The Metal Gamer Best of 2018 (J.B. Edition)

Here we are, another year is coming to an end and what a year it has been! I got married to my wonderful supporting wife, turned 30, started supporting events in my hometown to help the local scene while we had a lot of awesome games and albums released too! New for this year is that I am doing a top 50 instead of top 40, now with a top 5 in order then I split the other 45 albums into two tiers (in no order). This way you get more of a read on what I enjoyed the most instead of just a long list. Obviously this list is personal and I am sure to have missed out on an album or two during the year (some of them I mention in my “five albums I missed” section). I have linked the reviews, if there is any, on the album titles. There will also be a best of list coming from Kristian Person, my partner in crime since a couple months back driving The Metal Gamer forward. One thing worth noting is that to be eligible for this list the album needs to be a new full-length release, so no EP’s nor re-releases. So lets recap the year!

During the few years I’ve been running The Metal Gamer this has been the best year for death metal with veterans like Monstrosity, Unleashed and At the Gates as well as younger blood such as Corpsessed and Lik putting out killer releases. Technical death metal did also have a fantastic year and I even had to leave out albums from Arsis, Revocation, Psycroptic, Inferi and Alkaloid due to this year having so much great tech-death it wasn’t easy to pick. Deathcore had an off year in my opinion but at the same time I think last year was that genres best in many years. However The Breathing Process, Ingested, Within Destruction for example did release great material you shouldn’t miss. Brutal death metal may or may not have had a good year, in all honesty I haven’t listened to a lot of the albums that’s been released within that genre this year. From those I heard it was either hit or miss, with Serocs being one of the few hits. With that said, if you’re a label that specialize in brutal death metal (or in a band) then feel free to send promos my way, I would love to hear more what the genre has to offer! Just like BDM I didn’t get a chance to listen to much of the atmospheric metal side either but with class releases from the likes of Ennui, Sojourner, Raven Throne and totalselfhatred I can’t really complain there, I got my fill.

Black metal had an interesting year for me. Necrophobic showed me just why they are one of the best bands I know of, both live and with their latest release Mark of the Necrogram. Immortal surprised me with a comeback that just about missed my top five, even though I was very hesitant on the release to begin with. Behemoth was another band I was debating adding in my top five, it wasn’t as good as The Satanist (hard to do though) but even with the hate it received from some people I can’t stop playing it every now and then. On the other spectrum my biggest disappointment is Eonian by Dimmu Borgir, I just can’t get into it even after several spins… Biggest surprises for me this year were Serocs, Ennui, Sadistik Forest and 1914. 1914 just about made the list as I only found out about them a week before I wrote this (note this was written a week before being published). Without any further ado here is The Metal Gamer Best of 2018 by Jimmy Barendt!

The Metal Gamer Best of 2018

The top 5:

  1. Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
  2. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
  3. At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
  4. Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
  5. Beyond Creation – Algorythm

Tier 2 (6-25)

Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
Lik – Carnage
Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
Unleashed – The Hunt for White Christ
Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
The Breathing Process – Samsara
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Gorod – Aethra
Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence
Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Serocs – The Phobos/Deimos Suite
Sojourner – The Shadowed Road
Aborted – TerrorVision
Wombbath – The Great Desolation
1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind
Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties
Vanhelgd – Deimos Sanktuarium
Abysmal Torment – The Misanthrope

Tier 3 (26-50)

Stilla – Synviljor
Sargeist – Unbound
Ingested – The Level Above Human
Nekrokraft – Servants
Totalselfhatred – Solitude
Inferi – Revenant
Paara – Riitti
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Svavelvinter – Mörkrets Tid
Gluttony – Cult of the Unborn
Avslut – Deceptis
Skinless – Savagery
Ennui – End of the Circle
Raven Throne – I miortvym snicca zolak
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Infuriate – Infuriate
Enblood – Cast to Exile
Bloodtruth – Martyrium
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Imperialist – Cipher
Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
Within Destruction – Deathwish
Carnation – Chapel of Abhorrence
Crawl – Rituals
Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light

Album of the year:
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Deathcore album of the year:
The Breathing Process – Samsara
Technical death metal album of the year:
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Death metal album of the year:
At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
Brutal death metal album of the year:
Serocs – The Phobos/Deimos Suite
Atmospheric black metal album of the year:
Sojourner – The Shadowed Road
Black metal album of the year:
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Debut album of the year:
Imperialist – Cipher
Song of the year:
Necrophobic – Tsar Bomba
Best concert I went to in 2018:
Necrophobic, Blood of Serpents and Coffin Creep (Plan B, Malmö, November 2nd)
Five albums I missed but need to listen to:
Sigh – Heir to Despair
Svartidaudi – Revelations Of The Red Sword
Obscura – Diluvium
Between the Buried and Me – Automata I + Automata II
Møl – Jord
Biggest disappointment:
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Most anticipated album of 2019:
Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast

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Cursus Bellum – Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit (Blackened Death Metal)

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Cursus Bellum is a new force in the Swedish metal scene that consist of the duo Joakim Unger and Anders Nyander who have a long past together since Sgt. Carnage. Also a bit fun to me personally that Joakim Unger was on drums for Immersed in Blood between 1998-2003, a brutal death metal band from Sweden I listen to every now and then. With Cursus Bellum the duo does something that is actually a step away from the other bands they’ve been in but at the same time it gathers a lot of elements from the different genres. This time it’s blackened death metal that’s on the table where the duo seem to gain a lot of influences from a certain Polish band.

“Vem är du? Jag är döden!” (translation “Who are you? I am death!”). When a blackened death metal album opens like that then I hope I am in for a great deadly ride. Safe to say Cursus Bellum does hit hard straight from the start. This is old school death metal with a lot of fury and hatred, blackened stuff that you’re used to hear from the likes of Behemoth and their Demigod sound. Add some Swedish touch a la Necrophobic and you got yourself a brutal, technical and pure evil to the bone album that’s sweet music to the ears.

It’s really hard not to draw a lot of parallels to Behemoth when taking Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit for a spin. For a Swedish band there is certainly more common grounds with the Polish or American black/death scenes than for example Unanimated, Dissection or previously mentioned Necrophobic. The whole atmosphere on the album reeks of aggression and evil intent with the religious themes, drawing the line to an almost black metal album at times (just like Behemoth tends to do). Hell I even get a lot of Nergal vibes from the vocalist Joakim Unger voice. Seeing as I am a big fan of Behemoth where you will see their latest album in my top 40 list (spoiler) I am not one to complain mind you. It’s definitely not all a copy and past job for Cursus Bellum though, tracks like “The Vortex” stands out on being more unique and at times I even get a atmospheric black metal feel in the veins of Auðn or Uada with the riffing.

The album is solid throughout but I feel it lacks a couple more standout tracks to make it reach even higher scores. “Soil Companion” did start the album on a high note, “The Vortex” adds some needed variation and with “Life Eater” being the best track on Ex Nihilio Nihil Fit here are some really great pillars here. I would want more of that though! The two intermission tracks “Av Jord Är Du Kommen” and “Till Jord Skall Du Åter Varda” are beautiful acoustic parts that binds the concept of the album together nicely too it has to be said.

This might be nothing new to a lot of metalheads out there who have been down the blackened death metal road before but it is well executed and will especially please fans of Behemoth. As a debut it’s a very good start that Cursus Bellum can build on.

Written by J.B.

Label: Downfall Records
For fans of: Behemoth and Necrophobic
Release date: October 12th, 2018
Favorite song: Life Eater
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

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Hadal Maw – Charlatan (Technical Death Metal)

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Hadal Maw was a new name to me, I honestly only first heard of them when I saw they were going on an Australian tour with one of my favorite bands Archspire and Psycroptic. Hadal Maw was created in 2010, hailing from Australia, released their debut album Senium in 2014 and has since been met with acclaim from fans and critics alike. Making it rather annoying for me personally that the band had gone completely under my radar for all these years. The name Hadal Maw originates from Hades actually. As Hadal Maw is the name derived from the Hadal zone, a delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean (taken from metal archives). The latest release Olm, only a year old, was just as their debut met with only positives so with that in mind I was really hyped to review their third offering Charlatan prior its release.

After having had some great time with their past two albums to get ready for Charlatan I quickly realized how Hadal Maw does not simply stick to one sound, they have a core sound sure but they evolve with each album. Pushing their own boundaries and I admire that. Hadal Maw are a technical death metal band to the core but the influences are many. Even within the techdeath realm it can differ from Meshuggah, Beyond Creation to Gojira. Not only that though, Hadal Maw got a darkness in their music that goes beyond techdeath and more into the blackened death or black spheres. This is where Charlatan comes in. Charlatan is by far the darkest album Hadal Maw has done to date, getting closer to the mighty Behemoth than ever before. Hadal Maw does follow in the same path as Olm paved for them (which is very different from their debut) but as I said this is even darker, more atmospheric.

I see this album in many ways as Gojira and Meshuggah  have a meeting with Behemoth in the sense Hadal Maw’s technical death riffs and vocals draws some parallels to Gojira and Meshuggah while the atmospheric and dark feeling that clouds Charlatan is more of the Behemoth style of things. It’s a good match and whereas I thought Senium was more standard techdeath both Olm and Charlatan stands out with a more unique style. Charlatan is a great next chapter for Hadal Maw, a fitting successor to Olm where you can see the band elevate their sound yet again. The album has been a real grower to me. At first I thought it was a bit too slow for my taste in techdeath but after awhile I get sucked into the atmospheric side of it and the album as a whole is a pleasant experience that differs from your common Beyond Creation or Necrophagist clones (which I to be fair like a quite fair share of too haha).

This is an album you might not grasp of fully enjoy at your first visit but give it time and you will come to love it. Charlatan is also one of those albums where it is hard to pick just one track from as the album is meant to be experienced as a whole in my opinion. Whereas I’ve missed Hadal Maw in the past I now welcome them into my metal life as a sweet fresh new techdeath breeze in this hot Swedish weather. One can only wonder if Hadal Maw can go even deeper in that ocean to create more fine offerings to the metal world.

Label: EVP Recordings
For fans of: Behemoth and Gojira
Release date: August 3rd, 2018
Favorite song: Charlatan I The Grand Serpent
Score: 4/5

Theotoxin – Atramentvm (Black/Death Metal)

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Are you a fan of Belphegor, Behemoth and Dark Funeral? Good then this is something for you! From Austria a band has started brewing a vile toxic plague that will eradicate religion that’s poisoning our minds. Featuring members from Zombie Inc., Hollenthon, Raising the Veil and Molokh these guys plays aggressive black/death metal that is sure to get you pumped up. As a fanatic listener to Belphegor and the like I was of course pleased to hear an album that’s very close to their style. A bit too close perhaps as it lacks originality but to be honest I don’t really care. I am happy to listen to a new band with a debut album that crushes hard like the more known acts within the scene.

All this anger and hate coming out through this music fuels me. It’s raw evil power that both scares and amuse me at the same time. Devoured by Sin opens up Atramentvm really good like a tank on full speed, and it doesn’t intend to stop… 28 minutes of full-throttle black/death metal madness against religion is what Theotoxin offers. Nothing more, nothing less and sometimes less is more. This is the type of music you turn on when your mad or simply wants to let some steam out, hit the gym or what not. Great debut and I hope Theotoxin continues down this path, refine their sound and makes an even better sophomore album. As of now I am happy to have found this hidden gem that is sure to please many metalheads out there.

Atramentvm is out now as an independent release.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheotoxinOfficial
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Theotoxin666
Label: Independent
For fans of: Dark Funeral and Belphegor
Favorite song: Devoured by Sin
Score: 3.5/5

Atrexial – Souverain (Blackened Death Metal)

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Atrexial comes from sunny Spain but it’s not all sun and rainbows over there. The band focuses on the brutality of death metal and mixes it with the elegance and darkness of black metal, blackened death metal at it’s finest. Souverain being the bands debut album.

Starting with a haunting instrumental intro you have heard in horror movies you know there is darkness brewing. The spaniards wastes no time and with The Hideous Veil of Innocence you get an onslaught of riffs and great quality blackened death metal that their piers in Behemoth would be proud of. And guess what? Atrexial doesn’t slow down and this is just the kind of brutal aggression I wanted in my music this Tuesday morning along with my coffee to wake up. This sheer aggression reminds me of Swedish black metal giants Dark Funeral or Valkyrja at times. Which is definitely music made for my ears!

Founding member Naga S. Maelström (Human Carnage and Cauldron) along with his two brothers in arms Louen (Nyctophobia) and Labelua (Ex-Ered, ex-Famishgod, ex-Abrahel) has created one of the best debut albums of 2017. There is nothing I dislike with this album really. It’s a powerful experience filled with horror, torment, darkness and death. Just the way mama used to make it. A mix of death and black metal made really well and quality songwriting that makes this a complete album. Favorite three songs on the album I would say are Catharsis Through Torment, Illuminatur and Shadows of the Nephilim.

Atrexia’s debut album Souverain is out now through Godz Ov War Productions. Also with this review I will start broadcasting the labels more at the bottom. Seing my main reason for reviewing albums is to promote the well made music from the underground it’s best to highlight the labels behind the bands as well. I hope you will like it.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Atrexial
Label: Godz Ov War Productions
For fans of: Behemoth and Dark Funeral
Favorite song: Shadows of the Nephilim

Norse – The Divine Light of a New Sun (Blackened Death Metal)

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Hailing from Australia we have a band whose name would makes me think they were from Scandinavia, Norse. Norse were formed in 2005 and have since the creation released two EP’s and three full-length albums with The Divine Light of a New Sun being Norse third release.

One thing you need to know before giving the album a spin is that Norse delivers some of the most wicked and dark blackened metal I’ve listened to. The atmosphere and sound is so dissonant and filled with the purest darkness that only people with nothing but darkness in their hearts will dare to listen through this album and understand it. I really like the way Norse creates this twisting, heavy and unsettling aura around me, making me succumb to madness. This is an experience unlike any other that’s been released this year and fans of Portal, Wolves In The Throne Room and Altar of Plagues will have a great time. It’s not something for everyone but at the same time Norse isn’t a band trying to make metal music for everyone.

The Divine Light of a New Sun is out now through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/norse.official
For fans of: Portal and Altar of Plagues
Favorite song: Synapses Spun as Silk

Svart Crown – Abreaction (Black/Death Metal)

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Svart Crown has slowly but steady become a new favorite of mine. I didn’t know about this band until last year when I saw they were about to release a new album called Abreaction. Since then I’ve listened quite a bit to both Witnessing the Fall and Profane (yet to hear their debut Ages of Decay). Both those albums being masterpieces in their own way. Their style of black and death metal is sweet music to my ears and their song-writing is just great. So obviously I was looking forward to listen to Abreaction. Reason I waited this long to listen to it and review it is that when I start digging a band this much I can’t review an album by them. Because either I will hate it because my expectations are through the roof or I will love it more than anything else in the world simply because it’s new music by a band I like. For those reasons I’ve waited until now to review it when my expectations and honeymoon love for Svart Crown has gone down some.

After all that being said I will tell you right away though, this is awesome! It’s just as devilish and spiritual wicked that I hoped it would be. JB Le Bail is still a horrifying vocalist that will give you chills. Just as Ludovic Veyssière on bass is as good as ever. The two newcomers Kévin Paradis (Agressor, Virulent Depravity, ex-Benighted (live)) on drums and Kevin Verlay (Agressor, ex-Mors Principium Est, ex-Aborted (live)) on guitars does a great job and and adds other dimensions to Abreaction that Svart Crown’s earlier work didn’t have.

In many ways I think this is Svart Crown’s best release yet. It’s closer to the Profane sound than Witnessing the Fall but it’s not a pure copy of neither. Abreaction stands tall in a dark world where bands such as Behemoth, Azarath, Deathspell Omega and Ulcerate have released killer albums as of late. This is one of those albums you need to listen to in it’s full in order to get the full Svart Crown experience. If I had to choose some favorite songs it would be The Pact: To the Devil His Due, Khimba Rites and Nganda.

Abreaction is out now through Century Media Records.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SVARTCROWN
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Scrownofficial
For fans of: Behemoth and Azarath
Favorite song: The Pact: To the Devil His Due