At the end of the year, after the Albums of the Year article has been submitted, I like to reflect on some albums that I either didn’t listen to enough or only recently discovered. So here are some of the albums that I think got away from me in 2017.
Zeal and Ardor – Devil is Fine
This album did not technically get away from me. I listened to it a great many times and loved it; I even saw their captivating show at the Underworld in London. Rather foolishly, I thought the album came out in 2016, but the UK release was in fact 2017. I, therefore, have no idea when I listened to this album. Therefore, I would like to recommend Zeal and Ardor‘s debut record.
A lot has been said about the genre: chain-gang-metal. I love genre fusion, and I feel that metal music utilising vocals in the style of chain-gang is, in fact, a return to their roots. Afterall, chain-gang is where blues music was originally founded. It is easy to fuse two seemingly opposing genres together, but it takes another level of talent to make it work.
Zeal and Ardor have produced something not only original but groundbreaking. I hope this sets a precedent.
Perihelion – Örvény
It is true, a significant reason as to why this album is included is down to the artwork. It actually looks like a progressive metal meme, and one isn’t sure if they are to be taken on a spiritual journey or smashed into oblivion. However, the opening track. ‘Kihalt égi Folyosók‘, comes as a surprise. Though the album is not afraid to show its heavy side, the vocal melodies and underlying chord progressions are supremely catchy.
The band themselves are Hungarian and have sung in their native language. From an English speaker’s perspective, this always adds a further degree of mystery, but it is a brave move. The album itself is conceptual in nature, regarding dreamlike passages into the subconscious, with each of the seven songs to be treated as one piece of music. There are elements of post-rock, and metal, but also the pop elements of alternative metal.
The Physics House Band – Mercury Fountain
I had this on my ‘list to watch out for’ and it completely slipped me by. To some, this is unrelenting noise and some may compare it to the erraticism of free-jazz. In fact, despite the lack of vocals, these are carefully constructed songs owing to a wide array of influences. Despite the experimental nature of the music, there are subtle hints to rock music, pop music and even black metal (maybe just me – see ‘Calypso‘). These influences aren’t easily detected or obvious.
Instrumental music can be hard to keep up for a long length of time. The Physics House Band make their compromises where they have to, and instead of created an hour-long piece of drawn-out self-indulgence, they have reigned it in and created a half hours demonstration of musical brilliance. It is a real shame I let this one slip by.
Mish – Entheogen
It has been six years since their last album, The Entrance, but Mish have brought their aggressive chugging back. They say that they “recall Mastodon by way of Isis and Meshuggah” and to be honest, that is a more apt description than I am able to think of.
This album is very aggressive, and percussive, with haunting, brooding vocals. Despite it being within the realm of progressive rock, the songs themselves are quite short with only two of the ten lasting longer than five minutes. In spite of this, there are a lot of extended instrumental sections that experiment rhythmically.
There are plenty of riffs to keep you happy, and enough punch to make you involuntary grimace.
Fire Down Below – Viper Vixen Goddess Saint
… and the award for the best artwork goes to. Fire Down Below have forced 70s style riffs and vocals through a modern lens. While predominantly stoner metal, there are shades of more conventional alternative metal. Asides from a brief interlude, the album rarely lets up with the guitar riffs.
I’m half tempted to say this would have made my Albums of the Year had I listened to it earlier. The songs are long and morph into various different guises before tidying up at the end. There is a lot of imagination for a genre of music that is often highly restricted.