For those not familiar with how we do things here at Metal Trenches, we split the year up and provide a Top 10 for each of our 3 categories. This list is focused on the releases from the second half of this year that I found the most enjoyable, regardless of originality or musicianship. Those other two factors did play into the ranking, but mostly these were the albums that I listened to the most and had a hard time pulling out of my queue. Part One can be found HERE. Don't miss our other lists on Musicianshio and Innovation and download our latest Free Sampler.
Drouthhave taken a massive step forward in their own evolution. Prior to this release, I had pegged Drouth as more of a blackened sludge band, but with Knives, Labyrinths, Mirrors they've integrated fully into West Coast USMB darkness. This is apparent from the instant that "Horse Crippler" (great f#$king title, btw) cracks this cold one open. Ferocious, live-sounding blastbeats, abrasive distortion, and some truly impressive snarls all strike at once like a boot to the groin. The overall atmosphere reeks of respect for classic BM acts and often reminds me of more recent albums from Taake. Nothing feels out of place, and yet you get plenty of variety at the same time. Furthermore, the runtime is perfection.
Fast and heavy hardcore and grindcore from Germany. Implore waste zero time getting to the point, and for an album in this style, it's a wise move. The drums on "Birth of an Era" are a violent force of nature; a raging storm of epic proportions. And they never truly stop or even slow down until the album is over (save for "Ecocide"). The bass and guitar hooks, meanwhile, are every bit as impressive and infectious as Converge's best material. The band utilize a similar style of grinding low end grooves with squealing, earworm leads. "Paradox" and "Disconnected From Ourselves" are just two of many examples seemingly cut directly from Axe to Fall or Everything We Love... and the solo on the latter is totally killer. As for the vocals, they are more consistent with hardcore acts like Trap Them and God Mother: a vicious bark that injects punk with triple testosterone. Highly effective.
Disappointed in the latest Arch Enemy album? Check out Spain's extreme metallers Bloodhunter. Eat your heart out Angela Gossow, and move over Alissa White-Gluz; there's a new dominating frontwoman entering the ranks, and her name is Diva Satanica. Effortlessly, she commands the deep growls, the raspy snarls, and the blackened shrieks as if she was born into it. But all credit can't go to Satanica. Bloodhunter was initially formed by lead guitarist, Fenris; and he is the other guiding force behind the band's strength. His riffs and solos are both impressive and infectiously catchy. Add some crunchy bass breaks and very energetic session drumming from Marcelo Aires (Colosso, The Ominous Circle, etc.) and The End of Faith becomes a very impressive outing indeed. FULL REVIEW
Such hooks! Such energy! Such fun! "This can't possibly persist for very long," said the cynic inside of me; but lo and behold 4 tracks in I was still unabashedly hooked. Make Them Suffer dropped one of the most infectious sleeper hits of 2017 with Worlds Apart. While the riffs aren't going to dazzle veterans with their originality, they are undeniably catchy and still have enough technical flair to inspire the burgeoning guitar players out there. Furthermore, the band makes up for their more conventional elements with creative use of piano and other synths as well as some truly ethereal clean singing all courtesy of the lovely and talented Booka Nile. Her vocals provide the perfect counterpart for Sean Harmonasis' syncopated metalcore barks and growls (reminiscent of A Day to Remember and The Plot In You).
Gutslit have some notable technical prowess in terms of their mighty double-bass drumming and solos that shred your face like Swiss cheese; but like Dying Fetus, the band already stands tall on its foundation of sheer brutality. The song titles, all having to do with methods of torture, do a good job of summarizing the tuneage within. Being cooked alive, eviscerated and spread open, bound and broken with mallets (depicted on the cover), and devoured by vermin are all part of the imagery here. Googling any one of these terms is sure to make your stomach turn, and the band does an excellent job of translating such heinous, incomprehensible acts to disturbing-yet-digestible death metal music. Amputheatre is exactly the carnival of carnage that it claims to be.
2017 has been a pretty good year for bands that can't make up their minds as to whether they are grindcore, hardcore, or mathcore. Helpless falls somewhere in the middle of this raucous, tri-directional Venn diagram. Not unlike God Mother, in addition to the bands listed above, some tracks are blastbeat-driven and full speed ahead while others sport groovier, Botch-influenced riffs that mess with your headbanging synchronization. Debt is a delightful and unexpected album that feeds my need for speed, technicality, and sheer blunt force trauma all in one tight little package
As someone who has not particularly enjoyed Cradle of Filth since Dusk and Her Embrace, I was pleasantly surprised by what the UK symphonic gothic black metal band has to offer on their latest LP. Everyone has stepped up their game in terms of performance, and the production really envelopes the listener in an intoxicating atmosphere. The result is an album that not only features some of the best vocals, guitarwork and synths in the band's entire careeer, but also an overall cohesive, progressive experience. Clearly Cradle have drank deeply of virgins' blood and sold a few souls to make this album happen. It's the only explanation I have for this over 20 year old band, after years of questionable material, to suddenly drop one of the best albums of their career.
One of the last great remaining metalcore bands from my youth, August Burns Red, returns with a proggy new album that is arguably among their best. Phantom Anthem is in many ways the perfect follow-up to Found In Far Away Places. While it isn't quite as adventurous, this album takes the previously applied progressive song structures and makes them the norm. What results sounds more like a hybrid of Constellations and Rescue and Restore with almost every track extended in length and increased in complexity. It's a highly consistent album that delivers in being both incredibly catchy and well written.
I'll always have a special place in my heart for The Black Dahlia Murder, but both Everblack and Abysmal left me fairly lukewarm. As such, I didn't have incredibly high expectations for Nightbringers. Damn, they have still got it. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is the band's best album since Ritual, and might even belong in a top 3 of their discography. It's rare that a band can make good on promises of creating a spiritual successor to one of their finest albums, but they have 100% pulled it off with a highly consistent, top notch set of songs.
Can the nearly 30 year old Converge possibly continue their seemingly endless upward trend in passionate, quality material?Yes, yes they can. Thanks to Ballou's trademark hooks alongside Bannon's vicious-yet-passionate vocal delivery, The Dusk In Us is another incredible album that levels the opposition. The combination of the sorrowful title track with ragers like "Arkhipov Calm" and "I Can Tell You About Pain" creates a masterful balance. Furthermore, nods to other groups like Dillinger Escape Plan and These Arms Are Snakes keep you guessing what will happen next. The boys are still in top form and show no signs of slowing down.