In my not so humble opinion, 2017 left a lot to be desired as far as metal albums go (my Top Album of 2017, Amenra’s Mass VI, would have had a hard time cracking the Top 5 in 2016). However, the year’s strength came in the form of single songs, where it was much more difficult for me to trim this list down to 20 than it was last year.
There may be songs that I enjoyed more than “ieuD” in 2017, but it felt wrong to not recognize what may be the most fun & most bizarre tracks of the year. Part metal, part opera, and part trip-hop (whatever the fuck that is), the only thing I can definitively say about this track is that it’s awesome.
Low on theatrics, high on brutality, “Martyr” is the heaviest track on Septicflesh’s 2017 masterpiece Codex Omega. The symphonic elements provide the body of the song, but the band steps to forefront on this track, showing just how heavy and brutal symphonic death metal can be.
It’s debatable as to whether this song is really “metal”, but you can’t argue that this track is HEAVY. The emotional weight behind Amalie Bruun’s voice is just soul-crushing, and the emotional burden of the track is only offset by the beautiful songwriting.
My favorite deathcore track of 2017 (narrowly edging out Thy Art is Murder’s “No Absolution”), “Flesh Coffin” highlights Lorna Shore’s ability to put their own twist on the best parts of deathcore. Sure, there are crazy gutturals and some anthemic chanting, but the haunting guitar tones takes the track to a different plane of existence than most deathcore.
Darkest Hour have always had the unique ability to make catchy metal without resorting to clean vocals, but their newest album stepped away from that formula, with their metalcore roots taking a backseat to the band’s punk influences. “Knife in the Safe Room” is the angriest the band has sounded since 2007’s Deliver Us, screaming by at hypersonic speeds unlike anything I’ve ever heard from the band.
Now this is how you open an album. All the rumors of how Villains would be less gloomy and more upbeat than the album’s predecessor, …Like Clockwork, are confirmed in the opening guitar riff of “Feet Don’t Fail Me”, a modern arena-rocker if I’ve ever heard one. Put on your dancing shoes for this one (and if you don’t have dancing shoes, go buy some dancing shoes, dammit).
“Songs for No One” is simultaneously the heaviest and prettiest track on Caligula’s Horse’s latest offering, a case-study in how to keep prog interesting. The first half is shockingly heavy for a band that relies solely on clean vocals, and the closing of the track with have you singing along with some of the most positive, uplifting lyrics written this year.
Of all the angry hardcore punk bands out there today, All Pigs Must Die might be the angriest (did you expect anything less with that name?). The first three quarters of the track are textbook punk, full of hatred and venom and spit and fury. But it’s the closing of the track that earned it a spot on this list, replacing the song’s punk sound with a groovy gallop reminiscent of Iron Maiden on PCP.
Sounding like the disfigured, deranged, maladjusted cousin to hip-hop, “Didn’t the Night End” is the best mixture of The Body and Full of Hell’s sounds, with a devastating, lurching drum part laying cover to Full of Hell’s pained, blood-curdling screams. This song is nightmare fuel.
While the band’s most recent offering, Echolocation, sticks closer to the fuzzy sludge sound of vocalist Troy Sanders’ day-band, Mastodon, Ornament is an upbeat rocker unlike anything else on the album. Sanders’ vocals sound downright positive compared to his usual work, and the infectious guitars and drums with have you playing along on the steering wheel/desk/puppy/whatever is next to you on each listen.
Few bands have been as successful embracing clean vocals and melodic tones like The Contortionist. They’ve quickly become one of the better prog bands in metal today, and “Return to Earth” shows why. The song is melodic yet heavy, carrying an emotional weight that is more powerful than any amount of screaming would be able to deliver.
There isn’t a weak track on Pallbearer’s Heartless, one of the best records of 2017. But it’s the album opener, “I Saw the End”, that stands out from the rest, being both wholly accessible yet expertly complex. The track is great at first listen and gets better with each subsequent spin.
I don’t need to speak Portuguese to understand that this is one of the best tracks of the year. The music, screams, and operatic chorus tell a story all by themselves, creating a horrifying atmosphere worthy of the earthquake the album describes.
While most of their amazing 2017 album Trumpeting Ecstasy shows the band at their nosiest and grindiest, the album really hits its stride when it slows things down on the final two tracks of the record. “Trumpeting Ecstasy” is dark, unsettling, and unlike anything I’ve ever heard from Full of Hell, sounding much more like one of their collaborative tracks with The Body than a solo outing. But by slowing down and spacing out their typical otherworldly speed, “Trumpeting Ecstasy” manages to be one of their heaviest songs to date.
Nightbringers was one of my top albums of the year, and the title track off the record shows The Black Dahlia Murder at their best, somehow writing one of the catchiest metal tracks of the year despite never setting foot in the same continent as a clean vocal. Trevor Strnad is one of the finest vocalists in metal, getting my blood boiling from the first scream of the track and never backing down.
Much to my chagrin, Soen’s 2017 album Lykaia was a disappointment of the grandest variety, largely because the first single, “Secretarian”, was so unbelievably good. The infectious guitar rhythms and memorable chorus were more than enough to tide over anyone left waiting yet another year for a new Tool album.
While I never quite understood the love for their 2017 album Medusa (Decibel named it their #1 album of the year, after all), “The Longest Winter” stood out from the rest of the record, showing the incredible balance that the band can achieve when their Type-O Negative-like clean vocals are working in tandem with vocalist Nick Holmes’ crushing screams. A haunting masterpiece.
Metal’s breakout star of 2017, Code Orange announced their presence with authority on “Forever”, a crushing hardcore jam that leans heavily into the genre’s hip-hop tendencies to create a groovy, pissed off anthem. Despite their best efforts to remain completely oblivious to all the great songs and bands in metal, the Grammy’s were unable to ignore this track’s greatness, nominating it for the Best Metal Performance of 2017.
While I was disappointed with their album Phantom Amour, the same can’t be said for the lead single, “The Shadow”. Blending metal, prog, and even a little hip-hop, the track is one of the catchiest of the 2017. If you aren’t wandering around your home or office screaming “BEFORE! YOU LEAVE! THE DARK TAKES OVER!!!!” after your first few listens, then you might want to get your pulse checked.
Alright, so I’m cheating on this one. When you get your own metal site, you can enforce whatever Draconian rules you want about what is and is not “one song”. Somewhat forgotten after the stellar reception of their amazing LP The Dusk in Us, their two-song EP I Can Tell You About Pain showcased everything that is great about Converge. “I Can Tell You About Pain” is wall-to-wall energy, mixing Converge’s trademark ferocity with one of the most memorable hooks in the band’s catalog to create a monster of a track. “Eve”, on the other hand, is a slow-burning masterpiece, gradually building momentum before unleashing hell in the chorus. During the span of 10 minutes, these two tracks paint a vivid picture of Converge’s legendary career.