Metal Hammer's 50 best albums of 2017 so far
A lot of great music has been released so far this year, here are the albums worth your time
Here we are. Six months into the year and slap bang in the middle of 2017. A lot has happened in the world of music so far since January – Korn playing with a 12-year-old bassist and Gene Simmons trying to trademark the devil horns, to Chad Kroeger starting beef with Corey Taylor and King 810 releasing a music video on Pornhub. It's been a wild ride so far. But soundtracking it along the way have been some of the greatest rock and metal bands on the face of the planet. We've had the veterans of Kreator and Overkill stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Code Orange and While She Sleeps, all of them bringing music so devastating and (more importantly) interesting that our speakers haven't been silent since that unholy hangover on New Year's Day.
Here are the top 50 albums that have been dominating 2017 so far. There's a lot for you to get stuck into.
Don't forget to vote for your favourite album of the year so far.
AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)
"Bathed in the '80s shimmer that was brought to the fore in 2009’s Crash Love but packing a little more crunch and a lot more song power, tracks like Dark Snow, Aurelia, Above The Bridge and Get Hurt are sumptuous, atmospheric heart-tuggers: delightfully, deceptively catchy and littered with synthy atmospherics."
Anathema – The Optimist
"Using 2001’s A Fine Day To Exit as a point of inspiration, yet failing to resort to anything as mundane as a sequel, The Optimist sees them glance backwards to take another giant leap."
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
"The Riff occasionally holds centre stage, but for much of the time the doom aspect acts more as an undercurrent to a more melodic rock expression, the songs often comparable to a less sinister The Devil’s Blood, all late '60s/early '70s vibes, drawn-out drama and bewitching beauty."
Aversions Crown – Xenocide
"Deathcore might not get many plaudits within extreme metal, but Xenocide is an album that displays enough adventure, layers and blackened soul to warrant respect."
Barrabus – Barrabus
"A genre-bucking beast, the besuited band’s self-titled debut is a criminally good offering packed with speaker-shaking, giant-slaying riffs and unhinged howls."
Bathsheba – Servus
"Both Servus’s opener, Conjuration Of Fire, and penultimate track, The Sleepless Gods, might move along like sloths swimming in treacle, and yes, they make full use of Serpentcult/Death Penalty singer Michelle Nocon’s epic pipes, but the album also takes in a few less common steps for a doom record."
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
"This is a huge step forward from 2015’s Unholy Savior, packed with chrome-plated, overblown musicianship, extravagant vocals from warrior chanteuse Noora Louhimo and massive, catchy choruses."
Blood Command – Cult Drugs
"While the band clearly revel in genre-busting invention, a searing post-hardcore heart simmers at the core of Cult Drugs amidst scorching drums, tumultuous waves and neon melodies."
Body Count – Bloodlust
"Lyrically, Ice-T delivers his most scathing, profane and incisive condemnations since 1992’s Cop Killer, best heard on highlights Black Hoodie and No Lives Matter, which opens with a powerful spoken-word takedown of the All Lives Matter response to the Black Lives Matter movement."
Code Orange – Forever
"It’s no exaggeration to say that no hardcore band has ever conquered the mainstream before, and it’s no exaggeration to say that no hardcore band has ever made an album that has a better shot at doing so than Code Orange have delivered here."
Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms
"While it’s certainly no genrebusting reinvention, this record is still a stunning achievement, packed from start to finish with kaiju-sized choruses and without a single note out of place."
Danko Jones – Wild Cat
"Wild Cat, the band’s eighth, is probably their biggest sounding album, but paradoxically, the radio-ready sheen of the Never Too Loud and Below The Belt records has been scuffed up and scuffled for a greater sonic advantage."
Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora
"With some of the band’s early spirit restored, some newly memorable songwriting skills, and superbly euphoric guitarwork, it would seem that Darkest Hour plus Kurt Ballou plus Kris Norris is as killer a formula as expected."
Devilskin – Be Like The River
"Lead singer Jennie Skulander is Devilskin’s star in the making, displaying a full range of tricks on single Pray, whose keyboard-decorated mix of clean and growled delivery registers among the album’s most impressive selections."
Disperse – Foreword
"Shrewdly excising most of the standard djent tropes from their sound, the Poles have reinvented themselves as a fervently urbane prog rock band, with a bewildering array of melodic tricks and acts of structural sleight of hand at their disposal."
Dool – Here Now, There Then
"Catching the spirit of late 80s post-punk, tracks like She-Goat and Golden Serpents spin and revel with the ghosts of The Mission and particularly The Church, while Oweynagat evokes a raw, heart-pounding urgency."
Dragonforce – Reaching To Infinity
"The melodies are more assertive, the arrangements breathlessly wired and shot through with multiple distractions, but they have a stronger, more organic flow as unlikely disparate elements bang together to produce sparks."
Employed To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun
"Sharing the crushingly heavy and chaotic spirit of its predecessor, songs are caustic, craftily paced, and a smart mix of oppressive and defiantly positive."
Fen – Winter
"Winter is a record that vibrates with bleakness yet the story is not one of complete misery and in VI (Sight) beauty and hope are created by closing the journey on melancholic resonance that takes flight on passionate words and shimmering soul."
Full Of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
"They’ll never win awards for flawless execution, prodigious technical skill or spellbinding innovation, but when it comes to creating extreme music that delivers a soulful haymaker to the gut and extracts a few teeth in the seconds before head hits concrete, this lot have proven themselves wise and weathered beyond their years."
Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension
"Its combination of disparate subgenres from opposite ends of the structural and melodic continuum is masterful, resulting in a remarkably non-contrasting display of good and evil; that being good songs that sound as evil as all hell."
Horisont – About Time
"With the release of About Time, a new label and some upcoming international tours, Horisont should be gaining the wider recognition and acclaim of fellow Swedes Graveyard, along with Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats."
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
"Iced Earth’s aptly titled 12th studio album adheres to their many trademarks, fusing fascinating lyrics with riffs as big as oak trees."
In Reverence – The Selected Breed
"Essentially a death metal album with epic and atmospheric trimmings, it taps into the sense of ruthless grandeur that fans of Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir will embrace."
Junius – Eternal Rituals For The Accretion Of Light
"Channelling post-punk to symphonic to electronica to industrial, the third full-length from the Boston movement is a wondrous journey down rabbit holes and inside the minds of four art-rock enthusiasts."
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
"Five years on from the increased melodeath and classic metal infiltration on Phantom Antichrist, Gods Of Violence delivers a faultless collection of songs played with wanton glee and irresistible punch by a band at the top of their game 35 years in. "
Lock Up – Demonization
"From the title track’s unearthly doom to the flashes of blackened dissonance that pepper Locust and more, Demonization is a bravura display of merciless extremity with balls and brains."
Malevolence – Self Supremacy
"If you like the idea of a hardcore band trading on more technical, groove metal riffs, then this band is manna from heaven."
Mastodon – Emperor Of Sand
"With more in common musically with Blood Mountain and The Hunter than 2014’s hit’n’miss Once More ’Round The Sun, there are riffs here the size of planets pushing the metal ever onward with a spiritual spine to juxtapose the heaviness."
Memoriam – For The Fallen
"The rapid, syncopated bombardments fired off by Flatline and Reduced To Zero result in powerful, hookladen death metal songs: modern-sounding but born from old-school craftsmanship."
Mutoid Man – War Moans
"Taking pinches of power metal, thrash, jazz and NWOBHM to create a bewitching brew, the bombastic Date With The Devil and the manic Micro Aggression impress, as does the title track, which features fellow shredhead Marty Friedman doing what he does best."
Obelyskkh – The Providence
"There’s a pleasing sense of pace and a few auditory surprises; you might jump during Aeons Of Iconoclasm when the electric guitars crack into the deranged acoustic campfire strum, and there’s a laugh at the end of Marzanna that’ll shit you up if you’re tripping."
Ohhms – The Fool
"Ohhms feast from a range of influences; The Hanged Man briefly spurts tech-metal alongside that crushing fun you get with Orange Goblin as Paul Waller’s bellows seal the sludgy deal."
Overkill – The Grinding Wheel
"In terms of musical evolution, songs like opening rager Mean Green Killing Machine and the snarling, rumbling Goddamn Trouble stick proudly to a formula of balls-out, ruthlessly precise thrash metal with a few deft bursts of punk rock snot and some pristine hard rock hooks thrown in for malicious measure."
Oxbow – Thin Black Duke
"Even by their own eccentric standards, Thin Black Duke is extraordinary; by far the most accessible album of the band’s career, it’s also their most tricky to pin down and one of the most wilfully unsettling records in recent memory."
Pallbearer – Heartless
"Their funereal doom with stadium-sized ambition on this monumental new effigy isn’t likely to revolutionise metal in as fundamental a manner, but it is full of the potential to reinvigorate rock’s mainstream."
Royal Thunder – Wick
"The serene simplicity of We Slipped and defenceless beauty of Plans and The Well are superbly juxtaposed by the rolling twang of The Sinking Chair and the title track’s enormous chorus that triumphantly emerges from a swamp of bleak tones and open wounds."
Sikth – The Future In Whose Eyes?
"Whether it’s the seismic bounce of The Aura, the bonkers spats of Ride The Illusion that threaten to veer off the tracks or the brooding slow-burn of Golden Cufflinks, Sikth deploy irresistible hooks more capably than ever before, keeping you anchored and able to experience the cerebral brushstrokes in all their glory."
Sólstafir – Berdreyminn
"Unsurprisingly, Berdreyminn is a work of staggering depth, tapping into an ethereal netherworld of droney guitars, mournful piano-driven dirges and prismatic crescendos that converge beyond the five bodily senses."
Sunlight’s Bane – The Blackest Volume: Like All The Earth Was Buried
"The stomping, groove-laden riffs, the inherent sludge and gloom, the unstoppable drums and the gnarled barks are hellacious in their delivery and intent, with the slower moments creating uncomfortable feelings of dread."
The Great Old Ones – EOD: A Tale Of Dark Legacy
"Lovecraftian worship aside, EOD is anything but gimmicky; its authentic melding of Norwegian black metal, layered with early European death and lustrous atmospherics, is both potent and vital."
The Ruins Of Beverast – Exuvia
"Some musical references points might be Wildhoney-era Tiamat, Type O Negative’ sbleakest thoughts or Esoteric’s wall of sound technique, but when you look at the whole ensemble, those parallels feel quite useless because no one sounds like The Ruins Of Beverast."
Trollfest – Helluva
"Even if you find the majority of folk metal to be self-satisfied frippery, these renegades from Norway’s black metal scene overshoot absurdity to end up at a place where normal rules don’t apply and resistance is an alien, non-applicable concept."
Ulsect – Ulsect
"Ulsect beat with a discordant heart and chaos signifies the beginning of their debut with Fall To Depravity striding on off-kilter rhythms and guttural cries before Our Trivial Toil fans the flames of darkness with fractious guitars playing off Dennis Maas’s spiteful vocals."
Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him
"The skull-splitting intensity of Waltteri Väyrynen’s blastbeats hit home like Nasum in full flight, but with the grubby menace of Grave’s early demos and a guitar tone so thick and twisted that Trey Azagthoth might think twice about inflicting it on innocent ears."
Völur – Ancestors
"The Canadians are treading in the footsteps of SubRosa by using ethereal strings to evoke fantastic lands and heroes with Laura C Bates’ violin expressing more sorrowful tones while the bass explores melody to build layers of tension."
Voyager – Ghost Mile
"Ghost Mile walks the line between richly textured polyrhythms, dextrous riffs and synth-led choruses like a funambulist on a high wire."
Wear Your Wounds – WYW
"While everything Converge have ever created is steeped in emotion, this album is Jacob at his most exposed, dismantling Converge’s wall of noise and devoid of his usual possessed barking, this is honest and raw, a powerful combination with the psychedelic soundscapes that ebb and flow throughout."
Wednesday 13 – Condolences
"What The Night Brings and Cadaverous are both anthemic, squealing Manson-esque club stompers and Wednesday’s nails-down-a-blackboard rasp is suited perfectly to the harsher, b-movie aggression of You Breathe, I Kill and Omen Amen, both his heaviest offerings to date."
While She Sleeps – You Are We
"It’s all great, and, while it may lack the continually pure, white hot intensity that made Brainwashed such a savage beast, it perfectly manages that balancing act of experimentation and growth without sacrificing the band’s credibility or legacy."