OPINION: The 50 Best Albums of 2017

It was a year of strife for most Americans and chaos for most of the world as fascism rises more every day across the globe alongside natural disaster. Surprisingly few musical artists have been able or apt to express their worldview as they cater to indifferent millennial listeners who favor skronk over substance and have no real education in any form of history (be it politics or music). With chaos, nature’s wrath, and stupidity upending the world with increasing frequency the only type of music that abates the anxious feeling of being strangled of my rights and future is absolutely extreme heavy metal. While I do take extensive detours into blues rock, noise rock, and hardcore punk variations it seems the darkest music the Earth has to offer is ultimately the most interesting type of escapism. Note: These are not going to be reviews, just hot takes, but I will link to full reviews when applicable. A couple reviews are still in the works and will be linked later.

Unfortunately 2017 has been one of the most insanely productive year for artists. The general level of quality worldwide has reached incredible levels of competition and insight. I can’t listen to everything and nothing frustrates me more than missing the obscurities that can give life greater meaning. So, while I will make a post-2017 list of things I missed or didn’t have time to absorb, here are a few things I won’t have time to sort out before I finish this list: Mass Burial, Entheogen, Cavalera Conspiracy, Ghost Echoes, Godflesh, Monolith Cult, Malokarpatan, Eldamar, Svartdaudi, Valdur, Tongues and Morvigor among many others. They are overlooked for now but will most all be reviewed unless the score is lower than a three out of five.

Honorable mention to some bands that didn’t make the cut simply because they didn’t make a huge impression: Vektroid, Acid Witch, Exarsis, Heir, Dawn Ray’d, Arckanum, Faceless Burial, Dyscarnate, Gigan, Pyrrhon, Aerial Ruin, Canker, Inanimate Existence, Leprous, Cormorant, Darkside Ritual, Entrench, Immolation, Fleshpress, Condor, Nightbringer, Black Magick SS, Pissed Jeans, Iron Reagan, and about fifty others. They all put out amazing albums that would easily fill in a top hundred if I had the fortitude to sort out that many. This list will feature differently than my 2017 end of year list for rateyourmusic, I’ve decided to focus more on my output here and to not write any new lists on that site. I will continue with the ones I’ve started but no new ones outside of yearly wishlists. All features will now move here where I can control the content better, exist without censorship, and easily edit without bureaucratic bullshit.

Album Artwork #/Artist/Album Thoughts/Links
 Forward Into the Past

50.

Skyclad

Forward Into the Past

Ritual nudity. That is what Skyclad means. Hey, this is a band I’ve always really enjoyed and as of this record I’ve decided that Martin Walkyier isn’t what the band was missing, but rather his vocal melodies. The additional guitar also helps. Everything Skyclad has done after ‘Folkemon’ has been garbage and I’m surprised that “Forward into the Past” actually lives up to the name in that the bands original personality has reappeared through some choices that keep things -earthy- where they should be. This folk metal band came from the tailing ends of thrash metal and inspired an important and vibrant sub-genre for decades after. Here we’re far from crunchy thrash and whatnot but we’ve got a better vocal performance and lyrics that are smartly quipped enough to feel like a true Skyclad album. Is it amazing? Well, actually some parts are really awesome but the album as a whole is forgettable. I had to listen about 8 times over three weeks to really get most of it to sink in and by then some of it was actually a little irritating. Good show, now go make more Satan records instead, please.

Folk metal. Heavy metal.

Links:
http://www.skyclad.band/ 
https://www.facebook.com/officialskycladpage 
http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Skyclad/58

 landawarijaR

49.

Helheim

landawarijaR

I hate the name of this and the last album. It’s just something backwards and I don’t care what it means. Type it normal-ways and call your stupid album “Warrior” or whatever. Ugh! Anyway, this is a good album that has grown on me over the year. At first it seemed really kooky and ‘weird for the sake of being weird’ but the more I listened the less I care about the quirks. It is an easy listening record and a refreshingly modern sort of viking metal album. This is sort of where I figured bands like Arckanum might go with their sound, but instead this is obviously more evocative of the increasingly new age-ified black metal coming from bands like Enslaved, Kampfar and Taake… though I’d say this is Helheim at a real prog peak that mostly drowns out the ‘black metal’ moments. I like it, though I’m unsure how it’ll stack up to repeated listens.

Progressive black metal. Pagan black metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Time Well

48.

Cloakroom

Time Well

Something I’d never check out unless Relapse hadn’t been pimping it online so much. I thought I was getting some kind of hipster doom metal album at first, but it is apparently some kind of gazing-at-shoes, after-hardcore, alterna-rocking sappy garbage core. It works really well for me, reminds me of listening to Snail, and Hum too. I don’t really know much about this genre but this album settled into my psyche easily and pleasantly. The experience is somewhat uplifting though I don’t think that is what was intended.

Shoegaze. Post-hardcore. Stoner rock.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 The Lesser God

47.

Dumal

The Lesser God

I’ve seen several people compare this to Mgla but I believe that is because they haven’t really studied the history of melodic black metal. In fact, that distinction was inspiration for my ongoing Exhaustive Study feature on melodic black metal list, because not only do I love this sub-genre… it is woefully deserving of recognition. Who knew tremolo picking and evil could combine so well with melodious, downtrodden songwriting. Dumal plays the kind of music that could either inspire or depress you, in fact both are completely natural responses. Dumal is maybe more typically black metal in construction than Mgla even. The rhythm section is both the melodic device and the lead guitar and as such the riffing is prove to weave and dissociate for the sake of composition. “What does that even mean?” just… go listen to the first Sacramentum album and it’s got that sound and dual guitar interplay without really going as far as to explore counterpoint rhythms. Surprisingly good, if not a bit ‘heard it before’ in many ways. I get lost in the stuff the guitars do.

Black metal. Melodic black metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Desolate Endscape

46.

Phrenelith

Desolate Endscape
Could have been album of the year if they’d made bolder choices with their atmospheric death metal sound. Too often Phrenelith falls back into easy mode with Incantation tropes and some bland atmospheric death metal laziness. While I do love occult and atmospheric death metal I think there is such a strong output in that field that ‘Desolate Endscape’ feels amateurish by comparison and a concept not fully formed.

Death metal.

Link: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Perish

45.

Hymn

Perish

 

Hymn offer up a guitar and drum only duo of big sound and incredibly dark sludge metal. I say sludge because the vocalist screams hard as hell, and the doom riffs are more basic and aim for that big boom rather than smart lick far outside of anything I’d call traditional doom. It almost seems like sludge/doom bands are trying to avoid sounding like the uber-fuzz of Electric Wizard and instead going for tone closer to death/doom metal. “Perish” is incredibly heavy and feels like a bitter, angry record not unlike Neurosis before they fully chose art over testosterone. I love how dark and angry this record feels, how it’ll just sit there and chug in your face in the most oppressive way. Kind of like if Monolord took a severely stark and almost 90’s metal approach. I thought 2017 was going to be the year of thrash metal for me but it turned out that the tendency was for a tone of great sludge/doom metal every month.

Sludge metal. Doom metal.

Link: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 TWENTYLASTCENTURY

44.

Toxic Shock

TWENTYLASTCENTURY

This is a newer addition to this list because I only recently heard it in November. Toxic Shock play a vibrant old school form of crossover thrash that takes influences from the height of Suicidal Tendencies popularity as well as classic Bay Area thrash and some straight forward German thrash influences. Erosion, the German 80’s thrash band, is a good comparison. This band would fit nicely opening for Power Trip or co-headlining with Iron Reagan, though this album isn’t as slick as either of those it better captures the throwback sound.  

Thrash metal. Crossover punk.

Link: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds

43.

Sarcasm

Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds

Sarcasm has somehow beaten Dawn to the punch if they’re planning to ever make music again because this awesome melodic death/black metal album comes straight from that school of Swedish death metal. It’s as if the band picked up right after 1994, and I mean that as a big compliment. I wasn’t all that excited about A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset as a debut and never knew about the Burial Dimensions release or the reformation of the band. The production sound of the album sounds straight out of The Somberlain and the music reminds me of a medium between Dawn‘s “Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher” and Eucharist‘s “Mirrorworlds” albums. This is easily one of my favorite sounds when it comes to death metal outside of the more thrash oriented and classic North American death metal bands. Lots of lead guitar melody, faster pace, and some nice slower chuggy doom-ish parts that are heavy. Cover art is pretty dorky comic book art, though.

Melodic death metal. Death/Black metal.

Links:
http://sarcasmsweden.se/ 
https://www.facebook.com/sarcasmsweden/ 
http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Sarcasm/10913 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgxHqtdLumg

Deprive

42.

Moral Void

Deprive

A very heavy and ballsy black/crust record that takes dips into atmospheric sludge ideas briefly on a few tracks. I like the 80/20 ratio of these things. The crust songs are powerful but not memorable and mostly rote. I’d compare this to Martyrdod but a black metal version rather than the melodic death that band did on ‘Elddop’. Good stuff if you like your d-beat mixed with extreme metal as much as I do.

Crust punk. Black metal. Sludge metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Deliverance From the Godless Void

41.

Desolate Shrine

Deliverance From the Godless Void

This was a dense and vicious record to approach at first and it is easily one of the best things Desolate Shrine have recorded. The balance of death metal, black metal and atmospheric death metal style is a step above what many bands in the cavern-core genre are capable of. I don’t know if it will ever be the kind of thing that just sticks in my head but it is perhaps one of the darkest extreme metal rollercoasters you’ll go on all year. 

Atmospheric death/black metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Reflections of a Floating World

40.

Elder

Reflections of a Floating World

Elder’s last album “Lore” was good, but it lacked standout tracks. The style was there and the recording was perfect but it just meandered too much. Reflections does something entirely different where each track has its own personality and some stylistic changes add interest to tracks. I had moments where it reminded me of Mastodon and Tool and those are OK reference points if you add in some post-rock edges and actual doom metal riffs once in a while. This didn’t really grab me as much after 2-3 listens the way an album like Snail‘s “Feral” did a few years back. Good but likely will get lost in the shuffle for a lot of people.

Stoner metal. Heavy psych. Doom metal.

Links:
https://beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/elderofficial

 Heartless

39.

Pallbearer

Heartless

Well, Pallbearer have peaked their heads from behind darker production and heavier guitars and it isn’t half bad. It isn’t post-rock or anything, actually this stuff gets sappy and downright 80’s progressive rock at times. The guitar tone and style are in tact, so the music has personality well enough. Vocals are more experimental and not entirely sad-face as they’ve been in the past, he hits a certain tone on songs that reminds me of Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon… its more of a 70’s influence than it is a poppy, nasal thing though. Oddly enough this album reminds me a whole lot of a refined take on Warning‘s classic “Watching from a Distance” if only for the pace, style of riffs on slower tracks and the emotive vocals. They do the sad-face doom thing so well without being gothic or softy-pants, tracks like “Cruel Road” channel some kind of hulking Neurosis fused with Ministry underwater monstrosity and wow is it cool. This is just as good as the other two records they’ve put out but still features abundant exploration that doesn’t reach an uncomfortable level of new ideas. Cool painting for the cover, also… works from various distances.

Doom metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 The Mortal Horizon

38.

Desecresy

The Mortal Horizon

While the ex-Slugathor bedroom death metal project has lost it’s original vocalist and became a one man project on this release, the important elements are all here for fans of Desecresy’s bludgeoning, cavernous Finnish death metal. I’m not that impressed by his vocals, while I do appreciate some of the guttural experimentation the result feels more like an unfinished demo tape than an actual full-length release. It still works, I mean his grungy riffing and drowned out production remain in full effect. I only wish he’d have bothered to recruit someone else for the vocals and recording/mixing. I was concerned that I’d stumbled upon a shitty rip of the recording, but listening to the tracks from their record label highlight just how lung-collapsed The Mortal Horizon sounds. Still, it is a good enough moment from a Finnish death metal band that I find completely hypnotizing.

Death metal. Death doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 9-13

37.

Iron Monkey

9-13

Folks who were heavily into sludge in the late 90’s and 00’s should have at least heard of Iron Monkey as they’re often pimped alongside Electric Wizard and such. Their style is closer to Eyehategod on this record, and retains that screeching hardcore punk half the time. I find it totally abrasive and exhaustive and just punched out with energy that is infectious and satisfying. Hey maybe it did irritate the shit out of me and make me freak out and get a headache, but it felt really great. 

Sludge metal. Hardcore punk.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 a1107963809_10

36.

Blood Oath

The Line Between

A very new Chilean death metal band that keeps things strictly old school in style. Their style mostly borrows from Autopsy and Death in terms of mechanics and riffing but they make a conscious effort to toss in some psychedelic death metal influence, something like a messier version of the first Morbus Chron record, which also channeled Autopsy quite a bit.

Death metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Relatives in Descent

35.

Protomartyr

Relatives in Descent

There are few non-metal albums out this year that really moved me and made me think. It isn’t that Protomartyr have changed drastically it is that ‘Relatives in Descent’ makes bold statements within their post-punk/noise rock influenced music. The atmosphere is thick and there is a sort of Nick Cave twisted confidence that is both memorable and unsettling. I rarely put stock in lyrical themes of rock music, or the conceptual failings that often follow, but this album is special and emotionally raw. It is also notably a huge step in just general quality and that should always be applauded above stagnating, over-hyped groups like the Swans.

Post-punk. Noise rock. Art rock.

Link: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Lords of Death

34.

Temple of Void

Lords of Death

Since there isn’t likely to be a Hooded Menace record this year Temple of Void’s latest will have to do. This is a pretty solid record that isn’t just death/doom but there are some meaty Bolt Thrower nods in there too. Death/doom lives and dies by the riff and the sound and Temple of Void finally have some better guitarists writing their tracks. The previous album was weak and disjointed, nothing flowed properly, but on ‘Lords of Death’ they’ve found the best example of this sound since… well, since Hooded Menace decided to write 15 minute songs.

Death metal. Death/doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Trance of Death

33.

Venenum

Trance of Death

Well, I’ve been so thrilled by bands like Stench, Temisto, and to a lesser degree Tribulation that I’m always ready for something a little different in terms of death/back metal and “Trance of Death” is basically ‘on trend’. I saw so many people sort of in disagreement about the strengths and weaknesses of this album that I hesitated to check it out for a long while. Venenum is at its core a melodic black metal band with death metal vocals and some progressive/atmospheric tendencies. When I say atmospheric I mean they will take a break and make a psychedelic noise or shift towards something different and unexpected in regular intervals. The core of the music is black/death metal with a lot of energy and adornment but not a huge number of riffs, or riffs that don’t always lead anywhere. But! I feel like tracks like “Cold Threat” with their Candlemass riffing and wailing guitars never fail to impress upon repeated listens. I enjoy what this band is trying to do, and to be honest they’re only still trying and not completely doing. I can’t help but fully get on the Venenum hype train, especially because the three part opus at the end of the album is brain-fellatio in the form of metal.

Progressive death/black metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Primordial Malignity

32.

Tomb Mold

Primordial Malignity

This is really ballsy Autopsy (lazy comparison, sorry) style death metal that is instantly satisfying. Lots of crazy riffs, and an adventurous spirit you’d hear on ‘Soulside Journey’ or maybe a more recent Finnish band like Coffincraft. Brutal and very loud, but not entirely stupid and pointless like Undergang. I’m almost sure this entire album is made up of stolen old school death metal riffs but it doesn’t really bother me at all because they’ve arranged them in mostly interesting ways. Thanato‘s first album was a lot of just grabbing their favorite riffs and such from death/thrash and making a great album that felt like fans making metal, and this is similar even if that isn’t the intention. It isn’t plagiarism from start to finish, but if you get a magical feeling listening to Tomb Mold, maybe consider listening to any old school midwestern US death metal from the 90’s because it kinda had this style, or some bands were far more technical. A few tracks reminded me of Morgue, the one that put out “Eroded Thoughts”, but through a sort of Finnish DM perspective. It is really good and I don’t feel like I have to be an apologist for music that is not entirely original in every way. This certainly isn’t modern, but it is damn heavy and noisy.

Death metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Decreation

31.

Acephalix

Decreation

Acephalix came back with a renewed sense of self and a heavier overall sound. ‘Decreation’ is a tribute to old school death metal with the same additional punk energetics that drove Nihilist, Autopsy and Master back in the day. It is probably the best thing they’ve done to this day and should make fans of stuff like Black Breath and Mammoth Grinder new converts.

Death Metal. Crust punk.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Descent Into Hell

30.

Death Yell

Descent Into Hell

Some random old demo only band from Chile that has been around since I believe 1986. Apart from a crazy Sarcofago and grindcore influenced demo in 1989 and two splits with Beherit and Atomic Aggressor that’d put out literally nothing until now. Well it was a cool surprise to find this album is solid death metal not unlike Sadism minus the Morbid Angel influences. It sounds very South American circa 1993 ah via Poland around the same time due to clean production and a great drummer.

Death metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Supernatural Punishment

29.

Under the Church

Supernatural Punishment

While it might just seem like they’ve riffed on ‘Clandestine’ this time around, once you’ve moved beyond the allure of their Swedish death metal riffing and d-beats the band actually has a lot to offer on ‘Supernatural Punishment’. It definitely invokes the gods of Nihilist and Autopsy but also takes influence from German speed metal and Sodom/Venom early works. The final track almost feels like death/doom in it’s crawl. If you’re not interested in this kind of music anymore, at the very least listen to the track “Staircase From Hell”! Should be noted that this band is made up from the guys from Nirvana 2002, and now features the vocalist from Crucifyre and the guitarist from Merciless (Swe).

Death metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 The Room of Shadows

28.

Pagan Altar

The Room of Shadows

Heavy metal/obscure post-NWOBHM has lost their favorite grandpa as the vocalist of Pagan Altar passed away from cancer several years ago. Their last album has been re-recorded apart from his vocals and it is a pleasantly gloomy and mystical doom/rock experience. It isn’t too far from the style of ‘Mythical & Magical’ but slower and contemplative by comparison. I found this record emotional at first, but I think much of that was my own reaction to his passing and thinking about how the band never really got their fair shake in the world for whatever reason. Sucks he died but hey, this album is fantastic and should make fans pretty damn happy.

Traditional doom metal. Proto-doom.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Desolate Gods

27.

Father Befouled

Desolate Gods

I had other things to listen to for a while and it was a shameful thing to do, but I set aside ‘Desolate Gods’ for far too long. Father Befouled have risen to become one of the better bands resembling Incantation these days and this record is pretty flawless in execution and groove. The sludge and doom influenced parts of this album are hard hitting and powerful while the more typical Incantation-alike moments are just inoffensive. Though I imagine I won’t keep much room on this list for Incantalikes for long, since the band itself is on a massive roll with the last two records… but this is particularly good and they’ve outlasted a lot of the other derivative bands that cashed in on the ‘new retro’ trend of the last five years.

Death metal. Death doom metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Exuvia

26.

The Ruins of Beverast

Exuvia

TRoB’s previous album “Blood Vaults…” blew my mind and it’s safe to say this guy’s ideas have been doing that since he was in Nagelfar and released ‘Srontgorrth’, an album that I believe I’m seriously the only person to ever really love. It’s odd that the band doesn’t consider that a part of their official discography even though TRoB has gone on to use some of that style along the way. “Exuvia” is another massive funeral doom paced atmospheric achievement in extreme metal but now instead of a cathedral-like production space that “Blood Vaults” sported it appears he’s filled an orchestral hall with a hundred more brilliantly thick layers of sound that echo as dramatically as possible. The guitars remain a slow driving force in the music here and the tribal themes, operatic vocals, and samples aren’t lost so much as left to enhance the songs as things stray away from slow-dirge heaviness or the occasional faster-paced black metal moments. My only complaint here is that Inverloch did it better last year (minus the atmoblack)… and my -real- complaint is that the cover art basically sucks.

Death/doom metal. Atmospheric black/funeral doom metal.

Links:
Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Domus Mysterium

25.

Slægt

Domus Mysterium

I remember listening to the 00’s albums from classic Czech black/opera metal band Root and being blown away by the inspired period of pure heavy metal and their gothy/first wave black metal feeling. Slaegt evokes this approach into an even more bizarre and satisfying form of classic metal sifted through black metal and progressive/epic structures. The last albums to come from Morbus Chron and perhaps Hail Spirit Noir also used this sort of approach but with different ingredients. I feel the black/heavy combination is often really terribly botched by samey song structures and an over dependence on one main song idea stretched too thin. Vried and Darkthrone have almost made parody of the music they worship and even they are far from the most offensive. Slaegt uses the dream-like shimmer of Morbus Chron and pumps in some cackled vocals for what I’d say is a black metal-ish version of Tribulation’s “The Formulas of Death”. That is to say it is maybe too progressive influenced for me but I still really enjoy the ride as the riffs and atmospherics flutter about. They really could just be playing half speed King Crimson solos and calling them riffs, I seriously would never know and probably would never care.

Progressive black/heavy metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Upon My Cremation Pyre

24.

Jordablod

Upon My Cremation Pyre

Jordablod’s debut is a big surprise for me and something that has stuck with me over the summer. The abstracted, progressive take on black/death metal earns its place alongside bands like Slaegt, Morbus Chron, Venenum and others taking similar paths. ‘Upon My Cremation Pyre’ is a terrifying and inspirational journey through haunted forests and forgotten caves. It isn’t so incredibly psychedelic, there are elements of surf and space rock as well, but it fits under the same umbrella of bands experimenting with psych elements in extreme metal. Guitar work is particularly interesting and satisfying to follow along, but it also functions as nice background music if you’re so inclined.

Psychedelic black/death metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Celestial Cemetery

23.

Purple Hill Witch

Celestial Cemetery

A banging good time from a traditional doom metal band. Their sound is excellent and their riffs are mournful rock music with both majestic and gloomy themes. ‘Celestial Cemetary’ is an example of doom metal greatest appeal, just solid downtrodden hard rock with powerful riffs and pensive vocals. The guitar work isn’t flashy but it is clever and exemplifies traditional doom influence on modern doom. Purple Hill Witch don’t do anything revolutionary they just know good doom, hell they barely manage variation on this record it just sounds really sweet as a repeated spin. They’ve only gotten better on this second album, kudos to them and doom upon the world.

Traditional doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 To Kill a King

22.

Manilla Road

To Kill a King

Truth be told I haven’t really enjoyed a Manilla Road release since ‘Playground of the Damned’ and I hated that one until I forced myself to sit down and go through it two times. To Kill a King adds what the last three releases lack, guitars as the driving force or focus in songs. The guitar tone is loud and as aggressive as MR has ever had them, and I think a lot of fans (like me) will be excited to hear extensive use of guitar solos, heavier riffs, and less of a focus on Shelton’s balladry. Nothing against ballads as MR does them better than most, but they were scraping the bottom of the barrel on the previous two records. My enthusiasm in listening to this album the first time rose to levels I’d previously reserved for the comeback stuff from Satan, as I love both bands equally. Just listen to a track like “The Arena” as it follows the exceptional “Never Again” that is fuckin’ classic MR and I couldn’t be happier. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Manilla Road and it’s amazing the band is still capable of this sort of wizardry.

Heavy metal. Speed metal. Progressive metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Gnosis Primordial

21.

Question

Gnosis Primordial

Excellent stuff here from this Mexican death metal band. Though the press release mentions bands like Carbonized I wouldn’t say this really reflect the sound of either group, or really the progressive approach. This is definitely Question’s own brand of 90’s influenced death metal but it firmly rests in death metal territory for its duration. Now the stylistic influences are debatable but I’d lean towards old school Finnish death/doom as I’m most reminded of Adramelech but also frantic projects like Exoto that had progressive and thrash metal leanings within the 90’s death metal archetype. I’d hoped for some kind of psychedelia-punched death/doom album, and I do think a full-length of this stuff could contend alongside bands like Krypt, but I’m not disappointed by the structure and sound of Gnosis Primordial. Looking forward to the inevitable full-length in time.

Death metal.

Links: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Dysangelium

20.

Ensnared

Dysangelium

A brilliantly exhaustive guitar rant strung into layered and oft-conjoined death metal songs. The flow and anxious swagger of the music feels like ‘A Saunter in the Shroud’ at times, as it settles into a non-standard death metal moment. I get that dirty Swedish feeling in my taint as if a wet piece of silk was scraping against it as these songs wash themselves upon me with their dirty-water riffs and slightly obstructive interludes. Written to be absorbed as a whole, and thoughtful in every moment is somehow reserved for this type of modern atmospheric death metal. I really love that this album can toy with my attention, flowing in and out of calm and brilliant moments one after the other.

Death metal.

Link: Listen on their Bandcamp!

 Void Masquerading as Matter

19.

Thantifaxath

Void Masquerading as Matter

These obscure Canadians have hit a sort of amazing peak in the realm of technical wizardry and dark expression with this EP. It is 30+ minutes of fine-tuned machinery that extrudes organic post-modernist black metal noise. The atmospherics are high-concept but low on pretense as the movements are classically inspired and lead with purpose beyond what similarly skilled bands are doing (Pyrrhon, Gigan, Krallice) with exceptional skill. While metal will always remain a pedestrian affair, I hope that this band is influencing folks with greater knowledge of arrangement and effective composition to take the intense medium of extreme metal and create generations of tasteful and dark music. The songs are quite long and might seem frantic but their cohesion is probably the band’s best material to date.

Atmospheric technical black metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Rough Times

18.

Kadavar

Rough Times

Another retro hard rock album from Kadavar but this one is actually special. They’ve avoided the dullness of ‘Berlin’ and instead focused more on songwriting and catchy moments. The result puts stuff like Ghost to shame and offers a production sound that really revives that ‘Sabotage’ style but with much heavier bass. I really loved the bass playing on this record and the vocals are so centered around strong melodies that evoke the 70’s while focusing on the issues of today in a broad and clever way. ‘Rough Times’ is just that, a clever and heavy rock record that does what groups like Pentagram have been aiming for for decades.

Stoner rock. Heavy psych.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Mirror Reaper

17.

Bell Witch

Mirror Reaper

The harrowing return of Bell Witch comes with 80 minutes of deeply sad baggage after the band’s original drummer/vocalist passed away. The occasional sludge riffing of the past is gone here, and has given way to a full, spacious funeral doom metal sound. The beginning of the second half of the piece, as Mirror Reaper is one song in two ~40 minute parts, is particularly moving. How ironic, or respectfully appropriate?, that a man’s passing has given way to one of my personal favorite funeral doom records of all time. Beyond the situational emotional tugs the vocals and bass playing are monstrous and it is very easy to forget that this duo doesn’t feature an electric guitar, just a 6 string bass. A phenomenal release.

Funeral doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Deranged Pagan Sons

16.

Cardinals Folly

Deranged Pagan Sons

I haven’t liked a doom metal album this much since the first Lord Vicar or that cool Mountain Witch record from last year. This is damn near perfection and that surprised me considering I’m not the biggest fan of this band’s other stuff. Maybe I never gave it a fair shake? This one sounds so distinctly Finnish and Reverend Bizarre that they’ve nearly outdone Pilgrim. The whole thing is meant to sound psychotic and surreal, but still wearing the skin of Reagers fronted Saint Vitus. I can leave ‘Deranged Pagan Sons’ on repeat for hours and hours and keep on enjoying it over and over. Easily top ten for the year.

Doom metal. Traditional doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Sarcophagus in the Sky

15.

Heavydeath

Sarcophagus in the Sky

In their third official full-length, ‘Dark Phoenix Rising’ was technically not according to the band (was it a demo? I don’t understand), Heavydeath have achieved their most clear and varied release to date. Their music is still gloomy and droning, off-kilter in a smartly dark way, but they’ve tightened up the production quality. It has been amazing to follow all of their demo, rehearsal and official releases up to this point though I am less surprised by each release. Their style is hard to nail down, it is a mix of death/doom and doom metal that they’ve evolved since the breakup of Runemagick. In many ways I’d prefer something more overtly death metal to mix things up, but at the same time this is far more original and interesting as a whole.

Doom metal. Death/doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Interiors

14.

Quicksand

Interiors

Quicksand have reemerged 22 years later as Walter Schreifel’s latest project after Rival Schools petered out and bassist Sergio Vega’s contributions to Deftones launched that band into new frontiers. ‘Interiors’ takes the core post-hardcore sound of Quicksand and instead of 90’s alternative rock and aggro-groove they’ve opted for a sound not unlike modern iterations from bands like Failure and Hum. The result is a landmark release for me as it has the appeal of post-metal Deftones sound without Moreno’s self-deprecating need to ‘innovate’ away all obvious melody. An incredible memorable and catchy album, at times it reminds me of Rival Schools, other times Snapcase even. Lyrics are amazing too, all of the old man snark of LCD Soundsystem without the cheesy post-punk bopping.

Post-hardcore. Alternative metal. Noise rock.

Links:
http://epitaph.com/artists/quicksand/release/interiors

 Street Reaper

13.

R.I.P.

Street Reaper

I liked the first RIP album but this one is way more memorable and just a good time with great tones. This is that sweet jogging proto-metal spookification that is Pentagram‘s hooky-catchy demo archives and that speedier Saint Vitus record ‘Hallow’s Eve’ by way of Dave Chandler’s brilliant but forgotten Debris Inc. self-titled doom/punk record. Sure, ‘Street Reaper’ is less a Vitus inspired record than I lead on, but it has all of that spirit when it gets down to business. I find this highly memorable, stoned or sober and their live show is always a good time.

Doom metal. Stoner rock.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Backwater

12.

Fuoco Fatuo

Backwater

This was a very good year for funeral doom and death/doom in general, despite a low number of releases in the actual funeral doom category. The quality of releases has generally been above the old standard “bedroom metal” projects and it seems the sub-genre has made some strides in experimentation and diversity. Fuoco Fatuo have put together one of my favorites in the genre as it offers the aggressive death metal aesthetics of say Spectral Voice at a lower speed and uses the careful movements of Evoken to create their own style of funeral doom that is smartly woven into several long explorations of existentialism and themes of the unknown and void. It is a meditative album that doesn’t take great risks, and it might feel safe compared to others but I think it hold great replay value and never feels like a slog.

Funeral doom metal. Death/doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Dunes

11.

Sutrah

Dunes

Transcendent death metal from members of Chthe’ilist that is as progressive in execution and very technical. Still evokes the technical death metal Canadians are known for but with a woke ass message and enlightened writing. It is an exceptionally crafted ride that improves with every listen that evokes both Stargazer and Anata with a hint of Obscura‘s punchy bass driven stuff on ‘Cosmogenesis’. It is one of those anytime spins that I can put on whenever and always finish it. I hope to hear a ton more from this band.

Progressive death metal. Technical death metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Ornuthi Thalassa

10.

 Serpent Column

Ornuthi Thalassa

Complex only to the point of beautiful fixation that pushes the pace forward relentlessly. I’d like to compare this to stuff to the most recent DeathSpell Omega stuff but I feel like this takes its roots more from death metal and heavy metal and advances with it’s old frantic permutations. The sound is aggressive and completely avoids atmospheric black metal tags with it’s urgent clangor and pensive growling. There is next to no information available on this band or album, being simply released on Fallen Empire (home to Mgla, Mysphyrming, etc.) and hot damn is this a smoking joint. However you’d like to describe the music, it is regal and powerfully delivered mutant black metal. After getting in touch with the creator Theophilos, we went back and forth with questions over the course of a few months and it turned into an interview: Click HERE to read the INTERVIEW

Progressive black/death/thrash metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Nightmare Logic

9.

 Power Trip

Nightmare Logic

It’s been almost a full year, maybe longer, since I’ve been excited by a new thrash metal album. So many inauthentic and under-served retro thrash albums came and went in 2016 and none of them gave me more than a half-chub beyond the all too adventurous Vektor outing. I’m not a snob, really, when it comes to thrash I just have get the right feeling from the music. “Nightmare Logic” takes me back to “Ride the Lightning” and D.R.I.‘s  “Crossover” in the most perfect way, and delivers an angry, serious metal album that is balls-out and near perfect for my taste. That isn’t to say it is drastically better than their debut, but it does capture a certain urgency that you only got before thrash metal went the guitar virtuoso (or, I guess groove metal in most cases) route in the early 90’s. I love this stuff and it helps a great deal that the tracks have chorus, breaks, bridges, as they visit the core structures that made thrash interesting in the first place mixing hardcore punk with speed metal. There are huge riffs, and choruses, all over “Nightmare Logic” even in just the first couple tracks. Its a great thing to behold when a modern day band does this style of music right without being so literal, or cloning. Fans of bay area, crossover, and second wave jersey bands will like this the most.

Thrash metal. Crossover thrash.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Stalking the Ghost

8.

 Unearthly Trance

Stalking the Ghost

I’d never heard of this band before this album and only really got it because it was described as Doom metal and it had awesome cover artwork. Well the music is well represented by the art on the front, it is dark and psychedelic without being overstated or indulgent. The sound is pure sludge metal but the music itself is made up of doom metal parts, so if any album released in 2017 represented a perfect medium between the two styles this is certainly it. I feel like Stalking the Ghost is best when they band focuses on heavier riffing, the drone-like parts and builds make for neat sound effects but pad the album at times. Luckily the huge riffs show up often enough with a great range of guitar tone that I was always entertained while listening. It isn’t an amazing record but it is a very good and focused one, and I feel focus is really what lacks most in even the best sludge projects.

Doom metal. Sludge metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Sterilize

7.

 Unsane

Sterilize

Probably my favorite Unsane album since ‘Scattered, Smothered & Covered’. As much as I liked ‘Visqueen’ this one has even better production sound, some of my favorite riffs from the band and lots of memorable songs. I’m not really a noise rock or post-hardcore specialist but Unsane has continued to appeal to me over the last two decades as I went from hardcore punk fan to extreme metal fan. ‘Sterilize’ feels claustrophobic at first withe -16- style vocals and Albini-esque production, but with repeated listens it has become my favorite non-metal album of 2017.

Noise rock. Post-hardcore.

Click HERE to listen on Bandcamp!

 Curse of Conception

6.

 Spirit Adrift

Curse of Conception

Spirit Adrift come back a year later seemingly with a point to prove, and they’ve proven it: They’re a great band with an incredible sense for the doom riff, for the melodrama of epic doom metal, and they smartly infused thrash and classic heavy metal influences into their sound. It is a huge and accessible record full of big guitar solos, emotional doom metal poetics. They’ve made the incredible inspiring leap that metal bands are so rarely capable of. It is a revelation of a record from a very unassuming band.

Doom metal. Epic doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

5.

Spectral Voice

Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

As their demo ‘Necrotic Doom’ suggested, this is a wooly and rotten beast of a death/doom record. The guitars draw equally from Mournful Congregation and Evoken but still insist on Incantation style production and approach. The result is impossibly heavy death/doom with funeral doom metal moments, the songs aren’t initially distinct but as I listened this album grew on me tenfold. Mostly because I love Evoken, but also because they couldn’t be accused of ripping those groups off. This easily tops Father Befouled and Fuoco Fatuo for my favorite death/doom of the year, and that was a difficult thing to accept.

Death/doom metal. Funeral doom metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 Εξιλασμός

4.

Kawir

Εξιλασμός

Kawir has been one of my favorite black metal bands since at least 2011 or so, and following them since ‘Isotheos’ has reinforced those feelings. On ‘Exilasmos’ this Greek band does their thing with no filler and no real nonsense. Their take on pagan black metal, which is essentially melodic black metal, is powerful and prideful without ever feeling corny or trendy. Their sense for black metal riffing and heavy metal riffing goes beyond the sort of romanticized Rotting Christ comparisons and instead speaks directly the voices of the pantheon. I don’t think many bands do black/pagan/folk metal as well as Kawir.

Pagan black metal. Melodic black metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Terrestrial Mutations

3.

Droid

Terrestrial Mutations

Science fiction thrash metal with some progressive metal tendencies. It reminds me of Deathrow, Voivod, or the second Hexen album more than Vektor surprisingly enough. The production is clean and recalls a 1991 feeling, bright and heavy without anything too lavish or raw to bung things up. One of the coolest thrash albums out this year for its great mix of old and new while still feeling stream-of-consciousness without getting too ‘out there’. This was in my top 5 this year from the second I heard it, it is so perfectly what I look for in modern prog-thrash style.

Progressive thrash metal. Technical thrash metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

 No Worlds... Nor Gods Beyond

2.

Resurgency

No Worlds… Nor Gods Beyond

I have several big important death metal band names to drop to give you an idea of what this record sounds like and surprisingly it all leans a bit Florida 90’s death metal this time around. Sure you might go straight for Diabolic but that’s too brutal, and I’d say that the structure of this album resembles Deicide and Monstrosity heavily in the 1995 ballpark and previous… but I think of this record a hard lean towards the style of death metal’s biggest missing-in-action modern classic band Anata. The bopping basslines, pace changes, and tightly wound (some might say predictable) song structures make for a modern-but-retro-ish feeling death metal record. The blasphemy is real here and the vocalist’s delivery retains that evil possessed priest describing his vision for a world of living hell. I hope the world burns so completely that the universe is infected with the poisonous ash of humanity’s filth beyond the concept of time.

Death metal.

Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Return to the Void

1.

Execration

Return to the Void

A dream-like continuation of the previous Execration album where these brilliant minds build off of their off-kilter death metal feel while producing a chaotic-yet-polished death/noise rock jangly sort of science fiction metal. It does not reach the transcendental King Crimson level of “Sweven” but it evokes the most ambitious Celtic Frost vision and offers a nice release that fits within that psychedelic death metal style. Parts remind me of Stench‘s album “Venture” but with a much more adventurous drummer, with moments that recall the best of The Chasm. A modern day classic in death metal.

Atmospheric death/thrash metal.

Click HERE to Read my REVIEW

So, going forward into 2018 most of my writing will be only on this site though I will continue to post reviews on rateyourmusic. I will still write lists and features but they will be on here and not on RYM/sonemic. I’d love to rant about how unsatisfied I am with the moderation staff and general transition from RYM to sonemic after using the site to connect with others for almost eight years. As always I am looking for great noise rock, hardcore punk, doom metal, death metal, stoner rock, etc. in 2018 so don’t hesitate to share those with me. I’m always open to recommendations or review requests.

Thank you for your time.

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