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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2017 – Top demos & EPs

The order is alphabetic.

Blooming Carrions – Sparkling Rotten Dreams (Demo)

Finnish death metal from beyond the grave, thick and sepulchral, with almost subsonic growling vocals and a hazy atmosphere. The subterranean guitar sound is an absolute win. Grotesque, pulsating music for Lovecraftian rituals, with a very matching cover art.

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Chevalier – A Call to Arms (EP)

Epic speed metal holocaust steeped in the ‘80s. The guitars are just unable to stop their quicksilvery cascades, the choruses are akin to frenetic marches, and some Mercyful Fate occult vibes cross wands with pure Maiden galloping. One of the best classic metal releases of the year.

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Cult Of Fire – Untitled (EP)

Apparently these Czechs are not in a hurry of releasing another full-length – they seem to have found their momentum in short EP releases. “Untitled” is their third one in 4 years and it continues an amazing streak of quality. Tightly packed black metal with beautiful leads and atmosphere that would not seem amiss in a mid ‘90s Norwegian album. Ten minutes of pure black satisfaction. Download for free from the band’s site here.

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Daeva – Pulsing Dark Absorptions (EP)

For all those craving Aura Noir-ish black/thrash with a hint of debut-era Impaled Nazarene. The exceptional frontman follows up the Masters’ commands (even down to emphatic rasping and incessant repeating of syllables), the drumming is pure tight chaos, and the guitars snake through with coiled poison. The envy of losers they piss on.

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Expulsion – Nightmare Future (EP)

All-star project done right. This gathering of death metal/grind exemplars manage to showcase in seven tracks spanning something less than 14 minutes how Repulsion-style extreme metal is done right. Special attention to the leads and the maniacal song structures.

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False – Hunger (EP)

2015’s “Untitled” debut was a stellar release of dark and cryptic US black metal. Two years later False return with a short (8 minutes long) EP of stormy BM on the same wavelength. Early Dimmu Borgir with a higher density comes into mind, as well as a more serpentine version of debut-era Borknagar.

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Gnipahålan – I Blodets Kamp (EP)

Ancient Records could not be absent from this list. Gnipahålan’s EP is (unsurprisingly) a homage to the snow-covered mystical forests of the ‘90s. 12 minutes of nostalgic, atmospheric black metal excellently executed. In here lies and burns bright the core of what drew me to black metal many years ago – nature worship, mythology and the not-human.

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Katakomb – Chained To A Wolf (Demo)

That was probably the biggest surprise of this list. Weird, drape-covered black metal from Sweden, with an almost collage articulation logic, combining noise and atmospheric passages, as well as traditional riffs and folk moments. The highly intriguing growling vocals are oscillating beneath the surface, while the guitars build up ritual madness. The cover art (a painting by the Belgian symbolist Auguste Levêque) is amazing and fits nicely with the tape concept of the lay-out. My personal list favourite.

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Skaphe – Untitled (EP)

The follow up to the excellent “Skáphe²” is a 22-minute EP which keeps treading on the desolate path opened by its predecessor. More cavernous wanderings from the American-come-Iceland group, which seems to be one of the few dissonant artists worth following nowadays. The cover-art is just the crown on top of this very delicious release.

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Ungesehen – Unaussprechliches Entsetzen (Demo)

Instrumental records is not something usually associated with black metal. Yet these Germans’ first demo is a 45-minute vocal-less exploration of atmosphere. A rather courageous decision, which ends up emphasizing the natural aspect of the hauntingly beautiful soundscapes. Silent wanderings in cold inexpressible horror.

Nefarious Spirit – Nefarious Spirit demo (Underground Soundscapes, 2016)

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Can a band’s country (or a wider geographic area) of origin be surmised by its sound? During the early days of the second wave black metal I do think that this was a case – though not a simple one, and definitely not without exceptions. There was a characteristic Greek black metal sound (which if expanded a bit could be characterized as Mediterranean), and a Scandinavian one (mostly Norwegian and Swedish to be honest), as well as some smaller and not so easily defined other scenes’ sonic flavours. By the end of ’90s, however, the diffusion between the scenes was on a level that enabled bands from one country to sound like originating in another; the only thing left was useful (if a bit hazy) encyclopedic categories, like “the ’90s Norwegian sound.” Still, just before listening to a new band, I try by looking to their place of origin, to take a guess as to its style, or vice versa.

Onwards to the Nefarious Spirit demo, clocking just under 15 minutes, which was released by the Greek label Underground Soundscapes. This label is focused on distributing releases coming from the other side of the Atlantic, with a very strong emphasis on US (which stands for USA here, not Underground Soundscapes, just to be clear) bands. The same is true for the bands that it has released, almost all of which come from the US. Another thing that lured me towards America was the band’s name, since aesthetically Nefarious Spirit is something that could belong to the host of black metal groups that seethe deeply in the US underground soil – and a great name it is. Finally, the demo’s sound, though not easily geographically located, could come either from the vast US expanse, or some Scandinavian village that was isolated by the world since Aeternus “..And So The Night Became” was released.

Well, my surprise was not small when I saw that Nefarious Spirit were Greek. This is definitely not your typical Greek sound of old, but it’s also far from the occult black metal that seems to have gained much ground here during the past decade. Nefarious Spirit play instead a serpentine, cavernous (abyssal may be a better word) black metal, with growling, commanding vocals, and a deep and thick production, which easily combines underground spirit with listenability. The demo’s soundscape is like a seething subterranean sea, boiling with archaic riffs – which when floating above the surface, like in the middle of the opening track (“Thrones”) they graze this watery surface with impressive eloquence. Things are not complex here: well-played furious black metal, with a stubborn cantor during the blast-beat moments, which easily motivates you towards mania. When it decides to drop the speed a few notches, a nostalgic majesty comes into the front, and that is when the (old) Aeternus name clicks into place – the weight of eons and elder battles is evoked.

Coming out of nowhere, Nefarious Spirit were almost an apocalypse – their place of origin playing its part. This is high-caliber black metal, a demo that speaks tones of the band’s devotion to the black metal past. Their next release will be crucial, but I have pretty high hopes for this act.