Best metal of 2017: 1-5

Hellbound's Best of 2017 - 1-5

Hellbound’s Top Metal Releases of the Year, part II

Twelve Hellbound contributors named their ten favourite metal releases of 2017. Kyle Harcott tallied the entries, did the math and assigned the commentaries below. You, readers, have already had the chance to see our honourable mentions and part one of our collective ‘best of’ list: entries 10 through 6. Now we present to you part two: the final five.

Read on. And stay tuned for our individual year-in-review write-ups plus our ‘best Canadian releases of the year’ lists still to come!

5.

Venom Inc.
Avé
(Nuclear Blast)
Released August 11

Without doubt Venom are one of the most influential metal bands of all time. Thrash metal, death metal, and black metal all owe a huge debt to Venom. Make no mistake, without Venom, the world of metal today would be far duller and poorer. Numerous things hindered Venom from becoming huge (not least of all themselves!), including multiple line-up changes. Currently we have a Cronos led version of Venom that, while proficient musically, utterly lacks the spirit of Venom – that raw chaotic black ‘n’ roll vibe. So the hearts of Venom fans were gladdened when the Prime Evil line-up of Venom reconvened (that’s Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan on bass and vocal, Mantas on guitar and Abaddon on drums) to record Avé for the mighty Nuclear Blast: a return to the Venom of yore while still being very much a part of future. I eagerly look forward to more music and shows from this very special band. Hell yeah! [Steve Earles]

www.venom-inc.com

hellbound.ca/2017/09/venom-inc-ave

4.

Leprous
Malina
(InsideOut)
Released August 25

The last Leprous album, The Congregation, was my favourite album of 2015, and I was still so into it by the end of 2016 that I was tempted to let it crown my top ten list last year too. When I heard the band was working on a follow-up, which would become Malina, I was excited and apprehensive. Of course I wanted to hear new Leprous. But I was also worried no new material could equal The Congregation, never mind surpass it. I should have had more faith. After about two listens, first single “From the Flames” proves Leprous had room to grow, and it’s just one of eleven irresistible tracks. Malina is the kind of heavy that picks you up and sweeps you along with it. The basic ingredients remain the same: beautifully crafted songs pulsing with energy, angular rhythms and hard-hitting riffs, all of it woven together by exquisite vocal melodies. It’s all there, but enhanced, as if every element is just a little bit more than what it was before. And as an added bonus, Malina features the talents of Ottawa-based cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne. This is an album that must be heard. [Laura Wiebe]

www.leprous.net

3.

Spirit Adrift
Curse of Conception
(20 Buck Spin)
Released October 6

I had this one down as my top epic doom album of the year, up until November. Even still, I was surprised to see it finish so high on our collective list – not owing to the quality, but because this is still very much an underground, niche release. As the feedback-worshipping ’70s obsessed stoner riff bands have raised doom metal’s profile – Sleep and Saint Vitus actually sell out shows nowadays – there’s something to be said for bands that choose instead to worship the ’80s style of doom put forth by Candlemass and Trouble. (After all, it takes more talent to deliver a compelling clean vocal than a Cookie Monster grumble.) Spirit Adrift falls squarely in that latter camp. May the Circle of True Doom never be unbroken. [Gruesome Greg]

www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift

hellbound.ca/2017/09/spirit-adrift-curse-conception

2.

Pallbearer
Heartless
(Profound Lore)
Released March 24

I’m tempted to just come out and grandiosely declare Pallbearer the best American metal band of the 2010s. Contrary to the curmudgeons who grumble pathetically, “They peaked with their demo,” Pallbearer’s development over the course of three albums has been wonderful to witness. What started out as a unique take on doom metal has steadily developed into something completely unique, a hybrid of doom metal, classic 1970s heavy metal, and most crucially, progressive rock. In fact, the more the band indulges their prog side, the better they sound, and that’s on full display on the sprawling, gorgeous Heartless. From the hugely improved vocal melodies to the expressive solos and ribcage-rattling riffs, Pallbearer walk the line between sheer power and fragile beauty better than anyone in the genre right now. [Adrien Begrand]

pallbearerdoom.com

hellbound.ca/2017/09/pallbearer-heartless

Cover artwork hand-painted by the Norwegian artist Truls Espedal1.

Enslaved
E
(Nuclear Blast)
Released October 13

Onwards and upwards is the ethos of progressive black metal Vikings Enslaved. Consistently celebrated for expanding their sonic palettes, this studio exertion provided the greatest impediment the Norwegians had faced in some time; keyboard player and clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen departed after more than a decade of service. But Enslaved landed on their feet when they called upon Håkon Vinje to join their esteemed ranks. Vinje conjoins with them seamlessly, his vocals a laudable representation of his predecessor and his keyboard efforts are as dreamlike, other-worldly and atmospheric. Expect weighted black metal fury, Viking metal thrashing that seeps into the subconscious and Pink Floyd psychedelic experimentation. The most attention-grabbing curveballs are the Jon Lord style organ on “Sacred Horse,” a delectable saxophone emerging on “Hiindsiight” and an introspective flute supporting “Feathers of Eolh.” Enslaved have conceived an engrossing missive on reveries and the subconscious here. These progressive Norsemen remain infinitely inspired after more than a quarter of a century. [Elena Francis]

enslaved.no

hellbound.ca/2017/10/enslaved-e | hellbound.ca/2017/10/enslaved-e-2


Still to come:

  • Hellbound contributors’ individual top ten and year-in-review commentaries
  • Canadian honourable mentions of 2017
  • Best Canadian metal of 2017
  • Contributors’ individual Canadian top tens
Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).

Laura Wiebe

Laura is managing editor of Hellbound.ca and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She believes in equality and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or hate.

Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.