SikTh – The Future In Whose Eyes?
by Joshua Bulleid
The Future In Whose Eyes? is proof that refinement and melody don’t necessarily equate to “watering down” or “selling out”—not by a long shot. SikTh’s first full-length release since their reunion is nowhere near as groundbreaking or confronting as their original albums were, and it is all the better for it. As I mentioned in my original review, it seemed like what SikTh were reaching for on those first releases was always just out of reach. This third canonical release, however, sees the UK crew clenching the tech-metal scene they helped create in the palm of their hand(s).
Much like Meshuggah’s Koloss (2012) before it, The Future In Whose Eyes? proves that—even after a long absence—there’s just no substitute for the original. This isn’t to say that this album is a mere nostalgia trip; far from it. This is a distinctly modern record, and its individual performances far exceed anything the members of SikTh have produced in the past. Vocalist Mikee Goodman is at the absolute top of his game here,* and the production—courtesy of guitarist Dan Weller and Periphery’s “Nolly” Getgood—rivals the phenomenal job Kurt Ballou did on the recent Darkest Hour album as one the year’s best.
Infinity – Hybris
by Hans Rot
Over the years, Dutch black metal band Infinity has been solid but not extraordinary. Their brand of Norwegian inspired trem fodder definitely needed an upgrade to go with the times, and the last few years within the country has seen its fair share of modern facelifts. Not that the band’s new album, Hybris, rethinks and reformulates its subgenre; rather, it kicks off in a direction that will surely be reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia—upping the technicality of musicianship and maturity of songwriting in a way that makes the whole piece pop and sizzle with each passing second.
The production is fashionably clear and the drums have a satisfactory snap and mechanical quality that fit the more thrash-forward way of thinking the band have adopted. While such terminology might be red-flagged for infractions to the “true”, Infinity have undoubtedly released their finest recording to date. Not only that, but the band has contributed an album that pairs very well with other offerings from Enepsigos, Doedsvangr, Kvalvaag, and Valgaldr; and one that firmly stands as among the finest Norwegian styled black metal albums in recent years.
Undergang – Misantropologi
by Nathan Hare
Danish death metal band Undergang’s fourth full-length album, Misantropologi, has something for all fans of death metal. It has a Swedeath chainsaw guitar tone, Autopsy-style lurching depravity, and the rumbling menace of Bolt Thrower—all topped off with disgustingly deep vocals and the general weirdness of Finnish death metal. Its songs are brutal and compact, but the album packs in a ton of riffs and morbid atmosphere in 28 minutes. Undergang is a band that seems to get filthier with each release, and Misantropologi might be the best thing they’ve ever done.
Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Keziah Lilith Medea (Chapter X)
by Shawn Miller
Taking equal parts Lovecraftian mythos and blasphemous Satanism, Chile’s long-running death metal miscreants Unaussprechlichen Kulten warp minds with a craggy alien soundscape that might just be the death metal album of the year, thus far. Dissonant without delving into caverncore-tinged dissodeath, alien yet coherently and spectacularly structured, and unabashedly heavy in scope—Keziah Lilith Medea (Chapter X) is the album that we’ve all been patiently waiting twenty years for Unaussprechlichen Kulten to release. Take the shear brutality of Immolation and Incantation; mix in some jarring, technical flourishes; blend into an eerie, occult, and alien landscape; and you’ll have a slightly foggy idea of what is going on here.
Anthriel – Transcendence
by Eric Ward
It took seven years for Finnish Progressive Metal outfit Anthriel to release their sophomore album but this album was worth the wait. Showcasing a crunchier sound, this album takes influence from both Dream Theater and Symphony X but manages to outclass the recent output from both bands. Anthriel’s creative strength lies in catchy yet interesting guitar solos and incredibly diverse keyboards, including a tubular bells cover and aquatic keyboards on “Oath of Darkness.” This album may be a touch light on riffs but it progresses almost constantly—sporting the best closing track in recent memory with “Fallen Souls,” which never feels long-winded despite being just over 19 minutes long.
Anathema – The Optimist
by Neil Bird
Anathema have been held in high regard from various eras of their career. While the music has changed over the years, the band has only improved and gotten more impressive. The Optimist is another beautiful addition to their catalogue, and proves they’re in a league all of their own. The personal highlight of the album is the track “Springfield,” which hit very deeply on my initial listen that tears began to well up in my eyes. I can’t say that about much. This album is definitely a highlight in 2017.
Unleash The Archers – Apex
by Larry Best
Early as it is, Unleash The Archers may have already released “album of the year” material. The Canadians’ fourth full-length may have diluted the melodic death metal influences of old, but Apex still has those characteristic harsh vocals adding the extra dimension to these expansive songs. As if the songs even need an extra dimension! Such colossal compositions which simultaneously push the boundaries of power metal whilst retaining that trad metal/Iron Maiden worship vibe. From the driving pace of the hard-rockin’ “Shadow Guide”, to the introspective expanse of the title-track, Apex is loaded with soaring choruses and blazing solos that would make Jeff Waters blush.
Duskmourn – Of Shadow and Flames
By Alex Melzer
Duskmourn are one of these bands that nobody knows, but that can pretty much wipe the floor with good parts of the more established bands. Drawing from a fairly wide range of influences, Of Shadow and Flame takes the intensity of death metal, the atmosphere of folk metal (far transcending the jaunty and jolly frolics though the port district’s mead halls) and an amazing sensitivity to tempo changes, grandiose melodies and well executed dynamics, creating a whole that definitely exceeds the sum of its single parts—taking the listener onto a journey that feeds off ever changing intensities, moods and more, while maintaining a remarkable and always immediate catchiness without ever gliding off into the shallow waters of predictability. Of Shadow and Flame and Duskmourn are one of the reasons, why the future of metal still shines bright.
and the year before