I tried my best to keep this list to a round number, like an increment of 5, but I just couldn’t help it. There are 16 records that I needed to tell you about and I couldn’t cut a single one from the list.
There’s way more doom/sludge than I expected, and while I tried to branch out from the big labels, I couldn’t help it too much, so save for the couple self released ones, there’s not a lot of surprises on here. Doesn’t matter, though. IT’S ALL AWESOME.
Since the previous list (Top 10 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records) didn’t have embedded streams, I made a Spotify playlist due to popular demand. But when I went to make a playlist for this list, it was missing numbers 16, 12, 10, 4, & 3, because Spotify sucks and that was too many. So while I still made the playlist, I also embedded a streaming song for everything on this list. I also went back and did the same for the previous list.
As always: Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.
“Descending Through Autumn Fields”
Unless you made your 2016 year-end list in 2017 (which is totally reasonable, I’m not judging), then this record wasn’t on it because it came out December 31, 2016. They put out another full length this year but honestly I never got around to it. Regardless, Civilization… is fuckin nasty sample-filled black metal that’s got layers and textures and more layers, evoking a bit of a Gnaw Their Tongues horror vibe.
This album is insane, a caustic twisted industrial doom noise that would get side-eyed from every demon in hell, Governance is the reason we call this kind of music “doom.”
“Old Alpine Pang”
Yellow Eyes bring all sorts of shit to the plate on this one, they recorded stuff on site in Siberia, adding some mystical field recordings to their sound and then somehow making their abrasive riffs catchy & melodic. Easily the best they’ve ever sounded.
A goddamn monster of a record, this is as heavy as heavy gets, I just hope they don’t play any live shows because clearly the sheer weight of this would decimate everyone in the room.
“Dreams In The Witch House”
The radio station I work at and advise, WMWM, put on a concert this year and Dim was supposed to play (the concert ended up not happening for a variety of reasons) but imagine my surprise when I found out that one of the bands was a funeral doom band with just two demos to their name that both fucking rip, this is some seriously excellent doom that I guarantee is gonna be on all the blogs when they put out a legit record.
“Children Of The Eye”
5 years after Mass V and now they’re touring with Neurosis, getting their record put out on Neurot, and in everybody’s ears, which isn’t a bad thing at all, the world is a better place now that Amenra’s mammoth sludge has wrapped everyone in a blood-soaked lead blanket.
“Wound And Scar”
A debut has no business being this good, yet here we are with a crazy blackened sludgy doom record that’s as weird as it is heavy (two of my favorite things), it’s noisy and droney and tortured and furious and fantastic in every way.
“Conjuration Of Fire”
Servus is a beautiful slumbering giant, melodic doom with clean vocals jumping over to a frenzied blackness that shrieks into the void, it’s grim as hell and has the perfect amount of riffs ‘n’ grooves.
This is pain-filled Fuck You music, and I’m not usually a fan of Fuck You music but Couch Slut make it louder, heavier, and weirder than anything else that can even be tangentially related to hardcore. But the genre barely matters here. Couch Slut are visceral as fuck, the feedback squalls punch you right in the face and every time Megan Osztrosits opens her mouth, I feel like I’ve done something unspeakably horrible and she’s about to fucking execute me.
I love Ardor just as much as Big Brave’s last one, Au De La. Except they’re not that different from each other, so while all of the things I said in 2015 still stand true (they’ll “sweetly serenade you with soft drones then steamroller your skull with monolithic atonal riffs and humongous fucking drums”), I’m not as jaw-dropped this time around. But regardless, it’s still fucking AMAZING.
“Opposition/Perihelion; The Coil”
There was no way I wasn’t going to love every part of this record. Colin Stetson (the saxophone dude) and Greg Fox (the Liturgy drummer with his hands in everything) teamed with Shahzad Ismaily (the synth dude from Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog) and Toby Summerfield (Larval, Crush Kill Destroy) to make a totally bizarre instrumental post-prog psych metal with blast beats and hooks. Like seriously what the fuck even is this? It’s goddamn incredible.
“Whiskey And Wine”
As someone who’s been listening to everything Thom Wasluck has recorded since 2009’s Leaving, I can say with all sincerity that Below The House is hands down the best thing he’s ever made. It perfectly captures the Jesu/The Cure sound that he’s been wallowing in all these years, it’s so masterfully executed I can hear every detail, Wasluck has upped his production game tenfold, instead of the fuck it chaos punk attitude, I feel like he spent way more time fine tuning this one while still keeping the DIY awkwardness, like the feedback squelches on “Whiskey & Wine” are impeccably timed but inherently unpredictable, shit like that stands out all across this record, and while he gets louder and heavier than ever here, he still goes down the drone hole and belts out two lovely back-to-back ambient pieces right in the middle of everything.
Hell continue the self-titled thing even after they closed out the self-titled trilogy. But even though this has the same name, it’s pretty different from their previous work, getting way sludgier and a little blacker, the opening of the song “SubOdin” giving me a strong “Black Sabbath” vibe, which is great because “Black Sabbath” was easily the most demented song for at least 2 decades and Hell are doing their best to bring back that Satan-staring horror.
I fucking looove Ragana. Their grungy sludgy emo black metal is wholly unique and kills everything in its path. I feel like black metal duos usually leave a lot to be desired. I mean, it’s pretty fucking hard to stand out in the black metal scene when you’ve just got drums & a guitar, but Ragana do it and they do it so well. They’re not weird, there’s no schtick, they just make you want to burn the whole fucking system down and do it with a smile. You Take Nothing is Ragana in their Ultimate Form.
“Mirror Reaper (excerpt)”
BELLLLLLLL WIIIIIIIIIITCH going for the gold with a single 84-minute long song as their record, which is in part a tribute to Adrian Guerra, the now deceased original drummer, and it features all of the heavy and desolate despair you expect, with organ passages that are so fucking beautiful it hurts, I can’t get enough of them or this record, it’s a goddamn masterpiece that somehow improves upon everything they’ve already mastered.
“A Shell Of One’s Former Self”
I know, you were expecting Bell Witch to be number 1 but it’s motherfuckin Cavernlight. Cavernlight hasn’t already put out 2 perfect records like Bell Witch. This is their debut and it’s fresh as hell, which tends to trump everything else in my book. The anguish and desperation that pours out of As We Cup Our Hands… is tangible, I hear them scream about death, depression, and the void, and it resonates in me so much more than the rest of the stuff out there, there’s nothing more doomed than this record, and the closing song makes me want to fucking weep, inspired by False’s “The Deluge” where they brought in Sarah Green to sing, “A Shell Of One’s Former Self” also features Sarah in addition to False vocalist Rachel N. It’s a perfect song to end a perfect record and there isn’t anything better than that. (Update: I was told the additional vocals on “A Shell…” are Sarah and Michael Paparo from Inter Arma. Not Rachel N. She sings on the opening track.)