2017 has been a hellish ride concerning underground extreme music both around the globe as well as locally. For me personally, that involved getting into organizing shows with both GRIMM Gent and Niflheim Promotions VZW. GRIMM’s venue JH Asgaard opened on the same evening that the other venue I volunteer in, the Vort’n Vis, opened the doors of its brand new building. This summation might come across a bit sterile, but being able to dedicate a big part of my time to music and DIY organisations is a dream come true. On top of all that, 2017 proved to be a very fruitful year for black metal, one of the few genres that doesn’t give a damn about the shitload of controversies that controlled (social) media last year. A massive list of albums came out so I tried to distill the most interesting. So without further ado, here we go…
|10-6||5-1||Honourable mentions||Top live shows|
10. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
After what had been a few years where our favourite wolves seemed to have lost direction, they suddenly announced and released Thrice Woven. Originally, the album didn’t really stick with me, but after a splendid concert in Leuven I revisited their sixth full length. I came to the conclusion that despite a few uninteresting passages, there’s a lot of beauty to be found (partly because of guest vocalists Anna Von Hausswolff and Steve Von Till, also known from Neurosis). For a more detailed review, go here.
9. Bestia Arcana – Holókauston
It’s clear that Naas Alcameth (aka Kyle Spanswick) has no lack of inspiration these days. Concerning my top ten, Nightbringer’s Terra Damnata didn’t make it, but the stars seem to have aligned since Naas presented us with a new Bestia Arcana record after six long years. And what an album it has become. Whereas I only nodded along to the Nightbringer album, Holókauston just blew me away. Bestia Arcana is a pitch black monster that takes on various forms: at times atmospheric and captivating only to explode into utter chaos. As usual, Menthor‘s drumming is top notch. And now that we have had this new Bestia Arcana, can we please expect some more Akhlys in 2018?
8. Aosoth – The Inside Scriptures
My biggest concern with this album is that they often don’t reach the absolute peak. But that’s my only point of criticism. Luckily there are enough mad and utterly dark riffs, which seem enormously maniacal when combined with MkM’s filthy vocals. On a side note: black metal might be one of the few genres where words as ‘filthy’ or ‘maniacal’ are meant as a compliment. Unfortunately Aosoth doesn’t reach the unparalelled level they did with An Arrow In Heart, yet they provide us with a more than decent album.
7. Grav – Tomb of Agony
After Sir N. released one of the best black metal songs of the year with his project Grifteskymfning, he also released 3 (!) new Grav albums on the same day (!!!), so I picked Tomb of Agony. Normally Grav wouldn’t need an introduction (and by expansion: the whole Ancient Records circle from Sweden since Sir N. and Swartadauþuz never stop releasing new material). As expected this album turned out to be a highlight of the year in the typical melodic Swedish style, from a composer who seems to possess a bigger source of inspiration than half of the artists in the genre. Yes, I’m an Ancient Records fanboy, and you should be too.
6. Clouds – Destin
Supergroup Clouds at it again. Last year they occupied my number three spot with Départe, a deeply touching album. Now in 2017 the time was there for Destin, a record they initally announced as an EP but which feels more like a full length to me, due to the running time of an hour. Next to the fact that Clouds already harbored some well known musicians in the funeral doom scene there’s more: they called upon 4 guest vocalists, like Mikko Kotamäki from Swallow the Sun. Next to four new tracks some acoustic renditions of previously released songs are on the album as well – and they’re gorgeous, showing that funeral doom can be as intense acoustically as well as amplified. Clouds already has four releases now, but never disappointed me in the slightest.