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Metal Insider contributor Zach Fehl’s top 10 of 2017

Posted by on December 15, 2017

Here we are, prematurely wrapping up the dumpster fire that was 2017 and looking optimistically towards the nuclear irradiated fires of 2018. While it’s certainly been interesting in terms of world events, at least there has been a lot of good music released along the way. Having taken up writing New & Noteworthy (shameless self plugs are starting early today) at the beginning of the year I got to check out a lot of releases, but dove deep into far less than I’d have liked. Be sure to check out some of our other Top 10s too. My music tastes are pretty good and all, but so are those of Bram, Nick, Zenae, Zach#2, Matt, and Chris. Have a festive winter holiday season, and try not to get too pissed at any holiday cups.

10) In Search of Sun, Virgin Funk Mother (Spinefarm)

This one I found doing the New & Noteworthy column for the week it was released. They hadn’t been on my radar before, but after hearing“Motherfunk” I was immediately interested with their blend of modern hard rock and progressive metal in the vein of Twelve Foot Ninja and Nothing More.

Recommended Tracks: “Motherfunk,” “Say it Like You See It”

 

 

9) Iced Earth, Incorruptible (Century Media) 

This one seemed to polarize the Iced Earth fan base pretty hard. I personally really enjoyed and have all of the Stu Block Iced Earth albums so far. The wheel is still doing well, so you don’t see the band taking many risks here and there are definitely some songs that feel like they were half-written before going to production, but overall I think the good ones carry the weight of a few sub par tracks.

Recommended Tracks: “Black Flag,” “Seven Headed Whore,” “Clear the Way”

 

8) Machinae Supremacy, Into the Night World (Hubnester Records)

While this technically came out in 2016, it came out after I had my end of year list published so I had just figured I would keep it as a contender for this year. They aren’t reinventing the SID Metal with Into the Night World, but they’ve added a handful of jams to their discography and its overall a solid release. Being able to see them on their first US tour back in January was also really cool.

Recommended Tracks: “Into The Night World,” “My Dragons Will Decimate,” “Twe27ySeven”

 

7) Fist Fight in the Parking Lot, 714 (Blackseed)

Pittsburgh’s own Fist Fight in the Parking Lot slowed down a little with this release, but it excels with groovy riffs, energetic fills, and a fantastic vocal performance by singer Abby Krizner. I caught them at their CD release show alongside other Pittsburgh sludgelords Molasses Barge for a dank night of stoner metal.

I also think this one has the best art of the list.

Recommended Tracks: “714,” “Open Slopes,” “Miss Emma”

 

6) Threshold, Legend of the Shires (Nuclear Blast)

This is the first of three double albums that are going to mentioned in this (expanded) list. Threshold has been a band that I have casually known of, but never really looked into. I was hooked when I saw the video for “Small Dark Lines” while doing New & Noteworthy and was happy to find a very dynamic album looking deeper into it.

 

Recommended Tracks: “Small Dark Lines,” “Stars and Satellites,” “The Shire suite”

 

5) Leprous, Malina (Inside Out)

Having discovered these guys following the release of their last album, I had been watching for this one and I was surprising how long it took for me to come around to it. I’m really glad that I went back to it because Malina is an album that rewards with multiple listens. The album is just as complex in its delivery as it is poppy and meaningful. The album blends complex songwriting with poppier hooks without sacrificing lyrical quality or meaningfulness.

Warning: Must be able to count above 4.

Suggested Tracks:”Illuminate,” “Leashes,” “From the Flame”

 

4) Night Flight Orchestra, Amber Galactic (Nuclear Blast)

Coming way out of left field, I had never heard of these guys before seeing the music video for “Gemini.” As it would turn out, this love letter to AOR is a supergroup caliber lineup of European death metal musicians make amazing rock n roll. You can feel the influences oozing out of the album. You won’t hear anything particularly new or groundbreaking with Amber Galactic, but it’s a fun listen all the way through. “Gemini” was probably my most played song this year.

Suggested Tracks: “Gemini,” “Star of Rio,” “Midnight Flyer”

 

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  • pheet007

    You know, this is the time of year not just for the greedy hypocritical shitfest called the Christmas season, but for year end lists as well. It’s worth noting Trivium was the only band I even recognized. I understand by not living in a metro area like Pittsburgh, a real working class city if there ever was one, my access to new music is severely limited. Add my age (56) and I’m by myself in metal world here in the sticks of NW Arkansas. So to compare to this author’s list my own picks is one of much more recognizable and successful outfits, simply because I don’t have the time to sit and listen to youtube all day listening to every Tom, Dick and Harry metal band. I would list Power Trip but I haven’t ordered it quite yet, preferring to wait until after Christmas to keep my bills down.
    I want to suggest a little something different. While I love metal, or I wouldn’t be visiting this site every day, I am eclectic in my musical tastes, the exceptions being most country except Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash or early Buck Owens, Top 40 crap, rap and hip hop. Oh, and opera. I’d rather listen to a cat with strep throat.
    But I love classic rock, blues, bebop and hard bop jazz, some swing (Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt), Benny Goodman with Charlie Christian, and blues. Even some classical that I grew up on still sounds good but I prefer Debussy or Strauss as opposed to the longwinded symphonies. And I buy my music with no regard to release dates. So other than metal, how about ten favorite albums I got this year regardless of when it came out? If you’re a guitar player, take note. Your instrument is unique because it can tear down walls but also be an instrument of great beauty and delicacy. You owe it to your craft to listen to a large variety of music because it will immensely increase your skills and add incredible amounts of influences to your sound. And you can apply it anywhere. So here’s some great albums I bought this year, again, with no regard for release dates.

    Merle Travis “Walkin’ The Strings” This is country pickin’ that actually has tons of class. Travis was a bit hokey on his vocals, not bad though, but his guitar playing was phenomenal. Chet Atkins could not have been possible without Travis, nor any other finger stylist that would follow.

    Pat Martino “Formidable” One of the great jazz guitarists ever, this new album shows the master in top form, and he does a beautiful job of paying homage to Wes Montgomery in addition to his own style. One thing about Martino that is so impressive is the fact he suffered a brain aneurysm several years ago, and had to totally reteach himself how to play guitar again.

    Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery “Dynamic Duo” The greatest jazz guitarist ever teams up with the best Hammond B-3 organist ever for a great great set of inspired jamming. The tune “James and Wes” is an eight minute jamming tour de force that rocks as much as it bops.

    The Very Best of Hall and Oates Don’t laugh. These guys are hugely underrated even though they are successful “pop” stars. They were huge fans of Philly soul music and their music is deceptively rich and full of first class hooks that only a very stubborn person can deny being good. I think they were great, and like ELO in the ’70’s, to hear Hall and Oates on FM breaking up horrible acts like Michael Bolton, tons of lamebrain R & B, (Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is a song I would rather kill myself before willingly listening to it ever again) and the usual Top 40 crap was always a breath of fresh air. Now with pop music getting infinitely worse, with people willing to pay to listen to vocoder vocals, horrible non-music like rap or hip hop, and the always puke worthy alternative rock, it’s a lot easier to dig Hall & Oates. The singing by Daryl Hall is always great, and you simply cannot beat the hooks. The jazzy funk of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) is my favorite, along with the rocking “Family Man”. This is how great pop music was supposed to be done.

    Jeff Beck “Loud Hailer” That’s what they call megaphones in Britain, and Beck turns out as heavy and rocking music as he’s ever done. Like always, he’s on top of today’s music and adapts to so many different styles it’s ridiculous.

    Russell Malone “Time For The Dancers” Malone is a jazz player extraordinaire, has played with a ton of top names in the business, and is a great leader on his own. His style goes from bebop to more modern jazz but is always characterized by his impeccable taste, beautiful tonalities and tons of class.

    Wire “Silver and Lead” One of the most revered punk bands that came out of the original punk era, Wire have, after a hiatus, come back with a great series of albums that have that punky spirit but also fantastic songs. “Silver and Lead” is just their latest album that in a perfect world would be huge.

    Public Image Ltd. “Second Edition” Johnny Lydon’s second post- Sex Pistols album is one that is very intriguing to me. Originally packaged as “Metal Box”, where the album was literally shipped in metal cans and now are collector’s items, “Second Edition” is a pure improvised album dominated by huge bass riffs courtesy of Jah Wobble, jazzy drums, and bizzaro guitar skronk from Keith Levene. Lydon improvises lyrics over these grooves and some of industrial’s earliest moments, and for some reason it’s growing on me even though the guitar is not anything to write home about. It’s just undefinable, which is probably why I dig it.