1997 was a really good year for heavy music. In fact, it was probably the best year in a long time, and things would only get better. For the first time in several years, there are some pretty good albums that did not crack the top 10.
Power metal was experiencing a renaissance and that is evident in this list that includes several bands of this sub-genre.
10. Children of Bodom – Something Wild
The original album only clocked in at a touch over 30 minutes. This album is at number 10 without the additional bonus tracks, and would be even higher if I included those. Anyway, Children of Bodom provided an original and fresh sound with terrific guitars and keyboards unlike anything I have heard before. A good start for a really good band.
9. Saxon – Unleash the Beast
Saxon’s career has been very up and down and Unleash the Beast is definitely on the upside. This album is fast and heavy and a real return to form. Certainly, it is not at their 1981 level, but this is the best Saxon album since Power and the Glory, and a welcome come back for Biff and the boys.
8. Tad Morose – A Mended Rhyme
The first Urban Breed album from Tad Morose is a real jump from their earlier albums. It isn’t just the vocals though that makes this album so much better. Basically, it is heavier. More guitars and bigger guitars. Less ballads and more power metal. More good things were to come from this band.
7. Jag Panzer – The Fourth Judgment
Colorado’s Jag Panzer had been a pretty average traditional metal band until this point. They released a record in 1984 that was pretty dull, and then 10 years later came out with an even worse record. So, unexpectedly, this 1997 release is stellar. This is real power metal, with superb vocals and guitars. Jag Panzer helped prove that metal was not dead in the USA.
6. In Flames – Whoracle
Like the Jester Race before it, Whoracle is terrific release from Gothenburg’s In Flames. I like Jester Race a little more, but both albums are really good, and probably represent the best pieces of In Flames’ catalog.
5. HamerFall – Glory to the Brave
HammerFall’s first album is one that defines the power metal genre. Speed and power are evident here. Flashy guitar solos and proficient vocals. HammerFall’s star would burn out quickly, but their first couple of records is great.
4. Psycho Motel – Welcome to the World
Fanboy alert. Adrian Smith’s Psycho Motel released two albums. This is by far the better of the two. This record proved what a great songwriter Adrian is, and really the only unfortunate thing about Adrian re-joining Iron Maiden is that Psycho Motel never got to release a follow up to this great album. As a side note, the guitar solo with Dave Murray did show us what had been missing in Iron Maiden’s music since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
3. Iron Savior – Iron Savior
This may be a debut from Germany’s Iron Savior, but these guys are not rookies. Really, this was supposed to be a side project, but it seems that Piet and the rest of the band decided they were happy with the results and decided to continue the project. A much underrated band that is often panned by fans and critics, but I will never understand why.
2. Gamma Ray – Somewhere Out in Space
The original power metal band, Gamma Ray was in the middle of a great three album stretch with Somewhere Out in Space. It is difficult to describe this album. Really look at the commentary for the power metal bands above, and multiply their proficiency. Gamma Ray, to me, is the original ad the best power metal band, and this record is further evidence of that.
1. Bruce Dickinson – Accident of Birth
I do not think I can be accused of being a fanboy here. Some people say this is the album that brought traditional metal back. I don’t know if I would go that far, but the reunion of two legends, Dickinson and Smith, along with another great player in Roy Z is remarkable. Skunkworks was a great album, but Bruce reached the top of the mountain with this record.