Home Rock The WillToRock Top 10 Albums of 2023!

    The WillToRock Top 10 Albums of 2023!

    1705
    0
     
     

    What a nice turn of events in 2023.  Whereas last year’s WTR Top 10 albums were dominated by a bunch of Rock and Metal OG’s (see Scorpions, Ozzy, Def Leppard, etc), this year’s offerings include a bunch of bands that are out to prove that not only is Rock not dead, It’s KICKING ASS!

    There may even be a few names on this list that you’re not too familiar with and I implore you to seek them out and start supporting them. That’s right, you didn’t know there was going to be homework this year.  But there is and I’m going to be grading everyone on their musical acumen with no curve.  You pass or fail. 

    As always it’s difficult putting one album above any other album that I loved this year, but the order that they’re in is almost solely based on the amount of times I’ve listened to them. As always there are a few honorable mentions at the bottom that added to making 2023 such a dynamic and varied year for great music. 

    Welcome to…

    WILL’s Top 10 Albums of 2023!

    10. Jared James Nichols – “Jared James Nichols”

    This album is pure, raw rock & roll.  From Jared’s gritty vocals and distorted guitar sounds to the boogie woogie flare that is scattered all over this album.  This is blues-infused hard rock at it’s peak. So much to love on this album with some favorites being “Easy Come Easy Go“, “Bad Roots” and album closer “Out Of Time“.  This is an album for the books and should finally makes people put JJN in the conversation as one of the great, upcoming rock acts.

    9. Dirty Honey – “Can’t Find The Brakes”

    Another stellar release from LA’s Dirty Honey.  Another blues/rock album full of grooves and hooks that gives you those early Black Crowes feels in all the right places.  You’ve got John Notto’s honky tonk guitar riffs, Justin Smolian’s bass meandering all over the place, but the signature of DH is still Marc LaBelle’s distinctive vocals that reach up and down and all around. He’s amazing at all levels like on the rockers “Take Me Alive” and “Can’t Find The Breaks“. But where Marc really shines on this album are the slower songs “Coming Home” and especially (my favorite track) “You Make It Alright“.  Another young band reaching new heights.

    8. Metal Church – “Congregation Of Annihilation”

    Couldn’t have got through the year without a bit of the heavier stuff and what a great rebound by Metal Church.  After the unfortunate passing of beloved MC singer, Mike Howe, it was left up to Kurdt Vanderhoof and the guys to find the right singer to carry on the Metal Church torch.  After a lengthy search they landed on Ross The Boss singer, Marc Lopes. What a great find and a perfect fit. 

    The “Congregation of Annihilation” was released and it was quickly learned that all would be well and we could gladly continue to worship at the “Church of Metal”.  This album gets the blood pumping from the first chords of opener “Another Judgement Day” and doesn’t let up.  Marc’s screams paint a bloody great portrait over the Metal canvas of these killer riffs. 

    Having seen them in concert this year Marc also slays all the old stuff.  The future of Metal Church is alive and well.

    7.Edge Of Paradise – “Hologram”

    Having seen Edge Of Paradise live for a few years locally, it was no surprise to me how great of a band they were. But even I was shocked at how amazing their last album “The Unknown” turned out. What I was skeptical of was how they would follow that up.  Well let’s all stand an applaud, because Edge Of Paradise have released a beast.

    Singer, Margarita Monet and guitarist, Dave Bates have produced yet another symphonic, electro-industrial gem.  Don’t let that description deter you because this album is HEAVY!  Huge layered sounds, and memorable hooks propel this album with Margarita’s, distinctive, breathy vocals weaving an amazing, intricate musical tapestry. Much like “The Unknown“, after listening to “Hologram” from start to finish you’re gonna feel like you took an unworldly journey into another dimension.

    6. The Struts – “Pretty Vicious”

    When I bought The Struts new album it had the distinct disadvantage of arriving at the exact same time as the new Stones album.  Listening to them back to back, “Pretty Vicious” felt at the time like it was a bunch of songs that the Stones wrote that didn’t make “Hackney Diamonds”.

    BUT…I purposely went out on my runs (Ok, I walk most of the time) and played this over and over, because I knew it had to be better than my first impression.  And I was right.  This is probably the most fully fledged Struts album since their debut.  It’s one part party and one part introspective and reflective.

    All The Struts’ signature flamboyance is on display with songs like “Too Good At Raising Hell“, “Rockstar” and “Remember The Name“.  But what you’re also going to get is a more serious side of the band that includes some of the best songs they’ve written like “I Won’t Run“, “Bad Decisions” and the album closer “Somebody Someday“.  But my favorite on the album is the bass driven, groove heavy title track, “Pretty Vicious“. I could see this type of song coming when I heard the likes of “Wild Child” and “Am I talking To The Champagne” from 2020’s “Strange “Days“.

     

    5. Rolling Stones – “Hackney Diamonds”

    They absolutely didn’t need to do this.  They didn’t need to release another album in their lifetime.  They could still sell out stadiums and tour as much or as little as they wanted.  But they go and release “Hackney Diamonds“.  And Wow!

    Stones aficionados (and I am not one) will argue where this disc falls along the band’s spectrum, but this is without doubt some of their strongest material since the 80’s. 

    There are a ton of guests on this album (Paul McCartney, Elton John, Lady Gaga) and none of them overshadow or even standout compared to Mick, Keef and Ronnie (and even Charlie Watts (R.I.P.) who appears on “Mess It Up” and “Live By The Sword“). Not a filler to be found here, this album glides through the ears so easily.  I could name my favorite tracks, but they keep changing after each listen.  Pick a mood and The Stones have found a song here that will perfectly suit it. Even the Keef penned & sung “Tell Me Straight” hits all the feels. 

    If “Hackney Diamonds” turns out to be The Rolling Stones swan song, they have certainly cemented their legacy as arguably the greatest Rock & Roll Band of time.

    4. Those Damn Crows – “Inhale/Exhale”

    A lot of you on this side of the pond may not be familiar with these lads from Wales known as Those Damn Crows, but that’s going to change.  “Inhale/Exhale” is the band’s 3rd release and it (in a just world) should be propelling them to the top of the pack of new Rock Acts that we’re all hoping will save the world. This album is chalk full of melodic, arena-ready anthems that include some weighty and personal lyrics. Favorites here include “Fill The Void“, “Man On Fire“, “I Am“, “Find A Way“.

    Like I said this is their 3rd album and each one not only gets stronger, but their identity is really coming into focus.  I don’t even think we’ve seen their best yet, and I can’t wait for what’s next.

    I’d love for nothing more than to see these guys tear it up with a guest slot on some big name tour ripping through the States next year. They deserve it and so do you.

     

    3. Extreme – “Six”

    Ahhh… This was such a satisfying album.  I was so hopeful when I heard first single, “Rise” that the rest of “Six” would live up to that first taste of new Extreme in over 15 years and it exceeded my expectations.  Outside of a few repetitive choruses (see “The Mask” & “Love Is Thicker Than Blood“), this album is just banger after banger with all of the out-of-left-field songs that you’d want on an Extreme album. 

    Favorites here include “Rise” the great harmonies on “Other Side Of the Rainbow“, the extremely beautiful “Hurricane” and the experimental “X Out“, in which Nuno used his N7 Seven String guitar while Gary gives just a stellar vocal performance.

    “Faith…

    Hope…

    Love…”

    2. Ayron Jones – “Chronicles Of The Kid”

    Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and all around bad ass, Ayron Jones, follows up his breakout album “Child Of The State” with yet more personal tales of growing up a in less than inviting environment all presented with amazing, riff-heavy, groove-laden songs. Ayron’s vocals almost plead for you to try to comprehend what it means to be him growing up in a world as he has experienced it. This album is dripping with raw emotion, none more potent than on songs like “Blood In The Water” “The Sky Is Crying” and  “On Two Feet I Stand”. 

    The album goes from fist pumping Rock Anthems (“Strawman”) to gut wrenching songs (“Blood In The Water”) seamlessly entwined with elements of grunge, blues, R&B & outright rock. With 2 amazing releases in a row, it’s time for people to stand up and take notice of Ayron Jones. He’s Coming for “The Title” and he deserves it.

    1. Rival Sons – “Darkfighter / LIGHTBRINGER”

    What a roll Rival Sons are on.  For me their 2019 release, “Feral Roots” was not just album of the year, but possibly Rock Album of the Decade  So there was no way to follow that up…  right?!  Wow!

    Welcome not one but TWO albums from the band within the space of a few months.  I’m including both of them as a package as “Darkfighter” was released in June and “LIGHTBRINGER” dropped in October containing 8 and 6 songs respectively.  In my opinion a total of 14 songs equals one album. Now, I’m not going to say that Darkfighter/LIGHTBRINGER consistently reach the same heights as “Feral Roots“, but holy hell the Sons have delivered a sonic, throwback set of songs that are just untouched by any other release this year. 

    These albums are all full of atmosphere and not many of these songs lead you down the path you think they will.  First single, the rocking “Nobody Wants To Die” is a quick, catchy, rocker that is not indicative of almost anything else on the album.  There’s the Beatle-esque  “Bird In The Hand“, the building into a gallop of “Horses Breath” and the undying beauty of closer “Mosaic” to name just a few. The song “DARKFIGHTER” alone takes you in so many different directions it’s hard to keep track.  And that’s the brilliance of these albums, they’re all over the place, you can’t see what’s coming next, there’s no formula… and all of it is pure brilliance.

    Jay Buchanan, who has never sounded better, and the Fuzz Lord, Scott Holiday have left a legacy of back to back to back albums that should propel them into the pantheon of Rock Royalty.

    *******************************************

     

    As mentioned here are the 2023 Honorable Mentions:

    Black Star Riders – “Wrong Side Of Paradise”

    Let’s not forget one of the first releases of the year by Black Star Riders.  “Wrong Side of Paradise” is another step in the evolution of BSR.  Their Fifth album sees the band straying further from their Thin Lizzy origins with mixed results.  Still lots of great songs here, but part of the allure of the band for me was their homages to the great Lynott and Co. that you’d find littered throughout their albums. Still a solid rock album.

    L.A. Guns – “Black Diamonds”

    The 4th release since Messrs., Guns and Lewis decided to bury the hatchet and the lads have delivered yet another strong outing . For this one, think if Led Zeppelin went punk…you’d have “Black Diamonds”.  A great bunch of songs on this album (Some of my faves include “Diamonds”, “Shattered Glass”, “Gonna Lose”, “Like A Drug”) but as a lot of people have mentioned the production and sound seem to be all over the place here. Tracii, Phil, Johnny, Ace and Shawn are the best incarnation of the band since the original.  May they continue blessing us with their musical output every couple of years.

    Mammoth WVH – “II”

    Wolf’s debut Mammoth WVH album was a corker!  It would be hard to follow that up with something of the same level, and I don’t think he did.  That’s not to say I didn’t like this album.  I really did.  Again, like the first one, it’s all Wolf all the time on this album and he produces a great sophomore effort.  Some of the bright spots here include “Right?“, “Another Celebration At The End Of The World“, and the almost 7 minute, “Take a Bow” which is the centerpiece of a really solid album.  You can hear his growth as a songwriter and I really have a feeling that his 3rd album (“Women and Children Second”?) is going to end up blowing everyone away.

    Metallica – “72 Seasons”

    A decent disc from the guys.  The only reason it didn’t crack my top 10 is because I just thought that it’s predecessor “Hardwired…” was a much better album from top to bottom.  This one does have some great moments on it (The Title Track, “Screaming Suicide”, “Chasing Light”, “Too Far Gone” are a few of my favorites) but there are more moments that just aren’t as memorable and a lot of songs blend into one another.  But again, Metallica’s B game is still better than most people’s A game.

    Nita Strauss – “The Call Of The Void”

    What a year for Nita Strauss…  From Alice to Demi and back to Alice, a solo tour as well as special guest slot with Mammoth WVH, while juggling the National Anthem at L.A. Rams home games, getting engaged, and releasing this corker of an album.  I doubt Nita will be forgetting 2023 for a while.  And neither will you if you picked up “The Call Of The Void“. 

    She’s enlisted so many amazing names to guest on this album it should almost be found in a “Various” section of a music store.  You’ve got appearances by David Draiman (Disturbed), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) and the amazing Marty Friedman. But in between all the guest spots are some blistering instrumentals which show Nita’s immense skill and musical diversity.  Also of note is the incredible work by Nita’s drummer and NOW Fiancée, Josh Villalta.

    *************

    And that’s a wrap on 2023! 

    Last year I had a HUGE miss by not adding Dorothy, “Gifts From The Holy Ghost” to my list.  I got a hold of it after my Top 10 was published and it easily would have been one of the best of the year. 

    So this year who did I miss?!  What were YOUR albums of the year?  Let me know, because I’m happy to make an admission of “I fucked up again” for this year’s list.

    ************

    As I did last year, I want to remind all you music lovers to help keep your favorite bands and artists afloat. Go to the shows, buy the albums, purchase the merch.  They need you just as much as you need them.

    ************

    And also again as it’s the time of year for giving (and we’re all animal lovers at WTR) I want to offer up two charities for your consideration that are near & dear to my heart.

    Tails Of Gray Senior Dog Rescue

    and

    Cozy Cares (Providing resources for animal shelters and rescues)

     

    Peace and Love and Music to All!

    Related:

    WillToRock’s Top 10 Albums of 2022 

    WillToRock’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

    WillToRock’s Top 10 Albums of 2020