10. Stone Temple Pilots, ‘Stone Temple Pilots’
The band celebrated the 25th anniversary of Core via a Super Deluxe Edition released in September 2017. Shortly afterward, Stone Temple Pilots announced they hired Jeff Gutt — who previously had appeared in the U.S. version of the television musical competition The X Factor — as their new lead singer. The new STP lineup released an eponymous album in March 2018.
9. Disturbed, ‘Evolution’
Coming off of the enormous success of their brooding cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence,” Chicago nu-metal veterans Disturbed deliver another slab of commercial grade active rock and montage-ready power balladry on their seventh studio effort, Evolution.
8. Alice in Chains, ‘Rainier Fog’
Consider Rainier Fog as something as a homecoming for Alice in Chains. Named after the heavy mist that comes rolling down from nearby Mount Rainier, the album finds Alice in Chains recording in Seattle for the first time since the group reunited in 2008 with William DuVall replacing the late Layne Staley as lead vocalist.
7. Godsmack, ‘When Legends Rise’
Twenty years after the release of their breakthrough debut effort, Massachusetts hard rock veterans Godsmack veered in a fresh direction for their seventh set, When Legends Rise. Following 2014’s by-the-numbers 1000hp and frontman Sully Erna’s 2016 sophomore solo effort, Hometown Life, Legends presents a little of the old Godsmack.
6. Breaking Benjamin, ‘Ember’
On the second outing with a revamped lineup, Breaking Benjamin stick to their tried and true formula, continuing the legacy of early-2000s post-grunge/nu-metal with album number six, Ember. Frontman Ben Burnley relinquished songwriting control, allowing input from band members Jason Rauch, Keith Wallen, Aaron Bruch, and Shaun Foist. For better or worse, the results of that team-building effort do not stray far from past efforts.
5. Halestorm, ‘Vicious’
Halestorm is aptly named, as vowel-averse frontwoman Lzzy Hale has an F5 tornado for a voice, which she uses to great effect on her band’s fourth studio long-player. The follow-up to 2015’s Into the Wild Life, which was the group’s highest-charting outing to date, Vicious doesn’t deviate too much from the stock hedonism of its predecessor — the holy hard rock trinity of sex, drugs, and rock & roll is alive and well — but it connects on such a visceral and familiar level that listeners will likely be unable to resist the urge to turn things up to 11.
4. The Fever 333, ‘Made an America’
After toiling for years in Letlive., a band that likely should’ve been bigger, singer Jason Aalon Butler resurfaced this year in The Fever 333, a breakout trio that also features The Chariot guitarist Stevis Harrison and Night Verses drummer Aric Improta. Together, they seemingly inherited the next generation Rage Against the Machine mantle, fusing rap-rock stylings with politically minded messages for a truly powerful debut. The inherently catchy title track takes a closer look at America’s uncomfortable past. Other highlights include angsty “Walking in My Shoes” and the no holds barred, aggressive statement “We’re Coming In.” This 7-track EP, combined with the late year separate releases of “Trigger” and “Burn It,” definitely made its mark on the year that was.
3. A Perfect Circle, ‘Eat the Elephant’
After 14 years of silence, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle returned with Eat the Elephant. Previously active on 2004’s antiwar eMOTIVe — when the U.S. was embroiled in a different state of social upheaval — they re-emerged in 2018 at another pivotal time with just as much to say. While much transpired in their absence, A Perfect Circle evolved, addressing government shifts, technological advances, and social deterioration in a manner befitting of frontman Maynard James Keenan, who delivers some of the most wickedly barbed lyrics of his career.
2. Red Sun Rising, ‘Thread’
Though around for more than a decade, Red Sun Rising in its current state dates back to 2015 when three of the band members joined up, and while ‘Polyester Zeal’ gave the band their much deserved breakout, ‘Thread’ shows a much more well-rounded representation of who they are. Singer-guitarist Mike Protich calls the album a “rebirth,” adding, “It was not until we made this album that I felt we became a band. The growth and evolution of RSR that you will hear in our sound and songwriting builds on our ‘Thread’ mentality. We aren’t chasing trends and we never will.” That said, Red Sun Rising does a solid job of differentiating themselves from the active rock crowd. The darkly sinister “Deathwish” struck a chord with radio listeners, while the fuzzed out, shimmery and haunting “Fascination” ranks among our favorite tracks of the year. Other highlights include the epic “Stealing Life,” the timeless “Left for Dead” and the chaotic mid-album rocker “Veins.” (CC)
1. Myles Kennedy, ‘Year of the Tiger’
In a year where there was plenty of debate for our Rock Albums top spot, we chose to reward a musician who made one of the bigger artistic statements of their career. Congrats to Myles Kennedy, as ‘Year of the Tiger’ is our Rock Album of the Year for 2018. This disc is no Slash rehash or altered Bridge, with Kennedy’s booming rock vocals pulled back to a minimum in favor of a more restrained and vulnerable delivery. Kennedy also uses more unique instrumentation, delving into elements of Americana, blues and country as well. This concept album centers on Kennedy’s father’s death and his family’s aftermath after coming to terms that his Christian Science beliefs ultimately led to his passing. The moving title track introduces the story through the eyes of Kennedy’s mother, who was left with some tough choices to make in her life while newly widowed. “The Great Beyond,” with its Middle Eastern-feel, is one of the disc’s most ambitious tracks and also one of the few songs where the power vocals come back into play. The emotionally raw “Blind Faith,” the Chris Whitley-esque “Ghosts of Shangri-La,” and the cathartic album closer “One Fine Day” are also standouts from this stellar release. “It took decades to muster up the courage,” says Kennedy of tackling the album. “Beneath the surface, the wounds were pretty raw, but it just had to be done.” While the journey is Kennedy’s to take, it’s one that’s ultimately satisfying to listeners as well. (CC)