Raffy's Top Tens of 2017 - Day 2: Most Innovative

Reviewer Dave Raffy presents his personal picks for this year's top ten most innovative releases!

Dec. 21, 2017


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Today, the most innovative albums/EPs/releases of 2017 get looked at and briefly discussed on this list. Releases are from all genres.

10 Ascending A Mountain of Heavy Light See Details for Ascending A Mountain of Heavy Light

Kicking off this list is the latest sophomore follow-up split from both doom metal project The Body & grindcore act Full of Hell. This collaboration represents a change or shift in sound for the respective artists, who use the opportunity to once again blend their sounds into one distinct identity. The release features vast tempo transitions, fast grind sections in betweem the dark, heavy doom metal parts, and a dreary atmosphere accompanied mostly by wailing or shrieking vocals. While this type of music may not always be my cup of tea, I still appreciate what the artists have done here with the way that they've formed a niche sound. I respect their strive for innovation...they definitely know what they want their music to be.

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9 The Digital Sea See Details for The Digital Sea

Up next, we have an EP from a lesser-known, up-and-coming electronicore act amusingly called ZOMBIESHARK! These two dudes succeeded in creating a sort-of throwback album to MySpace deathcore as well as putting a quirky spin on it. The duo project incorporated a variety of electronic, synth, and Nintendocore elements along with some more modern pop-esque choruses, vocals high and low, clean and unclean, as well as an eclectic set of instrumentals. There is also some recent EDM influence and a ton of ambiance thrown in between. The overall tone, in addition to the fact that ZOMBIESHARK! creates such a mix of different sounds end emotions in so little amount of time (the entire EP is about 13 mins) is enough to grant them a spot on this list.

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8 E See Details for E

Here we have the latest entry into longtime Norwegian progressive black metal outfit Enslaved's discography simply titled E. This album, while fairly long and drawn out, exhibits a lot of innovation, especially in the wake of a new vocalist and keyboard player following the previous one's departure. There are some noticeable differences because of this factor. However, these differences are mostly for the better. The guitar leads are great and blend well with the rest of the melodies and overall atmosphere. The release also manages to be catchy, heavy and consistent all at the same time throughout its duration.

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7 Blood Of My Enemy See Details for Blood Of My Enemy

Winds of Plague's newest effort Blood of My Enemy came out recently following the band's break from the deathcore limelight. The band does a decent job this time around at making slightly more complex compositions than your average deathcore act, with melodic dissonance that clashes with hard-hitting heavy metal and chugging. The music presents themes of war, aggression and destruction within its forty-minute running time. At times, there is a sort of atmospheric black metal vibe to the mix, which makes the feel of listening to it all the better. With the high-low vocal combo, overall musical and lyrical variety, and flawless production quality mixed in with the other elements previously noted, Blood of My Enemy puts itself as #7 on this list.

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6 Retrocausal See Details for Retrocausal

Cleric's latest addition offers listeners some creativity as well as innovation with its explosive and unpredictable instrumentalism. The vocals serve to add to the fact...and the technical drumming through it all contains a metric ton of inspiration from first listen. The album is chaotic, yet very well structured. The music itself keeps you at the edge of your seat at all times due to its spontaneity and the vibes it gives off. Retrocausal is a must-listen for those who yearn for the works of such acts as Car Bomb & The Dillinger Escape Plan.

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5 Metempsychose See Details for Metempsychose

This little black metal release from France has all the workings of what makes a fine black metal release. It's good quality, and all inclusive. The music even borders on the boundaries of the blackened death realms, as well. The mixture of different and various black and death elements works really well in regards to the music and its structure. The guitar riff variety, melodic sections and overtones, and overall atmosphere are the album's strongest points. In general, Azziard have made sure to make Metempsychose a bumpy, heavy ride.

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4 Unparalleled Universe See Details for Unparalleled Universe

Technical death metallers Origin have always had something interesting up their sleeves. Unparalleled Universe exists to perpetuate the notion that any band can stay relevant and innovative after so many years writing music. Some new aspects of other subgenres are included in some sections, such as having a sort-of atmospheric outro with cool instrumentals on  the track "Cascading Failures" as well as some slamming influences on other songs. The technical riffage and dual vocals make a comeback, with a tad melodic tone accompanying the music at times towards the end, which is odd for a band like Origin

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3 Clairvoyant See Details for Clairvoyant

Cracking in at the top three for this year, we have this little number: The Contortionist's full-length album titled Clairvoyant. This fourth album by the metalcore enthusiasts and performers serves as a concept album discussing one's journey through space. The music this time around features a more sombre, softer tone than before, albeit with the similar progressive metal elements that the band has become known for being demonstrated throughout this release. The djenty-styled polyrhythmic guitar riffs make yet another comeback in this one, and a lot of elements are similar overall. However, the slight twists and turns scattered throughout Clairvoyant offer a more avant-garde feel to the genre. These include the synth, background and feedback noises, and unorthodox transitions. The release is undeniably emotional as well.

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2 Of Erthe and Axen See Details for Of Erthe and Axen

Of Erthe and Axe serves as the whole product of operatic and ambient black metal project Xanthochroid's doing. The album is long, but the length is warranted due to the plethora of musical factors and creativity that gives this composition its identity and character. Even with all the build-ups, melodic breaks, and atmospheric parts in between the eclectic-sounding music that switches from heavy to soft constantly, this release rarely gets dull because you'll always be anticipating what's to come next. Of Erthe and Axen features many surprises and a variety of different instruments within its boundaries to create something truly epic and musically memorable.

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1 Thrice Woven See Details for Thrice Woven

Thrice Woven has to be the band's best album for me to date, hands down. With all of the refined elements that are incoporated as well as the new things mixed in throughout truly give countless other black metal releases a run for their money. Many of the tracks on Thrice Woven feature little guest spots from other musicians, and the slight nuances that these artists contribute to the overall final product is warranted and understandable from a creative perspective, to say the absolute least. All of the five drawn out and fleshed out tracks on this release are very well-structured and memorable...each in their own rights and respects. The energy is also consistent, with a folk-like quality presented in some parts. The music is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for this reviewer...and, without spoiling anything else, I'd recommend this album to any and all fans of black metal out there. For all that's been said and more, Thrice Woven by Wolves in the Throne Room is granted the #1 spot on this list.

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