Be sure to check out the Decibel Geek website contributor’s collective compilation of the top albums: Best of 2017 Article
As 2017 quickly approaches its conclusion, I find it appropriate to reflect on almost 150 new releases of music that I have discovered over the course of the year. Admittedly, my favorites tend to be from the Melodic Rock and Symphonic Metal genres. Regardless, I am proud to present my Top Ten for 2017.
To recap, my number one CDs of the last few years are as follows:
2016 – Sabaton – The Last Stand (Top 10 2016)
2015 – Leaves’ Eyes – King Of Kings (Top 10 2015)
2014 – Sabaton – Heroes
So, without further ado, here is a synopsis of my Top 10 for 2017.
It’s been a long three years since Pink Cream 69 has been in the studio, so I have been eager to hear a new release. Although lead singer David Reedman and bassist Dennis Ward have been involved in other projects (with great results), I think it long overdue to hear do what they do best- Pink Cream 69.
Normally, this album would be higher on my list, but there was a lot of healthy competition this year. This is a straight-forward, rocking, classic, Pink Cream 69 disc. Their first effort was released back in 1989 so if you haven’t had a chance to check out this band, you are missing out on 28 years of great melodic rock. Be sure to pick up this new release and before you know it you’ll be seeking out their back catalog.
Bonfire is back in business for 2017 and once again they’ve enlisted the help of a new singer. I thoroughly enjoyed their 2015 release, Glorious, but it somehow didn’t feel like the Bonfire of years past. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was missing.
With the departure of original singer Claus Lessmann, I really didn’t think that the band could keep going. Byte The Bullet has proven me wrong. It’s a great album, possibly their best since 2001. Their new singer, Alexx Stahl, brings back the true essence of what this group has been for me since 1986. Thank you, Hans Ziller, (lead guitar and founding member of Bonfire) for bringing back the magic. This is a band on my bucket list that I hope to one day see live.
BUY: Byte the Bullet
The opportunity to see Gotthard twice in 2016 and four times in 2017 was a dream come true. Not only did I see them play live, but I had a chance to hang out with them on The Monsters Of Rock Cruise and then in both Germany and Switzerland.
Silver is an album that received mixed reviews. On my first listen I found that a few songs stood out, but overall nothing was especially memorable. It wasn’t until I heard some of these songs live did this album really stick with me. Gotthard has always experimented with different sounds and this works really well for them on this particular album. This may not rank as one of their top CDs of all time, but it’s a must-have for 2017.
Starting out in 2001, Eclipse, hailing from Sweden are back in 2017 with their 8th studio album. As I only found out about Eclipse in 2014, it didn’t take long to realize they are not to be missed. In 2015 they released Armageddonize, which was an incredible album even though it didn’t break into my Top 10. With the first spin of Monumentum, I knew this would be one of my best CDs of 2017. Start to finish, their new music had me hooked. These last two releases, for me, have been their best efforts to date.
Phantom V is another project by Frontiers Records. Having the likes of Claus Lessmann (Bonfire), Michael Voss (Casanova, Mad Max), Axel Kruse (Jaded Heart) and Robbie Boebel (Frontline), how could they go wrong. In 2016 they released their debut S/T album. A genius release which came so close to breaking into my Top 10. With their new album Play To Win, Phantom V took it to a new level. For me, this sounds like the Bonfire of old. Claus‘s vocals are so powerful. His vocal range has not changed since I first heard him sing with Bonfire in 1986. After two releases this should no longer be a project but a band to perform and bring their music to the live stage. We all can only hope.
BUY: Play To Win
Calgary, Alberta natives Kobra And The Lotus released their first album in 2010. I first heard of them back in 2012 when it was advertised that they were to open for KISS. I didn’t attend that particular tour, but based on the curious name felt compelled to find out who they were. Their third release, High Priestess, is the album that motivated me to listen to more of their music.
I finally had an opportunity to see them open for Xandria in 2017 while promoting the album Prevail I. Beguiling lead singer Kobra Paige had so much energy on stage and a voice that only amplified her beauty.
In my estimation, this is their best effort thus far and will be one of the most frequently played 2017 CDs in my collection. I look forward to Prevail II, which is to come in 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the number one symphonic metal album of the year. Despite being hailed as their best release to date, for many of the fans it also represents the biggest disappointment of their career. Fifth singer, Dianne Van Giersbergen, tracked the vocals for this glorious album, but only sang for a portion of the road performance as she stepped down mid-tour to concentrate on her personal life. Despite the fact that she is pictured on the official Xandria website and listed on Facebook as their singer, vocalist Aeva Maurelle has taken over for the live performances.
The 2017 Theater Of Dimensions shows have had outstanding reviews around the world and I was able to see them headline in Toronto. It was a great experience and I enjoyed hearing some of the new material live. Now let’s see if the band can keep the magic going.
Battle Beast from Finland were back in 2017 with their 4th album Bringer Of Pain, complimenting their North American tour. This has been a great year for me as I’ve been able to see bands I have always wanted to see, as Battle Beast opened for Sabaton in Toronto back in April. In 2015 Battle Beast‘s album Unholy Savior finished second in my Top 10 albums of 2015. This year they brought the power back again with their new release. I may have to give the edge to Unholy Savior but, 2017 saw the band grow with new fans all over the world. If they keep this rocking train going, I can see them headlining around the world in the near future.
BUY: Bringer of Pain
As I said earlier, 2017 was a great year seeing new bands, and I had the joy of seeing Shakra twice in Switzerland. I first heard Shakra back in the late 90’s when they released their first album S/T in 1998, and Shakra has been a dominant force in the Switzerland hard rock scene. With touring around Europe, their shows are mostly in their home country and Germany. Going through a few singers, Mark Fox took a break only to come back for their 2016 High Noon which made my Top 10 in the fifth spot. Their new album Snakes & Ladders is a perfect follow-up after High Noon. Right now I am feeling High Noon may still be the best work they have done but, Snakes & Ladders does not hold back. Awesome CD. This would likely have slipped into my number one spot but soon you will find out why second place is as high as any other releases can go.
If someone asked me who would be my all time favourite band, Harem Scarem would be one of the top. Also on the top would be KISS, Black ‘N Blue and a newer band from Sweden, Sabaton.
Harem Scarem, mostly consisting of members from my home town Oshawa Ontario Canada, started out in 1987. Their first release S/T 1991 became an instant hit on Canadian radio and MuchMusic TV. For me it took the second album Mood Swings to say I was a fan. With fans all over the world and their biggest support coming from Japan, here is a band that if only they came out with this material in the mid-late 80’s would have likely had global phenomenal success. In 1997 with the release of Karma Cleansing was the first time I saw Harem Scarem live. From that day they were one of my all time favourite bands. Since then, I have followed them every step of the way. I have seen them many times along with having to get all their bonus material which means, buying the Japanese CD releases. No different is their new album which cost me over $50 CDN to get from Japan with the bonus track and bonus DVD.
In 2014 their album 13 was #2 in my Top 10, as Sabaton who became a top band for me in 2013 beat them for the top spot.
This year has been a great year for CD releases but nothing tops my love for this band in 2017. United showcases Harem Scarem‘s continuing talent for their amazing song writing and musical perfection. With a small handful of band members throughout the years, the three main guys, Harry Hess, Pete Lesperance and Darren Smith have kept the music alive for all these years. Fifteen studio albums later, solo albums, live albums and compilations, Harem Scarem has never disappointed my love for the band. The three long time members, with newest member Stan Miczek, released United to keep the fans connected to the band that has brought us so much over the 26 years of Harem Scarem.
To finish off I always like to mention some of the strong contenders for 2017 and future releases.
In alphabetical order.
Beast In Black – From Finland and their debut album Berserker. If you are a fan of Battle Beast then this is a must.
Edenbridge – My second best symphonic album of the year The Great Momentum. Album Review
Eden’s Curse – The new album Revisited. I couldn’t put this in my Top 10 as it is their first album done way better than the original. Get the DVD edition. Well worth it.
Epica – Love this band but their new album The Solace System is an EP that is a follow up to their 2016 release The Holographic Principle that made my Top 10 last year.
Iced Earth – Back after too long of a delay, with Incorruptible. A great album and possibly their best release for me. For the most part, it was not as heavy as their older material – which is good for me.
Kryptonite – Another Frontiers Records project that works great with their S/T album. Cannot go wrong with lead singer Jakob Samuel (The Poodles)
Lionheart – Second Nature is a long awaited release with only really having one studio album – Hot Tonight 1984.
Liv Sin – Follow Me is the debut solo album of Sister Sin‘s lead singer and what powerhouse vocals she has.
One Desire – Debut album from another Swedish band. Great melodic rock.
Ten – with the release of Gothica for 2017. Maybe not as strong as their past releases and this year I was more into the classic melodic rock albums, but overall a great release from a band I have been a fan of for 20 years.
Get ready for 2018 with all new releases by Saxon, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Metal Church, Lita Ford, Stryper, W.E.T, Leaves’ Eyes, The Poodles, Kamelot, Whitesnake, Within Temptation, Rob Zombie, Queensryche, Megadeth, Kobra And The Lotus, Ammunition, Primal Fear, Blood Red Saints and so many more bands. Who will make the Top 10 of 2018? You will find out December 2018.
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin