Top Albums ov 2017 Celebrity Guest Lists: Barshasketh, Execration, and Expander!
The final stack of killer albums you NEED to hear before 2017 is over!
Our friends in Barshasketh, Execration, and Expander dropped three of my absolute favourite releases during 2017, all of whom were kind enough to take the time and compile some of their personal favourites from the year for us to check out.
Bestia Arcana – Holókauston
Holókauston is a record that truly evokes a very palpable sense of dread. Surprisingly, this album easily supplanted Naas Alcameth’s other release this year, Nightbringer’s Terra Damnata on this list, which although an excellent album, was perhaps a bit too diffuse. This record is just so much more focussed and gradually suffocates the listener over time with its eerie (dis)harmonies and harrowing vocals. Some intelligently incorporated ambient segments help augment the dense, atramentous atmosphere. Holókauston is so well constructed that I struggle to identify any flaws; this release is a real triumph for Bestia Arcana and can surely be considered a modern classic.
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Dark Descent | Review
This album was the first to come to mind as I was putting together this list. It was simply unthinkable to omit the Death Metal album of the year, as far as I’m concerned. A weighty melange of 90’s death metal and death/doom from the same period, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is the logical conclusion of an atmospheric and space themed style first put forward by the likes of dISEMBOWELMENT, Timeghoul and Nocturnus many years ago. A superb and dense production complements the superb performances on show, with the vocals perhaps shining brightest here. Absolutely essential.
Vacivus – Temple of the Abyss
Profound Lore | Review
This is one of my most listened to albums this year-it’s so infectious that I find it difficult to listen to one song without listening to the entire album. Stylistically, we’re talking about something that’s very much anchored in a 90’s riff-driven song construction (think early/mid Morbid Angel, early Deicide and early Immolation), combined with the more modern cavernous type of production that’s been in vogue with a lot of newer old-school DM revival acts. The result is songs that are tightly and deliberately structured and simultaneously emanate a sinister atmosphere.
Inferno – Gnosis Kardias of Transcension and Involution
World Terror Committee
This is another album that’s been on very heavy rotation for me since its release. Inferno are a real anomaly in the black metal scene in the sense that they have a unique offering that encompasses lots of different influences while simultaneously remaining undeniably black metal. Gnosis Kardias presents us with a fascinating juxtaposition of placidity and violence, stillness and malevolence. I’m somewhat at a loss in terms of comparisons or even description- this is an album that must be witnessed to be understood.
Aosoth – V: The Inside Scriptures
After two fantastic full length releases, I was almost apprehensive about this album. Would this album live up to the lofty standard that they had set for themselves with III and IV: An Arrow in the Heart? The short answer is yes, although III is perhaps still my personal favourite, there is no denying that Aosoth have produced an extremely solid album that doesn’t contain a single wasted second from start to finish. Interestingly enough, I believe this is the first Aosoth recording to feature a real drummer. While the drum machine on previous recordings was serviceable enough thanks to a good choice of sounds and clever programming, you just can’t beat the real thing and it is a notable improvement. In fact, the epic closer ‘Silver Dagger and the Breathless Smile’ may be their finest track to date.
Whoredom Rife – Dommedagskvad
To my ears, Dommedagskvad sounds like a cross between the majestic and triumphant sound of early Emperor and the more aggressive and cutting sound of mid-2000’s Swedish bands such as Ofermod or Orcivus. As a fan of both styles, this is an excellent thing. Seven expertly constructed songs that are simply brimming with sombre atmosphere, all wrapped up in a fitting production that does not reveal too much and leaves something to the imagination, just like those early black metal albums we all know and love. Some of the standout cuts such as ‘Cursing the Storm to Come’ and ‘Winged Assassin’ are without question among the finest black metal songs that I’ve heard this year. More!
Undergang – Misantropologi
I’ve enjoyed Undergang’s caveman-like approach to death metal since first hearing the superb Døden læger alle sår a couple of years ago. These Danes have been perfecting their craft since then and Misantropologi might well be the finest distillation of their rather brutish style to date. Death metal from the sewer, boasting the dirtiest riffs and foulest guitar tone you’ll hear this year, not to mention some of the most cavernous vocals too. This release cannot come any more recommended to anyone who appreciates 90’s style morbid death metal.
Suffering Hour – In Passing Ascension
Blood Harvest | Interview
In Passing Ascension was an unexpected and pleasant surprise from a band which I confess was completely unaware of. A dizzying whirlwind that encompasses black and death metal influences as well as a few progressive touches here and there without ever feeling anything less than completely cohesive. Forward thinking, yet never losing a sense of aggression and menace. Technical, yet not overwrought, it’s all very impressive from such a young band and I for one am very much looking forward to seeing how they build on this unquestionably fully-formed and mature sound.
Blaze of Perdition – Conscious Darkness
Blaze of Perdition are one of these bands that have always interested me, but I’ve never felt like they have completely knocked it out of the park with their previous albums. Conscious Darkness is a superbly crafted album that combines a heavily textured and varied sound (the guitars are especially impressive and multifaceted) with a more primal and aggressive feeling. The album is so well structured that the 43 minutes running time go by before you know it, at which point you will feel compelled to play it again, and again, and again.
Rebirth of Nefast – Tabernaculum
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
I believe that Wann, the mastermind behind Rebirth of Nefast had been working on Tabernaculum for almost a decade before its release. Such a drawn out completion time between conception and realisation is anomalous to say the least, and from what I’ve managed to glean from interviews is attributable to an obsessive mindset in the pursuit of perfection. Clocking in a just over an hour, Tabernaculum is an album that is as intensely atmospheric as it is multi-faceted- this is a real slow burner that demands repeated listens and does not surrender its secrets easily. The impeccable production is remarkably effective in conveying a strange sense of awe through a rather enigmatic layered approach that makes it tough to pick out individual guitar lines at times. This album is not an easy listen, but it is rewarding in the extreme for those willing to invest some time into it.
Svartidauði – Untitled
I was very curious to hear some new material from Svartidauði since quite a long time has passed since the release of the now classic Flesh Cathedral (I am not counting the Hideous Silhouettes of Lynched Gods here since the songs date back to the same period as their debut album) and I wanted to get an idea of how the band has progressed and evolved in their approach since then. As it turns out, the seminal Icelandic black metal outfit is still one step ahead of its imitators with some trademark mind-bending harmonies that are hooky, yet inscrutable in some sense. There are also some unexpected elements such as the eerie acoustic guitars on ‘Exultation’.
Medico Peste – Herzogian Darkness
World Terror Committee
I am quite certain that Medico Peste must be one of the most underappreciated and underrated bands in black metal. א: Tremendum et Fascinatio was a fascinating album, full of unpredictable, off kilter and oddball elements and yet there was a sense that there was some warped logic to the feverish madness on display. Herzogian Darkness is much in the same erratic vein as its predecessor and is blessed with a deeply atmospheric production that is just on the right side of raw. Highly recommended.
Devouring Star – Antihedron
I think this release caught quite a few people off guard, since Devouring Star jettisoned their signature blast beat heavy approach in favour of a weighty death/black/doom sound on Antihedron. While this was bound to be divisive, Devouring Star have simply offered up their finest material to date with this release in my view. Three deftly constructed songs that have a rare elegant simplicity about them.
Sheidim – Infamata
There isn’t a second wasted on this thoroughly well executed EP, which clocks in at just under 30 minutes. Chock-full of haunting melodies offset against more aggressive, almost thrashy riffs underpinned by some seriously impressive and remarkably consistent drumming from J.F. Sheidim can perhaps be described stylistically as picking up where Watain left off before they lost their way after their first few releases. Seriously impressive stuff and a real gem that flew under the radar for far too many people!
I’m kinda slow when it comes to checking out new releases, so rather than the best albums of 2017, I’ll call this 10 good albums of 2017. There may be others I haven’t gotten around to yet. Along the same lines, this list is in no particular order. I’d also like to add that Norwegians are probably overrepresented in this list, something I attribute to simple locality – I know some of these people, and I hear about these releases because it happens “close to home”.
Void Eater – I
Let’s kick this off with the most recent release on this list. This thing dropped on December 10th, finishing touches and final recordings having been made just the day before. If that ain’t hot off the presses, I don’t know what is. This is the solo project of Kristian Valbo, drum god from countrymen Obliteration, and also heard in other fine bands, like Aura Noir, Spectral Haze and more. Void Eater is a weird and insane obscure mix of black and death metal. Occasionally it’ll conjure the vibe of Negative Plane, but that is not a sufficient comparison on its own. At times it is sludgy, at times intense, and always weird and twisted. There’s some Virus-style guitar voicings in here, and the whole thing comes through as a truly idiosyncratic mix of ideas. Being this fresh, I haven’t fully absorbed this yet, but I already know it’s one of my favorite releases of 2017.
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
From the obscure to the mainstream, Emperor of Sand is one of my most played albums this year. I’m a huge fan of older Mastodon, with Crack The Skye being my favorite by them. Emperor of Sand is the first Mastodon album I’ve been truly excited about since Crack the Skye. It’s got all of the good Mastodon stuff, proggy twists, cool guitar solos, and as has become their signature, really great vocals. I’m especially a fan of Brann Dailor’s vocals. ‘Roots Remains’ has some of the coolest crooning I’ve ever heard.
Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
Elder is a new discovery for me. I’ve never heard anything else by them, but this album swept me off my feet. It sounds like a band that used to do stoner decided to tackle prog and melodic “post rock” or whatever you want to call it. As far as I can tell, that is pretty much the case as well. The guitar work on this album is spectacular. In their more calm moments, these gents even summon the spirit of lost legends Slint, which is quite the compliment.
Drudkh – Somewhere Sadness Wanders
As a huge fan of Hate Forest, I’ve been following Drudkh since their first releases. This EP is pretty much what you’d expect from Drudkh at this point, but that does not mean it’s boring. Not at all. Because it so freaking well done. The second song on this EP is probably one of their strongest ones to date, it is just immensely hummable, and has a great drive.
Converge – The Dusk in Us
Epitaph Records | Review
Converge is back this year, and I’ll be damned if they aren’t as angry and fierce as ever. That this band would last over 20 years, and still sound as frenetic and angry in 2017 as every is something I would’ve never bought back when I got into Jane Doe in 2001. Sure, the vocals are pitched slightly lower, but the intensity and energy is not lost one bit. Kurt Ballou’s style of guitar playing is truly unique, and I’m especially soft for the riffs he plays on the lighter strings, tapping and strumming open strings to great effect. And that Ben Koller, damn, what a fantastic drummer. I was initially a little disappointed in what seemed to be an album pretty much like the past three, and in some ways it is. In other ways, it’s all the minor progressions that makes this an interesting listen in its own right. I probably enjoy this most through the title track, but I still rate the album as a whole highly.
An honorable mention goes out to Jane Live as well, which was released earlier this year.
Rûr – Rûr
Another Norwegian one-man band, this time melancholic, “ambient” black metal. It’s full of rain and oppressive vibes. The guitar work on this release is really, really well done – layered melodic riffs leaning towards folk and classic music, but never becomes cheesy. I love the production as well – it sounds “organic”, every element has its rightful place, but there’s still a raw edge to it. The three, long songs flows well, and present a cohesive whole without ever becoming boring.
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
I guess Spectral Voice is Blood Incantation’s sludgy and doomy evil half-sibling or something. They share most members, and honestly, there are obvious similarities in sound and music, yet this album stands out as something different from last year’s Starspawn (which I also liked a lot). Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is sludgy, dark, evil and sounds amazing. I really like the “Shadows-esque” reverberated clean guitars that are overlaid here and there.
Taake – Kong Vinter
So here’s another band that’s been at it for a long time, and that I have barely ever checked out for who knows what reason. Anyway, I stumbled upon Taake’s most recent effort by chance, and it took me by surprise. In some ways this reminds me a little of Craft in how it melds the classic nineties Norwegian black metal vibe with a more open approach to harmonics. But Taake goes further on this one and incorporates some progressive elements and end up with an album that sounds both new and exciting, and vintage at the same time.
Ghost – Ceremony And Devotion
I don’t know if live albums are cheating or not, but I don’t care. I love me some live albums, always have. This Ghost gig from San Francisco this year showcases a cheesy and ballsy stadium rock band somewhere close to their peak (even though I guess technically most of the band is new, with that lawsuit and all). The album gets off to something of a rough start, with some obviously “sprinkled-in” cheers and a little less confident vocals than is found a few songs in, but it soon settles out. Songs are performed confidently with lots of feeling and groove, vocals are killing it (for the most part), there’s a tasteful amount of stadium-rock tricks, some quirky comments, and a great selection of songs. The only song sorely missing is ‘Elizabeth’, which could have easily replaced ‘Body and Blood’, but that’s a small complaint.
All was not lost after all. It’s like the past 15 years didn’t happen, and the spiritual follow-up to Gateways to Annihilation is finally here. This album is 100% classic Tucker-era Morbid Angel, no less and no more. Brutal, guitar-driven death metal with some insane twistey riffs. Thumbs up.
Cynic – Uroboric Forms: The Complete Demo Collection
Finally, I’ll include a shout-out to Cynic – Uroboric Forms: The Complete Demo Collection, which also came out this year. The demo version of “Uroboric Forms” is one my all-time favorite death metal songs.
Drab Majesty – The Demonstration
This band is like if Heaven’s Gate members actually transcended to another dimensional plane where Red House Painters influenced Depeche Mode or something. Truly captivating post-punk/new wave songwriting laden with hooks and memorable parts. This band delivers on record, but really drives it all home with spectacular live performances. Don’t miss them.
Diphenylchloroarsine – Post-Apocalyptic Human Annihilation
The production on this record is massive. It sounds like the sheer destruction of humanity by a disgusting Smash TV boss character or Captain Planet adversary. This is a completely toxic neutron bomb of a slam metal record. Definitely not for weaklings.
Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland
These Slovakian bards spread their regional folklore through traditional heavy metal that’s as classy as it is gruesome. All the fist-pumping riffage of the essential Eastern Bloc speed metal legends and the ripping fuck-off energy of first-wave black metal make for a downright pleasure to spin while conversing with the ghosts of majesties past.
The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End of Time (Parts 2 & 3)
These are part of experimental musician Leyland Kirby’s six-part-series in which he attempts to give his project “The Caretaker” self-imposed dementia. This is essentially The Shining empty haunted ballroom on record. Think creepy, neoclassical big band 78s slowed down, cut and looped back together to create an intense sentiment of nostalgia, fear and blissful surrender.
Impalers – Cellar Dweller
Impalers have been kicking major ass around Austin for years, often exploring psychedelic themes with their d-beat inspired hardcore rippers. Their newest record is Anti-Cimex on breakfast tacos. It’s really hard to find hardcore bands doing it on this level.
Wampyrinacht – We Will Be Watching – Le Cultes De Satan Et Les Mysteres De La Mort
This is definitely the most shreddingest album of the year. If you’re not air-guitaring by the second listen through, your tasty riff detector is busted. The record was written and recorded nearly 20 years ago but just released in 2017 and it STILL wipes the floor with most contemporaries. Pure Hellenic mastery! Plus these guys look bad-ass as hell, like they just got done programming a Diablo 2 item-farming scheme.
Incinerated – Lobotomize
This is some grind-influenced DM dipped in slam and deep fried in human guts from the depths of Melbourne, Australia that sounds something like Mortician, Devourment and Napalm Death all smashed together. Sheer poser-crushing madness that puts similar heavy grind bands to shame. “Released” is probably the most ass-kicking track of 2017.
Missionary Work – Seven Sermons
Straight up one of the best kraut-rock/horror-synth records of the last decade. Throw on the track “Wickedness & Reverie” and tell me you’re not swirling in triumph, after having blasted your way out of an abandoned prison surrounded by haphazardly-constructed cyborgs.
Holy Money – The Language Machine
Total cough syrup-slamming, suffocating sludge metal from these Houston purveyors of psychedelic death. Truly bizarre fringes of heavy music here. Just one more example of how Texas is really producing some hard-hitting music these days.
Dan Terminus – Automated Refrains
Dan’s newest is quintessential music for today’s cyberpunks. If there were ever a decent Snow Crash movie, this should be the soundtrack. Dan Terminus continues to push the boundaries of synthwave music with this latest mind-bending record. Sidenote: Dan Terminus has inspired Expander greatly and seeing cover art for his previous record The Wrath of Code led us to contact Luca Carey to work on art for Endless Computer.