Dec 142018


(Andy Synn concludes his week-long round-up of metal in 2018 with this list of his ten personal favorites among the year’s great and good albums.)

So, after all the stress and struggle involved in putting together all my various lists which preceded this one, now it’s time to relax and turn my attention to those albums, whether “Great” or “Good”, that make up my personal favourites of 2018.

Once again I decided that I wouldn’t include any “Honourable Mentions” this year, as to do so would essentially mean reproducing a good 60-70% of my previous lists (although, that being said… do try and give Agrypnie, Disassembled, Hundred Year Old Man, The Agony Scene and Void Ritual a listen if you get chance) and instead decided to focus solely on the ten albums which I’ve listened to the most and/or which have made the biggest impact on me this year.

Funnily enough, while the actual process of working out which ten records best represented my listening habits over the last twelve months was as complicated as ever, the write-up was much easier than I expected it to be, as it just so happens that I was responsible for reviewing almost all of them! Continue reading »

Dec 132018


(Andy Synn‘s week-long round-up of metal in 2018 continues with this list of his picks for the year’s ten best albums across a range of metal genres — one of which hasn’t been released yet and is reviewed here.)

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that any attempt to craft a “Top Ten” list that represents the wide variety and near-infinite density of the modern Extreme Metal scene is doomed to failure. There’s simply too much of it, too many different competing styles and sub-genres, for a mere ten albums to cover.

That doesn’t stop me trying every year though, so what you’re about to read is my latest effort to capture a clean snapshot of the very best of the best from the past twelve months.

Interestingly this list seems to differ significantly from the various other sites and zines I’ve been keeping an eye on, though that’s not by conscious design. It also skews in a surprisingly “progressive” direction overall, which is not something I anticipated when I first began trying to piece it together, with a massive 70% of the albums featured here making use of clean vocals in some form or another.

In demographic terms, this year’s list features two entries from the USA, two entries from Germany, one from Portugal, one from Iceland, and three from the UK – which, again, wasn’t by design – as well as one international collective whose members come from all across Europe.

It also runs the gamut of practically the entire twelve-month period, with the “oldest” album on here having been released all the way back in the first week of January, while the “youngest” entry won’t even be out until the 21st of December! Continue reading »

Dec 122018


As usual, let’s just get this out of the way right now:



If you thought that was already so obvious that only an idiot would need to be told, well, you obviously don’t remember the famous/infamous Comment No. 7 to our re-post of Rolling Stone’s list in 2013. Though you may have seen how that has been transformed into a running joke every fucking year since then. The only uncertainty now is who will be the first person to do it on this post. The line forms to the left. Continue reading »

Dec 122018


(Andy Synn‘s week-long round-up of metal in 2018 continues with his personal list of the year’s Great albums.)

What exactly makes an album “great”?

Personally I don’t think it’s any one thing. An album can be great because it’s in possession of a truly unique vision, or because its creators displayed a sense of ambition beyond their station. It can also be great simply because its execution is utterly impeccable, or because it somehow channels the fundamental essence of a particular style like no other. Or maybe it just possesses some sort of indefinable x-factor which makes it shine just that little bit brighter than the albums around it.

The point is there are many ways for an album to be considered “great”, and the various selections I’ve picked out on this list showcase an impressive variety of approaches to achieving this greatness.

Being “great” doesn’t mean being perfect by any means – in fact several of these albums are flawed in their own way(s), yet still rise above these flaws to deliver something truly special – nor does an objectively “great” album always have to be your favourite one (indeed, there are quite a few entries on this list whose quality I fully appreciate, yet which simply don’t connect with me in the way their predecessors did), but each of the albums featured here possesses, in my humble opinion, a certain spark or seed of greatness that means people are likely going to be talking about and comparing other records to them for years to come. Continue reading »

Dec 112018


Here’s another entry in the part of our annual LISTMANIA orgy where we re-post lists of metal from “big platform” web sites and print zines — the kind of places that get a lot more eyeballs on them than festering little metal-only hovels like ours.

To justify our selection of Noisey for this part of the series, consider these statistics: Noisey is the on-line music channel of Vice Media, which began as a Montreal-based print magazine in 1994 and has expanded into a global media presence. Noisey was started in 2011 and now has 1,299,822 Facebook followers and (according to this site) receives about 899,500 unique visitors and 1,277,290 page-views — per day.

About one week ago Noisey published its staff’s list of “The Best 100 Albums of 2018“, but due to my vacation, I overlooked it until today. By my count, 11 of those 100 albums are metal (up from 8 last year), or close enough for me to justify including them in the count. Most of those appear to have made the list as a result of recommendations by Noisey editor Kim Kelly, whose by-line appears on the mini-reviews that accompany many of these picks. Continue reading »

Dec 112018


(Andy Synn‘s week-long series of personal year-end lists continues today with his list of 2018’s “Good” albums.)

As we’re all well aware by now, there’s simply so much music, and too many albums, released each year for any blog/zine to keep up with them all, although we do try our damnedest to do so.

Case in point, there’s over 170 albums on the list you’re about to read, with another 90-ish (I haven’t counted yet) to follow on tomorrow’s list of the year’s “Great” albums

Combined with the “disappointing” entries from yesterday’s article that makes almost 300 albums which I’ve managed to listen to and form an opinion about over the last twelve months, and yet that’s still barely even a drop in the (blood) ocean when you consider how many other releases I’ve completely missed out on (or, as is the case with a few of the missing albums, simply not had time to properly assess and evaluate).

And the thing is, I’m fully aware of and appreciate just how lucky I am to have the opportunity to listen to so much music and to seek out so many new and exciting artists each year. Most people don’t have the same freedom or time to dedicate to listening that I do, so one of the primary purposes of these end of year round-up columns is to provide our readers with a sort of “one stop shop” where they can check out a hefty helping of music which they might otherwise not have discovered and, hopefully, stumble across a few hidden gems. Continue reading »

Dec 102018


(We begin a week of Andy Synn‘s year-end lists with a traditional installment that veers off our usual theme of focusing on music we enthusiastically recommend. Feel free to disagree — some of us here may disagree as well — but also feel free to share in the Comments your own thoughts about 2018 albums that disappointed you.)

Despite the fact that the general ethos of the site is to accentuate the positive and to downplay the negative, that doesn’t mean we shy away from constructive criticism when we feel it’s necessary (well, as long as it adds something to the review).

It’s for this reason why I like to start off my annual week-long round-up of the year with the albums which I found to be the most “disappointing” from the last twelve months, as I feel it’s important to acknowledge that not every record released is necessarily a winner, no matter how much we might want them to be, and that it’s always worth pointing out when an artist falls short of the mark.

Now, I’m aware that there are a lot of “big names” represented here, which will probably end up putting the proverbial cat among the pigeons when it comes to angry, offended comments, but I’d like to stress that none of the albums featured here is an objectively “bad” album. And several of them are still quite enjoyable in their own right. But it’s possible for an album to be good while also being a disappointment, particularly in cases where the band themselves have clearly failed to live up to their own high standards. Continue reading »

Dec 072018


(As we do every year, we’re beginning the roll-out of year-end lists by our own writers with Andy Synn‘s six-day series of selections, which begins today and continues next week.)

Next week, as is traditional, I’ll be deploying my regular barrage of year-end lists, beginning with a round-up of what I thought were the most “Disappointing” albums of the past twelve months, followed by my selections of the “Good” and “Great” records of the year.

Now, the point of these lists, as opposed to a traditional “Top Ten” (which I’ll be finalising for the end of the week) is not to “rank” the albums contained therein (beyond the wider “Disappointing”, “Good”, “Great”, categorising) or to show-off how many albums I’ve listened to (as I’ve been accused of before) but to provide our readers with a sort of “one-stop shop” (including, wherever possible, Bandcamp links) for music which they might not have had chance to check out over the course of the year.

So, to whet your appetites a little bit, I thought I’d kick things off with an alphabetised list of the various EPs (seventeen in total) which have grabbed me by the metaphorical cojones in 2018. Continue reading »

Dec 072018


Stereogum easily qualifies as one of the “big platform” web sites whose year-end lists of metal we perennially include in our LISTMANIA series. Of course, the site appeals to an audience of music fans much larger than devoted metalheads (they have, for example, a list of the “50 Best Albums of 2018“, across many musical genres), but its staff includes a talented and tasteful group of metal writers who among other things are responsible for the site’s monthly “The Black Market” column, which has been a great source of discovery for extreme music for six years running now.

It follows that Stereogum‘s annual metal list is one I especially look forward to seeing every year, and the 2018 edition appeared yesterday — though it’s a shorter list than I recall from past years. Continue reading »

Dec 042018


As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites that appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because we believe those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unpoisoned masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.

One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters claims that it is “the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world”. Continue reading »