2017 Mid-Year Recap: Best Albums (Editor’s Picks)

#10. Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension: New Orleans extreme metal stalwarts Goatwhore have been an unstoppable force for 20 years, but have clearly kept the fire burning within. They have been prolific in their creative output, but every album has come with a sense of purpose and as a statement of its own. Their seventh full-length ‘Vengeful Ascension’ was released in 2017 and while it retains tendencies showcased on past albums, it presents the familiar Goatwhore sound in a manner the band couldn’t have presented in the past, simply because they are far more advanced in their abilities to create and express. When it comes to blending black, thrash and death metal, Goatwhore is just about as good as it gets, and the hard-hitting ‘Vengeful Ascension’ proves as much.

#9. Tombs – The Grand Annihilation: If one were to cite examples of bands that have evolved, progressed and improved the most in the shortest amount of time, Brooklyn NY group Tombs would definitely be at the top of that list, although their journey through the past 10 years of their existence has been very different and in many ways completely opposite to what you might expect upon seeing the term “evolution”. Shedding the avant-garde and post-metal elements that constituted their first two albums, Tombs went full-on extreme metal with their 2014 album ‘Savage Gold’, and it was no one-off, as they are only moving faster in the same direction. Tombs have mastered this dreary black metal sound that they’ve made their own, yet do not get monotonic and throw in the odd variation to shock and surprise listeners, like the traces of death rock and clean singing on the new album. ‘The Grand Annihilation’ is among the finest extreme metal albums to have surfaced in 2017 so far.

#8. Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail I: Following their high-flying self-titled debut in 2012, a worthwhile follow-up effort ‘High Priestess’ in 2014 and a whole lot of touring in between, Canadian metal group Kobra and the Lotus took time out to stay off the road and find inspiration for the next batch of songwriting and it resulted their biggest creative undertaking yet, a double album called ‘Prevail’. Part 1 was released in May 2017. The band has achieved supreme balance between accessibility and craftiness, as the songs on ‘Prevail I’ exhibit musical talent but are also capable of mainstream success. The guitar shred element is still there and the vocals continue to soar, but the band has explored their range and broadened their spectrum to come up with this diverse, multi-faceted slab of pure excellence. We’re yet to hear ‘Prevail II’, but ‘Prevail I’ by itself stands as one of the strongest releases of 2017.

#7. Mutoid Man – War Moans: Boasting in its ranks Stephen Brodsky of Cave In and Ben Koller of Converge, Mutoid Man landed on planet earth in 2012 and stamped their arrival with a highly impressive debut effort ‘Bleeder’ in 2015, as their mix of hardcore punk, hard rock, heavy metal and math/prog rock took listeners by storm. Following up to an album of that calibre seemed like an insurmountable task, but in 2017 Mutoid Man have emerged with a fantastic new album called ‘War Moans’, a 10-track set of songs that is mind-blowing to the maximum. The Brooklyn NY power trio has pulled out all the stops to make this an all-killer, no-filler record and infuse an even larger number of vastly varying musical elements into a sound that years down the line will be identified only as Mutoid Man. As aptly alluded to in some of the lyrics, this record leaves you flipped upside down with a rush of blood to the head, positively perplexed by what you have been hit with. ‘War Moans’ is a piece of musical genius.

#6. Striker – Self-Titled: There are old-school bands, and then there is Striker. The Canadian quintet is prolific in a manner only classic rock and metal bands of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were in their heyday, wherein they would release an album every year, and at times two albums within the space of one year. Striker released their fourth album ‘Stand in the Fire’ in February 2016, and less than a year later, returned with the fifth LP, a self-titled effort. With Striker, it is most certainly not just about the quantity, and the quality of this new release proves that they’re a band that never runs out of creative ideas, and turns these ideas into great songs. This 9-song effort is a true album lover’s delight, as it flows seamlessly from one song to the next, and returns to Track #1 before you realize it. With one instant classic after another, Striker’s self-titled album embodies the beauty and staying power of unadulterated old-school metal.

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