(by Velina of “My Rock Mixtapes”)
Cheers to another year full of great music! Where do I even begin? I knew this was going to be a monstrous rock&roll year and I was damn right! What a time to be alive! What an enormous stamp the year 2018 left on the music history books! I seriously don’t know where to start when it comes to describing or listing all the glorious releases we had the chance to experience this year. From long-awaited comebacks, to brand new rock temptations, we sure as hell had it all. I went through the same album short-listing process last year but it somehow seemed easier to gather up my favorite releases and finalize the list. This year, however, it was way more difficult for me to make up my mind, draw lines and place numbers. That’s why as you can see I expanded to a TOP20 list, instead of a TOP10 list, like I used to do before.
Let’s get down to business and have a quick overview of the following list. As you will see, the majority of bands and albums I included come from the AOR / Melodic Rock / Hard Rock scene but no surprises there. I have been involved with this scene for a long time and this has always been my preferred style of music. I am immensely proud of the way the melodic rock scene has been developing in the past year and how many new bands are proving everyone that AOR is not something that belongs to the ’80s! All of the praises go to the hard-working team of Frontiers Records visionaries that keep the spirit alive and bring more and more to the table with each passing month. As you can see the majority of my favorite 2018 albums come from the mighty Italian label but if you know me, you won’t be surprised. Then again, why would you be? If you are a fan of AOR you would know that these days the genre is almost synonymous with that label.
In addition, on my list you can find the presence of progressive metal bands and classic American alternative bands, which spiced things up a little bit for me.
To sum it up – 2018 was my year – the year of getting my desired comebacks; the year of meeting new awesome bands; the year of discovering new sounds that challenge me; the year of further expanding my musical horizons and collection with beautiful rock music!
I really hope my readers will have an enjoyable time while going throw my list of favorite 2018 albums. Keep an open mind and in case you didn’t come across some of the releases on your 2018 musical adventure, you can always go back and check them out (better late than never, right)…
I would also love to hear your favorite albums of 2018 and whether some of mine made your list as well. Spread and share the love – we are all here to celebrate good rock music and let’s hope 2019 brings even more to the pages of the music history book!
 Creye – Creye
The moment I heard “Christina” from Creye‘s debut album, I knew this was going to top my list. I was waiting for that perfect melodic rock sound and when it arrived I didn’t need any more persuasion. It’s an album that makes us stop living in the past and finally let go of the old-school melodic rock playlist we’ve been listening to for so many years. With a sound that can be described as polished melodic rock, with a touch of the ’80s classic AOR soul, “Creye” sure made quite the statement on the scene. Go ahead and check out songs like “Christina” or “Different State of Mind” and you would understand what I’m saying. There’s not a single song on the album that did not aligned with my expectations and tastes when it comes to the genre. The glory days of rock music are back and Creye, along with their fans are going to become the main players, trust me! The connection was instant and I just let myself drown in it.
 Breaking Benjamin – Ember
Second place goes to my high-school favorites, Breaking Benjamin and their comeback album “Ember”. I keep these guys very close to my heart and for as long as I can remember their music has always been there for me. I was pretty excited for their new release and was waiting patiently till it finally arrived. All my expectations were met and my little nostalgic heart was once again filled with that Breaking Benjamin healing potion I’ve been adoring since 2006. The songs are perfect. The haunting ballad, “The Dark of You” even turned out to be my most played song for 2018, according to Spotify. So there’s that…
 FM – Atomic Generation
Steve Overland! Do I have to say more? FM has to be one of my all-time favorite bands with albums like “Tough it Out” topping my AOR lists for a long long time now. Imagine how thrilled I was when I heard that FM will be releasing a new album this year…you probably can’t! 11 stunning melodic rock pieces are shaping the eleventh studio album of FM. Don’t know if they did that on purpose but it’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Two things easily come to mind when you listen to this album for the very first time – firstly, once you hear Steve Overland sing, literally nothing else in life matters at that particular moment; the guy has a voice made of gold and he deserves all the praises for being in such great vocal shape; secondly, there’s an obvious, highly pleasant consistency trapped inside “Atomic Generation” that clearly shows why FM are one of the most cherished British melodic rock acts ever since the late ‘80s.
 W.E.T. – Earthrage
Erik Mårtensson & Jeff Scott Soto made my dreams come true with “Earthrage”. You would probably hear me say this a few more times in this publication but this has got to be one of the classiest melodic rock statements released this year! There’s just so much maturity and strength in those songs that you can’t but ask yourself, why the hell are we not hearing them more often on the radio?
I have been a fan of Soto and following one of his main bands, W.E.T. for a long time now but I gotta say – among the 3 studio and 1 live album, their 2018 release has to be my favorite and the one I connected to the most. “Watch the Fire”, especially is in my top5 songs of 2018, for sure! The sophisticated release was certainly one of the highlights of Spring 2018.
 Judas Priest – Firepower
But of course “Firepower” will be in my top5 2018 albums! I can’t have it any other way. Not just that but in 2018 I had the chance to see them live for the very first time and listen to some of the albums on “Firepower” performed by the greatest of them all – Rob Halford, so yes – this album is indeed one of my greatest memories and experiences of 2018 and I don’t plan on excluding it from my daily playlists anytime soon.
“Children of the Sun”, “Firepower”, “Necromancer”… the entire album was one heavy metal thunder after another. Rob Halford proved to everyone that age is just a number and that there’s truly a reason why is he still one of the mighty Gods of heavy music.
 Primal Fear – Apocalypse
Primal Fear has been one of the most respected German bands for a long time and they have 11 brilliant albums behind their back to justify their status as metal icons. The 12th release, titled “Apocalypse” is now finally a fact and with it the band only further convinced every fan and critic out there of their unquestionable influence on the worldwide heavy metal scene. To me, “Apocalypse” defined the summer of 2018 like no other album and raised all kinds of bars in my book of metal. Not to mention that thanks to band like Primal Fear the future of the genre is more than secured and taken good care of.
The release is thrilling, powerful, exciting and your number one go-to source for the much-needed summer boost. “Apocalypse” is heavy on energy, rhythm, melody, lyrics and most importantly – intriguing themes. “King of Madness” quickly turned into one of my favorite heavy metal songs of 2018! I can’t wait to see them live in Bulgaria in 2019.
 Daughtry – Cage to Rattle
Daughtry have been in my life since their first album and to me, personally, they are one of the most-talented and hard-working modern American rock bands. Since they’ve been an inseparable part of my music library for a long long time, I can’t really describe to you what it feels like each time they are back with a new album. My heart is shooting fireworks and my brain is seeing sounds, basically.
“Cage to Rattle” brought all the familiar, cozy and warm Daughtry feelings back into my life and once again showed me why I haven’t given up on them yet! “Deep End” is a song that immediately connected with my soul and just made a solid presence there. I can’t believe they are back and am so thankful for this masterpiece.
 Groundbreaker – Groundbreaker
Woah – Steve Overland is making another appearance on my top10 list and you shouldn’t be surprised! Groundbreaker carries the well-known FM values and adds a little bit more flavor, turning this whole project into one of the most memorable melodic rock guilty pleasures. I am not sure I can name a more innocent, loving and soul-warming song than “Will It Make You Love Me” and yes – it is in my list of top favorite songs from 2018. Robert Sall (Work of Art, W.E.T) is also here to bring that special something! I was so excited when I found out that those two will be teaming up for a melodic rock frenzy and oh yes how well they did with this one…
Hope there will be a second one in 2019!
 Lords of Black – Icons of the New Days
Lords of Black released their debut self-titled album back in 2014 and was quickly praised by critics and fan. In 2018, with much improved song-crafting and more modern approach in terms of production, Lords of Black came back with “Icons of the New Days” – an album showcasing what a quality modern-day rock album should sound like when done by immensely talented stars.
I’m immensely pleased that Ronnie Romero has been keeping himself so busy those past few years and I hope to keep hearing his name and listening to his powerful vocals on many upcoming releases in the future. “Icons of the New Days” has all the right ingredients and was made for all the right reasons, making it a worthy pretender of “the best metal album of 2018” title.
 TesseracT – Sonder
In 2018, I had the chance to get introduced to TesseracT and was fortunate enough to experience their new release just right in the middle of my first steps in their brilliant progressive metal world. When “King” was out, I knew this album was going to be among my favorite ones, despite being so different from what I am used to listen to on a daily basis. I love discovering new bands and challenging myself and in 2018 TesseracT were my go-to band when I want to hear something different and put myself in another state of mind. “Sonder” is a stunning album and a perfect example of progressive metal evolution. I am so happy they now exist in my life.
 TREAT – Tunguska
TREAT being one of my favorite hard rock band from the late ’80s did not disappoint with their 2018 comeback, “Tunguska”. Witnessing such positive, energetic, full of love and warmth releases like this one is all I live for, honestly. The album is full of spirit and high-class melodies and not to mention the outstanding production qualities. “Build The Love” has to be one of the best songs of 2018.
 The Dead Daisies – Burn it Down
The Dead Dasies‘ “Burn it Down” is surely one of the most electrifying and energizing albums on this list. It might as well be my favorite album of theirs. I spent days just listening to nothing but this release when it came out. The songs are immensely captivating and you just crave for more and more of it.
 Perfect Plan – All Rise
Perfect Plan‘s “All Rise” quickly turned into a fan-favorite and based on my observations, it really shook the melodic rock community. I was too positively surprised when I played the album for the very first time and honestly wasn’t ready to love it that much. Perfect Plan are one of the newcomers that we should all watch out for. What really made it so memorable for me was the fact that the album keeps you engaged till the very last song and it’s not just the singles that are worthy of admiration.
 Monuments – Phronesis
Another album that shook my grounds and left me questioning myself and my musical comfort zones. Monuments, just like TesseracT, came into my life this year and thankfully, with them a new album to get things started. Not just that but I had the chance to attend their concert in Bulgaria this year and listen to most of the songs from “Phronesis” live (what a great experience it was!). It’s another album that took me away from my comfort zone and brought different shades to my music playlists.
]15] Steve Perry – Traces
In 2018, everyone’s dreams came true when the beloved Steve Perry finally delivered what he promised to everyone a long time ago – a new album. Witnessing this was a truly life-changing event for me because the album brought back many nostalgic feelings and made the last months of 2018 truly emotional. Steve is a vocalist with a category of his own and what he brought to us this year proves it. Words are meaningless.
 Sevendust – All I See Is War
Sevendust remain a blast from my past and I have to admit, it’s been years since I last played something from them. This year, however, I couldn’t miss and was truly intrigued by “All I See is War”. “Dirty” and “Medicated” were love at first listen and this album quickly reminded me why I used to be a big fan and why I need to rediscover them!
 Gioeli – Castronovo – Set the world on Fire
Johnny Gioeli was one of the most hard-working rockstars of 2018 and you can’t convince me otherwise. I even manged to see him 2 times performing live this year, which was truly a dream coming true. One of the many projects he participated in this year was a collaboration project with the great Deen Castronovo. These two amazing artists complemented each other in a perfect way and released an unquestionably brilliant melodic rock beauty!
 Michael Schenker Fest – Resurrection
Of course, we can’t have this list without Michael Schenker Fest‘s Resurrection. There are so many excellent moments on this album that it’s almost impossible for me to point out what I loved the most about it. But yes, I would probably say the fact that there are multiple vocalists all bringing their A game. It’s a classy record, made for the fans, I would say. It’s always so exciting to see a bunch of great musicians keeping their egos aside and coming up with something so valuable, each shining in their own light.
 Dynazty – Firesign
I’m a big fan of Dynazty and their unique approach when it comes to crafting the perfect record that mixes together the ’80s spirit and the modern, personalized touch of the band. “Firesign” showcased a mature sound and excellent melodies, proving that those guys are definitely something to watch out for in the future.
 Tremonti – A Dying Machine
It was an absolute delight for me to see Tremonti this year live in Bulgaria and finally witness the magic of the musical genius, Mark Tremonti. “A Dying Machine” is a concept record and based on what I read, many fans agree that this is by far his greatest work. I don’t think I can point it out as his best effort because I also love “Dust” a lot but the new album has plenty of reasons to be admired. The song structure, the lyrics, the themes – it’s all one great memorable adventure.
I would like to also draw your attention to my list of honorable mentions, featuring some more outstanding 2018 releases that deserve appreciation as well. I included some of the big names, including Stryper, Saxon and Nazareth and their triumphant 2018 comebacks. I was immensely proud to see Nazareth back in the studio with their new vocalist, Carl Sentance. Vega and Ammunition are the two new bands I added to my lists of projects to watch out for. Vega’s “Only Human” absolutely blew me away and I can’t wait to see what happens next to the band. Shinedown surprised me pretty well with their “Attention Attention” album and brought me back to my high school years when I used to be a fan of them. Nordic Union did not disappoint with their sophomore release as well but what else can you expect from Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids (Denmark) and Erik Martensson of Eclipse (Sweden). Seventh Wonder and Sunstorm are two more Frontiers Records releases that really impressed me with their melodic rock statements. Devil’s Hand with singer Andrew Freeman of Last In Line and producer/guitarist/songwriter Mike Slamer is one of the December releases that proved that we can wrap up the year in style.
Ultimately, the list can go on and on and on…but I had to draw the line somewhere. As obvious, even my honorable mentions list is being dominated by the melodic rock genre since of course this is what’s close to my heart.
Vega – Only Human
Ammunition – Ammunition
Stryper – God Damn Evil
Nazareth – Tattooed On My Brain
Saxon – Thunderbolt
Nordic Union – Second Coming
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Dream Child – Until Death Do We Meet Again
Shinedown – Attention Attention
Sunstorm – The Road to Hell
Devil’s Hand (Ft. Slamer – Freeman) – Devil’s Hand
Uriah Heep – Living the Dream