If you haven’t yet discovered the music of Australia’s Convulsing, you should carve out some time and allow it to carve you up. 2016’s Errata (reviewed here) was amazing; Convulsing‘s side of this year’s split with Siberian Hell Sounds (reviewed here) even more so.
I’ve benefited not only from Convulsing‘s music, but also from the musical recommendations of Convulsing‘s lone gunman Brendan Sloan (also a member of Dumbsaint), whom I follow on Facebook. And so this year I invited him to share with us (and you) his year-end list of favorite releases. He has chosen a Top 17 (plus a list of EPs, splits, and Honorable Mentions), and they aren’t all metal, but they are all interesting. He went further and hand-picked individual songs from each release as examples, and I’ve embedded streams of them within his list. So settle in for some good reading and some good listening.
The last few years I’ve been the most clever person of all time and listed a “top 14 of 14, 15 of 15, 16 of 16”, but this year is genuinely the only one where I’ve struggled to actually pare it down. 2017 has been a monster year for music, and here are the reasons why.
- Deafcult – Auras (Hobbledehoy)
Do you want to know how to make an album with four simultaneous guitar players? Or a great one in a genre in which everything gets endlessly compared to My Bloody Valentine? Because this is how you do both of those things. Takes the pedalboard worship from the self-titled EP and trims it all down into a lovely dream pop album caked in marzipan fuzz and soaked in reverb.
- Black Cilice – Banished From Time (Iron Bonehead)
I’m not sure how I found this, but it has rustled the same jimmies that Xasthur once did for me with Telepathic…. At times completely incoherent and buried in white noise, but a rewarding listen through the static. Compelling and evocative one-man Black Metal recorded on a lemon, in a cupboard, but all the better for it. Expresses a lot with very little.
- american – Violate And Control (Sentient Ruin)
Mattia & Sentient Ruin dominated my listening this year, and this album is the first entrant. There once was a great noisy grindcore band called Knelt Rote, and I was worried that I’d never hear anything as perfectly synergistic again after their activity slowed. I was wrong. This is everything I’ve wanted and more. Certainly more Black Metal than the Deathgrind that Knelt Rote would ultimately mete out, but nevertheless a powerful utterance and an immensely satisfying replacement.
- Hell – Hell IV (Self/Sentient Ruin)
This was ~almost~ the heaviest album of the year, and on certain days it still is. MSW has delivered the performances of his career on this one. Incredible effort. A specific stand-out is the variety in rhythm given to the drums; they take this from being another low and slow doom album into something truly captivating (wait for 2m50 onward in the below track). Oh also the guitars are the biggest thing since Thou’s Heathen.
- Violents & Monica Martin – Awake And Pretty Much Sober (Self-released)
And now for something completely different. This one is flawless. Monica Martin is unbelievable; from her breathy timbre and precise vibrato down to her note choice. Bonobo meets Morcheeba meets Debussy. If you are a false, please entry. Staggeringly beautiful album if you’re not boxed in by kvlt. Albums like this inspire my own music a lot more than most; TEXTURE.
- Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape (Self, Dark Descent)
You’ve been soothed by the above, so let’s go ahead and murk the place back up again shall we? Phrenelith released a split with Spectral Voice a little while ago, and from that moment I knew the race was on for a debut album. Phrenelith won. A bellicose slab of winding, gurgling death metal augmented by skillful beat displacement and dynamic tempo. Engaging and infinitely replayable. Remember Funebrarum? Not after this.
- Florist – If Blue Could Be Happiness (Double Double Whammy)
BACK ON THAT WEAK SHIT. Florist released a pretty devastating album that I enjoyed a lot (The Birds Outside Sang), and I was chuffed to learn there was another one this year. Listened to it wandering rainy streets in Melbourne, carrying guitar gear on zero sleep and it hit me like a truck. It’s like the physical effort required to make and perform this was so low, but the emotional effort so high? I don’t know. Skip it if you can’t get into sad girl folk, but I stand by my ranking. An emotionally crushing record. Mount Eerie would be on here instead if this didn’t do something else inexpressible.
- Planning For Burial – Below The House (The Flenser)
Comparisons to Jesu are inevitable but also unfair, IMO. Thom is on his own shit, and Below The House is the best thing he has ever done by far. Loose and languid with a grandiose impact courtesy of layered guitars and diffuse vocals. If Conqueror wasn’t so robotic, you’d get this. It’s much better than Conqueror though, I think.
- Succumb – Succumb (The Flenser)
Incredibly strong debut flying out of fucking nowhere. Cut from the same riff cloth as Flourishing and Pyrrhon, but with a melodic sense and space closer to something like Ludicra or even Ved Buens Ende. A really confounding listening experience, in no small part thanks to Cheri’s ghoulish howls floating over the razor-tight complexity beneath. You might be put off by her initially, but she’s vital to the totality and utterly without comparison. An album like no other this year, or many other years.
- Chaos Moon – Eschaton Memoire (Blood Music)
When Alex brought this project back to life a few years ago with the stellar Resurrection Extract and subsequent Amissum, it was only a matter of time before he flipped the whole apple cart again. Eschaton Memoire sees the return of my boy Eric Baker (Manetheren, Conqbine) on vocals, and a fleshing out of the line-up to include the brothers Blackburn. Strongest album since Languour… and a swirling, amorphous, esoteric yardstick for Black Metal in 201X.
- Cloakroom – Time Well (Relapse)
If asked to describe Cloakroom in a word, it would be “forlorn”. Mid-western, mid-tempo, shoegazey, sad sludgy rock songs with an earnest and mournful Doyle Martin on vocals. The most unique chords in the game, big fat Neurosis drums, and a continuation of the niche they’ve cut on Further Out (which I love dearly). Much like Deafcult, there’s a molasses of fuzz to wade through here, but nothing is lost and everything is gained.
- The Clearing Path – Watershed Between Firmament And The Realm Of Hyperborea (I, Voidhanger)
I’m going to paraphrase something I’ve said earlier: Hooo boyyy we’ve got one here. Gabriele has made one of my favourite-ever Black Metal releases (again). Unique sense of harmony, masterful leit-motif, deceptively complex and frantic song structures, richly textured and truly profound music. This is more than Black Metal, it’s an etude. A distillation of all that he has learned as a student of music. It’s beautiful. He’s four years my junior, so nobody should ever be listening to what I’m trying to do instead of this. Yes, that’s a harmoniser on the guitars.
- ENDON – Through The Mirror (Daymare, Hydrahead)
ENDON are unique in every sense of the word. That’s tough to say about a band in extreme music, but they’re the real deal. Through The Mirror is a little more focused than MAMA, but all the calling cards are still present. Paint-stripping noise courtesy of Taro and his ridiculous pedals (MASF, look him up) and straight-up horrific vocals from Taichi fight for dominance over a clamour of blasting, d-beats, post-hardcore, and black metal. Don’t let your jaw drop too far, you might hurt your chin.
- Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation (Invictus)
It’s not every day you hear an album and feel like you’re being fucking cursed. This album hates you. “War Metal” through the lens of mid-era Death and Cannibal Corpse at tempos that defy belief. The best death metal album of the year hands down, and side by side with Diocletian on the War Metal throne. Nothing I can say here will surpass the first 20 seconds of the track below.
- Krallice – Go Be Forgotten (Self, Profound Lore, Gilead)
I just…. How the fuck? How do you keep peaking? Album after album, stronger than the last. The last two saw Krallice lost in their mutual penchant for linear compositions (Behold… the Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Astomatous, and Barr’s Ocrillim all obviously collide), and while great I was left with an unmet itch for the motif worship of the initial triad (S/T, Bleedthrough, and Diotima are all products of the same writing session). It’s back on this one, and Colin brought his entire synth cupboard with him. I absolutely adore this band, there’s no hyperbole sufficient. Just fucking masters and totally out of reach. They even gave us a little Barr solo nod to way back. Perfection.
- Pyrrhon – What Passes For Survival (Willowtip/Throatruiner)
What passes for a blurb? Dylan doesn’t play guitar by the same logic as anyone else on earth, and somehow Schwegs and Erik are able to interpret and respond appropriately to what he’s doing. Every single movement is calculated. The trademark atonal delay solos are still here, but the composition has shot to a new extreme all together. Minimally repetitive, just enough to fool you into thinking you know the direction you’re pointing. An oppressive, obscure and borderline unfollowable experience that winds its way around you like a net. You’re supposed to be confused and miserable, and Doug is there to tell you all about why with the vocal performance of the century. If you thought Car Bomb were difficult, get fucking ready. This is a band that knows exactly what they want to do, and how they want to do it, and they don’t give a fuck about you or I. Huge respect for this band and a massive source of inspiration for me for all these years. Occupied the top spot all year, until….
- Primitive Man – Caustic (Relapse)
You ever hear something so astonishing that you just laugh? Twice in my life, and both times Primitive Man have been responsible. I laid on the floor to listen to this at around 11pm, instead of turning in after a long day, and by the end of it’s 80-something minutes I felt like I’d been squashed into a paste and could barely get up. Everything hurt, and that’s exactly what Ethan wants. Everything is pushed further than it’s ever been; the technicality and intensity of Ethan’s guitars, the rawness of his voice, the size of the snare drum, and THE FUCKING B A S S . If you pay attention to any one thing when you listen to this, it should be Campos. I’m aghast at what he achieved here.
Put on some headphones, turn everything up louder than you think is necessary, and experience the weirdest smile of your life as the light is ripped from your life. Primitive Man are the heaviest band on earth, and this is the best album of 2017.
EPs, Splits, and Honorable Mentions:
Enslaved – E (Nuclear Blast) – 26 years and still making engaging and transformative music. This could be the strongest one since Ruun. See: “The River’s Mouth”.
Impalers – Cellar Dweller (Static Shock) – Absolute fucking rager of a release but it’s too short to be up top, I think.
Graveir / Mar Mortuum split 7″ (Impure Sounds) – Mar Mortuum’s side is particularly incredible, and shows where both bands are headed. STRONK.
Hexis – XII (Self, Truth Seeker, Holy Roar, Moment Of Collapse…) – Inhumanly heavy. Better than Tando Ashanti tbh. Possibly best EP of the entire year that isn’t…
Krallice – Loüm (Self, GIlead, Profound Lore) – !!!!!!!! Only here because I like GBF just a fraction more. 100% untouchable kings of Metal. Fight me about it, you’ll lose.
Mind Mold – S/T EP (Sentient Ruin) – If this were twice as long it’d be in the top five.
Greytomb – A Monumental Macrocosm (Transcending Obscurity) – Would be up there but I’ve worn it out learning it, and also bias, heh. Magur’s vocals are A++++
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing – Didn’t like it as much as Bloodcantation and crushed by Phrenelith tbh, but the vocals are AMAZING.
Somnium Nox – Terra Inanis (Transcending Obscurity) – Again, m8s bias.
Blut Aus Nord – Deus Salutis Meae (Debemur Morti) – Amazing but nobody needs to be told that. Also wasn’t really surprising or groundbreaking in any way, just great. BAN have to do more than just be great to get back into a list like this IMO.
Entheogen – Without Void, Nor Self (Fallen Empire) – Alex Poole and Blackburn brothers AGAIN, but this time with Brad from Haunter on bass, and Alex himself on vocals. This is easily as good as Chaos Moon from a composition standpoint, but Alex doesn’t get two spots on this list. That’s greedy.