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

Here I present a grip of the most essential metal-related releases from the month of March in the year 2018. I’ve chosen them entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m primarily taking into account the hours of immersion, personal connection and enjoyment I got out of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out of this list for now, but will still be considered for end of the year lists, because I received well over 300 promos in the month of March. So, for this list I’m just focusing on records I reviewed and spent the most time with and a few that are pending review that I still feel are important. To put things into perspective, even when I often review 4-5 albums per day, I in March alone I have received: Roughly 40 CD’s from 2017 for review, 10 from January, 25 from February as well as a handful of full record label discographies. This doesn’t even include the releases coming out in April, May, and June yet or the March releases I’ll recieve in April. I’ll get to all of it, but it’ll take time and I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from! Here’s a glimpse of stuff I’m still planning on reviewing that released in March.

March reviews still in progress: Saltas, Har, Ziggurat, Svartanatt, Myrholt, Infraktor, Black Mare/Offret split, Blissful Stream, Confessor A.D., Vaginal Mutilation, Levania, Isgalder, Prag 83, Horizon Ablaze, Sammal, Byyrth, Goatkraft, Horn, Antichrist, Ondt Blod, Spectral, Morbosidad, Down Among the Dead Men, Therion, Rome in Monochrome, As Oceans, Twingiant, Godthrymm, Troll, Curvs, Hypotheticall, Neolithic, Malady, Oceans, Susperia, Accurst, Misanthropic Existence, Rusty Nails, Preludio Ancestral, Altars of Grief, Melted Space, Bruce Lamont, Coilguns, High Priests, Fuzz Lord, The Absence, Desiezed, Zeke, Owl, Barbarian Prophecies, Besvarjelsen, Beneath Oblivion, Talbot, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard/Slomatics split, Abduction, Soldat Hans, Eagle Twin, Take Offense, Hukutus, Augury, Barren Earth, Systemik Violence, Nomad. Most or all of these band’s current releases will still be reviewed post-March. What an incredible month/year for metal!

Overall the month featured some strong early releases from well established funeral doom artists and black metal resurgence. A few obscure doom releases that would have normally been boosted in Winter also popped up and overall it was a good mix of old ancient blood and new energetic bands. Springtime depression is real here in Seattle and the dysphoria starts to get shocking bursts of sunlight between downpours and funeral doom/death doom bands are an excellent dynamic soundtrack to the seasonal showing. There is an odd mania within NW civilization in the Spring that you’d have to sit and stare out a window for a few weeks to understand and my favorite music from the month almost entirely fits into that awkward pulse of post-Winter awakening. Enjoy!


Artist Mournful Congregation
Title [Type/Score] The Incubus of Karma [Full-length/4.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

The increasing progressive nature of the expanding universe that is Mournful Congregation‘s sound has become it’s most extreme and to balance out the righteously honed compositions they’ve reached incredible production value. Despite all of it’s grandeur ‘The Incubus of Karma’ is grounded, dark and even more aggressive than most of their previous material. The quality if the guitar performances and sound is rapturous and impressive, effectively depressive and never hellish in it’s forward lurching sound. It is funeral doom blessed with tasteful production and musical ambitions that never rests on it’s ‘sound’ as much as it impresses fully with songwriting. Mournful Congregation have taken yet another step forward in terms of quality without losing their core personality and there are few 80 minute albums that are this gratifying sit through for my taste. If funeral/death doom isn’t your thing I’m not sure this is meant to change your mind, though it is a polished and accessible form compared to most.


Artist Green Druid
Title [Type/Score] Ashen Blood [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Green Druid represent a post-Electric Wizard/Sleep landscape that won’t settle for anymore imitation and instead find occult rituals steeped in a potent mushroom tea set apart from their idols aging brew. The weed Olympians themselves crafted ‘Ashen Blood’ with the resplendent romping crackle of the 70’s worshipping garage metal doom band and set the speed to a quiet vibration for it’s earliest movements. The record builds and sways in and out of truly ritualistic composition without ever dropping it’s standards into predictable retro stereotypes. ‘Ashen Blood’ was at first alien and then warmly addictive in it’s disquieting pallor and spikes of ruinous aggression. It may be a long and difficult journey to take initially but the reward is a strong and unique statement using familiar branches of doom and psychedelic rock. I found myself thinking of it as a combination of the experimental orthodoxy of Ice Dragon and the clangor of the first Magic Circle LP.


Artist Black Wizard
Title [Type/Score] Livin’ Oblivion [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Black Wizard are the street metal of the Pacific Northwest and perhaps more rightfully Vancouver, B.C. as they combine elements of classic heavy metal, doom rock, and speed metal that moves further away from the predictable stoner rock they’d started their careers with. ‘Livin’ Oblivion’ is an accessible, heartfelt and clever record that is modern in it’s voice and not yet bitter enough to have lost hope. The hopeful and the sardonic actually differentiate into distinct tracks, moods and extrude meaningfully catchy rock music. The variety and overall vision of Black Wizard on this fourth full-length is admirable, honest and exceedingly listenable.


Artist Rites of Thy Degringolade
Title [Type/Score] The Blade Philosophical [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Seeing this post-Sacramentary Abolishment project reform after a decade of the guys’ involvement in amazing bands like Warmarch and Weapon has been exciting not only for where Rites of Thy Degringolade left off in 2005 but how great their stuff sounds in 2016. ‘The Blade Philosophical’ is as much an occult terror as it is a serpentine set of rituals dedicated to death metal, occult black metal, and even touches of war metallic fury. It is a smart and harrowing statement from the Satanic perspective that releases one from shackles before they know it, and it’s freeing themes are doubly impactful for the inventive guitar work and always brilliant drumming. They’ve updated their sound beyond the quite technical and angular ‘An Ode to Sin’ which felt entangled in between early Deathspell Omega and Gorguts, it still feels like it accompanies the same spirit but with a current take on their same nihilistic inspiration that totally avoids the dissonant/atmospheric labels into facelessness. If nothing else they’ve confidently reiterated their ability to riff.


Artist Ripped to Shreds
Title [Type/Score] 埋葬 [Mai-Zang] [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Ripped to Shreds conceptual vision began with Disincarnation‘s frustrating beginnings and developed into what sounds like an early 90’s Swedish death metal record remastered for 2018. The general description of ‘Mai-Zang’ is that it takes the guitar work of Dismember and Bolt Thrower and meshes their more intensive beginnings well. While this is true I felt like it resembled early efforts from Cadaver and various Finnish death metal groups as well with more excitable and varied drumming and some wild vocal performances. What might seem generic because of the overused guitar distortion tone actually ends up being a thrashing death metal album that treats three ’89 pillars with the same respect: Bolt Thrower, Terrorizer, and Carnage. Lyrical themes of morbidity, massacre, and death from the Chinese-American perspective are likewise something new and interesting for those who can dig beyond guitar tone and resemblance.


Artist Towards Atlantis Lights
Title [Type/Score] Dust of Aeons [Full-length/3.85]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

A supergroup of members of Pantheist, Landskap, Aphotic Threnody and some death/doom metal groups ended up making one of the first standout funeral doom records of 2018. ‘Dust of Aeons’ builds upon the ethos of groups like Mournful Congregation with extended and deeply moving compositions and the overall sound closer resembling a more free-thinking version of Shape of Despair. The keyboard work is immaculate and The first two tracks are worth the listen alone. I don’t know if it will stand up to the lasting impression left by ‘The Incubus of Karma’ in the same month but for my taste the themes and dramatics of Towards Atlantis Lights deserve some examination if you’re a funeral doom fan.

AORLHAC CD cover 300dpi

Artist Aorlhac
Title [Type/Score] L’espirit des Vents [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

I’d been so wrapped up in exploring the history of melodic black metal this past year that I’d forgotten to follow what is current and important in 2018 for this style. Aorlhac is absolutely one of the more interesting melodic black metal artists out there in terms of meaningful concept, personal vision, and use of melody that isn’t derivative of Swedish group’s well-worn pants. Though they do have the heirs and similar themes to Darkenhold, a group they’d done split releases with in the past, the completion of their trilogy of recordings after about 10 years is their strongest and most meaningful release to date. Not only has their sound been sharpened and their riffing abilities honed but the use of native melodies and themes give the recording a genuine feeling that is more prideful than the odd spectacle that black metal often is. It might only thrill melodic black metal fanatics like me but I found this record well worth my time.


Artist Myrkraverk
Title [Type/Score] Nær Døden [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Upon hearing Myrkraverk‘s debut full-length I was sure that ‘Nær Døden’ was a revival of an old group from the mid-90’s because it so effectually captured what black metal was in the Norwegian dominance of the time. In fact Myrkraverk is very prideful of their Norwegian necromantic heritage and the early scene. Though they don’t go full natureboy a la Windir in hailiing Bathory they do pay grand tribute to early Darkthrone and related projects like Isengard and Storm with folk/viking moments that never really evoke anything outside of the range of say, early Taake. In fact Hoest and a group of other Norwegian greats lend vocals to this album to help authenticate it’s vision. I’d highly recommend this to fans who’re excited about old Darkthrone and Taake alike, who wouldn’t mind a few quick dips back into the earliest releases from Satyricon and Mayhem as well.


Artist Of Feather and Bone
Title [Type/Score] Bestial Hymns of Perversion [Full-length/3.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Of Feather and Bone went from sludge-tinged hardcore punk that was very early 00’s and in the course of a few years became a dark and brooding death metal band. ‘Bestial Hymns of Perversion’ is the most memorable death metal statement of the year but it is carefully crafted to fit in between ‘Dark Recollections’ murk and groups like Disma or Imprecation with their Incantation fueled variations. I likely gave this higher marks for it’s occasional resemblance of Fleshcrawl‘s ‘Descend Into the Absurd’ record and it’ll fade out of memory soon but I think this is well worth listening to for the band’s odd-but-tasteful decisions in their sea-change of sound and style.


Artist Ascension
Title [Type/Score] Under Ether [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

An exciting and moving burst of black metal from Germany that branches out into rhythms I’d expect to hear in a Morbus Chron or Ghastly record and in fact this experimentation builds upon the previous Ascension recordings with a certain grace and fluidity that creates further intensity without becoming tastelessly brutal or saccharine. It is a spell-binding performance that I found myself unwilling to stop listening to. I put off finalizing the review for ‘Under Ether’ for an extra week because I felt there was more depth to pull from it and was ultimately surprised how much I liked this album. Something different from occult black metal that is both memorable and dream-like but still dark and dissonant like the previous one.


Artist Primordial
Title [Type/Score] Exile Amongst the Ruins [Full-length/4.25]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW!

This will likely be one of the more controversially debated releases from Primordial because they’ve leaned in a few interesting directions few were fully expecting. A discussion of genre specifics might seem too early as I’ve just purchased it, as I don’t get promos from Metal Blade Records, and need more time to absorb it. There is a distinct neofolk influence on the full hour of ‘Exile Amongst the Ruins’ but also some almost viking metal vibes at times that go beyond the epic heavy metal meets folk/black metal style they’d worked towards since ‘The Gathering Wilderness’. In an effort to avoid hype and just approach this as a longtime fan I’m going to give this one a week or two.


Artist Berthold City
Title [Type/Score] Moment of Truth [Full-length/4.0]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Well every month I’m finding myself needing a return to hardcore punk even more and Berthold City brings me back to being a teenager and zipping through Revelation Records catalogs and making lists of bands I absolutely wanted to hear. This project was formed by War Records founder/Strife guitarist and the line-up was filled out by members of Internal Affairs, One Choice, Final Fight, and Allegiance. The style aims purposefully for the earlier less-metallic style of straight edge hardcore a la Judge’s first EP and Uniform Choice. If you’re thinking Youth of Today, no this doesn’t have Ray Cappo‘s lighter style of vocals and instead fits better with early 90’s straight edge shouts before the metalcore kids started growling. ‘Moment of Truth’ is brain medicine I’ll rely on for when I’m stuck in a storm of stress or negative thoughts, I have always found 80’s style hardcore an incredible release and this band captures it’s best elements effortlessly.


Artist Parasight
Title [Type/Score] At Leve Som Hvis Der Var Et Håb [Full-length/4.0]
Click Here to read my REVIEW

Though they were more straightforward d-beat influenced Scandinavian hardcore punk before, on ‘At Leve Som Hvis Der Var Et Håb’ Parasight have found the right balance of added melodic metal interest that sets them shoulder-to-shoulder with hardcore/d-beat visionaries Martyrdöd and Nux Vomica. They seem to be not only taking influence from contemporaries by having metal/punk production and mixing but also honoring their love of groups like Victims and Acursed as well. I’m not sure if the death metal mixing and production stuff was necessary to get the point across but this is a really spirited and heavy hardcore punk album that should appeal to folks who like stuff like Martyrdöd and want a different variation on the side.


Artist Replicant
Title [Type/Score] Negative Life [Full-length/3.75]

Though there are likely to be few technical death metal albums to follow Portal‘s earth shattering ‘Ion’ this year I found Replicant‘s ‘Negative Life’ to be an nice example of what I consider “millennial”-core influenced technical death metal that hasn’t lost sight of the spirit of Immolation and Gorguts in their attack. You might hear shades of Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch and Pyrrhon in their sound more than the old classics but ‘Negative Life’ isn’t averse to learning from tech death’s past and they aren’t mired in flashy bullshit as much as so many others. Replicant is tasteful in a sea of tastelessness and they stand out for that most of all, though the song arrangements are dynamic and occasionally exciting. I gave this band this slot because I feel they have a lot of promise and their music is on the right side of modern death metal interpretation, even if it occasionally seems they lack an understanding/interest of the visceral nature of death metal’s earliest primal tones.


Artist Throneless
Title [Type/Score] Cycles [Full-length/3.5]
Click HERE to read my REVIEW!

Between this and Sixes, Black Royal, Nest, Twingiant, and even Ilsa sludge metal was strongly represented in March but for whatever reason Throneless hit the exact right spot for me. ‘Cycles’ isn’t really remarkable in terms of sound as they’ve taken the gigantic sound of bands like Conan, Warhorse and Ufomammut and simply set variation upon it but the variation clicked with me for whatever reason. I had trouble choosing between this and Sixes‘ ‘Methistopheles’, so I would end up giving it a tie between the two and recommend listening to both. This was just a bit more fresh on my mind this month.

Honorable mentions [Click to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock album released in March? 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. Don’t worry, no piece of music is ever too old to review! Again I want to thank the bands, labels, and hardworking PR folks for their support and contributions! This is a dream for a longtime fan and collector like me.

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