Metal Nation’s Top 50 Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2017

With each passing year, as the realms of heavy music became vastly wider in scope, culling together the Top 50 list becomes more difficult. Just take a spin through the various Top 10 lists from our own writers and you’ll see not a single album landed on every list. This is both exciting and frustrating, because there is no singularly correct opinion, and in the end, this is all opinion; though hopefully somewhat musically educated opinions. It almost becomes like splitting hairs when you consider the various shades of heavy music and multitudes of sub-genres. Add to that the thousands of hard rock and metal albums released each year which is upwards of 10,000 we’ve been told, and you damn well know we are not hearing all of them. If we only receive 1500 albums a year for review (and it’s certainly more than that) we’re probably still only getting to half of them. So when these lists are released each year, they are based on what we have heard, what made a lasting impression, and a conglomeration of multiple opinions. This is all to say that any such list is purely subjective and just for fun, so if your own favorite or “Top” album of the year is not on the list, add it below in the comments and tell us why it resonated so strongly with you. Maybe it is one we missed or we need to give a second listen to. As always this list does not include live or covers albums, nor does it include EPs. So enough of our qualifying and quantifying, off to the list with Special Thanks to the 13 staff writers who added their input this year…

50. Exhumed – Death Revenge (Relapse)

The mighty Exhumed returned with a macabre album of songs conceptually set around a series of brutal murders and grave robberies in 1820’s Scotland. The band seems to get thrashier with each release. The overall flow of this album is awesome. It went by so fast, and I was ready to start it all over again (which I did–several times.) Matt Harvey’s relentless fretwork is mind-boggling. The intent behind every note in his soloing, riffs, etc. is very admirable. I can’t go without mentioning the brutality that is Ross Sewage’s voice paired with Michael Hamilton’s drumming. The way they align with one another’s rhythmic patterns is downright petrifying. — Austin Splatter (AS) Full Review

49. Sólstafir – Berdreyminn (Season of Mist)

The music of Sólstafir is crafted by members, Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason as the vocalist and guitarist, Sæþór Maríus “Pjúddi” Sæþórsson the other guitarist, Svavar “Svabbi” Austmann on bass, and newest member Hallgrímur Jón “Grimsi” Hallgrímssonon the drums. Their newest album, Berdreyminn, is a journey of emotions. The track “Naros” really struck me hard. The melodies of the guitar in the beginning hit my soul. When they all came together in a heavier gut-wrenching riff, it was an enlightenment of pure sorrow and joy. “Hula”, is hypnotizing at first. There is an almost angelic singing at the beginning, then a piano emerges which compliments the song wonderfully. Tryggvason’s vocals are antagonizing in this song. It almost sounds as if he is crying out, and I want to know for what. The album ends with “Bláfjall” which completes what has now felt like a journey through beauty and pain. The Icelandic boys have once again created an album that will touch you right in the feels. — Neeka Rogers Rodriguez Full Review

48. Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos (Nuclear Blast)

While many music critics have been heaping praise on the numerous outpourings of doom albums this year (See Electric Wizard, Spirit Adrift, et al), for my money, Stockholm’s Avatarium beat the others into submission with its third release  Hurricanes and Halos. The record marks the band’s first with co-founder and Candlemass doomfather Leif Edling stepping away from his role in the band. As a result, the band’s doomy elements are intertwined with a progressive groovy 70’s flavor; think Sabbath meets Uriah Heep. As usual, vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith delivers a captivating performance with her smoky soulfulness. Her husband, guitarist Marcus Jidell serves up some splendidly slithery fret work, while organist Rickard Nilsson‘s interplay sways masterfully between eerie and hypnotic.The album is an absolutely addictive treat. — Rustyn Rose (RR)

47. Motionless in White – Graveyard Shift (Roadrunner)

One of 2017’s best metal offerings was Motionless In White’s Graveyard Shift.  It is the band’s first release on their new label Roadrunner and it showcases their musical drive.  Peaking at #1 on Billboard’s Top Hard Rock Albums Graveyard Shift straddles the delicate balance between mainstream rock and metal.  This album is a mixture of genres and styles with plenty of tracks to satisfy longtime fans with “570”, “The Ladder,” and “Eternally Yours” that showcases frontman Chris Motionless’ signature screams and growls and “Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2” that encompasses that classic MIW Halloween vibe.  But along with their signature metalcore/gothic sounding tracks you will find the hard rock anthem “Loud (Fuck It),” the Industrial ambiance of “RATS” and the alternative/nu-metal groove of “Necessary Evil” (featuring guest vocalist Jonathan Davis).  MIW’s talent is evident with an ability to combine melodic music with lyrics that are relevant and often reminiscent of classic poetry. Motionless In White has been digging their way through critics and judgment for over a decade and with Graveyard Shift they are tearing through the dirt towards the surface.  “Born of the ground I dug myself out from the dirt, with every scar I will avow to shake the earth.” – Motionless In White “Untouchable”  — Maven Rena

46. Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day (InsideOut)

Survive a nasty near death experience and see what it does for your creativity. Pain of Salvation mainman, Daniel Gildenlöw turned his depression over the dark twist in his life into one of Pain of Salvation‘s most engaging albums to date. A moody journey of winding emotive passages, syncopated polyrhythms, and poignant beauty, played against angry passages, bleakness, and an undercurrent of hope. There is an unbridled intensity at play here, and a return to Pain of Salvation’s earlier heaviness.  — RR

45. Beast in Black – Berserker (Nuclear Blast)

When Helsinki’s Battle Beast founder Anton Kabanen was unceremoniously booted from his own band in 2015, it left fans wondering about the fate of both. Battle Beast returned this year with a pretty solid effort, but Kabanen’s new band, Beast in Black is a firm reminder of his exceptional songwriting chops. The group’s debut album, Berserker, is packed with anthemic and memorable songs that get stuck in your head for days. Vocalist Yannis Pappadopoulos was an inspired choice, and a line-up that also features former U.D.O. guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and Wisdom bassist Máté Molnár is about as solid a foundation as a metal fan could ask for. Everything that we loved about Battle Beast is in play here, and Berserker continues Kabanen’s streak from powerful album. A different name, a different day, still the same impressive beast. — RR

44. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore)

Seattle’s idiosyncratic funeral-sludge duo, Bell Witch, returned with their third studio effort, Mirror Reaper. This gloomy doom record will leave you on the verge of tears. The desolate ambiance created by Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and James Schreibman (drums, vocals) is overwhelming. At times crunchy to the bone, and whimsical alike. This is one for the books, and I recommend it to anyone interested in good music. Forget labels. This album is art. — AS

43. Belphegor – Totenritual (Nuclear Blast)

I was not sure I would ever be able to say this, but Austria’s Belphegor has returned to its glorious past on Totenritual. They haven’t sounded this potent and cohesive in a decade, arguably since 2006’s Pestapokalypse VI. The production is spot on, and Helmuth sounds more like the Helmuth of old, vocally speaking. The album represents a lyrical if not philosophical change of direction for the band as well, including some occult elements. The sound tends to veer more towards their black metal roots with less of the death metal style they employed in more recent years. A fantastic reemergence. — RR

42. Replacire – Do Not Deviate (Season of Mist)

Boston’s tech-death deviants, Replacire, have been one of the year’s surprise breakouts. The band self-released an album in 2012, but Do Not Deviate marks their major label debut. Their sophomore effort is inventive, cohesive, and cleverly catchy. The album is chock full of chugging riffage and technical dexterity with a guitteral vocal delivery occasionally offset by some clean interactions. In contrast to their debut album, The Human Burden, the qunitet has managed to achieve a stronger balance between its pummeling death metal brutality and its loftier prog-centric proclivities. The album is indecently intelligent enough for the elitists, yet hooky and accessible enough for the rest of us. — RR

41. Voyager – Ghost Mile (Self-Release)

Few bands are as uniquely identifiable as Australia’s Voyager, Their intelligent progressive style, combined with Daniel Estrin‘s voice, is a delightful and complex combination of talent. Guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay further their already impressive chemistry, serving up a melange of tasteful solos, crisp riffs, and refined nuanced embellishments. The rhythmic foundation of bassist Alex Carrion and drummer Ashley Doodkorte remain masters of understated exceptionalism. Ghost Mile is simply the next chapter for a band that is easily one of the best in the prog metal genre. The music is diverse and unpredictable, and they absolutely shine throughout without resorting to overindulgence. — RR

AcceptArch EnemyAvatariumBaskBeast in BlackBell WitchBelphegorbest 2017 metal albumsBody CountByzantineCannibal CorpseCavalera ConspiracyCode OrangeConvergeCradle of FilthDead CrossDedDying FetusElderEnslavedEx DeoExhumedHavoIced EarthImmolationKobra and the LotusKreatorLorMastodonMindMazeMorbid AngelMotionless in WhiteMutiny WithinNe ObliviscarisNight DemonObituaryOverkillPain of SalvationPallbearerParadise LostPower TripReplacireSeptic FleshSepulturaSoenSolstifirSouldrinkerTriviumUnleash the ArchersVoyagerWarbringer
Comments (4)
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  • Adam McAuley

    The Ex Deo album deserves it’s place on the list. I also like that you put Ne Obliviscaris so high.

    • Rustyn Rose

      Glad you enjoyed the list! Who was your top pick in 2017?

      • Adam McAuley

        Ne Obliviscaris

  • Maven Rena

    Hello Metal Nation and here is my (Maven Renā) added 411 …

    I believe Motionless In White should have been higher up on this list, well in my opinion anyway.
    Other additions (as I had previously relayed to RR) are:

    While She Sleeps ~ You Are We – The band left their record label and decided to self-release You Are We themselves. They did eventually sign to a couple of independent labels, I’d imagine if for no other reason than to help with distribution and marketing. Under these circumstances you really have to believe in your band and your music and this album is pure melodic metalcore awesomeness. With the strength of songs like the title track, “Hurricane” and “Silence Speaks” (which features Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon) this album is solid start to finish.

    Counterparts ~ You’re Not You Anymore – I had never even heard of Counterparts before seeing them live on the 2017 Warped Tour and I was seriously impressed by their live show. The band has gone through a ton of lineup changes but it is still obviously going strong. You’re Not You Anymore is not a long album, but it is focused, emotionally concentrated and dare I say it even has melodies and a catchy chorus or two (while never losing their hardcore edge of course) with songs like “Haunt Me,” “A Memory Misread” and “Fragile Limbs.”

    A couple of more that land more on the Hard Rock side are:

    Falling In Reverse ~ Coming Home – I firmly believe that FIR can no longer be called solely a metalcore band by any means and undoubtedly this is Ronnie Radke’s band since he is the only remaining original member. Coming Home is musically brilliant and beautiful lyrically. Radke has always been honest in his songs but this album seems even more raw; he puts his fears, his flaws and his talent out there with songs like “Loser,” “Broken,” and the emotional “I Don’t Mind.” I know Radke had a reason for the order in which the tracks are listed but I would have liked a couple of shall we say song line-up changes for listening pleasure but overall Falling In Reverse has grown exponentially musically since its inception.

    Asking Alexandria ~ Asking Alexandria (self-titled) – This is another band that can no longer be put in the metalcore genre anymore; however, a few tracks like “Into The Fire,” “Rise Up” and “Room 138” are very “Asking Alexandria” sounding and still hold metalcore elements. I’ll just say there are some seriously epic songs on the album. I’ll admit that the flow could use some tweaks and it could use some, shall we say, objective edits but overall this is a pretty great album. It is melodic, the hooks are on point and it is an easy listen. I mean the first time I heard “Under Denver” it gave me chills and “Alone in a Room” can I just say I love it. In my opinion this album is a thousand times better than The Black, their last offering without Danny Worsnop. I am glad that the band and Worsnop buried the hatchet and now that The Snop is back that something special has returned.

    And there you have it…