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Editor Ken’s Top 10 of 2022

Editor Ken’s Top 10 of 2022


For Highwire Daze magazine as well as many music fans around the world, it is a year of melodic rock with established bands and artists releasing the best albums of their careers.  The Highwire Daze Top 10 is jam packed with full length albums from European bands with only Graham Bonnet Band and Riot Act based here in the States.  Long running bands such as Thunder, Crystal Ball, and Mad Max have delivered their finest recordings to date.  On the EP side of the spectrum, the Highwire Daze list features brand new acts such as Against The Sun, Bonnie Brae, Clearfight, and Jei-Rynn alongside established bands such as Rage and Black Veil Brides.  Are these the best of the year?  Maybe or maybe not – but these recordings made an impact here at Highwire Daze and are well worth seeking out.  And now, presenting Editor Ken’s Top 10 albums and EP’s of 2022


The Last Rodeo by Ali Thomson (Thomson Music and Media)

Ali Thomson of Take A Little Rhythm fame returns with his fourth album of smooth pop AOR and it’s his most brilliant work to date. Lush and worldly, the combination of Thomson’s soothing voice and the super cool soundscapes render The Last Rodeo a richly rewarding delight. The best of the 12 sonic tapestries include Losing The Light, Wolves, Rays Of Gold and Last Train To Evermore. Be sure to stay all the way to end for the dynamic grooves of Stay Up Late and the sweet acoustic reverberations of Walk The Dog. Along with 2019’s Songs From The Playroom, Ali Thomson is back to and ready to fill your stereo speakers with pure auditory magic.

Ali Thomson Official Home Page

Crysteria by Crystal Ball (Massacre Records)

Crysteria is the 11th album from Swiss melodic metal / hard rock outfit Crystal Ball, and it’s certainly a standout next chapter in an already epic music career. Conceived in the midst of these pandemic days, Crystal Ball wrote a whopping 30 songs for the album, and the final selections found within the realm of Crysteria presents a band at the very height of their creativity. Standout tracks include the diabolically memorable opening track What Part Of No, the grand anthem for the ages You Lit My Fire – as well as a brilliant collaboration the band did with Jaded Heart aptly titled Crystal Heart. Skillfully produced, mixed, and mastered by Stefan Kaufmann of Accept and U.D.O. infamy!

Crystal Ball Official Home Page

Day Out In Nowhere by Graham Bonnet Band (Frontiers Music Srl)

Graham Bonnet is best known for his outstanding vocals in bands such as Alcatrazz, Impellitteri, and Michael Schenker Fest – and his solo work – especially the recent Day Out In Nowhere release is well worth checking into. With songs featuring a wide array of topics such as travelling in remote Russia, aging gracefully, time spent in AA, and even being sexually adventurous, there is world of passion, social commentary, and introspection to be found when exploring the brilliant lyrics and vast soundscapes found within Day Out In Nowhere. Standout vocals abound as well as and a tremendous band which features Conrado Pesinato on guitar, and Beth-Ami Heavenstone on bass (formerly of Hardly Dangerous) who also happens to be Graham’s partner in life.

Graham Bonnet Band on Facebook

Get Over It by Hartmann (Pride & Joy Music)

Oliver Hartmann has an epic amount of credits from working with the likes of Avantasia, At Vance, Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids and more! He has also amassed an impressive collection of solo albums under the moniker Hartmann, the latest being boldly entitled Get Over It. Rocking you at once with the roaring refrains of Remedy and then into the wickedly eerie One Step Beyond (imagine Every Breath You Take by The Police but even more intense), Hartmann proceeds to enrapture the listener with 11 dynamic tracks. The spiraling In Another Life and the topical social commentary of The Gun are amongst the many highlights on this truly remarkable album! Melodic rock with fire, imagination, and intrigue!

Hartmann Official Home Page

Force Majeure by H.E.A.T. (earMUSIC)

Swedish hard rockers H.E.A.T. has returned with original singer Kenny Leckremo, unleashing an explosive new album entitled Force Majeure. Kicking off with the raging Back To The Rhythm, H.E.A.T. unleash 11 tremendously memorable anthems that are stunning to behold. Nationwide and Hollywood are prime examples of just how wildly effective this band is with a raging hot song! Kudos also go out to Jona Tee for his other amazing 2022 release Gate Of The Gods by New Horizon featuring former H.E.A.T. / current Skid Row lead vocalist Erik Grönwall.

H.E.A.T. Official Home Page

Wings Of Time by Mad Max (ROAR – Rock Of Angels Records)

Mad Max roared back in 2022 with a brand-new line up and a classic arena rock album for the ages. Wings Of Time is a stunning new beginning for the band, featuring 11 absolutely solid songs that should be all over rock radio. Guitarist and founding member Jürgen Breforth is joined by charismatic new vocalist Julian Rolinger replacing long time member Michael Voss, and along with the other superb musicians found within, the next chapter of Mad Max is absolutely on fire! Songs you’ll remember for a lifetime include Days Of Passion, Best Part Of Me, Stormchild Rising, and Too Hot To Handle! They’ve been around for 40 years, but Mad Max is more alive than ever and ready to rock your entire world!

Mad Max Official Home Page

Universal by Michael Schenker Group (Atomic Fire Records)

The legendary guitarist Michael Schenker goes intergalactic and well beyond with Universal, his latest and greatest magnum opus of hard rock now available via Atomic Fire Records. With the omnipresent Ronnie Romero on lead vocals, Steve Mann of Lionheart on keys and guitar, Michael Voss formerly of Mad Max in the production and co-songwriting department, and more – this cast of the finest musicians in the galaxy present an album sure to send music fans into even greater stratospheric heights! Songs such as Emergency, Under Attack, and A King Is Dead present MSG in their finest hour! All this and a stateside tour too! What a glorious year for the almighty MSG!

Michael Schenker Official Home Page

Unfinished Business by Mitchell’s Kiss Of The Gypsy (MR Records)

Kiss Of The Gypsy is celebrating the 30th Anniversary release of their Self-Titled major label debut on Atlantic Records by surprising melodic rock fans with a brand-new album! 10 dynamic songs are presented, each and every one sounding like the next great chapter of this epically underrated band. While Tony Mitchell is now in the midst of a highly successful solo career, there was certainly Unfinished Business at hand with Kiss Of The Gypsy, and songs such as Eye Of The Hurricane, Duty To Party and Runaways sound like massive radio hits that melodic rock fans will be over the moon for. Another grand slam from MR Records!

Mitchell’s Kiss Of The Gypsy on Facebook

Closer To The Flame by Riot Act (Global Rock Records)

Rick Ventura and Lou Kouvaris were part of the early days of the legendary Riot (although were never in the band together). A tribute show to the late Riot guitarist Mark Reale would bring the two together, and soon after that, the mighty Riot Act was born. When Covid hit the world, Kouvaris sadly passed from the virus, leaving Ventura and Riot Act wondering if they should even continue as a band. The era of Covid would change the lives of so many, and it would also prove to be a reflective and ultimately cathartic time for the remaining members of Riot Act – they were writing new songs! The results are documented within an absolutely epic two-record set entitled Closer To The Flame — with disc one featuring 10 original tunes and disc two featuring the newly recording Riot classics with the final guitar performances of Lou Kouvaris. An absolute classic!

Riot Act Official Home Page

Dopamine by Thunder (BMG)

Dopamine is the 14th studio album from the UK based melodic rock band Thunder, and it’s a two-disc masterwork jammed packed with 16 absolutely inspiring songs. Most of this vibrant CD was written in the middle of the pandemic, so standout selections such as The Western Sky, One Day We’ll Be Free Again, Even If It Takes A Lifetime, and Dancing In The Sunshine pulsate with a glorious sense of liberation, celebrating this wildly unpredictable life we often take for granted. Dopamine is nothing short of an all-out time triumph for Thunder, and it’s an album that will resonate within the hearts of their fans all over the world and will surely gain them a whole lot of new converts as well.

Thunder Official Home Page


Truth’s Wake by Against The Sun (Self-released)

Against The Sun offers it all to the listener – pop punk, metalcore, grunge, power pop, and so much more! And with the six songs found within the sonic passages of Truth’s Wake, Against The Sun places a good deal of passion and conviction on the line, and the results are destined to garner this SoCal-based collective a good deal of admiration. With songs such as Chelsea Said, Leaders, and Search To Find delivering the rocking goods in an epic way, Against The Sun is primed and ready to blast into greater stratospheric heights in the New Year! Stay tuned!

Against The Sun on Instagram

The Mourning by Black Veil Brides (Sumerian Records)

Black Veil Brides has come a long way since their humble beginnings of We Stitch These Wounds back in 2010. The band recently completed the Trinity Of Terror Tour, performing songs from all over a vast and epic career. And with the unveiling of The Mourning EP, Black Veil Brides shows just how diverse and imaginative the band can be all within the confines of an amazing four song EP. From the metallic refrains of the almighty Devil to the smashing power ballad of Savoir 2 and beyond, The Mourning present a short yet raging extended play that will leave all types of music fans absolutely enraptured!

Black Veil Brides on Instagram

The Way EP by Bonnie Brae (Self-Released)

If Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin shared a night to remember, the resulting offspring would be Bonnie Brae! The down and dirty songs found within The Way EP are sludgy hard rock that tantalizes the senses! Commencing with the scorching World On Fire, the band then blasts into the blistering reveries of Slut with its wickedly infectious “you spread your love all over town” chorus. OFF oozes rude girl punk rock attitude gone wild with its “I might be going to hell, but I don’t miss you” inflections. Y’all should come down Bonnie Brae Way for a hard rockin’ good time! One of the most epically underrated unsigned bands in LA!

Bonnie Brae on Instagram

Datura by Boston Manor (SharpTone)

Boston Manor continue down the road of moody indie rock and the resulting Datura is nothing short of mesmerizing. SharpTone is the label with all the terrific bands these days, and Boston Manor from the UK is a brilliant addition to a label that already includes the likes of Holding Absence and Of Mice & Men. The brilliant palette of sonic artistry found within include Foxglove, Crocus, and the massive barrage of auditory intrigue on the epic Inertia which concludes the album. With their pop punk Warped Tour days well behind them, the current incarnation of Boston Manor is a thrill to the senses for all types of music fans.

Boston Manor on Instagram

Don’t Look At Me by Clearfight (Theoria Records)

Clearfight from St Louis, MO is an emotionally driven pop punk band ready to make an impact upon the long running genre that still thrives today. Fans of Real Friends and Knuckle Puck are sure to find a new favorite when exploring what the massively talented Clearfight has to offer, and no better place to start than with Don’t Look At Me – their second explosive EP on Theoria Records. Ripcord is wildly infectiously with its impassioned sing along chorus while The Hate Parade marches into your psyche with a wicked sense of ferocity. We all keep seeing “Pop Punk’s Not Dead” shirts at shows, and with new bands such as Clearfight carrying on the torch, this style of music will rage on into the next generation and beyond.

Clearfight on Instagram

EP by The Guitar & Whiskey Club (GWC Productions)

With a lineup and music that was created is the midst of a worldwide pandemic, The Guitar & Whiskey Club certainly bring the party – and with the unveiling of their just released Self-Titled EP, an entire world above and beyond their Los Angeles homebase could rock out to this very amazing band on the rise. GWC founding member and guitarist extraordinaire Jeffrey Donovan is excellent throughout the entire EP. Lead vocalist Mark Prudeaux delivers the goods tenfold while bassist Frankie Yanno and session drummer Adam Ponce drive it all home with a massive amount of skill and precision. With killer selections such as Sleazy, Rebel Fire, and Does Your Dog Bite, GWC’s debut is modern day classic rock in its finest hour, and it’s a grand slam of an EP not to be missed!

The Guitar & Whiskey Club on Instagram

Overreacting by Jei-Rynn (Jei-Rynn LLC)

Jei-Rynn is a solo artist from Los Angeles whose debut EP Overreacting is definitely one of the best pop punk recordings of the year. Clocking in at a little over ten minutes, the four songs found within are absolutely solid and vibrantly infectious. With lyrics dealing with heartache, mental health, and other emotional topics, Jei-Rynn slams it out of the ballpark singing with a massive amount of passion and conviction. Opening track Oxytoxin lets you know what you’re in for with its memorable hooks and introspective lyrics and each and every song that follows leaves a decided impact. We’ll be hearing lots more from Jei-Rynn is 2023 and beyond!

Jei-Rynn on Instagram

Spreading The Plague by Rage (SPV Records)

As the almighty RAGE prepares for their upcoming 40th Anniversary, the German based heavy metal collective remains busier than ever. Their latest Spreading The Plague EP (SPV Records) was issued featuring explosive new songs as well as reworkings of a few of their older selections. These updated versions would include a stunning acoustic rendition of A New Land a live version of Straight To Hell that was literally recorded in a cave! Unleashed just prior to their European tour with the almighty Brainstorm, Spreading The Plague by Rage brings the heavy metal intensity tenfold, whetting the appetite for even greater glories ahead!

Rage on Instagram

On My Way by Sandgaard (Sandgaard Music)

Thomas Sandgaard is best known for being on the frontlines in the ongoing battle against the opioid epidemic with The Sandgaard Foundation, as well as being the proud owner of the mighty Charlton Athletic! And now with the unveiling of the Sandgaard debut EP On My Way, you could add arena rock to an already impressive resume. Sandgaard shreds into the stratosphere on guitar, and is joined by bassist Rich Ross, drummer Goose Lapoint and Warrant singer Robert Mason. Thomas Sandgaard has been such an inspiration to many, and the songs featured within On My Way envelope the senses and dare you to live your dreams. Fans of classic rock need to invest into the richly rewarding Sandgaard!

Sandgaard on Instagram

A Moment Of Quiet by Senna (SharpTone)

Leading the next wave of talented young artists ready to make their mark on the heavy music scene, Senna’s debut EP A Moment Of Quiet on SharpTone is fearless and inventive. Recorded with the help of producer Manuel Renner of Überlärm Studios, the EP’s five stunning tracks are packed with Senna’s dynamic hard rock meets progressive post-hardcore style. Featuring the massive talents of Simon Masdjedi (vocals), Tobias Stulz (guitar/vocals), Marcel Dürr (guitar), Fabian Cattarius (bass), and Leon Dorn (drums), Senna has left a definitive impact with their remarkable EP!

Senna on Instagram

A sampling from the very best releases of 2022.  Now bring on the music classics of 2023!

(Compiled by Ken Morton for Highwire Daze Magazine)

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