An entire year without making a list and I had to ruin it now eh.
Hope everyone has themselves a wonderful end of 2018 and best wishes for 2019 :]
Eight Coffin Nails
After eight full lengths and one of the most beautiful artworks ever in 2013’s ‘The Three-faced Pilgrim’, Alghazanth called it a day with Eight Coffin Nails – and what a way to bow out. Majestic, melodic and with just enough teeth to have one final snarl at you, as a way of saying goodbye it’s so, so good. Closer ‘To Flames the Flesh’ is perfect.
Want to listen? - https://woodcutrecords.bandcamp.com/album/eight-coffin-nails
Servants of the Cold Night
‘Servants of the Cold Night’ is a showcase in how to do lo-fi black metal – unrelenting, vicious and not outstaying its welcome one bit. A particular highlight can be heard during the middle of ‘Wintrus hailagaizos aggwiþos’, reaching a scintillating fever pitch only to retreat into a long, faltering organ note. It’s also written in the now-extinct Gothic language which is pretty cool.
Want to listen? - https://andeis.bandcamp.com/
L'esprit des vents
The best band in meloblack right now? Very possibly. This thing is replete with more melodies than you can wave a stick at, while the stellar drum performance and ugly-as-sin vocals mean it’ll still try and gnaw your face off. The medieval French influence is just the cherry on top.
Want to listen? - https://ladlo.bandcamp.com/album/lesprit-des-vents
The Luciferian Crown
Still blasphemous, still a blackened torrent of blast beats, death metal riffing and burbled vox. For an album that sits within the loose confines of the war subgenre though, ‘The Luciferian Crown’ is surprisingly musically sound, with some neat solos and with more-than-enough space between the riffs (see in particular ‘Darkness Has Returned’) that it’s not an exercise in suffocation.
Want to listen? - https://archgoat666.bandcamp.com/album/the-luciferian-crown
The Light Years
Techy djenty metalcorey stuff with a vocalist that probably sounds like a halfway house between Johnny Craig and Patrick Stump. Yeah I absolutely eat this right up. For an album that’s nearly an hour long they prove themselves particularly adept at keeping this very listenable.
Want to listen? - https://aviations.bandcamp.com/album/the-light-years
Probably the most exhausting 34 minutes I’ve repeatedly subjected myself to this year, but then from a band formed between members of Extol and Dillinger, then I guess I guess I guess I should’ve been braced for that. Eleni Zafiriadou, who apparently is part of some indie pop duo, as it turns out has a throat shredding scream on her alongside those beautiful sung tones. I dunno how half the riffs on this thing were even composed. Shit’s nuts yo.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/album/4oy1IPIk5qNE23CXJa6RLO?si=HKkWG-TVR4WibXBYd0vyEw
Very solid EBM release that’s unrelenting in its pursuit of repetitive, grimy, aggressive beats and uncomfortable atmospheres. It’s a tiring listen in a different way to Azusa, but yeah, still feel like I’ve been through the wringer after jamming this one. ‘7.0.8.’ is a delightful jackboot to the face.
Want to listen? - https://eyeforaneyerecordings.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-remorse
|8||A Beacon School|
I want to feel like A Beacon School makes me feel all the time. Mathy, poppy, oneiric and dancey all within its far, far too short runtime, this unusual album grounded loosely in dream pop is just so, so gorgeous. ‘It’s Late’ is straight-up one of the best tracks of the decade.
Want to listen? - https://abeaconschool.bandcamp.com/album/cola
O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of
‘I Have Fought Against It…’ was certainly a fantastic listen, but what’s really stood out for me this year is their EP ‘O God who avenges…’, a 28-minute granular, nasty, dirty PE release that feels like the impending end of the world.
Want to listen? – it’s on here https://thebody.bandcamp.com/album/o-god-who-avenges-shine-forth-rise-up-judge-of-the-earth-pay-back-to-the-proud-what-they-deserve but I think someone has uploaded them to YouTube now in the event the tracks are still paywalled.
Very, very nicely done Quebecois black metal with sweet bass work, solid riffs and... also a sweep picked guitar solo, which if I remember it for one thing it’ll be that. Though if I did only remember it for that, I’d be wildly undervaluing a very convincingly cold album that paces itself brilliantly. Also 猫 シ Corp. rates it so it must be good.
Want to listen? - https://cantiquelepreux.bandcamp.com/album/paysages-polaires
|11|| ||Castel Jaloux|
Le petit orchestre de la nuit
Pretty, melancholic dungeon synth probably closer to the emotional resonance of Secret Stairways than the terrifying, repetitive derangement of Einhorn. A beautiful RPG, medieval feel permeates much of this album, with starry melodies poking their heads through a blanket of cold pads. Dead nice.
Want to listen? - https://casteljaloux.bandcamp.com/releases
|12||Celer and Forest Management|
Ambient and nature loops go together pretty well given that there’s not really a huge amount separating the two, but it’s slightly more odd to have the two together in something which is recognisably a progressing album and not just a very pleasant set of a relaxation materials. Cool stuff.
Want to listen? - https://ctatsu.bandcamp.com/album/landmarks
Noise pop with the emphasis on noise that leans somewhat on its industrial influences. Through its repetitive vocals, themselves difficult to fully understand, micromanaged sound design and unconventional ‘structure’, ‘Play Queue’ is disturbing and thrives off senses of paranoia. Definitely good stuff, but mighty uncomfortable.
Want to listen? - https://chabanel.bandcamp.com/album/play-queue
|14||Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean|
I Carry My Awareness of Defeat like a Banner of Vi
Unashamed early Thou worship? Whatever, it’s wonderful. Three tracks of thigh-thick riffs, bilious vocals and some actually kinda interesting trackwriting that has me clamouring for a full-length. The vox are nasty. So so nasty.
Want to listen? - https://chainedtothebottomoftheocean.bandcamp.com/album/i-carry-my-awareness-of-defeat-like-a-banner-of-victory
You Won't Get What You Want
Do I prefer it to Hell Songs? Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh probably not but this is staggeringly close all things considered. Bristling with nervous energy, the transition into using longer songs has worked out remarkably well for a band that used to make sub-minute tracks called ‘Pants, Meet Shit’. Alexis sounds harrowing and I don’t think there’s a riff on here which isn’t warped as hell. I’ve tried walking with this at night. I turned Saint Pepsi on instead.
Want to listen? - https://daughters.bandcamp.com/album/you-wont-get-what-you-want
While we still wait on the elusive Ellorsith full-length (please?), we at least get ‘Orbhàis’ which is another great black/death album based around another creepy unexplained scenario – in this case, the death of Netta Fornario on the island of Iona. The main riff that starts ‘Psychic-self defence’ is pure evil, definitely helped that the production lets the guitars stick out well from the percussive assault.
Want to listen? - https://ellorsith.bandcamp.com/album/orbh-is
It Weighed Itself In Silver
Probably the closest thing we have to Demilich making new music that isn’t Demilich making new music. Come on guys, I want to believe. Man the bass on this album is lovely.
Want to listen? - https://exlimitir.bandcamp.com/releases
Nothing more really than a series of mysterious loops that fade in and out of audibility but yet, also one of my favourite releases from this year. ‘Biqui’ is almost uniformly sparse, never really getting beyond a delaying set of keys or a slowly cresting, dragging few notes on guitar, but the loops themselves and the way they’re brought in and out is, really, very very eerie.
Want to listen? - https://forestmanagement.bandcamp.com/album/biqui
Grind combined with Kemono Friends. I’m not going to pretend I’m bigger than this. Between Fucked, Tanpopo Crisis and Sachiel, this guy has already proved he can grind like one of those construction vehicles with the big spiky wheel on it.
Want to listen? - https://toxiclolirecords.bandcamp.com/album/japarigate
|20|| ||Chihei Hatakeyama|
I could’ve put any of his Void stuff from 2018 on here and it largely would’ve been tagged with the same sentiment – long, brooding pads sitting below shimmering, light-ray melodies that combine to create a mood both comforting and bittersweet. I couldn’t tell you REALLY which Void is which. I don’t especially care. The Voids from this year have problem been the albums I’ve looked forward to the most and every time I listen, it’s like disappearing to another world for a while. Surely that’s gotta be enough.
Want to listen? - https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/album/void-xvii
|21||Anna von Hausswolff|
I was hyped beyond belief for von Hausswolff’s latest this year and once I’d heard ‘The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra’, my expectations were cranked inordinately high. As it turns out, ‘The Mysterious Vanishing…’ is the stark highlight of an album which seems to get lost in itself, a bit. But oooooh what a song. What a song. That final verse is just staggeringly powerful.
Want to listen? - https://annavonhausswolffmusic.bandcamp.com/album/dead-magic
I Forget Where We Were
‘Noonday Dream’ is also a smidge disappointing I suppose, but given how much I adore ‘I Forget Where We Were’ (is it my favourite album? It’s definitely up there) it was going to have to be exceptional for it not to a little. Really, it’s a still very wonderful release that seems to highlight a growing introspective element to Mr. Howard. All those arid, dry, empty deserts in the videos? They’re kinda how this feels.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/album/6astw05cTiXEc2OvyByaPs?si=YfVEWEHIR4qXUTnGafvfUg
Really bizarre caverncore in the sense that – er – it doesn’t sound so much like it was recorded in a cavern as it does under a frozen Norwegian sky. An incredibly lo-fi production accompanies the usual swirling arpeggios and constant blast beats one associates with the genre, all the while someone not TOO far off Nattramn howls and shrieks over the top. Scary as fuck.
Condanna a Morte
Straightforward, 2018-going-on-1981 punky stuff from somewhere in Italy. Oi! as all living fuck. Very, very fun release with some very shoutable choruses. Something about this release has been difficult to forget for me despite it’s not really all that different from a LOT of bands. Dunno why.
Want to listen? - https://iena82.bandcamp.com/album/condanna-a-morte
Black metal from Quebec that doesn’t sound like the usual style you get from the area à la Forteresse, Csejthe, Cantique Lépreux (as much as I do really, really like that style). Arguably, Ifernach is better. Stunning melodies sit alongside a rollicking punky vibe and some actual good fuckin food to be found with the bass-heavy production job, but the true star is the vocal performance which sound deranged. It’s so wonderful, and the French movie samples are a genuinely nice touch. One of my faves from this year.
Want to listen? - https://ifernach.bandcamp.com/album/iv-gaqtaqaiaq
Within a World Forgotten
War metal with outstandingly clear production, ambient sections and, importantly, enough intensity to break your fuckin arm without blinking. One of a handful of 4.5s from me this year, a score I pretty much decided on as soon as ‘Crusher of the Seed’ crushed my seed.
Want to listen? - https://infernalcoil.bandcamp.com/album/within-a-world-forgotten
I wouldn’t know how to describe post-minimalism with a gun to my head, but if ‘Communion’ and ‘Philos’ is it, then count me in. Combining mouth organs and hammered dulcimers and layering polyrhythms on each other, as it turns out, leads to very brittle, cold but extremely beautiful music. Who knew eh.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/album/42P0p5Y95lK09LZcnqy0AD
Scenes of Scapes
Kenji Kihara definitely had a busy year making gorgeous ambient works inspired largely by the Tohoku countryside, and between ‘ten sen men’, ‘Scenes of scapes’ and ‘For Daydreaming’ (only released on the 20th), is fast becoming another much-loved Japanese ambient artist in my book. Unbelievably peaceful works that make me want to, as per A Beacon School and Chihei Hatakeyama, feel the dopamine hit from them forever.
Want to listen? - https://sphontik.bandcamp.com/album/scenes-of-scapes
After keeping tabs on sludgy hardcore folks LLNN for a little while now they finally dropped their first full-length, and it’s every bit as bass-abusingly, skull-shatteringly heavy as I dreamed it would be – all while still maintaining the spacey sounds and atmospheres that have characterised their work since their inception.
Want to listen? - https://llnn.bandcamp.com/album/deads-2
|30||Michael Cera Palin|
"I Don't Know How To Explain It"
A very endearing Atlanta emo EP with some excellent lyrics, fantastic choruses (If It Makes You Happy is particularly great) and the typical mathy noodles one would come to expect from such a project. I’ve admittedly slipped on my emo lately but this definitely feels like a goodun.
Want to listen? - https://michaelcerapalin.bandcamp.com/album/i-dont-know-how-to-explain-it
Monument du non-être...
Very lovely post-metal/shoegaze combination that really addresses both influences particularly well. Tracks seem to come and go in the blink of an eye, despite the longest (‘Le dogme du simulacre’) clocking in at an impressive 11:12, largely due to the hypnotic way that its jangly chords seem to s-t-r-e-t-c-h time out. Classic climaxcore otherwise, but very nicely done.
Want to listen? - https://milanku.bandcamp.com/album/monument-du-non-tre-mouvement-du-non-vivant
WAVESウェーブス - EP
For about three or four weeks sometime in May (I think) this was about all I listened to with any regularity. Complete with all your favourite city pop classics (including YouTube recommendation sweetheart Plastic Love) but given a new beat and vocally altered. God this is so much fun. ‘小さな恋 in my heart’ is a welcome break from the otherwise uniformly sweet, while ‘SHINYWAVE’ is almost unfairly good.
Want to listen? - https://mikazukibigwave.bandcamp.com/album/waves-ep
A more mature release from Moe Shop as the producer steps further and further into their combination French house and future funk. When it released I was pretty nonplussed, but its pretty well put together and without a doubt MS’s best effort musically. I want an instrumental version of Baby Pink though. Ho lee shit the vox on that track are annoying.
Want to listen? - https://moeshop.bandcamp.com/album/moe-moe
Pretty solidly my least favourite album I’ve heard this year, but by having three tracks on it that I actually don’t mind (Algorithm, The Dark Side and Blockades) it’s already doing better than their last two efforts. Seriously though, if you’re going to angle for a synthpop aesthetic bloody well COMMIT.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/album/5OZgDtx180ZZPMpm36J2zC?si=wbEeqdX2SjqGR9KKWYwMHQ
Following up something cutesy and sweet with something anything but. Dissonant, ugly and foreboding, ‘Döda drömmar’ is a pretty horrific amalgam of black and death metal that’s of a similar ilk – albeit a little less cavernous – to bands like Devouring Star and Grave Miasma.
Want to listen? - https://mylingar.bandcamp.com/album/d-da-dr-mmar
Italian nu-disco with influence from African music and funk, that’s smoother than blancmange and about as creamy, whatever that means. Really, it’s disgustingly good fun.
Want to listen? - https://nuguinea.bandcamp.com/album/nuova-napoli
Maybe I'm a friend that stuck around too long.
Not perfect indie rock (they definitely do better at the loud-and-proud stuff), but a great start with some killer tracks – if the singalong anthem of ‘Tendencies’ doesn’t get me, then the sparkly, wonderful ‘Anything/You’ almost certainly does. I’ve also heard their keyboard player’s pretty cute.
Want to listen? - https://pemberton.bandcamp.com/album/maybe-im-a-friend-that-stuck-around-too-long
An entire noise/drone album based soly around vocal layering, manipulation, and harmonising (if you can call it that). Is it pleasant? No. Is it good? Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh I’m legitimately not sure. It’s certainly very interesting though.
Want to listen? - https://phewjapan.bandcamp.com/album/voice-hardcore
By trading off a little of the ‘what the fuck is happening Jesus Christ my head holy shit’ of Frontierer’s low-string assault (only a little mind) and injecting the semblance of musicality, Sectioned is taken from a bewildering block of relentless low-end to something simultaneously more listenable and actually nastier. ‘Annihilated’ (appropriate name) has all the good grace of a honey badger chasing after a particularly pissy snake. It’s still bonkers, but at least it’s varied.
Want to listen? - https://sectioned.bandcamp.com/album/annihilated
The Shackles Of Birth
Hoooooooo. Grindy skramz with a rabid vocal performance that makes me fly around my kitchen holding a potato masher as a mic. The production and vox actually give ‘The Shackles of Birth’ a somewhat blackened feel, only extended further by some guitar flourishes which sound straight from the angular bm textbook. It’s good. Real good.
Want to listen? - https://setsukoband.bandcamp.com/album/the-shackles-of-birth
Either the lyricism has deepened here or there’s lesser oblique references to insects here than ever before – but never mind that. For a good long while I’ve admired Slugdge’s abilities with a riff (or ten) and sure enough, they came up trumps here again. Honestly, there’s more guitar passages on here that makes me wish I wrote than anything else I’ve heard lately. Nothing as good as the t/t on ‘Dim & Slimeridden Kingdoms’, mind.
Want to listen? - https://slugdge.bandcamp.com/album/esoteric-malacology
Alongside a couple of pretty good singles this year, SH has released the fantastic duo of Snö and L’été. I reviewed Snö either yesterday or the day before (depends when I finish this fuckin thing oh goooood) and am in the process of head-writing one for L’été but yeah – he’s highlighted an alarming maturity on these two usually reserved for his works under Ujico*.
Oh right yeah also he did Ordinary Songs 4 this year which is awesome and pure and like falling into a big squishy electronic marshmallow.
Want to listen? - https://0101.bandcamp.com/ they’re on here
Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
Honestly I didn’t listen to Oil of Every Pearl’s Unsides because – uh – well I forgot. I’ll get around to it at some point. What I WILL remember about 2018 however is the unfairly good ‘Faceshopping’, a frankly mind-boggling masterclass of sound design and production which is also really unfairly catchy and goes hard as fuck. Easily one of the best songs to come out of this year. That lip pop on ‘shop’? NAUGHTY mate.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/track/0ioHSUU4OGbQbMuJxjHrWm?si=of2-5m1WTtOGdJYjd3sgwA
My my my, this bunch of Louisianans HAVE had a busy year haven’t they? Before culminating in the frankly mindblowing ‘Magus’ we got ‘The House Primordial’, ‘Inconsolable’ and ‘Rhea Sylvia’ – which all expanded their already experimental (for sludge) sound in new, grungier, cleaner ways (also Rhea Sylvia in particular still had the capacity to crush your throat in an instant – see Unfortunate Times). They even had time to throw in a split with Ragana, which was also amazing (Ragana’s side arguably being the better of the two too…) However, it was ‘Magus’ that was truly, truly exemplary, with Bryan Funck on top lyrical form and that sweet spot between beauty and annihilation being straddled nigh-perfect again. The only thing I don’t like is I’ve got no idea where I put my CD of it. I’ve not seen it in weeks, can anyone help?
Want to listen? - https://thou.bandcamp.com/album/magus-2
‘Summer Calling’ is pretty much everything I like about this band distilled into a song – just really beautiful, slightly mathy indie rock with wonderfully clear vocals and a clear respect for the balance between technical showiness and actually writing a good track.
Want to listen? - https://seoultierpark.bandcamp.com/album/vacance
Manor of Infinite Forms
Riffs out the pizzle friends. At the risk of repeating what has been said a lot by a lot of people - like, A LOT - Manor… is a work of death metal wonder. The last minute or so of Blood Mirror is probably burned into my very consciousness now. For what it’s worth, the Cerulean Salvation EP released later on in 2018 is probably, pound for pound, even better.
Want to listen? - https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/manor-of-infinite-forms
I was convinced I was definitely going to review this, but never got around to it. I still might. Probably the best black metal split about fluvial processes that 2018 has offered us, with Fluisteraars’ cresting, beautiful style met abruptly with Turia’s surging, bleak, relentless howlfest. More bizarrely still, the two complement each other rather well.
Want to listen? - https://fluisteraars.bandcamp.com/album/de-oord
Anthologie der Abkehr
Atmoblack done without all twinkly pretty embellishments that are rampant throughout the subgenre. Does it succeed at creating that all-important atmosphere? You bet your sweet arse it does. Excellent vocals, lovely drum production and sterling riffs are almost the only components of an album as simple as it is brilliant.
Want to hear? - https://wallfahrer.bandcamp.com/releases
|49|| ||Jessie Ware|
The second of the two work tracks I’ve loved from this year – in the wall of bland indie, irritatingly self-absorbed post-punk and chart choons work seems intent on playing to us every single day, ‘Overtime’ (the name of which admittedly eliciting a hollow laugh from me most times I hear it) is a cold, hard, garage/house banger. It’s probably going to be gone from the playlist soon too. *sigh*
Want to hear? - https://open.spotify.com/track/2bDDxoUe9CHgdIrYzsLGhH?si=cdXMkhusQmiLIqRxih2M6w
Alas Yanagi does still seem to be living under the conception that food is important and so keeps being a part of pretty unexceptional anime OP tracks in order to make a living. While I get and understand that, when she can make bloody gorgeous tracks like ‘Snowglobe’ and ‘Jikan wa Mado no Mukougawa’, while also having previously shown her unbelievable talent on Euaru and Polyomino, all the bright violin-led pop songs and major keys are kinda ‘eh’.
Want to hear? – :3
Blackened trad doom wasn’t something I was aware I wanted before hearing this, but now I definitely want more. A beautiful album that revels in giving melodrama a kick in the hoolies.
Want to listen? - https://yithmetal.bandcamp.com/album/immemorial
|52||Hello Kitty Suicide Club|
A couple of albums that could missed off due to not being in the database...
Music for Balance and Relaxation Vol. 1
New age-y, lush, sparkling and tbh like a cold rainforest walk for the ears. Very nicely done use of natural recordings – just great, great ambient. His ‘Illustrations For Those Who’ album from November is very nice too, but ‘Music for Balance and Relaxation’ is… well… it’s what it says it is.
Want to listen? - https://somewherenowhere.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-balance-and-relaxation-vol-1-somewhere-nowhere-sn005
|54||Cult of Luna|
Somewhere Along the Highway
Otha - Other Girls
Not an album but one of two tracks I’ve heard in the store I started at this year that I really, properly, wholly enjoy. A kinda spacey, repetitive, gorgeously layered slab of outsider house. Hypnotic shit yo.
Want to listen? - https://open.spotify.com/track/25FJ3Wsiv3woan4iN0fzYd?si=IJ0a6UvES_mRWPkQN1ii0w
My Neighbor Totoro
Takao - GMA77
A real unexpected treat. I’m not quite sure if it’s a carefully manipulated plunderphonics track or not, but the eight tracks stitched together (as listed here http://greymatterarchives.club/takao.html), blending Dvorak, Japanese ambient, rock and even a smidge of noise, flow together superbly despite their differences – the first half especially is really decidedly moving.
Want to listen? - https://soundcloud.com/greymatterarchives/gma77-takao