Album of the Year 2017 – Number 11

Welcome to day 20 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

As I near the top 10 of this year’s mammoth undertaking, I have found it harder than ever to settle on the albums that are deserving of a place in my final ten. I know that I sound like a broken record but there has been a glut of super records this year and it means that, already, several contenders have fallen by the wayside.

Not only has 2017 been stronger than many preceding years, it has also thrown up a few surprises along the way. This has also coincided with a conscious decision to broaden my horizons and check out records that I’d normally not bother with or deliberately give a wide berth. In some instances, the results have been unexpected and in a good way. So, without giving too much away, prepare for a raised eyebrow or two in the final ten over the coming week.

As always, if you have missed any of the previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post along with links to the entire countdowns from previous years.

Number 11

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Serenity
Lionheart
Napalm Records

“…what might raise an eyebrow is the increased heaviness of the material on ‘Lionheart’. A criticism often levelled at symphonic power metal is that it can be a little lacking in the metal element. Not so here. ‘Lionheart’ is probably the most guitar-driven record in the band’s history and it sounds utterly glorious. The tone is muscular, full of crunch and potent.

First off, ‘Lionheart’ is an album that is remarkably consistent. There a genuinely no duff tracks, no let-up in the quality and the 13 songs that span a hefty 54 or so minutes literally fly by. And what’s more, I feel so good when this record is playing…the Serenity recipe means that the end result is one that hits that sweet spot with me and is likely to do the same for many others who enjoy their metal on the more melodic end of the spectrum.

I love all of the traditional instrumental embellishments that appear throughout the album. They provide a touch of authenticity and context to aid the lyrical content, whilst injecting a folky and slightly Celtic edge to the music.

I have always been a fan of Serenity but with ‘Lionheart’, this incredible band has pushed my admiration into the realms of complete adoration. This record is nothing short of a melodic symphonic metal masterpiece, where the symphonics are dialled up to ten and the metal quota is ratcheted up to eleven. For me, that’s the perfect combination.”

Read the full review here.

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I genuinely feel for Serenity. They deserve a place in my top 10 for 2017 and any other year they would almost certainly have made it. Unfortunately, the year has been so strong that someone had to miss out. After much internal wrangling, I had to make my choice and with a heavy heart, I have chosen ‘Lionheart’ as my number 11.

And whilst it isn’t a direct reason for my choice (the music is always at the forefront of my decision-making), I genuinely feel the need to briefly bemoan the decision by the record label to only make this record available via a stream. Had I been able to download the album and thereby listen more frequently rather than be entirely constrained to late night spins, I would have had a greater opportunity to explore the material in different settings. I have lost count of the times that an album has clicked with me whilst out on my daily dog walks or in the car on my way to work. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option with ‘Lionheart’.

But enough of my personal griping, let’s get back to the most important thing here – the music. Serenity shouldn’t feel too upset on that score, because ‘Lionheart’ is by far and away the very best melodic symphonic power metal release of 2017. And given the competition, I’d say that this is a pretty impressive feat.

The winning factor? There are many, but I love the fact that ‘Lionheart’ is properly ‘metal’ with a powerful, muscular guitar-driven sound, easily the heaviest of their career. Big, chunky riffs, well-placed solos and a rhythm department full of power; it all leads to a heady final result that’s easy to get swept up in, especially when the pronounced symphonic elements remain present and correct, alongside some killer hook-laden choruses. ‘Bombastic’ is a term often thrown at this kind of heavy metal but in Serenity’s case, it is an adjective well deserved.

Additionally, whilst I’m not normally one for lyrics, it has to be said that Serenity sidestep the ‘cheesy’ trap thanks to some intelligent and accurate historical stories brought to life through music – mind you, with a history lecturer as your lead vocalist and lyricist, is it any wonder that this is the case?

Simply put, Serenity tick all the boxes with ‘Lionheart’. It all adds up to an addictive and thoroughly entertaining listening experience. And, as I’ve already said in this post before, Serenity have created the very best melodic symphonic power metal album of 2017. I truly love this band and I hope that ‘Lionheart’ propels Serenity to further success that their talent richly deserves.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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