All Hell – The Grave Alchemist
North Carolina’s All Hell delivered one of the most pleasant surprises for me in 2017. Filled with horror and goth-tinged death-n-roll, The Grave Alchemist was an infectious attention-grabber from note one. It was and still is a true headbanging affair worthy of multiple listens front to back.
All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal
One of the angriest albums you’ll hear from 2017. A vitriolic barrage of crusty punk-laden hardcore delivered with grinding aplomb. When the revolution finally does happen this one should be definitely be on the soundtrack.
All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War
2017 was a great year for all things stoner rock, and this was easily one of the best of the bunch. Drifting and cruising through eight tracks of pure psych rock ecstasy, All Them Witches delivered an absolute gem for anyone looking to tune in and zone out. This was the closest you could come in 2017 to visiting the great stoner rock wave of the late 90s without actually time traveling.
Amenra – Mass VI
This band delivered quite possibly the best live set I caught in 2017 when they opened for Neurosis and Converge in New Haven, CT. It’s no coincidence that they also happened to deliver one of the best studio offerings of the year. ‘Epic’ is a word that’s way overused in just about every way imaginable, yet there are few descriptors as apt when discussing Mass VI. It’s an emotive mammoth of an album that draws you in the way few others can, only to lead you on a remarkable journey of both sonic beauty and torment. Simply put, it’s brilliant.
Apostasy – Ghosts
One of the best albums to emerge from my own backyard in 2017 came from New Haven’s Apostasy. Mixing together technical death metal, thrash, and some groove metal elements, Apostasy serve up catchy, riff-laden slabs of beefy metal. Easily their best offering to date both in songwriting and production, and worthy of as much time as you’re willing to spend with it.
Bask – Ramble Beyond
If you listen to The Metal Dad Radio Show you already know this was a Top 10 album for me in 2017. Deftly mixing stoner and doom elements with post-metal, psych rock, and even Americana elements, Bask are hands down one of the more unique acts to emerge from the metal world in the last few years. Ramble Beyond easily stands as one of the most memorable musical moments of the previous year.
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
One track, 83+ minutes, pure sonic desolation. That’s the long and short of what Bell Witch has delivered on Mirror Reaper. Few albums are as much of a journey as this one, and what a depressive and oppressive journey it can be. There are moments of lumbering sonic drudgery that just roll over you in slow motion tidal waves. It’s funeral doom at it’s absolute finest.
Bison – You Are Not The Ocean, You Are The Patient
We were gifted another slab of thunderous doom from Vancouver’s Bison in 2017. While previous releases certainly didn’t lack for aggression or heaviness, there was something about this album that seemed a little angrier, a little more cacophonous than most of their back catalog. I may be alone in that opinion, but no one can argue the sonic violence they laid down alongside their usual doom rumblings made for a wholly pummeling experience from start to finish.
Black Anvil – As Was
One of the first great releases from 2017 came out almost a year ago to the day, courtesy of New York’s blackened metal masters, Black Anvil. Combining a penchant for second wave black metal with various atmospheric and psychedelic elements, As Was comes off at times as one of the most frostbitten trips through the nether realms you’ll ever experience. A year later and still as powerful a record as the day it was released, and easily one of their best efforts to date.
Black Mare – Death Magick Mother
Through her work with the amazing Ides of Gemini and Black Math Horseman, Sera Timms should be a household name by now both within the metal world, as well as on those darkened fringes her projects tend to hang on. You can add another in a long line of indelible releases to her professional catalog with the newest release from Black Mare. Once again Timms finds herself wallowing in alluring, Gothic post-rock with absolutely hypnotizing results. While certainly not the heaviest album you’ll find here (and some may argue I should have shifted this one to my non-metal year end list), it should hold a place in any blackened heart thanks to heaping helpings of gloomy, shadowy atmospherics.
Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
I can think of no other artist who has woven together such an impressive catalog of music while willfully tap-dancing along the thin lines of what is considered metal vs. not. Once again Chelsea Wolfe has delivered an album that will appeal to both the most esoteric-loving metal fans, as well as those who would never dare to identify as such. Once again wrapping doom metal in a warm blanket of Goth, post-rock, and heavy psychedelics, Wolfe has delivered something altogether special. There are moments on this record where she refuses to hold back (the growling vocals on “Vex” are a perfect example) making this the easiest of her releases to simply label as “metal” and be done with it. Yet she never truly unleashes the beast, always teasing and tantalizing the metalhead buried inside all of us.
Demon Eye – Prophecies and Lies
With one sonic foot planted firmly in the 70s and the other stretching towards the future, North Carolina’s Demon Eye pack a rockin’ punch unlike most bands of their ilk. Taking cues from the last 40 or so years of stoner rock history and putting your own personal spin on it is no small task, yet Demon Eye has managed to knock it out of the park on three straight releases now. Prophecies and Lies was a gem of a record that hearkened back to a time when musicianship and songwriting were things that actually mattered in the rock world. Fans of acts like Pentagram, Nebula, and Monster Magnet will find a lot to love here.
Desolate Shrine – Deliverance From The Godless Void
If I was somehow forced to nail down what my favorite death metal album was in 2017 (a year filled with tremendous death metal releases) I would most likely fall to the newest slab of sonic torment from Finland’s Desolate Shrine. I have waxed poetic many times on The Metal Dad Radio Show how enamored I’ve been with the multi-year run of atmospheric death metal releases, and Desolate Shrine has firmly placed themselves at the forefront of a sub-genre that grows more and more impressive over time. I simply couldn’t get enough of this album since its November release. Equal parts horrific and battering, it’s an addictive affair the way a good psychological horror movie can be.
Destroyer of Light – Chamber of Horrors
I’ve been waiting and watching, as patiently as possible, for this album to finally come to light. I had the pleasure of booking this band at a festival I curated a couple summers ago and they put on easily one of the best sets of the weekend. Heavy, groove-laden doom metal peppered with twin guitar harmonies and the occasional ripping solo is the flavor of the day for Austin’s Destroyer of Light. Everything that made their live set so powerful and memorable is packed into these seven tracks. Hands down one of the best doom releases of 2017.
DSKNT – PhSPHR Entopy
While I personally felt that genres like doom and death metal had overall stellar years, black metal…not so much. That’s not to say there weren’t some quality releases in 2017 and one of the nastiest came from the mysterious Swiss entity known as DSKNT. This album caught me completely by surprise, but once it’s bloodied talons took hold I was easily whisked away to their avant garde world of death and destruction. There is no hope here, no light. It’s experimental black metal at its ugliest and meanest, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reliving it over and over again.
Enslaved – E
You don’t hang around long enough to produce 14 albums without doing something right. The metal world is littered with bands who have careers that have spanned multiple decades and almost every one of them to an outfit has done their best to evolve their sound over time. Yet almost none of them has done so with as much success and truly distinctive releases as Enslaved. E does nothing to tarnish the band’s legacy as they weave through a cavalcade of progressive, experimental post-metal mixed with the little bits of black metal that still remain from their earliest endeavors. Long time fans should be pleased, while this album also serves as a decent jumping off point for anyone somehow not yet familiar with this band and their body of work.
Exhumed – Death Revenge
There were few bands I was as pleased to see return as Exhumed. Their thrash-tinged death metal has been a favorite of mine for over two decades now. Matt Harvey and company return with an album that not only does their gore-soaked legacy proud, but has pushed them back into the forefront as an act to be completely reckoned with. While not as straightforward, punch-in-the-face as previous releases, their ability to incorporate various elements that help further the album’s story is an underappreciated aspect of this album. (Oh, did I forget to mention this is a concept record based on the infamous Burke and Hare serial murders of 1828? It’s a pretty grisly tale, look it up.)
Friendship – Hatred
Let me firstly admit out loud that I knew nothing about this mysterious Japanese act prior to hearing this album, and frankly I still know little to nothing. Yet if you listened to our year-end special on The Metal Dad Radio Show you know this was a Top 5 album for me this year. Pure, unadulterated, blasting, grinding madness. The title of this album is as fitting as they get because there is about 25 or so minutes of undiluted sonic hatred contained within.
Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
While their recent and ongoing collaborations with The Body are truly something to behold, I actually still prefer both acts when they are doing their thing apart from one another. Back in May, Full of Hell gifted us possibly their most vitriolic release to date with Trumpeting Ecstasy. It’s a whirling blast of grind meets hardcore the way only Full of Hell can produce. It’s a downright violent record and completely unrelenting in every way imaginable.
Godhunter – The Codex Narco
Shortly after releasing their best material to date, Arizona stoner/doom outfit, Godhunter, decided to call it quits. When compiling this list it would have been easy to simply brush these guys aside now that they’re long gone. However The Codex Narco is simply too good of a record to ever allow that to happen. This album is heavier, nastier, and more complex than anything they released before, and maybe it was the process of putting this thing together that eventually aided in their undoing. But if you are going to go out, you might as well go out with your best work in hand. Rest in power Godhunter.
Grizzlor – Destructoid
Another phenomenal release from my own backyard was the newest from New Haven noise mongers, Grizzlor. There is nothing conventional about Grizzlor and that comes shining through on this album as they mash up a handful of extreme music influences, toss it in a blender, and allow the contents to spew gleefully all over the room. Fans of all the classic Am Rep stuff should pay close attention to this band.
Integrity – Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume
Let’s cut to the chase – this is one of my all-time favorite bands releasing what I think is one of their best albums to date. Integrity are one of the most influential hardcore bands to ever grace a stage and they continue to show the kids today how it’s done. Combining Slayer-esque guitar work with their typical dark subject matter, Integrity have always been, and continue to be that band that so easily bridges the hardcore and metal sonic divide. When push came to shove I named this my metal album of the year on The Metal Dad Radio Show. I have zero regrets about that.
Iron Monkey – 9-13
Color me shocked when I first heard that long-defunct UK sludge/doom act, Iron Monkey, had not only decided to reunite but were in the process of doing so with a new full-length in hand. For various reasons Iron Monkey were just one of those bands I never expected to hear from again, and I suspect I was not alone in that line of thinking. Thankfully they not only returned but did so with an album that is an insane assault on the senses. While the sludge elements that originally engulfed their sound still trickle in and out of this record, this is a more cacophonous affair than anything they’ve previously done. Welcome back Iron Monkey. You were missed.
Isenordal – Shores of Mourning
Another band I knew very little about before the year started only to blow my doors completely off was blackened metal outfit, Isenordal. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Isenordal play an atmospheric brand of black metal mixed with funeral doom, and even some dark folk aesthetics. Shores of Mourning is a downright captivating album, almost cinematic in its delivery, as they weave bleak tales of loss and desperation. As beautiful as it is longing, this is an album that remained in heavy rotation for me long after its release date.
King Woman – Created in the Image of Suffering
The second I heard this band’s debut release I was hooked. Little did I know their full-length Relapse debut was going to cement them as one of my favorite acts around. King Woman create utterly transcendent, ethereal doom tied together with a post-metal melange. The wispy, breathy vocals soar over driving, atmospheric riffs in a clashing of styles that on paper shouldn’t work, yet somehow does so exquisitely. It’s a triumphant, mesmerizing record in every way imaginable.
LaColpa – Mea Maxima Culpa
In just three tracks (albeit spread out over roughly 40 minutes) Italy’s LaColpa manages to firmly plant themselves in the conversation for best black metal release of 2017. Hefty praise for a band that I’m willing to bet even the most astute metal fans have probably not heard of, I know. But one listen to Mea Maxima Culpa and I have a feeling you’ll agree with me on this one. Combining doom, industrial, and noise elements into their black metal brew, LaColpa paint a wide canvas of dark and desolate imagery with their music in a way that few other acts were able to achieve in the past year.
Longhouse – II: Vanishing
As I mentioned in the review I wrote of this album upon its release in April, Ottawa’s Longhouse was not a band that had existed on my radar. This album has ensured that they will never not be again. Longhouse produce resounding doom coupled with ambient post-metal elements to create a distinctive sort of ethereal metal not unlike, yet not altogether similar, to what bands like Neurosis and Cult of Luna are doing. Fans of those acts and others like them will find a lot to love here.
Loss – Horizonless
In a year where doom metal as a genre really stood out, Nashville’s Loss (re)asserted themselves as one of the top names in a pretty crowded field. In a relatively short period of time this act has become one of the go-to ‘kvlt’ bands of the genre, and with good reason. Horizonless was a masterwork of depressive death-doom, and arguably the band’s best work to date. Combining the melancholic beauty of funeral doom with the slaughtering ambiance of atmospheric death metal, Loss painted dire yet exquisite portraits of a world gone horribly awry. Released in May of this past year it’s an album that should be revisited regularly while this grim winter has us in its icy grasp.
Mountaineer – Sirens and Slumber
Two of my recent favorite bands of this current decade are Lament Cityscape and Secrets of the Sky (R.I.P.). Needless to say when I found out that multiple members of the former and a former member of the latter were pulling together a new project my hopes were high. Consider those lofty expectations matched as the resulting project, Mountaineer, delivered a truly stunning debut in 2017. Taking the doomy post-metal and ambient elements from both their current and former projects and injecting them with soaring clean vocals, Mountaineer write music that is both contemplative and esoteric, while also being wholly accessible to folks who don’t like their metal too “extreme”. Here’s to hoping this collection of talented artists decides to keep the wheels churning on this project into the foreseeable future.
Myrkur – Mareridt
I know, I know, I’m losing “trve” and “kvlt” points for liking this band, right? Being I have always given zero shits about the musical opinions of the masses, or in this case the vocal minority, dock me as many points as you like. I was enamored with Myrkur’s self-titled, debut EP, but while the M album certainly had its moments, I felt it sounded a little forced and maybe even rushed at certain points. With Mareridt, Myrkur’s main woman, Amalie Bruun has seemingly re-centered herself and once again hit her songwriting stride. If you’re a fan of Myrkur you know the score here – ambient black and post-metal colliding with various elements of dark/neo folk and dark ambient music. This time around there’s a sort of cinematic element that pervades the whole thing., especially when Bruun is shifting gears between the more bombastic sections and solemn interludes. It’s expertly crafted from start to finish.
Neck of the Woods – The Passenger
Vancouver’s Neck of the Woods was another band whose brief back catalogue eluded me, only for them to give me the best kind of wake up call in 2017. Their brand of thunderous, yet progressive metal plays within the concentric circles of so many different genres. Elements of hardcore/metalcore, death metal, and even thrash and black metal flow together to form a river of catchy brutality. Fans of various forms of melodic death metal will especially find a lot to appreciate on The Passenger. I would also be remiss in not mentioning that this album qualifies as one of my favorite album covers of the year as well. Exceptional music encased in exceptional artwork is always a plus.
Necrot – Blood Offerings
In 2016 San Francisco’s Necrot opened a lot of eyes, including mine, with their comp album, The Labyrinth. For me, it immediately made this album one of the most anticipated of the year. Needless to say the juice was worth the squeeze as Necrot returned with eight tracks of absolutely blistering, crusty death metal. Taking queues from the storied wave of 90s Swedish death metal, alongside acts like Bolt Thrower, the riff and rhythm heavy brand of death metal found on Blood Offerings is as powerful and downright glorious as any of those acts best releases. A true triumph of old school death metal colliding with the genre’s future.
Nekrasov – The Mirror Void
Australia’s long-running and highly prolific masters of blackened noise returned at the tail end of 2017 with one of their best works to date. Nekrasov are highly adept at taking atmospheric black metal and harsh noise and draping them, shroud like, in a type of nebulous ambiance. It’s equal parts unmerciful and hypnotizing as it slashes through multiple genre boundaries with razor sharp precision. This is the type of album that even fans of various forms of extreme metal may find it difficult to wrap their arms around, and therein lies the allure.
The Obessed – Sacred
Doom/stoner rock legends, The Obsessed, made their triumphant return in 2017 and if this album and their homecoming wasn’t a musical highlight in 2017, then I honestly don’t know what was. Wino and company came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and showed that Father Time has nothing on these cats. Knowing how influential their back catalogue has become, saying that Sacred is one of their best albums to date should not be taken as mere hyperbole. The legend of The Obsessed continues to grow.
The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension
It was almost a full year ago when I knew what the first album to appear on this list was going to be. Portugal’s The Ominous Circle unleashed the first great album of 2017, ringing in the new year with a cavalcade of soul-crushing, annihilating death metal. From its harrowing intro to the path of absolute sonic destruction left in its wake, Appalling Ascension was an album that simply took no prisoners. Released in the dead of winter, this was the perfect album to ring in a year wrought with trepidation and despair.
One Master – Lycanthropic Burrowing
The view from where I sit shows that New England’s One Master are one of the most underrated bands to emerge out of the USBM scene in quite some time. Their brand of schizophrenic black metal is the stuff of darkest nightmares and Lycanthropic Burrowing has to be in the running for the title of most sinister album released in 2017. The only thing holy or sacred here is that which is profane and blasphemous. It’s a menacing album that brings back the intimidating allure of when you first sat down with all the greats of the storied second wave of black metal.
Orm – Blood of your Blood
Melding all of the most vigorous qualities of both death and black metal, Denmark’s Orm gifted us with a truly stellar album in 2017. Blood of your Blood pulls almost equally from the European versions of black and death metal. It’s an album that, while not short on atmospherics or frostbitten aesthetics, often overpowers the listener in the best way possible. It’s like being simultaneously buried in an avalanche of both fire and ice. It’s a conquering, triumphant release from start to finish.
Pallbearer – Heartless
It wouldn’t be a year in metal if there wasn’t at least one controversial release from a relatively popular band. We got our entry to this year’s whiny pool fairly early when back in March when Arkansas’ Pallbearer dropped Heartless on an unsuspecting audience. Frankly, I never understood the complaints. While Heartless was certainly filled with more accessibility for those who choose not to partake in bullet belts and battle vests than previous releases, it’s still an album rooted in Pallbearer’s brand of majestic, traditional doom and a direct extension of their sound over three full-length releases now. Fans of progressive doom should avoid the online crankiness and dive into this album immediately.
Paradise Lost – Medusa
If you listened to our year-end Metal Dad Radio Show a few weeks back then you already know this is one of the top metal albums of 2017 for me. To me, there are few bands in metal history who have had a career as long, as influential, and as filled with so many essential releases as Paradise Lost. The last few years have produced some of their best material to date, and Medusa is certainly included in that discussion. Filled with the melancholy and resplendent doom metal that has (once again) become their calling card, Medusa is a meditation on bleak heaviness in the way only Paradise Lost can deliver. Yet another album where the masters are showing the kids how it’s done.
Primitive Man – Caustic
Caustic is, indeed, an apt descriptor for the newest release from Colorado trio, Primitive Man. I thought for sure that 2013’s Scorn would be in the running for most unrelenting and abrasive record this current decade had to offer, but it would seem that Primitive Man are hellbent on out doing themselves, while punishing the rest of us. If you had any hope whatsoever that our society wasn’t going to be the absolute shit show it turned out to be you probably want to avoid Caustic as your personal soundtrack moving forward. There is no hope here to give.
Ruby The Hatchet – Planetary Space Child
Somewhere over the stoner rock rainbow, amidst the interplanetary void where psych and acid rock intertwine with traditional metal lives Philadelphia outfit Ruby The Hatchet. Their brand of organ-infused, riff-heavy rock hearkens back to a time when all the great proto-metal bands where still lumbering across the rock landscape. But this is not some sort of cheap knockoff. Planetary Space Child is a driving, infectious album that takes hold from first listen and never really lets go. One of the best bands and albums to emerge from the new era of stoner rock.
Sloth Herder – No Pity, No Sunrise
Another in a long line of bands I got to experience for the first time in 2017, Maryland’s Sloth Herder exploded into a lot of musical consciousness with a wild array of grinding, crusty precision. While elements of death metal, powerviolence, and even a snifter of black metal successfully creep into this band’s sound, No Pity, No Sunrise was at its best when the whirlwind of grinding madness was at its peak. Fans of acts as varied as His Hero Is Gone to Antigama to Amebix will find a lot to love here.
Spirit Adrift – Curse of Conception
Another album that checked in as a Top 5 album on the Metal Dad Radio Show was the stunning debut from Spirit Adrift. A sprawling, majestic, masterwork of traditional doom, Curse of Conception was less an album and more an aural experience. Few albums in the last year had the power to simply take over a listener the way this one did. It’s album that needs to be consumed to be believed and I highly recommend your consumption begins post haste.
Succumb – Succumb
I posited this question early this year when first reviewing this album – what makes death metal, death metal? Is it the vocals, is it the song structures themselves? If you are of the mindset that one of the key ingredients that make death metal what it is then you might find yourself scratching your head a bit when listening to San Francisco’s Succumb. While all the bombastic cacophony that permeates most great death metal releases is alive and kicking here, the vocals are a moaning, howling affair that sound more at home on a post-metal album than drifting just above the battering sounds found here. Adding full to the fire is that this album was released on the avant-garde label, The Flenser. Not your traditional place to look for death metal records, but then again this is certainly not your traditional death metal record. One of the most unique and thought-provoking albums of 2017.
Unearthly Trance – Stalking The Ghost
It has been seven long and tedious years since New York’s Unearthly Trance blanketed listeners in hail of sludgy doom. They return fully armed to the teeth with an arsenal of riffs and rumblings that could rattle the Earth to its core. Running the gamut from molasses-like dirges to rhythmic undulations, Stalking The Ghost is an album which sees Unearthly Trance stretch their wings a bit in order to soar a little higher so they can ultimately dive even deeper into the pool of combined influences.
Urn – The Burning
Exploding forth with a blistering array of blackened thrash, Finland’s Urn made good on the moniker of their fourth album as they slash and burn everything in their path. Following in the footsteps of all the great first wave black metal bands, thrash is laid down as a foundation here but there’s something altogether more sinister and menacing afoot than your average thrash album could ever hope to attain. The Burning is easily one of the most headbanging affairs 2017 had to offer.
Volur – Ancestors
Toronto’s Volur gave us one of the most unique metal albums in 2017, and the only one on this list to not feature guitars. Volur’s brand of experimental doom employs bass (courtesy of Lucas Gadke of Blood Ceremony), drums, and violins to produce a sound that is not only ambient and ethereal, but lush and downright sumptuous. With only four tracks clocking in at over 40 minutes total, Volur allow each track to emerge like a butterfly from a somber cocoon. Easily one of the most gorgeous metal albums you’ll hear from 2017.
Woe – Hope Attrition
After a four-year hiatus Woe return with another crushing slab of American black metal. Mixing influences from across the storied second wave of black metal with doom and death metal aesthetics, Woe deliver a truly unique take on the genre without compromising any of black metal’s raw, primal aggression. It’s the type of album that requires multiple listens to pick up on all the intricacies woven into a scorched, blackened tapestry. Easily one of Woe’s best efforts to date and well worth the wait.
Wolves In The Throne Room – Thrice Woven
One of the most important and influential US black metal bands of all-time returned in 2017 with an absolute tour de force. Thrice Woven continues and enhances the band’s legacy of nature-infused black metal, and quickly reestablished them as one of the top bands of their ilk. Fans of this band’s now classic material will not be disappointed.
Wormwood – Mooncurse
After what seemed like way too long of a wait, Boston’s Wormwood finally delivered their debut, full-length album in 2017. Wormwood specialize in sludgy doom filled with huge riffs and a lumbering, chunky sound. Mooncurse is an oppressive album that just drowns the listener is a myriad of thunderous brutality. An album well worth the wait and one that deftly adds to what wound up being a stellar year for the doom genre and all its various subgenres.