Dec 182017


(For the fourth year in a row, Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood) kindly accepted our invitation to share with us his list releases from the past year that meant the most to him. It comes in two parts; we’ll have Part II for you tomorrow.)

2017 was a really great year for music, a year that comes only once every ten years or so for me. Nearly every subgenre had at least one recording this year that I could see listening to in a few years time. That’s always been something that perplexes me regarding this time of year: how many of the records on some people’s top 175 of the year are actually going to stay in their lives beyond a few bylines during the year it was released? With so much shit being pressed into these massive lists, not to mention the literal thousands of releases that don’t make the cut, how much time do we really give these records, to let them sink in, and to really look at them as the benchmarks of the ending year?

In the end none of these lists mean much beyond the bands (hopefully) being proud of what they accomplished and our own ego stroking, as writers, to basically force our tastes onto you. What matters is what you get out of a record, even if your favorite didn’t make anyone’s list. Who gives a fuck as long as it’s a meaningful record to you. Here’s what records ended up being meaningful to me this year:

Dec 162017


The history of UK-based Metal Hammer magazine can be traced back to 1983. At its peak, it was published in 11 different languages around the world, with a monthly circulation of over 1 million. Near death at the end of 2016 due to the collapse of its then-owner Team Rock Ltd, the publication was rescued when former owner Future Publishing re-purchased the magazine (and preserved the TeamRock name). Its Facebook page currently boasts more than 2 million likes.

We haven’t located current print or digital subscription numbers, but it seems obvious that Metal Hammer qualifies for the part of our annual LISTMANIA series in which we re-publish year-end lists by substantial print zones and “big platform” web sites, even though we haven’t included it in previous years.

Dec 152017


(Andy Synn’s annual week-long look-back at the year in metal comes to an end today with his “Personal Top 10“, and if you’re puzzled about how this list compares to yesterday’s Top 10 list, read on.)

Well, now that we’ve got all the serious, semi-professional stuff out of the way, I can relax a little bit and focus on the ten albums that have made the biggest mark, or had the biggest impact, on my listening habits over the last twelve months.

This time around it appears my tastes have been largely dominated by Death Metal, with surprisingly little Black Metal sneaking its way into my favourite releases of the year. There’s also quite a bit of melody, particularly towards the top half of my list.

But overall I’d say that the key factor uniting pretty much all my selections here is… riffs. Big, ballsy, heavy as hell riffs, bang-your-head-until-it-bleeds riffs, brimming with red-hot hooks and electrifying power.

I decided not to include any “Honourable Mentions” this time around, mainly because there were just too many names (Satyricon, Hideous Divinity, Fell Ruin, Blaze of Perdition, to name but a few) to choose from and, instead, elected to focus solely on the ten records that have left the deepest and most lasting impression on my eardrums this year.

Dec 142017


Stereogum easily qualifies as one of the “big platform” web sites whose year-end lists of metal we perennially include in our LISTMANIA series. Of course, the site appeals to an audience of music fans much larger than devoted metalheads, but its staff includes a talented and tasteful group of metal writers who among other things are responsible for the site’s monthly “The Black Market” column, which has been a great source of discovery for extreme music for five years running now.

It follows that Stereogum‘s annual metal list is one I especially look forward to seeing every year, and the 2017 edition appeared a couple of days ago. It again includes a ranked list of 40 albums.

Dec 142017


(In the penultimate installment of his annual year-end series, Andy Synn today provides his list of the Critical Top 10 of 2017.)

Now although I say this every single year, I want to make something very clear straight away – the following list is in no way meant to be comprehensive or definitive, as it’s basically impossible for any one person to cover everything and to provide a perfectly accurate, utterly objective, list of the best albums released in any given year.

Instead, my selections for the “Critical Top Ten” (as opposed to my forthcoming “Personal Top Ten”) are meant simply to provide a representative sample of the fantastic wealth and variety of musical delights which the last twelve months have delivered, comprising a mix of big names, new faces, and cult favourites culled from across the metallic spectrum.

And though the process of whittling things down to a mere ten entries means that heaps of future classics were inevitably left on the cutting room floor (sorry Archspire fans), I’ve honestly tried my very best to be as clinical and objective as possible – checking and re-checking my own reactions and motivations, canvassing commentary and opinion on my choices from trusted sources, etc – and so I hope that what you’re about to read provides a clear and (relatively) accurate snapshot of what I truly consider to be the best and brightest (or, possibly, the bleakest and murkiest) albums of 2017.

Dec 132017


(Andy Synn’s week of reflections on 2017 metal continues today with his list of the year’s Great albums.)

So we’re officially almost at the end of my annual Listravaganza already… after today there’s only my semi-objective (but not really) Critical Top Ten, followed by my totally biased, shamelessly self-indulgent Personal Top Ten… and then that’s it. We’re done for another year.

But don’t fret, there’s still lots of albums left for you to sink your teeth into before that happens, and today’s selections represent – in my opinion at least – the absolute cream of the crop from 2017.

I will stress again, of course, that this list shouldn’t be considered comprehensive (although it is eighty goddamn albums long), as covering every single release from the last twelve months is basically an impossible task, nor is it specifically ranked in any way, beyond the fact that I think each of these albums deserves to be considered in the top tier of this year’s fulgent metallic crop.

Anyway, without further ado, I present to you… the Great albums of 2017.

Dec 122017


(This is the third installment in Andy Synn’s annual series reflecting on the year in metal, and in this one you’ll find his personal list of the year’s “Good” albums.)

Like most things, the year’s releases can generally be graded on a standard Bell Curve, with the majority of them occupying that vast central space we call “Good”.

Some of these albums are, of course, very good indeed, and there are more than a few entries here which could legitimately be argued to belong on my “Great” list… however, where there was any question or doubt I made the decision to err on the side of caution, and include them here instead.

Of course you’re also free to argue that some of the albums on the lower end of the scale might potentially have been included in yesterday’s “Disappointing” column (just as you might contend that some of those entries from yesterday deserved to be here instead) but, in general, I’ve found that even the lesser entries found here tended to be solidly enjoyable enough that I couldn’t honestly rate them as a disappointment.

But, as I said at the beginning of my EPs list last week – even though they’re separated out into three categories, my “Great”, “Good”, and “Disappointing” lists aren’t really ranked in the same way as most End of Year lists tend to be (which is why I get away with producing so many of them each year). They’re intended more as an extensive round-up of the wide variety of material which I’ve encountered over the last twelve months, so that you, our readers, can potentially discover something which you might otherwise have missed.

And, in service to that, at the very bottom of this column you’ll find an alphabetical list linking you, wherever possible, to each artist/album’s Bandcamp page. I hope that helps.

Dec 112017


Here’s another entry in the part of our annual LISTMANIA orgy where we re-post lists of metal from “big platform” web sites and print zines — the kind of places that get a lot more eyeballs on them than festering little metal-only hovels like ours.

To justify our selection of Noisey for this part of the series, consider these statistics: Noisey is the on-line music channel of Vice Media, which began as a Montreal-based print magazine in 1994 and has expanded into a global media presence. Noisey was started in 2011 and now has 1,285,404 Facebook followers and (according to this site) receives about 966,500 unique visitors and 1,411,090 page views per day.

About one week ago Noisey published its staff’s list of “The Best 100 Albums of 2017“, but due to my ongoing vacation, I overlooked it until today. By my count, 8 of those albums are metal (down from 10 last year). Six of those appear to have made the list as a result of recommendations by Noisey editor Kim Kelly, whose by-line appears on the mini-reviews that accompany those 6 picks. The other two, by Yellow Eyes and Power Trip, are accompanied by different writers’ by-lines.

Dec 112017


(“Conniption” is too weak a word, “kryptonite” is more in the ballpark [especially in the case of an album I reviewed here]. Every year Andy Synn breaches our general etiquette with this list, but after umpteen years, it’s too late to stop him.)

Every year I separate the albums I’ve heard into three separate categories – The Great, The Good, and The Disappointing – and every year Islander has a minor conniption when forced to confront all the caustic criticism and general lack of positivity going on in my Disappointing list.

It’s basically his kryptonite, so if you wanted to attack him while he’s in a weakened state… now would be the time.

That being said, I hope neither he, nor you, feel like I’m being prejudiced or unfair with what you’re about to read.

Dec 082017


(We begin the rollout of our own staff’s year-end lists with Andy Synn’s selection of his favorite EPs from 2017.)

Next week is the big kick-off of my annual End of Year list-orgy, beginning with what I felt were the most Disappointing releases of the year (those albums which, for one reason or another, simply didn’t live up to their potential), followed by the Good, and then the Great, albums of 2017.

Now, unlike most lists, these particular pieces function more as a general round-up of the last twelve months, and aren’t presented in any sort of ranked or graded order.

In essence they’re designed purely to showcase (and pass comment on) the sheer wealth of albums which have crossed my path over the last year and, hopefully, to give you all a chance to catch-up on some unheard gems you may have missed, as well as stimulate some lively conversation and debate.

The end of next week will see the publication of my Critical Top Ten and my Personal Top Ten, wherein I’m going to first attempt the thankless task of whittling down all the Great albums of the year to a representative sample of ten releases which I think represent the true crème de la crème of 2017… after which I’m going to just say “fuck it”, and give you my list of the ten albums which I’ve listened to the most and which struck the strongest chord with me this year.

Sound good?

In the meantime, while you all start sharpening your pitchforks and priming your torches, I’d like to present you with a round-up of (some of) the EPs which have tickled my fancy over the last twelve months.

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