It’s been a pretty solid year, as far as heavy music is concerned. Some of my favorite artists surpassed even the highest of my expectations, such as Full of Hell, Primitive Man and Blood Sun Circle, while I feel lucky to have been introduced to a few stellar new acts. Bands like Chepang and Sunlight’s Bane completely blew me away with their debut full-length releases, which are both refreshingly unique and utterly intense. This year was also an incredible one for death metal, with a slew of legendary bands offering up impeccable releases, and in some cases, their best work in years. Without further delay, here are my top 20 picks for the best of 2017.
20. Incantation – Profane Nexus (Relapse)
19. Cognizant – Cognizant (No Why Records)
18. Close the Hatch – VI (Red Moth Records)
17. Anthesis – The Age of Self (Ancient Temple Recordings)
16. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore)
15. Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With (Relapse)
14. Unsane – Sterilize (Southern Lord)
13. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained (Silver Lining Music)
12. Origin – Unparalleled Universe (Nuclear Blast)
11. Converge – The Dusk in Us (Epitaph)
10. Archspire – Relentless Mutation (Season of Mist)
Vancouver, BC’s Archspire deliver complex tech-death at its finest with their third full-length. The band head into more experimental territory with this record, which features unorthodox layers of progressive melodies and chaotic jazz-infused guitar noodling. Ambient melodies also complement the record’s dystopian sci-fi themes.
9. Godflesh – Post Self (Avalanche)
Legendary industrial metal act Godflesh snuck up on us with their unexpected, yet incredible, followup to 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire. The new album changes things up by showcasing their more delicate side and highlighting their late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk influences, while still maintaining their dark atmospherics and distinct colossal heaviness.
8. Immolation – Atonement (Nuclear Blast)
For their tenth album, New York death metal pioneers Immolation unleash yet another epic addition to their crushing, flawless catalogue. Atonement reintroduces the band’s original logo and captures all of the pummelling aggression that made 1991’s Dawn of Possession a genre classic, while also embracing a more ominous vibe than some of their more recent material.
7. Sunlight’s Bane – The Blackest Volume: Like All the Earth Was Buried (Innerstrength)
The debut full-length from Michigan band Sunlight’s Bane features 11 tracks of unbelievable misery. The band take the overt darkness of extreme metal to new, overwhelming levels with this album, as it emphasizes the vicious and sinister aspects of black metal – with its harsh and oppressive tones – while incorporating elements of death metal, hardcore and crust punk into their discordant grindcore delivery.
6. Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon (Profound Lore)
Long Island, NY sci-fi tech-death metallers Artificial Brain followup their 2014 debut full-length, Labyrinth Constellation, with a natural progression. Infrared Horizon builds on the sound and themes of its predecessor with a thoughtful cosmic concept, as well as fierce blast beats, mind-blowing guitar work, intricate structures and dark atmospheric tones.
5. Chepang – Dadhelo – A Tale of Wildfire (Nerve Altar)
“Immigrindcore” band Chepang (based in NYC, but originally from Kathmandu, Nepal) have so much to offer. Along with politically-charged themes, the ferocious band take things to a new level of raw and visceral intensity with two drummers. Dadhelo – A Tale of Wildfire is a relentless assault of grind, powerviolence, crust and punk that is truly unique.
4. Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi (Nuclear Blast)
Axis Mundi is the Decrepit Birth fans have been waiting seven incredibly long years for and it was entirely worth the wait. The Santa Cruz, CA tech-death stalwarts followup to 2010’s Polarity with all of the fast, aggressive technical brutality that distinguish the band, while also incorporating their trademark progressive structures and elaborate melodies.
3. Blood Sun Circle – Distorted Forms (Drops of Us)
Syracuse, NY’s Blood Sun Circle (ex-Engineer) are simply too good. I can’t listen to their sophomore album, Distorted Forms, without being pulled in by its sheer heaviness or captivated by its haunting melodies. The release is noise rock at its most intense, featuring dense and muddy rhythms, grungy tones and hypnotizing Swans-meets-Godflesh vocals.
2. Primitive Man – Caustic (Relapse)
If you thought Denver, CO blackened doom/noise trio Primitive Man couldn’t possibly get more despondent or misanthropic, think again. The aptly-titled Caustic kicks their distinct, nihilistic heaviness up several notches, with 12 tracks in over 75 minutes of suffocatingly intense, noisy aggression. It’s thoroughly disturbing and terrifying, featuring their harshest, most corrosive material to date.
1. Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy (Profound Lore)
Trumpeting Ecstasy surpasses expectations on all levels. The new album from Maryland/Pennsylvania’s Full of Hell contains 11 tracks that feature the band’s distinctly diverse sound, while they’ve also evolved more into extreme metal realms, showcasing their progression since 2013’s Rudiments. While still incorporating various influences (grind, powerviolence, death, black metal, etc.) and maintaining their dark intensity, Trumpeting Ecstasy, is a focused release that sees the band maturing into the thoughtful and confident songwriters that they are.
Phobia – Lifeless God (Willowtip)
Suffocation – …Of the Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)
Exhumed – Death Revenge (Relapse)
Dialysis – Pretty Men (Hex Records)
The White Swan – The White (Independent)
Kenoma – The Tides Will Prevail (Translation Loss)
Fotocrime – Always Hell (Independent)
Cancelled – Tenebrific (Independent)
Pale Mare – Pale Mare (Medusa Crush Recordings)
Ecliptic Vision – Omphalos of the Void (Independent)