It has become an annual tradition at our putrid site to launch our year-end LISTMANIA orgy with the appearance of DECIBEL mag’s Top 40 list. It has become a tradition in part because, in my humble opinion, it’s still the best print publication out there for fans of extreme metal, and in part because they always manage to jump out of the starting blocks first in the race for publishing YE “best of” lists – and they’ve done it again this year. So here we go!
The DECIBEL list will officially appear in the magazine’s January 2019 edition, which hasn’t yet hit my own mailbox, but because it’s out in the world somewhere already, DECIBEL again decided (for the third year in a row) to scoop their own list rather than letting leeches like me leak it. They published the list on-line yesterday, and so I can now again re-publish their list without too much guilt.
Of course, there will be a lot more content in the January issue (which has Deafheaven on the cover), including commentary about each of these 40 albums and why they were selected. You can order a copy of that HERE.
Before turning to the DECIBEL Top 40 I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal. I see no reason to amend the words, especially since that would involve effort.
Such lists continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because, duh, we don’t have enough to argue about already, even in the age of Trump.
And it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.
I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists from print publications and “big platform” sites, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. But here are a few random observations about this one, just to get the conversation started — but I do hope you’ll continue the discussion in the Comments to this post.
First, only one of these albums (from Cosmic Church) was self-released; all others were backed by labels, although a few of them are quite small and obscure. Make of that what you will. Among the 39 label releases, no one label was dominant, with Century Media, Relapse, Season of Mist, and 20 Buck Spin all having three releases on the list, and five more with two entries each.
Second, I can’t help but feel a surge of regional pride in seeing two bands from the Pacific Northwest — YOB and Uada — in the Top 3, with YOB nailing down album of the year (and it’s extra-nice to seeing that recognition going to one of the most decent human beings in metal, as well as one of the most talented — Mike Scheidt).
Third, as the person responsible for our weekly SHADES OF BLACK column, and therefore someone who spends a lot of each week listening to new black metal, I notice once again that there isn’t much obscure (or even not-so-obscure) black metal on the list, but of course I’m neither surprised nor complaining. I am happy enough to find Panopticon, Devouring Star, Funeral Mist, Varathron, Immortal, and the afore-mentioned Uada on the list, all of whom released very deserving albums this year.
Fourth, while there are of course a lot of releases on the list that have been widely noticed over the course of the year, many of them from the bigger names in the field, DECIBEL has again done a decent job of mixing up the genres without pandering to mass tastes in mediocrity, and have (as usual) thrown in some more obscure entries. And although their Top 10 of course wouldn’t match my own, it’s pretty solid — not one entry that would cause me to tear at my hair and yell “What are THEY doing there?!?”
And with that I’ll shut up and let you guys continue the conversation in the Comments. I’m quite sure you have opinions.
40 Panopticon, The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II, Bindrune
39 Hate Eternal, Upon Desolate Sands, Season of Mist
38 Cosmic Church, Tattymys, Self-released
37 KEN mode, Loved, Season of Mist
36 Monster Magnet, Mindfucker Napalm
35 Wake, Misery Rites, Translation Loss
34 Thou, Magus, Sacred Bones
33 Zeal and Ardor, Stranger Fruit, MVKA
32 Devouring Star, The Arteries of Heresy, Dark Descent
31 Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown, Nuclear Blast
30 Sepulcher, Panoptic Horror, Edged Circle Productions
29 Svalbard, It’s Hard To Have Hope, Translation Loss
28 Horrendous, Idol, Season of Mist
27 Abhorrence, Megalohydrothalassophobic, Svart
26 Visigoth, Conqueror’s Oath, Metal Blade
25 Mortuous, Through Wilderness, Tankcrimes
24 Portal, Ion, Profound Lore
23 Mournful Congregation, The Incubus of Karma, 20 Buck Spin
22 Sleep, The Sciences, Third Man
21 Funeral Mist, Hekatomb, Norma Evangelium Diaboli
20 Outer Heaven, Realms of Eternal Decay, Relapse
19 Varathron, Patriarchs of Evil, Agonia
18 The Atlas Moth, Coma Noir, Prosthetic
17 Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms, 20 Buck Spin
16 Satan, Cruel Magic, Metal Blade
15 Chapel of Disease, …And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye, Ván
14 Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Anti-
13 Voivod, The Wake, Century Media
12 Haunt, Burst Into Flames, Shadow Kingdom
11 At the Gates, To Drink from the Night Itself, Century Media
10 Pig Destroyer, Head Cage, Relapse
9 Khemmis, Desolation, 20 Buck Spin
8 Immortal, Northern Chaos Gods, Nuclear Blast
7 Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Wasteland, Rise Above
6 Skeletonwitch, Devouring Radiant Light, Prosthetic
5 Judas Priest, Firepower, Columbia
4 Evoken, Hypnagogia, Profound Lore
3 UADA, Cult of a Dying Sun, Eisenwald
2 Tribulation, Down Below, Century Media
1 YOB, Our Raw Heart, Relapse