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The Editors' Pick: The 20 Best Releases Of 2017

30 December 2017 | 6:55 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

The 20 best releases of 2017, as enjoyed and loved dearly by yours truly.

If you've been regularly reading KYS this year - my reviews, in particular - then the following piece shouldn't surprise you at all. Of course, if you haven't heard any of these bands or the records listed here, then I implore you to follow the links provided after reading and check out my favourite arbitrary number of releases from 2017. So here's the 411 on my top 20 releases for 2017, folks. Because yes, I am indeed that much of a self-aggrandizing cunt. Anyway, off we go!

#20: Justice For The Damned – ‘Dragged Through The Dirt’

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With their crushing debut LP, Justice For The Damned capitalised on the massive hype they'd cultivated in the local Australian scene via crazy live shows, heavy touring and good ol' 'Deep Rotting Fear' and then smashed it all into fucking dust with this wicked record. 'Dragged Through The Dirt' is easily one of the most violent, aggressive and brutally self-loathing hardcore records of the last 12 months; which is no small feat given that this year also saw solid records from Get The ShotKublai KhanHelplessConvergeLeft Behind, Full Of Hell and more being released. This album's title track, along with 'Please Don't Leave Me', 'Demon', 'Agony', and 'It Will Always Be My Fault' are now among the band's finest and heaviest work yet; Bobak Rafiee's savage vocal delivery drives the music forward expertly; the production is suitably raw and messy but also loud and punchy; the drumming is rock solid and relentless and the guitars riff away like dueling, buzzing chainsaws. I mean, who needs those mids anyway?

[Originally, I had Justice’s album tied with Cursed Earth’s killer ‘Cycles Of Grief’ LP for the 20th spot. However, with recent allegations (keyword there, folks) of abuse coming against CE vocalist Jazmine Luders recently, my loving thoughts on their newest record have been tempered, and I did not feel fully comfortable having that release in this shortlist. Great album, though.]

#19: Adrift For Days – ‘A Sleepless Grey’

Sydney record label, Art As Catharsis, had a truly terrific year in 2017; with solid release after solid release coming from their diverse list of bands. Yet the one album that stands the tallest and most accomplished on their release schedule for this year was Adrift For Days imposing LP, 'A Sleepless Grey'. This sprawling, nightmarish epic is a grandiose mixture of 70's/80's progressive-psyche rock with strong elements of driving stoner and heavy doom rock woven throughout. (Fans of Neurosis, Elder and Pallbearer, please step right this way!) This release really is one of those deep records that's a dynamic journey from start to end; one that grips your soul from the moment the creepy opening guitar notes of 'We Stare Into The Sky'. It's an ominously dark and at times, incredibly dense record, but one that is worth many repeat listens. As all great albums offer.

In a nutshell, 'A Sleepless Grey' will be what you hear when you die; an apocalyptic-dirge for your very own death rattle.

#18: 36 Crazyfists – ‘Lanterns’ 

Alaska's finest never seem to receive the full recognition they deserve, but this year's 'Lanterns' proved that that won't ever stop 36 Crazyfists from continuing down this long worn road. And I couldn't be happier about that!

Admittedly, 2010's 'Collisions & Castaways' and 2015's 'Time and Trauma' weren't the best 36 Crazyfists records. Granted, they weren't bad or awful; they were just merely average when compared with the string of quality releases the band dropped from 2002 through to 2008. This ranges from the unbridled rawness of 'Bitterness The Star' (2002), the stunning career pinnacle of the now-classic 'A Snow Capped Romance' (2004), the cathartic metalcore rage and angsty moodiness of 'Rest Inside The Flames' (2006), and the cold, darkened yet melodic and anthemic nature of the consistently solid 'The Tide & It's Takers' (2008). This is where the quartet's eighth record, 'Lanterns', comes into the icy fray, as it saw this much-loved yet sorely underrated group return to their truest, strongest and most honest form in literal years; hitting the perfect mix between their bouncy nu-metal parts, hard-hitting alt-metal moments, scathing hardcore sections, Brock Lindow's unique vocal timbre and heavy screams, and the band's effective contrasting shades of melodic light and dark brutality. Something clearly evident from the riffing, aggro onslaught of the album's cathartic opener, 'Death Eater'.

At its core, this album is about the loss, depression and recovery invoked by Lindow's bitter and harrowing divorce, and that dire, hopeless tone maintains even through the melodic and chorus-driven bangers of 'Better To Burn' and the emotional gut-punch of 'Sea and Smoke', right through to the gravely, chilling acoustic track 'Where Revenge Ends' (a fist for the band by my count) up until the eerie and intimate finale of 'Dark Corners'.  Lanterns' - in terms of its heart, passion and emotion - really is the kind of record that you cannot fake. It's a record that only 36 Crazyfists could've made but also made it work so goddamn well. 36 Crazyfists: thank you so much for coming back and for not just fading away. It is appreciated more than you could ever know.

#17: DEAFCULT – ‘Auras’

2017 saw the release of some wonderfully solid dream-pop records - Funeral Advantage’s new EP ‘Please Help Me’, for one, comes to mind. But I think that the true winner for 2017 in this bright, upbeat and emotionally touching style is Brisbane’s Deafcult. On their debut LP, the dreamy and resonating ‘Auras’, the six-piece band utilise catchy and dreamy melodies, layers of instrumentation for a real wall of sound effect, nostalgic 80’s post-punk vibes and lush, distorted shoegaze sounds in the vein of Slowdive (the most obvious musical comparison here). And they then mould this killer combo into a wondrous sonic reverie over the course of 40 sublime minutes. As I more or less stated in my initial album review, it's a record that teenage me would've loved and needed dearly at that point in my life. But now as an early twenty-something, I can appreciate this album's depth and finesse all the more so; for it truly is a magical release.

Of course, there's no shortage of bands playing this style of music right now but Deafcult are one of the best in the scene currently; they're the real fucking deal and you need this record in your life.

#16: END – ‘From The Unforgiving Arms Of God’

In a year that gifted us an extensive list of great hardcore records, END's debut EP is one such towering release for the genre. With just six cut-throat songs, 'From The Unforgiving Arms Of God' is a powerful, mosh-heavy and earth-shattering musical statement. If you cannot see that from the creeping distortion intro of 'Chewing Glass' and how the song erupts moments later with lethal grooves, buzzing riffs, mental pinches, and hellish vocals, then you're beyond salvation, friendo.

Yet what makes this release even better is that it's not just the 'what' of this bat-shit insane EP, but also the 'who' behind it. On guitars, you've got ex-Misery Signals guitarist Gregory Thomas and wizard producer/mix-master engineer and Fit For An Autopsy member Will Putney, both making for a deadly duo. In the rhythm section, you've got former Reign Supreme vocalist Jay Pepito keeping the four-string rumble moving along and drummer Andrew McEnaney (Structures) pummelling and slamming away like his very life depends on it. Then on vocals, Counterparts frontman/Twitter shit-poster extraordinaire Brendan Murphy shows that he's bee holding out on us as he gives his heaviest, most volatile vocal delivery to date. (Making me feel somewhat deflated when I put on his main bands latest album, 'You're Not You Anymore').

Simply put, not only is 'From The Unforgiving Arms Of God one of hardcore's best releases in 2017, END are also one of the best examples of a supergroup done right in recent memory.

#15: The Midnight – ‘Nocturnal’ EP / Boucle Infinie – ‘直線移動’ EP

2017 saw the synthwave movement reach its most prominent form yet, all helped greatly along by two of the genre's finest release to date coming to light: The Midnight's lavish 'Nocturnal' EP and Boucle Infinie's ingenious '直線移動' epic. Honestly, I couldn't decide which one was the better of the two so I tied them for this spot on the list because yes, they're both just that goddam good.

The music of the former U.S duo is a dark, moody and pulsating neon-noir trip of retro synthwave, influenced strongly by John Carpenter's scores, 80's pop, and some fun Phil Collins-worship. The Midnight are currently hitting Fm-84 and Gunship levels of popularity and their massively warm reception around the world will only continue to grow from here on in. With buttery smooth hooks and melodies, crystal clear production, addictive saxophone solos, screaming guitar leads, and with a strong attention to methodical detail and grand scene-setting ability, 'Nocturnal' is a stupendously good release! It's the best soundtrack to any classic 80's film or that of a rain-soaked dystopian sci-fi city. As for the latter, Boucle Infinie is the newest project from The Algorithm mastermind, Rémi Gallego, and is a well-written, expansive, experimental and inventive journey to say the least. Mixing widescreen and cinematic post-rock in the vein of Collapse Under The Empire and Explosions In The Sky, solid 80's worship (see: 'Inside'), the synthwave goodness of the aforementioned Fm-84, Gunship, and The Midnight with the lo-fi ambient moments of Tycho - all with some killer IDM and trip-hop moments mixed in - the debut release under Boucle Infinie is an amazing, larger-than-life release from start to end.

Synthwave is the best its ever been lately and with creative artists like The Midnight and Boucle Infinie, this genre's charm and quality is only on the rise.

#14: Belle Haven – ‘You, Me And Everything In Between’

When I first met Belle Haven's David Vernon (vocals) and his brother Christopher (guitarist, luscious hair-owner), it was back in 2015 for a lengthy in-person interview at Melbourne's Lounge Bar for KYS, surrounding their debut album, 'Everything Ablaze'. And what struck me about the pair at the time (and even now) was just how passionate, endearing and positive the two were to talk with. Which is why it was incredibly saddening to read a lengthy Facebook post in mid-2016 about how things had gone utterly tits up for the Melbourne post-hardcore band. The list was long: having being dealing various personal issues separate from the band, financial woes, having been really fucked around by a videographer/music video director, a piece-of-shit manager ripping them off and bailing on them while they were touring America for the first time, to even the guy mixing and mastering their upcoming second record in question taking his sweet time because he cut them a deal over his other clients who were paying him more. Basically, a lot of people that the band had deeply trusted their music and art to sadly showed their true colours and with other external pressures, this wide confluence of problems almost killed a new album and Belle Haven as an entity completely.

However, as well all know, the band didn't call it quits and fade away into obscurity; they instead persevered and created their best record yet. 'You, Me And Everything In Between' was born from the band's lowest of low's but it also resulted in their highest of highs. YMAEIB is the musical embodiment of a raised middle-finger to those who messed with their art, said 'no' and to those people in David's personal life who caused him great emotional and mental distress. But from great pain can come great art and this was no exception. YMAEIB features not only some of the band's greatest performances and most intimate musical moments to date but also displays their strongest set of songs yet; 'Burn The Witch', 'The Carving Knife', 'You.', 'Me.', 'By Hook Or By Crook', and 'Egophobia'. ('Hollywood' can fuck right off, though).

This sophomore is such an incredibly personal and detailed record; one that's an interconnected mind-map of Belle Haven's time in hell then turned right on its head to make for truly potent music. Album #3 cannot come soon enough!

#13: Glassjaw – ‘Material Control’

Yes, not only was a new Glassjaw album in 2017 a living breathing reality, but it was also bloody fantastic too! 'Material Control' is melodic and hooky, but also angular and abrasive, whilst also being densely-packed, layered and highly addictive. The album gloriously picks up right where they left off with 2011's 'Coloring Book' EP ended, is crammed full of new classics like the soon to be set-staples 'Shira', 'My Conscience Weighs A Ton', 'New White Extremity', and also features some of Justin Beck's finest guitar work thus far. It really is the Glassjaw you know and love but with a fresh coat of everlasting paint.

Only time will tell whether or not 'Material Control' becomes a watershed record like 2002's 'Worship & Tribute', but that doesn't diminish what a sensational record this is.

#12: People Like You – ‘Verse’

In what is a stellar confluence of Midwest sounds from the likes of Tiny Moving Parts, Helen Earth Band, American Football and so on, People Like You offer the best combination of indie, emo, and jazz you’re likely to hear in recent memory. Their newest LP, the lovingly warm and inviting ‘Verse’, is an utter gem of such ideas and truthfully, and it's the record that ‘American Football II’ should have darn well been. Really, that should tell you all you need to know about why I fucking love this record.

#11: Sleep Token – ‘Two’ EP

I think the best way to describe Sleep Token’s sound is that it’s a mixture of Bon Iver's melodic, indie pop-sensibilities; a vocalist who sounds like a more melancholic version of Jonathan Higgs from art-rock gentlemen Everything Everything singing over some warm, analogue synths; all with a dose of metal, djent-tinged sections akin to your Periphery's and your Meshuggah's in terms of breakdowns, tunings and sheer heaviness. It sounds weird, I know, No, it's fucking great, trust me.

While I really couldn't care less about the band's masked, anonymous gimmick and their cryptic background and intent about some ancient god called "Sleep" (notice the Mayan/Aztec temple on the EP's front cover and Cuneiform script font used for their releases), their music is still a genius combination and the execution is near-perfect. And with just three – count ‘em, three - beautifully striking and gloriously dynamic tracks that seamlessly blend, indie, pop and metal, ‘Two’ is not just one of the best EP’s of 2017 but also one of the year's most stunning releases. Seriously, 'Calcutta', 'Nazareth' and 'Jericho' haven't left my mind since I first heard it.

Here's to 'Three' in 2018!

#10: Employed To Serve – ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’

When it came to heavy music in 2017, one of the most-talked-about records this year was easily Code Orange's 'Forever'. And with good reason - it's a solid record. It's an important release from a band whose endorsement from WWE's Triple H, whose live performance at NXT's TakeOver with Incendiary's Brendan Garrone and whose recent Grammy nomination will pave the wave for similar bands to make real waves beyond the mere realms of metal and hardcore. However, if you want the very best version of the sound cultivated on 'Forever' in terms of sonics, vision, delivery, guitar tones, vocal styles, and overall musical approach sans all of the Nine Inch Nails worship, then please look no further than Employed To Serve's insane album, 'The Warmth Of A Dying Sun'. (Which is still the coolest album title I've heard all year).

From the skin-crawling and ominous spoken word intro of societal detatchment in the dynamic title track; the abrasive instrumentals, blood-curdling grooves and slick production of vehement opener 'Void Ambition' and 'Good For Nothing'; the blistering drumming and end-of-days riffs on the galloping 'Never Falls Far'; the way those creepy but effective melodic guitars slowly encroach on the violent, emotional hardcore ravings of 'I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)'; to the crippling family woes of the open-hearted, epic closer 'Apple Tree', this record is right at the top of the class for hardcore and metalcore in 2017. More so than Justice For The Damned's solid debut, more so than END's feverish EP, and more so than Code Orange's latest work too. Again, it’s pretty much ‘Forever’ except so much better: cutting out the fillerish electronic sections and meandering industrial elements and is far more cohesive in style and consistent overall. There's no jarring glitches in the metalcore Matrix here, folks.

You won't find Employed To Serve opening for a wrestler and you won't see them at the Grammy's, but their latest record is one of those special releases that reminds us all of how much fun, how important and how fucking good this kind of music can be. 'The Warmth Of A Dying Sun' exists at a level of flow, intensity, aggression, and songwriting skill that few other bands can achieve. Also, their cover of 'Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste' by Norma Jean is crazy good. Is there anything this band cannot fucking do!?

#9: Spilt Cities – ‘life, on hold’

Channeling the very best parts of Modest Mouse, Band Of Horses, Mewithoutyou and Brand New (no, not old mate sex pest Jesse Lacey) is Perth's Spilt Cities. Their new LP 'life, on hold' is a rich indie-rock, post-rock-tinged love letter, one that's as dynamic as it lush and engrossing. It's a record you probably never heard when it came out back in October (he said, like an elitist dickhead) but its one you need in your collections immediately, even if just for standout tunes like 'Keep Quiet', 'No End, No Beginning' and 'Long Grass, River People'.

Honestly, I do struggle to put a lot of my love for this record into words. As much as a cop-out that most likely is, just know that no matter what specific points of this record you land on, Spilt Cities outdo themselves every step of the way. Whether or not they intended for it, Spilt Cities‘ debut record establishes the clear difference between what is genuine, methodical, loving music and what is shallow, intentionless music that was made solely because someone wanted a mere taste of fame and glory, instead of trying to create something actually worthwhile and interesting. ‘life, on hold‘ is, of course, the former.

#8: Fjørt – ‘Colouer’

Fjørt - AKA the best German band that isn't Heaven Shall Burn - are one of the best-kept international secrets in alternative and heavy music. And never before have this German three-piece sounded as good, as driven, as passionate, and as utterly massive as they do on their exceptional third record, 'Colouer'. Which is really saying something, given just how damned good 2015's 'Kontakt' was!

Creating a sound that feels like twice as many people are playing than there actually is, this Aachen trio once again balances booming hardcore rage, violently deep emotional outbursts, tremolo-picked post-rock sequences, brief ambient sections, and serene moments of melody and beauty for a heavy, complex but easily followable and enjoyable sound. Drummer Frank Schophaus hits hard and fast as ever and the vocal interplay of guitarist Chris Hells and bassist David Frings is fantastic, with both weighing with their own style of clean singing and fry screaming and pushed-chest yells. Of course, I am well aware that the poetic German-only lyrics will put many people off, but hey, that's what Google Translate is for, ain't it?

Much like someone's actual life experiences, 'Colouer' isn't about just one particular thing; it's about many different topics and the band deliver this feeling of sonder with real care, love and heart via some of their best songs yet. As such, this album a relatable and varied release delves into the many layers of modern life and the human experience; from heartfelt love ('Windschief'), lost youth, life and death, battling with mental afflictions such as dementia ('Magnifique'), to politics and and addressing the history of racism in their country and the growing movements of German Neo-Nazism ('Raison', an old German term for ‘reason’ that was borrowed from the French language. The more you know). 

'Colouer' doesn't break new ground for this style but it didn't need to. This album is proof that German's really do it the best. So go and get on this shit ASAP, you uncultured swine.

#7: Ocean Grove – ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’

UNFD’s most interesting and engaging band of the whole lot, Ocean Grove, blew everyone away this year with their debut album, ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’. The Melbourne quintet challenged the preconceived notions of their art and music from both die-hard fans, curious media types and their most vocal detractors alike. With their debut’s strong 90's aesthetic, genre-mashups, incredibly varied sonics between song, amazing production, and bountiful creativity with a goal of creating their own sound, Ocean Grove shifted their crosshairs from the mid-tier local milestones and positioned their sights on higher accomplishments. Namely that of headlining festival slots and playing bigger and better venues. And a record like that that has more than likely see them down such a successful path. To borrow a line from this captivating album’s opening song, Ocean Grove is currently “standing on the precipice of what is and what may be”, and that “what may be” could very well become a reality for them because of the sheer talent and skill bursting out of ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’.

Look, this is an utter banger of an album front to back and is hands down one of the best Aussie releases of 2017!

#6: Statues - ‘No Grave, No Burial’

Sometimes all you need to really stand out is to find a topic or theme for your album to discuss that your peers are either ignoring outright or are just totally ignorant of. For Statues, their intensive and frenzied brand of hardcore a la The Chariot, Dillinger Escape Plan and Norma Jean is the perfect, hard-hitting musical bedrock to offer an equally harrowing tale of one’s life destroyed by war, horrifically losing family and friends, becoming a refugee in a sea of millions of displaced people, and fleeing to a country not unlike Australia for the slim chance of finding a new life only to be turned back or detained in off-shore detention centres. A tale that is all too real for many, I’m afraid.

This is a record that weaves together the story a foreign civil war with a bitingly real and humanized tale of unfathomable loss and hopelessness amongst the sheer chaos of it all; which is then reflected in the chaotic, jagged instrumentals and frontman Alex Shom’s incredible vocal performance and his moving, heart-breaking lyrics. Thankfully, the Perth heavy outfit has thematically and lyrically handled this heavy topic of our world’s immense refugee crisis with the importance, compassion, nuance and the seriousness that it calls for, making this new record a powerful piece of art.

Moreover, ‘No Grave, No Burial’ also succeeds at being a strong political statement yet it never feels too politicised or too preachy. Something that very well could’ve happened with a lesser band handling this kind of source material. If you ever wanted a record whose lyrics and vocals tonally and effectively match the instrumentation and music and then vice versa, ‘No Grave, No Burial’ is a master class in that sense. Statues second record sure isn’t for the faint of heart but it is one of the most gripping and satisfying heavy records of the year for those who listen close and attentively.

#5: Ulver – ‘The Assassination Of Julius Caesar’

Norway's Ulver are such an exciting band; what with them having had many different musical eras across their diverse 24-year career, keeping fans and critics alike right on their toes. There’s the folk/black metal period of their first couple albums, the weird-electronic-experimental era of ‘Perdition City’ and the avant-garde nature of ‘Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. Then there's the tragic and ominous orchestral, neoclassical beast, 2007's ‘Shadow Of The Sun’, the alternative rock sound of ‘Wars of the Roses’, their harsh and droning split album with Sun O))) – ‘Terrestrials’ - and the improvised, instrumental-focused post-rock of ‘ATGCLVLSSCAP’. More recently, from this year, the haunting 80’s pop/synthwave goodness of their spell-binding 11th LP arrived, the utterly sublime 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar'. Think Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears but with a 2017 spit and polish.

My lord, if I could marry this thing, I would in a heartbeat!

It’s a record whose lyrics and themes take you deep into ancient Roman mythology, the darkness of Christianity and Catholicism, various religious beliefs and allegories of mid-20th-century history and modern culture the further you search and look into it all. To say its a rewarding record is a real understatement and the lyrical and tonal depth of this record cannot be overstated. Also, the actual compositions here are second-to-none in this style (see: the lengthy ‘Rolling Stone’, the haunting ‘Transverberation’, the creepy and layered tale of the 60's in the eerie ‘1969’, etc.) Furthermore, those nostalgic 80’s synths and retro pop ideas gloriously meet up with modern electronic and dance tropes so well, all dolled up with that typical Ulver knack for experimentation and creativity, which makes 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar' a one-of-a-kind record. And I love it to death.

#4: Deadspace – ‘The Liquid Sky’

Deadspace’s atmospheric black metal and gothic sound derives from one hell of a deep abyss, one that’s filled with countless demons and all manner of personal nightmares. Yet that’s what’s so fucking great about that is that this band knows just how to capture and execute those moments in their music; a monolithic sound that’s really evolved and grown since ‘The Promise Of Oblivion’ and last year’s ‘Gravity’ EP.

The Perth metal group’s second album, ‘The Liquid Sky’ is a staggering, ugly blackened soundtrack to someone’s depraved life finally circling the drain. It’s a record that’s filled to the very brim with bleak tales of self-destruction such as substance abuse, crippling addiction, violence, self-harm and regrettable promiscuity. From the massive shoegaze-tinged, wall of sound epic that is the mammoth ‘Void’, the melodic black metal summit reached on the blistering ‘Reflux’, to the dire and downtrodden folk acoustic number of mid-album standout ‘Kidney Bleach’, the lucid musical dream of the penultimate instrumental ‘Only Tears’ and the dynamic yet climactic movements of the closing title track; ‘The Liquid Sky’ is a very special record, one that you could potentially drown in.

#3: Blood Command – ‘Cult Drugs’

Norway’s Blood Command, the best band that you've probably never heard of.

Blood Command’s explosive second album borrows the infectious hooks of Paramore, the driving guitar riffs and DIY punk rock ethos of Refused, and injects copious amounts of pure, unbridled energy of The Blood Brothers into the mix. This is then all honed by a few bright mariachi trumpets, some catchy neon synths sprinkled here and there, and a vocalist – new(ish) member Karina Ljone – who is as commanding as one could ever be. Guitarist Yngve Andersen’s production, vision and songwriting has stepped up immensely since their previous record and the Bergen heavy crew has never sounded this energized, this intense nor this intimidating. 'Cult Drugs' is a raw yet polished record and one that's loud, commanding and in-your-face from the second 'CTRL+ART+DEL' kicks off. 'Cult Drugs' is an album that's as seductive as a cult leader and is as addictive as the most dopamine-filling drug.

I’ve listened to this record at my happiest, my most depressed, my healthiest, my sickest, my most awake and my most tired and it never fails to impress and invigorate me. How the hell Blood Command will top this mighty album, I haven't the fucking foggiest.

#2: Lòdz – ‘Time Doesn’t Heal Anything’

Mammoth, earth-moving post-metal in the vein of The Ocean and Cult Of Luna meets glorious post-rock akin to God Is An Astronaut on Lòdz's newest masterpiece, ‘Time Doesn’t Heal Anything’. These French lads somehow managed to follow up 2013’s deviously good ‘Something In Us Died’ with a record that bests its predecessor in every single way. The production is so much cleaner and mix is far tighter, the band's sonic scope is larger than ever before, the influence of other metal sub-genres is clearer, the compositions are even more layered and textured, the songwriting is on a whole new level, the dynamics are even more immense, and the record is dripping from head to toe with universal dread, palpable emotion, and dire melancholia; like a crushing metal vortex that sucks you right in to never be seen or heard from again.

You're looking at the best metal album of 2017 right here, folks. I honestly cannot recommend this album enough. After all, there's a very good reason I gave this magnum opus a 100/100 score.

Before I get to my number #1 record, and at the very real risk of sounding like a presenter, here are some honourable mentions:

  1. The Physics House Band’s insane instrumental assault, ‘Mercury Fountain’;
  2. Aswekeepsearching's beautifully rick post-rock stunner, ‘Zia’;
  3. Collapse Under The Empire’s redeeming new instrumental epic, ‘The Fallen Ones’;
  4. Sufferer's self-titled album as it's the best album A Lot Like Birds are yet to write;
  5. Mere Women’s bleak and ominous indie-rock LP, ‘Big Skies’;
  6. Health's 'Disco 3' compilation because 'Euphoria' is an utter fucking banger;
  7. Romancer's 'Honeybee' EP cause its a beautiful, nostalgic trip through 2000's post-hardcore and emo;
  8. Emmure's bouncy, punchy, all-around solid and surprisingly introspective 'Look At Yourself';
  9. Get The Shot's 'Infinite Punishment' for being Knocked Loose but actually good;
  10. Death Bells' 'Standing At The Edge Of The World' because I am a real sucker for good post-punk;
  11. Fit For An Autopsy's beastly doomsday-metal score, 'The Great Collapse';
  12. DVSR's 'Therapy' EP as it's well and truly lit, fam;
  13. The National's 'Sleep Well Beast' because opener 'Day I Die' is one of their best songs to date;
  14. PVRIS’s All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ as it's not over-hyped trash like ‘White Noise’;
  15. The Gloom In The Corner's 'Homecoming' EP due to the killer pure mosh and narrative depth;
  16. IEatHeartAttacks gloomy hardcore blazer, 'Please Just Dance Death';
  17. Vices' third LP, 'Now That I Have Seen I Am Responsible';
  18. And WAAX’s Wild & Weak’ EP, as it’s just bitchin’ from the word ‘go’.

#1: Julien Baker – ‘Turn Out The Lights’

Come on, as if it was going to be any other album for the top spot.

Aside from Lòdz's latest, the only other record this year that I awarded 100/100 to was Julien Baker’s brilliant sophomore LP; the scarily intimate, musically minimal yet emotionally harrowing therapy session put to tape, ‘Turn Out The Lights’.

As a little fun fact about me, I don't have any tattoos and I don't ever see myself getting any. Yet I've actually been thinking long and hard about getting "The harder I swim, the faster I sink" (from the breath-taking fourth track, 'Sour Breath') inked on my bod as a memento for what was paradoxically the best and worst year of my whole life. Such is the utterly profound emotional impact that that song and Baker's latest mesmerising work of 11 incredible songs has had over my heart and psyche of late. ‘Turn Out The Lights’ is the album of the year, people. It's free from any sinister corporate interest; it is untainted by any and all outsider perspective; it is painfully honest and deeply human throughout; it sounds real and even suitably flawed at times; it is the sole record that brought me back from the edge this year; and it comes from a young, growing musician whose artistry is already second to none. Essentially perfect.

Thank you all for reading. See you all in 2018!