’s Aggregated Top 10(ish) of 2018: The List to End All Lists

2018 Meta-List Splash: the website logo and five album covers

We have finally reached the conclusion to 2018’s list season: the Meta List. In all, despite our best efforts to bemoan the quality of metal in 2018, 221 unique releases have made their way into our compiled lists which span the entire heavy spectrum. This not only goes some way to dispel any notion that metal is dead but also illustrates that the Angry Metal Hall is now shockingly crowded despite Steel Druhm‘s frequent and violent ejections. I am intrigued and entertained to observe which records which rise to the top of the heap and am delighted to honor our collective favorite records from 2018. post– El Cuervo

1914 - The Blind Leading the Blind10. 1914 // The Blind Leading the Blind – [Dr. Wvrm, Eldritch Elitist #4, L. Saunders #5, AMG (ish), Steel Druhm, TheKenWord HM] – 2018 saw the First World War Centenary and 1914 marked this milestone of distance from the atrocious horrors of that war with their affecting sophomore full-length entitled The Blind Leading the Blind. Dr. Wvrm notes that it “encapsulates the annihilation of the era, in all its wanton carnage and misery, with an hour of the finest meat-grinding riffs and percussive destruction that black and death metal have to offer.” Given the justified sensitivity in the subject matter, Eldritch Elitist acknowledges that it “had the potential to feel rushed and pretentious. The Blind Leading the Blind is anything but. 1914’s mammoth death metal riffs, soaked in dark, doomy melodies, perfectly encapsulate an atmosphere born from countless generations’ worth of war horror stories. […] This is a clearly a band with an acute awareness of the gravity of their subject matter, and the result feels appropriately larger than life.”

Gaerea - Unsettling Whispers9. Gaerea // Unsettling Whispers – [Master ov Muppets #2, Lokasenna #4, TheKenWord #5, Dr. Wvrm #8, GardensTale #10] – Boasting five hits on lists proper (no honorable mentions) and three top fives, Unsettling Whispers by Portugal’s Gaerea proved quite the blackened hit in its singular fusion of various black metal sounds. The Muppet‘s velvety tongue spun some nice words so he can round this one out: “With the nightmarish atmospheric sensibilities of Celtic Frost, the pummeling violence of Deathspell Omega, the sheer evil of Gorgoroth and a Behemoth ear for headbanging, Gaerea have gathered the souls of black metals most hallowed ov icons and given them somewhere they can finally move on to in Unsettling Whispers. Riffs, dissonance, ambient lulls and apocalyptic levels of aggression […] it’s all here, and for once it feels like it’s moving forward.” Do not miss this as a fan of black metal.

Hamferð - Támsins likam8. Hamferð // Támsins likam – [AMG #1, Huck N’ Roll, GardensTale #2, Steel Druhm HM] – With the slightly dubious honor of reaching the fewest lists in this aggregation, Támsins likam by Hamferð was dragged across the line at the eleventh hour by the AMG list and its top-billing there. However, it speaks to its quality and remarkable impact that three of its four electors ranked the record in their top two, including the #1 pick by AMG Himself, rendering Támsins likam the de facto Record o’ the Year for Allow our illustrious leader a moment to explain why: “the album is an artfully written and gorgeously produced. The sound is deliberate and crushing, with leaden guitars and thick, ponderous bass and drums […] Támsins likam demonstrates Hamferð‘s excellent musicianship and compositional intelligence. Combined with an artful mix and commanding performances, Hamferð produced my Record o’ the Year for 2018.”

Madder Mortem - Marrow7. Madder Mortem // Marrow – [GardensTale, Kronos #1, Lokasenna #7, L. Saunders, Huck N’ Roll, TheKenWord, AMG HM] – Clutching the top award from two writers and featuring on five further lists, Marrow by Madder Mortem exemplifies “exactly the varied, creative, and heartfelt album that every prog band should aspire to make” (Kronos) with especial fervor generated by the talented Agnete Kirkevaag fronting the band. Seeing as our GardensTale has had a massive stiffy since September 21st and can’t even hear the word “madder” without needing a change of pants, he can close out why you should give these Norwegians prog nerds your time: “nothing could have prepared me for the absolute emotional smack down that is Marrow; an album that improves upon Red of Tooth and Claw in every conceivable way. With shimmering vitality, Marrow is deeper, more layered and more complex than its predecessor, revealing more detail with each listen. […] For me, Marrow stands head and shoulders above everything else released in 2018.”

The Ocean - Phanerzoic I6. The Ocean // Phanerozic I: Palaeozoic – [L. Saunders #1, Dr. A.N. Gruyère #2 Huck N’ Roll #3, Grymm, GardensTale, Sentynel HM] – Following up Pelagial was to be no mean feat but The Ocean made a robust stab at it through the geologic Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. Its huge scope is characterized by Doc Grier as “a topographical puzzle, with valleys and mountains, climates and landscapes, and moods and attitudes painted to its surface,” while our silver-tongued Mr L. Saunders cites the “expressive, emotive, and complex prog metal, […] forging towering compositions based on thought provoking, historical narratives and featuring lush instrumentation, complex harmonies, and stunning shifts in tone and dynamics.” No one else makes rolling, expansive music quite like The Ocean and that is why it featured on six lists and three top threes.

5. Altars of Grief // Iris – [Ferrous Beuller, Master ov Muppets #1, Dr. Wvrm #2, Dr. A.N. Grier #6, TheKenWord #7, Cherd of Doom HM] – Boasting no fewer than two #1s, Altars of Grief unleashed quite the slab of blackened doom metal, channeling the ghost of David Gold-passed into a morose, emotionally-charged collection of little ditties. It’s no surprise that both Ferrous Beuller and Dr. Wvrm focused on the visceral response to it in their lists. The former notes that “Iris reminds us that loss is elastic. That no matter how much distance we gain, sooner or later it always thunders back into proximity.” Indeed the Wvrm emphasizes that “Iris looms like smoke on a pyre, lingers like the unfillable ache long after. Not since David Gold’s untimely departure has the pain of loss and of being alive been so marvelously presented.” In my estimation (having recently hit the ripe old age of 25), it’s the feels which will make a record endure and Altars of Grief has those in spades.

4. Sulphur Aeon // The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos – [L. Saunders, Eldritch Elitist #2, Steel Druhm, Ferrous Beuller #5, Diabolus in Muzaka #6, TheKenWord #8, Lokasenna HM] – No matter our efforts to remind them as much, bands and their labels frequently fail to realize that December releases are shitty for reaching year-end lists. And yet here is The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos by Sulphur Aeon, released but four days before Christmas, and achieving an almost-incredible fourth in our aggregated estimations despite the short notice, including two #2s. As the resident drum-banger for these German death-mongers, I’ll let the illustrious Diabolus in Muzaka take this one away: “Nobody sounds like them, and for good reason; their sound is a brilliant combination of heft and majesty, of crushing weight and soaring melodies. The addition of clean vocals was a benefit too, as they’re used atmospherically for a creepy Cthulhu cultist chanting instead of a cheap chorus crutch. Essential stuff that raises the bar for next year early.”

Amorphis - Queen of Time3. Amorphis // Queen of Time – [Sentynel, Lokasenna #1, AMG, Huck N’ Roll #4, El Cuervo, GardensTale #9, Grymm, Ferrous Beuller HM] – “One Band to rule them all, One Band to find them, One Band to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.” If there were one such band to unify the disparate tastes of the Angry Metal Guy staff it would surely be Amorphis, having drawn myriad influences into their unique style. Queen of Time is no different, finding itself picked by eight of us and with the highest honor bestowed by two. Our esteemed sysadmin Hackerman Sentynel is a strong advocate, commenting “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.” I echo all of this and would particularly like to highlight that “Amongst Stars” is so fucking excellent [which is why it was my Song o’ the Year – AMG].

2. Eneferens // The Bleakness of Our Constant – [Steel Druhm, Dr. Wvrm #1, Lokasenna #3, Master ov Muppets #4, El Cuervo #5] – The collective pleasant surprise of the year must surely be Eneferens and The Bleakness of Our Constant, depending on if melancholic black metal can be described as “pleasant.” Mr. Steel Druhm opined that “sometimes you know you’ve stumbled onto something special as soon as you hit play,” a sentiment mimicked by myself and three other staffers who rated it in our top five for the year, including two #1s. “From the grace of acoustic intro “Leave,” through to the final strains of “Selene,” Eneferens mastermind, Jori Apedaileman deftly mixes blackness with melodeath and bleak post-metal to craft an album of subtle ebbs and tides. It’s an emotional journey through the depressive elements of man and nature, steered by first-rate musicianship and a keen ear toward unforgettable melodies.” What more encouragement could you require? Buy it.

1. Slugdge // Esoteric Malacology – [TheKenWord #1, Roquentin #3, Grymm, Cherd of Doom, Ferrous Beuller #4, L. Saunders #6, Dr. Wvrm #7, Kronos HM] – It is fitting that Slugdge’s Esoteric Malacology should take the aggregated crown for 2018; aggravating and mesmerizing in equal measure, its aficionados eulogized more aggressively than Jehovah’s Witnesses and even those who didn’t love it so much were forced to recognize its striking blend of melody, technicality, blackened death metal and slugs. It is also fitting on account of its ubiquity across our list season, hitting no fewer than eight lists and being in the top four for five writers. I’ll afford the freshly-promoted TheKenWord thefinalword atop this list given that Slugdge was atop his: “Slugdge outdid themselves with Esoteric Malacology, tightening their compositions by orders of magnitude compared to their past effort and somehow sticking to their slime ridden theme without rehashing old material… Every second of this album is inundated with riffs magnificent, hooks unrelenting and intricacies disarming.” All hail Mollusca! Or something.

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