Folk

Best albums and tracks of 2017

The best albums of 2017 contains 60 albums that I listened enough to warrant them a place in this list. Scroll further down for the best tracks as a Spotify playlist and a few pickups that I missed in 2016. Hyperlinks lead to reviews.


Best albums of 2017

Near perfect (9+)

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Loss — Horizonless – funeral doom / deathdoom – Horizonless by Loss is a giant of a funeral doom album. It portrays a wide dispersal of moods, shifting between beautiful, crushing and ominous. The instrumentation and sounds are all top level, even the bass guitar comes to the fore time to time.
     Horizonless seeped among the best albums of 2017 slowly. I dare to say this is my favourite doom release from the US since Morgion’s criminally underknown Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth (2004).


Excellent (9)

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Nyss — Princesse Terre (Three Studies of Silence and Death) – atmospheric black metal – Fantastic atmosphere, riffs and use of effective repetition. Climaxes, build-ups, some melodies, backing ambience. Absolute top tier atmospheric and hypnotic black metal.


Very good (9-)

Grave Pleasures — Motherblood – death rock / post-punk – Everything that Beastmilk, who later renamed themselves to Grave Pleasures did right in the first album Climax (2013) also comes in place on Motherblood. The blasphemous lyrics, deathrock and catchy pop hooks groove together elegantly again.
     The album retains a strong base level through it’s length. Tracks like Joy Through Death dance between two worlds masterfully. It could be an eulogy or as well just a piece of dark humorous obscenity!

Hebosagil — Fortuna / Auta – noise rock / post-metal / hardcore punk – Bursting with melodies and aggression. I don’t think they’ve ever before had this many pop hooks. On the other hand, the 2nd track Auta still flirts with drone and noise rock with violently paranoid lyrics…


Good+ (8½)

Septicflesh — Codex Omega – symphonic death metal

Woe — Hope Attrition – atmospheric black metal – biggest grower of the year.

Oranssi Pazuzu — Kevät / Värimyrsky Psychedelic black metal / stoner doom – Pazuzu re-released their split with Candy Cane with the name Farmakologinen, it’s a 9+/10 album but also released a brand new great single. Värimyrsky is a welcome nod back to their old days.

Slægt — Domus Mysterium – black metal / heavy metal – I really liked the 2015 EP Beautiful and Damned so it’s really welcome to see they are as good a full-length band!

Wintersun  — The Forest Seasons – symphonic metal /progressive metal / melodic metal – Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons might be the album that has split most opinions in 2017. It currently stands at 56 % in Metal Archives which cannot be based on music alone. For the musics in this music album are mostly solid as heck.
     First three tracks (clocking over 40 minutes) are packed with memorable melodies, good songwriting and fine sounding symphonics. Wintersun is not a one trick pony solely based on power metal and melodeath. The album has a few aces up its sleeve. For example, most melodeath bands might not try their skills in black metal or melancholic doom.

Heptaedium — How Long Shall I Suffer Here? – electronic metal / breakcore / nintendocore / progressive metal

Glanko — OsmosiSci-fi IDM – Dark toned themes with sci-fi elements. Glanko has matured and found great melody lines to accompany beats more diverse than ever. Perfect music for reading sci-fi like Dan Simmonds Hyperion quartet! You can add / remove half a point depending if you are reading sci-fi or not!

Sun of The Sleepless — To The Elements – atmospheric black metal


Good+ (8+)

Vallenfyre — Fear Those Who Fear Him – oldschool death metal with connections to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Abhorrence. Not surprisingly, the best moments on Fear Those Who Fear Him are the slower doomier bits. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

The Moth Gatherer — The Comfortable Low – post-metal / post-rock

Wear Your Wounds — WYW – slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze – side-project of Converge’s Jacob Bannon. The highs are really high if you’ve always digged the slower tracks of Converge. WYW strips down almost all heavy guitars and is quite a melancholic slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze album. Unsurprisingly the heaviest moments rank among the best.
There’s over 20 minutes of boring material in the midst of 63 minutes so I’m ranking it more for the good points than for the bad. Just skipping the last two tracks already makes it great. Still difficult to get into. 

Ayreon — The Source (album 1) – progressive rock / musical

AlNamrood — Enkar – Middle Eastern blackened deaththrash – one of the biggest growers of the year, initially I did not even like Enkar it as it does not repeat the mystic and even majestic atmospheric tricks of their 2015 album Diaji Al Joor. Enkar is quite a punk album compared to Diaji but after over 10 listens the Middle Eastern instrumentation, nuances and straightforward fierce song-writing started to really feel like a tight package.


Good (8ish)

Over the Voids… — Over The Voids – black metal

James Elkington — Wintres Womasinger-songwriter / acoustic / folk – At best Elkington channels Nick Drake’s gentle guitar virtuosity. Fortunately he is not a one-trick pony but I admit I’m a sucker for the more complicated pickings.

Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar – avant-garde synthpop / experimental

Converge — The Dusk In Us – metalcore / hardcore / post-hardcore

WÖYH! — KRTKRTK – progressive rock / children’s music for adults

Janne Westerlund — There’s a Passage singer-songwriter / folk / acoustic / experimental

Au-Dessus — End of Chapter – atmospheric black metal / post-metal

The Faceless — In Becoming a Ghost – progressive death metal – Half really good (Digging The Grave, The Spiraling Void, Shake The Disease, I Am, half of Black Star), the rest is filler. Extra points from how the melodramatic intro sets up Digging the Grave. The jumpiest album start since Ghost of Perdition by Opeth!

Pryapisme — Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium – Avant-garde metal / experimental metal


8-

Ochre — Beyond The Outer Loop – idm / downtempo / ambient

Troldhaugen — Idio+syncrasies – avant-garde metal / humour metal – Half funny, half annoying, half great. This is a true love it or hate it album, yet I am inbetween because the compositions are mostly great but vocals oft times annoyingly over freaky. The metalcore / crabcore influences aren’t that much of my liking either, some of the avant-garde elements are outrageously good and only a few outrageously annoying (the rap part of It’s Morphine Time, yet the chorus is a hilarious stadium rock sing-a-long). The album has hints of Crotchduster-like greatness. Bullseye track has the best track title of the year: I Ordered A Taxi Driver Not A Taxidermy.

Riitaoja — Täytettyjä lintuja – experimental indie rock / art rock / folk

Wvrm — Can You Hear The Wind Howl – grindcore / death metal – 10 minutes is just the right length for this kind of furious album. 6 tracks with a 3 minute doomy headbanger in the midst. Epic track length in their standards.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana – garage rock / psychedelic rock

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Gumboot Soup – garage rock / psychedelic rock – The rest of the 5 (!!!!!) albums they released this year I did not check properly yet. Quick check on Polygondwanaland sounds like another real quality effort. It’s concept would also be worth a mention. Here’s a great Youtube video sumup of their 5 album plan. King Gizzard is probably the most innovative rock band at the moment. Maybe one of the albums will match their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity.

Hanging Garden — I Am Become – atmospheric rock / doom metal – Blackout Whiteout was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, the first tastes of I am Become were great, yet it did not have the growth of the last album. The best bits Kouta and Our Dark Design are top class and the album does not really have bad sections either.

Lantern — II: Morphosis – new wave of Finnish oldschool dark death metal in the vein of Demigod and Convulse


Kardinaalit — Primus Culpa experimental / rock / humour – Primus Culpa demo should be annoying but mostly it is actually funny. These guys also have some high class material in their soundcloud (also a lot of junk), eagerly awaiting if they piece their shit together out of humour terrains and develop their stronger tracks. At least 3-4 are already fully ready and would be a backbone of a very strong release

Enslaved — E – progressive metal / viking metal / black metal – possible grower

Eneferens — In The Hours Beneath – atmospheric rock / atmospheric black metal

Wolves in the Throne Room — Thrice Woven – atmospheric black metal

Fen — Winter – atmospheric black metal – possible grower

Vulture Industries — Stranger Times – progressive metal / avant-garde metal – The first three tracks of the album are really fucking good which is why it’s such a shame that the rest of the album is strangely mediocre to almost useless. Three other tracks do stand out a bit. Something Vile’s last half is driven by good lead guitars and heavy drum pounding, matching the beginning. Midnight Draws Near and Screaming Reflections do have great vocals and good dynamic going on but constantly slow paced pretty good compositions fail to resonate much after the beginning of the album does everything a few notches better.

Pillorian Obsidian Arc – atmospheric black metal


7+

Ne Obliviscaris — Urn – progressive metal

KANASHIMI — INORI depressive black metal / funeral doom / japanese pop influences – yes you read right, Scar of the heart is a bullseye of a track, a nicely unique dsbm sound. Then the one man project repeats it nearly all album long… Classic one man band problem really.

Havukruunu — Kelle surut soi – pagan black metal – hello Moonsorrow, these guys are pretty good in their own right too. Bullseye track: Kelle Surut Soi.

Inferno Requiem — Nüwa 女媧 – oldschool black metal / atmospheric black metal

Igorrr — Savage Sinusoid – avant-garde metal / breakcore / electronic

Skyclad — Forward Into The Past – folk metal / heavy metal – metal-observer’s review seemed to sum most of my thoughts. I just have to add the best track “Change Is Coming” is at part with almost any of their tracks and “State of The Union Now” a fresh reminder of their thrash past. Judging by the 2015 album Atom by Atom, Steve Ramsay might just leave his best tracks for his other project, Satan.

Myrkur — Maredit – black metal / indie rock / dream pop – fantastic beginning then the mediocre but well sung indie / dream pop elements come to the surface. Most of the metallish tracks are slow, doomy and boring. The blastbeating chaotic atmosphere appears too scarcely. Luckily there’s Gladiatrix.


Okay (7ish)

Falls of Rauros — Vigilance Perennial – atmospheric black metal

Planeetta 9 — Koivut – Finnish metal / rock / doom

Falaise — My Endless Immensityblackgaze

Akercocke — Renaissance In Extremis – avant-garde metal / black metal – Possible grower, ~8 listens doesn’t seem to be enough

Alfahanne — Det Nya Svarta – post-punk / death rock – One track miracle Satans Verser, probably the best rock track of the year, there’s a good mellow post-punk atmosphere but Avgrundsgravitation and Det Nya Svarta are the only tracks that completely succeed in tension. Mitt mörkär är mörkäre än ditt is weirdly catchy, I can’t quite put my hand on it, if i like it or don’t. Same catchiness goes for Även an Hund Har Sin Dag. For a while I thought the album is great until it crashed down to mediocre. I admit I might like it more if I bothered to understand more of the lyrics.

Ayreon — The Source (album 2) – progressive rock / musical

Paradise Lost — Medusa – doom metal / death doom


Okay- (6½) aka class c black metal

Fleurety — The White Death – One track miracle The Ballad of The Copernicus, few ok tracks besides it (White Death, Future Day). Special credit to the worst riff of the year in the peculiarly, chosen single track Lament of the Optimist.

Ajattara — Lupaus – black metal – One track miracle Saatanan Sinetti, few good tracks besides it (Sinä, last half of Lupaus). Most lyrics a bit stupid: Pimeä, pimeä, kuolema, kuolema blah blah blah.. Special credit to stupidest choruses of the year in Ristinkirot and Machete. Too bad as Machete is musically quite a great headbanger.

Charnel Winds — Verschränkung – Avant-garde metal / black metal

Asagraum — Potestas Magicum Diaboli – black metal


Best tracks of 2017

Best tracks arranged to a playlist in quite random order. Playlist in text-pdf format + a few tracks that aren’t in Spotify: Best_tracks_of_2017


Bubbling under

Brilliant tracks just below the first category. Except on a good day…


2016 reprise

Bunch of interesting 2016 releases found too late

9ish

Downfall of Gaia — Atrophy – atmospheric black metal / post black metal

W. Iivarinen — Melankolia – Finnish metal / rock

8ish

Blood Incantation — Starspawn – Progressive atmospheric death metal
Jpefmafia — Black Ben Carson
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Cantique Lepreaux — Cendres Célestes
 – atmospheric black metal
Ultha — Converging Sins – atmospheric black metal / post-black metal
明日の叙景(Asunojokei) — 過誤の鳥 (A Bird in the Fault) – post-black metal/post-hardcore

7 to 8-

Khid — Ohi – experimental rap / trap
Baptism
— V: The Devil’s Fire – black metal
Jpefmafia — The 2nd Amendment
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Saor — Guardians
– atmospheric folk / black metal
Radiopuhelimet — Saastan Kaipuu
– melurock / finnish rock
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra — Broken Lines
– alternative metal / alternative rock

Monumental Folkish & Folk metal playlist

1. Fleurety – Fragmenter av en Fortid disappeared from Spotify just a while ago, it will be added back when it comes back around. Full-length Min tid skal komme from 1995 is the real jewel of their discography. One of many “lost” metal releases that many consider a classic but most people have never heard about. It’s definitely a must checkup for fans of folkish metal.

1. Fleurety’s place was taken by Pillorian, the newly formed line-up of ex-Agalloch John Haughm. After Agalloch split into two pieces in 2016, the remaining three members went to form Khôrada that is due to release their first album. Pillorian‘s 2017 release Obsidian Arc starts with it’s brightest spots, By the Light of a Black Sun (+ Archaen Divinity) should sate most Agalloch fans.

2. Fen is not a band that I’ve tracked, even though it’s similarities to Agalloch have been known to me since their first full-length Malediction Fields in 2009. It is only lately that I gave a true chance to their unpolished first album and it unveiled a real jewel in Lashed by Storm. The weak clean vocals in the very end are it’s only grey spot. Fen’s 2017 release Winter materialized on my listening cycle; it does have some very atmospheric sections but its also really-frigging-long (75 minutes!). I would deem it very possible that a track from it appears to my playlists later on.

3.-4. As a humble praise, Wilderun‘s Sleep at the Edge of Earth might be my favourite metal release of past 5 years. It has a glorious quaternity Ash Memory (trinity has 3, quaternity 4, yeah i just looked it up from google…), from which 2 well fitting tracks were chosen. Hope and Shadow (II), and the The Faintest Echo (IV). The traces in the beginning of Hope and Shadow that clip in this collection are from the 1st track of the quaternity. Wilderun really took care to make it a logical entity which I then disturbed!

The Faintest Echo’s 3.20 monumental symphonic centerpiece and outro of the quaternity is a prime example why Wilderun’s output doesn’t pale in comparison with any symphonic and folk metal bands of today.

5. Tore Hund is by Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá. It is a project by Enslaved and Wardruna veterans, which may run below radar cause of it’s eccentric name that sounds like artsy folk music. Well um, it is kind of that actually, in a lot of ways Skuggsja sounds more like folk with metal elements than the other way around. Though even the folkier tracks often have a heavy backbone that owes to metal and makes these two elements come together naturally.

6. In Zuriaake‘s Afterimage of Autumn‘s most stunning moment, the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles). Zuriaake’s black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe. I also reviewed them in the past (https://likemusictoyourears.com/2016/01/26/zuriaake-afterimage-of-autumn).

7. October Falls is an interesting beast for their first promo was metal but three of the first four official releases were acoustic guitar driven material with a lot of natural ambience. Since then they’ve mostly strolled on the metallic grounds, always with quality but rarely with something that really catches my ears. A Collapse of Faith Part III, from 2010 A Collapse of Faith must be their best track to date. I must admit however that I have spent way too little time in adjusting to 2013, The Plague of a Coming Age. That ought to be my next listen.

8. The noise / drone wall of Sol InvictusEnglish Murder‘s intro make it a significantly difficult piece. But I am not making these collections for layman listeners quick fix. The controversy and paradox of a folk track being actually heavier and darker than the following metal track make it a juicy addon.

9. Logically following Sol Invictus is Agalloch, who have listed Sol Invictus as one of their big influences. Agalloch is one of the very first metal bands that I got into and surely the first folkish metal band. Yet in their sound progressive elements, post-rock and melancholia are also ever present. Limbs 10 minute brilliance is started by deliciously annoyingly long 10 second note after which it goes all post-rock. Climbing to mountains, descending into valleys and drifting among the transparent mist.

I do appreciate a well timed and set up grunt, John Haughm’s 6.35 effort is one of the prime examples! “These boughs were said to be lost! Torn, unearthed and broken –  IYRRRRRRRRRRRR”. What the fuck is he even singing about? There must be something to it as it inspires genuine sing-along grunting from yours truly. When it comes to grunting, Haughm is right up there with Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

10. Skyclad‘s past two albums haven’t been nearly as notable as most of their 12 full-lengths before them (many of them are masterpieces after all). I would only rate A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol and No Daylights Not Heeltaps on level with the new albums. However, on In The… All Together from 2009 Skyclad formed possibly the best track of their career, The Well-Travelled Man. The vocalist Kevin Ridley is on fire, shouting half of the track. Lyrics and composition communicate perfectly into a folky, dramatic, upbeat, yet melancholic tune with a heart-wrenching ending. Wow.

The Solar Apparatus – The Solar Apparatus

web_kristalliFinnish oddball instrumental progressive folk group The Solar Apparatus released their first full-length album in 2016. While the basis has a lot of stuff happening and a lot to like, the entity is still hard to distinguish from elevator music. It would actually work well in elevators or in an art gallery yet it lacks memorability, even though it seems different melodies and instruments are continuously introduced from the “rainbow rollercoaster” (like they describe themselves, not at all unwell). The traditional rock instruments are paired with for example violin, pleasant harmonica and harmless soaring from a feel good family movie, with oh so much major key. It works well as a background music to daily activities fading away to background.

Before The Solar Apparatus arrange themselves a vocalist or evolve and tighten their compositions, I’m afraid they fail to captivate me. There’s lot of effort to reach for the stars but the melodies fail to reach the galactic level, often drifting somewhere between the celestial bodies. But as they are, they really could find people in the world music terrain that are captivated. They would fit right in to a young, urban hipster, hippie or underground festival kind of bright celebration where young yuppies, hippies, vegans and junkies dance their worries away stoned or high on craft beer (Wicker Man, World Village Festival, Flow, Sideways etc.).

I hate to negate small releases and obscure bands that do a lot of things right, but when it comes to my subjective opinions about music that should be straight from my alleyway, “pretty nice” is just not good enough.

But there’s merit even I can fathom. The playfulness of the track names is amusing. Golis Zefin’s sinister piano interlude is refreshing alteration. Remembrance and Ametisti have nice 70s prog touches in riffing, but are too long a compositions. Actually the same goes to pretty much every other track too. Elffin’s is another two-sided beast, the first half is extremely unforgettable neo-prog that does not seem to go anywhere until it is forcefully transformed into a post-rocky bright outro reminding of trance uplifts. The melodies are strong and would surely appeal in a live setting.

But the best pieces are served already in the beginning duality. A tranquilly progressive piano piece Seed and crunchy riffing Everleaf hit close to the mark. Uncoincidentally they are also the shortest pieces without idling. Man, these guys must have listened to another Finnish oddball group Taipuva Luotisuora. Their influences definitely sprout from the same tree though Taipuva Luotisuora has more progressive elements and a lot more Kingston Wall present.

To end on a positive note, The Solar Apparatus is certainly a band with plenty of potential. They could unveil something classic in the future, they have the elements and the abilities. But that time is not on their 2016 release. Keep your eyes open.

Bandcamp: https://solarapparatus.bandcamp.com/album/solar-apparatus
Home page: http://thesolarapparatus.com/

Paavoharju – Tuote akatemia / Unien Savonlinna EP // NMMREM XXIV

Paavoharju is a Finnish folk / ambient band / collective which has a truly unique musical style (something along the lines of freak folk). Their both full-lengths Yhä Hämärää (2005) and Laulu Laakson Kukista (2008) are enchanting pieces. They combine mysterious folk, lo-fi, ambience and surprisingly catchy elements, somehow usually avoiding to be artsy or annoyingly indie and getting to huge depths of natural feel.

Between the full-length albums Paavoharju released a largely unknown Free Download EP Tuote akatemia / Unien Savonlinna in 2006. It is a varied effort, mainly in good sense. The EP starts with a bang; two tracks that are among the best Paavoharju tracks of all time, forebodingly beautiful Nuo Maisemat and a live version of Kuljin Kauas. Usually live versions are to be passed with a shrug but Kuljin Kauas (Lepovaunu-05 Live) captures the live feeling extremely well. It adds so much raw-power to the composition, it competes side-by-side with the original album version. I didn’t know Paavoharju could be so heavy live!

Listening the album well over 10 times it is quite descriptive that a few months after the last listen, from the last 5 tracks I can only remember one, Pepe. Pepe is a left-over sounding Joose Keskitalo track, alike “Italialaisella laivalla” in Laulu Laakson Kukista LP (Joose Keskitalo is a Finnish singer-songwriter known of his Eponymous project). I do like Pepe and even had a short crush to it, but in my books, its quality is lower than nearly any track in first three Joose Keskitalo records (which are all near-masterpieces).

By no means is the end-album bad, it is just a lot less catchy and more of freaky ambient origin. Tavataan 12-7-2004 has some beautiful piano work. Mitä Sinä Et Ole nears worthlessness and is only saved by haunting female vocals. Tartu Tähän Hetkeen encompasses the Paavoharju ambient sound, but feels bit more raw and unpolished than most of the ambient pieces in their full-lengths. The last track Salatut Käyvät Julki is a melancholic pretty guitar and pump organ outro, very Rural-Finnish.

A good release with two extremely strong tracks and only one filler. Kudos to them for not trying to make money with a collection of oddities, but it really could have been a “real” release. It is almost as captivating and magic as their full-lengths, but not quite. If it wasn’t a free download I would not recommend it for Paavoharju beginners. But as it is, if you enjoy the pieces here you will for sure love the full-lengths.

8+/10

Free Download: http://archive.org/details/mia061

Joose: “Nimenomaan tonin laulua!”

Hyvämakuinen yleisönjäsen: “Hieno.”

Tarkasti analysoiva yleisönjäsen: “Tää on musiikkia.”