2017 was an amazing year for music, with so many top-notch albums seeing the light of day. I pretty much say this every year, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop it being true. With this in mind, the 2017 list was especially hard to put together, and I agonised over this one more than I did for any of the lists in previous years.
As is traditional, I also want to mention some releases by bands that could easily have made it onto the list, and should have by many rights, if only I could have somehow managed to fit them all in –
I urge you to check out all of the above releases, in addition to the ones in the actual list below. I could probably keep adding more bands you should give a listen to, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, I suppose.
So, without further ado, let’s get right down to it…
Tchornobog – Tchornobog
What a roiling, churning maelstrom of black/death/doom metal this is. A twisted, ugly mass of grim atmosphere and brutal hardship, this album is a monstrous beast. Featuring four towering edifices of harrowing harshness and terrifying power, this album is a work of twisted genius. It’s all the more impressive as it stems from the intellect of just one man, too. This is hybrid extreme metal at its very best. Bleak and harrowing.
Goya – Harvester of Bongloads
This is such an enjoyable, slow-burning album. It’s laid back, back not overly so, and sucks you into its world full of big riffs, compelling melodies, and catchy vocals. Hypnotic and fuzzy, this is weighty stoner doom metal of the most enjoyable variety. Doomheads rejoice!
Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi
I wonder, what is it about Axis Mundi that makes it so damn listenable? I find that this album is extremely moreish; just when I think I have had enough of listening to these tracks, I can’t help but want to spin them all over again. Decrepit Birth have given us a veritable feast of technical death metal on Axis Mundi, and I, for one, am showing no signs of getting satiated by it as of yet.
Telekinetic Yeti – Abominable
Catchy and memorable, and powered by a love of meaty riffs and infectious songs, Telekinetic yeti seemed to come out of nowhere and put almost everything else like this to shame. Abominable is an album of doom/stoner metal that just doesn’t lose its appeal, no matter how many times you listen to it. It is, quite simply, that good.
Usnea – Portals into Futility
Usnea are a particular favourite of mine, with their desolate blackened doom delivery finding endless favour at Wonderbox Metal. The band’s latest effort is yet another colossal slab of doomy intensity, punctuated by brief bursts of blackened violence and shot through with esoteric, obscure melody. Rich and textured, despite actually being quite sparse and minimal in some aspects of its delivery, this is slow and intense blackened funeral sludge doom.
Barrabus – Barrabus
Have you ever wondered what the maniacal offspring of Mike Patton and Every Time I Die might sound like? Well, if you have, I suspect that Barrabus’ debut album might not be too far removed from the initial product of your wild imaginings. Unhinged and intense, while still being incredibly catchy and infectious, this charismatic band have produced easily one of the most infectious and individual rock albums of 2017.
Nephren-Ka – La Grande Guerre de L’Epice
Nephren-Ka topped my end of year list for 2013, and although they haven’t repeated that feat with their second full-length effort, La Grande Guerre de L’Epice is still one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard this year. Nephren-Ka are definitely at the height of their game, offering the listener quality, professional death metal that’s brutal in temperament and its muscular intensity, while also being wide in scope when it comes to melodic and atmospheric enhancements.
Ram – Rod
When it comes to true heavy metal, few can match the power and enjoyment that Ram can offer. Rod is just impossible to dislike if you’re a fan of this kind of thing. Ram’s songs deliver the type of riffs, leads, solos, and choruses that you rarely see anymore. It’s crystal clear that this is a talented band at the best of times, but as an added enticement Rod also sees them adding a few different tools to their already considerable toolbox, with some progressive elements and other ideas making themselves felt across the album’s playing time, especially over the six-part concept piece Ramrod the Destroyer.
Sorxe – Matter & Void
The return of Sorxe has pleased me greatly. Playing a mix of post-metal and sludge that’s as effective as it is enjoyable, Matter & Void contains an all-too-brief 36 minutes of material, but the quality is disproportionately high to the quantity. Well-written and filled with a pervading atmosphere, these songs incorporate many different ideas and styles into their makeup, unfolding with a natural flow and a confident delivery. An adventure in sound.
Temple of Void – Lords of Death
Crypt-rotten, foul-smelling death/doom metal doesn’t really come much better than this. Temple of Void merge old-school death metal and equally old-school doom metal into a dark, colossal monster. With a heart full of decaying matter, lungs filled with foetid stench, and an ear for a good song, Lords of Death is a devastating release.
Old Night – Pale Cold Irrelevance
Merging progressive doom with a touch of death/doom bite, Old Night’s debut album Pale Cold Irrelevance is a considered and reflective piece of work that’s steeped in textured atmospheres and solemn moods. Well-written and with obvious care and attention taken in its construction, this is a comprehensive 58 minutes of quality music. Definitely some of the best progressive/atmospheric doom out there.
Brume – Rooster
What a rich, luscious album this is! Burning with passion and aching with sensuous depth, Brume’s debut album is an atmospheric doom metal experience that transcends pure doom metal. With a psychedelic heart and a love of The Riff, the songs on Rooster merge atmosphere and heaviness with style and substance. When the heartrending guitars are combined with the captivating vocals of their talented singer, well, it’s quite relevatory. This collection of tracks offers many such hair-raising moments.
Sunless – Urraca
Dissonant death metal can easily be an impenetrable and claustrophobic listen, which can, in turn, easily put people off its inimitable charms. However, Sunless have somehow managed to be an exception to this. The band’s music is inclusive and even quite expansive in places, despite retaining the best and most enjoyable features of the dissonant style. Urraca is extremely enjoyable and satisfying, and I heartily recommend that you check it out.
Wren – Auburn Rule
What do you get when you combine haunting beauty, earthy heaviness, and post-metal reflective splendour? You get Auburn Rule. Across the length of this album the band kick out the jams with the best of them, while also spending time in deep consideration of weighty matters, and providing enough meaty riffs to satisfy any fan of heavy music. Being a big admirer of Wren’s earlier work I was excited to listen to this, and they did not disappoint at all. Auburn Rule is an album that I keep enjoying more and more every time I listen to it.
Sunlight’s Bane – The Blackest Volume: Like All the Earth Was Buried
For when you can never get enough of ugly, dirty music, the debut album from filthy sludgecore merchants Sunlight’s Bane has you covered. Hungrily devouring crust, grind, doom, black metal, and hardcore influences and then vomiting them forth in a hideous mess of sludge-driven intensity, this is an album that really hits hard. With varied delivery and furious passion, Sunlight’s Bane have created a monster here, a monster that demands to be heard. Dare you provoke its wrath?
Owlcrusher – Owlcrusher
Here we have three mighty mountains of the darkest, most evil doom. Steeped in pitch-black sludge and fuelled by a total nihilistic disdain for everyone and everything, the music on this slow, malignant album is crushing in every way. This is filthy and ugly music that’s warped with glacial intensity and weight. As I said when I reviewed this; Owlcrusher are utterly daemonic and completely engrossing.
The Summoned – Sessions
Sessions offers up some of the most savage and frenzied technical death metal this side of…well, pretty much anywhere. Taking a dash of modern technical metal into their bitingly aggressive delivery, this album positively froths at the teeth as it goes for the throat. No doubt composed by insane and barely-held together intellects of twisted genius, this album still manages to remain coherent enough to deliver a genuinely enjoyable listen, rather than a totally unhinged mess of random riffs and time changes. Sessions may be dazzling in its technical wizardry, but once you get past how impressive it all is, there’s still enough substance to the material for the songs to appeal. Controlled chaos and mayhem, with passion and heart.
Jupiterian – Terraforming
Oh come on, how could I not include Jupiterian’s impressive second album on this list? Any fan of heavy, atmospheric sludge/doom would be best advised to get hold of this as soon as possible. Terraforming offers 40 minutes of music that rolls across the musical landscape demolishing everything in its path. Heavy it certainly is, but there’s more than simply huge riffs here, (although there’s plenty of those too); this is an album all about crushing, emotive atmosphere, which is something that Jupiterian do very, very well indeed.
Analepsy – Atrocities from Beyond
Smash! Crush! Slam! Kill! Bang! Batter! Maim! DESTROOOYY! Yes, 2017 was the year that Analepsy unleashed the full fury of their ultra-brutal debut album on the world. My enthusiasm for Atrocities from Beyond knows no bounds, as it is highly infectious and ridiculously enjoyable brutal death metal, and I just can’t get enough of it. I defy anyone to listen to this and stay still. Fists and heads shall bang furiously, as the groovy riffs and blasting drums whip listeners into a frenzy. Analepsy is music to collapse buildings to.
Cormorant – Diaspora
Cormorant play atmospheric/progressive black metal with a healthy lashing of doom. Diaspora is, simply put, a wonderful and vividly realised piece of work. This is an ambitious album, one which could easily have faltered in a lesser band’s hands. Cormorant, however, have more than proven how capable they are at this stage in their career, and Diaspora is their finest moment yet. With epic, sprawling tracks that combine emotive content with blackened intensity, the songs on this album span a range of sub-styles and moods, culminating in their best work yet, the 26-minute closer Migration.
Nomadic Rituals – Marking the Day
What a massive, beast of an album this is. Roaring, churning doom has rarely sounded as engaging or downright satisfying as this. Nomadic Rituals have poured oceans of quality musical focus and passion into this album, and the result is a claustrophobic, dense, and incredibly compelling slab of doom. Colossally heavy, with a keen emotive edge, the band put their own spin on the doom/death approach, creating music that has its own identity and style. Marking the Day is like a force of nature given musical form.
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
An album like this could so easily have fallen flat on its face. Comprised of a single 83-minute track of slow, tortured funeral doom, one that’s based on tragedy and loss, it could so easily have all gone wrong. After all, execution does not always equal ambition. Except that in the case of Mirror Reaper, it certainly does. With soul-stopping grim heaviness and heartfelt moments of emotive beauty, this album takes the listener on a journey that, by the end of it, is likely to see them torn to emotional shreds and left drained and spent. This is a powerful album, one that has been rightfully lauded as Bell Witch’s greatest work to date. A heartrending masterpiece.
Mountains Crave – As We Were When We Were Not
The atmospheric black metal sub-genre is a favourite of mine, and few releases this year can compare to what’s contained on As We Were When We Were Not, the sterling debut album from Mountains Crave. Utilising tools from the progressive, atmospheric, and post-metal toolboxes, this is a diverse and enthralling listen from start to finish. Weaving dark emotion and mood into their rich and diverse delivery, the music on As We Were When We Were Not is vivid and evocative black metal that spirits the listener away into the world of Mountains Crave and completely absorbs them.
Rosk – Miasma
This is a rare and unusual album; combining black metal, sludge, and post-metal into an atmospheric and layered release, Rosk clearly know a thing or two about how to piece together emotive and affecting music. The songs on this album are nuanced and well-composed, flirting with beauty and uplifting soundscapes one moment, before crashing down with furious blackened heaviness the next. One thing’s for sure is that Miasma is an incredibly impressive debut, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability
Savage, modern grindcore doesn’t get much better than this. Featuring blistering speed, brutal groove, and songwriting flair, The Haunting Fear of Inevitability is a collection of red-hot tracks that burn with intensity and destructive aggression. With uncompromising passion and ferocious enthusiasm, this is an album of stylish brutality that’s incredibly addictive. The Haunting Fear of Inevitability knows a hundred ways to tear you apart.
Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
Offering a brand new collection of compelling and engaging music, Wolves in the Throne Room’s latest opus is a masterclass in how to construct enjoyable and infectious atmospheric black metal. Earthy atmospherics and icy aggression meet and naturally support and enhance each other, with each of the songs playing off the band’s considerable strengths and talents. Thrice Woven is the band’s shortest album to date, but this only adds to how easy it is to binge listen to it over and over and over again. Acknowledging their roots, while still being forward-thinking, Thrice Woven is the perfect Wolves in the Throne Room album for 2017.
Skyeater – The Maw of Time
This is epic, expressive, atmospheric blackened doom, and from the moment I first heard Skyeater’s debut album I knew it was something truly special. The music on this superlative release has a blackened richness to it that keeps you returning for more. The dark melodies seem to swirl around you like a storm of blades, while the scathing vocals strip your skin with their abrasive harshness. On The Maw of Time, black metal and funeral doom collide in such an accomplished manner that it’s hard to believe this is the first release from Skyeater. I can only imagine how devastating their second album will be. Until then, The Maw of Time is pretty untouchable.
Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis
The return of one of the most distinctive and individual bands in extreme metal could have been many things, but to return with such strength and continued character? Well, that’s an extremely uncommon achievement. Akercocke have managed to produce 54 minutes of new material that not only leaves off from and does justice to the band’s earlier work, but also succeeds in building on it, pushing the envelope even further. Renaissance in Extremis is simply a phenomenal slice of extreme metal that you need to hear. Akercocke stand apart from almost everyone in extreme metal.
Myrkur – Mareridt
The artist behind Myrkur is just getting better and better, and Mareridt is a huge step forward in her sound. This is such a ridiculously strong collection of songs. On Mareridt Myrkur takes several bold strides forward with her sound; she takes her original formula of mixing folk and black metal, and just explodes it into the stratosphere. Songs like The Serpent embody just how powerful her work can be, and Mareridt is an album that succeeds in taking the listener on an ethereal, transcendent journey, one that’s completely absorbing. Mareridt is the sound of a talented artist truly coming into her own.
Vin de Mia Trix – Palimpsests
The top slot on this year’s end of year list goes to a truly ambitious and beautifully crafted record. Palimpsests is a monolithic piece of work, lasting a colossal 98 minutes and providing the listener with a sumptuous banquet of rich, textured music to savour and enjoy. Vin de Mia Trix play expansive and layered doom metal, lovingly crafted with a strong emotive presence and a firm death/doom bias. This is music that truly offers an absorbing and engaging listening experience. The music is sprawling and multifaceted, widely exploring its musical environment with the confidence of an apex predator. This is a fully-fledged musical odyssey, one that demands your attention, before whisking you away on the type of epic journey that comes around so infrequently. Yes, Palimpsests is my rightly-deserved album of the year. It’s an utterly essential listen.