As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites that appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unwashed masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.
One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters claims that it is “the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world”.
As in past years, today PopMatters published a list of “The Best Metal of 2017” under the by-lines of Dean Brown and Spyros Stasis (in previous years the list was compiled by Adrien Begrand), although Dean Brown explains in his introduction that the “list is a collaborative effort by writers with different tastes”, whose names are identified in the commentary accompanying each selection.
There are again 20 albums on the PopMatters list, as follows:
20. Cloak: To Venomous Depths (Season of Mist)
19. Mastodon: Emperor of Sand (Reprise)
18. Succumb: Succumb (The Flenser)
17. Ex Eye: Ex Eye (Relapse)
16. Royal Thunder: WICK (Spinefarm)
15. Spirit Adrift: Curse of Conception (20 Buck Spin)
14. Elder: Reflections of a Floating World (Armageddon Record Shop)
13. Aosoth: V: The Inside Scriptures (Agonia)
12. Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
11. Code Orange: Forever (Roadrunner)
10. Akercocke: Renaissance in Extremis (Peaceville)
9. Enslaved: E (Nuclear Blast)
8. Dodecahedron: Kwintessens (Season of Mist)
7. Spectral Voice: Eroded Corridors of Unbeing (Dark Descent)
6. Endon: Through the Mirror (Hydra Head)
5. Rebirth of Nefast: Tabernaculum (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
4. Pyrrhon: What Passes for Survival (Willowtip)
3. Converge: The Dusk in Us (Deathwish)
2. Pallbearer: Heartless (Profound Lore/Nuclear Blast)
1. Bell Witch: Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore)
Compared to PopMatters lists in previous years, this one strikes me as much more devoted to extreme and underground music from a much larger group of bands that aren’t household names outside of metal (or even inside it) — perhaps you’ll remember that last year’s list named Metallica’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct as the year’s best album (as just one example of what I was referring to), and one that seems less geared toward appealing to the site’s very broad audience base.
I’m especially happy to see my friends in Seattle’s Bell Witch snag the No. 1 spot on the list, but equally happy to see more than a dozen other names here whose albums I also think are worthy of high praise.
For fun, I compared this list to the earlier Top 40 list from DECIBEL (which I re-posted here), since these are the first two lists from prominent zines or “big platform” web sites I’ve seen this season. I found 11 overlaps between the two lists: Pyrrhon, Power Trip, Cloak, Akercocke, Enslaved, Dodecahedron, Bell Witch, Converge, Spectral Voice, Spirit Adrift, and Pallbearer. On the other hand, the rankings are different — Pallbearer is the only band whose album appears in the Top 5 of both lists, and the other four in DECIBEL’S Top 5 aren’t on the PopMatters list at all.
So, with that, I’ll turn this over to you for your reactions in our Comment section.