And then there were two. Phil’s Picks is officially down to two year-ender lists on the music side as the countdown to the year’s end itself continues. The first of this year’s last two music year-ender lists comes today in the form of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
This year’s list is packed with content from so many established and new acts. From up-and-coming hard rock act Antisaint to veteran thrash band Exodus to guitar virtuosos Gus G. and John 5 and more, this year has seen so many great hard rock and metal records. Suffice it to say there has been so much great hard rock and metal this year that it has been extremely difficult to compile this list, but it was created.
As with every list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the year’s top 10 new releases and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15. Those honorable mention titles are just as deserving of applause as the other featured works. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums list.
PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW HARD ROCK & METAL ALBUMS
1. Accept – Too Mean To Die
2. Atreyu – Baptize
3. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
4. Michael Schenker Group – Immortal
5. U.D.O. – Game Over
6. Artillery – X
7. Gus G. – Quantum Leap
8. John 5 – Sinner
The Three Tremors – Guardians of the Void
Antisaint – Vaticinate
Bullet For My Valentine – Bullet For My Valentine
A Killer’s Confession – Remember
The CEO – Redemption
Tremonti – Marching in Time
Skarlett Riot – Invicta
That’s it for this year’s hard rock and metal albums. While even the hard rock and metal community has wrapped things for this year, things are already gearing up for 2022, with new releases already coming from the likes of up-and-coming hard rock act Bloodywood, veteran acts Hammerfall and Annihilator, and even from Saxon and Stabbing Westward. That’s all just in the first quarter of 2022, too.
In other words, the first half of the new year is already gearing up to be very exciting for all the hard rock and metal fans out there. Until then though, there’s still one more music year-ender list from Phil’s Picks this year before the attention turns over to the best of this year’s new TV and movie releases. Stay tuned!
Hard rock band The CEO is scheduled to release its debut album this week. The band, which features Sevendust bassist Vince Hornsby as one of its members – is scheduled to release its new album, Redemption Friday through Rat Pack Records. The label is also home to King’s X member DuG Pinnick’s side project KXM. The 12-song record is a positive first impression from the band. Its success comes in part through its featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds its own appeal to the album and will be discussed a little later. The sequencing of that collective content brings that content together and completes the album’s presentation. It will also be addressed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make Redemption a promising start for The CEO.
The CEO’s debut album, Redemption, is a positive first outing for the up-and-coming hard rock band. That is proven in part through the musical arrangements that make up the album’s 45-minute body. The arrangements boast an overall sound and stylistic approach that easily lend themselves to comparison to works from Sevendust, as well as The Veer Union and Alter Bridge. That applies even in the album’s one softer moment, ‘Black Hearts.’ It should be noted that while the album’s arrangements bear the noted similarity to works from the aforementioned bands, the works here still boast their own unique identity. That is due not only to the work of Hornsby, but also that of his band mates – Chase Brown and Beau Anderson (guitars), Mack Mullins (vocals), and Joseph Herman (drums). Case in point is the album’s closer, ‘Alone and Dead.’ The heaviness of the noted bands is on full display throughout this song thanks to the band’s work and that of those behind the boards. At the same time, there is also a certain late 80s/early 90s hair metal sound infused into the arrangement in the verses. The subtlety of that element alongside the heavier, modern hard rock sound here makes the song its own strong presentation.
‘Dirty Tragic,’ which comes just before the album’s midpoint, is another example of the importance of the album’s musical arrangements. As with ‘Alone and Dead,’ the noted hard rock influences are on full display here. At the same time though, the band also presents an evident blues-rock type sound and stylistic approach to pair with that hard rock influence. It is comparable to works from the likes of Shinedown and Three Days Grace. The whole of the arrangement is a rich, engaging and enjoyable work that does its own part to show the ability of the band to make its own unique songs, even with the evident influence of other more well-known bands.
‘Alive’ is yet another example of the expert fashion in which the members of The CEO balanced its heavier influences with its own approach. The depth of the bass, guitars, and drums is on full display once more here. At the same time, there is something in the staccato nature in which the group plays and the melodic choruses that give the arrangement even more of its own identity. It is an interesting dichotomy of sound and style that because of its subtlety, makes the song just as notable as the others examined here. When these songs and the others featured throughout the album are considered together, they make the album’s overall musical content reason enough for audiences to hear the album. Of course the album’s musical content is only part of the reason that audiences will enjoy the album. Its lyrical content is familiar and accessible, making for even more reason to hear the record.
The familiarity and accessibility in the album’s lyrical content is made clear in the album’s lead single/title track. The song features what comes across as a discussion about the importance of taking accountability for the choices we make in life. This is inferred right from the song’s outset as Mullins sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Divide and conquer us in two/Feed the hate to the starved that you rule/Thy will be done/And now we’re done/Rise of the dead/The love, the hate, the sex, the truth/The jealousies that make us fools Redemption/Redemption.” Here Mullins comes across as addressing how we separate ourselves and allow ourselves to be controlled by extraneous forces, which in itself plays into the choices we make. The statement grows and evolves in the second verse, which finds Mullins singing, “Blind faith judgement is for fools (fools)/Control and trust are the enemies’ tools (fools)/Fake is the trend/This time it ends/Rise of the dead/The love, the hate, the sex, the truth/The jealousies that make us fools/Wake up this time/The choice, the chance, the last to lose Our legacy is our choice.” That final statement, telling audiences to “wake up this time/The choice, the chance, the last to lose/Our legacy is our choice” is a strong reminder that we make our own decisions in what we do, and we need to hold ourselves accountable for those choices. This is of course just this critic’s interpretation. If in fact it is somewhere in the proverbial ball park, then that familiar theme will certainly resonate with audiences, in a unique fashion at that. It is just one example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.
The lyrical theme featured in ‘Black Hearts’ is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes. In the case of this song, it takes on the all-too-familiar topic of a broken relationship. This is made clear right from the song’s outset as Mullins sings, “This was never good/And we knew/But I wasn’t built for goodbyes/I turn and walk away/Just for you/’Cause I know we won’t change our minds/We have to hold on/It’s time to go/Love doesn’t stay/Where it don’t belong/Meeting you was my first mistake.” What is interesting here is the mournful manner in which these lyrics are delivered. Normally, such content conjures thoughts of frustration, but instead, Mullins and company opted to present this in such more emotional fashion. It presents the song’s subject as placing the blame for the relationship’s end on his own shoulders. The song’s subject even keeps the blame on himself here. It really makes for an interesting approach to an all-too-familiar lyrical theme. That it is presented more in a rueful fashion than the more fiery delivery that audiences might expect makes it that much more interesting. It makes the theme just one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content.
Along with ‘Black Hearts’ and ‘Redemption,’ ‘Alive’ is yet another strong example of the importance of this album’s lyrical content. Not having a lyrics sheet to reference makes deciphering the song’s lyrics somewhat difficult. However, just enough can be understood that it can be inferred that this song is meant to deliver an uplifting message of confidence and hope. This is inferred as Mullins sings in the song’s chorus, “It don’t/Matter who you are/Believe and you’ll go far/When fear/You decide to face….” Again much of the song’s lyrics are tough to understand without a lyrics sheet to reference, but this brief statement in itself to know this song is meant to be something positive. The mention of dying with “memories/Not just hopes and dreams/You were born with all you need” adds even more to that interpretation. Considering all of this, the more than likely uplifting nature of this song’s lyrical content serves even more to show the importance of the record’s lyrical themes. When it is considered along with the other noted lyrical themes and those not directly examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the record’s lyrical content. When the record’s lyrical and musical content are combined, they make for even more reason for audiences to hear this record. The sequencing of that content brings everything together here and completes the record’s presentation.
Redemption’s sequencing is important to note because of its role in keeping the record’s content varied. From beginning to end, the sequencing ensures the record’s lyrical themes change just as much as the stylistic changes in the album’s musical arrangements. That in itself ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment. At the same time, the sequencing also keeps the album’s overall energy stable from beginning to end. There are brief moments within certain songs in which the album pulls back, but those moments are very brief at the most. Even in the album’s most reserved moment in ‘Black Hearts,’ the energy doesn’t pull back but so much. Overall, what audiences get thanks to the sequencing is a record whose energy remains high and stable. Keeping that in mind along with the album’s overall content, the album in whole proves itself to be an impressive addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums that deserves to be heard.
The CEO’s debut album Redemption is a positive start for the band. That is proven in part through its musical arrangements. The arrangements in question bear noticeable influence from some more well-known hard rock counterparts of the band. The thing is that the band does not just rip off those bands’ sounds. Rather it successfully blends those influences with its own sounds and approaches to make the record’s musical content in whole reason enough to take in the album. The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical arrangements are diverse in their own right, and are also accessible. That makes for even more engagement and entertainment. The sequencing of that overall content brings everything together and completes the album’s presentation. It ensures that the album’s content changes from one song to the next while also keeping the album’s energy stable from beginning to end, putting the final touch to the album’s presentation. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make Redemption a strong addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums. The album is scheduled for release Friday through Rat Pack Records. More information on Redemption is available along with all of The CEO’s latest news and more at: