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Articles : Metal Obsession’s Best Albums of 2017 (So Far)

By on July 4, 2017

 

This year has been rather interesting in the realms of heavy music. A truck load of new releases from home and abroad were released (with plenty more to come!). Some bands have disbanded while other reformed. We continually cherish the memories we create with the bands we admire and support, and pay our respects to the fallen.

This year we continue our tradition of sharing the top albums of the year (so far) with our readers. We asked some of our writers to share their top releases of the year (so far). Since we’re only half way through the year we have specifically kept to 5 albums only. Let us know your top picks in the comments below.

Andrew McKaysmith

Orsome Welles – Rise (EP)

Lots to like about this Melbourne quintet. If I were to pick an Australian metal band most likely to cross the great divide and achieve success stateside it would be these fellas based on the stellar EP “Rise”. With an album release imminent from Tool in the not too distant future, mathematically intricate metal of the variety ‘Welles produce is about to seriously rise in stock. ‘Welles are a bunch of good blokes and are likely able to handle the relative pressures of success together. If they can jag a significant tour or management deal stateside the world is their oyster.

The Charm The Fury – The Sick, Dumb and Happy

Led by the stunning and amazing Caroline Westendorp, Dutch band TCTF are sweeping the metal core world off its feet. Westendorp mixes Phil Anselmo’s vocal tyranny circa Far Beyond Driven (’94) with a demure Tove Lo and Rhianna sophistication that sounds absurd on paper, yet works a treat in practice. Watching Westendorp command a stage surrounded by excellent musicians dispensing riffs from the excellent TSD&H is a sight to behold. In truth, TSD&H hints at a greater potential and if the band lean on the dancefloor aspect of their sound more in the future then we may have a colossus on our hands.

Emmure – Look at Yourself

In a review of LAY for another publication I wrote that ‘…metal has actually arrived at a point where I feel safe enough to say that there is a plethora of guitarists that Dime’s baton could be passed to. Josh Travis is certainly one of them and I’d urge any up and coming guitarist to grab some headphones, switch off any distractions and study this man’s playing. Many readers will be fond of Zakk Wylde, Alexi Laiho and Gus G. Although Travis pedals an altogether more brutal craft he is well and truly of that class”. Enough said.

The Doomsday Kingdom – The Doomsday Kingdom

Candlemass main man Leif Edling could never be accused of resting in his laurels. He is responsible for some of the greatest heavy metal ever recorded. It’s a big statement, but when your band’s catalogue includes the albums Epicus Doomicus Metalicus (’86) and Nightfall (’87) it’s a thoroughly deserved acclaim. This year he has forged a stellar musical partnership with maestro Marcus Jidell, appearing on albums for both TDK and Avatarium together. Like Emmure’s Travis, Jidell himself is an outstanding guitarist worthy of great acclaim. Jidell’s performance on the eponymous album from TDK is simply put, superb. 

Cellar Darling – This is the Sound

Yes, this is the sound. The sound of a band producing completely original and thoroughly entertaining metal. Vocalist Anna Murphy is captivating on so many levels. Not content with sharing her sublime vocal talent, she has the temerity to perform the Hurdy-gurdy as if it were always an instrument specifically meant for our great genre! This is the Sound is like a cinema, the albums deep contours of rich colour and focused intensity offer a listening experience I look forward to repeating for many a year to come.

Honourable mentions: MemoriamFor the Fallen, DesecratorTo the Gallows, VipasiSunyata.

Anwar Rizk

Aversions Crown – Xenocide

This album pretty much solidified my appreciation for deathcore once more. Initially it seemed my appreciation was lost in the flurry of prominent metal bands which took priority above all else. After unearthing such a beast of an album, it certainly cements the fact that Australia leads the charge in music extremity. Concentrated aggression tied neatly with pummelling blast beats and blistering guitar shreddery. What more do you want?

Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain

This is the fourth release from the Finnish metal band, Battle Beast. While the album isn’t as bombastic as their previous effort, ‘Unholy Savior’. It certainly ticks all the boxes of a stand out release. Vocalist, Noora Louhimo has become more versatile in her delivery. She entertains us with not only her Tina Turner esque deliveries, but also delivering a more subtle approach. Case in point, ‘Battle With The Beast‘ and ‘Far From Heaven‘, which could easily be mistaken for pop song to the untrained ear. Furthermore, Anton Kabanen (guitarist) is nowhere to be heard as his backing vocals have taken a back seat, bringing Noora front and centre. The end result is a great mix of aggression and elegance.

Kreator – Gods of Violence

You’d think after 32 years in the industry that a band would run out of steam (or in this case; aggression), but it seems the thrash metallers from Essen, Germany certainly don’t give up easily. ‘Gods of Violence‘ is pure thrash metal perfection, delivered as a truly visceral experience for the listener. A great mix of new and old thrash metal elements makes for a great listen no matter the occasion.

Havok – Conformicide

There are numerous nods to crossover and thrash metal on ‘Conformicide‘, mimicking those of Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies and Warbirnger. There is also a rather distinctive (and apparent) nod to 90’s technical death metal with the obvious acknowledgements to Chuck Schuldiner’s; Death and Florida based death metal band, Atheist. The album sets a new standard in thrash metal which distances itself from the regular wash, rinse and repeat offenders.

Grave Digger – Healed By Metal

This is the eighteenth studio album from German power metal band, Grave Digger. For those who know me well would definitely understand my appreciate for this band and power metal in general. Hell! I flew some 17,000km to see Grave Digger perform at Wacken Open Air in 2010. This was around the same time the band introduced then, new guitarist, Axel Ritt. He has since given the band a more lean and defined tone. ‘Healed By Metal’ is typical Grave Digger through and through, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Honourable mentions: Body CountBloodlust, PallbearerHeartless and MemoriamFor the Fallen. 

Prarthana Venunathan

Dodecahedron – Kwintessens

A masterpiece from the Dutch natives that is a true representation of the band’s exceptional musicianship and versatility. With a tendency to leave you completely enthralled and in a hypnotic state, Kwintessens has all the makings  of being a perfect contemporary black metal album. Its strange enigmatic and strong.

Scath Na Déithe – Pledge Nothing But Flesh

Sometimes when you see a band name and an album cover, you just know that it was meant to be. That’s exactly how I felt when I chanced upon the latest album of Irish black metal outfit Scath Na Déithe. Brilliant beyond explanation, their latest release is filled with a dark ambiance through and really sets the tone for what you can expect of a more obscure album. Bludgeoning black metal riffs galore, impressively savage growls and insane blast beats to boor, would only just be scratching the surface when describing the sheer intensity of this album. But not before mentioning the more atmospheric sections that do well to intervene the grim and sinister mood.

Mesarthim – Presence

New music from Mesarthim and always, perfect in every way. It’s always hard for me to describe what I mean with regards to the perfection; you just have to listen to the band to get a better understanding. The music is overwhelming yet spirited and brings out emotions you never thought you had. But at the crux of Mesarthim’s music is their magical artistry; the style of music and the way it is presented is unmatched and to be honest, very addictive. A three part EP of a series by the mysterious metallers, Presence unleashes onto the listener, a masterpiece that boasts the magnificence of ambient and trance elements with the brutal nature of black metal. Think of it as the soundtrack to a weird, ritualistic celebration that our outer space counterparts would engage in. With that otherworldly feel, a Mesarthim signature, I am incredibly grateful for this band and their music.

Solstafir – Berdreyminn

Saying less means more and this holds true with this treasure of an album from one of my favourite bands Solstafir. Berdreyminn is the perfect follow up to the bands stunning 2014 release ‘Otta’ and showcases just how beautifully the band and their music have evolved. It is an experience in itself listening to this album, absorbing and understanding each track, which boasts it’s own emotion and persona. It is the unpredictability and the diverse nature of every song that appealed to me on first listen. You can’t put a label on this album or on Solstafir for that matter. Absolutely exceptional.

Völur – Ancestors

Ancestors is a haunting, musical painting that indeed, tells a story. There is a certain magic that emanates from the grandiose nature of this album and the plethora of sounds that it holds within. Of all the music I’ve heard this year till now, this album has rendered me speechless. From the band Völur, a Toronto-based experimental black metal band, bold and pushing the boundaries with genre-defying music, I’m still trying to process the sheer magnificence of this album with its numerous layers and textures. With the combined talents of three outstanding musicians, there are so many  highlights from this album for me and I keep discovering more with each listen. From the historically themed concepts, the track titles which give you an immediate hint of what the music is trying to convey, the heavy down-tuned guitars interspersed with sweet folk melodies and the overall trance-doom vibe that forms the backbone of this release, setting my insides a flutter. The ambience and unpredictable nature of the album is fascinating beyond belief, every minute bringing something obscure and different, the instrumentation is stunning and it also being conceptually thought-provoking. Volur has crafted so carefully and passionately,  crushing yet captivating music.

Rod Whifield

 

Uneven Structure – La Partition

This album was a long time coming, but it was worth every second of that seemingly interminable wait. This French prog act’s debut Februus from 2011 was always going to be a very tough act to follow, and many bands struggle to match a stunning debut on their sophomore effort. But not these guys. They obviously took that extra time to craft something amazing, and this album is every bit as powerful and spellbinding as Februus. Stunning release.

sleemakeswaves – Made of Breath Only

I gave this a perfect rating when I reviewed it, and I don’t give those out lightly, but I stand by that 100%. This isn’t just one of the truly great instrumental rock albums of all time, it is one of the best rock albums of all time, without a breath of exaggeration. These Sydney legends just get better and better with every release.

Kadinja – Ascendency

More French mastery, these guys smash out razor sharp, brutal but melodic djenty prog metal, and there are obviously many bands out there doing this type of stuff, but Kadinja do it as well as anyone on the planet right now.

Voyager – Ghost Mile

Grandiose, modern and catchier than the catchiest thing you can think of, Ghost Mile is yet another triumph from this legendary Perth outfit who are just getting better with age. This may be a controversial call, but in this humble music journo’s opinion, but this album is Voyager’s best ever. And, six wondrous albums down the line, that’s saying something.

Disperse – Foreword

These Polish prodigies released Living Mirrors back in 2013, and like Uneven Structure above, that album was so incredible it was always going to be excruciatingly difficult to top. Unlike the Frenchmen, Disperse haven’t quite matched it, but viewed in isolation, Foreword is a magical piece of indefinable melodic music that belongs in its own genre, and features musicianship of the highest possible calibre.

Honourable mentions: Branch Arterial, Volumes, Sikth, Currents and the magnificent non-metallic pop beauty of Phoenix.

Mitch Booth

Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caeser

This album was really cemented in number one spot after their recent performance at Tassie’s Dark Mofo festival; the big bass sound and superb laser show pushed it to the next level. It’s perhaps the least surprising release in their wild discography but that was a shock in itself. Their move to a more pop-based sounds puts Kristoffer Rygg’s vocals at the forefront which is a welcome change after the psyched out ATGCLVLSSCAP, and it’s every song is just simply infectious. It’s beautiful.

Cascades – Cascades

It’s honestly not too hard to win me over with sludgy post-metal, but don’t let that take away from how stellar the debut from this Melbourne band are. It nails the balance between monstrous, powerful riffs and moments of chill, with the occasional burst of post-hardcore anger to make sure you’re still paying attention. This is a monster.

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Once More ‘Round the Sun was probably my most listened to album of 2014 because it’s just a whole lot of fun in any situation. Emperor of the Sand follows in the same hard rockin’ vein but expands the musical borders just a tad, and feels more thought out overall (not surprising given it’s a concept album). So it’s basically an improvement in every way. Winner.

Adrift for Days – A Sleepless Grey

Adrift For Days are one of the best doom bands in Australia, which is saying something. They just have a knack for producing music that is utterly captivating, the kind that makes a seventy minute album fly by, and this is their most impressive to date. It’s ten minutes shorter than the previous too somehow feels larger in scope, and quite a bit heavier. Headphones on, eyes closed.

Pillorian – Obsidian Arc

I don’t know whether this is actually as good as I think or whether I just miss Agalloch so much but whatever, I’m digging it.

Chris Reid

Pallbearer – Heartless

Heartless has a classic feel which belies the 2017 release date. Thorns, Cruel Road & Heartless are the tracks which you might have been expecting from a  Doom band like Pallbearer. I Saw the End, Lie of Survival, Dancing in Madness  and the epic closer A Plea for Understanding sees the band shifting their sound to new places.  Despite the new mix of styles  there isn’t a single track that I don’t find myself getting completely engrossed in. Without doubt the best album I’ve heard in 2017.

Voyager – Ghost Mile

Whilst I enjoy Voyager’s previous 5 albums, I feel their back catalogue doesn’t do the band justice. That’s not to say their last 5 albums aren’t great, it’s just that for me there is no single album which has been able to capture the essence of how great their live show is. If someone asked me to recommend one of Voyager’s previous albums I would find myself recommending a ‘best of’ compilation of songs rather than a specific release. This is no longer the case because we now have Ghost Mile – a phenomenal album and an accurate musical depiction of what Voyager is in 2017. Not only would I recommend it to listeners keen to get to know Voyager, I would recommend it to listeners keen to listen to Progressive Metal in general.

Harlott – Extinction

Harlott’s debut album Origin was widely regarded as one of the best Aussie debuts of it’s time. Their follow up Proliferation saw them dominate the Aussie scene and sign a coveted deal with Metal Blade. A subsequent tour of Europe with Annihilator took Harlott to the next level. Hard acts to follow, but Extinction continues to see the band step it up a notch and will elevate Harlott’s standing in the genre. Thrash Metal as it was intended. The best Australian release I’ve heard in 2017.

Municipal Waste – Slime and Punishment

Slime and Punishment seems to be purpose made for stage diving and general neck destruction. 14 tracks might seem long but with a total run time of less than 30 mins this is far from a hard slog or a marathon. I enjoy every single track on this album – each song is packed full with great riffing and break neck groove. Standout tracks include Shrednecks, Bourbon Discipline, Think Fast & Slime and Punishment . Municipal Waste aren’t breaking into new territory here but they have created another quality album which will be lapped up by new and old fans alike. Highly recommended.

The Furor – Cavalries of The Occult

Stylistically, Cavalries of the Occult picks up nicely from where 2014’s release Impending Revelation left off. Relentless high tempo arrangements pummel you close to aural submission. Whilst there aren’t many opportunities to breathe in amongst the non-stop blast beat-laden mayhem, there is just enough nuance in speed and groove to keep me on the right side of listening fatigue throughout. Where the Furor may have started out in the vein of more traditional black metal they have continually ramped up the over the top, extreme aspects of their sound over their career. Cavalries of the Occult sees the band achieve their most compelling mix of their hybrid black/death/thrash sound in what is clearly their most accomplished release to date.

About

Anwar is the editor-in chief of Metal Obsession.net.

When Anwar isn’t busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games.

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