It’s that time of year where every blog starts putting out their end of year lists, and with other commitments, and no other releases I’m waiting on I’ve got mine done admittedly early, but with a great selection of releases. As usual it’s hard to narrow it down to 50, with so many releases trimmed down, even harder to rank (take the positioning with a pinch of salt – everything on this list is good regardless of where it ended up.) It’s not a top albums list as there were plenty of great EPs released in 2017 also which are included on here also, just my favourite releases of the year. Hopefully you’ll find some great releases, whether you agree with the placing or want to suggest your own contenders.
50. Phurpa – Gyer Ro
If you’ve ever heard the Russian collective Phurpa before you already know if you’ll like Gyer Ro. The powerful throat singing and droning instrumentation of the traditional Bon style won’t be for everyone, but if you’re interested in dark and ritualistic ambient then this will be of interest. It’s their most cohesive effort to date.
49. Kreator – Gods of Violence
The follow up to 2012’s Phantom Antichrist was a long time coming, given it was one of the best thrash metal albums of the decade so far, with its perfect combination of heaviness, melody and sense of the epic. Five years later Gods of Violence continues down the same path with catchy epic song writing and strong melodies, but unfortunately dialing back on the heaviness nulls its impact a little.
48. Rendered Helpless – Entities of Transdimensional Emergence
New Zealand may not be the first nation you would think of when it comes to brutal slamming death metal, but this sophomore album from Rendered Helpless has it all. Unrelenting churning riffs, gruesomely low gutturals, groovy slams and bursts of technicality all with a great filthy atmosphere. Like a lot of albums in this style Entities of Transdimensional Emergence is a rather short album, but what Rendered Helpless packs into these twenty eight minutes is a varied and relentless barbaric example of brilliantly filthy brutal slamming death metal, the way it should be.
47. Cormorant – Diaspora
Bridging a middle ground between black and progressive metal, Cormorant are epic and original on their latest album. Constantly interesting and evolving, they weave some great ambient sections into their epic music and it’s an absolute must for any prog fans.
46. Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
I’ve never been a fan of the prog-metal group before now, but their new album absolutely bowled me over. Emotional songs, great production and interesting musicanship, ended with one of the most heartbreakingly emotional songs and vocal performances of the year in the 15 minute title track has certainly changed my perceptions of this band.
45. Lock Up – Demonization
Yet another of the myriad projects of Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury, Lock up has been around for nineteen years now, but between various lineup changes, and being a side project for those involved through the years, Demonization is just their fourth album in all that time. Replacing the outgoing At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindburg with ex-Brutal Truth and Venomous Concept vocalist Kev Sharp has been was an inspired move, as has been the move from a more buzzsaw guitar edged Swedish death metal sound to a somewhat more American death metal/grindcore sound, and it’s their best album to date.
44. Basement Torture Killings – There’s Something About Beryl
The UK deathgrind group’s latest album There’s Something About Beryl is just pure old school fun. Catchy and short headbangable riffs, d-beat blastbeats and barbaric vocals are all wrapped up in short but excellent songs, with a razor sharp production job making it perfect for any fans of old school death-metal and grindcore. Let the murder spree commence!
43. Party Cannon – Perverse Party Platter
Party Cannon may seem like a gimmick to the uninitiated, but they bring some of the best riffs, sickest slams and nastiest gutturals around, and combine it with fun and spastic songwriting, constantly changing it up with a sense of pure fun. The opener and closer are among the best tracks they’ve written to date. Blast Perverse Party Platter to liven up any of your parties and slam the night away.
42. Possession – Exorkizein
Possession’s style is firmly old school, riff driven blackened death metal caught somewhere between Entombed and Marduk. Raw and rotten, dark and atmospheric, it’s a great melding of black and death metal in the style of the old Swedish masters without sounding stale for a second.
41. Tomb Mold – Primordial Malignity
Death metal duo Tomb Mold may be from Canada but they eschew the raw and noisy hellish war metal that’s become almost synonymous with their compatriots in the genre, even if that style may be suggested by the black and white hand drawn cover and particularly illegible logo, instead producing old school death metal the European way, with touches of USDM. With a Swedish chainsaw buzz to the guitars, dank Finnish production and brutally low vocals, as well as fantastic levels of US-groove to their killer basslines if it doesn’t have you mouthing “holy fuck” at least once then death metal may not be the genre for you.
40. Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape
It might only be thirty five minutes long, but Desolate Endscape feels a lot longer. And this isn’t a criticism, it’s just they do such a lot with this time and it’s so oppressive that it really feels like a perfect length. It’s by no means an easy album to listen to, and certainly not a straight forward headbanger but for them to have such an arsenal of great ideas in a subgenre with so many bands focused on tone over substance is impressive for such a new band and if you stick with it for a few listens it’s bound to win over fans of Dead Congregation, Funebrarum, Immolation, Incantation and Encoffination. Nothing new under the sun the saying goes, but in the caves there are still horrors waiting to be seen.
39. Degial – Predator Reign
The Swedish group Degial’s third album is a return to form after a sophomore slump, similar in aesthetic to their compatriots Marduk, but with a more cerebral edge coming from clever song writing and a tasteful amount of dissonance rather than technical show-offery. A brutal album that’s as much a headscatcher as a headbanger
38. Cytotoxin – Gammageddon
If technical noodly brutal death metal isn’t for you then Gammageddon sure won’t convince you, but if you like that style then Cytotoxin has everything: massive brutality, sick squeals and gutturals, filthy chugs and lightning fast guitars decimating everything with their radiation sickness. Jaw dropping stuff
37. Vomit Remnants – Hyper Groove Brutality
It’s been eighteen years since the last Vomit Remnants album and Hyper Groove Brutality couldn’t be a more apt title as it’s all those things and more, a fantastic return after so many years from the Japanese group. In terms of pure slam you’ll be hard pressed to find a better album released all year. It’s great to have them back on top form after all this time
36. William Basinski – A Shadow in Time
William Basinski will be forever known for the Disintegration Loops series of albums but his new album A Shadow in Time is a fantastic piece of ambient, even if it takes a few listens to get into. The title track is a great piece of droning synth based ambient, softer warmer textures that arrive and dissipate away slowly like smoke before the track collapses in on itself like a black hole of noise. The other is a tribute to David Bowie, tape manipulations and saxaphone coming together as a long form track taking influence from 1977’s Low.
35. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
With only one track Crucifixation over the five minute mark Power Trip’s sophomore effort iss all killer no filler, ripping, snarling, tearing and bulldozing through thirty two minutes of pure unadulterated thrash fun. Power Trip don’t re-write the thrash metal rulebook, and barring the modern production this could have been released in 1985 – but I defy you to find a more fun and unrelentingly headbangable metal album from 2017.
34. Seprevation – Echoes of Mercy
Seprevation are one of the very best death metal bands the UK has to offer, and the only reason they aren’t higher up is their new EP is only four songs long. Moving from death-thrash into full on death metal, their new release is just completely sick, with The Death Ethos the pick of the tracks – ridiculously fast blastbeats, pummeling bass, unexpectedly proggy guitar parts and frighteningly savage vocals make Echoes of Mercy an essential in the British scene.
33. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
After a questionable flirtation with ambient, Wolves in the Throne Room returned to their black metal roots on Thrice Woven, clearly back to form, with great atmospheres evoking dark forests and starry night skies as atmospheric black metal does at it’s best. The first two tracks would sit with the best they’ve done in their career to date, and while overall it may not be up there with Two Hunters, it’s still a gem in their crown that one wouldn’t have expected after the stale Celestite. The wolves are back in the throne room.
32 Obituary – Obituary
It’s hard to believe that this is Obituary’s 10th album. You hear about forgettable songs, but I’d forgotten about a good half of their discography – despite having heard them all. Their last truly great album was 1990’s Slowly We Rot, or The End Complete if you’re being generous, but this self titled is their best album since. Sick vocals, generous helpings of groove, great song writing and production – after a 25 year search these zombies have found some brains and finally released another album worthy of the Obituary name.
31. Black Cilice – Banished From Time
Black metal with a noisy, raw and uncompromising production but with great song writing including room for melody and deranged vocal performances make this a harsh but rewarding listen, certainly not recommended for the faint of heart or those who prefer their black metal with a modern post-rock/shoegaze influence for sure.
30. Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
It’s mental that an album as good as this is down at number 30, but it shows what a solid year this has been. Dank and rotten death-doom from USA, three members of the brilliant Blood Incantation’s other project have released a slow and haunting gem dripping with dark atmosphere.
29. Venenum – Trance of Death
Progressive death metal band Venenum’s debut album has made waves in the scene with good reason – great technical ability and progressive song writing combine on an album that shows their skill while remaining interesting and without devolving into wankery. One of the gems of the underground.
28. Danny Cavanagh – Monochrome
It’s unfortunate that Danny’s main band Anathema has uncharacteristically released a rather dull and forgetable album this year after a great streak stretching all the way back to 1998’s Alternative 4. Luckily Danny Cavanagh has released a great solo albu to make up for it. I’ve always found him a better singer than Anathema lead Vincent, and he enlists the help of Anneke Van Giersbergen who lends some stunning vocals to a soft but stirring rock album with great songs and symphonic elements.
27. Hammock – Mysterium
Mysterium is Hammock’s eighth album, and the post-rock/ambient have shown once again how great they are. Carrying over the change of style from the last album by adding classical instrumentation into the mix, they’ve released an album that puts them with Max Richer and A Winged Victory for the Sullen at the top of the classical/ambient scene.
26. Old Tower – The Rise of the Specter
A vibrant and constantly evolving sound which is paced perfectly inside its thirty minutes makes The Rise of the Spectrer a perfect length, and an album that goes instantly up there with the best that dungeon synth has to offer. No cheesy keyboard plodding to be found, just genuinely eerie, well produced and atmospheric dark ambient.
25. Ungfell – Tôtbringære
Ungfell play folk inspired black metal with 110% authenticity. In a world where a simple acoustic passage has you labelled foll metal, Ungfell write great melodies for both acoustic and tremolo picked distorted guitar which could be transposed to either and still sound fantastic.Tôtbringære sounds completely unique in the world of folk inspired black metal, the raw production and all out aggressiveness of every instrument and vocal line melds completely with the folky melodies and rhythms that run throughout.
24. Lethe – First Corpse on the Moon
There’s still a dark and ominous feel throughout the whole album like with their debut, but Lethe have worked their experimental side into more accessible song-writing. It has less of an abstract and psychedelic Alice in Wonderland gone wrong vibe, but while it does miss a little of that innocent charm, The First Corpse on the moon instead has the feel of a more mature and focused effort, more understated but oozing with creativity and thought provoking dark spacey atmospheres. They’re less in thrall to their influences and Lethe is Anna Murphy’s best project by far.
23. Ex Eye – Ex Eye
I don’t normally go for instrumental rock, but the sheer levels of technicality and atmosophere in this album means I’ll happily make an exception. Tight as all hell musicianship, interesting songs, insane drumming and a saxophonist who doesn’t ever seem to stop for breath make for a very unique and wonderful rock album.
22. Consummation – Ritual Severance
Consummation have started from a position of strength on their 2012 debut and moved even further on with this follow up EP, improving the production, musicianship, song writing and penchant for atmosphere. This is often mind-melting, technical, dissonant and still furiously crushing black metal.
21. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
When it comes to Ulver all you can really do is to expect the unexpected. That said I’m sure there wasn’t anyone who was fully prepared for their newest genre shift into pure synth-pop. But one of the most pristine production jobs of the year, great song writing, the usual experimentation and Garm’s one of a kind voice make it another weird and wonderful album from the wolves.
20. Lawrence English – Cruel Optimism
Cruel Optimism is like very few ambient albums I’ve heard in that it’s so visceral in it’s approach to sonic textures, resulting in sounds that both make you think and physically feel. The distortion he buries his sounds in is so masterful and controlled, it’s a fantastic listen that’s a standout of the last few years of ambient music, it much surpasses his last effort and I’m not sure that there’s anyone quite doing what English has done here.
19. Whoredom Rife – Dommedagskvad
Whoredom Rife seemed to approach their debut album with one goal in mind – make Norwegian black metal great again! Coming off the back of a great EP from last year, their new release is a freezing cold assault of black metal tremolo picking and great melodies. Some nods to the Norse greats but they stand on their own in a great effort.
18. Tetragrammacide – Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix
India’s war metal group Tetragrammacide have already gained notoriety with their demo and EP, but on their debut album though they’ve dialed down a little on the noise elements and cleaned up their production a fraction, they’re still one of the most uncompromising bands in the world metal scene.
17. Altarage – Endinghent
It was a surprise to get another album so soon after last year’s brilliant debut, but Spain’s Altarage have released another album of fantastic labyrinthine death metal. The production is pristine but brutal and the album flows well – varied but with each track feeling like part of a whole rather than just a collection of tracks. One to blast all in one go for sure.
16. Vesciant – Shadows of Cleansing Iron
Shadows of Cleansing Iron from New Zealand’s Vesicant is equal parts bleak and brutal in an unrelenting and despairing trip through dark caverns and murky churning seastorms. Oceanically heavy and claustrophobic it’s almost a challenge to listen to all the way through but for an utter assault on the senses Vesicant have released a truly formidable debut effort of death metal brilliance.
15. Thantifaxath – Void Masquerading As Matter
A late entry, the new Thantifaxath EP may have only came out last week but it’s immediately obvious how fantastic it is. Equal parts dissonant, deranged, eerie and powerful, it’s even better than the highly regarded 2014 debut Sacred White Noise. Billed as an EP but clocking in at 36 minutes this is a monumental, unique effort from the Canadians once again.
14. Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free: Cities
After The Gentle Storm, the collaborative project from Anneke Van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen, called time on touring last year, Anneke kept most of the live members on, besides Jord Otto coming in for Merel Bechtold and Marcela Bovio leaving for Mayan, to form a new progressive metal band Vuur. Leaving behind some of the prog excesses of Arjen, they instead go for kick ass upbeat prog metal fuelled by Jord’s fantastic solos and Anneke’s effervescent voice. Takes a while for the djenty riffs to grow but this is glorious stuff!
13. Edenbridge – The Great Momentum
I’ll forever claim that Edenbridge are by far the most criminally underrated band in the symphonic/power metal scene. With brilliant upbeat song writing, great symphonic sections, the virtuosic talents of guitarist Lanvall and honey-laced voice of singer Sabine Edelsbacher on their ninth album the Austrian group have delivered yet again. How they’re not as famous as Nightwish and Delain is something I’ll never be able to fathom.
12. Selbst – Selbst
Think of black metal hotspots and you’re first thought is hardly going to be Venezeula, but on their debut self titled album, Selbst show that they’re as dark and monstrous as any of the current bands in the European scene you could care to name. With some progressive and atmospheric touches within a dark and occult sound, they touch on a mix of both dissonance and melody without going as far in either direction as Deathspell Omega or MGLA, placing themselves somewhere in the middle with dark, haunting and well constructed black metal.
11. Aversio Humanitatis – Longing for the Untold
Take MGLA and Ascension, up the intensity and heaviness into abyssal, caustic depths, and you have the recipe for some insanely creative and enjoyable black metal. Longing for the Untold is an absolute gem of an EP from Spanish group Aversio Humanitatis with some absolutely killer riffs.
10. Abduction – To Further Dreams of Failure
This style of occult and truly evil sounding black metal may be more prevalent on the continent but this is top tier stuff from UK one man group Abduction right here, taking all the elements that make modern black metal great with his own unique approach.
9. Tchornobog – Tchornobog
Another one man black metal band, Tchornobog’s Markov Soroka blends death and doom metal elements into it’s thick and caustic production, building up great atmospheres with shifts into strange ambient sections, even incorporating saxaphone and keyboards while still keeping 100% into the black metal asthetic. An incredibly bold and enigmatic effort, it’s one of the hidden gems of 2017.
8. Vassafor – Malediction
The twisted song writing and oppressive atmosphere’s of Vassafor’s 2012 debut album Obsidian Codex are so enthralling and intense over its ninety minute length that it’s still my favourite metal album of the decade so far. Easy then to see then why this has been one of my most anticipated albums for a long time. With more of a traditional black metal sound at points they still bring a devastatingly doomy, heavy and psychedelic sound to the genre and at points is as close to the audial equivalent of the apocalypse you’re ever likely to hear.
7. Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre
I’ve been into German black metal group Der Weg Einer Freiheit since the Agonie EP came out back in 2011. Their atmospheric approach to the genre has always been of high quality, but I’ve always felt that they’ve needed that one album that would move them from a good band to a great one. Finisterre is that album, a perfect blend of brutality, melody and atmosphere in a distinctly German black metal fashion.
6.Dodecahedron – Kwintessens
Dutch death metal group Dodecahedron were one of the early contenders for album of the year when Kwintessens came out in March. Their avant-garde approach to the genre always draws comparisons to heavyweights such as Ulcerate and Portal, but Dodecahedron stand on their own with eerie atmospheres and memorable songwriting in amongst the dissonance. One of the more creative metal albums of the year.
5. Kari Rueslåtten – Silence is the Only Sound
Kari Rueslåtten‘s third album in four years following her 2014 return from hiatus is another great album of ethereal folk/rock instrumentals as a backdrop to her beautiful Nordic voice. Gorgeous atmospheres and vocals throughout make it one of the most beautiful albums of the year.
4. Immolation – Atonement
There’s not a single death metal band who have been as consistent as Immolation. After twenty nine years of unbridled creativity and brutality, the New York heavyweights’ tenth(!) album is technical, creative, brutal and create that eerie atmosphere that only Immolation can. One of the best death metal albums of the year.
3. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
Mirror Reaper is Bell Witch’s third album, a monumental one track effort, 83 minutes in length and a tribute to their drummer Adrian Guerra who sadly passed away last year. Melancholic funeral doom metal interspersed with great ambient sections, for the track’s whole length Bell Witch leave you hanging off each note.
2. Slowdive – Slowdive
It was really difficult to choose an outright number 1 and 2 for this list from two completely different but amazing albums, especially when this one is from one of my favourite bands of all time (with this blog even being named after the way Slowdive’s guitars sound). Slowdive’s self titled is the first album since 1995’s Pygmalion and their 2014 reformation. On eight varied tracks of great shoegaze Rachel’s voice is as gorgeous as ever and the swirling ethereal guitar sounds fantastic across the brilliant song writing. It’s not always that a reunion album can live up to expectations, but this is an incredible effrort, and it’s great to finally see the band getting the appreciation they deserve, even if two decades too late.
1. Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With
And just edging it by the tiniest of margins for my album of the year is Dying Fetus’ Wrong One to Fuck With. Simply everything you could want from death metal – brutality, insane technicality without devolving into wankery, helpings of groove, sick slams and great song-writingb- make no mistake, Dying Fetus absolutely destroy on this release. Every song is an absolute belter and there’s no metal album I’ve came back to more times to than this in 2017. Their best album to date and simply phenemonal stuff.