Alright, let’s say you’ve got an album by a band called Rivers of Nihil (spooky), and they’ve got a real spiky logo (at least it’s legible) and the album cover is a Dan Seagrave (he’s done all their album covers)–you, and most everybody else, will probably conclude that this is a metal album. But from the very first chord, if you’re even remotely familiar with the genre, you can further guess that Where Owls Know My Name isn’t going to be just another metal album (and if you’re not, you’ll come to the same realization around when the first saxophone solo kicks in). Even then, you still might not expect how beautifully written, how emotive, how powerful an experience it ends up being.
Buckle up: this is the one that almost got away from me, and it’s my favorite non-metal album of the year.
I’m probably past the point of providing an unbiased review of a Nine Inch Nails release. Over the years, I’ve immersed myself in Trent Reznor’s music to such a degree that I feel I can address his work in totality, with a scope encompassing the ongoing life cycle of Nine Inch Nails, and, to a degree, industrial music in general. Given that, I regret to report that Bad Witch is kind of a lackluster release, and presents a less-than-fulfilling conclusion to the trilogy of EPs that began with Not The Actual Events and continued with Add Violence.
Since The Faceless started falling apart and Meshuggah had a brand-new genre label foisted upon them, Beyond Creation have been my go-to band for technical death metal. The Montréalais quartet don’t sound like every other tech death band, and honestly, given how samey tech death tends to be, that’s enough to get me interested. But Beyond Creation went beyond getting me interested and got me well and properly hooked.
Summer as a season of explosive energy is one of the oldest big moods. Summer blockbusters, summer vacation, summer camp, summer jams–it’s a time to cut loose, go on adventures, be maximalist. In particular, the summer jam is an exciting concept; it unifies us, but also acts as a statement of our individuality, for while we might all go nuts when the latest huge hit drops in July, we’ve also got our standby songs to sing along to at the top of our lungs while driving with the windows down. This week, our panel of contributors shares their summer jams on a playlist, and writes about their picks.
Turns out I had a little more to say about each of these albums than I though. It also turns out that rapid-fire publishing nine posts over eight days isn’t a great idea, so I’m clumping most of my favorite albums of 2017 into this post on this final day of the year. Here are my takes on weirdo-pop icon Fever Ray, prog theatrics from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a slab of supermassive riffs from Ground, a lightning-fast thrash assault from Lich King, and Igorrr, dear god, Igorrr, what have you wrought?
It’s not every day that an album like Melodrama arrives. It’s not even every year.
Trent Reznor absolutely succeded with this EP; he wanted to make something difficult, and, well, here it is. But it rules, and if you like industrial music, it’s immediately clear that it rules.
Distinguished readers, here is the 2017 album that took BloodLetterPress by storm, the one that we’ve had playing at most of our in-person meetings this year, the latest offering from the man we’ve come to view as the voice of a generation. Neil Cicierega, perhaps best known as the creator of Lemon Demon, Potter Puppet Pals, and countless other internet follies, has graced us with a third mashup album.
If you’ve ever been under a weighted blanket, or dozed off in the trunk of a car during a hot summer, you know the sensation I’m trying to invoke when I say that Ex People’s debut Bird is a comfy doom album. Comfy doom is the kind of music that Windhand plays, the kind that Cloudkicker invoked on Subsume, the feeling of getting overwhelmed by something heavy and soft that pins you down and gets you cozy. It doesn’t need to be scary or capital-e Evil; its power comes from its ability to flatten, to neutralize, to disarm. “You’ll be eating out my hand,” vocalist Laura Kirsop promises on the track “You Creep”. It’s a cool subversion of the macho posturing that some elements of metal fall back on, and given Ex People’s roots in punk and riot grrrl, it’s certainly intentional.
The London quartet bring the low end like nobody’s business on Bird; at its grooviest, this album’s kinetic energy is the kind of meaty lumbering you might expect from an entire slumber of megatherium. But the blunt instruments of the rhythm section don’t just twist and crush aimlessly though the earth; this is not just a collection of nice riffs that become stale after twenty minutes. Ex People craft a heady soundscape, nestling you in layers upon layers of textured guitar, beautiful loud-soft dynamics, and a perfectly matched vocal performance even as you’re driven forth by the low end. Guitarist Calem Gunn said it best in an interview with Metal Hammer: “There’s a unique, addictive feeling to be wrought from playing low and slow. Weight and the absence of weight.” Bird is a colossal creature borne aloft.