Melodic Music Reviews’ Best Of 2019
Well here we are again folks, almost through the first month of a new year! Happy New Year to you all, I hope everyone had happy and safe holidays.
So, I realize we have been pretty much absent from the site for most of 2019 and I think I can speak for both Luigi and myself when I say that we are both a bit embarrassed and disappointed in our lack of reviews, however it has been unavoidable as we both have been dealing with many things over the past year including career, family and health issues that has left us with little time and honestly little inspiration to sit and write unfortunately.
But as we look forward into this year we hope to bring back the reviews and interviews with a renewed vigor, along with a change or two that I will write about in a separate post. But for now let’s jump into our best of 2019 lists.
So a couple of things different this year. I typically tend to make a long list of albums and also list the top albums in different sub-genres and such, but this year Luigi and I spoke and decided to stick to a simple top 10. Also there will be no numbering this year. It is hard enough to make a top 10 list of the year without trying to nitpick your way into choosing which albums take which slot.
Also we have both added a “Highly Recommended’ list which will feature albums that for one reason or another did not make it into the top ten but we felt were strong enough that they still needed to be mentioned and are certainly still worth owning.
So without further ado, here is what we consider to be the best that 2019 had to offer.
Kobra and The Lotus – ‘Evolution’
‘Evolution’ is the album title, but it also aptly describes the journey of Kobra And The Lotus. From each album to the next there has been a distinct progression. The latest step from ‘Prevail II’ to ‘Evolution’ is profound. I love the diversity on this album. They haven’t forgotten their metallic roots with heavy tracks such as the title track and ‘In The End’, but tracks such as ‘Burn’ and ‘Thundersmith’ take a more melodic approach, the latter delving into pop rock territory. Kobra Paige shines, an absolute joy vocally. ‘Washed Away’ is a case in point. Fantastic power ballad. An album I have constantly gone back to.Brilliant
Cyhra – ‘No Halos In Hell’
Two years ago Cyhra’s debut ‘Letters To Myself‘ was my top album for 2017. Completely took me by surprise. Modern but crammed full of melody and hooks. One of the strongest debuts you will ever hear. Backing that up was going to be tough. Not for Cyhra. Bloody hell, ‘No Halos In Hell’ is remarkable. Even more melodic than ‘Letters To Myself’. So many standout tracks, in particular the title track, ‘Blood Brothers’ and the huge ballad ‘Lost in Time’. Jake E is incredible on the whole album, but his tone on ‘Lost in Time’ really moved me. Add to the mix the astounding guitar work and you get a masterpiece.
Battle Beast – ‘No More Hollywood Endings’
I absolutely love these Fins. Another band that has made a positive progression with each album. ‘No More Hollywood Endings’ sees Battle Beast embrace more of the melodic, poppy side of their style, particularly on the pure melodic rock of ‘Endless Summer’, but can still belt out the metallic anthems with ‘Raise Your Fists’ and ‘The Golden Horde’. Noora really showcases her full vocal prowess, sticking to the clean end of her vocal spectrum, although a little bit more grit here and there wouldn’t have gone astray. No disrespect to the rest of the band but Noora really steals the show on the album. A band at the top of their game, and I don’t think they are even close to reaching their potential.
Beast In Black – ‘From Hell With Love’
One of three bands in both my 2017 and 2019 top tens, Beast In Black will inevitably be compared with Battle Beast due to their founder being a former Battle Beast member. Their first album ‘Berzerker’ had quite a strong resemblance to Battle Beast. ‘From Hell With Love’ treads the same path, but there are tracks that show the band can mix it up. Examples of this are the excellent melodic rockers ‘Sweet True Lies’ and ‘True Believer’, along with the soaring power ballad ‘Oceandeep’. Like Noora in Battle Beast Yannis has a remarkable voice that can shift effortlessly between clean and gravelly tones. The band need to show some more diversity in the future, as Battle Beast have done, but nonetheless ‘From Hell With Love’ is a rip snorter of an album.
Gathering Of Kings – ‘First Mission’
From the moment the keyboards and guitars kick in on ‘Forever And A Day’ you know this is going to a be a special album. Despite a myriad of musicians and vocalists, ‘First Mission’ is seamless, moving from one brilliant track to another. Super Sandinavian melodic rock of the highest order. The aforementioned ‘Forever and a Day’, ‘Saviour’ and ‘Passing Rain’ are standouts, which is saying something considering the quality of material.
Darkwater – ‘Human’
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing guitarist Markus Sigfridsson for a number of years now. When his other band Harmony released ‘Theatre of Redemption’ in 2014 I wasn’t sure Markus could out do himself. That was a damn fine album. Well I have been pleasantly proven wrong. The latest album from Darkwater is a progressive metal monster. Markus and his cohorts are on another level on ‘Human’. A delightful tapestry of sounds and emotions, in particular due to Markus’ incredibly emotive and melodic playing. I haven’t been completely convinced by Henrik Bath’s vocals on previous Harmony and Darkwater albums, but he is fantastic on this album. Reminds me a lot of Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot). Seventh Wonder and Circus Maximus are good reference points for comparisons. ‘Human’ is an album that needs to be absorbed as a whole, but a track that exemplifies the brilliance of this album is ‘Alive – Pt II’. Markus has been involved with two other albums released in 2019 – All Things Fallen’s self titled release and Lance King’s ‘ReProgram’, both very good albums, but ‘Human’ is something very special.
Shallow Side – ‘Saints And Sinners’
Oh boy, this one nearly passed me by and I’m so glad it didn’t. Only discovered it towards the end of the year, Shallow Side’s ‘Saints and Sinners’ album is a fantastic amalgamation of Nickelback, Shinedown and southern rock. Throw into the mix some exquisite melodic soloing, a hint of 80’s rock and you get one hell of a combination. The song that turned me onto the band was the single ‘Sound The Alarm’, and it did that in spades. A massive hook-laden rocker. You get more of that with ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘No More’, big choruses on both. I have focused a lot on vocalists in my Top 10 list, and have to again with Shallow Side’s Eric Boatright. He sounds amazing on the rockers, but takes it to another level on the slower tracks. ‘Temptations’ is sultry with Eric’s vocals smooth as silk. The emotion he exudes on the beautiful ballad ‘Not Alone’ is spine tingling. The piece de resistance is the massive title track. Excuse the language, but what a fucking song. Probably the most ’80’s/90’s’ sounding track on the album. If you like 90’s band McQueen Street, you’ll love this. I love discovering bands I didn’t know that make me an instant fan. Shallow Side have done just that with this album.
Myrath – ‘Shehili’
Despite having already released 3 albums prior to ‘Shehili’, Myrath are another band I only discovered in 2019. I’m a sucker for Arabian / Middle Eastern sounds in rock and metal, so it comes as no surprise that this French & Tunisian band have blown me away. That they have a sound similar to my all-time favourite band Kamelot probably has something to do with it as well. Myrath head in a slightly more prog metal direction than Kamelot, but it is still super melodic and catchy. The strongest comparison between the two would be the epic ‘You’ve Lost Yourself’. While I have compared Myrath to Kamelot, they are not copycats in any way. They have a distinct sound which is so engaging, taking you on a journey throughout the album. Difficult to mention any tracks in particular as the album is so strong, but if I had to it would be ‘Dance’ and ‘Born To Survive’. Both tracks really emphasising Myrath’s great ability to combine that Arabian/Middle Eastern sound with lush melodic/prog metal. I am really interested to hear where the band goes next, ‘Shehili’ is going to be hard to beat. Awesome band and album.
Crazy Lixx – ‘Forever Wild’
Crazy Lixx would have to be one of the most consistent sleaze/hard rock bands in terms of putting out quality releases. The majority of their albums have been of a high standard, particularly the last three which are excellent. ‘Riot Avenue’ is the only one that I didn’t enjoy that much. On ‘Forever Wild’ the band still keep the sleazier side of their sound, predominantly on the first two tracks ‘Wicked’ and ‘Breakout’, also adding some slick melodic rock to their repertoire. Anthemic rocker ‘Silent Thunder’ wouldn’t be out of place on an 80’s movie soundtrack. I have been racking my brain to work out whether ‘Eagle’ is a cover, as the opening does sound very familiar. Not sure if it is, but nonetheless it is an excellent slow burning melodic rock track. ‘It’s You’ is Scandi melodic rock sing-along heaven. The track that takes top billing for me though is ‘Terminal Velocity’. I think this one is a perfect marriage of Crazy Lixx’s sleazy and melodic sides. Soaring guitar lines, sleazy riff and a massive chorus. Really love this track. ‘Forever Wild’ shows a maturity in the band’s songwriting. A perfect summer, top down, road trip album.
Temple Balls – ‘Infinity’
When you hear so much music over a year you can sometimes forget about a particular album, especially if it was released in the early part of the year, even if you absolutely loved it at the time. That happened to me with Temple Balls second album ‘Infinity’. It took a post on Facebook to remind me about it. So I re-acquainted myself with it, reliving why I loved this album when it arrived in March 2019. This album has a big sound, big attitude and…. well ….. BIG BALLS!!!! Temple Balls are a band that would have killed on the sunset strip back in the day. I hear a melting pot of Motley Crue, Skid Row and Scandi hard rock such as Dynazty and The Poodles. A bloody good combination it is too. There isn’t any downtime on ‘Infinity’. Not a ballad in sight. One heavy rocker after another, punctuated by those huge gang choruses that the Scandinavian bands are so good at. It is a relentless pace but it never gets boring. The quality is high throughout, but there are two tracks that really standout. Both ‘Distorted Emotions’ and ‘Pauline’ are fantastic anthems that demand repeat listens. So glad I rediscovered this brilliant album.
Roulette – ‘Now’
Eclipse – ‘Paradigm’
Liv Sin – ‘Burning Sermons’
Tygers of Pan Tang – ‘Ritual’
Lance King – ‘ReProgram’
Mike Machine – ‘Alive’
Ron Keel – ‘Fight Like A Band’
Deaf Rat – ‘Ban The Light’
Avantasia – ‘Ghost In The Moonlight’
Silver Bullet – ‘Mooncult’
Merging Fire – ‘Revolt Regime’
The New Roses – ‘Nothing But Wild’
I have always liked these guys and they have gotten better and better with each release but this is the album that I have been waiting for from them. They always have some great songs on their records but there have always been some I don’t care for so I never had a full album that I enjoyed. Until now. With ‘Nothing But Wild’ they have taken everything good that I liked about their previous albums, put it all into one and given us a record slap full of catchy melodies, great vocals and just some good old rock n’ roll the way it is supposed to be. Ending the album is the unplugged version of ‘Fight You Leaving Me’ which I actually like much better acoustic than I do full band as it appears on their previous album. Check these guys out if you haven’t heard them, excellent stuff!
Kobra And The Lotus – ‘Evolution’
Wow! Okay, while I have always enjoyed the music these guys put out, there has, once again, always been something with the records I didn’t care for. Well they have finally gotten all of their ducks in a row and delivered their finest record to date. Not a dud to be found in the lot and featuring some of the strongest songwriting the band has given yet along with stunning vocals make ‘Evolution’ the perfect follow-up to ‘Prevail ll’ and a must-have album for any lover of female fronted melodic metal. If you have heard their previous albums they have released than you know what to expect here, it is all just done better!
Gathering Of Kings – ‘First Mission’
Umm, holy shit! That was my first thought after hearing this album that was put together by Ron Dahlgren and written by guitarist and songwriter Victor Olsson of Saffire fame. Bringing along basically a who’s who of melodic metal artists, Victor managed to deliver one hell of a debut for Gathering Of Kings. With a new album already releasing this year we can only hope he manages to recapture the magic he made with this album. Stunning track after track made this one an instant shoe-in for my best of the year list.
Beast In Black – ‘From Hell With Love’
Album number two from these guys and once again just a superb slice of melodic metal. I have seen a lot of folks complaining about them being Eurovision trash. Being from the USA I am not too familiar with Eurovision and what is wrong with having that sound, or even what “that sound” actually is, but I am aware of some bands that have appeared on there and I am a fan of those bands, and I am definitely a fan of these guys, so I have no problem with them sounding like Eurovision material. They also feature one of the most impressive male vocalists to come around in many years. For my money there is really not another band out there that is putting out better, catchier melodic metal right now. If you enjoyed the first album than you will love this one as well.
Eclipse – ‘Paradigm’
No surprise with this one showing up here and likely on most melodic rock fans best of lists for the year. Eclipse have been releasing outstandingly strong album after album and ‘Paradigm’ is yet another massive record from these Swedes. My only issue with the band is that in 2012 they released the phenomenal ‘Bleed And Scream’ and have in essence since released the same album over and over for three more albums now. That being said, regardless of them using the exact same formula for every album and really offering nothing new musically for us, I always find myself loving their albums and they always find their way to my top albums of the year and as always, this one offers some songs that will take a spot in my all-time favorite Eclipse songs. I do hope that Erik Martensson and company will think about branching out and getting some outside writing in the future though to help change things up a bit for us sound wise though.
Clint Curtis – ‘Broken Light’
Canadian musician Clint Curtis is another of those multi-talented artists that seem to fall between the cracks like Johnny Lima or Dion Bayman. A multi-instrumentalist, superb guitarist and vocalist that, at times, brings to mind a younger Jon Bon Jovi, Clint released a new album in 2019 called ‘Broken Light’. Not his first album by any means but his first solo album that could really be called AOR. With songs such as the rocking ‘Devil’s Parade’ and the lighter, upbeat ‘Back To Yesterday’ and the more mellow, heartbreaking ballad ‘Say Goodbye’, ‘Broken Light’ is easily the best thing Clint has released thus far. Sadly this is one album that, even in such a small, niche genre as melodic rock, will be sadly unheard by many. Do yourself the favor of checking this guy out.
Jamie Rowe – ‘This Is Home’
With its Country influences, mostly mellow tracks and Christian themes in several songs, I am aware that this will not be a fit for everyone here. I am a huge fan of Jamie Rowe’s (Guardian, Adriangale) and could listen to this guy sing the phone book, but I will be the first to admit that I have not been too impressed with Jamie’s solo output in the past so my expectations were honestly not too high. However after hearing the record it quickly climbed the charts to make my personal top 10 of 2019, obviously. The most honest, introspective and “real” album Jamie has ever released. Take a bit of Bon Jovi’s ‘Lost Highway’, just a smidge of Rick Springfield’s ‘Rocket Science’, a small bit of Keith Urban and a good portion of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist Geoff Moore’s singer/songwriter style and you will have an idea of what to expect here.
The Ferrymen – ‘A New Evil’
With Mike Terrana behind the kit, Ronnie Romero behind the mic and Magnus Karlsson behind the guitar and songwriting then the natural assumption would be that there is not much that could go wrong with this project, and with this album nothing did. I am a huge fan of all of the members in this band but I will admit that the first Ferrymen album failed to connect much with me, however I think Magnus, with one Ferrymen album under his belt, has learned to write music that brings out the best in the members in the band and he has managed to take the heaviness of that first album and combine it with the melodic goodness of his Freefall project to deliver one of the absolute best albums of 2019 with ‘A New Evil’.
Michael Sweet – ‘Ten’
How many artists can boast of releasing 8 brand new studio albums since 2013? That is not including live albums, etc. Just new music. And not just that, but releasing what is some of the best music of his entire 36+ year career! Can this guy do any wrong? Seriously, what is going on with him recent years? He has always been a strong songwriter in my opinion, but something seems to have lit a fire under his ass and I for one am loving it. Between his solo work, Stryper and Sweet & Lynch the man has given us one astoundingly great album after another and ‘Ten’ takes a spot right alongside the best music Michael has ever delivered in my personal opinion. Heavy, melodic, catchy and a list of top-notch guest musicians and singers assured this one a spot in my top ten of the year right away.
Pretty Wild – ‘Interstate 13’
After the superb self-titled full length album I held little hope that the band would outdo that record, but then ‘Interstate 13’ released and dammit if Ivan wasn’t able to deliver the perfect follow-up to that smashing album. There is absolutely nothing that I dislike about ‘Interstate 13’. I love this style of music, melodic rock but with a heavy touch of sleaze, and these guys do it exactly right!
Metalite – ‘Biomechanicals’
The similarities between Metalite and Amaranthe are unmistakable. In fact aside from the lack of male vocals you may swear you are listening to an Amaranthe album when you listen to ‘Biomechanicals’. Every single thing about this record is better than the debut in my opinion. From the fantastic vocals of newcomer Erica Ohlsson (who replaced original vocalist Emma Bensing in 2019) to the musicianship and definitely the songwriting, everything just sounds better this time around. My sole complaint, as with Amaranthe, things begin to sound a little too samey after a while.
Soleil Moon – ‘Warrior’
I struggled with this one, a lot! I LOVE listening to Larry King sing. The man has an incredible voice and frankly he is just an absolute joy to listen to. Single song wise I don’t think they will ever top the beautiful and utterly heart wrenching ‘Goodnight Irene’, but as a whole album I think ‘Warrior’ is the strongest album they have released yet, and that is saying something because their last record, ‘On The Way To Everything‘, is one of my top 25 best albums of the last decade. Aside from the awful modern pop rock and groove of the song ‘You And I’, which I’m sorry Larry, I love you man, but I do not like, it is an excellent record and one that likely should hold the top place on my best of list simply because it has since become my most listened to album of 2019 by along shot. An absolutely superb record that should not be missed.
The Defiants – ‘Zokusho’
Well this one should have been a shoe-in for me. As a huge Danger Danger and Paul Laine fan I was expecting to be floored by this sophomore release and while it is fantastic, there are some things that I don’t care for about it. The bonus track ‘Forever’, while featuring a great vocal performance, is honestly just not that great in my opinion. The track ‘Drink Up’ really isn’t bad but it is a song with lyrics much better suited to a band in their early 20s, not their 40s and 50s. That aside, the guys once again gave us a record almost chock full of terrific songs. Paul sounds as great today as he did on his ‘Stick It In Your Ear’ album and songs such as ‘Hollywood In Headlights’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Fallin’ For You’ still make this a must own album for any melodic rock lover.
Lovekillers Featuring Tony Harnell – ‘Self-Titled’
This is exactly the style that I love to hear Tony sing, and the man still sounds incredible, particularly on the lovely ballad ‘Set Me Free’. This is one of the best albums that he has released in some time.
Crazy Lixx – ‘Forever Wild’
This band just keeps knocking them out of the park. One of the bands that are truly bringing back the sound of the 80s with their music and there are not many bands that do it any better. I have been a fan of these guys since day one and ‘Forever Wild’ is just a continuation of the great stuff they have been releasing and a terrific follow-up to ‘Ruff Justice’. Hell, the album is almost worth buying just for the chorus of ‘Weekend Lover’ alone. The only thing I dislike about this album is the almost blatant rip-off of Stage Dolls ‘Wings Of Steel’ with the song ‘Eagle’. If you like the band and their other albums than pick this one up because you won’t be disappointed.
Art Nation – ‘Transition’
Okay, so I have seen a lot of people complaining about this album being a change in direction musically for the band, and that it is. They took a heavier turn with the album instead of their straight forward melodic rock of the past. The main complaint I have heard is that Alexander Strandell’s voice is just not suited for the heavier material, and I do agree to an extent, but most of the songs included here are very strong, in my opinion. Not as good as 2017’s ‘Liberation’, but still a darn good listen in my opinion even with the vocal aspect.
DeVicious – ‘Reflections’
With two albums out in as many years and yet another due out this year, DeVicious have been on one hell of a run. I enjoyed their debut but with ‘Reflections’ they really took things to another level. Terrific album beginning to end with big hooks and big choruses as is heard on my personal favorite, ‘Understand’.