Threshold – Legends of the Shires
by Alex Melzer
29 years, and now 11 albums—with Legends of the Shires even being a double album!—into their career and British prog masters Threshold show no signs of slowing down. Having called Glynn Morgan back into the fold on the mic (after having been featured on their second album Psychedelicatessen (1994)), they continue to walk the tightrope between demand and accessibility and still do so with uncanny ease. Few bands can put the incredible catchiness of a “Stars and Satellites” next to the complex interplay of Karl Groom and Richard West and the heaviness of a “Snowblind” and get an ultra cohesive and flowing album, which unites power, intricacies, grand choruses, dynamics and more. Threshold still go from strength to strength and have yet to release even just a “good” album. Any fan of good music—no matter which genre one would slap on it—should find something on appeal on Legends of the Shires.
SepticFlesh – Codex Omega
by Joshua Bulleid
While they’re no small quantity in the world of heavy metal, SepticFlesh remain a tremendously underrated act given just how consistent they are. Their previous release, 2014’s Titan, proved a weaker offering, but even then it was only unremarkable in its lack of any real identity among their extensive catalogue rather than being due to any true deficiency. Codex Omega, however, corrects that trajectory and then some. The band’s tenth record takes the sublime symphonic death metal template of The Great Mass (2011) and ramps it into overdrive. SepticFlesh may have never really released a bad album, but Codex Omega might just be their best yet.
Magenta Harvest – …And Then Came the Dust
by Nathan Hare
For many, melodic death metal conjures up an image of an endless sea of bands ripping off the Gothenburg sound. Magenta Harvest (made up of former members of …And Oceans and Finntroll, without really sounding all that much like either) missed that memo. Their new album, …And Then Came the Dust, is cold, austere, and with just enough melody to be labelled melodic death metal. It’s massive and infectious and puts some teeth back in melodic death metal.
National Suicide – Massacre Elite
by Larry Best
Thrash is not only alive and well, but the retro-nu-beer-skater-thrash of the mid ’00s is similarly thriving. Fortunately for us, it’s only the genuinely good bands who survived the tribulations of revival. National Suicide are a bunch of moshing Italians who absolutely own the sound of retro thrash metal. The riff work on Massacre Elite is straight out of the Exodus songbook, but without ever sounding like a cheap rip-off. Yeah, the lyrics aren’t much more than slightly humorous anecdotes about zombies and beer, but they’re powered out with such conviction that it’s irresistible to shout along. With a crisp production, well-constructed solos, and a vocalist who sounds like the demented bastard child of Zetro and Blitz: National Suicide very nearly claim ‘thrash album of the year’ so far.
Force Majeure – The Rise of Starlit Fires
by Eric Ward
Finnish power metal has a long history of being both endlessly cheesy and totally glorious. It may not always be the most creative thing but we love it anyway. All that changes with Force Majeure though, as they have crafted one of the most creative and diverse power metal albums in recent history with The Rise of Starlit Fires. This album has speed, riffs, sweeping keyboards, audible bass lines, exceptional drumming and sensational vocals. It is high-octane power metal at its finest but the most impressive part is the songwriting. Whether it is the 80s rock influence in the some of the riffs, the mid-paced thrash section in “The Great Starfall,” or the final section of “The Darkening”—which is clearly influenced by In the Nightside Eclipse—this album has so many tricks up its sleeve, it will make your head spin. This album is the masterpiece nobody saw coming and the one nobody is talking about. It came from nowhere but Marcus Lang and company deserve high praise for creating what is perhaps the power metal album of the year.
Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
by Neil Bird
Chelsea Wolfe made a name for herself in the metal world after her last couple of albums, but she has been consistent in her output since her debut. Hiss Spun is her newest offering, and one that stands up alongside the rest of hers and many others’ discographies in the genre. Her stark vocals are haunting and the droning electronics and guitar are hypnotic and encapsulating. Chelsea Wolfe has added a bit more metal on her last few albums, and fans of metal and non metal genres alike can find so much to enjoy in her approach, as she mixes together so many genres with utter ease. You can always look forward to a new release from Chelsea Wolfe and Hiss Spun stands out not only in September but in the whole of 2017.
Kalmankantaja – Routamaa
by Shawn Miller
Finnish depressive black metal turned atmospheric black metal project Kalmankantaja continue an impressive string of full length albums with their latest offering, Routamaa. Actually, it’s the project’s eleventh full length album (and second of 2017)—an impressive feat that such a prolific musician (yes, it’s a solo project) continues to release such high caliber material. Highly evocative movements, melodic passages, serene atmospherics, and trance-inducing term riffing are the order of the day, and Kalmankantaja paints a bleak yet mesmerizing portrait of nature over it’s forty minute runtime. The album was released on the Autumn Equinox by Wolfspell Records—a fitting release date and an extremely fitting label for the band’s work.
Runespell – Unhallowed Blood Oath
by Hans Rot
With plenty of strong showings in atmospheric black metal in 2017, it’s not a surprise that Iron Bonehead would sneak in another one this close towards the end of the year. Runespell’s debut, Unhallowed Blood Oath, showcases almost everything one might look for in a Wędrujący Wiatr release: epic, evocative, and medieval-esque black metal that pulsates with a primordial soul, urging one to shake off the luxuries of modern life and bask in something a bit more mystical and primitive. Lightening the load, so to speak, would be the folky, romping melodies, a much-needed stylistic shift that adds more affecting variation in one track than on an entire Walknut album. It is truly the perfect album to mark the changing of seasons, a warm welcome rather than something more frostbitten and cold than what the genre has typically striven for.