As 2017 draws to a close, Crom decides to pass his judgment on the music released during the year. This is the definitive list without which you cannot live. Or at least not know what is best in life. Enjoy!
50. Demonic Resurrection – Dashavatar
I don’t usually listen to progressive death metal from India, but when I do, I listen to Demonic Resurrection. Nice to hear some sitars and tablas in this genre!
49. Dråp – Roten till allt ont
When you’re super pissed and just feel like fucking shit up, this is your soundtrack. A fantastic crust/grind/death onslaught that leaves no muscle unclenched, including your sphincter.
48. Entrench – Through the Walls of Flesh
When you’re bored of thrash…haha, sorry, we all know there’s no way in hell a sane person gets bored of thrash! Meaning, every moment is the right moment for this riff-fest!
47. Sons of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Supergroups seldom manage to do anything worth the listen, but Portnoy, Soto, Bumblefoot, Sheehan and Sherinian break the mould and deliver an intense album filled with progressive and symphonic metal that doesn’t pale in comparison with you-know-who.
46. Loch Vostok – Strife
Progressive metal without hooks is a fucking chore, luckily “Strife” isn’t one of those albums. When the screaming kicks in, all is even better.
45. Suffocation – …Of the Dark Light
Technical and brutal yet compositionally interesting death metal. How did they do that?
44. Gudars skymning – V
Sabbath riffs meet Swedish prog melodies. And how about a vocalist with a big voice bellowing in Swedish?
43. Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos
The promise of greatness the first two albums hinted at is finally bearing fruit. With a step towards the 70’s, Avatarium move away from Candlemass and raise their own banner.
42. The Doomsday Kingdom – The Doomsday Kingdom
Johan Längquist, Mats Levén, Messiah Marcolin, Jennie-Ann Smith etc, and now Niklas Stålvind of Wolf fame, prove that if you couple Leif Edling with a great singer, you get gold.
41. Azarath – In Extremis
Listening to “In Extremis” feels like being run over by a dozen or so tanks. Afterwards you feel sore and mangled, tasting blood in your mouth. Then you press play again.
40. Memoriam – For the Fallen
If a steak was the size of a B-52, and it could play death metal, it would sound like “For the Fallen”. In fact, I’m pretty convinced that’s how the album was made. How else would you get a sound this thick and meaty?
39. Kreator – Gods of Violence
“Coma of Souls” is fucking ace. Mille’s voice is fucking not. But this album beats the shit out of everything Kreator have released since 1990, and the energy and intensity are impressive, especially considering the veteran age of the band. Horns up!
38. Havok – Conformicide
An impressive display of how to incorporate hugely divergent flavours into your sound, without losing touch with your thrash metal foundation. I usually like my thrash raw and primitive, but when ambitious is done right, I’ll bite!
37. Lantern – II: Morphosis
This black/death onslaught is as dirty and rotten as my crotch, which is quite a fucking lot. If you’re scared of the dark and all of its unnamed horrors, put your trust in Lantern. They’ll show ’em to you in all their pungent glory.
36. Obituary – Obituary
Yeeeeeeeeeeessss fucking mosh! Crossing thrash and death metal has been a most potent recipe since the mid-80’s, and here we are, 30 years later and still enjoying it. Good for us.
35. The Great Old Ones – EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
34. Tau Cross – Pillar of Fire
The Baron’s voice is as convincing as ever, and the style is quite unique: Motörhead meets Celtic Frost meets Goth rock. Why the fuck not?
33. Ajattara – Lupaus
Ajattara show us that there’s no point in complicating things if you can get your point across with simpler means. A black metal fist in the face of God.
32. Altarage – Endinghent
A mammoth of an album. There’s no way in hell you’re going to hum any of the riffs or melodies from “Endinghent”, but the oppressive atmosphere and surrealistically twisting and turning songs will leave their mark on your soul. Not for the weak of heart or mind.
31. Nightrage – The Venomous
Late 90’s Arch Enemy are back! Late 90’s In Flames are back! Behold, as the new band Arch Flames release their debut album “Clayman Burning Whoracle’s Bridges”! Highly original! Sarcasm aside, this is better Swemelodeath than any of the sound’s originators have done in ages.
30. The Haunted – Strength in Numbers
Man, I haven’t been pummeled by The Haunted like this since “Made Me Do It”. Thrash on steroids, and Aro is a fucking beast behind the mike!
29. Antichrist – Sinful Birth
Rarely does one encounter a record this passionate and devastating. Violent thrash with both melodic and progressive elements, executed with total madness!
28. Black Anvil – As Was
At first, I didn’t really know what to think of “As Was”. I still don’t. The only thing I know is that I’m intrigued and strangely attracted to this patchy stew of blackened heavy metal. Somehow it reminds me of Decameron’s masterpiece “My Shadow…”, albeit not on the same (sky high) level and not as extreme or progressive. Considering “My Shadow…” is one of my absolute favourite albums of all time, that’s not too bad of a comparison, eh?
27. Paradise Lost – Medusa
The British kings of doom and gloom return with one of their best in a good while. This Medusa has a beard. And muscles. Big ones.
26. Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Great guitar work. Great vocals. Great arrangements. Great songs. Great album. In that order.
25. Blaze of Perdition – Conscious Darkness
Blaze of Perdition haven’t yet let me down and neither do they with “Conscious Darkness”. Malevolent and grotesque black metal that’s still strangely accessible.
24. Benighted – Necrobreed
A Schwarzenegger movie clip. A song titled “Cum with Disgust”. A relentless barrage of brutal, crazy deathgrind slaughter. What’s not to love?
23. Eneferens – In the Hours Beneath
Another album with a total mishmash of styles, mournful “In the Hours Beneath” relies mostly on melancholic melodies and bleak atmospheres juxtaposed with shrieks and aggressive drumming. Amidst the death/black we find some shoegazy post-black stuff, as well as some Mark Knopfler worship. I did tell you it’s schizophrenic. Better yet, it’s fucking nice! Give it a try, with an open mind.
22. Vampire – With Primeval Force
Such a fitting album title. Thrash ’til death!
21. Evocation – The Shadow Archetype
Evocation blend the Stockholm and Gothenburg sounds in a most successful manner, as grooves meet melodies without compromising on heaviness or eerie gloom. “Condemned to the Grave” is one of the best death metal songs of the year!
20. Decapitated – Anticult
I love this to-the-point version of Decapitated. Extremely effective arrangements, tight delivery, good production, tasty riffs…better than Viagra. Fuck the haters!
19. Cannabis Corpse – Left Hand Pass
I’ve never smoked a joint in my life, so I probably shouldn’t be listening to this, eh? I mean, some of that tasty death metal could turn me onto the green, right? Right? LEFT. HAND. PASS MOTHERFUCKER.
18. Desultory – Through Aching Aeons
Riffs that crush your balls with the force of a sledgehammer: check. Melodies soaring above like sombre vultures circling their prey: check. Sharp and direct arrangements that make you scratch your head and wonder why these guys are quitting: check. RIP.
17. Der Weg einer Freiheit – Finisterre
Surprisingly melodic yet uncompromisingly brutal. Woefully epic yet immediate and catchy. I don’t understand the hate these guys get, as clearly they’re competent and passionate about their craft. I’ll be spinning “Finisterre” for years to come.
16. Exhumed – Death Revenge
Listening to “Death Revenge” makes me all nostalgic and shit, transporting me back a couple of decades to a time when nobody gave a shit and just riffed and moshed, and wasn’t preoccupied with analyzing if this riff is too much this or too little that. The good old days of groovy death metal with recognizable riffs and melodies. It’s here again, folks!
15. Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
That rhythmic main riff on “Full Throttle Tribe” is worth the cake alone. Daniel Gildenlöw is one of the great geniuses of the progressive metal world, both regarding composing, arranging and singing. This fucker could sing the fucking WinRAR user license agreement and the whole world would listen intently, swoon in a most shameful manner, and give him standing ovations upon conclusion. And click “Install”.
14. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
I was a bit surprised at how accessible and direct “Thrice Woven” was, and especially that this didn’t compromise the atmosphere one bit. The perfect soundtrack to your autumn knitting party. Corpse paint mandatory.
13. Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU AFTER LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM OK I WON’T BUT I FEEL LIKE CHOPPING MEAT WITH SHARP ITEMS AND YES BLUNT ONES WILL DO IN A PINCH LET’S FUCKING DIE DIE DIE \,,/ MOSH \,,/
12. Cut Up – Wherever They May Rot
THE ORDER OF THE CHAINSAAAAA-what? Oh, sorry, wrong album. Death metal done right. Absolutely nothing to bitch about.
11. Samael – Hegemony
Massive and majestic, “Hegemony” is the best Samael album since “Passage”. The razor-sharp rhythms and full-bodied production really pack a punch, and the catchiness of the bold themes is not to be messed with!
10. The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
A death metal supergroup. Should we be worried? Only about losing our minds as a reaction to how fucking awesome this album is. “Out of the Voiceless Grave” is grimy, slimy, and brings to mind both the rawness of early Autopsy, the immediate melodies of early Swedeath and the punkish energy of crust. The Lovecraftian lyrics are badass, as well.
9. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
This 83-minute behemoth is, by far, the longest single metal song I’ve heard. It is also one of the most impressive compositional feats of the doom genre, as the coherence of the whole is stunningly organic and has a dramaturgical arc that keeps you interested throughout the piece. The dynamic spectrum reaches from the mellowest oceanic depths to the harshest frosty mountain peaks, and the atmosphere is thick with ghastly otherworldliness. Fantastic album/song.
8. Taake – Kong Vinter
When “Kronet til konge” and “Under a Funeral Moon” meet “Krek”, through Hoest’s filter. I’m sold.
7. Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him
This album will crush your face, your limbs, your intestines and your soul. This is about as perfect as death metal can get. Slithering doom parts that make you feel like getting sucked into a black hole. Crusty up-tempos that grind your mosh into shreds. (No, that doesn’t make sense. Fuck you.) Gregor Mackintosh’s monstrous growls, perfectly placed in a grimy yet punchy production. Man, this is so good I need to go punch a goat or something!
6. Condor – Unstoppable Power
With a perverted affinity for riffs with jagged edges, Condor headbang their way into the hearts of all thrash lovers and fucking mosh!! The energy is just staggering and infectious as fuck, and the tempo changes push the pace into a frenzy. Best thrash album since…oh, man, a long time. Definitely the best during the last few years at least. Ca-caw!
5. Execration – Return to the Void
Psychedelic and nightmarish death metal with a brutal and visceral delivery. Man, this is some weird and twisted shit. It’s like Celtic Frost decided to channel their inner Ved Buens Ende, top it off with some hallucinogenics and make a death metal album no one else dared. I applaud in your general direction, Execration.
4. Evilfeast – Elegies of the Stellar Wind
Album after album, GrimSpirit delivers the most hauntingly beautiful, desolate, yet naïve atmospheric black metal this side of Limbonic Art and Summoning in the 90’s. And I mean naïve in a good way, as in “I like this sugar-sweet melody so I’m using it” with no thoughts, or fucks, given to its supposed trveness or kvltness. Next time you’re cozying up with a Tolkien novel, make this your soundtrack and feel the world subside as you fall into the realm of fantastical, somber horrors.
3. Henrik Palm – Many Days
Take pinch each of Queens of the Stone Age’s stiff yet rocking grooves, Ghost’s melodic sensibilities, the FUCK YOU-attitude of the Clash, and the dystopian, half-psychedelic atmospheres of Metropolis (the 1927 movie), stir all of this up in a pot, add Henrik Palm and you get “Many Days”. This is the most unique rock album I’ve heard in ages, and I fucking love it! This isn’t for everybody, but for those who feel it – bliss.
2. Domgård – Ödelagt
I love 90’s Scandinavian black metal. Let me say that again: I fucking love 90’s Scandinavian black metal. So when a band reminds me of Dødheimsgard (first album), Setherial, Dark Funeral, Sorhin and Satyricon (first two albums), but still maintains a sound of their own – I’m in love. Very grvm love, of course. The icy melodies, the furious blast beats, the frosty shrieks, the nihilistic and unpolished production, the ambient and acoustic interludes…Domgård check all the boxes and leave me wanting for naught. Today’s bands with a 90’s-tinged sound seldom escape the “tribute act” trap, but Domgård’s stew is their own and their delivery is so honest and passionate that “Ödelagt” is both a beautiful homage and a new chapter to one of the most enticing books of all time.
1. Hallatar – No Stars Upon the Bridge
Mastermind Juha Raivio’s soulmate Aleah Starbridge died in 2016 at the age of 39. To cope with his loss, Raivio composed “No Stars Upon the Bridge” during an anxiety-filled, pitch-black week. He asked his friends Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) and Gas Lipstick (HIM) to help him channel all the despair and grief into recording one of the blackest, heaviest and most beautiful doom albums ever. The delivery is very raw, unpolished and honest; Joutsen’s vocals sound sincere and wrought with grief, and it feels like huge boulders are crushing your soul with every beat of Lipstick’s extremely heavy-handed drumming. The melodies and riffs are in some ways reminiscent of Raivio’s main band Swallow the Sun, but there’s an ever-present underlying aura of dreadful and wordless bereavement that makes the listening experience an emotionally tasking, yet immensely rewarding, experience. I can’t even begin to fathom how depressing and hard the carrying of the burden of sorrow and anguish of losing one’s loved one at such a young age is, but I can make a pretty good guess. Considering that, I’m amazed, and impressed, of how constructive a way Raivio found in his misery, and how fantastic of a monument he’s built for Aleah. In fact, I’m not only amazed and impressed – I’m grateful. Thank you, Juha, for enduring. The world is a better place for it. I’m sure the fallen swan will agree when you meet again, far away on the shore beyond. Rest in peace.