Unleash the Archers – Apex: Difficult to find something else to say about an album after something like four weeks on the grid. Its continued spot on the top pretty much speaks for itself, anyway.
Algiers – The Underside of Power: On The Underside of Power, Algiers’ churning blend of righteous gospel fire and buzzing, paranoid post-punk gets kicked into the next level. Basically, they’re taking a great, angry bite out of the traumatically fucked-up last couple of years of life on this backwards ball of slowly overheating rock and air we call home, and they’re staring us down with every furious chew.
The Night Flight Orchestra – Amber Galactic: Given my affections for AOR and certain forms of throwback rock, it’s a wonder I’ve managed to avoid hearing a single note recorded by the Night Flight Orchestra before Amber Galactic. Five seconds into the video for “Gemini” on YouTube, however, something inside of me was rising to meet the music like a cat lifting its head to rub against its owner’s hand.
Inglorious – II: I’m not sure if I like II quite as much as the debut, but even if I come down on the “not quite as good” side at the end of this appraisal period, it’s still high-grade, high-octane rock which does nothing to slow Inglorious’ ascent up the Mountain of the New Classic Rock Gods. They’re even on the right side of the brick wall this time, sonically speaking.
Walpyrgus – Walpyrgus Nights: Walpyrgus are situated at the surprising intersection of pop-punk and traditional metal, streaked here and there with AOR highlights. It’s the kind of thing you might have listened to with your pedigree chums on a boombox in the woods in autumn 1987, sitting on your Trans Am’s hood, drinking beer you stole from your dad’s fridge, whiling away your hours on shitty campfire stories. Or it’s the kind of thing you might listen to alone in a dim room on a July night in 2017, finding its lyrical cavalcade of cheerfully guignol horrors an agreeable alternative to brooding in the dark. Either way, you’ll want to punch the air and chant along every time the gang vocals shout “dead girls” on the song of the same name.
Mercyful Fate – Melissa: What you notice, when you go back to Mercyful Fate’s classic albums, is how little any of the bands trying to follow in Mercyful Fate’s footsteps actually sound like Mercyful Fate. There’s more to it than occult lyrics and a singer shrieking out vocals in a bat-like falsetto. There’s Fate’s classic rock riffing — a bit of AC/DC, a bit of UFO, a bit of Motörhead. There’s Fate’s confident mid-tempo stride rather than just blasting along with the double guns as fast as the drummer’s triggered kicks can keep up with. And then there’s Kim Ruzz’s characteristic falling-down-the-stairs drum fills which he plays on almost every song and pretty much no successor — not even Mercyful Fate’s ’90s reunion — has ever bothered to include.
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic: Power Trip rips your shit up like a man in a top hat on a Whitechapel night. Additional note: after crunching numbers on various sites and blogs’ best-of-the-year-so-far lists, Nightmare Logic looks like the closest thing to a consensus album of the year heavy metal has produced so far in 2017… and it’s not even on a third of the lists I’ve collated..
Elder – Reflections of a Floating World: On which Elder follows their stoner-meets-Yes muse even farther off the map. Lore was a damn good album. Reflections of a Floating World is better.
One Desire – One Desire: One of Frontiers’ new sudden-wunderkind AOR bands. Heard it once. Sounded pretty good, although several early tracks were crunched up in the mastering process like a getaway car with a body in the trunk. Have not doubled back to check it again, so who knows where return visits will leave us.