Remembering The Forgotten-2019
I wrote these introductory comments for this same column four years ago. It still holds true today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. However (!) in a slight improvement, this year seemed to be less of a stampede to be first to publish ‘End of Year lists’. In 2017 I saw my first ‘End of Year’ list hit social media in September! I’d like to think that my comments here and on-line have encouraged some of my colleagues in Metal journalism to be a bit more responsible, but that would be egotistical and I’d be fooling myself!
I’ve often commented that most music industry folks rush to get their ‘year-end lists’ generated and on-line much to the detriment of the bands. In their zeal, many albums, especially from the first half of the year get missed because the albums are not ‘top of mind’ for writers in November. Conversely, some late year albums get missed as many people generate their albums prematurely, before the year is even over. Every year, quality albums are coming out until Dec 31 but these late releases always get the shaft by the ‘mainstream’ metal Media who claim to support Metal.
Magazines and webzines cling to some arbitrary deadline and because those inconvenient releases do not fit into their neat little boxes (driven largely by commerce) those worthy albums get skipped. This year on social media I read a comment by the owner of a major well-known metal print magazine complaining he ‘had’ to publish his end of year list early, like he was a victim! When you are the owner of the magazine, you don’t HAVE to do anything except to decide to be a slave to the machine or not. He did not choose wisely.
To summarize; early year releases get forgotten, late year releases get skipped, and this year it was dozens and dozens of December releases that got overlooked by organizations that had already published their list. For shame!
I believe some sober reflection would help provide a broader representation of what also happened in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal in 2019. I’ve enjoyed a few quiet days looking back at various releases from 2019 and I’ve cobbled together a little list of albums, EP’s, reissues, covers albums, live albums, re-recordings, and other general weirdness, that I felt deserved more attention than they got. Admittedly, many of these are not ‘brand new, full-length studio albums of all new material’, so they get left in the dust and ignored by most journalists.
My friend and colleague Adrian BeGrand has so eloquently pointed out, ‘Metal fans love their lists!’ I’m no different so here is one of my lists. (listed alphabetically) I tried to work outside the Tool/Slipknot/Gatecreeper/Tomb Mold/ Crypt Sermon/Blood Incantation hive-mind group-think box. There is so much more Metal to discover than those mainstream bands that everyone gushes about in their End of Year lists… if you care to look and listen. A fun little exercise of no consequence other than maybe someone might check out one of these releases. Enjoy!
JP’s Top 30 or so list of releases that coulda, shoulda, woulda got more attention in 2019.
ANTHEM-Nucleus (Ward Records)
Released: March 29th
Like many bands that celebrate long careers, Anthem decided to commemorate their 35th anniversary by re-recording some classic songs. It’s great to hear modern versions by the newer members. This is the 18th studio album by the band, perhaps second only to Loudness in productivity.
AVALON-Return To Eden (Frontiers)
Released: June 14th
I’m so glad this came out this year. I was worried that after a five year wait (between Part two and Part three of the saga) it might never get finished, much like Alice Cooper’s ill-fated Dragonstown saga or the Aina story. I hate it when a good multi-album concept story never gets finished and leaves me hanging. This time the ex-Stratovarius man hired basically all of Secret Sphere to do the musical beds and brings along another half-dozen guest vocalists (past and present) from bands like, Elegy, The Gathering, Riot, Tristania, Savatage and more. Elite symphonic Power at it’s finest. The circle is complete and I can sleep again at night.
AXEL RUDI PELL – XXX Anniversary-Live (SPV/ Steamhammer)
Released: June 7th
As the title suggests, 30 years is quite the milestone and the famed guitarist and the modern version of Richie Blackmore celebrates with an epic double live album, only his fourth live album!
AXE-Final Offering (Escape)
Released: September 20th
Founded in 1977, this band is finally calling it quits. In a career marred by tragic lows and major label highs and touring the world they persevered and continued on in one form or another and decided to wrap it up on a high note. An exclamation point on an excellent career for this pioneering band.
Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra-Legacy Of The Dark Lands (Nuclear Blast)
Released: November 8th
The band have been threatening to unleash their ultimate symphonic rock opera for about 20 years now and it has finally arrived. This didn’t get much attention, perhaps a double orchestral concept album is too much music for the deadline-driven, trendy magazines and web-sites to actually sit down, read the story, listen to it and appreciate it.
CARNAL FORGE-Gun To Mouth Salvation (Vicisolum Productions)
Released: January 25th
An early year release that got lost in the shuffle… the return of Carnal Forge! These guys were among the elite of the Euro death-thrash resurgence of the late 90’s, early 00’s along with Children of Bodom, Dew-Scented, Darkane, The Crown, Dimension Zero, Haunted, In Flames, Impious…there was a whole pack of them. The first Carnal Forge album in 12 years this comeback is ripping.
CIRITH UNGOL-I’m Alive (Indie)
Released: October 25th
The first and only Cirith Ungol live album to date, recorded at a metal Festival in Greece! The band has returned after about two decades of inactivity and they are enjoying a career recovery with all the cool kids who are going and discovering those old Cirith Ungol albums in their dad’s record collections.
CORELEONI-II (AFM Records)
Leoni, founder of Switzerland’s biggest Hard Hard Rock/Metal band (yes, bigger than Krokus) is doing yet another ‘Greatest Hits re-recorded compilation to celebrate 30 years in the business. This one features the golden pipes of Metal’s new golden god of vocals, Ronnie Romero. It’s nice to hear these re-recorded classics including the big hit ‘Angel’. Listen for the hilarious, in-joke intro, spoken word part!
GENERATION AXE-The Guitars That Destroyed The World-Live In China (EarMusic)
Released: June 28th
Not a lot of Metal bands tour in China but this massive market is opening up to more and more acts. This tour compilation with five of the world’s best guitarists is a shredders wet-dream. Except playing electric guitar in Metal apparently isn’t cool anymore, so pretty much everyone ignored this.
HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (EarMusic)
Released: June 21st
Usually everything Alice Cooper touches is gold, or at the very least respected in the Metal community, but that does not seem to be the case for the Hollywood Vampires. The second album by the all-star group featuring past and present members of Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and Warlock doing covers and classic Hard Rock might catch the imagination of some, but it didn’t seem that way.
KANE ROBERT-The New Normal (Frontiers)
Released: January 25th
It’s been seven years since Kane’s last solo album and this new one, his sixth overall, seemed to have been left behind, perhaps because it came out in January. The ex-Alice Cooper axe-slinger has not lost his edge, delivering his fastest, hardest, most modern sounding solo album date. He is a pretty decent singer too!
KEEN HUE-Heydays (AOR Heaven)
Released: November 29th
Yet another veteran band, re-recording old songs to celebrate an anniversary. In this case it is a 40th anniversary as they look back and redo songs from their only two albums. I’m not surprised most journalists missed this one, too old, too obscure, and too late in the year..but that doesn’t make it any less worthy hearing these songs from this example of a very early Swedish Metal band.
L.A. GUNS -Another Xmas In Hell (Frontiers)
Released: December 6th
Just in time for the holidays, LA’s most prolific 80’s sunset strip type band add their take on the holidays. In my estimation there are now over 600 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Christmas songs and this fun EP is as good as any of them. This caps a busy year, hot on the heels of a new studio album.
OKILLY DOKILLY-Howdilly Twodilly (Indie)
Released: March 29th
This Ned Flanders /Simpsons themed band is actually far heavier than one might expect. Some journalists, unfortunately, often listen with their eyes and ignored this decent record likely because of the novelty theme. If this band had some hipster/angst packaging and a different band name it would be in Revolvers Top 10 for sure. Clever lyrics too if you are a fan of the show!
ORION’S REIGN -Symphony Of War (Pride And Joy)
Released: September 27th
A cool little EP here from this Greek Power Metal band. Following up on last years SCORES OF WAR album, this EP has five symphonic re-interpretations a folk re-interpretation and a Nightwish cover tune to round it out. I like when bands experiment with their sound like this.
PHIL CAMPBELL-Old Lions Still Roar (Nuclear Blast)
Released: October 25th
With all the enormous amount of fuss and grief of the passing of the various members of Motorhead over the past few years, you might think that when an ex-member, who is still alive and making new music, releases an album it might get a bit of attention from Metal media, but nope… Everyone loves you when you dead but this rock solid album is loaded with guest stars and is worth checking out.
QUIET RIOT – One Night In Milan & Hollywood Cowboys (Frontiers)
Released: Jan 25th and November 8th
It was a busy year for the veteran band, 45 years in the show business and they churned out two releases. Unfortunately news of Frankie Banali’s health, rotating memberships and an almost constant game of ‘Guess who the signer is this week’ overshadowed these two worthy records. Amazingly enough it is rather bands first official live album and if this is truly the end, at least they went out on a bit of a high note.
RASKASTA ISKELMAA-Self-titled (Spinefarm)
Released: June 14th
Translated roughly as “Heavy Schlager’, Iskelmaa is the Finnish version of the word/genre schalger music. This project is the spin-off of Raskasta Joulua (Heavy Christmas) which is Europe’s version of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The two Raskasta projects features past and present members of Nightwish, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and a dozen more. Super fun Power Metal drinking music! This is not nearly cool enough for the trendy Metal people.
ROCK GODDES-This Time (Bite You to Death Records)
Released: February 22nd
Another entry in the ‘Back from the Dead’ category, this time it is pioneer/veterans England’s Rock Goddess. A clever and optimistic title from the band that could have should have been talked about in the same breath as The Runaways and Girlschool. 32 years is a long time between albums but credit where credit is due for these pioneering rock goddesses.
ROXY BLUE-Self titled (Frontiers)
Released: August 9th
SPREAD EAGLE-Subway To The Stars (Frontiers)
Released: August 9th
TORA TORA-Bastards Of Beale (Frontiers)
Released: February 22nd
We can all thank Mr. Serafino Perugino and Frontiers Music for almost single-handedly keeping Melodic Metal alive. There are many parallels between these bands…all of them have not released a new studio album in a quarter of a century or more and yet here they all are in 2019, all American, all formerly major label bands, all on Frontiers and all with new material. A natural unassisted hat-trick from the label that put out it’s 1000th release this year. Quality AND quantity!
SAINT DEAMON-Ghost (Ram It Down Records)
Released: September 13th
Lots of people (over)use the term ‘underrated’ but I think it applies in this case. I thought the band was dead and gone but suddenly ten years down the road, from out of the fog, album number three arrives on our shores. Top notch Power Metal. Trivia: All three albums have sailing ships on their cover art.
SKELETOON-They Never Say Die (Scarlet Records)
Released: March 8th
A pretty unique concept this one. An album based on the Stephen Spielberg penned, 1985, children’s action-adventure movie called THE GOONIES. Skeletoon remind me of a fellow Italian band, Trick Or Treat. Both started life as Helloween cover bands and both are totally balls-out Power Metal with quirky themes to keep us engaged instead of another swords ‘n’ sorcery epic. This also has a couple of great covers and you can’t go wrong with the truffle shuffle.
SUIDAKRA-Echoes Of Yore (MDD Records)
Released: November 15th
Another cool, anniversary re-recording album; this time Suidakra is 25 and they revisit their deep and impressive catalogue. Why do mainstream Metal media never count re-recorded albums as worthy for year end lists?
TARJA-In The Raw (EarMusic)
Released: August 13th
Some people can’t over the past. Most Metal journalists, for whatever reason, sided with Nightwish in the infamous Tarja/Nightwish split of 2005. Tarja, despite now having eight (!) solo album of Symphonic Hard Rock/Metal gets a fraction of the media coverage that Nightwish does. This album is as heavy or heavier than anything Nightwish has done lately.
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY-Remixed (AFM Records)
Released: July 12th
Considering the band broke up 10 years ago, this one looks and feels like a contractual obligation album. However, this collection compiles all those cool, rare, gothic/industrial remixes the band was known for and puts ’em in one nice career highlighting package.
THOBBE ENGLAND – Hail To The Priest (Metalville)
Released: August 2nd
The huge trend of tribute albums has mostly died out but each year you still get a cool tribute album or three hit the market. This time the ex-Sabaton guitarist has released his sixth solo album as a tribute to the masters. This is a cool album as the track-listing is not just your predictable Priest classics but a some deeper cuts, stuff from TURBO and even some Fight! One of the better Priest tributes out there.
Tragedy- Tragedy Goes To The Movies (Indie)
Released: February 9th
What more can I say? Classic comedy covers of silver screen songs with spoken word jokes interludes. The Poison/Dolly Parton, ‘Unskinny Bop/ 9 to 5’ mash-up is brilliant and has to be heard to believed.