No doubt 2008 was a great year for hard rock I thought it would be very hard for ’09 to top it,but boy was I wrong. Not only did ’09 top’08 it completely blew it out of the water. Looking back over the last year it is hard to believe I reviewed close to 50 albums, and at least that many I didn’t have time to get reviews done for. Now you add those on top of what Rob Rockitt and Ryo Vie have done this year it should be no surprise it was so damn hard to put a Top 10 together. So much great music came out this year from both established and new acts it would’ve been impossible for me to make a Top 10 so I had to lay down some rules for myself. First of all I threw previous ratings out the window then I took a step back and looked at what albums I kept coming back to throughout the year, and although I was able to narrow it down quite a bit I still found it near freaking impossible to pick 10 albums. Just to give you an idea of how hard it was here are a few albums I absolutely loved that did not make my Top 10 “Whatever Gets You Off” – the Last Vegas, “the Hardest Town” – Rhino Bucket, “Red Light Fever” – Hot Leg, “Everyday Demons” – the Answer, “Revolve” – Danger Danger, “Mission To Rock” – Cockpit, and the self titled debuts from Chickenfoot and Charm City Devils. When push came to shove I still couldn’t pick a Top 10…so instead here are my Top 11 albums of ’09. Agree or Disagree, Love’em or Hate’em Enjoy…
11. Livin’ Out Loud – Johnny Lima
How can any fan of 80’s inspired hard rock not love this album is beyond me. This album delivers in every way great catchy, sing along songs perfect for dropping the top singing along too and playing some air guitar on the steering wheel. “All I Wanna Do”, “Wildflower”, “Caught In The Middle”, “I’m On Fire”, and the title track are all great good time songs that put a tap in your feet and a smile on your face. By far the best album from Johnny Lima so far.
10. Black Robot – Black Robot
I moved from Alaska to Texas this past summer, and in case you don’t know it is a hell of a long drive from Alaska to Texas. There are no telling how many hundreds of miles Black Robot kept me company and awake on that trip. I have to admit I was first drawn to Black Robot by the fact that it featured ex-members of Buckcherry, but once I heard the music I was hooked. Huck Johns & JB Brightman have put together one “Baddass”, raw, punch in the face band, from their AC/DC flavored cover of “Cocaine”, which I think is one of the best songs of the year, to the foot stomping rebel rousing “Baddass”, and even to the bluesy ballad “Stop The World” Black Robot kicks ass, one of the best road trip albums out today and it definitely makes me look forward to the band’s future albums.
9. Tunnel – Tunnel
Another great road trip album, Tunnel has already logged some miles with me on trips to New Mexico and although the debut from guitarist David Henzerling and vocalist Scott Hammons has only been out for a little over a month now I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since its release. “Blood On The Highway” whet my appetite for this album, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. “American Metal”, “Open Up For Me”, “In Your Groove”, ” Garden Of Your Earthly Delights” are all kick ass, groove filled, foot-stomping monsters. But my favorite song on the album without a doubt is the ballad “Into The Sun”, a song that can’t be described it just has to be heard for you to understand how amazing it is. The only knock I had against this album is the length, only 8 songs, but I’ve been told David and Scott are working on more new Tunnel music. With Tunnel, the just announced King Kobra reunion, and hopefully something new from Big Cock 2010 looks to be a busy year for Mr. Henzerling and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.
8. Second Coming – Eden’s Curse
Definitely a change of pace from what you’ve seen from me so far, but a great album nonetheless. Second Coming was released in the last part of ’08, but it took a few months for it to grab hold of me. Once it did though it was like a stranglehold that hasn’t let go yet. 13 tracks of epic melodic metal at damn near it’s best, of course there is the much ballyhooed duet with Pamela Moore “Angels & Demons”. But that is only the beginning for Second Coming, in my opinion songs like “Lost In Wonderland”, “Sail On”, & “West Winds Blow” are just as strong as the title track. There’s no doubt “Just Like Judas” is my favorite track on the album, Michael Eden and Thorsten Koehne sound fantastic, but the rhythm section of bassist Paul Logue and drummer Pete Newdeck are absolute monsters. “Signs of Your Life” and “Lost Soul” are two more stand-outs. Any fan of melodic metal should have this album in their collection.
7. Time Elevation – Grand Design
Swedish rockers Grand Design came from out of nowhere and just knocked me on my ass with their debut “Time Elevation”. One listen to “Sad Sound of Goodbye” is all it took to hook me, and when you add tracks “Hello, Mr. Heartache”, & “Love Sensation” that is just more icing on the cake. Besides the tracks mentioned above “Let’s Go Down Fighting”, “Air It Out”, “Love Will Know” and “Piece of the Action” are all stand-out tracks. Def Leppard 80’s inspired rock is what Pelle Saether and company have going on here and they are not ashamed to admit it, and when the music is this damn good why should they be? Buy Time Elevation you will not be disappointed in the least bit.
6. Need To Believe – Gotthard
To be honest I was late in the game in finding out about Gotthard, but once I did I was all over Amazon and E-Bay trying to get my hands on everything I could from these Swiss rockers. I was excited when Need To Believe was announced and counting down the days until it was released because it was their first release I was able to get hot off the presses. Steve Lee and friends did not disappoint at all with tracks like “I Don’t Mind”, the title track, “Unconditional Faith”, & “Right From Wrong”. “Need To Believe” is a great album, in fact their whole damn catalog is pretty amazing, in a very small amount of time they have become one of my favorite bands. Why this band is not better known here in the U.S. just boggles my mind. Don’t be an idiot like me and wait to get to know Gotthard. You’ll be missing out on some of the best quality hard rock around today.
5. Heaven’s Basement – Heaven’s Basement
I spent the better part of this year telling anyone who would listen how awesome Heaven’s Basement are. Although there are only six songs on their e.p. every one of them back up my claim and so do the other ten songs they have had posted on their website and myspace over the past year. This British band are no joke, and definitely not a flash in the pan. Give a listen to “Tear Your Heart Out”, “Can’t Let Go” or “Executioner’s Day” from the e.p. or go over to their myspace and give “10 Minutes”, “No Pity”, or “Mirrors” a go either the way the music will do the talking and show you Heaven’s Basement are the real deal. With their full length debut of all new material hopefully seeing the light of day in 2010, Heaven’s Basement is a name you will be hearing a lot of in the future.
4. Sonic Boom – Kiss
The hottest band in the land are back with what is easily their best album in years. There were a lot of times in the past where it sounded to me like Kiss were just going through the motions. Yes they were putting out pretty decent music, but it didn’t sound like they were having fun with that music. What I love about “Sonic Boom” is the fact that the band sounds like they were having a blast recording this album. Paul Stanley sounds great and I don’t think Gene Simmons has ever sounded better, and songs like “Never Enough”, “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)”, and “Stand” are proof of that, but in my opinion Tommy Thayer steals the show on Sonic Boom. His playing is brilliant without stepping all over Ace Frehley’s legacy and his track “When Lighting Strikes” is definitely one of the stand-out songs. I hope the band as a whole are able to hold on to that energy and excitement to deliver another album as great as Sonic Boom.
3. The Latest – Cheap Trick
Much like Kiss, Cheap Trick are another legendary band who returned in ’09 with what turned out to also be their best album in years. Yes it had only been 3 years since the band released Rockford, but it had been even longer since the band released an album that had people talking positively about Cheap Trick, “the Latest” finds Cheap Trick paying homage to the Beatles and is an absolutely fantastic album “When The Lights Go Out”, “Miss Tomorrow”, “California Girl”, “Everyday You Make Me Crazy”, & “Alive” show the band at their best while “Everybody Knows” and “Miracle” show a bit of the influence the Fab Four have had on Robin Zander and cohorts over the years. No matter what type of music you prefer you can’t go wrong with picking up this little piece of musical heaven.
2. Chutzpah! – The Wildhearts
The Wildhearts made my list last year with their covers album “Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before Vol. 1” so there should’ve been no doubt an album of new material would make my list, especially when it is the best album released by the band so far. “The Jackson Whites”, “Only One”, “You Are Proof Not All Women Are Insane”, “You Took The Sunshine From New York”, & “Mazel Tov Cocktail” are all fantastic songs, but “Chutzpah!” as a whole is simply a phenomenal album, every time I listen to it I find something new that I love about it. 10 tracks you can put on repeat and listen to over and over again without ever getting tired of . If you are a hardcore fan like myself you’ve probably already got on E-Bay and picked up the Japanese version of Chutzpah! with the 4 extra tracks I wish “All That Zen” and the band’s cover of the Jim Carroll classic “People Who Died” would’ve been included on the American release as both are exceptional songs. Ginger & the fellas may keep you guessing what a new album will sound like, but they have never recorded the same album twice and have never disappointed me. Now I just wish the Wildhearts would come play somewhere close to me so I could pick up a copy of Chutzpah Jnr.
1. Clash of the Elements – the Poodles
When I finished listening to Clash of the Elements the first time I was absolutely dumbfounded, I didn’t think it was possible in this day and age an album could be released that is as magnificent and perfect as the Poodles 3rd album. I love everything about this album, Jakob Samuel sounds amazing with his vocals, the band sounds fantastic bassist Pontus Egberg, drummer Christian Lundqvist, and especially guitarist Henrik Bergqvist, who joined the band right before the album was recorded. There are no just o.k. songs or just good songs on Clash of the Elements all 14 songs on this album are amazing songs. As hard as it was to fill out the rest of my top albums this year there was never a doubt what would be #1. In 2 years of writing at HRH this is the only album I have ever given a 10 guitar review too, “Clash of the Elements” was and still is the best album I’ve heard this year and to be perfectly honest will probably be the best album I hear in the years ahead too.
As I said before Agree or Disagree, Love’em or Hate’em there they are. I think we all can agree in the fact that 2009 was an amazing year in hard rock music and 2010 is looking just as good with the upcoming releases from Wig Wam, Last Autumn’s Dream, Keel and more. One band you should keep an eye on in 2010…Maylene & the Sons of Disaster, their album III will hit you like a runaway freight train and keep going.
Thanks to everyone that has supported Hard Rock Hideout over the past year and it is only going to get better. Don’t forget the debut of HRH Radio on Jan. 6th 9:00 p.m. CST.
For more great top lists for 2009, please check out the following websites:
All Metal Resource — http://allmetalresource.com/
Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/
Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/
Heavy Metal Addiction — http://heavymetaladdiction.com/
Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/
Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/
Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/
Metal Excess — http://metalexcess.com/
The Metal Minute — http://rayvanhornjr.blogspot.com/ (Ray posted his list on 12/4)
Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/
Rock Of Ages — http://rockofages.wordpress.com/
The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/