This week at Hard Rock Hideout, we have our Best of 2011 picks by HRH Staff Writers Ryo Vie, Stone and Rob Rockitt. Check out Ryo Vie’s Top 10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 2011 below!
Another year has passed us by, which means we’ve gone through another year of some great music releases. While I still think that 2010 was a stronger year overall, 2011 did have its share of fantastic releases and magnificent surprises. From an unexpected release by Vain to a mind blowing album from Megadeth, 2011 delivered some real gems. Here now are my picks for the ten best of 2011.
10. Hurtsmile – Hurtsmile
Early in the year, Gary Cherone and his brother Mark released the debut album from their newly formed band, Hurtsmile. The result was spectacular. Taking the funked up, jazz infused hard rock sound of Extreme, and blending it with snippets of modern era music made for an incredible experience. Hurtsmile is unto a class themselves. The disc combined elements of Extreme, Gary’s days in Van Halen, and his more recent solo albums, and combined all the ingredients into an identity that was unique and fun. Hard rocking and filled with gems, Hurtsmile is an album that Gary Cherone fans are bound to love.
9. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I’m almost positive that it was the last song, “Walk,” that hooked me on the new Foo Fighters record. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band. I’ve enjoyed their music over the years, and the heavier singles, but I would never call myself a “fan.” However, when the movie THOR came out this past spring, it featured the song “Walk” from Wasting Light. As a huge fan of the movie Thor this song resonated with me the first time I heard it. It was the perfect song for the ending sequence. Sometimes songs can leave lasting images in the brain when associated with something that produced great feelings. That song compelled me to check out their latest record. I must admit that I am very glad I did. Wasting Light is chock full of enjoyable gems, hard rockers, and even a ballad or two. The Foo Fighters may be a band that I have to pay more attention to in 2012.
8. Vain – Enough Rope
Once, they were close to being the next darlings of hair metal. Unfortunately, bad timing cost them their chance at superstardom. Now, many years later, Vain has returned with a disc full of spectacular new songs that shows why they could have conquered the metal world more than 20 years ago. Enough Rope is a magnificent album that fans of hard rocking hair metal are going to love. Being able to hear such great guitar licks and the amazing vocals of Davy Vain after all the time that has passed is a real treat. It’s sad that Vain was a victim of bad timing. If you love 80s metal, or any metal, you should definitely pick up a copy of Vain’s Enough Rope. It is one of the greatest records released this year.
7. Bullet – Highway Pirates
Swedish metal act, Bullet, released their sophomore effort, Highway Pirates, this year to the delight of many hard rock fans. Highway Pirates is hard rocking, head banging, guitar shredding, heavy metal mayhem at its finest. The one thing I’ve always liked most about Bullet is lead singer’s Dag Hofer’s voice. He has power and range and can really unleash a metal scream as he does often on Highway Pirates. Packed with exceptional guitar solos and all the metal madness you can handle, Highway Pirates was a phenomenal album and certainly one of 2011’s best.
6. Mr. Big – What If…
One of the best hard rock treats of 2011 was a fully reunited Mr. Big releasing an album of brand new material. The last time the four original members of Mr. Big recorded a new record was in 1996. It was quite a wait for fans to hear new music from this astonishing quartet. Thankfully, 2011 finally saw the wait come to an end, and Mr. Big delivered a rock solid record in What If… From the funk/slap/sensational bass antics of Billy Sheehan to the incredible vocals of Eric Martin, this disc really had it all. Why the album would have sold on nostalgia alone, it was the band’s commitment to deliver something worthy of the Mr. Big moniker that pushed it over the top. You’d be hard pressed to find another record that is so much fun to listen to.
5. Sebastian Bach – Kicking And Screaming
With a brilliant young axe wizard in the mix, Sebastian Bach released a solo album worthy of your hard earned dollars. Before hearing this record, I had no expectations of what it would be. I thought that it might be a decent record, but I didn’t have high hopes. The past couple of years Bach has not shown much, so I figured his new album would be watered down rock. Boy was I wrong! Wrong in a HUGE way! Kicking and Screaming is one of the most superb albums of 2011. Not only does young guitar wizard, Nick Sterling, light up the songs with his astounding fret work, but Bach’s voice has never sounded stronger. Kicking and Screaming is a collection of greatness that blew me away. This is truly Sebastian Bach at his best.
4. Whitesnake – Forevermore
Even after rocking the world for over 30 years, David Coverdale can still put together music with meaning that fans will care about. This year’s Forevermore was a treat for the ears that was highly unexpected. Sure, I figured that Whitesnake was going to release a solid album in Forevermore, I just didn’t realize how amazing it was going to be. From the moment I played the record for the first time this past March, I knew this was going to be included on my top 10 albums of the year. The beauty of Forevermore is how the songs hit the listener immediately and with such definition. It’s like the band never went away.
3. Megadeth – Th1rte3n
Megadeth unleashed an absolutely astounding album earlier this year in the form of Th1rte3n. A whirlwind of fun, heavy metal, thunderous tunes, Dave Mustaine and company have put together a truly grand record that shines as bright as albums from the bands early days. Th1rte3n is one of Megadeth’s strongest albums to date and serves as a reminder to all metal fans what great hard rock sounds like. The glory of the album is the return of the guitar solo. While other bands are forgetting what guitar solos are and how they make a song grow into something much stronger, Megadeth is taking solos to the next level. The blazing speed and intensity of the guitars is featured mightily on this record and it’s all for the better. Simply stated, Th1rte3n is metal done right.
2. Anthrax – Worship Music
Prior to the release of Worship Music, Anthrax claimed that this was the best album the band had ever recorded. While that was a bold statement, after listening to the album just once, I realized that they may be right. After multiple listens, I am sure of it. Worship Music is not only an incredible Anthrax record it is an incredible rock record. It’s been 20 years since the band recorded with Joey Belladonna and after hearing Worship Music all I could think was “what the hell took them so long?” It’s not that Anthrax released bad albums with their other singers, it’s just that they never released an album this great. From the intense, heart pounding, hard rocking “The Devil You Know” to the Maiden-esque “In The End,” Anthrax has served up a serious record. There are very few metal records that could even come close to being this grand. Not just for 2011, but for all time. If Anthrax continues to create music in this capacity, they will spend the next 20 years of their career celebrating with a lot of gold and platinum.
1. Pop Evil – War of Angels
Between magnificent power ballads, hard rocking openers, and good old fashioned fun rock and roll, Pop Evil’s War of Angels is a record that should be added to any hard rock fans collection. I have waxed poetic about this band for a while now, and their latest release only proves that I should continue to sing the band’s high praises. Yes, perhaps I have a man-crush on lead singer Leigh Kakaty, but that’s all right. Beyond my envy, the man is a talented singer and a hell of a front man. Packed with memorable ballads such as “Purple” and “”Open Your Eyes,” in addition to hard core rockers like “Last Man Standing,” War of Angels contains nothing but songs you will be singing for years to come. Give them a few more years, and Pop Evil will be the darlings of hard rock radio. They are a cut above most of the new breed of rockers that are out there. Nickleback, Theory, even Hinder, can’t hold a candle to what Pop Evil is doing. War of Angels is the best rock record I’ve heard this year… the others don’t even come close.
And there they are…my choices for the best in rock, 2011.
Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice
Sinner – One Bullet Left
If you believe the rumors, it’s a great time to be a Van Halen fan. With Chickenfoot’s new album, Chickenfoot III in stores on September 27th and the rumored David Lee Roth led Van Halen album completed, this fall could be very Van Halen heavy. Add in the Hurtsmile CD from Gary Cherone, who led the extremely underrated VH III, and there’s a whole lot of Van Halen-esque music available for ear consumption. (PS – if you haven’t heard Hurtsmile, you really should check it out).
There’s even a possibility that both Van Halen and Chickenfoot could be on tour at the same time. That idea got me thinking of what the ultimate Van Halen tour would be. While this is high fantasy at its most extreme, I ask you to indulge with me momentarily as we imagine what could be. How amazing would it be if the following actually happened? How much money would you pay to see this fantasy become a reality?
Van Halen on tour with Chickenfoot and Hurtsmile. Now, I know that it’s never going to happen. I know that there is way too much bad blood for this exceptional idea to grow into a completed tour. However, imagine if it did. This is how I would envision the scenario.
Hurtsmile would obviously open the evening. They could perform hits from their debut album and mix in a couple of Extreme classics. Chickenfoot would come out next (sorry Sammy fans, but this is Van Halen’s show all the way) and rip into their performance. Songs from both of their releases, perhaps a little Satriani solo, and maybe even a couple of solo Sammy songs for good measure. Then it would be time for the headliners of the evening – Van Halen. Performing nothing but classics and songs off their latest album, Van Halen would rule the stage. Then Eddie would provide a mind boggling, blistering solo that would wow the crowd like never before. And that would only be the beginning.
After all of that greatness, Eddie and Satriani would step out on stage together for the first “encore”. It would be dueling guitars as they went back and forth. Joe versus Ed. The crowd, if they hadn’t fainted by this point, would be roaring so loud that the roof might cave in.
Then it would be time for “encore” number two. Van Halen back on the stage with Michael Anthony on Bass and Gary Cherone on lead vocals. They could play a song off VH3 (which hasn’t been performed live in 13 years). Next out, would be Sammy to take over the mic. Cue up “Dreams” or some other such beloved Van Hagar song.
And then, the ending of all endings could occur. Diamond Dave would walk out on stage while Sammy, Michael, and Gary are still there. Enter Joe Satriani and Wolfgang, and lead us into the all-star jam to end all all-star jams! Eddie and Joe on lead guitar. Michael and Wolfgang on bass. Alex on drums. Sammy, Dave, and Gary trading versus on some superior classic rock song (probably a Led Zeppelin tune). How amazing would that be?
Now, I ask you honestly, how much would you pay to see that concert? I know that I would pay top dollar and then some. How about you?
Whether it’s with Extreme, Van Halen, or on his own, one thing about Gary Cherone remains constant – the man can sing! He also seems to always be involved in great musical projects. That’s why when word came out regarding Hurtsmile, Cherone’s latest outing with his brother Markus, expectations were high. Once again Gary Cherone delivered.
One thing is eminent, Hurtsmile is not a hair metal record, but then, Extreme was never really a hair metal band no matter how often they got lumped into the category. Hurtsmile is a class unto itself – a modern rock record that would do well with some radio airplay.
Hurtsmile is an amalgamation of Cherone’s entire career. Elements of Extreme, his days in Van Halen, and his more recent solo projects are all evident in this debut disc. While sometimes biting and fast, and sometimes acoustic and soft, Hurtsmile is certainly one thing – rocking. Led by Markus Cherone’s powerful and striking guitar, Hurtsmile is an enjoyable ride through the valley of hard rock. Markus Cherone’s ability with the guitar rivals that of the other legendary guitarist Gary Cherone has worked with, Nuno Bettencourt. The first solo on lead song Just War Theory shows off Markus’ talent and the realization of his ability just grows from there.
Not to get lost in the advertising of the Cherone brothers are the rhythm section of Joe Pessia on Bass Guitar and Dana Spellman on drums. Their timing is impeccable and Spellman’s ability to keep the beat is something every musician should aspire to. These two are the perfect compliment to the Cherone brothers. The four musicians make some quality music together.
All is not perfect on Hurstsmile however. While most of the album is a solid rockfest, it does come with moments of limitations. A couple of songs (most notably Kaffur and Set Me Free) appear to be more filler than killer and only serve to hurt the album’s overall greatness. However, songs like Jesus Would You Meet Me and Slave more than make up for the shortcomings of those weaker songs. They are just a barely noticeably dip on the road of an otherwise fantastic musical journey.
Hard rocking and filled with gems, Hurtsmile is an album that fans of Gary Cherone are going to enjoy. The guitar work is simply outstanding and Gary Cherone’s voice is still strong and significant. The acoustic jam on Jesus Would You Meet Me alone is worth the price of the record. Hurtsmile delivers more than just one great song though. It comes with several to choose from. If you’ve been craving a hard rock record that will provide multiple listens, then pick up a copy of Hurtsmile. There will be plenty of return on your investment.
- Just War Theory
- Love Thy Neighbor
- Kaffur (Infidel)
- Painter Paint
- Tolerance Song
- Set Me Free
- Jesus Would You Meet Me
- Beyond The Garden – Kicking Against The Goads
- Just War Reprise
- The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)
Gary Cherone – Vocals
Markus Cherone – Guitars
Joe Pessia – Bass
Dana Spellman – Drums
The latest from Gary Cherone (Extreme, Van Halen) who has teamed up with his brother Markto write his most succinct record to date. The self-titled, HURTSMILE is a raw sonic suckerpunch in the face! From the opening buzz saw riff of “Just War Theory” to the epic finale of”Slave” and “Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against the Goads”, Gary continues to push andpoke you in the ear with his lyrically provocative themes.“Hurtsmile was a long time coming… I always wanted to write a record with my brother,” saysGary. “I’m a big fan of Mark’s song writing and his snarling guitar riffs.” The timing was right as Extreme was in-between their touring and record cycle, leaving Gary the freedom. Theyrecruited Joe Pessia (bass) an alumnus of Nuno Bettencourt’s Dramagods as well as the guitarplayer for Tantric. Joe also engineered, and co-produced the record with Gary.
To round off thelineup they enlisted heavy hitter Dana Spellman on drums “It’s an east coast-Boston thing,”states Gary. “Mark, my brother, was in a band with Nuno’s brother… Joe was in Nuno’s bandand Dana was a friend, and student of Mike Mangini (former Extreme drummer) … we like tokeep it in the family.”The lineup is not the only thing familiar with the band. In true Cherone fashion, the record ischock full of swaggering guitar, soaring vocals and the trademark Cherone eclecticism ontracks such as “Jesus Would You Meet Me”, the reggae-tinged “Just War Reprise” and theDylanesq “The Murder of Daniel Faulkner (4699)”. “Hurtsmile was about returning to myroots, writing a record in my basement, a straight up rock ‘n’ roll record… but it turned out tobe more diverse and ambitious than I expected.”Gary is no stranger to taking on intense topics, and Hurtsmile is no exception.
The first half of the record is a group of more loosely knit songs such as the cynically inquisitive “Just WarTheory”, the limit’s of free speech “Tolerance Song (edit)” and the disturbingly mesmerizing“Kaffur (Infidel)”, inspired by the beheading of Daniel Pearl.The 2nd half of the record is more conceptually cohesive; an introspective look at the nature ofman and the condition of the human heart. “Stillborn” introduced earlier, and “Set Me Free”both touch on mans inclination toward darkness, culminating with an epic journey from sin tosalvation… “Slave” to “Beyond the Garden/Kicking Against the Goads”.For the most part both themes are represented as 2 sides of a record. A concept familiar toExtreme fans but make no mistake, whether reading between the lines or just moved by thevisceral power of the music, this is a completely different type of record. Gary adds, “All theboys in the band have brought something new to the table, and you’ll never know what hit you!”
Just War Theory,Stillborn, Love Thy Neighbo, Kaffur (Infidel), Painter Paint, Tolerance Song, Set Me Free, Jesus Would You Meet Me, Slave, Beyond The Garden – Kicking Against The Goads, Just War Reprise, The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)
Gary Cherone – Vocals
Markus Cherone – Guitars
Joe Pessia – Bass, Mandolin
Dana Spellman – Drums, Percussion
Produced by Gary Cherone, Joe Pessia
Gary Cherone, singer and songwriter. The front man for the world renowned and musically diversified Extreme. Be it Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal or a chart topping Pop Ballad, Gary Cherone never fails to capture the emotion and heart of a song. Extreme, with their 2008 reunion, has given a bounty of relief to loyal fans, after a thirteen year hiatus. With three quarters of the original Extreme lineup intact, Gary Cherone, guitarist & songwriter Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger have proven that they still have plenty of Hard Rock left in their musical tanks, alongside newest band mate and drummer Kevin Figueiredo.
With 2008’s critically acclaimed Saudades de Rock followed by a triumphant touring schedule, this second chapter of Extreme is just beginning. Extreme’s reunion has even led to the release of Take Us Alive, a live CD/DVD recorded in August of 2009, in their hometown of Boston Mass, at the House Of Blues, with a release date of May 4, 2010.
Hard Rock Hideout had the privilege recently to catch up to Gary Cherone, while his busy schedule allowed. Gary talks about the reuniting of Extreme, “Take Us Alive”, his musical influences, the now classic “More Than Words” ballad, a dream duet and his true feelings of being the lead singer for Van Halen too. As polite and candid as he is down to earth, Gary Cherone has proven to this writer, that he and Extreme certainly are an American Rock ‘N’ Roll success story. Here is what Gary had to say:
HRH: Gary, what is the Extreme Rock ‘N’ Roll story behind “Take Us Alive”?
Gary Cherone: It’s our first live CD/DVD, the story behind it is surprisingly, after a thirteen year break, we have never played or felt stronger. “Take Us Alive” documents the 2009 tour and covers the full spectrum of the Extreme catalog of albums.
HRH: Seeing the fans sing the lyrics to “More Than Words” on “Take Us Alive” gave me those good and cool chills, did it have an effect on you while on stage?
Gary Cherone: Absolutely! This song has been a blessing and a curse over the years for Extreme. The band resented this song for a while because it was the one and sometimes only song people knew from us. We learned to embrace it though, now it’s a special song to us. After thirteen years, coming back to see the fans sing along to it live, every night, makes for one of the highlights of the night.
HRH: Were there any vintage, live Rock albums over the years, that influenced you to one day make a live Extreme album?
Gary Cherone: You are absolutely the first writer to ask this question and I’ve been waiting for this! KISS “I” and “II”, Cheap Trick “at Budokan”, The Who “Live At Leeds”, and The J. Geils Band had three terrific live albums. There are too many of them really, to mention. Just recently, I was sending emails to the guys saying, “hey, we finally have our KISS Alive out! It’s exciting after all these years to to have our live album. We recorded the show in Boston, at the House of Blues, it’s our hometown and it meant a lot to us to have it filmed there.
HRH: Gary, “Last Hour” from “Saudades de Rock” I point to as a career highlight for you vocally. Did you reach for any personal emotion to record this song?
Gary Cherone: Thank you very much. “Last Hour” is one of my favorites on this record. I always start on a personal level then lyrically go in different directions. I try to translate emotion onto tape. Steve Perry, (Journey), he came a few times during the making of “Saudades de Rock”. This was the only song Steve Perry hung out with us on in the control room.
HRH: Wow, Steve Perry! You must have been a bit nervous there?
Gary Cherone: I felt pressure with a legend sitting in there! I think seeing Steve Perry made me reach in for that little extra!
HRH: Have you known Steve Perry for some time?
Gary Cherone: Steve Perry is a friend of the band, has been for some years.
HRH: “Saudades de Rock”, do you look upon this album as a comeback or continuation of Extreme?
Gary Cherone: Both I guess. We treat it as a continuation. The public looks at it as a reunion record after thirteen years. “Saudades de Rock” is not a one-off album, this was the first of hopefully many more Extreme albums to come.
HRH: Gary, who is the singer that you would want to make the dream duet with?
Gary Cherone: I always wanted to do something with Ann Wilson, (Heart), she’s it! I’m always mentioning Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury and Roger Daltrey in conversations, about being the best voices in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, yet Ann Wilson, she is an amazing singer. There’s still time to do a duet with her, I just have to write the right song.
HRH: There’s plenty of time left Gary!
HRH: Are there any younger musicians or bands out there in 2010, that have made an impression on you?
Gary Cherone: Late at night, I’ll watch VH1 to catch new music. Muse comes to mind. The music I listen to is rather mellow compared to the Hard Music world I live in! I like Stone Temple Pilots, they have a new record coming out. I really like their new single “Between The Lines”. Norah Jones, I like to listen to her music.
HRH: Any Rock legends your listening to?
Gary Cherone: Bob Dylan, there is enough in his catalog to listen to and enjoy for the next twenty years! As a singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan is just great, there is no one else like him.
HRH: If a major motion picture was made on the career of Extreme, would the word “united” be in the title?
Gary Cherone: It would certainly be in the title. Extreme is a close bond of brothers, past members included. We grew up together, went around the block long enough to know what friendship is about. “United” would definitely be the theme of the movie.
HRH: Extreme has personified Rock Music diversity through song, time and again. How important is it to not be stereotyped into one specific genre?
Gary Cherone: I think that is probably a distinction we wear with pride. When you look at AC/DC, I would not want them any other way, you know what you are getting. Then, I look at the Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all three had no barriers, they really wrote honest music with expression. They did not try to ever fit in. When I sit down with Nuno, we really don’t know what is going to come out when we create music. We sit down together and write, Nuno plays the guitar and what comes flowing out of us during those moments is what becomes the record.
HRH: What changes in the music industry, within the last twenty years, annoy you the most?
Gary Cherone: Extreme has been fortunate and blessed from the past. After 13 years of being away, we know there will be touring and small venues, we don’t care how big the place is we play at. The digital revolution, where music can be downloaded for free, it doesn’t bother me so much. If people get turned on by Extreme through You Tube, then the interest to come see us live or buy our music can result and that is a good thing. There are pro’s and con’s to technology, it’s like comparing LP’s to CD’s, nothing changes.
HRH: Nothing beats those days of buying real vinyl.
Gary Cherone: If you show a kid an LP today, they would look at it as if it’s from another planet. There was nothing like going to the record store back when I grew up, getting the album home and putting the needle to the wax! Our parents used to look at us like we were crazy or something! That’s our generation though.
HRH: Today, the kids are raised on MP3’s.
Gary Chreone: I’m sure if we were kids now, that’s how we would get turned on to music. The sad thing is, kids get turned on song by song today. We grew up on concept records like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Would kids have the attention span to listen to a whole piece of music like that now? A pro in technology is Guitar Hero, it’s giving kids an outlet to discover so many great bands and songs.
HRH: If you had a magic wand and could change just one thing that is wrong in the world today, what would you change?
Gary Cherone: (In a disguised voice, sounding like a Miss Universe contestant): All I want is world peace. (laughs)
Gary Cherone: I don’t want to sound like a Miss Universe contestant and say all I want is world peace! I’d like to see less pain in the heart, which is manifested physically by people abusing other people or emotionally abusing each other. This is such a big question and difficult to answer or resolve. It’s not that hard to start now, on a local level, by being kind to your neighbor. Our song, “Peace” on “Saudades de Rock” has two verses, the first verse lyrically is very local and internal, while the second verse covers the bigger issues of the world.
HRH: Any Tour plans for Extreme in 2010?
Gary Cherone: Nuno is out on tour with Rihanna right now. It’s a long shot, that maybe Extreme schedules tour dates at the end of the year. I’m working on another Rock project this Summer called Hurt Smile.
HRH: Hurt Smile? Is this a Rock or Hard Rock band? How heavy?
Gary Cherone: Hurt Smile is more rawer than Extreme and Hard Rock. My brother, Mark Cherone, plays guitar.
HRH: Very cool, I wish you guys the very best! I look forward to hearing Hurt Smile in the future.
Gary Cherone: Thanks!
HRH: Gary, what is your most positive experience you look back upon, being the lead singer for Van Halen?
Gary Cherone: For three years I was in the band and it was a fantastic experience I’ll never forget. Being on tour was the best part and all the crazy moments on stage! Just Playing with the mighty Van Halen! Getting to know Van Halen as human beings and recording the record, (“Van Halen III”), with Van Halen was such a great experience. Eddie was such a generous person, they all were generous. It all feels so surreal now, being ten years removed from Van Halen, I’m like, I was really in that band! I was very fortunate to be a part of Van Halen for a moment in time.