I've made the point several times over the last few years, but it bears repeating once more: Hideous Divinity came to claim Hour of Penance's crown of brutality, and they crushed their countrymen's skulls into such a fine powder that I'm pretty sure this album's intensity can be attributed to the band snorting it. I know the hot tech death album this year is the new Archspire album, and I'll spoil this a bit by saying that they didn't place on this, and it's for a simple reason. Archspire is faster and more impressive (likely the most impressive tech death band in terms of technical skill in history), but they still don't write songs as instantly ear catching as Hideous Divinity. I stacked the two up against each other, and in the end it wasn't a contest. Hideous Divinity can't be stopped.
Another minor spoiler here, but 2017 was a year where basically every genre that wasn't death metal or otherwise something known for pushing the envelope of extremity was kinda weak. There's no power metal here for the first time basically ever, and thrash, trad, and black metal all struggled to hold my attention, it's just the year of the brutal and gory for me. Belgium's Evil Invaders is a huge exception. These guys pretty much tore me the fuck apart with their debut in 2015, and their sophomore effort is a few steps ahead of even that one. This is, as obviously evidenced by the band's name, insanely vicious speed metal in the vein of Razor. Squealing shrieks and screaming solos, accompanied by melodic interludes and drumming that never slows the fuck down, this is everything I want out of speed metal. Restraint is for the weak.
You guys have no idea how excited I am to finally be able to put SikTh on a year end list. Despite being early progenitors of currently popular genres that I don't care for like djent and whatever the fuck Periphery is, SikTh was always on a whole other level. Nobody sounded like them in the mid 2000s, and nobody sounds like them now that they've reformed. This sounds like they haven't missed a step since Death of a Dead Day, enduring the departure of Justin Hill with such finesse that you can barely tell he's gone. Mikee Goodman is still the most unique vocalist basically ever, the music is the same spastic dissonance with huge emphasis on solid grooves and hooks, basically everything is perfect. This is the album I've been waiting for for 11 years, and god damn did it deliver.
FUCK. This album shreds so hard it fucking hurts. I won't claim to know Full of Hell's evolution as a band, the point is that I always knew them as a hardcore/powerviolence band and just never really bothered to check them out. With the rise of metal-friendly hardcore in recent years getting a whole bunch of hype, particularly Nails and Code Orange, I figured it was high time I give Full of Hell a shot as well, since they seem to be getting roughly the same amount of love. Refer back to the beginning of this entry: FUCK. This is some of the gnarliest grind I've gotten into in a while, and I haven't felt such a rush of intensity since the first time I heard Rotten Sound's Exit. I can't imagine anybody doing this since I'm far from an outlier in praising this record, but don't sleep on it.
I try not to do this, but most of you know I run the AOTY poll over at the Metal Archives, and sometimes a release I totally missed will pop up on my radar when I see it garnering a lot of votes early on. Malokarpatan was one such release. I told myself that even if I loved it, I wouldn't put it on my own list because that would feel like cheating, but I've been listening to this almost non stop for the past few weeks and I'd be lying if I said I didn't immediately love it more than most albums I've heard this year. I can't even really call this the token BM album to make it on the list, because there are so many other influences that that feels incorrect. This gets a lot of comparisons to Master's Hammer, but I've never listened to them so I can't say if it's correct or not. I just know that this is BM + Iron Maiden/Mercyful Fate and I'm in love.
Everything was wrong with this album before it came out. The cover art sucked, the title was stupid, they were falling back on old habits by having Erik Rutan produce it again, early reports from friends who got promos were that there were no crawling or crushing tracks and it was all just really fast and aggressive. Everything felt wrong and I couldn't have been less interested. Then I decided to give it a shot anyway and learned my fucking lesson. I don't know why I ever doubt Cannibal, they're one of the greatest bands in metal history and it's not on accident. Yeah, this is the thrashiest album they've written in 25+ years and it's all cut from the same cloth as "Demented Aggression", but fuck that just means it goes as hard as possible for 45 solid minutes.
I thought Manifest Decimation was a cool little unknown slice of thrash with a flair for the old school hardcore. I spun it a few times and let it sit. Four years later, Nightmare Logic steps onto the scene and fuuuuuuck. Power Trip brought riffs for fucking days on this one, and it's pretty easily one of the very few standout thrash releases to be released in this current Dead Riff Era of metal. The real star of the show here, for my money, isn't even a member of the band, but the producer, Arthur Rizk. Rizk popped on my radar last year with Sumerlands and Eternal Champion, and this here continues what I've noticed with those albums. He is unbelievably skilled when it comes to making things sound retro without sounding dated. Nobody delivers the furious crunch quite like this guy, and he's establishing himself as a premier knobsman for good reason.
This is another thrashy band that had a decently well received release in 2013 that I totally forgot about until now. Allegedly Towards Eschaton is a bit more up my alley, considering this album is seen as a continuation of that sound but with less melody and Motorhead influence, but if that's the case then that must simply mean it's one of the best of 2013 that I skipped over, because I fucking love this album to pieces. High octane, preposterously intense and ripping black/thrash that so easily lends itself to mediocrity. Craven Idol found a way to stand out amongst the throng of bands in the genre simply by writing great songs with great riffs and great hooks. That's exactly the shit I love. It's not as pummeling as Power Trip, but this is easily my most listened-to thrash album of 2017. And it's only halfway thrash!
Why?? There is absolutely no reason this album should be as good as it is. Fetus hasn't released anything in five years, the title just reeks of a filler release, bringing the old logo back feels like desperation, I just don't get it. This should suck, but it doesn't. Not even a little bit. In fact I'd say this is right on par with Reign Supreme, which is only a tiny step down from Destroy the Opposition. They are on an unstoppable roll right now, which is insane considering how far into their career they are at this point. Wrong One with Which to Fuck is a god damned riff fiesta. It's just banger after banger after banger. This doesn't have the handful of standout tracks like the previous album did, but I reckon it sits at a consistently higher plateau. God dammit it just slams.
You'd think it would be a no brainer considering my taste in music, but I really don't listen to a whole lot of metalpunk. My listening is split almost 60/40 between the two genres and the very pseudonym I've been using for the past 12+ years on the internet is derived from Motorhead, the band that ties the two genres together. Well Deathwish seems to be the band that finally made me sit up and take notice, because holy shit there is not one second of this record that I don't adore. Creativity is at an all time low here, as it's just Motorhead + Discharge and basically nothing else I can tell, but there's nothing else I even want out of this. This is just adrenaline pumping, pedal-to-the-metal machismo from the opening seconds and it never calms down. If you can't get enough of meth-fueled warbling and endless d-beats backing meaty riffs, this is your jam.
Black Dahlia seems to have simply reset their age old "good album, meh album" flip flopping, because we're back to another phenomenal release. Nightbringers stands as possibly the best album they've released since Nocturnal, and at the very least is on par with Everblack for me. While Abysmal two years ago was mediocre to me and seems to be the template here (with nearly every song in the 3 minute range and sporting ridiculously speedy tempos), this is just better in every conceivable way. "Kings of the Nightworld" is fighting to be my new favorite song of theirs, and the b-side in general is fucking stunning. Pretty much nothing flops, and I'd say this is in serious contention for the title of their most consistently excellent record across the board. Pay attention, TBDM deserves so much more underground respect than they get.
When I said trad metal was mostly a flop this year, it was with the unspoken caveat that Satan's Hallow was a massive exception. This sat penciled in at the top spot for most of the year, only talking myself out of it shortly before finalizing this list, and it's for damn good reason. Guitarist and main songwriter, Von Jugel, explained that his main goal in writing these songs was to cut out all of the fat and release a concise, undiluted, 100% pure punchy experience, not unlike the setlist of a great opening band. I'd say he succeeded marvelously, because this is an amazing album. It's 70s/80s Priest and Mercyful Fate for the new millennium, and there isn't one wasted second or filler riff. Martillo's vocals are obviously going to draw comparisons to Doro/Warlock as well, but for my money this is better than they ever were. Seriously.
I'm going to lose so much underground cred for putting a major label release by an established legend above the small time darlings that are Satan's Hallow, but at the end of the day I just can't kill this album. Suffocation somehow, after over a decade of decent-but-not-amazing releases since the reformation (I know Pinnacle of Bedlam ranked on my list when it came out, but 2013 was a really weak year and it wouldn't have even sniffed the lists for 15 or 16), have finally, finally managed to recover after the loss of Doug Cerrito. Despite this and Satan's Hallow being neck and neck all year (even garnering the same fucking score when I reviewed them both), I think the reason Suffocation pulled out the victory in the end is simply because of what this represents. This is an established band, long past their prime, shuffling the deck and restocking their lineup with fresh young faces who had 1000x the fire and passion that the veterans had at the time. This, to me, signifies the future. Sure, Terrence Hobbs is still around and it just wouldn't be Suffocation without his style of riffing, but I never would've expected that they'd ever reach these heights again without Cerrito, Smith/Culross, Marchais, or especially Mullen. Frank may be the vocalist on the album here, but Kevin handles 99% of the live shows and he's a dead fucking ringer for Frank so it barely matters. Charlie and Eric also decimate their new roles as well, and it just shows how important it can be to introduce new faces into the scene. These guys are set now as long as they want to be in the business, because they've proven themselves alongside the legends they grew up with. ...of the Dark Light showcases the death of the tired old trope of replacing veteran members with other scene veterans, because that fiery youth is exactly what made Effigy of the Forgotten so fucking good. It'll probably take a long time before this practice catches on, but I hope it eventually does, because this is a well deserved, and rightfully fantastic winner of the BH Award for Album of the Year 2017.
And now for something completely the same!