SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2015
Welcome to the eleventh edition of Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year.
2015 has been a banner year for new releases and the task to come up with the ten best albums for this year turned out to be a difficult but pleasant task. This year has been full of surprises starting with Sleaze Roxx’s founder and editor Skid stepping down after singlehandedly running the Sleaze Roxx website since 2002. Life is full of twists and turns, and I never imagined at the start of 2015 that I would be running my favorite hard rock / heavy metal website mid-way through the year. A busy life just got even busier. To do so required a brand new website which became a “fait accompli” by July 10th when the new website officially launched. More surprises were in store in 2015 with the sudden and unexpected disbanding and/or extended hiatus of two Swedish sleaze rock veteran bands (and Sleaze Roxx favorites), Sister Sin and Dirty Passion, along with perhaps a close call for their Swedish counterpart Crazy Lixx who suffered the departure of their two guitarists this summer.
The launch of the new Sleaze Roxx website coincided thankfully with the emergence of a number of new Sleaze Roxx contributors along with the welcomed return or more active participation from a couple of veteran Sleaze Roxx contributors. This translated into Sleaze Roxx records in terms of the number of interviews, concert reviews and CD/DVD reviews for this year including 181 CD/DVD reviews with 144 during the last six months. What you may not know is that there are many other albums that get listened to over the year but never get reviewed for the site. Nevertheless, there are still undoubtedly some great albums that have been missed this year. All of this made narrowing the best albums of 2015 to only ten an especially difficult task this time around. As Sleaze Roxx has traditionally done in the past, live albums (except last year), greatest hits collections and re-issues are all not eligible for the Sleaze Roxx top ten albums of the year but just like last year, EPs consisting of three songs or more were considered. A couple of weeks ago, I made a stack of all the albums (and mental notes for digital releases) that I thought should make it into the top ten and to my dismay, there were over twenty of them and a few added themselves into the mix in the last few weeks. It was certainly a pleasure revisiting all these albums but at the same time somewhat heartbreaking not to be able to include them all in the top ten. Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015.
Mach22 have proven that playing great rock n’ roll does not have to be complicated. Mixing classic guitar riffs from the son of Cinderella‘s Jeff LaBar (Sebastian LaBar), a strong rhythm section, the soulful vocals of Living Colour‘s Corey Glover reincarnated Lamont Caldwell and a willingness to take a few risks on certain songs like Van Halen would do in their prime turns out to be a winning formula. Mach22 are definitely the beneficiaries of Sleaze Roxx opening up its albums of the year list to shorter EPs given that there are only six songs on Like My Chances. The sky’s the limit for Mach22. Unfortunately, bassist Jaron Gulino did not apparently think so as he parted ways with the band less than four months after the EP’s release. Whatever the case, Like My Chances is definitely worth checking out.
Essential Tracks: “Still Standing”, “Like My Chances” and “Get Ready”
I have got to say a big thank you to my friend Mark who for at least a couple of months was always inquiring whether I had checked out Canadian rockers The Wild!‘s debut album. Due to my friend’s consistent, determined and gentle “pestering,” I eventually bought The Wild!‘s debut album GxDxWxB and I was simply blown away. Throwing virtually all caution to the wind, The Wild! delivered a rambunctious sleaze and hillbilly filled dose of rock n’ roll, which grabs you by the throat and never lets up. While there are definitely some AC/DC influences on The Wild!‘s debut album, the Canadian rockers take the AC/DC foundations to the next level in a crazy filled yet bluesy melodic way. This was definitely the surprise album of the year and The Wild! will no doubt have a very difficult act to follow on their next album.
Essential Tracks: “Party ‘Til You’Re Dead”, “Slow Burn” and “Roadhouse”
I almost feel like I have to apologize to Diemonds for not giving them a more overwhelming positive review for their Never Wanna Die album. You might be surprised to see that Diemonds‘ third album Never Wanna Die gets one of the top spots for the year if you were to read my review of their new album. The reasons why my initial review was not over the top positive were that the guitar sounds were definitely “modernized” a little bit and I couldn’t help but compare it to its predecessor The Bad Pack which I absolutely love. However, as the months passed by, I warmed up considerably to the more “modern” guitar tones on Never Wanna Die to the point that it has been one of the most played releases of the year for me. From start to finish, it is definitely one of the most consistent, badass and sleaziest releases of the year.
Essential Tracks: “Meet Your Maker”, “Ain’t That Kinda Girl”, “Save Your Life”
If you’re longing for that ’80s sound, look no further than Snakebite who delivered one of the year’s strongest records full of melody, catchy hooks and that certain European flair with Dominik “Nikki” Wagner‘s singing. There’s probably nothing that you have not heard before at some point on Snakebite‘s Princess Of Pain but the group puts everything together in a strong package and if you like one song, odds are you will like them all. For whatever reason, I really like Wagner‘s voice and it’s almost hard to believe that he wasn’t even the lead singer in his prior band. Germany is well represented and has a bright future in the hard rock scene with Snakebite at the helm. Interestingly, the German rockers have shied away from the “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” mantra opting for more positive uplifting messages.
Essential Tracks: “Road To Nowhere”, “Bound To Lose” and “All Or Nothing”
For the longest time in 2015, Lady Beast‘s sophomore effort, the aptly named Lady Beast II, was going to be the top record on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015. Lady Beast II is definitely my most played album in 2015 and my fingers can’t help but start playing air guitar when those Iron Maiden like guitar riffs, melodies and harmonies emanate from every track. Sure, some may say that Lady Beast‘s brand of heavy metal is not exactly “sleaze” rock and more like traditionally old school heavy metal but whatever the case, it is an absolutely phenomenal album from start to finish. While you might expect some screaming type vocals over the classic heavy metal music barrage produced on Lady Beast II, lead female vocalist Deborah Levine sings rather than screams on all tracks making for an interesting contrast.
Essential Tracks: “Heavy Metal Destiny”, “Lose To Win” and “Bind The Ruins”
You might be thinking what is a rock opera album doing here? Well, Sleaze Roxx has always been about more than just “sleaze” type music and it’s not just any rock opera. It’s one spearheaded by the amazing powerhouse singer Jorn Lande. While Lande has a lot of solo releases under his belt, it seems that whenever he steps away from his solo career to collaborate with other musicians, the results can sometimes be incredible. Lande‘s two first albums with Masterplan were spectacular and his collaboration with guitarist Trond Holter (who ironically played on Lande‘s last solo effort Traveller) is more of the same. New Sleaze Roxx writer Eduardo recommended Swing Of Death to me and while Eduardo‘s broad taste in music often does not mesh with my admittedly restrictive taste in music, this is one album that we both agree on.
Essential Tracks: “Hands Of Your God”, “Walking On Water” and “Masquerade Ball”
When a group has fourteen studio albums under its belt, has been around for thirty plus years and has recently replaced its long-time lead vocalist, one might expect and accept that this band will never be able to recapture the magic of its glory days. This definitely does not apply to Queensrÿche who have produced one of the best albums of their career, if not the best, with their latest studio album Condition Hüman. While it is debatable whether Queensrÿche have come up with their best album ever with Condition Hüman, it is the group’s best since Empire. Two key ingredients are the return to that vintage Queensrÿche, which the group simply could not recapture with Geoff Tate in the fold, and the amazing vocal pipes of new lead vocalist Todd LaTorre who has injected new life into the band.
Essential Tracks: “Arrow Of Time”, “Guardian” and “Toxic Remedy”
As soon as I heard the opening guitar riff for the first track “Shoot Em Up” on Lionsault‘s debut album and having already seen the video for the Canadian group’s first single “Living With The Devil” — I knew that I would likely really like what the band had to offer. My first impressions were confirmed as Lionsault delivered what is very difficult to do — a great record mixing classic rock and ’80s sounds with more modern rock. Reminding me at times of Halestorm before they lost their way with Into The Wild Life, the trio that comprise Lionsault seem to have the total package with the bombastic drumming of Chase Nichols, the killer riffs from guitarist Taylor Sheasgreen and the young sounding but powerful vocals of singer/bassist Kortini Nichols. Lionsault are definitely a band to watch for in the future.
Essential Tracks: “Shoot Em Up”, “Living With The Devil” and “Counting Down”
With the exception of Accept, Stryper is the only band that I can think of which is recently coming up with better — yes, I said better — music than back in their glory days. After releasing the stellar No More Hell To Pay in 2013, Stryper have done it again with Fallen this year. It helps of course that Stryper have seemingly gone a heavier direction on a lot of their songs ditching the almost pop rock of their ’80s heyday material for real heavy metal riffs and screams. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Stryper‘s lead vocalist Michael Sweet undoubtedly still has a phenomenal voice. It’s also great to have the classic Stryper band line-up playing together which undoubtedly produces a special chemistry. Like a fine wine, the Christian rockers Stryper just seem to continually get better with age.
Essential Tracks: “Yahweh”, “Pride” and “Love You Like I Do”
It came down to the wire. There had to be at least ten albums seriously vying for the tenth spot of the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015 but a newcomer to me just came in and “stole” the last spot. I have to thank Sleaze Roxx writer Fat Peter for doing a review of Devil’s Train‘s sophomore album II with only three days left in 2015. One listen of Devil’s Train‘s II confirmed that this was a great album that had to be considered as one of the year’s best. These Devil’s Train guys play some serious ass kicking, no holds barred and relentless rock n’ roll. Including two cover songs (“Born To Be Wild” and “Immigrant Song”) seems almost unnecessary given the quality of the group’s own original material on II. What more can be said? Just another fantastic sleaze rock band emanating from Europe.
Essential Tracks: “Down On You”, “Gimme Love” and “Girl Like You”