The sophomore effort from Gemini Syndrome rages with melodic cries of pain and riffs galore.
1. Ghost | Popestar (Loma Vista)
Opening with original track “Square Hammer,” this five-track EP is stellar from the first note. The Grammy-winning metal band has carved quite a niche for itself, and its fan base has exploded. Ghost has grown with each different Papa Emeritus. Even though the idea behind the band is that the vocalist (currently Papa Emeritus III) is the star, the band—simply referred to as “The Nameless Ghouls”—provides a blistering soundtrack. The highlight of this mostly covers release is their powerful version of “Missionary Man,” originally recorded by the Eurythmics. There is nothing holding Ghost back.
2. Blood on the Dance Floor | Scissors (s/r)
The last effort from the Florida-based duo is a phenomenal album. Primarily written by Jayy Von Monroe, Scissors sizzles in all the right places. With industrial dance grooves and a melodic forefront, this album displays a band that has grown musically. BOTDF do not fall easily into any musical category, instead mixing genres and styles in a unique and appealing way. Now, the duo has decided to part ways, making this their last appearance together. With songs like “The Age of the Young and Hopeless,” “Safe Word,” and the title track, the band has left the bar high.
3. Gemini Syndrome | Memento Mori (Another Century)
The sophomore effort from Gemini Syndrome rages with melodic cries of pain and riffs galore. Their sound is unique enough to set them apart from other nu-metal bands, while still remaining approachable. Vocalist Aaron Nordstrom (former Otep guitarist) unleashes a vocal monster on this album, and the crunching riffs are to die for. This 15-track metal onslaught is an album of the highest quality. On songs like “Remember We Die” and lead single “Anonymous,” the band shows no mercy. Well written and exquisitely performed, Memento Mori is on the cutting edge of modern metal.
4. Stevie Nicks | Bella Donna (reissue) (Modern/Rhino)
The first solo effort from Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks was an astounding, yet surprise hit. Produced by Jimmy Iovine, the album went straight up the charts, going platinum within the first three months of release. First single “Edge of Seventeen (White-Winged Dove),” an ode to death, blasted this album into the stratosphere. The fanatically popular ballad “Leather and Lace” made Nicks a household name, and the first member of Fleetwood Mac to become a star in her own right. This new three-CD set includes songs not released previously, as well as a live disc consisting of her 1981 short solo tour. Previously unreleased tracks like “Gold and Braid,” “If You Were My Love,” and “The Dealer” have been brought back to life, while demo versions of classics like “How Still My Love” and soundtrack cuts like “Blue Lamp” (from the Heavy Metal soundtrack) make this version a must-have.
5. Lady Gaga | Joanne (Streamline)
The fifth album by pop diva Lady Gaga is a complete departure from her normal style. Gone are the synths and drum machines. With guitars, piano and great rock beats at the forefront, Gaga shines brightly on an album no one saw coming. More organic in style and content, this album proves the Lady’s talent as not only a singer, but as a songwriter. The 11-track opus shows Gaga in many different dimensions. Lead single “Perfect Illusion,” while danceable, is one of few tracks on this release that even remotely remind us of the dance music for which she is so famous. On Joanne, Gaga becomes an artist of grand stature. Vocally stunning and musically diverse, this album demonstrates the flexibility and depth of an artist who has, time and again, proven herself to be more than just a dance queen.
6. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live – Vol. 3 (Time/Life)
Packed full of legendary artists, most of whom are Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, this series is a must-have. Available only on limited-edition marbled vinyl, the release includes rock icons such as John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Aretha Franklyn, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Full of iconic, well-loved songs, the selections include “I Heard It through the Grapevine,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” the Van Halen hit performed here by Velvet Revolver. Ten classic tracks done by some of the best of the best in rock music.
7. Panic! At the Disco | Death of a Bachelor (Fueled by Ramen)
The latest album from this band proves that they deserve every ounce of fame they have achieved. Powerfully melodic and diverse in sound, Death of a Bachelor has some killer hooks. Principal songwriter and vocalist Brendon Urie has once again created an album of timeless, passionate rock. Playing all drums, guitar and bass parts himself, Urie is a torrent of creativity and talent. Tracks like “House of Memories” and “Hallelujah” show the true diversity of Urie’s creations. The lead single, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” is a powerful song, proving once again that Urie is one talented fellow.
8. Queen | Greatest Hits (reissue) (Hollywood)
Representing the material recorded between 1974 and 1980, this album contains nothing but hits. The band rose to the top with its opera-inspired brand of hard rock. In 2016, the album was reissued on 180-gram vinyl. Classic songs like the lush rock opera “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the eclectic “Bicycle Race,” and the chart-topping hit “Another One Bites the Dust” come back to life on this double album set—a must for every classic rock fan.
9. Hanoi Rocks | Strange Boys Box (Cleopatra)
Eighties glam band Hanoi Rocks was ahead of its time. With a sassy sound and attitude, the band released some of the best flash-trash rock albums of the era. Its debut album—Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks—was hailed by critics and fans alike. This set also contains the albums Oriental Beat, Back to Mystery City, Self-Destruction Blues, and All Those Wasted Years. This is a great band that, sadly, was on the verge of stardom with its major label debut, Two Steps from the Move, when the untimely death of drummer Razzle tore the group apart. This set is the ultimate tribute to a stellar act.
10. Barb Wire Dolls | Desperate (UDR)
Raw and edgy, the Barb Wire Dolls are modern punk at its finest. On their fourth release, Desperate, the girls deliver raging punk rock with an ’80s sensibility. No dramatics or gimmicks here: simply hard-edged songs with attitude. Tracks like “Heart Attack,” “Take Me Home,” and album opener “Drown” take the listener back to a time when music was made with a rough and tumble style. Definitely a punk rock feast worthy of praise. | Marc Farr