Tuesday, January 1, 2019


What's up, bitches?  The curtains on 2018 have drawn closed and the new year is once again upon us.  As we all nurse our national hangover, it's time to endure the ninth(!!) Bastard-style reflection on the previous 365 days.  While there are some notable downsides like my ever increasing frustration with trying to stay fed in this kaleidoscopic capitalist hellscape that is America, Gargoyle breaking up, and the overall state of heavy metal across the board being one of the less immediately impressive years of the current decade, there were some major highlights to keep my spirits afloat this year as well.  I moved to a new city where I don't get to experience a murder on my doorstep every six months, I married my best friend and snuck a reference to Final Fantasy VII in my wedding vows that she still hasn't caught, and, most importantly to you internet strangers, the best albums released this year are among the best I've heard in a decade solid.  Yes, the overall quality may have dipped a bit from last year but the top three or five-ish albums of 2018 for me rival the heights of the vaunted phallic juggernauts of 2012 and 2015 in my eyes.  This has been a fun one because the gems I've salvaged from the bramble of zero-effort atmoblack that flooded my radar this year have been spectacular, and now it's time for my annual tradition of yelling them at you!  I'd tell you that the only rule is full length LPs only, but you already knew that.  Let's get to work!

The Top 13 Albums of 2018

13: Ripped to Shreds - Mai-Zang 
My love of explosive death metal and my fascination with Chinese history finally intersected in 2018 with Ripped to Shreds's debut.  The record is positively bursting at the seams with Swedeath influence (the very album title is an obtuse roundabout reference to Entombed), and while the Chinese themes don't manifest through dorky folk instruments or anything, they do add a huge amount to the album's character (though we definitely need tracks about the Nian devouring terrified peasants or Zhou Xin's ridiculous wine lake and Burning Cannon Punishment in the future).  Andrew Lee occasionally pops into a discord server I'm on, and when I realized who he was I asked him why his project had such a generic name when the music so obviously had a unique theme.  His answer was "Because I just fucking love Terrorizer."  Me too, buddy.

12: Skeletal Remains - Devouring Mortality
This is practically the sole representative in the ever prevalent niche of "death metal that wishes it was 1992" with no further creativity.  This style generally bores me to tears but Skeletal Remains manages to rise above the veritable conga line of cliches with sheer energy.  This hits all the same beats as Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and any other classic American death metal band from the early 90s that you can think of, but the showmanship of performance and tightness of songcraft make the deja vu a pleasant experience.  The only real thing holding this back is "Ripperology", which is far and away the most boring track on the album, sounding like a straight b-side from Spiritual Healing, and for some reason it was chosen as the opener.  Get past the plodding mid paced opener and you'll be greeted with some bone shattering death metal.

11: Deicide - Overtures of Blasphemy
My first thought when this was announced was "leave it to Deicide to waste such a great cover art", but by some Christmas miracle they transcended the swamp they've been mired in as of late and delivered what is easily their best album since The Stench of Redemption.  I'm pretty much over classic bands releasing mediocre slop and watching it get heaped in praise just for not sucking (see Judas Priest this year or Overkill for the last four albums or so), but I gotta be a hypocrite and hand it to Deicide, because they fucking nailed it this time.  This is the hungriest and most focused and intense they've sounded in years.  Skeletal Remains up there was great because it sounds like a lost 1992 record.  Deicide here is great because they were there in 1992 and by some black magic wizardry managed to regain that 1992 form.

10: Tomb Mold - Manor of Infinite Forms
Damn son, back at it again with the nasty death metal.  This one is just fuckin' slimy sounding and I love it.  It takes a few cues from Autopsy in that regard, and the occasional slow riff crushes so hard with such alarming effectiveness that I almost brace myself when I know they're coming.  For most of the year, the only track I found myself coming back to was the title track since none of the rest nailed a riff quite as hard as that one nails that main groovy riff, but the gravitational pull of this album is god damned celestial because I just kept coming back and liking it more and more each time.  This is a consistent plateau of gross and filthy death metal and I recommend it to everybody, even your grandma.

9: Chapel of Disease - ...and as We Have Seen the Storm... 
As much as I loathe the obnoxiously long sentence fragment of a title, ...and as We Have Seen the Storm, We have Embraced the Eye is an absolutely fucking stellar release in pretty much every other sense of the word.  I recall hearing both of Chapel of Disease's previous albums, but I recall them being decent death metal with no distinguishing features.  That's why Long Title is such a surprise, because the only lingering death metal features nowadays are the (comparatively) rare double bass sections and the still-harsh and throaty vocals.  Everything else is pure 70s psychedelic/prog rock atmosphere with a fuzzy edge of macabre extremity, morphing into some kind of difficult-to-define "atmospheric psychedeath/extreme prog rock" monster.  This is exactly what I was promised with Horrendous's breakout Ecdysis four years ago.

8: Harakiri for the Sky - Arson
I know I made a crack up there about how atmoblack was everywhere this year and how it was pretty uniformly "meh", but Harakiri for the Sky was a huge exception to that rule.  My beef with the style has always been that it's saturated with mediocre bands because it's really easy to think of two whole melodies per song and then stretch it out for 12 minutes.  You can get a massive breadth of material stored up for years' worth of releases when that's all the effort it takes.  HFTS doesn't do that, because this is loaded with interesting moments.  There are so many excellent melodies, so many neat things being done with the percussion, so many exquisite swells and releases.  It can be fairly typical in its structuring but Arson defies the stigma and delivers a home run by being fast and slow at the same time somehow.

7: Mary's Blood - Revenant
Finally we're gonna break away from all the darkness to indulge in something consonant and upbeat... kinda?  I've ignored Mary's Blood for years because I never realized the band was the Misery Index to Destrose's Dying Fetus.  Yeah the split happened before the Destrose album I'm familiar with but the similarity is definitely there.  You hear "all girl J-metal" and assume saccharine giggliness but that's not what you got with Destrose and it's the same deal with Mary's Blood.  It's about as rough as you can legally get with the style, which means it's still very clean and polished, but there's a hell of a lot more grit in songs like "World's End" or "R.I.P." than most of their contemporaries.  It occasionally flips to some dirty rock n roll type stuff as well, and overall it's just best summed up as a fun romp.  Don't be afraid of yourself.

6: Wombripper - From the Depths of Flesh
GOD DAMN FUCK OUCH BRUTAL TOO HEAVY TOO MEAN OW OOF MY BONES.  Really though I wish I could go more into detail on this but it's hard to do considering it's main quality is simply how fucking manic and vicious it is.  From the Depths of Flesh pulls zero punches and just goes for the throat for its duration.  It's truly overwhelming at times; a veritable deluge of riffs and whirlwind drumming that creates this morbid cacophony that I just can't stay away from.  I don't listen to a whole lot of things that could be described as "raw", but this here is Raw like Monday Night.  Just sitting down comfortably and listening to this at a reasonable volume is still likely to give you a fucking concussion.

5: Lik - Carnage
I know The Crown released a solid comeback this year with Cobra Speed Venom, but for my money, the true throwback to that halcyon early aughties boom of hook laden death/thrash came from relative newcomers, Lik.  Carnage takes the Scandinavian buzzsaw tone that we all know and love and just owns it so hard that the fact that the album is a walking cliche doesn't really matter.  This also reminds me a lot of Deathchain's heyday.  Lik sounds like the logical continuation of what was happening there, and I couldn't be happier about it.  Basically, if you've been following me for any amount of time, you know that two of my most favorite musical qualities are speed and hooks, and Carnage delivers both in spades.  This was formulated in a lab to appeal specifically to me.

4: Thaurorod - Coast of Gold
Ahhh, here it is, the dorky flower metal album that always wiggles its way into my year-end list.  Thaurorod should initially be a huge turnoff for me since they're listed around the net as "progressive power metal" from Finland, which signifies dull-ass chugprog or waify Nightwish-lite type stuff, so imagine my surprise when "Power" kicked the album off with a kick in the nuts so swift that I'm still coughing up pubes.  The "progressive" part of their genre really only comes from the fact that they have keys and sometimes use a time sig more complex than 4/4, but when you lay it all bare, this is speedy and beefy power metal of the early Sonata Arctica variety.  Coast of Gold is an exercise in leaning on cliches and reminding the listeners why they're so overused in the first place. (It's because tons of double bass and major melodies rule).

3: 1914 - The Blind Leading the Blind
I love riffs.  I love hooks.  I love melodies.  I love brutality.  1914 has all of those things, for sure, but that's not why The Blind Leading the Blind is such an enrapturing album.  No, what puts this album so high up on my list is pure, suffocating, helpless, miserable, deathly atmosphere.  I don't have enough space here to go into as much detail as this album deserves, so I just implore you to listen to it.  The album is obviously a concept album about The Great War, there are samples of propaganda and war songs all over the place, the lyrics are as stark and brutal as the trenches themselves, "The Hundred Days Offensive" is one of the most depressingly dark songs I've heard in years, and it was released on the centennial anniversary of the armistice. Forgive me... forgive me....

2: Gotsu Totsu Kotsu - The Final Stand
And now for something way more fun!  GTK is another one of those bands that was created specifically to please me.  This is the third time in the last four albums that they've ranked in my Top Two, so you should know why they kick so much ass by now.  The Final Stand continues the band's stylistic tradition of playing death metal that sounds less like a crypt and more like a carnival fire, with dazzling flashes of slap bass and guitar solos that sound like backflips coupled with riffs that sound like tommy guns that fire chainsaws for bullets.  I don't know what else I can say about these guys, this is exactly the kind of obnoxious, maximalist brutality coupled with lip-flapping speed that I can't get enough of.  I already reviewed it with a score of 99%.  In any other year this would have easily been the album of the year.

But not this year.


1: Visigoth - Conqueror's Oath
I didn't have time to review this like I had planned before this post went live, but I knew all the way back in February that this was going to contend for the top spot.  And with every listen, from eleven months ago up to today, Conqueror's Oath has gotten better.  I don't know if it's worthwhile for me to pontificate on what makes a "perfect" metal album, because obviously everybody is going to have different criteria.  But for me, this is it.  There is not one single second of this album that isn't pure fucking gold.  There is not one misplaced note, not one booming baritone misused, not one solo that doesn't rip my face from my skullfront, every single aspect about the album falls into place perfectly and there is no possible way I can think to improve it.  Three years ago, The Revenant King took the metal landscape by storm and delivered one of the most muscular and awe inspiring slices of trad metal that the scene has witnessed since the end of the 80s.  It was bold, brash, and daring, even brandishing the cojones necessary to plop a Manilla Road cover smack in the middle of the album and effortlessly upstage the vaunted veterans, unveiling the uncomfortable truth that I was right all along that the 'Road could have been as good as everybody says they are if Shelton could actually fucking sing.  Jake's voice packed so much oomph and gusto that I felt my chest hair thicken the first time I heard him.  And even with an order as tall as topping the mountain that was the debut, Conqueror's Oath blew it away like it was fuckin' Krakatoa.  Everything that was great about the debut is greater here, and it's done with the added benefit of a veritable cornucopia of new ideas.  Visigoth didn't rest on their laurels here, only reusing the template that carried the previous album on a handful of songs and filling out the rest of the tracklist with epic odes and furious barnburners.  The sheer speed of "Outlive Them All", the massive chorus of "Warrior Queen", the pounding march of "Steel and Silver", the entirety of "Traitor's Gate", I'm getting chills without even listening to the album as I write this.  If nothing else, they deserve a trophy for making motherfucking Utah sound like the most exciting place on earth with "Salt City".  I love this so much.  Yes, this will be a perfect 100% whenever I get around to reviewing it.  It is a bona fide future classic, one of the few pure slices of unabashed retro glory executed exactly as well as their peers from 1984.  The middling response to this album at my home base of MA has been the crime of the century.  Visigoth easily takes the BH Award for Album of the Year 2018, and likely the preemptive Album of the Decade as well.  This is how you do it.  MY WORDS ARE A SWORD OF CLEANSING FLAME.

And now for something completely the same!


Frozen Crown - The Fallen King:  My love for power metal narrowly avoided yet another shoutout on the main list, because Frozen Crown's debut album is a total stunner with more hooks than dad's tackle box and enough speed to finally take down Keith Richards.  I fell instantly in love with this album and the fact that Ripped to Shreds just barely nudged it out to make the list speaks more about how tight the race was at the bottom end of the list than any perceived lack of quality on Frozen Crown's part.  The Honorable Mentions section is going to be stacked this year, there were like four or five albums I was crushed to snub.

Bosse-de-Nage - Further Still:  You won't generally find me dipping my toes into hipstery Pitchfork-approved semi-black-metal-cum-post-hardcore bands, but Bosse-de-Nage is a pretty big exception.   It definitely helps that Harry Cantwell has done an amazing job distancing himself from the most disappointing Slough Feg albums he played on and has been proving himself to be one of the most enrapturing and exciting drummers in metal today through this band and the gloriously filthy Succumb.

Antiverse - Under the Regolith:  Thrash is an artistic dead end but we all know that.  99% of "death/thrash" acts nowadays are just fast riffs with no staying power and even less hooks but we all know that.  Antiverse disagrees with these universal truths and set out to prove it on this monster.  "Black Waves of Sorcery" alone sent me through a time portal back to 2008 when I was still starry eyed over Skeletonwitch and was just being introduced to the majesty of Witchaven.  The rest of the album is exactly that good as well.  Don't sleep on it.

Deadbird - III: The Forest Within the Tree:  Deadbird made history this year.  Not just for releasing a fantastic record after a decade-long silence, but also for being the first stoner/doom album I've ever liked enough upon release to actually consider putting in my year-end list!

Xenoblight - Procreation: I feel like I read somewhere that these guys won some sort of "new metal band" award this year?  Like the Wacken battle of the bands or something?  I'm too lazy/drunk/hungover/busy masturbating to actually look it up, but that wouldn't surprise me in any way.  Maybe I'm just getting confused since Torture Squad won that award a long while ago and Xenoblight sounds like what Torture Squad would sound like if they had raspier vocals and got really into the techy style of thrash that Vektor has helped make cool in recent years.

Tribulation - Down Below:  I didn't listen to these guys back when they were gaining accolades with regular old death metal, but ever since they were picked up by Century Media they've taken a turn for the wildly creative and started playing a very bassy post-punk-gothic-metal thing and it's honestly just a fuckin' hoot.  Dark and catchy and I love it.


Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light:  I've gone on at length about this one already, but really it's hard to sum up how much of a bummer it was to lose one of the last remaining vestiges of the past vanguard of fresh thrash metal that sliced through the boom of rethrash in the mid aughties.  Skeletonwitch used to be in a league entirely their own, taking influences from across the vast entanglement of disparate sounds that make up the grander umbrella of "heavy metal" and crafted some of the most devastatingly catchy and intense thrash metal the world had seen since the genre's heyday 30+ years ago.  Here?  They just sound like any regular-ass USBM band that focuses on atmosphere above everything else.  There are bits and pieces that fit their old aesthetic ("The Lumious Sky" is a monstrous song) but for the most part some bullshit cosmic pact happened that saw the world trade one of the most exciting and fun bands left in the scene and replaced them with a dime-a-dozen meloblack band and for that it's Disappointment of the Year with absolutely no contest.

Judas Priest - Firepower:  I'm really stretching the definition of "disappointment" with this one, because I fully expected to not like this album very much based on the fact that the last decent Priest album is so many decades old at this point, but I'll admit that I fed into the hype a bit with this one.  This was supposed to be their true comeback, their second Painkiller, the much needed shot in the arm after the dismally boring Redeemer of Souls.  And well, it's definitely more muscular and propulsive than the last twenty years of their career, that's for sure, but it rings hollow.  Halford turning in a performance that defies his advanced age can't save the songs from sounding like bland rehashes of their glory years.  Priest sounds like their own cover band right now, and that's just sad.

Akitsa - Credo:  Again, this one is less of a disappointment because it's a band I like that released a clunker or something.  Nah, this one is disappointing because this album was generating a lot of hype and I just had to hear this future classic of QCBM taking the scene by storm.  Yeah... that's my fault for falling for hype (something I really do try to avoid), but Forteresse this is not.  All I really took away from this album was mid-paced screeching with nowhere near the expansive atmosphere or fiery passion that I was promised.

Ghost - Prequelle:  I only recently warmed up to Ghost, it took many years but eventually the pleasant poppiness wore away my greasy exterior and I learned to appreciate the band for what they were (which is basically a pop rock band with a goofy vocalist).  And right when I got around to thinking they were alright, they went and released a stunningly boring album with all of three worthwhile fun arena rock songs and what felt like six hundred lameass ballads.  Pass. 

Hoth - Astral Necromancy:  The band behind one of the most exuberant and inspired releases of 2014 finally comes back to follow up that monolith and released a relative bunny fart of a really pedestrian album that I've probably listened to twelve times and I still can't remember how any songs go.

I Dunno Man - I Wasn't Disappointed Much This Year:  Yeah honestly, 2018 was overall a pretty solid year.  And while there were plenty of albums I just flat out didn't like all that much, there weren't too many of them I was expecting to like beforehand and found myself let down by as a result.  Sure, I didn't like the new Amorphis album that everybody likes so much, but I've always thought Amorphis was boring saccharine bullshit.  The new Sleep album was merely "fine" and that should be a disappointment considering their pedigree, but I expected it to sound like a band that had laid dormant for 15 years and came back with an unadventurous throwback and that's exactly what it was.  The new Powerwolf album was lame but they're such a wildly inconsistent band that I've learned to go in with no expectations so I can't really be let down.  I really had to wrack my brain to think of the five up there and even then Skeletonwitch was the only truly brutal disappointment.  Maybe my musical dowsing rod is getting better and I'm learning to avoid disappointments before they happen, or maybe this year was just good to me.  I dunno, you be the judge.

HOWEVER!  I did come across one album that was so otherworldly awful, so unfathomably abysmal, so intensely, gut wrenchingly, grotesquely shitty that I have to bring back an old feature to highlight it.


Ministry - AmeriKKKant  
Just, jesus fucking christ, what the hell.  As sure as I am that I would give Visigoth a 100% score this year, I'm doubly sure that Ministry would get a 0% this year.  It would literally be amazing if I was joking right now, but AmeriKKKant is without a doubt the worst thing I've heard in years.  Even above Machine Head's cringe-festival of a slam poetry music video, even above some of the garage-level bullshit I've found on the rare occasions I open the promos sent to me, even above the last choking death rattle of your only child, Ministry's new album transcends every known plane of audial misery and reaches some kind of hitherto undiscovered shit-nirvana.  You'd think this would be an easy home run, a weak slider directly over the plate for the outspokenly left-wing Al Jourgensen, who routinely produces his best music when conservative nimrods are in office as President of the United States.  He was pitched a fuckin' meatball with Donald Trump, the most openly repugnant discarded burrito wrapper to ever gain sentience, and somehow he managed to miss his swing so hard that his arms dislodged from his shoulders and flew into the stands and decapitated a child.  The album starts with a droning intro comprised entirely of soundbites of Trump slowed down to the point of shaking frustration.  Where is the fucking cleverness here?  Where is the biting satire or the juvenile name calling that made Rio Grande Blood so immensely entertaining?  There is a fucking world of difference between making George W. Bush call himself an asshole and simply slowing down a four word sentence to the point where it takes like 45 fucking seconds to finish.  What follows is two 8+ minute one-riff slogs with so many repetitive samples that it feels like that famous scene in A Clockwork Orange where Caligula's eyes are pried open and forced to watch violent porn for days at a time.  This is musical Chinese water torture, I swear to christ if I hear Charlie Chaplin say "We must all unITE!" one more time I'm going to rip my own fucking head off.  I tried counting how many times that sample was repeated but I stopped when I realized my nose started bleeding.  I genuinely wouldn't be surprised if it was more than sixty.  I wasn't even kidding about saying each song had only one riff either, I fucking counted.  "Twilight Zone" is eight minutes and three seconds long, and I swear on my mother's grave that six minutes of that is an outro.  There is an attempt to inject some actual fucking adrenaline on "We're Tired of It" but it's just so little so late, and it means nothing when it's under three minutes of speed before we get another 6+ minutes of riffless blopping at a snail's pace.  I haven't even touched on the few lyrics that are actually here, including laureate-worthy stings like "Antifa's the shit!"  This album is fucking cursed.  Mike Scaccia's untimely death was tragic, obviously.  The guy had a right arm like a sewing machine and his riffing prowess made every band better by an unquantifiable magnitude, so his presence is definitely missed here, but even he couldn't save this fucking trainwreck.  Nothing could save this album.  AmeriKKKant couldn't be saved even if it was in a game of Final Fantasy and the whole game took place inside a save point and the only command in battle was "save" and the game was called Final Fantasy: Save Point. FUCK!

Okay, so excepting That Which Will Never Be Spoken of Again, I had a blast with music in 2018 and discovered some of the most awe inspiring metal I've heard in years.  We live in Hellworld right now and there's a decent chance that humanity with be nothing more than a smouldering crater within the next few years, but at the very least, some great shit came out this year.  I hope you all had a magnificent New Years celebration.  You are all wonderful, beautiful people, and so I hope you'll join me in raising a glass to 2019, where hopefully music can continue to trend upwards in the face of authoritarian doomsday.  Thank you all for joining me, and I'll see y'all this time next year!


  1. Great list as always BH! But for the "all-girl J-metal" album of the year, I would go for Lovebites' Clockwork Immortality instead of Mary's Blood's Revenant. Sure, Clockwork Immortality's artwork made me judge it as something similar to Jinjer, but upon listening to it, I was barraged by riff after riff and hook after hook it made me just want to listed to it more. Though their debut album, released last 2017, is a more superior effort. Hope you give 'em a listen!

    1. Also, you used to include Sigh in your top whatever lists of the year... What happened?

    2. I plan on giving Lovebites a listen in the future for sure. That style isn't really my normal bag but I do have a soft spot for it, so it's infrequent that I explore it but I usually have fun when I do.

      As for Sigh, well in their defense I've only been doing these since 2010 (at least outside of forum posts on a forum that doesn't exist anymore) and in that time they released two albums that had potential but were really flawed (Scenes and Graveward) and one of the best god damned albums of the decade (Somni). I liked Heir to Despair but didn't really give it enough time to sink in and see where it'd land in the overall list. I don't think it'd make the list proper but would probably be an honorable mention. It's a very weird album that's both impenetrably dense and astonishingly spacious, and I really don't think I could give a good judgment after only a listen or two. I plan on revisiting it for sure, because I liked what they were doing with that one.

    3. I hope to hear from you after you listen to Lovebites then! I'd recommend listening to the second album (clockwork Immortality) first before their debut, since their second one is obviously inferior to their debut. Doesn't mean it sucks, but it is only inferior since there are two less-than-ideal tracks that were next to one another (just like with Persuader's debut).

      About Sigh, I do think that all of their albums (at least the mid-to-later ones) ARE weird. I mean, the first time I've listened to Hangman's Hymn (the first Sigh record I've listened to), I thought there was too much happening, and the fact that I have been listening to metal for over a year then certainly didn't help. I've only listened to Heir to Despair a few times (my second album from them... since that incident made me averse to the band) but surprisingly I did like what they were doing in that album. It could've made my top 10 if 1) I have gave it more time to sink into me, and 2) and if I have listened to enough albums last year LOL.

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