(NCS contributor Wil Cifer has compiled this list of his 10 favorite releases from the first half of 2017.)
Where has 2017 gone? It seems like the year has passed us by in a cloud of internet hatred and bickering. So with that comes the need for heavy music. Now that we are over halfway through 2017 here’s a look at which albums have stuck with me thus far this year.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that it doesn’t matter how much hype an album gets if the music doesn’t inspire me to listen to it more than once. Black Metal, Doom, Death Metal, and Thrash are all represented to some extent in this list. The Number One slot was determined by what Last Fm said I listened to the most. So far, only the top five still maintain their spots in my Ipod, though that is not to say I won’t go back and give the others more listens. You should give all of these albums a listen if you have yet to check them out.
10. Ever Circling Wolves – Of Woe, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Gloom
This band from Finland is certainly worth championing on the merit of their originality alone. This doesn’t mean they have forsaken key components of metal or twisted them into something unrecognizable to the average metal head in a Morbid Angel t-shirt.
It opens with a three-minute introductory instrumental and then throws some melodic death metal that fluctuates from mid- to doom-paced. The organic guitar tones allow the riffs to breathe and the notes to remain distinguishable. The album’s production lends itself to supporting their adventurous style of songwriting.
9. Emptiness – Not For Music
Wow! These guys are different from anything out right now. On the first listen this unique sound is easy to get immersed in. Darkness emoted from the guitar proves to be their strong suit. At times the vocals are a little one-dimensional for me, but the guitar work compensates for it. Twiggy Ramirez produced this and I am not sure why Marilyn Manson hasn’t been letting him handle everything.
8. Ragana – You Take Nothing
This two-piece out of Oakland returned with a moodier yet more feral vision of black metal mixed with crust. “To Leave” places more emphasis on atmosphere and ringing guitar melodies than the more deliberate opener. They do blast off toward the end of the second song. One thing they have going for them is that their songs are very concise and streamlined, never feeling like bloated drones. The two longest songs are six-and-a-half minutes.
They claim this album is about how angry they are with current events, but it is veiled in metaphor, so even someone who is anti-politics like myself will not be distracted by the ranting. These ladies prove they are capable of hitting you with varied colors and tempos.
7. Völur – Ancestors
This Canadian doom project features the bass player from Blood Ceremony. Germanic chants coast over very melodic bass playing driving the songs. It took me a minute to realize that the guitar is not sitting back, it’s actually the violin occupying the space where a guitar would sit in order to create the atmosphere. They have a very unique sound that drones, but is so pleasing to the ears that it doesn’t bore you.
6. Samsara – When the Soul Leaves the Body
Slovakian metal is gaining ground now when it comes to doom. The proof lies in this band Samsara who have a big majestic sound, and when they pick up the pace into a chug the results are without a doubt powerful. The guitars are very dense and hold my attention. This is poised to be be one of the best doom albums of the year.
5. Bathsheba – Servus
Here is the doom I have been looking for. These are the thoughts inspired by the weighty riffs that open the new album from this Belgian band. The fact that the clean vocals are so dominant works for me, though she can pull out some more snarled harsher vocals, which are effectively used. The pace picks up out of the realms of doom into something more blast-beaten. When it slows down into a more deliberate and powerful drive, that will make you a believer.
4. Pallbearer – Heartless
So things continue to change. The vocals are even more upfront in the mix on this one. As they should be, as the vocals are really killing it, though the guitar is taking a back seat NS that makes me think this album might be heavier if they were pushed forward — or maybe I am not listening to it loud enough yet. “Thorns” is a logical step from where they were on Foundations of Burden. There are plenty of those angular riffs snaking themselves around the songs.
3. Loss – Horizonless
So here is everything you liked about Despond, but made heavier by fuller production. The guttural gurgle of vocals remains, but over the course of the album more vocal colors have been added. There is a more scathing higher-pitched black-metal-like snarl that explodes out of ” The Joy of All Who Sorrow”. They even give me the creepy lower baritone that I grew up loving as a poor goth child. This album is a triumph by the band and everything I can want out of this brand of doom.
2. Tombs – The Grand Annihilation
I think it’s obvious that this is the soundtrack the world needs right now. The album is almost split into two parts. If at first you think the more post-punk elements are diluting the more metallic properties, then make no mistake this part of the album is up in you, as metal as it gets. If your tastes fall more on the dark side, as mine do, then you have to hang on and you get that too.
1. Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension
They continue to kill it on their 7th album. Sure there is not a wild deviation from their sound, but the songwriting is more focused and highlights the band’s strength and energy. This might also be one of the band’s most melodic albums. It seems like they have more readily embraced their death metal side. So in the swirl of hybrid sub-genres that make up this band, death metal is the predominant ingredient this go around.
The second song “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” finds more of the blackened-thrash-like sound that has colored the past two albums. There are some pretty hooky riffs, and it would make you think that my rule of “cool riffs alone don’t make a good song” would hit a band like this hard. This is not the case here, as these songs have everything falling into its perfect place. One of those albums you can easily keep on repeat and not get bored.