I may be a bit late on my best of list but sometimes life gets in the way. There was also a ton of incredible stuff put out last year and trying to filter through it all can be a bit taxing. In terms of what I enjoyed it was more on the extreme side as per usual but I feel I paid more attention to black metal more than previous years. In terms of grindcore, I felt there wasn’t as many albums this year that really stood out to me as it seems bands focused on splits and EP’s. As far as death metal, the past three or so years have been incredible and this year had some of solid stuff with some bands releasing their debut albums. Below is a list in no particular order of stuff I really enjoyed in 2018 as well as some honorable mentions.
Portal should be familiar to those into extreme metal, but I often times feel they are vastly underrated compared to other bands. The black/death hailing from Brisbane, Australia have had several albums and continue to push the envelope of extreme metal. ”Ion ”continues with their otherworldly sound and may be their best release. The band uses long build ups and tension to keep the listener on edge at all times. The production is dense but the playing is loose and matched with the technical and dissonant riffs, its easy to get lost in what most would call a “wall of noise”. But Portal is rewarding to those who listen multiple times and having gone back to this album over theyear I continue to get lost in the aural chaos and discover new sounds and riffs I didn’t notice before. This is not music for most people or metal fans but if you are able to digest this even for a minute, it is worth checking out.
Australia pumps out some of the nastiest music in the world and Rawhead does just that. Filthy goregrind from members of Contaminated, Incinerated, Pregnancy, and countless others, Rawhead is reminiscent of bands like Last Days of Humanity and Mortician but more brutal. Last year I put Incinerated on my end of the year list and if you were a fan of that you will love this. The guitar and bass are tuned to Z and crush everything while the drums cut through perfectly. The vocals are pitch shifted but have a very nice wet sound and are on top of the mix enough to where they don’t overpower the songs but still remain present. This album is chock full of blasts and grooves and this band should be on your list of bands (along with all these members other projects) to keep an eye out for in the coming year.
With their debut album Outer Heaven proved that death metal is as strong as ever. Focusing on grooves and tone, Outer Heaven capture everything I love about grimy death metal. Outer Heaven does a lot of d-beat style riffs along with some more standard swedeath style tremolo riffs. Its not revolutionary but its done just right. The production reminds me of Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel, especially the song Sacrificial Evolution. ”Realms of Eternal Decay ”is a standard in modern death metal and I cannot wait for new material from them in the coming years.
Another debut album coming in like a wrecking ball, Infernal Coil’s Within A World Forgotten is a fantastic blend of atmosphere and hard hitting riffs. Infernal Coil adds a lot of variation to their songs and keep it fresh the entire time. The first half ends with a nine minute track 49 Suns, very different compared to the intro Wounds Never Close which clocks in at under 2 minutes. Very few black/death bands can do as much as this band is doing and have it flow from start to finish with no hiccups or missteps. If you have been meaning to give the more bestial side of black and death metal a listen, this is a great first step.
Antimoshiach is an album that took me by surprise. So much black metal nowadays is about atmosphere and droning riffs, to hear something like this blew me away. Antimoshiach reminds me of earlier black metal bands like GBK, Mortuary Drape and Master’s Hammer but unique in its own right. The riffs and melodies are memorable and catchy. Hearing the bass cut through and add to the songs as opposed to being buried gave these tracks a lot of life. The vocals are raspy but powerful, they have a sort of commanding presence to them and the guitars aren’t overblown with distortion. Everything about this album is on point and worth checking out if you like any era of black metal.
On my list are a lot of debut albums but with black metal outfit Cosmic Church we get a final album as the Finnish one man band had announced its finish in 2017. Luckily we were able to get the incredible Tayttymys in 2018. I’m not a big fan of the Scandinavian styles of black metal but Cosmic Church is able to take that sound and create something beautiful. The second track Armolahja might be one of my favorite black metal songs, combining great melodies between the guitars and keyboards while throwing in some great drumming and vocals. Production wise it is a bit muddy sounding but it works well for the sound this is going for. Everything is present in the mix including the bass and the keyboards are loud enough to where they can take emphasis but not overpower the songs. While I am disappointed there will be no more from this project, I am hoping Luxixul Sumering will drop some new music with another project in the future.
On the heels of their last album, Tomb Mold came smashing through the doors with another album of slimy death metal and it doesn’t disappoint. It took me several listens to get into the sound as it is more polished than their previous release, but this album is a step in the right direction. Hearing this band drop 2 albums seemingly one right after another had me worried this would be slopped together but the melodies and song structures are better. The production being better means a thicker guitar tone as well as some great sounding drums. It’s fairly similar to the last album with the biggest improvement for me being a louder vocal mix. With another album coming out this year, we are at the mercy of Tomb Mold.
Having never heard of them before listening to this album, Hissing really grabbed my interest within the first song more than most bands had in 2018. Musically I would say they are similar to bands like Portal, Knelt Rote, and later Gorguts. They aren’t afraid to slow down and break the song apart before come crashing back with jagged riffs and plodding blast beats. The incorporation of harsh noise in songs and as minor interludes added to the desolate atmosphere they were crafting. The drumming is creative and fill heavy which gives the songs an off-kilter feeling. Everything about this band is what I want when it comes to modern death metal bands.
Imperial Triumphant pushes black metal into almost unknown territories with Vile Luxuries. Combining jazz, ambient and lounge among others with black metal seems totally ridiculous but IT truly has a sound unlike no other. Songs like Mother Machine and Chernobyl Blues create this dark and hazy atmosphere that is rare to find in black metal. Most of the time when I hear of metal bands incorporating jazz its a turn off because it usually just means clean guitar. With Imperial they really embrace it with the drummer even playing with a traditional grip as well as unconventional metal instruments like trumpets and trombones. This band hits home with the conceptual ideas of the album and live they put on one of the best performances of any band I’ve seen. This is an incredible release whether of not you like metal.
With so many death metal bands jumping on the old school train in the last 5 years a band like Horrendous is a breath of fresh air. Well there is obvious influences from older bands such as Pestilence, Death and Cynic among others, Horrendous has pushed forward the last few years and carved out their own sound that is unique and exciting. Idol shows the band’s ability to create progressive soundscapes without sacrificing their original death metal sound. Songs like The Idolater showcase the prominent bass and epic guitar melodies and leads. There is even some clean singing on the song Devotion (Blood for Ink) which don’t feel out of place whatsoever. The vocal performance is solid overall with Damien Herring and Matt Knox having a more raspy style reminiscent to Chuck Schuldiner in the later Death albums. While some people may gripe about progressive elements taking up to much of the album, songs like Divine Anhedonia and Soothsayer that have plenty of solid death metal riffs. While I love some filthy death metal it does get old after a while, and being able to hear a band like Horrendous play some exceptionally well crafted songs that still carry that raw essence while offering something more than blast beats and double bass sections really rejuvenates my love for the genre.
Ulthar – Cosmovore
Evoken – Hypnogagia
Scorched – Ecliptic Butchery
Knelt Rote – Alterity
Forn – Rites of Despair
Warfuck – This Was Supposed to Be Fun
PLF – Jackhammering Deathblow of Nightmarish Trepidation
Suffering Quota – Life in Disgust
Genocide Pact – Order of Torment
Heinous – The Basement
I’m hoping 2019 will further bring death metal and extreme music to more audiences than the previous years. Some bands will be dropping their sophomore releases in the next year or two and its hard to imagine how some bands will progress. I can only hope we can avoid bands getting tired and putting out generic and mundane sounding releases and figuring out how they can progress while staying true to their sound. With bands like Tomb Mold, Outer Heaven and Horrendous, I’d say the future of death metal and metal in general is looking pretty good.