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The F.U.N.K 2017 End Of Year Lists Part 1 - Metal

Ominous Circle: terrible band name, great look. 

Metal, like hip hop, has had a fucking great 2017. Like hip hop its manifold joys can mainly be found away from the mainstream, certainly light-years distant from the kinds of boybands-with-guitars that seemingly dominate Kerrang-style metal culture. So most of my favourite metal from this year has come from slightly off the beaten track (so much great stuff coming out of Italy this year), much of it found via Bandcamp and those metal bloggers who are so ably covering the anti-scene at the moment. 

Needs saying actually - metal, like hip hop, is one area of music where blogging and word-of-mouth is all the guidance I need anymore - haven't been NEAR a metal mag this year and don't feel like I've missed anything. The bloggers care, and know their stuff so thanks to Angry Metal Guy and Cvlt Nation  and No Clean Singing and Heavy Blog Is Heavy  and The Sludgelord for keeping me vaguely in touch with the best metal in 2017, they've been invaluable. 

These are the metal/doom/sludge/blackmetal/racket records that have dominated my 2017 - they're in alphabetical order but if forced to name a fave I've got to say the Dodechahedron album cos it never fails to astonish and ravish me. Anything I've missed, please let me know in the comments x

Acrimonious 
Eleven Dragons 
(WTC Productions) 
Alot of black metal this year has been really melodic. I hate melodic black metal. I like my black metal gnarly and committed to minor keys and discordancies. Like this belch of billious blues from Greek psychopaths Acrimonious. THEY say "This is the pinnacle of Glory and Thunderous Power, the crowning achievement, an echo of ecstatic laughter in a backward dance of malicious Fury that venerates the Eleven Flames of the One without Names. BEHOLD!" and who am I, or indeed you, to disagree?


Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper
(Profound Lore)
Debated tbh whether to put this in the metal round-up or in the 'Other' round up. No other metal record this year reminded me so much of Stars Of The Lid. Yes it gets heavy, very heavy but 'Mirror Reaper' is a journey you've got to commit to - one track that's over 80 minutes long - and when you do it takes on more of the appeal of an ambient or jazz record. A heartbreaking exploration of bereavement and loss with some of the most deliciously dark distortion on any guitar album in 2017.

Cannibal Corpse
Red Before Black
(Metal Blade)

"Cannibal Corpse’s 14th full-length sees them thankfully eschewing the cleaner textures of 2014’s disappointing Skeletal Domain (which revealed their astonishing playing but sacrificed their crucial noisiness) and returning to their customary bass-heavy murkage. As with the best CC work Corpsegrinder’s vocals are key - peeling back from the guttural rumbling roar he’s perfected to splintered moments of horror and trauma at all the right moments and the band, as they should be by now, are a simply staggering riff-machine of unbelievable precision and power. A good Cannibal Corpse album which immediately makes it better than 90% of death-metal releases you’ll hear this year."


Cannabis Corpse
Left Hand Pass
(Season Of Mist)


". . . you wish they wouldn’t have saddled themselves with that parodic name (hate it when awesome bands do this). That said the name is perfect in nailing the mix of doom and death that the Richmond, Virginia trio perfect on Left Hand Pass (cutely knowing title too). The 2nd CC can play - there’s a hook up ‘tween the proggy-bass and frantic double-kicks on ‘420th Crusade’ and ‘Final Exhalation’ that’s breathtaking, but it’s those moments where they slow down and settle into a Sepultura-like low-slung hostility that really slay you. Although they can’t resist the odd moment of levity (at least in titles like ‘In Battle There Is No Pot’) this is anything but a joke album - it’s an album that finds a way to play death and doom at peak effect while also spiritually not committing itself into the usual orthodoxy of imagery those genres depend on. As such a revelatory release whose inevitable underrating by those sus of the name is a damn shame. Don’t be put off and get ‘Left Hand Pass’ by hook or by crook. Superb."



Dodechahedron
Kwintessence 
(Bandcamp) 
"Dodechahedron’s astonishing Kwintessence was one of thee great unheralded rock albums of 2017 by which I mean metal fans may have been aware but most rock fans will be totally oblivious - they shouldn't be, 'Kwintessence' is a stone cold masterpiece, crushing doom, blackmetal, everything that was ever good about the whole math/post rock malarkey into one addictive quack of darkness you'll hoover repeatedly as soon as its addictive melodies and riffs possess you. Essential, and possibly thee metal album of the year"


Dodsengel
Interequinox 
(Debemur Morti Productions) 
 The word 'experimental' is perhaps the word that most makes me worry/queasy in music. The instant tincture of smug superiority it contains. I've seen it used alot with regards to reclusive Norwegian duo Dodsengel - inasmuch as whenever they depart from what's expected from Norwegian metal bands it's called experimental. This is bullshit - the way that the duo weave sonic frippery and vocal wonder between their tracks glues 'Interequinox' together beautifully and there's plenty of moments that have a real motorik power and grace, the singer attaining Neu-levels of shouty lunacy. Incredibly ambitious music that more often than not achieves those ambitions.

Elder
Reflections Of A Floating World
(Stickman Records) 
Fantastic doom/stoner (or as they call it 'heavy psyche') from Boston 3-piece. Heavy, heartfelt, heavy, dark, doomed, heavy and did I mention it was heavy? Heavy.

Ende 
Emen Etan 
(Bandcamp) 

Just astonishing. You're probably not prepared for just what a sharp, fizzing, black bolt to the temple France's Ende are. Heavier and more groove-laden than 2015's 'The Rebirth Of I', peppered with truly unsettling occult soundscapes, a satanic monster you should welcome into your home, heart and head immediately.

Fides Inversa 
Rite of Inverse Incarnation
(W.T.C. Productions)

2 tracks, both big-sounding yet still possessed with black-metal dynamics from this Italian 4 piece crew who rejoice under the names Wraath, Omega A.D, Void A.D and Unhold. Ordinarily I like my BM to sound as atrocious as Darkthrone but this actually benefits from a clean production (sometimes tilting into dazzling doomy heaviness akin to Bolzer). As ever with black-metal the band's own description of their music's effect can't be bettered: "this recording will surely leave a mark upon the devout as it did on its practitioners". Too bloody right it does. Beastly benedictions.

Hetroertzen 
Uprising Of The Fallen 
(Listenable Records) 
With titles like 'Zealous Procreation' how can these Chilean black-metallers (now cutely relocated to Sweden) go wrong? They can't. In fact, this youtube commenter has it dead on.






You know what Andres Rodrigues? 8 Months ago you were so right, righter than you might even think. There really AREN'T words to describe 'this litanies'. 


Hetroertzen live - shot by Adrian Schmetz.

Inferno 
Gnosis Kardias (of Transcension and Involution) 
(W.T.C Productions)
Alot of moaning that though Czech black-metallers Inferno are 20 years in the game they don't know how to end songs. I could not disagree more - the strange sudden suicide of their tracks is totally effective and  precisely what I like about this album - these songs are fucking WEIRD - touched with odd synth textures that sound positively krautrockian, each track containing at least a couple of moments of odd wonder that demand revisitation and replay. 

LaColpa
Mea Maxima Culpa
(Toten Schwan Records) 
"From Alessandria, Italy, LaColpa deal in a weirdly hypnotic, unsettlingly intimate doom that’s shot through with real black-metal touches courtesy of whispered in-the-ear vocals that spook the shit out of you . . . The impulse behind ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’ seems entirely hateful and yet you can’t help eventually growing fond of the album’s sheer relentless nastiness and properly evil feel - crucially the riffs are killer and the Giallo-vibe is never widescreened or CGI’d - this is gnarly, deep red, close-up bloody, gory viscera that Tom Savini would be proud of."

Loss 
Horizonless 
(Profound Lore) 

Just gorgeous: this Nashville doom band make things properly funereal and hugely dramatic not just because of the sublime elegiac melodies they can't help but craft, but also because there's an emotional heft to the vocals that carry the songs into the same kind of territory previously mapped by June Of 44, Idaho and Unwound. There's no heaviness without a point here - much of the songs aren't played at full-tilt-distortion which brings the gloriously bleak melodies to the fore. Melodies in doom are extra-important I reck, just as their avoidance in black metal is important. 'Horizonless' is a very New Nineties kind of doom if I might be so revoltingly self-referential. Superb. 


LVTN
GELU
(Hidden Hand) 

Black/Crust/Post-Hardcore three piece from Rome - my god the Italians have been cooking up some evil shit this year. I dig this not because of any special abilities LVTN have - it's purely down to the FEEL they cook up here, walking that tightrope between tightness and primitivist incompetence perfectly. If you were walking down the corridor of a rehearsal studio and heard this coming out of one of the rooms you'd stop, have a nose - it sounds so fucking embittered it's ace. 


Macerie
To K***
(Bandcamp)
Florence's Macerie are fantastically sporadic with their releases - this is an utterly wretched (in the best ways) 2-track single that's their first new music since their self-titled demo in 2015.  I hope that they're actually about 15 years old and have to keep taking breaks to study for their exams. Italy on fire at the moment.

Medico Peste
Herzogian Darkness
(W.T.C Productions) 

Bloody Polish, staying over there and stealing our sleep with their 4-track EPs of inhumanly dark black metal/post-metal madness. Cannot be played loud enough and killer riffs throughout.

Nudist 
Bury My Innocence 
(Argonauta Records)
More madness from the Mediterranean - Nudist's 'See The Light Beyond The Spiral' was a thrillingly gnarly release in 2015 and this follow up is a little harsher, a little more psyche, and utterly without hope.  Five tracks recorded pretty much live in a small theatre in Prato - it's doom Jim, but never feels like it's adhering to an orthodoxy, rather it's as spontaneous and ill-mannered as the grim feelings it enunciates. 

OBITUARY
S/T
(Relapse)
A fucking great death metal record. What the hell else did you expect? STILL not capturing what makes them so astonishing live but still p.d.a (pretty damn awesome).

The Ominous Circle
Appalling Ascension 
(20 Buck Spin)
Always a sucker for a band who wear veils and cloaks - and pretty much a sucker for everything that's come out on 20 Buck Spin this year (check out their timely reissue of the Noothgrush/Corrupted Split 12" for the metal reissue of the year). Ominous Circle are a Portugese band who play fucking outrageously slimy death metal and 'Appalling Ascencion' - even with its total-thowback title - never feels like a retro-fest, this is fresh corpse-meat glistening with the writhing moistness of maggoty decay. Yes that's a compliment. 

Primitive Man
Caustic

(Relapse) 
"their longest album yet and it’s down to you and your latest psyche-evaluation as to whether you want to drink all of this brackish brew in one sitting but my god, WHAT an unholy belch of disgust from the abyssal plain this is. "

Sangue Nero

Viscere 
(3rd I Rex)
" . . . the five numerically monikered tracks here jackhammer all the right noises together with production touches that are totally unique. Love the way the drums veer between trebly harshness and satanic depth, the vocals freewheel from blood-spattered harshness and hostility to terrified spoken-word self-realisation/disgust,  and the guitars both surge and sludgen-up beautifully. I can’t hear the didgeridoo but it’s scary enough knowing it’s in there. The Italian underground keeps on delivering . . . "

Spectral Voices caught in a fog of banana-flavoured vape-trails. 

Spectral Voice
Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
(Dark Descent Records) 

Would find it next to impossible to write about individual tracks on this album - rather it's more like a single deluge of molten horror that ebbs at your ankles before pulling you under. Seek out 'Visions Of Psychic Dismemberment' for a flavour of exactly how fucking heavy this really fucking heavy thing is. 

Ulsect
S/T
(Season Of Mist) 
"This is scarcely noise - the guitar textures are always defined no matter how distorted, and the architectural layers of racket and sudden moments of glimmering lucidity have a thrillingly melodic edge, ineffably from auld Europa, elegiac yet never introverted, always pushing out to the widescreen earth-curvature summoned by the suggestive moments of drone and minimalism. Almost as good as Dodecahedron's  ‘Kwintessence’ which is high-praise indeed. Essential."

Usnea 
Portals Into Futility 
(Relapse) 
"This Portland quartets’ 2014 funereal 2nd album ‘Random Cosmic Violence’ was as heavy as heavy can be -  their newest opus sees them open their songwriting up even more to time and space, and fully explore their reading list (which includes Gene Wolfe, Ursula K Le Guin’s Carl Sagan, Margaret Atwood, Philip K Dick’s and Frank Herbert) The result is one of the most suggestive and strangely undoomy doom records of the year: the lyrical nods to their literary heroes subtly percolate through to the sci-fi textures that populate the gaps between those moments where the grinding slo-mo monomaniacal riffage takes over, and makes tracks that could drag over their epic duration into journeys of colour and cosmic light. The balance is key throughout - between dissonance and melody, between drive and drift, between literary allusions that stop it all being just dungeonesque heaviosity and the moments where they plunge ass-first into sheer gloriously dark dungeonesque heaviosity. A corker."

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  1. Are you familiar with a british label called APF?

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