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Favorite music of 2017
Posted: Posted December 31st, 2017
Edited December 31st, 2017 by nullfather

AOTY: Iron Reagan - Crossover Ministry

Punchy and to-the-point, yet varied and experimental. Extremely engaging listen that I've come back to many times.

Runners-up:

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

Just really, really solid thrash. Extremely derivative, but very well-done. You know exactly what you're getting, for better or worse. As a consequence, though, a lot of the tracks seem to blend together in my mind. If they experimented a little more, this would have been a consideration for AOTY. But nothing they do here is close to Iron Reagan in terms of true artistry, in my opinion.

Persefone - Aathma

Dramatic, epic melodeath that, sonically speaking, is like their previous album but a little bit better. The cleans are just this side of cheesy and the solos are just this side of wanky. A good balance of the hallmarks of prog and melodeath with just good common sense about not making it feel like an over-written ordeal. If I had any kind of investment in melodic death metal, this would have been a strong contender for AOTY.

The Necromancers - Servants of the Salem Girl

This album tickles my brain. It's right on the edge of hard rock and heavy metal, featuring vocals that range from clean-but-manly to a hard-driven whiskey growl. Classic metal worship that mixes fun and heaviness in equal amounts, and with such subtlety that this might have been my AOTY if I hadn't discovered it in December and had been given enough time to listen to it over a few months. Another entry in the list of albums that evince the idea that, for whatever reason, French people are really good at making metal.

Psychiatric Regurgitation - Blood, Cum & Tears

When I pushed the absurd edginess of their extreme metal aesthetic aside, I found a lot of very solid and even emotional music here. I initially listened to this album because the cover art was entirely terrible, but I was shocked to find that the music was not only decent, but actually resonant. Here, they ably mix death, black and thrash metal into a product that, in my opinion, makes good use of the strengths of each style without falling victim to the flaws of each style. When you consider the tropes of these styles and how often they are typically abused, that's a big pitfall to try to avoid. For an indie band, this is a real gem in the rough.

Venenum - Trance of Death

Old-school revival death metal with a true sense of the elements at play in the style instead of just the production tricks. Evil that actually has character instead of using ever-increasing detachment and extremity as an excuse for it. This is where what is undoubtedly one of my most obsessively-listened-to tracks of the year came from (Cold Threat). I think that it's much like Nightmare Logic in that you mostly know what you're getting into at the beginning, but so well done that it's not a slog to listen to - it feels fresh to me. While I obviously hesitate to make claims about what a metal outsider may think, I believe that the stylistic choices here are presented in a clear enough way that even someone who doesn't listen to death metal could understand it. That kind of clarity is rare in the genre without diluting it significantly.

Dishonorable mentions:

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand

A big ol' mess. Buried guitars (except for the solos, which are loud as fuck), fronted vocals, an obtrusively overladen production style and precisely one track that I liked (Steambreather - if you only listen to one track off this turd, make it that one). Mastodon has made the transition from being a metal band to being a "metal band". Their increasing detachment from the metal aesthetic and ethos has delighted casuals and insecure/"self-aware" metalheads all over the internet, but older fans and people that listened to them for metal are dropping them like crazy. There's nothing here that even comes close to their glory days of Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye, which are (respectfully) heavier, more experimental and groovier then Emperor of Sand. Despite how their dickriders want to talk about how amazing and innovative they are for doing something "new" (that term is used extremely loosely), there is nothing backing that opinion but new-album shock and rationalization. The intellectual gymnastics and dishonesty employed by their fanboys has reached never-before-seen heights.

I was so hype to listen to the leak, but my excitement was unceremoniously crushed by the time the second track rolled around. Yes, they are "trying new things" in the sense that they're making a pop-rock album. No, that is not progress. That's a significant step back for them. Despite the fact that Blood Mountain was weird as fuck, that became their biggest breakout album. [Though Leviathan was their "breakout" album, Blood Mountain was an absolute battery of killer tracks like Circle of Cysquatch, Bladecatcher, Capillarian Crest, Colony of Birchmen and Hand of Stone, with features from huge names like Scott Kelly, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and Josh Homme.] Despite the fact that Crack the Skye was nowhere near as heavy as their previous albums, it was a significant progression in terms of their elemental cycle and the attention with which they made concept albums. Emperor of Sand sounds like a weedy, dancey, over-produced piece of shit, like it was created by a bunch of suits in a boardroom who all had to get their ideas in and make sure it was poppy enough to sell 900,000,000 copies. The only good thing is that it's not part of their elemental cycle, which means that there's still hope that the cycle won't be dragged down to an overall mediocrity when they finally release an album for the element of Fire.

I am the mighty Sun-Column.
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I haven't really listened to a lot of new albums this year. But the one that I did that really sticks out to me and I still just adore months later is Arcade Fire's "Everything Now." I keep expecting them to put out an album I am not that into, but they keep putting out stuff I love.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by Jet Presto
Jet Presto
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