The first week of the new year everybody is claiming and hoping to be better than the last. I hold no such hopes so we’ll need all the metal we can get in 2017. Speaking of, I’ve got no new metal for this year as of now. Yeah, it’s always a slow fucking start every year. That should be rectified next week.

So this is what I was mostly listening to before the holiday break. I was scouring best of lists and finding some nuggets here and there. This list has a lot of non-metal releases on it too as that’s what I was mostly finding I missed out on in 2016. So, here we fucking go.

LEFT OVER 2016 JAMS: (As always, click the damn titles to hear music)

Will Varley – Kingsdown Sundown
Just some well composed, well written, singer/songwriter stuff that I’m a sucker for. His voice reminds me of somebody but I just can’t place it. Sorrowful and beautiful.

Angel Olsen – My Woman
Introspective and well crafted indie pop. Not sure if that’s the write term but I highly enjoy the diversity of sounds and ideas on this album. Not my usual cup of tea but There’s something hypnotic about the music, her voice and the overall atmosphere.

Teitanblood – Accursed Skin EP
One day Teitanblood will put out a new full length but until then they’re resigned to releasing skull crushing EPs. A little less abrasive then I’ve come to expect from this band but nonetheless pummeling. That’s what you get with Teitanblood, bone rattling, soul devouring heaviness.

Murg – Gudatall
Fucking Murg! This album is a face blasting beast! Not that their last one would have me expecting less, but combined with the slightest bit of melody and that sweet Swedish black metal flair, Murg have something awesome here.

Heavens Decay – The Great Void of Mystery
Fucking epic USA power metal in that oh so sweet 80’s, dirty style. Nothing new or original but good god, just pure power metal excess. There’s a heavy helping of NWOBHM in there as well, which makes it seem even more so caught in the 80’s but like I said, just bang your head to the awesome.

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad
It sounds pretentious, and it kind of is, but god damn I’m such a sucker for Billy Bragg and his folk/country style I’ll bite. The concept is Billy Bragg & Joe Henry recorded classic folk/country songs with stories involving trains, while they were riding on trains. The two make it work and make some simply beautiful music. I’m not familiar with Joe Henry but his voice is superb and perfectly balances with Billy Bragg’s, whose either trying a new, more American folk voice or is purposefully diminishing is unmistakable British accent, but he sounds very soulful, which isn’t something I typically associate with Bragg. That’s not a knock on him, it’s just a fact. Sure the concept is kind of ridiculous but the songs speak for themselves and the subtle train noises in the back capture the spirit incredibly. Try this out.

Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds
I remember being impressed with this duo’s previous album from 2014 so I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a new one out. This time they take their classic americana folk style and infuse it with some indie rock volume and some eclectic instrumentation, but the heart of the group, their complimentary voices and breathtaking songwriting is at the core, and man oh man, do they have some songs with the feels on this one. The last song, “This Ride” is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year, from any genre. Simply beautiful.

Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Simply, well crafted, honest country music. Seems like this kind of country is a dying breed but thankfully some artists are still staying true and crafting some wonderful, soulful music. Margo has a playful attitude to her songwriting, even with songs that are less than happy, but that adds to the charm.

Astronoid – Air
Post-metal/shoegaze/rock that is borderline black metal. If you threw some shrill vocals over it, you would think it is. Atmospheric black metal without the vocal stylings? Whatever it is, it has all the emotional highs and beauty of Vallendusk or Windfarer but with this clean vocal approach. Interesting to be sure, but a decent and somewhat different listen.

The Devils Makes Three – Redemption & Ruin
Mixing bluegrass, rockabilly, country, and folk, but only the swinging aspects of the music, The Devil Makes Three sounds “old time-y” if any band does. It could also be that the album is entirely covers. This one is just a pile of fun with a great sound.

Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Just some ridiculously fun and catchy, sci-fi themed power metal with a killer vocalist. A little lighter than I like my power metal but overall some awesome fucking fun. Oh, and that cover art. Awesome.

Drive By Truckers – American Band
I’ve never given this band much of a shot as I’ve always sort of thought Lucero dominated to alternative country market, but this album is pretty damn good. It’s less rock than Lucero is, if anything it’s more indie/folk infusion with the alt country, which gives it a good, soft vibe, allowing you to focus on the vocals, which are superbly written, political, and poetic.

Darkestrah – Turan
Darkestrah continue their epic folk black metal stylings to great affect. A little more melodic, with more focus on the structure this time around. Less furious than the last one, but it doesn’t lack intensity. Another example of a killer black metal band that incorporates their native folk music but doesn’t go fucking nuts with it.

Bethlehem – Bethlehem
Everybody is praising this new Bethlehem and claiming it is a return to form for the band. If they mean playing black metal, then yes, it is a return to form. And it’s some damn good black metal. Of course they have a new singer, this time it’s Onielar from Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, which is fitting as the singer from the first (and one of their classic albums) Andreas Classen was in Slaughtercult for a period. Anyways, her voice is killer and of course a perfect match for this kind of slightly gothed up black metal and it was nice to hear her clean vocals.

For me though, I like the weird twists and turns the band has taken of the years but this is some solid black metal. Maybe a return to form if that’s what you’re looking for, on par with Dark Metal.

Eight Bells – Landless
I’m sure there are going to be SubRosa comparisons to this band, and sure, they do play the same morose, melancholic, doomy, almost non metal metal, but Eight Bells grasps firmer at the metal banner, having moments of almost black metal like passages. It’s mood music to be sure but damn good at that.

Ellende – Todbringer
Absolutely beautiful Austrian black metal. At least that’s what it is at it’s core. This could probably end up in the “post” black metal category, and it has a ton of those transcendent qualities, but it also captures a lot of the spirit of atmospheric black metal, particularly with the nature aspect. Regardless, a fantastic, mesmerizing journey.

Hayes Carll – Lovers and Leavers
Fairly standard singer/songwriter folk music. Nothing terrible just nothing great either. Nice Lou Reed influence in his voice.

Madder Mortem – Red in Tooth and Claw
I saw this band pop up enough on year end lists to warrant giving them a try. Progressive doesn’t seem like the right description for this band unless you’re talking about the Devin Townsend school of progressive, mainly, highly infectious, light, airy, heavy music with moments of breakdown type heaviness along with some Katatonia like riffing and atmospherics, then yes, they’re progressive. However, lead singer Agnete M. Kirkevaag is a powerhouse to behold. Overall, pretty fucking fun.

Rhapsody of Fire – Into the Legend
I’m not even sure how a new Rhapsody album got by me in 2016 but it did. And sure enough, it’s a Rhapsody album, full of all the ridiculous, over the top, cheesetastic, symphonic power metal. There’s nary a sung line that isn’t backed by a choir or opera singer. This is Rhapsody. You know what you’re getting here. I’ve not been as enthused about this band since Luca’s departure but they still know how to make some awesome silly metal.

Jassa – Lights in the Howling Wilderness
Fucking hell this one fucking hits. Jassa is compromised of the main two members of the infinitely amazing Russian black metal band Sivyj Yar, and theirs an similar approach, albeit from a different direction. While Sivyj is more atmospheric and rooted in Russian history, Jassa is sheer force and fury. And mouth harp. Yup, it shows up on every song but it’s not at all banjo knee slapping feeling, it’s more organic and makes the music that much more intense. Fucking get on this band.

Kres – 40 nocy grudnia
I remember being fairly impressed with this Polish bands 2015 release. Highly atmospheric black metal with that sweet Polish, folk style, and this one is very similar to that. I’d say more focus was put on the tranquil and serene aspects of their sound, as this one is particularly beautiful. Love that tremolo picking. This one is getting lost in the year activities, but don’t pass on this one. Fucking awesome.

Withdrawal – Never
Hardcore and hardcore infused metal isn’t typically my bag but every now and then I like the brain numbing stupidity of it all and just want to hear some violent riffing. Withdrawal have that in fucking spades. Maybe more hardcore than metal but fairly straightforward for this type of music. Good for shutting your brain off too and just banging your brains out.

Loth – Loth
Beautiful, atmospheric black metal from France that doesn’t fall in with the post style that it so typical of French atmospheric black metal. Much more folky, much warmer, with an incredible acoustic, folky, final song. Good find.

The Ruins of Beverast – Takitum Tootem! EP
New Ruins of Beverast anything is getting my ears on it, even if it’s just an EP with one new song and a cover song. The new song is supposedly a hint at the new album, and god damn would I love a  new Ruins album in 2017, and it’s fucking weird, eclectic, heavy, massive, and uniquely Ruins sounding, which is to say, nobody sounds like this band. The second song is a Pink Floyd cover, “Se the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” which I’m not familiar with as I don’t like Pink Floyd at all, but they seem suited for to being Beverast-ed, and it does sound like a Ruins song, if you didn’t know any better. Overall, killer EP and I hope that new album is closer to done than not.

Death Worship – Extermination Mass
So just to give you an idea of what this sounds like the band is made up of members from Blasphemy, Conqueror, Revenge, and Black Witchery, like the cornerstone of insane “war” metal, so yeah, this is a frenzied death/black metal all out assault. It’s like the best of all these bands combined in to 20 minutes which I’m finding is just enough time for this kind of brutality. Killer if you’re up to it.

Zephaniah – Reforged
Where was all this power metal in 2016 when I was looking for it? European power metal stylings infused with a healthy dose of American style thrash and epic-ed up with all the glorious fantasy filled cheesiness one can handle. There’s a particularly epic three song series all about Mad Max. Power metal that doesn’t give a fuck. I love it.

Nordjevel – Nordjevel
Super strong, mid 90’s styled, melodic, Norwegian black metal. Nothing new under the sun here but damn if these fellows don’t just fucking make some kick ass black metal. The Slayer cover is a bit weak, but over all this is some well flavored, solid as fuck, Norwegian black meta.

Mortualia – Wild, Wild Misery
Fucking stunningly beautiful, Finnish black metal from Shatraug of Nightbringer, and formerly of Behexen, Eternum, and Drowning the Light, among many others. Those bands bring to mind so raspy, cold, dark, grim, ethereal, atmospheric black metal but Mortualia veers more to the atmospheric and ethereal side of things, albeit it is fucking cold and distant, but so fucking beautifully atmospheric. I wish I found this one sooner.

Happy New Year!

Until next time, make mine metal!