Top Albums ov 2017 w/ Moshito, Hans, and Simon Phoenix!
Listmania continues with some grind, some prog, some speeeeed, some melodeath, some thrash, some doom, and some weird noise!
10. Ayreon – The Source
Mascot Label Group
If you’ve never heard of Ayreon, please don’t talk to me or my prog ever again. Just about everything Arjen Anthony Lucassen touches turns to gold in my ears, so my expectations were high going into The Source. Although my first playthrough left me a bit more overwhelmed than usual, repeat listens revealed a rich experience within the Space Rock Opera format that Arjen has made his modus operandi. From heavy seven-string riffing to Queen-like layered choirs and pretty much anything bombastic you can think of in between those, The Source is a delectable power/prog extravaganza that seems to go by swiftly despite its double-disc running time. I mean, Hansi and Russell Allen sharing vocal duties. Like, come on.
Listen to —’‘The Day That the World Breaks Down’
9. Endon – Through the Mirror
I’m not going to lie: I’ve never really been much into noise music. It’s outsider outsider music, and apparently I’m more of a normie than I thought. BUT, if you take it and mix it up with a genre that I know in love, you might just grab my attention. Endon did just that with their brand of noisy, experimental and almost drone-y grind(ish)core, and managed to enchant me with their almost strat-like guitar tone over walls of seemingly random noises, unhinged shrieks and even the occasional synth. Through the Mirror is a weird journey taken through a blend of many different genres, and even when they don’t gel there’s an undeniable force that holds my attention to be able to discern every strange element hidden within the calculated chaos.
I haven’t listened to a lot of grind this year, more because of not looking for it than anything else. But The Drip released what is a standout album for me this year: fast, filthy, cutting, grimy grind. The Haunting Fear of Inevitability is half a blistering hour of blast beats and hard hitting (but a little melodic) riffs, and it has made me want to do nothing more than rage and crush my enemies all year long. I don’t normally give overly processed drums a pass, but everything else here is done so well and presented so perfectly that that detail hasn’t hampered my enjoyment. Riff, scream, blast, breakdown, repeat until neck is appropriately tender.
If you’ve ever talked to me, I’ve probably talked to you about SikTh. They’re one of the bands who are credited for directly influencing and indirectly giving birth to the djent movement, and because of that you might absolutely love them or unequivocally loathe them. Or, like me, you could like them because they are genuinely original and amazing. The Future in Whose Eyes? took a while for it to really sink in, but after half a year in rotation I can confirm that it really feels like a SikTh album in my brain, if that makes any sense. More melodic and less chaotic, it still embodies everything that makes the band unique. Streamlined and simplified, yes. Grrrrrrreat, also yes.
Listen to — ‘The Aura’
Archspire released what was arguably the most ridiculous tech death album of 2014, and I honestly doubted that they’d being able to out-do themselves. But literally anything and everything has been proven to be possible in 2017, and Relentless Mutation is not an exception to this rule. The rapped-deathgrowl vocals are even faster, the drums are even more complex and precise, and the riffing is sure to be even tougher on the hands. But the record isn’t merely a sped-up take on their signature sound; there seems to have been a conscious effort to incorporate more atmosphere and memorable melodies into the guitar and bass riffs and leads, resulting in tracks that follow the basic formula of their previous efforts, only with way cooler and replay-worthy results. ARCHSPIRE ARCHSPIRE ARCHSPIRE
Skronky, progressive death metal? That was enough for me to want to check out John Frum. That, and their connection to The Dillinger Escape Plan (via Liam Wilson). Whatever the real reason, I absentmindedly stumbled onto one of the coolest extreme metal releases of the year. Ambience-creating guitars mixed with dissonant riffs, pulsating bass lines, shifting time signatures and chaotic-but-controlled drumming make up the foundation for most of the album, which has much more in common with Artificial Brain or Pyrrhon than it does with Dillinger. A Stirring in the Noos isn’t quite as technical as some of the more out-there death metal being produced right now, but it’s definitely rocked my ass a lot harder this year.
The Black Dahlia Murder: fun, tight, and riffing. I’ll try not to repeat what I said in my album review, but suffice it to say that Nightbringers should really be Nightbangerz. It’s been my go-to record for drive-jamming the past few months, making me cruise down the highway tapping the accelerator possibly a bit too much. All in all, it’s a very well-rounded record: if you want riffs, they’re here; if you want catchy, it’s here; if you want groove, it’s also here. If you want bad you’re shit out of luck though, because Nightbringers is just ten tracks of plain great.
I like it when bands go through stylistic changes and continue to put out great music. It turns out I like it even more when a band does that and then goes back to their original style incorporating bits of what they’ve learned along the way. For their past few albums, Paradise Lost have been doing just that, and believe me when I say Medusa stands tall even when stacked against a discography filled with genre-defining classics. The “roomy”, reverb-coated production does a perfect job of capturing the eerie melodies of the guitars and vocals, and of bringing out the powerfully tight drumming. Paradise Lost nailed the balance between melody and grittiness, and I’m already looking forward to the doom they’re yet to bring.
For a genre that takes pride in being radical and against the norm, black metal people sure get riled up when bands play the style without conforming to the genre’s hoaky, edgy and confined cosplay aesthetic. So, naturally, it always brings me joy to find a modern black metal album that is genuinely good but also makes metal dorks seethe with rage for reasons that amount to “they dress like they want to”. Der Weg einer Freiheit would be one such band, and Finisterre is a tight, enveloping and diverse black metal album that has thoroughly impressed me. On top of managing to both riff hard and create beautifully rich sonic landscapes, it boasts one of the most impressive extreme metal drumming performances of the year, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t wholeheartedly recommend this to absolutely everyone.
1. Soen – Lykaia
Silver Lining Music
When the time to pick my Album of the Year draws near, I usually have it narrowed down to two or three releases, then end up mentally fighting myself for who takes the top spot. But this year was different. The only album that perfectly sums up my 2017, the one that has been in near-constant rotation since it came out in February, is Soen’s masterpiece Lykaia. I hate bringing this comparison up every time, but… this record manages to scratch those parts of my brain that only Opeth used to manage to, often with even better results. Add in more streamlined structures, infectious vocal melodies, perfect production work… and the end result will be a truly amazing and immersive piece of art. What’s that? No death growls? Wow, it’s almost as if those aren’t necessary for this style of music to work. Martin, Joel and co. know that, and hit it way out of the park.
10. Deafkids – Configuração do Lamento | Neurot Recordings
Screwing up my first list ever right away by including something that’s actually from 2016, but saw its physical release on Neurot this year. That’s when I learned about it, so be nice. Anyway, the mix of psychedelia, krautpunkrock and noise is good enough to warrant rule violations. Super repetitive, super trippy, super dance-y.
9. L’Rain – L’Rain | Astro Nautico
Post-Pop, maybe? Weirdly warped, slightly unsettling, but ultimately beautiful and uplifting. Using actual drums on this was a great decision. Not the easiest listen despite the lovely singing, but it made for a nice break from all the evil and bummer stuff. I hadn’t thought music like this could be so interesting to me. Also, coolest physical release of the year.
8. Turia – Dede Kondre | Haeresis Noviomagi
Speaking of bummer stuff, this band sort of became my black metal blueprint for the year. The backdrop of mesmerizing, lush instrumentation pierced by agonized howls had me clicking through black metal releases every Tuesday in hopes of finding something like it. No luck there, but thankfully, other releases on this label (Lubbert Das, Iskandr, Solar Temple) hit a similar spot, if not quite as convincing.
7. The Body & Full of Hell – Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light | Thrill Jockey Records
Boy, did I gush about this thing. Let me just reiterate that it is a one-of-a-kind album that, for all its ugliness, was a delight to listen to. Noisy as hell, desperate, and eviscerating hope.
6. Hellripper – Coagulating Darkness | Independent
This is how you do it right here. Blackened thrash going at it with tons of verve, not to mention talent. Not afraid to put some sleaze into the mix, either, which creates the impression that this guy doesn’t take himself too seriously. A refreshing, fun, non-stop blazing romp that still has me gladly coming back to it. Shout out to Inconcessus Lux Lucis, who almost made the list for doing something similar this year.
5. Dead Swords – Broken Souls | Independent
And back into despair we go. What struck me the most about this wonderfully miserable piece was the room it leaves for nuance in its oppressive wall of sound. There’s a surprising amount of layers (after repeated listens, I think I hear an acoustic guitar strumming away here and there) and a surprising amount of genre influences. What would become dull and monotone in the hands of others thus becomes a rich, emotional experience, with songs that will hum in your head in quiet hours.
Richter did this to me. How could I resist these clangy guitars and that warm, melancholy crooning? Actually, I didn’t know I couldn’t, but here we are. Apparently I’m goth now. Every spin of this record reveals more of its greatness to me. Together with Maggot Heart, they went ahead and released the equivalent of the bad kind of DLC later in the year, but I ain’t even mad; these melodies and choruses are just that good.
3. Flesh of the Stars – Anhilla | Independent
I only got into this fairly recently, but once I did, I fell head over heels. It took me on an adventure unlike any other this year. From the gentle beginnings to the tumult of “III” and back into spaced-out calm, it’s as serene as it is dramatic, and I can’t help but stay engrossed throughout. Repeating themes do a great job of making this into a cohesive whole. If you’ve got a quiet evening or a long-ish road trip, do yourself a favour and let it do its magic on you.
2. Viscera/// – Release Yourself Through Desperate Rituals | Unquiet Records
Not only one of my favourite albums of the year, but actually one of my favourite bands now. All three albums are amazing. I’m not into post metal, which they often get classified as, but their unique mix of grind, sludge, psychedelic jamming, and crust has done a real number on me. The frequent clean vocals are wonderful, the harsh ones appropriately acerbic, and the (uber-massive) melancholia that seeps through it all has me heaving wistful sighs.
1. Night Demon – Darkness Remains | Steamhammer
Best album of the year, very nearly best show of the year. Pre-ordered the vinyl after only hearing two songs and never looked back. And yet, of all the records here, I would’ve deemed this least likely to even make the list less than a year ago. Traditional heavy metal was just not something I ever saw myself getting into. So apart from being an amazing record, it also symbolizes a certain capacity for change, which has been an important topic in my personal life this year. Plus it gets me fuggin PUMPED.
Listen to ‘Welcome to the Night‘
10) Suppressive Fire – The Nature of War | Lost Apparitions Records
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s great fun watching a band you’ve been following since their very beginning grow and mature into a true force to be reckoned with. Nor Cal thrashers Suppressive Fire added a second guitar for this release and the results have been nothing short of devastating. In this ode to the fallen heroes of WWI their bombast is even greater, their assault ever more lethal. Hell, their mid paced number “Dreaded Bastards” even feels like you’re crawling through the mud and worm ridden trenches trying to keep out of sight of the enemy. Their lineup has since changed dramatically, minus one guitar and plus a new singer. And while I hope they once again add a second six string to the mix (two guitars are always better than one), I’m on board to see what else these guys can pull off.
9) Lantern – II: Morphosis | Dark Descent Records
There’s been plenty of good death metal this year, yet this maniac has decided to be more choosy with it. Among his few picks comes the second full length from odd Finns Lantern. While they still employ their repertoire of twisted off kilter riffs straight out of the outer realms, II: Morphosis is far more blunt in its attack. A song like “Black Miasma” would not have come out of this band three years ago or even one year ago. So too does Necrophilos sound less sibilant and more outright pissed. But their more linear path makes this record no less strange or angry. Check it out if you like your black/death a bit more out there than usual.
8) Old Mother Hell – Old Mother Hell | Independent
The world needs more soaring, sometimes operatic singing over slow trudging notes. I’m talking of course about epic doom. It’s been seeing something of a resurgence in recent years and I’m all for it. There are a couple of great choices for Candlemass-core this year but my vote goes to the self titled debut from a trio of jolly roadsters from Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Old Mother Hell hits all the right notes for this sub-genre. Big mountain plowing riffs, dramatic forceful vocals courtesy of guitarist Bernd Werner, a warm production giving more gravitas to the proceedings, all there all great. This record is a little more upbeat than others in the epic doom category, but no less impactful. This album manages to impress and stand proudly among this year’s stellar releases from the likes of Argus and Pagan Altar. Fitting company indeed.
7) Stalker – Shadow of the Sword | Napalm Records
For most the choice of thrash ATOY was easy. One half of the metal community slobbered over Nightmare Trip, the other half slobbered over The Guillotine. For me, neither album compared to the debut full length from New Zealand speed/thrash outfit Stalker. Their now hard to find demo Satanic Panic was a wonderful blend of old Overkill and Whiplash. Shadow of the Sword is a truckload more of the same. Providing the world with a great dosage of the three essential R’s: RIFFS, RAGE, AND REVERB, with vocals that are over the top without being crossover level obnoxious. And that cover art is just the right amount of ominous; what unspeakable creature could possibly exist underneath literal lava without it or its sword melting into nothing? Would any force stand a chance against such a beast? The world may never know, but it should know this record thrashes hard.
6) Winds of Leng – Horrid Dominion | Independent
This and the album after it have one thing in common, they have both been a long time in the making. For nearly a decade has the enigmatic JT from Arizona been crafting this passion project of his, and in 2017 it has finally come to pass. Unlike the album on this list after it, this is a debut and not full-length number 8. But goddamn it hits almost as hard and is just as satisfying. A bowlful of filthy Stockholm influenced death metal, with just a dash of lucid melody somehow thrown in despite very few solos. Horrid Dominion slaps you with riff after relentless riff and line after line of sandpaper vocals. Even when it slows down like on “Awakening the Overmind” or the absolutely massive “The Void” it still feels like a sledgehammer to the temple. The production and mixing by none other than Dan Swano helps vastly in that regard, giving the already razor sharp guitars and vocals an even more serrated blood coated barbed wire edge. As much as I’m burned out on this style of death metal, if bands like WOL keep crafting powerhouse albums like this one, I might just regain interest in them Boss pedals again.
PS: They have the second coolest band logo on this list.
5) The Chasm – A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain (Phase I)| Luxinframundis Productions
Well, one of my favorite metal bands of all time finally put out a new album after nearly a decade. And it is both the most straightforward and most inviolable effort that they have made. On A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain (Phase I), Daniel Corchado makes a concentrated effort to move forward from the past of his previous work, of his inspirations, and even of the death metal genre. You can even see this trajectory throughout the album; the first few “chapters” starting in much the same vein as previous album Farseeing… and then getting ever more esoteric, adding more strange riff patterns and passages. The complete lack of vocals was very much a turnoff for this maniac at first, as many people fail to realize that Corchado’s vocals are a large contributor to the band’s eerie nature. But in time I found myself in tune with what he was trying to convey. While I still personally prefer the older efforts, “A Conscious Creation” is still a fantastic album and a turn in an interesting direction for The Chasm. I’ll be watching closely to see where their ventures take me next.
4) Craven Idol – The Shackles of Mammon | Dark Descent Records
What do you get when you combine the utter filth of Bathory and other first wave bands, and the violent spitting anger of the “worst” of the Brazilian cult bands, then blend an unusual sense of Manilla Road’s melody and scope into the concoction? You get the latest offering from British quartet Craven Idol. I’ve written about how much I love these blokes before but here they have truly outdone themselves. The Shackles of Mammon is immensely hateful in the best way. Not many bands can go from absolute rage to sprawling fist pumping anthems in the course of an album and often even in the same song. But S. Vrath and company are no ordinary band, capable of smacking the taste out of any generic Venom aping bullet belt wearing outfit by way of songwriting alone. Take one listen to “The Trudge” and tell me these guys don’t deserve to have greater accolades than they do already. Up the horns to this record and down with the failure of man and their false gods.
3) Chevalier – A Call to Arms | Independent
I’m truly glad good ol speed metal is back in full force. Of all the fresh young bands donning their leather and singing at as high a pitch as possible, Finland’s Chevalier are head and shoulders my favorite. Everything you love about speed metal is contained within these six songs wrapped in a production that can only be described as the prettiest shade of dungeon murk to raid your earlobes. It makes it a bit difficult to hear the astounding wails of vocalist Emma Grönqvist. But that’s not quite a deal breaker to me; as much as I love her vocals, putting her ethereal musings to the back of the mix (on purpose) gives the record even more of a mystical feel, like it was some dusty old tome unearthed from the deepest buried library. And this album being as good as it is, I could care less that it is only an EP. A Call to Arms is the perfect tease to greater treasures, and I have my weapons ready ready to claim them when the band is ready.
2) Blackevil – The Ceremonial Fire | FDA Records
The fact that everyone ignored this record should be considered a crime against music, and I’m holding you wieners in the metal blogsphere personally accountable. Rarely has black/thrash been this catchy or dare I say it, inspiring, even if it inspires you to burn down a church and mutilate a couple of priests. Similar to Craven Idol, the German trio smoothly infused a bunch of their favorite first wave and trad metal records into a collage of anthemic hymns to unholy majesty, and the results are staggeringly good. Unlike the former band the focus is less blind rage and more on fist pumping goodness. I wish I had done a full review of this back in July, so I could’ve gushed a bit more about how I still can’t get the hook to “Heavy Forces Marching On” out of my skull. Or how mid paced stomper “Seven Bridges Seven Gates” is basically Manowar trying to play black metal (Which is a compliment, so you posers in the comments section can shut up in advance.). Or how majestic album closer “Under the Black Sail of the Burning Cross” is the best Running Wild tribute I’ve heard in some time and not just because of the lyrics either. Or even how front-man Abyss has some of the best vocals in the sub-genre, flipping back and forth between a maddening howl and a inhuman snarl with occasional commanding shouts. Underrated in every sense of the word, the cult is definitely alive with this record. Simon says listen to it.
1) Lunar Shadow – Far From Light | Cruz Del Sur Music
It’s widely agreed among the reviewing circle that many words are way too overused. The word “epic” deserves to be locked away forever and any speaker of it to be electrocuted till death. But just this once this year, the word is more than appropriate. There are many young traditional heavy metal bands running around wowing folks with dual guitars and vocal acrobatics and constant dancing around on stage. But nay, Lunar Shadow decided to weave fantastical narratives and create a particular mood with their songs instead of the usual odes to metal. Away from Light is a different flavor than their Triumphator EP and very different than almost every other trad metal band out there; sounding nearly as bleak and cold as a second wave BM album. “But Simon, making a trad metal album with Dissection-esque tremolo riffing and mournful lyrics about the inevitability of death and the loss of those we love from various fantasy perspectives sounds silly.” On paper it is, but Max “Savage” Bribaum is an absolute mage on the six string. Easily going from mid paced soundscapes to trudgy doom like on “The Kraken” to almost speed metal via “Cimmerian” he seemingly can pull off any genre with gusto. Also, way to put two ballads on the album and make both sound both mournful and kickass, guys. I sincerely hope that Lunar Shadow become a force in traditional metal like how Manowar and Omen were in the 80’s and Eternal Champion and Night Demon are currently. In the meantime I’m going to go spin Far From Light in my CD player for the hundredth time and hope the quintet eventually get here to play in the States. Many hails.