Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015

Hard Rock Daddy's Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015

Hard Rock Daddy presents the Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015.

In 2015, the hard rock and metal genres continued to flourish, so much so that we have once again increased the number of songs featured on the year-end list.  It started with the Top 52 Hard Rock Songs of 2013 in the year of our launch, and was followed by the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2014 last year.

To give our readers the greatest possible variety of music, the Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015 only features one song per album release (although a number of artists released more than one single worthy of recognition during the year).

While a good portion of the songs on the list were heard throughout the year on SiriusXM’s Octane and on Active Rock radio stations throughout North America, this list gives a much broader look at the year in hard rock music.

The Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015 is a musical journey that spans the globe and a number of sub-genres.  To make the list as user-friendly as possible, it is subdivided into the following categories:  Top 25 Hard Rock Songs (regardless of genre), Top 65 Active Rock Songs, Top 45 Classic/Mainstream Rock Songs, Top 20 Prog/Power/Heavy Metal Songs and last, but certainly not least, the Top 5 Southern Rock Songs of 2015.

Hard Rock Daddy prides itself on giving exposure to artists that fly below radio’s radar…from artists whose careers date back to the ‘80s to today’s up-and-comers.  Many of the artists and songs on this list were featured on Music Discovery Monday or the HRD Radio Report.

The Top 135 Hard Rock Songs of 2015 can be found on the sub-genre playlists below, in addition to the Hard Rock Daddy Network (HRD’s YouTube channel).

In an effort to expose our readers to artists, and not just songs, a short write-up for each featured song is provided.

Any links provided at the end of a write-up will take you to the corresponding Music Discovery Monday article, where the artist shared the meaning and inspiration behind the featured song.

 

TOP 25 HARD ROCK SONGS (regardless of genre).

{Song list and write-ups listed below the YouTube playlist}

 

1-THE WINERY DOGS“Oblivion”

The lead track from Hot Streak – the sophomore release from The Winery Dogs – dials up the intensity and energy from the first note, setting the tone for a musical journey that lasts for 13 songs, and yet somehow still leaves you wanting more (see Hard Rock Daddy album review).  “Oblivion” is an excellent representation of the sound that The Winery Dogs are cultivating.

When the band first appeared on the scene with their eponymous debut album, they were justifiably categorized as a supergroup (which is something of a double-edged sword nowadays).  Featuring legends Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and the equally-talented (but lesser-known) Richie Kotzen, the supergroup categorization is understandable.  However, with their second full-length album released on the same cycle as most acts today, the time has come to look at The Winery Dogs as developing artists (albeit with a big head start).

Any thoughts that The Winery Dogs are merely another side project, like the ones that are prevalent in hard rock today, are not justified.  “Oblivion” is an outstanding introduction to the band.  After you listen to this track, dig deeper into everything that they have to offer.  You will not be disappointed! (MIKE PORTNOY discusses “Oblivion”)

 

2-SEVENDUST“Thank You”

Sevendust is undoubtedly in the upper echelon of artists that get played on Active Rock radio today,  alongside other recent heavy hitters like Shinedown, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin (to name a few), but they don’t always get the recognition that they deserve.  “Thank You” – the first single off of Sevendust’s album, Kill The Flaw – may be the song that gives them their just due.  Hard rock/metal music fans have learned to put little credence in the nominations for the annual Grammy Awards in this category, but they finally got it right this year by including “Thank You” in the mix.  The song – which features the perfect blend of heavy and emotive (both signature Sevendust qualities) – stands out on Active Rock radio because of Lajon Witherspoon’s distinct vocals and the overall intensity of the band.

 

3-HELLYEAH“Hush”

To put it in sports terms, the emergence of “Hush” off of Hellyeah’s album, Blood For Blood, gives the band a radio hat trick.  Like the previous singles, “Sangre Por Sangre (Blood For Blood)” and “Moth,” this track drips with angst and rage in a uniquely melodic way.  Active Rock radio programmers understandably can’t get enough of this supergroup, who have finally managed to join the ranks of the elite in the hard rock music genre, and are well on their way to becoming a staple in the Active Rock format.

Just as he did with the first two singles off of the album, frontman, Chad Gray, masterfully channels his angst, rage and tormented lyrics into a unique style that makes him stand out amongst other hard rock vocalists.  With Gray, drummer Vinnie Paul, and guitarist Tom Maxwell handling the writing duties, and producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy, Five Finger Death Punch) guiding the process, Hellyeah has really hit their stride.  As they release each single, the only real question is how high each song will climb on the charts, not if they will.  Hellyeah should be a force on Active Rock radio for many years to come. (CHAD GRAY discusses “Hush”)

 

4-NOTHING MORE“Jenny”

If you listen to Active Rock radio, you are undoubtedly familiar with Nothing More at this point.  All of the singles off of the band’s debut eponymous album are powerful in their own right, but “Jenny” takes the intensity to an entirely different level.

On a debut album filled with incredible songs, “Jenny” was the track that left the most lasting impression (both musically and lyrically) when the album review was featured on Hard Rock Daddy.  Because of the personal story behind the lyrics, it should come as no surprise that frontman Jonny Hawkins brilliantly delivers the song with unbridled, heartfelt passion.  The only real surprise for those unfamiliar with Nothing More’s history is that Hawkins was originally the drummer.

“Jenny” seamlessly vacillates between sullen verses and impassioned choruses.  Hawkins makes you feel – in a visceral way – the desperate frustration of unsuccessfully trying to get through to someone to help them.  Although “Jenny” is an amazing song, Hawkins’ reasoning for exposing such painful, raw emotions to the world goes well beyond the music. (JONNY HAWKINS discusses “Jenny”)

 

 

5-FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH“Jekyll & Hyde”

It feels like a lifetime ago that a meltdown on stage during a Five Finger Death Punch concert had people speculating that the band would break up.  Fast forward a few months, and they come roaring back onto the scene as if nothing had ever happened.  Perhaps the stage meltdown was the ultimate “Jekyll & Hyde” moment.  No matter, FFDP’s latest album continues to solidify their place in the upper echelon of modern hard rock artists.  Because the band features an instantly recognizable sound, they can “borrow” ideas from others and make it their own.  Although “Jekyll & Hyde” bears a resemblance to “Pepper” by Butthole Surfers, there are enough signature FFDP moments to give the song its own personality (or two as the case may be).

 

6-DISTURBED“The Vengeful One”

After a four-year hiatus, the long-awaited return of Disturbed arrived with power in the form of “The Vengeful One,” the first single off of the band’s latest release.  It’s fair to say that Active Rock programmers were chomping at the bit for new music from Disturbed as much as the fans were, and that the band is back with a vengeance with their distinct brand of aggressive rock.  It’s no surprise that “The Vengeful One” soared up the Active Rock charts and peaked at #1.  Sometimes, big-name acts rise to the top because of their status, not necessarily because they have put out a great single.  This is not the case for “The Vengeful One.”  Even without the pent up demand for new Disturbed music, it’s highly likely that this song would have shot up the charts anyway.  It’s just that damn good!

 

7-RICHARDS CRANE (f. MYLES KENNEDY)“Black & White”

Sometimes less is more, and in the case of “Black And White,” less comes in the form of a sparse musical arrangement designed the allow the stellar vocals of Whitfield Crane and Myles Kennedy to shine in the spotlight.  That’s not to say that guitarist Lee Richards (who wrote “Black And White”) doesn’t add a very important element to the song, because he does.  While the dual vocals bring the thought-provoking lyrics to life, the tone of “Black And White” is set by a riff that is as emotionally stirring (and in the same vein) as the instantly-recognizable riff on Bob Seger’s “Main Street.”  Richards is far from a household name, but he could have been had he not received a life-changing phone call early in 1997 that led to his departure from Godsmack.  You can’t help but think that the poetic lyrics of “Black And White” are extremely personal to Richards.  He may always wonder what might have been if he had remained with Godsmack, but Richards can take solace in the fact that he has written a timeless classic in “Black And White.” (WHITFIELD CRANE discusses “Black And White”)

 

8-SLASH f MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS“Bent To Fly”

The most recent album by Slash f. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators was loaded with material, none of which was filler.  There could have easily been several singles released, but for some odd reason, only “World On Fire” (the title track) and “Bent To Fly” made the cut.  The song made a nice run on the Active Rock radio charts, and got significant airplay earlier in the year on SiriusXM’s Octane.  More than any other track, “Bent To Fly” may be the one that takes the unique style that Slash and Kennedy have honed outside of this band, and blends it together seamlessly.  From Slash’s beautifully melodic picking intro and leads to Kennedy’s emotional phrasing and distinct bridge, “Bent To Fly” offers the best of both worlds of GNR and Alter Bridge.

 

9-SHINEDOWN“Cut The Cord”

Like Five Finger Death Punch and Disturbed, “Cut The Cord” – the first single off of Shinedown’s latest album (Threat To Survival) – made a tremendous debut, and rocketed up the Active Rock radio charts out of the gate.  The three-year wait for the follow-up to 2012’s hit album, Amaryllis, had fans clamoring for new material from Shinedown, and they delivered as usual.   While many songs on Active Rock radio have a similar sound that makes it hard to differentiate between them, Shinedown (thanks in large part to Brent Smith’s outstanding, distinct vocals) is instantly recognizable.  There’s a good reason that Active Rock radio programmers have made them a staple of the format.

 

10-SEETHER“Nobody Praying For Me”

As one of the most popular rock acts today, Seether gets attention whenever they release a new single.  Although frontman Shaun Morgan has questioned why the band (inexplicably) no longer receives any support from Alternative radio stations, Seether’s music is well-represented on Active Rock radio.  While the band eventually releases YouTube videos, it isn’t always done when the single impacts at radio.  “Nobody Praying For Me” is a good example of their approach.  The official video debuted long after the song was already being played regularly on Active Rock radio.

As the saying goes, anything worth having is worth waiting for, and Seether proved this to be true with their inspired, thought-provoking, interactive video for “Nobody Praying For Me,” which features multiple endings to the same story.  The video is as inspired as the song.  Seether has the ability to tap into the emotions of a song as well as anyone in hard rock today.

 

11-RED SUN RISING“The Otherside”

It’s rare to find a current hard rock band that seamlessly blends the dark, grunge influences of Alice In Chains and Nirvana with the bright, soaring melodic influence of Shinedown.  Perhaps that is why “The Otherside” – the debut single from Akron, OH rockers, Red Sun Rising – immediately stood out as unique from the first listen.

Based on frontman, Mike Protich’s comments, it’s clear that Red Sun Rising’s unique sound is by design…

“Red Sun Rising is what rock was built on, but is not today’s rock, but a new rock alternative.  Subtle touches of blues mixed with the dark minor tonality of today.  Our music allows the listener to travel through a song that is anything but linear.  With soaring vocals, we strive to find melodies that convey the passion of our thought-provoking lyrical content, and push the boundaries that rock has somewhat forgotten.”

“The Otherside” grabs you right away with a haunting, grunge-influenced verse and never lets go as it crescendos into the soaring melodic chorus.  The more you listen to the song, the more you begin to peel back the layers, revealing a seasoned sound that rivals artists who have made several albums together. (MIKE PROTICH discusses “The Otherside”)

 

12-SONS OF TEXAS“Baptized In The Rio Grande”

Supergroups are all the rage nowadays in the hard rock music genre, but they usually consist of long-established artists.  Formed in 2013, Sons Of Texas is a new breed of “supergroup.”  A world away from Austin, TX – the lone star state’s music hotbed – this powerful quintet, comprised of local all-stars from McAllen, burst onto the scene with their first single, “Baptized In The Rio Grande.”

Like a Texas tornado, “Baptized In The Rio Grande” grabs you from the first note with shredding guitars and an intense rhythm.  Displaying dynamics that go well beyond their years, Sons Of Texas dial back the intensity during the soulful verses before taking it to another level when the chorus kicks in with heavy, melodic harmonies.

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Zakk Wylde had made a guest appearance on the song, but the bending of notes and shredding solos actually come courtesy of lead guitarist, Jes De Hoyos.  Because of the incredibly tight rhythm section consisting of guitarist Jon Olivares, and the Villarreal brothers (Mike – drums, Nick – bass), De Hoyos is afforded the freedom to showcase his immense guitar skills.

The impressive musicianship on “Baptized In The Rio Grande” provides an ideal backdrop for the soulful, gritty, impassioned vocals of frontman, Mark Morales, to bring the song to life.

Listening to “Baptized In The Rio Grande,” you are left wondering how a relatively inexperienced band of guys in their mid-20s could have a sound as seasoned and mature as bands with a decade or more under their belts.  (JES DE HOYOS discusses “Baptized In The Rio Grande”)

 

13-JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 (f. JEFF SCOTT SOTO)“Scream”

After making a name for himself by being one of the most talented and hard-working guitarists around, Joel Hoekstra has risen to greater fame after joining Whitesnake.  Long before joining David Coverdale and company, Hoekstra began writing an album that shows that his writing prowess is every bit as impressive as his guitar playing.  Picking a favorite track off of this album is like picking your favorite child, but “Scream” gets the nod for the pure heart-pounding energy, and stellar vocals of the vastly underrated Jeff Scott Soto.  “Scream” is sung from the standpoint of the demon or vice holding you back in your life.  It’s hard to imagine anyone doing it any better than Soto.  And though this album was about showcasing Hoekstra’s songwriting ability, he shows why he was tabbed by Coverdale to be Whitesnake’s guitarist with some impressive shredding.

 

14-BUMBLEFOOT“Little Brother Is Watching”

Daring to be different and not subscribing to any notion of what hard rock “should” be, Bumblefoot delivers a track that is both lyrically and musically unique.  Incredible guitar playing is par for the course for Bumblefoot, but on “Little Brother Is Watching,” he showcases how talented he is as a singer and songwriter.

The song opens up with anthemic gang vocals, transitions to a very cool vibe with distinct bass lines and then ratchets up the intensity with a heavy, danceable beat.  If you are a fan of intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics, this is a track that you MUST check out. (BUMBLEFOOT discusses “Little Brother Is Watching”)

 

15-HIGHLY SUSPECT“Lydia”

You don’t have to be from New York to have an image in your mind about Brooklyn.  It is a place with a very distinct culture, and a unique, collective personality.  There is a cool, tough image that many people envision when they think of the vibrant borough of NYC.  In the case of Brooklyn rockers, Highly Suspect, they ooze cool from every pore with their debut single, “Lydia.”

Highly Suspect lacks the brashness that many Brooklynites wear as a badge of honor.  Perhaps, it is due to the fact that they are transplants from Cape Cod, or maybe it’s because they really are surprised by the attention that their music is getting.  Either way, it’s refreshing to witness a band that is truly grateful to hear what others have to say about them.

This power trio didn’t start out with the intention of creating a sound that defies being easily categorized, but they have done so just the same.  For some bands, blurring the genre lines can be risky because radio and media don’t know what to do with them.  In the case of Highly Suspect, the opposite has been true, as they stand out amongst both the Active and Alternative Rock genres as something fresh and different.  The attention that “Lydia” has gotten is proof positive that music fans just crave great songwriting and musicianship; they don’t care about how things “fit.”

 

16-SHAMAN’S HARVEST“In Chains”

If there is one word to describe Shaman’s Harvest, it would be “diverse.”  It would be easy to shower them with a number of other positive adjectives, but what sets them apart from most is their ability to deliver a variety of musical experiences on one album and make it work so well.  The band’s two previous singles (“Dangerous” and “Dirty Diana”) off of Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns both garnered radio attention, and “In Chains” has done the same.

Whereas “Dangerous” was a straight-forward southern rocker and “Dirty Diana” was an inspired, bluesy cover of a classic Michael Jackson song, “In Chains” offers yet another side of Shaman’s Harvest.  There is a seamless transition between the verses (which would be an ideal fit for a modern western film), and the choruses, which feature larger-than-life gospel theatricality.  Need more?  How about some soulful blues shredding thrown in for good measure?  Nathan Hunt’s vocals are impressive enough on their own.  They become even more awe-inspiring when you take into account that he was receiving treatment for throat cancer during the recording of the album. (NATHAN HUNT discusses battle with cancer)

 

17-BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE“You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)”

“You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)” – from Bullet For My Valentine’s latest album, Venom – is the perfect anthem for the downtrodden and underappreciated who have reached their breaking point.  Clearly, BFMV has no trouble tapping into their inner rage, but they do so in such a melodic and inspiring way, that it never comes off as bitter.

“You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)” begins with acapella gang vocals and quickly transitions into a powerful musical intro that is reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s “Aces High.”  Frontman Matthew Tuck delivers tortured growls of anguish over intense guitars that border on thrash, before pulling back to a more subdued verse supported by the heavy bottom of the rhythm section.  The pounding, driving rhythm helps the song to build to a crescendo into the chorus (which features thunderous double-bass drumming beneath Tuck’s melodic vocals).

This empowering song will undoubtedly connect with those who have suffered any form of abuse, as well as those who feel under-appreciated or enraged by those who abuse their authority and disrespect others.

 

18-SCORPIONS“We Built This House”

The number of bands that stay together for several decades is fairly small.  Out of those bands, the number of them that have continuously remained relevant is even smaller, almost infinitesimal.  There is no doubt that the Scorpions have managed to defy all odds with their career (which now spans 50 years), and claim their place in this elite group.  “We Built This House” is yet another example of the Scorpions’ ability to continue to write outstanding, timeless music.

Taken at face value, the lyrics to “We Built This House” may lead you to believe that this is a love song about perseverance.  While it can certainly be interpreted that way, there is clearly an underlying metaphor for the rock solid foundation that the Scorpions have built their career upon.

In an article featured on Ultimate Classic Rock, Klaus Meine shared some insight about “We Built This House”

“In the end, it tells our story.  We’ve built this house called Scorpions brick-by-brick, and often, quite arduously.  From the first days in Hannover and the first concerts abroad, until this very day, we’ve weathered severe storms, but the house withstood everything.  It turned out to be weatherproof and stable.  However, building this house was never just cumbersome, but joyful as well.  The joy of music, the joy of having experienced and still experiencing it all, the joy of – and the thankfulness for – the fans’ affection.”

While Meine is thankful for the affection that the band has received throughout their illustrious career, it is we, the fans, who should be truly thankful for everything that the Scorpions have given to us (and continue to give) long after most bands would have called it a day.

Someday, the Scorpions will record their final song, and play their final concert.  For the sake of the fans, we can only hope that it doesn’t happen anytime soon.  They are still an incredible live band, who have the rare ability to write new material that fans look forward to hearing in concert (along with their countless hits).

 

19-SEASONS AFTER“Lights Out”

Seasons After’s “Lights Out” is a defiant anthem that showcases the band’s ability to persevere in the face of trying times.  There was a time when getting a major record label deal was the holy grail for aspiring artists.  Those days have long since passed.  Stories of artists returning to true independence have increased in recent times, especially since the Internet and social media have helped to level the playing field for DIY artists.  Seasons After is the latest hard rock act to take this approach, even going so far as to use their label conflict as inspiration for the Calamity, Scars & Memoirs album…

“A lot of bands go through the “music business horror stories”, which is basically what happened to us.  But thankfully, we were able to come out the other side – and that is what the whole album is about,” states guitarist, Chris Dawson.

You have to give kudos to any artist that can not only embrace their freedom from the grips of a major label, but also write about it in a very powerful way without mincing words.

Given the inspiration for the song, “Lights Out” comes across as intensely personal.  Seasons After channels their rage perfectly in this dynamic, melodic rocker that features impassioned vocals and guitars that ideally capture the meaning behind the lyrics.

To the average person who grinds out a living, it may seem like making a living playing music is all glory.  The truth of the matter is that, in today’s climate, most bands are working harder than most people just to make ends meet.  More often than not, the biggest benefit of making a living in music is pursuing a passion, not living a life of luxury.

If you are fan of great, melodic hard rock, and like to root for the underdog, you’ll love “Lights Out.”

 

20-MAGNUS KARLSSON’S FREE FALL (f. JOE LYNN TURNER)“No Control”

Swedish guitarist/songwriter/producer Magnus Karlsson – whose work includes: Primal Fear, Allen/Lande, Kiske/Somerville, Last Tribe and Starbreaker – released his second solo album under the Free Fall moniker in 2015.  Once again, Karlsson has enlisted a who’s who of hard rock singers to help bring his songs to life.

“No Control” is melodic hard rock at its best.  If this song had come out during the ‘80s (the decade of music that heavily influenced Karlsson), there is no doubt that it would have been a huge commercial hit.  Featuring the always-stellar vocals of Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Deep Purple), “No Control” takes you on a journey back in time.  The melody and harmonies are infectious, and Karlsson makes the guitar sing with shredding that makes you long for days gone by.  This song is tailor-made for JLT’s voice and distinct style, featuring a nice blend of Rainbow and Yngwie elements. (JOE LYNN TURNER discusses “No Control”)

 

21-HALESTORM“Apocalyptic”

After a three-year wait since Halestorm’s hit album, The Strange Case of…, they returned earlier this year with their latest album, Into The Wild Life, returning to the scene with the lead single, “Apocalyptic.”

Josh Smith’s fat bassline, Arejay Hale’s pulsating drums and Joe Hottinger’s gritty guitars hit you hard and heavy from the first note, but it is frontwoman extraordinaire, Lzzy Hale, that brings out the “balls” in “Apocalyptic” with her take-no-prisoners delivery.  Both musically and lyrically, Lzzy proves time and again that she can not only hang with male hard rock vocalists, but also outshine them in many cases.

“Apocalyptic” is dirty and edgy in a way that empowers women (like Lzzy) to take as much pleasure in having break-up sex as a man would.  The beauty of Lzzy is that she is just as comfortable and engaging when she sings about life from a traditional female perspective (“Here’s To Us”), as she is when she turns the tide and embraces the traditionally male perspective (as she does in “Apocalyptic”).

 

22-SAINT ASONIA“Better Place”

Whenever musicians from bands with name recognition get together to form something new, the tendency is to instantly dub them as a “supergroup,” even if the individual members shun the label.  Such is the case with Saint Asonia, which features Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace) on lead vocals, Mike Mushok (Staind) on guitar, Rich Beddoe (Finger Eleven) on drums and Corey Lowery (Dark New Day, Stereomud, Eye Empire) on bass.

Given the fact that “’supergroups” have a tendency to have a relatively short shelf life, it’s understandable why Gontier was quick to dismiss the label…

“Truth is, we’re more like refugees that just really hit it off creatively,” joked Gontier when discussing his view of Saint Asonia.

The band’s first single, “Better Place,” instantly gained traction on Active Rock radio.

Gontier shocked everyone when he parted ways with Three Days Grace just as the band was peaking.  Citing a desire to “create real music from the heart rather than for radio,” Gontier promised that “real, honest music from his soul” was forthcoming.  He delivered on his promise with “Better Place,” an edgier version of the type of songs that he wrote with Three Days Grace. (ADAM GONTIER discusses “Better Place”)

 

23-ALL THAT REMAINS“This Probably Won’t End Well”

If ever there was a band that marches to the beat of their own drum and laughs in the face of criticism, it is All That Remains, particularly their outspoken frontman, Phil Labonte.  While the band’s sound has evolved throughout their career (which dates back to 1998), there are fans from the early days who want to keep them confined in a tightly sealed “metalcore” box.

All That Remains admittedly draws from a vast variety of musical influences, many of whom would be considered “guilty pleasures” by most hard rock bands, but ATR wears their appreciation of “uncool” artists on their collective sleeves.  To their credit, All That Remains creates music that inspires them without any consideration for “fan” backlash.

“This Probably Won’t End Well” probably seemed like a prophetic title for fans stuck in “metalcore mode” when they first heard the melancholic piano intro.  However, it doesn’t take long for the song to kick into a heavy rocker featuring crunchy guitars and a driving rhythm with insane drum fills.  The music definitely sets the stage for angry growls, but what you get instead are beautiful vocal harmonies complemented by soulful, bluesy guitar leads.

If you’re stuck in 1998, then “This Probably Won’t End Well” may leave you believing that the song is appropriately titled, but if you have an appreciation for what constitutes a kick-ass hard rock tune in 2015, then the title will just come across as ironic.

 

24-IRON MAIDEN“Tears Of A Clown”

With the exception of a five-year hiatus from the mid-to-late ‘90s, Bruce Dickinson has been the voice of Iron Maiden since 1981.  Although Dickinson is the voice, the band’s lyrics are mostly derived from the mind of Steve Harris.

Though he has tackled serious subjects before with his lyrics, Harris generally focuses on the bigger picture.  It was revealed by Dickinson that “Tears Of A Clown” was written specifically about Robin Williams, his depression and ultimate suicide.

Not only do the lyrics have a different tenor than most Maiden songs, but the music does as well.  “Tears Of A Clown” eschews Maiden’s signature galloping rhythm for more groove-oriented pacing, which makes it stand out as unique for the band.  Dickinson brings the lyrics to life with his vocals, an impressive feat considering that their most recent release (The Book Of Souls) was recorded as he was battling tongue and throat cancer.

 

25-BOBAFLEX“Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away”

When you first hear “Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away,” you might think that Bobaflex has written an infectious (dare I say “addictive”) drug anthem, but that is not the case.  While the song is both infectious and addictive, the meaning behind the song is not actually what it appears to be at first blush.

The gang vocals at the beginning of the track are reminiscent of another song about drugs (Alice Cooper’s “Hey Stoopid”), but the verses are much grittier.  Bobaflex continues to hone their unique delivery of melodies on “Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away,” distinguishing them amongst the plethora of hard rock artists on the scene today.  (MARTY McCOY discusses “Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away”)

 

 

TOP 65 ACTIVE ROCK SONGS OF 2015.  

{Song list and write-ups listed below the YouTube playlist}

 

NOTE:  See Top 25 Hard Rock Songs (above) for write-ups and links for songs 1-18.

 

1-SEVENDUST“Thank You”

 

2-HELLYEAH“Hush”

 

3-NOTHING MORE“Jenny”

 

4-FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH“Jekyll & Hyde”

 

5-DISTURBED“The Vengeful One”

 

6-SLASH f MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS“Bent To Fly”

 

7-SHINEDOWN“Cut The Cord”

 

8-SEETHER“Nobody Praying For Me”

 

9-RED SUN RISING“The Otherside”

 

10-SONS OF TEXAS“Baptized In The Rio Grande”

 

11-HIGHLY SUSPECT“Lydia”

 

12-SHAMAN’S HARVEST“In Chains”

 

13-BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE“You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)”

 

14-SEASONS AFTER“Lights Out”

 

15-HALESTORM“Apocalyptic”

 

16-SAINT ASONIA“Better Place”

 

17-ALL THAT REMAINS“This Probably Won’t End Well”

 

18-BOBAFLEX“Mama Don’t Take My Drugs Away”

 

ACTIVE ROCK SONGS 19-65

 

19 – CAGE9“Illuminator”

Every once in a while, you come across a band and hear a song that blows you away, and leaves you wondering how they have managed to stay below the radar.  Such is the case with Cage9’s “Illuminator.”

The brainchild of Evan Rodaniche (vocals/guitar) – who is known for his guitar work with Powerman 5000 (featuring Rob Zombie’s brother, Spider) – Cage9 is a Los Angeles-based power quartet.

Though the band has gone through some lineup changes since its inception, the current incarnation (which includes Brian Sumwalt – drums, Leslie Wyatt – bass and Matt Borowski – guitar) is a force to be reckoned with, and one that promises to make a significant impact in the hard rock music genre once they get on more peoples’ radar.

“Illuminator” grabs you by the throat from the first power chord and never lets go.  On this track, you get all of the ballsiness and intensity of Powerman 5000, but in a much more melodic way.  Though Rodaniche made his bones as a guitarist, his powerful vocals rival the best singers in hard rock today.  Particularly impressive is his ability to bring meaningful lyrics to life with his heartfelt delivery.  Hauntingly beautiful harmonies perfectly complement Rodaniche’s vocals, as does the dynamic playing of this killer quartet. (EVAN RODANICHE discusses “Illuminator”)

 

 

20 – BLACK VEIL BRIDES“Goodbye Agony”

After dominating Active Rock radio with “In The End” a few years back, “Goodbye Agony” didn’t get nearly the recognition that it deserved, which is a disservice to the listening audience.  “Goodbye Agony” is an incredibly haunting, emotionally-stirring track.  As far as Black Veil Brides is concerned, they have proven to have (arguably) the most dedicated fanbase in hard rock today, so any lack of radio support doesn’t stop them from getting their message to the masses.  Despite the lack of radio support, “Goodbye Agony” has over 12.5 million views on YouTube early in January of 2016.  Thankfully for Black Veil Brides, they can always count on the viral buzz created by their fans, which far exceeds the reach that most bands achieve (even if they get more love from Active Rock radio).

 

 

21- FROM ASHES TO NEW“Through It All”

From Ashes To New is not your typical hard rock act, with influences deviating far from the norm.  Born from the mind of vocalist/programmer Matt Brandyberry, From Ashes To New is equal parts rock and rap, and both elements come across as truly authentic.  That’s what happens when you cut your teeth on Biggie and Tupac and then discover the likes of Sevendust.  With a passion for hip-hop flows, guitar, piano, songwriting and most importantly, a thirst for learning various techniques, Brandyberry is a force to be reckoned with, and it shows on “Through It All.”  Like the rest of his small-town Pennsylvania bandmates, Brandyberry held down a full-time job while recording the album, which is why they connect on a meaningful level with their growing fanbase.  You don’t have to be a fan of rap-rock to appreciate everything that FATN has to offer.

 

 

22 – POP EVIL“Footsteps”

Following up 2013’s Onyx (an album loaded with singles) is no small task.  Pop Evil’s sound continues to evolve with the first single from their latest release, Up.  Whereas most of the singles from their previous album were somewhat angst-ridden, “Footsteps” offers a more upbeat, feel-good sound.  The song had a nice radio run, but the greatest exposure may very well have come as the music bed for a Dodge Ram commercial.  There was a time when it was considered “selling out” to allow your song to be used commercially.  Those days are over, as bands must do whatever they can to monetize their music to earn a living.  A sign of the times…

 

 

23 – THE GLORIOUS SONS“Heavy”

In the early ‘90s, the Black Crowes (featuring the Robinson brothers) rose to fame with their brand of Rolling Stones-inspired rock.  Fast forward two decades, and it looks as though history may repeat itself with Canadian rockers, The Glorious Sons (featuring the Emmons brothers).  Although they are more edgy than either of the aforementioned bands, The Glorious Sons have built their sound upon the same rock and roll foundation.  “Heavy” is not only the title of the song, but also an accurate description of the direction that the band is taking with their sound (due in large part to Brett Emmons’ vocals).  Emmons takes a little bit of Mick Jagger and mixes it with an Ian Astbury (The Cult) vibe to create a vocal style that stands out as unique in the current hard rock landscape. (BRETT EMMONS discusses “Heavy”)

 

 

24 – BREAKING BENJAMIN“Failure”

In 2010, while touring to support their album, Dear Agony, Breaking Benjamin went on hiatus due to Benjamin Burnley falling ill, and being unable to tour in support of the record.  After dealing with legal issues and a number of lineup changes (Burnley is the only original remaining member), Breaking Benjamin finally returned this year without missing a beat.  The first single off of 2015’s Dark Before Dawn, “Failure” seamlessly bridged the gap between 2009’s Dear Agony album and today’s Active Rock sound.  Fans and programmers alike clearly were hungry for new material from Breaking Benjamin based on the airplay and sales that have been generated thus far.

 

 

25 – REVOLVE“Believe”

Talent and connections only take you so far in today’s hard rock music climate.  Though the days of huge record deals have long since passed, the reality is that it still takes money to rise above the din in a very crowded genre.  Since their inception, Revolve has been one of the ultimate DIY bands.  Much of the burden to promote the band early on has fallen on the strong shoulders of guitarist, Debbie Barlow, whose hard work is finally beginning to pay off in a meaningful way, as this independent band has played with the likes of Shinedown, Hinder and Shaman’s Harvest.  Barlow, a cancer survivor, is a testament to what can be achieved in the face of adversity.  Revolve’s entire debut EP is rock solid.  Any of the songs could have been chosen for this forum, but “Believe” was selected because it fits so well with the cancer survivor story, and the fact that Barlow’s unwavering belief in Revolve is now taking the band to new heights.  This hard-hitting tune features an infectious melody, to go along with impressive guitar work and vocal harmonies.  If you’re a fan of bands like Sevendust, Shinedown and Breaking Benjamin, make sure to check out Revolve! (DEBBIE BARLOW discusses cancer battle)

 

 

26 – SEPTEMBER MOURNING“Children Of Fate”

September Mourning’s “Children Of Fate” has a theatrical quality to it, which makes sense given that the band members are considered to be a cast of characters (one of the things that makes September Mourning unique and interesting).  Although it fits very well into the Active Rock genre, the song’s intro has a mystical feel that is in the same realm as Rainbow’s “Gates Of Babylon.”  Lead vocalist September shines with vocals that range from soft, sweet and melodic to powerfully anthemic to angst-ridden rage.  (SEPTEMBER discusses “Children Of Fate”)

 

 

27 – PARKWAY DRIVE“Vice Grip”

With a hard rock / metal foundation built in the ‘80s, I tend to favor melodic songs and clean vocals.  Although my appreciation has grown in recent years for a well-placed growl when it captures the angst, rage or torment of a particular lyric, songs that exclusively feature “unclean” vocals generally do not grab my attention.  That being said, “Vice Grip” – by Australian metalcore artists Parkway Drive – instantly made me turn up the volume the first time that I heard it on SiriusXM’s Octane.  The combination of incredibly melodic guitar riffs, anthemic gang vocals and a big hook gives the song an appeal that transcends the metalcore niche.  Although more extreme, at its core, “Vice Grip” is in the same wheelhouse as anthems from bands like Accept and Five Finger Death Punch.  While Parkway Drive is well-known and highly accomplished in the metalcore world, they just broke through on Active Rock radio when “Vice Grip” became a listener favorite.

 

 

28 – SONIC X“Pray”

Sonic X is a hard rock unit hailing from Toronto and Detroit.  Truth be told, if not for hearing “Pray” one time on SiriusXM’s Octane, it’s quite likely that Sonic X would still be flying below my radar.  No matter…one listen is all that you need to be hooked on a song that kicks your ass from the beginning and never lets up throughout.  With a song title like “Pray,” you may be thinking Christian Metal, but the song is more about rage than spirituality.

Similar to Five Finger Death Punch’s collaboration with the legendary Rob Halford on “Lift Me Up,” “Pray” chugs along with an intense driving rhythm and an incredibly catchy chorus.  Tight playing anchored by a powerful rhythm section, passionate vocals and an impressive display of guitar shredding all combine to make this a killer track.  (ADAM TROY discusses “Pray”)

 

 

29 – WAYLAND“Bloody Sunrise”

Wayland is the epitome of an up-and-coming, nose-to-the-grindstone modern day hard rock band.  With a relentless touring schedule, it’s hard to imagine how they find the time to record new music.  But they do, and every time that they release new material, it stands out as something different (in a good way).  Of course, different can be a double-edged sword when it comes to radio airplay, where conformity seems to take priority over originality.  Like fellow mid-westerner, Kid Rock, Wayland has proven that they have a southern side with “Bloody Sunrise.”  While the band isn’t from the south, they are managed by Jesse James Dupree (Jackyl), so they are (at the very least) southern by association.  Make no mistake though; “Bloody Sunrise” is not pure southern rock, just a killer track with a southern rock influence.  Wayland is exactly the type of band that should be used to add a unique, fresh infusion to an Active Rock format that tends to get a bit stale at times.

 

 

30 – TREMONTI“Another Heart”

For the legion of Alter Bridge fans around the world, the three-year cycle between albums can seem like an eternity.  The silver lining is the music that comes out from the band members’ various side projects, like Tremonti’s second album, Cauterize. 

Mark Tremonti has gotten a tremendous amount of well-earned acclaim for his guitar work, which shines as usual on “Another Heart.”  Adding to the intrigue of Tremonti is the fact that his vocals are front and center, unlike Alter Bridge where they usually take a back seat to frontman, Myles Kennedy.  “Another Heart” not only showcases Tremonti’s vocal ability, but also a powerful group of dynamic musicians who have the ability to seamlessly blend melody and speed.  Featuring Wolfgang Van Halen (bass), Garrett Whitlock (drums) and Eric Friedman (rhythm guitar), Tremonti is a force to be reckoned with in its own right, not just a side project to fill the void between Alter Bridge albums.

 

 

31 – TRIVIUM“Until The World Goes Cold”

The evolution of Trivium probably came as a surprise to many.  Although hints of the band’s departure from their metalcore roots became evident with 2013’s Vengeance Falls (while working with Disturbed’s David Draiman as the producer), there was still a considerable amount of angst in singles like “Villainy Thrives” and “Strife.”  Fast forward to 2015’s Silence In The Snow, and it looks as though the transition is complete.  While the change probably doesn’t appeal to a number of longtime fans, it has been well-received by Active Rock radio.  The band’s evolved sound is actually closer to European metal than their metalcore roots, but for fans of big hooks and melodies, the change is something to embrace.

 

 

32 – BRIDGE TO GRACE“Everything”

From the moment that “Everything” was released, it was featured in the “Spin It” section of the HRD Radio Report and also on Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday.   These up-and-comers draw comparisons to Shinedown (a band that Bridge To Grace producer Rick Beato has worked with in the past).

The band has blended influences from the top bands in the genre to create their own sound.  Huge hooks, soulful vocals, powerful vocal harmonies, big crunchy riffs,  shredding guitars, a pounding rhythm and nice dynamics…the title of the song says it all….it has “Everything” that you want to hear in an Active Rock track.

 

 

33 – ARANDA“We Are The Enemy”

The latest album from Aranda is aptly titled, Not The Same. Brothers Dameon and Gabe Aranda have found a home on Active Rock radio even though their sound is quite unique compared to most others.  Often times, deserving bands don’t get the opportunity that they deserve in the format.  Kudos are well-deserved to programmers for giving Aranda’s latest single the attention that it deserves.  The band describes their sound as “Rock, Funk, Soul,” and the Aranda brothers have surprisingly worked with some high-profile pop artists.  “We Are The Enemy,” while clearly a great rock song, has some influences from bands that go beyond the genre.

 

 

34 – WE ARE HARLOT“Someday”

When We Are Harlot finally made their debut in 2014, it was looked at as a side project for frontman, Danny Worsnop.  It wasn’t long before Worsnop parted ways with Asking Alexandria to focus all of his attention on We Are Harlot, a risky move considering his former band’s place in upper echelon of hard rock at the time of his departure.  Asking Alexandria’s loss is We Are Harlot’s gain.  Though this band will cater to a smaller audience (for the time being), there is no reason that they can’t eventually reach the same heights as his former band.  If you are a fan of Worsnop’s melodic singing, “Someday” will be right in your wheelhouse.  If you’re looking for the angst-ridden growls that he was once known for, this song will leave you wanting more.  You have to admire people who take chances that others won’t because they are afraid of change.  “Someday” (soon), this gamble should pay off, provided that We Are Harlot continues down their current path.

 

 

35 – HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD“Day Of The Dead”

The title track from Hollywood Undead’s fourth studio album captures everything that the band stands for, and adds in some unexpected elements (particularly the acoustic flamenco guitar).  If you didn’t know about the enigmatic, masked men’s sharp wit, you would probably lock up the women and children upon listening to one of the premier rap-rock band’s take on a day that is supposed to be about remembrance.  Somehow, they manage to wrap a very violent package in an upbeat, melodic wrapper with a huge, infectious chorus.  Just when you expect “Day Of The Dead” to rise to an aggressive crescendo, it pulls back to a subdued, sweet sounding bridge, before launching back into the powerful hook.  There’s a reason why Hollywood Undead has a massive audience that goes beyond rap-rock fans.  “Day Of The Dead” showcases the band’s “f**k-the-world” attitude, and it clicks on all cylinders.

 

 

36 – BUCKCHERRY“The Madness”

Buckcherry is widely known, but still underrated.  It’s hard to believe that the band formed two decades ago, and has been releasing albums since 1999.  After a dark period for hard rock and metal, Buckcherry emerged onto the scene with a gritty, dirty, rock and roll sound in the Guns N’ Roses vein.  By all rights, they should be one of the biggest bands in the world today.  Aside from a brief hiatus, the band has been going strong for many years, always putting out quality music.  Though they have evolved through the years, their signature sound remains intact.  From the band’s latest release, Rock ‘n’ Roll“The Madness” has an interesting guitar picking intro before kicking in with a heavy Megadeth-esque riff.  Like Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets,” “The Madness” deals with the different sides that live inside us all (albeit in a more subdued, less deranged manner).  Great vocals, riffs and drums are held together by the heavy groove of the bass on yet another standout track from Buckcherry.

 

 

37 – FAILURE ANTHEM“Paralyzed”

Like fellow newcomers (and label-mates) Red Sun Rising and Sons Of Texas, Failure Anthem made their debut with a single that stands out on Active Rock radio.   The band sets the tone at the outset before hitting a powerfully emotive crescendo when the melodic chorus with a huge hook kicks in.  Particularly notable are the vocals of frontman JD Eubanks, who looks every bit the part of a modern-day rock star.  This is somewhat surprising, given that he has a background as a chef that studied under Wolfgang Puck and served as a Navy Culinary Specialist previously.  If you haven’t discovered Failure Anthem yet, make sure to check out “Paralyzed.”

 

 

38 – SLIPKNOT“Killpop”

Being the frontman for two of the most successful hard rock bands today, you’d think that Corey Taylor would be enjoying his career more than most.  But the music industry is not what it once was, and while Taylor still loves making music, he has reached the end of his rope with the music industry.  The lyrics to “Killpop” are not what they may have seemed at first blush, and were being misinterpreted early on, until Taylor revealed the meaning behind them in a Blabbermouth article earlier this year… I’ll be honest with you: the song is my reflection on my relationship with music.  That’s who the ‘she’ is.  And, not just music, but the music industry in general.  So there’s a love-hate relationship there that really kind of comes into view.”  Although “Killpop” is one of Slipknot’s less intense songs, Taylor’s rage comes across just the same.

 

 

39 – RA“We Won’t Back Down”

With radio airplay becoming more and more challenging for all but the most well-known artists, there is a benefit to being able to get your music to the masses through other mediums such as television, movies and video games.  Another avenue that is not quite as obvious, but very effective, is having your song played at sporting events.  Ra has always been a band whose talent far exceeds the exposure that they get, but they are now getting some nice exposure at the home games of the Washington Capitals with “We Won’t Back Down.”  Rather than waiting for a team to adopt an existing song, frontman Sahaj Ticotin worked directly with the Capitals to come up with the theme to this arena rock anthem.  This is not the first time that this underrated band has been associated with sports, as their most popular song (“Do You Call My Name?”) was licensed exclusively to ESPN for years.  If you haven’t yet discovered Ra, make sure to check this song out and then go back and discover more of what you’ve been missing.

 

 

40 – FOO FIGHTERS“Saint Cecilia”

With so much hand-wringing these days about artists getting paid for their work, it was interesting to see Foo Fighters offer Saint Cecilia (the band’s latest EP) as a free download as a sign of gratitude for their fans.  At least that was the initial intention.  Ultimately, it was dedicated to the victims of the Paris terrorist attack that took place just 10 days before the EP was released.  The title track is an upbeat, melodic rocker about finding salvation and healing.  Dave Grohl’s legend continues to grow with each Foo Fighters’ release.  Just like his days with Nirvana, he is now a part of one of the most popular bands in the genre, a feat that is arguably more impressive given the nature of the business, and the fact that his current role is much more integral to the band’s success than his previous one.  Because they are at the top of their game, it took everyone by surprise when Grohl announced that their most recent EP would be the last thing that fans hear in a while, as the band is going to be taking a hiatus.

 

 

41 – RED SKY MARY“Gone”

Turning back the hands of time, just as Crobot and Rival Sons have done in recent years, Red Sky Mary delivers their own brand of high-energy, ‘70s-inspired rock with “Gone” (the lead single from their debut album).  The distorted riffs, reminiscent of classic Zeppelin and Sabbath, are complemented by the soaring vocals of frontman Sam Vlasich.  What makes the band unique is that Vlasich’s vocals seem to be more influenced by the ‘80s than the ‘70s, creating an interesting, timeless sound that harkens back to two golden eras of hard rock.  The cool, funky verses lead into infectious, straight-ahead choruses with big harmonies that have an early Journey feel.  There’s a lot to like about this New Hampshire power quartet.  Keep these guys on your radar as we move into the new year.

 

 

42 – MARILYN MANSON“The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles”

Originally the title track of Marilyn Mason’s most recent release, The Pale Emporer“The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles” is a song that Mason has referred to as “the album’s heart.”

“The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles” is as much a short film as it is a song.  It is highly recommended that you watch the video for this track to appreciate everything that it has to offer.  Given Manson’s affinity for acting, it stands to reason that he would marry the two art forms so well.  This particular track would have been an ideal fit for Sons Of Anarchy, the highly-acclaimed TV series that featured Manson as a white supremacist leader in prison during the seventh (and final) season.

If you are a fan of Manson’s unique style, you’ll wonder why this song hasn’t received as much attention at radio as the lead single, “Deep Six.”  Although the verses are more about creating a vibe with a more sparse arrangement that gives the song room to breathe, and Manson the opportunity to paint a mental picture with the lyrics, the song features a powerful chorus with a big hook.  Manson brings the Faust legend from German folklore to life with his interpretation in this song about making a deal with the devil.

 

 

43 – GEMINI SYNDROME“Eternity”

Other than the fact that “Eternity” was released well in advance of Gemini Syndrome’s sophomore release, there is no explaining why the first single from their upcoming album hasn’t gained major traction on Active Rock radio.  Well, there might be an explanation, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the music.  The band has already proven that they connect with Active Rock audiences with songs like “Stardust” and “Mourning Star” off of their 2013 debut album, Lux “Eternity” has everything that you want in an Active Rock song…in-your-face intensity from the first note, the uniquely cool melodic vocals of Aaron Nordstrom, thunderous drums, emotive backing vocals and a heavy rhythm.  When songs like this don’t get the attention that they deserve, you have to wonder about the state of the format.

 

 

44 – FIRST DECREE“Stop”

It is often said that a brotherhood surrounds the hard rock and metal genres.  In the case of First Decree, this brotherhood is quite literal (the Lopez-Smith brothers comprise three quarters of the band).  The brotherhood is not the only interesting thing about First Decree.  They hail from Cheyenne, WY…a beautiful, bucolic setting, but not exactly a hotbed for modern hard rock.  The band is rounded out by the soulful vocals of Travis James, whose style is reminiscent of the vastly underrated dUg Pinnick (King’s X).  In fact, “Stop” sounds like it could be a modern take on a King’s X song…energetic guitars, a heavy bottom and nice vocal harmonies to complement the lead vocals of James.

 

 

45 – ARCANE ROOTS“If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves”

It took less than 30 seconds of hearing “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves” on SiriusXM’s Octane to pique my interest.  What makes Arcane Roots so compelling is that they simply cannot be pigeon-holed into a specific genre, much less a radio format…the blessing and the curse of being unique.  For the Active Rock format to thrive, some chances must be taken on artists like Arcane Roots that have something new to offer.  During the tortured moments of “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves,” the band falls into the same wheelhouse as bands like The Amity Affliction.  There are also moments on this track (especially during the vocal harmonies) where the sound is reminiscent of Kansas with a modern rock flair.

 

 

46 – ATREYU“Do You Know Who You Are?”

The huge, anthemic drum beat that opens Atreyu’s “Do You Know Who You Are?” takes you on a journey back in time to 1982, bringing back nostalgic memories of “I Love It Loud” by KISS.  This influence may seem unlikely for a metalcore band, but guitarist Dan Jacobs once talked about being a big ‘80s rock fan in an interview with Metal Underground, stating…“I love all that stuff, and think that is one generation where music was done right.”  While Atreyu definitely does “love it loud,” their latest single takes a much more angst-ridden, metalcore turn in between the more ‘80s-influenced, melodic choruses.  When Alex Varkatas shifts into unclean vocal mode, shades of Rage Against The Machine come to mind, albeit in a much more pissed off manner.  “Do You Know Who You Are?” offers a truly unique change-of-pace to most Active Rock playlists, so it’s no wonder that the song continues to gain traction.

 

 

47 – APOCALYPTICA“Cold Blood”

To casual fans, Apocalyptica may seem like a relatively new band, but they’ve actually been together since 1993, albeit in a much different way.  The band began as a Metallica tribute band featuring three classically trained cellists.  Over time, Apocalyptica began to introduce original pieces with vocals, working with hard rock frontmen like Brent Smith (Shinedown) and Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace, Saint Asonia) among others.  This is the band’s first album with a featured vocalist (Franky Perez) singing on all of the tracks.  “Cold Blood,” the first single with Perez, is a standout track.  Perez fits right in, as if he had been with the band for years.  As of now, he is not considered a member of the band, but you’d have to think that a strong possibility exists down the road for that to change.

 

 

48 – THREE DAYS GRACE“Fallen Angel”

When Adam Gontier departed Three Days Grace just as the band was peaking in popularity with their hit album, Transit Of Venus, it was hard to imagine them continuing their growth.  With “Fallen Angel” – the fourth single off of the band’s debut album (Human) with Matt Walst – continuing a string of radio hits, it’s safe to say that the post-Gontier transition is a success.  The band has found a formula that works for them, and Gontier has seemingly found what he was looking for with Saint Asonia, so in this case, it looks like everybody wins.

 

 

49 – I PREVAIL“Blank Space”

“Blank Space” was the introduction of I Prevail to many Active Rock listeners (particularly those listening to SiriusXM’s Octane).  Only after hearing it a few times did I discover that it was a cover of a Taylor Swift song.  Predictably, I like I Prevail’s version infinitely more than the original.  This is the type of cover song that really makes people stand up and take notice, because the band truly made this pop song their own.  Knowing now that it is a Taylor Swift song, it’s easy to see where the melody came from, but it is I Prevail’s intensity that really makes the song unique.

 

 

50 – ADAKAIN“Hey Girl”

Produced by Ra’s Sahaj Ticotin, Adakain’s debut single, “Hey Girl” is a powder keg of energy.  Those who are familiar with Ra will notice Ticotin’s influence, but these Dallas, TX rockers also have other (more homegrown) influences in the form of Pantera, Drowning Pool and HellYeah.  The end result is a sound that is familiar, yet distinct, which fits with the band’s core philosophy (according to lead vocalist/guitarist)…“Our band’s goal is to play heavy music that is unconventional, yet recognizable, that gives a message of fun, individuality and encourages people to do what they love in a positive environment.”

 

 

51 – NONPOINT“Misery”

For reasons that defy all logic, Nonpoint’s “Misery” generated very little traction with Active Rock radio (outside of SiriusXM’s Octane).   You have to wonder if Active Rock programmers resent living in the vast shadows cast by Octane, or if Octane is just so far ahead of others when it comes to certain songs.  On more than one occasion, I’ve noticed songs rising steadily on the Active Rock chart while they are close to being phased out on Octane after a lengthy run.  Even if Nonpoint wasn’t a staple Active Rock artist, “Misery” is a song that deserved much more attention than it received.

 

 

52 – THE PROTEST“Vicious Cycle”

Take the energy of Avenged Sevenfold and the faith of Stryper and you have the ingredients for a powerful, Christian rock band called The Protest.  The lyrics to “Vicious Cycle” are somewhat subtle, but when you listen to them knowing their faith, you get a better understanding of what the song means.  These Indiana rockers started out with their own goals, and plans to achieve those goals, thinking that sticking to the plan was bulletproof.  It wasn’t until they put their faith in something bigger than themselves that they realized that they could make an impact on people through their music.  “Vicious Cycle” is an energetic, melodic, upbeat song with a positive message that will appeal to hard rock fans (regardless of their faith).

 

 

53 – WHILE SHE SLEEPS“Four Walls”

A haunting chant sets the stage for a metal onslaught highlighted by melodic growling vocals where the lyrics can be understood without sacrificing any intensity.  In fact, the vocals in this case only serve to enhance the story being told in the song.  “Four Walls” is not for the faint of heart, but its melodic quality is likely to have an appeal that lies well beyond the realm of a typical metalcore audience.  The song addresses death with a rage so intense that it ends up being a cathartic experience…the healing power of metal, I suppose.

 

 

54 – DOROTHY“Raise Hell”

Earlier this year, Hard Rock Daddy featured a review of “After Midnight,” a Dorothy song that received some attention on SiriusXM’s Octane, but not nearly what you may have expected.  The unique sound of the band stands out amongst other Active Rock music, but that is not the only way that they march to the beat of their own drum.  Despite the fact that “Raise Hell” is getting radio attention, as well as television (the song has been featured in more than one promo for upcoming new shows), there is very little information about the band available.  You don’t need to know a lot about the band to appreciate what they have to offer.  Dorothy’s soulful vocals are enhanced by a musical arrangement that is upbeat and will keep you unconsciously tapping your feet.  Everything just works together.  There is a real art to making less really feel like more, and this band does it like few others in rock today.

 

 

55 – MESSAGE TO VENUS“Over And Done”

Message To Venus’ debut single (“Hollow”) was featured on Hard Rock Daddy’s Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2014.  The band returns this year with their follow-up single, “Over And Done.”  With a name like Message To Venus, it stands to reason that “Over And Done” has a cool, atmospheric vibe at the onset beneath Jandre Nadal’s vocals.  The intensity grows as the song builds towards the melodic chorus, highlighted by John Feliciano’s crunchy guitars.  If you liked “Hollow,” there is no doubt that you’ll be a fan of “Over And Done,” and these “21stcentury rockers” in general.

 

 

56 – IN FLAMES“Paralyzed”

Anyone who discovered In Flames after hearing “Paralyzed” on stations like SiriusXM’s Octane might be surprised to learn that the band was actually formed 25 years ago.  It’s common for American audiences to learn about European bands long after their formation.  With “Paralyzed,” this Swedish melodic death metal band continues its shift towards more clean vocals, and a more radio-friendly sound.  This dynamic track shifts from driving rhythms to more atmospheric tones throughout the song, with haunting verses weaving between melodic hooks and choruses.

 

 

57 – FALLING IN REVERSE“God If You Are Above”

There is a fascinating backstory to the writing of this song, and the rest of the Falling In Reverse album for that matter.  “God If You Are Above” is a high-energy track that captures frontman Ronnie Radke’s torment, as he passionately delivers thought-provoking lyrics.  Because Radke has had his share of issues beyond the stage, the lyrics to the song take on a whole new meaning.  Radke’s story is too long to share in this forum, but if you like the band and the song, it’s worth doing a little research to read more about him.

 

 

58 – STELLAR REVIVAL“Watch You Walk Away”

One of the more confusing stories of hard rock bands in recent years surrounds Stellar Revival.  There was a buzz around the band in 2012 when they started getting radio traction with their debut single, “The Crazy Ones.”  Apparently, a shakeup at Capitol Records (the band’s original label) caused the band’s debut album (Love, Lust & Bad Company) to be shelved and the band to breakup before ever getting started.  In 2015, bassist Daniel Uricoli obtained the rights to the album to be released on mp3 format on iTunes in America, but European fans will have the chance to purchase the CD.  Although “The Crazy Ones” was written before their bizarre dealings with Capitol Records, you can make the argument that it was foreshadowing what life would be like with their future label.  It’s a shame that this album didn’t see the light of day back when the single was hot, because this band had real potential.  Like their debut single, “Watch You Walk Away” is insanely infectious with a huge hook.  Fans of bands like Sixx: A.M. and Hinder will love Stellar Revival (for what it’s worth at this point).  Uricoli and guitarist Ryan Spears have since moved on to form a three-piece band called Southern Gentlemen.

 

 

59 – HANDS LIKE HOUSES“I Am”

Australian rockers Hands Like Houses describe themselves as “Rock/Experimental” on their Facebook page, which may be one of the reasons that their single, “I Am,” was such an attention-grabber when it was played on SiriusXM’s Octane during the year.  Although the song contains elements that make it a good fit for Active Rock radio, it also has a unique quality that is somewhat difficult to pinpoint.  In a day and age where there is so much similarity in the format, there is an even greater value on finding songs that rise above the din and inspire you to instantaneously turn up the volume.   Although this track has somehow managed to fly below radio’s radar, it has certainly captured the attention of music fans (over 1.6 million YouTube views as of January of 2016).  “I Am” dynamically straddles the line of powerful, intense rage and infectious melody.  If this is what the “Rock/Experimental” genre sounds like, then we need more bands to classify themselves as such and take a chance to push the creative envelope.

 

 

60 – OTHERWISE“Coming For The Throne”

Inspiration and motivation in life come from different places.  Music is a powerful, emotional tool that can connect with people on a deep, often times, personal level.  “Coming For The Throne” falls into this motivational category if you listen to the lyrics.  The song, which starts out with a Zeppelin-esque riff, before transitioning to the signature sound that the band has honed over the years, is all about grabbing the bull by the horns and taking charge of your life.  There’s a powerful message about living your life to the fullest, ignoring detractors and not becoming your own worst enemy.

 

 

61 – AUDIOTOPSY“The Calling”

You can never say never when it comes to rock and roll reunions, but it seems that the chance of Mudvayne getting back together is fairly slim at this point.  With frontman Chad Gray firmly entrenched in Hellyeah, former Mudvayne/Hellyeah guitarist Greg Tribbett has once again joined forces with Mudvayne drummer Matt McDonough to form Audiotopsy.  Tribbett refers to the band’s sound as “progressive hard rock.”  Though Audiotopsy is different than Mudvayne (and Hellyeah for that matter), this new sound is a good fit for Active Rock.  The band showcases a variety of influences on “The Calling,” creating a powerful sound that ranges from a haunting Alice In Chains vibe to the mystique of Tool to the tortured growls.

 

 

62 – STITCHED UP HEART“Finally Free”

Heavy, pulsating rhythms converge with beautiful, hauntingly melodic vocals on Stitched Up Heart’s single, “Finally Free.”  This female-fronted outfit offers little detail about the band on their Facebook page, but they are building a nice fanbase just the same.  “Finally Free” has been getting played on Active Rock radio in recent months.  Stitched Up Heart is still not widely known, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them enjoy success similar to other heavy, female-fronted bands as they progress and continue to build their fanbase.

 

 

63- POYNTE“Take Control”

Like many hard rock artists today, Poynte has had to deal with challenges to get to where they are today, not the least of which is finding the “right” lineup to move forward as a unit.  It took a while for the current lineup to come together, but it was worth the wait.  With a solidified lineup, Poynte is poised to build upon the success that they have already achieved.  The band won the 2012 Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands, and in that same year, also won Cabo Wabo Your Shot to Rock.  From the band’s latest release, Discreet Enemy“Take Control” offers a taste of what the solidified lineup is capable of creating together…an edgy sound featuring big hooks, vocal harmonies and meaningful lyrics. (MATT BRYANT discusses “Take Control”)

 

 

64 -BURNOS“Syndrome Of Decay”

When you think of hard rock, two things that probably don’t come to mind are the Miami Dolphins and The Bee Gees, but both have a connection to Melissa Burnos.  Burnos’ first exposure to the public came as a Dolphins cheerleader, not as a musician.  She credits her former profession with helping her to develop an ability to work a crowd.  Also giving her a boost of confidence was her association with the late Maurice Gibbs (Bee Gees).

Burnos’ latest single, “Syndrome Of Decay,” got some attention on Octane, but she still remains under the radar to a large degree.  Her powerfully melodic, sultry vocals are delivered over a sound that is reminiscent of Alter Bridge and Tremonti, which makes sense given the connection to each (Producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, Eric Friedman and Garrett Whitlock). (MELISSA BURNOS discusses “Syndrome Of Decay”)

 

 

65 – THE BLOODLINE“With Fire (Comes Absolution)”

There are more than a handful of hard rock bands on the scene that have a familial connection between members.  The members of The Bloodline are not blood-related, but they consider themselves brothers just the same.  “The name is all about family.  We are one with each other, our fans and our friends.  We want everybody to feel like they’re a part of this,” states guitarist Shaun Glass in the band’s bio.  Vocalist Travis Neal adds, “When you break it down, we all bleed the same color.  We’re all human.  We wanted to build a strong Bloodline of our own that would last through centuries.”  Centuries might be a bit hyperbolic, but there is a sincerity to the band that comes across in their brand of groove-oriented, melodic hard rock.  Their debut single, “With Fire (Comes Absolution)” tastefully uses some well-placed growls to highlight the lyrics, without ever going over the top to the point where the melody gets overshadowed.

 

 

TOP 45 CLASSIC/MAINSTREAM ROCK SONGS.  

{Song list and write-ups listed below the YouTube playlist}

 

NOTE:  See Top 25 Hard Rock Songs (above) for write-ups and links for songs 1-7.

 

1-THE WINERY DOGS“Oblivion”

 

2-RICHARDS CRANE (f. MYLES KENNEDY)“Black & White”

 

3-JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 (f. JEFF SCOTT SOTO)“Scream”

 

4-BUMBLEFOOT“Little Brother Is Watching”

 

5-SCORPIONS“We Built This House”

 

6-MAGNUS KARLSSON’S FREE FALL (f. JOE LYNN TURNER)“No Control”

 

7-IRON MAIDEN“Tears Of A Clown”

 

CLASSIC/MAINSTREAM ROCK SONGS 8-45

 

8-SOTO“Break”

Did you know that Jeff Scott Soto was the actual voice of Steel Dragon from the movie Rock Star?  Did you know that JSS has fronted Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and toured with Trans-Siberian Orchestra (the most popular hard rock Christmas show in the world)?  If the answers to these questions was “no,” you’re not alone.  Despite the fact that JSS is known by many as one of the best hard rock singers in the world today, he is not nearly the household name that he should be based on talent alone.  With more than three decades of experience, JSS should be known to the masses.  If you haven’t yet discovered his work, make sure to check out “Break.”  A powerful rhythm and funky groove lay the foundation for JSS to showcase his dynamic, soaring vocal abilities.  After you listen to “Break,” go back and check out the rest of Soto’s vast catalog (including his work on Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – featured above).

 

 

9-UGLY KID JOE“She’s Already Gone”

After a hiatus that lasted for nearly two decades, Ugly Kid Joe is back, and they are “Uglier Than They Used Ta Be” (if you take their latest album title literally).  The band, known for their tongue-in-cheek songs, is not actually uglier, unless of course, you find evolution unseemly.  The former five-piece unit of young rockers has returned as a seasoned, “Seven-Headed Monster” with three guitarists and two drummers (including Godsmack’s Shannon Larkin) to deliver their most cohesive sounding record to date.  “She’s Already Gone” – the band’s most recent single – starts off with a soft picking guitar intro before running you over like a freight train with a driving rhythm.  Frontman Whitfield Crane is at the top of his game, as the passage of time has taken him to another level.  With a smooth, soulful vocal delivery that perfectly complements the intense new sound of the band, Crane may finally get the recognition that he deserves.  The iconic Ugly Kid Joe logo remains intact, but is no longer an indicator of the music that lies beneath the packaging.  Like the rest of the album, this song features depth and nuance that comes with life experience. (WHITFIELD CRANE discusses “She’s Already Gone”)

 

 

10-STRYPER“All Over Again”

Very few bands that began in the early ‘80s are still around today, much less putting out albums that are as relevant as the ones that they put out during their heyday.  Even though the hard rock scene is alive and well in 2015, most artists never consider recording a power ballad these days.  Thankfully, for those of us who look back on the power ballad days with tremendous nostalgia, Stryper delivers one for the ages with “All Over Again.”  Just as he has done for decades, Michael Sweet brings the lyrics to life with his beautifully emotive delivery, highlighted by memorable backing vocal harmonies.  “All Over Again” is one of the best power ballads to be released in many years.

 

 

11- ADRENALINE MOB“Dearly Departed”

Adrenaline Mob made the news earlier this year because of the sudden passing of legendary drummer, A.J. Pero, who passed away suddenly just hours before the band was scheduled to play a gig with Drowning Pool.  Filling the shoes of original drummer Mike Portnoy was no easy task, but Pero (the driving force behind Twisted Sister) was up for the challenge.  At the age of 55, he was still one of the most punishing, skilled drummers in hard rock today, as evidenced by his work on “Dearly Departed.”

“Dearly Departed” has a definite Foo Fighters quality to the song, albeit with a unique Adrenaline Mob twist.  If this song was actually a Foo Fighters track, it would most likely rocket up the charts just as “Something From Nothing” did when it was released.  Some parting words from his bandmates in Adrenaline Mob…

“We write this with tears in our eyes & our hearts broken to pieces…our beloved brother AJ Pero peacefully passed away in his sleep this morning on the bus.  We are in complete shock & our hearts & prayers go out to his family.  It has been nothing short of an honor to have shared the stage with such a beautiful soul & legend!  We love you AJ, rest in peace.

We will cherish this last picture we all took together on tour forever! What a great night we had…we’ll miss you buddy!”

RIP A.J.! \m/

 

12-ART OF ANARCHY“Til The Dust Is Gone”

Born out of an 18-year friendship between Bumblefoot and the Votta Brothers (Jon and Vince) that began on the New York music scene, featuring the distinct sound of Scott Weiland’s vocals and John Moyer’s melodic bass playing, this supergroup aimed to “eradicate musical borders in pursuit of something brilliant.”  With their first single, “Til The Dust Is Gone,” they were off to a strong start to achieving their goal.  It wasn’t long before issues began to arise with the supremely talented, but troubled frontman, Scott Weiland.  Those feel insignificant in light of Weiland’s passing, which seemed as inevitable as it was tragic.  Despite his troubles, there is no denying the chemistry that Weiland had with this band.

“Til The Dust Is Gone” features an incredibly beautiful Spanish guitar blended with moody, emotive vocals and intense driving rhythms.  There are influences in this track that might draw some unexpected comparisons, but rather than point them out, it is suggested that you give this one several listens to peel back the layers.  Bumblefoot’s production skills are equal to his vast skills as a guitarist.  Many supergroups “fall to pieces” after only one album, but few for reasons as tragic as this one. RIP Scott! \m/

 

 

13-MOTORHEAD“Sympathy For The Devil”

On December 13th (two weeks before Lemmy Kilmister’s 70th birthday), a celebration took place on the Sunset Strip at the Whisky a Go Go, with fellow rock and roll brethren coming to pay tribute to one of the most influential and revered figures in the history of metal.  During the celebration, Zakk Wylde joked on stage about what kind of world the rest of us are going to leave for two seeming indestructible rock legends – Lemmy and Keith Richards.  Little did he know that the world would say goodbye to this larger-than-life figure just a few short weeks later.  Lemmy died just days after turning 70, but he died doing what he loved after living life on his own terms.  What more can anyone ask for?  Bad Magic, the final Motorhead studio album to ever be released, features an inspired cover of the Rolling Stones classic, “Sympathy For The Devil,” one that Richards must have surely appreciated.  Musically, the song doesn’t stray too far from the original, but Lemmy’s cool, gruff, signature vocals make the song unique.  He was one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, and his loss will leave an unfillable void in the metal world.  It’s hard to think of anyone else that could have made a Mick Jagger song any cooler than Lemmy did with “Sympathy For The Devil.”  RIP Lemmy! \m/

 

 

14-LESLIE WEST“You Are My Sunshine”

Legendary Mountain guitarist returns with his latest solo release, Soundcheck, an album that features some high profile guest musicians (including the late Jack Bruce) and a mixture of original songs and covers.  As expected, there is a great deal of impressive guitar work on the album, but the song that stood out most for me is Leslie West’s haunting interpretation of the classic, “You Are My Sunshine.”  The song (which was first recorded in 1939) has been covered numerous times, but never like this.  With bluesy guitar parts that are simultaneously beautiful and forlorn, and West’s soulful vocals, this version of “You Are My Sunshine” (featuring Peter Frampton) would have been ideally suited for a dramatic scene in Sons Of Anarchy if it were still on television.

 

 

15-BLACK STAR RIDERS“The Killer Instinct”

In 2012, Black Star Riders arose from the ashes of Thin Lizzy.  Well…sort of.  While the band is comprised of members of Thin Lizzy, the decision was made to record new material under a different moniker out of respect to the departed Phil Lynott and the legacy that he left behind.  Although this band won’t release new material as Thin Lizzy or do extended tours, they will still play some dates under their old moniker.  Diehard Thin Lizzy fans may be able to detect the difference between the two bands, but the casual fan certainly cannot.  Lynott may be gone, but you would think that he was reincarnated in the body of Ricky Warwick, whose vocal delivery is almost indecipherable from the legend that he replaced.  That being said, Black Star Riders have accomplished an impressive feat with “The Killer Instinct”…creating new music that is as relevant today as it would have been at any point over the past four decades.  If you’re a fan of Thin Lizzy’s music, it’s impossible not to also be a fan of Black Star Riders.

 

 

16-INGLORIOUS“Breakaway”

It takes some pretty big balls to describe yourselves as “the future of British rock” and “a young Deep Purple,” but when you have the chops to back it up, it’s just good marketing.  From the first note of “Breakaway,” Inglorious grabs you by the throat and never lets go with their brand of high-energy blues rock.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that David Coverdale was working on a side project under the pseudonym Nathan James.  When the band refers to themselves as “a young Deep Purple,” you have to assume that they are talking about the Mark III lineup.  While your attention is naturally drawn to James’ soaring vocals, the rest of the band delivers in a huge way throughout the song.  We can only hope that Inglorious is, in fact, “the future of British rock.”  If they are, the future is looking pretty bright for the next generation of classic rock.

 

 

17-CHRIS CORNELL“Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”

Outside of a handful of top artists, most that were considered part of the “Seattle sound” grunge movement are nothing more than a memory.  Chris Cornell always seemed to transcend any label because of his versatility, which continues to shine through to this day.  The emotive shrieking that he was once known for is now complemented by a beautiful, more subdued presence with acoustic work that few can rival.  If you’ve heard Cornell do incredible acoustic covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” and Prince/Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” it won’t come as a surprise that “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” is another masterful performance.  In fact, the music is reminiscent of some of Zeppelin’s legendary work.

 

 

18-VOODOO HILL“Waterfall”

With all due respect to Glenn Hughes’ recent work with California Breed, his work with Italian guitarist/record producer Dario Mollo is simply on another level.  “Waterfall” is a fairly straight-forward blues rock tune that is brought to life by Hughes’ incredible vocal performance, hitting ungodly notes in his mid-60s.  This song is about more than impressive vocal showcasing though.  What really makes the vocals stand out is the dynamic range and emotion that Hughes taps into throughout.  Mollo’s guitar work makes you wonder why he isn’t a household name.  This duo just works on all levels.

 

 

19-SWEET & LYNCH“Dying Rose”

George Lynch lets it rip with his signature guitar sound from the opening note, and proceeds to add Dokken-esque riffs and tasteful fills around Michael Sweet’s huge melodies throughout the song.  On “Dying Rose,” the inspired duo brings you back to the days when hard rock music left you feeling uplifted, while masterfully avoiding falling into the trap of sounding dated.  For those who grew up on ‘80s metal, “Dying Rose” is a timeless classic.  The current generation of hard rock music fans would be well served to listen to this track, and then delve deep into the respective catalogs of both Sweet & Lynch.  (MICHAEL SWEET discusses “Dying Rose”)

 

 

20-RADIO EXILE“No Pity On The Highway”

Earlier this year, Hard Rock Daddy presented the exclusive video premiere of “No Pity On The Highway,” Radio Exile’s debut single.  You can feel the groove from the opening drum beat.  When the rest of the band joins in, the groove kicks into high gear, leaving you powerless to refrain from bopping along to it (even if you’re listening to it on headphones in a public place, as I was when I was hearing the song for the first time).  After numerous subsequent listens, this track remains fresh and grows on you even more.

‘80s hard rock is often times lumped together under one generic hair metal umbrella.  What gets lost when this happens is the fact that it is also the decade that featured some of the best musicianship in the history of the genre, with many of the songs being as relevant today as they were back in the day.  While there’s no shortage of great hard rock today, it isn’t often that a song feels like an instant timeless classic.  By adding a modern touch to a classic rock sound, Radio Exile has written just such a song.

Ironically, this killer track may fall into the category of “radio exile,” which is an indictment of the state of radio (at least in America) and a sign of the times, not the music.  This is why it is so important to help spread the word to other hard rock music fans virally.  Music this good deserves to be heard, and not be at the mercy of a medium that rarely gives bands like this the attention that they deserve.

Radio Exile is a powerful unit, featuring some veteran rockers with vast experience.  The band lays the foundation for frontman Chandler Mogel to deliver some impressive old-school, blues-rock vocals.  At times, you’ll hear shades of Joe Lynn Turner, Michael Sweet and Dennis DeYoung, but Mogel’s sound is definitely his own.

If you’re a fan of classic, blues-rock, make sure to check out “No Pity On The Highway.” (CHANDLER MOGEL discusses “No Pity On The Highway”)

 

 

21-W.A.S.P.“Scream”

It is said that a leopard can’t change its spots, but can a W.A.S.P.?  Based on much of the band’s catalog, you wouldn’t think so, but the man who brought us buzz saw blade codpieces and “Animal (F**k Like A Beast)” is now a born-again Christian.  While Blackie Lawless’ newfound faith is reflected in the lyrics, musically, the band once again delivers its unique, signature sound with “Scream” (the first single off of their latest album, Golgotha).  If you were a fan of W.A.S.P.’s earlier work, you will be a fan of their latest work as well (unless, of course, you were drawn to the band for outrageous lyrics and not outstanding melodic rock with an edge).

 

 

22-KID ROCK“First Kiss”

On a brutally cold winter day, it’s natural to start longing for the summer, but it takes a certain kind of magic to actually put you in a summer frame of mind.  Enter Kid Rock with the title track from First Kiss, the kind of song that you crank up with the top down as you bask in the glory of a summer wind hitting you in the face.

One of the most fascinating things about Kid Rock is his ability to transcend genres, and yet, still hold the same appeal to fans with polar-opposite musical tastes.  “First Kiss” is good, ole fashioned rock and roll with a country flavor that holds the same mass appeal as the classic, “All Summer Long.”  Like “All Summer Long,” “First Kiss” takes you on a nostalgic journey, perfectly highlighted by Kid Rock’s soulful, raspy vocals.

For those who long for the simpler times of a bygone era, “First Kiss” is especially poignant.  The song is as much about reveling in a carefree youth as it is about reminiscing about an actual first kiss.  It also exemplifies how life has a way of changing your perspective as time goes by.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of hard rock or country, from the same generation as Kid Rock or not; “First Kiss” is an instant classic that hooks you in with its infectious melody and leaves you feeling uplifted and ready for summer.

 

 

23-OPERATION: MINDCRIME“Re-inventing The Future”

After an illustrious career with Queensryche, and an unfortunate court battle with his former bandmates, Geoff Tate has taken the first official step on his next path with “Re-inventing The Future,” the debut single from Operation: Mindcrime.

From the band’s debut release, The Key“Re-inventing The Future” is one of 12 tracks included in the first installment of an epic musical trilogy.  Finally able to write without the constraints of other band members or the expectations of fans, Tate truly is free to “reinvent the future.”

It can be argued that Tate might actually be better off making a fresh start under a new moniker.  His last album, Frequency Unknown, would most likely have been met with much more enthusiasm if it was released as Operation: Mindcrime, rather than being one of two Queensryche albums released within a few months of each other from different bands.

Although you can never say never when it comes to band reunions, there is likely too much water under the bridge for the original members of Queensryche to share the stage again, much less record.  It’s probably for the best, since Tate and his former bandmates are no longer headed in the same musical direction.

“Re-inventing The Future” features shades of Queensryche, but there are also enough unique elements to show that Operation: Mindcrime is an entity unto itself.  The song features Tate’s signature vocals and unique writing style, heavy guitars nicely complemented by keyboards, a solid rhythm section and interesting time changes.

Queensryche fans who love immersing themselves in Tate’s incredible storylines and characters will embrace the next step of his concept album journey.

Rather than trying to recapture the past, Tate should be commended for “Re-inventing The Future” with Operation: Mindcrime. (GEOFF TATE discusses “Re-Inventing The Future”)

 

 

24-AC/DC“Rock The Blues Away”

Unlike most classic, hard rock artists, AC/DC has managed to carve out a place for themselves on Active Rock radio, which is somewhat surprising given that their sound is largely the same as it has always been (which is why they are featured in this section).  There is a beauty to AC/DC’s consistent approach.  They know who they are, who their fans are and what they want.  Perhaps the current infatuation with the band across formats stems from how close we came to not having them around anymore after Malcolm Young’s diagnosis.  Like many of their songs, “Rock The Blues Away” features the word “rock” in the title (in fact, this is the second single in a row that has it).  “Rock The Blues Away” offers something unexpected and different.  Although AC/DC isn’t known for “feel-good” melodies, this song shows that there are layers to their brand of “rock,” with a fun, summer vibe in the vein of Kid Rock.

 

 

25-WHITESNAKE“Burn”

In 1974, Deep Purple released Burn, the first of three studio albums that David Coverdale recorded with the band.  Born out of a desire to reunite the Mark III lineup of Deep Purple by friend and former bandmate Jon Lord (before his passing), Coverdale attempted to reach out to Ritchie Blackmore to bring the reunion to fruition.  When Coverdale and Blackmore couldn’t find common ground, and with work on the songs already in progress, Coverdale’s wife suggested that they move forward with the project under the Whitesnake moniker.  All of the members of Whitesnake were very enthusiastic about the prospect of recording updated versions of the songs that Coverdale wrote in his youth, and it shows in this inspired re-creation of “Burn.”  If you mixed the colors white and purple, you would end up with a light shade of purple.  However, this blending of Whitesnake and Deep Purple is anything but light.  This mixture offers the best of both worlds…the soulful, bluesy sound of Deep Purple and the energetic, dual-guitar assault of Whitesnake’s Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach.  There is an inherent risk in trying to recapture the magic of a classic original, but on “Burn,” Whitesnake has done so with flying colors!

 

 

26-BITERS“Restless Hearts”

It isn’t often that you hear a Cheap Trick influence in music today, so when you do, it makes you stand up and take notice.  The band that is finally getting their just due by the enigmatic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be smart to help expose Biters to the world as a supporting act.  This is not to say that Biters are a Cheap Trick clone; they are not.  “Restless Hearts” is straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with just the right amount of punk swagger to showcase the band’s edgier side.  The swagger (in a fun way) is also apparent on the band’s Facebook page, describing themselves as “Electric Playboys in the Disposable Age.”

 

 

27-THE V“Again”

From his legendary releases with Stryper, to his collaboration with George Lynch to his solo work, there is one thing that you can count on when Michael Sweet is involved – outstanding songwriting.  While Sweet was the one delivering the vocals on all of the aforementioned work, this time around his song is being brought to life by Benedictum vocalist, Veronica Freeman.  Sweet wrote, produced and played guitar on “Again,” which appears on the debut album from The V (Freeman’s solo project).

Often times, fans of ‘80s metal favor the “glory days” for nostalgic reasons.  While some of the music may not be as relevant today as it was back then, the truly great songs with depth have a timeless sound.  Sweet and Freeman have achieved that with “Again,” a song that gets better with each listen.

You could easily see “Again” being released as a Stryper song, but if Sweet wasn’t going to sing it himself, it’s hard to imagine him finding anyone that could have done it better than Freeman.  In fact, with a delivery very similar to Sweet’s, you have to wonder if Freeman would be considered to front Stryper if Sweet ever steps back and focuses on guitar because of his admitted challenges with hitting all of the high notes…

“So I can’t hit all the high notes like I used to.  I try and ‘choose my battles,’ but unfortunately, gravity has taken its toll.  How would it go over if we found some young lad who can hit all the high notes and I just play guitar and sing from time to time?  Don’t go crazy, just wanted to ask out of curiosity…”

Sweet never mentions a possible female singer, so this suggestion is pure conjecture on my part, but Freeman would be an interesting choice just the same.

Much like Slash’s early solo work, The V is a project that features numerous contributors.  It’s way too early to speculate about future collaborations between Sweet and Freeman, but based on this song, you have to imagine that the two will work together…“Again.”

 

 

28-DEVIL CITY ANGELS“Boneyard”

The ‘80s brought us some of the greatest hard rock in the history of the genre.  Many of the acts still perform to this day, and there is always a chance that those who broke up will reunite at some point in the future.  A growing trend in recent years is the formation of “supergroups” featuring ‘80s rock stars.  Devil City Angels fall into that category, but they have a sound that is so organic, that you feel like this is a band with the potential to shed the “supergroup” label and just be looked at as a band on the rise.

This hard rock outfit features all-stars Tracii Guns, Rikki Rockett and Rudy Sarzo (who replaced Eric Brittingham).  What sets Devil City Angels apart from other “supergroups” is the freshness that lesser-known frontman/guitarist Brandon Gibbs brings to the table, giving the band a current sound that is built on a foundation of hard rock from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

“Boneyard” gives a taste of what Devil City Angels has to offer.  If you’re a fan of straight forward, melodic rock and roll, you’re in for a treat.  From the riffs to the pounding rhythm to Gibbs’ vocals (which sound like a modern-day Paul Rodgers), all of the pieces of this rock and roll puzzle fit together perfectly. (BRANDON GIBBS discusses “Boneyard”)

 

 

29-LYNCH MOB“Testify”

Like his other recent release (Shadow Train), George Lynch’s latest Lynch Mob single – “Testify” – takes a step away from the upbeat, melodic anthems and signature shredding to explore a side that is a bit darker and more emotive.  In an interview with Bravewords, Lynch stated…“With Rebel (the band’s latest album), we allowed ourselves to move outside our normally imposed self-restraints and tread some forbidden sonic territories.”  Everything that Lynch does with frontman Oni Logan works, including this new exploration, which also features fellow Dokken alum Jeff Pilson on bass and Brian Tichy on drums.  “Testify” is not what you might expect from Lynch Mob.  While many bands from the ‘80s tend to follow the formula that has always worked for them, Lynch and company reinvent themselves on this powerful single that will appeal to all fans of bluesy, hard rock.

 

 

30-SHADOW TRAIN“Fallen”

Shadow Train is much more than another project featuring the stellar guitar work of George Lynch.  This two-CD set is the culmination of Lynch’s musical aspirations and his fascination with the human condition meeting to form one cohesive message.  A number of the songs from this double album appear in Lynch’s movie, Shadow Nation, a documentary about the trials and tribulations faced by Native Americans in today’s world.  What’s most interesting about this project is the fact that the band is fronted by Gregg Analla (an unknown singer who happens to be a descendant of the Isleta Pueblo Indian Tribe).  With lyrics that are clearly personal to Analla, it’s no surprise that the end result is a passionate, at time tortured, delivery.  Everyone knows that Lynch can shred with the best of them, but “Fallen” is more about the message than guitar wizardry.  It’s unlike anything that you’ve come to expect from Lynch, but it works.

 

 

31-THE DEAD DAISIES“Mexico”

The Dead Daisies are one of the more fascinating acts in hard rock today.  This music collective – which features a veritable who’s who of rock – recently became the first U.S. artists to tour Cuba since travel and trade restrictions were lifted.  As guests of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, Cuban Institute of Music and the Cuban Rock Agency, the band spent a week performing electric and acoustic shows.  They regularly rotate high profile members, and their sound is probably best described as “classic rock” (even though they were formed in 2012), but The Dead Daisies have the talent and songs to be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary bands that they’ve supported on tour.  From their June release, Revolución (the first album with John Corabi fronting the band), “Mexico” is a fun, bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll party song with a big hook that showcases Corabi’s vocals (which are reminiscent of Ian Gillan at times).  If you haven’t checked out The Dead Daisies yet, make sure to give “Mexico” a listen.

 

 

32-U.D.O.“Pain”

To many, Udo Dirkschneider will always be thought of as the frontman of Accept.  He played a pivotal role in turning the band into a household name before departing in 1987.  Although Dirkschenider had some reunions with Accept, for the most part, he has been actively releasing music for nearly three decades under the U.D.O. moniker.  “Pain” – off of the band’s latest album, Decadent – is as good as anything that he released with Accept.  His distinct, gritty, ballsy delivery literally has not changed a bit through the years.  The beauty of “Pain” is that it easily could have been released in the ‘80s and been just as relevant as it is today.  Because U.D.O. has had numerous lineup changes through the years, and because the band bears his name, it feels like solo work, but rest assured, this current lineup is much more than just hired guns.  In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you might think that “Pain” is an unreleased Accept track from the Balls To The Wall / Metal Heart era.  Aside from Dirkschneider’s outstanding vocals, the infectiously melodic guitar work is particularly noteworthy on a song that would have been a huge hit if it was released in the ‘80s.

 

 

33-MOTOR SISTER“Fork In The Road”

Hard rock supergroups are all the rage in recent years, but it’s hard to think of one that has a backstory as cool as Motor Sister.  Scott Ian (Anthrax) wanted one present more than any other for his 50th birthday – a reunion of Mother Superior (one of his favorite bands) with him in the lineup.  Since Ian’s wife, Pearl Aday (Meat Loaf’s daughter), had been working on her solo career with Mother Superior frontman Jim Wilson, things came together fairly easily.  Joined by Joey Vera (Fates Warning / Armored Saint) and John Tempesta (White Zombie / The Cult), Ian’s dream gig of playing his favorite Mother Superior songs at his birthday party came to fruition.  Industry veterans attending the party raved about the performance, and the band loved the chemistry that they shared.  With Metal Blade records on board, the members of Motor Sister got together in L.A. and recorded an entire album in two days.  Wilson’s work with Mother Superior may have flown beneath the radar of most hard rock fans, but one listen to “Fork In The Road,” and it’s easy to see why Ian, Vera and Tempesta were such fans.

 

 

34-MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK“Let The Devil Scream”

Legendary guitarist Michael Schenker relives his days with the Scorpions, teaming up with Herman Rarebell and Francis Buccholz, along with Wayne Findlay (MSG) and Doogie White on Temple Of Rock’s 2015 release, Spirit On A Mission. The guitar work on “Let The Devil Scream” is intensely raw, dirty and angry, as are White’s Ian Gillan-esque vocals, not surprising given the challenges that the band faced in getting this album released.  The whole album had to be re-recorded after the original tapes were stolen (along with guitars).  If you’re a fan of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Scorpions and MSG, this is a must-listen!

 

 

35-STRIKEFORCE“All About The Money”

Strikeforce’s career spans over three decades.  Through the years, they’ve shared the stage with some big names in hard rock, but have still remained largely under-appreciated.  Founding member and guitarist Duke Jackson cites legendary guitarists Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore as his influences.  Jackson’s gritty, in-your-face riffs and shredding on “All About The Money” show that he is a force to be reckoned with (even if he doesn’t have the name recognition to match his talent).  “All About The Money” is an anthem of the working man that will (lyrically) appeal to those who live their lives stretching a dollar from paycheck-to-paycheck.  “All About The Money” is in the same wheelhouse as another song with similar subject matter – “For The Love Of Money” by Bulletboys, albeit with an edgier, more raw sound in the vein of classic Skid Row.

 

 

36-CRUCIFIED BARBARA“Lunatic #1”

For over a decade, this quartet of Swedish badass women has been delivering ballsy, punk-infused hard rock.  Although they have started to garner some attention as a supporting act in the United States, they are vastly underrated here, which is somewhat surprising given the rise of female-fronted bands being played on Active Rock radio.  The band’s latest single, “Lunatic #1,” showcases what Mia Coldheart (vocals/guitar), Klara Force (guitar), Ida Evileye (bass) and Nicki Wicked (drums) have to offer – unrelenting, kick-ass, anthemic hard rock.  A driving punk rhythm lays the foundation for Coldheart to shine with her haunting, defiant vocal style.  You would never know by listening to this song that she was ever reluctant about taking over the lead vocals for the band.  The gang vocals are as good as it gets, and the guitar shredding and harmonies harken back to the glory days of metal.  Coldheart is a rare talent that makes you stand up and take notice for not only her vocals, but also her lead guitar play. (MIA COLDHEART discusses “Lunatic #1”)

 

 

37-ARMORED SAINT“Win Hands Down”

A tragic death that led to a tenuous future for Armored Saint was the first domino to fall in the band’s breakup a decade after their formation.  Unsure of the future of the band, and with an opportunity to front Anthrax, frontman John Bush departed.  Seven years after the breakup, with Anthrax on hiatus, Bush returned to Armored Saint in 1999.  After releasing two albums, the band once again went on a long hiatus, before releasing an album in 2010.  It’s been five years since the band’s last release, but it was worth the wait.  “Win Hands Down” – the title track of their latest album – is a throwback to the glory days of heavy metal.  It features the thrash intensity of Anthrax, an Iron Maiden-esque chorus and impressive dual guitars.

 

 

38 – 220 VOLT“Through The Wastelands”

You would expect a band that dates back to 1979 to have a vast catalog of albums, but that is not the case for Sweden’s 220 Volt.  From 1983 – 1988, the band released four studio albums, and then didn’t release another one until 1997 (even though they weren’t active at the time).  Founding members/guitarists Mats Karlsson and Thomas Drevin have been reunited since 2002, but they didn’t release their sixth studio album (Walking In Starlight) until recently.  Featuring Anders Engberg (Therion, Lion’s Share) on lead vocals, “Through The Wastelands” straddles the line between hard rock and melodic metal.  At times, reminiscent of Dokken and Rainbow, “Through The Wastelands” is an impressive, high-energy track that leaves you wondering what might have been if this band had remained intact through the years.

 

 

39-THE RADIO SUN“Caught Between Heaven And A Heartbreak”

If you long for the glory days of feel-good ‘80s hard rock, look no further than The Radio Sun, a four-piece unit from Down Under.  “Caught Between Heaven And A Heartbreak” has an heir of familiarity from the first note to the last, but remains original because they infuse influences from everything that you loved about the ‘80s.  If you had to pick one influence that is the most notable in the song, it would have to be Dokken.  Like “In My Dreams,” “Caught Between Heaven And A Heartbreak” begins with a huge, vocal harmony intro before Steve Janevski launches into a riff that is reminiscent of classic George Lynch.  As the song progresses, you can hear moments of Steve Perry, David Coverdale and Rik Emmett influence in Jason Old’s vocals.  “Caught Between Heaven And A Heartbreak” is a journey back in time that pays homage to the soundtrack of many peoples’ lives.

 

 

40-THUNDER“Wonder Days”

Rock music may never produce the paydays or fame that it once did, but anyone who thinks that rock is dead should listen to bands like Thunder.  Unfortunately, timing prevented them from ever achieving the success that they deserved in the U.S., but that speaks more to the missteps made by the industry than the talent of the band.

In retrospect, the decline of the hair metal movement was inevitable; not necessarily because of the music, but rather the image that ultimately seemed like a parody of itself.  The rise of grunge created a paradigm shift, but also resulted in metaphorically “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”  Thunder’s debut album featured one of the best power ballads of all-time (“Love Walked In”), but there was something much deeper to their sound than many of the formulaic ballads of that era.  While the band has remained largely unknown in America, these vastly underrated British rockers have released new music with regularity from 1990-2008.  After a seven-year hiatus, and a cancer scare for guitarist, Ben Matthews, Thunder is back with music that is much more Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Whitesnake than it is anything resembling “hair metal.”  Bluesy, soulful and nostalgic, “Wonder Days” (the title track off of the band’s latest album) offers further proof that rock is alive and well.  Like fine wine, frontman Danny Bowes seems to get better with age.  If you haven’t yet delved into what Thunder has to offer, “Wonder Days” provides an excellent introduction to the band.

 

 

41-SCREAMING EAGLES“Save Me”

The first single off of Stand Up And Be Counted sets the bar high for the rest of the sophomore effort from Northern Ireland’s Screaming Eagles.  If “Save Me” was released two decades ago, it would still be played today as a killer classic rock track.  There are enough elements that would also make it a great fit for Active Rock radio… most notably, the stellar vocals of frontman Chris Fry, who most resembles Chris Cornell on this track, but also adds in other influences to create a unique sound.  Bluesy guitar riffs and a powerful, driving rhythm help to create a song that, sonically, is a throwback to past decades.

 

 

42–DIEMONDS“Over It”

Canadian rockers, Diemonds, follow the growing trend of female-fronted hard rock bands.  The sultry Priya Panda delivers a powerful, melodic performance, with just the right amount of sex appeal, on the band’s single, “Over It” (off of Diemonds’ third album, Never Wanna Die).   The rest of the band has a classic Twisted Sister vibe on “Over It” (think “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n Roll”).  It is said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  The same advice holds true for Diemonds’ latest album, which has a considerably more beastly cover than the beauty that lies within.  If this song was released exactly as-is by Halestorm, it would undoubtedly soar up the Active Rock charts.  It’s too late to be one of the early Halestorm adopters, but you’re right on time to become a “Die-Hard” (the fitting name bestowed upon the band’s loyal following).

 

 

43-SLEAZY WAY OUT“Wasted Chance”

You have to appreciate the way that Sleazy Way Out left nothing to the imagination when deciding upon their moniker.  They are what you would expect them to be, and they wear it on their sleeve.  The band’s list of interests and influences (sleazy hard rock, heavy metal, booze, fast cars, girls and tattoos) shows what these Canadian rockers are all about.  Listening to “Wasted Chance” is like a journey back in time to the early days of Motley Crue and W.A.S.P. when sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll reigned supreme.  With Crue about to end their long and sordid journey and W.A.S.P. now headed in a more pure direction now that Blackie Lawless has found religion, there is a torch that needs to be passed.  There’s no doubt that Sleazy Way Out would take that torch and run with it if given the opportunity.

 

 

44-WAMI“Wild Woman”

Imagine, for a moment, being a young guitarist in a band opening for a rock legend, and having one of the members of the headlining act suggesting recording together because he was so impressed with your work.  That is exactly how WAMI was born.  Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza approached guitarist Iggy Gwadera (Anti Tank Nun) with the idea, and the rest (as they say) is history.  Little did Gwadera know at the time that he would end up being a member of a supergroup that includes Vinny Appice (drums) and Doogie White (vocals).  Gwadera more than holds his own with his notable bandmates on “Wild Woman,” a classic rock/hard rock song with a groove that keeps your feet tapping and your head bobbing.

 

 

45-EUROPE“The Second Day”

Fans of ‘80s hard rock were well-aware of “The Final Countdown” long before Europe started performing it in a Geico commercial.  As a result of the commercial, the song has reached greater heights than ever before.  Far fewer people are aware of Europe’s 2015 release, War Of Kings, which features songs like “The Second Day,” the polar opposite of “The Final Countdown.”  This is a song with substance, soul and sorrow.  Joey Tempest’s vocals are still impressive, but in a much more subdued way.  John Norum’s guitar cries out in pain.  There is no bombastic closure to the song; it simply fades mournfully into the ether.  “The Second Day” is mature blues rock that more closely resembles Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple than ‘80s hair metal.  It’s a totally different side of Europe, but it works well.

 

 

TOP 20 PROG/POWER/HEAVY METAL SONGS OF 2015

{Song list and write-ups listed below the YouTube playlist}

 

1-CRYSTAL BALL (f. NOORA LOUHIMO)“Eye To Eye”

Crystal Ball is the perfect example of a band that is a force to be reckoned with in Europe, but totally flies under the radar in the United States (largely due to the fact that the opportunity for radio exposure is basically non-existent).  One of the reasons that Music Discovery Monday was launched on Hard Rock Daddy was to give exposure to bands like Crystal Ball who don’t have a radio outlet.  Starting out as a cover band in 1995, the band released its first studio album in 1999.  This year, Crystal Ball released their eighth studio album entitled LifeRider.  With a new energy courtesy of German frontman, Steve Mageney, these Swiss rockers are poised to once again make their mark in the hard rock genre.  “Eye To Eye” is pure power metal at its best.  Mageney’s vocals are such an ideal fit with the vocals of Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast) that she feels more like a part of the band than a guest vocalist.

 

 

2-GUS G.“Brand New Revolution”

Gus G. became well-known in the same manner as many before him, as the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne.  Although he has name recognition, his 2015 solo release has still flown largely under the radar, which is a shame, because it is better than much of what is getting radio attention these days.  “Brand New Revolution,” the title track off of Gus G.’s latest album combines the raw, aggressive riffs that fit perfectly with Ozzy’s solo material, and dials it up a notch with the help of the soaring vocals of Jacob Bunton (Adler, Lynam).  Everything is big – the riffs, the vocals, the hook, the melody, the heavy bottom, and of course, the shredding guitar work.  It all comes together in spectacular fashion to produce a killer heavy metal song that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves.

 

 

3-THE NEAL MORSE BAND“The Grand Experiment”

The title of the song also describes the manner in which the song (and album of the same name) was written.  Rather than having all of the material prepared before entering the studio, all of the songs were created with the entire band together.  In addition to Neal Morse, the band features Mike Portnoy (drums), Randy George (bass), Eric Gillette (guitars) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards).  Says Morse, “I wanted to see what it would be like to create freely in the room with no preconceived notions.  It was quite a risk!”  The risk clearly paid off.  Even though this is a prog album and will undoubtedly appeal to prog audiences, “The Grand Experiment” will also appeal to a wider audience as well.  Classic rock fans who like Kansas, Styx and Yes should definitely check this one out.

 

 

4-METAL ALLEGIANCE“We Rock”

In 1985, Ronnie James Dio helped gather a group of heavy metal artists to record a song called “Stars,” to help raise money for famine relief in Africa.  Fast forward 30 years to 2015.  A group of metal musicians banded together under the moniker Metal Allegiance, recorded their first album, and closed it with a killer version of the Dio classic, “We Rock.”  While this is not a charity project, the impact of having so much talent recording together made for a memorable tribute to one of the greatest metal musicians to ever walk the planet.  The core group on the album is made up of Alex Skolnick (guitar), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, The Neal Morse Band, Flying Colors).  On “We Rock,” they are joined by vocalists Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Chris Jericho (Fozzy), Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex-Judas Priest), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Chuck Billy (Testament) & Steve “Zetro” Souza (Exodus), in addition to guitarists Andreas Kisser (Sepultura), Phil Demmel (Machine Head) and Gary Holt (Exodus).  Together, this metal army does Dio proud with an inspired, heart-racing version of “We Rock.”

 

 

5-ELVENKING“Black Roses For The Wicked One”

Epic power metal with influences ranging from prog to folk (amongst others) is the foundation upon which Elvenking is built.  The band uses this formula to “spread mystic tales of fantasy and imagination,” and it works perfectly.  One listen to “Black Roses For The Wicked One,” and you’ll be left wondering how music like this manages to fly under the radar outside of Europe.  It’s just that good!  Soaring vocals and beautiful harmonies provide an anthemic, feel-good vibe that brings back memories of ‘80s heavy metal, while the arrangement and keyboards are reminiscent of the best that Kansas ever had to offer.  Elvenking should be a worldwide sensation, not an act that is somewhat contained by geography.

 

 

6-KISKE / SOMERVILLE“City Of Heroes”

It’s been several years since Michael Kiske fronted Helloween, but it is still his best known work to date.  Kiske has kept himself busy with other projects that showcase his immense vocal talent.  Teaming up with Amanda Somerville (who has fronted several bands) was an inspired decision.  Hard rock duets are fairly commonplace, but less so in power metal.  “City Of Heroes” is an incredibly melodic, theatrical collaboration that highlights the vocal prowess of two great power metal vocalists.  In fact, it has such a theatrical feel to it, that it wouldn’t be a surprise if a movie was written based on the song.

 

 

7-SYMPHONY X“Without You”

You have to wonder where Symphony X would be if the band had launched in the mid-‘80s instead of the mid-‘90s.  Other than timing (and maybe luck), there is very little separating them from the hard rock and heavy metal bands that rose to stardom and carried that momentum forward when the grunge movement began.  If their timing was better, it’s easy to imagine them being mentioned in the same breath has Queensryche and Dream Theater.  Vocalist extraordinaire, Russell Allen, gets his fair share of attention from other artists and fans in the know, but it’s fair to say that his talent exceeds his fame by leaps and bounds.  The same can be said for founder/guitarist Michael Romeo, bassist Mike LePond, keyboardist Michael Pinnella and drummer Jason Rullo.  “Without You” showcases the immense talent and chemistry of this powerhouse quintet.  From the outstanding vocals and vocal harmonies to the subtle nuances that are best heard though headphones and the interesting arrangement, “Without You” is everything that you want in a song from this genre.  Sadly, this American band has a sound that is appreciated much more by overseas audiences than right here at home.

 

 

8-LEVEL 10“Cry No More”

Often times these days, I find myself being thankful for Serafino Perugino for having the vision, connections and finances to bring some of the best musicians in the world together.  Included in this category is the inspired joining of forces of vocalist extraordinaire Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Allen/Lande) and Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner).  With the prompting of the Frontiers Records president, this power duo got together to blend their individual styles into a powerhouse melodic metal band that features members of Primal Fear, ex-Helloween and Hardline.  “Cry No More” is nothing short of brilliant.  It has everything that you want in a power metal song and more.

 

 

9-VALOR“The Crown Of Evermore”

“Epic Heavy Metal” is how this Greek band describes themselves, and they are not exaggerating.  Valor’s sound is larger-than-life, intensely melodic and powerful.  The energy of speed metal juxtaposed over beautiful piano on “The Crown Of Evermore” is something to behold.  The prog inspired leads and fills are tight and virtuosic.  The lead vocals and harmonies are emotive beyond words.  This kind of talent should be celebrated by hard rock fans around the world.  Valor has been around since 2002, but learning about the band on Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday earlier this year, it’s clear that talent does not equal exposure (particularly in America).  America may be known as the land of opportunity, but that idiom certainly does not hold true for a multitude of great metal acts that enjoy success in Europe and barely get noticed in this part of the world.  Valor most certainly falls into that category.

 

 

10-ANTHRAX“Evil Twin”

Anthrax fans will have to wait until the end of February for the band’s first album release in five years.  However, the band recently released the first single from For All Kings.  “Evil Twin” features the classic thrash sound that Anthrax is famous for, infused with a modern metal sound that makes it an interesting crossover fit for Active Rock radio (think Slipknot’s “Custer” without the growling).  This track would absolutely stand out on most Active Rock playlists, providing a massive shot of testosterone to a typical rotation.  Any song that takes terrorists to task in a meaningful way should be supported in this day and age.  To not do so would be simply un-American!

 

 

11-MEGADETH“The Threat Is Real”

Megadeth will be releasing Dystopia (their 16th studio album) in January.  Though there has been a recent shakeup in the lineup, Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson keep the ball rolling with “The Threat Is Real.”  The song opens with a haunting chant before launching a metal assault that hits you like a ton of bricks.  Mustaine has never been shy about sharing his political views.  “The Threat Is Real” is a powerful look at the world that we’re living in today, where terrorism is no longer something that happens to other people.  The song embraces the thrash roots that defined Megadeth early on, which only serves to enhance the story being told, especially in the video.  Though the video is in cartoon form, it is graphically violent and disturbingly real.

 

 

12-GHOST SHIP OCTAVIUS“In Dreams”

Ghost Ship Octavius is a NYC-based band that describes their sound as “Melodic Progressive Heavy Metal,” an accurate description given all of the elements that they bring to the table.  Whereas some progressive metal can be so intensely chaotic that it only appeals to a very specific audience, Ghost Ship Octavius incorporates enough mainstream components to have more of a mass appeal to hard rock and metal fans in general.  However, this is not to say that their music doesn’t have its fair share of complexities that will appeal to diehard prog fans.

With “In Dreams,” Ghost Ship Octavius has masterfully blended catchy, melodic hooks, virtuosity and interesting, unpredictable time changes without ever wandering into sensory overload territory.  Featuring Matt Wicklund (God Forbid, Warrel Dane, HIMSA) and Van Williams (Nevermore, Ashes of Ares), the band is rounded out by Dagna Silesia (Warrel Dane, The People Now) and up-and-coming frontman Adon Fanion.

 

 

13-NEXT TO NONE“Blood On My Hands”

The current generation of teenagers has grown up in a different world, one with the threat of terrorism on American soil, and mass shootings (particularly in schools) occurring with regularity.  Most bands are either too old or too immature to write about this subject from a meaningful, first-hand perspective.  Next To None does not fall under the category of “most bands.”

Aside from the familial connection that Max Portnoy (drummer) has with Mike Portnoy, the band is made up of fellow musical prodigies: Ryland Holland (guitar), Kris Rank (bass) and Thomas Cuce (keys and vocals).  Ranging from ages 15-16, these teens are not only skilled beyond their years, but wise as well.

In an interview with Bravewords, Cuce discussed the inspiration for “Blood On My Hands” and the carefully planned writing process for the song…

“At the time [I wrote the lyrics] it seemed like every day there was a different person going crazy somewhere and shooting up a building or whatever, and I would ask myself ‘Why does this keep happening? What was that person thinking? What led them to do this?’ So I tried to put myself in this person’s head. I created a character and started from the aftermath of the event, which is where we first hear about it in the news.”

Of the song’s extended arrangement, he says, ‘It took us months to write this song and then months to learn it. We had a big dry erase board that we used to chart out all the parts with the time signatures until we had them memorized.”

With thought-provoking lyrics and complex song structures, the younger Portnoy and his bandmates are well on their way to becoming this generation’s Dream Theater.

 

 

14-HELLOWEEN“Lost In America”

Is it a Freudian slip that inspired Helloween to write a song called “Lost In America,” or just a sad reality bemoaning the band’s lack of exposure in the United States throughout a career that spans more than three decades?  Thankfully, the world is now global, so bands like Helloween aren’t truly “Lost In America,” but they are still under-appreciated in this part of the world.  The song, from the band’s 15th studio album (My God-Given Right) offers further proof that America has been missing out on some outstanding power metal.  There’s something intriguing about hearing a song called “Lost In America” being sung in Andi Denis’ German accent.  If your familiarity with Helloween is limited to 1988’s “I Want Out,” do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring the band’s vast catalog.

 

 

15-SIGNUM REGIS“Living Well”

Slovakian power/neoclassical metalers Signum Regis are a whirlwind of melody on “Living Well.”  The guitars shred, the bass pulsates like an adrenaline-infused heart alongside thunderous drums.  Mayo Petranin, who was a guest vocalist on the band’s third studio release (Exodus) – a concept album about the Children of Israel fleeing Egypt – is now the lead vocalist for the band.  Petranin’s vocals are a natural fit for Signum Regis.  After a melodic musical assault this intense, you’ll need to take a break and catch your breath, as “Living Well” packs quite a punch.

 

 

16-PRIMAL FEAR“The End Is Near”

What’s the next best thing to landing the gig as Rob Halford’s replacement in Judas Priest?  Launching your own heavy metal tour de force in the same vein as the one that got away.  That’s exactly what Ralf Scheepers did in 1997 with Mat Sinner, Tom Naumann and Klaus Sperling.  Fast forward nearly two decades, and Primal Fear is now a six-headed, three-guitar, metal monster getting ready to release their 12th studio album.  Not a bad consolation prize for Scheepers if you ask me.  “The End Is Near” grabs you by the throat from the first note with the crunch of heart-pounding riffs and a driving rhythm.  Scheepers takes the Halford influence and adds  Udo Dirkschneider-esque aggression, a formula that works perfectly with Primal Fear’s sound.

 

 

17-MIKE LePOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS“Apocalypse Rider”

Symphony X bassist Mike LePond dials it up a notch on “Apocalypse Rider” (from his debut eponymous solo project), a song that has the same pulse-racing feel as Metallica’s “Motorbreath.”  The band features fellow Symphony X member Michael Romeo (guitar), in addition to vocalist Alan Tecchio (Watchtower, Hades, Non-Fiction) and guitarist Metal Mike (Halford, Testament).  Though much more straight-forward metal than his work with Symphony X, the band manages to weave some melodic vocal harmonies into “Apocalypse Rider” without ever slowing the freight train momentum that starts with the first note.  This is pure, timeless heavy metal.

 

 

18-KAMELOT“Insomnia”

With a name like Kamelot, it’s no surprise that the band is known for neo classical metal.  What may come as a surprise to those not familiar with the band is that they have been around since 1992, and that they formed in Tampa, FL not Sweden, Finland or other European nations that are hotbeds for the genre.  Kamelot’s most recent release, Haven, is the 11th studio album of the band’s career, and the second with frontman Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder) at the helm.  “Insomnia” has all of the elements that you would expect from songs in this genre…an epic arrangement, virtuosic leads, heavy synth and dramatic vocals.  What it also has is the type of melodic hook that is customary to more mainstream hard rock.  The fact that this blurb was written during the 3:00am hour of a typical night of “Insomnia” seems very fitting.

 

 

19-STRATOVARIUS“Shine In The Dark”

Lineup changes are fairly commonplace in the hard rock and metal genres, especially for bands with a long history, but Finnish power metalers Stratovarius have a lineup history that is more unique than most.  Formed in 1984, the longest tenured member of the band is frontman Timo Kotipelto (who joined in 1994).  Despite the revolving door that is a part of the band’s history, they have managed to soldier on and remain one of the top acts in the genre.  In September, Stratovarius released their 16th studio album, Eternal, which features the lead single, “Shine In The Dark.”  This epic song is a chilling story written from the perspective of speaking to someone close to you who has passed on, but never really leaves your side.  Anyone who has lost someone close to them will relate to this melodic power metal song (rife with vocal harmonies) in a meaningful way.

 

 

20-TAD MOROSE“Forlorn”

Some days, you just need to lose yourself in the music and let metal be your therapy.  Amazingly, Tad Morose has been around for over 20 years, but like many Swedish bands, has not broken through in the U.S.  The lack of radio opportunities for bands like Tad Morose is a story for another day.  For today, the story is one of melancholy, and an impassioned vocal delivery by Ronny Hemlin that makes you feel the despair, yet somehow feel uplifted at the same time.  “Forlorn” features Yngwie-esque guitars and vocals that are reminiscent of Graham Bonnet’s early work with Alcatrazz.  Simply put, this is pure power metal that deserves to be heard by an audience well beyond the borders of Europe. (RONNY HEMLIN discusses “Forlorn”)

 

 

 

TOP 5 SOUTHERN ROCK SONGS OF 2015

{Song list and write-ups listed below the YouTube playlist}

 

1-OUTLAWS & MOONSHINE“Whiskey”

The rise of grunge in the early ‘90s is often credited as the death knell of ‘80s hair metal.  However, few people talk about the collateral damage that happened around the same time…the decline of Southern Rock.  Although southern influences can be found in some modern hard rock bands, pure Southern Rock bands are few and far between these days.  Enter Indiana’s Outlaws & Moonshine – a trio that aims to blend the past with the present with their brand of “back beat boogie woogie” infused Southern Rock – with their debut single, “Whiskey.”

As the acoustic guitar intro fades, Outlaws & Moonshine launch into a down home, southern sound that takes you on a journey back in time.  The twang of the guitar and the blue-collar gritty vocals of the verses build up to an anthemic chorus that will undoubtedly have fans singing along as they hoist a few in a live setting.  There’s a beauty to the simplicity of this feel-good party song, and the overall stripped-down, straight-ahead sound of Outlaws & Moonshine (think AC/DC with Southern Rock sensibilities).  “Whiskey” gives a nice “taste” of what this “new Southern Rock” band has to offer. (BEAU VAN discusses “Whiskey”)

 

 

2-ROYAL BLISS“Drown With Me”

Like Outlaws & Moonshine, Royal Bliss hails from an area (Utah) that isn’t predominantly known for Southern Rock, but you’d never know it based on the band’s latest single, “Drown With Me,” a feel-good song with just the right amount of Lynyrd Skynyrd influence.  Another modern band with “royal” in the name gets most of the hype these days, but Royal Bliss is the band that should be getting the attention.  More than likely, they are still underrated because of the influences that they infuse into their music from other genres, but that is what makes them so unique.  Kid Rock has proven that you can simultaneously appeal to fans from all walks of life, so hopefully, Royal Bliss will eventually become the household name that their music warrants.  Check out “Drown With Me,” and then go back to dig into the band’s catalog.  You will not be disappointed!

 

 

3-BLACK TOP MOJO“In Color”

Earlier this year, Chris Cornell joined forces with Zac Brown to create a song that brought two unlikely genres together.  Back in the early ‘90s, no one would have imagined that the Seattle sound could ever be melded with country music, but “Heavy Is The Head” made a huge impact on Active Rock radio.  Admittedly, my knowledge of country music is minimal at best, so I was unfamiliar with the original version of “In Color” (by Jamey Johnson).

Matt James shows his diversity, and a mature sound that goes well beyond his years, on “In Color,” a song that captures nostalgia in a manner very similar to Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long.”  It’s natural to look at an old black and white photo and think that life was somehow less colorful than it is today.  The vivid lyrics of “In Color” serve as a reminder that a picture may be worth a thousand words, but the real story can only be told with context.

If you didn’t know any better, you would think that James was telling the story as his grandfather told it to him as a boy.  It’s challenging enough to make a cover song your own, much less delivering someone else’s incredibly personal memory with such authenticity.  James does so with flying colors, supported by beautifully moving backing vocals and a band that knows just when to let the song breathe, and when to let loose.  Lead guitarist Ryan Kiefer highlights the song with a solo that features shades of Neal Schon on the Journey classic, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (MATT JAMES discusses “In Color”)

 

 

4-FALL TO JUNE“Delta Breakdown”

What do you get when you add Shinedown, Cold, Fuel and Saliva?  A hard rock band with an unexpected southern sound, and a message.  Confused?   Fall To June’s name was inspired by a time and place, according to an interview that vocalist Ben Badger did with PureGrainAudio…“If you consider that in the fall, the school year begins, and in June it is typically done for the summer.  We want to learn something new every day, both in life and in general about ourselves.  So, Fall To June is exactly that, our education in being us.”  As far as the aforementioned bands are concerned, the members of Fall To June (and their producer) have connections to each of them.  This isn’t exactly the formula that you would expect to add up to true southern rock, but Fall To June is as down-home as you can get.  The band’s first single, “Delta Breakdown,” features an ideal mix of twang and shred, to go along with Badger’s soulful, melodic delivery.  If you’re a fan of southern rock, make sure to check out Fall To June.

 

 

5-FAR FROM GONE“Set It Free”

From the ashes of Soulicit and Transmit Now rises Far From Gone, a D.I.Y. southern hard rock band that brings to the table a lifetime of experience from both inside and outside of the music business.  Like most hard rock artists nowadays, both Darick Parson (Soulicit) and Kevin Parrow (Transmit Now) have had their share of highs and lows trying to make a living in an increasingly challenging environment for rock bands.  “Set It Free,” from the band’s debut album, is part of a collection of songs that “echoes a lifetime of being exposed to the music business and all of the ups and downs that life itself brings.”  The song itself has a Shinedown meets Seven Mary Three feel, highlighted by impassioned vocals and a cool, lyrical, storyteller vibe.  With Parson and Parrow both having enjoyed successful moments in the music business, along with the inevitable bumps in the road, “Set It Free” feels like an inside look into the personal journals of each.  Seeing how this band develops should be interesting, as the quality of their songs is already at a level above most newer artists.

 

Advertisements

About AW

Hard rock journalist and father of two amazing rock and roll children.

Posted on January 4, 2016, in Hard Rock Song Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 137 Comments.

  1. Pingback: HRD Radio Report – Week Ending 10/1/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  2. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 10/15/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  3. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 10-8-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  4. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 10/22/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  5. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 10-15-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  6. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 10/29/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  7. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 10-22-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  8. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 11/5/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  9. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 10-29-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  10. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 11/12/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  11. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 11-5-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  12. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 11/19/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  13. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 11-12-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  14. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 11/26/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  15. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 11-19-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  16. Pingback: Billboard Top 15 Hard Rock Albums – 12/3/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  17. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 11-26-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  18. Pingback: Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums – 12/10/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  19. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 12-3-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  20. Pingback: Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums – 12/17/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  21. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 12-10-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  22. Pingback: Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums – 12/24/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  23. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 12-17-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  24. Pingback: Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums – 12/31/16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  25. Pingback: Top 30 Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown Songs of 2016 | Hard Rock Daddy

  26. Pingback: Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums – 1/7/17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  27. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 12-31-16 | Hard Rock Daddy

  28. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 1-7-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  29. Pingback: Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2016 | Hard Rock Daddy

  30. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 1-14-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  31. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 1-21-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  32. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 1-28-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  33. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 2-4-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  34. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 2-11-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

  35. Pingback: Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown – Week of 2-18-17 | Hard Rock Daddy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: