2017 was definitely a better year than 2016, and I’ve had a lot more time to focus on metal because I’m not dealing with 21 credit hours of schoolwork in one semester (don’t blow off your online classes, kids). I got to have Trevor Strnad teach me how to do death growls, and I even got to go to New York City and hang out with the overlords of MetalSucks themselves (I am of course referring to the legendary Axl Rosenberg and Vince Neilstein). I’ve noticed myself listening to a lot more calm-ish stuff this year when compared to last year, but that’s likely because I don’t have school stressing my shit out anymore and I have a stable day job. But do any of you really care about that? Probably not. What you really care about are the albums that made 2017 memorable for me. It wouldn’t be a Boozeman article if I didn’t encourage substance abuse, so crack open your favorite beer and get to listening.
15. Lakeshore – 41 (Outerloop Records)
Lakeshore aren’t necessarily the heaviest thing you’ll hear all year, but their music has a lot more emotion in it that most of the other stuff I’ve listened to this year. 41 is an EP that you can sit down and think to when you’re overwhelmed by the shitty stuff in your life and anger isn’t the right emotion for it. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to put these guys on here since two of the band members are also two of the founding members of Emmure, but Lakeshore has no trace of any Emmure sound, and at the end of the day, it’s Frankie Palmeri that we all hate and not necessarily the other members of Emmure, no matter how awful that band is. Regardless, there’s hardly any screaming on this EP, but it’s still something I enjoyed quite a bit. If Lakeshore put out a solid release after this, then I’m willing to forget about the fact that Ben and Joe Lionetti were in a band that had a song covered (and played better) by a dude who made a guitar out of one pickup, one string and a hockey stick.
14. In Search of Sun – Virgin Funk Mother (Spinefarm)
It was February 17, 2016 when I first covered this album. For nearly two fucking years, I have been waiting for Virgin Funk Mother to come out. But my patience was finally rewarded, because this album is every bit as awesome as I thought it would be. Imagine if Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo sang a little bit lower and played in a band not quite as heavy or djenty as Periphery. That’s essentially what we’re looking at here with In Search of Sun. Believe it or not, the fact that Periphery’s Nolly Getgood mixed the whole album has nothing to do with that comparison. Not only is this some of the best music to mellow out to that I’ve heard in a long, long time, Virgin Funk Mother probably has my favorite album artwork of the year. I cannot wait to her more from these guys.
13. Despite Exile – Relics (Lifeforce Records)
Despite Exile will likely be underrated for their entire career because they walk an odd line between deathcore and metalcore, but make no mistake, there is no clean singing to be found here and any traces of metalcore are in the vein of Trivium and Killswitch Engage rather than any of that good cop/bad cop trash you’ll find on Victory Records. Honestly, the label of “melodic deathcore” feels more appropriate for them, but even calling something “melodic deathcore” just sounds stupid to me. Despite Exile are heavy as fuck and rely just as much on melodies as they do on chugs. The end result is something fresh and listenable that is deeper than just death growls and a breakdowns. If regular deathcore hasn’t been doing it for you lately and you want something a little different, then let Despite Exile quench your thirst.
12. Winds of Plague – Blood of My Enemy (eOne / Good Fight)
I legitimately never thought that I would see the day where I put Winds of Plague on any sort of favorites list, but then again, I live in a world where an overgrown Cheeto can be the President of the United States, so I guess anything is possible. To be frank, Winds of Plagues’ past two albums have sucked. Hard. I was convinced that one of my favorite bands from high school was down and out after bombing with Resistance, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Blood of My Enemy is by no means the strongest release of the year. It has its flaws, such as overuse of gang vocals, lack of low vocals, and songs becoming somewhat monotonous. But this album showed that Winds of Plague can make a mature record, try something new, and actually succeed doing it. This time around, it feels like they’re writing actual songs instead of just writing half-assed deathcore riffs mixed in with hardcore gimmicks. I used to love this band so much that it broke my heart watching them put out crappy music for the past six years. Now I am overjoyed to say that although Winds of Plague still have some work to do, they aren’t stuck in the suck anymore.
11. Aprilmist – Remembrance (self-released)
We’ve all been here before: “Hey, check out this new bandddddd mannnnn, they’re soooooo good I swearrrrrrr,” says your friend with a notoriously shitty taste in music. 90% of that time, that sentence is bullshit and the band is terrible. But the other 10% of the time, that band is Aprilmist. Originally starting off as the one-man brainchild of vocalist Jon Houst in Lawrence, KS (fuck the Jayhawks by the way, M-I-Z), Aprilmist grew into a four-piece touring band in the Kansas City area that any fan of Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room, and any fan of ambient, atmospheric black metal will love. Aprilmist aren’t your typical black metal band in the sense that it’s all anger all the time. In fact, the music is quite uplifting at times because it represents not only death, but also life. Aprilmist have the perfect balance of harmony and chaos to represent that tension of life and death perfectly, and that’s not an easy feat to accomplish, especially considering this is only their second EP. Although Remembrance has only two tracks and clocks in at roughly twenty minutes, there’s more musical talent on display here than many bands show over their entire career.
10. The Contortionist – Clairvoyant (eOne / Good Fight)
I haven’t listened to much of The Contortionist since their first effort, Exoplanet, came out back in 2010. Had I not known that I was listening to The Contortionist before I listened to “Reimagined,” you could’ve put a gun to my head and told me it was the same band and I’d still think you were full of shit. I suppose that’s what happened when you don’t follow a band for seven years, though. However, just because The Contortionist aren’t particularly heavy anymore doesn’t mean they suck. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. I might not like this album quite as much and Vince does, but he’s spot on when he says that The Contortionist have “finally arrived and become entirely themselves.” You don’t necessarily need to be heavy throughout your entire musical career to be good. Clairvoyant is the kind of album that you can sit down and do some hard thinking to rather than getting lost in the whirlwind of anger that is normally metal. Not every risk a band takes pays off, but this one sure did.
9. All Hell – The Grave Alchemist (Prosthetic Records)
If you’ve ever found yourself balls deep in a game of Castlevania and realized that you are significantly lacking in music appropriate to fuck vampires to, then boy do I have the record for you. All Hell are a black/thrash band hailing from North Carolina, and The Grave Alchemist marks their first full-length released after signing to Prosthetic. All Hell are deliciously fucking evil, and really dig the darkness out of you. Again, I go back to Castlevania. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of band that game would be, then look no further. Go ahead and consider me seduced by “Vampiric Lust,” because the second I heard it, I knew I needed to hear the rest of this album… and I was certainly not disappointed. Got a pesky boner? Got a vampire in heat? Get yourself some All Hell.
8. The Kennedy Veil – Imperium (Unique Leader)
What a damn treat these guys are. I find out about them on a Monday and then discover that not only are they releasing an album that Friday, but are also playing a show in town that same day. At first, I figured these guys would be just another death metal band, but then I saw the The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad did guest vocals on “Flesh of the Sun” and the track was so good on its own that I completely forgot he was even on the song. The Kennedy Veil are death metal with atmosphere, not relying solely on death growls and heavy instruments. There’s more to the music here than just brutality, and that’s something I love. The keyboard bits in the music make it depressing and bleak, kind of like baking a death metal cake with black metal frosting. Does that sound delicious? It damn well fucking should, because that’s what The Kennedy Veil are: delicious.
7. Aetherian – The Untamed Wilderness (Lifeforce Records)
I feel comfortable saying that practically every metalhead knows who Amon Amarth and Dethklok are. Even if you don’t listen to either band, you still at least know of them. So what would it be like if Amon Amarth and Dethklok had a baby? Well, it would be exactly like Aetherian. Bands don’t generally hook me as fast as these dudes did with “Seeds of Deception,” but it has been well-documented that melodic death metal is my weakness, and these dudes hit the spot dead-on. Aetherian have the perfect balance of heavy and melodic to make you feel like you could go kill orcs in Middle Earth or murder your way through Greek mythology just like Kratos did in the God of War video games. If you like melodic death metal, then you would be dumb to sleep on this record. The Untamed Wilderness is the first full-length album from Aetherian, and they couldn’t have done it any better.
6. Through the Eyes of the Dead – Disomus (eOne / Good Fight)
Seven years after their last release, Through the Eyes of the Dead finally return to give us another ripper of an album. Considering the amount of time I’ve listened to deathcore, I should probably be grounded for not having listened to TTEOTD more. I’m serious, it’s a criminal offense, but my lawyer told me I don’t have to talk or answer questions about that. Disomus is a throwback to some of the old elements of deathcore that made the subgenre so enjoyable in the first place, including the raw vocals, melodic tremolo picking on guitars, and the straight-up rowdy chugging that makes you feel like your brain has turned into mush once the album is over. This is high-quality deathcore that will make you want to headbang faster than you can say “breakdowns.” It’s good to have these dudes back.
5. Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (Metal Blade
4. Enterprise Earth – Embodiment (StaySick Recordings)
“I AM THE OBSERRRRRRRVERRRRRRRRRRRRR!” That line from “Mortem Incarnatum” is my favorite opening lyric of the year. That’s also the five seconds of song I played for a few of my co-workers when they didn’t believe me that I listened to music heavier than Slipknot. Poor souls. I wish I had pictures of their faces when the instruments dropped. Enterprise Earth brought the filth back to deathcore in a time where many of the bigger deathcore bands seems to be going for more of a clean, groovy sound. That’s fine and all, but what made deathcore great in the first place was the unfiltered, grimy, gritty anger. Enterprise Earth are the filthiest shit I’ve heard in a long, long time, and I absolutely cannot wait to hear more from them. When I’m pissed and the only thing that can clear my head is senselessly angry music, Embodiment is my go-to album. Sure, any band can be angry and heavy, but to actually be as heavy as these dudes are and make all of the songs listenable, well, that’s some fucking talent right there. PSA: if someone from the Enterprise Earth camp could put I AM THE OBSERVER on a shirt so I could wear it, that’d be great.
3. Shadow of Intent – Reclaimer (self-released)
Honestly, the first time I heard about Shadow of Intent, I laughed. I love symphonic metal, but symphonic deathcore about Halo just seemed ridiculous. But then I listened to Reclaimer, and I’m proud to say that I don’t think my dick has ever gotten so hard so fast. Once the vocals in “We Descend” drop, Reclaimer will have a death grip on your testicles, and every track after will just make you want it to squeeze harder. I’m serious. The songwriting is great, the keyboards are great, the instruments are great and the vocals are fucking killer. And the best part? These dudes are in their early twenties, and this is their second full-length record. Going off how good they are now, I cannot wait to see the kind of crazy shit they put out on their next few albums, because if any upcoming band is destined for greatness, it is 100% Shadow of Intent.
2. Fit for an Autopsy – The Great Collapse (eOne / Good Fight)
When The Great Collapse dropped back in March, I was positive that it would be my faovirte album of the year. Well, I was close. After how unbelievably fucking good Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell was, I thought there was no way FFAA could get anywhere close to putting something that good out again. Fortunately, I was wrong. Listening to The Great Collapse is the auditory equivalent of having your ears fisted by Freddy Krueger, and it’s a feeling that couldn’t be more pleasant. Every track on this album hits you right in the gut and leaves an impact, especially “Black Mammoth,” which gets my vote for the chugs of the year award (y’know, if they have something like that). If you like deathcore at all, you HAVE to pick this album up. Along with Enterprise Earth and Shadow of Intent, Fit For an Autopsy are one of the few good bands left in deathcore, and if the subgenre has any hope of surviving, Fit For An Autopsy are it.
1. The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers (Metal Blade)
Nightbringers at #1 probably isn’t a surprise if you read my review of the album. By this point in their career, it’s a scientific fact that The Black Dahlia Murder are allergic to putting out shitty music. Nightbringers is a masterfully complete album that proves TBDM belong in the top echelon of death metal bands. Nightbringers takes the chaos of Deflorate and the melodies of Nocturnal and creates a beautiful blend of chaos and evil. Every single member of this band stepped up their game this time around and it shows. Although the songs on Everblack and Abysmal blended together a bit at times, this is not the case here, as every track on Nightbringers is unique in some way. The final track on the album, “The Lonely Deceased,” might even be my new favorite BDM song. Normally, I get burnt out with albums after a month or so, but I’ve been listening to Nightbringers at least twice a week since I first got my review copy back in August, and it gets better with each playthrough. There aren’t a whole lot of bands that can release music like that, but TBDM are one of them. No one does melodic death metal as well as The Black Dahlia Murder, and Nightbringers is here to tell us that fourteen years and seven albums later, these guys haven’t lost a single, unholy step.