Yeah yeah. I am late to the party. As usual. I actually prefer doing my list around the first of the year because I often pick up something late in the year that might make the list. That was actually not the case this last year, but it helps to plan for that possibility. So, without further ado, here is my Top 20 of 2017. I will be doing a couple of other year in review posts in the next few days as well. But here is the big one.
Leading things off is Colombian blackened thrash maniacs Witchtrap, a group that I have been following for several years now. Witchtrap is the very definition of a Hells Headbangers band, playing filthy Motorhead-meets-Venom-style metal with whiskey-soaked vocals. Hell, the first song on the album is even called "Lemmy". There is nothing really original or ground-breaking here, it is simply sleazy and dirty heavy metal. There is always something to be said for that.
The winner for Album Cover of the Year is this amazing piece of artwork here. It would be a shame if the album itself did not live up to it. Luckily, it does. This is an amazing, somber sonicscape that really takes time and patience to truly appreciate it. The album is one 85-minute long song and is one of the best funeral doom metal albums I have heard in a long time. It does not quite reach the heights of the band's "I Wait", but it is an incredibly impressive work of art. Just like the album cover.
Dying Fetus remains one of my favorite brutal death/slam bands. They were the first such group I truly got into and they still put out some of the best albums in the genre. But after over 20 years, some of the energy the band once had was starting to wane on their last album. The new album title and artwork though promised uncompromising brutality, and it definitely delivered. This is the most fresh and vital as the genre as a whole has sounded in years. Dying Fetus is definitely back.
I love a good traditional metal album and finding a band that combines the aesthetics and sound of early 1980's Iron Maiden is usually a pretty damn good thing. Night Demon is unapologetically retro, in the best way possible, but still manages to find their own identity. The songs are catchy as hell too. Night Demon is more than just another New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal band. They have the ability and songwriting skills to stand out.
Pallbearer took the metal world by storm a few years back with their breathtaking debut album. The doom metal band is capable of some truly heartbreaking melodies while still maintaining a metallic edge. The band has become a little more progressive this time around, but the doom riffs still shine through. I do not like this one quite as much as their debut, but it is still a seriously impressive release.
In what is likely to be a running theme, Suffocation released one of their best albums in years. This happened with several bands this year. Suffocation does not do anything new on this release, they just continue to pummel the listener with their trademarked technical brutality. The band brought in two new members which have really helped the band rediscover some of the energy that made them one of the greatest death metal bands of all time.
Sinister has never gotten the respect they deserve. They have simply put out terrific death metal album after terrific death metal album for almost thirty years. And yet, many people do not have any idea the band even exists. Sinister remains one of the most evil-sounding death metal bands going, a quality they have had since the very beginning. They simply have a knack for this sound. This time around, they sound rejuvenated by the addition of a couple of new members. It results in a very strong album.
Oftentimes the best death metal comes from completely unexpected sources. This is not the best death metal album of the year, nor even the best debut album by a death metal band, but it is a damn good release. The French death metal group Skelethal is at their best when they are playing fast-paced, grinding songs, and their slower stuff tends to bring things down a little bit. But this album is mostly full of the high-energy, frenetic riffing that the band does best. And so it is that this debut album makes the list.
12. IMMOLATION: ATONEMENT
There are still a lot of imitators coming out these days, but Immolation remains an incredibly original and influential death metal band. They have also been one of the most consistently amazing bands in the genre. Every single album is great. And yet, this is one of their best ever.
11. ENSLAVED: E
Of course Enslaved is going to make my list. I honestly did not expect them to this time around. For some reason I do not really get excited about new Enslaved albums, though I will pick them up every time and I always enjoy them. This one in particular is one of the better prog-Viking metal-era Enslaved albums. The album starts off a little bit slowly, but it turns around quickly and becomes a terrific release from the band.
10. KALOPSIA: ANGELPLAGUE
This is the best album of the year that was sent to me from a band or label. Kalopsia plays an old-school style of occult death metal that is recommended for people who like Sinister, Angelcorpse, and others. I am damn glad this label found me, because it introduced me to an incredible death metal band that I otherwise would not have come across.
9. MEMORIAM: FOR THE FALLEN
Rising out of Bolt Thrower's ashes, Memoriam pays tribute to the band and its fallen member in a variety of ways. Featuring both slow-burning tracks and faster-paced songs that bulldoze the listener, Memoriam does a terrific job of making up for the loss of the influential band it was born out of. The band is a little more dreary and it is clear that loss drives this album, but it is still as sharp and vital as anything Bolt Thrower ever did.
8. NE OBLIVISCARIS: URN
I have seen a lot of negative reviews of this album from people who have been big fans of their previous material, but this is the first release I have heard from them, and it blew me away. I am not the biggest fan of progressive metal, but this one really got to me. It has some beautifully crafted songs with complex structures. There is a lot going on on this album and it is worth listening to over and over to hear everything.
2017 must be the year of the death metal debut because this Chilean group is the second debut to make this list. It is obvious by the name of the album and the album cover artwork that this band's specialty is Lovecraftian themes, and the music definitely fits. Soulrot's sound is more rooted in Immolation with a little Morbid Angel for good measure. It is a hideous, beastly sound. The band has been pretty prolific in their short lifespan, and I am definitely keeping an eye on them.
6. SEPTICFLESH: CODEX OMEGA
I am starting to enjoy Septicflesh even more than their Greek countrymen Rotting Christ. Their last couple of albums have definitely been better than Rotting Christ's last couple. Septicflesh has perfected the sound of symphonic extreme metal, surpassing Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren, and others. They are now the leaders in the subgenre and now, ten albums into their careers, they have quite possibly released their masterpiece.
5. TEMPLE OF VOID: LORDS OF DEATH
Now this is what death/doom should sound like. Temple of Void's sound calls to mind the progenitors of the genre. Toss in some elements from the debuts by Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, add a little Celtic Frost and Asphyx, and there you have it. The music is full of crunching, chugging riffs and deep, growled vocals. Temple of Void is still capable of putting together some haunting melodies to contrast with the roaring, beastly riffs that make up the majority of the album, and these are the biggest highlights.
4. NECROT: BLOOD OFFERINGS
Here is the Debut Album of the Year. There have been a ton of great death metal debuts, but Necrot takes the cake. One of the many bands that I have seen live this year, Necrot blew me away and this release carries that forward. Necrot's style calls to mind a combination of the slow, grind of Bolt Thrower along with the buzzsaw riffs of Dismember and other early Swedeath bands. It is quite simply the best death metal album of the year.
3. CRAVEN IDOL: THE SHACKLES OF MAMMON
In a year without a Destroyer 666 release, this is as close as it gets. Featuring some razor sharp riffs, this blackened thrash metal band from the U.K. creates a maelstrom of chaotic noise. This has long been one of my favorite styles of metal and Craven Idol does a damn good job of stepping into the shoes of some of the Aussie groups that have quit (looking at you Atomizer). But Craven Idol are not simply imitators, they bring their own style to the genre.
2. VENOMOUS MAXIMUS: NO WARNING
Mastodon's "Show Yourself" was probably the catchiest metal song of the year, but doom metal band Venomous Maximus's "Spellbound" is really fucking close. Sounding something like The Cure playing Black Sabbath, this album really came out of nowhere to completely blow me away. Featuring some of the most infectious riffs I have heard all year, plus some terrific crooning vocals, and fantastic songwriting, this is a great album from start to finish.
1. POWER TRIP: NIGHTMARE LOGIC
I struggled with this decision for awhile. I have never had a band be the Album of the Year more than once and Power Trip took my Album of the Year honor back in 2013. But, this album is head and shoulders above any other release from 2017. It is an absolutely crushing release with fantastic riffs and some great songs. And so, for the first time ever, Power Trip takes home their second Album of the Year from this blog. And it is well-deserved.
Albums that barely missed the cut:
Accept: Rise of Chaos
Nightbringer: Terra Damnata
Void Ritual: Heretical Wisdom
The Black Dahlia Murder: Nightbringers
Jordablod: Upon My Cremation Pyre