The 50 Best Albums of 2018 & the year in review…

Of all of the limited, misfiring and delusional primate senses I have access to in any given moment it is my ears that I trust most. I know there is slight hearing loss in the left and a compensatory sensitivity balance on the right. I know they’ve never quite heard enough, I will as much. Here in the mid-way point of the final month of the year 2018 I have such respect for the composer. Those who, despite the self-defeating beasts of men that surround us, reach the point of completion and utter refinement in creating musical art.  Incestuous sounds, copped styles, derivative and referential muck define the world of popular music today and the low-talent, low-effort ‘meme’ mindset driven by phone addicted cult consumerism: Fuck all of it, and fuck your iTunes account. Let me be sieve to the acute blur of powerful and starkly visible world of underground extreme music (plus a few esoteric rock albums) that enriched my year, see if you relate!

THANK YOU to every single person who I’ve worked with, talked to, and been inspired by in 2018. Thank you for reading, contributing, supporting, discussing, listening, and encouraging. This year I wrote nearly 750 reviews and features, a total of 680,000 words and counting. So, before I complete the proper ‘Top 50’ a full year in review is in order. I wanted to provide a cumulative review of every month in Metal of the Month features. Beyond that point I will rant a bit more and you’ll read about 50-75 great records. That is basically it, any ranking below #50 is arbitrarily arranged.

We begin 2018 in mid-November 2017 where I began the first draft of this list (over on RateYourMusic/Sonemic) with post-2017 musings. “What could any celebrated polymath reasoning bring to us, the fecund masses in our self-destructive meddling and easily guided minds? Surely not empathy or logical self-analysis. Surely not action against injustices that require selflessness and admission of terror upon the weak. Whether or not you feel guilty, you are a criminal standing on the backs of the poor and the less fortunate. Every movement, every second you caress the void with your gnarled fingers of entropy and see the light of day you are casting down others beneath you and using their bones to stand taller. You hideous, awful creature that can only be superior by force. Atop your mountain of rotting flesh…” Yes, it goes on for a bit longer, my intentions were meant to be aimed more at environmental injustices on North American soil at the time but, the year was absolutely defined by the sheep that would pretend to be wolves with chaos as their ethos. Do not follow, do not trust, do not believe, and do not fuck with other people. Nonetheless I set upon 2018 within depression, frustration, overwhelming grief, and such a defeated, chaotic cloud over my head. Empathy is little more than an uncomfortably modern vice when considering the history of human civilization, it will pass.


JANUARY

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Having entered into the year ahead of schedule and feeling great about the end of the year stuff I’d put together in 2017, I began with a ‘Best of the Month’ feature so that I might have an easier time reviewing the year as a whole and picking out albums I’d loved but that’d essentially been shelved after review. The sheer amount of music I was listening to and reviewing every month had increased to the point where I began posting 4-5 reviews per week. In 2017 I was absolutely not happy with the standards of my reviews as I think brief reviews are often dismissive and trite in regards to generating interest in a band’s story and the mood of the record itself. I began to emphasize both research of the band, the history of the band, listening to their entire discography, and reading interviews as well. Over the year I have tried to balance insight, personal narrative, research, and opinion into conveyance of the ‘feeling’ of a record. If this didn’t come across earlier in the year, I was only beginning to rethink my “three paragraphs and duck out” approach in January.

January produced four absolutely mind-altering substances with Portal‘s electric shock of avant-death, Hooded Menace‘s most melodic death/doom inspired record to date, the Faroese beauty of death/doom professionals Hamferð, and perhaps the finest old school death/thrash record of the year with Rapture‘s ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’. The entirety of my being could not avoid revisiting Portal and Rapture throughout the year, but Hooded Menace didn’t reappear on my playlist until the dark and stoned delirium of December souls reconvened.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for January] 

  1. Portal – Ion (Profound Lore Records)
  2. Hooded Menace – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (Relapse Records)
  3. Hamferð – Tamsins Likam (Metal Blade Records)
  4. Rapture – Paroxysm of Hatred (Memento Mori)
  5. Black Space Riders – Amoretum Vol. 1 (BSR/Cargo)
  6. Bedlam – Pasung (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions)
  7. Druid Lord – Grotesque Offerings (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  8. Abysmal Grief – Blasphema Secta (Terror From Hell Records)
  9. Summoning – With Doom We Come (Napalm Records)
  10. Apathy Noir – Black Soil (Self-Released)
  11. Heidevolk – Vuur van Verzet (Napalm Records)
  12. Djinn and Miskatonic – Even Gods Must Die (Transcending Obscurity Asia)
  13. Decaying – To Cross the Line (F.D.A. Records)
  14. Spectral Lore / Jute Gyte – Helian (I, Voidhanger Records)
  15. Monolithe – Nebula Septem (Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions)

FEBRUARY

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By the time February rolled past I’d begun to feel the thaw of winter based mental hibernation and it’d been different forms of doom metal that would become a greater focus for my listening. Ataraxy is a fantastic death metal band and their atmospheric approach was a known and loved quantity for my own fandom. What surprised me most was putting on King Witch‘s ‘Under the Mountain’ and being completely fuckin’ blown away by its powerful epic doom sound, the catchiness of the songs themselves, and honestly the record is nearly unrivaled this year for any form of traditional doom metal perspective. The return of Solstice in full-length form was an event and perhaps one of my earlier long-ass ranting reviews that I personally enjoyed sorting out. Beyond that I think Chaos Echœs deserve eternal mention for expanding horizons with increasing focus on experimentation and improvisation. Finally, Australian black/death metal band Golgothan Remains‘ debut is perhaps one of the hardest-hitting and beautifully produced/mixed death metal-related albums of this year. Although I hadn’t reviewed Usurpress at this point, it’d publish late March, their final album deserve mention here as well.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for February] 

  1. Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades (Dark Descent Records)
  2. King Witch – Under the Mountain (Listenable Records)
  3. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
  4. Solstice – White Horse Hill (Dark Descent Records/Iron Bonehead Productions)
  5. Coffin Torture – Dismal Planet (The Sludgelord Records)
  6. Turnstile – Time & Space (Roadrunner Records)
  7. Sacred Leather – Ultimate Force (Cruz Del Sur Music)
  8. Rotheads – Sewer Fiends (Memento Mori)
  9. Harikiri for the Sky – Arson (Art of Propaganda)
  10. Genocide Pact – Order of Torment (Relapse Records)
  11. Unreal Overflows – Latent (Great Dane Records)
  12. Suum – Buried into the Grave (Endless Winter/Hellas Records)
  13. Golgothan Remains – Perverse Offerings to the Void (Self-Released)
  14. Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram (Century Media Records)
  15. Empress – Reminiscence (Self-Released)

MARCH

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As March commenced a flood of support for the site came all at once as the readership quadrupled and I began to receive more music than I could possibly handle. So, I began to limit certain sub-genres from my scope and focus on the really inspiring stuff and this meant I would not bother reviewing an album if it did not score 3 out of 5 (60%) or better. More Patreon patrons and greater submissions from PR firms and labels inspired me to aim for more thoughtful and elaborate reviews, I suppose I wanted to get up to some kind of industry standard of quality if more people were going to pay attention; The last thing I’d ever want to do is write a trite, shit-stuffed review and have the band in question read it so hopefully the material post-February begins to show more thought and respect for the process, the artist, and the how work speaks.

This month brought a couple of modern funeral doom metal classics with the always immaculate Mournful Congregation producing what is undoubtedly a new peak in their long career. Likewise the debut from Towards Atlantis Lights took semi-melodic funeral doom to a beautiful epic extreme. Green Druid and Black Wizard are two of the best live bands I’ve seen in the last few years, and both records were unique and absolutely fantastic. Looking back it was perhaps the black metal from March that lasted longest on my personal playlist with Aorlhac, Ascension, Rites of Thy Degringolade, and Myrkaverk each getting many listens beyond the review process. I would need a break from extreme doom metal sooner or later.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for March] 

  1. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin)
  2. Green Druid – Ashen Blood (Earache Records)
  3. Black Wizard – Livin’ Oblivion (Listenable Records)
  4. Rites of Thy Degringolade – The Blade Philosophical (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
  5. Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 [Mai-Zang] (Craneo Negro, Night Rhythms)
  6. Towards Atlantis Lights – Dust of Aeons (Transcending Obscurity Records)
  7. Aorlhac – L’espirit des Vents (Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions)
  8. Myrkraverk – Nær Døden (W.T.C. Productions)
  9. Of Feather And Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion (Profound Lore Records)
  10. Ascension – Under Ether (W.T.C. Productions)
  11. Primordial – Exile Among The Ruins (Metal Blade Records)
  12. Berthold City – Moment of Truth (War Records)
  13. Parasight – At Leve Som Hvis Der Var Et Håb (Indisciplinarian)
  14. Replicant – Negative Life (PRC Music)
  15. Throneless – Cycles (Black Bow Records)

APRIL

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As April came to a close I’d began conceiving a more reasonable work flow and this meant fully doing away with low scoring reviews, avoiding any more interviews for a while, and focusing on reviews. In the coming months I’d become overwhelmed with promo submissions and begin implementing some blog/list features. I might’ve even done an avant-garde list just for a couple of months so that I could clear the deck of weird stuff I wouldn’t have time to review. The hierarchy of my review/coverage queue comes from two things 1. If I like it 2. Release date, and that kept me on track for about half of the year.

The sheer quality of the April 2018 release schedule was dumbfounding and so much of it came in the third week of the month. Only a small handful of records released this year can come close to the quality of my second 5 out of 5 reviewed record of this year for Ghastly‘s ‘Death Velour’. The beautiful cover art, the psychedelic doom metal influence, the gorgeously twisted Finnish death metal soul of it all, it is death metal’s spiritual modernization perfected. It has fought valiantly for top billing on my final list for the year, I have not stopped listening to it since release. Varathron, perhaps my favorite black metal band of all time returns with ‘Patriarchs of Evil’ and in this gorgeous evocation of the ancient ways and a modern melodic retelling of Hellenic black metal history they retain their stature in my mind. Frankly every release listed for April is completely fantastic from long overdue returns (Satanic Surfers, Altar of Perversion) and brilliant revitalization (Lecherous Nocturne, Vomitor, Aura Noir).

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for April]

  1. Ghastly – Death Velour (20 Buck Spin)
  2. Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality (Dark Descent/Century Media)
  3. Lecherous Nocturne – Occultaclysmic (Willowtip Records)
  4. Gatekeeper – East of Sun (Cruz Del Sur Music)
  5. Varathron – Patriarchs of Evil (Agonia Records)
  6. Assumption – Absconditus (Everlasting Spew Records)
  7. Satanic Surfers – Back From Hell (Mondo Macabre Records)
  8. Altar of Perversion – Intra Naos (AJNA Offensive/NoEvDia)
  9. Pharaoh Overlord – Zero (Ektro Records)
  10. Speedclaw – Beast in the Mist (Shadow Kingdom Records)
  11. Vomitor – Pestilent Death (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  12. Black Salvation – Uncertainty is Bliss (Relapse Records)
  13. Adzalaan – Into Vermilion Mirrors (Invictus Productions/Vrasubatlat)
  14. Aura Noir – Aura Noire (Indie Recordings)
  15. Inisans – Transition (Blood Harvest)
  16. Grave Upheaval – [Untitled] (Nuclear War Now! Productions)

MAY

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In catching up with April releases during May while writing reviews for the deluge of death metal in June I began to yearn for something that would be otherworldly enough to make up for the distractions from listening to ‘Death Velour’. As such I found immediate solace in Urfaust‘s atmospheric blackened doom opus ‘The Constellatory Practice’, a grand pulse of mysterious darkness that continues to impress. I also began to catch up with some Everlasting Spew releases, and particularly loved Valgrind‘s new and improved sound on ‘Blackest Horizon’. Oksennus‘ discography was more or less all new to me outside of a few casual previews and holy shit it took a week to wrap my head around their improvised insanity. The real heavy hitters came with Wayfarer‘s beautifully evolving modern black metal sound and Witch Mountain‘s return with a really fine choice of vocalist. Despite all of these interesting releases I’ve mentioned it was probably Torture Rack and Adversvm that were most repeatable and listenable over time, and in the following months I found ‘Aion Sitra Ahra’ an incredibly effective and straight-forward approach to funeral doom influenced death/doom. Finally, I wanted to mention the Twilight EP, because I really love the project’s later output, though I am unsure how to approach a release that may or may not have been approved? I would rather not posit any interest in gossip, feud, or accusatory statement… But absolutely listen to Twilight if you have combined interest in noise rock, avant-black metal, and psychedelia.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for May] 

  1. Urfaust – The Constellatory Practice (Ván Records)
  2. Valgrind – Blackest Horizon (Everlasting Spew Records)
  3. Melan Selas – Reon/Ῥέον (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  4. Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain (Svart Records)
  5. Oksennus – Kolme Toista (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
  6. Wayfarer – World’s Blood (Profound Lore Records)
  7. Torture Rack – Malefic Humilation (20 Buck Spin)
  8. 夢遊病者 [Sleepwalker] – 一期一会 (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
  9. Professor Black – You Bastard! (Ektro Records)
  10. Ritual Necromancy – Disinterred Horror (Dark Descent Records)
  11. Graveyard – Peace (Nuclear Blast Records)
  12. Hoth – Astral Necromancy (Self-Released)
  13. Adversvm – Aion Sitra Ahra (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  14. Superstition – Surging Throng of Evil’s Might (20 Buck Spin)
  15. Twilight – Trident Death Rattle (Ascension Monument Media)

JUNE

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June is typically a very busy time of year as festival and touring weather is ideal for most of the continental United States as well as western Europe and Scandinavia. Two labels I have long trusted, respected and enjoyed curation from put out some of their biggest and best releases in June (Iron Bonehead Productions, 20 Buck Spin). I’ll understand if the old school niche appeal of Matterhorn, Deathwards, and Mutilate don’t blow your mind at first but honestly Embrace of Thorns should flatten your shit. What’s the pitch for their sound? Fuck off, honestly, but think of ‘Scorn Aesthetics’ as a merging of atmospheric death metal and Hellenic black metal unto both heavy metal riffs and war metal fury. Tomb Mold fired off a second full-length to much deserved acclaim, we all saw the boys brewing something freakishly good and ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ was the exact right record at the exact right time. Without it, nobody would be saying this was a banner year for death metal quality and visibility. The return of Funeral Mist was no less legendary and Arioch continues to set a high standard for Swedish black metal as well as orthodox black metal in general, ‘Hekatomb’ was absolutely violent and inventive beyond expectations. Khemmis‘ third album made pretty big waves for a few months after release and remains one of the better takes on modern epic doom metal this year.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for June] 

  1. Embrace of Thorns – Scorn Aesthetics (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  2. Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (NoEvDia)
  3. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
  4. Mutilate – Tormentium (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  5. Taphos – Come Ethereal Somberness (Blood Harvest)
  6. Matterhorn – Crass Cleansing (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  7. Khemmis – Desolation (20 Buck Spin)
  8. Deathwards – Towards Death (Invictus Productions)
  9. Lago – Sea of Duress (Unique Leader Recordings)
  10. Jyotisavedanga – Thermogravimetry Warp Continuum (Larval Productions)
  11. The Konsortium – Rogaland (Agonia Records)
  12. Abstracter – Cinereous Incarnate (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
  13. Battleroar – Codex Epicus (Cruz Del Sur Music)
  14. Throneum – The Tight Deathrope Act Over Rubicon (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  15. Burial In The Sky – Creatio Et Hominus (Self-Released)

JULY

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July marked the one year anniversary of Grizzly Butts as a website and this brought a host of site improvements including a new site logo from Misanthropic-Art funded by Patreon patrons. Also my backlog of reviews had gotten so big that I began curating the weekly blog/feature Ten From the Tomb where I write short reviews for a collection of ten albums from 2018. It has functioned well as a place to talk about music that either escapes me or fits into some kind of interesting niche. The feature will be changing in 2019, allowing me to keep up with weekly/monthly releases in a more timely fashion rather than having to pull from old releases. In terms of releases July might seem light on interest but you might not understand the gravitas of new albums from Burial Invocation, Drawn and Quartered, and Runemagick. All patiently waited for and from top notch bands with incredible discographies. I didn’t start to really notice Gilead‘s releases until July either, with Imperial Triumphant taking a new and beautiful stab at their free-form blackened metropolitan extreme metal alongside Mutilation Rites‘ best album yet. You won’t see Fórn on this year-in-review portion, but I would suggest death/doom fans pick it up if you likewise missed it in 2018.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for July] 

  1. Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis (Dark Descent Records)
  2. Drawn and Quartered – The One Who Lurks (Krucyator Productions)
  3. Runemagick – Evoked From Abysmal Sleep (Aftermath Music/Parasitic Records)
  4. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (Gilead Media)
  5. Hellish – The Spectre of Lonely Souls (Unspeakable Axe Records)
  6. Mutilation Rites – Chasm (Gilead Media)
  7. Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals (Memento Mori)
  8. Gravewards – Ruinous Ensoulment (Unspeakable Axe Records)
  9. Black Space Riders – Amoretum Vol. 2 (BSR/Cargo)
  10. Zombiefication – Below the Grief (Doomentia Records)
  11. Invocation Spells – Spread Cruelty in the Abyss (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  12. Oxygen Destroyer – Bestial Manifestations of Malevolence and Death (Redefining Darkness Records)
  13. Khôrada – Salt (Prophecy Productions)
  14. Cemetery Lust – Rotting in Piss (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  15. Tunjum – Deidades de Inframundo (Dunkelheit Productions)

AUGUST

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By the end of August I conceived a community feature that collected contributions from Patreon patrons and readers into one large post and it would have been called Symposium, if anyone had any interest in it. Nobody did. The more passive option was to start a Discord chat server (https://discord.gg/WCUvwex) where folks can chat with me directly along with other readers. It is a good place to get previews of what I’m working on as well as discuss albums I’m reviewing or enjoying. Otherwise August was not the most impressive month for releases other than a few choice cuts. The return of Mongrel’s Cross yielded their best record to date, Nachash finally managed an incredible full-length, and southern sludge groups Thou and Radiant Knife both put out two of the best sludge related records of the year. The real event for the month was probably Faustcoven‘s latest ‘In the Shadow of Doom’, which was on repeat for the entire previous month as well as August.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for August] 

  1. Mongrel’s Cross – Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  2. Faustcoven – In the Shadow of Doom (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
  3. Nachash – Phantasmal Triunity (Shadow Kingdom Records)
  4. Thou – Magus (Sacred Bones)
  5. Radiant Knife – Science Fiction (Self-Released)
  6. Maligner – Attraction to Annihilation (Blood Harvest)
  7. Haunt – Burst Into Flame (Shadow Kingdom Records)
  8. Witchfyre – Grimorium Verum (Fighter Records)
  9. Throat – Bareback (Svart Records)
  10. Psykopath – Primal Instinct (Loyal Blood Records)
  11. Cemetery Urn – Barbaric Retribution (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  12. Ill Omen – The Grand Usurper (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  13. Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse Records)
  14. Void Rot – Consumed by Oblivion (Everlasting Spew/Sentient Ruin)
  15. Gulch – Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath (Creator-Destructor Records)

SEPTEMBER

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September definitely fucked me up in terms of schedule and work flow as I went on a short vacation (compounded by another trip in October) that set me behind almost a full week. So, I ended up losing track of a handful of lesser known records and focusing on the known and the surprisingly good rather than the sort of middle-ground interest. This meant a lot of the records I meant to review ended up on the ’20 albums you missed…’ series of end of the years lists I wrote. Most of those lists had templates and at least 10 items each by the end of October. I am to this day still pulling records from September for review as I’d gotten a huge rush of releases at the last minute and so many incredible things released on the third week of the month. Almost every release I mentioned on the September Metal of the Month entry deserves mention: First of all, hey my goddamn favorite heavy metal band Satan released an incredible new record and then came through on tour a short while later. It was a major bucket list achievement to see them live and I love the record.

Horrendous received resounding praise for their modern take on old school progressive death metal and finally achieved what I think they had envisioned with ‘Ecdysis’. Scorched proved me wrong in thinking they were a dud after their first album with the brutal ass-punch of ‘Ecliptic Butchery’. Malthusian‘s debut brought new life to the generally waning practice of atmospheric and amorphous death metal. Pantheïst were able to pull it together and fund a new album that rolled back to their funeral death/doom ways. Furze continued his exploration of analog sounds and first wave black metal slashed doom metal to great effect. Binah really achieved something special with their experimental take on classic death metal. Prezir‘s quickly sharpening onslaught of black/death metal riffing made for a very easily repeated listening experience, and I’d end up listening to it plenty more in October. Un‘s second album came alter in the month for me and it wouldn’t get reviewed until the next month but it remains one of the best funeral doom metal releases of the year. To top off a month of triumph across the board the sophomore full-length from Norwegian death/thrashers Sepulcher completely blindsided me.  ‘Panoptic Horror’ is this incredible mix of ‘Beat the Bastards’ style energy, Obliteration‘s clangorous slapping (ah via Aura Noir, sometimes), Martyrdöd‘s edged-up neocrust, and the oozy trip of Morbus Chron pushes the experience along as the album progresses. It absolutely kills me, skins my shit, blasts my brain to blood and buckshot in the space of 40 minutes and brings the riffs in doing so.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for September]

  1. Sepulcher – Panoptic Horror (Edged Circle Productions)
  2. Satan – Cruel Magic (Metal Blade Records)
  3. Horrendous – Idol (Season of Mist)
  4. Scorched – Ecliptic Butchery (20 Buck Spin)
  5. Pantheïst – Seeking Infinity (Self-Released)
  6. Malthusian – Across Deaths (Invictus Productions)
  7. Morne – To the Night Unknown (Self-Released)
  8. Furze – The Presence… (Self-Released)
  9. Binah – Phobiate (Osmose Productions)
  10. Electric Citizen – Helltown (RidingEasy Records)
  11. Prezir – As Rats Devour Lions (Godz ov War Productions)
  12. Dunbarrow – Dunbarrow II (RidingEasy Records)
  13. All My Sins – Pra Sila Vukov Totem (Saturnal Records)
  14. Hessian – Mercenary Retrograde (Urtod Void)
  15. Un – Sentiment (Translation Loss Records)

OCTOBER

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October is complete bullshit every year as every band under the goddamn sun puts out a record as to avoid competing with the big releases of November. The push to get everything out before Black Friday sales online is pathetic and makes it difficult to follow everything of interest released those months. So, my work flow became a huge pile of chaotic shit that I did my best to tear through. A few days in Las Vegas set me behind about a week and I haven’t caught up properly since then. Too many releases and only so many free hours in every day. But hey, there was absolutely no shortage of great albums in October. In creating the list for October I kind of fucked up in not mentioning both Terrorizer and Hissing as I made room for other bands.

To start, the second full-length from House of Atreus continues their impressive thread of heavy/speed metal influenced melodic death metal with refined production value and a collection of what are perhaps the best riffs you’ll hear in 2018. Brainoil incorporated deathgrind influences a mile deeper into their old school sludge metal sound with a long awaited ‘comeback’ release. Deadbird made a similar ‘comeback’ with their third album, an honest and memorable sludge/doom record. Greek power-thrashers Sacral Rage resurrected the spirits of late 80’s progressive tech-thrash masters with ‘Beyond Celestial Echoes’. Sargeist returned with a mostly new line-up and what I’d consider the best Finnish black metal release of the year. Icelandic black metal group Carpe Noctem blew my mind yet again with a more focused and expressive second album. I actually considered making a Top 20 for October and I could likely make a very worthwhile Top 50 if I had the time.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for October] 

  1. House of Atreus – From the Madness of Ixion (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  2. Brainoil – Singularity to Extinction (Tankcrimes)
  3. Sacral Rage – Beyond Celestial Echoes (Cruz Del Sur Music)
  4. Vanhelgd – Deimos Sanktuarium (Pulverized Records/Dark Descent Records)
  5. Sargeist – Unbound (W.T.C. Productions)
  6. Imperialist – Cipher (Transcending Obscurity Records)
  7. Ruin – Human Annihilation (Memento Mori)
  8. Deadbird – III: The Forest Within the Tree (20 Buck Spin)
  9. Deathhammer – Chained to Hell (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  10. Rising – Sword and Scythe (Indisciplinarian)
  11. Carpe Noctem – Vitrun (Code666 Records)
  12. Sabateur – Vicious Circle (Self-Released)
  13. Moab – Trough (Self-Released)
  14. Solar Temple – Fertile Descent (Eisenwald)
  15. Angel of Damnation – Heathen Witchcraft (Shadow Kingdom Records)

NOVEMBER

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I dunno man, I dunno. I mean one day I’m sitting there just slugging my way through whatever I can to keep my head afloat and I started to feel truly burnt out; A feeling of wear and fatigue from the inside out, and all while drowning in my own acid reflux and lower back pain. Is this me? I mean, my day job drained my mind and video games didn’t do shit to keep it off of daily bullshit… and I started lose confidence in my ability to write anything worth a shit. By the end of October I constantly felt like a giant truck was about to hit me and in the back of my mind I knew the encroaching anxiety and mental disrepair was merely a symptom of my unwillingness to accept the futility of being. Men are such pointlessly destructive creatures, self-obsessed idiotic primates. Some look to religion as they collapse internally, but cannot find respite in lies or placation. No, only the works of four of the best metal bands on the planet: Obliteration, Evoken, Pale Divine, and Tomb Mold could resurrect my sagging corpse. They willed it.

A new Evoken release is a tectonic gift to the living, so that they may feel their deepest low and highest high and know true modulation of the human condition. The hallucinogenic death metal of Obliteration becomes additionally carcinogenic with ‘Cenotaph Obscure’, and we will all die slowly. Pale Divine offer the true exposed heart of traditional doom metal as they divine the blues amongst the green and grey of every day life. Tomb Mold, well fuckin’ shit they put out another demo already? It is great, too. These are expected loves and great returns of loved ones but the new arrivals were almost as beautifully realized: Ulthar saw impressive compositional convergence, an explosive coral reef of mutations worthy of the finest avant-black/tech-death scrutiny. Third Storm realized incredible ambitions sought by Swedish extreme metal maniac Heval Bozarslan (Sarcasm). With the exception of the fairly mundane Convent Guilt record I listed, every release from November’s Metal of the Month entry was absolute quality.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for November]

  1. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure (Indie Recordings)
  2. Evoken – Hypnagogia (Profound Lore Records)
  3. Pale Divine – Pale Divine (Shadow Kingdom Records)
  4. Tomb Mold – Cerulean Salvation (Self-Released)
  5. Chapel of Disease – …And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye (Ván Records)
  6. Wulkanaz – Wulkanaz (Helter Skelter Productions)
  7. Blackrat – Dread Reverence (Shadow Kingdom Records)
  8. Ulthar – Cosmovore (20 Buck Spin)
  9. Third Storm – The Grand Manifestation (Dark Descent Records)
  10. Fordomth – I.N.D.N.S.L.E. (Endless Winter)
  11. Abyssous – Mesa (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  12. Spearhead – Pacifism is Cowardice (Invictus Productions)
  13. Suffering Quota – Life in Disgust (Loner Cult/Dawnbreed/etc.)
  14. Totenmesse – To (Pagan Records)
  15. Convent Guilt – Convent Guilt (Gates of Hell Records)

DECEMBER

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I’ll be frank and fairly brief: Fuck the rush to the end of the year lists. Nothing is going to happen over the worthless Christian holiday break that you cannot wait for December to finish happening. On another note: I am more than happy to write up December early as I won’t have time over the break anyhow. I’m well prepared for this final list and various drafts of pieces have been in the works since January. The trouble with writing a final monthly list is that many PR companies send out promos 1-2 days before release, whereas many send things 1-2 months in advance. This means that I will miss the quirky stuff, the kind of bands that don’t yet use PR or that don’t remember to promote their album until months later. So, here’s to the things that I miss because the cut off date. Some of it will end up on a few ‘clean-up’ lists or features in the coming months but at some point I will just decide not to cover things that either offer sub 3 out of 5 ratings or don’t interest me.

December brings surprises, unexpected greatness, and long awaited releases. First, I believe Svartidauði so aptly named this revelatory second album as they traverse deeper blackened shores and an incredibly realized production. The left hand that guides them is deserving of great praise and I’d say the same for Nekrofilth‘s second album ‘Worm Ritual’ and Serpent Column‘s ‘Invicta’ EP as each offers admirable skill and inspirational energy. Witching Hour and Feral show great strength as they perfect their sound for a third album each, and I think Omnipotence deserves praise for their take on melodic black/death metal. These are simply the best of what I have given serious attention to, there are some gems from December that I’ve definitely missed but I’ll have to be OK with it as I have a full year’s worth of missed releases to consider for the final list of 2018.

[CLICK/TAP HERE to Read the full Metal of the Month for December] 

  1. Svartidauði – Revelations of the Red Sword (Ván Records)
  2. Nekrofilth – Worm Ritual (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  3. Serpent Column – Invicta (Fallen Empire Records)
  4. Faceless Burial – Multiversal Abbatoir (Blood Harvest/Me Saco Un Ojo)
  5. Witching Hour – And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon (Hell’s Headbangers Records)
  6. Ice War – Manifest Destiny (Dying Victims Productions)
  7. Feral – Flesh for Funeral Eternal (Transcending Obscurity Records)
  8. Evangelist – Deus Vult (Nine Records)
  9. Omnipotence – Praecipitium (Iron Bonehead Productions)
  10. Ysengrin / Stargazer – D.A.V.V.N (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
  11. Deiquisitor – Promo 2018 (Extremely Rotten)
  12. Othismos – Separazione (Self-Released)
  13. Deth Crux – Mutant Flesh (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
  14. Majestic Downfall – Waters of Fate (Chaos Records/Solitude Productions)
  15. Omgeving – Wijde Wijdte (Hypnotic Dirge Records)

So, with the general ‘Best of the Year’ well documented across twelve months you have a good idea of the front runners for my final ‘Best of 2018’ but keep in mind that this list is additionally cumulative of my interest in non-metal genres; This includes great interest in hardcore punk, noise rock, powerviolence, psychedelic rock, heavy psych, post-punk, and various non-genre specific entities between atmospheric ‘background’ music and experimental rock. Some of my opinions have changed with time as well, and some of the ratings here won’t match up with their scores at the time of review. I’ll mention this when it comes up. Also please note that although I primarily cover heavy metal related genres of music, this list does not attempt any cumulative representation of any particular genre or sub-genre. So… Let the Top 50 of the year commen… Ah, wait. There are 25 things you should for sure check out first. Here are the runners-up with albums #75 through #51. Note that the each of the titles link to a full review:

75. Take Offense – Tensions On High (2018) REVIEW
74. Myrkraverk – Nær Døden (2018) REVIEW
73. Ripped To Shreds – 埋葬 [Mai-Zang] (2018) REVIEW
72. Black Salvation – Uncertainty Is Bliss (2018) REVIEW
71. Vomitor – Pestilent Death (2018) REVIEW
70. Shrine Of The Serpent – Entropic Disillusion (2018) REVIEW
69. Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades (2018) REVIEW
68. Deiquistor – Downfall of the Apostates (2018) REVIEW
67. Communion – The Communion (2018) REVIEW
66. Assumption – Absconditus (2018) REVIEW
65. Coffin Torture – Dismal Planet (2018) REVIEW
64. Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn (2018) REVIEW
63. Augury – Illusive Golden Age (2018) REVIEW
62. Valgrind – Blackest Horizon (2018) REVIEW
61. Baptists – Beacon of Faith (2018) REVIEW
60. Wulkanaz – Wulkanaz (2018) REVIEW
59. Aura Noir – Aura Noire (2018) REVIEW
58. Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality (2018) REVIEW
57. Convocation – Scars Across (2018) REVIEW
56. Wayfarer – World’s Blood (2018) REVIEW
55. Mutilation Rites – Chasm (2018) REVIEW
54. Mutilate – Tormentium (2018) REVIEW
53. Radiant Knife – Science Fiction (2018) REVIEW
52. Prezir – As Rats Devour Lions (2018) REVIEW
51. Embalmed Souls – Fire and Sulphur Salute You (2018) REVIEW

50.

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Artist Solstice
Title [Type/Year] White Horse Hill [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Twenty years after ‘New Dark Age’ we receive a different sort of album with a different sound from English epic heavy/doom metal legends Solstice. The remarkable thing is that I could be convinced that this was still the same band and I don’t believe that the hype for casual doom fans really lasted beyond that. ‘White Horse Hill’ taken on its own is a beautiful thing, a soulful and folkish triumph that I couldn’t skip over this year.


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Artist New Light Choir
Title [Type/Year] Torchlight [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

New Light Choir are an epic psychedelic (Christian, probably!) heavy/stoner metal duo who pull from classic doom, classic rock, and classic heavy psych for their sound. ‘Torchlight’ is their third album of cosmos-jammed late 70’s heavy rock as they move completely away from Witchcraft-esque stoner/doom unto darker and more ‘epic’ fields. If you’re a fan of both psychedelic rock and traditional heavy metal this album is a worthy revelation. A latecomer to my turntable this year but I am grateful I found it.


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Artist Imperial Triumphant
Title [Type/Year] Vile Luxury [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

‘Vile Luxury’ is a set of consciousness blurring art-metal pieces attempting summation of New York’s writhing dark realities through an uneven flow of avant-garde extreme metal instrumentation. Whips of psychedelic Penderecki-influenced guitar work bring a nuclear black metal bossa nova to life, and offer a great inspired leap from Krallice and Thantifaxath‘s forward-thinking shoulders. No doubt that this was a watershed moment for modernist blackened extreme metal and a sign of hope beyond the doldrums of the pointless bedroom post-black metal horseshit that plagues us all.


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Artist Nocturnal Graves
Title [Type/Year] Titan [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

I would put ‘Titan’ in the top ten releases on this list if Nocturnal Graves had managed to write more memorable songs. While they cannot compete for my attention when it comes to compelling arrangements this record still rips out riffs beyond expectations. Known for black/thrash metal from the start this latest full-length finds the band leaning even further into the blackened death metal realm and it is incredibly heavy stuff. There are some truly captivating death/thrash sections on this record that must be heard and if you’re a death metal fanatic ‘Titan’ is essential for 2018.


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Artist Aorlhac
Title [Type/Year] L’Espirit Des Vents [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

‘L’espirit des Vents’ is the completion of a long unfinished trilogy of melodic black metal band Aorlhac‘s poetic edda of Aurrilac’s medieval occupation, identity, and spirituality through character narratives. There is a long and transcendent history of melodic black metal in France and this grand tradition finds Aorlhac using soaring medieval melodic concepts within the instrumental and sonic methodologies of early Scandinavian innovators. The sound is close to Darkenhöld at times but even more striking is Aorlhac‘s ability to recreate the tonal magia of Sacramentum and add even more interest to that stirring melodic rumble. They are masters of this craft and this third album is Aorlhac‘s best.


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Artist Hissing
Title [Type/Year] Permanent Destitution [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Seeing Hissing live with Ulthar this year really elevated my opinion of both bands and this has cranked up my enjoyment of each record considerably. ‘Permanent Destitution’ offers a noisome flood, a irregularly cut channel of death metal noise driven by complex spirals of riff and drum. There is some mental weight to this record that I overlooked in my review slightly… I’d glossed over the title of record as any sort of representation and I think it mattered enough to take another look at the album. A few more hours insight and a great live show has me boosting my appreciation of this record up from 3.75 to 4.0 out of 5, if only because I feel its ‘Unholy Cult’-esque pulverization even more today.


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Artist Runemagick
Title [Type/Year] Evoked From Abysmal Sleep [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

The legends, these Swedish masters of psychedelic death/doom metal Runemagick, return in fine form with their first record since 2007. I have been so thrilled to follow this band’s career more or less from its earlier stages as a blackened death metal band with members from Sweden’s melodic black metal and blackened thrash legacies. The shift from Bolt Thrower influenced death metal to stoner doom influenced death metal was gradual and incredibly ‘against the grain’ at the time. Runemagick‘s occult death/doom ethos was ahead of its time. Of course their project in the meantime has been Heavydeath and to be frank, this record sounds a lot like Heavydeath along the way but this is not at all a bad thing. Fans of Hooded Menace and Druid Lord will most definitely need to hear this. Here’s hoping they continue this thread for a bit longer.


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Artist Funeral Mist
Title [Type/Year] Hekatomb [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Arioch‘s singular vision for Funeral Mist is immediately inspiring. In taking the ruthless and experimental nature of ‘Maranatha’ and folding those ideas into a sound closer to ‘Salvation’ the Marduk frontman achieves the finest orthodox black metal release of 2018. The guitar work is not entirely what sold me on this album but, it is absolutely vital to the repeatable nature of ‘Hekatomb’.


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Artist Svartidauði
Title [Type/Year] Revelations of the Red Sword [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Much has changed for these Icelandic black metal futurists since ‘Flesh Cathedrals’ back in 2012 but the spirit of the project is still well intact. Svartidauði excites my own sensibilities for the atmospheric, ‘dissonant’ reshaping of orthodox black metal and I’m not sure they could go much deeper into this exploration than ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’. As a follow-up it feels like an album six years in the making and I appreciate the fine results.


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Artist Varathron
Title [Type/Year] Patriarchs of Evil [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Varathron may not always meet the expectations of their fans in terms of stylistic ventures but their output has been consistently inspired throughout their legendary career as lords of Hellenic black metal. This is up there as perhaps my favorite black metal band of all time, so I’ve done my best to be objective and not let nepotism drive my thoughts on ‘Patriarchs of Evil’. As with any item on this list, if you are worried that this is too low on the ranking consider that Varathron are still well within the peak of the bell curve for the hundreds of albums I listened to and considered this year. As for the album itself, it reminds me of ‘Stygian Forces of Scorn’ and incorporates influences from thrash and melodic black metal to really get back to the heart of what drives Varathron as a band.


40.

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Artist Golgothan Remains
Title [Type/Year] Perverse Offerings to the Void [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Were you blown away by Suffering Hour last year? Do you perk up at the mention of Dead Congregation? Does Portal‘s guitar work inspire you? Man, do I have the right fuckin’ band for your ass. ‘Perverse Offerings to the Void’ is the debut from Australian blackened death metal band Golgothan Remains who bring a hammer of rotten death metal to the serpentine complexities of dissonant and aggressive orthodox black metal. I love albums that are able to mix black and death metal, but also keep them separate for effect and Golgothan Remains are incredible in this sense. This really speaks to the sort of stuff you get once in a while from Dark Descent or Blood Harvest. Visceral, brutal, but with just enough of a twisted vision that it remains interesting for several listens.


39.

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Artist Un
Title [Type/Year] Sentient [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

The second album from Seattle’s Un is devastation in earnest, born from dark times and difficult lives. Though the floodgates of atmospheric modernity in combination with funeral death/doom have long been pried open, it’d be fair to say that bands like Bell Witch, Lycus, and Un have found unique lucidity with their experimentations. ‘Sentient’ is atmospheric in a modern sense but the core listen isn’t far from an Evoken or Ahab record in spirit.  .


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Artist Lecherous Nocturne
Title [Type/Year] Occultaclysmic [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Of all of the bands to come from the rise of Nile and Behemoth along with the supreme brutal death metal kick of the late 90’s/early 00’s Lecherous Nocturne always stood out thanks to a blackened edge and a sublime focus on frantic blasts of riffs. To hear this band active in 2018 and more savagely technical and chaotic than ever is truly inspiring. If there was ever a way to ‘modernize’ the brutal vibrancy of groups like Angelcorpse and Vital Remains but also invoke their own modernization at once ‘Occultaclysmic’ certainly achieves a new breath of demonic life into Lecherous Nocturne. A hugely underrated release for 2018.


37.

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Artist Sargeist
Title [Type/Year] Unbound [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

New blood, ancient black metal fury, and an incredibly inspired songwriting session offers ‘Unbound’ as a greater spear for Sargeist‘s weaponized future. Melodic as it is rippling with the darkest force of pure Finnish black metal this ‘return’ of Sargeist dropped completely out of nowhere with no major hype or promotion previous, at least nothing I’d noticed. There is something elevated about ‘Unbound’ a heightened sense of grandeur inherent to early second wave black metal that does a great deal of work in helping Sargeist stand out among their peers.


36.

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Artist Nekrofilth
Title [Type/Year] Worm Ritual [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Achieving a darker smear of proto-death and west coast hardcore punk through first wave black metal terrorism, Nekrofilth belch out a brilliant follow up to ‘Devil’s Breath’ (2013) with a heavier sound evocative of the most furiously crackling hammer horror flick. ‘Worm Ritual’ is pure mania, and this comes with Zack Ripper‘s (ex-Nunslaughter) front and center snarl; He’d been pissed and maniacal on ‘Devils Breath’ but his vocals are just beyond goddamn rotten this time around. The rest of the trio now comes from blackened thrashers Weapönizer and no doubt they’re at elast partially responsible for the sheer intensity and Repulsion-esque grinding hardcore of ‘Worm Ritual’.


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Artist Khemmis
Title [Type/Year] Desolation [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Khemmis have bravely focused on creating a resonant heavy metal classic, the type of record that can only result from self-editing in good taste and some level of astral projection-like revision. Wailing Mercyful Fate-esque solos and a good rub of Spirit Adrift‘s melodic-but-thrashing ethos on ‘Curse of Conception’ give the Denver quartet’s already epic doom flair a kick towards an ‘Ancient Dreams’ state of mind. The extreme metal ‘edge’ of their previous sound wanes further, but the trade off is a glorious epic heavy metal record.


34.

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Artist Serpent Column
Title [Type/Year] Invicta [EP/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Serpent Column‘s follow up last year’s ‘Ornuthi Thalassa’ is different in approach, carries different meaning, and stylistically exists as true paradigm shift. Thankfully the sharp guitar work and distinct riffing remain making for a sort of mini-epic EP that flows together into one great piece. The band make a point that it is a transitional release and no doubt most listeners will appreciate the transition.


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Artist Hooded Menace
Title [Type/Year] Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

One of Finland’s bigger names in terms of lasting death/doom style and probably one of the more influential bands in the sub-genre of the last decade or so Hooded Menace bring something different with each release. This one shifts away from the grime of the previous record and instead brings in some reasonable amount of Paradise Lost and Katatonia/October Tide vibes, which haven’t really been this prominent since ‘Effigies of Evil’ (2012). As much as I do like Harri Kuokkanen‘s (Hail Conjurer, Horse Latitudes) vocals I kinda missed what Pyykkö had done for the previous record. A great record that I honestly didn’t listen to a great deal beyond February or so, and I found myself largely drawn back in to explore the liner notes and cover art moreso than any particular riff.


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Artist Hamferð
Title [Type/Year] Támsins Likam [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

A perfectly polished and modern melodic death/doom record that occasionally ventures into funeral doom territory just slightly. Perhaps closer to Ahab or Clouds in sound and Officium Triste or Mourning Beloveth in style, what helps this Faroese band stand out comes largely from the vocal territory. Jón Aldará (Barren Earth) is so incredibly capable of his ‘clean’ singing component that he essentially steals the thunder of the actual heavy record he’s singing over. Aldará absolutely soars and growls his way through the trials of ‘Támsins Likam’ but I did feel like they’d benefit from more focus on some kind of clever guitar arrangement. This is what separates a band like Hamferð from say, Evoken, at least in my mind.


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Artist Thou
Title [Type/Year] Magus [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Ah, the year of Thou commences with this final spike of love from their sludge metal godhood. The fifth and most immediately accessible long-player from Thou thus far, ‘Magus’, undoubtedly serves to fully cure the foundation of their consistent legacy as innovators and true artists within sludge metal’s everyman ethos. It is the ever-opening flower, the ouroboric form, the continuum that pure sludge needs to avoid further sickening bastardization. May ‘Magus’ inspire you to defy and aggress upon idiocy.


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Artist Jody Seabody & The Whirls
Title [Type/Year] Hawksamillion [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

How in the world this fantastic neo-psychedelic garage band ended up making one of my favorite hardcore psychedelic garage thrashers of the year I am not sure but I can’t recommend it enough. In my time with ‘Hawksamillion’ I heard Dicks, early Neurosis, and a slap-dash of Wipers‘ cleverness alongside a small punch of early D.R.I. for good measure. I don’t think I’m overselling how hard it goes, or how entertaining it is, but either way I really loved this record and have been spinning it for several months.


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Artist Rites of Thy Degringolade
Title [Type/Year] The Blade Philosophical [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

To get a follow up to ‘An Ode to Sin’ thirteen years later is a joy considering how much Paulus Kressman‘s abilities have evolved since. ‘The Blade Philosophical’ is not a matter of technicality but rather a unique voice applied to performative and eccentric blackened death metal music. Think of the grand vision of Portal if clarified through the most acrid orthodoxy of French black metal in the 2000’s, then consider the rhythmic slump of Demoncy and you may come close to understanding what Rites of Thy Degringolade have become in 2018. Ritualistic, percussive, and dripping off of the walls. A certain cult classic of black/death metal permutation.


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Artist Ascension
Title [Type/Year] Under Ether [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

By far my most listened to black metal record of 2018 and also the finest release from these Germans yet, ‘Under Ether’ finally finds Ascension teeming within their own biome of sound. Spacious, violent, and almost virtuosic in execution it would seem that in distancing themselves further from any associated movement has given Ascension license to develop this signature sound further than previous. The occult mystification is entirely celestial in nature as ‘Under Ether’ sets free the listener upon the sub-conscious. It is a beautiful escape and a hugely entertaining guitar-driven black metal record.


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Artist Green Druid
Title [Type/Year] Ashen Blood [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Anytime I spend away from Green Druid‘s ‘Ashen Blood’ does nothing to prepare me for the return to it. These Colorado psychedelic doom metal fellows siphon the only parts of Electric Wizard worth keeping and only push forward with their Magic Circle-esque force when they’re properly medicated. There is a great sense of ritual and smoke, of fire and the infinite gaze of the pitch black woods surrounding Green Druid. Yes, it is a 75 minute doom metal album and holy shit is that excess a beautiful thing. I cannot recommend this album enough.


26.

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Artist Pale Divine
Title [Type/Year] Pale Divine [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Though I loved ‘Eternity Revealed’ (2004) somewhere along the path forward it would be ‘Cemetery Earth’ (2007) that introduced me to the life-giving fonts of doom metal masters Pale Divine. From there I have been a fair-weather fan who couldn’t see the pull of ‘Painted Windows Black’. Now in 2018 this self-titled record from the band has touched me in the least literal sense. I was, and continue to be, moved by these songs and as such I’ll never forget this record. For the unknowing, yet-to-discoverers out there Pale Divine are a traditional doom metal band that formed in the 90’s with a love for late 70’s rock, 90’s stoner metal excess, and a true knack for songwriting not seen since Bobby Liebling first discovered drugs and rock n’ roll.


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Artist Eosphoros
Title [Type/Year] Eosphoros [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to Read the full REVIEW!

Having more or less immediately ‘clicked’ with this record’s raw sound, it came as no small surprise that members of this Portland, Oregon black metal band were also involved with some of that regions finer atmospheric death/doom metal bands. Members and ex-members of Symptom, Shroud of the Heretic, and Shrine of the Serpent provide a seeming pagan black metal album with an array of atmospheric, melodic, and purely transcendent works. ‘Eosphoros’ is the sort of record I’ll be recommending to folks for years to come. There is a bit of everything for the cumulative black metal listener here, just none of the pointless bullshit you’d normally find in modern genre releases.


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Artist Brainoil
Title [Type/Year] Singularity to Extinction [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Another well-respected band that has been typically name-dropped as ‘true’ sludge you’ve never heard of Brainoil rise with new tusks and glistening mane on ‘Singularity to Extinction’. Unquestionably brutal in an unexpected way, this deathgrind influenced sludge metal album is equally capable of old school death metal horror and an Eyehategod level of hissing-and-spitting fury. This comes hard and huge thanks to a gigantic production sound and an impressive set of riffs. In no uncertain terms the best sludge record of 2018.


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Artist Mournful Congregation
Title [Type/Year] The Incubus Of Karma [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Credit where credit is due, Mournful Congregation have been strong innovators in shaping the extreme doom metal of today and their form of funeral doom metal consistently sets new standards with each release. ‘The Incubus of Karma’ is no exception as elegiac lead guitar layers lead us through this massive 80 minute cosmic funeral procession. A true epic and my most listened funeral doom record of the year just ahead of Evoken‘s latest.


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Artist Faustcoven
Title [Type/Year] In the Shadow of Doom [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Few artists seeking the connection between the early 80’s first wave of black metal and the world of traditional doom metal achieve anything nearly as stoic and ripping as that of Norwegian black/doom metal project Faustcoven. This release, like so many of my favorites of the year, came from a long hiatus of contemplation and perfection between releases. ‘In the Shadow of Doom’ is as effective as an early 90’s doom metal record out of the eastern United States but he’s draped those powerful riffs with the clangor and must of Goatlord and Barathrum. Another record that I will continue to tout in the years to come.


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Artist Desolation Realm
Title [Type/Year] Desolation Realm [Demo/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Desolation Realm are a fantastic atmospheric death metal band out of Oslo, Norway that you’ve likely not heard of. Why do they deserve a spot on the best of 2018? If you asked, I’m guessing you haven’t heard this demo. I am all for championing this type of project and not because of some misguided fetish for Timeghoul-esque that weirdo demo hunters like myself obsess over… but instead because it is easily some of the best death metal you’ll hear in 2018. It is rotten like Rippikoulou, blasting like Doom Formation, and gives me flashback to discovering Krypts for the first time and musing over the potential of this type of band. It is inspiring stuff to behold.


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Artist Necros Christos
Title [Type/Year] Domedon Doxomedon [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

As much attention as you might set upon the theistic thematic for the true death of Necros Christos one could never suggest that they haven’t gone out with a supreme ‘bang’. ‘Domedon Doxomedon’ is a two hour experience set within three separate 40 minute rituals, each offers a piece relevant to the life of Jesus Christ (it seems) but the themes of the record are primarily focused on Kabbalistic theology. None of this matters, it is essentially three EPs in the style of ‘Nine Graves’ (2014) and in spending countless hours listening to it, it seems that this 3CD set is merely all of the ideas Necros Christos had left before deciding to end on a proper note and move onto something else that is likely far more spiritual. Rhythmic mid-paced death metal that verges on death/doom at times is the true talent of this project though this time around I also liked the transitional pieces as well. Something to get lost within for hours at a time.


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Artist Intercourse
Title [Type/Year] Everything Is Pornography When You’ve Got An Imagination [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

When the band sent me this record I wasn’t sure what they were all about outside of a prominent noise rock tag and oh man, when I first put this thing on it rabbit punched me in the throat right away. How can I describe ‘Everything is Pornography When You’ve Got an Imagination’? It’s like chewing on your own toes as a kid you just want to get in there and chew under the nails and suck your own toes like a stupid dog and the moment someone sees you doing it, you’re fucked. Nah, that doesn’t work… It is more like a hardcore punk band who loves mathcore went full-bore toe-chewing noise rock. A bit o’ Pissed Jeans clank and a cranked out Unsane feeling, its like a powerviolence band covering Helmet‘s ‘Strap it On’ but the vocalist is on angel dust and he’s gonna burn the garage with everyone in it but he can’t find his goddamn lighter. An orgasm of pure blood and adrenaline.


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Artist Horrendous
Title [Type/Year] Idol [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

I can’t be the only idiot on the planet who has been following this band since before MySpace bit the dust, can I? To look back on what Horrendous have done in the last ten years is insane and ‘Idol’ is even more of a leap forward than expected. The new (well, there wasn’t really one before…) bassist has worked out quite well and his floppy, understated tone gives an incredibly effective progressive flair to an incredibly effective progressive death metal album. I emphasized that this is their ‘Unquestionable Presence’ moment in my review, but in reading some interviews with the band I believe they’re going to aim even higher next time. ‘Idol’ is the sort of record that you’d like to be standard-bearer for old school incensed new school death metal going forward but I’d be afraid of folks taking that influence too literally. A phenomenal release, and some of the more compelling album artwork from the wealth of death metal in 2018.


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Artist King Witch
Title [Type/Year] Under the Mountain [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

On their debut full-length King Witch provide a modern stoner/doom metal classic with a set of festival ready anthems of epic heavy metal stature. The duo of guitarist/producer Jamie Gilchrist and vocalist Laura Donnelly (both ex-Firebrand Super Rock) is a meeting of two of the finest talents in the heavy/doom metal business. ‘Under the Mountain’ finds each artist performing and writing at an admirably high level. I am consistently floored by the enormous sound and passionate performances throughout. It isn’t so much a ‘gritty’ record as it is an expressive and timely heavy rock influenced heavy metal album.


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Artist Mongrel’s Cross
Title [Type/Year] Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

As often as ‘it was worth the wait’ appeared to be such a goddamned cliche in 2018 it was absolutely true for the return of Australian blackened death/thrashers Mongrel’s Cross. What began as a blackened heavy/speed metal band years ago now carries that torch with a wide swathe of influences from epic heavy metal, melodic black metal, and a healthy shot of their bestial compatriots down under. You can feel the years of work they’ve put into these compositions which express almost as a blackened progressive thrash album with nods to Kawir-esque guitar riffs and I can’t help but see this band on the same level of groups like Arghoslent and Ares Kingdom in terms of crafting throngs of heavy metal riffs into bounding, epic thrashers. The most interesting aspect of delving further into this record is seeing parallels between it, House of Atreus, and Varathron‘s album this year, if you enjoy one no doubt you’ll find something to love about the other. I am so grateful that they’ve taken care in this beyond worthy follow up.


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Artist The Men
Title [Type/Year] Drift [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Brooklyn, New York rock band The Men have never sounded so much like an old, long-forgotten early 80’s art-rock LP that only the guy at your local indie record store ever plays out loud anymore. They’re the sort of band who more or less hit upon some kind of gold no matter what style they pick up and they’ll typically steer in a pretty good direction (‘Tomorrows Hits’ sucks, though). ‘Devil Music (2016) was where I jumped in on their stuff and if you’re a fan of the Wipers, you should check that one out. This thing is a cumulative statement, a look at what they’ve done before through fresh eyes. ‘Drift’ is this chilled-out, cigarette flinging splatter of rock’s primordial post-Beatles ooze. I figure I’m just hearing The Doors where folks are hearing Nick Cave, but hey whatever; The Men go from PiL-like post-punk, shimmering psychedelic rock, mid-paced punk rock and back again on ‘Drift’ and that trip has hit the right chord with me since it released back in March.


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Artist Black Wizard
Title [Type/Year] Livin’ Oblivion [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

This fourth Black Wizard album is unquestionably my second most listened to full-length of 2018 right behind Ghastly‘s ‘Death Velour’. ‘Livin’ Oblivion’ is a stoner rock band putting their spin on a thrash and doom metal influenced heavy metal record. I am some kind of covetous ghoul around records like this, I stare at the art and pick through the lyrics and booklet, I look up interviews, and buy all of their previous material. Needless to say I’m a fan, my personal rating for this album has improved since initially writing the review from 4.25 to 4.75 out of 5. If you loved this record too check out Saviours as well.


13.

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Artist Rapture
Title [Type/Year] Paroxysm of Hatred [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Athens, Greece thrashers Rapture created death/thrash perfection in the highest traditions of old school thrash metal with their sophomore album ‘Paroxysm of Hatred’. Shredding out like ‘Darkness Descends’ in the clutches of Massacra circa 1989, Rapture power through every riff headfirst thanks in great part to the drummer’s style which lands somewhere between Demolition Hammer‘s Vinny Daze and the first Malevolent Creation record. If you found better death/thrash riffs anywhere else in 2018 you’re kidding yourself. Maligner came close.


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Artist Urfaust
Title [Type/Year] The Constellatory Practice [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

It is hard to categorize Urfaust in the same space as the majority of black metal art as they’re often so far outside of that tiny box. ‘The Constellatory Practice’ is grand sight beyond the tribal space ambient uh… black metal of ‘Empty Space Meditation’ unto greater darkness, unto atmospheric doom metal. Much like the direction The Ruins of Beverast has taken on this last two records, Urfaust fine themselves toying with deeper layered atmospherics, slower tempos and hyper-stylized use of extreme metal elements. I can’t help but think of Abruptum if only considering a black metal relevant point of entry, as this is entirely unique in so many ways. Unique song structures throughout, a greater arc in the album, very light ‘metal’ elements, and what is left is pure glistening atmosphere and dark ambient vocal music. The build up to “Trail of the Conscience of the Dead” in all of it’s epic doom metal glory is pure hallucinogenic tincture. Nothing comes even close to touching this sound.


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Artist Wrong
Title [Type/Year] Feel Great [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I’d torn through and worn out about three copies of ‘Meantime’ by the time I’d ever heard of an mp3 so, firing up Wrong‘s ‘Feel Great’ does actually feel great in a highly nostalgia driven part of my brain. They’re pretty up front about the Helmet and Unsane influence of their music and they do a great job of it on record as well. Though the band features ex-Torche and Kylesa members, this is more or less a pure late 80’s style noise rock album and doesn’t feature any prominent extreme metal or sludge influences. However mundane it might seem in description ‘Feel Great’ is the absolute best rock-whatever record of the year.


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Artist Tomb Mold
Title [Type/Year] Manor of Infinite Forms [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Why didn’t I give ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ a straight up 5 out of 5? Although I fully agree that — Tomb Mold are better at death metal than most all death metal bands — this is more or less their ‘Blessed are the Sick’ hit, the momentum for bigger things. The Ontario band’s mold-skinned brutality is hugely driven by an appreciation for garage blasted east coast death metal of the late 80’s and the hypnotism of classic Scandinavian death metal. The compositions are marked by winding trails of intense riffs that completely nail the vibe of classic death metal, something a little heavier but unafraid of doomed passages along the lines of Adramelech or Funebrarum. They’ve also released a tape since, ‘Cerulean Salvation’, and that whips ass too. -THE- death metal album of the year mentioned by all..


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Artist Embrace of Thorns
Title [Type/Year] Scorn Aesthetics [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

If you’re not geared up about the current state of black/death metal hybridization around the globe I’m guessing about 50% of the global metal output isn’t for you. Embrace of Thorns are the best of the best out there when it comes to this style. Rabid war metal abandon drives ‘Scorn Aesthetics’ at its rawest point of aggression but only in spirit as their style has taken a turn towards heavier death metal influence with the last two releases. For this fifth album Embrace of Thorns appear influenced by the history of Greek black metal and the result is somewhere between the most recent Thou Art Lord record and a band like Archgoat. Every damn time I put on this album “Mutter Aller Leiden” just flattens me, it is the biggest and most memorable riff of the year for my tastes. Easily one of my favorite records of the year though and a hugely underrated band in general.


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Artist Primordial
Title [Type/Year] Exile Among the Ruins [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.25/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Though I was a huge fan of the band leading up to it, I’d lost touch with Primordial releases after ‘To the Nameless Dead’ (2007) released. ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’ (2014) served as an impressive reintroduction and a deeper look at the Irish band’s heathenish foray unto their own style of folk influenced pagan heavy metal. Although I wouldn’t say their music has changed drastically in the years since ‘The Gathering Wilderness’ (2005) this particular record has some undeniable neofolk influences that had only sparked on the previous album. A.A. Nemtheanga is one of the more impressive vocalists in heavy music and he is in fine form for ‘Exile Among the Ruins’. Primordial‘s sound is unique, without realistic compare, and that they write memorable folkish epic heavy metal with that sound is even more impressive.


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Artist Portal
Title [Type/Year] Ion [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

‘Ion’ made enormous waves above ground as Portal stripped away the gas giant production sound, exchanging it for this live barbed wire scour of a sound. The odd part of seeing larger mainstream outlets covering the avant-black technical death metal sound of Portal was how glaringly obvious it became that so many of them had no reference points for either avant-garde black metal and experimental technical death metal. To be fair, Portal is just Portal in terms of conceptual production sound and frantic and often dissonant riff style but they have never been too far removed from the technical feats of Ulcerate and the inspiring progression of Deathspell Omega. With the entrance of ‘Ion’ I am convinced Portal are at, or sometimes above, that level of vision and quality. It is their best release yet and unquestionably one of the ten best releases of 2018.


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Artist Obliteration
Title [Type/Year] Cenotaph Obscure [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Norwegian death metal band Obliteration are as distinct in sound as they are in attack. Raw thumping Autopsy-esque drumming and blackened thrash influenced psychedelic old school death metal riffs stand leagues ahead of where they were as a brutal Norse take on the brutality of east coast US death metal back in the mid-2000’s. The progression to this point is as drastic and impressive as that of Horrendous‘ similar career but, Obliteration do not invoke the progressive side of death metal. For my own tastes there exists no great flaw in the experience; The flow of the album is infinitely repeatable, the sound is immaculately achieved, and the songs are entirely memorable.


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Artist Sepulcher
Title [Type/Year] Panoptic Horror [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Sepulcher‘s second full length comes as an inspired, punkish death/thrash album from members of Reptilian and Inculter. ‘Panoptic Horror’ drops none of the classic thrash metal influence of their first album but does include some nods to surrealistic death metal bands like Execration and Morbus Chron. This combination of brutal thrash and psychoactive death metal left a considerable impression on me from the first spin. I still get chills every time  “Towards and Earthly Rupture” hits. A high achievement and a fantastic riff-crammed death thrasher through and through.


4.

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Artist House of Atreus
Title [Type/Year] From the Madness of Ixion [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Watching self-conscious reviewers stumble through their hypocritical and testy bullshit in reference to this band’s resemblance of Arghoslent was not only repugnant but telling. Telling that cult of personality and pompous self-obsessed cretinism still universally serves as tastemaker and cultural diviner for dolts in this age of cluttered minds. House of Atreus sling fiery arrow and iron spear not unto the lambs viscera but to impale the thoughtlessly devolving civilization around them, piercing at the bloodiest points of pressure with cunning speed. Classic speed metal, high-grade melodic death, and black metal serve as compass for guitarists who create circular inspirational motions with aggressive, and occasionally unpredictable, heavy metal riffing. Beyond my initial review I did eventually pick up on a few points of this album that recalled ‘Pile of Skulls’ more than Arghoslent ever did, and I continue to appreciate the very high standard of their work. This is the highest form of melodic death metal possible, where riff is king and songs never dip into saccharine blandness. Not all of my 5/5 ratings indicate perfection, at least not on all fronts but in this case ‘From the Madness of Ixion’ does without a doubt.


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Artist Satan
Title [Type/Year] Cruel Magic [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

Fewer things kick a spark up my spine like seeing a great heavy metal band belt out a great song. In seeing Satan perform live this year I can now check one of the most important bands in shaping my taste in heavy metal off from my ‘need to see live before I die’ bucket list. Though I am an idiot fanatic for all Satan releases, and their related projects, ‘Cruel Magic’ is unquestionably one of their best albums. It captures an incredible melodic sense that occasionally reminded me of their Pariah days and felt appropriate as a heavy metal record ‘of today’ even though they’ve been working at it since well before I was born. This trilogy of post-reformation full-lengths from Satan have provided pointed personal inspiration and the hope is that they stick around for a few more great albums.


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Artist Evoken
Title [Type/Year] Hypnagogia [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

For a few years it seemed as if Evoken had splintered unto ruin beyond ‘Atra Mors’ and instead they would arise out of personal hardship and deliver one of their finest moments, a new beginning. Unquestionably Evoken in sound but far more intonated with melodic death/doom style than typical, ‘Hypnagogia’ is a risk that ultimately paid off in my eyes and ears. A concept album set in World War I where a mortally wounded soldier curses his diary with a pact of evil so that anyone who would read of his suffering would be compelled to suicide, ‘Hypnagogia’ is a deeply affecting narrative coupled with a new spin on their signature death metal influenced funeral doom sound. I still ‘feel’ these songs months after fully exhausting my thoughts on the album and it continues to resonate with me.


1.

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Artist Ghastly
Title [Type/Year] Death Velour [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] Click HERE to read the full REVIEW!

So much of my year was spent musing over the philosophical themes, affecting narratives, and the general nihilistic furor of extreme metal’s ilk. Such focus on cultural phantasm and apocalyptic signets mean little unless you are devout, or a scholar. I didn’t pour and pine over the meaning and deeper substances of Ghastly‘s second full-length ‘Death Velour’ because the first fifty listens compelled me to enjoy every moment of life that I spent with it spinning. Formed from members of Finnish progressive doom metal lords Garden of Worm in 2011, Ghastly had already impressed the underground with their brand of psychedelic Finnish death metal in 2015 with ‘Carrion of Time’ but ‘Death Velour’ is an incredible thrust unto the thermospheric drift of early Finn-death, progressive doom, and Morbus Chron-esque Eldritch atmospherics. Bounding rhythms define the piece yet, Ghastly never lose sight of the defined and heavy death metal riff. As a package (beautiful art direction) and an experience (warmed tensile production, dynamic pacing) ‘Death Velour’ is flawlessly achieved.


If I missed your favorite album from 2018 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite album (past or present). If you’re in a band, run a label or PR company and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page and send me a copy, keep in mind there is a FAQ on this site detailing certain styles of music I won’t cover.

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