Ah, that most glorious time of the year for music writers – year-end season is upon us once again! 2017 was a tumultuous year, but even so, it was a damned good one for heavy metal, and Team Hellbound had a cornucopia of great albums to choose from.
Here, we turn the page over to our individual staffers to discuss their favorite records of the year, give their hottest takes on the state-of-the-heavy-metal-union in 2017, and tell the world what they’re looking forward to for 2018.
As always, every member of Team Hellbound would like to extend our warmest thanks to each and every one of you who continue to read our site, and we wish you all a very metal Christmas and a headbanging new year.
Hails, horns, happy holidays, and ho-ho-ho from Hellbound!
Matt’s Best Metal Albums of 2017:
Released March 17
Once again I’m blissfully captivated by an Alunah album. Solennial got so many spins I think I broke last.fm with scrobble-overload. Their nature-based doom hits the sweet spot of my soul. Catchy (trad-style-ish) riffs and soulful vocals burrow deep to sooth the many ills of life. I also just love Sophie Day’s voice to be honest. Unfortunately she has since left the band (amicably) but they have found a replacement and I’m sure everything will work out just fine. You don’t put out continuously stellar albums like theirs without top-to-bottom talent.
Released August 11
It’s so great when you fall in love with a “local” band. (OK, maybe just Greg is local.) Toronto’s Olde have taken the world by storm with sophomore LP, Temple. Drawing from the sludge end of doom they pound through track after track of memorable, bangable, punch-you-in-the-gut tunes with Doug McLarty’s sandpapered throat spewing out thoughtful lyrics. It’s not studio magic either. I’ve seen them pull all this heaviness off live too. And then listened to them on the drive home because I just can’t get enough.
Released July 28
If you don’t know Couch Slut it might be best to take a Valium or something before diving into Contempt. Deeply personal and unabashed lyrics will rip you apart when “sung” by one-person wrecking crew Meg O. The pummeling, experimental, sludgy noise created by her cohorts takes what’s left of you and twists it like a pretzel. It’s like your gut is battling your head and everything just spills out. No question it’s one of the most addicting, unsettling, and effective/affective albums I’ve ever heard. Now if only I could get those screams out of my head.
Reflections of a Floating World
Released June 2
If I’m going to try and categorize these Bostonian wonders (There’s definitely been days this has been the only music I want to exist.) I’d have to go with progressive sludge, or maybe heavy psych, or smart stoner. Who cares? If you like bands like Anciients (without their most aggressive tendencies), Astrakhan, and He Whose Ox is Gored this is right up your alley. Fuzzed out, spiralling, hearty, exquisitely crafted. It did take a few spins for its depth to really hit but it’s worth every penny tenfold. Escapism is at hand and it’s call Reflections of a Floating World.
Curse of Conception
(20 Buck Spin)
Released October 6
Sophomore slump? Get out of town. Last year’s Chained to Oblivion cracked my top 10. This year they’ve moved up with the spectacular Curse of Conception. They’ve also gone from a solo project of Nate Garrett to a full band with other members of Gatecreeper and Goya. CoC is rife with melody and solos, moving from gentle and heartfelt to powerful and heavy. Trad doom fans should be salivating all over this. Just try not to leave this on repeat. I look forward to their further development into a classic band we’ll talk about for years. Although we might already be there.
De Doden Hebben Het Goed II
Released February 10
DDHHG II is the only black metal album to crack my top 10 this year. It’s amazing. Ice-laden guitars cut to the bone at lightning speed. The listener gets dragged through a maelstrom of corrosive riffs and biting tremolos. The lead break on “Ontzielling” alone is worth it. It makes you want to stand on top of a snowy mountain and let it course through your body, or run through the forest fleeing from dangers lurking in the shadows. Fantastic doesn’t even come close to describing this.
Released August 11
You want heavy? You got heavy. This solo project of M.S.W. turns bones to dust and brains to mush. It’s not traditional doom. No, this is somewhere between funeral doom and low-slung sludge. It continuously pummels and rolls as cursed vocals strike fear into the hearts of the weak and serve as a rallying cry for those who eat darkness for breakfast. Dig yourself out of your hole, get this, then crawl back in and wait for oblivion to bury you.
Released April 7
Few vocalists can spark random lip-syncing quite like Mlny Parsonz. I’ve been caught many times being taken away from my task, drinking in the music and soundlessly belting out her emotions. I can’t actually sing of course. Mlny may be the voice (and bass) but the music itself also shines bright. Not as metallic as previous efforts, Wick is an exquisite album of well-crafted songs full of great riffs, sweet melody, and heart-wrenching atmosphere. I also admit to shedding the odd tear.
Released June 9
Space doom from Space Witch! Four songs stretched over 44 minutes unfold before your eyes like the expanse of the void. Psychedelics swirl around your mind like sentient comets trailing a sense of euphoria as nebulae drift past leaving you in a state of bliss. The long songs swallow you whole. The melodies are entrancing. The heaviness crashes like a collision of black holes spreading waves of crushing doom. So many times I’ve put Arcanum on and just left Planet Earth behind.
Queens Of The Stone Age
Released August 25
I’ve always been a QOTSA fan so this is no surprise. But I’ve had a pretty rough second half of 2017 and this album definitely made things better for me. Josh Homme always writes catchy tunes and the plentiful hooks here are “foot loose and fancy free”. The Bowie-esque “Feet Don’t Fail Me” and lead single “The Way You Used To Do” compel me to dance but “Fortress” hits me right in the feels and I cry every time. But it’s mostly dancing. I just wish my singing was better.
Favourite Album Cover Art of 2017:
Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
(Stickman, released June 2)
Cover Artist: Adrian Dexter
I feel like it perfectly encapsulates the feelings one gets when listening to it.
Honourable Mention goes to Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper (art by Mariusz Lewandowski).
Best gig I attended in 2017:
Soulfly as Nailbomb with others: hellbound.ca/2017/11/soulfly-point-blank-nailbomb-toronto-19-october-2017.
Favourite Metal Item Added To My Collection in 2017:
Cavalera Conspiracy – Psychosis Deluxe Box: shop.napalmrecords.com/cavalera-conspiracy-psychosis-deluxe-box.html. Only the second time I went all out on a release package.
Most anticipated album for 2018:
Astrakhan – Without New Growth Process Is Bloodshed. I’ve heard a preview and it is AMAZING. Should be out in January.
My 2017 in Metal:
To be honest I didn’t listen to as much new metal this year as I have in years past. Maybe it’s a product of my age but I just can’t absorb all the new releases anymore. My patience is also quite low these days, so if something doesn’t grab me hard the first couple spins, I’ve just moved on. I also enjoyed listening to older music as it sometimes it makes me feel younger. I also spent some dollars making up for past ills. As in buying physical copies of older albums that I should have bought years ago. Like Cavalera Conspiracy’s Blunt Force Trauma, Serpentcult’s Weight of Light, Rwake’s Rest, Fu Manchu’s No One Rides For Free and Gigantoid (only from last year), Mastodon’s Remission and Leviathan (WHAT?!), Skeletonwitch’s Breathing the Fire and Beyond the Permafrost, and a handful of The Tragically Hip albums. I only went to two shows. Olde in Kingston and Soufly does Point Blank in Toronto. And I haven’t written as much this year either. But I’m finding a good balance and hope that once the calendar turns to 2018 my pen will start spilling ink again. Maybe I’ll even start MAKING some music too?
What you’re looking forward to in 2018, metal-wise or otherwise:
Migration Fest in Pittsburgh July 27-29. It’s gonna be SO GOOD: www.facebook.com/migrationfestival.
2017 “Metal Person of the Year”:
As far as headlines go a case could be made for Chris Cornell. But a case could also be made that Soundgarden aren’t even metal. But Metal Person of the Year has to go to Danica Roem. The vocalist for Cab Ride Home was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker. That in itself is super cool but the icing on the cake is that she beat out Robert Marshall, who introduced a “bathroom bill” to restrict public restroom usage for transgender people. Talk about flipping someone the political bird!