Kyle McGinn Best-of 2017

Monday, 11th December 2017

As the case always goes, trying to whittle down literally hundreds of albums released each year down to twelve is a lovingly torturous act. With metal not usually being one for singles territory (not a bad thing in my books), it’s always nice to utilize the top songs to represent some albums from high-quality acts that just didn’t quite make the cut. So enjoy some of the catchiest, most brutal, or some combination thereof, that 2017 had to offer.

10. Battle Beast – “Beyond the Burning Skies” (from Bringer of Pain)
A power metal anthem if there ever was one, the chorus alone should get everyone moving and shouting along. You can feel the energy in this track – something Battle Beast excels at (and why they have been gaining serious traction).

9. Origin – “Infinitesimal to the Infinite” (from Unparalleled Universe)
Pure, glorious speed from one of the best in the business at this sort of thing. The type of song that hits you like a freight train – an excellent opener that captures the frenetic energy of Origin at their best.

8. Threat Signal – “Enter the Matrix” (from Disconnect)
Though there are more expansive songs on Threat Signal’s long-awated release, this one captures their essence perfectly in regards to modern metal. Pulsating grooves, thrashy riffs, and brutal/catchy vocals.

7. Metalite – “Nightmare” (from Heroes in Time)
Upbeat and catchy power metal that also pulls from the modern Amaranthe playbook, Metalite create some real grin-inducers throughout their debut. “Nightmare” makes you wonder if you should headbang or dance. Why not both?

6. Exit Eden – “Unfaithful” (from Rhapsodies in Black)
Who knew that beneath the surface of this Rihanna song was a bombastic metal opus? An excellent and dark re-imagining of the song and a fine example of what Exit Eden accomplished on Rhapsodies in Black.

5. The Haunted – “Brute Force” (from Strength in Numbers)
Simply put, this song IS The Haunted. A volatile mixture of cutthroat thrash riffing and sheer, pissed-off aggression. Thoroughly explosive – no one beats The Haunted when it comes to sheer adrenaline.

4. Seven Spires – “Serenity” (from Solveig)
Seven Spires are versatile and acrobatic in shifting their sound on Solveig, and “Serenity” takes the melodic death metal playbook and executes it better than most veteran acts. Equal parts soaring and aggressive.

3. The Black Dahlia Murder – “Nightbringers” (from Nightbringers)
A circus-y and playful riff and atmosphere surrounds the title track from The Black Dahlia Murder’s latest. Brutal yet melodic, this is TBDM at their best and brightest.

2. Angel Nation – “Enough is Enough” (from Aeon)
Channeling the ‘80s in the best possible way, this upbeat cut from Angel Nation will get you singing the chorus every single time you hear it. It’s also a great showcase of the diversity you’ll find on Aeon.

1. The Night Flight Orchestra – “Gemini” (from Amber Galactic)
A real life saver on a few occasions during late night post-show drives, you can listen to “Gemini” at least 10 times in a row and not bat an eye due to its driving and absurdly catchy melodies. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Best Newcomer: Seven Spires
While both CyHra and Cellar Darling delivered stunning debuts in the top 12, they were made up of scene veterans. Seven Spires on the other hand, brought forth their first full-length album this year (after only one EP, which begins the album) and are relative newcomers. In that regard, consider the incredible depth, experimentation, and sheer variety on Solveig to be merely the beginning of what is to come. There’s a reason that they’ve been championed by most of this site’s staff. Truly an exciting band to get behind and watch them grow.

Biggest Disappointment: Dianne van Giersbergen exits Xandria
It seemed Xandria had finally found their vocal ace in the hole with Dianne van Giersbergen. The band had just recently toured the US this past spring and were gearing up for a return in the fall. A number of canceled summer fest dates (and the fall US tour) led to van Giersbergen’s emotional announcement that she was leaving the band. A real gutpunch to listen to her actual reading of the announcement – such a bummer that things couldn’t have worked out in a way that favored both parties. Always a shame to see things head south in an ugly way for a band on the rise.

Biggest Surprise: The Rise of Bandcamp
Not sure if this should really be a ‘surprise’ per say, given the level of ease and ability to sell on the Bandcamp page, but it seemed that in 2017 that Bandcamp experienced more of a significant rise than in years’ past. More and more labels are flocking to the site as an additional way to increase sales (as they should). While it makes finding the independent acts a bit more challenging (as I’ve sometimes cited in our monthly article), it’s great that many are using the service instead of resulting to illegally downloading an album, as well as checking out some new, underground acts.

Best Cover Art: Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon
Some simply astonishing work from Adam Burke on this one. Full of gloom and sorrow, yet there’s a mystique about it as well that really draws you in. The sci-fi elements blend quite well with the surrounding bleakness and dread, in a unique way. It also fits perfectly with the death metal act’s aesthetic found once you hit play (much like the band’s art for their debut).
See larger image HERE

Best Concert: Amaranthe trilogy (New York City, NY/Ashbury Park, NJ/Reading, PA – March 2017)
One of the most fun and engaging live acts around – getting three shows in a span of 4 days was an incredible experience. Sweetening the pot was the third show, in which my two sons were able to partake as well – nothing beats sharing a great show with the boys and seeing their excitement. The smile on my youngest son’s face when “Drop Dead Cynical” began is a memory I’ll always cherish.

Most Anticipated Album of 2018: Allegaeon
The death metal maestros have taken some big steps with each new release, and 2018 will see their fifth full-length hit the streets. Proponent for Sentience was nothing short of a phenomenal piece of melodic death grandeur, and as they continue to try new angles and directions (perhaps including some more of Riley McShane’s cleans), they have the potential to raise the bar even further.

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