(Andy Synn’s week of reflections on 2017 metal continues today with his list of the year’s Great albums.)
So we’re officially almost at the end of my annual Listravaganza already… after today there’s only my semi-objective (but not really) Critical Top Ten, followed by my totally biased, shamelessly self-indulgent Personal Top Ten… and then that’s it. We’re done for another year.
But don’t fret, there’s still lots of albums left for you to sink your teeth into before that happens, and today’s selections represent – in my opinion at least – the absolute cream of the crop from 2017.
I will stress again, of course, that this list shouldn’t be considered comprehensive (although it is eighty goddamn albums long), as covering every single release from the last twelve months is basically an impossible task, nor is it specifically ranked in any way, beyond the fact that I think each of these albums deserves to be considered in the top tier of this year’s fulgent metallic crop.
Anyway, without further ado, I present to you… the Great albums of 2017.
First off I’d like to add an honourable mention to the ever-changing musical metamorphs in Ulver as, even though The Assassination of Julius Caesar wasn’t a Metal album, it’s still a brilliant piece of work, replete with layer after layer of intriguing hidden secrets just waiting to be uncovered.
On the flip side to this, the ever-reliable, ever-resolute, ever-relentless Immolation continue to set the gold standard for Death Metal with their tenth(!) album, closely followed by similarly humongous, riff-tastic albums from Dyscarnate and Power Trip.
Sticking to this deathly theme, the soul-crushing strains of Appalling Ascension (The Ominous Circle), Deliverance From The Godless Void (Desolate Shrine), and Divine Cessation (Valdur) meant that those of you who like your Metal grim, blasphemous, and a little bit blackened, were well-served this year.
And you can also add to this the similarly nasty and unflinchingly gnarly releases by Vassafor, Venenum, and Sunlight’s Bane, all of whom richly deserve your praise (and your money) for their new albums, as do deathly-doomsters Spectral Voice for their debut Eroded Corridors of Unbeing.
While we’re at it, the doomier end of the spectrum in general had a lot of great stuff to offer us this year too, with living legends Paradise Lost producing an unexpected career highlight in Medusa, as did both Red Moon Architect and Nailed to Obscurity, while sophomore albums from both funereal filthmongers Loss and tormented titans Bereft brought both the pain and the pleasure to those who love to wallow in sonic misery.
And, of course, we can’t forget the post-apocalyptic blackened doom of Fell Ruin and their debut album, To the Concrete Drifts, or the truly heart-rending debut from Hallatar, can we?
In the Tech Death sphere, hyperspeed fanatics Archspire gobbled up most of the headlines with their brilliant third album Relentless Mutation (even if I think it ends on a slightly anticlimactic note), but that doesn’t mean we should forget or fail to acknowledge similarly killer releases from Gigan, Inanimate Existence, and Decrepit Birth.
Nor should we overlook the unexpectedly (or maybe predictably?) awesome debut from Fleshkiller, the metaphysical Prog-Tech delights of Sutrah, or the bombastic, rifftastic Do Not Deviate from Boston’s Replacire.
The ferocious, forward-thinking Urraca by Sunless also needs some major love, as does Wrong One to Fuck With, the latest welcome helping of blistering technicality and bone-headed brutality from Dying Fetus.
Speaking of brutality, the quad-damage assault of Hour of Penance, Benighted, Scordatura, and Hideous Divinity, gave January, February, March, and April a serious kick in the teeth… one which I think some people still haven’t fully recovered from.
Before I go any further, I feel like special mention should go to both Bell Witch and Obitus for pushing the envelope with their humongous, single-track albums Mirror Reaper and Slaves of the Vast Machine, both of which sought to tell a singularly cathartic and coherent story through an extended musical medium.
2017 also saw some truly sublime sonic storytelling from The Flight of Sleipnir, Cormorant, and Vintersorg, as well as ambitious concept albums from rising Death Metal stars Abhorrent Decimation and The King Is Blind, not to mention a return to the very top of their game from The Black Dahlia Murder.
They weren’t the only big name to make some big waves this year either, as Decapitated brought out the big guns for Anticult… only to have subsequent events (understandably) overshadow the album’s ferocious blend of deathly grooves and technical, thrash-infused riff work.
Moving swiftly on, the multifaceted metallic magnetism of Byzantine and the audacious atmospheric attack of Adimiron took listeners on a rollercoaster ride of energy and emotion, as did the utterly visceral and uncompromising new album from Employed to Serve.
The ever-nebulous field of “Post Metal” gave us a handful of truly stellar releases this year too, with established artists like Amenra and Junius producing perhaps their best work yet, alongside several new names – Gloson, Cranial, The Drowned God – who aptly demonstrated that that the future of the scene is very bright indeed.
And if you were looking for something a little more Prog, then 2017 also had you covered, from the indulgently labyrinthine strains of Dreadnought, to the more instantly accessible (but no less rewarding) melodic thrills of Leprous (Malina being perhaps their best work since Bilateral), to the moody introversion and brooding intensity of Foscor.
On top of that, those Norse Prog-Wizards in Enslaved recovered from the slight stumble of In Times with the masterful E, proving that there’s still fresh life in the old dogs yet, while the debut album from Scotland’s Dvne revealed that you don’t have to be a big name to make a big statement.
Finally, remember how I said in my “Good” column that 2017 has been a very Death Metal friendly year? Well, while that may well be the case overall, it turns out that Black Metal didn’t exactly have a bad year either, with multiple bands – both old and new – producing some truly excellent examples of blackened brilliance.
Awesome albums from the likes of White Ward, Selbst, and Au-Dessus vied for our attention with new (and potentially career defining) releases by more (in)famous acts like Nightbringer, Aosoth, and Blaze of Perdition, while scathing releases from both Dawn Ray’d and Cold Fell (RIP) demonstrated the importance of both the music and the message… although I shudder to think exactly what sort of message is being passed on by those occult oddities in Dødsengel…
Debut albums from Somnium Nox, Rebirth of Nefast, and Tyranosorceress suggest that the future of the genre is in good hands, although that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that more established bands like Woe, Black Anvil, and Der Weg Einer Freiheit have already taken hold of it for themselves (even if Finisterre isn’t quite as good as 2015’s Stellar).
On the more atmospheric side of things, The Great Old Ones continued to weave their inhuman spell over the Metal world with EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy (although Tekeli-li is still the better album in my opinion), while Icelandic iconoclasts Almyrkvi continued their journey into the stellar abyss with the long-awaited release of their debut album Umbra.
The majestic second album from Havukruunu is equal parts power and glory, as is the soul-stirring second album from Sweden’s Grift, although both of these are perhaps overshadowed by the exceptional debut by Ohio-based blackened doomsters Coldfells.
None more grim, and none more blasphemous, Bestia Arcana, Entheogen, and Farsot all produced their own vile works of witchcraft this year, each of which could arguably vie for the title of “best Black Metal album of 2017”, while the pure savagery of Lorn, the haunting horrorscapes of Throane, and the bombastic swagger of A Hill To Die Upon saw each band bringing their A-game to the table this year.
And last, but by no means least, 2017 saw the ever-divisive Satyricon overcoming some serious adversity to deliver their best work in years, seamlessly blending classic blackened glamour with caustic modern groove.
So there we have it, eighty releases which I think represent the absolute cream of the crop from the past twelve months. And to make things even easier for you all, I’ve once again listed every single entry alphabetically below, with Bandcamp links included wherever possible.
Obviously there will be many omissions (some of which I mentioned in my “Good” article yesterday), mostly due to me simply not having enough time to listen to everything I wanted to, so feel free to chime in in the comments section with your own recommendations… although maybe check out my “Good” and “Disappointing” lists first to see if your suggestion has already been mentioned there.
And I hope you’ll all tune in again tomorrow to discover which albums make up my Critical Top Ten this year… and why.
A Hill To Die Upon – Via Artis Via Mortis
Abhorrent Decimation – The Pardoner
Aosoth – V: The Inside Scriptures
Archspire – Relentless Mutation
Blaze of Perdition – Conscious Darkness
Cranial – Dark Towers, Bright Lights
Dawn Ray’d – The Unlawful Assembly
Decapitated – Anticult
Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre
Desolate Shrine – Deliverance from the Godless Void
Dreadnought – A Wake in Sacred Waves
Dying Fetus – Wrong One To Fuck With
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Employed to Serve – The Warmth of a Dying Sun
Enslaved – E
Entheogen – Without Veil, Nor Self
Fell Ruin – To The Concrete Drifts
Gigan – Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence
Hallatar – No Stars Upon the Bridge
Hour of Penance – Cast the First Stone
Immolation – Atonement
Inanimate Existence – Underneath a Melting Sky
Junius – Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light
Leprous – Malina
Nailed to Obscurity – King Delusion
Obitus – Slaves of the Vast Machine
Paradise Lost – Medusa
Rebirth of Nefast – Tabernaculum
Red Moon Architect – Return of the Black Butterflies
Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep
Scordatura – Self-Created Abyss
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Sunlight’s Bane – The Blackest Volume
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers
The Flight of Sleipnir – Skadi
The Great Old Ones – EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
The King Is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer
The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension
Throane – Plus une Main à Mordre
Tyranosorceress – Shattering Light’s Creation
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Vintersorg – Till Fjälls del II
Bnadcamp released a top 100 albums of 2017, we could add them to list mania.
Also I think these albums are quite deserving of the great list:
Ende- Emen Etan
Midnight- Sweet Death and Ecstasy
Necronautical- The Endurance at Night
Hellripper- Coagulating Darkness
Trenchgrinder- Peace is Forfeit
Necronautical was a 2016 release, so you can find it on last year’s list
Strange, their bandcamp says differently, ah whatever my mistake.
WE KNOW. YOU TOLD US. ALREADY.
Not on this page :p
Ignore him. The rest of us try to.
I just talk to myself and hope that someone listens.
Added this list to my Spotify playlist too! You can select all “great albums” by sorting on Date Added. The “good albums” were added yesterday.
Personally happy to see Enslaved here, I fucking love the album.
this is going to be a fun monster of a spotify list to shuffle around in when this all wraps up
I’m still doubting to add the ”disappointing albums” too…
I will add the Critical & Personal Top 10 if it has artists that aren’t already included.
You’ll be pleased to know that there are no new albums going to be added tomorrow or Friday. The “Critical” and “Personal” lists are just a more detailed refinement of the 200+ ones you’ve already seen!
Cool. Looking forward to it!
Thanks for all the effort anyway, I always enjoy the writeups
It would be great if Spotify would let you organize playlists by album…would make sorting through a playlist like that a helluva lot easier.
Here’s the google play version of the list:
Seen almost nothing avant-gardish in your three lists (Lvcifer Es was great, by the way). You should check Ignis Haereticum’s Autocognition of Light in that sense.
That’s actually a very good point, and one which I hadn’t noticed until you mentioned it. Funny how things shake out. I’m certain I’ve had a fair bit of weirder/more avant-garde stuff on previous lists!
Some albums I didn’t see that I think should be here(I apologize if I missed them):
Ajattara – Lupaus
Corpus Christii – Delusion
Arallu – Six
Desecresy – The Mortal Horizon
Dystopia- Chaos Philosophorum
Excommunion – Thronosis
Goatmoon – Stella Polaris
Highland- Loyal to the Nightsky
Horn – Turn am Hang
Impureza – La Caida de Tonatiuh
The Lightbringer – Heptanity
Locust Leaves – A Subtler Kind of Light
Madrost – The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh
Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland
Midnight – Sweet Death and Ecstasy
Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape
Possession – Exorkizen
Runespell – Unhallowed Blood Oath
Just to name a couple. I tried to remember your “good” list, so hopefully I didn’t repeat too many!
No need to apologise, as none of these have been mentioned by me (though I’m sure some others will have elsewhere).
Impureza (which I think we have featured here), The Lightbringer, and Phrenelith were all ones I meant to check out, but which, for various reasons, never made it into my listening rotation. Which is a shame, but something I hope to correct soon!
I’ll second the Horn album! Malokarpaton, Locust Leaves, and Phrenelith were also pretty dope, but I never really got a chance to dig into them.
Needs more Acrimonious. And Ende.
Otherwise, great list.
Glad to see White Ward getting a lot of positive feedback considering the very loud, very negative end of the metal fan spectrum absolutely loathes their usage of saxophone on Futility Report. It took me by (pleasant) surprise and I really feel it’s a great album.
I’m going to have so many goddamn lists to cherry pick from…help me.
It’s funny to see that sort of backlash, as it’s not exactly the first time saxophone has made it into a Metal album (or a Black Metal album) in recent years. Heck, the both the new Enslaved and new Satyricon albums also made use of some saxophonic warbling (on “Hiindsiight” and “Dissonant” respectively) this year.
Thanks for these lists, they’re awesome. It’s clear how much work you and effort you put into them, and I look forward to them every year.
The new albums by Broken Hope, Suppressive Fire, Affliktor, Aether Realm, Verthebral, Gatecreeper (EP), and Beyond Grace 😉 could belong on the good or great lists, too, though.
Ah, damn Broken Hope!
That was one I really meant to check out. So many albums, so little time.
I’m not sure why or how but it is downright criminal that nobody seems to have heard Duskmourn’s latest album. Unless something amazing happens in the next week or so that will be my #1 for the year. Just incredible stuff which so many people would love if they got the chance to hear it (fans of the epic and Moonsorrow-esque most especially).
OK, plug over. Great list as always, Andy.
Damn that passed me by – thank you sir! I loved their first album.
Would just like to say that I’ve jammed the brand new “Lord Diabolus Throne” by Flagellum Dei like 5 times already today. It’s excellent. Black Metal from Portugal (not the “raw” crap that that country has been churning out as of late).
I definitely can’t afford to buy enough music on vinyl. For 2018 it would be better to buy downloads, and record them too cassette. But how does one stop oneself from buying vinyl?
Some folks were disappointed in 2017 which i can’t even imagine.
wow, super cool to see two bands with outstanding rape allegations against them make the list this year.
i feel like it’s not too much to expect that if a band is embroiled in a rape scandal that they should be left off your best albums of the year list but i guess that’s setting the bar too damn high for this cesspit. in the past, i’ve always appreciated the year end lists that NCS provides, because they always include great finds that i’ve overlooked.
as if seeing inanimate existence and decapitated on the list at all wasn’t bad enough, to have the allegations written up as “subsequent events (understandbly) overshadowing” their work is fucking pathetic.
i’m beyond disappointed
So, just for the record. Have you always considered NCS a cesspit, and you visited here in spite of your disgust for the site, or has this one article, where you disagree with the authors decision to judge the music on its own terms, retroactively made the entire website a cesspit?
I mean, it’s not that I have an issue with anyone who decides they can’t separate the art from the artist, but given the sites history of being very open and willing to discuss topics in a mature and reasonable fashion, I find this comment to be extremely knee-jerk and judgemental
While the humility in not putting it here is understood and appreciated, there’s an album from a little English band called Beyond Grace that really should be on this list.
Ha, well, I’m way too close to it to judge it properly (also I wouldn’t be THAT egotistical).
Which is why I pointed to your humility in my comment. That said, it was one of my favorite releases of the year, and how many times can one actually acknowledge one’s appreciation of art directly to the artist?
In my experience it’s about six times, before they get a restraining order.
Needs more Ulvegr !
While not exactly a Metal album, I’m surprised I haven’t seen Kauan’s Kaiho anywhere. Definitely on my top list
Yessss…love that allbum. It’s so relaxing, haha.
That might , possibly, maybe… be getting a review here next week. Don’t tell anyone. Or do.
I feel like a guest at a very long dinner party. I’m completely stuffed, at capacity, can’t take another bite, and yet here you are coaxing me into trying just a few more desserts.
Did Virvum’s “Illuminance” come out this year? I’m not a tech guy, but I thought that was a great record. On the filthy death metal side, Phrenelith, Undergang and Necrot were absolutely essential this year.
Virvum was indeed a 2016 jam, although I think it saw a re-release this year alongside their signing announcement and announcement that they were working on new stuff.
Here’s a few I really liked this year.
All Pigs Must Die- Hostage Animal
Black Vul Destruktor- The Inner Vul
Exhumed- Death Revenge
Firespawn- The Reprobate
Jordablod- Upon My Cremation
Kingdom- Sepulchral Psalms from the Abyss of Torment
Light of the Morning Star- Nocta
Midnight- Sweet Death and Ecstasy
Moral Void- Deprive
Necrot- Blood Offering
Phrenelith- Desolate Landscape
Portrait- Burn the World
Spirit Adrift- Curse of Conception
Triumvir Foul- Spiritual Bloodshed
Vampire- With Primeval Force
Vaultwraith- Death is Proof of Satan’s Power
Venom Inc.- Ave
Vulture- The Guillotine
Of course there a many others that I haven’t heard. Like: Aosoth, Blaze to Perdition, Vassafor, Inconcessus Lux Lucis, Pyrrhon, Possession, Ruins of Beverast, and Tyfon’s Doom, to name a few. I hope to get to them all soon.
Very nice list, Andy–we agree in this section more than your “disappointments” presentation.
There are a few albums I’d like to bring to your attention to sink your filthy teeth into, that I don’t recall seeing on any of your lists:
Empyrean Throne “Chaosborne” (symphonic/technical black/death)
Samsara “When The Soul Leaves The Body” (melodic doom/death)
Brutal Unrest “Trinitas” (death)
Cytotoxin “Gammageddon” (technical brutal death)
Chepang “Dadhelo: A Tale of Wildfire” (grindcore)
There are more, but they’ve left my memory at this time. Also, did you try out Cradle of Filth’s new slab of MELODIC filth? I used to not be a Cradle fan at all, until one day, I decided to systematically comb through their discography on YouTube and found them to be exceptionally talented lads. Their 2017 release is really good–I think the best in awhile. I didn’t know their guitarist could solo like that, nor did I think they knew what melody was.