The Black Planet

2017: The Staff’s Choices – João Correia

2017: The Staff’s Choices – João Correia

With the year of 2017 coming to an end, it is time to choose the best releases of the year. Like in previous years, we will be publishing our staff’s choices daily as well as a final Top 20 for the zine of the best albums that were released in 2017.

Here are the choices of João Correia.

1 – Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis

After a decade of silence and absence from a scene lately saturated with bands playing “technical space metal” or what have, Akercocke returned with “Renaissance in Extremis”, a feast of musical prowess, resolve, and geniality all combined that is bestowed upon a very limited number of bands. The Brits managed to create an album that only they could deliver, so exquisite that it is. Death metal, thrash metal, black metal, progressive metal, and hints of indie rock (give “Inner Sanctum” a try) join forces to help redefine the concept of extreme metal. One of a kind.

2 – Cloak – To Venomous Depths

“Nihil novi sub sole”, or is there? Cloak released one of 2017’s most exciting records: black metal, rock n’ roll, NWOBHM, prog and death metal guided by the Dissection compass always takes the cake. “To Venomous Depths” is a soulful, inspired album from start to finish, riddled with gems like “Timeless Black”, “Beyond the Veil” or “In The Darkness, The Path”, which features 2017’s most addictive riff, hands down. The album lacks insolence, delusions of grandeur and arrogance –simplicity, unpretentiousness, and a good understanding of what extreme metal is about makes “To Venomous Depths” a doozy of an album.

3 – Mastodon – Emperor of Sands

There’s nothing like disaster and misery to beget a noteworthy album and that’s exactly what Mastodon achieved in 2017 with “Emperor of Sands”. The record is riddled with sorrow and disgust, but there’s also hope and empathy, weren’t it a record that talks about the struggle of losing family members to cancer. The opener “Show Yourself” is a warning cry that seems to say, “watch it buddy, you only have one life, so don’t toy with it”. Love it or hate it, but don’t ignore it. “Emperor of Sands” is nothing less than modern metal at its best.

4 – Archspire – Relentless Mutation

Ask any serious musician to write down a list of hard things to do and one of them will certainly be “creating an über-technical record and make it sound organic”. In fewer words, a record like “Relentless Mutation”. Oliver Aleron’s vocals are one of the strongest watermarks of the album, furious, relentless and articulate. If that wasn’t enough, tracks like “Human Murmuration” are mathematical algorithms that predict what metal will be in the future. Make no mistake: “Relentless Mutation” is one of the reasons why death metal was the strongest metal subgenre in 2017.

5 – Bestial Invasion – Contra Omnes

While trendies named a certain record album of the year, Bestial Invasion concocted “Contra Omnes”, a mix perfect of Anacrusis, Sanctuary, Atheist, Dark Angel, Death, Coroner, and Forbidden in less than 38 minutes. I know, right? This Ukrainian outfit is appalling: apart from the members’ God-like technical skills, they compose catchy as hell tunes which is what’s difficult about technical/progressive metal. Add Shawn McCoy (CONFESSOR), Rand Burkey (ATHEIST), and John Gallagher (RAVEN) as special guests and you have a winner. Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Camera Obscura”. You’re welcome!

6 – Integrity – Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume

A new Integrity album is always an excuse to sharpen the pencils, and “Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume” is faithful to Integrity’s legacy as one of the most peculiar bands of the past 30 years. Punk, black metal, hardcore, thrash, sludge, and a pinch of blues amount to a relentless and vicious mash-up of uncompromising musical savagery, which has been Dwid Hellion’s specialty over the years. The production’s as smooth as a dull chainsaw, because of course it is. “Blood Sermon” and “Hymn For The Children Of The Black Flame” should make you shit your pants. If they don’t, you’re probably dead.

7 – LOCKUP – Demonization

After “Necropolis Transparent”, few would believe that this international supergroup could come up with something that would top it, but the boys did it again with “Demonization”, a fierce slab of truculent and voracious A-grade grindcore courtesy of the Sharp / Embury / Barker triumvirate. However, it’s Reisenegger’s memorable guitar work on tracks like “Blood and Emptiness” or “Locust” that makes the record come to life and leads the rest of the pack onward to broader horizons. A setlist of 14 lengthy tracks with no fillers seals the deal and makes “Demonization” a lesson in grindcore.

8 – Myrkur – Mareridt

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the hush-hush around Myrkur in the last couple of years. Oblivious to black metal trolls and “trver than thou” commoners, Amalie Bruun had the cojones to put out a hauntingly, beautiful ritualistic and ambient black metal album that not only reminds you of Tangerine Dream and Dead Can Dance (“De Tre Piker”) but that also remits you to the musical landscapes of Norway’s northernmost tundra (“Maneblot”) circa 1990-93. “Mareridt” is a brave manifest of courage and inspiration wrapped in a shiny fuck-all attitude that leaves no one indifferent.

 9 – WOE – Hope Attrition

American black metal has always divided the fans: while some find it to be artificial, others firmly believe that the future belongs to acts like Cobalt and Wolves in The Throne Room. A “new” name to have in mind when referring to USBM is certainly Woe. Even if “Hope Attrition” is a pure and honest black metal record that goes back to the roots, it presents a dissonant modern sound that pleases both the newcomers and more experienced fans looking for something vibrant. Add thrash and sometimes punk to the base like you can hear on “The Din of The Mourning” and what you get is one the finest BM efforts of 2017.

 

10 – Byzantine – The Cicada Tree

There is no doubt that the few precious thrash records of today belong mostly to a handful of progressive bands and (in the name of honesty) Byzantine are one such band that is impossible to ignore. “The Cicada Tree” offers us a bold statement in musicianship and inventiveness that was hard to match (let alone top) in 2017, proving that Metal Blade Records recognizes sheer talent when faced with it. A slick production and themes like the crushing “Trapjaw” or the proggy “Vile Maxim” make “The Cicada Tree” one of 2017’s rarest diamonds. Give it time – it grows like few can aspire to.

11 – The Ruins Of Beverast – Exuvia

The first-half of the year really started to impress with the release of the unparalleled “Exuvia”, Alexander von Meilenwald’s latest extravagance. Delving into doomed and blackened waters, TROB expanded their already broad panorama to new landscapes by adding shamanistic and magic-imbued elements of experimentation to their root sound. The result is unexpected and rewarding: no matter if you’re caught off guard by the initial seconds of “Exuvia” or the ambient waterfall that is “Maere”, TROB are destined to make an impression on those wishing to explore new sounds and that this BM elite band offers with “Exuvia”.

12 – Process Of Guilt – Black Earth

Even if 2017 saw Godflesh release their much-awaited new album, “Black Earth” is undoubtedly the best industrial metal record of the year. The Portuguese outfit rely on simplicity and have a good understanding of what industrial should sound like, which is half of the ingredients. The other half is hitting the nail on the head with a two-ton hammer in the form of pummeling riffs, the harshest voice around and an overall rhythmic section that is an outcry for the days of precious stones like “Streetcleaner” and “Nihil”. Still wandering what’s it all about? “Feral Ground” should give you a clear idea of how good the record is.

13 – The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension

While the best records of 2017 have progress or complexity as a stepping stone, The Ominous Circle think otherwise and prefer to portray an unspeakably heavy and grotesque form of blackened death metal in the form of “Appalling Ascension”. Forget melody and other niceties: “Appalling Ascension” is the musical equivalence of a successful rapist with AIDS – it stalks you, preys on you and forces you to share his burden, except that you accept it and ask for a second round. Tracks like “From Endless Chasms” or “As The Worm Descends” are the adulthood of Portuguese extreme Metal.

14 – Wolves In The Throne Room – Thrice Woven

It’s no wonder that the most cutting-edge black metal comes from the United States these days, “Thrice Woven” being its smoking gun. Delving into nature, mysticism, mythology and the universe, this is probably the new continent’s most “Scandinavian” band in terms of sound, attitude and brilliancy, something we all suspected since the release of “Diadem of 12 Stars”. The Weavers have always accustomed us to unmatched records, but tracks like “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” or “Fires Roar In The Palace Of The Moon” raise the stakes to perfection.

15 – Pallbearer – Heartless

The very least that one can call Pallbearer’s newest album is “ambitious”. “Heartless” is a monumental effort of progressive, modern doom metal that serves us a structured and heartfelt set of 7 tracks that are meant to be digested nice and easily. Holt’s and Campbell’s guitars set the tone for one of the year’s most refreshing and emotional records; the synth arrangements work wonders here, and it easy to see that Pallbearer are dangerously becoming the trendsetters for anything doom after 2000. “Lie of Survival” bears witness that even though the record name is “Heartless”, the end result is heartful.

16 – Analepsy – Atrocities From Beyond

Although 2017 served us with a tremendous roster of elite death metal records, none other than Analepsy’s “Atrocities From Beyond” takes the genre’s “most uncompromising album” prize. Few bands deliver the same insane guitar heaviness and technicality on the same platter. Add to that Santana’s low-tuned, inhuman voice and Correia’s sledgehammering drum work and it’s difficult to imagine a better brutal death metal album released in the last 365 days. Forget Cannibal Corpse, Immolation or Dying Fetus: tunes like “Apocalyptic Premonition” or “Witnesses of Extinction” make “Atrocities From Beyond” the real deal.

17 – Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

Even if the crust / death / grind / doom genre is not living its best days, Vallenfyre beg to differ with “Fear Those Who Fear Him”, a ravenous discharge of old-school musical destruction that manages to lure fans of at least three such different genres. The album pays a worthy homage to the 90’s and if it sometimes sounds like Dismember’s “Like An Everflowing Stream” or Entombed’s “Left Hand Path” mixed with grinding blastbeats from time to time, then you know that shit got real. “An Apathetic Grave” slows the aggression a bit, while “Kill All Your Masters” goes on with the kill. Verified neck breaker.

18 – Enslaved – E

The now masters of extreme progressive metal have exceeded themselves, this time around with “E”, which seems to be six albums encapsulated into a single one. There are flutes here and there, saxophones, abounding synths and the regular metal instruments, all tightly packed as if they were one and the same. Kjellson’s vocals fool no one and the production is top notch, as expected. “E” is a challenging album as it requires careful listening to grasp the whole shebang that Enslaved somehow came up with. “Axis of The Worlds” is a clear favorite and “E” will be album of the year for many.

19 – The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers

The Black Dahlia Murder upped the ante in the fall of 2017 with “Nihgtbringers”, a relentless and merciless old-school melodic death metal album that drinks from the poisoned well of bands like At The Gates. In fact, this is TBDM’s darkest and most violent album to date, mostly thanks to Strnad’s vocal range and Cassidy’s demolishing drum work. However, Lavelle’s guitar shredding brings TBDM back to the present due to the formidable technical (but always catchy) solos. Give a listen to “Matriarch” or “Nightbringers” and hope to get out alive.

20 – Igorrr – Savage Sinusoide

Unsurprisingly, Igorrr got signed and managed to release 2017’s most ubiquitous album. “Savage Sinusoid” is the definitive proof that “rules” were never part of the French rocococoresters to begin with. Mix baroque music, drum and bass, carnival music (!), Balkans music, noise, black metal, breakcore, death metal, and whatever you might imagine – it will probably be represented somewhere in the album. Teloch from Mayhem gives a most welcome hand on “Viande”, while Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan does a hell of a vocal job on “Cheval”. Go listen to “Savage Sinusoid” and fall in love with it.

 

 

 

 

 

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