Which Rock Giant Will Release Their Next Album First?
The album may not be dead, but how long it has to live is also unclear. Perhaps it was a blip in the history of music; perhaps it’s an art form that’s passed its time. Or perhaps it’s a valid product struggling against shortening attention spans and mass marketing.
Regardless, there are some bands that stand so high above others that they should fear no evil when it comes to writing and releasing a long-playing record. They’ve retained attention levels such that, even in a world of diminishing sales, they’ll top the charts for weeks or months, and may enjoy the odd resurgence as they tour, often by including an album purchase in the ticket price.
These giants include AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Iron Maiden, among others. Even if some members of these bands prefer live performance to studio work, the release of new LPs isn't just hoped for but expected by fans. While artist interviews attempt to encompass as much as possible about a musician and their experiences, memories and hopes, when these bands are asked about their next album, it’s not just a sign-off question.
Such giants, however, have learned to keep relatively quiet about studio developments. GNR, Tool and System of a Down discovered the effects of a drawn-out conversation about an album can cause damage to the work itself when, or even if, it finally lands.
So, out of the biggest names in the rock world, who's likely to drop the next big album? Here are our guesses.
AC/DC – possible
Last Release: Rock or Bust in 2014
In 2018, rumors began circulating when members of AC/DC were seen outside Warehouse Studios in Vancouver, where the band had recorded in the past. Over the following weeks it seemed Angus Young had reconnected with Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, reuniting the last lineup to work with Malcolm Young before his retirement and later death.
When Malcolm and group gathered to make the 2014 album Rock or Bust, they operated in a similar way: Furtive sightings followed by the announcement of a new LP, which was officially announced in September of that year and released in December. In April 2019, AC/DC engineer Mike Fraser confirmed the band was “doing something” in the studio. If previous cycles are to be followed, expect details in September.
The tracks are rumored to have been built from material Malcolm wrote before his death, offering a strong link to the past – but the next question is, Will AC/DC tour in support of their 17th LP? The status of Johnson’s voice is just one issue that might affect a road trip; but Angus once said he felt “obligated” to keep the band going. Whether he feels his obligation ends with the new LP remains to be seen. If they do tour, it’s almost certain to be their farewell.
Guns N’ Roses – little chance
Last Release: Chinese Democracy in 2008
When Slash and Duff McKagan rejoined Axl Rose in 2016, the longevity of the partial Guns N’ Roses reunion was unpredictable – even they thought it would last for only a few shows at most. Three years later, it seemed natural to expect a new album by the band; and, sure enough, several members have confirmed that material is being written, though not much has been said about how far it has advanced.
If Slash is to be believed, studio work won’t commence until early 2020; perhaps not a surprise for a band so busy on the road. On the other hand, Guns N’ Roses – or at least Rose himself – will forever be connected with the glacial delays over Chinese Democracy, which landed him in the unenviable position of having to release an LP that stood little chance of outgrowing its hype.
So maybe there’s new material to come sooner rather than later from the band – maybe not a full album, but maybe a single or two, just to whet the appetite.They’ll most likey tour the product; but the next question is, What are the chances of more classic-era members coming out of the woodwork? Drummer Steven Adler has made a few live appearances, but the discussion surrounding when and how guitarist Izzy Stradlin might return continues.
The Who - almost certain
Last Release: Endless Wire in 2006
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have been upfront about their struggles to complete what will be the Who's 12th album. Townshend was, at one point, under the impression that Daltrey was avoiding him after he’d sent a set of demos. In fact, the singer was finding it difficult to establish a “climbing in” point, and felt that perhaps the material should go toward a Townshend solo album.
After some to-and-fro they finally completed studio duties – separately – and came up with an LP Daltrey believes is their best work since 1973's Quadrophenia. While the release date hasn’t been announced, the duo has remained pretty certain that it’ll be in 2019. Townshend even made it a stipulation before agreeing to their 2019 tour dates. They’ve even debuted new music on the road, which, presumably, will be heard on the new album.
The Rolling Stones – possible
Last Release: Blue & Lonesome in 2012
You can’t blame the Rolling Stones for beginning to gather a little more moss. But after years of little or no activity, at least they’ve been working on a semi-regular basis the past few years.
The subject of a new album has been a hot one since they went into the studio to write new material and accidentally came up with the 2016 covers LP Blue & Lonesome instead. Some work from those sessions may remain on the shelf, though the Stones are the kind of band that gathers in a live room and begin playing until it comes up with something it likes. So, they’re not always given to dusting off earlier unfinished material.
Having said that, Keith Richards reported last year that he “knocked out a few songs” with Mick Jagger and producer Don Was, and suggested a new album might arrive in 2019. That remains a possibility, despite Jagger’s health issues and continued touring. They’re practically guaranteed to hit the road again to support a release if and when it happens – though they’re unlikely to play many of the new songs. And then there’s the question of being able to afford tickets.
Iron Maiden – likely
Last Release: The Book of Souls in 2015
With 2015’s The Book of Souls becoming a rousing but receding memory, Iron Maiden’s 17th album feels like it should be due soon, and there’s not much doubt that there will be a 17th album. In fact, some rumor mills suggest it’s already recorded and may be nearly ready for release.
The Book of Souls arrived in September 2015, after being announced that June. June 2019 came and went with no word, so the schedule seems likely to follow a different cycle this time round – but then again, the last LP, the band's first double, was delayed as a result of singer Bruce Dickinson’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
There's little doubt Iron Maiden will tour – health permitting – and that the number of new songs that appear in the set may upset some hardcore fans who remain convinced the classics can never be bettered. However, if there’s any consolation, it’s that the band has, in recent years, tried to please everybody by touring with new material before then touring with a best-of set list.
Aerosmith – no chance
Last Release: Music From Another Dimension! in 2012
It seems like the members of Aerosmith can’t agree on much – but then, they never have, and it’s only infrequently stopped them from being Aerosmith. With a Las Vegas residency behind them and the possibility of a Broadway musical ahead of them, it’s difficult to see where they’ll find time to settle their differences.
Members have pointed to the relative disappointment of 2012's “comeback” album Music From Another Dimension!, which left at least some band members wondering if it was worth the effort involved to make an LP. That’s possibly unfair, since it’s been argued that the album’s failure had more to do with changing record company personnel, resulting in a loss of marketing direction, than to do with the material that was released.
A soundtrack album for a Broadway show might offer the opportunity for a handful of new tracks along with classics – perhaps even re-recorded? But Aerosmith seem satisfied banking on their legacy with reaffirmations of their power as a live band. Album or not, it’s probable they’ll remain on the road for at least the near future.
Van Halen – very unlikely
Last Release: A Different Kind of Truth in 2012
David Lee Roth has cut an increasingly lonely figure in his latest round of media appearances. Perhaps that’s his way of trying to motivate Eddie Van Halen into getting back to work. Until the guitarist says something, Roth’s suggestion that there will be meetings about new Van Halen music doesn’t mean much.
The idea of making an album seemed at least possible near the end of 2018, when mutterings of a reunion with bassist Michael Anthony surfaced and were later confirmed to have reached the point of early communication. But all that seems to have faded again.
In fact, the Van Halen chilling effect seems to be getting worse instead of better – Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen was reported to have completed his debut solo album last year, and there’s been no word of its release. If the aim is to hang it off a new Van Halen album, there could be a long wait in store.
Metallica – maybe, but …
Last Release: Hardwired … to Self-Destruct in 2016
By the time Robert Trujillo said Metallica didn’t want to keep fans waiting too long for a new album, the clock was already ticking toward three years since the release of Hardwired … to Self-Destruct. From the outside, it doesn’t look like they’ve had time recently to record a follow-up, so the wait must continue.
It sometimes seems like Metallica act like a community rather than a band – their frequent but spaced-out tours consist of crowd-pleasing staging and supporting events; they encourage fans to become actively involved in charitable service; they play tribute to other artists from the place they’re playing by delivering impromptu cover versions during shows. It’s an established workflow they enjoy, and stopping to work up an album might take time.
On the other hand, another batch of cover versions might be closer to release than an all-new LP: In June 2019, Lars Ulrich replied "wait and see" when asked about the idea. And if they do release something, they’ll almost certainly tour it, because that’s what they do.