As far 2017 is concerned, it can just fuck right on off out of here. As I sat mouth agape at how fucking stupid and absolutely ridiculous this country behaved this year one of the saving graces was just how amazing metal music was this year. For me, there was not one clear best of album, or even group of albums. I could make a dozen lists this year and each one could be different and just as crucial and just as vibrant as the other. While the walls seemingly came tumbling down, metal was the light in the rubble, expressing true creativity, passion, and defiance. Don’t listen to anybody that’ll tell you this year wasn’t good for the genre. It was exactly what we needed this year.
Fleurety – The White Death
Labyrinth – Architecture of a God
The Great Old Ones – EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
Havukruunu – Kelle Surut Soi
Darkenhold – Memoria Sylvarum
Night Demon – Darkness Remains
Evertale – The Great Brotherwar
Kreator – Gods of Violence
Overkill – The Grinding Wheel
Shaarimoth – The Temple of The Adversarial Fire
Coldfells – Coldfells
Farsot – Faillure
Panphage – Drengskapr
Oranssi Pazuzu – Kevat/Varimyrsky
Woman is the Earth – Thaw
BEST OF 2017:
1. Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial
Without a doubt, Falls of Rauros are one of the best black metal bands happening right now. I’d call them atmospheric black metal but I think that limits them too much and the scope of their music is so broad and epic it’s almost impossible to contain to a genre label. Suffice to say this new album is Falls doing what they do to perfect measure. Epic, sweeping, classical, atmospheric, folk tinged black metal perfect. When this came out in April I already proclaimed it my album of the year by fucking mile. All their previous albums have ended up on my yearly lists but this year it was their time and for me was the single best album of the year.
2. The Ruins of Beverast – Exuvia
Goddamn if this wasn’t one of my most anticipated releases of this year, or any year since the last Ruins album. This band has such a hold on me. And with good cause as they’re just fucking masters of metal. True to form, the new album is a multi-layered, dark, brooding, swirling mass of intricate yet beautifully composed music. You don’t fuck around when there’s a new The Ruins of Beverast album out. I’ve read reviews saying this is better than the last one and it’s really hard for me to distinguish which of his albums are better because they’re all magnificent musical accomplishments on their own but let’s just say it stands on equal footing with those. It’s so good I’ll even forgive the bizarrely chosen cover artwork. Get on this band if you haven’t. You do yourself a disservice by not listening to it.
3. Loss – Horizonless
Two years ago, hell, a year ago, I never would have believed that I would be so anticipating a funeral doom album that it might be considered for my album of the year, yet here we are with the new Loss album, picking up right where they left off with 2011’s Despond. This is some EPIC, grand sweeping, beautifully morose and hauntingly dark music, and so fucking enthralling. It’s good to know that they could make a follow up just as good, if not better than what they did on Despond. Not to mention it has perhaps the best album art of the year.
4. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
It was hard to imagine that this wasn’t going to be good but before the preview tracks started coming out it was a question as to whether or not it would be metal again or another ambient album like Celestite, which I enjoyed but would take black metal Wolves any day of the week over. Sure enough, it’s a return to metal. I wouldn’t say return to their roots (ha ha…) because they’ve always been changing and expanding their sound and Thrice Woven is no different. While still firmly atmospheric and possibly out lasting “Cascadian”, the album is Wolves through and through but more adventurous than they’ve been with metal. There’s the furious layered and ethereal qualities and some more slow, contemplative moments and some more avant-garde-ish, experimental types of musical progression. All of their new tricks are pretty well summed up in the song “The Old Ones Are With Us.” Easily one of the finest tracks the band has ever written.
5. Witherfall – Nocturnes and Requiems
Damn catchy, melodic as fuck metal with a slight power metal/progressive bend to it. Not surprising seeing the band is made up of members of Iced Earth, White Wizzard, and Into Eternity, but it doesn’t really sound like any of those bands. Maybe Into Eternity a little but much darker, and aggressively melodic and so goddamn infectious. I’ve jammed this album so many times this year.
6. Walpyrgus – Walpyrgus Nights
When I saw that this band was a combination of members from Twisted Tower Dire, October 31, AND While Heaven Wept I couldn’t believe how lucky I’d just got. I also got one of the most catchy, fun, replay-able albums of the year. Straight up heavy metal, with a decent pop punk presence combined with that ultra-melodic and infectious Twisted Tower Dire guitar playing and righteous Tower vocals. It’s all the fun metal should be in a traditional sense and it’s rarely left my ears all year.
7. Mutoid Man – War Moans
I’m not really sure what to call this. It’s metal adjacent for sure, closer to heavy rock maybe, but that doesn’t really do it any justice. At times it reminds me of Baroness, Red Fang, and Dawnbringer mixed with some psychedelic elements all set on 11. Insanely creative song writing just explodes from this album and once it has it’s hooks in you, you can’t get away from it. One of the most fun metal albums I heard this entire year.
8. Sons of Crom – The Black Tower
Sons of Crom hit me like a fucking truck a couple years ago with their non-apologetic, later era Bathory worship and I’ve been stuck on them since. When I heard they were releasing their new album on Bindrune I was beyond ecstatic and it quickly became one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and rightfully so because it’s fucking epic like you wouldn’t believe. And not epic like you’re pretzel peanut butter bagel was, epic in the grand scope of storytelling with impact, of glory, of things larger than oneself. Sons of Crom, while still firmly rooted in the epic metal traditions of bands like Falkenbach, Summoning, Bathory and Caladan Brood have used all that to forge their own sound and become a force to be reckoned with within this genre. Masterfully made, epic as fuck, and welcome escape into a world of pure fantasy, this album is amazing.
9. Lor – In Forgotten Sleep
Lor just blew my fucking brains out with their epically progressive, power metal scaled, folk tinged debut album. The sound is uniquely intriguing and with songs crafted so well, with both technical prowess and sheer metal power it’s hard to not get swept up in all the bombastic and grand glory of it.
10. Tau Cross – Pillar of Fire
If you don’t know, Tau Cross is made up of the Baron from Amebix after they’re last break up, Voivod drummer Away, and Andy Lefton and Jon Misery from crust/metal bads War//Plague and Misery. And they’re fucking awesome like nobody’s business. They’re debut album was fucking stunning and this new one is every bit it’s equal. Full of all the post punk/rock/goth/crust/metal flavor that the band spins in only a way they can, Pillar of Fire adds some great acoustic songs, some more post rock emotion, and more atmosphere to make an album that is truly unique. Nobody sounds like this band. They’re so fucking good
11. Avenger – Mir v haremu smrti
Avenger quietly released their new album on their new label and simply blew my fucking ears apart. This is the epitome of underrated band and their highly orchestrated, black/death metal, Czech infused sound is always top notch. This album gets a bit more expansive with some acoustic/folk interludes and some weird added effects but that’s not keeping down the insane melodic songs and unruly atmosphere. Fucking killer band and one of the best surprises of the year.
12. Howls of Ebb/Khthoniik Cerviiks – With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp
Two of the most intriguing and interesting death metal bands of the past couple years have been Howls of Ebb and Khthoniik Cerviiks, at least for me. Both are exploring new grounds and experimenting with weird, chaotic, dark, and foreboding elements so a split release with both bands only seems natural, and, it comes of as such. Howls of Ebb’s side is more chaotic and avant-garde, as I was expecting, as the band itself is more experimental than most but they still keep it together to make two harrowing and captivating songs on their side. Khthoniik is a bit more forward, only in comparison to Howls, as their songs are a bit more structured with some technical riffing going on that builds up the bizarre and sinister atmosphere. Both bands are ahead of the game and making some of the more interesting metal around these days and this split showcases just how exceptional they are.
13. When Bitter Spring Sleeps – Star-Thrown
When Bitter Spring Sleeps has decided to take the natural and organic style of their black metal up the epic-ness 100% making for a draw dropping album. And I thought that Coven of the Wolves was fucking remarkable, particularly the massive song “The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way,” but Star-Thrown is an atmospheric black metal feast for the ears. The music sounds emotional and crisp and well mixed and the change from the epic storytelling quality of the vocals to the choral, chanted, distance layered style is extremely, well, beautiful.
14. Nokturnal Mortum – Verity
Nokturnal Mortum’s previous album Golos Stali is one of my all time favorite albums so anticipation for a new album from this band was sky high. My enthusiasm was a squashed a bit after their split with Graveland and their decision to go more “gothic” in tone and nature. With Verity they did move more into that direction but also brought along with them their symphonic folk/pagan black metal style that made Golos so fucking memorable. It’s not Golos but that’s a tall order. It is a band exploring their sound but they’re unable to write anything bad so what we got was Verity, a killer album by some profound musicians that’ll worm it’s way into your head.
15. Progenie Terrestre Pura – oltreLuna
Progenie Terrestre Pura killed it with their debut album four years ago. Their slightly electronic, atmospheric sci-fi/space infused black metal was like the Mare Cognitum before that band exploded with their cosmic sci-fi black metal brand, thematically that is, and somewhat sonically. Not to run the same course Progenie retains the sci-fi element and black metal but ups the quota on the electronics, almost into industrial or electronica territory. It makes for a rather bombastic album, combined with the more furious black metal metal s and the quieter, atmospheric, ethereal moments.
16. Sarcasm – Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds
Fuck yes, Sarcasm. I guess this is technically their first album in over 20 years as last years Burial Dimensions was actually recorded in 1994. But who cares, this new one is fucking killer and full of all the riffs. Classic Swedish as fuck. They may not be changing the game but they sure know how to fucking play it. This band is so underrated it breaks my fucking heart.
17. Hellripper – Coagulating Darkness
Holy fuck this one is a kick in the fucking teeth. Just unrelenting black thrash attack fury with a heaping dose of speed metal sensibilities. So fucking good, and just running circles around the other black/thrash this year.
18. Unleash the Archers – Apex
I don’t demand much from bands like Unleash the Archers except for killer riff heavy, catchy power metal and Archers give me that in healthy mountain of power metal glory. Just packed to the gills with melodic, infectious, soaring song after song complete with Brittney Slayes incredible voice. If I want to get nit-picky on this one, it’s less melo-death oriented than previous albums but that’s fine with me since I just want the power metal. Fucking killer fun, solid all the way.
19. Kalmankantaja – Demonwoods/Routamaa
Not content with releasing one killer album this year, Kalmankantaja released Demonwoods then followed it up with Routamaa. Both are unrelentingly furious black metal blasts, each with their own unique presence and style. Harrowing and dark Kalmankantaja is the black metal I want to hear all fucking day.
20. Verge – The Process of Self-Becoming
Verge bring the esoteric and occult nastiness to black metal and they fucking just slay it. The Process of Self-Becoming finds the band expanding the sound more, employing some more melodic and stripped down riffing but also embracing a larger sound at the same time. They aren’t afraid to slow down and let things simmer, or to even change things up all together with the large solo parts and the clean vocals they’ve added. This is a different beast than the last album but still undeniable work of black metal, and with an album about a specific work of Kierkegaard’s, a lot to unpack but entirely worth the effort.
21. Selbst – Selbst
I read a review where one part describes this album as “achieving heights of bombastic yet apocalyptic grandeur, the songs boiling over over into volcanic surges of sweeping majesty…” That perfectly encompasses this album and I can’t think of words that do it more justice. This album fucking slays. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, it’s chillingly ominous, perilously dark, unendingly captivating, and soaringly beautiful.
22. The Chasm – A Conscious Creation From the Isolated Domains: Phase 1
Guuuuuuuuuhhhhhh The Chasm are so fucking good and so very under appreciated. This new album finds them blasting through some metaphysical and psychological themes with their highly creative death metal prowess, but, unique to this album, is all instrumental. No vocals. However it doesn’t feel any less like The Chasm. Now we can debate whether or not the vocals make it death metal or not but the album doesn’t just stay in death metal territory and is highly conceptual and journey like. It’s easy to get lost in the riffing and movement of the music. I’d have to say, yes, I do prefer the vocals but this is another magnificent album from such a killer band.
23. Death Rides a Horse – More God Than Man
I was totally surprised when I saw this album come by. Pleasantly surprised. I had no idea they had a new album coming out, or were even working on one. A couple years ago my buddy slipped me the expanded version of their EP and while I’m not the biggest fan of stoner-ish doom metal, this band struck a chord with me and I jammed the ever loving shit out of that EP. Particularly their jaw dropping, stunning cover of the Scorpion’s “Fly to the Rainbow” which showcased all the bands strength and made that song theirs. Sorry, Scorps.
This new album is all the power and prowess shown on said cover but of course, on all original material. The stoner elements are much more subdued on this outing, instead focusing on a darker, traditional doom sound, mixed with some traditional heavy metal and NWOBHM elements. It doesn’t even sound like one of those throwback bands since they’ve used these elements all to their own benefit. And lets’ not forget to talk about Ida’s vocals. Holy fuck, she has such a commanding voice. It’s soaring and grand like the last album but pushed even further, and the moments where she gets gruff and harsh, albeit infrequently, are a great addition to her already impressive range.
There’s a lot of bands that do this style not nearly as competently and as massively as Death Rides a Horse and it’s a shame they’re so ignored
24. Ironflame – Lightning Strikes the Crown
This is damn catchy, riff-tastic, power/speed/thrash/traditional metal mash up from one of the guys in Coldfells, Nechochwen, Obsequiae, and Unwilling Flesh. That’s a fucking hell of a resume. Not to mention his time in Dofka, another killer power metal-centric band proving he has the chops for this kind of music, and is using those chops to make some of the best power metal of recent memory.
25. Blaze of Sorrow – Astri
What a great fucking band. Consistently releasing masterful album after masterful album, Blaze of Sorrow is now synonymous with black metal quality. Also, with engaging, beautifully composed, atmospheric music. They may be labeled as an “atmospheric” black metal band but with that sweet Italian dramatic style it makes the band so much more interesting, and well, beautiful. Exactly what I’d hoped it would be, which is to say, fucking awesome.