Top 23 of 2017

The Heart of the Prog/Power Movement

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elendil
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Top 23 of 2017

Postby elendil » Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:06 pm

Why Top 23? Well, this is sort of a cutoff between those albums I found worthy of purchasing on CD and those I merely plan to stream from time to time. But this is all subject to change, especially as I don't get to listen to quite as much new stuff as some of you & am still digesting & discovering stuff. Here are some thoughts on my favorite albums of 2017 (all genres).

23. THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR / SKADI

Blackened doom? Somewhere in the Primordial-meets-Solstice universe, but this band is a leader not a follower. Some prog influences too. https://theflightofsleipnir.bandcamp.co ... hen-shroud

22. ANATHEMA / THE OPTIMIST

I rate this a notch above the disappointing _Distant Satellites_. Kind of a short album in terms of actual musical "meat," though, so a couple notches below the masterpieces _We're Here Because We're Here_ and _Weather Systems_. I'm just glad they're still coming up with new ideas.

21. LACRIMOSA / TESTIMONIUM

An underrated band for prog aficionados, IMO. They continue to do their lush, symphonic, gothic rock/metal with style and, yes, even some originality after all these years. Not at the level of their best albums, but still quite worthy for anyone enjoying lush symphonics in his rock.

20. BIG BIG TRAIN / GRIMSPOUND

The early Genesis sound made a lot more symphonic. Plenty of cheese to go around, and this is not as good as the brilliant _Folklore_, but it still has its moments.

19. AMBERIAN DAWN / DARKNESS OF ETERNITY

This scratches the itch that bands like Delain and Within Temptation are no longer scratching, although no one can match Martijn Westerholt's magic on the synths. Unabashedly melodic & neoclassical. Guilty pleasure of 2017?

18. GALACTIC COWBOYS / LONG WAY BACK TO THE MOON

Posted my thoughts on this elsewhere on the board. Really fun listen: lots of crunch, fun vocal harmonies, humor...

17. SOLSTAFIR / BERDREYMINN

I've always been of two minds about this band. On the one hand, I'm a sucker for atmospheric, textured rock and metal, and the jangly riffs here remind me in a good way of bands like The Provenance and, on their later work, Dismal Euphony (obscure enough references that they are unlikely to be influences!). Some of the melodies are also reminiscent of Katatonia's most creative period. I also dig the dark, almost new-wavey synths. On the other hand, Solstafir's unmelodious vocals have always repelled me somewhat. But I think this is my favorite album of theirs so far. https://solstafir.bandcamp.com/track/safold

16. THE DARK ELEMENT / THE DARK ELEMENT

I have people on this board to thank for posting about this album; otherwise I likely wouldn't have discovered it. I didn't care for Anette's work in Nightwish, but then I don't think Nightwish has written many good songs in a long time. This is a really fun, vocal-oriented hard rock album, a bit of a guilty pleasure like Amberian Dawn but there's a place for those.

15. DANIEL CAVANAGH / MONOCHROME

Going to echo the praise for this album, which I think is a notch better than _The Optimist_, although surprisingly not all that different stylistically. The main band has also gone in a more minimalist direction. I like a lot of the keys/piano work on this. More to dig into before I fully grok this album, & it could rise in this ranking.

14. VUUR / IN THIS MOMENT WE ARE FREE - CITIES

The music is a competently executed but somewhat generic backdrop to Anneke's voice, but she is truly superb on this disc. Pleasant surprise of the year, as I really hadn't followed her recent work at all. Just an easy-on-the-ears, fun listen with a bit of depth.

13. THRESHOLD / LEGENDS OF THE SHIRES

Threshold is just money in the damned bank, aren't they? Hard to think of a more consistent band in recent years. But this is one of their best, if not quite at the level of _Hypothetical_ or _Clone_ in my personal ranking.

12. PALLBEARER / HEARTLESS

Hey, what can I say? I'm a doom-lover and am glad this genre is finally getting its day in the sun. My first introduction to "underground" metal was Solitude Aeturnus way back in 1995. This album has some more sludgy moments in the middle that I don't care for, but there is some great melodic, epic doom as well.

11. SOEN / LYKAIA

I'm behind the curve in just getting into this band. I've seen it described as a mix between mid-period Opeth and later Tool, and that sounds about right. Not *hugely* original, but the combination of elements is unique, nothing is "paint by numbers," and it's all at quite a professional level. I like the vocals, and there's a lot of emotional power here.

10. FOREFATHER / TALES FROM A CLOUD-BORN LAND

Those of you who go crazy for melodic hooks might do well to check out this band. Mid-tempo to fast folk-ish metal (no folk instruments) with a touch of black metal influence. Mix of harsh and clean vocals, but more clean I think. Dual guitar harmonies and lead hooks all over the place. _Steadfast_ is their best album IMO but this is probably second. Favorite track: "Out of Time" https://forefather.bandcamp.com/track/out-of-time .

9. WOBBLER / FROM SILENCE TO SOMEWHERE

The best retro prog since the glory days of Anglagard and Anekdoten? I'd say so. Not too much ground-breaking here - bits and pieces recall _Larks' Tongues in Aspic_ or _Aqualung_ or other monumental albums of the genre - but nor is it slavishly derivative, and there are some truly mind-bending moments. It's impossible not to groove to a track like "Fermented Hours" with its appealingly wacked-out time signatures. https://wobbler.bandcamp.com/track/fermented-hours

8. TETRAFUSION / DREAMING OF SLEEP

As far as more technical, jazz-influenced metal goes, this was my favorite of the year. It brings in 20th century classical influences as well, with some really exquisite keyboard work in addition to the usual angular riffage. The more "core"-y moments don't appeal to me, but there's more than enough true beauty in here to compensate.

7. VÄSEN / BREWED

Nyckelharpa Domination! If you love progressive Scandinavian folk, as I do, then Väsen are your mortal gods. _Brewed_ stands up to _Whirled_ as one of their best IMO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oww-dXf-6qs

6. LEPROUS / MALINA

To show you how behind the metal curve I am, I just stumbled on this band a few months ago with _Bilateral_. Now _Malina_ has captivated me. Perhaps once I explore their back catalog other releases will stick out more, but for now this has me enthralled. The songs use subtle contrasts of "dark" and "light," minor and major, to evoke an emotional ambiguity paralleling that of life itself. The one dubstep-y track is annoying as all hell, but the rest is awesome.

5. DANISH STRING QUARTET / LAST LEAF

My favorite classical release of the year. A mix of traditional Scandinavian folk songs and folk-inspired scored pieces. If this sounds as if it might be your thing, it is. Excellent musicianship and inspired selections. Just watch the video and see if you aren't blown away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhnZK-NxcQk

4. DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA / PACIFISTICUFFS

YAASSSS! What a return to form! This is even better than their outstanding debut album. As eclectic as ever but even more fun. Who dast resist the disco/big band/metal swing of "Jigsaw Hustle"?

3. ELUVEITIE / EVOCATION II - PANTHEON

This. Is. AMAZING! I'm ready to say Eluveitie should just play acoustic folk rock from now on and leave the metal out of the equation. The instrumental elements of the songs are familiar Celticisms: nothing too original there though it's well done, and who doesn't love a little tin whistle? But what really sets the album apart is the vocal melodies, which are unusual but immediately entrancing. Check out "Lvgvs" as just one example.

2. ENSLAVED / E

I owned a couple of Enslaved albums; they always engendered respect if not devotion. But they have unexpectedly put everything together on this one! It's a slow burn, but repays close attention over the course of the full hour of playing time. All sorts of unexpected influences & elements here. The off-kilter rhythms are ultra-tight, whether in proggy breakdowns or full-on galloping black metal blasting mode. The album trades off technical, challenging bits with breaks of more familiar melodic elements.

1. EX EYE / EX EYE

Some of you will hate this, and it is admittedly about 50% brilliant and 25% garbage. But my middle-aged brain craves novelty, and if I can find truly innovative brilliance anywhere, I'll take with whatever chaff comes along. The more brilliant parts could be described as Iron Maiden, Frank Zappa, Tangerine Dream, Sleep, and Burzum put through a blender - a perfect but unexpectable blend of chaos and melody. The garbage consists of annoying ambient noise. https://exeyeband.bandcamp.com/track/op ... n-the-coil

Edit: Link to Vaesen video added.
Last edited by elendil on Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:52 am, edited 3 times in total.

Harvester
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Re: Top 23 of 2017

Postby Harvester » Fri Dec 22, 2017 7:33 am

Very nice! I have a few to check out. Thanks for posting.

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Nos
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Re: Top 23 of 2017

Postby Nos » Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:34 am

elendil wrote:11. SOEN / LYKAIA

I'm behind the curve in just getting into this band. I've seen it described as a mix between mid-period Opeth and later Tool, and that sounds about right. Not *hugely* original, but the combination of elements is unique, nothing is "paint by numbers," and it's all at quite a professional level. I like the vocals, and there's a lot of emotional power here.


It's taken them time to figure out their sound, which is normal. Their first album was so much like Tool it was almost hard to take them seriously (even though it was pretty good). The added Opeth-ian elements are what has made them grow into what they are now, which is better than Opeth.

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elendil
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Re: Top 23 of 2017

Postby elendil » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:46 am

Nos wrote:
elendil wrote:11. SOEN / LYKAIA

I'm behind the curve in just getting into this band. I've seen it described as a mix between mid-period Opeth and later Tool, and that sounds about right. Not *hugely* original, but the combination of elements is unique, nothing is "paint by numbers," and it's all at quite a professional level. I like the vocals, and there's a lot of emotional power here.


It's taken them time to figure out their sound, which is normal. Their first album was so much like Tool it was almost hard to take them seriously (even though it was pretty good). The added Opeth-ian elements are what has made them grow into what they are now, which is better than Opeth.


Yeah, Opeth nowadays is dull by comparison with what they have done, and the reason isn't that they dropped the metal - the songwriting just hasn't been as great.

I'll certainly check out Soen's earlier albums, but bearing in mind your admonition.

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Re: Top 23 of 2017

Postby ToddS » Tue Dec 26, 2017 7:09 pm

We have a few in common such as DSO. That could wind up #1 for me.

Several others I am not familiar with. Will check those of interest out.

Thanks for posting.
"My songs become my freedom, and my freedom turns to gold"


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