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The Best of 2019!

In addition to my top picks for 2019, you can also read the top 5 picks from Mike, Jez, and Pete. Since we all have different tastes, it makes more sense to see different folks' opinions.

For each of us, the listing contains 3 parts:

  1. Top 5. Self-explanatory.
  2. Honorable Mentions. Very good releases for the year that either fell just short of the top 5, or had to be on the outside looking in due to the limit of 5.
  3. The Rest of the Field. There is nothing qualitative about this section; the releases may range from good to mediocre to complete and utter garbage. It only exists to show you what each of us considered in coming up with our Top 5 and Honorable Mentions. If an album isn't listed in our Top 5, Honorable Mentions, or Rest of the Field, it means we didn't get a chance to hear that album.

Dan's Picks for the Best of 2019

A small rant to start things off... this has been a problem for several years now, but it reared its ugly head in epic form in 2019: record labels sending out digital promo audio (nobody does physical promos any more) that are either (1) bit-starved and overcompressed, or (2) brickwalled to the heavens. In numerous cases, after seeing positive reviews of the physical releases, I started questioning my ears and my sanity, as what I had been sent by the label sounded like utter garbage. So I started "sailing the high seas" to find physical media rips to compare to what I had been sent by the labels for review, and in some cases the differences were staggering.

In 2019-2020, there is absolutely NO LEGIT REASON to be overcompressing promotional audio. Disk storage is now measured in terabytes and download bandwidth is measured in gigabytes. If you want people reviewing/assessing releases to get an accurate picture of the quality of the music, why would you sabotage things by sending subpar quality audio? Is it because the labels think that by doing so it will prevent/limit filesharing? WAKE THE FUCK UP! There are lossless FLAC rips of virtually every physical release AVAILABLE ON RELEASE DAY that people can find and get if they know where to look. That isn't going away.

By sending out shitty audio files to media outlets, the only people that are being hurt are the bands/artists you represent! If a first exposure to an album is crap quality audio, the album will get 1-2 listens and then that's it, whereas if what is received was an accurate aural representation of the album, it would get repeated listens, discussion, better reviews, and more consideration for awards/top-10 lists, etc.

Compromised digital promo audio, while well-intentioned, is a misguided attempt to solve an unsolvable problem and ultimately causes more problems than it remedies.

But enough ranting... I can feel my blood pressure going up. 2019 was an... "ok" year for releases, but nothing great. Many "good" releases, but nothing knocked my socks off.

The Also Rans

99 Crimes – ST
Adrian Benegas – The Revenant
Affaire – Less Aint More
Age of Reflection – A New Dawn
Alan Parsons – The Secret
Alchemy Dyadic
Alliance – Fire and Grace
American Tears – White Flags
Amon Amarth – Berserker
Anthem – Nucleus
Appearance of Nothing – In Times of Darkness
Ardours – Last Place on Earth
As I Lay Dying – Shaped by Fire
Babymetal – Metal Galaxy (Japanese Edition)
Billy Sherwood – Citizen in the Next Life
Black Star Riders – Another State of Grace LE
Blade Cisco – Edge of the Blade
Blazon Stone – Hymns Of Triumph And Death
Block Buster – Losing Gravity
Blood Red Saints – Pulse
Bloodbound – Rise of the Dragon Empire
Bonfire – Live on Holy Ground – Wacken 2018
Bullring – Break Down the Gate
Burning Rain – Face the Music
Carl Dixon – Unbroken
Cold – The Things We Can't Stop
Come Taste the Band – Reignition
CoreLeoni – II
Corroded – Bitter
Crashdiet – Rust
Crossfade – Carousel
Crusade of Bards – Tales of Bards & Beasts
Crystal Viper – Tales of Fire and Ice
D-A-D – A Prayer for the Loud
Dave Bickler – Darklight
Demons & Wizards – Discography Remastered
Dogface – From the End to the Beginning
DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal
Dreams in Fragments – Reflections of a Nightmare
Drivin N Cryin – Live the Love Beautiful
Echoes – Live from the Dark Side (A Tribute to Pink Floyd)
Edge of Paradise – Universe
Eighteenth Hour – ST
Eloy – The Vision, the Sword and the Pyre (Part II)
Elvenking – Reader of the Runes
Emil Bulls – Mix Tape
Enemynside – Chaos Machine
Enforcer – Zenith
Epica – Design Your Universe (Gold Edition)
Everfrost – Winterider
Evergrey – The Atlantic
Extrema – Headbanging Forever
FM – The Italian Job
Fair Warning – Two Nights to Remember
Fiction Syxx – The Alt Me
Floating Worlds – Battleship Oceania
Flotsam and Jetsam – The End of Chaos
Frantic Amber – Bellatrix
Freedom Call – M.E.T.A.L
Ghostreaper – Straight Out of Hell
Glasya – Heavens Demise
Graham Bonnet Band – Live in Tokyo 2017
Gypsy Rose – Reloaded
HELDMASCHINE – Im Fadenkreuz
Halls of Oblivion – Endtime Poetry
Hardline – Life
Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness
Helix – Old School
Hell's Addiction – V1.0 EP
Herman Frank – Fight the Fear
Human Fortress – Reign of Gold
I Prevail – TRAUMA
Inglorious – Ride to Nowhere
Innuendo – ei8ht
Iron Kingdom – On The Hunt
Jetboy – Born to Fly
Jim Peterik and World Stage – Winds of Change
Jimi Anderson Group – I Belong
Joe Stump – Symphonic Onslaught
Jorn – Live on Death Road
Joseph Tholl – Devils Drum
Juliet Ruin – Old Stardust, Love, and Chaos
KARO – Heavy Birthday II & III
Kane Roberts – The New Normal
Keen Hue – Heydays
Kobra and the Lotus – Evolution
Koenig Kobra – Level fuer Level
LA GUNS – The Devil You Know
LIV SIN – Burning Sermons
Lacuna Coil – Black Anima (Deluxe Edition)
Last in Line – II
LastWorld – Time
Leathrbitch – Into the Night
Legendry – The Wizard and the Tower Keep
Leverage – DeterminUs
Licence – N2O2R
Lonerider – Attitude
Lordi – Recordead Live – Sextourcism in Z7
Luca Sellitto – The Voice Within
Lugnet – Nightwalker
Lypswitch – 30 Years
Malamorte – Hell For All
Mark Baker – The Future
Metalite – Biomechanicals
Michael Sweet – Ten
Michael Thompson Band – Love and Beyond
Mike Machine – Alive
Mind Key – MKIII – Aliens in Wonderland
Morano – Incognito
N.Ex.U.S. – ST
Neal Morse – Jesus Christ the Exorcist
Nightrage – Wolf to Man
Nitrate – Open Wide
Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (2CD)
Pendulum of Fortune – Return to Eden
Per Wiberg – Head Without Eyes
Peter H Nilsson – Little American Dream
Prophets of Addiction – Nothing But the Truth
Protector – Summon the Hordes
Puddle of Mudd – Welcome to Galvania
Qantice – The Anastoria
Queensryche – The Verdict
Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys
Quiet Riot – One Night in Milan
Raddar – Transmission
Red Cain – Kindred – Act I
Restless Spirits – ST
Rexoria – Ice Breaker
Rhapsody of Fire The Eighth Mountain
Riot V – Live in Japan 2018
Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker – Out of the Dark
Rockett Love – Greetings from Rocketland
Rough Rockers – Smoke and Mirrors EP
Roxy Blue – ST
Runemagick – Into Desolate Realms
Runemagick – The Opening of_Dead Gates EP
Saint Asonia – Flawed Design
Saints Trade – Time to be Heroes
Sascha Paeths Master of Ceremony – Signs of Wings
Satan Takes a Holiday – A New Sensation
Scarcrow – Beyond the Black Rainbow
Schattenmann – Epidemie
Scimitar – Shadows of Man
Secret Rule – The 7 Endless
Sign X – Like a Fire
Signum Regis – The Seal of a New World
Silent Call – Windows
Sinner – Santa Muerte
Sons of Apollo – Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony
Soto – Origami
Spirits of Fire – ST
Spread Eagle – Subway to the Stars
Stahlmann – Kinder Der Sehnsucht
Starbreaker – Dysphoria
Starset – Divisions
Steel Prophet – The God Machine
Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper – At the Gates
Stinger – Colourblind
Stranded – New Dawn
TNT – Encore Live in Milano
Tanagra – Meridiem
Tanzwut – Seemannsgarn
Tarchon Fist – Apocalypse
Terra Nova – Raise Your Voice
The Brink – Nowhere to Run
The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings
The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled (Deluxe)
The End Machine – ST
The Treatment – Power Crazy
Theatre of Tragedy – Remixed
Thunder – Please Remain Seated (Deluxe)
Timo Tolkki's Avalon – Return to Eden
Toby Hitchcock – Reckoning
Tora Tora – Bastards of Beale
Torben Enevoldsen 5.1
Tug of War – Soulfire
Tygers of Pan Tang – Ritual
Tyketto – Strength in Numbers Live
Unruly Child – Big Blue World
VEX – Golden Times
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening
Velvet Insane – ST
Viana – Forever Free
Vice – 3 Fingers Up
Visionatica – Enigma Fire
Wayward Sons – The Truth Aint What It Used to Be
West Bound – Volume I
Wheels of Fire – Begin Again
Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood
Wicked Garden – Post Dystopian Leisure Music
Wind Rose – Wintersaga
Work of Art – Exhibits
X-Plicit – Like a Snake
X-Romance – Voices from the Past
Yngwie Malmsteen – Blue Lightning

Honorable Mentions

A New Revenge – Enemies & Lovers. Former Judas Priest lead vocalist does modern hard rock... dafuq? Yep... and it works.

Astralium – Land Of Eternal Dreams. Debut album from this Italian symphonic metal band. Musically not anything terribly innovative, but solid and the vocals are quite good.

Avantasia – Moonglow. Another rock opera concept album from Avantasia... oh goody. Actually, there are some stellar vocal performances on this one, and I found that it held my attention more so than previous efforts.

Cannonballz – 8Ballz2Many. The name is a misnomer, as it connotates something fairly heavy, but what we get is some top notch Westcoast AOR. Very light and melodic, a very pleasant listen.

Chaos Magic featuring Caterina Nix – Furyborn. Female-fronted symphonic metal that ranges from very heavy to almost ethereal, with some electronica thrown in for good measure. Very interesting.

Crazy Lixx – Forever Wild. This album was my "first out" of my top 5 for 2019. Nothing groundbreaking, but extremely solid and enjoyable across the board.

Danger Zone – Dont Count on Heroes. The sixth album from this Italian hard rock band, this one is their best to date IMO.

Darkwater – Human. It's no secret that I'm not the wordl's biggest prog fan, but this, the band's 3rd album after a 9-year wait, is some of the most polished, lushly orchestrated, enjoyable prog out there. Fans of short songs need not apply.

Deaf Rat – Ban the Light. Glammish hard rock with a bit of a darker image/tone. Interesting change-up... enjoyable but a bit spotty in places.

Find Me – Angels in Blue. Very solid and enjoyable melodic rock album, perhaps not quite up to the level of Dark Angel.

First Night – ST. Polished and well-executed, if not overly memorable debut album. Shows a lot of promise, though. Accent pokes through in a few places, which some people might not care for.

First Signal – Line of Fire. Fans of Harem Scarem will certainly enjoy it. Nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary compared to the prior releases, but a fine listen nonetheless.

Fortune – II. A very long-awaited secon album that is stellar in places, but patchy in others. Had the second half of the album been as good as the first half, and the production/mix been a bit tighter, this would have been a top 5 album.

Gathering of Kings – First Mission. "I am pleased to announce, our 87th King..." After much delay and FAR too many prerelease press releases, they finally actually released a decent album. As with most "project" albums with a ton of different vocalists, the songs can be hit or miss. Luckily, most of them hit.

Hollow Haze – Between Wild Landscapes and Deep Blue Seas. This one was unexpected. Very lushly orchestrated melodic prog with a solid melodic hard rock base. Can get a bit long/technical/tedius in plaxces though.

Iron Savior – Kill or Get Killed. That German power metal sound... you either love it or hate it. Count me in the former group.

Leah – Ancient Winter. Very good celtic symphonic metal, just not quite up to the level of 2018's The Quest.

Michael Bormann's Jaded Hard – Feels Like Yesterday. Decent retro feel from Michael Bormann and Co. If you like early Jaded Heart, your will dig this.

Narnia – From Darkness to Light. Can you believe that this is their ninth studio album? Many of the previous albums didn't really resonate with me, but this one is quite good.

Pretty Maids – Undress Your Madness. PM never releases a bad album. This is very good, but just not quite up to the level of Pandemonium and Kingmaker.

Rob Moratti – Renaissance. You either love Rob's vocals or you hate them. While not as good as 2011's Victor or the 2016 Rage of Angels album, this is still a very fun album that gets a lot of play in my rotation.

Sabaton – The Great War. This band is a relatively recent discover of mine, despite their being a power metal staple for almost two decades. Their military-themed albums are rousing historical epics.

Sebastien – Behind the World EP. Surprisingly good Czech melodic power metal, apparently their fourth effort. Not a group I was previously familiar with.

Soleil Moon – Warrior. Their best effort thus far, and much lighter and more AOR than their imagery would ever connotate.

Ten – Opera Omnia. Nothing at all new here, but for the completist or someone wanting a complete discography in one fell swoop, a phenomenal 16-CD box that went out of print in about 7 minutes.

The Ferrymen – A New Evil. Sophomore release does not disappoint, very nice crunchy melodic hard rock.

Trishula – Scared to Breathe. Debut album that shows spots of absolute brilliance in places but patchiness/filler in others. If it were a bit more consistent...

Wake the Nations – Heartrock. Sophomore release from this Scandi melodic rock band that improves on the debut.

Within Temptation – Resist (Extended Deluxe). One of my longtime most favorite bands, this album flirted with being in my top 5 but ultimately fell a bit short. The replay consistency wasn't quite on par with previous efforts for me personally.

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover Rain or Shine – The Darkest Part of Me (Perris Records). Extremely well produced Scandi melodic hard rock with a bit of a modern flair. Their first album, Seize the Night slipped under my radar. Choruses are very powerful and the hooks are memorable. Very varied stylistically as well. Overall, the heavier more "rocking" tunes are stronger than the ballads in my opinion.

4th Place

cover Cats in Space – Daytrip to Narnia (Harmony Factory Records). Perhaps not quite as memorable as the first two albums, but still top notch regardless. While they always vary greatly across an album with respect to style, this one wasn't quite as cohesive as the last. Comparisons to ELO, Night Flight Orchestra, etc., are natural, as they have a very retro '70s AOR vibe. Highlights are Hologram Man, Unicorn, and of course the multipart epic The Story of Johnny Rocket.

3rd Place

cover Devicious – Reflections (Metalopolis Records). This sophomore album came out right on the heels of the debut... completely unexpected. But they certainly didn't rush it out in haste. This album stayed high in my rotation all year long. Superb German hard rock, the hooks and choruses are first rate... plenty of toe tapping and infectious, almost with a sense of urgency. Excellent use of keys without going too far over the top. Highlights are Long Way Home, Never Let You Go, and Feel the Heat.

2nd Place

cover Eclipse – Paradigm (Frontiers Records). It's no secret that I love the current crop of Swedish melodic rock bands, with Eclipse and H.E.A.T. being at the top of the list. This one actually took a little bit of time to grow on me; its impact wasn't immediate. While some may consider the songs a bit "samey" (a frequent criticism of the Scandi bands), they're not wrong, but much of a good thing is... still a good thing. The pompous and bombastic hooks and choruses just resonate perfectly and are very memorable. I can play this album on repeat and not get tired of it. Highlights for me are United, The Masquerade, Shelter Me, and the quirky yet eminently repeatable Mary Leigh. In a different year, this might not have gotten as high in the list, but 2019 was kind of a "meh" year for releases.

Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2019 CD of the Year

cover The Defiants – Zokusho (Frontiers Records). So after first trying to figure out WTF a "zokusho" was (Japanese word literally meaning "sequel", and apt name for a sophomore release), I actually started paying attention to the music... and damned fine music it is. Stronger than the debut IMO. Songs are the definition of "radio friendly" if you're thinking in a mid-to-late 1980s mindeset. You could have turned on the radio during that period and heard songs from this album. Highlights for me are Hollywood in Headlights, U X'D My Heart, All Nighter, and Love Is the Killer. Well done!

Mike's Picks for the Best of 2019

I've seen some folks declare that 2019 was the best year for hard rock and AOR in a long time, while others have lamented a year filled with mediocrity. I'm somewhere in between I suppose, as while there are a TON of above average releases, and some excellent songs to be found on them, there just wasn't that one or two that stood out head and shoulders above the rest like normal. Usually, when we go to do these year end lists, I know what my number one album for the year is going to be before I ever type the first word, and many times number two as well; this year, and I say this in all seriousness, I look at number five in pretty much the same light as I do number one. There are several discs in my honorable mentions that I view right along with the top five. They're all interchangable, so the numbers don't mean as much, to me anyway, as they have in years past. So, while I do feel it was a good year for the music we love, I'm also a little disappointed in that nothing really blew me away in 2019. Anyway, for better or worse, here are my picks for the Best of 2019.

The Also Rans

313 – Three Thirteen
5 Guns West – Bad Boys Rock n' Roll
99 Crimes – 99 Crimes
A New Revenge – Enemies and Lovers
Art Nation – Transition
Bryan Adams – Shine a Light
Bryan Adams – Christmas EP
Alliance – Fire and Grace
Apocalyptic Lovers – Redemption Volume I
Bad Marriage – Bad Marriage
Bai Bang – Best of Four
Bang Tango – Rock and Roll Est. 1988
Beyond Imagination – Beyond Imagination
Black Stone Cherry – Black to Blues 2
Blackeyed Susan – Electric Rattlebone / Just a Taste
Bloodbound – Rise Of The Dragon Empire
Bonfire – Live on Holy Ground – Wacken 2018
The Brink – Nowhere To Run
Burning Rain – Face The Music
Cannonballz – 8 Ballz 2 Many
Cats In Space – Daytrip to Narnia
Cats in Space – My Kind of Christmas Album
Chris Lee Band, The – Protest Songs and Party Anthems
Collective Soul – Blood
Crazy Lixx – Forever Wild
Dante Fox – The Roots of Great White 1978-1982
The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled
The Dead Daisies – Locked and Loaded – The Covers Album
Dizzy Lane – Cheap Thrills – It Ain't Easy
Dream Company – The Wildest Season
David Glen Eisley – Tattered, Torn and Worn
Don Felder – American Rock 'n' Roll
First Night – First Night
First Signal – Line of Fire
Glass Tiger – Thirty Three
Halford – Celestial
Hanover Fist – Hungry Eyes
Hardline – Life
Helloween – United Alive in Madrid
Hollywood Vampires – Rise
Jetboy – Born to Fly
Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz – This Is How We Roll
Journey – Live in Japan 2017: Escape and Frontiers
Junkyard – Old Habits Die Hard
KXM – Circle of Dolls
KaaTO – Slam!
Karo – Heavy Birthday II & III
Kickin' Valentina – Chaos in Copenhagen
Tom Keifer – Rise
L.A. Guns – Electric Gypsy – Live
L.A. Guns – The Devil You Know
Last In Line – II
Legion – Rising
Leverage – Determinus
Logan – One Step Forward... Two Steps Back
Yngwie Malmsteen – Blue Lightning
Michael Bormann's Jaded Hard – Feels Like Yesterday
Michael Schenker Fest – Revelation
Mike + The Mechanics – Out of the Blue
Morano – Incognito
Rob Moratti – Renaissance
Motley Crue – The Dirt Soundtrack
Nitrate – Open Wide
Page 38 – Burning the Midnight Oil
Papa Roach – Who Do You Trust
Platinum Overdose – Murder in High Heels
Pretty Boy Floyd – Stray Bullet
Puddle of Mudd – Welcome to Galvania
Queensryche – The Verdict
Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys
Quiet Riot – One Night in Milan
Rain Or Shine – The Darkest Part Of Me
Razzmattazz – Hallelujah
Kane Roberts – The New Normal
Rockett Love – Greetings From Rocketland
Ron Keel Band – Fight Like a Band
Roulette – Now!
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed – 40 Live
Secret Chapter – Chapter One
Rene Shades – Teenage Heart Attacks and Rock 'n' Roll Heaven
Shark Island – Bloodline
Shock Tu – All Areas
Slash – Living the Dream Tour
Rick Springfield – Orchestrating My Life
Stradlin' Rosie – Stradlin' Rosie
Stripwired – Another Shot
Sweet Oblivion – Sweet Oblivion
TNT – Encore: Live In Milano
Temple Balls – Untamed
Toque – Never Enough
Toto – 40 Tours Around The Sun
Tyketto – Strength in Numbers Live
Unruly Child – Big Blue World
Danny Vaughn – Myths, Legends and Lies
Vice – 3 Fingers Up
Donnie Vie – Beautiful Things
Warrior – II
West Bound – Volume I
XT – Revived – Standing For Jesus Christ
Zion Knight – Zion Knight

Honorable Mentions

7th Heaven – Covered. I enjoy a well done covers album, particularly when the song choices aren't the same ol' same ol', and that's what 7th Heaven have done here. I really enjoy their versions of H.E.A.T's "Mannequin Show" and Rick Springfield's "Victoria's Secret".

Mark Baker – The Future Ain't What It Used To Be. Excellent archive release from MelodicRock Records featuring James Christian and Mark Free handling the majority of the vocal duties on these demos from songwriter Mark Baker; well done!

Block Buster – Losing Gravity. One of 2019's best surprises comes from Finland's Block Buster who do hard rock with a modern twist. "Back From the Shadows" is one of my favorite songs of the year!

CoreLeoni – II. A second collection of older, re-recorded Gotthard tracks with Ronnie Romero on vocals. While the re-records are well done, and stay true to the originals, it's the two new tracks, "Queen of Hearts" and "Don't Get Me Wrong" that have my attention, as I would love to hear a full CD of original material from this line-up!

Crashdiet – Rust. While I think it's fairly safe to say at this point, that they will never equal 2005's "Rest in Sleaze", "Rust" is a solid effort, and contains one of my favorite songs of the year, "In the Maze".

D.A.D. – A Prayer for the Loud. I've come back to this one quite a bit since its release back in May 19. The title track and "The Real Me" are faves!

The Defiants – Zokusho. Instantly hailed by many as "Album of the Year" upon its release; while I'm not quite that enthusiastic about it, "Zokusho" does include two of the years absolute best songs in "Hollywood in Headlights" and "U X'd My Heart". Well worth picking up for those two tracks alone!

Mick Devine – Hear Now. Admittedly, I knew next to nothing regarding Mick Devine prior to picking up this release, but that has now changed in a big way. While "Hear Now" is an eclectic effort, featuring hard rock, pop, pop country, and a bit of the AOR that he was previously known for with Seven, it all works well together, and blends into one of the year's best albums. "Strange Voices", "Home", and "Game Over" are personal faves. This one could have easily been in the top 5!

The End Machine – S/T. Featuring 3/4 of the classic Dokken line-up, along with former Lynch Mob/current Warrant vocalist Robert Mason, it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to enjoy this one. "Leap of Faith", "Bulletproof", "Alive Today", and "Life is Love is Music" are all excellent. If this one had been more consistent from start to finish, it would have been top 5 material as well.

Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill. A light, poppy affair that is the best thing they've put out in years. "Indestructible", "Fearless", "Lights", & "Think It Over" are all top notch, but the title track, "Miracle Pill", in particular is excellent!

Helix – Old School. Comprised of old demos and re-records of tracks that hadn't been released before, this is better than quite a few of this year's releases. Hard to believe that the awesome "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" didn't make the cut before!

Sammy Hagar and The Circle – Space Between. Money, greed, enlightenment, and truth; these are the concepts addressed on The Circle's debut studio album "Space Between", and they are addressed quite well! Honestly, track 6, "Bottom Line" is the only throw away song on the disc; the rest are all top notch Red Rocker material with "Devil Came to Philly", "Wide Open Space", and "Trust Fund Baby" being my faves.

Sons of Apollo – Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony. Amazing live release from Sons of Apollo; their version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" alone makes this one worth the price of admission!

Starbreaker – Dysphoria. Released early in 2019, I returned to this one quite a few times during the year. "Wild Butterflies", "Last December", and the title track are personal faves from Tony Harnell's 3rd foray into melodic metal with Starbreaker!

Redline – Gods and Monsters. It's a shame this one came out so late in the year, as it will most likely go unnoticed by many. Straight ahead, kickass hard rock, with the title track and "Prayer for the Dying" being faves.

Scott Stapp – The Space Between The Shadows. It pains me to omit this one from my top 5, but alas, while there are some amazing songs on this disc such as "Name", "Purpose For Pain", and "Survivor", some of the other tracks are quite samey and start to blend together. Still, far and away the best modern hard rock release of the year, and one of the best overall. Definitely Scott's best solo output so far!

Michael Sweet – Ten. Starting with Stryper's 2013 release "No More Hell to Pay", Michael Sweet has been on an absolute tear, putting out one excellent release after another! While I like his previous two solo releases a bit better than "Ten", this is a damn fine effort, with "Shine" and "Let It Be Love" being faves.

Robert Tepper – Better Than The Rest. THE surprise of the year for me! I didn't expect much from a new Robert Tepper album, but this is good... damn good! Check out "Why Does Over (Have to be So Sad)", "Better Than the Rest", and "I Don't Want to Make You Love Me" to hear for yourself just how good this one is.

Tora Tora – Bastards Of Beale. I was surprised when news of a new release from Tora Tora broke last year, and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be! Great bluesy hard rock that should appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the band's previous output.

Whitesnake – Flesh And Blood. While this one fails to live up to its predecessors "Good to Be Bad" and "Forevermore", it's still a damn fine effort chock full of hard rock goodness.

Work of Art – Exhibits. While I'd enjoyed Work of Art's three previous releases, they had never quite "hooked" me so to speak. Well, "Exhibits" has changed that with an album full of AOR goodies, particularly the first 4 tracks. Very well done!

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover Lovekillers – S/T (Frontiers Records). Tony Harnell pops up again, this time in my top 5 via the Frontiers AOR project Lovekillers. It's too bad this one came out in December while everyone was preoccupied with Christmas shopping and planning their holiday dinners, as it's a wonderful disc full of melodic goodies. If you haven't checked this one out yet, I recommend giving "Hurricane", "Across the Ocean", and the excellent "Heavily Broken" a listen to hear what you've been missing.

4th Place

cover Pretty Maids – Undress Your Madness (Frontiers Records). Other than 2016's "Kingmaker", which I just could not get into for some reason, Pretty Maids have been churning out great releases one after the other going back to 2006's "Wake Up to the Real World". "Undress Your Madness" is another album chock full of the Maids' signature brand of melodic metal, with tracks like "Firesoul Fly", "Will You Still Kiss Me (If I See You in Heaven)", and "Strength of a Rose" being some of my personal faves. As always, check this one out asap if you haven't done so already!

3rd Place

cover Tesla – Shock (UMI). Yes, with Phil Collen producing, helping write, and providing backing vocals, there is an undeniable Def Leppard influence on many tracks here, particularly the gang choruses, BUT, it's still a Tesla album at heart, and its a damn good one in my opinion! Songs like "Shock", the balladesque "Afterlife", and the awesome "The Mission" would fit in pretty much anywhere in Tesla's discography. "Taste Like" and "California Summer Song" are faves as well. One of my most listened to CDs of the year!

2nd Place

cover Buckcherry – Warpaint (Red Music). "15" is my favorite Buckcherry release of all time, and while they've put out some good stuff since ("Black Butterfly", "All Night Long", & "Rock n Roll" were all good releases) they've never really matched it's awesomeness. While "Warpaint" falls a bit short, it is indeed as close as they've come since, and I've played the hell out of this one since picking it up! "Radio Song", "The Vacuum", "Warpaint", and "Back Down" along with their cover of Nine Inch Nail's "Head Like a Hole" are all personal faves. Great stuff from Josh Todd and company!

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2019 CD of the Year

cover Rob Thomas – Chip Tooth Smile (Atlantic Records). I've always been a casual Matchbox 20 fan, and Rob has had some pretty decent solo tunes, but "Chip Tooth Smile" is his best work EVER in my opinion. I realize alot of people reading this probably have not checked this one out due to his being recognized primarily as a pop artist, but let me tell you, you're missing out on some excellent tunes. Check out tracks like "Early in the Morning", "The Worst in Me", "One Less Day" and the excellent "Timeless" to hear just how good a "pop" album can be! My most played CD of the year!

Jez's Picks for the Best of 2019

The Also Rans

AOR – Heavenly Demos
Airbourne – Boneshaker
Alliance – Fire and Grace
American Tears – White Flags
Bryan Adams – Shine a Light
Babymetal – Metal Galaxy
Backyard Babies – Silver and Gold
David Bickler – Darklight
Blood Red Saints – Pulse
Michael Bolton – A Symphony of Hits
The Brink – Nowhere To Run
Burnt Out Wreck – This Is Hell
Crashdiet – Rust
Mick Devine – Here Now
Edge Of Forever – Native Soul
The Enid – U
FM – The Italian Job
Don Felder – American Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Ferrymen – A New Evil
Hardware ‘86 – Hardware ‘86 (EP)
Jadis – Medium Rare II
Inglorious – Ride To Nowhere
Journey – Live In Japan 2017: Escape and Frontiers
Tom Keifer – Rise
Korpiklaani – Kulkija
Lordi – Recordead Live: Sextourcism in Z7
Magnum – Live At The Symphony Hall
Mike + The Mechanics – Out Of The Blue
Molly Hatchet – Battleground
Yngwie Malmsteen – Blue Lightning
Nightwish – Decades: Live In Buenos Aires
Jim Peterik & World Stage
Kane Roberts – The New Normal
Rose Tattoo – Live At The BBC
Santana – Africa Speaks
Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed 40 Live
David A. Saylor – Kiss Of Judas 2
Michael Schenker Fest – Revelation
Sons of Apollo – Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Orchestra
Soto – Origami
Status Quo – Backbone
Steel Panther – Heavy Metal Rules
Syteria – Reflection
Tarja – In The Raw
Terra Nova – Raise Your Voice
Michael Thompson Band – Love And Beyond
Tobias Summit's Avantasia – Moonglow
Toto – 40 Tours Around the Sun
Trust – Fils De Lutte
Tug Of War – Soulfire
Unruly Child – Big Blue World
The Who – Who

Honorable Mentions

213 – Three Little Words. Recorded way back in 1981 and unreleased until now, this is a real pure westcoast .treat, beautifully remastered by the Preservation Records team and thankfully now here for us all to hear. westcoast/ yacht rock doesn't get much better than this one

Alan Parsons – The Secret. Alan Parson's first album in 15 years and another well-crafted album of light symphonic rock, very much in the style of earlier Alan Parsons Project albums. Some nice guests appear too, in the form of Steve Hackett, Lou Gramm, Nathan East and Jason Mraz.

Angel – Risen. Punky and Frank return with a new Angel line up and a brand new album and very good it is too. The trademark Punky licks and Frank's ever impressive vocals are present throughout, although strangely the keyboards are a little under played in places and some of the songs miss the big grandiose Giuffria sound of old, but that is a minor niggle There are some fabulous tracks on here, with even a brand new version of the classic 'Tower' making an appearance, At 17 tracks and 75 minutes playing time, it may out stay it's welcome a little, but it is still an excellent album and one of my most played of the year

Art Nation – Transition. 3 albums in, and as the title suggests, a definite transition in their sound this time around, with the band heading in a more metallic direction with impressive results.

Axe – Final Offering. Whilst this doesn't quite capture the magic of the first few albums (the debut S/T still is to this day, an absolute classic), this is still a very commendable slice of old school hard rock

Battle Beast – No More Hollywood Endings. Doing what they do best, melodic Heavy Metal with touches of melodic rock and AOR. and another really strong album.

Beast In Black – From Hell With Love. A glorious melting pot of power metal, hard rock and synth pop blend to produce a superb sophomore release.

Black Star Riders. Another State Of Grace. New album, new line up, but musically pretty much the same blueprint as before. Classic rock 'n roll in the Thin Lizzy vein, with great melodies and hooks throughout

Doug Brons – Timepiece. 2019 has thrown up many a great album in the westcoast genre and this one is no different. If Michael McDonald, David Pack, Toto, and Michael Sembello float your boat (Yacht), then add this one to your list.

Thierry Condor – City Nights. Super smooth, superbly arranged, and performed 80's westcoast soft rock perfect for those summer nights.

Crazy Lixx – Forever Wild. Pretty much a continuation from the 'Ruff Justice' and another excellent slice of Sleazy melodic rock from the Swedes. Hooks galore, superbly played and produced and one of the best of its genre this year.

The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled. Love 'em or Loathe 'em, The Darkness return with a fine album, choc full of their token tongue in cheek hard rock riffage. Great fun from start to finish and their best album in quite some while

DarWin – Origin Of The Species. An 80 minute, 2 disc Sci-Fi concept album, based around a post apocalyptic world, ravaged by climate change and nuclear war. Heavy stuff indeed, but musically this is really impressive, covering many bases stylistically from straight ahead rock, to more proggy and symphonic, orchestrated pieces and some fusion too. I found myself thinking of everything from 30 Seconds to Mars, Alan Parsons Project, Steve Lukather solo and Spock's Beard, amongst others whilst listening to this epic adventure. There's lots to get your teeth into and pretty much something for everyone, if you are willing to give it a chance

The Defiants – Zokusho. Style wise, this is exactly the same as the debut, although the standard of song writing in general is better in my humble opinion and I enjoyed it a lot more than the first one. As well as the excellent performances, the sound is a million bucks too, all adding up to a highly impressive album that is certainly going to be on many a top ten list this year

Degreed – Lost Generation. Another highly consistent band and another really strong album of modern melodic AOR. Not much to fault on here and an album that slips effortlessly into their already impressive discography

Delain – Hunters Moon/Dance Macabre: Live At Tivoli Vredenburg. 4 new studio tracks plus a live album and blu-ray; from one of the better bands of the current crop of symphonic metal acts. Full new album in 2020.

Diamond Head – The Coffin Train. A pleasant surprise from this legendary NWOBHM band. Big riffs, big sound, as of old, but with a few new twists and turns along the way, that keeps it fresh and relevant. As well as Brian Tatler's always great guitar playing, there are some great vocals on show too

Carl Dixon – Unbroken. 3rd solo outing from the Coney Hatch front man and a good one at that. It doesn't stray too far away from the style and quality of his day job, so you're guaranteed at least a handful of good songs, which 'Unbroken' definitely delivers and then some

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time. Back to a more focused sound (for them) after the last few releases and it's all the better for it. It's classic, trademark DT all the way here, superb musicianship, production and shorter, more concise songs this time around. Brilliant album over all and one of the best of their long career

Eclipse – Paradigm. The winning formula of previous albums continues here, so the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' saying is very apt here. As before, this is top quality melodic hard rock, with hooks galore and an immaculate production.

Elyose – Reconnexion. French female fronted industrial electro metal and a really good album. Think a more electro Evenescence crossed with the more operatic vocals (sung in French) of Tarja from Nightwish and you'll be right on track. Album number 3 this one and their best so far.

Find Me – Angels In Blue. A highly anticipated one for me after the brilliant 'Dark Angel' from a couple of years back. I will say from the outset, this isn't as good, but it still stands up pretty well amongst the other releases of its type this year and contains a handful of AOR gems

First Night – First Night. Classic sounding AOR is the name of the game from this fairly new Estonian band and a very solid album it is. At 14 tracks it's fairly long and gets a little repetitive after a while, but no doubt they have produced a very good album here and one of the year's better AOR discs

First Signal – Line Of Fire. Album number 3 and as with the previous 2 albums, everything that you'd expect from an album with Harry Hess's credentials on it. Very solid song writing, good performances, although it lacks a little bit of magic and could be accused of being a little formulaic in places. Nevertheless, it's highly enjoyable and worth a spin or three.

The Flower Kings – Waiting For Miracles. A welcome return of this top quality Prog band from Sweden with an elaborate and ambitious musical journey spread across 2 discs and 80 odd minutes. It's pretty much trademark Flower Kings all the way, with their usual twists and turns, melody and out and out proggyness.

Flying Colors – Third Degree. Portnoy, LaRue, Mc Pherson, Morse and Morse, great pedigree one and all and a first class album of melodic prog with plenty of melody and pop sensibilities.

Fortune – II. A very long awaited follow up to the classy (some would say classic) debut from 1985 (no rush lads). This is great Pompy AOR with some fine songs that will take you straight back to the 80's.

Gathering Of Kings – First Mission. A Long time in the making this one, but well worth the wait. A fantastic line up of vocalists all turning in excellent performances on some great hard melodic AOR tunes. Distribution wasn't the best on this one, so it wasn't the easiest disc to get hold of, but if you did manage to get a copy, repeat plays of this pay off handsomely

Grand Slam – Hit the Ground. After Phil Lynott's passing in 1984, the original Grand Slam split without ever releasing a full studio album. Fast forward to 2019 and with a new line up, the Grand Slam debut finally sees the light of day and it doesn't disappoint. It's classic guitar rock, with great playing courtesy of Laurence Archer and a good set of songs, some from the original Phil Lynott era and some fresh new ones too. A really good album this one and well worth checking out

Toby Hitchcock – Reckoning. 'Mercurys Down' was an excellent debut album and this sophomore release is hard on its heels in the quality stakes. I love this guy's powerhouse vocal and coupled with the impressive and in demand Daniel Flores (Find Me, Mind's Eye, Murder of My Sweet) on production duties, a fine new partnership has been born.

IQ – Resistance. Latest double album from the UK Neo prog stalwarts and another top quality album of finely crafted progressive music. Not their best, but still highly recommended

King of Hearts – King of Hearts. A very nice surprise this one. Tommy Funderburk and Bruce Gaitsch return with more silky smooth AOR grooves, in one of the year's best releases.

Lacuna Coli – Black Anima. I always look forward to new Lacuna Coil stuff and this doesn't disappoint one iota. It's sounds massive, dynamic, heavy and shows a band right back at the top of their game

Phil Lanzon – 48 Seconds. Last year's 'If You Think I'm Crazy' was a real favourite and this continues on where that left off A great mix of 70's styled classic rock, pop and prog melded together to make a wonderful album full of treasures

Leverage – Determinus. A welcome return after 10 years with a new vocalist in Kimmo Blom (Urban Tale, Heartplay) and a more diverse sound than on previous albums. Symphonic hard rock with a few proggy twists and turns along the way and a very fine album indeed. Good to have them back on the scene

Lonely Robot – Under Stars. Part 3 of John Mitchell's Lonely Robot trilogy and another fine example of quality melodic prog rock. It's lush, melodic, atmospheric and beautifully produced and played, mostly by John himself and a prog highlight of the year for sure

Mandoo – Pacific Addiction. Imagine driving down the pacific coast highway, soft top down and sun shining. This would be the perfect musical accompaniment. Ultra smooth, westcoast pop

Metalite – Biomechanicals. Modern, melodic power metal with huge choruses and trancey keyboards, featuring great vocals from new singer Erica Ohlsson. The new wave of Dance Metal has arrived and it's a real treat

Myrath – Shehili. Tunisian band Myrath offer up a really great mix of melodic metal with the use of traditional North African instruments and orchestration amongst the mix, giving this a distinct, fresh sound, 'Shehili' offers plenty for the seasoned metal head, yet also offers something a little different in the genre

Nemesea – White Flag. This is a really good band and one I've been following for a while now .and with album number 5 and a new vocalist in tow, it's pretty much as it was previously..Alt Rock/Metal with an electronic edge and some really good songs. Not as good as the previous 'The Quiet Resistance' and superb 'Uprise' releases mind you, but well worth tracking down if you want some female fronted rock that offers something a little different to the usual Nightwish, Within Temptation, Delain and the like.

Pattern Seeking Animals – Pattern Seeking Animals. New Prog band featuring members old and new of Spock's Beard and a very commendable debut album it is. If you like the Spock's Beard sound blended with Kansas and, Styx like harmonies plus a taste in 70's/80's prog in general, then Pattern Seeking Animals should be right up your street.

Pretty Maids – Undress The Madness. A great band with a big, powerful sound and one of my favourites over the last few years. This slips in easily next to 'Pandemonium', 'King Maker' and 'Motherland' from the last few years and is another fine example of what they do best. Excellent stuff

Queensryche – The Verdict. Straight to the point, THE best Queensryche album with Todd's name on it, THE best Queensryche album in over 25 years and to quote Michael Wilton himself 'The most metal and the most progressive record we have made in a long time'

Rammstein – Rammstein. This is typical Rammstein, great riffs, pounding rhythms, hooky choruses, techno-lite keys and those vocals. Not everyone's cup of tea I'll grant you, but for me a brilliant band and brilliant album

Rock Goddess – This Time. A good album this one and maybe even better than the stuff they released back in their heyday. Good to see the girls back and firing on all cylinders with the heart and passion they have always had.

The Rods – Brotherhood Of Metal. Classic old school balls to the wall US metal, full of pounding metal riffs and great songs. A real nice surprise this one

Rox – Roxstars. With its feet firmly stuck in the American rock of the 70's/ early 80's, this is an unashamed trip back to the days of Angel, Legs Diamond and Starz to name but three. This contains the three tracks from the previous 'Teenteeze' EP.from a couple of years back, plus 8 other catchy cuts and is a great, fun, rollercoaster of a ride

Sabaton – The Great War. Trade mark Sabaton all the way here. Absolutely no re-inventing the wheel, just a band doing what they do best and long may they do so.

Jason Scheff – Here I Am. Chicago vocalist/ bassist's latest solo album of new versions of some Chicago hits and four new tracks. Smooth as silk, great songs, so if you like the Chicago sound of the 80's/'90's, this is the album for you

Soilwork – Verkligheten/Underworld EP. Bjorn from The Night Flight Orchestra's other job and a completely different beast it is. Heavy, although very melodic in places, this is a really good album ranging from melodic death metal, through to classic rock, with some definite NFO influences thrown in as well.

State Cows – Challenges. One of the best bands on the westcoast scene at the moment and a quite brilliant 3rd album of sophisticated westcoast pop and rock. If a delicious mix of Toto and Steely Dan with gorgeous solos and harmonies is you thing, then this is the album to check out. Superb

Robert Tepper – Better Than the Rest. Another very pleasant surprise this year and a very nice, smooth 80's style AOR release. There's nothing on here that quite lives up to the classic 'No Easy Way Out', but it's very solid throughout

Toto – Old Is New. Part of the magnificent 'All In' remastered box set, 'Old is New' does exactly as its title implies. Previously unreleased old and new tracks recorded by various line ups of the band over the years. There are some real classic Toto tracks on here, with 3 of them already appearing on the '40 Trips Around The Sun' compilation released earlier in the year, but hopefully, this will get a stand-alone release, so everyone gets a chance to hear the other gems on offer

Tygers of Pan Tang – Ritual. The NWOBHM is alive and well with one of the bands strongest releases of their career and a band showing no signs of letting up. An album that rocks from start to finish

Valensia – 7eve7. 7th release from the Dutch Multi-instrumentalist and, as with his previous releases, this will either delight or confuse in equal measure. The heady mix of Queen inspired pomp rock, with more than a nod (some may say blatant plagiarism) to Kate Bush, Nik Kershaw and The Beatles

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound. A fairly new band to me and an album choc full of infectious riffs and hooky choruses. It's fairly eclectic throughout with many influences in the mix, but a highly enjoyable album and a band I will certainly be checking out more.

Whitesnake – Flesh and Blood. Pretty much a continuation of the 'Forevermore' and 'Good to Be Bad' albums, so you all know the present day Whitesnake formula by now. This is a very good, without being a great Snake album, although the playing by the current line up is pretty exemplary throughout and Coverdale is still hanging on in there with the vocals.

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Lava – Water (Self-released). Often described as the Norwegian Toto (although I would argue that they have a more pure westcoast sound than the Toto boys) this, their 8th studio album, is a release rich in elaborate song writing, arrangements and production and an absolute master class in westcoast music. It's their first album in 14 years and I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait that long for another one, as this is superb stuff.

4th Place

cover Within Temptation – Resist (Spinefarm Records). A slight shift in direction on this, their 7th studio album, but one that sees the band sounding fresh and re-invigorated. Whilst the symphonic rock/ metal sound of old is still present, this time the band has added an electronic, industrial sound into the mix, giving the album a more hi-tech futuristic feel. If you liked their older releases such as 'Silent Force' or the glorious 'The Unforgiving' then this maybe a step to far left for some, but if the more experimental sounds of 'Hydra' ticked all the boxes, then ‘Resist’ will deliver in spades.

3rd Place

cover Work of Art – Exhibits (Frontiers Records). One of the most consistent of bands over the course of their 3 albums, 'Exhibits' continues their exceptional legacy. It's classic WOA all the way, Top class pure AOR, supremely delivered (Lars is still one of, if not THE best vocalists doing this type of stuff), superb clean and punchy production and most importantly a fantastic set of songs. WOA come up trumps yet again and make it 4 in a row.

2nd Place

cover Ole Borud – Outside the Limit (Linx Music). Exquisite westcoast pop/rock and along with the aforementioned State Cows and Lava releases, the shining light in present day westcoast music. Anyone with a taste for the classic bands such as Pages, Jay Graydon, Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Chicago, Steely Dan, with a modern production sound, must check this guy out pronto, as over the course of his 4 or 5 albums, he has released some of the best music this genre has to offer in recent years. Slickly produced, immaculately played and a pure delight to the ears.

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2019 CD of the Year

cover Cats in Space – Daytrip to Narnia/My Kind of Christmas. Another exceptionally consistent band over the course of their relatively short 3 album career so far, but what a highly impressive catalogue of music they have released so far. This latest album (and the brand new mini album 'My Kind Of Christmas') adds to this in droves; Whilst it maybe not as up tempo or rocky as the 2 previous albums, 'Daytrip To Narnia' is still a mighty fine album throughout, with the major highlight going to the 8 part, 27 minute masterpiece that is 'The Story Of Johnny Rocket' which must go down as the best thing they have released thus far, superb stuff every single minute of it. Mention must also be made of the mini album released in December. Although the title track is a festive Xmas song (and a damned good one it is too if you like that kind of thing), the rest of the album contains some other fantastic tracks like 'Hollywood' and the brilliant 'This Is London' amongst its other tasty treats and should also be checked out even by the casual fan. With a new album planned new album in 2020. The Cats are very much alive and well.

Pete's Picks for the Best of 2019

The Also Rans

7HY – No Going Back
99 Crimes – 99 Crimes
A New Tomorrow – Universe
Adellaide – New Horizons
Affaire – Less Ain't More
Age of Reflection – A New Dawn
Airbourne – Boneshaker
Airstrike – Initial Attack
Alchemy – Dyadic
Alliance – Fire and Grace
Soren Andersen – Guilty Pleasures
Anthem – Nucleus
Ardours – Last Place on Earth
Art Nation – Transition
At the Sun – Leave Before the Light
Autumn's Child – Autumn's Child
Avantasia – Moonglow
Axe – Final Offering
Babylon Shakes – Exile to the Velveteen Lounge
Backyard Babies – Silver and Gold
Bad Marriage – Bad Marriage
Bai Bang – Best of Four
Mark Baker – The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
Beast in Black – From Hell With Love
Beyond Imagination – Beyond Imagination
Black Cat Biscuit – That's How the Cookie Crumbles
Black Mamba – Black Mamba II
Black Star Riders – Another State Of Grace
Black Stone Cherry – Black to Blues 2
Black Whiskey – Dry Bones
Blackrain – Dying Breed
Blackwater Commotion – Strike One
Blindberry Ghost – Blindberry Ghost
Blood Red Saints – Pulse
Bloodbound – Rise of the Dragon Empire
Connie Bloom – Game! Set! Bloom!
Bonfire – Live on Holy Ground - Wacken 2018
Graham Bonnet Band – Live in Tokyo 2017
The Brink – Nowhere To Run
Brothers of Metal – Emblas Saga
Burnt Out Wreck – This is Hell
Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar
Cannonballz – 8 Ballz 2 Many
Chaos Magic – Furyborn
Colorvine – Wake Up
Come Taste The Band – Reignition
Compilations – Hollywood Hairspray Vol. 8
Compilations – MRR100 - Left Off The First 99
CoreLeoni – II
Corroded – Bitter
Crashdiet – Rust
Crazy Lixx – Forever Wild
Crystal Viper – Tales of Fire and Ice
D.A.D. – A Prayer for the Loud
Danger Zone – Don't Count on Heroes
Dark Blue Inc. – Linked to Life
The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings
The Dead Daisies – Locked and Loaded
Dead Kosmonaut – Gravitas
Death's-Head and the Space Allusion – The Counterbalance
Denman – Raw Deal
DeVicious – Reflections
Mick Devine – Hear Now
Carl Dixon – Unbroken
The Driftwood Sign – Broken Times
Dust & Bones – The Great Damnation Stereo Parade
Easy Action – That Makes One
Edge Of Forever – Native Soul
Edge of Paradise – Universe
Eighteenth Hour – Eighteenth Hour
Eloy – The Vision, The Sword, and the Pyre Part II
The End Machine – The End Machine
Envenomed – The Walking Shred
Evergrey – The Atlantic
Every Mother's Nightmare – Backtraxx
Fahran – Vapours
Faithsedge – Bleed For Passion
Fiction Syxx – The Alternate Me
Fighter V – Fighter
Find Me – Angels In Blue
First Signal – Line of Fire
The Fluffy Jackets feat. Manny Charlton – Something From Nothing
FM – The Italian Job
Foreigner – Double Vision: Then and Now
Fortune – II
Frantic Amber – Bellatrix
French Maide – The Rat
Fugitive – The Awakening
Gathering of Kings – First Mission
Ghost Reaper – Straight out of Hell
Glassya – Heaven's Demise
Grönholm-Small – Head Funk
Gypsy Rose – Reloaded
Steve Hackett – At the Edge of Light
Sammy hagar & The Circl – Space Between
Hardland – In Control
Hawk Eyes – Advice
Heavy Feather – Débris & Rubble
Hedfuzy – Waves
Helix – Old School
Hell's Addiction – V1.0
Henning Hallqvist – Time Keeper
Hideaway – Hideaway
Toby Hitchcock – Reckoning
Hollow Haze – Between Wild Landscapes and Deep Blue Seas
Hollowstar – Hollowstar
Human Fortress – Reign of Gold
Inglorious – Ride to Nowhere
The Inner Road – The Majestic Garden
Iron Savior – Kill or Get Killed
JD Miller – Afterglow
Jailbirds – The Great Escape
Michael Jessen – Bulletproof
Jetboy – Born to Fly
Jim Peterik and World Stage – Winds of Change
Jimi Anderson Group – I Belong
Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz – This Is How We Roll
Junkyard – Old Habits Die Hard
Karo – Heavy Birthday II and III
Keen Hue – Heydays
Tom Keifer – Rise
King Voodoo – 4
King Zebra – King Zebra
King of Hearts – King of Hearts (2019)
Kryptos – Afterburner
KXM – Circle of Dolls
L.A. Guns – The Devil You Know
Jorn Lande – Live on Death Road
Last In Line – II
LastWorld – Time
Leathurbitch – Into the Night
Jeanice Lee – Beyond Never
Leverage – Determinus
Licence – Never 2 Old 2 Rock
Liv Sin – Burning Sermons
Lordi – Killection
The LRW Project – To Love, Repeat & Wonder?
Lugnet – Nightwalker
Tara Lynch – Evil Enough
Majestica – Above the Sky
Marty Peters Group – Unfinished Business
MASS – Still Chained
Matt Mitchell and the Coldhearts – Matt Mitchell and The Coldhearts
Meridian – Margin of Error
Metalite – Biomechanicals
Michael Schenker Fest – Revelation
Michael Thompson Band – Love and Beyond
Midnight Bullet – Int the Fire
Sam Millar – Holy Sass
MoLD – Horrors
Morano – Incognito
Rob Moratti – Renaissance
Neal Morse – Jesus Christ The Exorcist
Mr. Myst – We Will Rise
The Murder of My Sweet – Brave Tin World
Narnia – From Darkness to Light
The New Roses – Nothing But Wild
Heather Newman Band – Rise From the Flames
Nightqueen – Seduction
Nightrider – Rock Machine
Peter H Nilsson – Little American Dream
Nth Ascension – Stranger Than Fiction
Orion's Reign – Symphony of War
Outlasted – Waiting For Daybreak
Stef Paglia – Never Forget
Paralandra – All Fall Down
Robert Pehrsson – Out of the Dark
Axel Rudi Pell – XXX Anniversary Live
Pendulum Of Fortune – Return to Eden
Praying Mantis – Keep It Alive!
Pretty Wild – Interstate 13
Prime Creation – Tears of Rage
Prophets of Addiction – Nothing But the Truth
Qantice – The Anastoria
Queensryche – The Verdict
Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys
Quireboys – Amazing Disgrace
Rain Or Shine – The Darkest Part Of Me
Re-Machined – Wheels of Time
Redline – Gods and Monsters
Redlizzard – The Black Album
Restless Spirits – Restless Spirits
Reuben Archer with The Brand – Boneyard
Rhapsody of Fire – The Eight Mountain
Riot – V - Live in Japan 2018
Kane Roberts – The New Normal
Robin George and Jenny Darren – SavagesongS
Rock Goddess – This Time
The Room – Caught By The Machine
Roulette – Now!
ROX – Roxstars
Roxy Blue – Roxy Blue
Saints of Sin – Saints of Sin
Salem – Win Lose or Draw
Sammy Hagar and The Circle – Space Between
Sandness – Untamed
Santa Cruz – Katharsis
Sascha Paeth's Masters of Ceremony – Signs of Wings
Scythe For Sore Eyes – Nothing
Luca Sellitto – The Voice Within
Shadow Breaker – Shadow Breaker
Sign X – Like a Fire
Silked And Stained – Goes Up to Eleven
Sinner – Santa Muerte
Skillet – Victorious
Soleil Moon – Warrior
Sons of Apollo – Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony
Sonus Corona – Time is Not on Your Side
Soto – Origami
Spirits of Fire – Spirits of Fire
Spread Eagle – Subway To The Stars
Rick Springfield – Orchestrating My Life
Squares – Best of the Early '80s
Scott Stapp – The Space Between The Shadows
Stargazer – The Sky Is The Limit
State Cows – Challenges
Statement – Force of Life
Station – Stained Glass
Steel Prophet – The God Machine
Stranded – New Dawn
Strangers – Brand New Start
Stripwired – Another Shot
Strip – Glad To Meet You Sucker
Joe Stump – Symphonic Onslaught
Michael Sweet – Ten
Tarchon Fist – Apocalypse
Robert Tepper – Better Than The Rest
Terra Nova – Raise Your Voice
Tesla – Shock
Theatre of Tragedy – Remixed
Thunder – Please Remain Seated
Thunder – The Greatest Hits
Thunderfuck and the Deadly Romantics – Dirty, Sleazy, Rock'n'Roll
Timo Tolkki's Avalon – Return to Eden
Track of Rock – Track of Rock
The Treatment – Power Crazy
Tug of War – Soulfire
Tygers Of Pan Tang – Hellbound, Spellbound - Live 1981
Tygers Of Pan Tang – Ritual
Tyketto – Strength in Numbers Live
Unruly Child – Big Blue World
Vandallus – Outbreak
Vandor – In the Land of Vandor
Danny Vaughn – Myths, Legends and Lies
Velvet Insane – Velvet Insane
Verity White – Reclaim Set Fire
Viana – Forever Free
Vice – 3 Fingers Up
Donnie Vie – Beautiful Things
Phil Vincent – Hypocrite
Vitne – Aria
Voodoo Vegas – Feeling So Good
Wake The Nations – Heartrock
Warrior – II
West Bound – Volume I
Wheels Of Fire – Begin Again
Whitesnake – Flesh And Blood
Wicked Garden – Post Dystopian Leisure Music
X-Romance – Voices from the Past

Honorable Mentions

91 Suite – Starting All Over. I missed them and their melodic sensibility, hope they stick around and do a full album.

Block Buster – Losing Gravity. Cool new band from Frontiers, melodic, but modern and with a groove.

7 Miles to Pittsburgh – Revolution On Hold. Andrew Elt (Sleeze Beez) on vox. Good stuff, slightly proggy at times, but not without hooks.

Charm City Devils – 1904. I love these guys, balls out and bluesy, wish it was a full album.

Deaf Rat – Ban the Light. Great new band/album from former Billion Dollar Babies. Metallic/Melodic Hard Rock.

The Defiants – Zokusho. If I had a Top 6, this would be in it. Pure melodic bliss that picks up where the first oen left off.

Degreed – Lost Generation. Fantastic and hooky, it delivers AOR the way I like it, with a bit more drive.

Eclipse – Paradigm. This might have to fight The Defiants for that mythical Top 6 spot. These guys always deliver, and this is no exception.

David Glen Eisley – Tattered, Torn and Worn. I gotta say, I thought he was pretty much done after the sub-par Craig Goldy collab, but this is really quite good. Great songs and David sounds good.

Electric Revolution – Burn it Down. Kickass independent rock from the Chicago area, check it out!

Hardline – Life. Okay, so maybe nothing can touch Double Eclipse, but Johnny and Co. really put together a killer record here.

House of Shakira – Radiocarbon. Now THIS is the HoS I remember, complete with amazing vocal harmonies and odd time signatures.

Mats Karlsson – The Time Optimist. A nicely diverse album full of good songs from the 220 Volt Guitarist.

July Reign – Waves of Destiny. I was a little leary of Carsten not doing vocals for this, but new singer PJ Molla put my mind at ease from the first note. Killer slab of prog/power here.

Lovekillers – Lovekillers. I love Tony's voice, and on it's best tracks this project reminds me of Intuition-era TNT.

Tony Mills – Beyond the Law. RIP, a fitting swansong from a stellar vocalist, featuring great songs and an excellent production.

Nitrate – Open Wide. You can hear the Wilde/Newdeck influence for sure, but this is definitely it's own animal. Nick (Hogg) has put together an excellent selection of tunes here, and a step up from the debut.

Pretty Maids – Undress Your Madness. What can I say… these guys don't put out bad albums.

Rockett Love – Greetings from Rocketland. A siginificant step up from the debut, this sounds more cohesive, and it rocks!

Starbreaker – Dysphoria. The latest chapter (and possibly my favorite) of the Magnus Karlsson/Tony Harnell project.

Suicide Bombers – Murder Couture. Solid, kickass, independently produced sleaze from Norway. These guys just keep crushing it a little more with every release.

Sweet Oblivion – Sweet Oblivion. Geoff Tate fronted project that to be honest, I find myself liking more than either the current Queensryche, or the current Geoff Tate Operation Mindcrime thing. Don't hate me…

Warrior Soul – Rock 'n' Roll Disease. It's Kory Clarke, raw, in your face and unapologetic… the only way I'd want it.

Pete's Winners

5th Place

cover Work of Art – Exhibits (Frontiers Records). his is plain and simple, a beautifully created album. WoA has always nailed that AOR sound, and although I wouldn't think it possible, I felt like they upped the ante and took it even further this time. Just a pleasure to listen to from a sonic perspective, but then add to that the high level of musicianship present, and some brilliant hooks and you've got something really special. Standout tracks for me include Misguided Love, Be the Believer, and If I Could Fly.

4th Place

cover Gin Annie – 100 Proof (Off Yer Rocka Recordings). Modern but still melodic, with a hint of Southern Rock in their sound, and just a bunch of kickass songs. If you dig Black Stone Cherry and that sort of thing, these guys will be right up your alley. Solid twin guitar action, big production and it just sounds like they love what they're doing. Standouts for me are Damage is Done, Chains, and Dead & Gone.

3rd Place

cover Michael Bormann's Jaded Hard – Feels Like Yesterday (RMB Records). Like most people, I've always loved Bormann's voice, and although I like most of the stuff he's done since he left Jaded Heart, it always felt more like he was layered on top of a preexisting situation. Feels Like Yesterday sounds almost like it picks up where he left off with Jaded Heart... so really how can you not love that? Standout tracks for me are the title track, I'm a Son of a Gun, and Everybody is a Rockstar.

2nd Place

cover Tora Tora – Bastards of Beale (Frontiers Records). Been a Tora Tora fan since day one, and this album totally hit the spot for me. More in the direction of the debut as opposed to the shinier/prettier ""Wild America"", Bastards has that gritty Memphis blues in it. Son of a Prodigal Son, Silence the Sirens, and Lights Up the River are the standouts for me, but I love the whole damn thing!

Pete's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2019 CD of the Year

cover Burning Rain – Face the Music (Frontiers Music). Oh hell yes! After being a bit disappointed by Epic Obsession, this sucker hit me like a freight train. Aldrich (as always) is playing like the mofo that he is, and Keith St. John sounds inspired. The songs are hooky and powerful and this is all right in my wheelhouse. Standout tracks for me are Revolution, Beautiful Road, and Face the Music.

Existing comments about Best of 2019

From: 123charpenay Date: February 6, 2020 at 19:11
my top 11 for 2019.A TEAM FOR THE CHAMPION S LEAGUE 1 HARDLINE life 2 CRAZY LIXX forever wild 3 FORTUNE II 4 DANGER ZONE don t count on heroes 5 FIGHTER V fighter 6 MICHAEL BORMANN S JADED HARD feels like yesterday 7 WHITESNAKE flesh and blood 8 THE DEFIANTS zokusho 9 FIRST NIGHT 10 ROULETTE now 11 WORRY BLAST 44.

From: Doug Date: February 6, 2020 at 22:27
The annual best of lists are AWESOME! My Best of 2019, in no particular order. FIND ME - Angels in Blue, THE END MACHINE - S/T, TESLA - Shock, BURNING RAIN - Face the Music, UNRULY CHILD - Big Blue World, HARDLINE - Life, DONNIE VIE - Beautiful Things, ECLIPSE - Paradigm and ALTER BRIDGE - Walk the Sky. Some honorable mentions, TORA TORA - Bastards of Beale and SWEET OBLIVION - S/T. Biggest disappointment continues to be STEEL PANTHER, so much talent, but no direction.

From: Auslander Date: February 7, 2020 at 0:55
Wow, how good are The Defiants! So glad I read this article. What amazing music. Have ordered an import into Australia right now. Can't wait until it arrives. Thanks for introducing me to thus band.

From: CC Date: February 8, 2020 at 15:01
Top five for me would be in no order: LA Guns - The devil you know Kane Roberts - The new normal Silked & Stained - Goes up to eleven Tragedy - Tragedy goes to the movies And an easy number one goes to Donnie Vie - Beautiful things. Although I had a digital copy in 2018, the official release was 2019. So many albums I bought that were just not as good as expected, and it left me actually not ordering a lot of albums I wanted to because I was feeling so let down by those, and now having to play catch up.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 9, 2020 at 20:50
I skipped over all the "Also Rans," where HH staff list every other goddamn record they heard this year that didn't make their top ten or the honorable-mention overflow pool. Too much, man, too much. My own top ten: 1. Evergrey - The Atlantic; 2. Amon Amarth - Berserker; 3. L.A. Guns - The Devil You Know; 4. Overkill: The Wings Of War; 5. Tora Tora - Bastards Of Beale; 6. Novembers Doom - Nephilim Grove; 7. Death Angel - Humanicide; 8. The Treatment - Power Crazy; 9. Haunt - If Icarus Could Fly; and 10. Gatecreeper - Deserted. If live albums counted, my vote goes to Bullet - Live (not to be confused with Live Bullet). Honorable mentions )just a few) go to Airbourne, Volbeat, Candlemass and Black Sgtone Cherry's second EP of blues covers. Is it fair to say that Tesla's Shock was the biggest disappointment, when I didn't have high expectations for it anyway?

From: Auslander Date: February 10, 2020 at 3:30
Hey Doghouse, maybe all the also-rans could be listed once at the end as "The Contenders"? I actually don't mind seeing a list of all the releases from the year, but agree the repition of the list numerous times may be a bit much for the casual reader.

From: rocksedano Date: February 10, 2020 at 17:39
My own top 5: 1.Nitrate - Open wide; 2. Michael Thompson Band - Love and Beyond; 3. Jimmy Barnes - My criminal Record; 4. The End Machine - The End Machine; 5. Work of Art - Exhibits

From: Scandiman Date: February 17, 2020 at 14:41
Thank you for all the work you guys put into these lists each year! I always find something I missed along the way. Here is my top 10: 1> Eclipse - Paradigm 2> Beast In Black - From Hell With Love 3> Crazy Lixx - Forever Wild 4> Wake The Nations - Heartrock 5> Work of Art - Exhibits 6> Rob Moratti - Renaissance 7> Gathering of Kings - First Mission 8> Find Me - Angels In Blue 9> Rammstein - Rammstein 10> Pretty Maids - Undress Your Madness

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