Economy of Effort

Twitter LinkedIn GitHub Mail RSS

Best Of 2018: Metal

I’m incredibly late with this Best Of list, but no one really cares, so let’s just get on with it.

Best Metal Album of 2018

Thou - Magus
From 'Magus,' out now: Directed By: Bryan Funck & Mitch Wells Lighting Design: Michael Moises Edited By: Mitch Wells

Thou has had an incredible year. They released 3 EPs leading up to the release of this full-length album. And they didn’t stop there, teaming up with Ragana for a split album a couple months later. The album, of course, is the centerpiece, and one of my most listened-to albums of the year.

At over 75 minutes, it’s a lot to take in. It’s also more patience-testing than their previous full-length, Heathen, which colored their aural misery with acoustic interludes, as well as some strings, horns, and clean vocals. It also featured faster, black metal-inspired passages. Magus offers less reprieve. There are three interlude tracks, one of which does feature clean vocal passages like you might hear on Heathen, but two of which are dark ambient/noise, along the lines of the Inconsolable EP.

Thou rejects the categorization as being a metal band, and this is reflected in both their lyrical themes (which get about as far from the standard metal tropes as possible), as well as the company they keep (their collaborations and touring partners often either exist on the same trope-rejecting metal fringe as themselves, our outside the sphere of metal entirely). That said, there’s no other accurate genre label for music that is as heavy and extreme as this, so metal it is.

It was a tough battle for the top of my list this year. The kicker for Thou was that I simply never got tired of listening to this album or their other releases that make this list. Because the moment-to-moment experience of this album connected so well with me, the length of the album worked to its benefit, keeping it from ever wearing on me. It still sounds fresh to me, with parts I don’t feel like I’ve fully explored.

The Rest of the Best

Oryx - Stolen Absolution
Stolen Absolution

This album released in February, yet I nearly missed it completely, discovering it very very late. Within a week, I was debating whether or not this was going to unseat Thou for my top spot. It won me over that quickly and completely.

Similar to Thou, Oryx is blackened sludge, blending that slower, crushing instrumental approach of doom with harsh, searing vocals. Also like Thou, the vocal themes stray far from metal tropes and instead are rooted in real-world concerns, both of the sociopolitical variety as well as the kind of fury at ecological destruction that would make Gojira proud.

Oryx on this album is a duo, a husband-and-wife team (husband on vocals and guitar, wife on drums), though the group has since added a third member on bass.

This album has the best flow and sequencing of any album this year. At 34 minutes long, it’s practically bite-sized compared to the Thou album, but the flow is so amazingly good and the album ends on such a high note that it demands hitting the Play button again as soon as it ends. It was probably my most immediately repeat-played album of any on this list.

Slugdge - Esoteric Malacology
Esoteric Malacology
Off the new album "Esoteric Malacology" Delve into the the mephitic melodies of Molluscas malodorous minions once more with Esoteric Malacology, the latest gastropodean gospel from Slugdge. Journey through the annuls of Slishic history; through the death and rebirth of the supreme cosmic overlord, and unlock mental gateways to even more horrendous and nonsensical realities than ever before. Pre-order via Willowtip: Pre-order via Bandcamp: Available worldwide March 2, 2018

This was penciled into my top spot for most of the year, until Thou came along and unseated it.

Esoteric Malacology is one the most “fun” tech-death metal albums you’re likely to ever hear. The album is just an amazing collection of riffs, which the band flies through in songs that are much more melodic and approachable than other tech-death bands. It almost seems wrong to label them tech-death, just because it all moves so effortlessly and goes down so easy for something that’s actually as intricate and heavy as it is.

In keeping with my first two albums on this list, Slugdge doesn’t exactly stick with standard metal lyrical themes either. Or, rather, they take those tropes and make them all about, well, intergalactic space slugs. Except the humorous, tongue-in-cheek tales of space slugs are metaphors for much more real-world social and geopolitical concerns.

“The Spectral Burrows” is also my pick for the best single song of the year.

YOB - Our Raw Heart
Our Raw Heart
Our Raw Heart is out now on CD/2xLP/CS/Digital Digital Downloads / Stream: Order via Relapse Records Here: Subscribe to Relapse Records Channel: Directed by Frank Huang Additional Video by Drew Kaufman Special Thanks to (Le) Poisson Rouge Official Links: YOB Official Website: YOB on Facebook: YOB on Twitter: YOB on Instagram: Lyrics: A drum of unrest Beating in my chest Within raging days Pounding at the gate Skin stretched too tight Under fading light Shapeless failing view I must see it through Must see it through See it through Sounding unto a greater life Bring the devils Seraphim Bring the sorrow That feeds on my skin Sounding unto a greater sight See the seer The original face There is nothing else This is all there is There is nothing else The original face Blister to the flame Bared teeth within names One beast brings its strength One beast brings hunger One beast topples mountains Rigpa swallows them whole Emergent rising view I must see it through Must see it through Sounding unto a greater life Bring the devils Seraphim Bring the leeches Bleed the leeches Sounding unto a greater sight See the seer The original face Skin stretched too tight Under fading light Shapeless failing view Must see it through Blister to the flame Bared teeth within names Clear sight, Rigpa’s view I must see it through Must see it through

Easily the most emotionally draining album of the year.

It’s impossible for me to listen to this album without relating it to bandleader Mike Scheidt’s life-threatening health problems, the experience which reverberates deeply throughout this album. A lot of metal albums I like have a “gazing into the void” quality, but this one is more like one about a man that gazed into that void, and came back from it, fundamentally affected and permanently changed.

YOB albums have always had a significant emotional component - there’s a reason their website is “”. Whereas many stoner/doom bands have long tapped into the sounds of ‘60s/'70s psychedelia, YOB has always drawn from that hippie love spirit that inspired that music in the first place.

The fundamental elements of YOB’s sound have not changed here. It’s still long-form “cosmic doom”, which delivers massive, powerful sounds. There’s no anger here, but there are echoes of pain. Listening to a man who returned from near-death howling the vocal lines “there is nothing else / this is all there is” is profoundly affecting.

Anachronism - Orogeny
Provided to YouTube by Fandalism Cryptobiosis · Anachronism Orogeny ℗ 890186 Records DK Released on: 2018-07-05 Auto-generated by YouTube.

My most listened to album of 2018, according to This album was criminally overlooked, no doubt owing much to being an independent release from a Switzerland-based band. Not a whole lot of profile or marketing push behind this one. This album is technical death metal that is grounded in a brutal death approach, colored with some prog-rock and fusion tendencies added in. They contrast brighter, jazzier chord progressions alongside the downtuned chugging, giving them a subtly unique sound within this space.

Fister - No Spirit Within
No Spirit Within
St. Louis doom outfit Fister join forces with Doomed Asylum Productions to unleash "I AM KURU". I AM KURU is off of their 2018 album, No Spirit Within, released on Listenable Records. Subscribe for future videos! Contact Doomed Asylum Productions: [email protected]

Fister and CHRCH both killed it on their split album in 2017, and they both killed it in 2018 with their subsequent full-lengths.

Fister is unyieldingly dark and crushing. There’s no mourning and certainly no rays of light, just misery and annihilation. The top of my list already has a lot of sludge/doom going on. There were just so many good releases, and even more than I could squeeze onto this list (like the Churchburn I had to relegate to my Bonus Picks). What sets Fister apart is that they don’t just rely on a slow, crushing wall of sound. The tempo shifts, and suddenly there’s some blazing guitar lead, yet it still sounds just as dark and hopeless as the slower dirges. Some indecipherable samples and guitar atmospherics provide some space and separation between the assaults. Everything just stands out more than some of the similar releases I also enjoyed this year.

CHRCH - Light Will Consume Us All
Light Will Consume Us All
Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Aether · CHRCH Light Will Consume Us All ℗ 2018 Neurot Recordings Released on: 2018-05-11 Auto-generated by YouTube.

And here’s the group from the other half of that split. CHRCH became an instant favorite of mine with their 2015 debut, Unanswered Hymns. Between that, seeing them put on a great set at Psycho Las Vegas, and the Fister split, this was one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

This album leans harder into epic doom, away from the fuzzier stoner-doom stylings that were more prevalent in their debut. The harsher sounds and vocals are used a bit more judiciously this time around. The vocals of Eva Rose weave between Windhand-like ethereal croons and demonic screams, and she’s become one of my absolute favorite doom vocalists.

Funeral doom can be hit or miss with me. CHRCH isn’t extremely sparse like Bell Witch, and avoids the ham-fisted theatrical approach that turns me off from groups like Warning. For me at least, they hit a sweet spot in the style. I do miss some of the harsh fuzz of the debut album, but this is too damn good for me to possibly complain.

Ails - The Unraveling
The Unraveling
Pre-order:, Artist: Ails Track: Mare Weighs Down Release: The Unraveling Release date: 4.20.18 Label: The Flenser

Ails' debut release of melodic blackened death metal might not be a revelation to anyone that has heard releases from the previous band the two leading ladies were in (Ludica). Vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman still juxtaposes clean chant-like vocals with lacerated, tortured screams. Guitarist Christy Cather is still a one-woman riff machine.

Compared to Ludicra, there’s a bit less of an overt punk influence. The tempos are more varied, less sustained breakneck pacing. The material gets some time to breathe, and is all the better for it, in my opinion. The frenzies are broken up with slower paced sections, which may feature more catchy melodic passages and vocals, or may just play host to lengthy screams. The production is raw, perhaps a little rawer and scratchier than I prefer, but definitely is in keeping with the black metal influence.

Gaerea - Unsettling Whispers
Unsettling Whispers
Taken from the latest full length 'Unsettling Whispers' released on Transcending Obscurity Records. OFFICIAL BANDCAMP - OFFICIAL STORE - US STORE - EUROPE STORE - LABEL FACEBOOK - GAEREA FACEBOOK - Info - Gaerea have turned the genre of black metal on its head. While most rehash the classic sound, this Portuguese band take it forward and seamlessly integrate influences from other genres like hardcore and sludge. Sonically defiant and cohesive, Gaerea smash preconceived notions and deliver music they can call their own. 'Unsettling Whispers' is the much awaited full length album coming after their universally lauded self-titled EP. Transcending Obscurity Records will be putting it out on multiple formats with excellent packaging that includes gatefold LP, alternate artwork box set and 8-panel digipak with a 20-page booklet. Artful, stirring and deeply immersive, Gaerea are a band to watch out for. Their treatment of the music is not only meticulous but also unforgettable. Line up - (unknown)

This is the one album that Angry Metal Guy named their Record of the Month last year to which I agreed profusely.

Gaerea play a kind of melodic atmospheric black metal that brings to mind groups like Mgla and Celeste. They bring both the moody, depressive side of atmospheric black metal along with the hate-spewing fury of black metal proper. Like Celeste, the vocals perhaps should be described more as blackened hardcore than black metal. The tone is permanent bleakness, but the instrumental work often has an amazing ugly-beauty quality to it.

Maybe this should have been Album of the Year. Listening to it again while I write this, it’s just so goddamn good.

Horizon Ablaze - The Weight of a Thousand Suns
Horizon Ablaze
The Weight of a Thousand Suns

If you like Gojira, listen to these guys now.

A lot of groups play blackened death metal, or death metal with black metal influences. Horizon Ablaze play a kind of Thanos-approved perfect balance of the two, which sounds like it would be odd or derivative. But in practice, they move so smoothly from blast-beat trem-picked sections to meaty, riffy sections that you hardly recognize that any change has happened. The progressive-death elements bring Gojira to mind (hence the first sentence of this writeup), while the black metal elements compare to later Emperor albums.

I think what makes me reference Gojira so directly is that this feels like a group that could have that wider appeal that a group like Gojira has developed over the years. I’m really surprised this release hasn’t garnered more attention than it has.

The Ocean - Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
The Ocean
Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
Buy Here: The Ocean "Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence" from the album "Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic." Built, shot and edited by Craig Murray. tour dates: THE OCEAN + ROSETTA + ARABROT 31/10/18 DE - Karlsruhe - Dudefest 01/11/18 FR - Paris - Backstage 02/11/18 UK - London - The Dome 03/11/18 UK - Leeds - Damnation Festival 04/11/18 NL - Eindhoven - Effenaar 05/11/18 DE - Münster - Sputnikhalle 06/11/18 DE - Wiesbaden - Schlachthof 07/11/18 CH - Sion - Le Port France 08/11/18 IT - Milan - Santeria Social Club 09/11/18 DE - München - Strom 11/11/18 SK - Bratislava - Randal 12/11/18 RO - Cluj-Napoca - Form Space 14/11/18 RO - Bucharest - Control Club 15/11/18 RO - Timisoara - Reflektor 16/11/18 HU - Budapest - Blue Hell 17/11/18 CR - Zagreb - Mochvara 18/11/18 PL - Krakow - Zet Pe Te 19/11/18 PL - Warsaw - Proxima THE OCEAN + LLNN+ BRIQUEVILLE 27/12/18 DE - Rostock - Mau Club 28/12/18 DE - Jena - Kassablanca 29/12/18 DE - Nürnberg - Club Stereo 30/12/18 DE - Berlin - Lido #TheOcean #Phanerozoic

When the album began with a piano reprise of the melody that ended The Ocaen’s 2007 album Precambrian, I got chills. The album’s named after the Phanerozoic eon, which is the eon that followed Precambrian. As if it’s not obvious from that, this album is a continuation of Precambrian, which for my money is the best Ocean album. It also resembled the group’s most recent album, Pelagial, which in my opinion is their second best album.

My biggest frustration with the album is that it’s only half of the overall Phanerozoic album, and the second part won’t arrive until 2020. It’s nearly 48 minutes long, but it just feels like a halfway point when it ends.

Like with Pelagial, the group released an instrumental-only version of the album, though it was a separate release this time around. I did not end up listening to it as much as I did Pelagial’s instrumental version. The vocals are too well done on the album, and losing the guest appearance from Katatonia’s singer (a collaboration that was intended to happen on Precambrian) is too much a step down for me.

Honorable Mentions

Sleep - The Sciences
The Sciences

It says something about how much I love the above albums that I had to push Sleep down into the Honorable Mentions. A surprise release on 4/20 (of course), The Sciences is both one of the most and least surprising albums of the year in terms of quality. An album this far removed from a group’s previous one has no business being that good. It’s right there alongside My Bloody Valentine’s “mbv” in terms of defying all reasonable expectations of a reunion effort.

At the same time, having heard the reformed Sleep live twice before this album, as well as having heard their 2014 single The Clarity, it’s really no surprise. They are this good live. They were this good on The Clarity. And these three musicians have not exactly been sitting on their hands since the last Sleep album. Nothing these guys put out separately in High on Fire, Om, Neurosis, or Shrinebuilder suggests they’ve run out of ideas.

The surprise, though, is that it came together this well. The album is flawless in execution; there’s never a feeling that they didn’t achieve exactly what they were aiming to. The biggest delight is how good the album sounds. I’ve wished that the group would re-record the Holy Mountain album, because as good as it is, the sound does not live up to the massive sound they have performing the material live. The Sciences does a much better job of recreating that huge sound in a studio recording. It’s thick and fulfilling.

Ævangelist - Matricide in the Temple of Omega
Matricide in the Temple of Omega
A direct link is provided to purchase 'Matricide in the Temple of Omega' on CD and digital format. Additional links are given for Ævangelist and I, Voidhanger Records. "Æon Death Knell" is the second song on the album. 'Matricide in the Temple of Omega' release date - November 10th, 2018. Ævangelist: Ascaris - wicked goddess tongue Matron Thorn - sword of desolating - All music recorded by Ævangelist at the Parish. - Mixed by Matron Thorn. Mastered by Jeremie Bezier (Emptiness, ex-Enthroned) in Blackout Studio, Belgium. - Cover painting by Haley Deanna Johnstone. - Art direction and layout by Francesco Gemelli. "One of today's most revered and original black/death metal bands, ÆVANGELIST were officially baptized by I, Voidhanger Records in 2012: the band's first full-length album, “De Masticatione Mortuorum In Tumulis” conquered the most demanding lovers of avant-garde extreme metal thanks to a visionary blend of psychotic riffs, inhuman growls, crushing rhythms, and asphyxiating – yet trance-inducing – atmospheres. Six years and many albums after that promising work, ÆVANGELIST rejoin I, Voidhanger Records and release their most sinister and inventive work to date, “Matricide In The Temple Of Omega”. Now, as then, ÆVANGELIST play dark death metal to end all death metal, but it's a matter of fact that they never sounded so bleak, cryptic and derailed. “Matricide In The Temple Of Omega” constantly struggles to gain a shape, to find an intelligible form and escape the painful vice of non-existence. It doesn't have a beginning, and it doesn't have an end. It resembles one of those Lovecraftian creatures too abstruse and abominable to comprehend: eager to born into our dimension, but forever consigned to a chaotic realm of mean, suicidal psychedelia. The monumental closing number, “Ascending Into The Pantheon”, sublimates it all by hammering the listener with razor-like guitars and putrid melodies before a final incantation that sounds like a dedication to Lilith. No fake spirituality, here; no light at the end of the tunnel; this is the definitive and most uncomfortable drug-trip into utter blackness... into the death beyond death. 'Matricide In The Temple Of Omega' is the culmination of all that we have do far sought through ÆVANGELIST, our elite devilwork,” synthetically remarks guitarist Matron Thorn, with singer/lyricist Ascaris one of the two grand architects behind the band. Therefore, rejoice! The true masters of apocalyptic black/death metal have returned to blight the earth with music of the dark neverending"! CD/digital format (I, Voidhanger Records, Bandcamp) Ævangelist Facebook - Bandcamp - Metal Archives - I, Voidhanger Records Homepage - Facebook - SoundCloud - YouTube - Promotional purposes sanctioned by I, Voidhanger Records.

Ævangelist got on my radar with their 2016 split with Blut Aus Nord, a group with whom they share more than a passing similarity in terms of sound and spirit. Their last full-length release, 2015’s Enthrall to the Void of Bliss, was an immediate favorite of mine. Then this year, they released not one, but two full-lengths. The first was Heralds of Nightmare Descending, which doubles down on the lo-fi production that was characteristic of Ævangelist’s pre-Enthrall releases. Lo-fi production is my least favorite black metal trope, and it kept me from really embracing Heralds.

Matricide, however, goes the other direction. It providing the cleanest production on an Ævangelist release to date, and in doing so, shows just how unnecessary such production was to create the sonic effect Ævangelist angles for.

Mantar - The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze
The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

Mantar kick ass. That’s really all you need to know.

Mantar’s sludgey crust-punk groove is a well established formula from their first two albums, and they don’t make any great deviations here. They make a hell of a racket for being a guitar-and-drums duo. There’s precious little studio layering of additional instruments here, as that’s never been their style.

Their previous album, Ode to the Flame, remains my favorite of the duo’s work, but this is another welcome blast of aggression.

LLNN - Deads
Directed, filmed and edited by Ketil G. Sejersen & Rasmus G. Sejersen. Order here: Europe: N. America: Australia: Digital: // Copenhagen's LLNN burst onto the international scene with 2016's critically acclaimed debut album „Loss“, a sheer display of „absolute raging rawness“, as Terrorizer put it. But there is more to LLNN's sound than that: „the wavering drone synths that are effortlessly merged with a raw hardcore-driven darkness define the subtle idiosycratic nuances of LLNN's very unsubtle, painfully overwhelming sound.“ (The Sludgelord). After a split EP with LA's WOVOKA in the summer of 2017, LLNN now return with their sophomore album, „Deads“, which evades all the pitfalls of the sophomore slump. Produced by Jacob Bredahl and mastered by Tue Madsen, „Deads“ is an erosive, abrasive, dystopian, apocalyptic monolith of monstrous dimensions. Compared to its predecessor, „Deads“ is more compact, yet more complex and organic all at the same time. The band has now perfectionized the amalgamization of the stringed instruments section (bass, guitar) with keys player Ketil Sejersen's very dominant 80's Sci- Fi movie-esque synth layers, which are inspired by composers like Brad Fiedel, Vangalis, John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick as much as by Sci-Fi / horror games like Silent Hill, Dead Space, Halo and Limbo. „Some of the synth sounds on the album consists of recordings from everyday sounds transformed into eerie soundscapes, for instance the sounds of boiling water“, drummer Rasmus G. Sejersen comments. „We wanted the soundscapes to be a persistent and dynamic underlay of sounds that influence the music's core and soul throughout the entire album, together with all the riffs, rhythms and vocals“. It doesn't come as a surprise that this band triggers the interest of movie soundtrack designers like the award-winning Peter Albrechtsen, known for his work on movies like „Dunkirk”, “Antichrist” or “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”: ”As a sound designer for movies, I love when music feels like a sonic adventure. I’m obsessed with music that explores what sound can do to our body, to our mind, to our imagination. LLNN's new album is one of the most overwhelmingly intense records I’ve heard in quite a while and the way it blends abstract ambient sounds, shattering rhythms and extreme noise is both hypnotic and powerful. The sense of sonic detail is staggering and for each spin I hear new elements, echoes, textures and my mind gets new visual associations. Sometimes it feels like the soundtracks of Apocalypse Now and Eraserhead has been melted together and blasted through a ferocious guitar amp - these songs have both a sense of impending doom and an extraordinary combination of raw energy and gritty beauty.“ Not much else to say, except this: LLNN will be unleashing their custom take on contemporary post metal supporting Vancouver's BISON on their April European headline tour, including performances at ROADBURN, DESERT FEST (London) and PELAGIC FEST.

This one very nearly ended up in the Best of the Rest section above.

LLNN is sludgey post-metal with post-hardcore elements (particularly in the vocals) that bring to mind Cult of Luna and The Ocean (unsurprisingly, LLNN is on The Ocean bandleader’s record label, Pelagic Records). The more straightforward jaw-busting hardcore sections are wrapped up in dark ambience and post-metal instrumental passages. The album’s short, just under 38 minutes, and it’s packed with some of the most memorable riffs and sections of the year. I never forget what this one sounds like.

SUMAC - Love in Shadow
Love in Shadow
Provided to YouTube by Thrill Jockey, Inc. The Task · SUMAC Love In Shadow ℗ Thrill Jockey Records Released on: 2018-09-21 Artist: SUMAC Auto-generated by YouTube.

Aaron Turner can do no wrong by me. Especially this year, where he and his fellow ISIS members reunited (under the name Celestial) for a one night benefit concert in Los Angeles, and I got to be there. Compared to that, a new SUMAC record could only hope to be a distant second for my favorite Aaron Turner things of the year. Second as it may be, it’s still an excellent album. Compared to the first two SUMAC albums, this one goes off on improvisational tangents, inspired no doubt by their collaboration album with Keiji Haino.

Horrendous - Idol
Subscribe to Season Of Mist for new releases : Taken from the forthcoming album "Idol". Release Date: September 28, 2018. Order here: Follow HORRENDOUS: Follow Season Of Mist:

I loved the band’s 2015 album, Anareta. I was excited for this to come out. It did not disappoint.

This is progressive death metal that’s just packed to the walls with great riffs. The band manages to go off in different directions, while remaining rooted in raw death metal. For all of the impressive guitar work here, none of it comes across as wankery, instead remaining in service to the songwriting at all times. It greatly rewards repeat listens, there’s so much here to unpack. It released in late September, but still had enough time to be one of my most listened-to albums of the year.

Portal - ION
Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Husk · Portal Ion ℗ 2018 Profound Lore Released on: 2018-01-26 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Portal dropped this one in January, giving me some nice sonic terror for the post-holidays back-to-work period.

ION is the sound of the universe being ripped apart at the seams. Portal’s previous album, 2013’s Vexovoid, became an instant favorite of mine when I first heard it. Whereas Vexovoid’s thick, murky production envoked a darkness from which light cannot escape, ION’s clearer, sharper production makes every rip and tear observable. The result is a sound that is just as impenetrable.

Imperialist - Cipher
Taken from the album 'Cipher' on Transcending Obscurity Records. OFFICIAL STORE - OFFICIAL BANDCAMP - LABEL FACEBOOK - BAND FACEBOOK - Info - US black metal band IMPERIALIST have conjured up a brilliant sci-fi themed album that stands out both conceptually as well as musically. Rooted in the early Swedish black metal sound of luminaries like NECROPHOBIC, DISSECTION and SACRAMENTUM, IMPERIALIST hone it up further to suit their futuristic theme by adding touches of thrash metal without diluting the rich aura. 'Cipher' is backed by a visually stunning artwork by Adam Burke (VEKTOR, LURK) that extends into a continuous two-panel work depicting the grand theme. It's rare to find bands that have a bold vision and at the same time creating the perfect blend for music that is at once atavistic and forward-thinking. This is one of the finest examples of meticulously written black metal counterbalancing aggression with melodies and thrashy sections. Line up - Sergio Soto - Guitar & Vocals Rod Quinones - Drums Bryant Quinones - Guitar Joshua Alvarez - Bass Album artwork - Adam Burke (LURK, VEKTOR, LOSS) Art design and LP layout - Francesco Gemelli (MASTER, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Imperialist hails from the far-off black metal hotbed known as … Los Angeles. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like US black metal much more than its more traditional Scandinavian counterpart. I usually don’t know where the band is actually from until I’ve already listened to them for a while, but USBM bands consistently rank highly with me. Maybe it’s their rejection of certain black metal tropes. And the lack of corpse paint. Does corpse paint make a sound?

Imperialist play sci-fi themed black metal that hits hard. There are trem-picked riffs all over, but rather than attempting to create atmosphere, they add in some thrash and death bits and make the whole thing punch you in the gut. Take Immortal, add in some death metal heft, and sprinkle in Vektor’s thrash and sci-fi bits, and that’s about what you’ll find in Imperialist.

Author & Punisher - Beastland
Author & Punisher
Order 'Beastland' Here: Digital Downloads/Streaming: Subscribe to Relapse Records Channel: Directed by Augie Arredondo Art Direction by Marilia Maschion Official Links: Author & Punisher Official Website: Author & Punisher on Facebook: Author & Punisher on Instagram: Author & Punisher on Twitter: Author & Punisher Youtube Channel:

Author & Punisher’s one-man industrial doom scores with both my love of drone as well as harsh-as-hell noise. I enjoyed his previous album, 2015’s Melk En Honing,

I love some of the clean vocals that get worked in among the noise, particularly the chorus lines in “The Speaker is Systematically Broken”.

The album’s varying swings between haunting sounds and complete sonic annihilation, as well as the brief 36 minute runtime, keep any one element from overstaying its welcome. That helps a lot, as the sonic palette, while incredibly distinct, is also somewhat narrow. (Not that I’m averse to wallowing in the same sonic misery for 90 minutes

Burial Invocation - Abiogenesis
Burial Invocation
Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Revival · Burial Invocation Abiogenesis ℗ 2018 Dark Descent Records Released on: 2018-08-17 Auto-generated by YouTube.

An incredible debut album. Largely gone is the Finnish-style death/doom of their debut EP (way back in 2011), and in its place is more Immolation style death metal, albeit with a more long-form, progressive bent. Keeping the long tracks interesting is a murderer’s row of killer riffs, along with atmosphere that brings in a little bit of the band’s original doom styling. This is one of those albums whose OSDM influences are laid bare, yet tied together into something much more forward-thinking.

Wayfarer - World's Blood
World's Blood
Taken from the album "World's Blood" out 05.25.18 Pre-order "World's Blood": CD/Digital: CD/LP: iTunes: Wayfarer on FB: Wayfarer on Instagram: @wayfarercolorado Profound Lore Records online: Profound Lore Records on FB: Profound Lore Records on Twitter: @profound_lore Profound Lore Records on Instagram: @profoundlorerecords Wayfarer on tour: 04/28 – Denver, CO @ Hi Dive (w/Of Feather And Bone, Suffering Hour, Many Blessings) 06/08-10 – Colorado Springs, CO @ 71Grind Fest 06/11 Wichita, KS @ Barleycorns* (w/Primitive Man) 06/12 Wichita Falls, TX @ Iron Horse* (w/Primitive Man) 06/13 San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger* (w/Primitive Man) 06/14 New Orleans, LA @ Santos (w/Primitive Man, Forn) 06/15 Hattiesburg, MS @ Tavern (w/Primitive Man, Forn) 06/16 Houston. TX @ White Oak Music Hall (w/Primitive Man, Forn) (w/Krallice) 06/17 Austin, TX @ Austin Terrorfest 06/18 Dallas, TX @ Reno’s (w/Primitive Man, Forn) 6/19 Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th St (w/Primitive Man, Forn) 6/20 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister 6/22 Denver, CO @ TRVE Anniversary Fest 6/23 Salt Lake City, UT @ Diabolical Records 6/24 Los Angeles, CA @ Los Angeles Strikefest 6/25 Oakland, CA @ The Golden Bull 6/27 Portland, OR @ Tonic 6/28 Seattle, WA @ Highline 6/29 Boise, ID @ The Shredder 7/01 Jackson, WY @ Fire in the Mountains

Wayfarer is US black metal that seeks to invoke the American West. From the album cover to promo pictures of the band standing around what looks like an 1800s mining town, the band really leans into their intended theme.

I saw a lot of middling-to-mediocre review for this one, and I can’t comprehend why. It was one of my most played albums this year. Every track on this album worked for me. Replacing the stereotypical frozen tundras of atmospheric black metal with something less played out (and, for me, something a bit closer to home) works in execution as well as it does in concept. The theme never feels forced, but rather like an intrinsic part of the group’s sound.

Zeal & Ardor - Strange Fruit
Zeal & Ardor
Strange Fruit

Zeal & Ardor’s debut EP, self-released in 2016 and picked up by a label for re-release last year, won me over completely. Every song worked for me, including the interlude pieces that some reviewers complained about. The whole release left me wanting more.

More came this year, in Z&A’s debut full-length. And at first… I was slightly disappointed by it. The EP had set such a high watermark for me that the album had a difficult time living up to it. And to be honest, the album never did hit those same heights with me. But measured on its own, rather than up against my sky-high opinion of the EP, it grades out fairly well. It has a few tracks that do live up to the EP. My biggest complaint is that it treads the same ground too much. Those spurned interludes from the EP have been reworked, reduced, and spread out, and aren’t as effective palette cleansers as last time. Zeal & Ardor needs to dabble in some contrasting sounds and styles to keep their bread and butter approach from sounding stale.

In the end, Stranger Fruit is still a strong album. It’s just not the great album that hopefully is still in Z&A’s future.

Beyond Creation - Algorythm
Beyond Creation
Subscribe to Season Of Mist for new releases : Taken from the forthcoming album "Algorythm". Release Date: October 12th, 2018. Order here: Lyrics: Awakening from a profound slumber Cognitive motions strive to the same encounter Slowly vanishing from the same beholder Once again you are facing these fences In these vast lands you must strive Climb the barriers to evolve and thrive We definitely need to expand the possibilities to become the heirs of what is surrounding us Complex variations, multiple designs Let the nature collide Transmitting its unique way through Find the inversion from the breach Visualise the absence of time Complex variations, multiple designs Let the nature collide Transmitting its unique way through Awakening from a profound slumber Cognitive motions strive to the same encounter Slowly vanishing from the same beholder You will return to the earth From the ground you were born Music & Lyrics by Simon Girard Guest vocals by Youri Raymond (Unhuman) Credits: Production: Rubicon Pictures & Media ( Director: Akena Co-Director: Yannick Lemos Producer: Mike Raymond Director Of Photography: Andrew Main Oster Art Director & Costume Designer: Logan Fulford Makeup & Hair: Samantha Lamothe Assistant Camera & Gaffer: François Herquel Production Assistant: Vincent Bourgon Fire Performers: Lucifire Art & Rockyval Cyberfire Safety: Julian Macias Special Thanks: Cinepool, Studio Base Bin, Le Sanctuaire De Lourdes De Rigaud, Les Serres De Vaudreuil Beyond Creation is: Simon Girard: Vocals / Guitars Kevin Chartré: Guitars / Back Vocals Hugo Doyon-Karout: Bass Philippe Boucher: Drums Follow Beyond Creation: Follow Season Of Mist:

When I first heard Algorythm, I was disappointed. The first two Beyond Creation albums were great, especially the second one. This album opens with a grandiose instrumental track that sounds like it’s about to kick off a heavy-handed concept album. And while the first real track kicks in and eases those concerns, the album eventually explores territory less biting than the searing tech-death I knew the group for. And while these progressive forays weren’t what I was expecting, I warmed to them significantly upon repeated listens. The Beyond Creation that I knew was still there, ready to rip at a moment’s notice. While overall I could do with fewer of the more pretentious flourishes, there are way too many high points here to be able to stay mad at it.

Nightmarer - Cacophony of Terror
Cacophony of Terror
Subscribe to Season Of Mist for new releases : Taken from the forthcoming album "Cacophony of Terror". Release Date: Mar 23rd, 2018. Order here: Follow Nightmarer: Follow Season Of Mist:

This group first got my attention thanks to having the drummer from The Ocean. Little did I realize what I was in for, as The Ocean provides no useful reference point here. Nightmarer comes at the technical death metal genre from a brutal death angle. In doing so, they hit a sweet spot that avoids the worst traits of both styles, making this one of the most powerful technical death albums of the year. It hits hard, and it’s absolutely one of the year’s best albums.

Bongripper - Terminal

Track listing:


I love Bongripper. There are few bands as consistent as them. Everything they release is amazing.

In recent years, I’ve found myself less captivated by purely instrumental doom/post-rock/etc than I have in the past. I used to love the stuff groups like Pelican and Russian Circles did, and I still do, but it’s not the same home-run for me as it was in the past. Bongripper, though, craft such great, memorable sections that they haven’t lost my attention one bit.

Mirrors for Psychic Warfare - I See What I Became
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
I See What I Became
Mirrors For Psychic Warfare ‘I See What I Became’ LP/CD Neurot Recordings Release date - September 28th, 2018 Mirrors For Psychic Warfare

The first Mirrors for Psychic Warfare album was interesting, but didn’t quite pull me in. This time around, they got me.

Mirrors is an industrial/dark-ambient/doom duo, one of Scott Kelly’s many side projects away from Neurosis. Here he’s joined with Sanford Parker, member of Buried at Sea (as well as Corrections House, another Scott Kelly side project). Whereas Corrections House is industrial that’s more rooted in metal, Mirrors almost gets away from metal entirely, making it an open question whether it belongs on this list, or should be classified as more of an electronic album. Whatever, my list, my rules. The mood is very doom-like. I saw one writeup describe the album as “sludge-step”.

The elements that make up the sound here are pulled from industrial and dark ambient, and are quite noisy, but with mroe conventional song structures. Scott Kelly’s whisper-groan vocals cut the harshness, adding to the dark tone but also making the whole thing much more approachable.

Mesarthim - The Density Parameter
The Density Parameter
The Density Parameter (2018) BandCamp:

This is not for black metal purists. Self-described as “cosmic atmospheric black metal”, Mesarthim is as much space rock and synthpop as it is black metal. Shrieks and trem-picked guitar compete with synth beds and sequenced melodies, then they all take a back seat to ambient passages. Similar in tone to Progenie Terrestre Pura (psst, scroll down a few spots), but with an even greater emphasis on atmospherics and electronics. Some of the sequenced electronic bits resemble dance music more than anything, pulling from ‘90s trance. It works, and nobody else is doing it, or at least not as well.

Mesarthim are, as far as I can tell, an anonymous Australian duo that operate primarily on Bandcamp (in credits, the members are each identified only as a single dot, possibly intended as Morse Code given the pair’s 2016 album, – .- -… … . -. -.-. . ). Italian label Avantgarde Music has given them some CD releases, but this is primarily a self-released affair.

Imperial Triumphant - Vile Luxury
Imperial Triumphant
Vile Luxury
Official 2018 music video for 'Swarming Opulence' from the album 'Vile Luxury' via Gilead Media and Throatruiner Records. Follow IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT: Merch: Directed by Brendan McGowan Director of Photography: Christopher Raymond 1st AC: Dan Brosman Editor: Brendan McGowan Movi Technician: Marco Silva Photographer: Alex Krauss Electric: Ittai Eshed Flying Cam: Alex Rad Flying Cam Asst: Tony Latorre Gaffer: John Kesl 2nd AD: Andi Broffman Church Liason: Carrie Quarquesso Line Prod: John C. Taylor Starring: Joshua Bess Natasha Elkington Leslie Barany Masha Stroganova Timothy Anna Jenna Carson Ludwig Colindres Makenzie Darah Jon Gomez Gilbert Molina Mijail Salazar

The last couple of years have given me lots of dissonant, atonal, avant-garde metal to enjoy. This year, not as much, but this is the exception that stepped in to fill that void.

Imperial Triumphant lives in the Gorguts neighborhood of avant-garde metal, with an even stronger jazz influence than most. We’re not talking Dave Brubeck “Take Five” jazz, though. We’re talking Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman free jazz. We’re talking John Zorn’s most dark and noisy stuff. Heavy Blog called this “The Shape of Skronk to Come”, and that’s completely on the mark.

Everything about this album is made to feel unsettling and off-kilter. Lots of odd time signatures, atonal scales, and shifts without warning. There’s a bunch of guests on this album. One track sees Bloody Panda’s Yoshiko Ohara providing her tortured screams, while another has Andromeda Anarchia providing operatic vocals that only make the quiet parts even creepier.

Best EPs/singles

Thou - Rhea Sylvia
Rhea Sylvia
From the album "Rhea Sylvia" | In stores: now A simple choice made the angels fall, a simple lie now believed by all. The sky is blue when the sun is shining, but by the light of the moon, the truth ain't hiding. As the child I'm the son of man. As the mother, clothed in the sun I am. Sanctuary for the weary soul. The life giving word that no one knows. Man is the god of earth, the answer to every question. Given to generation and birth by a God who is the man of heaven. Once there was a sun above. The only law we knew was love. Once there was a moon to glow. Once there was a way to know. Once there was a sun above.

Leading up to their full-length album, Thou released three (!) EPs, each exploring different musical influences on the band’s overall sound. The first, Inconsolable, was drone and dark ambient. The next was acoustic (FILL THIS OUT BETTER). The last and best of the three is this one, Rhea Sylvia, in which Thou channels Alice in Chains through their own sludgey filter.

If you dialed back the vocal harshness, the material could easily shine as an acoustic set played in front of a crowd of ‘90s MTV fans.

Progenie Terrestre Pura - starCross
Progenie Terrestre Pura
Toward a Distant Moon · Progenie Terrestre Pura Starcross ℗ 2018 avantgarde music Released on: 2018-06-11 Auto-generated by YouTube.

PTP’s oltreLuna was one of my favorite full-lengths of last year, and they came right back with an excellent EP.

I surmised that the lack of attention that oltraLuna received might have been from the album being entirely in Italian. Well, PTP went fully in English for this EP. Not certain if that’s going to be what they do going forward or not, but it was interesting to make that speculation a year ago and see them change that exact thing on their next release. I’m not sure it helped, as I haven’t seen a lot of attention given to starCross, but EPs always get less in the way of reviews and article coverage than full-lengths.

Progenie Terrestre Pura play spacey electronic/industrial influenced black metal. This EP isn’t as coherent and focused as oltraLuna, rather, it finds the band experimenting a bit with their approach (and not just with their language of choice).

Sleep - Leagues Beneath
Leagues Beneath
A new song by Sleep for the Adult Swim singles program. released May 23, 2018 Enjoy and support the band! I do not own any rights, all rights reserved by the band or the record company. I do not make any profit. Use adblock to avoid ads. Please support the band by buying the album. If the band or the record company wants the video to be removed please inform me to delete it.

Sleep’s comeback album has gotten all the attention, and deservedly so. But as if that wasn’t enough, Sleep snuck back onto the release calendar with a single a month later. Much like the re-formed group’s first release, The Clarity, this was released through Adult Swim’s Singles program.

At 16:48, this single is longer than anything on The Sciences. It’s slower, more drawn out than anything on The Sciences, instead recalling Dopesmoker. Highly recommended to Sleep fans, especially ones that dig Dopesmoker.

This should be combined with The Clarity for an EP release, maybe along with a third track. Both of these tracks are too good to just be floating out there as singles.

Best splits and collaborations

Thou / Ragana - Let Our Names be Forgotten
Thou / Ragana
Let Our Names be Forgotten

That’s right, more Thou. If 3 EPs and a massive full-length wasn’t enough, they finished their 2018 output with this split album with Ragana.

As good as the Thou tracks are, Ragana is the star here. “The Void” is one of the best songs of the year, despite how simple it is. All 3 of Ragana’s tracks here are winners though, continuing what they laid out on last year’s You Take Nothing. It really seems like material worth saving for their next album.

Primitive Man / Unearthly Trance - Split
Primitive Man / Unearthly Trance
Split LP w/ UNEARTHLY TRANCE is due out August 17th Pre-Order via Relapse Records Here: Subscribe to Relapse Records Channel: Official Links: Primitive Man Official Website: Primitive Man on Facebook: Primitive Man on Twitter: Primitive Man on Instagram:

Two great sludge/doom groups bring their “A” game to this split.

There’s really only one bad thing about this album: Unearthly Trance’s tracks should have gone first. Primitive Man’s material ends with a very long, quiet, drawn-out part, which really brings the album to a halt before Unearthly Trance’s tracks kick in. I imagine on vinyl, this isn’t much of a problem, but vinyl is dumb and archaic (don’t @ me) and the full album flow would have worked better if Primitive Man’s tracks closed out the entire album. I eventually got fed up and edited the track order in my Google Play account to rearrange them as such, and the album worked much better.

Flow issues aside, this is a nice bite-sized appetizer of both groups.

Stuff I Missed in 2017

Thantifaxath - Void Masquerading as Matter
Void Masquerading as Matter
First track off "Void Masquerading as Matter", to be released on November 24th through Dark Descent Records.

Google Play Music lists this as a 2018 release, and I was tempted to treat it as one, but it acually dropped in late November 2017.

Decibel Magazine called this “Toronto’s best blackened Mr. Bungle worship band”, which is a description I won’t even try to compete with. The surface style elements are all straight black metal, as is the overall tone. But musically, they take that starting point and just sprint off into different directions.

The amount of ideas packed into this 4-song, 36-minute album is dizzying.

Hell - Hell
OneManBandFuneralDoomSludgeDrone_Salem, OR. Lyrics Silence the words of warning Take your plague and drown with it Lyer, dogs of the sea remain in filth Set fire to the lamb, walk into the flames Your god will not be there Crumbling tsunami of destruction

Hell is a one-man project by a dude in Oregon that calls himself M.S.W.. The first three EPs released under this name were titled Hell I, Hell II, and Hell III. Now we get a full-length, and it is simply titled Hell. M.S.W. does not give one crap about your ability to Google search for this stuff (pro tip: “Hell MSW” will generally find it).

M.S.W. describes the theme of this project as relating to a “personal Hell”, rather than having any religious or anti-religious basis. It’s incredibly bleak, suffocating doom, living up to the imagery of the album cover. Hell will share a split LP with Primitive Man in 2019, and that’s a decent comparable band in terms of the kind of tone Hell achieves here, though with some stylistic differences. Hell achieves a more otherworldly sound, incorporating wailing vocals, violins, and a lot of sampled audio that is usually incomprehensible and unsettling. Whereas Primitive Man reminds me of human suffering in audio form, Hell is more like a scary place. Which makes the name appropriate.

Bonus Picks