2017 has been a rather terrible year. So much crap has happened, and outside dank memes, there doesn’t seem to be much improvement in any other respect. Except for perhaps, my taste in music. I’ve been exposed/exposed myself to various genres of music, and previously less accessible genres became easier listens. My appreciation of music has widened, and I became enthralled by a huger variety of albums this year, each being a soundtrack to a different part of the year, with some truly dropping at the time most optimal for emotional punch.
Of course, personally, it’s impossible to talk about music and 2017 without talking about Radiohead. The band has completely won me over with their fantastic albums, especially the masterpiece that is OK Computer. I may be twenty years too late, but then again, I’m only twenty. Poetically, this album is the soundtrack to everything that I have experienced up until this point, a critical release for the whole generation. The last four months of the year has been defined by Radiohead, and this list simply won’t reflect that. I could put the reissue OKNOTOK here, but that would be cheating.
With that out of the way, it’s time to share my favorite albums of the year.
#10. Impure Wilhelmina // Radiation
Radiation didn’t have the makings of a great album, or so I thought. But I couldn’t really stop listening to it, and in the end, I ended up listening to it a lot more than I would have liked. It packs quite a punch, with its slow, emotional melodies, and heavy, droning choruses. Great Falls Beyond Death entered repetition several times, with the opening section being some of the highest quality post-metal I’ve heard all year.
#9. Converge // The Dusk In Us
I do love myself some hard-hitting metalcore. The more abrasive, the better (usually). I’ve heard a lot of good things about Converge but never really bothered to check them out, until they dropped The Dusk In Us to rave reviews. And man, does the album deserve it. This is more than just the sound of anger. This is the sound of pain. A stellar metalcore album, and one I keep coming back to.
#8. Diablo Swing Orchestra // Pacifisticuffs
I remember 2012. It was the first year of my life I became truly obsessed with all things Metal. I had just discovered the wonderful blog known as Angry Metal Guy, and on that came a review of some Pandora’s Piñata. What I didn’t expect was for me to find something in that album pretty much every year since. In hindsight, this was a clear highlight of 2012, and despite how much my tastes have changed since then Pandora’s Piñata has only gotten better and better. Pacifisticuffs is admittedly not as good, but the high-quality songwriting and extremely catchy choruses made this is a frequent visit this month.
#7. Pain of Salvation // In the Passing Light of Day
2017 has been my most emotional year, or perhaps my most emotionless year, depending on how you look at it. Released way early in the year, In the Passing Light of Day became a constant emotional companion, too emotionally heavy for everyday listening, but when I had to listen to it, it hit hard. While there were several plays in the background during my first few games of Civ V, besides that, I only listened to it when it felt appropriate. In hindsight, I had not even realised how important this album was to me until now. It’s a pity I can’t put it further up, but 2017 was a really strong here for Metal.
#6. The Night Flight Orchestra // Amber Galactic
It’s honestly not easy to write old-fashioned nostalgia-driven rock without it sounding uninspired and trite. So I was really surprised when I popped in Amber Galactic and heard all the saccharine melodies and sweet solos. This has been one of, if not the most, fun albums I’ve heard all year. It’s simply put crafted with an ingenuity I didn’t expect the band, or anyone, to have. It also coincided with the Murakami-reading portion of the year. And anything my brain associates with Murakami would automatically be better. Gemini is one of the greatest songs of the year, and there’s no denying it.
#5. Moonspell // 1755
My pick for the most underrated, under-reviewed album of the year. 1755 is vastly more interesting than its predecessor Extinct both musically and conceptually. From one of the year’s best intro track (En Nome Do Medo) to the catchy muted rhythms of In Tremor Dei to the explosive start of Abanão and the resounding climax of Todos os Santos, 1755 is a roaring success I’m sure I’ll be coming back to just to headbang to it once again.
#4. Leprous // Malina
Yeah, yeah. A lot of people didn’t like this album. Perhaps this high up, it would probably be the most controversial pick for the list. But honestly, Malina is my favorite Leprous album (along with Bilateral). While the last two tracks of the album might not have been that great, the rest of the album was, and it also gave us three really really good singles. Leprous’ strength has been irregularity mixed with great melodies, and here is where they truly excel. Songs cut short from the unnecessary length of The Congregation, and a level of catchiness only found on Bilateral. Truly a stellar album.
#3. Archspire // Relentless Mutation
I’m not that huge of a fan of technical death metal because 7 times out of 10 it doesn’t engage me for more than a few minutes. It’s just not my thing. What I did not know was that the tech death I needed was in the form of Archspire, with their blisteringly fast vocal delivery, breakneck pace drumming and well-performed catchy riffs. Each song is a bliss to listen to, with the ridiculous depth and effective use of counterpoint making multiple listens easy and fulfilling. Involuntary Doppelgänger and Calamus Will Animate will remain easy favourites of the album, but the album as a whole is one of those short and sweet experiences where there is absolutely no need to skip a track, at least for me. Relentless Mutation made technical death metal great again, and I can’t wait for Archspire‘s next opus.
#2. Caligula’s Horse // In Contact
In a beta version of this list I shared with a couple of my friends, In Contact was at fifth place. But when I really thought about it, In Contact is one of the most well-thought out and balanced albums of the year, and probably the album with the most interesting concept of the year, at least when looking at what I’ve been listening to. The themes of art, life, death and the mind are all intangibles that In Contact fearlessly grapples with, each song establishing a different atmosphere from which to view the world. Musically, In Contact takes what Caligula’s Horse applied on Marigold to the next level, with great variety in songwriting, tracks of varying lengths, and even a spoken word piece in at the last third of the album, which is unexpectedly well-executed and led brilliantly to the next track The Cannon’s Mouth. Truly, with all these musical and thematic accomplishments, as well as great personal enjoyment derived from it, it seems unfair not to put it at second place. Also, Songs For No One is on this album.
Album of the Year: Æther Realm // Tarot
In the previously mentioned beta version of this list, this album wasn’t even on it, because I hadn’t actually listened to it. In fact, I only first listened to it a few days ago, when the year was about to end. Is it foolish to put an album I’ve only heard for a few days at the AotY spot on my list? Yes. Yes, it is. Incredibly foolish. I’ll probably look back at this list six months later and regret it. But hopefully, I won’t. Because this album deserves this spot, and pretty much had it from the first listen. Tarot was love at first spin, and as of this point, the best melodeath album I’ve ever heard. It has it all. Great musical landscapes, amazing intro track, folk influences, an amazing collaboration with a fellow metal musician, a healthy mix of fast and slow (and short and long) tracks, great album art, masterful composition and pristine mastering, and finally, The Sun, The Moon, The Star, a 19 minute magnum opus of one folk-inspired melody after another, full metal symphony with multiple goosebumps-inducing moments and the most satisfying climax of the year. When I look back at the music I’ve discovered in 2017, I would probably think of Radiohead first, but I’ll think of Æther Realm second, with an album that raised the bar for melodeath the world over. (I still love Winter’s Gate, Insomnium.)
Kreator // Gods of Violence
Trivium // The Sin and the Sentence
The Nercromancers // Servants of the Salem Girl
Disappointment of the Year:
Steven Wilson // To the Bone: While some might be able to appreciate the drastic change in style, I can safely say that this prog-pop oddity is not for me. A ridiculously huge disappointment from an artist that has released two consecutive masterpieces.
Song(s) of the Year:
Caligula’s Horse // Songs For No One: One of the best songs I’ve heard all year. Emotional, heavy, and brilliantly written. A resounding success of a centrepiece in an already stellar album.
Æther Realm // The Sun, The Moon, The Star: An absolute masterpiece. Nothing can be taken away from this track and nothing can be added. Pretty much perfect in any way, and a fitting climax for the whole year. The song I used to welcome 2018, because it just seemed appropriate to do so. (Starting the new year right, I guess?)