Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nick's Favorite Metal Albums of 2017

2017 felt like an eternity. This past year was full of emotional highs and lows that seem to finally be tapering off a few weeks into 2018. During those light and dark times, there was a ton of metal to turn to for solace. Here's 10 of my favorite albums from 2017 in no order except alphabetical. But first:


Attic - Sanctimonious
Attic gives King Diamond a run for his fucking money. I may have missed others over the years but this vocalist is the closest attempt at the King's otherwordly shrieks and chants I've heard. The music rips pretty hard too - the album just feels a bit too long for its own good.

Rest In Power Dave Brockie. I sort of missed the last 3 Gwar albums and then Oderus Urungus left us to conquer other dimensions. The Blood of Gods is just another fun Gwar album that shows they can still hang without their leader.

Impetuous Ritual - Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
Impetuous Ritual is unnerving chaos from an impossible realm.

Lantern - II: Morphosis
I loved Lantern's debut, Below, and had a lot of expectations for their follow up. Morphosis is a solid death metal album with Black Miasma and Cleansing of the Air as standout tracks (and the singles they released prior), but overall the album feels like a bit of a mess with the occasional stellar riff.

Pillorian - Obsidian Arc
Only a year ago, I'd have slapped you if you told me I wouldn't adore anything John Haughm did post-Agalloch. But Pillorian really didn't land for me. Again there's a few tracks here that are excellent (A Stygian Pyre is one) but it's pretty damning when I find myself not listening during parts of this album. It's not bad by any means - just ok, especially compared to past stuff with Agalloch. Here's hoping to the future of this band. 

Sabbath Assembly - Rites of Passage
Sabbath Assembly is occult rock that fucking rocks and walks the line of 'heavy metal'. They're awesome live and recorded and this album is great.

Black Anvil - As Was

I had the pleasure of witnessing Mayhem perform De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas live in its entirety in 2017 and opening for them was a band I'd never heard of: Black Anvil. These New Yorkers came out swinging with a fury that I instantly appreciated. Black Anvil takes black metal riffing and wraps it in catchy, melodic grooves that make their songs more approachable while staying heavy (such as in May Her Wrath Be Just). The album as a whole is varied and engaging and I love how they mix harsh and clean vocals. Some songs feel like they meander a bit longer than they should but it doesn't take away from the experience. Unfortunately, I don't recommend digging into their backlog but the future of this band looks bright. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Ultra

Cloak - To Venomous Depths

Heading into 2018, I was nervous about two forthcoming albums from Watain & Tribulation. Watain produced a solid album in Trident Wolf Eclipse, but the verdict is still out on Tribulation. Thus enters Atlanta's Cloak. Cloak takes the best of both worlds: an energy that reminds me of a Watain live show married with the composition of Tribulation's last two albums. But I wouldn't call Cloak a copycat. Instead, they wear their influences on their sleeves proudly and create their own blend of black/thrash/heavy metal, with an album that has a really solid mix and just fucking rocks. To Venomous Depths is an unlikely pairing of sinister and fun and I'm looking forward to what comes next for these guys.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: In the Darkness, the Path

Enslaved - E

Enslaved - EI love Enslaved. It's beginning to look like they can do no wrong for me. E is honestly not too different from their last few albums but I just love it (this is the first one that took a few listens to hook me, though). This time, Enslaved has a new keyboardist/clean vocalist whom I was initially against but grew to appreciate. These Norwegians trick you into thinking they've lost their black metal roots until they transition from a slow, dreamy lilt to an utterly crushing assault. I described In Times as 'airy' and I think that still applies - Enslaved has had this specific sound for awhile now, where it feels like floating through the clouds amidst the growls. 

Favorite track: The River's Mouth

Krallice - Go Be Forgotten

Krallice released two albums in one year again. This time only one really hit for me. Don't get me wrong, Loum is solid with guest vocals from Neurosis's Dave Edwardson. But Go Be Forgotten is yet again another example of how versatile Krallice can be. It's more melodic and atmospheric this time, easing up (a bit) on the dense technicality that I've grown accustomed to. Go Be Forgotten feels more experimental, with more synths and even interludes, breaking up some of the suffocating-but-controlled cacophony. Like their entire discography, this one requires multiple listens before any sort of understanding reveals itself. But it's worth it.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Go Be Forgotten

Lorn - Arrayed Claws

Arrayed Claws is my favorite surprise of 2017. At first glance, Lorn sounds like a me-too discordant black metal band. But their authority of the chaos quickly reveals itself as something really special. The incessant drums and ringing guitar lull me into a trance where the subtle changes in tempo make me forget what was just happening, basking in the discomfort. Arrayed Claws is tense and enveloping with ambient keyboard interludes as reprieves. This is also a great example of the artwork complimenting the album: squirming beasts vying for a better position like thoughts in the mind clamoring for attention. Lorn captures the experience of sudden impulses of fear and doubt on Arrayed Claws, providing a catharsis I didn't realize I desired. 

Bandcamp. The entire album is excellent.

Suffering Hour - In Passing Ascension

Suffering Hour is another surprise for me this year. Man, did their debut ablum, In Passing Ascension, hit hard for me. Suffering Hour crafts dissonant, blackened death metal, unafraid to let a riff build tension only to have it explode into something completely different within seconds. The guitars have a bounce to them - going one way, then another, seemingly at random. They make me consider what Deathspell Omega would sound like if they lightened up a bit. The vocals are mostly standard death metal guttural affair, the only negative I can muster about In Passing Ascension, because the rest of the album is a trip.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: For the Putridity of Man

Sunless - Uracca

If Suffering Hour wasn't jarring enough for you, might I suggest Sunless? Urraca reminds me of Gorguts's return, Colored Sands, with stutter-y guitar rhythms that captivate and suddenly change. I love that the songs are rather short for music of this ilk, getting in and out before you realize what happened. Within this short period, Sunless creates an eclectic atmosphere that leaves me breathless. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Abberant Clime

Venenum - Trance of Death

Trance of Death is a fitting follow-up to Venenum's self-titled EP - a debut that showed signs of forward-thinking amidst standard death metal. Trance of Death expands upon the trippy, contemplative nature established by Venenum's EP, tossing the listener into an even more chaotic dimension. The crushing sections of this album blend exceptionally well with the dreamy and emotional slower passages. Venenum tells a harrowing tale about the act of dying, providing an intense glimpse into the confusion and horror of what may lay beyond.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: There Are Other Worlds

Wintersun - The Forest Seasons

Wintersun is one of the first bands I discovered that led me down the path of extreme metal with their self-titled album - an album that will forever be an all-time favorite. I was very disappointed with their follow up, Time I. I had waited so long for another album, only to be left wanting. As it turns out, I just needed to wait a bit longer for The Forest Seasons. The concept of each song focusing around a season is just cool and the mood is established perfectly for autumn and winter. It may seem lackluster compared to other releases this year, but Wintersun has made a triumphant return for me personally. Symphonic metal bands are very hit or miss, but Wintersun manages to capture the beauty and grandeur of nature on this album with an epic blend of death and black metal. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Eternal Darkness (Autumn)

Wolves in the Throne Room - Thrice Woven

Wolves in the Throne Room is another special band that goes back years in my development as a metal fan. I fell in love with their long-form conjurations of nature worship spoken through black metal well before I discovered the depth of the genre.  After Celestial Lineage, Wolves released an ambient companion album, Celestite, before announcing a hiatus. I was surprised to catch them live last year, and Thrice Woven was even more unexpected. Wolves is back with better production and a more aggressive approach while maintaining their signature magic. The songs are punchier while hearkening back to their fuzzy beginnings. While another album that took me a few listens to appreciate, Thrice Woven shows that Wolves is still capable of grand, sweeping epics in a style only they seem fit to produce. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: The Old Ones Are With Us

Thanks for reading, and let me know your favorites from 2017! Here's my past lists in case you missed them and need even more to check out: 2016, 2015, 2014

- Nick

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