In a year of great classic, hard rock and heavy metal, it was tough to eliminate many worthy releases from the Marshall of Rock Top 30 albums of 2012, but after much deliberation, we have come up with what we think is a representation of quality rock for the year. See what you think:
30. Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
A fine return by the San Francisco bay area thrash giants. With guitar interaction between Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, definitive vocals from Chuck Billy, bass from Greg Christian, and a reunion with Gene Hoglan, who last played drums for the band on their 1997 album ‘Demonic,’ Testament have delivered an album that stands up to all of their past releases. “Dark Roots of Earth’ debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200, which was the band’s highest debut in their history.
29. ZZ Top – La Futura
The band’s first new album in 9 years brings back some true Texas blues rock ZZ Top style. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard were itching to get this album out after production delays with Rick Rubin, so they four new tracks: ‘I Gotsta Get Paid,’ ‘Chartreuse,’ ‘Consumption,’ and ‘Over You’ in June of 2012 as an iTunes-only collection titled ‘Texicali.’ The band’s 15th studio album is truly “the future” for ZZ Top. Good to have the boys back.
28. Aranda – Stop The World
The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma band’s second album ‘Stop The World’ yielded three charting tracks, ‘One More Lie’, ‘Undone’ and ‘Satisfied.’ Dameon Aranda, Gabe Aranda, Mike Walker and B Webb have created a sound that is original and lasting. I expect more from this band in the future, and look for them to become a mainstay on the rock charts.
27. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last Of A Dyin’ Breed
Lynyrd Skynyrd is on top of their game once again with their latest release, which is full of solid tracks. The 12th studio album from the band and first with bassist Johnny Colt (Black Crowes), also features additional guitar from the great John 5. Great songs like ‘Homegrown,’ ‘Good Teacher, ‘Ready To Fly,’ and the title track, make this release a must for fans of southern rock and all rock fans in general.
26. Jack White – Blunderbuss
The always innovative and original Jack White has delivered an album that may very be his best work yet. His debut solo album was written, recorded and produced entirely by White in 2011. I appreciate everything White stands for, as he is a true music historian, has a plan for not only his Third Man Records, but everything he does musically. When promo copies of the album were distributed to reviewers and radio stations, they were sent as vinyl records to prevent leaks. A leader in today’s world of music.
25. Overkill – The Electric Age
Band leaders and original members Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (vocals) and D.D. Verni (bass) have crafted an epic return to glory with The 16th studio album from the New Jersey thrash legends. ‘The Electric Age’ lives up to the epic releases in the 80’s from the band and has brought them back to prominence in the metal world. Overkill will be touring in early 2013 with Testament and Flotsam and Jetsam, bringing more exposure to this release that really deserves it.
24. Europe – Bag Of Bones
A great album from a band that sounds better than in their 80’s heyday. Vocalist Joey Tempest has described Europe’s 9th studio album as “a hardcore classic rock record with the blues knocking on the door,” and I’d have to agree. The album debuted at #2 in their native Sweden, where they were recently named the #3 all time favorite band. ‘Bag Of Bones’ has not yet garnered the attention it deserves in the U.S., but hopefully that will change in 2013. Kevin Shirley produced, mixed and engineered this great album, and he must be my producer of the year, as he has at least two other albums on my Top 30.
23. KISS – Monster
The 20th and latest KISS studio album delivers musically, with the production from Paul Stanley and guitar work from Tommy Thayer as standouts. The band used old analog equipment instead of digital recording gear while recording ‘Monster.’ Gene Simmons said about the recording of ‘Monster’: “Technology is a seductive bitch, she will seduce you. You press this button, you don’t have to do anything. But analog is the love of your life. You can push real hard and it always gives back. For the new album, the actual recording process was 24-track tape and an old Trident board. And as many tubes as possible. You need tubes, electricity and thick wood to make that thick sound.” We are glad they did, as this is the best KISS album in years.
22. Stone Sour – House of Gold & Bones Part 1
Corey Taylor delivers with Part 1 of the two part House of Gold & Bones. Stone Sour can ride the line of serious hard rock to lyrically touching mid tempo tracks and pull it off like no other band can. Part II will be out in 2013, and I’m sure that one of rock’s men of the year will keep his band innovative, original and relevant.
21. Dead Sara – Dead Sara
A compelling and engaging debut from the Los Angeles based band. Vocalist Emily Armstrong and her bandmates show on this album that they are a force that will be recognized in the world of rock and won’t be ignored.
20. The Treatment – This Might Hurt
The U.K. boys remind me of a young Def Leppard, with some AC/DC and UFO thrown in. With great tracks like ‘The Doctor,’ ‘Nothing To Lose But Our Mind’, ‘Shake The Mountain’ and more, this album rocks from start to finish. Coming off some U.S. exposure as the openers on ‘The Tour’ with KISS and Motley Crue, these guys are ready and willing to take their career to the next level, and I think they will.
19. Soundgarden – King Animal
One of the seminal bands in the creation of grunge, Soundgarden broke up back in 1997, but reunited in 2010, making concert festival and some TV appearances, as well as releasing a special 7″ on Black Friday Record Store Day. 2011 brought the live album ‘Live On I-5’, and that all let up to the recording and release of their 6th studio album in 2012. The album is heavy, the album is fast, the album is true Soundgarden music.
18. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu
Guitar great Gary Clark Jr. has released independent albums and E.P.’s before, but 2012 brought Clark’s major label album debut, and a stunning piece of work it is. Clark’s music has elements of blues, rock, funk, soul and country, and he says he is even influenced by jazz and hip hop. Already playing clubs in his hometown of Austin, Texas as a kid, he met promoter Clifford Antone, proprietor of the Austin music club Antone’s. Antone’s was the launching pad for fellow Texans Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan. That propelled him to eventually sharing the stage with music greats B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Jeff Beck, ZZ Top, Doyle Bramhall II, Sheryl Crow and more. He has performed at the White House, and just last month was a part of the Rolling Stones New Jersey shows. The album is a true showcase of his talent and includes a version of the Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Third Stone From The Sun’. Gary Clark Jr. is just starting his amazing ride to greatness.
17. Tremonti – All I Was
The first solo album from the Alter Bridge/Creed guitarist, it is what he wanted it to be – a pure metal album! Crunchy tracks, awesome riffs, and outstanding vocals from Tremonti himself. A must for all metal fans.
16. Pop Evil – War Of Angels
These Michigan rockers were a touring machine in 2012, playing many of the cuts from their fantastic album ‘War Of Angels’. With four singles released from the record: ‘Last Man Standing,’ ‘Monster You Made,’ ‘Bosses Daughter,’ and ‘Purple,’ the band maximized the album’s potential after delays caused by record company issues with Universal had kept it from it from it’s initial release date. The guys moved onto a new label (eOne Music), who have backed the band and album to the fullest and the band is now primed to move into the future with even more success.
15. The Black Keys – El Camino
Akron, Ohio’s Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney released their 7th studio album’El Camino’ in December of 2011, and 2012 brought the brought massive sales and success for the release. They have etched out a dedicated and loyal following not only by their fans, but by critics, and it looks as though the Black Keys are going to be one of those bands that will be around in 10 to 15 years, as long as their material holds up. With #1 rock tracks ‘Lonely Boy’ and Gold On The Ceiling’, as well as the top 5 cut ‘Little Black Submarines,’ it was hard to escape the band. ‘El Camino’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ were nominated in five categories for the 2013 Grammy Awards, where they are sure to win a few, if not all five they are nominated for.
14. Kill Devil Hill
Hard rock at it’s best on the debut album from the band named after the small town of Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina. Drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Rex Brown, guitarist Mark Zavon and lead vocalist Dewey Bragg, bring the rock heavy and modern on a release that deserved more acclaim and recognition in the world of hard rock and metal. The band are planning their second release and I’m sure we’ll see growth and more exposure for this great new hard rock band!
13. Heart – Fanatic
Ann & Nancy Wilson returned in 2012 with not only a box set ‘Strange Euphoria,’ but a fantastic album on new material called ‘Fanatic.’ Great songs, great hooks, and above all great guitar and vocals from the first ladies of rock. They are now Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and are still putting out quality new music that will stand the test of time.
12. Halestorm – The Strange Case Of…
Halestorm put out an awesome album in 2012 that continued the growth and respect that the band have garnered from just about everyone in the hard rock world. Lzzy Hale is a dynamic frontwoman and musician, and will continue to lead Halestorm into the future as one of the great rock acts to be reckoned with.
11. Charm City Devils – SINS
Baltimore Maryland’s own Charm City Devils released their ‘SINS’ album in January of 2012, and lead by singer/songwriter John Allen, the band crisscrossed the country, gaining new fans at every stop. Two singles have been released from the album so far, ‘Man Of Constant Sorrow,’ and the anthemic ‘Unstoppable,’ which is now a go to track at sports events nationwide. Hopefully Charm City Devils will release at least one more track from the album, as it is full of great tracks. I really like their brand of rock, and the fact that they are all about their fans. Congrats on a great 2012 to Charm City Devils!
10. Rush – Clockwork Angels
Rush returned with their highly anticipated album ‘Clockwork Angels’ in 2012, and it lived up to the expectations. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are the epitomy of rock musicianship and year after year. After initially releasing the album tracks ‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’ were to radio and for online digital purchase in June of 2010, and playing those tracks on the ‘Time Machine’ tour, the band finished up the album and have since released ‘Headlong Flight’ and ‘The Wreckers’ and subsequent singles. The album debuted at #1 in their home country of canada and at #2 in the U.S.
9. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
Springsteen released his 17th studio album in March of 2012, and it came at a time we needed it most. An idealistic and angry album, it addresses enonomic injustice, the lack of accountability he sees in government, the ‘American Dream’ and includes the late E Street band member Clarence Clemons with saxophone solos on ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ and backing saxophone rhythms on the title track, which was originally written about the then-pending demolition of Giants Stadium in New Jersey from the stadium’s point of view. Bruce is still bringing the protest message that is sorely needed from more musicians and artists.
8. Joe Bonamassa – Driving Toward The Daylight
An epic release from one of our generation’s guitar virtuosos, it bleeds emotion and takes the listener on a fantastic musical journey. I really like Kevin Shirley’s production work, who Bonamassa also worked with on the Black Country Communion album. A guitar masterpiece, that will be hard to top, but I know Joe will figure out how to do that.
7. Shinedown – Amaryllis
Shinedown had a lot to live up to after the success of their last album ‘The Sound Of Madness’ spawned 5 singles and spent an amazing 120 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200, but it looks like they are doing it. ‘Amaryllis’ was released in March of 2012 and to date has yielded the hit tracks ‘Bully,’ ‘Unity,’ and ‘Enemies.’ The band may go five deep on the album, and if so, look for the title track and/or ‘Miracle’ to be the next singles. In November of 2012 vocalist Brent Smith announced that the band had already completed their next album, so we may get to hear that before the end of 2013. In February, Shinedown will get back on the road with Three days Grace and P.O.D. for one dynamic triple bill. It looks like 2013 is going to be just as successful as 2012 was for Jacksonville, Florida’s Shinedown!
6. Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension!
After some delay in the release date (originally in May) for ‘Music From Another Dimension!’, it was released this past November and peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts. While I am not a fan of all the tunes on the band’s 15th studio album, there is enough of the old-school feel of early Aerosmith with production by Jack Douglas to satisfy. Expect more touring and tracks to be released in 2013.
5. Black Country Communion – Afterglow
Black Country Communion continue to crank out great rock in minimal time. When Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian come together in the studio with producer Kevin Shirley, there is a magic that is undeniable. Already the band’s third studio album since their inception in 2009, we can hope it isn’t their last. Glenn Hughes has continually talked of touring behind the releases, but with Joe Bonamassa’s extensive spring/summer solo touring schedule every year and his reluctance to sacrifice that for BCC. Let’s hope that all works itself out, and we get more great material and some touring from this fantastic rock band!
4. Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day
Led Zeppelin releases a live album of their 2007 reunion show at the O2 Arena in London as part of the Ahmed Ertegun tribute, you know it has to be on my list. I just wish Robert Plant would re-consider never playing more shows as Led Zeppelin. I know he can’t hit all the high notes like he once could, but I don’t care, I want to see him share the stage with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones again. I guess this release will have to do.
3. Rival Sons – Head Down
The Long Beach, California based rockers return with their second album ‘Head Down,’ which continues the modern retro rocking vibe of their ‘Pressure and Time’ album. Already two singles in, the band continually sells out shows in Europe and hopefully 2013 will bring the band the level of success they deserve in their own country. One of my favorites, I just can’t get enough of their music or their vibe.
2. Slash – Apocalyptic Love
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators have firmy etched out their place in the world of rock. I knew by the collaborations on Slash’s previous solo album that featured Myles on two cuts, that when it was announced that the ‘Apocalyptic Love’ album would feature Kennedy and the band, that it would kick ass. Upon first listen of my #1 track of the year ‘You’re A Lie,’ it was obvious that this release would be special. I’m looking forward to more releases from Slash and his great bandmates!
1. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
A triumphant return to glory for most of the original lineup of Van Halen, with David Lee Roth’s animated vocals, the Van Halen brothers contributing blistering guitar and drum work, and Wolfgang Van Halen more than holding his own on bass. I was like many others who wasn’t completely feeling the first single ‘Tattoo’, but ironically it is probably the weakest track on the album, but it did go to #1 on the mainstream and classic rock charts. Standout tracks like ‘Stay Frosty,’ You and Your Blues,’ ‘China Town,’ ‘Bullethead,’ and more, the album is worthy of #1 for 2012 on the Marshall of Rock Top 30 albums!!
Some albums that just missed my Top 30:
Joe Walsh – Analog Man
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Linkin Park – Living Things
Lita Ford – Living Like a Runaway
Theory Of A Deadman – The Truth Is
L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever
The Cult – Choice Of Weapon
Chevelle – Hats Off To The Bull
Adler – Back From The Dead
Papa Roach – Time For Annihilation