Despite how fantastic of a sales pitch it is, I can’t help but feel like I’m doing Panoptic Horror a disservice by describing it as “Hell Awaits era Slayer meets crust punk.” That feeling mostly comes down to the fact that, although they’re not trying to hide their influences, they’re definitely their own thing. The killer LP is a primo slab of ripping thrash with a death metal tinge, all the while borrowing the production, punk ethos and overdrive technique from a band like Sacrilege or Anti-Cimex. No matter who or what you hear in it, it’s the kind of sinister shit that conjures images of grotesque demons, airborne bricks, broken bones and/or searing flesh in the mind of the listener.
In other words, if Hell had a mosh pit, this would be the soundtrack. –Bloon
As the decade draws to a close, 2018 has proven to be one of the more interesting years from it. Looking at the metal genre as a collective, this year has seen an internal struggle with artistic innovation and corporate, algorithmic songwriting; futilely homogeneous and insipid mainstream metal releases versus the heavy lifting and sometimes groundbreaking works from the underground scenes – of which there has been a good handful of them this year. It was a close call, but Eye The Tied’s richly documented and detailed journey undoubtedly sits at the top spot because of its sonic idiosyncrasies and uniquely vivid worldbuilding. If you’re a fan of Mastodon’s more prog-heavy sensibilities and Kyuss’ crusty desert riffs, imagine these elements combined and floating in a vortex of space before slipping onto an uncharted planet of unforeseen dangers. This is a peregrination of epic proportions and will certainly hold its place as one of the best progressive metal albums of the ‘10s, definitely requiring your attention if you’re partial to such meandering adventures. –DrGonzo1937
The often ambitious stylings of Polish based Entropia have highlighted the workings of a career that has so far seemingly done very little wrong. The group’s newest and longest album to date bears little difference in the band’s continuing quality but teases at a foundation of pure-mind-fucking psychedelia. While Entropia specialise in the immersive planes of blackened post metal, the paranoia and airlessness give way to the outwardly minimalistic nature of Vacuum’s tracks. Entropia continue their exploration of sound, adding marvel to simplicity. –Robert Garland
Saudade Forever clocks in at only thirty-seven minutes long. Its murky production screams lo-fi. By all accounts it should turn out to be a well-contained or even claustrophobic experience, yet, impossibly, it feels massive. The Dead Mantra tread an astonishing amount of ground in their half-hour and change, from the commanding build of opener “The Garden,” through the ear-splitting drones of “Luxury Shopping” and the propulsive groove of “Lately,” to the melancholy of conclusion “Window.” Their engrossing mess of fuzz and feedback bewitches the surrounding elements and shapes them into the very peaks and valleys their songs traverse. The quiet moments allow brilliant tonal subtleties to emerge. The loud moments half-bloom, half-explode into hurricane collisions of tension and beauty. Saudade Forever comes in a humble package, but its contents overflow with brilliance and passion. –Dean M.
When you’ve been perched on the top of the hill for the better part of two decades, the adverse effects that come from reaping such rewards – given history’s track record with bands and artists – normally turns you into a decadent schlub, out of touch with your initial successes. If Richard Z. Kruspe has proven anything this year it’s that he lives a disciplined and somewhat humble life, continuously out to challenge every fibre of his being. A Million Degrees comes as a huge surprise, firstly because it confidently confronts those exclusively harping on about Rammstein’s next album with a viable case that there might be more to its members than just Rammstein; and secondly, it genuinely evolves and progresses Emigrate in a way that’s admirable and exciting. A landmark achievement for Rammstein’s primary songwriter which subverts and cleanses any preconceptions you may have approaching A Million Degress. It doesn’t bow to the whims of contemporary stylings, trends or tropes; integrating electronic pop music with stadium-stamping riffs in a way that’s earnest, effortless and delivers another facet of Richard’s extent as a singer and songwriter. Yes, we all want that new Rammstein album, but let’s not overlook what is a resounding achievement in Richard’s long running career. –DrGonzo1937
After their split with the ever eccentric blackened grind trio Siberian Hell Sounds, I promised myself I would keep an eye on Convulsing, an idea that has recently payed off handsomely. Their newest album Grievous is a near masterpiece. It’s an atmospheric death metal album more structured and thoughtful than the majority of their contemporaries could ever dream of creating. “Inert” billows plumes of carnal death metal riffage that settle into a cloud of psychedelic haze, dichotomous elements somehow perfectly in step with one another. Meanwhile closer “Strewn/Adrift” proves itself the middle-ground between weightless ambience and downtuned heaviness, an exercise in extremity that resolves these opposite ends of the spectrum without any sign of struggle. However, the most compelling feature of Grievous is how human the record feels, and especially for an extreme metal album. Created during a time of personal turmoil for sole member Brendan Sloan, his guttural howls and furious guitar lines ring with catharsis, as if they’re an exorcism of every inner demon and lacerating thought. Rarely is death metal this affective, and rarely is it this finessed, cementing the fact Convulsing is not just a one of a kind project, but that Grievous is easily one of the best death metal albums of 2018. –TheSpirit
Immersion is the cornerstone of a truly successful dungeon synth album. To allow suspension of that belief– that you’ve fallen backwards in time where castle spires reign atop sylvan canvases, knights gallantly roam, and mead is always on tap – you need an album that authentically captures a touch of medieval magic. A compelling story doesn’t hurt either, and for a growing number of fans, Malfet’s The Snaking Path achieves both. Unfurling itself as an optimistic reinterpretation of Arthurian legend Sir Launcelot the “Ill-Made Knight”, the record traverses through trial, tribulation and turmoil on its journey to achieve a sense of self-discovery and reward. It’s a handily woven narrative only fulfilled through dynamic song craft.
Dungeon synth feels elevated with The Snaking Path, transcending the usual wonder the genre exudes. Where the magic really comes in is how simply he achieved this; by adding a backdrop of woodsy field records and tribalistic percussion, you can close your eyes and FEEL like you’re perched upon a rock, sitting in the middle of magic woodland realm so beautiful it would make J.R.R. Tolkien and his elvish creations blush. The melodies are vibrant and soothing, somehow both epic and subdued. Using mellotron, harps, flutes, and organ synths to construct this fantasy wonderland The Snaking Path boasts dungeon synth’s medieval charm on another level, and firmly places itself as one of the most enchanting albums of 2018. –TheSpirit
The most famous visions of hell have mostly imagined eternal torture as a form of tedium: Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill, the endless jousting of Dante’s fourth circle, the same terrible experience repeated over and over again. On Symbology of Shelter, Noise Trail Immersion create a completely different kind of hell, one that abruptly shifts from one horror to the next with no grounding point. Their hell is a labyrinthine construction, but the labyrinth is constantly transforming, its serpentine paths weaving through and into one another in impossible configurations without center, exit, or solution. It’s an eldritch, unfathomable place: the mind falters at any attempt to comprehend it. Undoubtedly a real hell of this kind would be unbearable to endure for all eternity, but Noise Trail Immersion’s finite musical representation of its form makes for a captivating listen. –Dean M.
Some albums compel me to argue with strangers on the internet over their perceived quality and while I can’t blame Millennials for my careless belief in complete online impunity, it does spark in me a want to start all kinds of useless shit, be it because of the calloused drum pummelings or maybe something that is somehow even less intelligent. Coilguns march on; dissonant buzzsaw in one hand and fuck all in the other. Galumphing like an inebriated siegebreaker assault beast through marshlands populated by jeering couch activists, everything about this off-kilter, Swedoom-cum-neanderthallic hardcore romp screams “I don’t want to be here recording this dumb album but fuck you here I am” in no (see: some?) uncertain terms. It was recorded on a dumb old analogue recording thingo. One-takes abide. The riffs sound nasty as high hell and the near-permanent stank face cursed upon my visage every time I jam this stupid album is more than reason enough to keep me coming back. –ramon.
Dragging a trotline through a box of old possessions yields one dog-eared X-Files poster: “Trust No One”. A nod to the conspiracy minded, a dig at the paranoiac, a sad and cruel paradox reminding us that we can’t know anyone else fully, nor they us. Logic would dictate that we confide in no-one lest we be misinterpreted or, worse, interpreted perfectly, as time erodes relationships and secrets become decontextualised, weaponized as an ache you feel in the heart. Emotionally, though, we’re compelled to trust and need to be trusted. Enter Baron and Capece. Qualms about their different approaches to tape music – where Baron favours a warts (watts?) and all approach, Capece prefers his output to be as pristine and still as an untapped subterranean water deposit – immediately dissipate as the decaying loops and abrupt acousmatic samples play to each others strengths. The title of the opener – Believe in Brutus – might be a bit on-the-nose in it’s foreshadowing of the albums trajectory and how we navigate betrayal, but it’s also a nod to the wry humour that permeates the album. Tracks fade, dissolve, renew with less vim and vigour, bleed, crackle, peter out, with a kind of wistful sadness that can only happen when something is definitively over or lost; we cannot mourn what we can get back or replace. But you can trust My Trust in You. The CD won’t stop spinning; the FLAC won’t decay. Baron and Capece’s trust in each other created this emotionally resonant, achingly personal gem; reason enough to keep going back in life too. –Winesburgohio