With the dust settling on 2017, Getintothis’ Mark Davies selects the heaviest of the heavy-weights from the last 12 months with the finest in metal and dark sounds – brace yourself for a pummelling!
It’s been a tumultuous year to be sure.
The dark days ahead grow darker still, as our future becomes more uncertain by the day, but at least we have music, right? Specifically metal, in our case.
This year has seen some long-awaited releases finally come to fruition, some of them worth the wait, while others… not so much.
Some of those even made it to the top spot here at Getintothis‘ top 15 in metal so have a peruse and see what you might have missed while being distracted by the orange-faced buffoon, Theresa ‘I stole your Mum’s tablecloth and made a suit out of it’ May, or the wonderment of a fucking blue passport.
Or if you’d prefer, here’s this years Spotify playlist with tracks from each artist in our Top Fifteen In Metal of 2017
Septicflesh – Codex Omega (Prosthetic Records)
Well, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said elsewhere?
To reiterate; Codex Omega (out on Prosthetic Records) is an utterly devastating masterpiece of symphonic (yes, with a real orchestra) death metal. Septicflesh, hailing from Greece, have been around since the early 90s with Codex Omega marking their tenth album, following 2014’s Titan.
When we thought the band had reached their pinnacle with Titan, an album that pushed the very limits of what we thought they were capable of, they have gone above and beyond here, punching through the proverbial ceiling to deliver some of the most inspiring, and downright evil compositions we have ever heard.
Septicflesh have not only surpassed any and all expectations here, they have rewritten the blueprint and set a new grandiose standard for what symphonic death metal should sound like, anything less than this just won’t cut it from here on out, sublime.
Uneven Structure – La Partition (Long Branch Records)
Uneven Structure, a six-piece monolith of a group, returned this year with their highly anticipated (six years!) sophomore album La Partition (via Long Branch Records), the successor to their debut album Februus, which in itself was one of the most superb slabs of ambient progressiveness ever to grace our ears back in 2011.
La Partition, much like it’s predecessor, features layers of luscious e-bowed ambience reminiscent of how we think it might sound gliding through a nebula, rushing beneath sections of staccato’d polyrhythmic guitar riffs. Dissonance cast against a backdrop of unparalleled beauty.
The band have really refined their sound over those six long years, the riffs flow with intent and fluidity like the course of a river, as the vocals lilt in and out of focus, the percussion is as punchy as ever without being overbearing, and those layers are even more spectacular with the band’s shift towards a more organic feel. Stellar stuff.
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (Relapse Records)
Late last year we mentioned that Mastodon had hit the studio over the winter, and had finally announced their impending heavy-hitter Emperor of Sand released via Relapse. From the outset, this is the sound those fellas from Atlanta have been honing over the past three albums. After some faint chimey cymbals, album opener Sultan’s Curse is direct and in your face with it’s grooviness. Troy Sanders familiar growl enters almost immediately after, with Brent Hinds‘ singing not far behind with his favourite jangly finger-picked guitar parts. Some reed organ layers are also undulating throughout to complete the proggy image.
You can hear how polished these guys have become, the riffs are more refined and precise, the production is crystal clear, and of particular note is how far the band’s singing voices have come from their first outing as a vocal trio on 2009’s Crack The Skye. The passage of time is a key concept here, the band have suffered some awful personal tragedies over the past few years, which they have most certainly used to fuel this beast. You’d be a fool not to have heard this by now.
Lo! – Vestigial (Pelagic Records)
We will be honest and say that, much to our detriment, we hadn’t heard of Lo! until very recently when the music video for album track Locust Christ crossed our desk.
If you haven’t watched it yet, do that first and then get back to us. Have you done it? Good. What even the fuck?
It’s like a scene from a rom-com, mixed with a Tool video, mixed with John Carpenter’s The Thing, but in a completely original way. And that’s just the video, Lo! are discordant, brutal and brilliant, and this track at two minutes in length is a perfect introduction to what they’re about.
The band, hailing from Sydney, have been described as heavy yet organic, harking back to early Neurosis and Mastodon, but with a tighter and more focused outlook, and with much more innovative grooves. This is next-level stuff, and a band that should really be on your radar at this point, you have no excuse. Vestigial is out via those lovely people at Pelagic Records, so get on it!
The Faceless – In Becoming a Ghost (Sumerian Records)
Progressive technical death metal band The Faceless have been at the centre of many a controversy over the past few years, tour cancellations due to fallouts with venues and management, an endlessly delayed fourth album, and members dropping out left right and centre, only to be replaced by new ones, or old ones.
Debacles aside, the band, essentially the mouthpiece for founding member and lead guitarist/clean-vocalist/vocoder-ist/keyboardist (yeah, really) Michael Keene, have been putting out wonderfully complex and original extreme metal for the best part of a decade now. In Becoming A Ghost (Sumerian Records) the band’s fourth album, is no exception to this winning streak.
The proggy influences abound here, and Keene’s crooning clean vocals make their usual appearance. Love them or hate them, it is hard to argue that they aren’t a part of the band’s signature sound at this point, we personally find them an interesting counterpoint to the harshness of the gutturals.
The album was already featured on several Best-of-2017 lists before it had even been released, which put high expectations on the band’s shoulders, but believe us when we say it is one the year’s best. Still trying to soak in that flute solo though.
Dead Cross – Dead Cross (Ipecac Recordings)
When Faith No More/Mr. Bungle vocalist extraordinaire Mike Patton first announced that he would be taking the lead position in post-hardcore supergroup Dead Cross, which in itself is the brainchild of ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, we could not contain our excitement.
That vitriolic, almost-schizoid Patton, who so very nailed his parts that time he made an EP with The Dillinger Escape Plan, is back with a group of equally furious musicians ready to spit in your face, shouting “Pistoleroooo” in unison. Easy Like Sunday Morning this is not. Running at twenty-eight minutes in length, fairly standard by hardcore measurements, at a glance you might be fooled into thinking that can escape having your face blown off by riffs, and how wrong you would be.
There is certainly no shortage of memorable moments throughout, despite its length, no, almost in spite of its length, as though the band felt that they needed to cram everything they wanted to say in as small a space as possible. On paper Dead Cross should sound like a shambles, but it just works, and we try not to question it too much, lest we break the spell it has cast over us.
This thing slays (hoho, slays geddit?), and you will want to hear more of it immediately after it has finished.
Arch Echo – Arch Echo (Self-Released)
So, given how negative 2017 has been in countless ways we needn’t go into again, we are always on the lookout for an antidote to the doom and gloom, and by Jove, Arch Echo went above and beyond, despite flying well below the radar, to deliver one of the year’s most unashamedly positive and unstoppably bubbly metal releases.
Their self-released, self-titled debut album is a sincere masterpiece of jazz-inspired instrumental metal, with keyboard solos, buttery-smooth guitar leads and licks, and staccato’d rhythms akimbo, this thing is overflowing with creativity and sheer, unadulterated joy.
It’s almost deceptively playful, so much so that you almost overlook the absolute virtuosity of every band member, and how crucial each element is to the sound. Seriously, these dudes know their stuff, but clearly aren’t afraid to have a ton of fun either.
Another point worthy of noting is that this is their first ever release, yet it has all the polish and sheen of a band three albums down the line, the production is crystal clear and the material is trimmed to perfection. Fans of Plini, David Maxim Micic, CHON or anyone looking to brighten their day a bit, check out Arch Echo and give them your support, we can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us.
Sikth – The Future in Whose Eyes? (Millennium Night Records)
London-based Tech Metal pioneers Sikth have been stalwarts of the UK underground metal scene since their formation and consolidated line-up in 2001. After the band went on permanent hiatus in 2007 following the departure of their two vocalists, Sikth joyously reformed and returned to the scene once again in 2014 with their crowd-funded and critically acclaimed Opacities EP.
Cementing their return to the top of their game, and including a slight line-up adjustment with the replacement of vocalist Justin Hill with Joe Rosser (of Sikth sister band Aliases fame), they bring us their mind-blowing third album The Future in Whose Eyes? on Millennium Night Records.
From bombastic opener Vivid and single No Wishbones, with their dual vocal attacks, popping bass tones, and detuned discordant riffs, across to the spoken-word tracks The Ship Has Sailed, The Moon’s Been Gone For Hours and ethereal album closer When It Rains; long-time fans and new disciples alike will find themselves in sonically challenging yet familiar territories.
There’s a reason Sikth are cited as one of modern metal’s most influential bands, and a cursory listen through The Future in Whose Eyes? will tell you exactly why. These songs aren’t just complex riffs and shouting, each one has been carefully crafted to be as challenging, engaging, and catchy as possible, whilst still retaining that classic sound. This is a brilliant return to form, and well worth checking out.
Sleep Token – Two (Basick Records)
After being signed to UK-based tech metal label Basick Records, the enigmatic and masked collective known as Sleep Token put out a second EP aptly named Two as the successor to their first release, One.
Previously, we described the band’s sound as something like a mellower Vanessa Carlton video (the only one she ever did, lets be real here), where Vanessa Carlton is replaced by a soulful male counterpart, and the piano plunges off a cliff into the bowels of hell in the last couple of minutes of their songs. In Two, this, we are pleased to tell you, is still the case only the songs are even more beautiful in the lovely bits, and even more demonic in the scary bits, with some nice overlapping this time around too.
Nazareth, track two of the three on the EP, has all the makings of a blues number, with smooth keyboard/synth tones and those powerfully melancholic vocals, yet juxtaposed with such cruel and terrifying lyrics, with “Let’s fuck her up” producing a particularly grotesque chill. Elements of other genre are then slowly introduced as we move along, with post-rock drums clattering and vocal harmonies are added for emphasis, until that three-minute mark crashes in with a Lantlôs-esque post-black metal section so moving, that we are almost lulled into thinking that was the heavy bit.
We should have known better, because the scariest is yet to come. If you missed listening to Sleep Token the first time around, do not make the same mistake twice, Praise be to Sleep, may it give Him strength, praise His ways so He may live life everlasting.
Toothgrinder – Phantom Amour (Spinefarm Records)
New Jersey quintet Toothgrinder have certainly been busy these past few years since their inception, having only released their debut full-length album Nocturnal Masquerade in 2016 only to return in 2017 with a follow-up, Phantom Amour, out via long-time label Spinefarm Records.
The band have moved from strength to strength with tours supporting the likes of Periphery and more recently Between The Buried And Me, and although the new album showcases a wildly different sound to that of their debut, incorporating more electronic and synth elements, and some cleaner vocals this time around, the heavy grooves are still ever-present and eager to clamour inside your head, sticking around for days on end. Catchy is an understatement with Toothgrinder.
Outrun The Sunlight – Red Bird (Self-Released)
The instrumental guys from Chicago have been putting out beautiful music since 2011, but it wasn’t until their latest effort Red Bird (independently released) that we really had to stop to appreciate what they have been doing. This is a blissful 30-minute journey that you will never want to end, from reverb-dripped clean guitar sections, over undulating bass grooves, gliding ebow solos over aggressive polyrhythms, everything sounds utterly gorgeous and wide-open.
The production is superb and a welcome contrast to the over-compressed waveforms that plague progressive metal these days, with comparisons easily drawn to Lantlôs’ 2014 effort Melting Sun, or Deftones’ latter work on Gore or Koi No Yokan.
Each movement evokes a new feeling within the listener, and sometimes those emotions aren’t clearly defined, lying somewhere between hope and melancholy, love and loss, even nostalgia for an earlier more carefree point in your life.
We recommend that, for the optimal experience, you should listen to this with your best pair of headphones while watching the sunrise. We can tell you first hand through the waves of frisson and the tears of joy frozen to our faces, that it’s a good call.
Nidingr – The High Heat Licks Against Heaven (Indie Recordings)
Speeding things right back up, we have to mention legendary Norwegian Black Metal band Nidingr whose new album The High Heat Licks Against Heaven is some of the ballsiest chaos to cross our desks since Cultes Des Ghoules!
This is not the blast-beating, reverbed-to-death, recorded-in-a-bin black metal you might be used to (at least not all of it), as these guys moved into much groovier and crustier territories long ago. Instead, the vocals are up front and ripping your face off, the guitars are audible and punky, the basslines are downright funky and the drums, though powerful enough to snap your neck, retain a sense of playfulness.
These guys are blasting Viking-influenced Blackened death metal, and they want you to know they have a great fucking time doing it.
The album is a jarring slab of tasty black metal courtesy of guitarist and founding member Morten ‘Teloch’ Iverson, a man who also has a hand in scene giants Mayhem, as well as early roles in bands such as 1349, God Seed and Gorgoroth, so the band’s credentials are without question. A key theme with a lot of this year’s best albums is catchiness, and Nidingr are no exception, this thing has claws.
David Maxim Micic – Who Bit the Moon (Self-Released)
This time last year, we were singing the praises of Aussie instrumental guitarist Plini who, along with Animals as Leaders, Outrun the Sunlight and Arch Echo, are all pushing sonic boundaries in wonderfully melodic ways. Another name that should be cropping up alongside these artists is a young Serbian player, composer, and producer called David Maxim Micic, whose stunning body of work is some of the most eclectically mesmerising out there in the genre.
Having only released EPs for the majority of his solo career, Who Bit The Moon marked his 2017 debut into full-length territory, and what a ride!
The album is a trek across various reverb-dipped sonic landscapes, some wonderful orchestral pieces, tied together by Micic‘s buttery lead guitar and aggressive rhythm sections. There’s even room for some spoken word samples which you’ll find dotted around, but never intrusively so.
His music is all about giving the instrumentation room to breathe, so it never feels cluttered. Micic always knows the right amount of notes to use in order to evoke a certain feeling, and more often than not, less is more.
We reckon you’ll catch this guy doing some even greater things in a few years time, and he’d be more than deserving of everything that comes his way.
Junius – Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light (Prosthetic Records)
What year end list would be complete without a bit of Boston’s post-metallers Junius, who seemed to have gone very quiet since they put out their Days of the Fallen Sun EP back in 2014. It turns out the band had a bit of a rough time, with half of the members moving on to other projects leaving only the band’s founder Joseph E. Martinez to continue alone. Martinez wrote and performed the band’s latest effort, the trilogy-capping Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light, released via Prosthetic.
And what a hulking mammoth of an album it is too. Majestic vocals soar above distorted post-metal riffs and explosions of colour. The cleans make way for screams, augmenting the aggression inherent in the albums lyrical content, which is very critical of the state of the world, and humanity’s tendency towards greed, giving nothing back to the planet we feed from.
We aren’t sure what is in store for Junius, but if this is what Martinez can produce by himself then we’d say that he still has a bright future ahead.
All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal (Southern Lord)
The final spot on our list is reserved for a bit of hardcore punk in the form of All Pigs Must Die, we reckon. The “supergroup” formed in 2010 with members of Converge, The Hope Conspiracy and Bloodhorse, are truly a force to be reckoned with. It’s probably best you don’t piss them off any more than they clearly are here on Hostage Animal (out via Southern Lord) because DAMN if that isn’t one of the angriest and most vitriolic records we have heard all year. Bile central right here.
Their new album, a follow up to 2013’s Nothing Violates This Nature, pulls no punches to be sure. Your eardrums are in for a bruising, to put it another way. We also really dig the mix of genres here between hardcore, the doomy passages that fill the gaps between, and the straight up groove metal riffs speckled throughout. The band had a clear vision and executed it to perfection on Hostage Animal, and we could not have been any happier with the outcome.