Caviar. Peter Dinklage. Ant-Man. American League MVP Jose Altuve.
Great things come in tiny packages, and the time-honored tradition of the “extended play” is no different. As is the case with all years, 2017 offered plenty of brutal brevity and teensy titillation. As always, the EP offers bands plenty of opportunities that more purposeful full lengths might not: a roaring introduction, a calculated deviation from the established norm, or simply a reason to keep the irons hot. Also, because “demos” reach our inboxes due to the same promotional channels that get us albums, those are also included. (What actually constitutes a demo in 2017 is a subject for another time.)
Whatever the reason bands use this format, there are plenty of truncated trips to be taken. We voted on our favorites, and the results are documented below. As is often the case, the results weren’t quite what we expected. In fact, a demo ended up taking the top spot over bigger releases from better known veteran bands. Surprises are fun, eh?
10. FETID – SENTIENT PILE OF AMORPHOUS ROT
Another promising demo in a year of promising demos, this time from Seattle, Washington. Featuring two members of Cauterized, Fetid bounces between a well-balanced composition style of the sludgier death metal and more blistering, straight-forward attack complete with whammy-squeals and absolutely banging riffs. This demo provides a more than promising look at what is hopefully to be the future for the trio (and is released on cassette, as is the vintage, campy format du jour). Providing all that metal has to offer, Fetid deftly tosses in nostalgic breaks of synth/keys and 80s drum beats–a Stranger Things take on death metal. And if Fetid exists only in The Upside Down, I hope to breach the barrier ASAP and catch a live show. Because well, of all the non-polished death metal vomited upon the year of 2017, Fetid perhaps show the most promise of an exciting future. [MANNY-O-WAR]
Released: Headsplit Records, March
9. EXPULSION – NIGHTMARE FUTURE
“In the middle ground between death metal, thrash, and early grindcore, Nightmare Future is pretty much exactly what anyone would expect from the union of Exhumed and Repulsion, and it treads that overlap with grace, in perfectly placed drum pummeling and razor-sharp riffs, in Harvey’s snarling growl and Verbaten’s biting bass.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
8. IMINDAIN – THE ENEMY OF FETTERS AND THE DWELLER IN THE WOODS
Imindain’s doom/death knows from whence it comes, and seems perfectly happy to claim its clear lineage. The riffs are slow and deliberate, the choppy death metal a menacing gut-punch, the leads clean and melancholy, and the clean vocals suitably morose. This means that you’ll hear shades of Lost Paradise and Turn Loose the Swans, but also Winter’s Into Darkness, funereal touchstones like Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet and Evoken’s Quietus, and particularly the much-missed Indesinence. Hell, the whole dang thing concludes with a reverent cover of Disembowelment’s “Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores,” so you’d better know just what you’re in for. These are old moves, but lovingly rendered. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Released: Weird Truth Productions (CD), April 12; Aphelion Productions (vinyl), May 2
7. ANTIGAMA – DEPRESSANT
“Grindcore is and always will be about the visceral, the physical… It’s not always about variation, about expansion. And yet, the grind bands that matter most are those that master the slight variations that fit, those that master the ability to expand upon the blastbeats-and-screaming template… And the fact is simply this: I am aware of no band in grindcore that has mastered that variation, has completely grasped the expansion better than Antigama. They’re the grindcore band that non-grind listeners can love because it’s more than that – it’s just plain great, whatever it is, ugly and heavy and fast and loud and damned vicious and just plain awesome.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
6. CHEVALIER – A CALL TO ARMS
If you ask me, the lack of proper speed metal is one of the fundamental problems facing our world today. Just how in the hell are people supposed to make crucial decisions without ever consulting records like Heavy Metal Maniac, Evil Invaders, Hellish Crossfire, Vicious Attack and at least a handful of modern records from bands that pay proper fealty to such classics?
Still can’t manage to land that well-deserved raise at work? Maybe it’s because you or your boss listen to too much atmospheric blackened EDM and nü-country. And matters are certainly not helped by the grim truth that 90% of the youngsters who count themselves recent affiliates of heavy metal’s illustrious ranks don’t even know what the hell speed metal is. Point your damned 2015 Sonata toward Canada and spend six months crawling through Toronto’s dingier venues and talking to whoever has the puffiest high-tops if you’re interested in a hard crash course. And if you’re keen on experiencing one of 2017’s finest examples of speed in its rawest, most prehistoric form, look no further than Finland’s Chevalier and their fantastic debut EP, A Call to Arms. Speedy ’n’ seedy riffs stacked to the rafters, ten tons of banshee wails, and enough raw lightning bolt leads to light up Lapland in the middle of December—this EP represents the key to speed we all need in our shitty, workaday lives. [CAPTAIN]
Released: Independent, March 4; Forgotten Wisdom Productions (CD), October 16
5. DAEVA – PULSING DARK ABSORPTIONS
Philadelphia’s Daeva features current and former members of Crypt Sermon, Trenchrot, Infernal Stronghold, and more. The band plays black/thrash metal, and the seasoned skills of the band members help Pulsing Dark Absorptions to be one absolutely ferocious debut. This is raw, blazingly rifftastic, nassssssty stuff that calls to mind the genre greats, with just enough atmosphere and the type of momentum that feels like it’s one beat per minute short of completely falling apart. Almost too much fun. Almost. [ZACH DUVALL]
Released: 20 Buck Spin, October 10
4. CODE – UNDER THE SUBGLEAM
Code’s transition into lighter, “weirdless Virus” terrain on mut was quality because Code is a Very Good Band, but it was still far below the heights of their first three albums. Under the Subgleam fixes the error. “Plot of Skinned Heaven” fully recaptures the brooding blackened bombast of the early days, and features maybe Wacian’s best vocal performance since he took over for Kvohst. The other two brief tunes show the band’s full range from rage to atmosphere, rounding out an EP that is good enough to overcome the idiotic decision to start with three minutes of a tolling bell. Fingers crossed that this is a preview of the next full length. [ZACH DUVALL]
Released: Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings, November 3
3. ORANSSI PAZUZU – KEVÄT / VÄRIMYRSKY
Released: 20 Buck Spin, April 14
2. HYPERDONTIA – ABHORRENCE VEIL
‘Twas a banner year for death metal from Denmark. Not to be overshadowed by a few brilliant LPs, Hyperdontia released a ripping two-track EP of pure death metal fury. Their only release to date, Abhorrence Veil provides around eight minutes of well-balanced death metal using a myriad of vocal attacks from whispers to abdominal grunts with all the talent you’d expect from someone who provides vocals for Phrenelith and Undergang. The guitars use multiple attack methods from quickly-picked spiraling riffs to sludgy, thick more rhythmic riffs. It’s a beyond exciting beginning for a band showing all the promise in the world. [MANNY-O-WAR]
Released: Night Shroud Records (vinyl), March 10; Extremely Rotten Productions (cassette), June 5
1. TOMB MOLD – CRYPTIC TRANSMISSIONS
Hot off the heels of one of the year’s very best death metal albums, Toronto’s Tomb Mold could be accused of unfairly stacking the deck by nonchalantly putting out a demo/EP with two slightly longer-form songs that take the Autopsy/early Amorphis vibe into even weirder, wilder, twangier climes. Haven’t you heard never to look a gift tomb in the mouth? A mold horse? Whatever. I don’t care what you call it, because if the solo that tears down the sky halfway through “Blood Mirror” doesn’t move your stupid bones, you are likely lost to the cause of death metal. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Released: Independent, September 14
This was the short list of the short stuff. Tomorrow, the long list of the long stuff. Strap in.