Table of Contents
Part I: Prologue and whining
Part II: A 20 albums of 2017 list. Probably some of the best albums of the year. But also probably not.
Part III: The TL;DR part of the post about some of the albums that made it on a list and some that did not
Part IV: Some EPs
Part V: Albums that I must listen to (and why) and albums I haven't bothered to listen to (and why)
Part VI: 2017 Addendum: Lost in Vegas and Beast in Black (wat)
Part VII: Epilogue - Looking forward to 2018 OR I just wanted 7 parts
PrologueYou can guess by the title (and from the previous two posts on 2017) that this has been one frustrating little project. Busy up to HERE with real work. And will continue to be very busy for the foreseeable future. So, instead of letting my impressions rot in a notepad file until I somehow find some proper time, I decided to just fucking paste them raw. That way, the actual people asking me to write about X or Y album will get at least something in return for their much, much appreciated interest in my opinion. Or not. In any case, I will put every-fucking-thing here, including albums with thoughts attached to them and albums with no info whatsoever. I will include a list of albums that I did not listen to and why (which I believe is the peak self-absorbed part of the post but there is also another reason...read on!) and I will also include a couple of random thoughts that occured to me in 2017. That should partially cover almost everything. And perhaps some time in the future I will bother breaking the parts into manageable, readable posts but where is the madness in that, right?
Part II: A listTL;DR: OK, ok, for those with ADD and/or OCD and/or plain impatience with silly amateurs who want to form a definitive opinion on music before , here is a list, pure and raw.
1. Condor - Unstoppable Power
2. Antichrist - sinful Birth
3. Vulture - The Guilottine
4. Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
5. Droid - Terrestrial Mutations
---- see The Dungeon Awards for Top Metal Performances of 2017 for more info
6. Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark
7. Cannabis Corpse - Left Hand Pass
8. Doomocracy - Visions and Creatures of Imagination
9. Hellripper - Coagulating Darkness
10. Power Trip - Nightmare Logic
----- see 5+1 more albums for more info
11. Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems (actually this should have been quite higher in the list but I did the "5 more" post alphabetically...)
12. The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
13. Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence
14. Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King
15. Necrytis - Countersigns
16. Tankard - One Foot in the Grave
17. Mastodon - Emperor of Sand (this should have been higher - not MUCH higher mind you - but I love how it looks there below Tankard.
18. Dead Head - Swine Plague
19. Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor
20. Satan's Hallow - s/t
----------- The albums that are not in the top 10. I think. AKA the totally unstable part of the list (as far as ranking or even presence goes)
Part III: The TOO LONG BUT PLEASE READ ANYWAY part:I will periodically enrich this post with links and images. The info is there anyway. Once more, let me remind you of the instructions to these lists: these are good albums worth checking out, these are albums that had me interested. And maybe I'll add the list of albums that I touched upon but did not listen to thoroughly, you know, first impressions kind of thing, mark those as "huh, could be interesting!".
Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence
I am very fond of Evil Invaders, the Belgian speed metal band that was at the forefront of the "mustache and 80s speed!" or neo-speed revival the past few years, along such darlings as Ranger, both of which have rightfully found a place in past best-of-the-year lists. You've read about Vulture above. Well, this one might actually be more diverse and show signs of progress - which basically means expanding beyond the subgenre's old-school orthodoxy and "musts". I've caught atmospheric passages and lovely solos among the delicious riffs and I am pretty sure they will get in the final list this time as well, when I give the album the spins it deserves. Ah, yes, the vocals retain their charm with the high pitched syllables among the thrashy delivery of the lyrics. METAL.
Mastodon - Emperor of the Sand
TL;DR: I am not the man to ask about Mastodon dude. But this is a good Mastodon album and I listened to it a lot, more than Once Round the Sun and less than The Hunter, which is my fave *shrugs*
As a newbie in the Mastodon world (only 7 years! has a decade really almost passed? wtf Time?) and one that loves one of their least favorite albums above all else (really started paying attention with Crack the Skye and fell in love with an album of theirs with The Hunter, which is entirely unortodox for their fanbase), my opinion of this album surely does not mean a lot, since I am fairly certain haters will continue to hate and Mastodon fans are a weird breed of many races that I cannot seem to agree with on most things Mastodon. But who gives a shit, I really enjoyed this album, in fact I think I played this the most after The Hunter and Crack the Skye. I should note however that apart from The Hunter, listening to a Mastodon album usually means skipping a track or two or three (or even four! See what I mean?)
Anyway, they are much friendlier here to the mainstream ear, something they started to do since Once More Round the Sun or any mastodon album if you ask their fanbase... yeah, one of those cases. I keep referring to the diversity of their fanbase because I actually think it's a mark of their specialness.
I just fall into the middle here. I do not think they are God's gift to music or metal but holy shit when they hit my spot, they ARE god's gift to music.
One thing is certain though: They have become much better at singing. Oh, and they always have lovely, original videoclips. I haven't seen them live yet and to be honest I really don't care if I do, which is the exact opposite of Gojira for example.
This album also gave me the first feeling that they are becoming predictable musically. Maybe predictable is the wrong word here but what I mean is that if someone used the decription "typical Mastodon of the last years" that would be only slightly inaccurate. The same can be said for the EP.
Necrytis - Countersigns
Toby Knapp does not rest. Among his many projects, where he usually handles most instruments, in 2017 his work with Necrytis stood out to me, as a quality US Metal release that gets it right on all levels. Good songwriting, warm sound, good vocals with a total old school underground vibe that lends a lot of charm to the compositions. Shane Wacaster who handles the vox also reminds me a lot of James Rivera, perhaps in a less spectacular fashion. An album that came late to my attention but one that I enjoyed spinning quite a bit. If you remember Toby from his work with Onward (that time when New Eden, Onward or Destiny's End have hope to many of us that our kind of metal was not actually dead) should definitely check this out.
Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor
This is a portuguese band that I came across one of those days when I felt like experimenting on youtube and was good enough not only to capture my attention but also to get repeats. There is a slight element of modernity that's not exactly my favorite flavor but they also have enough stuff coming from left field that makes their music exciting and interesting, so much so that they stood out at the end of the day and in the list they go.
Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King
Epic doom metal is a scene that basically stands on the foundations of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus and has lately seen a revitalization, much in the same vein as the thrash/speed metal scene I was raving about earlier (see Doomocracy or Crypt Sermon). Sorcerer is a special case: originally formed in the late 80s they left behind them the legacy of two demos, brought to the attention of most doom metal fans in 1995, through John Perez's Brainticket label, who released the "Sorcerer" compilation, essentially making it their unofficial debut album. The real debut however appeared 20 years later, when the band reformed and released In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. A very good album that picked up exactly where the band left off. This is true of this year's (er, last year's that is) The Crowning of the Fire King: excellent epic doom metal. Power/Doom metal. Heavy Metal really. If you're fan of the genre then this and Doomocracy are the best choices of the year.
The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
Leif Edling meets Niklas Stålvind meets Marcus Jidell and the result is damn enjoyable album that bears that elusive stamp of character and authenticity, inescapable with the people involved. If you like Candlemass or Wolf or Sabbath or Avatarium and plain good old doomy heavy metal, this is an obvious choice.
Tankard - One Foot in the Grave
I love Tankard. Dude, I LOVE Tankard. I am a Tankard fanboy. Everytime they release something better than a 6 it will see my list because I am a sucker for Gerre's voice, their chorus hooks, their style and approach to metal and generally, I always get a warm fuzzy feeling in my being listening to them. I ALWAYS find 3-4 songs per album that REALLY do the trick for me and I always like their more melodic moments (power metal in german terms!). I realize that people who don't harbour the same special feelings for the Germans will frown their noses but Tankard don't give a shit bro. "Ι'm sorry that I'm ugly, I'm sorry that I stink! I'm so sorry!" as the lyric goes...
Satan's Hallow - Satan's Hallow
This is the "retro" heavy metal album that tickled my fancy this year. I was drawn to the simple, meat and potatoes yet very effective and satisfying songwriting and the vocals, which reminds me of a younger Doro without the accent! Very charming delivery. The fact that it caused some hype among mediums that I thoroughly despise was a negative factor but I managed to overcome my teenage true metal sensibilities (such maturity!) Highly recommended.
Albums that could just as well be on a list on another day OR albums you should listen to because I think they are good, mkay?
Honest subtitle: pasting from notepad, content of parentheses is the notes written at the time I listened to whatever I was writing about)
Ne Obliviscaris - Urn
This will probably not make my final list but I must say I surprised myself when I came back to it more than once. I am not fond of the style they play normally, especially the vocals do nothing for me. But I have to admit they have something special. No idea where this stands in their discography though and in a sense this is a shit entry because I am a total outsider just enjoying this reluctantly. But what the hell. Yeah...
Original notes in Greek: (αυτοί είναι πολύ καλοί, οι εντελώς αδιάφορες βοθρίλες στην φωνή με ξενερώνουν αλλά είναι πολύ καλή δουλειά, τόσο πολύ που πού και πού το βάζω να παίξει, λίστα μου δεν βλέπει, λίστα άλλων θα έπρεπε όμως)
Steamroller Assault - Dead Man's Hand
(Λέων λατρείας, πολύ καλό, κυλάει νερό, even better than the demo)
Speedrush - Endless War
(Nir's band, it's fucking good speed/thrash, plenty 80s metal, a grower)
Exarsis - New War Order (GOOD thrash)
Lich King - Omniclasm (same ol' Lich King but damn, they really upped the quality of their riffs)
Madrost - The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh (good technical death/thrash - ordinary, underwhelming vocals but great riffs and good songwriting that is growing)
Midnight - Sweet Ecstasy (good but not as good as before)
Tau Cross - Pillar of Fire
Terrifier - Weapons of Thrash Destruction
Threshold - Legends of the Shire (good, did not grab me for repeats, others really loved it. Definitely not as good as March for Progress thoug)
Warbringer - Woe to the Vanquished (Warbringer is good, Warbringer still hasn't been exceptionally good or maybe they are but it's too soon for me to get it)
Godless Crusade (Ger) - World In Flames - drum machine but one of the catchier thrash albums of the year. Some great riffs and vocals that suit the music.
Ancient Empire - The Tower (power metal, heavy metal - not bad. Not bad at all, that Princess of the Dawn "tribute" is awesome)
Code Orange - Forever (Gojira, Mastodon, Tool, Meshuggah, Converge type of band, the new RR darlings. It's quite good actually)
Murder Angels - Murder Angels (great old school greek speed/heavy metal, Fire and Axe the video is awesome)
Nemesis - Atrocity Unleashed (fast thrash from the US, very good)
Part IV: Some EPsToxik - Breaking Class
Toxik is fucking back! Amidst countless delays for various reasons, including lineup (singer especially) problems, at least we got the first taste of Josh Christian's returning genius. If you haven't heard the two classic Toxik albums and you like glorious late 80s tech/speed metal with INSANELY awesome guitar work, drop everything (er, that is minimize fucking everything) and load youtube now. The EP is perhaps not as mindblowing as the albums were since a lot has happened in the music world since then but it's still great speed/tech thrash with insane guitar solos and lyrics that reflect Josh Christian's political concerns, which are quite relevant today. Favorite track is Psyop.Looking forward to a full album, one that will also include the two previously released demos, which I already love.
Encyrcle - Burning Child
Encyrcle's debut made my top list of 2015 and this EP two years later is also very good. Not AS good and chiefly I am afraid I miss their original vocalist. But I do recommend the EP to those few who loved the debut as well.
Blasteroid - Universal Knowledge
Released at the end of November, just like their patron saint band did its first two albums. I am talking about Vektor, which is very clearly the band they are modelling their music from... almost to the point of calling them clones- but that would seriously underestimate the amount of work and passion found here. The music screams Vektor very often but if anything that fact alone should cause some wonder considering the scope of influences found in Vektor.
And that is a very ambitious and dangerous thing to do but they pull it off quite remarkably! They have the chops and most importantly they have the riffs and their sense of songwriting is very promising. The main difference is the vocals (nobody sings like DiSanto and I don't see that changing ever), which are more standard death metal vocals if anything, which is also why I see them being labelled as progressive/technical death metal but also because they do lean towards the technical death metal bands of our times more than Vektor. I would say that if you appreciate Vektor but hate the vocals, give this a shot. Fans of Revocation or Obscura and the like pay attention.
4 times I mentioned Vektor and 1 mention of DiSanto in this small text is the obvious elephant in the room and the one thing that keeps me from being overly enthusiastic. Then again, this is the first effort and an EP at that, a band that is now finding its place in the metal world. Starting from a Vektorian place is a bloody good start and one I can appreciate and enjoy a lot. I would expect them to explore their musical relationship as a band further until they hone in on their own musical vision.
PS: I really forget who recommended this to me or if I just stumbled upon this on a forum (most probably m-a). Whoever you were, thank you.
Mastodon - Cold Dark Place (see Emperor of Sand, pretty much same impression, only slightly better I think)
Sorcerer (Arg) - Incantation (Fucking awesome EP, big surprise, total Sanctuary worship on the first song's riffage, which is GREAT)
Part V: TO LISTEN TO. AKA: Haven't really decided yet. First impressions or no impressions. AKA: too much music, too little time. AKA: I'm fucking lazy. And busy with work. Which is not a contradiction.The albums I plan to listen to more (who knows?), albums I've only heard one song via youtube or at a friend's house and was impressed enough to remember the name and add it to my text file. Here follows the long ass list that reminds me what a relief it is to be the owner of an amateur blog that has no expectations, no deadlines and no fucks given. There is definitely some awesome music here and probably some terribly boring music as well. Maybe you can help me sort it out by commenting. I would actually very much appreciate that. Note that a couple have long descriptions and reasons. Now laugh at the idea that originally I wanted to do that for every single entry here. LOL. Anyway, here we go:
Attic - Sanctimonious
This goes first in the list, not just for alphabetical reasons but because this is one of the bands that started appearing in late 00s - eraly 10s that worshipped or aped King Diamond/Mercyful Fate (Portrait, Trial, In Solitude, etc). And like all of those bands they failed to meet the impossible standards of King's bands. However, I have to admit that while Hound of Heaven did not do much for me, I really liked the song Sanctimonius. It invokes that KD magic with the vocal lines and the voice itself, which is the closest anyone ever came to the Master. Musically, it's not really MF/KD apart from the vocals but it had an undeniable charm and one that gripped me enough to make this an album that eventually WILL get my full attention.
Ayreon - The Source
I went through an Ayreon phase when Universal Migrator was released, after being told repeatedly by a certain Belgian friend that I HAD to check them out (since Into the Electric Castle, so that's 2 years before another friend surprised me with Chaos and Dawn of a Million Souls that sold me immediately. After that, I certainly appreciated albums like The Human Equation (especially) and 01011001 but did not buy them, which means, no booklet - no immersion. Ayreon deserves full attention listening and this album is no exception. I guess I add them by default in the list and wait for that special night where I feel like diving into a huge Lucassen project. This one comes highly recommended by Dimitris K. of Sacral Rage as well, whose taste I respect and nod my head approvingly, so double the recommendation factor.
Portrait - Burn the World
The other KD clones. I did enjoy 2011's Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae quite a bit but it was also very obvious that while they had the best of intentions (you will not get objections to clone bands from me, especially if original band does not release new stuff) they did not have the caliber of a KD band. Of course, that's a tall order for any band and any musician but my overall impression was "not good enough". Since then, I keep hearing that with every release they are getting better, with Burn the World winning the hearts of a lot of my friends. So many that makes me want to give them a chance again.
Obituary - Obituary
Why: It's fucking Obituary. They have always been decent and true to their original sound. And some say they kill it here.
Why not: The key word being "decent". The video clip was great fun but the song was forgettable. We'll see.
Sepultura - Machine Messiah
Why: It's probably the best thing I've heard from Sepultura since Max left. It's also probably the only post-Max Sepultura I want to listen to again. Also: Casagrande.
Why not: This is not Sepultura. Sorry Andreas, you awesome guitarist you. But apart from that because all the previous Sepultura have left me extremely indifferent (at best). YMMV.
Immolation - Atonement
Why: Because Immolation. Guaranteed.
Why not: Just time and mood.
Kreator - God of Violence
Why: Because Kreator and Mille and Ventor and Sami (top soloist). Because it cannot be bad.
Why not: Because I've had my fill of their Violent Revolution approach since Hordes of Chaos and although that was fine, it's too much of the same thing from a band that was notorious for not releasing the same album twice. Granted, if Endorama is the price of experimentation, I'll take Violent Revolution part V please! Anyway, a lot of people seem to truly enjoy this and I'm sure it's more than decent. But I am not in a hurry.
Body Count - Bloodlust
Why: Because this is going to rule. I know it.
Why not: Time and mood. Nothing else.
Overkill - The Grinding Wheel
Why: Because Overkill and because Overkill have proved that after Ironbound they are on a roll.
Why not: Because the first two singles didn't do shit for me and because we are now approaching the Kreator problem.
Iron Reagan - Crossover Ministry
Blood Feast - The Future State of Wicked
Grave Digger - Healed by Metal
Striker - Striker
Chainsaw - Filthy Blasphemy
Havok - Conformicide
Cryptic Shift - Cosmic Dreams (single, Vektor-style, I think I have now reached two digits counting bands that are very obviously influenced by Vektor)
Argus - From Fields of Fire
Leprous - Malina
Harlott - Extinction
Accept - The Rise of Chaos
Stalker - Shadow of the Sword (very good speed metal on first listen, hope it holds up on repeats)
Caligula's Horse - In Contact (καλό αλλά φλωριά, άστο να βρίσκεται, πού ξέρεις)
Paradise Lost - Medusa (back to the gothic/shades era. Not bad, not really my thing either) Stallion - From the Dead (speed metal)
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs
Marty Friedman - Wall of Sound
Pyramaze - Contingent
Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black
Night Demon - Darkness Remains
Monolith Cult - Gospel of Despair (UK doom metal with an excellent cover and an opener that reminded me of Mastodon, 80s thrash imagery and lyrics, which is fucking weird. S/t track is very very good. Pousios recommendation)
Cloven Altar - Enter the Night (band of Ced from Blazon Stone/Rocka Rollas)
Torture Squad - Far Beyond Existence
Hell Fire - Free Again (US old school heavy metal) Debut Metal Masses (2016) is quite good so they earned my attention.
Vendetta - The 5th (the classic German band's third attempt at a comeback, one remaining member, the bassist)
Urn - The Burning (Black thrash, good shit)
Persefone - Aathma (prog death, Masvidal guest on Living Waves, kind of like Ne Obliviscaris meets Obscura and Leprous. Don't like the vocals but that Masvidal song was pretty awesome, VERY promising - Jack Luminous recommendation).
Part VI: 2017 Addendum
Lost In Vegas
Not for the album list but definitely on the highlights of the year. Two people into hip hop decide to react to music outside their knowledge and comfort zone and end up creating the best reaction videos since that idea became a thing.
Two things make them utterly enjoyable:
1. Seeing them getting enthusiastic over music you love and through them reliving that first moment when Metallica or Maiden or Gojira or whoever hit you in times long passed. PRICELESS
Watch how Ryan reacts to Alice in Chains or AC/DC: if you don't smile YOU HAVE NO SOUL.
2. Getting another validation that music is universal and that a good tune is a good tune is a good tune. Music unites, music is the language of the soul and all that. When Ryan goes "Oh! That's hot! That's hot right there!" listening to Master of Puppets or George jumping from his chair when Heaviest Matter of the Universe kicks in the main riff yelling "wooooo!!", you feel a warm fuzzy feeling in the stomach. Yes! Yes!
Love them. Hopefully they will learn how to choose good songs to react to because some videos have really been wasted! (Testament, Anthrax and now Nevermore come to mind)
Beast in Black - The Beast is Back
Confession time. This is my guilty pleasure of 2017. Initially shocked from the video of Blind and Frozen (where you can see the flags waving amidst a dancing sea of viewers in a Eurovision contest) and my true metal sensibilities tingling with disgust, I only checked out this song as the album was getting ridicilously good reviews, even from people whose opinion I appreciated.
This song is extremely user friendly, just like the rest of the album. It is designed down to the most minute detail to be catchy, enjoyable and all hooks follow every rulebook in existence. It's pop power/speed metal. Fucking catchy pop power metal, as much as I hate to admit it.
And as much as I like to pride myself as someone who takes my metal music very seriously and cannot abide mainstream gimmicks, well, I found myself putting this almost daily for a long time. I did not do that publically, not with the horde of roast-friendly contacts!
AND THEN IT HIT ME:
This would have been insanely awesome as the soundtrack of a cool cartoon when I was 11 or 12. This is coming from someone headbanging to Ultimate Warrior's entrance to the ring or air guitarring to the Thundercats theme song. If you can identify with any of the two, then tell me this wouldn't rule, I can hear this on top of Korgoth for example.
And there I guess is the heart of the matter. This is Cartoon Metal, just like Dragonforce is Cartoon Metal (Guitar Hero 3?) and I am guessing your attitude towards this song should match your attitude when you come across a Masters of the Universe episode. Or something.
That or my brain goes at terrible lengths to justify a guilty pleasure.
To be honest, I tried the rest of the album but did not find any other cool soundtrack to toons, for my taste at least. I would still recommend the album to fans of the pop side of metal (you know, Nightwish, Battle Beast, Sabaton etc.) Not my thing, but hey... I love Volbeat, I am not judging!
Epilogue: Looking forward to in 2018Let's start with Rapture - Paroxysm of Hatred because it's already been released and it's great, manic deathrash that warms my heart so go ahead and listen to it. I was looking forward to it so it technically counts.
Wolf: Haven't heard a title yet but I will jump the gun and say that this is going to make my top 3 of the year because Wolf IS the best heavy metal band of the past many years with a fucking beautiful and very consistent discography and because in Niklas (and Simon and Anders and Richard) I trust.
Sacral Rage: Their debut album made my top Greek metal release ever list and I am pretty sure they still haven't peaked. I very much trust these guys to deliver top notch metal that is totally old school in the heart but will never be confined to any retro-trends or blind imitation or scene rules. I know for a fact they hate that and I also know for a fact that there is a long, mighty epic song coming this way that has me salivating at the description.
Speaking of Sacral Rage, Coroner is expected to record a new album. Now I do not know if this will be released or even finished in 2018 because they are taking it slow (which I can appreciate, fuck deadlines, esp. when it comes to art) but it might be released 2018, so it goes without saying that this album is a HUGE fucking deal for me. Hell, for METAL.
Others that MIGHT release something this year and that is a wonderful thing: Trallery, Nekromantheon, Dark Angel, Psychotic Waltz.