ALBUM OF THE YEAR - 2019 MelRock Awards

Tue
04
Feb
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MELODICROCK.COM MELROCK AWARDS
 
BEST ALBUM OF 2019
 
THE TOP 30
 
1. ECLIPSE – Paradigm
 
Another near-perfect slice of ass kicking hard rock. Sweden’s most consistent masters of hard rock drenched in melody, delivered an album that stayed true to the band’s sound, while bringing in a few new tricks. Bottom line - instantly catchy, powerful, memorable and melodic as hell. My most played album of 2019 and the best.
 
2. THE DEFIANTS – Zokusho
 
The dreaded second album curse was avoided simply by delivering another perfect mix of modern meets classic melodic hard rock. Steve West on drums added a new dynamic and made it even more ‘dangerdangerous’. Killer songs and killer performances. If anything…I felt a few songs were a minute longer than they needed to be, but very minor point.
 
3. DEGREED – Lost Generation
 
I love every record these guys are done as they increasingly modernise and deliver wonderfully written songs that really could (should) be all over commercial radio. This album is so utterly infectious and the production is world class. More melodic brilliance from Sweden. I thought the intro and mid-album interlude hindered the pacing, but very minor point there.
 
4. CRAZY LIXX – Forever Wild
 
The guys have dabbled with styles in the past, but for album six they went full 80s, with blazing guitars, anthemic songs and killer choruses. A monster production made this album one of their very best – maybe their best ever. Whatever they did here, they nailed it and need to keep this going!
 
5. WORK OF ART – Exhibits
 
For the band’s final album, they simply did what they’ve always done – they delivered a piece of ultra-smooth, ultra-cool, ultra-AOR heaven. These Swedish wizards use the template of past masters of the genre, yet manage to sound fresh and original. Not their best album, but still essential.
 
6. CRASHDIET – Rust
 
It's like, everything good is from Sweden, and sleaze-rockers Crashdiet don’t buck that trend. They too have varied up their sound over several records and several singers, but each and every time they have delivered something memorable. They do it again right here – nice to hear something fresh and original alongside more familiar sounds.
 
7. UNRULY CHILD – Big Blue World
 
A little bit of extra grunt and some excellent songs. Possibly the smoothest melodic rock band this side of anywhere, Unruly Child create a unique style of commercial American AOR. I hope they keep making records for many years to come. Marcie Free remains a revelation on vocals.
 
8. VIANNA – Forever Free
 
The surprise package of the year for me. Just a really great dose of high energy melodic rock/AOR with big choruses, melodic verses and some fine performances all-round. New-comer AOR vocalist Bryan Cole and vocal legend Terry Brock supply lead and backing vocals, making this an even sweeter sounding record. 
 
9. STARBREAKER – Dysphoria
 
The dynamic Tony Harnell finally teamed up again with the talented guitarist/producer Magnus Karlsson for a new chapter in the Starbreaker name. And we got exactly what we wanted – powerful modern hard rock with breathtaking vocals and rifftastic guitars, both driven by a monster production.
 
10. ALLIANCE – Fire And Grace
 
Production quality was down on the last near perfect album, but plenty to like here with the outfit's usual style and grace. Robert Berry’s perfect AOR vocals drive the album as always.
 
11. LEVERAGE – Determinus
 
A big vocalist change and a long time between drinks for these guys - that placed a big question mark against Leverage before this release. Urban Tale’s Kimmo Blom uses the rough side of his powerful voice (didn’t know he had one!) and as in previous efforts, the songs are excellent – a slightly progressive melodic hard rock/metal style. Great stuff in the end.
 
12. TESLA – Shock
 
I’m surprised more fans didn’t go for this. There seemed to be a decent number of complaints online after its release, but this Def Tesla record stands on its own as a quality piece of music. Sure it was a little light and Phil Collen obviously over-influenced production and writing, but it’s a cool record. Cooler than the last few Leppard albums!
 
13. GATHERING OF KINGS – First Mission
 
A lack of distribution and the availability of physical copies didn’t dampen the hype around this super prog-pomp melodic rock record. Some terrific performances and lots of great vocals. Another big Scandi winner.
 
14. FIRST SIGNAL – Line Of Fire
 
It's Harry Hess. It's essential. Daniel Flores takes over some instrumentation and production, so it has that 'wall of keyboards' sound that he brings to most records, but a good selection of songs from the Frontiers regulars, and Harry getting to do something out of the Harem sound always makes for a good listen.
 
15. X-ROMANCE – Voices From The Past
 
House Of Shakira’s Andreas Novak featured on vocals – some catchy and traditional Scandi melodic rock that does the job nicely.
 
16. PRETTY MAIDS – Undress Your Madness
 
Battling cancer, Ronnie still manages to deliver more energy and attitude than most and while this could simply be described as ‘another Pretty Maids album’, it’s the quality throughout and the consistency of the band that makes it an album to admire.
 
17. NITRATE – Wide Open
 
More classic 80s melodic rock with a modern production. Midnite City in vibe and sound thanks to Rob Wylde's co-writing with founder Nick Hogg, plus Osukaru’s Philip Lindstrand jumps in for vocals this time around.
 
18. ROULETTE – Now
 
It's Scandi, it’s powerful, it's melodic and it's wonderful! Another band to add to the list of new-era modern melodic rock bands to devour for their classic melodic rock style.
 
19. SOLEIL MOON – Warrior
 
Soft and smooth, a little AOR and a little Westcoast; a quality record largely thanks to the vocals of Larry King.
 
20. WAKE THE NATION – Heartrock
 
It's Scandi, it's powerful, it's….you know the drill. This time the band are Finnish, and their second album moves them up in the power rankings for bands to watch out for.
 
21. FIND ME – Angels In Blue
 
Still quality, but perhaps the weakest album of the project’s 3 releases, but still good enough to make the Top 30. Overdone on the keyboards again, but Robbie LaBlanc sounds amazing.
 
22. CARL DIXON - Unbroken
 
He most certainly is unbroken. Another high-quality release from the Coney Hatch founder. It may be a solo record, but it has the 80s Hatch feel, with a modern touch.
 
23. TOBY HITCHCOCK - Reckoning
 
Well short of the debut, with Daniel Flores in charge of production this time around. The album is buried in too many keyboards (a Flores trademark), but the songs are mostly memorable and Toby’s voice shines as one of America’s best ‘new-era’ AOR vocalists.
 
24. SOTO - Origami
 
Jeff Scott Soto’s own band for delivering modern hard rock/melodic metal delivers album number 3, which continues the growth of the band and their sound. The best of the 3 without doubt.
 
25. LOVEKILLERS – Lovekillers
 
Tony Harnell strikes again! Two albums in the Top 30 for 2019 is quite the accomplishment. This is another of those ‘project’ releases, with Alessandro Del Vecchio the man alongside Tony, working somewhat collaboratively. The style is something many fans have wanted to hear from Tony for a while now and some (but not all) of this album works to satisfy that demand. It's very good – but not quite great. More song consistency and a move away from a standard 'Frontiers project sound' would help album number 2.
 
26. RESTLESS SPIRITS – Restless Spirits
 
Lords Of Black​ guitarist Tony Hernando assembled an album’s worth of melodic songs and some of the genre’s leading vocalists including Johnny Gioeli, Deen Castronovo, Dino Jelusic​ (Animal Drive​), Alessandro Del Vecchio. A few outstanding songs but its also a little inconsistent.
 
27. TONY MILLS – Against The law
 
Talk about saving your best for last. Another very consistent artist and an all-round good guy. Tony delivered one of his best ever performances before bowing out after a long fight with cancer. RIP Tony. Thanks for the tunes.
 
28. JIM PETERIK & WORLD STAGE – Winds Of Change
 
The ever reliable Jim Peterik always delivers. Great songs and great singers once again such as Mike Reno, Dennis DeYoung, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, Danny Vaughn and Lars Safsund. There’s enough info right there to ensure a purchase.
 
29. HARDLINE – Life
 
Not as immediate as some Hardline releases and that’s a little strange to say considering the sound is more along the traditional style the band is most loved for. But as with all Hardline releases, there is quality here worthy of inclusion in the Best Of list.
 
30. EDGE OF FOREVER – Native Soul
 
Alessandro Del Vecchio tops off another busy year with his third mention in this list. This time it's back to where he came from, bringing a tasty new slice of traditional European melodic rock with his own band Edge Of Forever.
 
 
JUST OUTSIDE THE 30:
 
ROCKET LOVE – Greetings From Rocketland
HOUSE OF SHAKIRA - Radiocarbon
AXE - Final Offering
LONERIDER - Attitude
MORANO - Incognito
91 SUITE - Starting All Over EP
DAVID GLEN EISLEY - Tattered, Torn and Worn
ART NATION - Transition
JIMMY BARNES - My Criminal Record
STATION - Stained Glass
GREGG ROLIE - Sonic Ranch
ROBERT TEPPER - Better Than The Rest
BLACK STAR RIDERS - Another State Of Grace
MIKE TRAMP - Stray From the Flock
BURNING RAIN - Face The Music
COLORVINE - Wake Up
DREAM THEATER - Distance Over Time
FIGHTER V - Fighter
MICHAEL BORMANN'S JADED HARD - Feels Like Yesterday
 
NOT EVEN CLOSE:
 
ROXY BLUE - Roxy Blue
WHITESNAKE - Flesh And Blood
BLOOD RED SAINTS - Pulse
DAVE BICKLER - Darklight
SAMMY HAGAR AND THE CIRCLE - Space Between
SHARK ISLAND - Bloodline
THUNDER - Please Remain Seated
 
NO CHANCE:
 
QUIET RIOT - Hollywood Cowboys
L.A. GUNS - The Devil You Know
BRYAN ADAMS - Shine a Light
KANE ROBERTS  - The New Normal
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - Blue Lightning
TORA TORA - Bastards Of Beale
 
NOTE: There are NO MRR titles included in my Best Of, which is the usual method I employ. While I love them all, it for for others to judge those and I think MRR had a great year, if feedback is anything to go by.
 
 
SONG OF THE YEAR:
 
1. ECLIPSE – Delirious
 
 
2. DEGREED – Summer Of Love
 
 
3. VIANA – Forever Free
 
 
4. THE DEFIANTS – It Goes Fast
 
 
5. WORK OF ART – Misguided Love
 
 
6. CRAZY LIXX – Wicked
 
 
7. CRASH DIET – Rust
 
 
8. ALLIANCE – Good Life
 
9. UNRULY CHILD – Living In Someone Else’s Dream
 
 
10. RESTLESS SPIRITS – Stop Livin' To Live Online
 
 

 

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