2017 Part Deux: Musicianship

Dec. 20, 2017


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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 particular list is for albums that went beastmode when it comes to shredding and/or drumming in the second half of 2017. Part One can be found HERE. Be sure to also check out the other lists this week for Innovation and Enjoyability.and download our latest Free Sampler.

10 Vilseledd See Details for Vilseledd

Party Smasher Inc. (Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan) opens the floodgates for the new album from Stockholm, Sweden's God Mother. Grindcore comes on a pretty broad spectrum, and I tend to find myself magentized towards its poles of either extremely ugly, blackened madness or hardcore/mathcore-influenced controlled chaos.  God Mother fits best into the latter category.  While the music of Vilseledd is impressively fast and plenty abrasive, there's a certain order flowing through the technical proficiency of the instruments.  Put simply, it's a little more "43% Burnt" than "Gravedancer," which further clarifies why it caught the attention of Ben Weinman.  And in addition to crafting very concise blasts of aggression with each track, God Mother bring the same compositional mastery to the album as a whole.  At 14 songs in 30 minutes, Vilseledd is lean and mean; avoiding common grind sins of either bloating with filler or leaving the listener unfulfilled.

9 Gammageddon See Details for Gammageddon

German brutal technical death metal band Cytotoxin brings Chernobyl-influenced mayhem. Gammageddon has everything a technical death metal fan could want: intensely brutal vocals (with some breeing to boot), violently hammering drums, and of course nausea-inducing guitarwork.  While the gas masks and nuclear meltdown lyrical themes are defintiely gimmicky, they rarely overshadow or distract from the merits of the performances.  Cytotoxin can back up their stylized appearance with some really impressive musicianship; so much so that I forgot entirely about everything else.

8 Primary See Details for Primary

Primary is 27 minutes of wall-to-wall techgasms. Every single track is near perfection, drawing plenty of parallels with TDEP and The Red Chord in addition to more extreme groups like Decapitated and Beneath the Massacre. It's no wonder where Viledriver's sound comes from after perusing their influences pagePsyopus? CryptopsyCar Bomb? Nile? These guys are all over the grid. It's like the three of them took turns tossing their favorite bands into a boiling cauldron and drank to the resulting potion to absorb their power. FULL REVIEW

7 Ephemeris See Details for Ephemeris

Beneath play a brand of death metal that often reminds me of Meshuggah for people who may not be a fan of Jen's vocal style.  This is, of course, a huge oversimplification; but throughout the album I notice a similar take on technical grooves underpinned by shifting drum patterns and even complimented by a few signature jazzy solos.  I even hear (modest) similarites between the riff about halfway through the opening track and "The Demon's Name is Surveillance." But Beneath has pleny of differences as well.  The most obvious departure comes in the righteous brutal death growls that compliment the adept musicianship.  And rather than relying on an entire foundation of groove, there are plenty of more traditional technical death metal elements akin to Dying Fetus as well as a few vaguely death/doom moments.

6 Methods To Delusion See Details for Methods To Delusion

New England progressive technical death squad Scalpel released something special that flew under the radar this year. Methods To Delusion is a totally brutal technical powerhouse.  I looked at the cover and assumed this would be some 80's/90's throwback thrash or death metal, but this is some psychodelic, mind-breaking stuff. The guitarwork is insane, and I love the energy and sound of the drums.  Even the moody intrumental "Interdelude" is a masterpiece that adds an extra level of disturbed aesthetic to the album as a whole. For an album about paranoid delusions and violent hallucinations, Scalpel have utterly nailed the concept from a sonic standpoint.

5 Ashvattha See Details for Ashvattha

Orange County/Los Angeles progressive technical death metal band The Last Of Lucy deliver serious thrils, chills, and kills in the form of highly proficient progressive guitar compositions along with plenty of jazz elements along the way.  Saxophone flows in and out of the heavier movements like a trickling stream from a raging torrent. And melodic interludes like "Hypostatize" prove that each band member is a true musician first and a metalhead second with its lush, velvety sound. "Obsidian Archetype," alternatively, serves as a standout on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It strikes like a Shakespearean actor swinging a sledgehammer; simultaneously soliloquizing and assaulting.  The Last Of Lucy are highly poetic in their technicality, but also never above a little violence.

4 Nemethia See Details for Nemethia

Arkaik are a destructive powerhouse to be reckoned with.  I cover plenty of technically proficient albums here on Metal Trenches, but it's rare to find those bands where every single member, right down to the bass player, is an indespensible component to the overall sound and breathtaking individual performer at the same time. Adam Roethlisberger absolutely crushes a few bass solos a la Coma Cluster Void, Alex and Greg are both f#$king monsters on guitar and drums, and not one, but THREE members throw down some truly dominating death metal vocals.  That's not even mentioning the impressive classical contributions courtesy of Stephen Paulson of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

3 What Passes For Survival See Details for What Passes For Survival

Still vicious and dissonant as ever, this album is the first release from Pyrrhon to truly catch my attention. The union of the highly organic, technical performance with the digitial trickery is simply astounding. The riffs know exactly when to invoke chaos and when to reign it in, and the varied, multi-vocalist performance always keeps things interesting.  They even master some slower and sludgier spaces with "Tennessee." Pyrrhon deliver a wrecking ball of utter disdain and sonic destruction with their latest album, a recording that I feel is not only the band's finest work, but also among the top releases in 2017.  If you like your grind on the experimental side, or are a drummer or guitar player looking to up your game, I highly recommend picking this one up.

2 Relentless Mutation See Details for Relentless Mutation

I feel as though Archspire are trying to set some sort of world record when it comes to brutal vocal speed.  The machinegun delivery of each gutteral syllable perfectly compliments the equally rapid pounding of the guitars and drums.  Furthermore, they help give Archspire that extra signature to their sound that sets them apart from the flock.  The way the cadence melds with the other instruments on "Remote Tumour Seeker" is f#%king perfection. Relentless Mutation is a wonderous expression of speed, agility, heaviness, and catchiness all at once.  The guitars shred, the drumming will make your head spin, and even the bass player makes his presence known in a big way throughout the duration of the album.

1 Endinghent See Details for Endinghent

The endless pit of chaos that is Spain's Altarage returns after a powerful debut album, Nihil, with even more impressive blackened death meditations. Prepare thy brain for sonic lobotomy.  Anyone remember the cerebral bore weapon from Turok?  Talk about a throwback.  It occurs to me that this is precisely the experience of listening to an Altarage song; a malicious, mechanical object, devoid of all thought and emotion, slowly burrowing into your brain.  Eventually it lodges itself so deep within your skull that one can scarcely tell where organic matter ends and soulless machine begins.  The ominous, reptilian guitars coil ever tighter around every fold as black oil seeps into the neuronal connections. With this album, Altarage have brought back everything that made their debut so powerful while expanding and maturing these concepts into something even better.  It stands as a unique entity and speaks volumes about the potentail for the future.