Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions – Part 1

Welcome to my annual run-down of the very best music to have been released during the calendar year of 2017. This is now the sixth year that I have compiled such a list, but the first for the new-look manofmuchmetal.com.

This year has seen another cracking set of releases right across the spectrum of rock and metal. It is also the first year that I have managed to review over 100 new releases for my website. Compared to other sites out there, this might not seem very many. However, it is a milestone of which I am very proud, especially considering each detailed review is around 1000 words or longer.

For 2017, I toyed with increasing my countdown from 30 to 35 or even 40 albums, such has been the quality this year. However, ever one to listen to my loyal readers, I have retained the ‘top 30’ format.

This has meant that there are several notable absentees from the final list this year. If you’ve read my reviews, you’ll already know that the likes of Arch Enemy, Sepultura, Wintersun and Vuur have fallen well short of the cut. You’re also probably aware that other big hitters like Paradise Lost and Ayreon have missed out. There are plenty of other great releases that have come up short too.

However, at its core, manofmuchmetal.com is about spreading the word and the love for heavy music. And so, when I realised that about 20 albums into eight slots was never going to work, I decided to begin this year’s countdown with a nod to the records that missed out by the skin of their teeth.

To put this into context, every record mentioned in this post scored 9/10 or 9.25/10. Therefore they are all worthy of praise and high accolades. Indeed many of these will have no doubt found their way into many people’s top 10 lists and rightly so. It’s all a matter of opinion after all; there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to musical taste.

So, without further ado, here goes:

1000x1000Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos
Nuclear Blast Records

Not generally my kind of thing, Sweden’s Avatarium have managed to release two successive doom rock albums that I simply haven’t been able to ignore. The combination of Jennie-Anne Smith’s gorgeous vocals, Marcus Jidell’s fantastic guitar playing and strong song writing meant that ‘Hurricanes and Halos’ found favour with me in spite of the fact it contained many elements that I’d not normally embrace. All power to them for doing that too.

“I can think of no other band in the modern era who does this kind of thing better than Avatarium. That in itself should speak volumes about just how good it is. I doubt I’ll hear a more compelling doom-infused rock album all year.”

Read the full review here.

coverProspekt – The Illuminated Sky
The Laser’s Edge

Young UK symphonic progressive metal band Prospekt delivered an excellent sophomore record in ‘The Illuminated Sky’, one that grew on me a lot and continues to work its magic whenever I listen to it. Cinematic, grandiose and with chops galore, it was the ambition and quality of the songwriting that really stood out for me and meant that ‘The Illuminated Sky’ finished the year very highly in my estimations.

“The only conclusion I can reach is that with ‘The Illuminated Sky’, Prospekt have signalled their intent to become a big hitter in the prog scene in the most impressive of ways. Or, to put it another way, if you’re a fan of progressive music, it won’t be long before you’re a fan of Prospekt.”

Read the full review here.

697_exdeo_cmykEx Deo – The Immortal Wars
Napalm Records

It is almost impossible not to get caught up in the epic maelstrom of sound that Ex Deo manage to create and their latest effort, ‘The Immortal Wars’ is no different. The heavy and bombastic music is perfectly suited to the uncompromising and bloodthirsty period in history that the Canadians have sought to bring to life on this record. Cinematic, grandiose and surprisingly melodic in places, this record remains a frequent visitor to my 2017 playlist and rightly so.

“The word ‘symphonic’ gets used far too much in the world of heavy metal, but Ex Deo deserve that tag; more so, ‘The Immortal Wars’ proves that they should be considered to be one of the very best exponents of extreme symphonic metal out there today.”

Read the full review here.

Press_Cover_01Tuesday The Sky – Drift
InsideOut Music

I’ve said it many times before, but instrumental music has to be of a high calibre for me to fully embrace it. And that’s exactly the case with ‘Drift’ from Tuesday The Sky. Mind you, under the control of Fate’s Warning’s Jim Matheos, this record was unlikely to ever be sub-par. The reality is though, that it is a very beautiful record, full of emotion, melody and subtlety.

“…my admiration has grown into a genuine fondness for what has become a go-to record when I wish to be emotionally nourished and surrounded by music that has something subtle yet powerful to say.”

Read the full review here.

nova-collective-the-further-sideNova Collective – The Further Side
Metal Blade Records

In spite of the fact that Nova Collective features Haken’s Richard Henshall and Bewteen The Buried And Me’s Dan Briggs, I had relatively low expectations for the debut album from this quartet. Technical progressive jazz fusion is not something I’d normally gravitate towards, but ‘The Further Side’ surprised me with its blend of complexity and accessibility, proving that these guys are incredibly talented song writers above all else.

“For the first time in ages, possibly forever, I am listening to an instrumental progressive jazz fusion album and I am not bored to the very core of my soul. Instead, I want to press play and listen to it all over again…Nova Collective have actually written music that is intelligent and challenging but that is also vibrant, melodic and engaging.”

Read the full review here.

pyramaze artwork_1500Pyramaze – Contingent
Inner Wound Recordings

I wasn’t overly impressed with this latest offering from Pyramaze at the outset if I’m honest. However, after persevering with it, ‘Contingent’ slowly and surely blossomed into a super album of deceptively memorable melodic progressive metal, full of power and panache, not to mention some wonderfully overblown symphonics as well.

“‘Contingent’ has slowly and cleverly worked its way into my affections and now I can’t sing its praises highly enough. Pyramaze have quite simply delivered a stunning album that’s ambitious and highly impressive.”

Read the full review here.

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