8. Royal Thunder, 'Crooked Doors'
Royal Thunder's 2012 debut made the Atlanta band one of metal's rising stars thanks to humid, corrosive blues and bassist/singer Mlny Parsonz's rich roar, which garnered comparisons to everyone from Ann Wilson to Janis Joplin. Since then, Parsonz's marriage to Royal Thunder guitarist/primary songwriter Josh Weaver ended, and the band's follow-up is unflinching in its resolve. At its core, Crooked Doors is both headstrong and heartfelt — a winding, visceral journey to reclaim an identity obscured by trauma. Gripping, evocative melodies shift between psychedelic dreamscapes and head-rattling reality checks, and Parsonz cements herself as one of the finest soul singers of her generation, genre be damned. Though there are moments when the struggle feels confounding, Crooked Doors is never bleak; grace is ultimately attainable. In a way, Parsonz is metal's Jessica Jones — a young woman battling murky, haunting memories and gunning for redemption and renewal. J.F.