And with a mighty cold flourish, twenty-seventeen makes her exit! While it’s not been a bad year by any means, it has been a more demanding year than I expected, with fewer opportunity for music listening and writing. Regulars to AMG may have noticed, going back a few months now, that I’ve pretty much been absent from the Reviews section of the site. This has largely been due to real-world commitments of setup and maintenance of Steel Druhm‘s stately new manor, trying to get my reluctant head around transitioning into a new job role, and the increasing demands of this website that we all call home. While I must admit that it brings me no joy in turning away the Contact Form pleas for reviews of this EP or that single, of which we get so many, I find solace in those rare emails that lead to bands like Black Tundra and Sar Isatum. My hope is that 2018 will allow for better balance between editing and administration demands, maybe even allowing for a timely review here or there.
It’s on that note, that I want to thank my fellow editors and admins for their presence on the site. AMG, the standard by which we are all judged. Steel Druhm, as the still undisputed Site Overseer – your editing, reorganizing and ideas are appreciated – I truly believe that without your tireless efforts, AMG would not exist today. Dr. A.N. Grier, while your diligent editing has allowed me to shift some focus towards the Contact Forms (a previously neglected area of the AMG empire), looking back, May 25th saw more than a few Alestorm‘s slip through the cracks… I’m guessing you spent some time in HR? And Sentynel, thanks for your wizardry as always. I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do this without you guys.
To my fellow writers, thank you for an amazing effort. You’ve all done an great job of upholding the quality of the site, and through each and every review you’ve submitted, I’ve seen the site grow bigger and more mighty, as only a metal site can! While the editors and admins keep the site running, AMG would not be possible without your efforts and for that we thank you.
And last but not least, I want to join my fellow writers in saying thanks to each and every one of you that read, comment on and make contact with the site. Without you, our work would be nothing. It’s your dedication to the site, and your ingenious Photoshop skills that keep this little piece of magik alive.
Without further ado, I present my Least Disliked Five(ish) of 2017.
(ish): The Necromancers // Servants of the Salem Girl – What on earth got me listening to this, I’ll never know. That said, I’m absolutely glad I did! With rough Clutch-like vocal stylings, Tom Cornière-David and his band of merry men use Servants of the Salem Girl to invoke the memory of Motörhead, combining it with the boisterous heavy metal blitz of Fireball Ministry and Orange Goblin. The end result is a buzz-worthy album that’s catchy as hell. I dare you to listen to this just once.
#5. White Ward // Futility Report – Billed as the metallic version of Ulver‘s Perdition City – How could I resist. Futility Report introduces itself via “Deviant Shapes,” an intense amalgam of Obscure Sphinx, Melencolia Estatica and Lifelover. Integrated synth effects rise to prominence as the track progresses, bringing to the fore those clear-cut parallels between Futility and Perdition City. Using “Stillborn Knowledge” to set the tone of what’s to come, the remainder of the album consists of a handful of songs reaching a 40-minute run-time hovering around the mid-tempo range, incorporating post-metal peaks and death-doom riffing comparable to that of Insomnium. It’s Alexey Iskimzhi’s jazz-oriented sax contributions, smooth-as-silk, that set this album apart and raise it to the next level.
#4. 1476 // Our Season Draws Near – As the frigid cold works its way down into my bones, no album seems more suited to the deep freeze than 1476‘s mixture of art and stripped-down dark, atmospheric rock. Our Season Draws Near seems almost prophetic in terms of the band’s success. As the soft strains of “Our Silver Age” speaks of flaws, mistakes and dissipating futures, the only likeness that comes to mind, is the tragedy of Woods of Ypres. The album changes course dramatically, grabbing at about half a dozen different sounds and styles, that on paper look obscene – expect nods to the likes of Ghost Brigade, Vreid, Danzig, The Killers, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Gaslight Anthem. None of this should work together so successfully, and yet it does.
#3. Me and That Man // Songs of Love and Death1 – About as far removed from Behemoth as one can get, Me and That Man sees Adam Michal Darski (Behemoth‘s Nergal) working alongside British songwriter John Porter on an acoustic American folk project that draws influence from African-American work songs originally developed during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It’s an odd combination to be sure, with hints to legends like Tom Waits/Nick Cave (“My Church is Black”), Bob Dylan (“Of Sirens, Vampires and Lovers,” “One Day” and “Lies”), even The Ventures (“Voodoo Queen”). If you’re looking for an authentic and unhurried end to 2017, I have no hesitation in saying that this is it.
#2. Loss // Horizonless – Dragging along at a near glacial pace, Horizonless tells the beautiful and despondent tale of a band that’s fully grown into their excruciating torment. The album features five dauntingly long funeral doom numbers, broken up by short and dynamic interludes that allow Loss to take what could be an overwhelming album and somehow make it seem more palatable. From the bottomless growls of “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” Loss crawls through their Mournful Congregation and Warning influence to incorporate the pensiveness of Eudaimony (“Naught”), the resourcefulness of Caïna (“Moved Beyond Murder”) and the resonance of Ulver (“When Death Is All”) to arrive at an album that’s not to be missed.
#1. Igorrr // Savage Sinusoid – One thing you can count on from Gautier Serre, is the unexpected, and Savage Sinusoid does not disappoint. Combining his talents with those of Laurent Lunior (harsh vox), Laure Le Prunenec (melodic songbird) and Sylvain Bouvier (drums), Serre delivers a musical experience that combines the bizarre influences of Meshuggah, Cannibal Corpse, Bach, Chopin, and even those of Italian Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti. Opening with “Viande,” the album quickly moves from pure vocals delivered by way of impassioned screams, into American-styled death metal before tapering off with Serre’s signature electronic manipulations. It’s important to note that no samples were harmed in the making of this album. The remainder of Savage Sinusoid makes use of instruments as diverse as accordion, saxophone, sitar, harpsichord and mandolin, positioned between ferocious blast-beats to create an album without boundary. As an added bonus, alongside Laurent Lunior and Laure Le Prunenec, “Cheval” features Cattle Decapitation‘s Travis Ryan on harsh vocals. Where Diablo Swing Orchestra failed, Igorrr succeeded.
Honorable Mention(s): (in no particular order)
A few albums crossed my path over the course this year, that had I been blessed with more time, might have gone on to become part of my Top Ten(ish). Sadly, only parts of these albums received the play-time that they deserved, those parts proved so great however, that they’re worth at the very least an Honorable Mention.
- Sorcerer // The Crowning of the Fire King – Featuring over 70-minutes of sprawling Candlemass-inspired Swedish traditional doom devoid of melancholy, The Crowning of the Fire King reels you in first through the striking intonations of frontman Anders Engberg, but ultimately holds your attention through dynamic instrumentation and earwormy lyrics. If “Abandoned by The Gods” doesn’t get you, “Sirens” surely will.
- Voyager // Ghost Mile – Not being a fan of progressive metal in any way shape or form, Voyager was a tough sell. I must however give credit talent where it’s due, Daniel “Nephil” Estrin has a voice worth hearing and as part of Voyager, he’s created an album that lingers – “Ascension,” “Misery is Only Company” and “Lifeline” have me wanting to hear a lot more from Ghost Mile.
Disappointments o’ the Year:
I’ve divided my Disappointments o’ the Year into two parts, Part I below details the albums that left me feeling high and dry after waiting for them with so much anticipation. Part II is compiled from genuine heart-felt sadness at the loss of a great musician.
- Diablo Swing Orchestra // Pascifisticuffs – They say all good things must come to an end… Where Pandora’s Piñata had bite and dark dramatic effect, Pascifisticuffs just sounds poppy and weak. It seems Pandora’s Piñata and the departure of AnnLouice Lögdlund, are the end of the road for this fan-girl.
- Pyramaze // Contingent – Following the success of 2015’s Disciples of the Sun, and the introduction of Terje Harøy on vocals, I had ridiculously high hopes for Contingent. When all was said and done, not even smothering this one in cinematic effect and polish could save it from itself.
- Sólstafir // Berdreyminn – We all knew Ótta‘s time-stopping capabilities would be a tough act to follow. Sadly Berdreyminn proved itself riddled with production problems and devoid of any standout tracks to prompt my return. Undoubtedly my biggest disappointment of 2017.
Way back in July of this year, an unexpected promo invitation popped up in the promo bin. For a few brief moments, a knot of excitement settled in the pit of my stomach. Pagan Altar had a new album! The band missed their opportunity for a review back in 2012 with the release of The Time Lord, a Sabbath-y retro-doom monster that I spin almost weekly. I thought this father and son duo, of Terry and Alan Jones, would finally get their moment in the sun. It brought a tear to my eye as I read the promo blurb, learning that the Room of Shadows would be the bands final release following the death of Terry Jones after battling cancer. While Room of Shadows was a solid release, it paled slightly when compared to the greatness of The Time Lord. If my list leads you to check out just a single album, I hope it’ll be The Time Lord.
2017 proved a harsh year. July saw the loss of Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), October was Tom Petty and lastly, December brought on the loss of Warrel Dane (the truly unique voice behind both Sanctuary and Nevermore). Each of these artists played a part in my listening habits, and each loss brought considerable sadness. I will always be grateful for your musical contributions.
RIP, you will be missed!
Song o’ the Year:
- Igorrr – “Opus Brain”