Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2018
Contrary to the opinion of doomsayers, 2018 was another great year for rock music. Due in large part to the classic rock revival that is taking place, modern artists are crossing the generational divide and appealing to wider audiences.
Because so much quality music was released during 2018, it was more challenging than ever to narrow this list to 100 songs.
To give our readers the greatest possible variety of music, the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2018 only features one song per artist (although a number of artists released more than one single worthy of recognition).
Many of the songs on the list were heard throughout the year on SiriusXM’s Octane and on Active Rock radio stations throughout North America. To provide Hard Rock Daddy readers with the most comprehensive list of hard rock music possible, a number of songs that didn’t get airplay are also included.
In addition to featuring established artists with careers that span several decades, this list also includes a number of artists on the rise.
The songs featured on the playlists below can also be found on the Hard Rock Daddy Network (HRD’s YouTube channel).
This list represents more than just the sequential ranking of the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2018. Each of these four playlists were purposely curated be listened to individually.
#1 – 25
 SHINEDOWN – “GET UP”
Soft piano intros and the Active Rock format do not go hand-in-hand. In fact, they are almost unheard of. However, Shinedown can do it successfully because of their previous track record, and more importantly, because of the brilliant, soulful, unique vocals of Brent Smith. Whereas much of Active Rock is about tapping into at least a hint of angst, Shinedown excels at incorporating a healthy dose of beauty into melodic, poetic lyrics. It’s one of the many things that makes the band stand out above most others. What makes Shinedown even more special is a sense of dynamics that allows them to seamlessly transition between soft touching emotion and powerfully heavy intensity.
“GET UP” is another in a long line of inspired Shinedown songs that deservedly grabs the “ATTENTION ATTENTION” of radio programmers and rock music fans alike. Simply put, Active Rock radio is just better when Shinedown is releasing singles off of a new album. Beyond the sonic appeal of the song is the positive inspiration of the lyrics, and the feelings of hope that wash over you as Smith sings…
“If you were ever in doubt, don’t sell yourself short, you might be bulletproof. Hard to move mountains when you’re paralyzed, but you gotta try…”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and/or stuck in procrastination mode, “stop stalling, get a move on” and crank up the top hard rock song of 2018 to inspire you to take action!
 STONE SOUR – “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So I Am I)”
If you judged the lyrical content of “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I)” based solely on the title, you might expect to find something a bit goofy. At the very least, you would think that the song was probably immature and lacked depth. As the saying goes, “never judge a book by its cover.” As usual, Corey Taylor’s lyrics are thought-provoking and beautifully poetic. He brings deep concepts to life with a delivery that is virtually unrivaled in rock today.
“Rose Red Violent Blue” begins with Taylor’s pensive, emotive tone before erupting into an energetic rocker as the song crescendos into a melodic hook that lingers in your head after it ends. Despite the claim made in the title, neither the song nor Taylor are “dumb.” Quite the contrary! Though I can’t say for sure what the song is all about, the lyrics inspire you to think. I expect nothing less from Taylor.
Aside from Taylor’s brilliance as a vocalist and lyricist, the band drives the song with a fury that can best be described as controlled chaos (especially Roy Mayorga’s relentless drumming).
 SLASH f. MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS – “Driving Rain”
The rock music world lost their collective minds when Guns N’ Roses reunited after many years. I had two thoughts when the reunion was announced. The first was that it wasn’t truly a reunion because there was no Izzy Stradlin or Steven Adler. The next was that the reunion could have meant the end of one of my favorite bands – Slash f. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. Thankfully, despite dominating the music scene recently, the GNR reunion has not stopped Slash and Kennedy from writing new material.
One of the more interesting things to come from the reunion is the classic GNR guitar sound on “Driving Rain.” There’s an edgy swagger to Slash’s riff, and the driving rhythm that harkens back to the Appetite For Destruction days. Unlike Axl Rose’s gritty delivery that sits right in the pocket of this sound, Kennedy’s beautiful, soaring, melodic vocals offer a bright contrast to the heaviness of the music.
As much as I love classic GNR, Alter Bridge, and Kennedy’s solo work, there is something special about this duo that grabs me every time.
 THE NEAL MORSE BAND – “Welcome To The World”
In 1975, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was featured on Queen’s A Night At The Opera. The song has been one of the all-time classics for many years, but perhaps never more appreciated than this year. The critics may disagree, but fans agree that Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the best rock biopics ever made. Though the band is still incredibly popular, what has been missing is the release of new music since Freddie Mercury’s passing.
What if I told you that there was new music being released that would satiate the appetite of even the most ravenous Queen fans? With beautiful layered harmonies, a larger-than-life sound, and virtuoso musicianship, “Welcome To The World” is a masterpiece that is unlike anything in rock today. Not only will Queen fans love this song, but so will fans of classic Styx, and of course, prog rock.
He is a household name in prog, but vastly underrated in the mainstream. “Welcome To The World” of Neal Morse, a genius mind who paints vivid mental pictures with his storytelling. He also happens to be one of the most gifted musicians around, but only widely known to one subgenre of rock (prog).
The most well-known entity in The Neal Morse Band is drummer extraordinaire, Mike Portnoy. The rest of the members of the band, while lesser known, are on par with Portnoy and Morse. To fully appreciate their greatness, you should make it a point to see them live if you get the chance.
“Welcome To The World” of a band that would be selling out arenas if they were around in the ‘70s.
 METALLICA – “Halo On Fire”
It’s somewhat surprising to see an album these days that can produce numerous songs that get meaningful airplay. Six is unheard of, especially when the sixth song is over eight minutes long. Of course, when you’re Metallica (arguably the biggest rock band in the world), it becomes a bit less surprising.
Even though Hardwired…To Self-Destruct just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its release, strong albums like this have a longer life cycle when it comes to releasing singles. Realistically, this is probably the last bit of mileage that Metallica will get out of their most celebrated album in several years.
If “Halo On Fire” is the last hurrah off of Hardwired, it is a hell of a way to close out the cycle. In my opinion, they saved the best for last. It’s not that the song takes you back in time to the band’s thrash heyday the way that some of the other songs on the album do, but it does have some of the same elements that made “Fade To Black” an all-time classic and fan favorite. Like some of their other epic pieces, “Halo On Fire” has multiple parts, but they blend together smoothly rather than giving you whiplash as they slam on the breaks and change direction.
Metallica is predominantly an influential band, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t write songs that seem to pay homage to other artists. In the beginning of the song, the dual guitar assault that transitions to a slower, moody tempo is similar to the approach that Judas Priest took on “Victim Of Changes.” To be fair, “Halo On Fire” – while lengthy – is more accessible to the average listener than the Priest classic. The hook and the chorus fall more in the realm of radio-friendly songs.
About halfway through the song, there is a nice guitar riff transition that acts as a bridge to the second half of the song where some unlikely influences can be heard. At times, you’ll be reminded of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.” On one small guitar picking part – Queensryche’s “Anybody Listening.” Shades of a mixture between The Guess Who’s “No Time” and John Cougar Mellancamp’s “I Need A Lover” shine through in the melodic guitar parts that sing a vocal melody. The jamming at the end of the song has a Lynyrd Skynyrd “Freebird” vibe.
Metallica has shown different sides of themselves throughout their illustrious career, but it’s hard to think of a song that shows more diversity than “Halo On Fire.”
 JOSH TODD & THE CONFLICT – “Story Of My Life”
Though Josh Todd & The Conflict has a different energy than Buckcherry, hearing Todd’s instantly recognizable vocals makes you think of the band that he made famous. However, as you listen more, you can start to hear some of the differences between the two bands.
“Story Of My Life” is a high energy rocker with a bit of a California punk influence. What makes the song stand out (aside from Todd’s incredible vocals) is tasteful use of a tribal beat. This track chugs along at an upbeat pace, but also features some nice breaks that show off how dynamic this unit is.
 THE EAST SIDE GAMBLERS – “The Getaway”
Although I’ve been a listener to SiriusXM’s Hair Nation for many years, it’s not the place that I go to discover new music. It’s more about flipping to a station that is virtually guaranteed to be playing songs that I already know and like.
When I heard “The Getaway” by The East Side Gamblers on the station, I wondered how I had never heard of the band before, especially with a song this good. It turns out that “The Getaway” is something of a unicorn – new music on Hair Nation from an artist that is not rooted in the ‘80s.
Would I classify The East Side Gamblers as a “hair metal” band? No, I wouldn’t. They are more like the blues rock bands that got lumped into the category by a lazy industry back in the day…the ones that were unceremoniously discarded with the rise of the grunge movement.
“The Getaway” features a Led Zeppelin-esque riff that carries throughout the song, but the influences run deeper than that. The riff quickly transitions to an in-your-face ballsiness that defined the early days of Skid Row. As the song progresses to the beautifully melodic, anthemic chorus, shades of Badlands (one of the most underrated bands of the late-‘80s/early-‘90s) shines through.
A four-piece unit out of Nashville, The East Side Gamblers describe themselves as “rock and roll for people who love rock and roll.” It may sound simple and direct, but it’s an appropriate description of the band’s sound.
Most rock bands nowadays strive to get played on SiriusXM’s Octane. Would Octane be better if bands like The East Side Gamblers were in the rotation? Without question! However, it speaks volumes about the band’s talent that they have managed to get airplay on a station that is unapologetic about its dedication to all things ‘80s.
Even if they never get played on Active Rock stations, there is still a clear path for this band to break through by following down the trail blazed by The Dead Daisies. If you’re a fan of pure, bluesy, timeless rock and roll, make sure to check out The East Side Gamblers!
 SUNFLOWER DEAD – “Victim”
Sunflower Dead is a band with Philadelphia roots, who by all rights, should already be a household name in today’s rock scene. Like many great artists, this band is misunderstood. Not by the fans, but by the industry. Thankfully, after an exhaustive process, they have finally found a home with Dave Ellefson’s EMP Label Group. Like Rocky Balboa, these native Philly rockers come out swinging with “Victim,” the lead single off of the band’s latest release, Coma.
When the aggressive opening notes came screaming out of my speakers the first time that I listened to the song, the heavy bass, pounding drums, and hauntingly eerie guitars didn’t make me think of Rocky. It made me think of Mike Tyson saying that he wanted to “eat Lennox Lewis’ children.” Do I think that Sunflower Dead wants to eat your children? Despite the macabre moniker, and (formerly) scary looking makeup, I do not. They just want to show the world that they belong up there with the top names in hard rock and metal today.
The gloves are off on “Victim,” as well as the band’s makeup. Maybe the makeup helped to get attention at one point when Sunflower Dead was trying to rise above the din and get noticed, but this time around, the band is letting the music do the talking. And rightfully so!
If you are looking for something truly inspired and unique, buckle up and crank “Victim” up to eleven. You need to feel this song as much as you listen to it. With an intro this heavy, you would expect to hear a bunch of indecipherable, testosterone-drenched growls, but what you get is something quite the opposite.
Michael Del Pizzo is one of the most underrated vocalists in rock today (as is the rest of Sunflower Dead). There’s a haunting beauty to his vocals that goes well beneath the surface to penetrate your soul. Like a great storyteller, Del Pizzo hooks you in with the verse before dialing it up a notch as the song builds to a crescendo in the chorus. All the while, Jaboo (lead guitar), Jamie Teissere (guitar), Christian Olde Wolbers (bass), and Brian “Brett” Weir (drums) take you on a dynamic musical roller coaster ride.
There are some well-placed growls in “Victim,” but they are used to help bring the lyrics to life, not as a crutch that far too many bands rely upon these days. When you think of Active Rock, big hooks don’t really come to mind for most. However, Sunflower Dead has hooks that take you back in time. Like thunder and lightning, Sunflower Dead’s melodic hooks and thunderous rhythms combine to create the perfect storm.
 BADFLOWER – “Ghost”
Suicide is a growing epidemic, one that has taken the lives of some truly talented musicians in recent years. Badflower’s smash hit, “Ghost,” takes a unique approach looking into the subject by writing the story from the perspective of someone who is thinking about taking their own life, but is refrained by the regret and pain that would come in the wake of a successful attempt. All too often these days, there is no cry for help, so no one gets a chance to help the person in pain. “Ghost” provides a glimpse into the stark reality of suffering while still searching for a glimmer of hope.
The subject matter of “Ghost” is heavier than most songs heard on Active Rock radio these days. Yet, the song soared all the way up the charts to #1. What makes Badflower’s run so impressive is that they had to climb the chart at a time when all of the heavyweights were battling for the top with them.
“Ghost” is an incredible song (with a powerful message) delivered in a hauntingly poignant way. Even if you never watched the video (which you should), you can paint a mental picture in your mind about the story.
Musically, Badflower stands out as unique. While there are heavy sonic parts to the “Ghost,” overall, the song is more moody than rocking. The opening verse is closer to being in the same vein as Bruno Mars than it is any other Active Rock band.
You have to imagine that Badflower has now launched themselves into the same stratosphere as other hot up-and-comers in rock today.
 BAD WOLVES – “Zombie”
Hearing a cover of “Zombie” on SiriusXM’s Octane right after Dolores O’Riordan’s passing, I was surprised that the band was able to do such a professional interpretation and get it out so quickly as a tribute. It wasn’t until I started reading more about the cover of this quintessential song from The Cranberries singer that I realized that this had been planned for some time.
O’Riordan liked the interpretation of the song so much that she was scheduled to provide guest vocals on the track on the day of her tragic passing. With no more reason to wait to release the song, “Zombie” hit the airwaves to a great deal of enthusiasm. All of the proceeds from the song are being donated to O’Riordan’s three children.
The release of “Zombie” has to feel bittersweet to the members of Bad Wolves, a group that features former members of God Forbid, DevilDriver and In This Moment. After receiving the ultimate form of validation from the writer of the song, and coming so close to having her provide guest vocals, their powerful interpretation must feel somewhat incomplete. It shouldn’t, however. While it would have been interesting to hear what O’Riordan would have added to the song, Bad Wolves’ cover of “Zombie” is outstanding in its own right.
Inspired by IRA bombings during the Irish Rebellion, the original lyrics of “Zombie” make reference to the year that it took place (1916), and bemoaned the fact that the fighting was still going on. Bad Wolves changed the lyric in the song from 1916 to 2018. According to singer Tommy Vext, O’Riordan was excited about the lyric change.
Doing an inspired cover of any song requires an artist to make it their own. Bad Wolves has certainly done that with “Zombie.”
 FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – “Blue On Black”
As the biggest hard rock/metal band of the modern era, Five Finger Death Punch doesn’t get the same benefit from doing covers as young bands trying to make a name for themselves. So why bother? I have a few theories.
First of all, Ivan Moody’s voice (and the band’s sound) is so distinct that anything that they do instantly sounds like an original. My other theory is that they are just showing appreciation for music that inspires them. By doing these covers, FFDP introduces a new audience to songs that they may never have heard otherwise. You have to think that this is the case with the band’s interpretation of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue On Black.”
Though FFDP’s version of the song doesn’t stray far from Shepherd’s composition, their delivery takes the bluesy country vibe of the original and turns it into a haunting southern influenced metal song. Jason Hook’s shredding solos take you back in time to the days when guitar heroes reigned. Once again, FFDP shows that they are at the top of the food chain whether they are doing their own songs or covers.
 DISTURBED – “Are You Ready?”
Aside from the band’s megahit cover of “The Sound Of Silence,” whenever Disturbed comes blasting through your speakers, you need to brace yourself for an onslaught led by frontman David Draiman. “Are You Ready?” gets the adrenaline pumping from the outset as Draiman aggressively belts out “get up, get up,” which makes it feel like the beginning of a high intensity workout video. As the song transitions, a message of empowerment is delivered in this “us against the world” anthem.
Disturbed is one of the truly unique bands in rock today, so it’s no surprise that they are a dominant force on Active Rock radio. With a three year gap since their extremely successful Immortalized album, there was undoubtedly a pent up demand for new music from the band (from both fans and programmers alike). Not surprisingly, “Are You Ready?” instantly shot up the charts and eventually landed the band another chart-topper.
 UGLY MELON – “You Want More”
Back in 1987, Gordon Gecko try to make us all believe that “greed is good.” Michael Douglas’ character in the movie Wall Street was undoubtedly based on real-life people, but he was a fictional character. These days, real-life Gordon Geckos have become all the rage, and that quote has become the motto of those in power. While there isn’t anything wrong with wanting more, there is more to life than stepping on the backs of others to get it. Ugly Melon’s latest single – “You Want More” – off of their sophomore release (Just A Man), takes the greedy to task in a powerful way.
These Toronto rockers have been proactive and bold in their social consciousness about the problems of the world. The trend continues with “You Want More.” Not only are the thought-provoking lyrics brought to life with the impassioned, charismatic vocal delivery of frontman Tony LaSelva, but the imagery in the video helps to tell the story in a cinematic way.
From the dazzling riffs and shredding of lead guitarist Lu Cachie, to the thunderous, aggressive rhythm of the rest of the band, “You Want More” is a hard-hitting beast of a song that offers a provocative, timely message.
Sonically, “You Want More” is in the same vein as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” LaSelva continues to prove that he is one of the top vocalists in rock today with a unique style that was influenced by some of the all-time greats. Cachie’s riffs set a seriously aggressive tone for the song, and his bluesy leads blend his Slash and Eric Clapton influences.
 GHOST – “Dance Macabre”
A feel good song from a band that is known for a haunting darkness? That was my first thought when I listened to Ghost’s “Dance Macabre.” I’ll admit that I was a latecomer to the Ghost bandwagon, probably because their current sound is much more in line with my personal taste. There has been a ton of hype around the band for quite some time, but it took me a while to get it. That’s not to say that I didn’t get why others felt strongly about this mysterious band.
With Ghost’s reputation and the song title, I expected something much darker. What I got was a nostalgic surprise that took me back in time to my formative years.
On the surface level, “Dance Macabre” is reminiscent of the early days of Ratt. However, when you peel back the layers and listen closely to the subtle nuances, you start to hear some other unexpected reminders of days gone by. The upbeat, bombastic sound of “Dance Macabre” sounds like it could have been the anchor song in one of the movies in the Rocky franchise. In fact, if the franchise does another movie, this song would be an ideal bridge between the past and the present. (Think Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” with a modern twist).
There’s a hint of the sweetness in the vocal harmonies that feels like the hair band era, as well as an understated nod towards bands like ELO and early Styx. You just don’t hear songs with massive hooks like “Dance Macabre” on the radio these days. It’s a refreshing deviation from the norm that will hold great appeal to Gen Xers longing for a taste of their youth in modern times.
 EVE TO ADAM – “No Easy Way Out”
Survivor is the band that comes to mind for most when they think of the Rocky movies (deservedly so). But that doesn’t mean that the band was the only one to contribute tone-setting songs to the movies in the franchise. One of my personal favorites has always been Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out.” There is something about it that just gets your blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. Granted, the song has a distinct ’80s feel (particularly the keyboards), but for those who grew up watching Rocky movies, “No Easy Way Out” is a joyful trip down memory lane. With songs like this, that have a place deep in the hearts of many, there is always a risk in trying to make it your own with a cover.
Eve To Adam has threaded the needle perfectly with their interpretation of this underrated classic. By replacing the ’80s keyboards with crunchy, powerful guitars, the band has given “No Easy Way Out” a modern twist (and a significant shot of testosterone). All the while, they stay fairly true to the original when it comes to the vocal melody line.
Because of the tie-in with Rocky IV, Tepper’s original has an arena rock feel, but Eve To Adam takes it to another level of arena rock intensity with their interpretation.
 THE DEAD DAISIES – “Rise Up”
The Dead Daisies are one of the few “new” classic rock bands that has been embraced by modern radio (though they’re far from a household name to the masses). Despite the revolving door policy of this supergroup, they continuously deliver a cohesive sound. Not only is “Rise Up” another stellar song (with musicianship to match), it also delivers an important message to the youth of today who have the most to lose if we continue down the path that we’re currently on in the United States.
There is always a risk when you take a strong political stance these days as an artist. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. While you may turn off a certain segment of fans, you are likely to gain new ones that agree with you if your message reaches them. I’ve seen numerous people say that artists should just “shut up and play.” I strongly disagree. Rock and roll has never shied away from going against the establishment, so there is no reason that they should when the stakes have never been higher.
The only difference between the protest songs of the ‘60s and today is the fact that everyone has a soapbox to stand on because of social media. The anonymity of the internet has emboldened anyone with a keyboard. It doesn’t take guts to shout your opinion to the world when no one is listening. When you’re an artist and you take a stand, the message is more powerful because there is skin in the game. “Rise Up” is noteworthy for both the music and the lyrics.
 JUDAS PRIEST – “Lightning Strike”
Although Judas Priest doesn’t usually get played on Active Rock radio, Rob Halford definitely made his presence felt in recent years when he provided guest vocals on Five Finger Death Punch’s “Lift Me Up.” Judas Priest is one of the most influential bands in the history of hard rock and heavy metal. Without bands like Priest (and other legends), this format would not even exist.
Legacy aside, “Lightning Strike” – the lead single from their latest album, Firepower – is vintage Priest. With all due respect to this generation of talented rock and metal artists, none of them are Judas Priest. Though the band will celebrate their 50th year in existence, this is not some classic rock band clinging to their past accomplishments.
“Lightning Strike” is pure, in-your-face, fist-pumping, headbanging heavy metal at its best. This song is timeless. It’s mindboggling that Judas Priest can be so good this far along in their career. Halford’s voice is as good as it has ever been, as are the riffs that made the band famous.
 FOZZY – “Painless”
Ozzy Osbourne’s distinct vocal style is only one part of what has made him a rock and roll icon. His songwriting, charisma, and larger-than-life personality equally added to his legend. Coming close to his vocal style is challenging enough. Adding in the other aforementioned elements is almost unfathomable. In a less obvious way, Chris Jericho checks all of the boxes.
Jericho’s big personality helped him to become one of the most popular WWE wrestlers in the world. In May, he made his debut as an Octane DJ. His charisma shines through as one of the more interesting on-air personalities on the station. He also happens to be in a band that is one of the best in the Active Rock format.
For all of his personal achievements, Jericho’s role in Fozzy is what makes him stand out most these days. His vocal style is as similar to Ozzy as any other singer out there, and his ability to write modern rock songs with a classic edge is up there with the best of them.
“Painless” is another standout example of the reason that Fozzy is quickly becoming one of the bigger bands in rock today.
 BLACK LABEL SOCIETY – “A Love Unreal”
The opening acoustic guitar picking by Zakk Wylde on “A Love Unreal” makes you think that you’re about to hear a haunting ballad, or at the very least, a modern-day power ballad. Without warning, much like when a car gets t-boned on television or in film, the startling impact hits you like a ton of bricks when Wylde and company erupt into a classic Black Sabbath-esque tune. It’s no secret that Black Label Society is heavily influenced by Sabbath, but make no mistake, there is a lot more to “A Love Unreal” than meets the eye.
Like his guitar style, Wylde’s vocals are among the most distinct in rock today. He is, without question, one of the greatest double threats in the history of hard rock and metal. There’s something about the tortured, melancholic emotion that he infuses into his vocals, which are equal parts heavy metal and southern rock.
The vocals alone would make “A Love Unreal” worth listening to several times over, but the outstanding guitar riffs surrounding the vocals take the song to another level (as does the playing of the rest of the band, who are far from household names, but add tremendous value and chemistry).
“A Love Unreal” has a definite Sabbath feel, but the more you listen to it, the more you discover the nuances and complexities that have an almost progressive feel. It’s just harder to notice if you’re listening casually because the overall vibe of the song is pure, riff-driven groove/stoner metal.
 GODSMACK – “Bulletproof”
When you have a voice as distinct as Sully Erna’s, it doesn’t matter what songwriting changes you make. “Bulletproof” is a perfect example of a different kind of song still maintaining a signature sound.
“Bulletproof” is something of a deviation from the norm for Godsmack, but at its core, it still has the signature sound that you expect from the band. Lyrically, the song is about putting up a wall to protect yourself from those who prey on your vulnerabilities.
Discussing the material on Godsmack’s album – When Legends Rise – Erna stated…
“I wanted to stretch my wings out even further to use all the experiences I’ve had with writing different types of music over the years and applying that to find a way to introduce a newer, fresher, more mature sound, but still maintaining the power of Godsmack.”
Is “Bulletproof” a more mature sound? Unquestionably, but with bands as good as Godsmack, this type of evolution should be embraced. To ask them to only do more of what they’ve been doing for years is a disservice to both the band and the fans. This song builds upon the foundation that Godsmack has laid over the years, and infuses it with some big hooks and an infectious melody.
 RICHIE KOTZEN – “The Damned”
In recent years, Richie Kotzen has gotten more public attention than ever before because of his work with The Winery Dogs. What many may not realize is that Kotzen has been releasing solo material since 1989 with regularity.
Despite his guitar virtuosity, stunning vocal range, and versatility as a songwriter, Kotzen doesn’t get nearly the recognition that he deserves. There may be a reason for this. Unlike many lead vocalists and lead guitarists (both of which describe Kotzen), he is an unassuming, reserved talent that lets his music do the talking.
In fact, whenever I’ve seen Kotzen perform live with The Winery Dogs, his bandmates (Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan) tend to grab the limelight with a more extroverted stage presence. All the while, this underappreciated talent shines as a dual threat on both guitar and vocals, albeit in a more introverted manner.
Kotzen’s guitar playing is right up there with the best blues rock guitarists in the genre, as are his vocals. The fact that he’s equally good on guitar and vocals speaks volumes about his immense talent.
On “The Damned,” Kotzen showcases much of what you love about him with The Winery Dogs…soulful, rangy vocals, impressive bluesy guitar playing, and catchy songwriting. Although he has a distinct vocal style, you can hear influences of other legends in his vocals on “The Damned.” There is always a hint of Chris Cornell in his delivery, but on this song, you can also hear shades of Sammy Hagar.
I don’t know if he has any acting aspirations, but if he does, there is simply no one on earth that would be able to play Cornell any better if there is ever a story made about his life. Both artists have an eerily similar vocal style, and looks to match.
Kotzen has stated that he may end up just releasing a series of singles that may or may not turn into an album at some point. With the current state of the music business, you have to think that he is ahead of his time, and others will likely follow suit with this approach in the near future.
 CHRIS CORNELL – “When Bad Does Good”
Chris Cornell’s passing shook the rock world in a way that few other tragic deaths have in recent years. It wasn’t just the loss of a yet another rock legend. There was a poignant vulnerability about Cornell that made you feel like you could see into his soul. From his poetic lyrics to his emotive vocal delivery, he made you feel deeply in ways that few others can. That’s a gift that was taken from all of us much too soon.
In November, Cornell’s estate released “When Bad Does Good,” one of eleven previously unreleased songs to be featured on a new career-spanning, 4-disc box set, simply titled…Chris Cornell. This song would be heart-wrenching if Cornell was still with us. That feeling is magnified by the fact that he’s gone, especially because the opening lyrics feel like a goodbye letter to the world…
“Standing beside and open grave…your faith decided…your life erased…your final hour has come today…”
 MYLES KENNEDY – “Year Of The Tiger”
Fans of Myles Kennedy have been blessed with his tireless work ethic, one that produces new music regularly as he pulls double duty between Alter Bridge and Slash. And now, we get even more.
“Year Of The Tiger” is the title track off of Kennedy’s long-awaited debut solo album. It doesn’t sound like Kennedy’s work with either Alter Bridge or Slash, but that doesn’t matter. Any music (regardless of style) from one of the greatest songwriters/vocalists of this generation is worthy of recognition.
This blues-based concept album explores the 1974 death of Kennedy’s father (the year of the tiger on the Chinese calendar). It’s not about soaring to ungodly high notes. The song is more subdued and emotional. While there are familiar elements that fall in the same realm as songs like “Blackbird,” “In Loving Memory,” and “Watch Over You,” the title track off of Kennedy’s solo album is as much southern blues as it is a rock ballad. Like most Kennedy fans, I’m greedy, and never get tired of any of his work. The more the better!
 ROYAL BLISS – “Devil With Angel Eyes”
Once upon a time, hard rock vocalists delivered their message with a soulful vulnerability that let you feel the emotions of the song. Often times these days, that quality has been replaced by a mixture of homogeny and growls. The end result is an “active rock” sound that causes numerous artists to have an interchangeable quality about them. Thank God for vocalists like Neal Middleton, and bands like Royal Bliss who are willing to take a chance on writing music that isn’t chasing the current trends just to get radio airplay.
“Devil With Angel Eyes” is clearly written from the heart. It has depth that makes you feel something when you listen to it. The song is southern rock with country roots. It’s similar to the classic rock that set the tone for things to come back in the ‘70s. Like many of the legends of rock, Royal Bliss incorporates female backing vocals on this track, giving it a dramatic presence.
 ANY GIVEN SIN – “Dynamite”
“Dynamite” instantly grabbed my attention the first time that I heard it. There are a lot of bands that have a sound that’s tailor made for Active Rock, but it’s more in a generic kind of way. Any Given Sin has that sound, but not at all in a generic way. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that this was a Shinedown song. That is meant as a compliment, as I firmly believe that Shinedown is at the top of the food chain for modern rock artists.
As I listened to the track several times over, I started to hear hints of Stereoside with the big, infectious hook, and some Def Leppard with the melodic, crunchy riffs. The main purpose for radio singles is to draw attention to a band, so that you are inspired to check out more of their music. With “Dynamite,” Any Given Sin has accomplished that mission with flying colors.
#26 – 50
 THE WILD! – “Another Bottle”
What ever happened to the joy that existed during the heyday of hard rock when bands embraced the decadence of the lifestyle surrounding the music? Canadian rockers The Wild! may just have the answer to that question. It still exists, you just have to look to bands like this to find it.
From a more modern stance, this band stacks up with Buckcherry. Dig deeper into their roots, and you can’t help but think of AC/DC and Krokus when you listen to “Another Bottle.”
Dylan Villain’s vocals have the ballsy swagger of Josh Todd, the gin-soaked, happy hour style of Brian Johnson, the impassioned upper register of Marc Storace, and the spirit of Bon Scott all rolled into one. That alone should be enough to make you listen, but his lead guitar work is just as impressive. Rounding out this cast of characters is The Kid (rhythm guitar), Lucas ‘Boozus’ (bass), and Reese Lightning (drums). This powerhouse unit has captured the true spirit of rock and roll on “Another Bottle,” a song that is right in line with the personality of the band.
 ROXANNE – “Someone To Kill”
“Classic rock with a modern-edge” is how Los Angeles’ Roxanne describes their sound. “Someone To Kill” is a single from the band’s sophomore release, Radio Silence. The name of the album is an apt description, given the band’s reemergence following a 30-year hiatus since their debut in the late ‘80s.
As you listen to “Someone To Kill,” you can’t help but wonder what the hell these guys have been doing for the past three decades. In a year where everyone is talking about Bohemian Rhapsody being one of the greatest rock biopics of all-time, this Queen influenced piece should whet the appetite of hungry classic rock fans. “Someone To Kill” feels like the modern, progressive lovechild of Queen and Whitesnake. It was well worth the 30-year wait!
 BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – “Wanderlust”
You don’t often see songs over eight minutes long anymore because they go against the grain of the short attention span culture that we’re living in today. While Black Country Communion was formed in 2009, the roots of the members of this supergroup stretch back to a time when epic rock songs had their place in the rock and roll landscape.
Having Glenn Hughes at the helm, you might expect a mystical melody line and haunting vocals on a track like this, but he delivers something unexpected on “Wanderlust.” There are moments of mystique and upper register power, but for the most part, the vocals are more of the sweet, uplifting, AOR variety.
The underlying music follows suit, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. When Joe Bonamassa shreds, he shows that he is undeniably one of the best blues rock guitarists around. Drummer Jason Bonham is rock solid throughout, and plays in perfect harmony with Hughes’ on bass. And keyboardist Derek Sherinian demonstrates that his talent goes well beyond the complexities that he is known for with Dream Theater. Though the keyboard parts on “Wanderlust” are pronounced, they are more about adding nuance to the melody than showcasing his virtuosity.
Often times, when songs are this long, you feel a sort of mental exhaustion that requires you to take a break before listening to it again. Somehow, BCC has masterfully delivered an epic piece that makes you want to hit replay again and again.
 RED SUN RISING – “Veins”
“Veins” is a high-energy track is in the same musical vein as Foo Fighters in that it combines infectious melodies, dynamic changes, and just the right amount of edge to keep things heavy. Pat Gerasia’s drumming is the fuel that keeps the engine humming on a song that inspires involuntary toe-tapping and head-bobbing. This lays the foundation for the distinct vocal style of Mike Protich, who is always memorable, and one of the main reasons that Red Sun Rising has such a distinct sound. Making “Veins” shine even more than usual are the sweet vocal harmonies that gives the song an arena rock vibe from the ’70s and ’80s.
 TREMONTI – “Take You With Me”
Radio airplay is not all that it’s cracked up to be in modern times. For reasons that I will never understand, Alter Bridge never gets the recognition that they deserve in the format, and neither does the projects from its members. But maybe it doesn’t matter in the long run.
Alter Bridge has built a cult-like following around the world, even with much less radio airplay than you would expect. Fans of the band (and their other projects) don’t need radio to discover new music.
“Take You With Me” is another in a long line of outstanding songs written by Mark Tremonti. One of the most respected guitar players in rock today, Tremonti also happens to have one of the most distinct voices. That signature vocal style is featured on “Take You With Me,” but it doesn’t kick in immediately.
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that this is a Foo Fighters single at the outset. Showing a higher range than usual, Tremonti’s vocals bear a similarity to Dave Grohl at times. “Take You With Me” offers a side of Tremonti that is a bit divergent from his past work. Aside from the Foo Fighters vibe, there is also a hint of Volbeat’s aggressive, upbeat, melodic style that has made the band a staple on Active Rock radio.
 THE LAZYS – “Nothing But Trouble”
AC/DC and Aerosmith come to mind as you immerse yourself in “Nothing But Trouble,” the lead single off of the latest album by The Lazys. To some, these Canadian rockers may be something of an overnight sensation, but the reality is that their journey was anything but a “lazy” one.
The journey actually began in 2006 in their home country of Australia. Born out of two separate garage bands, frontman Leon Harrison and guitarist Matty Morris joined forces to allow each of them to concentrate on their strengths (both were singer/guitarists). The end result is a band that has the rock star qualities of the legends that inspired them.
“Nothing But Trouble,” a “spirited ode to a particular type of raging bull rebel” was actually inspired by the iconic Bon Scott, who (according to Harrison) was “someone who never pushed it too far, but gave it a good knock. Kind of like us after a night of drinking! We never get arrested, but we sure have a good time.” That being said, it’s understandable if you’re tempted to head to the nearest pub to hoist a few after listening to this timeless rock and roll track.
 HARDCORE SUPERSTAR – “Bring The House Down”
It took me 20 years and 11 studio albums to discover Sweden’s Hardcore Superstar, but as the saying goes…better late than never. For the most part, Thrash Metal and Sleaze Rock live in separate worlds, but these Swedish rockers are built on a foundation of the unlikely combination of the two genres.
The band’s bio refers to their hard, aggressive, ugly, catchy, melodic, decadent sound as “Street Metal.” Call it what you want, but their label is much less important than the quality of the music.
Although the sound has much more of an edge, the bones of “Bring The House Down” are reminiscent of Slade’s 1983 hit, “Run Runaway.” There is an underlying frenetic rhythm to the song that makes it feel aggressive, but the melody and hook are both so catchy that you end up feeling uplifted after listening to it. Think Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” meets early Motley Crue with a touch of industrial angst.
It’s not easy to pigeonhole Hardcore Superstar’s “Street Metal” sound, but that’s part of what makes them interesting. There are no rules being followed, no trends being chased, no obsession with finding a “fit” for radio formats…just pure, energetic, fun, anthemic rock and roll.
 DOKKEN – “It’s Another Day”
It won’t receive the kind of attention that Guns N’ Roses has for their “reunion,” but for my money, hearing the first new Dokken material (from the original members) in two decades is more exciting than a GNR reunion that only brought back a portion of the band.
“It’s Another Day” jumps out of the gate with a ferocious drum beat that kind of startles you for a moment, before George Lynch jumps in with a signature riff that takes you back in time to the Back For The Attack era. Jeff Pilson has always shined brightly in the band with his backing vocals, and he does here as well. What’s notable is that his bass playing is less of the in-the-pocket sound of the mainstream rock of yesteryear, and more in the realm of what Steve Harris does in Iron Maiden. And then there are the vocals of Don Dokken. With this much distance in the rear view mirror since the glory days of Dokken, vocals can be challenging, but not for Dokken, who sounds as good as he did over 30 years ago.
If you’re a fan of Dokken’s work in the ‘80s, you will absolutely love this song because it has all of the elements that made you a fan in the first place. The newer elements added are Pilson’s aforementioned bass playing and some nuanced leads from Lynch that are reminiscent of the technique that Eric Clapton used in “White Room.”
Dokken comes from an era where songs about relationships were all the rage. “It’s Another Day” seems to fall into that category, but given the current state of the country, I feel like the song can also be an observation of the human condition. Perhaps that’s just me reading into things from a much different perspective than the one that I used to have when I listened to Dokken during the carefree days of my youth. Regardless of the meaning, “It’s Another Day” offers a welcomed nostalgic journey back to a time when life just seemed happier.
Sometimes the hype and promise of something new from a band that you loved sets expectations impossibly high, and there is a letdown when you finally hear it. Simply stated, “It’s Another Day” was worth the two decade wait! Here’s hoping that it inspires the band to put out more new material and tour together in the near future.
 STEVE HACKETT – “When The Heart Rules The Mind”
Back in 1986, before supergroups were all the rage, Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and Yes guitarist Steve Howe teamed up to form GTR. The band’s name came from the abbreviation of “guitar,” which is used to label guitar tracks in recording studios. Though the band featured two top prog guitarists, the original version of “When The Heart Rules The Mind” was very much album oriented rock that was geared towards radio play.
Although I have always loved the original, there is a vibe to it that feels more nostalgic than timeless.
In an interview with Prog, Hackett shared the inspiration for re-recording this ‘80s classic…
“I always loved the track. I think that it is the strongest thing that Steve Howe and I wrote together, and always wanted to do a version where I would sing it myself with the use of today’s production techniques. I’m also very pleased to have my friend Steve Rothery [Marillion] on board doing additional guitar.”
Artists re-recording songs from their past (especially hits) can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Sometimes, like in the case of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” the updated version far exceeds the original. Sometimes, like in the case of Def Leppard adding keyboards to the original version of “Bringing On The Heartbreak,” the updated version left you wondering why they didn’t just leave well enough alone.
Hackett’s version falls somewhere in between, but much closer to Whitesnake than Def Leppard. Hackett’s new take on the song is inspired. He took a song that clearly marks a specific point in time and turn it into a timeless classic. This interpretation strips away some of the sweetness that made it a radio hit, and replaces it with warmer vocals and prog influences.
By keeping the bones of the original intact, Hackett ensured that the 2018 version of “When The Heart Rules The Mind” will appeal to the those who loved GTR’s version. The changes made to the song should broaden the appeal of the song to those who are prog fans, but not necessarily AOR fans.
 GRETA VAN FLEET – “When The Curtain Falls”
Greta Van Fleet has taken the rock world by storm in a way that we haven’t seen in decades. In a time when emerging artists have to scratch and claw for their diminishing piece of the pie, GVF has stepped in and cut out an almost gluttonous slice for themselves. The band is already selling out shows as a headliner because their sound touches the hearts of multiple generations. The Led Zeppelin comparisons aren’t likely to stop anytime soon, but that’s not something that the band should concern themselves with.
In some ways, Greta Van Fleet feels like a Phoenix rising out of the smoldering ashes of rock and roll to pave the way for a rebirth. For that, all rock fans (and critics) should be grateful. Unfortunately, derision comes with the territory of being an overnight sensation. GVF has their fair share of detractors, but that doesn’t diminish their accomplishments in the slightest. This is one band that doesn’t need the radio attention that they are getting to be successful. That is saying something in this day and age.
“When The Curtain Falls” offers a perfect microcosm of what the band is all about. It will make many nostalgic for days gone by, while at the same time, giving us all hope for the future of rock and roll.
 ELECTRIC REVOLUTION – “Burn It Down”
Electric Revolution is a modern, four-piece classic rock unit from Wisconsin. You can hear a variety of their classic rock influences on “Burn It Down.”
As you listen to the initial groove, you’re reminded of Van Halen’s “So This Is Love?” as well as White Lion’s cover of the Golden Earring classic, “Radar Love.” You don’t hear this kind of groove very often these days. The groove may be rooted in classic rock, but Dave Lawson’s gritty, aggressive vocals have an edge that puts him in the company of Lemmy, David Draiman, and Ian Gillan’s more high octane vocals with Deep Purple. Oh, and there’s a touch of David Coverdale thrown in for good measure.
You can slap whatever label you’d like to on Electric Revolution and “Burn It Down,” but it doesn’t really matter. The band and the song both embody what rock and roll is supposed to be about. ER’s music harkens back to a time when bands wrote soulful music from the heart, not formulaic songs geared towards trying to get radio airplay. From Billie Pulera’s foot stomping beats to Chad Imler’s heavy boogie grooves to Brock Betz’s old school, blues rock guitar playing, Electric Revolution is a force to be reckoned with.
 PARKWAY DRIVE – “Prey”
If there is one song from 2018 that I would most like to see performed in an arena setting, by a large margin, it is Parkway Drive’s “Prey.” The song starts out with a bit of dark brooding before the melodic vocals of the chorus wash over you like a tidal wave, kicking the adrenaline into overdrive. Growling vocals are definitely not to everyone’s liking, but it’s different with Parkway Drive. Walking the fine line between melody and aggression, you can still understand all of the lyrics and the powerful message being conveyed.
 ROYAL TUSK – “Aftermath”
One listen to “Aftermath,” and you’ll know right away that there is something unique about Royal Tusk. Though the band has broken through this year on Active Rock radio, they are much more than the formulaic norm. It’s refreshing to see that their bio says that they are more like Deep Purple and Aerosmith than the bands on commercial radio. There is something edgy about the band that makes them stand out.
“Aftermath” alternates between big, booming bursts of energy and subdued moments that let the song breathe. Though the vocals have a healthy dose of impassioned angst, they always remain clean. Most bands that deliver this kind of intensity these days resort to at least some screaming. It’s much more challenging to harness this kind of energy with clean vocals, but Royal Tusk masterfully does so.
With an intensity that is reminiscent of early Motley Crue meets Metallica, Royal Tusk makes a statement with “Aftermath” that shows that they are much more than just another Active Rock band.
 LIGHT THE TORCH – “The Safety Of Disbelief”
Light The Torch – featuring Howard Jones (ex. Killswitch Engage) on vocals – made their debut this year. Well, sort of. The band did exist a few years ago as Devil You Know, but changed the name for a few reasons. The moniker doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. What matters most is the precision blending of power and melody in “The Safety Of Disbelief.”
Jones, with his passionate, distinct vocal style, makes this song instantly recognizable on any Active Rock station. The energetic, impressive slap bass fills take you back in time to the heyday of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “The Safety Of Disbelief” is one of those songs that you never get tired of hearing.
 ICE NINE KILLS – “A Grave Mistake”
There are certain artists that have an “Active Rock” sound. Many of them end up having very few points of differentiation. “A Grave Mistake,” the hit single from Ice Nine Kills, is a perfect fit for the format, but there is something different about the band that makes them more intriguing than most.
The obvious comparison for this song is Nothing More. But it’s the subtle influences that make this song pique your interest. The big, soaring, aggressive chorus brings to mind thoughts of Papa Roach. Things take a fascinating turn with the guitar lead (which conjures up memories of classic Queensryche), and a hint of strumming that has an air of “teen spirit.” If you appreciate meaningful lyrics delivered with true passion, then you will instantly gravitate towards “A Grave Mistake.”
 NOTHING MORE – “Do You Really Want It?”
Not too long ago, Nothing More was the rising band that everyone was talking about. While that momentum seems to have shifted towards bands like Greta Van Fleet, Nothing More has unassumingly found their footing as an Active Rock staple, churning out singles that get attention at radio with regularity. Of their 2018 singles, “Do You Really Want It?” was the one that resonated with me most. It captures some of the piss and vinegar that made Rage Against The Machine such a force to be reckoned with. At the same time, Nothing More continues to evolve as a band with something to say. Rock could use more artists like this these days.
 IN THIS MOMENT (f. ROB HALFORD) – “Black Wedding”
For the most part, there is a line of delineation between legacy hard rock/metal artists and those of the modern day variety. The exception to the rule seems to be Rob Halford. Five years after the Judas Priest frontman delivered a memorable duet with Ivan Moody on Five Finger Death Punch’s “Lift Me Up,” Halford is back doing a duet with Maria Brink on In This Moment’s “Black Wedding.” It’s commendable that Halford is involved with current artists, even if it is only with the biggest names in the genre.
“Black Wedding” has a throwback element to it that many young metal fans are probably unaware of. Back in 1982, Billy Idol (with the help of MTV) had a smash hit with “White Wedding.” The chorus of Idol’s song contained the line…“it’s a nice day for a white wedding.” The darker version of the song keeps the melody line, but changes the lyrics to “it’s a nice night for a black wedding.” That is the only similarity, but still, this song will bring back some nostalgic memories for those who grew up on MTV (and Judas Priest).
Like Halford, Brink’s vocals are always intense, sometimes too intense for those who don’t love growling and intense screams. Though “Black Wedding” has an underlying darkness to it, for the most part, the song is filled with melodic moments with an industrial vibe. As you might expect with these two personalities, this song also features a healthy dose of theatricality.
 EMPTY TRAIL – “My World”
The brainchild of singer/guitarist Rick Lambert, who began writing songs in Los Angeles in 2013, Empty Trail is now an Austin, TX based power trio. However, when you listen to “My World” for the first time, you don’t think of either Los Angeles or Austin. The city that comes to mind (in a good way) is Seattle.
One of the reasons that grunge and the “Seattle sound” burned so brightly and faded relatively quickly (in the scheme of things) is because of the lack of quality artists who could hold their own. Too many copycats, not enough innovators. Looking back, most of the bands of that era have been forgotten. They’re nothing more than a footnote in the history of hard rock. However, the best of them are still relevant to this day.
The artists that come to mind most when listening to Empty Trail are Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana. However, their sound has a current vibe. Tortured at times, Lambert’s melodic vocals allow just enough light to shine through the darkness. Walking the fine line between depressing and uplifting is not one that many achieve. On “My World,” Lambert has made it look easy.
 HALESTORM – “Uncomfortable”
Female fronted hard rock bands have grown in popularity in recent times, but there is something different about Lzzy Hale. As (arguably) the top female vocalist in the genre today, Hale could easily use her platform to empower women. For better or worse, we tend to associate the empowerment of women with taking a stand and shattering the glass ceilings that have existed for far too long. With “Uncomfortable,” Hale takes the empowerment of women in a totally different direction.
She has never been one to shy away from her sexuality or innuendo, but there is no reading between the lines with “Uncomfortable,” a song that openly talks about sex, and her reasoning for putting it out there.
It’s a refreshing change of pace, and a reminder that female empowerment and sexuality are not mutually exclusive. While it’s easy to lump Hale in with other female rockers, her style and swagger has always made me think of her as being more in the same vein as Sebastian Bach. Like Bach, Hale has a softer side that can be found on songs like “Here’s To Us,” but at her core, she is an intense rocker and captivating lead vocalist.
Does this song have the potential to make some people “uncomfortable?” Highly likely, but that doesn’t seem to be of any consequence to Hale. In fact, she proudly states that it’s her intention.
 THE AMORETTES – “Everything I Learned From Rock N’ Roll”
The opening riff of “Everything I Learned From Rock N’ Roll” is reminiscent of Mott The Hoople’s classic, “All The Way From Memphis.” It’s that feel-good, ballsy riff that gets the blood pumping through your veins. The bombastic vibe of “Everything I Learned From Rock N’ Roll” takes you back in time to the bands that laid the groundwork for the genre.
If The Amorettes truly learned everything from rock n’ roll, then you’d have to say that they are exemplary students. Interestingly, the tone of the story is set by a student that didn’t like teachers, school, leaders or rules. Like many other rebellious rockers, this song references musical influences by name. In this case, Sex Pistols, Beatles and Rolling Stones. They have a Sex Pistols edge, a Beatle-esque sense of melody, and the swagger of the Rolling Stones, but if there is one band that you think of most when you listen to The Amorettes, it’s The Runaways. In fact, Joan Jett also gets mentioned in one of the verses.
Because there aren’t a ton of all-female rock n’ roll bands, there’s a natural tendency to compare bands like this to the female rockers that came before them. And though The Amorettes do conjure up memories of The Runaways, there is a lot more to their brand of rock n’ roll than meets the eye (or ear).
Gill Montgomery – the vocalist/guitarist of the band – lets the spirit of AC/DC flow through her with some Bon Scott type phrasing over Angus and Malcolm Young style riffs. Montgomery also has a unique blend of rock n’ roll sleaze to go along with an upbeat sweetness. The backing vocals of sisters Hannah and Heather McKay in the chorus gives the song a larger-than-life theatrical feel that is similar to Jim Steinman’s most iconic work.
Everything that you love about rock n’ roll is exactly what The Amorettes deliver with this kickass tune. The band is making their mark in Europe with some high profile supporting gigs. Hopefully, it won’t be long before they become just as big in the United States.
 DOROTHY – “Flawless”
Dorothy burst onto the scene with a modern version of Led Zeppelin meets Janis Joplin. They are among of number of interesting new artists that have invoked the spirit of Zeppelin in recent times. However, there has always been something different about Dorothy that is hard to explain. Just when you think that you may have a handle on their distinct sound, they throw you a curveball with “Flawless.”
When you have a vocalist like Dorothy Martin, it’s the voice that grabs your attention regardless of the song style. “Flawless” features bluesy, Joplin-esque mystique and passion. It’s not exactly what you expect to hear on Active Rock radio, but it’s welcomed just the same.
 RIVAL SONS – “Do Your Worst”
Long before Greta Van Fleet burst onto the scene, Rival Sons were being hailed as the second coming of Led Zeppelin. While there is no denying their Zep influence, Rival Sons are more of a blending of classic rock influences. With a distinct ’70s vibe, “Do Your Worst” has the charisma of Zep, the mystique of classic Deep Purple, and warm, soulful vocals that are more reminiscent of the legendary Paul Rodgers than Robert Plant.
Saying that any band is the “next Led Zeppelin” is an unfair burden to attach to any modern artist who has a much tougher climb than the legends of yesteryear in the current climate. Personally speaking, I have a profound appreciation for bands like Rival Sons whose music has a timeless quality, rather than so many of the “of the moment” bands filling up the airwaves these days.
They may not get the glory that Greta Van Fleet is currently basking in, but it can be argued that Rival Sons are the ones that helped to pave the way for other modern bands to follow.
 MONSTER TRUCK – “Evolution”
“Evolution” is an appropriate title for the lead single off of Monster Truck’s latest album. Evolution is defined as “the gradual development of something.” With the classic rock revival in full swing, it’s always enjoyable to listen to music that is rooted in the past, but with a current twist to keep things fresh.
Canada’s Monster Truck is an unapologetic rock and roll band, who admittedly, only “writes music to please themselves.” The band cites their appreciation for hard rock, punk, and classic rock in their bio. “Evolution” adds in a bit of a psychedelic rock to this modernized classic rock tune. It’s interesting to hear a song that sounds current with elements that come directly from the early ’70s. The song is fairly straightforward, but there’s beauty in the simplicity.
 CRASH MIDNIGHT – “Diamond Boulevard”
There’s a good chance that you don’t know who Crash Midnight is unless you’re from Boston (where the band began) or Las Vegas (the band’s adopted hometown), or if you’re an regular Hard Rock Daddy reader. Another time, another place, Crash Midnight would already be a household name.
“Diamond Boulevard” begins with a heavy, Zeppelin-esque riff that hits you like a ton of bricks. The track sounds like the result of a gang bang that took place between the members of Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, and early Def Leppard (and you don’t know who the daddy is).
Crash Midnight takes you back to a time and place when rock and roll was a party, and they were the rock star hosts.
 GUNS N’ ROSES – “Shadow Of Your Love”
How does a song that is over 30 years old become a current radio hit? The answer…when it is released by the band that should have been the biggest rock band in the world, but broke up long before that happened. Of course, you can make an argument that they’ve achieved that status with their reunion being (by far) the biggest attraction that rock and metal has seen in years. But I digress.
The official video for “Shadow Of Your Love” was released to coincide with the announcement of their $999 Locked N’ Loaded box set. At that price point, most fans will only hear the unreleased tracks on radio or in a streaming format.
There are two ways to judge “Shadow Of Your Love”…on its own merits or as a track that almost made it onto Appetite For Destruction. If you judge it against the latter, which is arguably one of the greatest hard rock albums of all-time, it doesn’t measure up. Then again, most songs wouldn’t.
If you never heard Appetite For Destruction, “Shadow Of Your Love” would come across as a raw, dirty rocker with just the right amount of Sunset Strip grit. For GNR fans that have longed for new music from the original lineup, it’s a nice little stroll down memory lane.
 ANDREW W.K. – “Music Is Worth Living For”
Though many people only remember Andrew W.K. for his smash hit, “Party Hard,” the man behind the moniker has many more layers than that. Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier knows that there is much more to life than “partying hard.”
Based on his most well-known hit, you may find it surprising to learn that he became a self-help, new age, motivational speaker in 2005. He has lectured at a number of well-regarded higher learning institutions through the years. That being said, he never lost his thirst for partying.
In 2007, W.K. toured as a one-man show. Each night, he would begin his show with piano improvisation alone on the stage. Before long, it would turn into a giant party with audience members dancing on stage, even playing instruments and singing along.
Over the past decade plus, he has continued his motivational speaking. In 2014, W.K. delivered a keynote address entitled “Andrew W.K. and the Philosophy of Partying.” A partying, rock and roll philosopher? How the hell is this story not more well-known? There is a spirit and energy to W.K. that is simply unrivaled in rock and roll (or public speaking for that matter).
Who among us doesn’t feel uplifted and energized by music? One of my personal favorite quotes is…“when words fail, music speaks.” W.K.’s “Music Is Worth Living For” speaks to me in a big way. Everyone has those days when things just seem to be going all wrong. I was having one of those days when I heard this song for the first time. It instantly changed my mood, and gave me energy that carried throughout the day.
Not surprisingly, this song is high-energy, uplifting, and quite theatrical. There are so many layers to “Music Is Worth Living For” that you can discover new things with each listen.
 W.E.T. – “Kings Of Thunder Road”
Jeff Scott Soto is probably the most versatile vocalist when it comes to being included on this annual list. In recent years, he has been featured with his solo band (SOTO) and the supergroup Sons Of Apollo. Soto’s stellar vocal resume is a mile long, yet he still seems to fly under the radar to some degree.
On “Kings Of Thunder Road,” he delivers beautiful, feel-good, melodic vocals. If you’re a fan of AOR, you will love this song. Back in the ‘80s, this band absolutely would have been playing arenas. These days, you just have to appreciate that this kind of music still has a place in rock.
 THEM EVILS – “Got Me Rockin’”
Them Evils is pure rock and roll that blends a healthy dose of classic rock with today’s modern sound. This California power trio also infuses some heavy grooves into their sound, which you hear from the opening notes of “Got Me Rockin’.” It’s kind an obscure reference, but the song instantly made me think of “Gypsy Woman” by Jonathan Tyler & Nothern Lights, albeit with a more Zeppelin-esque vibe whereas JT’s song has a more Lenny Kravitz influence.
It’s no surprise that Them Evils has grabbed the attention of some of the biggest artists in rock today (Zakk Wylde, Alter Bridge, and Pretty Reckless). With the classic rock revival underway, it would be surprising if Them Evils doesn’t become one of the bigger bands in rock in the not-too-distant future.
 URIAH HEEP – “Take Away My Soul”
Unlike most bands that are still around from the early ‘70s, Uriah Heep is not a band that relies upon its hits of yesteryear to keep the train rolling. That’s partially because this band has somehow managed to spend nearly five decades as an under-the-radar act (at least in the U.S.), and also because they have continuously released new music with very few gaps since their debut album in 1970. “Take Away My Soul” – off of the band’s 25th album (Living The Dream) is rooted in the ‘70s sound that has always been the foundation of Uriah Heep.
The band deserves a ton of credit for releasing relevant new music all these years later. Though guitarist Mick Box is the only remaining original member, lead vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboarist Phil Lanzon have been around since 1986. With all of the attention that up-and-comers are getting for their classic rock sound, it would be nice if one of the originators got some as well.
 SCHERER/BATTEN – “Battlezone”
Scherer/Batten is a dynamic duo that has close ties to Jim Peterik (Survivor). Peterik discovered the soaring vocals of Marc Scherer in the recording studio that he owns while Scherer was laying down vocal tracks. The duo began working together to record some of the “hidden gems” that the Grammy Award winning Peterik had written in the past. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were on to something special. A friend of Scherer’s suggested that they bring in guitarist extraordinaire Jennifer Batten.
If you’ve seen the documentary Hired Gun (which I highly recommend), you already know that there are some supreme talents out there who fly under the radar of the masses, but are highly respected in music circles. Batten is far from a household name, but if you listen to her play, you’ll wonder why that is. She is a hired gun with a boatload of talent, but no real name recognition to speak of (despite having played with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck).
Although Batten was only brought in to work on a few tracks, that quickly changed into something more. In an interview with AXS, Peterik stated…
“What really impressed me about Jennifer was the fact that she came totally prepared. We knew right away that she wasn’t fiddling around. She’s like another voice. That’s when the project became something different, and we decided to change it to Marc Scherer / Jennifer Batten.”
As a session guitarist, Batten was only expecting to do her thing and move on, but this time, things were different. In the same interview with AXS, Batten stated…
“Originally, they called me up to do a session, and it was a whirlwind couple of days. Most sessions I do take a while, but we ended up recording four songs that first day, and the following morning we got back together and wrote ‘Battlezone.’ It was the most productive session that I’ve ever had in my life.”
On “Battlezone,” outstanding songwriting meets vocals and guitars that soar in unison. From Batten’s first notes, which bring back memories of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption,” to the upbeat, feel-good vibe of Scherer’s stunning vocals, this song works on all levels. It’s mind-boggling that this song was written by virtual strangers who were clearly destined to work together.
If you’re a fan of the work that Joe Lynn Turner did with Yngwie Malmsteen back in the day, you are going to absolutely love the tour de force that is Scherer / Batten.
 RED DRAGON CARTEL – “Bitter”
Guitarist Jake E. Lee is best known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne in the mid-‘80s, but his career expands beyond the two albums that he recorded with The Prince Of Darkness. While he hasn’t released a ton of material, keeping a low profile after the demise of Badlands, he has been featured on a number of albums since the turn of the century. His latest project, Red Dragon Cartel, released their second album in 2018 (Patina). Lee’s guitar work on “Bitter” is what makes the song stand out most. Unlike his days with Ozzy, the beauty of Lee’s playing on this song is less about shredding riffs, and more about tasteful, bluesy, crispness.
 GWAR – “Phantom Limb”
There are two types of hard rock/metal fans…those who are familiar with the larger-than-life shadow that GWAR casts, but not necessarily their music, and those who are diehard fans. In all honesty, I fall into the former category.
I have been familiar with GWAR for many years, but I don’t know much of their music. This is a band that has its share of detractors because of their over-the-top image, but I don’t include myself in that group. I may have never looked past their monster-like ways to judge the music, but I never had any negative thoughts about them.
You don’t necessarily expect a poignant, heartfelt tribute from a band of cartoonish monsters, but that is exactly what “Phantom Limb” delivers. The song begins with an upbeat riff (that takes you back to the early days of Dokken) before settling in on a powerfully haunting melancholic vibe that conjures up memories of W.A.S.P.’s Crimson Idol album and the Bon Scott era of AC/DC.
A phantom limb is “the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached.” Taking this physical phenomenon and applying it to the loss of a person whose presence still looms large long after their passing is a clever way of showing that the impact of someone’s life lingers after their death.
Oderus Urungus was one of the founding members of GWAR, with a history that spans three decades in total. The Blood Of Gods was GWAR’s first release since Brockie’s passing. Filling shoes this big was clearly no easy task, but Michael Bishop (aka Blöthar) has done an admirable job on “Phantom Limb.” Bishop is no ordinary replacement though. This is actually his third stint with the band. During his previous times with the band, he was the bass player known as Beefcake The Mighty.
In a short-attention span society, we are more likely than ever to judge a book by its cover, an issue that GWAR has been dealing with throughout their career. However, you do NOT want to miss out on this killer tune because you don’t understand the band’s image or backstory.
 OF MICE & MEN – “Money”
It may sound like sacrilege to Pink Floyd fans, but to me, “Money” was always one of the most overrated songs in the band’s catalog. 2018 was a big year for cover songs, but Of Mice & Men’s cover of the Pink Floyd classic didn’t garner as much attention as covers like “Zombie” by Bad Wolves. Like Bad Wolves, Of Mice & Men put their own stamp on a song that most everyone knows. There’s a dark edge to this cover that makes it more intriguing than the original. This interpretation really taps into the greed that surrounds money in a way that the original didn’t. With the fuzzy distortion of stoner rock, and a Sabbath meets Zeppelin vibe, Of Mice & Men hit this one right on the “Money.”
 TRIVIUM – “Endless Night”
Trivium’s “Endless Night” didn’t get the traction at radio that most of their other songs have gotten in recent years, but it deserved more. Perhaps it’s because the song has some guitar breaks that are a throwback to the guitar hero days, taking away some of the Active Rock flow that programmers lock into. With some nice guitar shredding and powerful vocals, “Endless Night” is a modern hard rock song with distinct elements from the ‘80s. You have to respect a band that is willing to vary their sound when they have proven that they can write within the narrow parameters that radio prefers.
 WAYLAND – “Ghost”
Wayland writes music from the heart. They don’t chase trends, nor do they seem compelled to hone a signature sound. What they give their fans is true passion, infectious melodies, outstanding musicianship, and most notably, diversity.
This approach may make getting deserved airplay more challenging, but you can argue that they are the artists that others should be emulating. There’s more to building up an audience than getting radio play, and Wayland does that as well as any band out there. These road warriors understand how important it is to connect with their fans. Radio play has a shelf life; deep connections with fans do not.
“Ghost” is yet another side of Wayland that stands out as being special among a lot of ordinary these days. The riffs are heavy, the rhythm section is tight, the hook is big, and (as always) Mitch Arnold’s vocals are flawless and powerful. Arnold sounds more like the singers of yesteryear than the typical Active Rock singers of today.
 ZERO THEOREM – “Area”
You can just tell that some bands have that “it” factor from the first listen. Zero Theorem has “it,” and a seasoning that makes it seem like they are a veteran act. “Area” is the band’s first single, but you get the feeling that they have what it takes to become rising stars.
Based on the resume of their producer Kane Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, In This Moment, etc.), it’s not surprising that Zero Theorem’s sound is in the sweet spot of accomplished modern hard rock acts.
Musically, “Area” has the same vibe as Gemini Syndrome, but Caesar’s vocals are not at all similar to Aaron Nordstrom’s. However, he does have a unique sound, which usually bodes well for bands who want to stand out from others in a meaningful way. “Area” is simultaneously melodic and intense, powerful and driving, but with a catchy groove. Zero Theorem’s overall sound can best be described as “big.”
 FACING FIRE – “Filthy Life”
After gaining traction as an independent DIY band, Facing Fire released their first EP since being signed to Pavement Entertainment. These Ohio rockers offer a lot of what you like about bands that are typically featured on Active Rock radio, but it’s their unique approach that makes them most intriguing.
“Filthy Life” has an intense, dirty groove at the outset, but quickly shifts into a more atmospheric meets industrial sound for the verse. The transition between pulsating rhythms and subtle verses are pulled together with a memorable hook in the melodic chorus. At times, “Filthy Life” lands right in the sweet spot of Active Rock radio, but the way that Facing Fire cleverly paints outside the lines with interesting nuances throughout the song makes this track stand out.
The more that you listen to “Filthy Life” and peel back the layers, the more the song grows on you. Showcasing the kind of cohesiveness that Facing Fire does as a newer band is impressive.
 FROM ASHES TO NEW – “Broken”
At times, From Ashes To New’s “Broken” has a Papa Roach vibe, but that’s only in the anthemic choruses. The rapping in the verses is more in the Linkin Park realm. This is not to say that FATN doesn’t have their own sound, because they do. “Broken” features a nice mixture of big hooks and intense rapping. There aren’t a lot of bands out there who can make this mix seem so seamless. FATN certainly lives up to the challenge on “Broken.”
 POP EVIL – “Be Legendary”
Pop Evil is a band that is continuously experimenting with their sound, never falling into the trap of taking a formulaic approach to get radio airplay. To their credit, they continue to be an Active Rock staple regardless of the direction that their sound takes. “Be Legendary” is an uplifting song that makes you want to be your best self. It’s not quite motivational speaking, but it is the rock and roll equivalent of it. In today’s times, being legendary for any band is a monolithic challenge. At the very least, Pop Evil is always interesting and willing to take chances that others shy away from.
 SEVENDUST – “Unforgiven”
Sevendust is one of a handful of modern rock bands that is instantly recognizable, due in large part to the impassioned, soulful vocals of Lajon Witherspoon. The concept behind “Unforgiven” is about a world rebuilding with today’s youth taking over the helm when the adults are no longer around. Witherspoon has always had a way of making you feel the power of his lyrics. As a fellow dad, I imagine that bringing these lyrics to life was easy to do given the current state of the world. “Unforgiven” is everything that you’ve come to expect from Sevendust, a band that has been delivering since before most of today’s Active Rock artists began their careers.
 SHVPES – “Afterlife”
For the second consecutive year, a band fronted by one of Bruce Dickinson’s sons has made it onto this annual list. Last year, it was Austin Dickinson with As Lions. This year, it’s Griffin Dickinson with Shvpes. Although I am a lifelong Iron Maiden fan, that is not the reason that “Afterlife” is featured this year. Nor is it the reason that As Lions was featured last year. Truth be told, I became a fan of each song on their own merit, and only found out about the familial connection afterwards. With a mixture of haunting tones, powerful rap, and tortured, emotive vocals over an in-your-face, driving rhythm, “Afterlife” is one of the more distinct songs of the year.
 ONCE AROUND – “Ghost”
Once Around is a three-piece unit from Los Angeles that blends industrial and hard rock influences to create an original sound. According to their bio, that’s about all of the information that is available about the band, but it doesn’t really matter. As you listen to “Ghost,” it’s clear that they back up their claim with a sound that feels different than most other Active Rock bands, yet somehow, it’s still a good fit for the format. What’s interesting about the industrial sound is that it uses keyboards to add intensity to the music. Of course, the intensity goes well beyond keyboards, with aggressive riffs and pulsating beats.
Sometimes, pure industrial bands overwhelm you in a way that puts the vibe ahead of the melody. Once Around makes impressive use of dynamics, ranging from high octane adrenaline to more subdued moodiness (with tempo changes to match).
“Ghost” feels like it was written with artistic integrity taking precedence over catering to a radio sound. The band should be commended for taking this approach. It makes their sound infinitely more interesting than those who take a more formulaic approach. Also adding to the intrigue of “Ghost” is the subtle influences that don’t hit you over the head, but blend into the background. Though they have their own sound, it’s safe to say that fans of Gemini Syndrome will appreciate what Once Around has to offer.
 UNDEROATH – “ihateit”
The first thing that drew me into Underoath’s “ihateit” was the unusual use of all lowercase letters and no spacing between words. When I started listening, the song gave me a Gemini Syndrome vibe, but still different enough to sound unique. The slower, moody interludes do a nice job of accenting the big, memorable hook. We all have things in life that we cling to even though we know that it’s not what’s best for us. It’s those dependencies that allow us to stay in comfort zones that can be unhealthy. Underoath tackles this subject in an interesting way.
 ANOTHER LOST YEAR – “I Found Someone”
Without Another Lost Year, this annual list may very well not exist. Before the launch of Hard Rock Daddy, Another Lost Year shared the Top 12 Hard Rock Songs of 2012 that I put out on a personal blog covering a variety of topics. The momentum from that list helped inspire me to launch Hard Rock Daddy a few months later. Needless to say, this band will always hold a special place in my heart. But that’s not why I am featuring their cover of one of Cher’s biggest hits – “I Found Someone.”
Cher is somewhat associated with the rock world these days having Joel Hoekstra as her guitarist, but her songs don’t usually cross over. Clinton Cunanan and company found a way to keep the integrity of the original song and infuse it with an arena rock sound. I still don’t understand why ALY’s originals don’t get the radio attention that they deserve. Hopefully, they will break through with this inspired cover.
 SINISTER X – “Good VS Evil”
Often times, these days, we’re quick to judge a book by its cover. Although I strive to listen to all submissions regardless of the expectation, sometimes I find myself surprised when I hit play. Listening to Sinister X was one of those occasions.
Given the band name/image, and the title of the song, I was expecting a touch of evil, or at the very least…a healthy dose of darkness. What I got instead was a walk down memory lane to the heavy metal of the ‘80s where great singing and melodies were all the rage. Thankfully, bands like Sinister X are more than willing to pay homage to an era that (in my eyes) was the pinnacle of hard rock.
“Good VS Evil” may come from the band’s debut EP (The Requiem), but it sounds like the work of a band that has been around for much longer. The hook in the song gets stuck in your head (in a good way), and has you singing the chorus over and over long after it ends.
One of the biggest challenges facing any rock artist these days, especially developing artists, is delivering a memorable song. Sinister X has come strong out of the gate with “Good VS Evil,” a song that (to me) has influences that range from classic Sammy Hagar to KISS to Iron Maiden.
 MESSER – “Save Myself”
“Music that blurs the line between nostalgia and modern art” is how Dallas rockers Messer describe their sound. By the looks of their influences – which range from Alice In Chains to Shinedown to The Eagles to Toto – it’s easy to see where the band gets their fresh, modern sound from. “Save Myself” is edgy enough to appeal to the younger generation of rock fans, while also being melodic and energetic enough to appeal to fans that long for the past. It’s not easy to appeal to such a wide audience, but Messer has certainly lived up to their description with “Save Myself.”
 THE PROFESSIONALS – “Going Going Gone”
Within a two week period a few years ago, the world of rock and roll lost two of its greatest icons in Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie. Though they were both English legends who staked their claim in America’s two largest cities, their musical similarities are virtually non-existent. Still, the gut punch that they delivered by dying in such close proximity to each other will keep them forever linked.
This duo is also linked in a much lesser known way that inspired The Professionals to write “Going Going Gone.”
Like the two legends that this song is about, this band has an interesting back story. Formed from the ashes of the Sex Pistols (guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook), The Professionals were active from 1979-1982. The band reunited in 2015 (albeit without Jones on guitar) for some live shows, and then went on to record their first new album in 35 years (a gap that puts even the likes of Boston to shame). The time away did not diminish their abilities. Their new music has a timeless quality to it.
Back to the origin of “Going Going Gone”…
According to an article in Classic Rock magazine, the song is about both Bowie and Lemmy having their equipment stolen from the Odeon. Guitarist Tom Spencer shared the story…
“I worked at the Odeon as a 16 year old. Got to see a lot of bands. When Motorhead played, someone stole their bomber lighting rig! This song ties to Steve Jones’ infamous theft of Bowie’s gear on the Ziggy shows. We lost two icons within about a month of each other – sometimes fate hands you a reason for a song!”
Though the reason for the song is based on bad experiences and painful losses, “Going Going Gone” still has a bit of an uplifting vibe. It’s hard to describe it in the context of today’s music, but I’d say that it’s melodic punk that makes you want to hoist a few during happy hour at a pub. Come to think of it, that description sounds like a mixture of Bowie (the melodic) and Lemmy (the barroom punk edge). It’s a fitting tribute to two iconic talents whose music will live on long after their time on earth.
 SAM COFFEEY & THE IRON LUNGS – “Tough”
The boys are back in town! To be fair, with Black Star Riders on the scene, the spirit of Thin Lizzy has never truly gone away, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for more music in the same vein. Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs is a six-piece rock and roll outfit from Toronto. These Canadian rockers released their debut album last summer. There isn’t a lot of information available about the band on their website or social media, but piecing things together, you get the feeling that this is a band that prides themselves on tapping into the nostalgic rock and roll days of yesteryear. This is not just because their latest single, “Tough,” has a distinct Thin Lizzy feel (although that’s a big part of it).
Bands like Steel Panther tap into the same spirit, albeit in a comedic, ironic kind of way. I can’t say for sure, but seeing the members of Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs clad in matching denim vests seems more like a genuine homage to the ‘80s than a parody of it. In a day and age where things feel increasingly serious, it’s nice to have bands like Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs to remind us that rock and roll was once about having fun and bonding with like-minded people.
 HANDS LIKE HOUSES – “Monster”
It’s always refreshing to come across a band with a vision that goes beyond just getting their music played on the radio. Australia’s Hands Like Houses is just such a band. These five best friends have spent the past decade honing their sound. According to their bio, the band’s latest release “marries who Hands Like Houses are as individuals into an assured yet fun collection of songs that begs the audience to take a deeper listen.” One listen to “Monster,” and you’ll definitely be inspired to take that deeper dive into what the music is all about.
Unlike rock stars of the past, where recognition was as important as the music, Hands Like Houses have taken a different approach. Their latest album (-Anon) is a statement on “the idea that music can be shared or heard in passing and can still resonate with people even when the artist is unknown to the listener” (hence the album title).
Hands Like Houses packs a lot into “Monster,” a song that is less than four minutes long. The opening verse has a distinct classic Stone Temple Pilots vibe, before kicking into a soulful, melodic chorus infused with Active Rock sensibilities. The backing vocals add a nice’70s classic rock feel. It’s not just the blending of rock genres that makes this song compelling. It’s also the varied tempos which helps to create dynamic, dramatic moments. Is there such a thing as an aggressive, feel-good rock song? It’s rare, but that’s just what “Monster” has achieved.
 JOHN GARCIA & THE BAND OF GOLD – “My Everything”
The fuzzy dissonance of stoner rock…the old school Sabbath vibe…the Zeppelin undertones. All of this melded together creates a powerful, balls-to-the-wall musical experience that takes you back in time to an era where radio play took a back seat to raw edge during the writing process. John Garcia (ex Kyuss) and the Band of Gold proudly wear the classic rock badge on their sleeve with the “My Everything” (from the band’s upcoming, self-titled debut album).
It wasn’t that long ago that songs like this would not have a place on Active Rock radio, but thanks to bands like Chevelle, Rival Sons, and Greta Van Fleet (to name a few), ’70s-inspired, blues-based, straight forward rock and roll has carved out its piece of the airplay pie. This band, with a bit of a punk edge, may not be as easy for the masses to digest as the aforementioned bands, but those with an appreciation for the more raw sound of the ’70s will definitely appreciate what Garcia and company have to offer.
#76 – 100
 WILSON – “Like A Baller”
If there’s one thing missing from most modern rock, a sense of humor (in songs) is likely to top the list. Outside of Steel Panther, whose humor is over-the-top in a cartoony kind of way, there aren’t any other modern hard rock bands that come to mind when it comes to taking themselves less seriously. Wilson’s “Like A Baller” fills the void.
This song would have been perfect for the MTV era, but unfortunately, videos today just don’t have the same impact. Still, Wilson does a nice job of entertaining on the video for “Like A Baller.” The song itself takes the comedic aspects of Steel Panther, the swagger of Kid Rock, and the dreamer aspect of Nickelback’s “Rockstar,” and melds it into one fun, catchy song that will get stuck in your head. “Like A Baller” is a tune that stands out from most Active Rock songs, providing a nice respite from the “same old same old.”
 COUNTERFEIT – “You Can’t Rely”
If you listen to “You Can’t Rely” without knowing the backstory of U.K. rockers Counterfeit, you’d think that the underlying darkness beneath the melody comes from the typical struggle that most rock bands endure these days. But this band is not typical, at least not frontman Jamie Campbell Bower, who is an accomplished actor known for his roles in both the Twilight and Harry Potter movies.
While the actor’s status may open up some doors, the music speaks for itself. We’ve seen actors and actresses cross over into music in recent years, but it’s hard to think of any that have done so with an edge that feels so genuine.
With guitarists Sam Bower (Jamie’s brother) and Tristan Marmont, bassist Roland Johnson, and drummer Jimmy Craig, Bower is at the helm of a formidable lineup that stacks up with most bands in hard rock today. They have a melodic punk edge in the vein of Green Day, but sound nothing like them. They have a dark vibe that reminds you of Korn and Marilyn Manson, but they don’t sound like them either.
In recent years, a few bands come to mind that have masterfully blended darkness with uplifting melodies like Counterfeit…Avatar and Sunflower Dead. All three of these bands have a unique sound, but there is a commonality that makes you believe that if they all toured together, the shows would be something to behold.
Like the aforementioned bands, Counterfeit has a layered sound that makes you appreciate what they have to offer with each listen. “You Can’t Rely” is so engaging that you actually forget that the singer is a famous actor as you immerse yourself in the song.
 KLASSIK ‘78 – “World On Fire”
If you’re like most hard rock fans that grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, KISS is undoubtedly one the bands that made a big impact on your life. Today’s version of the band is a far cry from what they once were back in the day (much to the dismay of nostalgic fans who long for the band’s glory days). What if KISS has continued down the same path that they were on during their heyday instead of veering off in an entirely different direction? What would their music sound like? Wonder no more!
Klassik ’78 has turned back the hands of time forty years with their modern-day take on what many of us still wish that KISS sounded like. No one is going to say that Klassik ’78 is reinventing the wheel. If anything, they have merely continued rolling the wheel that so many of us loved down the rock and roll highway. In my eyes, there’s no shame in that game.
However, if you’re going to have a clearly derivative sound of a “klassik” band, you better do a kickass job of it so that you look like a continuation rather than a parody. Klassik ’78 has done just that with “World On Fire.” If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that this was one of the numerous songs from Gene Simmons’ recently revealed vault. You’d also wonder why the hell KISS never released this gem!
 THE BAD SOMETHINGS – “Yeah Yeah Yeah”
Back in the day, Gene Simmons had a reputation for sleeping with countless women. What if his escapades didn’t stop with women, and he actually procreated with other bands to give birth to new bands years later? The Bad Somethings sound like the result of a fantastical mating of late ‘70s KISS and early ‘80s Def Leppard.
As you can probably imagine from that description, and the song title “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” this is pure rock and roll that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet the end result is a kickass retro tune that takes you on debaucherous walk down memory lane. If you grew up on unabashed rock and roll, you will love The Bad Somethings. If you’re too young to remember the glory days, The Bad Somethings will take you on a journey back in time.
 TALES FROM THE PORN – “Back To The ‘80s”
Classic Dokken meets Sunset Strip Motley Crue with a tinge of Alice Cooper darkness in Tales From The Porn’s bombastic arena rocker, “Back To The ‘80s.” Like the decade of decadence that the song pays homage to, this retro track unapologetically oozes sex, drugs, and rock and roll machismo. From the gang vocals to the shredding guitar leads to the spacing meant to let the song build to a crescendo in a live setting, “Back To The ‘80s” is an inspired piece of nostalgia. Throw your fists in the air and hold your lighters to the sky as you crank this one up!
 ANIMAL DRIVE – “Had Enough”
“Had Enough” features the aggressive sensibility of Skid Row’s early releases, the in-your-face, bold melodies of Dio, the ferocious guitar shredding of Zakk Wylde, the mystique of Iron Maiden, and a touch of David Coverdale’s soulfulness. It’s no wonder that Dino Jelusic (the frontman and driving force behind the band) was tapped to tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Jelusic is everything that you love about heavy metal vocalists.
Like one of the band’s influences – Guns N’ Roses – their guitarist simply goes by one name…Keller. Keller is a throwback to a time when guitar gods where all the rage. Hopefully, Animal Drive gets the attention that they deserve as an up-and-comer with a ton of potential. If not (because of the climate of the industry), you have to imagine that an established band will scoop him up as a hired gun at some point. He’s the kind of guitarist that Ozzy Osbourne used to turn into a household name.
Buoyed by a rock solid rhythm section, Animal Drive is one of the more memorable heavy metal acts to emerge in recent times. That’s saying a lot, considering that they are on a label that has almost single-handedly saved the genre.
 LAST IN LINE – “Landslide”
Three decades after members of the powerhouse band behind Ronnie James Dio formed DIO, they reunited to perform under the Last In Line moniker. Featuring Vivian Campbell (guitar), Vinny Appice (drums), Claude Schnell (keyboards), Jimmy Bain (bass), and Andrew Freeman on vocals, the band picked up where DIO left off.
Tragically, Bain passed away in 2016 in his cabin on Def Leppard’s “Hysteria On The High Seas” cruise. The band only released one album together before Bain’s untimely passing. He has been replaced by Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne) for the band’s upcoming sophomore album (coming in 2019). Though Bain will be missed by longtime fans, “Landslide” is proof positive that this band’s journey is far from over. It is pure, timeless heavy metal that more than stands on its own (regardless of the DIO connection).
 MIXED COMPANY – “Turn It Up”
Once upon a time, image played a much bigger role for rock artists than it does today. That’s not to say that a good image doesn’t help, but it’s not as important as it once was. These days, knowing how to market your band is more important than image. Was it a stroke of marketing brilliance that Mixed Company’s artwork for their Turn It Up album is the band’s logo on a Marshall Amp Head, or just a stroke of luck that the image resonates so well? I honestly don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that it made the band stand out among a crowded field to make me want to listen.
Sometimes, judging a book by its cover (so to speak) is a worthwhile endeavor. Mixed Company instantly delivers what their artwork promises from the first note of the title track and never lets up. The thunderous drum opening by Shane Madsen combined with the crunchy riffs of Glenn “Nubz” Morrison gets your pulse racing. Often times, the bass playing gets lost in today’s rock songs, but Redo Ianni makes his presence felt early on with a heavy groove that helps the intensity build and carries throughout the song. Power mixes with beauty when Brittany Pie’s vocals kick in, giving Mixed Company a distinct sound.
This Kenosha, WI quartet offers further proof that there is a classic rock revival going on these days. You have to appreciate any band that references Spinal Tap in their lyrics (“crank it to eleven”), all the while playing their instruments with the musicality and proficiency of yesteryear. If you’re a fan of Eric Clapton, you’re going to love some of the touches that Morrison brings to the table.
In a perfect world, bands like Mixed Company would be all over the radio with anthemic rockers like “Turn It Up.” Radio or not, this is a band that should absolutely be on your radar!
 SAINTS OF SIN – “Uptown Funk”
Back in 1982, the worlds of hard rock and pop collided in a cataclysmic way when guitar god Eddie Van Halen collaborated with Michael Jackson on “Beat It.” Pop music has declined drastically over the past three decades, but there is one musician who has gained the respect of many rock artists – Bruno Mars. He may not be Michael Jackson or Prince, but he is the closest thing to these legends from this generation of pop stars.
With cover songs on the rise, it’s no surprise that Saints Of Sin, a glam rock band from the UK, chose to infuse this head-bopping pop song with some rock and roll testosterone. The cover is fairly true to the original, keeping the danceable groove intact, but dials it up a notch with ripping guitars and a heavy beat.
 SAINTED SINNERS – “Burnin’ The Candle”
Vocalist David Reece’s biggest claim to fame may be a short stint fronting Accept, but the lead single off of Sainted Sinner’s sophomore release doesn’t make you think of the German metalers. However, listening to “Burnin’ The Candle” does bring to mind some of legends of rock, especially the guitar work of Frank Pané.
The bombastic arena rock intro leads into riff that has a “Girls, Girls, Girls” vibe, but that’s where the Motley Crue comparisons end. Pané’s lead sounds like a mixture of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” and Randy Rhodes on “Crazy Train” (after a frenetic intro reminiscent of Paul Gilbert on “Addicted To That Rush”). Throughout the song, he also throws in licks that would make Yngwie Malmsteen proud.
What makes this song so entertaining is not the influences of others, or the guitar work alone. Pané is able to shine because of the rock solid rhythm section that is Malte Frederik Burkert (bass) and Berci Hirleman (drums).
While the band is the engine that powers the train, the swagger and soul of Sainted Sinners is the powerful vocals of Reece. The American vocalist has certainly found his groove with Sainted Sinners. Accept may be the biggest line on his resume so far, but if Sainted Sinners takes off, his time in Accept will become an afterthought.
 BRITISH LION – “Spit Fire”
British Lion (Steve Harris’ solo project) has a distinct Iron Maiden feel from the opening bass notes of “Spit Fire.” While Harris’ distinct galloping rhythms are still present, the vocal style deviates from the typical Maiden song. Unlike the aggressive, soaring style of Bruce Dickinson, Richard Taylor’s style is more in the haunting, mystical realm of Ronnie James Dio in his early days with Rainbow. Harris has been my favorite bass player since I discovered Maiden back in the early ‘80s, so anything that features his playing resonates with me, including this lesser known work.
 RIOT V – “Victory”
Although Riot V has only been in existence since 2013, the band’s history dates all the way back to 1975. Founded in New York City by guitarist Mark Reale, the band changed their name (Riot) at the request of Reale’s father after his son’s passing in 2012. Over the past 40+ years, the band has had numerous members, and has been affiliated with several record labels. Not many bands last this long in any incarnation, especially those that have spent most of their career flying under the radar. Riot V is one of the exceptions to the rule.
What started as a pure heavy metal band back in the ‘70s eventually evolved into a power metal band in later years. The band’s popularity may have peaked in the ‘80s, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of the material that they continue to put out to this day.
“Victory” is an epic, majestic, power metal anthem off of Riot V’s latest release, Armor Of Light. A frenetic, thunderous, double-bass drum clinic by Frank Gilchriest is the engine that powers the heart-racing pace of the song. The dual guitars of Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee take you back in time to the ‘80s with an Iron Maiden-esque sound and speed metal precision. Todd Michael Hall’s soaring, melodic vocals help take “Victory” to another level.
The name of the band (and the members themselves) may have changed, but in the immortal words of Led Zeppelin…“the song remains the same.” Riot V has found a formula that works, and has stuck to it. Though power metal is woefully underappreciated in the United States, it is greatly appreciated in other parts of the world, especially Europe.
 LITTLE CAESAR – “Time Enough For That”
Little Caesar is one of those bands that was a victim of circumstances beyond their control. In a sense, they got to the bar just before last call (the grunge movement). The band broke onto the scene with an inspired rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain Of Fools” in 1990. The following year, they enjoyed some radio success once again with “In Your Arms.” By 1992, they were one of those bands that many lost track of.
To be honest, even though I dug their sound, I had no idea that they released studio albums in 1998, 2009, and 2012, in addition to a live album in 2015. The band only came back on my radar when I started seeing stories about their recently released album, Eight.
“Time Enough For That” is the lead single from the band’s first studio release in six years. Because the song has a slower intro that builds up as it goes along, there may be a temptation from some to call this a power ballad, but it’s not. I love a good power ballad as much as the next guy, but those songs have a distinct formula that you don’t hear with “Time Enough For That.”
What surprised me about this song (from a band that fell into the sleaze rock category back in the day) is how soulful it is, and how much Southern Rock flair it has. “Time Enough For That” is much more Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Joe Cocker than it is nostalgic hair band/sleaze rock. There’s a maturity to the sound that is refreshingly appealing, and a timeless quality to the song that makes it sound fresh.
 STARBREAKER – “How Many More Goodbyes”
Tony Harnell has always been one of the most inexplicably underrated singers in hard rock. TNT certainly has their share of fans around the world, but never really became a household name in the United States for some reason. Harnell fronted Skid Row a few years back, but that marriage didn’t last very long. It certainly wasn’t because of his vocal range. To this day, Harnell soars to hit notes that most don’t even attempt anymore. His brilliant vocals are on display on “How Many More Goodbyes,” a straightforward AOR track that is dripping with beautiful melodies.
 LATE NIGHT SAVIOR – “Photograph”
I can’t tell you exactly when I discovered Late Night Savior, but I’m fairly sure that it was on social media. Most times, when I discover a new artist, there is one song that draws me in and inspires me to dig deeper. In the case of Late Night Savior, I saw them pop up a number of times in my notes with different songs. I had a difficult time deciding which song to feature, but after some serious consideration, I decided upon “Photograph” as my favorite from the band.
“Photograph” opens with a southern rock picking guitar intro, transitions to a heavy active rock sound, and then goes right back again to their southern influences. The song is in the same wheelhouse as Black Stone Cherry, classic Hinder and Tremonti. Quite the interesting mix if you ask me.
 VEER – “Make You”
Having just released their debut album, Veer is an up-and-coming rock quartet that is already making a lot of noise on the Maryland rock scene. One listen to “Make You” and you’ll see why. There is a seasoned, professional quality to the band’s sound that you don’t find in most new acts. What makes their cohesive sound even more impressive is the fact that the members of Veer still hold down other jobs.
With so much music out there nowadays, I’m always interested in artists that are intriguing beyond the stage. Veer certainly fits that bill. My introduction to the band came via drummer Jon Malfi, who reached out to submit the band’s music to be reviewed on Hard Rock Daddy. Through our interaction, I discovered that this forward-thinking, entrepreneurial drummer hand crafts custom guitars. His bother Ron (the lead vocalist) plays guitar, and is a published novelist.
Though they are rooted grunge, the band’s sound has an upbeat quality that wasn’t present in most of the music that came out of Seattle back in the day.
 JOYOUS WOLF – “Mississippi Queen”
Hard rock covers of songs from other genres have the luxury of appealing to a different audience than the original. It’s impressive when bands make songs their own, but not necessarily a big risk to take. When you take on a classic rock song that virtually every rock fan knows, you better deliver if you don’t want to be looked at as a poor man’s version of the original. California rockers Joyous Wolf knocked it out of the park with their interpretation of the Mountain classic, “Mississippi Queen.” You have to think that Leslie West would impressed if he heard this version of his most notable work.
 KOBRA AND THE LOTUS – “Velvet Roses”
There are a few rock bands in recent memory that had the balls to release a double (or two-part) album in the current climate. What was once more common is now something of a unicorn. If anything, more bands are choosing to release EPs or singles with more frequency to stay top of mind. You can see where Five Finger Death Punch and Stone Sour would have the confidence to pull off a double album, but for a lesser known artist to do it…that takes a healthy dose of confidence. Of course, Kobra And The Lotus is not your typical Active Rock band, which makes their sound that much more appealing.
Fronted by vocalist Kobra Paige, this four-piece unit out of Canada is more in the wheelhouse of European metal than typical Active Rock. “Velvet Roses” may have a delicate title, but the song (delivered by a fierce female vocalist) is anything but. “Velvet Roses” is a high octane, energetic rocker with heavy riffs, a chugging pace, soaring vocals, and shredding guitar leads (courtesy of Jasio Kulakowski). The theatrical quality of the song also helps it to stand out from most of what’s played on radio today.
When bands like Kobra And The Lotus get played on Active Rock radio, it gives me hope for a format that sometimes seems to have lost its way, straddling the fence between generic and maddeningly alternative.
 STATION – “Cost Of The Sand”
At their core, New York City’s Station is a melodic hard rock quartet that doesn’t buy into the rhetoric that “rock is dead.” Thankfully, there are bands like this out to prove the naysayers wrong by writing memorable, infectious songs that that capture the attention of listeners. The big hooks are reminiscent of the songs written by “Mutt” Lange for bands like Def Leppard and Loverboy in the ‘80s. Though their sound would have been a great fit for mainstream rock radio back in the day, their music has a bit more of a Zeppelin-esque groove than the aforementioned acts. “Cost Of The Sand” may be rooted in the past, but it has a freshness that makes it relevant today.
 THRICE – “The Grey”
If you thought that Thrice was a newer band, you would be in good company. Though they released their first album in 2000, they really started to gain traction when their 2016 release broke through on radio. In 2018, Thrice released their 10th studio album (Palms). Continuing to build on the momentum from 2016, the band once again got meaningful radio airplay this time around. “The Grey” features catchy hooks over an energetic groove that will appeal to rock fans of all generations.
 AUDIO REIGN – “Betrayal”
Australian rockers Audio Reign bring the heat from the first note of “Betrayal” and never take their foot off of the gas throughout. Most bands that play with this kind of feverish pacing these days rely heavily upon growling vocals. Audio Reign takes a refreshing approach by delivering a heavy dose of melody over this rocker that hits you like a high octane freight train. Fans of Tremonti (Mark Tremonti’s solo project) will instantly gravitate towards Audio Reign’s powerful sound.
 FAREWELL TO FEAR – “Your Cure”
Back in 2014, I discovered Farewell To Fear when I heard their cover of Rhianna’s “Diamonds.” Admittedly, I live in a bit of a rock bubble, so I had no idea that it was a cover until much later on. Not surprisingly, I much prefer F2F’s version to Rhianna’s. I don’t know why, but I lost track of the band until recently when I heard their most recent release, “Your Cure.” The band’s sound has evolved over the years. Sonically, it’s bigger and heavier than when I first discovered them in 2014. While the hooks are still melodic, “Your Cure” is aggressive and intense at times, featuring some well-placed screams amidst the clean vocals.
 STONE BROKEN – “Worth Fighting For”
Stone Broken’s roots trace back to a tragic loss. Frontman Rich Moss’ former bandmate suffered from alcohol addiction. After his passing, Moss put his rock and roll dreams on hold, but after four years, he formed Stone Broken with guitarist Chris Davis, bassist Kieron Conroy, and drummer Robyn Haycock.
“Worth Fighting For” is the lead single from this UK quartet’s debut album. Moss has always looked at the top artists in the genre as his peers, so it makes sense that Stone Broken arrives on the scene with a polished sound that’s in the sweet spot of Active Rock. Beyond the inspiring, empowering lyrics, the song has a Gemini Syndrome vibe, and Nickelback type phrasing.
 SHIM – “Hallelujah”
When I saw that former Sick Puppies frontman Shimon Moore (Shim) was back with new music, I was somewhat intrigued. Although I appreciate a good cover song, I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant to listen to another interpretation of the Leonard Cohen classic – “Hallelujah.” With the current cover song trend, it was easy to assume that this was another cover, but I was wrong. The title is the same, but this version of “Hallelujah” is a Shim original. An original song with a familiar title wasn’t the only surprise.
If you’re expecting to hear something similar to Sick Puppies, you’re likely going to be surprised. Shim’s “Hallelujah” has a nice edge to it, kind of makes me think of a modern-day Cheap Trick if Robin Zander’s voice was more angst-ridden. Being unceremoniously removed from Sick Puppies in 2014 (and finding out via social media) gives Shim a legitimate reason to be pissed. But here’s the thing. If you just listen to “Hallelujah,” you’ll catch the edge, but if you watch the video (which I highly recommend), you’ll see a creative bit of comedic genius. If you’re a fan of The Muppets, you’ll really appreciate the video for this very cool tune.
If you thought that the Cheap Trick comparison is a bit out of left field, you’ll really be surprised by the guitar comparison. Though “Hallelujah” is a fairly straightforward, big riff rocker through the early verses and choruses, Shim lets his solo rip Eric Clapton style. For the most part, “Hallelujah” is an upbeat, energetic rocker with big hooks, but the lyrics that stand out the most (for me) is the more resolute, bittersweet…“stuck in the life I designed, I can’t rewind, I’m going out of my mind…if you feel me sing hallelujah.”
 THREE DAYS GRACE – “The Mountain”
Three Days Grace is among a handful of bands that gets automatic airplay regardless of the song. That is not to say that the band doesn’t deserve the airplay. They absolutely do. “The Mountain” is a nice return for these Active Rock darlings. It’s aggressive, powerful and highly energetic…the type of song that is ideal for working out to and pushing past the pain. Lyrically, the song also provides a healthy dose of motivation and inspiration.
Although you can’t tell when you hear it on the radio, the video for the song takes the workout theme a step further. It was filmed in a UFC octagon, and features a cameo appearance by UFC fighter, Misha Circunov.
This song was purposely chosen to end this list where it began…with a positive, inspiring message. A nice complement to Shinedown’s “GET UP.”