Tons of metal zines have posted articles highlighting the best albums of 2017 so far. They all did this back in June, which I suppose makes sense. Unfortunately, none of these lists have met the expectations of Underworld Zine. Once again favoring a band’s popularity over substance, the mainstream metal magazines have failed to highlight some of the greatest metal of the year. I’m writing this article in response to that trend. Underworld Zine has always been dedicated to covering truly underground bands. These are Underworld Zine’s top six black, death, and thrash albums so far for 2017.
6. Warpath- The Ambience of War
Brutal death metal never sounded so good. Hailing from murky Irish wilderness, Warpath are a band you probably haven’t heard of or listened to but you should familiarize yourself with them immediately and prepare to have your faced melted. Unlike the menagerie of brutal death metal bands that have listeners struggling to keep their eyes open halfway through the album, Warpath manages to keep their latest EP, The Ambience of War, interesting from beginning to end. Pummeling blasts, emotive and technical solos, and absolutely sickening vocals meet to create an onslaught of brutality. The production value is top notch. While you can clearly hear all the instruments, the grimy quality of old school death metal isn’t lost in the clarity. This is sickening brutality at its best.
5. Desultory- Through Aching Aons
No death metal listicle would be complete without the inclusion of a proper, melodic Swedish band. Swedish death metal pioneers, Desultory, take the number five spot with their truly ferocious comeback album entitled Through Aching Aons. The LP has that classic Swedish feel that pays homage to At the Gates, respectably. But, dare I say it, Desultory has gotten heavier with age. They always had a bit of a melodic groove to their sound, and that isn’t lost on Through Aching Aeons, but this album is pummeling all the way through. Their combination of brutality and catchiness is what sets their sound apart from others in the Swedish horde.
4. Contaminated- Final Man
Australia’s Contaminated is possibly the heaviest band to make the list. In the vein of early Autopsy or Convulse, Contaminated has perfected a kind of doom and gloom death metal aggression on Final Man with guitar tones that sound like they were dragged through muck and vocals akin to gargling blood. Being a relatively new band, Contaminated’s 90s feel is utterly convincing. Proper use of downtuning and crushing, doomy passages make Final Man truly memorable in 2017. This is some seriously heavy shit.
3. Necrot- Blood Offerings
In an age of five string basses and blistering technicality, sometimes simplicity can be refreshing. This is certainly the case with Necrot’s latest release, Blood Offerings. There’s been a lot of buzz about the band’s latest album and rightfully so. Necrot have forgone the tech death trend, instead opting to create death metal in the vein of Dismember, early Goreguts, or even Death. This is driving brutality through and through, with catchy riffs, gritty production, and an overall sickening ambience. The kind of stuff made for circle pits and the wall of death.
2. Undergang- Misantropologi
It seems old school death metal is making a massive comeback. Undergang’s fourth full length release exemplifies this trend perfectly. Not that it’s really a trend. Misatropoligi would scare the pants off an Avenge Sevenfold fan. This shit is grimy to the core. D. Torturdød’s are some of the sickest low grunts I’ve ever heard and A. Dødshjælp’s blasts will figuratively rip your face off. Simplistic riffs are masterfully arranged on Misantropoli to create a captivating experience for listeners. Misantopologi is hard not to fall in love with.
1. Immolation- Atonement
The number one spot on the list is going to the old school masters of death and destruction, Immolation. Atonement doesn’t ease listeners into its glory, instead punching them in the face from the very first crushing riff. It’s always a relief when a band from the 90s can still destroy and Immolation does just that. This album holds no punches. With a victorious and powerful feel, enunciated lyrics, unrelenting brutality, perfectly timed solos and sqeals of the guitar, and melodic technicality, Atonement does not disappoint. But then, when has Immolation ever truly disappointed us? With Atonement, Immolation shows us how American death metal should be done, and we’re thankful for that.
6. Sinmara/Misþyrming- Ivory Stone/Hof Split
If I had to pick one scene in black metal today that’s touching on the originality of the early Norwegian scene, it would the current scene in Iceland. The black metal movement in Iceland is bursting with creativity and bringing a new, chaotic approach to black metal that hasn’t been seen in years. Sinmara and Misþyrming are leading the pack in Icelandic black metal and this year the two powerhouses teamed up to release a split. The album delivers a blackness and chaos of a black hole and conveys a message of sheer insanity. Sinmara are the real innovators on this EP as their track is vast improvement in quality to the tracks on Aphotic Womb. But Misþyrming brings it hard as usual with their addition to the split, Hof. This is cool. This is kvlt.
5. White Death- White Death
This band just creeped up out of nowhere. I’m glad they did because their self titled release is comparable to Satanic Warmaster or early Behexen. The Finnish foursome has seemingly mastered the aesthetic of early, orthodox black metal and brought it to audiences in a fresh and exciting way. Gloomy passages pair with dissonant riffs, and screeching vocals effortlessly. Even the occasional fist pounding rock and roll beat or acoustic lick can be found on the band’s self titled debut. This album is a must have for anyone who loves straight forward black metal done well.
4. Irae- Crimes Against Humanity
Irae is another orthodox black metal project, deriving significant influence from the early, Norwegian sound, but also paying an obligatory nod to the black thrash pioneers. Irae is a one man project out of Portugal, spawned from the ominous mind of a man known only as Vulturius. This is good stuff. Fist pumping hard rock licks meet with blackened dissonance, and thrashy interludes to form a truly killer, and old school sounding LP. Vulturius doesn’t overdo the ambience on this, making for a heavy black metal experience spawned directly from the pits of Hell. This will scare the hell out of your neighbors. Really fantastic.
3. Noktunal Mortum- Істина (Verity)
The first black/folk metal band to make the list, Nokturnal Mortum are quite deserving of their position here. Simply the way the first full length track, entitled Мольфа kicks in, with that beautiful string arrangement that builds up into sheer aggression, is enough the moisten your underwear. This album is a beautiful mix of ambient folk passages, triumphant battle cries, and sheer ferocity wrapped into an hour and fourteen minutes. The Verity experience is orchestral and you almost lose yourself in the beauty of it. Is this Nokturnal Mortum’s best release? Nah. But it still blows away many other bands under the same moniker. I can’t stop listening. Keep at it guys. Slava Ukraine!
2. Goatmoon- Stella Polaris
Findland’s Goatmoon seems to improve every year. Stella Polaris is a far cry from Death Before Dishonor in creativity and overall beauty. The intro is a beautiful acoustic piece that’s consuming and immediately demands full attention from the listener. Every song is more beautiful than the next, as BlackGoat Desacrator focuses on building atmosphere with gorgeous, melodic riffs. Stella Polaris is probably his most melodic release so far, matched only by Varjot, but with a fuller sound and better production. The second to the last track, entitled Overlord, is the one that really stuck out for me. The final track, entitled P.A.I.L. was interesting, to say the least. Almost an attempt on a black metal ballad, the track works surprisingly well. Overall, a win for Goatmoon. Hail! Victory!
1. Wode- Servants of the Countercosmos
This band is probably the most surprising on the list. A new band out of the United Kingdom, Wode is knocking the socks of black metal fans with two stellar releases. Wode’s sophomore release, Servants of the Countercosmos has a sound that’s almost legendary. To risk sounding presumptuous, can you say the next Dissection? Not that this is another Dissection rip off, far from it actually. It’s just that their sound is so highly memorable that it harkens back an era of musical perfection only matched by Dissection. Every song is better than the next, as Wode pummels into your soul with an unrelenting ferocity not seen since the 90’s. The melodic nature of the sound and clean production is reminiscent of the early Swedish black metal sound. All this greatness spewing from a band made up of musicians virtually unknown to the black metal scene. What a fantastic record.
6. Lich King- Omnomniclasm
Lich King makes the number six spot on this list for their newest release entitled Omnomniclasm. The sheer improvement of the band over the years has people starting to really take notice. Omnomniclasm is standard thrash metal done at its best. Focusing on speed, aggression, and ferocity, the new album holds true to original thrash metal vision. Halfway through, Lich King even hails its speed metal predecessors with a slow and triumphant display of power in the song Civilization. Think in the vein of Priest. What Lich King has always focused on, however, is having the coolest riffs and playing faster than anyone else. Omnimnoclasm delivers sheer speed like few others in the new wave of thrash and perfects the sound with good production and riffs that will crush your skull. Lich King is basically Vio-Lence reborn and for that we’re all thankful.
5. Power Trip- Nightmare Logic
This album has been getting a lot of hype from metal elitists this year and I can see why. This is crossover at its best. While I don’t hear a huge amount of hardcore influences on Nightmare Logic, the ones that are there are tasteful. Ultimately, this is aggression and speed perfectly executed through buzz saw guitar tones, face ripping riffs, rad tempo changes all spawned from the first crunchy riff. Nightmare Logic is a fist pumping masterpiece complete with anthemic choruses and some of the coolest riffs I’ve heard all year. Power Trip is good shit.
4. Witchnight- Unholy Speed Metal
Witchnight is a brand new blackened speed metal band out of Argentina but their sound, name, and overall image may as well be out of 1987. These Argentinian shredders go straight for the jugular with their unique brand of black speed in the vein of Tormentor or demo era Destroyer 666. The fifteen minute EP entitled Unholy Speed Metal is marked by its utter intensity, lightening fast riffage, and cool DIY production. This is the kind of album I can imagine procuring in cassete form from a truer than thou older friend who partied with Jeff Hanneman back in the day. The entire EP drips of blasphemy and rage. Unholy Speed metal is Witchnight’s first EP, first anything ever. I really hope this band succeeds. I need more.
3.Bloodlust- At the Devil’s Left Hand
Three words: Australian blackened thrash. Bloodlust is a relatively new band that has old pro chops. At the Devil’s Left Hand is the band’s second full length release but the structure and execution of the album is so perfect you’d think Bloodlust had been at it for decades. I could chalk this up to expertly executed D666 worship but honestly, Bloodlust bring their own unique flavor to the table. The most notable positive on this album is probably the tempo changes, which are so succinctly placed that you’re transported in a sort of thrash metal void upon listening. Just be careful when you’re listening to AT the Devil’s Left Hand. You might just break your neck whipping around to their paralyzing riffs.
2. Blood Feast- The Future State of Wicked
The blood thirst is real this year. Blood Feast are old school motherfuckers from Jersey who haven’t slowed down a lick. The band split back in 1991 and reformed in 2007 coming back with a vengeance. The Future State of Wicked is the band’s first full length release since reforming and it slays harder than a good majority of the youngin thrashers attempts at reviving the old school. Everything from the chilling artwork to the riffs that cut through you like chainsaw to Chris Natalini’s penetrating screams is as heavy as thrash gets. It’s as though they reformed just to show the new horde how it’s done. This albums just kills, plain and simple.
1. Hellripper- Coagulating Darkness
Forming only three years ago, the UK’s Hellripper has already redefined the meaning of speed with break neck riffs and blistering solos. This is an impressive feat for a one man project. The band’s first full length release, Coagulating Darkness is more than simply unadulterated speed though, the execution is masterfully coherent and the tracks are catchy and memorable. This album just sounds evil. Guitar worship reigns supreme, as it should, on Coagulating Darkness as the solos are masterfully placed and the riffs are as cool as Destruction’s. Despite being from the UK, Hellripper’s music has an unmistakable Teutonic ambiance about that you can’t help but fall in love with. Really great stuff.
Disclaimer: Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch because I missed something, remember this is opinion. That said, if there’s anything you think I missed, please post it in the comments. I listen to a lot of metal but I can’t listen to everything. Also note, Underworld is not interested in anything PC, so if you have a problem with one of the bands on the list keep it to yourself and off my site. That’s all I’ve got. Stay trve! Hails!