Best of 2017: 10-6

10. EYE OF NIX, “Black Somnia” (Scry Recordings): There’s a reason one must consider every bit of music released during a calendar year, because you never know when something impactful will arrive when you least expect it. That occurred this year with the second Eye of Nix record “Black Somnia,” an album so enthralling and filled with chaos that it landed in our top 10. I not-so-cryptically warned in the review of this record last week that we weren’t done lathering praise for this thing, and true to our word, we’re throwing our arms around this indescribable record that packs noise, doom, folk, and massive drama into one package.

The band examines fear, anxiety, and darkness on this six-track album that is morbid and mysterious. Vocalist Joy Von Spain is a force to withstand, as she wails violently in some areas and pushes herself to operatic levels in others. “Wound and Scar” starts us off with a slow, doomy path that’s interrupted by jarring, vicious shrieks from Von Spain and organs spilling in the horrors. The pace destroys for a stretch before working into a brief gazey storm. “Lull” is a great cut that mixes aggressive acoustics into the churning horrors, with the band howling, “Your lies control!” A Hideous Visage” is the 8:37 closer that takes its time, burning slowly over its first minutes. The track then deliberately stomps, with the leads cutting a path, the elements getting dark and gloomy, and singing mixing with maniacal screams. It’s a powerful statement, and you’d better take heed. (Dec. 15)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.scryrecordings.com/posts/discography/eye-of-nix-black-somnia/

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

9. WOE, “Hope Attrition” (Vendetta): It was refreshing this year to hear more metal bands lash out against the right-wing bullshit going on in this country, and Brooklyn-based black metal beasts Woe certainly contributed to fighting against the oppression and religious-based politics and fear tactics. The band’s fourth record “Hope Attrition” is a fiery, scathing assault, one that you could digest and enjoy even without immersing yourself in the messages. But if you’re on their side, you’ll walk away galvanized and ready to battle back.

The band—Chris Grigg (guitars, vocals), bassist Grzesiek Czapla (he’s also handled drums and guitars in the past for the band), guitarist/vocalist Matt Mewton, and drummer extraordinaire Lev Weinstein—leaves very little room for you to breathe as they lash back against what they see as unjust and just downright bullshit.  “Unending Call of Woe” is an ideal starting place, as riffs charge up, and the first part of the track unravels in a calculating pace. But then the song whips into gear, with Grigg howling, “This is a failure, and every wretched word is broken!” “No Blood Has Honor” should make anyone questioning the band’s motives see things perfectly clear, as they assault societal woes brought on by faith-based tactics, as Grigg howls, “What do you know about honor?” “The Ones We Lost” tramples a mid-tempo path to start before it bursts open, and the vocals settle into strangulation mode; while closer “Abject in Defeat” tramples in with drums rolls and strong riffs, as a channeled assault and thought-provoking lead guitar work unfurl as Grigg howls, “All paths led out to sea, and slowly I discovered, this world is not for me.” (March 17)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.vendettarecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/

8. SPECTRAL VOICE, “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” (Dark Descent): Death metal is in a really good place right now, and we have bands such as Spectral Lore to thank for that. The Denver band’s debut record “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” was one of this year’s most anticipated albums, and when it finally landed in October, it paid off all that pre-hype and audience anxiety. This band that is made up of three-quarters of Blood Incantation, and they produce a 5-track, 44-minute display that will turn your blood to ice water and make you feel like you’ve been haunted by some extraterrestrial force.

Opener “Thresholds Beyond” is a 7:20 scorcher with dizzying guitars and massive growls with a pace that punishes. The vocals later lurch deep below the filth, but then things go chillingly eerie. Clean guitars slide behind that, and then the tempo hits a calculating drubbing. “Visions of Psychic Dismemberment” is the longest track at nearly 14 minutes, and it starts in moody darkness before the punishment arrives. Nasty growls and muscular guitars intertwine as the drums do maximum damage, and a wild cry tears out of Wendler’s mouth before we’re on to psychedelic madness. Closer “Dissolution” goes 9:38, and it brings the hammers early, as the band mauls and thrashes away. The riffs chug and swallow whole everything in its path, and then we head into violent hyperdrive. Spectral Voice were promised as a shiny new blade for death metal, and they sure cut right to the bone on their debut. (Oct. 13)

or more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Necroticdoom

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

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

7. IMPETUOUS RITUAL, “Blight Upon Martyred Sentience” (Profound Lore): Australian death metal horde Impetuous Ritual have been tearing apart psyches for more than a decade now, pummeling their audiences and grinding faces into the dirt. It’s why I laugh sometimes when people describe modern death metal bands whose shirts line Hot Topics everywhere as brutal, because if you haven’t heard this band, you have no fucking clue what that word even means. Their third record “Blight Upon Martyred Sentience” manages to take the terror they create and make it even more bizarre, sending your mind into a vortex for nine tracks and 43 minutes.

“Void Cohesion” opens the record like a storm of plague, as noise builds and chokes, with churning death roiling through hell and forcing you to gasp for breath. It’s a mass of sound, feeling like a planet folding in on itself and experiencing a slow, tortuous death. “Inordinate Disdain” begins strangling right away. Hellish vocals and sprawling soloing cause the fires to rage over, as terrible cries pummel, and the pace keeps blazing anew. “Denigrative Prophecies” starts with terrifying growls that start your skin crawling, and then the song blows itself apart. Strange vocals bubble to the surface, and the final moments are smothering and nasty, slipping out into space. Closer “Intransience” is the longest track at 9:06, and it boils for its first stretch, allowing heat to gather and your body to wilt. The band burrows away, as if tunneling through the ground, while massive death growls are traded off with weird vocal spurts. This is another horrifying experience from Impetuous Ritual. (June 16)

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

To buy the record, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com

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

6. DAWN RAY’D, “The Unlawful Assembly” (Halo of Flies/Prosthetic/Feast of Tentacles): We just spoke of metal speaking out against political and societal injustices, and on their fiery first record, Dawn Ray’d take the fight to the streets, speaking out for those who struggle, who break their bones to make ends meet, and who constantly have the boot of the upper crust on their throat. They’re not going to take it anymore, and they’re using their soaring, European folk-flexed black metal to stand as their platform. Even if you don’t feel like getting political, you can find a ton to love in these 10 songs. The band—vocalist/violinist Simon B, guitarist Fabian D., and drummer Matthew B—can enrage the fire within your heart and give you a taste of humanity once again. They’re just a really great band.

The record is divided into two sections, each ending with a chilling, anger-laced acoustic track that buttons up the unrest you just heard. Opener “Fire Sermon” swelters in string drone before a gruff bark signals fiery times are here. The band pummels forward, with violins cutting into the chaos to add a sorrowful texture before the storming erupts again. “The Abyssal Plane” has violins leading before the melody surges, and the pace opens up properly. The melodies and vocals provide ample thunder, while the strings add a Celtic edge. “Future Perfect Conditional” bursts with disgust and disappointment, but also with a sense of strength. “You heard the call and you did not answer,” Simon B howls, “You heard the cry for help, and you turned away!” which is a line all too applicable to the U.S. right now. “Strike Again the Hammer Sings” has a string-rich burst at the start before the track rains down heavily and causes your head to feel the pressure. A sequence of calm arrives to let in some cool breeze, but then it gets shredded again. This band is defiant and surging with power, a voice for the voiceless who have been beaten back too long. It’s time to take things back, one street at a time. (Oct. 2)

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

To buy the album (US), go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo105-dawn-rayd-the-unlawful-assembly-lp/

Or here (UK): http://feastoftentacles.bigcartel.com/

Or here (coming soon): https://store.prostheticrecords.com/

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

And here: http://www.feastoftentacles.com/

And here: https://prostheticrecords.com/

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