20 Underground Black Metal Albums You Missed in 2018

Black metal viewed from the panopticon as a deeply faceted entity reveals one of the most widely interpreted heavy metal sub-genre to exist. There is little in the way of consensus for what it is among those who make it and many artists hold a contempt for the genre as a whole, despite depending upon its greater tropes: Rasping vocal, a certain attack of the drum, and guitar work that creates some greater form of atmosphere in combination with other parts. If one dedicated themselves to the daily grind of 10-15 full listens per day, all year long, they could come close to experiencing all manner of releases under the grand black metal umbrella but most of us must be content with what we can reasonably come across. However you personally approach selection know that this list is chosen to represent various styles of black metal; The goal is to find artistic value from packaging, lyrical themes, etc. but ultimately any slice will seem arbitrary when you consider the work it would take to represent the global black metal musicianship.

I do not want to suggest I am a black metal ‘expert’ but I am at least well versed in first and second wave history of the genre along with pointed fandom of melodic black metal, black/thrash, blackened death metal, avant-garde/dissonant black metal, as well as most modern psychedelic/noise variants. A year ago I began studying melodic black metal (see: An Exhaustive Study: Melodic Black Metal series) to build greater understanding of the sub-genre but I’ve made an effort to connect with black metal since about 2005 where I finally began to see value in the non-death (or thrash) metal related spectrum of black metal. I will be fairly inclusive here but if any release leans further towards death metal they’ll likely end up on those respective lists. I do my best to find compelling and powerful albums but a few of these will just be weirdos for the sake of showing the out-of-the-box thinkers and hidden gems of underground black metal today.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of black metal in 2018 but rather to illustrate what black metal is/was in 2018 and where I think it was most interesting yet overlooked. From my experience these albums were overlooked, underrepresented, and/or passed by quickly by media outlets. Thanks to streaming sites like Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud you’ve got instant access to hundreds of independent black metal band discographies the world over and hey! I’ve picked through them for you all year long, scouring those sites and a few databases that catalog most every release (Discogs/RateYourMusic). So, here are some bands that stood out to me as I dug through black metal’s innards throughout 2018. There are a ton of great bands to pimp here that I’ve already reviewed or put in my Top 50 for this year so don’t think I forgot: Blasphamagoatachrist, Slaegt, Serpent Column, Devouring Star, Third Storm, Abyssous, Aeternus, Culte Des Ghoules, Lucifericon, Carpe Noctem, Sargeist, Blood of Serpents, Valdur, Solar Temple, Eskhaton, Valdrin, Gnosis, Invocation, Burial Shrine, Cemetery Lights, Prezir, All My Sins, Thron, Furze, Eriphion, Hellfire Deathcult, Moenen of Xezbeth, Morketida, Imperialist, Ill Omen, Nachash, Faustcoven, Sanguinary Trance, Imperial Triumphant, Mongrel’s Cross, Invocation Spells, Hallig, Djevel, Novae Militiae, Funeral Mist, Embrace of Thorns, Jyotisavedanga, Uada, Skogen, Nocturnal Graves, Horn, Abhor, Lychgate, Urfaust, Hoth, Svederna, Varathron, Acherontas, Gra, Altar of Perversion, Aura Noir, Ascension, Har, Ziggurat, Myrkraverk, Drudkh, Rites of Thy Degringolade, Vomitor, Summon, Chaos Invocation, Voidhanger, Adzalaan, Gravehill, Shakma, Hyrgal, Communion, Vargrav, Aorlhac, Funeral Winds, Nigredo, Horna, Harikiri for the Sky, Watain, Grafjammer, Abigor, and tons more 2018 black metal albums.


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Artist Nirnaeth
Title [Type/Year] From Shadow to Flesh [Full-length/2018]
Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

We begin in Lille, France with the latest evolution from black/death band Nirnaeth as they continue to explore the realm of melodic black metal. Formed in the early 2000’s this quintet have recently added a second guitarist and the results on ‘From Shadow to Flesh’ take them further from comparisons to countrymates like Arkhon Infaustus. Scandinavian second wave black metal is entirely relevant here in terms of both Swedish melodicism and the rasping attack of the Norwegian early 90’s fare. Mayhemic vocals and some Deicide influenced death metal riffs (see: “Once a Shadow”) end up reminding me of classic Polish black metal some along with nods to Absu and Thou Shalt Suffer. I don’t think this could be considered a modern day classic but it will absolutely outshine many semi-melodic black metal albums you might’ve come across in 2018.


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Artist Pandiscordian Necrogenesis
Title [Type/Year] Outer Supernal [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Considering the trouble so many black metal artists have composing and performing set compositions it is no small feat that Steve Peacock aka Ephemeral Domignostika (Ulthar, Mastery, Pale Chalice) performs both drums, guitar, and vocals himself simultaneously with everything recorded live in studio. Oh, and all Pandiscordian Necrogenesis tunes are entirely improvised, too. Peacock‘s vocals are distinct and pretty close to a slightly less nasal Proscriptor and you’ll definitely recognize his musicianship and affect if you’re familiar with his work in Mastery. ‘Outer Supernal’ finds him exploring greater dissonance than on ‘Cerebral Quasaric Lacerations’ (2010) and although the sound is still raw it is less so this time around. This is one of my favorite records of the year and is one of the few things on this list that may end up on my final ‘best of the year’ list.


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Artist Vetur
Title [Type/Year] Nætur [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

As cheap as that logo looks up close this Reykjavík, Iceland black metal project are much more than they appear to be. Members of Icelandic groups Beneath and Changer make for an already interesting resume for a black metal band but the inclusion of drummer Dirk Verbeuren (Scarve, Megadeth, ex-Soilwork) should perk a few ears. Their backgrounds are in the post-2000 Euro-thrash scene mostly and this gives ‘Nætur’ a unique black/death sound compared to many of their fellow Icelandic musicians who often lean on French black metal for inspiration. Each track takes an unexpected turn from the last and I think “Blóðvefur” was the first surprise as it sheds the traditional black metal feeling of the first track immediately. This is the sort of find that is easy to overlook and to judge quickly but there is some greater value beyond the first impression made.


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Artist Disparity Gospel
Title [Type/Year] Antechamber of Abundant Nothingness [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

It is always a thrill to find a DIY/independent project like Disparity Gospel that is quality and class right out of the gate. Elements of melodic black metal, Mutilation Rites style black/death crossover moments, and some really sharp atmospheric transitions make for a stunning debut. The opener “Transient Bloodcurse” not only introduces their gnarling riff style but the outro just hits like a tone of bricks, no doubt they’ll gain fans from that song alone and thankfully the rest of the album is basically up to par. If they lean into the Immolation-esque parts and build their way up to more abrupt transitions they’ll be everyone’s favorite new band. A solid spin from a band with great potential.


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Artist Temple Desecration
Title [Type/Year] Whirlwinds of Fathomless Chaos [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Tychy, Poland black/death metal band Temple Desecration offer a truly flattening display of war metal influenced atmospheric death metal on thier debut full-length ‘Whirlwinds of Fathomless Chaos’. Sure, the style is dominated by some death metal aesthetics but the overall effect isn’t far from something like Malthusian or Teitanblood. The album’s sound is imposing and initially very brutal (think of Thunderbolt or Azarath) but soon grinds down to doomed pace where it often writhes. Although I listened to this record several times this year it never really stuck with me to the point that I had much to write about it but, I would still rate it fairly high.


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Artist Selbst
Title [Type/Year] Secular Compendium [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

How good is Chilean (by way of Venezuela) melodic black metal band Selbst? They’re so good that even their demo/split material will floor you. If you missed their self-titled debut last year like I did, no problem because this collection of ‘Veritas Filia Temporis’ (2011) demo and tracks from splits with Holbach, Nihil, and Averso Humanitatis does a great job of getting you up to speed for that release. Although every writer seems to compare them to Mgla, you’ll find the melodies are more directly applied and Selbst have a certain edge to their sound that reminds me of Nightbringer a bit. If you are a fan of modern melodic black metal like Uada (or even Forteresse) this is an important band to check out.


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Artist Black Howling
Title [Type/Year] Return of Primordial Stillness [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The longer Black Howling persists in their pursuit of raw black metal and black/doom metal the deeper each release affects me. ‘Return of Primordial Stillness’ builds twofold upon the style of ‘O Sangue e a Terra’ (2015) with a thread of Hypothermia and Xasthur fashioned depressive rawness but with guitar work that is transcendent of both without going full on ‘dark metal’ or ‘Brave Murder Day’-worship like Forgotten Tomb. I don’t understand the sub-genre’s infatuation with crackling static, so my score is a bit lower than my praise would suggest… It is the absolute best DSBM-related release of the year.


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Artist Ifernach
Title [Type/Year] Gaqtaqaiaq [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I’ve always found Chandler, Québec black metal project Ifernach difficult to write about because Finian Patric‘s work is easy to misrepresent as it is surely raw black metal with a lo-fi sound but it isn’t obtusely raw; Likewise it uses epic melody but wouldn’t necessarily qualify as melodic black metal in the traditional sense. Any descriptor has a caveat even in describing the atmosphere which is very personal and mystic but also modern feeling in the occasional post-black metal guitar techniques used. The passionate performances here are met with equally driven themes centered around the injustices suffered by the first nations of North America and the genocidal marches that destroyed them. There is a lot to like on any of his EP releases and this latest one is definitely the most refined and resonant.


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Artist NONE
Title [Type/Year] Life Has Gone On Long Enough [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Portland, Oregon atmospheric/depressive black metal duo None have an exceptional sense of ‘depth’ within sonic landscape; The best proof of this is in the guitar tones and layering therein where the scraping buzz of distortion never outshines or grates upon the listener. For music appearing as personal expression and release the expected value is a pointed but not exploitative catharsis. ‘Life Has Gone On Long Enough’ wrings sensitive melodic builds and smoothed tones for the hyper-sensitive dysthymic mind yet the album is not frail, naked sourness. Instead there is a sense of ingenuity within a sound numbed by None‘s presumed aphotic state thanks to creative harmony, cinematic builds, and evocative-yet-simple guitar/piano melody. All of these elements are somewhat standard methods for atmospheric and depressive forms of black metal alike but the combination is seamless and naturally flowing within complete and structured ideas. Where so many atmospheric artists excel at post-rock cinema, they so often fail at creating experiences with repeatable song structure; This is where None show the most strenght.


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Artist Wilt
Title [Type/Year] Ruin [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Winnipeg, Manitoba quintet Wilt operate with technique and production values heavily reminiscent of Cascadian black metal as it reaches beyond the first decade of the millennium. Whereas a band like Wayfarer appears modern for stylistic adventure that feels like a new approach, Wilt refine the ‘bones’ that define the movement by emphasizing the melodic death/doom pace and structure inherent and bringing the atmospheric black metal fidelity to a polished apex. The result is reasonably transfixing as the longer extended dirges of Harikiri for the Sky meet with post-black metal guitar techniques (whilst avoiding shoegazing). It is a few generations removed from the best of Agalloch and appears as a less poignant cousin to early Woods of Ypres or even Fen. The record lacks variation but is still worth listening to if the right low mood strikes.


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Artist Sacrificium Carmen
Title [Type/Year] Hermetica [Full-length/2018]
Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

All signs pointed to a great arrival with even greater potential back when Finnish black metal project Sacrificium Carmen released their debut full-length ‘Ikuisen tulen kammiossa’ (2015) to pretty reasonable acceptance. Three years later they appear almost as a band bored with ultra-Satanic orthodoxy yet unwilling to stray into ridiculous territory. ‘Hermetica’ is a product of that need for ingenuity and variation that still works within their typically Finnish black metal sound. This progression is similar to that of earlier Sargeist, and to a lesser degree more recent Horna, where a refined attack and some timely influences resurface a band’s approach for the sake of avoiding repetitive output. The slightly rock influenced sound of ‘Hermetica’ should remind folks of Enthroned and certain Ragnarok records initially but without the full-bore late 90’s swing in effect.


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Artist Allegiance
Title [Type/Year] Beyond the Black Wave [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

For those ever-hungering minds first enlightened to black metal through the abrupt and regal rip of Emperor back in the 90’s here exists further tribute to add to your pile. I’d love to go on about Limbonic Art‘s follies, Gehenna‘s interesting discography arc, Ancient‘s underrated beginnings, and even some thoughts on early Nokturnal Mortum in relation to the spirit of ‘Anthems…’-era Emperor but the style that Allegiance toy with is so directly Emperor inspired I can’t look anywhere else. They have no shame in this glorious resemblance and really they do a great job of living up to the self-description of Emperial black metal. So, if you loved Vargrav this year but want something more directly inspired by Ihsahn‘s guitar work from 1994-2001 then ‘Beyond the Black Wave’ is a great option. There are some surprises here, also, I particularly like the almost viking metal inspired refrains of “The Entity Behind the Wall of Flames”.


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Artist Daagh
Title [Type/Year] Daagh [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A great example of modern and relatively pure atmospheric black metal from Norway from (presumably) one man. It is an EP or demo depending on how you look at it but by atmospheric black metal standards you can consider it a full album at nearly 40 minutes. The songs are extensive and typically evocative though they are slightly buried by the warmth of the production. Were the release more spaciously mixed, or less intent on drowning out the simplistic post-rock drum patterns, it would carry a more sinister and moving weight. Wolfspell Records have a talented ear for recognizing early potential and it’ll be interesting to see what Daagh works up next.


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Artist Det Eviga Leendet
Title [Type/Year] Lenience [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I feel such grotesque anxiety for the dissolution of Fallen Empire Records as not only are their final releases limited to how many are ordered but there is an incredible explosion of insanely good releases as the label achieves finality. One of a dozen examples of how the label represented an honest DIY ethic and art-forward representation comes from a quintet of musicians in the Uppsala/Stockholm area of Sweden named as Det Eviga Leendet (The External Smile). In reading “Dragged out of the gloom and into bright sunlight” I am prompted to see ‘Lenience’ as a defiance of the norms of black metal on an ideological basis but the style is an emotionally intelligent and flowing form exemplar of modern semi-melodic black metal. The mix is democratic yet atmospheric, in true Swedish form, thanks to Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna, et al.) This release was right on the fringe of my best of the year list but I feel I’d need more time than I have to give it worthy study.


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Artist Curse Upon a Prayer
Title [Type/Year] The Three Woes [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you are as huge of a fan of the semi-melodic sensibilities of the second wave of black metal’s collisions with formerly death metal band’s need for hard hitting riff-based expression, Finnish black metal artistes Curse Upon a Prayer will be immediately appealing. Before you are completely lost in the beautiful vortex of riff and maligning of religious extremists on ‘The Three Woes’ do a bit of homework and grab their equally impressive ‘Rotten Tongues’ (2015) full-length. So much of the conversation about this band centers around their anti-Islamic lyrics as if it is controversial to hate a religion, it isn’t. Decades of anti-Christian music have helped win the greater war against the tyrannical abuses of thoughtless Christ obsessed extremists and the hope is that the same religious decrepitude can be applied to Islam and all other religion. As unique as the theme is it is entirely secondary to the guitar work here as the band develops a sound that will impress folks who might’ve been introduced to the melodic side of black metal through bands like Uada or Mgla but aren’t aware of groups like (early) Satyricon or Kvist. I don’t want to suggest that this isn’t inherently Finnish in sound but at least a blend of commendable Scandinavian influence.


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Artist Myrd
Title [Type/Year] Negativisme [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on Spotify!

Realizing my tendency towards melodic, artful, or esoteric black metal I figured I could at least include something inspired by the raw forms of black metal. Copenhagen, Denmark based Myrd take some influence from the old German scene (Katharsis etc.) as well as early Urfaust and Tsjuder in what is a pretty standard raw black metal album that does a nice job of keeping the variation going throughout. Absolute headache music that strives to inspired self-hatred and frustration.


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Artist Abigail
Title [Type/Year] Far East Black Metal Onslaught [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Abigail are a Japanese institution among bands aiming for the first wave of black metal and still creating their own style. Though they’ve released six full-lengths since 1992 the space between those releases has been filled with almost 40 live albums, well over 100 split releases, and various spurts of EPs along the way. The latest EP comes from Helldprod Records and well… there isn’t much to say about their sound if you’re already familiar with the style of black/speed metal they play. Abigail have more or less stuck with the same approach since 1992 and that means fans of Midnight, Barbatos, Evil, and early NME will find a lot to like here. Just good quick fun and nothing else.


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Artist Albionic Hermeticism
Title [Type/Year] Ancient Hermetic Purity [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Another stunning example of atmospheric values from Portuguese label Signal Rex this year and an album that I’ve warmed up to beyond the first few cursory listens. Although I don’t know the goals and symbolism of Albionic Hermeticism but the subject of Hermeticism is still quite interesting. Having continued study of natural philosophers and alchemists beyond involved in the history of science and scientific society, the followers of Hermes Trismegistus‘ works are a constant point of interest. If secret theurgistic societies with ‘aryan’ as a qualifier don’t interest you but you’d like some lo-fi occult black metal with intricate atmospheric guitar work ‘Ancient Hermetic Purity’ should be interesting enough. The elements of raw black metal, atmospheric black metal, harsh and experimental noise combine in a way that is hard to compare to other recent releases. Nothing essential but at least an easy record to miss or be scared away by initially.


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Artist Dalkhu
Title [Type/Year] Lamentation and Ardent Fire [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

What began as a compelling attempt at redirection of the confounding mutations of black metal in 2003 would soon become an impressive and unique blackened death metal project with the release of ‘Imperator’ (2010). Dalkhu would change drastically for their second album, ‘Descend​.​.​. into Nothingness’ (2015), as their focus on death metal and melodic black metal intensified. This was a high point, a brilliant and fairly unique record that acts as a leaping point into the great beyond that is their third album. With a third singer in ranks, and a few years in between records, ‘Lamentation and Ardent Fire’ is again evolved beyond past releases as this Slovenian project focuses on intense and clever melodic guitar that work is still at the forefront. This time death metal only slightly blends into the style giving Dalkhu a new, more fluid life and an occult black/death metal feeling.

The influence of early Marduk heard on ‘Imperator’ once again shines through but this time I hear hints of Thy Primordial‘s ‘The Heresy of an Age of Reason’ as well as pre-1996 Abigor when they really go full speed. The mystique of the pre-brutal era of Behemoth also serves as some back-lighting for the second half of the record and this helps the entirety of the album not feel redundant as it plays. It is not necessarily a traditional melodic black metal work, though as alternations of epic and dissonant sections heard on the previous album see greater focus here. New vocalist Lucerus (Cordura, Cvinger) compliments the band better than anyone previous and inserts himself into the songs masterfully with both sinister and expressive tonal range. Although I didn’t have time to do an extended and full analysis of the record this year, it is one that you likely missed and will be glad to have found.


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Artist Wintaar
Title [Type/Year] The Burialmoon Mist [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Prolific Russian bedroom black metal project Wintaar may have released six full-lengths and three split releases in one year but it is all generally good quality stuff inspired by early second wave black metal. This year he experimented with more polished and melodic ideas whereas earlier work tended to be very raw and Darkthrone-esque; ‘The Burialmoon Mist’ is a sort of medium between that rawness and some semi-melodic focus. It isn’t necessarily the best release he’s done this year, ‘Deathshine’ is perhaps the one to start with, but I ended up listening to this one the most. As with many artists that are prolific in this way I’m not sure it makes sense to release so much music rather than focus on the very best ideas and develop them with more of his own musical personality. That said, I appreciate the atmospheric tributes and semblances all the same. The guitar work is excellent and I tend to get sucked into Wintaar‘s albums because of it.


If I missed your favorite black metal album from 2018 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite black metal album (past or present). If you’re in a black metal band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page and send me a copy, keep in mind I have a strong preference for first wave, black/thrash, and melodic black metal stuff. No black metal will be left unheard!

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