When looking at a certain scene from year to year, over a fairly long period of time (let’s say, around five years), patterns start to rise and also the path a genre follows over time becomes more apparent. Trends come and go. Old bands get older, new bands pop up like acne, the system changes on many levels and the fan should be ready to adjust and follow. For the first time in years, I was actually disappointed by many bands I expected more from and was also impressed by bands out of my radar, while the situation outside the musical borders is clearly affecting festivals, artists and news websites.
I was obsessed with following each and every new release within a genre I was interested in a couple of years ago, but I’m slowly switching into a state of only going after bands I think are vital and serious, whether I like their music or not. This will get clearer to me during 2019 and how I will deal with stuff then.
I stopped counting after I had listened to 507 albums this year, and I’m not sure how many more I listened to the last month or something, but the number gives a general idea of the metal I consumed in 2018. Enough for a list here anyhow. I decided I will probably not get into doing that next year though, and maybe the lists might get smaller, even though I think a size of ~20 is perfect for each year.
In the past, I had created a system to rate an album with points up to 100, by rating specific elements of it (like drums, lyrics, sound, etc…) but it was strictly for guitar centered music which failed me completely in genres outside that, so I abandoned it. However, I modified it this year and added some more elements to it, in order to alter in specific circumstances (for example: vocals are excluded in instrumental releases and are replaced by something else), in order to cover as much of my taste as possible. The aim is to have a program where I blindly enter a bunch of ratings about a music album and it gives out an overall percent, similar to Metal Archives’ rating system.
I used this for this year’s list and it was around 90% accurate, and after running everything through that filter, albums took their own spot in the list without me worrying about it or losing my sleep over it. I did a few changes in the end, but after all this effort, 2018’s list was one of the easiest.
Apart from the top 25, the following are some other interesting lists for this year:
Let’s get going.
2018: Top 25 albums
25. Pagan Hellfire – At the Resting Depths Eternal
Tour de Garde | Listen
I was lucky because this was released just about when I was finishing a listening marathon of all their releases, and I didn’t really know about it. Nothing will beat Solidarity to me but At the Resting Depths Eternal has a great flow and amazing compositions. I think there is improvement space for the vocals (imagine the ripping voice from SdG for example) but in general, very good black metal.
24. Ascension – Under Ether
World Terror Committee | Listen
One of the bands that kind of started in the shadow of Watain musically, but soon evolved into their own entity, and especially in Under Ether they have pretty much nailed a unique sound with elements from everywhere in the alternative music spectrum. The album hit very hard during the first few listens, but at some point later in the year I stopped listening and came back now in December. In other terms, it might have been above the top 15, maybe. Ascension have a lot to offer to the listener with their new record, for sure.
23. Mørketida - Panphage Mysticism
Werewolf Records | Listen
An album mostly structured around middle-paced, pure black metal compositions, would in theory not work in my mind. This Finnish band comes to prove me wrong with some really beautiful, deep and captivating material in their debut album Panphage Mysticism, which is also among my favorite releases from Finland this year as well. The country had a great year, now that I think about it. This record has hypnotic lines as needed, wonderful vocals, great artwork, and it uses the simplest elements of the genre to sound unique, making their work more and more addictive the more you listen.
22. Carved Cross - The Yawning Abyss of Perdition
Goatowarex | Listen
An energetic band of the Australian raw black metal scene, Carved Cross do not rest. There are only three full lengths among numerous releases since 2012, but The Yawning Abyss of Perdition is the one that took me in its arms and held me for pretty much its whole duration without me getting bored or startled. In a way, it’s a pretty easy listening album, stripped to the basics, repetitive, with its own beauty. I didn’t like them as much in the past, but the latest album is totally fine.
21. Paragon Impure – Sade
Ván Records | Listen
I seriously thought this band was dead, and Sade is much different than the debut that came out thirteen years ago. By now, they have a proper production, with relatively clean sound, and an utterly disgusting concept. The lyrics are almost as shocking as the works of Marquis, and the music can be described as, in a sense, modern black metal with many decent guitar lines. Some of the tracks are longer than needed, but I’m glad Paragon Impure are back, because they are.
20. Spectral Wound – Infernal Decadence
Les Fleurs du Mal Productions | Listen
The first release of Infernal Decadence again was in cassette format only and in limited quantities, as their debut three years ago. Spectral Wound have a unique understanding of the purpose of their music and they demonstrate an excellent compositional skillset, with addictive tracks, full of power and memorable riffs. The production and instruments sound great, it left a very good impression to me, at even higher levels than Terra Nullius (it might be a bit more lyrically consistent, maybe? I don’t know).
19. Sargeist – Unbound
World Terror Committee | Listen
While some people believe that Sargeist actually fell of the track with their new album, which does not follow the pure black metal energy and sound they had in previous works, I think that specific energy was boosted to the sky in Unbound, providing the world with their most multi-faceted and complete record to date, a glorious offering by an anyways great band. There were line-up differences and all of it is obvious in the music, which has taken serious leaps forward and deserves repeated listens.
18. Angantyr – Ulykke
Northern Silence Productions | Listen
After a few years of silence, Ynleborgaz is back with Angantyr and Make a Change… Kill Yourself in 2018. Ulykke stayed in my player for much longer in the long run compared to IV, an hour-long deep piece with amazing riffs, droning atmosphere and all of the Angantyr nuances I’ve been missing. The project has been gradually evolving since the 00’s and Ulykke has more than you could ask for from him.
17. Lucifer’s Child – The Order
Agonia Records | Listen
The debut was great, but The Order surprised me in a very positive way. Modern, energy fuelled, with a bunch of great riffs, really cool vocals, and a proper sound, Lucifer's Child surpassed themselves after an already successful first record. The musicians involved are experienced anyway, and The Order is one of the best releases from Greece this year. The first two tracks are serious hitters too.
16. Kriegsmaschine – Apocalypticists
No Solace | Listen
Apocalypticists was released when rumous of a new Mgła record were growing, which is an amazing way to surprise the fans, especially with such a high-quality black metal album. Most people are very aware of the band beforehand, but to newcomers I would suggest paying attention how the drum work in this record pretty much rips you and blast beats apart with the force of the cymbal, standing among the albums with the most unique drum lines in the whole of this genre. Apocalypticists is highly immersive, with an infectious flow, lots of hidden gold moments, a feast until demigods Mgła return.
15. Horrendous – Idol
Season of Mist | Listen
A superb, excellent, perfectly crafted, death metal record that lifts the genre a bit higher. If it had different vocals, maybe more growls instead of high pitched screams, it would have been top five for me. Expect to see this in many lists of 2018, an album that is worth owned for the strikingly beautiful cover that reminds of the mouth of Sauron, as well as the fine musicianship. Horrendous were out and about in album-of-the-year material the previous years as well, but only now they hit close to my heart.
14. Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Century Media Records | Listen
Watain are in a position that whatever they do, they will be hated. Around the controversy, the awards, the global recognition, people watched them get mellower in The Wild Hunt, but Trident Wolf Eclipse has the kind of melody that was only going on between Casus Luciferi & Sworn to the Dark, not even Lawless Darkness. The new record has good lyrics, it has some great tracks and it’s very catchy, as well as hard hitting at times.
13. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
Indie Recordings | Listen
At first Cenotaph Obscure seems more stable and less furious compared to Black Death Horizon, which was brilliant. Yet, it is a multi-faceted album with a fabulous approach on death metal as well as the band’s sound, which is once again very potent in all aspects of their music.
12. Varathron – Patriarchs of Evil
Agonia Records | Listen
One of the most respected and influential bands of Greek black metal released maybe my favorite album by them this year. Patriarchs of Evil is flawless, with amazing tracks and great memorable moments all over the place, great production, great lyrics, very atmospheric and mainly residing in the Hellenic black metal core sound. I was never a Varathron fanboy but their discography is profound, and I have now found the top of the pyramid.
11. Mylingar - Döda drömmar
Amor Fati Productions | Listen
Where did this come from? An unknown to me band comes out with some really intense, unconventional and pretty brutal kind of death metal. The tracks are addictive once you get behind them, while the whole listening experience is unsettling, like holding burning coal. I remember I was taken off guard when I first listened to it and until now, I enjoy it the same. Tracks like “Skammen” or “Besvikelsen” are on frequent repeat. It turns out they have released an EP in 2016, but Döda drömmar is something else.
10. Djevel – Blant Svarte Graner
Aftermath Music | Listen
Finally, Djevel made it. They had a streak of good albums, with ounces of potential of breakthrough, but they didn’t escape the heavy burden of the Norwegian black metal shadow. Now, with Blant Svarte Graner they present a true masterpiece of how the term sounds like in this day and age, with supreme guitar lines, acoustic parts, vocals, variety and flirty looks to Norwegian titans like Taake. All of it is in Norwegian, and it’s a proof that supergroups can happen to -not- suck, from time to time.
9. Portal – Ion
Profound Lore Records | Listen
While Portal are considered death metal masterminds, I couldn’t ever get into them that much and their blend of chaotic, atonal body of work didn’t really deliver the genius or the claustrophobia as they are said to induce by the audience. It’s an interesting band to say the least. With Ion, I could finally sit through the full album and appreciate that time as time not wasted, since the record some tracks, art and a feeling that I enjoy. The prolific production gives the album the light it needs, as they muddy / thick production of older records ruined it for me. Ion is one of the albums I will surely remember when thinking of what happened in the scene, in 2018.
8. Carpe Noctem – Vitrun
Code666 Records | Listen
A top-notch second album by an overall, way above average band, which had left me speechless with their debut in 2013. Carpe Noctem’s new album is equally well thought through, they unravel many interesting musical ideas with a great production and fine musicianship. This might have been within the first three spots if it weren’t for a few more silent moments when Vitrun seemed to be in a halt, but regardless of that, I absolutely have favorite 2018 tunes from this album.
7. Nécropole – Solarité
Northern Heritage Records | Listen
After a series of successful demos, this project finally comes out with a full length of perfectly written black metal of epic proportions. One of the records I also bought in physical format this year, as it’s out through one of the most solid labels of the genre and also the minimal approach of the band is adorable. It also musically kicks ass, and even though I missed Caverne in 2015, I kept an eye out for this. Wonderful.
6. Fluisteraars / Turia – De Oord
Independent | Listen
I was in a huge dilemma whether to include this or not. Since it’s a split release, and I like doing releases by format, bastardizing lists in such a manner would jeopardize the integrity of the whole operation, at least that’s what my nerd list brain tells me. On the other hand, I would not do a list with splits this year and this just can’t go to waste. In splits, as in demos (big example is my demos #1, Dispirit, which could easily be in a full length list), some releases are in overall, bigger than a regular mini release of their kind. That’s why, I decided to include it after all, and look at how high it reached. I hate myself for ignoring Fluisteraars and I have to admit, I have not had such intense chills even when listening to Agalloch, if a comparison with a band of similar kind needs to be made. Both tracks in here are breathtaking, immensely beautiful, among the best pieces within “atmospheric” black metal I have ever listened.
5. Ungfell - Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz
Eisenwald | Listen
Last year, I made a wish for Ungfell to improve their production for their following album. A contract probably arrived rather quickly, so we had their second album a year later, and my wish also came true. The new album has the proper sound for the band, all the folky passages are glorified, and the main black metal body of Mythen… is wonderful and even catchier than the previous album. Well done.
4. Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
Norma Evangelium Diaboli | Listen
I was in a really bad mood after the smelly potato that was Viktoria. The two albums were released close to each other, so I went into Hekatomb with a negative gut feeling, and during the first listens, it didn’t really move me. Yet again, it might be the album I have gone back to and listened to the most this year, for some reason. There are some spectacular tracks here, the riffing is often relentless, even in the goofier tracks. I can’t say Hekatomb is the revelation that were the previous two records, but I’m glad he stepped in to save the day from the Marduk failure. At the end of the day, I think I like it done like that. Since June, by now I listen to all of the tracks in the record with equal pleasure.
3. Akitsa – Credo
Profound Lore Records | Listen
I was skeptic when I first saw the cover for Credo, as it has abandoned the wondrous black / white aesthetics Akitsa had since their inception two decades ago. It turns out it is the most robust and most complete album from the project, with noise and punk elements, great black metal parts, great production and proper length. I have always been a fan of Akitsa but they never completely achieved high spots in my year to year archives, however this time Credo has almost no weak musical point, and some truly addictive tunes.
2. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
Gilead Media | Listen
There has never been a metal album that was a bigger challenge for me to go through, for as long as I remember myself infecting my ears with this shit. Vile Luxury is a very difficult record to get across, and the amount of musical content that each track has risen at really high levels. The tracks are perfectly placed, the lyrics are unique, the music is the definition of unique, the musicians are talented to an extent unknown within extreme metal (intended exaggeration). I had seen the potential in 2015 with Abyssal Gods, which was also high in that year’s list. But Vile Luxury was at #1 for 2018 for many months, almost until the end.
1. Svartidauði – Revelations of the Red Sword
Ván Records | Listen
It is exactly six years since the monumental debut of this band. And by exactly, I mean it literally, as both records were released on the 3rd of December, in 2012 and now in 2018. We have had sparse Svartidauði releases in the meantime, but the long-awaited second full length is already hanging out with the absolute best contenders for BM of the current decade, or even in the more general realm even. They have not been eaten up by their own snake hole, compared to Flesh Cathedral. The evolution and the marksmanship are a fact, as Revelations… is truly aural poetry, one that touches excellence in all aspects. For me, they are at the top of the food chain in this current wave of quality Icelandic black metal. I can definitely live with this until December 2024.
Thanks for the attention,
fuck hope and godspeed