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Sucking All the Way to the Bank: Emperor Rhombus’ Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2017

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Oh Christ, is it the end of 2017 already? Good fucking Lord, I’ve barely registered this year passing by. It must be because my brain is in a constant state of stimulation, what with this being both the year Nazis marched openly in America while the president made excuses for them AND the year I co-wrote and published the most important book about heavy metal music that has ever been written. Guess I haven’t been paying attention to the clock during this time. Then again, it might also be all the rum and

ANYway, somehow, amidst the insanity of the past twelve months, I’ve managed to listen to a shitload of metal, and a lot of it has been pretty damn good. 2017 has been a great year for metal of all genres, from brutal death metal to elemental black metal to weirdo thrash (all of which are covered in the list below). Sadly, the propaganda ministers at the Mansion only allow me to include fifteen on my list, so, with many apologies to Bear Mace, Wednesday 13, Connoisseur, Vampire, and Spirit Adrift, here is my line-up of this year’s best albums. See you next year, unless the Hellraisers movie happens (they want me to play Anselmo, big surprise), in which case you can eat my dick with all its herbs and spices.

15. Vaultwraith – Death Is Proof of Satan’s Power (Hell’s Headbangers)

You ever see an album’s cover art and think, Satan and all his angels, let this be a good record? This was my feeling about Vaultwraith’s debut full-length, because fuck, look at that cover! And thankfully, the Missouri four-piece didn’t disappoint me, releasing an album of riffy, memorable devil worship that doesn’t skip on the galloping riffs, theatrical atmosphere, and old-school horror. Come for the art, stay for the steel!

14. Igorrr – Savage Sinusoid (Metal Blade)igorrr-savage-sinusoid-large

What would a team of Russian circus acrobats sound like if they were forced to fight their way out of a cybernetics laboratory? Probably a lot like Savage Sinusoid, a folk-infused freakout full of industrial, noise, doom, and death metal influences. The album will probably be a bit too dubsteppy for some true metalheads, but fans of honest-to-goodness insanity will find something to masturbate to here.

13. The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers (Metal Blade)the-black-dahlia-murder-nightbringers

Fuck, man, how do a bunch of loveable Michigan potheads make metal this dark, epic, and awesome? With far more of a sharpened point on it than the album before it, Nightbringers sounds like the opening of Pandora’s box, a deluge of all the ills of the world and the monsters of mankind’s nightmares exploding outwards at once. If you’re in the mood for riffs that sound like entrails spinning towards the heavens and the best lyrics in metal, look no further.

12. Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora (Southern Lord)darkest-hour-godless-prophets-the-migrant-flora

It’s always nice when a classic band still puts out decent albums; it’s fucking incredible when a scene progenitor releases an album as panicked and bloodthirsty as the ones that made it famous. On Godless Prophets, Darkest Hour are all shrapnel and fear sweat, riding into battle on the backs of one monolithic rager after another. A solid reminder that “metalcore” used to mean something other than an embroidered phoenix on $300 jeans.

11. Cadaveric Incubator – Sermons of the Devouring Dead (Hell’s Headbangers)

It’s hard to say exactly what sets Sermons of the Devouring Dead apart from the pack, as it is at its heart a blast of unrelenting death-grind. There’s just something about the band’s specific mix of arch and filth, applying a menacing evil to the sweat-cake energy of traditional grindcore that manages to channel darkness and horror through a rabid headbanger’s lens. All of which is to say it’s fun as shit and that people who wish Wormrot were creepier will love the Hell out of it.

10. Slaegt – Domus Mysterium (Van Records)

What did I tell you? I told you to get into Slaegt before they put out an awesome record and you had to pretend you’d always been into them. And did you? NOOOO, you assumed they were some Denver kids who gave me a one-hitter pull behind 3 Kings Tavern, and you ignored me. And now they’ve released a brilliant, powerful album of catchy, pitch-black experimental thrash, and you look like a dick. So, let’s try this again: get into Slaegt. After this, you’re on your own.

9. Acid Witch – Evil Sound Screamers (Hells Headbangers)acid witch

BOO, MOTHERFUCKERS! Fuck your prepackaged Halloween costume representing a shitty Internet pun. Acid Witch triumphantly return with a sludgy blast of late-night Spectrovision death-doom that sounds right at home over a classic horror flick. And while most doom bands are painting vistas of stoner fantasy wastelands, these dudes are all papier-mache masks and candy apples with glass in ‘em. Have a beer, turn on Night of the Demons, and never forget why you came here.

8. Barrows – Obsidion (self-released)

Imagine you’re driving in a violent movie. The window’s down, you’re lighting a cigarette with one of those dashboard lighters that no longer exist, and there’s maybe a beer or a pint of whiskey in the cup holder. As you enter New Mexico, the speed kicks in, really hits you, and your drive becomes faintly aggressive and dangerous around the edges. That’s how Obsidion feels—like a road trip across the sun-bleached landscape of your subconscious. You’ve heard these songs before, you’re just finally remembering them. Happy flashbacks.

7. Crypt Rot – Embryonic Devils EP (Southern Lord)

Crypt Rot’s brand of blackened death metal is so horrific-yet-infectious that it could only come from one place—Ohio. And this Ashtabula quintet’s music brings all the filthy allure of their home state, combining dynamic riffs and repulsive industrial sound effects to immerse the listener in the foulest scenes from the most hard-to-find horror films. A succinct and entertaining EP that promises great things from this band.

6. Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (Metal Blade)cannibal-corpse-red-before-black

To think I almost didn’t listen to this album in time for my list. I got complacent, got caught up in newer albums, and thought, Yeah, it’ll be good, but JUST good. Idiot. On their fourteenth studio album, Cannibal Corpse deliver all the energy, catchiness, and pure disemboweling brutality that has made them the most important death metal band of all time. This album had me making an invisible orb (in Corpse’s case, I think of it as an invisible human heart) on the subway fifteen seconds into the first song. On “Remaimed”, Corpsegrinder audibly says the word “penises”. Glad I didn’t miss this one.

5. The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension (20 Buck Spin)the-ominous-circle

In his short stories, H.P. Lovecraft often talks about his Ancient Ones as existing before the gods that we know, embodying a spirituality that is somehow weightier than the Devil we know. That is what Appalling Ascension gets down perfectly—that evil is older than libertine indulgence, or the Great God Pan, or the pentacle. Evil is a dark, cold, ancient thing that feels more like a mushroom than a flame. The Ominous Circle channel that perfectly—the darkness of the void and the weight of a moon. The result is an album that absolutely crushes with bleak certainty.

4. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)

In general, I kind of like being the guy who goes against the grain and hates the album that everyone’s into. But I can’t do that with Nightmare Logic, for the simple reason that this record is impossible to hate. On their second full-length, Power Trip have combined all the things you had forgotten you love about thrash and offer them up to you with the gentle subtlety of a wrench falling off of a construction site. Get into it.

3. Warbringer – Woe to the Vanquished (Napalm)warbringer-woe-to-the-vanquished

HOT FUCKING DAMN, who knew that the most straightforward members of the thrash revival had this album in them? I haven’t been impressed by a Warbringer record in a while, but Vanquished manages to utilize the maturity of albums like 2013’s IV: Empires Collapse with the unwavering viciousness of 2008’s War Without End. So often, thrash albums glorify war as a grandiose spectacle, but here Warbringer delve into the genuine grotesque horror of battle, and in doing so channel levels of both maturity and brutality that I honestly didn’t know they were capable of. My mistake, guys—I’ll pay attention from now on.

2. Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven (Artemisia Records)wolvesinthethroneroom

After I heard Wolves In The Throne Room’s last record, 2014’s metal-less Celestite, I thought, ‘Welp, there goes my interest in that band.’ But one listen to Thrice Woven and I was back on them like lint on a sweater. The band’s break from black metal obviously allowed them to take a step back and reconnect with the music’s core, because every track on Thrice Woven is not only gorgeous and elemental but also lean and to the point. This album shows how black metal, freed of obligation to genre traditions, can cut you down to the soul.

1. Mutoid Man – War Moans (Sargent House)mutoidman

My favorite albums usually come with a complete aesthetic—the cover art, band logo, songwriting, and sonic atmosphere combine to form a unified front that represents me in a personal way (think To Mega Therion). Maybe that’s why I am so dumbstruck by Mutoid Man’s second studio album, because I don’t feel that way at all about Mutoid Man. I hate their dumbass bubble logo, and I think their merch looks silly, and the cover of the record is cool but not awesome. And yet, every single one of the twelve songs on War Moans rocks me to my core. From the driving blitzkrieg of positivity that is “Melt Your Mind” to the closing melancholy of gut-wrenching heartbreaker “Bandages”, this album has me excited, energized, and entertained in ways I thought were no longer possible. I sing these songs while cooking in my kitchen. I drum my fingers on the subway pole to them.  I post the lyrics on my Twitter, like a jackass. Without the aid of any window dressing, on the wings of musicianship alone, Mutoid Man have won 2017 for me. On War Moans, they have proved that if your music is unbeatable, you can do anything you want. A diamond served in a Big Mac wrapper by your math teacher is still a motherfucking gem.

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