Year-end lists are always a strange creature. There is no definitive list of what is best in any given year, since some albums take years to take in and really “click,” and it is impossible to hear everything within a given year, especially if you want to absorb an album to the fullest extent. That being said, I think that these lists can be a great reference point for people to find some cool albums. So this list is twenty of my favorite albums from this year that you might not have heard, and if you haven’t – check them out!
This list might also be a bit strange, since it’s a mixture of dissonant death and black, OSDM, with a touch of power metal and instrumental music.
20. Carnation – Chapel of Abhorrence
Carnation claim that they’re from Belgium, but you’d guess Stockholm listening to this. I figure the sound of this album is what Bloodbath are aiming for, except Carnation actually nail it. Aggressive, old school death metal with a distinctively Swedish sound, regardless of what their actual country of origin is.
Purchase here: https://carnation.bandcamp.com/
19. Owane – Yeah Whatever
Nah, this isn’t really metal – but it is technical and incredibly well-written instrumental music. People that enjoy bands like Plini should really check this out. It’s a relaxing and beautiful listen, even for someone like me that doesn’t listen to a lot of experimental or jazz fusion. It can be a nice counterpoint to an hours-long binge of guttural croaks and slamming.
Purchase here: https://owane.bandcamp.com/album/yeah-whatever
18. Scorched – Ecliptic Butchery
This is the second album of nasty and dark death metal put out by these Delaware natives. The vocals are low, and the beats are fast, but this album also isn’t afraid to slow down and hit you with some ludicrously heavy moments.
Purchase here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/ecliptic-butchery
17. Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals
There are many gems coming out of label Memento Mori’s catalog, including the debut LP by France’s Atavisma. The Chthonic Rituals is a dark death-doom album that isn’t afraid to throw some creativity into atmospheric and often brutal death doom.
Purchase here: https://atavisma.bandcamp.com/
16. Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties
This is the third album by this Finnish death metal band but only the first that I’ve had the pleasure of running across. There’s a good amount of variety on here, jumping between fast, melodic riffs, thrashier statements, and huge, spacious doom declarations. Vocal style jumps around too, with higher register screams opposing low, almost Demilich-esque gurgles. It’s an enjoyable listen, and while I can’t help but feel like it is missing something, it has enough memorable moments I find myself continually returning to it.
Purchase here: https://sadistikforest.bandcamp.com/
15. Zealotry – At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds
This is a musically complex death metal but without being sterile and overproduced. This album came out at the very end of the year, so I know I still need to give it many more listens, as I expect it to be an album that really needs to sink it before it starts to speak to you. This also isn’t the only appearance of guitarist Phil Tougas on this list. Grab it through Unspeakable Axe.
Purchase here: https://zealotry.bandcamp.com/
14. Ghastly – Death Velour
Old school death metal from Finland – that description alone should tell you if this is for you. It is melodic and heavy while avoiding modern trappings like polish and technicality.
Purchase here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/death-velour
13. Druid Lord – Grotesque Offerings
The second LP by Florida’s Druid Lord is a ridiculously heavy offering of death metal that feels like having a sledgehammer the size of the moon bludgeon you between moments of respite. It’s glorious.
12. Nightmarer – Cacophony of Terror
Aggressive, unsettling, and dissonant death metal from Tampa, Florida. After a successful EP, this debut LP shows that Nightmarer can easily weave an equally wild ride over the course of 40 minutes. As a person who loves dissonance, darkness, and Gorguts, this album checks a number of sweet spots for me.
Purchase here: https://nightmarer.bandcamp.com/album/cacophony-of-terror
11. Cosmic Atrophy – The Void Engineers
In 2008, I remember first buying and loving the underrated and weird progressive death metal album that was Cosmic Atrophy’s Codex Incubo. When I found out that not only would there finally be another Cosmic Atrophy album but that it would also feature Phil Tougas from Chthe’ilist, I was stoked for the weird death metal possibilities. I’m admittedly still digesting this album, but a great album like this should take time to absorb. If you like weird death metal, give this album a shot.
Purchase here: https://cosmicatrophy.bandcamp.com/releases
10. Convulsing – Grievous
A few years back Brendan Sloan seemingly appeared out of nowhere (read: Australia) and gave us the brilliant Convulsing debut, Errata. This year we’ve been graced with the second Convulsing full-length, which much like its predecessor, wields atmosphere and tension effortlessly. My only hope is that someday his music will see wider release in more formats.
Purchase here: https://convulsing.bandcamp.com/
9. Extremity – Coffin Birth
As is communicated by many of the others on my list, I’m a sucker for new death metal that sounds old school. Extremity are another example of that, and this debut LP delivers the OSDM goods.
Purchase here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/coffin-birth
8. Hyperdontia – Nexus of Teeth
The fact that this was a Dark Descent release with a Paolo Girardi album cover was enough to grab my attention, and that still didn’t prepare me for what was in store. Hyperdontia play raw, dark, and nasty death metal, not unlike Undergang if they were a bit more complex. Nexus of Teeth is a fantastic debut album from these guys, seemingly from both Denmark and Turkey. Check it out.
7. Panegyrist – Hierurgy
This is an odd but brilliant slab of avant-garde black metal. It is difficult to describe, with its focus on clean vocals and medieval melodies, but never quite going route of Batushka or Obsequiae, respectively. This is a weird slab of blackened metal that almost wanders into power metal territory at times and will surely polarize any listener. At times it is unsettling in a way that feels somewhere between Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Thantifaxath. Really, the best way to find out if you’ll like this or not is to listen to it.
6. Pungent Stench – Smut Kingdom
This is a strange item on this list. It isn’t necessarily a “good” death metal album since it avoids many of the staples of the genre, but it is undeniable how much fun this eccentric and goofy album is to listen to. Although this album was completed in 2007, it did not see release until this year, well after Pungent Stench ceased to exist. No, fans looking for Been Caught Buttering-styled songs will be disappointed, but try not to have the chorus of “Aztec Holiday” stuck in your head for days after listening to it.
5. Mortuous – Through Wilderness
There are few things I enjoy more than the OSDM revival. Raw production, a focus on nasty riffs, low register vocals – and this is a great example of that. Through Wilderness is a death metal debut that goes for my heart, and if you’re into death metal albums that sound like they should’ve been released in the early 90s, then get on this.
Purchase here: https://mortuousdeath.bandcamp.com/album/through-wilderness
4. Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath
Two things that are unlikely: good power metal in 2018 and good power metal from the United States – but somehow this album checks off both effortlessly. This album is fun af and catchy af. Try not to sing along to choruses like, “BY STEEL, BY SILVAAAAH” – it can’t be done. If you can deal with a little cheese, then check this out.
Purchase here: https://www.metalblade.com/visigoth/
3. Taphos – Come Ethereal Somberness
Metal archives list Denmark’s Taphos as being a death metal band, but it is hard to shake the feeling of black metal while listening to Come Ethereal Somberness. An intense album like this isn’t measured just by well-written songs, but those moments — the intensity of the drums changing tempo — that make your hairs stand up on end. I’m optimistic the band can continue to write material as good as this debut LP.
2. Svartidauði – Revelations of the Red Sword
In 2012, these Icelandic black metal masters put out Flesh Cathedral, an album I consider to be a masterpiece and one of the greatest black metal albums ever made. The atmosphere is all-engulfing, taking you on a ride through dark recesses that would otherwise be unobtainable. Now, six years later, they’ve finally released another incredible full length. Is it as good as Flesh Cathedral? Only time will reveal that, but it surely is another superb slab of darkness.
1. Anachronism – Orogeny
It is easy to determine if you will enjoy this brilliant slab of dissonant death metal. Do you like late-era Gorguts? If your answer is yes, then you’ll find much to love in this nuanced and heavy sophomore album by Switzerland’s Anachronism. Lisa Voisard plays the role of Luc Lemay here, covering vocals and guitars, and she has a great take on both.
Purchase here: https://anachronismdeath.bandcamp.com/