GoochExtension here, welcome to a special installment of Heavy Side Up!
This week has seen a dearth of new releases, and the rest of the year is set to be very much the same in that regard. There were a few things here and there (such as the debut EP from metalcore band Harmed, EPs from sludge metal band Gnaw Bone and death metal band Autopsy; albums by metalcore band Origins and deathcore band Upon Those Dying along with a few more “scene” releases; also, post-hardcore band Eidola released an instrumental version of their excellent album To Speak, to Listen), but overall, it’s been a very dry week.
As such, this installment of Heavy Side Up is going to be all about our favourite releases of the year!
I already posted my Top 200 albums of 2017 list this week over here (it isn’t genre-specific, but as anyone who knows me could’ve guessed, the majority of entries fit in with what we discuss here), so here are the 9 heaviest releases from my top 20, all of which are the featured albums for this week’s Heavy Side Up!
I’m omitting Glassjaw’s new album as it was already featured here a couple of weeks ago, so first up, we have the self-titled album from Vattnet (formerly Vattnet Viskar), released on September 15. These guys had previously put out a couple of solid-but-unremarkable blackgaze albums, but this new album took the band’s sound into territory somewhere between progressive metal and post-rock, with a strong emphasis on atmosphere. The end result is one of the most ethereal and unique metal releases I’ve heard since Astronoid’s Air:
Secondly, we have the sophomore album from Halo-themed deathcore band Shadow of Intent (released April 28). And for all those scoffing at the words “Halo-themed deathcore band” – I had the same reaction at first, but the impeccable musicianship on display here shut me up pretty quickly. Between the exciting use of string instruments and the well-crafted yet unpredictable song structures, this was one of the most surprising releases of the year, and well worth checking out for anyone who likes their metal on the demonic-sounding side (seriously, the vocalist’s throat may very well be a portal to the underworld):
For those looking for something more accessible, we have the debut album from Artificial Language (also released April 28), a band comprised primarily of members from the now-defunct Art by Numbers. They play a style of progressive metal heavily influenced by classical music, and every track on this album boasts some impressive instrumentation and sophisticated songwriting. Almost everyone I’ve shown this band to has enjoyed them – be they metal fans or otherwise – and I cannot recommend them highly enough:
Next up, we have the most recent album from mathcore band Converge (released November 3). These guys are practically an institution in and of themselves at this point, and there’s little more I could say about them that hasn’t already been said. If you’re into heavy music, you probably know by now whether or not the crushing tech assault of Converge’s music is your bag – suffice it to say that neither the band’s quality nor remarkable consistency has faltered at all here:
Then there’s another debut album, this time from post-hardcore act Hundred Suns (released August 11). These guys are actually somewhat of a supergroup, comprised of former members from Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and Dead & Divine. Musically speaking, this is what Thrice might’ve sounded like had they permanently pursued the sound exhibited on “The Alchemy Index Vol. I: Fire.” The album packs a serious punch, and almost every track is infectious in its own right:
Next is Savage Sinusoid (released June 16), the new album by experimental/avant-garde one-man metal project Igorrr. Igorrr’s music really is impossible to describe; some joke that it sounds like every genre shoved into a blender, and… well, that’s not entirely inaccurate. Constantly surprising and challenging its audience, the aggressive weirdness of Savage Sinusoid could’ve made for an an utterly disastrous listen if it weren’t helmed by an immensely talented and creative musician, but it may very well be Igorrr’s best album to date:
Quite a few bands made some long-awaited comebacks this year, though I don’t believe any had been away as long as Quicksand. One of the pioneers of post-hardcore, Quicksand’s music is arguably the key in bridging the gap between the grunge movement of the early 90s and what happened in the hardcore scene in the late 90s, with their 1993 album Slip generally being regarded as an all-time classic. The band broke up in 1995 following the release of their second album, Manic Compression – reuniting briefly in the late 90s to work on an album that would never see the light of day. The band members all went their separate ways from there (frontman Walter Schreifels started the band Rival Schools, and Sergio Vega joined Deftones following the tragic passing of their long-time bass player, Chi Cheng), but finally reunited again a few years ago, with their highly-anticipated third album having been in the works for some time now, finally seeing the light of day on November 10. And it absolutely lives up to its lofty expectations:
Veil of Maya are next, with their 6th album, False Idol (released October 20). Anyone who’s heard Veil of Maya knows what to expect from these guys – an uncompromising onslaught of polyrhythmic deathcore that almost never lets up, and this album is no exception. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for these guys, and am in awe that they’ve not lost any of their essence over the years, even when dabbling in clean vocals and concept albums. At this point, I’m convinced Veil of Maya can do no wrong:
And lastly, there’s You’re Not You Anymore (released September 22) the new album from Counterparts. These guys have always been stand-outs in the hardcore scene, with all four of their previous albums having received considerable acclaim. This album’s a little more of a grower, but holy hell, does it grow. An engaging listen oozing with raw emotion and wearing its heart on its sleeve, Counterparts show all the other bands in the scene exactly how it’s done:
I was initially going to make this a top 10, with He is Legend‘s Few being in the final spot, though was unable to find a stream of the album to feature (beyond some YouTube playlists) – and I figured a top 9 would make for a more symmetrical featured image. But even then, we only begin to scratch the surface of what has been an utterly incredible year for heavy music, with plenty of other bands having also released albums that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a “best albums of the year” list; Riviere, Remember Why We’re Here, August Burns Red, Leprous, Myrkyr, The Dignity Complex, Toothgrinder, The Bronx, Mastodon, Make Them Suffer, The Voynich Code, Icaria, Elder and Planning for Burial, just to name a few.
So: What have been your favourite releases of 2017?
NOTE: Next week’s Heavy Side Up will be asking what you’re looking forward to in 2018. The feature will then be taking a break for the final week of December, returning on January 6.