Best of 2017: Josh’s List

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Us writer types always say the current year was an amazing year for metal. And I’m saying it here, 2017 was a killer year for metal. Just when you thought death metal would reign supreme black metal would come through to take over and then charred hardcore would take its place only to have doom metal rear its head. This was a year I thought I nailed and this list would be easy come year’s end. But, no dice on that whatsoever as there were even more favorites than last year. I set out to keep the typical nine full lengths and nine eps but had to scrap that when I failed to make extreme cuts because the quality was too high. Music has and always will be extremely personal to me and I’ve always loved best of list season as it gives me a chance to catch up on what I’ve missed. You’ll find a few albums here that I covered at length earlier in the year as well as others I didn’t get a chance to. But my final picks lived and died on the impact made on me, whether deeply personal or just a ton of fun that I couldn’t stop listening to. Just like I have for as long as I’ve been reading these best of lists, I truly hope you find something here that hits home with you or something you missed that you wish you hadn’t. Music, metal in particular, keeps me going and offers me a place to hunker down and just be me, to shut out the world in general and enjoy listening to artists that keep me entertained and allows me those fleeting moments of peace. Thank you all, you got me through another year and I’m eternally grateful. Let’s get to it shall we…

25. Attic – Sanctimonious

No bones about it, I’m a huge Mercyful Fate / King Diamond fan so obviously and maybe by default I’m also a huge fan of Germany’s Attic. Maybe unfair to draw parallels but listen to Sanctimonious for yourself and tell me those falsetto vocals and raging heavy metal hooks don’t give you the same chills that “A Dangerous Meeting” gave the first time your ears graced it. The thing about this album is that it’s the bands best to date — much stronger songwriting, much tighter musicianship and the storyline jumps out of the speakers thanks to the near perfect use of interludes. The only reason this didn’t place higher lies in the fact that it could’ve been trimmed a bit and tends to lend itself to listener fatigue around 2/3 of the way through.

24. Frowning – Extinct

Way back in February, Frowning blew the doors off my proverbial coffin with Extinct and I’ve yet to go any length of time without listening to it since. I mentioned this in my review but this many months removed the one thing that still amazes me is just how laser focused mastermind Val Atra Niteris keeps my attention span throughout. Funeral doom is long and slow which would, very quickly, show cracks or weaknesses in songwriting but Extinct never falters, not once. With this album, Frowning should be mentioned in the same circles as Mournful Congregation and Evoken.

23. Necrolytic Goat Converter – Isolated Evolution

By this point, you all know the mastermind behind Necrolytic Goat Converter, Chris Voss, writes for us here at Nine Circles and quite frankly works his ass off but he also knows how to get his black metal on, in a big way. And with Isolated Evolution not only did he one-up his Demo MMXVI but he reached into the memory banks of melodies and pulled out a santa sized sack of killer influences ranging from the 80s on up. “The Dark Within” may be my favorite thing NGC has done to date with its hefty black n roll but it was the Alcest-esque emotions on “The Calamity of Not Knowing” that really hit me in the chest and kept me coming back again and again. NGC wears its influences and heart felt love of music directly on its sleeve and the results are outstanding.

22. Twilight Fauna – The Year the Stars Fell

When mastermind of Twilight Fauna, Paul Ravenwood, said The Year the Stars Fell was “dedicated to starless nights and those that carry you through…” he wasn’t kidding. I’ve made it crystal clear here just how big of an emotional impact Paul’s music has on me and this album, if nothing else, cements that statement. I’ve made it a point to get out in nature more this year and this album has followed me on nearly every journey — in the NC mountains to the shores of Florida and to my own backyard on many a cool night with a fire and nothing but a dark canopy of stars and clouds. This album has seen me through difficult times and happy times alike but has always been a companion through whatever crosses my path and the weight of “10 Starless Nights” is nearly too much.

21. The King is Blind – We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer

In my October review of We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer, I went on and on about how heavy this album is and nearly three months removed from that statement I stick by it, lock stock and barrel. The band took some chances here not only with a sort of concept album but also in mixing heavy metal with shades of black, hints of grind and dishes of death but their tight musicianship and amazing songwriting skills make this amalgamation work extremely well but also makes for an album’s worth of music that must be heard, and consequently enjoyed, at the loudest volume possible. When the subwoofers are beating you into submission and the tweeters are murdering your eardrums you know you’ve got the volume at the right level.

20. Hellripper – Coagulating Darkness

Back in our Q2 roundup I mentioned just how much fun Hellripper’s Coagulating Darkness was and here we are at the end of 2017 and I’m still having fun with it. The mix of speed, thrash and black metal that mastermind, and sole member, James McBain offers up over these eight tracks takes me back to a time when I was first heard Slayer, Kreator and Venom and those are days I absolutely treasure so for Hellripper to come along in 2017 and give me those same feelings but make an album’s worth of original music makes me extremely happy to be alive.

19. Pig’s Blood – S/T

There’s albums, over time, that you remember every aspect of where you were and what you were doing upon the first time you heard them and the S/T effort from Wisconsin’s Pig’s Blood stands out like a sore and bloody thumb for me. It’s dirty and dank death metal that not only recalls death’s days of yore but instantly reminds me of the tortured and vile sound of Primitive Man. Ten tracks of murderous rage covered in filth and slime make this an album for the ages and would make the old guard of death metal blush — no small feat but Pig’s Blood do it with a swagger I haven’t heard in ages.

18. Abrams – Morning

Earlier this year I talked about Morning at length and about how good of a hard rock record Abrams had put out — still, this thing rules. How far this band has come from their previous output is astounding and they truly found their ‘sound’ and direction here on Morning. The times I’ve been in traffic singing this at the top of my register with zero f$%ks given to the world around me is, by now, in triple digits and as much as I know I suck as a vocalist I honestly don’t care because once this album starts and particularly the jaw-dropping “Rivers” all modesty is thrown out the window. At the end of the day, what more can we ask from an album and artist but to make us feel something and whether good or bad if you feel it, that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

17. Shroud Ritual – Five Suns

Debut album, Five Suns, from Shroud Ritual almost didn’t make my ears this year and that would’ve been a tragedy. As you might guess, we get a lot of email and this one slipped right by but a chance encounter on Bandcamp set the ship on the right course. And that course is one of utter amazement as to what is actually possible when vocals are not the center piece. Yes, this is instrumental but where Shroud Ritual rise atop of this particular genre is just how good they are at making you forget vocals. It’s an amalgamation of progressive / technical black and death metal that left my jaw planted on the floor but when I completely forgot there were no squeals or shrieking I had to pick my teeth up as well. My chance encounter led to hours then days of constant listening and still I’m finding nuances I missed.

16. Ufomammut – 8

Another album that I discussed at longer length8 from Ufomammut, was one of my highly anticipated albums of this year after the announcement was made. And it did not disappoint, in the least. I’ve always enjoyed this trio’s ability to craft interesting and extremely long opuses and while 8 follows the shorter song path set on Ecate it definitely feels like a journey across the center of the mind (see what I did there?). Anyway, I loved it upon release and still feel the same today and probably will this time next year — unless they brew up another concoction of psychedelic space doom.

15. Merchant – Beneath

As evidenced on Beneath when Merchant releases new material, the doom metal world closes down to take stock of what they are currently holding. With only two tracks this band absolutely rules the doom metal underworld and subsequently goes toe to toe with genre, and personal faves, YOB. Yep, I said it and I meant it. Take a listen to the slow and careful build of “Guile As a Vice” and the monstrously heavy tuning of “Succumbing” then let me know if you disagree. Beneath took me by total surprise and honesty I never thought I’d be mentioning any band in the same sentence as YOB but take heed, it’s fully warranted.

 14. Vhäldemar – Against All Kings

Remember that bad ass in high school that always drove the baddest ass cars and pumped the baddest ass music whilst doing donuts in the parking lot? Against All Kings from Vhäldemar is what this same bad ass would be pumping out of his 20″ Kicker cabinet whilst shredding his tires today. This album is chock full of bangers, “Old King’s Visions, Part V” has put my speakers to the test more than once and the Painkiller vibe of “Eye For An Eye” makes me smirk every time. Look, metal is all about being over the top and louder than hell and Vhäldemar succeed on these fronts in spades. My love for this album is unending and I’d go to the gates of hell claiming its place in my list, you should too.

13. Mendacium – Decimating Titans

If you’ve been paying attention, Daniel Jackson had been carving out a killer niche in black / thrash / death metal for some time now. His project Void Ritual is nothing short of amazing but when he steps just outside of those standard black metal lines and does something like the Decimating Titans EP it’s abrasive goodness at its best. More violent and more dark than his main project, Mendacium blurs melodic death and black metal without sacrificing the atmosphere Void Ritual does so well.

12. Degotten – Hexentrost

Degotten is Chile’s answer to the black / thrash / speed metal that has cropped up seemingly everywhere lately and with that alone Hexentrost would have made this list. But, what made this album an almost instant favorite is the heavy stain of classic heavy metal throughout its nine songs. Tracks like “Raping Fire” and “Black Wolf Pride” rage with reckless intent but revel in solos and fist-pumping riffs. This is another album that was released early in the year but has retained my attention and admiration ever since.

11. Sixes – A Cross to Burn

California’s Sixes have, in one song, made a statement of supremacy in gnarly doom metal that has wrecked my ears on multiple occasions. Yes, you read that right, one song. In just a shade over ten minutes the band is just as vicious as the album artwork implies, titanic doom and feedback drenched sludge are thrown into a meaty stew topped off with wicked lyrics. I just read that the band is readying a full length and based off how much I’ve enjoyed this one track, I cannot wait to see what they do next.

10. Dodecad – Contempt

In a year that saw a mighty return from Unsane and Couch Slut performing at the top of artistic abilities, Contempt from Missouri’s Dodecad was my go to noise rock record of the entire year. I spoke a few months ago about how the band had really come into their own with this album and how their edge is still ever present but when they allow themselves to sit back and just let the noise pulsate is when they truly struck gold with me. I stand by that statement and feel even stronger today that this is the band’s finest moment of their career.

9. Primitive Man – Caustic

primitive man caustic

Primitive Man is a band you either love or hate, there’s no in between. Their ability to punish the listener in every way imaginable is either a turn on or a turn off. Personally, I like punishment in the form of ultra-aggressive and downright nasty doom metal so Caustic was an obvious gimme this year. The ear-splitting feedback drenched interludes and the will breaking length of tracks like “Commerce” and “Inevitable” play out like a test of fortitude and “Victim” batters any senses left. Scorn, the bands debut, will forever be one of my all time favorite albums and Caustic didn’t place higher simply because, in my opinion, it didn’t top it. But still, an amazing album from start to finish from one of the best bands in metal today.

8. Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis

Akercocke - Renaissance In Extremis

Ten years removed from Antichrist, nearly twenty from Rape of the Bastard Nazarene and with their future in a flux of uncertainty I wasn’t sure what to expect from Renaissance in Extremis. What I received far exceeded the multiple different directions I had in my mind for this album to go. The progressive and experimental nature of Antichrist is amped up but make no mistake Akercocke haven’t lost a step in extremity (“Unbound By Sin” and “Inner Sanctum”). I found myself really enjoying the mix of clean and harsh vocals as well as the hints of thrash thrown in for good measure but their experimental side made the biggest impact, even though I do miss the Choronzon era. The suits may be gone but with music this good still lingering out there I’m ok with another ten year wait.

7. Dool – Here Now, There Then

Dool - Here Now, There Then

From the remnants of The Devil’s Blood and with a singer, Ryanne van Dorst, that could sing a phone book and make it sound great, Dool put out an absolutely untouchable dark rock record full of tight musicianship, great songwriting and song after song of glorious melodies. I can’t remember the last time an album hooked me this deep on first spin and continues to fully keep my attention glued every time I hear it. This album did just that and it’s one I can’t just listen to one track here or there, front to back is the only way to go. The bands name means wandering and with tracks like “Vantablack” and “In Her Darkest Hour” the listener is transported to anywhere their mind needs to take them. I can’t say enough good about it so hit that embed below and see for yourself.

6. Midnight – Sweet Death and Ecstasy

Midnight - Sweet Death and Ecstacy

Midnight’s metal / punk / black n roll found a home with me way back on Satanic RoyaltySweet Death and Ecstasy cemented their status as an all time favorite and seeing them on this years Decibel tour was icing on the cake. If I was a wrassler or MMA fighter “Crushed By Demons” would be my walk out song. There was a time when rock n roll music was considered dangerous and something the devil sent to corrupt young minds, Midnight remind me of this era when parents were truly terrified of what their kids were listening to — filthy, sleazy, loud and heavy does the trick every time and Midnight has mastered it.

5. Uhtcearu – For Darkness to Subside

Uhtcearu - For Darkness to Subside

For a young band to have come as far as Uhtcearu has it’s nothing short of amazing. And, to have firmly left their solid debut The Plight of Wanderers in the dust makes it even more amazing. Melodic black metal in the wrong hands can spell disaster but here the addition of subtle death metal, higher aggression level and laser focused melodicism all spell SUCCESS. But it also spells a top five for me, the play count I’ve racked up on this thing is ridiculous and even through all those plays I’m still finding new things and new ways to love this album. I don’t know what they’re putting in the cheese these days in Wisconsin but if this is a side effect give me ALL the cheese.

4. Vitriol – Pain Will Define Their Death

Vitriol - Pain Will Define Their Death

We made it overly clear that Vitriol is the future of death metal in our coverage here and here. We still stand by that and all other statements made in those posts. The three tracks featured on Pain Will Define Their Death speak to a time when death metal was all about the extreme and no holds barred violence of its namesake. The near telepathic musical ability of this trio is astounding and their musicianship and song writing skills are simply on another level. If you need reference points think Hate Eternal, Immolation and early Morbid Angel but Vitriol make their own way as well as forge a path for the future. Being a huge death metal fan myself, this EP had me cheering over and over again. Whatever’s next for this band you can bet your ass I’m all in for it.

3. In-Defilade – Elude

In-Defilade - Elude

Speaking of death metal that turned my head this year was NC’s In-Defilade with their second full length Elude. And just like Vitriol’s hammer down approach, In-Defilade shares the same mindset but ratchets up the technical prowess to infathomable levels. Call it death metal or war metal or whatever you want but Jon Vesano and Co. make it a point to be as extreme as possible and get across to the listener that this band. and its sound, is larger than life itself. Eleven tracks grace Elude and within this tracklist there’s no let up and no escape from the pummeling fury the band lets loose. Death metal fans rejoice as 2017 has given us a new breed to fill the shoes of the best this genre has ever had to offer.

2. Pyrrhon – What Passes for Survival

Pyrrhon - What Passes For Survival

At this point, there’s not much I can add to the cavalcade of coverage Pyrrhon has had this year off the strength of What Passes for Survival. Just the weight of that sentence should be enough to let you know just how insanely good Pyrrhon are and how insanely good this multi-faceted, jazzy, thought provoking and mind bending album is. I’ve been a fan of this band since the early days and they never cease to amaze me with what they come up with next. And it’s not just that they’re progenitors of their own brand of extreme or that they’re constantly in flux, it’s in the way they carry themselves on each release — thoughtful and creative but smarter than a whip. Doug Moore is arguably the best lyricist alive and together, this band is arguably the best that extreme metal has to offer. If you’ve yet to experience What Passes for Survival for yourself, please take a minute and fix that. For everyone else, this is just another person, in a long line of people, telling you that Pyrrhon rules.

1. Mord ‘A’ Stigmata – Hope

Mord A Stigmata - Hope

This is yet another album that came out early in the year that I’ve been head over heels with ever since. It’s funny how music hits you, Hope wasn’t an immediate hit for me but there was enough there that kept me coming back for more and coming back to find a piece here and a piece there that I knew I had heard but needed time to process it all since each one of these four tracks is like an epic journey. The band had shown their willingness to explore and play around with post-black metal but on Hope their efforts come to successful fruition. “Hope” opens the album and crosses every boundary the band had been trying to perfect but now make it look easy as the black metal intensity is snuffed with atmospheric sadness as the song progresses and the transitions throughout are majestic. At first I thought this was the track that defined the album and all others were just after thoughts but knowing the album like I do now, “In Less than No Time” hits this same stride and “The Tomb from Fear and Doubt” plays out like a professionally choreographed movie with a clear beginning, middle and ending. The four tracks that make up Hope are all parts of a whole and without just one of these pieces this album would fall short of its glory. Going backwards through Mord ‘A’ Stigmata’s discography the signs all point to the absolute and overwhelming success of Hope. It took them awhile to get here but now that they’ve come full circle the sky’s the limit. No other album this year captivated me as much as this one and no other album garnered as many plays as this one has so if, by some chance, you missed it check out the stream below but don’t blame me if it pulls you under and keeps you there.

One More

Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

Biters - The Future Aint What It Used To Be

Arena rock, glam rock, I really don’t care what you call Atlanta’s Biters because I love what they’ve done on The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be. This is music that takes you to your happy place and makes you want to stay there, forever. For those of you who grew up in the 80s you know how much fun hair metal was and this band plays that feeling to the hilt. It’s got ballads, rockers and bluesy swing but its also got a heavy dose of magic in each harmonized chorus line and each over the top riff. I’ve had more fun with this than just about anything this year and I’ve seen these guys live in the local bar circuit so trust me when I say that they can rip the roof off of any building they choose to play in. You want an album that makes you forget everything bad in the world? This is the one you need.

– Josh

3 thoughts on “Best of 2017: Josh’s List

  1. katimavik86 December 28, 2017 / 5:35 pm

    Interesting mix of stuff I would totally add to my list and stuff I absolutely would not! Totally agree that Shroud Ritual and NGC are two 2017 surprise delights and kudos for reserving the #1 spot for a really good album that flew under my radar until now. But… as someone who grew up in the 1980’s, I refuse to look back on that decade with any sort of music-related nostalgia. Had I been more aware of the then-thriving hardcore scene things might have be different but, for hair metal, no thanks!

    • Josh December 28, 2017 / 9:15 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read. I’m ecstatic you found Mord ‘A’ Stigmata, that’s the good thing about these lists for me is finding an uncovered nugget. I respect the sentiment on hair metal but for me it was an extremely fun time and lots of memories tied up with it that Biters reignited, at least for me. Cheers for giving this a once over

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