2017 Mid-Year Recap: Best Albums (Staff Picks)

Jaide Alicia’s Top 10

#10. Jack Russell’s Great White – He Saw It Comin’: Kicking off my Top 10 countdown is the latest from Jack Russell’s Great White. This is really going to show my eccentric music taste when you see my number one pick. This album earns a spot in the Top 10 because it’s a clear view into Jack Russell’s life and who is and has become. The songs are well thought-out, well written and from the heart. Tracks like ‘My Addiction’ provide insight into Jack’s struggles over the years, which not all artists are willing to disclose. Additionally, the album is about as unconventional as they come. Upon pressing play for the first time, I didn’t expect I would hear a doo-wop acapella track, a rap breakdown, and classic sounding songs all on one album. Props go to Jack Russell and crew for experimenting with their sound and going the extra mile to create a truly unique listen.

#9. Dying Fetus – Wrong One To Fuck With: Dying Fetus is just one of the many death metal bands that have perfectly formulated their sound and have released an album that reflects that. The Maryland death metal trio has yet to release a disappointing album, and this new one is just as great. ‘Wrong One To Fuck With’ is definitely a solid album front to back. The songwriting is political and thought provoking, while the musicality adds the brutality and edge needed to round out the album.

#8. Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain: Although it took me having to see the band live to give this album a chance, I will say I’m glad I did it. The first half of ‘Bringer of Pain’ especially is all standout tracks. I’m honestly not even sure I’ve listened to the tracks after ‘Bastard Son of Odin’ more than a handful of times because I am so enamored with the front half. First off, the vocals are great. Noora Louhimo has some serious pipes, and not only can she belt in studio but her voice live is something to behold. Between all the jumping around and moving she does while performing, I’m surprised she can even breathe, let alone hold the notes that she does. The album rides the same line between metal and pop that many of my beloved ’80s hard rock bands did, and perhaps that’s why I like it so much. It’s fun, it’s metal you can dance to.

#7. Steel Panther – Lower The Bar: Steel Panther are without question the kings of what they do. ‘Lower The Bar’ is a prime example of Lexxi, Satchel, Stix and Michael Starr’s effortlessly funny and vulgar lyrical style matched with what’s honestly really fucking good musicianship. Plus, this album contains a cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘She’s Tight’ featuring a guest appearance by Robin Zander himself. How badass is that? Shockingly enough, the band is nearly 20 years into their career, and are better than ever. You’d think they wouldn’t be able to top older tracks like ‘Gloryhole’ and ‘Community Property’, but ‘Lower The Bar’ brings you songs like ‘Pussy Ain’t Free’ and ‘Goin’ In The Backdoor’ which show that Steel Panther is at the top of their game. I could talk about them for hours, so I’ll digress. But seriously, listen to the album drunk and it’ll change your life. On to the next!

#6. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand: ‘Emperor of Sand’ is the definition of what musical growth is. Mastodon has always been known for stepping outside the boundaries of your typical metal sound, and this album does just that. ‘Emperor of Sand’ brings a little more darkness, and a little more grit than some of their previous albums. Now this is evolution of a band. Sure, their single ‘Show Yourself’ is a little commercial and a little silly at times (have you seen the video?) but when you break it down, it’s still a technically good song. I respect bands that are willing to venture outside the box that they’ve put themselves in, but not venture all the way across town – if that makes sense. Mastodon still sounds like Mastodon, but maybe with a new haircut. And that’s fine by me.

#5. Overkill – The Grinding Wheel: Overkill is another band that has done a little bit of musical exploration in 2017. ‘The Grinding Wheel’ has got a little bit of everything laced throughout it. It taps into the band’s punk roots while incorporating numerous other musical elements without straying away from the thrashy sound we know and love. Overkill has always been a thrash metal Jersey punch in the face, and ‘The Grinding Wheel’ shows that Blitz and Verni haven’t gotten soft on us yet. Those two matched with Lipnicki, Tailer and Linsk create an unstoppable force and what seems to be their most diverse album to date.

#4. Warrant – Louder Harder Faster: Excuse me, my diehard love for glam metal is showing again. Warrant returns with their second album following the death of singer Jani Lane and I’ve got to say I love what Robert Mason has done for the band. ‘Louder Harder Faster’ brings the classic Warrant sound to the forefront while incorporating a fresh, hard rock sound that I think only Mason can bring to the group. Mason aside, Warrant is all original members; Steven Sweet, Jerry Dixon, Erik Turner and Joey Allen – and I think that is what helps ‘Louder Harder Faster’ stay so true to the band’s roots.

#3. Suffocation – … Of The Dark Light: First and foremost, this album was released on my birthday so I’m slightly biased. However, any death metal fan would know that Suffocation isn’t a band that’s going to release disappointing material. It was such a sigh of relief to find out that although he is not touring with the band, Frank Mullen’s brutal vocals appear on this record. ‘…Of The Dark Light’ has its ups and downs for sure (I’m not going to say ‘hits and misses’ because they don’t really ‘miss’ on this record), but that doesn’t diminish the fact that Suffocation knew what they were doing when they made this album. The dynamic tempo changes, hints of melody and smooth transitions were purposeful, and definitely aided in making this such a great listen.

#2. Crazy Lixx – Ruff Justice: Let me set the scene of when I first heard this band. I’ve been up for 24 hours straight, the sun is coming up and I’m on YouTube. Suddenly I stumble across a playlist of songs by bands like Reckless Love, Crashdiet, De La Cruz…the list goes on. I see this band called Crazy Lixx and I think to myself ‘now that sounds like an ’80s glam band name’, naturally I listen to it. I find myself immersed in this entire world that I never knew existed. There is an entire glam/sleaze rock scene in places like Sweden and Finland that I had no idea was happening – and it’s been going on for years. So I’m freaking out, I’m calling my dad to alert him of this newly discovered ’80s revival all while ordering multiple albums off of Amazon Prime. Fast forward to almost a year later, and much to my pleasure I find out Crazy Lixx has released a new album, and it’s good. It’s a fun, hard rock album that captures the essence of the decade I love and I am still desperately waiting for the day I wake up to a press release saying that they’re touring in the US. The single ‘Wild Child’ has the most amazing harmonies and melodies and was the perfect track to be released as a single as it definitely sets the stage for what the album has to offer.

#1. Obituary – Self-Titled: I’ve got to give the top spot to death metal heavyweights Obituary because this is the album that reminded me how much I loved this genre of music, and prompted me to go on iTunes and buy ‘Slowly We Rot’ because having it on CD wasn’t enough. ‘Obituary’ follows the framework that we see on all their earlier albums, and incorporates the very best the band has to offer. John Tardy is one of my very favorite death metal vocalists and he provides his iconic brutal vocals to this album and sounds great doing so. With the perfect balance of grudging breakdowns and speedy riffs and solos tied together with heart stopping drums and sinister underlying bass lines, each track brings something different to the mix. It is controlled chaos, it is breakneck, it is in your face and it is everything a death metal album should be.

Continue on Page 5 for Francisco Zamudio’s picks!

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