2018 Metal Midterms: Enjoyability

June 29, 2018


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Given the impossible task of boiling down the hundreds of albums I reviewed in a year down to just 10, I always opt instead to make 3 lists for our 3 ratings scales and also break the year into two halves. This list is focused on the releases from the first half of this year that I found the most enjoyable, regardless of originality or musicianship.  Those other two factors did play into the ranking, but mostly these were the albums that I listened to the most and had a hard time pulling out of my queue. Don't miss our other lists on Musicianship and Innovation.

10 Jord See Details for Jord

Between Deafheaven's music and their fans, I argue they did more harm to the blackgaze and post-black subgenres than good. We can credit them with being one of the bigger names to bring this sound to the limelight, but since then there have been dozens of more talented bands to easily overtake their reign. Møl is one of those bands. With a sound as lush and cathartic as So Hideos, but as aggressive as Vattnet Viskar, they are far more than a sleepy shoegaze act. There are still drifting, atmospheric moments akin to Phobonoid, but even clear, meditative wellsprings like "Lambda" are quickly poisoned by the viciously assaultive transitions to others like "Ligament." Much like real life, both terror and beauty lurk around every corner. FULL REVIEW

9 Forced To Suffer See Details for Forced To Suffer

Misrule is Portland deathgrind from Sentient Ruin. F&%k me. I thought that Ethan McCarthy had pretty much taken a stranglehold over this style, but he's got some new competition in Misrule. It seems impossible to me that Forced To Suffer was not at least in part inspired by Vermin Womb. From the oppressive musical approach to the album art, there are plenty of comparisons to be made with the excellent Decline. Mahoney utilizes equally punishing drumming, chugging basslines, and dissonant guitars to craft an atmosphere worthy of the deepest circles of hell. This is among the most consistently bludgeoning 8 minutes of metal music I have ever heard. FULL REVIEW

8 Eyes Of Blue Light See Details for Eyes Of Blue Light

Colorado-based metal legion Necropanther unleash the seething blackened thrash of Eyes Of Blue Light. The twelve-track album chronicles the classic 1965 Frank Herbert sci-fi novel Dune. Ignore the silly band name, you need to get your a$$ in here if you dig Skeletonwitch. Honestly, Necropanther sound more like the Witch than the Witch does these days. And fortunately Paul is not the only talented member of this band. The entire unit is made up of impressive musicians delivering tightly honed perforances. The drums are on fire, and the riffs...my God the riffs. Necropanther is a goddam hook machine; mishmashing elements of thrash, heavy metal, black metal, and melodeath harmonies into something worthy of the horns. FULL REVIEW

7 Trinity See Details for Trinity

Budapest based "extreme groove metal" crew Omega Diatribe release their latest record Trinity via Metal Scrap Records. Groove, groove, groove: that's what this band is about. These guys fit in with the progressive death metal crowd, but I think that their "extreme groove metal" moniker suits them better. Something about the atmosphere, drums and vocals also reminds me of Living Sacrifice. There is a patented 90's/early 2000's vibe to the music; a certain bleakness and less-is-more attitude. Furthermore, Trinity is a massive step forward in quality for the group. Compositions are more thoughtful and memorable, and damn do they pack a punch. FULL REVIEW

6 Teeth See Details for Teeth

Ya'll should know I jump at any opportunity to share a little mathcore, especially when it's as fun and energetic as Vile Ones. Teeth incorporates much of the jazzy guitar noodling of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but in between finds plenty of room to craft its own sound. Kinard describes the band as "an outlet for all of us to write untethered to trends, concepts, or styles," and this rings true as I play through these six noisey, somewhat experimental tracks. Riffs are all over the place, from the somewhat Every Time I Die Southern flair of "Dantzig 1808" to the more industrialized noise oscillations of "Mad Man." Every song is top notch. FULL REVIEW

5 Misery Rites See Details for Misery Rites

The "scorching" new album, Misery Rites, from Canadian blackened grind outfit, WAKE via Translation Loss RecordsMisery Rites is a relentless rager stacked high with the corpses of Wake's enemies. The album deals with "the metaphorical killing of the person you hate being only to eventually end up back in the same place, just to start the cycle again," says vocalist Kyle Ball. If that wasn't brutal enough, Ethan McCarthy (Vermin Womb, Primitive Man) does guest vocals on a few tracks. The finished product is a densely compacted mess of oppressive noise on par with recently lauded works from Full Of Hell and Bufihimat. FULL REVIEW

4 Evil Upheaval See Details for Evil Upheaval

Brutal Australian band Depravity deliver a new release via Transcending Obscurity Records. When you cover death metal after death metal album, the descriptions all start to run together. That having been said, Evil Upheaval is still totally worth your time. Depravity have written one of the grooviest, heaviest death metal records of the year. It's not the best or most original, but it is a consistently crushing affair that won't disappoint those looking for a good headbanging. The drums sound massive, the vocals are brutal, and the riffs seriously kick ass with some ripping solos to boot. The compositions are lean and mean with each instrument in perfect balance with one another. As a result, there's nary a lull in either quality or energy to be found. FULL REVIEW

3 Where Owls Know My Name See Details for Where Owls Know My Name

Progressive death metal via Metal Blade. This album is absolutely brilliant. I never really got into Rivers of Nihil with their previous outings, but one listen to the sax interlude on "The Silent Life" and I knew this was something different altogether. There are layers upon layers of impressive instrumentation, all coming together to form absolutely gorgeous, expansive compositions. This is an album that checks off all the boxes when it comes to musicianship, intrigue, and leaps forward in both songwriting and creativity. Rivers of Nihil have outdone themselves. FULL REVIEW

2 D E A T H W I S H See Details for D E A T H W I S H

Slovenian "true slam" crew Within Destruction follow up their delightfully destructive Void with their latest album,   D E A T H W I S H. These self-professed squatting Slavs are insanely brutal while never taking themselves too seriously. But with every laugh, you'll also be hacking up blood. This band's music is goddam brutal. They never skimp on the brees, and the slams are as slammy as they come. Tracks like "Self-Hatred" will have you nodding to the groove while also appreciating a little hookage along the way. Whether you like slam and deathcore or not, I promise you there is something to love in this album. FULL REVIEW

1 Esoteric Malacology See Details for Esoteric Malacology

You'd think that the whole "metal about slugs" thing would become a limiting gimmick over time, but with Esoteric Malacology, Slugdge are slimier than ever. Not only have the lyrics and album titles gotten more creative (and often humorous); their compositional and perfomance skills have vastly matured as well. This album seems to fly by with me banging my head from start to finish. The resulting sound is an insane mashup of Opeth, Anaal Nathrakh, Mastodon, and of course mollusks.Praise be to the great Gastropod in the sky, Esoteric Malacology takes everything Slugdge has become known for and knocks it up a notch. Bam! FULL REVIEW