So without further ado, check out my Top 15 Albums of 2018 after the break!
15. Ursa - Abyss Between the Stars
Favorite Tracks: "Serengeti Yeti", "Cave of the Spider King"
14. Psycroptic - As the Kingdom Drowns
Favorite Tracks: "We Were the Keepers", "Beyond the Black"
13. Judas Priest - Firepower
Favorite Tracks: ''Evil Never Dies", "Spectre"
12. Ihsahn - Ámr
Favorite Tracks:"Lend Me the Eyes of Millenia", "In Rites of Passage"
11. Pig Destroyer - Head Cage
Favorite Tracks: "Army of Cops", "The Torture Fields"
10. The Atlas Moth - Coma Noir
For the Chicago natives in The Atlas Moth, Coma Noir was a big change in two major ways. Not only was it their Prosthetic Records debut, but it also marked a commendable evolution in their sound. 2011's An Ache For the Distance put them on the map for their psychedelia-infused brand of stoner/sludge metal. Coma Noir sees them take a more straightforward approach stylistically, but still keeps that hypnotic element of their early sound intact. Instead of being buried underneath tons of effects and distortion, the riffs and rhythms have a much crisper production quality which allows them to pack a more direct punch and even come across as heavier. The album also benefits from solid balances in speed. Tracks like the title track are a full-on assault while other tracks such as "The Streets of Bombay" operate on a mid-tempo that allows it to be more groove-centric. It's a great album for many reasons, but one that you'll most appreciate the most by listening to in full.
Favorite Tracks: "Coma Noir", "The Frozen Crown"
9. Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
Favorite Tracks: "Blåtimen", "Snow Burdened Branches"
8. Møl - Jord
Favorite Tracks:"Bruma", "Vakuum"
7. Tribulation - Down Below
In a year when Ghost laid a dud, this album fills that void and then some. They're a band that never clicked with me on their previous releases, but Tribulation knocked it out of the park with Down Below. Gravelly vocals drive a "black n' roll" adventure akin to a campy horror movie soundtrack, but one that never ceases to entertain in its eerie gothicness. Music boxes and church bells are among the most common of tools that Down Below utilizes to set its ambiance. However, these are evenly balanced with plenty of hard hitting rhythms and memorable riffs. Each of the album's elements are easy to pick apart once you hear them, but they're executed in such a way that the end result is something much more than a sum of its parts. This form of Tribulation fits pretty comfortably in the middle of a venn diagram with bands like Ghost, Occultation, and In Solitude, yet offers something totally unique comparatively.
Favorite Tracks: "The Lament", "The World"
6. YOB - Our Raw Heartnear-death experience, Our Raw Heart may just be one of the more introspectively evocative albums you'll ever experience. It brings to mind someone asking you if you'd think that The Dark Knight would be as amazing of a movie if Heath Ledger didn't die. Without hesitation, I would still answer an emphatic yes to that question and the YOB equivalent of that question. But I'd also be lying if I said I didn't think the circumstances added a bit of mysticism around it. There's just a different dimension brought to each guitar note and drum downbeat that strikes home. "Beauty in Falling Leaves" and the title track are the"Marrow" equivalents of Our Raw Heart and oh man will they make you tear up if you're in any type of sentimental head-space. But it's not just all tear-jerkers to be found here. Album opener "Ablaze" and "Original Face" also pack a wallop by supplying those crunchy tones you've come to know and love from YOB. Be it heavy or reflective, each moment throughout this album is raw and more than deserves a spot in your listening rotation.
Favorite Tracks: "Beauty in Falling Leaves", "Our Raw Heart"
5. Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light
It's undoubtedly a poor reason to not get invested in a band, but I've never seen more fans with crossed arms at live shows that those with Skeletonwitch shirts on. Nothing could even be remotely as interesting as Skeletonwitch in these fans' eyes (ears?). Sweeping generalizations aside, Devouring Radiant Light was a much welcomed surprise. In short, it's an Enslaved album with attitude. But that's no slight as each track yields amazing things. The biggest compliment I think I can give this album is that no one track stands out to me as "the definitive black metal" track or "the definitive thrash" track. They all strike an alarming balance between what the band was and what their newer direction is ushering in. The addition of Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer, ex-Iron Thrones) to the vocals department payed off in spades. His shrieks have the perfect cadence and graininess to match the unrelenting vibe of the guitars and drums. "The Luminous Sky" and "Carnarium Eternal" best represent the album's unstoppable energy while "Fen of Shadows" showcases the more European elements being incorporated into the mix. Devouring Radiant Light is an album you'll love because the whole end-result sounds fresh while many of the individual elements sound familiar.
Favorite Tracks: "Fen of Shadows", "Carnarium Eternal"
4. The Ocean - Phanerozoic I : Palaeozoic
Favorite Tracks: "Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence", "Permian: The Great Dying"
3. Rivers of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name
Favorite Tracks: "Old Nothing", "Hollow"
2. Grayceon - IV
Favorite Tracks: "Sliver Moon", "Scorpion"
1. Gaerea - Unsettling Whispersmy review of it earlier this year, I referred to it as deathened-black metal as opposed to the other way around and I still stand by it. Droning, ambient transitions and tremolo picking are certainly aplenty, but there numerous moments on Unsettling Whispers that the intensity is kicked into another gear, "Absent" being a prime example. I remember distinctly on my first listen of the album having the thought of "Oh wow, I didn't expect it to get that heavy!" With deep shrieks being interchanged with bellowing roars, the vocals follow suit, as well. Gaerea's full-length debut is one without any cracks. Each element of the band unselfishly contributes to create something that will continue to push black metal forward. To steal another line from my review, "It may not be gritty production-wise, but it packs a huge punch in every other area that counts."
Favorite Tracks: "Absent", "Extension to Nothingness"
Another year come and gone in a flash! While we had comparatively less to check out in 2018 than years past, we sincerely thank those of you who checked the little we did have to offer. We aim to be back in fuller force in 2019 so be sure to stay on the lookout!