40 Best Metal Albums of 2017

Well, we’re finally here – the end of 2017. Over the past two months, we at the Vancouver Weekly Best Metal Albums List Headquarters (it’s a real place with candles and skulls and stuff, I swear) have wrung our hands, scratched our skulls, and agonized over what made it onto our personal top 10 metal albums lists.

Contributors this year include such Vancouver metal scene notables as Abi Coulson (Darktones Photography), Kelsey Dionne (Bones Clothes), Andy Gronberg (radio host at CiTR 101.9 FM – Powerchord and CIVL 101.7 FM – Andy’s Attic), and Kyle Harcött (That’s When I Became A Metalhead – The Podcast). The group is rounded out by plain old riff junkies and metal show stalwarts Nate Betts, Adam Clark, Josh Clark, and yours truly.

The list you are about to explore is a careful compilation of all eight of our lists. The higher the album was on our personal top 10 lists, and the more top 10 lists the album appeared on, the higher the album slotted. So if you don’t agree with the top of the list, don’t blame me – blame all eight of us! Some things that will become apparent through our picks are that we live in the Pacific Northwest, we are Canadian, we like it very heavy, and some of us are unhinged. There are some serious surprises here, most surprising of which are some high-profile omissions. All this means is that the album simply was not recognized by even one of us as particularly excellent, or that it wasn’t heavy enough (which is subjective, I know), or that it’s number 41. I won’t spoil it. I’ll let you flabbergast yourself.

So, we hope you enjoy it. Be sure to let us know what you think in your social comments. What did we miss? Which of our picks are lame? Which do you love? Would you tattoo your eyeball for $1000? We want to read your thoughts, and most of us over here aren’t telepaths, so help us out.

Hades and Gentlebeasts, I give you, the 40 Best Metal Albums of 2017. Thanks for reading.

Daniel Robichaud

40.

Vol. III & IV: Cult of the Void

Seer

Art of Propaganda / Wicked Lester Records

July 7, 2017

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Listen & Buy

Over the last few years, Seer has emerged as one of the premier purveyors of heaviness in Vancouver. Cult of the Void is an adventurously varied yet very consistent work which includes progressive, fuzzy psychedelia; doomy ambience; bristly, stoner-sludge riffs; and a balanced ratio of clean, soaring vocals and howling gurgles and growls from the abyss. Bronson Lee Norton’s clean vocals are reminiscent of a young Danzig’s more melodious moments. The nine-minute “They Used Dark Forces” is a trip in itself, and serves as a proper appetizer if you aren’t familiar with the band yet. Vol. 5 is also out now (October 2017) and is worth checking out. If their 2017 material is any kind of gauge, the future looks very bright for Seer.

Daniel Robichaud

39.

Blood Offerings

Necrot

Tankcrimes Records

June 9, 2017

Oakland, California, USA

Listen & Buy

Oakland, California’s Necrot showcase a varied style of old-school death metal on their debut full-length, Blood Offerings. It’s an album that emerges from the pummeling drums and chugging guitars with songs full of solid riffs that are high-grade head-bangers. The trio sound confident in their ability to combine variety and brutality while paying homage to a timeless style of metal that is breakneck and unrelenting. The impressive production delivers crushing, blue-collar dynamics and classic death-style thick with a layer of blech.

Adam Clark

38.

Rites of Passage

Sabbath Assembly

Svart Records

May 12, 2017

Texas / New York, USA

Listen & Buy

There is much to love on Rites of Passage – eerie instrumentals of serpentine psychedelia, Jamie Myers’ enthralling voice, the peculiar and apparently frank familiarity with the dark arts, the achievement of a doomy heaviness without abusing volume… Sabbath Assembly seem to be of a different time and place. Rites rings of genuineness, as if the band create inside their own realm without the bothersome influence of scenes or trends. There are no wasted moments on this, their impressive fifth full-length since their naissance in 2010. The songs are woven musical tapestries; upon close inspection, one sees the many intricate threads, but the true, stunning beauty is perceived when one steps back and the full-length pattern is revealed. This is not for the faint of soul.

Daniel Robichaud

37.

Gods of Violence

Kreator

Nuclear Blast Records

January 27, 2017

Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Listen & Buy

The world of Teutonic thrash is not one I venture into often; I think it’s the dramatic grandiosity of it all that keeps me away. Not my jam. Or so I thought. “Apocalypticon,” the intro, fooled me into thinking for a minute that this would be a release I wouldn’t be crazy about, right up until “World War Now” smashed my ears with its thrash assault and hooked me for good with its wild, speedy chorus. I also learned that “Satan Is Real” (I know, right?!) and that a song about it, though almost campy, is undeniably fun and as catchy as the clap. I kept being surprised by just how much I enjoyed song after song of a genre I didn’t particularly like – or rather – that I didn’t think I liked. This is fast, heavy, fist-raising thrash you need in your life. Gods of Violence is a triumph.

Daniel Robichaud

36.

Hostage Animal

All Pigs Must Die

Southern Lord Recordings

October 27, 2017

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Listen & Buy

As a group, their accomplishments speak for themselves. As individuals, APMD is made up of some impressive musicians which bring a varied wealth of styles and experience: ex-Converge, ex-Hope Conspiracy, ex-Doomriders, and so on. Death metal, hardcore, doom, sludge… the musical pool from which these guys draw from is deep and nasty. Instead of sounding like a patchwork of each member’s background, APMD manage to create their own brand of vicious metal. This is aggressive, purposeful music made by people who know damn well how to make it. Hostage Animal is clear in its intention to make a point and give those who share in their beliefs some refuge. Lyrics are generally based around religion and its toxicity, as well as humanity’s failures. Yes, they are quite pissed off – three full albums and four EPs’ worth, to be exact. Good luck finding a soft, mellow, chilled out, melodic side in their discography – it simply isn’t there.

Josh Clark

35.

shutdown.exe

3TEETH

OMF Records

May 19, 2017

Los Angeles, California, USA

Listen & Buy

I know a few industrial heavyweights put out material this year, but to me, this is an easy call – 3TEETH’s shutdown.exe is the best industrial metal release of 2017. No contest. The eerie chanting of “Divine Weapon” eases you into a slow, dark synth beat, which is then shattered by the laser burn of distorted guitar and vocals, making for a perfect death march prologue to the sleazy bang of “Pit of Fire”. If you miss Pretty Hate Machine-era NIN and Antichrist-era Manson, and you’re a fan of White Zombie and the groovier side of Ministry, you need to get in on this. Tool and Rammstein gave 3TEETH the opening slot on recent tours, if you need further proof. Other highlights beyond the tunes mentioned above are the bad acid spasm of “Tabula Rasa” and the hissing, pounding “Slavegod.” Give these stylish, leather-clad L.A. bastards a chance.

Daniel Robichaud

34.

Primordial Malignity

Tomb Mold

Blood Harvest

February 3, 2017

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Listen & Buy

Tomb Mold from Toronto has put out an impressive debut album for a band that hasn’t been around very long. Primordial Malignity grabs you by the scruff of the neck and holds your eyes open to the horror. The music is fast and brutal with twangy guitars that show a new twist on an old-school sound. The songs are complex and filled with doomy grooves and tempos that

never let up and will keep you guessing. It is a massive-sounding debut effort full of filth and terror that is well worth multiple listens.

Adam Clark

33.

Winter

Fen

Aural Music / Code666 Records

March 10, 2017

London, England, UK

Listen & Buy

Winter is an album from prolific UK black metal band Fen that is equal parts atmosphere and a carefully crafted and emotional post-rock-influenced black metal soundscape. Beautifully produced and instrumented, the album swells and retreats with remarkable deftness that shows a band fully in control of their sound. Gorgeous, hope-filled melodies flow into huge movements full of bleak darkness and piercing black metal vocals. The songs are full of melancholy and a morbid beauty. A triumphant work and an instant classic of UK black metal.

Adam Clark

32.

Thrice Woven

Wolves in the Throne Room

Artemisia Records

September 22, 2017

Olympia, Washington, USA

Listen & Buy

Another long-time favourite of mine, Wolves in the Throne Room unleashed Thrice Woven this year. This is their second full-length to be released on the band’s own Artemisia Records. Thrice Woven pleasantly surprises as it harkens back to the days of more traditional black metal, and they do it well, which is a lovely “fuck you” to the critics who revel in stating they are not “cvlt” enough. This new offering flits between stormy riffs, frostbitten vocals, and the almost transcendental, uplifting harmonies of vocalist Anna von Hausswolff. Also featured are vocals from Neurosis’ Steve Von Till in the beautifully positive and spiritual “The Old Ones Are with Us, ”a piece on the decay of Winter and the coming of Spring which brings with it a new hope. Fave tracks: “Born from a Serpent’s Eye” and “The Old Ones Are with Us.”

Check out my photos of the June 18, 2017 show at Venue Nightclub

Abi Coulson

31.

W.H.A.T.S.T.H.A.T.

Mutank

Boonsdale Records

June 16, 2017

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Listen & Buy

I’ve always had a soft spot for thrash metal, but another genre that interests me even more is crossover. What could be better than a mix of thrash and hardcore punk? When I first heard Crossover in 1987 by D.R.I., I knew I had found the golden ticket. Coming at you from Montréal, Mutank give you what you expect – short, fast, and aggressive songs. While they clearly tread the line between metal and hardcore, Mutank fall on the metal side. It’s great to see this kind of heavy music still going strong in 2017 and beyond.

Andy Gronberg

30.

Mooncurse

Wormwood

Translation Loss Records

October 20, 2017

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Listen & Buy

“Hey, let’s pick a band name that nobody else has,” said neither of the Chrises when they formed Wormwood in 2014. Both drummer Chris Bevalaqua and guitarist/vocalist Chris Pupecki share Doomriders on their resumé (ex- and current, respectively). There was something instantly familiar upon first listening to Mooncurse – I’ve come to pinpoint it as Pupecki’s crafty riffs. He has room to let them breathe and slither in this moody outfit. Doom and sludge are all over the place this year, but Wormwood manage to stick out by writing songs that, while often slow and enormous, do not overstay their welcome. A less able band would fall into the bad habit of stretching things out in a lazy attempt at epic-ness, whereas this Boston four-piece keeps things tight – as tight as these gristly, monster tunes can be.

Daniel Robichaud

29.

The Pardoner

Abhorrent Decimation

Prosthetic Records

July 28, 2017

London, England, UK

Listen & Buy

The release of Miasmic Mutation (2015), Abhorrent Decimation’s first full-length, saw a multitude of praise being lumped onto this fresh-faced death metal band from London, England. Two years later, out comes The Pardoner and in the best fashion possible, they build on their infectious sound reminiscent of an oceanic current. The album swells and builds, fades, and explodes from one song to the next. Standout tracks include “Granted Indulgence”, “Conspire,” “Glass Coffin Burial,” “Scythe In the Dark” and closer “The Pardoner.” Come to think of it, the whole album is solid. Some tracks get buried during a full album spin; by that, I mean you’ll hear and enjoy them, but they can get eclipsed by the excellence of the standouts. Luckily, this can be cured with additional listens, which help showcase just how essential every single second of every single song is to The Pardoner.

Josh Clark

28.

Infidèle(s)

Céleste

Denovali Records

September 29, 2017

Lyon, Rhône-Alpes, France

Listen & Buy

Céleste for me are a fabulous amalgamation of blackened, sludgy post-hardcore. This belter of an album sticks to that backbone with the sound of relentless slogging up a never-ending hill whilst never quite reaching the top. The slight peaks and furrows build a sense of excitement without venturing far from the path. One thing that remains consistent throughout Infidèle(s) is the sense of awe in the face of this epic and so wondrously crafted, monumental expanse of sound.

Fave track: “Tes amours noirs illusoires.”

Abi Coulson

27.

Tchornobog

Tchornobog

Fallen Empire Records (LP & cassette) / I, Voidhanger Records (CD)

July 21, 2017

Ukraine

Listen & Buy

One of my more recent discoveries-turned-favourites is Tchornobog, a work born and expelled from the mind of one man/machine, Ukrainian Markov Soroka. At just 21 years old, some would say he is something of a prodigy who blurs the lines of many styles under an extreme metal umbrella. This is a very uncomfortable listen… horrifying, disgusting, and brilliant. The very first notes come fast and heavy, propelling the listener straight into the out-of-this-world chasm that the artwork portrays, and then slows down to a persistent crawl through the mire. This album seems to have really split the crowd and is certainly a sonic aural assault, but I enjoyed the disgusting, masochistic feel it evokes and was pleasantly rewarded at the end with a jazzy transcendental post-rock vibe that gently consoles traumatized ears. For a fully immersive experience, study the wonderful album art while listening and feel yourself being dragged through the surreal landscape.

Fave track: All of it!!

Abi Coulson

26.

Locked and Loaded EP

Nervcast

independent

October 21, 2017

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Listen & Buy

Holy shit! Where did this band come from? Well, the answer to that question is “Toronto,” but that’s not what I meant! This is thrash metal taken straight out of a 1985 time capsule. Some obvious comparisons are to early Metallica and Megadeth, although there is more melody here than both of these influences. This EP has been played repeatedly since its release on any music-playing device that happens to be in front of me. I can’t wait to hear a full-length by Nervcast. A four-song EP just isn’t enough!

Andy Gronberg

25.

Desolate Endscape

Phrenelith

Extremely Rotten Records / Me Saco Un Ojo Records / Dark Descent Records

April 20, 2017

Copenhagen, Denmark

Listen & Buy

Denmark death metal band Phrenelith’s debut album Desolate Endscape is a bludgeoning journey of darkness and terror. The band’s blackened death style is an ominous presence over dynamic songs, which together make for a brutal-sounding album that doesn’t waste much space. All eight tracks are a groovy and technical effort with nightmarish vocals and breakdowns. This is an ambitious debut album with a sound wise beyond its years and a concise 35-minute runtime. It’s not an easy listen, but if you gaze long into the abyss…

Adam Clark

24.

The Blackest Volume (Like All The Earth Was Buried)

Sunlight’s Bane

Innerstrength Records

February 17, 2017

Michigan, USA

Listen & Buy

What are genres? Do they even matter? Sunlight’s Bane says ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the best way a death/black/grind/hardcore band ever could. They take those genres and twist them and claw at them until they look like an album of pure hate, disgust, pain, and anarchy. With song titles like “Praise the Venom Shield” and “I’m the Cold Harsh Whispers in Hell,” this record has one true purpose and that is… unknown to me as of yet ‘cause my brain’s been fucked. This is their second album, their first being mostly a compilation of everything they’d recorded up to that point under their former name, Traitor. Check out the Shadowheart EP on Bandcamp, which includes their namesake song “Sunlight’s Bane.” This makes The Blackest Volume a debut of sorts, and what a devastating, cranium-shaking debut it is.

Josh Clark

23.

Striker

Striker

Record Breaking Records

February 24, 2017

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Listen & Buy

Edmonton’s Striker has been getting better with each album they put out. The first record I heard by them was their 2012 release Armed to the Teeth, their second full-length. With Striker, their fifth and best studio album, there’s a new heaviness added to their brand of power metal… I sense a slight thrash metal sound, and Anthrax comes to mind on a couple tracks, but in the end, power metal prevails – and these guys do power metal well.  Solid vocals and great musicianship make Striker a band that I will continue to enjoy. Hopefully they get the recognition they deserve. This was definitely my favorite Striker album, which is saying something, since all their other albums were killer!

Andy Gronberg

22.

Exuvia

The Ruins of Beverast

Vàn Records

May 5, 2017

Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Listen & Buy

Upon recently hearing The Ruins of Beverast for the first time, I was quickly forced to update my personal top 10 of 2017 list. This album is really something. Exuvia is a terrifying hour of psychedelic, ceremonial, and primitive blackened doom… a cacophonous soundscape of obscurity. The tone of the first few notes contrasted with almost shamanic chanting and the build-up of blackened riffs in the background grabbed my attention from the outset. From then on, it just gets wonderfully weirder. You can’t throw a crucifix without hitting a blackened doom band nowadays, but The Ruins of Beverast stand out from the crowd with their latest offering that is the haunting, wondrous chaos of Exuvia.  

Fave track: “Exuvia.”

Abi Coulson

21.

Deep Calleth Upon Deep

Satyricon

Napalm

September 22, 2017

Oslo, Norway

Listen & Buy

Satyricon return after four years with an album in league with the sound that impressed so much on previous albums like Now, Diabolical and The Age of Nero – black metal with one foot firmly in the grave of strong-hook rock and roll. Satyr’s snarled delivery on tracks like “Midnight Serpent” and “Blood Cracks Open the Ground” is pure venom, and Frost is all over his kit like a furious jockey. After the sheer head-scratching oddity that was 2013’s self-titled exercise in experimentation, the metal world is real happy to have them back in fine form.

Kyle Harcött

20.

Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch

Profound Lore Records

October 20, 2017

Seattle, Washington, US

Listen & Buy

With their one-track, 83-minute epic Mirror Reaper, Seattle duo Bell Witch have released one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of funeral doom I have ever heard. It asks a lot of the listener, to invest and digest so much in one sitting, but it pays off. A journey of sorrow and despair, the song progresses in movements – some ominous and foreboding, others uplifting and maybe even hopeful at times. This work is masterful. The bass soars. The vocals captivate. Every drum hit, and every cymbal crash is made with a deep sense of purpose and conviction. All of these elements work in complete unison, slowly propelling the listener on this aural journey, like a spectre drifting through the abyss.

Nate Betts

19.

No God

Infernäl Mäjesty

High Roller Records

April 21, 2017

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Listen & Buy

These guys were formed in Toronto way back in 1986 and have since relocated to Vancouver.    This is only their fourth full-length studio album. Their last effort, entitled One Who Points to Death, was released in 2004, so you know they’re raring to go it’s going to be a good one!   What do they sound like? Well, if you check out their Facebook page, they list themselves as: “Satanic Thrash/Death/Black Metal.” Yup! That sums up their sound perfectly. No God is a great release and points to a bright future for the band. I just hope we don’t have to wait another thirteen years for the next full-length. That’s just too long! I’ll need an Infernäl Mäjesty fix long before that. But, in the meantime, I’ll continue playing this one… extremely loud.

Andy Gronberg

18.

Hiss Spun

Chelsea Wolfe

Sargent House

September 22, 2017

California, USA

Listen & Buy

The modern-day Goddess of goth-doom returns with a sludgy yet delicate masterpiece of power and restraint. Piercing, pained vocals beautifully contrast with muddy, distorted riffs and the slow, steady boom of the drums, all of which are complemented by a moody synth background. With legendary producer Kurt Ballou of Converge on board, this is her heaviest and darkest offering yet, and therefore, in my opinion, her best.

Fave track: “Vex” feat. Aaron Turner (Isis, Sumac).

Check out my photos of the May 29, 2017 show at Imperial

Abi Coulson

17.

Machine Messiah

Sepultura

Nuclear Blast Records

January 13, 2017

Brazil

Listen & Buy

Things looked dire for Sepultura when Max Cavalera left in 1996 and brother Igor followed suit ten years later. Yet, bassist Paulo Jr. and guitarist Andreas Kisser, who’ve been members since 1985 and 1987 respectively, pushed on despite heckles from loyalists to disband. Their fourteenth studio album, Machine Messiah, is easily one of, if not the best release of post-Cavalera Sepultura. Derrick Green, vocalist for almost twenty years now (can we stop calling him “the new guy”?), bellows the perils of modern human disconnection in the face of technology as newbie drummer Eloy Casagrande expertly complements Kisser’s gut-punch, anvil-heavy riffs. The piston-slam chugging of “Phantom Self”; the sparse, dramatic use of strings and tribal percussion; “Resistant Parasites” and its bomb-drop of a riff… If you haven’t been paying attention to Sepultura in recent years, Machine Messiah is the reason to start.

Daniel Robichaud

16.

Avé

Venom Inc.

Nuclear Blast Records

August 11, 2017

Newcastle, England, UK

Listen & Buy

Expectations ran high. Venom’s Prime Evil lineup reunited and back in black (metal) for a few gigs, then a few more, and a few more… Reports coming back from the punters were real promising – this was the real-deal Venom recalling past glories and delivering the goods on the live stage. All of a sudden, labels come a-callin’, deals in hand – and they want a record. And, even under the weight of all the metal world’s expectations, Avé DELIVERS. Mantas’ riffs are in razor form, Abaddon is rolling thunder, and Demolition Man is just as sharp of tongue, with lyrics and a vocal performance direct from Lucifer himself. This is Venom, doing it for the fans, and doing it for themselves.

Kyle Harcött

15.

Weapons of Thrash Destruction

Terrifier

Test Your Metal Records

January 20, 2017

Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

Listen & Buy

I first heard this Kelowna band when they were called Skull Hammer but in 2012 changed their name to Terrifier. Nothing like a band that kicks out amazing thrash metal – and they’re from your own backyard! Fast and aggressive is the way I like my metal and Terrifier deliver that tenfold. Musically, there’s lots of “chugga chugga” and piercing leads. These guys know how to play their instruments! They’ve taken the thrash metal of the ‘80s, added a modern element to it, yet still manage to keep it old school. Just an amazing release. I’ll be keeping my eye on this band.

Andy Gronberg

14.

Sweet Death and Ecstasy

Midnight

Hells Headbangers

October 20, 2017

Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Listen & Buy

Any year where we get a new Midnight album is a very good year. Main man Athenar’s brand of pitch-black-speed metal is one of a kind, and the world is all the better for receiving the snarling lust, filth, and sleaze of Sweet Death and Ecstasy. Clevo’s finest bastard sons of Lemmy & Cronos, Midnight revel in the glory of all that is heavy metal overkill, and their latest album is thankfully more of the same – raging, ripping, glorification of all things metal in excelsis. One listen and you too will be CRUSHED BY DEMONS!

Kyle Harcött

13.

Forever

Code Orange

Roadrunner Records

January 13, 2017

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Listen & Buy

It’s hip to hate them, it’s hip to love them. You have to give Pittsburgh’s noisy, fresh-faced shit-disturbers credit. Forever, only their second-ever full-length and first on a major, is popping up on lists around the world. Revolver’s #1 album of 2017. Rolling Stone’s #1 metal album of 2017. A Grammy nod for Best Metal Performance! Okay, fine – who gives a shit about aging publications that now tend to follow instead of lead, and the most mainstream of awards? I get it. But, still. Spit those sour grapes out and acknowledge that something special is going on here. These anti-scene upstarts have violated the mainstream in an undeniable way with their balance of jagged, throaty hardcore and an unabashed appreciation for a catchy hook (“Bleeding in the Blur,” “Ugly”). This is heavy, aggravated music that is just weird enough to keep you guessing, and brief enough to satiate the modern short attention span that craves newness at every turn. Good luck not enjoying it.

Daniel Robichaud

12.

Heartless

Pallbearer

Nuclear Blast Records / Profound Lore Records

March 24, 2017

Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Listen & Buy

This Arkansas four-piece have been crafting slow, epic heaviness for a few years now. Though I’ve spun Heartless dozens of times, there are so many subtle nuances in every track that I’m still uncovering little gems with each listen. The irony of starting off an album with a song about the end of the world is one not lost on this listener. The guitar interplay on “Lie of Survival,” the slow initial beauty of “Dancing in Madness”, the epic final act “A Plea for Understanding”… There’s simply so much sonic diversity in this dynamic mountain of progressive doom, I can’t possibly do it justice with simple words. It’s divisive, for sure, but that’s okay – it’s their album, their way. It takes time. It takes an open mind. And with each listen, I like it more. You just might too.

Check out Abi Coulson’s photos of the August 15, 2017 show at The Cobalt.

Nate Betts

11.

Nightbringers

The Black Dahlia Murder

Metal Blade Records

October 6, 2017

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Listen & Buy

Always on point, The Black Dahlia Murder are back. Razor-sharp and going for the throat, Nightbringers doesn’t loosen its grip throughout its 33-minute, 9-song assault on anything and everything. The title track is a little down-tempo for them, but it seems to break up the action nicely. There ain’t no love songs here, except maybe the one about the naughty mortician. Spider queens, cannibals, and a twist on Adam and Eve are discussed here, in typical Trevor Strnad style – graphically. The production is good, the playing is super tight, and while there are no real surprises here, it’s TBDM doing what they do best – shredding, screaming, and having a hell of a good time doing it.

Nate Betts

10.

Relentless Mutation

Archspire

Season of Mist

September 22, 2017

Vancouver, British Columbia, USA

Listen & Buy

Archspire’s music makes me squint, both from the warp-speed bursts and my mental effort to try and keep track of everything that’s going on. After a first listen, I was overwhelmed, confused, and my neck hurt. In other words, I felt great! Additional listens allowed me to grab onto new anchor points, notice the impeccable placing of the subtlest cymbals (triangle, maybe?), levitate during perfectly short ambient passages, and catatonically bang my thick skull to the ridiculous amount of deceivingly catchy and spaceship-heavy grooves. There’s something truly unique about Relentless Mutation that has me coming back again and again and again. It’s full of “holy shit” moments – riff-wise, vocal-wise, drum-wise – which might just break you if you don’t stretch before listening. Poor Archspire… They now have a huge problem ahead of them: try to surpass this master stroke.

Daniel Robichaud

9.

War Moans

Mutoid Man

Sargent House

June 2, 2017

New York City, New York, USA

So, now that you’re properly bummed out and spiralling into deep mental anguish thanks to this year’s seemingly infinite supply of dark, doomy, depressing, devastating sounds, it’s time to slap yourself in the face, take a fucking shower, and blast Mutoid Man’s War Moans! Woo!! You can finally stop wondering how demon babies are made – “Date with the Devil” is as unsubtle as it comes! Ba-dump-tshh! The last ten seconds of “Melt Your Mind” sum up this album beautifully – a banshee wail and a throaty “Fuckin’ RIGHT!” Or possibly, “Fuck you, Ray!” If so… well, then, fuck you, Ray! There’s no fat on this, Mutoid Man’s second full-length. Koller and Cageao’s rhythms gallop like a spastic stallion and match pretty-boy Brodsky’s gritty, soaring vocals and punchy guitar until they bring this joyride home with “Bandages”, which will make you cry if it doesn’t make you smile… Hopefully both.

Daniel Robichaud

8.

Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light

Junius

Prosthetic Records

March 3, 2017

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Listen & Buy

Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light is Junius’ third full-length album, and a finale to their three-part concept album. Honouring traditional post-metal sounds, Junius’ tight riffs, winding crescendos, and steady beats make it an easy 45-minute listen. The album begins with ethereal sounds reminiscent of a graveyard scene, when you’re met with an aggressive melody one could call beautiful destruction. This reoccurring melody is torn apart by slow, calm beats and hymns that conjure moments of musical meditation. The album peaks during songs, “Clean the Beast” and “The Queen’s Constellation” and continues to slow until reaching the crushing, abrupt end.

Kelsey Dionne

7.

Nightmare Logic

Power Trip

Southern Lord Recordings

February 24, 2017

Dallas, Texas, USA

Listen & Buy

It’s not surprising that Texas thrash masters Power Trip came with the heat on Nightmare Logic, considering it was released about a month after President You-Know-Who took office. It’s fast, heavy, and full of references to the current state of affairs in the US of A, and abroad. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good time, though! Thrash has always had that going for it, even if it does leave you with a hangover and a bloody nose. Power Trip don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, but they sure didn’t mess around when they laid down these 32 minutes of throat-punching fun. Seriously, go listen to “Firing Squad” or “Waiting Around to Tie” or “Crucifixion” and tell me you don’t want to shotgun a beer and break something.

Nate Betts

6.

With All Their Might

Dyscarnate

Unique Leader Records

September 15, 2017

Horsham, England, UK

Listen & Buy

PREPARE YOURSELVES for the third full-length album from Horsham, England’s Dyscarnate. These three guys sound like they want to tear shit up, and when the opening riff from “Of Mice and Mountains” comes in, it’s on to the nth degree. With All Their Might is scarily unrelenting throughout, with some highlights including “Iron Strengthens Iron” and “Backbreaker.” Things slow down for “Traitors in the Palace,” but always maintained is the signature feeling of being crushed under an oppressive regime, a stance that is also explored lyrically on the album; I certainly felt like toppling a government afterward! The fine production and tight musicianship and song-writing combine to create a perfect environment for this kind of metal album. Album finale “Nothing Seems Right” not only sums up the ethos of the album, but is perfectly suited to close out my favourite album of 2017.

Josh Clark

5.

You Are Not the Ocean. You Are the Patient.

Bison

Pelagic Records

June 23, 2017

Vancouver/Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

Listen & Buy

It’s raining, cold, dark. Your soundtrack for the evening is Bison’s You Are Not the Ocean. You’re in good company in Vancouver, BC. This album is dark, moody, and perfectly suits a good low-point in your life. Bison’s latest is one colossal sludge album, and really feels like a cohesive understanding of all the strengths of all four band members. Following a lineup change that saw the exit of long-time bassist Masa Anzai and entrance of Shane Clark (3 Inches of Blood, Worse), the sound on You Are Not the Ocean carries on from other Bison records, while also being brand new, full of energy, and pissed off. Madman Matt Wood, in particular, proves his prowess again and again, hammering out a huge sound from his drum kit, filling in the space behind what I think Bison are known for – riffs. This, combined with excellent song-writing (as usual), makes for a great, gloomy step forward for a band that deserves more attention.

Josh Clark

4.

Machinations

Hark

Season of Mist

February 24, 2017

Swansea, Wales, UK

Listen & Buy

After their debut album Crystalline made waves back in 2014, Hark’s latest, Machinations, shows a new level of confidence for the band from Wales. It is Hark’s most well-crafted album with edgy and progressive guitar work (“Nine Fates,” “Son of Pythagoras”) and groovy song-writing (“Disintegrate,” “Speak in Tongues”) in what feels like a more focused effort. A balanced mix features the excellent guitar work from Joe Harvatt and powerful vocal performance from Jimbob Isaac. The payoff for listeners is an album that is one of the best, most consistent metal releases of the year. Machinations is Hark at their absolute best.

Adam Clark

3.

The Dusk in Us

Converge

Epitaph / Deathwish / Concult

November 3, 2017

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Listen & Buy

Ben Koller and Kurt “What’s all the hulla” Ballou have their busy Midas fingers all over our list this year. When they work together and are joined by Jacob Bannon and Nate Newton, well, they’re pretty much unstoppable. The Dusk in Us gives you the razor-sharp, vicious Converge you’ve come to know and love. Bannon’s vocals are as gritty and pained as ever, and Ballou’s frantic guitar-playing can flip in a blink and lock into some pummelling, meaty beat-downs. “Eye of the Quarrel,” “Arkhipov Calm” and “I Can Tell You About Pain” all sound like they’re trying to outrun themselves, yet they never trip – only lumber, catch a breath, and keep going, muscles burning. A major highlight is the title track near the middle of the album, an unhurried musing on the struggle of living with the constant presence of darkness around us and within. Fun, right? Damn right.

Daniel Robichaud

2.

Mass VI

Amenra

Neurot Recordings

October 20, 2017

Kortrijk, West Flanders, Belgium

Listen & Buy

I have long loved this band, so when I heard they were coming out with another album, the stoke level was pretty immense, especially having been lucky enough to witness an incredible performance by them in Brighton, England. High expectations were most surely met. Throughout this perfect masterpiece, Colin H. Van Eeckhout seems to possess a limitless ability to propel the listener into fragile, intricate melodies, only to then destroy them with brutal, heart-wrenching, howling vocals of anguish. If you like eerily beautiful and deeply moving, soul-crushing music, then don’t miss Mass VI.

Fave track : “A Solitary Reign.”  

Abi Coulson

1.

Reflections of a Floating World

Elder

Armageddon Label (US) / Stickman Records (EU)

June 2, 2017

Massachusetts, USA

Listen & Buy

It takes a lot to come out on top. No small feat, considering how many outstanding metal records were released in 2017. It’s got to be especially hard when you’re following up an album that also landed on a fair number of year-end ‘Best Of’ lists. 2015’s acclaimed Lore saw Elder vault into the upper ranks of the stoner/prog/doom/whatever realm.

With Reflections of a Floating World, Elder have outdone themselves and the result is a sonic journey that expands on their previous effort in every regard. A careful listen will reveal some direct sonic references to work on Lore, but instead of feeling repetitious, it fits in like the continuation of a journey, one that is warm, atmospheric, and constantly changing shape.

This time ‘round, more attention has been paid to the ambient intro/outro/interlude segments, with some pedal steel by Michael Samos and reverb-heavy drone thrown in for good measure, almost in a Pink Floyd-ian way… Right before the guitar kicks in on track 2, “The Falling Veil,” for example. A similar vibe is felt on “Staving Off Truth,” which is an album standout for this reviewer. As warm and inviting as this stuff is, it still packs a punch and will leave you with a sore neck the next day if you’re not careful. From all the head-banging, I mean, you dirty fool.

The rest of the record unfolds in a series of builds, crescendos, and straight-up ripping guitar lines. Singer/guitarist Nick DiSalvo is a shredder, but the friendly kind. His work never seems self-indulgent, and there’s lots of feel in there to go along with his outstanding technical prowess. These guys are all pros, and the rhythm section is no exception. Jack Donovan (bass), Matt Couto (drums), and Michael Risberg (rhythm guitar, live keys) are always moving around back there, constantly adding punches and flavour behind all that tasty guitar work.

Their sound is carefully crafted to pull you in, get your head moving, and then they let you move around a bit while they take you on a journey. These little field trips often take ten minutes or more, but never do they make you feel like you’re being pushed or pulled, or being made to do something you don’t want to do. To me, this is the sign of a band that truly understands what they want to do and where they want to go. The listener is welcome to come along for the ride. With a sound that’s rooted in the past yet always pushing forward, Reflections of a Floating World reminds us that it’s a beautiful time to be right where you are, right now.

Nate Betts