2017 was a really great year for metal and extreme music. The political turmoil of the past year has led to a lot of bands to return to making political and angry music. We saw name-making releases from heavy music up and comers like Jesus Piece, Bell Witch, and Code Orange (If someone told me that in 2013 that Code Orange Kids would drop the “Kids” from their name and be nominated for a Grammy in 4 years I would have laughed in their face). 2017 also saw some excellent releases from genre mainstays like Boris, Converge, Obituary, and Krallice, still proving that they can make excellent and innovative music decades into existence. Here are some thoughts on 10 albums from the past year that I highly enjoyed, and hope you can too.
-Matt Grimm, WOBC Metal Director
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Texas crossover thrash titans Power Trip had already proved themselves a force to be reckoned with in their blazing 2013 debut Manifest Decimation, yet somehow they felt the need to top that. On their 2017 sophomore record “Nightmare Logic”, an 8 track record that leaves your head banging for 32 minutes. Their pummeling, no-holds-barred take on crossover thrash paints a gory picture;with songs titled “Firing Squad,” “Executioner’s Tax,” and “Crucifiction,” all setting a dismal mood before getting kicked open with some of the most fun and circle pit-ready riffs of the year. Power Trip manages to capture the hardcore essence of crossover thrash without making it too cheesy, while simultaneously keeping the riffs and speed of peak ‘80s thrash, making one hell of a fun record which I could not stop listening to.
Nightmare Logic: https://powertripsl.bandcamp.com/album/nightmare-logic
Endon – Through the Mirror
I had never heard of or listened to Endon before I saw them open for Boris in October. I left that show absolutely speechless. This Japanese five piece combines elements of powerviolence, black metal, grindcore, and power electronics into pure chaotic beauty that I have never seen a band even attempt to do, let alone do perfectly. Opening track Nerve Rain is a 6 minute instrumental epic that slowly builds entirely off of one jangly riff, adding elements of distortion and stretching the song to the brink of snapping before suddenly ending and quickly transitioning into the next track, “Your Ghost Is Dead,” one of the most sonically punishing and beautiful tracks i have heard all year. Vocalist Taichi Nagura pushes his voice to limits that are not humanly possible (listen to 3:40-4:13 on Your Ghost is Dead to hear what I mean) and he keeps it up throughout the whole album, with screeches that make your skin crawl. I have never heard a band like Endon, and probably never will hear a band like them again. To find a band that can punish themselves like this is rare and makes this record incredibly special.
Through the Mirror: https://endon.bandcamp.com/album/through-the- mirror
King Woman – Created in the Image of Suffering
King Woman has been one of my favorite bands in doom metal for a few years now, as they take the heavy, deep, and gloomy aspects of doom and combine them with elements of shoegaze, alongside ethereal vocals from frontwoman Kristina Esfandiari. CITIOS builds on these sonics, laid out on the band’s first EP Doubt, and makes them even more sharp, with much improved production and lyrics. Overarching themes of Esfandiari’s religiously repressed upbringing are present throughout, with lyrics such as “Am I created in the image of my Father God?” on the track “Manna” and “If you’re a holy church I wanna worship” off of album centerpiece “Hierophant.” “Hierophant”, my favorite track of the album, quietly builds with haunting vocals and slowly picked guitar lines that drive the song before crashing into something that Wednesday Addams would slow dance to at prom, or something that sends chills up your spine that remain after the song ends.
CITIOS: https://kingwoman.bandcamp.com/album/created-in- the-image- of-suffering
Uniform – Wake in Fright
One of my favorite bands in industrial music today, Uniform’s second release is a total mind bender of clashing genres, which actually WORKS. Some tracks sound like “Hell Awaits”-era Slayer with a drum machine (“Habit”), others sound like Prurient DJing a Berlin nightclub (“The Lost”), others are just ear-piercing hardcore (“The Light at the End”, “Bootlicker”), and others sound like Psalm 69-era Ministry (“Killing of America”). This band is beginning to carve a unique niche in extreme music today, and I cannot wait to see what they are going to do in years to come.
Wake in Fright: https://unifuckingform.bandcamp.com/album/wake-in- fright
Devil Master – Inhabit the Corpse
‘80s Japanese hardcore is one of my favorite subgenres of extreme music out there, and very few bands have replicated that style in the ‘2010s as well as Devil Master. Their 2016 Demo was 11 minutes of fun, creepy, hardcore, and this Halloween-released EP cranked the spookiness up even higher. The opening track “Inhabit the Corpse” opens with an evil and frantic guitar riff which is enhanced with deep and reverb-heavy vocals which are barked rather than screamed. With a run time of only 10 minutes, this record comes and goes in the blink of an eye before closing track, “Blood on My Shroud,”which ends with a piano outro played on a piano that has not been touched since the 1800s, leaving you with just a slightly unsettling feeling that rewards you with every listen.
Inhabit the Corpse: https://devilmaster.bandcamp.com/album/inhabit-the- corpse
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
Bell Witch has always been a band focused on death and mortality, which has made them one of the best bands in funeral doom. However, “Mirror Reaper” puts that into a new perspective, after the passing of drummer Adrian Guerra in 2016. Now, with a single-track, 86 minute long album, Bell Witch channels this tragedy into serene doom metal, with gradual crescendos that take several minutes to reach a peak, moments of almost complete silence, and crushed vocals coupled with heavy, emotional bass and drum parts. This album is not something that you just listen to while quickly walking to class some afternoon. It is meant to be listened to in darkness or solitude; it’s meant to wash over you and be something you get lost in, and before you know it you’ve finished the album and you feel a sense of peace and tranquility remain.
Mirror Reaper: https://bellwitch.bandcamp.com/album/mirror-reaper
Red Death – Formidable Darkness
DC hardcore has had a hell of a resurgence in the past 2-3 years, with bands like Kombat, Protestor, and Pure Disgust doing the same thing today that Minor Threat and Void did in the early ‘80s, with even more intensity. Red Death has been one of those DC hardcore bright spots lately. Their first record, 2015’s Permanent Exile, was a crossover thrash ripper that I liked but had faded from my memory. Formidable Darkness, the band’s first release on Triple B Records, brings the same breakdown-heavy crossover thrash energy from the first album and cranks the production value and catchiness up by 11, with riffs that are catchier and more melodic than their first record but still pack a heavy punch.
Formidable Darkness: https://bbbrecords.bandcamp.com/album/formidable-darkness
Jesus Piece/Malice at the Palace – Split
Jesus Piece is one of the most important bands in hardcore today, both in terms of musical direction and in social relevance. Saying what needs to be said and not taking any BS from anybody, Jesus Piece released a split with Florida hardcore titans Malice at the Palace. It is the best release in hardcore of the year, period. Jesus Piece frontman Aaron Heard writes politically charged and active lyrics about life in America as a black man, talking about ignorance towards injustice. These are seen brightly in split standout “Deny Reality,” Heard takes aim at political structures ignoring the voice of minorities, saying “deny the chance of understanding / unaware of all you’re damning” and how “in the age of information / The facts you still deny”, firing shots at President Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric. Couple that with a blastbeat heavy bridge and a breakdown that leaves you spinkicking in your dorm room, and you have one of the best hardcore songs of the year. MATP brings the same energy on the second half of the split, reminding me a lot of Expire-esque hardcore at its best. If you like hardcore, you will like this record. If you don’t like hardcore, I would still recommend this record just as one of the most important splits to come out of hardcore this decade.
Also, my favorite live video of 2017 was this video of an 8 year old girl singing with Jesus Piece at This Is Hardcore Fest:
Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
One of the most prolific bands in extreme music, Full of Hell released their best album to date with “Trumpeting Ecstasy,” a 23 minute whirlwind of powerviolence, noisegrind, and overall chaos. All 11 tracks are very, very good, classic Full of Hell songs with much more impressive production, thanks to production by Converge guitarist/heavy music savant Kurt Ballou. However, what really blew me away was the final track “At The Cauldron’s Bottom,” a 6 minute epic that opens up like a traditional powerviolence piece and then slows down into something I have never heard Full of Hell do: mix sludgy drum fills and guitar riffs into something that chugs along slowly, rather than sprint by at a breakneck pace like the rest of the album. Full of Hell never fail to impress me, and they’ve topped themselves on “Trumpeting Ecstasy”.
Trumpeting Ecstasy: https://fullofhell.bandcamp.com/album/trumpeting-ecstasy
RAGANA – You Take Nothing
RAGANA, an Olympia, WA-based duo, combines black metal, doom metal, and screamo into something incredibly creepy but simultaneously beautiful. Taking as much inspiration from Punch as they do from Wolves in the Throne Room, RAGANA made black metal political and did so expertly. Each one of frontwoman Maria’s (last name unknown) lyrics hit harder than the last, as the instrumental parts in between her piercing screams add extra oomph to what she sings. While not the best album for fans of traditional black metal, I would highly recommend this record as a great place to start with innovative and active metal, as it is still palatable to newcomers to the genre.
You Take Nothing: https://ragana.bandcamp.com/