Heavy Blog Staff’s Top Ten Albums of 2017

Our staff has shifted quite a bit since we posted our first aggregate AOTY list back in 2014. From refocusing our content to implementing The Brooklyn Plan™ to publishing our 2017 AOTY list, our roster of contributors has fluctuated substantially in terms of numbers and genre preferences. This ebb and flow…

MONARCH! – Never Forever

Managing an album’s length is more than just a numbers game. As important as the song count and run time of a track list may be, an album’s experiential length is more closely linked to the content contained within each track. More specifically, this is defined not by the quality of an album’s ideas, but the quantity of those ideas, as well as their organization. As an example, consider your standard 20-ish minute, 20+ track grindcore album—though it may be shorter than most people’s morning commute, a band with the the most simple genre formula is introducing the listener to roughly two dozen song ideas, and if these ideas are executed poorly, the album is going to drag and lose its appeal despite presenting bite size compositions. This isn’t relevant to Never Forever because it suffers from an ineffective length; to the contrary, MONARCH! (Monarch, from here on out), have crafted an album with perfect pacing and structure that enhances the impact of the record. But the band operate in a genre rife with overindulgence, as evident by the sheer number of doom and drone metal albums comprised of a handful of tracks that each rival the entirety of a grindcore album while presenting barely enough ideas to rise above being musical melatonin.

Low Flying Hawks – Genkaku

Doom metal, in its purest form, is Sisyphian, forever attempting to move its great weight over a seemingly unreachable peak. That that mythical figure was, well, doomed to his task for cheating death is an apt metaphor for the bleak artistry of this genre of metal. In attempting to establish where this particular scene lies in the greater schema of music right now we can look to this ancient myth as an apt metaphor. Taking into account the plethora of new releases, new Sisyphuses, pushing their own respective boulder-esque projects it’s easy to see that doom is in a bit of a renaissance, currently, as crucial (relatively) new bands such as Elder, Pallbearer, Dreadnought, and SubRosa have raised the bar for longtime practitioners.

Thank You For Not Smoking: Variations on a Stoner Doom Theme

As a genre, stoner doom has some fairly definitive characteristics: slowed-down tempos, rumbling low-end bass and rhythm, a focus on mountainous, hypnotic riffs, and a certain intangible haze cast over it all, creating a psychedelic-glazed listening experience. But perhaps most importantly, stoner metal worships at the altar of marijuana. Proudly wearing its influence on its sleeve (and name), stoner metal varyingly employs marijuana as a muse, a political rallying cause, an artistic aesthetic, and generally as the raison d’etre for the (sub)genre as a whole. From the smoke-filled cough intro in Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” to Sleep’s epic journey to Jerusalem to Dopelord carrying the genre’s torch in one hand and a bong in the other, stoner doom is fundamentally and un-apologetically intertwined with marijuana. And yet, as firm of a grip as the green leaf has on the genre, there are contingents within the stoner doom scene that don’t embrace weed with the same fervor as their counterparts. Indeed, as counter-intuitive as it seems, examples abound of bands in the stoner doom realm that either explicitly or implicitly eschew the very association with marijuana that the scene largely views as a prerequisite.