20 Underground Doom Metal Albums You Missed in 2018

Like so many other metal sub-genres the defining traits of doom metal have dissolved into meaningless dispute though most agree there is a slow-to-mid paced affect, the feeling of existential dread conveyed, and a very specific sort of circular riff built from the blues-structures of the 70’s heavy psychedelic rock scenes across the globe. In 2018 doom is most often incorporated as description of additionally dynamic (slow) pacing for various styles of rock and heavy metal. The true spirit of doom metal interests me most but one cannot sum the hidden gems of doom’s great sphere of influence today while avoiding the work being done within sludge/doom variants, death/doom, melodic death/doom, funeral doom, black/doom, etc. As versatile as other sub-genres of heavy metal appear, doom is perhaps the most vital and translatable stylistic zeitgeist capable of connecting the listener in conveyance of personal emotions. I did not receive nearly as much doom as I yearned for this year and as such a few of these releases will be from personally purchased or sought out releases. However you personally approach selection know that this list is chosen to represent those various styles of doom metal; The goal is to find artistic value in a relatively arbitrary selection of underground/independent artists with the hopes of representing the global doom metal musicianship.

I do not want to suggest I am a doom metal ‘expert’ but I am at least well versed the history of the genre along with pointed fandom of 70’s heavy psych and proto-doom, 80’s doom metal, funeral doom, death doom variations, as well as most modern variants. I’ve made an effort to connect with doom metal since first hearing Black Sabbath‘s ‘Master of Reality’ back in the early 90’s where I’d finally found music that was entirely ‘for me‘. I will be fairly inclusive here but if any release leans further towards other genres 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 doom metal today.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of doom metal in 2018 but rather to illustrate what doom 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. So, here are some bands that stood out to me as I dug through doom’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: Doomed, Hex A.D., Pale Divine, Angel of Damnation, Domkraft, Evoken, Moab, Alastor, Alms, Brainoil, Iron Void, Akula, Un, Deadbird, Druglord, Morne, Ennui, Furze, Pantheis, Dunbarrow, King Heavy, Khemmis, Soliloquium, Pink Cocoon, Sleep, Chrch, Witch Mountain, Sanhedrin, Confusion Master, Eagle Twin, Throneless, Godthrymm, Mournful Congregation, Demon Head, Solstice, Suum, On Thorns I Lay, Green Druid, Nest, Et Moriemur, Sixes, King Witch, Monolithe, Hamferd, Empress, Towards Atlantis Lights, Coffin Torture, and tons more 2018 doom metal albums.


Artist Goat Explosion
Title [Type/Year] Rumors of Man [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I figured I’d start this list with one of the more overlooked and under-celebrated doom metal records of 2018. Goat Explosion are a heavy/stoner/doom metal band out of Leipzig, Germany whom make a great first impression with this debut full-length. There are shafts of light piercing through ‘Rumors of Man’, illuminating both the stoned acumen of desert rock and the dreary back-lighting of epic heavy metal that meet in a place of powerful doom and groove. It consists of tangible defeat and sorrow, a blues-like shaking loose of somnolence that reminds me of the first Warning album as well as Count Raven at certain points. Goat Explosion have two very major defining traits in both the believable but fairly understated vocalist and some truly inspired heavy metal arrangements featuring riffs that verge on narrative values as well as fitting lead work that builds on the ‘epic heavy metal’ style of riffing that never loses the Sabbath groove of it all.


Artist Erasy
Title [Type/Year] Under the Moonlight [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although this 7″ offers a meager 15 minutes of doom it does a great job of introducing Brazilian stoner/doom project Erasy. This is an uncomplicated release, just two giant slabs of Goatsnake-esque groove-and-doom that build up on a crawling riff and a growling vocal; That’d be my only gripe with ‘Under the Moonlight’, the vocals don’t really offer much with a tamed rasp. Either way you’ve got to slice into the absolute pie of “The Deal” as the groaning psychedelic crisp of the guitar tone is hugely satisfying and I love that they toy with guitar sound/textures a bit rather than just stomping out big stark naked nasty riffs. The bottom line is how heavy the groove hits and the rest of their sound begs for refinement on a second full-length.


Artist Huata
Title [Type/Year] Lux Initiatrix Terrae [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

From ringing organ to powerful ‘modern’ doom metal vocals ‘Lux Initiatrix Terrae’ makes an incredible first impression. Thunder-tuned ‘Dopethrone’ guitar riffs, a looming organist offer additional weight to relatively simple occult magick themed stoner/doom metal offerings as Rennes, France based artist offer Saturnalia Temple styled thematic darkness but with an otherwise Monolord-esque compositional sense. A taste for modern anthemic sludge permeates the traditional doom metal ideas entirely, making for a modern and spacious feeling listen that is grimy wherever you decide to take a closer look. All is in excess from the heaviness to the sometimes fantasy-esque interludes and the only flaw I found in the work was that the heavier parts always cranked to 10 rather than boil at a 7, which is what doom metal needs to leave a deeper impression.


Artist Lucifer’s Fall
Title [Type/Year] Tales From the Crypt [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

South Australian doom metal band Lucifer’s Fall represent far more than traditional doom metal a la Pentagram but also the vibrant punk rock scenes of that same late 70’s era… At least if you pick up this compilation of B-sides, 7″, EP, and live/rehearsal recordings which illuminates some of their ‘Hallows Victim’ side beyond their album material which tends to be slightly more refined in the style of a band like Arkham Witch along with some of the punkish doom from Reverend Bizarre adjacent bands like Cardinal’s Folly and Caskets Open. The rehearsals are probably the best part of the package and the live tracks were mostly inconsequential or too rough for my tastes. Highly recommend checking this band out and vocalist Phil Howlett‘s solo project Solemn Ceremony as well.


Artist Fiend
Title [Type/Year] Seeress [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Here’s something further into the modern sludge category that I believe still qualifies for a doom metal list. It does begin with “Mourning Star” which is about as progressive sludge as their style gets but the album largely provides equal amounts pure doom metal. Something in between Hark and early Torche comes out of Fiend when they’re working with defined grooves, but when things get too atmospheric I start to lose some interest. “Seeress” is an worthy mix of modern rock, heavy/doom metal that will appeal to folks who are a bit more tapped into the stoner/sludge side of things.


Artist Northern Crown
Title [Type/Year] Northern Crown [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Fort Lauderdale, Florida based progressive epic doom metal band Northern Crown do not make it easy to pigeonhole their sound on a clonal level. That is to say that while you’ll get Candlemass vibes you won’t get any material that is pure recreation or imitation. Vocalist Frank Serafine‘s style surely aims for a nigh high fantasy vibrato but could probably front Solitude Aeternus and do just fine. ‘Northern Crown’ brings in more progressive metal by way of co-founder Zachary Randall who began working on Northern Crown after his melodic black metal project Antitheist had ceased, it comes with the same ‘guitar virtuoso’ level ambition but far cleaner playing and a heavy emphasis on keyboard work. The resulting sound blurs away any semblance of a ‘genre entry’ record as the spirit of late 70’s heavy psych really takes over as the album progresses. Although they share some pacing, tonality, and riff standards with bands like Altar of Oblivion and Atlantean Kodex the feeling of ‘Northern Crown’ is more informed by that ‘Burn’-era Deep Purple kind of swagger; Not to say that the record is upbeat but that it comes with a mystic-70’s keyboard driven approach along with the melodrama of epic heavy/doom metal.


Artist Goblinsmoker
Title [Type/Year] Toad King [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

How many ridiculously heavy tit-buzzing spine-jiggling sludge records can Sludgelord Records put out in one year? I’d say about 9-10 so far and ‘Toad King’ is right about on the level of that freakish neon drudgery from Coffin Torture earlier this year, without the death metal DNA, though. The guitar sound on this damn thing could easily be mistaken for a semi-truck engine the way it chugs and rumbles. Goblinsmoker‘s sound is a nuclear spectacle at first but with some focus the listening experience reminded me of classic Grief, the wandering anger of that band, but taken to sleepier level of post-‘Dopethrone’ riff a la Bongripper. Many extreme fuzz stoner doom records have sounded like this in the last twenty years but few have put it to as good of use.


Artist ӨПƧΣƬ [Onset]
Title [Type/Year] Unstructured Dissemination [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I kinda feel the same way about Onset as I did Ommadon earlier this year in that if they found a few places to toss in vocals they’d be one of my favorite bands that year. Of course Singapore based duo Onset do not play a drone style of doom but a mixture of late Reverend Bizarre era Peter Vicar ultra-slug guitar work and aspirational epic heavy metal arrangements slowed to icy speeds. It comes close to funeral doom at times on “Permeation the Ordeal” and then speeds up to a Warning-esque (or early Pallbearer, if you will) crawl on “Pestis The Suppressing & Recurrence”. Great EP, love the guitar work throughout and yet for all of the feeling they’re putting into ‘Unstructured Dissemination’, this stuff is already primed for some sort of vocals.


Artist Presumption
Title [Type/Year] Presumption [Vinyl Issue/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Self-released last year but now finally getting a physical release on vinyl through Sleeping Churches Records, I felt it worthwhile to point this one out since most missed it last year as well. Based out of Le Mans, France the off-kilter southern-rock and 90’s metal influenced doom metal from Presumption reminds me heavily of peak-Cathedral era Black Sabbath influenced heavy rock that occasionally extended into mainstream hard rock, but you’ll get a heavy dose of Electric Wizard along the way too. Raw and aggressive stoner/doom metal with some worthwhile riffs.


Artist Pillars
Title [Type/Year] Onward to Nothingness [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The hard as nails, dry death metal tone of the guitars on ‘Onward to Nothingness’ provide a raw knife’s edge for their ritualistic style of doom metal. Pillars are of the very slightly droning, aggressive form of sludge/doom metal that I’d describe as if Hooded Menace had clean vocals back in the late 2000’s. The sheer sound of this band is dry-rotted, crumbling, coldly affected in such an ominous way that I found myself returning to it often. Pillars stomp forward in a cold, unfeeling sort of march… as if bewitched zealots, or possessed husks, spreading misanthropy through riff and drum. The use of melody in the first half of the album works surprisingly well and overall this is the best full listen Pillars have brought thus far.


Artist Witchthroat Serpent
Title [Type/Year] Swallow the Venom [Full-length/2018]
Rating [3.75/5.0] LISTEN on Spotify!

Toulouse, France stoner doom metal band Witchthroat Serpent bring some of that elastic and groaning mid-paced distortion play of earlier Windhand cranked up to Monolord‘s volume level. I really appreciated the vocalist’s performance not being pushed back in the mix and I found his style somewhere in between Paul Chain‘s doomed psych mumble and Reverend Bizarre‘s occasionally angered exasperation. ‘Swallow the Venom’ might’ve only drawn me in for a limited number of listens but ultimately was still a very professional and heavy record.


Artist Forest of Shadows
Title [Type/Year] Among the Dormant Watchers [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Inverse Records’ Store!

Although some of the best death/doom out this year was in the melodic style I wouldn’t say it was a banner year for death doom in general. ‘Among the Dormant Watchers’ might be sonically linked the melodic death/doom metal to come out of the UK in the early 90’s thanks to Forest of Shadows tendency to fully dip into gothic rock/metal spectrum a couple of times along the way. There is a sort of Lake of Tears sort of vibe to the whole thing. I’m not sure I ‘get’ the minimalist aesthetic on the cover in relation to the music but, the desired effect of the melodic death/doom sub-genre is entirely in tact all the same.


Artist Dead Witch
Title [Type/Year] Forest of Bodies [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Remember all of the southern sludge metal bands from the late 80’s that went groove metal once Pantera hit it big in the early 90’s? No worries, most people don’t. Dead Witch resemble some of that nakedly angry stuff from the early 90’s but instead of thrash metal driving the aesthetic modern hardcore fuels their aggressive sensibilities. It isn’t a djent-core mess but rather a mixture of European hardcore’s staccato riffs and some swinging doom/heavy metal influenced style. I found it interesting to hear a band combining elements of doom/heavy rock with modern metalcore/hardcore aesthetics. It works as a sort of ‘bastard child’ event, like death n’ roll.


Artist Disrule
Title [Type/Year] Sleep in Your Honour [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although Danish heavy rock/doom metal band Disrule have all the sheen of dark mid 70’s occult rock band their sound is lively and psychedelic as mid-90’s desert rock. ‘Sleep in Your Honor’ feels mature but angry at once, not far from more recent Sasquatch or Wasted Theory records but with some of the 70’s roll you’d get with most any Greenleaf record. It doesn’t play out in such a ‘stoner-by-numbers’ sort of fashion as my description might make it seem but fans of stoner doom/rock combinations will enjoy the heavy psychedelic rock influences really taking over on this record.


Artist Bast
Title [Type/Year] Nanoångström [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Bast aren’t solely a sludge/doom metal band, in fact their inclusion of Black Bow Records should be the first sign that they’re deeply atmospheric and sonically adventurous. Hailing from London, England this trio explore the darker side of sludge metal with a style that touches upon atmospheric black metal and stoner/doom metal. Think of ‘Nanoångström’ as a trip far beyond what Conan did on their last album with some post-genre sensibilities informing a vast but ‘just raw enough’ production sound that really lends Bast a small leg-up on their previous album. I am not the biggest fan of post-rock finding its way into doom metal but in this case the incorporation is done in a fashion similar to that of more recent Pallbearer records. Highly recommended, I’d have done a full review if my schedule allowed.


Artist Lurk
Title [Type/Year] Fringe [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Discovering Lurk back in 2012 I felt like I’d discovered a sort of blackened-at-the-edges form of sludge/doom on their self-titled release but with the release of ‘Kaldera’ I’d lost interest in the proggy sludge sound they’ve pursued since. ‘Fringe’ is dark and satisfyingly slow beyond their previous work but I still feel the band could go further with their experimental side especially when things boil up to a sludge/noise rock pace. So, for this release I’m more or less back on board with the band. Lurk have a knack for really dragging out ideas and almost fully resolving before the song ends. “Furrow” is a good example of creating an awesome atmosphere and then not really doing anything with it as the song completes. A mystifying atmospheric sludge metal album that should hold interest for extreme doom metal fans as well.


Artist Rigor Sardonicus
Title [Type/Year] Ridenti Mortuus [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the earlier US death/doom bands Rigor Sardonicus play such slow minimalist heaviness that they are typically labeled as funeral doom. When I say minimalist I mean the atmosphere is dry as a bone with the guitar’s sustained circular riffing dusty and the vocals seemingly inhaled in a growl and a whisper at once. Consider it lo-fi or whatever ‘Ridenti Mortuus’ sounds like any other release from the band thanks to this distinct production sound. The fidelity of the EP is almost as important as the content in creating a damning, deeply claustrophobic death/doom sound that drones on like a resonant pillar of scooped distortion. This is a challenging band for even many funeral doom metal purists and not for complexity but for the subtlety of the riffs as they appear at such a glacially evolving pace that their direction can be hard to follow. Because this band is consistent I could suggest any of their releases as a point of induction.


Artist Fading Bliss
Title [Type/Year] Journeys in Solitude [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

About as deep as I could possibly go down the gothic melodic death/doom route ‘Journeys in Solitude’ is right at that point where a band drops all of their death metal and goes goth metal… At least if it was 1996 that’d have been the progression but instead Liège, Belgium melodeath-doomers Fading Bliss offer a second full-length with a style akin to My Dying Bride and particularly November’s Doom if both had incorporated the clean vocals better early on. I found the slow motion version of The Cure’s “Forest” did nothing for me but the 16+ minute “Desert” was a great highlight for my tastes.


Artist Silver Grime
Title [Type/Year] Healed by the Dark [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I went back and forth on Silver Grime for a while before I decided not to do a full review on ‘Healed in the Dark’ because I felt the vocals weren’t entirely there for me despite how inspired their peculiar style of doom metal is. Melodically informed by stoner rock/metal, I want to say something like Alice in Chains rather than Trouble, the record feels a bit 90’s rock at it’s heart and I didn’t really feel the sorrow and distress they’d sing about outside of the understated guitar riffs. A good record but it took a while to acclimate to the breathy vocals and occasionally odd harmonization.


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

Cracow, Poland funeral death/doom metal band Postmortal invoke the best of ‘Peaceville Three’ influenced funeral doom metal on their ‘Soil’ EP. It comes off as a Mourning Beloveth style of death/doom mixed with pure death metal. The opener “Elusion” develops into such heaviness as it progresses and the rest of the EP maintains that pace. I do like the early days of November’s Doom and I appreciate the relatively stripped down and heavy approach to atmospheric death/doom. A great example of combining just enough death metal into death/doom that it retains some memorable effect and palpable heaviness.

If I missed your favorite doom 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 doom metal album (past or present). If you’re in a doom 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 proto-doom, old school doom metal (80’s and early 90’s), and extreme doom stuff including funeral doom and death or black doom metal. No doom metal will be left unheard!

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