Dagoba – Black Nova ('Phoenix et Corvus', 'Inner Sun')
One reason I’ve been looking forward to writing this is for the bands that I haven’t been able to cover previously. Sometimes I wont have a chance to listen to an album at the time of the release and when I eventually do get round to listening to them, I find I’m kicking myself. I have found that 2017 hasn’t been the most predictable year for Extreme Metal. Largely there have been a fair few near misses and not many albums to look forward to. However, beneath the surface there have been many new bands to get on your radar.
Yet another band to shout out for the Metal of France, Dagoba aren’t really new but I’m certainly glad that Black Nova made it to my ears. I usually find that clean vocals in Extreme Metal can ruin a very good band but Dagoba are a rare example that can manage it. Keeping a very groovy energy to each song and a sense of melody, I quickly found myself returning to them again and again.
Igorrr – Savage Sinusoid ('IeuD', 'Cheval')
Igorrr are one of those bands that you’d really want to hear when someone mentions a band to break genre conventions. Fusing Baroque music with Industrial, Dance, Dubstep and Extreme Metal, Igorrr just can’t be described. Furthermore, each song has a sense of variety to them so that their sound never tires. It’s incredible to hear each song come with an anticipation of what could they possibly do next. Fortunately, this manages to translate so well to their live performances that they’re truly a band that will only get bigger as more people hear about them.
Orden Ogan – Gunmen ('Come with Me to the Other Side', 'Vampire in a Ghost Town')
Another album I missed but eventually came to. Orden Ogan’s Gunmen shouldn’t have worked. A lot of Power Metal just doesn’t work for me. So when this cheesy piece of Metal got me it was quite a surprise. Gunmen is also very consistent, each track sustaining a powerful energy to make each track memorable and a solid piece of Metal. Extreme Metal has a power that I usually find lacking from softer songs and especially ballads, however tracks like Orden Ogan’s ‘Come with Me to the Other Side’s initial melody somehow is an effective hook. This is then used throughout the song giving Metal layers to the hook to give the song a variety of energy throughout. Symphonic and Melodic to the point of incredibly cheesy – Gunmen shouldn’t really work so well.
Vintersorg – Till Fjälls del II ('Jökelväktaren', ‘Vinterstorm’ )
Vintersorg’s Till Fjälls del II is a return to form and holds no surprises. This piece of Folk Black Metal is a fine example of when the Scandinavian sounds can really work. Being both violent and with a folk sense of melody whilst the Swedish lyrics keeps the album firmly rooted in Scandinavia. There are many bands to be emerging from Folk Metal and not always this extreme and this accented. Though many bands might try and copy similar sounds it has to be said that not many can pull this off in the way that Vintersorg have. Till Fjälls del II is a wonderful example of their sound and the genre. It is actually meant as a sequel to an earlier album and certainly marks a fitting tribute.
Nordheim – RapThor ('Troll Riding a RapThor', 'Dragonthorn')
Where Vintersorg had that Scandinavian sound, Nordheim have a more generally Extreme Folk Metal sound like Ensiferum, Wintersun or Norther. Their sound is brutal but the sense of fun isn’t lost at all – just consider song titles like ‘Boobs and Bacon’ and ‘I Wish You Were Beer’. That fun edge is just that risk that usually doesn’t work with most bands of the genre. Forgetting that songs should be written and not just played. Nordheim keep a powerful energetic melody with each song. Making each song have a power to stay with you as a solid piece of Metal too. You almost forget that it’s from an album that plays on Thor and Raptor.
Ensiferum – Two Paths ('King of Storms', ‘Feast with Valkyries’)
Ensiferum are one of the bigger names on this list and one of the bigger names within Extreme Folk Metal. It’s easy for bigger bands to start just replicating the same and harder for them to continue to challenge you. Many albums in 2017 have had a sense of being good Metal but nothing too good to come from a band such as themselves. Ensiferum’s Two Paths isn’t one of these albums. It manages to hit the mark in a noticeable way and being a great addition to their discography.
Ah Ciliz / Chiral – Origins ('People of the stars'/'A Feeble Glare of Autumn')
Going from one of the bigger bands to some almost complete unknowns. Italy’s Ah Ciliz and Chiral have teamed up to bring you Origins and it really is an album for Extreme Metallers to take note of, especially if you’re partial to a bit of Black Metal. Keeping a chilling atmosphere throughout, these Black Metal bands manage to keep varied, different and all out evil whilst staying melodic and with an experimental, even folk, edge. A lot of Split Albums end up competing with each other for the spot light and it’s interesting to see how these two manage to complement each other to not be too different but not exactly the same. They confidently pass the mic on to the next piece of evil.
Sar Isatum – Shurpu ('Halls of Pestilence', 'Sar Isatum')
Sar Isatum feel like a band to take a note of. Their debut album Shurpu is a fine piece of Black Metal and almost too good to be true for a first album. Keeping a symphonic edge whilst keeping a raw evil power to them, songs can really hit their mark. Showing also a willingness to experiment with each songs, there is a sense in which their aiming to keep each song thrilling and new to add variety. For these reasons, Sar Isatum are a band to look out for, their next effort may well be just a step up from here.
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars ('The Rise of Hannibal')
Ex Deo are beginning to build up a name for themselves that we’re almost about to see ‘Roman Metal’ as a legitimate genre within Metal. Their latest effort, The Immortal Wars, only demonstrates their brutal power to keep going. Ex Deo, at very least, are looking to make their mark on Metal and be one of the regular names to come up. With albums like The Immortal Wars, they just might. It’s always nice to see the albums that just feel extreme and Metal. This is what Extreme Metal was meant to be and is a fine album from the band.
Belphegor – Totenritual ('Baphomet')
Belphegor continue to surprise me. Their Blackened Death Metal has an energy that just doesn’t stop and shows no signs of creative fatigue. Each album manages to be distinctly Belphegor whilst keeping new additions to their discography in a way that stays interesting though at times runs the risk of bleeding into each other; Totenritual is exactly this. Belphegor, doing what they do best, entering a Black Mass, taking a goat and leaving blood everywhere. It runs the risk of being the same but they do happen to do it so very well.
My top 10 albums for the year weren’t in any order but with the amount of albums out there it is worth noting that there are many more good albums to have come out. Arch Enemy are on a strong album but we’d expect exactly what we got from Will to Power. Another band to be a victim of their own powerful sound is Ajattara with Lupaus. Wintersun also showed some incredible promise with The Forest Seasons but with each song being as epic as they are it was hard for the album to remain consistently amazing. Another album I felt had some really strong songs on the album but ultimately couldn't sustain this energy throughout was Eluveitie's Evocation II: Pantheon. Some songs just manage to outshine the rest of the album which otherwise keeps a very strong output but just not enough to hit a top spot. Finally, The Great Old Ones and Byzantine with EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy and The Cicada Tree, respectively, show a lot of promise and we’re likely to see more of these bands. 2017, as previously mentioned appears to be about the up and comers more than the big names of Metal. Some have been around for a while but it looks like we’re about to see them break through.