|Jacob Hollows' Top 50 of 2017|
It was a great year, with newcomers and veterans alike. I did not have a year-end list last year, so it is good to get back into the saddle again. Enjoy! Let me know what y'all think.
|50||Winds of Plague|
Blood of My Enemy
Riding the tailcoat of a slough of awful releases, Johnny Plague and company release the best album of their careers, balancing tasteful crunch with competent technicality and just the right touch of symphonic drama.
Although somewhat lacking the viciousness of a great death/groove record, these Washington DC natives more than make up for it with powerful songwriting, versatile vocals, and otherworldly progressive leanings.
Although Markus Sorova’s new project’s ambitious reach exceeds its grasp, the debut album is an intimidating miasmic, churning, and dense death metal outing with an ear for psychedelic imagery.
Adding jazzy sax may seem counterintuitive to black metal, but this Ukrainian quartet does so with much gusto. While their furious black metal approach could use some honing, their experimentalism shines in great arrangement and pitch-black atmosphere.
The Mountains Are Beautiful Now
Although stuck in a bit of an identity crisis between metal and post-rock, both identities are executed evocatively and hypnotically, conjuring both the glacial winds and foreboding mountains of Iceland.
Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary
Channeling everyone’s inner A Forest of Stars, Woods of Ypres, and Primordial. While their rookie nature rears its baby-faced head throughout, these Glasgow avant-garde black metallers take us on a cryptic journey through the foggy streets, shadowy alleys, and stark opium dens of Victorian London.
|44||Boris the Blade|
The never-ending “Snatch” joke of a band does their best impression of fellow Aussies Thy Art is Murder and outdoes them, creating a pummeling but patient deathcore album that revels in the darkness while beating listeners over the head with it.
Immersion Trench Reverie
While the New Yorkers’ catalog has been hit or miss up to this point, the latest is an exercise in tortured black metal with progressive duality, and stands with “Sick With Bloom” as one of their finest.
From the Unforgiving Arms of God
With members from household names like Fit for an Autopsy, Counterparts, Misery Signals, Blacklisted, and Structures, you would expect some pretentiousness, but you won’t find it with End. Combining hardcore pace and deathcore wallop with some of the most brutal vocal performances of the year, this EP never overstays its welcome.
A Stirring In The Noos
Rising from the ashes of The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Faceless, John Frum creates a dissonant and eerie death metal album in the vein of Ulcerate, Gorguts, and Demilich. It will take time and experience to stand with the greats, but this is a fantastic start.
Thin Black Duke
Although far more mellow than any previous albums, Eugene Robinson and his troop of twisted troubadours create a frighteningly bluesy, but also strikingly (comparatively) melodic, noise rock album in the same grotesque way we’ve come to associate with these San Francisco noise terrorists.
|39||White Moth Black Butterfly|
More contemplative and cohesive than “One Thousand Wings”, Daniel Tompkins fuses ambient post-rock with indie rock and pop leanings, creating an accessible sound with transcendental ramifications.
With All Their Might
Refusing to adhere to flashy technicality or pretentious atmosphere, this UK trio grooves and grunts its way to a resoundingly punishing and tastefully heavy listen.
Renaissance in Extremis
After 10 years of silence, these mind-blowing Brits create an expansive and soul-shredding album to illustrate the spiral of insanity, their blackened death metal trend of thrashy riffs and progressive songwriting in full bloom.
|36||August Burns Red|
Perhaps not as successful as their last two releases, Lancaster natives showcase a new uplifting style of writing, as always showing off impressive musicianship and Jake Luhr’s “only get better with age” vocals. “Phantom Anthem” is a worthy and unique addition to ABR’s already outstanding catalog as the band remains one of the best acts in metalcore.
Forsaking the evasive and eerie density of “Psalms” for a more accessible listen, these New Jersey deathcore up-and-comers create an eerily crafted but astoundingly listenable sophomore LP, never compromising their unique blackened approach to the genre.
It’s still breakcore, baroque, and death metal. It’s still French and utterly ridiculous. I’m happy.
New York quartet (including renowned saxophonist Colin Stetson) creates a genre-bending and intriguing debut that’s not quite black metal, not quite jazz, not quite post-metal but roams and haunts the spaces in between with poignant baritone sax, robust riffs, versatile drumming, and monolithic atmosphere.
Taking an almost entirely lush post-rock approach to their music, Russian experimental collective creates a sanguine but contemplative that turns away from the blackened doom leanings of 2015’s “Sorni Na.”
The Underside of Power
Combining ambivalent post-punk and soulful gospel seems odd, but is a match made in heaven for these Georgian activists, creating a socially conscious but hauntingly deep listen that reflects the racial and social tensions of the current political scene.
All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell
Comparatively more pensive than their debut, this Massachusetts trio creates a darker take on their sound with more atmospheric electronic leanings that stand in contrast to Lynn’s stunning vocals and rock-derived beats.
Big Fish Theory
I am not the biggest fan of rap, but Staples’ latest showcases superb songwriting and heart thumping beats that illustrate his social commentary on race and discrimination. The world is his fishbowl and he observes the squirming scales of modern society.
Brutal and technical, New York death metal unit shows off a stunningly automated and mechanized sound completely devoid of and untouched by human hands. Crushingly cold and beyond apocalyptic.
The Dusk in Us
Continuing their trend of quality mathy metalcore with an emotional songwriting style, the iconic and influential Massachusetts quartet adds another quality release to stand alongside their extraordinary discography.
|26||Blaze of Perdition|
A formidable black metal album with great musicianship, outstanding songwriting, and unique theme, these Polish blasphemers’ fourth full length is a humble and honest but dark search for God.
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Spacy and dense, Colorado death/doom experts release an impressive debut LP equal parts grimy OSDM and churning expansive doom.
An evocative blend of death/doom and post-metal, this Finnish foursome create an experience with all of the crushing qualities associated with “metal” and the thoughtful quiet qualities of “post”, resulting in an expansive journey through things progressive and dejected.
The eighth full-length from French brutality veterans, their latest features a refined balance of blasting deathgrind, creepy samples, and enough experimentation to avoid monotony, succeeding in tasteful brutality and exciting genre innovation.
|22||Shadow of Intent|
Honing what made “Primordial” so good, our favorite Halo enthusiasts create a captivatingly technical, eerily symphonic, and utterly bloodthirsty deathcore album with one of the best vocal performances of the year.
Bringing back what made technical death metal so much fun in the mid-2000s while making it their own vicious blend of chaos, technicality, and crunch, Canadian tech veterans create possibly the most listenable death metal album of the year.
Dark Towers, Bright Lights
An innovative blend of atmospheric Neurosis-style post-metal and ravenous early Mastodon-style sludge metal, the result is a hypnotically dark and raw monolith of a listen. One of the bands to rise from the ashes of the mighty Omega Massif, alongside Blacksmoker and Phantom Winter.
|19||Falls of Rauros|
Stepping out of the long shadow of Agalloch, Maine black metal/folk quartet creates a heavy but contemplative album, creating their own brand of melody and elegant folk inclusion.
|18||Full of Hell|
Perhaps not as noise-based as prior efforts have been, Yankee grind veterans release a punishing soundscape with just enough experimentation to keep us hungering for more.
Toning down the ambition from “Animale(s)”, these furious Frenchmen deliver a lethal and doomy blackened hardcore record with punishing crunch steeped in filthy sludge.
Deliverance From The Godless Void
Returning to the more feedback- and static-laden approach of “The Sanctum of Human Darkness” after the comparatively cleaner “In the Heart of the Netherworld”, these Finnish pessimists create a grimy and mysterious death metal album straight from the godless voids.
More melodic and atmospheric than “Peripety”, these Tempe, Arizona newcomers hone their sound to a heavy and hard-hitting death metal crux washed in waves of beautiful and uplifting ambience for a journey across the stars.
Rite of Darkness
Fusing Satanic black metal and classic post-punk may seem like an odd combination, but this Los Angeles native conjures a unique witchy atmosphere, utilizing spacy synths, croaking and echoing black metal vocals, and booming percussion for an evil nostalgic throwback to the 80s.
|13||Fit for an Autopsy|
The Great Collapse
Perfecting their own brand of churning and brooding deathcore, these New Jersey veterans take what made “Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell” so powerful and improve upon it in every way.
Sporting one of the most diverse vocal approaches of the year, this post-hardcore collective paints a frantic and chaotic portrait of depression, anxiety, and the poor soul struggling between them.
|11||Blut Aus Nord|
Deus Salutis Meae
Returning to the industrial drone atmosphere of “The Work That Transforms God”, French experimental black metal veterans create one of the densest, most abyssal, most piercing, most liturgical and coldest albums of the year.
|10||Our Hollow, Our Home|
Spewing out the most filler-free metalcore album of the year spearheaded by a unique vocal approach and melodic hardcore writing, these Southampton newcomers set the standard with an effectively hook-laden, tastefully crunchy LP that sports a lovely fusion of the old and new.
Paradoxically gentle at its core, Seattle-based funeral doom duo creates a patient and melancholy album in honor of their fallen member. Taking time and effort to digest and plenty of jagged edges to absorb, this hour and twenty minute monolith is a moving tribute worth the listen.
|8||The Black Dahlia Murder|
Setting a standard for what melodic death metal should sound like, Detroit stalwarts blend killer riffs, mind-melting technicality, fantastic vocals, and infinite replayability to brutal, accessible, and just plain fun results.
Sleep Well Beast
Using ambivalent but chaotic indie rock, Cincinnati five-piece utilize surprising variety, breathtaking lyricism, and their trademark vocals to show the ups and downs of married life—surviving each day as it comes.
|6||The Great Old Ones|
EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
Their most cohesive and enigmatic album yet, French post-black metallers take their chthonic methods to new heights (or depths?), conveying Lovecraft's tale of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” with bleak efficiency and crushing immensity.
|5||Godspeed You! Black Emperor|
I was skeptical about these Canadian post-rockers taking on explicit political themes, but their sixth full length hones the dynamics of “’Asunder…” while integrating the enormity of “Lift Your Fists…” to illustrate the downfall of corporatocracy, feudalism, and Western society itself.
|4||The Ruins Of Beverast|
Integrating a visceral tribalism into his industrial black metal/doom sound, Alexander von Meilenwald creates the best blackened music of the year, creating a shamanistic and ancient sound unchallenged by any other release.
Stripping down their dynamic ambient post-rock to the bare beautiful minimum, Tennessee duo creates a strikingly lush, deeply moving, and distinctly sacred sound that speaks something different to each listener.
Noticeably more colorful than the scorched-earth campaign of “Mass V”, Belgian post-metallers add spoken word and provide moments of respite to their trademark sound. Ritualistic, agonized, and stunningly progressive, these guys show with their sixth mass they not slowing down anytime soon.
V - Oceans
Even the most sonically immense releases have seldom been this massive. Combining crushingly slow riffs, vast oceanic ambience, and booming and tortured vocals, this Belgian duo creates an appropriately monolithic, discerningly emotional, and deeply poignant funeral doom ode to the colossal and endless oceans, quietly and humbly sneaking in to win the best album of the year.