Bejebus! Is it already time to close another year? There’s little to no chance to absorb albums anymore. Click, click, click, like, like, dislike, dislike… hardly time for profound immersion. Cynicism reigns while we watch the state of music being devalued at the hands and ears of digital natives, KVLT edge-lords and corporate crocodiles. 2017 will be remembered for its excessive instant gratification, social media dramas, left-wing vs right-wing black metal, the increasingly blurring borders between art and politics… and some great albums. Here’s part one of two, unearthing the albums of 2017 that I, the extreme metal voyager, found pleasant.
20. Soen – Lykaia
Maybe this would be the route for Opeth 2.0, instead of renouncing metal alltogether. Soen are a wonderful band, embracing technicality and accessibility. I really like this record’s blend of prog sensibility (think Porcupine Tree meets Opeth) and modern sound qualities. The silky vocal harmonies (can’t deny the Åkerfeldt similarities), riffs ranging from “Blackwater Park” epicness to jagged Tool weavings, bluesy licks and diverse drum work solidifies the subtle craft within each song.
19. Pain Of Salvation – In The Light Of Passing Day
Coming off challenging and heartfelt albums like “BE”, “Scarsick” and the “Road Salt” double release, Pain Of Salvation remain a bit of an enigma, but their evolution really has come to a culminating point on “In The Light Of Passing Day”. Frighteningly advanced rhythmically, intensely fragile in serene moments and always on the edge concerning experimentation. “Reason”, “Meaningless” and “On A Tuesday” features some of the band’s most invigorating songwriting to date… and is there a grander expression on existentialism than that of Daniel Gildenløw?
18. Solbrud – Vemod
Whispers of “the new wave of Danish black metal” roam about with bands like Sunken, Slægt… Myrkur… and Orm all having different takes on blackened music. However, Solbrud is the trve commander of the Danish flag carried into nefarious realms. “Vemod” is built around acute shifts of fiery melancholia and blackened fury. Live, their music transports the congregating mass to another domain, ethereal and hypnotizing. Excited to witness the band again in February, when they’re supporting Svartmálm.
17. Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Ulver has been a steady feature in many of my lists for some years now. They’ve done it all; black metal, folk music, movie soundtracks, drone collaborations, commissioned cultural works and everything in between. I would categorize “The Assassination Of Julius Caesar” as a darker and more explorative version of “War Of The Roses”. Seamlessly moving from pop, gothic and synth to avant-garde sounds, the band takes us on yet another cerebral adventure that’s hipster free with no interest in trends, rather creating unique earworms. Unparalleled!
16. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
This artist has always existed in the peripheral corners of my uncharted music journeys. Now all enlightened, I must confess that there’s plenty of intriguing spectral undercurrents on “Hiss Spun”, both seductive and terrifying. This claustrophobic and austere soundscape was a draining listening experience, yet there’s something deeply alluring in the cold-realism and gloomy catchiness within these songs.
15. Sepultura – Machine Messiah
This album has sparked a renewed excitement. Leaning towards near progressive spans of arrangements and modern thrash/death metal eruptions, the band appears to be in excellent form. Thankfully, Jens Bogren doesn’t put too much cushion into the mix, just enough clarity to let the songwriting and intricacies shine through. So many classic bands disappointed me in 2017, Sepultura did not!
14. Anathema – The Optimist
A much better album than “Distant Satelittes”. Residing in their very own bubble of love and spirituality since “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, it was perhaps time to switch gears to be honest. Returning to the concept story initially started on “A Fine Day To Exit” allowed for a more experimental and rock-driven sound, not exclusive to sentimental ballads about awareness and passionate desires.
13. Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him
“Fear Those Who Fear Him” is not an album that’s fair, seeking acceptance. In fact, this is the sound of a band coming to a complete devolving halt. The attacking crust groove, the ear-piercing death metal heaviness and lead guitar driven doom metal strides have reached their lowest perceptible forms, a delightful audio inferno! A shame that this had to affect the quality of “Medusa” which came out a few months later.
12. Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension
Amidst all ongoing deconstruction of metal music, it’s good to hear a pristine extreme metal album that has equal parts of death, black, doom and thrash metal. An album devoid of experimental nonsense, that makes one raise the middle-finger. Goatwhore’s “Vengeful Ascension” did that for me this year, restored a little of that youthful rebel inside a now thirty-something year old rational academic.
11. With The Dead – Love From With The Dead
Someone at the office asked me if I was ”ok” when blasting opener “Isolation” at max volume. This person would think right to ask, this is one album that’ll suffocate any brightness spawned within range. Another hipster free proclamation of utter misery and downfall, even heavier than the already ridiculously heavy debut. This is a lot more successful to my ears than any altered doom metal release, be it stoner or sludge. Heavy music with heavy subject matter.
That’s ten out of the way. Stay tuned for part two, which will uncover the top ten albums that swept me off my rancid feet! Tomorrow!
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