|Evok’s 2017: In Retrospect|
The two thousand and seventeenth year ov our Lord was a fantastic season for a lot of musicphiles (myself included), so I figured it'd be a fine time to stoke the coals of reminiscence and take a look back at the albums of the year. List is ranked, with sommelier descriptions to round out the affair. What were your AOTY's?
Portals Into Futility
If we're drawing comparisons to household acts, I guess you could say that Usnea's Portals Into Futility loosely charts seismic activity somewhere between the proletariat fires of Thou, the visceral anguish of Esoteric, and the gargantuan landslides of Pallbearer's most crushing excursions - all while boasting a more dynamic and limber attitude than either of those shoehorned examples. Acting as a perfect marriage of mood and force, rage and restraint, movement and space, and tension and release, these Portland doomster's third full-length is a crawling testament to the genre's devastating potential to crumble mountains and erode the very tenets of hope itself. All is futile in the vortice of this portal.
With enough immediacy to wrought splendour from breezy springtime walks and a nuanced nature that makes a perfect sidekick to a blossoming mushroom trip, Crack-Up is the definitive statement on modern folk music. Infinitely replayable and staggeringly detailed, in this case hearing really is believing.
Is Cormorant a black metal band? A heavy metal band? A progressive metal band? A progressive rock band? These tags shift on a moment to moment basis, and in my humble and ever questionable opinion, places these staunch DIYers alongside the likes of Neurosis and Opeth as one of the greatest metal bands to ever grace our mortal sphere. This brings us to their most recent effort, the sprawling Diaspora: an album that stands tall as a culmination of everything they've done reaching the apex of a bleeding edge. Catchy, colourful, mesmerizing and timeless; this is peak music, pure and simple.
When Fen came around and dropped Carrion Skies on the world, I was of the staunch opinion that they crafted the best black metal album of the new millennium, and I still stand by that sentiment. Now, with Winter unleashed as a follow up, I'm of the opinion these wizards lay claim to not one, but two black metal albums of the absolute highest order. Winter is a sprawling behemoth of pure majesty that perfectly encapsulates its namesake season from an angle that very few albums have pulled off so... perfectly. In a word, it's a goddamn landmark.
Theory Of Colours
The perfect house album doesn't exis.... oh wait a minute, yes it does. Theory Of Colours' astute balance of geometric ambiance and airy beatcraft isn't just house music though. Nay, such a label would be far too reductionist for Dauwd's colourful debut LP; a brilliantly nonchalant adventure through flawless sound design and endearing motifs that draw inspiration and movement from genuinely fascinating angles. It's a meditative ride, yet one that brandishes a bevy of ingenious textures and dynamic songwriting sensibilities that keep the steady sense of awe and unpredictability in the fore throughout.
|6||The Ruins Of Beverast|
Esoteric to its core, Exuvia is a fascinating exploration of metamorphological ritualism wrapped in a dense layer of blackened doom metal. It writhes like an oily liquid between the realms of the flesh and spirit, firing its pitch-black hallucinations through a kaleidoscope of shamanistic power that transmutes the clutches of mortal comprehension. This album will break you apart, it will show you things, it will cleanse you, and it will put you back together. What more could you arrogantly ask for? Kneel before the void and let it speak.
|7||Falls Of Rauros|
Passion, valour, catharsis. Screams from the mountain tops above the forest. Feathers and stone. Blood and ice. Fire and wind. This is atmospheric black metal at its most triumphant.
Chelsea Wolfe crawls even deeper into her metal influences on Hiss Spun, and the result is nothing less than breathtaking. All the trademarks of dark wave and folk still form the ethereal foundation of her sound here, but never have they been so brilliantly juxtaposed with cathartic outbursts and scathing distortion. This is one for those on the outside looking in.
|9||Cigarettes After Sex|
Cigarettes After Sex
Nothing beats a cigarette after some good sex. Detractors be damned, when you sound this lovely, being one-dimensional isn't so bad. Keep at it you hopeless romantics, your music is the perfect nightcap.
Reflections Of A Floating World
A marbled zenith of heavy psych and stoner riffs speckled with inflections of progressive rock. This is the sound of Elder's fully realized potential, and it's oh so sweet. Everything is just... better this time around, and as impressive as Lore and Dead Roots Stirring were, there was always a feeling that this immensely talented group had the chops to climb even higher. They certainly achieved that fabled summit and beyond with Reflections Of A Floating World; an absolutely essential listen that's sure to knock you on your ass.
In contrast to the brutalist riffing of their debut effort, Infrared Horizon's bolstered sense of melody underpins a significant maturation of Artificial Brain's already unique approach to dissonant tech death. Through this, these nutty Long Islanders have successfully landed themselves an album worthy of venerable status. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, and instead opts to perfect it through a fine balance of crushing heaviness, stunningly leftfield melodicism, and undeniable memorability. If this is the sound of death metal's future then there's surely much to be excited about.
Atrocities From Beyond
From a production standpoint, Atrocities From Beyond is one of the heaviest albums ever put to tape. This thing -and I cannot emphasize this enough- absolutely fucking SLAPS. This is some serious balls-to-the-wall slamming death metal that stands well above the vast majority of its peers in a genre rife with wholly forgettable brutality. If you want a broken neck, just turn that volume knob to 11 and let 'er buck because this gurgling slab of mindless fun is irresistibly juicy.
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
When three quarters of your band also play in Blood Incantation, you bloody well better be awesome. Incidentally, Spectral Voice are better than awesome on Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing. Here we have a burgeoning work death-doom that stands tall alongside the ranks of diSEMBOWELMENT and the like, packed full of unique interpretations of how death metal and doom metal can interact and never wavering in the face of cohesiveness. It's true to the name too, floating in a genuinely spectral fashion that seems wholly disconnected from the limitations of four-dimensional spacetime, as if a sick combination of esoteric summoning and a thumbprint of LSD somehow spawned its twisted emergence from dank crypts of the human subconscious. Buckle up.
|14||The Great Old Ones|
EOD: A Tale Of Dark Legacy
Viciously writhing Lovecraft inspired atmospheric black metal with a heavy bite that damn near leans on sludge metal. An absolutely essential album if you want a proper ass whoopin'.
|15||Der Weg Einer Freiheit|
Too aggressive to be atmospheric black metal and too refined to be "kvlt", Finisterre is a special beast that feeds on speed and pure badassery without ever overindulging. It's a mature masterwork of pure 21st century black metal at its core, simultaneously soaring on the wings of thick chord structures and digging its claws into the dirt which will bury us all in due time. This is where it's at, folks.
Immersion Trench Reverie
Yellow Eyes have their share of detractors but for the life of me I can't figure out why. They levelled up in a big way with Immersion Trench Reverie; an album overflowing with unique amalgamations of Eastern European mystique and clever atmospheric black metal that creeps towards a Krallice-esque sense of angular oddity. With a timbre rich in orange and brown hues, this album is an essential autumn companion.
Trance Of Death
Trance Of Death treads into psychedelic territories that few death metal bands dare venture near, and through its creepy amalgamation of osdm, weird surf-rock-esque riffs and progressive songwriting, Venenum have firmly wedged themselves among the ranks of the scene's most interesting acts.
A dramatic chamber pop soundtrack to a Ken doll living in a bizarre stop-motion animation. It's a goddamn vibe innit.
By all measures The Amulet really ought to be Circa Survive's finest hour yet, even if it isn't striving to recapture the magic of Blue Sky Noise. These post-hardcore legends have always been amazing, but they've never sounded quite so cohesive across the span of an entire longplayer, and as the album walks a tightrope between substance and flavour, we are treated to some of the group's most captivating and subtly brilliant moments. Its not only a great introduction to the band, but a release that has every right to blow the minds of long time fans too.
Immolation still got it, baby! Atonement is exactly what everyone hoped a 2017 album from these veteran death metal wizards would sound like. It's better than Kingdom Of Conspiracy, and sits closer to Majesty & Decay's qualities than anything else. Amazing that after almost 30 years of ruling the realms of death metal we still get to hear new releases that are so uncompromising in quality and inspiration from these guys. Colour me impressed.
Sun rays pummel earthward on Sunless' dissonant tech death debut; an album that boasts a fit and finish not unlike contemporary Gorguts or Ad Nauseam, but nonetheless finds itself firmly rooted in its own motives. It's an album rife with interlocking riffs and impossible drum patterns that clip together like obtuse puzzle pieces, and thanks to the Colin Marston production job, everything shines through with stunning depth. Complex, fervent, and spilling with monochromatic shades of green and silver, Urraca's synesthesic geometry is as captivating as it is virtuosic.
Take Me Apart
I'm gonna quote fellow sputnik swami Slex regarding this alternative r&b masterpiece because they summed it up better than I could ever hope to; "A deep focus rumble of effortless cool and crackling heat, Kelela creates a transportive world of sounds and voices that conveys longing, passion and independence on her own ever-shifting terms. A stunningly generous and singularly alien album."
Edamame has been playing second fiddle to the likes of Emancipator and Bonobo for most of his career, but his superbly consistent output year after year brings forth some of the most chilled out and lush beats you could ever hope to find. Bask is simply another amazing LP from a guy who humbly does his thing better than just about anyone else in the scene, and even though he's just flexing on us at this point, his music remains essentially flawless.
The pitch black mechanizations of Chee's debut LP are a shining example how multi-bpm bass music can still push the sonic envelope. Swaddled in the young South African producer's unmistakable style and nestled uncomfortably between dubstep, drum & bass, halftime and glitch, Fear Monger is an all-out assault of the senses that you won't soon forget.
V - Oceans
A stunning slab of funeral doom that harnesses the might of Poseidon himself to revel in the sheer power and majesty of the high seas.
A modern take on classic death metal meat. Cut thick and piled high.
I have nothing to say about Brand New that hasn't already been said. Please consult staff writer extraordinaire SowingSeason for more information on this album.
|28||Full Of Hell|
"All matter is just the devil crawling back to God."
The Dusk In Us
Converge are getting old, but they're not going soft on us. Sure, The Dusk In Us lacks the unabashed mania of its predecessors, but what it lacks in animalistic rage it more than makes up for with a smoldering angst that leans heavily into methodically paced agression and contemplative spaciousness. This is Converge taking a moment to think about the world around them, and in doing so, sits in their discography as a rather unique and important milestone for these legendary badasses.
Dark Towers, Bright Lights
Cranial's caustic debut full-length is an absolute monster of a post-metal/sludge album that will pull you apart like slow-cooked meat from the inside out. This German outfit really trampled through the gates with this one, and they arrive with an emboldened point to make: they're here, and they mean fucking business. Dark Towers / Bright Lights isn't ripping anyone off when it comes at you with a brazen corona of crushing guitars, deliberative pacing and pure rage; it's an album with a firm identity and one that handily renders it one of the most striking post-metal-related releases of recent memory.
While 2017 was evidently a great year for black metal's more atmospheric, forward-thinking edge, the year wasn't without its more visceral gems too. Hope Attrition's full-on catharsis is not only a top shelf selection in that regard, but also stands out as Woe's finest work to date and marks a rather noticeable transition in their sound towards something more immediately gratifying. Heavy on the existential strife and packed with ripping, melodic riffs, this album can patch up the worst of days and put them in their place.
Sleep Well Beast
Sleep Well Beast sees the greatest band of all time join us for a late night rooftop stargaze, where reflections on life and love are shared by the quiet urban nightscape. It might not match the sheer brilliance of their last four masterpieces, but The National are nonetheless at their most intimate here, and Sleep Well Beast's delicate timbre and honest vulnerability make it another very worthy addition to one of music's most infallible discographies.
Bonobo's career output has been nothing short of consistent in overall quality and Migration is another stellar output from the venerated producer. This time around, things are a bit more grainform, driven by a bolstered note of future garage that carries his trademark swath of diverse instrumentation and guest features. It's easily up there with his past works, and once again offers pulchritudinous timbres for the iconic artist to peruse.
Lush pads and washes of neon ambience festoon the oeuvre of Modern Species' deep house leanings in a way that renders it a convincingly tactile microcosm. It's a debut LP rife with geometric percussion, airy phrases and a strikingly mature appreciation for the power of understated production. DJ Sports nailed it.
Kelle Surut Soi
It's not entirely unfair to draw comparisons to fellow countrymen Moonsorrow when discussing these Finnish warlords known as Havukruunu, but where the former joust with overwhelming arrangements and grandiose to portay epic conquest and bloody battle, this group draws inspiration from blacker realms to elicit similar sonic landscapes, and the result is something far more frost-bitten than the general offerings of most genre compatriots. With a raw timbre underpinning their triumphant take on pagan black metal, Kelle Surut Soi is one hell of a sophomore album that's stuffed to the tits with images of warborn vanquish and spoils alike.
It doesn't take long for Painted Ruins to get weird. I mean, if Grizzly Bear are good at anything, it's taking quaint neo-psychedelia and chamber folk into wholly alien, fungal territories. They're a real psychonaut's band in that regard, and with all the strange swells and vaguely familiar tones peaking through the intense trip of their fifth album, the group is in top form and ready to take you on another beautifully endearing yet partially harrowing journey through a kaleidoscopic woodland.
A nebulous work of partly atmospheric, partly symphonic black metal that boasts clean production and an architecture of rhythmic acrobatics whose degree of dexterity is seldom seen in the genre. Cosmically haunting and oddly distant, Eschaton Mémoire is far and away the coolest shit Chaos Moon has ever put their name on.
Another ballsy throwback death metal record with killer riffs, slick drumming, manic vocals, and sublime production. What's more to say? It'll pulverize what few brain cells you have left in that thicc-ass head of yours, and that's all that matters.
Go Be Forgotten
Go Be Forgotten is Krallice coming fully unhinged, and it's through the cracks and manic ambition that they finally present a few shards of tangible, human emotion. It's all they really needed to make their virtuosity count for something, and while the self-congratulatory wankery is still here, it finally has a context that gives it an earthly purpose. This is Krallice at their best.
Modular ambient experimental techno made with euclidean rhythms. It's an absolute mindfuck, but it's also a beautifully meditative experience.
A Black Mile To The Surface
A Black Mile To The Surface is a hook-laden indie rock magnum opus that brings the heavy feels and stands out as Manchester Orchestra's defining moment. For every radio-ready chorus there's an undercurrent of savoury nuance that will keep the shelf life long lived, and for every unrelatable lyric there's a piece of the story that somehow steals your heart. In a word, it's a truly essential album for anyone with even a feigning interest in top shelf indie rock coloured with broad appeal.
Divide And Conquer
"Stonerpunk" was unclaimed territory, until now, so if you find yourself craving unabashedly heavy, fun, and unpretentious headbanging shenanigans, then Divide & Conquer's magnificent melting pot of sludgy monoliths and d-beat braggadocio is just what the doctor ordered.
Servants Of The Countercosmos
A perfect marriage of ballistic-grade melodic black metal and sprinkles of the NWOBHM. Servants Of The Countercosmos will suck you in like a black hole.
Let's get one thing straight; Emancipator hasn't sounded this inspired in years. It seems with Baralku, the lauded downtempo swami has finally curbed his steady descent into mediocrity with a keenly diverse and tactile hour of music that gives a good effort to eschew his knack for overbearing familiarity. The vibes are light, tropical, lush, and span myriad tones and textures to garner a cohesive yet sonically diverse float through a little slice of paradise.
Stranger In The Alps
It's all very Zooey Deschanel isn't it? You know the one... the charmingly quirkly and introverted girl dressed in thrift shop digs and retro kicks. Maybe she works at the local roastery, or maybe she's an art history major with two cats and a lot of houseplants. Whoever she is, Phoebe Bridgers sings for her and herself, for you, and by the end of Stranger In The Alps with all its poignant storytelling set to singer-songwriter-indie-folk, you'll feel like you know her, and you might just fall in love.
In case you missed the memo, Archspire are by and large the fastest band on the planet, and Relentless Mutation is their best work yet. If you want tech death that's tighter than a nun's you-know-what and speedier than Superman on meth, you know where to look.
As a tormented and frustratingly understated post-hardcore album, Strangled Light holds a captivating nature in lieu of its refusal to muster up overtly cathartic releases of tension. Burnt out and brooding, it's an album that revels in mood over movement, and weaponizes what few bursts of bombast it keep in the wheelhouse to great effect. Considering the band is a supergroup consisting of members from Thrice, Kowloon Walled City and Curl Up And Die, it's no wonder this album boasts such a matured flavour.
I don't know a whole heck of a lot about shoegaze, and I know even less about Slowdive, but what I can say for certain is that their self-titled truly feels like a slow motion swandive into a moonlit swimming pool.
The timless ambient techno producer revisits his 2000 opus, Pop, under the cover of night. Stunningly ambient and sparsely populated, Narkopop is a dreamy waft through silhouetted trees and mossy dirt under a starlit sky.
Eschewing bombastic hook and revelatory chorus alike, Material Control seems to revel in playing the antithesis to the hype train that was bound to surround Glassjaw's first LP in 15 years. It's a muddy, bass forward dervish that simply doesn't care what you think of it, and while it's no Worship & Tribute, the fuck-off attitude of this timeless group's music lives strong within the crumbling walls of their latest opus.
|51||Carbon Based Lifeforms|
Derelicts might not be a revolutionary album by any stretch of the imagination, but it does see this Swedish duo return to the magical psybient of their pre-2010's era. It dips through valleys of pure ambient and rises from the mist at all the perfect moments with deep beats and celestial movements that are sure to elevate your consciousness in a truly ecstatic fashion. Long time fans will have to a lot love about this one, and newcomers looking to explore the world of psybient wouldn't be remiss to toss this feather in their cap either.
|52||Gang Of Youths|
Go Farther In Lightness
An emotionally wrenching, life-affirming indie rock affair that tosses around heavy Springsteen influence and unforgettably poignant lyricism. It's no wonder this album became an instant classic for so many people - the deeply personal poetry, introspective ballads and moments of purely unabashed release all converge on a point that hits so close to home it'd be impossible to consider the album anything less than completely unforgettable. "Say yes to life!"
After The Party
I usually despise pop punk with a burning vitriol, but this album is simply a blast. It's catchy and memorable, but above all else, it's a genuine exploration of the emotional ups and downs that come with being a touring band and entering your 30's. It's an interesting take on an uninteresting genre, and gets by on pure charm and honest heart.
Deliverance From The Godless Void
A genuinely terrifying excursion of blackened death metal draped in noxious soot.
The Time Traveler's Dilemma
The gurgling emanations from a dimension beyond our own herald one of the tightest brutal death metal exercises of recent memory. Two decades in the making (and from a band that was pioneering this shit before it was cool), The Time Traveler's Dilemma is a perfect blend of thoughtful songwriting, spacey vibes, and pure virility converging on a dichotomy of disparate ingredients that manifest a force keen to bend the space-time continuum.
|56||The Black Dahlia Murder|
Nightbringers is TBDM's finest hour since 2007's landmark Nocturnal, and while it does absolutely nothing to break new ground for this venerated troop, the reinvigoration that's been injected into their brand of technically proficient melodic death metal is undeniable. All the enthusiasm, inspiration and attitude that rendered their golden era a trove of top shelf offerings is back in full force, so anyone who has written them off for wheeling around the turnstiles would be remiss to let their 2017 incarnation fall by the wayside.
Janky curbside rhythm meets ethereal ambiance. DJ Python's blend of moombahton, deep house, and ambient is a seriously one-of-a-kind of sound with an equally singular vibe that you just can't find anywhere else.
One thing we know for sure about the New York act known as Blood Cultures is that their knack for crafting indelibly nostalgic synth-pop-indietonica has such a personal touch that its almost hard to believe the music was made for anyone other than you. Through twelve tracks in fifty minutes, this stunning debut album plays out like a sideshow of memories captured on Polaroid, and stands as testament to how far emotional honesty can reach through a set of speakers if the artist's heart pulls inspiration from the most purely genuine parts of themselves.
Martin Nonstatic dives even further down the idm/sound design rabbit hole with Ligand. Posing as a mostly ambient adventure, the incredible sonic engineering on display is shortchanged only by its staunch adherence to remaining as cerebral as possible at all times. Nonetheless, this IS a Martin Nonstatic record, so you know it's bound to be breathtaking in some manner.
Red Before Black
It's a Cannibal Corpse album.
In Asche is essentially just plain jane black metal that worships the second wave movement and does a damn fine job of it.
First and foremost, Mysterium is a deeply personal record for Hammock that was created as a dedication to a deceased family member and those left in their mourning wake. Second and leastmost, we're lucky enough to hear it too. This album is about as sparse as you'll ever hear this shoegaze-post-rock duo get, with choirs and strings taking the fore to wrench genuine sorrow and reminiscence from every note. It's basically funeral music tailored for solitary sessions that beckon a good cry, and rounds out as an overwhelmingly touching album.
World Of The Waking State
As a unique and ever-shifting work of IDM-influenced electro, World Of The Waking State is deceptively nuanced for an album that goes down so easy. Steffi's ear for making minimal elements poke through understated textures with a sharp degree of professionalism renders her third solo LP both a meditative experience and a real thinking-folk's album that plays host to a perfect balance of atmosphere and architecture alike.
A Fever Dream
Cheeky, politically charged synth-pop spilling with emotion and memorable hooks. They do what they do and they do it well.