Sunday, 21 January 2018

6 NEW BANDS: THE SLUDGELORD’S 666 Pack Review (January 2018)

By: Nikos Mixas
Art: Joshua M. Wilkinson

THE SLUDGELORD’S 666 Pack Review has returned anew for 2018! That means there will be bands that will receive an extra bit of notoriety they deserve and there will be other bands that we’ll call it as we hear it, such as encouraging the band to sell off their gear and find another hobby.  Each and every month we handpick 6 review submissions and critique them by only using 6 words, then we rate them on a scale from 1 to 666!  Check out our awesome rating scale below: 

1 – Shitty way to start the New Year…make the resolution to get better at your craft…
2 – Stay in bed and snuggle with a kitty or…listen to this?  We chose kitty snuggling.
3 – On a scale of Five Finger Death Punch to Neurosis, you’re a Weedeater
4 – Continue to listen to more of this band or shovel shitty snow?  The snow can wait and where’s the        whiskey?     
5 – You’re so goddamn hot, you’re thawing out Norway’s black metal scene.
666THE SLUDGELORD very much approves and will brand the band’s logo on his ass.  Just kidding….THE SLUDGELORD isn’t stupid..

It’s the start of a new year and there is plenty of optimism abound for bands submitting their efforts to THE SLUDGELORD.  However, the 666 Pack Review is meant to offer humorous critique and is not meant to hurt feelings, in saying that, there are no safe spaces here.  THE SLUDGELORD is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

1). Voidian ,“…And Darkness was Upon the face of the Deep” (EP) (Flanders, Belgium)    Rating: 3

THE SLUDGELORD doesn’t like long songs.

2). Lord Mountain/Mesmer, “Split EP” (Santa Rosa, USA) - Rating: 5

Some Cirith Ungol worship, fuck yeah!

3). I, Immortal, “Demo” (California, USA) - Rating: 3

Bay Area Thrash meets something “core”.

4). Giant, “Tremors EP” (Copenhagen, Denmark) - Rating: 3

Copenhagen's very own High on Fire

5). Slôdder, “Slôdder” (Varmland County, Sweden) - Rating: 2

It was good, then vocals happened…

6). Hound the Wolves, “Camera Obscura” (Portland, USA)   Rating: 2

Not in the mood for moodiness.

Friday, 19 January 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Tribulation - "Down Below"

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/01/2018
Label: Century Media Records

I’ll stop short of calling this Tribulation’s defining masterpiece, if only because the band seem to keep outdoing themselves. For that same reason, it’s hard to imagine the band won’t have even more to show us as the years go by, and that’s a thrilling prospect.

‘Down Below’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. The Lament
02. Nightbound
03. Lady Death
04. Subterranea
05. Purgatorio
06. Cries From The Underworld
07. Lacrimosa
08. The World
09. Here Be Dragons

The Review:

By this point, most of you reading this are going to be familiar with the transformation Tribulation has undergone over the last decade or so. Beginning as a more traditional, yet unique and creative Swedish death metal band, and over time moving further and further into a lush, blackened goth metal kind of sound. That’s not exactly a common trajectory for a band, but then Tribulation isn’t a common band.

While I’m sure there are still people holding out hope for something closer to ‘The Horror’ or ‘The Formulas of Death’, 2015’s ‘The Children of the Night’ was a definitive clean break from the thrashy, progressive death metal of the band’s early years. The glowing reception with which the album was received by both critics and a large number of new and current fans of the band probably wouldn’t have dissuaded them from continuing on their current course.

All of that is to say that ‘Down Below’ is a further exploration of the sound Tribulation established with ‘Children of the Night’, leaning into the accessible nature of their previous album and further toying with the subjective boundaries each of us set as to what counts as metal vs. hard rock. In that sense a good comparison point might be a band like Ghost, even if the two are pretty different, stylistically. This correlation is particularly evident on “Subterranea”, with its subtle inclusion of classic heavy metal elements in the verse, and the theatrical nature of the song’s opening moments.

Tribulation’s current modus operandi is straddling the fence between commercial accessibility and the underground’s love of artistic indulgence and morose aesthetics. Johannes Andersson’s vocals—as decipherable as they may be—are still very much in a black metal vein, and will continue to limit the pace at which they can grow their fanbase. Looking at them purely as an artistic choice, it works for me, but I love vocals in that style to begin with. But it also means their ceiling will remain at a certain level.

Instrumentally and compositionally, it’s clear as day that the band is continuing to appeal to a larger audience, but Andersson’s vocals keep them tethered to their point of origin, and interviews the band has done in the past indicate that it’s a conscious choice. It’s a part of their identity that they value more than whatever potential growth might come from making a vocal change as drastic as their musical changes have been. The vocal situation illustrates that Tribulation is remarkably comfortable with who they are. Sure they could probably bring in a singer like Pelle Åhman (who I’ve been advocating for on twitter for a couple of years now), but then it wouldn’t be them. The songs are immediately catchy, the vocals are caustic and grim. That’s who Tribulation are.

Time has a funny way of proving statements like this next one wrong, but in this moment, ‘Down Below’ feels like an improved and stronger version of the vision they brought to life on ‘The Children of the Night’. This album is a refinement rather than another great leap forward, and I think that’s exactly what was needed. ‘The Children of the Night’ had the benefit of leaving an immediate impression because it was so different, and time has not been as kind to parts of that album because, in retrospect, the whole experience would have been much better served at forty minutes than at fifty-six. ‘Down Below’ is more concise, and the songs here are better realized and written, outside of the previous album’s opening pair of songs. I’ll stop short of calling this Tribulation’s defining masterpiece, if only because the band seem to keep outdoing themselves. For that same reason, it’s hard to imagine the band won’t have even more to show us as the years go by, and that’s a thrilling prospect.

‘Down Below’ is available a digitally here and on CD/LP here.

Band info: Official Site || Facebook

Thursday, 18 January 2018

INTERVIEW: Doom from the Underground with Shadowmaster

By: Aaron Pickford

At the end of 2017, today’s featured band, Shadowmaster and their self titled debut full length was voted the 11th best underground release by THE SLUDGELORD.  Since July 2017, we selected 13 albums a month that were either released via smaller labels and/or via bandcamp and took it upon ourselves to focus the microscope on those bands and at the end of the year we selected our favourites and Shadowmaster was one of them. 

Following in the footsteps of legendary doom royalty Candlemass and hailing from Sundsvall, Sweden, Shadowmaster are one of latest and heaviest of doom exports, and we talked to the band at the end of 2017, to get the lowdown on the roots of the band and the creation of their devastating new album, which was released via Seeing Eye Records

Can you give us an insight into how you started playing music, leading up to the formation of Shadowmater?

Micke (guitar): I guess it all started when we went to high school. We all found out that we shared the same interest in music, so we developed a friendship and started hanging out, both in and outside of school. As time went by we all started playing in various groups based in our hometown Sundsvall, and as our music taste developed with time, Cedermark and I felt that we wanted to play slow and heavy doom, so we started this band called Desert Crone. In the beginning it was a duo, with Cedermark on the drums and me on guitar. We soon realized that the music lacked a certain feel, so we started looking for a drummer. Eventually we called Jimmy and told him that we wanted him, and he gladly accepted. After that we had some gigs, did a short European tour, made an album, changed name to Shadowmaster and here we are!

For those people unfamiliar with your band, are there any bands on the scene past and present that you would use as a reference point bands to describe your band, and who or what continues to inspire you and push you to try new things?

Micke: Well, I’d be a fucking hypocrite if I wouldn’t mention Electric Wizard to start with, as they are the biggest influence (surprise, surprise). But for people who are unfamiliar with us I would mention Monolord, Belzebong, Burzum and Sleep, to name a few. But honestly speaking, I look for inspiration everywhere. We’re talking movies, nature, emotions etc. Obviously heavy music is the greatest influence, but sometimes when I write, I listen to OST-music. It sounds weird, perhaps stupid, but it’s true. There are no limits to our imagination.

What can you tell us about your debut record and where do you feel it sits within the context of current doom scene

Micke: Dark. Heavy. Disgusting. That’s at least our goal with the album. Nowadays there are tons of bands out there, but you are only drawn to a few. We believe that the reason for this is that most people think that you can just pick up an instrument and write slow music, with no feel to it at all. So we think (and hope) that this album is going to be one of those record that people will react positive towards, and not get bored the first two minutes in. We can only wait and see.

Does anything spring to mind when you think about the completion of your new record “Shadowmaster” and how is the mood in the camp at present?

Micke: Well first of all we are just relieved that it’s done, as we worked really hard on the album both in the studio and in the rehearsal room. But in the end we are very pleased with the results so we are feeling great about the completion of the album. We are excited at the moment. The signing with Seeing Red Records feels great, the music is finally going to be released physically and merch is in the making. Now we will focus on playing live so all is good!

What stands out as your overarching memory from the recording sessions?

Micke: The recording of “The Lizard King” went horribly, as I got nervous playing by myself and fucked up more than once. Because off this I wanted to scratch the song, but Cedermark didn’t agree. In the end we got it, but I was pissed at myself. The recording of “Under His Black Skies” was also a moment of aggression. We first failed at the end of the song, so we had to do a second take. As the song is almost 20 minutes and we play everything live in the studio, it was a pain in the ass. But it wasn’t all bad. The vocals went smooth as fuck, and they sound amazing. Plus we had some help by Björn, a close friend of ours. He helped us with everything during the recording session and mixing.

With you new record in the bag, how is your schedule shaping up over the next 12 months?

Micke: Play as much gigs as possible, spreading the word of Shadowmaster and write more music! We already have a lot of ideas for new songs. Releasing the album on vinyl is also something we will try to do as soon as possible. But mostly perform live, since we truly enjoy it. Releasing some merch is also something we will do. T-shirts will be available in a couple of weeks with a design made by none other than Wizard Of Meth (Mephistofeles).

Finally, do you last words?

You can only die once. After that, nothing, and nobody, can harm you.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Wolftooth - "Wolftooth"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/01/2018 (Digital) |
05/2018 (LP) | 09/03/2018(CD/Tape)
Label: Cursed Tongue Records |
Blackseed Records

If you were disillusioned by The Sword after their first three albums, and if you loved Earth Witch then don't delay and get hold of this album as it is a riffing stoner metal delight.

“Wolftooth” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:

1). Blackbirds Call
2). Aegaeon
3). Sword Of My Father
4). White Mountain
5). Frost Lord
6). The Huntress
7). Season Of The Witch
8). Forged In Fire

The Review:

Cursed Tongue Records, who recently put out vinyl for the excellent Earth Witch “Out Of The Shallow” album, have got in early as the label for Wolftooth. The band hail from Indiana and have not existed much longer than the time it has taken to put out a three track EP and then record this full length. So, what are Wolftooth all about?

It turns out that this four piece are purveyors of the finest in stoner metal; melodic riffs, but also fuzzed out tones and big sounds are the order of the day here. Think The Sword as a starting point (opener “Blackbirds Call” uses similar rhythmic motifs) but also think Angel Witch and you are about there.  Similarly “Aegaeon” utilises twin guitar sounds to excellent effect and uses slothful pacing to make the heavy happen. Great lead work and a spacey feel combine well. “Sword of My Father” has a great opening riff with some twists and turns and a solid Ozzy type vocal over the top.

White Mountain brings laid back vibes (the second of their demo EP tracks re-imagined for their debut), before “Frost Lord” ups the tempo and metal quotient considerably. “The Huntress” is clearly one of the bands centre pieces- featured on their aforementioned EP- this is a fine slab of melodically inclined stoner metal with great lead work and a well paced plodding tempo. The four minute mark brings a swinging groove of the finest type. Headbanging heaven.

Of the remaining two tracks, “Season of the Witch” is a bluesy and laid back track- a surprise change of pace late in the record, while “Forged in Fire” is every bit as dramatic as the title suggests. A slow burning intro, huge riffs and over six minutes of metal to close out this very worthwhile album. If you were disillusioned by The Sword after their first three albums, and if you loved Earth Witch (or haven't heard it) then don't delay and get hold of this album as it is a riffing stoner metal delight

“Wolf Tooth” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

REVIEW: No Funeral, "Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing" [EP]

By; Charlie Butler

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/12/2017
Label: Live Fast Die Recordings

“Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing” sees No Funeral go straight for the jugular with an unrelenting onslaught of volume and bile.  This EP is another great offering from this excellent band

“Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing” CS//DD track listing:

1). Carrion
2). Hyperalgesia
3). My War (Black Flag Cover)

The Review:

Fearsome Minneapolis sludge dealers No Funeral make a welcome return with new EP “Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing”. Their split LP with Livid was a highlight of 2017 and this new release finds them administering three further doses of sweet misery.

“Carrion” and “Hyperalgesia” find the band in deadly form conveying their hatred of humanity via nasty, primal doom. On previous releases the band have sometimes utilised moments of quiet in amongst the carnage to create an air of menace. “Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing” sees No Funeral go straight for the jugular with an unrelenting onslaught of volume and bile aided by a red raw production by Dinis deCarvalho.

Carrion” is a punishing experience, eight minutes of slow-motion torment consisting of bleak riffs and the bands harrowing dual vocal attack. A brief burst of crusty sludge raises the tempo above a crawl before crashing back into the abyss once more. “Hyperalgesia” continues the drudgery culminating in a series of dark samples, an effective No Funeral trademark.

The EP is rounded off with a gloriously torturous cover of Black Flag’sMy War”. No Funeral take the miserable dirge of side 2 of the “My War” LP and apply it to the high octane punk of the title track to create a harrowing doom masterpiece.

“Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing” is another great offering from this excellent band. Hopefully a full-length slab of filth will see the light of day before the end of 2018.

“Mankind Is Carrion, Fit For Nothing” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Hooded Menace - "Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed"

By: Andre Almaraz

Album Type: Full Length

Date Released: 26/1/2018
Label: Season of Mist

Hooded Menace, is the quintessential death-doom metal band and this album is a crawling behemoth with so much gloom and doom that it feels like a slimy dense fog is pouring out of your speakers and into your unsuspecting lungs.

“Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1.Sempiternal Grotesqueries
2. In Eerie Deliverance
3. Cathedral of Labyrinthine Darkness
4. Cascade of Ashes
5. Charnel Reflections
6. Black Moss

The Review:

“Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed” is the fifth full length album by Finland’s reigning kings of death-doom, Hooded Menace. It also happens to be their first full length release as a five piece unit since their recent acquisition of new member, Harri Kuokkanen, as stand alone lead vocalist. The recording consists of six tracks which combine to make up forty-two minutes of total running time and the scheduled release date by Season Of Mist is January 26th, 2018. It appears that a seventh bonus track does exist on some formats but unfortunately, we did not have it made available to us for this review.

First track, “Sempiternal Grotesqueries,” is the longest running song of the album. This lumbering juggernaut slowly builds up from an epic graveyard crawl which eventually transcends into that classic Hooded Menace gallop, after which we are thrown into a frenzy of double-kick drums and pummelled into oblivion. This song has all the classic cornerstones that we love about Hooded Menace and it bounces our brains back and forth between them all for over ten and a half minutes. It is an all encompassing thrill ride of pure death-doom bliss in such a way that only Hooded Menace can deliver.

Second track, “In Eerie Deliverance,” begins with those signature guitar harmonies which have always accompanied many of the band’s massively haunting riffs. The opening movement has a bit of a twist in its groove and some unorthodox drumming, slightly akin to something Immolation might do - to give you a rough comparison. I feel like this aspect combined with the melodic chorus part make this track a bit of a standout from their usual repertoire. This is a good indication of a band that is continuing to grow and not afraid to take some chances outside of their usual comfort zone which is very admirable. Plenty of melody and double-kick while having minimal guitar soloing make this one an interesting listen for seven minutes and it works very well.

Third song, “Cathedral Of Labyrinthine Darkness,” lets the heavy dirge rumble of the bass guitar take the lead for a few brief seconds in the very beginning and leaves me wanting more. This one in general is a crawling behemoth with so much gloom and doom that it feels like a slimy dense fog is pouring out of your speakers and into your unsuspecting lungs. It is pure suffocating slow death. Fourth song, “Cascade Of Ashes,” creeps in like an undead zombie dragging its decayed carcass across the night’s shadows after a brief acappella vocal line chimes in to start off the number. The central focus point of this track comes in the form of a small break in the middle that leaves only a solitary guitar to ring out some unconsecrated notes that segue into a groovy tribal drum beat. This seems to me as another venture into slightly unusual territory for the band and again, it works very well.

Fifth song, “Charnel Reflections,” much like the opening track is a stroll through the familiar cemetery of the damned that Hooded Menace have worked so hard to create and perfect over the last 11 years. It is another fine example of the band's classic style of riffs and melodies which we, as fans, have come to know and admire. The sixth and final track, “Black Moss,” is an instrumental two plus minute outro that morphs from a heavy driving riff with plenty of guitar soloing into some classical guitar as it fades off and unwinds us from the bludgeoning assault of dust and cobweb covered ancient headstones that have been hurled at us for the duration of the previous five songs.

As always, the musicianship on this album is indisputable metal mastery at its finest and the production is near flawless. Although the vocals are a bit different this time around, but I feel it is not a drastic change and in my opinion, the new vocalist suits the band well. One can only appreciate that Hooded Menace is still growing and changing ever so slightly with each new release but one thing is certain; as long as Lasse Pyykkö is at the helm, they will continue to hold their place at the top of the death-doom subgenre and never grow stale in their craftsmanship. Hooded Menace, to me, is the quintessential death-doom metal band and this album shows that they remain as relevant as ever.

“Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed” is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 15 January 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchcryer - "Cry Witch"

By: Ben Fitts

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/01/2018
Label: Ripple Music

The riffs are infectious, the grooves hit you right in the gut and their well written songs are accentuated by climatic dynamics and impassioned performances by all members of the band.  Witchcryer have created something really quite special on Cry Witch”, a debut surely worthy of addition to the doom metal cannon.

“Cry Witch” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Cry Witch
2). Ricochet
3). The Preying Kind
4). Ma Kali
5). Embryo (Instructions)
6). Great Divide
7). For The Slaves
8). Witchfinder General (Witchfinder General Cover)
9). Lapis Philosophorum

The Review:

Do you like fat, fuzz soaked guitar tones? What about heavy, blues based riffs with a gloomy, vintage vibe? A singer who belts raspy, darkly melodic vocals about witches, vengeance and fighting systematic oppression? Well if you are reading THE SLUDGELORD, there is a pretty decent chance that you are here largely to find more bands that do exactly what was just described above. If that’s you, then “Cry Witch”, the debut album by Austin based doom quarter Witchcryer, does not disappoint.

Witchcryer play a form of classic doom metal revival that owes its biggest musical debt to the bands that played doom before there was a name for it (Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, Pentagram). Their chosen musical territory is far from uncharted by its very definition, but Witchcryer play it with so much fire that it feels fresh regardless. The riffs are infectious, the grooves hit you right in the gut and their well written songs are accentuated by climatic dynamics and impassioned performances by all members of the band. Some highlights include brooding, psychedelic track “The Preying Kind” and the vicious, gravely stomper “For The Slaves”, but the album’s finest moment is unquestioningly its the thunderous title track. Somewhat reminiscent of early The Obsessed, “Cry Witch” is a hard-hitting doom metal track at its finest, with just enough punk rock muscle to give it its needed edge. Its main riff is also an earlier contender for the best metal riff of 2018.

“Cry Witch” is the band’s first and only release following a three-track demo titled “The Preying Kind — Demo MMXVI” from 2016. While those familiar with their demo will recognize Witchcryer’s ear for great riffs and knack for organic dynamic changes (as well new recordings of all three tracks), overall “Cry Witch” demonstrates significant growth for the band. They have grown much tighter and more confident as a unit (some of which may be due to the recent inclusion of their bassist, Marilyn) and have created something really quite special on Cry Witch”, a debut surely worthy of addition to the doom metal cannon.

“Cry Witch” is available here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Sunday, 14 January 2018

2017'S MOST POPULAR ALBUMS: The Sour 16 of 2017

Morbid Angel
When reflecting upon 2017’s releases,  we all love music and we all create lists, therefore with that in mind the “SOUR 16” draws those two things together and is simply a fun way to present good music to the readers over the course of the year.. 

So, with that in mind, today we present the culmination of our efforts and present “THE MOST POPULAR ALBUMS OF 2017 for your viewing pleasure.  I hope you had as much fun checking out new music on the blog last year, as much as did presenting it to you. I’d like to bestow an immeasurable amount of gratitude to the contributors, who made this year so awesome. 

The results are compiled based on page views alone and calibrated into the list below. All reviews can be viewed by clicking the artwork and we have included album streams wherever possible. (Total views since their publication are highlighted in red).  

16). Monolord - "Rust" (2820)

Monolord hits all the superlative notes when it comes to doom and the album's closing tracks, "Forgotten Lands" and "At Niceae," are as close to perfect as you can get.

15). Godflesh - "Post Self" (2954)

It may be a disturbing, challenging last will and testament of humanity’s futurist hopes and dreams, but “Post Self” is an invigorating, complex, and honest piece of industrial metal.  Perhaps most importantly, in a genre that can be glutted with repetitive speed metal riffs and samples of shouting despots, Godflesh stands as one of the smartest bands working today.

14). Blaze Bayley - “Infinite Entanglement” and “Endure and Survive” (3018)

Both “Infinite Entanglement” and “Endure and Survive” are the best work of his entire career, better than Wolfsbane, better than his tenure with Maiden and better than his past solo work.  Blaze's fire is burning brighter than ever

13). Norilsk - "Le Passage des Glaciers" (3335)

French Canadian doom duo Norilsk return from a two-year layoff with a surprising new album, one that gives a reengaged sound to the pair's signature style.  Norilsk manages to be bold without being alienating, and that is indeed refreshing.

12). Bell Witch - "Mirror Reaper" (3692)

With "Mirror Reaper," the music conveys the reflection back of life and of death; literally that the Grim Reaper is a facsimile of the cycle of life. As with anything Bell Witch, though, such a realization is not engaged with in a fashion that rips at the pain of loss or terror, but rather builds into a deeper, though no less excoriating, meditation on the passage of time

11). Soen - "Lykaia" (3819)

On Soen’s third full length record their own explorative hunger is satisfied in the most delicious of ways, resulting in their most dynamically versatile but free flowing release to date.  An explorative and colourful record, there is a lot to take in with this record, many dimensions in which to get lost in. Repeat listens bear gorgeous fruits.

10). Pale Horseman - "The Fourth Seal" (3982)

 Pale Horseman offers a special sort of heft to their music, with mesmerizing guitars convulsing, vocals crunching  and the drums creating a war beat that is stifling in weight.

9). Dead Witches - "Ouija" (4227)

This is another perfectly fuzzed out slab of doom from a band that doesn’t seem to know any other way.

8). Blut Aus Nord - "Deus Salutis Meae" (4386)

What is truly most evident is an extreme music group that will not be bound to definitions, or at least is willing to experiment to ascend beyond what we think we know of a genre.

7). Primitive Man - "Caustic" (5216)
"Caustic" is an ambitious project, among the band's longest and most complex to date. Like their past work, the group explores nihilism in sound that rivals some of the most hopeless metal you've heard. That unrelenting quicksand of guitars and bass is here, as are those vocals of your nightmares.  Primitive Man offer up some of its most excellent music to date, making this sprawling and charging full length worth the wait.

6). Telekinetic Yeti - "Abominable"(5325)

All in all, the recording has a huge sound and the production is absolutely amazing. It has everything you could ever want and I would rate it as a perfect 10. The album is truly remarkable and is sure to go down in history as one of rock’s greatest debuts. These guys are definitely heavyweight contenders to find their place at the top of the scene

5). Paradise Lost - "Medusa" (5461)

Depthless despair, thick production with pounding drums accentuating the force of the material and those classic melodic leads are all encompassing, making this their heaviest album in years and amongst their best. “Medusa” can and will turn you to stone- as you will be shocked and stilled by just how good it is.

4). Electric Wizard - "Wizard Bloody Wizard" (9859)

“Wizard Bloody Wizard” transcends whatever the in-thing of the moment is, and focuses instead on musicianship, the album's all-analog approach creates a warm, vintage sound for the songs and on the whole Electric Wizard feels re-energized, whilst remaining true to their seedy pedigree

3). Satyricon - "Deep Calleth Upon Deep" (9963)

‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ is something of a spiritual successor to ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ in that the goal appears to have been to take an established sound and create the weirdest, artsiest version of it they could and there is evidence of a sweeping creative resurgence throughout the album as a whole.

2). Iron Monkey, "9-13" (11329)

"9-13" offers a shredding sludge attack and is a violent rejoinder of why Iron Monkey got its reputation as a doom/sludge vanguard. All these years later, Iron Monkey remains gritty and uncompromising. Predictions for a return were invariably high. "9-13" does not blow those expectations out of the water. Nor does Iron Monkey disappoint. For that, there's much to smile about.

1). Morbid Angel - "Kingdoms Disdained" (31062)

This album is a statement of intent, placing the focus on convulsive rhythm changes and dissonant, jagged riffs over accessibility.  ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ is Morbid Angel's most uncompromising album of their career and their best album in nearly twenty years, and I don’t consider that light praise.

A big thank you as always to our amazing writers, your dedication knows no boundaries and for that I am truly grateful.  The 2017 MOST POPULAT ALBUMS featured reviews by:  Richard Maw, Daniel Jackson, Andre Almaraz, Ernesto Aguilar, Phillip Weller, Josh Nicholls & Mark Ambrose