My Top 10 Albums of 2017

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) 

Ba'al In Gallows

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

Battle Beast Bringer

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

Bell Witch Mirror.jpg

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

Fen Winter.jpg

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

Greta van Fleet From the Fires.jpg

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

Orden Ogan Gunmen.jpg

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

Pallbearer Heartless.jpg

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

Septicflesh Codex.jpg

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

Voyager Ghost mile.jpg

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

Walpyrgus Walpyrgus Nights.jpg

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






Metal 2 the Masses Sheffied | The Grand Final

After six first round heats and three semi-finals, last night was The Grand Final of the Sheffield branch of the Metal 2 the Masses competition at the Mulberry Tavern.

It had been a fantastic tournament up to this point, and the final did not disappoint.

Symphonic / Power / Operatic Metal
Winners of Heat 1
Runner-up in Semi-Final 3

Being first on can be a bit of a curse, but the extended sound check allowed for the septet to have their strongest sounding performance in the competition. It was nice to see uniformity in the stage apparel across the band too, and the light up corsets were a neat touch. This was a great start to the evening, from a band that’s now pretty much the complete package.

Winners of Heat 3
Winners of Semi-Final 2

I’ve seen these guys a number of times in the past eighteen months or so and they rarely disappoint. Whilst tonight they don’t quite reach the heady heights of their earlier round performances, this phenomenally talented trio still impress on-lookers with their funky brand of rock’n’roll.

Alternative Metal
Winners of Heat 2
Runners-up in Semi-Final 1

It’s worth remembering that this entertaining alt. metal outfit were a last minute stand-in in the second week of the comptition. They took the opportunity by the horns and rode it all the way to the final. Performance wise, after a bit of a shaky start they nailed the last three tracks and put on a very enjoyable, energetic show. I can’t wait to see how these guys progress from here.

Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Runner-up in Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 3

Archelon were the first part of a sludgey hypnotic double header of doom. These guys have been consistently one of the better bands in the tournament, and they continued that trend with a monstrously heavy set. Their consistency is all the more impressive to say they were performing without their bass player!

Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Winners of Heat 6
Runners-up in Semi-Final 2

Ba’al had a tough act to follow, but they saved their best performance of the tournament for the final. Their mid-tempo brand of sludgey doom got many heads banging, including my own, as they knocked it out of the ballpark.

Metalcore / Contemporary Metal
Winners of Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 1

One of the most popular bands of the tournament, these energetic contemporary metallers drew the closing slot of the evening. Unphased by the excellent bands playing immediately before them, they proceed to slam through their pitworthy setlist with great confidence.

Guest Headliner:
Stoner Rock / Hard Rock / Heavy Psych
Winner of Metal 2 the Masses Lincolnshire 2016

It’s always a pleasure to watch one of the more talented bands from our area, and they were a perfect choice for guest headliner. If you’ve not seen them live, you’re truly missing out on a cracking stoner rock act.

The Result

I thought it was a tough choice for the judge to make, but I agree with the decision to name Ba’al the winners. They saved their best performance for the final, and were the best band on the night. Congratulations chaps!

For the record, I had it being between them and Archelon, but there could have been argument made for other bands too.

It was also noted that two other bands on the evening (not named) are being put forward as potential acts to fulfill other slots on the Bloodstock bill.

A Few Final Words

Thank you to everyone that’s been reading and sharing my blogs on the tournament. It’s been a pleasure doing them, and I’m sure I’ll do the same again next year. Before I sign off, I just wanted to congratulations Jake, Craig and the Mulberry staff for putting on a very enjoyable, fair, and diverse tournament.

A quick shout out to all the finalists: Aonia, Delirium, Sobriquet, Archelon, Ba’al, Arkdown. You guys all put on a heck of a evening and I wish you all the best.

There were also some cracking bands that didn’t quite make it all the way, and I just wanna give a quick shout out to a few that I was particularly impressed with:

Probably the band with the most pure talent in the tournament. They were ever so unlucky to not make the final (lost a tie-breaker to Ba’al for second place in the semi-final – oh how different the final would have been!). I’m glad they got as far as they did and I really hope they enter again next year.

Gorilla Warfare
One of the most fun bands of the tournament. I had the pleasure of seeing their last show of their current incarnation recently, and I look forward to seeing what arises from their ashes.

Sour Tusk
Loud, brash and talented two piece stoner rockers that were unfortunate to have been drawn in what was probably the toughest opening heat. I hope they try again next year, as I’m fairly sure they’d have made the semi-finals had they been in a different heat.

I also think NormaliserElecorn, Grandmother Suplex and The Mechanist have loads of potential, and I hope they’ll all consider entering again next year.

Whilst we’re doing awards/lists, I may as well list my favourite sets of the whole tournament – because who doesn’t love a good list?

My favourite sets of the tournament – in no particular order:
Delirium – Heat 3
Bovidae – Semi-Final 2
Ba’al – Final
Archelon – Semi-Final 3
Aonia – Semi-Final 3

There’s been some quality performances / shows, and credit where it’s due, Jake, Craig and that gang have put on a great tournament.  I hear plans are already underway for next year’s offering!

Speaking of next year, I can’t wait to see which bands enter. Selfishly speaking, I hope some of the other kick arse bands from our region – such as Skyligers, Deltanaut, Firegarden and Deadblondestars – put themselves forward for it.

And that’s about it, I think. Congratulations once more to Ba’al, and thanks to everyone for entertaining me for the past couple of months! Cheers!