Dark Matter webzine's Top 10 Albums of 2018
From natural disasters and government corruption to being forced to share an office with Sandra in Marketing, the year 2018 has serviced us with more than its share of woeful tidings and catastrophes. And that’s all before The Great British Bake Off Christmas special finally sends us hurtling into a Trent Reznor-esque downward spiral of self-loathing and existential dread. But before we brace ourselves for another fresh host of forthcoming horrors lurking just around the corner (hello 2019!) let’s first reflect on what’s been an indisputably brilliant year for extreme metal. So, without further ado, it’s with much nerdish excitement and gushing superlatives that we present to you the Dark Matter webzine team’s Top 10 Albums of the Year.
FAYE COULMAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
ANAAL NATHRAKH ‘A New Kind of Horror’
Be it in the relentlessly battering throes of old school death or black metal’s wintry, tremolo-laden trappings, precious few dare to deviate beyond the rigidly inflexible rules and parameters of their chosen subgenre. Anaal Nathrakh, on the other hand, apparently didn’t get the memo. Not so much bending these established norms and conventions as violently smashing them to smithereens, ‘A New Kind of Horror’s’ nightmarish melange of blackened atmospherics, battering ultra-violence and mind-altering electronica is a jaw-dropping wonder to behold. And from King Diamond-esque shrieks of torment and careening stints of insanely paced riffage to desolate, war-torn atmospheres that palpably reek of despair, this is nothing short of a compositional masterpiece.
Aborted may originally hail from Belgium, but this bludgeoning, violently energised slab is certainly no sweetly palatable box of chocolates. And from sizeable hunks of relentlessly churning groove to deranged stints of hyperblasting insanity, the quintet’s 10th studio album displays in abundance all the blistering technical prestige you’d expect of this uber-talented collective. Seamlessly intermingled with a bloodcurdling host of deathly atmospherics spanning everything from black metal to ’80s horror, this is aggressive, darkly absorbing listening to devour. Bon appetit!
In a year that’s witnessed more landmark albums than you can shake a Varg Vikernes-endorsed morning star at, the spring of 2018 saw Shagrath and co. finally break their eight year-long radio silence with this gloriously bombastic and blackened epic. Melding classically frostbitten stints of muscular groove and caustic screams alongside a luxuriantly gothic array of symphonic flourishes and towering choral blasts extravagant enough to make Tim Burton weep pitch-black tears of joy, this is the unmistakable sound of a band at the crowning peak of their compositional powers. Simply stunning.
‘Northern Chaos Gods’
With all the humbling and immovable majesty of some vast primordial glacier nestled in the most remote and savagely inhospitable of frozen wastes, Immortal’s richly influential legacy is nothing if not enduring. Yet, for all the Norsemen's historic status as one of black metal’s earliest and most influential icons, latest record ‘Northern Chaos Gods’ is no jaded rehash or misty-eyed homage to past glories. And from whirling, insanely paced displays of abrasive riffage through to grandly expansive lines of ceaselessly churning bass groove, this frostbitten blizzard of a long-player is as fresh and vital as it is richly steeped in tradition.
‘Constellation of the Black Light’
Despite our shamelessly heavy bias toward all things Finnish and frostbitten over here at Dark Matter HQ, this blistering and beautifully orchestrated slab is quite deserving of all the gushing praise we’re about to heap upon it in shamelessly prolific excess. Featuring propulsive blasts of feral, unadulterated aggression and intricately wrought melodies that instantly recall the icy, chest-beating majesty of fellow countrymen Insomnium, ‘Constellation of the Black Light’ is an album gorgeously awash with untamed beauty and brutality. Brace yourselves, 'winter metal' is coming!
‘Repulsion For Humanity’
The notion of an extreme metal supergroup featuring members of Slipknot, Dragonforce and Mayhem may have raised more than a few purist eyebrows since news of the band first broke back in 2016. But from this seemingly disparate assortment of big-name talent comes a vicious, fluidly cohesive strain of death metal that audibly bristles with hostility and intensely sinister atmospherics. And from Joey Jordison’s relentlessly pounding trademark presence through to Frédéric Leclercq's blistering repertoire of lacerating licks and bone-scraping riffage, second opus ‘Repulsion For Humanity’ finds the all-star collective on exhilarating, relentlessly ultra-violent form.
‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’
It’s a curious form of musical alchemy indeed that binds together Mantar’s varying strains of inky, subterranean groove, raggedly acerbic fretwork and dry-lung snarls into an electrifying formula that’s as supremely pissed off as it is impossible to pin down. And whether laying down supersized slabs of fat, blackly chugging bass or channelling the madly barrelling spirit of Motörhead, there’s no mistaking the pure, undiluted rage emanating from every violently energised inch of aptly-titled newie ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze’. Richly informed by the frighteningly relevant concept of a blindly ignorant society mindlessly sleepwalking its way into inevitable disaster, it seems the world as we know it is assuredly going straight to hell. Happily for us though, the accompanying soundtrack is pretty fucking sweet.
‘Pure Eternal Hate’
From the mellow, sun-drenched climes of Cyprus comes an infinitely darker, deliciously brutal proposition whose violently energised hymns of hate instantaneously flood the senses with adrenaline. Combining explosive levels of aggression together with impeccably engineered precision and complexity, this exhilarating long-player is prime, relentlessly pummelling death metal at its finest.