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

Here I present a grip of the most essential metal-related releases from the month of December 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 the lasting value of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out of this list, but they’ll all still be considered for end of the year lists. So, for this monthly feature I’m focusing on records I either reviewed or spent the most time with, as well as a few releases where the review is still in the draft stage. I’ll get to all of the promos I’ve received throughout the year but it’ll take time. 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 December, this month’s to-do list is still daunting.

December releases still in consideration for review: Rifflord, Vvorse, Nattravnen, Great Grief, Thulsa Doom, Space Coke, Human Agony, Goathammer, Ernia, Unendlich, Ferum, Svoid, Somnambula, Croc Noir, Wan, Nyctophilia, Creat a Kill, Odious Devotion, Nazrak, Veilburner, Nefastu, Mutiilation, Hexecutor [reissue], Tombtoker, Zealotry, and a few split releases. Most all of these band’s current releases will still be reviewed post-December in some form, first priority goes to (current drafts of) Omgeving, Witching Hour, Feral, Nekrofilth, Evangelist, Ice War etc. in the coming weeks.

December will be lighter on writing in general thanks to a lot of my focus going to the final end of the year list, the lack of (for my taste) interesting titles in December, as well as catching up on all of the reviews I’ve not yet completed. Some unfinished drafts date back to pre-June, even. There are two possibilities for the ‘Best of 2018’ list this year, one will be a 50 item list out this Friday (12/14) and there is a chance it’ll be delayed into a 75 item list to be published Sunday (12/16). I have reviewed very few of the releases this month because I am posting this list two weeks earlier than planned. Words are pending, reviews almost guaranteed for selected releases, so don’t be surprised if the review score is wildly different when completed. Why post it before the end of the year? Simply because people have asked for it; I don’t mind as I have already had the end of the year cumulative stuff in process since early November and I make a point to listen to December’s reviews in November.

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Artist Svartidauði
Title [Type] Revelations of the Red Sword [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Though many cynics would proclaim Icelandic black metal some sort of cheapening ‘meme’ without any true common ground between artists or movement, what value do any of those things hold in 2018? A scene does not matter for most of us, when the bulk of listeners are internet-scrubbed minds. Common ground is a repugnant idea when it comes to black metal musical expression, anyhow. The movement exists, in fact, but the musicians who shape it slowly evolve as interest, mindset, and opportunity arise. No constant beacon excites my own sensibilities for atmospheric, ‘dissonant’ reshaping of orthodox black metal more than the experimentation of Svartidauði beyond their full-length debut, ‘Flesh Cathedral’ (2012). If you don’t consider that record a modern classic, our paths diverge slightly but I would suggest that ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ is a full transformation that is nearly progressive in scope and score. What you’ll miss in terms of death metallic aggression can be found elsewhere, but I believe the Nökkvi Gylfason‘s guitar work serves the indomitable Zhrine perfectly. This is not an overt ‘metal’ record but rather a sinking cloud of carbon monoxide that will slowly suffocate all that it pillows atop. Give it some time, a few listens, to let it breathe.


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Artist Nekrofilth
Title [Type] Worm Ritual [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

What would it sound like if you had captured the sound of pure evil erupting from the sewers, but on doppler radar? Fire up “Ready to Defile” on this goddamn face-hugger of an album from Colorado’s latest miscreant spew-hounds Nekrofilth. Remember back in 1996 when Slayer put out that steroid-fucked hardcore/crossover punk covers record?  If you clung to the idea of metal covers of Dr. Know, D.I. and such but never heard a damn thing anywhere near that intense since you’ve missed out on a ton of proto-death metal and first wave black metal as it all sourced its intensity from punk and thrash from inception. ‘Worm Ritual’ is hydrochloric acid for the mind, a true scraping of the shit that insulates the skull by way of 80’s hardcore punk, thrashing hell upon earth, death’s grinding nascence and a grisly load of jaw-melting neon blast of first wave black metal sewer jizz. Imagine Slaughter covering “Mr. Freeze” at an early 90’s Nunslaughter house party and you’re on the right track, toss in equal parts mid-80’s Black Flag and Hellhammer and you’re there. Absolute masters of fucked up intensity.


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Artist Serpent Column
Title [Type] Invicta [EP]
Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read my REVIEW

Where I find a lot of interest in following artist comes from legacy, development, ‘progression’ and over the last few decades the artists that inspire me most are those that seek something greater than themselves, those who have a vision for the ages that could impact the present day. Although Serpent Column‘s production is modest, but certainly not lo fi, what they reach for and the resulting grasp at broader and impactful expression drew me to ‘Invicta’ quickly. Of course, I had expectations for it that didn’t match up for its style; Machine gun riffs that flow together like turbulent waves of destruction ground ‘Invicta’, as they did ‘Ornuthi Thalassa’, but in this case they’re not a brutal constant and rather rise when the composition calls for it. Greater dynamic flow, and some starkly naked guitar work create great highs and deeper lows in the experience. It feels like a modern black metal guitar album with an acute sense of transformation, and it is intended as such a transformative release from a band evolving quickly with some greater thought. I was very lucky to have early access to this release as well as the chance to question Theophilos about it, which should be posted adjacent to this lists publish. I implore you read it and find deeper interest in the musicians point of view.


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Artist Faceless Burial
Title [Type] Multiversal Abbatoir [EP]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to Read my REVIEW

Australian death metal folks Faceless Burial provide a healthy wind up and a jumping curb stomp to the ear on this ‘Multiversal Abbatoir’ EP that comes roughly a year after their debut full-length ‘Grotesque Miscreation’. Their brutal slap and memorable riffs come with some additional subterranean values and equally varied death and thrash metal influences. I’d consider their first record a halfway point between a band like Abramelin and maybe Immolation, but you’ll hear hints of Suffocation, early Sepultura, and a bit of Funebrarum-esque creepy crawling as well. A great EP from one of the more generally memorable new old school of death metal bands. Extra points for a sort of raw-ish mix, really adds to the relentless and brutal feeling of the full listen.


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Artist Witching Hour
Title [Type] And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

German heavy/thrashers Witching Hour have essentially done what Chapel of Disease did with their sound recently, extend compositions with progressive late 70’s rock influences. Already having built a fine heavy metal spirit on their first two releases, ‘And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon’ finds the band appearing as a sort of epic progressive speed metal band of the highest order. It is the perfect sort of tunnel vision that the modern day thrasher needs in his collection, a revelatory thread of groovy fucking guitar work, howling existential dread, and fantastic necromantic tales. If they were aiming for an early 80’s black metal band influenced by heavy rock and euro-punk alike, they hit it. This is another grower for sure and with some patience there is a damn great blackened epic speed metal record here.


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Artist Ice War
Title [Type] Manifest Destiny [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

There always seems to be some sort of caveat when talking about true ‘retro’ heavy metal in that the 1980’s did so much to define the greater globe’s perception of what classic heavy metal sounded like. In truth most bands that seek the sounds of the past ultimately begin to fill in the blanks with their own modern tastes as their career in a ‘retro’ band progresses. Ice War‘s focus is perhaps even more carefully executed than the most carefully analog 4-track proto-metal kick-flip out there today thanks to Jo Capitalicide‘s seeming anti-perfectionist appearances. The sound of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden‘s influence upon heavy rock bands of the late 70’s often collided with the capabilities of folks who’d grown up jamming Beatles and the blues; The best ‘retro’ groups realize that to sound like your heroes you need to listen and learn like them, too and I think Capitalicide does a great job of balancing that ‘learned’ feeling of the new frontiers of heavy metal as the 80’s encroached — You can hear some British post-punk in his songwriting but most of it resembles NWOBHM’s first wave very closely. With ‘Manifest Destiny’ I felt like I had stepped into the same era that brought us records like Manilla Road‘s ‘Metal’ and Anvil‘s ‘Hard n’ Heavy’.


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Artist Feral
Title [Type] Flesh for Funerals Eternal [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Feral‘s bigger-is-better approach to that archetypal Swedish death metal sound now eclipses the monstrous tones of contemporaries Diabolical and Entrails unto a nuclear event. ‘Flesh for Funerals Eternal’ is a toxic waste dipped ‘Clandestine’ with a chainsaw ten times as jacked up as ‘Massive Killing Capacity’ and it is a beautiful thing. Too often my ears are needled by HM-2 abuse and it is a rare event when a band uses that ‘Stockholm’ sound, that Sunlight Studios buzz-saw action, to great effect. Feral don’t fight with their distortion as so many of their peers do, but rather guide it into great pools of chugging death excess. These last two records from the band definitely focus on what I’d call ‘pit’ riffs more than their debut back in 2011 although some of the ‘Wolverine Blues’ bopping of the previous album tone down some. Some of my personal rating comes from nostalgia and just really liking this band’s sound, but ‘Flesh for Funerals Eternal’ is a viable and impressive death metal chugger in its own right.


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Artist Evangelist
Title [Type] Deus Vult [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

One of the finer epic doom metal bands from Central Europe that has yet to create true revelation with their craft, Evangelist present their third iteration of Candlemass influenced death metal with ‘Deus Vult’. Coming off of a high from Angel of Damnation‘s most recent opus this record feels more straightforward and perhaps even more intently focused on its ultra-traditional approach to epic doom metal. ‘Deus Vult’ is unwavering, powerful, and unerring to the point of appearing almost too pristine were it not for the perfect-imperfection of the vocalist. The band remain anonymous and it is clear from the lyrics that they represent a fraternal order of orthodox Christianity, it isn’t particularly interesting in terms of narrative (at all) but the music more than makes up for this.


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Artist Omnipotence
Title [Type] Praecipitium [EP]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read my REVIEW!

First strike from Vancouver, B.C. melodic blackened death metal band Omnipotence is incredibly mature and shows great promise for their style to come. Rooted in the forms of early melodic black metal but with classic death and thrash metal attack in mind ‘Praecipitium’ is a wonderful proof of their melodic arrangement abilities and love of Scandinavian and North American extreme metal traditions. Though I have not gone through the entirety of releases in the sub-genre this year, I could safely say that this is one of the better modern examples of (non-symphonic) melodic black metal kicking around this year.


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Artist Ysengrin / Stargazer
Title [Type] D.A.V.V.N. [Split EP]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

StarGazer is perhaps one of my favorite extreme metal projects of the last two decades and the four year wait for new material has been a long time coming as the members of the band focus on Mournful Congregation, Road Warrior, and even a Cauldron Black Ram split earlier this year. This split release comes at the behest of French/German atmospheric blackened death/doom project Ysengrin who have focused on split releases since 2015. The evolving sound of Ysengrin is the perfect sort of style for a label like I, Voidhanger where strange ways avoid repetition and rely on curious sounds and different instrumentation for effect. This compliments StarGazer but also appears very stark and dry by comparison. “The Molecular Scythe” picks up from ‘A Merging of the Boundless’ ruthless energy and seethes within a dreary, Sadus-esque drifting consciousness. This is perhaps the most exciting track of 2018 for me personally.


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Artist Deiquisitor
Title [Type] Promo 2018 [Cassette/EP]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] Click HERE to BUY the tape!

Danish blastmasters Deiquisitor bring three new tracks and a cover of Death‘s “Living Monstrosity” on this post-‘Downfall of the Apostates’ promo cassette recorded earlier this year. They’re still way more brutal than you’d expect and set themselves apart with that rhythmic focus. I believe they are planning a full-length in 2019 and from the sound of these new tracks it’ll be at least on par with their last record for Dark Descent/Night Shroud. If you’re curious about how the band would handle the Death track, it is definitely original in approach.


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Artist Othismos
Title [Type] Separazione [EP]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Listen on Bandcamp!

I am on a blackened hardcore kick, well… I’ve been cherry-picking bands with cool names since late 2017 but, this year I’ve found some pretty solid releases, ‘Separazione’ included. This Italian band bring a different kind of beast; A bass driven, post-hardcore, noise punk and post-sludge worm of heaviness that diverges to atmospheric black metal extremes. Though that might sound like a neo-crust band gone wrong on paper, I can assure you that the dissonant aspects of their riffs and sound gel those elements together beautifully. The mystic black metal tantra doesn’t mix gently with the noise punk elements and makes for a very unique, unkind sound.


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Artist Deth Crux
Title [Type] Mutant Flesh [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Listen on Sentient Ruin’s Bandcamp!

Hey, I understand many of the folks who read this site have no interest in my taste for esoteric rock music that comes from metal musicians but this ode to the skulking, gothic post-punk and death rock of the 80’s comes from members of Lightning Swords of Death and Buried at Sea with production from Sanford Parker. Hypnotic, focused, recklessly eager, these are vampires freshly turned and feral; Musing over conquest and betrayal ‘Mutant Flesh’ is immediately evocative of a sound pulled into a new era of greater predation and apocalypse realized and Deth Crux are tuned for the beast and the end appropriately. Wouldn’t have even noticed this band if I hadn’t seen them last month at the Highline, I don’t think the whole crowd got it but I was pumped. Definitely recommended if you can step into something entirely different for an hour. Plays great on repeat and for hours.


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Artist Majestic Downfall
Title [Type] Waters of Fate [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming SOON!

The fifth album from this semi-melodic death/doom metal band (now) out of Querétaro, Mexico is an exemplar continuation of their modus thus far. This duo essentially use the sonic timbres of Katatonia‘s ‘Dance of December Souls’ and October Tide‘s ‘Rain Without End’ to create melodic death/doom metal with emphasis on the death metal aspects. For decades bands have seen great success (see: 1996-2004 in particular) distilling that mixture of catchy melodic leads and gothic rock influenced death/doom experimentation down to a disparate, disaffected and bland imitation; Majestic Downfall avoid this by simply retaining their death/doom edge. ‘Waters of Fate’ is an incredible mix of sad beauty and a beast of pure frustration but, these 11-13 minute songs allow so much room to breathe that the record occasionally self-obsesses and these are my favorite moments. The extended lead, the never-ending plod of funeral doom esque riffing, the gunfire growl of the bass tone, all come together for a record more focused on the atmospheric value of their sound compared to previous and this excess is very satisfying. Most of the tracks are generally mid-to-slow paced but Majestic Downfall have always offered a great deal of variety in their pacing so there are some nice bursts of death metal to look forward to.


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Artist Omgeving
Title [Type] Wijde Wijdte [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

If I of all people am suggesting that you listen to a post-black metal/ambient release that is instrumental, sans vocals, hell must have frozen over too recently to notice. In fact Omgeving is a side project of artist, designer, and Distillator bassist Franck Johanson. Spit, laugh, and punch me in the face if I ever stop finding this sort of intimate and meditative ‘side-project’ valuable. With the cold solstice approaching the important hemisphere on Earth, ‘Wijde Wijdte’ provides an ominous warmth; You’ll delight in it joyously yet hold suspicions of all the same. What freakishly beautiful magic Omgeving sorceles over head is an honest trance induction, almost as if post-metal’s lurch tired of itself and scraped a hundred orgasms into about 50 minutes of pure astral sub-genre death. Sure, it does feel like the most fantastic symphonic black metal record you’ve never heard at times but I almost prefer that this has no vocals… Despite “III – Daar waar de tijd smelt” and a few other tracks kind of begging for some kind of howling scrape to compliment the lunarian summoning that track provides.


Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

  • Drowning the Light – Cursed Beneath the Waves

  • Dødsferd – Diseased Remnants of a Dying World REVIEW [Soon…]
  • Order of the Nameless Ones – Order of the Nameless Ones
  • Tombtoker – Coffin Texts REVIEW [Soon…]
  • Zealtory – At the Nexus of Stillborn Worlds REVIEW [Soon…]
  • Disciples of the Void – Disciples of the Void
  • Cerebrum – Iridium REVIEW [Soon…]
  • Thulsa Doom – Realms of Hatred (Demo) REVIEW [Soon…]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in December? Tell me about it, I know I missed a lot! 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, hardworking PR folks, and my Patreon Patrons for their support and contributions! This is a dream for a lifelong fan and collector like me.

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