Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
Greetings metalheads! It’s that time of the year again. After what many felt was quite a trying year, in which even I would have to agree, we were at least treated to another exciting year of metal music. Across the globe and spanning many different sub-genres metal bands were firing on all cylinders. But in 2017, Death Metal had a big year. Modern-day titans and old-school heavy hitters within the sub-genre put out damn near career-defining albums, helping dub 2017 as ‘The Year of Death Metal’. However, it wasn’t just death metal that got my metal blood pumping this year, as hardcore and metalcore flashed in ways almost long forgotten – a German thrash act released an all-out shred fest, an American alternative rock band claims glory, and much much more. So with all this being said let’s dive into my top 20 metal albums of 2017!
20. Lorna Shore – “Flesh Coffin”. Anyone who knows me (or has read my previous lists on this site) knows that while I’m a fan of all metal sub-genres, death metal related genres seem to tickle my fancy the most. However, black metal is also something I’m a big sucker for. So it’s no surprise a band like Lorna Shore has managed to capture my attention so well. In a nutshell, these guys would be described as a ‘deathcore’ band but there is a lot more to LS’s music. The band has a high volume of black metal influence that from day one helped separate them from the ever-crowded world of brutal metal. Formed in 2010, Flesh Coffin is the band’s 2nd full-length album (4th release overall) and it’s easily the band’s most mature and solid effort to date. Guitarists Adam DeMicco & Connor Deffley put on one hell of a show on this record with their impressive balance of atmospheric themed riffs blasting straight into face-melting shredding and heavy duty breakdowns. Vocalist Tom Barber continues to be as impressive as it gets for this style of music. He’s capable of doing a vast amount of scream tones from ear screeching highs to his signature guttural, all placed perfectly to Lorna Shore’s music. Bottom line: This is still a relatively young band but this album (and past recordings) have proven Lorna Shore is the real deal. Certainly, a band to keep an eye on. Favorite song: “Denounce The Light”. FFO (For Fans Of): The Black Dahlia Murder, Carnifex, and Chelsea Grin.
19. Eighteen Visions – “XVII”. Some folks may choose to not believe or agree, but the early 2000’s era California metalcore was really a super fascinating scene that had a lot of fun character to it. Bands like Atreyu, As I Lay Dying, and Bleeding Through all exploded on the scene and all brought their own brand to the table while establishing large fan bases the world over. Another one of those bands was Eighteen Visions who had back to back classics within the genre with “Until The Ink Runs Out” and “Vanity” showcasing the band’s unique style of break down heavy metalcore laced with Stone Temple Pilots-worship style of rock lead by the vocals of charismatic frontman James Hart. Like many of these bands EV eventually was picked up by a major label where their style shifted a bit. Suddenly in 2007, the band went into a state of hiatus. Ten years later EV returns triumphantly with their brand new album “XVII” (their first on Rise Records). This album is not only a return to form for the band but maybe the band’s heaviest in their catalog. The guitar tone of this record is a big stand-out. Keith Barney recorded the guitars all on his own and captured quite a heavy ass tone that makes many of these tracks nearly impossible not headbang to. Bottom line: I was personally stoked to be graced with a new one from these dudes and older fans should be pleased with this mosh filled album. Favorite song: “Oath”. FFO: Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, and Throwdown.
18. Full Of Hell – “Trumpeting Ecstasy”. The genre of ‘power violence’ has really made quite the splash in the metal and hardcore world over the last several years; particularly thanks to the band Nails (whose album ‘You’ll Never Be One Of Us’ was in our top 5 last year). For those unaware, ‘power violence’ is used to describe a style of hardcore that’s heavily influenced by the likes of thrash, death metal, and grindcore – while still being completely different than metalcore and deathcore. Overall, it’s just very fast and chaotic music and that’s exactly what you get with the latest from Maryland’s Full Of Hell. Formed in 2009, they have since released a long list of full-lengths, eps, and even a few collaborations. What I like the most about Full Of Hell is their ability to get it ALL in there. The death metal vocals, the hardcore spirit, and the grindcore speed are all fully present. Vocalist Dylan Walker (who also handles the electronics) has essentially the perfect range of tones for a band like Full Of Hell. In a lot of ways, he reminds of Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder in his ability to go from high to low at wicked fast speed in the middle of a verse. The band’s guitarist Spencer Hazard and drummer Dave Bland have really great chemistry. That’s pretty apparent on this album considering a band like Full Of Hell who has an incredibly chaotic sound, yet manages to sound as tight as it gets – that’s truly saying something. Bottom line, speed is the name of the game with these guys. Full of Hell bring the speed and chaos in full stride and it’s just a fun listen from start to finish. Favorite song: “Ashen Mesh”. FFO: Gatecreeper, Nails, Wrvm.
17. Enslaved – “E”. In the large dark world of black metal there really are no rules; guidelines maybe, but no real rules. Just look at the genre and how it has evolved over the years between Bathory, Mayhem, Emperor, Cradle Of Filth, Wolves In The Throne Room, Deafheaven, and everything in between. One band that’s always managed to push black metals limits is Norway’s Enslaved. Lead by original members Ivar Bjornson and Grutle Kjellson, Enslaved formed in 1991 and has since released 14 full-length albums with ‘E’ being the most recent. What has set Enslaved apart over the years from other Norwegian Black Metal acts is their heavy use of progressive material intertwined in their music – especially in the more recent of years. ‘E’ is the band’s first album to feature new keyboardist/clean vocalist Hakon Vinje who replaced longtime member Herbrand Larsen. He fills the void flawlessly as his cleans flow wonderfully on this album when mixed with the progressive and dark feel Enslaved twists throughout. Grutle continues to handle the screaming vocals (along with bass) and sticks well to what he knows best for Enslaved; grim black metal vocals. Bottom line: Enslaved are an influential band in the black metal world and ‘E’ is further proof of that. In a lot of ways, it’s just as much a prog-metal album as it is a black metal album. Favorite song: “The Rivers Mouth”. FFO: Ihsahn, Opeth, Borknagar.
16. Dying Fetus – “Wrong One To Fuck With”. If you have never heard of Dying Fetus, I’m sure you can take a wild guess as to what the band sounds like with a name like that. They are unapologetic death metal, plain and simple. ‘Wrong One To Fuck With’ is the 8th studio album from Maryland’s Dying Fetus led by founding member John Gallagher. This may quite possibly be their most impressive effort in many years. One of my favorite attributes in Dying Fetus’s music is their tasteful balance of groove and brutality. While staying consistently heavy throughout an entire song (or album in their case) they can vary in speed while not losing any kind of edge or momentum and that is as noticeable as it’s ever been on this particular record. Drummer Trey Williams knows good and well how to keep the pace just right for this brand of death metal and gives a great compliment to John Gallagher’s impressive playing. Bottom line: Dying Fetus has stayed consistently relevant in the brutal death metal scene and it’s because of albums like this. This isn’t mindless brutalness shoved down your throat; this is death metal played at its full potential. Favorite song: “Panic Amongst The Heard”. FFO: Aborted, Suffocation, Nile.
15. Iced Earth – “Incorruptible”. When people think of some of the great classic American metal bands its easy (and fully makes sense) to go directly to the ‘Big 4’ (aka Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax) and maybe even throw in Testament for good measure. However, there is one band that has long maintained a more than respectable fan base worldwide and is often overlooked in this conversation – Iced Earth. Formed in 1984 by original member/main songwriter Jon Schaffer (guitar) under the name The Rose, later changing to Purgatory, before finally settling on Iced Earth – the band released their first full-length album in 1991 (self-titled) but it wasn’t until a few years later that the band hit a major stride releasing gold after gold with ‘Burt Offerings’ (1995), The Dark Saga (1996) and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ (1999). Over the years, Iced Earth has had quite the revolving door of members (including a brief stint with former Judas Priest vocalist Ripper Owens fronting the band) but that never stopped Jon Schaffer and whatever crew he had on board from making some damn fine metal. 2017’s ‘Incorruptible’ is simply no different. ‘Incorruptible’ marks the third album for vocalist Stu Block (formerly of Into Eternity) who seemingly fits Iced Earth style perfectly with his high-when-necessary ‘super metal’ (for lack of better phrase) singing for Iced Earth’s faster moments mixed with a low melodic singing voice that compliments Iced Earth’s softer parts. Guitar work is once again no issue for Iced Earth as Jon Schaffer along with new axe man Jake Dreyer (Witherfall) rip all over this album both tastefully and confidently. Bottom line: Iced Earth are true greats among the American metal scene as their original brand of power metal laced with thrash and traditional heavy metal for years has stood the test of time amongst many passing phases within metal. Favorite song: “The Relic (Part 1)”. FFO: Helloween, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall.
Editor’s note: Jake Dreyer is originally from Panama City Beach and a stellar young guitarist and person.
14. August Burns Red – “Phantom Anthem”. August Burns Red came out at a time when metalcore was going through an odd time. On one hand, the genre was basically hitting a peak where some bands were putting out career-defining albums that helped them become the successful acts they are today. On the other hand, overcrowding began to take place (which tends to happen in just about every sub-genre) where bands were essentially blatant rip-offs of what was already out there. So when ABR dropped their first two full-length albums ‘Thrill Seeker” & ‘Messengers’ they made a quick statement in showing not only are they able to hang with the big dogs but were in the process of building an empire all on their own. Their formula of tech-metal meets melodic hardcore is a relatively simple formula but their skill and craftsmanship are what helped set these guys apart from the rest of the pack. ‘Phantom Anthem’ is the follow up to the band’s 2015 effort ‘Found in Far Away Places’ which also received heavy praise (including a spot on our top albums from that year) and for the second straight time the band has been nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Metal Performance’ this time around for the song ‘Invisible Enemy’. That in itself is a huge accomplishment for any band of the modern day era. The bottom line with this particular album: If you didn’t like August Burns Red before I highly doubt this album will change your mind, but for me personally it’s a true testament to the talent this band has and ultimately why they are survivors in the scene. Favorite song: “Carbon Copy”. FFO: Parkway Drive, Architects, Miss May I.
13. Cannibal Corpse – “Red Before Black”. It would almost seem silly to have a year known as the “year of death metal” and not have an album by arguably the most famous death metal band of all time come out. So here is ‘Red Before Black,’ the 14th full-length album from the mighty Cannibal Corpse. There are few bands that can pull of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” method for as long as Cannibal has but all these years later they seem to make it work. It takes a special kind of act to put out this many albums without having to change much at all to their sound and still sound fresh and unrepetitive but when you basically are the godfathers of an entire movement in music you tend to know exactly how to make it work. All the things that make a terrific Cannibal Corpse album are present here. Brutally fast drumming, intense death metal riffage all thanks to guitarist Pat O’Brien & Rob Berret (who have played together on the last 5 Cannibal Corpse full-lengths) and then, of course, there are the vocals of Mr. Corpsegrinder himself George Fisher. There is a reason why he has become THE GUY for death metal vocals. He stands out dramatically from literally all of CC’s peers, as his voice is both strong and intense sounding from his first words to his last on each and every album, plus his range of screams are unmatched by any. His signature screeching yell is simply out of this world. Bottom line its Cannibal Corpse being Cannibal Corpse which for most metal fans in this world is enough on its own. ‘Red Before Black’ in itself seems to be a true staple in the band’s career particularly when looking at the band’s last 5 albums. Favorite song: “Only One Will Die”. FFO: Deicide, Cattle Decapitation, Obituary.
12. Pallbearer – “Heartless”. As I mentioned before I’ve got love for all sub-genres of metal music, however, the one I’m the most picky about is doom. In fact, when I was younger I flat didn’t like hardly any of it but as I grew older I began to grow a taste for it. Then this album came about. ‘Heartless’ is the 3rd full-length album from Little Rock Arkansas doom metal band Pallbearer and I’ll admit it; I knew little next to nothing about this band until a few months after this came out and I read several reviews going on about how amazing it was. I finally gave it a listen (this album is 7 songs clocking in at 60min long) and quickly got on board. From start to finish just a beautiful, slow, heavy grooving album. The vocals performed by guitarist/co-founder Brett Campbell are absolutely terrific on this album. The emotion, harmonies, and perfect choice of melody he uses gives the album the proper character it deserves. Unlike a majority of the previous albums on this list that focus on enhancing speed and brutalness, Pallbearer is literally the polar opposite while they maintain a lot of heaviness their focus is on creating a melodic and ambient atmosphere. The bottom line here is Pallbearer is a fantastic doom band that stepped outside the box and made an extremely intelligent record that showcases what this band has to offer and what they’re made of. This album is very much worthy of all it’s praise. Favorite song: “Dancing in Madness”. FFO: High On Fire, YOB, Spirit Adrift.
11. Through The Eyes Of The Dead – “Disomus“. The history of deathcore goes back a lot longer than most of its current fan base are aware of. Back when bands like The Red Chord & Premonitions Of War were starting to lay the groundwork for what would become one of the most popular forms of extreme metal of the modern day, there was a band from South Carolina that was following right behind them; Through The Eyes Of The Dead. The band released their first EP ‘The Scar Of Ages’ (2004) followed by a split album with The Knife Trade (2005) that very quickly gained the band some attention showcasing their style of At The Gates meets Cannibal Corpse style of death metal mixed in with breakdown-heavy metalcore that was especially popular at that time. Prosthetic Records eventually signed the band and they would go on to release three full-length albums amidst a lengthy amount of lineup changes resulting in the only original member currently left being guitarist Justin Longshore. ‘Disomus’ marks the band’s first release in 8 years (4th full length overall/first on eOne Records) and is the second album to feature vocalist Dan Rodriguez (Roman Ring) and maybe one of the strongest releases in their already impressive catalog as a band. The riffs go on for days as Justin Longshore along with newcomer Steven Funderburk (Wretched) manage to compile strong song structure in these tunes that still have an old TTEOTD feel to it while also showing that as a songwriter Justin, in particular, has continued to improve upon himself. For this album, the band also decided to bring back original vocalist Anthony Gunnels and his replacement Nate Johnson to each do a guest spot on this album. So vocally it’s got an 360 degrees of TTEOTD feel on this record. Bottom line: Through The Eyes of the Dead are in my opinion innovators of the deathcore genre and on this album they made one hell of a comeback after taking as much time off as they have. Just a sonically brutal album from start to finish. Favorite song: “Obitual”. FFO: Fit For An Autopsy, All Shall Perish, The Last Ten Seconds Of Life.
10. Nothing More – ” The Stories We Tell Ourselves”. Ok, so right away several of you may be thinking “is Nothing More really a metal band?” Maybe they fit closer to alternative rock, however, they do have some heavy influence in their music so, for now, let’s just keep it at that and all accept that Nothing More’s new album is gonna be on our list and for good reason – this album is great! While having formed in 2003 it wasn’t until 2013 when the San Antonio natives released their self-titled album which the band then self-funded (which required an over 3-year recording time) that things began to take off. And they took off BIG for Nothing More. The album alone generated several hit singles including “This Is The Time (Ballast)” and the crowd favorite “Jenny”. Other bands were taking notice as major acts such as Five Finger Death Punch, Periphery, and Disturbed took the band out on tour helping generate a large fan base of their own, leading the band to become a headlining act of their own right. Now here we are with the follow up “The Stories We Tell Ourselves”. Much like with the self-titled album, the band spent several years crafting this album and it certainly shows. Nothing More has a style that is truly unique as they weave songs that bounce between high-energy and through the roof, to big anthemic crowd pleasers, to melodic and emotional. They have the tools for all of that. Guitarist Mark Vollelunga and bassist Danny Oliver together craft the tone for all the different feels given off by NM including some djent like song structure (that was also heavily present on the bands self-titled album) and drummer Ben Anderson (who joined the band in 2015) is the perfect backbone for all the band’s twists and turns. Vocalist Jonny Hawkins once again lets his pipes fly on this album. Not only is he an extremely energetic frontman to watch live but through his singing alone he’s able to give off that sort of vibe on the record. The guy’s voice is just simply flawless and fits NM’s music perfectly. Bottom line: Nothing More are not some generic run-of-the-mill radio rock band that popped up out of nowhere and started making hits for mindless music fans. No, this is a damn good and talented band that is past the point of being “up and coming” and their three recent Grammy nominations (Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song) are pretty clear proof of that. Favorite song: “Ripping Me Apart”. FFO: 10 Years, Periphery, I Prevail.
9. Morbid Angel – “Kingdoms Disdained”. Since their studio debut in 1991 with ‘Altars of Madness’ Florida’s Morbid Angel led by guitarist Trey Azagthoth have become a household name in the world of metal – specifically as one of the pioneering acts of death metal. Even despite a large number of member changes that have created essentially two different eras of Morbid Angel; the Dave Vincent era & the Steve Tucker era. Both have appeared and reappeared over the years but regardless of which era of Morbid Angel it is, they both have managed to spawn death metal classics galore including ‘Blessed are the Sick’, ‘Domination’, and ‘Gateways to Annihilation’. Now we arrive to the year 2017 with Morbid Angel bringing back Steve Tucker on bass and vocals along with newcomers Dan Vadim (guitar) and Scott Fuller (drums) to round out the lineup. “Kingdoms Disdained” is the follow-up to “Illud Divinum Insanus” which was received poorly by both fans and critics with some dubbing it as the “St.Anger” of death metal… ouch. However, never fear ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ is a glorious return to form for the band and is held up to expectations Morbid Angel fans have set for the band since their early years. Guitarist/founder Trey Azagthoth did a phenomenal job keeping Morbid Angel’s sound consistent and fresh even with the addition of two new members. This is something ya’ll have seen me mention on a few other albums on this list: Keeping consistent material for a death metal band that’s been around that long and not coming off as tired or lackluster is hard within its own let alone coming up with something that’s this good. The re-welcoming of Steve Tucker (who hasn’t appeared on an MA record since 2003’s ‘Heretic”) I believed helped spark familiar, yet at the same time, new life into the group. Bottom line: Aside from essentially one album Morbid Angel have had a near-perfect catalog for over 30 years and ‘Kingdom’s Disdained’ is now officially a part of that list. A glorious triumph for one of the most legendary bands in all of death metal. Favorite song: “Garden Of Disdain”. FFO: Hate Eternal, Exhumed, Autopsy.
8. Kreator – “God’s Of Violence”. German thrashers Kreator have been going at it for quite some time now. 1982 to be precise. What Mille Petrozza (vocals/guitar) & Jurgen Reil (drums) have managed to accomplish over this time has been nothing short of impressive. In 2017, the band released their newest album ‘God’s of Violence’ an album in which I was personally blown away by right from the first listen. First, the guitar playing on this record from Petrozza and Sami Yli Sirmio (who joined in 2001) is without a doubt the most standout attribute on this album. Essentially it’s flawless. The riffing is speedy yet tasteful, with plenty of harmonizing that flow throughout the album; and as far as solos go well let’s just say there is plenty to be had. Another major stand out for me on this record was the production handled by Jenus Borgren (who’s worked with a large number of metal acts over the years including Soilwork, Paradise Lost, and The Devin Townsend Project). The sound is huge on this record. Simply perfect for such a band. From the bang and crash of each drum hit, to the thunderous bass tone and the crisp guitar sound, all the way to Mille’s signature vocal sound it’s all the way a truly great metal record should sound. Bottom line: Kreator know how to make a good metal record despite which direction they decide to go with but it’s when they choose to go ‘full throttle’ with it that they shine the best; such as this album. Favorite song: “God’s Of Violence”. FFO: Slayer, Exodus, Overkill.
7. Code Orange – “Forever”. This album simply took me and pretty much the whole world for that matter by complete surprise. Formed in Pittsburgh in 2008 originally under the name Code Orange Kids as a hardcore band until 2015 when the band released ‘I Am King’ dropping the ‘kids’ from their name. That particular album and name change marked a turning point for the band that which carried onto their most recent release ‘Forever’ in a big way. Combining all the rage of Earth Crisis, the industrial feel of Nine Inch Nails, and the intensity of Nails and Norma Jean all in one blistering heavy sound is the best way I can sum up this album. I know it sounds weird but that honestly sounds about right. Code Orange is a five-member band but has vocals performed by three different members in Eric Balerose (guitars/synth), Jami Morgan (drums), and Reba Myers (guitar) all whom bring their own vocal brand to the table including Reba performing a song almost entirely of clean vocals entitled ‘Bleeding In the Blur’ in which the band shot a music video for. It seems many are jumping on the Code Orange wagon this year. Big names within the scene including Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe took to social media to express how much they enjoyed ‘Forever’, Rolling Stone Magazine voted it as the best metal albums this year, the WWE had the band perform during a live event, and it was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Not a bad year I’d say for the Pittsburgh heavy hitters. Bottom line Code Orange have made a huge leap in their music career this year thanks to this album and it’s good enough to likely to go down as a true modern day classic. Favor song “Kill The Creator”. FFO: Knocked Lose, Harms Way, Oathbreaker.
6. Thy Art Is Murder – “Dear Desolation”. This next one comes from the land down under. Australia’s Thy Art Is Murder have experienced pretty good success early on but it wasn’t until their second full length “Hate” (the first to feature vocalist CJ McMahon) when things really started to take off for the group. Being the supporting act for Parkway Drive, playing the Mayhem Tour with Slayer, and performing the biggest fests the world over have been just some of the many perks the band has experienced over the years that have helped lead them to become the worldwide headliner they are today. ‘Dear Desolation’ is the 4th full length in the bands catalog and by my standard, it isn’t only the bands most solid and mature effort but perhaps one of the best modern-day deathcore albums I’ve heard in quite some time. There has always been a darker vibe in TAIM that has helped set them apart from their peers and that’s pretty noticeable on this album in particular, even members of the band have admitted to being very influenced by Behemoth – which is never a bad thing if you ask me. Vocalist CJ McMahon has somewhat of a natural anger to his vocal tone. It doesn’t necessarily sound that different from the band’s peers but has a passion behind the execution that’s certainly to be desired and what helps give TAIM their identity. When perfecting a good deathcore album one of the hardest things nowadays is attempting to stay relevant or original without having to change your sound completely and bottom line Thy Art Is Murder has consistently put out solid material in the genre and ‘Dear Desolation’ reigns as a staple album for the band. Favorite song “The Son Of Misery”. FFO: Whitechapel, Aversions Crown, Oceano.
5. Trivium – “The Sin and The Sentence“. It’s crazy to believe that Trivium has now released eight full-length albums. I still remember 2005’s ‘Ascendancy’ like it was yesterday, but 12 years later Trivium is still going as strong as ever. Lead by guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy along with longtime lead guitarist Corey Beaulieu Trivium has crafted some of the finest modern day metal albums some quickly becoming known as classics. On Trivium’s previous album, the band experimented with mainstream worthy material – particularly with the heavy use of clean vocals which were essentially used on the entire record. That side of the band is not lost on this album but it’s balanced out with some of Trivium’s trademark sound which obviously includes flawless guitar playing as Matt and Cory have proven very early in their career that these guys are no scrubs when it comes to their axemanship. This is also the first album to feature drummer Alex Bent who has also worked with Arkaik, Brain Drill, and Battlecross just to name a few and this guy absolutely kills it with some of the best percussion I’ve ever heard on a record from this band. Matt’s vocals on this album are another stand out. He’s pretty much gone back to his original formula of screaming and singing balanced out through out the record which considering how the music itself is written for this album seems to sound very fitting. The bottom line is while it is fair to say that this is a return to form of sorts for Trivium it’s worth noting that this is more of what the band has handcrafted over years of terrific albums coming together for one classic effort. Kudos once again to these Floridians! Favorite song “Beyond Oblivion”. FFO: Killswitch Engage, Machine Head, Avenged Sevenfold.
4. Mastodon – “Emperor Of Sand”. Atlanta Georgia’s Mastodon formed in the year 2000 and has experienced a pretty high volume of success over the years from both fans and critics alike starting with their groundbreaking album “Remission” to the prog-praised “Crack The Sky” and everything in between – since the band seems to do very little wrong in their career. Even in the live playing world, they’ve managed to build fan bases of both metal and rock touring successfully with the likes of both Slayer and Queens of the Stone Age. When “Emperor Of Sand” (the bands seventh full-length) came out this year it was immediately tagged on my radar as a ‘must-listen’ and sure enough, once again Mastodon did not disappoint. From the album’s headbanging opener ‘Sultans Curse’ to the sing-a-long of ‘Show Your Self” to the sludgy groove of ‘Steambreather’ the album packs everything the average Mastodon listener tends to look for in a new record. The lyrics behind the album are without a doubt a big stand out on this album as it’s centered around the story of a desert wander who has been marked for death. A majority of the albums story was inspired by members of Mastodon who had recent family and friends diagnosed with cancer which made this obviously a very emotional album for these guys to write but managed to still fire on all cylinders delivering some of the most intricate song structures and phenomenal vocal patterns this band has come up with. To say that this is the band’s best album ever is a little tricky because I don’t really think Mastodon has made a bad album ever so it’s really all a matter of opinion on which one would be considered the best but the bottom line is this is definitely an outstanding effort by them that certainly hold its own against any album they’ve ever released. Favorite song “Steambreather”. FFO Ghost, Fireball Ministry, Black Label Society.
3. Fleshkiller – “Awaken”. I can honestly say when I first heard of the existence of the band Fleshkiller (yes it’s one word for some reason) I was overwhelmed with joy. Why? One word; Extol. Extol was a melodic death metal band from Norway I was simply in love with when I was in high school. Their album ‘Undeceived’ if you have never heard it, I can’t recommend it enough. That band put out their last album in 2013 and that was the last the world heard of the band. Until now, Extol guitarist Ole Borud forms a new band Fleshkiller along with members of Shinning, The Burial, and Umpfel – the end result is breathtaking. To say this album exceeded expectations is an understatement. The album hit many different levels of influence they wear proudly on their shoulder combining melo-death, thrash, black metal, and progressive rhythms to complete the bands complex yet perfectly flowing sound. Ole being the main songwriter on this album seemed to pick up where he left off on the last Extol, which in no way is a bad thing. He even contributes a great deal of vocals along with fellow guitar player Ellisha Mullins. The majority of the vocals are very “At the Gates-like” with the higher pitched mid-range tone being most dominantly used however clean singing and harmonies are used a decent amount as well to compliment the bands more melodic parts. Bottom line: This album had me jumping out of my seat yelling “Bravo! Bravo!” It’s just an unbelievably solid effort from start to finish. Heavy, aggressive, and beautiful all rolled into one stunning piece of metal. One can only hope this band continues on! Favorite song: “Wisdom”. FFO: A Hill To Die Upon, Opeth, Borknagar.
2. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Nightbringers”. When TBDM released their last album ‘Abysmal’ it was featured on our top albums for 2015 with me citing that this band seemingly always comes out with a new release heavier and faster than their previous. Well in 2017, the band gave us ‘Nightbringers’ and their tradition continues! TBDM continued the path of melo-death/blackened death metal by today’s standards and is simply untouchable. Even despite the revolving door of members the band goes through, this album is the first to feature Brandon Ellis (Arsis/Cannabis Corpse), they simply don’t miss a beat but in fact, release one of the greatest efforts in a very long time. The band’s third full-length album ‘Nocturnal’ has pretty much stood the test of time as being a fan favorite and even a critic favorite, including with myself. Not that I’m dismissing the bands 4 full-lengths they’ve released since then (all being terrific albums) but Nocturnal really was career defining for the band. Having listened to Nightbringers on multiple occasions and seemingly always going back to it, it may rank right up there with it. Drummer Alan Cassidy who makes his 3rd album appearance for this band is a freaking machine gun playing death metal drumming about as good as anyone. Their new guitarist Brandon along with original member Brian Eschbach put together a note filled frenzy here. I’ve always loved how TBDM pay a great deal of attention to their brutal factor yet manage to keep a melodic atmosphere with the way the riffs are performed. It’s been a part of the band’s signature sound pretty much from day one. Of course, vocalist Trevor Strnad continues his style of evil highs and depths of Hell sounding lows that have become one of the most signature attributes to this band’s sound. Bottom line: The Black Dahlia Murder has become a landmark band in the modern-day extreme music genre and when they are playing at their full potential something truly special ends up taking place which is what we have here with Nightbringers. With an endless amount of death metal that came out in 2017, this one took the cake as the best of them all. Favorite Song ‘Widowmaker’. FFO: Behemoth, Job For A Cowboy, Enfold Darkness.
1. Darkest Hour – “Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora”. There are few bands active today that have made as big of an impact on the modern-day metal scene quite like Darkest Hour have. In their early careers, they were helping sculpt what would become modern-day metalcore without actually joining the trend full on with their aggressive blend of hardcore-infused thrash metal and the world quickly took notice. What followed was album after album of head-turners that constantly saw Darkest Hour expand on their already well-crafted sound but executed unlike anybody in their class. Their previous self-titled record was an interesting step in a different direction for the band, it was still heavy and full of tasteful riffing yet over half of the vocals on the album were actually clean vocals which is quite a new direction for the band and overall received mixed reviews but mostly positive from critics. Fast forward to 2017 and Darkest Hour didn’t just go back to the basics but cranked their amps up to 11 and the intensity up to a thousand to deliver one of the most sonically blistering albums of an already extremely storied career with ‘The Godless Prophets….’ (released via Southern Lord Records). The album was produced Converge’s Kurt Ballou who in my opinion was the perfect man to engineer this album considering the epic pace at which this album is set to. Guitarist and original member Mike Scheibaum along with fellow axeman Michael Carrigan in a lot of ways bring back a very old school Darkest Hour feel that goes back to the band’s first three albums. Perhaps if those three albums were written angrier and faster; as the At the Gates-like riffing is still very much prevalent but there is a greater attention to detail to the hardcore thrash crossover influence. Vocalist John Henry has always been a personal favorite of mine. His voice is pretty recognizable with Darkest Hour’s sound and it helps give the band their own identity even though their music alone has helped them do that over the years. He’s got a scream that definitely compliments the Swedish death metal sounds of old but he sounds more like he’s yelling than he is actually screaming, which gives an extra kick in the butt of aggression to Darkest Hour’s music. Bottom line: I haven’t generally been disappointed by anything this band has done but I was definitely was loving every single second of this album. There is a spunk and overall aggression to it that I feel like has been lost in this kind of music for a very long time. I can’t recommend this album enough!! Favorite song “The Flesh and The Flowers Of Death”. FFO: At The Gates, Soilwork, Rotten Sound.
So there you have it folks my top 20 metal albums of 2017. Here’s to hoping we get another group of excellent metal releases here in 2018. There are already quite a few big names out there expected to make new releases this year that I’m waiting patiently for – so until then we have at least these 20 albums of 2017 to hold us over. As always you can catch me on my podcast the Underground Pub show every Wednesday at 8:45 p.m. Central Time at https://www.facebook.com/undergroundpubshow/. Until next time, thanks for reading and stay metal.