Dave Glynn's Top 10 of 2019
Before we set our sights completely on 2020, here’s another perspective on 2019! I was lucky enough to listen to almost 150 new albums this year – some great, some terrible. These 10 had the biggest impact on me, and clearly show that rock is thriving in 2019! So strap in and check some of these out. And if you like something you hear – click on the album cover to buy it and keep the new music coming.
10. Laura Cox – Burning Bright
We’re going to start with some hard rockin’ blues, courtesy of France. You coulda fooled me – sounds like she’s from Austin! Since posting her first guitar solos on YouTube in 2008, she’s been playing on big stages all over Europe. Burning Bright is her second album, and it shows off her ability to both write great songs and play with the best of the blues rockers. The album starts off with the rocker Fire Fire, but whether it’s fast or slow, every song has a solo worth listening to. The best solo is on another rocker Freaking Out Loud, a terrific track. As a fan of blues rock in general, this album struck all the right chords!
9. Bandolero (self titled)
This one popped up out of nowhere. It’s not available on Spotify, and only a couple of tunes are on YouTube. Instead check out their Bandcamp page and better yet, spend the 7 bucks to support them. Technically from the south (Wilmington, NC), they are also influenced by the blues, but in a much different way. This is heavier and more raw, guitar-forward, and a great listen from top to bottom. Their local paper said “it’s like ZZ Top and Black Sabbath spawned a band.” The tunes range from the lengthy (6:28!) opener Hang On with it’s rolling groove to the faster Wolves and its 90s feel. Even the mid-tempo Wasted Time leans heavy, but my favorite is slowly building The Score – the driving riff leading to a chaotic close.
8. The Riven (self titled)
Alright, my entire list isn’t blues-based rock (what if it was?!?), but here’s another one, this time from all over Europe, and now based in Sweden. The Riven definitely lean more on their 70s influences. This is their first LP (an EP came out in 2017), and they’ve found a sound that evokes that era, but with modern production and Totta Ekebergh’s hypnotizing voice. Opener The Serpent sounds like psychedelic heavy metal. There’s more slower, heavier tunes than speedy rockers, but it plays to their strengths. The guitar sound is unique in this list, and it shows off brilliantly in another tune that takes some time to build, Finnish Woods. I’ve never been to Finland, but I’m adding it to my list based on this song! It’s moody, and when they let go, it swings with heavy bass and bluesy guitar. You have to listen all the way to the end – you won’t be sorry.
6. Queensryche – The Verdict
Quite possibly their best album in 30 years, this is the closest they have come to their early days of Rage for Order and Mindcrime. Since singer Todd La Torre joined the band in 2014, fans have been hoping for a return to a heavier sound. The first two songs, Blood of the Levant and Man the Machine immediately deliver. It’s their second album together, but those 5 years of touring have definitely brought the band to a whole new level. The progressive elements are still there, but the songs are cohesive, the playing stellar, and La Torre’s voice delivers. The best song is the third track, Light-Years. So heavy and sounds like it could have come right off of Mindcrime. The production is amazing, and the whole album is an amazing journey. Haven’t listened to Queensryche since Empire? NOW is the time!
6. Inglorious – Ride to Nowhere
After a disappointing 2nd album, British band Inglorious rights the ship with this one (see my review here). Influenced by classic rock bands from the 70s (Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith), this album leans a bit darker than their previous efforts, even though they were both produced by Kevin Shirley. The title track is a heavy riffing epic of a song and Liar is another hard rockin tune with a heavy riff. They slow it down for a couple of ballads, and their penchant for blues riffs show up all over the album. Lead singer Nathan James, who sang for Uli Jon Roth and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, has a great voice that fits all the different styles. The best tune is I Don’t Know You. In another pattern on my list, it’s a mid-tempo build to a heavy crescendo that shows off James’ voice, a heavy riff and a soulfully great solo. All the ingredients to draw you in!
5. A New Revenge – Enemies and Lovers
What started as a touring all star band playing songs from their respective bands, wound up writing a truly stellar album. While this one won’t be a popular pick, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Keri Kelly, Rudi Sarzo and James Kottak combined their extensive experience to write some great tunes. The first song they wrote, Here’s To Us, which I’ll call the finest of the bunch, has a driving bass line and gang vocals that’ll have you nodding your head in no time. These are heavy melodic rockers with modern elements, such as synths and other distortions. Most songs are 3-4 minutes long and easy to listen to with good riffs and double guitar solos. Enjoy it for what it is – a romp and a good time.
4. Crobot – Motherbrain
A band that I’ve wanted to see for a couple of years now (and really I should have by now – they’re from the next state over, Pennsylvania), Crobot has released another great album full of truly hard rock. This unforgiving album starts off with the bone-crushing tune Burn. The next two tracks Keep Me Down and Drown keep pounding you in the head until the relatively “light” tune, the catchy Low Life. No uplifting songs on this one! For my money the best tune is Gasoline which if played loud enough might set something on fire. The final track of the album, The Hive, ends appropriately enough with a scream and some pounding drums – there’s no letting up on this one, and it’s worth the sore neck you’ll have at the end of it.
3. Massive – Rebuild Destroy
Speaking of headbanging, nothing beats an Aussie band influenced by their godfathers, AC/DC, and Kerrang claims they’re the next GnR. Their last album, Destination Somewhere from 2016 was in my top 3 that year, and they repeat again in 2019. The album starts with a truly kickass opener, Generation Riot, and you’ll be singing along in no time. Long Time Coming has a GnR feel to it for sure, but What You Gonna Do changes it up again. Track 4 sold it for me – Bullet is my number one song of the year. The riff just kicks ass and when they get to the chorus, you just want to scream along. It’s an exhausting (in a good way) ride throughout the album and by the last note, you’re going to need a shower! They’ll be touring Europe in 2020 and I might just have to get there to see them.
2. Burning Rain – Face the Music
If there was a surprise on the list, it was this one. Doug Aldrich is one of my top 5 favorite active guitarists, so I expected his work to be excellent. Singer Keith St. John has been there from the beginning, too. But the additions of Slaughter drummer Blas Elias and Y&T bassist Brad Lang brought this band to another level.The album starts off with the heavy distorted riff of Revolution, and drives through one hard blues rock song after another. There are definite Aerosmith influences on Lorelei and the title track, and that’s not a bad thing. Still, my favorite is Midnight Train, which has so much great guitar and St. John’s raspy vocals to add that heaviness to a catchy chorus. Or if you haven’t had enough blues yet, head to the last track Since I’m Loving You. This could have been written for David Coverdale when Aldrich was playing with Whitesnake. Plus more amazing guitar work, which is exactly where the album should end. Can’t wait to see them on the Monsters of Rock Cruise next month!
1. Rival Sons – Feral Roots
I had almost given up on the Rival Sons. I saw them get blown off the stage in Boston by the Glorious Sons, and after two solid albums disappoint on their last effort. With Feral Roots my faith has been restored (as I wrote back in January). The Sons will always be a better band live (their 2019 show was killer), but this album does the best job so far of capturing their live performance in a recording. Lead track Do Your Worst and Sugar on the Bone right after it have the grit, the energy and the distortion of a live recording. They’re both really catchy and have so many layers in the sound. It’s impossible not to keep moving while you’re listening. And Back in the Woods, the show opener this year, is the best song they’ve ever written. While the whole album has a bluesy feel to it, it’s not as upfront as some of the other albums on this list. It’s like they’ve created their own version of the blues, and we were there to hear it being born. And that’s why they’re number one for 2019.
And if 10 wasn’t enough for you, there were three that just barely didn’t make the list that I’d recommend, too: Revival Black – Step in Line, Hollowstar, and A’Priori – Black Church. These are three young and hungry bands that are producing the kind of music we all want to listen to.
Go out and support all these and your favorites of 2019 – buy their albums (clicking on the album covers will take you there now!), attend their shows, buy some merch, and be sure to tell them Decibel Geek sent you!
Rock On My Friends!