The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

15. Spirit Adrift: Curse of Conception (20 Buck Spin)

Spirit Adrift's turned into a break-out heavy metal act this year with the release of their second full-length album, Curse of Conception. There are very few musicians capable of writing and arranging riffs like Metallica did in their prime, yet multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett (also of Gatecreeper) does so singlehandedly, as heard during the neo-classical opening moments of "Earthbound" or the stunning harmonising solo section of the title track. Like Pallbearer, doom metal might be Spirit Adrift's foundational sound, but Garrett is also not satisfied to just hurl out second-rate Iommic riffs. Instead he clearly wants his band to be world-beaters – you can hear his ambition in the melodically rich and powerful music – and we will put our money on it that Garrett will achieve this goal in the future. – Dean Brown

14. Elder: Reflections of a Floating World (Armageddon Record Shop)

Elder are master craftsmen at layering riffs into vast tapestries that have the technical nous usually displayed by a math rock band but with the classicism of prog/psych rock, and the swingin' groove and might of doom. In other words, their career-best album, Reflections of a Floating World, sounds as though multiple David Gilmours are jamming Josh Homme's riffs from Kyuss's Blues for the Red Sun. Sure, the strained clean vocals may be a sticking point for some listeners at times, but the grandstanding guitar heroics on display throughout are jaw-dropping enough to quell any minor criticisms. – Dean Brown

13. Aosoth: V: The Inside Scriptures (Agonia)

The legendary French black metal band have manifested the fifth chapter in their discography, and continue to expand the ever-growing musical heritage of their country's respected underground metal scene. Looking back at the Aosoth's previous records and their progress, it feels as though V: The Inside Scriptures is the final stage of their transformation. Brutal and uncompromising, with an additional dose of '90s death metal wrath, Aosoth switch their modus operandi to include a more direct and heavy assault, altering their usual dark atmospherics into something much more potent. – Spyros Stasis

12. Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)

Not many bands stirred as much fire in the hearts of metal listeners this year as Power Trip. The Texas quintet's latest offering, Nightmare Logic, fuels comparisons to Crass and Discharge while summoning memories of thrash's earliest, finest years. The arrangements are taut, while the lyrical content focuses its attention on big pharma ("Waiting Around to Die") and metal's perennial favorite—religious hypocrisy ("Crucifixtion"). Does it help that guitarists Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart give us more than a little reason to woodshed via "Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)"? Undoubtedly. The only thing one could image going down better than this LP is catching Power Trip tear up a live arena. – Jedd Beaudoin

11. Code Orange: Forever (Roadrunner)

2017 was Code Orange's year. The young hardcore band, now three albums deep, have pounded their potential into dust and emerged triumphant with a statement-making Roadrunner debut under their belts, WWE live performances smashed, and the acclaim of both the critics (a Grammy nomination) and influential metal veterans such as Randy Blythe and Corey Taylor. By incorporating Youth Code-esque industrial elements, alternative rock song-writing sensibilities (album highlight "Bleeding in the Blur"), false stops and starts and other studio trickery into their confrontational hardcore and noise rock, Code Orange have gifted us the most exhilarating 'first listen' album this year—a bruising thrill-ride we are happy to take over and over. – Dean Brown

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