Raffy's Top Tens of 2017 - Day 3: Best Musicianship

Reviewer Dave Raffy presents his personal picks for this year's top ten releases with the best musicianship!

Dec. 22, 2017


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On this Day 3 list, the ten releases for this year are chosen based on their musicianship (aka artist's or band's overall skill or musical ability demonstrated on the release). Releases can be full-lengths, EPs or splits and are from all genres.

10 Totenritual See Details for Totenritual

Kicking off the list, Belphegor's Totenritual release has copious amounts of various guitar riffs throughout its stay. The music contains slamming sections, some solos, tremolo picking akin to the blackened genres, and many other additions. The drumming is fast-paced as ever and the vocals are appropriately dark and gloomy, fitting for the type of music they're going for. The structuring is good and, without any of the gimmicks from previous releases present here, Belphegor still manage to keep their composure and make this a worthy album to listen to.

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9 False Idol See Details for False Idol

Next up, we have the newest addition to Veil of Maya's discography titled False IdolFalse Idol tests the technicality and progressive abilities and aspects that the band has incorporated into all of their previous works. The mixture of different guitar riffs and tempos is eclectic, to say the least. Many of the tracks succeed at being experimental, mixing up opposite extremes of the spectrum: highs with lows, fast with slow, melodic with chaotic, clean vocals with unclean vocals...you get the gist. The polyrhythms make a comeback, per usual. Finally, the breakdowns aren't in your face, but they're a nice touch, and the general formula is entertaining.

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8 Codex Omega See Details for Codex Omega

Codex Omega is the latest tenth full-length from long-running Greece-based symphonic death band Septicflesh. The album, which was released through label Season of Mist, features a wide variety of instruments being performed in its hour-long running time. These include ones of the traditional Eastern persuasion in addition to the usual heavy metal guitars, bass, and drums. Aside from this, the band has seemingly improved their classical-esque and orchestral nuances, as well as their ability to mix those elements with aspects of extreme metal. The vocal delivery is a strong addition to the old formula as well.

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7 Worldwide Warfare See Details for Worldwide Warfare

At #7, we have Necrotted's Worldwide Warfare. Hailing from Germany, this band is a real treat for fans of the brutal death metal scene. Throughout the release's ten pulse-pounding tracks, the music throws as much your way as it possibly can. Overall, it is a very fast album comprised of frequent guitar solos, lightning riffs, constant double bass and blastbeat drumming, the inclusion of two vocalists and all the other workings of an awesome act. The band did a very decent job at mixing everything together and giving it massive enthusiasm. The riffage and destruction is rampant with absolutely no hiccups to be found anywhere. Everything sounds so consistent and stellar, especially for the genre.

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6 Phantom Anthem See Details for Phantom Anthem

August Burns Red never disappoints...and this one is no different. Phantom Anthem really displays their full ability to write and play the music that they represent. The progressive song structures found in the release before make a return and feel more consistent and better than ever. The music feels even more complex this time around with all the riffs and drum patterns, yet still giving off a core-like vibe. The vocals give increasing melody to the musical cornucopia. In general, all the riffs, catchy choruses, and more serve to demonstrate the band's songwriting capabilities.

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5 Keys to the Mysteries Beyond See Details for Keys to the Mysteries Beyond

On this spot, the very recent release from Swedish Occult black metal outfit Grafvitnir is displayed. Keys to the Mysteries Beyond is an album that sports many themes and a blend of the traditional "kvlt" black metal with the aspects of ambiance and melody. The band does well, all things considered, to contend with their low-fi production quality and sound. The album is very energetic and contains a lot of nods to older black metal releases.The cool melodies and demonic undertones are a plus to the general sound, too.

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4 Halfway Human See Details for Halfway Human

Halfway Human is one album in which eveything works and mixes in together so well. This djenty-core little number from earlier in 2017 is one that truly is consistent, technical, and spontaneous, given the genre. The instrumentals are the strongest portion of this release, with all of the variety and powerful riffage you'd want in an album of this calibre. The vocals certainly aren't flawed  either...and the cleans aren't too shabby for a first-timer. Major props for branching out and trying new things.

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3 Gammageddon See Details for Gammageddon

Cytotoxin are one of the strongest aspects of the brutal tech death scene over in Germany. Their most recent album titled Gammageddon throwns in everything that a bdm fan would want. Within it, you'll find technical guitarwork all throughout, accompanied by complex and lightning-fast drumming patterns (with the double bass and blastbeat package), powerful and brutal vocals with tons of aggression, and horrifying real-world themes. The complete finished product ultimately consists of a fast-paced and chaotic environment packed with extreme imagery, energy, and strong vibes, which are held up by the overall viciously stellar and consistent musical and songwriting abilities of the musicians themselves.

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2 Infrared Horizon See Details for Infrared Horizon

Infrared Horizon has its musicians ripping and shredding all the way through. All the while, many different elements from various genres such as thrash, grind, death and even jazz influences are present in the music itself. These artists are undeniably virtuosos in their own right when it comes to the type of music they perform here. The compositions are extremely technical, with progressive and avant-garde song structures. The variety and melodic undertones found in the instrumentalism are, at the same time, bombarded by aggressively destructive guttural vocals.

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1 Relentless Mutation See Details for Relentless Mutation

On here, for the #1 spot on today's list, we have one album that truly blew me away upon first listen. That one is Relentless Mutation by none other than tech death band Archspire. This release does so many things right amd makes everything stick together so well it's crazy. From the incredibly fast vocal deliveries to the likewise speedy drumming and agile guitarring, Relentless Mutation strives to do none other than please and appease its fans and listeners, thanks to the hard work of its creators. All of the instruments are crisp, clear, and offer their own spin and variety into the mix of destruction, melody, and assertiveness. This one release has so much variety in terms of sound that it comes out to sounding truly unbelievable at times. Definitely recommended to any and all fans of brutal, fast-paced technical death metal and the like.

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