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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.