By Rob Dell’Aquila
1 – INNERWISH – Innerwish
It had been six long years since their last album, during which they lost their lead singer and their drummer, but Innerwish returned stronger than ever in 2016 with this self-titled album. Clocking in at nearly two hours, it’s filled with powerful and often deep songs with staggering vocal harmonies. They hail from Athens, Greece.
2 – THEOCRACY – Ghost Ship
This band is out of a different Athens – Athens, Georgia – and they put their mark on 2016 with another album filled with their trademark layered harmonies and monster riffs. This is Christian power metal with strong progressive and symphonic influences.
3 – CIVIL WAR – The Last Full Measure
For 2016, Sweden’s Civil War wrapped up a trilogy of amazing albums dedicated to historic battles and famous final stands. The collaboration of vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson with ex-Sabaton members works wonderfully, yet again, for another compelling romp through history.
4 – SABATON – Last Stand
Sweden’s Sabaton continued to marry power metal to military themes with a knockout album dedicated to famous last stands in battle. No song ends well for the heroes here, but the listener is in for a treat on every single one.
5 – AVANTASIA – Ghostlight
Tobias Sammet returned in 2016 with another symphonic, power metal masterpiece from his supergroup, Avantasia. This one clocks in at nearly two hours, with appearances from Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Michael Kiske, Jorn Lande, Bob Catley, Sharon den Adel, Ronnie Atkins, Robert Mason and Marco Hietala.
6 – EVERGREY – The Storm Within
Heavy riffs, complex compositions, deep yearning. These are the three elements that Sweden’s Evergrey deliver in their best work, and all three were in strong supply on this veteran band’s latest release.
7 – PRIMAL FEAR – Rulebreaker
Primal Fear returned in 2016 with another hard-hitting entry into the genre. Ralf Scheepers, Matt Sinner and the rest of the band nailed it again with a mix of straight-up power metal and epic masterpieces like the ten-plus-minute “We Walk Without Fear.”
8 – LORDS OF BLACK – II
Lead singer Ronnie Romero was tapped by Ritchie Blackmore to front the long-awaited reunion of classic rock legends Rainbow, but that didn’t stop him from putting out another album with his bandmates in Lords of Black. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, the band debuted with a powerful album in 2014, and deliver again in 2016 on their sophomore effort.
9 – THUNDERSTONE – Apocalypse Again
After a seven-year absence, Finland’s Thunderstone returned in 2016 with their sixth album. Reunited on this one with former lead singer Pasi Ranaten, the chemistry is still there. This one was worth the wait!
10 – SERIOUS BLACK – Mirrorworld
Serious Black delivered one of the best power metal albums of 2015 with their debut, and return strong again just a year later. Urban Breed and the band pour it on heavy again with some impressive writing and musical performances.
Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 6/30/16: The Year – 2002
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s, the ’80s (the glory days of hard rock), hidden gems of the ’90s and hard rock/metal songs of the new millennium (as recent as a few years ago).
Whenever possible, it will also contain interviews from featured artists discussing the inspiration and meaning behind their songs. On the last Thursday of each month, we will be doing special themes that feature songs based on specific categories or years.
For this month’s theme, we take a journey back to the year 2002.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
Hard Rock Daddy was founded in March of 2013, but you might say that it was “born” in 2002 when I became a father for the first time, a bittersweet moment having lost my father the year before. The songs that I’ve chosen this week bridge the gap between two years that brought both tragedy and a new outlook on life. Both songs (which have specific meaning) were released in 2002, and each comes from an album that was released in 2001.
OZZY OSBOURNE – “Dreamer” (2002)
Ozzy Osbourne’s eighth studio album, Down To Earth, was released just a month after 9/11. With the world still in shock and metal still far from the mainstream, this album is one that is under the radar to some degree. “Dreamer” – one of two singles from the album – is a song about Osbourne’s vision for a better world for his children where they were happy and safe. The Prince Of Darkness refers to this song as his “Imagine” (John Lennon).
Bringing a child into a world that had lost all innocence for me was more than a little daunting. Having experienced 9/11 in an up-close and visceral way, the thought of raising a child in a post-terrorist America nearly made me forgo the idea altogether. Ultimately, the choice to proceed as planned ending up giving new meaning to a life that had been filled with confusion and loss.
For numerous reasons, Ozzy Osbourne has been a major part of my personal rock and roll journey, not the least of which is taking my son to see him perform live in concert (he was only 7 at the time).
It’s been nearly 15 years since “Dreamer” was released as a single. To this day, it still conjures up bittersweet emotions. In many ways, the song is even more relevant in today’s world of chaos than it was after 9/11. The dream for a better world continues…
NICKELBACK – “Too Bad” (2002)
While Ozzy Osbourne’s Down To Earth was released a month after 9/11, Nickelback’s Silver Side Up was released on the same day as the most devastating act of terror on American soil.
“Too Bad” – the second single off of the album – was released in February of 2002, a time when the raw, painful emotions of 9/11 had started to turn to a numbing disbelief. Although the song has an upbeat, melodic feel, the lyrics address a different kind of hopeless feeling brought on by more typical trials and tribulations of life.
The summer of 2009 was a time period where my family was dealing with our own trials and tribulations during a time of change. One of the brightest spots of that summer, however, was taking my son to see Nickelback (his first concert) at my favorite venue in the world.
For some reason, this band is often times ridiculed, but they will always have special meaning to me. For what it’s worth, they put on a hell of a show (albeit less kid-friendly than one would expect).
ANDY CHEUNG – HRD Music Scout
OPETH – “Master’s Apprentices” (2002)
I wasn’t sure if 2002 marked the decline or the continuation of Nu Metal, but I’m glad that some of my favorite metal bands were making great music back then. Case in point: Opeth’s sixth studio album, Deliverance, and this monster of a song, “Master’s Apprentices.” This song has everything! Heavy, crunchy guitar chugs? Check. Double-bass, thrash drumming? Check. Death metal growls? Check. Odd-time signature? Check. For good measure, Mikael Akerfeldt even sings clean while the song winds down to a progressive jazzy feel before exploding back to the death metal frenzy. Seeing Opeth play this song live is a treat and an experience all fans of metal should witness at some point. And yes, I was one of headbanging fans singing along at their last show.
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE – “Fixation On The Darkness” (2002)
In 2002, metalcore started coming into the mainstream after being underground for several years. Being a fan of both the metal and hardcore genres, I was immediately interested in this new mixture (similar to the crossover bands back in the ‘80s). One of the first metalcore bands to come out around this time was Massachusetts’s Killswitch Engage, with their second album, Alive or Just Breathing. “Fixation on the Darkness” is chock full of heavy emotional grooves, sing-a-long choruses and a riff that makes you want to move. This song is a perfect example of metalcore at its finest. Fronted by Howard Jones (who replaced Jesse Leach after recording this album), this song will have you screaming along and/or breaking something.
ROB DELL’AQUILA – HRD Music Scout
DARIO MOLLO & TONY MARTIN – “Poison Roses” (2002)
Italian guitarist Dario Mollo and ex-Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin teamed up in the late ‘90s to bring us a tour de force of melodic metal with The Cage. The project was so well-received by fans that they teamed up a few years later for The Cage II, which included this reproachful masterpiece. They would team up again ten years later, in 2012, for a third installment. All three albums are highly recommended.
PRIMAL FEAR – “Silence” (2002)
Ralf Scheepers should have been the replacement for Rob Halford when Judas Priest parted ways with him in 1996. Tim “Ripper” Owens is also an amazing singer, but Scheepers’s vocals were a perfect fit for Priest. Instead, Scheepers would go on the following year to team up with bassist/vocalist Matt Sinner to found power metal giants Primal Fear, and never look back. This powerful selection comes from their 2002 album, Black Sun.
CHRIS HERZEGOVITCH – HRD Music Scout
DIO – “Along Comes A Spider” (2002)
2002 saw the ninth studio album from Dio, Killing the Dragon. The dragon in this case was a symbol of technology. Dio was concerned for its misuse to perpetrate injustice, and warned that it could keep people enslaved. “Along Comes A Spider” warns not to let this sneak up on you if you only hear and don’t listen. This was the first album with Doug Aldrich (Burning Rain, Whitesnake). There are plenty of thick riffs, zesty licks and terrific solos throughout the song. Mainstays Jimmy Bain (bass) and Simon Wright (drums) rounded out the lineup of the band on this underrated album (which was produced by RJD).
W.A.S.P – “Shadow Man” (2002)
In their 20th year together, Blackie Lawless’ W.A.S.P. cranked out their 10th album. 2002’s Dying For the World was Blackie’s dedication to the victims of 9/11. The album was produced from start to finish in less than a year, which is uncharacteristic for Lawless who usually takes years to perfect an album. The album’s lead song, “Shadow Man,” is a driving, mid-tempo track that features Lawless’ signature rasp and growl vocals and infectious rhythm, plus plenty of hot guitar licks throughout from guitarist Darrell Roberts.
Billboard Hard Rock Albums Chart for the week ending 2/20/16. Top 15 albums ranked by sales data and compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. ***Click on the hyperlinked titles to read full album reviews***
THIS WEEK’S TOP 15:
- DREAM THEATER – The Astonishing
- MEGADETH – Dystopia
- DISTURBED – Immortalized
- VARIOUS ARTISTS – NOW That’s What I Call Rock
- FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – Got Your Six
- SHINEDOWN – Threat To Survival
- AVANTASIA – Ghostlights
- BREAKING BENJAMIN – Dark Before Dawn
- RED – Of Beauty And Rage
- BRING ME THE HORIZON – That’s The Spirit
- PRIMAL FEAR – Rulebreaker
- TY SEGALL – Emotional Mugger
- TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA – Letters From The Labyrinth
- BURY TOMORROW – Earthbound
- DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard