Best metal of 2017: 6-10

Hellbound's Best of 2017 - 6-10

Hellbound’s Top Metal Releases of the Year, part I

Twelve Hellbound contributors named their ten favourite metal releases of 2017. Kyle Harcott tallied the entries, did the math and assigned the commentaries below. You, readers, have already had the chance to see our honourable mentions – now we present to you part one of our collective ‘best of’ list: entries 10 through 6. Check back tomorrow for the final five. And stay tuned for our individual year-in-review write-ups plus our ‘best Canadian releases of the year’ lists!

In the meantime…


In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Released October 20

The prolific Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, The Gentle Storm) returns with a new solo project in the form of VUUR, a heavier, more progressive act than we’ve seen from Anneke before. Featuring a number of familiar faces including Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) and Ed Warby (Ayreon, Hail of Bullets), In This Moment… contains hook after hook, leaving you with songs stuck in your head for days afterwards. Anneke’s vocals are in prime form, ranging from soft and delicate to ferocious and powerful, while the lyrics tell stories inspired from cities from around the world. Highlights include “The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut” (I challenge you to not sing along with the chorus of this one) and “Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki.” In This Moment We Are Free – Cities is consistently catchy, with enough variation to keep you interested from the opening riff to the final fade-out. [Adam Wills]


Released March 17

It cost me almost $30 but Alunah’s Solennial is worth every quid it took to have the CD shipped over from England. My bank account really wishes it had the means for the vinyl version. I bet the fuzzed out, earthy doom of the Midlands-based group would sound even warmer on wax. Sophie Day’s bewitching vocals would cast a deeper spell. The ever-present sense of groove would become literal. For the time being I’ll settle for their soothing melodies and muscle-relaxing riffs to provide escape and clarity in a purely digital form. Alunah were quickly evolving into one of my favourite bands but now the band itself is evolving. Vocalist Day has moved on, amicably, and they’ve since found a replacement. So Solennial serves as the end of an era for the band having had Day sing on their first four albums, each one better than the last. Regardless of vocals Alunah bust out flowing, trad-style doom that has the ability to capture the soul. It’ll take more than a vocalist change to destroy a foundation that strong. For now, let’s celebrate the uncomplicated and endearing achievement that is, Solennial. Oh! And they do a Cure cover! [Matt Hinch]


Emperor of Sand
Released March 31

Stylistic, genre-bending diversity is perhaps the greatest strength of Mastodon’s seventh studio album Emperor Of Sand. Borrowing elements from various moments of the band’s recorded history, it’s a release that paints an uncompromising, 360-degree picture of the Atlanta, GA band’s musical headspace in 2017. It’s not hard to imagine a progressive ripper like “Clandestiny” fitting in snugly amongst tracks on 2006’s Blood Mountain, for example, while “Jaguar God” is an epic, multi-part journey that marries tempo with emotional resonance and storytelling in much the same way “The Last Baron” from 2009’s Crack The Skye does. While the clean vocals and hooky melodies that divided opinion on 2011’s The Hunter and 2014’s Once More ‘Round The Sun continue to dominate, the progressive nature of the songwriting and incredible displays of musical talent remain impossible to ignore. Woven together by themes of mortality and the fragility of life, Emperor Of Sand is yet another successful concept album for Mastodon, and one of this year’s best heavy releases period. [Renee Trotier]


Sweet Death and Ecstasy
(Hells Headbangers)
Released October 20

On their third full-length for Hells Headbangers, MIDNIGHT continue to perfect their formula of blackened speed that revels in the sheer excess of heavy metal. But in a day and age where what passes for “heavy metal” often has its head lodged way too far up its own ass, Athenar reminds us that half the power of heavy metal is keeping this shit FUN. And, as ripping, evil, and powerful as the songs on Sweet Death & Ecstasy are – they’re also a shitload of fun. You try listening to something like “Crushed By Demons” or “Penetratal Ecstasy”, or, for fuck’s sake, the cowbell on “Here Comes Sweet Death” WITHOUT getting a goofy grin pasted across your face (to go along with your fist in the air), and try to tell me I’m wrong. Sure, there is a time and place for the srs bzns of “arms-folded metal” but it shouldn’t ever override keeping metal fun. MIDNIGHT, like they have for three albums now, continues to set the perfect example. [Kyle Harcott]


Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper
(Profound Lore)
Released October 20

Disintegration, disorder, chaos; hope, beauty, and strength.  Mirror Reaper is a work of dualities, finding balance between inspiration and crushing heaviness.  Undoubtedly an emotional piece, it intrigues and mesmerizes over 80 minutes.  Lacing lines of deceptively simple melody into its two doomy halves, this is an album that demands focused attention and rewards it thoroughly. Haunting atmospheres taunt and provoke throughout.  Slower than slow crescendos crawl into existence amid enormous drops of controlled percussive perfection.  A dense fog of fuzz envelops you and beckons you to return for repeated listens to figure out its dark secrets. [Danielle Griscti]

Coming up: 

  • Best metal of 2017, part two: 1-5
  • Hellbound contributors’ individual top ten and year-in-review commentaries
  • Best Canadian metal of 2017
  • Contributors’ individual Canadian top tens



Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.

Keep up with all Matt's exploits on Twitter @Kingdomofnoise!

Vocals @ Hexripper | Curmudgeonly, freelance-hack shit-talker of all things metal

Contributor of photos and plenty of rambling - also on Instagram & Youtube @riffsdontlie

Laura is associate editor of and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She loves doom, prog, cats and basketball, believes in equity and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or oppression.