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Sonic Cathedral’s Best Releases of 2017

 Here it is again, Sonic Cathedral’s Top 10 of the year.  2017 was another epic year, so we decided to hold publication until 2018 to give our staff time to absorb year-end releases.  Congratulations to Nightwish for scoring the top release of the year for their new live album (released in 2017 in North America for those wondering), just ahead of Epica.  Speaking of live albums, we don’t often include those in our top ten lists, but this year we have three, from Arch Enemy and Delain in addition to Nightwish.  That speaks to the exceptional quality of these albums and accompanying video discs.  Nightwish of course has the mighty Floor Jansen performing classic songs as well as new ones.  Meanwhile, Arch Enemy and Delain released two of the best concert albums/movies we’ve ever seen.  Delain’s was also a celebration of their tenth anniversary.  Congratulations also to Arch Enemy for placing two albums in the top ten, another unusual honor.

Sonic Cathedral Best Releases of 2017

This year we also asked staff members to provide thoughts about the year in addition to their lists if they were so inclined, so read on.

SC’s Top 10 of 2017 (Weighted Average)

Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)

1. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
2. Epica - The Solace System
3. Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
4. (tie) Arch Enemy - Will to Power
4. (tie) Evanescence - Synthesis
6. (tie) Arch Enemy - As the Stages Burn! (live)
6. (tie) In This Moment - Ritual
8. Edge of Paradise - Alive
9. (tie) Delain - A Decade of Delain, Live at Paradiso (live)
9. (tie) The Dark Element - The Dark Element


1. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
2. The Dark Element - The Dark Element
3. Last Union - Most Beautiful Day
4. MindMaze - Resolve
5. Insatia - Phoenix Aflame
6. Exit Eden - Rhapsodies in Black
7. Beyond Forgiveness - The Great Wall
8. Porphyra - The Starmaker's Prophecy
9. Edge of Paradise - Alive
10. Secret Rule - The Key to the World

Honorable mentions: Delain - A Decade of Delain, Live at Paradiso (live); Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs; Sleeping Romance - Alba; Serenade - Onirica; Will of Nothing - Will of Nothing; Amberian Dawn - Darkness of Eternity.

Jennifer K. Barry

Epica - The Solace System

1. Epica - The Solace System
2. Xandria - Theatre of Dimensions
3. Arch Enemy - Will to Power
4. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
5. Evanescence - Synthesis

John Thornburgh

Edge of Paradise -

1. Edge of Paradise - Alive
2. Walk in Darkness - In the Shadows of Things
3. Vigil of War - Bite the Bullet
4. Delain -  A Decade of Delain, Live at Paradiso (live)
5. Arch Enemy - As the Stages Burn! (live)
6. Kobra and the Lotus - Prevail I
7. Arch Enemy - Will to Power
8. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
9. Butcher Babies - Lilith
10. At First - Dreams Inc.

Honorable mentions to Liv Sin - Follow Me; MindMaze - Resolve; End of the Dream - Until You Break.

My list starts with three newer bands, all very much worthy of your attention for their fresh sound and excellent songwriting: Edge of Paradise (from LA), Walk in Darkness (from Italy, featuring Nicoletta Rosellini of Kalidia), and Vigil of War (also from LA).  I also include the three live albums that made the SC Top 10.  Delain and Arch Enemy are two of the best live DVDs ever in my opinion, and Nightwish is special too with Floor (though the lighting could have used work).  Arch Enemy has become one of my favorite bands, with Michael Amott’s melodic compositions and Alissa White-Gluz’s fierce vocals.   I was also thrilled with Kobra and the Lotus’ new album and tour and can’t wait for Prevail II in 2018.  I think they have really found their groove.  The new Butcher Babies may be my favorite since their original EP; I like how they have integrated more clean vocals in addition to the harsh ones.  Finally, At First is a Dutch newcomer that I discovered at the FemME festival in the Netherlands.  They have an aggressive sound that might remind you of Rage Against the Machine.

Justin Boyer

Evanescence -

1. Evanescence - Synthesis
2. Epica - The Solace System
3. Epica - Attack on Titans vs. Epica Songs
4. Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
5. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
6. Tarja - From Spirits and Ghosts
7. Delain - A Decade of Delain, Live at Paradiso (live)
8. In This Moment - Ritual
9. The Dark Element - The Dark Element
10. Sleeping Romance - Alba

My two favorite albums are prime examples of two albums that have weathered the inevitable weariness that sets in when you become completely tired or apathetic of a specific album about a certain predictable number of repeated listening sessions. Contrarily, The Solace System and Synthesis, respectively, have been played more than a hundred times, on my Google Play streaming service. Synthesis ultimately took the top spot, though, for its remarkable ability to recreate a type of darkly ethereal sound, known to all listeners of any Evanescence song, by stripping away the loudest, most boisterous layer of instrumentals, and revealing in its stead a glorious, enrapturing classical symphonic sound that is unlike anything I’ve heard since Epica’s recent round of albums. It only makes sense then for The Solace System, an EP that epitomizes Epica’s signature rich bombast, to be a very close second to Synthesis. Both achieve something very difficult to achieve, which are creating albums or Eps (in the case of Epica) that stand the test of time, the vicissitudes of shifting musical interests. For a short time, I may be in a Nightwish or Delain mood, but I am almost always in an Evanescence or Epica mood these days, something I can contribute to their willingness to evolve on their established sound without abandoning its essence. When some bands take up the task to evolve, they sometimes stray too far from their element. At least for me, 2017 was the year that bands that shared the beginning consonant of “e,” enriched their established sound and invariably created something truly epic and evanescence in essence.

Max Levites

In This Moment -

1. In This Moment - Ritual
2. Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs
3. Myrkur - Mararidt
4. Eluveitie - Evocation II: Pantheon
5. Butcher Babies - Lilith

Ton Dekkers

1. Nightwish - Vehicle of Spirit (live)
2. Epica - The Solace System
3.  VUUR - In This Moment We Are Free - Cities
4.  Arch Enemy - As the Stages Burn! (live)
6. Kobra and the Lotus - Prevail I
7. Arch Enemy - Will to Power
8. Cradle of Filth - Cryptoriana
9. Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
10. Talvienkeli - Hybris
11. Cellar Darling - This Is the Sound

As Epica is an EP, the reason for 11.  Honorable mentions to: End of the Dream - Until You Break; The Charm The Fury - The Sick, Dumb & Happy; Myrkur – Mareridt.

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