What a glorious year in metal we just experienced. After the sheer amount of quality albums that were released in 2018, there is no question that the genre is as healthy and full of life as ever. Thus, making our top albums lists harder than usual.
For the APESHIT goons, 2018 was the year where the legends all shined. JUDAS PRIEST led the charge with their best album since 1990’s Painkiller. DIMMU BORGIR finally emerged from a long slumber and did not disappoint. VOIVOD remain the gods that the mass metal media won’t acknowledge as such. We can’t really think of any letdowns. Can you?
Last year Max and Igorr Cavalera celebrated the release of SEPULTURA‘s Roots by playing the album in its entirety on tour. Currently, they are tour celebrating the two albums that put the band on the map, Beneath the Remains and Arise. Check out their performance from the Re:public Club in Minsk, Belarus on October 5, 2018.
This is probably the most and best live guitar playing that Max has performed in a long time. A very welcome return.
While THE SPIRIT hail from Saarbrücken, Germany, they sound like they were born in the metal Mecca of Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s abundantly clear that DISSECTION are, by far, their main influence. However, a closer ear can hear influences from other Swedish black/death metal bands such as UNANIMATED and SACRAMENTUM.
A handful of bands have tried to carry the torch left by the legendary DISSECTION, such as THULCANDRA, but none of them have come as close as THE SPIRIT. On their debut album, Sounds from the Vortex, they essentially wrote the album that could’ve followed Storm of the Light’s Bane, and I do not make that statement haphazardly.
Sounds from the Vortex has the perfect balance of pure ferocity, melody, and, most importantly, that mysterious atmosphere of the classic albums that came out of Sweden in the mid to late 90’s.
Having said all of that, THE SPIRIT should also be praised for the endless prime riffing, instrumental prowess, and tight songwriting. Check out the barrage of ice that hits on the 4:09 mark on “The Clouds of Damnation.” “Cross the Bridge to Eternity” has unique riffing patterns reminiscent of something off of DARK TRANQUILLITY‘s The Mind’s I.
The album’s finishes out as strongly a possible in its final three songs. Powerful and confident, these songs close out what is one of the best debuts in years. If THE SPIRIT can replicate this level of excellence on album number two, their ascension is guaranteed. (Nuclear Blast Records)
Tokyo gods, MONO, have announced album number 10, Nowhere Now Here. The album sees the band add electronics to their repertoire – perhaps inspired by guitarist/composer Takaakira “Taka” Goto’s recent collaboration with John McEntire, the beguiling BEHIND THE SHADOW DROPS.
Nowhere Now Here also sees MONO’s first-ever lineup change, adding new drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla (THE PHANTOM FAMILY HALO) to the core trio of Goto, Tamaki, and Yoda. Tamaki also makes her vocal debut here on the poetically hazy “Breathe.”
The new album is scheduled to be released on January 25, 2019 via Temporary Residence Ltd. (North America) and Pelagic Records (Europe).
Following the most successful North American tour of their career – with DEAFHEAVEN in 2015, in support of their acclaimed album, Atheist’s Cornea – ENVY returned home a deeply fractured group. The following two years were filled with both personal and creative struggles that often seemed insurmountable.
After reuniting with briefly estranged singer Tetsuya Fukagawa, ENVY severely shook up their lineup for the first time in their three-decade career, and now return with Alnair in August, the new two-song single that adds yet another ring to the band’s rich history of dynamic and melodic exploration.
Hinting at what will come on their next full-length album, due later in 2019, the two songs here are vintage ENVY, evolved: “Dawn and gaze” is a 7-minute triumph of ebb and flow that rivals the band’s strongest work, while “Marginalized thread” is a concise slice of cinematic thrash that recalls their landmark album, A Dead Sinking Story, with the increased focus on melodic resonance that has marked their later output.
The glorious buzzsaw guitars that rip forth in the opening riff of album opener, “To Kill,” immediately bring to mind all of those sentimental, warm and fuzzy feelings you had jamming to DISMEMBER and ENTOMBED back in the day. And it’s no coincidence that LIK (“corpse” in Swedish) are from Stockholm, Sweden.
On their second album, Carnage, LIK easily establish themselves as a true force to be reckoned with. Like the instant classic that it is, the ten songs are consistently infectious and memorable. Each successive listen will make you realize that this is one of the best death metal albums to come out in years.
The best part of Carnage is the instantaneous enjoyment that it brings. It’s not a rehash or a ripoff of the legends but simultaneously a great homage and continuation of the Stockholm Swedish death metal legacy.
It should noted that the production, courtesy of Lawrence Mackrory (DARKANE, F.K.Ü) at Dugout Studios, is a thing of beauty. The Boss Metal Zone guitar/bass tons are thick and ripping while the drums are natural and powerful in the mix. Everything literally sounds loud (in a good way) without being abrasive.
While extreme metal vocalists can often blur into each other, Tomas Åkvik (vocals, guitar) has the deep roar but also the clear enunciation that David Vincent is famous for.
I know upon first listen, you may think LIK is merely a DISMEMBER-worship band but with successive listens, you’ll find that there is more that distinguishes them from their main influence. (Metal Blade Records)
After initially listening to the first couple seconds of IMMORTAL‘s comeback album, Northern Chaos Gods, you realize that you owe the band a huge apology for doubting them. A raging storm of ice and snow blast forth in a way that only Bergen, Norway’s finest can produce.
Despite the departure of original vocalist and bassist/guitarist, Abbath, and him allegedly taking most of what was supposed to be the band’s next studio album for his solo album, IMMORTAL is intact and true to their legacy. Demonaz takes on vocal duties in masterful fashion and, most importantly, returns to his rightful place recording guitars for the band. Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY, PAIN) pulls double duty as producer and session bassist.
While it is accurate to say that IMMORTAL finds much inspiration in their colder, faster sound from around the mid-90’s, Northern Chaos Gods is not a total throwback or a regression. The mastery and epic sound that the band honed so well in the 2000’s is still intact as evidenced by songs like “Gates to Blashyrkh” and “Mighty Ravendark.” The one characteristic that is not as strong as the hooks that were ever so present in their last couple of albums. However, Northern Chaos Gods is still a satisfying and enjoyable album.
With Northern Chaos Gods, IMMORTAL continue to build on their legacy and prove that break ups, line up changes, lawsuits, and severe injuries cannot stop one of the greatest bands on the planet. (Nuclear Blast Records)
How often does the band that is paying tribute to their idols go as far as to surpass them? Well, GRUESOME‘s Twisted Prayers is one of those rare instances where the students becomes better than the master. Modeled after the style of DEATH‘s leap forward, Spiritual Healing, GRUESOME perfectly capture the birth of progressive/technical death metal.
Not only are all the nuances, that only true fans could recognize and capture, but the damn riffs and hooks are just killer. There are no drop offs throughout Twisted Prayers. Thus, there is no need to highlight any songs. Those beautiful instrumental runs and that heart pumping sense of urgency keep things moving.
Hell, you even have guitarist James Murphy, who played on Spiritual Healing, playing solos on “Crusade of Brutality” and “At Death’s Door” to add to the authenticity of the experience.
What is also important to note is that GRUESOME‘s guitar crunch here is perfection. Also, Gus Rios‘ drums sound so natural and balanced in the mix. Big props to producer Jarrett Pritchard for created such a modern, yet true death metal sound to the album.
Somewhere Chuck Shuldiner has a huge shit eating grin when he sees how GRUESOME is carrying on his legacy. Hail. (Relapse Records)
NECROPHOBIC prove that, as one of the proud remaining godfathers of Swedish black/death metal, they can always be relied on to create excellent albums. The bottom line is that Mark of the Necrogram is the perfect NECROPHOBIC album.
All the hallmarks that the band has built their legacy can be found: the undeniable dark atmosphere, the melancholic melodies, the variety of songs, and the heartpounding tempos. The greatest intangible that NECROPHOBIC bring to the table is that magic feeling, that mystery of their unique style of Swedish black/death metal. You would think that a band that started in ’89 would’ve lost what made them special at some point along the way. However, that is simply not the case with them.
The album opener/title track sets the tone beautifully with its unstoppable melodies and plowing momentum. “Tsar Bomba” just has that special feeling that you can feel in your soul. It’s quite a great anthem. “Lamashtu” is perfect for a live setting with its momentum building and catchy vocal lines. One listen to “Sacrosant” and you’ll be singing along to the chorus. The middle section and excellent guitar solo by Sebastian Ramstedt in “Requiem for a Dying Sun” is pure magic. NECROPHOBIC race to the finish with “From the Great Above to the Great Below” with a strong sense of urgency before smoldering into ashes with the instrumental “UndergÜngen.”
Mark of the Necrogram features strong performances from all band member but it should be pointed out that band leader/drummer Joakim Sterner is the heart and soul of NECROPHOBIC. Additionally, his drumming is basically the playbook when it comes to this style of extreme metal.
Look, Mark of the Necrogram is yet another classic NECROPHOBIC album and another mandatory addition to your record collection. Hail. (Century Media Records)
As part of the unending well of magical albums coming out of Sweden, DAWN released what ended up being their final album, Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy). The sentiment among fans is that DAWN nor this album got their just due with the media or underground scene as a whole. While the album is not flawless, it is undoubtedly a gem in the pantheon of classic Swedish black/death metal of the 90’s.
The band’s first full-length, Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher, had a cool sound and showed plenty of promise but things did not gel overall. However, they took things to the next level with a greater singular focus on creating an epic, unrelenting album with 10+ minute songs. The riffs were much better, sharper, and the sense of urgency that was not omnipresent on on DAWN‘s debut was in full effect. Maybe it’s the penultimate front cover artwork but Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) has an ominous atmosphere that is deeply embedded into the album.
There are few album openers that come in like a thundering storm like “The Knell and the World” do. It is far and away the most poignant track. The folk influences were intact from their debut as shown on “To Achieve the Ancestral Powers“. The distinctly Swedish melodies are excellent as demonstrated on the riff that carries “The Aphelion Deserts.” Keyboards appear here and there to accentuate riffs and create atmosphere. Amongst the seven tracks, “Stalker’s Blessing,” is probably the weakest as it carries the least momentum. However, DAWN close it out in blasting style with “Malediction Murder.”
Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) was out of print for over a decade with the demise of issuing label, Necropolis Records, driving the prices of the CD on ebay. Century Media Records came to the rescue by re-releasing all of their albums, including a compilation of their early demos entitled The Eternal Forest, on CD and vinyl back in 2014.