Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2016
Welcome to the twelfth edition of Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year.
It’s been a banner year for Sleaze Roxx in terms of production. Thanks in large part to the contributions of new and old Sleaze Roxx contributors, Sleaze Roxx achieved record numbers in terms of interviews, concert reviews and CD/DVD reviews. In addition, Sleaze Roxx posted its fourth highest total in terms of News articles and its highest total since 2010.
Despite Sleaze Roxx doing a record 296 CD/DVD reviews in 2016 (with a good portion admittedly being retro reviews), which is more than 100 from last year’s previous record total, there are still many album releases in 2016 that Sleaze Roxx has not got to and frankly probably will never get to. That is how much music — some of quality, some not — that is coming out these days in a world where just about anyone can release a music record.
Although there is seemingly more music to listen to than ever before and certainly way more readily available than back in the ’80s hair metal heyday, I am not sure if that has translated into more better music. What I am sure of though is that the bands or artists that “made it big” twenty five to thirty years ago are having for the most part a hard time coming up with albums that are as good as “back in the day” and the best music is often being made by newer hungrier “do it yourself” bands that are often without a label behind them.
Coming up with the top ten albums of this year was surprisingly not as difficult this year as last year. I think part of it is that there were a lot of good albums released in 2016 but not that many “great” ones. Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx‘s Top Ten Albums of 2016.
p.s.: Don’t forget to cast your vote for the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2016.
This is the surprise album of the year by far for me. Crashdïet‘s guitarist Martin Sweet stepped into the spotlight as the frontman for his project Sweet Creature and simply delivered an absolutely brilliant album. The funny part about the songs on The Devil Knows My Name is that most, if not all, were released individually for streaming before the album was even released. I remember not being overly impressed with any of the tracks but something magical seemed to happen when I listened to all the songs on the album at once. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed Sweet Creature‘s The Devil Knows My Name that I played it right after one of my favorite albums and after each of the albums in the list below, and time and time again, it has measured up and emerged as Sleaze Roxx‘s top album of the year. I get that this album is probably not going to resonate with everyone and I am not sure how well the songs will translate live but if you like the brilliance of eclectic classic early ’70s era Alice Cooper albums coupled with a much much better version of Sixx:A.M., you’re going to love The Devil Knows My Name.
This is one time where the output actually matched the hype. Prior to hearing Tango Down‘s Bulletproof, I kept reading how great the album was and how it was one of the best records of the year. As it turns out, that is indeed the case. Not many bands could survive having four different lead vocalists when they have only released five albums, let alone thrive under such circumstances, but Tango Down have proven that it is worth making the changes to get it right. I don’t know who recruited lead vocalist Chas West (Lynch Mob, Red Dragon Cartel, Resurrection Kings) into the band. Perhaps it’s the principal (John Kivel) of Tango Down‘s long-time record label Kivel Records or guitarist Scott Miller himself, but whatever the case, it was a great move and the end result is an amazing album that reminds me of the magic that can be heard on Whitesnake‘s self-titled blockbuster album in 1987. Bulletproof is filled with melodies, catchy hooks and stellar harmonies, and is a must have album for 2016. Given the band’s musical carousel history in terms of lead singers, I really hope that we will get at least one more Tango Down album with West handling the lead vocals.
One of the most consistent, if not the most consistent, band emanating in the last ten years is Airbourne. Content not to reinvent the wheel, Airbourne have stuck time and time again to their faster brand of simple three chord AC/DC rock with great success. The same ingredients that catapulted Airbourne to #1 on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2007 with their debut album Runnin’ Wild are the same things that have gotten their fourth studio album Breakin’ Outta Hell at #3 for this year’s list. A model of consistency, Airbourne are the only band in Sleaze Roxx‘s history to chart all four of their first albums onto Sleaze Roxx‘s year end best of list. With a mantra of “no ballads, no bullshit”, Airbourne have simply delivered another great album that deserves to be played cranked up to the max. Is Breakin’ Outta Hell Airbourne‘s best album ever? The funny thing is that it’s probably not but the lack of really great albums in 2016 ensures that Breakin’ Outta Hell is strong enough to finish in Sleaze Roxx‘s top three albums of 2016.
It’s always difficult replacing the voice of a band but The Treatment have proven that this can be successfully and smoothly done. After charting their first album This Might Hurt at #5 on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2011, The Treatment are back in the top ten but with new lead vocalist Michael Emms taking over the reigns from singer Matt Jones. Throw in that long-time guitarist Tagore Grey‘s little brother Tao Grey is handling the other guitarist’s duties and you have some significant line-up changes yet The Treatment have been able to not skip a beat with their latest album Generation Me. I lump The Treatment with bands like Eclipse and H.E.A.T who are consistently generating some of the best music of the last ten years yet are not getting their just due to the timing with when their music is coming out. Generation Me cements UK rockers The Treatment as one of the best most consistent new bands of the last ten years. With youth seemingly still on their side, it appears that we should be getting at least a few more albums from The Treatment in the future.
Löve Razër have the distinction of having the shortest album ever to chart on Sleaze Roxx‘s year ending top albums list. With more and more bands releasing EPs these days, it made sense to allow EPs to qualify for the Sleaze Roxx‘s year end best of lists in the last few years. Despite only having three songs, Löve Razër‘s debut EP Rock ‘N’ Roll Addiction made a big impression on many including myself and Sleaze Roxx writer Mark Hovarth. There is no question that Rock ‘N’ Roll Addiction has a very raw feel to it but that is part of the EP’s brilliance. It’s a simple, no frills, sleazy slab of music that just makes me pine for more. Of note, Löve Razër‘s debut single “First Class Bitch” ended up on Sleaze Roxx’s Ten Great Songs from 2016 (thus far) and may well be the sleaze anthem of the year. With Löve Razër playing lots of new material during their many gigs throughout the province of Ontario and beyond in Canada in the last six months, a full length album will be hopefully coming sooner rather than later. Löve Razër are definitely a band to watch out for in 2017.
There’s nothing pretty about American Bombshell‘s debut album No Regrets. It is simply an in your face, dirty, sleazy, rocking album. Again, I was aware of the group’s video for the song “No Regrets” yet that did not resonate that much with me. Luckily, American Bombshell sent a physical copy of their album to the Sleaze Roxx headquarters and despite the odd album cover, all I could say was “Wow”! What a great album. American Bombshell kept the pedal to the metal in a relentless fashion on No Regrets. In a way, American Bombshell‘s debut album reminds me of the now defunct 21st Century Goliath‘s debut album Radio Destroyer, which came out in 2012 and was also full of piss and vinegar while throwing caution to the wind. Out of the albums on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2016, the one that I think will be the most difficult to follow up will be American Bombshell‘s No Regrets because I suspect that the natural inclination may be to slow things down a bit for the sophomore album just like 21st Century Goliath unfortunately did as well. In any case, only time will tell.
It’s almost unfair to think of Aussie rockers, The Black Aces, as a poor man’s Airbourne but the reality is that there are many similarities between the two with the obvious AC/DC influences. The Black Aces are like a raw version of Airbourne with a lot less polish and that can be a good thing. However, unlike their countrymen, The Black Aces have not experienced near the same level of success or hype as Airbourne did with their debut album Runnin’ Wild. That is a shame because odds are that if you like Airbourne, you’ll also like The Black Aces. One distinguishing feature for The Black Aces is that the band has a father-son tandem in that bassist Alex McMillan is drummer Pete McMillan‘s father. I am not sure what is in Australia’s water these days but there are just tons of great bands emanating from that country. The Black Aces‘ Shot In The Dark album never lets up from start to finish, and is simply a solid album all the way through. It will be interesting to see if The Black Aces are able to come up with a worthy follow up album.
One wise music scholar once shared with me his theory that a musician or band usually only has three “great” albums under his/her belt and it looks like The Dead Daisies‘ lead vocalist John Corabi has just met his quota with the group’s new album Make Some Noise and after previously being a part of The Scream‘s debut album Let It Scream (1991) and Mötley Crüe‘s first post-Vince Neil self-titled album (1994). The Dead Daisies have simply hit the nail on the head with Make Some Noise, which is full of timeless and mostly upbeat rockers. The addition of guitarist Doug Aldrich seems to have been exactly what The Dead Daisies needed to take things to the next level. Given the high quality of the original compositions on Make Some Noise, I am still somewhat perplexed that the band felt the urge or need to cover two fairly mainstream songs — Creedance Clearwater Revival‘s “Fortunate Son” and The Who‘s “Join Together” — which I think was totally unnecessary. Clearly, The Dead Daisies do not need to rely anymore on covering anyone else’ songs.
I have to give a big thank you to Sleaze Roxx contributor Mark Hovarth who continuously finds virtually unknown bands that he brings to Sleaze Roxx‘s attention. What distinguishes Hovarth from others is that two of his recommendations (Löve Razër and Skärlet) have albums finishing in the Sleaze Roxx‘s Top Ten Albums of 2016. Who would have known that the relatively small country (population wise) of Australia would have three different entries in Sleaze Roxx‘s Top Ten Albums of 2016. What distinguishes Skärlet from Airbourne and The Black Aces is that the former has more of a Skid Row meets Guns N’ Roses sound than AC/DC. Apparently firmly intent on staying as Australia‘s best kept secret, it’s pretty tough to find anything on the internet about the band including any YouTube videos. Whatever the case, Skärlet‘s self-titled debut album is full of ’80s sounding guitar riffs and melodies that will transport you back in time to the glory days of hair metal and make you wonder how these young lads were likely not even born yet during that golden musical era.
This is another surprise entry for me in the Sleaze Roxx‘s Top Ten Albums of 2016. For whatever reasons, I had low expectations for Bulletrain‘s latest album What You Fear The Most but upon listening to it, I realized that here is yet another Swedish group delivering the goods in spades! What distinguishes What You Fear The Most from the other albums on this year end list is the diversity of the material on the album. You have the faster paced songs such as “Fight With Me” and “Feed The Fire” to a ballad such as the pretty “We Salute You.” Bulletrain singer Sebastian Sundberg has quite the range to his voice and might just be the next Rob Halford! Bulletrain have been around for more than ten years and obviously are getting better and better with time as What You Fear The Most is the group’s crowning achievement to date. It will be interesting to see how Bulletrain follow up What You Fear The Most and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long in that regard.