What can be said about this year of our Lord 2017 that is now (thankfully, in many ways) behind us? I am tempted to go on a political rant about the demise of our planet and those who inhabit it, but you don’t come here for my opinions on anything other than music, so I’ll stick to the artsy stuff.
This year proved exceptionally difficult narrowing down a list of twenty. For one thing, there weren’t really a lot of stand out, excellent albums that reached plateaus of perfection normally reserved for the Lords of the Valar. There was, however, a massive amount of albums that were very close, particularly with reference to death metal. There was a severe lack of performance in the power metal arena (although two absolute gems will grace the list below) that I found particularly disappointing. Also missing from 2017 was some stellar doom, traditional or otherwise. Although, one traditional doom album is listed below, and Old Thunder’s You Will be Hated certainly made a late effort, and Legionnaire’s Dawn of Genesis hung from very close until the end. Point is, the year could have been better. It certainly wasn’t as great at 2016, but at least it wasn’t as weak as 2014.
On the positive side, and I know a few of my colleagues have mentioned it, Last Rites got a major facelift, thanks to new ownership. Tireless efforts from most of the staff moved over 4,200 or so articles by hand, and countless IT hours were spent by Captain on the phone with Liam Neeson. The crew even squeezed in a tummy tuck on my social life when Zac(h) moved to NYC and became an integral part of my social life. Most excitingly, the plastic surgery contained some behind the scenes maintenance, by way of Ryver chat groups, that helped bring the few of us that write consistently together. In that regard, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their tireless effort in making this place so great. I must also thank, in particular, Danhammer, Captain and Andrew Edmunds (aka Andy Almonds) for their shared obsession with all things musical, especially those outside the genre of metal. You might find this shocking, but behind the scenes we spend pretty much every minute of every single day talking about music, including pretty much every genre ever invented (except polka). So thanks to all the hosers around this place that make waking up each morning worth it.
Gosh, I feel dirty after all that sap. Mostly sticky. Kind of hungry. So, one more note on 2017 before I shut up and let you look at the pretty pictures, because I know you only came here to glance at the list and then run to social media to call me a poser. I just want to thank all the readers and all the people that stuck with us while we changed over from our old web host to our beautiful new site. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2018, including a big meet-up and hangout at Maryland Deathfest, and I hope you are too.
Now, onto the good stuff!
20. Slow – V-Oceans
• In a year bereft of quality doom, Slow stood out not only as a great doom record, but as one of the better funeral doom albums recorded since Evoken released Atra Mors. Fortunately, this bad boy will be seeing a vinyl release in January 2018.
19. Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation
• Ascended Dead compose ripping, chaotic tracks of death metal fury complete with brutal vocals and riffs to match. Like some sort of bastardized Moby Dick, Ascended Dead are a Captain Ahab terrorizing the seas on an unending quest to harpoon the title of death metal supremacy.
18. Incantation – Profane Nexus
• As I said, it was an odd year for metal that was made all the more odd by some stalwarts of the genre, like Incantation, continuing their resurrection with another absolutely killer album. Their last three have been exceptional, and Profane Nexus put another tale in the legend that is Incantation.
• Last Rites review
17. Forsaken – Pentateuch
• Beefs with the production value aside, lying beneath is one of the strongest traditional doom albums of the year, and one that sits on this list not only because of its standout among its genre, but because of its overall brilliance. A remaster wouldn’t hurt, though.
• Last Rites review
16. Necrot – Blood Offerings
• Like death metal karate, Necrot chopped its way through my skull and jabbed a five-fingered death grip directly into my brain. One of the years strongest offerings among the genre that gave us by far the most offerings.
• Last Rites review
15. Leprous – Malina
• Their 2017 effort is a beautiful work of progressive genius effortlessly combining beautiful passages highlighted by Solberg’s flawless voice with emotionally moving instrumental undulations. Malina is truly an album for all occasions with enough depth to suit any state of mind.
14. Seven Kingdoms – Decennium
• In a year particularly bereft of power metal, there were two standout albums. One was Seven Kingdoms, which features the powerful voice of Sabrina Valentine. Decennium is something that Florida can actually be proud of; after giving the world vape shops, it appears that Seven Kingdoms is their way of apologizing.
• Last Rites review
13. Succumb – The Initiate
• Many people like to make arguments that good music should always be pushing the boundaries. If those people want to make that argument with regards to death metal, they can look to the marvelous work of San Francisco’s Succumb. This album rules.
• Last Rites review
12. Cult of Erinyes – Tiberivs
• While sadly looking like the end of the line for Mastema’s work with the two-man act, it was one hell of a way to go out. Combining atmosphere with eerie sampling and seamless compositional precision, this is one heck of an experience.
• Last Rites review
11. Acephalix – Decreation
• Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs.Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. In an endless cavalcade of tremendous death metal, Acephalix fits right in with the best. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs.Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs.Riffs. Fans of old school death metal, riffs and slamming their head into a wall will be excited to spin this one relentlessly, letting the riffs, rhythmic vocals, precise guitar work and energetic drumming keep them awake for weeks. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs. Riffs until death.
• Last Rites review
TOP TEN OF 2017
10. Unleash the Archers – Apex
Apex is one of those albums where your favorite track will change with each listen. Every track a perfect composition in and of itself. It’s a complete album littered with slick riffs, solos that would make a prog-guitarist quiver and most importantly, a vocal performance that simply slays. I may have giggled when the promotional email urged me to raise my fist in the air and scream, “all hail heavy metal!” Yet, after thirty or more spins it’s here I kneel at the altar of Brittney Slayes prepared to wield a sword, battle axe and gauntlet against any force that stands in her way. In fact, I feel it, so why not? And, so it is thus, I stand here before the flaming bonfire that is Unleash the Archers and scream “ALL HAIL HEAVY METAL!”
9. Tomb Mold – Primordial Malignity
The past 18 months have been chicken-and-waffles levels of good for death metal. And during that span, many bands have tested the waters with demos, splits, and EPs. None, however, delivered beyond expectations like Tomb Mold. Their highly anticipated LP simply ripped the lid off their graveyard brand of death metal and spewed forth whatever junkyard demon adorns their cover. Thick riffs, bludgeoning drums, diaphragm-damaging vocals and absolutely masterful compositional dynamics make Primordial Malignity the assurance that Tomb Mold has the potential to be the death metal band of our dreams. Oh yeah, and as if this wasn’t enough, check the EP list below for another sick release from these rotten zombies.
8. Evilfeast – Elegies of the Stellar Wind
Evilfeast provides far more than just a soundtrack to a fictitious, fantasized lifestyle. The tracks on Elegies of the Stellar Wind are phenomenal black metal perfectly composed and produced to quickly transport your mind to the happiest of evil places. Whether your fantasy life involves murdering villagers with your fangs, riding in overstuffed carriages through a snowy pass, or merely decorating the inside of your castle, Evilfeast is there for you to provide the ambiance that your life so desperately needs.
7. Undergang – Misantropologi
Before I just go a head and copy some of my favorite sentences from my review of Misantropologi I have a confession to make. I initially said that, while this album is great, that it wasn’t Undergang’s best. I take it back. This album, that very nearly took my #1 spot on this list, is simply perfection. Here, the boys use sees the band reaching new depths in vocals, previously unheard levels of downtuned rot and murk and plenty of vomit-inducing rhythms. Yet somehow, through all the coagulated excrement Undergang remains true to their metal overlords: the riff and the groove.Fans of raw sewage, rotting whale carcasses and plague-riddled elderly will be lining up at their local record shop to pick up a moldy, soggy copy of Misantropologi. Don’t be afraid to muscle your way through them. Only those who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty will appreciate the subtleties of Misantropologi.
6. Krolok – Flying Above Ancient Ruins
It was a heck of a year for Slovakia (music-wise, I don’t pay attention to their politics or whatever but they do make good wine), but when all was said and done Count Von Krolok soared above many other black metal releases while imposing his black metal dominance over the mountainy landscape, sucking blood and souls from the infidels. The album is full of traditional blackened metal riffs with bouncy, garage-like drums filtered through production that feels intimate–as if the Count’s fangs are about to sink into your flesh. Flying Above Ancient Ruins has a vibe that just won’t quit–and many staffers succumbed to the infection. (And, it goes without saying that more than a few of us had a serious art-boner for the hellacious cover.)
5. Pagan Altar – The Room of Shadows
It’s hard to speak about Pagan Altar without falling victim to a diatribe honoring the legacy, and brilliant vocal work, of Terry Jones (R.I.P.). Although recorded years ago, it was Alan Jones that thought the album needed a facelift every but Terry’s vocal work. He brought in Diccon Harper and Andy Green and the result was a legendary Pagan Altar album that not only paid homage to the late Terry Jones but also further enhanced the reputation of Pagan Altar. Always somewhat of an underground act despite their genius, The Room of Shadows should catapult the band from the recesses of your brain to the part of your brain that makes your heart function. Traditional heavy metal doesn’t get much better.
4. Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape
Denmark has two albums in my top 10. And they should be proud. Phrenelith’s Desolate Endscape is a masterpiece that also battled with all its might for a top spot on this here list. The closing track, “Channeling a Seismic Eruption” was my second favorite death metal track of the year (behind one listed below). Phrenelith ended up in my top 5 not only because of my superior ear and discerning ability but because the band does everything that death metal should be exceedingly well. Their riffs are diamond-carved from the coal-blackened heart of, well, name a demon. I’d like to quote my co-hort, Captain here, “Whether or not Desolate Endscape is the right fit for you depends entirely on one simple factor: do you enjoy obliterating death metal that flattens like a warhead’s hydrodynamic front, and are you tired of hearing it delivered by lunkheads who wouldn’t know Onward to Golgotha if it landed on their face at the end of a shovel. If so, Phrenelith has you clobbered.” Press play and get clobbered or suffer the embarrassment.
3. Horn – Turm am Hang
I could rant and rave about the music on this album, and how terrific it is, and good lord those riifs, and how it’s a great step forward not only for black metal but also for German black metal, but it’s better if you just listen to the album. The inclusion of outside influences, particularly RIFFS, something that is lacking in much of today’s murk-core-swamp-metal. That’s something that will not only excite the Last Rites crew but also metalheads worldwide. This is the coming together of the Grand Magus, Manilla Road, Brocas Helm and Eternal Hammer crowd with the Waldgefluster, Isengard, Drudkh and Skogen crowd. And what a mixed marriage it shall be. (And, as a final note, can we please get some new Cross Vault material in 2018?)
2. Paradise Lost – Medusa
Imagine being as good as Paradise Lost for as long as Paradise Lost. It’s really hard to fathom. Yet, here in 2017, nearly thirty years into their career, they somehow continue to get better. Medusa is on par with anything the band has released in its past thanks in part to the marvelous production value of the album. It’s a brilliant blend of doom, death and goth that fans of almost anything loosely related to those genres should appreciate. It’s hard to believe that Paradise Lost has managed to return to their pure sound while avoiding the mainstream, mall-metal crowd given how absolutely perfect their sound is and just how many bands in that scene would give their favorite body part to sound this good. If you’re not listening to Paradise Lost, particularly in these chilly winter months (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) what are you doing with your life?
1. Venenum – Trance of Death
It’s no surprise that my number one album of 2017 was also our team’s number one album of 2017. Trance of Death is a bulletproof work of death metal brilliance. In fact, “Trance Of Death Part II – Metanoia Journey” is the single best song I heard this entire year in any genre. The inclusion of rototoms adds an atmospheric element to the mix that just absolutely launches this record into the highest echelon of death metal supremacy and immortality. If you haven’t heard this album yet, I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock in the Australian outback hiding from roving gangs of marauding psychopaths cranked up on homemade meth and Four-Loko. And, if that’s the case, I guess I’m sorry for your plight but I still simply will not excuse the omission. Click the link below and press play immediately. Your mental health and medical future depend on it.
TOP FIVE EPS OF 2017
5. Lihhamon – Iron Hands of Domination (Demo)
• The demo, entitled Iron Hands of Domination, sees Lihhamon bumping up their production value and veering off towards the more death metal aspects of their prior compositions. The tempo is chaotic, the screams more exasperated and the overall tone of the three original compositions more desperate than earlier works. Which, when you really sit down with it, is an exciting development as not all bands have the ability to hold up under pristine production conditions. It’s often that the muddied production masks inaccuracies and sloppiness that young bands tend to be plagued with. That’s absolutely not the case with Lihhamon.
4. Fetid – Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot
• I pretty much feel like the band name and album title say all that needs to be said about this banger. Regardless, this is another promising demo in a year of promising demos, this time from Seattle, Washington. Featuring two members of Cauterized, Fetid bounces between a well-balanced composition style of the sludgier death metal and more blistering, straight-forward attack complete with whammy-squeals and absolutely banging riffs. This demo provides a more than promising look at what is hopefully to be the future for the trio (and is released on cassette, as is the vintage, campy format du jour). Providing all that metal has to offer, Fetid deftly tosses in nostalgic breaks of synth/keys and 80s drum beats–a Stranger Things take on death metal. And if Fetid exists only in The Upside Down, I hope to breach the barrier ASAP and catch a live show. Because well, of all the non-polished death metal vomited upon the year of 2017, Fetid perhaps show the most promise of an exciting future.
3. Daeva – Pulsing Dark Absorptions
• Philadelphia’s Daeva features current and former members of Crypt Sermon, Trenchrot, Infernal Stronghold, and a few others. So, you know, they’ve got all the street cred a Philadelphia gang needs to harass out-of-towners while hanging from the lampposts that line South street. Apparently, in very unphilly style, they choose to harass everyone by climbing within their audio listening device. Their infectious blackened thrash is sure to make you swing your hips in violent motion or at least pump enough adrenaline into your veins to cause panicked vomiting. Just listen to the fucking EP already!
2. Tomb Mold – Cryptic Transmissions
• Tomb Mold simply won’t be denied a slot among any top list. Not content to merely ride the success of their LP, they also threw together this little two song cassette tape thing. And guess what… it’s fucking awesome. The Toronto death outfit really does it all including brilliant live performances leaving the crowd drenched in sweat. Not listening to Tomb Mold would make you an idiot. So, I ask you, are you an idiot? If the answer is ‘yes,’ please stop reading and consult a medical physician. If the answer is ‘no’ then click the link and listen to the god damned album.
1. Hyperdontia – Abhorrence Veil
• ‘Twas a banner year for death metal from Denmark. Not to be overshadowed by a few brilliant LPs, Hyperdontia released a ripping two-track EP of pure death metal fury. Their only release to date, Abhorrence Veil provides around eight minutes of well-balanced death metal using a myriad of vocal attacks from whispers to abdominal grunts with all the talent you’d expect from someone who provides vocals for Phrenelith and Undergang. The guitars use multiple attack methods from quickly-picked spiraling riffs to sludgy, thick more rhythmic riffs. It’s a beyond exciting beginning for a band showing all the promise in the world.
TOP 20 NON-METAL ALBUMS OF 2017
As I said above, and as some of my colleagues have previously mentioned, 2017 was one heck of a year outside the metal genre. If you bothered to look, you would have found that numerous genres provided a plethora of delights from which to choose. Many of those delights were brought to my attention by people behind the scenes here at Last Rites. It’s why I thanked Dan, Andy and Captain in my intro. Those three worked tirelessly to point my compass in the direction of non-metal gems from around the world and across every genre. In particular, there was a cavalcade of tremendous jazz, a welcome surprise to this former jazz musician.
20. Colter Wall – Colter Wall
• It’s genuinely hard to believe that this voice comes out of this man. This thin, innocent looking cowboy from Alberta, Canada has a voice somewhere between Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt with a touch of Tom Waits’ gravel thrown in for good measure. His songs are simple, haunting and completely enticing thanks to his voice underlaid by his six-string. This is the beginning of what looks like a very exciting career.
• Official Website
19. SZA – CTRL
• Coming off like Jhené Aiko attempting to do some laid back Rihanna tunes, SZA bridges the gap in style marvelously. Despite her name, there’s no evidence that SZA is a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. In fact, last time I applied I was informed that Wu-Tang was not accepting new members. I’ll keep trying. And, I hope, for our sake, SZA keeps making music at this level. Featuring Kendrick Lamar (who seems to be everywhere these days) Travis Scott and Isaiah Rashad (as well as an interlude with James Fauntleroy) SZA has been placed in elite company early in her career. And that’s for a reason. Her talent is apparent and the production is perfectly attuned to her laid back style of the new mainstream.
• Official Website
18. Danish String Quartet – Last Leaf
• There was a time in this world when people actually sat around, in groups, and listened to the music. I mean, they really listened. They didn’t interrupt with conversation or gossip. They didn’t take time to tweet about what they were doing. And they only discussed the music they had just experienced when it was complete. Last Leaf recalls that time where the music, so transformative in its art, was the focal point of the social gathering. So, even if you don’t have any friends with which to try this practice, please just listen to this album because it’s beautiful.
• NPR Review
17. Jussi Lehtonin – Move On
• It seems that Finland has quite a jazz scene in addition to their legendary status as the country of metal. With the band’s roster sounding more like a junior hockey team (Jussi is joined by oonatan Rautio,Teemu Viinikainen, Aki Rissanen and Jori Huhtala) it’s natural to use bias to write off this album. But, that would of course be silly because you would miss out on this breakout performance.
16. Quicksand – Interiors
• I have previously admitted that I did not have high expectations for this album. Quicksand’s reunion struck me as another emo band that was popular in the 90s attempting to make a comeback and some quick cash. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Interiors is a fresh take on the Quicksand sound with cleaner, less aggressive vocals and a songwriting style to match. The emotions come less from raw openness and more from musicianship, compositional ability and a wholly pleasing trip across this album. Thank you, Quicksand, for the pleasant surprise.
15. Ron Miles – I am a Man
• Ron Miles has made no effort to hide his political standings behind his music. The album title, taken from an African-American workers 1968 strike placard, combined with his unabashed compositional demand to intertwine the roots blues and gospel into the ever growing tree of contemporary jazz are as apparent as ever. Joined by the likes of Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Brian Blade and Thomas Morgan the album is an intertwined mix of both thematic composition and pure improvisation. The result is a marvelously poignant photograph of African American history and the importance of their place in American music.
• Official Website
14. Miguel Zenón – Típico
• Coming off a few albums that looked seriously into his Puerto Rican roots, Miguel Zenón opted to return to his quarter setting with Luis Perdomo,Hans Glawischnig and Henry Cole. The result is a jazz album that feels modern while still draws on both cool jazz and hard bop / bebop as it roars through the speakers. The compositions are earnest, simple and altogether perfect for his Joe Henderson-esque take on saxophone transposed to the alto. With some frenetic soloing and cool breaks, this is an album that should please a wide array of jazz fans.
• Official Website
13. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
• A lot of people love Ulver. Which is awesome because, you know, they are great. A lot of people unfortunately just lump them in as some sort of Depeche Mode band. Well, they aren’t that. They did release two awesome albums this year full of electronic backing, careful lyrics and damn fine vocals. For bonus Ulver check out this EP as well. While similar to preview Ulver releases, The Assassination of Julius Caesar is their most complete, and best work, in over a decade and will likely figure highly in their overall discography. Dance!
12. Unsane – Sterilize
• I’ve seen Sterilize on more than a few year end lists that claim to encompass exclusively metal. Well, Unsane is not metal. They are the absolute Kings, Queens, Lords and Dukes of noise rock. Sterilize continued their heavy, wall-of-sound approach without upsetting the palate that was worked so exquisitely for them over the years. In the never-ending world of turmoil and shit it’s always a good time to get into Unsane or expand your catalogue. Their soundtrack is prescient, falsely comforting and altogether rocking. Sterilize is certainly in the second tier of “A” releases, the 90s are long behind Unsane. But, like every post 2000 release there are plenty of high points, almost zero low points and a commitment to solid, undulating composition of the whole that Sterilize deserves a place on your shelf if not in your heart.
11. Joan Shelley – Joan Shelley
• Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Joan Shelley composes earnest and beautiful folk songs. Now on her sixth album she should be ready to get the due she has been owed for her hard, and largely brilliant, work since 2011. Using the self-titled album name as an eponymous foreshadowing, these songs feel intimately personal as she gives you a look into love and loss. Feel free to curl up with some relaxing tea and let Shelley sing you into nirvana.
10. Depeche Mode – Spirit
• The fact that Spirit is the single most politically charged album to grace this list comes as somewhat of a surprise. Often content to deal with the dregs of life and the sadnesses that ruin us has made Depeche Mode massively successful. But, in 2017, they turned to the political downturns of the world and spoke honestly about the society they hope to live in. But, it’s not merely the lyrics that make Spirit so great. The albums success is thanks to the tried and true method of Depeche Mode’s longstanding compositional greatness. The songs are groovy, haunting, dark and immensely hummable. Outpacing their last few albums, Depeche Mode certainly turned back the clock for this album which we will eventually look upon as a classic.
• Official Website
9. Shakira – El Dorado
• It’s a well known fact around Last Rites that my wife and I like to dance late into the night (as long as it’s in the privacy of our own home of course). This year, Shakira (along with a few other brilliant Reggaeton releases like Nicky Jams‘ Fénix) provided the majority of that soundtrack. Shakira is proof that the Fountain of Youth exists somewhere and she has imbibed its marvelous elixir. This album is thoroughly entrancing, wonderful to listen to and even better to dance to.
8. Jay-Z – 4:44
• Whichever way you slice it, and regardless of what some other journalists have said, Jay-Z will forever be in the argument of greatest rapper of all time. With his 2017 effort, 4:44 (the cryptic title that could mean anything) seemingly a response to Beyoncé’s brutally honest Lemonade (2016) Jay-Z rips the mask off, as well as a few band-aids, and reveals what could be his most “real” album to date. Dealing with issues of race, wealth, faithfulness, fatherhood and our ever-changing society, Jay-Z invites you into what is his actual reality in 2017 as a media mogul, highly respected and highly criticized public figure.
7. Trio Mediaeval & Arve Henriksen – Rímur
• Washing over you like a fine tea slowly seeping into the innards of your belly-places, Rímur provides more than an hour of Norwegian chanting accompanied by some jazz trumpet and it’s a match made in Valhöll. Picture a wood cabin, snow softly landing on the roof, a fire burns inside and you’re laying on a massive bear rug high on hallucinogenics and opioids and you’ll have an idea of just how pleasing and relaxing this marvelous work of art is.
• NPR – Songs We Love
6. Vijay Iyer Sextet – Sextet
• Vijay Iyer has been a name floating around jazz circles for a number of years. He’s an honest player with bold compositional skills and a flare for the somewhat dissonant. Joined by Graham Haynes (who even makes a flugelhorn sound OK), Steve Lehman, Mark Shim, Stephan Crump and Tyshawn Sorey the compositions swirl, pitch and dive like weather patterns allowing just enough breathing room for crooked and curious solos attempting to keep up with avant-garde chord changes. It reminds me of a more modern take on the compositional style of Duke Pearson (if that makes any sense). Regardless, this is one heck of a tour du force.
5. Lee Ann Womack – The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone
• If you’re a friend of mine who likes music of any genre it’s likely that I’ve forced you to listen to this album at least once since its release date. Womack’s return to music in 2014 saw her relying on her traditional country roots and adding touches of rock. In an interview (linked below) Womack said she wanted to show people that country music, at its roots, contained a whole bunch of soul and I can attest that she provided that. The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone is a testament to the legacy of country music in America and the music that gave birth to it. This album will make you cry, think and most likely sing along even though almost no one on the planet has a voice as good as hers.
• NPR Review
4. Jason Isbell & the 400 – The Nashville Sound
• Jason Isbell provided two things this year. One is this brilliant album and the second is a refreshingly outspoken, honest liberal take on politics coming from a well-respected country musician. (And, unlike the Dixie Chicks he wasn’t silenced. I wonder why?) Well, we’re here to talk about the album and Nashville Sound is certainly a remarkable one. Bringing back his 400 Unit band, and adding amazing vocals from his wife (a brilliant singer/songwriter on her own as well) Amanda Shires provided a socially thick attack that perfectly accompanied Isbell’s honest lyrical style and simple-yet-effective composition. Whatever genre you call home, this album will be pleasing to your ears.
• Tiny Desk Concert
3. Solor Dolorosa – Apollo
• Hello, friend. I would like to let you know that many of us on staff absolutely flipping adore this album. And, despite the departure of a few members this year, we are pleased that the vocalist and bassist will be carrying on what is the most exciting band in goth rock today. It’s no doubt that Apollo is the best, most complete, work to date for Soror Dolorosa. And, contrary to rational opinion, the fact that Apollo is more than an hour long is a gift from the dark gods. So laugh, love, romance, die and consume soft red wines.
• Last Rites Review
2. The XX – I See You
• The XX are, in my opinion, pretty much perfect. The interplay between Rome Madley Croft and Oliver Sim is enticing and androgynous all backed by mega-producer Jamie Smith aka Jamie xx. For their third album, I See You, the band turned things up a notch adding some house beats to their sensual, sexy and dark palate. Fans of their first album will certainly cry foul but people who are not miserable sacks of shit will realize the fun involved in this album and will dance along to their somber, dulcet vocals and dark wave style bass/guitar combo.
• Official Website
1. Bjork – Utopia
• If I was making a list of my favorite vocalists of all time (and you know I love to make lists) Bjork would unquestionably land within the top 5. Right up there with Ella and Billie and Anita. Her voice is not only powerful and pitch perfect but it’s unique and her delivery is enchanting. Like my colleague Dan, I hear a whole bunch of Vespertine in this release but equally as much Medusa. Not surprisingly two of my favorite Bjork albums. Dan nailed it when he said, “Bjork is a goddamned international treasure.” I concur heartily and would add Utopia to the list of treasures that she has bestowed upon the world with her heart-wrenching voice and brilliant lyrical twists. Utopia is easily the best album she has released in a number of years and is thus my number 1 album of the year outside the metal genre. And, how flipping cool is it that she uses Bandcamp?