This year seemed both incredibly fast, and at the same time, 5 years long. Hard to believe another one is almost done. 2017 was another year of change for me. Mostly positive this time. I learned a lot, developed as a person, and left behind many personal struggles from 2016.
But it was a tough year for so many. Politically charged and socially unstable, this year was full of polarizing contention, judgement, and reckoning. Conflict is good for art and the music I liked was a reflection of all this turmoil. It’s been a rough ride but out of chaos hopefully comes more order in 2018.
I’m no writer, and metal genres confuse the hell outta me, but here’s my take on albums that impressed me this year. Oddly, a lot of albums that I should have liked, I didn’t. So no Pallbearer, Elder, or Bell Witch on here. But there’s something for every metalhead.
As you’d expect, it’s mostly an angry, heavy, growling stack of metal.
Amenra – Mass VI
Amenra’s Mass VI is a masterwork of weighty sorrow and emotional conflict. Those delicate riffs in “A Solitary Reign” convey so much power and agonized feeling. I am definitely a worshiper in the Church of Ra.
Couch Slut – Contempt
Aptly titled second release by one of my favourite ever bands. Couch Slut has nothing but contempt for all of us. I’ve followed their development through @megans_law over the past few years and I’m sure this was a deeply personal piece of work for the whole band, but especially for her. On this release she’s focused a rage that chews into the listener for unanswered questions about sexual violence, mental health, and substance abuse.
Megan’s voice is ferocity itself in an oh-you’re-gonna-get-it-now wrathful delivery. Incredibly, they also work in some unconventional instruments to great effect. I can hear sax, tambourine, and even concert bells supporting the writhing, thrashing hatred. One of the most intense and thought provoking bands out there today.
Coughdust – Worldwrench
One of the heaviest releases of the year. Listening to Coughdust’s Worldwrench feels as though you are being shielded by a powerful force, stretched to its limit, repelling an impending doom with surreal, hypnotic riffs and scouring vocals. As a metalhead, if the intro to Worldwrench doesn’t have you aggressively nodding your head, then check your pulse.
Dead Wretch – Somnus Aeterna – The Curse of Hope
I’ve been following Daniel Jackson for years now on twitter and he is one of the nicest, most talented guys around. Dead Wretch is one of his projects (along with Void Ritual, Mendacium, and many others). His Somnus Aeterna – The Curse of Hope EP is definitely one of my fave releases of 2017.
Dan has the perfect growled vocals for this style of slow, powerful, solemn black metal. A bit of a departure from the vortex that is Void Ritual, this album slows things down, earns your trust, brings you in close, then grabs you by the throat.
Monolord – Rust
I just could not stop listening to this album. Monolord really brought the riffs this year. There’s nothing overly complex about this record, just haunting and repetitive sabbathian riffing. Turns out that’s definitely my thing.
Mountains Crave – As We Were When We Were Not
With members from bands like A Forest Of Stars and Old Corpse Road, British black metal newcomers Mountains Crave are no newbies to the scene. As We Were When We Were Not is a weighty, punchy, and introspective first album from this quintet.
Vattnet – Vattnet
Vattnet’s (no more Viskar) latest album takes a new direction, dramatically shifting their sound and style. Gone is the post-black metal entirely, replaced with a fresh take on a more post-rock progressive sound (think later Deftones, Circa Survive etc), and this (now) trio has great energy & creativity. Chris Alfieri’s guitar work is brilliant here and Casey’s clean vocals are incredible. He really stepped up for this album after Nick Thornbury’s departure from the group. I respect bands that are always changing things, tuning and exploring. They’ve come back a revitalized and invigorated band. This was a bold, perceptive move for the guys and I’m certain it will pay off.
vvilderness – Devour The Sun
Atmospheric black metal is now a pretty crowded genre but Devour the Sun is a strikingly beautiful album that really stood out for me. Cleverly crafted and emotive, intense and dramatic. This album is well recommended for fans of bands such as So Hideous.
Wildspeaker – Spreading Adder
This 5 piece crust band from Texas is new to me this year, and from the opening blasts of their first track, Spreading Adder pummels into your chest like an advancing column of armour. And the onslaught does not slow down once it hits you. This is blackened crust, packed with sludge and hardcore. Fucking dirty stuff. I love it.
Yellow Eyes – Immersion Trench Reverie
I used to spend a lot of time in the natural world, either at sea or in the woods. I miss that connection. Sometimes, after hiking in the forest for a while, I’d come to a wide open area. Sunlight just peeking through the dense green canopy of old growth pines. Soft moss and ferns still damp, even in mid-summer, lined the forest floor under my step between the towering trunks. And there’s a buzzing hypnotic stillness. I’d stop and quietly take in its cathedral like beauty.
Yellow Eyes steep their music with a similar environmental character, and this is especially true in Immersion Trench Reverie. With recordings and samples of earthly elements punctuating the production, the result is a complex, layered, and heavy record that really connects the listener to a natural experience.
A few other albums that caught my attention this year include:
All albums are available for streaming and/or purchase at Download on Bandcamp. If you like any of these, consider supporting the artist. Looking forward to more change in 2018!