So, we’re a bit over halfway through 2018, and there’s been some excellent records released. Most notably, 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for death metal – bands such as Tomb Mold, Our Place of Worship is Silence, Memoriam, Slugdge, and practically everyone on the Dark Descent Records roster are killing it with top-tier death metal. Things aren’t quite so grand when it comes to black metal, but the new Immortal is pretty note-worthy, and there’s been a few other strong releases in the underground – including the final release by Cosmic Church.
Here, I’ll pick out ten of my favourite records released so far this year, in alphabetical order. Hopefully you’ll find something new here to enjoy, or be reminded of something you were in to earlier in the year. Enjoy!
Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers
“That it combines an immediate rush of excitement with longer lasting rewards is remarkable enough; but it’s the emotional, almost spiritual edge of the album that really helps set it apart from the competition, and on this basis it would be little surprise if the profile of the band were to become much bigger. On the basis of Unsettling Whispers they certainly deserve it, as this is black metal of the highest quality.”
Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
“Angular, spine-twisting riffs sit next to darkly majestic horns and noise sections, conjuring an atmosphere of opulence; of monarchs reigning over some nightmarish underworld, alien yet disturbingly familiar – suitably so, given how integral New York City is to the trio. This is the sound of limits not just being pushed, but obliterated; of genres being toyed with and destroyed; of absolute chaos and decadence. An album that moves from utter head-fuck to something almost sublime with repeated listens, Vile Luxury is gloriously damaged, ingeniously creative, and all-but impossible to do justice to.”
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
How did this happen? Who gave Trent Reznor permission to create, some thirty years after starting Nine Inch Nails, yet another record that challenges perceptions of what a NIN record can be and sound like? How did the (in hindsight) tired, NIN-by-numbers of 2005’s With Teeth give way to a renewed creative streak now into its second decade? And it’s all the more remarkable for the consistency of vision put across; for the way that, despite each record being so different, they all sound like the same band. Bad Witch is NIN at their most raw and scathing; and also soulful – at times sounding more like David Bowie’s later works than anything else. A record of contradictions, Bad Witch is the sound of a band who no longer care for boundaries, and are solely concerned with creating brilliance.
Of Feather and Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion
“Of Feather And Bone haven’t so much evolved in recent years, as they have morphed into something new. The change from their early, more hardcore sound on Embrace the Wretched Flesh to the cavernous death metal of Bestial Hymns of Perversion is remarkable – especially when you consider that Bestial Hymns… is one of the most impressive death metal albums of the year. Filled with that sense of the other that the likes of Incantation tap in to, whilst also possessing a very human feeling of brutality, what Of Feather And Bone have created is remarkable.”
Slaves BC – Lo, and I am Burning
“Whilst discordant black metal often feels as if it’s one step removed from its creators, the emotional nature of Lo, and I am Burning makes this an album that feels like it needed to be created, for the sake of the emotional well-being of Slaves BC. Music like this does not arise from simple jamming of riffs; it is an album that communicates something fundamental, fulfilling a need every bit as fundamental as eating and drinking. The vitality and sense of catharsis offered is remarkable, and as impressive as Lo, and I am Burning is – and make no mistake, it’s very impressive – it’s this which will most likely see people talking about the album for years to come.”
夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again)
“This is an album that feels like a journey, and so to remove one part from its proper context would be to do it a grave disservice. Instead, it is better to sit down and focus fully upon the record for its 23 minute duration; to let its dark waters wash over you, its currents taking you where they will. It is not the easiest of journeys; but then, nor is it intended to be. It is, however, a deeply rewarding experience, and one that demonstrates that 5772 was no one-off. Sleepwalker are one of the most intriguing bands of our time, and deserve your attention.”
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
“Whilst much of the underground in recent years has been reveling in Incantation worship – especially in terms of atmospherics being more dominant than actual riffs and melodies – Manor of Infinite Forms bucks that trend. Sure, there’s plenty that’s cavernous about this album, and at least part of Tomb Mold’s DNA is linked to Incantation; but the emphasis is very much on actual riffs and distinct movements. It helps that the atmospheres are also present and correct, making this very much the whole package in terms of death metal. It’s one of the finest death metal releases of the year thus far, and I genuinely cannot see anyone who likes death metal not enjoying this album thoroughly.”
Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
“Whilst some segments of underground metal can revel in their perceived exclusivity and elitism, with an air of “this is not for you, I don’t care about you”, the music and ethos of Vile Creature is one that provides comfort to those who are feeling alone and lost. It’s also interesting that previous EP A Pessimistic Doomsayer was based upon finding comfort in works of fiction, and that Vile Creature have now constructed their own for this record, which should say a lot about the aims here. Cast of Static and Smoke is an intelligent album, finely crafted and filled with a personal, cathartic edge that gives it universal appeal. It’s also an early highlight for 2018, and the best record Vile Creature have made to date. Given that it’s only January it’s a little early to be talking about albums of the year, but Cast of Static and Smoke must surely be in the running come the end of 2018. This is phenomenal.”
Vilkacis – Beyond the Mortal Gate
“Given sole member M. Rekevics’ involvement in bands such as Yellow Eyes, and having previously served live duties for Ash Borer, you can assume that the quality of Beyond the Mortal Gate is going to be high – and you’d be absolutely right. This record captures the wandering, defiant spirit of the best USBM and broadcasts it through 5 songs (and an introduction) of raw, melodic melancholy and rage. But more than that, it succeeds at tapping in to that sense of something greater than the physical realm, carrying with it that feeling of connection to the other, which defines all the best black metal regardless of sub-genre; something primal and all-consuming, that is greater than we could ever hope to be. It is a hugely impressive release, and sure to be one of the best to emerge from the underground this year.”
War on Women – Capture the Flag
“There’s something more to the album that deserves to be mentioned. I’m writing this as a white cis-male in his 30’s, and Capture the Flag feels hugely inspiring, in the same way that bands such as The Dead Kennedys did in my youth – it feels like music that can, and will, change lives. So, if it has this effect on me, I can only speculate what it may do for young women who are coming to punk rock, looking for bands who speak to their life experiences and concerns. Though War on Women are hardly the only feminist punk band going these days, they are one of the most prominent and important, and Capture the Flag is a modern-day classic.”