- Catherine Fearns
- Chris Andrews
- Hera Vidal
- Jim Parry-Smith
- Marc Westhoeve
- Nick Dunn
- Stuart Wain
- Toby Saunders
- Tom Woodward-Massey
As 2017 barrels to its fireball ending, we have a moment or two to reflect on the stellar-as-usual quality to emerge from so many quarters of the music sphere. Yes, the world continues to go to hell in a handcart, but at least there is a stellar soundtrack to accompany it. Broken Amp’s writers have put in a monumental effort this year, and I am eternally grateful for the time and energy they consistently dedicate to bringing the highest quality writing. Though the future remains uncertain, you can count you’ll be seeing a lot more of them – well, us – going forward.
So, here’s us signing out, but enjoy the recommendations of what we’ve been raving about. We have an announcement waiting in the wings for January, but for now, keep listening to good music. Oh, and Merry Christmas/have a wonderful winter holiday.
– Mark Angel Brandt, Editor
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
2017 has been a seminal year in my metal education. Writing for Broken Amp has led me down all sorts of rabbit holes, and I’m probably still figuring out where my musical tastes lie. But since thrash was my original entry point into metal, I’ve chosen Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic as my record of the year. This short, aggressive, and somewhat scruffy album proves beyond doubt that thrash metal is still relevant. The relentless, chugging riffs reference 80s Bay Area thrash, but the angry tone and political lyrics are firmly rooted in 2017. Nightmare Logic may not be a very original choice, since this critically-acclaimed album features on most ‘best of’ metal lists for 2017; but I can only be true to what has consistently been on my playlist this year.
Close, but no cigar:
Paradise Lost – Medusa – Review here
2017 was the year I finally discovered Paradise Lost, and their fifteenth album was actually not a bad place to start as it is a marked return to their roots. Confident, catchy, accessible doom.
Novelists – Noir – Review here
I became a huge fan of French progressive metalcore band Novelists with their first album in 2015, and this year’s sophomore release did not disappoint. Cleverly balancing heaviness and delicacy, theirs is a truly original sound in a saturated genre, and a perfect example of how metal can be beautiful.
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers – Review here
The Black Dahlia Murder’s eighth album builds on their winning formula: aggressive, melodic, technical, but undoubtedly death metal at its core. With irresistible hooks, entertaining horror stories, and a brilliant new lead guitarist, Nightbringers takes Trevor Strnad and his crew to the upper echelons of death metal.
Persefone – Aathma
In February 2017, Andorra’s Persefone released what is one of the finest progressive metal releases of all time in Aathma. Tracks ‘Living Waves’ and ‘No Faced Mindless’ stand out in particular, but it is really when viewed as a whole that Aathma displays its quality.
Crafted as an experience from start to finish, a journey is formed from the initial tranquillity and atmosphere of dual introductory tracks ‘An Infinitesimal Spark’ and ‘One of Many…’, via the punishing technicality of ‘Prison Skin’, and through until the final beautiful swell of ‘Part IV…’ of the title track dies down.
What Persefone have delivered in Aathma is a collection of tracks with astounding individual songwriting, production so flawless as to be unnoticeable, and married this together consistently across the full length of the album. A ten out of ten release.
King Woman – Created in the Image of Suffering
Anyone who knows me knows that I haven’t shut up about this album since it came out. Created in the Image of Suffering hits like a ton of bricks, dealing with catharsis after leaving a Christian cult. The emotions are so raw that they moved me. I felt a sort of kinship with Kristina Esfandiari in her lyrics as she lays her personal and inner turmoil. The whole album is solid, doom metal oozing from its pores and into the ears of the listener. Despite what it was going for, Created… was comforting, as you knew there was someone else who went through terrible ordeals and came out on the other side. There is light on the other side and that’s enough.
Lingua Ignota – All Bitches Die
As 2017 draws to a close, the abundance of superlative releases this year fed an extremely difficult set of choices when completing my top twenty list (when first-world problems are this much fun, I can live with it). Despite this, my number one spot remained vacant, with nothing seemingly quite superlative enough to claim the throne. Then along came my discovery of Rhode Island resident Kristin Hayter in the form of her solo project Lingua Ignota – an experimental melding of classical minimalism and extreme noise soundscapes that turned my head to such an extent it would have warranted a priest.
As a survivor of domestic violence, Kristin’s aural conduit is no easy listen given both the subject matter and the resulting output, yet All Bitches Die is as triumphant in its composition as it is in its delivery – a showcase of bleak, classical melody and Kristin’s operatic falsetto, interweaved amidst an utterly terrifying conglomeration of sinister electronica, blood-curdling screams and harsh noise. Disturbing, vulnerable, visceral and alluring all at once, All Bitches Die is a statement and an experience not easily forgotten.
Close, but no cigar:
Amenra’s Mass VI, the Belgians’ first full-length in five years, proved to be their strongest release to date, with forty minutes of downtrodden and crushing atmospheric sludge that marks them as pacesetters within their world. Elsewhere, Irishman and Iceland resident Stephen Lockhart’s solo project Rebirth of Nefast dropped a stunning atmospheric black metal début in Tabernaculum, whilst Converge and Power Trip both continued to melt faces to the highest standards with The Dusk In Us and Nightmare Logic respectively. Ulver also caught my attention with the fantastically synth-laden The Assassination of Julius Caesar, as did post-black metal Ukrainians White Ward with the wonderfully saxophone-heavy Futility Report.
Amenra – Mass VI
I may not have listened to a lot of albums that were released this year, it has mostly been a year of catching up on previous years, but even if I had listened to 30, 50 or 100 albums, Amenra’s Mass VI would have taken the number one spot with ease in each scenario.
By now, those familiar with Amenra should know what to expect when listening to one of their Masses, but with the subtle addition of more acoustic and clean parts (their experience with the acoustic live shows and releases have paid great dividends), Amenra have made their sound even more intense and emotional. It may be too soon for such a claim, but I already consider ‘A Solitary Reign’ one of the greatest songs ever written.
Close, but no cigar:
Before I get into the sheer brilliance of this year’s best album (bar none), I want to take the opportunity to thank Mark for the opportunity he has given me in asking me to work for him and Broken Amp. Before starting, I’d never written a music review before; this may be obvious to anyone who wants to read my review of Heroes by Sabaton. I jumped into a world I’d only ever skirted the edges of through religious purchasing Metal Hammer and Terrorizer, and discovered that this genuinely is the most fun I can have with my clothes on. I have come to realise now only how big the world of music is but, more importantly, just how much fun it can be. It’s a debt I can never repay, and it’s done so much to help me discover who I am and where I want go in life. Thank you, Mark, truly and deeply.
Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics – The Man With Stars On His Knees
This year’s best album isn’t listed on any other AOTY list, so obviously I’m right and they’re all wrong. Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics put out The Man With Stars On His Knees to critical acclaim in May, and though it’s nothing brand new, or electrifyingly original, it’s so good that it doesn’t matter. You can feel the stadium-sized crowd singing these songs with gusto. It’s as if Aaron Buchanan has managed to distil lightning and turn it into some of the best rock music ever.
Close, but no cigar:
A very honourable mention for the gorgeous alt-rock/prog of Anathema and their latest opus The Optimist. Sumptuous melodies and Lee Douglas’ beautiful vocals are frankly amazing, and mark this out to be one of the best in the Anathema discography. Third prize is split between Sólstafir and the brilliant Berdreyminn (review here), and the electrifying split EP Fraught With Peril from doom acts Khemmis and Spirit Adrift.
Dawn Ray’d – The Unlawful Assembly
I had high hopes for this album, based on previous EP A Thorn, A Blight and some excellent live shows; but The Unlawful Assembly was far better than expected. Passionate, furious, and intelligent in its anarchist and anti-fascist outlook, this is black metal as protest music, and nothing this year has felt so urgent, vital, or needed. Combined with an original sound – that draws as much from screamo and folk music as it does black metal – it makes The Unlawful Assembly the obvious choice for the best album of 2017, and Dawn Ray’d as one of, if not the, most vital and important of modern black metal bands.
Close but no cigar:
Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben het Goed II
Nightmarishly captivating, this is atmospheric black metal of the most uncomfortable kind. Captures the same kind of feel as Weakling did, without really sounding alike.
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Crossover/thrash metal done to near-perfection, this is a whole lot of pissed-off fun. ‘Executioner’s Tax’ is one of the best metal songs of the year.
Loathe – The Cold Sun
Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by Loathe’s debut record upon my first listen, but a live show and over one-hundred spins later I can safely say that it did blow me away. The Cold Sun is a dark, smart metalcore piece that tells a story of two people struggling in a post-apocalyptic world. It will surprise you with its quality, dark grooves and is crammed full of experimental atmospheric moments.
Close, but no cigar:
Sepultura: Machine Messiah
Machine Messiah is the latest and one of the greatest of Sepultura’s impressive discography.
Cavalera Conspiracy – Psychosis
Cavalera Conspiracy’s newest record is aggressive, bold and a whole load of fun.
Blanck Mass – World Eater
World Eater is Blanck Mass’ crowning achievement. Benjamin Power’s third album as Blanck Mass sees the industrial musician experimenting with impenetrable walls of sound, abrasive bouts of noise, bizarrely danceable rhythms and thumping percussion. The Fuck Buttons member manages to find the perfect middle ground between coarse industrial soundscapes and the rhythmical throb of electronic music. World Eater deepens the hip hop influence heard previously in Power’s work, with the beats becoming heavier and more defined comparatively to the droning ambience of Blanck Mass and the techno-influenced sophomore record Dumb Flesh.
World Eater is a dense, challenging, yet eclectic listen. Power takes a wide range of influence from traditional industrial, UK underground club music, power electronics, the darkest strains of hip hop, and experimental electronic music and shapes a record which is stunning and vibrant, yet concurrently detached and mechanical. Haunting, twinkling soundscapes appear in the cinematic ‘Rhesus Negative’, unwavering sub-bass and pseudo-acid house grooves feature in ‘Please’, and ‘Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked’ forms a hypnotically lucid trilogy.
It appears Benjamin’s goal for World Eater is to instil a sense of dread and unease in every second of the record, and Power pursues these temperaments of trepidation whilst fashioning head-nod inducing beats and warped melodies. World Eater can sit just as comfortably next to 2017’s left-field metal highlights like Godflesh’s Post-Self and The Body & Full of Hell’s Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light (review here) as it can with the atmospheric and experimental contenders such as Forest Swords’ Compassion and Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun; its appeal is that wide ranging.
Close but no cigar:
Boris – Dear
A return to form for the Japanese experimental trio.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana and Polygondwanaland
This Australian psych-rock seven-piece are as prolific as they are brilliant. These guys released two of my favourite albums this year.
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
A collaboration between two slacker song-writers, Lotta Sea Lice oozes with effortless cool.
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
An EP featuring some of the best contemporary jazz around right now. ‘Truth’ is probably my favourite track this year.