5 Albums from 2017 That You (Probably) Missed

5 albums you missed

2017 was (more than) solid. There has been plenty of releases that go in support of the previous statement. We already summed it up to these 40 albums, but as always there are records that we get introduced to as the time passes by that could easily be put on these AOTY lists. There are albums that we missed and will not know about, but that’s how life works.

Below is a list of five albums released in 2017 that you might have missed, so if that’s the case make sure to check them out.

Organized Chaos – Divulgence

Now you see, a problem with albums being released late in a calendar year — like it’s the case with this sophomore studio effort by Belgrade, Serbia’s Organized Chaos — is that it’s almost certain that these releases easily become overlooked. Many of the webzine / magazine editors are focused on summing up the year with year-end lists and the impending holiday season, and therefore these releases receive far less chances to be mentioned, what leads to an unfair burial.

Divulgence comes some six years after the release of debut Inner Conflict. As it’s the case with many metal bands coming from Serbia — and Balkan countries in general — a group launches an extraordinary debut release, and just when you think that you got an excellent act, it disappears. Luckily, singer, composer and mainman behind Organized Chaos, Vladimir Lalic didn’t let that such destiny befalls the band, and after the release of Chaos in Belgrade live album in 2016 (recorded in 2013), Organized Chaos regrouped for Divulgence, an ambitious album that features guest appearances from Nick Johnston and Richard Henshall (Haken, Nova Collective).

Organized Chaos - Divulgence

Divulgence is a prog-metal outing that has a strong alt-metal/alt rock influence. No one will accuse Divulgence of going out of its way to sound like a modern-day iteration of prog (I’m looking at you Leprous). The sound on Divulgence is basically prog metal meets alt rock. Organized Chaos’ approach here is Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree by way of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, alt rock. Instead of bright, shiny ’70s/’80s-like guitars, we’re talking chug-chug riffs and downtuned guitars. Divulgence has its aggressive, forceful moments, but even so, the material is quite melodic — and most of the time, Organized Chaos are moody and darkly atmospheric more than anything. There is no getting around the fact that this album draws its inspiration from different eras and different generations of rock. Some headbangers might be surprised by how much alternative appeal Divulgence has, but that alternative appeal is a plus on an album that falls short of earth-shattering but is still solid and worthwhile.

Everything on Divulgence is beautifully recorded and mixed. The guitars sound thick, large and articulate. The bass rolls easily and has a great presence, making sure that the bottom end of the sonic spectrum is taken care of. The drums have a solid thump while the cymbals sizzle nicely. The vocals are mixed wonderfully with all the harmonies coming together beautifully. The ambient soundscapes that hover almost continually add a haunting third dimension to the music.

Divulgence kicks off with “Apex,” starting in a minimalistic fashion, with electric piano courtesy of David Maxim Micic (Destiny Potato, solo) and Lalic’s voice on top of it. But not for too long. Thick guitars, huge drums and insane ambient noises in the background are introduced at the middle of the track, topped off by Lalic’s frenzied singing. The song finishes and immediately blends in with the next track “Cinnamon,” a diverse piece that one moment feels as something you can easily headbang to, and the next you could be dancing along. All this just goes to further show how musically multi-faceted Divulgence really is. Lalic & Co. never really brings the shred on Divulgence, instead opting for a more laid back approach. It doesn’t mean that these songs are not somewhat technical though, as the drums, guitars and are frequently astounding. Speaking of laid-back, Nick Johnston’s solo in “Ache,” developed around a blues rock lick, marches in lockstep with the rest of instruments, creating a larger-than-life sound.

However, the instrumentation, while great, pales in comparison to the absolutely jaw dropping vocal work found all over the album. Vladimir Lalic goes a long way into putting the final polish on all the songs with his powerful, energetic voice. He truly shines on the more energetic parts, like in “Hide in Seek.” Ranging from an angry scowl, psyched-out whispers to soaring operatic vocals, he truly is a musical chameleon blending into whatever he sees fit.

The unison of symphonic chunks and djent riffs on “Broken Divine,” in addition to, arguably, the best vocal work here and guitar solo by Haken’s Richard Henshall, makes for a diabolical outcome. This is the album’s centrepiece, and I dare to say, the best piece on Divulgence. Following the short, vocal excercise “Awake!,” Divulgence closes with the longest track “The Mask,” which features guest vocalist Branislava Podrumac, and builds into an all-encompassing giant monolith of sound.

Divulgence is ambitious and grand on a big scale, occasionally verging towards musical theatre. It features thick, grandiose melodies, layered into oblivion until the whole piece is as polished as a well cut diamond.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

Zaius – Of Adoration

Trying to categorise Chicago’s Zaius into a neat and tidy genre for the purposes of giving the band a home would do the of Of Adoration, the band’s debut album, a total disservice. It would also prove to be nigh on the impossible, as this quartet incorporates a plethora of musical influences which touch upon various sonic signifiers, including doom, sludge, black metal, psychedelia, space rock, progressive metal, post-rock, to create, what is ultimately an expansive metal record.

Fully instrumental, Of Adoration isn’t welcoming by any stretch of the imagination, as its cross-colonisation of genres would suggest. It doesn’t speak upon first listen, and in order to admire the scope of Of Adoration, attentiveness is crucial to the listener’s understanding. Beginning with “Phaneron,” Zaius separate those who enjoy metal for its immediacy from those who are willing to sacrifice their time for a slow-burning, but no less satisfying, reward.

Zaius - Of Adoration

Sonically, “Echelon” hauls slabs of sludge across the razor-sharp progressive metal, and does so without jarring the two dominating genres together. “Reformer” is a slow building piece that really pounds you into sumbission. There is also an interesting contrast at play here between the austere atmosphere created by these suffocating songs when compared to the more straightforward “Sheepdog” and “Anicca.” The inclusion of these two songs in the overall dynamic sequencing of Of Adoration increases the cinematic value of the album.

“Colin,” which finishes the album, happens to be just as engaging as its preceding pieces: an encapsulation of each of the ideas explored during the songs that preceded it, with the inclusion of progressive metal flashes. Each song on Of Adoration moves into the next to establish a sense of completeness.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

Belus – Apophenia

Apophenia distinguishes itself from the black metal genre as soon as the album begins. There are elements of rock and roll here in the occasionally twangy distorted guitars, there are gritty breakdowns and oppressive interludes. The percussion explores a variety of rhythms, and like the overall hybrid sound Belus created with Apophenia, it mingles with several genres but settles on none. Belus isn’t the first band to accomplish this, but they do it with such character and astuteness that it’s hard to dismiss.

Belus - Apophenia

The second track “Monolith” is a notable dirge; a thick, almost swampy ritualistic presence that sets a mood for the album as a whole without stylistically dominating it. There’s a kind of spooky voodoo vibe in Jacques Johnson’s drumming. There are subtle background noises at the end – sounds that conjure the image of an ominous gathering of hooded figures. This track aside, be aware that the is one hell of a turbulent ride.

Apophenia grows on you at a slow, evolutionary pace — it drags itself up from the mire and reveals itself to you if you give it time, and it’s as ghastly as it is glorious. Since I first heard the album it hasn’t stopped evolving. For an album to justify its complexity, the process of unfolding has to be rewarding to the listener.

Apophenia exhibits a solid balance of diversity and uniformity, it feels very dynamic without being incongruous.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

Omotai – A Ruined Oak (originally posted on Vinyl Sphere)

Omotai’s third album A Ruined Oak is the soundtrack to a war. Not the glamorous, glorified war that bands like Manowar and Bolt Thrower portray, but rather the true, gritty, horrific essence of war. The thunderous climaxes are portrayals of the ferocious battles. In A Ruined Oak, Omotai explores the heavy aspect of their sound, and took that specific element as far as it could possibly go. The power of Omotai here is simply tectonic, complete with doomed out riffs, slightly distorted bass playing, berserk tribal drumming, and tortured shrieking. All of that chaos is drenched in a layer of thick, fuzzy sludge. But full blast assaults are only one part of the rather typical post metal formula that Omotai utilizes, which consists of uneasy ambience followed by jarring noise. The ambient sections of A Ruined Oak are excellently done; they serve to create tension and apprehension. They are very bleak and thin, but at the same time convey a definite feeling of unease. On occasion during these ambient parts, Omotai creates harmonies that are tiny bit discordant. This is demonstrated during the eerie opening to “Arms That Flood.” While this may sound like a bad idea, it works to perfection in the sense that it keeps the listener on edge and attentive.

A Ruined Oak is definitely meant to be listened to as a whole. If singled out, the individual songs are interesting in the sense that the climaxes are powerful and the ambient sections are well done, but if listened to together, the stubborn repetition of specific motifs makes for a hypnotic listening experience. Take, for example, the album opener “Welcome to the Adders’ Land.” The main sludgy riff built on sustained chords is repeated so many times that it mesmerizes the listener. Just when the listener is about to break out of their reverie, Omotai shift gears. It seems like each musical passage on this album is played for the exact right amount of time; long enough to mesmerize the listener, but not to the point in which it becomes boring. Because of this unerring precision, Omotai manage to sneak in a few odd aspects that would wade through cheese on another album, but only serve to further the ominous, hypnotic mood here.

Omotai - A Ruined Oak

Another thing that helps this album stand out is the production. It’s very sludgy, almost as though the band covered their mics in mud before recording it, and while this would normally be a less than pleasing thing, it works to the album’s advantage. Gritty compositions call for gritty production, and Omotai definitely seem understand that concept.

Enter “Back to the Drifting Satellite,” one of the band’s heaviest, most ferocious tracks on A Ruined Oak. What makes this particular song so potent is not only its biting riffs and relentless drumming, but the vocals, performed by the whole band. Omotai’s guitarists Sam Waters and Jamie Ross are pumping out incredibly heavy riffs since the beginning. This album delivers great, and heavy guitar parts, but it also sounds much more improved and precise than it was the case on previous two albums.

As great as a delightfully distorted doom riff can be over a forlorn soundscape, too often bands forget that you have to actually take your songs somewhere. Omotai fall in the atmospheric camp, certainly, as their sound leans more on visually captivating soundscapes. It’s not traditional post-rock, but these Houstonians know how to create ominous soundtracks to a mental walk in a forest.

That leads to the second point, which is Omotai’s emphasis on feel and mood works very well with a doom-focused style where the vocals feel like an afterthought. A Ruined Oak is quite deliberate in its execution. Aside from quite a few startlingly heavy riffs, you don’t get surprised by a transition, and the fully harsh vocals make the record feel heavier than it actually is. Omotai’s melodic sensibilities carry their weight in gold here, helping lift the moments when songs drag from their sheer weight.

There is no denying that Omotai are both skilled musicians and a great band. This has allowed them to create a piece that will certainly stand the test of time. The production is clear, cutting guitars with a rumbling bass are the main focus here, they do not disappoint in any way. Everything is filthy and has its own layer of dirt, massive plus. Every instrument has its own place and never steps on another, thought has been placed while mixing this beast to let everything breathe.

Far from predictable A Ruined Oak is a thoroughly engaging ride from beginning to end. Drummer Daniel Mee’s disorientating technicality in the likes of “Fire is a Whore” staggers you dizzy, whereas the colossal A-bomb riff that drops in “Last of the Green Vial” is just ridiculously, titanically heavy. This is a hulking monster of a record that only grows more intense with every listen.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

The Mantle – The Mantle

The musical energy that imbues the music on The Mantle — a debut album by NYC-based instrumental progressive metal trio The Mantle — is visceral, threatening to explode at any time. The exceptional exquisite dominance of the improvisational conversations that are present here as independent forms of music never seem muddled; the music is where it should be, comprised of ever-interesting and dynamic lines that occasionally feel almost poetic.

The music of The Mantle is texturally very interesting and enjoyable — whether the band sounds surprising like in “Seabreather” or fusion-inclined in “Technomancer.” Much of this is, of course, is down to the huge talent of guitarists Max Gorelick and Jake Miller. But not to forget Asher Bank’s drumming — he is exceptional in each and every way throughout the album.

The Mantle - The Mantle

The Mantle is full of angular segments, with dozens of broken rhythms and provokingly prolific harmonies. The inclusion of effects does not feel pushy, but rather as an additive that lifts up the hallucinogenic in the album’s atmosphere. Throw in the song titles and it can be concluded that music on The Mantle can only be exciting and riveting. While there is as mentioned the presence of djent, the trio successfully distances itself from the genre’s clichéd attitude by employing plenty of different motifs.

There is something maddeningly new (in the most positive meaning of the term) about this album. It showcases a wide spectrum of influences, but still remains unorthodoxly original and unpretentious. And while the giant slab of “A Sense of Scale” brings The Mantle to the end, it is hoped that much more will come from the pens of the trio in the near future, be it together or alone.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

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