2017 was a shitty year by most accounts, but as metalheads we have a lot to be happy about. Hardcore, grindcore, black, doom, progressive, thrash, and death metal all had an awesome year. We got new music from Cannibal Corpse, Wolves in the Throne Room, Obituary, Code Orange, Paradise Lost, Electric Wizard, and Body Count. So while 2017 was a disappointment for those of us who pay attention to the world at large, our one constant never let us down; metal is alive and well in 2017. Rejoice.
#20 Glassjaw – Material Control Century Media Records
It’s been 15 years since Glassjaw’s last full length, Worship and Tribute. The post-hardcore group have finally delivered with the added bonus of BIlly Rymer from The Dillinger Escape Plan on drums. This is a great effort, give it a spin if only for the nostalgia.
#19 Wormwood – Mooncurse Translation Loss Records
Killer blackened doom. Check out my Review!
#18 Black Anvil – As Was Relapse Records
Man, I love the New York black metal scene. Black Anvil took an unexpected path with As Was and it paid off in a huge way. This is their best release yet in my opinion, and it’s due to their willingness to experiment.
#17 Unearthly Trance – Stalking the Ghost Relapse Records
After a breakup in 2012–and then reformation in 2015–Unearthly Trance have served up a heaping plate of sludge and doom with Stalking the Ghost. There are no frills here, no thinking outside the box, this is straight up doom. Unearthly Trance are a highly important cog in the metal machine, and it’s good to have these guys back.
#16 Zao – The Pyrrhic Victory Observed/Observer Recordings
Are Zao the best metalcore band of all time? Yeah. Wanna fight about it? 2016’s The Well Intentioned Virus was a metal masterpiece and The Pyrrhic Victory is, well, the victory lap.
#15 Integrity – Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume Relapse Records
With a 30 year history of pioneering hardcore and metalcore, Integrity have nothing to prove at this point. There’s no question this is the Dwid Hellion show and he could have done anything he damn well pleased for this ninth studio album, but instead he and Domenic Romeo created the best Integrity album to date with Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume. And seriously, how great is that title?
#14 Dead Cross – Dead Cross Ipecac Recordings
Dave Lombardo and Mike Patton ripping through 10 tracks of hardcore punk. Look… this isn’t going to break any molds, but it’s a lot of fun. The group’s self-titled debut is well written while not taking itself too seriously, but Patton really propels this album into being in my top 20 albums of 2017 with songs like “Shillelagh” and “Church of the Motherfuckers.”
#13 Elder – Reflections of a Floating World Armageddon Label
Most things in life are good in small doses. Too much of anything is usually a bad thing. This does not apply to riffs (Hi, my name is Forrest and I’m a riff addict). Reflections of a Floating World delivers for all of us who find ourselves wishing for just one more riff. It’s a beautifully crafted progressive stoner rock album that deserves multiple listens. Oh, and there’s riffs. Lots of riffs.
#12 All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal Southern Lord Records
Hostage Animal goes from punishing grindcore to mid-tempo sludge to nasty, in your face crust punk. For a 35 minute album there’s a lot to digest. This marks the first of three appearances for Ben Koller on my top 20 list, he’s one of the best drummers in the metal scene, and I feel no shame including every album he has played on in 2017.
#11 The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability Relapse Records
This shit rips. I couldn’t get enough of this album when it came out back in January and listening to it again recently solidified its spot on the list, almost making it into my top ten. This is a great first full length from the deathgrind outfit, and it’s weighty as well, being one cohesive piece of art about The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, which is: Death.
#10 Mutoid Man – War Moans Sargent House Records
Here we go! The top ten. Holy shit it’s Ben Koller again. I love Mutoid Man, I can’t help it. They are catchy and heavy at the same time, they make me want to mosh but I also want to sing. I’ve been a Stephen Brodsky fan since his Cave In days, he’s a master song writer and his compositions on War Moans really drive that fact home. Brodsky and Koller are pure gold on this release, just an unstoppable force of hooks and riffs.
#9 Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy Profound Lore Records
Pummelling, gruelling, blistering grind. Plain and simple. Rarely is there a moment to catch your breath. The use of samples is expertly done, always adding to the crushing weight of the album. Trumpeting Ecstasy is a high water mark for Full of Hell and the grind genre as a whole. It’s a work of art and should be treated as such.
#8 Power Trip – Nightmare Logic Southern Lord Records
Holy shit this album is good. I’m not going to buy into the “saviors of thrash” moniker that has been laid at Power Trip’s feet (I think thrash has been doing just fine and will continue to do so) but with Nightmare Logic, this group of Texans have cemented their place in the metal world. This album is on everyone’s radar in 2017 and without having anything new or insightful to add, I’ll recommend reading Clayton’s review.
#7 Spirit Adrift – Curse of Conception 20 Buck Spin
Who wants riffs? ‘Cause Spirit Adrift’s got ‘em. This is some damn fine doom, featuring masterful guitarwork that holds its own with the likes of Khemmis and Pallbearer. With tracks like “Graveside Invocation”, “Earthbound” and “Onward, Inward,” Curse of Conception proves that Spirit Adrift (and mastermind Nate Garrett) are power players in the doom echelon.
#6 Enslaved – E Nuclear Blast Records
Enslaved are this black/progressive/extreme/viking metal force that does what it wants with no apologies. I might be one of the few who counts E’s predecessor In Times as my favorite Enslaved album, and in Enslaved fashion I’ll offer no apologies either. This 14th studio album is addictive, requiring and deserving multiple listens. This is Enslaved doing what they do best, either get on the “Sacred Horse” or get out of the way.
#5 Pallbearer – Heartless Profound Lore Records
In my not so humble opinion, Pallbearer have yet to stumble on their way to becoming doom metal gods. Sorrow and Extinction and Foundations of Burden are masterpieces, not one song falling short, not one note out of place. Brett Campbell and Devin Holt are guitar wizards, and with Heartless they prove that point. Someone get these guys pointy hats and staffs because this shit is magic. The opening track “I Saw the End” lays it all out, giving you exactly what you want and expect from the four Arkansans. “Dancing in Madness” and “A Plea for Understanding” propel this album into the prog sphere and flaunt the Pink Floyd love. Pallbearer have done it again. Heartless is a progressive doom behemoth that’s full of heart.
#4 Tombs – The Grand Annihilation Metal Blade Records
Experimental and dark, The Grand Annihilation is superbly undefinable. Mike Hill has never been shy to incorporate multiple genres within the NY black metal sound that is Tombs, and with this fourth studio album he’s outdone himself. With philosophies best whispered in starless nights, this album has a stunning amount of depth. Hill proselytises from his black pulpit of the freedom through darkness on tracks like “Way of the Storm” and “November Wolves.” The Grand Annihilation is Tombs’ magnum opus, after years of exploring the dark, they have finally mastered it.
#3 The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers Metal Blade Records
2017 seems to be the year of bands outdoing themselves, and The Black Dahlia Murder are no different. Nightbringers is pure death metal and it’s amazing from “Widowmaker” to “The Lonely Deceased.” Black Dahlia have never disappointed, but with this latest offering they managed to exceed expectations. It’s just sooooo good. The composition, the lyrics, the solos, the drum beats, hell even the artwork is perfect. All cylinders are firing on this eighth album and the band should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.
#2 Mastodon – Emperor of Sand Warner Bros Records
Mastodon are without a doubt my favorite band and have been since I first picked up Leviathan in 2004. No band resonates with me the way Mastodon does. Emperor of Sand is a return to form for the band. It’s a concept record in the vein of Crack the Skye, Blood Mountain and Leviathan, this time dealing with cancer and death. The musical style is mixture of the prog rock path they’ve headed down with The Hunter and Once More ‘Round the Sun and the more doom oriented sludge of 2006’s Blood Mountain in particular. Songs like “Steambreather” and “Show Yourself” are full of hooks and painfully catchy, the melodies stuck in your head for days at time, while “Precious Stones” and “Andromeda” are a riff fest of seven layered proggy deliciousness. “Jaguar God” has done the unthinkable and unseated “Aqua Dementia” as my favorite Mastodon song. There is no album I’ve listened to as much this year as I have Emperor of Sand, and I had a difficult time not giving it the number one spot on my list, but ya know…Converge.
#1 Converge – The Dusk in Us Deathwish/Epitaph
My 2017 album of the year is Converge’s The Dusk In Us. It’s a piece of art that has no comparisons. It’s heartfelt and brutal and overflowing with emotion. The four members of Converge are not only masters of their respective instruments, but they are crucial members of the metal community–from Kurt Ballou and his GodCity Studio, to Jacob Bannon and his Deathwish Inc., to Ben Koller and his… drum kit. The Dusk In Us is tastefully chaotic, melodic and discordant, it’s extraterrestrial and yet wholly familiar. This is a special collection of songs that couldn’t have been crafted by any other band at any other moment in time. Stand out tracks “Under Duress”, “A Single Tear”, “I Can Tell You About Pain”, “The Dusk In Us” and “Reptilian” are prodigious on their own but when consumed in their rightful places on the album they become legendary. Converge, man. What more can I say?