End of year lists are always tricky and this year is no exception; 2017 had some standout releases of all shapes and sizes. Some of the best albums i heard this year came from relative newcomers, or bands unafraid to blend genres and try new things. Equally there have been fantastic albums by bands who prefer to revel in the days of bygone glories (looking at you, Savage Messiah) that have still managed to update their source material for the modern metal fan. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favourite releases of 2017.
Mastodon - Emperor of Sand
Emerging from a period of immense struggle for many of the band, Emperor of Sand is easily their strongest work since Crack the Skye. From the sludgy behemoth that is ‘Steambreather’ to the instantly infectious ‘Show Yourself’, Mastodon’s latest full-length is a masterclass in modern metal, a fusion and distillation of everything they’ve done up until now.
Thantifaxath - Void Masquerading as Matter
Having made waves with debut release Sacred White Noise with their avant-garde approach to black metal, Thantifaxath went further down the dissonant path with their latest EP. Uniquely challenging to listen to, Void… is also incredibly rewarding as each listen digs further into each carefully considered piece of music and always turns up something new.
Cradle of Filth - Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay
Cradle have been enjoying a creative renaissance with 2015’s Hammer of the Witches and Cryptoriana proudly continues this. A sprawling piece of gothic majesty, lyrically it explores the obsession with occultism and death of Victorian England, and musically is as bombastic and symphonic as Cradle have become known for.
King Leviathan - Paean Heretica
A relatively new outfit, King Leviathan unleashed their debut on the world, a snarling and thrashing ode to the Old Gods of Lovecraftian mythology. The clean vocals soar and the roars and screams are the demented counterpoint, entwined together over blackened thrash reminiscent of genre heavyweights Skeletonwitch.
Samarkind - Samarkind
A stripped-back ode to the rock’n’roll of olde, infused with Americana and bluesy swagger, Samarkind’s debut album is a rollicking good time. A blend of Clutch-y blues, Black Stone Cherry swagger and even a few licks out of Stevie Wonder’s playbook, it’s a remarkably well-formed first record that hints of greater things to come.
Goatwhore - Vengeful Ascension
New Orleans’ Goatwhore released their seventh platter of sludgy, blackened death and whilst it didn’t reinvent the wheel at all, it’s still a thrashing good time. The album rattles along with all the speed and subtlety of a freight train, a no-holds-barred approach that’s just out to have a good time, and on these terms Vengeful Ascension delivers in spades.
Wolf Counsel - Age of Madness/Reign of Chaos
If you like your doom gloomy, and your gloom doomy, Wolf Counsel have you covered. The pace is glacial and the riffs carry enough heft to crack planets. Vocally it’s more similar to rising stars Pallbearer and heavyweights Saint Vitus occasionally akin to liturgical chanting. Despite not venturing for pastures new, AoM/RoC does plenty to differentiate from the doomy pack.
Helpless - Debt
Best described as catharsis, Debt is an explosion of white-hot aural fury, burning briefly but brightly. A band with just three members shouldn’t be able to make a racket so unholy, but make a racket they do. The aural equivalent of a baseball bat with nails through it filtered through nihilism and seething rage, Debt is utterly vicious and uncompromising in its extremity.
Savage Messiah - Hands of Fate
Heavy metal in its traditional form has been experiencing something of a resurgence recently with newcomers Savage Messiah leading its modern vanguard. From the balls-to-the-wall speed of ‘Hands of Fate’ to slow burning power ballad moments in ‘Last Confession’, Hands of Fate is a shot in the arm for traditional metal. The band have stripped their sound back to bare essentials and it shows with massive vocal hooks and riffs aplenty.
Vallenfyre - Fear Those Who Fear Him
A blast of old-school Swedish-style death metal, Fear Those Who Fear Him hits all the right notes; crusty buzzsaw guitars, cavernous gutturals and an atmosphere dripping with evil and malcontent. Songs often shift between various tempos, from blasts to funerary dirges with malice aplenty. Cuts such as ‘An Apathetic Grave’ and ‘Amongst the Filth’ could be B-sides from any classic Swedeath record and the album bludgeons merrily along its runtime without growing stale.