(2016 was the year when I discovered Montréal’s Tumbleweed Dealer through their extremely cool album Tokes, Hatred & Caffeine (and may there be a new one soon, please). The band’s main man Seb Painchaud has very expansive and very eclectic musical tastes, and a way with words, and so for a second year I asked him to share his year-end list with us. As before, he pulls us off our usual beaten paths by highlighting favorite releases that are outside the usual metal lists… including a lot of very interesting Not-Metal.)
- Kusanagi – Aeon
A band I always enjoyed yet never recommended, they seemed like a 2nd- or 3rd-tier math rock band with really good albums but never transcending into anything great. This all changed with Aeon. The band puts song writing before technicality on this album and 5 songs averaging a format of 8 minutes each puts emphasis on that, as these are actual songs with recurring riffs and melodies rather than a collection of angular riffs.
- Abstract Void – Into The Blue
As untrue and non-kvlt as Black Metal can get, this post-blackgaze band works in elements of IDM and synthwave . It’s mostly instrumental. It was a guilty pleasure at first, not being sure why I kept going back to it. It’s original and catchy as fuck, that’s why. I don’t feel guilty anymore. It’s a great record and I highly recommend checking it out.
- Cytotoxin – Gammageddon
It’s a second-generation Beneath The Massacre offspring with a nuclear bomb fetish. Might just replace BTM’s Dystopia as my ultimate workout album.
- Dödsrit – Dödsrit
When done right, D-Beat and Black metal go together perfectly, creating a crusty off-shoot of the rawer Black metal bands. These guys decided to incorporate the Fall Of Efrafa epic variety of D-Beat into their melodic Black metal to create long, hypnotic dirges you can get yourself lost in. Another amazing record from Alerta Antifascista Records whose name is often synonymous with quality music.
- Sarke – Viige Urh
The kings of Black ‘n’ Roll are back with an album that pushes the boundary of said subgenre. They try a lot of different things on this one and they all end up working and paying off. This album was a grower for more. Loved it at first but didn’t think it’d be top 20, yet every time I played it I had to push it up the ranks as I kept enjoying it more and more.
- Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
After coming in last minute and taking AOTY honors on my list in 2015 with The Epic, I’ve been impatiently waiting for more of this musical genius. Taking everything I love from ’70s jazz rock and giving it a modern twist, all while including nods to just about every jazz subgenre out there, this new EP is just as good as anything on that album.
- Brutus – Burst
Last year Oathbreaker took my top spot on my AOTY list. This year, Brutus sat atop that list for almost half the year. Before I even knew these guys ran in the same groups and hailed from the same part of the world as them, my initial reaction was, “This is what it would sound like if Oathbreaker played Post-Punk”. There’s nothing retro or ’80s about these guy’s post-punk and they throw in outside influences and a blast-beat here and there to make sure that sticks out.
- Grave Pleasures – Motherblood
As a HUGE Beastmilk fan, this is the album I was expecting when I was ultimately let down by the band’s debut under this name. This album picks up where Beastmilk left off, as if they had never left us. Yet it never gets stale or threads old territory to the point of irritation. Still doesn’t beat Climax, but it’s pretty damn close.
- Jonwayne – Rap Album Two
Big Pun has been resurrected as a white dude who looks more like your IT guy than a rapper. Jonwayne has always had the bars but now he also has the beats. Walking a fine line where it’s not quite old-school rap yet doesn’t fall into indie rap, this album is an amazing listen from beginning to end. “These Words Are Everything” is 2017’s song of the year.
- The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Always Foreign
Don’t let the name fool you, this is not a GY!BE rip-off post-rock band. Although you can hear the influence, these guys mix post-everything into an amazing indie rock sound that sounds fresh and progressive while keeping the song structures simple enough to let the lyrics and overall vibe tug at your heartstrings in the way you’d expect indie/emo rock to do.
- Spirit Adrift – Curse Of Conception
I discovered this album after hearing the album I’ve crowned number one this year and it hit all the same spots, just in a bit of a dirtier, grittier vibe. Epic (post?) doom metal, these guys fill the void left by the absence of a Khemmis full-length this year.
- Voices From Deep Below – I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear
Have you ever wondered if shoedoom was a thing? Apparently it is, and it’s fucking amazing. These guys are certainly shoegaze and not metal, as there’s nothing heavy (other than their pedalboard) about these guys, but their 10+ minute songs have a crushing atmosphere upon which the female vocals soar, giving the listener an understanding of why they chose the band’s name. Also, it’s FUCKING FREE. Get it.
- Mutoid Man – War Moans
Catchy. Progressive. Technical. Heavy. I dare you to listen to “Melt Your Mind” just once without going back to it again; that song is the damn Lay’s Chips of metal songs. Spent a good part of the year with it stuck in my head.
- Jasta – The Lost Chapters
Yes, I’m serious. I’m a big fan of newer Hatebreed, preferring the over-produced, catchy, Slayer-inspired riff-filled songs they are turning out in the last years to their early, revered “more hardcore” albums. And this album takes that successful recipe and adds some damn catchy hooks to it. Not one weak song. Not one chorus you won’t want to sing along to.
- Archspire – Relentless Mutation
In the last 2 years I’ve upped my tech-death game after realising it was a subgenre I sorely needed to get more familiar with (you can’t spend your whole life listening only to Spawn Of Possession’s Incurso when you get the tech-death itch) and this album is by far the best release in the genre IMO. I hadn’t felt such an adrenaline rush from frantic guitar riffs, blast beats, and rapid-fire-delivery vocals since I listened to Origin’s Antithesis for the first time.
- Slow – V-Oceans
Remember when I said “shoedoom” a few albums earlier? Remember thinking, “Why the fuck didn’t he use Doomgaze, it sounds so much better?” Well, that’s because I was keeping that for this album.
This is definitely a metal album. It’s heavy as fuck and goes forward at a Funeral Doom pace that feels like a monolith of despair has been built upon your chest. But the guitars create a suffocating cloud of shoegaze and post-rock-influenced hazy melodies rather than hammer you with heavy chords. The result is a beautiful contrast between uplifting and depressing, beautiful and wretched, soaring and crushing. And the goddamn thing never relents.
- Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre
Do you have a black metal friend you can’t agree on music with? He loves Dark Funeral and you’re into Deafheaven? This album will shut you whiny pussies up and let you finally get to the mounting sexual tension building between the two of you.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. This album is a brutal piece of black metal that mixes post-black-metal melodies with raw-black-metal aggressiveness and it just has an evil-as-fuck feeling from beginning to end. Always enjoyed these guys but I did not expect them to step up their game this much and put out the Black Metal album of year.
- Counterparts – You’re Not You Anymore
August Burns Red-type technical metalcore with a Converge-like production that makes it meaner than anything ABR or the plethora of clones they birthed have ever released. From start to finish this album pummels your face. Whether you choose to focus on the razor-sharp guitar riffing, the face-ripping vocals, or the overall catchiness of the song structures, this album will suck you into it and the whole thing will be a different experience every time, depending what you focus on.
Play it once with earphones, then immediately blast it on speakers as loud as you can until the cops show up…. And headbang right along with you. It’s THAT catchy. Keep in mind, I’m Canadian, I wouldn’t recommend trying that in the USA.
- Amenra – Mass VI
I’ve really liked what the band has put out since III and on, yet I always enjoyed similar acts like Celeste more. When I put on the new album I was not thinking I had an AOTY contender in my hands. It sucked me in at the first song. And even as I write this I’m debating if it shouldn’t be Number 1. It’s this year’s most emotional record, that’s for sure. I recommend listening as you lay in bed in complete darkness while wearing headphones and focusing on every little detail.
In the end it was only hindered by the fact that it was such an exhausting and demanding album that it needed to be played only when I could completely pay attention to it, which limited the amount of spins I gave it.
AOTY: Pallbearer – Heartless
I started out the year not even being a fan of this band. They fell in that crack between doom, stoner, and sludge where a lot of bands reside, all of which leave me cold. It took a lot of people recommending this album to me several times to give it a proper listen. Imagine how stupid I felt.
You could call this Post-Doom. Some people use Hipster Doom as a derogative term, crowning themselves king of the underground for liking everything before it was cool. But whatever you call it, it is amazing, and a much-needed evolution in all things metal. The melodic approach to the trudging guitar riffs, the vocals that carry those melodies forward, and the whole feel of this album makes it a step above anything else this year.
It floored me to the point that I developed an appreciation for their earlier work, as I can now hear signs of the genius to come here and there in those albums. This record is the new standard to which we should hold bands in all these sub-genres, rather than letting them tread water comfortably as the fan base grows out of the stoner/doom craze of a few years back.