. Just like in 2019, Crazy Lixx were voted into the third spot but with less votes this time around with 450 points rather than 725 in 2019. If anything, Crazy Lixx have been a model of consistency in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ eyes given that Street Lethal is their seventh album to be voted in the top six of the readers’ year end best albums with Loud Minority at #3 in 2007, New Religion at #6 in 2010, Riot Avenue at #4 in 2012, Crazy Lixx at #4 in 2014, Ruff Justice at #5 in 2017 and Forever Wild at #3 in 2019. Whatever the case, Crazy Lixx‘s latest album Street Lethal is a fantastic record with arguably one of the best songs that the group has ever come up with “Anthem For America.”
Crazy Lixx‘s “Anthem For America” video:
It is absolutely no surprise to see Iron Maiden‘s latest album Senjutsu near the top of the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top albums of the year. The heavy metal giants have a huge following and it seems that just about every heavy metal fan appreciates the legendary UK band. The actual quality of Maiden‘s album does not really seem to matter as every year they release an album, they always land near the top. A Matter of Life And Death landed the #2 spot in 2006, The Final Frontier finished at #11 in 2010 and The Book of Souls ended up at #4 in 2015. Whatever the case, one can easily argue that Senjutsu is the best Iron Maiden record since 2013’s Dance of Death. One can only wonder if Senjutsu would have even better had Iron Maiden shortened a few of their songs. Three of the ten songs — namely “Death of The Celts” at 10:20, “The Parchment” at 12:39 and “Hell On Earth” at 11:19 — top the ten minute mark, five of them top the eight minute mark and seven are over the seven minute mark. Interestingly, Iron Maiden are currently playing three songs from their new album on their latest version of the Legacy of The Beast World Tour. Two of those three tracks are under the seven minute mark (“Stratego” and “The Writing On The Wall”) while the third (“Senjutsu”) is just over the eight minute mark. Imagine if Senjutsu only had songs ranging from four to eight minutes in length? Personally, I think that if it had, Iron Maiden could have ended up with the most votes and finished at #1 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021.
Iron Maiden‘s “The Writing On The Wall” video:
The album title Detroit Stories certainly suggested that Alice Cooper was going back to his roots on his latest studio record. The fact that the shock rocker also teamed up with the three remaining Alice Cooper Band members consisting of guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith on two tracks also suggested a return to the classic Cooper sound. Indeed, Detroit Stories was a return back to the glory days as I could have easily seen the album following up Billion Dollar Babies (1973) or Muscle of Love (1974) due to its old school feel, melodies and variety. You got to hand it to the Coop. The man was 73 years old when Detroit Stories came out (and now 74 years old). He just keeps releasing some good to great studio albums while touring at a pace that rivals just about any band of his stature out there. Given the quality songs on Detroit Stories, there seems to be no reason why Alice Cooper can’t keep releasing at least a couple more studio albums and well into his 80s.
Alice Cooper‘s “Our Love Will Change The World” lyric video:
After having their “comeback” album Blood of The Nations voted to the #5 spot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2010, the German heavy metal rockers have seemingly lost steam with the Sleaze Roxx readers. Accept‘s follow up album Stalingrad only reached #15 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2012 and the next record Blind Rage finished just outside the Top 10 at #11 in 2014. Surprisingly, The Rise of Chaos didn’t even make the Sleaze Roxx readers’ Top 20 in 2017. Accordingly, Too Mean To Die‘s #6 finish in 2021 has to be regarded as a great return to form for the German rockers or perhaps just a lack of competition in terms of quality albums in 2021 from established bands from the 80’s era. Whatever the case, Accept are one of the few bands who have been able to get a second lease on life with a new singer (in this case, the diminutive but powerful Mark Tornillo). With five studio albums released now with Tornillo on lead vocals and a seemingly never aging band leader in Wolf Hoffmann (despite being 62 years of age), it appears that Accept still have a lot of gas left in the tank.
Accept‘s “The Undertaker” video:
7. MAMMOTH WVH – Mammoth WVH – Total points: 280
I must confess that one of the “bands” that really didn’t interest me that much in 2021 was former Van Halen bassist Wolfgang Van Halen‘s project Mammoth WVH. Although some of the songs on Mammoth WVH sounded pretty good to my ears, they really pale in comparison to what Van Halen could come up with in their heyday and even with 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth. Unfortunately for Wolfgang, by the time that he released his debut record, his father Eddie had already passed away. There is no doubt that Eddie would have been proud of his son Wolfgang who did everything on his debut album from the singing to handling all of the instruments. Mammoth WVH landed a great opening slot for a while on Guns N’ Roses‘ never ending “reunion” tour before embarking on a co-headlining tour with newcomers Dirty Honey. The one thing that sets Wolfie apart from other newer artists is that he has this enormous shadow to live up to but he seems intent on moving on from Van Halen at any cost.
Mammoth WVH‘s “Don’t Back Down” video:
Another impressive and unexpected (for me) entry on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021 is Dirty Honey‘s debut full-length self-titled album. The California rockers consisting of lead vocalist Marc LaBelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian and drummer Corey Coverstone had previously released a self-titled EP back in March 2019. To their credit, Dirty Honey‘s debut full-length self-titled album did not feature any songs from their EP but rather offered some additional 70’s flavoured rocking tunes. The group is seemingly on the way up having completed a co-headlining tour with Mammoth WVH dubbed the Young Guns Tour across North America from late February to early April of this year. On top of that, they played a number of headline shows in April with support from Naked Gypsy Queen. As I write this, Dirty Honey are now out on tour in the UK and they have a bunch of shows already booked for the months of August to October. Clearly, Dirty Honey are on the rise and willing to work (i.e., tour) to get their name out there.
Dirty Honey‘s “California Dreamin'” video:
Chez Kane is seemingly Crazy Lixx frontman Danny Rexon‘s protégé, or at least when it comes to her debut self-titled album. The story goes that Rexon had a bunch of 80’s rock driven demos that he had written and he saw Chez Kane singing some songs via YouTube. Rexon decided to approach Chez Kane to see if she would be interested in singing one of the tracks, and lo and behold, a full album of songs written and arranged by Rexon was suddenly upon us with Chez Kane‘s female vocals. According to Rexon, the songs on Chez Kane‘s debut record are more radio friendly and the duo is apparently pleased with their initial partnership because they have already teamed up for album #2. While Chez Kane has not received that much coverage on Sleaze Roxx up to this point (even though Ruben Mosqueda did interview her back in February 2021), it seems that based on how well the female rocker’s debut album fared on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021, that should be something that changes in the future. It’s also worth noting that 2021 was a good year for Rexon since he had not one, but two albums in this year’s readers’ top 10 with Crazy Lixx‘s Street Lethal landing the #3 position.
Chez Kane‘s “Too Late For Love” video:
10. W.E.T – Retransmission – Total points: 245
Not only did Eclipse‘s mastermind Erik Mårtensson land the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top spot in 2021 with Wired but the Swedish rocker / producer also has the #10 position with W.E.T‘s latest studio album Retransmission. Clearly, Mårtensson does not appear worried about spreading himself too thin. In addition to his “baby” Eclipse, he plays guitar in Nordic Union, which also features Pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins, and also in W.E.T, which features Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals. He was also part of Ammunition along with Wig Wam lead vocalist Åge Sten Nilsen for two albums released in 2014 and 2018 but that band appears to have been placed on hold now for a few years. Despite being involved in multiple bands and sometimes releasing two studio albums in one year (such as in 2021), the common thread between all of Mårtensson‘s bands / projects is quality songs. Mårtensson may well be one of the most prolific songwriters and performers of the last decade. He also has a knack for working with some great talent such as singer Jeff Scott Soto in W.E.T.
W.E.T‘s “Got To Be About Love” video:
I was interested to see where Kickin Valentina‘s first full-length album with “new” lead vocalist DK Revelle would fare on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021. The reason for that is two-fold. First of all, The Revenge of Rock was one of my favorite albums of 2021 since I placed it at #2 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021 so I was curious to see whether Sleaze Roxx readers would pick up on this amazing record. Second of all, Kickin Valentina have encouraged their fan base to vote for them in prior Sleaze Roxx readers’ polls (I can usually tell when this happens) but this time around, this practice seemingly did not occur. Kickin Valentina‘s previous full-length album Imaginary Creatures was voted to #12 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017 with 160 points and a lot of help from the band’s fan base. While some might interpret Kickin Valentina‘s #11 finish with The Revenge of Rock in 2021 as marginal improvement over their #12 result in 2017, I actually think it’s a massive improvement since the band garnered way more points (i.e. votes) with 220 in 2021 compared to 160 in 2017, and without the need to activate their fan base to get where they ended up.
Kickin Valentina‘s “Somebody New” video:
12. (tied) THUNDER – All The Right Noises – Total points: 215
I have to admit that Thunder are a band that I have never gotten into. the group’s coverage on Sleaze Roxx has been sporadic at best and frankly probably on the slim side for a band that has released four albums — Wonder Days (2015), Rip It Up (2017), Please Remain Seated (2019) and All The Right Noises (2021) — during my tenure as Sleaze Roxx‘s main man. Whatever the case, the Sleaze Roxx readers have made their voices heard by voting in UK rockers Thunder‘s album All The Right Noises at an impressive #12 finish. Perhaps the reason why I have never gotten into Thunder up to now are there bizarre album covers [laughs]. I’m still puzzled at what the cover for All The Right Noises actually represents. And the cover for the group’s previous record Please Remain Seated is even more bewildering with a gentleman seemingly from the 1920’s seated on some funky bicycle that might be used in a circus. It’s hard for me to get enticed to listen to Thunder‘s albums with such wacky covers. In any case, that does not seem to be an issue for a big chunk of Sleaze Roxx‘s readers.
Thunder‘s “Last One Out Turn Out The Lights” video:
12. (tied) BUCKCHERRY – Hellbound – Total points: 215
Look who’s back from the dead. It’s hard to believe that Buckcherry‘s album 15 topped the inaugural Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums poll way back in 2006. Probably the funny part about 15 is that it was actually released in Japan back in October 2005 and later on in Canada and the USA in April 2006 so based on my current criteria for the Sleaze Roxx year end lists, that album should have only been considered as a 2005 release. Whatever the case, it’s been tough for Buckcherry to make any significant impact on Sleaze Roxx readers since 15. Black Butterfly was voted to #8 on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end list in 2008, All Night Long landed at #10 in 2010, Confessions at #12 in 2013, Rock N Roll at #19 in 2015, and Warpaint didn’t even make the cut in 2019. With a #12 finish in 2021, Buckcherry are finally on an upswing again on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end list. Perhaps at least a little bit of credit has to go to Jetboy guitarist Billy Rowe who joined Buckcherry back in or around late 2020. In any case, it’s nice to see a veteran group like Buckcherry experiencing a little bit of a resurgence in the eyes of the Sleaze Roxx readers.
Buckcherry‘s “Hellhound” video:
14. DANGEROUS CURVES – Summertime Highs – Total points: 205
It’s nice to see Australian rockers Dangerous Curves get some recognition for their latest album Summertime Highs from the Sleaze Roxx readers and to see them better their previous finish of #17 back in 2018 with So Dirty Right. However, out of all of the bands featured on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021, I feel that Dangerous Curves really didn’t get the opportunity to do the promotional push that they would have usually done due to the Covid pandemic. As many of you may know, Australia was one of the most locked down countries in the world during the first two years of the Covid pandemic. Summertime Highs was released back in July 2021 but the band was only able to play its album launch party show at the Bendigo Hotel in Melbourne, Australia on March 25, 2022. It almost makes you wonder whether it would have been better for the band to sit on the album for one year and release it this summer (in 2022) instead of last summer. Whatever the case, Dangerous Curves delivered a strong album in Summertime Highs that is definitely work checking out.
Dangerous Curves‘ “Good And The Bad” video:
15. THE PRETTY RECKLESS – Death By Rock And Roll – Total points: 200
The Pretty who? Okay, I am kidding. I know who The Pretty Reckless are but admittedly, I have never really listened to them. In fact, although The Pretty Reckless have released four full-length albums, Light Me Up (2010), Going to Hell (2014), Who You Selling For (2016) and Death By Rock And Roll (2021), along with two EPs, The Pretty Reckless (2010) and Hit Me Like A Man (2012) — Sleaze Roxx only reviewed one of them and generally has given hardly any coverage to the band. I had a feeling though that The Pretty Reckless would make the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end list for 2021 given that one of Sleaze Roxx‘s regular contributors (Lance Lumley) chose Death By Rock And Roll as his favorite record of 2021. The Pretty Reckless consist of female lead vocalist Taylor Momsen, lead guitarist Ben Phillips, bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. It is unusual these days for a band to continue more than a decade later with its original line-up but seemingly, all of The Pretty Reckless band members know they have a good thing going.
The Pretty Reckless‘ “And So It Went” video:
I consider The Treatment‘s fifth studio album Waiting For Good Luck as a comeback album of sorts. After failing to make both the Sleaze Roxx and readers’ year end best album lists in 2019 with their album Power Crazy, The Treatment have roared back with a #3 finish on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021 and what I view as an impressive #16 slot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021. If anything, Waiting For Good Luck is a return to form since the Sleaze Roxx readers had previously voted Running With The Dogs to the #17 position in 2014 and Generation Me to #14 in 2016. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for The Treatment with Power Crazy other than perhaps it took everyone a little time to get used to yet another lead vocalist change (Mitchel Emms to Tom Rampton). Or perhaps the simple and logical explanation is that the songs on Waiting For Good Luck are just superior to the ones on Power Crazy. With killer tracks like “Rat Race”, “Wrong Way” and “Let’s Make Money” on The Treatment‘s latest record, I think my last theory is the correct one. Waiting For Good Luck is a return to form for The Treatment and I (along with seemingly many Sleaze Roxx readers) look forward to what they will come up with next.
The Treatment‘s “Wrong Way” video:
17. (tied) WICKED SMILE – Wait For The Night – Total points: 175
It is really no surprise to me to see Australian rockers Wicked Smile figure on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end best of album list. Wicked Smile are one of five bands (along with Mammoth WVH, Dirty Honey, Chez Kane and Nestor) whose debut full-length record figures on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021. That being said, when I was tabulating the readers’ votes, I was expecting Wicked Smile to make the cut given that they play such sleaze rock friendly tunes, it seems that a lot of Sleaze Roxx readers are already familiar with guitarist Steve Janevski from his Radio Sun days, and the group seemingly did quite the promotional push for Wait For the Night with videos for six singles. Interestingly, Janevski‘s daughter Cassidy Paris also released an EP titled Flirt in 2021 and although that EP didn’t make the cut for the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end best albums, it seems likely that the first father and daughter to appear on a Sleaze Roxx year end best of list will be the duo of Janevski and Paris.
Wicked Smile‘s “Don’t Wait For Me” video:
Robin McAuley may be turning 70 years of age this coming January but he hasn’t let that stop him from recently releasing some of the best albums of his long musical career. Many Sleaze Roxx readers will know McAuley with respect to his tenure in the McAuley Schenker Group from 1986 to 1993 during which time the group released three studio albums — Perfect Timing (1987), Save Yourself (1989) and M.S.G. (1992). However, in the last few years, McAuley has had a bit of a resurgence given that he teamed up with guitarist Reb Beach, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Matt Starr to form the “supergroup” Black Swan via Italian record label Frontiers Music Srl. Black Swan‘s debut album Shake The World finished an impressive #3 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2020. Not surprisingly and to presumably capitalize on Black Swan‘s success, Frontiers Music Srl apparently got McAuley to release only his second solo album titled Standing On The Edge with the assistance of the record label’s “go to man” Alessandro Del Vecchio who produced the record and also handled the bass and keyboards.
Robin McAuley‘s “Standing On The Edge” video:
The Dead Daisies members will likely be the first ones to tell you that they are very happy having Glenn Hughes as their new frontman and perhaps feel that they are better than ever with him now leading the band. Based on where The Dead Daisies‘ first album with Hughes on lead vocals landed on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021, it would seem that Sleaze Roxx readers really prefer John Corabi over Glenn Hughes fronting the band. The proof is in the pudding so to speak as The Dead Daisies‘ last two albums with Corabi at the helm fared much better in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end polls with Make Some Noise taking the #3 spot in 2016 and Burn It Down finishing at #7 in 2018. It will be interesting to see if The Dead Daisies can regain the momentum that they have seemingly lost by losing Corabi and forging ahead with Hughes. The Dead Daisies apparently have been working on material for a new album so we will have to wait to see whether they can improve on their rather disappointing #19 finish on this year’s Sleaze Roxx readers’ poll.
The Dead Daisies‘ “Holy Ground (Shake The Memory)” video:
20. NESTOR – Kids In A Ghost Town – Total points: 160
Out of all the artists / bands featured on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021, I know the least about Nestor… well until now. Swedish rockers Nestor were actually in existence way back in 1989 until sometime in the 90’s during which time they released two EPs. Good luck to anyone who can track down those presumably very difficult EPs to find. According to singer Tobias Gustavsson in an interview with Outsider Rock, Nestor never really disbanded but went on a very long hiatus before getting back together to write a song or two. Eventually, the Nestor band members decided to release the album that they didn’t have the skills to do back in 1989. The result is Kids In A Ghost Town and judging from the song quality to the very 80’s inspired videos, the Nestor band members consisting of Gustavsson (vocals), Jonny Wemmenstedt (guitar), Marcus Åblad (bass), Martin Frejinger (keyboards) and Mattias Carlsson (drums) have more than achieved their goal.
Nestor‘s “1989” video: