Ah, the intro. This is the part where most writers attempt to regale you with an account of the myriad ups and downs they experienced throughout the year. However, most writers fail to understand one very important fundamental truth: no one cares. So without further ado and in no particular order, here’s a list of fifteen albums that grabbed a hold of my crank and kept on yankin’ in 2017…
1. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun (Sargent House)
I don’t do the whole “album of the year” thing anymore, but if I did, I’m pretty damn sure that the honor would go to Hiss Spun. It’s beautiful, heavy and addictive; an amalgam of doom metal, alt rock and gothic rock that’s simply a pure joy to listen to, thanks largely to Wolfe’s haunting vocal work, which seems to get better and better with every release. It’s also worth noting that Wolfe puts on a fantastic live show and seeing/hearing songs such as “Spun” “Twin Fawn” and “16 Psyche” unfold in the live setting only made me love this album even more than I already did… I love it so much that it almost hurts.
2. Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast)
The Derrick Green era of Sepultura now spans two decades, yet they remain one of the most divisive bands in metal. Despite what some might have you believe, the boys from Brazil have put out some quality material since Max Cavalera left the band and Machine Messiah is easily their strongest post-Roots effort to date. In listening to the album, one gets the feeling that this seamless blend of groove metal, thrash and hardcore is the sound they’ve been striving to perfect ever since recording Against almost twenty years ago. The end result of this quest for perfection is the year’s best mainstream metal album. (full review HERE)
3. Iron Monkey – 9-13 (Relapse Records)
I have to admit, my first reaction to the prospect of a new Iron Monkey album in 2017 was “no Greaves, no Morrow (RIP), no dice.” But my love for the band’s previous works (Iron Monkey and Our Problem are stone classics of sludge) finally enticed me to give it a fair listen, and much to my surprise, 9-13 quickly proved itself to be a highly satisfying slab of sludgy sickness that manages to honor the band’s demented legacy while at the same time adding new aspects to their patented slow ‘n’ low assault. 9-13 hits like a flaming barbwire-wrapped steel chair to the face and is more than worthy of a “you’ve still got it” chant.
4. Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (Metal Blade)
At this point I think it’s safe to say that Cannibal Corpse is the most consistent band in death metal. They’ve somehow managed to maintain a ridiculously high level of quality over the course of nearly thirty years and fourteen albums that is both unrivaled and unprecedented. Indeed, if Red Before Black is anything to by, the band shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down, continuing to come off as the vicious killing machine they’ve always been. The year was rife with strong releases from veteran death metal acts, but CC crushed the competition and made it look easy while doing so.
5. Body Count – Bloodlust (Century Media)
Body Count’s 2014 album Manslaughter was one of my favorite albums of that year and I’m happy to report that Bloodlust is a more than worthy follow-up to that now-classic comeback, continuing the band’s hot streak. Whereas Manslaughter was rife with dark humor, Ice-T, Ernie C and Co. are all business on Bloodlust, lashing out at the nuclear dumpster fire of racism, ignorance and corruption that is Donald Trump’s America (I try very hard to keep politics out of THKD, but that dumb motherfucker needs to go). If you thought rap metal was over, you better think again, because Bloodlust will scramble your brains like a bullet between the eyes. (full review HERE)
6. Tetragrammacide – Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix (Iron Bonehead)
I have to admit, I’m still trying to wrap my head around Tetragrammacide’s debut full length. Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix is some seriously warped next level shit; it’s a war/bestial blackened death metal album at heart, but the song arrangements betray a level of sophistication that owes more to Morbid Angel and Voivod than to Blasphemy or Beherit, wrapped in a filthy production that makes you feel like you’re being sucked into the lightless maw of a black hole. These guys are so far ahead of the war/bestial/black/death/whatever metal pack that it isn’t even close. Also, if “Intra-Dimensional Vessel of Were-Robotics, N-Logics and Assorted Lattice Intelligences” isn’t the song title of the year, then I don’t know what is.
7. Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard (Witchfinder / Spinefarm)
A lot of people seem to be bitching about Wizard Bloody Wizard, and to those people I have two things to say: 1. Electric Wizard are never, eeeeeeeever gonna do Dopethrone part II, so get the fuck over it, junior. 2. You’re not listening to it loud enough. Point is, the Wizard’s ninth return trip is a damn fine slab of hypnotic, bluesy doom; if you’re looking for anything more than that, best to look elsewhere, but if you’re ready to tune down, drop out and get doomed, Wizard Bloody Wizard will leave you feeling more than satisfied with its ultra-Sabbath-y riffage and smoky, ‘luded out grooves.
8. The Dark Prison Massacre – Deformity of Human Consciousness (Pathologically Explicit Recordings)
You heard it here first kidz, Deformity of Human Consciousness, the second album from Tianjin, China’s own The Dark Prison Massacre is the sleeper slam death metal album of the year, not to mention the catchiest and most original-sounding. The band takes the genre to a whole other level of wonderful weirdness by successfully incorporating the sounds of traditional Chinese music into several songs, and even manages to re-make Korn’s “Faget” into a brutally heavy slam jam. If you’re looking for a break from the brutal/slamming death metal norm, look no further. (full review HERE)
9. Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With (Relapse Records)
It’s been five long years since we last heard from Dying Fetus, but in spite of the lengthy layoff, the pulverizing power-trio from hell still manage to put on a master class in pummeling, neck-wrecking riffage with “Wrong One to Fuck With.” The songwriting, playing and production are all on point here; my only gripe is that the album runs a little long for this style at almost fifty-four minutes, but it’s so well-crafted that one tends not to notice; time flies when you’re getting your skull caved in by the best brutal death metal band in the universe.
10. Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Napalm Records)
Satyricon are one of my favorite bands and l love all their albums to different degrees, but even if I wasn’t biased as all hell, I’m pretty sure I’d still think that Deep Calleth Upon Deep is the best thing they’ve done since Now, Diabolical back in 2006. Dark, atmospheric, hypnotic and catchy, Deep Calleth Upon Deep sees Satyr and Frost continue to refine and simplify their sound, yet it feels heavier and more sophisticated than their previous self-titled release from 2013. If you’re among the basement-dwellers that’s hated these guys ever since Rebel Extravangza, this one isn’t going to change your mind, but fortunately the rest of us who don’t give a shit what you think will continue to find much to enjoy.
11. Wolfbrigade – Run with the Hunted (Southern Lord)
In the past I’ve been critical of Southern Lord’s campaign to sign every single crusty/d-beat/whatever hardcore band in the universe, but I’ll gladly make an exception for the goddamn mighty Wolfbrigade, who first came to my attention back when they were Wolfpack (Lycanthro Punk, FTW). Ya see, unlike many of the other bands that tread similar sonic territory, Wolfbrigade are all about melodies, catchy riffs and songs you can actually tell apart. Simply put, these guys are the reigning, defending, undisputed kings of this style. Accept no substitutes, kidz.
12. Doyle – II: As We Die (EMP / Monster Man)
In a time when Misfits nostalgia is at an all-time high thanks to their recent series of reunion shows, guitar monster Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein has released an album that blows the most recent offerings from both Danzig and the Jerryfits out of the goddamn water. Indeed, II: As We Die harnesses the intensity and catchiness of the of the classic Misfits material, but it also injects it with a monstrously heavy, thoroughly modern-sounding approach that lays waste to just about everything in its path. Doyle might not be as well known as his former bandmates, but he’s proving himself to be far more relevant. (full review HERE)
13. Vomit Remnants – Hyper Groove Brutality (Unique Leader)
Has there ever been a more aptly named album in the history of metal than Vomit Remnants’ Hyper Groove Brutality? My sources say not bloody likely. My sources also say that the second album in eighteen years from these Tokyo-based brutalizers kicks major amounts of ass. Returning from the grave with a re-tooled lineup centered around founding drummer Keisuke Tsuboi, Vomit Remnants are a very different band from the one that released Supreme Entity all those years ago, but they still know how to craft brutal death metal that hits like a wrecking ball to the rectum. Rectum?! Hell, damn near killed ’em! (full review HERE)
14. Leng Tch’e – Razorgrind (Season of Mist)
Has Leng Tch’e always been this experimental and weird? I don’t remember them being quite so adventurous back when they were on Relapse. Whatever the case, I’m glad I decided to check back in the with the band on a whim after missing out on a few years’ worth of releases, because Razorgrind is one of the most enjoyable grindcore albums I’ve heard in a looooong time. These Belgians are death grind through and through, but they aren’t afraid to mix things up when it comes to a little bit of the ol’ genre-splicing, not to mention varied tempos and vocal stylings; they even add some well placed organ to the musical mayhem on “Guinea Swine.” Plenty of grind, plenty of groove and just a little sprinkle of WTF?! make for one hell of a fun listen.
15. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained (Silver Lining Music)
The more I listen to this the more I like it. After the extinction level clusterfuck that was Illud Divinum Insanus, Trey Azagthoth and his re-tooled version of Morbid Angel could’ve literally put out anything and it would have been a massive improvement. Instead, the ace guitarist opted to bring vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker back into the fold and take a fully-realized stab at redemption with Kingdoms Disdained, which can stand proudly next to the original Tucker-era trilogy of albums. It isn’t a perfect album, but even an imperfect Morbid Angel beats the ever-loving shit out of just about any other death metal band on the planet. Let us all give thanks and praise for the complete and total obliteration of the Radikult.
15 Honorable Mentions:
Broken Hope – Mutilated and Assimilated (Century Media) – One of the most underrated bands in death metal continues to brutalize everything in their path. Bonus points for the title track and album art based on The Thing.
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord) – A catchier-than-herpes thrash riff-o-rama that just might have cracked the top 15 if I had heard it sooner. Thanks NXT!
Ayat – Carry On, Carrion! (Moribund Cult) – Bat-shit crazy black metal from Beirut. If you haven’t heard these guys yet, it’s kind of like getting skull-fucked to death by a bulldozer. Trust me, you’ll love it!
3teeth – Shutdown.exe (OMF Records) – Mainstream-leaning industrial metal that wears its influences on its sleeve. But, they’re great influences (Ministry, White Zombie, Manson, etc) and 3teeth write great songs.
Dead Cross – s/t (Ipecac/Three One G) – One part Mike Patton weirdness, one part Dave Lombardo’s super-rad drumming and two parts some other dudes make for a pretty goddamn gnarly hardcore/thrash album.
Through The Eyes Of The Dead – Disomus (eOne) – Modern death metal that doesn’t suck. This is TTEOTD’s best album; don’t let the fact that these guys get unfairly saddled with the deathcore tag deter you from subjecting yourself to this world-class ass-kicking.
Heisenberg – The Empire Business (Amputated Vein) – What’s that you say? Breaking Bad themed slam? They take their music seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously? YES PLEASE!
Forgotten Tomb – We Owe You Nothing (Agonia) – Apparently, it took these guys morphing into a swampy, sludgy, Obituary-influenced groove metal band for me to like them, and I like this album a lot.
Samael – Hegemony (Napalm Records) – After many years of experimenting, Samael have finally found the perfect balance of metallic heaviness and industrial metal cheese. There’s probably a Swiss cheese joke in their somewhere…
Beneath – Ephemeris (Unique Leader) – I do not give a rat’s ass about the Icelandic black metal scene that everyone’s all hot and bothered over, filled as it is with bands with names like Svargenflargin and Mysperming or some shit. Give me more Icelandic spaced-out brutal/tech death and give it to me now!
Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay (Nuclear Blast) – CoF’s late career renaissance is one of my favorite things in metal right now. This one was ridiculously close to cracking the top 15 because of Dani’s elfin (black) magick!
Obituary – s/t (Relapse) – Obituary just keep doing their thing. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.
Six Feet Under – Torment (Metal Blade) – Chris Barnes still sounds like a cross between a shambling mound and a junkyard dog that’s been poked with one stick too many, and SFU continues the upward trajectory that began with Undead.
Graveland – 1050 Years of Pagan Cult (Heritage) – A late 2016 release that I didn’t get to until 2017. I’ve long been a fan of Darken’s lo-fi black metal symphonies, but it sure is cool to hear them re-imagined with a muscular production and full-band treatment.
Gorevent – Dull Punishment (Bloodcurdling Enterprise) – This one also came out in 2016, but was impossible to track down in the states until 2017. Do you like slams? Do you like the toilety-est of toilet vocals? Then you’ll dig Gorevent’s ‘luded out, more primitive than primitive take on brutal death metal.