My Top Ten Albums of 2017

General

Hello! I hope you all had a great start into the year. In my first post of the new year, I’d like to show you my list of favorite albums of 2017. These albums all had a strong impact on me, impressed me in a special way or were just outstandingly entertaining. I don’t claim that these are indeed the “best” albums of the year, objectively, but these are the ones that I like the most. So, without further ado, here are my top ten favorite albums of 2017:


10. A Hill To Die Upon – Via Artis Via Mortis

A1aPGwg86YL._SL1500_.jpgThis album is, in my humble opinion, a Blackened Death Metal masterpiece. The album is a varied and interesting work that takes a few unexpected turns – both musically and lyrically – but remains coherent in atmosphere and tonality. An atmospheric and dark album with fantastic lyrics and interesting songwriting.

 

 

9. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

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The dark Neo-Folk sound which has become Chelsea Wolfe’s trademark over the years is still present on her newest album, but this time it has been dragged through mud and sludge and thrown into an abyss from which it slowly crawls out to find its way into your soul. Heavy, sometimes almost droning riffs, drenched in reverb, hard and heavy, powerful drumming, dark electronics, and Chelsea’s impending vocals singing about everything that’s not right with this world and her own personal demons fuse into intimidating walls of sound that are repeatedly broken down by moments of whispering calmness.
“Hiss Spun” is Wolfe’s most refined work to date, as it is a logical culmination of all the musical elements that characterized her previous works and an outstandingly captivating and varied record in its own right.

8. Fen – Winter

a1318273058_10.jpgFen have perfected their style of atmospheric, Post-Rock influenced Black Metal and provide us with an intriguing concept album that is progressive, musically immaculate, versatile and atmospheric.
The balance between frostbitten and furious Black Metal and contemplative, melancholic calm passages is as close to perfection as an album can probably get.
An absolutely stunning piece of music, full of melody, atmosphere and power.

7. Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

a3365015821_10.jpgAnother masterpiece by one of the most consistently fantastic Metal bands of the decade. On this album, the band further perfected their distinct sound, an intriguing mixture of Melodic Death, Black and, most prominently, Progressive Metal. “Urn” is a streamlined and coherent, yet surprising and inspiring album that everyone should listen to.

 

 

6. Boris – Dear

a3010870023_10.jpgThis album is probably one of, if not the most interesting and diverse and at the same time most coherent Drone albums I’ve ever heard. It’s also one of the heaviest. The intense atmosphere created by the slow and dark riffs and the emotional vocals is crushingly beautiful, cold and eerie at the same time. The album also has some beautiful calm, atmospheric passages that balance out the heaviness of the rest of the album perfectly and add another emotional layer to it. Incredible stuff.

5. Black Kirin – Nanking Massacre

a0550747135_10.jpgBlack Kirin blend various forms of Extreme Metal, Chinese folk music and operatic elements together into a very unique sounding and highly entertaining album. The lyrical topic of the album, the incredibly gruesome and devastating Nanking Massacre of 1937, gives it a very emotional dimension that won’t leave you untouched.

 

4. White Ward – Futility Report

a2142312175_10.jpgAn incredibly fascinating debut album on which the band melts elements of Black Metal, Post-Rock and Jazz together. The result is an impressively powerful and emotional album that is mesmerizing and continuously surprising from start to finish.
One of the best and most creative albums of the year. Go and check it out if you are a fan of experimental music!

 

 

3. Wode – Servants of the Countercosmos

cover[…] From the atmospheric intro to the acoustic guitar outro the album takes you on a highly entertaining and brilliantly written musical journey through everything we love about Black Metal (or extreme Metal in general) […].
Full review: Wode – Servants of the Countercosmos.

 

 

2. Leprous – Malina

Malina.jpg“Malina” shows the band moving away from almost any Extreme Metal elements that they used in the past and moving forward to a more atmospheric, more emotional, “ethereal” sound. What hasn’t changed is the band’s outstanding talent for brilliant songwriting and their love for experimentation. Odd time signatures, weird instrumentation and interesting song structures – it’s all there. But the album doesn’t come off as too technical – thanks to the focused and intelligent songwriting. While the music itself is nothing short of brilliant, Einar Solbergs distinctive crystal clear vocals remain one of my favorite elements of Leprous‘ sound. I don’t know what it is but his vocals are cold and emotional at the same time, they have something very special to them that only very few singers have.
Yes, “Malina” is less “heavy” than Leprous‘ earlier material, but that’s a great thing because it lets the band expand their sound further than ever before.
If you are looking for an album that is progressive, experimental, atmospheric, surprising, technical, emotionally touching and just overall mesmerizing from start to finish, look no further than “Malina”


1. Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre

Der-Weg-Einer-Freiheit-Finisterre.jpgFinisterre. The end of the world. The end of a journey. The end of a life. The beginning of something new? Whereto do you go when everything around you perishes? And what will remain when you are gone?
Der Weg Einer Freiheit ask questions of final importance, they mourn the transitoriness of human existence, they open doors into the darkest chambers of human nature.
On strings of fire, drums of war, they evoke a symphony of darkness and despair. These songs are drenched in pain, passion and rage. They come slowly, like dark waves of sound, until they crush around you with furious force.
“Finisterre” is an album that I have listened to countless times this year. No other album this year had an impact on me quite as this one. And no other album this year felt so … perfect, right from the first listen on. This is not only my favorite album of the year but also one of the best Black Metal albums I’ve ever heard.
The album is full of breathtakingly beautiful melodies and has an incredibly captivating atmosphere. This album is far from being your typical Atmospheric Black Metal album, though. Singer, songwriter and lead guitarist Nikita Kamprad is an absolute beast on guitar and vocals and a master composer whose talent for captivating, coherent, yet immensely interesting compositions shows on this album, more than ever before. Both lyrics and music are incredibly well written and harmonize perfectly together, creating a sense of deep melancholy in the listener.
“Finisterre” is DWEF through and through, but it is also very different from the band’s previous records in the sense that the band added more progressive elements, e.g. clean vocals, cello and almost jazzy acoustic sections to their sound.
“Finisterre” is an album that you will listen to over and over again without it losing any of its initial fascination. In my opinion, Der Weg Einer Freiheit have not only outdone themselves but also crafted nothing short of a Black Metal masterpiece with this album that proves that they stand head and shoulders above most modern Black Metal acts.


Well, that’s it. One final goodbye to 2017. 2018 will have to work hard to get as good as this year. BTW, my posting schedule will stay the same this year as it was last year: non-existent. And with that, thanks for reading, have a great year and STAY METAL!

 

 

 

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Widziadło – Void (2017)

Reviews

Widziadło – Void
September 29th, 2017 (Poland); Opus Elefantum Collective
LP (47 min.)
Dark Ambient, Funeral Doom Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal

Lineup:
T – guitars, drums, production
Zguba – ambiance, production

Track list:
01. Gateway
02. Beyond Earth And Reason
03. Nether Reach
04. Halo
05. Creation
06. Entering The Void


Void is the debut album of the Black Metal duo Widziadło. The label dubs their music “Cosmic Ritual Black Metal”, which is a fitting description, but only touches on some elements of their music. More on that later. The band consists of the musicians Zguba, who debuted in 2016 with an interesting martial industrial album titled „The Last Command”, and T., who would like to stay anonymous. The whole project was born in 2012, when the artists met each other by mere accident on a Chilean beach. They realized that they shared the dream of space travel to experience the cosmic void and this shared dream united them instantly. The idea behind Widziadło was to reach sonic transcendency, a breakaway from well known reality and dimension. Widziadło is the result of the longing for a metaphysical, out-of-body liberty, a transcendence into the cosmic void.

The completion of Void took over half a decade. Through the years, the project continuously changed its sonic identity –  from space ambient to shoegaze, from sophisti-pop to harsh noise. The final result is an almost entirely instrumental album that combines all these elements into a rather unique sonic experience.

The album starts with “Gateway”, a track that begins like your typical shoegazy Atmospheric Black Metal song – a repeated riff and monotonous drums, howling incomprehensible vocals in the background. The folk influences become more obvious as the song goes on and the guitr works gets a bit more varied. It isn’t until the song is halfway over though, that something really interesting happens. The second half of the song was quite surprising to me though, as it introduces ambient elements to the Black Metal sound, reduces the tempo and starts getting more and more “spacey”. It becomes clear what the band is trying to convey with this album – a connection with the endless void of space on an atmospheric level. The guitar work on this track is a bit hindering in my opinion, as it stays rather monotonous and kind of boring throughout the whole track. A stronger focus on the ambient elements would have made this a better introduction to the album, in my opinion, but it is still a solid track in the context of the whole record.

With “Beyond Earth And Reason”, Widziadło are clearly paying hommage to well known Cascadian Black Metal acts like Wolves In The Throne Room or Falls of Rauros, but expand the typical Cascadian sound by synth lead melodies reminiscent of Atmospheric Black Metal bands like Elderwind. It is a very atmospheric and beautiful track, that isn’t crazily original, but a very good Atmospheric Black Metal track that shows that Widziadło definitively have some decent songwriting skills and a feeling for atmosphere.

“Nether Reach” is the first pure Ambient track on the album – and a fantastic one. The atmopshere evoken by the droney industrial and cosmic sounding noises on this track is creepy and very evocative – it takes you right into “the void”. A fantastic track and probably one of my favorites on the album.

“Halo” is a combination of what has happened so far on the album – a song that takes in both Ambient and Metal elements and floods the listener with crushing waves of sound. This song cannot be described as Black Metal, but comfortably sits in the genre of Atmospheric Funeral Doom. With slow drums and guitars, laid over an ethereal Ambient soundscape, the track instantly creates an atmosphere of solitude and emptiness on a cosmic level.

“Creation” continues this stylistic direction and is another slow paced track that is primarily defined by dark Ambient walls of sound and slow Funeral Doom riffs, but also brings back some of the Black Metal elements that dominate the first two tracks on the album. The song has a very creepy vibe to it, which is supported by the avantgard structure of the first half of the track. This song is another fine example of great atmospheric music that sits in the upper echelon of the songs on this record.

The album is brought to a close by the epic 13 minute long “Entering The Void”, which is the culmination of all the influences that define the sound of this record, and is at first even slower in tempo, leaning towards the Drone Doom side of things, then getting back to the Black Metal sound that dominates the first two tracks, while throughout the playing time once more strengthening the ethereal concept of the album with dreamy synths and shoegazy guitar riffs.

Void is a surprising album that starts off sounding like an average Atmospheric Black Metal album, but then progresses into a mighty fine ambient-laden Blackened Funeral Doom record that is evocative and entertaining, chilling and beautiful and with a unique sonic and thematic identity. While the album has some problems regarding creative guitar work, especially on the Black Metal parts, the ambient elements and the general atmospheric value of the whole record make Void an album that is definitely worth your time, especially if you are a fan of Atmospheric Black Metal, Funeral Doom and/or Ambient music.


 

Void will be released September 29th and can be preordered from Bandcamp.

Visit the official facebook page of the Opus Elefantum Collective for more great releases.


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Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos (2017)

Reviews

Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos
May 26th, 2017 (Sweden); Nuclear Blast Records
LP (45 min.)
Doom Metal

Lineup:
Lars Sköld – Drums
Marcus Jidell – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Carl Westholm – Keyboards
Jennie-Ann Smith – Vocals
Mats Rydström – Bass

Track list:
01. Into the Fire / Into the Storm
02. The Starless Sleep
03. Road to Jerusalem
04. Medusa Child
05. The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea
06. When Breath Turns to Air
07. A Kiss (From the End of the World)
08. Hurricanes and Halos


After listening to this album once I had already written quite a long review in which I described how disappointed I was by it. Well, I listened to it again. And I realized that it actually is an album that at least for me grows with each listen. I’m still not fully satisfied with the album and think it’s the band’s weakest record so far, but I definitely can’t say that it is a bad album.

The songwriting and some stylistic decisions seem a bit “off” to me sometimes (e. g. the incorporation of child vocals on “Medusa Child”, which might sound like a good idea but doesn’t work very well, in my opinion), but these flaws are more or less evened out by great riffs, cool solos and of course fantastic vocals. Also, the title track! Such a beautiful instrumental piece…

Stylistically, Avatarium have moved even further away from their original sound than they did with their second album. Gone is the dark and heavy Doom Metal of the self titled debut album. Instead, Avatarium play faster, more psychedelic, “brighter” sounding 70s-ish Blues Rock/Heavy Metal on “Hurricanes and Halos”, sometimes reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, sometimes Sabbathy and sometimes just like something new and fresh. I am not completely in favor of this stylistic change because I LOVE the style of their debut album, but that’s just a matter of taste.

If you like Blues/Doom/Psychedelic Rock or old school Heavy Metal, you should definitely give this a spin.

A few words about the artwork:
While the artwork in and of itself isn’t all that special, it’s interesting to see the stylistic change of the band’s music reflected in their artwork. The cover of the debut album and this one are similarly designed but while the cover of their debut is all grey and drab, “Hurricanes and Halos” is more colorful and playful. I like the cover art of the debut better. The same thing can be said about the music.


Listen to the album on Spotify.

Visit the band’s official website.


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TIMŌRĀTUS feat. weapons of indignation – Compass (2017)

Reviews

TIMŌRĀTUS feat. weapons of indignation – Compass
April 19th (USA), self-released
EP (17 min.)
Drone Doom, Avantgarde Metal

Lineup:
Aleks Tengesdal – Vocals / Cello
David Napier – Guitar / Bass

 

Track list:
01. Voice of the Lion
02. Gaze


The “Compass” EP is the newest release by Christian experimental one man Metal project TIMŌRĀTUS, which came into being in collaboration with another underground one man project called weapons of indignation.

Over the last few years, David Napier, the man behind TIMŌRĀTUS, has been experimenting with many different styles of Metal and released a cohesive concept series of EPs each of which had a different genre (the EPs are titled “Death”, “Doom”, “Black” and “Grind”, accordingly to their respective genre).
This 17 minutes EP now falls into yet another stylistic category of Metal, namely Drone Doom.

I really liked his genre EPs so far but I must say that they were nothing too special. They were “generic”, which was kind of the idea behind them in the first place but also made them a bit less enjoyable than they probably could’ve been.
This EP on the other hand really is something special.

Drone Doom always has the potential to be very one dimensional and grow boring rather quickly, so it’s always nice to hear a band experiment with unusual musical elements to make their sound stand out from the rest.

For “Compass”, TIMŌRĀTUS teamed up with Aleka Tengesdal (weapons of indignation), a cellist. So what we hear on this almost entirely instrumental EP is great atmospheric Drone Doom, overlaid with dark, creeping, sometimes dissonant cello playing. The music is very heavy and creates a dense atmosphere that feels dark but also has those indescribable moments of light piercing through.

This EP is definitely one of the most interesting pieces of Drone I’ve heard this year and I highly recommend it to everyone who likes the genre.


You can download TIMŌRĀTUS’ whole discography for free from Bandcamp.


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Arkheron Thodol – Thaw (2017)

Reviews

Arkheron Thodol – Thaw
April 20th, 2017 (USA); Self-released
LP (57 min.)
Atmospheric Black Metal, Blackened Funeral Doom Metal, Post-Black Metal, Folk Metal

Lineup:
Kelly Elfstrom – Vocals
Shiloh McBee – Drums
Tanner Erhart – Bass
Mycah Tippit – Guitars

Track list:
01. I. Catalyst/Thresholds of Frost
02. II. The Reins of a Storm
03. III. Gnosis
04. IV. Spiritum Viridis
05. V. Within the Lucid Deep
06. VI. Sapling
07. VII. To Breathe; The Offering


Because Black Metal originated in Europe and is commonly seen as a “European” genre of Metal, many seem to forget (or ignore) how many great Black Metal bands there are on the other side of the big sea. Among those who do not ignore that fact, the US-American Black Metal scene is primarily known and loved for their atmospheric, folk and nature influenced style of Black Metal¹. The American scene gave birth to some of the greatest bands and artists in that particular subgenre. Bands like Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room and Panopticon are loved by Black Metal fans internationally. Those are only some of the rather “popular” bands in the scene, but there are many, many more great bands in the underground.

Arkheron Thodol is one of those bands. Hailing from Bozeman, Montana, Arkheron Thodol is an unsigned/independent band that was founded in 2012 and currently consists of four members. In 2015 the band released their 18 min debut EP “Oneironaut” (which I haven’t listened to yet). “Thaw” is the band’s first full-length record.

I was really happy when I received an email from the band asking me to review this album, because Atmospheric Black Metal is one of my favorite subgenres of Metal and I honestly can’t get enough of it. While I really enjoy other subgenres of Black Metal, as well, none of them really touches me on an emotional level the way many Atmospheric Black Metal bands do. Only if they’re good, of course. And this album is good. It’s actually much more than just “good”. It might be one of the best albums of 2017 I’ve heard so far.

The music on “Thaw” is a combination of many different styles of music, like Funeral Doom Metal, Folk and Ambient, all masterly melted together on the foundation of Atmospheric and Melodic Black Metal.

The first track of the album begins with a folky acoustic passage that is followed by melodic doomy guitar riffs and earshattering vocals. After a short acoustic passage the song’s tempo is then increased and the guitars and vocals become more aggressive and Blackened. The song than ends with an acoustic Folk passage. This structure and the contrast between beautifully melodic and atmospheric parts and raw passages is representative for the whole album. It is one of the reasons why “Thaw” is so entertaining and interesting. The band manages to create atmosphere without being too repetitive and one-dimensional – unlike many other bands in the genre. Their best characteristic is variety and versatility. And while the elements of their music generally aren’t anything completely new in the genre, Arkheron Thodol‘s music is still quite unique in the way those elements are put together.

Besides acoustic passages in most of the tracks on “Thaw”, there are also a few completely acoustic tracks on this album, which is again pretty common for the genre, but they are very well played and placed on the album, which makes them stand out from many other songs of that kind I’ve heard.

Another pretty cool element of the music on “Thaw” are the ambient and spoken word parts. Fun fact: This is the second album I’ve heard this year that features a spoken word passage from the Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man” (the other one being “The Storm Before The Calm” by Death Therapy).

Generally, “Thaw” is well structured and produced, every song on the album is very well written, the musicians know what they are doing and the vocals are fantastic, as well. “Thaw” has beautiful melodies, great riffs and an absolutely captivating atmosphere. It really brings the best out of Folk, Doom and Black Metal together. I actually don’t have anything negative to say about the music, except for it maybe being a bit to “generic” in the sense that the music is not exactly anything “innovative”. But to be honest, if the music is good and manages to intrigue and entertain me, that doesn’t bother me at all, especially not in the genre of Black Metal.

But not only the music on “Thaw” is great, the lyrical concept of the album is pretty awesome, as well. It is quite complex, so I let Mycah Tippit, guitarist of the band, explain it to you instead of trying to summarize it myself:

Thematically, the album Thaw tells the story of someone awakening to a new depth of consciousness, and a more fully embraced sovereignty. However, before this path can be truly realized, one must clearly see the extent of the artificially created social programming that colors their experiences. Then they must make a focused effort to dismantle these behaviors. It is this conditioning or programming that forms the ice that must be thawed to release the true self. Thaw is the melting away of the force field that blocks one from experiencing the truth of our shared experiences. Thaw is the story of our species and its quest to fully connect and unify itself. The album touches on social issues regarding personal sovereignty and a harmonious symbiosis with the natural world.

To sum it up, if you like your Black Metal atmospheric and melodic or if you generally are a fan of atmospheric, yet extreme music, this album is for you and you should definitely check it out. As for myself, I’d say this album is a strong contender for my Top 10 of 2017 already, but we’ll see what the rest of the year will bring. Either way, go ahead and listen to the two tracks that are available for streaming on bandcamp and preorder the album if you like what you hear.


“Thaw” will be released April 20th, 2017 and can be preordered on bandcamp.

The band on facebook: Arkheron Thodol


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¹) Some of those bands are often summarized under the genre tag “Cascadian Black Metal”, which is, much like “Norwegian Black Metal” or “Swedish Black Metal” often used to describe the specific sound of certain bands, even if they are not Norwegian, Swedish or Cascadian. I do not use these terms as genre descriptions because I often find them to be rather confusing and misleading.

NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ – Goodbye, Sol (2014)

Reviews

NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ – Goodbye, Sol: A Journey To The End Of Spacetime And Back
July 2014 (Antarctica); Self-released
LP (17 hours 37 min.)
Post-Drone, Post-Noise, Dark Ambient

Track list:
01. Goodbye, Sol (1 Tly)
31. “Sufficiently Advanced Civilizations May Invariably Leave Our Universe” (? ly)
32. God Is A Systems Architect And The Multiverse Is An Infinitely Recursive Architectural Simulator (∞ ly)
33. Hello Again, Sol (0 ly)


NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ (pronounced “Nanocyborg Uberholocaust”) might be the most interesting band I’ve encountered in a very long time. I’ve stumbled across this madness of a band name on Sputnikmusic and was interested right away.
I was even more interested when I found out the playing time of this particular album. Seventeen hours. SEVENTEEN HOURS. And then I read the information text about the band on their website. And that was the moment I knew that NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ is indeed one of the craziest and most unique musical projects ever.

NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ consists of two musicians who both happen to be scientists at a research station on the Antarctica continent. They coincidentally found out that they both have an affinity for extreme drone and ambient music and both had a bass guitar in their possession. Eventually they started making music together and released their first “full length” (22 hours) album The Ultimate Fate Of The Universe in 2007. They recorded the album at the exact South Pole. This location results in a windy, unclean sound quality, which was actually intended by the band to create the most bleak, grim and kvlt sound ever produced.

“Dark Dude” and “Wavanova”, the two members of the band, describe their style of music as “Ambient Cosmic Extreme Funeral Drone Doom Metal” and that is probably the most accurate description of their music you could come up with. I personally love this style of music: extremely ambient and droney soundscapes, grim and frostbitten but at the same time beautifully relaxing.

This album, Goodbye, Sol, released in 2014, is a concept piece about a journey to the end of Spacetime and back to our solar system. Every track comes with an indication of how many light years away from the sun we are at that point of the journey. It’s such a cool concept, and the music really does it justice. Some listeners will find it to be boring, and it is without a doubt very challenging to listen to, due to its repititiveness and extremely long playing time, but I think that this album really transports the atmosphere of a journey through the seemingly endless universe perfectly. I never thought I’d ever listen to an album recorded and produced at the South Pole, with an almost twenty hours playing time. But I did – and it’s absolutely amazing.


You can download the whole discography of NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ from their official website for free.


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