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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April 2018 Review Round Up

Happy May! Here’s what I listened to in April. And, as a heads up, it was a pretty fantastic month.

To start of with, you have Panopticon’s latest album. It’s hard to imagine a blackened folk album being this good. And, as much as I like Panopticon, I didn’t expect it from them.

But the real winner this month was death metal. Every release is a highlight, but each in a different way. Couldn’t believe my luck.

I saw Revocation again last month too. Holy crap. Just holy crap. I’ve seen them three times and each time they have blown the stage away. See them if you get the chance.

Aa usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. If you share the blog, do me favour and tag the page. I love to know this sort of stuff.

Album of the Month

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
(Blackened Folk Metal – United States of America)
Bindrune/Nordvis – 2018/04/08

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This double album, half their signature blackgrass sound; half true folk, is hands down the best thing Panopticon have ever produced. The blend of oddly uplifting, empowering black metal and bleak, soulful folk allows the band to truly explore the full breadth of their talent. It goes places I didn’t think they could reach. Absolutely astounding.

The Rest on Alphabetical Order
Alucinari – Alucinari
(Deathviolence – United States of America)
Night Animal Records – 2018/04/05

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Whew, this is some aggressive stuff. The combination of death metal’s pummelling relentlessness with the bombastic hyperactivity of powerviolence creates one hell of an assault on the ears. It blasts through at an energy level that makes you worry about them burning up. This complete disregard for sonic welfare is a pretty glorious thing to behold.

Deadly Carnage – Through the Void, Above the Suns
(Blackened Doom Metal – Italy)
Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum – 2018/03/30

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Track 1 is a pretty stock intro. Track 2 is painfully beige. It beiges to the point of turning off. Track 3 onwards is solid gold. I ordinarily wouldn’t break an album down so crassly, but it’s necessary this time. The bulk of the album juggles and blends black metal, doom, and shoegaze in such a beautiful way that it would be criminal to write it off prematurely because of the initial blandness.

Hide – Castration Anxiety
(Industrial – United States of America)
Dais Records – 2018/03/23

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I may not be hugely knowledgeable when it comes to industrial, but Castration Anxiety really speaks to me. It seethes in a way that builds tension but rarely releases it. It’s one of those rare albums that is at its best when taken as a cohesive whole. Individual tracks are fantastic in their own right, but the tension dynamics make the entirety the goal.

Impure – Satan’s Eclipse Demo MMXVII
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/01/12

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The lack of polish that is the almost inevitable result of demo production can definitely be turned to an advantage, if used properly. Impure certainly have. They’ve taken recording conditions that might make other bands sound muddy, and have turned out this fantastically cavernous, cadaverous sound. It’s a murky, ominous gem.

Indica – Disparity of a Day
(Stoner Doom Metal – Australia)
Self-Released – 2018/04/20

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Hands up who can guess what an album, released by Indica on 4/20, might sound like? If you said “fuzzed out, heavy as hell stoner doom”, you’d get a C+. To get the A, you’d have to talk about how in amongst the heaviness, there is a carefully woven thread of psychedelic light, which ensures a compositional sophistication. It’s much more than bong rips and fat riffs.

Of Feather and Bone – Beastial Hymns of Perversion
(Bestial Death Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/03/23

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If bestial death metal isn’t a subgenre, it bloody well should be. Bestial Hymns of Perversion can’t truly be called brutal death, but it’s way too aggressive and abrasive to be considered old school. The genre musings are important here because Of Feather of Bone have produced a truly standout album and it deserves to have its place in history immortalised properly.

Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬 (Máizàng – “Bury”)
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Craneo Negro Records – 2018/03/27

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Solo projects provide an artist the opportunity for singularity of vision; in Andrew Lee’s case, this vision is a thundering beast of an old school death metal album. Listening to it made me think of what would have happened Bolt Thrower got together with Scream Bloody Gore era-Death, except with a background in East Asian history. Unbelievably impressive.

Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent/Century Media – 2018/04/13

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This is an irresistibly fine album. It does more than just tick all of death metal’s boxes; it attacks them in such a way that makes all that was old new again. I haven’t heard anything in this genre sound so fresh in a long time. It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.

Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
(Doom Metal – Canada)
Self-Released – 2018/03/07

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Deeply atmospheric, this album is as entertaining as it is flawed. It’s lyrical themes are a tad mawkish, the guitar work leans simplistic, and there are some awkward momentum killers. But it’s engaging in spite of these factors. I can go from start to finish without wanting to skip bits. There’s no hate listening here. It’s not great but it’s far from terrible.