The Best Albums of 2K18: TovH Editors’ Picks
2018 was a hell of year in every sense of the word. The cracked facade of social order in the United States and abroad has completely crumbled, revealing a rising tide of barbarism and unrest that had long labored to erode the foundations of our geopolitical structures. And, as much as people crow about keeping politics out of music, that facade’s collapse exposed the inextricable link between the two. 2018 saw veteran bands losing tours because of racist meltdowns, widely revered musicians outing themselves as serial abusers, and a seemingly unending tide of Nazi black metal assholes. 2018 produced a new controversy in global politics and metal almost weekly, and you wouldn’t be faulted for just growing tired, so very tired, of this often stupid genre. And yet. 2018 also saw an insurgence of activism accompanied by a surprising bounty of thoughtful, well-spoken musicians seeking to take the reins from those who would maintain the status quo. For all its horrors (and perhaps in direct relation to them), 2018 still gave us vital, incredible art that reflects and subverts and disarms all that’s gone wrong in the world. Here, in our final compilation of top ten lists, the Toilet ov Hell editors share those incredible albums that helped them get through the year. Readers, thank you for your continued interest, and artists, thank you for making music that somehow matters when it seems nothing at all does anymore.
Not much has changed since 2017 so here’s an abridged point-form preamble:
- Don’t read this expecting a nuanced analysis of each release as most of the stuff that’s impressed me during 2018 has been covered in some form throughout the year here in the bowl already. Those links – click ’em.
- Please don’t assume this is just a cop-out on my behalf or allow that thought to diminish your enthusiasm for these excellent albums.
- Ok, so my brevity is directly related to this being a cop-out. Instead of offering an excuse however, I’d like to let you know that ever since starting to do the majority of our internal promo distribution and organising premieres/streams back in 2017, I’ve listened to even more music with the enjoyment of others in forefront of my mind than ever before in my life.
- Alright I lied, that was an excuse. But guess what? So is this. Mental exhaustion is at play, and I’m still kinda strung-out on a vastly inadequate but nonetheless necessary dose of pain-killers at the moment.
- The word “best” is still the worst.
Lacertilian’s Top 10
10. Valdrin – Two Carrion Talismans
Blood Harvest Records | Review | Podcast
Ripping black metal that doesn’t stroke satan’s schlong or fellate fashy philosophy? Technical riffing,
cheesy sinister synths. progressive song structures, and sweet melodic solos? An original lyrical mythos, a place to wash your dishes, and an unmistakablely rad Lucas Ruggieri cover? Can you just check I’m not making all this up?
9. Armand Hammer – Paraffin
Had trouble picking between a bunch of metal albums, so fuck ’em all, chucking a hip-hop album on here. Then realised I’d have to pick between this, Elucid‘s other chill new project (Nostrum Grocers) or the new Alias & Doseone collab. Turns out Paraffin got spun the hardest, most likely as a result of it being released earlier, but I also attribute some residual hype to their Rome record from late last year. Billy Woods and Elucid deftly manage to merge conscious hip-hop with dark thematics but also some lighter instrumental moments. A combination others don’t even attempt, let alone own. Check trax ‘Fuhrman Tapes’ or ‘Black Garlic’ to hear what I mean.
8. Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades
Dark Descent Records | TovH Premiere
In a year where we had huge comeback albums from legendary funeral doom-dwellers Mournful Congregation and Evoken, it wasn’t easy to exclude either until I remembered that even though this monolith has been dominating my playlists for nigh on a year, it was actually an early 2018 release. Problem solved! MVD-esque vocals, atop monstrous cosmos-collapsing riffage, and post-apocalyptic atmospherics. Everything death-doom should be and more.
7. Kevin Hufnagel – Messages To The Past
Independent | Review
Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts | Dysrhythmia | Sabbath Assembly | Vaura | Most Innovative Guitarist In Metal Today) returns with another stunning solo record.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know.
6. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement
NWN! Productions | Mini-Review
The new Chaos Echœs is essentially a soundtrack to insanity. In just over 30 minutes, the mental French avant-garde/black/death/experimental/doom/inexfuckingplicable group will send you on the best bad trip you’ve had this decade. Intense, progressive, abrasive, repetitious, yet oftentimes jarring, dark, and above all damn impressive, Mouvement is a must hear for those who like things on the weird side. The lack of vocals is welcomed as the record’s dense instrumental complexity provides plenty of depth on its own. And besides, just trying to comprehend the unhinged song titles should keep you busy while the record dissolves your psyche. [/shameless blurb repost]
4. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
Indie Records | Norwegian Death Quiz | Podcast
Huuuuuge expectations were placed on the long-awaited follow-up to Black Death Horizon. Sure, RKV’s solo project Void Eater might have done a bit to fill that void but it’s not really a substitute for the hallucinatory death-thrash psychosis that Obliteration bring.
4. Tomb Mold – Manor Of Infinite Forms
20 Buck Spin | Review
No need to go deep on this one, pretty sure I’ve covered this band more than any other for the site over the last 3 years. You’ve heard it. You know how fun this album is. This makes it two years in a row in my Top 10 for Professor Tom B. Mold.
3. Convulsing – Grievous
Independent | Interview | Friday Guest List
How do you not only break the best-sellers list on Bandcamp, but remain as the top selling album for 9 days straight with a Name Your Price release on the back of absolutely zero promotion aside from a lone social media post?
With this fucking album.
2. Carpe Noctem – Vitrun
Aural Music | Podcast
Sorry Svartidauði. It’s not you, it’s me. Look, we’ve shared many an evening together. And nobody can take that away from us. But…I’ve moved on. And, well, there’s someone else. She’s just like you. No, it’s not Sinmara again. We met at a party in October. How was I supposed to know you’d turn up last week? 5 years apart and all you could manage was one 15 minute phone call? Her name? Vitrun. She does things for me you never tried.
1. Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
Dark Descent Records | Review | Podcast
Getting to the point now where if you don’t listen to the title track from this album I’m going to take it personally.
Extremely big-dick’ed metal.
In a year marked equally by an endless stream of venality and cruelty, one in which each new metal controversy left me feeling less and less enthused about this genre I’ve spent almost half a decade covering, it feels almost perverse and foolish to adopt any posture other than one of humility toward the art and artists that still create something meaningful. These releases may not be the very best albums of 2018, but they meant something to me and allowed me, if for even a brief moment, to occupy a different mental or emotional space, to soundtrack and hallmark those moments of joy and anger and fear and passion and, against all odds, hope even. If nothing else, I hope you can find something here that resonates with you on a soul level. To the artists that made these moments I found myself loving, thank you.
W.’s Top 10 of 2018
10. Orphanofkos – Arcane Worship (Demo)
A demo? One of my favorite albums of the year? Especially one as sloppy as Orphanofkos’s roughshod, Bloodborne-inspired recording? You bet! Arcane Worship is loose and janky in a way extreme metal rarely allows itself to be, and in doing so becomes something much more potent. There’s a genuinely sinister feel behind the very human performances on display, something black and twisted and vile calling out with a perfectly predatory hunger from the negative spaces between hyper blasts and stomach-churning notes. Something not quite human. Something with big noodly riff arms that grabs hold and never lets go.
9. Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part II
Beyond Eyes Shop
I fell madly in love with the first History of Death & Burial Rituals back in 2015, noting that, “If death is anywhere near as exciting as this album, I cannot wait.” Although Death Karma’s second treatise on our common heritage is no less exhilarating than the first chapter, what impresses me most this time around is the band’s somber conviction. Each of Part II‘s tracks is a love letter to a unique culture, a deep crying out to deep in the tongue of native instruments and musical styles grafted onto melodic black metal, and in these avant-garde paeans we are all brought together as one, united by the power of death and killer tremolo.
8. Deceased – Ghostly White
If there were any justice in this world, Deceased would be a household name, one uttered in the hushed tones typically reserved for Homeric myths. As it stands, however, Deceased remain a bit of an obscurity, despite penning album after album of thrilling, adventurous death metal that flows with controlled chaos from melodic riff to melodic riff in perfect balance between aggression and progression, ever beloved by a chosen few but deserving of endless praise. Ghostly White, their eighth full-length, is yet another Herculean achievement, a fitting hallmark of sadly deceased drummer Dave Castillo’s narrative percussive style; I can think of no greater musical legacy to leave behind than a timeless commitment to captivating art.
7. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
If the young Norwegians edged out the elder statesman of Deceased for this spot, it’s only because Cenotaph Obscure‘s kaleidoscopic take on adventurous death metal is just a little more fun. Everything about this record is an absolute ride, from the whiplash percussive kick in the opening track to the psychedelic nosedive at the end of “Charnel Plains”; every song is a new twist and turn, a new riff hill to crest and a new drumming valley to explore. It would be frankly exhausting if the band’s penchant for thoughtful songsmanship wasn’t such a heart-pounding roller coaster from start to end.
6. Ulthar – Cosmovore
20 Buck Spin
If there was one point of consistency to 2018 beyond the endless cavalcade of hellworld news, it was death metal’s apparent lust for smart, fun, and absolutely bonkers music; Cosmovore seems proof that the best defense against the horrors of a world gone mad is to embrace the horrors of all realities simultaneously. That they accomplish this task so astutely is a tribute to their jaunty, spongy riffs nestled like erupting alien spores of cosmic terror in non-euclidean song spaces. Look not to the stars for solace, for there lies only destruction (and siqq jams).
5. Birushanah – 灰ニナルマデ
Metal and theatricality have long been intertwined, but few bands have twisted that helix as convincingly as Osaka veterans Birushanah. And what a twist they deliver, deftly blending Japanese theater music – soaring, dramatic male vocals and pummeling kodo drums – with charismatic doom metal slightly reminiscent of their contemporaries Corrupted. On their own, the burly, sludgy riffs would be a fun but forgettable experience; clashed against thrumming percussion that often feels like it’s telling a different story entirely, they transport us to the land of myth. 灰ニナルマデ is a curiosity, sure, but it’s one you’ll wish to experience in stereo again and again to watch all the drama unfold.
4. The Heretics Fork – Tormentore
P2 | Premiere
You won’t hear a heavier album this year. No snares sound trashier. No gutturals induce more sympathetic acid reflux. No drop-tuned riffs carve hadal caverns so thoroughly. And yet, it’s not Tormentore’s heaviness that sets it apart from the rest of the BDM/slam pack, but rather the band’s insistence on adding little oddities and curios to their mix that really conveys how multifaceted this band’s malevolence truly is. From the perverse leads in “Realms of Unmitigated Anguish” to the demented feedback in “Sacrosanct Disembowelment,” Tormentore has an infinite number of ways to hurt you and keep you coming back for more.
3. Myopic – Myopic
I’ve been waiting years for Myopic’s full-length debut – teased endlessly by splits and EPs in the meantime – but the fates finally delivered, and what a gift it is. At first blush, Myopic treads the same rugged path as the band’s half of Crawling Mountain Apogee, all muscly riffs and smokey atmosphere, but that craggy exterior belies a beating heart deep within the cliffs. More than any other record this year, even the fast and twisting death metal records above, Myopic delivers a spellbinding sense of inertia; the kinetic notes and ceaseless progressive momentum (helped along by an ever tactile bass) touch upon cairns left by doom and sludge greats while ascending ever upward; it may not always reach those summits, but if a lifetime of mountaineering has taught me anything, it’s that the true beauty of the climb is in the struggle itself rather than upon the lofty peak. This is one mountain I’ll be climbing again and again.
2. Autokrator – Hammer of the Heretics
Krucyator Productions | Feature
I never would have imagined upon hearing the blunt assault of Autokrator’s self-titled debut that the band was capable of delivering more than a welcome but ultimately forgettable exercise in brutality, but here we are, just three years later, with a genuinely massive and bone-crushingly heavy work of art. With the addition of drummer par excellence Kevin Paradis, guitarist Loic LF has transmuted (and thereby defied) the rising tide of global oppression into a pure, audible strain of death metal totalitarianism, one armed with a missile-silo sterility and thirst for doom with the sole purpose of grinding your bones into an unthinking metal paste. And Hammer of the Heretics wastes no time in injecting that rage straight into your veins, instantly setting your soul ablaze with impossible groove after impossible groove. “Inquisitio-Denunciatio-Exceptio” is the perfect soundtrack for a dying world.
1. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement
Nuclear War Now! Productions
Mysterious. Elusive. Sinuous. Beguiling. Alchemical. Mercurial. Thrilling. Compelling. I’ve spent the better part of 2018 attempting to encapsulate the essence of the ever-changing Chaos Echœs’s metamorphic litany Mouvement, trying on individual words as often as the record shifts its rhythm and tone from black metal to doom metal to something else entirely, and yet nothing seems to satisfy as deeply as the art itself. Mouvement is an infinitely perplexing record, an instrumental journey through all of extreme metal with only the faintest hint of vocals as a guide that remains ever one step ahead of me as the quicksilver melodies and phantasmic structure contort to yet another alien shape. Yet, it is exactly that intangible essence that keeps me returning to the stream of liquid silver again and again to drink to my fill from its satisfying flow, to lose myself in its rushing tide, to drown in its unseen depths. This is music to lose yourself in, never to return the same again. Thank you for this.
Oxygen Destroyer – Bestial Manifestations of Malevolence and Death | Independent | Listen to “Atomic Breath”
Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury | Gilead Media | Listen to “Gotham Luxe”
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology | Willowtip | Listen to “Crop Killer”
Every year I make some kind of grand statement against the concept of year end lists and I suppose this year is no different. It seems foolish to arbitrarily lump ten records together just because they were all released to the world within a few months of each other. Art isn’t a competition and your ranked enjoyment of art should never be treated as a dick measuring contest with other aesthetes. That being said, some real good records dropped in the last year and I want to give them some dap. If you enjoy what you hear, please throw some dough at the bands.
Joe’s Top 10 of 2018
10. Ripped to Shreds – 埋葬
Independent | Premiere
When I premiered a track from this record back in March I wrote that Ripped to Shreds is unabashed Bolt Thrower worship. That’s not entirely true. There’s also a hefty amount of unabashed Entombed worship at play here too. Originality be damned, Andrew Lee is a one man machine that synthesizes the best elements of OSDM into a kick ass modern album that eschews the genre’s Euro-centric perspective on war and violence for tales of battle through the lens of Chinese history. Recommended For: Fans of bands that rhyme with Dolt Grower. Not Recommended For: Anyone that doesn’t love OSDM.
9. Rawhead – Spineless Pigs
Disgusting slamming sewer vocal hammer smashing gore grinding horror worshipping ping-y snared brutality. Spineless Pigs is the grossest record I found myself replaying endlessly this year. Recommended For: Connoisseurs of unholy guttural toilet vox, Sickos. Not Recommended For: Those unwilling to com 2 jakarta.
8. Khemmis – Desolation
20 Buck Spin | Review
Have you heard this record? Of course you have. Desolation has received near universal acclaim. But did you know that I recorded a podcast with Ben from Khemmis? Have you listened to THAT? No? Go do that. Then revisit Desolation again because it’s really, really good. Recommended For: People that like guitar-based music. Not Recommended For: I dunno, people that call themselves DJs?
7. Thy Catafalque – Geometria
Season of Piss
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I know anything about this band, their history, or even what language they’re singing about whatever the fuck they’re signing about in. Alls I know is that when I put this record on I feel like I’m a cool French guy that smokes cigarettes and rolls around on a sweet cafe racer when I’m not writing novels about existential despair and eating baguettes. Recommended For: Cool euro guys, guys that want to be cool euro guys. Not Recommended For: People that demand a lot of metal from their metal records.
6. Hinayana – Order Divine
Black Lion Records | Feature
Austin, Texas’s own Hinayana released their Endless demo back in 2014. Shortly after, yours truly gave it a glowing review and anxiously awaited a full-length. My demand was answered with Order Divine, a glowing example of the heights that melodic death metal can offer. Expanded from a one-man project to a full band, Hinayana’s latest presents a full, rich listening experience sure to tickle all of the arpeggio-loving parts of your cerebellum. Recommended For: Melodeath listeners, jazz cigarette enthusiasts. Not Recommended For: Buses rigged to explode if the tempo drops below 120 bpm.
5. SVNEATR – The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt
Back in February, my esteemed colleague Hans premiered a track from a band that was wholly unfamiliar to me. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Black metal is dime a dozen nowadays and half as valuable as any other item you can purchase twelve of for ten cents. I clicked play on “Crimson Star” and experienced immediate and terminal dick lossage. That’s right folks, SVNEATR knocked my dick clean off. And they’ll destroy your genitals too if you dare to click play. No other album released this year contains such obscenely powerful drums. Eschewing endless blast beats, The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt hammers away with righteous precision and a vision of tyrants thrown from their towers. Recommended For: Metalheads that love swinging riffs and hate environmental destruction. Not Recommended For: Gods, Masters.
I feel like we’re finally fulfilling the promise of something meaningful coming from the co-mingling of indie rock and black metal. The two camps have felt at odds for so long that those of us who owned equal amounts of Trail of Dead and Nachtmystium records might have given up on expecting anything more than Explosions in the Sky with blast beats. Jord came out of nowhere and destroyed me with its shimmering melodies and aching crescendoes. Recommended For: Posers. Not Recommended For: Dudes that can’t leave the house without their studded leather gauntlets.
3. Slaegt – The Wheel
Psst. Hey kid. You lookin’ for some rockin’ hooks? Some tasty licks? Perhaps I can interest you in a soaring melody or two? We’re gonna get you hooked on The Wheel, an album that I can most succinctly describe as Iron Maiden-meets-Black Metal. Try listening to “Perfume and Steel” or “Gauntlet of Lovers” without getting a big, stupid smile on your face. But don’t just stop there. Every song on Slaegt’s third full-length is a fuckin’ banger. Recommended For: Tribulation fans that want more rock, less pomp. Not Recommended For: SUPER SRS BLACK METAL FANS >:(
2. Moonshield – The Warband
The Warband is a record meant for pit bosses who wanna pick up change… so they can insert it into a Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom arcade cabinet. This is just a bog standard spinkick-hardcore-punk-with-wild-ass-video-game-chiptune-interludes-and-righteous-fantasy-themes record. Nothing special. Recommended For: Crowd Killers, Elves, Gamer Scum. Not Recommended For: Non-ironic Manowar fans.
1. Chapel of Disease – …And As We’ve Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye
My favorite record of 2017 was an unlikely amalgamation of knuckle busting hardcore and 1970s classic rock bombast. This year my favorite record is an unlikely amalgamation of neck shredding death metal and… uh, 1970s classic rock bombast. Where Integrity embraced the coked up bloat of The Rolling Stones, Chapel of Disease have tapped into rich veins of Southern rock. In “1000 Different Paths” you can hear sounds from an alternative universe where Ronnie Van Zant survived the plane crash and then got really, really into Bloodbath. All joking aside, …And As We’ve Seen the Storm is an emotional and powerful record that contains roughly seven hundred excellent riffs. Turn it up. Recommended For: Simple Kinda Men. Not Recommended For: Neil Young.
Also, listen to these good ass demos:
Black Catholics – 7″, Afflictive Nature – Skull Dice, Zorn – Zorn, Traveller – Demo 2018, Lifeless Dark – Who Will Be the Victims?
K, love u bye.