It's also a year that I heard a LOT of really good records. Between old guard bands and the new kids, there's a very vibrant if deeply underground metal scene right now. Festivals might not be drawing as large of turnouts, and sales are mostly in the shitter now that we're deep into the age of Spotify and YouTube, but artistically there's a ton of killer shit to get excited about. It's a good time to be alive as a fan of metal music.
At least until the new FCC rules kill Net Neutrality and it becomes much harder to scour the web to discover obscure bands.
Over the last 10 years, Pathology has been known to deliver the caveman slam death goods. Sick ultraguttural vocals, headbanging groves and slams, ferocious percussion. This time around, they just halfassed it. Matti Way is just gurgling...there's not even an attempt to pronounce lyrics; I've heard his work in other bands like Disgorge and Abominable Putridity to know when he's putting effort into it. Musically it almost sounds like they just chopped up the less inspiring parts of their previous albums and put them together here and called it a new "album." I don't listen to this style expecting originality but it's a style that doesn't really spare room for mediocrity; either it's gonna be excellent or not so good and there's not gonna be much room in between. I'm surprised that this made it past the normally astute quality control of Comatose Music.
All Pigs Must Die Hostage Animal
Broken Hope Mutilated And Assimilated
Cannibal Corpse Red Before Black
Converge The Dusk In Us
Dead Cross Dead Cross
Der Weg Einer Freiheit Finisterre
Desolate Shrine Deliverance From The Godless Void
Father Befouled Desolate Gods
Hanging Garden I Am Become
Hideous Divinity Adveniens
Hour Of Penance Cast The First Stone
Incantation Profane Nexus
Necrot Blood Offerings
Phrenelith Desolate Endscape
Phrenelith Desolate Endscape
10.) Desecrate The Faith Unholy Infestation
This is the second album that I'm aware of by this relatively obscure Texas brutal death metal act, and Unholy Infestation delivers a really solid, listenable slab of infectiously catchy death metal. This record is everything that this year's Pathology album was not.
9.) Sunlight's Bane The Blackest Volume: Like All Of The Earth Was Buried
If I were to attempt use other bands as a frame of reference to describe Sunlight's Bane on this, their debut album, I'd be pulling from artists as varied as Converge and Rune. Maybe Nails meets Anaal Nathrakh? If I were writing for some metal 'zine I'd make up a bullshit subgenre like "apocalyptic blackened crustgrind" or something. Here's what you need to know. This is massively pissed off, at times epic, at times just furious, and it straddles the line between extreme metal and hardcore. I bought this record on a whim while in Texas and was quite pleased by my discovery.
8.) Akercocke Renaissance In Extremis
This band's reformation was one of the best things to come out of 2017; Akercocke has always been one of the more creative and innovative bands in metal, taking elements of black metal, death metal, progressive rock, and electronica to forge their odes to the goatlord. This time around saw the band shed the tailored suits and over the top Satanic imagery for a more subdued, progressively influenced sound and while it may not have been the Akercocke I was expecting when they announced their new record, this album is excellent and satisfying all the same.
7.) Belphegor Totenritual
The last album by Belphegor, 2014's Conjuring the Dead, was a slight letdown compared to their usual standard of outstanding and sometimes grandiose combination of black and death metal. While I appreciated the more deathly orientation the band has taken, Conjuring... suffered from a awkward and distracting kick drum sound that hurt the songs. Hey, sometimes even Eric Rutan doesn't get it right. Just consider the new Morbid Angel record as an example. That said, Belphegor most certainly got it right on Totenritual, delivering several pulverizing little ditties about the devil, demons, and evil. Standard fare. Hell, dare I say that this sounded more like the record I wish Morbid Angel released at times than the one they actually did. When Belphegor is at their peak, they're damn near untouchable.
6.) The Obsessed Sacred
The last time I recalled Wino, he was with Saint Vitus, who were busted in Norway for possession of meth, cocaine, and a cocktail of other illicit self medications. Which is pretty fucking doom metal, I must say. Apparently he's all aboard the Infowars crazy train too, which I guess isn't surprising if you read the lyrics from his The Hidden Hand project. I could be wrong about that. I really hope I am wrong about that and that he's not all in with the Dave Mustaine/Alex Jones shit. That would be majorly disappointing if it's actually true. Regardless, he avoids that shit with The Obsessed, thematically focusing on more relatable personal tales of sorrow. This is really heavy, not in the same way that other bands on this list so far are, but in an earthy, bluesy sort of way. Lots of repeat listens from this one.
5.) Devangelic Phlegethon
There's been a ton of great death metal coming from Italy this year, and interestingly bands like Antropofagus and Logic of Denial downplayed their more technical leanings in favor of straight on brutality. That said, Devangelic celebrated full on American styled brutality from the beginning, and in 2017 they're the grand champions of Italian death metal. To these ears, Resurrection Denied was a bit groovier than Phlegethon, which is more aggressive but still has its head nodding chugs amongst the blasts and even a bit of trash can snare. Supersick low vocals. Okay, so maybe it's not the most "original" release and it's a style that many bands attempt, but there's some really exceptional stuff and lots of quality here for fans of say, Cannibal Corpse or Disavowed.
4.) Gods Forsaken In A Pitch Black Grave
Another one of those not so original acts; Gods Forsaken only formed in 2016 by a few fellows who had spent time in various Swedish death metal bands including Blood Mortized, Wombbath, a whole bunch of Rogga Johanson's bands, even a cup of coffee in Amon Amarth. Do you like Dismember or Entombed or Grave? You think that Entrails is perfectly serviceable but just lacks a little something extra? I can't recommend In A Pitch Black Grave enough to you. The vocals are pretty low but gritty, the guitars buzz and crush with the occasional haunting melody, the drums sound like they were recorded at Sunlight Studios. Above all else, these are really catchy well constructed SONGS. You hear this and it's familiar in a comforting sort of way, yet you want to reach for it again and again. This record has lived in my car ever since I took a chance on it.
3.) Full of Hell Trumpeting Ecstasy
I think this is one of those darlings of the nerd metal class who buy everything Profound Lore or Dark Descent releases in 3 different colors of vinyl, which in turn pisses off the elitists who disregard them completely. "They made a noise record with Merzbow once so they're fucking hipsters." Hell, Encylcopedia Metallum can't be bothered to review any of their releases. I say fuck them. Trumpeting Ecstasy is outstanding. This is utterly ferocious and relentless deathgrind done in the style of many releases on Willowtip Records. In fact, if you told me these guys took heavy influence from say, Commit Suicide or Circle of Dead Children, I wouldn't be surprised in the least. After decades of listening to extreme music, I think it's fucking fantastic that I can still hear bands that play with energy, passion, and who just fucking go for it. Do they reinvent the wheel or break any ground with Trumpeting Ecstasy? Absolutely not. But bands like Full of Hell who convey a sense of conviction in their malice are why I still get excited by this genre of cookie monster nonsense.
2.) Paradise Lost Medusa
It's kinda weird yet entirely welcome to see this band come full circle. Yet over the last several years, as they've returned to playing miserable doom metal it's clear they benefited from their time experimenting with electronics and otherwise exploring other ways to be dreary. I can't escape the thought that if they hadn't gone thru that period between One Second and Symbol of Life and went straight from Draconian Times to their self titled, maybe it's just not as good. Maybe it's a bit stale by now. Instead, songs like "The Longest Winter" sound vibrant and exciting and gripping. This was another record that stayed in my car for a long time this year, though oddly it was one of the bonus tracks, "Shrines", that's my favorite from Medusa.
1.) Pallbearer Heartless
Bleak, dreary, defeated. Humbled, crushed, hopeless. These are the sorts of words I think of when I hear Pallbearer, who have in very short order over 3 albums become one of my absolute favorite bands in the world. Like the record by The Obsessed, this isn't the same type of heavy, but the despair conveyed by the harmonized vocals and the sludgy riffs hit harder than blastbeats and gutturals. Let me be clear, I love all kinds of heavy, and some of the riffs contained on Heartless make me think of Rwake or even Morgion. In a year with a lot of great releases by a lot of great bands, this album from back in February(?) is the one that stood out the most all year long for me. I think the first track, "I Saw The End", with it's melodic leads and classic rock sensibility, hints at an intriguing and exciting future for Pallbearer.