Ah, that most glorious time of the year for music writers – year-end season is upon us once again! 2017 was a tumultuous year, but even so, it was a damned good one for heavy metal, and Team Hellbound had a cornucopia of great albums to choose from.
Here, we turn the page over to our individual staffers to discuss their favorite records of the year, give their hottest takes on the state-of-the-heavy-metal-union in 2017, and tell the world what they’re looking forward to for 2018.
As always, every member of Team Hellbound would like to extend our warmest thanks to each and every one of you who continue to read our site, and we wish you all a very metal Christmas and a headbanging new year.
Hails, horns, happy holidays, and ho-ho-ho from Hellbound!
Gene’s Best Metal Albums of 2017
Six Feet Under
Released February 24
Torment has remained at #1 all year long for me. It is the perfect storm of all things I love about Death Metal: brutal, guttural vocals, gory lyrics, unbelievable drumming, and super-heavy grooves throughout. I have caught a ton of grief for liking this album so much, and a few close friends don’t get it, and that’s okay. But trust me when I say – I’m a 6FU fan, I *can* be critical, but I think this is one of their best releases to date – and they have some really killer albums! So, in early 2018, when they come around to your town, get out and support Chris, Jack, Jeff, Lord Marco, and Ray (yes – they’re a five-piece now) and if you don’t have this album, you are missing out!
Released October 13
Death Revenge has been on my playlist since its mid-October release. It cannot be said enough how great of an album it is, as a whole. With horror-movie-like keyboard/synthesizer intros, nasty-sounding double vocals from Matt and Ross, intense guitar riffs that span traditional Death Metal, and some world-class thrashy crunches, this album literally has everything. Death Revenge is a grab-you-by-the-throat kind of album, and it doesn’t let go until it’s done kicking your ass.
Red Before Black
Released November 3
Cannibal Corpse’s 14th studio album left an immediate impression upon this listener. Even with such a late release date in the year it hurdled over a lot of other solid records I was digging in 2017. It is brutal, it is fast, and it is Cannibal Corpse. Blistering paces to really sweet little grooves and guitar solos right back to kicking your face in with powerful death metal – the way it should be. No wasted time on this album, get in; kick ass and move forward, which is why it quickly became of my favorites of 2017.
Released March 17
Obituary’s 10th studio album is a thing of familiar beauty. Simply entitled Obituary, this record took me back to 1990, and it just felt right. I can’t say it enough how the traditional, low-end sound of Obituary sucks me in every time. What I have always loved and appreciated about this band is they prove you don’t have to play 300BPM to get your point across. Grooves, grooves, and more grooves, that’s what this album has. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some faster songs on this album, but if you listen, what you will in fact hear is a rock’n’roll band that plays death metal. Brothers Donald and John Tardy along with long time guitarist Trevor Peres have been doing this long enough where the winning formula is there, and they show ZERO signs of slowing down.
Released July 14
Here is all you need to know: 7 songs, 13 minutes, and not one ounce of fake bullshit – you can hear it for how it was intended to sound. Nightmare Future is raw, powerful, in-your-face, and so damn brutal. The only complaint I had on this unique-sounding, incredibly fast album is that I wanted more when it was done. Trust me when I say it’s 7 songs, 13 minutes long, and pure Metal goodness.
Woe To The Vanquished
Released March 31
Southern California thrashers Warbringer released their 5th studio record early in 2017, and have been out touring it nonstop ever since. Woe To The Vanquished is a fine example that quality thrash still exists. Great thrash riffs, tight solos, deep and heavy grooves, along with John Kevill’s vocals on top of it all – how could you NOT like the sound of this album? And, as I previously wrote in my initial review of this record, if done right, you can’t go wrong with an 11-minute song that is a direct or indirect homage to Iron Maiden. “When the Guns Fell Silent” is a beautifully-made history lesson that reminds you of classic Maiden, at least, it did to me.
Of The Dark Light
Released June 9
I’ve started to understand why so many people in the Metal community have these guys on top of Death/Technical-Death Mountain. Breaking it down in simplest form, this is a fast, vicious album that only lasts a hair over 30 minutes. Riff master Terrance Hobbs doesn’t leave much to the imagination on this album; it’s all hanging out there for you to hear. Incredibly fast riffs, super intense drumming, whirlwind solos, and just when your head is about to blow off your shoulders, you get the payoff, one of those traditional, heavy-duty breakdowns that Suffocation is known for.
The Grinding Wheel
Released February 10
D.D. Verni and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth really brought their A-game on this release, which I truly enjoyed. The band, the riffs and overall record sounded like a breath of fresh air, yet familiar. I think the production on this album is some of the best Overkill has ever had. As thrashy as this album is, the sound quality is amazing and clean. The Grinding Wheel is one of the better records I have heard from this band in quite some time, it has “The Sound”.
Released April 7
With a few EPs and several full-length releases under their belt, Harlott released Extinction in April, and it was a real treat. Do you like Testament? Slayer? ‘80s Bay-Area thrash? Well, that is exactly what these young Blokes from the land-down-under sound like. I will put it to you like this: Driving to work one day, I had my iPod on shuffle, and a killer-sounding thrash tune comes on that I wasn’t too familiar with. Then the vocals kicked in, and I asked myself, “What the hell Slayer album is this off of?” Well, my friends – it wasn’t Slayer at all. It was Harlott, and it was badass. So I dove in deeper, and the entire album is a throwback to the heyday of thrash. If I didn’t know better, I’d have dated this album from around 1987 or ’88 in terms of sound – it is that good! What I’d like to see happen with Harlott is for Metal Blade to figure out how to get them over to North America for a tour, because it would be something really special – almost like a time machine, because of their retro sound.
Released January 13
Listen, I’m not going to lie: When it comes to post-Max-and-Igor Sepultura, I’m usually not feeling it. Live, it might be a different story – but as for records? Not at all. That is why I was a little surprised this record made my top ten. It was a real pleasant surprise. Now, is it experimental? Is it Metal? Is it Sepultura? The answer to all these questions is yes. Andreas and Paulo did themselves several huge favors on this record. The first one being, they wrote riffs that sound like Sepultura (maybe not entirely but enough so I could identify). The second favor they did was to unleash the fury that is drummer Eloy Casagrande. If you aren’t familiar with this young stud, he is a powerful beast behind the kit. Combine gritty riffs with some powerful steady drumming, and you have really got something. I’m not saying this album is great – not by a long shot, but there is some really great stuff on this album, if you are patient and listen to it. It is definitely one of the better releases from Sepultura that I have heard in a long time.
Favourite Album Cover Art of 2017:
Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord, released February 24)
Cover Artist: Paolo Girardi
Best gig I attended in 2017:
My favorite show of 2017 hands-down was Slayer and Lamb Of God in San Francisco. Now I have seen Slayer too many times, but this show was a bit different. It had a real “old-school S.F. show” feel to it. Attended by a real Who’s Who of the Bay Area Metal community, I couldn’t walk more than ten feet before seeing a familiar face. And you KNOW the show is going to be good when you see the guys from Exodus, Testament, Forbidden, and many other bands just cruising around the crowd, waiting for the mighty Slayer to hit the stage. And hit the stage they did! It was actually one of the best-sounding Slayer shows I had seen a long while. They were tight, clean and the set list was a bit different than I’d grown accustom to seeing from them lately. I’ve seen a ton of shows, but this was my favorite by far; it was almost like Slayer had redeemed themselves from some prior performances I’d seen in recent years that were not up to “Slayer standards”.
Favourite Metal Item Added To My Collection in 2017:
My Obituary hoodie.
Most anticipated albums for 2018:
Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals, Gruesome, Jungle Rot
My 2017 in Metal:
I have come to the realization that 2017 is no different than 1986: there is tons and tons of new material out there, and a large portion of it is shit. But if you stay the course, and keep your ears and mind open, there is still great Metal to be found. Don’t be afraid to give stuff that makes you uncomfortable, or isn’t your genre or sub-genre a try – you just might find out you like it.
What I’m looking forward to in 2018, metal-wise or otherwise:
The return of Heavy Montreal.
2017 “Metal Person of the Year”:
Gene A. Gaona, and I’ll tell you why.
On the average day of any given show I attend, I drive 150 miles in one direction, that’s 4 hours round-trip – just so I can conduct interviews, capture some videos for my YouTube, or just take in a show with friends, or even alone. A good example would be next week: I have 2 shows scheduled, and 5 interviews lined up on back-to- back nights. The mileage driven for those two shows totals approximately 600 plus. Did I mention I get up at 3:00AM to go to work, so I can support my family? If that isn’t Metal As Fuck, and pure dedication – I don’t know what is.