Best of 2017: 15-11

15. WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, “Thrice Woven” (Artemisia): The return of Pacific Northwest black metal force Wolves in the Throne Room was an unexpected but very pleasant surprise, and their sixth record “Thrice Woven” would return them mostly to their black metal roots, but with fingers draped into their more atmospheric period. The record is a thunderous display, a 5-track, 42-minute barnstormer that brings enough fury back into their sound but doesn’t abandon what they accomplished on their more experimental works.

The album gets off to a rousing start with “Born From the Serpent’s Eye,” a cut that has the band storming the gates, devastating your senses with their assault. Yet halfway through, everything comes to a halt, and Anna Von Hausswolff arrives, bringing angelic drama to the song as her amazing voice coasts the senses. “The Old Ones Are With Us” featured Neurosis’ Steve Von Till, who lends his gruff singing voice to the folkier moments on the song, and he sounds so at home, he’s practically a member of the tribe. The track goes on a cataclysmic surge from there. “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon” closes the record with roaring melodies, growls that impact your soul, and a final salvo that lets you know their blood rushes like a mad river, and the Wolves’ story still has many compelling chapters to run. (Sept. 22)

For more on the band, go here: http://wittr.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.wittr.com/collections/featured-items

For more on the label, go here: https://artemisiarecords.bandcamp.com/

14. COLDFELLS, self-titled (Eihwaz Recordings): Now that cold, frigid weather has returned to most of the United States mainland, it’s a perfect time to revisit Coldfells’ immersive debut record, a self-titled affair that pays homage to their Appalachian surroundings, as its members—vocalist/guitarist Aaron Carey (Nechochwen, End, Infirmary), bass/drummer/backing vocalist Andrew D’Cagna (Nechochwen, Obsequiae, Unwilling Flesh), guitarist Jonny Doyle (Plaguewielder, Horse Drawn)—gaze at their frozen homeland and feel its psychological, spiritual warmth. That spills over into this powerful document that hopefully is the first installment of any more to come.

“The Rope” is the stunning 10:26-long opener, which starts with pastoral keys before tearing open in atmosphere. Guitars reach out while the melodies gush, and the growls add another level of power to the thing. “All Night We Flew” unfurls slowly before the verses start thrashing, and grim growls mix with strong singing. The pace surges, as the vocals stand out as a highlight of the track, and guitars take off into a Southern bend, driven by slide playing. Closer “Eons Pass” is goddamn epic from the start, as the singing punches your chest, and then ominous growls slide in as the track gets grittier. Organs spill, giving the track a spacey essence, while melodies bustle before things head off into the water. Great record from a really spirited band. (March 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/coldfellsdoom

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/

Or here: http://shop.eihwazrecordings.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

And here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/

13. BIG | BRAVE, “Ardor” (Southern Lord): Canadian doom trio BIG | BRAVE deliver striking doom and drone that pull you into their machine and hold you there, totally captivated. Seeing them live is another experience altogether, as their sound wafts through the room like an intoxicating fog, dragging you under their machine. On their great third record “Ardor,” they spread three songs over about 40 minutes, with notes held out for a million years, minimal vocals adding haunting atmosphere, and the drums bashed and mashed throughout the album’s entire run.

The band —vocalist/guitarist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball, drummer/vocalist Louis-Alexandre Beauregard—sounds like no other I can think of, and on this record, it’s a drive deeper into the dark cavern they’ve been building since 2012. “Sounds” opens the record, an 11:36 track that begins with noise spreading and the drums coming to life, and over that time, voices clash, the drone rises, and the drumming mars. “Lull” is an emotional run, with Wattie calling, “So I miss you, it’s all I can say, you were my best friend,” while the song bathes in noise and caterwauling sensations that pull you right into their souls as strings mix in and guitars glimmer in doom. Closer “Borer” is the longest track and arguably the best on here. The song takes its time building, and before you know it, the track gets agitated, with Wattie calling, “I am immune, and I am protected,” almost as if it’s a life mantra she wants you to commit to memory. This band is amazing, and there is no one like them. (Sept. 15)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.bigbrave.ca/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.southernlord.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://www.southernlord.com/

12. TRIUMVIR FOUL, “Spiritual Bloodshed” (Vrasubatlat/Invictus Productions): Putrid, filthy, angry, disgusting death metal still exists in our world, thank fuck, and Portland, Ore., band Triumvir Foul are keeping the blood and puss smeared all over this second record “Spiritual Bloodshed.” Their follow-up effort to their 2015 self-titled debut goes right for the jugular, meeting you face first with vile, heathenistic blasts that aim to rip you apart, limb from limb. The eight tracks that run over an ideally served 38 minutes are devastating and filthy, making your ears and your senses gush with plasma, and they prove their virulent art can both poison and punish.

The band—vocalist/guitarist Ad Infinitum and drummer Cedentibus (both also play together in Ash Borer, Urzeit, and Serum Dreg)—lays out a scorched-earth policy that destroys lives. “Asphyxiation” starts the record, and it’s ideally titled, because that is what it feels like you’re going through for the most part. Noise builds, crushing your chest, before the first wild cries emerge, and madness erupts. “Entranced By Filth” is led in by drums that sound like they’re in the midst of war and music that brings raucous terror, while “Disembowelment Pneuma” has noise spreading like plague and the track heading into a thrashy vortex. The cut is crunchy and violent, with gruff growls and a full serving of menace. “Vomitous Worship in Rotten Tombs” bathes in a feedback swarm before the band lets loose an ugly, damaging assault, while closer “Vrasubatlatian Rites” runs a devastating 7:20 and delivers riffs that are heavy as fuck, promising consummation by fire. This shit’s dangerous and vile. In the best way. (May 17)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.vrasubatlat.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://invictusproductions.net/shop/

For more on the label, go here: https://invictusproductions.net/

11. HELL, self-titled (Sentient Ruin/LowerYourHead): M.S.W., sole member of long-running doom monster Hell, has undergone some sonic changes over the project’s lifespan. On Hell’s new self-titled full-length album (the forth for the project and the second to be self-titled) changes things up from skull-bashing drone. Here, the guitars are sludgier, the tempo has added swagger, and the whole thing feels like it could cloud the room with noxious smoke aiming to alter your frame of mind. This seven-track, 49:49-long album is their most varied yet, and it’s going to sound like a motherfucker live.

The 9:34-long opener “Helmzmen” starts ominously, with clips of the mayday call from the Northern Belle sinking in 2010, as molten, stoner-style riffs kick in hard as fuck, noise-drenched growls pierce the surface, a heaping dose of sludge crumbles, and a nasty Sleep vibe spreads and kills. “Sub0din” simmers in feedback before riffs rise from the ash, and the growls scorch. “Wandering Soul” runs 5:09, and it stomps gigantic holes in everything at the outset, with meaty riffs mix with weird voices combining, and guitars swirling and creating a mind fuck; “Inscriptus” is a beast, with scathing screams and blistering violence, as voices argue back and forth over the validity of Biblical truth; and Closer “Seelenos” is an instrumental that cuts right to the heart, as guitars drip and leave black streaks, while a reading of Emily Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, In my Brain” sinks this further into despair. This is a new page turned for Hell, and it’s a dizzying beast. (Aug. 11)

For more on the band, go here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/hell-hell

Or here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/album/hell-full-length

For more on the label, go here: http://sentientruin.com/

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