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Columnus Metallicus: The 20 Best Metal Albums Of 2018
The Quietus , December 20th, 2018 12:42

Devastating multi-faceted gut-punches! Swirling maelstroms of blackness! Raging torrents of misanthropic hate! It can only be our top 20 metal records of 2018, selected by Louise Brown, Kez Whelan and Cheryl Carter

YOB

Columnus Metallicus is the opinion of just three people, and so while our list features the obvious big hitters, you won’t find Judas Priest. Louise loved it, but the two other contributors preferred the Yob record. You won’t find At The Gates, Pig Destroyer or Watain as we didn’t like them as much as Thou or Svalbard. The Ghost record was amazing but personally we preferred other things over the Swedish group’s macabre rock. And that’s fine. Really!

So much incredible music was released in 2018 that keeping track of what came out was a mammoth task in itself, and that’s not without the sudden surprise albums that popped up when least expected. A 4/20 Sleep record? Obviously. A new Sargeist jam just dropped from nowhere? Code Orange have an EP featuring Corey Taylor?

Metal remained fresh as new bands continued to carry its fire. Conjurer released their debut to much acclaim and Dödsrit pushed black metal into new territory. Established bands maintained a strong presence with Aura Noir pushing their black thrash ever forward, Amorphis releasing a stellar record and Summoning bringing back their Tolkien inspired black metal.

There was disappointment with Behemoth’s newest effort which failed to scale the heights of The Satanist and for some reason Nachtmystium are still given a pass to release music. But despite some negative moments, 2018 was truly an excellent year for heavy and extreme music. We present the best of the best below.

20. Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke
(Halo of Flies)

‘Forest, Subsists As A Tomb’ opens on painful feedback; the squalling notes slice through the heady atmosphere before giving way to slow, resolute, fuzzy guitars and guttural howls. The funereal pace is overwhelming at times and when voices finally break through the bleak shadows it is not to offer comfort. Vile Creature wants you to experience their pain, their humanity, their suffering. It’s tremendous. Cheryl Carter

19. Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit
(MKVA)

‘Don’t You Dare’ throws in some exalted screaming and the beginning of ‘Fire of Motion’ is a raging pit of anger but the black metal elements are not are the forefront for the most part on this record. It’s a good move to dial back those patterns as the strength of Zeal & Ardor lies in the warm tones of Gagneux’s voice and the narratives it tells. Of course, the core of the band is metal and those roots won’t be forgotten, but to weave the textures using other means is a clever tactic. Cheryl Carter

18. Evoken – Hypnagogia
(Profound Lore)

After a lengthy six year break, funeral doom legends Evoken proved they’d lost none of their crushing, melancholic power with Hypnagogia. Boasting arguably their fullest, most physically impactful production to date, this hour-long excursion into the darkest depths of doom is the perfect companion for the grim winter months. Kez Whelan

17. Agrimonia – Awaken
(Southern Lord)

‘Withering’ delves into gorgeously subdued keyboard led vistas, making the eventual transition into its pulverising riffs and Christina Bloom’s guttural, impassioned roar all the more gratifying, while the tender touch of closer ‘The Sparrow’, with its twinkling keys and beautiful reverb-smothered leads, still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up after umpteen listens. Kez Whelan

16. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology
(Willowtip Records)

After dwelling in the murky soil of technical death metal’s proverbial back garden for some time, 2018 was the year the mollusc obsessed Slugdge finally slithered up to the surface, with Esoteric Malacology’s unique fusion of tech-death and prog rock with an eccentric sense of humour deservedly bringing their meticulously crafted sonic multiverse to a much wider audience. Kez Whelan

15. Closet Witch – Closet Witch
(Halo of Flies)

Even in a fantastic year for grindcore, Closet Witch’s incendiary debut managed to stand out as something really special. Pitched somewhere between Discordance Axis’ dizzying dissonance and Cloud Rat’s impassioned catharsis, each of these thirteen intricately composed tracks blast forth with an outrageous amount of vitriol and mind-pulping technicality – it’s the audio equivalent of a hurricane, basically. Kez Whelan

14. Cultes Des Ghoules – Sinister, Or Treading The Darker Paths
(Hells Headbangers)

Following up an opus such as Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love is a daunting task and to their credit, Cultes Des Ghoules didn’t try to copy the formula of a record that spans two discs and over 100 minutes of music. Sinister is still a long record but the music is less operatic and more to the point while still retaining a classic Cultes Des Ghoules sound. Cheryl Carter

13. Infernal Coil – Within A World Forgotten
(Profound Lore)

Former Dead In The Dirt guitarist/vocalist Blake Connally’s new outfit Infernal Coil surpassed all expectations with this debut album. Within A World Forgotten not only managed to exceed the already ridiculous standards their 2016 demo set in terms of intensity, viciousness and sheer aggression, but also introduced more dynamic, atmospheric sections, with stunning centrepiece ’49 Suns’ especially sounding like the ungodly lovechild of Neurosis, Revenge and Dragged Into Sunlight. Kez Whelan

12. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
(ANTI-)

Shortcomings aside, Corrupt Human Love is probably the most ambitious thing Deafheaven have put out, and it’s mostly successful. It’ll be interesting to see where they take it from here – this album seems to be the logical endpoint of the band’s sound in many ways, with the more metallic elements of their sound phasing out as they elaborate on their lighter, more atmospheric side. Kez Whelan

11. Kriegsmaschine – Apocalypticists
(No Solace)

Apocalypticists is a dream from start to finish. The guitars cleave the air two, M.’s vocal are rasped perfection and the drums from Darkside are a wonder to behold. This record is worth the price for those drums alone with passages that invoke such a sense of unease that the black metal that surrounds it becomes almost like the support act. This project from members of Mgła shares some similarities with that band but the atmosphere here is singular. Cheryl Carter

10. Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope
(Holy Roar Records)

Political metallic hardcore has been desperately weaving its necessary route back to the fore of the metal mainstream and Svalbard knit snarling punk, icy black metal, filthy crusty riffs, glacial shoe-gaze and hopeful post-rock into a narrative-led album that tackles issues at the heart of modern culture. On ‘Revenge Porn’, when guitarist Serena Cherry croons Miki Berenyi style over a heartbreaking interlude and then lets out the blood-curdling cry “FOR THE WOMEN”, the release is so gratifying this writer actually fist-punched the sky and wished she was at Ieperfest in 1997 climbing over heads to grab the mic. Louise Brown

9. Sargeist – Unbound
(World Terror Committee)

Waking up to the news that Finland’s black metal elite are releasing a new album is cause for joy, but to also find out that it drops that very instant is a moment of utter delight. Lucky, then, that the album is a raging torrent of misanthropic hate and as such is one of their strongest efforts to date and new vocalist Profundus marks his mark in screaming bile. Cheryl Carter

8. Imperceptum – Heart of Darkness
(self-released)

Funeral doom by way of black metal is not an entirely new concept but for German project Imperceptum and its sole member, the slow march of its base genre needs a few moments of intensity in order to break up the desperation that lies within its walls.. Heart of Darkness is a monumental album from an artist who has released four full lengths in only two years, but such proclivity has done nothing to dampen the utter desolation that Imperceptum dwells in. Cheryl Carter

7. Fórn – Rites of Despair
(Gilead Media)

These songs are surprisingly catchy too, with the lumbering Noothgrush-esque ‘(Altar Of) Moss, Lichen & Blood’ featuring the kind of gigantic, irresistible riff that won’t just get stuck in your head, it’ll entrench itself in there on such a long-term basis that it’ll have to start paying a mortgage – and that’s before I’ve even mentioned the song’s heart-wrenching climax, a stirring melodic crescendo that reaches the same lofty heights as bands like Asunder used to. If you’re even slightly interested in doom, then just go and buy this thing – you will not regret it. Kez Whelan

6. Svartiðaudi – Revelations of the Red Sword
(Ván Records)

Iceland’s Svartiðaudi belong to a group of musicians whose black metal is by far one of the most interesting scenes in the underground today. The band may only be on their second full length but by no means have they been resting. Revelations of the Red Sword continues from where debut Flesh Cathedral left off with a swirling maelstrom of blackness pulling you deep into the murky depths while pushing for melody in even the most extreme moments. Cheryl Carter

5. Yob – Our Raw Heart
(Relapse)

The heart of the album lies in the exquisite grace of ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves;’ a sixteen minute journey into hope and light that exposes the very depths of the soul of the writer. Scheidt ‘s lyrics have long laid his soul bare but on Our Raw Heart he is more open than ever. It’s difficult not to feel the pure emotion radiating from his words and for Yob this is a powerful movement in a record that is already laden with sensitivity. Cheryl Carter

4.Sleep – The Sciences
(Third Man Records)

With The Sciences, Sleep present an alternative pathway for the hyper-technological age. Elon Musk’s battery-powered ascent to the stars and colonisation of Mars be damned, perhaps we just want to get high and drift on a spacewalk. Sleep have finally delivered the soundtrack. Dan Franklin

3. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
(20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions)

Songs like ‘Whispering Spiritscapes’ and especially the title track showcase some extraordinarily evocative leads, and ‘The Rubaiyat’ is astonishingly tender, wrapping the listener in warm, silky chord clumps and subtle, undulating strings. On the other hand, ‘Scripture Of Exaltation And Punishment’ is absolutely crushing, with humongous sounding toms reverberating outwards like a giant’s footsteps. Kez Whelan

2. Thou – Magus
(Sacred Bones)

The album is an menacing as you'd expect, all claustrophobic despair and raspy blackened vocals. It's actually a contender for unexpected black metal album of the year, for its masterful crafting of that tinny production and chilling suffering synonymous with the genre….With short haunting interludes interspersing the longer, dragging, scathing numbers, Magus is no fun, but absolutely unmissable. Louise Brown

1. The Body – I Have Fought Against It But I Can’t Any Longer
(Thrill Jockey)

Despite shedding metal’s generic trappings almost completely, The Body have created some of the heaviest and most intense music we’ve heard this year, a devastating multi-faceted gut-punch of a record that asks you to come face to face your most primordial, deep-seated fears, acknowledge and accept your failings and emerge from the experience a stronger person. And if that’s not metal, then frankly, we don’t know what is. Kez Whelan

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