Monday 5 March 2018

IVM's Top 40 Releases of 2017

[Editor's Note] It has been a turbulent couple of months at IVM. The post-Christmas season has seen episodes of illness, technology issues and inevitable time off. However normal service has been resumed (hopefully) and to that effect we present our (overdue) top 40 releases of 2017. This had been scheduled for the end of January, but after several weeks of madness we're just getting it online today. Thanks for bearing with us and enjoy - Sean

With 2017 a now a fading memory of political turmoil, social upheaval and high-profile perverts, we can at least look back at the year's musical output and say that it was a great one. Across all the genres we cover here at Intravenous Magazine we've seen some genuinely outstanding releases from a huge variety of bands and artists. As is the custom, we've put together a list of 40 notable releases from the previous twelve months that we think are worthy of praise.

As always the format of our best of is not set, and in no particular order of rank or genre bias, but this is a selection of highlights you may have enjoyed, or even missed first time round. So without further ado here is this year's countdown.

Chelsea Wolfe – 'Hiss Spun'

This is another great outing from Chelsea Wolfe. She has more than proved over the last few albums she has what it takes to be a major artist. Her experimentation with styles and genres always yields strong results and 'Hiss Spun' is no different. Dark, heavy, but hauntingly beautiful, this is the sound of an artist at the top of their game.

Godflesh – 'Post Self'

After three decades Godflesh's brand of mechanical nightmares seem more relevant than ever. As the digital age rages one, the cathartic din of 'Post Self' is the soundtrack to the inevitable descent towards the singularity. Their trademark sounds intact the album is a relentless exorcism of mechanical hostility that only they could conceive and execute.

3Teeth – 'Shutdown.exe'

'Shutdown.exe' is a great album, and 3Teeth have grown as songwriters and performers to fulfil the expectations that their début hinted at. It is authentic, and full of conviction. There is still plenty of room for growth to consolidate their musical identity and it would be interesting to hear how they can incorporate more experimental ideas in the future and try to beyond their mid-tempo comfort zone. But in the here and now this has to be a contender for album of the year.

Zola Jesus – 'Okovi'

A stunningly anxious blend of industrial infused gothic-pop, 'Okovi' delves into dark waters exploring themes of loss and mortality. Heavy going but one that throughout pulls the listener back into the light. Danilova has matured into an incredible artist capable of utterly captivating songwriting, and this album showcases some of her best so far.

Grave Pleasures – 'Motherblood'

'Motherblood' is another brilliant album from a band who seem to be on an unstoppable rise. They have effectively evolved and consolidated their sound without losing sight of what it was that initially made them stand out. So far every one of their albums has been worthy of being called a classic, and 'Motherblood' is no exception.

Nine Inch Nails – 'Add Violence'

'Add Violence' perhaps defaults back to some safer territory for Reznor and Ross after the dissonant noise of 'Not The Actual Events'. It still feels experimental, as though they are continuing to exorcise their sonic demons. But this time around, more so than the last, it feels like these were originally destined for other things, but have been reworked and re-imagined to fit this narrative. It's certainly a good EP, recognisably NIN and utilising some tried and tested set pieces, but still an infectious listen.

Laibach – 'Also Sprach Zarathustra'

Anyone that has followed the career of Laibach won't be surprised by this album, in so much as with spectre being such a commercially friendly album that wrapped their subversive nature in dance rhythms and Wagnerian pop melodies, it seems natural that they would follow it up with a more experimental and less user-friendly release. Such is the joy of a group like Laibach, you can't make assumptions or take things for granted.

Marilyn Manson – 'Heaven Upside Down'

Those expecting a direct sequel to '… Emperor' may be disappointed, but Manson doesn't deal in direct sequels. As long-time fans will know, each of his albums is a self-contained and very individual piece in its own right. Here he may be casting an eye back to what worked well on recent albums, and trying to channel the “fuck you” attitude that put him on the map. But it is with a mature and considered eye that shows a strength in his current partnership with Bates, and ultimately it works. More so, it shows that Manson is just as relevant in 2017 as he was 20 years ago.

Gary Numan – 'Savage (Songs From A Broken World)'

On 'Savage' Gary Numan channels a career's worth of songwriting expertise into a conceptually and musically heavy album. After 40 years and 20 other full-length albums it would be easy for the pioneer of synthpop to simply rest on his laurels. But he doesn't. Instead he continues to break new ground and walk down the darker and more industrial path he's been on over the past few albums. Apocalyptic narrative aside this is one of Numan's strongest outings in years.

David Bowie – 'No Plan'

The EP shows that Bowie still had more in the tank creatively before his untimely death. There are more tracks rumoured to be unreleased from the 'Blackstar' sessions, and it would have been nice if more were included here. But the 'No Plan' EP is a poignant and surprisingly energetic full stop. It would be tempting to bookend the EP with 'Lazarus' and the title track, but the emphasis on finishing on the more rock-flavoured cuts adds a reprieve from the loss. A healthier and more energetic Bowie. The Bowie that is engrained in the mind of millions that stalked the stage in outlandish outfits and make-up. The pioneered new sounds and style before others. That collaborated with underground musicians and broke down racial barriers.

Depeche Mode – 'Spirit'

Recent Depeche Mode albums have had their moments but never quite matched their output from the mid 80s to the mid 90s. But 'Spirit' bucks that trend. With a tangible fire in their bellies, the band are more stripped-back and aggressive than we've seen over the past few outings. As a result it is their most relevant and engaging album in years, and one that shows that they have a whole lot more to give.

Drab Majesty – 'The Demonstration'

Drab Majesty's ethereal and futuristic post-punk sound bends time and space with their blend of darkwave melodies, post-punk guitars and haunting atmospheres. 'The Demonstration' is a stunning second outing that sees the band solidify their status as one of the goth and post-punk scene's most promising acts.

Paradise Lost – 'Medusa'

Fans of their more commercial electronic/industrial rock and pre-2015 melodic doom releases will probably find this harder to get in to than 'The Plague Within' perhaps. But for long-time fans that have followed the band's evolution from their death doom beginnings and through their commercial height and back again will continue to find vindication and solace in the unabashed heavy doom of 'Medusa'.

Me And That Man – 'Songs Of Love And Death'

Long-time fans of Nergal's other band Behemouth may view 'Songs Of Love And Death', with its melancholic bluesy Americana, as a step too far. But it's coming from the same place as he's always drawn his inspiration, and the execution is impeccable. In the same vein as Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen but with a melodramatic satanic flair that is utterly enthralling.

Diamanda Galás – 'All the Way'

Diamanda Galás is a truly unique artist whose impressive body of work defies classification. On 'All The Way' we see the most natural presentation of Galás and her voice, set mostly to piano there is a subtlety that serves to enhance the theatricality of her vocals. The mixture of live and studio recordings shows off not only the full power of of her voice but the power of her artistic vision as she fully deconstructs and rebuilds the songs.

Ulver – 'The Assassination of Julius Caesar'

Thirteen may be unlucky for some but for Ulver it is a magic number. 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar' is a highlight within a strong discography that already includes its fair share of highlights. Fans of Ulver's earlier works definitely won't be getting the return to their roots they may still crave, and yes it would be cool to see what modern Ulver could do within the extreme/folk metal framework of their past, but that's not the point. This album is a solid and complete statement made by a group of musicians at the top of their game.

Oxbow – 'Thin Black Duke'

This is a welcome return from a band that has been sorely missed over the past several years. Their last outing, 'The Narcotic Story', may have been a tough act to follow but the band have delivered with this album. Long-time fans of the band will easily get to grips with this and it is a nice entry point to for new listeners as well. Let's just hope it's not another ten years before their next full-length release.

Boris – 'Dear'

Fans of old school drone Boris will get a kick out of the brutality of this record, but it will not alienate fans of their more psychedelic side. It is a Boris that continues to innovate and evolve, even when looking backwards. When a band's form is as fluid as theirs it's hard to say this is a return to any one sound, but it is nostalgic to a degree yet thoroughly individual. But in any case, it is another fantastic offering from the band.

iVardensphere – 'Hesitation'

'Hesitation' is another strong outing from a band that have reconciled their past with their ambitions and provides so much potential for future albums to explore. There is so much going on here but the band distil it all in a way that just works so well, and once again proves that they are a band that despite their successes still feel like they have everything still to play for.

Akercoke – 'Renaissance In Extremis'

'Renaissance In Extremis' shows exactly why the extreme metal world has been missing Akercoke. Not only is it one of the strongest albums in their discography, it also has to be one of the strongest progressive death metal albums in year. It remains to be seen whether this is the band's return or the final chapter, but it goes to show they still have a lot left to give.

Pallbearer – 'Heartless'

'Heartless' continues to see Pallbearer push their musical ideas further. The result is a sumptuous offering that chooses ambition over comfort which has produced some of the strongest songs of their career. This may divide the opinions of some long-time fans but the band have taken risks, pushed themselves and it has definitely paid off in a big way.

With The Dead – 'Love From With The Dead'

This is in many ways a tighter and more effective album that the band's previous offering. Focusing on the elements that caught a lot of people's attention and extrapolating the more esoteric parts of their sound into epic pieces. The album builds effectively on that core sound and cements their presence as an exciting act that has forged a bold identity of its own.

In The Nursery – '1961'

'1961' is another example of just what a treasure In The Nursery is. After 35 years the Humberstone brothers are still pushing boundaries, and experimenting with skill and intelligence. They are one of Sheffield's proudest musical legacies (and that is no mean feat giving the calibre of that city's musical heritage) and deserve their place in the history books.

Caustic – 'Stimulation'

This might be another curve-ball from Fanale, but there is no denying he is an artist of substance who seems to be able to assimilate different styles and genres with ease and still produce something that can only be described as Caustic. It remains to be seen as to whether this is a permanent stylistic direction, but in the here and now, 'Stimulation' is a great EP and worth your time.

Angelspit – 'Black Dog Bite'

This is a strong album. Perhaps Angelspit's strongest so far. It feels so well rounded. It's angry and punk at it's core but while the music is old school and low-fi, even downright experimental in places, it is still fresh, approachable and easy to dance to. 'Black Dog Bite' shows that Angelspit are serious hitter in the electronic music world and are still innovating with the best of them.

Android Lust – 'Berlin//Crater Vol. 2'

Berlin' is a beautifully crafted album. D'iordna has a unique mastery of sound akin to an alchemist turning base elements into gold. This album utterly reflects that skill from the song writing to the final mixdown. It's been far too long between Android Lust albums, and while this long-awaited offering is on the shorter end of the spectrum at 41 minutes, it is a beautifully succinct and complete statement. It develops ideas from the first volume further and marries more comfortably with what could be described as the Android Lust sound. The end result is fantastic.

The Eden House – 'Songs For The Broken Ones'

The Eden House are a band that all other gothic rock bands should aspire to. The veteran skills of the core members and their collaborators are beyond repute and the scope of their work is only matched by their lack of ego. The result is always something that pushes the limits of what gothic rock can be, and this is no exception.

Sidewalks And Skeletons – 'The Void'

While the album may have lost that dark and heavy presence of its predecessor, and those really cool flirtations with metal, it is still a stunning release. Lee hasn't gone in a predictable direction and so the more ethereal and ambient nature of the album feels like a curve-ball, but a welcome one nonetheless. 'The Void' is a truly beautiful album that shows excessive skills and talent behind it, and more importantly ambition. An ambition to keep reaching higher with every release, and this certainly achieves that.

Ca†hedra – 'Faithless'

Again, Ca†hedra may not have been around for a long time, but his body of work speaks for itself. Every release gets stronger and its easy to hear the skill and confidence growing. And with a pleasing combination of dark atmospheres, strong leads and addictive melodies, there's no reason why this project can't reach greater heights.

Luxury Stranger – 'Darkness Falls Upon Light'

'Darkness Falls Upon The Light' is an incredibly strong showing from the band. It ticks all the boxes for what a classic indie album should be. If it were released 20 years ago, who knows. But in 2017 it is an absolute gem that proves that if you dig below the so-called indie mainstream, you will find the really rewarding albums.

Freakangel – 'How The Ghost Became'

This is perhaps the strongest and most well-rounded Freakangel outing to date. In fact it really sounds as though they have found themselves on this album. Everything seems to have come together to create a confident, heavy album that perfectly balances their aggression with their electronic prowess. It has been a well-paced evolution to this point, but this album feels like year zero, from which they can launch a wider assault on the metal scene.

Aurelio Voltaire – 'Heart-Shaped Wound'

Voltaire has evidently pushed himself harder than ever on 'Heart-Shaped Wound' and it has definitely paid off. The album may confound expectations at first, but the strength of the songwriting and performance will quickly sweep you away. The result is one of his memorable and strongest albums in years.

Cease2xist – 'Zero Future'

'Zero Future' may only weigh in at 34 minutes in length. But in that time it packs a big punch. If Cease2Xist were a band to watch, they are now surely on their way to the top of the UK industrial pile. Despite the dark connotations of this album's title, Cease2Xist definitely has a future, and its looking pretty bright from here.

Bell Witch – 'Mirror Reaper'

This is a stunning album that really pushes what the band have done previously. It's a fitting tribute to a fallen member and a great example of uncompromising ambition is seen through to the end. Again not an album for casual listening, but one that is genuinely rewarding if you have the time to sit quietly and see it through to the end.

Grendel – 'The Age Of The Disposable Body'

'The Age Of The Disposable Body' is another great outing from Grendel. The production is the strongest it has ever been and the songwriting continues to grow in scope and ambition. The album will undoubtedly become a mainstay of, not only clubs, but also the band's live shows as well.

Myrkur – 'Mareridt'

Myrkur has finally produced the album she's been threatening to for the past few years. Finally unfettered from expectations of what black metal should be, 'Mareridt' expresses an undeniably strong artistic statement. Casting a shadow beyond genre conventions and building on her strengths, the album simply demands attention. Hopefully Bruun will continue to push forward in this direction on her next album.

Suicide Commando – 'Forest Of The Impaled'

On the surface it might be perplexing to some as to how van Roy's steadfast dedication to his core sound has actually kept him relevant through a myriad of musical trends coming and going. But it is his artistic integrity that fans respond to. In the case of 'Forest Of The Impaled' with the additional trimming of the fat compared to some of his previous releases, the songs sound stronger and more impactful, even when things get a bit repetitive or safe sounding, you can't help but be drawn in.

Klack – 'Do You Klack?'

With 'Do You Klack?' Fanale and Oehler give old school ebm a modern makeover, and the end result is brilliant. The beat-driven backbone, familiar synth sounds, and retro sounding sampling remind us why classic ebm was so damn infectious. But coupled with a modern production style and the knowledge of the subject matter to bring that essential fun to the fore. Hopefully there will be more from Klack in the future.

Wednesday 13 – 'Condolences'

'Condolences' firmly re-establishes Wednesday 13 at the top of the shock rock pile. The post-Murderdoll years may have seen his profile slowly cool for a while, but his commitment and the rabid following of his fans has paid off. Matching the heaviness of 'Monsters Of The Universe...' while still acknowledging his horror punk roots, this album ticks every box and then jams the pen in your eye.

Merciful Nuns – 'A-U-M IX'

Artaud Seth and his Merciful Nuns may be nine albums in but they're take on classic gothic rock filtered through their own esoteric style just keeps delivering. In only seven years they have crafted an impressive back catalogue and maintained an enviable consistency. Seth has a habit on pulling the plug on his bands so make the most of the Nuns while you can!

Those were just some of our favourites. What made your personal list in 2017? Feel free to let us know on our Facebook page HERE.

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