Another year on the books, another year packed with excellent metal in every style. And while we didn’t see any significant trends emerge this year, you will notice if you look at our collective lists that there’s very little overlap in our picks. The new releases from the old guard, the standard bearers, and the heavy hitters of death, black, doom and beyond only make up a fraction of what’s offered here – everything else is new arrivals and recent rising stars. No matter where you find it, metal has never been so prolific or diverse, and that is great news for all you out there who are black of heart and hard of hearing. So get ready to dig in and get lost in the deepest bowels of the metal underground – when you come up for air, it’ll be 2018.

by Staff

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Jordan Itkowitz

Most years, my list is a mix between new releases from old, reliable favorites plus a few discoveries. 2017  brought lots of cool new finds from every corner of the metalverse, and bold moves forward by up-and-coming bands. That either means that my tastes have grown too restless to be satisfied by long-established acts, or we just have way too much good stuff to choose from.

Top 20

1. Narcotic WastelandDelirium Tremens. (Independent). Dallas Toler-Wade left Nile this year and then used his side-project to make the best Nile album since Annihilation of the Wicked. Technicality, groove, brutality, melody, and Dallas’ commanding vocals – it’s everything I could want from a death metal album.

2. HavukruunuKelle Surut Soi. (Naturmacht Productions). These Finns sound like Moonsorrow meets Emperor. That’s all you need to know. And “Noidanhauta” is the best black metal track I’ve heard since Wodensthrone’s “Wrygthu” in 2012.

3. DoolHere Now, There Then. (Prophecy). The Devil’s Blood snuffed out their last candle in 2013, and then its bandleader Selim Lemouchi did the same in 2014. Now TDB’s bassist and drummer continue that smoky, occult rock sound with Dool. Lead singer Ryanne van Dorst also has a lot in common with F – maybe not the outsized Janis Joplin wails, but her sultry vocals are perfectly suited for this superbly-written collection of songs.

4. Ruby the HatchetPlanetary Space Child. (TeePee Records). Speaking of The Devil’s Blood, Ruby the Hatchet surprised me this year with an album that might as well be the follow-up to The Thousandfold Epicentre. I enjoyed their previous record Valley of the Snake, but everything about this one is better – deeper psychedelia, catchier melodies, and more ambitious songwriting.

5. EnslavedE. (Nuclear Blast). Enslaved put out a new album, so of course it’s going to be on my year-end list. This one is still plenty weird and wild, but songs like “The River’s Mouth” and “Sacred Horse” get back to the kind of ferocious, galloping groove I loved from now-classics like Ruun or Below the Lights.

6. Inanimate ExistenceUnderneath a Melting Sky. (The Artisan Era). I’ve always found this tech-death outfit’s hyper-colorful artwork to be more interesting than their albums, but this year they finally got the balance right. The songs are unpredictable yet decipherable, and the nimble, shimmering, Diablo-esque melodies feel like a critical element and not just a gimmick. Not for everyone, but I love it.

7. The Night Flight OrchestraAmber Galactic (Nuclear Blast). Okay, to be fair, this is technically not a metal album – it’s AOR straight out of the late ‘70s. But it also features Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid on vocals, and incredibly catchy songs like “Midnight Flyer,” “Star of Rio,” and “Gemini” are some of my most-played for the year. Seriously, what is it with Swedes and melody? At this point it’s gotta be their #2 export behind IKEA.

8. Sithu AyeSenpai EP II: The Noticing. (Independent). I don’t even remember how I found this, but I instantly fell in love with this guy’s effervescent, ultra-cheesy, hyper-happy, turbo alpha-X brand of instrumental, progressive metal. It sounds like Dream Theater was hired to write the closing credits for a Japanese high-school drama anime.

9. VampireWith Primeval Force (Century Media). Loved the 2014 debut, and the last EP hit my year-end list in 2015, so I fully expected to enjoy the hell out of this. It’s a bit cleaner than Vampire, but it still has that gnarly, just-exhumed rawness and coffin-loads of Gothenburg melody.

10. Craven IdolThe Shackles of Mammon. (Dark Descent). This barely got edged out by Vampire, but it’s still an impressive album of ripping black/thrash and epic atmosphere. One of the year’s best album covers too.

11. The Great Old OnesEOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy. (Season of Mist). The sludgy production really obscures a lot of the detail here, but grab a good pair of headphones and get accustomed to the murk. Then you’ll find the most cogent and compelling songs these Lovecraft acolytes have ever penned.

12. WiegedoodDe Doden Hebben Het Goed II. (ConSouling Sounds). Murderous, shrill, chaotic black metal in the vein of classic Immortal or Satyricon – and then when it slows down, it channels Burzum perfectly. They’re from Belgium, not Norway, but don’t tell them that.

13. Sun of the SleeplessTo the Elements. (Lupus Lounge). I hadn’t heard of this one-man German project before but I’m impressed by the effortless way he shifts between genres (black, death, doom, neofolk) and moods (miserable, enraged, hopeful). Also, “Where in My Childhood Lived a Witch” is one of the year’s coolest song titles.

14. Hannes GrossmanThe Crypts of Sleep. (Independent). I wasn’t crazy about Obscura’s last album, but luckily their former drummer (also ex-Necrophagist) is still releasing twisty, ornate tech-death albums that recall both Omnivium and Onset of Putrefaction.

15. FinArrows of a Dying Age. (Folter Records). Frantic and scrambling USBM, but with a European ear for melody and structure. Hey, and they’re from Chicago – I just moved here, so I’ll need to check them out live.

16. HarlottExtinction. (Metal Blade). Still thrash, still Australian, but this is even more relentless and pissed-off than the debut. Still a toss-up between these guys and My Regime (also great) for Best Tom Araya Impression.

17. Mors Principium EstEmbers of a Dying World. (AFM). Their stately, bombastic take on melodic death made the genre sound interesting again.

18. The Thirteenth SunStardust. (Aural Music). There’s a lot here to get through in this progressive astral odyssey (out of Romania), but when these guys shine, they outdo Arcturus’ recent efforts. Some great Opeth influences too – this is a band to watch.

19. KreatorGods of Violence. (Nuclear Blast). A lot of people have been crapping on this album, but I thought it was great fun. And yeah, “Satan is Real” has the dumbest title & chorus of the year, but it’s still an awesome song.

20. ArgusFrom Fields of Fire. (Cruz Del Sur). Swagger, passion, muscle, and melody – just what you want from a traditional heavy metal album. “Devils of Your Time” absolutely floors me – it sounds like the heavy metal version of something off of Blackwater Park.

Favorite Cover Art


Bear MaceButchering the Colossus.

Bell WitchMirror Reaper.

ColtsbloodInto the Unfathomable Abyss.

ContrarianTo Perceive is to Suffer.

Craven IdolShackles of Mammon.

EvocationThe Shadow Archetype.

ExhumedDeath Revenge.

Falls of RaurosVigilance Perennial.

Full of HellTrumpeting Ecstasy.

Hannes GrossmannThe Crypts of Sleep.

IgorrrSavage Sinusoid.



Neck of the WoodsThe Passenger.

NekrasovThe Mirror Void.


StalkerShadow of the Sword.

Temple of VoidLords of Death.

TribulationLady Death EP


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  1. Commented by: Glenn Whitehead

    Killer list, although i don’t get Bell Witch at all.

  2. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    amped to see Tetragrammacide and Godflesh getting some love here.

  3. Commented by: F.Rini

    The Godflesh is great

  4. Commented by: Don Roberts

    you didn’t like the albums from Immolation, Incantation or Cannibal Corpse ?

  5. Commented by: ben orum

    Thanks for the Oblivion love!

  6. Commented by: M Budziszewski

    Spectral Voice and Dying Fetus would’ve been my
    11 and 12 but I didn’t really have a solid 13-15. I’d rather agonize over a limited 10.
    Didn’t finally listen to the Dying Fetus until last
    month but haven’t been on a brutal death metal kick since earlier in the year.

  7. Commented by: EmmersonBiggins

    Don’t understand the love for a band as mundane as spectral voice… You mongos be sure to check out azarath, ascended dead, tomb mold, Acrimonious, degial, lluvia (for fans of Swedish DAWN)

  8. Commented by: Glenn Whitehead

    The Spectral Voice is interesting, not quite Bestial Blackened Death, not Funeral Doom, not quite OSDM…just a huge atmospheric sound world.

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