Pete Woods (Editor): Top 20
A wise soul once said that “when the music’s over turn off the lights.” Well it has been far from over in 2018 a year which took off at the gallop and simply hasn’t stopped. Whether it be the big hitters or the underground rebels, albums have come thick and fast and it has been nigh on impossible keeping up with it all. Although we have tried our best ultimately things will have fallen through the gaps and the huge variety of stuff we have been listening to is clearly shown in these lists where you can find several writers all having completely different choices. Not everyone likes lists, if you don’t feel free to skip through, it is all down to personal choice and our selections are all about those albums that cast some brightness and indeed darkness through our souls during the last year. Anyway it beats the hell out of hearing about political turmoil and Brexit everywhere you look. As for that, hard-working bands need support and we can only hope touring rights won’t be affected in the coming year and the music does keep coming. Let’s keep that light shining brightly as we look forward to what 2019 is going to bring us and usher out this one, thoughts as ever with those who left us during it.
1: Amorphis – Queen Of Time (Nuclear Blast)
The 1st album I have ever given a top score to, so its position was assured. Timeless, joyous and impeccable song-craft, each and every number guaranteed to have you singing along. After 28 years these Finns are still top of their game, long may it continue.
2: Wiegedood – De doden hebben het goed III (Century Media)
Unbelievably precise and absolutely feral in execution. Belgian Church Of Ra disciples Wiegedood are one of the most exciting contemporary black metal bands around and the fact they back their ferocious sound up live showcased just how potent an album this is.
3: Marduk – Viktoria (Century Media)
Short, sharp, fiery and Viktorious from beginning to end. Marduk have never swayed from their course and have delivered a veritable blasterpiece of war, which takes no prisoners. A grim history lesson and a hellish exercise in utmost extremity.
4: Summoning – With Doom We Come (Napalm)
Mighty and mesmerising symphonic black metal, Summoning once again transport the listener to the lands and lore of Tolkien. A compelling journey it is too with dreamy harmonies and imagination at its very heart. These compositions have stayed with me from the very beginning of the year.
5: Zeal And Ardor – Stranger Fruit (MVKA Music)
Is it the blues we’re singing? Well yes with some added savage blackness. This unique marriage of ideas resulted in a near meteoric rise to fame for Manuel Gagneux and his troupe, which has been well deserved. Before long their name will be absolutely everywhere.
6: Pantheist – Seeking Infinity (Melancholic Realm Productions)
A historic and mind-melting journey through the hinterlands of funeral doom. Pantheist have always been highly regarded but the sheer scope of Seeking Infinity has found them alchemically discovering something truly limitless.
7: Vardan – Archives Of Failure IV-VI (Moribund)
Parts I-III just missed out last year delivered late December but Sicilian maestro Vardan was quick to follow up with the second batch of this massive sextet of albums at the beginning of 2018. One man black metal simply doesn’t get better and this musical auteur has for once shown quantity can mean quality too.
8: Evoken – Hypnogogia (Profound Lore)
In solemn remembrance to the fallen. This armistice release illustrated the true horrors of war with poetic hubris and massive, weighty melodicism. A work of great scope in plenty of ways, Hypnogogia is an album to both fall in love with as well as one to really make the listener think.
9: Crone – Godspeed (Prophecy)
Godspeed straight off this mortal coil. This album from Secrets Of The Moon and Embedded members told chilling apocryphal songs, each of which set up a compelling tale beautifully rendered to musical form. An aural death-scene in each and every number.
10: A Forest Of Stars – Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes (Prophecy)
Children Of The Night Soil, what sweet music they make. Like an eldritch Victoriana séance AFOS continue to haunt with beguiling and mysterious musical art-forms. A myriad of genres wrapped in a burial shroud, these tales from the tomb proved delightfully mischievous.
11: Primordial – Exile Among The Ruins (Metal Blade)
12: Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
13: Craft – White Noise And Black Metal (Season Of Mist)
14: Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind Of Horror (Metal Blade)
15: Shining – X Varg Utan Flock (Season Of Mist)
16: Sigh – Heir To Despair (Candlelight)
17: Madder Mortem – Marrow (Dark Essence)
18: Voices – Frightened (Candlelight)
19: Vanhelga – Fredagsmys (Osmose)
20: Dead Can Dance – Dionysus (PIAS Recordings)
Andrew Doherty: Top 20
1: Kingcrow – The Persistence (Laser’s Edge).
This is progressive rock at its best. Where some strive to “be prog”, Kingcrow don’t. This album has structured songs, memorable passages, magic, reflection and heavy parts. It all blends together. Perfection.
2: Nydvind – Seas of Oblivion (Malpermisata Records).
The seas are swelling and the storms are raging as Nydvind unfold their rich tapestry of epic pagan black metal magnificence.
3: Vola – Applause of a Distant Crowd (Mascot Records).
Dreamy sophistication and subtlety enrich this warm and imaginative collection of catchy songs. Vola have created an exquisite album from a mix of pop, progressive, electro, and light and dark metal structures.
4: From the Bogs of Aughiska – Mineral Bearing Veins (Apocalyptic Witchcraft). As ever, From the Bogs of Aughiska evoke the bleak and mystical atmospheres through echoing black ambience and the tradition of Irish storytelling. “Mineral Bearing Veins” warns me of forbidding, menacing places.
5: Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy (Season of Mist).
This album almost defies description as it swings between weighty slabs, progressive twists, and hints of insanity and eccentricity. There are no rules, but “Liquid Anatomy” bypasses this technicality. It works brilliantly and is totally captivating.
6: Truchło Strzygí – Pora Umierać (Godz ov War).
The title means “Time to Die”, and I can’t think of a more entertaining way of doing it. This album mixes punk hardcore fury with melodies, dark atmospheres and fun.
7: Cantique Lépreux – Paysages Polaires (Eisenwald).
Epic and icily atmospheric black metal soundscapes from Canada. Listening to this makes me want to put on a thick coat to combat the cold that comes out of it.
8: Manes – Slow Motion Death Sequence (Debemur Morti).
Atmospheric progressive experimentation from Norway. In amongst it there is a variety of soft progressive, dark electro and trip hop styles and yet accessible songs. “Slow Motion Death Sequence” is an album of great power and dark shadows.
9: Kalmah – Palo (Spinefarm Records).
Classic Finnish melodic heavy jollity in the mould of Norther and Children of Bodom. It may not be innovative but it’s rousing, catchy and energetic.
10: Cruachan – Nine Years of Blood (Trollzorn Records).
This album’s theme is the Nine Years War in Ireland and in particular the resistance led by Hugh O’Neill against the English. Unlike many albums where it is hard to link the theme to the music, Cruachan bring the story to life through interwoven rousing dark metal and celtic folk tunes.
11: Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (Nuclear Blast)
12: Inhumankind – Self Extinction (I, Voidhanger)
13. Apatheia – Konstelacja Dziur (Godz of War)
14: Temples on Mars – s/t (Primordial Records)
15: Asphodelia – Welcome Apocalypse (Mighty Music)
16: Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura (self-released)
17: Misanthropic Rage – Igne Natura Renovatur Integra (Godz ov War)
18: Deconstructing Sequence – Cosmic Progression: An Agonizing Journey Through Oddities of Space (self-released)
19: Architects – Holy Hell (Epitaph Records)
20. Hillsphere – Floresence (Layered Reality Productions)
Andy Barker: Top 20
1: Graveyard – Peace (Nuclear Blast)
Re-igniting the spirit of Hisingen Blues, Graveyard have rediscovered an energy and vitality…that no-one really noticed was missing.
2: Borealis – The Offering (AFM)
A fantastic album of Dark Power Metal, Borealis found a style, developed it and now totally make it their own.
3: Vintage Caravan – Gateways (Nuclear Blast)
A retro band that started strong, remained strong and are still strong. Every Vintage Caravan release is a lesson in how to do things right.
4: Metal Church – Damned If You Do (Nuclear Blast)
To rather egotistically quote my own review – XI was a great return, Damned If You Do is a return to glory.
5: Ayreon – Ayreon Universe – The Best Of Ayreon Live CD/DVD (Music Theories)
I find it can be very dull listening to live renditions of songs I already know, enjoyed by a crowd that I wasn’t in. However Ayreon manage to make the whole thing so encompassing and enjoyable that this is one live CD/DVD that I keep revisiting.
6: Amorphis – Queen Of Time (Nuclear Blast)
A unique band with a unique style who nowadays seem to have an ability to never make a crap album – and of course this is another damn fine one.
7: Grimner – Vanadrottning (Despot)
In an Eluveitie-free year I take my Folk-Metal where I can and it’s always a pleasure to hear Grimner stepping up with another great fun release.
8: Riverside – Wasteland (Inside Out)
Progressive, Emotive, Heartfelt and classy – That’s Riverside.
9: Dynazty – Firesign (AFM)
Whether it’s vocalist Nils Molin sharing his talents with Amaranthe or the new backing of AFM, but Dynazty have really upped their game this time around.
10: Primitai – The Calling (Dissonance)
Flying the flag for UK Melodic/Power Metal and flying it high.
11: Amaranthe – Helix (Spinefarm)
12: Beyond The Black – Heart Of The Hurricane (Napalm)
13: Visigoth – Conquerors Oath (Metal Blade)
14: Earthless – Black Heaven (Nuclear Blast)
15: Divine Ascension – The Uncovering (Vicisolum)
16: Fifth Angel – The Third Secret (Nuclear Blast)
17: Magnum – Lost On The Road To Eternity (Steamhammer)
18: Sisare – Leaving The Land (VR Label)
19: Spiral Skies – Blues For A Dying Planet (AOP Records)
20: Hexed – Netherworld (Vicisolum)
Chris Davison: Top 20
Can it really almost be the end of 2018? With a political and societal system apparently on the perpetual brink of chaos, you’d think this would have been a vintage year for our kind of music. In many respects, it has, though I have noticed that the average scores that I’d awarded albums was one of the lower that I have given over recent years. Whether that’s anything to do with the music, or more to do with me being a miserable sod it’s difficult to say!
1: The Crown – Cobra Speed Venom (Metal Blade)
So…erm…when I reviewed this this year, I said, “Iit may just be the best death/thrash album ever.” In retrospect, that was a pretty big claim. But you know what? It was right. With the exception of Deceased’s album, this was head and shoulders above everything else out there. Peak “The Crown”. Peak death/thrash. Peak damned metal. Top ten of the year? Top ten of the decade.
2: Deceased – Ghostly White (Hells Headbangers)
Like fearless undead machines, Deceased apparently cannot be stopped. With a career highlight, their own unique brand of thrashy, horror-inspired extreme metal was one so nearly the best album of the year. As it is, it was still a must-have.
3: Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back (Candlelight)
The best Orange Goblin album since “Healing Through Fire”
4: Down Among The Deadmen – …And You Will Obey Me (Transcending Obscurity)
Dave Ingram, he of ex-Benediction, Ex-Bolt Thrower and currently in…erm… countless bands unleashed this Doctor Who referencing collection of punky old school death metal. Remember when death metal was fun Look no further.
5: Crucifyre – Post Vulcanic Black (Pulverised)
To quote the original review, “I absolutely love this album. It has a wicked atmosphere, brilliantly clear, punchy and organic production, with tremendously well played music. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who likes their metal authentic, fun, dark, aggressive and melodic. Certainly the best of Crucifyre’s career. Album of the year? It’s going to take some to knock this out of my end of year list. “. It is (one of the albums of the year) and they didn’t (manage to knock it off the list).
6: Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons – The Age of Absurdity (Nuclear Blast)
I bloody love Phil Campbell. I love his guitar tone. I love the fact that he’s one of the best out and out rock guitarists ever. This album, recorded in a band with his actual sons, is a prime cut of traditional hard rock
7: Iron Reagan / Gatecreeper – Split (Relapse)
Take two great extreme metal acts into the shower? Not me, I just split and go. Because I’m worth it. Or something. We’ve got Iron Reagan being all Iron Reagan-y, but it’s Gatecreeper here who win the day. Pure early Earache Entombed meets Bolt Thrower magnificence.
8: Wytch Hazel – II: Sojourn (Bad Omen)
Less speed, but no less inspired by acts of the past, Wytch Hazel put out this great run up to their first full length platter. Warm material that straddles hard rock and the NWOBHM sound, it continued along the same path laid down on their earlier material.
9: The Skull – The Endless Road Turns Black (Tee Pee)
They sound like Trouble. Which isn’t all that surprising, though it is nice.
10: Fukpig – Bastards (S/R) Probably best summed up as “feeling quite cross about modern Britain.
11 Solstice – White Horse (S/R)
12: Dopethrone – Transcanadian Anger (S/R)
13: Line of Fire – Nothing In My Way (S/R)
14: Black Cyclone – Death is King (Gates Of Hell)
15: Unleashed – The Hunt For The White Christ (Napalm)
16: Wolvhammer – The Monument of Ash and Bone (Blood Music)
17: Conan – Existential Void Guardian (Napalm)
18: Khemmis – Desolation (20 Buck Spin)
19: Ravens Creed – Get Killed or Die (Xtreem Music)
20: Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn (Peaceville)
Sampler Spotify Best of List
Lykle Thijssen: Top 20
While 2018 has certainly been a tough year for me and my health, it has been a great year for music. Not just because I’ve joined Ave Noctum, but also due to a flood of excellent releases to satisfy my constantly shifting taste in music. This year was quite challenging in that matter, as I believe that my beloved metal and post-rock genres have stagnated and I needed to think out of the box. Fortunately, there’s a lot of amazing psychedelic music out there to fill the gap, which is reflected in the list below.
1: Lord Of The Lost – Thornstar (Napalm Records)
In the cesspool of mediocrity that is the German gothic scene, the Lords stand out like a beacon of light with their “Thornstar” album. An usually strong blend of goth, industrial and modern metal goes hand in hand with superior songwriting, great musicianship and an interesting lyrical concept. This one completely took me by surprise and now I’m an addict.
2: Mythic Sunship – Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music (El Paraiso Records)
After “Upheaval”, I thought that Mythic Sunship would be done for the year and would have a hard time creating something even better. I was wrong on both cases. “ASOPM” is an amazing journey, an instrumental adventure that blends psychedelic rock with jazz in a seamless fashion. A fantastic, experimental release by an extremely promising band.
3: Mythic Sunship – Upheaval (El Paraiso Records)
Ending in the top-3 two times, Mythic Sunship also released a terrific album called “Upheaval”. This one can be considered more into traditional psychedelic rock territory, by which Mythic Sunship prove to be true masters of their craft. Just close your eyes and drift away on epic compositions taking you on a journey through space and time.
4: Black Moth – Anatomical Venus (Candlelight Records)
If Jefferson Airplane would still be around, they might sound like Black Moth. While Harriet Hyde steals the show with her amazing vocals, Black Moth also provide powerful riffs, creative songwriting and an atmosphere longing for the good old ’70s without ever sounding outdated. Heavy psychedelic rock at its finest.
5: Morne – To The Night Unknown (Armageddon)
Heavy, heavier, Morne. With “To The Night Unknown”, Morne really put the hammer, creating a colossal album full of crushing doom/sludge. The riffs are massive, the atmosphere bleak and the overall sensation is one of overwhelming, crushing defeat. A perfect release for the darker moments in life.
6: Spiritual Front – Amour Braque (Prophecy Productions)
Fans had to be patient for years, but “Amour Braque” was worth the wait. Self-labeled as suicide pop, the music of the band around Simone Salvatori captivates, charms and intrigues the listener with a concept about love and everything that comes with it, from pain to lust and devotion to deceit.
7: Erdve – Vaitojimas (Season of Mist)
The award for best debut album of the year goes to Erdve. With “Vaitojimas” they unleashed an uncompromising beast of an album, taking influences from sludge, black metal and hardcore. Every song hits the nails and hits it hard, but the album also stands out as a whole, showing that Erdve have a very bright future ahead of them.
8: Antimatter – Black Market Enlightenment (Music In Stone)
I’ve always been a sucker for dark, melancholic rock music. However, I have also managed to ignore most of Antimatter’s music so far, which is obviously a mistake. “Black Market Enlightenment” is a great album, where heartfelt emotion goes hand in hand with high quality music.
9: Asphagor – The Cleansing (Black Sunset/MDD)
While I’m normally not too much into black metal, Asphagor caught my attention with “The Cleansing”. There’s some real quality here and I still stand behind my words in the review that I wrote: “The Cleansing” is a milestone release in modern sounding and intelligent black metal.
10: Crone – Godspeed (Prophecy Productions)
Crone is the vehicle for Secrets of the Moon frontman Sg to express himself in a different way. Less aggressive and epic, more introspective and melancholic, Crone’s second album “Godspeed” delivers high quality gothic rock music with a nice hint of blues.
11: Raven Throne – I Miortvym Snicca Zolak (Non Serviam)
12: Møl – Jord (Holy Roar)
13: Spurv – Myra (Fysisk Format)
14: Deadly Carnage – Through The Void, Above The Suns (ATMF)
15: Grivo – Elude (Holodeck Records)
16: Toundra – Vortex (Inside Out)
17: Harakiri For The Sky – Arson (AOP Records)
18: The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex (Nuclear Blast)
19: Somali Yacht Club – The Sea (Robustfellow)
20: King Buffalo – Longing To Be The Mountain (Stickman Records)
Fraggle: Top 20
Well, another year has passed and if you largely ignore what a colossal fuck up it has been in terms of the whole socio-economic aspect, 2018 has been rather successful for music. Sure, new odd phases of music surface (tattoo your face, mumble and put it on soundcloud) and some ticket prices have been rather absurd (£110+ for Metallica 28 years past their best, £110 for Manowar’s “We need money to pay our nonce’s legal fees” tour etc) and small venues are closing down in worrying amounts across the country… And of course, there’s that self-absorbed, ego-maniacal tit from America who toured to three people in 13 days, but largely, 2018 has been a solid year musically. Titans of genres have come up with the goods and here’s the 20 I’ve put forwards.
1: Sleep – The Sciences (Third Man Records)
How to break the internet in four simple steps: (1) Release your album with little/no warning, (2) sit back, (3) light up and (4) watch it all unfold. Doom titans Sleep returned where their epic “Dopesmoker” left off. Having followed the smoke towards the riff filled land, Cisneros, Pike and Roeder have blasted off into space to find even more crushing heavy tones, hypnotic rhythms and mind melting musical moments. From the infectious “Marijuanauts Theme” to the epic “Sonic Titan”, this six track is a monster of an album and it proves that when it comes down to it, Sleep doom it best!
2: Revocation – The Outer Ones (Metal Blade)
2016’s “Great Is Our Sin” was a tremendous release and it was of the quality which would require something truly significant to top. “The Outer Ones”, leaning more towards the technical death metal side of things compared to the more thrash-orientated 2016 predecessor is that quality. Modern day socio-political views mixed in with Lovecraftian mythos and some of the most solid composition you will hear this side of high-quality progressive metal created a musical beast which not even the darkest depths could contain. Ferrocious, precise and unrelenting, Revocation prove once again why they are one of the best death metal bands around right now.
3: Boss Keloid- Melted On The Inch (Holy Roar)
Boss Keloid are one of the most musically diverse bands out there at the moment. Being able to go from crunchy Clutch styled grooves to bone rattling doom bellows to 60’s psych prog with little fuss. Melodically hypnotic and infectious, vocally strong and radiating power, this heavier take on the mind-melting late 60’s brand of psychedelic prog blends in the oddities of that sound with the heaviness of modern stoner and doom, bending time, space and sound to create an album which was almost my pick for 2018 (if not for the two above coming out!).
4: Them – Manor Of The Se7en Gables (SPV)
American-German power/thrash six piece Them are back once more, continuing the story of K.K Fossor, a warlock with a tragic tale to tell. Theatrical and expressive, rich in melodic content and loaded with strong performances on all fronts, from the dynamic vocals to the technically vibrant guitar lines and the sublime bass work, it’s a fantastic record which draws the best bits of thrash and European-styled Power Metal to compliment a great display of storytelling.
5: Nervosa – Downfall Of Mankind (Napalm)
Album no.3 seems to hold a special place for many bands, it’s the landmark which sometimes catapults them to a wider scale of attention or it begins their legacy. “Master Of Puppets”, “Reign In Blood”, “Number Of The Beast”, “Agent Orange” etc. For Nervosa, this release seems like it could be the start of something huge for them. With a growing fanbase, a reputation for intense and energetic live shows and a real passion for performing, Fernanda, Prika and new drummer Luana take their breed of trans-Atlantic inspired South American thrash to a new level. Faster, more aggressive and even more intense than 2016’s Agony, there are moments where you’d mistake this for a death metal album. Thrash-Death or just really intense Thrash, it doesn’t matter in the end. All that matters is Thrash is still strong despite some people thinking it’s dying due to a band calling it a day long after they should have done!
6: At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself (Century Media)
Once again, when it comes to melodic death metal, Scandinavian acts rarely disappoint. At the Gates, one of the forefathers of this sub-genre and essential in cementing what is known as the “Gothenburg Sound” follow up “At War With Reality” with the record many fans wanted them to bring – a mix of their iconic slaughter of the soul with more elements from their darker, more melodic works. The title track alone is enough evidence of this, and as always, the band’s knack for hooks of the riff or memorable lead melody kind is as sharp as ever.
7: Aborted – TerrorVision (Century Media)
The brutal Belgian blastbeat beast returns again. Personally, it doesn’t hit quite as hard as Retrogore did, but that preference aside, it is exactly what Aborted are known for. The uncompromising and relentless musical assault is as fierce as ever, breakdowns and blasts of drums, precise bursts of guitar and bass riffs and the uncompromising fury in the vocals show a band who seem to have hit their stride and there appears to be no end to their seemingly bottomless stamina.
8: Fu Manchu – Clone Of The Universe (At The Dojo)
The legendary desert rock four piece come back with a big bang. Sweet fuzz-coated distortion, catchy grooves and a guest slot from Prog rock legend and Guitar Virtuoso Alex Lifeson all contribute to another strong showing from the Southern California stoners. Putting out their strongest release since their iconic ‘California Crossing’ at the turn of the 2000’s, the sharp grooves, punchy rhythm and slightly hypnotic spell this album weaves is hard to shrug off.
9: Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (Century Media)
Often overlooked in favour of their peers, Omnium Gatherum are a band who have always delivered consistently. Upon first hearing them on the 2007 release “Stuck Here On Snakes Way”, the aggressive yet highly melodic and atmospheric death metal outfit have always impressed me with both their consistency and their creativity. Always managing to retain their signature sound whilst managing to push their boundaries with each release. “The Burning Cold” is no different. Packed with that unmistakable venom in the vocal growls, but with a wonderfully crafted sonic landscape backing it all up and a rich atmosphere to top it off, this album manages to provide a different kind of melodic death metal intensity compared to the host of other MDM albums released this year.
10: Septic Tank – Rotting Civilization (Rise Above)
A hotbed of musical influences ranging from proto-metal and punk to grindcore all collides to form the most musically accurate take on the state of society today. There are no thinly veiled lyrical barbs here, everything is up front and very personal. Tightly controlled yet seemingly fast and loose, a high speed musical assault lays into a variety of subjects ranging from ‘millenials’ to right-wing nutjobs, all the while keeping the message loud and clear – we are all fucked!
11: Audrey Horne – Blackout (Napalm)
12: Diemonds – Diemonds (S/R)
13: Soulfly – Ritual (Nuclear Blast)
14: Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back (Candlelight)
15: The Evil – Evil (Osmose)
16: Ihsahn – Amr(Candlelight)
17: Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog (BMG)
18: Brant Bjork – Mankind Woman (Heavy Psych Sounds)
19: Gama Bomb – Speed Between The Lines (AFM)
20: Alien Weaponry – Tū (Napalm)
Gizmo: Top 20
Well I have to say that musically 2018 has totally blown me away. The sheer quality of the releases has stunned me. Old bands have produced career bests, new bands have floored me, live performances have left me picking my jaw up from the ground.
We’ll ignore the rest of the world, but heavy music is in rare health. For what it’s worth here’s my picks
1: Solstice – White Horse Hill (White Horse records)
White Horse Hill is the best epic metal since at least Atlantean Kodex’s The White Goddess. If you walk over fields listening to this you can almost feel the bones of the long dead stirring in recognition.
2: A Forest Of Stars – Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes (Prophecy)
We should cleave to those prime individualists who take a step sideways as the remaining world lines up and strides one step forward en mass towards banality, passivity and conformity. We need those who wander outside our safe preserves. We need A Forest Of Stars.
3: From The Bogs Of Aughiska – Mineral Bearing Veins (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)
They have succeeded beyond all my expectations; not just in remaining impossible to pigeonhole, but in writings songs which genuinely rise from the ambience and almost dissolve back into their black peaty waters until there is no seam between.
4: Valafar – Wolfenkind (S/R)
Fist on heart I have genuinely not heard a better death metal album all year and haven’t heard one from the UK anywhere near to this in an age. Really.
5: Chthonic – Battlefields Of Asura (S/R)
Battlefields Of Asura is certainly Chthonic’s most intense work, full gallop throughout but retaining all their ancestral character and so bright it may hurt your eyes.
6: Leather – II (High Roller)
This is utter proof that the fire still burns stronger than ever in Leather, that she is right where she should be: Out there snarling.This is the kind of record you want your heroes to make. Probably a lifetime best. Love and Dio indeed.
7: Sargeist – Unbound (World Terror Committee)
It’s Sargeist. If you like black metal, there is no excuse. None. Unbound, bloody, wrapped in cold darkness and the band they all fear. Frankly it’s peerless.
8: Junkpile Jimmy – Wants You Dead (S/R)
This is insane, gibbering blues, pills, isolation and whiskey soaked blackened death metal. Goatsnake skinned alive by a mutant mountain man and smoked over a liquor still in an attempt to summon the devil. It’s either an incoherent mess recorded as the band falls through rotten floorboards, or it’s a certifiable work of outsider genius.
9: P.H.O.B.O.S. – Phlogiston Catharsis (Transcending Obscurity)
This is the most relentless, wrong, nightmarish beautiful and intense album of science fiction horror I have heard in an age. Uneasy listening indeed.
10: Of Spire & Throne – Penance (S/R)
Sludge doom as art. Harsh, writhing and punishing. Time to do penance indeed.
11: Zeal & Ardour – Stranger Fruit (MKVA)
12: Doro – Warriors Forever / Forever United (Nuclear Blast)
13: Winterfylleth – The Harrowing Of Heirdom (Candlelight)
14: Zu93 – Mirror Emperor (House Of Mythology)
15: Conan – Existential Void Guardian (Napalm)
16: The Devil’s Trade – What Happened To The Little Blind Crow ( Golden Antenna)
17: Death Comes Crawling – Looking For Semblance (I, Voidhanger)
18: Slegest – Introvert (Dark Essence)
19: And Now The Owls Are Smiling – Desolation (self released)
20: Arrogant Destruktor – Commandments Of War & Necromancy (Total Death)
Special mentions. Firstly the stunning debut performance of Wyrdstaef at Warhorns (best festival of the year again). Watch out for Wyrdstaef, they will start to make huge waves. Same for raw black metal trio Ante-Inferno; unapologetic, in your face nastiness. And Petrichor’s return to the fray was much welcomed too.
Next year’s watch out list includes: the much needed return of Sathamel, maybe getting to hear a demo from a new UK black metal act who have lots of potential (not tempting fate by naming them but they have a helluva singer), and the general soundtrack to the world going down in flames I guess.
Mark Eve: Top 20
Once again this year I’ve decided to look back at what albums have played and enjoyed the most here at Eve Towers. I don’t care how polished, technical, progressive, wafty and album is or how high it scored…. If I only played it a coupla times then it’s not as good as one I played more. Savvy?
1: Down Among The Deadmen – And You Will Obey Me (Transcending Obscurity)
What a total blast this album is and my absolute highlight of 2017. Fun, groovy, crusty and dripping with gnarly riffs and furious d-beats. Easily my most played album of the year Rogga and Dave take a bow lads. Killer stuff!
2: Chapel Of Disease – And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye (Van Records).
Pretentious title and frankly arse cover art aside, this is the most “beautiful” death metal album I’ve ever heard (if it’s possible for a DM record to be beautiful). The Germans utterly aced it on this, their third album and shot straight to the top of the progressive DM pile. Utterly indispensable.
3: Marduk – Viktoria (Century Media)
Stripped back and rawer sounding than previous records but still at its heart a magnificent companion piece to “Frontschwein” this is Marduk at their most devastating best. It may not be the total sonic blitzkrieg of “Panzer Division Marduk” but what is? Memorable songs like the opener “Werwolf” and “Tiger I” provide plenty of fist pumping, tank crushing moments. A great album that’s always on in my gym.
4: Deicide – Overtures Of Blasphemy (Century Media)
What? Benton & crew pull off a near career best album in 2018? You bet! One of the most brutal yet catchy albums they’ve yet produced and released with minimal fanfare. If you overlooked this on release then educate yourself and get amongst it right now.
5: Just Before Dawn – Tides Of Blood (Raw Skull Records)
Imagine an old school Swedish death metal band heavily influenced by Bolt Thrower singing about war with an ex-Bolt Thrower vocalist and some of the most crushing riffs you’ll hear. Sound tasty? No problem mate, here you are!
6: Siege Of Power – Warning Blast (Metal Blast)
A crusty, punked up venomous death metal super-group featuring members of Asphyx / Thanatos / Autopsy / Infidel Reich. This debut landed with a massive bang and is an unremitting monster of an album.
7: Wombbath – The Great Desolation (Soulseller Records)
Pure Swedish death delivered by the masters. If you call yourself a death metal fan and you don’t own this then sit down in front of a mirror….have a coke (better make it a diet….look at the state of you) and have a quiet word with yourself.
8: Unleashed – The Hunt For White Christ (Napalm Records)
The Motorhead of death metal return and deliver more of exactly what you want from Unleashed. Eleven tracks of barbarous anti religious fury. Awesome.
9: Metal Church – Damned If You Do (Rat Pak Records)
Blimey….. I love Metal Church and this is their BEST album since “Blessing In Disguise” back in 1989. Mike Howe has never sounded as savage. A brilliant album by true metal veterans.
10: Judas Priest – Firepower (Sony Music)
If this isn’t on every metal fans best of the year list then they should be writing for “Just 17” or “Bunty”. Eighteen albums and nearly forty years of heavy metal dominance, Firepower showed that these metal gods are still as relevant as ever.
11: Nattravnen – Night Of The Raven (Transcending Obscurity)
12: 1914 – The Blind Leading TheBlind (Archaic Sound)
13: Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
14: The Grotesquery – The Lupine Anathema (Xtreem Music)
15: Whipstriker – Merciless Artillery (Independant)
16: Heads For The Dead – Serpents Curse (Transcending Obscurity)
17: Deathrite – Nightmares Reign (Century Media)
18: Ingested – The Level Above Human (Unique Leader Records)
19: VoiVod – The Wake (Century Media)
20: Jungle Rot – Jungle Rot (Victory Records)
Paul Maddison: Top 20
1: Hitten – Twist of Fate (High Roller)
Spanish traditional metal heavily influenced by speed metal and US power metal. This is a third release with a new line up and for me, contains everything I like about metal. The whole album delivers class, quality and maturity resulting in a true metal gem that will stand the test of time.
2: The Wizards – Rise of the Serpent (High Roller)
Another Spanish band at number 2, The Wizards mix occult rock, prog, stoner, doom, epic metal and have gone the extra mile for this, once again, a third album recorded. With the loud guitars and epic vocals, this does win the war against corporate society.
3: Manacle – No Fear to Persevere (No Remorse)
This Canadian heavy/speed metal band features members and ex-members of other bands I am very much in tune with (Gatekrashör, Hrom and Axxion). Influences range from Riot, Agent Steel and Savage Grace, a hearty bunch of bands. If you are all about metal, chains, studs and leather, Manacle will suffice and they are a band to watch in the future. Canada delivers once again, all hail Manacle!
4: Haunt – Burst Into Flame (Shadow Kingdom)
With the former 3 bands, Haunt is another band I have followed since the very beginning. This debut shows traditional metal given a modern nudge. ‘Burst Into Flame’ is up there with some of the very greatest albums in terms of albums you go revisit time and time again and remember everything you first heard and more.
5: Hypnos – Set Fire to the Sky (The Sign Recordings)
This Swedish band takes on classic rock with a modern twist, a perfect hybrid between Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, UFO and even stylistically in some parts, latter Iron Maiden. ‘Set Fire to the Sky’ hits all the right notes, it’s a smooth, sophisticated and masterful piece of music taking in classic rock and metal influences and presenting them for us lucky people in modern times. It is an album that’s had me hooked form the start, an album that never made me wince or wander.
6: Against Evil – All Hail the King (Independent)
This Indian band makes a big impression. Stylistically classic metal and EU power metal; these guys know how to make an infectious noise. Smooth and sophisticated, ‘All Hail the King’ is a fantastic statement, far beyond the reach of many established bands in this field, enjoyable from start to finish, fresh and vibrant.
7: Ironflame – Tales of Splendor and Sorrow (Independent/Divebomb)
These guys are from the USA; the singer Andrew D’Cagna writes and performs all of the material (he’s a really nice guy also!). Similar to Against Evil, this is fantastic heavy/power metal. When I saw this band (with hired musicians) perform in Germany earlier this year, I was very much impressed and justifying one of the main reasons for attending that particular music festival.
8: Candle – The Keeper’s Curse (Fighter)
Swedish heavy metal, influenced by the countries scene and famous Danish band Mercyful Fate. The artwork is stunning; the atmosphere is eerie, cool and everything in between. One of those cult releases? Who knows, I like it though.
9: Stormzone – Lucifer’s Factory (Metal Nation)
This is melodic metal from Northern Island. Stormzone have a great talent for melody, the ability to make each track as memorable as the last. The difference between these guys and others in the field is the clever inclusion of their Celtic side.
10: Wytch Hazel – II: Sojourn (Bad Omen)
Oh how times have changed, since this UK band started releasing full albums I have been impressed by the level of professionalism and growth that they have enjoyed. This album, well, it just flows from start to finish, a real surprise and an album that is warm and rewarding heralding influences of Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy, UFO and Lindisfarne.
11. Blade Killer – High Risk (M-Theory Audio)
12. Desolation Angels – King (Dissonance)
13. Striker – Play to Win (Record Breaking)
14. Accusser – The Mastery (Metal Blade)
15. Toldeo Steel – No Quarter (Dissonance)
16. Old Wolf – Faustian Mass (Independent/Divebomb)
17. Black Viper – Hellions of Fire (High Roller)
18. Darkness – First Class Violence (Massacre)
19. Artillery – The Face of Fear (Metal Blade)
20. Substratum – Permission to Rock (Independent/Divebomb
George Caley: Top 20
1: Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath (Metal Blade Records)
Following on and expanding from their debut The Revenant King Visigoth once again bring their anthem laden Heavy Metal to our ears. Catchy, fist-pumping, nerdy and yet at the same time cool this is a bulldozer of an album and I hope sees Visigoth going onto bigger and better things. So strap on your studded gauntlets and sing a long.
2: Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia Records)
As much as it pains me to say there is very little of Judas Priest’s later discography that really excites me. When I heard Firepower however I was transported back to the glory days of Priest, this is a massive Heavy Metal journey of titanic proportions that shows the band have still got it. In a way I feel like Firepower has given Priest a new lease of life and made people pay attention to their modern output.
3: Lik – Carnage (Metal Blade Records)
I’ve always enjoyed the classic Swedish Death Metal sound and so when I heard Lik I was blown away. Genuinely I haven’t heard Swedish Death Metal worship this fine since my first exposure to the mighty Bloodbath. If you like memorable, aggressive, muddy Death Metal then this is a winner. Lik are a sure fire hit and I have no doubt will become a welcome addition to many festival line ups in years to come.
4: Dakhma – Hamkar Atonement (Iron Bonehead Productions)
Progressive, Ritualistic, powerful and most importantly genre-defying Dakhma have crafted an unholy gem. Hamkar Atonement is a whirlwind of occult ideals backed up by some thoroughly bestial Blackened Death Metal. If you enjoy a dash of witchcraft infused extremity then get swept away with this masterpiece.
5: Tomb Mold – Manor Of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
Arguably one of the strongest Death Metal bands of recent years Tomb Mold prove with the Manor Of Infinite Forms why they are the best of the bunch. Desperately cavernous and riff driven this is pure Death Metal at its very best. Unique and powerful Tomb Mold’s sound is sure to ring through many speakers in years to come.
6: Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (Nuclear Blast)
It isn’t easy when a band loses such an integral member. Abbath has been like a poster boy for Immortal since their inception, yet in Northern Chaos Gods Demonaz proves he is the real mastermind. This album is overflowing with inspirational hard hitting Black Metal and is probably the best Immortal record since At The Heart Of Winter.
7: Mental Cruelty – Purgatorium (Rising Nemesis Records)
For a while my love of Brutal Death Metal laid dormant, the new age of bands in the vein of Vulvydonia and Within Destruction did little to excite me. I even tried out the likes of Infant Annihilator and yet still I couldn’t understand the Deathcore tainting of the Brutal Death Metal scene. Then came Mental Cruelty, this album changed my opinion of Brutal Deathcore for the better and has since seen me return triumphantly to my love of all things brutal.
8: Deathhammer – Chained To Death (Hells Headbangers)
I’ve always enjoyed Deathhammer’s music their brand of Black Thrash is a relentless storm of evil destruction but Chained To Death stepped things up a gear. This short, sharp punch of an album delivers Satan laden anthems to the masses whilst ultimately keeping it trve. If you want to know what real Metal is then check this out.
9: Wurm Flesh – Excoration Evisceration (Comatose Music)
In contrast to my thoughts on Mental Cruelty Wurm Flesh showed me another side of Brutal Death Metal. The side I fell in love with, Excoration Evisceration is a slab of gore drenched Brutal Death Metal wrenched straight from 2009. This is proof that not all of the scene has given into the pressure of Deathcore.
10: Necros Christos – Domedon Doxomedon (Sepulchral Voice Records)
The word epic is bandied about a lot but Necros Christos know its meaning. This lengthy composition may seem like a chore to listen to on face value but get into the meat of it and you will discover a journey like no other. Ritualistic, occult and extreme Necros Christos carve their own niche in the Metal world with this parting gift.
11: Vreid – Lifehunger (Season Of Mist)
12: Abysmal Torment – The Misanthrope (Willowtip Records)
13: Augury – Illusive Golden Age (The Artisan Era)
14: Grisly – The Spectral Wars (Xtreem Music)
15: Abhorrent Deformity – Slaughter Monolith (Comatose Music)
16: Ihsahn – Ámr (Candlelight Records)
17: Obscura – Diluvium (Relapse Records)
18: Corpsessed – Impetus Of Death (Dark Descent Records)
19: Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (Willowtip Records)
20: Bloodbath – The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn (Peaceville Records)
Matt Mason: Top 20
Looking back on my previous lists it appears I trade in clichés. The kind that past their sell by dates celebs spout at awards ceremonies. “Wow what a great year it’s been for music. So many great releases” etc etc. I have to acknowledge that I am lucky (not in life- 2018 has been a shit show). I get to review for Ave Noctum and present a radio show on TotalRock, both of which mean I get to hear things that may have otherwise gone under my radar. If you look at this list and think it looks kinda odd or that I have missed some big releases it is not an attempt to be cool or hip , just honest. If I gave summat 9 out of 10 in a review and don’t put it in my end of year list that makes me a fraud. If you decide to check out some of these that is great. I hope 2019 treats you well.
1: High On Fire – Electric Messiah (eOne)
I’m no Pikette. This is no long time fan boy talking. I have walked out of a Sleep show a couple of years ago cos I was bored (I know, I know) . High On Fire were always on my radar – I had a few albums and loved Snakes for the Divine. Then I saw them this year at Desertfest . The film was blasted from my ears and eyes and I was a convert to the Electric Messiah. This album, just like the bands live show is a sweaty monster. High On Fire have a fantastic discography. It is easy to tread water nowadays. High On Fire chose to set the H2O on fire and wade through the smoke firing off riffs and drum fills at naysayers. Long may they continue to do so!
2: Gunship – Dark All Day (Horsie In The Hedge)
Neon pink, 80’s films, catchy choruses, broken hearts, John Carpenter, Wil Wheaton. This is the sound of Judd Nelson in detention, John Cuzack holding the boombox aloft and Ally Sheedy shaking her dandruff. Feel good and melancholy simultaneously.
3: YOB – Our Raw Heart (Relapse)
Yowch! Quite how Mike Scheidt bounced back from multiple debilitating health problems and produced this masterpiece is a mystery. Heart wrenching , spirit soaring with crushing riffs this is as heavy as it gets.
4: Clutch – The Book of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music)
Feelings are split amongst diehard Clutchites over the bands 2018 release. I ain’t no Clutchite. I recognise a damn fine album when I hear one. One that can get your hips shaking and toes tapping. One that makes you want to drink cheap whiskey. Groovy! Cheers! Put Jimi Hendrix on the 20 dollar bill and Bill Hicks on a 5 note!
5: The Prodigy – No Tourists (BMG)
For me, the Prodigy had rested on their laurels and their live rep for a long while. Why the fuck not? When your back catalogue contains Experience and MFTJG you can afford a breather. Then they started releasing tracks and remixes from No Tourists and they years and extra poundage started stripping from me. I was that crazed teen throwing shapes in a sweaty club again. ‘Ave eeeet!
6: Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (Nuclear Blast)
Breaking up is hard to do . Especially when your frontman is as iconic as Abbath Doom Occulta. Having released a solo album which I thought was merely OK then covering himself in anti glory on subsequent tours I have been looking forward to Horgh and Demonaz doing the black metal equivalent of getting a boob job and a sports car and strutting about showing badger face what he was missing. Northern Chaos Gods shows that a break up and a shake up can lead to a wonderful new beginning. I look forward to some live shows (please please). All Hail the frozen North!
7: Pig Destroyer – Head Cage (Relapse)
Furious punky grindcore with textures amongst the blasts. Six years after Book Burner these boys blew the roof off with this bastard. Incendiary and catchy as crabs.
8: Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit (MVKA)
Devil is Fine could have been an anomaly . A one off transgression where people from the the arts world and Black Metal world agreed for five minutes . Stranger Fruit and the shows Zeal and Ardor played in 2018 showed that this group of talented musicians have lot more to say merging slave chants, spirituals and Satanism with extreme metal. Wonderful.
9: Moscow Death Brigade – Boltcutter (Rebel Sound Records)
Moscow Death Brigade are a clenched fist in the face of the rise of the Far Right in Russia. AntiFa is a swear word in the metal community in the UK and USA with tales of bands being targeted for things they have said or sung about or alleged to have said – or even due to the type of tanks that they put on their album covers. Hey BM you got cheap shocks from playing with Nazism for years. You best put up and shut up when people call you out on it!
Circle pit hip hop is what Moscow Death Brigade call their genre mixing up drum and bass , techno, New York Hardcore and hip hop to protest against fascists, homophobes, misogynists and anti-refugee legislation.
10: Sleep – The Sciences (Third Man Records)
Matt Pike had a busy 2018 . Two awesome albums, couple of tours and a toe amputation. Maybe take a break in 19 son. On second thoughts don’t. If he is gonna keep releasing crackers like this and Electric Messiah he best keep his mutilated foot on the peddle. So much rifffffffffffffff!
11: Barbarian Hermit – Solitude and Savagery (S/R)
12: Madball – For the Cause (Nuclear Blast)
13: Blasphamagoatachris – Black Metal Warfare (Nuclear War Now)
14: Paranoid – Heavy Mental Fuck Up (The Sign)
15: End Christian- Bach Part One (Translation Loss)
16: Black tusk – TCBT (Season Of Mist)
17: Zeke – Hellbender (Relapse)
18: An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Light of September (ConSouling Sounds)
19: Neckbeard Deathcamp – White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers (S/R)
20: Will Haven – Muerte (Minus Head)
Doogz: Top 20
This year has certainly been blessed with a wealth of quality albums across the spectrum of extreme (and not-so-extreme) music. Tech-death fans in particular have been spoilt rotten by bands who’ve shaken off the “proggy anorak” tag by crossing genre and incorporating new elements to their sound, as my two personal favourites of 2018 attest to. Indeed, such bands that transcend genre and push boundaries whilst maintaining quality should undoubtedly be held in the highest esteem, for they are showing the way for future protagonists.
At this point, an honourable mention should go to Machine Head for their own attempt at transcending genre. In a desperate bid for kudos and relevance, they threw every gateway metal trend ever conceived into a huge pot, cooking up the inconsistent dish that was “Catharsis” (Roadrunner Records). It’s perhaps a small mercy that a band capable of so much better now appear to have imploded. That said, “Bastards” wins Song Of The Year for making me cheer, cringe and laugh simultaneously.
1: Irreversible Mechanism – Immersion (Blood Music)
A highly descriptive title for the sophomore release from these Belarusian fretboard wizards. Their debut was extremely cold and clinical, so it came as a pleasant surprise to learn that they’d developed their sound into one of layered immersive soundscapes.
2: Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
It’s been a delight to see this band grow since their debut in 2013, and their third album sees them push their progressive tech-death chops further than ever before.
3: Voices – Frightened (Candlelight)
A fantastic emotional rollercoaster of an album, taking the listener on a gloriously sinister journey through despair and doubt, to eventual catharsis.
4: Primordial – Exile Amongst The Ruins (Metal Blade)
The ninth opus from Irelands favourite doom-tinged black metal outfit sees them raise the bar in consistency. Previous albums have wielded a number of clear anthems, however, with frequent shifts in both tempo and mood it’s hard to pick a standout track here, such is the quality on offer.
5: Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia)
Halford and the gang put out this quality collection of tunes very early in the year, successfully balancing their classic sound with a contemporary production, keeping them relevant (and arguably stronger than ever) almost 50 years after inception.
6: Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog (BMG)
Previous effort “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” was a patchy damp squib after the fantastic comeback that was “Black Give Way To Blue”, so it’s great to hear them back on form.
7: Red Apollo – The Laurels Of Serenity (Moment Of Collapse)
Spectacular third full length from highly underrated German post-metal outfit that take a few cues from Cult Of Luna and Neurosis, sadly their final release as they play their final shows in January before disbanding.
8: Drudkh – They Often See Dreams About The Spring (Season Of Mist)
Tenth album from this industrious Ukrainian black metal outfit boasts a more polished feel to it in comparison with earlier works, and sees them balance their renowned atmospherics with the savage undertone of their early works.
9: Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest (Nuclear Blast)
Hype aside, Behemoth have fully hit their stride with this album, incorporating more accessible elements whilst maintaining both extremity and integrity.
10: Sulphur Aeon – The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos (Van)
German Cthulu-botherers continue to make waves with their third album of unique doomy death metal, intelligent changes in tempo complementing the solid riffs and melodies, shrouded in atmosphere of dread and urgency.
11: Dirge – Lost Empyrean (Debemur Morti)
12: Madder Mortem – Marrow (Dark Essence)
13: At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself (Century Media)
14: Inferi – Revenant (The Artisan Era)
15: Bleeding Through – Love Will Kill All (Sharptone)
16: Corrosion Of Conformity – No Cross No Crown (Nuclear Blast)
17: Beyond Creation – Algorithm (Season Of Mist)
18: Ihsahn – Amr (Spinefarm)
19: Summoning – With Doom We Come (Napalm)
20: Spearhead – Pacifism Is Cowardice (Invictus)
Slavica: Top 20
Life is more interesting off the beaten tracks. The same is true for music. Obscure is good! But you probably know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading reviews on this site. So, if you’ve already listened to and are familiar with the usual suspects on this year’s best-albums-lists, give these a listen. If you like your music post, progressive, sludgy, doomy and at least a little bit experimental and weird you will enjoy each and every one of these.
1: Deadbird – III: The Forest Within the Tree (20 Buck Spin)
Humanity is digging its own grave. Deadbird lament this state of affairs on their latest album, but they do so with composure. Their sound is grandiose and gritty. It is the sound of perseverance in the face of adversity. Think Neurosis, Alice In Chains and Johnny Cash. I liked this album best because of its attitude, its authenticity, its honesty and its complete lack of showiness. Music, theme, artwork and origin all fit together and form a complete whole.
2: Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – No Tether (Birds Robe)
If you’re fed up with the same old same old in post metal/rock and looking for a band that takes things further – this is it. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving are from Australia and play post metal/rock with a strong experimental streak. I love how the music plays with chaos and how structures emerge from the seeming noise. Binary Collapse is one of the most inventive tracks I have heard all year.
3: Seven That Spells – Omega (Sulatron)
If you don’t know Seven That Spells, you should check them out. I have yet to encounter a band that sounds in any way similar. Their sound is innovative, ritualistic, psychedelic and spaced-out, but at the same time cold and sober, featuring excellent double vocals in Old-Greek. Omega is the final part of a trilogy titled The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock. The fact that the band have been asked to perform the whole trilogy in one piece at the 2019 edition of Roadburn speaks for itself. It’s too late to buy tickets, but you can still buy the record(s). The title track of the trilogy’s final part Omega is a true masterpiece lasting almost 19 minutes. Don’t be put off by the album covers (or maybe you will like them?) showing a somewhat boyish fondness for seventies porn.
4: Boss Keloid – Melted On The Inch (Holy Roar)
Medieval bard meets stoner doom band, or melodies of yore combined with massive guitar riffs and mighty vocals. When I listen to this, I see British landscapes, wind, weather and armies with weather-beaten men in my mind’s eye. I hear tales of chivalry, challenges and adherence to a code of conduct. Yes, it’s also oozing testosterone, but not in a bad way.
5: Tomaš Palucha – Čaro (Day After)
Post rock with an African/Oriental touch and a dystopian feel. The eight tracks show a vast array of influences, you can hear bits of experimental, oriental, folk and ambient music. The albums finest tracks are Ursiny and Romulus. The energetic drumming and the hint of oriental music in the guitar playing create a goal-driven, pro-active atmosphere. At times, the drumming reminds me of war drums: It is slow, but rhythmic and steady, pushing forward. The excellent guitar playing adds an additional, emotional layer to the sound and there is a mathematical precision in the execution of it all. Brilliant.
6: The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic (Metal Blade)
The music on Phanerozoic I is like the processes and the subject it seeks to portray. The album sounds monumental and heavy. Sometimes the music is massive and incredibly forceful, like tectonic plates colliding, other times it is light, like trickling water or slightly blowing wind. My favourite tracks are Ordovicium The Glaciation of Gondwana and Permian The Great Dying. The drumming on Ordovicium is absolutely mind-blowing.
7: Crippled Black Phoenix – Horrific Honorifics (Season of Mist)
A very special cover EP. The musical equivalent of standing on a hill, looking back at what has been, and looking ahead at what is to come. A moment of reminiscing, about musical influences and life in general. It covers a wide range of artists and subjects and pays tribute to the originals with a complete lack of ego. The cover versions are composed and performed in a way to enhance the meaning of the originals. CBP’s cover of No Means No’s Victory was certainly one of this year’s delights. Horrific Honorifics is great. You will like it, especially if you’re middle aged, and grew up with some or all of the bands covered.
8: Crippled Black Phoenix – The Great Escape (Season of Mist)
Music as a safe and constructive way to channel your suffering or to escape it, at least for short periods of time. Great Escape portrays aspects of the struggle of living in a society that expects you to keep on a pre-programmed path when you have decided to go against the stream. The lyrics deal with efforts to conquer fear, the threat of madness, breakdown and depression. The struggle and the suffering, and all the complex emotions included in it, like anxiety, anger, desperation, unbearable sadness, the inertia of depression, the busyness of trying to gain some ground, all are audible in the music.
9: Arabrot – Who Do You Love? (Pelagic)
This year’s winner regarding a weird sound. A rendezvous with insanity. Creepy. If you like your music unusual, your lyrics heavy with meaning and full of all sorts of connotations and connections, if you are fascinated by all things strange and bored by everything conventional, then Arabrot’s Who Do You Love will be a gold mine for you. You can imagine it like the musical accompaniment to a bizarre circus or cabaret show. It is heavy, noisy and industrial, but with a trashy tinge, and eccentric, off-key, sometimes shrieky, other times growly vocals. In one word: grotesque. Arabrot have put the grotesque to music. One of the albums highlights is certainly the terrific cover of Sinnerman, a traditional African-American spiritual song, famously performed by Nina Simone.
10: Weathered Statues – Borderlands (Svart)
This is a debut album and a very unusual cross between eighties music and post-punk. Might take some time getting used to, synth and electronica sounds are pretty dominant, but once you’ve gotten acquainted with it, you’ll love it. Think Cyndi Lauper or Siouxsie and the Banshees with a post-punk twist. The album’s lyrics deal with all the nastiness life has to offer, from betrayals to burials.
11: Misotheist – Self-titled (Terratur Possessions)
12: Hegemone – We Disappear (Debemur Morti Productions)
13: Earth Ship – Resonant Sun (Pelagic Records)
14: Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope (Holy Roar)
15: An Autumn for Crippled Children – The Light of September (ConSouling Sounds)
16: Noisepicker – Peace Off (Exile on Mainstream)
17: Kevlar Bikini – Rants, Riffage and Rousing Rhythms (Geenger Records)
18: The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices feat. Lisa Gerrard – Boo Chee Mish (Prophecy Productions)
19: Sanhedrin – A Funeral for the World (Cruz Del Sur)
20: Long Distance Calling – Boundless (InsideOut)
Martin Harris: Top 20
During the first half of 2018 I was expecting my best of the year to be loaded with death metal albums such was the glut of top quality releases that were flooding out of bands within that genre. However every genre has had a bumper year in my opinion as can be seen in my list, though the top slot has gone to a death metal album though if you have heard it you’ll know that the Germans have done something really quite extraordinary and I really would urge you to listen to it.
1: Chapel Of Disease – …And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye (Ván Records)
Quite possibly the most ground breaking record of 2018 this German death metal band continues to shatter every preconceived concept on how this genre should be played.
2: Amorphis – Queen Of Time (Nuclear Blast Records)
Yet again the Finnish masters continue to astound us with their mesmerising guitar work, sumptuous arrangements and vocal dexterity.
3: Striker – Play To Win (Record Breaking Records)
Having conquered speed metal’s high velocity shredding the Canadians set their sights on pure heavy metal utopia and completely dominate it with this astounding album.
4: Irreversible Mechanism – Immersion (Blood Music)
Utterly uncompromising this Belarusian quintet’s sophomore is absolutely staggering, an annihilating masterclass in progressive death metal.
4: The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough (Nuclear Blast Records)
There is a beauteous majesty about this fourth album from this Swedish band, the velvety guitar work, silken vocals and an effortless ease in which it all envelops you.
6: Depravity – Evil Upheaval (Transcending Obscurity)
A pulverising death metal demolition by this Australian band whose sole mission is to beat you to death with outright old school death metal.
7: Axis Of Despair – Contempt For Man (Southern Lord Recordings)
Prepare to have your entire being destroyed by this Swedish bands intense grindcore, courtesy of ex-Coldworker members. It’s as close to perfect grind as you’ll ever hear.
8: In The Woods – Cease The Day (Debemur Morti Productions)
Like their last release this Norwegian band bring you progressive extreme metal on a whole new level, they take you on a voyage through levels of sonic exploration that will leave you breathless.
9: Therion – Beloved Antichrist (Nuclear Blast Records)
Like all their releases this is completely over the top, a pure symphonic opera, a listening extravaganza like no other, that only Therion can do.
10: Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (Century Media Records)
Few acts can equal the magnificence of this Finnish acts melodic death metal, their ability to combine break neck guitar work with sublime melody is unparalleled on this superb eighth album.
11: Ancst – Ghost Of The Timeless Void (Life Force Records)
12: Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality (Dark Descent Records)
13: Unearth – Extinction(S) (Century Media Records)
14: Slaegt – The Wheel (Ván Records)
15: Visigoth – Conquerors Oath (Metal Blade Records)
16: Drudkh – They Often See Dreams About The Spring (Season Of Mist Records)
17: Unravel – Eras Of Forfeit (Testimony Records)
18: Nervosa – Downfall Of Mankind (Napalm Records)
19: Wombbath – The Great Desolation (Soulseller Records)
20: Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (No Quarter Records)
Angela Davey: Top 20
1: King Dude – Music to Make War To (Ván)
Let’s be honest, if King Dude releases an album then the number one spot on my end of year list is gone before the record’s even come out. From seeing the cover art to hearing it for the first time, ‘Music to Make War To’ did not disappoint.
2: Yob – Our Raw Heart (Relapse)
I didn’t think I could possibly enjoy a Yob album as much as ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’, however, ‘Our Raw Heart’ is absolutely stunning. Wrought with emotion and crushingly heavy in all the right places.
3: Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses (Sargent House)
This was a surprise for me. I’ve always really enjoyed Emma’s music, however, this album set up camp in my head upon first hearing it and refused to leave. I still find myself humming ‘Darkhorse’ three months later.
4: Uniform – The Long Walk (Sacred Bones)
My knowledge of Uniform was pretty sparse until I heard their collaboration with The Body (see spot 5), however, this album blew me away. I don’t think a band has ever managed to make me jump before, however, the opening of ‘The Long Walk’ hit me like a jolt of electricity.
5: The Body & Uniform – Mental Wounds Not Healing (Sacred Bones)
This collaboration is so cathartic – the musical equivalent of driving to the middle of nowhere and screaming until your lungs give out. If I’m having a bad day or feeling stressed ‘Mental Wounds Not Healing’ goes straight on and I feel instantly better.
6: The Dark Red Seed – Becomes Awake (Prophecy Productions)
I had a feeling that Tosten Larson was destined for great things the first time I saw him perform live with King Dude – ‘Becomes Awake’ proves I was absolutely right; like a hybrid of Nick Cave and Wovenhand.
7: Thou – Magus (Sacred Bones)
What a year it’s been for Thou – if I could have included each of the EPs they’ve released in 2018 too then I absolutely would. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new album since the release of ‘Heathen’ and ‘Magus’ is everything I wanted and more.
8: The Body – I Have Fought Against it But I Can’t Any Longer (Thrill Jockey)
I love the fact that The Body invited other musicians to do their own interpretations of their songs – I love that the end result sounds more horrifying than anything I could possibly have imagined. I loved this album.
9: Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope (Translation Loss)
This was initially a tough listen for me. Songs such as ‘Revenge Porn’ resonate with me on such a personal level that I found it difficult to hear without tearing up. However, I have nothing but admiration for a band who are so willing to raise awareness of such important topics. The fact that it’s so well written and played is just an extra added bonus.
10: Author & Punisher – Beastland (Relapse)
This is the wildcard entry for me. I’ve always loved Author & Punisher, however, the industrial genre as a whole is one I tend to steer clear of. Tristan Shone crafts each of his records with such meticulous care that it’s impossible not to enjoy.
11: Bongripper – Terminal (Great Barrier)
12: Mantar – The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze
13: Conan – Existential Void Guardian (Napalm)
14: Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse (Century Media)
15: Svartidauði – Revelations of the Red Sword (Ván)
16: The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir (Relapse)
17: KEN Mode – Loved (Season of Mist)
18: Sleep – The Sciences (Third Man)
19: Dylan Carlson – Conquistador (Sargent House)
20: Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia)
Johnny Zed: Top 10
1: Primordial – Exile Amongst The Ruins (Metal Blade)
Spurred by the notion of “the loss of our spirituality and our suicidal headlong journey into amoralism and decadence”, Primordial’s latest album is raw, passionate and grand with an unrelenting urgency that confirms their status within metal.
2: Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals – Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue (Season Of Mist)
The band’s second outing finds Anselmo in furious form. Full of rage and angst, the veteran front man steers his band through a mesmerising, powerful statement of intent.
3: Witchsorrow – Hexenhammer (Candlelight)
The power trio take another great leap forward with classic sounding doom. Gut churning riffs with moments of joyous head banging aggression, this is stamped with scorn and angst as they take us on another trip into hellfire and damnation.
4: Noisepicker – Peace Off (Exile On Mainstream)
Rooted in the blues but pumping with garage punk intensity, this is a gritty exploration cleverly crafted and delivered with passion. This could well
be blues for a new generation, such is the honesty and abrasion of the album.
5: Desert Storm – Sentinels (APF Records)
The Oxfordshire sludge outfit manage to conjure heavier and darker tones on their latest release. They still have that irresisitable groove but there’s a new found maturity that gives them a brooding, menacing edge.
6: Towards Atlantis Lights – Dust Of Aeons (Transcending Obscurity)
A stunning piece of art, grand in scale and delivered with finesse. Combining doom moments with plenty of progressive elements, this is a lesson in
controlled restraint that constantly challenges the listener.
7: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard / Slomatics – Totems (Black Bow Records)
A compelling split release kicked off with the trippy heaviness of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard who are in fine form. Beautifully complemented by the bombast of Slomatics, the album ebbs and flows creating a boundlessness that’s all too easy to lose yourself in.
8: Vintage Caravan – Gateways (Nuclear Blast)
The Icelandic band go from strength to strength as they continue to explore classic hard rock and proto metal sounds. Full of energy and with an abundance of
swagger, this marks another step in their upward trajectory.
9: Satan’s Satyrs – The Lucky Ones (Riding Easy Records/Bad Omen)
Bolstering their signature sound with a second guitar, this is pure heavy metal escapism. The familiar greasy and gritty feel is still there combining garage grit and glam rock glory.
10: Lucifer- Lucifer II (Century Media)
The proto doom of their first release on which Gaz Jenning’s footprint was writ large has made way for a more classic heavy rock sound. Nicke Andersson’s involvement has given them a different sort of shine but it’s those beautiful vocals from Johanna Sadonis that continue to steal the show.
Spenny Bullen: Top 10
I don’t know about my fellow scribes, but for me this has been a good year for music. Veterans like Judas Priest and Saxon have produced albums that will become future classics and are playing to resurging crowds; newer acts like Vintage Caravan, Graveyard, Lucifer and Blind River have released blues inspired hard rock albums that would stand up against the likes of Bad Company; the thunderous riffs of High on Fire’s Matt Pike have pissed all over the lazy by the numbers noodlings of Sleep’s Matt Pike; and Ghost are continuing their journey towards being future festival headliners. So, with all that going on, what are my top choices? Here you go..
1: Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back (Candlelight Records)
The boys are back in town, and with this album they prove themselves to be the hard drinking, hard rocking, rabble rousing bastards they were born to be. Of course this was going to be number 1.
2: Corrosion of Conformity – No Cross No Crown (Nuclear Blast)
Fans have been longing for Pepper Keenan to return to the fold, and the result did not disappoint. As angry and articulate as ever, here’s to many more.
3: Mos Generator – Shadowlands (Listenable)
This is music played with a passion and skill that is rarely matched. Tony Reed is a man who has immersed himself in classic hard rock, and brought forth a sound that is both modern and timeless. Just fantastic.
4: Church of The Cosmic Skull – Science Fiction (Kozmik Artifactz)
Throw together the occult rock of Blue Oyster Cult, the pop hooks of Supertramp, and the musicianship of ELO, and you’ll have a starting reference point for this band. Even better live than on album, here’s hoping their following continues to grow.
5: Black Moth – Anatomical Venus (Candlelight Records)
A band I have always enjoyed, Black Moth have upped their game even further with the addition of the incendiary guitar work of Fed Gialanze to their ranks.
6: The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Double Negative (Leather Apron)
Yes, they have comedians in their ranks, and yes, you can take their songs as jolly japes, but these Queen Victoria hating punks know how to play and write songs to make you think when you’ve finished having fun.
7: Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker)
Most other years this slice of excellence would be number one on my list. Number 7 is not a reflection of any lack of brilliance, rather a reflection of how good a year 2018 has been for music for me.
8: Monster Magnet – Mindfucker (Napalm Records)
Dave Wyndorff has clearly beaten his chemical demons with this slice of raw energy, his new found fire and joy for life playing through each track and blazing brightly on stage too.
9: Spider Kitten – Concise and Sinister (S/R)
Any album where the title is practically a review, Spider Kitten continues to defy pigeon holing, and just continues to produce fantastic music.
10: Windhand – Eternal Return (Relapse)
Classic crushing riffs and a bludgeoning rhythm , but lifted to a new level by the mystical vocals of Dorthia Cottrell. An essential addition to any Doom collection.
Stuart Carroll: Top 10
1: Turbonegro – Rock N Roll Machine (Universal)
With Tony Sylvester fully integrated into the camp, the Oslo Deathpunks deliver their best album since ‘Scandinavian Leather’.
2: Therapy? – Cleave (Marshall Records)
The perennial noise merchants do it again. Infectious riffs, great hooks, and killer songs. Vital and thought provoking angst in under 33 minutes.
3: Limb –’Saboteurs of the Sun’ (New Heavy Sounds)
A conceptual proggy/stoner/doom riff-fest with great tunes aplenty. Utterly Brilliant.
4: The Damned – Evil Spirits (Spinefarm Records)
Great songs, and vocal performances from Dave Vanian make this a must. (…if you can forgive Visconti’s parping horns).
5: The Antichrist Imperium – Volume II… (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)
Multifaceted blackened death metal for your Satanic pleasure. Proving that the first album was no fluke.
6: Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse (Century Media)
After the overindulgence of ‘The Wild Hunt’, Watain go back to basics with this short, sharp, shock.
7: Hank Von Hell – Egomania (Headbangr)
His former bandmates may be sitting pretty at number 1, but I’m sure Hank don’t give a toss, he’s got a kick-ass rock & roll record of his own.
8: Shroud Of Satan – Of Evil Descent (Sol Records)
Continuing the German bands tradition of delivering demonic declarations of brutal filth and fury. Mighty fine black metal.
9: Funeral Winds – Sinister Creed (Avantgarde)
Dutch black metal that doesn’t fuck about.
10: Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy (Century Media)
Benton gets his groove back! Making this the best Deicide album in 12 years.