(Despite what the title of this post says, Andy Synn hasn’t managed to review every fine 2018 album and EP we’ve heretofore failed to write about, but he does catch up with more than two dozen of them.)
While lots of blogs/zines are already (or soon will be) switching their focus away from covering new releases and towards consolidating their annual “Best Of…” lists, here on NCS island we’re still doing our very best to bring as many new (and some not so new) albums/artists to your attention as possible.
Of course the truism that “there’s simply too much music out there” remains as painfully accurate as ever, and it pains me to admit that I/we simply can’t cover all the releases we want to, in the depth we want to, no matter how hard we try.
So consider this article a voluntary mea culpa acknowledging our limitations and a (probably futile) attempt to make amends a little bit to all the bands and artists who we may have missed or ignored over the last several months, as well as to shine a light on a couple of upcoming releases you’ll probably want to keep your eyes/ears open for.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t actually an A-Z of everything we’ve failed to cover on the site. That list would be so long we’d never get finished writing it, let alone actually publishing something of any worth.
But there’s still a full 26(!) bands/albums here for you all to peruse and appreciate (a surprising number of which are from Germany), and I hope you’ll appreciate that I’ve tried my best to at least give you a sense or flavour of what to expect with each one.
ATRAMENT – SCUM SECT
First up we’ve got 10 tracks of crusty blackened Punk/Metal courtesy of the second album from Oakland raiders Atrament. At less than half-an-hour in length it’s a rapid-fire, unrelenting blast of dirty, d-beat drums, glass-gargling vocals, and filthy, filthy, riffs perfect for fans of bands from Tragedy to Dismember to Wolvhammer.
BECOMING THE JUGGERNAUT – BECOMING THE JUGGERNAUT
The debut album from German Death Metallers Becoming The Juggernaut is a little bit Meshuggah, a little bit Illdisposed, and a lot heavy. Erring more on the groovier, chunkier side of the genre, and with perhaps a little bit of Deathcore chuggery thrown in for good measure, it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel but it does a very good job of crushing it all the same.
CARPE NOCTEM – VITRUN
Icelandic quintet Carpe Noctem (who, unsurprisingly, also feature numerous members active in various other parts of their homeland’s incestuous Black Metal community) have always been one of their country’s most unsung artists, something which seems almost inexplicable considering how stellar their debut album was… and even more so considering that their new album is probably even better. So if you’re after something doomy, dissonant, and pitch-black down to the depths of its icy soul, check out Vitrun ASAP.
CHAMBERS – DEPART \\ DISAPPEAR
Hailing from the fertile Berlin Metal scene, Chambers deal in a striking blend of moody Post-Metal and brooding, blackened Hardcore that makes this album one of my personal favourites on this list. Whether it’s the scorching “We Ruin What We Sow” or the stunningly dynamic “Asubha” it’s clear that these five individuals have thrown their heart and souls into this album, which I’d heartily recommend to fans of Celeste, Ancst, or Oathbreaker.
DECLINE OF THE I – ESCAPE
The final part of a conceptual trilogy based around the works of French surgeon and philosopher Henri Laborit, Escape features six labyrinthine compositions of intense, introspective darkness that lean far more towards the Black Metal part of the band’s self-imposed “Post-Black Metal” tag, while also incorporating a plethora of industrial, electronic, and ambient elements along the way. And while it’s not perfect by any means, it’s certainly one of the more unsettling and unpredictable albums I’ve heard this year.
EARTHSHIP – RESONANT SUN
On their fifth album, German (yes, that’s right, another band from Germany) sludgemongers Earthship continue to build upon their well-established Crowbar/High On Fire roots with some even more direct, stripped-down songwriting and the addition of some well-placed clean vocals reminiscent of both classic Alice In Chains and the band’s Norwegian contemporaries in Sahg. Packed full of big, bombastic riffs and high-proof hooks, it’s the perfect chaser to accompany Mantar’s brilliant The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze.
FOSCOR – LES IRREALS VERSIONS
Hot on the heels of last year’s Les Irreals Visions (an album which I authoritatively declared to be one of the very best releases of 2017) Foscor released this unexpected reinterpretation of tracks from that record (plus one other drawn from 2014’s Those Horrors Wither) way back in August, and it’s been getting regular spins from me ever since, drawing me in again and again with its more ambient, atmospheric, and progressive permutations of the band’s material.
GLACIAL TOMB – GLACIAL TOMB
Ignore the “Similar Artists” list presented on Metal Archives… much of the music on the self-titled album by Denver Death Metallers Glacial Tomb owes a heavy debt to the punishing Polish sound of Behemoth, Hate, et al… and through them the classic twisted riffs and pounding drums of Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation, etc. But there’s also a hefty helping of Punk, Doom, and Black Metal influences bubbling away under the hood too, which makes for one seriously grim and gritty listening experience.
HAESTER – ALL ANCHORS NO SAILS
Riff-focussed, subtly proggy Post-Metal is the name of the game on the debut album from this Belgian quintet, and while it occasionally strays a little too close to outright Cult of Luna worship (neither “So That We Could Live” nor “Ghost In Machines” can escape the ever-present shadow of Mariner), the complex drum work and multi-faceted vocals also recall classic Mastodon in the best way possible.
HATESPHERE – REDUCED TO FLESH
Despite recently getting into an online beef with one of the band’s-members over a simple miscommunication, the truth is I’ve always been a big fan of Danish Thrash-masters Hatesphere (especially The Sickness Within, The Great Bludgeoning, and Murderlust), and their latest record is unlikely to change that. Granted, the band aren’t reinventing the wheel, but if you’re a fan of The Haunted, The Crown, Lamb of God, or hook-heavy, neck-wrecking riffs in general, then this one certainly shouldn’t disappoint.
ICHOR – HADAL ASCENDING
Fans of Hate, Impending Doom, and Abhorrent Decimation should find a lot to love in the upcoming fourth album from this German Deathcore quintet, whose ten tracks mix bone-shaking brutality, blasting belligerence, and devilishly dark melody in equal measure. And while the first half of the record sticks quite close to the usual tropes (and executes them extremely well), the second half finds the band adding an extra dose of both technicality and atmosphere in a manner which is both punishingly extreme and extremely promising for the future.
KHRAGKH – ΓVΛΩ
Riff-driven Belarussian Black Metal duo Khragkh are frequently compared to both Mgła and Sargeist, and although they’re not as infectiously intense as the former, nor as relentlessly grim as the latter, their second album still puts in an impressive showing of scathing riffs, scything tremolo runs, and croaking, cadaverous vocals that more than justifies these lofty comparisons.
LASCAR – WILDLIFE
Not as compelling or as affecting as either of the band’s two previous albums (2016’s Absence and 2017’s Saudade), nor as gripping as this year’s Cryptospores EP, the latest album from one-man Post-Black maestro Gabriel Hugo should still tickle your fancy if you’re in the mood for some gleaming melodies and scathing shrieks all wrapped up in a sombre shroud of ethereal atmosphere.
MADDER MORTEM – MARROW
Propulsive, attention-grabbing Prog Metal is what you get on the seventh full-length from Norway’s Madder Mortem, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the best progressive releases of the year. And while it isn’t perfect (one or two of the structural/sequential decisions the band have made really don’t work in the record’s favour) the brilliant blend of soaring, enigmatic vocals and urgent, unconventional riffs still makes this one very special album overall.
MARSH DWELLER – WANDERER
The second album from John Kerr’s Marsh Dweller project sees the multi-instrumental marvel moving even further into the realm of Post Metal, while still retaining just enough blackened bite and aggression to balance out this shift into more atmospheric and introspective territory.
MOONREICH – FUGUE
The fourth album from criminally underrated Black Metallers Moonreich is yet another aggressive alchemical mixture of darkly progressive melody and brutally belligerent riff-craft, equally at home blasting your face off or grooving your bones into dust. Fans of Shining, Taake, and even the more Atmospheric stylings of Agrypnie, should be right in their element with this album.
NYKTOPHOBIA – FATE OF ATLANTIS
The second release from this German Melodeath crew is as shamelessly epic and stirringly intense as you might expect from a group who loudly and proudly trumpet their love of the “Old School” Melodic Death Metal sound. In practice this means that the group kick out a powerful, if not a tad predictable, display of pummelling drums and nimble melodic fretwork that should appeal to anyone who enjoys a bit of early Omnium Gatherum or classic Dark Tranquillity.
ONE TAIL, ONE HEAD – WORLDS OPEN, WORLDS COLLIDE
If there’s one way to build yourselves a legend it’s to announce your intent to split up right after the release of your long-awaited debut album… and that’s exactly what Norwegian nihilists One Tail, One Head have done. Thankfully, despite a few structural/dynamic oddities which occasionally cause the record to chase its own tail (or its own head) for a little while, the music here is, for the most part, an extraordinary combination of primal, punk-ish fury and ominous, oppressive atmosphere, that is practically guaranteed to leave an impression which will last long past the band’s impending demise.
PROPHETIC SCOURGE – CALVARY
On their debut album France’s Prophetic Scourge have crafted themselves a particularly complex (and, at times, slightly convoluted) concoction of chunky, churning riffage, and proggy, technical fretwork that recalls a high-speed, three-way collision between Gorod, Anata, and Dying Fetus. The band do, unsurprisingly, get a little too self-indulgent at times, allowing certain tracks to drag on well past what feels like their optimum length, however for the most part this is an impressive opening statement from a band well worth keeping an eye on.
RADIANT KNIFE – SCIENCE FICTION
Progged-out Sludge-Groove duo Radiant Knife clearly know exactly what sort of music they want to make, and the eight tracks which make up their debut album all reflect this sublime blend of compositional confidence and artistic ambition, delivering an array of psychedelic melodies and naggingly infectious hooks that sound like modern-day Mastodon covering classic Rush, or vice versa.
SEROCS – THE PHOBOS/DEIMOS SUITE
While this album is undoubtedly amongst the best Brutal/Technical releases of 2018, I’m hesitant to declare it “the” best record of this type, not only because the field in general is pretty damn competitive this year, but because a good proportion of this album is just straight-up Cryptopsy worship, only without the same plethora of murderous hooks to balance out all the crippling chaos. That being said, however, it’s still one hell of a ride, overflowing with mind-melting riffs and brain-bursting blasts (courtesy of uber-drummer Kevin Paradis), and the second half of the record is particularly tasty (as well as far more distinctively written).
TOTALSELFHATRED – SOLITUDE
Three albums into their career and these Finnish fatalists still aren’t happy. And really, would we want things to be any different? All signs on Solitude point to “no”, as the quartet continue to produce a scintillating stream of bleakly melodic, blisteringly vitriolic Black Metal that is, for all its desolate and depressive overtones, focussed more on stern self-reflection than shallow self-pity.
ULTHA – THE INEXTRICABLE WANDERING
Marking something of a step-down from their stellar second album, 2016’s Converging Sins, the latest release from this Cologne quintet is still a solid slab of obsidian enmity that leans just as heavily on atmosphere as it does on aggression. And while the first half of the record is/was, on first listen at least, a little bit “business as usual”, the back-half of The Inextricable Wandering is much, much stronger, and features a number of striking creative choices which I’d be intrigued to see the band pursue further in the future.
WILLS DISSOLVE – THE HEAVENS ARE NOT ON FIRE
In the band’s own words, The Heavens Are Not On Fire…“is a meditation on religion, violence, and cosmic chaos”. And it’s also a phenomenal piece of Prog/Death wizardry to boot. Clocking in at a mere five tracks but still supplying over forty-five minutes of spellbinding metallic magic, Wills Dissolve have produced something here that’s equally influenced by Edge of Sanity and Opeth as it is Isis and Neurosis, yet which effortlessly stands out as its own unique entity through a delicate blend of ambitious songwriting and artful execution.
WRETCHED OF THE EARTH – COLLAPSE // REBIRTH
Anti-Colonial D-Beat Punk-Metal which wears its heart (and probably several other vital organs) right out on its sleeve is what you get with this one, and while fans of Martyrdöd and His Hero Is Gone will probably want to tighten up their dancing shoes for bare-bones bangers like “Fists Up” or the give-no-fucks grooves of “Climate of Denial”, the band’s nascent progressive tendencies (at least relative to the standard D-Beat template) are what make this album such an intriguing listen.
ZEALOTRY – AT THE NEXUS OF ALL STILLBORN WORLDS
Making his second appearance on this list (he also slings strings in Serocs), guitarist Philippe Tougas can most definitely shred the shred, and his fellow axeman Jake Himelfarb is no slouch either. Together the two of them, along with vocalist Roman Temin and drummer Alex Zalatan, have produced some seriously great Death Metal here, which skews somewhat more towards the technical side of Morbid Angel and/or early Mithras, without ever going full “Tech”. It’s a bit of a monster, in fact, and another of my personal favourites from this list.