Guys, I’m overwhelmed – there just weren’t enough days in 2017 to listen to all the incredible music released this year! I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface with this list. There are so many great records that I have to go back and spend more time with – many of which you can find on Ingrid and Laetitia’s lists – and there were others I didn’t even get around to. I’m going to need several months of 2018 just to catch up on releases from 2017! Anyway, I could’ve gone on for pages about all the brilliant albums that came out this year, but I tried to stick to the releases from this year that I’m personally most passionate about. I love reading other people’s year-end lists, because I almost always discover something mind-blowing that simply didn’t cross my path that year, so I hope maybe I can return the favor for a fellow metalhead or two this time around. Enjoy, and see you in 2018!
10. Ferndal – Self-Titled
This album really grabbed me when it was released back in April – the combination of classical cello, black metal, and wonderfully poetic German lyrics is something special. While I think the clean vocals still need some work, this band has incredible potential, and their self-titled debut is definitely worth several spins.
9. Venenum – Trance of Death
I’m not usually a big death metal listener, but there are a handful of German occult death metal bands that always draw me in: Necros Christos, Drowned, and now, in a similar vein, Venenum. “Trance of Death” pummels you the way you’d expect a death metal album to, but it also taps into some deep, dark melodic vein that appeals to the atmospheric black metal lover in me. It’s a unique piece of work with a black and witchy vibe.
8. TIE: Fen – Winter & Fellwarden – Oathbearer
I’ve been a big Fen fan for years now; they were one of my first introductions to atmospheric/post-black metal, and I’ve always loved their uniquely English sound. Not only did Fen release their masterful fifth full-length album, “Winter,” this year, but two of the band’s members embarked on a side project, Fellwarden, that also unleashed its debut album, “Oathbearer,” in 2017. I knew that both of these albums would make it onto my year-end list, but I just couldn’t put one above the other! Fen’s “Winter” further amplifies the progressive edge that the band’s most recent efforts have exhibited, making the album a simultaneously more challenging and more rewarding listen. Fellwarden, on the other hand, is old-school atmospheric black metal, but you can absolutely hear that members of Fen are behind it. “Oathbearer” has the same bleak, swelling power as early Fen works like “Epoch” or “The Malediction Fields,” but with a slightly different vibe – I hesitate to use the word “epic,” but I think it might be apt in this case. Both albums would make the perfect companion on a moorland hike.
7. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
It has taken me an embarrassing number of years to jump on board the WITTR bandwagon, but “Thrice Woven” is the album that finally hooked me. The band has struck a lovely balance between black metal, atmospheric soundscapes, and almost ritualistic chant on this release. It has an unmistakable and irresistible power.
6. Heretoir – The Circle
Heretoir’s follow-up to their celebrated self-titled debut was at least five years in the making, but it was worth the wait. “The Circle” sees the band taking a new direction, relying more heavily on clean vocals and English lyrics this time around. Their sound is fuller, sweeter, more mature – and some of the bleakness on older tracks like “Graue Bauten” or “Weltenschmerz” seems to have given way to a hopeful vibe on this new release. It’s radiant and beautiful.
5. Auðn – Farvegir Fyrndar
I was lucky enough to review this album back in November, so if you want to see why it belongs on this list, click here!
4. Sun of the Sleepless – To The Elements
Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, alias Markus Stock, is something of a musical Renaissance man. The Empyrium mastermind and guitarist of The Vision Bleak put his black metal project, Sun of the Sleepless, on ice for 17 years while he focused on other things. 2017 marked the band’s return, with a more polished and atmospheric sound. If, like me, you occasionally enjoy your black metal with a side of gothic romanticism and natural mysticism, “To The Elements” will quickly earn a special place in your heart.
3. Wode – Servants of the Countercosmos
Wode’s self-titled debut landed on a lot of year-end lists in 2016, and the Manchester-based black metal outfit’s sophomore follow-up, “Servants of the Countercosmos,” deserves a top spot this year for the track “Temple Interment” alone. On the whole, the songs on this album are shorter and more intense than their predecessors, giving Wode’s pulse-pounding black metal a rawer, grimier edge. It’s occult as all get-out and a perfect soundtrack to a world gone mad.
2. The Stone – Teatar Apsurda
With a release date of December 9th, the eighth (!) full-length album from Serbian black metal pioneers The Stone just barely made the cutoff for 2017 – but boy, it ROARED in under the line. If I had done a year-end list in 2014, the band’s previous release, “Nekroza,” certainly would’ve been near the top, but “Teatar Apsurda” blows it out of the water from the very first notes of “Gavranovo.” This album somehow manages to be simultaneously more melancholic and more ferocious than its predecessor. Every single track is memorable, but “Nuklearan” will melt your face off. The Stone might invite comparisons to Poland’s Mgła, but they’ve been in the game considerably longer; they marked their 20th anniversary last year. These tragically underrated musicians are masters of their craft; this album is not to be missed.
1. Yellow Eyes – Immersion Trench Reverie
As so often the case with music near and dear to my heart, I discovered this album by pure serendipity. Yellow Eyes were going to be opening for a German band I’d wanted to see for a while, so I popped onto their Bandcamp page to check them out. Their fourth full-length album, “Immersion Trench Reverie,” had just been released that day; I went into it with no expectations whatsoever. It immediately transported me to pine-forested mountain slopes, morning fog still hanging in the treetops, damp grass and snowmelt squelching underfoot – very specific imagery, I know, but that’s *exactly* what I see in my mind’s eye when I hear this music. How on earth, I asked myself, could a couple of Brooklynite brothers create something so natural, so rustic, something that sounds like it fell straight off a Norwegian fjord or a Siberian mountaintop? They went out into the world to find these sounds, condensed them into black metal, and sent them back out into the aether. This music has followed me everywhere since October; it has the power to pull you away from whatever you’re doing, no matter where you are, and carry you off to a place with crisp air and a sense of freedom and adventure. I’ve never heard anything quite like it.
Schammasch – The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite (EP)
Like last year, I feel compelled to mention Schammasch – but also like last year, I can’t fit the band’s release anywhere in my “normal” list, because these guys are just on another plane. Their music is intensely esoteric and spiritual. The EP is brilliant, but go see them live if you want to get the full experience.