The Best Albums of 2K17: TovH Editors’ Picks
We conclude our albums of the year picks from your tireless editors: Lacertilian, Dubya, and Joe.
Lacertilian’s Top 10 of 2017
- Don’t read this expecting a nuanced analysis of each release as most of the stuff that’s impressed me during 2017 has been covered in some form throughout the year here in the bowl already.
- Please don’t assume this is just a cop-out on my behalf or allow that thought to diminish your enthusiasm for these excellent albums.
- Ok, so my brevity is directly related to this being a cop-out. Instead of offering an excuse however, I’d like to let you know that ever since starting to do the majority of our internal promo distribution and organising premieres/streams back in April, I’ve listened to even more music with the enjoyment of others in forefront of my mind than ever before in my life. While I do enjoy the task, it really does make the personal favourites resonate more profoundly during the truncated time available to listen to them.
- Alright I lied, that was an excuse. But guess what? So is this. Mental exhaustion is at play, and I’m kinda strung-out on a vastly inadequate but nonetheless necessary dose of pain-killers at the moment.
- One thing I did notice post-completion is that most of my picks ended up being debuts, either from bands that already had my prior interest courtesy of some impressive EPs/demos, or unknowns who took me completely by surprise.
- The word “best” is the worst.
10. Lorn – Arrayed Claws
I, Voidhanger Records | Cybro’s Review
As much as I sung the praises of Biesy‘s incredible debut, Lorn’s Arrayed Claws was the first discordant black metal album to shatter my reality this year and still feels as aggressive and gripping as it did back in January. Arrayed Claws‘ relentless ferocity allows it to carry what could otherwise be construed as overly long ambient sections in its midst, however in the context of the 5 tracks’ sheer intensity, these few minutes of respite are not only appreciated, they’re essential to maintain one’s sanity.
9. Tomb Mold – Primordial Malignity
Blood Harvest Records | Review
After coming across Tomb Mold’s mephitic brand of death metal through a promo of their raw The Bottomless Perdition demo tape some time ago, I was up for whatever these crypt-dwelling Canadians were keen to dish out. At first, the far less cavernous production aesthetic had me approaching the record with a slight sense of trepidation, after all the band name alone evokes quite a specific mental image. These minor concerns were quashed within seconds of hearing how absolutely fucking crushing the updated version of ‘Bereavement Of Flesh’ sounds now. Primordial Malignity is the album that manages to bridge the gap between the underground resurgence of wild and quirky death metal guitars and straight-up pummelling OSDM fun.
8. Shroud Ritual – Five Suns
Independent | Review | Interview
The debut from Shroud Ritual is by far the most impressive instrumental album I’ve heard all year, and perhaps the most accomplished and texturally diverse debut of its type I’ve ever heard. What? THIS WAS COMPOSED, PLAYED AND RECORDED BY ONE PERSON? Fuck. This is a must-hear for fans of Tempel, Opeth, or rich sonic tapestries that weave into your mind.
7. Venenum – Trance of Death
Ajna Offensive | Dubya’s Review
After W. gave me the heads up to check this thing out as soon as possible in late January I must have spent a month solid with this masterpiece reverberating in my ears. Trance Of Death is the kind of ambitious album that some death metal bands wouldn’t dare to pen. Ostentatious, engaging, and extremely satisfying from start to end, this is 50 minutes of psychedelic-tinged prog-death you’ll not forget. The three-part finale is worth the admission fee alone. FFO: Execration, Morbus Chron, Necrovation.
6. Vacivus – Temple Of The Abyss
Profound Lore | Review
After being clomped to death for nigh on 2 years by Vacivus’ powerful EP Rite Of Ascension, my expectations for this full-length were understandably high. Temple Of The Abyss did not disappoint. Through tightening up some of the low-end and focusing that vicious primal riffing into more controlled bursts, Vacivus managed to spawn a beast that simultaneously exhibits a methodical deadliness and pure unfettered rage.
5. Execration – Return To The Void
Metal Blade Records | Interviews
The follow-up to the award winning Morbid Dimensions was never going to be an easy task. Thankfully Execration took their time, kept travelling deeper into the unknown on their interstellar trajectory and penned an otherworldly odyssey along the way. Return To The Void took me a little while to appreciate fully. Of course I was prepared for a wild hallucinogenic prog-death ride but it was the album’s somewhat unique sound direction which initially caught me off guard. Before long I was on-board, strapped in and approaching an altered state previously uncharted. Dose up and drift out.
4. Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Dark Descent Records | Review
What more can be said about this album? Thank fuck it’s popping up on lists everywhere because that says to me that there’s a real hunger in the community for the type of cavernous death-doom that was rife in Finland during the 90’s. If you dig the megalithic riffing of Rippikoulu, Abhorrence, or even modern exponents of that classic Finnish sound Krypts, then Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing is essential. For me though, the thing that makes this album so strong are the cryptic-sounding clean overdubs. These ephemerally occurring overlays take what are ostensibly just really solid death-doom songs into the realm inhabited by transcendent acts such as diSEMBOWELMENT, Evoken, et al.
3. Havukruunu – Kelle Serut Soi
Speaking of Finland, this majestic melodic black metal masterpiece saw me through essentially the entire Southern winter. Look, I don’t speak Finnish because as far as I’m told it’s a made-up language spoken by pretend people from an illusory land. And having not ever even traversed the damn equator, I can’t prove otherwise. However, what I’m certain of is whatever battle Havukruunu are leading us into with Kelle Serut Soi, we will emerge triumphant and these songs will serve as our victory anthems for years to come.
2. Expander – Endless Computer
NWN | Review
1. Suffering Hour – In Passing Ascension
Blood Harvest Records | Interview
There’s a good reason you’re seeing this album pop up on lists all over the place. In Passing Ascension is mind-blowingly excellent for a debut record in a genre that is as saturated as blackened death. Some bands have toiled away for a decade or more and not managed to create such an impression. Insane guitar riffs permeate every moment of these 8 songs. Combining mental shred, progression, dissonance, deft technique, psychotic harmonies, and hooks that just do not fucking let go, the band’s sole guitarist YhA puts on a masterclass of HOW TO RIFF, as his fingertips burn holes in your brain with every sour note.
Although I’ve made a tradition of complaining about the pointlessness of Year End Lists, this year it all somehow feels even more vulgar in the face of everything going on in the world around us. Maybe it’s the slow corrosion of cynicism finally taking hold, or maybe it’s a response to the zeitgeist of genuine anxiety gripping the world around me, but this year I found myself resonating most with art that was less aspirational and more emotional. These are are the works of art that accompanied me when my grandfather passed, when I moved and said good bye to all my friends, and when I sat alone night after night wondering how it was all going to go down. These albums, all from hard-working upstarts in the underground, stuck with me, and if all this list achieves is to introduce you to some new song that will resonate with you at a spiritual level and keep you company when the fire dies, that will be enough.
W.’s Top 10 of 2017
10. Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation
Invictus Productions | Review
Search as you might, you’d be hard pressed to find an uglier, heavier album in 2017. Straining the most vitriolic elements of war metal into a surprisingly taut package, cranking up the intricacy, and even dabbling to elements typically verboten to this style (Gasp! acoustic interludes!), Ascended Dead delivered the complete package on this, their debut full-length. It’s a wild, unrelenting ride from start to finish, but rarely will something so pulverizing demand you press repeat again and again. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was the soundtrack to the world’s end.
9. Tchornobog – Tchornobog
Fallen Empire Records | Review
As I intimated when I first reviewed this album months ago, it’s impossible for me to separate it from the circumstances within which I first listened to it, namely a death in the family. Tchornobog is an extreme metal album through and through, replete with ghastly growls, battering blasts, and raucous riffs, but it is its emotional center, its penchant for catharsis, that lingers with you. From the plaintive spoken word to the lugubrious saxophone peals to the soul-shaking doom riffs, this is an album that beckons you to look inside, to grieve, and to let it go. Five months later, this album remains as poignant and reflective as when I first heard it.
8. Jordablod – Upon My Cremation Pyre
Iron Bonehead Productions | Limerick
If Ascended Dead’s strength is their sheer cruelty, Jordablod’s is their masterful artistry; Upon My Cremation Pyre is a stunning debut of the some of the most thoughtful and powerful riffs you’ll hear all year. At times psychedelic, at others decisive, each of the seven tracks on this album is an intricate story, a riffsplosion of color and mood, a deep-form exploration of the furthest reaches of black metal’s splendor. Upon My Cremation Pyre is a trip from start to finish, one that only becomes more fulfilling with each repeat spin, simply because this is an album to lose yourself to.
7. ORM – ORM
Another shockingly good black metal debut, ORM’s appeal is largely the same as Jordablod’s: massive riffs, surprising intricacy, and thoroughly satisfying execution. What sets ORM apart, however, is the band’s ability to tell heroic songs of impossible scale solely with their instruments. Each track on Orm is an epic of Arthurian proportion, a twisting, twirling, multi-layered tale of heroism and valor that owes as much to traditional metal as it does its own natural genre. This is the kind of music, with its scabrous shrieking and doom-laden moments of pensive thought, that challenges your heart to rise and your soul to sing. Like the greatest of our myths, this is an album that inspires.
6. Chepang – Dadhelo – A Tale of Wildfire
Nerve Altar | Review
On Dadhelo, Chepang are all passion, pouring their hearts and souls into their instruments. That heat is born out in scathing riffs and incendiary blasts as deadly as anything else you’ll hear this year, but it also manifests in the earnestness of the performance itself. Dadhelo is a tribute to the Chepang people, and you can hear the entire spectrum of the human experience in this album, from the soaring highs that show grind at its most complex and artistic, to the most crushing lows that find the band getting filthier and grittier than anyone else in the game. To hear Dadhelo is to hear the pulse of its makers, and the heartbeat of a people, and to be changed by those signatures.
5. Botanist – Collective: The Shape of He to Come
Avantgarde Music | Review
While I’ve praised the artistry of other releases on this list, Botanist’s latest is undeniably the single most beautiful metal album you’ll hear all year. That’s odd praise in a genre that glorifies harshness and extremity, but the lush, vibrant tones, plaintive atmosphere, and natural warmth of The Shape of He to Come not only allow it to stand out in a year of amazing releases, but also to shine as the quintessential Botanist record. Listening to this album in a forest is a spiritual experience, and the raw emotion behind it is enough to reduce you to tears.
4. Bereft – Lands
Proesthetic Records | Review | Interview
If Dadhelo is the heart-cry of Nepal, then surely Lands is the lament of the people of the US. An inexplicably gorgeous blend of doom and black metal, Lands weaves a soulful tale of sorrow, loss, and pain across four monstrous tracks. What’s most surprising about this release, however, is how catchy and memorable it all is; rather than sounding like some soulless mash-up, Lands delivers a genuinely engrossing experience where every riff, every blast, and every gut-wrenching cry linger in your mind for days. I still find myself humming “Waning Light,” hoping that a new dawn will soon burst forth to burn away the gloom.
3. Venenum – Trance of Death
Ajna Offensive | Review
Death metal’s answer to the likes of Jordablod and ORM, Venenum’s Trance of Death is the rare work of art with near universal appeal in the world of metal. It’s got the riffs, the intricacy, and the technicality to sate fans of classic metal, war metal, and everything in between. Most importantly, however, it’s got a sense of scope and grandeur, a panache for the cinematic that sets the imagination ablaze. Trance of Death is an infinite realm of possibility, a world unto itself, an amalgam of the very best metal has to offer. And it’s damn fun all the way through.
2. Gigan – Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridiscence
Willowtip | Tech Death Thursday
It’s been three months since this album officially released, and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Undulating Waves is Gigan at both, paradoxically, their weirdest and their catchiest. Alien riffs and non-Euclidian dissonance meet deceptively poppy formulations to latch onto your brainstem with all the virulence of an extraterrestrial death plague. It’s rare today for any metal album to completely blow me away; even rarer is the album that captures the same sense of wonder and fear I felt upon first hearing the likes of Portal. Here, Gigan has accomplished both.
1. Suffering Hour – In Passing Ascension
Blood Harvest | Review
No single album this year captured metal’s potential like In passing Ascension. From its perplexing skronk to its brain-catching melodies, every note, every drum stroke, every growl on this record is deeply convincing, resonating with the listener on a primal, subconscious level, calling out to something deeper, more meaningful, more powerful. It’s heroic, terrifying, and catchy all at once, and once it grips you, it never lets go. Thank you for this.
Dodecahedron – Kwintessens | Season of Mist | Listen to “An Ill-Defined Air of Otherness”
Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon | Profound Lore | Listen to “Anchored to the Inlayed Arc”
Ingurgitating Oblivion – Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light | Willowtip | Listen to “A Mote…”
Y’all motherfuckers love lists. I do not. Instead of being a sourpuss about the whole thing, here’s ten records that I enjoyed in 2017 ranked arbitrarily against each other despite having little, if any, common ground. I hope you find something you enjoy.
Joe’s Top 10 of 2017
10. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
Silver Lining Music | Interview with Steve Tucker
If you have even a cursory knowledge of heavy metal in 2k17 you know that the latest Morbid Angel record is A Big Deal. Rather than describing the band’s latest drama, the popular opinions on the last few Morbid Angel records, or the sky-high expectations for this album, we should keep it simple. Kingdoms Disdained puts Trey Azagthoth at the forefront doing what he does best: playing guitar riffs that you and I could never even imagine before he slammed them through your eardrums. When the album ends I immediately have to start it over again.
9. Droid – Terrestrial Mutations
Nightbreaker Productions| Review
Technical thrash with crossover-esque vocals and jazzy interludes. Not enough for you? Fine. It’s in spaaaaaaaaaace! Purchase this bad boy via the Bandcamp link below.
8. Valborg – Endstrand
Poser Alert: I first listened to this record because I liked the artwork which appears to be an angry skull penis. I was completely unfamiliar with Valborg before plugging into Endstrand. Truth be told, I still don’t know much about them. I reckon the band is German because their song titles are long words that I don’t understand. I hear the guy from Celtic Frost really digs them. But what I DO know is that Endstrand is chockfull of dick crushing low end. The music is led by bass and as a result, these pissed off industrial/caveman death metal tracks will make you shake your ass.
7. Expander – Endless Computer
NWN | MS/DOS Review
This is the best Texas metal album released this year. Also, in spaaaaaace!
6. Rope Sect – Personae Ingratae/Proselytes
Caligari Records | Richter’s Review
This isn’t even an album, man. It’s a compilation of two EPs released by Rope Sect this year plus two bonus tracks. I know that Richter wrote a really great review of this kick ass moody death rock band earlier this year but I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret: I was the first dude to cover this band on this site. NOT RICHTER. ME. And I beat him by two whole months! I don’t normally care about this kinda thing but “Fallen Nation” is such a perfect song that I want to take all the credit I can for Rope Sect’s tremendous achievements.
5. The Mantle – The Mantle
Independent | Interview with The Mantle
Kenny G’s kid shreds. Max Gorelick, scion of the G clan, put out an instrumental shred record at the very dawn of 2017 that still gets mad rotations on my commute. It’s good vibes, jaunty rhythms, and enough shredding to soundtrack an all-night session with a Japanese shoot-em-up.
4. Idolist – Idolist
I’m not sure how I found this record but I regret not writing about it sooner. Idolist is a young band from Iowa that combines elements of black metal, thrash, and occasionally major key melodies into a genuinely refreshing sound. I don’t wanna spoil too much for you here. Just listen to the old school riffage of “Station” segue into the atmospheric rock of “Prophet Descends” or the electric instrumental of “Action Potential” and tell me you’re not hearing something special.
3. Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland
Invictus Productions | Review
Nordkarpatenland is first wave black metal with Slovakian folk elements and an undeniable NWOBHM flair for riffage. Somehow it’s even better than the sum of those parts. “V okresném rybníku hastrman už po stáročá vyčína (In the provincial pond, a water goblin has been raging for centuries)” rips harder than most any first wave BM or NWOBHM track you can imagine.
2. Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Dark Descent Records | Review
Did y’all like Blood Incantation’s Starspawn? I liked it so much that I put it in one of these top 10 slots last year. Anyway, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is more of the same, which is to say very good, very raw technical death metal in spaaaaaaaaace.
1. Integrity – Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume
Relapse | Interview with Dom Romeo
Pulling Teeth guitarist, a389 Records head honcho, and Integrity superfan Dom Romeo joined his favorite band and helped them write their best record in 20 years. Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume is the grown-up Integrity that I don’t think any of us knew was possible. Hardcore, black metal, 80s shred, and classic rock all meld together for the year’s most impressive record.
3 real good EPs:
FLOODS – Floods | Listen to “Coercive”
Down I Go – Mortals | Listen to “Pandora”
Vultures Vengeance – Where the Time Dwelt In | Caligari | Listen to “A Curse from Obsidian Realm“