As we approach the end of the year, we here at Distorted Sound are continuing to bring you Album of the Year lists from both bands and our team of Editors, writers, photographers and more. Now, we turn to Perran Helyes, our Live Review Editor for his choice of favourites from 2017. In charge of editing all our live content, Perran has a vital role here at Distorted Sound, so, over to you Perran!
10. Hiss Spun – CHELSEA WOLFE
An artist who until recently had only been peripheral to metal, CHELSEA WOLFE on Hiss Spun finally embraced doom entirely. Guest spots from ISIS’ Aaron Turner and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE’s Troy van Leeuwen added distinct extra flavours to what is essentially Wolfe’s rock album, as she turns to more traditional instrumentation and a spectacular production job from Kurt Ballou which confirms his place as the best producer working in heavy music today by proving that he’s not just limited to vitriolic grind. Wolfe’s musical universe is entirely her own, and each album provides a new portal to a different place within it. 2015’s Abyss was like drowning in pitch black murk; Hiss Spun is raw, unhinged and volatile.
9. Malina – LEPROUS
LEPROUS had always been good and noteworthy for more than just their much spoken of association with IHSAHN as his former backing band, but Malina is the kind of step up that you wish for from all bands with this much potential. They’re still tremendously proggy and compositionally dexterous enough to keep the KING CRIMSON fans happy, but Malina married their ambitions to irrefutable hooks and tighter songwriting that suddenly makes the idea of them holding their own in bigger venues far more plausible. At the centre of it is vocalist Einar Solberg, whose soaring glacial falsettos adding so much drama and emotional potency to these songs make up the most sky-shattering vocal performance of the year.
8. After the Party – THE MENZINGERS
THE MENZINGERS’ fifth album was an ode to their twenties, that feeling of being too young to be old and too old to be young. Marrying the blue collar earnestness of classic Americana with a sense of urgency and punk vitality that so many of their peers lack, songs like Lookers, Midwestern States and Bad Catholics housed perfect and sincere storytelling within infectious and gargantuan melodies. This album is defined by its heart. THE MENZINGERS find the beauty in simplicity and make you nostalgic for situations you’ve never experienced, people you never knew and times you never knew you cared about. Most importantly, they write songs that you’ll be singing for the rest of your life.
7. Mirror Reaper – BELL WITCH
BELL WITCH’s Mirror Reaper consists of just one song spanning over 80 minutes, and easy as it was to baulk at its length upon its announcement, things quickly changed upon the realisation of what was truly on offer here. A staggering compositional achievement as it plays upon the idea of a mirror image but on such an incomprehensible scale, its constant flowing motion in its gorgeous and soulful bass melodies seems to dispense with the concept of time entirely, as it stretches out over and beyond the visible horizon. Engulfed in grief and aching longing, Mirror Reaper acts not just as a tribute to a fallen friend after the loss of former drummer Adrian Guerra, but reassembles funeral doom’s core components into an instant classic of its genre. You cannot dip your toe into this – you must surrender yourself to it.
6. Finisterre – DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT
On Finisterre, DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT displayed both a grandiosity and an ability for devastating moments of emotional climax beyond anything they’ve done before. From the moment the choirs appear on album opener Aufbruch and usher in a hellish power as imposing as anything in metal this year, it’s clear that we’re dealing with a whole new animal. It utilises the stunning crescendos of post-black metal within the framework of something far more white-knuckled and savage, like Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk via DEAFHEAVEN’s elegant peaks. It’s not just a record overflowing with visceral momentum and the feeling that it’s constantly on the path to somewhere greater, but one that feels like it achieves flight itself.
5. Motherblood – GRAVE PLEASURES
With Motherblood, GRAVE PLEASURES managed to pen a set of watertight and immediately infectious goth pop songs surpassing both its predecessor Dreamcrash and their electrifying debut Climax under their original BEASTMILK name. Where Dreamcrash was a morose and gloomy affair (though not without its terrific songwriting moments), Motherblood ramps up the adrenaline once again and throws itself fully into utmost obsession with lustful destruction and our encroaching nuclear obliteration. As frontman Mat McNerney injects copious doses of deathly vampiric flair into his delivery and seemingly does his best to fill his lyrics with as many McNerney-isms as possible from doomsday rainbows to atomic saviours, Motherblood reaches paranoid and delirious heights as it stares into oblivion with a smile on its face.
4. The Warmth of a Dying Sun – EMPLOYED TO SERVE
The Warmth of a Dying Sun is everything you’d want in a sophomore album, taking the elements of debut Greyer Than You Remember that made EMPLOYED TO SERVE such a hot prospect in UK hardcore two years ago and just building and doing more. Their rabid scattershot nature remains but honed into much thicker and focused assaults, a masterclass in the combination of groove and absolute wild abandon. The unbelievably seamless inclusion of more expansive passages though within such violent bombardments shows not just ambition to do more than just crush but the kind of supreme control and incredible nuance normally reserved for bands like CONVERGE or THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. EMPLOYED TO SERVE are knocking on those doors and they’re only on album two.
3. Emperor of Sand – MASTODON
MASTODON’s gift for taking personal traumas and turning them into something simultaneously moving and wildly imaginative has served them well before on albums like the dimension-hopping Crack the Skye, and on Emperor of Sand, experiences dealing with cancer and disease are channelled into a concept album telling of a man desperately seeking to escape a death sentence passed by a desert sultan. Conjuring vivid mental images of its scorching arid setting, Emperor of Sand sees MASTODON nailing a phenomenal meld of their more progressive instincts and their incredible ability for world-building with the arena-ready hooks that they’ve used to such great effect on their previous two albums. By harnessing the tricks they’ve learned along the way into such a poignant and powerful journey, they’ve made their best album of this second, post-Crack the Skye phase of their career.
2. Eternity, In Your Arms – CREEPER
CREEPER’s debut album felt like an event. With all of the buzz built from three fantastic EPs behind them, and with the elaborate mythology created for it combined with the unpredictable movements of the band in the run-up to its release, expectations were huge, and so for it to not just live up to those but surpass them was a wonderful thing to behold. There’s a level of songwriting craft on Eternity, In Your Arms that is simply beyond most bands of their ilk. Down Below and Hiding With Boys move through gothic-Broadway bridges, Misery and I Choose to Live are show-stopping power ballads, and rampaging storms like Room 309 still manage to reach conclusions where they’re able to segue seamlessly into country songs. They’ve brought theatre back into alternative’s public consciousness in a way that holds true heart and sincerity. The world is theirs.
1. Forever – CODE ORANGE
When CODE ORANGE released Forever all the way back in January, no one really predicted the kind of year they’d go on to have culminating in a Grammy nomination unprecedented for a hardcore band, apart from seemingly CODE ORANGE themselves. Their confidence and conviction bleeds into every moment of Forever as it goes about breaking and subverting every trope in the hardcore playbook, spiralling downwards into deeper and darker territories. Breakdowns are replaced by bursts of industrial noise, electronics pulse and flicker, titanic alt rock choruses puncture through the cavernous dark before being swallowed by cataclysmic crunching extremity. It’s hard to think of a moment when hardcore has been shaken up quite like this since CONVERGE released Jane Doe at the dawn of the century, and yet, the waves of Forever already aren’t just being felt in hardcore. CODE ORANGE have got much bigger plans than that and Forever is a gunshot.
And there we have it, what did you think of Perran’s choices? Let us know in the comments below on your favourite albums of this year! If you haven’t already, check our some of our other lists and keep posted to Distorted Sound as we bring you more Albums of the Year Lists from more bands, our Editorial team and our final list from the magazine in the coming weeks!