Artemis Sere’s Twenty Best Albums of 2019

Artemis Sere's Best Albums of 2019

If this is your first time visiting one of my annual "Best of Lists", thanks for stopping by and checking out what I have deemed "listen-worthy" for the previous year.  If you're a repeat visitor, I deeply appreciate your continued interest in my musical opinion.

I publish this to give you recommendations of what to check out, and to remind myself of what was my favorite for a given year. Every year is different, and some years have stronger lists than others - especially as my tastes vary and change with the trends in my life. For instance, while my dubstep phase may be eclipsed by a renewed appreciation for metal (see my #metalmorphosis), I still feel the undercurrents of techno, industrial, ambient, electronica and various other styles of edgy music.

My tastes have generally drifted from "rock", and I now find it somewhat difficult to go backwards into my hairband past. "The Dirt" - the retelling of the life of Motley Crue - made me more ashamed of my history with some types of music, and forced me to reconsider my perspective of much of my music background.

As my #1 album of 2019 anthemically reminds, "Don't be a prisoner of time".

As I have matured, so has my taste -- not just in music content, but the artist behind the creation. They are inseparable, as politicians are from their history. While everyone deserves redemption, attonement for the past is necessary. Politics have greatly changed my approach to art and artists, and I no longer stand for hypocrisy of message. If you're a bigot, liar, ignoramus, bully or abuser as an artist, I'm not a big fan of you as a human.

And I'm #humanfirst.

Art imitates life, and I want my artistic connections and recommendations to reflect a certain integrity (eg. let's put the "rock star" concept to death).

I'm sure your list would be different than mine if you created one, and I'm energetically interested in what would be on your list. I've been compiling annual "Best of" lists since 2010, and these lists have created powerful sonic footprints in my past.  Each of our influences are individual and reflect our personalities and human stories, often intersecting in the music that we listen to and share.

In 2020, we need a common platform upon which we can all stand for civility. In Art I trust.

Some unique traits of my "Best Albums" list:

  1. These are generally not radio-friendly albums. While I certainly embrace all music, I no longer listen to the radio. At all. Satellite or broadcast or otherwise. My influences come from personal research, network suggestions and historical influences. The labels I support aren't usually big-ticket Corporations, and the bands I listen to are rarely traveling around on lux buses paid for by big budgets, unless they've earned it through surviving the gauntlet of being a changemaker and a road warrior. 
  2. I listen to everything from Slayer to Enya (minus country music) and bands from all over the planet. I'd like to think my music ear is diverse, but I gravitate toward my sonic staples: industrial/ambient/electronica and/or dubstep, hard rock, machine rock, heavy metal, and hybrids of all.  My list of 20 is an intersection of a variety of styles and sounds, and is not specific to a single genre (or from a single geographic location). While my list is relatively gender-balanced, I have recognized that this list lacks ethnic diversity; I promise to find a way to include more ethnic diversity in future lists (eg. Body Count's new album is already on the top of my charts for 2020). 
  3. My list DOES NOT reflect socially-"popular music", chart-friendly creations or trendy music personalities that walk red carpets, troll headlines, plastic their person, twerk in public, release pandering albums praising Jesus with primary intent to enter into the prosperty gospel racket, and/or enjoy E! spats with other artists.
  4. This list is subject to change. For a few years, I was publishing "Respun" music blogs in the middle of the year to tap the pulse of what I'm listening to that isn't on the "new albums" list. This gave me the ability to revise my Top 20 for the previous year, and add albums that I may have missed. For example, one of my favorite albums of last year was was from one of my favorite artists: IAMX's "Alive in New Light". It was released in 2018 and somehow I missed it. If i were to rewrite my Best of List for 2018, it would have prominent placement. My point: I'm always coming across great music that I missed during the previous year. This list is a snapshot in time, but has been a great playlist picture for me every year.

Please spread the word and share this guidance with your network, pay forward these suggestions of high quality music. 

Check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album. And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment on this blog and let me know what you think. What's on your list of favorite albums for 2019?

I appreciate your interest in my Art. Enjoy!

#yearofCivility

20

DEVIN TOWNSEND
 
Empath

If heavy metal met Disney with Hevy Devy at the helm.
Insert angelic chorus and acid trip here.

19

ELIENE
All Shall Burn (EP)

A pretty band with a pretty sound with some pretty Lacuna Coil-esque looks and hooks. I give them much credit for their spot-on cover of Rammstein's "Mein Herz Brennt" and well-placed tattoos. An intriguing mix of Within Temptation, Evanescence, In This Moment and Huntress (lightspeed, Jill Janus), though lacking much differentiating personality beyond the sweet ink, growls and bodices. Continues my frustration with EPs - if you're going to put out an album, do better than a few songs. Two original songs and a good cover are not enough to get a solid read on a band. 

18

IN FLAMES
 
I, Mask

In Flames have had a long, strange road. A fan since "Clayman", I've seen this band go through many changes in sound and approach. They've produced some great music, and this album has shades of that greatness, but never achieves it fully. I'd love to see them get back to a rugged edge and spit shine. This mask doesn't suit them well, but perhaps there's no way to reroute to remain in flames.

17

K. FLAY
Solutions

I love K.Flay's chilltastic style and flow.  A sweet voice in a bitter year, a breath of fresh, sarcastic air. K. Flay should own any popularity that Billie Eilish has. K. Flay and Dessa Darling would be a sweet team-up.

16

RAMMSTEIN
Rammstein

"Rammstein" is a good example of an album that I don't love, but like a lot, and give Rammstein complete respect and apprecation for the strange, sarcastic, shocking, and sometimes divisive music they continue to pump out. As an artist who often crosses the line into activism, I can appreciate the challenging themes they tackle, the stark visuals they employ, and the lengths they go to tell their stories. Having lived in Deutschland for most of my youth, I have a soft spot for German artists, the stout culture and the difficult history they've endured (admittedly, much of their own making). Cheers to freedom of expression!

15

MODESTEP
Echoes (EP) & Dawn (EP)

Two EPs don't equal a full album, but I applaud the differences in contrast between these two bombastic releases and am including them both on my lsit. There are still echoes of Dubstep in my veins, and Modestep was of the first bands that got me dropping. Great to hear them still making music.

14

SOILWORK
Verkligheten

A dreamy, harmonious reality. 

13

CANDLEMASS
The Door to Doom

 Candlemass went back to its roots with Door to Doom, and brought back their very first vocalist, Johan Längqvist (32 years after their first album). I'll always prefer Messiah Marcolin and Robert Lowe, but this album is solid and sounds great with Johan. With legend Tony Iommi adding guitars, Candlemass is as doomy and gloomy as ever. 

12

TOOL
Fear Inoculum

For their first album in 13 years, I give Tool props - they're still engaging, exploratory and effective. This isn't the Tool I grew up with, though; this isn't the band with the hooks and punching power of "Sober" or "Aenima". This tool is a slow-speed drill to lobotomize. Their sound now dwells somewhere between Opeth and A Perfect Circle - contemplative and brooding, progressive and puzzling, like the duality of their new logo. I contend that Maynard is nearing creative exhaustion and overexposure, much like another artist on this list (Corey Taylor, Slipknot). Still, one must appreciate the art that Tool creates. I certainly still do, and hope they continue to explore the boundaries of sound.

11

OPETH
 
In Cauda Venenum

It's hard for me to put my finger on what I find lacking in latest creations of Opeth. From 2000-2010, I loved just about everything they created. Now, I'm not on the same vibe, even though their talent continues to amaze. While they still create deep, gloomy and brooding work, the formula seems a bit repetitive now. If the dose makes the poison, methinks they need to reduce the dosage a bit. Despite my misgivings, this is a complex, chaotic trip and represents some of the best music Opeth has to offer. I will always love Akerfeldt's voice and vocal range, and their progressive use of various instruments. As with most Opeth albums, I'm sure it will grow on me with time and require higher placement in this list.

10

SLIPKNOT
we are not your kind

This is the first Slipknot album in their storied legacy that bored me. Even now, I have a hard time picking a song on the album that really stands out, that has character and presence to stand above the rest. It's not a bad album, and Slipknot's style and talent are always welcomed and appreciated, but in years past, like Opeth, this troupe would be top of the list. Like Maynard James Kennan of Tool who also runs the successful groups A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, Corey Taylor has kept himself very busy with Stone Sour and endless slate of guest spots with other bands. I contend this overloaded creative schedule has affected the quality of Slipknot's album. I have a difficult time now distinguishing between the Stone Sour and Slipknot sounds, which is both a compliment and a criticism, considering both bands rock. However, the fact that I still have Slipknot in my Top 10 is a testament to how talented this band is, even when their art sometimes seems a bit trite and tired.

9

TÝR
HEL

Reminiscent of old Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Helloween and other great European Doom bands that built great albums around myths of their land, this Viking metal band has created a rousing and powerful piece of art. Tight guitars, solid mythos, anthemic tunes. Yes, the vocals are distinctly European, and sometimes sound like emanating from a Mead Hall, but are catchy nonetheless.

8

after the burial
Evergreen

I saw After the Burial open for Parkway Drive and Killswitch Engage in 2019, and they almost stole the show. If I wasn't so enamored with Parkway Drive's "Reverence" album, I would've recognized their true brilliance right away. This Minneapolis ragecore act has some serious power, angst and awesomeness, a brilliant mix of 36 Crazyfists and Demon Hunter. 

7

DEAD TO A
DYING WORLD
Elegy

More death metal bands should feature violins. Seriously. The perfect marriage of gloom moods.

6

WEDNESDAY 13
Necrophaze

One of my favorite finds of 2019. Wednesday 13 sounds and feels like a throwback to one of the true masters of metal horror, Alice Cooper. In fact, Alice Cooper is featured in the title track, adding legitimacy to Wednesday 13's horror atmosphere that Rob Zombie seldom channels well these days. Features a fun duet with Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and tracks about popular serial killers (eg. Zodiac). Bring Your Own Blood.

5

3TEETH
Metawar

Everytime I listen to the intro of "Time Slave", I get chills. Metawar is the perfect album for our present day, like "Eat the Elephant" from A Perfect Circle last year. A gritty statement on greed, corruption, and consumerism, it reflects and reprents all of the present ills of the United States of Affluenza. Any American that listens to "American Landfill" or "President X" and doesn't feel something lost their soul to the machine a long time ago. In that case, this album will probably be your poison. Drink up.

4

RABBIT JUNK
REVEAL (EP)

If you've made it this far, you know my opinion about EPs. Overall, I'm not a fan. I give a pass to Rabbit Junk, one of my long-time faves, because no matter what the depth and breadth of content, they always deliver powerful music. Released on the heels of my #1 album of 2018 "Meditations on Mortality", their new EP continues their distinct techno-pop-rock-metal flow. With four original songs, instrumentals, remixes, and a couple of covers (Smashing Pumpkins "Zero", theme to "Dune"), the EP feels like a full album. Admittedly, I'm still drunk from last year's tall glass of meditation, so I'm fully down with short shot of JP Anderson, Sum Grrrl and friends.

3

cyanotic
The Trigger Effect

Cyanotic is the glitchy, twitchy echo you hear in your head when you're unable to fall asleep, the brain in a state of dysfunction from our daily digital cycles. The resonant white noise repeating in the twilight din of blue light and blurry vision, like a nightmare dreamscape of stress hammers, soundbytes, bullet spins and Power Point slide clicks. "The Trigger Effect" is a complex album is only fully appreciated when unpacked meticulously. Layered with shrewd movie quotes, transhumanist wisdom and statements on our society, it is a necessary soundtrack to this brave new decade. My only wish is that the "Effect" was longer; Tool doesn't know when to stop a song, and Cyanotic needs to extend their trippy atmospheres into longer experiences (not just in follow-up remix albums).

2

WITHIN TEMPTATION
RESIST

It's no surprise that I married this album hardcore. Every one of Within Temptation's albums of the last decade have made it on my lists, with "The Unforgiving" being my #3 album of 2011. Their following album, "Hydra", was a strange intersection of styles and personalities, very different and less consistent than the great concept album that preceded it. After "Hydra", I wasn't sure what to expect from the band featuring my favorite female vocalist, Sharon den Adel. Thus, I was reluctant to give "Resist" its due. But it truly deserves it. This album kept me company in dark times over 2019, and screams with vengeance and resistance. "The Reckoning" features Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix, and is one of  only a few vocal duets on the album - unlike Hydra, which was awash with big-name vocalist team-ups. As a result, Sharon shines brighter than she has in previous albums. "Resist" is their tightest, most adventurous album since "The Unforgiving", and is pretty spectacular from start to finish, a message of beautiful, resonant resistance that should be bannered by all. Even the weak songs are great on repeat, mainly because of Sharon's broad vocal landscape and sonic creativity. I cannot resist, and I cannot lie: "Resist" was my most-played album of 2019, and "Firelight" was my most-played tune, the theme song of my darkest year.

1

Artemis Sere's Best Albums of 2019

FLOTSAM & JETSAM
The End of Chaos

I've been listening to Flotsam & Jetsam since high school, and "The End of Chaos" is the best, most complete, most balanced and brutal album that they've released in their catalog, and that's saying a lot. I wore my original "No Place for Disgrace" (1988) shirt to see them this year for the first time. They were one of my first metal loves, and I've been tracking them for over three decades, even though I never had the opportunity to see them live until 2019.

Radio is filled with forgettable, passable and snoozeworthy rock and metal music made for masses that are used to throwing away the past - or at least appreciating the past via samples or duets with pseudo-talented artists like Post Malone. Flotsam & Jetsam were some of the original kings of Headbangers Ball, mostly forgotten fifty-year olds with no current relevance on rock radio.

Fuck that. This was the best metal album of 2019. Chances are good that you've never listened to it, probably never heard Flotsam & Jetsam growing up, or knew that Jason Newsted of Metallica fame was originally in Flotsam & Jetsam. Here's your chance to end the chaos.

The tuneage is powerful; the lyrics are catchy; the concept is fully relevant. In 2021, Flotsam & Jetsam will celebrate their 40-year anniversary, and they haven't lost a step, and are still cranking out some of their best music in their history, despite popular metal trends and detractors.

Don't be a prisoner of time; check out this future classic today. And thank you for spending your time with my Top 20 Albums of 2019. 

Take care.

Artemis Sere’s Twenty Best Albums of 2018

Artemis Sere's Best Albums of 2018

If this is your first time visiting one of my annual "Best of Lists", thanks for stopping by and checking out what I have deemed "listen-worthy" for this year.  If you're a repeat visitor, I deeply appreciate your continued interest in my musical opinion. Truly, these albums were my addiction over the course of 2018, with works that percolated into my daily playlist and provided the soundtrack to the dramatic events of my present day.

I'm sure your list would be different than mine if you created one. I've been compiling annual "Best of" lists since 2010, and these lists have created powerful sonic footprints in my past.  Each of our influences are individual and reflect our personalities and human stories, often intersecting in the music that we listen to and share. We "come together" over art, whether it be music or painting or film, or any other type of artistic expression.

As a visual artist, I have come to appreciate the art of music and all of the unique influences it has on my life and art. 

Some unique traits of my list:

  1. These are generally not radio-friendly albums. While I certainly embrace all music, I no longer listen to the radio. At all. Satellite or broadcast or otherwise. My influences come from personal research, network suggestions and historical influences.
  2. My statement is that I listen to everything from Slayer to Enya, minus country. I'd like to think my music ear is diverse, but I gravitate toward my sonic staples: industrial/ambient/electronica and/or dubstep, hard rock, machine rock, heavy metal, and hybrids of all.  My list of 20 is an intersection of a variety of styles and sounds, and is not specific to a single genre (or from a single geographic location).
  3. My list DOES NOT reflect socially-"popular music", chart-friendly creations or trendy music personalities that walk red carpets, troll headlines and/or have Social Media spats with other artists.

I began tracking this list early in 2018, with new releases by Rabbit Junk and Parkway Drive. It has evolved a lot over the course of the year with recommendations of new music from friends and colleagues. I hope you enjoy this list and find a new artist or two to follow and be inspired by. 

Please spread the word and share this guidance with your network, pay forward these suggestions of high quality music.  Check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album, embedded at the bottom of this blog. And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment and let me know what you think. What's on your list of favorite albums for 2018?

Without further ado, my Top 20 favorite albums of 2018.

#yearoftheseretic

20

AMELIA ARSENIC 
 
"Queen of Risk (EP)"

Favorite Tracks: "Live Slow Die Old", "Architects of Death", "Queen of Risk"

My Take: Artist, designer and former Angelspit vocalist paired up with the king of angry robot music, Sean Payne, to create a quick, high-energy trip. Very fun live show, and an inspiring artist. 

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19

SOULFLY 
"Ritual"

Favorite Tracks: "Ritual", "Dead Behind the Eyes", "Under Rapture"

My Take: Blistering and brutal, the new Soulfly echoes tones of old school Soulfly and Sepultura, featuring two generations of Cavaleras and a powerful duet with Randy Blythe from Lamb of God.

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18

BETZEFER
 
"Entertain Your Force of Habit"

Favorite Tracks: "Dead Lines", "Never Been", "Hand in Hand to Hell"

My Take: Reminiscent of Pantera with a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, Israel's groove metal masters Betzefer have created an album and sound that could stack up with current US hipsters like 5FDP. 

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17

SCANDROID
"The Darkness (EP)"

Favorite Tracks: "Phoenix", "Onyx", "Red Planet"

My Take: Klayton of Celldweller fame has more identities than Kevin Crumb, and creates amazing artistic experiences with each. As Scandroid, Klayton creates a sci-fi synchopop universe that dwells somewhere between my #1 album of last year and my #1 album of this year. Always a pleasure to hear new music from Klayton. Scandroid has the companion EP, "The Light", releasing in 2019.

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16

DEAD CAN DANCE 
"Dionysus"

Favorite TracksAll 

My Take: A slightly-made (2 songs, 36 minutes - too short!) but densely-packed album filled with the atmospheric greatness of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. 

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15

MANES 
"Slow Motion Death Sequence"

Favorite Tracks: "Scion", "Last Resort", "Poison Enough for Everyone", "Ater"

My Take: Once a Norwegian black metal band, Manes redesigned their sound over the last decade to be a mysterious mix of electronica, jazz and metal. "Slow Motion Death Sequence" is a dusky landscape of soaring vocals, gritty guitars and digital undertones.

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14

ARCHITECTS 
"Holy Hell"

Favorite Tracks: "Hereafter", "Doomsday", "Royal Beggars"

My Take: "Holy Hell" was my introduction to the major UK metalcore band Architects and the tragedy of co-founder Tom Searle, whose death from cancer in 2016 touched many in the music industry -- including my #2 album, which features a song dedicated to Tom. The album is well-produced, deeply touching, and full of cacophonous rage and edgy tones. Many thanks to friend Christian for introducing me to Architects as part of a music exchange.

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13

CODE ORANGE  
"The Hurt Will Go On (EP)"

Favorite Tracks: All

My Take: I don't normally rank EPs very high in my annual list of best music, but I have to give props to Code Orange, a new(ish) discovery that is delicious and brutal ear candy. After last year's wondrous release "Forever", I'm happy to give them prominence in this year's list. These 3 songs crush.

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12

SLEEP 
"The Sciences"

Favorite Tracks: "Sonic Titan", "Marijuanaut's Theme", "Giza Butler"

My Take: It isn't a stretch to call Sleep "stoner music" -- the experimental, trippy guitar solos and hooks, extended tune times and sleepy, monotone vocals combine to create an album that hearkens back to 70s doom rock. High props to friend Ryan for introducing me to this groovy adventure.

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11

GHOST 
 
"Prequelle"

Favorite Tracks: "Rats", "Faith", "Life Eternal", "It's a Sin"

My Take: I continue to give Ghost support for the character they play in the metal scene and their consistent approach to selling the darker side in a dramatic, fashionable way. Their concept of mocking the Church, its structure and its culture has no equal in the black metal genre. They're talented musicians with firm comprehension of their unique presentation and dramatis personae. 

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10

JUDAS PRIEST 
"Firepower"

Favorite Tracks: "No Surrender", "Lone Wolf", "Spectre", "Never the Heroes"

My Take: I've been listening to Judas Priest for 35 years and it amazes me how the band manages to maintain their signature style and sound -- despite age, technological advancement and changes in the metal sound. "Firepower" reminded me of "Defenders of the Faith" and "Screaming for Vengeance" in approach, content and overall style. Unlike recent previous Judas Priest efforts, the songs of "Firepower" are anthemic and tight, each tune telling a "very metal story of very metal characters". Rob Halford continues to defy the clock, though his vocals are more contained than traditional Judas Priest creations.

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9

ZARDONIC 
"Become"

Favorite Tracks:  "Revelation", "Takeover", "Before the Dawn",  "Army of One"

My Take:  According to Wikipedia, Zardonic is a "keyboardist, DJ, composer, producer and remixer primarily known for his heavy electronic dance music". I use that snippet to reflect the strange musician known as Zardonic -- a masked music crusader from Venezuela who is globally known for his skills as a DJ, but also as one who integrates metal, guitar and cacophonous screams into his work. Zardonic teamed up with heavy-hitters like Celldweller and The Qemists for "Become". This album will make you move. 

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8

SEVENDUST 
"All I See is War"

Favorite Tracks: "Dirty", "Medicated", "Unforgiven", "Risen", "Not Original"

My Take: "All I See is War" reminded me of the greatness of Sevendust. Next year, Sevendust celebrates its 25th anniversary, and their sound, style and statements are needed now more than ever, as the United States stands divided. Lajon's passionate, heartfelt vocals soar above the Civil War that we all see around us, and are a beacon of truth and diversity in a culture quickly slipping backwards into chaos, racism and bigotry. 

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7

MORCHEEBA 
"Blaze Away"

Favorite Tracks"Never Undo", "Blaze Away", "Find Another Way", "It's Summertime"

My Take: I have an affinity for Trip-Hop. Sneaker Pimps, Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, Portishead... Decades later, I'm still a fan of the genre. Morcheeba is a member of that classic list, and is still cranking out genre-delicious trip-hop with their new release "Blaze Away". While not as consistently powerful as "Blood Like Lemonade", "Blaze Away" is a worthy addition to their catalog and deserved of a broader audience, mostly unfamiliar with the roots of trip.

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6

FATLANTIC 
"Offshore Breaks"

Favorite Tracks"Love Made Me", "Falling Upwards", "Drum King of Californwall"

My Take: An underrated name on the big beat, trip-hop scene is Rob Howes, aka Overseer, who refashioned his persona as Fatlantic in 2018. Some will remember his classic album "Wreckage" from 2002 -- if you don't, you probably would recognize tracks from that album that were featured in TV, Movies, and other entertainment outlets. Since then, Rob has been partnering with Rachel Gray (Kanute), but has been mostly working outside the scene. With "Offshore Breaks", Rob returns with atmospheric beauty and resonance, but also with a less aggressive sound than Overseer -- more trip than hop, more beat than bombast.

5

SHINEDOWN 
"Attention Attention"

Favorite Tracks: "Devil", "Get Up", "Monsters", "Special"

My Take: I know  the song "Devil" has killed it on rock radio, and it deserves to - it was my "most listened to song" of 2018.  But I have to imagine that most rockers and metalheads have a difficult time with the album "Attention Attention" as a whole. There are times on "Attention Attention" when Shinedown sounds closer to Elton John, or a hip-pop act, rather than a rock powerhouse of the last two decades. I personally love the adventuresome spirit, and applaud their exploration into different sounds, styles and topics. I've heard it said that "Attention Attention" is a concept album; if the concept is reminding people that you are special, despite what popular trends and talents tell you, then Shinedown has my full attention. The album is a great reminder to "Get Up" and make something of yourself. Don't wait for your fifteen minutes of fame, because as you wait, you're wasting time...

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4

TOM MORELLO 
"The Atlas Underground"

Favorite Tracks: "Rabbit's Revenge", "Lucky One", "Battle Sirens", "Roadrunner"

My Take: This album took my playlist by storm, and its diversity is music to my ears. I have been a fan of Tom Morello and all of his projects since the first time I heard "Killing in the Name" back in 1991. Rage Against the Machine resonated with me; Audioslave entertained me; Prophets of Rage empowered me. Now, with his solo album, Tom is proving that he is an amazing collaborator, brilliant songwriter and standout artist -- by the power of his name alone. Tom merged with amazing musicians such as Knife Party, Pretty Lights, K.Flay, Steve Aoki, GZA, RZA, Big Boi and Bassnectar, and along the way has created some brave new anthems for the presently divided day. In a year with less powerful frontrunners, I would've notched this album as  my #1 in 2018.

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3

A PERFECT CIRCLE  
"Eat the Elephant"

Favorite Tracks: "The Doomed", "The Contrarian", "Hourglass", "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish"

My Take: A cryptic and metaphoric attack on religion, politics and the darker sides of humanity, "Eat the Elephant" is brilliant from start to finish. Billy Howerdel and his Ashes Divide sound reverberate strong throughout the album, and Maynard's adventurous, soaring vocals are showcased perfectly on top of the melodramatic and seething atmosphere of "Eat the Elephant". It would take far more space than this snippet to unpack all that is going on with "Eat the Elephant", so I invite you to check out this interview with Maynard and Billy on the best A Perfect Circle album in their curt catalog. 

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2

PARKWAY DRIVE  
"Reverence"

Favorite Tracks:  All

My Take: Introspective, visceral and blistering, Parkway Drive's "Reverence" is the perfect assault on mainstream belief systems and human struggles. From the first lyrics of "Wishing Wells" to the closure of "The Colour of Leaving", "Reverence"  is a touching adventure into pain, sorrow and loss. The final song is written in response to the death of and in dedication to Tom Searle, twin brother of Architects founder Dan Searle, who died of cancer in 2016.

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1

Rabbit Junk 
"Rabbit Junk Will Die:
Meditations on Mortality
"

Favorite TracksAll

My Take:Most of my audience has never heard of Rabbit Junk, and will question me for notching this small band's humongous album above such greats as Judas Priest, Shinedown, A Perfect Circle and Soulfly. If anything, noting this album as my favorite of the year should cement how amazing this album is. I've been a fan of Rabbit Junk since their self-titled in 2008. For 10 years, JP Anderson and his wife Sum Grrl have been crafting sonic assaults with "hardclash"/"digital hardcore" style -- "a fusion genre that combines hardcore punk with electronic music genres such as breakbeat, techno, and drum and bass while also drawing on heavy metal and noise music." (also see The Shizit) "Meditations on Mortality" reflects J.P. Anderson's diverse intelligence, musicianship and talents; in addition to his role as master of the mic and guitar, he's also a Graduate Instructor at the University of Washington. The greatest coup of the "Meditations" album: sampling Enya's "Cursum Perficio" into the brilliant tune "Bend the Light". Rather than drone on about how awesome "Rabbit Junk Will Die" is, I suggest you find it and "Become Hell".

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Artemis Sere’s Twenty Best Albums of 2017

Artemis Sere's Twenty Best Albums of 2017

Welcome to my annual list of my favorite albums from the year. I listen to a lot of music, and these albums are the ones that held my attention, captured my imagination, and/or inspired my creativity during the year.

The list features new artists that I discovered through various channels, and old stand-bys that continue to crank out great music.  If you've visited my annual lists at all, you know that I don't listen to the Radio. I don't agree with the concept of DJs telling us what they think is important to listen to anymore. I care more about online reviews, YouTube reviewers, "Reaction" trends, and Word of Mouth recommendations from friends and family.

With that in mind, I hope you spread the word and share this guidance with your network, pay forward these suggestions of high quality music.  Please check out my YouTube playlist featuring clips from every album, featured at the bottom of this blog. And if you're feeling bold, drop a comment and let me know what you think.

Thank you for visiting! Rock on.

#yearofsere

 

20  SKARLETT RIOT  
"Feel (EP)" + "Regenerate"

My Take: A solid EP with a delicious single in "Feel", especially the remix created by Zardonic. Find it. Feel it. The future is bright for this rock band from the UK.

19  PALLBEARER  
"Heartless"

My Take: Underrated doom metal from Arkansas with clean, melodic vocals,  gloomy pace and smart guitar work. Reminded me of Solitude Aeturnus.

18  GALACTIC EMPIRE  
"Galactic Empire"

My Take: This was bound to happen, eventually. I imagine that the empire is filled with metal bands. Pardon the pun. A brilliant, heavy tribute to the sounds of Star Wars.

17  SANCTUARY  
"Inception"

My Take: It's fitting that Sanctuary released this album of Demos and rare tracks circa 1986, considering their lead singer, Warrel Dane, passed away in December of 2017. Warrel was an inspiration to me for the duration of his time on the metal scene, over 30 years. In 1988, I ordered a relatively unknown album called "Refuge Denied" from the Columbia House Tape Club. I loved the album so much that I ordered a rare "Refuge Denied" album shirt. I loved the shirt so much that I stitched the cover to the back of my high school jeans jacket. Sanctuary has always been my banner band. Some of the song quality is rough and unrefined, but it is amazing to hear the range of Warrel's talent prior to the release of polished "Refuge Denied", cementing the reality that he is one of the most underrated artists of the last four decades.

16  ONCE HUMAN  
"Evolution"

My Take: You have to give any project by Logan Mader (Machine Head/Soulfly) a lot of leeway. Fronted by the beautiful and talented Lauren Hart, Once Human echoes the sound and style of Arch Enemy. Their sophomore effort is solid, though a bit unspectacular.

15  COLLIDE 
"Color of Nothing"

My Take: Ethereal, industrial, gothy. kaRIN and Statik have been creating unique and dynamic darkwave for decades now, powered by melodic vocals and edgy electronics. 

14  OBITUARY  
"Obituary"

My Take: I honestly can't take concentrated death metal for long. The vocals are often too inaccessible, the music too chaotic and sometimes untrackablle. I've been listening to Obituary off-and-on since their 1990 "Cause of Death" album, so they are acquired taste. Their power is in their consistent, unrelenting brutality. Insert metal horns here.

13  GODFLESH 
"Post Self"

My Take:Post Self brought me back to 1992's "Mothra". 25 years later, the Godfathers of mechanical industrial music are still cranking the wheel. Themes of transhumanism  and technological singularity echo throughout this gritty,  guttural soundscape.

12  IAMX 
"Unfall"

My Take: IAMX (Chris Corner) is a dynamic, multi-discipline, avant-garde artist, reflecting the variable that is featured in his pseudonym. "Unfall" explores his abstract and instrumental interests. While I prefer the version of IAMX that involves guitars and grittier elements, I can appreciate his electronica explorations.

11  EVANESCENCE  
"Synthesis"

My Take: Amy Lee + Orchestra + Evanescence tunes = Divine Experience. Not your typical rock or metal album, but Amy Lee has never been typical. "Lost In Paradise",  "Secret Door" and "My Immortal" orchestrated are awesome works of art.

10  PROPHETS OF RAGE 
"Prophets of Rage"

My Take: Now here's a dream superband - key members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. If you told me twenty years ago that this band would form to help "Unfuck the World", I would've moshed in place and cheered loudly. As Morello told Rolling Stone, "we're an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing." They are my anti-Trump trumpet.

09  WHITE WARD  
"Futility Report"

My Take:Leave it to a band from the Ukraine to create the most interesting death metal album I've heard in a long time. "Futility Report" is a smart fusion of death metal, metal core, horror and jazz. Yes, jazz. Featuring a full-time saxophonist as part of their six-piece, the presence of sad sax tones adds dark swing and swagger to an otherwise typical death metal set. Additional props to the creepy, mysterious art of the album.

08  BODY COUNT  
"Bloodlust"

My Take: Beacons of controversy since the 90s, ICE-T and Ernie C are back when the United States needs them most. Featuring a Slayer cover ("Raining Blood") and guest spots by Dave Mustaine, Max Cavelera  and Randy Blythe, "Bloodlust" is 100% brutal, relevant and necessary.

07  16VOLT  
"Dead on Arrivals (EP)"

My Take: Always proud to promote the great work of friends Eric Powell and Steve Hickey. "Dead on Arrivals" is a return to the delicious machine rock, coldwave assault that began on "The Negative Space".  I deeply appreciate Eric & Steve's rugged, electronic-edged, aggressive style and have been a fan of 16volt for decades. I've also experienced the perfect circle of fandom, where the artists of the band support the work of other artists and involve them in their craft:  my acrylic piece "Wake of the Maker" is featured as the "Dead on Arrivals" EP Cover. Trivia:  My piece "Spectre Weather" was used for the cover of  16Volt's last album, "The Negative Space".

06  CAVALERA CONSPIRACY  
"Psychosis"

My Take: My love affair with the Cavalera brothers began with Sepultura's "Arise", and continued into the band Soulfly after the two had a ten-year feud (and Soulfly was birthed during the feud). The brothers reunited with Cavalera Conspiracy, and continue to crank out brilliant and brutal thrash/death metal with Brazilian tones, heavy drums, tribal chants and screams. If "Soulfly" and "Cavalera Conspiracy" are two sides of the same metal coin, this band would represent Tails, the darker and grittier underside -- both are inextricably connected and similar, but different in their style and approach. I prefer the Conspiracy, and love the inclusion of Justin Broadrick of Godflesh in the song "Hellfire". 

05  MARILYN MANSON  
"Heaven Upside Down"

My Take: I love Manson's clever, sarcastic approach to his art. He inspires me and empowers me with his dark dynamism and seemingly endless creative well. "Heaven Upside Down" pales in comparison to his previous work, but features enough Manson classics ("Tattooed in Reverse", "SAY10", "Kill4Me", "Heaven Upside Down") to consider it great.

04  CODE ORANGE  
"Forever"

My Take: Lars Gotrich of All Songs Considered described their style as "nightmarishly chaotic hardcore". I think that sums up Code Orange's style nicely. Brutal, bloody, jarring, sludgy, melodic and macabre, "Forever" is a revelation, a creative vision that has evolved amazingly since "I Am King". To truly appreciate their breadth, you must listen to "Forever" then give "dream2", the final track on their album, a listen. Dichotomous darkness abounds and Reba rocks.

03  THE HAUNTED 
"Strength In Numbers"

My Take: I will always prefer the Peter Dolvig version of The Haunted, but can't deny the awesomeness of the band with the return of their original vocalist, Marco Aro. Between "Exit Wounds" and "Strength in Numbers", The Haunted have developed consistently powerful pieces that demand attention and renew the aggressive, metalcore style that they were known for in their early years  -- only better than 2003.

02  ILLENIUM  
"Awake"

My Take:  Like an oasis in the midst of a war-torn desert, the feint of heart (and ears) will take solace in this electronic escape. The concept of this album is similar in formula to my faves  artists Conjure One or Sleepthief -- core musician/DJ creates music and teams up with well-known vocal talent to create song/album. "Awake" features brilliant electronic musicianship with soaring and inspiring vocals from Emilie Brandt, Kerli, Annika Wells, RUNN, MAX, and Nevve, to name a few highlights. This album operated as a Soundtrack during a period of my life, and know that it will resonate in my memory for years to come. Sometimes, we are better off lost.

01  Cyanotic  
"Tech Noir"

My Take: I've been a fan of Cyanotic since I first discovered "Transhuman 2.0" almost a decade ago.  love their sci-fi apocalypse angry robot noise-inspired industrial cyberpunk coldwave metal. Their album "The Medication Generation" was my #1 album of 2010, and I have been a supporter of the evolution of the brilliant man behind the Glitch Mode mask, Sean Payne. "Tech Noir" would be the screamo, swinging soundtrack to SkyNet taking over the Earth, to the mechanical crush of skulls during the robot apocalypse, and to the digital crash of mankind. Peppered with perfect snippets of culturally-relevant movies like "Falling Down", "Blade Runner" and "The Terminator", Tech Noir is a chilling electronic soundscape, crackling with  dark electricity and violent ghosts in the machines.