Category Archives: Reviews

Underworld Zine’s 10 Best Metal Albums of 2018

2018 was yet another year filled with political division. From the Cavanaugh hearing, to Trump shutting down the government, to Adam Darski taking a photo with prominent Nazi larper/black metal legend Rob Darken, the drama just seems to get worse every year.

Despite all the commotion, more than a few bands released jaw dropping albums in 2018. Some prolific and legendary acts “retired” with a bang by releasing surprisingly crushing final efforts and some newer acts shocked us with insane debuts. Compiling this list was brutally difficult given the sheer volume of sick new releases and settling on an order was nearly impossible. Seriously, I’m still debating on the order, but for now, here are the top 10 best albums of 2018

10. Ennui- End of the Circle

Georgian funeral doom outfit Ennui’s fourth full length album “End of the Circle” was an unexpected gem for me this year. This is a band that opened my mind to the funeral doom genre. Previously, I had been too musically ADHD to truly grasp the beauty of funeral doom, but Ennui’s infusion of blackened ambiance into their otherwise traditional doom sound was able to hold my attention. That says something for a band who opens with a 30 minute epic.

I knew when I didn’t want to skip the opening track after 15 minutes, instead finding myself entirely immersed in Ennui’s melancholy microcosm, that “End of the Circle” was among the 10 best metal albums of the year.

9. Yob- Our Raw Heart

Oregon trio, Yob, is a band everyone has been talking about lately. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt cheated death by overcoming a near fatal intestinal disease but, while inspiring, “Our Raw Heart” is an LP worth noticing tragedy or not.

Scheidt’s brush with death was the inspiration for the sound and lyrical themes on “Our Raw Heart” and it shows through every impassioned wail and gloomy break on the album. In just 7 tracks, this release takes the listener on a dark journey of epic proportion that’s honest, heartfelt and raw.

8. The Spirit- Sounds From the Vortex

This album floored me the first time I heard it. With a sound plucked directly from early 90s Stockholm, The Spirit is truly a force to be reckoned with in the realm of melodic black metal.

Once more, the band understands the importance of memorable song writing. While the melodies on “Sounds From the Vortex” are tight overall, they maintain an anthemic quality that resonates well in live performances. Picked up by Nuclear Blast upon the release of their debut, this German foursome is one to watch in the coming years.

7. Mare- Ebony Tower

Despite being active since 2003 according to Metal Archives, Mare released their debut album “Ebony Tower” in August of 2018. In an era when Poland, Sweden and Russia are dominating black metal, Mare seeks to put Norway back on the map in a big way.

Ebony Tower” maintains a perfect balance between avant garde and conventional elements in their sound, which creates a truly enjoyable and memorable experience for the listener. What I love about this release is its flow. With its  contrast between melodic interludes and violent breaks, “Ebony Tower” is both kvlt and easily palatable. With a debut like this, I can’t wait to see what’s to come from Mare.

6. Immortal- Northern Chaos Gods

I think the entire metal community was both shocked and worried when Demonaz and Horgh decided to release an Immortal album sans Abbath. Little did we know we were in for a pleasant surprise when the album killed it.

Northern Chaos Gods” is a welcoming homage to the band’s best era. The album is eerily reminiscent of “At the Heart of Winter” in the best possible way. Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m happy about the split because now we’re getting twice the good material from both Abbath as a solo act and Immortal. What can I say, I’m greedy.

5. Unanimated- Annihilated (EP)

I was honestly surprised by the lack of attention Unanimated’s comeback EP received this year. For their first release in over 9 years, these Swedish melodic black metal giants returned with a frostbitten bang.

Annihilation floored me, excited me and left me speechless. Listening to this EP gave me all those happy feelings that come from hearing perfectly executed metal. I couldn’t more stoked that these guys are back.

4. Monstrosity- The Passage of Existence

Like most people, my introduction to Monstrosity came from Mark English’s involvement with Deicide. I’m so glad I discovered Monstrosity and “The Passage of Existence” though because not only does album crush, Mark English has shreds for days.

Monstrosity is a palatable form of OSDM with thrashy interludes and killer solos. This album is truly memorable and easy to digest. Good death metal here.

3. Arkona- Khram

2018 saw another development in the world of metal; Arkona got dark as fuck. Seriously “Khram” surprised me with its range and versatility. The band is clearly taking risks with this album, writing longer songs and going in a heavier direction, and the risks are paying off big time.

Despite the band’s slight deviation in sound, Arkona has managed to stay true to their folky roots. What “Khram” showcases is the band’s ability to grow. This album hits in all the right places.

2. Judas Priest- Firepower

While compiling this list I felt it would be almost blasphemous to not include Judas Priest’s 18th full length release “Firepower” near the top. Judas Priest did what so many other classic metal bands fail to do every year; release an album that’s not only relevant in the modern day, but is an instant classic.

Many people are calling “Firepower” “Painkiller” part II and I have to agree with that assertion. When a classic band like Priest releases a new album, fans usually pray there are at least 1 or 2 good tracks on it, but every song on “Firepower” is an absolute banger.

1. Tomb Mold- Manor of Infinite Forms

As I said earlier, figuring out the order for this list was nearly impossible, but Canadian old school death metal outfit, Tomb Mold was an easy pick for the top spot. What makes “Manor of Infinite Forms” so absolutely crushing is its dedication to the true death metal style that defined the 90s.

This is a band that isn’t shying away from producing something absolutely disgusting, sickening and brutal to the core. All these elements make for a perfect death metal record and a top rank in Underworld’s best metal of the year list.

2018 gave us some great metal. Let’s hope 2019 delivers even better metal. Happy New Year! Hails!

Honorable Mentions:

Deicide- Overtures of Blasphemy

Bane- Esoteric Formulae

Nocturnal Graves- Titan

Satan- Cruel Magic

Uada- Cult of a Dying Sun

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Behemoth’s “I Loved You At Your Darkest” Explores New Styles

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve been calling out the extreme elitism of those who attempt to smear the unholy of name of Behemoth for years. The band’s last full length effort, “The Satanist,” held rank as a favorite of mine from Behemoth, especially given the album marked the band’s seeming return to their black metal roots. Naturally, when I found out Behemoth was releasing a new album, entitled “I Loved You at Your Darkest,” I jumped on the opportunity to review it.

The album starts out strong, with a fittingly blasphemous incantation, entitled “Solve.” This intro leads right into the crushing “Wolves of Siberia.” Things seem fine until track 4. That’s when the album goes in a strange direction.

Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” has a bit of a softened feel to it, as do many of the proceeding songs. There’s an emotional atmosphere that almost attempts to be palatable to a larger audience. While the technical musicianship is present, many of the tracks on “I Loved You at Your Darkest” lack the crushing quality Behemoth is so well known for.

That’s not to say these songs aren’t catchy in their own right. If Nergal has learned one thing throughout his nearly 30 career, it’s superior song writing. That said, some of these tracks struck me as odd. “If Crucifixtion Was Not Enough,” for example, almost had a punk air to it that seemed out of place within the context of the rest of the album. It was as though they were attempting to create a sort of black thrash feel but failed miserably.

As a mentioned earlier, there is a softness to this album that I haven’t heard in previous releases. When one considers the title of the album “I Loved You at Your Darkest” one can only surmise this must be a concept album. It leads to me wonder whether or not Nergal returned to his black metal roots in an attempt to broaden his musical range and experiment with more diverse styles.

That’s not to say this album entirely lacking the crushing breaks and blasphemous chanting that have become Behemoth’s signature. The more emotional aspects overpower the classic elements, however. I can’t help but feel “I Loved You at Your Darkest” will alienate some fans, even if the song structure is good overall . I also think that, at this point, the guys might not care.

“I Loved You at Your Darkest” will undoubtedly attract a broader fan base than Behemoth’s previous albums have, and given the band’s over the top image, it won’t be difficult for them to attract attention. Have they gone soft on us? Nah. I think they’re just experimenting with different approaches to their sound. Will the die hard fans be content with what “I Loved You at Your Darkest” has to offer? That remains to be seen. All I know is that I was a bit confused by this effort.

6.5/10

  originally published at All About the Rock

Deicide Goes Back to Their Old School Roots With “Overtures of Blasphemy”

2018 seems to be the year of the comeback for many classic bands, Unanimated returned to the spotlight after a nine year hiatus, Judas Priest released a serious banger entitled “Firepower” and even more obscure older bands, like Trauma sprung from their states of hibernation to produce some seriously killer new albums. Deicide can easily add their latest release, “Overtures of Blasphemy,” to the list of killer comeback albums in 2018.

“Overtures of Blasphemy” is the band’s 12th full length release since their formation almost 30 years ago, and the first album they’ve released in over 5 years, and despite receiving some negative feedback from major media outlets such as Banger TV, I have to say that this album was basically worth the wait.

The CD opens with a catchy, grooving track aptly titled “One With Satan.” Singer Glenn Benton hasn’t softened his militantly anti-Christian stance one bit, despite writing music for almost 3 decades. More interestingly, however, this track is truly ear catching. It immediately drew me in with its slow build up in the beginning followed by a kind of calculated intensity and blistering yet melodic solos.

Much of the album continues on this trajectory. It seems that, over the years, the guys have honed their songwriting abilities and deliver every time. Yet, while previous releases were a bit techy for my tastes, “Overtures of Blasphemy” has an air of returning to the bands roots. The feel of this album is old school through and through – just with better production.

What really stood out for me was the guitar work. This makes sense given the introduction of new guitarist, Mark English, of Monstrosity fame. The solos and riff magic was ultimately what drew me in on tracks such as “Seal the Tomb Below,” “Excommunicated” and “Defying the Sacred.” Mark’s riff mastery and shredding made up for Benton’s somewhat lacking vocal on this effort. Benton is known for his vocal range, high to low, but his tone was pretty monotone on this album and really and left much to be desired.

Despite this minor complaint, I don’t have much negative feedback for this release. I think this album was better received than some of Deicide’s previous releases by most of the metal community, and I think that’s for good reason. It’s a banger through and through. “Overtures of Blasphemy” stands out because I doesn’t try too hard. It simply thrashes hard and induces head banging.

It’s rumored, in the underground scene, that this might be the band’s last effort. If that’s the case, it makes sense they would choose to go out with a bang and a nod to their roots. I think that’s what they did here. Overall, good stuff.

8/10

*originally published at All About the Rock

Ennui Conjures a Sense of Mysticism with “End of the Circle”

Ennui- End of the Circle (Album Cover)

According to Webster’s online dictionary, the term ennui refers to “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” That definition is a perfect way to summarize the Georgia based funeral doom duo’s latest effort “End of the Circle.”

As is expected from any funeral doom release, Ennui’s latest LP, “End of the Circle” requires patience from its listeners. Each track is upwards of 20 minutes in length and contains several progressions throughout the mix. Still, for those with a stalwart attention span, the fruits of this listen are truly rewarding.

One element that stood out for me on this release were the infusions of ambiance generously sprinkled throughout each track. Where other funeral doom bands descend into gritty territory pretty quickly into the mix, Ennui’s style captured a more mystical atmosphere because of their liberal use of ambiance and even kvlt elements throughout each track. I say kvlt because I don’t get much of strictly black metal feel on this album per say, primarily because of the lack of Cartoonish aspects.

That said, I would be lying if I were to suggest this release didn’t emote the same expressions as Rundgang um die Transzendentale Säule der Singularität by Burzum. Ennui certainly employs a specific blackened style on this release that lies in tandem with some of the more emotional DSBM bands out there. I think this fusion of different genre elements is what caught my attention to this LP and will catch the ears of others who don’t typically listen to funeral doom.

Ennui is a band that takes themselves seriously by emanating a cerebral air in their sound that demands full attention from the listener. There is something truly magical about the entirety of the release. “End of the Circle” is intended to be digested as single unit; each track complementing the last. With that said, my favorite track was the self titled, first track. With progressions designed to lull the listener into a hypnotic, dream state, “End of the Circle” delivers a truly mind expanding experience, complete with ambiance that would move even the most staunch thrasher with musical ADD.

The unique experience that is “End of the Circle” continues in the proceeding tracks “The Withering Parts I-II,” as Ennui takes its fans on a 40 minute interstellar journey into the heart of a dying star. There is a sense of order in these tracks despite their length. Each element builds into the next seamlessly in order to create a mood. The vocals remain simplistic, low end growls that don’t detract from the music or the atmosphere; instead complementing it perfectly. You’ll be compelled to close your eyes while listening to this – it’s that affecting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this effort. I am not typically a fan of funeral doom, but Ennui’s latest release had enough momentum to keep me entertained for the long haul. “End of the Circle” is must have album for 2018.

https://non-serviam-records.bandcamp.com/album/end-of-the-circle

9/10

 

Could The Spirit’s Debut Be Album of the Year?

This band propped up out of nowhere and unleashed an icy fury upon the hardened souls of cynical metal fans everywhere. German foursome, The Spirit, re-released their debut “Sounds From the Vortex” on Nuclear Blast earlier this month and melodic black/death metal fans are throwing up the horns in praise of this awesome album. Despite this band being young – only forming in 2015 – “Sounds From the Vortex” is the best damn thing to come along since Vinterland, Necrophobic or even Dissection.

The Spirit- Sounds From the Vortex LP
Sounds From The Vortex LP: Purchase Here

Although most of The Spirit’s debut hearkens back to the era of the 90s in which Stockholm ruled the world, the band does throw in just the right amount of technical flair to keep their sound fresh in the modern era. The band’s true strength, however, lies in their ability to temper icy dissonance with intense emotional melody, to create a sound that cuts through barriers and demands the listener’s full attention.

They open “Sounds From the Vortex” with an ominous self-titled intro that is pervasive in nature; only to immediately pummel the listener with the cold blistering melody of “Cosmic Fear.” The Spirit has a real sense of flow and melody and every tempo change and progression melds beautifully into the next without becoming predictable.

Another element that really stood out on this debut was the band’s ability to create memorable hooks. The vocalist, in particular, focused on classic songwriting elements that foster the almost arcane compulsion to hit repeat track. The track entitled “Illuminate the Night Sky,” in particular, had a bridge and chorus with discernibly clear lyrics that beckoned singing along.

Burning streams are flowing; fatality! Souls screaming out in agony! Curtains of fire rising high! ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT SKY!

It’s not difficult to envision a sea of black clad fans throwing horns and chanting along to a chorus such as this. In true black metal fashion, The Spirit focuses on mystical themes in their songwriting which temper well with the icy feel of their sound.

The only criticism I have for this band’s debut is that I wanted more. At only 38 minutes long, “Sounds From the Vortex” was a bit short. I trust the band’s sophomore release will offer a bit more meat for the listener. That said, this album packed a ton of quality into that 40 minutes. These Germans sound as though they came right of the coldest mountain tops in Sweden. When I say this is the new Dissection, I mean it. The Spirit’s debut is a serious contender for album of the year.

10/10

href=”https://thespiritmetal.bandcamp.com/”>https://thespiritmetal.bandcamp.com

*originally published at All About the Rock UK

Destroyer Attack’s Latest Release Could Open the Gates of Hell

destroyer

The black metal community collectively celebrated in response to Ecuadorian black/death metal band Destroyer Attack’s sophomore release last month entitled, “Solve et Coagula” and for good reason — this album is fucking heavy!

Destroyer Attack are the kind of hardened war metal band you might expect to find posing with firearms. Clad in bullet belts and steeped in terrorizing aggression, this bestial foursome employs the best elements of war metal — in the vein of old Blasphemy — on their newest release.

The band doesn’t hold back or ease in the listener in any way; instead immediately attacking the listener with an onslaught of intensity within the first seconds of track 1, entitled “Communion of the Black Pest.” In fact, “Solve et Coagula” never wanes in aggression once. They pummel and blast from the first track to the last.

The first thing I noticed about this release was, despite their heaviness and aggression, Destroyer Attack has a great sense of melody. Many other bands in the same, war metal-esque vein — band such as Bestial Warlust or Black Witchery — have a tendency to succumb to noisiness and slop in their pursuit to create a “wall of sound.” Destroyer Attack, however, manages to maintain the tenets of good song writing on the LP; ultimately creating a neck breaking listening experience.

The production on this release truly stands out as well. Unlike other raw black/death albums, Solve et Coagula does not blur into a single angry fuzz — all instruments are clearly audible and the vocals  shine through at perfect volume. The drums are just audible enough  be impressive, but not pushed so far to forefront they drown the sound of the shreds. Overall, the LP maintains an aura of extreme anger while never forgetting to employ the kind of melody you could lose yourself in. Promo track “Purification Into the Internal Fire” is a perfect example of this buzzing melody put into action. The chorus and bridge are practically hypnotic despite maintaining an ugliness only found in bestial black/death metal.

The band’s roots in thrash metal might have something to do with their ability to inject complex melodies beneath the overall blasting intensity. Indeed, many tracks on the album, such as “Burying the Name of the Messiah” or “Ectoplasm” employed thrashier elements within them. This addition added to the melody in a positive way. Still, Destroyer Attack maintains that blasphemous and aggressive appeal throughout. The sound is pummeling in a way that conjures images of an erupting volcano spewing hellfire from the bowels of Gehenna itself.

This is the kind of album to listen to when you have become so cynical nothing sounds heavy enough for you anymore. Solve et Coagula is almost subversively intense. What makes them stand out, however, is their ability to maintain a whiplash inducing melody beneath the bludgeoning aggression. This is really great stuff here.

8.5/10

Order Solve et Coagula here: https://morbidskull.bandcamp.com/album/solve-et-coagula

 

 

Is WITCHGOAT’s “Umbra Regit” the Heaviest Demo This Year?

witchgoat

Ahh Morbid Skull Records; a label continually delivering the ugliest, most terrorizing forms of thrash and death metal to the black-clad masses worldwide. El Salvadorian blackened thrashers “WITCHGOAT” are no exception.

Their debut to the world, demo tape “Umbra Regit” is blistering thunderstorm of intensity and sickness. If I were, like, 50 years old I’d be talking about how these bullet belt clad, Hispanic beasts brought me back to the tape trading days. The reality is, all true metal heads feel they were a part of the tape trading days despite their age, and a band like “WITCHGOAT” has the momentum and  ferocity in their sound to catapult them right there.

The first adjective that comes to mind upon listening to this honestly killer demo is hungry. From the first blustering notes of “Emanations of the Underworld,” “WITCHGOAT,” sets the tempo for a raging thrash experience that’s steeped in technical virtuosity while maintaining that primitive ambiance that kvlt thrashers crave.

“Umbra Regit’s” production is clean enough to sound professional without stripping the band of their intensity. Their effort here was perfect and allowed for their cool, Destruction like riffs and emotional solos to really shine through. The drumming, while pushed into the background, was still audible and complemented the guitar heavy atmosphere on this album incredibly well. I thought it was perfect. I mean, these guys aren’t “Archgoat” or “Revenge.” This approach worked well for them.

What was really cool was the way the raspy growling vocals sounded over the dual shredding. The blueprint here was perfect for creating that nostalgic feel that brings you back to the golden age of extreme metal. “WITCHGOAT’ is more than just a tired band that’s copying the reverberations of their thrash forefathers, however. The closing track “Towards the Gulgalta” proves these guys are killer musicians with a versatile range. It’\s slow, acoustic ambiance really sets the tone on the album in a cool way.

I have very little negative feedback for this effort. The only thing I might say is that they didn’t bring much new to the table in terms of sound. But with the weird, post-metal direction a lot of bands are going,  a balls to the wall blast from the past is refreshing. I honestly loved this demo and am looking forward to seeing more from these guys in the future really soon. Share this and buy their stuff. It’s always a drag when good bands peter out because of lack of support. Let’s not let that happen.

9/10