Articles : Metal Obsession’s Best Albums of 2018 (So Far)
Well, here we are again. Now at the crossroads of 2018. What a year it has been thus far. Not only for the multitude of fresh releases from both local and international artists but also the tours that are coming in abundance across the remainder of the year.
Metal Obsession has gone through some changes with its writers over the past couple of months. However, much like every other year, we asked them what their top albums were for the year so far. So without further ado, here are the top 5 albums for 2018 (so far) from some of Metal Obsession’s contributors, both new and old.
LLNN – Deads (Pelagic Records / Nerve Gas)
There was not an inkling of doubt in my mind that this would be at the top of my list from the moment I listened to it. A crushing delivery from Denmark’s LLNN, their latest offering to the world is an absolute stunner. Combining the best elements of doom, sludge, post-metal and synth, the raw intensity of this record will draw you in with it’s shattering riffage, layers of ambient drones and powerful rhythms. Groove-laden, aggressive song structures and fierce vocals don’t even begin to define the sheer density of this band’s incredible musicianship. Sinking my teeth into this album is one of the best things I’ve done so far this year.
Sunnata – Outlands (Independent)
Possibly one of the most unique albums I’ve heard this year is from Polish doom/sludge metallers Sunnata and definitely one of my favourites. With the release of their latest album ‘Outlands’, comes the kind of class and incredible artistry that the band is known for. Heavy, filthy doom with a side of psychedelic grunge would probably be the best way to describe Sunnata’s sound dynamic on this one. Musical nature aside, this album definitely showcases the band’s growth and evolution from past releases and their amazing, versatile compositions. It’s an aural treat from start to finish as the band takes you on an epic, mind-blowing journey of the finest doom metal in all the land.
Mesarthim – The Density Parameter (Independent)
This band can do no wrong in my eyes (and ears). Every piece of music they create is beyond magnificent, exhibiting the niche that they have carved out for themselves in the world of metal. The ominous cosmic black metal post-rock band (yes, all of those are necessary), released yet another remarkable record this year or should I say, just dropped it out of nowhere. The gloomy, ambient soundscapes continue as a signature element of Mesarthim’s music but with more atmospheric black metal tones and believe it or not, a hint of electronic and synth-pop in there, something that I’d only trust this band with making it work. The melodies interwoven in amongst the elegant chaos of Mesarthim’s latest release will undoubtedly give you an almost spiritual experience; let it consume you.
I fell in love with this band immediately when I heard their now re-issued debut album ‘Ofnir’ as well as the raw, unrelenting sounds of LIFA; dreamy, hypnotic and absolutely magical. Heilung’s journey to the current day is remarkable; their first ever live performance as a band was at Castlefest in 2017 which was recorded live and is also now re-issued by Season of Mist as a live album, this very fact had me from day one. If I attempt to describe the music of Heilung in this little paragraph, I will fail miserably, for it is impossible to put into words what the band makes me feel. But out of respect, the ritualistic glory, shamanic rhythms, ancient languages, war cries, groans and humans interwoven with powerful, otherworldly female vocals; I’ve never heard anything like it. The addition of natural and more realistic elements, such as bird calls, crackling of embers, water and the pure sounds of Mother Nature brings forth the majesty of Heilung. It is a sonic experience of a different kind, one that I can guarantee you will find and hear, nowhere else.
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (MVKA Music)
Manuel Gagneux and his black metal combined with African American spiritual music project come back this year with yet another stellar release called ‘Stranger Fruit’. Strange as it may be, it is indeed a series of diverse, ominous sounds that will have you hooked right from the start; you never know what to expect but therein lies the sheer beauty and genius of the album and Manuel’s artistry. The album conveys a strong, powerful message through its brilliant songwriting, instrumentation and musicianship. Grim, eerie yet enchanting, it emanates a certain charm and art-horror vibe which is not only captivating but also addictive. What Zeal & Ardor have created here is nothing short of a masterpiece.
2018 is only halfway done but I’m already drowning in quality heavy releases. This year, even more so than usual, I’ve been finding a lot to like in some lesser known bands on smaller labels;
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
The debut full-length Canada’s Tomb Mold is an absolutely savage release. For me, it’s a perfect blend of old school brutal death metal, with slight hints of progressive elements to keep me entertained. I love the early 90’s style production on this release – It gives the music an authentic soul which I find lacking in some of the death metal released in today’s day and age. Just a great album in general, and arguably my favourite release in 2018 so far.
Depravity – Evil Upheaval (Transcending Obscurity)
Ripping debut from Perth’s Depravity. Evil Upheaval is getting a lot of press around the world and for good reason too. Evil Upheaval is death metal as it was originally intended and captures the same blend of controlled chaos and malicious intent which was captured on Morbid Angel’s early work. Make no mistake, this album is just as technically proficient and polished as a major label death metal release, but contains a level of legitimate fury which is uncommon in today’s day and age. Whilst Depravity will clearly appeal do die hard death metal fans with a penchant for the old school, I have no doubts that this album will be well received by fans of newer death metal styles too.
Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties (Transcending Obscurity)
Morbid Majesties is an absolutely savage release which has an old-school, Scandinavian death metal soul paired with modern sounding production. It’s the perfect package for fans of old school death metal in 2018. The razor-sharp guitar tones and frantic drums invoke the likes of Grave and Entombed. The beastly gutturals from Markus Makkonen (ex-Hooded Menace) are diverse and blood-curdling, ranging from Demilich style burps and gargles to much more familiar death metal vocal techniques. Sadistik Forest is flying the flag for death metal in a big way with this release.
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages (Century Media Records)
A Complex of Cages is a brilliant album from the Finnish progressive supergroup Barren Earth. I really enjoy the unique clean vocal style of Jón Aldará which adds a point of interest alongside the instrumentation which varies from progressive rock to forlorn doom, to folk metal, death metal and beyond. I find myself going back to listen to A Complex of Cages time and time again – if that’s not the sign of a quality album I’m not sure what is!
Boss Keloid – Melted on The Inch (Holy Roar Records)
U.K’s Boss Keloid have created a damn addictive release with Melted on the Inch. Think smatterings of sludge, psychedelia & prog blended with modern songwriting of the likes of like System of a Down and Queens of the Stone Age. I even hear a bit of Tenacious D in the vocal delivery. Whatever the case, this album is a very easy and enjoyable listen and is clearly one of the best albums I’ve stumbled across this year.
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology
Filthy Young Impalers – Pattern Blue
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know my Name
De Profundis – The blinding light of faith
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Morality
Doing this list has shown me that I’ve become who I’ve always hated and been confused by; someone who likes slow, doomy songs that take their, meandering thoughtfully between melancholy and smashingly heavy. I’m honestly disappointed in myself; listening to all the tracks highlighted just how fucking similar they are, and how much Sectioned is just the death rattles of my 20’s as I choke out one last ditch effort to stay up to date with what those damn kids consider “rockin’!”
Disclaimer: I was never wrong. Slow music has just gotten better.
LLNN – Deads (Pelagic Records / Nerve Gas)
I’ve already written about these guys. This is the album of the year. Listen to this track, then the song Appeaser, then the whole thing front to back 9 times in a row like I did. If you don’t like it you’re a tasteless hack, or me from 4 years ago. Just give it room to breathe you impetuous glowstick of a human, fucking hell.
Rolo Tomasi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (Holy Roar Records)
It’s always nice when a band you’re a massive and longtime fan of releases their “evolution” album. Sometimes you get lucky and a band releases a bunch of them over the years, each one better than the last. I feel like this is what Rolo keep doing; every album is just more definitively “them”, and on Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, they’ve managed to synthesize their sound into a drug so potent, which brings so much joy, it would be banned by the Australian Classification Board if it was put in a video game. They’re a mix of epic synth driven doom, mathy-hardcore, and just… nice rock? Like most of these releases, each song is better in context.
Sectioned – Annihilated (Independent)
This is what Dillinger Escape Plan fans sound like when they start juicing and counting their macros in their final year of high school. It’s tough as fuck, groovy, slamming “hardcore” with the slightest hint of mathy nonsense, but not enough that the jock would call you “gay” and kiss the girl you’re crushing on in front of you. That guy is in middle management now, what a fucking loser.
MOL – Jord (Holy Roar Records)
MOL has that strikethrough in the “O”, which I don’t know how to find on my keyboard. If I didn’t like them, I’d find some way to tie that to “not finding the reason for this bands existence.” But luckily I do like them, just not their genre. They’re a part of that new melancholic, positive Black Metal, that was unfortunately started by the style’s worst proponents, Deafheaven. MOL, however, take everything I don’t like about Deafheaven (namely, not being good) and bin it. In the words of Lochlan Watt, it’s “Deafheaven with teeth.” I’d add to that and say it’s Deafheaven with a point.
Conjurer – Mire (Holy Roar Records)
Fuck you, don’t make me choose. These are both solid second places in the “Doom Metal Mitch seems to like these days,” and both have been ruined by LLNN dropping around the same time. Listening to both of these bands after mainlining LLNN for a month is kinda like reaching into the fridge for the orange juice, and accidentally smearing butter all over your body. It’s still good, but it’s entirely the wrong time and place for it, and you can’t really appreciate it right now.
In a fake retrospect, because I thought of this gag in the article’s first draft, I really should’ve put this section first so you could enjoy these two bands, and then marvel at LLNN. But fuck you, suffer along with me. Sometimes AOTY lists are a pain. Conjurer wins this by a hair.
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (Caroline Records)
A band I only heart for the first time this year has put together their finest record to date. Providing their most complex, progressive and adventurous songwriting effort. If this is where their sound is going then I very much am looking forward to what they do in years to come. Even the programmed drums on the album sound a lot more organic than those they have had in the past and thus adds to dynamics of the album.
Lago – Sea of Duress (Unique Leader Records)
I’m a sucker for death metal which is slightly uglier and more evil, so naturally when I first heard the comparisons of Lago to heavyweights such as: Morbid Angel and Immolation I knew I was going to likely enjoy their music. Sea of Duress has all those elements, but with a more black metal edge and modern feel which is always good for a band in staying relevant. Highly recommended for fans of Morbid Angel and Immolation.
Drudkh – Їм Часто Сниться Капіж (They Often See Dreams About The Spring) (Season of Mist)
Among the most consistent extreme metal acts over the past 30 years are Drudkh from Ukraine. Strictly a recording project who do not play live (something which has always frustrated me, as they would be an amazing band to watch live) have released their 11th full length which is another fine addition to their discography. The album is an upsurge of emotions riding on a bleak yet chaotic wall of atmosphere.
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality (Century Media)
The third full length from these Californian death metal maniacs offers their most mature effort with a multitude of riffing which is full of character and an old school feel to penetrate the modern production. A vocal style which could be referred to as a more restrained version of Obituary‘s John Tardy and a production in which Dan Swano was used just further enhances the feel of the music.
Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia Records)
Metal Gods Judas Priest released yet another record this year and still prove to be at the top of their game even though having to deal with the departure of Glen Tipton due to Parkinsons Disease. Firepower is their 18th full-length album and offers some of their strongest material to date with such songs as: Never The Heroes, Lightning Strike and Spectre. Priest proving yet again that much of metal is in the art of the riff and Rob Halford still showing those vocal chops which have held him in such high esteem.
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (Nuclear Blast Records)
One of the most anticipated releases of the year in black metal circles, Northern Chaos Gods marked the “return” of Norway’s Immortal after Abbath’s departure and the remaining duo delivered a mindblowing album. From start to finish Northern Chaos Gods does not compromise intensity, technicality, or atmosphere. Depending upon which aspect of Immortal’s sound appeals most, some tracks speak to the fast, violent sound of Pure Holocaust era, others to the more textured Sons of Northern Darkness approach. Overall, Northern Chaos Gods is seeped in Immortal history and legend as well as opening a new chapter for the band that contains tracks sure to be ongoing black metal classics.
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (MVKA Music)
Zeal & Ardor is a quirky, unique project that undoubtedly fills a niche I didn’t know I needed filling until I heard the debut album Devil Is Fine. Stranger Fruit took the Zeal & Ardor concept to the next level; darker, more haunting, greater extremes of both the black metal and gospel sound that is sought to fuse. Working with infectious use of rhythm and themes of the underworld and black magic, Stranger Fruit was an intense experience and a captivating album.
Atra Vetosus – Apricity (Immortal Frost Productions)
Apricity is the second full-length album from Atra Vetsosus, a Tasmanian melodic black metal band that has been steadily rising to well-deserved acclaim. With Apricity, Atra Vetosus have harnessed the otherworldliness of nature-inspired atmospheric black metal while retaining the textured dynamics of their original melodic influence. While the tracks are generally slightly longer, richly nuanced compositions create a seamless flow through the album’s length and broad emotional palette. Apricity is an immersive and darkly profound release.
Portal – Ion (EVP Recordings)
Australia’s masters of extreme sonic dystopianism Portal have produced four densely inhospitable albums, and Ion at number five to me showed Portal flexing a different set of strengths. More prominence was placed upon speed and technicality than previous releases, with slightly less forebodingly nightmarish listenability but similarly complex and detailed song structuring and dizzying proficiency which was granted more visibility with marginally brighter production. I found Ion a refreshing interpretation of Portal’s sound while still retaining the raw and harrowing aesthetic, and ultimately produced a typically ‘Portal’ result of creating a kind of twisted universal sensibility out of substructural fractal-like chaos.
Marduk – Viktoria (Century Media Records)
Despite the controversies surrounding Swedish black metal band Marduk and their penchant for militaria of WWII, Viktoria is a solid album that demonstrated a few moments of stylistic inventiveness from Marduk, the pre-circulated single Werewolf being the most profound example, alongside their standard unrelenting sound that fans have come to expect. At album number fourteen, Mardukbringsg their notorious fire and unapologetic attitude to narrating the harshness, aggression, and despair of war.
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Kataklysm – Meditations
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Direblaze – Smelted Reformed and Doomed (Independent)
So long as Jimmy and the lads in Melbourne’s Direblaze are around, speed metal will never die. Three high quality slabs of original material and an old school Slayer cover comprise Smelted Reformed and Doomed, an EP that would make Saint Hanneman proud. Fantastic driving music.
Among Them – Coming and Going (Independent)
Post-metalcore? Are we even there yet? Whatever… Coming and Going is good stuff. Real good. It’s almost too smart. It takes a few listens before the vagaries of the riffs make sense but after that its essential listening. The video accompanying the cut “Purpose” is the music video of the year by some measure. Clever.
Sink The Ship – Persevere (Nuclear Blast Records)
As an indie journo, you get a lot of new releases to wrap your ears around. I didn’t give Persevere much hope to stay on regular rotation in my media player after I listened to it once, but like so many of the best albums it slowly grew on me. The brilliant Levi Benton from Miss May I guests on the epic, “Everything”.
Portal – Ion (EVP Recordings)
Is this Brisbane collective the world’s most disturbing band? Have they released their most ‘accessible’ album? Either way a slight groove and semblance of melody is vaguely emerging amongst the din, but they still manage to sound like a cross between someone choking and Deicide’s Legion (’92) played backwards.
Burn The Priest – Legion: XX (Nuclear Blast Records)
BTP is Lamb of God under their original moniker. I geddit… honour favoured and influential artists under the guise of the band name whose music likely resembled that of the artist’s covered. As I am likely the same vintage as the bands members, it was thrilling to hear “Honey Bucket” (The Melvins), “I Against I” (Bad Brains), “Jesus Built My Hotrod” (Ministry) and many other choice cuts nailed to the floor by metals pre-eminent drummer in 2018, Chris Adler. Great gym music.
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil,
Deströyer 666 – Call of the Wild,
Khemmis – Desolation,
Trauma – As the World Dies
Encircling Sea – Hearken (EVP Recordings)
Hearken has been on high rotation in my music playlist since its release. The Melbourne collective set the mood with haunting and at times traumatic doom-laden overtones somewhat reminiscent of Triptykon. The album is a prime example of what Australian bands can offer to the international market. Marking their own signature to stand alongside the greats within the genre. The album is aesthetically pleasing from both a structural and production standpoint and gets top marks all-round.
Amorphis – Queen of Time (Nuclear Blast Records)
Finnish melodic death metal pioneers, Amorphis, return with their fourteenth release ‘Queen of Time’. The album takes on a similar tone to that of Circle (2013) and Under The Red Cloud (2015), two albums which I adore. It’s extremely hard to fault the band when they continually release hauntingly beautiful and multilayered music that appeases to both melodic and aggressive counterparts. You would think it would be hard for Amorphis to outdo themselves with so many great releases under their belt, but they prove once again with Queen of Time.
Dead City Ruins – Never Say Die (AFM Records / Dinner For Wolves)
Whoever said the sounds of the psychedelic 70’s was dead has clearly not heard Dead City Ruins. This long-standing hard rock ensemble from Melbourne has taken their 70’s inspired grooves and threads; packed them into a rusty van littered with empty beer cans and taken it across the globe. Never Say Die is a love letter to the yesteryear of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, counterculture and excessive drug consumption.
Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia Records)
The opening riff to Firepower sets a powerful tone for what can be best described as Judas Priest‘s most aggressive album to date. The album encapsulates all the hallmarks of a great Priest album but expands upon them with fervour. The addition of Andy Sneap at the helm makes this quite apparent. It’s hard to fault the band in any capacity when they’re the innovators and true champions of heavy metal.
Ihsahn – Àmr
If you’re looking for the reformation of Emperor then this is probably as close to it as you’ll get. This album is by no means a relabeling of the band but does carry with it some elements of Ihsahn’s prior influence in some black metal circles. I see Ihsahn travelling down the same road Devin Townsend did after leaving Strapping Young Lad. He is expanding upon his influences and desires to create more impactful music wherever he sees fit and it definitely shows on Àmr.