Albums of the Year 2018

And so we come to the end of another year. Lots of talent on display. More than a few surprises along the way too. By and large, I’ve had a cracking year listening to metal.

Last year, I had a laundry list of albums I missed that I wish I hadn’t. This year, I managed to get most of my targets reviewed. That being said, here’s my list of missed opportunities:

Accu§er – The Mastery
Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
Winterfylleth – The Hallowing of Heirdom
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

I’ve kept my promise to myself and kept my named awards for Best Complicated Release, Best Art, and Best Live Act.

Idle chit-chat aside, here’s the best damn eleven albums 2018 sent my way.

11) Mantar – The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

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Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/24

What I Said Then: Their incendiary songs roll along with a pyroclastic flow that ensures that everything in their path is obliterated.
What I Say Now: I just love how effortlessly catchy these songs are. For something as straight up mean as this, the fact that you can sing (yell) along with it pretty well immediately is a hell of an achievement.

10) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death

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Dark Descent – 2018/11/23

What I Said Then: It’s like the coroner performing an autopsy, but in your back shed with garden tools.
What I Say Now: Corpsessed understand the compelling perversion of horror. That, once the monster is loose, it is impossible to look away from the bloodshed. Behold the captivation of the train wreck.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Kurushimi – What is Chaos?
(Avant-garde Jazz – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2018/09/13

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Kurushimi goes everywhere at once, but then the track changes and it finds a whole new set of directions to go all at once. It’s overwhelming, but a great album is contained in the cognitive ultramarathon.

9) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth

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Self-Released – 2018/06/12

What I Said Then: This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.
What I Say Now: This album has some incredibly deft touches. Doom, especially of the funereal type, doesn’t typically lend itself to musical agility. But Barren Altar nail some pretty spectacular audio gymnastics.

8) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds / Pt. 1

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Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27

What I Said Then: It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.
What I Say Now: I am going to say this is the most straight up fun album on this list. The lyrics, the solos, the weird directions it goes; all of it is done for maximum enjoyment. Entertainment turned up to eleven.

7) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy

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Century Media – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: This is laser beam focussed and whip cord taut. Fuck it; it’s their best album ever.
What I Say Now: I’ve gone back and listened to the best of back catalogue. I stand by the above claim. It is heavy, malevolent, blasphemous Deicide at their absolute best. Thoroughly demonic.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Zbigniew M. Bielak for Overtures of Blasphemy by Deicide

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I keep coming back to this. There’s something both evocative and visceral about this piece. It has a sinister, almost blood-soaked violence to it, which is impressive since it’s a drawing of a scribe.

6) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence

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I, Voidhanger – 2018/10/19

What I Said Then: Taking Orchid-era Opeth’s proto-sensitivity, combining it with Cascadian black metal’s hermit tendencies, then wrapping it in trad death metal hostility is ambitious.
What I Say Now: This is a very different beast to your standard prog death. It breathes, it grows, it sounds like a living organism made of rage. I love this organic approach to music making.

5) Nadja – Sonnborner

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Broken Spine Productions – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: Open your ears and marvel; Nadja have produced a masterpiece of dreamy, inspired doom.
What I Say Now: It’s like an anxiety attack slowed down. I can’t think of any other album I’ve listened to that takes something so relaxing and made it seem so tense. Soothing like a persistent catatonic state.

4) Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality

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Dark Descent – 2018/04/13

What I Said Then: It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.
What I Say Now: Nothing is quite as invigorating as Being hit by tropical cyclone Devouring Mortality. It’s a maelstrom of chaotic riffs and pounding drums. It smashes like a storm that doesn’t stop.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
Sólstafir

I wish I had some pics or a video like I did last year, but Sólstafir were just so hypnotic, intense, and awe-inspiring that the thought of whipping out my phone never occured to me. I could have cried.

3) Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal

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Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

What I Said Then: It’s nice to see James Kelly return to the more abrasive, blackened sounds, but combining it with grime creates a sublime, haunting sound I didn’t think could exist.
What I Say Now: Bliss Signal upends the black metal status quo. This is functionally a techno album, but lives and breathes the left hand path. Trailblazing, unique and utterly compelling.

2) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want


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Ipecac – 2018/10/26

What I Said Then: With guitars that sound like a musical air raid siren, drumming that consistently surprises in the best way, and one of the most evocative vocal deliveries I’ve heard they have delivered one of the most welcoming forays into discomfort ever.
What I Say Now: By moving noise rock closer to noise than is typical for the genre, Daughters have tapped into a mighty wellspring of disquiet. It still rocks, but in a tremendously unsettling way.

1) Ihsahn – Àmr

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Candlelight – 2018/05/04

What I Said Then: It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation
What I Say Now: It’s about as close to a perfect album as possible from Ihsahn. At its core is a marvellously complicated heart. Hearth warm and deathly cold, locked in precarious balance.

So there we are. That’s as firm a one, two, and three as you can get. I’m still pretty blown away by Ámr to be honest.

And forward to 2019 and the end of an amazing decade in heaviness.

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November 2018 Review Round Up

Welcome to a slightly abridged version of Metalshopped. Given the employment circumstances, I’m actually pretty happy with how much got done. There was a period during the month when I worried there would only be two reviews.

One of those reviews was always going to be the Album of the Month, You Won’t Get What You Want. Daughters nailed their comeback album. Nailed it right to the wall. I loved what they had done before, but this is an altogether different beast.

Preparations for the best of 2018 list will begin in earnest in December. It still won’t actually get published until February. Always like to give the postie a reasonable timeframe for delivering December purchases.

As always, if you have critique or commentary, you can reach me at Facebook.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
(Noise Rock – United States of America)
Ipecac – 2018/10/26

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I would have sworn blind that Daughters had broken up, but here we are; they’re back and they’re brilliant. With guitars that sound like a musical air raid siren, drumming that consistently surprises in the best way, and one of the most evocative vocal deliveries I’ve heard they have delivered one of the most welcoming forays into discomfort ever.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
(Hardcore. Mostly… – Canada)
Merge Records – 2018/10/05

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Fucked Up have returned with their second turn at scoring a hardcore opera. And in using music to tell a story, it has allowed them to delve into sounds far removed from their core origins. Dandy Warhols-esque alternative, saxophone driven jazz, and thumping electronica all add a very distinct, truly unique sound. Its sophistication transcends punk.

Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers
(Black Metal – Portugal)
Transcending Obscurity – 2018/06/22

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It’s uncommon to find black metal that operates at this level of sophistication. Unsettling Whispers achieves a level of emotional depth that most of their genre mates can only dream of. Not just from song to song, but within songs there is range of dark feeling. They grieve and rage and hate and explore all the dark recesses of humanity.

Hank Von Hell – Egomania
(Glam Punk – Norway)
Headbanger – 2018/11/02

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Welcome back, Hank. Egomania is great example of what happens when someone takes their negative life experiences and turns it into creative gold. It’s got the riffs and the rock that you would expect, but what really impresses is the pathos. Hank clearly understands where he’s been and where he is now, and he uses it to sell deathpunk that touches you.

Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2018/10/26

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Hate Eternal come out swinging on this one. And in a death metal environment where every band seems to bring the fight like an MMA ground and pounder, it’s nice to see an approach more like Wladimir Klitschko: landing super-heavy blows with punishing cleanliness and devastating precision. They’re not here to fight; they’re here to win.

Outer Heaven – Realms of Eternal Decay
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2018/10/12

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Gristly and fetid death metal is what’s on display here, but in this year’s spirit of keeping the old school flame alive, Outer Heaven have produced an album more nuanced than your average gore-fed zombie blaster. Flourishes of technicality rub up against doomy chug in ways that allow distortion of the true death sound without diminishing it.

Psycroptic – As the Kingdom Drowns
(Technical Death Metal – Australia)
EVP Recordings – 2018/11/09

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More technical than their self-titled album, less technical than Sceptre of the Ancients, Psycroptic are trying to balance the old and the new on this album. It mostly works too. It’s definitely nice to hear an album that sets out to challenge from them, especially since it doesn’t try to alienate either. Not flawless, but it will certainly entertain.

Shining – Animal
(Hard Rock – Norway)
Spinefarm – 2018/10/19

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The blackjazz merchants are back with something definitely not blackened, nor jazzy. This is straight up “we owe royalties to Bon Jovi and Adrenaline Mob” hard rock. Nary a saxophone in sight. Not what anyone should expect, but it’s damn entertaining nonetheless. It’s delightfully boisterous, doubly so given how unexpected it was.

May 2015 Review Round Up

May came and went in a flash. As I write this, I can hardly believe that it’s almost been a full 31 days. A steady stream of good tunes helped the time fly I guess.

Top of the tree is Prurient’s Frozen Niagra Falls. It has been the only release this year (and in a long time) I have listened to every day since receiving it. And I’m going to keep listening to it. The whip-cracks of static, snarls of feedback, and evocative loops are expertly crafted into an album of momentous heft.

Invertebrate takes out the honourable mention in a close contest. Powerviolence is a curious beast sometimes, but Regression/Devolution tries to simplify things by trying to be the most aggressive thing you can listen to. It may well be that, as hostility pours out of every note.

As an aside, I may not do live reviews, but I have to mention the joy that was seeing Opeth again. They are one of metal’s great live acts. They can play anything from their back catalogue to utter perfection. Even technical difficulties don’t stop them from being hugely entertaining.

Feel free to drop by Facebook with comments or feedback.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
(Noise – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

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This. Is. Stunning. I never in my wildest imagination thought I would hear a noise album so immaculate. Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling. Harsh noise, industrial, and ambient are seamlessly interwoven to create enthralling soundscapes that beguile the listener even in spite of their severity. It’s a double album that demands to be experienced. Give it your undivided attention.
Try before you buy: Cocaine Daughter (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/26

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I suppose you’re interested in tunes that can reasonably be described as music. Well, you’re out of luck. Or maybe noise is your thing? Nope. Perhaps you’re thinking you should write this off as unlistenable shit? Dead wrong. I’m not exactly sure how Invertebrate crammed so much middle finger into these tracks, but however they did it they made sure to say “FUCK YOU!” to everybody and everything, including your expectations. Best pv in a long time.
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion(Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Alder Glade – Demo II
(Black metal – Australia)
Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

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How good is this band? Two demos in and I’m hard pressed to think of any other up and coming black metal act with this much promise. I’m especially impressed given it’s a one man act. The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal. It’s music for mangroves in nuclear winter. Glad to see they got picked up for physical distribution.
Try before you buy: Obsidian Death (Bandcamp)

Bosse de Nage – All Fours
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/14

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It’s a tough album to review. I get the artistic vision. I understand what they trying to convey. The dark eroticism is impossible to miss. And the message is conveyed through excellent musicianship. But in spite of this, I’m still left nonplussed by the whole affair. For me, at least, I found the album to be emotionally sterile. I could take it in, analyse it, and debate its merits, but I couldn’t enjoy it. It’s an album very strong on technical merit, but light on soul.
Try before you buy: Washerwoman (Bandcamp)

Cloak – Succumb
(Bastard metal – United States of America)
Transylvanian Tapes – 2015/03/11

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Cloak sounds like it was spawned in some sort of horrible orgy involving the black, death, and doom metals with some dirty punks jumping in on the sleaze. It’s possessed of grimy malevolence that can only come out of combining so many dark elements. To my ears it’s a little bit disjointed, which I suspect is a stylistic choice, but it does make it a difficult listen from time to time. But when it comes together, it’s a crushing nightmare of relentless evil.
Try before you buy: Roman Shower (Bandcamp)

Constant Fear – Dronekill
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Video Disease Records – 2015/02/26

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I was stuck in horrendous traffic while I was blasting this, so I was able to get real familiar with it. It was also great for venting the road rage. But it is definitely a hit and miss affair. More hits but not by enough to discount the misses. The hits are distinct bursts of anger with some interesting stylistic flair. The misses are interchangeable blobs of disaffection; pissed off for sure, but in a who gives a shit sort of way. I’ll keep an eye on them though. At their best, they’re brilliant.
Try before you buy: I Will Haunt You Forever (Bandcamp)

Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

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Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. Given the state of Ukraine at the moment, it’s probably no great surprise that the music leans away from songs for the forlorn and broken spirit and towards violence, victory, and the toll that both require. They have a mastery of tone that is almost unrivalled in black metal. Each track vigorously grabs the listener and drags them deep into whatever hell the song is crafting.
Try before you buy: Dishonour I (Bandcamp)

Ekranoplan – Ekranoplan
(Crust – Germany)
Narshardaa – 2015/05/08

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This gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling deep in my guts that Trap Them gives me. They’re not exactly in the same ballpark, sonically, but they are at least playing the same sport. And by sport I mean ultra-aggressive metallic punk played with the intensity to intimidate and the talent to be memorable. The five songs are a genuine tour-de-force that highlights all that is right with the genre, but retains a diversity that shows that they still have room to grow.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Faith No More – Sol Invictus
(Alternative – United States of America)
Reclamation Records/Ipecac – 2015/05/19

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I’m not in the least bit disappointed by this. It’s a damn fine album. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s exactly the sort of album you would expect from Faith No More. I can overlook the lack of surprise, as the album’s eclectic nature allows the listener to truly experience the depth of the band’s talent. In many ways it’s hard to believe that there’s been 18 years between albums. It’s the logical follow on from Album of the Year. Consistency is a fine thing when you’re talented.
Try before you buy: Motherfucker (YouTube)

Feign – Lost to Eternity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/11

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Got to be a bit cautious with one man black metal projects. They can be either a testament to clarity of vision or a colossal victory of ego over talent. Fortunately, Lost to Eternity is the former. There’s a coldness and despair conveyed throughout this three track demo that, despite the potential for cliché, remains unique. That is a significant achievement. It’s not a bit of wonder a label has scooped Feign up. The ability to tread new ground here is not to be sneezed at.
Try before you buy: Lost to Eternity (Bandcamp)

G.L.O.S.S. – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Not Normal – 2015/01/16

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Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit. Based on their long form title, it should come as no surprise that G.L.O.S.S. play anarchofeminist punk. And it’s a rabble rousing good time too. Five no nonsense tracks loaded with idealogical invective. It’s abundantly clear that they are as well read in feminist theory as they are skilled with their instruments, as each track conveys a strong point punched home by quality musicianship. Good to see on message punk still exists.
Try before you buy: Masculine Artifice (Bandcamp)

The Nepalese Temple Ball – Arbor
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/05/23

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Everyone knows the tale of Icarus. Wax wings, too close to sun, grizzly death. Of course you know it. The Nepalese Temple Ball are the Daedalus of doom. They soar, but do it safely and, as a result, are not the memorable force they could be. Sure, Icarus burnt out spectacularly, but you remember him. That’s the problem here, as Arbor is a perfectly fine album for doom enthusiasts, but it doesn’t push the envelope. It could be great, but settles for fine.
Try before you buy: The Axeman (Bandcamp)

Ósserp – Sang i Sutge
(Death metal – Spain)
Kremón Records – 2015/04/28

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I listen to much of my reviewable material while I’m driving and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly in a death metal mood when I hit the ignition. Sang i Sutge put me in mood. Violently shoved me into it really. It’s a brutal sounding album without being loaded with slam. It helps that there are dustings of grind throughout, so it maintains an aura of imminent violence. Killer performances by all involved ensure the band successfully cultivates this environment of hostility.
Try before you buy: Bèstia cega (Bandcamp)

Öxxö Xööx – Nämïdäë
(Gothic doom metal – France)
Blood Music – 2015/05/26

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As much as this is definitely a gothic doom album, it also owes a great debt to Devin Townsend. The ridiculous pomposity of the album is as over the top as it is oddly endearing. The whole made up language thing is a little bit silly, but it still works. The atmosphere they craft is consistently engaging. The synthesisers and the guitars ebb and flow like surging tides. And they get the interplay between the vocalists just right. It’s completely daft, but totally worth it.
Try before you buy: Därkäë (Bandcamp)

Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm
(Death metal – Serbia)
Self-released – 2015/05/17

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I love Jane Dark, but they are on hiatus. A few of the members got together to form Tales from Beyond though. I actually prefer Tales from Beyond. It’s a tight contest, but the whispers of blackened thrash add an extra dimension to their Morbid Angel-esque heaviness. They’re not ground breaking, but you don’t need to be a trailblazer when you’re capable of delivering entertainment with every single track. It’s an album that reminds you why you love death metal.
Try before you buy: Psychosis (Bandcamp)

UFOmammut – Ecate
(Doom metal – Italy)
Neurot Recordings – 2015/03/30

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Ecate is all about the fuzziest doom you can possibly comprehend. It’s loaded with that warm, tripped-out feeling that only comes with psychedelics. The riffs are deliciously heavy and the rhythms are thunderous bong rips. It does suffer a little bit from self-indulgence; some movements last fractionally longer than they probably should. Don’t let that put you off too much. The sheer weight of the stoned out jams more than justify the asking price. UFOmammut do heavy so well.
Try before you buy: Chaosecret (YouTube)

Undersmile – Anhedonia
(Sludge metal – United Kingdom)
Black Bow Records – 2015/04/01

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This is slow. Unbelievably slow in fact, and yet, it doesn’t qualify as drone nor as funeral doom. It, simply put, is earth shaking doom with a solid love for the breeve. It’s a depressing album. It shares that sense of genuine hurt that SubRosa have, but where they have a certain resinous bongness, Undersmile prefer to slow down as much as they can to truly let the pain set in. I’m pretty sure the entire album has fewer notes than a Slayer solo. It takes skill to make that work.
Try before you buy: Atacama Sunburn (Bandcamp)