HRH Mag Editor Simon Rushworth wasn’t expecting much from 2016 as far as new music was concerned but his pessimism was wildly misplaced. Here he wraps up a vintage year for rock and metal.
1. The Answer – Solas (Napalm)
Solas could be their best yet. It’s brave. It’s buoyant. It’s bloody brilliant. Shades of The Answer’s past colour tunes like Being Begotten (check out Paul Mahon’s emotive intro.) and the Thin Lizzy-inspired Left Me Standing but this sensational record serves up a kaleidoscope of brand new takes on the band’s high definition past.
2. Marillion – (Fuck Everyone And Run) FEAR (earMUSIC)
The very antithesis of the download age, FEAR is an album that demands commitment and a record that must be experienced in one sitting. Its momentum builds and the dazzling denouement nears – thought-provoking set closer Tomorrow’s New Country (part six of The Leavers) hinting at a better future following the band’s take on a disturbing present-day scenario.
3. Megadeth – Dystopia (T-Boy Records)
Dystopia offers further proof that Dave Mustaine has rediscovered his mojo and revamped the perfect platform for his sneering, cutting and increasingly prophetic comment on modern/future society. The riffs are huge, the vocals are reassuringly sure-footed and the lyrical content is deeply immersive. Opener The Threat Is Real kicks things off in foreboding fashion before the title track develops a disturbingly tense theme.
4. The Temperance Movement – White Bear (Earache)
Sonically it’s an ambitious, grandiose affair. Guitarists Paul Sayer and (the now departed) Luke Potashnick scale sensational new heights with an array of blues-based experimental tones that reference Southern Rock to jazz and everything in between. Not so much a change in musical direction, this is a natural continuation of The Temperance Movement’s journey towards complete creative freedom. No boundaries, no barriers – their route is clear.
5. Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre (Spinefarm)
Purson are bold, bright and dare to be different. They don’t sound like any new band (albeit they sound like plenty of old ones) we’ve seen lately and they look like extras out of an ill-advised Austin Powers sequel. Even so Rosalie Cunningham and co. are, quite simply, the most exciting British band on the planet right now.
6. Alcatrazz – The Ultmate Fortress Box Set (Store For Music)
Although Alcatrazz provided Graham Bonnet with the perfect post-Rainbow/MSG platform, the real treasure within this jam-packed box set comes courtesy of two guitarists who would go on to rule the world of riffs. At their peak – with Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai firing on all cylinders – Alcatrazz were sensational. Thirty years later theirs is still a mysterious story of what might have been…
7. Tempt – Runaway (Rock Candy)
Scrutinise Runaway’s credits and one name will resonate with any fan of classic 80s hair metal: Michael Wagener. The German’s production credits include Extreme’s Pornograffitti, Dokken’s Breaking The Chains, White Lion’s Pride and Warrant’s Dog Eat Dog. Tempt’s shimmering debut harnesses the super smooth sound underpinning all of the above and more but Runaway is no dated dud. Thanks to Wagener’s mixing and mastering it’s a strikingly modern take on a genre that steadfastly refuses to go out of fashion.
8. Massive Wagons – Welcome To The World (Pledge Music)
Anyone who witnessed the full power of Massive Wagons on the Off Yer Rocka On The Road tour won’t need convincing that this band could become the engine room of British rock. Welcome To The World packs lorry loads of heavy riffs, singalong choruses and thumping bass lines in the mould of classic homegrown heroes The Almighty, Wolfsbane, Black Spiders and The Answer.
9. Metal Church – XI (Nuclear Blast)
The first Metal Church album in 23 years to feature vocalist Mike Howe demands attention. And within minutes it’s clear this is no lame bid to cash in on the band’s ‘classic era’ – XI is fast, furious, focused and every bit as good as Blessing In Disguise and The Human Factor.
10. Inglorious – Inglorious (Frontiers)
Not since Northern Ireland’s The Answer has a British band threatened to take the classic rock world by the scuff of its neck and wear the blues-soaked roots of an enduring genre as a bold badge of honour. Inglorious are the most exciting homegrown act to emerge in a decade. No doubt.
11. Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By (Fantasy/Concord)
The creative melting pot that is Jacksonville collective Tedeschi Trucks Band could well have peaked with this quite brilliant feast of countrified rock and soul. Bubbling under since the criminally ignored (on this side of the Pond, at least) release of 2013’s sparkling Made Up Mind, this should be the record that propels TTB into rock’s big leagues.
12. Big Boy Bloater & The Limits – Luxury Hobo (Provogue)
Rarely does an album boast the raw power to make the most grizzled of cynics sit up and take notice within minutes – before blowing away the rock and roll cobwebs with brazen efficiency. Luxury Hobo might be the product of Bloater’s battle with depression but it’s the most uplifting, soulful and catchy thing we’ve heard all year.
12. Black Stone Cherry – Kentucky (Mascot)
….and breathe. After the Cherry bomb that was Magic Mountain, the brilliant BSC are back with an album that evokes memories of 2006’s hard-hitting debut and reaffirms the band’s position at the front of the classic rock pack. The gospel-tinged, ZZ Top-influenced Soul Machine might just become the biggest hit Black Stone Cherry have ever enjoyed but it’s surrounded by the kind of blues-tinged, countryfied Southern Rock that made the quartet such a big deal a decade ago.
14. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (Nuclear Blast)
That Death Angel close this monstrous celebration of magnificent modern thrash metal with the punishing Let The Pieces Fall is deliciously ironic. It’s what the Bay Area legends have always done: never for them a concerted effort to jump aboard the latest bandwagon, a continue at all costs mindset or a desire to chase the impossible dream. Slaves to destiny, Death Angel’s story is one of triumph over adversity and trusting in fate – and it’s all the better for it.
15. The Quireboys – Twisted Love (Off Yer Rocka)
Is there a more remarkable comeback story than that charting the Quireboys’ second coming? As guitarist Guy Griffin freely admits within the Twisted Love sleeve notes, those willing to support the band’s revival were few and far between in 2001: 15 years down the line and these never-say-die warriors are fighting fit, firing on all cylinders and leading a whole new army of fans towards rock and roll nirvana.
16. Suicide By Tigers – Suicide By Tigers (Smilodon)
Opener Death On Your Trail is both dark and enlightening. It offers an early flavour of the mouthwatering treats to come and introduces frontman and lyricist Nils Lindström as a seriously intriguing individual. Often echoing Glenn Hughes at his incendiary best, the convincing Scandinavian boasts a range made for reprising blues rock’s rich aural history.
17. Rival Sons – Hollow Bones (Earache)
Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday have never lacked confidence – let’s get that straight right now. But Hollow Bones sees the Sons’ charismatic singer and sparkling lead guitarist freshly emboldened – exploring every facet of their favourite genre without any fear that they may have gone too far.
18. Buffalo Summer – Second Sun (UDR)
Frontman Andrew Hunt still sounds remarkably like Toby Jepson – especially on the horn-infused Little Charles – but he’s added a deeper, bluesier tone to much of his band’s best work here. Buffalo Summer launch their bid to become the UK’s answer to Rival Sons on bullish opener Money and the stirring Levitate is a power ballad par excellence.
19. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self Destruct (Blackened)
With Hardwired…To Self Destruct the biggest band in metal have finally delivered an album to match the hype. Think …And Justice For All‘s focused noise married with the Black Album‘s slick commercialism and Death Magnetic‘s renewed urgency – this is not another Master Of Puppets but it’s the best Metallica can muster these days.
20. Blackberry Smoke – Like An Arrow (Earache)
Opener Waiting For The Thunder is perfect for ushering in one of 2016’s most anticipated releases but it’s a little misleading. One of the heavier tunes here it doesn’t pre-empt a record built on bombast – Like An Arrow is far more subtle than that and allows Blackberry Smoke to explore their softer side.