1) Sorceress - Opeth
Continuing the proggy vibe of 2014’s Pale Communion, while reintroducing some of their heaviness of old, this title track from the Swedes’ forthcoming twelfth studio LP is a satisfying (almost Ghost-like) mix of prog-metal riffs and ominous mystique.
2) Biloxi - Hiss Golden Messenger
There was no shortage of smiles when we first heard this new one from Hiss Golden Messenger (aka hardcore punk-turned-Americana troubadour M.C. Taylor, plus pals). A blissful sun-trap of countrified soul and bittersweet sentiment, it’s whetted our appetite for the upcoming album Heart Like A Levee.
3) We’re All Somebody From Somewhere - Steven Tyler
The title track of the new solo album from the Aerosmith singer. It has a country flavour, but there’s no doubting the Aero hints which seep through. The lyrics seem to represent Tyler’s dual personality, reflecting both his love of the high life and also a delight in hanging out with low-life types.
4) How Does It Feel - Cats In Space (with Danny Bowes)
Released to promote a tour with Space Elevator in October, the 70s-obsessed Londoners cover the opening track from Slade In Flame with the assistance of Thunder vocalist Danny Bowes. It’s an affectionate remake of one of Slade’s all-time finest tunes, and it’s available only on seven-inch coloured vinyl!
5) Breakin’ Outta Hell - Airbourne
Joel O’Keefe must have wept for days when Axl Rose got the AC/DC gig. Fronting Aussie hellraisers Airbourne, he’s basically been training for it for years – as this first taste of their forthcoming album reaffirms. The band are showing no signs of stopping, or changing, but when the time comes for them to belt this out on the live circuit, who’s going to protest?
6) Madame Butterfly - Wolf Hoffmann
The Accept guitarist shows his genuine love for classical music here. This track from his new solo album Headbangers Symphony gives the well-known Puccini masterpiece a swift kick with a metal-oriented attack but without losing the essence of the beloved original. Metal up your classical ass!
7) Night Time Voices - Stags
The title track from the new EP from one of the most exciting, energetic young bands around right now. Imagine Alice In Chains crossing riffs with Clutch while King’s X provide rhythmic sustenance and you’ll get the idea. Charmed, charming and thoroughly absorbing. Repeated listens prove that this is a song with depth and creativity.
8) Stay Gold - Butch Walker
If last year’s Afraid Of Ghosts was Walker’s ‘sad but beautiful’ moment (written a year after his father died, about “coming to terms with your ghosts”), Stay Gold is its ‘get happy’ counterpart. Blending Bruce Springsteen-esque melody with a country-boogie groove, it’s a chirpy indicator of jolly things to come.
9) Scared For The Children - Jeff Beck
Nobody else sounds like Jeff Beck. No matter what he does, the veteran guitarist is unique and compelling. On this track from his new Loud Hailer he plays some warm, low-key guitar that’s complemented by some wonderfully expressive vocals from Rosie Bones, who at times sounds like a female Rod Stewart.
10) Drink With The Living Dead - Ghoultown
Zombiefied country rock from the band who effectively invented the idea of combining horror themes with a southern flavour. From the album Life After Sundown, it has a dark, restive soul, as protagonist matches shots of liquor with the undead. Cemetery humour wrapped up with a shotgun vigilance.
11) Seven Stars - Fates Warning
Taken from the Connecticut group’s newly issued twelfth album Theories Of Flight, Seven Stars is a beautifully arranged and deeply hummable hard rock composition that pours kerosene on the myth that all progressive metal must be based upon myriad pointless time changes and feature a million notes.
12) Frankie Teardrop - Suicide
In honour of Alan Vega, who died recently, this is one of the most harrowing and remarkable tracks of the late 70s. From Suicide’s self-titled album, it combines new wave, electronica and progressive music in a maze of disturbing images. Vega’s vocals are sympathetic, yet also frightening. The screams here are charismatically desperate and they’ll haunt you forever.
13) The Baroness - Denner/Shermann
With King Diamond still following the solo trail, guitar lynchpins Michael and Hank have hired their own high-pitched frontman, Sean Peck, to revisit the sound of their former band Mercyful Fate via a new album called Masters Of Evil. This, its epic closing track, captures them at their best.
14) Visibility Zero - Kansas
Without chief songwriters Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, nobody foresaw a new Kansas album – including the veteran group themselves. And yet The Prelude Implicit, their first new record in 16 years, arrives in September. Equally surprising, it’s set to be among the best proggy hard rock releases of 2016.
15) Smile More - Deap Vally
Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards are back after an absence of three years. Based on a primal, simplistic guitar riff and beginning with the lines ‘Everybody’s trying to tell me what to do/It makes me wanna break some shit and sniff some glue’, Smile More is a withering response to the demand ‘cheer up’.
16) Let The Neighbours Call The Cops - The Amorettes
With production assistance from Thunder guitarist Luke Morley, the Scottish trio have well and truly upped the stakes on second album White Hot Heat. They’re still feisty as ever, but along with the sonic improvement their songs are snappier and more memorable.