(As our 2017 LISTMANIA series continues, we present a Top 10 list assembled by NCS contributor Todd Manning.)
Another year, another avalanche of Metal to sift through. It’s not a bad thing, but if you’re open-minded and would like to try to keep up with everything, well it’s downright overwhelming. This year seems to be particularly backloaded, with a lot of incredibly powerful releases popping up in the final quarter. Hell, Krallice put out two heavyweight full-lengths less than a month apart. It’s a lot to try to absorb, and also tricky to try to give things equal weight whether they came out last spring or in October and November.
Getting down to brass tacks, though, this is supposed to be “The Year of Death Metal” and who am I to argue? Fact of the matter is, there’s been a goddamn flood of quality DM and it will probably take at least another year to sort through it all. It’s nothing short of an embarrassment of riches. And yes, several veteran acts put out some great releases in 2017, but only one old school Titan made my year-end list. For me, I’m more excited about bands pushing the limits of the genre and I think my list testifies to that. So without further ado…
- John Frum – A Stirring in the Noos
So this is the boundary-pushing Death Metal I’ve been talking about. Psychedelic and just plain weird stuff produced by veterans of The Faceless, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Cleric. Not just technical, but out and out wild. And Matt Hollenberg is definitely a name to be on the look-out for when it comes to Extreme music. These guys hint at the strange world of Lovecraftian cargo cults and some sort of menacing take on theories of Panspermia. Don’t delay, get this right away.
- Godflesh – Post-Self
Much as I said about Deathspell Omega last year, if Godflesh is a Metal band, what the hell else is everyone trying to do. This is transcendental, a brutal but somehow out-of-body listening experience. This is like experiencing Blade Runner while on LSD, not watching it, but living the movie. This came late in the year, and it’ll be a while before I feel like I’ve come to grips with this one.
- Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Is it Metal? Well, I for one consider the tag of Metal to be applicable to any band that conveys a certain overwhelming sense of intensity, rather than just what the instruments sound like. This definition certainly applies to modern-day Ulver. This album is like a beam of concentrated light, powerful enough to cut a planet in half. So what if it has more sonically in common with Tears for Fears than it does with anyone else on this list? This is powerful stuff.
- Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
Holy shit, Illud Divinum Insanus was horrible. And while everyone agrees this release was a massive step in the right direction, I’ve still seen some mixed reviews. But it really did the trick for me. Great songs, and the marriage of their traditional Sumerian-themed lyrics with the current state of affairs in the world today really added a sense of urgency for me. I’m definitely really into this album.
- Thoughts of Ionesco – Skar Cymbals
I sometimes think my affinity for Hardcore, particularly the mid-’90s mash-up with Metal and general chaos, so well represented by the HydraHead catalog, comes through in my reviews. Bands like Thoughts of Ionesco have always shown how wide open the genre was to experimentation, and their return this year with this EP has me hungry for more.
- Corpse Garden – Iao 269
Once again, boundary-pushing Death Metal. These Costa Ricans bring together Portal, Morbid Angel, and Atheist into a breathtaking alchemical marriage. If the genre is to continue to thrive, these guys need to be on the cover of magazines.
- Krallice with Dave Edwardson – Loüm
So Krallice puts out not one, but two extremely complex and challenging releases in the last quarter of the year. I have barely had time to sink my teeth into Go Be Forgotten, but I’ve given Loüm several spins. Transcendent brutality — the title track literally had my mouth gaping in awe.
- Cleric – Retrocausal
Speaking of complex, what’s with all these albums coming out at the end of the year which are so insane it will probably take at least another year to wrap one’s head around them? But honestly, I’m a sucker for this kind of shit. Worth noting, Cleric’s guitarist is Matt Hollenberg who played on the John Frum album featured in the top spot on this list. I have a feeling these guys probably make all the other complex Metal bands look like the first Ramones album in comparison, but then again, who can really tell?
- Monte Luna – Self-titled
Doom that successfully marries Conan and Godflesh, and tells a story about Lovecraftian hordes doing battle on an Inverted Mountain. How could you go wrong?
- Cormorant – Diaspora
Progressive Black Metal that’s just so well-written and executed you barely notice how goddamn impressive the musicianship is. I’m honestly surprised these guys aren’t bigger because I think they should appeal to anyone into Emperor and mid-era Opeth.
Now those honorable mentions:
Couch Slut – Contempt
All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal
Mordbrand – Wilt
Thantifaxath – Void Masquerading as Matter
Youdesh – Astrophobia
Monotrope – Unifying Reciever
Oxbow – Thin White Duke
Unearthly Trance – Stalking the Ghost
So I guess that’s it. I believe I’ve heard about 130 releases from 2017 all the way through at least once (I’m a nerd that keeps track of these things), and countless partial albums and single songs. The sad thing is, I also have a big list of all the stuff I still need to check out, so I guess I’ll get to it.
Thanks once again to Islander for letting me ramble on his excellent website. We’ll do this again next year if the planet hasn’t exploded by then.