Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best of 2017: top 50 songs of the year

Once again we have reached the end of the year, and I am once again sitting here wondering where all the time went. Every year seems to go by faster and faster, and before you blink, Christmas is over and New Years Eve is just around the corner. Slow down please!

Anyway, as always, I have two lists to offer, top 20 best albums and top 50 top songs, and yes, the top 50 list was once again incredibly frustrating to create. It all starts with a "short" list of 150 songs that I not only have to trim down to 50, but also rank. It is not an easy task, but I do it every year so I can feel some kind of accomplishment at the end of it all. As usual, the rules are that the songs have to be released this year, no covers, no re-releases, and one song per band/artist (which means that Samael's fantastic cover of "Helter Skelter" by The Beatles is not eligible for the list).

So let us get to it, here are my top 50 songs of 2017.

50. Atlas Pain - Ironforged
If these newcomers keep on delivering nice folk metal like this, I might just keep an eye on them in the future.

49. Nova Collective - Dancing Machines
Top instrumental song of the year, jazzy goodness and cool guitar work aplenty.

48. Keldian - Crown of Starlight
The "never ending" ending turns this song from good to brilliant.

47. SikTh - Riddles of Humanity
Good to see SikTh back, doing what they do best.

46. Pentakill - Mortal Reminder
Riff of the year right here, and the almighty Jorn spices things up even more

45. The Dark Element - My Sweet Mystery
It may sound like Nightwish, but it still has tons of great energy.

44. Jorn - Life On Death Road
Classic Jorn, gotta love it.

43. Edenbridge - Shiantara
That opening is marvelous. Rest of the song is not as good, but is still really nice.

42. Vintersorg - Tillbaka Till Källorna
Vintersorg never disappoints, and since I am Swedish, I can even appreciate the lyrics!

41. The Raven Age - Angel In Disgrace
A band with an Iron Maiden son, with a song that is pretty epic for a normal modern metal tune.

40. Kreator - Totalitarian Terror
Totalitarian awesomeness, that's what it is.

39. Darkest Hour - Knife In The Safe Room
Old school Darkest Hour is the best kind of Darkest Hour.

38. Danko Jones - Let's Start Dancing
Feet, don't fail me now!

37. As Lions - Selfish Age
Another band with a Maiden son, been stuck in my mind since it was released.

36. Trollfest - Steel Sarah
Norwegian Balkan metal, it might be kind of silly, but it works... somehow.

35. Soen - Opal
Just another "Tool copy" band, but damn these guys are good.

34. The Charm The Fury - No End In Sight
A weird, but interesting, band you guys should give a chance. Love their groove.

33. Havok - Hang 'Em High
Crossover thrash when it is not even remotely trash.

32. Cyhra - Heartrage
Just like I said in the review, Cyhra is a glass of milk, but this particular sip is excellent.

31. Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence
Oh yes, feed me that violence, give me give me more!

30. Pallbearer - Cruel Road
I beat myself for not discovering Pallbearer earlier, these guys are just mesmerizing.

29. Next To None - Alone
Long metalcore song that might not suit everyone, but is worthy of a listen for the swing beat in the solo alone.

28. Labyrinth - Stardust And Ashes
A band that is overall solid, Labyrinth delivers a neat melodic attack of goodness.

27. Power Trip - Executioner's Tax (Swing of The Axe)
It is pretty hard to turn down old school thrash metal, especially when it is done this good.

26. Brothers of Metal - Fire Blood And Steel
Is it cheesy? Yes. Does it have cliches? Yes. Is it fun as hell and will make you scream till your lungs pop out? Hell yeah.

25. Enslaved - The River's Mouth
I did feel like "E" was good, but far from brilliant, yet it still has its magical moments, like this song. It is a consistent force that is nothing innovative from the band but it works really well still.

24. Leprous - From The Flame
Man, when Leprous manages to get out the emotions into the right song construction, magic is imminent. There are few people that can be as emotional as singer Einar Solberg.

23. Tankard - Don't Bullshit Us!
There is no question here, Tankard delivers no bullshit thrash metal that pounds you in the face over and over again. For a band that titled their latest record "One Foot In The Grave", they still seem pretty lively.

22. Nocturnal Rites - The Poisonous Seed
They have been gone for a while, but the Swedish power metal group Nocturnal Rites came back in big fashion this year with "Phoenix". Out of that album rises "The Poisonous Seed" as a powerful contender that shows the band at their best, that they are not done just yet.

21. Demon Hunter - Patience
No matter how mediocre the new Demon Hunter albums are, there are always one or two songs that are great, and "Patience" is another proof of that. A very satisfying piece that just feels right, nothing is misplaced or wrong, it is simply really good.

20. Grave Digger - When Night Falls
When Grave Digger turns up the speed and let themselves fly, they seem nearly unstoppable, pulling off some dominating performances. "When Night Falls" is addictive, a power house of a song that pummel its way through your ear drums. Classic Grave Digger stuff really.

19. Prospekt - The Illuminated Sky
This is a group you should definitely check out if you are a lover of progressive metal, and the title track of their sophomore effort "The Illuminated Sky" is a good example of why. It got the versatility of early Dream Theater, while also throwing in some own impressive tricks as well, giving it that all important personal touch.

18. Firewind - Ode To Leonidas
I know, I know, this song is kind of silly. The opening monologue could have been fully stolen from the movie "300", and Greeks doing Greek history is fairly predictable, but this is a return to form for Firewind, a step back to the "The Premonition" days when the band was at its best. Perfect soundtrack when you shall dine in hell.

17. Sepultura - Sworn Oath
I really enjoyed this new Sepultura record, it felt like the band got back their passion and inspiration after a couple of mediocre albums. In the top of "Machine Messiah" was "Sworn Oath", an epic assault that gave me the chills all over. The pounding vocals of Derrick Green, the frightening guitars of Andreas Kisser, and the overall feeling just makes this an impressive feat.

16. Ne Obliviscaris - Eyrie
I have been kind of hard on the Australians lately, but with their track record, how can I not be? Fortunately, "Eyrie" is a great highlight on "Urn" that shows what the band is capable of. Sure it goes on for some time (11 minutes and 51 seconds to be exact), but it does not feel long. Every bit and piece is carefully placed into a complete puzzle, creating a very beautiful track that holds up very well. Pure quality through and through.

15. The Night Flight Orchestra - Midnight Flyer
I really dislike AOR rock, so how does it come that I love The Night Flight Orchestra? It could be because of their energy, which is in full display on "Midnight Flyer", an extremely fun song that is incredibly catchy as well. It displays the 80's at its finest, while still making it sound modern and fresh. Or maybe it is because I love Soilwork singer Björn "Speed" Strid and his amazing vocals that somehow works here as well.

14. Arch Enemy - The World Is Yours
Yes, I know that this is a carbon copy of "Nemesis", in fact, the band does not even hide it, they have only confirmed it. However, when a song contains so much firepower, it is kind of hard to ignore it. Besides, I do think there is enough original flare in here to make it exciting (mostly coming from singer Alissa). Also, that ending solo is freaking amazing, one of my favourites of the year.

13. DragonForce - The Edge of The World
Biggest surprise of the year might come from the band that once was seen as a one trick pony. An eleven minute long ballad (!?) with a touch of death metal vocals. Yep, this is not your ordinary DragonForce tune, this is something special. And you know what, it works really well actually. It got a fragile nature to it that feels honest and true, and the additional surprises here and there are really nice as well. DragonForce has truly evolved these last couple of years.

12. Trivium - The Sin And The Sentence
It seems like a lot of people really loved the latest Trivium outing, and you know what, I like it a lot too (a lot more than the previous one at least). The title track especially showed all of the band's weapons, creating a typical Trivium track with tons of energy and passion. It is a song that really personifies the album, and shows that Trivium do deserve to be in the top of the league.

11. Eagleheart - Reverse
Biggest no name of this year's list, a power metal band from the Czech Republic who stole their name from one of Stratovarius' most popular songs. "Reverse" may not be one of the most original power metal songs out there, but it great from top to bottom. Great vocals, great drive, great guitar work, and even that semi awkward stuttering in the build ups does not ruin this epic experience. A really charming little song that quickly became a personal favourite of mine.

10. Marilyn Manson - Saturnalia
Why do Marilyn try to go back to the "Antichrist Superstar" days where he was Mr. Controversial? He is not that young guy anymore, embrace your age and accept it. After all, when he does do that and goes for a more laid back style, he simply sounds a lot better. "Saturnalia" is a great example of that, where he takes a fairly simple, long song and gives his own unique spin to it, coming up with true Manson magic. It is not in your face, nor is it technically impressive. It is just solid, great, smooth metal that just feels nice. Give me more of this type of Marilyn in the future, please.

9. Mechina - The Synesthesia Signal
Our own little darlings here at Forsaken At The Gates, Mechina keeps on delivering great stuff, and with every album there is this one song that just sticks with you from January 1st to December 31st. This year it is "The Synesthesia Signal", another beautiful song from the band in which they utilize Mel Rose perfectly, letting her take the charge. But the true star here is the constant rhythm that drags you in and never lets you go, those never ending drum beats that are so infectious. Another amazing song from an amazing band.

8. Ayreon - Planet Y Is Alive!
Out of all the songs on "The Source", somehow this spoke the most to me, an overly happy song that should be annoying as hell, overloading the listener with cheese. Somehow though, this song works with its joyous nature, with an emerging chorus that is more epic than it has any right to be. Every artist in here give their all and transforms this simple song into something special. Also, that ending when Tobias Sammet is doing his highest scream possible, man that gets me every time, what an incredible moment of music magic.

7. Unleash The Archers - The Coward's Way
I could have easily picked a bunch of songs from "Apex" to this list, but I ultimately ended up with "The Coward's Way", which just feels like a complete song. It is catchy, epic, got awesome vocals, a really nice guitar intro, an even better guitar solo, and even some hockey choir chanting as well. Yes, this song has it all, and it is a clear testament to what the band has done this year, and what might be a glimpse of the future. One thing is for sure though, they are not any cowards.

6. Novembers Doom - Apostasy
Novembers Doom have become a favourite of mine as of late, and with songs like "Apostasy", it is quite easy to see why. With its infectious and steady groove, the perfect blend of haunting clean and pitch black harsh vocals, and a non-catchy catchy chorus, this song stood quickly out as a front runner among the rest of the tracks in the fantastic "Hamartia" record. An amazing effort from a band that rarely fails to deliver some great death/doom metal.

5. Overkill - Our Finest Hour
No, I do not think that "The Grinding Wheel" is Overkill's finest hour, but it does have some great music, and the first single is classic thrashy goodness that is simply irresistible. Overkill goes with the "no bullshit" card, delivering classic stuff that we certainly have heard from the band before, but it still sounds just as fresh. Some might complain it is a tad bit too long, but I think it is just the right length. After all, I cannot get enough of that amazing Bobby Ellsworth and his never aging vocals.

4. Pain of Salvation - On A Tuesday
The title is one of the worst this year, but the story behind it is more impressive. Being the opener to the amazing concept record "In The Passing Light of Day", "On A Tuesday" displays the discovery of Daniel Gildenlöw's flesh eating bacteria, of the frantic emotions that went through him, and all the thoughts that came to his head. It is very hard to imagine yourself being in a similar situation, but the song does a fantastic job in delivering the utter panic and despair that one might feel. And with an ending that is so god damn epic that every hair on your body starts to rise, it becomes a proggy jawbreaker that you wanna get a taste of very often.

3. Mastodon - Words To The Wise
You can always count on Mastodon to make at least a couple of kick ass songs every new record, building up their impressive catalog. "Words To The Wise" is classic Mastodon stuff, with a fast and furious tempo that you barely can hang on to, addictive rhythm sections to make you move, but then they throw in a surprisingly calm and collected chorus into all of this madness, and it still somehow works. Actually, if nothing else, it makes it even better, a very diverse and addictive song that definitely has the muscles to bolster into the prestiged Mastodon club with ease.

2. Persefone feat. Paul Masvidal - Living Waves
I never thought that we would get anymore Cynic material after the break up, so this was a very nice surprise. Now that Cynic is back together with a new line-up, the magic of this being perhaps the last Cynic piece is gone, but the quality is still the same.

"Living Waves" is the perfect combination of Paul's hauntingly beautiful voice and the complete brutality that Persefone has perfected over the last several years, a fusion that sounds good in theory, but sounds even better in reality. Despite all of the heavy bits, it is a very calming song that you can relax to

1. Wintersun - Loneliness (Winter)
I am not the biggest Wintersun fan out there. I like the band, but I have always felt that they were over hyped, no matter what they did, never reaching the potential everyone said they have. This song however, might be the closest to that said potential.

"Loneliness (Winter)" is simply astonishing, a long ass song that has so many layers to it. The instrumentation is close to impeccable, and the emotional vocals of Jari Mäenpää sends tons of chills down my spine. It is a song that takes its time, making sure nothing is done half heartedly, and it is not afraid to go that extra mile, being bigger, becoming more epic, just flat out exaggerating a lot of aspects without losing its touch. Sure, it starts out slow, but the mood is set nicely, and it just builds up the further it goes, leading to a climatic ending that is unlike anything I have ever heard.

In short, "Loneliness (Winter)" is a grand epic masterpiece, it represents the Wintersun we want, need, and deserve. Now get "Time II" done already so we can get a chance to experience more moments like this one.

So what do you say, do you agree with my selection or is there any songs I missed? Hit me up with a comment or a tweet (@ForsakenGates), and start a discussion. My list of the top 20 albums of the year will be up later this week.

Until then, stay metal!

Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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