2017 – Top 25 albums

Places 11-25 are ordered alphabetically. Skip below for the top 10. Top EPs & Demos here.


Places 11-25 (Alphabetically ordered)

Arckanum – Den Förstfödde

Shamaatae’s swansong is a strange beast with quite unconventional song structures – several seem like weird elongated intros or snapshots from a paranoid film. Yet, that’s the magic of this album – it offers something different, yet remaining throughout an Arckanum album. An excellent farewell.

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Attic – Sanctimonious

It sounds like Kind Diamond, vocally, musically and lyrically. To be exact it sounds like good King Diamond – and the few blasting parts they incorporate work just fine. Anything that sounds like good King Diamond is bound to end up in my list.

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Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay

I grew up with Cradle Of Filth, I loved Cradle up to Midian, and with Cryptoriana they pulled me back in their wagon. Yes it’s a safe album steeped in nostalgia for the first four albums, but that is what I ask from 2017 Dani. The fact that it contains one of the best songs of their career (The Night At Catafalque Manor) is just the icing on the cake. [Full review in Greek here]

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De Magia Veterum – Naked Swords Into The Wombs Of The Enemy

Maurice is one of the most hyper-productive members of the scene, and De Magia Veterum is his best project for 2017. In Naked Swords lie 30 minutes of hyper-tense black metal with a mesmerizing and completely personal guitar sound. The atmosphere of extreme damnation.

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Divine Element – Thaurachs Of Borsu

Contemporary epic death metal is a term that automatically repels me. Divine Element somehow manage to become the exception to this, with their spontaneous feeling that combines technical and highly interesting guitars with a bombastic element. The album even winks to Basil Poledouris, what is not to love? [Full review in Greek here]

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Fleurety – The White Death

18 years after Min Tid Skal Komme Fleurety returned with a bizarre, seemingly disjointed album – yet somehow the result is very very good. A partial return to the black metal sound of yore, a song-writing skill that hasn’t been blunted by time, this is almost educational, in a dynamic way. [Full review in Greek here]

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Horisont – About Time

Amazing hard rock, a tour-de-force of the ‘70s with a slightly radio friendly attitude and a huge ability of writing timeless hymns like “Electrical” and the self-titled. This is the stuff that used to fill arena stadiums. The bastard child of Scorpions, Uriah Heep, Rainbow, and a host of others.

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Jordablod – Upon my Cremation Pyre

Somehow this reminded me of old Enslaved jamming with Hawkwind. It definitely has a strong aura of improvisation that brings Vikinglir into mind. A quite exotic nordic listen that flows almost seamlessly – the overall duration could be a bit shortened, but that’s why future discography exists.

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Krallice – Go Be Forgotten

I am not a big fan of Krallice. Still, their second 2017 album just clicked. Maybe due to the B&W cover, maybe due to the non-abstract title, mainly due to the absence of sophistication. This is Krallice’s best work, a tight black metal album which does not scoff at its genre – and it shiones because of it.

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Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland

Pagan rituals in Slovakian countryside, filtered through an ‘80s proto extreme metal lens. Malokarpatan improved hugely since the debut, and here they present us with speed metal/first wave of black metal anthems. All this under an amazing cover art. [Full review in Greek here]

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One Master – Lycanthropic Burrowing

Extreme, oh so extreme black metal, flirting with noise structures, dominated by a mania that is lycanthropic indeed. Black metal at its most ferocious which thankfully never forgets the riffs in favour of abstract destruction. Music to howl to the moon.

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Profundum – Come, Holy Death

This is how storming through cloudways and angel flesh sounds like – you can’t get smoother than that. This is the distillation of atmospheric black metal and celestial wings, a canvas on which to float eternally. The compositions are not the main focus (though they are pretty good) here; it is the sound that steals the lightning.

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Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep

Another band that returned after many many years with an album worthy of their past. I stopped listening to Satyricon after Volcano, and this is their first album since then that I listened to more than once – many times to be precise. Finally they got the song-writing right and they managed to successfully mix present with past.

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Wrathblade – God of the Deep Unleashed

Rough-around-the-edges, barbaric epic metal. Where Lunar Shadow are the Nobles in this list, Wrathblade are the Savages. Galloping riffs (there’s been done some great work at the guitar department), unpolished vocals which call to battle, Brocas Helm and Slough Feg by their side.

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Yellow Eyes – Immersion Trench Reverie

I have a soft spot for these New Yorkers though their previous album was something of a letdown. Thankfully, Yellow Eyes are back with a blizzard of intelligent traditional black metal with a heart of dark folk. Alpine New York, that’s how you sound. [Full review in Greek here]



The Top 10

10. Lunar Shadow – Far From Light

This is the epic metal of the year. Lyricism, history, amazing-amazing guitars which bring to mind epic power metal’s golden era. This is overflowing with epic and romantic emotion, and brings back to mind my early Blind Guardian listens back in the ‘90s, along with AD&D modules reading. [Full review in Greek here]


9. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

This is the sonicalization of neuroses into voices both ethereal and full of terror, into waves of metallic noise; a bleak, black landscape in which you can immerse yourself, and let it embrace you like an uterus. This is the sound of impending doom. [Full review in Greek here]


8. Evilfeast – Elegies of the Stellar Wind

There was a time that black metal was only snow, night, forests and stars, as far as I was concerned. This is Evilfeast’s black metal, and I couldn’t be happier listening to it. This is atmospheric black metal as it should be, returning me to this younger state of spirit.


7. Resurgency – No Worlds… nor Gods Beyond

The brutal death metal album of the year as far as I am concerned. Coming out of nowhere, this riff-fest of an album worships Morbid Angel and Deicide, managing to stir completely clear of any filler compositions.


6. Urarv – Aurum

Aldrahn returns once more with a new project, this one dressed in spectacular vestments, treading many music fields, from black metal to avant-garde. His voice, as voluptuous as always, here sings, moans, growls, whistles, and reconfirms that Aldrahnian Norwegian is a pure addiction of a language.


5. Locust Leaves – A Subtler Kind Of Light

A Subtler Kind Of Light is a cryptic creation deeply rooted and devoted to heavy metal, yet an enemy of metal’s rigidity. Here lies everything from black/thrash to Watchtower-like prog. The album reeks of angles and hidden nooks, which turn it into a plateau whose complete exploration requires devotion. [Full review in Greek here]


4. Necromante – The Magickal Presence of Occult Forces

These Brazilians drank deep from the Sarcofago and Necromantia wellsprings, creating an album that writhes with ritualistic volcanic energy. Combined with the delicious vocal mis-pronunciation of English, this is a homage to very early black metal. Music to lift your fist in the face of god.


3. Acrimonious – Eleven Dragons

Eleven Dragons rearranges the chips of extreme metal in familiar yet Highly imaginative patterns. It allows an emotional immersion within it, without raising any pretentiousness walls, engulfing and easily freezing the listener’s blood. This is what apex 2017 black metal sounds like. [Full review in Greek here]


2. Black Cilice – Banished from Time

This is spectral lo-fi music, the closer thing to spirit whispers and haunted passages. This is the furthest one can get from humanity. It feels like wandering in medieval dungeons and upon the paths of the deceased, outside time. Les Legions Noires would be proud.


1. Wolves In The Throne Room – Thrice Woven

Thrice Woven made me experience again this magickal feeling that overwhelmed me when in days long past I listened to albums such as Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse: it bade me strap on my headphones and go out in the dark autumn night to gaze at the firmament. Black metal at its most majestic. [Full review in Greek here]

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2015 – Top 20 Albums

indstries
For albums 21-40 see here.
For 10 best non-full-length releases see here.

20. Y – De Occulta Philosophia

Somewhere between noise and harsh black metal with an all-consuming occult feeling, one and a half hour of wanderings in dungeon corridors. Including some of the most diverse and interesting vocals that one can hear today. The intelligence behind This Is Past delivers an onslaught of mysticism. Bonus Track: this radio show, which is one of the most imposing and atmospheric things that I have heard.

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19. Arcturus – Arcturian

I had long waited for this album, namely a worthy successor to “The Sham Mirrors” (“Sideshow Symphonies” didn’t quite convince me). Sverd&co return to the glories of days past, creating an album that sounds refreshing, showcasing a band tightly bonded. ICS Vortex’s performance is magnificent, reminiscent of Garm’s glory days. One of the most flowing and catchy albums of this year. Full review here.

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18. Batushka – Litourgyia

An album that came out of nowhere at the year’s end, exhibiting an orthodox painting in its cover, teasing us with the members’ supposed identities, and hyping very quickly. The thing is, that “Litourgyia” lives up to most of the hype; it sports amazing monastic/psalm-like vocals, is permeated with a deeply devout atmosphere, and riff-wise the things are getting more interesting with each successive listening session.

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17. Death Karma – The History Of Death & Burial Rituals part I

The magic of Cult Of Fire resides within this project of 2 of the Czech masters. Highly varied black metal, which roams through six countries, gazing upon the (pre-)burial rituals of each with a different sonic lens, always within the genre territory. An album that sees face to face with Cult Of Fire’s latest opus, and proves (along with this year’s Malokarpatan album) that Central/Eastern Europe is a matrix of ingenious extreme metal. Full review here.

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16. Awe – Providentia

One of the most non-conformist albums of 2015, “Providentia” moves beyond the boundaries of orthodox black metal per se, implementing a bucketload of guitar ideas, which make the careful listener return again and again in this multi-layered masterpiece. It certainly takes a lot of courage to immerse oneself in the complexity of the album, but the result is certainly rewarding. Full review here.

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15. Black Cilice – Mysteries

This Portuguese black metal band has been very active for the last 6 years, but it was only with this year’s “Mysteries” that they got in my radar. Raw (more production- than compositionally- wise) black metal with an almost ritualistic core, that nevertheless includes some of the most fulfilling of this year’s riffs. A work of art to be listened to in dark isolation, an ode to the spirit of true black metal.

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14. Mûspellzheimr – Hyldest Til Trolddommens Flamme

If you are asking for the best traditional (in the strict ’90s sense) black metal album of 2015 search no more. The Danish have crafted an album that gazes steadily upon the frosty darkness of the Scandinavian scene of days past, and has the glamour of such grand artists as Kampfar, Setherial, and first-album Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar. Most people seem to have fallen for Slaegt this year, but for me there is no doubt about the best Danish black metal act.

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13. False – Untitled

Gilead Media has nailed two brilliant albums this year, the first being False’s debut, “Untitled”. Black metal steeped in both American and European tradition, drawing just a bit from the cascadian scene, creating a study in negativity and the archaic. Graced with brilliant compositions and more than satisfactory vocals from Rachel, “Untitled” is an album to return to, again and again.

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12. Hæthen – Shaped by Aeolian Winds

Firstly, this album has the best cover art of 2015 by far. Secondly, Hæthens debut album is an atmospheric ode to nature and the past, filtered through the prism of early Enslaved and Emperor, as well as Wolves In The Throne Room. Deeply pagan throughout, with a hint of eeriness production-wise, “Shaped by Aeolian Winds” is the definite winter album of the list. Full review here.

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11. Pale Chalice – Negate the Infinite & Miraculous

The second album of Gilead Media in the list, Pale Chalice’s debut is not so far from False’s sound, though it is more deeply rooted in the European scene. Highly agile guitars, which do not shy from melodic outbreaks, and some of the most suggestive song titles of 2015, like Fragile Bones Cradling Tallow ”. What shines above all however is its passionate, occult atmosphere; a nocturnal album that pleads for solitary listenings. Full review here.

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10. Enforcer – From Beyond

It’s almost impossible to skip an Enforcer release on a year list. With their fourth album the Swedes keep delivering excellent heavy metal, whose caliber is on par with the grand ’80s monsters. A bit more introspective than their previous works (take for instance the magnificent “Below The Slumber”), it nevertheless has all the trademarks of this amazing band that we are privileged to experience in out time.

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9. Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden

Just listen to “Into The Holy Of Holies”. “Out Of The Garden” is epic doom metal done right, and simultaneously managing not sound like another Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus clone. Riffs here are plain majesty. It is quite a rare thing the existence of a doom album in my end year top list, yet Crypt Sermon was nailed there since this album came out.

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8. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu

Noxious, maelstromic black metal, which draws upon the darkest side of the orthodox genre (Svartidaudi, Numinous), and wanders through subterranean passages with majestic skill. Top-notch riffing, suffocating atmosphere, and vocals full of command; the necrotic spirit of black metal breathes mightily in here. Another masterpiece from Iceland, following on the tradition of Wormlust, Sinmara and Svartidaudi.

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7. Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega

Well, a new Dødheimsgard after 8 years is definitely cause for celebration, especially since it is so much better than its predecessor, fighting toe to toe with “666 International” (as far as I am concerned) in quality terms. We had missed Vicotnik’s ingenious riffs, doubly so their being accompanied by Aldrahn’s voice. The storm of ideas that coexist in this one is threatening to the listener’s sanity (and a bit to the album’s cohesion to be honest). Full review here.

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6. Terminus – The Reaper’s Spiral

Good old epic heavy metal. Whoever had heard the “Into Exile” demo (whose four tracks are part of the album) was on the lookout, with the uttermost attention for this debut. Not much to say here, Terminus are the last link on a long chain that contains bands such as Lord Weird Slough Feg, Isen Torr, Borrowed Time, etc. Pure epicness deserves pure praise.

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5. Panphage – Storm

I recently reviewed this album, and I stand by my opinion, that if this album was released somewhere in the late ’90s it would be considered a classic. Black metal with a folk soul, with guitar parts that are begging to be listened to again and again. This year’s shining jewel and example of the Swedish underground scene’s blazing quality. Full review here.

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4. Volahn/Arizmenda/Kallathon/Shataan – Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons

It is indeed rare the year in which a Crepusculo Negro release is not part of my list. There was not a full album from any of its bands in 2015, but this 4-way split more than made up for it. A tour of the desert, the jungles, and the dungeons (in Arizmenda’s case) of Central America, this is like a fist of devotion raised towards the indigenous gods of the continent. Full review here.

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3. Nocternity – Harps of the Ancient Temples

Taking a different approach, more hypnotic and subdued (not in a bad way), without moments of elation, “Harps of the Ancient Temples” showcases a band that has matured in an elegant way. Mesmerizing mid-tempo black metal of refreshing clarity and originality. If one searches for influences, he may well stumble into the middle tracks of “Hvis Lysset Tar Oss” and the gloomiest parts of “Filosofem”, as well as the more shadowy parts of “Thorns”, all filtered through Khal Drogo’s personal mark. Minimalistic in many ways, Nocternity’s new opus is an album that breezes, not blasts, its path through the listener without much effort, without climaxes, and ends up winning you all the way.

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2. Trial – Vessel

Can’t really say much about this masterpiece. Maybe the best example, in recent years, of ’80s heavy metal revival, focusing on US power, classic British metal, and Mercyful Fate guitars, this is just amazing. Each of these songs is an artifact to be treasured and exhibited next to the Classics.

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1. Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War

This album is the “Hammerheart” of our times, simple as that. Full review here.