It’s that time of the year again. The time when I feel sick because I always leave awesome albums out of my top 15 lists, then I hate myself for it and cry myself to sleep. I tend to make lists for every genre (and one for EP’s) and I am never satisfied with them, especially when a year is as damn strong to metal in general as 2017 was. I can’t remember a year with so many quality releases, be it in traditional heavy metal, old-school death metal, doom, power, black and even niches like post-atmospheric-epic black metal or something like that.
1. ENSLAVED – “E”:
With the release of ‘E,’ Enslaved have added another notch to their stock of intense and intriguing albums. This is certainly the most engaging albums to come out this year and should satisfy metal fans of both progressive and more traditional black metal. In sharp contrast to many bands that fall into a lull after a quarter century, Enslaved continue to move forward, pushing themselves to make new and unique music. And as influential as they are, it is clear that they are still leaders in the field, following no path but the one they make for themselves.
2. IGORRR – “Savage Sinusoid”:
‘Savage Sinusoid’ is a masterpiece. This is truly an embodiment of musical and sonic liberation not only for the listener but also for itself as a form of art. This album is representative of musical expressionism in contemporary times. From the softest elements to the furthest extremes, Igorrr beautifully brings out an approach to music that doesn’t beg for an identity but is one by itself.
The production is spot on, it’s just right for the kind of music is. To have VSTs and actual instruments find good synthesis with each other without either one of them sounding overpowering is amazing. From composition and arrangements to the final production, Igorrr sets a new standard across styles of music. While the music at first can seem a little lost but ‘Savage Sinusoid’ is an album of solid musical direction.
3. PAIN OF SALVATION – “In The Passing Light Of Day”:
In The Passing Light of Day is the first masterpiece of 2017. Pain of Salvation has crafted a frequently brilliant work of modern progressive metal, one as emotionally, and lyrically deep as anything the band (or any other you care to think of) has done. And it will go down among their very best, on par with Entropia. Fans of the band who have been waiting for a return to their early sound should have nothing to complain about, and anyone curious about the band would be wise to pick it up. In many ways this album feels like the “spiritual” sequel to ‘The Perfect Element’ even though the two have no story in common. By that I mean musically, the method of storytelling, and some of the darker reality and uglier aspects of the lyrics are closer to that album than any of their others. Highly, highly recommended.
4. NOVEMBERS DOOM – “Hamartia”:
‘Hamartia’ kicks your teeth in with a grand opener in the form of “Devils Light” and I swear it will make you raise those horns up and wear that familiar Death Metal grimace on your face as Kuhr’s volcanic vocals erupts in your ears. The band has claimed ‘Hamartia’ as their best work till date and considering they have put out some classics in their earlier efforts like ‘The Pale Haunt Departure’, it is a brave statement to make. However, I would not disagree with them as I too can easily place ‘Hamartia’ right up there along with their best releases. The band hits the bull’s eye yet again on this new album and right from the intriguing artwork, the beautiful compositions down to the immaculate production, Novembers Doom don’t falter even for an inch on any aspect on this album.
5. NE OBLIVISCARIS – “Urn”:
It wouldn’t be going too far to say ‘Urn’ is a masterpiece that transcends the confines of the sub-genre while simultaneously keeping it exciting. While their journey may have been a turbulent one, with some member changes still in the works, Ne Obliviscaris have managed to sustain themselves for over a decade. Now three albums deep, with countless tours under their belts, it would be difficult to argue that NeO aren’t opening doors for the progressive metal sub-genre. Indeed, they are doing much more than that, merging the genre with others to create new musical possibilities. Or possibly a genre all of their own. For ‘Urn’ not only recalls the strengths, sounds and magic of their previous albums; it also produces its own, standing on its own merit, reaching into the future, making both ‘Urn’ and Ne Obliviscaris forces to be reckoned with.
6. DECAPITATED – “Anticult”:
Decapitated have managed to write a timeless album which looks to the future, bringing some new sounds to the table with an emphasis on songwriting and structure. ‘Anticult’ is the band’s seventh album, and for me is an album where the band have come of age and found their own unique corner of metal. Yes, the band have been reaching for this on the past fews albums, but now they have finally perfected their blend of death metal with interesting song structures that weave a web of intricate riffs and time structures while maintaining a sense of dynamics and groove. This is not an easy task to do – on the one hand to be so technical, and on the other make every note so engaging and compelling to the listener. The band have really locked in and honed each and every note this time around. ‘Anticult’ is an album which showcases a band who have become a force to be reckoned with, and could go head-to-head with the masters of the genre.
7. THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER – “Nightbringers”:
The Black Dahlia Murder have come far from their roots. With their Swedish melodic death metal meets Morbid Angel sound, they have won over many of those who wrote them off at the start of their career and become one of the most respected bands in the modern death metal scene. The band they have been on the cusp of major success for a few albums now, and ‘Nightbringers’ feels like the album to push The Black Dahlia Murder further than they have gone before.
Though stylistically rooted in the classic sound they are known for, with ‘Nightbringers’, The Black Dahlia Murder harness more refined songwriting and tighter musicianship than any previous album, and have truly crafted their magnum opus.
8. SEPTIC FLESH – “Codex Omega”:
Septic Flesh have outdone themselves with this album. The song structure and writing is sheer musical genius and it is amazing to listen to the harmonized and clinically balanced musical chairs between the drums, guitars, and the orchestra. At any stage of the album in any song, one will rip through with speed, one will play seconds and one will hold it all together and managing all this with this amount of orchestration without making the song a blaze of noise commends me to take a bow. I have to acknowledge that the production quality too is in fact better than its predecessor. So there you have it, faster, better, heavier, and more massive in all aspects. I might have set the bar high, but they blew it out of the park!
‘Codex Omega’ marks the beginning of the pinnacle and clear witness of the Greek visionaries having come to maturity and expert craftsmanship in every sense and will remain an undisputed landmark record in the genre, probably for all time.
9. CARACH ANGREN – “Dance and Laugh Amongst The Rotten”:
‘Dance and Laugh Amongst The Rotten’ is another leap in the right direction for the band. Easily their most aggressive work to date, the album is relentless all the way through. The stories are as dark and evil as you’ve come to know and love.
The bottom line here is that Carach Angren absolutely stepped up their game with ‘Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten’. They’ve very clearly matured in their songwriting abilities and we’re benefiting for it. The dark, rich atmosphere the band so masterfully creates a riveting experience that any fans of black metal will enjoy. I think this is their best work yet and personally cannot wait to see these crazy bastards live again. All of the power packed into this record is brought 10 fold to the stage.
10. THE CONTORTIONIST – “Clairvoyant”:
‘Clairvoyant’ knows its strengths lie in not wasting a moment of time and that’s why I’m alright with it being only nine tracks. It’s one of the rare albums that feels perfect in length and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The transition to becoming a prog band with slight elements of, dare I say it, indie rock interspersed here and there has been kind to The Contortionist and I feel that is demonstrated more capably here than on ‘Language’ even. For the listener that appreciates taking in their music and not being steamrolled over by it, the pacing of ‘Clairvoyant’ as well as the rewards its more accessible nature allow it at times will make for a satisfying listen. ‘Clairvoyant’ is the ideal follow-up to its transitional successor.
Venturing deeper into a more prominently prog yet accessible sound, ‘Clairvoyant‘ gives its listeners the best of both worlds.
11. TRIVIUM – “The Sin And The Sentence”:
It’s crystal fucking clear that on ‘The Sin And The Sentence‘ what they wanted to do is dominate and hard. And this record, better than anything they’ve released since ‘Ascendancy’, displays exactly who they are: An intelligent melodic, aggressive, even progressive, metal beast. They really are taking our fucking heads this time.
I could gush about individual performances on this record for hours, but most importantly, Trivium are heard here as a cohesive unit who have learned and utilised a tool from each record they’ve ever done on this one record. It is staggering and incredible, truly a listen their fans will never tire of. Trivium have really gotten it right this time, delivering unique, consistently high-quality metal anthems with virtually no exceptions allowed in. No matter why you love this band, you will find something to fall for here. Clearly, Trivium have a long life left to live. ‘The Sin And The Sentence’ is prime fan-favorite Trivium and nothing less than a well-rounded, addictive and exceptionally creative metal record.
12. NIGHT DEMON – “Darkness Remains”:
From the rampaging opener “Welcome to the Night” to the lamentations of the closing title track “Darkness Remains”, this ten-song metal masterpiece is saturated with head-banging goodness. The riffs are thick and infectious throughout the album. The Maiden tribute song “Maiden Hell” is fun and unpretentious, while “On Your Own” is riddled with hooks that bite deep. The standout track on the album however, is “Hallowed Ground”. The rolling kick drums and punchy bass track make this song a heavy metal classic.
‘Darkness Remains’ by Night Demon is unadulterated fist-pumping heavy metal at its best. This album is intoxicating; I can’t keep it off my playlist. Within ten songs of metal mastery, you are treated to classic metal played with fire in the heart and iron in the veins.
13. LEPROUS – “Malina”:
In comparison to previous Leprous albums, ‘Malina’ is more vocally driven, both in writing and audio levels. The use of strings adds another dimension to the sound, as well as the introduction of second guitarist Robin Ognedal. Similar to their previous release, this album is more polished than older material, progressing away from harsh and chaotic aspects and leaning more toward catchy and rhapsodic. While there are fewer time signature changes, the band has remained faithful to their staccato rhythms and impactful melodies, although Einar Solberg has almost completely deviated away from his classic straining screams, in favour of a more soulful approach. ‘Malina’ is yet another beautiful Leprous album to add to the collection, delivering a different flavour to an already creatively magnificent, inimitable sound.
14. DEAD CROSS – “Dead Cross”:
Every song on Dead Cross’s debut is built to satisfy, with the crackerjack surprise toy inside being the cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus. The dark underbelly of this goth post-punk classic remains intact while getting a pant load of Dead Cross. This stripped-down cover is a nice breather before you head back into the pit.
The self-titled debut from Dead Cross is a hyper-kinetic joyride which will leave a huge shit-eating grin on your face. The pace and delivery of the music on this album feels manic, yet you’ll feel the deliberate focus and intent with every song. Dead Cross have created an album that stimulates and invigorates by way of a sharp shot of adrenaline to the Reticular Formation of the brain.
15. SONS OF APOLLO – “Psychotic Symphony”:
“Opus Maximus”, the final track on the record and a rough translation revealing it to mean the greatest work or achievement of a writer, sums up much of how S.O.A feel about this album. The pride felt for ‘Psychotic Symphony’ by the artists whom created it will be shared amongst fans of their respective pasts and bright future, leaving little confusion as to why these musicians have chosen to make Sons of Apollo their priority.