What a year! Calendar years for me, since I still live by a U.S. academic calendar, starts and ends on a “break.” This time last year I hadn’t really ever seen any of the Star Wars movies before, and over winter break last year I watched them all. This time last year I was finishing up my first semester of grad school and this year I’m finishing up my fourth. This time last year I didn’t believe in the idea of Georgia as a purple state, after Stacy Abrams performance in the midterm, I’m more intrigued than I’ve ever been before. I’m hoping to graduate with my Master’s in American Studies in May. When I write this piece next year, I could be writing it as a PhD student (or an adjunct professor). I’ve made a conscious effort to listen to more new music in general, inside and outside of metal, this year, and it’s been a good experience. You can check out some of my finds and favorites over at my Medium.
My album of the year: Catharsis by Machine Head
Catharsis has been a necessary album for getting through this year. From the opening decree of “Volatile,” “Awww, fuck the world!” to the folk-punk inspired “Bastards” to the 8 minute “Heavy Lies The Crown” to the closing track, “Eulogy,” this mix of personal and political helped me process and work through my own anger and angst at the socio-political realities we find ourselves in.
Check out the rest of my list here.
2. Defy by Of Mice & Men
Of Mice & Men came out of the gate with one of many great metalcore offerings this year. As with Machine Head’s Catharsis, Of Mice & Men offer messages of perseverance and resistance through tracks such as the album’s title track. Plus their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” is well worth a listen for fans and soon-to-be fans of Pink Floyd alike. This is the band’s first album without Austin Carlile, who left the band in 2016 due to health issues. Aaron Pauley, who has been with the band since 2014’s Restoring Force brings a fantastic performance as the band’s new lead vocalist.
3. Reverence by Parkway Drive
Parkway Drive’s Reverence is a brutal album that opens with a quiet spoken word piece which draws the listener in, which eventually erupts into a growling refrain of “Until I’m done!” From the slamming opening track “Wishing Wells” to the devastation of “Absolute Power,” Parkway Drive’s has earned their spot on this list with Reverence.
4. The Sound of Steel by Exmortus
This thrashy death metal offering is a journey well worth taking! You definitely have to be interested in death metal stylings to get into this album, but the melding of the two styles will leave you feeling sufficiently pummeled. Don’t be afraid to travel into the maw of hell and feast on flesh with this offering from Exmortus!
5. Stranger Fruit by Zeal & Ardor
Ever since Morgan introduced me to this album, I’ve been enamored with it. The combination of styles that Manuel Gagneux and company bring to this album is refreshing. The energy they bring by combining soul and heavy metal is well worth at listen. From “Intro,” to my favorite “Servants” to the title track on, the album keeps engaging the listener from start to finish.
6. Ex_Machina by Crossfaith
Ex_Machina was a great introduction to Crossfaith, in my opinion. I don’t find much electronic music I do, but when I do it’s usually an electronicore band. This year, in addition to The Browning’s Geist I also thoroughly enjoyed Ex_Machina. From the opening track “Deus Ex Machina” to the cover of Linkin Park’s “Faint,” which features Masato, this album is a banger from start to finish, a must-listen for fans of metalcore and electronicore.
7. Misery by The Amity Affliction
Easily the least hard album on this list, Misery earns its place with it’s synthesis of synth-pop, post-hardcore and alternative metal influences. What it might lack in instrumental brutality it makes up for in beautiful soundscapes and wonderful lyrics.
8. Dark Skies by Fit For A King
With Dark Skies Fit For A King have squeezed a fifth album into the 2010’s, with time yet to spare. Dark Skies offers a dynamic sound. From the bombastic sound of the opening track “Engraved,” with powerful, cleaner vocals to the heavier “Backbreaker,” with a hook that may in fact break your fucking back.
9. The Endless Road Turns Dark – The Skull
The title track along is worth putting this album on this list, but this whole album offers a delectable taste of melodic doom metal. Eric Wagner’s vocals are hypnotic, and the rest of the band provide instrumentation that keeps me rocking along.
10. Downpour by Downpour
Downpour’s eponymous debut, featuring Brian Fair (Shadows Fall, DRV), Derek Kerswill (Kingdom Of Sorrow, ex-Unearth), Matt LeBreton (Frozen), and Pete Gelles (Birch Hill Damn), is a great cacophonous soundscape of metal. “Mountain” was my favorite track off the album, with it’s clean vocals and it’s enormous sound, calling back to a great tradition in metal, of a sound that reaches out as far as it can, to the person, to think of an interview Bruce Dickinson gave, all the way at the back and top of the amphitheater.
11. Extinction(s) by Unearth
Metalcore mainstays Unearth have returned this year with Extinction(s). Their first album in four years, it opens with the brutal track “Incinerate” and pounds through ten amazing tracks.
12. The Misanthrope by Abysmal Torment
The title track off of this Abysmal Torment offering – which is the second track on the album, after the instrumental “Revelation” – stands out to me. Fast, as technical death metal is expected to be, “The Misanthrope” blisters and pounds unforgivingly. The album, the band’s first in four years, is not one any death metal fan is going to want to miss.
13. Geist by The Browning
This offering by The Browning sees them offering more of their unique blend of heavy metal and electronic music. “Carnage,” which features Jake Hill, stands out.
14. Eternal Return By Windhand
Windhand remain one of my favorite doom metal bands and they do not disappoint with this album. Their slow sound is the sonic equivalent of a long, slow march through the southern summer heat. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals are haunting, as they ride over the instrumentation like a warm breeze through your window and over your body on a hot summer night.
15. Holy Hell by Architects UK
Last but not least on the list is the latest from Architects UK. From “Death Is Not Defeat,” to the title track to “Doomsday” this album is a solid offering from start to finish.