Δευτέρα 1 Ιανουαρίου 2018

The albums we enjoyed most in 2017

The usual prologue would be that no one can say that have listened to almost everything that was released during 2017. Everyone who claims that, and posting the "best" and "top" lists is wrong so we will speak just for our favorite releases and the albums we enjoyed most in 2017. 2016 was better and it seems that 2018 will be also better, but there were some solid releases during 2017. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. There are also the unlucky ones (the albums that released during December) that haven't got all the proper attention, since a few plays are never enough.

So, which are our favorite 10 albums?

1. Eloy - The Vision, The Sword And The Pyre (Part I)
After years of hard work, Frank Bornemann finally makes one of his dreams come true with this first part of a rock opera dedicated to Jeanne d'Arc. This is not a typical Eloy release (if there is such a thing) but it is dreamlike and a triumph of artistic music for 2017.

2. Painful Pride - Lost Memories
Decades in the making, this is the debut album of an unsung obscure heroic band from Sweden. Formed in 1983 (!) they finally recorded the songs that was the soundtrack of their youth. I can't be very objective since I was involved with the creation of this album over the last years but you have to listen to this one. Melodic metal that will bring in mind the glorious 80s Swedish metal scene and also early-Def Leppard and Praying Mantis. Bittersweet melodies, emotional performance and great songwritting with highlights tracks like "Lost Memories", "Visions" and "A Thousand Lies". These memories will never be lost.

3. Wrathblade - God Of The Deep Unleashed
Epic metal holocaust by one of the underground leading forces of the genre. Unbound and powerful, "God Of The Deep Unleashed" is the next logical step after the great debut album of 2012. Less straight-forward, with better arrangments and amazing rhythm section (especially the drum parts) this is THE epic metal release of 2017.

4. Sorcerer - The Crowning Of The Fire King
Second full-length album of the Swedish Epic Doom legend. Some fans stick only to the demo-era of Sorcerer, but no matter how much I love the demo-era I cannot ignore the new great albums, especially when you have solid songwriting, Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath elements ("Abandonded By The Gods") and amazing guitar melodies. Just listen to "Unbearable Sorrow", one of the best songs for 2017. The digipak CD version has 2 more songs.

5. Arduini / Balich - Dawn Of Ages
Victor Arduini (ex-Fates Warning) and Brian Balich (Argus) unite forces and create one of the most unexpected releases of 2017. With Black Sabbath as the most notable influence, "Dawn Of Ages" is the biggest surprise of 2017. The 17min "Beyond The Barricade" is a mammoth song and tracks like "Forever Fade", "The Wraith" are among the best ones for 2017. The double vinyl version has 3 bonus tracks (covers from Uriah Heep, Beau Brummels and Black Sabbath)

6. Night Demon - Darkness Remains
This power trio is probably the hottest new traditional heavy metal band around. Most likely they have already surpassed other acts that were supposed to claim this title. Energy, power, fast and mean riffs, catchy songs and influences from 80s Iron Maiden and Neat Records' bands dominate "Darkness Remains" and if you have the chance to see them live, do not miss it!

7. Jacobs Dream - Sea Of Destiny
The same-titled album of 2000 was a revelation (following the equal shock of the 1996 release) and more albums followed over the years but somehow the momentum was lost for Jacobs Dream. Private released, "Sea Of Destiny" lacks of production but there are some great songs, like "Into The Night", that bring in mind the days of glory. While this album passed unnoticed, go out there and find it! 

8. Air Raid - Across The Line
And now, this is evolution. I really loved "Danger Ahead" EP and "Night Of The Axe" but the previous album ("Point Of Impact") didn't work for me. Air Raid added influences from maestro Yngwie Malmsteen and the band reached new levels of excellency.

9. Doomocracy - Visions & Creatures Of Imagination
Sorrowful and eerie, with exotic melodies, stronger Solitude Aeturnus elements and more power, the second album of Doomocracy is a skillful and passionate offering to the altar of epic doom metal.

10. Accept - The Rise Of Chaos
It's Accept. I has to be on the list. Otherwise you will die by the sword.

10 more albums we enjoyed (in alphabetical order):

Argus - From Fields Of Fire
I remember like yesterday the debut album of Argus and now they are already on the fourth full-length release. There is a certain quality in each album and "From Fields Of Fire" is no exception.

Caronte - YONI
Shamanic ritualistic doom. Weird, different and unorthodox, it is not recommended for all traditional (or epic) doomsters but it has a mystical and dark aura that you will love or hate. And NO, this is not stoner.

The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
When I first listened TDK I thought that Mats Leven would fit better on vocals since the songs sounded like they needed his voice. Later and over many listens Niklas Stalvind (Wolf) really sounds suitable and he does a great job with the way he performs the visions, dreams and nightmares of The Doomfather. Leif Edling is a living legend and legends cannot really fail.

Jono - Life
That also came out of nowhere and has a variety of elements and influences that are mixed perfectly to create a diverse album. There are influences from Queen, Journey, Supertramp, Kansas (of all eras), melodic rock with symphonic and progressive elements plus the amazing voice of Johan Norrby. Once you will listen to this album, there is no return.

Lord Vigo - Blackborne Souls
Second album of the doomsters from Germany that follows the steps of their debut adding more maturity and diversity. Heavy, strong, paranormal, gothic and sorrowful, "Blackborne Souls" came out just the first days of 2017 and therefore many people missed it from their top-lists.

Lunar Shadow - Far From Light
The highlight of the album is the guitar parts and the maturity on songwriting. It would be much better if there was better production and more powerful vocals but Lunar Shadow have a kind of underground eccentricity that makes me wait of even better things by them in the future.

Necrytis - Countersighns
Well, that's the kind of US metal we miss. Don't you agree?

Pagan Altar - The Room Of Shadows
While this is far from the classic albums of Pagan Altar, you cannot let the solid guitar work of Alan Jones pass unnoticed. This is indeed a special and emotional release for 2017.

Sanhedrin - A Funeral For The World
These guys know how to write hooks and perform a catchy blend of hard rock, traditional metal and doom, making you feel that you listen something familiar. "Riding On The Dawn" is one of the best opening tracks of 2017.

Venom Inc - Avé
They hAvé returned. Mantas, Abaddon and The Demolition Man deliver pure blood stained prime evil forged in Hell and they bleed metal. Avé Satanas.

Best EP: Open Burn - Open Burn
Here we have three Lethal members (Dave Hull, Glen Cook, Jerry Hartman) with a new singer playing high quality US metal. Of course, singer Eric Johns is not Tom Mallicoat, but since we cannot have a new Lethal album, "Open Burn" is a close substitute but most important there are some great songs here.

Best compilation: Hour Of 13 - Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased
Including the early demo versions of the songs that ended on the Hour Of 13 debut album (one of the best albums of the millennium) plus other rarities and the last official recording of the band, the amazing "Upon Black Wings We Die".
Best live album: Black Sabbath - The End
There is no end for immortality, but this is definitely the best live album of 2017. "The End" is the last live performance of the greatest metal band of all times, in the birthplace of metal, Birmingham. This is nearly a perfect live album, just one thing is missing.

Best reissue: Hittman - Hittman
You might find better albums that were reissued in 2017 (f.e. from Running Wild), but this is how a reissue should be done. Remastered from the original sources, with great unreleased bonus tracks (some of them better than the album songs) and huge booklet with many unpublished photos, complete lyrics, liner notes and everything with the arrangment of the original band members. Also, this is an undeniable killer piece of US metal.

Honorable mentions:

Desolation Angels - "King", Emerald - "Voice For The Silent", Hellwell - "Behind The Demon's Eyes", Knight Area - "Heaven And Beyond", Mausoleum Gate - "Into A Dark Divinity", Millennium - "Awakening", Oz - "Transition State", Professor Emeritus - "Take Me To The Gallows", Reflection - "Bleed Babylon Bleed", Walpyrgus - "Walpyrgus Nights", The Wizards - "Full Moon In Scorpio", Jack Starr's Burning Starr - "Stand Your Ground".

What are we looking forward for 2018?

Judas Priest ("Firepower") and Saxon ("Thunderbolt") will have their new albums during 2018 and once legends are on stage, metal is always sharp. But I strongly believe that "White Horse Hill" from outsider Epic Doom Metal masters Solstice, will be the revelation of 2018. Other than that, Heir Apparent was supposed to have the new album ready for 2017, so I assume that this will be finally completed during 2018, while during this year we are also expecting from two other legendary acts to enter studio after many years: Psychotic Waltz and Saviour Machine.

After their debut EP, that had limited distribution and promotion and came in the form of CD-R, we are expecting a debut full-length album from Open Burn, and also the second part of "The Vision, The Sword And The Pyre" by art rock legends, Eloy.

While Visigoth and Evil-Lyn have ready their new albums (and both of them are very strong), everyone expects what the next step will be for Eternal Champion and we hope that a new album will be out during 2018.

Canadian metal soldiers Sword will enter studio for new material and Pharaoh, one of the best US metal acts of 00s will also release a new album diring 2018. Any other project - release of Chris Black is also more than welcome.

Have a great, happy and healthy 2018!

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