As 2017 wheezes to a close, it’s time to take a look at the year that was in terms of heavy music. We’ve already had contributors Jeff Podoshen and Chris Annunziata weigh in on what floated their boats in 2017, and now it’s time to see what Zach Shaw thought of the year in heavy.
10t: Dead Cross, Dead Cross (Ipecac), and Darkest Hour, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora (Southern Lord)
It was REALLY tough for me to pick which of these two albums would take the final spot in my top 10. So I did my usual “Screw, I’ll make it a tie” routine, and here we are!
First we have Dead Cross, a hardcore punk supergroup consisting of Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo. It’s a concept that would make any fan salivate, and even though Patton joined in on the fun late in the game (adding his vocals after the band recorded the music with another singer who bailed after the sessions completed), the band’s debut does not disappoint. Hearing Patton’s vocals played against a raw, in-your-face backdrop of aggression is such an enjoyable contrast to the experimental side we’re used to hearing from him lately. However the true shining moments of Dead Cross’ debut are Lombardo’s intense drumming and Mike Crain’s (also of Retox) razor-sharp guitar riffs.
Then we have Darkest Hour’s ninth studio album, proving that the D.C. outfit truly are one of the most underrated metalcore acts out there today. John Henry sounds like he’s putting every ounce of himself into every note and lyric he screams throughout the album. It perfectly complements the next-level guitar riffs and solos of Mike Schleibaum and Michael “Lonestar” Carrigan, resulting in a truly phenomenal demonstration of melodic aggression.
Key Tracks from Dead Cross: “Obedience School” and “The Future Has Been Cancelled”
Key Tracks from Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora: “Timeless Numbers” and “Those Who Survived”
9) Byzantine, The Cicada Tree (Metal Blade)
You’ve heard a majority of Metal Insider’s writers and myself declare how Byzantine were such an underappreciated band of the NWOAHM scene in the 2000s, a fact further proven by their 2013 self-titled comeback and 2015’s To Release Is To Resolve. However The Cicada Tree not only proves they are worthy of getting support from Metal Blade Records (after slugging it out DYI style for the past two albums), but that Byzantine still has a lot more to offer the metal scene. This album has the extreme groove and complex riffage you’d expect from the Byz, but packs it with even more progression and darkness (case in point: “Map of the Creator”). Chalk this up as another victory for frontman Chris “OJ” Ojeda and the West Virginian gang, though this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise … BECAUSE NOBODY BEATS DA BYZ!
Key Tracks: “Vile Maxim” and “Map of the Creator”
8) Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
By now you’ve probably already heard from every metal snob how Power Trip is the future of thrash metal … and for good reason. So many bands try to sound like old-school thrash and hardcore just for the sake of it, not contributing anything new or unique. However, Nightmare Logic has such a refreshing sound to it that makes the band stand out amongst the clutter. Sure, you can definitely hear the Dallas outfit’s influences, but there’s also a sense of modern aggression that can be heard throughout the album. Power Trip has always been a fun band, but Nightmare Logic is an incredible display of raw rage and control, a balance that proves they really are the future of thrash.
Key Tracks: “Executioner’s Axe (Swing of the Axe)” and “Waiting Around to Die”
7) Trivium, The Sin and the Sentence (Roadrunner)
To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much out of Trivium’s eighth album. I’ve always loved the band, but 2015’s Silence in the Snow was such a blatant attempt at crossing over to the hard rock mainstream (something that doesn’t typically bother me) that I hated how much I actually liked the album (the songs are just sssooo catchy). Then out of nowhere comes The Sin and the Sentence, an album that reminds you of what makes Trivium so special. Unsurprisingly the album’s musicianship is top notch. Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu’s guitar riffs and solos are better than ever, Heafy continues to show how strong and unique of a singer he’s become, and Alex Bent’s drumming is a great addition. However the true star of this album is the songwriting. Each song has an edge of darkness, hostility and complexity to it without compromising melodic and accessible hooks (so in other words, the songs are as heavy as they are catchy). Some past musical choices may have left some fans doubtful about Trivium’s place in today’s metal scene. The Sin and the Sentence shatters that doubt.
Key Tracks: “The Heart from your Hate” and “Sever the Hand”
6) Code Orange, Forever (Roadrunner)
Power Trip may be the future of thrash metal, but Code Orage is the future of extreme music in general, a bold proclamation I dare say Forever cements. Granted, the Pittsburgh group’s revitalizing brand of metal and hardcore has been beloved by critics and fans alike for a while now. But Forever finds them not only taking their aggressive sound to another level, but even incorporating industrial and 90s alt-rock influences into it. Such a mix would typically backfire on most bands, but on songs like “Bleeding in the Blur” and “Ugly,” Code Orange succeed. Thus, Forever is truly an album that proves Code Orange won’t let their rage be pigeon held by any single genre.
Key Tracks: “Bleeding in the Blur” and “No One is Untouchable”