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!
The previous record from 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker),5772,was one of the surprises of 2017 – a progressive, jazz-inspired take on black metal that followed no path but its own. The multinational band are already back with follow-up 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again), and it has taken my expectations and stomped all over them. This is an even more nonconformist, experimental take on black metal that 5772 was, emphasising the psychedelic elements of their sound and adding drone elements – whilst still retaining a sense of fearlessness and black metal aggression. It’s an album that is seemingly full of contradictions, yet takes all of its opposing influences and makes them, somehow, work together. It’s quite special, and makes most other records being released today seem tame.
About thirty seconds into Only Love, the second album from The Armed, the thought occurs that this is what the future must sound like. The mix of hardcore/punk guitars, frantic electronics, and restless drumming (courtesy of Ben Koller of Converge and All Pigs Must Die, amongst others) produces a real rush of adrenaline and endorphins, and leaves the listener unsure whether to launch themselves into reckless dancing or simply staring in awe at what the band are creating. It’s a feeling that more or less lasts throughout the album and subsequent listens, making Only Love one of the most innovative, exciting albums released under the broad spectrum of hardcore thus far in 2018.
Are there any phrases that will cause music fans to recoil in fear in the same way that “experimental screamo project” will? Probably, yeah; but then you listen to the first demo from Formerly a Genius, and your reaction is likely to be either to embrace this three-song release like the best thing ever made; or to flee in utter horror. Six months on from first hearing it, and I’m still not sure what I think of it; sometimes it’s the greatest demo ever made, other days it sounds like an utter catastrophe. Either way, it’s not the kind of music that invites apathy.
Cy isn’t your typical release. The new album from Polish band Koniec Pola opens with the sound of bells, swirling winds, warped percussion, and, after several minutes, a burst of heavily twisted voices. It gets no easier from there. Stradling the lines between post-rock, post-black metal, traditional folk, and all wrapped up in a defiantly avant-garde mindset and psychedelic atmosphere, Cy is the kind of album that you might get if Negura Bunget and Einsturzende Neubauten decided to do a record together. Based around the concept of a place that is simultaneously real and imaginary, and making use of unique instruments crafted by the band themselves in addition to the traditional bass/guitar/drums set-up, Cy is a unique album, full of adventurous, experimental spirit.
The concept of creating music as self-care is hardly a new one, but sometimes, an album can strike you with just how powerful and important a concept that is. Such is the case with Cold Air, the new album from Drowse. Written during a spell of anxiety and depression, Cold Air is an album of interesting contradictions. At times, its hazy shoegaze is filled with warmth, and possesses a real power of emotional healing; and then at others, there is the feeling that something is desperately scratching at the walls, trying to get out with a life-threatening desperation. It makes Cold Air an intense listen, despite its often soothing sounds; and one that is filled with a unique sense of personality and intensity.
It is a depressing paradox that, for a genre which started off in such incendiary, challenging fashion, black metal is now often one of the most musically conservative of genres, weighed down by insipid songs about Satan full of uninspired tremolo-picking and blasts. It’s this context which makes the emergence of a band like 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) all the more inspiring. The debut album from this multinational band, 5772, is a bewildering, awe-inspiring journey that, whilst owing a considerable debt to both raw and progressive black metal, also draws heavily full sources such as improvisational jazz and krautrock, as well as the violent energy of bands like G.I.S.M. As this might imply, it is a unique listen, and one of the more intriguing black metal releases of 2017.