It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I was writing my list for 2016… and yet, at the same time, it feels like a lifetime has passed. 2017 has been a very busy year, and very trying in parts. As a result, I’ve had less time and energy for The Sound Not That Word than at any time before, which has resulted in less reviews being posted. It’s something I’m still not entirely sure how to balance, and may well see my writing take on different forms in the coming year. We shall see.
Anyway. Enough of that for now. Everywhere else is doing lists, and so am I. Writing this is a good opportunity to go over releases from the year, to remember how good some were, and to give coverage to some I never got to write about. As always, these are my favourites – better records may have been released this year, but these are the ones I enjoyed most. The first twenty will be in alphabetical order, over two posts; with the top five given their own ranking. Enjoy!
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (Metal Blade Records)
You should know what you’re getting from Cannibal Corpse by now. Ever since Kill they have been one of the most brutal, consistent practitioners of old-school death metal, and Red Before Black sees that run continue. It may be slightly predictable, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“Fans will be sure to enjoy this latest offering, given that it is, essentially, more of the same as what has been offered before – but when it’s this consistently strong and impressive, resulting in those same Pavlovian headbanging responses, that can only be a good thing; no one needs originality when the results are this good. Cannibal Corpse are absolute masters of their craft, and we shouldn’t take them for granted – they make producing death metal this impressive look easy, and extreme music will be a much poorer place once they are gone.” – from my review at Broken Amp.
Couch Slut – Contempt (Gilead Media)
Couch Slut‘s sound is one of raw, aching hurt – of the kind that feels like it will never go away, and nothing you can do will make it better. That sound on Contempt is hugely uncomfortable, and if listened to in the wrong frame of mind, it will fuck you up. But there is catharsis to be found within here, and the hints of melody offer a way in amongst all the hurt and pain, making Contempt one of 2017’s most damaging, yet rewarding, rock albums.
“If ever there was an album that can’t just be dipped in to though, it’s this one. There have been times when listening to Contempt that I’ve had to turn it off and step away from absolutely everything for a few minutes whilst I calm down to avoid a panic attack. There’s catharsis to be found in here, for certain; but if it catches you off-guard, Contempt is as likely to pull you under as it is help find the release you’re striving for. It is an album to be treated with respect and due consideration for your own well-being, because for every moment of melody and guitar-line that will get stuck in your head for days, there is a section that will amplify your anxiety tenfold. But for those times when you’re in the right frame of mind, Contempt is superb.” – full review
Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay (Nuclear Blast)
Only a few years ago, the idea that Cradle of Filth would make one of the year’s best black metal albums would have been met with mocking laughter. And yet here we are in 2017, and that’s exactly the case. Crytoriana is the best thing the band have done in… well, ever? A difficult question. Yet this one blew all expectations out of the water, and is worthy of every bit of praise it gets.
“The band have recovered from the fallow period that ran from Damnation and a Day to The Manticore and Other Horrors to somehow become one of, if not the, strongest of the big names in black metal. That’s something I never expected to be ever to say again, and it’s testament to how strong Cryptoriana is that it makes the considerable achievements of Hammer of the Witches pale in comparison.” – from my review at Broken Amp
Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy (Profound Lore)
Moving on from the upstart power-violence of their early works, Full of Hell have embraced extremity in both metal and noise, and in Trumpeting Ecstasy unleashed something muscular and incredibly punishing. The evolution of this band has been quite something to behold, and the band show no signs of their creative streak ending, nor of their records becoming any less extreme as time goes by.
G.A.T.E.S – Back From the Grave (High Society Satanic)
The debut album from Japan’s G.A.T.E.S (God Admires the Evil Soul) has been 18 years in the making, and oh boy was it worth the wait. Back From the Grave is a rip-roaring black-thrash-n’roll ride, full of maximum Motorhead and Venom worship, sounding utterly unhinged and all the better for it. It’ll never be mistaken for anything original, or challenging, or forward-thinking; but that is entirely to the credit of Back From the Grave. This is metal full of old school spirit, and a hell of a lot of fun.
Hellripper – Coagulating Darkness (Barbarian Wrath)
Following a series of (excellent) splits and EPs, Scotland’s Hellripper unleashed their debut album this year, and Coagulating Darkness more than lived up the promise of previous releases. This is blackened thrash of the highest quality, relentlessly fast and aggression, and impossible not to be swept along with. This release should definitely see the band brought to bigger attention. And further hails to sole member James McBain for regularly donating proceeds from Bandcamp sales to charity.
Inconcessus Lux Lucis – The Crowning Quietus (I, Voidhanger Records)
Practitioners of Saturnian Black Magick, Inconcessus Lux Lucis had a solid back-catalogue, but nothing suggested just how good The Crowning Quietus would be. A combination of trve black metal with 80’s-style heavy metal, this is as enjoyable as it is dark, as thrilling as it is haunting, and prime evidence that contrasting natures can co-exist, and be stronger for their differences. I feel that this flew under the radars of a lot of people, which is a shame – this feels like it’ll be considered an underground classic in ten years time.
Integrity – Howling, For the Nighmare Shall Consume (Relapse Records)
It’s remarkable to reflect that Integrity have been around for almost 30 years now. A band this controversial and provocative should not be able to last that long without burning out, or otherwise being extinguished. And yet they somehow have, and in Howling… they delivered one of the stand-out records of the year. There’s plenty of classic Integrity fare on offer, with the originators of Holy Terror hardcore demonstrating why they’re still a force to be reckoned with; and yet there are surprises here too, such as the female vocals during ‘String Up My Teeth’. As violent as it all is, there’s intelligence behind Howling…, and it’s hard not to suspect that mainman Dwid is smiling throughout it all.
In Twilight’s Embrace – Vanitas (Arachnophobia Records)
In Twilight’s Embrace didn’t really do anything new with Vanitas, but what they did do was so exciting and enjoyable that it’s hard to hold that against them. Utterly confident, this is the sound of a band knowing they have struck upon something good, and aren’t afraid to write something as enjoyable as it is melancholic, no matter how dark the subject matter may be.
“There is still a slightly melancholic edge at times, and some of the leads are reminiscent of the kind of black metal Mgla are creating, but even if there are moments that recall other bands, In Twilight’s Embrace ultimately have the confidence and talent that ensures they ultimately sound like no one other than themselves. And what a glorious sound it is. Vanitas is the kind of album that absolutely flies by, and still sounds fresh even after more than a dozen listens. It is a prime demonstration of how to create an album that is consistent in sound without ever risking sounding repetitive, with all of the band’s confidence and experience being used to result in one of the year’s strongest black metal records.” – full review
Necrot – Blood Offerings (Tankcrimes)
When it comes to death metal, 2017 has been a superb year. As well as veterans such as Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy, and Suffocation releasing strong records, newer acts like Necrot have also put their stamp on the genre. Blood Offerings is old-school through-and-through, with dirty, Bolt Thrower-esque grooves powering the album. Though there’s practically no innovation here, such is the power of Blood Offerings, this doesn’t feel like a problem at all – instead, it makes the album come across as a celebration of old-school death metal, sure to get fists pumping and heads banging.