How about this weather, huh?
There is nothing happening this year that is more important to me than what a third of my country did to the rest of us, while another third sat with their thumbs up their asses. We are living in a 90’s Jello Biafra spoken word night-terror. It is fucking insane. 1928 and counting.
And the metal world has, appropriately enough, delivered my Woody Guthrie protest songs in the form of the heavy hitters of death metal. Times like this are why my love of death metal persists. When people ask me “where are the protest songs?” I reply “Google ‘2017 death metal’ and stop your fucking whining. We have a soundtrack. Let’s go to work.”
It’s not serendipity, of course. The bands herein, for the most part, have been making this soundtrack for decades, but right now they feel like under-nourished zoo predators unleashed on unsuspecting octogenarians on senior discount day. This is the time for Cannibal Corpse and Immolation.
And even more so for John Frum, Ingurgitating Oblivion and Pyrrhon. These bands challenge even the brutal to a game of musical parkour. And these just scratch the surface. Honorable mentions right up front: Couch Slut, Converge, Ominous Circle, Mountains Crave – and Bloodclot returns! The muses were as pissed off as I was this year.
I was also very depressed. In the clinical sense. Which is why I have so few actual reviews for the site in the last twelve months, and none at all in the last few months. Trump didn’t cause it, but he sure didn’t help. So Boris is another important part of the soundtrack this year, as is Godflesh, at least for me.
So here are my top ten, in no order. I wrote them as I thought of them.
Oh, and for the record, if you don’t like my politics creeping my metal writing, eat all my shit.
Incantation – Profound Nexus
“Dependable” is a lot better word than it is given credit for. Especially in a band. I love boundary pushers, but I also love when a band knows what they do is fantastic, and doesn’t have to pretend. Incantation has changed over time, but only in quality, not in ethics. Profound Nexus is about death metal. And thus it is fantastic.
Immolation – Atonement
Immolation has that rare gift. They are obviously death metal, but they sound like only they sound. They almost seem to have sprung from a KMFDM-ish place – not in the industrial sense, but in the way they loop dynamic riffs in their compositions. This album is more direct than recent efforts – great records all – but that lends it a delicious Tiger-tank quality.
Godflesh – Post Self
I was so completely crushed by A World Lit Only by Fire, the triumphant comeback album, that it would be insane to suppose Post Self could match it. And it does not match it. But this record is also magnificent, so we are talking matters of degrees. Post Self is a call back to all the strangeness that was found on the back nine of Pure, the remixes, and from time to time on the records that followed. There are, of course, plenty of straight ahead crushers, but also more of those coldly introspective laments. Which, for long-timers like me, is part of what made them Godflesh in the first place.
Exhumed – Death Revenge
This album sounds different in texture, but amazingly the same in everything else, than what we are used to. Except, as always, maddeningly better. Exhumed are stalwart; always ferocious, always disgusting, always a giddy perverted joy, and somehow always fresh. They balance tongue-in-cheek and knife-in-gut so well they make it seem like any idiot could do it. But we all know that is not true. Very few can do it, and Exhumed stands, once again, in rare company.
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
This band should not be. I mean, I really don’t get it. They should not be able to put out their best record this many years after their first record. I said best. I love their catalog, with the worst moments being merely good, but this is such a perfect demonstration of both CC and death metal in general that it blows me away. I hate that phrase, but it is the right one. The gut-checking grooves, the mad dashing riffs, the impeccable musicianship, the god damned GOOOORRRE – all spent on delivering classic, ripping death metal without any bullshit.
Pyrrhon – What Passes for Survival
In a year clad floor to ceiling with the best “traditional” death metal you can buy, Pyrrhon delivers this stunning rebuke to complacency. Stunning because the madness, chaos and ingenuity they have always possessed has been wrangled into a record that that any metal fan can grasp. Not easily. Not perfectly. But they have given us a road in: a broken, jagged, post apocalyptic road, but a road. This band will never be for everyone, but What Passes for Survival is “for” anyone with a yearning for dark adventure. An extreme metal Trout Mask Replica? Why not?
John Frum – A Stirring in the Noos
Coming as it did, for me, from nowhere, this record is a joy. Emotionally as well as viscerally satisfying, the songs dance on lava. Their rhythmic take on experimental death metal is as compelling as any established act going. Never sacrificing what makes this genre great to just challenge it, they managed to demand a steady spot on metal’s razor’s edge by meshing creativity with perfect listenability.
Boris – Dear
It seems like every year a record grabs me and doesn’t let go, even though it is not the kind of thing I usually listen to. This year it was Boris’ Dear. As I said in my review, this is not a record that I can define in terms of standard tropes. It is a metallic experience, and that is how you have to approach it. Mind open and calm. Then you will know.
Ingurgitating Oblivion – Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light
I just barely listened to this, so I am kind of going out on a limb putting in my ten best, but holy shit is something interesting going on here. It may end up not belonging in my top ten as time passes, but at the time of writing this record is shredding me in the way only masters of the form can do. Like Pyrrhon and John Frum, they are walking a distinct path through a minefield of traditional expectations, and so far they haven’t triggered anything but my respect.
Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
I did not “hate” Illud Divinum Insanus. Objectively, there were some very compelling things scattered around that record. But it was insipidly dated, which is stupid for new material from a veteran band – I mean, shouldn’t they be aping the millenials instead of your bro cousin Brad who used to work out to Limp Bizkit in high school? More significantly, it was not a Morbid Angel record. Kingdoms Disdained is a Morbid Angel record. Not only that, but it may be the best since they left the ABCs. While Gateways stands as a refreshingly tight reminder of what MA used to be about, it only hinted at what the combo of Azagthoth and Tucker could accomplish. Kingdoms is not just a great MA record, but it is a great death metal record. Punchy, complex and furious. As much as I miss the original lineup’s fire and creativity, Morbid Angel still have what it takes to create devastating music.
Once again this year I want to thank the bands, labels, crews, distros, and especially the fans for keeping all this going. ESPECIALLY this year. I don’t have a novel for you this time because I barely have time to write anything that doesn’t involve t-tests and citations – sorry…or you’re welcome. And as always a huge thanks to all the staff and editors here at Lassed Writes for understanding that I am a diva and can’t get my shit together without some kind of supreme mental effort. You kids are the putrid, sulfurous wind beneath my pitch black demon wings. Which is, I think, pretty metal.
Best of luck, up the irons (always and forever amen), metal up your ass, cheers, wobbles, impeach the whole damned white house, fight me, stay frosty, stay golden, stay hungry, oh won’t you stay, be good to each other, be mean to each other if that is what the situation calls for, I know your face, search your feelings, I am your father, I am the owl, what news from the eye, I’ll be home for Christmas, I was made for loving you baby, billion dollar babies, baby’s in black, blackened, black wings, back in black, back in the USSR, back that ass up, up the irons, best of luck.