As December creeps its way in and the cold drafts start to send New England into bitter frozen shivers, I’m realizing how fucking great 2017 was for music. Albums from every genre, subgenre, and subgenre’s subgenres of metal had highlighting releases this year and many bands were brought to light. Unfortunately, not every great album could make its way into The Moldy Crypt Top 15 of 2017. Here’s what I consider the BEST of the BEST of this past year.
15.) Strange Broue – Seance
Seance was actually recommended in passing to me by a friend, and I wasn’t totally expecting to even listen to it. I’m glad I did. Strange Broue have solidified a specific taste of their own stoner doom. Sloppy, fuzzy guitar tones rip between disorienting sound clips referring to satanism. This album is a mindfuck. The type of music you smoke a joint with Lucifer to. This trippy release grabbed me right from the very beginning and didn’t let go. With all the cookie cutter stoner bands releasing Electric Wizard wannabe albums, it’s nice that Strange Broue carved their own niche into the genre with this record. You can get it off of their Bandcamp for free, too. Who doesn’t like free shit?
14.) Trenchgrinder – Peace Is Forfeit
Somehow this band slipped through my radar for 6 years after the release of their first demo in 2011, though 2017 is the year for their first LP entitled Peace Is Forfeit. Blending elements of grind and crust, Trenchgrinder has unleashed hell on their newest effort. To be honest, this album has some of my favorite vocals of the year. These songs sound like they’ve got concrete in a blender while listening to the cries of battle trample across the mud plains just outside your tent. This breed of war metal will rip out your throat and shit down the hole…the sound of a mushroom cloud being born. Check it out on the Trenchgrinder Bandcamp.
13.) Havukruunu – Kelle Surut Soi
Being a huge fan of the folk side of black metal, I was incredibly excited when this record came out. There is not a dull moment, or a fleeting second of disappointment. This album reminds me a ton of older Drudkh with production just clean enough for you to make out the insanely melodic riffs but not so polished as to sound edited. They stay true to their black metal roots with grainy fast paced riffs all just bubbling with folk influence that many BM fans love. This is one of my most listened to records of late…each return to the album shines a new light on the music. Stream Kelle Surut Soi on the Naturmacht Productions Bandcamp or pick it up for less than 5 bucks.
12.) Grave Circles – Tome I
Usually I wouldn’t include a 3 track EP in a “best of the year” list but this one is seriously too good for me not to include. Tome I is the debut EP from Grave Circles and their only material to date. Don’t let the lack of music fool you…these guys pack a serious punch in the small amount of time they are allowed to do so on this release. Though it is a cold attack of black metal, it infuses melodic influence and even death metal at times. Dissonant chords are rushed through a blistering atmosphere of incense and disease. Hopefully we will be granted a full length in 2018, but for now you can download Tome I for free on the Grave Circles Bandcamp.
11.) Pallbearer – Heartless
It’s no secret that Profound Lore is one of the fastest growing and unique metal labels Canada has ever birthed. Some of the biggest names in doom metal right now are topping the Profound Lore roster, and one of the most mentioned of those is Pallbearer and their 2017 LP, Heartless. Pallbearer are known for their sorrowful melodies being carried over thick, unrelenting rhythms. Heartless is perhaps their best display so far, and it shows how seriously this band is to be taken. Their particular style of melodic, glimmering funeral doom with clean and bright vocals will surely land them at the top of many other 2017 lists other than mine. Visit the Profund Lore Records Bandcamp to check out Heartless and Pallbearer’s previous records.
10.) Incantation – Profane Nexus
The masters of doomy death return for their 2017 installment, Profane Nexus. I must admit, I was a little nervous that Incantation would catch the impending plague that so many before them have caught; the plague where old school death metal bands run out of ideas and each album starts to sound like a xerox copy of its predecessor. I’m so incredibly relieved to find out that this album was some of the doomiest, most aggressive material the band has ever released. This violent attack is stamped with the official seal of Incantation that no other band has ever been able to reproduce quite the way they can. Personally, this is one of my favorite Relapse releases of the year. More unholy than ever before! Head over to Incantation’s Bandcamp for your copy.
9.) Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
Let me first start by saying that if you haven’t heard this album, go and listen to it without reading the rest of this list. You’ll thank yourself later. That being said, this is one of the heaviest, dreary, and most vile death doom releases of all time. Dark Descent Records tossed quite a wrench in the mix of things in 2017 with this release. With just a single available for a couple of months before the release, they got everyone quite riled up. The tension was not in vain. This album is what being swallowed by a whale feels like. Visit the Dark Descent Bandcamp to stream Eroded Corridors of Unbeing.
8.) Witches Moon – Azazel Bedazzle
Though there were quite a few dungeon synth releases this year that I thoroughly enjoyed, including quite a few more by Witches Moon, Azazel Bedazzle takes the gold for me. This is quite possibly my favorite dungeon synth record ever, period. The Witch has made a most coherent string of albums, some of which are black metal infusing classic dungeon synth elements, while others are strictly dungeon synth, such as this. There is not a wasted moment, and Witches Moon have created a sound entirely specific to themselves. In other words, I haven’t quite heard any black metal that sounds exactly the way this does. Witches Moon will give you a candlelit guide into the castle and show you the mysteries hidden within…listen at the Witches Moon Bandcamp (and be sure to listen to all the other WM records while you’re there).
7.) Tomb Mold – Primordial Malignity
It is entirely possible that 2017 is the year that made Blood Harvest one of my top record labels to watch. Tomb Mold’s LP Primordial Malignity is partially responsible for that. This album contains some of the grimiest, decaying old school death metal ever recorded. Tomb Mold have given a fresh new take on a genre that is 30 years old and this album proves it. Punishing drum attacks pulse through graveyard-ish guitar tones and swampy vocals. Every minute death metal fans spend without knowing this band is a minute wasted. You can hear for yourself at the Blood Harvest Records Bandcamp.
6.) Owlcrusher – Owlcrusher
This low profile sludge trio from the UK kicked the breath out of the doom scene with their self titled 2017 release. Sludge, doom, death, and even some black influence can be found on this dreadfully slow and hateful release. This album quickly lifted Owlcrusher’s name to many lips and for good reason. The music on this release sounds like a poisoned dagger being driven painfully slow into someone’s groin. Owlcrusher are not afraid to scare the hell of their audience. No news of any North America appearances have been made, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out if any of that information comes out. Head over to their Bandcamp to stream.
5.) REZN – Let It Burn
From the moment I heard this record I knew it would make my top 5 of the year, and for a little while after it came out I considered it my favorite of 2017. REZN sort of came out of nowhere on this one, with no hype or even prior releases to go by. They just kind of said “Hey, here’s Let It Burn” and that was that. What resulted was one of the catchiest, molasses-slow, suffocating stoner doom since Bongripper’s Miserable. They also happen to be from Chicago, so I guess heroin-like stoner doom is just the thing around there. Hell, whatever it is, I hope they keep up the good work. One of the best records to burn some grass to. Roll one up then head over to the REZN Bandcamp to listen.
4.) Usnea – Portals Into Futility
Don’t bullshit me. You knew there would be more Relapse albums on this list. And when Relapse is releasing shit as insane as Usnea, can you really fucking blame me? I will admit, I do have a soft spot for death doom. But that shouldn’t take away from how incredibly well done the newest Usnea record is. Portals Into Futility is a droning, hypnotic sprawl of melody-driven doom that will catch you right off the bat. The album starts with intriguing, atmospheric vocals that sound like they were recorded in the ruins of a 15th century church. By the end, you’ll hear the range of emotions emitted through their expertly crafted guitar tone and everchanging vocal structure. Check it out on the Usnea Bandcamp.
3.) Primitive Man – Caustic
Let’s begin the top 3 ranks of this list with the absolute HEAVIEST music released across all platforms this year. That music is contained on the horrific, panic-inducing doom created by Denver trio Primitive Man. Spiteful, hateful, nihilistic, and violent are simply not accurate enough to describe this album–it’s downright disturbing. I was basically puking with excitement when I found out this album was set to be released, after how much I fell in love with their previous LP Scorn. This album delivers all the poison and disease of their previous music tenfold. Primitive Man are also nothing to joke with on stage either. I saw them earlier this month in MA and it was earth-crumbling. Caustic is heavy enough to make you feel fucking paranoid. The lyrics and sounds therein will penetrate your mind and leech on your psyche for hours after listening. If you dare, you can witness this massacre on the Primitive Man Bandcamp, but be sure to wear a diaper.
2.) Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
A heavy heart comes alongside the release of the monolith album Mirror Reaper by one of funeral doom’s most notable shining stars Bell Witch. In May of this year, drummer and vocalist of Bell Witch Adrian Guerra passed away unexpectedly. After an incredibly successful signing to Profound Lore Records and positive feedback pouring in from Four Phantoms, fans of the band were taken by surprised and wondering what the future would hold for the band. It turns out that Dylan Desmond, bassist/vocalist and remaining member of the band, would go on to release perhaps the most emotional funeral doom record of all time. One massive 83 minute track on the album contains “words of the dead” — vocal recordings of Adrian taken before his death and used on the album. This procession is felt heavily and ever-present in the music. I witnessed the first half of this song performed in MA when they played with earlier mentioned Primitive Man this year, and it was absolutely captivating. This performance is partially why they have made it so high on my list this year, and they deserve every bit of support from the doom community…not just because of the sudden death of a band member, but because of the insane amount of talent and respect they have given back to their fans and the community. Mirror Reaper will shatter you from the inside out. Support the band over at the Bell Witch Bandcamp. P.S…if we were having an “Album Art of the Year” list, this one would definitely be #1.
1.) Contaminated – Final Man
And so we have it. The number one spot, and my personal favorite album of the entire year: Contaminated’s Final Man. This album, mainly, is the one that pointed my sights on Blood Harvest Records earlier this year. This Australian death metal outfit spits moldy, dripping guitar tones that crush and destroy anything in the path. Every riff is aggressive and composed in such a way that truly sounds like a cesspool mosh pit. I don’t believe there is another album I headbanged in my room to this year more than this one, and I’m surprised this hasn’t picked up more attention. They also aren’t a bad contender for “album art of the year,” either. Contaminated’s breed of death metal will drag you the bottom and force you to gag, until you’re left screaming for help and gasping for air. And you will love every second of drowning. If you’ve got a knack for dying, go to the Blood Harvest Bandcamp and listen to this record front to back.
Well, that’s that: Lurker’s top 15 of 2017. Keep in mind that while I do my best to keep up on music, I can’t hear everything, and though there’s about 20 other albums I would have liked to include in this list, I can’t include everyone. So even though many bands didn’t appear on this list, this year was insanely good for every type of metal. And even if you totally disagree with this list, that’s fine too, because I’m sure you think other music kicks ass, and that’s the most important part. If you read this far, THANK YOU for your support. I’ve linked Bandcamp accounts here because it is usually the best and most direct way to support a band, so if you like any of the stuff you saw here, please be sure to keep the music scene thriving and support these hardworking musicians.
Keep death/black/doom alive, support the underground! If you want to keep up with what music I’m checking out, follow me on my personal Bandcamp as Yawning Druid. See you in 2018.