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2017 Year-End Extravaganza Extravaganza Redux

Extravaganza Redux: 20(ish) Albums You May Have Missed in 2017

2017 ended up being a pretty damned good year for metal of all stripes, as was evidenced by our Vault Team’s Year-End Top 20 lists from a couple of weeks ago. Nine of us ended up writing lists, meaning that there were 180 total slots to fill across those nine lists. You know how many albums ended up appearing on more than two of those lists? Three: Violet Cold (4), Bell Witch (3), and Mutoid Man (3). That makes for a lot of variety from one list to the next, and none of us chose the same record as Album of the Year. In a year where most year-end lists were dominated by the likes of Converge, Code Orange, and Power Trip, we’re actually pretty proud of all that variety.

We try to do things a bit differently here at the Vault, and we strive to offer our loyal Vault Hunters an alternative to whatever big names everyone else is covering. I mean, sure – we reviewed the new Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, and The Black Dahlia Murder albums. But we spent even more time covering smaller labels and independent bands, because that’s the stuff that tends to get us excited. If we can turn folks on to an awesome band they might not have heard of before seeing them on our virtual pages, though – bands like Daxma, ORM, Absolver, Rig Time!, L.O.R.E., Wormwood, Satan’s Hallow, Isenordal, 1476, or any of the several dozen more that we covered in 2017 – that’s the real reason we do this. When it comes down to it, we’re all just a bunch of music nerds. And you, dear Vault Hunters – you’re the friends we go running to whenever we get stoked about a rad new album or band. #allofthemetalfeels

Before we completely turn our attention to 2018, we wanted to offer up one more list of our favorite albums from 2017. This time, we’re focusing on the albums we feel may have flown under the radar. They’re not necessarily obscure records – in fact, there are several bigger names on the list below – but they are all records that we feel didn’t quite get the attention they deserved.

So with out any further ado, here are 20(ish) albums you may have missed in 2017…

Æther Realm Tarot Independent

North Carolina’s dominant folk/melodeath act, Æther Realm, offers everything a fan of the genre can want on Tarot, their sophomore full length which was released this past June. Symphonic flourishes over hook-laden riffs (“Tarot,” “The Devil”), short bursts of aggression and technical accomplishment (“The Tower,” “The Emperor”), even a Chris Bowes feature and a twenty minute long closing track?! Where has this album been all my life? Tarot packs a lot of punch into 74 minutes, and does it with the mark of a band already forging an unmistakable future in the melodeath community. Being an NC local, I’ll listen to anything from my home state, but finding legitimately great music I can listen to for weeks and still not be bored with is a different, more wonderful feeling altogether. There’s no choice – this album is a must listen for fans of the genre. – Jared

american Violate and Control Sentient Ruin Labratories | Fragile Branch Recordings

With it’s mix of black metal, sludge, and harsh noise, Virginia-based duo american’s Violate And Control is easily one of the ugliest records that came out in 2017. Alternating between harrowing, damn near impenetrable walls of sound, and clearer passages that one might occasionally wish were more impenetrable (like the recording of the 911 call on “Ischemia – The Longing Agony”), the bulk of the record seems to fall into one of two categories: deeply unsettling or truly upsetting. It’s also fucking brilliant, and was on my Top 20 list until Chaos Moon’s Eschaton Mémoire came along in mid-November and fucked up…er…made me reconsider my entire list. Pick your favorite negative adjective (hateful? violent? misanthropic? oppressive?), and this album is it. – Clayton

Cavernlight As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache Gilead Media

In addition to having arguably the most cumbersome title of any album released in 2017, Wisconsin-based Post-/Doom outfit Cavernlight’s first full-length is also one of the most nakedly emotional. It seems a bit odd to me to call the album “beautiful” given their dismal, near-caustic sound—their style hews much closer to Bell Witch at their most abrasive than a melodic band like Pallbearer—but there’s something uplifting buried in all that murk as well. For me, the highlight of the album is “To Wallow in the Filth that Dwells Where Despair Is Born,” which has a main riff that reminds me a bit of Year of No Light and unexpectedly hopeful lyrics like “Dig deeper / Until you can grasp the still beating heart of the world” and “Become the truth you seek / Written in the natural world / Born of reason, born of filth / Become truth.” Cavernlight is a band that can find the moments of transcendence within their turmoil – and who couldn’t use a bit of that this time of year? – Clayton

Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress Howling Frequency Records

I’ve had this nasty work of sludge on heavy rotation for the last few months now, it barely missed the cut for my top 20 albums of 2017 list. Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress is unapologetically brutal, creating a sense of hysteria through the pummeling drums and high octave guitar noodling. If this debut missed your radar, give the opening track “Confusion Hath Fuck His Masterpiece” a listen and then inevitably the rest of the record. – Forrest

Control the DevastatorMultilayered Dimensions Independent

In 2017, there was a massive amount of talented bands that came out with some of the most beautifully intense music. To narrow it down seems impossible, but to start off checkout a local band from Atlanta, Georgia, Control The Devastator. They are by far one of my top GO TO bands. Their album Multilayered Dimensions is pure raw, emotions from beginning to end. From the captivating guitars to the trance-inducing bass, from the drums that get your blood flowing to the extreme, soul-crushing vocals – these guys have it all!! Take a moment to give these guys a listen, and if you EVER get a chance to see them live, take it! – Jeri (also of Nocturnal Euphony International)

Cryo Chamber Collaboration Yog-Sothoth Cryo Chamber

Is any genre more prepared to take on the lore and atmosphere of HP Lovecraft than dark ambient? I don’t think so, and once again Cryo Chamber proves to be the leaders of the dark ambient genre. This two-part album (each coming in a little over and under an hour) is a collaborative effort between twenty artists on the Cryo Chamber roster, and the outcome is awe-inspiring. I won’t dive into the Lovecraft lore of it all here, but if you are a fan of dark ambient and soundscapes, or you aren’t sure and wanted to check it out, this is a must have. – Mark (also of Fólkvangr Records)

Elder Reflections of a Floating World Stickman Records/Armageddon

For the approximately six individuals in metaldom who don’t already know and understand the pretense-free majesty of what Elder does, let’s sum it up: expansive, occasionally psychedelic, always riff-centric rock that feels classic the moment you hear it. These guys were a stoner rock band once, the way Steve Rogers was once just a patriotic kid from New York.
Maybe it’s no revelation to highlight Elder’s 2017 album Reflections of a Floating World as one of the best of the year. But it’s impossible to say enough about what they’ve done here.
When the opening riff establishes, it feels immediately familiar, universal, primal.
The drums come in, heavily accenting the riff the second time. Repeat with full instrumentation as that cosmos-spawning riff cycles again. It’s already catching in your brain.
In the verse section, echo-y, upper-register vocals describe an uncomplicated yet instantly resonant melody line. The chorus follows, paying off the verse before looping back to that impossible-to-improve-upon intro riff.
This doesn’t feel familiar because we’ve heard it before. It feels that way because Elder’s music flows through us as if following a metaphysical map overlaying our physiology. It pumps, swirls and accelerates like psychic blood, dispersing to every extremity and spinning in our brains like a slab of vinyl wedged between the hemispheres.
The bridge section arrives, and you’re switched on like a secret Cylon. Everything changes.
Delicate sweeps rather than chunky riffs, then stratospheric, climactic leads. If the first three minutes were a metaphor for our fundamental humanity, the middle progression represents our intellectual evolution: becoming self-aware, questioning the world, looking for answers in the stars.
Reflections of a Floating World should be hanging in the Smithsonian with a placard that says, “Why Are We Here?”
This record evolves. It introspects. It thunders, drifts, coalesces, and folds time, stringing together neat packages of musical matter in effortless perfection. It’s everything the six decades of rock music as an existential benchmark have been building toward. – Jadd

Kurse Tales of the Wizard Independent

Fuzzed out and full of gnarly riffs, Tales of The Wizard is a bubbling cauldron of equal parts doom and stoner/psychedelic rock. While the production is lacking, these three Canadians manage to overcome the technical shortcomings and offer up an impressive debut EP. “Four Princes” is the standout track for me, featuring some great interplay between the bass and guitar and otherworldly atmosphere. I highly recommend checking these guys out and giving them some love on Bandcamp. – Forrest

Lumnos Stellar Dust of Past Silentium Forest

I was initially drawn to this one by the cover. The beautiful mix of pink and blue immediately caught my eyes, promising beautiful soundscapes of emotional black metal bliss. The music sure didn’t disappoint. Post-black, shoegaze, folk, atmospheric and traditional black metal are all present on Stellar Dust of Past. Lumnos have expertly blended many different strains of black metal into one cohesive album, and if I had heard it a little earlier in the year, I’m sure it would have cracked my AotY list. – Reese

Mastodon Cold Dark Place Reprise Records

Emperor of Sand seemed to be the highlight in 2017 when it comes to Mastodon, but this EP they released later in the year is a real treat. This dark sounding record is a prog lovers dream, and it’s very much Mastodon. If you haven’t given this a spin, then I recommend that you purchase it and enjoy this amazing small EP from one of the greatest bands of our time. – Jason

Merkabah Million Miles Instant Classic

Free jazz, psychedelic, progressive metal from Warsaw, Poland. Merkabah has succeeded, perhaps most deftly of all, at incorporating saxophone into the metal scene. The horn squawks, screams, beguiles, and triumphs in aggressive conflict with the rhythm section. Release arrives at intervals, but there is little peace before the music rises into a new frenzy during most of the album. Running just over an hour, Million Miles experiments with many musical ideations, but there’s an underlying urgency and antagonism throughout the first half. Just when the frenzy begins to become enervating, the album transitions during the fifth track, “Ourang Medan,” undulating between more searching and melodic sections and the by-now familiar bellicosity. The last two numbers display beautiful singing saxophone over a gentle jangle of strings to support it. This final and lasting resolution rounds out a diverse album that is at first demanding and chaotic, but evolves through fits and starts to be sweetly uplifting at the conclusion. – Jessie

Minors Atrophy Holy Roar Records

Minors are a Canadian hardcore band, and half way through December they snuck out their debut album, Atrophy. Containing less than 20 minutes of feedback-fuelled intensity, Minors effectively incorporate punk, metal, powerviolence, and sludge into their hardcore assault, resulting in a hybrid form of violence that’s a very compelling, visceral listen. Varying in speeds and ugly moods across the playing time, this is a ferocious and savage collection of songs. With barely-restrained aggression and jagged atmosphere, Atrophy is the kind of listen that’ll leave you battered, bruised, and bleeding. Masochist that I clearly am, I can’t get enough of this. – Nigel (also of Wonderbox Metal)

Mors Principium Est Embers of a Dying World AFM Records

To be honest I totally slept on this one, and I am wrong for doing so. This album is full of symphonic and melodic elements, and it does everything right. I’ve been a fan since their first album, and they continue to be one of the best Melodic Death Metal bands in existence. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing album! – Jason

Mutiny Within Origins Roadrunner Records

If any record is going to get overlooked by most underground metal fans, it’s this one. Mutiny Within play metalcore of the modern, melodic variety. That means big choruses, slick, catchy riffs, and a heavy focus placed on the vocals. For the most part, I hate this music. But Mutiny Within do it right. Origins is a fun, punchy album of ten catchy tunes. Nothing more, nothing less. Not exactly top 20-worthy, but a record you oughta not miss this year. – Reese

Night Demon Darkness Remains Century Media

Playing speedy, high-energy metal that channels the best of thrash and NWOBM, Night Demon didn’t invent the idea of mining the past to tap into our devotion to familiar genre territory, but they do it incredibly well. On 2017 album Darkness Remains, their take on soaring, singable classic metal is an unapologetic timewarp and a glorious blast.
The opposite of timeless, Darkness Remains sounds and feels like 1984, and should come with an old bandana and a ratty Krokus t-shirt. With harmonized choruses and lyrics about ancient warriors and roads to hell, adrenalized midrange riffs and screaming solos, galloping basslines and blastoff, flourish-free drumming, everything Night Demon does lands with complete honesty and reverence. It also doesn’t feel like they’re cashing in on a retro trend; rather, they’re accessing what they (and we) love about Dio, Riot, early Maiden and Priest, and yes, even a smidge of Cliff Burton-era Metallica, in a way that’s neither ironic nor snarky.
Metalheads can be a bit snobby, so Darkness Remains, may not get buy-in from the critical elite the way more boundary-pushing stuff does.
Their loss. Night Demon reinvigorates a classic sound without forcing us to engage with the psychological baggage associated with the bands we’ve heard doing it for decades.
Free of emotional clutter, this is beer-stealing, bonfire-partying, speed-limit-breaking metal to flip off your high school to as you go screaming by, and it’s brand-goddamn new. Truthfully, this is the most fun record I’ve heard in years. – Jadd

Redemptor Arthaneum Selfmadegod Records

This third full-length from Poland’s Redemptor is one of the most tangible technical death metal releases of the year. There are so many footholds and things to grasp onto that it’s an easy climb through Arthaneum‘s 11 tracks. Much of the record is kept fairly mid-tempo, with lumbering vocals, unconventional riffing, and disjointed drumming. It is far from incomprehensible, however, and doesn’t take a trained ear to find the hooks and melodies. This one’s a late November heartbreaker/skull crusher, and you’d be remiss not to check it out. – Sam

Sanctuaire Feu Sacré  Les Productions Hérétiques

At this point, I don’t think there is anyone remotely into black metal that doesn’t know about the scene up in Quebec. The quality of black metal coming out of there is unparalleled on the North American continent, and this follow up to 2016’s Le Sang sur l’Acier is so exception. I have covered Monarque Helserkr’s work in my Rewind, Repeat column, but I didn’t see this title pop up on anyone’s year end list across the blogosphere so I thought it was time to refresh everyone’s memory. Incredible pagan black metal with folky passages, Sanctuaire is not to be slept on, especially for fans of that French Canadian sound. – Mark

Schammasch The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite Prosthetic Records

Despite putting out a stunning triple album last year, Schammasch may still be flying under too many damn radars. If you still haven’t checked out these Swiss avant-garde black metallers, The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite is an excellent place to get a taste. The first in a series based on the Comte de Lautreamont’s Les Chants des Maldoror, this 30 minute EP relies heavily on atmosphere and spoken word to slowly build its way to an explosive, powerful finale. This may be a bold statement considering 2016’s Triangle, but this EP is quite possibly the most important piece of music Schammasch have released as of yet. – Sam

Scrotoctomy Born to Eviscerate Gore House Productions

When it comes to Gore House Productions’ roster, bands like Party Cannon and Cranial Engorgement are probably some of the first that come to mind. However, if you only dig a little deeper, you’ll quickly find Scrotoctomy. This band dropped their full-length debut Born to Eviscerate in May and I’ve been jamming it since I first listened over the summer. Having no bassist to hold things down neither help nor hurts the group, they simply make up for it (and then some) with an extremely heavy dual guitar attack that fuses the unmistakable “buzzsaw” tone with slamming grooves/breakdowns that immediately connect. Frontman Omar García drops some of the most indistinguishable blurbs of guttural utterances I’ve heard all year on every damn song, and it’s simply glorious. Bringing in nine tracks at 25 minutes, Born to Eviscerate is the raw, flammable piece of brutal death metal you didn’t know you needed this year. Not to mention “Samurai Disembowelment” is one of this year’s greatest song titles, hands down. – Jared

Shadowmaster Shadowmaster Seeing Red Records

On the last Friday before Christmas, the world was weighted down by the arrival of one of the heaviest records of 2017. Yes, Shadowmaster’s crushing debut album had arrived. This Swedish band play monolithic doom metal that’s spiced up with scathing sludge. The result? 66 minutes of brooding darkness that’s heavier than a bag of elephants. Sometimes you just want slow, colossal doom that’s heavier than Hell and filled with paint-stripping screams and tar-thick distortion. For these kinds of moments, Shadowmaster perfectly fit the bill. And yet, despite how belligerent and unforgiving this can be, the music is not without nuance or texture, making for an album that retains its engaging presence long after you’ve ceased to be floored by its raw heaviosity. – Nigel

Tempestarii – Temple of Skies Independent

I can’t even begin to guess how many independent and/or underground black metal albums were released in 2017—tens of thousands at least, I’m sure—but I’m still surprised that Tempestarii flew under the radar. There are two reasons for my surprise. First, the only known member of the band is ex-SubRosa bassist Christian Creek, who played on 2013’s More Constant Than the Gods. This gives the band a kind of credibility (for lack of a better word) right out of the gate that a lot of their peers don’t have. More importantly, the (allegedly) Boise, Idaho-based outfit are incredibly fucking good. There are nods to most of the major West Coast black metal bands of the this century—Weakling, Bosse de Nage, Ash Borer and their multiple offshoots—without actually sounding like any of them. Dissonant Progressive Cascadian black metal? Fuck a genre tag – if you’re into the black stuff at all, you need to know this band. – Clayton

Ufomammut 8 Neurot Recordings

Psychedelic, space, sludge metal from Italy. Ufomammut has named their newest album either “eight” or “infinity,” depending on which way you turn the cover art. The project is meant to be listened to in one sitting, as each song builds on the previous composition. The three-piece uses all talents at their disposal to build a vivid soundscape heavy with distortion and interjected with galactic noise. I love that the band’s name describes their sound; you can easily picture a wooly mammoth trudging through a dense landscape underneath a sky littered with UFOs, whizzing away their ancient occupants. A 48-minute runtime is perfectly succinct for this relentless foray into destruction and futurism. – Jessie

 

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1 comment

Jason Thurston
Jason Thurston January 3, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Love Chained to the Bottom of the Sea. Awesome band

Reply

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