It has been a weird year. A few huge names dropped new albums but none were of earth-shattering quality. Many good extreme metal albums but only a handful worthy of the “awesome” tag. A surprisingly good pop album from last year that actually dominated my listening sessions throughout the first half of the year.
But let’s go in order.
The big names I was waiting for releasing new music were Arctic Monkeys, Muse and Judas Priest. In this order of expectations. It’s fair to see that only the latter managed to meet mine.
The old good Priests are a guarantee of good quality heavy metal at this point. FIREPOWER did deliver in this regard and I didn’t expect anything less. Their best moments are clearly behind yet they keep the pace with the modern competitors in the genre. Nothing to complain here, another solid issue in their awesomely long career.
With Muse and Arctic Monkeys it is much different. I had greater expectations for both being much younger bands and still in their prime; both didn’t exactly deliver. Muse’s Simulation Theory is a 80s flashback with infusions of a modern sound. Half of it is pretty good, the other half mediocre. The Dark Side single found its way in my 2018 playlist nonetheless, catchy enough to alleviate any moment of any day.
Arctic Monkeys have instead taken a much mellower direction that I don’t support. Their take of punk/modern rock is dissolving album after album, making them closer to Coldplay than Nirvana (just to name 2 recognizable names). Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino is not bad per se but it is far from being a good Arctic Monkeys album; a slow, 70s porn studio soundtrack would best describe it. They’re going a direction I am not going to follow. Delusion.
The rest of the playlist has lesser names. Of Tribulation, Deafheaven and Sparks, I’ve written already. Their last efforts were the albums I listened the most in 2018. Go give them all a listen if you didn’t yet. If they didn’t make it for your 2018 playlist maybe for the 2019 one they will.
Thy Catafalque are effortlessly churning out a good album after another. Geometria may fail only in being a bit too on the electronic side but it is otherwise magnificent. Drudkh are a reality not to be ignored by anyone nowadays. A few moments of their last album remember me of my beloved avantgarde metal subgenres that has seen so few good songs in the last years, swallowed up by post-black and black/folk albums. Music goes on and always on, I guess.
Speaking of which, Panopticon are worth mentioning. Their music is an harsher and relentless Agalloch of old sound. If you are missing the Portland band (who doesn’t?), Panopticon’s The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness can be a substitute.
On more traditional black metal shores, Black Fast’s Spectre of Ruin and Behemoth‘s I Loved You At Your Darkest deserve to go straight in a top 10 best extreme metal albums of the decade. Whereas Behemoth were never my exact cup of tea, they hit a perfect mix of black, death and solemnity with their last effort. Truly recommended.
Another word needs to be spent about Witherfall and Crimson Throne. If there were a best young band trophy, they would get for 2018. My 2018 playlist wouldn’t be complete without them.
Same is valid for Myrkur, a much discussed about singer. Not by me, to be frank. She dropped 2 EPs this year and in particular Juniper is as eerie and evocative as you would expect from her and her voice could convey. If the EPs are any indication of her future musical directions, she is going more towards the folk side, leaving only traces of black metal. Nevermind. If she manages to do like Deafheaven are doing there won’t be anything to complain about. And perhaps her detractors will shut up.
Last word about the biggest surprise in this 2018 playlist: Entropia – Vacuum. I hadn’t listened to their efforts before this third album and I’m going to recover the lost time. Pure entropia indeed, mostly instrumental songs, long and winding up and down to create dense patterns of metal inspired both by folk and black. A gem that hopefully won’t remain alone in their discography for long.
Best album: Deafheaven Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Best song: Deafheaven – You Without End
Best song you can listen anytime of the day and year: Muse – The Dark Side
Best band I hope won’t delude me: Tribulation
Best wtf of the year: Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino (the titletrack)
Best this is how pop should sound: Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)