10. Tax The Heat: Change Your Position
We said: "With a nod of deference to the past grandmasters and a thoroughly modern outlook, Tax The Heat are perfectly placed to reintroduce unadulterated classic rock for the next generation. Goodness knows they have the unwavering confidence to give it their best shot."
9. Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons: The Age Of Absurdity
We said: "Throughout, the riffs are superior and archetypal, and Campbell senior’s lead work shines, with a deft fizz and rejuvenated spirit that’s best illustrated on album closer Into The Dark and the standout Dark Days. A Deep South (Pontypridd?) gothic blues workout, the space it affords reveals the band’s strength and depth."
8. Halestorm: Vicious
We said: "Sex and love become tortuously entangled on tracks like Conflicted, a low-slung guttural stomper in vintage Joan Jett mode. Heart Of Novocaine, chronicling a traumatic break-up, trashes the idea of romance altogether. ‘Thank you for the pain, thank you for the hate, thank you for the way you left me scarred,’ Hale roars over crashing waves of acoustic guitar. Falling just the right side of bombastic melodrama, this arena-sized anthem could well become Halestorm’s November Rain."
7. Massive Wagons - Full Nelson
We said: "Lancastrian hard rockers Massive Wagons get the chance to stage a breakout with their fourth album and debut for Earache Records, who specialise in ‘come on feel the noize’. It’s no quiet proposal, either, more a full-tilt affair with lead singer Barry Mills and co. summoning the spirits of The Who on Billy Balloon Head, Cheap Trick on the title track and Status Quo, whose Caroline is a template for Back To The Stack’s tag-team guitar assault."
6. The Struts: Young And Dangerous
We said: "From the opening bars of Body Talks it’s clear instantly that this is a quantum leap forward from their 2014 debut Everybody Wants. The sleaziest of guitar riffs snakes its way around an irresistible Lust For Lifestyle groove, over which Spiller drawls: ‘You can pretend you don’t want it!’ like Iggy on Viagra stumbling into a #MeToo seminar. It’s both brazen and brilliant, and alerts you to the fact that this is a band who really mean business."
5. Clutch: Book of Bad Decisions
We said: "But Clutch are more than just one man and his brain. Fallon’s flights of lyrical fancy are given wings by the tightest band this side of the J.B.s. Guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster can flip between the grungey boogaloo of Spirit Of ’76, with its references to Mohicans and peanut farmers, to the unexpected pyschedelic coda of Emily Dickinson (the finest song about a tragic 18th-century American poet you’ll hear this year) without breaking sweat."
4. Greta Van Fleet: Anthem Of The Peaceful Army
We said: "It might be saddled with the worst title in living memory, but Anthem Of The Peaceful Army really is one of the most exciting records released by a new band in recent years. This is partly a result of the amount of money and attention that’s being thrown at them – this is the first time in years that a rock band has been given a genuine fighting chance by a major label – but it’s mostly down to the youthful, unmanufacturable exhilaration that courses through its 10 tracks."
3. Steve Perry: Traces
We said: "Including a remake of George Harrison’s I Need You, the album is done and dusted within 40 sumptuous minutes. By turns maudlin and celebratory, saccharine and spiritual, the elephant in the room is the overwhelmingly sedate pace of these songs. Five of them saunter before Sun Shines Gray dares to break into a gentle gallop. However, without exception they are mesmerising. Patience has been rewarded."
2. Ghost: Prequelle
We said: "First single Rats is the perfect snapshot of where Ghost are at four albums in, hitching rat-a-tat riffing to a billowing melody that suggests they’ve been listening to ABBA as much as they have Black Sabbath. This gleefully perverse marriage of the sacred and profane continues through the sweetly crunching See The Light and stately ballad Pro Memoria, reaching its logical conclusion with the genius one-two of Miasma and Danse Macabre. The former is a gradually building instrumental that climaxes in a fantastically unexpected saxophone solo (take that, Beelzebub!), the latter a pure 80s rock-club banger that’s as audacious as it is glorious."
1. Judas Priest: Firepower
We said: "Firepower, for all its merits, for all its better-than-it-has-any-right-to-bes, will never, ever be as fondly regarded as, say, past masterworks such as Sad Wings Of Destiny and Sin After Sin. But if nothing else the album proves that there’s life in this battle-scarred British bulldog yet. What’s more, this mangy old metal mutt is far from toothless; he ain’t gonna be put down anytime soon. As for KK Downing, he must be choking on his sand wedge."