All Hail the Metal Gods! What an incredible year for us hallowed headbangers. As I began writing for Metalholic.com in June, I found myself returning to my roots as a music student early in my college years. I love music theory, the complexities of music, and where it can take you. Breaking down albums, track by track, allowed for a rejuvenation of that spirit, and for that I’m exceedingly thankful. The most appealing thing to me about heavy metal music is the movement that each and every record brings and the open-mindedness of its fan base. I’m sure there are some selections on this list that will raise an eyebrow before the devil horns, but that’s the beauty of it all. While we are surrounded by people who show no ability to disagree or discuss things with others, metal fans worldwide continue to listen to new music, debate their virility and merit, and push the discussion further. It’s the misunderstood beauty of my favorite place to be; the vast expanses of heavy metal. Cheers to you all! Looking forward to what next year will bring!
Best track: Overthrow
“Veil” makes the list as a late entry. I ran across Veil of Maya a few weeks ago on LiquidMetal and have been thoroughly impressed. You can hear some of the industrial/math metal type of playing that a Meshuggah-type band would bring to the table, but they combine it with some excellent vocal mixing. The breakdowns and bridges are explosive and technical. That’s certainly what drew me to listen to them and I look forward to hearing more.
Best track: Sahmein
I’m fortunate to have been able to see some of these bands live, Norska being one of them. A mainstay of the Portland metal scene, Norska took the stage on day two of Stumpfest, a doom/death metal mini-festival that drew the mighty Elder this year. Of the many bands I saw that weekend, Norska stood out for their excellent sound quality and the vocal stylings of Jim Lowder. (Check out YOB as well for more of this sound) Too Many Winters is their first full-length album, and it is a dark, groove-filled record from beginning to end. You can definitely hear the Red Fang influence throughout as well, which is never a bad thing. A bit off the mainstream path, but well worth the journey. Norska will not disappoint.
Best track: Cruel Road
Another band I was able to see up close and personal, Pallbearer made a massive return to the scene with Heartless. Prog and doom with a touch of Baroness, Pallbearer’s third effort was met with a great deal of commercial and fan praise. It takes a unique skill-set to play metal that has the vocal variance and grind to appeal to fans across many of the metal genres, but Heartless certainly does that. It feels like they have just scratched the surface of where they can take their sound. That bodes well for the rest of us!
Best track: No Lives Matter
I might take some heat for this choice, but hear me out. Back in 1992, Body Count released their debut album, surrounded in controversy for their lyrics and of course the infamous “Cop Killer” track. Moving into 2017, Ice-T and Eddie C are back and right back in the metal mix. Metal has had a long history of questioning the mainstream culture and providing commentary on the current political state of affairs. Bloodlust pulls no punches on the state of affairs in the U.S. regarding political and race relations. But we all know that doesn’t get you through the door, and nor should it. Enter Eddie C. The dude has some serious metal chops and writes intriguing music that impresses and enrages, matching him perfectly with Ice-T’s lyrics. As music continues to expand and become even more accessible, bands like Body Count should appeal to more and more fans of the genre. Bloodlust was a welcome return to the anger of Los Angeles.
Best track: Illuminant
Ah, the beauty of smartphones. While most functions of “internet phones” (as a friend of mine would say) involve making ridiculous faces with filters, liking, and ranting, one huge plus to music fans is music recognition apps. Thus began my journey with New York City’s Quicksand. I was at Red Rocks in CO, prepping to see the mighty Mastodon yet again, when some of the between set music really caught my ear. Grab my phone, run the app, and bam: Quicksand. Around since 1990, Quicksand hit that small window of excellent hardcore metal coming out of NYC before grunge took over the rest of the first half of the 1990’s. Only a three-piece, Quicksand has a definite hardcore feel, but they bring their own unique style that moves them into a fringe metal group. Working with a much broader palette, they master the art of dissonance with a sound that takes you back to almost an early Soundgarden-type feel. It’s awesome to see a band stick around this long and be able to continue to refine a recognizable sound. Excellent record that will lead you to their early work.