2016 was a year that will remembered for the loss of a number of hard rock and metal icons, but it was also a year filled with outstanding music. To give our readers the greatest possible variety of music, the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2016 only features one song per album release (although a number of artists released multiple singles worthy of recognition).
Many of the songs on this list appeared on SiriusXM’s Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown and the Active Rock Mediabase Chart throughout the year. In an effort to offer a snapshot of the overall year in hard rock and metal, a number of songs that weren’t featured in the Active Rock format are included as well.
This list covers all areas of hard rock (Active Rock, Classic Rock, Metal, Thrash, Prog and Southern Rock).
In addition to featuring established artists whose careers have spanned several decades, this list also includes a number of “below-the-radar” artists who were featured on Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday.
The Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2016 featured on the playlists below can also be found on the Hard Rock Daddy Network (HRD’s YouTube channel).
1 – ANTHRAX – “Breathing Lightning”
Since the turn of the millennium, Anthrax’s studio releases have been fewer and further between than the time period between 1984-1998. There has been an undeniable shift in the hard rock and metal genres in recent years, but Anthrax’s music has always had a timeless quality to it. If they chose to continue creating new music with their signature sound, they would have no trouble connecting with fans. Getting radio attention, on the other hand, would not necessarily be so easy in the current climate.
“Breathing Lightning” features enough of the band’s signature sound to appeal to longtime fans, but it is the infusion of huge melodic hooks that is likely to bring in new fans from younger generations that didn’t grow up with their music.
With a vast catalog of timeless thrash songs, would it be sacrilege to say that the band’s most memorable chorus has arrived in 2016 (over 30 years after their debut)? Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less true. The melodic refrain of the song (which conjures up memories of Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same”) sets the stage with a theatrical intro, and is intertwined around customary in-your-face Anthrax riffs throughout. The song ends with a beautifully melodic, haunting fade out.
Like the maples in the Rush classic “The Trees,” Anthrax is often left in the shade created by the oaks that are fellow “Big Four” members Metallica and Megadeth, but not this time. With “Breathing Lightning,” Anthrax not only outshines their thrash legend brethren, but the rest of the field as well, to grab a well-earned spot at the top of this annual list.
2 – ALTER BRIDGE – “My Champion”
Much to the delight of many, Alter Bridge returned with a new album in 2016, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. In a year of chaos, division and loss, it’s nice to know that you can count on AB to wash away the worries of the world and lift your spirits.
Unlike their previous album (2013’s Fortress) – which saw a wide gap between singles – this time around, the band released three singles in a fairly short time-span. This is following along with the current trend in rock, where high-profile artists are literally overlapping singles in order to get the most traction and build excitement.
From the first notes of “My Champion,” you can feel the positivity flowing before the lyrics even kick in. Not only is the vibe of the song uplifting, but the lyrics are as well. Myles Kennedy’s vocals are stellar as usual as he delivers a song of hope and inspiration (something that many people can use nowadays). The riffs, the leads, the vocals, the harmonies, the lyrics…everything just works on “My Champion.” It’s the kind of song that makes you feel better with each listen.
3 – GEMINI SYNDROME – “Remember We Die”
These days, the average rock music fan’s taste is narrower than those who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. That may be the only thing that keeps Gemini Syndrome’s “Remember We Die” from being a song that touches an entire generation of fans.
Two classic songs from the ’70s – “Dust In The Wind” (Kansas) and “Time” (Pink Floyd) – continue to serve as a stark reminder to this day that life is nothing more than a fleeting moment in the scheme of things. In the late ’80s, the phrase “carpe diem” was introduced to the masses by Robin Williams in his unforgettable role in Dead Poet’s Society. The phrase translates in English to “seize the day.” A decade ago, this concept was brought to life once again in a powerfully thought-provoking song by Avenged Sevenfold, aptly titled, “Seize The Day.”
Like A7X, Gemini Syndrome has a way of making you feel things in a visceral way, with haunting melodies that stay with you long after the song has ended. “Remember We Die” is just as deep and inspirational as all of the aforementioned songs. In a world that grows busier by the day, as attention spans continue to recede, this song should serve as a wake-up call to those who reminisce about yesterdays and/or dream of tomorrows. None of us knows when our time on earth will end, but as Gemini Syndrome poignantly points out, we should all be squeezing every ounce of life out of today (while we’re here). The future is about the other side.
The term “thinking man’s metal” is not bandied about these days as often as it once was, but it should be when it comes to Gemini Syndrome.
4 – MEGADETH – “Dystopia”
The title track of the latest Megadeth album is the most powerful single so far, both musically and in its message. Did Dave Mustaine have a crystal ball when he was writing this song, or did he just see the writing on the wall before others?
Are we truly on the road to a sci-fi-like Dystopian society? That thought seems a bit extreme, but not nearly as far-fetched as it once was. Cranking up one of the better Megadeth songs in recent memory actually does have a somewhat cathartic effect, but doesn’t completely alleviate the sense of frustration that comes with the prospect of what lies ahead.
There’s enough chaos in a world that seems to have gone mad for “Dystopia” to resonate with any metal fan, regardless of location or political leaning. Like Anthrax, Megadeth remains on top of their game long after they burst onto the scene.
5 – METALLICA – “Moth Into Flame”
There has been a growing trend of releasing multiple singles before an album is released. With Metallica releasing “Moth Into Flame” – the follow-up single to “Hardwired” – while the first single off of their upcoming album was still getting strong airplay, there remains little doubt that this trend can officially be qualified as the “new normal.”
Like “Hardwired,” the band’s follow-up single is something of a nostalgic journey back to their roots. However, while “Hardwired” was more along the lines of the early thrash days of Ride The Lightning, “Moth Into Flame” seems to be a blending of all of the work prior to, and including, the Black Album. It features the thrash elements of the early days with the groove and melody of their work from the early ’90s.
Based on the enthusiasm from longtime Metallica fans about the band’s latest release, it’s safe to say that the fans have been craving the sound that initially drew them to the band in the first place.
6 – DISTURBED – “The Sound Of Silence”
Unbridled emotion goes a long way towards defining David Draiman’s vocal style. The Disturbed frontman is known for channeling his aggression, and delivering his message with great intensity (even on cover songs such as “Land Of Confusion” by Genesis). This time around, with a cover version of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic – “The Sound Of Silence” – Draiman and company venture off in a much darker, solemn direction. The angst and piss and vinegar that has become synonymous with Draiman, is replaced with a soul-searching melancholy so intense, that it makes the original version of the song sound almost joyful. It’s not just the vocals that wash over you like a wave of sadness; it’s the hauntingly theatrical keyboards and tortured beauty of the acoustic guitars as well.
This is anything but what you would expect from Disturbed, so it does take some getting used to, but ultimately, it moves you in a visceral way. There are moments of signature Disturbed tastefully woven into a song that has been covered numerous times over the past 50+ years, but at its core, this version offers something truly unique that grows on you more with each listen.
7 – SIXX: A.M. – “We Will Not Go Quietly”
With Motley Crue’s career officially in the rear view mirror, Nikki Sixx hasn’t missed a beat in returning to the top of the hard rock genre with Sixx:A.M. What was once a side project, has joined the upper echelon of rock acts in short order. Following the paths of Five Finger Death Punch and Stone Sour in recent years, Sixx:A.M. released a two-part, double studio album in less than a year. “We Will Not Go Quietly” – the first single off of Sixx:A.M.’s latest release – is another powerful anthem from a band that has established a signature sound that differentiates them from all others.
8 – THROUGH FIRE – “Stronger”
From the ashes of Emphatic rises Through Fire, the newest project from guitarist Justin McCain. Rather than continuing on as Emphatic with more lineup changes, McCain felt that he needed a new beginning, which is the reason for the name change. Emphatic’s lineup changes had caused McCain to have a difficult time writing new material while trying to stay true to any particular sound from the band’s history. The name change freed McCain to “write from the heart” (Click here to read the full story as told by McCain). Whether you were a fan of Emphatic (which I was) or not, there is a lot to like from Through Fire’s debut single, “Stronger.”
The catchy melodies that were synonymous with Emphatic are still front and center on Through Fire’s debut single, albeit with a bit more edge that made it a huge hit on Active Rock radio this year.
A good description of “Stronger” would be Skillet on steroids. It will be interesting to see if this re-branding helps to take McCain to a higher level than Emphatic was able to reach. It certainly seems likely given their strong start with this song, and the follow-up single, “Breathe.”
9 – HELLYEAH – “Human”
With the mileage that Hellyeah got out of their 2014 release, Blood For Blood, it feels like the band never really went away (which is a good thing for their fans, and Active Rock radio for that matter). With “Human,” Hellyeah picked up right where they left off. Not that there should have been any doubt after Blood For Blood, but this one-time “supergroup” is not only a full-fledged band, but one that deserves to be mentioned in the rarefied air of the elite groups in hard rock and metal today.
“Human” showcases the raw emotions that frontman Chad Gray wears on his sleeve, much like he did with “Hush” and “Moth” the last time around. With a unique ability to deliver angst-ridden, yet melodic, vocals, Gray continues to distinguish himself amongst his peers. Lyrically, “Human” takes things up a notch with clever word play that comes off as natural, never forced. It should be noted that Gray has the advantage of working with a powerful group of musicians whose chemistry continues to evolve in an impressive manner. If you’ve ever seen Hellyeah in a live setting, you’d understand that, as intense as the band sounds on record, they take it to another level in concert.
10 – AVATAR – “The Eagle Has Landed”
Isolated from their recent concept album (Feathers & Flesh), the lyrics to “The Eagle Has Landed” lack context, but it doesn’t matter. If the purpose of a single is to create intrigue about an album and artist, this song certainly accomplishes its goal. The tone of the song is a bit schizophrenic, with verses that can best be described as aggressive, and a hook in the melodic chorus that is infectious. While the chorus has an upbeat, carnival-esque feel to it, there is an underlying touch of evil that makes it feel like you’ve entered a three-ring circus of madness. Avatar is quickly becoming one of the most theatrical bands in the hard rock genre lyrically, musically and with their distinct image. Unlike most, they’ve managed to straddle the fence between being incredibly unique and simultaneously “radio-friendly.” This is no easy feat to pull off given the state of radio today.
11 – FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – “My Nemesis”
With the vast amount of hit singles that Five Finger Death Punch has amassed, if you didn’t know better, you’d think of them as a commercial rock act. Despite being embraced by radio, one of the biggest bands of the modern era has always stayed true to their sound while intensely delivering emotional, angst-ridden messages. Ivan Moody’s ability to bring the pain out in FFDP’s songs is always done with a melodic tone that makes you feel uplifted, like you can take on the world after listening to their music. Too often, people get trapped inside a negative cycle that perpetuates itself over and over again. It takes guts to break the cycle and leave behind that which has held you back, be it an actual nemesis, or the nemesis that lives within us all…our doubts and fears. You can’t go wrong choosing any track off of Got Your Six, but this one is a personal favorite.
12 – ZAKK WYLDE (f. COREY TAYLOR) – “Sleeping Dogs”
Sometimes Active Rock radio gets it wrong when songs that are not a natural fit for the format end up cracking playlists. This is an ongoing problem, and one that exists all the way to the top of the chart. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and in the case of “Sleeping Dogs,” programmers are to be commended for giving this song the attention that it deserved, even if it deviates from the typical “Active Rock sound.” After all, it features two of the biggest stars of the genre in Zakk Wylde and Corey Taylor, both of whom are transcendent talents that have stood the test of time.
“Sleeping Dogs” – and the whole Book Of Shadows II album for that matter – is the continuation of a journey that began in 1996 when the original Book Of Shadows was released. Regardless of stature, there are very few artists who can blow you away with sheer power and stir you emotionally with slower, more emotive songs, just as this duo has done here with a memorable track that rises above the din of Active Rock playlists.
13 – UGLY MELON – “60 Days”
Canadian rockers Ugly Melon have been featured a handful of times during the year on Hard Rock Daddy, and will continue to be featured in 2017.
“60 Days” was originally featured on the July 4th edition of Music Discovery Monday. The song is actually about another form of independence; the kind that comes from a loss. While Independence Day is about celebrating freedom, we usually don’t think about the loss of life that is the cost of freedom when gathering with family and friends. In the case of “60 Days” the loss is about a dying parent.
From the first note of “60 Days” to the last, frontman Tony LaSelva taps into the tremendous feeling of loss that many people know all too well. Impending death has distinct way of ripping at your soul, making time simultaneously fly by and stand still. “60 Days” captures the emotion of the helpless feeling of watching a loved one die. LaSelva’s vocals are always brilliantly powerful and emotional, but he takes it to another level on this song that is sung from the heart…a broken heart.
This song proves once again that the writing team of LaSelva and guitarist Lu Cachie is a force to be reckoned with. Listening to Cachie’s blend of beautiful acoustic guitar and wailing leads that cry out in pain, you would think that Cachie had suffered the loss himself.
14 – VOLBEAT – “Seal The Deal”
Volbeat is one of the most consistent bands in Active Rock today. It’s no wonder that they are virtually guaranteed airplay whenever they release a new single. Earlier this year, “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” – the lead single off of their latest album, Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie – went on a monster run, dominating the chart for over two months.
Although each of their songs has its own personality to some degree, there is a formula to Volbeat’s unique sound that is reminiscent of the approach that AC/DC has perfected throughout their career. There is no band around today that can make edgy lyrics feel as uplifting as Michael Poulsen and company. “Seal The Deal” is no exception.
If you only looked at the images on the lyric video and listened to the aggressive guitar playing of Rob Caggiano (which taps into the Anthrax sound), you would think that this was a blistering track. Many of the lyrics would confirm your suspicions, but then there is the lighter, more fun side of the song, with lyrics like “get groovy” and “let’s boogie.” These lyrics would make you think that it was an upbeat, danceable song. Amazingly, you’d be right about that as well.
Volbeat has managed to blend the speed of thrash guitars with an infectious melody and make it seem like that is how songs are meant to be written.
15 – SHINEDOWN – “State Of My Head”
Like Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown continues to dominate Active Rock radio, albeit with a much less aggressive sound. The songs may be melodic, but the band’s messages are often times aggressive beyond their music. Such is the case with “State Of My Head,” an empowering song about standing your ground in the face of adversity. Brent Smith is one of the premier lead singers of the modern generation. His unmistakable vocal style is more about beauty than aggression, but still, his impassioned delivery brings Shinedown’s songs to life in an inspirational way. There were a number of songs considered from the band for this list, but “State Of My Head” gets the nod for being able to get a family with vastly different musical tastes all singing along on long car rides.
16 – RED SUN RISING – “Amnesia”
After huge runs with their first two singles (“The Otherside” and “Emotionless”), Red Sun Rising delivered a “hat trick” with their latest single, “Amnesia.” It’s hard enough for new artists to cut through the clutter to get noticed, but Red Sun Rising has already risen to the top of the genre with their debut album.
What’s most interesting about the band is that each single has its own sound, proving that they are much more than a one-trick pony. Along with Nothing More, it can be argued that Red Run Rising is the hottest new band to emerge in recent years.
17 – CRASH MIDNIGHT – “Roxy”
A lot of ‘80s hard rock has a distinctive sound that takes you on a journey back in time when you listen to it today. The “decade of decadence” also delivered some timeless, gritty rock and roll that still feels as relevant today as it did back then. There’s been a revival of a more classic rock sound in recent years, but not many bands have been able to capture the Appetite For Destruction vibe of Guns N’ Roses or the On Through The Night vibe of Def Leppard (when they were incredibly raw). Crash Midnight infuses influences of both into their modern hard rock sound. Not only does the music have just the right amount of sleaze, but the lyrics harken back to an era when sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were alive and well.
Like GNR, Crash Midnight isn’t afraid to rock the boat. Their single, “Roxy,” created an instant stir with YouTube because of nudity (which is why the censored video is featured in this forum). If you’re interested in seeing the uncensored version of the video (which I highly recommend), make sure to go to www.CrashMidnight.com and download the band’s free app.
18 – THE WINERY DOGS – “Captain Love”
I’ve yet to speak to anyone who has listened to The Winery Dogs (or has seen them in a live setting) give anything but positive feedback. This is a pretty big accomplishment in a day and age when people feel emboldened by the anonymity of the internet to say any negative thing that comes to their mind. Equally surprising is the fact that many people still aren’t familiar with this incredibly talented, virtuoso power trio that features Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen.
Once upon a time, this is the kind of band that would be all over rock radio, but these days, most people have discovered them either through word-of-mouth or by following the individual band members on social media.
Although The Winery Dogs are known for their virtuosity, “Captain Love” is one of the band’s more straight-ahead, blues rock songs. From the band’s sophomore release, Hot Streak, “Captain Love” has a haunting quality in the same vein as the Deep Purple classic, “Perfect Strangers.” Keeping the instrumentation less intricate affords Kotzen the opportunity to fill in the blanks with his brilliant vocals.
If The Winery Dogs have somehow managed to fly below your radar, here’s another chance to discover a band that already seems legendary.
19 – THE NEAL MORSE BAND – “So Far Gone”
“So Far Gone” is an incredible song from The Neal Morse Band’s epic double album, The Similitude Of A Dream. Back in the day, long before radio changed in the United States, this song would have made an excellent single (in the vein of early Kansas and Styx). While it has its complexities, “So Far Gone” definitely fits into the mainstream rock category.
At times, “So Far Gone” will conjure up memories of Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad with riffs enhanced by a cowbell (in a tasteful way, not like Spinal Tap). The vocal harmonies are a thing of sheer beauty. If you have an appreciation for stellar musicianship and production that enhances (rather than sanitizes) music, you’ll be blown away by “So Far Gone.” You know that you’re listening to true professionals when you consider that this is not a band that has a long history together, and the moments of spacing are as musical as the instrumentation itself.
20 – ART OF ANARCHY – “The Madness”
Many supergroups end up being nothing more than a one-off project for various reasons, but it’s hard to think of one with a story as unlikely as Art Of Anarchy’s. The original lineup featured Scott Weiland, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, John Moyer and the Votta brothers (Jon and Vince). Although Weiland is the only singer on the band’s debut album, he claimed that he was never in the band before his untimely passing. Things seem to be much clearer now as Art Of Anarchy returns with new music and a new frontman in Scott Stapp.
“The Madness” is an apt description of the confusion with their departed former frontman. Having been through tough times with Weiland, and Stapp having had his own share of trials and tribulations, you might think that there would be a darkness to this song, but quite the opposite is true. There’s passion with a hint of pain, but for the most part, this is an incredibly melodic single with an uplifting feel. This is a great start for the latest incarnation of a supergroup that very nearly never got off the ground.
21 – BOBAFLEX – “A Spider In The Dark”
Following up the anthemic “Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away” – the lead single from Anything That Moves – Bobaflex returned with “A Spider In The Dark.” Fans of the band have come to expect the outstanding vocal chemistry between the McCoy brothers (Marty and Shaun), but this time around, the band mixes it up to showcase the equally-talented vocal prowess of guitarist Dave Tipple, who teams up with Marty to deliver chilling harmonies over an acoustic intro.
Bobaflex is one of the more creative artists around today, especially when it comes to making videos. Make sure to check out the video for “A Spider In The Dark” to see how truly apropos it is to use the word “chilling” to describe this song. The intensity slowly builds until the rest of the band kicks in with a powerful, driving rhythm that is like a shot of adrenaline, featuring Bobaflex’s signature phrasing (which is truly unique, and sets them apart from others).
Whereas many bands today accentuate angst with growls, Bobaflex achieves the same effect with melodic gang vocals and harmonies. The band’s sound continues to evolve, to the point where even their breaks have a great deal of musicality.
22 – SEASONS AFTER – “Fighter”
It’s been two years since the release of Seasons After’s first independent release – Calamity, Scars & Memoirs – an album that featured three outstanding Active Rock singles, “So Long Goodbye,” “Lights Out” and “Weathered and Worn.” The previous album was largely based around the battle that the band dealt with in gaining their independence from their previous label. This time around, the edge is still there (perhaps even stronger), but the troubles of the past are now firmly in the rear view mirror.
“Fighter” has the same ballsy vibe asf bands like Sevendust and Saint Asonia. The outstanding melodic vocals of Tony Housh is complemented by a heavy rhythm and Chris Dawson’s guitar work, which helps bring out the emotions of the song. Independent artists have to scratch and claw to get the radio airplay that they deserve, but the lyrics of this song tell the story of the tenacity that this band has used to make it happen.
23 – JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 (f. JEFF SCOTT SOTO) – “Until I Left You”
Guitar virtuoso Joel Hoekstra gets most of his recognition from his work with Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but he deserves a lot more for his songwriting ability. Hoekstra surrounds himself with talent to bring his songs to life, most notably the outstanding vocalists that he worked with on his latest solo album. Like Hoekstra, Jeff Scott Soto has an impressive resume, including stints fronting Journey and Yngwie Malmsteen (in addition to touring with TSO). This pairing works perfectly together. If you love timeless, AOR songs with outstanding vocals and musicianship, make sure to check this one out. This is a duo that you’ll definitely want to hear more from in the future.
24 – METAL CHURCH – “Signal Path”
Although they’ve had their fair share of lineup changes (and a hiatus), Metal Church has a history that dates back over three decades. Thrash, heavy metal, call them what you want. What matters most is that they deliver timeless, high-adrenaline metal. “Signal Path” – from the band’s 11th studio release (XI) – stays true to the band’s metal roots, while adding in a melodic, theatrical flair that is more common in European Power Metal. The theatrical moments on this track are reminiscent of Jim Steinman’s writing (with Meat Loaf). This band has never gotten the recognition of bands like “The Big Four,” but their contribution to the metal world cannot be denied. Over 30 years after their formation, Metal Church has proven with “Signal Path” that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
25 – SUNFLOWER DEAD (f. JONATHAN DAVIS) – “It’s Time To Get Weird”
With the vast amount of music and entertainment vying for the attention of the masses nowadays, standing out from the pack is becoming increasingly difficult, but it is also extremely important if you want to be more than just another artist in the mix. Enter Sunflower Dead, a band that rises above the din to capture your attention with their brand of intense, dark, melodic hard rock. The makeup that they wear certainly helps them stand out, but it is the music that grabs you before you even know what they look like. You have to figure that they are something special when you see that, as a newcomer, they managed to get Korn’s Jonathan Davis to provide guest vocals on the track.
To be honest, I had no idea what “It’s Time To Get Weird” meant until speaking with frontman Michael “Hulk” Del Pizzo, but it didn’t matter. Hearing the song made me want to listen more, and seeing the thought-provoking animated video whet my appetite even further. I don’t often make predictions in this forum, but in this case, the exception is warranted…
Sunflower Dead will join the ranks of the elite, modern-day hard rock bands sooner rather than later. Not only do they have the right blend of music and image, but they also have aspirations to do big things with their stage show when the time is right. The band has already toured with the likes of Hellyeah, Avatar and In This Moment.
26 – DEVOUR THE DAY – “Lightning In The Sky”
One of the biggest challenges today for newer artists is finding the balance between having a hit single, and not having radio listeners burn out on the single before they get to truly discover what the band has to offer. Through no fault of their own, this was my initial experience with Devour The Day. When I first heard that some of the members of Egypt Central had formed this new band, I was a bit puzzled. After all, Egypt Central was just starting to gain some nice traction. Because I was a fan of EC, I probably didn’t give Devour The Day a fair shake when I first heard it. Shortly thereafter, “Good Man” was all over SiriusXM’s Octane, and to be honest, I burned out on it after hearing it several times a day.
I’m not too proud to admit that I was shortsighted in my initial evaluation of Devour The Day based on hearing one song with a closed mind. Thankfully, I didn’t let my initial burnout prevent me from giving “Lightning In The Sky” (the lead single off of DVD’s latest album, S.O.A.R.) a chance. Before the song got to the first chorus, I realized that Devour The Day is no one-trick pony, and that it was unfair to define them by my knee-jerk reaction to one single.
Hearing the upbeat feel and pacing of “Lightning In The Sky” reminded me of Thousand Foot Krutch, another modern band with a dynamic ability to showcase multiple layers of sound. My enjoyment of this single also inspired me to do more research about the band. What I discovered is that I like their approach to life as much as I do their music, (which is meant to deliver a positive message). The band’s most recent single, “The Bottom” was also under consideration for inclusion here, but “Lightning In The Sky” got the nod because it’s the song that gave me a second bite at the apple (so to speak).
27 – SMASHING SATELLITES – “Gamblin’ Man”
From the ashes of My Darkest Days rises Smashing Satellites. Former MDD guitarist Sal Costa steps up into a much greater creative role as the lead singer, songwriter, co-producer and guitarist of this exciting new band from the Great White North. Although Costa has made his bones playing modern-day hard rock music, his goal is to bring rock back to the mainstream with his brand of music that pulls from numerous different influences ranging from the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson to Nirvana and Triumph and everything in between. His career goal is to grab for the brass ring, not just find his place in a very crowded genre.
Every once in a while, you can tell within a few bars that you’ve discovered a memorable track. “Gamblin’ Man” definitely fits into that category. Costa shows that he is capable of stepping up into a higher profile role than he had with My Darkest Days, displaying a nice vocal range and dynamic songwriting.
28 – SOTO – “SuckerPunch”
Jeff Scott Soto is known for his melodic rock vocals (see Joel Hoekstra review above), but his diversity is what makes him so special. With his band SOTO, JSS has tapped into the edgier side of his vocals. This band (which must be seen live to fully appreciate) is an outstanding unit with tremendous chemistry. If “SuckerPunch” was released as a single by an established Active Rock band like Sevendust, there is no doubt that it would be garnering a great deal of radio attention. One of the most frustrating aspects of the Active Rock format is that is misses out on songs like this that would make listening infinitely more enjoyable. Radio may have failed SOTO this time around, but the Hard Rock Daddy audience should make sure to check this band out. You will not be disappointed!
29 – SUNSTORM (f. JOE LYNN TURNER) – “Edge Of Tomorrow”
Joe Lynn Turner may not have gotten the respect that he deserves from Ritchie Blackmore when it came to the “Rainbow reunion,” but he is still making outstanding music. JLT’s most recent release is Sunstorm’s Edge Of Tomorrow, the fourth studio album that he has done with a band that also features members of Pink Cream 69. The title track off of the band’s latest release is the epitome of feel-good AOR rock, highlighted by JLT’s brilliant, melodic vocals and guitar work of Simone Mularoni. If you long for the days of passionate, message-driven melodic rock, make sure to check out “Edge Of Tomorrow” (the song and the entire album).
30 – GRAHAM BONNET – “California Air (Better Here Than There)”
“California Air (Better Here Than There)” is from Graham Bonnet Band’s latest release, The Book (an epic double album that features remakes of some of Bonnet’s most well-known work).
Bonnet’s amazing vocals are complemented by his gregarious personality and sense of humor, both of which take center stage on this feel-good rock anthem.
You can take the boy out of the arena, but you can’t take the arena out of the boy. Ok, I realize that is not really a saying, but just the same, there’s something extremely nostalgic about hearing songs that feel like they were meant to be played in front of thousands of screaming fans.
In a perfect world, Bonnet fans would get the opportunity to see him perform his latest songs and classics alike in an arena setting. Unfortunately, the state of rock music (especially in the U.S.) makes that an unlikely scenario. However, “California Air (Better Here Than There)” will electrify a crowd of any size. This song is a timeless, instant classic that deserves much more attention than it is likely to get in the current climate.
31 – BLACKTOP MOJO – “Dream On”
Like many others, Aerosmith’s “Dream On” is near and dear to my heart. It is a song that has more than withstood the test of time, and is largely regarded as one of the greatest hard rock songs of all-time. Anyone with the guts to take on a cover of this song should be commended, because they risk ridicule for tampering with a classic. It was one thing when Ronnie James Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen covered the song because both of them had already been long-established as rock and roll icons by the time that they recorded their interpretation. It is something entirely different when an up-and-coming band like Blacktop Mojo steps up to take on a monumental challenge.
Knowing that Steven Tyler has recently put out a country album, if you didn’t know any better, your first impression of the song might be that the legend himself re-recorded his own song with a new twist.
When listening to this cover, there are two distinct thoughts that came to mind. The first is that the band did an outstanding job of staying true to the original, while also infusing enough of their own sound to make it unique. The other is that frontman Matt James absolutely killed the ungodly high notes that Tyler delivered over 40 years ago when the song was released, so much so, that it’s almost indecipherable from the original.
32 – KLOVER JANE – “Walk Away”
It’s interesting how different people interpret music. I was intrigued when a friend shared Klover Jane’s “Walk Away” on Facebook, and described it as having a “Seattle sound.” While some incredible bands have originated from Seattle, labeling a band with a “Seattle sound” can be a double-edged sword because it can paint a very specific picture of a grunge band.
I hear a lot of things on “Walk Away,” but grunge is not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, if not for the mention of “Seattle sound,” I would have no idea where the band was from. To be fair, even though the band hails from Seattle, they describe themselves as “100% PURE AMERICAN ROCK!”
Rane Stone is a rangy vocalist who has that “it factor.” A hint of rasp conjures up thoughts of Axl Rose, and the soulful, southern rock influence is reminiscent of the late Ronnie Van Zant. Guns N’ Roses meets Lynyrd Skynyrd? I’d say that the band is more than living up to their billing of “100% PURE AMERICAN ROCK!”
Klover Jane may call Seattle home, but this is a band that should be garnering attention throughout the United States and beyond.
33 – BUMBLEFOOT – “Devil On My Shoulder”
From 2006 to 2014, Bumblefoot was one of the guitarists in Guns N’ Roses. The lineup received much less fanfare than the current reunited lineup, but it certainly wasn’t due to lack of talent. Long before joining GNR, Bumblefoot was a prolific solo artist. His time in the band just helped to raise his profile, a position that he is using to benefit others.
“Devil On My Shoulder” is a single that was released earlier this year. All proceeds from the song are being donated to Road Recovery (a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping young people battle addiction and other adversities). They do this by harnessing the influence of entertainment industry professionals who have confronted similar crises, and now wish to share their experience, knowledge and resources.
For “Devil On My Shoulder,” Bumblefoot joined forces with vocalist/guitarist Milan Polak, Megadeth bassist David Ellefson and drummer Thomas Lang.
According to Polak…“the song is about battling your daily demons that could be anything from procrastination to depression to drug abuse, and everything in between.”
At the onset, the pacing of “Devil On My Shoulder” creates a palpable tension, like that of a racing heart. Polak delivers the meaningful lyrics as if he is singing the story of his own life. The musical framework and the storytelling gives the song a classic Queensryche feel, with a hint of Kansas in the vocal harmonies. From the riffs to the leads, Bumblefoot and Polak’s outstanding guitar work shines throughout.
It is highly recommended that you watch the lyric video when listening to “Devil On My Shoulder.”
34 – NONPOINT – “Generation Idiot”
“Generation Idiot” is a frenetically melodic, controlled yet chaotic, angst-filled statement about the human condition in America today. At least, that’s my interpretation of a song that seems to also be somewhat politically charged, which wouldn’t be surprising given the current state of affairs. Regardless of the exact meaning behind the song, “Generation Idiot” is one of the more memorable songs of the year.
Nonpoint is one of a handful of bands on the scene today that has a true signature sound, due in large part to the unique vocal style of Elias Soriano. Nu metal, rap rock…it doesn’t matter what label you place on the band. Ultimately, they are just a kickass unit that never fails to deliver.
35 – DROWNING POOL – “By The Blood”
“By The Blood” is an aggressive, balls-to-the-wall anthem dripping with testosterone (and of course, blood) in the same vein as another fairly recent blood-thirsty track – Hellyeah’s “Sangre Por Sangre (Blood For Blood).” While the Hellyeah influence is apparent, there are also more subtle influences of Alice In Chains and even some ‘80s metal vocals at times. The upbeat rhythm has a groove that you might not expect in a song this heavy, some psychedelic nuances and shredding guitars. “By The Blood” continues the evolution of Drowning Pool, building on the foundation that they laid with songs like “Bodies” and “One Finger And A Fist.”
36 – AVENGED SEVENFOLD – “The Stage”
When you’re at the top of the food chain, and the Active Rock world is clamoring for the first new material in three years from you, there’s a good chance that radio traction is going to take place rather quickly. However, there is a challenge when your first single is an epic song that is over eight minutes long. Upon first listen, there was so much to like about “The Stage,” but I couldn’t help but wonder how the song would be viewed by Active Rock radio. Because exceptions are made for proven artists with stellar track records and huge fan bases, the song was instantly put into heavy rotation. Could a lesser-known band make this kind of impact with this exact song? Highly unlikely, but A7X has built up enough goodwill to be given some leeway by a format that has very few true superstars. “The Stage” is the type of song that gets better with each listen as you peel back the layers and discover the nuances.
37 – SONS OF TEXAS – “September”
“September reminds her of how things used to be…” This slower, more melancholic side of Sons Of Texas tackles the struggles that define the lives of many single parents. The lyric highlighted above struck a chord with me, even though I am not a single parent. September also reminds me of how things used to be (before September 11, 2001).
On that tragic day, the entire nation suffered a loss of innocence, causing numerous people to become single parents. Many others have joined those ranks in less publicized, more personal ways since then, but it doesn’t lessen the pain or make the void any smaller.
Years ago, John Cougar Mellencamp famously sang…“oh yeah, life goes on…long after the thrill of living is gone.” Sons Of Texas has poignantly brought that concept to life with “September.” Perhaps there is no more telling lyric in the song about what life is like for struggling parents than…“I’ll take the pain to preserve their joy.” No matter the heartbreak and challenges that any loving parent faces in life, we all do what we can to take away the pain for our children.
In this song, “September” is a reminder of how things used to be, but it is really just symbolic of any trigger that reminds you of a painful loss, or makes you long for days gone by. Between the guitars that seem to cry out in pain, and Mark Morales’ emotionally stirring vocals, this thought-provoking song will deeply touch those who can relate to the story in any way.
38 – ONE LESS REASON – “Where Were You?”
When you think of Memphis, the first thoughts that come to mind are probably Elvis and the blues. If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, hearing the words “tattooed millionaire” together undoubtedly conjures up memories of Bruce Dickinson’s first solo album. So, what do these seemingly unrelated things have in common? Tattooed Millionaire Records is the name of a relatively new label that is positioning itself to be the next major record label out of Memphis. The company, which also serves as a recording studio, is located in a building that was most recently House of Blues (until 2001).
One Less Reason and Tattooed Millionaire are both the brainchild of Cris Brown. The band has recorded five independent albums since their inception in 2003, and has racked up impressive digital sales, yet still flies below the radar. The band’s most recent release, The Memories Uninvited, is the result of a painstaking process that was not constrained by budgetary or studio concerns. According to Brown, this allows the listener to “hear exactly what I heard in my head.”
“Where Were You?” features huge hooks and bright vocal harmonies, which gives the song an upbeat feel (though the lyrics tell a different story). This song definitely makes you want to dig deeper to see what this band has to offer.
39 – MESSAGE FROM SYLVIA – “Heart Of War”
In 2015, the Lopez-Smith brothers (Zach, Isaac and Dane) burst onto the scene with First Decree. Three of the band’s singles made an impact on Active Rock radio (“Lost In The Crowd,” “Phoenix” and “This Is Our Rise”), and “Stop” was featured on Hard Rock Daddy’s Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015. This year, the Lopez-Smith brothers return with Message From Sylvia, which features Matthew Nevitt (Echovalve, DoryDrive) on lead vocals.
Produced by Sahaj Ticotin (Ra), “Heart Of War” should continue the success that the brothers have had in the format. If you’re a fan of Ra, you’ll definitely hear Ticotin’s stamp on this single…big, powerful, arena-rock riffs, impressive vocal harmonies and Queensryche-esque spoken word nuances. Message From Sylvia has picked up right where First Decree left off. Bands like this are exactly what the Active Rock format needs to keep things fresh and interesting.
40 – HIGHLY SUSPECT – “My Name Is Human”
Highly Suspect is one of the more fascinating rock acts to emerge in recent years, with a sound that stands out as totally unique. There were rumors that frontman Johnny Stevens was offered the Stone Temple Pilots gig, but he turned it down. STP has emphatically denied the rumors. Regardless, you can see why Stevens had no interest in chasing other pursuits. Highly Suspect is already making waves in the rock world with a distinct sound that infuses psychedelic influences with the tortured anger of grunge. “My Name Is Human” is a perfect example of the blending of two sounds that seemingly are contradictory, but they make it work perfectly. The band has already become one of the top artists in the Active Rock format, and the sky seems to be the limit for them.
41 – GOODBYE JUNE – “Oh No”
Every once in a while, a song sounds so unique, that it makes you stand up and take notice. Such is the case with Goodbye June’s “Oh No.” It gives you hope that bands rooted in classic rock can find their place on Active Rock radio, because otherwise, there is no natural radio format for them. “Oh No” starts off with a boot-stomping shuffle before Landon Milbourn’s gritty, bluesy Steven Tyler-esque vocals kick in over punk-laden riffs. As the song progresses, you can hear shades of classic Zeppelin. “Oh No” is a three minute and forty second shot of pure adrenaline. The name of this band came on the heels of a tragic life event that took place over a decade ago, and yet, Goodbye June plays with an almost defiant zest for life. We can only hope that they get the attention that they deserve, because, based on their talent, they seem to have limitless potential.
42 – THE GREG BILLINGS BAND – “Old Friends Don’t Come Easy”
When Brian Johnson’s hearing problems forced him to suddenly leave AC/DC, fans were hoping that someday he would return to the stage (or at the very least, the studio). It’s safe to say that most people didn’t expect his return to happen as a guest vocalist (on a fitting song) with The Greg Billings Band.
You might be wondering how the band was able to land Johnson for a guest vocal spot. I must admit, I wondered the same thing, having not heard of them until recently. It turns out that Billings has a history that dates back to the ‘80s with a band called Romeo (which was signed to Epic Records). The band – who gained popularity in Florida – changed their name to Stranger before the album was released.
Stranger, with their “hook-laden songs” and “electrifying stage show,” became well-known in the southeast. Although the band released a number of albums through the years, most were independent. Fast forward to 2003…two original members of Stranger – Billings (vocals) and Tom King (bass) – continue the phenomenon that began in the ‘80s.
“Old Friends Don’t Come Easy” – from the album Boom Boom All Night! – captured my attention because of the reemergence of Johnson, but the band more than stands on its own with its brand of feel-good, gin-soaked, honky-tonk rock and roll.
The smooth vocals of Billings are the Johnnie Walker Blue to Johnson’s edgy shot of Jack Daniels. Together, this vocal duo makes for an interesting blend that works perfectly together.
It just so happens that the lyrics of the song paint a picture of nostalgic bar memories, but even if they didn’t, listening to “Old Friends Don’t Come Easy” makes you want to hit the bar for happy hour. Bluesy guitar, great vocals and rollicking piano…what more can you ask for?
43 – KENNY DUBMAN – “Ain’t Too Late For Memphis”
Kenny Dubman’s “Ain’t Too Late For Memphis” is a southern rock anthem with an arena rock feel. I discovered this song when Zakk Wylde posted an article about it on his Facebook page. Both New Jersey guitarist/vocalists may have been born in the north, but you would never know it when you listen to their brands of Southern Rock.
“Ain’t Too Late For Memphis” sounds like the lovechild of Skynyrd and Bad Company (in a good way). According to Dubman, “the song is the story of a musician who has been out of the game for a long while and longs to break back in, but is not quite sure how to make it happen.”
Dubman also says that the song is autobiographical. If that’s the case, he has certainly figured out a way to create memorable, inspired music for a comeback.
44 – FIFTYWATT FREIGHT TRAIN – “Whiskey & Hate”
Fiftywatt Freight Train – a hard rock quartet out of Charlotte, NC – has been recognized as one of the city’s best bands, and has been expanding their following throughout the Carolinas. Listening to “Whiskey & Hate,” it’s hard to believe that they still play a mix of covers and originals in their region because they clearly have a knack for writing high-energy, melodic hard rock that rolls over you like a “freight train,” with a seasoned sound that makes them feel like an established act. With big hooks that are in the same wheelhouse as Pop Evil, this band has huge Active Rock radio potential.
45 – PARKWAY DRIVE – “Devil’s Calling”
If there’s a hard rock band around today that melds dark and light together as well as Parkway Drive, I’ve yet to discover them. If you isolated the vocals, you would expect the underlying guitars to be dirty, gritty and distorted. If you isolated the guitars, you would expect the vocals to harken back to the days of ‘80s metal. This is what makes Parkway Drive stand out from other Active Rock artists.
The sweet, melodic guitar intro of “Devil’s Calling” transitions into haunting, raspy vocals before angst-ridden growls dripping with testosterone kick things into high gear. The gang vocals in the chorus give the song an arena anthem feel. It’s not hard to imagine an electrified crowd singing along in unison as fists fly in the air. If you liked “Vice Grip,” you’re going to love “Devil’s Calling!”
46 – I PREVAIL – “Stuck In Your Head”
What makes I Prevail’s “Stuck In Your Head” intriguing is the infusion of elements that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from this type of band. There are enough heavy/angry moments in the song to appeal to Active Rock fans. At the same time, it also has an upbeat/positive vibe (think Skillet meets Green Day with a hint of power pop a la The Romantics). What’s most important is that this is the kind of song that lives up to its title – “Stuck In Your Head.” Good luck trying to stop singing this catchy melody after you’ve heard it.
47 – LAMB OF GOD – “The Duke”
The softer, more melodic side of Lamb of God? Well, sort of, but “The Duke” is still incredibly heavy. This song was purposely held off of Lamb Of God’s last album (VII: Sturm und Drang) for a special reason. It was written for Wayne Ford, a fan of the band who frontman Randy Blythe befriended back in 2012 (click here to read about Ford’s battle with Leukemia, and how it inspired Blythe). “The Duke” deals with facing your imminent demise. It’s emotionally heavy (as is the story, which I highly recommend reading). Not only is the song inspired by, and dedicated to, a fan of Lamb Of God, it is also being used to raise awareness for bone marrow donations. Kudos to Blythe for making a dying fan feel special in his final days, and doing his part to help others. “The Duke” happens to be a kickass song in its own right, but because of the story, it’s even more powerful.
48 – KILLSWITCH ENGAGE – “Hate By Design”
Admittedly, growling vocal are something of an acquired taste. Often times, they make the lyrics indecipherable, and blend into a wall of sound. However, sometimes, when used to properly bring the lyrics of a song to life, they can be effective. Killswitch Engage’s “Hate By Design” is a perfect example of this. It’s hard to think of a song that has captured the mood of America like this insightful punch to the gut. The clean vocals in the infectious chorus are so catchy that you’ll have the hook playing on a loop in your head long after the song ends. “Hate By Design” does what metal is supposed to do…provide a release for the frustrations of a world that seems to have gone mad.
49 – ICE ON MERCURY – “Blind Leading The Lifeless”
Hailing from South Australia, Ice On Mercury hits you with a rare blend of aggression and infectious melody from the first note on “Blind Leading The Lifeless.” The band cites Anthrax as one of their influences, which is something that you definitely hear in the song, along with shades of fellow Down Under rockers Parkway Drive, Bullet For My Valentine and Hellyeah. Like Anthrax, who excels at combining blood-pumping, in-your-face metal with humor, Ice On Mercury can rock out with the best of them without taking themselves too seriously. After listening to this killer track for the first time, I checked out the band’s bio on Facebook and learned that they like “long walks on the beach, romantic candle-lit dinners and rocking out with ye Ol’ Cock Out!!!” Make sure to jump on this bandwagon early before it gets too crowded!
50 – LAST IN LINE – “Starmaker”
When Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath, he took drummer Vinny Appice with him, and recruited former Rainbow bandmate Jimmy Bain to join him in DIO. It was Bain who suggested Vivian Campbell to RJD. In September of 1982, these four played together for the first time. The magic was evident, and the classic DIO lineup was born. Together, this lineup created not only the three best DIO albums, but three of the best hard rock/heavy metal albums of all-time: Holy Diver, The Last In Line and Sacred Heart.
Three decades later, with RJD having passed away in 2010, the original members of DIO reunited to play the songs that they recorded together, under the moniker Last In Line. You can’t replace a legend like RJD, but you can find a singer that can not only do the songs of a golden era justice, but also take the band to new heights with original material. Enter Andrew Freeman, a passionate, talented singer with a nice resume, but far from a household name.
Jimmy Bain’s unexpected passing on the Def Leppard Cruise earlier this year thrust this band into the headlines. Sadly, it was not because of the band’s vast talent or chemistry, but that doesn’t diminish the music that they created together.
This was the last video that Bain made before his passing. It was scheduled to be released ahead of the release of Heavy Crown. No one expected it to be done as part of a tribute to Bain, turning a celebratory moment into a bittersweet one.
“Starmaker” features the heavy bottom that Bain was famous for in his work with the likes of DIO and Rainbow. It blends elements of each legendary band into something different and timeless. It’s fitting that this song was Bain’s final video. He is a “starmaker” who helped bring attention to Campbell, and now to Freeman. This song is everything that you love about classic DIO and more.
51 – TREMONTI – “Dust”
Although Alter Bridge’s three-year release schedule can feel like an eternity at times, the good news is that the members of the band stay active in between albums. Mark Tremonti has been particularly active over the past few years, releasing not one, but two studio albums.
With less than a year between 2015’s Cauterize and 2016’s Dust, Tremonti has basically put out the equivalent of a modern-day double album. This is the same approach that Five Finger Death Punch and Stone Sour have used in recent years for their double albums, and that Sixx:A.M. used this year as well.
The title track off of Tremonti’s latest release opens with a somber acoustic guitar, which is actually the melody line that Tremonti sings when the vocals come in. The highly-acclaimed axe man continues to shine as a lead vocalist with a style that is all his own. Of course, no Tremonti track would be complete without impressive guitar work, and “Dust” delivers as you would expect. It’s another in a long line of outstanding songs from Tremonti.
52 – GLENN HUGHES – “Let It Shine”
If you appreciate the simple heaviness of Black Sabbath riffs and the soulful, bluesy sound of Deep Purple, you’ll enjoy a journey back in time with Glenn Hughes on his latest solo work. Hughes has connections to both bands, having played on a project with Tony Iommi, and sharing time with David Coverdale in Deep Purple in the mid-‘70s. Hughes is known in classic rock circles for both his bass playing and his incredible vocal range. On “Let It Shine,” Hughes delivers a timeless classic with a heavy bottom and repeating riff upon which he adds a layer of beauty and soul with hypnotic vocals. There is a lot to like on Hughes’ entire latest release, Resonate. Make sure to give this (and the rest of the album) a listen.
53 – ELECTRIC REVOLUTION – “Here We Go”
Trends come and go, but one thing that NEVER goes out of style is high-energy, soulful, bluesy hard rock like Wisconsin’s Electric Revolution. As you listen to “Here We Go,” you’ll swear that it was a lost track from a bygone era, but you’d be wrong!
This killer tune proves, without question, that it doesn’t have to be old to be classic. From the pacing of the powerful rhythm section that is Billie Pulera (drums) and Steve Crucianelli (bass), to the adrenalized riffs of guitarist Josey G. and the Ian Gillian-esque vocals of frontman Dave Lawson, “Here We Go” is a journey back in time to the formative years of hard rock. It’s all about the “colors” for this blues rock band: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Rainbow and shades of Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure.
Whether you want to take a nostalgic journey back to the soundtrack of your youth, or have an appreciation for the aforementioned legends of rock, Electric Revolution is for you. Buckle up, crank it up and enjoy the ride…“Here We Go!”
54 – BEASTO BLANCO – “Feed My Frankenstein”
Alice Cooper has given Beasto Blanco’s inspired cover of “Feed My Frankenstein” his seal of approval. Cooper may be a little biased, given that the band was formed by his longtime bassist, Chuck Garric, and features backing vocals by his daughter, Calico. However, I am not at all biased, and I couldn’t agree with him more about the quality of this cover.
Beasto Blanco knocked it out of the park with their interpretation of “Feed My Frankenstein,” perfectly threading the needle between staying true to the original and making it their own. You can best sum up this song as “beauty and the beast.” Calico adds a seductive quality to the song that you wouldn’t think possible. Her soft beauty sets the stage for Garric’s beastly vocals to grab you by the throat.
The “beauty and the beast” theme isn’t limited to just the vocals. The beauty of the acoustic guitars offers a brilliant contrast to the beastly riffs of Chris Latham and the dark, pulsating rhythms of Jan LeGrow and Tim Husing.
“Feed My Frankenstein” is the song that introduced me to Beasto Blanco recently, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Look for much more from this kickass band in the near future on Hard Rock Daddy.
55 – THE WILD – “Ready To Roll”
On the black carpet of the Epiphone Revolver Music Awards, The Wild was described as “a band that needs their own category.” That is an intriguing notion. Long after the awards and after party were over, that description stuck with me. So, when I ran into Dylan Kirouac at a pizza place in the wee hours of the night, I asked him what made them so unique. The story (which will be told in an upcoming article on Hard Rock Daddy) reminded me that rock and roll (in all its glory) is very much alive and well. The Wild isn’t another in a long line of bands that has tailored their sound to fight for their piece of the pie on Active Rock radio. Quite the contrary! “Ready To Roll” is everything that you loved about rock and roll in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s a timeless song that would have kicked ass at any point over the past 40 years. We need more bands like this!
56 – MONSTER TRUCK – “Don’t Tell Me How To Live”
Canada’s Monster Truck is a rock and roll band comprised of four “selfish” guys who rose from the ashes of the Canadian indie rock scene. Personally speaking, I think that we can use more of these kind of self-centered creative forces. The term “selfish” is from their bio, but in this case, it is truly a positive. Once upon a time, rock and roll bands wrote music because it moved them, not necessarily just for radio play. Making a living as a rock musician nowadays is certainly not for the faint of heart, so it’s understandable why bands do whatever they can to get a leg up, including writing songs that “fit” a format.
Monster Truck, on the other hand, has proven that you don’t need to limit creativity to fit into some arbitrary preconception of what Active Rock should be. The band talks about mixing their favorite hard rock, punk and classic rock to formulate their sound. The end result is something memorable and unique in “Don’t Tell Me How To Live,” which has a nice southern rock flavor added in for good measure. Anyone who needs further proof that this band marches to the beat of their own drummer should check out the lyrics to this track.
57 – EVE TO ADAM – “Lucky”
Eve To Adam has remained active on the road, but it had been nearly three years since they released Locked & Loaded (which featured the hit song, “Immortal”) before returning with “Lucky.” The song has a far less serious message. As far as energetic rockers go, it has everything that you look for in an Active Rock song. What’s interesting about Eve To Adam is the fact that they are a modern hard rock band with an old-school mentality, one that embraces the fun, partying element that once defined the genre. Both the lyrics and the video for “Lucky” offer up a refreshing change-of-pace in the Active Rock format.
58 – DIMINO – “Never Again”
Back in the mid-‘70s, Gene Simmons discovered the band Angel. They were eventually signed to Casablanca Records (with Kiss). The band enjoyed early success as the alter-ego (of sorts) to Kiss, dressed in all white vs. the all-black ensemble sported by their label mates. For reasons that are still unclear, the band enjoyed more of a cult following than mass commercial success.
The ride ended quickly, as both frontman Frank Dimino and guitarist Punky Meadows left in 1981. Dimino has kept busy through the years, although not with any projects as high profile as Angel. When Dimino and Meadows both released albums this year, rumors swirled that there would be an Angel reunion, but nothing has materialized to date. Meadows did provide guest guitars on this bluesy rocker that is in the same wheelhouse as classic Deep Purple. Dimino shines on vocals, proving that he still has the pipes that once made him a part of a band that should have been bigger than they were.
59 – PUNKY MEADOWS – “Straight Shooter”
The ‘80s and glam metal are virtually synonymous, but not every glam band got the recognition that they deserved during the decade of decadence. As stated above, musically and stylistically, Angel should have been one of the biggest bands of that era, but they never rose above the level of having a cult following. The band’s guitarist, Punky Meadows, was well-respected for his playing, but ridiculed by rock critics (along with the rest of Angel) for his all-white outfits and androgynous image. Even Frank Zappa piled on with his song “Punky’s Whips,” but Meadows took it all in good stride, even appearing on stage during a Zappa concert in his Angel costume back in the day.
Between 1975 and 1980, Angel released five studio albums and one live album. By 1981, the band had called it quits, although they would release anthologies and collections in the ‘90s and 2000s. After a lengthy absence, Meadows has returned with a solo album entitled Fallen Angel (an autobiographical play on words). However, one listen to “Straight Shooter” (a single from the album), proves that he certainly would have been justified to call the album “An Angel has Risen” if he so chose.
The song starts off with a huge intro, symbolic of the time period when Angel was at their peak. Short of reuniting with Angel, Meadows couldn’t have chosen a better singer for his return than Chandler Mogel, a brilliant young vocalist with an “old soul” who would have been a household name if he was around during the time that classic rock was current. Meadows’ memorable riffs and leads leave you wondering why he took so long to come out of retirement. In fact, you have to wonder why he ever retired in the first place. No matter. He’s back now and you should make it a point to check out this timeless single.
60 – ART OF DYING – “Torn Down”
In a somewhat under-the-radar way, Canada has been a hotbed of great rock music. Many of the bands don’t get the recognition that they deserve, particularly when it comes to radio airplay. Art Of Dying’s “Torn Down” eventually gained traction at radio this year, but it took longer than it should have. Jonny Hetherington’s vocals capture the tonal quality of some of the more aggressive vocalists in the genre, albeit with a delivery that is as smooth as silk. “Torn Down” is a melodic anthem that blends nice vocal harmonies with gang vocals over a rock solid music foundation.
61 – RIK EMMETTT & RESOLUTION 9 – “Human Race”
When you think of Canadian power trios, the first band that comes to mind for most is Rush. For me, it’s always been Rush and Triumph, two bands that I love equally for different reasons. So, when I saw that Alex Lifeson and Rik Emmett were collaborating, I was immediately intrigued.
It’s been almost three decades since the release of Surveillance (the last Triumph album with the original lineup). One of the albums that has remained a personal favorite to this day is 1986’s The Sport Of Kings. The album had an uplifting, melodic vibe that doesn’t really exist much these days. “Human Race” is not only nostalgic for me because of the marriage between Triumph and Rush, but also because this song takes me back to the sound of the The Sport Of Kings album.
62 – THIRTEEN REASONS – “Unbreakable”
Many things can inspire you to check out a new artist. Because of Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday, I’m always on the hunt for music that is flying below the radar. One of the best ways to find these hidden gems is on social media. If you believe in the power of signs (which seems to happen more after a loss), some are just too striking to ignore. So what does this have to do with “Unbreakable” by Thirteen Reasons? Personally speaking…a lot.
Having lost both parents, there are ebbs and flows throughout the year where the realization of the loss strengthens depending on the calendar. This song appeared on my radar during a difficult time, and the number 13 is one that always reminds me of my loss.
So, when I came upon a post by Thirteen Reasons drummer, Daren Pfeifer, talking about the loss of his mother a year-and-a-half ago, and his dedication of “Unbreakable” to her, my interest was piqued. A song that is dedicated to the recent loss of someone’s mother, by a band named Thirteen Reasons? Was this one of those signs that I mentioned above?
I listened to “Unbreakable,” and then immediately reached out to Pfeifer to discuss featuring the song on Music Discovery Monday. The signs may have inspired me to listen to the song, but the music itself is what inspired me to feature it. Opening with a cool, Everlast vibe, the song quickly transitions into a powerful melodic rocker with an uplifting message.
Formed this year, these Philly rockers aim to “bring rock back to where it belongs, inside the hearts and souls of anyone who needs a victory, a good time or an escape.” They’re off to a good start with “Unbreakable.” Expect to see more of Thirteen Reasons on Hard Rock Daddy in the coming months.
63 – ANOTHER LOST YEAR – “We All Die Alone”
In 2012, Another Lost Year burst onto the scene with an incredible song called “War On The Inside.” It’s a story for another time, but that song helped lay the groundwork for the launch of Hard Rock Daddy in 2013. The band has been active in the years since then, but have yet to garner the radio attention that they deserve with subsequent releases. I’m thankful to radio for introducing me to these North Carolina rockers, but puzzled as to why Active Rock programmers seemed to have dropped the ball on a band that is far from a one-hit wonder. It’s a sign of the times that bands like ALY soldier on as road warriors even without enough exposure from radio. On “We All Die Alone,” the band delivers its usual driving rhythm, laying a powerful foundation for the emotive vocals of frontman Clinton Cunanan. If you still haven’t discovered this band, make sure to go back and check out more of what they have to offer.
64 – DREAM THEATER – “The Gift Of Music”
Fantasy meets reality in the first single off of Dream Theater’s latest concept album, The Astonishing. Early on in the song (before any characters are mentioned), the storyline reads like a discourse about the current mood of the people in the United States during one of the most divisive times in recent memory. While “The Gift Of Music” touches upon the present state of affairs, the construction of this musical journey took place over the past few years, so the lyrics are definitely not ripped from the headlines.
As “The Gift Of Music” progresses into the fantasy element that mentions specific characters, you realize that you don’t have the full context of the song when it’s isolated from the rest of the album. In the future, will this fantasy end up looking like a historical piece? Only time will tell. For the moment, “The Gift Of Music” offers enough intrigue to whet your appetite and make you want to experience the story in its entirety.
65 – DEE SNIDER – “We Are The Ones”
Nobody does “us-against-the-world” anthems like Dee Snider. In 1984, Snider and Twisted Sister gave us one of the greatest rock anthems in history with “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Over three decades later, Snider delivers again with “We Are The Ones” (the title track off of his latest solo release). Referred to as “the song that shaped the sound of the record” by Snider, “We Are The Ones” is about rebellion and believing in yourself. It’s a modern-day twist on the timeless Twisted Sister classic.
The release of Snider’s solo album is bittersweet for fans of a band that so many of us grew up on, given their recent retirement after a 40-year career. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but any notion of Twisted Sister continuing on was put to rest after the tragic passing of A.J. Perro in 2015.
Fans can take solace in the fact that the Twisted Sister sound is still alive and well. Snider’s vocals are as good as ever on this fist-pumping anthem!
66 – JESSE BLAZE SNIDER – “Credits Roll”
Knowing that Jesse Blaze Snider is the son of legendary rocker Dee Snider, I had a certain expectation when I first listened to Jesse’s single, “Credits Roll.” Although my first exposure to his music didn’t adhere to my pre-conceived notions, in some ways, it exceeded it.
Growing up as a rock and metal fan in the ‘80s on Long Island, it was almost mandatory to be a fan of Twisted Sister, and I was. In fact, purchasing Stay Hungry is one of the few purchases that I remember so vividly to this day.
While the connection to Dee is what initially intrigued me enough to check out Jesse’s music, it is the music itself that really made the biggest impression. “Credits Roll” doesn’t sound remotely like Twisted Sister, but there is a connection to be made in that it has a theatrical quality to it. Whereas Twisted Sister made an impact with over-the-top videos for anthemic songs, Jesse’s music is written for placement in movies, television, etc.
Musically speaking, “Credits Roll” begins with an intro that has the same vibe as Buckcherry’s “Sorry,” and eventually transitions into verses that would appeal to fans of Bon Jovi, before launching into an incredibly melodic hook. It has an upbeat feel, with lyrics that are a bit more pensive than the melody would indicate.
67 – SHALLOW SIDE – “Rebel”
I always look forward to hearing new music from great up-and-coming bands, but this one is even more special for a number of reasons, the main one being that frontman Eric Boatright seems to be back in full swing after suffering life-threatening injuries in a car accident back in March.
Trying times tend to either tear people apart or bring them closer together. Although I didn’t know the relationship between the members of Shallow Side before, you can tell that they treat each other like brothers, which just makes you want to root for them even more. When you factor in their humility and true gratitude for their fans, your rooting interest continues to grow.
There’s a refreshing, down-home vibe to “Rebel.” The band is able to deliver an edgy, “piss and vinegar” message with an upbeat feel that keeps your head nodding and your feet tapping.
68 – BRIDGE TO GRACE – “Left Inside”
It isn’t often that you think of Iron Maiden when you listen to most Active Rock artists. This is true of Bridge To Grace, although the beginning of “Left Inside” conjures up memories of another powerfully melodic vocal intro…Iron Maiden’s “Can I Play With Madness?” While the Maiden comparison ends there, the band’s latest single does infuse a modern sound with elements of melodic hard rock from the ‘80s. If you’re a fan of catchy vocal harmonies, “Left Inside” will be right in your wheelhouse.
Songs like this add a fresh and exciting change-of-pace to Active Rock stations. If the format is going to survive, bands like Bridge To Grace need to have a greater presence. Once upon a time, no one thought that “hair metal” would ever go away, but it died a very quick death when it started to sound like a parody of itself. While Active Rock doesn’t suffer from the “cheese factor” that hair metal did around the time of its demise, it is suffering (at times) from a lack of diversity of sound. Bridge To Grace brings much-needed diversity to the table.
69 – SEPTEMBER MOURNING – “Eye Of The Storm”
Hard Rock Daddy jumped on the September Mourning bandwagon back in September of 2015 when the band was still independent (they’ve since signed to Sumerian Records). This band is much more than another in a long line of female-fronted hard rock acts (a current trend).
The heavy music of “Eye Of The Storm” provides a perfect landscape for September to showcase a dynamic, emotive vocal range that helps bring the song to life in a manner that makes you think the music as art. The theatricality of “Eye Of The Storm” is further enhanced by the imagery in the video. If you somehow missed September Mourning when they were featured earlier on Hard Rock Daddy, make sure not to miss the opportunity to discover something truly unique this time around.
70 – FAILURE ANTHEM – “First World Problems”
While the United States appears to be falling apart at the seams in recent times, our problems still pale by comparison to many other people around the globe, especially those in third world countries. It’s easy to get caught up in the racial and political tension that has left citizens of the United States taking sides like children in a schoolyard game, but the blessing in disguise is that we still have choices.
Failure Anthem’s “First World Problems” offers a stark reminder that our problems, while notable, are relatively small in the larger scheme of things. This song was written well before many of the tragedies that took place in 2016 in the Untied States, but the facts and statistics displayed in the lyric video offer proof-positive that “First World Problems” are not nearly as devastating on the whole as those who have no real hope in sight. The song has an understandable edge to it, and a somewhat unexpected display of shredding guitars that is more commonplace in songs from ‘80s hard rock and metal than today’s Active Rock.
71 – THE DEAD DAISIES – “Last Time I Saw The Sun”
First there was Aerosmith. Then came Guns N’ Roses. And now, we have The Dead Daisies, the latest chapter in the book that is gritty, timeless rock and roll. If you love the two aforementioned bands, you have no choice but to be a fan of The Dead Daisies. Unlike Aerosmith and GNR, this is not a band that paid their dues and came up together. According to the band’s bio, this is “a music collective created by a rotating lineup that has individually and collectively left their mark on the high-class brand of rock and roll that the band is known for.”
The current incarnation of the band features Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), John Corabi (Motley Crue, The Scream), Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake), Brian Tichy (Ozzy, Foreigner) and David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink). Unlike many modern supergroups that record an album, but rarely tour, The Dead Daisies are road warriors who have toured extensively, going all around the world as the opening act for Kiss.
“Last Time I Saw The Sun” is everything that you love about Aerosmith and GNR (and more)…powerful vocals, bluesy riffs and huge melodic hooks with anthemic choruses. They may be relatively new, but with a foundation that harkens back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, The Dead Daisies are a band whose sound is tailor-made for the arena shows of yesteryear.
72 – TYKETTO – “I Need It Now”
Out of the many bands whose career launched in the early ‘90s, Tyketto is the one that always left me wondering what might have been if the rock music landscape hadn’t shifted so drastically with the grunge movement. The band’s 1991 debut album was one of the best albums of the year. The title of the album, Don’t Come Easy, would prove to be prophetic.
Lead singer Danny Vaughn had kept busy in recent years over in Europe with an Eagles cover band, but for Tyketto fans from the old days, it was disappointing to see the band fall by the wayside. Thankfully, 2016 has brought the band back into the fold with a new album entitled Reach. Let’s hope that the album title is prophetic this time around as well, and the band finally “reaches” their potential. “I Need It Now” picks up right where the band left off back in the day. If you were a fan back then, you will be now. If you’re just discovering Tyketto, make sure to check out the old stuff too.
73 – OCTOBER RAGE – “Giants”
October Rage’s “Giants” was purposely positioned at #73 because of the meaning behind the song. The full story from the band will be published on an upcoming Music Discovery Monday on Hard Rock Daddy, but for now, suffice it to say that the song was inspired by someone (who was born in 1973) that left us way before his time. I only got to know him for a brief period before his untimely passing, but he and his family made a big impact on me. We had discussed having him share his personal story on Hard Rock Daddy in a regular column, but never got the chance to launch it. That being said, October Rage is featured on this list because of the quality of the song, not just the meaningful inspiration.
“Giants,” like many songs written for those who have departed, is a bittersweet, emotional journey for those who understand the meaning. For those that don’t, the song still has a vibe of a melancholic power ballad with an uplifting undertone. This is one of those songs that gets better with each listen.
74 – JORN – “Hotel California”
Jorn’s latest album, Heavy Rock Radio, features several of the power vocalist’s favorite songs that meant something to him when he was younger. This interesting mix of covers ranges from pop to heavy metal. Of course, once Jorn puts his stamp on it, all of the songs become heavy.
One of my all-time favorite songs is “Hotel California” by the Eagles. I’m always leery about hearing classics re-interpreted, but Jorn does not disappoint. At its core, this version stays true to the original, albeit with a much heavier vibe, shredding solos and thunderous drums. Jorn’s perfect vocal blend of melody and dark intensity makes this cover one of the more memorable ones that I’ve heard in recent times.
75 – CRAZY LIXX – “All Looks, No Hooks”
“All Looks, No Hooks” seems like a song that should have been written around the time of the demise of hair metal. However, the song is actually this Swedish glam band’s clever take on the auditions that took place after losing both guitarists in August of 2015. Finding one new guitarist is challenging enough, so you can imagine how hard it is to replace both at the same time. The song and the video for “All Looks, No Hooks” is actually used as the introduction of the new guitar duo (Chrisse Olsen and Jens Lundgren). Throughout the video, you get to see a comedic re-enactment of the audition process, which undoubtedly had numerous moments of frustration.
Fortunately for Crazy Lixx, they have found two guitarists that have plenty of hooks. In fact, the whole song is a cavalcade of melodic hooks that features the best of what ‘80s hard rock had to offer.
76 – GHOST – “Square Hammer”
Sometimes it takes a while to warm up to a band that many others already love. Ghost is one of those bands for me. There’s something about the band’s latest single, “Square Hammer,” that is almost mesmerizing. It’s hard to say whether it’s the haunting, Halloween-esque keyboards, the chorus (which feels like an homage to ‘70s FM rock), or a combination of both, but there is something about the song that just draws you in. Of course, it’s always refreshing to hear something unique on Active Rock radio, which has a tendency to become a wall of similar sounds at times.
77 – BIBEAU – “Mark This”
Bibeau is a five-piece metal outfit from East Texas, who describe their sound as “a musical bridge between the classic power metal of the ‘70s and ‘80s, combined with the edge and attitude of today’s modern metal.” Musically, the band’s debut single (“Mark This”) is in the same vein as classic Queensryche, which is even more impressive when you take into account the fact that the band is so young (guitarist Robin Bibeau is 19, and drummer Peyton Bibeau is 15). The distinct, rangy vocal style of Drew Theiring is perfectly suited for this style of music. Theiring’s ability to blend the upper register with more hardened vocals is reminiscent of Sebastian Bach’s early Skid Row days. If you’re looking for a band to jump on early, Bibeau is a great place to start!
78 – TESLA – “Save That Goodness”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since the release of Tesla’s incredible debut album, Mechanical Resonance. I can still remember hearing “Modern Day Cowboy” for the first time and being blown away. And then seeing the band open for Def Leppard, in what I’m pretty sure was their first ever American arena show in upstate NY, was something to behold.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of one of the best debut albums in my collection, Tesla released Mechanical Resonance Live! In 2016 (which includes “Save That Goodness” as a bonus studio track).
The connection that started three decades ago with Def Leppard is still strong. The bands have toured together recently, and this song was written by Def Lep guitarist, Phil Collen. After Tesla bassist Brian Wheat heard the song, he suggested to Collen that they record it with him as the producer (see full story).
You can hear the influence of both bands in a song that brings the bands together in a brilliant way. This isn’t exactly the first time that there has been a connection between the bands. Years ago, Tesla paid homage to fallen Def Lep guitarist Steve Clark with “Song and Emotion,” one of the band’s more powerful tunes. This collaboration just works on every level.
79 – THE RADIO SUN – “Standing On The Edge Of Love”
If you’re a fan of upbeat, melodic rock with beautiful vocal harmonies, you will absolutely love Australia’s The Radio Sun. With “Standing On The Edge Of Love,” the band captures the spirit of Nelson’s debut album. For those who never gave Nelson their due (for reasons that still elude me), this is your chance to judge the music on its merit, rather than some misguided critical notion of an image. In a chaotic world filled with uncertainty, this song is a brilliant escape that is sure to lift your mood, and make you nostalgic for simpler, happier times.
80 – EDEN’S CURSE – “The Great Pretender”
“The Great Pretender” is off of Cardinal (the fifth studio album from Eden’s Curse). The album – which is the group’s heaviest and most progressive to date – took two years to write. Rather than just rush to get new material out to follow-up their successful previous release (Symphony Of Sin), the band took painstaking effort to scrutinize every riff, lick, hook, melody and lyric. The deliberate songwriting process was done to showcase this European metal band’s more technical side.
“The Great Pretender” blends together different styles of metal. At the outset, the riffs have a raw quality that is reminiscent of Great White’s debut album. When Nicola Mijic’s vocals kick in, thoughts of Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow comes to mind. As the song progresses, you can hear the attention to detail that the band paid in their writing. “The Great Pretender” builds to an epic, theatrical progressive/power metal crescendo.
The beauty of lyrics is that they can inspire different thoughts in different people. Because the lyrics seem so timely and relevant, I thought that the song was about something specific. It turns out that the meaning and inspiration behind the song is not what I initially thought, but it’s an outstanding tune that speaks to me nonetheless.
81 – SERIOUS BLACK – “As Long As I’m Alive”
For fans of European Power Metal, Serious Black is the result of a number of musical forces joining together to create something special. This six-piece tour de force features members from five different countries, and has only been together for a few years, but you would never know it by listening to them. “As Long As I’m Alive,” from the band’s Mirrorworld album, is a high-octane throwback to the Dio days of Rainbow blended with the best that Power Metal has to offer. Sadly, this type of music rarely finds an outlet in the United States (deserving as it may be).
82 – CRYSTAL BALL – “Deja Voodoo”
What started out as a cover band in 1995 has blossomed into a brilliant hard rock outfit that released their 9th studio album in 2016. Crystal Ball has a larger-than-life, theatrical sound that blends raw power with beautiful vocal harmonies. It’s the rare band that can tap into the sheer force and grit of bands like Judas Priest and Accept and infuse their songs with harmonies that rival AOR bands like Styx and Kansas. “Deja Voodoo” is merely the tip of the iceberg of what this band has to offer.
83 – BILLY TALENT – “Afraid Of Heights”
Billy Talent has flown beneath my radar until recently. There’s a lot of great music out there these days, sometimes too much to keep up with, so things can slip through the cracks. I may be a bit late to the party, but I’m sure that there are many others who haven’t discovered the band yet either.
In late July, Billy Talent released their fifth studio album, Afraid Of Heights. The title track is an interesting blend of Green Day-esque punk and Myles Kennedy’s work with Slash. There’s something about soaring vocals and melodic harmonies with a punk foundation that adds another level of intrigue to a song, and the overall sound of the band.
84 – JACKYL – “Just Because I’m Drunk”
In recent years, Jackyl frontman Jesse James Dupree has been in the public eye mostly because of his partnership in the Full Throttle Saloon and the annual television coverage of the Sturgis bike rally. However, with much less fanfare (outside of the mainstream), Jackyl has been going strong since their debut album in 1992. In 2016, the band released Rowyco (their eighth studio album). Dupree and co. have always been a bit edgy with their lyrics, and “Just Because I’m Drunk” is no exception. Unlike most of their upbeat rockers, this is a slower southern tune with a honkytonk flavor. This is about as close as the band has come to doing a ballad, but it works perfectly, and is the standout track on the album.
85 – STEVEN TYLER – “Red, White & You”
For nearly half a century, the rock and roll world could count on Aerosmith to be there like an old friend. Only a handful of bands have enjoyed that kind of longevity, much less remain at top of their game. Aerosmith is one of those bands that inarguably falls into the category of rock and roll legends.
As the saying goes…“all good things must come to an end.” It looks like that time is finally coming for Aerosmith. A Joe Perry health scare in 2016 served as a reminder that we should appreciate legendary bands while they’re still together.
Steven Tyler’s 2016 release takes the iconic frontman in a different musical direction, but one that will resonate with his fans just the same. Perhaps if someone else recorded the same songs, it would fall squarely under the umbrella of “country music,” but Tyler’s distinct vocals nudge the song more towards the Southern Rock category.
“Red, White & You” – the debut single off of We’re All Somebody From Somewhere – will have instant appeal to Aerosmith fans who appreciate songs like “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” and “Amazing” (to name a few). This melodic slice of Americana pays homage to Tom Petty in an upbeat, feel-good, summer song kind of way.
86 – DITCHWATER – “Save Your Apologies”
You would think that a band with origins that date back to the mid-‘90s would have either made it or packed it in by now, but there is something to be said for perseverance. Social media can be something of a double-edged sword; it has its share of negativity, but some very positive things can come from it as well. If not for a Facebook friend turning me on to Ditchwater, who knows when I would have discovered this hard rock unit from Chicago? The band’s heavy, groove-oriented sound is reminiscent of Sevendust.
Like many bands, Ditchwater has gone through its share of lineup changes through the years. After a seven-year “hiatus” between 2007-2014 (which featured the occasional show and single release), the band returned to full strength in December of 2015, reforming with some long-time members and one newcomer.
“Save Your Apologies” offers a nice introduction to a band that, by all rights, should become a staple on Active Rock radio.
87 – HARVEST FALLS – “Waiting On The Edge”
Harvest Falls describes their sound as “a fusion of modern alternative music and hard rock.” Interestingly, while I find an alternative undertone to “Waiting On The Edge,” because of the melodic vocal harmonies and passionate lead vocals of Ronnie Cinnella, I hear a unique blend of King’s X and Kansas. The dual guitar work of Anthony Gomes and Marc Bernuy has ‘80s metal sensibilities infused with the vibe of Tool’s “Sober.” This New Jersey rock quartet is rounded out by the solid foundation laid by drummer JR Pereira.
Harvest Falls is currently unsigned, but it certainly isn’t because of a lack of talent or quality songs. The only challenge that I can see for these up-and-comers is that they’re too unique to be easily pigeon-holed into a specific radio format.
88 – WALKING WITH GIANTS – “Heavy Hand”
Though Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy’s work outside of Alter Bridge gets the most attention, they are not the only members of the band releasing new music between albums. AB bassist Brian Marshall recently completed his second album with Walking With Giants, a project that also features Clint Lowery and Morgan Rose of Sevendust. While this may appear to be some sort of supergroup, the story behind the band is actually more interesting than that. Singer/guitarist Gary Noon is the creative force behind the music. It just so happens that he is one of the rare talents that is able to get musicians from his two favorite bands (Alter Bridge & Sevendust) to help bring his songs to life.
“Heavy Hand” – from Walking With Giants’ sophomore release, Worlds Unknown – has an understandable influence of the aforementioned bands, but it is the unexpected flavor of ‘80s supergroup Asia that makes this song so intriguing. Noon may have the least name recognition of the group, but from a talent perspective, he fits right in with the rest of the band.
89 – CROBOT – “Not For Sale”
I still remember where I was the first time that I heard Crobot being played on SiriusXM’s Octane. I only caught about a minute or so of “Nowhere To Hide,” but that was enough to get me hooked. At the time, I thought that it might have been Myles Kennedy singing on a side project. It turns out that it was Brandon Yeagley’s soaring vocals blasting through my speakers. On the band’s latest single, “Not For Sale,” Yeagley once again makes you stand up and take notice, belting out vocals over the timeless sound that is Crobot.
One of the growing trends over the past few years is the strong influence of classic rock shining through in current hard rock bands. Crobot does it as well as any band out there. It is worth mentioning that the lyric video for “Not For Sale” is an even greater nostalgic journey than the song itself, so much so that it was almost impossible to pay attention to the lyrics on the first viewing.
90 – AIRBOURNE – “It’s All For Rock N’ Roll”
These days, you hear a lot of noise being made about the death of rock n’ roll. It’s simply not true. However, 2016 was a rough year for rock n’ roll when it comes to the loss of iconic rock legends. Perhaps the greatest loss for the genre was the passing of Lemmy Kilmister. Although he is gone, Lemmy will not soon be forgotten by the masses or by the artists that he inspired.
One of the bands that toured extensively with Motorhead is Australia’s Airbourne. In fact, Lemmy played the part of a truck driver in the promo video for “Runnin’ Wild” (the title track of Airbourne’s debut album).
Lemmy’s passing – along with memories of other hard living rockers like Bon Scott and Keith Moon – helped to inspire this rock n’ roll anthem that is very much in the same vein as fellow Australians, AC/DC. “It’s All For Rock N’ Roll” is more than just a tribute to fallen rock icons. This song is for everyone who loves rock n’ roll, from the fans to the crew to those on stage. Rock n’ roll is more than just music; it’s a lifestyle whose essence is perfectly captured in this fist-pumping anthem.
91 – BITERS – “1975”
When you mention modern bands and glam in the same breath, your thoughts immediately go to the glory days of ‘80s hair metal. While glam may be most often associated with the ‘80s, the movement began at least a decade earlier in a less obvious way, with artists like David Bowie, Alice Cooper and others. Biters are a current band with a definitive ‘70s glam vibe and a bit of a punk edge, making them stand out as being something totally different today. You have to wonder if they chose “1975” as the year that they want to go back to because it is around the time that Cheap Trick (a band that clearly has a big influence on them) made their debut. This song takes you on a nostalgic musical journey back to the ‘70s, without sounding dated. With an underlying riff that is reminiscent of the Police hit “Roxanne,” combined with a grittier version of classic Cheap Trick, “1975” is a home run! To make the nostalgic journey complete, make sure to watch the video as you listen to the song.
92 – EVANS BLUE – “iGod”
With the relatively short attention span of people today, and a seemingly endless supply of new hard rock music, it’s somewhat risky to disappear from the public’s eye for an extended period of time.
That is, of course, unless you come back with a vengeance, the way that Evans Blue has with their first new material in nearly four years with “iGod,” the lead single from their latest release, Letters From The Dead. The sound of Evans Blue continues to evolve, moving in a decidedly heavier direction this time around.
Many bands in the current Active Rock climate would have taken this heavy song over the top with angry growls/screams, but Evans Blue has a style that is all their own, and melody is a big part of it. The more that you peel back the layers of “iGod” (especially listening through headphones), the more that you discover that the song is clear fit for Active Rock, but also infuses influences of other sub-genres such as prog, thrash and metal.
93 – DORO – “Love’s Gone To Hell”
Doro Pesch’s career began in the early ‘80s as the frontwoman of German heavy metal band, Warlock. By the late ‘80s, she moved on from Warlock and transitioned to her own band, Doro. Nearly three decades since her first release under the Doro moniker, this underrated powerhouse continues to put out quality music that rarely gets its due (at least in America). With “Love’s Gone To Hell,” Pesch proves that she is as good as ever, both vocally and as a songwriter.
94 – STREETLIGHT CIRCUS – “Needle Down”
In recent years, there has been a revival of both vinyl records and the classic rock sound (from up-and-coming bands). Enter Streetlight Circus at the crossroads of both with the title track from their latest release, Needle Down.
The song starts with the nostalgic sound of the scratch of a needle across a record before kicking into high gear. There’s no arguing that Kiss is one of the greatest bands that rock has ever seen, but still, their influence is heard in bands far less than other legends like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin (to name a few). However, if you’re a fan of the glory days of Kiss, there’s no doubt that you’re going to enjoy putting the “needle down” on this record.
95 – PRETTY MAIDS – “Face The World”
American metal fans have had very little exposure to Denmark’s Pretty Maids. Aside from the title track to the band’s sophomore album, Future World, a good portion of American metal fans are unfamiliar with the band’s storied career and lengthy discography.
In November, these Danish rockers released their 15th studio album, Kingmaker. Admittedly, I am among the American metal fans who was unaware of Pretty Maids’ longevity, but thanks to Frontiers Records (the Italian metal label that bridges the ‘80s to today), I discovered the band’s most recent single, “Face The World.”
Nearly 30 years have passed since the band’s sole American hit, so it’s understandable that they would be coming from an entirely different “world” (so to speak) this time around. “Face The World” is rooted in ‘80s metal, but isn’t quite as in your face as “Future World.” It’s more along the lines of the melodic AOR sound of bands like Night Ranger and Whitesnake.
96 – BLACKFOOT – “Southern Native”
Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke’s history with Blackfoot goes all the way back to the early ‘70s. Medlocke is still a part of the current incarnation, but not exactly in the way that you would expect. While the co-founding member of this storied southern rock band is no longer an active member, he is the one responsible for recruiting the current lineup to carry on the band’s name.
“Southern Native” is the title track of the band’s 11th studio album. It’s been 22 years since the band’s last studio album, After The Reign (which featured a guest appearance by Zakk Wylde on the title track). Medlocke calls the band’s latest release “classic rock for a new generation.” The title track is classic rock meets southern rock with a powerful tribal backbone that befits the Native American-themed lyrics. Although Medlocke is not an active member of the band, he provides guest guitar work and backing vocals on this outstanding track that also features the soulful guest vocals of Stacy Michelle.
97 – BLACKBERRY SMOKE – “Waiting For The Thunder”
Blackberry Smoke has been making noise on the Southern Rock scene for over a decade. In 2016, the band released their fifth studio album, Like An Arrow. “Waiting For The Thunder” takes you a journey back in time to the days when Lynyrd Skynyrd ruled the roost, and “Saturday Night Special” warned that “the cold barrel wasn’t good for nothin’ but put a man six feet in the hole.”
The stakes are much higher with Blackberry Smoke this time around, with an ominous observation about the state of the world…
“Light the fuse and run now brother ‘cause you ain’t got a lot of time. Don’t you act surprised when it all goes to hell on your dime. Maybe you can stand tall enough to look the devil in the eye. But you better make a getaway quick so you don’t have to answer why.”
98 – LOVE AND A .38 – “Oh My God”
If you are a fan of classic, bluesy hard rock with a southern flare, you’ll be thanking me for introducing you to Love and a .38, a Los Angeles-based, DIY band who plays music from the heart with no regard for genres or sub-genres. The four members of the band (who hail from various parts of the country) have taken an “it’s all rock and roll to me approach” to their music. They’ve come together through varied and shared experiences, triumphs and failures.
If you’re like me, by the time that you finish listening to this killer tune, you’ll be saying “Oh My God”… “how the hell is this band still unsigned!?” Is it because they don’t fit neatly into some ill-conceived radio format? If that’s the reason, it says a lot about the state of the music industry, especially when it comes to rock.
99 – TEN TON MOJO – “American Honey”
When you think of Southern Rock, the first thing that comes to your mind is New York City, right? Obviously not, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find some quality music from the genre in the “city that never sleeps.” Of course, Ten Ton Mojo’s brand of Southern Rock is infused with a bluesy sound that is reminiscent of The Black Crowes, and the coolness of Sammy Hagar’s early days with Montrose. The studio version of “American Honey” is cool, but to fully appreciate what this band has to offer, you have to check them out in a live setting.
100 – COUNTER VOID – “Pucker Up”
Counter Void is a newer band with an incredibly professional sound and undeniable chemistry, which is not surprising given that there are only two members (Ben Hafeman and Brad Miller). It would be an exercise in futility to tell you what instruments they each play because they both seem to play everything (although Hafeman is listed as lead vocals and Miller as lead guitar). What I can tell you is that they get the most out of every instrument, defying the old adage…“jack-of-all trades, master of none.” If you’re a fan of timeless, classic rock, make sure to be one of the early adopters of this intriguing duo.
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS LIST AND LISTEN TO THE PLAYLISTS. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. STILL WANT MORE HARD ROCK? CHECK OUT THE ARTICLES BELOW! \m/