KAI'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2017
2017 was a year of many disappointments; a mango with a god complex is the leader of the free world, global warming is still a thing, Colin Kaepernick is still jobless, and pangolins are still endangered. For many, 2017 was a trying and frustrating year that was over not a minute too soon. In the interest of starting the year on the right foot, I will dedicate my first article of 2018 to the top 10 albums that got me through this frankly weird year!
10. All But One – Square One
The outlier of my top 10, All But One surprised the heck out of me this year with their debut album Square One. Mixing pop punk elements and an unconventionally mellifluous voice with very precise and skilled drumming and very metal riffs, All But One rewrote the game. Breakdowns, jerky harsh singalongs, and sunny lyrics is the exact opposite of what one would expect from a metal album in 2017, but the cohesiveness of each song and the way they seamlessly fit together made Square One a very pleasant album to listen to.
Listen to: Little White Lies, Square One, Fire Sale.
9. Santa Cruz – Bad Blood Rising
Featuring one of my favourite songs of 2017, Bad Blood Rising took some time for me to get used to. Somehow, it seems like between their 2015 release and last year’s offering, Santa Cruz grew up? Bad Blood Rising is far more mature than what I had come to expect, even featuring a tear-jerking ballad with the song “Breathe.” As Santa Cruz is not my go-to band when I want to feel, I resisted the album for a while. However, with the killer tune that is “River Phoenix” more than making up for the wave of sadness washing over me when the sad whistling of “Breathe” echoes in my head, Bad Blood Rising turned into the soundtrack of my autumn and totally proved themselves worthy of opening for Fozzy in the spring. Listen to: River Phoenix, Bad Habits Die Hard, Fire Running Through Our Veins.
8. Ensiferum –Two Paths
Ensiferum can do no wrong, in my very biased opinion. While many people didn’t warm up to Two Paths immediately – or at all – I found it to be a perfect Ensiferum album. Sure, some songs lacked the harsh vocals that folk metal aficionados have come to expect from the Finnish band, but didn’t Markus Toivonen’s unusual voice bring something unexpected to a band that has had its sound down to a science? It was the little risks – such as having two full songs of clean vocals – the moments where they steered from their beaten and often-predictable path to try something new that made Ensiferum’s latest completely worth the 100 listens for me. It’s the same Ensiferum with a twist, what’s not to love?
Listen to: Don’t You Say, For Those About to Fight For Metal, King of Storms.
7. Steel Panther – Lower The Bar
Shocker rockers rejoiced! The STD-riddled pile of Sunset Strip garbage that is Steel Panther released an album and it was not surprisingly disgustingly good. Always one to listen to albums that make me feel like I need a shower afterwards, I have to say that Lower the Bar didn’t disappoint. Hilarious songs about Tinder and sexual proclivities mingling with insipid advice that no person in their right mind should ever follow scored a home run with me, turning into one of my favourite albums of the year. Once again, Steel Panther hits the spot.
Listen to: Anything Goes, Walk of Shame, Poontang Boomerang.
6. Hell In The Club – See You On The Dark Side
Sometimes nerdy, sometimes clever, but always a little sexy, See You On The Dark Side boasts a healthy mix of slower tunes and rock anthems that are sure to get asses on the dancefloor, or on stage. Whether you’re looking to get dressed for a night out or shed your clothes to the perfect stripping song, Hell in the Club’s latest offering has the necessary tracks to inspire regardless of your mood. Danceable and fun as hell, See You On The Dark Side is a perfectly theatrical album with riffs to melt ice caps.
Listen to: Houston We’ve Got No Money, The Phantom Punch, A Crowded Room.
5. Elvenking – Secrets From The Magick Grimoire
In 2017, Elvenking celebrated twenty years of incredible folk metal by releasing yet another studio album, Secrets from the Magick Grimoire. With a fairly impressive lineup of guests – Alessandro Conti, Snowy Shaw, Angus Norder, to name a few – to bring depth to the already intricate sound of Elvenking, the Italian band reminded the world what their previous album had established ; Violins, scratchy vocals, and renaissance fair ditties make for one hell of a folk metal album. Always dabbling in the fantastic, the lyrics on this latest release are dark, ominous, and contain just enough magick to hold the listeners spellbound from beginning to end. Listen to : Invoking the Woodland Spirit, Draugen’s Maelstrom, The Wolves Will Be Howling Your Name.
4. Leander Kills – Élet A Halál Előtt
Full of punchy basslines, piano bits, and lyrics in a language that I cannot understand, Leander Kills’ second full-length album hit the Kaifecta. After a killer run on A Dal – Hungary’s Eurovision qualifier – that saw the band hit the finals, the Hungarian quartet doubled down and delivered an album that is as heavy and raw as it is poignant. Frontman Leander Köteles’ vocal range has never been more impressive than on Élet A Halál Előtt, and the passion, maturity, and sometimes sorrow conveyed in each song on the release once again promises great things for the criminally-underrated band. Listen to : Élet, Álarc, Vigyetek Kórházba
3. Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Not quite a concept album but not quite not a concept album, Gunmen’s Far West narratives are not exactly what one would expect from a German band, but it works only too well. Lyrics that speak of revenge, vigilantism, and justice meet the cohesive and heavy pieces that have become synonymous with Orden Ogan. With the full weight of Liv Kristine’s voice behind the album’s saddest song, tracks that are layered and rich without being pretentious, and a collection of unusual stories, Gunmen set itself apart from the other great power metal releases brilliantly. Listen to: Gunman, Vampire in Ghost Town, One Last Chance.
2. Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Though I was familiar with Battle Beast’s work before this year, but it was their February release that really sold me on them. A testament to what a good metal album should be, Bringer Of Pain has it all: kick ass vocals, solid riffs, a great guest vocalist (Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis), and an energy that is unbeatable. By also taking some risks and introducing some less conventional songs like the incredibly fun and not very metal at all “Dancing with the Beast” and the very silly “Rock Trash,” Battle Beast proved that the best metal is not always serious.
Listen to: Straight to the Heart, Familiar Hell, Dancing with the Beast.
1. Unleash The Archers –Apex
As a lover of powerful vocals of the female variety and concept albums, I was waiting with anticipation for Unleash the Archers’ new album, and it did not disappoint. Without a doubt the album that I have listened to the most this year, Apex is a fantastic release from start to finish. From the incredible prose and storytelling to the melodies through which you can deeply feel the protagonist’s journey, the album is a perfect example of what happens when talented musicians find their perfect behind-the-scene match, which Unleash the Archers definitely did with Jacob Hansen. Apex is Unleash the Archers – and power metal – at its best, hands down. Listen to: The entire album in order.