20 Underground Black Metal Albums You Missed in 2017

Black metal music, depending on your tastes, has either been over-saturated and trend happy for the last two decades or it is one of the more inspiring areas of heavy metal experimentation. 2017 wasn’t a year of monumental breakthroughs and huge leaps in quality or mainstream success. The typical variations that have existed for years are still very popular avenues for artistic expression within the mere aesthetics of black metal. A rasping voice, a tremolo-picked riff, or a lo-fi production sound can be all a band needs to add the ‘black metal’ label to their music and in turn garner greater attention. Hard rock/heavy metal bands with black metal vocalists continue to break through to larger label rosters, despite being newer groups that can barely write a hook much less figure out a minor scale for a rock solo. Progressive and psychedelic trends are even more pervasive in black metal this year than they were for death metal in recent years, and the tendency is typically plagiarism before actual prog-metal. The true and orthodox black metal vision remains in spirit within many bands that generally lack any buzz despite their admirably polished recordings. Atmospheric black metal combined with the blackgaze (blackened shoegaze) style bands are still riding on variations of bands like Deafheaven and Alcest with diminishing returns. I wouldn’t blame metal fans for growing tired of black metal in 2017 as it seems like outside of larger, popular releases the spirit of metal and the heart of black metal in particular are the first things to be left behind as we move into the future.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for black metal in 2017 but rather to illustrate what black metal is/was in 2017 and where I think it was most interesting yet overlooked. From my experience these albums were overlooked, underrepresented, and/or passed by quickly by media outlets. Thanks to streaming sites like Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud you’ve got instant access to hundreds of independent black metal band discographies the world over and hey! I’ve done it for you all year, scouring those sites and a few databases that catalog most every release (Discogs/RYM). So, here are some bands that stood out to me as I dug through black metal’s innards throughout 2017. There are a ton of great bands to pimp here that I’ve already reviewed or put in my Top 50 for this year so don’t think I forgot: Morvigor, Malokarpatan, Perdition Winds, Taake, Aosoth, Domgard, Thantifaxath, Krallice, Heir, Kawir, Draugsol, Belus, Jordablod, Serpent Column, and tons of other top tier 2017 black metal maestros I missed.


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Album Urarv – Aurum
Type Full-length
Released  September 21, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Avant-Garde Black Metal

Urarv is Norwegian avant-black metal visionary Aldrahn’s solo project and probably the most exciting thing he’s done since that befuddling Dodheimsgard record from a couple years ago. For all of the crazy things he’s done in bands like Zyklon-B, Thorns, and as the original singer of Old Man’s Child it still seems like this is the most unusual and outside-the-box music he’s produced. It has a sort of depraved howling black metal soul within rocking double bass speed-metal riffs and folk metal breaks. He refines all of his ideas into something as moving as Urfaust’s vocal rollercoaster yet amassing the history and future of black metal ideas. This was all but totally overlooked and not rightly so.


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Album Nailblack – Envied
Type Full-length
Released September 29, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal

Nailblack represent a very tried and true form of black/thrash metal that is not innovative, new or even all that special. Why would I include it here then? I mean in a year so jam-packed with better black/thrash records like Urn‘s self-titled and Condor this still stands out for being stripped down DIY black metal at its core. For their basic sound and muddy drum production Nailblack still bang out a heavy and thrilling set of black/thrash that is well worth a full listen. The two guys from Ohio that make up the band aren’t setting out to bore you and the closer you listen to the guitarist you’ll hear he’s doing everything he possibly can to keep you on your toes with high speed riff changes and some banging Aura Noir style breakdowns. ‘Envied’ is sinister and chaotic in a very pure way that represents the spirit of black metal’s punkish roots.


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Album Entheogen – Without Veil, Nor Self
Type Full-length
Released November 27, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Psychedelic Black Metal

Though ‘Without Veil, Nor Self’ initially appears to be just another atmospheric black metal album, you’re actually quite mistaken! This is essentially a side-project involving most of long running atmospheric black metal band Chaos Moon members where they branch out with their former drummer into a twisted spacious cacophony of psychedelic swarms of guitar effects and tremolo picking. It is a noisome experimental record that evokes some of the terror, yet none of the precision, of a band like Oranssi Pazuzu while trading space rock for the horrors of death in the vacuum of space. This was an album I tossed aside initially but grew to enjoy more as background listening that slowly took shape into something interesting. There are hints of Emperor and Ved Buens Ende beneath the veil of noise to pick out. Definitely an acquired taste, but the blasted drumming and swirls of guitar noise should at least be something far from the ordinary boring atmoblack that is so popular these days.


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Album Morpheus Tales – II
Type Full-length
Released July 7, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Progressive Black Metal, Avant-Garde Metal

Morpheus Tales is a Greek avant-black metal project that is essentially a two man band with some studio musicians to help out. ‘II’ is primarily a progressive metal concept album with some impassioned performances and a yarn to spin about the hypocrisy and madness across the globe. If you don’t mind the stretch of programmed drums (they’re not bad) and an album that generally uses black metal to express aggression and not cold-grym darkness you’ll find a pretty exciting and overlooked independent release. The journey from Chapter II to IV is my favorite set of songs but the whole thing really is an opus with a great message. I promise this whole list won’t be entirely psychedelia and progressive.


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Album Time Lurker – Time Lurker
Type Full-length
Released June 2, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Atmospheric Black Metal

Modern atmospheric black metal is a gnarly beast where the vocalist often sits beneath waves of dulled guitar tones and the whole affair is typically completely lo-fi, not metal, and mixed by folks who are likely deaf. Time Lurker, despite having the sound of many scene atmoblack softies, can whirl up a moving experience once you’ve acclimated to the stylized production. Their clean guitar parts are half-buried but often evoke the same tonality of funeral doom and it works as well or better than your average atmospheric black metal record. I often complain about the trendiness of atmoblack and I hope folks who listen to this record understand how a lot of my frustration is hearing a better band beneath the awkward and obscured production ideas. Old man gripes aside, it is worth it to search around for types of atmospheric black metal you enjoy because it certainly isn’t going away. Of the hundreds of albums I listened to this year there were perhaps another 2-3 hundred that I missed.


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Album Darkenhöld – Memoria Sylvarum
Type Full-length
Released February 13, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Melodic Black Metal

These French folks play some of the best medieval themed black metal around and in the style of classic melodic black metal. Though I personally love and highly prefer their 2014 full-length ‘Castellum’ this is a more than worthy successor. Their melodies aren’t heart wrenching as much as they are proud and occasionally neoclassical in structure. Folks who like pagan black metal like Belenos and Obeisance should find this pretty ace. I probably listened to this more than most black metal albums this year but forgot about it while I was doing my best of list this year, so I had to include it here.


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Album Kafirun – Eschaton
Type Full-length
Released June 18, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Occult Black Metal

The nuance of an album like ‘Eschaton’ should be lost to most because it both worships the second wave of occult black metal but also takes lessons from groups like Thantifaxath and Krallice in terms of dissonance and melodic ideas. It isn’t modernistic post-core but it does play with occult orthodoxy more than most without veering into death metal or abstractions of djent. The result is a record that is relatively lukewarm and creepy, like a chanted curse as you enter a temple of sacrifice and smell the rotten bodies of previous attendants. This is sort of a nice companion of you like Sheidim but found the death metal got in the way of things at times. I understand that many folks get just as tired of occult black metal, which is often as riffless as atmospheric black metal but it really can’t be avoided and you’ll have to sit down and decide if its worth wading through several bands to find the one you like the most.


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Album Bloodway – A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues
Type Full-length
Released November 3, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Progressive Black Metal

I can completely understand why a lot of folks might have had trouble with this album and passed it by. The vocals are initially so terrible and gratingly 90’s hardcore that it sounds like a failed post-hardcore band trying to go noise rock but making a Yes record instead. The music reminds me of Virus (Norway), a touch of Fleurety, and a lot of Hail Spirit Noir. It is a shame that they decided to try and make this a black metal record because it goes off on odd 70’s tangents too often and doesn’t really ever achieve the darkness you’d expect with the genre labels given. I don’t particularly like this record and I’m only recommending it as a unique album that shows the diverse things that artists are doing with the sound of modern black metal. If you can listen past the vocals you’ll find a sort of culmination of a lot of trends and experimentation happening in extreme metal today. That doesn’t mean a second of it is good.


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Album Avenger – Mir v harému smrti
Type Full-length
Released August 10, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Melodic Black Metal, Dark Metal

The sixth album from Avenger took four years to record and release and it seems so packed with ideas that is sometimes claustrophobic. I resent the quality of the opener with it’s spoken word samples because it doesn’t properly represent the whole album. The melodic black metal style here is undercut by death metal growls and some Rotting Christ-like decisions that lead me to add  the ‘dark metal’ tag. For a band that has been around since 1992 you would never have guessed it as they resemble a reformed symphonic black metal band from the 90’s that turned off their keyboards. I’ve included this album because it is a grower, a unique old school band that still holds onto the key qualities that defined them in the late 90’s but has been able to modernize and pick up a wildly layered mix of influences over almost thirty years in action.


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Album Seelenfrost – Des Mondes Staub
Type Full-length
Released March 31, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Melodic Black Metal

Very orthodox melodic black metal from a German band known for the style. Most of their albums recreate the sound of the first Sacramentum album and this one is especially good at replicating the humming tremolo guitar sound but they don’t quite pull off the riffs without any counter-point melody or poly-rhythms. It is however some of the more majestic and successful melodic black metal in a year that faced a sore drought of bands interested in the sub-genre. It’s a shame that atmoblack and occult black metal don’t take more hints from the less saccharine history of melodic black metal because it can be exciting and mind-blowing when done properly. An odd thing to say after basically calling this album rote and expected, but it’s coming from a guy who loves basically everything meloblack.


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Album Oculus – The Apostate of Light
Type Full-length
Released October 31, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal

The only reason I initially picked this up was because the drummer/bassist of this project played drums on Kawir‘s ‘Isotheos’, a favorite album of mine. This is a collaboration of artists who have all been very active in black metal over the last couple of decades and their experience and songwriting skills show. Their sound is akin to pagan black metal and occult black metal in that there are some death metal influences and a heaviness that is unexpected. I really like Ormenos’ drumming style but I’ve found that Kozeljnick’s vocals are even more distinct and exploring his other projects (Ophidian Coil, The Stone) has been a pretty fantastic ride. This is a trippy, depraved monster of a black metal album that invokes the horrors of Samael‘s ‘Worship Him’ and the gurgling terror of Deceased and their own menacing black metal crawl.


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Album Voidcraeft – Indoctrination of Emptiness
Type Full-length
Released September 15, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal

Voidcraeft is a German one man project from a brilliant literary mind who just can’t seem to stop the flow of artistic inspiration. He has released 14 EPs since 2013 and four full-lengths in total. This fourth album is a collaboration with Antagonist, a black metal artist who makes his own microtonal guitars. Their collaboration avoids Voidcraeft’s constant comparisons with DeathSpell Omega for the most part because the microtonal guitars create a unique and chiming sound. At times it does sound like they’re  still figuring out how to make the microtonal sound work within aggressive music but it -does- work out very well as a full-length. If you want to know more about the making of the album and it’s concepts you should go to the bandcamp link and read his long and detailed description of the process and intent. I really think it is these types of highly conceptual artists with methods and experimentation that will keep metal interesting well into the future.


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Album Eldamar – A Dark Forgotten Place
Type Full-length
Released December 1, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Atmospheric Symphonic Black Metal

I think Eldamar is what I always thought Summoning would sound like, or a more focused version of what Shambless has been doing on their last three albums. It is a uniquely fantasy metal sounding atmospheric black metal style championed by just a few bands. Lustre probably does a more black metal version of this style on some albums and doesn’t use the melodic female vocals you’ll find acting as a chorale on ‘A Dark Forgotten Place’. I find this fits somewhere between new age listening and the anthemic, grandiose feel of folk metal like Falkenbach. This is so unique in tone and must be experienced if you’re put off by the constant shrieking darkness of black metal.


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Album Progenie Terrestre Pura – oltreLuna
Type Full-length
Released May 31, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Progressive Black Metal, Electronic

On their second full-length this progressive metal band from Italy have ruined a lot of the atmosphere of their other releases by putting out a ‘loudness wars’ style production that is faux-professionally mixed. If the loud ass compression sound doesn’t bother you, you’ll find a unique and experimental extreme metal record that pulls a lot more from world music in general. The first track is somewhat tribal metal influenced, and the second incorporates violins etc. It is a wild ride that could do with some improvements but the band definitely represent something very new in terms of combining modern progressive extreme metal with black metal aesthetics. Might be unrecognizable if you’re only familiar with orthodox black metal.


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Album Schlammblut – Nothing is Real
Type Full-length
Released March 4, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal, Sludge Metal, Psychedelic Rock

I remember trying to find the ‘metal’ in bands like Black Magick SS and always being disappointed with the 60’s folk influences that never amounted to rock music half the time. This record remedies that issue. Schlammblut is a one man project, completely amateur but captivating at the same time. He combines elements of black metal and doom riffing into psych-horror metal music with big clanging basslines and frothy psychedelic black metal riffing. It is a few steps removed from the refined attack of something like Oranssi Pazuzu, and he is able to experiment with psych rock and sludge much more than any black metal purist would ever think to. I’ve listened to this album obsessively since it came out, and have never run into anyone else who had even heard of it. Kvlt!


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Album Dödsrit – Dödsrit
Type Full-length
Released October 13, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Crust Punk, Atmospheric Black Metal

A few years ago I was really captivated by the melodic death/crust punk of Martyrdod‘s ‘Elddop’ and it seems that Dödsrit has given similar treatment to crust punk but this time with atmospheric black metal as the core modifier. The two genres are represented in a more clinical way than a band like Lifelover who would incorporate less punk and more DSBM shrieking. The short debut is awesome and somewhat unexpected coming from the guy in Totem Skin, a punk band that used a lot of sludge in their sound. This is moving and energetic stuff and hopefully will open folks up to the amazing world that combines crust punk/d-beat with extreme metal.


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Album Sicarius – Serenade of Slitting Throats
Type Full-length
Released October 13, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal

Sicarius is an instance of members of bands from other genres coming together to make a really fantastic somewhat orthodox black metal album. This has death and thrash metal influences and takes from several styles of black metal tastefully. These guys push out tons of riffs that range from thrash-blasts to epic stomping Emperor style rants. The vocalist has a real intensity to his attack that makes most of ‘Serenade of Slitting Throats’ visceral and exciting. Definitely a promising band for only being around for three years and it’ll be awesome to see where they go with their sound.


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Album Kval – Kval
Type Full-length
Released March 3, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!
Genres
Atmospheric Black Metal

Kval is a two man Finnish atmospheric black metal band that doesn’t obscure it’s sound with fuzz and cheap drum noise. Their slow motion riffing and snarling vocals make for extensive and epic stream-of-consciousness songs that are mildly melodic. This is one of my personal favorites from the world of atmospheric black metal this year due to its listenable sound and really smooth integration of melodicism and classic black metal riffing played at slower speeds. The album as a whole is a full listen sort of ordeal and doesn’t show a ton of variance, so it might seem one note but no more or less than your average atmoblack style album. The more I listen to Kval the more I enjoy the incorporation of keyboards and the general buzzing tone of the record.


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Album Tyrannosorceress – Shattering Light’s Creation
Type Full-length
Released June 23, 2017
 BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Black Metal, Progressive Sludge Metal

So I like to think of this band as a true black metal version of Mastodon, and I know that sounds horrible but give it a chance. There are elements of progressive metal and sludge metal within their orthodox black metal sound. The drumming is fantastic and dynamic while everything is driven by extensive guitar compositions over long songs. Tyrannosorceress are incredibly talented and unexpected coming from Texas of all places. Their sound is perfectly mixed on the album and easily one of my favorite black metal albums that I’ve heard all year. I would have represented this higher on my end of the year list if I had heard it more before I was finished. To be fair Best of the Year lists don’t really matter, and missing stuff like this highlights why. There are so many interesting releases to discover that you’ll inevitably miss something incredible.


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Album Schattenvald – V
Type Full-length
Released January 22, 2017
 BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Black Metal, Folk Metal,

I very much wanted to include some folk/black/pagan metal here and was deciding between two folk/black bands Schattenvald or Frostvang and to be honest both are very good one-man projects. I felt like Schattenvald does something representative of an era of folk/black that used symphonic black metal as a base for grandiose and melodic music. Frostvang instead recreates the feeling of Falkenbach and uses more standard guitar riffs that need more development. So, while this album has rougher edges at times and the Bathory cover isn’t perfect it is an epic and enthralling folk/black album full of epic metal epithets to modern times. Their demo from October is worth checking out as well, they will only be releasing demos on bandcamp now and no longer working with labels, apparently.


 

If I missed your favorite black metal album from 2017 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite black metal album (past or present). If you’re in a black metal band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page up and send me a copy, keep in mind I like melodic stuff the best. No black metal will be left unheard!

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