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|
5. Black Cilice – Banished From Time
Portuguese black metal outfit Black Cilice has a huge amount of love-it-or-hate-it potential. Not everyone appreciates the fuzzy ‘vacuum cleaner sound‘, and even I have to admit that not all raw black metal is fit for my taste (just don’t make me rant about war black metal crap like Nyogthaeblisz). According to Black Cilice standards, Banished From Time might well be their most ‘accessible’, or dare I say ‘listenable’ material, which results in a huge amount of atmosphere. Tormented vocals are layered upon fuzzy guitars which actually hide some really intense and captivating riffs. Black Cilice drags you down a dark maelstrom. This album, or band, might not be for everyone, but to my taste this is a very qualitative release.
4. Entheogen – Without Veil, Nor Self
Entheogen is one of the releases from 2017 where Alex Poole played a significant role (as vocalist), even if it’s Chaos Moon-guitarist Steven Blackburn who wrote the music. Without Veil, Nor Self is an extremely layered album that invites the listener to just experience the whole trip instead of just picking out a song. Some parallels with the Icelandic project Wormlust are notable, especially when thinking of the out-of-this-world dark atmosphere, spiralling down into the depths of your own mind. Another big plus is the fact that the drumming is extremely varied. Entheogen has been a discovery in late 2017, but surely one of the most intriguing releases I stumbled upon.
3. Tchornobog – Tchornobog
If you’re a hypersensitive person, you’d best stay away from this album. Tchornobog is the debut album of Tchornobog (aka Markov Soroka) and spans a bit over an hour. The American composer brings us a splendid mix of death and black metal with a layer of doom metal on top. Next to the experimental use of instruments like saxophone or cello, Soroka creates an extremely suffocating atmosphere. A project like The Ruins of Beverast has been founded to convert fear into sound, but the latest TRoB offering Exuvia sounds like a calm walk in the woods compared to the utter madness Tchornobog drags you through: a dark, Lovecraftian universe that’s pictured perfectly on the surrealistic album cover. I bet that’ll look great on a vinyl edition.
2. Rebirth of Nefast – Tabernaculum
Irishman Stephen Lockhart moved to Iceland to initiate Studio Emissary and Oration Festival. He worked on this album for nine full years. With the help of Sinmara-drummer Bjarni Einarsson he put together an album that endures for over an hour and possesses an atmosphere so dark and brooding that after each listening session it keeps on haunting you for a while. In interviews, Lockhart pointed out to have an extremely perfectionistic mindset, and that’s to be heard on Tabernaculum. In one swift stroke, Rebirth of Nefast launched itself to the absolute summum of Icelandic black metal with this captivating masterpiece. Just like Tchornobog, this album is not intended for the faint of heart.
1. Chaos Moon – Eschaton Mémoire
Sprung from the wells of Alex Poole’s imagination, there’s Chaos Moon. We already encountered Poole as the vocalist for Entheogen in this list, but he’s also involved with projects such as Skáphe and Martröð. This time, he wrote the music alone and starts to reveal himself as a true visionary. Five songs that make up for roughly 40 minutes are enough to display a lot of variety without compromising on consistency, and where the quite omnipresent synthesizers (with some winks to early Emperor) don’t get on my nerves in the long run. Don’t expect an album made up of pure agression, but one that keeps you under its spell from start to finish. This is, without a doubt, one of the best black metal projects ever to emerge from the US of A. Swartadauþuz took care of the production, adding a little “Ancient Records-mysticism”. Next to that, Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) took care of the part Salvador Dali, part H.P. Lovecraft inspired artwork whereas H.V. Lyngdal (Wormlust) is responsible for the lay-out of the booklet and vinyl edition. So many über-talented people working on one album surely makes for a total experience of art.