Earlier this year I wrote a brief list of some of my favourite releases of the first half of 2018. Primarily because I knew how many more incredible releases were to come, and I knew that if I didn’t mention at least a few of the earlier ones, I’d forget most, if not all of them, by December. Especially since most of these bands are completely new to me.
And it’s tough, because there have been SO MANY incredible releases this year, and I know that even now I won’t be able to delve beyond the tip of the iceberg. I’m still learning about albums that dropped six months ago that I had zero clue about before now. And unfortunately, I still gravitate to only about six albums at a time.
*I didn’t include EPs on this list because god damn do you really want to read through another 1000 words? Nah, didn’t think so.
So alas, here are a few more that were just positively exceptional; the ones that reached up from the abyss, grabbed me by my ankles, and pulled me under until I was 20,000 leagues beneath.
Clavicus Vile; The Nightspirit’s Call– Clavicus Vile is difficult to place in any one particular subgenre; I suppose they are technical/ progressive death metal but they bring so many more elements to the table, especially in their first LP, The Nightspirit’s Call. The first track, “Seek What is True, lures you in with a tribal, Middle Eastern instrumental orchestral piece before the next track grabs hold with a techy black riff and some raw black metal highs, but throws you in a different direction with a beautiful and melodic solo. The next track, “Multiversal Overlords” slings you around again with a sweet, chuggy riff overlayed with some nasty sweeping. And then the low gutturals. And simply, that’s the course of the whole album. When you think you know what’s coming, Clavicus Vile throws another trick out of their sleeves. These guys are so underground it hurts, but I hope that even this article will garner them a couple more fans. Even with just one release, Clavicus Vile has proven themselves to be such a stellar project, and without question, I look forward to seeing what other magic they can craft.
Favourite Track: “The Architect of the Hourglass”, just when you think it’s over, it’s not. It’s a stunning example of their outstanding musicianship, and willingness to experiment, even within just one track.
Yatin Srivastava Project; Chaos // Despair– Sahil from Demonstealer/ Demonic Resurrection pumped this album quite a bit, and I figured I could trust his judgement, so I checked it out. Most of the album had to grow on me, but all it took was one song to get me to play this LP on repeat for hours at a time. With secure foundations in progressive rock, but with a good amount of metal influence, and a hint of Indian influence, Chaos // Despair will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and musical styles from ambient acoustic to djenty breakdown, and everything in between.
Favourite track: “Ozone”; this track was love at first listen for me. The progression of the track and the emotion it conveys is outstanding. The ending is a little unexpected, but it polishes the song off perfectly. It was cool to hear his songs with singing, as his previous release was all instrumental.
GorodGorod; Æthra-I feel like this album was painfully overlooked, especially with bands like Beyond Creation, Hate Eternal and Arsis all releasing new records around the same time. This French prog/tech/death quintet has actually been around since the late 90s and have since solidified themselves as prog/tech giants amongst the death metal crowd. One of the “big name” metal site compared this album to works by Protest the Hero and BTBAM, as if those were bad things. But I feel that Æthra has more of a The Human Abstract/ Nocturne vibe, with a little added chaos. Which isn’t a bad thing, it just helps add to the diversity of the tracks.
Favourite track: “Bekhten’s Curse”, and “Goddess of Dirt”; It’s tough when each track has something amazing to offer, but these two stuck out for me. Both songs perfectly piece a fair amount of technicality with incredible rhythms that make it incredibly difficult not to jive to. Julien Dereys’ vast vocal range is remarkably exhibited in these two tracks, but he does have a few other tricks throughout the course of the album.
Inertia; Teratoma– It’s no secret that local techdeath trio Inertia have released the best album out of Buffalo this year. Teratoma undulates between sultry, jazzy and very emotional to technical and chaotic yet brutal to 100mph-fist-in-your-face breakdowns. I know, I know, I’m not huge on breakdowns anymore, but I’m a sucker for well written and well placed ones, very much like the ones scattered throughout this album. Simply put, the musicianship is purely outstanding. Inertia are another band that proves that you don’t have to sacrifice intricacies and repose for brutality- you can do it all, and do it exceptionally. Since it’s release, Teratoma has repeatedly lured me in like the sirens of myth, and I so willingly allow myself to be beguiled by this record.
Favourite track: “Cotention”, I know its an 8+ minute track, but the last minute of the song is 100% worth it. It’s actually worth jamming the whole record. No spoilers on this one, just do it, if you haven’t already. Those that have already know what I’m talking about.
The Ocean Collective; Phanerozoic I: PaleoziocPhanerozoic I: Paleozioc– I’m actually pretty disappointed in myself that I’ve never bothered to check these guys out until this release. Since their birth in 2000, The Ocean have spawned quite an impressive discography, including eight full lengths, Phanerozoic being the most recent. It chronicles the current geological eon, and the earliest era within the eon. But one doesn’t need to be fluent in the terminology or concepts to enjoy surfing the emotional tsunami this album manifests. Sure, the songs can be long and sludgy, but don’t think for a second that that equals monotony. The Ocean incorporate a lot of variety, and even when a riff might start to get repetitive, intricacies are dropped in to recapture your attention. Their musicianship is outstanding and offers a solid range of progression and atmosphere, all the while still being heavy. Phanerozoic is surely a prog kid’s must have. But beware, this is just the first in the Phanerozoic chronicle, and it would be wise to keep an eye out for the next chapter in this saga.
Favourite track: “Cambrian”, The way the first track transitions into the second is absolutely seamless, and is an incredible start to your trip through the Eon. These two tracks are a solid example of what The Ocean are capable of, but beware to not underestimate them.
Torturous Inception; Arcane Dominion– Not all brutal death was created equal. One of my favourite things about the subgenre is its consistency, but with that comes an incredible amount of redundancy. And I think there’s something to be said for brutal death bands that shape many more facets than just deep gutturals, chugs and blast beats, and Torturous Inception does precisely that. Every bit of every song fits together perfectly; every vocal pattern and blast beat compliment each riff flawlessly. My only beef is that it’s a rather quick album, so once you’ve fully immersed yourself, you’re pulled back up to the surface to hit “play” again. This was the last of all of my most anticipated albums this year, and I was certainly not left disappointed.
Favourite track: “Silhouette Visions”, the rhythm in those riffs have me headbanging the whole time, moreso than the rest of the album. And Tyler Lauer’s vocals don’t disappoint either; his consistency and range are just unbelievable. I anticipate seeing more of these dudes in 2019.
The “Honourable Mentions”:
There were so many albums that came out this year that I love, but of course there were ones that I loved more than others. Those up there were the ones that just grabbed me and refused to let me go. These next few didn’t quite have that grasp, but I cannot deny their greatness.
Beyond Creation; Algorythm | Obscura; Diluvium | Xenosis; Devour & Birth | Sulaco; The Prize | Bloodtruth; Martyrium |Behemoth; I Loved You at Your Darkest | Augury; Illusive Golden Age | Spectral; Neural Correlates of Hate | The Beast of Nod; Vampira: Disciple of Chaos | Torn the Fuck Apart; Genetic Predisposition to Violence |Mass Casuality; Preparing the Dead | Aborted; Terrorvision | Post Mortal Possession; Perpetual Descent | Hate Eternal; Upon Desolate Sands | Arsis; Visitant | Stillbirth; Annihilation of Mankind | Irreversible Mechanism; Immersion | Halothane; A False Reality | Imperial Triumphant; Vile Luxury | Burial in the Sky; Creatio et Hominus | Bloodshot Dawn; Reanimation | Xenobiotic; Prometheus | Deadborn; Dogma Anti God | Cosmic Atrophy; The Void Engineers | Posthuman Abomination; Transcending Embodiment | Aethereus; Absentia | Parius; The Eldritch Realm | Oubliette; The Passage | Serocs; The Phobos/ Deimos Suite
Fortunately the only album that really bummed me out this year was Soreption‘s Monument of the End. Now, I love both Engineering the Void and Deterioration of Minds, and I love the kind of unique sound they’ve developed for themselves. But I feel like Monument is just an mediocre regurgitation of the two previous records. The vocal patterns are incredibly similar, the song structures are also very similar. The only thing that’s different from the previous two is Cattle Decapitation‘s Travis Ryan’s guest appearance on the last song. But even that track is redundant; they always finish with a track that features some melodic interlude that transitions into a breakdown, and then the album ends. I feel that the amount of talent in the band is too great to continue to conform to this cookie cutter song and album structure that’s already been overused for this band. There is so much potential, and I suppose I was just expecting more.
Looking Forward To:
It’s no secret that I’ve been anticipating a new Contrarian album since Rochester’s prog/death giants announced that they were going into the studio earlier this year. Of course, I had hoped that I could have included it on this list, but I am not disappointed that I will have to wait until next year to crown Their Worm Never Dies as my favourite release of 2019. Yeah, sure, I’m biased, but I have set my expectations extremely high for this album, and I know very well that these guys would have to try extremely hard to release an album that was even remotely disappointing. Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. But for now, you can jam their new single, “Exorcism” via their bandcamp. And while you’re there, feel free to treat yourself to one of those swanky new hoodies. But make sure you forget about it, so you get a dope surprise in the mail come March.
Speaking of outstanding prog/death from the area, our pals in Inhumatus reemerged this summer when they opened for Defeated Sanity and Behold the Arctopus in Rochester while they were on a quick run on their way to Maryland Deathfest. Who could stay away with a show offer like that? They’ve played quite a few shows since then, and have even opened for melodic/ progressive sextet Ne Obliviscaris. From what it looks like, writing is going very well, and if we’re lucky, Inhumatus will release some new tracks in 2019. But for now, you can score this dope 3 song demo on their bandcamp, and if you like what you hear, you can catch them on one of the last shows of the year in Rochester with our meloblack pals in Ancalagon and death/grind/noise amalgamation Sulaco. Details here.
Fleshgod Apocalypse also announced earlier this year that they would be returning to the studio, and focusing more on their death metal roots, akin to their 2010 EP, Mafia. Since then, they’ve established themselves as Symphonic Death juggernauts, and I’m excited to hear them return to the simplicity of just death metal. Drummer Francesco Paoli returns to the front on vocals and guitar, but continues to be the foundation of this project. You’ll be able to catch them on tour with Hypocrisy in early spring 2019.