The world is burning. Humanity may be one reckless Tweet away from getting decimated in a nuclear holocaust. We also teeter daily on the edge of destroying ourselves — and each other — before that red button gets pushed. There's never been a better time to throw some headphones on, blast some ear-bleeding heavy metal, and shut out the noise of the outside world until the sweet release that death will bring.
Luckily for those who were grappling with the above defeatist mindset, the metal genre rose to the task of inspiring fans to immerse themselves in musical carnage and find hope to keep fighting the good fight for another day, even if it's just to bang their heads and throw up the devil's horns one more time. Our picks for the top 10 metal albums of 2017 display a diverse array of metallic attacks to make the devoted say “kill ’em all” one more time, from slow-paced melancholy to speed-metal insanity.
10. Skyeater, The Maw of Time
The debut full-length from this Los Angeles quintet consists of only four tracks, but each song is a harrowing, 10-minute-plus musical trip into a blackened-doom metal abyss. Guitarists Brian Reis and Johann Currie take turns with bassist Spencer Wessels in providing bloodcurdling screams. Alongside drummer Eric Soth, the band steer their music through disorienting twists and turns in their quest to explore the faster-paced pummeling black-metal spectrum and the slower-paced depressive doom side of the genre.
9. Emptiness, Not For Music
This Belgian act took a sharper turn into the esoteric on this, their fifth record. Moments of goth-shrouded shoegaze atmospherics, angular post-punk ugliness and haunting industrial synth work are smashed together and then filtered further through a black-metal shield. The group's early beginnings as a more traditional extreme-metal band have been fully left behind, but the experimentation in recent years has paid off with a record full of rewards for the more open-minded metal fan.
8. Craven Idol, The Shackles of Mammon
These fiery Brits are a throwback to the more speed-obsessed edge of the early-’80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. This sophomore effort is for those who like to throw old Venom records on a turntable and try to find ways to crank up the RPMs even more. There are a few midtempo moments scattered here and there on tracks like “The Trudge,” but those passages are brief respites before the race for the fastest riffs in metal begins again.
7. Expander, Endless Computer
The first full-length from this Austin quartet is a catchy ripper that very much falls into the thrash category but has plenty of subtle layers lurking within to make it rise above so many acts utilizing riffs from the same playbook. Instead of the beloved thrash tropes of beer, Satan and bombs, Expander accomplish the mission statement of their band name by indulging in dystopian sci-fi lyrical themes and moments of unpredictable musical angularity that mix up the current Texas thrash-metal sound with a flair for Voivod-esque fancy.
6. Pallbearer, Heartless
Arkansas quartet Pallbearer continue to excel in masterful displays of executing melodic doom-metal that adeptly balances musical beauty, emotional melancholy and metallic power on this, their third record. Vocalist-guitarist Brett Campbell soars with a performance that evokes a more subdued Geddy Lee, and the band's musical output is peppered with small nods to prog-metal psychedelia. The group have furthered mastered their clean guitar harmonics, once again leading to one of the more hypnotic musical experiences of the year.
5. Enslaved, E
The act with the longest history on this list, Norway's Enslaved have had a trajectory similar to beloved Swedish act Opeth. While the latter have fully transitioned from their early death-metal days into a full-blown melodic ’70s rock–inspired act, Enslaved have evolved from their blistering black-metal beginnings into an ambitious prog-metal powerhouse while still retaining tastefully layered moments of their early fury. Their latest evokes visual images of Vikings conquering outer space, with new melodic vocalist Hakon Vinje settling in comfortably alongside longtime growler Grutle Kjellson.
4. The Ruins of Beverast, Exuvia
This German outfit's fifth record showcases a band that truly is among the best at creating haunting musical art. The album is an expansive, punishing 68-minute listen that is genuinely difficult to sit through in one sitting, not because the music drags but because each track is an ambitious sprawling soundscape in its own right. Loosely categorized as black metal, The Ruins of Beverast evoke a suffocating sense of gloom with detours utilizing synthesizers, wind instruments and bagpipes to disorient listeners even further.
3. Primitive Man, Caustic
Denver's Primitive Man have produced the most appropriately titled record of 2017. The term “power trio” could be very loosely tossed around to describe the force behind the nihilistic sludge mayhem on display. That power is not of a triumphant fist-pumping nature, though. Instead, that power is a crushing, apocalyptic weight bearing down on the listener. This record is 78 minutes of harrowing screams and discordant noise that sounds like a Through Silver in Blood–era Neurosis record cut together with Take as Needed for Pain–era Eyehategod.
2. Locust Leaves, A Subtler Kind of Light
The riffs that blast off this record in its first 30 seconds make this seem like a throwback to the angular thunder of early prog-doomsters Mastodon. The album then takes a magnificent left turn at second 31, veering into a sharp turn toward eccentric progressive black metal, bolstered by vocalist Nick K. alternating between shouting at the moon, as if he is leading a dark shamanistic ritual, and emitting guttural black-metal growls. The twists, turns and off-kilter time signatures continue throughout the remaining 35 minutes on the first proper full-length from this Greek duo, which somehow remains infectious and catchy instead of off-putting, as that musical mission would be in lesser hands.
1. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic
The last decade has seen the heavy-metal landscape flooded with the corpses of bands that worshipped at the thrones of early thrash greats like Metallica, Slayer and Exodus and the vintage crossover hardcore of D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies. The third record from Texas thrashers Power Trip is the first in that bloated wave that truly recaptures the power, the fury and the venom of the vaunted giants of yesteryear. If Nightmare Logic had come out in 1986, it would have held its own against Slayer's Reign in Blood and Exodus' Bonded by Blood. Is it the most original metal album of 2017? No. Is it a perfectly executed display of circle-pit–inducing musical violence that is worthy of the No. 1 spot? Yes.
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