My Favorite Records of 2017

2017 I feel like I listened to less new stuff than last year. I also think I went to more live shows and played more guitar so who knows? According to last.fm I did still consume quite a bit, these were my favorites.

25.) The Contortionist - Clairvoyant

Their best yet, in my opinion. I got to see them with Between the Buried and Me at the Colors show. These Indiana natives pulled off every note live. Mike Lessard really is becoming one of the better vocalists in metal, I hope he continues that upswing.

24.) Amenra - Mass VI

Crushing. If you’re familiar with these sludgy titans you know what you’re getting into. Mass VI is awesome, from start to finish. Listen to this one loud.

23.) St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

This caught me completely by surprise, as I was unfamiliar with Annie Clark before having this recommended to me by a coworker. I love this record. Her voice combined with her oddly familiar vocal cadence and lyrics really drew me in, but her guitar chops…oh man, some really fantastic harmonies and voicings going on here.

22.) Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar

How to describe this beautiful piece of music? The best I can come up with is “Aggro Pop” but that’s kind of missing the point, I think. This group of musicians has been constantly reinventing their sound since the days of their black metal leanings, and I for one welcome all the weirdness.

21.) Zaius - Of Adoration

Fellow Chicago metallers hit a grand slam with Of Adoration. These guys just got signed to Prosthetic Records, and a worthy signing, indeed. A perfect blend of guitar beauty and simultaneously crushing riffs and rhythm.

20.) Black Road - Black Road

My new homies from Joliet bring their unique blend of bluesy doom on their debut EP. Suzi’s voice combined with Tim’s shred level guitar melodies make for some truly memorable tunes. Backed by Rob and Casey in the rhythm section, I look forward to the next batch of brilliance from them.

19.) Converge - The Dusk In Us

This is how you do it. What an incredible record. Jacob Bannon delivers, in my opinion, his best writing since Jane Doe, and some of the best vocal performances in the history of metal. I can’t believe how heavy Kurt’s guitar tone is on this record, either. Instaclassic.

18.) Glassjaw - Material Control

Holy shit, Glassjaw released a new record! And it’s awesome! This hearkens back to Worship & Tribute days, for me. It actually feels like a Part II to that record at some points, but maybe that’s just because I’m so happy to have this much new music from them at one time. Daryl shines like always, but the guitar and bass from Justin (and drums from The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Billy Rymer) are what steals the show for me. No disappointments here.

17.) Dreadnought - A Wake In Sacred Waves

I love this band. The follow up to my favorite record of 2015, Bridging Realms, this record brings 4 new dense compositions to get your mind around. The perfect blend of doom, black metal, jazz, folk, and prog, these Denver virtuosos keep writing the songs that make me humble as a musician. I’m still looking forward to seeing them live for the first time, hopefully that happens this year!

16.) Myrkur - Mareridt

The fantastic followup to 2015’s M, this is Amelie Bruun really finding her voice and channeling some truly phenomenal performances into a wonderful record. A haunting blend of atmospheric black metal, folk, and doom, combine into a cauldron of music that really scratches a lot of itches that I love about music. I can’t wait for the next one and to finally get to see her perform live this year.

15.) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe

5 albums in one year. Each one can stand on it’s own. I wasn’t too familiar with these Aussie’s before I heard them announce their audacious 2017 plans, but I’d be lying if I said that didn’t bias my opinion of them. I had heard Nonagon Infinity but I don’t think I really absorbed it or gave it proper attention. That said, I am a true believer now. I enjoyed all their releases this year, but hands down my favorite is Murder of the Universe. What an epic concept album, I love everything about it. The voice overs, the themes and motifs, the arrangements, the performances, the lyrics, all of it. Saddle up and get ready for a crazy trip of a musical journey, you won’t be disappointed.

14.) Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

More along the same ride that Abyss took us on, Hiss Spun is Chelsea Wolfe coming into her own. A beautiful record full of her best vocal performances and some incredible atmosphere.

13.) Rezn - Let It Burn

I got to meet these dudes at one of their Empty Bottle shows shortly after Let It Burn was released, cool guys. Turns out they practice in the same space that I do, small world. What an awesome fuzzed out, crushingly heavy stoner doom record. Non stop, soul crushing riffs and melodies mixed with some of the most psychedelic vocal performances I’ve ever heard. They pulled it all off flawlessly live, too. Great band, great record, check it out.

12.) The Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers

If you know me well, you know I love me some Black Dahlia Murder. This is their best since Nocturnal, in my opinion. I miss Ryan Knight on lead guitar, but Brandon Ellis is more than capable and rips some shredtastic solos all over the place. The death metal kings do it again.

11.) Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

I am a very big Mastodon fan. I loved this record. Every time they go into the studio they seem to be channeling some kind of life turmoil, which is unfortunate, but it seems to really make for some epic, memorable music. This is no exception. I enjoyed The Hunter and Once More ‘Round the Sun, but this one feels like a return to form for the concept record titans. It’s not their best, but it belongs in the same conversation as Leviathan, Crack the Skye, and Blood Mountain.

10.) The Drip - The Haunting Fear of Inevitability

This record came out of nowhere and demanded my attention, and once it had it there was no letting go. There is some chaos here. Frantic, break neck drumming combined with incredible screaming delivery and razor sharp guitar riffing and now I want to go start a pit.

9.) Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Flawless. Again. How does this dude manage to just release perfection like this on such a regular basis? I liked To Pimp a Butterfly better, I think, but this record is pretty close. Every track is a single. Every track is one of the best hip-hop songs ever recorded.

8.) Ghost Bath - Starmourner

This also came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. Every scream on this record sounds like lead vocalist Dennis Mikula is dying the most horrific death you could think of. A haunting blend of black metal and psychdelic post metal, if you like music you should check this out.

7.) Archspire - Relentless Mutation

Everyone in this band is a virtuoso on their respective instruments. I love this record. Technical death metal at it’s finest. I think I watched Jared Smith’s bass playthrough of the title track once a day for months. One of these days I’ll get to see these Canadians. Until then, I’ll just keep listening to this masterpiece.

6.) Mutoid Man - War Moans

What a fun record! These guys are what rock and roll should be all about, all the time. Stephen Brodsky shreds and croons, Nick Cageo is a monster on the bass, and the highly prolific Ben Koller delivers the expected excellence on the drums. The closing track, Bandages, which features a cameo from Chelsea Wolfe, is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Melodic sludge and stoner metal excellence here, I want more.

5.) Pallbearer - Heartless

Pallbearer is slowly becoming one of my favorite bands. I might have listened to this record the most of any other release in 2017. I keep going back and forth on whether I like this or Foundations of Burden the best. Pallbearer have ascended to royalty on this record. The dual vocal harmonies between Brett Campbell and Joseph Rowland have matured on this release, and their duality shines through. The production acts like the 5th member of the band here, with some incredible guitar tones throughout. I got see them twice this year, once at Thalia Hall in Chicago and once at The House in DeKalb, and both performances were flawless. These guys have done it again.

4.) Tchornobog - Tchornobog

Best name ever. I listened to this album for the first time in mid December, but by New Year’s it was cemented as one of my favorite albums of the year, maybe of the decade. Time will tell. Atmospheric black metal at it’s finest. But there’s so much more than that! Dense, rich compositions that entwine themselves on each other. Psychedelic textures that evoke some eerie images, reminiscent of the album cover artwork. Frenetic tempo changes that constantly churn throughout even a single movement. I didn’t know what to expect when I was told about this record, but it’s one of the best metal records I’ve heard this decade, and it’s still growing it’s tendrils inside my brain. Fantastic, if a bit more complex than the usual listen.

3.) Cloak - To Venomous Depths

How to describe Cloak…I think melodic metal would be the closest without pigeon holing them, but that’s no fun, is it? These dudes can craft a great metal song, I tell you what. There’s tons of Watain and old In Flames influences in their riffs and writing, that’s for certain. I’ve been listening to this record nonstop since it was released in November, and it’s already apparent that this one will stand the test of time. There’s hints of thrash, death metal, prog, hardcore (especially in the drums…) and just good ol’ fashioned heavy metal through and through. It has a little bit of everything that makes me love music. Listen to this and then thank me later and we can chat about how much I enjoy the guitar production throughout this entire record. Phenomenal debut LP.

2.) Elder - Reflections of a Floating World

This was my favorite record until my eventual number one was released, and even then it was pretty close and back and forth. I listened to this masterpiece so many times this year that I think I could beatbox the whole thing if I tried hard enough (probably not…). I got to see these guys at Reggie’s this year (with my friends in Black Road opening!) and they opened with Sanctuary, which might be my favorite song of the year. That song encapsulates what I love about Elder in a single track. 3 movements, each distinct in their own right but coming together to unify a singular theme throughout. They do that so well it’s criminal. Reflections of a Floating World is Elder’s best record to date and it shines so brightly it will never fade. Nick DiSalvo’s guitar and vocal work here are both brilliant. Psychdelic stoner metal at it’s absolute pinnacle here, this is easily one of my favorites of the decade, let alone this past year.

1.) Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

There was much hype prior to the release of Mirror Reaper. I’ve been a big fan of Bell Witch for a while now, and hearing about the passing of their ex drummer, Adrian Guerra, in the midst of conceiving this record came as a shock to me, so I can’t imagine how the band felt and dealt with the loss themselves. I’m not sure how much the knowledge and lore of all this affected my enjoyment and acclaim for this work of art. All I know is that it’s hands down the most beautiful piece of music I’ve had the pleasure to experience this year. This band does not need a guitarist to craft incredible melodies. Dylan Desmond shines throughout this 83 minute funeral doom opus, not once playing a note that feels out of place or forced. This record feels painful, and I can only imagine what it felt like to record. Mountains of words have already been written about this album, I will just say that this is one of the most powerful musical experiences I have ever been a part of, and as sad as the events are that lead up to it, I’m grateful that I have been able to take part in enjoying it. Adrian’s words from the Four Phantoms sessions work wonderfully well in the middle of the album and it’s overwhelming to consider his voice from the grave echoing the feelings of his friend and former bandmate. This is not an easy listen in the slightest, but it’s one of the most rewarding I’ve ever felt. Thank you, Bell Witch, for sharing this work of art with the world, despite all the grief and sadness that this ultimately must have elided in the process. Without question my favorite album of the year. Also, some of the coolest album artwork in the history of music.

Honorable Mentions

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