2017 has come and gone and I’m not really sure what to say. We saw the usual crop of stellar releases to get excited about for sure, but all in all I found myself pulling away from new releases a bit. In fact, it’s safe to say that I reviewed far fewer albums in 2017 than I have in my 18 years writing for Metal Rules. I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting crusty in my old age but I really found myself reaching for albums by bands I already love rather than reaching for new, unknown stuff. But enough about me, onto the music!
1. Kreator – Gods of Violence
All of Kreator’s albums in the new millennium have been worthy, but GODS OF VIOLENCE kicked my ass this year. I’ve played it nearly constantly since it came out and I love it just as much as when I first heard it.
2. Tokyo Motor Fist – Tokyo Motor Fist
While technically a new band, TMF is actually a spectacular merger of hard rock veterans from Danger Danger and Trixter. Laugh if you will, but the album is probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most this year. Absolutely phenomenal.
3. Labyrinth – Architecture of a God
Labyrinth returned with a bang in 2017. ARCHITECTURE OF A GOD is arguably as great an album as they’ve ever done.
4. Eclipse – Monumentum
Eclipse is the greatest, most consistent hard rock band working today. Period.
5. The Doomsday Kingdom – The Doomsday Kingdom
While Candlemass is sort of languishing these days, Leif Edling just keeps on rolling. The Doomsday Kingdom is a thunderous slice of doom metal, by far the one I’ve played in that genre this year.
6. Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Say what you will about John Schaffer; the man knows how to write kick ass heavy metal. INCORRUPTIBLE is the third Iced Earth album with Stu Block on the mic and its as good as the two that came before it. Are we at a point where it’s valid to make a case for this era being the equal of the magical Matt Barlow years? I say yes!
7. Blaze Bayley – Endure and Survive
What can you say about Blaze Bayley? The guy just keeps plugging out blue collar metal and playing concerts across the world. Putting out strong sci-fi albums like this certainly help!
8. Pyramaze – Contingent
On this second album with Terje Haroy on the mic, it finally feels like Pyramaze have found their niche – exceptional, crunchy power metal. Well done!
9. Overkill – The Grinding Wheel
Nothing more needs to be said about Overkill. They are simply amazing, putting bands half their age to shame. THE GRINDING WHEEL continues the ridiculously strong streak these guys have been on since 2010.
10. Jack Russell’s Great White – He Saw It Comin’
Leave the has-been jokes at the door because Jack Russell’s proven he’s still a rock writer and voice to be reckoned with. As much as people would like to see a reunion with the original Great White, I’d be happy seeing the split continue if both bands keep releasing quality music.
11. Santa Cruz – Bad Blood Rising
12. L.A. Guns – The Missing Peace
13. Alestorm – No Grave but the Sea
14. Accept – The Rise of Chaos
15. Inglorious – II
16. Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay
17. Unleash the Archers – Apex
18. Dragonforce – Reaching Into Infinity
19. Rage – Seasons of the Black
20. Night Laser – Laserhead
Best New Band
These German’s were latecomers to my ears in 2017 but “Laserhead” kicked my ass enough to make me buy the album. Needless to say, as a huge fan of ‘80s metal I was not disappointed in the least – these guys rock!
Bruce Dickinson – What Does This Button Do?
This spot is almost always reserved for Canadian metal scholar Martin Popoff as he always delivers with his phenomenal books. And yes, he delivered a bunch of great ones in 2017, but how could I not go with the autobiography of my favorite vocalist of all time? Bruce Dickinson has had one hell of an interesting life, and it made for one heck of an enjoyable read.
Best Live Album
Nightwish – Vehicle of Spirit
Nightwish had a relatively quiet year, but did still release a triumphant double-live album which properly highlights the incredible charisma and vocals of Floor Jansen.
Oz – Transition State
Labyrinth could have easily won this category, but I wanted to highlight a band that didn’t make my Top 20 list. Oz already “came back” once in 2011, but they’ve basically been silent since then so in my books this counts. TRANSITION STATE’s thunderous classic metal just proves that pure heavy metal will always win.
Primal Fear – Angels of Mercy
If I’m being honest, Nightwish wins this category too, but I wanted to highlight another great release that didn’t get a ton of press this year. Primal Fear always delivers the goods live and ANGELS OF MERCY simply highlights this, showing the band owning the stage in a sweaty, metal-packed club scenario.
Best Local Band
The band’s excellent REMNANTS OF THINGS LEFT UNSAID came out in 2016 and I had the joy of seeing this hard-working band open up for the inimitable Ted Poley this year. Suffice it to say, they knocked it out of the park. The crowd was eating out of their hands the entire show and the band came off like stars. I can’t wait to hear more from them in the future! Speaking of Ted Poley…
Best Live Show
Ted Poley, live at the Rockpile; March 11th, 2017
The once and future Danger Danger vocalist remains an exuberant ball of energy and put on one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever seen. Never mind the fact that it was at a small (but great) club, Poley commanded the stage like the pro he is and made sure everyone had a good time. Some bands talk about how their shows are a party, but I’ve never seen anyone put on such a selfless show, all for the fans’ amusement. Phenomenal.
Disappointments of the year
The crushing loss of Warrel Dane. R.I.P.
The sad passing of Malcolm Young. R.I.P.
Greatest Hopes for 2018:
W.A.S.P. Retrospective / Historical Set: For several years running: Blackie needs to get off his duff and put out the definitive historical W.A.S.P. set. This band’s history is as interesting (and sordid) as they come and it would be a fascinating listen/viewing.
New album releases: Looking forward to the likes of: Judas Priest, Saxon, Angra, King Diamond, Primal Fear, W.E.T., Lizzy Borden, and many more. Also, I can’t wait to see Nightwish and Iced Earth live.