Top Albums Ov 2018 w/ Joaquin Stick, Karhu, & 365 Days Of Horror!
Last chance for lists.
10. Akula – Akula
Hellmistress Records | Review
2018 was the year of accessible metal for me. Being busy for the first time in years completely killed my attention span for anything too abrasive or complex. This themed year started where my list starts, with Columbus’s Akula. When this album dropped in January I was immediately hooked by the vocals while the solid sludge/doom riffs just bring the whole thing to the next level. The four long tracks could easily be longer without losing my attention and the choruses just stick to your skull unlike a poncho on W.
I have some issues with this album, mainly in not being able to find any distinguishing features between half the tracks, but I can’t stop listening anyway. The heart wants what the heart wants, and my heart wants major key blackgaze. Stunning melodic tremolo, intense blasts, and George Clarke-ian screams all exceed the requirements of the Mesarthim/Astronoid/Lantlôs soft spot I have.
8. The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir
Prosthetic Records | Review
As a long-time fringe fan, this is the one that finally brought me over the edge. The urgency displayed on Coma Noir is hypnotizing and leaves no room for dicking around. The album-opening riff over that galloping drum beat sends blood to interesting places every time. The shrieks electrify the tone like nothing else can. The dark-surreal themes are a draw for me as well. Great melodic moments, violent attacks, and totally unexpected turns dropped this on my list easily.
It has been a while since my old friend Toby and I really “connected” on one of his projects. Jumping between sounding like a Clint Mansell score mixed with touches of Kayo Dot’s retro-future phase and nothing else you’ve ever heard, They Are the Shield feels like one of those defining albums for an artist. His vocals sound better than ever, matching the precarious tone that evokes a comfortable anxiety. There’s not a moment of this album that loses my attention.
6. Charlie Looker – Simple Answers
Last Things Records | Review
I was fretting hard over which avant dark pop synth orchestral album was going to make my list this year. It was tough, but at long last, porque no los dos? Charlie Looker’s passion is infectious. Every time I spin “Ritual Fire” I want to pursue my passions until I am the best there ever was, but thankfully the track ends and I go back to wasting my life like a good drone. The dynamics are wild, with a constant pulsing from soft to loud that evokes the extremes of just about every emotion.
This may be some of the worst justification for an album making a list ever, but I just can’t find a damn thing to praise on Mire. I can always pick out a handful of things to explain why I believe a thing is good, but here… just nothing. Or, maybe, it’s that there’s too much going on in these 40 odd minutes and I like all of it equally, making it nearly impossible to grasp even one thing. The rhythms are cool. The melodies are cool. The tone is cool. The vocals are cool. Cool job, guys.
Does anyone else get this odd fear before your favorite bands release a new album that they are going to turn a weird corner and let you down? The Ocean was, for whatever reason, on the top of my nervous list this year. Even though I agree with some of Pumpkinbaby’s criticism, I still think they nailed it. Solid grooves, memorable choruses, and just top of the line production. I’m not sure if “Nascent” is an Ocean or Katationa track, and it creates some album cohesion issues, but it’s an unexpected gem for me.
I was lukewarm on Deafheaven during their surge to the top of hipsterdom, despite willingly admitting I enjoy most up-and-coming mainstream metal bands. Their full adoption of post-rock vibes this time around sucked me in, even though I’ve been bored of that scene for years. Who knew, all post-rock needed to rejuvenate itself was a handsome man doing black metal screamies over the top? The guitar during those super chill sections is some of the most interesting melodic work I’ve heard in a while, and their ability to turn it up into their brand of blackgaze in an instant is perfection.
It was a tough battle with label-mates Svalbard, but the post-hardcore winner for me this year has to be Rolo Tomassi. Their bipolar approach comes together as one beautiful whole, revealing only the rawest characteristics of themselves. It’s the sort of sincerity that gives you chills; even the sorta-annoying four-minute intro track raises my hair. The way the soothing “Aftermath” flows into the brutal “Rituals” proves their incredible range right from the start.
1. Khemmis – Desolation
20 Buck Spin | Review
I’m very not surprised about this pick. So much so that I felt a pull to be a contrarian to myself and not do it. However, yet another spin and recalling the live performance slapped that stupid thought out of my head. Using a heavy-metal energy to oppose the typical slog of doom makes Desolation stand out in both Khemmis’ catalog and doom in general. While bands are investigating the depths of what is possible with doom metal and making some amazing and challenging records, Khemmis have offered a reprieve in the simple but elegant.
Originally it was my intention to present no others, than black metal records on this list of mine, as basically 95% of my musical diet has consisted of it for the last 6 months or so (which is even more than usually). Alas, the task proved arduous and some records are just too dam(on) good to be left out, and thus, the notion was abandoned. Now 2018 was a good year, a ton of good records were released, as per usual, but apparently it wasn’t an amazing one. The first four records slipped right into their places, practically as soon as I first heard them, and I had no difficulties what the fifth ought to be either, but every album ranked 6-10 was a struggle. There were numerous albums I had liked, but only very few I had loved. Very few that I deemed good enough to be considered for the list, and fewer still worthy of inclusion. Eventually I had to abandon the notion of an all-metal list as well. Thing. I don’t like thing.
10. Spectral Wound – Infernal Decadence
Vendetta Records – No Review, Blame Hans
For the longest time, I planned on putting Svartidaudi here. But I don’t quite feel at odds with the record yet, as if any opinion I could give of it now, no matter the contents would be unfair for myself, or the band. So take this Spectral Wound instead… Look what do you want from me? Fine. It’s black metal, the heavily blast beat adorned kind of black metal. But it’s also short and the riffs are twisting, contorting and catchy, which means it’s never a problem. Thing is, you already have this album, or you’re not gonna click on that link anyways. You’ll not-do it just to spite me! I know that, and you know that, so why are we still standing here pretending that isn’t the case?
9. CMX – Alkuteos
Ratas Music Group – [Feature not found]
CMX is rarely a letdown, but Alkuteos is probably the band’s most exciting in a decade. A mix of progressive- and pop rock that echoes their past but stands firmly on the brink of reinvention as well. Keyboards have taken a far larger role than before, lending Alkuteos an airier performance than accustomed to, and taking advantage of a bonerrific bass tone, it’s been the most pleasant album to listen to all year. And I’m not particularly objected to the return from more “scientifically-inspired” form or lyricism to a occult/religiously inspired form. I could have stood to live without “Paratiisin Eeva” but otherwise CMX’s vast discography includes only few albums that can stand up to this. Pretty sure Geddy Lee would want to repossess “Verenpuna’s” opening riff though, let’s not tell him.
Listen to “Elementa”
8. Paara – Riitti
ViciSolum Productions – TTT -Feature
When I first heard this, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. I knew I wanted to love it, I knew I had loved the debut. But Riitti seemed so… bloated. It’s not that the songs do a hundred things at a time, they only do one or two, it’s that each song goes on forever and ends up doing a hundred things, one at a time. About half the songs on this record feel like they were stitched together from several shorter ones. But you know what? That doesn’t bother me none. Instead it makes Riitti sound like one, long suite not composed of individual songs, and there’s enough thematic returns and variations to make it all work. There’s likewise a lot to unpack in their melodic folk/black metal, with plenty of acoustic passages and three distinctive vocalists. But it’s all well worth of the price of admission.
7. Monolithe – Nebula Septem
Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions – Vlad’s Review
7 men came together for these seven tracks, each seven minutes in length, set in seven different tonalities (from A – G). Add a sci-fi concept story focusing on extra-terrestrial life and place it all o top of some slow, vigorous, lead-guitar heavy doom metal, sprinkle with deep growls and lots of synthesizers and you’ve got Nebula Septem. When it first came out, it helped me re-find Monolithe, but then I promptly forgot about it until recently (ie. submitting this list) and it’s even better than I recalled. Doom so vigorous and dynamic (although the mix can’t keep up) is not easy to come by these days.
6. Dewfall – Hermeticus
Naturmacht Productions – Owl’s Review
I didn’t know if I really should include this or not, because I’ve only recently got into this. In fact, most of the spins I’ve given to it, have been after starting to compile this list. But it’s an enthralling record, and I don’t see it dropping from my playlist anytime soon. “While they’re first and foremost a melodic black metal band, they incorporate sounds from a slew of genres; you’re just as likely to hear the swagger of the NWoBHM movement as the dissonance of French black metal in any given song. The memorable riff/song ratio is flat out embarrassing for their contemporaries; when I’m struggling to give a damn halfway through a monochromatic hour-long “ritual” by some other band, my thoughts inevitably drift back to the constant thrills of Hermeticus.” – Rolderathis
5. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
Osmose Productions | Lacertilian’s Sunday Sesh
The Incubus of Karma is one miserable, 80-minute drudge through funeral waters. And in the best way imaginable. A double album heavily laden with guitarmonies, morose mood, rueful melodies and goddern shred. A funeral doom album with shred, what could go right? Everything apparently, as this has been tenaciously stuck in my player. Not only Mournful Congregation’s finest hour, with their finest guitar- and most impressive vocal-work, but also an album that pushes the boundaries of funeral doom and proves that these Australian sovereigns of funeral doom can reign over whichever realm they please.
4. Archgoat – The Luciferian Crown
Debemur Morti – Review
Best known for nigh-unrivaled primitiveness, I was taken aback just by how intricate and nuanced Archgoat could be, should they so choose. Yet The Luciferian Crown is exactly the barebones beating I knew and loved. Primitive riffs and primitive songs with intricate arrangements, keyboards, bass solos and distinctively different inter-song personalities wrapped in a well thought out arch is not something to be expected out of an ancient black/death brute, but once again Archgoat proved why they are better than the rest.
Vargrav – Netherstorm
Werewolf Records – Review
This year has proven that I am, to all ends and purposes, a sucker for sweet, symphonic glaze. And one of the best attempts to combine this with black metal undoubtedly belongs to Vargrav. Netherstorm is the best kind of a record, one that arrived unannounced, from a band unknown. The joy of discovery has only barely receded within the nearly twelve months that have passed of it’s release, and it’s still a regular guest on my table. Every single winding riff crafted at the altar of Emperor, every last one of the keyboard lines that follow in their wake, evoking the oldest of Dimmu Borgir. A very particular niche that isn’t being scratched on by enough artists, but I honestly doubt many could reach these heights anyways.
2. Alghazanth – Eight Coffin Nails
Woodcut Records – Review
This is how you make a farewell record – without an intent to craft one. Majestic black metal full of memorable riffs, sonorous keyboard arrangements that never overtake the songwriting, but aren’t content just following along either, much like the songwriting out right out-of-the-box, but doesn’t condescend into tired customs. Paved with well-written, immersive lyricism, and with one hand inviting stylistic inclinations from their past, and with the other, reaching towards the yet unseen horizon, it’s a record of consistently imposing quality. A peregrination that does not lack in emotional heft.
1. Trollheims Grott – Aligned With The True Death
World Terror Committee – Review
Melding industrial and psychedelic influences, some death metal reminiscence and a subtly underlying sense of melody to martial black metal is a familiar but unique concoction. Aligned With The True Death has the visceral unity of a singular vision, but the passion that comes with a deeper personal connection of each individual. Having each member carry the responsibility of his parts, and arrangements leads into an interplay between instruments not often heard on these fringes of extreme metal. I noted in my review of it, that Aligned With The True Death would claim the throne of the year’s best album without particular challenge, and I have not regretted those words once.
Yhdarl – Loss | Listen to “Ignite – Ashes”
Aborted – TerrorVision | Listen to “TerrorVision”
Evoken – Hypnagogia | Listen to “Valorous Consternation“
Wintermoon – Old Spirit of Polar Night | Listen to “Nightwanderers“
365 Days Of Horror
10. Zeke – Hellbender
Zeke’s Hellbender is a nitro burning hotrod that slams directly into your living room. You want “high-energy”? Hellbender has got you covered. It’s fast, aggressive, and off-the-wall. No song is longer than two minutes and I wouldn’t have it any way. There is an incredible urgency throughout every song that appeals to metalheads, punks, and hardcore fans alike. Zeke has been around since 1992 and have not lost a single step.
9. Khemmis – Desolation
20 Buck Spin
Khemmis are so good at what they do. Desolation builds off of what their previous album Hunted built: it’s heavy, it’s groovy, and it has heart. Whether you’re banging your head, playing air guitar, or singing your guts out, Desolation has something for most metal fans. It’s emotional, yet urgent, a tempest of feelings. When we chatted with Ben about recording the album, he mentioned letting out a long sigh when he finished recording his final note. I totally get it now.
8. Cauldron – New Gods
The End Records
I’m not the king of traditional metal. I don’t own a leather jacket and will never make a battle vest. It’s just not me. Despite this, I’ve always had an appreciation for Cauldron. They keep one foot in tradition and another in the present. Above all us, they write good, catchy songs. New Gods has that classic heavy metal sound that brings me back to a time in metal that I never actually experienced.
7. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura
Epic is an overused term, especially when it comes to metal. Most albums never live up to that lofty adjective. Chthonic’s Battlefields of Asura does. Elements of death metal, symphonic metal, and black metal are layered on top of their own brand of traditionally-influenced music. Melody persists even as the album delves into concepts such as resistance, struggle, and death. It’s a window into a world that most metalheads don’t know and serves as a learning experience for those that want to explore other cultures.
6. Midas Fall – Evaporate
Scottish duo Midas Fall were unknown to me before their album Evaporate was released earlier this year. I wish I had known about them sooner. Their blending of post-rock, electronics, and soundscapes is both evocative and touching. Each song is earnestly beautiful and worthy of being used in movies and documentaries. The song Evaporate in particular is on my short-list for songs of the year. It makes me want to lay down in bed, wrap myself in a blanket, and dream.
5. Psychostick – Do
Psychostick are a ton of fun. They’re silly, goofy, and they know it. That’s what makes Do such a blast. Whether it’s songs or skits, they never fail to make me laugh. Plus Bacon, Egg, & Cheese on Toast w/ Sriracha is the perfect thing to get a terrible song out of your head. The band epitomizes DIY as the album is self-released and was crowdfunded by fans. They do what they want and their fans love them for it. More bands should Do.
4. Oceans Of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Century Media Records
I want to kick everyone in the ass that has never listened to Oceans of Slumber. They’re so good that it makes me mad that more people aren’t falling over themselves to hear their music. The Banished Heart is hauntingly beautiful and achingly heavy. It’s doomy, dark, and progressive. Fans of bands like Swallow The Sun and Amorphis will get it immediately. Singer Cammie Gilbert’s voice is so strong, so smooth, that it would make literally any band better. Bands, lock her up for guest vocals now.
3. Amigo The Devil – Everything’s Fine
Regime Music Group
You know you’re listening to a special album when one song can make you cry (Cocaine and Abel) and another can make you laugh (I Hope Your Husband Dies). Amigo The Devil’s seamless blend of honesty and wry sense of humor makes Everything’s Fine a new folk classic. A few years ago, I opened for Amigo The Devil when he was on tour with Ghost Bath. I still haven’t figured out how that pairing happened, but I’m glad it did. If there’s any justice in this world, he’ll be headlining the Newport Folk Festival soon.
2. Monster Magnet – Mindfucker
Often times, I’ll think that rock n’ roll is dead. Well, maybe not dead, just very sick. Other genres have surpassed it or are doing more exciting things. It takes a band like Monster Magnet and an album like Mindfucker to snap me back to reality. When most rock musicians are slowing down or exploring other genres, Dave Wyndorf and company are speeding up and rocking out. Mindfucker kicks out the jams at a time when it is sorely needed.
1. Unreqvited – Stars Wept To The Sea
Harsh, yet gorgeous, Unreqvited’s Stars Wept To The Sea is as agonizing as it is tender. It is a rage against the dying light. A deafening scream against a howling storm. When words will not do, this album will. Post-metal and bits of DSBM mix with a sculptor’s delicate touch to make something that reaches me in a way that not many albums can. Stars Wept To The Sea makes me sad in a happy way and happy in a sad way and I am grateful for having found it.