In an effort to cover more artists as this website expands, I wanted to create a new corner that shelves some favorite music discoveries. The hope is that this soon to be recurring list of recommendations will be something you folks enjoy perusing and maybe it will unearth a new favorite artist (or two) for you in the process.
This list in particular is not a “top records” or “best of” one—though my favorite record of 2017 is buried below—but rather it’s a reflection on records and artists I stumbled upon this year that sincerely moved me, destroyed me, or stirred feelings I didn’t even know I had.
Going forward, the plan is to release these auditory reflections on a monthly basis to capture and summarize new music released that month. The genres covered will be mostly in the realms of dark ambient and metal, but as you’ll see below, there are records that fall outside of these genres—though they sound tangentially related.
Hopefully this will open some conversation on the website too. Please feel free to list your favorite records (or discoveries) from this year in the comments below. Thank you so much for your continued support. On to the list…
Aerial Ruin – Nameless Sun (Portland, Oregon)
Nameless Sun is the latest opus of one man dark folk project Aerial Ruin (Erik Moggridge). This record brims with melancholy but echoes a keen sense of solace. In these spacious tracks, Erik’s airy vocal delivery weaves a peaceful stream of consciousness as his acoustic guitar conjures beautifully somber atmosphere. Songs glide through portals of realms unknown, unveiling intricate textures and emotional vistas. It’s at Nameless Sun’s end where a single tear drop falls from a passage of ethereal harmonization—gargantuan and moving.
Cloud Rat & Disrotted – Split (Michigan and Chicago, respectively)
Progressive three-piece grind outfit, Cloud Rat, linked up with Chicago doom bringers, Disrotted, to craft an unbelievably concussive split. “Holding The Picture”—Cloud Rat’s longest track yet at eighteen minutes—is a dynamic journey of punk, grindcore, and doom, marked with acidic vocals, pangs of depressing atmosphere, and—at times—unbearably delicate, near mystical passages. Disrotted’s “Dissipate” is twenty-three minutes of sludgy, reverb-distilled doom; the tempo never breaks its leaden stride and through its unending slew of monstrous plodding, it pulverizes listeners to a bloody pulp. It’s pure hemorrhaging.
Couch Slut – Contempt (Brooklyn, New York)
Brooklyn’s grisly experimental noise rockers, Couch Slut, are back with their punishing second LP, Contempt. It possesses an utterly bleak atmosphere that suffocates without reprieve. Save “Penalty Scar”, the record crawls at this spiteful, stalking pace. Littered with feedback and Megan’s serrated screams, Couch Slut crushes listeners with absolute despair. What’s most menacing about Contempt is its tendency to subvert your expectations of where songs will wander. They pile on the tension, with instruments churning beneath layers of grime and filth, but seldom release it. It’s claustrophobic and unwholesomely satisfying.
Demen – Nektyr (Stockholm, Sweden)
Nektyr is an omnipresent abyss from which Demen’s voice reverberates. Her gorgeous voice kindles your path as you traverse the shivering temperatures felt throughout the record’s duration. The ricochet of echoing drums, the throbs of ambient resonance provide guidance too as they coat the cavern’s walls in familiar and ethereal textures. Between these passages, tendrils of dreamlike atmosphere faintly enrich the dark space with warmth. Nektyr is alien at first, but once Demen graces your ears to the capacious pop beat on “Niorum”, you will be drenched in chills. Hauntingly beautiful.
// Bandcamp //
Endon – Through The Mirror (Tokyo, Japan)
Alongside TITHE (see below) and some other exceptional shows I saw this year, Endon was a favorite—and also a pleasant discovery this year. In a genre they title catastrophic noise metal, this Japanese quintet smashes Jane Doe-esque Converge together with scathing abrasions of synth and harsh noise. From each track pours unbridled passion, fraught with energy and pangs of irrepressible emotion. The completely mad front man, Taichi Nagura, carries each song through total chaos with the convulsion of his destructive vocals. His guttural lows morph into ear-piercing shrieks, which then devolve to deranged barks as he articulates various characters from within himself in a frazzled psychoanalytical fashion. It’s intense, caustic, and grating, but it’s worth drowning in the swell of noise that is Through The Mirror.
Friendship – HATRED (Chiba Prefecture, Japan)
Located somewhere in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, this mystery group named Friendship likely dropped 2017’s most relentless and brutal powerviolence/hardcore record, HATRED. It absolutely decimates. Each song is smothered in filth; the strings drip with malevolence and the snare tone is utterly sadistic. Songs steamroll from absurd spasms of blast beats and chaotic riffs to slower, chunkier, crushing tempos. Earworm riffs infect HATRED here and there, but the majority of this is blissful bedlam. Dial this one up as loud as you can.
// Bandcamp //
Lingua Ignota – All Bitches Die (Rhode Island)
Kristin Hayter’s All Bitches Die is an overwhelming listen. Crawling with harrowing uproars of death industrial and singed by her vociferous howls, this record is hair raising in its intensity. When the caustic electronics decay and her voice shifts to angelic—and at times, scathing—pitch; however, All Bitches Die reaches profound heights. The lyrics are immensely powerful and their coupling with the visceral industrial throbs or the serene classical and piano-laden passages only drive the emotional wedge deeper into the hearts of listeners. This is my favorite record of the year.
Luminous Vault – Charismata (New York, NY)
Two-man industrial militaristic black metal battalion Luminous Vault dropped an ominous EP titled Charismata in 2017’s early months. Constructed by Mario Diaz de Leon (Oneirogen) and Samuel Smith (Artificial Brain), Charismata is a brooding ritual of four pummeling tracks. Think of the cold, unrelenting mechanical drum loops of Godflesh infused with black metal. Each instrument is hefty in their rhythmic trudges, carried forward by the momentum of Mario’s rasps. Calculated and methodical are the drum patterns, yet they surprise as surges of double kicks infrequently pulse in passages for maddening intensity. And in spaces between the throng of frostbitten instrumentation blow wisps of airy synth. Charismata conjures an abrasive atmosphere that mesmerizes despite its frigid dissonance.
Optn – Hitherto (Israel)
Hailing from Israel, Optn is an experimental electronic duo comprised of Gal Hochberg and Dan Kisler. Hitherto was my entry point with their project and glancing (briefly) back to their two prior releases, this record is quite different from their others relatively speaking. Its mammoth sixteen-minute opener “Nothing But Specks of Dust” swirls with what sounds like improvised drumming in a spacious room. Tides of drones fold and wash over the kit, whirring and encapsulating each snare pop and cymbal splash. Electronic warbles, some from guitar and others from equipment unknown, augment to fill the room; the drumming becomes tighter, more precise. And near its end the drums and engulfing ambience stoke an ethereal, almost cosmic vibe vaguely reminiscent of Dead Sea Apes. This EP is one worth checking out.
// Bandcamp //
Replacire – Do Not Deviate (Boston, Massachusetts)
These Boston tech-death metallers brought some of 2017’s most delectable grooves. Do Not Deviate drops listeners into a visceral world carved of prog and melody. At the peaks of spires that litter this alien landscape, Replacire tear across this city’s jagged skyline with razor-sharp technicality. Songs contort from brutal onslaughts of riffs and fretboard scurries to infrequent but unbelievably effective clean vocal respites. The trajectory at which they appear to bend the tech-death archetype is breathtaking as it delivers gnashing hook after brain battering technical frenzy, time and time again.
Siberian Hell Sounds & Convulsing – Split (Australia)
Forged in flames of hatred and vitriol comes this chthonic split from Australia’s Siberian Hell Sounds and Convulsing. Siberian Hell Sounds’ “The Breath of the Beast” is a blackened crust colossus lacerated by piercing vocals and a broiling vortex of corrosive skins and strings. “Engraved Upon Bleach Bone” is Convulsing’s subterranean miasma; a bloodcurdling tide of ceaseless blackened death. Together they revel in chaos. And through their cacophonies of contempt, their vomit upon the ears of listeners, they exhibit no remorse in their aural riving. These are some of 2017’s most malicious dirges.
Sky Sanctuary – Electric Desert (U.K.)
Helmed by U.K. multi-instrumentalist Joey Cohen, Sky Sanctuary is a one man progressive metal project bridging djent-laden melodies with videogame synths. Songs are melded with 8-bit and 16-bit sounds, which populate Cohen’s compositions with pixels of vibrant, unseen worlds that are left to the imagination of the listener. The pace at which he plays matches the speed a sprite progresses through a “level” as the melodic textures alight each landscape with total bliss. “Electric Desert” isn’t a record, but a new song; a signal that there’s more to come after his 2012 debut, Insert Coin(s). I’m probably one of few gushing over this, but Cohen’s debut was a sincerely pleasant and unique find and I’m excited to hear where he’s going next.
Slund – Brain Dysfunction (Slovenia)
Touted as the perfect mood-setter for this holiday season, crafted by everyone’s favorite R&B artist, R. Igor Mortis, Brain Dysfunction really gets you in the spirit for dealing with your loathsome, piss-drunk relatives. With hilarious lyrics reminiscent of Cretin, this one man outfit brings us a year-end gem of fourteen sludge-laden grindcore carols. Grooves and blasts abound, there’s much to love in these ten minutes. From the massive head banger “Not What I’m Not” to the peaceful croons of “Smooth Jazz Radio Stations Won’t Play My Music”, Slund knows how to captivate an audience. Wrap all these up in some sharp and poignant sound samples and you’ve got yourself a phenomenal conversation starter for your family this Christmas.
SOUNDING – Trepanation (New Orleans, Louisiana)
The title of SOUNDING’s debut record is most apt in what you will receive when you listen to it: a massive fucking burr hole in your skull. Trepanation is fifteen minutes of hardcore punk, chaotic grindcore; a gravel blast of noise. The vocals screech at frequencies so loud, words become static. Through the fusillade of double kicks and blast beats, the wails of distortion, the mucky bass, you will remain forever disoriented in your understanding of harsh music. These guys transcend the sonic limits of brutality.
TITHE – Self-titled (Portland, Oregon)
I wrote a review for TITHE’s self-titled debut months ago after catching them live at Portland’s famed, but soon to permanently close, Ash Street Saloon. This is an intense thirty-minute barrage of black metal, death, doom, and grindcore slathered in utmost disdain towards fascist scum. The performances are tight and their synergy is inebriating as they plow genre to genre seamlessly. From the crushing doom to the lurch of the head banging riff on “Punch Nazis”, bolstered by the unending maelstrom of drums, this trio strikes a vengeful tone. Here’s hoping they have some new music in the works.
Volcanic Queen – Fragments Gathered at the Garden (San Antonio, TX)
Fragments Gathered at the Garden bleeds emotion. Beneath the crashing waves and ripples of static on “To Confide In Each Other (Engraved Flowers on Headstones)”, somber yet peaceful synth movements gesticulate. A gentle voice whispers beneath the track’s grainy pall, providing some solace as it reassures listeners that anxiety and aimlessness in life is felt by many. This record so superbly synthesizes harsh noise and melody you nearly forget the bubbling undercurrent of static is there. Fragments is poignant and cathartic.
// Bandcamp //
White Ward – Futility Report (Одесса, Ukraine)
Where their roots initially began and grew out of raw depressive black metal, White Ward quickly abandoned this sound in favor of experimentation. Their debut, Futility Report, which dropped in May 2017, is a mature and seamless blend of black metal, hardcore, elements of post metal, jazz, and smatterings of many other genres. It’s an ethereal tonic that surprises with each sip. One moment you’re getting crushed with a sweltering tide of blackened hardcore; then you’re relaxing to the swoon of a saxophone in the peaceful confines of some dingy smoke-filled bar; you’re then careening across the auras in a dream state only to be ripped from it by a primordial black metal claw. It’s beautiful, ferocious, and strange, with plenty of moments to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Futility Report is significantly more than the sum of its parts.
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Thank you so much for reading and thank you for any support you give these artists. At the end of next January, I will post a new list of artists and albums that came out that month. Take care for now.