The only thing unchanging is the fact that things change. It’s the inescapable paradox we must all confront on our annual voyages around the Sun together. And so it seems that every year we at AMG Industries, Ltd. must say goodbye to beloved staff members.1 2018 was no different, but for every loss, a n00b gets his/her shot at interweb immortality. This year we had a bumper crop of newbies vying for review greatness. Some of them already proved their mettle, transcending the trials and travails of AMG Probationary Hell to become unpaid thralls majestic minions. Others are still knee deep in the Skull Pit of Assessment, their ultimate fate resting upon capricious whim and dumb luck.

But this isn’t a time for maudlin introspection. It’s a time to revel in the riches the year hath lavished up on us musically. So let us delay no longer. Commence the Weeks of Lists, and release the AMG Staff Picks! May their poor choices and questionable tastes be a cautionary tale for all who dare to dream of chrome and leather. All lists are not created equal.


Dr. Fisting

(ish): Clutch // Book of Bad Decisions
#10. Octopus // Supernatural Alliance
#9. The Night Flight Orchestra // Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
#8. Cancer // Shadow Gripped
#7. Ihsahn // Ámr
#6. The Skull // The Endless Road Turns Dark
#5. Twitching Tongues // Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred
#4. Satan // Cruel Magic
#3. Failure // In the Future, Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind
#2. Tribulation // Down Below
#1. Voivod // The Wake – This pick should surprise absolutely nobody. While a lot of great albums were released in 2018, none came close to The Wake in terms of musical depth, repeat value or flat-out fun. On their second full outing with guitarist Dan Mongrain, Voivod constructs a complex maze of dissonant riffage that can easily hang with earlier classics like Nothingface and Killing Technology, while sounding entirely unique in the band’s discography. There’s also a lyrical concept woven throughout the album, which (as far as I can tell) seems to somehow involve deep sea creatures, government cover-ups, and tripping one’s balls off. Despite some drastic lineup changes, The Wake is pure Voivod through and through, but also finds them discovering new avenues 35 years into their career.

Honorable Mentions:

Horrendous // Idol
Therapy? // Cleave
Alice In Chains // Rainier Fog


Roquentin

#10. Among the Rocks and Roots // Raga
#9. Yob // Our Raw Heart
#8. Lychgate // The Contagion in Nine Steps
#7. Horrendous // Idol
#6. Tomb Mold // Manor of Infinite Forms
#5. Boss Keloid // Melted on the Inch
#4. Slaves BC // Lo, and I Am Burning
#3. Slugdge // Esoteric Malacology
#2. Sumac // Love in Shadow
#1. Imperial Triumphant // Vile Luxury – The apocalypse is here and Imperial Triumphant are serenading it!

Honorable Mentions:

Chaos Echœs // Mouvement
Rebel Wizard // Voluptuous Worship of Rapture and Response
The Body // I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.
Tribulation // Down Below
Un // Sentiment

Song o’ the Year: Yob – “Beauty in Falling Leaves”


Sentynel

#10: The Night Flight Orchestra // Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
#9: Messa // Feast for Water
#8: Dire Peril // The Extraterrestrial Compendium
#7: Master Boot Record // Direct Memory Access
#6: Jo Quail // Exsolve
#5: Sojourner // The Shadowed Road
#4: Mongol // The Return
#3: Thrawsunblat // Great Brunswick Forest
#2: Gygax // 2nd Edition
#1: Amorphis // Queen of Time – As usual, I’m really bad at picking a single favorite, and any of the top four could have taken this slot depending on my mood. That said, this was an obvious favorite for Album o’ the Year the first time I heard it, and it’s held on to that despite those worthy contenders. Poppy and super catchy while retaining its weight, and featuring Song o’ the Year contender “Amongst Stars” and a stable of other great songs, it’s their best album since the magnificent Skyforger. This is particularly notable in a year in which I’ve been mildly to significantly disappointed by several follow-up albums to past favorites (looking at you, Haken, but there were several others).

Amorphis - Queen of Time

Honorable Mentions:

Esben and the Witch // Nowhere
The Ocean // Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
Sylvaine // Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone

Honorable Mentions (Not Even Remotely Metal):

The Exploding Boy // Alarms
First Aid Kit // Ruins

EP o’ the Year: Dream Tröll // The Witch’s Curse

Song o’ the Year: Gygax – “The Lascivious Underdark”


Akerblogger

#10. Abigor // Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition)
#9. Sumac // Love in Shadow
#8. Anicon // Entropy Mantra
#7. Sorcier des Glaces // Sorcier des Glaces
#6. Lychgate // The Contagion in Nine Steps
#5. Funeral Mist // Hekatomb
#4. Kriegsmaschine // Apocalypticists
#3. Spires // A Parting Gift
#2. Yob // Our Raw Heart
#1. Usurpress // Interregnum – A strange year has frothed forward a peculiar beast. Interregnum is difficult to categorize, difficult to explain. Part bare-boned death metal, part psychedelic trip, part southern-gothic western voyage, Usurpress are unwilling to view through conventional lenses. Interregnum has steadily sucked at my memory throughout 2018. Initially it impressed but faded into the background. Then, as the later months of the year descended into ice and frost, Interregnum’s sultry and thick tones provided a building warmth, a strange warmth that makes the mind yearn for more and more. After every re-listen something different emerged from this progressive chameleon, something that made me view the album from different points of view. Ultimately I don’t know what’s really going on here, but it interests and excites me and that’s all that really matters. Keep on usurping my mind, Usurpress.

Honorable Mentions:

Thou // Rhea Sylvia
Hissing // Permanent Destitution
Voivod // The Wake
A Forest of Stars // Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes
Heads. // Collider

Song o’ the Year: A Forest of Stars“Tombward Bound”


Treble Yell

(ish):  Khanus // Flammarion
#10: Virgin Black // Requiem – Pianissimo
#9: From Ashes Reborn // Existence Exiled
#8: Zombies Ate My Girlfriend // Shun the Reptile
#7: Teuras // III
#6: Led to the Grave // Bane of Existence
#5: Gorod // Aethra
#4: Voivod // The Wake
#3: Totalselfhatred // Solitude
#2: Satan // Cruel Magic
#1: Sammal // Suuliekki – This should not be my number one album of the year. A rip-storming tornado of vicious riffs, swirling solos, and brutal percussion should have been the type of music that muscled its way to the peak of my list, not a fuzzed out, bell-bottomed haze of prog rock, yet Suuliekki managed to reach the summit all the same. This can be partially attributed to a dearth of scintillating music that astounded me this year, but the real reason is simple: Suuliekki makes me feel happy. That may seem like a blithe statement and in any other year such a sentiment would hardly move the needle. Yet after the emotional pummeling I went through the last twelve months, being able to put on a record, smile, and feel all my stress melt away is a joy that trumps any blast-beat or crushing chord. Title track “Suuliekki,” for example, is a distillation of bliss, drenched in warm guitar that glides and grooves like a druid playing hide-and-seek at Stonehenge. Sammal have managed to capture a sense of rightness on the record, to offer, if I may quote myself, “a sunset of nourishing warmth, a rich glow that permeates every facet of the music.” In my review of Suuliekki, I described how the record was a cleansing of all the filthy, decrepit metal I’d been ingesting. Here at the end of all things, the record has served to wash off the grime of a dirty year, leaving me clean, refreshed, and above all, content.

Song o’ the Year: Satan – “Death Knell For a King”


Lokasenna

#10. King Goat // Debt of Aeons
#9. Michael Romeo // War of the Worlds, Pt. 1
#8. Into Eternity // The Sirens
#7. Madder Mortem // Marrow
#6. Omnium Gatherum // The Burning Cold
#5. Allfather // And All Will Be Desolation
#4. Gaerea // Unsettling Whispers
#3. Eneferens // The Bleakness of Our Constant
#2. Chapel of Disease // And As We Have Embraced the Storm, We Have Seen the Eye
#1. Amorphis // Queen of Time – This one sat at the the top for most of the year, to be honest; it’s a touch unfair, as so much of the metal output this year ran toward lackluster at best. It’s the kind of titanic record that burns itself indelibly into the memory, never to be arrested or disturbed. It wasn’t without mighty challenges, though. Both Eneferens and Chapel of Disease popped up right the hell out of nowhere with two more albums that, like Queen or Lör‘s In Forgotten Sleep from last year, offer such an effortless balance in intricacy of songcraft and emotional immediacy that metal is perfectly suited for and so, so often lacks.  But in the end, by that measure and others all challenge fell away, leaving only the album it was always going to be: Queen of Time.

Amorphis - Queen of Time

Honorable Mentions:

Barren Earth // A Complex of Cages
Sulphur Aeon // The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
Coheed and Cambria // Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures2
Nanowar of Steel // Stairway to Valhalla
Kissin’ Dynamite // Ecstasy3

Song o’ the Year: Amorphis“Amongst Stars”

Biggest Disappointment: King Goat // Debt of Aeons4


Master ov Muppets

#10: Un // Sentiment
#9: Antarktis // Ildlaante
#8: Avast // Mother Culture
#7: Kroda // Sebstwelt
#6: Dödsrit // Spirit Crusher
#5: Karg // Dornenvögel
#4: Eneferens // The Bleakness of Our Constant
#3: Bloodbark // Bonebranches
#2: Gaerea // Unsettling Whispers
#1: Altars of Grief // Iris – From that damned Drudkh disaster to the biblical Bookakee bidness, it’s been quite the year for this angry metal Muppet, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This place is my home, pretending my opinions matter and similarly acting like I care about the metal you creeps find is something I trvly cherish, and I already miss the currently decked Hall as the combined horrors of Maine weather and crushing reality of employment band together to steal me away from y’all. However, like Santa, Vardan, and herpes, I’ll be back, yo. Til then, I leave you with the best Muppet music 2018 had to offer. May it do ya.

Honorable Mentions:

Unreqvited // Mosaic I: L’Amour et L’Ardour – Some welcome progression from an already affirmed Muppet favorite, just arrived a tad too late to earn trve list status.

Song o’ the Year: Altars of Grief “Isolation”

Biggest Disappointment: How wonderful seeing Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Wintersun, and several others was with the likewise disappointingly wonderful Dr. Wvrm. I wanted to hate anyone from editing, and I certainly didn’t waltz in with particularly high hopes for Wintersun, but by Jørn both are just unhateable and made for one of the best times I’ve had in years, those fvckers.5


TheKenWord

#10: Great Leap Skyward // Map of Broken Dreams
#9: Oubliette // The Passage
#8: Sulphur Aeon // The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
#7: Altars of Grief // Iris
#6: Svavelvinter // Mörkrets Tid
#5: Gaerea // Unsettling Whispers
#4: Silent Stream of Godless Elegy // Smutnice
#3: Usurpress // Interregnum
#2: Paara // Riitti
#1: Slugdge // Esoteric Malacology – I had a feeling 2018 would be a good year for metal so, back in early March, I created a tiered list to better keep track of albums I liked. Eventually, I had six full pages consisting of 112 names categorized via text color and text weight. Of all entries, only Esoteric Malacology remained steadfast in heavily bolded green text to signify maximum awesomeness. Slugdge outdid themselves with Esoteric Malacology, tightening their compositions by orders of magnitude compared to their last effort and somehow sticking to their slime-ridden theme without rehashing old material. Furthermore, the lyrical acrobatics on Esoteric Malacology bolster what was already one of Slugdge‘s specialties. Every second of this album is inundated with riffs magnificent, hooks unrelenting and intricacies disarming. The overpowering combination therein has sunken me deep into the bog, greedily inhaling the ichor. I have assumed my true form, joined with them and accepted their blessing. Esoteric Malacology and I have unified as one forever, biologically entwined. I worship Slugdge, and no other. All hail Mollusca!

Honorable Mentions:

1914 // The Blind Leading the Blind
Antiverse // Under the Regolith
Cripple Bastards // La Fine Cresce da Dentro
Depravity // Evil Upheaval
Dire Peril // The Extraterrestrial Compendium
Gorod // Aethra
Madder Mortem // Marrow
The Beast of Nod // Vampira: Disciple of Chaos

Song o’ the Year: Usurpress “In Books Without Pages”

Biggest Disappointment: Thrash metal at large

Best Thing I Missed in 2017: Slow // V-Oceans


Cherd of Doom

#10: Convulsing // Grievous
#9: Hooded Menace // Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
#8: Messa // Feast for Water
#7: Anicon // Entropy Mantra
#6: Carpe Noctem // Vitrun
#5: Thou // Rhea Sylvia
#4: Slugdge // Esoteric Malacology
#3: Svartidauði // Revelations of the Red Sword
#2: Æpoch // Awakening Inception
#1: Mournful Congregation // The Incubus of Karma – With their fifth full-length, Mournful Congregation have cemented themselves as the best funeral doom act in the biz, somehow creating their finest work in an already exemplary 25-year career. For those inclined toward lengthy songs and glacial tempos, the eighty minutes of The Incubus of Karma melt away as quickly as a dream after waking. While most bands in the genre try to pull you down into the earth, songs like “Whispering Spiritscapes,” the instrumental title track, and closer “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” absolutely soar. Aching, elegiac twin guitar melodies combine with minimal but powerful backing structures to create an immense sense of scale that carries you ever higher. True, the world you survey from such great heights is a desolate one, but you’ll still feel the wind in your hair.

Honorable Mentions:

Conjurer // Mire
Convocation // Scars Across
Altars of Grief // Iris
Spectral Wound // Infernal Decadence
Thou // Magus


Legal Disclaimer: The tastes of the AMG staff do not reflect those of AMG, Steel Druhm, or Madam X (collectively known as AMG Management). Unauthorized attribution of the aforementioned tastes to AMG Management will be considered a “dick move” in direct violation of our comment section rule and subject to excessive Banhammering.

Show 5 footnotes

  1. They all left willingly and non-suspiciously, and are living happy lives off the grid, beyond any hope of contact.
  2. A stunning return to form that I did not see coming. Kudos, gents, and a hat tip to Eldritch Elitist for trumpeting such to the heavens.
  3. Am I really so without shame? Yep!
  4. Still a stellar album, but Conduit set such a high standard that this was almost inevitable, hard as I tried to be fair.
  5. Likewise. Watching you accidentally shit talk Jari to a Wintersauna roadie was one of the highlights of my year. – Dr. Wvrm