2018 Favourites: (just over) half-way edition

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 MoldOur Place of Worship is Silence, MemoriamSlugdge, 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!

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Review: Abstracter – Cinerous Incarnate

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Label: Tartarus Records / Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Vendetta Records / I, Voidhanger Records / Daymare Recordings

One of the real joys of underground music is watching bands develop before our eyes, going from promising early releases to albums that more than live up to expectations. Such is the case with the latest album from AbstracterCinerous Incarnate. The band have evolved, building on their earlier sounds, bringing further elements of noise and dark ambient to their already soul-crushing fusion of doom, black, death, and crust. It makes Cinerous Incarnate an album of utter despair and world-ending heaviness, filled with the kind of riffs that can collapse buildings and an atmosphere of the most haunting, searing dread.

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Review: 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again)

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories 

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.

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Review: Cult of Extinction – Black Nuclear Magick Attack

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories

On the whole, war metal is a difficult genre to get right. The core sound is so well defined, and its atmosphere so overwhelming, that any considerable deviations from its grinding, fire-blasted riffs, bulldozing drums, and vomited vocals risks breaking the spell, either by taking the music in to a different genre completely; or simply by becoming a confused mess. And yet there’s little room for innovation, with bands often relying on abstract aspects of music – conviction and atmosphere, chiefly – in order to impress. This is an important context to keep in mind when I say that Cult of Extinction have made war metal sound as thrilling as it ever has with their demo, Black Nuclear Magick Attack, a relentlessly vicious 13 minutes of nuclear devastation and demonic wrath.

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Review: Vessel of Iniquity – Self-titled

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Xenoglossy Productions

Despite only lasting for fifteen minutes, the self-titled EP from Vessel of Iniquity feels as if it packs a lifetime of pain and suffering in to its duration. The latest offering from the reclusive A. White is a roiling, monstrous mix of black, death, and noise, delivering an onslaught that truly does justice to the term “extreme”. Finding the threads that connect acts such as Teitanblood, Gnaw Their Tongues, and Impetuous Ritual, Vessel of Iniquity is a difficult listen, but one that offers many rewards for those who can brave its depths.

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Review: Rotting Sky – Sedation

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Dark Horizons / Wooaaargh

Underground extreme music is often a vibrant, exciting place, filled with bands and labels releasing work that pushes boundaries, challenges conventions (musically, socially, or otherwise), and is, by its very nature, often only intended for a small audience. Yet it can also be a place fraught with risk, especially financial. No one with any sense gets in to extreme music for the money, because most of the time, there isn’t any. This means that even if a label is responsible for helping to unleash some superb music upon the world, financial constraints might see that music vanish without a trace. Such was the original fate of Sedation by Rotting Sky, the solo project of Nux Vomica guitarist T. Messing, when the label that originally released it (Grimoire Cassette Culture) closed down around the time of Sedation‘s original release. Eternal praises to the labels involved, then, for giving this record a reissue and helping to save it from complete obscurity, as this mixture of black metal, drone, and noise is excellent.

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2017 Favourites – Part II

Following on from the first ten of my A-Z 2017 favourites, here is the second part. As the title says, this is my favourites – not necessarily the best records of the year, but the ones I enjoy or connected with the most. Feel free to tell me what I missed, why I’m wrong, or whatever else. There’s only so many hours in the day, and not all of them can be spent listening to records, sadly.

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