Best of 2017 (Music)

It's listicle time! ♫ 

For the last 3 years, I've been making Albums Of The Year (#AOTY) lists, so 2017 won't be different in any way. These lists consist of albums which have caught my fancy, have high repeat-spins, are "unique" and bring something fresh to the world where most music is shite. While, it's impossible to listen to all the popular and critical releases of 2017, I reckon I would've sampled at least 100 odd full lengths. My personal taste lean towards heavy music, hence these lists comprise mostly of metal music. 

This year had a string of stellar releases popping up towards the end of the year. I've luckily managed to come across such albums this month and have promptly added to my AOTY list. So here goes nothing, in descending order. 

10. Jordablod - Upon My Cremation Pyre
Jordablod's debut was picked up by the (in)famous Iron Bonehead records and that in itself is a reason why it deserves at least a listen. Hailing from Sweden, this one-man band plays black metal swathed in luscious and grand atmospheric/psychedelic vibes. What stood out for me is the guitar work, especially the solos which isn't something that one talks much about in black metal music. I look forward to his future releases. 
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9. Contaminated - Final Man
This is another full length debut to make my list. Contaminated are a death metal band from Australia and they love their tunes crunchy, buzz-saw like (Swedeath influenced), played through a filthy and raw filter with an additional dose of doomy sections. I feel this album borrows the best bits of the Incantation/Immolation sound and marries it beautifully with what death metal bands from Sweden are best known for. It packs quite a punch! 
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8. Nokturnal Mortum - Verity
While many die-hard fans would've expected this band to recreate another Voice of Steel (their magnum opus), I honestly feel Nokturnal Mortum did quite a stellar job with Verity. It's more of the same ol' grand and symphonic folk black metal that you'd expect from the band. Verity has an abundance of melodic riffs which will get your head bobbing in no time. For any of you unfamiliar with the band, you can expect a lot of folky sounds played on traditional Ukrainian instruments.
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7. Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben Het Goed II
Wiegedood are a black metal band from Belgium, somewhat born out of an older band called Oathbreaker who play post-hardcore/metal (or some such abomination). I've never been a fan of Oathbreaker so my apprehension to listen to album was justified. Much to the fanfare surrounding this release, I'm glad I checked this album out. It's beautiful if intense tremolo riffing over blast-beats is your thing. The album is also atmospheric in the modern/contemporary black metal way. While this may not appeal much to purists, I feel Wiegedood have produced a great black metal record. I'll definitely revisit this in the years to come.
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6. Malokarpatan - Nordkarpatenland
Malokarpatan were a last minute addition to my AOTY list as I started listening to this album only two weeks ago. I feel with a couple more full listens, this album could be bumped up to a higher rank. They play a primal form of black metal which essentially is heavy metal with harsh/screechy vocals. Fans of early Venom, Master's Hammer, Bathory or Mortuary Drape will really enjoy this sophomore album by Malokarpatan. As an added bonus, the band also experiments with folky sounds, making it quite an interesting listen. Funnily, the band calls their music - "Old school rural Slovak black metal". A very apt descriptor. 
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5. Hällas - Excerpts From a Future Past
Given this list, I reckon this album will be most accessible for "non-metal" listeners. Hällas play 70s influenced rock, almost progressive too. You'll hear instrumental passages where guitar solos harmonize perfectly with Deep Purple-esque keys. Even if you're overly tired with the retro bandwagon that many bands keep jumping onto, you should still give Hällas a listen because the lovely instrumentation and the song composition are top-notch. It's only their second release and you can hear the maturity in their songs. One of the main reasons I really enjoy Excerpts is because on a deep personal level, I feel the songs/music put me in a self-reflective mood. Not sure what I mean? Listen to the album. 
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4. Perturbator - New Model
James Kent aka Perturbator breathes in new life into his project with New Model. While the foundation of New Model is still built on the retro-synth wave sound, the songs are way more darker and grittier than the previous releases. I've been an ardent follower of Perturbator since 2012, I've also been lucky to see him live (plugging the live video I took in 2015). In that regard, you could call me a big Perturbator fan so my expectations were quite high. Synth-wave as a genre can get very insipid and boring very fast, and hence experimentation is key. Perturbator does just that with different vocal delivery on songs, by slowing down sections and playing around with various industrial elements. New Model makes it difficult to pigeonhole Perturbator as just another retro-synth wave artist, which is great in my opinion. 
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3. Shaarimoth - Temple Of The Adversarial Fire
This was the first release of 2017 that caught my attention. Very early on I proclaimed it to be AOTY material and it's survived a whole year retained in my top 10 list. Shaarimoth are from Norway, a place where underrated death metal bands are ready to burst into the scene. Temple of Adversarial Fire is an album which would appeal to black metal fans too, as it rubs off heavily with that characteristic atmospheric sound. While still being very riff-heavy, the band experiments with lots of vacant instrumental doomy passages, tremolo riffing and fast thrashy sections. The production is perfect for my liking where it's finely balanced between murky-sounding and "good clean discernible" sounding. I wish more metalheads listened to Shaarimoth because the album quality retains its consistency from start to finish, making it a truly memorable record.
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2. The Ruins of Beverast - Exuvia
Exuvia is the remains of an insect's exoskeleton when it has shed it off. Is it a metaphor for the new album by Alexander von Meilenwald (the genius behind TRoB)? It could be. TRoB have an extensive discography spanning close to 14 years and Exuvia, in my opinion, gives the early albums a run for their money as TRoB's best work. Exuvia is like a journey into shamanic rituals (look at the album art as well). It is psychedelic, doomy, atmospheric and retains TRoB's characteristic black metal sound. Similar to TRoB's older material, Exuvia's songs meander long and winding, almost merging into one another and they're best consumed from album start to finish. I can't think of a better album in 2017 if a listener wants to immerse herself into a meditative state. Truly hypnotic and highly recommended! 
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1. Elder - Reflections of a Floating World
Well well well, here's my favorite release of the year. Elder's 2015 album was highly rated, which I'll admit I missed out on and hereby regret not including it in my list. I'm making amends this year because Reflections of a Floating World is if not better but as good as their previous album. The album is primarily an instrumental stoner/doom masterpiece. It crests with beautiful guitar melodies and then troughs (in a good way) with heavy pounding guitars and drums. I think what makes this album a masterpiece is its wide-appeal. Fans of rock (heavy rock, progressive, rock n' roll), doom metal, psychedelic/stoner music and anyone who appreciates great musicianship will dig this album quite a lot. I see myself still revisiting this album many more times in the future. How will Elder top two successively brilliant releases? One can hope. Until then, enjoy the full album stream below! 
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