#15. ICARUS WITCH – Goodbye Cruel World: In the mid to late 2000s, Pittsburgh PA group Icarus Witch rode the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, but then shifted to a melodic hard rock direction with their 2012 album, Rise. After a long six-year gap, Icarus Witch has finally re-emerged with their fifth full-length, Goodbye Cruel World, featuring longstanding members Jason Myers (bass, keyboards) and Quinn Lukas (guitars) along with new vocalist Andrew D’Cagna and drummer Jon Rice. The melodic hard rock tendencies are intact on Goodbye Cruel World, but better executed than on Rise, while a touch of traditional metal still remains embedded within. This album is easy on the ear for anyone who enjoys clean-sung vocals and simple, catchy guitar and vocal melodies. Icarus Witch is well and truly back, and hopefully here to stay.
#14. ANCIENT EMPIRE – Eternal Soldier: The US power metal underground scene boasts of some incredible bands, and San Francisco group Ancient Empire is certainly one of them. Having started out in 2012, the band has already released a slew of mighty fine albums, and this year they unveiled their fourth full-length, Eternal Soldier. The band’s musicianship on this one expertly puts forth the apocalyptic science fiction themes presented in the lyrical content. It is refreshing to note that Ancient Empire is not your typically saccharine or cheesy power metal band, and it only takes one complete listen of Eternal Solider to realize that. A flawlessly perfect power metal record.
#13. HOLY GROVE – II: Even as the dust still hasn’t quite settled from the smoky haze of Holy Grove’s enormously impressive 2016 self-titled debut album, the Portland, Oregon stoner rock band has come out with their second LP, II, and it has elevated them to a whole new level of creative power and finesse. Holy Grove keep their approach straightforward but express themselves to the fullest in a manner so smooth, there’s no doubt this album offers you that little something special which is hard to put a finger on but extremely easy to bask in.
#12. CASTLE – Deal Thy Fate: Masters of the occult rock riff, San Francisco CA’s Castle have been consistent and prolific in delivering compelling, memorable heavy music, and their fifth LP Deal Thy Fate further enhances their reputation. The album pulls you deep into its dungeon of riffs, grooves and sweet, sweet jams, and with its mere 35-minute duration, leaves you wanting more. The inimitable, unmatchable duo of Mat Davis (guitar) and Liz Blackwell (bass, vocals) has come up with some of their absolute best creative output on this one. Deal Thy Fate is pure sonic bliss.
#11. AT THE GATES – To Drink From the Night Itself: Undisputed pioneers of Gothenburg melodic death metal, the legendary At The Gates came back into active prominence with the 2014 album At War With Reality, their first studio effort since 1995. The comeback album was unanimously well-received, but the onus was on them to serve a worthy follow-up. Even without founding member Anders Björler, they have done that emphatically with their sixth LP, To Drink From the Night Itself, an album firmly rooted in the band’s death metal beginnings but at the same time also contemporary to modern times, proving that At The Gates is by no means a legacy band and still has plenty to offer as a creative force. To Drink From the Night Itself is nothing short of extreme metal perfection.
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