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The Best of 2017!

In addition to my top picks for 2017, you can also read the top 5 picks from Mike, Pete, Jez, and Terry. Since we all have different tastes, it makes more sense to see different folks' opinions.

Dan's Picks for the Best of 2017

The Also Rans

A Devil's Din - One Hallucination Under God
Accept - Accept (Platinum Edition)
Accept - Breaker (Platinum Edition)
Accept - Im a Rebel (Platinum Edition)
Accept - Restless and Wild (Platinum Edition)
Accept - The Rise of Chaos
Adrenaline Mob - We The People
Aerodyne - Breaking Free
Affaire - Neon Gods EP
Ailafar - Heartbeat
Air Raid - Across the Line
Airbound - ST
Aldaria - Land of Light
ALL 4 1 - World's Best Hope
American Rebel Soul - ST
Angel Nation - Aeon
Angelwings - The Edge of Innocence
AOR - Rare Tracks and Demos
AOR - The Heart of LA
Apallic - Of Fate and Sanity
Astral Doors - Black Eyed Children
Avenford - New Beginning
Babylon A.D. - Revelation Highway
Backwood Spirit - ST
Badge - If It Hurts It Must Be Good
Bigfoot - ST
Black Bambi - ST
Black Country Communion - BCCIV
Black Diamonds - Once Upon a Time
Black Paisley - Late Bloomer
Black Phantom - Better Beware!
Blazon Stone - Down In The Dark
Bob Kulick - Skeletons in the Closet
Borealis - World of Silence
Breaking Samsara - Light of a New Beginning
Burning Point - The Blaze
Carubine - Futuredream
Category VI - War Is Hell
Circus Maximus - Havoc in Oslo
Coastland Ride - Distance
Coldspell - A New World Arise
Cosmic Wool - ST
Crystal Viper - Queen of the Witches
Cyanide 4 - Nekyia
Danko Jones - Wild Cat
Dante Fox - Six String Revolver
Da Vinci - Ambition Rocks
Debbie Ray - Slave to the System
Devoid - Cup of Tears
DGM - Passing Stages Live in Milan and Atlanta
Dirty Thrills - Heavy Living
Dirty White Boyz - Down and Dirty
Dont Try This - Wireless Slaves
Down N Outz - My Generation (reissue)
Down N Outz - The Further Adventures of (reissue)
Down N Outz - The Further Live Adventures of (reissue)
DragonForce - Reaching into Infinity
Dream Evil - Six
Edens Curse - Revisited
Eigensinn - Persona Non Grata
Eisley-Goldy - Blood, Guts and Games
Elvenking - Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Emil Bulls - Kill Your Demons
Empire - Hypnotica (reissue)
Empire - Trading Souls (reissue)
Endfield - Right to the Top
Enrico Sarzi - Drive Through
Evil Cinderella - Dangerous Inside
Exit Eden - Rhapsodies In Black
Fiction Syxx - Tall Dark Secrets
FIN - Arrows of a Dying Age
Firewind - Immortals
Fozzy - Judas
Galactic Empire - ST
Galderia - Return of the Cosmic Men
Graham Bonnet Band - Live Here Comes the Night
Great White - Full Circle
Gun - Favourite Pleasures
Helion Prime - ST
Hell in the Club - See You on the Dark Side
Helker - Firesoul
Hexx - Wrath of the Reaper
Hinder - The Reign
House of Lords - Saint of the Lost Souls
Ice Age - Breaking the Ice
Iced Earth - Incorruptible
Incertain - Rats in Palaces
Infinight - Fifteen
Inglorious - II
Iris Divine - The Static and the Noise
Iron Savior - Reforged - Riding on Fire
Jack Russell's Great White - He Saw It Coming
Jack Starrs Burning Star - Stand Your Ground
Jan Akessons Shadow Rain - Ascension
Jeff Scott Soto - Retribution
Jimi Anderson Group - Long Time Comin
Jimmy Davis & Junction - Going The Distance
Jimmy Davis & Junction - Kick the Wall + Bonus 1987
Johnny Lima - Made In California (reissue)
Johnny Lima - ST (reissue)
Jorn - Life on Death Road
Julian Angel - The Death of Cool
Kee oF Hearts - ST
Kings of Broadway - ST
Klabautamann - Smaragd
Krokus - Big Rocks
L.A. Guns - The Missing Peace
Labyrinth - Architecture of a God
Last Autumn's Dream - In Disguise
Licence - Licence 2 Rock
Lichtgestalt - Tempus Fugit
Linkin Park - One More Light
Lynch Mob - The Brotherhood
Madmans Lullaby - Sins of Greed
Manhattan Lovestory - ST
Mark Slaughter - Halfway There
Martina Edoff - We Will Align
Masqued - Light in the Dark
Masterplan - PumpKings
Matrekis - Kill Your Captor
Mega Colossus - Hyperglaive
Metalite - Heroes in Time
Midnite City - ST
Moonlight Desires - Just The Hits 1981-1985
Nero Doctrin - II Interitus
Newman - Aerial
Nickelback - Feed the Machine
Night Ranger - Don't Let Up
Nightmare - Dead Sun
Nimrod BC - God of War and Chaos
Nocturnal Rites - Phoenix
Ocean of Time - Fallen World
Ohrenfeindt - Zwei Fauste fur RocknRoll
Operation Mindcrime - The New Reality
Osukaru - The Labyrinth
Osyron - Kingsbane
Outlaws & Moonshine - Devil in the Moonshine
OZ - Transition State
Perdition's Light - Endzeit 2.0
Persefone - Aathma
Peter Graigs - The Beginning of the End
Phantom 5 - Play to Win
Pink Cream 69 - Headstrong
Place Vendome - Close to the Sun
Poisonheart - Till the Morning Light
Portrait - Burn the World
Power Quest - Sixth Dimension
Pretty Boy Floyd - Public Enemies
Primal Fear - Angels of Mercy Live in Germany
Primal Fear - Best of Fear
Procession - Doom Decimation
Pyogenesis - A Kingdom to Disappear
Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Radiation Romeos - ST
Raintimes - ST
Ravage -Return of the Spectral Rider
Rhapsody of Fire - Legendary Years
Riddlemaster - Bring the Magik Down
Riverdogs - California
Robin Beck - Love Is Coming
Rock Alliance - ST
Royal Hunt - 2016
Sainted Sinners - ST
Sanctuary - Inception
Scanner - The Galactos Tapes
Secret Rule - The Key to the World
Secret Sphere - The Nature of Time
Shakra - Snakes and Ladders
Shameless - The Filthy 7
Shotgun Symphony - The Last Symphony Box Set
Sinner - Tequila Suicide
Snakecharmer - Second Skin
Snow - At Last
Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
Soul Secret - Babel
Souldrinker - War Is Coming
Space Vacation - Lost in the Black Divide
Sparanza - Announcing the End
Stahlmann - Bastard
Stallion - From the Dead
Starsick System - Lies, Hopes & Other Stories
Steel Panther - Lower the Bar
Steelheart - Through Worlds of Stardust
Stefanie - ST
Stephen Pearcy - Smash
Steve Walsh - Black Butterfly
Styx - The Mission
Superhorror - Hit Mania Death
Sweet & Lynch - Unified
Symetria - ST
Tarot Beyond - ST
Tequila Sunrise - Danger Zone
Terrifier - Weapons of Thrash Destruction
That Rock Guy - Nothin To Lose
The Electric Coast - Warming Quilt
The Ferryman - ST
The Night Flight Orchestra - Amber Galactic
The Nights - ST
The Ossuary - Post Mortem Blues
The Steel - The Evolution of Love
Thunder - Rip It Up
Treat - The Road More or Less Traveled
Unruly Child - Cant Go Home
Van Arx - ST
Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Live Works
Vandroya - Beyond the Human Mind
Vanishing Point - Tangled in Dream
Viana - ST
Vice - Veni Vidi Vice
Voodoma - Gotland
Vulture - The Guillotine
Walk on Fire - Mind Over Matter
Warner Drive - Till The Wheels Fall Off
Warrant - Louder Harder Faster
Wayward Sons - Ghosts of Yet to Come
Wind Rose - Stonehymn
Within Silence - Return from the Shadows
Wolfpakk - Wolves Reign
Words of Farewell - A Quiet World
World Trade - Unify

Honorable Mentions

2017 was an INCREDIBLE year for music! Since we only do a top 5 list, discs that would have placed in previous years, were unfortunately relegated to the Honorable Mentions list... which means this is the largest number of honorable mantions I've ever listed.

Adrenaline Rush - Soul Survivor. Sophomore release, and sounds better than the debut. I don't get some of the complaints about her voice... sounds perfectly fine to these ears. (and fine to the eyes as well)

Art Nation - Liberation. Another sophomore smash!... well, not quite as good as the debut, but still a damned fine album. A smidge heavier than the first album. Sadly, with half the band leaving, the future is uncertain as to whether we'll hear any more material as good as the first two albums. :(

ArtiTisi - The Complete Unreleased Recordings Box Set. The first two discs contain some incredible material, long overdue for release. The third disc is a bit too experimental and off the wall for my tastes, but the first two are essential.

Asia - Symfonia Live in Bulgaria 2013. Sadly the last performance we're likely to see/hear from the late John Wetton. The recording and production are top notch.

Axxis - Retrolution. This was better than expected. Very enjoyable German hard rock that harkens back to their classic sound.

Bloodbound - War of Dragons. Campy, cheesy, yet gloriously epic power metal. A very fun listen. New vocalist does a great job.

Boulevard - Luminescence. 27 years after their last release, Into the Street, Boulevard return with a surprisingly good album! A bit of west coast, some pop, ultimately all melody.

Brother Firetribe - Sunbound. While musically not QUITE as good as the first 2 albums, it actually takes a step up in production quality. A solid all-around effort; gets a good amount of time in my rotation.

Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice. And the Swedish invasion continues... talk about a country utterly dominating the melodic rock scene! This IMO is their best album to date.

Don Barnes - Ride the Storm. The fact that it took 28 years after the album was recorded to see a formal release is an absolute crime. Toto and .38 Special had a baby, and this was the result, a superb slice of vintage AOR!

DreamsNowReality - Dreamfinity. Excellent modern hard rock; has a nice crunch to it. I'm surprised it hasn't received more discussion.

Eclipse - Monumentum. Not quite as good as Armageddonize, but nevertheless a superb effort from these (yep, you guessed it!) Swedish lads. Just outside my top 5.

Gothminister - The Other Side. Think Rammstein but with more melodic elements. Certainly not everyon's cup of tea, but I dig it depending on my mood. ;)

H.E.A.T - Into the Great Unknown. Their last release Tearing Down the Walls, my 2014 CD of the Year, is a hard act to follow, yet this Swedish band (seeing a recurring theme yet?) never lets you down. It's a bit more "paint by numbers" in my opinion, yet still solid.

Harem Scarem - United. Harem Scarem releases their 147th studio album and it's... wait... it's not? Just feels that way? Must be all the various and sundry Japanese compilations out there. This album really harkens back to their early material stylistically, but with modern production quality. Really, really excellent!

Jono - Life. Very lush melodic prog, their third effort. Very rock-opera-esque in places. P.S. They're Swedish.

Keldian - Darkness and Light. This one was completely unexpected! Melodic prog/power metal with very infectious riffs and captivating choruses.

Kissin Dynamite - Dynamite Nights. I love me some KD, and any time a band can successfully carry off their material live, that's just a win. The audio is great, but the Blu-Ray is a real treat for the senses.

Kryptonite - ST. It's a Swedish band, therefore I must higlight it. ;) No, it's not The Poodles, even though one could be fooled into thinking that. I find this to be a bit more traditional melrock than the canines.

Lionheart - Second Nature. Wait, WHAT? 33 years is a wee bit of a wait for a sophomore album, dontcha think? That said, it's well worth the wait. Sounds like they haven't skipped a beat from Hot Tonight. Definitely old school... and in this case it's a good thing.

Lionville - A World of Fools. Traditional AOR with absolutely stuperb vocals. The first two albums were excellent, but I think this one is the best yet.

Marc Scherer Jennifer Batten - Battle Zone. Very solid album, and I just love Scherer's voice. Survivor comparisons are inevitable, given Peterik's involvement.

Mindfeels - XXenty. If you dig Toto-esque Westcoast AOR with just a slight proggish tinge, you'll dig this one.

Mors Principium Est - Embers of a Dying World. I'm guessing this won't be on anyone else's list... Melodic death metal, affectionately called "melodeath", this has some great riffs and orchestration.

Orden Ogan - Gunmen. Another one just outside my top 5. I was pretty late in finding this band, but their recent efforts have been just spectactular power metal with very lush orchestration. Blind Guardian meets Rage.

Pinnacle Point - Winds of Change. Kansas, anyone? A modern incarnation, that is. I hear more Elefante than Walsh in the lead vox though (which is fine by me).

Pride of Lions - Fearless. You either love or hate Peterik-influenced AOR. Me, I love it! This newest release does not stray far from previous efforts, which is just fine and dandy.

Rian - Out of the Darkness. Oh look, more Swedes! Go figure. Excellent debut album of traditional AOR. If they keep this up, this band has a promising future ahead of them.

Serious Black - Magic. Not as stellar as the debut, but a bit better than their second album. Solid melodic metal.

Skarlett Riot - Regenerate. Very crunchy female-fronted heavy metal. Some nu-metal influences, but ultimately a lot of melody, which prevails.

Stamina - System of Power. Italian prog/power metal with oddly melodic-rock-ish choruses. The vocals and choruses aren't what you would typically expect from this genre.

Taberah - Sinner's Lament. Australian melodic quasi-thrash metal that is quite catchy in places with excellent guitar riffs. Good clean vocals and harmonies.

The Dark Element - ST. This and the next one are erily similar in style, and it's not just the fact that both albums are female fronted symphonic rock/metal. Great arrangements, interesting instrumentation and good hooks.

The Murder of My Sweet - Echoes of the Aftermath. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Another one that has that rock opera feel, but accessible. Great vocals and instrumentation.

The Plague - Hope for the F.U.T.U.R.E. Tasty modern hard rock with just a bit of glammy boy band thrown in the mix. Quite infectious.

Threshold - Legend of the Shires. Amazing how things come full circle... the last time Glynn Morgan sang lead vocals for Threshold was in 1996. Now here we are again. He's my second favorite of the Thresh vocalist; no one will ever eclipse Mac. The one thing keeping it out of my top 5 is that it's just too darned long. My tolerance for prog is a tenuous thing, and I just get burned out once we venture into 2-disc territory.

Tokyo Motor Fist - ST. Quite possibly the best thing Ted Poley has done in quite some time. Stylistically, this album could have been released in 1989 and been quite at home. Pure arena rock.

Tyketto - Live from Milan. Wow! An amazing live performance. I would never have expected the band to sound this good live this far on. Superb Blu-Ray.

Dan's Winners

5th Place

cover Wildness - S/T (AOR Heaven). Well, it's Swedish, so it MUST be good! ;) This one came out late in the year, so it's possible people may have missed it. In a word: don't. It's well worth the price of admission. Soaring use of keyboards, while at the same time not sacrificing ballsyness (is that a real word?). Comparisons to Eclipse and H.E.A.T. are warranted, with a bit of Palace thrown into the mix. If you're a fan of the "Scandi sound", you'll love this one. A great debut album.

4th Place

cover Cats in Space - Scarecrow (Harmony Factory). This one took a little bit of time to grow on me compared to the debut, but after it settled in, this is one superb slice of vintage AOR. You hear influences of Boston, ELO, The Sweet, and smidges of Queen and Supertramp. The production and arrangements are top notch all around. This album seems a bit more cohesive than the first. Also, the songwriting is excellent, with quite possibly my favorite song of 2017, the diminuitive "Two Fifty Nine" just being structurally and lyrically brilliant, especially to those of us who were around for terrestrial radio of the 1970s.

3rd Place

cover Ten - Gothica (Frontiers Records). This choice may surprise some people, as it took a while to grow on me. My initial impressions would have put this album in the middle of the pack, but it took on new life the more I listened and I found as the year progressed I kept coming back to it. I've always been a fan of Ten, specifically the epic nature of the material, as well as the characteristics of Gary Hughes' voice. The thing that has always held me back was that 9 times out of 10 the production on Ten albums have been pure unmitigated dogshit. This time this is not the case, and it makes for a superbly engaging album. The opener The Grail puts me in mind of the album The Robe. I don't quite get the whole "theme" of the album, but aurally the songs are a great listen. The production is lush and everything is well executed. Ten/Gary Hughes have a very polarizing sound; I find that people either love them or hate them... count me in the former.

2nd Place

cover Code Red - Incendiary (AOR Heaven). Swedish, now THERE'S a shock... not. This probably shouldn't come as a surprise that I love this album, as two of the members are from Palace, who put out my #1 CD of 2016, Master of the Universe. Great arrangements, hook-laden choruses, very high replay factor. Even though there's nothing particulary groundbreaking here, there's something incredibly infectious and catchy about the melodies on this album. Yet another debut album that shines.

Dan's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2017 CD of the Year

cover One Desire - One Desire (Frontiers Records). Uh oh... just a sec... sh*t. I can't make this my CD of the year. They're not Swedish! Ahh, Finnish, close enough for government work. ;) Absolutely a monster of an album, especially for a debut. Just huge hooks and choruses throughout, and top notch production. A little bit of H.E.A.T., a little bit of Eclipse, a bit of Treat, yet a style all their own. I remember hearing demo clips back in 2014 and thinking it was good stuff. They changed lead vocalists, which put the cherry on top. Andre Linman (ex Sturm und Drang) is a perfect fit for the style of music. There's really no filler on this album, but my faves are Hurt, Apologize, and the ballad This Is Where the Heartbreak Begins. Well done!

Mike's Picks for the Best of 2017

The Also Rans

Accept - Restless and Live
Bryan Adams - Ultimate
American Mafia - Made in New York
AOR - The Heart of LA
Appice - Sinister
Armageddon Roxx - Armageddon Roxx
Armored Saint - Carpe Noctum
Arti Tisi - New York City
Arti Tisi - Back Again
Artificial Agent - Programmed to Destroy
Autograph - Get Off Your Ass
Babylon AD - Revelation Highway
Bad Company - Live at Red Rocks
Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
Black Bambi - S/T
Black Stone Cherry - Black to Blues
Bloodbound - War of Dragons
Bloody Heels - Through Mystery
Terry Brock - Face in the Crowd ~ Live At Frontiers Rock Festival 2016
Bugzy - Plan B
Stan Bush - Change the World
Candlebox - Disappearing Live
Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
Chickenfoot - Best Plus Live
Coldspell - A New World Arise
Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile
The Dead Daisies - Live and Louder
Deaf Dumb and Blonde - L.A. Days
Deep Purple - Infinite
Def Leppard - And There Will Be A Next Time... Live From Detroit
Dirkschneider - Live - Back to the Roots ~ Accepted!
Eisley/Goldy - Blood, Guts and Games
Electric Angels - Lost in the Atlantic
Europe - Walk the Earth
Greg Kihn Band - ReKihndled
Gotthard - Silver
Gypsy Soul - Winners and Losers
Hansen and Friends - Thank You Wacken - Live
Head Dizzy - Born That Way
H.E.A.T. - Into the Great Unknown
Hell in the Club - See You on the Dark Side
Terry Ilous - Gypsy Dreams
Intice - The Legacy
Jack Russell's Great White - He Saw It Comin'
Jim Jidhed - Push On Through
Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz - The Further Live Adventures of...
Joey C Jones - Best Of Volume One
Judas Priest - Turbo 30
Kee of Hearts - S/T
Kickin' Valentina - Imaginary Creatures
Richie Kotzen - Salting Earth
Krokus - Big Rocks
Kryptonite - S/T
KXM - Scatterbrain
LA Guns - The Missing Peace
Long Gone - S/T
Love 'n' Revenge - Karma
Lynch Mob - The Brotherhood
Madam X - Monstrocity
Metal Church - Classic Live
Millenium - Hourglass: The Complete Sessions
Ronnie Montrose - 10 x 10
Nickelback - Feed The Machine
Night Laser - Laserhead
Nova Rex - Rock Star Roadshow
One Desire - One Desire
Operation: Mindcrime - The New Reality
Papa Roach - Crooked Teeth
Stephen Pearcy - Smash
Phantom 5 - Play to Win
Pinnacle Point - Winds of Change
Primal Fear - Angels of Mercy - Live in Germany
Prowess - Headfirst
Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Radiation Romeos - Radiation Romeos
Ratchet Dolls - Damaged
REO Speedwagon - Not So Silent Night
Revlin Project - Dimension
Revolution Saints - Light in the Dark
Rocha - Unum
Rock Alliance - Rock Alliance
Rockett Love - Grab The Rocket
Sibling Rivalry - Sweet Paradise
Mark Slaughter - Halfway There
Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
Jeff Scott Soto - Retribution
Steelheart - Through Worlds of Stardust
Sweet & Lynch - Unified
Temple Balls - Traded Dreams
Tokyo Motor Fist - Tokyo Motor Fist
Tommy Paris Band - Tommy Paris Band
Treat - The Road More Or Less Traveled
Tyketto - Live From Milan
Unruly Child - Can't Go Home
Van Arx - Stand Together For Rock and Roll
Victory - Two Years and a Few Beers Later
Warrant - Louder Harder Faster
Warrior - S/T
The Winery Dogs - Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond
Wired - S/T

Honorable Mentions

Accept - The Rise of Chaos. My favorite metal release of 2017; "Koolaid" and "Analog Man" are excellent

Art Nation - Liberation. Great follow-up to their 2015 debut; didn't miss the top 5 by much with killer cuts like "Maniac", "I'm Alive", and "What Do You Want"

Art Of Anarchy - The Madness. This release finds Scott Stapp stepping into the vocalist slot after the passing of Scott Weiland, and the results are quite good! Solid modern hard rock from start to finish that narrowly misses my top 5 for the year! "1000 Degrees" and "The Madness" are awesome!

Brother Firetribe - Sunbound. While Sunbound doesn't live up to those first two releases, it is still a darn fine release with great tunes like "Indelible Heroes" and "Phantasmagoria"

Cats in Space - Scarecrow. Fantastic follow-up to 2015's "Too Many Gods"; "Clown In Your Nightmare" is one of my favorite songs of the year!

Fozzy - Judas. No longer simply a "novelty act", Jericho and company have delivered a great disc here! Those first three tracks, "Judas", "Drinkin' With Jesus" and "Painless" are immense!

Great White - Full Circle. Loads better than 2012's "Elation"; this one is chock full of great cuts like "This is the Life" and "Big Time"

House of Lords - Saint of the Lost Souls. Another strong release from one of the most consistent bands in the melodic rock genre. "Hit the Wall" and the title track are faves

Josh Todd & the Conflict - Year of the Tiger. A grittier, more punk-ish sound than Buckcherry that works well with Josh Todd's vocals, although it's the more traditional rock tracks "Rain" and the cover of Prince's "Erotic City" that really stand out

King King - Exile and Grace. Incredibly well done bluesy hard rock from the UK's King King. I'd never heard anything from these guys before, but will now be looking into their past releases. "Heed the Warning", "Broken", "Betrayed Me" and "Long Time Running" are all great!

Mr. Big - Defying Gravity. Far more consistent than 2014's "Stories We Could Tell" this one is a step in the right direction. "Damn I'm in Love Again" and "1992" are standouts

Night Ranger - Don't Let Up. Since their return in 2007, Night Ranger have cranked out one solid release after another and 2017's "Don't Let Up" continues their streak. "Jamie" is my favorite track from this one

Pink Cream 69 - Head Strong. Any other year, this would have been top 5 easy, but this year it barely misses. Another excellent foray into melodic metal from Readman, Ward, and crew, with "Walls Come Down", "Man of Sorrow", and "The Other Man" being personal faves

Romeo Riot - Sing It Loud. Great melodic rock project from Kivel Records that really showcases the songwriting ability of one Jace Pawlak. Be sure to check out his solo releases if you haven't before

Mike's Winners

5th Place

cover Harem Scarem - United (Frontiers Records). After taking the top spot in my 2014 year end list, I was hoping for big things from Hess and company with this release, and they did not disappoint! From the opener "United" to "Sinking Ship" , "Indestructible" and all tracks in betwen, Harem Scarem have delivered another winner!

4th Place

cover The Night Flight Orchestra - Amber Galactic (Nuclear Blast Records). Retro rock at its absolute finest! With a sound that harkens back to the late 70s/early 80s radio friendly AOR comes Sweden's Night Flight Orchestra. While I enjoyed their first two releases, this one is simply phenomenal! The entire disc is quite good, but my favorite tracks are "Midnight Flyer", "Domino" and the wonderful "Jennie". If you've never checked these guys out, I implore you to do so immediately!

3rd Place

cover Kid Rock - Sweet Southern Sugar (Top Dog Records). "Rock n Roll Jesus" was my 2nd favorite release of 2007; well, here we are after 10 years and 3 decent, but unspectacular releases in between, with another monster of an album. Simply put, "Sweet Southern Sugar" is catchy as Hell from start to finish, and features some of the strongest work of Kid's career. From the thunderous opener "Greatest Show on Earth" and the tongue in cheek humor of "Po-Dunk" to the countrified "Tennessee Mountain Top" and "Raining Whiskey" to a surprisingly great cover of "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" this one has little something for everyone and it all works well together.

2nd Place

cover Don Barnes - Ride the Storm (Melodic Rock Records). It's interesting to ponder what might have been had this album been released 28 years ago when it was originally recorded; would it have been a smash and received the accolades it so richly deserves? Or would it have been lost in the onslaught of hard rock/melodic rock that the labels were pumping out at the time? Regardless of what that outcome may have been, this is one fantastic release, and deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it in trading circles over the years. The title track, "I Fall Back", "Don't Look Down" and "After the Way" are my faves, but honestly, there is not one single track I skip on this disc. Many thanks to MelodicRock Records for giving this one a proper release!

Mike's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2017 CD of the Year

cover Vandenberg's Moonkings - MKII (Mascot Records). 2017 was a pretty damn good year for hard rock and metal overall, and sometimes it's not until you sit back and really take stock of everything that you listened to in the preceeding 365 days that you realize that there was one release that you went back to over and over again. For me, that release was MKII! From the hard rocking opener, "Tightrope" to melodic rockers "Angel in Black", "The Fire", "What Doesn't Kill You", "Hard Way" and quite possibly my favorite song of the year, "Love Runs Out" (which I had no idea is a cover song until I began doing this write up!) this one smokes from start to finish. I love Jan Hoving's vocals and Vandenberg's guitar playing is in truly excellent form here. While I enjoyed their debut in 2014, they have truly hit their stride with their sophomore effort. If you've ever enjoyed any of Adrian Vandenberg's work in the past, or are simply looking for a kickass hard rock disc, I HIGHLY recommend MKII. Great work guys; hopefully MKIII will be just as good or even better!

Pete's Picks for the Best of 2017

The Also Rans

7HY - For The Record
7th Heaven - Luminous
Adellaide - Flying High
Adrenaline Rush - Soul Survivor
Age of Reflection - In The Heat of The Night
Air Raid - Across the Line
Airbound - Airbound
All 4 1 - The World's Best Hope
American Glutton - Dish Served Cold
American Mafia - Made In New York
American Rebel Soul - American Rebel Soul
Appice - Sinister
Armageddon Roxx - Armageddon Roxx
Art Nation - Liberation
Autograph - Get Off Your Ass
Backwood Spirit - Backwood Spirit
Bai Bang - Rock of Life
Don Barnes - Ride the Storm
Robin Beck - Love Is Coming
Sammy Berell - Passion Dreams
Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
Black Bambi - Black Bambi
Black Diamonds - Once Upon a Time
Black Oak County - Black Oak County
Black Paisley - Late Bloomer
Bloody Heels - Through Mystery
Graham Bonnet - Anthology: 1968 - 2017
Boulevard - Luminescence
Broken Teeth - 4 On The Floor
Brother Firetribe - Sunbound
Bugzy - Plan B
Burnt Out Wreck - Swallow
Stan Bush - Change the World
Carousel Vertigo - Revenge of Rock and Roll
Cats In Space - Scarecrow
Code Red - Incendiary
Confess - Haunters
Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice
Creed - Creed
Creye - Straight To The Top EP.
Crush - Jinxed
Da Vinci - Ambition Rocks
Danko Jones - Wild Cat
Dante Fox - Six String Revolver
Danzig - Black Laden Crown
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile
The Darren Phillips Project - Volume One
Days Of Jupiter - New Awakening
The Dead Daisies - Live and Louder
Debbie Ray - Slave to the System
Deep Purple - Infinite
Devoid - Cup of Tears
Dirty Thrills - Heavy Living
Dynamite - Big Bang
Eagleheart - Reverse
Eden's Curse - Eden's Curse - Revisited
Martina Edoff - We Will ALign
Eisley / Goldy - "Blood, Guts and Games"
Europe - Walk the Earth
Every Mother's Nightmare - Grind
The Ferrymen - The Ferrymen
GUN - Favourite Pleasures
Janet Gardner - Janet Gardner
Gotthard - Silver
Myke Gray - Shades of Gray
Great White - Full Circle
Gypsy Soul - Winners And Losers
HUSH - Department of Faith
Halestorm - Reanimate 3.0: The Covers EP
Hinder - The Reign
House of Lords - Saint of the Lost Souls
Houston - III
Inglorious - II
Jack Russell's Great White - He Saw It Comin'
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Stand Your Ground
Jan Akesson's Shadow Rain - Ascension
Jim Jidhed - Push On Through
Jimi Anderson Group - Long Time Comin'
Jimmy Davis and Junction - Going the Distance
Jono - Life
Josh Todd and the Conflict - Year of the Tiger
Junkyard - High Water
Kee Of Hearts - Kee Of Hearts
Tom Keifer - The Way Life Goes
Kickin' Valentina - Imaginary Creatures
King's Call - Showdown
Kissin' Dynamite - Dynamite Nights
Krokus - Big Rocks
Kryptonite - Kryptonite
Bob Kulick - Skeletons in the Closet
L.A. Cobra - Shotgun Slinger
L.A. Guns - The Missing Peace
Last Autumn's Dream - In Disguise
Leaves' Eyes - Sign of the Dragonhead
Lionheart - Second Nature
Lionville - World of Fools
Lynch Mob - The Brotherhood
Madam X - Monstrocity
Mean Streak - Blind Faith
Mecca - The Demos
Midnight Sin - One Last Ride
Mindfeels - XXenty
Moritz - About Time Too
Mr. Big - Defying Gravity
Nickelback - Feed The Machine
Night Ranger - Don't Let Up
The Nights - The Nights
Operation: Mindcrime - The New Reality
Orden Ogan - Gunmen
Outlaws and Moonshine - Devil in the Moonshine
Panorama - Around the World
Papa Roach - Crooked Teeth
Stephen Pearcy - Smash
Axel Rudi Pell - The Ballads V
Phantom 5 - Play to Win
Phase II Phase - Face It
Pinnacle Point - Winds of Change
Place Vendome - Close to The Sun
Pretty Boy Floyd - Public Enemies
Pride of Lions - Fearless
The Professionals - What in the World
Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Radiation Romeos - Radiation Romeos
Radioux City - Radioux City
Raintimes - Raintimes
Raw Silk - The Borders of Light
Rian - Out Of The Darkness
Riverdogs - California
Rockett Love - Grab The Rocket
Romeo Riot - Sing It Loud
Roulette - If Time
Sainted Sinners - Sainted Sinners
Satin - It's About Time
Joe Satriani - What Happens Nexy
Secret Rule - The Key to the World
Secret Sphere - The Nature of Time
Serious Black - Magic
Shakra - Snakes and Ladders
Shameless - The Filthy 7
Shokker - III
Silked & Stained - Love on the Roasd
Skarlett Riot - Regenerate
Mark Slaughter - Halfway There
Snakecharmer - Second Skin
Snow - At Last
Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
Soul Secret - Babel
Sparzanza - Announcing the End
Spiral Key - An Error of Judgment
Stallion - From the Dead
Starsick System - "Lies, Hopes and Other Stories"
Stefanie - Stefanie
Stormburst - Raised on Rock
Jack L. Stroem - Jack L. Stroem
Styx - The Mission
Tales From the Porn - H.M.M.V.
Tankard - Hymns For the Drunk
Target - In Range
Tarot Beyond - Tarot Beyond
Taz Taylor Band - Pressure and Time
Ten - Gothica
That Rock Guy - Nothin to Lose
The Wild! - Wild At Heart
Threshold - Legend of the Shires
Thunder - Rip It Up
Toe to Toe - Rise Up
Tokyo Motor Fist - Tokyo Motor Fist
Under the Radar - So Alive
The Unity - The Unity
Unruly Child - Can't Go Home
Vain - Rolling With the Punches
Van Arx - Stand Together For Rock and Roll
Vandenberg's MoonKings - MK II
Vice - Veni Vidi Vice
Walk On Fire - Mind Over Matter
Steve Walsh - Black Butterfly
Warrior - Warrior
Warrior Soul - Back on the Lash
Wayward Sons - Ghosts of Yet to Come
The Winery Dogs - Dog Years: Live In Santiago and Beyond 2013-2016
Wolfpakk - Wolves Reign
Wraith - Revelation
Zhenx - Zhenx

Honorable Mentions

Arti Tisi - The Complete Unreleased Recordings. Yeah, all this stuff was done a long time ago, but it's finally got a proper release and it's just SO. DAMN. CATCHY. Especially the "New York" disc.

Babylon A.D. - Revelation Highway. A real return to form with some great songs that will bring you back to the anthems of their first two releases. I wish the production was a bit better.

Bigfoot - Bigfoot. In your face guitars, great vocals, just a great blend of raw rock'n'roll and melodic hooks.

Black Country Communion - BCCIV. What can I say, I just love everything these guys do. The indulgent instrumentalism of the 70's and Glenn Hughes' kickass vocals.

Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire. I railed against these guys' obvious homage to Thin Lizzy when they came out, but they brought me over to the dark side and now I can't get enough of them.

Bonfire - Byte The Bullet. The new incarnation of the band sounds cohesive, and the guitar-rich production really works for me.

Coldspell - A New World Arise. Back for a fourth album and doing what they do extremely well. Great guitar work, and great musicians all around in this Swedish hard rock band.

Dave Friday Band - Life Imitating Art. Dave has assembled a great collection of songs for an excellent and diverse album that sometimes reminds me of Tesla.

Degreed - Degreed. A recent discovery for me in the world of melodic rock, this release reminds me that I really need to listen to them a bit more.

Dirtbag Republic - Downtown Eastside. Down and dirty independent sleaze along the lines of Hanoi Rocks/Michael Monroe and extremely well done.

Dirty White Boyz - Down and Dirty. Great melodic hard rock from ex-Kiss of the Gypsy frontman Tony Mitchell.

Doll Hazard - Transatlantic Meltdown. The driving forces of Suicide Bombers and Dirtbag Republic unite and bring their different styles of sleaze together for a solid album that should rock both sets of listeners easily.

Fiction Syxx - Tall Dark Secrets. Mark Allen Lanoue and company put together an excellent selection of image rich, prog-tinged melodic rock with several guest musicians appearing throughout.

H.E.A.T. - Into The Great Unknown. A more modern direction for sure, but hey, if you don't grow you die, and they can still write a hook like nobody's business!

Harem Scarem - United. Pure melodic bliss with the giant vocal hooks of Harry Hess and the stunning guitar work of Pete Lesperance.

Jeff Scott Soto - Retribution. I like the heavier direction of this latest JSS record, and the cohesiveness that working with one main collaborator (Howie Simon) brings to the table.

Jorn Lande - Life On Death Road. The best thing I've heard from Jorn since Millenium's "Hourglass" release. Driving and heavy, but melodic and showcasing the powerful voice like it was meant to be.

Love and Revenge - Karma. Say what you want about Damon Kelly, but the guy can write a serious hook, and this album is full of them. Blazing guitar work from John Lisi and a great production job from Vic Rivera (AdrianGale).

Madman's Lullaby - Sins of Greed. A bit more metallic than 2013's "Unhinged", new singer Chris Michaels is an excellent fit for the band.

Newman - Aerial. That Steve Newman is not a household name after 10+ high quality studio albums is a mystery to me. Aerial is more on the AOR side than some previous releases, and the songs are amazing as always.

Revolution Saints - Light in the Dark. It's like they picked up where Journey's "Escape" left off. The second album from Castronovo/Aldrich/Blades has a bit more rock and a few less ballads, which I am 100% okay with.

Santa Cruz - Bad Blood Rising. In your face and incredibly well played, these guys have taken sleaze and polished it to a fine gloss, and added some modern elements for a uniquely satisfying package… as long as you don't mind a little profanity.

Scherer/Batten - BattleZone. Marc Sherer's vocals are amazing to behold and pair extremely well with the more-than-competent playing of Jennifer Batten on this collection of catchy AOR.

Suicide Bombers - Suicide Idols. Sleazy, glammy and slick, it's hard to believe this is an independent release, but these guys from Norway are kicking ass and taking names on their third release.

Supernova Plasmajets - Supernova Plasmajets. Female fronted hard rock, super catchy, and just a fun listen.

Sweet and Lynch - Unified. I would not have thought these guys would work well together, but the second release proves me wrong again. Sweet's voice and Lynch's guitar are both in top form, and some solid songs to showcase both.

The Night Flight Orchestra - Amber Galactic. 70's pop-rock is apparently the new black, and although I was slow to accommodate, I have to admit I'm really digging this super clean and crisp production.

The Radio Sun - Unstoppable. Radio Sun's latest is another collection of well written, polished melodic rock with vocal harmonies galore from Jason Old and the rest of the band, fine guitar work from Stevie Janevski, and Paul Laine behind the board.

Tony Mills - Streets of Chance. Mills' voice is sounding fantastic, the songs are excellent, and Pete Newdeck nailed the production… what's not to love?

Warrant - Louder Harder Faster. Yes, I miss Jani too but Bob Mason is totally nailing this on his second release with the band. I love the songs, I love his voice, I love the feel of the band. It sounds like they mean it, and I'm picking up what they're laying down.

Wildness - Wildness. Swedish melodic hard rock… yeah, there's a lot of it, but these guys are standing out from the pack with some great songs, great vocals, and killer guitars.

Pete's Winners

5th Place

cover Hell In The Club - See You on the Dark Side (Frontiers Records). Walking the line between melodic hard rock and sleaze, these guys have been a favorite of mine since they came on the scene back in 2009. See You on the Dark Side follows that same route, although maybe with a hint of a more modern direction in songs like "We Are on Fire" and "Withered in Venice". The result is a diverse album with driving tracks like "I Wanna Swing Like Peter Parker" and "The Misfit", balanced out by mid tempo (but no less powerful) tracks like "Little Toy Soldier" and "Showtime". A big part of what sells these guys are the sleaze-tinged vocals of Dave Moras backed up with some well executed gang vocals to the point where almost every song makes you want raise your hands in the air… like you just don't care or something. SYOTDS continues Hell in the Club's winning streak of solid albums, and I don't know about you but I can't wait for the next one.

4th Place

cover One Desire - One Desire (Frontiers Records). The draw here is the hooks hands down, and these guys have come up with a collection of songs that just stay in your head and refuse to leave. Singer Andre Linman's got some serious pipes on him and puts them to good use with soaring vocal lines backed by layers of vocal harmony. Additionally the band are clearly skilled musicians, with some excellent guitar work from Jimmy Westerlund. It's lush, well produced guitar-driven AOR with a decent amount of keyboards to fill in the spaces. My favorite overall song of the year by far is "Whenever I'm Dreaming", but "Hurt", "Apologize", and "Straight Through the Heart" are all excellent. Quite honestly, every damn song on here has a great hook for a winning killer/filler ratio. I look forward to seeing these guys grow on future releases hopefully.

3rd Place

cover Eclipse - Monumentum (Frontiers Records). From the first time I heard "Wake Me Up" from their Bleed and Scream (Frontiers, 2012) release I was hooked on this band, and every release since then has been a stellar display of firing on all cylinders. From the opening guitar riff on "Vertigo" I knew this one would be no exception to the rule. Monumentum just crushes plain and simple, but not in a one dimensional way. There's a certain level of maturity present that's inspirational and full of empathy without being preachy or political. Listening to this album makes me feel like I'm somehow fighting the good fight… while playing air drums like nobody's business. Erik's passionate vocals really shine on "The Downfall of Eden", "Killing Me", and "Hurt". The rhythm section of Ulfstedt and Crusher really drive "Never Look Back" and "No Way Back", while the guitar work of Magnus Henriksson makes me want to sell my guitars.

2nd Place

cover Midnite City - Midnite City (AOR Heaven Records). This was SO close to my number one this year, holding that spot until quite recently, and depending on the day I still might waffle a bit… This is just such a well made, super fun album to listen to at max volume. Giant hooks throughout the album written and sung by Rob Wylde (Teenage Casket Company, Tigertailz) really shine thanks to a killer production from the mighty Pete Newdeck (Eden's Curse, Tainted Nation, Newman) and a final layer of gloss from a fine mastering by Harry Hess (Harem Scarem). It's just one anthem after another about love, old friends, summer nights, and Rob and Co. avoid being overly cheesy and effortlessly keep it fresh and exciting, and make you want to sing along to each and every chorus. This spent a couple months in my car just letting it repeat… hell, I'm actually listening to it right now as I type this! I love the whole album, but if I had to pick standout tracks: "Ghosts of My Old Friends", "We Belong", "Summer Of Our Lives", "Think About You", and "Everything You Meant to Me" is just a great classic sounding power ballad…

Pete's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2017 CD of the Year

cover Pink Cream 69 - Headstrong (Frontiers Records). PC69 is back with a vengeance, and you can tell right out of the gate with the album opener, "We Bow to None", and nor should they! Speaking to Dennis Ward earlier this year, he said the intent was to be the two guitar band that they are without adding lots of keyboards, etc. and the result is a powerhouse of an album. Several uptempo numbers like the aforementioned opening track, "No More Fear", and "Path of Destiny" balance out the slower burning, yet still powerful tracks like "Man of Sorrow" and "Vagrant of the Night". Add to that the mid tempo powerhouse riffing where I think these guys really shine like "Walls Come Down" and "Bloodsucker" and you've got a diverse album that your ears will not tire of quickly, if at all! The bonus CD of live tracks is a fun listen as well, running the gamut from more recent material all the way back to the Andi Deris-era, which Readman handles extremely well as expected.

Jez's Picks for the Best of 2017

The Also Rans

Adrenaline Rush - Soul Survivor
ALL 4 1 - The World’s Best Hope
AOR - Heart Of L.A
Atlas - The World In Motion EP
Autograph - Get Off Your Ass
Robin Beck - Love Is Coming
Michael Bolton - Songs Of Cinema
Bonfire -Byte The Bullet
Burnt Out Wreck -Swallow
Stan Bush - Change The World
Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
Coastland Ride - Distance
Cradle Of Filth - Cryptoriana:The Seductiveness Of Decay
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile
Def Leppard - ..And There Will Be a Next Time: Live In Detroit
Dimmu Borgir - Forces Of a Northern Night
Dreamcar - S/T
Martina Edoff - We Will Align
Ember Falls - Welcome To Ember Falls
Europe - Walk The Earth
Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold
Hirsh Gardner - My Brain Needs a Holiday
David Gilmour - Live In Pompeii
Brad Henshaw - Rock Symphonique
Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls: Live Chapter
Java - Change Of Heart
Jim Jidhead - Push On Through
Krokus - Big Rocks
Linkin’ Park - One More Light
Magnum - The Valley Of Tears: The Ballads
Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down
Mecca - The Demos
Midnite City - S/T
Ronnie Montrose - 10x10
Moritz - About Time Too
Mr. Big - Defying Gravity
Mr. Rubik - Wasted Paradise
Newman - Aerial
Night Ranger - Don’t Let Up
Nightwish - Vehicle Of Spirit
Mike Oldfield - Return To Ommadawn
Osukaru - The Labyrinth
Pendragon - Masquerade 20
Pride Of Lions - Fearless
QSP - QSP (Quatro, Scott, Powell)
Rian - Out Of Darkness
Todd Rundgren - White Knight
Kim Seviour - Recovery Is Learning
Steel Panther - Lower The Bar
Syteria - Rant-O-Bot
Ten - Gothica
Tokio Hotel - Dream Machine
Tokyo Motor Fist - S/T
Train - A Girl A Bottle A Boat
Treat - The Road More Or Less Traveled
Trust - Live At Hellfest 2017
Steve Walsh - Black Butterfly
Walk On Fire - Mind Over Matter
Warrior - S/T
The Winery Dogs - Dog Years: Live In Santiago
Jessica Wolff - Grounded
Wraith - Revolution
Zhenx - S/T
Zon - Live

Honorable Mentions

Alice Cooper - Paranormal. Alice is back!! Everyone by now knows what the score is musically, so no real surprises. The 2 new tracks featuring the original Alice Cooper Band on disc 2 of the limited edition version, are excellent and a very nice touch and overall it's pretty much classic AC all the way. Again, at only 34 minutes playing time (on the 1 disc version), it leaves you wanting a whole lot more, but it is a great listen throughout.

Art Nation -Liberation. A very welcome follow up to the fairly impressive 2015 debut album. Slightly more varied in style this time around, giving it over all more replay value. Hopefully if a 3rd is be released it will be a total killer album, such is their promise.

Battle Beast - Bringer Of Pain. Very good Finnish power metal and one of the genre's best of the year. A band that has consistently released great albums over the last decade and this is no different. Worthy also of note are the vocals Noora Louhimo's which are superb throughout.

Beast In Black - Berserker. Debut album from former Battle Beast guitarist Anton Kabanen. Pretty much the same blueprint as his former band, and once again a top quality set of catchy power metal. Check out the vocal range of vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos... highly impressive indeed.

Black Country Communion - BCCVI. Hughes, Bonamassa, Bonham and Sherinian return with album number 4 and their first since 2013's 'Afterglow'. If you're after the true 70's classic rock sound, then look no further than this expertly played album. Excellent all round.

Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire. Already on their 3rd album and it's another impressive release. Sound wise, this is lightly more edgy than previously and is all the better for it. The Lizzy elements of their sound are still evident in places, but generally, this is a great set of songs, on a great rock album.

Blackfield - V. Israeli songwriter and musician Aviv Geffen and British musician/ producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No Man, Bass Communion).return with another top quality album. As with previous releases, it showcases a set of songs that are beautifully presented with lush arrangements, haunting melodies and catchy choruses. A difficult band to pigeonhole, but if you like laid back melodic prog, pop rock and art rock, then this is well worth a listen.

Boulevard - Boulevard IV: Luminescence. After nearly 30 years, a new Boulevard album. Who would have thought we'd ever see that? It's a very good too and one of the best pure AOR albums you will hear this year. Vocalist David Forbes still sounds absolutely brilliant and as a whole, the album is very consistent throughout with some great song writing on show, 'Life Is a Beautiful Thing' deserving a special mention. This could never reach the heights of the masterpiece that was 1990's 'Into the Street' but it gives it a damned good go at it. Terrific stuff.

Brother Firetribe - Sunbound. First album in 3 years from this excellent Finnish band and a brilliant slice of bombastic AOR. BF are definitely one of the best bands out there doing this style and this album is up there with their best work. Just missed out on top 5 placing.

Carpark North - Hope. Long awaited follow up to the excellent 'Phoenix' which made my honourable mentions list back in 2015. Whilst not quite as good as that release, this still contains some brilliant moments. As with the previous album, this is one of my most played discs this year, so If you like you Synth/Pop rock, then this is the perfect example. Playing time is a bit stingy side at less than 35 minutes, but it is non-the less a really very good release.

Cheap Trick - We're All Alright. Last year's 'Bang! Zoom Crazy...Hello' made my number 1 spot and was classic CT at their best. As with that, this shows a band over 40 years into their career, still releasing relevant, quality music that bands half their age would dream about. If you like Cheap Trick, then this is pretty much a no brainer. No real surprises here, just great Power Pop from the genre's best exponents.

Christopher Cross - Take Me As I Am. One of my favourite singer/ songwriters. and a beautifully written, performed and produced album of mainly instrumental tracks, with vocal choruses. One for the fans of Soft Rock/ West Coast music, but absolute top quality, as always with CC.

Code Red - Incendiary. One of a handful of releases this year that trod a similar path with that dreaded 'project' feel to it, but it did manage to keep its head out in front, due to the quality of the material, production ,(which isn't overdone}. and the input of the musicians involved, which includes the ever reliable Daniel Flores, Michael Palace and Ulrick Lonnqvist, who reminds vocally very much of Brother Firetribe's Pekka Heino. The BF angle is actually not a bad way to approach this album, as it contains some very good melodic songs in a similar style, albeit a little more generic in places. Whether we'll see another release is open to question, but 'Incendiary' is a nice first effort all the same.

Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice. Crazy Lixx are one of the best bands doing this type of stuff at the moment. and with 'Ruff Justice' they have come up with, for me, the best they have done thus far. Compared to previously, they definitely explore more styles musically from the harder rocking stuff, to the more AOR type tracks with even a hint of mid 80's Bon Jovi creeping into the mix on a couple of tunes. It's great fun, sounds a million bucks and I loved virtually every minute of it.

Creye - Straight To The Top EP. A very promising 3 track EP. as a taster to the upcoming debut album, which will hopefully be released in 2018. If the sweet taste of Scandie AOR is your thing, then definitely a band to check out. Only 3 tracks, but top quality stuff and I especially liked the version of Robert Tepper's 'No Easy Way Out'. Definitely ones to watch.

Dan Reed - Confessions. It's always a highlight when Mr. Reed releases a solo album and this one is no different. Compared to his DRN stuff, the material is pretty much acoustic, with some beats and keys added for texture. It's pretty laid back throughout its 45 odd minutes, but most of the songs are really well done and with the added bonus of his still great, smooth vocals, this is a real treat for the ears.

Deep Purple - Infinite. Once again, good to see the old rockers producing the goods and giving the youngsters a run for their money, with pretty much the best album they have released in years. There's a great documentary on the DVD edition too. Classic Purple!

Degreed - S/T. One, if not THE most consistent of bands over the course of their 4 albums and another brilliant release, here, packed to the gunnels with classy melodic rock , AOR. and some of the best choruses you are likely to hear this or any year. It's all here, from the rockers to classy ballads. If you still haven't heard this band, then I urge you to do so....pronto.

Eclipse - Momentum. Another quality melodic hard rock album that, as with previous releases, contains some excellent high energy, well crafted and produced songs, I will say that their last 3 albums are pretty inter changeable and dare I mention the 'Samey' word that creeps in when describing some of the songs, but there is no denying they have hit on a winning formula.

GUN - Favourite Pleasures. Gun have been promising greatness since they returned to the scene back in 2008 and finally they have done it with this brilliant album'. Driving guitar rock with attitude and an abundance of great songs feature, on what it must be said is one of the best albums of their career. Absolutely cracking stuff.

Greg Guidry - Heart To Heart. Greg's '82 debut 'Over the Line' is considered, quite rightly, a bit of a West Coast classic, 'Heart To Heart' is, a collection of tracks recorded over 30 years ago, that appear to be for a never released follow up album. Unfortunately Greg died in 2003, so it is even more of a surprise that these tracks have seen the light of day at all. There are Gems galore on here, and any fan West Coast/ AOR music should search this one out immediately.

H.E.A.T. - Into The Great Unknown. One of the genre's biggest bands on the scene right now and another great slice of melodic rock. This pretty much carries on where 'Tearing Down The Walls' left us, with a few added twists and turns along the way. For some reason, this has divided a few people along the way, but for me, this is just a natural progression in their sound for a very very good band and I for one can't wait to hear what they come up with for album number 6.

Harem Scarem - United. Besides their first two albums, I've never really quite understood the adoration some people have for this band and besides the first 2 albums, I don't play their stuff very often. 'United'' is a good solid album and their best one for quite some time. It's a well crafted slice of modern melodic hard rock with some good hooks, but. I did find it a little samey after a while and they aren't exactly breaking any new ground here either. It's good enough to recommend for what it is, without being anything mind blowing.

Honeymoon Suite - Hands Up. 7 new studio tracks + 2 live cuts make up this new release from this classic Canadian band. Musically they have progressed from the 80's sound of the classic 'Big Prize' and 'Racing After Midnight' albums, but their trademark hooks and melodic songs remain.

House of Lords - Saints Of The Lost Souls. Right back with the quality, after a few so so albums over the last few years. The songs are better, the production is better and over all, this sounds much more of a cohesive band sound, rather than a James Christian solo album and is all the better for it.

Houston - III. Album number 3 (5 if you include the 'Relaunch' covers discs) and another quality slice of AOR.from the Swedes. A slightly more organic sound this time around with less 'fluffy' keyboards, but still a very good album that will please all the AOR fraternity out there.

In This Moment - Ritual. Great album from the LA metal core masters, featuring cameos from Judas Priest's Rob Halford and a surprisingly excellent cover of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight". 'Ritual' is maybe a little more accessible than previously, especially with the use of more electronica, which gives the whole production more of an 80's feel in places, which I really liked. It is still very heavy in spots though and the vocals of Maria Brinks are still a showcase. Key tracks like Black Wedding' 'Joan Of Arc' and 'Roots' all impress, but generally the whole album is excellent.

Jim Jidhead - Push On Through. A very nice return and his first English language album since 2003's excellent 'Full Circle' album. Some familiar names are also involved, the omni present (so it seems at the moment) Daniel Flores (Find Me, Cry Of Dawn, Angelica) and Michael Palace (Palace, Cry Of Dawn, Code Red, First Signal)) who both contribute heavily in production and Instrumentation There's nothing earth shattering here, just a good/very good set of melodic hard rock songs, well played, sung and produced

Jimmy Davis & Junction - Going The Distance. First touted for release way back in 1990 and never officially released (although bootlegs have been doing the rounds for years) the second JD&J album finally gets a proper release, courtesy of Melodic Rock Records. The debut 'Kick the Wall' (also reissued with a great live disc as a bonus) was a bit of a classic and whilst 'Going The Distance' doesn't quite reach the heights of the debut, it is still a very strong, consistent album and very nice to finally have available.

Le Brock - Action and Romance EP. A very nice 5 tracker from this excellent English synthwave duo. The vocals,are great, there's keyboards galore, but also some tasty guitars in the mix, to give it all a rock edge. It doesn't get any more 80's retro than this. A full album please.

Lifesigns - Cardington. Long awaited 2nd album of well crafted melodic prog rock and very classy, well played and presented it is too. Its equal parts melodic and complex without being inaccessible, so even non prog fans may get something from this. One of the best progressive albums I have listened to this year.

Lionheart - Second Nature. A bit of a blast from the past, Lionheart have re-emerged after over 30 years since their last studio album, 84's excellent 'Hot Tonight'. The line up remains the same, except for new vocalist Lee Smalls (Shy, Iconic Eye, Phenomena) who impresses throughout. Some of the songs have already appeared on the 'Raiders Of The Lost Archives' compilation back in '99, but have been given the complete update here and all sound fabulous. Well worth investigating.

Lionville - A World of Fools. 3rd album of polished AOR and definitely their best work so far. Work Of Art's Lars Safsund features strongly on here, as well as the other new boys in the band, who all put in stellar performances. The Work Of Art/ Toto reference is an obvious but relevant one listening to this, but the songs also have their own identity and are all melodic, well constructed and most importantly, highly enjoyable and will have you hitting the repeat button regularly.

Lonely Robot - The Big Dream. John Mitchell's (Frost*, It Bites, Arena) second outing under the banner of Lonely Robot. It's Atmospheric modern prog rock, high on melody and featuring some excellent song writing and musicianship throughout.

Michael McDonald - Wide Open. The king of yacht rock returns with his first album of new material in over 17 years. Great voice and a great album full of the quality you would expect from this legendary singer.

Mike + The Mechanics - Let Me Fly. The 8th Mechanics album and the second to feature the new line up. A lovely album of Hi-tech pop rock, beautifully written, played and produced.

Nickelback - Feed The Machine. Nothing revolutionary, but it does feature, to my ears, a new reinvigorated band churning out some huge riffs on certain songs - check out the title track, 'Coin For The Ferryman' and The Betrayal (Act III) for proof in the pudding. It's very good for the most part and their best album since the excellent 'Dark Horse'.

One Desire - S/T. Another new Finnish band and one receiving rave reviews everywhere, for this, their debut album. You pretty much know what you are going to get from the start, hooky melodic rock, big guitars, huge choruses, slick production etc etc and when it is done as well as this, it is hard to criticize (if I must, I think the first half is stronger than the second). Definitely a band to challenge the big boys of the genre and album number 2 could be huge.

Phil Lanzon - If You Think I'm Crazy. A super debut album from the Uriah Heep keyboard player and a late entry into the 'Honourables' list. It's a an album of varied styles, ranging from ballads, to rock, to full on symphonic prog rock and everything else in between. Special note for the orchestral arrangements, which are superbly done and add to the whole lush sound of the album. A fantastic release for sure and one I will definitely be revisiting on a very regular basis.

Pinnacle Point - Winds Of Change. I haven't seen many mentions of this one over the course of the year, which is a shame, as If you like your classic rock bands like Kansas Styx Journey and Deep Purple and a bit of prog, then you are missing out on a bit of a gem of a debut here. There are lots of great songs on offer, coupled with some excellent musicianship, especially the vocals courtesy of Jerome Mazza, so if you haven't checked this out yet, then I urge you to give it a few spins.

Raintimes - S/T. New AOR not from Sweden or Finland for a change and a very good debut album. Some of the musicians featured you will recognise from previous bands like Street Talk, 91 Suite, Von Groove & Lionville, so from that, you can pretty much guess where this new project is squarely aimed. There is no wheel reinventing going on here and hopefully this doesn't turn out to be just another Frontiers release, as this shows major promise in all departments.

Revolution Saints - Light In The Dark. There is no doubting the debut was very good quality album, although, maybe a little ballad heavy and patchy in spots. With album number, 2 they have upped the ante and made a more cohesive, band sounding album, probably down to the 3 of them having more general input in the writing and production. It rocks harder, features a more consistent set of songs and great performances from all involved, especially Aldrich and Blades, who really do let loose on their respective instruments. Great stuff over all.

Rocha - Unum. Produced by the mighty Neil Kernon (Autograph, Streets, SPYS, Shy, Sir Michael Bolton, FM..The impressive list goes on) and another list of stellar musos (Jeff Pescetto, Jeff Paris, Jimmy Haslip, Michael Thompson, Tim Pierce, Michael Landau, Paul Pesco, Vinnie Colaiuta, Lenny Castro WOW) . This is top class West Coast/ AOR that I'm guessing will have slipped past most people's ears this year, whilst they all concentrate on the so called big boy releases. Again, a real shame as this contains some real AOR gems.

Rox-The Teenteeze EP. Another blast from the past and a return of UK Glam metallers Rox and a re-recording of their 'Hot Love In The City' EP. Compared to the originals shall we say 'Budget' recordings, these new versions really do come to life and sound all the better for it with their new production sheen. If 70's hard rock bands like Kiss, Starz and Angel appeal, then look no further than this little monster.

Sons Of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony. A new prog metal super group, made up of the genre's finest Sheehan, Portnoy, Thal, Scott Soto and Sherinian. No denying the pedigree on show then, but it's no good if it's just an excuse for excess noodling, like some of this stuff can turn into. Luckily, the songs mostly shine through and there are plenty of hooks mixed in with the technical stuff, supplied in ample amounts by all concerned. Not my most played album this year if I'm honest, but a very strong one, as you would expect with the names involved.

Steven Wilson - To The Bone. Producer, Instrumentalist extraordinaire and his 5th studio album of 80's progressive pop. It's a great record, with strong song writing, that draws on all areas of his career, especially the more poppy/ commercial side of his Blackfield and Porcupine Tree material, so if those bands appeal, much will be gained by listening to this latest album.

Styx -The Mission. Their first album of new material since the patchy 'Cyclorama' back on '03, that mixes the trademark Styx 'pompyness' and polishes it up with a 2017 sheen, to great results. It's a concept album of 14 tracks and 42 minutes, that really should be digested all in one sitting, to get the full impact of the storyline and flow of the album. Overall they have managed to produce a very fine album indeed and whilst far from being their 'Masterpiece', betters many of their mid/ later period albums.

The Nights -S/T. Crunchy guitars, huge choruses and some really good songs on here and not the complete wimp out I was half expecting Definitely one of the better melodic rock albums this year, as well as being one of Frontiers better releases. The mighty Finns do it again.

Thunder - Rip it Up. 30 years into their career and Thunder produce another set of great songs, that whilst sounding fresh, also sound familiar as well. They do what they do and they do it very well, as witnessed here. This probably won't make them many new fans, but existing one will lap this up. The Limited edition of this also comes with an excellent 2 CD live album recorded at the 100 club in London, plus if you got in quick at the website, the 'Broken Mirror' EP., which features a further 4 tracks. Lots to get your teeth into then and lots to really enjoy.

Tomi Malm - Walkin' On Air. Exquisite West Coast with a crème de la crème line up of musicians,( Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips, Robbie Buchanan, Shem von Schroeck, Jason Scheff, Frank Adahl,, Alex Al, Clif Magness, Bjarne Langhoff, to name but a few). A rich mix of jazz fusion, soul and west coast pop, blended to create a fantastic album, that will have you 'Walkin' on Air' when you have listened to it.

Vandenberg's Moonkings - MK II. Whilst far from being my favourite album of 2014, the debut Moonkings album showed a lot of promise. With the new one, the guys have upped the stakes and produced a better album of 70's inspired hard rock which has much to commend throughout. including some great vocals courtesy of Jan Hoving and some tasty guitar work from Mr. Vandenberg. For all the retro 70's classic rock boys, this is a must have.

Wildness - S/T. A new young Melodic rock band out of Sweden. Hmmm! where have we heard that before you may ask (on a weekly basis) ;),This really is an absolutely killer album, if truth be known, especially for a debut, and out of all the albums in this genre, (yes including, H.E.A.T}, this one is absolutely top of the pile. There's not one even remotely average song to be found on here, such is the quality and I found myself going straight back to the beginning as soon as the last notes of the superb 'Turn The Pages' had died out Killer stuff indeed!

Jez's Winners

5th Place

cover Von Hertzen Brothers - War Is Over (Music Theories Recordings). 'War Is Over' sees the band of brothers firmly back in full prog, mode with elements of symphonic rock, classic rock, as well as some pop and synth references, all mixed into the melting pot, to produce a fresh and dramatic end result. Another band that doesn't mind exploring their musical sensibilities and one that has gotten stronger with each subsequent release. The results are stunning and an album that breathes new life into the genre This is brilliant from start to finish and unreservedly deserves it's place in my top 5 of the year.

4th Place

cover Threshold – Legend Of The Shires (Nuclear Blast Records). One of the best and most consistent prog metal bands over the last 15 years come up trumps again, Previous vocalist Damien Wilson has been replaced with original Threshold vocalist Glyn Morgan and he does a fine job, ably backed by a flawless band and the 14 songs that make up this lengthy, multi layered concept album. It's got crunching guitars, layers of keys, melodies and hooks to die for, pretty much everything any discerning rock fan would want to listen too. It is long for one sitting, at over 80 minutes playing time, but you soon find yourself being immersed in all the twists and turns, which makes for an incredible listening experience.

3rd Place

cover The Night Flight Orchestra - Amber Galactic (Nuclear Blast Records). My expectations were very high for this their 3rd album. The debut 'Internal Affairs' and follow up 'Skyline Whispers' were both excellent slices of 70's/ early 80's inspired hard rock, that really impressed Part 3 sees the band pushing the boundaries a little further, covering all the bases from Classic Rock, AOR, West Coast, Pomp and a smattering of Prog and its all brilliantly done. What I like the most is that every song offers something different, and the album never gets samey or stale. It's very retro, but still manages to sound new and fresh. 2017 really does see the band really progressing and challenging the big boys at this game and evidently, album number 4 is in the pipeline too, so watch this space same time next year maybe.

2nd Place

cover Cats In Space – Scarecrow (Harmony Factory Records). 'Too Many Gods' was an absolutely phenomenal album, especially for a debut and made my number 1 spot back in 2015. Since then, the band has gone from strength to strength with arena tours supporting the likes of Thunder, Deep Purple and Status Quo. as well as managing to record album number 2 .It's a natural progression from the debut, maybe more mature in sound,, with less influences and more of their own 'Sound' but it's another very very good classic rock record and deservedly gets a top 5 spot.

Jez's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2017 CD of the Year

cover Don Barnes – Ride The Storm (Melodic Rock Records). Never did I think that this would ever get a released, never mind end up being my top pick of the year in 2017. Nearly 30 years in limbo, sitting on the shelf, gathering dust, finally; the year has come that this musical gem gets the release it fully deserves. Like most, I have had to make do with 2nd hand quality mp3's of this for years, but now, the songs finally come to life sounding pristine and as if they were recorded last week. A big pat on the back (JK Northrup/ Brian Foraker) for the remastering job done here, as it sounds absolutely top notch. The choice of 2 mixes of the album is a nice touch, with the 'Rock' mix being my choice of the 2, as it beefs up the guitars somewhat and has more edge than the more commercial alternate mix. .30 years ago, this would have garnered 'Classic' status I am sure, which makes it all the worse that it has remained 'un heard' for so long. Not now!. Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy one of the best long lost classics you are ever likely to hear.

Terry's Picks for the Best of 2017

The Also Rans

Ferrett - In Through The Out Door
Hard Wretches - Next Level
Julian Angel - The Death of Cool
Shanghai Guns - Cabaret
Vince Voltage - Hard Rock Survivor

Honorable Mentions

Stop Stop - Barceloningham. Probably everyone's most hated band but for reasons unknown to me. They rock like mad and sound stunning.

Shallow Side - One.This modern/southern fried rocker was so good my review couldn't get published for fear of too much success. Really cool band with a unique sound.

Vice - The First Chapter. Not a Vice that ANYONE is familiar this metal band from England snuck out a long play in 2017 in a limited edition demo and it is very very solid. Seek it out!

Vitne - Jupiter. Vitne springs back with a collection of new wave hard rock tunes guaranteed to tickle even the ficklest of fans.

Terry's Winners

5th Place

cover Hellfire - Free Again. Hellfire's 2nd release from these flying V wielding, bell bottom wearing, Bay Area metallers cements these youngsters in the old school metal foundation no doubt. Very nicely crafted album that has all the elements of some of the best 80's NWOBHM acts. This one has been spinning for ever and I can't imagine that status changing any time soon! Horns up lads!

4th Place

cover Rebels End - Seeing Red Seeing Dead. These guys from Belgium released a quintessential sleaze rock album this year and it was all nice and self made and so deep indie no one knew about it but me. :) I can not wait for a follow up but Seeing Red Seeing Dead is a great record and should be on everyone's short list.

3rd Place

cover Wild Freedom - Set The Night On Fire. Jesus priest! This long play from Barcelona's barely legals Wild Freedom is a sleazy masterpiece in the making. These kids just plain slay on every track on STNOF. For fans of Ray West and Spread Eagle. HIGHLY anticipating whats next and highly recommended debut.

2nd Place

cover (BARELY) I The Fire - Disable The Ego. I The Fire is the one of the best bands I have had the pleasure of listening to. MT got the number 1 and they just crept by this NY based hard rock band. These guys are super talented and the power on Disable The Ego is crushing. Massive guitars, blasting and booming rhythm section and so much melody in the vocals, powerful as hell but sooooo melodic. Very tight first effort and #2 with a bazooka. A certain unknown and must own (TM)!

Terry's Pick for Heavy Harmonies 2017 CD of the Year

cover Magick Touch - Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire. Well son of biscuit if my favorite band and album of 2016 didn't sock me right in the eye again with 10 musical delights of what can and always will be filled with all of the most excellent elements that we all geek out over from our favorite 70's and early 80's hard rock stars. Which of course rockets them into the numero uno slot again. Magick Touch indeed! So well done this one is it should be illegal and the guys in the band are as cool as cool can be. Zero ego and 2 million pounds of raw talent.

Existing comments about Best of 2017

From: the rocker Date: January 27, 2018 at 23:04
1. Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice 2. Eclipse - Monumentum 3. Romeo Riot - Sing It Loud 4. Midnite City - s/t 5. Kee Of Hearts - s/t 6. Harem Scarem - United 7. One Desire - s/t 8. House Of Lords - SOTLS 9. TMF - s/t 10. Phantom V - Play To Win

From: Eric3 Date: January 28, 2018 at 10:56
1. One Desire 2. the rest Although Degreed and Lionville put out some pretty good ones.

From: Doghouse Reilly Date: January 28, 2018 at 11:58
I'm not gonna go in order. For HH stuff (and admittedly, I'm not as into the whole "melodic rock" thing as you guys are anymore): L.A. Guns: The Missing Peace; Rhino Bucket: The Last Real Rock 'n' Roll; Junkyard: High Water; The Wild!: Wild At Heart; Eclipse: Monumentum; Santa Cruz: Bad Blood Rising. For more BrutalMetal-type material? Overkill: The Grinding Wheel; Kreator: Gods Of Violence; The Atomic Bitchwax: Force Field; Night Demon: Darkness ... something about darkness; Pallbearer: Heartless; Novembers Doom: Hamartia; Paradise Lost: Medusa; Immolation: Atonement; Enslaved: E; Rings Of Saturn: Ultu Ulla.

From: Doug Date: January 29, 2018 at 11:28
Love the end of the year Best of HH lists!! My Top 5 (and some honorable mentions): 1. Revolution Saints - Light in the Dark (Most notably, two remarkable ballads.) 2. Fozzy – Judas (Title track is awesome. Finally, their breakout album!) 3. Harem Scarem - United 4. Eclipse – Monumentum (Erik Martensson, ‘nuff said.) 5. Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony (“Coming Home,” great song!) Honorable Mentions: Warrant - Louder, Harder, Faster (These guys are so underappreciated, Robert Mason brings real talent to this lineup.) Art of Anarchy - The Madness Mr. Big - Defying Gravity Night Ranger - Don't Let Up L.A. Guns - The Missing Peace (Good comeback album, under the radar for many) Biggest disappointments : Theory of a Deadman, “Wake Up Call,” a cool band but man, what an awful album and Richie Sambora + Orianthi, “RSO – Rise.” Individually incredible, together terrible.

From: 123charpenay Date: January 29, 2018 at 13:17
2017 start very slow.january to august we have only two great records white widdow and crazy lixx.it was a pity.hoppefully the end of the year was superior with several exceptional realises.my top eight of the year not more cause 2017 was a poor year in quantity not in quality. 1 WILDNESS same 2 CRAZY LIXX ruff justice 3 THE NIGHTS same 4 REVOLUTION SAINTS light in the dark 5 DON BARNES ride the storm 6 PHANTOM play to win 7 WHITE WIDDOW silouhette 8 KRYPTONYTE same. that s all.

From: 123charpenay Date: January 31, 2018 at 13:23
song of the year "collide" from WILDNESS

From: Scandiman Date: February 3, 2018 at 19:15
Great lists guys! Thank you for putting these together each year! Here is how my 2017 ended up: 1--> One Desire 2--> Brother Firetribe - Sunbound 3--> Smash Into Pieces - Rise and Shine 4--> Eclipse - Monumentum 5--> H.E.A.T. - Into the Great Unknown 6--> Harem Scarem - United 7--> Tokyo Motor Fist 8--> Lionville - A World of Fools 9--> Adelitas Way - Notorious 10--> Houston - III /// So many others made my best of list this year as well. Confess, Night Flight Orchestra, Bonfire, Threshold, Satin, PC69, Boulevard, and Silked & Stained are all worthy of honorable mentions. One of the best years for music in a good while for sure!

From: BDrums1971 Date: February 6, 2018 at 14:59
Really Mike? Kid freaking Rock?!? Wow... On the upside, Night Flight Orchestra is a near perfect release. This seems to be so far the best of 2017 that I have heard.

From: Doug Date: February 6, 2018 at 19:17
Yeah, I agree Kid Rock's latest is a bit of head-scratcher for any best of list. Now his "Rock and Roll Jesus," that one has more merit for a possible best of list, IMO.

From: guitarrizer Date: February 14, 2018 at 3:18
Not enough attention to Anthriel "Transcendence". It's very melodic progressive power metal with some nod towards ecellent Dream Theater's "Images and Words" + some Scandinavian feel and neoclassical stuff here and there.

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