Exclaim!'s Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums

Best of 2017

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 1, 2017

As is our annual custom, Exclaim! has spent the past week rolling out our genre-specific album lists for the Best of 2017. It started with our Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, then we revealed our Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums. Today (December 1), we're unveiling our list of the best metal and hardcore albums of 2017.
Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums of 2017:  
10. Incendiary
Thousand Mile Stare
(Closed Casket Activities)

Although their full-length releases come in four-year intervals, Long Island hardcore unit Incendiary make each one well worth the wait. With Thousand Mile Stare, the band have their songwriting groove, pushing the limits of everything that made their previous work great: the rhythms are technical without feeling forced, Brendan Garrone's vocal delivery and lyricism hit harder than ever before and the songs build to unbelievable peaks without becoming predictable or stale.
With this new record the band have set an absurdly high bar not only for themselves, but also for the rest of the hardcore world.
Branan Ranjanathan
9. Dying Fetus
Wrong One to Fuck With

Dying Fetus set new expectations for extreme music in 2012 with Reign Supreme, considered by many to be a key milestone in their legacy. This year, Wrong One to Fuck With showcased the band continuing to set their sights high without compromising the simple necessities of death metal.
25 years into their career, the trio continue to blend intricate technical passages with lacerating slam metal, with abrasive vocals and chaotic breakdowns throughout. It's the way death metal has been done for decades, but with a pervasive ache that cements Dying Fetus as one of the most important presences in the genre.
Connor Atkinson
8. Immolation
(Nuclear Blast)

Immolation bring a redoubled ferocity to their latest album, Atonement; it takes mere seconds from the record's onset for the dissonant death metallers to set the tone for the journey to come.
The music flows seamlessly, delivering a landscape of devastation that feels like the soundtrack to the apocalypse. From a distance the music is gargantuan, instruments veering and lurching together like a lumbering agent of Armageddon, but in the details are tantalizing micro-performances by every member, and the type of technical complexity that can only be achieved from many years of honing one's craft. 
Gripping and relentless, Atonement leaves a smouldering path of destruction in its wake.
Chris Bubinas
7. Mastodon
Emperor of Sand

Many listeners wondered whether Mastodon would ever return to their progressive metal roots following the more straightforward, rock-leaning sounds exhibited on The Hunter and Once More 'Round the Sun. Thankfully, Emperor of Sand found the group bucking that trend in weighty fashion, both musically and emotionally.
Producer Brendan O'Brien, who produced the band's 2009 prog-indebted opus Crack the Skye, helped them find the strongest balance of instrumental mastery and might that they've cut to tape yet. Emperor's conceptual themes of time, life and death also come from a personal place, inspired by the band's family members' battles with cancer.
Calum Slingerland
6. No Warning
Torture Culture
(Last Gang)

Hardcore is a lot of things — loud, heavy, angry, aesthetically progressive and occasionally funny. No Warning understand these aspects unlike anyone else in the game, and Torture Culture, their first album in 13 years, demonstrates just how untouchable they are.
The riffs are merciless, there are hair-metal solos, Ben Cook's vocals are gruff and tough (except when they're not, and channel Alice in Chains instead) and each new song was premiered with its own line of merch. No Warning somehow represents all of hardcore at once, with all of its dazzling anger, pizzazz and winking references. Torture Culture is a redemptive return to form.
Josiah Hughes

5. Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper
(Profound Lore)

Bell Witch's monolithic single-track album Mirror Reaper is a journey through a spectrum of raw emotions dedicated to late founding member Adrian Guerra.
The record ebbs and flows from heights of funereal doom majesty to drawn out spans of minimalism without ever losing the heart that propels it. Across a whopping 83 minutes, Bell Witch transport the listener to a realm painted in tones both sombre and, at times, celebratory; amidst the crowding darkness are vocals from Guerra's himself, recorded prior to his passing, instilling the music with a power that few artistic endeavours can claim.

Mirror Reaper is not only a monument to a friend, but a testament to the true power of art and its ability to transcend even death.
Brayden Turenne
4. Full of Hell
Trumpeting Ecstasy
(Profound Lore)

That rare band that appeals to hardcore kids, punks and metalheads (see also: Converge), Full of Hell broadened their appeal to even the most stiff-necked of headbangers with Trumpeting Ecstasy, upping the inclusion of death metal and grindcore influences throughout.
The quartet got interesting experimentations out via this year's collaboration with the Body — the second in as many years — but it's clear that when the four members are more insular (with the occasional guest, here in the form of Nicole Dollanganger on the title track), something truly special happens. Just about the only thing missing from Ecstasy is an actual trumpet — or maybe it's buried somewhere in this dense, rewarding album.
Bradley Zorgdrager
3. Code Orange
(Roadrunner Records)

Hardcore heavyweights Code Orange surpassed even their own high standards with Forever, adding industrial metal, nu-metal and alt-rock elements to the dissonant, crushing breakdowns that have become their modus operandi.
The band display masterful tension building throughout the album, using stop-start riffs that lead to enormous breakdowns, adding to the record's disturbing atmosphere. The use of glitched-out sound effects and harsh noise contribute further to the discomfort Code Orange create, serving jarring moments that lead back to brutality. Forever marks a huge achievement for the band, launching their career to an all-time high and setting them on a path to lead hardcore music for years to come.
Joe Smith-Engelhardt
2. Power Trip
Nightmare Logic
(Southern Lord)

Not since the early '90s has a thrash metal release been in the conversation for best metal album of the year, so it's no small feat that Power Trip, who have reintroduced thrash metal to listeners without having to pander to '80s nostalgia, have made an album worthy of just that with Nightmare Logic.
While the sound is undeniably thrash, Power Trip infuse the old with a touch of new by adding hardcore into the mix. The result is merciless and gruelling, but will set your fists clenching, your face contorting and your head a-bangin'. Nightmare Logic is an absolute must-hear for any self-proclaimed metal head, old-school or new.
Lukas Wojcicki
1. Converge
The Dusk in Us

Converge are one of those bands from whom quality releases are simply to be expected — especially at this point in their flawless, decades-spanning career. Yet somehow, they still manage to surpass even the highest of expectations. Case in point: this year's stellar The Dusk in Us. The new offering marks the metalcore legends' ninth album to date and captures their distinct sound while highlighting their penchant for avant-garde, unorthodox touches.
Once again recorded by the band's Kurt Ballou at his GodCity Studio, The Dusk in Us features all of the chaotic intensity and vicious grit that make Converge instantly recognizable. Jacob Bannon's indignant, corrosive bark sets the emotionally raw tone right from the start with "A Single Tear," while Ballou's unpredictable, angular guitar work mesmerizes throughout the release.
Dark atmospheres and droning tones juxtapose their explosive metallic hardcore delivery and unrelenting aggression, which evince the band's ability to continually progress, hone their sound and improve with each release. The Dusk in Us is yet another gem to add to their immensely influential catalogue, and another clear example of why Converge are their own special, unparalleled entity.
Denise Falzon

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