Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15

Welcome to day 16 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

Another day, another post! I hope that you are enjoying my series this year – judging by the comments, I still seem to be getting my choices just about right.

Hopefully, by now, you will have noticed that I have not chosen all of the usual suspects that you might think. As I have said before, 2017 has been a year of trying new things and opening my mind to new sounds, new genres and new bands. And, whilst today’s choice is not a new band, it is a genre with which I’ve not always been overly enamoured. And yet, here we are, over the half-way mark and I’m singing the praises of a record I’d not heavily considered prior to its release.

Before I reveal today’s pick at no. 15, there’s just time to deliver my usual reminder: If you have missed any of the previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post along with links to the entire countdowns from previous years.

Number 15

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Pallbearer
Heartless
Profound Lore Records/Nuclear Blast Records

“As with any highly anticipated release, there was much talk on the Internet about how this record might sound. The group went on record quite early to describe it, suggesting that the new material ‘weaves together the spacious exploratory elements of classic prog, the raw anthemics of 90’s alt-rock, and stretches of black-lit proto-metal’.

With a Katatonia or Anathema album, I expect to be emotionally effected but when it comes from a source as unexpected as this, the result is far more draining and ultimately very satisfying.

I am going to stick my neck out and say that right here, right now, ‘Heartless’ is the best doom metal record that I have ever heard. Yes it incorporates a number of different influences to create a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and moods. However, at its core, ‘Heartless’ is pure doom metal, born and bred.

There isn’t much more to say that hasn’t already been said. The injection of more overt progressive tendencies alongside some sumptuous melodies and assured, ambitious song writing means that with ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have created what I think might very well be my favourite doom metal album ever. Meaningless hyperbole this is not, because ‘Heartless’ delivers in every facet. This is a doom metal masterpiece and my life is richer for hearing it.”

Read the full review here.

pallbearer-Photo-by-Diana-Lee-Zadlo
Photo credit: Diana Lee Zadlo

It takes a lot for me to get excited about a doom metal album. It has never been my favourite genre but Pallbearer have forced me to reassess my thoughts and prejudices with their third album, ‘Heartless’.

In many ways, the title of the record is grossly inaccurate because one thing this album is not, is heartless. The music contained within the seven compositions full of heart; it is rich, vibrant, varied and surprisingly melodic, irresistibly so in fact. But whilst I’m a sucker for a good melody, it is the sheer variety within the tracks that delivers the biggest buzz.

Whilst Pallbearer are pure doom metal at their core, the quotes above from my review should leave you in no doubt about the plethora of different influences evident throughout ‘Heartless’. Ambient, prog, post rock, alternative rock, dark metal, classic metal – it’s all here and it all works wonderfully well, to the point where I get completely swept up in the whole thing. I’d argue that the word ‘anthemic’ might be apt when describing much of the material on this record

I also love the fact that Pallbearer choose to overlay their deeply textured music with clean vocals instead of something harsher. I’m a big fan of more extreme vocals but it is a welcome change of pace to hear the rumbling down-tuned riffs accented by something other than guttural growls; it adds to the sophisticated end product expertly and means that it will also appeal to a wider audience, pulling in interest from those who like to hear something less extreme in the vocal department.

All this adds up to an album that I liked a great deal at the time of its release and continue to like more and more as time goes on. The fact that it just gets better as time goes on means that there was never any doubt about it featuring in this list. The best doom metal album that I have ever heard? Well, it is certainly up there, without a doubt.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 1

The Blog of Much Metal is nothing if not predictable. But, what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for with quality writing, brilliant wit, incisive articles and a bucket load of irony and modesty.

As a result, I return with my usual mid-year round-up of the best music that has been released between January and June 2017. As with last year, I remain a one-man show and so I have not listened to everything that has been released in this period. I have a family and a career to fit in as well. However, I have listened to more albums than ever before (or at least that’s how it feels), so I am content that very little of any note has slipped the net. And if it has slipped the net, I still have six months to put things right. Of course, if I have missed anything out, I shall leave it to you, my dear, loyal reader, to tell me.

Everything in this round-up has consequently been reviewed on this blog already, so I don’t intend on going in to great depth with each pick here. Instead, I’ll provide a few up-to-date thoughts, a quote from the full review and then a link to that review should you wish to check it out. Wherever possible, I will also provide a link to a different track to the one posted with the review. Well, I have to try to give you some value for money, don’t I?

And so, in no particular order, I give you:

VOYAGER-GHOST_MILE-coverHIVoyager
Ghost Mile

If you were to tell me that there is a band out there creating a bigger buzz in the metal world right now, then I might consider calling you a liar. For a band that had been toiling away for a number of years, gathering a small but select band of cult followers, things have now taken off massively. But then it’s hardly surprising given the quality of the music that they are now creating. Unique, assured and intense, Voyager are the whole package and ‘Ghost Mile’ demonstrates this 100%, no question.

“Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focused and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.”

“In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.”

“The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.”

Read the full review here.

pain_of_salvation_-_2017_coverPain Of Salvation
In The Passing Light of Day

Do you know that feeling when a band you’ve almost given up on delivers a killer album? Well, that’s the feeling I got from Pain of Salvation with ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ way back at the beginning of the year. It seems like forever since I first heard it and given the amount of music around at the moment, it is testament to its quality that I still find myself gravitating towards it. More than that, it still has the ability to send chills down my spine and bring a tear to my eye at times.

“What also works well is the way in which the music sounds fresh and vital but also isn’t afraid to borrow from the band’s past either. As well as the ‘Road Salt’ echoes, there are passages where I also hear elements of the ‘One Hour By The Concrete Lake’, ‘Remedy Lane’ and ‘Be’…”

“2017 may have only just begun but Pain of Salvation have laid down the marker for all others to reach. After a few releases that didn’t move me, ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ has redressed the balance and then some. If this is what intelligent and emotional progressive metal sounds like in 2017, I don’t want the year to ever end.”

Read the full review here.

coverPersefone
Aathma

I’m still wondering just where this album came from – it is definitely the surprise of the year for me so far. I was never the biggest fan of Persefone but the Andorrans well and truly did a number on me with their latest effort, the incredible ‘Aathma’. It is progressive, technical death metal, the likes of which I have rarely heard, especially to this level. It is like the sextet took everything to a whole new level, from the collective songwriting to the individual performances. And it all sounds so rich and cohesive, with enough accessibility to keep me coming back for more.

“I absolutely love music when it offers a challenge and isn’t afraid to go in directions that it wants, rather than what convention dictates it should do. I don’t mind saying that Persefone have produced an absolute masterpiece with ‘Aathma’ – it is the work of six supremely talented musicians at the top of their game. Short of a miracle, I cannot see any other extreme progressive metal albums topping this during 2017 or beyond. Spectacular.”

Read the full review here.

KSCOPE351-COVER-20cm-1024x1024Anathema
The Optimist

If ever there was an album release that raised my expectation levels to completely new heights, it was this one. The last two, ‘Distant Satellites’ and ‘Weather Systems’ are musical perfection, so I hoped upon hope for a third killer record. After a difficult start, where disappointment initially reigned supreme, I have grown to love ‘The Optimist’. In keeping with previous Anathema albums, it is a deep and emotional rollercoaster of a ride through some dark landscapes that only reveal their beauty with time, effort and an open mind.

“Put simply, Anathema are a band that speaks to me. They are a band that seem to know instinctively how to press my buttons and touch me whatever my mood. From euphoric and uplifting, to fragile and poignant, they cover the gamut of emotions, leaving me exhilarated one minute and sombre the next, frequently with tears as my constant and ubiquitous silent companion.”

“‘The Optimist’ is yet another shift in Anathema’s own personal evolution. Whilst the core ingredients of atmosphere, emotional depth and lyrical eloquence are present and correct here, the output framed loosely by alternative/prog rock, has a much darker feel to it in general. There is also a more pronounced use of loops, electronic sounds and percussion that were hinted at within the title track on ‘Distant Satellites’.”

“Once again, Anathema have delivered an album that is more to me than just a collection of beautifully and lovingly-crafted songs. It is an album that lives and breathes. It has a vibrancy, an intense raw honesty and a human depth that many strive to deliver but that very few succeed in achieving.”

Read the full review here.

15826722_1705409859485158_999859890853457012_nPallbearer
Heartless

It takes a lot for doom metal to feature in any top lists with me because in general, doom is not one of my natural, favourite genres. However, I had not reckoned on the new album from Pallbearer. This is doom metal but it is so much more besides. ‘Heartless’ is a near-perfect blend of styles and sounds, making it transcend genres to a certain extent. Instead, when I listen to ‘Heartless’, I find myself being thoroughly absorbed in some of the most exciting, engaging and mature music I have heard for some time.

“…having since had the opportunity to listen to this album at length, I am going to stick my neck out and say that right here, right now, ‘Heartless’ is the best doom metal record that I have ever heard. Yes it incorporates a number of different influences to create a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and moods. However, at its core, ‘Heartless’ is pure doom metal, born and bred.”

“The injection of more overt progressive tendencies alongside some sumptuous melodies and assured, ambitious song writing means that with ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have created what I think might very well be my favourite doom metal album ever. Meaningless hyperbole this is not, because ‘Heartless’ delivers in every facet. This is a doom metal masterpiece and my life is richer for hearing it.”

Read the full review here.

Anticipated music in 2017 – an update – 30 Jan

Ayreon – The Source
Release date: 28 April 2017

ayreon-coverIt seems like every few days at the moment that we get a new Ayreon update. Not that I’m complaining at all. First we get the track listing and then we get a new song.

I must admit that the first time I watched the video and heard the music for ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’, I got goosebumps. Not only because the music was strong, heavy and powerful, but because of the impact of the guest vocalists that litter the lengthy track. To have this amount of vocal talent in one place is bordering on criminally magical. You may have already seen me share it over social media outlets, but it can’t hurt to share it again here.

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I had high hopes for the new Ayreon album a few weeks ago. My excitement is now at a whole new level. I get the distinct impression that this could be Arjen Lucassen’s finest hour. Only three months to wait…

Pallbearer – Heartless
Release date: 24 March 2017

15826722_1705409859485158_999859890853457012_nIn the last few days, we have finally been treated to a new track off the upcoming Pallbearer album, ‘Heartless’. The song is called ‘Thorns’ and can be explored below.

Having featured Pallbearer in my ‘most anticipated’ series earlier in the month, I have been asked for my opinion of this new track a few times. In short, I really dig it – it still retains that doom sheen but the composition is so much more than that – it is varied, intriguing and enjoyable right off the bat. There are even hints to modern era Katatonia in there, which is a really welcome ingredient. If this is a true representation of the full album, I am very much on board.

Nailed to Obscurity – King Delusion
Release Date: 3 February 2017

15977895_10154446249752872_6528639204757627055_nI’m always on the hunt for exciting new music and during my most recent foray into the murky world of the extreme metal underground, I came across Nailed To Obscurity. They are a name that I’ve heard before but never had the overwhelming to explore. I’m not entirely sure I understand why that is because, based upon the track below, this is the kind of music that I truly love.

Heavy, dark and melodically aware, this has hints of early Katatonia and others within it but fundamentally, they create a very commendable racket indeed. New album ‘King Delusion’ is officially released very soon on 3rd February 2017 on Apostasy Records and I’m now feverishly trying to land a promo so that I can review the record for the Blog of Much Metal as soon as possible.

Mastodon – Emperor Of Sand
Release date: 31 March 2017

mastodon-emperor-of-sandI’d completely missed this album until last night when I stumbled upon the news. Mastodon are a big deal but not so much for me. I have a few o their albums but I’ve never warmed to them as much as I think I should have, or as much as others have. I’m not sure why, because on paper, their approach sounds right up my street. And yet the reality has never matched up. And yet I’m always interested to hear a new album from the industrious quartet.

‘Sultan’s Curse’ can be heard below and is a cut off the new record, ‘Emperor Of Sand’. I must admit that it is one of the most immediately enjoyable tracks I’ve heard from the metal juggernauts so I have a renewed vigour to check out this new album, maybe even give it a review if I can access a promo. Watch this space.

Demonic Resurrection – Dashavatar
Release date: 15 March 2017

15822908_1859610294309479_318929624969591399_nIndia is not a country renowned for heavy metal. However, flying what often feels like a lone flag for extreme metal in India is Demonic Resurrection. Over the past few years, their stock has risen quite a lot to the point where theirs is a name that is relatively well known in underground metal circles.

Their new album, ‘Dashavatar’ is released on 15th March 2017 on Demonstealer Records and below is ‘Matsya – The Fish’. As you can hear, Demonic Resurrection deliver their own take on technical death metal but they do so whilst embracing the musical influences of their homeland. As such, you’ll hear authentic instrumentation, sounds and textures within their music. I really like this and am looking forward to the album.

Vangough – Warpaint
Release date: 17 March 2017

I have been a fan of Vangough since the release of their debut album ‘Manikin Parade’ in 2009. The rich prog metal in the vein of classic Pain Of Salvation was a draw that was too powerful to resist and it is a record I still listen to a lot today. News therefore of a new album from the Oklahoma based progressive metallers is very welcome indeed, in spite of the fact that releases two and three were not, in my opinion, as strong as the debut.

I can offer you a teaser trailer of the new record and although it is difficult to glean too much from it, I’d say that the omens are good for a quality album. I’m genuinely chomping at the bit to see how this new album sounds. Who’s with me?

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