Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Buyer's Guide 08- Mainstream Rock

Other Sections:

-Accessible Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Indie Rock
-Power/Folk/Symphonic Metal
-Indie Folk
-Extreme Metal

Mainstream Rock

Good mainstream rock albums are getting harder and harder to find. In a day where free radio is dying and radio play is dictated by major labels persistent on forcing the same material over and over again onto listeners, the quality of mainstream rock has greatly decreased. Still, there are quality mainstream rock bands to found, and here are ten recommendable albums for fans of radio rock.

10 Years

10 Years’ sophomore album isn’t a huge improvement from their debut, but it’s a more praise worthy album than most other post-grunge releases. While it’s not saying much, Division is quite possibly the best post-grunge album of 2008. Fans of the genre looking for some solid tracks should be satisfied with what 10 Years have produced. It’s not terribly original, but that’s to be expected. Instead, the album’s strength is in its lyrics, which range from personal reflections to politically conscious protests. Once again, it’s nothing new, but Division is decent enough. Unfortunately for post-grunge fans, you can’t say that about many other post-grunge albums released this past year.

Another Black Day
Another Black Day

The self titled debut from hard rock band Another Black Day is admittedly a rather generic album. That being said, it’s not trying to do anything new or groundbreaking. This is simply solid hard rock that is much tighter, heavier, and intelligent than most of what’s on the radio these days. If you have either a guilty pleasure for radio rock or are a proud fan of mainstream hard rock, this is a much better option than almost any other radio rock album from 2008. If you or the person you’re shopping for is looking at the new Nickelback or Hinder albums, get them this instead. It’s a far better in just about every respect, and is even a good album in its own right.

Black Stone Cherry
Folklore and Superstition

Black Stone Cherry is a bluesy hard rock group with a sound that ranges from post-grunge to southern rock to heavy metal. They’ve received some criticism because of this, as their sound too grunge-like for some southern rock fans, and they sound too southern for many radio rock fans. Their sound is certainly unique compared to that of other mainstream rock acts though, and more open-minded hard rock fans may find this to be a solid addition to their collection. Variety is not one Black Stone Cherry’s strong points, as not much as changed since their first album, but there’s more than enough solid tracks to keep Folklore and Superstition ahead of the radio rock pack. It’s not a great album, and I’m hoping to see some progression for their next release, but Black Stone Cherry have done enough to earn a recommendation.


Indestructible is another solid album from Disturbed that sees the band making just enough improvements to sound fresh without changing who they are. This is an album that fans of Disturbed should be pleased with, and it’s easily one of the best mainstream rock albums released in 2008. Some will still fault Disturbed for not being heavy enough or not having enough variety, but it’s pretty clear that Disturbed isn’t concerned with being heavy. They stick to their sound, and within that sound, and they’ve made some solid improvements for this record. Just like their first three albums, Indestructible is front-loaded. Still, the front half of the album is filled with hard-hitting rock songs with surprisingly great lyrics. Indestructible is an album that should please any and all hard rock fans, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the easiest 2008 releases to find in stores.

Red Right Return

Janus’ Red Right Return is somewhat of a hard album to recommend. Not because of it’s quality, as it’s actually a very good album, but it’s that the post-hardcore genre has become populated with so many awful bands that I’m not quite sure who to recommend this album to. This is a far more progressive, unique, and intelligent album to appeal to fans of the garbage on MTV, but it’s also hard to imagine a fan of artistic music truly enjoying a post-hardcore band with an emo looking frontman. To anyone looking for a quality post-hardcore album that actually strays from the norm and takes the genre into new territory, this is an album worth getting. Fans of bands like 30 Seconds to Mars and The Used willing to try something a bit more progressive should give this album a chance, and anyone who is intrigued by a quality accessible hardcore album should not be deterred by the comparison to the aforementioned bands. This is actually a very solid album, and it’s far better than anything the mainstream form of the genre has seen in some time.

Rise Against
Appeal to Reason

There has been and will likely continue to be mixed reactions to Rise Against’s Appeal to Reason. On one hand, this album marks a fairly drastic change in the band’s style. No longer can they be called hardcore punk, as the screaming is gone, the riffs have been slowed down, and the songs have become more radio friendly. One could say that this new style is more similar to the MTV punk bands than the true punk rockers Rise Against have been influenced by, but within this style Rise Against have made some necessary improvements. In doing so, the band has proved once again that they are far superior to any other modern mainstream punk band. Despite the oddly non-aggressive style of many of the songs, the change doesn’t seem forced. The songwriting is more intelligent than ever, and Rise Against’s political message is never comprised. Regardless of whether you like mainstream rock or hardcore punk, Rise Against’s Appeal to Reason is a solid choice, and by far the best mainstream punk album released in 2008.

Scars on Broadway
Scars on Broadway

Scars on Broadway, the new project from System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian, is different enough from System of a Down to warrant a new project, but also similar enough in areas to recommend wholeheartedly to fans of SOAD. Malakian has made a straight up hard rock album with a fair share of experimentation. It’s weird, intelligent, and is every bit as good as Serj Tankian’s solo album from last year. As a whole Scars on Broadway is highly recommended to fans of System of a Down, and even open-minded cynics of the band might be wise to give it a chance, as its best moments are when it strays from System’s formula.

Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow

Sevendust’s seventh studio album is a lot like the first six. Hope and Sorrow has the same problems of past Sevendust albums, most notably consistency, but it also has moments of true greatness. If you’re the type of person who downloads single songs, just get the single “Prodigal Son” and skip the full album. There are, however, enough solid songs to warrant a purchase for rock fans who prefer buying full albums. Sevendust is a band that I cannot recommend highly enough to fans of rock, but this particular album has a bit to much filler to warrant a high recommendation. Still, Chapter VII, is a decent enough album that is as good as any in Sevendust’s discography, and when it’s at its best it’s far better than anything else played on active rock radio.

Forever More

Tesla have been around for over 20 years now, so it’s a bit unfair to call them mainstream rock. They actually have a large audience with fans of classic hard rock and heavy metal than with active rock fans, but Tesla’s Forever More is a pure rock ‘n roll album that really doesn’t fit anywhere else on this guide. Still, if you’re a fan of hard rock, definitely give this album a shot. In a year where Chinese Democracy has been the most hyped album for classic hard rock fans, Tesla’s lesser known Forever More is the far better option. Great vocals, solid guitar work, and some of rock’s most intelligent songwriting this year make Forever More a very solid album for rock fans this Christmas.

Lost in Sound and Separation

The latest album from post-hardcore band Underoath is quite possibly the last album I expected to be good. From a subjective standpoint, I’m never going to like anything they do, simply because this really isn’t my style of music. Still, I must give Underoath credit for making a great album. Lost in Sound and Separation is a surprisingly accessible, intelligent, and original album that has features vastly improved songwriting and musicianship. Underoath have shed themsevles of the forced angst and emo influences, and for the first time, the group sounds honest. I can’t believe I’m recommending this album, but honestly, this is one of the best albums in this category, and any fan of hard rock or metalcore should give it a chance. It’s probably the year’s most surprisingly good album, and also one of the best the genre has seen in some time.


tad said...

Wow, maybe I should check out the new underoath album. But to be honest, seeing them on Ozzfest after ATR and SYL, they kind of sucked.

Bryce Murphy said...

I think you're thinking of "Unearth." Underoath has never played Ozzfest.

Akira said...

"Indestructible is an album that should please any and all hard rock fans, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the easiest 2008 releases to find in stores."

It wasn't at any of the three Targets I checked at. They had 20+ copies of Viva La Vida though. Have you seen the Flaming Lips movie Yet?

Tad said...

was it Unearth? I can't remember. While they were playing I was getting an autograph from Devin Townsend.