The Reverend Manson goes organic—and the results are captivating.
- Ghost | Meliora (Loma Vista)
The Swedish doom metal band has struck platinum with its third full-length album, Meliora. Melodic, ethereal, and just heavy enough to qualify as metal, the band—made up of Papa Emeritus III (follow-up to Papas I and II) and five Nameless Ghouls—has created a masterpiece with this album. Opening with “Spirit,” an ode to absinthe, the album starts off strong and grows as you listen. From tracks like “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” with its awesome bass riff, to the beautifully harmonized “He Is,” this is one of the finest metal albums in years.
- Marilyn Manson | The Pale Emperor (Loma Vista)
The Reverend Manson goes organic—and the results are captivating. Finding a new voice, the album is a new direction for Manson. Less noise and a hearty dose of melody run through tracks such as “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles,” “Killing Strangers,” and “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge.” The new sound flatters him, and the album ranks among his best work to date. With more true instrumentation and less electronic noises, his voice is front and center, invoking images of pain, sorrow, and fame.
- Halestorm | Into the Wild Life (Atlantic)
Lizzy Hale and her cohorts head into the wild life on their third album. With hook-laden tracks including “Amen,” Scream,” and the first single from the album, “Apocalyptic,” the band draws listeners in and never lets go. Vocalist/guitarist Lizzy Hale is a vocal powerhouse and a blazing guitarist. Good song structure and a strong production makes this album is a must for any hard rock collection. Definitely one of the year’s finest hard rock releases.
- Madonna | Rebel Heart (Interscope)
Madonna’s last few releases were not up to par. Rebel Heart brings back the Madonna who can pull each heart string, and make every beat a danceable one. She is in good voice, and the material on the album is approachable and fun. More somber tracks like “Ghost Town” bring out the deeper side of the album, while “Bitch, I’m Madonna” is pure beat-driven ego. With a new release available in standard and deluxe versions, the Material Girl proves that, at 56, she has no intentions of relinquishing her Pop Queen crown.
- Blood on the Dance Floor | Cruel Pornography (s/r)
On its eighth release, the Florida-based duo once again earns the crown for dirtiness and writing a killer hook. With tracks like “Filthy Animals” and the scathing title track, Cruel Pornography, BOTDF strikes electronic metal gold. These six songs are intense, wild, and quite enjoyable. This band suffers from being very underrated. Lyrically dark and perverse, only BOTDF can pull off such a genre-bending sound.
- Saxon | Battering Ram (UDR)
Another hot album from a member of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the 1980s.Heavy and melodic, their 21st release is proof that many of these bands still rock, and are still very relevant. They have crafted quite a fine album. The title track is a blistering piece of music and it leads the listener into another realm. Vocalist Bill Byford still retains his vocal chops, while the band is tight and precise. The 11-track album makes for a great listen.
- Stryper | Fallen (Frontiers)
After over 30 years in the business, Christian metal band Stryper pulled out all the stops on their latest album, Fallen. Staying true to their Christian roots, Michael Sweet & Co. bring an aggressive, heavy album to life. From the opening screams of “Yahweh,” this is a heavier, more modern Stryper. Lead vocalist Sweet shows the singers of today a thing or two with his vibrato-laden screams. This album is much heavier than their previous release, and shows much growth. Combining their classic Stryper style, while embracing some of today’s more modern sounds, the band have produced a hard rock album worthy of much praise.
- Judas Priest | Redeemer of Souls (Epic)
The metal juggernaut known as Judas Priest shines once again on this release. From the opening chords of “Dragonaut,” to the wickedness of “Halls of Valhalla,” the Priest metal machine grabs the listener by the musical jugular, and never lets go. Vocalist Rob Halford, who is now over 60, still has pipes that can send chills up your spine. Double guitar work from Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner brings forth the riffs Priest are known for. A metal lover’s delight.
- Bullet for My Valentine | Venom (RCA)
Scathing guitar riffs and haunting harmonies color the gritty tunes from the band’s latest effort, Venom. Guitarist Michael Paget delivers some of the finest guitar work in metal today, while vocalist Matt Tuck sounds as though he is suffering from dark illusions. Knowing when to scream (and when not to), Tuck is a great front man. The band knows a good hook when they hear it, and they never run short. This album encompasses rage, self-loathing, and sorrow, combining all three into a superb disc.
- W.A.S.P. | Golgotha (Napalm)
The best album the band has made in years, by far, a nine-track opus filled with hard rocking riffs, and a superb vocal performance from Blackie Lawless. This is a new W.A.S.P., a more modern metal band, and Golgotha shows it in a delicious light. Not as heavy as past releases, this is a melodic, hard album, approached with a more pop sensibility, and the band flourishes because of it. And while Lawless is the only remaining original member of the band, W.A.S.P. may surprise many of listeners with this LP. This is not the same band that broke out of L.A.’s Sunset Strip scene in 1984; this is a more grown up band. | Marc Farr