Metalmance Top 20 Albums of 2017

Our hottest albums of 2017…beware…there’s a turkey in there…

No. 20  THE ROYAL – Seven

The Royal

Metalmance have mentioned THE ROYAL a lot this year, and once again they feature in one of our posts. This time they kick off our Top 20 albums of the year list! In a scene which is becoming overwhelmingly full with bland groups and so-so tech, these Dutchman are slowly but surely gaining a reputation for themselves as a talented and promising metal act. Seven sees THE ROYAL gain confidence and the nurturing of a signature sound. Once the band finally have a firm footing in the metal world, who knows how high they could climb?

“A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene.”

The Royal – Seven

 

No. 19  EMPLOYED TO SERVE – The Warmth of a Dying Sun

Employed to Serve

One of 2017’s breakthrough bands, Britain’s own EMPLOYED TO SERVE rightly deserve all the attention they’ve been receiving this year. Their sophomore release The Warmth of a Dying Sun is proof they are worthy of your time. With a gloriously sludgy, nu-metal-ish, heavy hardcore energy, they throw together old and new influences into a melting pot of riffy joy. If new kids CODE ORANGE and OATHBREAKER were bred with old daddies WILL HAVEN and BOTCH, then you will more than likely achieve the perfection of EMPLOYED TO SERVE. These are the new masters of British forward-thinking metal.

 

No. 18  NORDIC GIANTS – Amplify Human Vibration

Nordic Giants

Since Metalmance first discovered the intriguing and mysterious NORDIC GIANTS last year, we’ve been utterly in love. You can’t treat Amplify Human Vibration as a continuation of A Séance of Dark Delusions however, no, no, it is a much deeper and a more thought-provoking affair than that. Predominantly using spoken word samples to accompany the duo’s stunning soundscapes, Amplify Human Vibration is about re-awakening the human spirit, to realise our true potential as a power together on this planet. The songs do summon some kind of deep inner-awareness, a feat which not all of NORDIC GIANTS’ peers and contemporaries would be able to accomplish.

“Their last album released in 2015 A Séance of Dark Delusions is a truly spellbinding record, with each listen exposing something missed before.”

Weekly Roundup #9

 

No. 17  VIPASSI – Sunyata

Vipassi

This instrumental effort from the progressive metal supergroup VIPASSI unfortunately seems to have slipped under the carpet a bit this year. Hopefully this could mean Sunyata could become a sleeper hit in the prog metal world. A sprawling mass of complex rhythms, heavenly bass and stunning soundscapes, VIPPASSI have created a blackened beast of complexity. All tracks seem to merge into one, allowing the listener to be transported to a progressive paradise. More please.

“With only seven tracks, Sunyata feels a bit like a tease, a bit like a punishing starter before a main course. Go on, indulge.”

Weekly Roundup #18

 

No. 16  CODE ORANGE – Forever

Code Orange

This year has certainly been the year of CODE ORANGE. At the end of 2016 they were threatening the world with something special, then in January they dropped Forever, and the rest is history. Dark, disturbing, modern and unpredictable – their energy is infectious. Their arrogant swagger in the scene make them an unstoppable and untouchable force. In our Weekly Roundup #8, Metalmance said they were a band to watch. We weren’t wrong. Will you join forces with them? Or be part of the wreckage they’ll leave behind?

“If the band are able to maintain this rawness then the future of hardcore is bright, the future is CODE ORANGE.”

Weekly Roundup #8

 

No. 15  LEPROUS – Malina

Leprous

Back in 2016, Metalmance hailed the Norwegian progsters as a band to watch, and rolling off the back of 2015’s The Congregation and this year’s Malina, the band have been growing from strength to strength. Malina sees the band stretching the term ‘progressive metal’, with their stupidly catchy and melodic songs, the band seem to be veering towards a lighter approach. They have always been good songwriters but with Malina, LEPROUS finally seem to have hit the nail on the head. One of our qualms with The Congregation was the songs didn’t know really when to get going or where to end, but Malina is far more of an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

“There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack.”

Weekly Roundup #3

 

No. 14  NORTHLANE – Mesmer

Northlane

Remember earlier in the year when NORTHLANE shouted ‘SURPRISE!!!’ and dropped Mesmer with no warning? Well it certainly paid off as it got people talking. And for good reason! Mesmer is easily the most focused and accomplished work by NORTHLANE to date. Savage, yet emotionally heavy, the feels the listener experiences during the Mesmer sonic experience is plenty. Each member has improved as a serious musician and the sound created is a mature one, with oodles of depth. Heart-felt songs which still drop hard, NORTHLANE seemed to have mastered the knack of combining emotion and heaviness.

 

No. 13  ENTHEOS – Dark Future

Entheos

A bit more of a progressive affair than previous album The Infinite Nothing, ENTHEOS are definitely gaining momentum as their own entity rather than some sort of supergroup (with ex members of ANIMALS AS LEADERS and THE FACELESS). Vocalist Chaney Crabb once again proves she is a force to reckon with because of her impressive performance and aggression. Hopefully in 2018 Chaney will gain more recognition as one of extreme metal’s finest vocalists. Dark Future isn’t an album you can absorb and process in one listen, its complex design and dynamics each come into their own individually after numerous listens. This is one album we will still be exploring into the new year.

 

No. 12  IGORRR – Savage Sinusoid

Igorrr

You either love this intriguing French group, or they leave you thinking what on earth??? Metalmance is the former and we witnessed them live at Tech Fest and were very glad to find this eclectic troupe were just as weird and as intense live as they are on record. One of the amazing aspects of the band and the album is the ‘samples’, each individual part is played and recorded which gives Savage Sinusoid an impressive depth. Full of heavy, yet charming tracks, the classical vocals sit surprisingly well among the more, er, primal screaming. And if we ran an award for best album opener of the year, we’d sure as hell choose Viande.

 

No. 11  GHOST IRIS – Blind World

Ghost Iris

As soon as these techy Danes released their catchy single Save Yourself back in February, Metalmance have been hooked. They released Blind World a week later and it is still on heavy rotation even now in December. A more focused effort than their previous releases, they seem to have their fingers well on the pulse of European tech metal. The album boasts tracks which are upbeat, heavy, melodic, yet deceivingly complex. GHOST IRIS really seem to have finally found their sound, and it’s a winning formula. Each song is a standout track, making Blind World an album you can happily listen to all the way through and return to again and again. Trust us, you won’t get bored.

“An album which keeps you on your toes yet constantly brings the fun, Blind World is sure to launch GHOST IRIS into the tech metal stratosphere.”

Weekly Roundup #19

 

No. 10  MUTATION – Dark Black

Mutation

In a time of super slick production and programming overload, it’s refreshing to hear something with a bit more of a raw approach (oo-er!) in the form of MUTATION’s Dark Black. With an organic and nostalgic feel, Dark Black has been one of 2017’s surprises. A thoroughly enjoyable and chaotic listen, you can read more about the band and the making of the album (which also features the one and only, DEVIN TOWNSEND) in our recent interview with Scott Lee Andrews from MUTATION.

“Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.” – Scott Lee Andrews

Q&A with Mutation

 

No. 9  CALIGULA’S HORSE – In Contact

Caligula's Horse

You may remember we featured CALIGULA’S HORSE in our Prog Down Under feature last year (which reminds us, we never did finish a second part) and 2017 saw these Aussie chaps release the breath-taking In Contact. From the stunning opener Dream the Dead to the sax-fuelled epic Graves, this is without a doubt CALIGULA’S HORSE finest work to date. Heavier than anticipated, In Contact also charms with the delicate compositions and expertly executed flourishes. Jim Grey once again impresses with his distinct voice and lyrical magic. Expect big things in 2018.

“No two songs sound the same, with CALIGULA’S HORSE mixing up the styles; a hint of folk here, a little indie there, but it’s all wrapped up in their own brand of infectious melodic prog.”

Prog Down Under Part 1

 

No. 8  ALLUVIAL – The Deep Longing for Annihilation

Alluvial

At the very beginning of 2017, we were spoilt immediately with the release of The Deep Longing for Annihilation, the instrumental masterpiece by metal greats, Keith Merrow and Wes Hauch. If you remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE were our album of the year last year, then you can understand why we were thrilled to begin our year with ALLUVIAL. Dark and brooding, the album hones both Merrow and Hauch’s signature styles, so much so they raised the bar so high for other instrumental albums this year.

“Imagine BLACK CROWN INITIATE, DECAPITATED and GOJIRA all rolled into one. This album is proof progressive metal does not necessarily need vocals to make it heavier.”

Weekly Roundup #14

 

No. 7  LOATHE – The Cold Sun

Loathe

One of the darker albums featured on our list this year – The Cold Sun has the same atmosphere as its namesake. A deep, stunning, yet unpredictable slab of British tech metal, this album is proof of why you should be paying attention to LOATHE. Astonishingly heavy, yet fiendishly melodic in places, they throw all sorts of extreme elements into the pot; the blackened influences, the instrumentals and the electronic/orchestral parts all pay off massively. Each listen unveils new layers you were unaware of before, and that demonstrates a maturity and love for the craft which will hopefully keep them ahead of the pack.

 

No. 6  EMMURE – Look At Yourself

Emmure

Look At Yourself indeed. Who would have known you would become an EMMURE fan in 2017? Metalmance in all honesty never really gave EMMURE the time of day, but after the announcement that members of GLASS CLOUD and TONY DANZA TAPDANCE EXTRAVAGANZA were joining the ranks, curiosity got the better of us and we’re very glad it did! Look At Yourself is the aural equivalent of ejecting bile and defecating over your enemies. The album is one of the heaviest featured on our list this year. If we gave an award for heaviest track of the year, then Natural Born Killer would win hands down.

 

No. 5  WITHOUT WAVES – Lunar

Without Waves

Earlier in the year, Metalmance labelled WITHOUT WAVES as a band to watch and once their album Lunar was released, we stood by our decision. Listening back to it now, the diversity and variety of genres the band squeeze into their song writing is still mind-blowing; progressive metal, grunge elements, some post-rock tinkles, lots of nostalgic sounds in the same vein as CAVE IN and Say Hello To Sunshine-era FINCH. Yet, somehow WITHOUT WAVES stamp all over these styles with their own sound. How these chaps haven’t blown up in the scene yet is one of 2017’s greatest musical mysteries.

“Anthony Cwan’s vocals really come to light here, his mesmerising voice runs the risk of being contemporary metal’s most alluring warble.”

Weekly Roundup #17

 

No. 4  DEATH FROM ABOVE – Outrage! Is Now

Death From Above

Metalmance are so, so happy DEATH FROM ABOVE are back on top form as we were massive fans of 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but Outrage! Is Now has completely surpassed all expectations. The Canadian duo deliciously create bass and drum fuelled rock, yet the music they produce is heavy in its own way. Addictive, with a punk energy, Outrage! boasts an impressive array of irresistible riffs, beats and croons. DEATH FROM ABOVE have always had a mainstream sound, sounding a bit like JACK WHITE and MUSE here and there, but with Outrage! the band sound like they are confident in themselves and finally ready to take over the world.

 

No. 3  THE RASMUS – Dark Matters

The Rasmus

You’re probably disgusted by our choice for the no. 3 spot, but bear with us. We all have that one band who were our gateway into rock and metal, it just so happens our feathery friends THE RASMUS were ours. Dark Matters manages to achieve a similar atmosphere to 2004’s Dead Letters, and we can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. It’s a much poppier affair than their more recent releases, but we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit it’s one of our favourites this year. Still full of catchy choruses and a healthy dollop of European cheese, we almost feel compelled to dig out our old wristbands, beanies and crow feathers, but we’re respectable adults now so we’ve managed to refrain…ahem…

 

No. 2  EIGHTEEN VISIONS – XVIII

XVIII

The biggest surprise of the year was the news that our metalcore heroes EIGHTEEN VISIONS had reformed AND were releasing a new album after ten years apart. We thought our 2017 couldn’t get any better than that…until we heard the actual album that is. It was everything old school EIGHTEEN VISIONS fans could ever dream of. Harking back to their glory days, XVIII is an incredible gift to the metal community and tribute to the late Mick Morris who played bass in their heyday. They’ve borrowed elements from their most popular albums; Until The Ink Runs Out, Vanity and Obsession, and have created a fresh new sound with subtle nostalgia. We hope they’re back for good.

“…there’s no doubt about it, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are back and ready to rejuvenate the metalcore scene again. Welcome back chaps.”

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

 

No. 1  DYSCARNATE – With All Their Might

Dyscarnate

We threatened back in August that With All Their Might could end up being our album of the year – and it bloody well is! No other album this year has been better in our eyes. An absolute corker of a beast, DYSCARNATE are a stupidly talented trio who know how to the bring the groove and the brutality. We don’t think we’ve heard any riffs this year which top what can be heard on With All Their Might. This album has WINNER stamped all over it and we seriously cannot wait to hear the songs live. Congratulations DYSCARNATE!

“If With All Their Might doesn’t cement DYSCARNATE as Britain’s heavyweight heroes then we might just have to crack our skulls in disgust. With their no-nonsense attitude, DYSCARNATE will have you gagging to join their ranks.”

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might

Q&A with Mutation

From ‘Chaos-punk’ to Devin Townsend, Scott Lee Andrews gives Metalmance the low-down on what makes Mutation chaotically tick

Metalmance witnessed MUTATION’s chaos recently at Damnation festival in Leeds, and it’s fair to say the band’s sound is not for the faint hearted! Featuring Ginger and Denzel (THE WILDHEARTS and many other projects), and Scott Lee Andrews (EXIT_INTERNATIONAL, JAWS OF DEAF), their third album Dark Black is a noisy affair and Scott kindly let Metalmance pick his brain about the album and the band’s direction.

Q. Hi Scott, great set at Damnation! I must admit, I hadn’t checked out MUTATION before the festival as I was keeping the sound a surprise, I heard it was unlike anything Ginger had done before and chaotic! And I was glad to find it was all true! How would you describe MUTATION’s style? Or is it more a spectrum of styles?

Scott: For sure – it’s an exploration of Ginger’s more extreme tastes, and that also shows in the personnel brought to the table to make this record. From Shane Embury to Merzbow to Devin Townsend, all sit in distinct pockets of the heavy/extreme music world, and guys who are visionaries with it. MUTATION’s use of an ensemble cast during the first two records allowed a wide coverage of these genres to be touched upon. Someone recently described our live show as ‘Chaos-punk’ which I thought was fucking great.

Q. Since Damnation, we’ve had Mutation III: Dark Black on heavy rotation! I feel like the whole album has a nostalgic feel, it reminds me of all sorts; a bit of MARTINI HENRY RIFLES here, a bit of 90s there, did you have a production style in mind while recording?

Scott: Your MARTINI HENRY RIFLES reference – I’ve been in a band with Fudge (bassist – MARTINI HENRY RIFLES) since 2009! That might be a bit of him rubbing off on my influence that has shown up there. I’m more into ‘alternative’ noise – SONIC YOUTH, NIRVANA, PART CHIMP, ATARI TEENAGE RIOT for example, this was the vibe I wanted to bring to the table, to allow Dark Black to stand out as a fresh record. When Ginger and I were passing song ideas and riffs back and forth via email, we were listening to THE BODY as a main reference point. The intention was to make a thoroughly disgusting album.

Q. With bands choosing to have a more polished production these days it’s refreshing to hear more of a raw and chaotically rich sound with MUTATION. Was this something you were aiming for?

Scott: Absolutely, mainly due to the fact the sonics used in heavy music seem to adhere to a quite narrow set of guidelines. As neither of us have day jobs in that realm, it was obvious that to be taken seriously, we had to push everything into the red. Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.

Q. A standout track for me (I’m sure also for many others too) is Irritant. I think everyone would find this song highly relatable and honest! But I find this with Ginger’s/your lyrics in general for MUTATION. What do you draw from to produce such brutally honest and unforgiving lyrics?

Scott: Ginger titled each song from a list he had prepared prior to the writing sessions. The one-word, succinct nature of them tell you off the bat this record was going to be very direct, certainly from his lyrics. It’s not as wordy or poetic as his other output, probably to ensure maximum effect. We both wanted to make a warts n’ all record in all aspects. I cannot comment on specific examples that birthed a chorus as vitriolic as Irritant, but as you picked up on, people have found the record dropping at such a low point economically, politically and even personally in many of our lives this record speaks for its time.

Q. You’ve just completed a tour in Japan. You’ve said before how much you like the country and playing there, what makes you go back time and time again?

Scott: That was my second time to Japan on tour, I think Denzel has been there around 7 times with Ginger and fuck knows how many times he has been over the last 20 or so years. But from my experience it is like being on another planet. Every single waking second is filled with awe. It’s very hard to vocalise. The people of Japan, from demeanour to our label’s organisation leaves you in a dream state. Such an incredible experience.

Q. It’s always fun to see who you collaborate with, and seeing Devin Townsend credited may come as a surprise to some people if they don’t know about his WILDHEARTS days. How involved was he in the writing of the album?

Scott: We wrote and demoed the album in 5 days in North Wales in the summer of 2015. The last time Devin worked with Ginger I believe was on a b-side called Kill Me To Death, during THE WILDHEARTS’ Endless Nameless campaign. Devolution was the final track we wrote for Dark Black. We knew someone like Devin could just take our version and stamp his style all over it. There was no direction given, and [he] let us have it. The stems/tracks he sent over broke my computer when I tried to load the session up. Many people believe Devin had a hand in the album, as comparisons to STRAPPING YOUNG LAD kept cropping up, but it was just that track. Devin was a pleasure to work with, and will also feature in the forthcoming video for the track.

Q. I saw PRIMITIVE WEAPONS live back in January and their brand of noisy post-hardcore isn’t too dissimilar to MUTATION, although I was still surprised to see Arthur Shepherd from PW also contributed vocals to Mutation III: Dark Black. How did that collaboration come about?

Scott: Arthur has been a friend of mine for a few years – he is a fantastic human. I am a massive fan of many of one of his previous projects by mostly GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP – my band EXIT_INTERNATIONAL played with them a few times. When we had finished the tracking of the album (Ginger and I both tracked our own verses/lyrics without hearing each other’s input) we found the gaps for some guests. I reached out to a wishlist of friends who I thought could push it further and Arthur stepped up. He tracked his vocals in NY with Travis Bacon of BLACK ANVIL/HOGWASCHE.

Q. Scott, thank you for your time! Lastly, Metalmance aims to cover new and underground bands, are there any groups or artists on your radar you think the metal community should know about?

Scott: BARRABUS for a start – featuring the mighty Paul Catten. Fucking great band and honoured to have them perform with us at our London show. MADE OF TEETH who have an ex-TAINT member in the ranks were awesome too. We also played with an insane band called DISGUNDER at one of our Tokyo shows – well worth checking out. I look to Belgium for most of my heavy/noisy fixes these days. Bands like RAKETKANON, DRUMS ARE FOR PARADES, STEAK NUMBER EIGHT, THE ROTT CHILDS, KABUL GOLF CLUB…all making very non-traditional heavy music.