Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021
Welcome to the 17th edition of the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year!
2021 was a tough year all around for the music business and Sleaze Roxx as well. I have to say that going into 2021, I thought that this would be a year when the new releases would be a lot higher than in years past. Of course, this was on the assumption that the world would have overcome the Covid pandemic by now but as I write this, the Omnicron virus is creating record number of Covid cases around the world (although less hospitalizations) and pushing many countries to implement or re-implement more social restrictions, which of course impacts the music industry in a major way. As it turns out, the amount of new releases — that Sleaze Roxx would usually cover — declined a little bit in 2021 compared to the last three years. The decline wasn’t by much as Sleaze Roxx promoted 172 new releases in 2021 compared to 181 to 182 in the three years prior.
The amount of CD/DVD reviewed by Sleaze Roxx in 2021 dropped from 172 to 131, which I attribute to some apathy from certain Sleaze Roxx writers including at times, myself! What I have come to realize over the Covid pandemic is that attending concerts is what fuels my music passion and the lack of concerts to attend (my last one dates back to a pre-Covid pandemic concert from Geoff Tate in Buffalo, New York, USA on February 23, 2020) has dampened my enthusiasm somewhat with respect to music in general. The good news is that I have a bunch of concerts to look forward to and attend in 2022 (including Alice Cooper, Chris Holmes, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Stephen Pearcy) and hopefully those concerts won’t get postponed, and in some cases, for a third time. With the majority of Sleaze Roxx writers based in North America, it was definitely a tough year for Sleaze Roxx in terms of concert reviews (only 15 compared to for example, 65 in 2019). The lack of concerts has also resulted in less news to cover since there aren’t as many tours to announce and many artists (such as Sleaze Roxx favourites Airbourne and The Wild!) seem to be laying low or perhaps waiting to see how long that the Covid pandemic lingers before releasing new material. Funny enough, my main method of listening to music has been significantly curtailed due to the Covid pandemic since my commuting (to and from work) and driving in general has been drastically reduced since March 2020 with the “work from home” mandates.
I am very grateful for some of Sleaze Roxx‘s contemporaries and in particular Vinyl Writer Music, The Metal Voice and the 80’s Glam Metalcast podcast who consistently provided full interviews or transcribed excerpts from their splendid interviews for Sleaze Roxx to convert into “news” articles. Without these podcasts / websites conducting their interesting interviews — and there are many other fine journalists, websites and podcasts whose interviews from which Sleaze Roxx derives “news” articles from — I would think that there would be a lot of slow “news” days at Sleaze Roxx. A big thank you goes out to all of the photographers that allowed Sleaze Roxx to use their professional photos with a particular shout out to Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography, Joe Schaeffer Photography and Christopher Lee Helton.
But enough about how tough that 2021 was on the music industry (and Sleaze Roxx) as a whole. There were many great albums released this year and I am thrilled to keep the tradition going with the 17th edition of the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year. Just like in previous years, although an album may not have been reviewed (yet) on Sleaze Roxx, it does not mean that it wasn’t listened to and considered for the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021.
Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021.
p.s.: Don’t forget to cast your vote for the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2021.
I really didn’t want to pick Eclipse again for the top spot but the Swedish rockers have simply come up with the best album of the year for the second time in three years. Unlike 2019 when I really debated in my mind whether Paradigm should edge out Stripwired‘s Another Shot for the top spot on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten albums of 2019, this time around, after only a few listens of Wired, I pretty much knew that Eclipse would be taking the #1 spot in 2021. In a way, Eclipse made it easy for me as for the last six months or so before the release of Wired, I was constantly debating subconsciously whether Kickin Valentina and The Treatment had released the best album of 2021. Just like with Paradigm with its first single “Viva La Victoria”, Eclipse came out swinging ahead of the release of Wired with the exceptional lead off single “Saturday Night (Hallelujah).” The great songs did not stop there though on Wired as Eclipse also came up with the ballad of the year (in my opinion) with “Carved In Stone” as well as more singalong classics such as “Dying Breed”, “We Didn’t Come To Lose” and “Things We Love.” Granted, Eclipse‘s Wired is quite similar to Paradigm but when the wheel ain’t broken, why fix it? Will Eclipse‘s next studio album be the third consecutive record from the band to top the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year? At this point, I am not betting against it. If you could only purchase one album in 2021, Eclipse‘s Wired is the album to pick up.
Eclipse‘s “Saturday Night (Hallelujah)” video:
It’s hard enough for a band to replace its lead vocalist but getting to the next level with your new singer is even more difficult! Only a few bands have been able to take it to that next level after replacing a well established singer. AC/DC achieved the feat when they replaced their deceased iconic frontman Bon Scott with Brian Johnson and ended up releasing the second highest selling album of all-time with Back In Black. Iron Maiden were able to do it as well when they replaced Paul Di’Anno with Bruce Dickinson and released their sublime album The Number of The Beast. Kickin Valentina are the latest to replace their lead vocalist and come up with their strongest and best album to date with The Revenge of Rock. Granted, Kickin Valentina did have a bit of a false start since Brian Bezotte, their first replacement for Joe Edwards, lasted less than six months but they eventually found their man (former Jetboy frontman DK Revelle) to take them to that next level. Kickin Valentina‘s EP Chaos In Copenhagen gave us a taste of what was to come with Revelle at the helm. However, the band has simply taken it up a few notches with the more accessible and melodic material on The Revenge To Rock that will have you singing along in no time.
Kickin Valentina‘s “Somebody New” video:
It’s not every day that you can say that a band that is on its fifth studio album has come up wth its best record but that’s exactly what The Treatment have done with Waiting For Good Luck. This album is actually the one I played the most during 2021 and I had it pencilled at #1 (along with Kickin Valentina‘s The Revenge of Rock) for the longest time until Eclipse came along. It just seems that everything lined up perfectly for The Treatment on Waiting For Good Luck from the great guitar riffs such as on “Rat Race” and “Wrong Way” to the seemingly perfect track for the corporate world (“Let’s Make Money”) to the piano infused “Barman.” Although I liked what I heard from singer Tom Rampton on his first album with The Treatment (2019’s Power Crazy), there was just something missing with his vocals on that record. This time around, Rampton simply put on a terrific performance as his singing on Waiting For Good Luck really brings the songs to life. Unfortunately, Waiting For Good Luck probably didn’t get the push that it deserved since the band’s touring plans in support of the album seemed somewhat limited due to the ongoing Covid pandemic but the band did get the opportunity to open for Fozzy during the latter’s recent UK tour. In any case, The Treatment released one of the best albums of 2021 and if you like catchy at times but mostly well played rock n’ roll with some great melodies, this is the album to pick up.
The Treatment‘s “Rat Race” video:
Spanish rockers BlackØwl are the surprise of the year for me. As I was writing this, I was wondering how I became aware of BlackØwl in the first place but upon reviewing my review of their album, I realized that it’s none other than Sleaze Roxx reader Roger Miranda (also known as Jherson Roger Miranda) who once again made a recommendation that made the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year. Previous recommendations made by Miranda include Overdrivers‘ She’s On Her Period (#3 in 2018) and Prospect‘s Rock ‘N’ Roll Beats And Electric Guitars (#6 in 2019). In any case, Miranda did it again. If you like AC/DC with Brian Johnson at the helm, odds are that you will simply love BlackØwl. I know that Sleaze Roxx readers really liked AC/DC‘s latest album Power Up since it finished at #2 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2020, but BlackØwl have, in my humble opinion, delivered the album that you really want to hear from AC/DC. Tracks such as “Smoking Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Napoli Street” and “Welcome To Rockerdale” are absolute scorchers and I already can’t wait to see what BlackØwl come up with on their next album.
BlackØwl‘s “Smoking Rock’N’Roll” video:
One band that I never expected to figure on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten albums of 2021 is Madman’s Lullaby. It’s not that I didn’t like them. It’s simply that I was really not familiar with them and whatever songs that I had heard in the past had not impressed me that much. Madman’s Lullaby actually originate all the way back to 2007 and they have released quite a few albums with Unchain My Soul (2007), New Beginning (2010), Unhinged (2013) and Sins of Greed (2017). Earlier this year, I agreed to have Sleaze Roxx premiere the video for Madman’s Lullaby‘s debut single “In Your Mind” off their latest EP Nocturnal Overdrive Pt. 1. I liked the song but it wasn’t until I put the entire EP for a spin that I sat up and took notice. Madman’s Lullaby can seemingly play all types of songs really well from their scorching “Next Show” to their mid-tempo rockers such as “In Your Mind” to their beautiful acoustic ballad “Love Don’t Come Easy.” The guitar work throughout the EP from band founder / lead guitarist Mr. Brett is absolutely stellar and I simply can’t wait for Nocturnal Overdrive Part 2 to be released.
Madman’s Lullaby‘s “Love Don’t Come Easy” track:
I readily admit that Crazy Lixx have had a tough time when it comes to cracking the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year since I have taken over as Sleaze Roxx‘s editor-in-chief more than six years ago. The Swedish rockers’ first three albums finished in the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year with Loud Minority at #2 in 2017, New Religion at 9 in 2010 and Riot Avenue at #4 in 2012. Then all of a sudden, Crazy Lixx‘s next three albums — Crazy Lixx (2014), Ruff Justice (2017) and Forever Wild (2019) — couldn’t crack Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year but that unfortunate streak has ended with this year’s Street Lethal. As soon as I heard the first single “Anthem For America”, I knew that Crazy Lixx could likely not be denied this time around. The guys had a powerful anthem on their hands and all they had to do was come up with some other good songs on Street Lethal, and that’s exactly what they did. Other favourites of mine off Street Lethal include the opening track “Rise Above” and the Def Leppard sounding “In The Middle of Nothing.”
Crazy Lixx‘s “Anthem For America” video:
With Airbourne on an extended hiatus both presence wise and when it comes to delivering great faster paced AC/DC styled albums (due to the disappointing Boneshaker in 2019), Overdrivers have stepped up, taking the gauntlet and simply running away with it for the last three or four years. Overdrivers‘ second studio album She’s On Her Period finished at #3 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2018 and had the group released more than a three-song EP this time around, odds are that they would have finished near the top of this year’s edition. Apparently mindful of how difficult it would be to promote a full-length studio album during the Covid pandemic but not willing to hibernate away such as some other bands until the pandemic subsides, Overdrivers elected to release their three-song EP Rock Out! last summer. Two of the three tracks on the EP are simply fantastic with the speedy “You Cheated On Me” and the easy to sing along to “Factory.” Interestingly, earlier this month, it was announced that bassist Sébastien Lorquet elected to part ways with the band so hopefully, the new bassist (once found) will not alter the group’s chemistry in a negative fashion.
Overdrivers‘ “You Cheated On Me” video:
Guitarist K.K. Downing has proven with KK’s Priest‘s debut album Sermons of The Sinner that he really was an integral part of Judas Priest‘s songwriting team (along with Glenn Tipton and Rob Halford). Sermons of The Sinner is simply a pure heavy metal triumph. It helps that Downing enlisted the help from his former Priest bandmate Tim “Ripper” Owens, which has turned out to be the best album of the singer’s career. There are definitely many great tracks on Sermons of The Sinner from the fast and furious single “Hellfire Thunderbolt” to the more unheralded tracks such as “Metal Through And Through” and “Wild And Free.” There is what I consider to be one misstep with the closing track “Return of The Sentinel” simply paling to “The Sentinel” from Judas Priest’s Defenders of The Faith (1984). I could have easily lived without that final track and had it not been included on Sermons of The Sinner, I would have likely ranked the album even higher. In any case, Downing has proven that he still has a lot of game, which makes you wonder why the guitarist couldn’t have worked out whatever issues were troubling him with Tipton back in 2011 so that he could still be riding high with Judas Priest. At the end of the day, it might be better to continue having Downing out of the Judas Priest line-up since each faction seems to be coming up with better albums without the other. One must not forget that Downing‘s last studio album with Judas Priest was the rather disappointing Nostradamus in 2008.
KK’s Priest‘s “Brothers of The Road” video:
Temple Balls‘ third studio album Pyromide highlights the problems that the Covid pandemic has caused for so many new record releases. It is simply so difficult for a band to promote a new album without the ability to play concerts. Two videos for the songs “Thunder From the North” and “T.O.T.C.” were released in advance of Pyromide (that saw the light of day on April 16, 2021) and there was one more lyric video for the track “What Is Dead Never Dies” that came out on the album release date. The band members were giving interviews to various media outlets including Sleaze Roxx prior to and around the time of the album release. However, once Pyromide was out for a few weeks, the promotional push behind the album seemed to suddenly stop. Temple Balls bassist Jimi Välikangas was cognizant of the problem since when I asked him in early May 2021 what were the band’s plans to promote Pyromide, he replied: “To be honest, I don’t know. I guess we try to be more active on social media and stuff, but heavy metal belongs on the stage. We write new stuff and hope that this shit is over as soon as possible.” Unfortunately, this has resulted in Pyromide likely not getting the recognition that it deserves and had the album been at the forefront a little more and I hadn’t forgotten about it for six months or so, I think that it could have finished even higher on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021.
Temple Balls‘ “T.O.T.C.” video:
To be fair, the tenth selection for the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021 has switched so many times over. I must have had at least five different album covers put up but eventually, I “settled” for Iron Maiden‘s latest studio album Senjutsu. While there were many albums vying for that last spot, the veteran heavy metal rockers were the only ones whose song quality didn’t drop off after a few stellar songs and they also had what I consider to be one killer track (“The Writing On The Wall”). All of the other albums that I considered for that last spot had some songs that I just didn’t quite like even if there might have been three to four standout songs. Iron Maiden are long past their glory days when it comes to their studio albums but on Senjutsu, they have come up with a strong album and easily their best since 2003’s Dance of Death. Bruce Dickinson still has his vocal chops at the age of 63 and this is one album that I can play from start to finish without skipping any songs. It’s also one of those albums that you discover something new every time that you listen to it. Up the irons!
Iron Maiden‘s “The Writing On The Wall” video: