Saturday, December 16, 2017

Top 10 Doom Albums of 2017

The competition was pretty harsh here. I found this year I tended to favor albums that broke the more traditional doom mold. Not a ton of funereal doom came out and the funereal doom albums on this list do not fit into that sub-genre neatly. Most of these were decided by referring to my Lastfm page in regards to how much I actually listened to these albums. Some grew on me more than others. I have included explanations as to why the albums sit where they do to clear any questions up.

10- With the Dead -"Love From the Dead"

With a similar heft the new album from Lee Dorian of Napalm Death/ Cathedral fame relived right from the the first few notes. Like a more hard core version of Tom Warrior the vocals are exclaimed with a shout and sometimes sung. It' hard to hear where the bass begins and the guitar ends as it's been mixed into one fuzzy frequency to create a very apocalyptic vibe fitting of the current tone of the world.

9-Suffer in Paradise- "Ephemere"

 Dreary enough to help get you in the mood for the coming dark season the winter solstice usher in. I am always hungry for this kind of doom so the atmospheric melancholy is sweet to my ears. In the tradition of other bands I love like Evoken and Mournful Congregation. The songs have a beautiful creep to them. The atmosphere this Russian band creates is different from that of their predecessors as it is more steeped in a contrasting gentleness to the melodies. This greater sense of melody is why they beat out Lee and the boys.

8- Volur- "Ancestors"

This Canadian doom project features the Bass player from Blood Ceremony. Germanic chants coast over very melodic bass playing  drivings the song. The violin is occupying the space a guitar would sit order to create the atmosphere. Their unique sound that drones ,but is so pleasing to the ears that it doesn't bore you. Growled vocals come in but are not over done and do not plunge them into lowest common denominator metal.Their desire to forsake tradition is why they beat out Suffer in Paradise.

7-Unsea- "Portals Into Futility" 

 They create a very thick the sound of despair. The drummer is a monster, making it clear they are not a doom band just because he can't play any faster, he plays around the hesitant riffs with a flurry of fills that still serve the song. The balance the beauty and brutality well with oppressive atmosphere. The dark dense heaviness beats out the more atmospheric Volur.

 6- Monolord- "Rust"

 The new one from the Swedish trio, is a more melodic endeavor. While they have always used melodic vocals over thick walls of fuzzy riffs, they are now giving the vocals more room to breathe. This doesn't mean it's any less heavy. The guitars are still packed with all the density you would want from these guys. Obviously as with most doom band's Sabbath is a huge influence, but I can also here some hints of the more burly psychedelic garage bands that we now think of as proto-metal like Atomic Rooster or Blue Cheer.There is less of a question of why it beat Unsea when it comes to the quality of the song writing that transcends heaviness and more of a question of why did it get beat by Samsara and the answer is I am having to default to what LastFm says in regards to how much I have listened to it.

5- Samsara-"When the Soul Leaves the Body" 

 Slovakian metal is gaining ground now when it comes to doom. The proof lies in this band Samsara who has a big majestic sound, when they pick up the pace into a chug the results are without a doubt powerful. This album has everything you could want from a doom album which is why they beat Monolord and proof of how the top four went even above and beyond that.

4-Loss- "Horizonless" So everything you liked about "Despond" is present, but the production is much fuller and shows they have gone the extra mile to expand their sound. The scope of what they do here is breath taking.This is their heaviest moment yet.

3-Heavydeath- "Sarcophagus in the Sky"

The lines between death metal and doom are much clearer on this album. In fact this would border that where doom and sludge meet more than death metal .The vocals are low and gruff , but not totally growled going into the ten minute opening. It does build into more of a moving rumble, but stays pretty satisfied in its own shadows. Was feeling these songs a little more than the sprawling effort of Loss which is why this album sits at number 3.

2- Pallbearer- "Heartless" 

 Things have changed , but this is very much still the same band just venturing further down the road away from the sub-genre funeral doom they came from. I questioned if this was even a doom album, but there lies the genius of their songwriting as it does have that bleak despondent outlook even when bathed in transcendent light of the soaring melodies. This boundless sound is why they beat out the more obvious metal of Heavydeath.

1- Atriarch- "Dead as Truth" 

 Portland master's of black hearted gloom are back. It lurches with metallic aggression while Lenny makes commanding declarations about a spiraling emotional state. The more death rock like croon comes in followed by a more black metal like scowling. So right from the first song they waste no time using and array of vocal colors. Since vocals are the first thing I key in on this obviously makes me very thee grimmest manner possibly. These guys once once prove that darkness alone can make you sonically heavy. Creeping along at more of a doom pace, with a darkness that would appeal to fans of black metal, this often made it hard for me to figure out what genre to consider this album, but the mourning is for the state of the world and this is it's requiem making this doom and solidly crushing Pallbearer.

Top 10 Sludge / Stoner Albums of 2017

So this list was started because well doom and sludge are not the same thing. Neither is doom and stoner rock. While stoner rock and sludge are not the same thing, the lines seem to be blurred a little closer and basically this is about how much pot you are smoking. If you are smoking pot hoping for the apocalypse then you are sludge, you also probably like crusty punk. If you are riding around the desert smoking pot while hoping to find more pot to smoke while listening to Thin Lizzy you are stoner rock. Now that that is out of the way I have also included the reason the albums are ranked as they are in case that brings up even more questions.

10-Space Witch- "Arcanum"

Living up to their name these guys can be the metal equivalent to kraut rock and in fact employ some synth sounds that are taken from the annuls of kraut rock.As the band's second album it  would be properly enjoyed to the fullest extent of the bong as a sound track to sailing out of your mind and over your couch in the late night hours. The riffs bubble out of the distortion like the liquid in a lava lamp.

9-Ocaso- "Demo"

This might be the first time I have had a demo on a top ten list. The Germans in Ocaso ask where does sludge begin and neo-crust end. Another question is does having a violin part automatically make you neo-crust , folk or otherwise? I I think there are more battle metal elements at play than this band wants to confess to. Some of this lies in the darker mood being conveyed.They beat out Space Witch because they are darker.

8-Bury the Machines-"Wicked Covenant"

John E Bomher of the Chicago based  band Yakuza released a solo album where he is a one man sludge band. He blends bleak melodies and layers the vocals on the first song so the more droning sung vocals sits over an almost black metal rasp. I like this much better than the typical gruff bark most sludge bands rely on.This is a coasting on a sea of bong smoke as nightfall comes sort of album, but certainly one of the better sludge albums, beating out Ocaso, because this is a more full realized and polished project.

7- Devil Electric-S/T

 his Australian band busts out some pretty hefty rock that falls some where between doom and stoner rock. So it's either dark stoner or doom. I think this was being called occult rock or vest metal a few years ago. There is some Sabbath worship, but their singer has a personality of her own and is not just trying to totally fall in line with all the Grace Slicksters that came after Christian Mistress. Great production and catchy songs. In fact the songs are so catchy that they elevate this album above Bury the Machines.

6- Seer- Cult of the Void - 

 This Canadian band brings metallic elements to their sludged out rock n roll. Like a rough and tumble version of Katatonia as the baritone vocals are carried with more balls. Very melodic they give into their dark side wand has darker side to it like a more grunge ridden Woods of Ypres. So not the most original band on the list , but they combine all of these elements in a powerful way that elevates this album over the more hooky songwriting of Devil Electric.

5-the Melvins -"A Walk With Love & Death" 

 If Mike Patton gives these guys a huge thumbs up it's hard to argue, though he is also a fan of a special needs choir, so tastes in music might be subject to change. In the here and now is what we are going to focus because despite their legacy the reality is you are only as good as your last album. "Death" is the rock album end of this double album equation and to be honest the only part of it that matters the rest was noise. They rock part of this however was so go that it made it to number 7 on here so that says something. It grew on me each time I listened to it and has way more depth than Seer so that's why they are 5 and this album is 4.

4- Horseneck-"Heavy Trip"

 Former members of Wil Haven and Jess Gowrie who played drums for Chelsea Wolfe. It is a wild ride that ranges from a crazy 70's style boogie to a manically screamed Kvelertak like rock n roll strut. So this is a more punk take on swamp metal, at times seems influenced by Kyuss, and at others a beast of it's own making. This wild energy is what found it beating out the more refined Melvins.


Bongs across the world must be aflame so the trend of super psyche filled sludge continues this time coming from Italy. These guys continue to take their sound even further out in the cosmos. These guys take the Sabbath core of stoner rock and obscure with clouds of tripping haze. The vocals feel more Pink Floyd like to me than carrying any kind of an Ozzy influence. With each song they take you further into the depths of their warped rabbit hole. More ambitious than Horseneck with a sonically heavier sound.

2-King Woman- "the Image of Suffering" 

 There is an even more dream like haze cast over the doom-gaze of the band's debut full length than we found on their previous ep. This hits a sweet spot for me as it once again proves you don't have to adhere to the typical trapping of metal in order to be heavy.She does allow for some of her backing vocal tracks to to into more of a scream and the guitar carries the dense distortion. Vocally powerful it was an album that makes you want to dig deeper into it with each listen. Vocally more powerful than "8" so that is why this album sits at number 2.

1- Amenra-Mass VI

 This band from Belgium is back with another piece of despair. With members of Oathbreaker in the fold they deliver a lush take on metal. The atmosphere might be even thicker on this album than it was on the previous releases. I am not hearing this as just a sludge band as the Neurosis worship has been washed away in favor of a sound that has more emotional depth. The anguish howls of the vocals and their accompanying guitar parts really pack the heart punch here.It starts off with the kind of aggressive sludge you expected from them though the anger almost borders on hardcore.

Friday, December 15, 2017

the Top 10 Progressive Rock / Metal Albums of 2017

 If you are looking for a bunch of noodling prog then you are reading the wrong blog. But noodling is not progressive because that along doesn't bring progress to your sound. Bands that stick to the same formula and just shred...also not progressing. So these bands all made albums that thought out of the box and took their sound some where else. They to have some very precise playing and some guitar solos too, but I need dynamics and songs that make me want to return to them. This list is by and large ranked according to what LastFM said I listened to the most , but might have the most deviance from this all of the lists I have done so far. I also added why the band beat out the band below them in case you were wondering, just like you are wondering why I have images of hot girls over these lists, it's just images that this music makes me think of of represent the feeling of the music. Prog is normally the lest sexual of all genres, but oh well it's my fucking blog.

10-The faceless - "In Becoming a Ghost"

 Representing the modern metal core side of progressive heavy music. These guys have found a decent balance of showing off and writing something for the vocals to make sense of over. So this album is a hug improvement over the last one.

9- Elder -"Reflections of a Floating World"

 The guitar heroics really take the spot light three and half minutes in. The layered production is very lush and it's clear these guys are not far removed from progressive rock.< Six minutes in and you are getting more surreal passages no quite Pink Floyd like in their trippy endeavors , but a slight hint they are wanting to steer the ship in that direction. They punch back in strong and you can already tell this album is going to be filled with interesting guitar tones. Why they beat out the Faceless, well it just flows better, the whole scene the Faceless comes from makes it feel a little stiff, this feels more natural.

8-Shores of Null- "Black Drapes of Tomorrow"

This Italian metal behind often finds themselves falling close to black metal if we are still referring to new Enslaved as black metal. This is the band's second album and it  is very cleanly recorded. The mix is impeccable. The vocals are the first thing that is very different. The are a tightly harmonized baritone that I can understand why someone might compare it to Alice In Chains. They do drop into a lower goth like tone.The gruff vocals that eventually come are not as interesting as the sung vocals. One of the more unique metal albums I have heard this year which is why it trumps Elder

7- Apocalypse Orchestra- "the End is Nigh"

Folk metal can too happy and basically just drinking songs or they try to over do it and it turns into nu-metal with folk instrumentation. This band from Sweden, seems to have all of that balanced out pretty well. This is progressive in the sense it steps beyond the normal boundaries of folk metal or doom metal and takes you on more of a journey. It trumps Shores of Null, because I think the vision of this album is more focused.

6-Solstafir - "Berdreyminn"

I am a sucker for band's taking bizarre artistic turns like Disco era Kiss and New Wave era Alice Cooper. I like even the glam rock days of Celtic Frost. So this a weird shift for the Icelandic band to sound like the Cure and Neurosis colliding, is fine by me. So what you have is a very wide range of melodic dynamics and here is where the progress is made. It beats out Apocalypse Orchestra because the songs are more concise and draw you in.

5-Junius- "Rituals For Accretion of Light"

 There are large doses post-rock flirting with the more rock side of metal in it's drive. They are generally very emotionally charged with a darker undercurrent. In the few places where they return to their Deftones fixation it is balanced out by synths or wandering out of the normal song structure. They beat Solstafir because they are darker and better song writers.

4- Mastodon - " A Cold Dark Place"

Taking another step away from being a metal band, this e.p is comprised for tracks left over from sessions from their past two albums, though according to Hinds the songs were written when he was going through a difficult break up which might explain the undercurrent linking them. I was more impressed by this than "Emperor of Sand" and think it goes more places emotionally and is more progressive.All reasons this also beats out Junius.

3-Pain of Salvation-" In the Passing Light of Day"

Prog rock in it's most conventional form is no longer my bread and butter like it used to be, I think because their idea of heavy and mine never align and the cheese filled wanking seem to be the mission of the day. That is not really the case with these guys, and while a ten minute song opening the album feels over indulgent to me the song is not half bad despite the heavy drama on the spoken word section. This is not their best album, but it is better than what most of the so called prog rock bands are putting out these days. Beat out Mastodon because it cover s wider scope.

2- Leprous- "Malina"

Not sure why I didn't cover this album, I guess I thought main stream metal culture would be covering this enough.It is however a solid album like Muse but from the perspective of Scandinavian metal. More compact and marginally less pretense than Pain of Salvation is what puts them here.

1 Igorrr- Savage Sinusoid

This project from France is collective that would like be beyond categorization, and while they can be broken down to the death metal sum of their parts they progress beyond metal and throw a collage of electronics and operatic vocals at you. I just trusting Last Fm on this as the top three albums are pretty neck and neck.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

the Top 10 Rock Albums of 2017

Rock is anything that is rooted in the blues origins, here there are many different brands of rock some harder than others. It's less heavy than metal, with typically more attitude than any genre except may be punk. Some of these bands are hard rock, but not heavy enough to make even the main stream metal list I am going to be working on. This year on all the lists I am including a reason why it beat out the album under it, to provide some clarity. Rather than obsess over what belongs where I defaulted to what Last Fm said I listened to more. In some cases the answer is a little more complicated that. I have included in most cases links to the reviews so you can get a bigger picture. So I'll let you read this list for yourself and stop with the commentary.

10- Atomic Bitchwax- "Force Field" 

10- Atomic Bitchwax- "Force Field"

This album is a lot of fun, they are typically thought of as stoner rock, but the bpms are dialed way up on this album. Maybe it's the cocaine, which is all the more reason this one is just partying rock n roll. Sure they race off in a cloud of bong smoke when the album gets going , but it's in your face attitude gives you the middle finger in the most upbeat manner possible.

9-Crystal Fairy-s/t

The singer from Bosnian Rainbows fronts this super that combines  Buzz Osborne  with the dudes . While she steals the show they churn out some rock that is both burly and angular , almost slightly Zeppelin but through a filter of sludged rock n roll. More dynamics than Atomic Bitchwax.

8-The Black Angels- "Death Song"

 The opening track off their new album "Death Song" holds all the qualities that originally attracted me to their sound. It's dark and sonic with a exotic pulse. Though the bulk of the album finds them drifting out into a more Stone Roses like psychedelia. More depth in the song writing than Crystal Fairy.

7-Ryan Adams- "Prisoner" 

 This album is pretty introspective but still manage to rock as it is balanced out  with  punches and melody in a manner not unlike some of Tom Petty's more rockin moments from the late 70's -early 80's. Classic rock styled guitar solos are sprinkled in the album though less frequent than say War on Drugs.  Adams vocals still carry the twang I associate with his work . More depth of feeling to the vocals on this one than the Black Angels.

 6- Quicksand-"Interiors"

This band is under rated, I think they are more like a post-hardcore version of Tool, as they almost could hang with Maynard and the boys until after "Undertow" then the drugs kicked in and Tool got the unfair advantage. Well if you think Tool takes a long time to make an album this once took 22 years. The opening song is strong , it sounds like these guys are back in true form even if the guitarist got kicked off the tour for trying to steal from a drug store, every body has their shit.  The syncopation is there and the guitar sound is dialed in. More groove than Ryan Adams.

5- Mastodon-" Emperor of Sand"

 Overall this might be the band's best album since "Crack the Skye" so it will be making the much envied trip over to my iPod and then I will see how it stands the test of time. For now I'll round it up to a 9.5 as some of the songs that didn't hook me in as strongly as the groovier poppier numbers still have room to grow on me. Better vocal hooks than Quicksand.

4-Royal Thunder- 'Wick" 

 A more organic feel to this one. While it's a step in more of a hippie rock direction away from "Crooked Doors" they have grown as musicians and this became a album I never go tired of. It had more emotion to it than Mastodon so that why it is here at number four.

3- Chelsea Wolfe- "Hiss/ Spun"

This is the first album that is not a hard left turn in another direction and works off a similar formula to it's predecessor. The heavier dynamics are much more metallic and even has guests coming in to donate harsher vocals. So perhaps she is reconciling her self to her metal fan that selling out ? If it is then it's on her own terms. The albums more powerful moments put it where it is. Even in my mild disappointment that she was not striking out on new ground again, it still drew me in an earned the listens to be here in fact perhaps more than the top two albums, but I feel the top two bands went out on a limb and stepped forward into more new ground which is why they beat her out, though it's a more powerful album than Royal Thunder.

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My thoughts on the whole Jesse Lacey are here...

I really only care about the music, in fact what kind of music that is worth two shits don't have a member who is a train wreck, it's only rock n roll. On further listens this album grew on me and looks at some of his mental health issues. They took more risks and struck new ground in a more rock direction while Chelsea Wolfe heated up the leftovers from her previous album.
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1- Queens of the Stoneage- "Villians"

. I needed them to quit playing around and rock out. While they did not return to the kind of aggression that kicks you face, they do rock out in more of a coked out 70s manner. In interviews Homme has called what they do a rock version of electronic music and I can hear that in some of the grooves n this album. It's clear years in the vocal booth have improved Homme's singing . He has always had a pleasant voice, but showcases his croon to a fuller extent on this one. The album grew on me to earn it's place here. Brand New could have been in this place to, I defaulting to Last Fm on this one to break the tie.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Top 10 Punk & Hardcore Albums of 2017

When Donald Trump the consolation that rained over social media feeds was "At least this will bring a flood of good punk" I am not sure that happened. It was not a flood. In fact most of this trickled over from the metal scene or at least in the murky waste land created by bands like Nails where it is hard to tell where metal is ending and hard core is beginning. I am not saying there are not some really underground 7"s that might not be killer, but what this list is ranking is the top punk and hard-core album's in accordance to what I actually listened to. I figured this out by just referring to my LastFm page rather than scouring for hours to see what I scored albums when I reviewed them and how I feel about them now. To help you understand this I am including a reason why one album might have beat another out to claim their position.

10-Low Estate- "Covert Cult of Death"

 I originally checked these guys out because the drummer from Sannhet is in this band, but they do have a powerfully heavy sound. The fact they deliver this pounding with more smarts than the average hard-core or metal band. While death metal is at times one of the main ingredients in certain sections, There is too much noise rock and post-hardcore influence in this simply try to write this off as a death metal band.

9-Warbrides- "Regrets"

 My first impression hearing these guys from Chicago was "This sounds like the Rollins Bands spazzing out". I do like the angular nature to what they do and the punk thing staying in the forefront from them just trying to be another Amp Rep rip off.A solid album, I think the reason they beat out Low Estate is because this album came out in May, though Low Estate is closer to metal where these guys are more like post-hardcore from the 90s.

8-Puritan - "Autonomy"

 This punkish indie rock band is moody enough to fall into post-punk on their new album.The vocals are introspective, but too detached to be "goth", though there is a gray sheen over their music that would appeal to fans of Joy Division or the Cure. The vocals take on a throaty aggression midway into the first song. "Nausea" finds the bass line picking the darker elements in play. They are in the same corner of the darkside as bands like Iceage or Lower. The songs are very well written, though lean more toward the punk side of post-punk.Beat out Warbrides by being darker and more tense.

8-Anti-Sect- "the Rising of the Lights"

 This band has been around since 1983. Over the years they have matured into a very Motorhead like punk with the emphasis on rock. They have a killer bass tone. The vocals are very gruff, thus the Motorhead comparison. They are all over the place and even thrown in some metallic half time breakdowns . They have big rock chords going into the chorus and a more upbeat ascending chord pattern for the refrain so they guys know how to write a fucking song. This beat out Puritan, as they are more experienced and have a more powerfully dialed in sound.

7-No Omega- "Culture"

 This hard-core band is no stranger to this blog as we love them here because just like any other form of music I want my hard core dark and tortured. This is the Swedish band's third full length and even in the opener they drop down into the shadows to let things breathe with some atmosphere as the chords rings out midway into things. There is also a more metallic power, that is sonically similar to black metal in some ways. Despite some of the more heady guitar tones "Phobia" embraces the more punk tendencies.Pretty much too close to call between this and Anti-sect, so I am just trusting Last Fm's word on this one.

5-Code Orange- "Forever"

Welcome to 2017's equivalent of "You Will Never Be one of Us". Tough and tight, the guitar on this album is mean as fuck, but has an incredible tone.There is a machine like precision to the execution and the syncopation is ridiculous more often than not. After the opener you are ready for the heft that the second songs has but never comes across as jarring. The songs all clock in close to the three minute mark and very well written.  While No Omega was heavy these guys are just crushing.

4-Grave Pleasures-"Motherblood"

hat once was Beastmilk carries on as Grave Pleasures , this is their sophomore album under this banner. It is more aggressive the sense of melody held in the first returns for "Doomsday Rainbows". Though it still holds onto a tense core. The first song throws it self at you with a much more reckless abandon, so we are hearing more sides from this band. Another one I am just trusting Last Fm on, as it was too close to call between this and Code Orange.

3-Hexis-"Tando Ashanti"

 If asked who is the heaviest band out today I might point you in the direction of this band from Denmark. Heavy is more than low tuning, thick gain and how fast you strike the strings. It' is about the sonic tensity stirred and the feelings driving how you attack your instrument. Once again genres collides. Hard-core pounding is smashed against blackened death metal. With raw curdled vocals that are more grind-core. It slows into more of a sludge like dirge, showing these guys can pretty effectively handle both ends of the heavy spectrum. Production the album doesn't sound as dense as the one before it. There is more of  experimental wildness to what they do on this one. Meaner than Grave Pleasures for sure.

2- GBH- "Momentum"

 What's impressive is aside from drummer Scott Preece this is the same line-up from 1978.  The album opens in similar vein of metal as Motorhead. Too aggressive to just be rock n roll, but closer to metal than punk despite the gang vocals that chime in. It does sound good. The production is more organic and rock in roll. Punk used to be rock n roll so they are coming full circle. More fun than Hexis.

1- Converge- "The Dusk In Us"

 20 years ago I got into this band called Converge. Someone told me they were like Sunny Day Real estate if they were a hard core band. In the 20 years that passed they haven't let me down, though things have changed. Guitarist Kurt Ballou is now an experienced producer. With the guitarist behind the mixing board , the guitars are warm and organic sitting in the mix with every thing else. The band's punk side is more invigorated here, yet this album does have a great deal of experimentation and sonic diversity.  No band came close to touching them.