Some years come and go uneventfully. They can somehow just tick by without you even noticing. Conversely, some years will storm by and leave you in a different headspace than you imagined possible. Time will move forward and change will be absolute, regardless of your opinion of it or the attention you pay it. 2017 did not pass by quietly and as I look through the albums that I enjoyed throughout the year it almost feels as if I’m looking at a different person’s playlist. Now, if you somehow tolerated that little rant, let’s take a look at the albums that created the most impactful and sometimes unexpected experiences for me in 2017.
40. Chon – Homey
This one came as an unexpected but pleasant surprise. Chon continue developing their signature sound by weaving crystal clean melodies and complex yet groove-oriented rhythms on Homey. Now, I can’t say I really like their faces at all (probably cause they seem too young and hip for me) but their musicianship and songwriting is top notch.
39. Jorn – Life on Death Road
You know how sometimes you daydream that all music stemmed directly from Whitesnake and that genres outside of hard rock didn’t exist? No? Oh, well then maybe you won’t love the new Jorn album as much as I did. Either way, it’s got real rock riffs, real rock vocals, and a crow riding a motorcycle on the cover. You’re welcome.
38. Antoine Dufour – Back and Forth
There is something about Antoine Dufour’s sense of rhythm and melody that is just plain satisfying. It’s as if the exact right note is placed in the exact spot to make your brain the happiest, even before your brain knows that’s what it wants. This album is especially impressive in that you can either experience the songs through his traditional acoustic guitar styling or electronic versions.
37. Revolution Saints – Light in the Dark
Supergroups are fun right? How about a supergroup that is part Night Ranger, part Journey, and part Whitesnake? Light in the Dark is the second album by Revolution Saints and it’s all sorts of melodic and catchy. It’s hard to deny the Steve Perry love that bleeds through in the vocal delivery or how perfect of a guitarist Doug Aldrich throughout the album. This is just solid melodic rock.
36. White Skull – Will of the Strong
This was not a great year for power metal but boy oh boy if White Skull didn’t carry the genre on their big ol’ powerful shoulders with Will of the Strong. This album is heavy and relentless in every way.
35. Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes to an End
So our boy from Airbag put out a solo album this year and it’s driving, cinematic, and sorrowful. Riis songwriting is able to evoke emotion to the degree any Porcupine Tree, Marillion, or Anathema fan would appreciate.
34. Seven Spires – Solveig
Seven Spires are a powerhouse that are flying too far under too many radars. Their performance at Progpower 2017 was one of the best of the weekend and the album was basically on repeat for the next month for me. Solveig captures the perfectly diverse nature of what metal should sound like in 2017.
33. H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
As strong as this band is I was hoping for more of the matured sound we heard in the initial singles. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I own an album with a song called “Shit City” on it but if someone could tell these cute little Swedes to write more ballads I would appreciate it. With that said, it’s still a great album and I am sure that the songs will resonate in a live capacity amazingly
32. Tim Bowness – Lost in the Ghostlight
I am pretty sure Tim Bowness could sing me a list of all my most severe insecurities and I would include it on my best of the year list. With one of the most distinct and soothing voices in progressive music Bowness created a concept album full of feeling and purpose. It doesn’t hurt to have Ian Anderson have a spot on your album either.
31. Oceano – Revelations
Duuuuude. I just became secure enough as a fan of extreme music to admit deathcore has value, and the band I think deserves most of the credit for proving me wrong is Oceano. I am not even going to try to be articulate for this one, Revelations is just a beast.
30. Unleash The Archers – Apex
Apex is exactly what I’ve been waiting for from this band. They finally captured the power of their live show and were able to deliver one of the strongest and truest metal albums of the year. Welcome to the elite, Unleash The Archers.
29. Kreator – Gods of Violence
Can we just stop listening to other thrash bands already? I am sure you got one or two good listens out of Dystopia at some point but come on, Gods of Violence is perfect. Someone call Mustaine and all the kids in high tops and tell them to start a podcast or something because thrash belongs to Kreator.
28. Code Orange – Forever
I am fairly sure everyone who was paying attention to heavy music this year owns and realizes this album has a place on every end of the year list. Forever opened Code Orange up to as wide of an audience as anyone on this list and deservedly so, the album is somehow both direct and diverse without losing any aggression.
27. Firespawn – The Reprobate
Firespawn stick to the signature swedish death metal sound on The Reprobate and it works. Not only do we get intensity in the musicality but also choruses that add distinction to each track, something often overlooked in modern extreme metal.
26. Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Remember how it felt to listen to prog metal in 2004? You know, before everyone got a bunch of extra strings and new cool haircuts? Prospekt takes us to a time of soaring melodic vocals, guitar and keyboard solos, and driving drums. It just feels good is all.
25. Nordic Giants – Amplify Human Vibration
Amplify Human Vibration is the type of album that demands your attention. Get some nice headphones, allow yourself to ignore all of the distractions whether they be external or internal, and be open to the the ideas presented musically and spoken on this album.
-“most of reality is illusory, it’s just we do each other the courtesy of not pointing this out.” -Terrence Mckenna.
24. Threshold – Legends of the Shire
Threshold is one of those pillars of progressive metal. So much so that I find that sometimes I ignorantly skip an album assuming I know what it sounds like. Legends of the Shire however is not to be missed. It is as solid as prog metal gets and doesn’t need to follow any current trends to do so.
23. Odesza – A Moment Apart
Let’s get a Grammy nominated album on this list. Odesza is an electronic duo who released a tremendously emotionally powerful album this year. The album is full of stunning soundscapes that will pull the listener into genuine depths of presence.
22. One Desire – One Desire
One Desire are pure melodic rock cheese. This feels sort of low on the list for how many times I listened to it. There are too many hooks on this album for it’s own good. It makes it easy to get hooked on one song while forgetting how many others you still need to sing along to. One Desire does get some bonus points for me due to the fact that I have perfected a pretty accurate air drum rendition of “Whenever I’m Dreaming”, fills and all.
21. Prequell – The Future Comes Before
Prequell is a project from French composer Thomas Roussel and it is as captivating as anything I experienced this year. The album utilizes a full symphony orchestra, digital beats, and various guest vocalists to create an amazing and theatrical experience.
20. Leprous – Malina
There’s not much that needs to be said regarding Leprous. They continue to push themselves and the progressive genre as a whole. Malina is possibly their strongest album to date.
19. Igorrr – Savage Sinusoid
I was debating on including this album on the list only because I couldn’t remember if it really existed or if it was something I experienced in a strangely enjoyable fever dream. Turns out it exists in our reality and I am still in shock about this fact. Savage Sinusoid is operatic, electronic, and heavy madness. Savage Sinusoid is staggeringly different in a extremely impressive fashion.
18. Son Lux – Remedy
Son Lux is a band that is easily more progressive and genre-defying than much of the progressive metal/rock scene. Remedy is only an EP but stands out with complex rhythms, unexpected atmospheres, and distinctly haunting vocals.
17. Anathema – The Optimist
The Optimist is distinctly Anathema. The songs are emotionally charged and connect to the listener on a vulnerably human level. The musicality is lush, purposeful and takes its time to build up and guide us to to a crescendo that we weren’t even aware that we were headed toward.
16. Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Arguably the fundamentally strongest band in the current progressive metal scene. In Contact shows the band at their height in musicianship, song structure, hooks, conveying a story, and replay value.
15. Give Us Barabba – Sadomasokissme
You’re either gonna be on board with this or you’re gonna be the type of person I don’t care to talk to. Give Us Barabba are weird dudes. Weird dudes who make top quality music. You’re gonna hear some Bungle bits, some Nuno Bettencourt Extreme riffing, heavy King’s X grooves, and a very fun singable chorus about a “Spider Banana”.
14. Voyager – Ghost Mile
Voyager have clearly solidified themselves as one of the preeminent progressive metal bands with Ghost Mile. What was a great band before have continued to hone their sound and created undeniable powerhouse of an album.
13. Rikard Sjoblom’s Gunfly – On Her Journey to the Sun
I remember being pretty upset when Beardfish broke up. I feel much better about it hearing this album. On Her Journey to the Sun feels smooth and organic while keeping up with enough complexities to appease any top tier prog nerd.
12. Barock Project – Detachment
There are some bands that immediately pull you in the way a great storyteller would. Barock Project‘s Detachment is a perfect example of this. They naturally weave through various classic progressive elements while still creating songs that seem purposeful and genuine.
11. Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
First of all, any album that opens with Alan Watts quotes is going to rank high with me, however when you follow it with one of the strongest progressive rock albums I’ve heard in years it makes it very easy to rank it highly. The Big Dream is prog rock done without a fault. Every single moment of this album is exactly as it should be.
10. Toehider – Good
Toehider absolutely should be your favorite band. Michael Mills is undeniably inhuman as a vocalist, musician, and songwriter. I truly don’t believe artists of this type come around often and we are lucky to have one floating around making strange and beautiful songs for us. On the new album not only does Mills give us a handful of interesting and catchy songs full of stunning musicianship but also confronts some of life’s most pressing questions. For example, what’s with ghosts and those weird chains they drag around or what action should one take when “woked” up by “Millions of Musketeers”?
9. Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
In case you felt The Optimist didn’t break you down emotionally the way you expected an Anathema album to, Monochrome will literally break your heart within the first two minutes. Good luck swallowing your emotions through this one.
8. Lunatic Soul – Fractured
For those who were looking to continue the beauty of songwriting we experienced on Riverside’s “Love, Fear, and The TIme Machine”, this is your album. It is somehow simultaneously uplifting and emotionally devastating. The musicality embraces the electronic elements as to be expected with Lunatic Soul. It also has maybe my favorite song lyrically of the year.
“You can say that I am yearning for something that’s already gone, but I am not a prisoner. I want to feel what it’s like when sorrow turns into strength. I want to feel what it’s like there’s no screeches in my head…”.
7. SikTh – The Future in Whose Eyes?
This was completely unexpected for me but may have been one of my most played albums of the year. A band who clearly led the charge in terms of staggering rhythmic instrumentation have put out an album full of hooks, strange turns, and heaviness. There are also some fun little nu-metal vibes throughout.
6. Eclipse – Monumentum
This album was my number one for most of the year but at some point got bumped down a few notches. That’s not to say that it is not basically a perfect melodic rock album. It has every hook in the world and is impossible not to embarrassingly play your favorite air instrument along the entire time.
5. Ayreon – The Source
Ayreon returns with one of the strongest of their entire catalog. This is Human Equation good, for those who understand what that means realize the gravity of that statement. Everything Arjen releases is high quality but there are times you can just tell there’s something magical going on and The Source is real deal prog metal magic.
4. Steven Wilson – To The Bone
To the Bone somehow captures the human experience in a way most music fails to. The shifting in perspective between a song like “Nowhere Now” which identifies those moments of stillness where one can zoom out from the world and feel peace to the emotional brokenness of a song like “Pariah” is a rare and amazing thing.
3. Bent Knee – Land Animal
Land Animal is easily my favorite performance-based album of the year. This band is tremendously distinct and each member stands out amazingly without losing a breathtaking cohesive sound. Bent Knee was the band I probably showed more people in 2017 than any other, because there’s no reason for anyone, no matter their musical interest or upbringing, to not love this album.
2. White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Atone is a gorgeous album that mixes digital rhythms, beautiful string sections, and amazing vocal performances to make a hugely emotional album with tons of replay value. It’s somehow occasionally sexy as well so take that for what it is.
1. Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
Pain of Salvation use their accumulative experience from all of their previous works to create something perfect. The story behind the album is beautifully and tragically human. In the Passing Light of Day contains all of the complex musicality you come to expect from classic Pain of Salvation. The title track clocks in at just over 15 minutes and I cannot even recall how many times I listened to it and openly wept.
I would like to leave you with this, although I assume most people already know this to be one of the world’s rare absolutes, the new Kesha album is phenomenal. Now, I know this not only because I’ve listened to it countless times but also because I have confirmed with one of my closest friend’s teenage daughter and she excitedly agreed. It is important to understand that this album’s value doesn’t purely lie in building up teenage girls feminist ideals but also because a 32 year old man can sing/dance/cry it down the highway.
If anyone would like to discuss with me the merits of Kesha and/or would like me to elaborate on the safety issues between sing/dance/crying down the highway feel free to contact me at the following social media links:
List crudely and carefully compiled by Sean Cantor