END OF THE YEAR CHARTS: BEST OF HEAVY METAL IN 2017

Let’s see which have been the TOP 10 HEAVY METAL ALBUMS of the year, ranked from bottom to the top! You’ll find in this list a number of veterans of heavy metal but also a number of relatively new bands. All the bands featured in the list have done something particular to emerge among the hundreds of records that have been listened to so far in 2017. Check if you’ve missed any of these albums and enjoy the best songs from their albums. And to make the reading more enjoyable, we also offer to you a special compilation of 90 minutes that collects all together the best songs of the year. Scrolling down the list and listening to the mixtape you will be in condition to discover and assedd the current state of heavy metal today; you will also appreciate the different approaches and styles that each of these bands used to play one of the most iconic and influential musical genres of the last 50 years. Hail to the King!!


 

Number 10

BRINGER OF PAIN by Battle Beast

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Perhaps the most fitting example of a band fully devoted to keep high the flag of the classic heavy metal of the 80s, Battle Beast from Finland arrived this year to the important result of their fourth LP since their debut ten years ago. Bringer of Pain, the new album from the group, doesn’t show any particular innovation with respect to the previous works, except maybe for an increased drift towards more commercial sounds. As a matter of fact there is an abundance of rock and electro-pop elements in many of the songs, which if on one hand makes the approach to their songs definitely easy for a wide range of listeners, on the other hand clearly removes depth and longevity to the record.

Anyway, there are still a bunch of nice songs in the album which manage to transmit that feeling of joyful and vigorous energy that is a characteristic of this kind of music. And it is for this reason that although we are not in front of a masterpiece, this record still managed to get a mention in this list of the best heavy metal records of the year.


 

Number 9

THE CROWNING OF THE FIRE KING by Sorcerer

SORCERER - The Crowning of the Fire King - 800x800

Sorcerer, a veteran metal band from Sweden, was initially active in the early nineties but soon entered into a long period of inactivity until their comeback a couple of years ago. This year the band released their second LP, The Crowning of the Fire King, which offers to us an interesting version of epic metal with doom influences.

The music played by Sorcerer is powerful, slow, and soaked with dark and disturbing atmospheres. There is a great guitar work behind most of the songs of the album, and also the vocals are of absolute value. What perhaps limits the overall quality of the album is a certain repetitiveness of the songs, partly due to the stylistic choice to lock the speed to an almost constant measure along the entire disc. Nevetheless, there are still a few very good songs that are among the best things we heard in the year.


 

Number 8

ARROGANCE: THE FALL by Valor

VALOR - Arrogance The Fall - 800x800

Valor, the power metal band from Greece, has been around since the beginning of the century and has always shown quite good songwriting skills. With their third and most recent full-lenght album, Arrogance: The Fallhowever, their music seems to have reached a fairly static point. At times it seems to perceive as if these guys were a bit tired of looking for those vibrant and interesting combinations of melodies and rhytms that had characterized their two previous works.

As is typical of heavy metal albums we always manage to find a few good tracks worthy of note and particularly enjoyable to hear, but the average level of the compositions this time doesn’t allow for these guys to reach the highest positions of the chart.


 

Number 7

MAGIC by Serious Black

SERIOUS BLACK - Magic - 800x800.jpg

Originally born as a super-hroup featuring former members from Blind Guardian, Helloween – and many other metal bands – Serious Black today seems to have become a forge of albums, we are at the third release in three years, with the evident effect that the creative and innovative vein of their first steps is slowly giving the way to a more static, less explosive and interesting kind of heavy metal. And it is honestly a bit of a shame because the members of this group have clear and indisputable qualities, as can be seen from some of the songs that appear in this third work, Magic.

The musical approach of this band doen’t take many steps away from the classic European heavy metal style: pop-oriented choruses, layers of keyboards, catchy guitar riffs and relatively moderate rhythms. Where this model is supported by catchy and pleasing melodic lines the result may be exciting and compelling (we won’t never forget the beatiful High and Low from their debut album), but when there is a lack of creativity, this structure proves to be a bit boring and mannerist.


 

Number 6

PILLARS OF FIRE by Tau Cross

TAU CROSS - Pillars of Fire - 800x800

Let’s start saying that in any chart I had put this album, it would always seem out of place. Tau Cross, the multinational collective super-group featuring metal veterans such as Rob Miller (Amebix), Michel Langevin (Voivod), Andy Lefton (War//Plague), Jon Misery (Misery) and Tom Radio, plays in fact an extremely innovative mix of heavy metal, punk and hardcore which escapes from any categorization, at least according to the conventional canons of metal. Their debut and self-titled album in 2015 was an instant classic. This year they’re back with their second LP, Pillars of Fire, which somehow confirms the great expectations that were generated in between these two works.

The songs from Tau Cross don’t leave you indifferent. They are dirty, rough, dissonant, but absolutely straightforward and engaging. And if the impact of this new album is maybe less shocking and innovative than their debut work, this still remains a  unique and valuable work that for sure stands out in the mass of anonymous and flat records that too often find place in our music players.


 

Number 5

AND THE BATTLE ROYALE by The Unguided

THE UNGUIDED - And The Battle Royale - 800x800.jpg

Oscillanting between Power Metal and Melodic Death, this awesome new work by Swedish gorup The Unguided demonstrates once more that sometimes the departure of a bandleader may be a reason for the other musicians to give their best in the creation of a new album. Having lost lead guitarist and vocalist Roland Johansson – who was one of the co-founders of the band and who decided to give up for following other personal interests – the other guys have rolled up their sleeves and together with one of their session musicians have developed this new LP, And The Battle Royale, which doesn’t look bad when compared to the previous works of the band,

One of the main characteristics of The Unguided has Always been the accessibility of their music despite the dense use of complex and articulated mechanics that are typical of melodic death and metalcore. The last album, in this sense, confirms the same approach but with also the introduction of a few new elements. First, we have the new voice of Jonathan Thorpenberg, who’s definitely more oriented to Heavy Metal than his predecessor. Second, we recognize an increased presence of catchy choruses and groovy elements. In short, this is an album that on one side confirms the good characteristics of the band, but at the same time embodies the embryos of a change that perhaps will be more evident in the next albums of the band.


 

Number 4

BLOOD – FURY – DOMINATION by Arthemis

ARTHEMIS - Blood Fury Domination - 800x800

Arthemis is an Italian heavy & power metal band which is active since almost 20 years. Their style is basically a combination of the dark side of heavy metal with thrash-oriented guitar riffs, fast solos and catchy vocals. On their website they describe themselves as the marriage between Judas Priest and Megadeth. Arthemis have released so far 8 full-length albums, with Blood – Fury – Domination being the last one of their interesting discography.

By listening to their records you may perceive how this group has sought, album after album, to abandon their initial style which was basically an imitation of the masters of heavy metal and trying instead to gradually embrace into their music many elements of innovation and modernity. The result is that  Blood – Fury – Domination merges today the typical elements of classic power metal with a lot of heavier, thrashy and groovy riffs. The final amalgamation is definitely an interesting one, despite it could maybe disappoint many purists of heavy metal.


 

Number 3

BLACK LADEN CROWN by Danzig

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After seven years since the last time he released original material, American heavy metal legend Glenn Danzig has gathered his faithful disciples to write and record a new chapter of his incredible heavy metal story. And with this new album he demonstrated once more that a band doesn’t have to play ultra fast or to mimic the latest trends in music to be heavy and to be good.

Black Laden Crown is Danzig’s eleventh full-lenght studio release and it arrives a couple of years after the controversial home-made covers’ album Skeletons. The album sees also the returning of former drummer Joey Castillo, who was with the band from 1994 and 2002. The other key member of the group is legendary guitarist Tommy Victor, who has also released a new album with his own band, Prong. Tommy Victor and Glenn Danzig shared the duties of bass player in the album.

From a musical point of view, Black Laden Crown offers the usual pack of warm, slow, melancholic but damn enjoyable heavy metal Tunes, enriched by the baritonal voice of our beloved metaller. And there are a few songs of the album are close to be among of the best compositions Glenn Danzing has ever written in his long career. These songs wouldn’t be out of place inside the best albums released by the band, which are universally considered to be the first three LPs produced between the 80’s and the 90’s.


 

Number 2

TAROT by Æether Realm

AETHER REALM - Tarot - 800x800.jpg

Æther Realm has been one of the most happy surprises we had in metal this year. This band from North Carolina emerged a few years ago with an interesting combination of melodic death and folk, but it’s with their second and last album, Tarot, that these guys eventually managed to define their own and unique style, something that’s not easy to achieve in a kind of music that’s so strongly influenced by a few major and relevant groups such as Ensiferum and Wintersun.

What’s really impressive in Tarot, and which made the album reach the higest positions in the chart, is the quality of the guitar riffs. Donny Burbage and Heinrich Arnold, the two guitarists of the band, spend most of their effort playing in the background and supporting the melodic soundscapes which are created by keyboards and vocals; sometimes, however, we hear them take command of the action and drive the songs with furious rhythms and fierce guitar rides.

The album is also characterized by a combination of clean vocals with growls and screams, and the balance between these two styles is excellent and gives another positive element to most of the songs of the LP. This is an excellent job from these American metallers: the album confirms and indeed improves all that good things that were said for their debut almost four years ago.

Tarot can be streamed and acquired from Æther Realm’s bandcamp page.


 

Number 1

KINGSLAYER by Almanac

ALMANAC - Kingslayer - 800x800

There are bands predestined for success. Almanac was born a couple of years ago after that guitarist Victor Smolski – the founder of the Group – left the legendary German heavy metal trio Rage and created this new metal project. Today, after only two albums, Almanac has achieved a popularity and a level of interest that other groups reach only after years and years of albums and tours. Kingslayer, the second and last LP of Smolski’s new musical project, follows last year acclaimed debut album Tsar and shows a further evolution and refinement of the already excellent musical qualities of the new band.

From a musical point of view, the album develops essentially around a classic symphonic heavy metal style with rare hits in the power metal world. What’s really particular in the album, however, is the exciting and somehow natural beauty of the choruses and the melodies that emerge in most of the songs. Epic lyrics, crushing riffs, splendid solos, a genuine and brilliant heavy metal as we weren’t listening since many years.

Nothing in this record looks seeks modernity and innovation: from the arrangements to the style of the cover, everything calls for healty and pure heavy metal. But when the final result is so excellent, music becomes pretty much universal: a gift that only few albums manage to achieve and something that we can enjoy for a very long time.


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