Welcome, my hellions, to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat and pull up a bone throne, for old time’s sake. We’ve finally come to it. The auspicious end to one of the best years for death metal in recent memory. It’s close to unfathomable, upon reflection, how absolutely stellar 2018 has been. Each month, when the time came for us to pick and write about our favorite records, the selection process proved a continually daunting task. There was simply too much good death metal released this year to even hope to cover it all, which is a frustration that I wouldn’t call particularly common in music writing. For all those fantastic records left unheralded due to nothing more than our lack of time, we offer our most humble apologies. But here we are, thoroughly pummeled by a cascade of fantastic releases that shows no signs of slowing down (Sulphur Aeon is out this week, and we already have announcements for new records from Contrarian and Altarage). What a time to be alive, friends.
While we were often overwhelmed by the relentless swarm of solid releases this year, the records that we were able to listen to, absorb, and cover more than made up for the sadness in our hearts engendered by our inability to listen to everything. It’s been a thoroughly magnificent trip around the sun for those who love death metal, and Scott and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had you along for the journey. Thank you for reading, offering your thoughts, and sharing your picks with us each month. We hope that you’ve been introduced to some fantastic new bands and records this year.
But we’re not done yet.
Below you will find our individual top 15 death metal records of the year, as well as our thoughts on what made this year the juggernaut that it was in the multi-faceted world of death metal. We’ll try to make sense of why this year, more than any in recent memory, was so special, and how the old school death metal revival has continued unabated. So enough idle chat. Let’s get to it. As always, death metal forever.
Death Metal Domination: Breaking Down A Legendary Year
The argument is simple: no branch of the metal tree had a more productive and exceptional year than death metal. It should be easy enough to write about, given the sheer volume of coverage death metal releases have received this year. But honestly I’m having trouble wrapping my head around why, exactly, so many amazing releases were unleashed upon us in so short a period of time. It isn’t just this year, either (though we can most certainly consider 2018 a peak in the genre’s current resurgence). 2016 and 2017 both contained a plethora of quality death metal releases that set the stage for the titanic success of 2018, and neither should be discounted in regards to the genre’s rapid re-ascendance. While there may not be a definitive genesis to the genre’s current success, there are a few characteristics and trends that we can point to that may shed some light on why the genre has been so blisteringly hot as of late. These are, in my estimation:
- A strong sense of sonic identity through celebrating diversity in sound;
- A general absence of extracurricular distraction (with a few notable exceptions);
- Young bands releasing the genre’s best music;
- Big bands releasing big albums
Let’s take it from the top, shall we? It may seem that a strong identity and manic diversity are somewhat contradictory terms when it comes to the development of a musical genre. In the case of death metal, I think the two are inextricably tied in a unique bond that has facilitated death metal standing out like a sore thumb within the genre confines in metal. In contrast to black metal (which Scott and I discussed at length in our year-end piece for Kvlt Kolvmn), which has historically had a very difficult time assimilating new sounds into its principal aesthetic (something that is, thankfully, rapidly changing), death metal has both welcomed and championed sonic diversity in its ranks. Whether we’re discussing the blackened, dissonant, technically nightmarish sounds of Hissing, the jazz-inflected extremity of Imperial Triumphant, the sci-fi smeared technicality of Artificial Brain, or the punishing and avant-garde weirdness of Pyrrhon, death metal has opened itself to a wide range of sounds and conceptual themes that have impacted its traditional structure, leading to some of the most compelling metal written and performed today. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to 2018, but rather a trend gestating for years that seems to have come to a glorious head this year. Where bands like Gorguts, Atheist, Timeghoul, Demilich, and Cynic were once distinct outsiders in the genre, the groundwork they laid is now home to dozens of bands pushing the death metal envelope to stunning effect. It would be very difficult for anyone to argue that this acceptance of foreign sounds into the death metal stew has been anything less than positive, as this mentality of innovation and sonic exploration has facilitated a veritable flood of fantastic, unique music that has both ensured the genre’s continued relevance for years to come and pushed it forward into bold new territory. With a myriad of subgenres and sounds now nestled under the death metal umbrella, the genre hasn’t been so overstuffed with quality bands since its heyday in the early 1990s. I believe a not insignificant factor in 2018’s death metal domination has been the genre’s welcome of non-traditional influence and adaptation to its formula. If you’ve been part of the community actively celebrating the incorporation of new sounds into the death metal template, stand and be recognized. The genre’s current successes belong at least partially to you.
Another aspect that has allowed death metal to excel in 2018 as a continued force to be reckoned with is its notable lack of extracurricular controversy, which is a stark difference from 2017’s horrible Decapitated ordeal. Whereas black metal has been plagued by the likes of Watain, Taake, Inquisition, and a host of others who have been in the news for aberrant philosophical and political failures (yes, an espousal of fascist ideology is a failure on a multitude of fronts), death metal has, to some extent, kept the majority of its music and musicians out of the negative spotlight this year. With Behemoth’s Nergal continual idiotic comments on a host of issues and Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien’s arrest (running at law enforcement with a knife typically isn’t a good look) being notable exceptions, the diversity of backgrounds and styles in death metal have helped make such controversies fewer and further between. That said, death metal isn’t without its problematic figures and content. It should be explicitly stated that rape apology, sexism, neo-nazism and fascist rhetoric, and various other deplorable perspectives continue to exist within the world of death metal, and that it is our duty to call these ideologies out for what they are and strive to continue creating spaces of inclusion for all to enjoy this incredible music. But it’s fitting that a genre so open to the inclusion of new sounds would bring in some fresh philosophical perspectives as well, and that’s definitively a good thing.
Speaking of fresh blood, my next comment on the genre’s magnificent year brings to the forefront just that. In contrast to 2017, which featured high profile releases from band’s like Incantation, Immolation, Suffocation, Obituary, and Morbid Angel (ranging in quality from quite good to abysmal), 2018 was chock full of debut and sophomore records from young bands breathing continued vigor into a now decades old genre of music. Of Feather and Bone, Infernal Coil, Burial Invocation, Ulthar, Sunless Dawn, Outer Heaven, Hyperdontia, and a host of other bands released fantastic debut records this year, creating one of the largest bumper crops of new death metal in ages. The sounds these bands conjure are wide-ranging as well, running the gamut of death metal stylings. That isn’t to say that there weren’t some wily old vets joining in on the fun (Deicide’s latest record being one of the year’s big releases by death metal elder statesmen), but rather that the principal creative force in death metal this year was a bunch of young upstarts determined to make their mark on the genre. I would argue that in large they succeeded in this mission, and were a principal reason behind the genre’s radical outburst of excellent releases, and are additionally a shining example of the genre’s overall health. As a genre that is in many ways thoroughly obsessed with the past, metal often suffers from sound stagnation unique to itself. When the parameters surrounding what is and is not quality in a genre are drawn solely based on songwriting archetypes developed decades ago, it can make progress a difficult if not impossible slog. Death metal’s health as a genre can be clearly seen in its fresh talent, which has in 2018 both respected and subverted genre norms with such skill as to threaten wresting dominance over the genre from its founding bands. While there are plenty of arguments to be had regarding the value on a musical level of such a takeover, the fact remains that the genre is no longer ruled by its founders, which is, in my mind, a thrilling sign for the genre’s continued excellence and development.
But let’s not count out the ways in which the genre’s more veteran acts showed up in 2018. With bands like Obscura, Horrendous, Hooded Menace, Master, Aborted, Gorod, and Revocation all slated for releases this year, there was a ridiculous amount of anticipation and hope that the genre’s most seasoned acts would come up clutch. Uniformly, they did. In some of the most technically astounding, progressively daring, and doomily punishing ways imaginable, death metal’s elite lived up to their reputation by writing some of the best music of the year, crushing all assumptions that 2018 belonged only to the newest in the genre’s ranks. It’s a beautiful thing when big bands meet big expectations, and 2018 was a banner year for that. Coupled with the slew of amazing debut and sophomore releases, there were few if any aspects of the death metal world that didn’t excel in 2018, and that’s cause for celebration indeed.
Another notable factor in the genre’s success in 2018 is the perpetuance of the old school death metal revival, which has continued to be one of the single most important aspects of death metal’s current march toward extreme music supremacy. Scott will cover that topic below. However you slice it, 2018 was one for the books, displaying all the elements that make this music great in a myriad of ways. There’s no better time to be a death metal fan, and here’s hoping for another zinger in 2019.
New Bands, Old Music: The OSDM Revival
Last year, Jonathan and I teamed up for one of our more controversial posts, in which we called out toxic nostalgia for death metal traditionalism. Ironically, here we are today, celebrating new bands employing traditional death metal tactics with fantastic results. Of course, herein lies the difference: younger bands are arguably executing death metal standards better than veteran acts. There are exceptions, of course, what with bands like Hate Eternal and Krisiun proving why they’ve retained their place in the limelight after all these years. But then there are acts like Deicide, who continue to hobble back into the conversation every few years with a bland, uninteresting iteration of what they’ve done time and time again. It’s the same issue I had with Suffocation last year: after a while, veteran bands seem to prefer better production as a means of “progression” rather than examining their songwriting.
And that’s where we pick up with our main point. On the flipside of this, younger bands are taking clear influence from older bands and infusing those sounds with fresh energy and ideas, in addition to elevated production quality. Just take your pick from the field for an example of this phenomenon in action. Ghastly, Horrendous, Obliteration and Tomb Mold all take varying degrees of influence from OSDM, along with a sliding scale of progressive influences and unique quirks. Then there bands paying homage to legends while looking toward the future. Just to name a few, Chapel of Abhorrence from Carnation sounds like the perfect of marriage of Dismember and Entombed; Nexus of Teeth from Hyperdontia and Come Ethereal Somberness from Taphos sound like Morbid Angel duking it out with Incantation to varying degrees; and Abiogenesis from Burial Invocation sounds like old school Cannibal Corpse infused with heaps more ambition. I’m probably leaving out a number of examples here, which kind of proves my point.
I have a suite of theories for why this might be. The first is one is pretty obvious: nostalgia. As the internet age churns along, access to once long-forgotten death metal albums has never been more widespread; we even have a whole column dedicated to celebrating this. We’ve seen similar movements with the traditional metal revival and even outside the realm of metal with retrowave. We have to remember that death metal musicians are fans of the genre as well, meaning that what they like about the genre is often in line with what folks like Jonathan and I enjoy. And with this democratization continuing to grow, it’s even more likely that those with the requisite technical chops are able to access OSDM classics and deep cuts to draw influence from.
A second, and related, point is the generational cycles that come into play with any popular trend. Death metal enjoyed its first major “golden age” year in 1991, when more death metal classics were released than can accurately be captured in a brief sentence here. So in a very literal sense, we’re at the cusp of a new generation in death metal’s history. After 27 years, we’re long overdue for another landmark year providing this level of quality. According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, a generation falls somewhere between 25.5 and 38 years, making this 27-year cycle seem a more than ripe time for another death metal renaissance. Of course, music and genealogy aren’t parallels, but it does point to the possibility that those who grew up these albums are now full-fledged death metal musicians in their own right.
Whatever the explanation may be, death metal is all the better for it, as you’ll see throughout our Top 15 lists below. There’s also plenty of experimentation among our favorites of the year, but sometimes, you just need a fresh take on a fantastic, established sound.
Jonathan’s Top 15 Albums of 2018
15. The Aftermath – Vermine
If you’re looking for a death-grind record in 2018 better than The Aftermath’s Vermine, you’ll be caught looking forever. During a brisk 24-minutes, Vermine splits skulls with a precision and animosity that I haven’t heard in quite some time. The performances are uniformly excellent, the compositions wildly catchy and unpredictable, and the production exactly what it needs to be. As good a mixture of brutality and complexity as you are likely to hear for some time.
14. Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Morbid Angel’s Erik Rutan. Hannes Grossmann. What more could you want? Hate Eternal have over the past several years developed a reputation as one of death metal’s most consistent bands, and their seventh full-length record is no exception to this rule. Aided greatly by Grossmann’s impressive work behind the kit, these tracks muscle and bludgeon with just the right amount of technicality, opening the album to enjoyable repeat listens while never losing its incredibly violent edge. A fantastic record from a group of impressive musicians.
13. Horrendous – Idol
The wonder boys of death metal are back with their third record, and I’ve got to say, it ain’t half bad. This is obviously a fairly blatant example of underselling a quality record, but come on. It’s Horrendous. You know it’s going to be good. And Idol is exactly that. Start-to-finish, this album is teeming with fantastic songwriting and wildly effective instrumentation. It’s essentially everything we’ve come to expect Horrenroue to provide, and when you the songcraft is this masterful, that’s just about all I need.
12. Augury – Illusive Golden Age
After a nine year hiatus, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to assume that a band with the technical acumen of Augury may have lost a bit of its edge. Your assumption in this case would be embarrassingly incorrect, as the band’s third full-length is anything but toothless. The album’s opening and title track should dispel all doubt that Augury have come to lay down the winding, sinuous progressive/technical death metal they’ve become known for. The music on this album is every bit as good as that on their previous releases, and is performed with such vigor that it feels as if the band never left us. Here’s to Augury and their masterful return. May they never make us wait this long again.
11. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
In the exact opposite fashion of the band discussed above, Tomb Mold released their second full-length effort a year after their debut, presenting plenty of concerns regarding the much feared (and often truly devastating) sophomore slump. But if Manor of Infinite Forms is indicative of anything it’s that this band is riding a wave of creativity that I hope they never get off of. This is just excellent death metal, pure and simple. The riffs flow in abundance, filling tracks like “Blood Mirror” and “Two Worlds Become One” with more than enough premium content to fill their extended runtimes. Tomb Mold know exactly what they want to do, and accomplish their mission with energy and imagination to spare. It’s the complete package from a band that is without question one of the genre’s best and brightest.
10. Of Feather and Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion
For an album as utterly filthy and disease-ridden as Of Feather and Bone’s Bestial Hymns of Perversion, I can think of no better way to kick off the proceedings than with the sound of swarming flies. Death. Rot. Fetid flesh. It’s all evoked in the album’s opening few seconds, and the sense of decay doesn’t desist until the last notes of “Throne of the Serpent” fade back into the sound of those same flies, serving as a constant reminder of our imminent demise. This is putrid music, with few frills and little to no sense of hope. And that’s exactly how we like it. An utterly impressive and robust outing from one of the Denver metal scene’s finest up-and-coming acts.
9. Infernal Coil – Within a World Forgotten
Some album’s carve out their own unique sonic space, while others create their own sonic planet. Infernal Coil is in the latter category, and their debut full-length, Within a World Forgotten, is an utterly overwhelming tour de force of audio punishment. No other album released in 2018 sounds as fundamentally vicious as this one. But the pummeling, relentless assault is only part of the record’s appeal. There is a shocking amount of depth to these performances, highlighting a mature, if completely reckless, gift for songwriting. Whether you’re looking for an album to dissect or submit to, Within a World Forgotten has you covered. It’s one sincerely punishing work of art.
8. Convulsing – Grievous
Australia is a continent replete with fantastic death metal bands, and Convulsing might be the best of the bunch. The brainchild of Dumbsaint’s Brendan Sloan, Convulsing conjures death metal ecstasy of the purest, most technically adventurous form. Those words may cause some to dismiss this record as a noodle-plagued wank-fest, but I assure you that Sloan’s skills as a songwriter and composer are never short of meticulous and miraculous. The instrumentation, especially the guitar work, on this record is truly masterful throughout. Dripping with atmosphere and stuffed with some of the most intricate riffing death metal can offer, Grievous is pure ecstasy for those who like their death metal as complex as it is vicious.
7. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology
Here are words I never thought I’d write: A concept album about ascendant slugs is one of the best of the year. Say what you will about Slugdge’s gimmicky concept (who am I kidding, it’s awesome), there’s no denying that these guys know how to make quality death metal. I’ve been listening to this record on repeat for months, but you only need one listen to get some of these riffs stuck in your head. While the performances are excellent, Slugdge’s true strength lies in their ability to marry an outlandish concept with incredibly catchy songwriting. On every level, Esoteric Malacology is the best album Slugdge have yet written, and I cannot wait to see where they go next.
6. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
If there were an album I’d want to show to a death metal noob regarding how the genre should sound, Obliteration’s Cenotaph Obscure is it. I have not heard more utterly perfect production on a death metal record in years. It really sounds the way that death metal should. It’s also performed with equal excellence, the guitars in particular providing one of the more effective takes on the OSDM style I’ve heard in a good while. This is an album that could have come out in 1992 and no one would question it. And when it comes to death metal, that’s a decidedly good thing. A borderline flawless record.
5. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement
I must confess, this record didn’t connect with me on first listen. Perhaps it was distraction or just bad timing. Regardless, something about it kept lurking in the back of my mind. After giving it another go a few months later, Chaos Echœs’ sound was like a breath of fresh air, and I haven’t looked back since. Focused heavily on the instrumental components of experimental/avant-garde death metal, this album is a performative hellscape of sounds and textures that are unique to this band. In a musical market stuffed to the gills with bands trying to make their mark, that’s a rare feat indeed. Mouvement’s replayability value is incredibly high, and once it sets its hooks in you it’s impossible to shake. So dive in, no holds barred, and savor the majesty of one of the most transfixing albums of the year.
4. Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
Outside of the previously mentioned gem Slugdge dropped this year, I don’t think there’s another death metal record that received more spins than Burial Invocation’s long-awaited debut Abiogenesis. Holy lord, is this record good. Sporting beyond solid production work from the incomparable Dan Lowndes and enough old school riffs to melt the faces of even the hardest skeptics, Burial Invocation offer the complete death metal package. There are elements of doom here as well, giving the album a fantastic sense of variety in its pacing, crawling through its most muscular passages with a gleeful ferocity. All of the performances are legendary as well, with Aberrant’s drum work being a particular highlight. While we may have had to wait about a decade to get it, Abiogenesis is well worth the time investment.
3. Zealotry – At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds
I’ve been a big fan of Zealotry since their last full-length record, though I must confess it took some time to grow on me. Such was not the case with the band’s third record At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds, which enthralled me immediately. Nearly a dozen listens in, nothing’s changed. This is excellent, technically sound death metal that’s as airtight in performance and songwriting as this music gets. The simply brilliant lead guitar work of Philippe Tougas (he of Chthe’ilist fame) is worthy of all-time status here, exhibiting breathtaking control in the midst of absolute audio chaos. His performance in particular is aided by some spectacular songwriting, which is measured and meticulous, but not without its fair share of wild and unexpected divergence (like the effective synthesizers and choral arrangements you’ll find peppered throughout). Perhaps the most complete death metal record on this list, I cannot praise At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds highly enough.
2. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
Few records in the metal world received as much effusive hype as Imperial Triumphant this year. Thankfully, none deserve it more. Vile Luxury is unlike anything else in metal at large. It’s one of the more discomfiting and destabilizing listens I’ve had with an album in years, but Imperial Triumphant don’t work in a state of confusion without purpose. Buried in the jagged, angular surface of this avant-garde masterpiece is a songwriting core filled to the brim with brilliance. This is a record that demands repeat listens, with each new trip around its off-putting edges revealing more and more treasures buried within. The dissonant, jazz-infused death metal that undergirds every track serves as a buoy barely tethered, providing just enough of a through line for the proceedings to feel directed. But this is a train about to fly off the rails at any moment (and there are several glorious moments when it does, namely during the mad, brilliant “Chernobyl Blues”), giving off a sense of radical foreboding with each new passage. It’s one of the most truly unhinged records I’ve heard, but the unique sense of order beneath the chaos makes repeat listens very worthwhile. A stellar release.
1. Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy
The protege eclipses the master. Thus is the nature of all effective tutoring relationships. If Obscura is the master in this case, Alkaloid is definitely the brilliant student, capable of surpassing their teacher in every measurable metric. Liquid Anatomy is that statement, and it’s the best death metal record of the year. With Obscura’s Linus Klausenitzer and former Obscura drummer extraordinaire Hannes Grossmann in tow, Liquid Anatomy’s instrumental backbone is as strong as any in metal. Coupled with sensational guitar work from Christian Münzner and Danny Tunker with an exceptional vocal performance from Morean, there’s enough talent here to fill a half-dozen lesser bands. But this sort of talent formula often leads to bloated, directionless noodle-fests in progressive metal. Thankfully, all of the negative aspects of the prog death supergroup are absent from Liquid Anatomy. This is focused, unpredictable, and thoroughly satisfying music that readily exemplifies everything a progressive/technical death metal record can and should be. Front-to-back, no one did it better than Alkaloid in 2018. My highest and most emphatic recommendation.
Scott’s Top 15 Albums of 2018
15. Augury – Illusive Golden Age
Let’s kick things off with a fantastic tech death album from a band I wish I knew about long before now. With Illusive Golden Age, Augury prove that no death metal subgenre is out of their wheelhouse. With melody, technicality and heaviness abound, Illusive Golden Age is a well-rounded slab of tech death that remains immediate and captivating listen after listen.
[bandcamp video=3683054592 width=560 height=435 bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5]
14. Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
Back when Jonathan first recommended Abiogenesis to me, I reported back by saying (verbatim): “honestly, this sounds like old school Cannibal Corpse if they decided to be a hell of a lot more ambitious with their songwriting.” I still stand by that initial reaction, and I’m once again glad that I have a partner in crime with amazing taste in death metal (and music in general). Abiogenesis truly does capture that gritty, OSDM vibe within extended compositions fleshed out with heaps of detail and fresh ideas.
13. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
This is one of those instances where less time with an album knocks it down to a lower spot on the list. Even so, Cenotaph Obscure is still an exceptional album that will absolutely be in the conversation for one of the best death metal albums of the decade. With their signature take on OSDM, Obliteration really do obliterate the competition in terms of excelling at the OSDM formula.
12. Gorod – Aethra
You know that feeling when you should listen to a band, but you don’t, and then you do, and then you kick yourself for not doing so sooner? Yeah, that’s my trajectory with Gorod. All signs pointed to me loving what Gorod do with the tech death formula, but it wasn’t until this year that I confirmed what was easily confirmable. That’s thanks in large part to just how phenomenal an album Aethra is, with front-to-back technical and songwriting prowess on display that only a veteran band could execute. Long story short, don’t sleep on these guys like I did.
11. Ulthar – Cosmovore
Sometimes, “blackened death metal” is a bit of a misleading genre tag. Most people will think of Behemoth and their ilk, but that excludes bands who truly find an even balance between what black and death metal have to offer. Plus “deathened black metal” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. In any case, what Ulthar bring to the table on Cosmovore is just that: elements of black and death metal brought together in a logical but nevertheless exceptional manner. The band has a keen ear for what aspects of each genre flow best together, elevating their compositions as a result.
10. Aseitas – Aseitas
When I first wrote about Aseitas in April, I praised their ability to fill the groovy void in my death metal listening. While that’s a key quality I love about their latest self-titled outing, the band’s unique take on “skronk” elevates the typical joys reaped from groove-laden, deathly heaviness. This is a vicious and pummeling album that flew under the radar this year; now’s your chance to fix that.
9. Ghastly – Death Velour
I’ve told this to many people over the course of the year, but I think Ghastly capture the sound that Tribulation are often credited for “mastering.” I know this reads like an odd compliment, but on paper, what Tribulation try to do is actually a phenomenal idea, and one which Ghastly execute perfectly. On Death Velour, the band splice heavy metal and occult influences with old school black and death metal principles, which somehow comes together to produce some of the most fascinating and ghoulishly exciting albums for the genre(s) this year.
8. Infernal Coil – Within a World Forgotten
I just wrote about my adoration of this album for our overall Top 25 of the year, so I’ll keep this blurb brief. Infernal Coil effortlessly balance brutality and technicality for maximum results, and it’s endlessly entertaining across every moment of Within a World Forgotten. This is deathgrind done right.
7. Anachronism – Orogeny
If I can be honest, I’m wicked bummed this record didn’t get more attention this year. With all the self-importance and complexity I like to highlight with my favorite new metal albums, sometimes you just need a record to remind you how much fun death metal can be. Not only do Anachronism accomplish this handily, they’re also technically proficient and armed with serious songwriting chops. As a result, Orogeny is a lean but potent slab of energetic tech death; the kind of album that forgoes extra flash for a display of pure talent, speed and catchiness. But of course, you’ll still find pockets of melody and accents of experimentation to make it a fully fleshed out affair.
6. Of Feather and Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion
If for no other reason, “Resounding from the Depths” will make it impossible for me to forget Bestial Hymns of Perversion no matter how many years pass. It’s just such a succinct encapsulation of everything Of Feather and Bone do well: an adrenaline jolting intro leads to a surge of energy flowing through gritty, kinetic deathgrind. Of course, every other track on the album is memorable in its own right, and other than Manor of Infinite Forms, I’m not sure any other death metal was as objectively good and deserving of “mandatory listening” status this year.
5. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement
Despite being an early-year gem, Mouvement has yet to lose its shine. Chaos Echœs went on to make an avant-garde metal/free improv sax album with prolific reedsmith Mats Gustafsson, and somehow Mouvement is still in contention for their most experimental and ambitious release of the year. With a variety of atmospheric, spacious metal subgenres incorporated in the mix of a blackened death metal storm, the band succeeds at creating a suffocating aura that’s difficult to penetrate but effortless to enjoy.
4. Convulsing – Grievous
Yet another incredible album from way across the pond (from where I am in New England, at least). I think what’s most striking about Convulsing’s take on death metal is just how versatile and inviting Grievous is, considering how incredibly dark and dense its compositions are. Despite this, there are just too many interesting ideas that beg for analysis, making it effortless to spin the album again and again to fully understand their trajectories and sonic ideas. This is the rare experimental death metal album that’s perfect for newcomers and veteran listeners alike.
3. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
Though slightly outmatched in the battle for my favorite death metal album of the year, I’ve long felt that Manor of Infinite Forms is the “best” record that the genre produced in 2018. I mean, what didn’t Tomb Mold bring to the table this time around? The album offered progressive ideas and riff progressions, OSDM grit and production and a general ferocity that any type of death metal fan is going to want. Rarely does a death metal succeed this much while also receiving the accolades it deserves. Of the phenomenal albums on Jonathan’s and my lists, I’m probably most glad to see Tomb Mold earning the recognition they’ve earned.
2. Sunless Dawn – Timeweaver
Back when I wrote about Timeweaver for our November Editors’ Picks column, I compared the experience of listening to the album to my first time exploring Blackwater Park. I still support that comparison wholeheartedly, and continue to feel that this is one of the most complete, adventurous and purely well-written progressive death metal albums I’ve heard in quite some time. What an incredible record.
1. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
What more is there to say about Vile Luxury that either Jonathan or I haven’t already? We’ve arguably covered Imperial Triumphant here on the blog more than any other death metal band this year, and for very good reason. Landing ninth in our overall Top 25 and within the top two for Jonathan and my death metal honors is no small feat, but it’s unsurprising with an album of this sheer level of quality. Blending avant-garde, black metal and death metal influences with a variety of instrumental guests makes for one of the most thematically rich and rewarding metal albums you’ll hear anytime this decade. If you’re not convinced to check this out by now, then I really don’t know what to tell you; you’re missing out big time.