Editor’s note: Yes, it’s that time of the year again! While our own Album of the Year list is coming down the line, we have a ton of end of year content for you. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be exploring 2017 in various of ways: through curated summaries for specific genres, editorials on specific phenomena we found interesting and, of course, guest lists! To kick us off, we have Sam Vallen and Jim Grey of Caligula’s Horse. This is a special honor for me, since In Contact, their 2017 progressive metal opus, is my personal Album of the Year. It’s a magnificent take on the power of melodic and well written progressive metal music. The list(s) below kind of hint at that; they include entries from some of the biggest names in progressive metal/rock. But they also have some curve-balls, like the virtually absent from our circles Tori Amos love and the less known, but excellent nonetheless, album from David Maxim Micic or the shout-out to Logic‘s expansive hip hop.
Long story short, head on down below to see what two of the best metal musicians operating today have to say about 2017!
First of all:
Honorable mentions must go to:
Bonobo – Migration
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Nothing But Thieves – Broken Machine
Now we haven’t numbered any of these because it felt like killing babies. But anyway, here’s Sam and Jim’s Top 5 for 2017!
Sam Vallen (guitars):
Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
Gildenlow and co. have never released anything that I haven’t found inspiring and interesting, but this is a work that conveys an emotional intensity matched, in my opinion, only by Remedy Lane, one of my all-time favorite records. It is unremittingly honest and brutally raw; as an artistic statement it is absolutely consistent from its dry and forceful production to its aggressive band performances and fragile, honest lyrics.
David Maxim Micic – Who Bit the Moon
An absolute masterclass in subtle, lyrical guitar playing and composition (with the occasional shocking shred break) dressed in crisp, interesting, and sophisticated production. “687 Days” and “Living Room” are probably my most listened to tracks this year, and this album has been on endless repeat since it came out.
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Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Few bands have expressed as consistent an artistic vision is NeO, but, even within such a high quality discography, Urn is an undeniable advancement. It fully realizes and masters the sonic and dynamic promises of its brilliant precursors while compromising none of the band’s avant-garde leanings in the process. Urn is sweeping, grand, and crushing, but – as with all of the band’s output – it is also tremendously beautiful.
Steven Wilson – To the Bone
This is an album that took me longer to appreciate than Hand. Cannot. Erase. and (perhaps even more so) The Raven that Refused to Sing. But it is proof that Wilson’s melodic sensibility unquestionably holds up outside of the complexity and scope established in his past work. I also love that Wilson can still surprise me with his work, and I hope he never stops doing so.
SikTh – The Future in Whose Eyes?
RIFFS! But seriously, it’s fantastic to see one of the originators of the riff-heavy “djent” contingent of contemporary progressive metal return in such fine form. Everything sounds enormous, and although it doesn’t re-invent SikTh’s unique sound, The Future in Whose Eyes? is compelling, powerful, and lots of fun!
Jim Grey (vocals):
Tori Amos – Native Invader
OK everyone can eat my bias for breakfast, but I swear every time I hear this remarkable woman’s voice I end up in tears. This album is full of her signature abstract storytelling, textural songwriting, and emotionally charged vocal delivery. That’ s like the trifecta of shit that I love.
Logic – Everybody
This dude is absolutely incredible. I’m definitely late to the game on Logic, but this album blew me away. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of external storytelling – that is, expressing internal feeling or personal story by telling it through a fictional character or perspective. He jumps in and out of self throughout the album, and covers some seriously meaningful topics, with a message of inclusiveness and peace. Not to mention, the guy has chops like you wouldn’t believe. Don’t care if you’re not a hip hop fan, listen to this with open mind and open ears.
sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
sleepmakeswaves continue to outdo themselves with every release. It’s so exciting to hear new ideas within the “post-rock” framework – I’ve heard people (who haven’t listened to this band) write it off as “crescendo-core” along with a lot of run-of-the-mill post-rock, but this album is so far removed from those tropes that I find it hard to even include it in the genre. There is a true energy and positivity to this album that really resonates with me, I absolutely love it.
Voyager – Ghost Mile
So this album hasn’t left my car since it was released, it’s a constant companion. Whenever I need power and positivity, Voyager are there. I know my bias is showing again, but when I hear this album I feel a sense of pride for my close friends who wrote the damn thing. It’s like they’re reaching all the way across Australia and jumping in the car with me for a while.
Leprous – Malina
It’s really hard to talk about this band, and this album in particular, without sounding like I’m resorting to hyperbole. But the fact is, these guys are literally the tightest band I’ve ever seen, and this amazing album is yet another huge step forward for them. The move away from the modern metal-style production to a more raw rock sound has only enhanced the energy and powerful melody that these guys are known for. Bonus: the vocal performance from Einar Solberg on Malina blows me away.