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The Best of 2021!

In addition to my top picks for 2021, you can also read the top 5 picks from Mike, Jez, Pete, and Terry. 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. We don't all listen to the same set of releases each year.


Dan's Picks for the Best of 2021

The Also Rans

3.2 — Third Impression
5ive Years Gone — Rock N Roll Rebirth
7 Days — The Weight of the World (Remixed & Remastered)
A Day to Remember — You're Welcome
ABBA — Voyage
Age of Wolves — ST
Alan Parson — The Neverending Show Live in the Netherlands
Alcatrazz — V
Alirio — All Things Must Pass
Andrew W.K. — God is Partying
Angelwings — Primordium
Arc of Life — ST
Architects — For Those That Wish To Exist
Arion — Vultures Die Alone
Artillery — X
Ashes of Ares — Emperors and Fools
Auri — II — Those We Don't Speak Of
Avaland — Theater of Sorcery
BOLIDO — Against the World
Backwood Spirit — Fresh from the Can
Barnabas Sky — Inspirations
Between Worlds — ST
Big City — Testify X
Black Flare — ST
Black Veil Brides — The Phantom Tomorrow
Blaze Bayley — War Within Me
Blood Red Saints — Undisputed
Bloodbound — Creatures of the Dark Realm
Bloody Hell — The Bloodening
Bonfire — Roots
Book of Numbers — Magick
Brainstorm — Wall of Skulls
Breed of Aggression — This Is My War
Brian Island — ST
Brother Against Brother — ST
Bullet For My Valentine — ST
Burning Point — Arsonist of the Soul
Burning Witches — The Witch of the North
Callow Youth — Straight to the End EP
Cap Outrun — High on Deception
Carl Sentance — Electric Eye
Carved in Stone — Wafts of Mist & The Forgotten Belief
Catalyst Crime — ST
Cats in Space — Diamonds (The Best Of Cats In Space)
Chalice of Sin — ST
Chez Kane — ST
Cicadastone — Cold Chamber
Circus of Rock — Come One, Come All
Constancia — Brave New World
Corporate Control — Whatever It Takes
Cradle of Filth — Existence Is Futile
Crawling Manifest — Radical Absolution
Crazy Lixx — Street Lethal
Creye — II
Cruzh — Tropical Thunder
Crystal Viper — The Cult
Crystallion — Heads or Tails
Dan Lucas — The Long Road
Danko Jones — Power Trio
Daughtry — Dearly Beloved
David Minasian — Random Dreams (Very Best of)
David Reece — Blacklist Utopia
Dawn After Dark — New Dawn Rising
Debauchery — Monster Metal
Dee Snider — Leave a Scar
Demon Hunter — Songs of Death and Resurrection
Demotional — Scandinavian Aftermath
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East, Vol. 2
Devilcross — This Mortal Coil
Devils in Heaven — Rise
Devoid — Lonely Eye Movement
Diamante — American Dream
Dirty Honey — ST
Draconicon — Dark Side of Magic
Dragony — Viribus Unitis
Dreams in Fragments — When Echoes Fade
Durbin — The Beast Awakens
Eclipse — Wired
Edge of the Blade — Distant Shores
Endless Chain — Forthcoming Past
Enuff Z'Nuff — Hardrock Nite
Escape — Fire in the Sky
Eternal Silence — Timegate Anathema
Evanescence — The Bitter Truth
Evergrey — Escape of the Phoenix
FM — Tough It Out Live
False Memories — The Last Night of Fall
Fans Of The Dark — ST
FarCry — Balance
Fear Factory — Aggression Continuum
Firewing — Resurrection
Fortress — Dont Spare the Wicked
Gary Hughes — Decades
Gary Hughes — Waterside
Gilby Clarke — The Gospel Truth
Glasgow — Zero Four One (Reissue)
Greta Van Fleet — The Battle at Gardens Gate
Grinding Fear — Distorted Dreams
Groundbreaker — Soul to Soul
Gus G — Quantum Leap
HXTXD — Cannibals
Hammer King — ST
Hammerfall — Renegade 2.0
Hardline — Heart, Mind and Soul
Hawkwind — Somnia
Heart Healer — The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Heart Line — Back in the Game
Heaven & Earth — V
Helion Prime — Question Everything SE
Helloween — ST
Hellryder — The Devil Is a Gambler
Helstar — Clad in Black
Herman Frank — Two for a Lie
Hitten — Triumph and Tragedy
Holding Absence — The Greatest Mistake of My Life
Hollow — Tower
Holy Mother — Face This Burn
Hookers & Blow — ST
Hot Laundry — Shake Slide Twist EP
Human Fortress — Epic Tales & Untold Stories
Icon for Hire — Amorphous
Icon of Sin — ST
Illusory — Crimson Wreath
Immortal Guardian — Psychosomatic
Infamous Stiffs — Kill for the Sound
Infinite & Divine — Silver Lining
Infrared — From the Black Swamp
Inglorious — Heroine
Inglorious — We Will Rise
Inner Stream — Stain the Sea
Insania — V
Intercore — Dreams for Sale
Iron Maiden — Senjutsu
Issa — Queen of the Broken Hearts
Ivy Gold — Six Dusty Winds
Jason Bieler and the Baron von Bielski Orchestra — Songs for the Apocalypse
Jeff Carlson Band — Yesterday's Gone
Jeff Scott Soto — The Duets Collection, Vol. 1
John Dallas — Love & Glory
Johnny O'Neil — Truth or Dare
KAASIN — Fired Up
KK's Priest- Sermons Of The Sinner
Kansas — Point Of Know Return Live Beyond
King Company — Trapped
King Zebra — Survivors
King of Sweden — The Training
Kings Winter — Edge of Existence
Kreek — ST
Kryptos — Force of Danger
L.A. Guns — Checkered Past
L.A. Guns — Cocked and Loaded Live
Labyrinth — Welcome to the Absurd Circus
Laced in Lust — First Bite
Lake of Tears — Ominous
Land Of Gypsies — ST
Lastworld — Time
Laurenne — Louhimo — The Reckoning
Leaves Eyes — The Last Viking Midsummer Edition
Lee Aaron — Radio On!
Legions of the Night — Sorrow Is the Cure
Letzte Instanz — Ehrenhort
Leverage — Above the Beyond
Long Shadows Dawn — Isle of Wrath
Lordi — Lordiversity
Lords of Black — Alchemy of Souls, Pt. II
Lost Relics — Now Were Even
Loveless — Loveless I
Lucifers Hammer — The Trip
Lycanthro — Mark of The Wolf
Mad Margritt — Best of 1999-2021
Mad Symphony EP
Mammoth WVH — ST
Manimal — Armageddon
Mark Spiro — Traveling Cowboys
Marta Gabriel — ST
Mayank — ST
Memoria Avenue — ST
Mentalist — A Journey into the Unknown
Mercury X — Imprisoned
Metalite — A Virtual World
Michael Fury — Affairs in Babylon
Michael Kratz — TAFKATNO
Midnite City — Itch You Can't Scratch
Monarch — Future Shock
Motorjesus — Hellbreaker
My Refuge — The Anger Is Never Over
Myles Kennedy — The Ides of March
Mysterizer — The Holy War 1095
Natural Born Machine — Human
Neonfly — The Future, Tonight
Nergard — Eternal White
Newman — Into the Monsters Playground
Night Ranger — ATBPO
Nightshadow — Strike Them Dead
NorthTale — Eternal Flame
Nothing Sacred — No Gods
One Desire — One Night Only — Live in Helsinki
Order — The Gospel
Osukaru — Starbound
Paradox — Heresy II End of a Legend
Paris — 50-50
Pentatonix — Evergreen
Pentatonix — The Lucky Ones
Perfect Plan — Live at the Sharpeners House
Peter H Nilsson — Sign of Myself
Phantom Elite — Titanium
Phear — The Curse Lives On
Poison Boys — Dont You Turn on Me
Pop Evil — Versatile
Portrait — At One with None
Proud — Second Act
Rachel Mother Goose — Synra Bansho
Rage In My Eyes — Spiral EP
Rage of Light — Redemption
Ravenous — Hubris
Rebel Priest — Lost In Tokyo EP
Red Cain — Kindred_ Act II
Remain Untamed — New World Order
Resurrection Kings — Skygazer
Rhapsody of Fire — Glory for Salvation
Rhapsody of Fire — Ill Be Your Hero EP
Rian — Twenty-Three
Rob Zombie — The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
Robbie LaBlanc — Double Trouble
Robin McAuley — Standing On The Edge
Robin Red — ST
Robledo — Wanted Man
Roxville — Fallen from Grace
Running Wild — Blood On Blood
Saeko — Holy Are We Alone
Save the World — Two
Saxon — Inspirations
Screamachine — Screamachine
Season of Dreams — Heroes
Secret Sphere — Lifeblood
Sepultura — Sepulquarta
Seven Spires — Gods of Debauchery
Signs of Truth — Signs of a Future
Signum Draconis — The Divine Comedy — Inferno
Signum Regis — Flag of Hope EP
Silent Winter — Empire of Sins
Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen
Simulacrum — Genesis
Six Silver Suns — As Archons Fall
Slizard — ST
Social Disorder — Love 2 Be Hated
Sonic Haven — Vagabond
Stahlmann — Quarz
Starset — Horizons
Stephen Crane & Duane Sciacqua — Big Guns
Stephen Crane — Kicks
Stranger Vision — Poetica
Strykenine — Strykenine I
Styx — Crash Of The Crown
Sunbomb — Evil and Divine
Sunstorm — Afterlife
Supernova Plasmajets — Now or Never
Sweet Oblivion Featuring Geoff Tate — Relentless
Tales of the Old — The Book of Chaos
Temple Balls — Pyromide
Terra Odium — Ne Plus Ultra
Terravoid — Ectogenesis
The Brave — Evies Little Garden
The Design Abstract — Metemtechnosis
The End Machine — Phase 2
The Grandmaster — Skywards
The Hollywood Stars — Live on the Sunset Strip
The Jailbirds — Jungle EP
The L.A. Maybe — Dirty Damn Tricks
The Mercy Kills — New Rule
The Mighty One — Torch of Rock and Roll
The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic II
The Norseman Company — The Coming of the Chord
The Nova Hawks — Redemption
The Offspring — Let The Bad Times Roll
The Treatment — Waiting for Good Luck
The Wring — Wringý Project Cipher
Thunder — All The Right Noises (Deluxe)
Thy Row — Unchained
Timo Tolkki's Avalon — The Enigma Birth
Toby Hitchcock — Changes
Todd Michael Hall — Sonic Healing
Tom MacDonald — As Far As the Stars
Tommy's Rocktrip — Beat Up By Rock N Roll
Tony Mitchell — Hot Endless Summer Nights
ToxicRose — In for the Kill
Tremonti — Marching in Time
Triton Devs — Stay Alive
Tuple — Welcome to Hell
Turbulence — Frontal
UDO — Game Over
Ultraraptor — Tyrants
Unleashed — No Sign of Life
Upper Lip — Deep Within
Urgent — Point of No Return
Vandallus — 4
Various Artists — 25 Years Metal Addiction (The Rare & The Unreleased)
Vega — Anarchy and Unity
Vessel — Behind the Walls
Victoria K — Live Isolation Concert
Victory — Gods of Tomorrow
Voidanth — Animus EP
Vokonis — Odyssey
Voodoo Circle — Locked & Loaded
WarCall — Dead End Pt. 1 EP
Warzaw — Black Magic Satellite
Wayward Sons — Even Up the Score
Weezer — Van Weezer
White Cowbell Oklahoma — Textos Raros — Vol 1. — 2001-2011
White Stones — Dancing Into Oblivion
Wig Wam — Never Say Die
Wildstreet — III
Winding Road — Winding Road
Witch Cross — Angel of Death
Wizard — Metal in My Head
Wolfclub — Just Drive — Part 1

Honorable Mentions

Flotsam and Jetsam — Blood in the Water. Chunky melodic metal from this classic group that is extremely well recorded, mixed, and produced. Better riffs and choruses than I recall their older material having.

Houston — IV. Sweet Scandi AOR with great hooks and melodies. The production is lush. Comes in just outside my top 5 for the year. At times the lead vocalist's timbre reminds me of Larry Greene of Fortune/Harlan Cage fame.

Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Running Games. This one was unexpected; a very lushly produced and mixed slice of melodic hard rock.

Kent Hilli — The Rumble. This first solo album lead vocalist for Perfect Plan is the perfect vehicle to showcase his powerful voice. The production by Michael Palace is top notch (as usual).

Levara — ST. This one was in my top 5 for a good portion of the year before just being edged out. Sadly, this one-off is destined to remain just that, as the group imploded within weeks of the album's release, truly an aural tragedy in light of what might have been. #nomorebanddrama

Lord of the Lost — Judas. A sprawling 2-disc epic of gothic hard rock/melodic metal. Some stellar songs on here, but it ends up being a case of "less is more" as there's too much filler and the sheer amount of material loses cohesion.

M.ILL.ION — Back on Track. Well this one came out of nowehere... after a 10-year hiatus, they return with IMO their finest effort. Better produced than I recall their previous material having been, and the choruses considerably better.

Nitrate — Renegade. A completely revamped band lineup for this third album results in an eminently listenable album with great hooks and choruses.

Orden Ogan — Final Day. Very lushly produced and arranged sixth album from this German power metal band, with a futuristic sci-fi theme. They have a knack for crafting extremely melodic choruses.

Powerwolf — Call of the Wild. This too was in my top 5 for a good portion of the year. This band is a recent discovery for me, musically very similar to Sabaton, but with a different thematic bent and IMO a better vocalist. Dancing with the Dead is a great ear worm.

Ronnie Atkins — One Shot. First solo album from Pretty Maids lead vocalist, showcasing at times a more AOR feel than the band's harder-edged works. Exceptionally executed, especially in light of what he has currently been enduring on a personal front.

Seventh Crystal — Delerium. Very innovative Swedish hard rock. Melodic, yet with some definitely "modern" elements. Solid, but can get a bit "samey" after a while.

Spektra — Overload. Towering Brazilian AOR produced by Jeff Scott Soto. Melodic and quite catchy, but the production is a bit tinny and the "ADV effect" becomes fatiguing after a while.

The Murder of My Sweet — A Gentleman's Legacy. The sixth effort from this somewhat proggy melodic rock group is a concept album. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I love Angelica Rylin's vocals.

W.E.T — Retransmission. The fourth release from this project/group is excellent, albeit nothing terribly innovative. Just superbly-executed melodic hard rock. The lead-off track Big Boys Don't Cry is just phenomenal. I find myself gravitating more towards Erik's voice than Jeff's when it comes to leads, but the two blend together quite well; it's a meld that just works.

Walk the Walk — ST. A debut album of straight-ahead energetic hard rock, complete with gang choruses. It suffers a little productionwise, but is quite promising.

Zelbo — In My Dreams. This was a very late arrival in the year, and this Norwegian AOR group delivers. Keyboard-centric, it at times seems a little unfocused and meanders a bit (almost proggy in nature), but when things align, the sound is quite solid.

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover The Pretty Reckless — Death By Rock And Roll (Fearless Records). This is the fourth album from this hard rock group fronted by Taylor Momsen, and it showcases just how much she has matured as a vocalist and performer. Her vocal repertoire has expanded considerably; everything from belting hard rock to smooth balladry. At times (particular on My Bones), she reminds me of Heart's Ann Wilson, which is high praise.

4th Place

cover Nestor — Kids in a Ghost Town (Self-Released). Simply superb retro AOR, straight out of the 1980s, both musically and visually (their videos are on point with lots of easter eggs). Great hooks! If I have one criticism, and the one thing from keeping the album from ranking higher is that the noise floor is pretty poor, which at times detracts from the sonic experience. However musically, I have zero complaints. Tomorrow, the duet with Samantha Fox, is a gem of a ballad. The criminally unnoticed Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore) should have been one of the singles; it is a grower and ear worm, and my number one song for 2021. The guitar work throughout the album is first rate.

3rd Place

cover Beast In Black — Dark Connection (Nuclear Blast Records). What would you get if Judas Priest did synthwave? Beast in Black... on this album at least. It's a synergy of styles that amazingly works. It's catchy, infectious, and powerful! The futuristic vibes, both of the music and the videos are a perfect backdrop for the music. Of additional note is the fawesome cover of Michael Jackson's They Don't Care About Us.

2nd Place

cover Black Diamonds — No-Tell Hotel (Metalopolis Records). Criminally unnoticed in our scene, the fourth album from this Swiss band just hits on all cylinders. It takes me back to the L.A. strip sound of the 1980s, but with modern production. The very sound that the term "hair band" conjures up. Crunchy, yet with great choruses. This album was consistently in my top 5 from when it released early in the year.

Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2021 CD of the Year

cover Crowne — Kings in the North (Frontiers Records). Another album that once it hit my ears never left my top five at any point in the year. If you're a fan of Eclipse, H.E.A.T, or any of the other crunchy Scandi hard rock acts, this will be right up your alley. It features members of Art Nation, Europe, The Poodles, and Dynazty... that's one heck of a pedigree! There are too many epic songs to just pick out 2 for the vids below (I kept changing my mind on which songs to showcase).


Mike's Picks for the Best of 2021

The Also Rans

AOR — The Best of Paul Sabu
ARGI — Dare to Dream
Accept — Too Mean to Die
Alcatrazz — V
Aliados — Get Off My Life
Armored Saint — Symbol of Salvation — Live
Arthurs Museum — Gallery Closed
Badd Boyz — No, No, Nikkie
Black Spiders — Black Spiders
Blackberry Smoke — You Hear Georgia
Bloodbound — Creatures of the Dark Realm
Blue Dahlia — Blue Dahlia
Bonfire — Roots
Boudreaux — Fallen Angel
The Brave — Evie's Little Garden
Candlebox — Wolves
Carousel — Round and Round
Cats In Space — Diamonds — The Best of Cats in Space
Cheap Trick — In Another World
Alice Cooper — Detroit Stories
Corporate Control — Whatever It Takes
Creye — II
Cruzh — Tropical Thunder
The Damn Truth — Now or Nowhere
Damon Johnson and the Get Ready — Battle Lessons
Danny Danzi — Tribulations
Dark Heart — Dark Heart
The Darkness — Motorheart
Daughtry — Dearly Beloved
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East Vol 2
Deep Purple — Turning to Crime
Dirkschneider & The Old Gang — Arising
Duran Duran — Future Past
The Dust Coda — Mojo Skyline
EZ Thrill — Rock-N-Roll Forever
Edge — Heaven Knows
Electric Boys — Upside Down
The End Machine — Phase 2
Enuff Z'Nuff — Hardrock Nite
Enuff Z'Nuff — Never Enuff: Rarities and Demos
EZ Thrill — Rock-N-Roll Forever
Four Large Men — FLM
Gus G. — Quantum Leap
Gale Force — Subhuman
Stephan Georg — Fighting the Virus
Stephan Georg — The Fire Still Burns
Billy F. Gibbons — Hardware
Todd Michael Hall — Sonic Healing
Hardline — Heart, Mind And Soul
Harlot — Positively Downtown
Heaven and Earth — V
Heavy Water — Red Brick City
Helloween — Helloween
Hookers and Blow — Hookers and Blow
Billy Idol — The Roadside EP
Terry Ilous — Hired Gun
Inglorious — We Will Ride
Iron Maiden — Senjutsu
Jack Russell's Great White — Great Zeppelin II: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin
Jesse Harte of Southgang — Byte The Bullet + '93-'94 Demos + 2000 Demos + Live
Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Running Games
Kasim — 2021
Myles Kennedy — The Ides of March
Kickin' Valentina — The Revenge of Rock
KISS — Off The Soundboard — Tokyo 2001
KK's Priest — Sermons of the Sinner
Kreek — Kreek
Krokus — Adios Amigos — Live at Wacken
L.A. Guns — Checkered Past
L.A. Guns — Cocked and Loaded Live
Laced in Lust — First Bite
Justin Larner — Hot And Dangerous
Todd La Torre — Rejoice in the Suffering
Leggesy — Just Reality
Leggesy — Left Turn at Albuquerque
Leverage — Above the Beyond
Steve Lukather — I Found the Sun Again
Lynch Mob — Power Tracks
George Lynch — Seamless
M.ILL.ION — Back on Track
Mad Margritt — Best Of 1999-2021
Yngwie Malmsteen — Parabellum
Mammoth WVH — Mammoth WVH
Richard Marx — Stories To Tell: Greatest Hits and More
Kenny McGee — Heartless Daze One
Kenny McGee — Heartless Daze Three — Studio Live
Kenny McGee — Heartless Daze Two
The Michael Schenker Group — Immortal
Tony Mitchell — Hot Endless Summer Nights
Mullett — The Originals
The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic II
Night Ranger — ATBPO
Nitrate — Renegade
The Norseman Company — The Coming Of The Chord
Nova the Band — Back in Time
One Desire — One Night Only — Live in Helsinki
Page 99 — Page 99
Papa Roach — 2010-2020: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 — The Better Noise Years
Axel Rudi Pell — Diamonds Unlocked II
Steve Perry — The Season
Platinstum Overdose — Standing On The Edge Of The Night
Red Voodoo — Bring It Back
Resist and Bite — Resist and Bite
Resurrection Kings — Skygazer
Rough Cutt — III
Rough Cutt — Rhythm Machine (The Perry McCarty Years)
Rough Justice — Rough Justice
Roulette — Preloaded
Sammy Hagar and The Circle — Lockdown 2020
Saxon — Inspirations
Gary Schutt — Packing Heat
Seven Ravens — Barely Hanging On
Sister — Vengeance Ignited
Sixx: A.M. — Hits
Slammin' Gladys — Two
Smith/Kotzen — Smith/Kotzen
Soldier — My Window
Jeff Scott Soto — The Duets Collection Vol. 1
Starmen — ByThe Grace of Rock 'n' Roll
Sunbomb — Evil and Divine
Sunstorm — Afterlife
Michael Sweet — Reborn Again
TIM — Tim
Temple Balls — Pyromide
Tesla Shamans — Electric Storm
Toto — With a Little Help From My Friends
The Tung Bandits — The Tung Bandits
Tributes — The Metallica Blacklist
Turbosnake — Cold Blooded
UDO — Live In Bulgaria 2020 — Pandemic Survival Show
UDO — Game Over
V.A.M.P. — Telephone Love Affair
Valentine — Demos From the Attic
Victory — Gods of Tomorrow
John Waite — Wooden Heart — Acoustic Anthology Volumes 1 2 3
Walk the Walk — Walk the Walk
Steve Whiteman — You're Welcome
Whitesnake — Restless Heart 25th Anniversary Edition
Whitesnake — The BLUES Album
Wig Wam — Never Say Die
Nancy Wilson — You and Me

Honorable Mentions

Ronnie Atkins — One Shot. Anyone who's been around HH for a while knows that Pretty Maids is one of my favorite bands, so I was thrilled to hear that Ronnie was doing a solo album. Well, let me tell ya, it does not disappoint! Dishing out 11 tracks that veer more towards the melodic rock side of Pretty Maids, this one has found its way back to my CD player time and time again this year. Real, Subjugated, Miles Away, and I Prophesize are personal faves, but the entire disc is excellent. Check this one ASAP if you have not already done so! It pains me to omit this one from my top 5!

The Dead Daisies — Holy Ground. I'll admit, I was disappointed when I found out John Corabi was out as singer for the Dead Daisies, as I'm a big Crabby fan, but I will say, they didn't miss a beat with the addition of Glenn Hughes, and put out one helluva album. Holy Ground is one of the best songs of the year!

Dirty Honey — S/T. Excellent EP release from Los Angeles rockers Dirty Honey. California Dreamin', The Wire, and Gypsy are personal faves, but the entire disc is quite good. Highly reccomended for fans of the Black Crowes or Tora Tora.

FarCry — Balance. Fantastic melodic hard rock release! I Am Your Man, Broken Dreams, Chasing Rainbows, and Long Distance Love Affair (one of my top 5 favorite songs of 2021) are all excellent, and deserve to be heard by the masses. And oh yeah, that Pete Fry fellow on guitar is just dreamy! ;-)

Grinder Blues — El Dos. The first Grinder Blues release didn't do much for me, but this one is quite good, and I reccomend anyone who enjoys blues based hard rock to check it out pronto! Gotta Get Me Some of That, Who Wants a Spankin, and Hand of God are faves.

Inglorious — Heroine. I've always enjoyed a well done covers album, and this one is just that. Nathan James and company crank out their versions of 11 well known tracks originally done by female artists. Queen of the Night and Midnight Sky are standouts.

Ayron Jones — Child of the State. Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Ayron Jones' music combines elements of grunge, blues, soul, and straight up hard rock for an amazing listening experience. Check out Boys from Puget Sound, Mercy, and My Love Remains to hear what he's all about. A must for fans of Lenny Kravitz or just good hard rock in general!

Chez Kane — S/T. Far and away the best of the female fronted releases I picked up in 2021, and not far removed from my top 5. Solid hard rock from start to finish, with the first 3 tracks setting the mood for this excellent release. More please!

King Zebra — Survivors. With the addition of Eric St. Michaels (known for his work with China) on vocals, King Zebra have turned things up a notch and are cranking out some top notch hard rock nowadays. Check out She Don't Like My R'N'R, Desperate, and Be the Hunter to hear how far they've come with this release.

The L.A. Maybe — Dirty Damn Tricks. Hailing from North & South Carolina comes my favorite new discovery of 2021! AC/DC style hard rock that hits just right. Check out the awesome Mr Danger, She's Reckless, and When I'm Gone to hear what these guys can do; GREAT stuff!

Robin McAuley — Standing On The Edge. Robin was part of my top 5 last year with the excellent Black Swan release, and he's back this year with a killer solo effort! The title track, Late December, and Supposed to Do Now are standouts. I'm looking forward to more from Black Swan in 2022!

Paul Stanley's Soul Station — Now and Then. Not my normal listening fare by any means, but this is just so damn good! Paul Stanley and company doing their take on Motown classics, with several originals peppered in. I, Oh I is excellent!

Perfect Plan — Live At Sharpener's House. Excellent live release featuring the always impressive Kent Hilli on vocals. This one also serves as a nice "Best of" from their first two releases and is worth grabbing if you've never checked them out before.

Platforms — The Future That Never Happened. Straight out of an episode of Miami Vice comes Platforms. Beautiful poppy AOR/Synth rock, with Sweetness (another of my favorite songs of the year), Superficial Love, and Higher Ground being highlights. If you enjoy some lighter fare, check this out ASAP!

The Pretty Reckless — Death By Rock and Roll. Another great effort from Taylor Momsen and crew, featuring the killer title track, as well as Witches Burn.

Primal Fear — I Will Be Gone. Primal Fear have delivered an EP with 5 excellent tracks, and leave us wanting a full release of this quality! Ralph's vocals are incredible as per usual; highly recommended!

Ra — Intercorrupted. Not a whole lot in the modern rock realm appealed to me in 2021, but the return of the mighty Ra is the exception! Great to hear Sahaj and company back and kicking ass again, particularly on that title cut! This one also features P.J. Farley of Trixer fame on bass.

The Red Locusts — S/T. Listed as Paul Ramone in the credits, that is none other than Rick Springfield on lead vocals, and of course, that immediately means it's worth checking out. Delicious pop rock that should appeal to fans of Cheap Trick, the Beatles, Enuff Z'nuff, or Rick's poppier solo efforts. Under the Rainbow, Another Bad Day For Cupid, and Vanity Skies are faves, but I enjoy the whole disc. The fact that this one missed my top 5 speaks to how strong 2021 was!

Jakob Samuel — CoExist. A lovely solo effort from the former Poodles lead singer that should definitely appeal to fans of said band. Every Minute Every Hour, One Last Time, and Hey Brother are faves.

Dee Snider — Leave a Scar. My favorite metal release of the year! Dee's recent formula of collaborating with metalcore musicians has yielded some quite impressive results, and I hope he continues producing music of this quality going forward. Check out I Gotta Rock (Again), S.H.E., and Stand to hear what this one is all about. Great stuff!

Sweet Oblivion — Relentless. Easily the best thing Geoff Tate has released since he parted ways with Queensryche. Strong Pressure, Wake Up Call, and Anybody Out There are my faves, and all have a definite Queensryche feel to them. I'd be quite happy if he continued releasing songs of this quality, regardless of whether he does it solo, with Operation: Mindcrime, or another Sweet Oblivion album!

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover Buckcherry — Hellbound (Earache Records). There are certain bands that just "click" for certain people, and Buckcherry are of those bands for me. It would be highly unusual for one of their releases to not receive a great deal of play from me, and Hellbound certainly hasn't changed that. From the AC/DCesque title track, to No More Lies and Wasting No More Time, this one has been in and out of my CD player constantly since it's release, and was an easy top 5 pick for me. One of my favorite bands of the last 20+ years, and as always, I look forward to more music from Josh Todd and company.

4th Place

cover W.E.T. — Retransmission (Frontiers Records). Amazing 4th release from Jeff Scott Soto and company! I've enjoyed all of their previous efforts, but they knocked this one out of the park! There's literally not a bad song on here, with my faves being Got to Be About Love, How Far to Babylon, and the beautiful What Are You Waiting For. Their best release, so far, and easily in my top 5 for the year!

3rd Place

cover Levara — Levara (Mascot Records). It is an absolute fucking shame that these guys split right as this album was released, as it is one of the best releases of the year, and in my opinion, is melodic pop rock bliss. Heaven Knows, Ever Enough, Can't Get Over, and the superb Automatic are my favorites, but there's really not a bad song on display here. Hopefully Trev Lukather's new project, Invisible Friends will bring us more music along these lines.

2nd Place

cover Kent Hilli — The Rumble (Frontiers Records). Amazing solo release from Perfect Plan's frontman Kent Hilli. With Kent handling the lyrics and melodies, and Mike Palace & Alessandro Del Vecchio writing the majority of the music here, this one is a melodic rock tour de force. Cold, All For Love, and Does It Feel Like Love are my personal faves, but I enjoy every track on offer here. Easily my biggest surprise of the year. I look forward to new music from Kent, whether it's 2022's new release from Giant, solo, or with Perfect Plan.

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2021 CD of the Year

cover Crazy Lixx — Street Lethal (Frontiers Records). Wow. This one kind of snuck on me to be quite honest. As I sit here going back over all the top dics of the year, and thinking about the ones I've listened to over and over again since their release, I realized just how damn good Street Lethal is, and just how often I've returned to it since its arrival in early November. This one is chock full of excellent hard rock, with Anthem For America, Reach Out, and In the Middle of Nothing being personal faves, but there's not a bad track here. I think Crazy Lixx have actually topped both 2007's Loud Minority and 2010's New Religion with this one, which is no easy feat! Simply put, if you enjoy great hard rock, this one needs to be part of your collection immediately. I look forward to hearing what these Swedish rockers come up with next; well done lads! 2021's best for me!


Jez's Picks for the Best of 2021

The Also Rans

3.2 — Third Impression
AOR — The Ghost Of L.A
Lee Aaron — Radio On
Accept — Too Mean to Die
Alcatrazz — V
Arc Of Life — Arc of Life
Bad Habit — Autonomy
Bite The Bullet — Black and White
Black Veil Brides — The Phantom Tomorrow
Coney Hatch — Live at The El Mocambo
Cyan — For King and Country 2021
The Darkness — Motorheart
Mark Edwards — Land Of The Living
Eisbrecher — Liebe Macht Monster
Elyose — Persona
Evanescence — The Bitter Truth
Chris Farren — In So Many Words
FM — Tough It Out Live
Gojira — Fortitude
Heart Healer — The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Heavy Water — Red Brick City
Kent Hilli — Ready to Rumble
Toby Hitchcock — Changes
Houston — IV
Issa — Queen of Broken Hearts
Kansas — Point of Know Return and Beyond
Korpiklaani — Jylha
Krokus — Adios Amigos: Live at Wacken
Lynyrd Skynyrd — Live at Knebworth '76
Magnum — Dance of The Black Tattoo
Robin McAuley — Standing on The Edge
Gary Moore — How Blue Can You Get
Motorhead — Louder Than Noise: Live in Berlin
Newman — Into the Monsters Playground
One Desire — One Night Only: Live in Helsinki
Osukaru — Starbound
Peter Goalby — Easy with The Heartaches
Phantom Elite — Titanium
Robin Red — Robin Red
Saga — Symmetry
Saxon — Inspirations
Michael Schenker Group — Immortal
Shades Of Gray — Shades of Gray 2021
TAO — Prophecy
Toto — With a Little Help from Our Friends
Robby Valentine — The Beatles Album/ The Queen EP. 2
Yes — The Quest
Rob Zombie — The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy

Honorable Mentions

7th Heaven — Be Here. The band have hit on a successful formula over the course of their career, and this is no different. Good catchy melodic pop rock with good songs and catchy choruses. A little lightweight in places, but ultimately quite satisfying.

AD Infinitum — Chapter II: Legacy. As with last year's debut album, another great release featuring the stunning vocals of Melissa Bonny. For fans of good Symphonic metal.in general, look no further, as this is absolutely top-drawer stuff

Alice Cooper — Detroit Stories. Alice goes full circle with his new album and returns to the more "Garage Rock" sound of his early 70's releases. Original Alice Cooper Band members and MC5'S Legendary Wayne Kramer all make appearances on one of his best albums in recent years.

Andy Qunta — Legend In a Loungeroom. Another quality release from the Melodic Rock Classics label and a fine debut album recorded back in 1989 by the former Icehouse keyboard player. It's terrific light AOR of the best type, and having never heard any of these songs before, I was very pleasantly surprised how good they all actually are. A great line up of musos including Guy Pratt, Tim Pierce and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter add to the quality of the album, as well as some excellent demos on the bonus 2nd disc.

Art Of Illusion — X Marks the Spot. A really strong debut album, featuring Work of Art's excellent Lars Säfsund and Grand Illusion's Anders Rydholm. Super catchy AOR with an almost Queen'ish pomp edge to a couple of tracks. Highly recommended

At 1980 — Late Night Calls. More 80's nostalgia on this excellent sophomore album, that is maybe a little more rock oriented than the debut, but still has its feet firmly planted in the synthwave genre.

Auri — II: Those We Don't Speak Of. Finnish trio Johanna Kurkela, Tuomas Holopainen, (Nightwish) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) return for another instalment of Celtic, rock and folk and a beautiful second album

Beast In Black — Dark Connection. The 3rd installment and another superb mix of huge hooks, massive guitars and full-on power synth metal. Also notable on here are 2 excellent covers of Manowar's Battle Hymn and a surprisingly great version of Michael Jackson's What About Us.

Biffy Clyro — The Myth of The Happily Ever After. The follow up to 2020's A Celebration of Endings that is pretty much a companion album and sees the band stretching their boundaries with more synths and layered vocals, as well as featuring the more traditional Biffy themes.

Billy F. Gibbons — Hardware. ZZ Top's legendary guitarist returns with an impressive set of driving blues rock in the finest ZZ tradition, with the surf rock of Westcoast Junkie setting the standards on a musically varied, highly enjoyable (albeit short) top quality album.

Billy Idol — The Roadside EP. 4 top quality tracks in typical Billy tradition that definitely leave you wanting for more. It's a bit of a stop gap release, but a very good one at that, and hopefully, another full album of the quality of the previous Kings & Queens of The Underground arrives before not too long.

Burning Witches — The Witch of The North/Live Bootleg. Some great 80's metal from this Swiss all girl power metal band. Crunchy riffage, great choruses and generally a fine old school metal album. The very limited-edition live album shows the girls have the chops live as well as in the studio… both releases well worth checking out.

Cap Outrun — High on Deception. A fine blend of progressive rock mixed with AOR on here. Top notch musicianship and an exceptional production and another release that the Frontiers label has got right this year.

Cats In Space — Diamonds. A re-recorded 'best of' featuring the amazing vocals of new boy Damian Edwards, who brings a new freshness to the material, especially the older songs. A cool mix of tracks from all 4 of their studio albums and a good intro to the band for the uninitiated too.

Chez Kane — Chez Kane. A really strong debut album with more than a nod to the hard rocking girls of the 80's rock scene. A strong vocal from CK and great musical/production input from Crazy Lixx's Danny Rexon, raise this well above the benchmark, so If Robin Beck, Vixen and Pat Benatar are your thing, then this comes highly recommended.

Christian Gratz — 1981. Produced and played entirely by himself, this is a very commendable 7 track mini album, that takes you back to the early 80's Westcoast/soft rock sounds of the era.

Cradle Of Filth — Existence Is Futile. Powerful and dramatic extreme metal which sees the band not slowing down one iota. It's technically brilliant, superbly produced/ arranged and sees the band kicking major ass. Definitely up there with their best albums.

Crazy Lixx — Street Lethal. One of the leading lights in the new era of melodic rock and a great 80's style album with many high points. A consistently great band over the course of their releases so far.

Creye — II. Album 2 and pretty much a masterclass in how to do modern AOR/ pop rock. The first album was really good, but this one ups the ante and delivers in spades. It's extremely radio friendly, full of huge hooks, great guitarwork, walls and walls of synths, which maybe a little too 'lite' and Euro rock sounding for some of the rock 'purists', but underneath all of its sickly-sweet grooves, lies one hell of a great record Sheer class!

Crowne — Kings of The North. Another great Scandi modern melodic act, think a heavier H.E.A.T, W.E.T. and Art Nation, with some top-notch song writing, musicianship and a great production, courtesy of H.E.A.T.'s Jona Tee.

Dennis DeYoung — 26 East: Vol 2. A continuation form last year's excellent Vol 1. and another great mix of pomp, pop and rock that sees him seemingly re-energised and vocally as impressive as ever. If these 2 volumes are to be his final albums, then he has bowed out in exceptionally fine form.

Doug Brons — Pull (aka Audio 1985). A really nice mix of lite AOR/Westcoast with great soulful vocals from the man himself. Originally titled Audio 1985 and self-released, but now widely available under the new title.

Downes Braide Association — Halcyon Days. The 4th DBA release and another great album featuring the talents of vocalist/ producer Chris Braide and keyboard maestro Geoff Downes. Thoughtful, intelligent light prog/ pop, beautifully delivered with more than a hint at Downes past bands Asia and Buggles. Excellent!

Dream Theater — A View from The Top of The World. Another great DT album, worth it alone for the fabulous 20-minute title track. A band firing on all cylinders and still very much at the top of their game and the genre.

Eclipse — Wired. Very much in the vein of previous releases and a band sticking to what they do best. Melodious hard rock, killer riffs and choruses. Highly recommended!

Edenbridge — The Chronicles of Eden 2. A cool package featuring some of the band's best tracks from their latter-day releases, as well as 3 unreleased alternate versions, all celebrating their 20th anniversary. One of the better symphonic metal bands out there and still going strong.

Epica — Omega/Omega Alive. One of the top-drawer bands in the sympho genre and a release that is absolutely huge in every sense of the word. This album has everything and more over the course of its 70 odd minutes, huge, bombastic riffs, as well as quieter, more reflective moments, supported by a full symphony orchestra and children's choir. The Alive album is also top quality, taken from the live stream from last year during the pandemic. Whilst it's not really a 'Live' album in the truest sense i.e., no audience, the mega tracks work wonderfully well, highlighting once again what a fabulous vocalist Simone Simons truly is. Both of these releases truly are Epic in every sense of the word.

Everdawn — Cleopatra. Another name to add to the ever-growing list of quality symphonic metal bands. Whilst they are not top of that list as of yet, this is still a very impressive debut album containing all the elements you would expect on an album like this. Definitely a band to watch.

FarCry — Balance. A long 10 years since the last album, so a welcome return, with apart from Pete, a completely new line up. As before, some very well written songs, quality playing and a generally rock-solid album.

Frost — Day and Age. A highly recommended 4th album from one of the more original and fresh sounding bands in today's prog scene. Technically they are a brilliant, write great songs, with the title track here especially being one of the best tracks they have ever recorded thus far. The rest of this 8-track disc follows closely behind with a great mix of modern progressive rock.

Groundbreaker — Soul to Soul. Besides his brilliant Contagious solo album, Steve Overland's best album outside of any FM release without a doubt. Great, punchy melodic rock with a clean crisp production, great songs with the help of Lionville's Stefano Lionetti, Artic Rain's Peter Alpenborg and Jan Akesson (Infinite & Divine) and those oh so glorious vocals.

Heartland — Into the Future. A fine return after over 14 years since the previous 'Mind Your Head' album. Basically, this is a Chris Ousey/ Mike Slamer album, so you know with those 2 names involved this is qoing to be a quality project. Slamer provides some tasty guitars as you would expect, and Ousey sounds as good today as he did 20 years ago. Overall, it may lack the one big killer track, but there is enough here to satisfy most.

Illuminae — Dark Horizons. A new Karnataka album under a different guise and a highly accomplished melodic prog album it is. Some tasty guests also make an appearance, namely Steve Hackett, Supertramp's John Helliwell and Troy Donockley.

Imperia — The Lost Horizon. A particularly good mix of heavy, bombastic orchestral metal. They maybe not as well-known as some other bands in the symphonic genre, but this is a very strong release, featuring an excellent vocal performance from Helene Michelsen. Recommended!

Infinite & Divine — Silver Lining. A fine collaboration between multi-instrumentalist and producer Jan Akesson and vocalist Terese Persson. The track 'Infinite and Divine' sets a fine tone for the rest of the album which overall, is a very promising and impressive debut.

Inglorious — We Will Ride. After the slightly disappointing previous album, the band come back firing with a new release and a brand-new line up. Nathan James' vocals and new guitar boy Danny De La Cruz are at the forefront on here, on a highly potent set of classic hard rock songs.

Iron Maiden — Senjutsu. Another year and another Maiden album and as with the last few, it's over long, contains some great songs and a few that go on forever and don't really hit the mark either, (get the skip button ready). Overall, it is recommended, but approach with caution.

Jakob Samuel — CoExist. His second solo album and unlike the debut, this is much more along the lines of what he was doing with the Poodles. Great singer, great songs, crisp production, although criminally short at just over 32 minutes.

John Mayer — Sob Rock. Another album with a great 80's soft rock vibe and one of JM's best works. It's a strong set, flawlessly presented, that conjures up images of Toto, (especially on Last Train Home) Eagles, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits. Its short (38 mins), concise, as well as being hugely enjoyable too.

Joseph Williams — Denizen Tenant. Meticulously put together, this has all the hallmarks of a slickly produced Toto record, with a line-up of musicians to die for. As with his previous albums, this is a fabulous, eclectic mix of Westcoast rock and pop of the highest order with Williams excellent, unmistakable voice.

KK's Priest — Sermons of The Sinner. A good old fashioned, old school heavy metal album from the former Priest guitarist, plus the added bonus of Tim 'Ripper' Owens on vocals. It sounds exactly what you would expect it to, 10 songs, 50 minutes, heavy, razor-sharp musicianship, tight crystal-clear production. Nothing more to add. Excellent!

Kayak — Out of This World. The Dutch prog veterans return with their 18th studio album. Its top-quality progressive music at its best, high on melody, as well as being fairly diverse musically and never falls into the trap of being overly clever and 'prog for prog's sake'. At over 70 minutes long, it never out stays its welcome either and is a very worthy addition to the bands already large and rich back catalogue.

Laurenne/ Louhimo — The Reckoning. Smackbound and Battle Beast vocalists unite for a cracking tour de force of highly infectious and melodic metal, which gets better and better on subsequent listens. Turn it up loud it's great.

LeBrock — Fuse. After 2 top quality EP's, this is the first highly anticipated full release and a tasty blend of synthwave, AOR and pop/rock it is. The duo of Michael Meadows and Shaun Phillips really have hit on a winning formula and produce one of the best debut albums of the year.

Levara — Levara. The very short-lived project featuring Trev Lukather, that sank without trace almost immediately upon its release. A real shame it didn't continue, as this was a really promising band with some great material and a very strong debut album.

Leverage — Above and Beyond. A welcome return for album 5 (the 2nd with Kimmo Blom on vocals) and pretty much a continuation of their classic hard rock/ prog sounds. It's not their best album, but still ranks as a worthy addition in this year's rankings.

Lifesigns — Altitude. One of the best prog albums of the year here. A top-quality band, beautifully structured, thoughtful songs, and a lovely tasteful production. Progressive music at its best.

Lord Of the Lost — Judas. This is a mammoth double album with over 100 minutes of the best sophisticated, gothic metal you could wish for. It's a varied, at times challenging listen throughout, with many layers, including orchestral strings, choirs and some fantastic arrangements, which demand your full attention. A truly outstanding album of its type and their best yet.

Lords Of Black — Alchemy of Souls II. As with its predecessor, another very solid slice of European progressive power metal, featuring in demand vocalist Ronnie Romero and guitarist Tony Hernando.

Martin & Garp — Sentimental Fools. 2 Dutch musos playing the 70's/80's sounds of California pop/ rock ala Doobie Bros. Hall & Oates and Steely Dan and a cracking little album this one is. For anyone that likes the above-named acts and the classic Westcoast/Yacht sound in general, then this comes highly recommended.

Memoria Avenue — Memoria Avenue. Another in a lengthy line of new AOR bands currently doing the circuit, albeit one of the better ones it has to be said. Nothing remotely original here, but a band with an obvious talent for writing a good song, playing well and producing a very solid debut album.

Metalite — A Virtual World. The 3rd (and best) album from this Swedish quintet. Much the same formula as before, insanely catchy modern power/ synth metal, but done superbly well and along with Battle Beast and Beast in Black, the top of the pile in this genre.

Michael Kratz — TAFKATNO. Whilst not quite hitting the heights of the previous' Live Your Life' album (in my top 5 of 2018), this continues in a familiar path. Westcoast/AOR/pop of a high standard with some excellent material and production.

Midnite City — Itch You Can't Scratch. One of the better UK bands doing this type of stuff at the moment and a very solid 3rd album. Good songs, solid musicians and overall, a very good album.

Neal Morse Band — Innocence & Danger. Another double album of absolute top quality from one of prog rocks most respected musicians. This has everything from the short poppier songs to the long epics, culminating in the astounding 2nd disc which contains some of the best music Mr. Morse has ever recorded.

Nestor — Kids in a Ghost Town. One of the most hyped album pre-releases of the year, which thankfully delivers big time with everything you'd want from an 80's style melodic rock release. It's got the big hooks, the big choruses and a fantastic power ballad in Tomorrow, featuring the sultry vocals of Sam Fox. Exceptionally good indeed and if you have been living under a rock or something and have never heard of this one, search it out pronto.

Night Ranger — ATBPO. All the hallmarks of this great band are present on this their 13th studio album, Brad Gillis' guitarwork especially is absolutely mind blowing as usual and as a whole, the band deliver in the song stakes too. There are a couple of fillers that lose the momentum a little bit here and there and I have read certain reviews stating this as being their worst album so far, but for me, this shows them as still a truly relevant band with their finger very much on the pulse.

Nitrate — Renegade. More quality melodic rock from the UK and another one to add to the list of promising new(ish) bands. Very professionally written, played and presented.

Platforms — The Future That Never Happened. Excellent AOR/synthwave project ala LeBrock and Magic Dance. This was released last year digitally, but makes its official CD release this year on the newly formed Melodic Rock Classics label, hence its inclusion Really good stuff on here, right up there with the absolute best of the synthwave genre.

Santa Ana Winds — Steel Breeze. The excellent S/T album made my top 5 back in 2016 and was chock full of fantastic covers of some old, obscure AOR songs. The second chapter continues pretty much where the first ended, more excellent retro melodic rock, quality songs and it must be said a better production this time around, although I do still prefer the first album overall. Limited to 500 copies, so not the easiest album to find now.

Save The World — Two. Save The World is a duo of Dan Tracey/Robert Wright and between them, they conjure up a myriad of musical influences, Boston being an obvious one and at the forefront on a couple of songs. Its superbly done in all departments, with not a weak moment amongst its 12 tracks. and is a dynamic and varied take on the melodic rock/ AOR genre. Another album that doesn't seem to have had the recognition it truly deserves.

Sirenia — Riddles, Ruins & Revelations. More quality FF gothic/sympho metal and their most powerful and adventurous release so far. There is a more electronic, industrial edge this time around, giving the album a freshness that brings it firmly into the modern-day metal arena. 10 albums into their career and one of their best so far.

Smith/Kotzen — Smith/Kotzen. A great collaboration between these 2 excellent players and an excellent 70's inspired classic rock record, which delivers big time.

Starmen — By the Grace of Rock 'n Roll. Once you get past the obvious Kiss influence going on here, which can't be denied in places, there's some really good stuff on this album. The vocals do have that definite Paul Stanley vibe going on, but musically this band offer up a great mixture of 80's hard rock mixed with elements of AOR and power pop and most importantly quality material.

Steve Lukather — I Found the Sun Again. 8 years since the fabulous Transition (my album of 2013) and another tremendous solo album from the Toto guitarist. 5 new tracks and 3 covers (Joe Walsh, Robin Trower & Traffic) all pretty much recorded live in the studio, no bells, no whistles, just great musicians doing what they do and obviously having great fun at the same time judging by the results.

Steven Wilson — The Future Bites. More of a mix of art pop and electronica, that maybe closer to his No-Man project, rather than the more progressive rock we are used to. This sees Wilson stretching his musical boundaries even further than before, with its sharply written and lushly executed soundscapes. A great album that improves with further listens.

Styx — Crash the Crown. Typical Styx in sound, with retro 70's synths, multi layered instruments, tight vocal harmonies and a subtle, not overly done production. A tight, concise 15 tracks and 43 minutes that fly by in no time.

Sylvan — One to Zero. Top quality and highly recommended German Neo prog from this criminally underrated band. Polished, intricate, supremely delivered and one of the better prog albums of the year.

TIM — TIM. Previously unreleased album from 1983, featuring the talents of guitarist Bruce Gaitsch and Trillion vocalist Thom Griffin, with Trillion being a good reference/ starting point here. Great to finally have this one released and whilst not quite a 'classic', it certainly is an excellent slice of early 80's pomp/AOR.

TOBB — Overrated. An exceptional Westcoast album in the vein of Toto and especially Chicago played by some of Norway's top session players, who, along with the crystal-clear production, are sensational throughout. Along with the Page 99 album mentioned elsewhere, modern Westcoast music doesn't get any better.

Temple Balls — Pyromide. Punchy, anthemic hard rock from this excellent young Finnish band. This, their 3rd album, produced by H.E.A. T's Jona Tee, is by far their best, and along with Crazy Lixx, Crashdiet, Shiraz Lane and the aforementioned H.E.A.T, one of the leading lights of the new melodic rock era.

Thunder — All the Right Noises. As soon as the lead single 'Last One Out Turn Off the Lights' blasts out of your speakers, you know that they mean business (a fantastic track it is too it must be said). The rest of the album follows suit in fine style and sees the band following a familiar path that they have set over the course of a long career. Classic rock at its best.

Touch — Tomorrow Never Comes. The first Touch album was and still is a classic pomp album & one of my top 5 albums of all time. The planned follow up, Touch II, was originally shelved, only to be released as a bonus disc on The Works compilation, so 'officially' Tomorrow Never Comes unexpectedly appears 4 decades after the debut. Whilst nowhere near topping it, it is still is a very fine pomp/AOR disc with Mark Mangold's trademark keys and Craig Brooks vocals to the fore. A couple of weak moments here and there, but a damned fine effort at trying to reach the heady heights of the debut.

Transatlantic — The Absolute Universe: Breath of Life/Forevermore. A sprawling 90-minute double album (Forevermore), also released as an abridged single disc 60-minute version (Breath of Life) with alternate versions. This is guaranteed to be a top-quality progressive rock album with all the names involved (Morse, Portnoy, Trewavas and Stolt) and so it turns out to be. Fans of all the named musos 'day jobs will find plenty here to get their teeth into.

Tuple — Welcome to Hell. Following hot on the heels of last year's really promising Wooden Box debut album', this one seems to have been rarely mentioned at all, which is a real shame, as it is up there with some of the best melodic hard rock you are likely to hear this year and any other for that matter. Catchy hooks, great playing, and a rock-solid production.

Vega — Anarchy and Unity. The UK melodic rock stalwarts return with another album full of anthemic rock tracks. There's no sign of any let up in the quality that this band continuously produce album after album, and with Anarchy and Unity, they have produced yet another very fine record.

Vince DiCola — Out of This World. Probably more well known for his song writing abilities than actual album releases (Transformers, Staying Alive & Rocky IV for starters) this is a real gem of a release. A fine mix of light prog, Westcoast and AOR, so fans of Toto, Kansas and Chicago should check this out pronto. One of the finest releases to date on the Escape Music label.

W.E.T — Retransmission. Top notch as you would expect from Soto, Mårtensson and Sall and pretty much the epitome of quality melodic rock in this decade.

Wig Wam — Never Say Die. A new album from the reformed band and a huge improvement over the previous 2 disappointing releases. A full-on set of fist pumping hard rock, full of attitude, as well as melody and great hooks.

Zelbo — In My Dreams. AOR with a small dose of light prog added to the mix and a very consistent debut album from this new Norwegian band, formed by ex Da Vinci keyboard player Dag Selboskar. This may get accused of being the usual Frontiers formula AOR stuff, but there is certainly more depth to this than that. A promising debut for sure.

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Lordi — Lordiversity (AFM Records). A 'Monstrous' 7-disc, 78 tracks, and over 4 ½ hours of music, encompassing the varying musical styles first heard on 2020's excellent Killection album. 2 albums stand out the most here, the brilliant Humanimal which is melodic rock/AOR of the best type and also the excellent traditional hard rock/metal style of Abusement Park. Both of these would have made top 5 placings on their own and both being the most typical Lordi in sound. Of the others, the industrial metal of Spooky Sextravaganza Spectacular works pretty well and the thrash metal of Abracadaver and the disco inspired Superflytrap also tick the boxes and have moments of greatness. 2 titles don't work so well, the mid 70's Kiss pastiche Scalectric Dinosaur is ok for a couple of tracks, but rapidly outstays its welcome, whilst the so-called prog of Master Beast from The Moon, just does nothing and is poor overall. As a project, this is a very brave move releasing 7 albums together and for the most part it works brilliantly well, has been superbly put together, and shows the variety and depth this band can go to behind all the usual visual theatrics and costumes. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but deserves huge credit!

4th Place

cover Cheap Trick — In Another World (BMG Records). Half a century, 20 albums and a band that keeps releasing music with regularity that still sounds fresh, invigorating, relevant and well, just so damned good. It's goodtime power pop, accessible and hooky with a few curve balls thrown in along the way to keep it modern sounding and up to date, but without straying too far from the typical CT sound they are famous for. A band sticking to what they do best and another quite excellent album.

3rd Place

cover Page 99 — Page 99 (Nix Records). This album encompasses all that I like in Westcoast music. The obvious influences of Toto, Chicago, Bill LaBounty, Christopher Cross, Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan are all to the fore here, and it's all wrapped up in one of the best productions I have heard in a long time on any album of any genre. 9 originals and 2 covers (Airplay & Toto) all of which magic up that 70's/80's Westcoast/Yacht rock sound to absolute perfection. As I said with the TOBB album, Westcoast music in this day and age, doesn't get any better than this.

2nd Place

cover The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic II (Nuclear Blast Records). A band that seems to divide opinion amongst quite a few of us, but I am firmly on the side that they are absolute top class and offer something different to the genre, amidst all the 'project' albums and 'same old stuff' that is released with inane regularity. This is their 4th album on the bounce that ticks all the right boxes and they have yet again found their own niche in the genre and released a superb abum full of 80's infused melodic rock/AOR, capped off of course, with their own unmistakable sound.

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2021 CD of the Year

cover Ronnie Atkins — One Shot (Frontiers Records). A clear winner this year, especially as Ronnie was suffering from stage 4 cancer when this was recorded, making it an even more impressive feat. Vocally he still sounds brilliant, and he should be massively proud of what has been achieved with this record. It doesn't stray too far from his day job in Pretty Maids, with all their hallmarks and more on offer, from punchy AOR, melodic metal and powerhouse ballads, all with bombastic riffs and huge choruses are all here in all their glory. Real kicks things off in tremendous fashion and things don't let up in quality until the final notes of the magnificent closer When Dreams Are Not Enough have ended. In the rock world, this is superb and an absolutely indispensable album.


Pete's Picks for the Best of 2021

The Also Rans

3.2 — Third Impression
Agarthic — The Inner Side
Alan Parsons — The Neverending Show: Live in the Netherlands
Alirio — All Things Must Pass
Alta Reign — Mother's Day
Andy Susemihl — Alienation
Anette Olzon — Strong
Angelwings — Primordium
AOR — The Best of Paul Sabu
AOR — The Ghost Of L.A.
Art of Illusion — X Marks the Spot
Ashes of Ares — Emperors and Fools
Autumn's Child — Angel's Gate
Axxelerator — Heads or Tails
Backwood Spirit — Fresh from the Can
Barista — Open Sesame
Barnabas Sky — Inspirations
Big City — Testify X
Black Ink River — Through the Unknown
Blood Red Saints — Undisputed
Bonfire — Roots
Brainstorm — Wall of Skulls
Brother Against Brother — Brother Against Brother
Burning Point — Arsonist of the Soul
Cap Outrun — High on Deception
Carl Sentance — Electric Eye
Catalyst Crime — Catalyst Crime
Chalice of Sin — Chalice of Sin
Cicadastone — Cold Chamber
Circus of Rock — "Come One, Come All"
Cobra Cult — Second Gear
Corporate Control — Whatever It Takes
Crazy Lixx — Street Lethal
Creye — II
Cruzh — Tropical Thunder
Crystal Viper — The Cult
Crystallion — Heads or Tails
Dan Reed Network — Let's Hear It For The King
David Reece — Blacklist Utopia
Dennis DeYoung — 26 East Vol 2
Devoid — Lonely Eye Movement
Diane & The Deductibles — THREE 6 Feet Apart
Dieversity — Age of Ignorance
Dirkschneider & The Old Gang — Arising
Door 964 — COTD
Durbin — The Beast Awakens
Eclipse — Wired
Edge of the Blade — Distant Shores
Enuff Z'Nuff — Hardrock Nite
Escape — Fire in the Sky
Everture — Emerge
Existance — Wolf Attack
Eyes (SE) — Perfect Vision 20/20
FM — Tough It Out Live
FarCry — Balance
Fans of the Dark — Fans of the Dark
Fiction Syxx — Ghost of My Fathers Past
Flight of Icarus — Cleo
Fortress — Don't Spare the Wicked
Gary Hughes — Decades
Gary Hughes — Waterside
George Becker — George Becker
Glasgow — Zero Four One
The Grandmaster — Skywards
Groundbreaker — Soul to Soul
Guild of Others — Guild of Others
Hangar Nord — Hangar Nord
Hardline — "Heart, Mind And Soul"
Headless — Square One
Heart Healer — The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Heart Line — Back in the Game
Heaven and Earth — V
Helstar — Clad in Black
Herman Frank — Two For a Lie
The Hollywood Stars — Make It to the Party (live)
Holy Mother — Face This Burn
Houston — IV
Human Fortress — Epic Tales & Untold Stories
Icon of Sin — Icon of Sin
Immortal Guardian — Psychosomatic
Infinite and Divine — Silver Lining
Inner Stream — Stain the Sea
InnerSiege — Fury of Ages
Insania — V (Praeparatus Supervivet)
Intelligent Music Project — VI - The Creation
Intercore — Dreams for Sale
Issa — Queen of the Broken Hearts
Jaded Past — Live And On Edge
The Jailbirds — Jungle EP
Janina Jade — Heart of Rock N' Roll
Jim Peterik and World Stage — Tigress - Women Who Rock The World
Jo Below — No Control
Joel Hoekstra's 13 — Running Games
KAASIN — Fired Up
Kent Hilli — Vital 4
King Company — Trapped
King of Sweden — The Training
King Zebra — Survivors
Kreek — Kreek
L.A. Guns — Checkered Past
L.A. Guns — Cocked and Loaded Live
Labyrinth — Welcome to the Absurd Circus
LastWorld — Time
Laurenne-Louhimo — The Reckoning
Legions of the Night — Sorrow is the Cure
Leverage — Above the Beyond
The Liberators — Waitin'
Long Shadows Dawn — Isle of Wrath
Lords of Black — "Alchemy of Souls, Part II"
M.ILL.ION — Back on Track
Mad Margritt — Best Of 1999-2021
Mad Symphony — Mad Symphony
Manimal — Armageddon
Marta Gabriel — Metal Queens
Mastord — To Whom Bow Even the Trees
Maverick — Ethereality
Max Pie — Passengers
Mayank — Mayank
MC Roads — No Nostalgia
Memoria Avenue — Memoria Avenue
Mentalist — A Journey Into the Unknown
Mercury X — Imprisoned
Metalite — A Virtual World
Michael Fury — Affairs in Babylon
Minutian — Magical Thinking
MotorJesus — Hellbreaker
The Murder of My Sweet — A Gentleman's Legacy
My Refuge — The Anger is Never Over
Natural Born Machine — Human
Nergard — Eternal White
Night Ranger — ATBPO
Nitrate — Renegade
The Norseman Company — The Coming Of The Chord
One Desire — One Night Only - Live in Helsinki
Osukaru — Starbound
Paradox — Heresy II. End of a Legend
Paradox Community — Omega
Paris — 50-50
Perfect Plan — Live At Sharpener's House
Perticone — Underdog
Peter H Nilsson — Sign of Myself
Peter Hermansson — Second Glance
Phantom Elite — Titanium
Poison Boys — Don't You Turn on Me
Prospect — All Bets Are Off
Proud — Second Act
Quireboys — A Bit of What You Fancy - 30th Anniversary Edition
Rachel Mother Goose — Synra Bansho
Razorbats — Mainline Rock 'n' Roll
Red Eleven — Handled With Chaos
Red to Grey — Balance of Power
Resurrection Kings — Skygazer
Rhapsody of Fire — Glory For Salvation
Rhapsody of Fire — I'll Be Your Hero EP
Rian — Twenty-Three
Robledo — Wanted Man
Ronnie Atkins — One Shot
Rough Cutt — III
Saeko — Holy Are We Alone
Sami Yaffa — The Innermost Journey to Your Outermost Mind
Schattenmann — Chaos
Screamachine — Screamachine
Season of Dreams — Heroes
Secret Sphere — Lifeblood
Sergeant Steel — Truck Tales
Seven Spires — Gods of Debauchery
Seventh Crystal — Delirium
Shades of Gray — 2021
Shotgun Mistress — Shotgun Mistress
Siggi Schwarz — The Fire Inside
Silent Winter — Empire of Sins
Six Silver Suns — As Archons Fall
Sonic Desolution — Explorer
Sons of Sounds — Soundphonia
Sorceress of Sin — Constantine
Spektra — Overload
Steel Rhino — Steel Rhino
Stefan Berggren — These Are the Times
Stepfather Fred — Like the Sea
Stephen Crane — Kicks
Stevie R Pearce and the Hooligans — Major League Son of a Bitch
Stonesilk — On My Own
Stonetrip — Stonetrip EP
The Straddlerz — The Straddlerz
Stranger Vision — Poetica
Strykenine — Strykenine I
Sunbomb — Evil and Divine
Sunstorm — Afterlife
Sweet Oblivion — Relentless
Tania Kikidi — Rock and Roll Paradise
Tao — Prophecy
Terra Odium — No Plus Ultra
Terroreign — Terroreign
The Three Tremors — Guardians of the Void
Timo Tolkki's Avalon — The Enigma Birth
Toby Hitchcock — Changes
Tony Mitchell — Hot Endless Summer Nights
Tony Spinner — Love is the Answer
ToxicRose — In For The Kill
Tragedian — Seven Dimensions
Tristan Harders' Twilight Theater — Drifting Into Insanity
Tuple — Welcome to Hell
Turbulence — Frontal
UDO — Live in Bulgaria 2020 - Pandemic Survival Show
Under the Influence — Dark Side of the Brain
Upper Lip — Deep Within
VHF — Very High Frequency
Valentine — Demos From the Attic
The Vicious Head Society — Extinction Level Event
W.E.T. — Retransmission
Walk the Walk — Walk the Walk
Wig Wam — Never Say Die
Winding Road — Winding Road
Witchbound — End of Paradise
Wizard — Metal In My Head
World of Damage — Invoke Determination

Honorable Mentions

Arion — Vultures Die Alone. Modern, symphonic, power metal, extremely well executed. It'll make you drive fast...

Chez Kane — Chez Kane. Partnering up with Danny Rexon (Crazy Lixx), the songs are the perfect vehicle for Chez' killer hard rock vocals.

Constancia — Brave New World. Guitarist Janne Stark with another great installment of semi-prog hard rock.

Crowne — Kings in the North. Swedish hard rock super group with Alexander Strandell (Art Nation) on vocals, Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.) on guitars/keyboards/production, John Levén (Europe) on bass, & Christian Lundqvist (The Poodles) on drums. What's not to love?

Dirty Honey — Dirty Honey (2021). I don't love this as much as the debut EP, but there are some great down and dirty hard rock tracks on this.

Dream Theater — A View From the Top of the World. Solid Dream Theater release with that blend of heavy, prog, and hooks that I love.

Edge of Paradise — The Unknown. Female fronted symphonic metal, done well and beautifully produced.

The End Machine — Phase 2. Basically Dokken with Bob Mason on vocals, I love this release, reminds me of the Back For the Attack era Dokken. George, Jeff and Steve Brown (Wild Mick's son) absolutely killing it.

Evergrey — Escape of the Phoenix. Heavy, melancholy and with just an occasional hint of optimism... everything I like about Evergrey.

The Fifth — The Fifth EP. I wish it was a full length release, but for me this is the best incarnation yet of the Roy Cathey (Cold Sweat) led rock quartet.

George Lynch — Seamless. I love George Lynch, always have, and his playing sounds inspired in this diverse collection of new instrumentals.

Gus G. — Quantum Leap. Heavy and tight, Gus' playing is over the top and the songs are great.

Hellryder — The Devil Is a Gambler. Dark, dirty, and pretty damn heavy.

Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra — Songs For The Apocalypse. I'm not sure hat goes on in Jason Bieler's head, but I think we get a glimpse of that strange, wonderful world in this release, along with some very cool guest appearances.

Jeff Scott Soto — The Duets Collection Vol. 1. I usually don't like update versions of already released songs, but this is a pretty killer record, and some great guests.

Kent Hilli — The Rumble. The Perfect Plan singer is one of the latest vocal stars in the Frontiers lineup, and this solo record shows you why.

Lordi — Lordiversity. Seven completely different NEW albums in one release, each with a different theme. Mr. Lordi is completely insane, and I love it!

Midnite City — Itch You Can't Scratch. When you need that 80's hairspray fix, Midnite City is always ready to serve it up, and they do it really really well on this third release from the band.

Newman — Into the Monsters' Playground. Songwriter, singer, guitarist, producer, Steve Newman is a damn legend.

Sainted Sinners — Taste It. I dug the first two releases quite a bit, but I feel like this Frank Pané (Bonfire) project is really hitting it's stride with new vocalist Jack Meille (Tygers of Pan Tang).

Skarlett Riot — Invicta. Modern, female-fronted hard rock, alternately melodic and growly... it works, trust me!

Steve Bello — Mood Swings. Steve is a great guitarist, and for me this is his best yet. Really cool songs, and not confined by a single genre.

Supernova Plasmajets — Now or Never. Female fronted hard rock, bordering on power pop even, this is just a super fun release.

Temple Balls — Pyromide. Killer hard rock produced by Jona Tee (HEAT). Weird name, kickass band.

Todd La Torre — Rejoice in the Suffering. Todd La Torre's (Queensryche) first solo record. Heavy as hell, and highlights Todd's amazing vocal range.

Trucker Diablo — Tail End of a Hurricane. Almost like heavy Southern Rock, but even more fun, and super catchy.

Vega — Anarchy and Unity. Vega can do no wrong in my book, I honestly don't know how they keep writing such great songs.

Wicked Sensation — Outbreak. German melodic metal with former Accept/Bangalore Choir frontman David Reece on vocals. Great songs, and I love David's voice.

Wildstreet — III. Sleazy and dirty, just the way I like it, I just wish there were more than 8 songs on it!

Pete's Winners

5th Place

cover Dirtbag Republic — Tear Down Your Idols (Shock Records/Vanity Music Group). The third release from Sandy, Mick and company kicks ass right outvof the gate with the first track Main Objective about how rock'n'roll will never die "as long as I am still alive," a sentiment that's pretty much my guiding light 24/7. Down and dirty, but deliciously hooky, Dirtbag Republic brings that old school Hanoi Rocks vibe, walking a fine line between punk, sleaze, and rock'n'roll with aplomb. Hooks are everywhere on this release, and I dare you not to be singing along halfway through each song. Sometimes bands get so focused on putting out music that they forget to have fun with it, and these guys definitely sound like they're having a blast. Highlights for me include Main Objective, Wannabees, and Don't Answer to No One with a little hony tonk piano action even.

4th Place

cover Orden Ogan — Final Days (AFM Records). Was pretty much unfamiliar with Orden Ogan prior to this release, but right from the opening riff of Heart of the Android I immediately got acquainted with their material. I feel like their earlier material was just straight up Power Metal, but with the release of Final Days Seeb has clearly broadened his horizons adding more keys and an overall more modern, if not futuristic sound. Final Days is the sixth installment of the voyages of central character Alister Vale and moves the story from the Old West theme of 2017's Gunmen into the future. Intricate and technical, but blending effortlessly with layered harmonies both instrumental and vocal, it's a challenge to the senses but like most challenges, well worth accepting! Highlights for me... Heart of the Android, Interstellar (with Gus G on guest guitar), and In the Dawn of the AI.

3rd Place

cover Victory — Gods of Tomorrow (AFM Records). I won't lie, I wasn't expecting to love this like I do. The last few releases have had some bright spots, but Gods of Tomorrow brings back the Victory I know and love with hooky, riff driven anthems and well delivered vocals from Victory newcomer Gianni Pontillo. Not sure it's at the same level as the golden years of Temples of Gold or Culture Killed the Native, but it's a damn fine effort, and Gianni sounds like he could do the Fernando Garcia era stuff without a problem. I like to listen to this one when I'm getting ready in the morning, gets me going every time. Highlights for me include Love Hate, Cut to the Bone, and In Rock We Trust.

2nd Place

cover Land of Gypsies — Land of Gypsies (Frontiers Records). The latest project from XYZ's Terry Ilous, this hits me right where it counts. Soulful, bluesy hard rock that suits Terry's voice perfectly. For me this is the best thing he's done since the second XYZ release. I heard the first single Believe and I had a feeling it was going to be good, and it exceeded my expectations easily. Somehow sounding raw, yet polished it's sonically enjoyable from a production standpoint courtesy of Bassist and Producer Fabrizio Grossi. Highlights for me include the aforementioned Believe, Resuce Me, and Trouble but there's really no need to skip around, the whole release is an asskicker.

Pete's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2021 CD of the Year

cover Wicked Smile — Wait For the Night (Cago Records). Super catchy hard rock effort from Stevie Janevski of The Radio Sun. A bit different than TRS, Wicked Smile is more of a straight up 80's hard rock style, with an updated production. Every song is just killer from soup to nuts, well written, and the soaring vocals from Danny Cecati take it right over the top. Big production suits the music perfectly. Highlights for me are Daze of Delirium, Killer at Large, and Stronger, but seriously they're all great!


Terry's Picks for the Best of 2021

The Also Rans

Not provided.

Honorable Mentions

Hairy Groupies — Glamnization. For those not familiar with this Czech 4 piece at first glance you'd assume they are a joke band playing goofy Steel Panther type songs, but alas they are not. They sure look the part, but they play a nice MHR with some sprinkles of glam in there. Band issued CDR is well worth the slot in your cd collection.

Lordi — Lordiversity. Yep, this one was a doozy for sure, both from a cost perspective and the sheer volume of music and the eclectic manner of the individual discs offered. I have no heartburn with any of the 7 discs and the mockery of classics and sheer musical prowess of this band warrants the to ask for these discs (depending upon the collection you nab).

Alien Force — We Meet Again. Set your wayback machines on full and immerse oneself in this really well played and put together "comeback" album from this Danish classic NWOBHM band, who have been kicking around for almost 40 years! Really great album, heavy and harmonic, that reminds me of all the things I love about Saxon and Accept and shame on me for missing out on this band.

Steve Whiteman — You're Welcome. This one is a no brainer. If you are a Kix Kid and we all should be then this solo outing from Steve should tickle all your Kix are for kids wants. Steve is a consummate performer and sounds great for being on the road for longer than most of us have been alive.

Johnny O' Neil — Truth Or Dare. This one came out of nowhere and really resonated. Johnny as many know was the guy from Dare Force and his new very nicely made independently released long play (silver pressed of course) needs your attention. Johnny sounds really nice fronting the band not only vocally but tickling those fretboards, and he is a conscientious all around nice guy to chat with.

Pavement Princess — Second Skin. Writing this I am experiencing sheer joy for Erwin and hearing the efforts of this talented duo, Erwin and Rene again. Unfortunately, the recollection that Rene is no longer with us hits hard. Kind of bittersweet, but fans of music should appreciate not only Pavement Princess' musical contribution (s) but the exhaustive (mental and physical) effort put forth to make this music available. Thank you, Erwin and rest in peace Rene. Pavement Princess is a collaboration that will be sorely missed but surely appreciated and remembered for what they left us.

Terry's Winners

5th Place

cover Electric Guitars — Freewheeler (Mighty Music). Electric Guitars and the dual threat of consummate musical genius Mika Vandborg and Soren Anderson, who have been around many a block not only with their Electric Guitars band, but their past pedigree as well. As the bands name implies and is cemented in the single Dopamine, this is a good time guitar driven rock n roll band. Strap in and enjoy the latest offering of Freewheeler, as there are no disappointments herein. EG is quite reminiscent to me of another fan favorite Magick Touch, who too is of the same melodic, vocally harmonic ilke.

4th Place

cover Big City — Testify X (Frontiers Records). It is hardly a secret that I am a fanboy of guitarist Daniel Olaisen and not only his earlier Big City efforts, but the various projects he has helmed over the years, the man is a criminally underrated shredder, songwriter, and he is a chameleon of influences. Testify X is the 3rd outing from Big City, along with some new players this album got the full Frontiers treatment and it is pure melodic gold.

3rd Place

cover Thy Row — Unchained (Rockshots Records). Oof, these lads from Finland and their debut long play are equally impressive from instant classic hard rock songs to impeccably played instrumentations and Metal De Facto and Everfrost vocalist Mikael Salo has such a distinctive and soulful voice. This album is a definite must (period) for fans of Dio, Scorpions and the like.

2nd Place

cover Crisix — The Pizza EP (Nuclear Blast). Thrash or be thrashed! This insanely infectious and absolutely perfect 4 song EP dropped in September and is stupefyingly great! Do yourself the ultimate favor and watch the EP video, which is a little mini movie of the entire EP in video form. The music, production and humor are all top shelf.

Terry's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2021 CD of the Year

cover FuZZrD — Near Life Experience (Self-Released). Can't stop spinning this one along with praising this debut! This 4 piece from Minneapolis is about as perfect as can be and Brett is just bad ass on every level. See my full review at KNAC.com.




Existing comments about Best of 2021

From: Auslander Date: February 2, 2022 at 3:10
5. Chez Kane - Chez Kane 4. Crazy Lixx - Street Lethal 3. Temple Balls - Pyromide 2. Eclipse - Wired 1. W.E.T. - Retransmission Honourable mentions: Dangerous Curves, The LA Maybe, Greta Van Fleet, Tremonti, Mammoth WVH, Trytan, Chevelle, Mastodon, NMB, Weezer, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

From: gooup Date: February 2, 2022 at 16:52
W.E.T takes the prize for me.

From: 123charpenay Date: February 3, 2022 at 10:51
the first part of 2021 was great,the second very poor.i see the others best of.big surprise roxville nowhere,nasty high nowhere.ok these cd s are hard to find but not impossible.i ve ordered them directly on the site of the bands.my top 12 for 2021.1/ROXVILLE fallen from grace 2/HARDLINE heart mind and soul 3/NASTY HIGH when the river runs 4/WET retransmission 5/ KING ZEBA survivors 6/CHEZ KANE 7/ HEARTWIND strangers 8/ WILDNESS ultimate demise 9/ MAVERICK ethereality 10/THE TREATMENT waiting for good luck 11/NITRATE renegade 12/VICTORY gods of tomorrow.best song of 2021 "rush" from KING ZEBRA.

From: Doug Date: February 3, 2022 at 21:37
I always love the end of year "Best Of," lists! So impressive. For me and in no particular order, The Pretty Reckless, "Death by Rock & Roll," Mammoth WVH, "S/T," unless I missed it, I think was only on Dan's list(?), an excellent album, Smith/Kotzen,"S/T," Dirty Honey, "EP," fantastic band and album!, The End Machine, "Phase 2," and Robin McAuley, "Standing on the Edge." Was not necessarily my least favorite album, because I like these guys, but I just could not get into Styx' "Crash of the Crown."

From: guitarrizer Date: February 4, 2022 at 8:04
Narrowing my list to melodic hard rock/AOR, here it goes: Osukaru "Starbound", Robin McAuley "Standing On The Edge", Sweet Oblivion "Relentless", CHez Kane "Chez Kane", Hardline "Heart, Mind And Soul", W.E.T. "Retransmission", Crazy Lixx "Street Lethal", Station "Perspective", Crowne "Kings In The North", Nestor "Kids In A Ghost Town". My full list with other genres is hard-rock.pl/zestawienia/zestawienie2021

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 4, 2022 at 16:21
Kind of a shitty year for me personally, and I felt like I wasn't able to devote as much attention to new releases as in the past. That's why these picks are not ranked. Carcass—Torn Arteries; Cradle of Filth—Existence Is Futile; Exodus—Persona Non Grata; Georgia Thunderbolts—title escapes me right this minute; Gojira—Fortitude; Khemmis—Deceiver; L.A. Guns—Checkered Past; Stone Whiskey—Rebels of the Sun (this should be on HH); The Treatment—Waiting For Good Luck; Whitechapel—Kin. I surprisingly underwhelmed by the latest Evergrey album, after the previous two or three hit me hard. But as an honorable mention, I'll throw out Monster Magnet's A Better Dystopia, a covers album but mostly consisting of songs that I was completely unfamiliar with, so it was like a new MM record to me.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: February 4, 2022 at 16:31
Other honorable mentions include Blackberry Smoke, Cannibal Corpse, Dirty Honey, Lake of Tears, and Tribulation.

From: Scandiman Date: February 4, 2022 at 20:51
Man, what a year for music! Here is my top 10 for 2021: 1--> Eclipse - Wired 2--> W.E.T. - Retransmission 3--> Creye - II 4--> Smash Into Pieces - A New Horizon 5--> Nestor - Kids in a Ghost Town 6--> Seventh Crystal - Delirium 7--> Houston - IV 8--> Robin McAuley - Standing On the Edge 9--> Kent Hilli - The Rumble 10--> Cruzh - Tropical Thunder

From: CC Date: February 20, 2022 at 19:17
Didn't buy a lot of music last year due to spending a good portion of the year in hospital or recovering, and while still recovering now I have spent the last few months catching up on some stuff. Some albums I need to spend more time with, but the 5 that stand out to me (in no particular order) are: Crazy Lixx-Street lethal, Chez Kane-S/T, Diamante-American dream, LA Guns - Checkered past & Band Maid-Unseen world


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