The following list is something I spend way too many hours obsessing, preparing, thinking, and overthinking every year. It means nothing but everything. That being said, I’m happy you’re here! I’m excited to spend the upcoming winter lull exploring other lists to find out what I missed and just listening to ANYTHING and WHATEVER. If it sounds like I’m lamenting, I’m not. All the homework is worth it in the end, to preserve a yearly capsule of great music to revisit time and again.
2018 boiled down to the following 20 albums. They hold the highest personal replay value. Of course, some got neglected due to time, length, and the sheer magnitude of releases.
So give these a whirl and let me know what sticks with you. As always, thank you for reading!
#20) Black Salvation – Uncertainty Is Bliss (Relapse)
Great rock record with bits of psychedelic, kraut, and mystic vibes all around. “Breathing Hands” hooked me right away, and it has one of those outros you never want to end. I love that peacock strut on “Leair” and even the super extended crazy space jam on “A Direction Is Futile”.
#19) Fister – No Spirit Within (Listenable)
Fister is a band whose hardcore sludge has always been on my radar, but this is the first time their filthy songs have been given a nicely glazed production. As a true three-piece, when the guitar takes a wandering solo (as on “Disgraced Possession”), it doesn’t thin out one bit. The “wall of distortion” may have lessened but their cold, ugly grip on the listener remains true to form.
#18) Black Wizard – Livin’ Oblivion (Listenable)
Daaaamn, and excuse the verbage, but this is a solid rockin’ metal album! Front to back, energetic ROCK with perfect harmonized leads, memorable riffs, and THOSE VOCALS. I don’t quite know how to paint them as anything other than another cookie-cutter band (even their name sounds generic af). They kinda sound like The Sword, but I’d much rather do this.
#17) REZN – Calm Black Water (Off The Record)
If you love heavy psych with gargly vocals, sick phasers, and that eerie hypnotic trance, to where you completely lose consciousness, and then get woke when that CHUNKY distortion drops and makes you say “hooooooweeee!“, then you should DEFINITELY listen to this. Get especially lost in their well-produced music video, “Quantum Being“. It reeled me in immediately. Hey, these puns don’t write themselves!
#16) Infera Bruo – Cerement (Prosthetic)
Another strong release by a strong USBM band. Following up to one of my 2015 favorites, Cerement is equal parts hair-raising screams and riffs, tactfully tasteful interludes, brooding bullfrog synths, thoughtful progressive arrangements, and spine-tingling cleans.
#15) Slaegt – The Wheel (Ván)
Obligatory comparison, and while I enjoyed their 2018 output, I preferred Slaegt‘s more rockin’ approach to blackened metal than Tribulation. From blazing out of the gate with super single “Being Born (Is Going Blind)” to the heroic cryin’ guitars on “Masician”, nothing feels forced and all of it is catchy as hell. Wrap 7 blistering songs into a 40min package, and you have my heart.
#14) Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals (self)
Parisian death doom that will ruin that dark, desolate, mud-dragging, cavernous, soul-draining, crumbling, sad sack of a day. Oh yeah! The second half is especially awesome. It’s got that mid-tempo slog that Temple Of Void brought last year with the flip-flops of VRTRA (two recent yearly favs of mine). Drummer obviously has hot jazz chops but uses them sparingly and to great effect – so an extra thank you for that!
#13) Messa – Feast For Water (Aural Music)
Heavy without being overly slow and sprinkle in some Rhodes piano, this is a fresh take on the occult doom genre! I’m not a jazz fan but I can’t even be mad at the saxophone solo in “Tulsi”! The real headturner is THAT change around 4min mark of “The Seer”. Man, gets me every time. What a phenomenal album.
#12) Horrendous – Idol (Season Of Mist)
Nonstop death metal acrobatics and astonishment raising the bar as high as thos Nike Air Command Forces. There is no stronger start to an album this year than the almighty “Soothsayer”. I love the proggy approach yet still tightly wrapping 8 songs into 40 minutes. And their new bass player, Alex Kulick, deserves all the heaps of praises, for his performance here is especially delicious.
#11) Svartmálm – S/T (Vendetta)
Powerful blackened doom from the Faroe Islands. People throw the “atmospheric” tag pretty loosely these days, but this band earns that stripe and then some. It’s all about the eerie 3min intro of track #4, when that scream slices through that thick build. The payoff ultimately lies in the closing trilogy tracks, gripping and enchanting all the same.
#10) Anicon – Entropy Mantra (Vendetta)
Lev Weinstein is my favorite drummer, and I pretty much love everything he touches (Woe, Pyrolatrous). Krallice is hit or miss for me, but Anicon draws from that technical prowess, crafts accessible songs, and stamps it with that trademark NYBM sound I love dearly. The highlight for me is the slow burn yet frantic urgency of “Blood From A Road”.
#9) Ails – The Unraveling (The Flenser)
I am a super fan but didn’t get into Ludicra until well after their breakup in 2011. So imagine my excitement of the news Laurie Shanaman and Christy Cather regrouping with a new output. Similar but not a ghost of their former shell, Ails dropped an impressive debut album, filled with driving bm-influenced metal, and to hear Shanaman and Cather exchange venomous screams is worth the ticket price alone.
#8) Yashira – Shrine (Good Fight Music)
Grind, hardcore, death, sludge, and post-everything in between, Florida’s Yashira is the kitchen sink of sonic violence. And any time I can be reminded of the almighty Yautja, color me deeply impressed. They really use everything at their disposal, cleans and growls popping off on “Raze (Deject)”, and a blissful yet intense instrumental of “Shrine (Contra)”.
#7) Tomb Mold – Manor Of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
This one is worthy of the endless amount of hype. One of the best upcoming death metal bands, they impressed the hell outta me and my friends at Migration Fest. It’s downright filthy but still has the rich production value that I crave. Not that it really matters, but I wish I didn’t know the songs were about video games.
#6) Churchburn – None Shall Live… The Hymns Of Misery (Armageddon Shop)
Aptly-titled death doom with raspy vocals and an expansive, deep production. Every chug hits squarely in the chest. The title track is especially unnerving as I still can’t shake that ominous clean guitar breakdown at the 1:40 mark. But also I’m a sucker for that mid-tempo hypnotic groove prominently featured here.
#5) Entropia – Vacuum (Arachnophobia)
Cleanse the earth, against all those who oppose the psychic vision, and burn it all down. Their mantra pretty much sums it all up, but just let yourself go, question nothing, and enjoy the hell out of this next-level, otherworldly experience. And inserting swing beats into a metal album is just straight-up innovative shit.
#4) Spectral Wound – Infernal Decadence (Vendetta)
I might sound like a broken record by now, but I’m all about intense, shrilly black metal with a stellar shiny production to boot. Aside from sounding GREAT, the Montreal band’s songs are a whirlwind, from the opening ROAAAAR on “Woods From Which The Spirits So Loudly Howled” (that name) to the upbeat dirge on closer “Imperial Thanatosis”.
#3) Mutilation Rites – Chasm (Gilead Media)
I’ve always been a fan, but I’m especially digging the more punky blackened death incarnation of Chasm. Tyler Coburn’s drum performance on the album is a standout, but watching new guy Emmett Ceglia blast at Migration Fest was also a gd delight. The chugs around the 1:00 mark of “Axion Destroyer” and the change at the 4:15 of “Post Mortem Obsession” always send it up full mast for me, and the growl & scream combo of bassist Ryan James and guitarist George Paul, respectively, works wonders!
#2) Wayfarer – World’s Blood (Profound Lore)
Judging by that horse, I thought this album was gonna banjo my brains out on some crazy Austin Lunn-level, but this is the proper amount of Colorado black metal twang! It paints a bleak, desolate post-apocalypse western landscape, and that dark Americana hits deep in the plums on World’s Blood.
#1) Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering (Century Media)
Ultha is one of my favorite bands, period, and this batch of emotional, visceral songs bowled me over like nothing else this year. What an experience! And a 6-min synth interlude? Sure, Ultha, no problem! Darkwave aberration track? OK, didn’t know I wanted that! I knew instantly when they dropped the hammer after a 0:45 tense quiet intro of opener “The Avarist (Eyes of a Tragedy)” that The Inextricable Wandering would cement itself as my favorite album of the year. Their prior full-length, Converging Sins, was my 2016 AOTY and …Wandering lived up to and exceeded expectations.
AND THE BEST SONG AND VIDEO OF 2018 is
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