First of all, thank you Lifelover for offering me to write this article even though it’s a pretty unusual endeavour for me. Given how prolific the current scene is, I think it’s impossible to choose only 5 albums for 2017. I will, however, do my best to pick a few releases that I enjoyed, in order of influence of each band’s discography on me – keeping in mind that 2016 was extremely rich, seeing releases from Iskandr, Hope Drone, Furia, Unru, Bolzer, The Arrival Of Satan, just to name a few.
Yellow Eyes – Immersion Trench Reverie
Along with Fell Voices and Ash Borer, Yellow Eyes was among the most eye-opening and truly influential bands in my conception and approach towards Black Metal early on–through the force of their music, but also for their universe which often manages to distance itself from the scene’s traditional clichés. How then could I not include a new release from them!
From the project’s inception albums have followed one another maintaining a remarkable sense of homogeneity, allowing the band to create for themselves an instantly recognisable musical identity. After 7 albums, I find it to be quite an achievement in and of itself.
“Immersion Trench Reverie“ was recorded in the same studio they recorded Sick With Bloom in after a trip to Siberia which colours the entirety of the album through its sound references. The raw, lo-fi sound and ethereal guitar melodies that made the success of previous releases is still present, but here the lot feels more varied, more brazen, unabashed. More sudden tempo changes, more guitar leads that rise through the mix at the expense of other instruments and create abrupt variations, at times bordering on a feeling of nonchalance. However some details, such as the xylophone or carillons introductions, or the song closers interweaving women voices and samples show a strive for a precise and controlled result, creating a great contrast and making the outcome rich and subtle. I’d also like to bring attention to the artwork which emphasizes the conceptual aspect of the album.
Atriarch – Dead as Truth
It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to Atriarch given how puzzled I was when I discovered this band, with regards to the complexity of their music. Black metal, sludge, sometime death rock, intertwined with some gothic and post-punk elements, it’s hard to guess in advance where they will bring us next, and it’s that complexity–not to set aside their writing talent–that is the base of Atriarch success in my opinion.
Their last album is more to the point and linear than the previous ones in the way it’s written, and the production is finer and more impactful. Recorded by Earhammer Studio, offering us a sublime drum recording that emphasizes the refined aspect of “Dead As Truth” without losing its hypnotic touch, on the contrary.
This bare aspect gives us a chance to appreciate more clearly Lenny Smith’s vocal rituals, lulling the album from end to end. Combining, as before, black metal influences and gothic spoken singing, both obstinate and introspecting, the voice goes along perfectly with the melodic nuances and more rhythmic parts of an extremely precise drum and more experimental string section that make this such a subtle album.
It is interesting to note that 3 remixes of their last tracks are available on their Bandcamp, giving a different outlook on the original version, which increases the richness of this band, be it through their creativity or through their improvement along their albums.
Turia – Dede Kondre
“Dede Kondre“ is the second opus from this Dutch project, of which 2 out of 3 members are also part of Lubbert Das. One can notice the similarity in the writing and atmosphere, although Turia has a rawer, rougher sound, more lo-fi, hence my preference for the latter.
Turia is without a doubt one of my musical crushes, since it brings together everything I’m looking for as a listener. Moreover, their minimalistic approach or using the bare minimal drum kit and guitar setup is all to their credit, as in this straightforward approach, only the most instinctive and raw aspect of their music stands out, which they perfectly know how to use and develop.
From the first song, starting with a minute of ambient guitar, the heartbreaking and tormented screams of the singer, greatly accompanied by some aerial and cyclical guitar melodies that reminds me of the first Fell Voices. This is driven by minimalistic drums, alternating from linear and fast paced semi-blast to slow and more rock n’ roll or depressed moments. It should be noted that the snare is extremely nicely mixed.
The occurrence of moments such as choirs, harmonica, or De Houten Tempel’s work on delay adds an original touch, making this a complex album, that only reveals itself after many attentive listens.
Dede Kondre is made of 5 fairly long tracks, ranging from 6 to 11 minutes, that go by homogeneously, combining raw black metal, unbridled linear moments, and quiet times with ethereal melodies, creating a sublime 40 minutes piece, extremely immersive and hypnotic. A must listen!
Planning For Burial – Below The House
Although I discovered them very recently, it feels to me like this project hasn’t got anything left to prove. Thom Wasluck, young multi-instrumentalist from New Jersey brings together shoegaze, post, black and ambient metal masterfully.
“Below The House” sounds just as experimental but the instrumentation work is more meticulous than it was on previous releases. The addition of keyboards, samples, and layers of voices creates an evolution in the project’s musicality. The whole sound becomes more melancholic through the richness of the melodies, layered between the different instruments. It is a surprising twist of experimentation, backed by the more polished production.
Having discovered this project only recently, I won’t delve too deep into it as I feel I still have much to explore within their discography. I will however conclude by paraphrasing a fanzine that wrote about it “one can build a basement like one builds a cathedral–” a point of comparison between their very lo-fi, garage-like first releases and this fresh, ethereal, three-dimensional studio album. As it is quite an impressive performance for a young one man band to create such a complex album, I myself would rather state that “even in a basement, one can build a cathedral.”
Earth Moves – The Truth in Our Bodies
I wanted to close with this young English band that I discovered on their stop in France, whose maturity and very simple approach to music in what actually constitutes their first album surprised me a lot. While it was released in November of 2016, I wish to see it appear in this list.
“The Truth In Our Bodies” consists of 6 tracks, spanning over 38 minutes, in which the band varies from shoegaze, black metal, hardcore, screamo or post-rock with much energy. The track “House of Flower” is, in my own opinion, quite representative of this young and promising band.
This track starts slowly, with a 1:50 screamo introduction, in which the voice abrades over a clean guitar & bass combo, while the drums play some calm but arrhythmic lines. Then comes the opening per-se, erupting thanks to some black metal inspired drums, combining semi-blast and double pedal. Guitars turn aerials with a post-rock touch, accompanied with a much more aggressive singing. This whole becomes very fast and abrasive, and can easily remind of Ash Borer, be it from the sound of their reverbs, or for the placement of the instruments in the mix, although Earth Moves atmosphere is much more visceral and refined than Ash Borer’s.
House of Flower keeps going, until the track fades away progressively, in a doom metal atmosphere, with guitar leads extremely saturated and drowned in reverb. I find that to be the most beautiful moment from this piece. The singing becomes clearer and far away, slowly announcing the end of the track to come. House of Flower’s dynamic, and the album’s as a whole is a working perfectly; and given their energy and influences, I’m very much looking forward to their next release!