Not everyone can be BRUTAL ENOUGH!!1! Some of us are hobbits; diminutive, folksy, averse to Camo™ and Camo™-derived accouterments. Maybe you just want to smell the 4/4 flowers, despite your allergies. That’s ok. We’re here for you. You like pan-flute bullshit? We like pan-flute bullshit! Do you think the borders of metal are more malleable than your mead-and-cheese-soaked bowels? We love you all the more. So ease back and let some ambient dronecore blacksynth lull you into a nap. The screams are buried so, so deep, they won’t interrupt your daisy-spotted dreamscape. When you wake up, we’ll be waiting just outside the hall. Sweet dreams.


Shylmagoghnar // Transcience – Fanboys unite! …Or not? Anyone left? Beuller? Shylmagoghnar burnt up the summer with their long-form progressive take on blackened melodeath. Transcience also burnt out many listeners quick. I get it; almost half an hour of instrumentals won’t get a 72-minute spin down any easier. But Transcience shouldn’t be left out in the winter cold over that. “The Dawn of Motion” is the best Jester Race worship I’ve heard in, well, forever. Leads like those on “As All Must Come to Pass” and “This Shadow of the Heart” command absolute attention, no matter the length of the song, though the latter shows Shylmagoghnar can do short just fine. The Dutch duo’s impeccable instrumentation is beyond reproach. If only 72 minutes was 50, the melodeath conversation would be much different this year. –Dr. Wvrm

Fragments of Unbecoming // Perdition PortalFragments of Unbecoming spurred a bit of debate at the AMG feeding station when they first dropped Perdition Portal back in May. Were they melodeath? Extra-serious-definitely-not-melo-death? Somewhere in between? Given which round-up they ended up in, you can guess where I stand on the issue. But the vicious riffs of “Golgotha” and “Shadowfathers” ensure splitting hairs is completely irrelevant; Perdition Portal will fuck you up no matter the genre. For the brvtal, Fragment‘s penchant for heaviness can rival Hypocrisy and Edge of Sanity and keep those ostentatious melodies from shredding your precious cred. The weeniest among us will take solace knowing a heart beating with traditional Swedish influences lies beneath the Germans’ gruff exterior. At full rip, this record chainsaws through your ears like a booze-fueled fart through the lull in a Thanksgiving dinner. Ignore your inner genre snob and get swallowed by the portal. –Dr. Wvrm

Black Reaper - Celestial Descension 01Black Reaper // Celestial Descension – This is probably too trve to be in here, but it’s got “melodic” in the genre tag, dammit. Besides, why run a Black Metal We Missed piece when we fucking didn’t? Muppet sucked that teat bone dry by mid-June, and Dissectioncore this tasty can’t just float into the ether. Celestial Descension seems out there initially—a four minute violin prelude? In meloblack?—but when tracks like “The Lawless Finale – Fall of the Firebringer” and “Acosmic Illumination” drop unquittable meloblack goodness so consistently, you know you’re in for a treat. H, the driving force behind Black Reaper, could be a twelve-year-old Chinese reincarnation of Jon Nödtveidt, almost to a fault. Though an occasional griminess recalls Dark Tranquillity’s Gallery days, Celestial Descension’s tonal homogeneity can feel more like checkers than chess. The isolated violin and piano of closer “Postlude – Three Dark Veils” offer a classical-meets-Panopticon layer that wouldn’t be unwelcome elsewhere. Likewise, Celestial Descension‘s deviation from the 40-minute rule doesn’t help the niggling sense of self-indulgence. But for those who long to once again bathe in the cold winds of nowhere, you won’t do better than Black Reaper. –Dr. Wvrm

Abstract Void // Back to Reality – You thought I was joking about that blacksynth, didn’t you? As if black metal wasn’t already hooking up with every genre willing to eat a blast beat, Abstract Void completes its defilement by smashing Oreo cookie into scene-du-jour synthwave. Even I thought Back to Reality crossed a bridge too far, at least till I listened to the damn thing. How Abstract Void strides between controlled application of atmoblack and fresh-sounding—no, really—synthwave so damn easily is beyond me. The balance is incredible; the screams sit low, staticky and deep, allowing the perfect mesh of pounding drum programming and synths to drive you through Neo Miami. But for every wave of nostalgia, I’m hit with five more breaths of clean, cool breeze on the dungeon-synthy “Back to Reality,” the oddly hypnotic “Disconnected,” or the beautiful twining of guitar and synth on “Joy Night.” Scoff at synthwave (and me) all you want. It won’t change the fact that Back to Reality captures the melancholy and reserved beauty of its progenitors well enough to be among one of the best atmospheric releases of the year. –Dr. Wvrm

Uriah Heep // Living the Dream – It may come as a surprise to some that U.K. elders Uriah Heep are still recording new music, rather than just playing Demons and Wizards in its entirety in casinos. The band’s twenty-fifth studio release, Living the Dream, came out in September, but never made its way into our promo bin. Guitarist Mick Box (the only remaining original member, although singer Bernie Shaw and keyboardist Phil Lanzon have been in the band since the 80s) and friends have put together quite an album, though, and I’m here to tell you that it is not to be dismissed. High-energy rockers are dominated by swirling organs, wah-wah solos, and Shaw’s smoky voice. The title track is one of the best songs of the year; “Knocking at My Door” and “Rocks in the Road” are also brilliantly written standouts. While only a handful of their back catalog could be classified as must-owns, Living the Dream now belongs in the same category. It’s the band’s best, most vital album since 1982’s Abominog. –Huck N Roll

Black Peaks // All That DividesAll That Divides is the second album from Brighton four-piece Black Peaks, and is a masterful display of progressive alt-metal songwriting. Every song conveys mood, tension, and violence in sublime fashion. Complex drumming and killer guitar work are front and center, and make Black Peaks sound like a band far further along than just two albums. After supporting Deftones on tour, All That Divides wears that influence proudly. The songs on All That Divides are marred only by singer Will Gardner’s penchant for inserting camo-shorts hardcore screams. Gardner has such a fantastic, emotional voice that the screaming makes every song worse than it is. Were it not for this glaring flaw, All That Divides might have ended up as a year-end Honorable Mention. –Huck N Roll

Ice Sword // Dragon Magic – Arizona’s Ice Sword is a band after my own heart. I’m utterly convinced of this, as there is no other way to explain an act that combines the epic/trve metal charm of Manilla Road, soaring folk vocals of Slough Feg, and the overblown narrative qualities of Bal-Sagoth, all wrapped in a massively ambitious debut that grows more grandiose and invigorating as it approaches its conclusion. Dragon Magic’s easily discernible concept, centered around a man who is cursed by a hermetic wizard to become a dragon and eat his entire family, ensures that the tale is an immensely entertaining one. It’s a damned shame that the raw production does such a massive disservice to the record’s impressive scope; with proper engineering, this would have been a shoe-in for my year-end list. –Eldritch Elitist

Andrew W.K. // You’re Not Alone Andrew W.K. began his first record, I Get Wet, with a song about bukkake. These crass origins are legitimately difficult to comprehend while listening to You’re Not Alone, AWK’s first collection of new material in nearly a decade. Not only is this the first truly great record he has ever written, but it’s also the one that sees Andrew transcending his brain-dead “party all the time” philosophy for something that is relentlessly optimistic and—I hate myself for saying this—frequently inspirational. The naked, achingly earnest themes, paired with towering, angelic choruses and surprisingly smart songwriting, are emotionally impactful on an unprecedented level. It sure as hell ain’t metal, but for fans of anthem rock a la Metal Loaf, You’re Not Alone is borderline essential. –Eldritch Elitist

Thirst Planet - The Essence 01Thirst Planet // The Essence – Stoner-doom experienced a bit of a drought in 2018, giving me little on which to proselytize. That is, except for Thirst Planet’s debut record, The Essence. Hailing from Israel, Thirst Planet draws inspiration from outer space exploration for their sludge-tinged stoner-doom. Okay, so outer space isn’t the most original source material for this genre, but they combine it with an air of isolation that gives The Essence real weight. Exploring the expanses of the universe is a solitary endeavor, one that tests the limits of sanity in an emptiness that mocks your insignificance. Thirst Planet, through the poignant coalescence of atmospherics and stoner riffs as on “Chain,” “Dry Tank,” and “The Arrival,” personify that truth. The overall effect of The Essence, thanks to the thoughtful execution and skillful musicianship across the board, is to transport you to foreign celestial bodies of dust and sand. Don’t forget to bring a water flask! –TheKenWord

Terminus -Fortune Looming 01Terminus // Fortune Looming – What would you get if you combined Fair to Midland, Queens of the Stone Age, Rush and just a whiff of sludge metal? Why, you get Terminus! Having never heard of these Arkansans before, I was intrigued initially by the album artwork. Then opener “The Way Your Heart Sings” played, and I was hooked immediately because, well, the band knows their way around a sharp hook or two. Versatility is the name of the game on Fortune Looming, bridging gaps between styles and influences without sacrificing the band’s identity or the album’s character. Fortune Looming has an almost bubbly personality that makes it perfect for introducing to friends at a weekend gathering. But don’t mistake it for background music, because songs like “Down to the Wire,” “Stoke the Flames,” and “I Got Married” will have you singing along in seconds. Fortune Looming is a poppy, addicting album that still has enough grit to sneak underneath the metal umbrella. If you have any interest in something lighter to cleanse the palette of the smorgasbord of death metal released this year, Terminus‘ Fortune Looming is the album for you. –TheKenWord