10. Return To Forever – Scorpions
HAVE you ever wondered how a classic eighties metal album would fair if it was released today? Question answered with this from the Scorpions, compiled from song ideas almost as old as they are. Just about every track has a melody aimed at radio programmers who have long since retired and a chorus that feels familiar mainly if you used liquid paper at school. “We Built This House” (not a Starship cover) is damn close to commercial perfection … if it was 1986. And how did it go? Not very well. But we liked it.
9. Electric Blood – Biters
SOME post-pubescent rock revivalists sound long on adulation for the seventies and eighties and short on authenticity. Atlanta’s Biters, roughly alongside Cheap Trick on the heaviness scale, don’t suffer this affliction. Biters spew forth infections choruses and catchy riffs with seeming effortlessness. If they could, as they fantasise in the second track of their debut Electric Blood, travel back to 1975, they would no doubt but deluged by hit singles, greenbacks and Brazilian-ignorant groupies within seconds. Thoroughly recommended.
8. White Bird/Burn The Sky – Palace Of The King
ARRIVING in a puff of smoke from Melbourne, Palace Of The King proved that “southern rock” can mean south of the Murray. Fronted by sometimes Superjesus member Tim Henwood, this six-piece evoked comparisons with he Black Crowes as they tore through singles, EPs and into their debut long player. Many, many are attempting what Palace of the King do convincingly and loudly each time they take the stage with stapes such as “Another Thing Coming” and “White Bird (Bring Your Armies Against Me)”. One of two Australian bands in our top 10, if you count The Dead Daisies.
7. The Book Of Souls – Iron Maiden
PROBABLY the favourite to finish first in lists such as this, Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls let down no-one,. Promoted the old fashioned way, with military secrecy up until its release and a focus on selling physical product, this cinematic two-disc offering included three 10-minute-plus epics and concluded with the airship opera “Empire Of The Clouds”. There’s no doubt this was commercially the most successful rock album of the year, hitting number one in 24 countries. We liked it a lot, too – we just liked a handful of other records a little more.
6. Last Of Our Kind – The Darkness
“WE’VE never been a cult band before,” Darkness bassist Frankie Poulain told us at Sweden Rock in June. While the revolving door next to the drum stool keeps Lowestoft’s finest firmly in rock pantomime territory, the idea of a quasi-concept record rescues them from some of their own jokes. You can’t write about going bald and getting herpes when you’re dealing with medieval enslavement and torture. Our favourite is the title track – like a movie, it encourages the listener to feel intense empathy for characters with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.
5. The Killer Instinct – Black Star Riders
ONE of the highlights of the year was seeing Scott Gorham’s post-Thin Lizzy outfit play a tiny disco aboard the Monsters Of Rock cruise. Against all odds, Black Star Riders are gathering momentum with each passing year and The Killer Instinct was a more compelling and cohesive offering than All Hell Breaks Loose, with the title track (the ‘flag of inconvenience’ will resonate with Northern Ireland readers), “Charlie I Gotta Go” and “Finest Hour” high points. Sure, the CD trails off a little at the end. Maybe the next one won’t.
4. Revolucion – The Dead Daisies
ART works in mysterious ways. David Lowy is an Australian millionaire who has surrounded himself with a rotating roster of members of the Rolling Stones, Guns N’Roses, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake in what looks to be the most grotesque vanity project in rock history. But with the departure of Jon Stevens and arrival of former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi, Lowy has created a thundering, fire-breathing seventies rock monster. Revolucion may lack a 10/10 killer song but it also lacks a really bad one. What’s in between is especially tasty and diverse. Corabi may have found his creative home and in “Empty Heart”, Jimmy Barnes takes his best vinyl bow since “Stone Cold”. In fact, forget what I said about there being no killer song. That’s it.
3. Rock’n’Roll – Buckcherry
THERE’S a common belief that Buckcherry’s best work is behind them. But after the earnest – perhaps overly so – Confessions outing of 2013, the Los Angeles nu-glamsters produced perhaps their most consistent collection of tunes with the unselfconsciously titled Rock’m’Roll. Brass on “Tight Pants”, bluster on “Bring It On Back”, pathos on “The Feeling Never Dues”, unfettered stupidity on “Wood”, this is a record that achieves the lofty goal of living up to its title. Buckcherry are, thankfully, more than a couple of novelty singles.
2. Elefante – BulletBoys
WHEN BulletBoys’ original line-up reformed three years ago, the reunion lasted precisely one show. Frontman Marq Torien had veered into modern rock territory in recent releases and there were few portents that Elefante would be of more than passing interest. But from the opening growl of “Rollover” – perhaps the song of the year – this is a tour de force. If you wondered what Velvet Revolver would sound like if they were still around, here’s your answer: tightly wound arrangements augmented by just enough industrial sensibility to have one foot in the eighties and another firmly in the 21st century. Fantastic.
1. Fallen – Stryper
ON first listen, this album is inferior to its predecessor, No More Hell To Pay. The attempts to revisit the 1980s are less obvious and therefore so is the music. But once more, Stryper manage to outflank their subject matter (no mean feat when that subject is, ahem, God) and with crunching traditional metal and soaring, emotional choruses. How catchy is “Big Screen Lies”? How good a semi-acoustic ballad is “All Over Again”? And if you close your eyes and think of what you love about heavy metal, how readily does “The Calling” come to mind? It’s one of those songs that make you screw up your face in pleasure, while nodding rhythmically. This record in a word? Divine!