(DGR is actually turning NCS into a coffee table book, but slowly, one day at a time, from now through Friday.)
About halfway through the year I actually thought I was going to make it through the year-end with a solid Top 30 list and nothing more. For a good chunk of the year, 2018 seemed to move in fits and starts — there would be large batches of album releases and then a couple of quiet weeks, then another small collection, and so on. A lot of the more consistent older guard were on something of an “off year” too, so at first I wasn’t expecting to see a large cast of repeats from two years ago making themselves known. I’ve gotten used to a two-to-three year album cycle, so I half-expected stuff to start pointing towards a real loaded front-half of 2019.
But alas, instead the back-half of 2018 turned out to a be a flood. Not just in bands that I’ve consistently enjoyed either, but a whole bunch of new faces that have either been hammering it out over the years and put out some genuine surprises, or people with some absolutely stunning first-time exposures on my end. Not only that, but who would’ve expected an actually pretty solid -core resurgence, with a lot of groups that had thought to hang it up deciding 2018 would be a good year to resurface and put out some stunningly good releases (at least in some cases).
As a result, 2018 proved to be an absolutely massive year. In some ways I think people’s year-end lists are reflecting just how vibrant the year was for our specific subsection of the musical sphere. While people lament that rock ‘n’ roll is dying or has become lame, heavy metal seems perfectly content to just be the constantly angry and forever roiling collective of music — as if it has found a sort of equilibrium in comparison to the mainstream world outside. Which is how you wind up with stupid shit like this, where I once again have FIFTY (warning ahead of time: if you think this introduction is getting verbose, do I have a surprise for you) albums to talk about in wrapping up this tire fire of a year.
2018 was also interesting not necessarily because there were a lot of releases that “blew my mind”, so to speak, but because a bunch of very recognizable genre foundations were executed upon incredibly well. There was many a moment this year where it was like “yes, I recognize exactly what a lot of these bands are doing but they are doing it so well that it’s basically hitting the pleasure centers of my brain near non-stop”.
But 2018 was also a year for the adventurous, and though a lot of that didn’t make my list, a handful did thanks to bands who sought to hybridize various genres of heavy metal. More so than usual it seemed, so that the genre-descriptor segment of people’s reviews this year were often longer than most of the traditional sentences one might dedicate to a song or two. I encourage this sort of shit though. I want to see heavy metal have its curmudgeonly and ugly core, but I also like seeing it as this vibrant, living, and forever-mutating art-piece. A lot of it won’t necessarily be ‘For Me’, so to speak, but some always will be, melding heavy metal or expanding it into things like full-blown hour-long concept pieces tending to have enough of the dumb shiny blasting bullshit that speaks to me as a high-minded heavy metal idiot.
You’ll likely notice some very common recurring themes as we move through my collection of albums that I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. I also did the usual routine of dreading doing this up until the moment I started, and then reveling in it as I did the work because it allowed me to flash back throughout the whole year musically, and to think about discs that sort of fell into the background as the year went on (it turns out, a lot of those are still really good). Who knew, good music remains good even as time passes. Makes you think…or at least one of you, the rest I can still hear the gears being stuck and clanking about.
As always, I’ve also included a small collective of ‘non-metal’ bullshit I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. Most of it is still rock- and guitar-oriented, and this year I’ve tried to keep it to about one per every ten instead of just tacking them on at the end with a small essay. I’ve also done my usual breakout of the EPs that I blasted throughout the year, since I try to keep my top albums to “albums”, though I will likely fail on that front, in addition to the usual panic to make sure that said disc didn’t come out last year OR is something coming early next year and I’m basically blowing my cover.
Now, with all of those words aside, and the weak-willed scared off by the wall of text, and the rest of you with loins girded in preparation, I imagine this will likely be broken out into five parts (though the infinite scroll of all 50 in one post would be HIGH-LARIOUS to me) so let’s begin with this first installment of albums.
50 – Deconstructing Sequence – Cosmic Progression: An Agonizing Journey Through Oddities Of Space
We begin this countdown with what is probably going to be the most densely packed album here. Whenever we do the year-end lists at NCS I’ll often copy my template over in order to start working on my nominations for most infectious songs as well, usually just nominating pulls from my year-end list and then anything else that might stick out. I didn’t do that with Deconstructing Sequence because Cosmic Progression is not an album full of ‘catchy’ or ‘infectious’ songs. It is the sort of disc that is just stuffed to the gills with “a lot”.
To put it differently, it is one of those albums that is the audio equivalent of swinging for the fences, and boy, do Deconstructing Sequence swing for the fences here. Cosmic Progression tells a science fiction story containing multiple annihilation events, trips through black holes, and just about every other fantastic “SPACE” book concept out there. It does so over what might be the most blastbeats that I’ve heard a band pack into a disc, and from that perspective Cosmic Progression is an utterly fascinating listen.
It was one of the 2018 albums that I would throw on so I could be absolutely overwhelmed by it. The narration, the multitude of differing death metal genres, the various synth wanderings — it all just tends to swallow the listener as the band tries to fill the void of space with their music. It has to be up there as one of the dorkiest releases out this year, and you know what? That’s fucking great. I encourage that sort of shit in heavy metal. If we could all be as ambitious as Cosmic Progression tries to be maybe we’d actually do something good on this planet for once. It may fall short of its intended goal, and wow is it an easy album to get lost in some times, but when you can hang on, then the journey through Cosmic Progression is one that can win you over.
49 – Demonical – Chaos Manifesto
A first quarter of the year release, Demonical’s Chaos Manifesto takes the opposite approach from Deconstructing Sequence, weighing in at a punchy eight songs (nine if you have the special edition) and each one of them starkly different from the others, giving the more-than-a-decade-old death metal group’s latest album the feeling of a collection of singles.
Initially formed by Centinex members and now boasting a lineup composed mostly of guys who’ve been in that band, Demonical kept things pretty tight throughout Chaos Manifesto. Some of the songs are straightforward death metal grinders — albeit a bit more modernized and blast-heavy than the usual Swede-death thump, thump, thump march — and others go in completely different directions, including “Towards Greater Gods”, which frankly felt like proof that there is a band out there who can hang with Amon Amarth and their windmill gallop riffs just as good as anyone.
“A Void Most Obscure” provides a punchy opening to the disc and is a bit of a show-stopper simply because of the fun-factor of that track on its own, and for those with more violent tastes then tracks like “Torture Parade” and “Death Unfaithful” will likely have you covered. On top of this the band invited Pehr Skjoldhammer along for the ride for the shout-chorus-heavy “Välkommen undergång”, and the interplay between both vocalists on that song is another aspect of Chaos Manifesto that will worm its way into your brain.
In a year that was heavy on the death metal throwback aspect, as well as a lot of newer groups finding vitality in mining death metal’s history, Demonical were a good go-to if you just wanted to have a modern blastfest with a hefty amount of chainsaw guitar riff in between. That the album wraps up in a neat thirty-five or so minutes only made things better.
48 – Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
I ought to name the next block the “guitar worship block”, but to be honest, the “surprising musical shift block” or the “overcoming adversity block” would’ve fit just as well because all three apply to the next few releases to one degree or another.
In the case of Bloodshot Dawn‘s third album, Reanimation, which got out of the gates real early in 2018, I would argue all three apply. I’ll admit that there was a period in the four-year gap between Demons and Reainimation when things were looking a little shaky for the technically minded melo-death shred project. I imagine pulling Reanimation together in that time frame must’ve been an absolutely Herculean task. I would also not be shocked to find out that a large part of Reanimation was written by guitarist/vocalist Josh McMorran and guitarist Morgan Reid, as the rest of the current lineup joined post-release of Demons, with the group’s whole rhythm section having been recruited in 2017.
The guitar worship that runs through Bloodshot Dawn‘s discography remains unchanged. Reanimation features guest guitar solos, and Reanimation is just as shred-heavy as the group’s previous works. It is what the band do around it that is a surprising change because the group shift from being a relatively catchy, melodically minded and shred-heavy death metal group to a very tech-death-oriented sound on Reanimation. There’s still a lot of straightforward guitar gallop on the disc but Reanimation comes across very heavy in comparison to its predecessors — and because of that it isn’t quite as catchy. It’s like the group really enjoyed the death metal segment where Sven from Aborted appeared on “Human Void” from Demons and decided to expand upon that for a full disc. They mostly execute upon that pretty well, and Reanimation is thus an impressive spectacle. Honestly, “Battle For The Omniverse” kind of makes the whole trip worth the price of admission on its own.
I’m a huge sucker for a lot of what is going on within Reanimation’s confines, though, so despite it being a rougher, uglier beast in comparison to its immediate predecessor, I still found myself enjoying Reanimation a ton.
47 – The Absence – A Gift For The Obsessed
“Guitar worship block” continues strong within this section of my year-end list, this time with Florida’s melo-death stalwarts The Absence returning after an eight-year gap in full-length releases with their new album A Gift For The Obsessed. Whilst the band did put out two singles — one of which would find its way onto the main tracklisting of Gift later — in the form of “Oceans” and “Septic Testament” three years apart from each other in that gap between 2010’s Enemy Unbound and their newest release — it still seemed for a bit like The Absence might’ve gone radio-silent on us permanently. That’s why late March of this year was a celebratory occasion, because The Absence returning to the fold with another album was more than welcome in my world.
Save for a cover of Suicidal Tendencies‘ “You Can’t Bring Me Down” (featuring a guest appearance by Soilwork vocalist Björn ‘Speed’ Strid) and the hair-metal shred solos in the opening of the album’s title track, The Absence play it surprisingly straight on A Gift For The Obsessed. While the band don’t top their second disc, Riders Of The Plague, the new album is the closest they’ve come so far. Its ten songs clock in at close to an hour — though its closer is not some epicly long piece in case that ten-plus-minute runtime scares you — and each is a solid example of melo-death with a real hefty focus on lead-guitar melody this time around.
Quite a few songs open with a quick guitar solo before the band gets underway with the actual melodeath work. Songs like “The Forging”, with a sudden tempo change for its bridge, “Thought & Memory”, which feels a bit like a throwback to the slower movements of Enemy Unbound, and “The Alpha Illusion”, as one of the heavier songs on the album, prove to be highlights. And the aforementioned cover song proves to be a lot of real braindead fun in its own right despite being played — much like the disc as a whole — shockingly straight.
A Gift For The Obsessed proved to be one of my comfort-food releases for 2018, and the excitement of having The Absence back out there was just one of the many reasons I kept going back to this one.
46 – Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
Those of you who expected Skeletonwitch’s Devouring Radiant Light to absorb a lot of elements and aesthetic from the nature-heavy side of the US Black Metal scene, please raise your hand. You, in the back, I see you. But no you didn’t. You did not. Yet, if you had listened to Skeletonwitch’s first post-frontman-switch EP, The Apothic Gloom, and still didn’t see Devouring Radiant Light coming, then you were almost willfully ignorant.
Thing is, with Devouring Radiant Light the core of the Ohio metal group’s songwriting is still there – it’s just a whole lot less barbarian-fantasy focused this time around and a whole lot more philosophical. Another funny thing is that if you had encountered this album while being unaware of the group’s previous discography, and this was your first exposure to them, I’d say this may be one of the most ‘What you see on the box is exactly what is inside the package’ albums that came out in 2018. From the vest-and-hoodie combo styles prominent in their black-and-white band photos to the album art itself looking like smoke filtering out of a hooded veil (and from a far glance could look like the view of a cave’s entrance from the inside) they certainly have the aesthetic down.
Devouring Radiant Light opens with one hell of a gatekeeping exercise too, in the near-eight-minutes of “Fen Of Shadows” standing in stark contrast to the group’s previous album Serpents Unleashed, which took until song three to hit the eight-minute mark. Longer and expanded in a variety of directions in comparison to just about everything else in the group’s career, the new album becomes an adventure, and hearing Skeletonwitch free to explore whatever strikes their fancy is a joyful exercise.
They mold, meld, and mutate a variety of different sounds to go alongside their galloping core and vocalist Adam Clemans goes along for the ride, offering up a greater range of vocal styles than the band had used before. Because of this, Devouring Radiant Light is almost equal parts prog, black metal, death metal, and classic thrash. There’s still some solid pit riffing within, but the walks to get there are much longer and they’re surrounded by music that is a lot less instantly gratifying.
Skeletonwitch come off as an entirely new band here at points, and as someone who has enjoyed their previous forays, it is something that definitely took some preparing for, but Devouring Radiant Light had pretty much completely won me over by the time I had reached “The Luminous Sky”.
45- Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
Much as The Satanist will probably be viewed as a turning point in Behemoth’s career, I think their latest album I Loved You At Your Darkest will be viewed as another one — as the disc that made very clear Behemoth are fully bought-in on their own bullshit.
The Satanist is one of those albums that is lightning in a bottle, where the stars aligned just right and it came out with the perfect length, near-perfect atmosphere, and excellent songwriting. I Loved You At Your Darkest isn’t quite that, and in some ways feels like an expansion pack to The Satanist — it’s the director’s cut version. It uses a lot of the same tricks again and is pretty recognizable from moment one, and if there’s one thing you couldn’t fault I Loved You At Your Darkest for, it would be being bereft of ideas, because Behemoth try a whole lot of stuff this time around — the one caveat being, so long as it fits within the spectrum of what they were doing on the previous disc.
Thus I Loved You At Your Darkest winds up with an expanded tracklisting and a whole lot of shit being thrown at the wall just to see what sticks. There’s a lot to be enjoyed here, and the album makes a great first impression with ‘Wolves Of Siberia” easing you back into the fold and then “God = Dog” shifting moods at least three times. Surprisingly enough, the group’s lead guitar playing and soloing comes to the forefront on I Loved You At Your Darkest, providing lots of little gems to be mined and noticed throughout the entirety of this one. There’s even a punkier song or two, which gives me “If Crucifixion Was Not Enough” because look, if Behemoth is going for the dumbass d-beat for a bit, that’s my branch of stupid on the musical tree and I love just about every second of it.
The issue with I Loved You At Your Darkest is that because at times it really does go for it, there are a couple things that come off a little cheeseball. I don’t mind the children’s choir popping up, but it is an element so rarely used on the disc that it feels more like a bullet-point on a list to scare middle-America, which granted, if you’re going be bought-in on your bullshit then you kind of need to go whole hog on it. The other is that I Loved You At Your Darkest tails off pretty hard. There’s a couple of moments on the disc when it could’ve just ended, but it sounds instead like Behemoth decided to go for another round. Surprisingly, the last few tracks actually do pretty well on their own, it’s just that in the full run of the disc they do prove to be a little bit of a slog.
Other than that I genuinely enjoyed my time with I Loved You At Your Darkest and it proved to be a pretty constant listen alongside just letting the Behemoth discography run as a whole.
I just wish someone would tell me what “Barzabel” was about or where the album title came from….
44 – Wolfheart – Constellation of The Black Light
I mentioned in my lengthy state-of-the-union/preamble that I’m pretty used to a two-to-three year album cycle from bands, and anything that comes quicker than that honestly tends to scare me. I know creativity is different for every musician, but for as many prolific musicians out there who can go round-for-round musically and create multiple discs that are just killer, there are others who release a disc a year after a solid album and it just belly-flops and burns you by being uninspired or just feeling like the blander half of an unspoken double-album. And you guys, I’ve been burned too many times.
So, admittedly, I was hesitant to find myself looking at a new Wolfheart disc a year and a half after the group’s previous album Tyhjyys (still haven’t forgotten how to spell that yet, it will be my one Finnish word until the end of time), and although that extra six months can mean a ton musically, the year of release reading like 2017 and 2018 chronologically is just enough to spook me. Yet, with Constellation Of The Black Light (it’s less impressive that I know this one, I imagine) Wolfheart don’t disappoint.
They play it pretty safe for the most part, and Constellation is pretty consistent, to the point of sounding like another session of Tyhjyys. Had it not been for the fact that the album’s intro is folded into ten-minute opener “Everlasting Fall” this would’ve been the group’s third album in three years to have eight songs and clock in at over forty minutes. Of course, I tend to love Wolfheart at their blastiest, so songs like “Defender”, “Warfare”, “Forge With Fire”, “Breakwater”, and the opening of “Everlasting Fall” seem like custom-built tracks for me. In those moments it is really made clear that there is such a solid core to Wolfheart’s frozen melodeath sound that “solid” by their standards would be goddamned killer by some other group’s metrics.
The combination of a light keyboard element, folk-metal melodies that slowly layer on top of the quick moving core, Tuomas Saukkonen‘s bark driving the whole thing, a drummer just as happy to annihilate a kit as he is to fade into the back, and some gorgeous acoustic guitar sound, once again won me over. While it may have leaned hard into being “more of what you love, more of the same” — which is probably the theme around which a large part of this list was built — Wolfheart executed it well enough that even though it was clearly recognizable as a third companion to the songwriting style of Shadow World and Tyhjyys, it was still enjoyable.
43 – Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Speaking of bands who played it pretty close to home this year, Omnium Gatherum returned to us in 2018 with a new album in The Burning Cold. While Omnium Gatherum‘s discography isn’t perfect by any means, they have had some pretty solid runs, and the most recent one of those was capped off by Beyond, an album that we all enjoyed very much around the NCS-sphere and one of the few we’ve ever run multiple reviews for. We didn’t do that for follower Grey Heavens, a disc that kind of underwhelmed us. Though we found our five to six tracks to like, it’s a difficult act to follow an album where every song felt necessary and a full album run was almost required.
The Burning Cold feels a lot like a return to that song-writing form. In fact I had initially joked that the album might just be Beyond(er) the first time I heard it. There is a renewed focus on guitar and keyboard melody, and while the band get a little hurdy-gurdy at times, Omnium Gatherum are at their best when the interplay between guitar and keyboard makes for some of the catchiest melodies in melodeath. Combining that with vocalist Jukka Pelkonen‘s harsh, low-end death metal bark just makes the whole thing work.
“Gods Go First” as the album opener does an excellent job welcoming fans back into the fold, and though the band manage to take a shot at writing a song like “Skyline” from Grey Heavens, in the form of “Rest In Your Heart” and a good part of “Be The Sky”, most of The Burning Cold tends to hew pretty closely to faster songs that allow that guitar and keyboard combo to just soar. “Driven By Conflict” has one of the heaviest opening segments that the band have done in years and also contains the utterance of the album’s title within it. “Refining Fire” and its intricate melodies and “Over The Battlefields” constant usage of the classic melo-death two-step give the album more highlights than one might expect.
The issue is that because The Burning Cold is so familiar in a lot of ways it’s also pretty easy for it to bounce in and out of one’s life. You’ll have a great time listening to it, and it slots in excellently with the rest of Omnium Gatherum‘s discography if you’re inclined to just load up every song they’ve done and let the thing shuffle up and run, but certain songs have a hard time sticking around in your memory for that same reason. It certainly isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but as 2018 avalanched more and more music upon us, time for The Burning Cold began to wither down on this end. Man, it makes one hell of an impression on you as you’re listening though.
An aside: If you have the single they put last year called, “Blade Reflections”, I have found that song fits wonderfully alongside this album’s tracklisting. I have run them together and it feels almost integral to the way the disc flows. Maybe it’s just the fact that “Blade Reflections” and its keyboard and guitar focus fits The Burning Cold‘s writing style, but I would highly recommend it alongside the album itself.
42 – Ion – A Path Unknown
We now travel across the world and away from a remarkably European-packed section of the list to something much closer — in this case about two hours away from yours truly — with San Francisco’s part black-metal, part post-, part-ambient act Ion and another early-in-the-year release with the hour-and-ten-minutes long A Path Unknown.
Not only do we travel from across the world but we also drain the color out of the music as well. So all the keyboard and guitar frills of the last release in this list are annihilated and effectively drowned, and dragged down into a colorless world. Ion’s hybridized musical style has them breaking A Path Unkown into six parts over the course of its hour-plus and then combines those parts into three distinct songs — well, distinct in that they are separated by track breaks. The fact that song one is named I, II, and VI probably doesn’t help matters much.
In fact it probably doesn’t matter all that much because A Path Unknown is one of those releases that you have to lock into, and requires that you make it through a healthy chunk of its drifting through a hopeless and haze-filled world before your attention breaks. If there’s one think Ion are demonstrating here, it’s that they have a strong grasp of atmospherics and the humongous. Echoing corridors that they construct the album from are easily imagined as you drift further and further into each song.
There are also moments of absolute ferocity and intensity, which is where Ion get to demonstrate their black metal genre-chops and vocalist/guitarist Ryan Danial and drummer/vocalist Adam Houmam find themselves purposefully buried in the wall of sound Ion are constantly pumping forward, drowning their snarls, shrieks, and wails in a storm of noise that slowly begins to morph into something resembling songs over the course of the differing movements. It’s a difficult experience to describe for sure, especially as so much of A Path Unknown is filled with what might as well be the musical equivalent of emptiness, versus some of the more hyperactive groups on this year-end list. But the rapidly alternating way in which Ion build out their passages of music is one that continually dragged me in, over and over again, throughout 2018. A Path Unknown was just one of those discs you absolutely had to prep for.
41 – Inferi – Revenant
We shift from the slow and suffocating, from the echoing and cavernous, from the atmospheric and ambient, and from one side of the country to the other, with the high-speed lethality of Nashville, Tennessee’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-group Inferi and their 2018 release Revenant.
Believe it or not, there’s actually less on Revenant than was on the group’s previous album The Path Of Apotheosis; a whole ten minutes less in fact. But, the way Inferi write music, it sure doesn’t feel like it, as this is another one of those albums that wins out a lot of the time by sheer punching weight alone. Not only do Inferi absolutely jam-pack their songs with as many different guitar explorations as possible, and take each track down a million different paths by the time they close out, they elect to do so really, really fucking fast.
That strategy ensures that Revenant bears a trait that is a lot like its immediate predecessor — the aforementioned Path — in that it has a ton of stuff to be discovered over and over. Revenant came out in April of this year, and yet even in listening sessions now I still find myself noticing things that hadn’t quite made themselves visible before, even in segments of songs that I already particularly enjoyed because the band have mastered the art of a high-speed blast apocalypse. On Revenant not only do the band themselves do a ton of heavy lifting they even bring some other musicians into the affair, this time featuring guest work from Arsis’ James Malone and The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad, who continues on his quest to become a common presence throughout much of heavy metal.
So why, then, do Inferi find themselves in the higher numbers of the year-end party this time around? The main reason is that Revenant suffers from a known factor in Inferi’s music, which is that there are large swaths of time when the music can become a little faceless. You’ll get lost within songs, and parts become difficult to differentiate. In some ways, I think Inferi even recognize this and they do make a massive effort on Revenant to make things distinct — which results in a handful of incredible moments on this album.
There’s a lot of symphonic work this time around, and more than just a collection of keyboard stings, it actually feels woven into the songs. Though it may just be bad memory, I don’t recall the bass guitar being given that much room to wander before this album, and man it is great to hear it pop up from time to time on Revenant.
The funny thing here is that it’s the back half of Revenant where the album gets really good, because those songs actually feel like Inferi are as ‘big’ musically as they suggest with the density of all their different elements. Basically, from “Enraged And Drowning Sullen” forward, Inferi go on an absolutely killer run up until the disc ends. “Thy Menacing Gaze” is an easy album highlight and one of the more dynamic songs on Revenant as a whole, and “Behold The Bearer Of Light” sends the whole album out fantastically; it is a song where every element of Inferi’s songwriting builds up to a crescendo.
However, like the albums preceeding it, Revenant is an album that you need to be prepared for. But it is also one where if you a) worship guitar work or b) have an absolute love for constantly discovering things, then the journey is richly rewarding.
On Antimatter – Black Market Enlightenment
I figured I’d try to do something different with my year-end screed this year. Instead of separating my non-metal stuff off into some ghetto or randomly jamming them into the center of the list, I figured why not try to close out each of these installments with something that I enjoyed outside of the metal world — and in this case, why not highlight my favorite branch of the sad-sack bullshit tree and touch bases with Antimatter and their album Black Market Enlightenment.
I’ve long sung the praises of Mick Moss and crew, and the Antimatter discography has been an absolute favorite of mine whenever I’m feeling moody. Likewise, I probably say this every time there’s a new Antimatter album, but Black Market Enlightenment is a goddamned masterpiece.
The disc, focusing heavily on escape through drug-usage and its effects on people as a central theme, has some of Antimatter’s heaviest and most varied works to date. There’s the expertly written acoustic songs in there for sure, but there’s also some incredibly moody and at times incredibly heavy segments of the album that make Black Market Enlightenment into a dynamic listening experience. The dreamlike fade-in and fade-out segment that happens in the back half of the album in “Between The Atoms”, of “am i still here? where is here?”, is incredible, and that’s following an awesome pairing of songs in “Sanctification” and “Existential”, with only the soft bridge of “What Do You Want Me To Do?” to break up the misery parade.
Of couse, it took me forever to even get to that part because I was absolutely in love with the front half of the disc, especially “Wish I Was Here” as a whole and how “This Is Not Utopia” slowly morphed into something resembling the opening of Tool’s “Vicarious” to close out.
The whole of Black Market Englightment is an amazing disc and I could spend forever talking about how goddamned good it is, but here in my year-end list let me just say, you have to listen to it. It is such a high recommendation for me, and has been a constant go-to since its November release when I’m not in the world of the relentlessly heavy — though some could argue this disc is, in a sense.
I only have one word to say: Fvck Yeah!
Regarding your Behemoth related questions:
I just wish someone would tell me what “Barzabel” was about…
It seems to me that the whole song could be a chant, which needs to be spoken during invocation of a demon Bartzabel/Barzabel. This is just my assumption, I don’t have any official source for this. But when you look at the invocation described here, you can find similar names to those in song lyrics. Also, structure of lyrics could back up this theory.
…or where the album title came from…
Recycling my comment on the album review here:
Nergal said this about the title of the album:
“This is 11th Behemoth album. Due to a fact that Christianity’s one of the biggest dogmas is 10 commandments, in Christian symbolism and numerology the number 11 stands for something transgressive and very sacrilegious and blasphemous. Because there is 10 commandments, which means that 10 is a number that is complete. So number 11 imbalances the perfection of Christianity. So we though, okay, this is our eleventh album, we should go to the source of all evil in the world, I’m talking about the Bible, and steal one of Jesus’ quotes and just turn it upside down, twist it around and use it as our tool.”
Reasonably certain it’s not even an actual Jesus quote however. Making the title a bastardised version of a bastardised version of something else.
Granted, I fvcking love “Bartzabel” (it’s basically Behemoth doing Moonspell) but the majority of the album just sounds weirdly half-assed. Although I think DGR makes some pertinent points about the band’s attempt to “shock” middle-america. They’re clearly aiming for the Marilyn Manson, “dangerous to our youth”, hype with this one.
Nice, just finished my way through part 1! Lots of great stuff I’ve missed this year – Bloodshot Dawn, Inferi, The Absence, Skeletonwitch. Deconstructing Sequence is an interesting mix, one that I think will require a more full listen or two to get the feel of. Also, Antimatter is good too!
First, very happy to see Inferi getting more love and manifestation. They are technical wizards–I definitely cannot wait for them to be a few albums down the road from now. Malcom Pugh is a beast.
Oftentimes, in my opinion, I think some individuals too often expect releases to be a progression or complete change of style from a band’s prior discography. On that same token, if a band fails to execute that expectation and constantly change their style, constantly add elements, subtract elements, experiment with other newfound elements, etc., that they are condemned or not as boasted about. I think some bands don’t think along those lines. They don’t necessarily attempt to make changes or immediately build upon a sound. There are some books, or even book series, where at times, it’ll take a few chapters or even an entire book before the action or climax really begins to occur. Many of them are probably content with simply just “adding” to their discography and their well-established sound. As we all know, sometimes, changing one’s sound/style or experimenting with new things doesn’t always have positive results. With that being said, this may be part of the intent for The Absence, Omnium Gatherum, and Wolfheart (I actually did like this Wolfheart release better than its predecessor).
I still thoroughly enjoyed the blistering solos in Bloodshot Dawn’s new album… but I certainly think the vocal delivery degenerated. That’s one of the reasons their album didn’t rank as high in my list (I think it may have been somewhere between 60th and 70th of 100, can’t remember).
I wholeheartedly agree with your words on Skeletonwitch. It does almost appear that people simply forgot or neglected the 2016 EP with the new vocalist, so “Devouring Radiant Light” shouldn’t have been such a surprise to everybody in terms of the level of transformation. I thought it was still a “good” album, but it could have been better I suppose. Maybe it’ll take them a few more albums to nail down whatever sound they’re trying to accomplish.
Behemoth is likely going to be one of those bands that changes styles every few albums or after so much of time. I predicted a string of albums sounding quite similar after their newly-established elements found in “The Satanist” (which was a bad ass album). Since they give particular significance to numbers and symbology and such, I’m interested in hearing what is to happen on their thirteenth album.