What a year, amirite? Between the suicides of beloved 90’s and ’00s singers, the jarring difference between our last and current leader of the country, and the just-passed news of net neutrality ending, it’s been a rough year. Fortunately, as always, there’s always music to seek solace in, and this year was a pretty good one for metal. Whether in despair over the loss of a musician you loved, in solidarity against the system, or to bang your head and shake your ass to, music never lets you down. Here’s what I liked listening to the most this year.
10) Black Wail, Chromium Homes (Rhyme & Reason Records)
If I don’t pick my band’s own album, who will? Actually, I’m honestly pretty proud of this record, which just came out today. It sounds great, it’s diverse and fun, and for some reason, Metal Sucks called is the best thing to come out of jersey since the Holland Tunnel! I wouldn’t go that far, but at least the Bayonne Bridge. Regardless, it’s my column and I’ll gloat if I want to, and I’m proud of the hard work that went into creating this album and hope you give a listen to it.
Suggested track: “Thee Ghost”
9) Darkest Hour, Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora (Southern Lord)
It’s not like I’d written off Darkest Hour – they’ve always been a quality band. However, their last album, and only one for Sumerian, found them leaning into an almost rock direction. Thankfully, that didn’t stick and they’ve returned with what might be their heaviest album yet – over 20 years into their career. Produced by Kurt Ballou, it’s a surprisingly vital return to form for the band.
Suggested track: “Timeless Numbers”
8) Decapitated, Anticult (Nuclear Blast)
If there’s anything that 2017 proved, it’s that there’s a reckoning coming for those that treat women as objects. Started by Harvey Weinstein, powerful men started to fall like dominoes, with Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Al Franken and more getting called out for sexual misconduct and worse. Somewhere in between was Decapitated, who spent their fall in jail following accusations of gang rape around a Spokane, Washington show. While they haven’t been found guilty yet, they certainly are in the court of public opinion. If indeed they are found guilty, then they’re despicable, but there are shades of grey. It’s hard to separate the art from the artist, but before this happened, the band’s seventh album was already a lock for my top ten.
Suggested track: “Never”
7) Pallbearer, Heartless (Profound Lore)
Sometimes a band will put a new spin on a classic genre. Other times, they’ll elevate it entirely. Pallbearer did both with their second album, 2014’s Foundations of Burden. A modern doom classic, it’d be hard to improve on such a fantastic record. And while Heartless might not, at least to my ears, reach the highs that their last album did, it comes really close. This seven track slab of heaviness continues the work they started with their last album, and continues to deviate from the doom playbook. “Thorns” is even an economical five and a half minutes!
Suggested track: “Thorns”
6) Converge, The Dusk In Us (Epitaph)
Five years in the making, The Dusk In Us was worth the wait. As the seminal hardcore/metalcore band’s average age hovers around 40, they haven’t gotten any less ferocious, but have continued to experiment with their sound. For example, the off-kilter stomp of “Under Duress,” is pretty much their take on the blues, and the title track is a moody album that finds Jacob Bannon singing as opposed to shrieking, expanding on the sound they began exploring on Axe to Fall, but 2:20 bangers like “I Can Tell You About Pain” find them more vital than bands half their age. As their members continue to explore outside interests (like Jacob Bannon’s Wear Your Wounds, Ben Koller’s Mutoid Man and Kurt Ballou’s every album that sounds great in 2017), Converge continue to be one of the most influential heavy bands of the last quarter century.
Suggested track: “Under Duress”