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

Sebastian Vazquez’s Top 10

#10. DragonForce – Reaching Into Infinity: Although not their strongest work, I was excited to see the development of the long anticipated new album of this English power metal band. It has all the cliches one would think about when it comes to power metal, but their polished sound has come up with little nuances here and there to provide something … fresh.

#9. Lancer – Mastery: Oh yeah, another power metal band. This emerging group from the Sweden’s promised land has often been remarked as the next HammerFall, and rightly so. Their sound emulates much of the power metal titans in songwriting and in song structure, but their newest record captures a more emotional side of the band. ‘Mastery’ is much stronger than their second record ‘Second Wind’ but lives up to the legacy of its first.

#8. Voyager – Ghost Mile: I’ve been a fan of Voyager ever since they toured with Rhapsody of Fire approximately 6 or 7 years ago when they were touring in support of their historic ‘The Meaning of I’ record. One could have called them a power-djent band in those days, but now they have fully evolved into a modern, progressive djent band that is pulling all the stops in creating new music. It’s a lot heavier than the stuff they put out on ‘V’ and on previous records, but their shift in sound I would say is a move for the better.

#7. Symbolic – 5ive: Their fifth full length is arguably their best work. This prog power band out of San Diego has been around the underground for what seems like forever, but their recent addition of guitarist Louie Borja has rounded out their sound, polishing the group. Songs like ‘The King Has Fallen’ and ‘No Ordinary Life’ are much different in terms of their earlier works, being shorter songs in comparison, but they pack quite the wallop.

#6. Steel Panther – Lower the Bar: Everyone was up in arms when this record came out and not living up to the hype as their previous releases. I suppose it could be said that their previous installment ‘All You Can Eat’ met the same fate, but ‘Lower the Bar’ is actually a decent album once you stop comparing it to ‘Feel the Steel’ and ‘Balls Out’. The songs ‘Poontang Boomerang’ and ‘Goin In the Backdoor’ will become party music favorites years down the line.

#5. Iced Earth – Incorruptible: I heard so many things about this record, I had to check it out. It definitely lives up to its hype. This record is well-produced, and is everything you would think about in a typical, modern heavy metal record. Prior to this, I never really dabbled into Iced Earth, but now I’m sold. This record is one people in the modern age of heavy metal will point to as a legacy record and also one that the younger generations will listen to for years to come. It is such a genre defining album.

#4. Night Demon – Darkness Remains: What more can be said about this NWOTHM powerhouse? The follow-up to their debut album polishes up their sound and merges heavy metal with rock and roll. I imagine the frontman singing in all leather, sweat pouring down his face, as he belts out catchy rock tunes. One thing I would like to mention is the production. I like how the band has songs written with only one guitar. It demonstrates the level of confidence this band has in producing top notch work without the over-the-top frills and production efforts one-guitar bands will go through in the studio to fatten their sound. Stay tuned people, this band will emerge some day as the American banner of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal.

#3. Overkill – The Grinding Wheel: The thrash boom has reached its zenith. Overkill, one of the pioneers of speed thrash, has put out an incredible album. Just like Iced Earth, I also haven’t listened to much Overkill in my life, but their recent installment in ‘The Grinding Wheel’ shows that this band, many many generations over, still has the capacity to churn out quality work. ‘The Grinding Wheel’ easily tops out their discography in the 2000s.

#2. Kreator – Gods of Violence: The German thrash attackers’ latest onslaught ‘Gods of Violence’ encapsulates the lore of Greek mythos and makes you feel that you are in ancient Hellas, if it existed in 2017. The new record isn’t particularly flashy, but if you think Kreator in the modern era then you would be pleasantly surprised by their recent studio LP.

#1. Striker – Self-Titled: This record contains everything that is Striker, flying guitar leads over intros, verses, bridges, choruses, and solos, but they also sound like they mellowed out their speed and produced something much more commercial. It doesn’t sound deliberate in any way, but they produced a quality record, and at least for now, it sits firmly at the top of my list of the best 2017 releases.

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