I have heard here-and-there that 2017 was supposedly a ‘down’ year for music. Honestly, I cannot disagree more. Sure, we had a disappoint entry or two from the ‘big boys’ (I was really disappointed with QOTSA’s latest release), but if you take a few minutes to dig just a little beneath the surface, I think you will find that 2017 was a flipping brilliant year for new music.
I could have listed twenty, maybe thirty, albums below, but I’ve (painstakingly!) kept it to just ten. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Ba’al – In Gallows By Mass (EP)
There’s already been many words written about the fantastic year these chaps have had, so I will keep this short. They are one of the best bands to come out of the Sheffield music scene in recent years, and In Gallows By Mass is a fantastic post-metal EP, expertly juxtaposing dark and light to produce a rather profound piece of heavy melancholy.
Favourite track: One Under the Sun
Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain
I really dig how Battle Beast flavour their brand of power metal with anthemic hard rock licks and choruses. Some will find it too cheesy, but I can tell you right now that this band and these tunes were absolutely perfect as Thursday night headliners at the last Bloodstock.
Favourite track: Bastard Son of Odin
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
I can’t say that I have ever hugely been into funeral doom, but this 83-minute single track from Bell Witch is nothing short of a masterpiece. Whilst heavy in places, it retains a sombre melodic melancholy that reflects the real life creation of the song (one of the band members sadly passed away, and they used some of his pre-recorded vocals on the song). Haunting and beautiful.
Favourite track: Mirror Reaper
Fen – Winter
Outside of the odd band, I have not more than dabbled post-black metal to this point, and I had been yet to check out Fen. Winter instantly impressed me, and I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of their discography.
Favourite track: I (Pathway)
Greta van Fleet – From the Fires
Veering off into more classic rock territory now. Michigan’s Greta van Fleet at times remind me of Led Zeppelin and others of Lynynrd Skynynrd. Hard rock seems to be about ready for its latest resurgence and I could easily see these guys leading the way after a release as strong as this.
Favourite track: Safari Song
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Despite them recently touring Europe with Rhapsody of Fire as one of their supports, I’d never heard of German power metallers Orden Ogan until this year. Apparently they have been on the go since 1996 and this is their sixth album! To compare them to their contemporaries, I’d say they lean towards the Blind Guardian end of the power metal spectrum (maybe with a hint of Powerwolf). Gunman itself is a belter of a melodic metal album and one fans of the genre should regard as a must buy.
Favourite track: Come With Me To The Other Side (featuring Liv Kristine)
Pallbearer – Heartless
As the list has so far shown, my album preference seems to veer between cheesy uplifting metal and sorrow drenched melancholy. Pallbearer very certainly fall into the latter category. Is it prog? Is it doom? Who cares, it’s soul breakingly sad and beautiful.
Favourite track: I Saw The End
Septicflesh – Codex Omega
Another band that I have never really paid much attention to until now, but that will certainly change. Their symphonic death metal sound on this album reminds me a little of Dimmu Borgir, except with a fuller sound and stronger instrumental composition. This became evident to me on the instrumental bonus tracks – unlike other metal bands, where such tracks could seem like throwaway fads, these sound like legitimate pieces of (dark, moody) classical music.
Favourite track: Enemy of Truth
Voyager – Ghost Mile
If I was forced to pick an actually favourite album of the year, Voyager’s Ghost Mile would likely be the victor. A perfect example of melodic power prog, these Aussies totally blew me away with their musicianship and vocal work. Simply, one of the best albums I have heard for years.
Favourite track: Ascension
Walpyrgus – Walpyrgus Nights
I first heard of Walpyrgus through following one of my favourite bands, While Heaven Wept. With WHW looking like it is wound up (at least for the time being, possibly for good), I decided to check out what other bands the members were in. Walpyrgus features WHW bassist Jim Hunter, as well as members of Twisted Tower Dire, Beard of Antlers and Daylight Dies. What they have created is a delightful mix that ends up coming across as a (possibly cheesy) horror themed classic / 80s metal sound.
Favourite track: The Dead of Night