Thursday, November 30, 2017

My 40 Favorite Black Metal Records of 2017

Wow what a year haha blah blah blah Trump blah blah nuclear annihilation blah blah blah the world is dogshit.

Real quick, I just want to note that this list will include anything that's even remotely black metal-adjacent, so please, please don't be that asshole who's telling me about how such-and-such doesn't belong on this list because they're really more of a death metal band or whatever. And feel free to tell me what you think I got wrong or what your list would have looked like, just be cool about it. If you've never moderated a comment section, you might not believe some of the toxic shit I have to filter out, and lists like these are like magnets for internet garbage people.

Oh, and I'm not posting any DL links for these, but most of them should be on Mortuus In Somnis. (If you can't find it there, hit me up and I'll see what I can do.)

Got it? Good, let's go.

Faceless Entity
In Via Ad Nusquam

Haunting raw black metal. An incessant drone of barely discernible guitars, rumbling vocals, and simplistic drumming.

Faceless Entity - Semper Dolens ( 2015)


Beautiful and epic-sounding. Very Filosofem-esque, but with juuuust a hint of folk/viking metal.

Hermóðr - Vinter (2014)

The Shores of Space

A hazy mist of fuzzed-out guitar, ghostly vocals, and drum machine. Hovers mostly in slow-to-midtempo territory, but picks up the pace enough to keep it black metal. Sounds like it may have been recorded by ghosts.

When Bitter Spring Sleeps

Massive, mid-paced epics that are somewhat in the vein of Summoning, but with more varied songwriting, way less keyboards, and all clean vocals. Star-Thrown is a major step forward for this band. I've always liked them, but never would have thought of them as year-end-best-of-list material, yet here we are.

Ezer Ezaren Araztasuna

The band's third and best official full-length. Raw and blown-out, but with a haunting, hypnotic cumulative effect.

In Death

My favorite Svartsyn since His Majesty (which IMO is on the shortlist for all-time greatest black metal record.) Despite near-constant blasting and tremolo-picking, there's always a time signature twist to keep you from getting too comfortable. The kind of subtly advanced, deceptively complex record that only a veteran band can pull off.

Svartsyn - ... His Majesty (2000)
Svartsyn - Timeless Reign (2007)

Loch Ness Rising

Doom-infused, evil but hooky, open-chord-riding, Swedish-sounding riffs, with lots of funereal organ for subtle occult psych vibes and full, punchy production. Extremely cool. If this band tours, they're gonna be big.

A Procession of Lost Souls

In which Sin Nanna reclaims his crown as king of eerie, nauseatingly dissonant black metal, while adding a drop of melody to the sickening concoction.

Striborg - Mysterious Semblance (2004)


Just about as cavernous and dissonant as cavernous, dissonant black/death can get. They're pretty much a noise band at this point.

Skáphe - Skáphe² (2016)
Skáphe - Untitled (2017)

Neige et Noirceur

Abstract and largely ambient. Monotonous guitars, droning keyboards, and growls hover like specters, with occasional, minimal drumming to provide a sense of weight and structure.

In Extremis

One of the greatest and most brutal black/death bands of all time returns after six years with a fucking banger. At this point there's only one original member, but it's Inferno so we're all good.

Azarath - Infernal Blasting (2003)

Black Cilice
Banished from Time

The Portuguese do raw black metal like none other, and Black Cilicie's haunted, ritualistic take on it puts him at the very top of the heap. Though I certainly would be curious to hear what might happen if he tried something new -- an all dark ambient record could be super-tight -- as long as his output remains this flawless, I'll be on board.

Black Cilice - A Corpse, a Temple (2012)


OK this one's a real mindfuck. They're a two-piece from LA, and they play artsy black metal with a major twist: they have a pianist instead of a guitarist. Yup, it's drums, piano, and vox. They're both insanely talented, though, and the pianist's playing is classically-influenced and extremely dissonant, in a way that's in line with French-style orthodox black metal. Definitely not gonna change your mind if you think that USBM is for wussy art kids, though.


Ambitious and progressive -- not prog-y, mind you, but progressive. Acoustic and clean guitars are often layered alongside distorted ones, which, along with some keyboards and epic-sounding singing, makes for a mournful, emotionally resonant tone.

Upon My Cremation Pyre

It's good to see Swedish bands repping the modern era of black metal, as opposed to hammering away at the 'classic' Swedish sound. Fluid guitar work that jumps effortlessly from tremolo-picked arpeggios to thick chords to wailing solos. And the reverb-y but forceful atmosphere is awesome -- not so much "cavernous" as it sounds like you're hearing it from the opposite end of a gymnasium.

De Doden Hebben Het Goed II

Tight, precise performances of often quite intricate, riff-y songs and simple, spacious, sorrowful stretches of post-metal.

Anima Damnata
Nefarious Seeds Grow to Bring Forth Supremacy of the Beast

Complete and utter blackened brutal death destruction. 10 tight, punishing masses of pinch harmonics, chugging riffs, gravity blasts, and generalized aural obliteration.

Anima Damnata - Agonizing Journey Through the Burning Universe and Transcendental Ritual of Transfiguration (2003)

Bereft of Light

Epic, keyboard-heavy atmospheric black metal. Sole member Daniel Neagoe is in some of the best doom metal bands in existence -- including Shape of Despair and Clouds -- and you can tell from the stunningly arranged acoustic passages, strings, rain SFX, and other stuff you'd expect to hear on a funeral doom record. But, you know, it's black metal.


Monolithic death- and doom-infused filth. After over two decades as a band, Vassafor has now put out just two full-lengths, but at least they've made 'em count.

Vassafor - Vassafor (2007)

Cosmos Comedenti

A remarkable debut LP of gnarled, thorny, cavernous blackened death/doom, with a side of harsh noise and dark ambient. There's a lot of this kinda stuff going around right now, and Antiversum are among the very best.

Forgotten Spell
The Necromancer

Shrouded in mystery (and tape hiss) with a loose, exploratory feel that may or may not be intentional. Sorrowful, melodic, tremolo-picked guitars and clattering drums that always seem to be going at slightly different speeds, but then hit every change together. It's almost jazz-like. Whether intentional or not, the effect is one of barely controlled chaos, and it makes for a goddamn compelling listen.

The Inside Scriptures

In which Aosoth maintain their perfect track record, and arguably cement their status as the premier French BM act. The perfect mix of crushing heaviness, warped guitar dissonance, and structurally impeccable songs.

Aosoth - III: Violence and Variations (2011)


Dissonant, propulsive, technically proficient black/death at its finest. The kind of band and record that blur the line between black and death metal to the point of obsolescence. I expect to see this on a lot of year-end lists, as it deserves to be.

Terra Damnata
Dramatic, dynamic, intense, and totally forward-thinking, with an ample dose of the kind of Satanic psychedelia that I'm a total sucker for. Another stellar album by one of the all-time great USBM acts.


Perfect epic atmospheric black metal. From the space-y, weightless keyboards to the drawn-out chords to the insanely reverb-y howls from the mountaintops -- perfect. Utterly mesmerizing. 

Aeons of Saturnine Desolation

The best blackened funeral doom since Elysian Blaze. Imagine the black metal version of Disembowelment.

Imperceptum - Aeons of Saturnine Desolation (2017)


Patient and heavily post-rock-indebted, but without losing sight of the vicious, lupine nature of black metal, and with none of that half-assed shoegaze/emo all these bands are doing now. Fen's best yet.

Nessun Luogo

17 years and just three albums in, Asofy have fully deconstructed their own sound, ending up with something that could be likened to experimental, blackened slowcore. That might make it sound awful, but believe me, it's the opposite. A new go-to for very late, very stoned nights.

Asofy - ebYm (2001)

Der Weg einer Freiheit

Just about as sonically lush as ice-cold black metal can get. Like their other records, Finisterre is expansive and often quite beautiful, but in the merciless, vicious manner of classic black metal.

Diĝir Gidim
I Thought There Was the Sun Awaiting My Awakening

Angular and dissonant, with some weird time signatures, eerie keyboards, and practically every style of vocal imaginable, from distorted growls to quasi-classical, choir-like singing. Definitely a dark horse, given their complete anonymity -- they don't even want you to know where they're from -- but one of the most dynamic, innovative BM records in recent memory.

Arrayed Claws

Dissonant, brutal, and out-there, man. Or, as I said in my writeup for their previous LP: "Densely layered, psychedelic, and complex, but not at the expense of a good ol' fashioned ass-kicking."

Lorn - Subconscious Metamorphosis (2013)


Over the past few years, the Icelandic BM scene has really laid its claim as one of the most vibrant and inventive currently in existence. Almyrkvi's debut LP, Umbra is the epitome of everything that I like about the scene -- dense, cerebral guitar work, a not-so-subtle sense of psychedelia, hints of beauty in the peripherals, and darkly enveloping production.

The Ruins of Beverast

Absolutely fucking crushing. Exuvia is a masterclass in heaviness, and my favorite Ruins of Beverast record since Rain upon the Impure. Y'all know this shit, I'm sure of it, I don't need to say any more.

Rebirth of Nefast

Black metal debut album of the year, right here. Extremely dark and uneasy, with masterfully executed, extreme jumps in tempo and intensity, as well as an enviable feel for controlled tension and release. Can't believe this is their first LP. Expect nothing but greatness from this band.

Rebirth of Nefast - Only Death (2006)


At four songs in just over an hour, Diaspora undeniably is compositionally ambitious. But what's remarkable isn't the length of the songs, obviously, but how well-balanced they are, and how consistently entertaining and engaging they remain. The album-closing, 26-minute "Migration" in particular is a real stunner, and has already been filed in my mental folder of metal mindblowers.

Bestia Arcana

Holy moly. A masterpiece of dense, dissonant, utterly modern black metal. Achieves a massive, world-crushing atmosphere without relying on compression or reverb-abuse -- don't get me wrong, there's plenty of reverb -- and maintains an unrelentingly intense presence throughout while exploring a diverse, innovative set of musical approaches and influences.

Bestia Arcana - To Anabainon Ek Tes Abyssu (2011)

Collective: The Shape of He to Come

Awe-inducing, chill-inspiring black metal art, in which guitars are replaced by hammered dulcimer, and shrieks by gorgeous, lush choral sections. Botanist are from another fucking planet, and we should consider ourselves lucky that they came to visit us.

Botanist - III: Doom in Bloom (2012)

Gnosis Kardias (Of Transcension and Involution)

Cerebral, layered, and ritualistically psychedelic in a way that sounds both modern and true to the blasphemous roots of black metal. Woozy clean guitars chime their way through most of the album, giving it a sense of warped ethereality. Inferno have been around for close to two decades, and have yet to stop pushing themselves in exciting new directions.


Jaw-dropping-ly beautiful atmospheric black metal. Shimmering ambient washes and glorious flurries of blasting, droning tremolo-picking. There's even a nod to Gas-style ambient techno in there that I still cannot believe works. Probably my most listened to BM record of the year.

Chaos Moon
Eschaton Mémoire

Intricately layered, precisely paced, masterfully performed, and yet... chaotic and unhinged. Starts off extremely strong, then proceeds to up the ante with every song. 2017 has seen a whole bunch of my favorite bands putting out what I consider to be their best albums yet, and Eschaton Mémoire has managed to climb to the top of that formidable pile. Holy shit, what a great year for black metal.

Chaos Moon - Origin of Apparition (2007)