I’ve been working on this list for well over a month, so it’s high time I got it done before we get too far into the new year. A listened to a lot of new albums in 2017, and I found it exceptionally difficult to narrow down a list of my favorites. After a lot of listening and re-listening (and needing to expand from 20 to 25 because of reasons), I present to you my top albums of the past year. Remember these are just my opinions, so feel free to kindly share your own picks below!

25. Heaven Upside Down by Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson has been on fire lately. Following the creative resurgence that began on 2015's The Pale Emperor, Heaven Upside Down is yet another great release. His tenth album is more of a straightforward industrial rock/metal album of Manson’s typical style as compared to its predecessor, which got a bit bluesy, and it’s a good listen all the way through. There’s a nice mix of faster aggressive tracks, slower groove-driven tracks, and catchy melodic tracks that keeps things interesting and shows off the range of Manson’s sound. My personal favorite track off the album is “KILL4ME,” but some other standout tracks include “SAY10,” “Saturnalia,” and the title track “Heaven Upside Down.”

24. New Wave by Powerman 5000

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With their ninth album, industrial metal band Powerman 5000 released one of their most diverse offerings yet. There’s a bit of every style that Spider One and company have covered in the past and more. A lot of genres are represented, from synth pop to punk rock to industrial metal. Opener “Footsteps and Voices,” is more rap-driven, lead single “Sid Vicious in a Dress” has that pulsing industrial metal sound reminiscent of the band’s “return to form” Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere, the synth poppy “David Fucking Bowie” is a nice tribute to David Fucking Bowie, “Cult Leader” contains some messed up lyrics wrapped in a fun, catchy, upbeat track, which makes sense given the subject matter, “No White Flags” is the album’s ballad, relying on a more clean guitar sound and orchestral elements, and album closer “Run for Your Life” is a fun track with 70s synth pop and early industrial rock vibes to it. Overall, New Wave is a fun listen all the way through that should satisfy any PM5K fan, but likely won’t win over any new fans.

23. Nightbringers by The Black Dahlia Murder

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The Black Dahlia Murder are nothing if not consistent, continuing to polish and improve upon their brand of heavy music that straddles the line between melodic death metal and traditional death metal. The Michigan-based band’s eighth album Nightbringers is another solid entry in their catalog. They don’t deviate much from their tried and true formula (if at all), but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? As is par for the course for The Black Dahlia Murder, the songs are fast, heavy, and brutal. From start to finish, Nightbringers is a punishing assault of crushing and evil-sounding riffs, blast beats, guttural vocals, and shredding solos. Any fan of the band’s past work should enjoy this album. Highlights include “Widowmaker,” “Matriarch,” “Nightbringers,” “Catacomb Hecatomb,” and “The Lonely Deceased.”

22. Obituary by Obituary

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Florida death metal veterans Obituary’s eponymous tenth album feels and sounds like a classic death metal album from the early days of the scene despite being released nearly 30 years after the band’s first album. It feels like a callback to the past, but also a step forward at the same time. From opening track “Brave” to closer “Ten Thousand Ways to Die,” the band is on the top of their game. There are a few slower and faster moments, but for the most part Obituary sticks to mid-tempo tracks on this album, focusing a bit more on groove. The approach definitely pays off; I found myself headbanging along with every track as I listened through this album. The thing that stands out to me most is definitely the production. It has that raw sound of 80s and 90s death metal to it while also having the polish one would expect from a modern metal album. This self-titled effort is definitely Obituary’s best effort of the past few years. My personal favorite tracks are “Brave,” “Sentence Day,” “End It Now,” “Betrayed,” and deluxe edition bonus track “No Hope.”

21. Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora by Darkest Hour

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I had never really listened to the Washington D.C. based metal outfit Darkest Hour aside from a handful of songs, but I was recommended checking out the band’s ninth album, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora, and decided to give it a go. This album is consistently good from start to finish. What I really like about this album is how it blends sheer heaviness with a hint of melody. The guitars have a real bite to them that makes each awesome riff feel much more intense and the mix has a nice thick, heavy sound to it. For the most part, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora is a very straightforward album focusing on fast paced songs with blistering riffs, pummeling drums, and intense harsh vocals. There are a few moments like the short, calm instrumental “Widowed,” the more groove-driven “Enter Oblivion,” and “The Last of the Monuments,” which features a very brief moment of clean vocals, that provide some variety, but for the most part the band sticks to the fast and heavy approach, not that that’s a bad thing. Other highlights from the album for me are “This is the Truth,” “None of This is the Truth,” “Another Headless Ruler of the Used,” and closer “Beneath It Sleeps.”

20. Nightmare Logic by Power Trip

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Nightmare Logic is an album I kept seeing at or near the top of best metal albums of the year lists, so I had to check it out. The second disc from the Texas thrash metal band Power Trip is a great modern thrash album that also hearkens back to the genre’s heyday. This album didn’t wow me the way it seemed to do so for so many others, but I did enjoy listening to it all the way through. There’s not a bad track on it. Nightmare Logic is about 30 minutes of uncompromising thrash metal full of fast riffs, shreddy solos, fast drum beats, biting vocals, and politically-charged lyrics. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but if you want some good thrash, look no further. If I have one complaint, it’s that sometimes the vocals are a bit quiet in the mix and hard to hear, but that’s really it. My personal favorites are “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe),” “Firing Squad,” and the title track “Nightmare Logic,” but there’s not a bad song on the album.

19. In a World of Fear by Scale the Summit

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In a World of Fear is the sixth album from instrumental progressive metal outfit Scale the Summit and yet another consistent release from them. I like this album a lot, but I don’t think holds up quite as well as their past two releases 2015's V and 2013's The Migration, both of which are among my all time favorites. There seems to be less focus on sprawling, epic tracks, which was something I’ve come to love about this band, but that doesn’t stop In a World of Fear from being great. Guitarist Chris Letchford’s compositions are still spot on, and the new lineup he’s got backing him up this time is great too. In a first for the band, there’s also a slew of great guest musicians lending their talents to In a World of Fear, including Angel Vivaldi, Nick Johnston, Yvette Young of Covet, Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry, Jeff Loomis of Nevermore and Arch Enemy, and more. There are many upbeat moments on the album, but I found that the calmer, softer moments tended to stand out more. Some favorite tracks include “Astral Kids,” “Cosmic Crown,” “Witch House,” and “Goddess Gate.”

18. Melancholia by Save Us from the Archon

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Only a little over a year after 2016's L’Eclisse, which made my list last year, progressive instrumental post-hardcore outfit Save Us from the Archon released another great album. Melancholia doesn’t really do much in terms of new sounds for the band, but it definitely seems a more polished product than its predecessor. The production sounds a fair bit cleaner and crisper, making the complex, technical, and melodic compositions of this band sound that much better. Last year I said that my only problem with L’Eclisse was that it was too short and I wanted more. That’s exactly what Save Us from the Archon delivered with Melancholia. My personal favorites off the album are “Within Walls,” “Tracing Nostalgia,” “To Find Clarity,” and “Lost In a Reverie,” but each track is good in it’s own right, and each track flows nicely into the one before, making it a very enjoyable experience to listen through the whole album uninterrupted.

17. Evocation II - Pantheon by Eluveitie

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I was a bit nervous about the future of Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie after the loss of several key members, including co-vocalist and hurdy-gurdy player Anna Murphy, but the release of the single “Epona” with the new lineup removed all those worries from my mind. Eluveitie’s new lineup sounds great and new co-vocalist Fabienne Erni is a perfect addition. As the title would suggest, Evocation II - Pantheon is a sequel to the band’s 2009 album Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion, and much like its predecessor, the album is entirely acoustic, giving it a more folk rock sound as opposed to Eluveitie’s typical folk metal sound. Frontman Chrigel Glanzmann also takes a back seat when it comes to vocals, just as with the first Evocation album, leaving Fabienne to handle most of the vocals, which are all in Gaulish instead of English. The guitars also take on more of a supporting role than usual, allowing the Celtic folk instruments to shine even brighter. There are also quite a lot of instrumental tracks that lack vocals or have a few short spoken word parts. However, it’s the songs with full vocal arrangements that really shine. My personal favorite tracks from the album are “Epona,” “Lvgvs,” “Ogmios,” and “Esvs,” but the whole album is definitely worth a listen.

16. Forever by Code Orange

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Forever, the third album from metalcore/hardcore punk band Code Orange is another album I heard a lot of buzz about this year and had to check out. I’ve never heard anything quite like this before. The music is heavy, groovy, abrasive, dissonant, and surprisingly diverse. From the first two tracks “Forever” and “Kill the Creator,” I thought I had a good judge of the heavy, chugging, groove-driven metal I was getting into with this album, but then track three “Real” threw some industrial elements at me, and then track four “Bleeding In the Blur,” really turned my expectations on their head with a more alt-rock and stoner metal sound with almost entirely clean female vocals performed by guitarist Reba Meyers. It really caught me by surprise and was a welcome change of pace. Then track five “The Mud” was packed with industrial synthesizers for another change of pace. There’s a few other changes in pace too such as “Ugly,” which is another track with a stoner metal vibe, “Hurt Goes On,” a straight up industrial track that feels like something Nine Inch Nails might put out, and the eerie “dream2,” which I don’t even know how to describe. Forever is a solid album through and through with plenty of variety and whole lot of crushing tracks. My personal favorites are “Forever,” “Bleeding In the Blur,” “The Mud,” and “Ugly.”

15. Emperor of Sand by Mastodon

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Seven albums in and Mastodon haven’t lost their touch. Emperor of Sand doesn’t do anything the progressive metal act hasn’t already done before, but it does show them on top of their craft. As is commonplace with Mastodon, this is yet another concept album, this one telling the story of a desert wanderer with a death sentence with lyrical themes exploring death and survival, inspired by experiences of the band members. There’s a lot of great songs on the album covering the band’s various styles from a more mainstream rock sound on lead single “Show Yourself,” to more complex arrangements like “Roots Remain” and “Jaguar God.” Vocally, there’s a lot of great stuff here and the triple vocal attack of bassist Troy Sanders, lead guitarist Brent Hinds, and drummer Brann Dailor is just as good as ever. Each has a good and unique singing voice and whatever combination of the three sings on each song helps give them a unique sound. As per every Mastodon album, Scott Kelly from Neurosis has a guest spot, performing vocals on “Scorpion Breath.” Additionally, Kevin Sharp from Brutal Truth has a guest vocal spot on “Andromeda.” My personal favorites off Emperor of Sand are “Show Yourself,” “Steambreather,” “Word to the Wise,” “Ancient Kingdom,” and “Jaguar God.”

14. Will to Power by Arch Enemy

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Will to Power is the tenth album from melodic death metal band Arch Enemy and their second release featuring former The Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. It is also the first album with Jeff Loomis of Nevermore on guitar. Musically, Will to Power doesn’t do much different than the band’s previous album War Eternal, sticking with their thrashy brand of melodeath, but it does seem like a more polished product. The band feels more comfortable writing with Alissa, and Jeff Loomis just adds so much to the band’s sound (even if he doesn’t have any writing credits on the album). Loomis and Michael Amott make one hell of a guitar duo. Will to Power also marks the first time Arch Enemy has made use of clean vocals, using them on the track “Reason to Believe,” the band’s version of a power ballad. Alissa used her clean voice very frequently in The Agonist and she has a nice voice, so it’s a welcome surprise to hear that style of vocals here. Some Arch Enemy fans may not be happy with it, but I personally enjoy the song. Other highlights from the album are “The Race,” “The World is Yours,” “The Eagle Flies Alone,” “Murder Scene” and “Dreams of Retribution,” but the whole album is consistently good even if some songs shine brighter than others.

13. unReal by My Ticket Home

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unReal is another album I checked out on a recommendation, not having heard any of the band’s previous material. Apparently My Ticket Home used to just be a metalcore band, but they started transitioning to a more alternative metal sound on their last album. The transition is definitely complete with this release. unReal is a hard rocking alt-metal album in the vein of bands like Deftones. As a big Deftones fan, I could hear the influences immediately and loved what I heard. This album is a lot of what I love about late 90s/early 2000s alt-metal and hard rock with the polish of modern production. While these influences are very obvious, My Ticket Home also does a great job of putting their spin on them and making their own unique mark on the genre. There are heavy rhythm guitars and effects-driven lead guitars paired with a mix of aggressive and melodic vocals and poppy hooks. There are heavy, frantic tracks like “Flypaper” and slower melodic tracks like “Time Kills Everything,” providing a bit of variety. Overall, unReal is a solid alternative metal album and I very much look forward to seeing what My Ticket Home does next. My personal favorites from the album include “Thrush,” “Flee the Flesh,” “Flypaper,” “Gasoline Kiss,” and “We All Use.”

12. Who Bit the Moon by David Maxim Micic

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Who Bit the Moon from Serbian prog rock/metal guitarist David Maxim Micic is an enjoyable listen all the way through. The album is full of great instrumental guitar music that loosely falls under the “djent” label. There are a few heavier moments, but for the most part the music is laid back and mellow, making this album perfect for relaxing to. There are a handful of short tracks under 2 minutes in length that don’t really stand well on their own, but this is an album best listened to all at once all the way through, and in that context these shorter tracks really do add a lot. Overall each song flows really nicely from one to the next, creating a wonderful sonic experience. There are quite a few standout tracks on Who Bit the Moon. “Someone Else’s Hat” alternates between heavy and relaxed moments. “Living Room” has an extremely catchy main melody over a really groovy rhythm riff. “687 Days” is a relatively simple composition with calm guitar and synth melodies over processed electronic drum beats, giving it a pretty cool vibe. “Damar” is a cool track where the lead guitar takes a bit of a back seat for piano and synth melodies and neat processed vocal samples, all of this over some really groovy, djenty rhythm riffs. The album closes with the title track “Who Bit the Moon,” which is an epic composition over 10 minutes in length that covers all the styles of music on the album and really shows off David’s musical chops. Any fans of progressive rock/metal, instrumental or otherwise, should definitely give them album a listen.

11. Aathma by Persefone

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Aathma is another album I was recommended this year without prior knowledge of the band’s previous material and very much enjoyed. Aathma is the fifth album from Andorran progressive melodic death metal band Persefone. When it was first described to me it sounded like it would be something I would enjoy, and when I checked the track list and saw that Paul Masvidal of Cynic had guest spots on a couple tracks I was even more intrigued. Masvidal lends his very unique voice to two tracks, “An Infinitesmal Spark” and “Living Waves,” and both are better off for it. In terms of music, Aathma is full of complex guitar riffs and melodies layered with keyboards and orchestral instruments. There are just a lot of interesting layers of sound in each track that Persefone weaves together to create some very amazing music. From a vocal standpoint, there’s a mix of screamed and growled vocals common in melodic death metal as well as powerful clean vocals. Aathma just takes so much about what I love about progressive metal, melodic death metal, and symphonic metal and balls it into one awesome entity. If you like any of those genres, this album is definitely worth a listen. My favorite tracks are “Prison Skin,” “Spirals Within Thy Being,” “Living Waves,” and the title composition “Aathma,” a four-part epic split across the final four tracks “Universal Oneness,” “Spiritual Bliss,” “One with the Light,” and “...Many of One.”

10. Dark Future by Entheos

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Dark Future is the second album from Entheos, a progressive technical death metal band made up of former Animals as Leaders/Animosity drummer Navene Koperweis, former The Faceless bassist Evan Brewer, former Scale the Summit guitarist Travis LeVrier, and vocalist Chaney Crabb, who got attention from the scene after her viral audition video for Veil of Maya. I saw them mentioned in an article a few months ago, saw they had a new album out, and decided to give it a go on a whim. I was very impressed with what I heard. Dark Future is full of technical, complex music, which isn’t surprising given the resumes of the musicians in Entheos. The instrumentation throughout the album is incredible, from slow, brooding clean guitar melodies and synths, to intense, chaotic, djenty rhythm riffs and bass lines, to extremely complex drum beats, to soaring guitar solos. And the compositions shift from slow chugs, to chaotic speed, to clam melodic sections. There’s a lot of variety from track to track, and even within each track. Then there’s Chaney’s vocal chops. From low growls to high pitched screams, she’s got one hell of a voice with an impressive range. There are also some moments on a few songs when they throw some cool effects onto her vocal tracks to produce some very interesting results. For those who are fans of technical, complex, heavy music, Dark Future is definitely something to listen to. My favorite tracks on the album are “Melancholia,” “Suspended Animation,” “The World Without Us,” and the two-part pair of tracks “Inverted Earth” and “Sunshift,” but there’s not a bad song on the album.

9. Woe to the Vanquished by Warbringer

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While everyone was raving about how Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic was the best thrash metal album of 2017, I was jamming Woe to the Vanquished, the fifth album from Warbringer. This album kept my attention in ways Nightmare Logic couldn’t. I’ve been a fan of Warbringer for several years, and even after many lineup changes (with the only constant being frontman John Kevill), they haven’t compromised their sound. If anything, Woe to the Vanquished shows the band at the best they’ve ever been. Right out of the gate with opening track “Silhouettes,” Warbringer unleash the fury of their pummeling sound. One thrashy banger after the next, I found myself headbanging along with every track. This is what modern thrash metal should sound like. Woe the Vanquished has a lot of the stylings of the genre’s 80s heyday, but also plenty of musical elements familiar to modern metal as well. Not the mention the polish of modern production. Honestly, this is one of the best thrash albums I’ve heard in the past few years and it reminds me why I like the genre so much. There’s not a single bad track to be found on Woe to the Vanquished, but my personal favorites are the aforementioned “Silhouettes,” the title track “Woe to the Vanquished,” “Descending Blade,” and the epic 11 minute closing track “When the Guns Fell Silent.”

8. American Parasite by Endur

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American Parasite is the debut album from Endur, Periphery vocalist Spenser Sotelo’s industrial rock/metal side project. I didn’t realize that he had this project until the album dropped and I immediately fell in love with it. I’m a pretty big Periphery fan and I quite like Spenser’s vocals, not to mention I like Nine Inch Nails, whose influence is quite apparent on this album. American Parasite definitely comes off as Nine Inch Nails worship, but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. This album is a great listen all the way through. There’s great heavy guitar parts, parts with aggressive synths and beats, more relaxed piano bits, and poppy hooks throughout. Plus there’s Spenser’s easily recognizable vocals, which are on point. If you’re a fan of industrial rock/metal, Nine Inch Nails, or Periphery, this album is definitely worth a listen. My personal favorites are opener “White Noise,” “Death Angel,” “Coven,” “Abduction,” and the heavy “Astral,” which features guest rapping vocals.

7. Phantom Anthem by August Burns Red

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While there is hardly any innovation to be found on the eighth album from August Burns Red, Phantom Anthem shows that the band has perfected their brand of melodic metalcore. Musically, not much has changed from where they were in the mid 2000s, except for maybe a bit more technicality and complexity in their songwriting, but the heaping doses of polish present on Phantom Anthem are nothing to scoff at. At its core, this album is a fast, pummeling, uncompromising, melody-driven metalcore record that shows August Burns Red at the peak of their craft. What this album lacks in treading new ground, it makes up for with some of the most polished, well put together metalcore songs I’ve heard. Each track on the album is given the same level of attention and polish, making for a great listen all the way through. Phantom Anthem lacks the same catchy, clean sung hooks common to other metalcore bands such as Killswitch Engage that I like to hear, but that’s never really been ABR’s style. Pretty much all the melody comes from the guitar work, which is some of the most intricate in the genre, barring bands with more progressive leanings, and it works for them. Phantom Anthem is easily one of their best albums to date. Highlights include singles “Invisible Enemy” and “The Frost,” as well as “Coordinates,” “Generations,” “Float,” “Dangerous,” and “Carbon Copy,” all five of which make up the album’s fantastic back half.

6. Vista by Hell or Highwater

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Vista is the second album from Hell or Highwater, the hard rock side project of Atreyu drummer/co-vocalist Brandon Saller, coming six years after their 2011 debut album Begin Again, which is one of my all time favorite rock albums. I had been patiently awaiting a new full-length from the band for a very long time, tided over only by their 2013 EP The Other Side and 2015 single “I’ll Be Waiting,” and my patience was rewarded with another great album that shows some real evolution for the band. Vista features familiar fast hard rock jams like “Colors” and “Don’t Hate Me” and slower anthems like “Blister” and “Walk Out In the Rain” (which is one of Hell or Highwater’s songs to date), both styles that the band has visited on their past releases, but there are also songs that feel inspired by indie rock, blues rock, and garage rock. Tracks like “Another Good Time,” “Lighter Than Air,” and “Dame” sound like they wouldn’t be out of place on an album from The Black Keys. It’s this variety that really makes Vista stand out in my opinion. It covers everything this band has done before, but it shows they aren’t afraid to try new things either. While I still prefer Begin Again, Vista is still a fantastic album all the way through and I applaud Hell or Highwater for pushing the boundaries of their sound. My personal favorite tracks are “Walk Out In the Rain,” “Colors,” “Blister,” “Washed Away,” and “Pieces.”

5. Clairvoyant by The Contortionist

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The Contortionist was one of the bands I got into in 2017, just in time for their fourth album Clairvoyant. It’s a bit less heavy than their past work and a bit more ambient, and there’s almost no harsh vocals, but it’s a fantastic progressive metal album all the way through. I still prefer their last album Language, which is now one of my favorite albums, but I also like the direction they’ve gone here. Michael Lessard’s vocals are what stand out to me most on this disc. They just have this neat almost ethereal quality to them that really fits the ambient vibes on a lot of the tracks. The layers of his vocals, the guitars, and keyboards all come together to create a complex sonic experience. There’s also a nice mix of tracks on Clairvoyant, from more upbeat moments like the soaring “Godspeed,” to slower, softer songs like “Reimagined,” to melodic mid-tempo tracks like “Absolve” and “Relapse.” There’s also long, winding arrangements such as “Clairvoyant” and “Monochrome (Pensive)” that really show off the progressive side of The Contortionist. Overall, Clairvoyant is a great album that shows the band continuing to evolve their sound into something that is unique to them and them alone. My personal favorite tracks from the album are “Reimagined,” “Absolve,” “Relapse,” and “Return to Earth,” but every track has something great to offer.

4. Disconnect by Threat Signal

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I had been eagerly awaiting a new album from Threat Signal pretty much from the moment I got into them. Unfortunately, it was a very long wait. There was a six year gap between this Canadian progressive metal band’s 2011 self-titled album and 2017's Disconnect. Between touring, lineup changes, side-projects, and issues with their new record label causing it to spend a year in development hell, it took forever for this thing to come out. Well, it was worth the wait. While not their best work in my opinion, Disconnect is another solid Threat Signal album that sounds like a combination of their first three albums. There are tracks like “Exit the Matrix” and “Nostalgia,” that are on the heavy, fast paced side, with meaty, technical riffs, shreddy leads and solos, and mostly harsh vocals. These tracks are very similar to the ground the band covered on the self-titled album. Then there are more melodic, pulled back tracks that focus more on clean vocals and hooks such as “Walking Alone” and “Falling Apart,” which Threat Signal did a lot of on 2009's Vigilance. Then there’s “Aura” and “To Thine Own Self Be True,” which are the closest the band has sounded to their debut album Under Reprisal since it was released in 2006 (which is in my top five albums of all time). Of course, Threat Signal isn’t just retreading previous ground on this album. “Betrayal” is a soft, almost entirely acoustic track that’s pretty different from anything they’e done before, and closing track “Terminal Madness” is one of the more complex, progressive songs they’ve written, and by far the longest, clocking in at just over ten minutes. Overall, Disconnect is a relatively safe return for Threat Signal that covers most of the sides of the band’s side, but it doesn’t do much to explore new sounds as they did with their past two efforts. That said, it’s still a great listen all the way through and will certainly satisfy their fans. My personal favorite tracks are “Aura,” “Falling Apart,” “Exit the Matrix,” and “Dimensions.”

3. Synapse by Angel Vivaldi

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While Angel Vivaldi has been producing music for several years now and has released a few EPs, 2017 marks the first time the guitarist has released a full-length album and it’s damn good. From start to finish, Synapse is packed full of melodic instrumental metal goodness. Angel Vivaldi is a very talented guitarist and composer and it shows. The coolest thing about Synapse is the fact that, despite being entirely instrumental, it is a concept album. Angel wrote each song to correspond to a different neurotransmitter. The goal was for each song to illicit the feelings and emotions that the transmitters they are titled after trigger in the brain. I’m no neuroscientist, but each song certainly made me feel very different things. I felt myself getting pumped up by the fast-paced opening number “Adrenaline” and the upbeat vibes of “Serotonin” just oozed happiness and I couldn’t help but smile. There are also a few guest performers lending their talents to Synapse, including Gus G., All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert, and Nita Strauss, who currently plays guitar in Alice Cooper’s touring band. All the guest musicians really add something to the tracks they perform on. Overall, I think Synapse represents some of Angel Vivaldi’s best songwriting yet. My person favorite tracks from the album are “Adrenaline,” “Serotonin,” “Dopamine,” and the title track “Synapse.”

2. The Way Forward by Intervals

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The Way Forward is the third full-length release from the progressive metal project Intervals, and the second since the band once again became the instrumental solo project of lead guitarist Aaron Marshall. The Way Forward continues to iterate upon the stylistic shift from djent to a more jazz and prog-rock influenced style that began on 2015's The Shape of Colour. With this new album, Aaron Marshall took everything that worked with his last album and made it better. Everything from composition to musicianship to production is of a higher quality, not that it wasn’t already fantastic on The Shape of Colour. And The Way Forward doesn’t just iterate and improve upon what worked on the last album, but it also shows Intervals trying new things instead of just releasing the same album again. For instance, there are songs like “A Different Light” and “By Far and Away” that add more keyboards and piano to the mix to great effect. There are also a few heavier tracks such as “Rubicon Artist,” which sounds a bit like something you might expect to hear on a Protest the Hero album, and “Leave No Stone,” which has similar vibes to the early djent days of Intervals. Then there’s “Belvedere,” which might be Intervals’ slowest, most chilled out song yet. My personal favorite tracks on The Way Forward are “Rubicon Artist,” “The Waterfront,” “Belvedere,” and “Leave No Stone,” but every track is amazing and infectiously catchy. Ever since it came out in December, I’ve been listening to it again and again. The Way Forward is some of Intervals’ best music yet and is definitely worth a listen.

1. The Sin and the Sentence by Trivium

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I’ve been a fan of Trivium for a long time. Ever since I first heard their 2008 album Shogun (which is hands down my favorite album of all time), they have been one of my favorite bands. They’ve released a few albums since then. They were all good, but none could quite reach the level of Shogun ... that is until The Sin and the Sentence. Trivium’s eighth album doesn’t surpass Shogun in my opinion, but it is without a doubt the definitive Trivium album. If someone was just getting into this band, this is the album I would recommend. On The Sin and the Sentence, Trivium sound as if they’ve gone back and taken elements from all their past records and combined them with a bunch of new ideas to create a very diverse set of songs that show off all aspects of the band’s sound. This album has everything that makes Trivium great; there are super heavy moments, thrashy sections, extremely melodic sections, well thought out lyrics, and, of course, amazing musicianship. Trivium are really on top of their game here. The guitar and bass playing are stellar, and don’t even get me started on the drums. New drummer Alex Bent is exactly what this band needed and he is hands down the best drummer they have ever had.

Right out of the gate, opening title track “The Sin and the Sentence” sounds like all the band’s albums wrapped into one and really sets the tone for the album. As the first single off the record, it also assured fans that frontman Matt Heafy was bringing screamed vocals back after they were total absent from an album for the first time on the band’s last album Silence in the Snow. Speaking of vocals, Matt’s voice sound incredible, both when singing and screaming. Moving on, “Beyond Oblivion” is a thrashy track that shows the band throwing some awesome gang vocals into the mix, which isn’t something Trivium has really done before. They do this on a few other tracks as well to great effect. Then there’s “Other Worlds,” which is probably my favorite song on The Sin and the Sentence. This song has such an amazing vocal hook in the chorus and I think it shows some of Matt’s best singing to date. “The Heart from Your Hate” is a more rock-driven power ballad type song ripe with catchy hooks. “Betrayer” is a fast and heavy track that is another of my personal favorites off the album. “The Wretchedness Inside” is one of the heaviest tracks Trivium has written to date and evokes similar feelings as a lot of the heavier songs on their 2011 effort In Waves. “Endless Night” is a slower, poppier sounding ballad in the same vein as “Dying In Your Arms” off Ascendancy and “This World Can’t Tear Us Apart” off The Crusade. “Sever the Hand” is a winding complex track that suddenly shifts from mid-tempo groove to balls-to-the-wall fast and heavy in the middle. “Beauty in the Sorrow” is a melodic track that really shows off Matt’s singing and feels a bit like something off of Silence in the Snow. “The Revanchist” is a close contender for my favorite song on the album that feels a lot like the epic compositions of Shogun. Closing track “Thrown into the Fire” is another of the heavier tracks with almost no clean vocals and really ends things with a bang.

Overall, The Sin and the Sentence is one of Trivium’s best albums yet and has cemented itself as my second favorite album in the band’s discography, just behind Shogun. By taking the best elements of their previous albums and combining them using their years of experience and pushing themselves to the limits of what they can do creatively, Trivium have created their definitive album. This is exactly why Trivium is one of my favorite bands of all time. If you’re a metalhead like me, you need to give this album a spin.

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DisturbedShadow is a fan of video games and heavy metal music. You can can find more of his writing here and you can follow him on Twitter @DisturbedShad0w.