As always, the top albums of the year are for full albums (no EP’s or demos) released in 2017. They are new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live albums. Below the combined TOP 30 are links to each individual staff members’ personal “best of” lists which besides their top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2018, personal metal discovery of the year, and various other categories. Enjoy!
Overall Top 30
1. Kreator – Gods of Violence
Despite being released way back in Jan 2017, Kreator’s newest was not forgotten and easily took the #1 position in our overall list. It was not surprising as many individual staff lasts had this in the top 3, and a few had it as #1. The German forefathers of the European thrash scene came at us in fine form with their 14th album. After the brilliant 2012 release “Phantom Antichrist” (followup for the superb Hordes of Chaos (2009) . “Gods of Violence” is an album bursting with all Kreator’s trademarks and more. The furious venomous vocals of Mille dominate throughout the entire album, thrashy razor sharp riffs cut to the bone, the leads are beautiful, melodic, and tasty, and drums are frantic and as powerful as ever. Here’s to many more years of the Kreator gods!
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2. Accept – The Rise Of Chaos
It’s of no surprise that this would score well, as have all the modern era Accept albums in our year end top lists. What’s not to love about this band? They have something for fans of all styles of metal! Catchy as hell, and as good, if not better today then they ever were , his band’s second coming is one of the better things to happen to the metal world since their amazing return with 2010’s Blood of the Nations. Never stop pounding!
3. Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Jon Schaffer and his assembled metallians called Iced Earth have returned with their 12th full-length of original material. It’s the third straight album with the irrepressible Stu Block at the mic and you can make a case that this is now one of the most productive eras in Iced Earth’s storied history. Fans pretty much know what to expect from a new Iced Earth album and INCORRUPTIBLE delivers it in spades.
4. Overkill – The Grinding Wheel
The American thrashers are back! Not many are as consistent as these guys, reliably releasing topnotch music at a steady pace every 2-3 years since 1983. This album carries everything one would would expect from a legendary band at their level. Awesome crystal production carrying a punch, screaming vocals from thrash legend Bobby “Blitz” Ellworth, the grinding bass lines courtesy of D.D. Verni, solid and savage drumming, and of course stellar guitar work and leads.
5. Immolation – Atonement
Few death metal bands today enjoy the kind of open reverence that Immolation does. Going all the way back to their 1991 DAWN OF POSSESSION debut, Ross Dolan and Bob Vigna have deservedly earned the respect of fans and peers alike through an uncompromising commitment to the kind of technically adept and no-BS death metal that they’ve been delivering since day one. On their 10th and most recent full length, ATONEMENT, Immolation manage to push the boundaries of brutality one step further with what could arguably be their most cerebral and musically challenging record to date. 25 years since their debut and Immolation is still finding new ways to brutalize listeners without changing the recipe.
6. Arch Enemy – Will To Power
The 10th album from the Swedish Death metallers, their second with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, steps up the game from their previous release. Better songs, better vocals (they even let her sing one song clean finally!), and more diversity is a great thing and has worked out quite well for the band.
7. Memoriam – For The Fallen
The mixture of Bolt Thrower and Benediction members worked out rather well for the new band Memoriam. Being a “super-group” meant they had a lot to live up to and they didn’t disappoint with their 2017 debut full-length, For The Fallen. Those who seek the classic death metal sound will do well to check this band out.
8. L.A. Guns – The Missing Peace
There’s no denying that the best L.A. Guns albums have included both guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis. With the two of them finally reunited for this album, the band made a great comeback. This album contains all the hallmarks that L.A. Guns is known for and simultaneously builds on them as well. That’s damn impressive for a band this long in the tooth. THE MISSING PEACE stands is one of the best albums this band has ever recorded and easily rivals their classic early releases. This album is a must-have for sleaze metal and hard rock fans.
9. Black Star Riders – Heavy Fire
The hard rocking Black Star Riders returned with their 3rd studio album in 2017. Expect catchy hard rock, rooted in their modern day take on the classic Thin Lizzy sound.
10. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
KINGDOMS DISDAINED had something to prove. The retooled lineup proudly stared down its recent history, showing all comers that Morbid Angel is sorry for for its past transgressions and, in 2017, reaffirmed its covenant of domination. KINGDOMS DISDAINED represents Morbid Angel at their most lethal and also most lean, producing precisely what is so sorely needed from them at this point in their career. KINGDOMS DISDAINED is at once representative of the history of Morbid Angel and, hopefully, a clear indication of the future direction of one of the most revered names in the game.
11. Exhumed – Death Revenge
DEATH REVENGE pushes the idea of Exhumed to new places and to to new heights, including but not limited to audible (and audacious) bass guitar work as well as, in places, near power metal melody and lead work as well as outright thrash and D-beat/crust influence. Lyrically, it is head and shoulders above anything they have done before. Overall, for what it is representing, it cannot be a better album and you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Masterful in execution.
12. Bloodbound – War of Dragons
The first power metal album to crack into our best of list this year is the glorious yet underrated Bloodbound. Their latest offering, WAR OF DRAGONS is a journey down all things that make up the Euro-Power metal genre. It is almost poppy and fun at times while delivering very anthem like chorus’ that will make even those not big into the genre stand up and throw their fists in the air. Each and every track is good in its own sense. This is a powerful delivery by a band not unfamiliar with their genre. Bloodbound have been deafening the ears of metal fans since 2004 with their catchy, sword-wielding, middle-earth anthems.
13. Pyramaze – Contingent
If you are a Power Metal fan, CONTINGENT and Pyramaze are pretty flawless. With five winning Pyramaze albums in a row without a single misfire or misstep, the band demonstrates their skill and quality as they have built a very strong catalogue over the past 15 years or so.
14. Prong – Zero Days
Prong mastermind Tommy Victor is clearly not short on musical drive and inspiration as he keeps pumping out a new release just about every year since 2012 ….and they are all high-quality Prong albums with just the right amount of groove, aggression, and thrash riffage that Prong fans love.
15. Labyrinth – Architecture of a God
It is hard to believe, but it’s been seven (!) long years since we last heard from Italian power metal pioneers Labyrinth. Back in 2010 they not only reunited with original guitarist Olaf Thorsen, they also released what many considered to be a return-to-form album with RETURN TO HEAVEN DENIED PT. II. After that, the wheels seemingly fell off and the band disappeared. After recruiting a new rhythm section and keyboard player, the band is finally back in action. ARCHITECTURE OF A GOD is the band’s 8th full-length album and it see the band still at the peak of their power. They may have kept us waiting for seven years, but with ARCHITECTURE OF A GOD, Labyrinth ensured the wait was worth it. This is a must-have for the band’s legion of fans.
16. Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
The unrelenting force that is the Florida death metal machine known as Cannibal Corpse continue to give their bloodthirsty fans exactly what they crave: SICK DEATH METAL! These guys are legends and have helped shape, and continue to define what death metal is. 30 years of death metal from Cannibal Corpse…wow!!!
17. Venom Inc. – Ave
In case you were asleep, this isn’t Venom, technically speaking. This is Venom Inc. This incarnation of the band is missing iconic vocalist/bassist Cronos, and instead features founders Mantas and Abaddon, plus Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, who took over from Cronos from 89 to 92. Every aspect of this band and album works well: the vocals, rhythms, riffs, production. It’s a band giving it their A-game. Granted, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it isn’t a progressive masterpiece, and the lyrics aren’t epic poetry. But it’s Venom, it’s exactly what we want and perhaps even more than some expect. It’s a romping, stomping, crashing good time. Avé is an album packed with thrashers, rockets, slow stompers, the full spectrum of their blend of black ‘n’ roll, and all done well. This is just what Venom are and should be, delivering all you’d expect and more. To any fan of the band, in any incarnation or line-up, I’d heartily recommend giving this one a go.
18. The Obsessed – Sacred
For a band that has released only three full-length albums prior to this one, The Obsessed have had a huge impact on Stoner/Doom metal. After an absence of 20 years, The Obsessed came back in 2017 with their album SACRED. A record from The Obsessed is a going to be a real musical experience and there’s nothing else that’ll sound quite like it. SACRED is no exception; it’s right on the money and sounds like everything you’d hope for from The Obsessed – two decades removed and frozen in time. To quote an aging Han Solo, “we’re home.”
19. Obituary – Obituary
10 albums and 29 years may have passed since they slowly began to rot, but Obituary is still as timeless (frozen in time?) and relevant as they ever were, probably even more so today. Coming off a career resurgence courtesy of 2014’s INKED IN BLOOD and the touring cycle that accompanied it, the Florida death metal vets are set to enter their third decade with their best record to date this side of the Roadrunner days.
20. Body Count – Bloodlust
Body Count is primed and ready for the world of metal once again. As fans of the genre, give Body Count’s BLOODLUST a listen. This ain’t just Ice-T, and this ain’t any lemonade. This is straight up hardcore thrash metal. This is Body Count mutha fuckas!
21. Deep Purple – InFinite
INFINITE is the 20th studio album by one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time! If you consider that all the band members (minus Steve Morse) are getting into their seventies, probably you gonna think that this may be the last record. Time will tell.
22. Incantation – Profane Nexus
Incantation is undeniably one of the most under-rated and longest surviving death metal bands out there today. Upon us they have released 11 tracks of fierce blasphemy in the form of PROFANE NEXUS.
23. Communic – Where Echoes Gather
Communic are back with, after some time, with an incredible new album. The latest, WHERE ECHOS GATHER, is a roller coaster ride through all things metal. For those unaware, Communic is a three piece prog / power metal band from Norway. You would never guess them as a three piece. Communic, for the newbies, are a similar act to say Nevermore with touches of Rush here and there. Two greats combined into one. What can one say other than, yeesss!
24. Tokyo Motor Fist – s/t
Those crazy musical mad scientists over at Frontiers Records have come up with yet another collaboration; taking the great vocals of Ted Poley (solo, Danger Danger) and adding it to the energetic guitar work of Steve Brown (Trixter). Add in a rhythm section with the talent of Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, Dokken, many more) and Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult etc.) and you’ve got a hell of a band. Tokyo Motor Fist deliver on all levels: performance, music, and energy. I guarantee that if you are at all a fan of hard rock or the players involved, you will enjoy this album.
25. Alice Cooper – Paranormal
The man/myth/legend Alice Cooper is back with his astonishing 27th studio album, and this time he’s brought a whole host of friends to help him. The album features guest spots from the likes of Roger Glover, Billy Gibbons, Larry Mullen Jr., and most importantly for fans, a reunion of the remaining members of the original Alice Cooper band on two tracks. As cool as all of that is, I find it annoying that Alice’s touring band plays nothing on the album…way to ram home that they are only hired guns Alice. Moving on. PARANORMAL is a summation of Cooper’s 40+ year career. The album runs the gamut of his styles, including hard rock, boogie, psychedelia, and balladry, all shot through with Cooper’s always cutting and interesting lyrics.
26. Stephen Pearcy – Smash
SMASH, released in January, is Stephen Pearcy’s 10th solo release (incl. live albums etc.) so he’s more than earned the right to be judged on his own musical merits. And yet. At times SMASH is like a walk into 1984 when Ratt were riding at their peak. With all the press about a Ratt reunion there’s a danger that SMASH will be overlooked – that’s a huge shame because it is a fantastic hard rock record that stands proud all on its own.
27. Steel Panther – Lower the Bar
LOWER THE BAR seems to just roll along with the same formula as their previous releases. Not that that is bad, but after a few releases, as a fan, you just wonder how many more different ways can they sing about blow jobs, pussy, cocaine, and anal? For 2017, the answer is 11.
28. Paradise Lost – Medusa
Overall, this album seems a bit heavier than some previous Paradise Lost releases. Diehards need not worry with this one. And for those who maybe gave the band a chance at the ‘wrong time’, you really need to check this one out. Not that the band has ever put out anything bad in the past, but maybe just not up to par for some. MEDUSA gets the job done!
29. Dragonforce – Reaching Into Infinity
After releasing “Maximum Overload” in 2014, Dragonforce are back with their 7th studio album “Reaching Into Infinity”. What is more to expect from Dragonforce than a galloping rhythm with guitar tones picking in your brain? Well, this album offers something new. In most of the songs from this album, besides the usual speedy power metal we are used to, there are some, heavy/ (little) thrash metal parts.
30. Annihilator – For the Demented
Determined Canadian every-man Jeff Waters and his good thrash ship Annihilator are back with studio album number 16 (!). Jeff’s steered the band through so many roller-coaster moments that it’s a wonder that he’s still sane…then again, maybe he’s not, given the title of his latest album! (joking!). Anyway, FOR THE DEMENTED brings the usual round of band member changes, with only Waters surviving since 2015’s admirable SUICIDE SOCIETY effort. FOR THE DEMENTED features a heaping help of what you expect from Annihilator: ripping thrash, mid-paced metal, and one truly twisted “ballad”.