Another year, another list of phenomenal heavy metal studio albums. The years 2015 and 2016 gave us a very good amount of albums that became instant rock and metal classics. Just think of Motörhead’s Bad Magic, Anthrax’s For All Kings, Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, or Fear Factory’s Genexus. Nevertheless, 2017 was an excellent year for albums that unexpectedly blew my mind. Here my top 10 heavy metal albums of 2017:
#10 Sepultura – Machine Messiah (more here)
Released 13 January 2017. Sepultura’s Machine Messiah is arguably built upon a more melodic albeit crushing and intense sonic carpet than any other album of the band. Furthermore, it is wrapped in an intriguing lyrical concept about digitization, technology, and robotics. At the moment, my favourite Sepultura album from the Derrick Green era.
#9 Danzig – Black Laden Crown (more here)
Released 26 May 2017. The critics have not been kind to Danzig’s 11th studio album. Nevertheless, as I wrote in my review, “Black Laden Crown might not be the next How The Gods Kill, but it is a new shade of dark that enriches the Danzig catalogue with 9 beautifully evil songs, just the way we like them to be in this context.”
#8 Sons of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony (more here)
Released 20 October 2017. This supergroup, appropriately named Sons Of Apollo and composed of Mike Portnoy (dr), Billy Sheehan (bs), Derek Sherinian (ks), Jeff Scott Soto (vc), and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (gt), brings in the best prog-characteristics its instrumentalists have to offer and wraps it in a wonderful modern package without losing the individuals’ identity, while adding Jeff Scott Soto’s trademark voice. A completely unexpected gem.
#7 Cellar Darling – This Is the Sound (more here)
Released 30 June 2017. Cellar Darling is a band formed in 2016 by three former members of Swiss metal icons Eluveitie. What some might have considered a spin-off of a successful metal act, I consider to be a band with a unique and captivating sound, and the band’s debut album This Is The Sound is a modern day work of folk-metal art. Another unexpected gem in 2017.
#6 Prong – Zero Days (more here)
Released 28 July 2017. I can listen to Prong’s Zero Days without skipping a track, even when in repeat. Yes, it might carry more pop-melodies and yes, it might be less industrially brachial than other Prong albums, but Tommy Victor’s fingerprint can well be heard and felt throughout the entire album nevertheless. In my humble opinion, Tommy did very well incorporating fresh ideas while keeping the signature Prong feel. Zero Days is a Prong album that will last a thousand years.
#5 Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail I (more here)
Released 12 May 2017. Prevail I is the best album to date by Kobra and the Lotus. It is dark, dramatic, and intense. All 10 songs radiate the same sonic look-and-feel, which gives the album a strong theme and a clearly defined musical experience throughout the 45 minutes. Here, I expected no less and look forward to Prevail II.
#4 Prophets Of Rage – Prophets Of Rage
Released 15 September 2017. After the band’s 2016 EP The Party’s Over, some criticised the lack of originality. I on the other hand was pumped and hoped for an album as strong or, of course, even stronger than the EP, and I was not disappointed. The self-titled album is sonically rough, lyrically smart, musically tight, and emotionally in-your-face, exactly what we asked for – and the Prophets Of Rage provided.
#3 Sumo Cyco – Opus Mar (more here)
Released 31 March 2017. This album gave me a further unexpected ‘wow!’ moment in 2017. I knew about the Sumo Cyco’s fascinating immersive experience, but did not think Opus Mar could knock me off my feet the way it did. Its clever lyrics and arrangements coupled with fine songwriting served on a platter of raw energy and a bombastic production make this excellent album an instant classic to be enjoyed on repeat.
#2 Savage Messiah – Hands of Fate
Released 27 October 2017. I had no idea who Savage Messiah were when my friend Chad sent me a link to a bunch of YouTube videos of the band’s previous releases. They sounded very good and I kept listening to their music for a little while, but at some point got caught up with other bands – until I stumbled upon the band’s video release for the title-track of their then-forthcoming album Hands of Fate. And during the first-listen of the album, I realised this album would stick with me for a very long time. Pure, authentic modern day heavy metal fuelled by British metal tradition. I’m a fan. Horns up!
#1 Body Count – Bloodlust (more here)
Released 31 March 2017. I imagined Body Count would release a great album, but I did not expect such an excellent release. I must admit, as much as I liked Bloodlust during the first listen, it took me a few more spins to discover its entire beauty. As I have written in my review: “Ice-T said, “If you like Manslaughter, Bloodlust is twice the slaughter.” In a time when the world seems more culturally and politically divided than ever, in a time when extremes become the new normal, the messages that Body Count has been giving us for the past 25 years still hold true today. Songs like No Lives Matter, The Ski Mask Way, or the title-track Bloodlust express the same rawness as songs from past records like There Goes the Neighborhood, Born Dead, or Talk Shit, Get Shot, but introduce a much more sophisticated and intellectual nuance sonically and emotionally.“ Bloodlust is my favourite heavy metal album of 2017 and might keep a spot in my «favourite albums cabinet» for a very long time, if not forever. Kudos to Ice-T, Ernie C, Juan of the Dead, Vincent Price, Ill Will, Sean E Sean, and Little Ice for this masterpiece.