Hey y’all, it’s been a minute! More accurately, it’s been about 221,000! Over the last four months, when I haven’t been watching the world rapidly start to resemble a toilet overflowing with diarrhea, I’ve been slaving away at my first semester of nursing school. Which has meant that finally, after a solid 2-3 years in a row of telling myself, “I’m gonna listen to less music this year,” I actually did listen to less music this year! My best estimate is…probably 165 albums? Maybe 170? Still a bunch, but down more than a hundred from each of the last couple of years. MISSION [SORTA] ACCOMPLISHED.
On the other hand, this puts me in something of an odd position when it comes to picking my “Best of 2017.” I didn’t listen to as much music. I deleted my Twitter and reduced my overall social media presence by, conservatively, 75% — which, by the way, was a fucking AMAZING life decision that I recommend all of you try — so I had neither a steady stream of albums-you-must-hear-or-you-will-be-shunned crossing my radar screen, nor the urge to seek out even more obscure albums that I could shun others for not having heard. Oh, and also, most of my favorite albums this year were from outside the metal genre. Me putting this list together and claiming it to be THE BEST OF 2017 would be a little delusional.
So, that’s why I’m not doing that. Okay fine, I’ve made a list and ordered it — alphabetically, because EAT IT, BIG RANKINGS — but that’s it. This is just some stuff I listened to and happened to really enjoy this year. Authoritativeness be damned. (Or left for the folks over at Last Rites.) Let’s jump in.
A note before beginning:
This list is going to focus on the metal portion of this year’s listening. (And perhaps, in some cases, the metal-adjacent.) So, even though Ulver put out my favorite album of the year in any genre with The Assassination of Julius Caesar, you’re not going to see that thing in this post. Same with Anathema. Same with…I dunno, Steven Wilson, or The War on Drugs, or other contributions from pretty-blatantly-not-metal artists. If time permits, I’ll do a year-end Rainbows in the Dark recap. (Maybe.) But this is my metal list, and it shall be kept metal. Now, all that said…
EPs: Ten Highlights
Chevalier — A Call to Arms
A Finnish band, with a French name, playing some of the rawest, catchiest heavy/speed metal you’ll hear all year? If you find something not to love about that, we’re not friends anymore. Extra props to vocalist Emma Grönqvist for those pitch-perfect, King Diamond-esque howls.
Converge — I Can Tell You About Pain
“Eve.” That is all the justification you need.
Extremity — Extremely Fucking Dead
Sorry, y’all, but with just a 27-minute run time, I’m not onboard with calling this a full-length. It’s an EP. Fortunately, Extremity serves its death metal filthy and without bullshit, and Extremely Fucking Dead is never anything less than extremely fucking killer. But when a supergroup includes folks from Cretin, Vastum and Vhöl, good things tend to happen.
[listen] [full review]
False — Hunger
For just about as long as I’ve been listening to False, I’ve wondered how they’d be able to handle…let’s say “more manageable portions.” Well, here’s their answer. Two songs, eight-and-a-half minutes, and as thorough a mauling as ever.
[listen] [full review]
Nine Inch Nails — Add Violence
Last year’s Not the Actual Events didn’t do it for me the way it has for others, but this second installment in NIN’s planned EP trilogy sure has. “Less Than” alone would have earned a spot on this list, but after that, Trent and Atticus let their eerie sides run wild, and it’s just delightful.
Oranssi Pazuzu — Kevät / Värimyrsky
Is there a band that does creepy-ass head-trip metal better than Oranssi Pazuzu? Most of y’all know how I felt about the band’s standout album, Värähtelijä, last year — and these two tracks are the perfect continuation of what that thing started.
Schammasch — The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite
After pulling off the highly improbable in 2016 and sticking the landing on a 100-minute triple album, Basel’s Schammasch pick up right where they left off. Over 30-odd minutes of atmospheric, ethereal gloom, The Maldoror Chants gradually builds to a conclusion that’s arguably more thrilling and triumphant than anything on its predecessor. So yeah, it’s worth your time.
Sinmara — Within the Weaves of Infinity
Sinmara hits you in a bunch of different ways on this terrific EP. Equally adept at both punishing, black metal assault and injection of melodic sensibilities, the band serves up three songs that, consequently, take on an almost anthemic quality at times. An absolute delight.
Tomb Mold — Cryptic Transmissions
Man, this Toronto duo sure had themselves a year, didn’t they? Between the standout LP, Primordial Malignity and this two-song blitz, Tomb Mold might just have won the filthy death metal championship in 2017. Listen — especially if your entrails need a good scouring.
Vanum — Burning Arrow
Just about anything Mike Rekevics touches ends up turning into pure gold, and Burning Arrow was no exception. This three song EP is sonically similar to, yet slightly more digestible than, 2015’s full-length, Realm of Sacrifice, and showcases the band’s Bathorian blend of epic black metal in top form.
[listen] [full review]
Albums: The Long List:
Albums that I either: liked, but not quite enough to make the final cut (*), OR liked, but didn’t get to spend enough time with to assess fairly for this recap (§)
- The Contortionist — Clairvoyant *
- Der weg einer Freiheit — Finisterre *
- Enslaved — E *
- Evertale — The Great Brotherwar §
- Ex Eye — Ex Eye § [full review]
- Exhumed — Death Revenge §
- Falls of Rauros — Vigilance Perennial * [full review]
- Gorephilia — Severed Monolith *
- Havukruunu — Kelle Surut Sol §
- Jordablod — Upon My Cremation Pyre § [full review]
- Morbid Angel — Kingdoms Disdained * [full review]
- The Ominous Circle — Appalling Ascension § [full review]
- Paradise Lost — Medusa *
- Seven Kingdoms — Decennium *
- Sorcerer — The Crowning of the Fire King § [full review]
- Tomb Mold — Primordial Malignity § [full review]
- Triumvir Foul — Spiritual Bloodshed § [full review]
- Valborg — Endstrand *
- Valor — Arrogance: The Fall §
- Wode — Servants of the Countercosmos § [full review]
Albums: Honorable Mentions:
The ones that just missed out on my alphabetized — yes, that’s how I did it, and no, I’m not dropping that — Top 20. (These, too, will be alphabetized. Fuck your numbers.)
The Black Dahlia Murder — Nightbringers
I think this was the first time I ever listened to a Black Dahlia Murder album. And you know what? This thing’s a shit-ton of fun! I kinda feel like I need to investigate their back-catalogue now.
Converge — The Dusk in Us
So, no “Eve” on this one. Not sure I get that move. But still, it’s a Converge record. You knew going in that it would, at the very least, rule hard. And, in fact, it does…and then some. This band’s baseline for quality is so astronomically high, and yet they keep meeting it every. damn. time.
Emptiness — Not for Music
I found myself going back to these Belgians and their haunting blend of…goth? metal? Whatever it is, Not for Music is a terrific little skin-crawler of an album. It’s as if the band channeled pure, unfiltered discomfort into music, and I love it.
Expander — Endless Computer
Holy color palette, Batman! You’d be forgiven for looking at the cover art of Endless Computer and thinking it a Dan Terminus offshoot. But sorry, no synthwave here. Instead, we get 35-odd minutes of the spaciest crossover thrash you’ll ever hear. It’s a whirlwind, it’s atmospheric, and it’s fun as fuck. Hat’s off to these Texans.
Jag Panzer — The Deviant Chord
This was a big year for “legacy acts releasing absolutely killer albums,” and Jag Panzer sits firmly among those good ‘uns. On The Deviant Chord, the U.S. power metal heroes check every box they need to and then some, led by as devastating a performance as ever from vocalist Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin.
Krallice — Loüm
Krallice — doers of no wrong, ever — released two albums within weeks of each other toward the tail end of this year. They’re both incredible. They’re both on this list. Loüm‘s just, at the moment, the…slightly less good…of the two, in my opinion. (Though this might change.) And that’s with Neurosis bassist Dave Edwardson collaborating with the band throughout. Seriously, this band can’t be touched.
Lock Up — Demonization
Does Demonization compare to Lock Up’s past work — either in this band, or its members’ individual projects? Debatable. Is Demonization still a shitload of fun, and probably my favorite car-blasting album of the year? Unquestionably. [full review]
Mutoid Man — War Moans
So, here’s the thing: as a whole album, I didn’t like War Moans as much as a lot of people did. I’ve seen numerous places list it as their album of the year, and while I’m not criticizing them for doing so, it ain’t that for me.
But, here’s the other thing: War Moans did have four or five songs that I just kept coming back to, again and again, throughout the year. (Including the opener, “Melt Your Mind,” my favorite song by anyone in 2017.) So…that’s worth a lot in my book. It gets a nod.
Power Trip — Nightmare Logic
Another one I found myself liking not quite as much as a lot of people did. At the same time, game recognize game; Nightmare Logic is a great thrash record. It slices and dices harder than probably 96.37% of albums this year (yes, OF COURSE that is an exact calculation; no, I won’t show you the math), and would easily have felt as “at home” in 1987 as it did this year. [full review]
Pyrrhon — What Passes for Survival
For a while, Pyrrhon was a band I respected immensely, but didn’t necessarily like all that much. That’s not a knock on them; tech just, more often than not, didn’t sit with me. But I started coming around to the genre this year, and What Passes for Survival was a big part of that. It’s manic, it’s dissonant, and it’s the perfectly chaotic soundtrack for our increasingly fucked-up world.
Albums: The Top 20
Alphabetized. No, I’m not picking a favorite. These were all awesome, and that should be enough. If you want meticulously organized rankings visit literally any other site on the internet (or probably any of our other Best of 2017 posts). Also, this is the point where the blurbs will get shorter. Because I’m tired of writing and you’re tired of reading and these albums all rule anyway, so why do you need MY in-depth opinion?
Acephalix — Decreation
In general, 2017 was an awesome year for death metal, and Acephalix was a huge part of that. After a six-year gap between records, the San Francisco crew came back more crushing than ever. [feature]
Archspire — Relentless Mutation
There’s “incredible musicianship” and then there’s “musicianship that comes at you like a fucking jackhammer and makes you wonder how the practitioners’ hands are still attached.” Guess which camp Archspire falls into
Artificial Brain — Infrared Horizon
I was late to the party for 2014’s Labyrinth Constellation. Didn’t make the same mistake this time around, and the Long Islanders rewarded greatly for that. This a tremendous set of forward-thinking death metal, with a welcome new exploration of melody. [full review]
Code Orange — Forever
I never really figured out how best to describe this thing. It’s not really metal. It’s not really hardcore. But it is dark as all hell, and I probably got more mileage out of this thing than any other album this year. So whatever it is, it’s friggin’ great. [feature]
Couch Slut — Contempt
The more I came back to this album over the last few months of the year, the more I came to appreciate it. As a full band, Couch Slut matured by leaps and bounds on Contempt. But don’t worry; the music’s just as devastating and feral as ever. [audio review]
Dodecahedron — kwintessens
Dear Black-Metal-Genre-at-Large: more of this, please. Love, Dan. [feature]
Godflesh — Post Self
If you were reading this blog back in its nascent moments, you may recall that I rather liked Godflesh’s first reunion album, A World Lit Only by Fire. I still do. But this time out, things are a bit noisier, a bit harsher, and…okay, quite a bit better. Post Self is another sterling entry from the industrial legends.
Hell — Hell
When the Shithead-in-Chief inevitably mishandles the launch codes and sends the world into nuclear winter, this is the music I want to be playing in the background. Absolutely incredible stuff from M.S.W. [full review]
Immolation — Atonement
Thank Satan for Immolation. After relative letdowns from Obituary and Suffocation — okay, technically before, but whatever — at least there was ONE death metal institution that actually, you know…continued to challenge itself. That’s what we got with Atonement; thirty years into their career, it’s one of the richest, most rewarding albums the band’s ever given us.
Impureza — La Caída de Tonatiuh
By order of Zyklonius and myself, “death metal and flamenco” is the new “lamb and tuna fish.” Get onboard, kids, because this stuff is STELLAR.
Khazaddum — Plagues Upon Arda
Speaking of “death metal and [awesome-but-totally-out-of-left-field-things],” how about Khazaddum? As you probably surmised, the awesome-but-totally-out-of-left-field thing in this case is Tolkien. But honestly? Forget the Tolkien; this is just some kick ass death metal that isn’t afraid to get a little theatrical when it needs to. It slays. [interview]
Krallice — Go Be Forgotten
At the moment, Go Be Forgotten‘s won the battle against Loüm in my book. It’s ever so slightly more majestic — especially the title track; holy shitballs, that thing kills — so that gives it the edge. But seriously, my favorite between the two has changed, like, five times since they came out. If your takeaway between the two is not “Krallice fucking owns,” you are doing it wrong.
Samael — Hegemony
Man, if this thing wasn’t an RKO outta nowhere, then that term officially needs to be retired as it no longer has any practical use. Hegemony is Samael’s most complete work in at least a decade, and some of their finest melding of metal and electronic/industrial music to date. Every song on this thing kills. Every one.
Satyricon — Deep Calleth upon Deep
For just about as long as Deep Calleth upon Deep has been out, I’ve likened it to Darkthrone’s most recent effort, Arctic Thunder. Not sonically, obviously; more in the sense that neither album was its respective band’s best effort, but both delivered exactly what I wanted from said bands at this point in their careers. After a lackluster previous effort, Deep righted the ship for Satyricon and actually has me excited for what they do next for the first time in a while. [full review]
Sólstafir — Berdreyminn
As you guys may recall, I loved Sólstafir’s previous effort, Ótta. Well, I think Berdreyminn might be even better. It’s a bit more straightforward than its predecessor, but no less emotionally powerful. In particular, the tender, introspective “Hula” might be my favorite song the band’s ever done.
Unleash the Archers — Apex
I listened to (and enjoyed!) more power metal this year than I have in probably a decade, and Unleash the Archers played a huge part in that. Apex is one of those albums where everything just works. There’s not a single weak track on the thing, and the band performs the shit out of all of them. (Especially vocalist Brittney Slayes, who — HOT TAEK, GUYS — is really, really freaking good at what she does.) Hail to…British Columbia, I guess! [full review]
Vattnet — Vattnet
Man, what a reinvention. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’d take the New Hampshire trio a bit longer to find their footing after this big a sonic leap. But nope, you’d be wrong; they nailed it right off the bat, and then some. When all’s said and done, “Chains” and “Dark Black” will have been two of my most-played tracks of the year. [interview]
(Disclosure: I’m friends with the guys in Vattnet. This — SHOCKER — doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of the album, but…the internet being the bastion of self-seriousness, behind-back-talk and GOTCHA!-ism that it is, I figured I needed to let y’all know. Vattnet still rules.)
Walpyrgus — Walpyrgus Nights
If you listen to “Somewhere Under Summerwind” and don’t crack a shit-eating grin, you don’t understand the meaning of fun and must go directly to Metal Jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Woe — Hope Attrition
An absolute crusher, and probably Woe’s best effort to date. I don’t know that I listened to any other black metal album more than Hope Attrition this year. [full review]
Wolves in the Throne Room — Thrice Woven
I spent entirely too much time around the release of Thrice Woven trying to decide how I felt about “return to form” albums, and whether a band exploring new territory and then going back to its established sound cheapens the experience a bit. I then realized Thrice Woven is a terrific album and stopped giving a shit about all that other stuff. [full review]
So, that’s it. This has gone on entirely too long as is, so I’ll try to wrap up as succinctly as possible: let’s maybe try not to be shitheads in 2018. Sound good? Cool. Happy New Year, everyone.
Keep it heavy,
Interesting choices, some to check out. Especially like some of the honorable mentions, incl. 2 or 3 appearing in a lot of other Top 5’s. I feel the same way on a lot of those. Haven’t read the review, but Wode’s “Servants” might be one of those to move higher in your rankings if you can spend more time with it.
Thanks, Brett! I’d definitely like to spend more time with the Wode album (particularly given how much I enjoyed the last one!), just need to find the time to do so.
Looking through again, I realize I omitted Skelethal. That’s a bad oversight on my part. That album freaking rules.