20 Underground Doom Metal Albums You Missed in 2017

Doom metal is a sub-genre that has gained so many tentacles that it’d be difficult to pay homage to every tendril with just 20 releases and instead I’ll just focus on the releases that I felt were unique and overlooked over the year. You won’t find a ton of death/doom, black/doom or funeral doom here (just one each, more or less) and I’ll try to keep some of the stoner rock stuff to a minimum. I did want to point out some of the interesting doom/sludge variants so keep in mind some of the stuff will be a bit out of left field in the first half of the list. While I probably should have made a separate sludge metal list, there are really only 4-5 sludge-related albums here that should appeal to fans of modern doom metal. Retro doom hasn’t had such a resurgence as in past years and it seems bands are using funeral and death/doom variants to sell more albums as larger record labels are hot for bands like Usnea, Spectral Voice, Bell Witch and anything that’ll sell to The Ruins of Beverast fans. I only wish this year wasn’t so devoid of interesting spins on traditional doom metal songwriting and I’m still yearning for the return of bands like Hour of 13, Wheel and mourning the loss of bands like Pilgrim.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of doom metal in 2017 but rather to illustrate what doom 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 doom 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 doom 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: Spirit Adrift, King Zog, R.I.P., Hymn, Monolord, Kadavar, Cardinal’s Folly, Argus, Pagan Altar, Procession, Monolith Cult, Purple Hill Witch, Heavydeath, Unearthly Trance, Acid Witch, Dead Quiet, Livid, Red Mountains and tons of other top tier 2017 doom metal maestros I missed.


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Album Bell – Tidecaller
Type Full-length
Released February 18, 2017
LISTEN on Spotify!
Genres Doom Metal, Stoner Metal, Heavy Metal

Bell is a new-ass band out of Gothenburg that play a big, loud and stoner rocked version of doom metal that should be pretty standard for most. They remind me of Wheel without the crazy vocalist and have the noisy thud of Livid with perhaps a better sense for traditional doom riffing. I found this record exceptional purely because of how well they shake things up in terms of pacing and heaviness. It isn’t just a slog of long and slow songs, in fact they throw in plenty of mid-paced sections into most songs. The guitar solos are standard but effective in placement and make ‘Tidecaller’ feel like a doom album that never forgets to make rock music, which is vital to holding attention in a sea of imitation grade bands.


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Album Lacrymae Rerum – The Flies
Type Full-length
Released December 14, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Funeral Doom Metal, Dark Ambient

I won’t pretend there was a total lack of funeral doom in 2017, in fact some of the genres best and most accessible releases were put out this year. The story of a band few people cared about coming out with their second album a decade later could probably be better told by Finnish band Tyranny a few years ago but in 2017 it was Lacrymae Rerum, a hellish funeral doom project from Chile that is uniquely chaotic and harrowing. ‘The Flies’ shows what is possible when the abrasive qualities of bands like Primitive Man are fused with the dripping psychedelic hell of Esoteric. I might suggest skipping this if funeral doom isn’t your thing, but try it out if you like discordance, screamy psycho vocals, and a faster pace to your funeral doom. I found ‘The Flies’ uniquely disturbing even with a relatively short playtime of 30 minutes.


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Album Howling Void – The Darkness at the Edge of Dawn
Type Full-length
Released November 25, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Folk Metal, Melodic Doom Metal

Howling Void is a one man project that began leaning away from funeral doom on the last couple releases and instead has incorporated increasing amounts of folk metal influenced doom metal. The experience is symphonic and epic in the same way that something like Eldamar is but largely relies on chanted clean vocals for a dire mood amidst the earthy feel of the album. I found this to be one of the more interesting doom-related releases from this year for its warmth and ‘epic’ feel that wasn’t entirely downtrodden nor gothic. In some ways it evokes the olden days of Summoning and the clean vocals are reminiscent of what The Flight of Sleipnir does. I see an artist developing his own thing on Howling Void’s discography, a niche that becomes more comfortably its own with each effort and I find it commendable. ‘The Darkness at the Edge of Dawn’ could use a more balanced mix, but overall ends up a moving listen.


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Album Cosmic Reef Temple – Age of the Spaceborn
Type Full-length
Released April 3, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Progressive Instrumental Surfin’ Saxophone Doom Metal

I don’t want to assume anything but you’re high aren’t you? Before I call your mom and tell her what you’re up to, let’s listen to this instrumental doom metal album that features a droning, adventurous saxophone performance and deep dives into surf rock jams and thrilling Inter Arma-like post-sludge adventures. The lack of vocals and the inclusion of surf guitar and saxophone made this one of the coolest adventures into the depths of the ocean of the year. It is genius and reminds me of getting lost in High Tide‘s ‘Sea Shanties’ as a teenager, alongside discovering instrumental metal like Pelican.


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Album Ghold – Stoic
Type Full-length
Released November 3, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Doom Metal, Noise, Sludge Metal, Noise Rock

Ghold represent sludge metal, noise rock, and modernist doom metal all in one insane and artistic package here. ‘Stoic’ is for me, their finest hour yet, as each track offers something different that adds up to something very modern and unforgettable. They’ve put so much work into subverting expectations while creating heavy and memorable songs that it hits a certain sweet spot that many other avant-doom/sludge stuff misses. Also of note are the lyrics which is typically something I completely ignore, I found myself intrigued to figure out what he was talking about and the tortured poetics are just as massive as the bass tone. Consider this a medium between the heavy edge of Sumac and the glimmering punch of Floor and Torche.


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Album Hela – Death May Die
Type Full-length
Released October 21, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Doom Metal, Stoner Metal

I gave this Spanish doom metal band’s debut ‘Broken Cross’ a 3.5/5 and surprisingly never tracked down their follow up until recently. Their first album had a heavy Electric Wizard vibe and you couldn’t entirely tell the vocalist was female, but with a new singer they’ve actually highlighted their sound with a more feminine voice that works well enough. ‘Death May Die’ is less surprising and heavy compared to their debut and I don’t think Mireia’s voice is yet perfectly integrated in the mix. The guitars need to let her breathe a bit and the vocal effects obstruct her cleaner moments, where doubling would sound better than echo/delay. I didn’t intend to recommend something that is so accessible or familiar on this list but I find this to be such a good example of female vocals working in doom metal. She finds power in her voice rather than simply moaning the entire album, and a lot of my appreciation for ‘Death May Die’ is due to the range in her vocals. I’ll be interested to hear how they’ll develop their sound on the next couple records. I’d suggest checking out Bathsheba ‘Servus’ also if you like this.


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Album At The Graves – Wrecked
Type Full-length
Released July 27, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Doom Metal, Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Post-Rock

Ben Price has worked quite hard for a decade to find that perfect 40 minutes of atmospheric sludge post-metal and finally resorted to masterminding ‘Wrecked’ in his one man band At The Graves. ‘Wrecked’ has the booming drums of Albini produced late-90’s Neurosis and the simmering, timid vocals of post-rock listlessness all wrapped up in snake-like urgent basslines and Cave In worthy guitar expression. I know this all sounds very post-sludge and whatnot but for me this worked as a doom/sludge album primarily. Ben isn’t really shy about pointing out his influences and the mix of Neurosis and My Bloody Valentine is surely evoked here. In fact that DNA is maybe too obvious at times, even if I ended up really loving this album regardless. My only gripe here is that the track “Without” is overly long and could have been left out.


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Album Nekromant – Snakes & Liars
Type Full-length
Released June 16, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Doom Metal, Stoner Rock

If their logo looks familiar and you’re way confused this Swedish stoner doom band used to be named Serpent and put out two great albums a couple years ago. Now they’ve changed their named to Nekromant and they’ve gained considerable skills in the rock  and riffing department since. Their second album was a fairly standard rock/metal hybrid that stayed well within its lane of basic stoner rock and this second album introduces a much more mature melodic palette to work with. Their style reminds me of the type of band you’d randomly find on a label like Church Within and songs like “Funeral Worship” recalls the earlier days of Trouble and The Obsessed in equal measure. Everything is improved here since the debut and I love the vocalist’s tone here, which reminds me of Chritus pre-Lord Vicar. I’m excited to discover this band was still around under a new name.


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Album Church of Void – Church of Void
Type Full-length
Released September 15, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Doom Metal

Ah, Finnish doom metal! Well, it should be obvious I love most metal that comes from Finland (I mean, not really the gothic stuff…) and hey Church of Void isn’t entirely from the rectory of Reverend Bizarre though it shows some love to the early days of that band. This self-titled full-length is a sort of redemption for the lacking quality of the songs he released on the split ‘Coalition of the Anathemized’ alongside Cardinal’s Folly and Acolytes of Moros, his tracks were weak compared to the other bands and disappointing overall. Thankfully he’s cleaned up some of those tracks for this release and the spirit of hard-driving doom metal is at full power on this recording. I’m not at all surprised that this is good though I am surprised that he recreated the song “Moonstone” from the split release and made it so much better. Definitely check out that song and the opener, they are great highlights for the album and shows Church of Void isn’t a generic doom band from Finland trying to sound like all the others.


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Album Coltsblood – Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness
Type Full-length
Released April 21, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Doom Metal, Doom Metal, Sludge Metal

You could successfully argue that an album released on Candlelight isn’t necessarily ‘underground’ at some point but this was relatively overlooked in 2017 and I wanted to mention it for folks who might have missed it. Coltsblood blend black/death metal aesthetics (vocals, tone) and make doom/sludge out of it. Their style evokes the best of death/doom with some of the repetition of sludge and atmospherics of black/doom. Really the album is sinister, heavy, and driving and I appreciated the lengthy compositions that remind me of the band member’s previous stints in doom bands Conan and Black Magician. If you didn’t get enough death/doom in 2017 and you need something to remind you of bands like Goatlord/Doom Snake Cult with some funeral death/doom elements.


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Album Valborg – Endstrand
Type Full-length
Released April 7, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Industrial Metal, Doom Metal, Sludge Metal

Valborg was already on my radar as some crazy shit but on ‘Endstrand’ they’ve taken that Godflesh-meets-Celtic Frost thing into exciting and abrasive territory. The album is danceable, grooveable, and pure terror upon the ears. The track “Blut am Eisen” best exemplifies the groovin’ Fudge Tunnel fuckery on display here and the oddly difficult genre-beast Valborg have refind on ‘Endstrand’. I’ve placed it here in my doom list because ultimately the album progresses in the direction of slower and heavier tracks that evoke doom and gloom. You might have to love industrial metal to sit through it, though as it seems they’re trying to win some kind of award for most abrasive shouting of 2017.


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Album Cloud Catcher – Trails of Kozmic Dust
Type Full-length
Released March 11, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Stoner Rock, Heavy Metal, Heavy Psych

Cloud Catcher are a sort of remedy for the polish and straight-forward songwriting of Kadavar where this band isn’t afraid to just jam and let go. The vocalist is rough and passionate in his wailing and stands as a center of focus amidst the Orange Goblin-ized Sabbathian jamming that makes up the bulk of ‘Trails of Kozmic Dust’. Think of this album as a less depressed, more rocking take on what Purple Hill Witch was doing this year, it has that same reverence for Budgie and Zeppelin without the Ozzy-isms that obviate a lot of retrofied hard rock/metal hybrids. It might be a predictable album for a list like this but I would argue that you kinda -need- this style of jamming, ‘yee-haw’ rock record as a kick in the pants now and then to remind yourself that doom metal is born and bred by hard rock outcasts.


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Album The Ossuary – Post Mortem Blues
Type Full-length
Released February 17, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Traditional Doom Metal

While you’re on that Cloud Catcher kick, you might find that jammed out sound too wild and repetitive. Nothing to fear! The Ossuary is here to take you on a more orthodox doom metal kick that still has that hard rock spirit without losing sight of true heavy metal. ‘Post Mortem Blues’ has a hint of classic Dio/Rainbow and a heaving load of Pentagram driving the bus. This was one of those albums I received a promo for very early and there was no way to get other folks to listen to and it was hard to drum up interest because it didn’t exist on the internet for a couple of months. My favorite song here is probably “Graves Underwater” both for the main riff and the smooth-ass guitar solos throughout that remind me of Paul Chain a bit.


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Album Witchstone – Mortal Fear of Infinity
Type Full-length
Released March 1, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Doom Metal, Stoner Metal

Now we’re getting down into the dirt ass garage doom metal that really deserves some attention. Witchstone is a Canadian occult doom metal band that use a deceptively stripped down sound that is layered brilliantly and arranged with a lot of impact. The first song has this harrowing vocal that is essentially a room full of people shouting at you and ends in a banjo-like lurching strum that reminded me of Tom Waits ‘Rain Dogs’. If I’d waited to do my 50 best albums of 2017 this would likely be in the top 20 just for its production and creepy style. One of my biggest recommendations on this list for sure.


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Album Odax – Odax
Type Full-length
Released December 15, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Epic Heavy Metal, Doom Metal

Seattle’s own epic heavy metal band Odax’ debut is impressive in it’s melodic maturity and regal feeling. I’m not sure an album has been this melodic and powerful since Legend‘s ‘Fröm the Fjörds’ or Omen‘s ‘Warning of Danger’. Odax does what Ogre did before them to invoke the spirit of the 70’s without being hilariously obvious or derivative and still derive the true metal spirit of 80’s metal bands. It is most certainly a retro-metal/rock album but one of the more impressive songwriting efforts in the genre for some decades. I only wish it’d have released earlier in the year, or in 2018 so I’d have had more time to digest it and suggest it. After a couple of weeks with the record I can only hype it so much, but it is well worth several listens. ‘Odax’ doesn’t entirely speak to the doom metal arena as much as the pure heavy metal crowd in terms of riffs but I think of it as on the level with early Candlemass or something similar.


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Album Womb – Devotion to the Sea
Type Full-length
Released September 19, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Melodic Death/Doom Metal

Hey! Remember Katatonia‘s first ‘Dance of December Souls’? Well, Womb seem intent on recreating that same dread-fueled, blasphemic atmosphere and taking it to even greater depths. ‘Devotion to the Sea’ is breathtaking in it’s melodic death/doom approach that is at once harrowing death metal and melodic doom inspired by the Peaceville three and their fallout. The vocalist has a huge and imposing bellow that balances out some of the more thoughtful and sorrowful guitar passages. I had to include this here because it wouldn’t fit on a death metal list necessarily and it invokes a less appreciated style of death/doom than it popular these days. Womb deserve a ton of praise for this incredible, polished record.


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Album Demon Eye – Prophecies and Lies
Type Full-length
Released August 9, 2017
LISTEN on Spotify!
Genres
Heavy Metal, Doom Metal

Demon Eye have basically sounded like a long-lost NWOBHM band since their second album ‘Tempora Infernalia’ and ‘Prophecies and Lies’ takes things in even more of a proto-doom/Pentagram direction. The vocalist has a certain shakiness to his delivery that I love, it gives the music so much personality. That shaken preacher and the heavy metal beneath it made for one of the best metal albums of 2017 but man, whats with that terrible cover art? I would never buy and keep a record with such terrible artwork, as retarded as it sounds. I’ve mostly stuck to Spotify for it because of that, I really don’t want such an ugly LP in my collection. It’s a shame because the music here is fantastic heavy metal and Demon Eye deserve much more attention than they get.


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Album Ankt – Ankt
Type Full-length
Released June 19, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!
Genres
Black/Doom Metal, Post-Metal

Ankt are a Brazilian duo who formed as a side project for their ideas that combined atmospheric black metal with post-rock and modern doom metal influences. You can essentially sum up this record as if Pallbearer were occasionally a black metal band. I found the obscured production and vocals a little distracting, as if I needed to crank it so loud to hear their contributions, but it didn’t detract from the interesting sound of the record. It is sleepy post-rock inspired stuff much of the time, though, so don’t expect anything chillingly abrasive. This most closely resembles The Flight of Sleipnir back on their second full-length as their sound started to lean away from black metal more and more. Traditional doom fans won’t find a ton to connect with here and the ‘doom’ parts are more likely reserved for fans of modern post-rock influenced doom/sludge variants. The twist of black metal and the haunting vocals made this a fun listen for me, and a more refined extension of some of what The Howling Void does.


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Album Exist Among – Exist Among
Type Full-length
Released February 3, 2017
 BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Traditional Doom Metal

Exist Among are a New York trio that had been around for about five years before kicking out this jam. Their sound recalls Trouble, Black Sabbath, and Cathedral in equal measure. This album isn’t polished up, it isn’t even written all that well and the mixing isn’t smooth at all. So, why recommend it? It was just a damn decent straight-forward doom metal album in 2017 that hit heavy and fucked off like any great band should. Along the way the band reminded me of Revelation in their earlier days, plenty of rough edges but the songs they wrote mostly came together to do good things.


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Album Forsaken – Pentateuch
Type Full-length
Released January 22, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Doom Metal

Even though this band has been around forever (1990 or so…) I’ve never been a huge fan and I’m pretty sure they’re Christian which always kinda bugs me. That said, I really enjoyed their style, this might be the tenth album on this list where I’ve mentioned the band Wheel but I love the dramatic vocal style and the odd production sound. It gives ‘Pentateuch’ a certain personality all it’s own. The drum sound is completely odd but I found that it didn’t entirely distract from my enjoyment of the album; it is a shame that Forsaken appear less than polished with the production sound they’ve chosen but the music itself is a sort of Candlemass or Solitude Aeternus style of epic doom metal with a lot of long-winded solos and tracks that are generally mid-paced. I felt this was worth including because it was largely ignored this year as it came out in January and nobody mentioned it beyond February.


If I missed your favorite doom 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 doom metal album (past or present). If you’re in a doom 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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