2020 was probably the strangest year yet. With the Covid virus running rampant, many new releases were either postponed until late in the year or we never saw the release at all. There were a flurry of albums at the beginning of the year, then basically nothing for a few months until we got to the Fall and now there are too many to get through. But there were some great releases and I am sure I missed a number of great albums and if you look around the web, there will be tons of Top Album lists you can get a pretty good idea of what you should check out in case you missed any of these.
This list will be my favorite “Rock” albums of the year. All other types of music will be for another post tomorrow. I am going to leave this one to my favorite genre. It is a broad genre, but these are the albums that I consider to be ROCK!!
Also note, these are MY FAVORITES!! These are not the most popular or trendy albums. You won’t find the cool trendy bands, because they are usually here today gone tomorrow. These are the albums that I connected with during the year and I kept coming back to again and again. And without further adieu, here are the Top Rock Albums of 2020:
#10 – Storm Force – Age of Fear:
Thanks to some fellow bloggers in the name of LeBrain and SuperDekes, I was introduced to this Canadian band that unapologetically brought us a classic 80’s rock album full of songs that rocked you out and songs that were actually relevant to the events going on in the world which is amazing considering this song came out prior to the Covid shutdowns. I believe these guys can see the future and with music like this, I can see their future being very bright. You need to hear the songs “Breathe”, “Because of You” and “Dirty Vegas because once you do, you will be caught in the Storm!!
The album is a blast from the past and brings back the fun in rock that is surely missing nowadays. I needed that lift this year with something that reminded me of old times, but still grounded enough that it sounded fresh to me. Passion is a total blast. They are a little of a parody of the genre and that is okay because I know they are for real. The songs “Trespass in Love”, “She Bites Hard”, “Lost in the Dark” and “Too Bad For Baby” all sound like Danger Danger, Dokken and Damn Yankess all rolled in to one. What more could you want.
#8 – Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons – We’re the Bastards:
The former Motorhead guitarists has a band with all his sons except for Neil Starr on vocals. The album is what you would expect from a former Motorhead alum. It is a great blues rock album full of blues guitar sound to it and Neil sounds fantastic vocally. It has grit, it has balls and it is as dirty as they come and it is stunning. If I would’ve had more time with it, it would probably be much higher in the Top 10 as well. Check out “Born to Roam”, “Desert Song”, “We’re the Bastards” and “Waves”.
#7 – Corey Taylor – CMFT:
I am not a fan of Slipnot, Stone Sour are okay, but Corey Taylor is amazing. This was the surprise of the year for me that I would like one of his albums, but dang it…I DID!! It is not just a straight up rock album as there are elements of hip hop, blues, punk, country and there are so many shining moments that there are too many to count. The songs to hit up first are “Hwy 666”, “Black Eyes Blue”, “Culture Head” and “CMFT Must be Stopped (Feat. Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie)”. What a blast of a record.
#6 – Smith & Myers – Volume 1 & 2:
Brent Smith and Zach Myers from Shinedown have a little side acoustic project and they finally released not one, but 2 albums. I picked up the 2LP set on vinyl and it is sublime. Yes, it is all acoustic and consists of 10 new tracks and 10 covers and all are amazing. The new tracks that are outstanding are “Not Mad Enough”, “Panic”, “New School Shiver” and “Bad at Love” and covers, will Billie Eillish’s “Bad Guy”, Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” and INXS “Never Tear Us Apart” are some shining moments but the covers are cool, different choices.
The album is dark, heavy and yet full of melodies, hooks and some killer guitar work. The album is so accessible and harkens back for me to ‘The Ultimate Sin’ in catchiness and how radio friendly it is. The guests on this album are immense with Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Slash, Tom Morello, Elton John, Charlie Puth, Post Malone, Travis Scott, Andrew Watt and even daughter Kelly Osbourne on backing vocals. A mix of old and new with the musicians and it comes across in the music. Check out “Under the Graveyard”, “Straight to Hell” and “Eat Me” just to name a few.
The first album that I have gravitated towards in the year and it stuck with me all year long. The production of the album is slick and the mix is top notch as everything sounds nearly perfect. I’m really drawn to the melodic sound on most of the choruses. The hooks have grabbed hold of me. I’m not a rap guy personally, but what these guys deliver is something that holds my attention and mixes well with the heaviness of the music enough to make this rock guy to sit up and pay attention. Check out “Time Bomb”, “Already Dead” and “Empire”.
In what might be the best AC/DC album since ‘Razor’s Edge’, no, it is the best since!! AC/DC gave us an album the world needs right now. It is obvious I wasn’t alone in that thinking as the album went straight to #1 in the U.S. and many other countries. Musically, what do you get? You get 12 songs and 42 minutes of blistering AC/DC. I mean, come one, it is AC/DC, you know what is going to sound like and there is no surprise it will be a riff-ridden, guitar blasting, explosive album and that is exactly what you get. Listen to “Through the Mists of Time”, “Shot in the Dark”, “Demon Fire” and “Realize” to whet your whistle.
Gavin Rossdale has given us an album that could be a pinnacle in the career of Bush. It is one of the band’s heaviest sounding albums, the production is polished and lays out Rossdale’s vocals front and center, it is melodic, accessible, inviting and everything you want in a rock album. It is as close to perfection as you can get. The songs you need to hear are “Bullet Holes”, “Flowers in the Grave”, “Undone” and “Slave” just to name a handful. You can’t go wrong with this one at all.
Swedish hard rock band H.E.A.T. are now on their sixth studio album simply titled ‘II’. The band unapologetically deliver a melodic rock album that is a throwback to the 80’s hard rock scene while moving straight into the new decade of 2020. From start to finish, the band has returned to their roots and this time around did everything on their own. They sound rejuvenated and refreshed and attack this album with a ferocity we haven’t seen in some time. This album has quickly became the new gold standard for today’s Melodic Rock scene. Listen to “Dangerous Ground”, “Come Clean”, “We Are Gods” and “Rise”. The bad news is Erik Gronwall, the lead singer, is no longer in the band. Original lead singer, Kenny Leckremo is back in …not sure yet if that is a good thing or a band thing, but I did love Erik’s vocals!!
These honorable mentions could have easily been in my Top 10 depending on the day and my mood. As you know, any list is so subjective to your mood. What am I digging at that time or who knows what. So being honorable mention doesn’t take anything away from these albums. They are all worthy. So here we go…in no particular order.
Revolution Saints – Rise: Jack Blades, Deen Castronovo and Doug Aldrich playing songs written by Alessandro Del Vecchio is pretty much all you need to know. This is the bands third album and they keep getting better and better. Take a listen to “When the Heartache Has Gone”, “Price We Pay” and “Closer” and you will understand what I am saying. And can I say Deen sounds so much like old Steve Perry it is scary.
One Desire – Midnight Empire: I don’t know where Frontiers Records keep finding these bands, but damn these guys are great. I really love the vocals of Andre Linman as his range is sick. This is the bands second album and they have outdone themselves yet again. If you like bands like W.E.T. and Eclipse, then what are you waiting for. Check out “After Your Gone”, “Shadowman” “Heroes” and “Killer Queen” (no not a cover).
The Struts – Strange Days: The Struts third album brings a little more of the same retro glam rock sound and maybe even taken up a notch. The fact that the guests include Robbie Williams, Joe Elliott and Phil Collens from Def Leppard and Tom Morello was all I needed to hear. The songs “Strange Days”, “I Hate How Much I Want You” and “Wild Child” are worth the price alone, but not to be outdone you get “Another Hit of Showmanship” and a Kiss cover with “Do You Love Me”.
Harem Scarem – Change the World: Their 15th studio album…wow. That is a lot of albums. If you don’t know this Canadian band, where have you been. You have a lot of catching up to do. What I like about them, is they deliver what you expect. Great melodic rock. With Pete Lesperance on guitar and Harry Hess on vocals that is all you really need to know. Check out the songs “The Death of Me”, “Change the World” and “Aftershock” and that should hook you in.
Dynazty – The Dark Delight: This Swedish Power Metal band is back with their 7th album and I couldn’t be happier. It is funny that Power Metal isn’t something I gravitate towards but Nils Molin’s powerfully sweeping vocals just bring me right in to the songs. The band can play and the songs are amazing and I don’t know if I have any complaints with it…heck with hardly any of their albums honestly. Great stuff.
Vandenberg – 2020: Adrian Vandenberg is back!!! The band’s first album in 35 years, yes, you read that right. This time he has the great Ronnie Romero on vocals, Rudy Sarzo on bass and Brian Tichy on drums…DAMN!!! What a freakingly awesome line-up. It is 80’s hard rock brought into the 21st Century. I love the songs “Shadows of the Night”, “Freight Train” and “Skyfall”, but the cover of the original Vandenberg classic “Burning Heart” with Ronnie on vocals is A…Maz…ing!!
BPMD – American Made: I am not a fan of cover albums. I keep telling myself that but I have 2 on the honorable mentions list and the first up is BPMD who consists of Overkill vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, Vio-lence and former Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel, and two members of Metal Allegiance–bassist Mark Menghi and drummer Mike Portnoy. With the exception of them doing “We’re An American Band” which has been done too much, you get “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, “Toys in the Attic”, “Evil” and “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” that make up for that one song. It is straight up dirty, nasty rock & roll…awesome!
Ace Frehley – Origins, Vol 2: The second covers album is the long awaited follow up to Origins, Vol 1. This time we have Bruce Kulick guesting as well as Lita Ford and Robin Zander. Is it his best album, no…but it is Ace and he will always be tops in my book. I do like the covers of “Space Truckin'” done Ace’s way, The Beatles’ “I’m Down”, the Kiss cover of “She” and “30 Days in the Hole” as they are some of my favorites.
Stryper – Even the Devil Believes: Michael Sweet keeps pumping out so many albums a year and you would think the quality would start lacking, but it doesn’t. Not even close. It gets better and better with each one. And that voice, Holy Sh##…I probably shouldn’t say that for a Christian band, but its true. This one just missed my Top 10 as I love the throwback sound on a lot of songs to very early Stryper. This thing is hard, heavy and loud and that is perfectly fine with me. Check out the songs “Make Love Great Again”, “Blood from Above”, “Do Unto Others” and I like “Middle Finger Messiah”.
Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland): As you know, I am a huge JSS fan and this album has only recently come out so I haven’t been able to digest it as much as the others. As a result, I think it is valiant effort and better than his last solo album and might’ve ended up on the Top 10 if I had lived with it for a a while longer. His vocals sound better than ever and all his outside influences from his other bands can be heard here and what a joy that is. Check out the songs “Love’s Blind”, “Without You”, “Mystified” and “Lesson of Love” and then you will want to devour the rest.
Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Perdida’: Overall, it is a decent effort at trying to do something very different for the band, but they do sound “lost”. The album has some shining moments, but overall it is too underwhelming. It might be great for having some background music that won’t distract from what you are actually doing, but that is about it. I hope that it will grow on me over time as I did end up liking the 2018 album “Stone Temple Pilots” which was Jeff Gutt’s debut with the band.
WORST ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Bon Jovi – ‘2020’: The Jon Bon Jovi solo show keeps on rolling despite the fact it is out of gas and the tires are flat. An album that had a couple cool moments, but overall it was an inflated ego trying to be political and relevant when the ability to tell a good story had left so long ago. The same old formula keeps getting rehashed to death and doesn’t work anymore. In a world that has moved on, maybe it is time for the band to do the same. I know I am being harsh, but the band has lost the plot. Are there good songs on here, probably, but I have yet to find them.
There you have it. My rock & roll adventure for the year. Amazingly, this is only a smidge of what I listened to during the year. These were just the ones that I enjoyed the most. I hope you enjoyed the list and maybe found something new to give a listen. Let me know what your favorites were this year or let me know how wrong or correct I was, either way, glad you stopped by. Can’t wait until next year.