There’s only so much you can get to in a given year. So many albums, so many bands, so many genres and sub genres and niche genres and one-offs and splits and reunions and supergroups and…you get the drift. It’s easy to have a few albums slip through the cracks for whatever reason, but it’s doubly weird when those same albums you missed appear on the very site you write for on another contributor’s list. I swear: we talk ALL THE TIME – sometimes even about music!
Anyway, one of my favorite things about Nine Circles is catching up on what my fellow 9C knuckleheads are banging their craniums to. So here’s nine selections I should have listened to, but didn’t in 2017.
Au-Dessus – End of Chapter: Each year I seem to shift in what genre I focus on. 2016 was a definite black metal binge, while last year emphasized death metal (with a black metal binge). 2018 really feels like post-metal (with a side order of black metal) can make a comeback – to my ears, at least. And this Lithuanian group only reinforces that promise. End of Chapter has a good deal of atmospheric black metal mixed in with its post-ness (I guess you can argue that’s what atmospheric black metal is) and the dynamic sound has been an immersive treat to my ears since Vincent put is on his list.
Saule – Saule: There must be something about post-metal album and titling your tracks with roman numerals, because here we are with the second in a row, this time courtesy of Corey’s list and Poland’s Saule, who concoct an eclectic mix of black, post and doom metal wrapped in a solemn ambience that’s absolutely entrancing. The music is often sparse, working with the space to elicit moments of beautiful sorrow, with passages building to crescendos that stay with you long after the album finishes. Avantgarde Music has a great year with their releases, so be sure to check this out.
Expander – Endless Computer: Sure, I’m as much a sucker for a “WTF?” moment with an album as anyone, but you have to have a little substance in the sauce if you want me to stick around badly mixing metaphors. And Expander has that in spades. Dan is usually keyed into stuff I might like, so after hearing about it from him and seeing it on his list I jumped on to see what the fuss was about. Crossover thrash with a sense of adventure and experimentation that has kept me coming back endlessly (ha, I kill me) since discovering it at the end of the year. Come for the groovy colors, stay for ripping tracks like “War Terminal (The Tre Front Line)” and others.
The King is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer: So many levels of shame on this one. Not only did it make my bud and fearless editor Josh’s list, he also gave it a proper review on the site, and probably extolled its virtues to me repeatedly throughout the year. So when I finally got off my ass to listen I spared a quiet, mournful moment for how long I went before hearing the ridiculously tight, punishing death metal The King is Blind brought to the table in 2017. This is the way I like my death metal: technical and deep and not afraid of that classic Swedish guitar sound without overly emulating the bands who brought it to the fore in the first place. The fact that the songwriting adds dimensions and scope to the formula makes for a great death metal release you need to hear if you haven’t already.
Inconsessus Lux Lucis – The Crowning Quietus: Oh, Zyklonius, you of the blackened poetic soul, my ribald and raucous live show compatriot…you are a constant source of musical recommendations. But none were more ticklish to my blackened soul than Inconsessus Lux Lucis, who brought a crazy black and roll juggernaut with The Crowning Quietus. I could have chosen half a dozen from your list, but the way the band weaves black metal, classic heavy metal and a lo-fi but clear production to songs with amazing titles like “With Leaden Hooks and Chains” and “Armor Rides Upon Midnight” makes this a release I’ll be listening to well into 2018 and beyond, and a band I now have permanently etched on my “Following” list.
Bestia Arcana – Holókauston: It’s not enough Josh Thieler has to perform on one of the albums on my Top 10 list; he also constantly introduces me to some of the most brutal, jagged metal out there. Best Arcana’s Holókauston is four tracks of punishing black metal that makes brokers no compromise for your comfort. On a year end list full of terrifying music I’ve never heard, Bestia Arcana is the one I kept coming back to.
Paladine – Finding Solstice: Frank returned from the frozen fields of battle to grace Nine Circles with his picks for the best power metal of 2017, and amidst the power and the glory of many a great band I connected with Paladine, whose Finding Solstice combines the best of American heaviness and European drama to craft a record that is equal parts punchy and sleek. If you’re surprised they hail from Greece then you haven’t been paying attention to the great power metal that has been coming from there the past few years. Check out the title track and then be prepared to dive in with both feet.
Mind Mold – Mind Mold: Musician, podcaster, occasional writer for Nine Circles…Jon Petkau does it all, including a penchant for listing great music not enough folks know about, as evidenced by his inclusion of Mind Mold. Straddling the line between sludge, blackened doom and post-metal, Mind Mold is at times angular and grating, morose and devastating. At just over 21 minutes this debut EP isn’t nearly enough for me, but it certainly whets the appetite for whatever they do next.
Kaffaljidhma – IV: We finish where we begin. If you’re not reading the weekly Receiving the Evcharist columns or the excellent reviews by Vincent, you’re missing out on some of the best, most challenging music in the underground. So taken from Vincent’s second EOY list (see, I’m not the only one!) of EPs and demos, the single lo-fi track from Kaffaljidhma is a bit of a revelation for me. Its washed out production begs the listener to actively engage, to listen more closely to hear the nuances and ideas being presented under the guide of black metal. Dreamy keyboards combine with harsh vocals and tremolo lines in ways you wouldn’t ever expect, and based on IV and its track “Alphecca of the Northern Crown, Sequestered in an Alcove of Lustrous Spires” I’ll be getting even closer to the music of Kaffaljidma.
It’s 2018, I’m ridiculously excited to listen to some new music and discover things out there that need a megaphone, passionate and alive music that we at Nine Circles can share with you. Until the next one, keep it heavy.