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Articles : Rod Whitfield’s Top Albums of 2017

By on December 22, 2017

I feel like a broken record that gets stuck once a year around this time, but it’s been yet another stunning year in music. What is interesting for me this year, though, is that there has been nothing from my absolute favourite bands (Rush [who are retired, or close to anyway], Devin Townsend, Karnivool, Opeth, Dead Letter Circus, Periphery etc), but that hasn’t mattered as far as the quality of year it has been, musically. Many other acts have stepped up big time in their stead.

That said, I am thinking very strongly about slotting both sleepmakeswaves and Caligula’s Horse into my ever-growing list of favourite bands on the planet, if they’re not there already. sleemakeswaves are already my number one all-instrumental act, and the C-Horse just get better and better with every release.

Something else quite fascinating with this year’s top 10 list is the fact that it’s made up almost entirely of either French or Aussie bands. And I didn’t even realise this as I was putting it together. What this all means, I have no idea, but it sure surprised me when I realised it.

Without any further ado, I unveil my top 10 albums of 2017…

sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only

I was questioned heavily over it at the time, I gave this album 5/5 stars in my review, and I still stand by it. I would rate this as my all time favourite all-instrumental album from my all-time favourite all-instrumental band. Enough said.

Caligula’s Horse – In Contact

It took a truly exceptional album to keep this masterpiece out of top spot this year. Four albums into its illustrious career, this band, one of the finest musical entities ever to come out of Brisbane, excels itself every time. In Contact is their best to date, and my top two are both Aussie. Good stuff!

Uneven Structure – La Partition

Again, only major slices of musical genius push this to number three, the sophomore effort from one of France’s absolute best heavy exports was more than worth the six year wait. It’s every bit as good as their magnificent debut Februus and in some ways even better. Would love to see these guys tour Australia next year.

The Contortionist – Clairvoyant

Went for a more ambient approach on this record, in contrast to their heavier earlier material, to stunning effect. Relapse is just about song of the year in this humble scribe’s opinion, but there is nary a weak moment on this record. The Clairvoyant is fully deserved of its top five position.

Voyager – Ghost Mile

Rounding out a stupendous top five, three of which I’m stoked to say happen to be Australian, is Perth’s evolutionary and revolutionary Voyager, and their sixth opus Ghost Mile. Coming up towards twenty years together, this band only gets better with age, whilst adroitly injecting modern elements into their sound and thereby remaining absolutely relevant.

Make Them Suffer – Worlds Apart

More mastery from the wild west, this album is a massive step forward for a band that was already one of Australia’s finest heavy music exports. The extremities are still there, just bathed in a newfound sense of melody, dynamics and songcraft. Worlds Apart is a true eye (and ear) opener.

Novelists – Noir

More French beauty, this band have crafted a deep and complex conceptual progressive work that also happens to be memorable as all hell too. Novelists and Uneven Structure, with some great Aussie supports, together next year on the great French invasion tour? I’d love to see that!

Branch Arterial – Beyond the Border

Local Melbourne boys who rose above all manner of trauma, hurt and hardship to come up with a stunning debut record, a slightly more streamlined although no less riveting take on their classic earlier EP. This band took everything they went through and channelled it into something very personal and powerful.

Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

Three albums into their fight, this band is becoming a model of consistency, consistently extreme, consistently interesting and consistently just damn good. Another fabulous Aussie contribution.

Phoenix – Ti Amo

Heavy in no way, shape or form, this French band is modern pop music at its very best, with none of the cheese, manufactured or plastic trappings that plague the genre. Ti Amo is a heady and intoxicating mix that stays in your head for long moments after it’s finished.

Very special mentions to: Disperse, Kadinja, Starset, Currents, Hemina, Leprous, Toehider, Veil of Maya, Kettlespider, Volumes.


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.