The Blog of Much Metal is nothing if not predictable. But, what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for with quality writing, brilliant wit, incisive articles and a bucket load of irony and modesty.
As a result, I return with my usual mid-year round-up of the best music that has been released between January and June 2017. As with last year, I remain a one-man show and so I have not listened to everything that has been released in this period. I have a family and a career to fit in as well. However, I have listened to more albums than ever before (or at least that’s how it feels), so I am content that very little of any note has slipped the net. And if it has slipped the net, I still have six months to put things right. Of course, if I have missed anything out, I shall leave it to you, my dear, loyal reader, to tell me.
Everything in this round-up has consequently been reviewed on this blog already, so I don’t intend on going in to great depth with each pick here. Instead, I’ll provide a few up-to-date thoughts, a quote from the full review and then a link to that review should you wish to check it out. Wherever possible, I will also provide a link to a different track to the one posted with the review. Well, I have to try to give you some value for money, don’t I?
And so, in no particular order, I give you:
If you were to tell me that there is a band out there creating a bigger buzz in the metal world right now, then I might consider calling you a liar. For a band that had been toiling away for a number of years, gathering a small but select band of cult followers, things have now taken off massively. But then it’s hardly surprising given the quality of the music that they are now creating. Unique, assured and intense, Voyager are the whole package and ‘Ghost Mile’ demonstrates this 100%, no question.
“Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focused and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.”
“In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.”
“The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.”
Pain Of Salvation
In The Passing Light of Day
Do you know that feeling when a band you’ve almost given up on delivers a killer album? Well, that’s the feeling I got from Pain of Salvation with ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ way back at the beginning of the year. It seems like forever since I first heard it and given the amount of music around at the moment, it is testament to its quality that I still find myself gravitating towards it. More than that, it still has the ability to send chills down my spine and bring a tear to my eye at times.
“What also works well is the way in which the music sounds fresh and vital but also isn’t afraid to borrow from the band’s past either. As well as the ‘Road Salt’ echoes, there are passages where I also hear elements of the ‘One Hour By The Concrete Lake’, ‘Remedy Lane’ and ‘Be’…”
“2017 may have only just begun but Pain of Salvation have laid down the marker for all others to reach. After a few releases that didn’t move me, ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ has redressed the balance and then some. If this is what intelligent and emotional progressive metal sounds like in 2017, I don’t want the year to ever end.”
I’m still wondering just where this album came from – it is definitely the surprise of the year for me so far. I was never the biggest fan of Persefone but the Andorrans well and truly did a number on me with their latest effort, the incredible ‘Aathma’. It is progressive, technical death metal, the likes of which I have rarely heard, especially to this level. It is like the sextet took everything to a whole new level, from the collective songwriting to the individual performances. And it all sounds so rich and cohesive, with enough accessibility to keep me coming back for more.
“I absolutely love music when it offers a challenge and isn’t afraid to go in directions that it wants, rather than what convention dictates it should do. I don’t mind saying that Persefone have produced an absolute masterpiece with ‘Aathma’ – it is the work of six supremely talented musicians at the top of their game. Short of a miracle, I cannot see any other extreme progressive metal albums topping this during 2017 or beyond. Spectacular.”
If ever there was an album release that raised my expectation levels to completely new heights, it was this one. The last two, ‘Distant Satellites’ and ‘Weather Systems’ are musical perfection, so I hoped upon hope for a third killer record. After a difficult start, where disappointment initially reigned supreme, I have grown to love ‘The Optimist’. In keeping with previous Anathema albums, it is a deep and emotional rollercoaster of a ride through some dark landscapes that only reveal their beauty with time, effort and an open mind.
“Put simply, Anathema are a band that speaks to me. They are a band that seem to know instinctively how to press my buttons and touch me whatever my mood. From euphoric and uplifting, to fragile and poignant, they cover the gamut of emotions, leaving me exhilarated one minute and sombre the next, frequently with tears as my constant and ubiquitous silent companion.”
“‘The Optimist’ is yet another shift in Anathema’s own personal evolution. Whilst the core ingredients of atmosphere, emotional depth and lyrical eloquence are present and correct here, the output framed loosely by alternative/prog rock, has a much darker feel to it in general. There is also a more pronounced use of loops, electronic sounds and percussion that were hinted at within the title track on ‘Distant Satellites’.”
“Once again, Anathema have delivered an album that is more to me than just a collection of beautifully and lovingly-crafted songs. It is an album that lives and breathes. It has a vibrancy, an intense raw honesty and a human depth that many strive to deliver but that very few succeed in achieving.”
It takes a lot for doom metal to feature in any top lists with me because in general, doom is not one of my natural, favourite genres. However, I had not reckoned on the new album from Pallbearer. This is doom metal but it is so much more besides. ‘Heartless’ is a near-perfect blend of styles and sounds, making it transcend genres to a certain extent. Instead, when I listen to ‘Heartless’, I find myself being thoroughly absorbed in some of the most exciting, engaging and mature music I have heard for some time.
“…having since had the opportunity to listen to this album at length, I am going to stick my neck out and say that right here, right now, ‘Heartless’ is the best doom metal record that I have ever heard. Yes it incorporates a number of different influences to create a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and moods. However, at its core, ‘Heartless’ is pure doom metal, born and bred.”
“The injection of more overt progressive tendencies alongside some sumptuous melodies and assured, ambitious song writing means that with ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have created what I think might very well be my favourite doom metal album ever. Meaningless hyperbole this is not, because ‘Heartless’ delivers in every facet. This is a doom metal masterpiece and my life is richer for hearing it.”