This year was special. There were many great records to hit our ears from some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard and from legacy bands that have created some of their best music ever. The reason I feel 2017 has been so special is our genre’s contributions to innovation. From successful crossovers, to new sounds, this was a powerful year for the evolution of metal.
I have been so impressed with metal this year that I’ve decided to take a different route with my list. Instead of listing all the bands that hit the nail on the head for my own personal preference, I’m listing the bands who I feel have done something important and special for metal. There are many records I’m leaving off this list that deserve recognition, and several of the 2017 lists on SkullsNBones have touched those. I’m super happy our team recognizes awesome music, and allows me the freedom to make a list like this!
I hope you will take some time and learn about these bands if you don’t already know of them. At the very least, here are some powerful records for you to enjoy! Here’s my top 10 metal albums of 2017.
10. Post Pulse, Halls of the Damned
Those of you who read my posts often know that my band Post Pulse released our debut record this year, Halls of the Damned. Of course it’s my favorite record of the past decade but I am biased! The record features some groove, some punk and most of all, a lot of aggression. It’s exactly what I wanted to create and I thank the guys for working with me to create something so satisfying!
Halls of the Damned features a lot of great bass melodies and some impactful guitar riffs. The record is definitely one where we are trying to find our sound as a band so it’s not without its faults. That said, I am really proud of the record and of course need to shamelessly include it in my top 10 list!
Post Pulse, “When The Snakes Are Dead”
9. Myrkur, Mareridt
Next up I want to bring some attention to Myrkur‘s, Mareridt. This album was one of my most highly anticipated of 2017 and I feel that it is something really special. There are only a couple of newer artists in metal that I would tell everyone they need to pay attention to, and Myrkur is definitely one of them.
If you haven’t felt it already, this is the artist all the media is pushing, and unlike many of the bands that record labels might be pushing us to share with you, this one is authentic and organic. There’s a reason for that respect from the media and it’s because Myrkur is something special. Check out Mareridt to learn why!
8. Cavalera Conspiracy, Psychosis
I just fucking love Cavalera Conspiracy, the story, and the music. The Cavalera brothers are undeniably of legendary status and it’s almost impossible for them to create bad music; the rhythm is in their blood, and when they bleed it out onto a record, it’s fucking awesome.
Psychosis is everything you might expect from these guys, from powerful riffs and aggressive grooves, but this album is much more. This is the first time I feel an overwhelming sense of how epic the band’s music is becoming. I feel like these guys have evolved past the honeymoon period from reuniting the brothers… they’ve evolved past the expected sound of what Sepultura and Soulfly fans were hoping for when they first reunited.
Cavalera Conspiracy is finally taking on a shape of its own musically with Psychosis, and I’m really excited about it. This is what I’ve been waiting for! In a way it’s been inevitable that something new and interesting would come out when you have musical pioneers getting comfortable enough to write something special.
As a fan of these guys I have been very happy with the first few records, but Psychosis is something special and different for these guys and it’s worth your time to experience it.
Cavalera Conspiracy, “Spectral War”
7. Zao, Pyrrhic Victory
Zao‘s Pyrrhic Victory is actually an EP but I’m including it here in my list of records because this recording is what metalcore sounds like when it’s done the right way. While it’s not fair to say these guys haven’t changed over the years, I can say their credibility has only grown, at least in my mind. The one part that has gone away, at least in a major way, is the religious elements, and I’m really happy about that.
Pyrrhic Victory is another great contribution to the metal world, with strong songs and the right level of aggression. For you youngsters out there who have never heard of Zao, I think today is a good day to start your education, and you can start in reverse-chronological order with Pyrrhic Victory.
Zao, Pyrrhic Victory
6. IKILLYA, War For An Idea
IKILLYA, War For An Idea is not only a record that represents the coming of age for one of New York City’s staple metal bands, it sadly also stands as the last contribution ever for a band that was plagued with lineup changes year after year.
Anyone who knows of IKILLYA understands there is more than what you see on the surface. First and foremost, the lyrics to their songs come from a deeper place than most metal bands. But what some might miss is the same level of detail and thought that goes into each of the instruments on every track. I can vouch for this, having toured with these guys and learning many of their songs.
IKILLYA‘s, War For An Idea is not only an evolution of the band’s music, but it’s also their best record on several levels. The production on this record is far better than anything they’ve done before, Jason Lekberg evolved his style, moving into a more versatile offering, and the general songwriting feels much more professional.
Standout tracks on this record are “Your God,” “Every Man For Himself,” and “Betray Your Creator,” and actually as I was writing those names here I was thinking about how I really love listening to this record front-to-back rather than just skipping to certain songs.
IKILLYA may have created their last record ever, but I feel its importance will remain significant to an era in New York City metal that many years from now will be seen as a pivotal moment in the scene’s history. The band may be gone, but the legacy remains. Check out War For An Idea to understand for yourself.
IKILLYA, “Your God”
5. Brendon Small, Galaktikon II: Become the Storm
Brendon Small, Galaktikon II: Become the Storm is confirmation that I am basically just a fan of everything Brendon Small does. The man is a creative genius and I’m so glad he’s had various outlets for his unique creativity. Galaktikon II: Become the Storm is one more of those gifts, taking the listener on an epic journey both with the record’s content and with the music itself. The music reminds me a lot of Devin Townsend Project but with more focus on the ‘heavy’ than on the ‘weird’, and I think it’s a really good balance.
This record is special because for me it takes Brendon more away from Dethklok and more into his own eccentric musical taste. I feel like we’re getting a bit more of the man (certainly not all) and it’s a nice separation from the characters of the cartoon. This is someone who will continue to wow me with every record, pushing the boundaries of story-telling, musical journeys and overall songwriting.
Brendon Small, “My Name Is Murder”
4. The Haunted, Strength In Numbers
The Haunted, Strength In Numbers is one of those records where I feel like I am going to break something while listening to it. This is of course how The Haunted must write their music… so people will break shit to it! Strength in Numbers is easily one of my favorite records from these guys. The tracks are fucking intense and the songwriting is everything you hope for from the Swedish metal titans.
There is something more to Strength in Numbers than what you will have heard on previous records from The Haunted. I feel the production is better and the performance is much more tight, but I think it’s the overall songwriting that has made this album feel important to me. Swedish death metal rarely evolves from its staple sound, but with this album you can hear a lot of detail that goes beyond the norm. In a way, I feel they are starting to break the barriers of the scene with their sound. More of this!
The Haunted, “Brute Force”
3. Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven
Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven is a really beautiful record. To be honest, this is one of the things I like most about these guys is their ability to use black metal to set emotions. This is a feature only few black metal bands have even tried, and even less have been successful at. It’s one of the stand-apart elements of WITTR.
For me, there is an authentic sadness and agony felt in Thrice Woven that makes the record really special. There have been a lot of interesting albums this year but I think Wolves in the Throne Room have done the best job at creating this beautiful despair. Well done guys.
Wolves in the Throne Room, “Angrboda”
2. Junius, Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light
Junius, Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light is a record I was honestly nervous about. Days of the Fallen Sun was a masterpiece and I couldn’t see how it would be possible to create something so powerful two records in a row. Junius is not really a metal band, but a rock outfit that could easily take a different route with their music.
Thankfully, Junius did not disappoint with their unique brand of dark, atmospheric rock and creative songwriting. In fact, there are many elements of Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light that could easily be considered metal. The production is beautiful, maybe a little more processed than I would like from these guys, but still really well done. The songs are emotional, deep, and epic in many ways.
I have been a fan of Junius since their previous record and I can now firmly say this band is going to stay with me for some time. These guys are doing something unique and special, and I think it’s worth taking the time to learn about them if you aren’t already in the know.
Junius, “Clean The Beast”
1. Zeal & Ardor, Devil is Fine
Zeal & Ardor, Devil is Fine is the record that has stayed with me in the most impactful way this year. Is the record perfect? No. The truth is that I’m not totally happy with many elements – the music doesn’t flow as nicely as I would hope for a record, the production isn’t as good as it could be and there are some creative elements that I think could have sounded a lot better if done differently.
Taking the negative elements of the record into consideration, my decision for this album topping my list is simple: this is a body of work that took considerable risks, many of which payed off in a major way. “Blood in the River” is one of the greatest songs I’ve heard in a very long time. The mixture of styles and songwriting are superb. “Devil is Fine” and “Come on Down” are standouts for me as the kind of crossover styles that make this album special.
All in, the part I like most about Zeal & Ardor‘s, Devil is Fine is the way it uses my own perception of what slavery and oppression of Africans in the early years of the United States and crashes that into a play on the religious elements of the victims of that time. We always assume that once slaves in America were English-speaking Christians, there couldn’t possibly be any competition for the belief. In many cases, religion is the only thing these people had to keep them going.
But imagine if the teachings of Christianity had the opposite effect on slaves and they decided to take the side of the devil instead. The field songs, the beliefs, the overall feeling of the people would be quite different, and Zeal & Ardor‘s, Devil is Fine could easily be the soundtrack to that world.
This record is powerful, and it’s special. Everyone needs to pay attention to Zeal & Ardor. If the creativity continues along this path, there’s going to be some really interesting stuff coming soon.
Zeal & Ardor, “Devil Is Fine”
The Full Playlist