There were a lot of albums released in 2017. I really enjoyed quite a few of them, but decided to talk about my 10 favorites. Here they are.
10. Elder – Reflections Of A Floating World
Elder has slowly but surely been garnering the fanbase it deserves over the past few years, and it seems like Reflections Of A Floating World is the band's breakout record. Not to say everything before this one has been even remotely subpar, because it hasn't, but Relfections Of A Floating World is just the type of album you can listen to for a week straight and catch cool little details every single time.
Not to mention the album is a perfect mashup of Pink Floyd-meets-Rush progressive tendencies with all the crunchiness of modern stoner rock and metal bands like High On Fire and Windhand.
9. The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers
The Black Dahlia Murder releasing Ritual and Everblack back to back made me pretty positive the band was just going to release classics from there on out. Unfortunately Abysmal didn't really click with me at all, so I was a little apprehensive about Nightbringers. Upon reveal, the artwork was a callback to Nocturnal, which boded well, and fortunately the music matched.
Where Nightbringers really succeeds is the plethora of old school death metal and thrash riffs unashamedly thrown in there. They're not dressed up like modern death metal riffs to please everyone either. They're what they are they're damn good, and Nightbringers sure has no shortage of 'em. If there's a benchmark of what The Black Dahlia Murder now needs to live up to, it's this.
8. Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
If you were into Ne Obliviscaris' 2014 album Citadel, then you're very much going to enjoy Urn. Not to say that they're interchangeable, but the two follow very similar styles in terms of writing and construction. The main difference between Urn and Citadel seems to be that Urn concentrates more on driving home certain riffs and themes throughout a song and creating an atmosphere, while Citadel was more of a mad dash through a crumbling kingdom with occasional stops to admire the scenery.
I guess what I'm really getting at here is that Ne Obliviscaris has developed its style perfectly over the prior two albums and this is the result. It's great.
7. Thy Art Is Murder – Dear Desolation
Dear Desolation is 38 minutes of crushing riffs, in-your-face drums that aim only to shatter every bone in your body, and vocals from CJ McMahon that operate in only one mode, which is pissed the fuck off.
Thy Art Is Murder lost me a little bit with Holy War in 2015, but Dear Desolation is an incredible return to form from the band. Every single song on the album is just so, so heavy without all the pretense of trying to please some neckbeardy basement dweller who wants everything to be complicated and with some grandiose purpose. This isn't that. This is just a devastating album that happens to be well-written, well-performed, and very well-produced.
6. The Contortionist – Clairvoyant
Clairvoyant kind of came out of left field for me. I liked Language well enough but the album just seemed to meander about quite a bit and never really got to any sort of point. Clairvoyant rectifies that issue and the payoff is wonderful. For every moment where you're trying to figure out the multitude of rhythms and time signatures going on, there's another where you're singing along and slowly bobbing your head to an undeniably catchy riff.
Clairvoyant is pretty much a master class on how to write progressive metal in modern times, and how not to shy away from straightforward pop-esque tunes amidst all the insanity. It also helps that Michael Lessard has the voice of an angel.
5. The Dahmers – In The Dead Of Night
Horror punk with touches of classic heavy metal? Goth rock at its core with tons of rock influences? I have no idea what to call The Dahmers, but In The Dead Of Night is so good it doesn't really matter what we're labeling it. In The Dead Of Night is an incredibly diverse album that encompasses everything from old school Misfits punk rock to Thin Lizzy dual guitar harmonies, to a little spaghetti western-kind of vibes, even to a slow-burning piano ballad that feels like it'd fit right at home on an Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats album.
Pay attention to The Dahmers. They're going to be cropping up more and more as they (hopefully) make an international name for themselves outside Sweden.
4. The Faceless – In Becoming A Ghost
Knowing what to expect from In Becoming A Ghost was damn near impossible. The Faceless released two back-to-back technical death metal albums in 2006 and 2008, returned in 2012 with the progressive masterpiece Autotheism which was rife with clean vocals, and now the band has returned once more with an incredibly dark mixture of everything it has ever accomplished.
In Becoming A Ghost is an album that takes a little bit to sink in because there's just a lot going on and a lot of different styles thrown in there, but at the end of the day it's an album that's written with clear intent and lyrical introspection. Sure it's heavy, but this is a brand of heavy that's not only unique to The Faceless, but unique to the band after having explored several avenues prior.
3. Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Ulver effectively took six years between studio albums that weren't collaborations or live efforts, and the product of that downtime is nothing short of stellar. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is a gilded web spun throughout the halls of time, tying together humanity's war-like triumphs, religious fascinations, and deaths together into something that can only be described as beautifully monolithic.
Musically, The Assassination of Julius Caesar in uncharted territory for the group with its 1970/80s synth-heavy experimentation, but I'm also not sure Ulver can make any mistakes at this point in its career.
2. The Atomic Bitchwax – Force Field
There's a massive rock and roll/stoner-whatever-we're-calling-it scene in 2017 and The Atomic Bitchwax should be the undisputed kings of it. The band has been going since 1992 and in recent years has been putting out some unbelievable music. The Atomic Bitchwax doesn't just bring the riffs and leave it at that. The Atomic Bitchwax brings the riffs, figures out how to make the riffs a blend of stupid technical and mind-bogglingly catchy, and then serves it up like it's not big deal for an entire album.
Force Field is the fourth classic in a row The Atomic Bitchwax has released in the past 10 years and is head and shoulders above its peers. Whether you'd like to acknowledge that fact now or late is up to you, but it's true.
1. Propagandhi – Victory Lap
Victory Lap took five years to create and the workmanship that went into every single song, riff, and lyric on the album absolutely shows. Musically the album ranges from relatively upbeat punk like the title track and "Cop Just Out Of Frame," to the downtrodden heaviness of "When All Your Fear Collide," and even into the realms of muted and rebellious optimism on the closer "Adventures In Zoochosis." Lyrically, the album deals with taking a step back and allowing things worth being criticized to criticize themselves by their own sheer insanity.
Or as Propagandhi vocalist Chris Hannah put it, "I think back in the Less Talk era, it was more like, 'Give me the fuckin' bullhorn and let me talk about me. But I've modified that position somewhat. People say they're tired of hearing white, male voices, and so am I. I'm fuckin' tired of hearing my fuckin' self."
There are no bad tracks on Victory Lap. There are no bad lyrics on Victory Lap. This album is gold.