Ah, that most glorious time of the year for music writers – year-end season is upon us once again! 2017 was a tumultuous year, but even so, it was a damned good one for heavy metal, and Team Hellbound had a cornucopia of great albums to choose from.
Here, we turn the page over to our individual staffers to discuss their favorite records of the year, give their hottest takes on the state-of-the-heavy-metal-union in 2017, and tell the world what they’re looking forward to for 2018.
As always, every member of Team Hellbound would like to extend our warmest thanks to each and every one of you who continue to read our site, and we wish you all a very metal Christmas and a headbanging new year.
Hails, horns, happy holidays, and ho-ho-ho from Hellbound!
Kyle’s Best Metal Albums of 2017:
Sweet Death And Ecstasy
Released October 20
Any year where we get a new MIDNIGHT album (let alone two, if you’re also counting comp Shox Of Violence) is a fucking good year. Main man Athenar’s brand of pitch-black-speed metal is one of a kind, and the world is all the better for receiving the snarling lust, filth, & sleaze of Sweet Death and Ecstasy. Clevo’s finest bastard sons of Lemmy & Cronos revel in the glory of all that is heavy metal overkill, and the new album is thank fully more of the same: raging, ripping glorification of all things metal in excelsis – you either get it, or you’re probably too busy listening to whatever twitter told you to and checking to see if everyone else thinks some band you like is “okay to listen to”. For those of us who don’t give a fuck, though – there’s Midnight. Hands down my favorite record this year. CRUSHED BY DEMONS!
Released August 11
Expectations ran high. Venom’s Prime Evil lineup reunited and back in black (metal) for a few gigs, then a few more, and a few more, and reports coming back from the punters were real promising – that this was the real-deal Venom recalling past glories and delivering the goods on the live stage. All of a sudden, labels come-a-callin’, deals in hand – and they want a record. And even under the weight of all the metal world’s expectations – Avé DELIVERS. Mantas’ riffs are in razor form, Abaddon is rolling thunder, and Demolition Man is just as sharp of tongue, with lyrics and a vocal performance direct from Lucifer himself. Seeing them live in September (after their two aborted attempts to visit Vancouver in the year previous) just hammered it home. This is Venom, doing it for the fans, in hails and horns. Avé!
Deep Calleth Upon Deep
Released September 22
Satyricon return after four years with an album in league with the sound that impressed so much on previous albums like Now, Diabolical and The Age of Nero – black metal with one foot firmly in the grave of strong-hook rock and roll. Satyr’s snarled delivery on tracks like “Midnight Serpent” and “Blood Cracks Open the Ground” is pure venom, and Frost is all over his kit like a furious jockey. After the sheer head-scratching oddity that was 2013’s self-titled exercise in experimentation, the metal world is real happy to have them back in fine form.
At The Devil’s Left Hand
Released August 22
I was sent this record for my birthday by my pal Chris Voss from Nine Circles, and it absolutely rules and has not left my rotation since the end of August. Infernal thrash from the bowels of Hell, Bloodlust is a fitting name for these guys – whipping up a fury of concertina-wire blackened thrash that sets your teeth on edge. To quote myself, “Why just thrash when you can blackthrash?”
Released March 3
On his latest record, Danko keeps it per usual: anthemic and punchy – this time channeling the likes of the Misfits (“Going Out Tonight”), Van Halen (“Wild Cat”), and especially masterfully, Thin Lizzy (“You Are My Woman”) – which is the song that made me smile more than anything else I’ve listened to this year. “Do This Every Night” is the being-in-a-band anthem that every band should hear whenever they are thinking about throwing in the towel. I’ve always liked Danko’s records, but this one I really, really love.
Trance of Death
Released March 17
Cosmic, martial death metal that’s just progressive enough to keep things interesting, yet not so much that it lapses into wholesale wankery, Venenum have enough love of melody to balance out their punishing death-metal riffola. One hell of a debut ride, I can’t wait to see what they do next.
In Passing Ascension
Released May 26
Seemingly from out of nowhere, Suffering Hour mine chaos-veined death metal that rides the whirlwinds, and reaps dense hell out of earth-crumbling riffs of maddening inky blackness. Hammering out deranged, groove-smelted riffs that smash through the air in utter dissonance, I hear tinges of Inquisition in the atonal guitars, and that’s always mesmerizing to me.
Strike Mortal Soil
Released May 12
Not just one of my favorite albums of the year, Strike Mortal Soil is hands-down my favorite local album of the year. I kinda slept on Wormwitch when the album first came out, but when I finally got it, it bit me hard. Absolutely savage black metal with a strong rock sensibility, Wormwitch know the power of marrying a good hook with whipping-up-the-fury aggression. These guys are poised to do great things, and I can’t wait to see how they follow this up.
Released May 17
My decision to include this filthy masterpiece on my year-end list was not a little bit influenced by me seeing their incredible set at Covenant Fest III in June. But 2017 was overall a great year for filthy blackened death metal – to the point where you had a lot of contenders to choose from (ahem, see the rest of this list). Triumvir Foul stood out to me not only by dint of their live set, but because the claustrophobic murk that creeps in on their album gives it an added sense of entombment – it’s probably best listened to inside of a crypt at dusk.
Released September 15
A refreshing take on a classic black metal sound, Sheidim continue to impress me as they amble down their dark path, invoking along the way strains of Watain and Dissection on their latest EP. Infamata is punishing and orthodox black metal of the highest pedigree.
Favourite Album Cover Art of 2017:
Tchornobog – Tchornobog
(Fallen Empire, released July 21)
Cover Artist: Adam Burke /Nightjar Illustration
A fucking eye-mountain and a chasm full of snarling earthsnakes under a bloodstained sky.
Really, what more could you ask for in an album cover?
Best gig I attended in 2017:
Once again, the Covenant managed to top itself with another stellar lineup of the best in blackened death for its third festival in June. I was able to attend the final night of the fest, and was treated to magnificent sets from Brulvahnatu, Triumvir Foul, Heresiarch, Rites of Thy Degringolade, and Necroholocaust. Sebastian and the Covenant cult continue to make their stamp on the Vancouver metal scene with a top-notch festival, and the announcements that come in for next year’s fest (Ruins of Beverast and Sabbath Assembly for Montreal in March! / Blasphemy, Black Witchery, and Incantation for Vancouver in June!) prove that 2018 is truly going to be the year of The Covenant.
Favourite Metal Item Added To My Collection in 2017:
My favorite vinyl score of the year was Warner’s Sepultura box set, The Roadrunner Albums: 1985-1996. The first six (best) Sepultura records rereleased on 180g colored vinyl.
Most anticipated album for 2018:
New albums in production from Watain, Entombed AD, Riot V, and Carpathian Forest are all going to be on my must-hear list in 2018.
My 2017 in Metal:
I’ve had loads of fun this year starting and hosting a podcast called That’s When I Became A Metalhead. Basically I get together on Skype with my metal friends, and we talk a bunch of shit about how they got into this music, and how it wound up shaping their lives. Everybody loves a good origin story, and I love finding common ground and points of entry with other metalheads, and learning about them finding their way in life with the help of the music we love so much.
Alas, after eight great years, my band DEVICE came to an end in 2017. Our singer, bassist, and main songwriter Marc returned to the East, to his far-more-affordable home province of New Brunswick. DEVICE recorded our second and final album, Good Things Never Last, and released it in July. When we first started having discussions at the end of 2015, about what we wanted to include on the follow-up record to our first record – I said I wanted three things on the new record: Handclaps, a gong, and a backwards message. I’m happy to say all three of my wishlist items made the final cut. I will miss DEVICE terribly… but I got irons in the fire, so stay tuned…
In 2017 a lot of people seemed to forget that listening to extreme music is escapist entertainment from a mundane daily life full of trifling microannoyances and trials. Some days, life’s myriad lessons beat your ass down and make you feel like giving up – but instead of actually doing something drastic and going on a chopping spree, you blast a Cannibal Corpse record full of lyrics like “fire up the chainsaw, hack their fucking heads off” – and having that purely escapist catharsis keeps you from losing your shit: It resets your balance so you can go through another day of life’s bullshit tomorrow. Heavy metal doesn’t always need to be “woke” [ugh], or serious – or even politically correct. Sometimes it just needs to be fun and rude and wild, and especially, LOUD. Sometimes some of us even prefer it that way.
What I’m looking forward to in 2018, metal-wise or otherwise:
Kicking ass with my new band and hopefully going into the studio in the early part of the year. Hopefully we come up with the perfect band name before then…
2017 “Metal Person of the Year”:
I’m giving my vote this year to the fine gentlemen in Venom, Inc. Not only do they continue to tour their asses off and win over a legion of fans with their outstanding, passionate live show , and not only did they put out an absolute banger of a record, and not only are they doing all of this for the multitudes of ravenous Venom fans – they’re all absolute gents as people, and are giving their collective all to ensure that no Venom fan is left unsatisfied by the experience of seeing them perform the songs we love. I was lucky enough to sit down with them at their Vancouver stop on the recent North America tour, and to a man, Venom Inc. were not only engaging and welcoming, they were all extremely passionate about conveying to me that they are doing this for the fans. If that’s not the embodiment of the spirit of heavy metal brotherhood, I don’t know what is.