Metal of the Month: January’s Finest 15 Releases (2018)

Here I present a grip of the most essential metal-related releases from the month of January in the year 2018. I’ve chosen them entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m not taking anything into account other than the number of hours I got out of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out because a lot of the releases I listened to most in January aren’t going to be released until February or March. So, for this list I’m just focusing on records released in January and nothing else.

Of course it is January, so doom and death typically dominate the release schedule as is fitting for the season. The danger in releasing something in January is that folks who follow music year-by-year or month-to-month tend to see less and less value in releases as they age. Though I would argue that many albums retain greater value with greater familiarity and honestly science is on my side in that assessment regardless. .


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Artist Portal
Title [Type/Score] Ion [Full-length/5.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Since their inception Portal‘s output has been clouded in reverb and murky echoing production and with ‘Ion’ they’ve not only stepped into the light of clarity but they’ve amped up their attack. The album is a whirlwind of menacing occult black/death noise that defies all standards within technical death metal and creates new benchmarks in expressive death metal guitar riffing. It is frantic, shockingly extreme, and reveals itself unwillingly across repeat listens. What initially appears as a dense and challenging effort will eventually confidently dance upon the delighted lobes of your brain. I’ve rated this with a rare 5 out of 5 because I believe Portal are the cusp of the apex of technical death metal and it’s modernization beyond blatant imitation of old, dead masters. It is earthy and electric and damning in it’s horror and I ultimately decided it is a vitally important release for extreme metal in 2018.


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Artist Hooded Menace
Title [Type/Score] Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed [Full-length/4.75]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

The most satisfying release of January for me personally was this latest Hooded Menace album. For almost as long as I’ve been obsessed with Finnish death metal I’ve been a fan of this band and loving their brand of reliably dark and heavy riff-focused death/doom metal. Because the mastermind of the project has re-staffed the band for this album the sound is far more melodic death/doom in style with a lot of influences taken from classic Paradise Lost, October Tide as well as classic Finnish death metal like Amorphis‘ first full-length. It isn’t groundbreaking in the sense that it’s style isn’t brand new and innovative, but it is likely one of the heaviest records in this sub-genre ever released and Hooded Menace have managed to retain their signature sound across several distinct albums. I didn’t give it a perfect score because I felt some ideas were recycled from their 2012 album and the flow of the album was disorienting when I left it on repeat.


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Artist Hamferð
Title [Type/Score] Tamsins likam [Full-length / 4.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

This Faroese band resemble a mixture of Candlemass‘ peak 80’s sheen and gloom matched with the death/doom of Ceremonium and the modernized riffing of Mar des Grises. I may have dinged it a few points because it was all in a language I don’t understand and the gothic feel of the record was a bit draining on repeat, but it is a fine vision of epic doom metal with death metal interspersed. The epic traditional doom moments feel as modern as they do ancient and the talented vocalist can’t help but steal the show here, he is as massive in his clean vocals as he is in his death growls. It is the same guy as in Barren Earth apparently. I found great value in this release beyond the initial hype cycle and it generated more worth over the last few weeks. It doesn’t get a perfect score because the death metal parts are neither huge riffs nor memorable outside of their intensely growled chugging.


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Artist Rapture
Title [Type/Score] Paroxysm of Hatred [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Greek death/thrash band Rapture‘s second full-length is one of the higher ranking favorites of mine in terms of post-classic era death metal influenced thrash metal. Rapture were able to capture the inherent psychotic high-energy blast of their debut but with improved production and a much heavier overall sound. Their style borrows from Demolition Hammer as much as it does from Dark Angel and the result is a performance on par with the greats from similar bands like Ripper, Mortem and the like. ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’ is one of those enormous and visceral records that will escape the radar of many due to the niche they inhabit but I would argue that this album holds great appeal for fans of the more extreme side of traditional thrash metal.


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Artist Black Space Riders
Title [Type/Score] Amoretum Vol. 1 [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

This first of two albums they’ll release in 2018 shows Black Space Riders adventuring into new, glossier territories of modern rock without losing sight of their progressive sludge, space rock, and generally experimental nature. The songs are catchy, memorable, expressive and a wild set of earworms that I was addicted to from the second full-listen. It is a sort of accessible rock album in a post-Mastodon world that really has me hooked. Not only am I curious about what they’ll do on Vol. 2 but I’m still enamored with the hooks of Vol. 1.


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Artist Beldam
Title [Type/Score] [Full-length / 3.75]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Ah, I can never get enough skin-rending old school influenced sludge metal with burly death vocals. In fact this Seattle sludge band do it better than most as they explore the old and the new schools of sludge thought and do it tastefully aggressive and rough-edged. There are nods to Eyehategod and Melvins with a sort of Primitive ManThou hissin’ bitterness to it and as a result ‘Pasung’ is one of the most memorable releases from January. As dumb and almost non-serious as my review might seem, I really loved this record and fell into it immediately from the first listen. Any fan of sludge should enjoy this.


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Artist Druid Lord
Title [Type/Score] Grotesque Offerings [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

The second Druid Lord album is less focused on death metal severity and more interested in Celtic Frost influenced doom metal songs that are as Hooded Menace as they are pure death metal. They’ve retained their sound and fury on this recording but written ‘Grotesque Offerings’ with their own unique take on death/doom that holds fast to their greatest influences while no longer mired in more typical death metal riff-salad. Their sound recalls the best moments of Winter‘s doom metal a la death aesthetics and Mourning‘s raw tone and dark riffing. For all of the modernized, sludge metal influenced death/doom saturating the internet in the last two years it is refreshing to hear a take from long-standing underground musicians who carry that old school spirit with them.


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Artist Abysmal Grief
Title [Type/Score] Blasphema Secta [Full-length/3.85]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

With each release Abysmal Grief have grown closer to realizing their horror themed, keyboard enhanced vision of death/doom. ‘Blasphema Secta’ is their first release where I am fully on board with both the menacing doom riffing and the jaunty organ grinding that their cathedral-of-death keyboard melodies bring. It is a memorable circus ride through sinister anti-Christian misanthropy that really didn’t get old no matter how much I spun it. Though keep in mind I love stuff like Acid Witch and though this band is far more serious the appealing camp is what both bands manage to charm me with.


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Artist Summoning
Title [Type/Score] With Doom We Come [Full-length/3.75]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

I received the promo for Summoning so early that I felt like I spent countless hours with it before I wrote the review for it. Despite that extra time in consideration ‘With Doom We Come’ is very much in line with what Summoning has been doing for the last fifteen or so year as they’ve phased out the majority of their black metal sound. With this slow change happening the breaks between albums have been long and sorrowful as their Tolkien influenced symphonic blackened metal is so often poorly imitated. This record was far too close to the previous one, supposedly because it was recorded or at least written around the same time, but that isn’t a negative mark for me because I loved the previous one as well. If anything this album is more focused and sits in their strongest melodic pockets and basks in the glow of peak Summoning atmospherics.


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Artist Apathy Noir
Title [Type/Score] Black Soil [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Apathy Noir have sort of come into their own on their last two records and achieved a higher level of professionalism in their sound along with the return of their original singer who has a more tasteful and wide range. The style here is of course yet again death/doom but the melodic variety that takes influence from groups like October Tide, Rapture, Amorphis and other gloomy late 90’s melodic death/doom bands. The most notable improvement here for the band’s sound is the emphasis on memorable melodic guitar leads and effective depressive tones that nearly call for an atmospheric black metal tag as well.


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Artist Heidevolk
Title [Type/Score] Fire of Resistance [Full-length / 4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

On this latest album it seems that Heidevolk have their mojo back after switching vocalists after ‘Batavi’ and have made a slight return to that bombastic and prideful warrior sound. From their inception this band have written some of the most aggressive and likewise memorable folk metal. A lot of this album carries the charm of a group like Thyrfing while still stretching out into songs that are as catchy as Fjed or as progressive as Borknagar. It is an energetic and confident release from a band that had meditated a bit on their last release, and I think songs like “Wolf in my Heart” will stick out as memorable catchy tunes that folk-metalheads will remember all year.


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Artist Djinn and Miskatonic
Title [Type/Score] Even Gods Must Die [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Hailing from India D&M harbor a great deal of respect for groups like Electric Wizard and Reverend Bizarre but they fire things up with additionally aggressive vocals a la Cardinal’s Folly for beefy, heady modern doom metal that has far more inventive takes on the sub-genre than mainstays like Seamount or Lord Vicar. The lengthy compositions do become slightly taxing when left on repeat so I have been recommending this as something to enjoy 1-2 tracks at a time until it fully clicks.


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Artist Decaying
Title [Type/Score] To Cross the Line [Full-length/3.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

With a fresh coat of thrash atop their Bolt Thrower and Asphyx influenced sound Decaying have put together one of the better traditional death metal albums released in January. The bursts of thrash on the first half of the album revitalize the style here and the doom metalized second half lay it to rest in the heaviest way possible. I’d felt like Decaying was on a downward spiral in terms of songwriting on their last three albums but with ‘To Cross the Line’ they’ve hit upon the exact best-fitting rhythms for their sound and it is mercilessly heavy stuff.


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Artist Jute Gyte / Spectral Lore
Title [Type/Score] Helian [Full-length/3.5]
Listen on Bandcamp!

A split album between two of the best independent musicians in modern and unexpected black metal experimentation. Each band (guy, both are solo projects primarily) take on 20 minute tracks of equally psychotic and psychadelic black metal. Jute Gyte are, at this point, know for their microtonal compositions which will sound like a sped up tape to most people initially but with so few extreme metal artists implementing this instrumentation into actual songs his music remains highly original and unpredictably janky. While I knew what to expect from Jute Gyte‘s “Jandek of Black Metal” style I was apprehensive for Spectral Lore‘s side because his Greek black metal and death metal infused atmospheric black/heavy metal style is absolutely some of my favorite stuff in the last five or so years. The unfortunate reality for me here is that he isn’t going to recreate the sound of his ‘Gnosis’ EP from 2015, and instead his song here is equally stuttering drudgery as it is majestic blackened melodicism. Overall this split album is a psychotic mess and I think that insanity has been alluring for the couple of weeks I’ve been listening to it. I won’t be reviewing this album primarily because I don’t think I have more to say about it. Compelling if not flawed experimentation.


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Artist Monolithe
Title [Type/Score] Nebula Septem [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

I haven’t yet had enough time with this Monolithe album to write a review but I felt it was important to mention here because I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit already. Their sound has finally pushed itself out of their funeral doom trappings and they’re fully invested in a progressive death/doom sound that is otherworldly, heavy and menacing as much as it still retains some of their atmospheric sludge ideology from earlier releases. The sound is clean and yet the guitars carry a dirtied death metal tone that is almost always accompanied by imaginative keyboard runs without becoming symphonic metal. I still need more time with it’s conceptual nature (each of the 7 songs are 7 minutes exactly) it for a full review, but it is definitely one of the most memorable full-spins of January.


Honorable mentions

 

  • Revolting – Monolith of Madness [Death Metal]
  • Abigor – Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition) [Black Metal]
  • Mammoth Grinder – Cosmic Crypt [Death Metal]
  • Tribulation – Down Below [Gothic Metal]
  • Scaphism – Unutterable Horrors [Brutal Death Metal]
  • Bestialord – Law of the Burning [Doom/Death Metal]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock album released in January? Tell me about it. This list is representative of my opinions and personal favorites taking into consideration influence, innovation, replay value, arrangement, cover art, production style, nostalgia, and quality of experience. There are hundreds more releases from the month and I might have overlooked something amazing, let me know.

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