Best of 2017: Chris’s Honorable Mention List

9C 2017 EOY Header Image

Hello there, online metal community.  How you holding up?  List fatigue setting in yet?  If so sorry: this is in no way going to help. My first year writing for Nine Circles resulted in listening to over 500 albums – I won’t even begin to pretend they all got a fair shake, but they all got at least one listen.  The sheer glut of music that passed through my ears was like an awakening, helping me to better understand what it was music did for me, what I needed it to do for me.  I found albums that mesmerized on first listen only to fade quickly, and albums I initially dismissed only to find their hooks in me months later, and it’s these surprise revelations that keep me listening, keep me writing, and keep me so engaged with this beast we call metal.

You’d think doing a Top 25 would be sufficient to cover all the bases, but it feels like it doesn’t even make a dent into the great music that sustained me over the course of the year.  And so, if you’ll indulge me, here’s an extra 15 albums that warrant honorable mention.  Think of them as #26-40 (hey, if Decibel can do it…), in any order you like, though they’re alphabetical below.  Let’s dig in…   Continue reading

Looking Back on the Tracks: Revisiting Chris’s 2017 Anticipated Records

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Looking backward, what’s interesting isn’t so much how the albums I selected back in January as part of Nine Circles’ 2017 Metal Forecast held up (or didn’t), but how what I was looking for in music at the beginning of 2017 changed and mutated as the year went from bad to worse, from televised and networked insanity to personal tragedy and a gaze into the abyss that was closer than I had ever anticipated at this point in my life.   Revisiting the three albums that actually came out in 2017 now it’s striking how different the things I first imagined would be the draw fell to the wayside as new priorities and impact points made themselves evident.

We look back, and never see what we expect to, I guess.   Continue reading

The Nine Circles Playlist Vol. 20: EOY Edition (12.4.2017)

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Since we are closing in on the final few weeks of the year and ‘best of’ list season has begun, for this edition of the Nine Circles Playlist each of us picked a select few of our favorite songs from 2017. Some of these are from albums that didn’t quite hit the mark, as a whole, but had that one particular song or set of songs that warranted an extra high play count. And some of these have been included here even though you may see them again in list form — or maybe not, only time will tell. As usual, expect a wide variety of picks contained in this playlist so, grab a cup of coffee and journey through this collection with us. Oh and feel free to voice your opinions in the comment section to tell us why or why not these songs ruled or didn’t. Continue reading

Initial Descent: July 23 – 29, 2017

Couch Slut
Couch Slut – pic courtesy of Roger Hayn

It’s hot folks, summertime is definitely upon us. Which means it’s time to make shorts out of those raggedy jeans you’ve been hanging onto for no apparent reason. Or you could find some water, a cooler full of cold refreshments or sit in front of a fan. One thing’s for sure though: we have the soundtrack to however you plan to deal with that case of swamp-ass on this plentiful edition of Initial Descent. Starting things off with a nasty, noisy bang is the second full length, Contempt, from Couch Slut and if you’ve yet to hear it I honestly don’t know what you’re doing with your life — this thing rules in so many ways. Next up is Byzantine who quite literally show just how blistering modern heavy metal can be on The Cicada Tree. Moving along, Less Art gives us a bleak but extremely powerful post-hardcore debut on Strangled Light — an outstanding experience from start to finish that does exactly as its title implies. Closing out the top spots is the vicious second EP, Voima on Oikeutta, from Finland’s satanically inclined death/thrash phenoms Huoripukki. So, a fantastic week already but you have no idea how much more great metal is in store (seriously, this week is STACKED) — kick back, cool off, stay awhile and enjoy… Continue reading

Album Review: Byzantine – “The Cicada Tree”

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I understand the desire to label West Virginia’s Byzantine underdogs.  Rising up in the midsts of what I guess will be forever known as the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, they took flight alongside acts like Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and their local brothers Lamb of God with a trio of popular albums before somewhat imploding in 2008 thanks not only to the changing scene but strife within the industry and the band itself.  You can paint that picture, and talk about being overshadowed by larger acts, but let me tell you a different story, one that ends with how The Cicada Tree, the band’s latest and first for Metal Blade, is not only tied for the best album they’ve released to date, but is an adrenaline-fueled highlight of 2017.   Continue reading