Written by: Loveloth
Yes, it's time for these obligatory year-end lists where I subtly position myself as having superior taste than you mere mortals, but fear not because you will give in! Hopefully. Anyhow, I am Loveloth (of a certain Gazebo that resides in the waters of Instagram) and this is my first legit text for this wonderful thing we have going on here. It's a sign that you'll be seeing a lot more of me this year so prepare. But let's indulge in my top 20 picks of 2018 before those wretched times come.
See how I skillfully skipped the whole "this year was amazing for music" thing and... aw shit, well, it seems I am just like the rest of them. Onwards then!
20. IN VAIN - Currents
Norway's greatest prog death band return with a huge, engrossing, snappy and overall excellent record. The fact that this was released in January and still managed to grab my number 20 spot after listening to about 340-ish records from 2018 says a lot. And having Baard Kolstad behind the kit certainly helped and I sincerely hope he sticks around. Absolutely worth your time.
19. MESSA - Feast For Water
Gonna spoil the list and say that this is the only doom record you'll find. Yes I am aware that this is not YOB's Our Raw Heart and better for it, as Feast For Water has practically no filler moments. Messa are slowly but surely carving their own niche with each new release and I couldn't be happier. Sara intoxicates with her gorgeous voice and the rest of the band provide a jazzy, submerged, subdued and dynamic (yep we're already using that word) backbone. A must for doom fans.
18. DAUGHTERS - You Won't Get What You Want
Well it seems most of us didn't get what we want. We got something that either completely caught us off guard raises hand or exceeded our every expectation. With this record, Daughters became an almost household name and a frequent guest of many a year-end lists. Anxious, decadently poetic, paranoid, bestial, it all represents that one part of us which we desperately try to subdue. Lose yourself in the hysterical abyss that is You Won't Get What You Want.
17. TOBY DRIVER - They Are The Shield
One would think Toby Driver's peak passed after so many different bands and projects, but no, you noobs, he is an unstoppable creative force and his second solo record proves this. They Are The Shield is an expansive and brilliant journey into the most ethereal and sonically pleasing waters. I'll be retaking the journey for many days to come and you should too.
16. A FOREST OF STARS - Grave Mounds & Grave Mistakes
Being unique is really hard, it's a shocker I know. But A Forest Of Stars truly do stand out. With their eccentric (and amazing in every way) Victorian aesthetic, this English septet will drag you, with or without your consent, through their bleak and decadent era with the power of psychedelic, avant-garde and progressive blend of black metal with outstanding lyrics. Your tour guide will be Mister Curse and he is quite an intense oddity so prepare accordingly. Maybe Katheryn will help you, who knows in any case have fun!
15. ERRA - Neon
It's 2018 (not anymore actually) and we have a Sumerian records band on a top 20 list on an underground review site, that's a first and don't worry, I am equally as confused. But Neon is so damn vibrant, catchy and groovy that I couldn't ignore it. I instead embraced it, and what I got is a superb progressive metalcore record filled with impressive riffs, engaging vocals and smart, creative songwriting that exploits the power of good choruses. Neon is a shot of much needed energy in a pretty sated scene.
14. OCEANS OF SLUMBER - The Banished Heart
Doomy and gloomy prog guided by a troubled yet breathtaking female voice? I'll have an hour of that please. Despite their misleading name (no oceans in Texas, come on guys) Oceans Of Slumber was on my radar since their excellent Winter that seemingly came out of nowhere. Two years passed and The Banished Heart stares directly into our souls with refreshing honesty, proudly showing its vulnerable and exposed insides. And we all have that due to (a)social media and other technological wonders and trends. Shame the record had some filler tracks such as the Wayfaring Stranger and being generally a bit bloated. Still, it's a real treat and a sign of wonderful times to come.
13. BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME - Automata I & II
I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not cheating. Let's face it, the Automatas belong together as they make this conceptual majesty whole, literally and figuratively. And I've gotta be honest, (get used to these,) I liked Coma Ecliptic a lot so I expected great stuff from these wizards, but the pressure from the others who don't share the same opinion as yours truly was real. The band absolutely delivered and released one of their greatest works to date. It's a pretty big deal if you're a BTBAM fan. With tracks like Blot and The Voice Of Trespass the quintet still manages to explore and expand like never before, and I can't wait to see how they'll follow up this behemoth.
12. SILENT PLANET - Where The End Began
I had no idea Silent Planet existed until I saw praise from my fellow Villagers (Soliloquist and Ancient Hand to be more precise). The praise is justified because Where The End Began is a lyrical masterpiece and a joy to listen to. Surprisingly complex with jazzy drumming, angular and acrobatic riffs, clear yet beefy production and those amazing vocals. Garrett Russell is a modern poet who deconstructed the whole American society with clever word play, insane amount of references and depth that is unheard of in metalcore. His actual vocal performance is excellent, his flow, range and pronunciation are all superb. Silent Planet, you definitely have my attention.
11. IHSAHN - Ámr
I like Emperor but Ihsahn is so much of a better fit for me. Quirky, experimental and dark, Ihsahn's 7th record Ámr shares similarities with Arktis, but is overall a completely different story. Acrylic drum set, odd analog synths reminiscent of Carpenter and that flat but organic production guarantee a good time filled with memorable moments. Wake, One Less Enemy are some of Ihsahn's finest work and while it doesn't top After or Arktis, Ámr is still a proof of Ihsahn's vast creativity and will to chart unknown (and icy) waters.
10. RIVERS OF NIHIL - Where Owls Know My Name
Who? Get it? The album title is referring to owls and... oh just forget it and listen to the damn thing if you somehow didn't. Despite the just OK production, Rivers Of Nihil blast through with intense sax-laden, quarter-note chugging maelstrom that took 2018 by storm and for fine reason. It's super good fams! This is a big step up from Monarchy and I am really curious to see where this Pennsylvainian quintet leads us.
9. SUMAC - Love in Shadow
Unpopular opinion. I prefer Sumac over Isis since their superb What One Becomes, but Love In Shadow is a monumental feat that expands the band's formula. And that formula is god-tier improvisation. Led by disgusting heaviness paired with earth-shattering riffs and enough momentum to put down a charging rhinoceros, Sumac constantly challenging themselves and the listener and I love that. Long, exhausting but cathartic and purifying, Love In Shadow is a record whose density and scope will drag you back to it only to expunge you after draining all your energy.
8. ALKALOID - Liquid Anatomy
This record rose up like the cephalopods it prophesies as one of 2018's finest. Bursting with degenerate charm, this ode to my mighty cosmic masters (I am Loveloth after all) is one I will always return to. It has everything, the riffs are mind-boggling complex exercises, the lyrics zany and extremely clever, the vocals unsettlingly familiar, the drums astounding, that's what you get when you put five German wunderkinds and geniuses in one room and let them jam and talk about Lovecraft, science and metaphysics. Bravo chaps, my overlords are pleased.
7. SLUGDGE - Esoteric Malacology
You know what my overlords found more pleasing? Slugdge's latest attempt of summoning the slimey Greatfather, of course. This very record is the definition of justified hype, and these two potential servants named Matt Moss and Kev Pearson created one of the most engaging prog hybrids in a very long time. Now I only need to convince them that we should unite our religions into one vast, cosmic organization that will ensure the future of...oh, sorry, got off track there for a second. Proceed.
6. DEAFHEAVEN - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
The greatest foe of trve kvltists hath returned with their most subdued, complete, and least metallic offering yet, and it's breathtaking. Deafheaven always manage to make me feel fuzzy inside whilst going insane. Whatever your stance on the band, this deserves your attention, it's truly fresh and the San Fran quintet continue to be a trailblazer and a great influence to upcoming bands. Be brave, explore and ignore naysayers because if you truly got it, who knows, maybe you'll create something unheard of and that's what propels art forward.
5. TESSERACT - Sonder
Meet my most listened to band in 2018. That's right, it's djent time and Tesseract's Sonder is a brilliant, albeit short culmination of all their previous phases. Abrasive, vast, insanely groovy, complex, ambient and soaring release that shows a band pushing themselves whilst completely retaining their core sound. Be it the absolutely breathtaking Juno or goosebump inducing scope of Beneath My Skin or Mirror Image, Sonder will never leave rotation (especially because of its godly production), same as every Tesseract record. I just need more.
4. ROLO TOMASSI - Time Will Die And Love Bury It
Where did the hell did this come from? If you're like me, you'll feel the same way after experiencing Time Will Die And Love Bury It which is Rolo Tomassi's breakthrough and overall fifth release that ups the antee on every front. Eva Spence's voice is equally as formidable as it is soothing, the instrumentation is amazing as it walks the thin line between unbelievably aggressive and unbelievably chill. Tracks like The Hollow Hour, Rituals, A Flood Of Light, or basically any other stick and continue to get under your skin, at least this occurred with your boi. This was my AotY for a while and as we near the end of our list, the smallest details dictated what record sits on what spot
3. THE OCEAN - Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
I am a big paleontology nerd, and having a brilliant post-metal act such as The Ocean consistently deliver gold is nothing short of outstanding. Massive, vibrant and unbelievably clever with its usage of words and motifs, Palaeozoic soared above virtually every other release. You'll get my sentiment after Permian: The Great Dying abruptly ends. The bar has been set unbelievably high and I am pretty confident the band will follow up accordingly. All hail The Ocean.
2. VOLA - Applause of a Distant Crowd
Vola was one of those year-defining bands for me and Applause cemented that love. Just as with The Contortionist's Clairvoyant in 2017, Vola brought a breath of fresh air to an ironically formulaic scene. Too many prog bands sound alike and play it safe but these Danes decided to almost entirely drop the Meshuggah worship (that I am a fan of) that was plentiful on Inmazes and gaze towards pop, electronica, ambient and industrial. What we got is a wonderful, fresh, lush sonic curtain that completely surrounds you. Ruby Pool, We Are Thin Air, and the title track are among the most beautiful and warm pieces of music I heard last year. Then you have stuff like Smartfriend or Whaler which show the more "ugly" and discordant side of the band we grew accustomed to on their previous releases. Must hear, in my Necronomicon-looking book.
1. BLACK PEAKS - All That Divides
Here it is, the album I felt was the most complete and the closest thing to a masterpiece 2018 had to offer. I expected seeing Black Peaks somewhere on my list but definitely not as my number one pick and I am even happier for it. All That Divides is a sound of true, unadulterated passion that the band unleashes upon the listener. This isn't the only thing that makes this record so brilliant of course. Each song is brimming with well executed ideas, the instrumentation is impressive, the vocals superb and the whole package outstanding with no filler in sight. Imagine if you had the best parts of Crack The Skye era Mastodon, the hysteria and calculated aggression of Dillinger, Mars Volta's unhingedness, the flow of Oceansize and sprinkle in a tad of Deftones for good measure. Yes I mentioned a lot of bands but Black Peaks came to a point where their sound is their own. There is no doubt in my mind that these guys are here to stay and continue to make waves with each passing release. World, it's time to meet your new masters, apart from me of course. Now on to 2019!
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.