Friday, January 11, 2019

THE 2018 GLITZnGUTZ AWARDS (aka THE TOP 18 OF 2018)!!!

Yeah, yeah, I know...we're already almost two weeks into 2019 and I'm just now getting the Glitter2Gutter Top 18 of 2018 list up.  Hey, keep in mind, this is a ONE MAN operation here at G2G (hence the name arttieTHE1MANparty), and I was still trying to filter through a few 2018 releases at the last minute before compiling our definitive list.  More than 220 new albums crossed the desk this year, so that is a lot for one guy to go through.  Plus, unlike some lists on some sites, I'm not a genre nazi, and I review everything from modern radio rock to thrash to hair metal...and we take it ALL into consideration here.  Oh, and I got the flu.  But, I powered through, and I can now deliver to you, the adoring reader, the official...


(I watch a lot of The Office...I mean a LOT...and I wanted my own Dundies, so I have created the GLITZnGUTZ AWARDS, which afford the winners absolutely nothing, other than the hardcore street cred that comes with such a prestigious award!)

2018 was another big year for Glitter2Gutter, as far as readership goes!  The top four most read reviews on the site this year actually all jumped into the Top 10 most read reviews in our seven-plus years of reviewing albums!  That's quite a statement, I think.  Again, keep in mind, this is the category for the nerds among us; it is pure, 100% raw data.  It doesn't matter if the album was great or absolutely abysmal, the reviews were read, and that's all that counts here!  The following 18 albums had the most "hits" or unique page reads in 2018, not factoring in re-reads, scroll throughs, or copy-and-past shares on other sites.  So, without further delay, here they are, in reverse order....


18.  Bonfire Temple Of Lies

17.  Biogenesis The Black Widow EP

16.  Odyssey Desperado Don't Miss The Sunset

15.  Arson City Hell Of A Ride

14.  Wicked Garden Already Gone Maxi-Single

13.  Plastic Tears Angels With Attitude

12.  Love Stallion Unforgettable Ride

11.  Necronomicon Unleashed Bastards

9.  JK Northrup/David Cagle That's Gonna Leave A Mark

8.  Devoid Cup Of Tears

7.  Luke Easter The Pop Disaster

6.  Steel City Fortress

5.  Judas Priest Firepower

4.  Razorbats II

3.  Deliverance The Subversive Kind

2.  The Protest Legacy

...and with nearly 2,000 unique reads in 2018 (plus more than 300 in 2017), the GLITZnGUTZ AWARD for most read review of 2018 belongs to....

1.  Silked And Stained Love On The Road  

Not only was Silked And Stained the most read review of 2018, but this Greek band's album now sports the most unique reads EVER!  So congrats on your 2018 GLITZnGUTZ trophy!


Up next, the newbies get a chance to shine, as we take a look at...


This GLITZnGUTZ AWARD (the name is catching on, right?) doesn't need a lot of explanation, as it is simply the best artists who released a debut record in 2018.  Sometimes I got the review materials rather late, and sometimes I got so many new albums in a short period of time that some reviews got put on the back burner.  As a result, some of these reviews are forthcoming, but all made some sort of splash in 2018. we go...

10.  STRAY BULLETS Shut Up  "...there are several things to enjoy on this band's debut album, Shut Up, and multiple songs that I find myself really liking, or absolutely loving, as is the case with "Black Out"..."

9.  ODYSSEY DESPERADO Don't Miss The Sunset  "...Don't Miss The Sunset is definitely an album worth waiting to hear, and I'd rather it not take four years between efforts from this project, especially if they are always going to be of this high quality!'

8.  BEXLEY Lost In The Moment "Musically, the performances on Lost In The Moment range from competent to excellent, with Bexley's guitar skills definitely belying her tender age." 

7.  BAD WOLVES Disobey (Review Pending)

6.  MYLES KENNEDY Year Of The Tiger (Review Pending)

5.  LEDGER Ledger  "Ledger fully comes out from behind the Skillet drum kit here on her debut solo EP.  Its hard not to like what the young drummer has done here." 

4.  FIGHT THE FURY Still Breathing  "Far, far better than I was afraid it might turn out to be, I love this more and more with each spin; I just wish it spun for more than 20 minutes."

3.  STEEL CITY Fortress "Steel City is uber-talented, make no mistake, and they have set the bar for themselves extremely high with Fortress.  If you have not already sought out this record, you need to do so immediately, as you are missing out on an album that will have to be in consideration for album of the year when 2018 wraps up."

2.  ERASERHEAD Eraserhead  "Pure and simple, this is a great record that NEEDS to be cranked! I considered Eraserhead for New Artist of the Year, but felt I couldn't give them the top award since, for all intents and purposes, Eraserhead is an older version of Deliverance under a different name.  Regardless, this is deserving of mention on numerous lists for best album, best artist, best new artist, what have you...the album Eraserhead, and the band, Eraserhead, are simply excellent!"

...and the GLITZnGUTZ AWARD for New Artist Of The Year goes to...

1.  LUKE EASTER The Pop Disaster  "And the winner for most incorrectly titled album of 2018?  No question, The Pop Disaster from Luke Easter has to be RIGHT up there, as there is absolutely nothing disastrous about this effort.  A+ songwriting, a name-dropping backing band, and excellent production surround Easter on his debut solo effort, giving the former metal barker an amazing platform on which to showcase where his musical heart lies."


Next up, a new GLITZnGUTZ AWARD category...most read interview of 2018.  Again, purely a data-driven category, but just who did you want to read Talkin' some Trash the most in the last year?


10.  Justin Murr (Liberty N Justice)  Every week, a few more people seem to click on this interview, and it gets double-digit hits every single month, without fail, despite the fact that it was conducted way back in 2012.  Maybe it's time for an update???

9.  Ron Keel (Keel)  Again, an older interview, but still a very popular one among G2G readers!  With a new album on the horizon, it may be time to touch base with Mr. Keel once again!

8.  Kjetil Wevling (Razorbats)  After the release of the band's II album, people started checking out what the guitarist of this band had to say, in a big way!

7.  Robby Lochner (Jack Russell's Great White)  Following the release of Jack Russell's Great White's debut CD in 2017, interviews with the band's members started gaining popularity again.

6.  JK Northrup (Fiction Syxx. King Kobra)  Another oldie from 2012, but with Fiction Syxx releasing a phenomenal record in 2017...and with a new one on the way...people were checking in with JK on a pretty regular basis in 2018.

5.  Gary Holland (Great White, Britton)  Out of nowhere, the interest in Mr. Holland REALLY spiked at the end of 2018!  Is there anything to that in the Great White world?  I honestly don't know, but people seemed to want to find SOMETHING out...

4.  Jeff Jones (St. Elmo's Fire)  It was awesome getting to talk to Jeff after first meeting him more than 25 years ago while I was on a college radio station in central Nebraska, of all places!  A great interview from an underappreciated talent in the metal world!

3.  Josh Bramlett (The Protest)  The last interview of 2018, it was a fun one right after Thanksgiving that many people jumped on board to check out!  If you missed it, it's well worth the read!

2.  Shad Mae (Devoid)  Following the release of the INCREDIBLE album from Devoid, I got the chance to talk with the band's brainchild, which was a lot of fun!  Here's hoping Devoid round 2 sees the light of day in 2019!

And, the GLITZnGUTZ AWARD for Most Read Interview of 2018 goes to....

1.  Luke Easter (ex-Tourniquet)  2018 was a BIG year for Luke, with the release of his debut solo record, and we gave him a chance to talk about that year!  A great guy with a lot to say, Luke picks up his second GLITZnGUTZ AWARD!  I'm sure he is absolutely thrilled!!!


Up next, we renamed a category this year, changing it from Comeback Of The Year to the newly christened OLD DOGS/NEW TRICKS Award.  This award goes to the band, or solo act, who has been around for at least 25 years and came out with the highest-rated album on G2G for a given year!

2018 saw a LOT of releases from so-called "classic" acts, with several bands from the 1970s even releasing quality new material!  Many of these were late-in-the-year releases, so some reviews have not yet been posted, but all have spent considerable time in my CD player already, and all have received at least a ranking score.  So, for our inaugural year with this award, G2G presents...


18.  RIOT V (formerly Riot) Armor Of Light (Review Pending)  "Not classic era Riot, but still a solid effort from a band that I really had considered pretty much dead following the considerable line-up changes.  Not a single original member remains, although bass player, Don Van Stevern, and guitarist Mike Flyntz, have been on board since the 80s."

17.  ANVIL Pounding The Pavement (Review Pending)  "Anvil Is Anvil may have been the name of their 2016 album, but Pounding The Pavement lives up to that record's name, as well.  If you love Anvil, you will love this record, as...well...Anvil IS Anvil.  There's really no other way to put it."

16.  ACE FREHLEY Spaceman  "This is Ace Frehley doing what Ace Frehley does.  All in all, this is an album that is at least comparable to every solo Frehley album that has been made, and probably my second...maybe third...favorite of his solo catalog.  Again, he was never going to touch the magic of the '78 record, but I feel it is a slight step better than Anomaly, and probably just as good as the surprising Space Invader. "

15.  FIFTH ANGEL The Third Secret (Review Pending) "I tried...I really give The Third Secret every chance to supplant the first two classic records.  And while it is a very good record, there is just something missing from the magic of those first two albums.  Still well-worth picking up."

14.  DEE SNIDER For The Love Of Metal (Review Pending) "God love Dee Snider for staying out there and doing what he loves to do.  And while For The Love Of Metal works on about 3/4 of the album, the couple of misses really miss for me, holding this record back just a bit."

13.  NAZARETH Tattooed On My Brain  "In a year that saw a LOT of 70s hard rock bands reunite for another run with great albums, Nazareth has produced one of the best with a solid collection of new songs, a few of which I am sure will find their way into set lists for the next decade or so.  Not the classic of Hair Of The Dog or Razamanaz, and not as heavy as No Mean City, which are my top three albums in the Nazareth catalog, but Tattooed On My Brain is definitely a quality release that is a fun listen, even after repeated plays."

12.  URIAH HEEP Living The Dream "I would say that this album easily falls into the top third of Uriah Heep's catalog for me, and would be a great starting point for any new fan who may have only experienced the band's classic hits previously.  Long time fans should also seek this one out, as they will surely find themselves hoping at least a couple of tunes from Living The Dream make it into the set list of this still consistently touring band."

11.  SAXON Thunderbolt " I don't hesitate in saying that Thunderbolt is the best Saxon record in a decade, probably going back to 2007's, Inner Sanctum record.  While it is not going to replace Wheels Of Steel or Denim And Leather...or the polarizing-yet-personal favorite, Innocence Is No Excuse...or some of the other classic metal albums that Saxon released in the early 80s, there is no reason long-time fans should turn away from Thunderbolt, like many did from 2011's Call To Arms.  I see no reason to not put Thunderbolt firmly in the top 10 albums of the band's catalog..." 

10.  STEPHEN PEARCY View To A Thrill  " Look, if you were expecting anything else from this record, you have not been paying attention to Pearcy lately.  The man is pretty much out to prove that he and his version of Ratt are the real deal, and the music on View To A Thrill is more Ratt than anything that's been put out in a decade or so.  Sounding very much like it could have slotted in right between Detonator and Infestation, this new effort from Pearcy should be pure ear candy for any Ratt fan.  Another excellent solo record from the Ratt frontman, and even better than last year's really good Smash."

9.  BONFIRE Temple Of Lies  "Temple Of Lies pretty much hits on all points and is easily the best classic-styled hard rock album I have heard in the first quarter of 2018!  Sure, I'm always a bit bummed when bands lose their voice, but Stahl is an excellent choice to front the band...adding a new, higher-ranged metallic element to this long-standing band of classic German hard rockers!"

8.  IMPELLITTERI Nature Of The Beast (Review Pending)  "It's Rob Rock and Chris can it NOT be great?!  Fast, loud,'s everything you'd want from the band, even if the songwriting is not the absolute best the duo has come up with.  I'll still take it over so much of what bands are putting out now."

7.  MASS When 2 Worlds Collide "I think it is fair to say that When 2 World's Collide is the best album of this band's long career, and that's taking into consideration the greatness that I attribute to Sea Of Black and Crack Of Dawn, which are both excellent records.  An excellent record, with only one minor hiccup for me, which does virtually nothing to dampen the overall greatness of When 2 Worlds Collide." 

6.  STRYPER God Damn Evil  "It's still Stryper, but God Damn Evil takes a small step back from the greatness of the previous two records, Fallen and No More Hell To Pay.  Take away a couple of tracks, however... especially the out-of-left-field opener, "Take It To The Cross"...and everything people have come to love and expect from the Yellow And Black Attack since their rebirth is still there in a big way."

5.  METAL CHURCH Damned If You Do (Review Pending)  "Released VERY late in 2018, this record may have had a shot at being album of the year, had it had more time to grow on me.  Still, it will definitely be a Top 18 record, as it is that great!  Everything you loved about the power/thrash style of the band in the 90s...with a touch of the 80s thrown in...Damned If You Do is only a very slight step behind XIthe scorching effort from 2016.  Heck, they may be dead-even for me..."

4.  NECRONOMICON Unleashed Bastards  "Man, I am fired up, to say the least!  This is probably the best thrash metal record I have listened to since...well, since Testament's Brotherhood Of The Snake or Metal Church's XI...both of which came out over two years ago...or possibly Deliverance's The Subversive Kind!  Fast, furious, fun...Necronomicon have set the bar extremely high for any metal act that follows in 2018, and blasts the last quarter of this year into the first half of next with an absolute sonic feast!  To say I am impressed would be an understatement, and Unleashed Bastards will definitely be in the conversation for album of the year in just a couple of months!"

3.  DELIVERANCE The Subversive Kind "If there are any drawbacks to this album, it would seem to me that clocking in at just 31 minutes is going to be a sticking point for many people.  That being said, let me assuage the angst of some of you by telling you it is a fast, furious, brutal, thrashy 31 minutes that is among some of the heaviest thrash metal I've ever feasted my ears upon in years.  Truth be told...I don't know if I could survive more than 31 minutes in a single sitting!"

2. ALICE IN CHAINS Ranier Fog "The Seattle grunge/metal hybrids are never going to top the magic of Dirt or Jar Of Flies, as so much of that magic died with Layne Staley.  Still, Ranier Fog does more to recapture some of that magic than anything the band has done since their reboot with DuVall out front, and Jerry Cantrell remains one of the most underrated vocalists and guitar players of his generation.  A moody record that I find myself spinning with great frequency."

And, the Number One OLD DOG of 2018 is...

1.  JUDAS PRIEST Firepower  "So, is this the best Judas Priest record of all time?  Obviously, people are going to have varying opinions, but since you are reading this, you must want mine.  In my mind, it is definitely the best thing the band has put out in nearly 30 years.  Not a perfect record, which would be extremely difficult on an album that is 14 tracks long, but it is the best true "metal" album I have heard this year, and one of the best of the last 3 or 5 years."

And now, we are left with only one category left...the big kahuna...the grand spectacle that you all came here for...


Honorable Mention:

BAD WOLVES Disobey (Review Pending) "While many will point to the rocked-up cover of the Cranberries' "Zombie" as the shining moment on the record, it is the sheer brutality of songs like "Officer Down", "No Masters", "Better The Devil"...and the brutal honesty of "Remember When"... that truly serve to define who Bad Wolves are.  Still, Bad Wolves will need to lean heavily on their next record to prove they are more than just another Five Finger Death Punch clone, as many have labelled them with Disobey."

BIOGENESIS Black Widow EP "The Biogenesis style is not going to be for everyone, to be sure, but there is no denying their uniqueness in the metal world.  Combining elements of thrash, power metal, symphonic metal, and touches of modern metal all into one swirling, churning, moshing vat of hard music is not an easy task, yet Biogenesis pulls it off keenly!  The resurgence of this band is an exciting one for me, and should be for anyone who considers themselves a fan of metal.  This is good, good stuff, folks."

BLACK STONE CHERRY Family Tree (Review Pending)  "Modern hard blues rock at its best, Black Stone Cherry return with possibly the best album of their career.  "Bad Habit" got the big airplay, but songs like "You Got The Blues" and "Burnin'" are every bit its equal."

CLUTCH Book Of Bad Decisions (Review Pending)  "If you have not picked up the latest effort from Clutch, you would be wise to rush right out and do so...after reading this, of course.  Whether they are tearing through one of several straight-up hard rockers, or tinkering with a horn section, of all things, Clutch remain one of the truly underappreciated hard rock bands today, which is a situation that needs rectified.

IMPELLITTERI Nature Of The Beast (Review Pending)  "Honestly, the pairing of Rock and Impellitteri has never released a bad album, and they aren't about to start now.  Nature Of The Beast is a great album, no question about it."

LITTLE CAESAR Eight "Eight is a very good, hard blues rock record from a band that would likely be just as comfortable on a stage in a honky tonk dive as it would in front of 2500 people in a theater or arena.  In fact, Little Caesar may be more comfortable in that honky tonk, because those people are the type to likely get the gritty, grimy, blue-collared, soulful rock-n-blues the band is delivering on an album like Eight.  If that sounds like your kind of music, then I encourage you to seek this album out, as it is definitely a fun listen, and the best I have heard from Little Caesar in at least 25 years."

LOVE STALLION Unforgettable Ride  "Not an outright 70s classic rock guitar record, nor a mid-to-late-80s hair metal affair, Unforgettable Ride carves out a niche in the smoother, more laid back guitar rock of the 1979-1983 range that was so much a part of my youth.  Hart has an obvious passion and talent for this type of music, as it is extremely well-written and his vocals are spot-on for the style." 

METAL CHURCH Damned If You Do (Review Pending) "Since Howe has returned, the band is obviously rejuvenated and reinvigorated.  Metal Church has not sounded this great (other than with XI) since my personal favorite, The Human Factor, more than two decades ago!"

NECRONOMICON Unleashed Bastards  " If you have any love for thrash at all, forget picking up the last Metallica album you have been hemming and hawing over (and it is a good record, don't get me wrong...), and grab Necronomicon's Unleashed Bastards instead.  If you though Metallica's "Spit Out The Bone" was top-notch thrash, you need to hear "Leave The Lights On"...and that song isn't even the best on this record!"

STEPHEN PEARCY View To A Thrill  "From the album artwork to the thinly-veiled name change of the album title, it is apparent Mr. Pearcy has something of a James Bond fetish going on here...there are also numerous James Bond mentions in the lyrics...but don't worry; Pearcy isn't out to sound like Duran Duran on their soundtrack hit, "View To A Kill".  In fact, this is pretty much exactly what you would expect from Pearcy and his rodent-esque pals (Thorne co-wrote Ratt's monster hit, "Round And Round", and Coogan played with Pearcy in Rat Bastards), which is pretty much shamelessly Ratt-sounding music."

RELENTLESS FLOOD Escape The Fall "I find myself enjoying Escape The Fall quite a bit, but I do hope that the band stretches themselves more on their next effort, trying some new things, alternating speeds and tempos a bit more, and experimenting with their sound, while still remaining heavy and aggressive in their overall approach.  I also hope that it doesn't take four years for that next effort to surface, as Relentless Flood has a lot of talent and promise and deserves to be heard."

SHINEDOWN Attention! Attention!  (Review Pending) "Not the best record the band has ever released, but Brent Smith's emotive vocals and the powerhouse delivery from the band continues to be a force to be reckoned with, even 15 years after exploding on the scene. It's also nice to see the band experimenting with their sound a bit, without sacrificing the formula that works so well for them."

SMASHING PUMPKINS Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 (Review Pending)  "Billy Corgan reunites most of the original line-up for one of the most complete albums the band has ever released.  You either love or hate this band, but Shiny... was definitely a surprise return for this band, and fans of Smashing Pumpkins alternative hard rock sound will most definitely find something to love here."

THUNDERPUSSY Thunderpussy (Review Pending)  "I feel dirty just typing the band...and, but Thunderpussy are much more than their name.  These rocker chicks play a scorching brand of 70s power rock that deserves to be heard.  Just make sure your parent's don't see the album cover..."

URIAH HEEP Livin' The Dream "If you had told me that 2018 would see a Uriah Heep record competing to make the G2G end of the year list for best album, I'd have asked you to get to your physician immediately, as a stroke was obviously pending.  Yet, here we are, and here Heep is, delivering their finest record in decades, and doing so without discarding who they are in an effort to become relevant."

And now the Top 18...

18.  LEDGER Ledger  "If you have ever had the chance to see Skillet in concert, there is usually a moment in time when the band's tiny-yet-fierce drummer, Jen Ledger, comes out from behind the kit to allow her to showcase her vocal talents away from the kit that hides her away for so much of the show.  Perhaps taking her cue from those concert moments, Ledger fully comes out from behind the kit here on her debut solo EP."

17.  FIGHT THE FURY Still Breathing  " When you first look at Fight The Fury, you can't look past the fact that the band is half of Skillet, with that band's guitar player, Seth Morrison, joining Cooper here.  To be honest, the band is like 5/8 Skillet, because the other guitar player, John Panzer III actually auditioned for Skillet at one time.  Then, you hear Cooper's voice blaring out from your speakers. But, the similarities really end there, as Fight The Fury is a significantly heavier band than Skillet.  The guitars are more in-your-face than they tend to be on all but the heaviest Skillet songs, and there is a lot more of an aggressive feeling to the rhythm guitars and the drums, which hit particularly hard all throughout the EP."

16.  TREMONTI A Dying Machine  (Review Pending)  "Forget anything you thought you knew about Mark Tremonti based upon his past work with Creed or Alter Bridge.  Tremonti (the band) is a full-on metal machine, whether crushing your eardrums with "Bringer of War", or skirting the edges of thrash metal with the mosh-pit-inducing "The Day When Legions Burned".  True, there are a couple of requisite radio rockers here, but it is the metal involved that will keep the Tremonti machine from dying, despite the album's name."

15.  HALESTORM Vicious (Review Pending)  "Another new record, another way that Lizzy Hale is more ferocious as a vocalist (and guitar player, for that matter), than any dude in your band!  From the blazing "Uncomfortable", to the nasty without being filthy "Do Not Disturb", Vicious was just that...a vicious new slice of metallic-tinged hard rock that seemingly gets better with every spin."

14. ARSON CITY Hell Of A Ride  " Omaha's Arson City returns with its first release in nearly three years as they follow up the excellent Horror Show record from 2015.  Yes, it is a quick 25 minutes, but it is well worth the investment and one of the truly great releases of the year, label-supported or otherwise!  Every time these guys put something out, the quality increases and the bar for the next release is set even higher.  Hopefully we won't have to wait three more years to see if they can top themselves and this excellent effort!  In my opinion, this is the best truly independent album of 2018, with zero label support of any kind!"

13.  SEVENDUST All I See Is War "Combining the bitter angst of the debut, with the more musical...perhaps even progressive....sound of Animosity, and the flat out heaviness of Alpha, with All I See Is War, Sevendust proves they are still a band that not only demands your attention, they deserve it.  Not their all-time best, but still a really good record despite a couple of misses near the front end."

12.  SAXON Thunderbolt  "2019 will be the 40th anniversary of the release of Saxon's debut album, Saxon, believe it or not.  Long considered one of the true heavy metal bands, and one of the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM), the band has no plans on calling it a day, as is evidenced by this, their 22nd studio effort, Thunderbolt.  With founding members Byford and Quinn...and drummer, Glockler (1981-present)...still manning their stations, the Saxon machine rolls on and are in fine form here."

11.  STRYPER God Damn Evil  "Stryper almost...almost...tinkers with their sound too much, particularly on the throw-away metallic screamer, "Take It To The Cross", which almost had me turning the album off after track one.  Thankfully, "Sorry" (which humorously seems like an apology for the previous track), "God Damn Evil", "The Valley", "Sea Of Thieves", and "The Devil Doesn't Live Here", all serve up enough powerful, harmonious metal to save the day and give Stryper a third consecutive great-to-excellent record."

10.  RAZORBATS II   No stranger to G2G year-end awards, Norway's Razorbats released their second full-length effort, II, early in the year, and it hung around for the entire year with its catchy riffs and modern-yet-retro vibe.  "The bottom line, this is a simply great album that I have been playing repeatedly since I got it.  If you can't have fun with Razorbats' II album, do everyone a favor and don't go to're lame, boring, and would just bring people down."    

9.  STEEL CITY Fortress  "Steel City is uber-talented, make no mistake, and they have set the bar for themselves extremely high with Fortress.  If you have not already sought out this record, you need to do so immediately, as you are missing out on an album that will have to be in consideration for album of the year when 2018 wraps up."

8.  DELIVERANCE The Subversive Kind "It is safe to say that this is easily the heaviest and fastest record that Christian thrash metal pioneers, Deliverance, have recorded in twenty years or more...perhaps going all the way back to the debut record, or even the Greetings Of Death demo!  While 2013's excellent return, Hear What I Say! was a mixture of the thrashier parts of Deliverance melded with the more melodic approaches of albums like Learn and Stay Of Execution, this new record makes no bones about what it is, which is full-on thrash.  Referred to by some as Deliverance's Reign In Blood, a direct nod to the Slayer album that many people put at-or-near-the-top of the thrash metal heap as far as sheer ferocity and brutality goes, Deliverance's new record definitely has turned the band back a few chapters to the type of speed and aggression they played with when they first burst upon the scene."

7.  BONFIRE Temple Of Lies  "If you remove Scorpions and Accept from the mix, I would have to say that Bonfire is probably the most consistent, most recognizable German hard rock/metal band remaining from the 80s scene.  This is due, in large part, to Hans Ziller's relentless drive to keep the band moving forward.  Having released their first album under the Bonfire name in 1986 (the original version of the band was called Cacumen), Ziller is the lone original member still in the band, yet somehow the overall sound of Bonfire has remained generally consistent after more than 30 years.
On Temple Of Lies, Ziller has inserted Alexx Stahl as the full-time vocalist.  With Stahl, the vocals now take on a more metallic approach, and while it may seem a stark departure for fans of the band's classic material, the addition of Stahl has breathed new life into the band, in my opinion, and gives Bonfire a place to launch from as they move forward from 2018."

6.  ERASERHEAD Eraserhead   "Eraserhead, for all intents and purposes, is the one-time thrash band, Deliverance, that released a heavy, progressive album entitled Learn in 1993.  Minus only the keyboard player, Eraserhead is Jimmy P. Brown II, Manny Morales, and Jon Knox who were the band on that record, and they have returned 25 years later for this new album.  While the album is filled with amazing musical moments, "Memoria" may be my favorite track, as it is the perfect representation of this album.  Very similar in rhythm and tempo, "Memoria" would have fit perfectly on Deliverance's 1993's Learn album, but in no way does it sound dated here.  Jimmy's vocals are absolutely spot-on here as he powers across the surface of Knox's steady rhythm and Morales' thumping bass.  Mid-tempo and melancholy, this is exactly the type of song I have been seeking from any of Jimmy's projects and albums of the past several years. A progressive metal masterpiece, "Memoria" is well worth skipping to, although you'd be bypassing some excellent music in doing so.  This song never fails to garner a repeat when I am listening, it is that amazing to my ears.

5.  BRAINSTORM Midnight Ghost "If Midnight Ghost is not the absolute best record in a string of really good-to-excellent records from this German powerhouse band, it is absolutely in the top three of their 12 album catalog.  Today, perhaps due to an excitement about new material, I would have to say Midnight Ghost is my new favorite from the band, but only time will tell if that impression remains."

4.  LUKE EASTER The Pop Disaster  " I'll admit to it; I am ALWAYS a bit wary of lead singers that leave their band behind and set off into solo album land.  Turns out, I had no reason to fret here.  Luke Easter more than successfully surgically excises himself from his position as the twenty-plus year frontman for prog/thrash legends, Tourniquet, and seemingly effortlessly transplants himself into a band of friends willing to allow him to explore the music that is more in line with where he has stated his heart lies.  No, there is no metal to be found on The Pop Disaster...and I mean NONE AT ALL...but there is plenty of expertly crafted, hook-laden rock that ranges from the poppier edges to the harder-yet-melodic fringes of the genre."

3.  ALICE IN CHAINS Rainier Fog   "Not exactly the same as their original sound, but there is still more than a little bite in this old dog, and Rainier Fog proves that Alice In Chains is not yet done.  An excellent return to something closer to where they came from, Rainier Fog is definitely a force to be reckoned with and is a definite contender for Album of the Year in my book."

2.  JUDAS PRIEST Firepower  "Judas Priest and I have two things in common.  We are both 48 years old...and we both still have metal in our veins!  Lest anyone think that the years have robbed Judas Priest of anything, they come roaring back with their 18th studio album, Firepower.  Yes, I know that Judas Priest has released three other albums since Rob Halford's return, and while all three had their moments, not Angel Of Redemption, not Nostradamus, and not Redeemer Of Souls have had the full complement of crushing drums, rumbling bass, screaming twin guitars, and...that voice!  Yes, they had elements of legendary Judas Priest, and yes they each had some great Judas Priest songs.  But for me, you have to go back to 1990's metallic must-have, Painkiller, to find such a perfect mix of speed, power, intensity, and musicianship as is found on Firepower. Priest, my friends!  This is EXCELLENCE!"

1.  GODSMACK When Legends Rise  "From the outset in the lead-up to this album, Erna had made it clear that he was looking to take the band in a new direction, aiming for a more modern hard rock sound than the modern metal the band had previously employed.  Don't take that to mean that the heaviness of the band is gone, because that is not true; there are still plenty of heavy moments on When Legends Rise.  However, the metallic bite is not the main focus of the record now, with melody, song structure, and musicianship at a higher premium than sheer aggression, darkness, and anger.  The opening six songs on this album are probably as good as any six songs I have heard in succession on a record in years.  Not kidding, the first 20 or so minutes here is just about perfection for a hard rock record. Even if the only good songs on this album were the first six, this would be a great effort.  But when all eleven tracks range from really good to excellent, you have a pretty special album on your hands." 

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