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2017, Part 2: But I Haven't Finished The First Half Yet!

Thumbs up: +1
Still got plenty of stuff to catch up from Q1 and Q2 from this year, but will probably end up checking out some stuff from second half of 2017 before I'm done with all of that, so here's this list.

Created by: musclassia | 05.07.2017

1. Mastodon - Cold Dark Place
2017 [8.5] - There's a very sizeable chance of two Mastodon releases making my top 10 of 2017, in part due to general below-average output this year, and in part because they're a great band and I consistently enjoy their output. However, whilst Emperor of Sand was overall a quality release in my eyes, it was a bit inconsistent throughout, and below their best work from the 00s. This EP, however, is seriously impressive - somewhat darker than most of their music (particularly this decade), proggier (definitely more hints towards Crack The Skye here than anything that's come out since that album), and emotionally richer. It does peak with the incredible first song North Side Star, but all 4 tracks are great, even if Toe To Toes is a little bit out of place compared to the other 3 songs, which isn't surprising as those three were recorded during the Once More Round The Sun period whilst Toe To Toes was made during the Emperor of Sand sessions.
2. The Contortionist - Clairvoyant
2017 [8.5] - Language never made the impact on me that it made on many others, so I wasn't going into this album expecting a masterpiece, despite the similar levels of enthusiasm towards it. However, I ended up totally won over by it. The music feels more coherent than on Language, and regularly lands the emotional blows that one typically failed to do on me. The songs feel more cohesive and the hooks are more prevalent, so it doesn't have the hit and miss, and somewhat formless feel of many songs on that album. The quality is consistently high throughout - the Monochromes act as fantastic bookending tracks, and others such as Godspeed, Clairvoyant and Absolve are fantastic.
3. Passages - Lucid
2017 [8.4] - Even if it's not Sylosis, it's always good to hear Josh Middleton making new music. On this album, he unleashes his sludge/post-metal influences that have been hidden behind prog and thrash previously, and delivers some songs with punching riffs and moving melodies. They're all blended through Josh's writing style, taking hints of malice from his main band and blending them through melodic sludge into something familiar yet distinctive.
4. Enslaved - E
2017 [8.4] - This may very well get higher with further listens, as I get used to this more progressive sound. The exit of Herbrand Larsen was a disappointment, but the new clean vocalist is still album. On top of that, we get some chants, some sax, some big synths, and some odd transitions, really ramping up the progressive dominance compared to previous records. It also incorporates some folk-y elements such as seen in Skuggsja, bringing an earth-y sound that has been missing for a while. Not at the same level of AEO, but comparable to the two releases that preceded it, but a bit more out there than either Riitiir or In Times.
5. Dvne - Asheran
2017 [8.3] - Exciting and engaging fuzzy proggy/psychedelic stoner metal, with an array of tasty riffs, pleasant instrumental work, powerful sung/shouted/barked vocals, and inspired songwriting.
6. Where Icarus Falls - Resilience
2017 [8.3] - A great post-metal album and worthy follow-up to the excellent Icarus. The band really has mastered the art of developing a lush, atmospheric vibe with ever-increasing complexity or instrumentation towards a satisfying climax, with a well-judged slow burn. The vocals are at a minimum here, which may be a benefit to those who found the exuberance of their shout/shriek post-metal vocals a bit excessive, but otherwise this is clearly the same band from 3 years ago, and I'm glad for it.
7. Spaceslug - Time Travel Dilemma
2017 [8.3] - A Feb 2017 release I discovered in Jan 2018, a late contender for my stoner metal AOTY. Fantastic psychedelic stoner doom, not as lush as Weedpecker but a similarly enjoyable mental journey through heavy fuzzy terrains.
8. The Faceless - In Becoming A Ghost
2017 [8.3] - Given the chaos surrounding this band since the excellent Autotheism dropped, I really wasn't expecting much from this release, particularly given how little the two songs released early did for me. However, either those songs have changed or I wasn't paying attention, as I know like both songs very much, along with all the others on this release. Whether it's the flute solo on early highlight Digging The Grave, the regularly engaging clean vocals and guitar solos, the black metal elements that presumably were influenced in by Ken Sorceron, and the general high quality of songwriting throughout, this is the follow-up Autotheism deserved, and I'm pleased it got it. Great mix as well, all instruments get to shine, including the great bass playing.
9. Ne Obliviscaris - Urn
2017 [8.3] - The question marks over the mix have been brought up a lot for this album, and whilst I'm much less attentive towards issue productions (until you're reaching St Anger territory), I didn't find it that bad but certainly not perfect. As for the music, it's more of the same from Citadel, but not quite as strong in my book. However, should satisfy fans outside of production issues.
10. Process Of Guilt - Black Earth
2017 [8.3] - Exactly the follow-up of Fæmin that I was hoping for. A crushing, devastating mix of doom and post-metal, with powerful drumming, pummelling riffs, and imposing atmosphere. I'm not the biggest fan of the vocals still, but they're not enough of a detraction to undermine the other great components of the album. Feral Ground would be my top pick of a really great collection of songs.
11. Leprous - Malina
2017 [8.3] - I've heard a lot in the build-up to listening to this album that, one or two songs aside, it sounds like you would expect based upon the early songs that were released from it - to this, I would only partially agree. I have listened to From The Flame and Illuminate a lot in the last couple of months (not so keen on Stuck), and I would say the more simple straightforward songs like these occupy the first 6 tracks on the album. Mirage, a fantastic song, begins the latter stretch of the album, in which I feel it gets far more varied - more explorative songs, including the title track, which maintains a quiet, sorrowful feel throughout whilst refraining from breaking out at any point, the very proggy Weight Of Disaster and aforementioned Mirage, and the truly shocking The Last Milestone, a stripped down, strings-dominated, mournful dirge over which Einar's gutwrenching utterances glide. It doesn't quite live up to the three fantastic albums that precede it, but it is a more than worthwhile extension to their discography.
12. Ether - There Is Nothing Left For Me Here
2017 [8.3] - Dark proggy sludge, with some vicious, murky sections, but also some dark but melodic doom-ish sections, each carried by well-done harsh and rich clean vocals, respectively. It has a solid mix of long and short songs as well that work to maintain a freshness to the sound throughout the record.
13. White Moth Black Butterfly - Atone
2017 [8.3] - Delightfully dainty (mostly) unplugged album featuring duets between Randy Slaugh and Dan Tompkins of TesseracT; I must say I prefer this to pretty much anything TesseracT has done that I've heard. Great interplay between the two vocalists accompanied by some lovely mellow acoustic guitar and appropriate band arrangements. Not quite as spellbinding as Iamthemorning's Lighthouse of similar musical tone, but one of the finer efforts from this year.
14. Ex Eye - Ex Eye
2017 [8.3] - This is one heck of an album, an interesting one to even tackle describing. An instrumental experimental album with prominent saxophone, it is a predominantly atmospheric album driven by bouts of discordant noise, metal, jazz, and more to make a thoroughly distinctive product that is regularly enthralling, if at several points somewhat offputting.
15. Cormorant - Diaspora
2017 [8.3] - Another solid release in the still-young discography of this distinctive and exciting progressive black metal band. As before, solid songwriting that utilises their best black metal and non-black tendencies, variation in vocal styles, intensity, moods, all generate an output with enough twists and turns to remain fresh and enough quality to sustain interest throughout. Arguably most pleasing to myself is the extremely long closer Migration, with its top-quality post-rock mid-section that builds slowly but with purpose as more and more elements come into play, from the driving drums to the various guitar lines. This is sandwiched between a black metal intro that moves from frantic, to a storming march, to a catchy riff-fest, and a climactic black/doom stomp and final BM romp. A highly multi-faceted 26 minute mammoth that symbolises the capacity to offer both variety and quality throughout, which has made this band (alongside their striking album artworks) a real hot commodity.
16. Perturbator - New Model
2017 [8.3] - A suitable extension of the great Uncanny Valley, this EP has the same Blade Runner-esque darkwave vibe going on, which it once again executes with aplomb. Nothing here is as energetic and outright memorable as Neo-Tokyo, but every song works well, unlike one or two off of the last album.
17. Ufomammut - 8
2017 [8.2] - Ufomammut albums are typically a powerful collection of big, fat, fuzzy, hooky riffs driven along by a spirited rhythm section, lightened up with psychedelic electronics and morphed by hazy vocal barks. This album is no exception, and delivers one headbanging session after another, leaving the listener constantly entertained. Perhaps a bit more direct and less psychedelic than Ecate, 8 is a real kick to the system and a pleasure to get lost in the fog of.
18. Only Echoes Remain - The Exigent
2017 [8.2] - Possibly the most striking of the post-rock albums I've encountered this year, regularly subdued but when it raises the volume it delivers some really moving atmosphere.
19. Arcane Roots - Melancholia Hymns
2017 [8.2] - An album that drifts between quiet, soft contemplation, and slightly heavier, slow-ish but passionate and moving prog rock/metal. I'm trying to think of the appropriate comparison of the top of my head - Karnivool is the closest I can think of right now but isn't all that appropriate. Matter and Arp are amongst the highlights.
20. Amenra - Mass VI
2017 [8.2] - I don't think their studio albums quite match the overwhelming intensity of their live sound, but they still make for thoroughly satisfying listens. This latest album is once again dynamic (although I might prefer a bit less 'super-quiet' intros such as those on the opening and closing tracks), with crushingly heavy metal riffs and ritualistic atmosphere, boosted on this album by the sparing use of cleans, most notably on the standout track Solitary Reign.
21. Polaris - The Mortal Coil
2017 [8.2] - Metalcore albums don't get the best rep on here, so it's relatively rare that I come across a new album. At least part of that is because, like power metal and a couple of other subgenres, I find metalcore can be such a mixed bag that I don't usually take a punt on a random album. However, this was a throwaway listen that I definitely enjoyed - modern prog-tinged metalcore with good vocals and big choruses alongside some punchy songs. Does have a bit of the old struggle of standing out that bands in this genre can have in the sea of mediocrity, but it does have the chops across the board to rise up fairly well.
22. Elvenking - Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire
2017 [8.2] - Folk/power metal, cheesy as fuck but done excellently. Great vocals, hooky choruses, songs that twist in direction but don't go all over the place, solid production, and long but not to a tedious extent.
23. Almyrkvi - Umbra
2017 [8.2] - A high-quality refinement of what came before on the EP, this is a distinctive and alluring brand of industrial space-tinged black metal, taking a semi-sinister atmos-black base and adding keyboards, ever so slightly cheesy but nevertheless effective, industrial percussion approaches, and adding in melodic hints, via restrained lead guitar (Cimmerian Flame), low-end vocal choruses (a couple of tracks), and very occasional use of clean vocals (e.g. the very beginning of the album).
24. Samael - Hegemony
2017 [8.2] - I've been aware of Samael for quite a while, but this is my first encounter with the band. I have to say, this is some very catchy shit! On the extreme-symphonic spectrum, this is a (generally) less intense experience than, say, SepticFlesh, generally operating more mid-tempo with memorable stomping riffs. It manages a good mix of synths and metal in a way a lot of similar bands fail, and is filled with satisfying songs throughout. However, it is the kind of sound that gets pretty same-y across a full album, so is much better approached one or two songs at a time.
25. Celeste - Infidèle(s)
2017 [8.2] - In the same vein as stuff by Regarde Les Hommes Tomber or Eglise, menacing post-black/sludge metal with venomous, imposing, mid-tempo riffs and foreboding atmosphere combined with outbursts of violence.
26. Major Parkinson - Blackbox
2017 [8.2] - Not as theatrical or cabaret-esque as the previous album, but in my opinion arguably more compelling music-wise.
27. Zornheym - Where Hatred Dwells And Darkness Reigns
2017 [8.2] - A far more entertaining example of extreme symphonic metal than Septicflesh this year, or even Cradle of Filth's latest. Theatrical, campy black metal, with cheesy keyboards and choral effects, but held up by the sheer hookiness and entertainment value delivered.
28. Dreadnought - A Wake In Sacred Waves
2017 [8.2] - A strong continuation of their work on Bridging Realms, a distinctive combination of psychedelic atmospheric prog metal with elements of doom, black (most notably in the vocals), and perhaps splashes of folk, although I think those elements were more prominent earlier in their career. The shifts between dreamy, doomy dirges, smooth jazz-ier passages (the drums again add some real life to parts of this album), and more venomous black-tinged parts dominated by painful shrieks, are generally smooth and coherent and come together to produce a varied and engaging album that acts as a solid combination of its multiple components. Perhaps not quite as strong as Bridging Realms but should appeal to fans of that album.
29. Katla. - Móðurástin
2017 [8.2] - A darker, more proggy and metallic version of Solstafir, something more akin to perhaps Skuggsja, but without the same 'epic' vibe perhaps. However, it is notably more up my street than anything I've heard from Solstafir - the vocal melodies are more traditionally hooky than the slightly strange vocal approach of Solstafir, and the atmosphere and variety of it is very pleasing.
30. Rosetta - Utopioid
2017 [8.2] - Starts off very post-rock-esque, quiet and jingly, but slowly grows throughout the first 15-20 minutes in heaviness and dynamics. After that, it journeys between softer, contemplative stretches with soothing vocals (Hypnagogic) to more melodic yet heavy parts that remind me of sections of The Ocean's Pelagial, and finally the meatier, crunchier passages. The heavier aspects of their sound are arguably best demonstrated on Detente. Not as imaginative and explorative as The Anaesthetate perhaps, but a step up from their two efforts from 2015.
31. Shade Empire - Poetry Of The Ill-Minded
2017 [8.2] - It's been a long time since I heard Omega Arcane, so I can't comment on it any further than I gave it a good score when I first listened to it so must've somewhat liked it. I also rather like this album - I expected not to as the symphonic black thing has become a bit tedious for me by now, but I ultimately found it entertaining, varied, and evocative. Some really nice musical arrangement and writing, it maintains its quality pretty much throughout, which is pleasing. I also didn't find the trumpet and clean vocals nearly as irritating as some others did; to the contrary, I thought by and large they were perfectly okay and regularly used quite well.
32. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland
2017 [8.2] - Stumbled across this seemingly extremely prolific psychedelic/prog rock band on a best of 2017 prog list and tried this one of their many 2017 albums first. I actually rather enjoyed it; it starts off with a long (10 minutes) proggy piece, but not an overly wanky progfest, more of a classic 70s softer prog journey with some pleasant vocals and instrumentation. The rest of the album is much shorter - a collection of generally 2-3 minute songs, all pretty pleasant, mostly soft and soothing but something with a slight hint of heaviness. I imagine it's a very pleasant album to lay back and space out to.
33. Spirit Adrift - Curse Of Conception
2017 [8.2] - One of the best doom albums of this decade so far I reckon, filled with top quality riffs, rich vocals, and some sumptuous songwriting that manages to vary up the tone from powerful punching riffs to the dreamy melancholy of the evocative closer and album highlight Onward, Inward.
34. Subterranean Masquerade - Vagabond
2017 [8.2] - Actually a really neat prog album, with plenty of middle Eastern influence (it's rather Orphaned Land-esque) at times. But it has distinctive twists - the flipping between major and minor melodies on the second half of Hymn of the Vagabond is truly delightful. Beyond that, it's a well-produced, well-written, well-balanced album with complexity but not in excess, healthy doses of melodies (Asian and otherwise) with patches of intensity (occasional growls, and the doom-y dirge of the David Bowie cover), and solid vocals, both lead and the regularly utilised backing vocals and choirs.
35. Caligula's Horse - In Contact
2017 [8.2] - I do feel for the most part, based on their past 2 albums, that this band is just a notch below the current modern progressive metal genre leaders such as Leprous, and (at least before the last album) fellow Aussies Karnivool. However, there's still plenty worth getting stuck into on here, including the dainty and jolly The Hands Are The Hardest, the punchy The Cannon's Mouth, and the honestly epic Graves, which is well worth its runtime.
36. Trivium - The Sin And The Sentence
2017 [8.1] - Trivium have bought some bite back at last! Sever The Hand and Beauty In The Sorrow have a surprising level of savagery given the last couple of albums. As far as the rest of it goes, it is substantially more inspired than the bizarre Silence In The Snow. It isn't as hooky as In Waves, or possibly even Vengeance Falls, but to compensate has more mature and complex songwriting going on. I don't think it matches up close to Ascendancy or Shogun, but gives In Waves some proper competition for their third best album. Whether it merits that title will be revealed with some subsequent listens.
37. Lunatic Soul - Fractured
2017 [8.1] - More of a mixed bag than previous LS or Riverside albums, as I am not a fan of Battlefield at all, and don't think Anymore or Crumbling Teeth are up to his usual standard. However, Blood On The Tightrope is a fantastic opener, and the likes of Red Light Escape and A Thousand Shards Of Heaven more than make up for the album's weaker moments.
38. Vulture Industries - Stranger Times
2017 [8.1] - Perhaps not as flamboyant as The Tower, but still with most of the stylistic cues from the album, including the evocative Arcturus-esque vocals, interesting song directions, and some really nice guitar solos and leads throughout the album. It takes a song or two to get going but there's some really quality songs from then onwards, right up to the end, with the rich Midnight Draws Near rounding it out.
39. Tchornobog - Tchornobog
2017 [8.1] - Primarily cavernous extreme doom that drifts from Wormphlegm-esque vile dirges to incendiary death/doom barrages, particularly in the first half of the album, but there are still quite a few intriguing diversions made along the way. "Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession" throws in some hammered dulcimer partway through to accompany a steady march, whilst "Non-Existence's Warmth" is dominated by an almost post-rock/metal sound, with a brief sax cameo to boot. Add to that the melodic death/doom sound of the closing track and what at first appears to be a torturous grind becomes far more multi-faceted than initially anticipated.
40. Paradise Lost - Medusa
2017 [8.1] - I actually really rather digged this - any problems Nick Holmes had when he first started growling again with Bloodbath are gone, as the vocals are venomous and intense, the riffs and thick sound are punishing but not overbearing, and the lead guitar melodies are on point throughout. It all comes together into a really imposing mammoth of melodic death/doom, albeit one that is pretty unwavering stylistically, which may put off those that prefer the sonic variety on their previous couple of albums.
41. Orden Ogan - Gunmen
2017 [8.1] - Imagine this will probably be amongst, if not the king of, the best power metal albums from 2017. Anthemic, cheesy but not irritatingly so, rich in sound, plenty of great vocal arrangements, a suitably epic feel, memorable, and consistent in quality throughout. I'm trying to remember which band it reminds me of the most - maybe Blind Guardian in some ways, but definitely a distinctive feel (less minstrel-ish I would say), perhaps Edguy/Avantasia a bit, but I also got a Wintersun vibe at times. Whatever it is, it works well and delivers a really effective and enjoyable end product.
42. Sunrot - Sunnata
2017 [8.1] - Rough, sludgy, venomous concoction of post-metal and other misanthropic subgenres, this is not a happy ride, instead persistently dragging one through murky swamps of misery. It's generally pretty mid-tempo, with a rough production, continuously crushing riffing and hateful vocals. Somewhere in the same realm as As We Draw and a slower Eglise.
43. Dirge - Alma / Baltica
2017 [8.1] - A stripped-down, instrumental, industrial-tinged dark ambient EP that does away with a lot of the core components of Dirge and just leaves the cold misanthropy that inhabits a fair portion of their music. I would've preferred a full-length in their usual style, but it does make for a strangely alluring listen when in the right mood.
44. Lör - In Forgotten Sleep
2017 [8.1] - A power/prog/folk metal fusion done excellently, something in the vein of Wuthering Heights perhaps. The vocals remind me of some of the Finnish power metal bands, but the music takes inspiration from similar melodic bands on both sides of the atlantic, and puts together something distinctly their own.
45. Archspire - Relentless Mutation
2017 [8.1] - I don't care enough for tech death to listen to it much outside of a few established albums, but I will occasionally check out well-received new releases just for a little kick of it. Out of those I've seen praised on this and other forums in the past few years, Archspire's latest has been one of the more impressive - plenty of extreme technical virtuosity, with twisting songs and plenty of hints of melody thrown in from time to time just to keep it somewhat fresh. Also, the vocal assault in Calamus Will Animate is kinda breathtaking.
46. Hacride - Chapter I - Inconsolabilis
2017 [8.1] - Far more melodic than I remember their previous album being, where the comparisons to Nero Di Marte's dissonant extreme prog seemed more apt, this is prog metal with dynamics and heart, covered by some great song texturing, structures and neat clean vocal parts. I guess it feels a little closer to maybe Klone than NdM? But not sure who the test comparison would be for this sound. Not a huge fan of the country feel of the closing song however.
47. Steven Wilson - To The Bone
2017 [8.0] - Probably the poppiest thing Steven has done, most obviously on Permanating, but even that piano-driven song has its fair share of character. And there is still a fair amount of Wilson-style prog on here, most obviously on the likes of Detonation or Refuge. The guest vocals from Ninet Tayeb unsurprisingly lift up the songs she features on hugely, but in general the quality you would expect from Wilson is still very much on display here, even if it lacks the melancholy of Hand. Cannot. Erase. or the likes of Drive Home. It's actually relatively varied, and consistent despite that variety.
48. Moonspell - 1755
2017 [8.0] - Extinct was a pleasant surprise, and 1755 continues my unexpectedly positive recent journey with Moonspell. The symphonic Gothic metal, with somewhat cheesy but effective synths and choral sections combined with hooky riffs, tasty guitar leads, and alluring use of Oriental melodies (most strikingly personally on Ruinas), make for a rather enjoyable listening experience throughout. Nothing exceptional but likely to bring a smile to your face.
49. Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs
2017 [8.0] - The new vocalist clearly has a different vocal range and style to the previous one, less operatic, and I feel the group suitably altered their musical approach to effectively accommodate her style. There are some songs that made me think of the likes of Caravan Palace, and the generally slightly poppier, less operatic and less metal sound of the album works quite well. The songs are generally pretty enjoyable, even if this isn't at the same quality level as The Butcher's Ballroom. Interruption in particular is a highlight.
50. Converge - The Dusk In Us
2017 [8.0] - My only previous interaction with Converge is the seminal Jane Doe; in comparison to that album, this is not as savagely raw, but is still violent and potent. The vocals have clearly developed from the unpolished shrieks of early 2000s into something powerful and throat-ripping but with a bit more body behind them, whilst the riffs are frantic but more obvious here, perhaps. In amongst all the chaos is the slow, menacing, brooding (all the usual adjectives) title track, which acts as a nice counterpoint for the otherwise relentless album. Choice cut is possibly opener A Single Tear.
51. Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper
2017 [8.0] - An achingly slow musical colossus with a sensational album cover, this flickers between subtle quietness and cavern-ish plodding riffs, with lead guitar lines, choral chanting vocals and other elements to spice things up. Not something I would plan on listening to again, but far more impressive than some of the other things I've heard from the band.
52. Xanthochroid - Of Erthe And Axen: Act II
2017 [8.0] - Less reliant on theatrical music than Act I, this is more dominated by dramatic symphonic black metal. It's a bit more progressive and twisting than the relentless extreme symphonic metal of something like modern Septicflesh or Saturnian, with jumps between straightforward 'shriek-and-blare' symph-tinged extreme assaults, and more anthemic clean vocal moments. It's up towards the upper end of the symph-black spectrum, but will only appeal if you already buy into the whole 'dark cabaret symphony' feel of this particular subgenre.
53. Novelists - Noir
2017 [8.0] - Starts off barely sounding like metalcore - the first two songs made me think more of Agent Fresco or The Contortionst (Language-era) than any metalcore band. Eventually, the screaming vocals, chugging riffs and other genre features arrive, combined with the more progressive aspects of their sound, coming together to produce a fairly varied and consistently gripping prog metalcore album. The instrumentation, particularly during the more ambient or melodic parts, is on point, and the heavier riffs are for the most part effective, whilst the vocalist has a great range and delivers a fine performance, even if the vocal hooks don't always have the greatest pull.
54. Dyscarnate - With All Their Might
2017 [8.0] - As far as straight-up death metal goes, this is pretty damn great. Predominantly mid-tempo, it is dominated by hooky riffs, dynamic and powerful vocals, and some great songwriting. Over the full runtime it does begin to drag a bit in the way Resurrection Through Carnage and Winds Of Creation don't, but it has a lot of individually good songs, and a couple of crackers, in particular album highlight Traitors In The Palace and emphatic closer Nothing Seems Right.
55. August Burns Red - Phantom Anthem
2017 [8.0] - Melodic, technical metalcore with a lot of hair on its chest, but more than a macho beatdown such as Currents. Lots of melodic lead guitar playing, interesting turns in songs, technical musicianship, and more to go alongside the regularly fast-tempo'd, adrenaline-pumped riffs and screamings. A lot of effective hooks and aggression in here, even if the music is a little emotionally dry at times.
56. Myrkur - Mareridt
2017 [8.0] - I don't think this is quite as compelling as M, certainly there's nothing here as ethereal and entrancing as Skøgen Skulle Dø. However, on the flip side this is possibly more varied and more adventurous - more non-metal styles are on display here, or on display more than previously, including Norse folk, ballads such as Death of Days (made me think a bit of Nighttime Birds-era Gathering), and a couple of neat duets with Chelsea Wolfe. Overall, another neat release from a controversial, but in my opinion, quality artist.
57. The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
2017 [7.9] - A venture outside of my comfort zone, I can't say it's entirely my thing, but I can certainly appreciate this, and even enjoy some of the songs, particularly early highlight Pain. The mix of 80's synthpop, indie leanings, pop-rock, and psychedelia comes together to produce a lush, mellow, and whimsy vibe to this laid-back synthrock, with the different elements consumately entwined.
58. Cradle Of Filth - Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay
2017 [7.9] - 2015's Hammer Of The Witches was a real surprise from CoF, particularly for me but apparently for the general world of metal, such a quality record wasn't expected. They've now knuckled down from their recovery with that album to try and re-cement a reputation as quality symphonic black band, and this album lends support to that mission. The title track is my personal favourite, with its infectious melodic midsection sandwiched between the kind of dramatic guitar-dominated but synth-accompanied BM one would've expected from this album. However, the quality is consistent throughout the album, and whilst it isn't as good as its predecessor, it's a satisfactory follow-up for those hoping HotW wasn't simply a flash in the pan.
59. Threshold - Legends Of The Shires
2017 [7.9] - Extensive prog album which brings a few bands to mind, including one prominently that I can't quite recall (possibly Pagan's Mind, with the vocal lines etc?). It's good some enjoyable songs and solid writing to sustain interest during the long runtime, but perhaps not enough to wholly captivate.
60. Vattnet - Vattnet
2017 [7.9] - An interesting shift away from the quality post-black metal found on Settler, towards a post-metal/prog metal sounds that brings to mind Palms, The Ocean, Intronaut, and Long Distance Calling amongst others. It's generally pretty likeable, with some interesting songwriting, but nothing that makes it stand out from the bands it's following, unlike Settler which was a prime example for the genre. It isn't helped by the vocalist (who sings almost entirely clean vocals here) is not the most powerful of vocalists - he reminds me a bit of Chino Moreno on Palms' album, but not at the same quality level. Still, it's pretty good on the whole and it'll be interesting to see how they develop the sound on future efforts.
61. Rings Of Saturn - Ultu Ulla
2017 [7.9] - Really interesting album actually, starts off feeling like it's just going to be an above-average deathcore album, but in all of there there's progressive songwriting, melodic stretches (especially on album highlight The Macrocosm), distinctive use of electronics (sometimes almost going Pryapisme-esque cybermetal), and just a general high quality to songwriting and instrumentation. Certainly worth giving a try if you have any inclination towards deathcore.
62. Kawir - Exilasmos
2017 [7.9] - To begin with, I wasn't sure pagan black metal entirely fits this album, it came across as just well-produced, hooky black metal. However, Agamemnon came in with its pipes and choral chanting to introduce it and I came to understand. To be honest, I wouldn't mind a bit greater prominence of such parts and synthesis with the black metal, they would help distinguish this album more from the pack.
63. Ophis - The Dismal Circle
2017 [7.9] - Intimidating, malevolant death-doom with almost burped growls adding a sickening twist to the sound.
64. Xanthochroid - Of Erthe And Axen: Act I
2017 [7.9] - Symph-black gone Rhapsody of Fire - there is a lot of 'soundtrack' style music with little metal, spoken word or dramatic singing, choruses, acoustics and strings, so on and so forth. It is somewhat excessive, but done in a more compelling way for the most part than bands such as RoF, and the times their heavier side shows is typically good enough to compensate - some flamboyant symphonic black bursts (such as the closing track), but also some really tasteful non-black metal, such as the lush guitar playing on I believe "To Higher Climes...". Could probably do with toning back the narrative side, as it is overly dominant in the sound here, but otherwise they have a good thing going on sound-wise.
65. Procession - Doom Decimation
2017 [7.8] - Typical but well-crafted traditional doom.
66. Stick To Your Guns - True View
2017 [7.8] - Pretty likeable metalcore/hardcore release, arguably on the more melodic side, like a more punky version of Killswitch Engage. Good heavy and clean vocals, catchy songs, and some rewarding variety between songs.
67. Akercocke - Renaissance In Extremis
2017 [7.8] - I'm not a big fan of this band's sound, but I can appreciate the distinctiveness of it, and the talent and vision behind it. The wildly varying avant-garde extreme prog, from soft atmospheric stretches (sometimes with sax or trumpet to keep it company), all the way up to straight up death metal, with a whole range of vocal styles accompanying everything (albeit of questionable quality). It's a weird, off-kilter album with a murky sound, nothing on it really tickles my feelings but it's objectively impressive.
68. Widek - Hidden Dimensions
2017 [7.8] - Discovered this through a post-rock YT channel, but this is categorically not post-rock. Instrumental modern progressive metal, not particularly djent-y but clearly from the same kinda scene as many of those musicians. It also features many musicans known for their own instrumental prog, including David Maxim Micic (who recently released the excellent Who Bit The Moon, and whose song here, 'Gravity', is an early standout cut), and Sithu Aye. Quite light mood-wise and an atmospheric kinda feel not too far from the likes of Disperse's Living Mirrors, it's very pleasant and if you like this type of music should fully satisfy. I personally am not a big fan of instrumental prog these days but can recognise quality music such as this.
69. AFX - orphans
2017 [7.8] - The only thing I've previously heard from Aphex Twin is Selected Ambient Works 85-92, so clearly I've got a lot of work to catch up on between then and now, but I will say it is easy to believe that the two works came from the same artist, and not necessarily 25-30 years apart. Some of the tone of the electronics I'm not as fond of here as on SAW85/92, but in general the synth-dominated ambient electronic is good enough to enjoy.
70. Tricky - Ununiform
2017 [7.7] - Decent trip-hop by a genre leader. There's a nice range here, in between stripped-down acoustic guitar odes, right up to bouncy electronic tracks with rapping in a range of languages, including Russian. Not sure I want all vocals in Russian but it does add an interesting dynamic. I haven't really listened to Tricky since Maximquaye so clearly he's developed as an artist since then, but I felt like this was missing some of the real laid-back nature of that album, obviously it's not overly heavy but there is perhaps a more forceful energy to some songs here than I necessarily expected.
71. Communic - Where Echoes Gather
2017 [7.7] - 'Classic' heavy-tinged progressive metal, technically adept, fairly well-crafted, and topped with talented high-ranged metal vocals, but without the elements necessary to move and inspire me. As such, I can't give it any more than muted praise; however, it is far more enjoyable and worthy than something like Adagio's album from this year.
72. Septicflesh - Codex Omega
2017 [7.7] - More of the same from this band, and this style does have a bit of a tendency to end up blending together when repeated across songs, never mind 3 albums. However, there are enough tracks here with distinctive character (commonly mentioned album highlight Dark Art has some tasty triumphant strings and creepy chorus) to make it worth a listen for the fans of their latest style. Personally, I would need to be listening to the likes of Titan and The Great Mass far more than I actually have in the past to make more songs in the same style worth acquiring.
73. The Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers
2017 [7.7] - Like Codex Omega, another case of a band competently retreading paths they have already walked many times. Intense, razor-sharp, hooky melodeath/deathcore, and highly recognisable as the same band that released Nocturnal. If you've been wanting more of the same you'll be very satisfied, but for someone that's not all that keen on them there's nothing here to add to the cream of the crop from their earlier works, which are more than enough to satisfy me whenever I wish to listen to this band.
74. Dan Caine - Journey Through An Open Mind
2017 [7.7] - A really dainty ambient post-rock EP, full of delicate guitar playing, guitar tremolo, and serene atmosphere.
75. Northlane - Mesmer
2017 [7.6] - Proggy metalcore, that spans a spectrum from djent-y chuggy breakdowns to more atmospheric yet punchy music (Render), all the way to music that verges away from metalcore into more atmospheric prog metal (Solar made me think of Clairvoyant-era Contortionist). The more melodic parts are generally pretty hooky and there's some infectious riffs on here, but it's lacking a bit of a spark to take it to the next level. It does appear that their approach has softened to a degree since their earlier music, I'll have to see whether that earlier approach is more or less to my liking. Veridian is a standout track.
76. Sanction - The Infringement Of God's Plan
2017 [7.6] - Metallic hardcore in the vein of Converge, but more palatable to me than the likes of Jane Doe. Mostly mid-tempo and breakdown-heavy with some faster segments, the vocals are distorted but not as maniacal and raw as those on Jane Done, and this music is generally a bit hookier than songs of that ilk. The snare drum was a bit distracting - not like St. Anger, but to some degree I found it offputting. The tone is pretty consistently unhappy throughout, but it makes sense for a short EP like this.
77. The Dear Hunter - All Is As All Should Be
2017 [7.6] - I find TDH to be a bit of a hit-and-miss band for me, just because they exist very much on the borderline of what I can enjoy/tolerate as far as indie-style music goes. This EP generally hovers between the peaks that pull me towards the band and the troughs that refrain me from greater appreciation. It's fine throughout but nothing to really enamour me in the way Act II or Act IV can pull off.
78. Primitive Man - Caustic
2017 [7.6] - A relentlessly unpleasant and murky trudge through sludgy doom and despair for an agonizing 75 minute runtime. Probably won't have too many suprises for those familar with Scorn and Home Is Where The Hatred Is, although I didn't notice many moments where it kicked up in speed and ferocity like the more violent moments from their past albums. This was primarily dominated by crawling, cavernous, doomy plods, rolling slow/mid-tempo grooves, and antisocial noises and drones. It is too much for all but the most misanthropic of listeners to tackle for its whole length, although there are more memorable parts that could warrant revisiting (Sugar Hole in particular was more immediate than most of their music, as was the first half of Disfigured before it collapsed into noisy funeral doom).
79. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers
2017 [7.6] - I was never that enamoured by GY!BE, so I didn't have a great memory of their sound; as such, I was surprised by just how drone-y this album was (which was probably a major reason I never previously cared much for their music!). Bosses Hang is probably the most intense, with a cacophany of frantic strings over a relentless droning background, but it does quieten down during Fam/Famine, and the closer Anthem For No State is possibly the best realized, with a solid variety in sounds, from a pleasant subdued intro, to a noisy chaotic swirl of different guitar sounds underpinned by marching drums, and finally a large, rocky finale with some nice lead guitar lines and jazzy drumming.
80. Cytotoxin - Gammageddon
2017 [7.6] - Fun, catchy, pig-squeally brutal death metal.
81. Wintersun - The Forest Seasons
2017 [7.6] - Despite all their antics, I do still very much like the Wintersun debut, and somewhat like the overly orchestrated and dramatic Time I. I actually think this is slightly superior to that album - not drowning in layers and layers of orchestrations, and with some really nice parts, most notably the rich clean vocals from Jari in the closer Loneliness. The tracks are overly long and could do with some direction but it's definitely better than what I was expecting.
82. The Discussion - European Tour EP 2017
2017 [7.6] - Laura Pleasants of Kylesa fame fronts this laid-back, somewhat blues-y, atmospheric alt-rock album. Somewhat like the more introspective parts of Ultraviolet, and also plenty of other music that I know that it should bring to mind but I can't remember right now, this relies on stripped down songs, with slow/mid-tempo percussive grooves over which dreary vocals and sometimes minimalist guitar arranges float, with Eastern-influenced melodies. It comes together nicely, something rewarding to lie back and space out to, and I would rank it higher than some of Kylesa's post-Spiral Shadow work.
83. Make Them Suffer - Worlds Apart
2017 [7.6] - Punchy metalcore, without the most hooky of riffs or choruses, but with some tasty bite and positive use of keyboard and ambient elements to add something extra to their sound, as do the guest female vocals on a couple of songs. I didn't find the music especially memorable or captivating on initial listening but it was a generally positive experience.
84. Usnea - Portals Into Futility
2017 [7.6] - (Funeral?) doom with some black metal bits sprinkled in there, unsurprisingly as a non-enthusiast of really slow, trudging doom I'm not overly enamoured, but I did find it more intriguing than a majority of its competition. It primarily flickers (usually within each song) between introspective, quiet passages (usually clean guitar only), pounding, crawling-speed doom riffs, and slightly more upbeat stretches often infused with BM menace - all three of these turn up during multiple segments on opening track Eidolons And The Increate. The most interesting parts for me turn up during the softer, creepy second half of Pyrrhic Victory, and during the many different aspects of lengthy closer A Crown Of Desolation, most notably the entire second half, that goes from the barest bones, to slowly more intense music as additional guitar leads, then drums, then howls enter the fray, peaking with a climactic guitar lead before it all fades away to the sounds of pounding toms.
85. Pyrrhon - What Passes For Survival
2017 [7.5] - Certainly distinctive, this tech-death release takes cues from many of their peers (easy to hear the typical Necrophagist/Obscure sound here), but also Atheist (particularly vocally, but also some other inclinations towards an influence), brutal death, dissonance, and general avant-garde chaos. It's interesting, but as typically unemotional as tech-death often is, and a bit draining given its length.
86. Sun Of The Sleepless - To The Elements
2017 [7.5] - I feel like the problem with black metal is that across bands, the base sound is generally quite similar. It means that bands need to either add something unique or really go all-out quality-wise to standout. Quite a lot of bands manage this, but it means that the rest fade a bit. This album is perfectly decent, typical black metal with some keys and brief choral vocals to slightly spice it up, but nothing remarkable enough to really rise above the crowd.
87. We Came From The North - Faded Giant
2017 [7.5] - Typically pleasant atmos-post-rock album that gets a bit meaty towards the middle and ends with something of a flourish; I discovered it through the same channel as Apocryphal Hubris from my Part 1 list, and I would have to rate that album slightly higher than this one in terms of distinctiveness.
88. Chaos Moon - Eschaton Mémoire
2017 [7.4] - Not sure quite what there is to be so excited about here, it's relatively lo-fi atmospheric black metal, combining a muted production with alternations between semi-ambient quiet parts, and then typical mid-tempo or rampaging black metal stretches, with a keyboard sheen on top to deliver atmosphere. All of this is done fine but not in a way to really distinguish itself from the past 25 years of music unless I'm overlooking something, nor in a way to stand out from the pack on real quality. Found it good to listen to but kinda unremarkable despite its strong moments (the last 3-4 minutes of "Of Wrath And Forbidden Wisdom" is pretty neat).
89. Foo Fighters - Concrete And Gold
2017 [7.3] - Not as good as the best from Wasting Light, but a recovery from Sonic Highways, it's not so dad rock-esque and has some of that Foo Fighters energy that one would ideally wish for from the band.
90. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup
2017 [7.3] - I don't know if it's because I heard this and the previous album from this band in quick succession, but something about this listening experience gives the impression I shouldn't delve too deep into their extensive recent catalogue. I think this song was a bit more retro-proggy in any case, and I didn't find it the same peaceful, alluring experience as Polygondwanaland. Still nice enough, however.
91. Monarch - Never Forever
2017 [7.3] - Snail-paced venom, honestly my first thought was this might be what Obscure Sphinx sounded like if they played drone doom. The vocals are frenzied and disorienting, and the unforgivingly slow yet relentless crawl of the songs makes for a punishing drain. Arguably the most interesting track for me was the shortest one, Song Of The Void, which is also amongst the softest, and which comes and goes with nothing more than ebbing background noise accompanied by dream-like soft vocals embedded into the background, and which is so formless it glides over the listener.
92. Molecules To Minds - Ascent Into Insignificance
2017 [7.3] - The first song on this 4-track release is pretty impressive, with a mix of The Mighty Rio Grande-esque atmosphere, with some more imposing moods in the heavier sections, the first one even making me think of the intro to Limbs somewhat. However, the rest of the record is a bit too typically twee, twiddly and quiet to really stand out against the many other similar bands.
93. Thy Art Is Murder - Dear Desolation
2017 [7.2] - Pretty standard breakdown-heavy intense deathcore, but I'll admit I may have warmed a bit to breakdowns - I was bobbing along to most of this album and generally kinda enjoyed it.
94. Wobbler - From Silence To Somewhere
2017 [7.2] - Full-on 70s retro-style prog, done well but I'd be amazed if there was anything new here, so only for genre diehards IMO.
95. A Rain Of Napalm - I Promise
2017 [7.2] - A post-rock release with the emphasis on rock, there are riffs and song arrangements here that could easily be turned into radio-friendly alt rock songs with some appropriate vocals. But alongside all that are some pleasant post-rock motifs and dainty ambience that nicely complements the core of the music.
96. Dead Cross - Dead Cross
2017 [7.2] - Some fun hardcore punk, carried by the ever-wonderful Mike Patton on vocals.
97. Hallatar - No Stars Upon The Bridge
2017 [7.2] - A 9-track album with 4 interlude tracks. Once you get past that, there's 5 songs of crushing, trudging extreme doom, with an appropriately morose atmosphere. However, it does get tedious quite quickly without anything within the music to make it stand out from similar bands, and not even having my beloved Tomi Joutsen on vocals manages to to make this shine in any way.
98. Serenity - Lionheart
2017 [7.2] - Solid but highly cheesy work from these power metallers - they've never done anything that lives up to their debut in my opinion, but this is entirely okay for PM fans.
99. Ensiferum - Two Paths
2017 [7.1] - Superior to Unsung Heroes, but this band hasn't managed to match up to From Afar just yet. The vocal dominance has shifted away from shrieks more towards clean vocals from all kinds of sources, for better or worse (the vocalists aren't exactly stellar, but are generally appropriate). There's nothing breathtaking here, but in general it's around/just above par for the course of this kind of music, and certainly even if they're not reaching past accomplishments, Ensiferum can still write stuff that is better than the par for northern Europe extreme folk.
100. Kauan - Kaiho
2017 [7.0] - I generally like this band's work, although I don't think they've released anything since Kuu that matches up to their earlier work across the whole album. This release in particular is very subdued for large portions, to an extent that is begins to get a bit dull. On the flip side, there are moments that counteract this by delivering the kind of slow, muted, majesty that this band is capable of, for example the lush and delicate second half of Lahja.
101. Adagio - Life
2017 [7.0] - Objectively well made, and some parts of it I like, but whilst there was probably a time not too long ago that I may have somewhat digged this, honestly at this point I find this particular style kinda boring.
102. The Dark Element - The Dark Element
2017 [6.9] - The lyrics are a bit ridiculous, but the songs here are hooky, Annette's vocals fit nicely, and the song quality is generally decent, apart from the tedious mid-album ballad Someone You Used To Know. A mildly infectious mix of Cain's Offering, Amaranthe, and Annette-era Nightwish, not great but somewhat entertaining.
103. Currents - The Place I Feel Safest
2017 [6.8] - Very chug-heavy and breakdown-oriented metalcore, with a real primitive macho feel. There's some decent choruses in there too and minor variations in tone, such as the more upbeat, melodic and lead guitar-led Forget Me, but really for the most part it's just a relentless chain of base level machismo. Some songs work better than others - I actually found myself rather won over by Night Terrors and Delusion, amongst others, but as a complete album it really begins to wear down my tolerance.
104. Decapitated - Anticult
2017 [6.8] - A further extension of the groovier sound of their more recent stuff, but arguably even further away from death metal than before. The opening song is still pretty heavy, but a lot of it feels like it's straight up groove metal; compared to the big songs off of Carnival Is Forever and Blood Mantra, the blastbeats and frantic percussive riffs, are gone, and standard relatively mid-tempo groovy riffs that have only really been in the band's sound on a couple of their previous songs (Blood Mantra for example) are prevalent here. Earth Scar feels a lot closer to being a Lamb of God song than a Decapitated song, whilst Deathvaluation could almost be a Soilwork song, with its overt melodeath riffs. Honestly, it's pretty catchy and it should appeal to that primal groovy headbanging urge many metal fans have, but it feels like the band, except for moments here and there, have left behind not only everything that made them first well known, but a fair amount of what has brought about the post-accident resurgence in popularity.
105. Arch Enemy - Will To Power
2017 [6.7] - Generally pretty predictable, and as someone not enamoured by Arch Enemy, it didn't overly inspire, but it is generally okay, with some variety, particularly the clean vocals and more Gothic atmosphere of tracks like Reason To Believe.
106. Ulver - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
2017 [6.5] - Bring Out Your Dead is a decent track, but it's kinda obvious that these are leftover songs from a superior record.
107. Electric Wizard - Wizard Bloody Wizard
2017 [6.2] - Pretty underwhelming having gotten into the band recently with riff-fests like Witchcult Today and behemoths like Dopethrone, this is just very run-of-the-mill stoner/doom Sabbath worship. Sounds fine but nothing to inspire any real affection.
108. Lacrimosa - Testimonium
2017 [6.1] - My first introduction to this band, and not the most impressive. Half decent but slightly tedious and pretty cheesy Gothic metal. The vocals are okay but can be a bit dreary (and not in a good way) at times, and some of the riffs/melodies/arrangements work well, but across a full hour it really begins to drag after a while.
109. Queens Of The Stone Age - Villains
2017 [6.0] - I've never really gotten Kyuss fully from what I've heard of them, and a couple of songs aside QOTSA have made even less of an impact upon me. This album doesn't change it for me, just found it a bit boring sadly.
110. Oceans Ate Alaska - Hikari
2017 [5.8] - The surprise that was Polaris inspired me to search for other well-received metalcore from this year to see if I could find much that appealed. This was a less than auspicious start for an alleged AOTY contender in the subgenre. Begins with the most turgid deathcore imaginable, before lightening up with some mildly effective clean vocals and melodic guitar playing. The rest of the album alternates between these two with some technical and ambient sections thrown in. The problem is the deathcore side for me personally is so dull, particularly considering that I genuinely got enjoyment out of Thy Art Is Murder's latest album, which felt like pretty generic genre affair, that it cancels out any of the (not particularly strong) positives from the rest of it. No real desire to listen to it again.

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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