Here at Last Rites, we listen to a metric shit-ton of heavy metal—it’s just what we do. But even then, every year, there’s so much great heavy metal that gets released that we simply don’t have time to cover it all. And then, every year around the halfway point, we’re inevitably looking back on the first six months and knowing that we missed out on a few things, so here’s the first part of our attempt to wrap up the records we left behind for the first half of 2018… Read on, and in the comments, hit us up with some of your favorites of the year so far, so we can see if we missed anything else… If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here and Part 3 here.
SEPTIC TANK – ROTTING CIVILISATION
released: April 13, 2018; Rise Above
The fuck-up here isn’t so much that I let it get get by me, it’s that I couldn’t get out of my own way long enough to write it up. The idea of Lee Dorrian doing a hardcore/crossover album was very exciting, and a big deal to me. Expectations were quickly met and surpassed. As I started to work on it, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that fanboy-ism was playing a huge part. Combine that with an overall unfamiliarity with the genre and my confidence was shot, victimized once again by my tendency to overthink.
So here’s a nutshell version: I enjoyed the hell out of Rotting Civilisation. Musically, it’s pretty far removed from Cathedral (somewhat surprising since its basically the 1994 lineup). It’s even further removed lyrically, where the ethos of hardcore punk is on full display. Zeroing in on both 21st century and all-time societal ills are tracks like “Social Media Whore” and “Divide and Conk Out”, while “Whitewash” takes on the unfortunate rekindling of white nationalism that Dorrian has been rather outspoken about.
I don’t want to gloss over the contributions of guitarist Gaz Jennings, because he lays it down like a motherfucker, and as the riffmeister, is every bit as integral here as he was in Cathedral. I don’t know much about these riffs relative to the genre, but oh man, these are taaasty. He seamlessly goes from thrashy crust to deathy hardcore to the trudge of “Death Vase” (that’s pronounced “väz” for us non-Brits) and all points in between.
After almost 30 years of doom, it’s pretty cool to hear these guys deliver something so different, and so effectively. Rotting Civilisation is a dense 40-minute barrage of spit, piss, and vinegar that admittedly can be a bit overwhelming but ultimately satisfying. [DAVE PIRTLE]
HORNA / PURE – SPLIT
released: January 4, 2018; World Terror Committee
Since the departure of Corvus, Horna’s footing has been shaky at best, although not all of the blame can be placed on the latest vocalist, Spellgoth.
Well, for long-time fans waiting for Shatraug to strike gold yet again, 2018 has proven to be the first year in almost a decade that contains multiple quality releases, making that a first for the latest lineup. With the release of an EP as well as a split with Pure, a few breaths of cold, dark air have been blown into the band’s songwriting, as Finland’s most productive black metal band begins its climb to the top of the precipice once more.
The Pure side of the split is worth snagging as well, as it’s filled with a very similar atmosphere. Fans of both bands seem to be torn as to which side of the release is stronger, but the consensus here at Last Rites is that Horna demonstrates a bit more competence in the evil department. [KONRAD KANTOR]
CHEVALIER – CHAPITRE II
released: February 18, 2018; Independent release
Outside of saunas, fried herring, Moomins, Father Christmas and birds that are angry, Finland is probably best known for gifting our crappy planet with loads of outstanding death and black metal. Straightforward traditional and/or speed, though? Maybe not so much. But it’s always lurked, particularly once whispers of a form of NWOFHM (some of it relating to Jussi Lehtisalo projects) began drifting from the dark forests of Lapland. Helsinki’s Chevalier is a fresh entity that refers to themselves as “Medieval Speed Metal,” and that’s a tag that fits them better than anything this feudal nerd could ever think to slap on their sound. The band’s first EP, A Call to Arms, sparkled enough to land on my year-end list in 2017, but its follow-up, the smartly titled Chapitre II, is even better.
If the idea of pant-loads of sped-up early Mercyful Fate colliding with vintage Running Wild and a touch of Sign Of The Hammer-era Manowar (thanks mostly to Sebastian Bergman’s brilliant bass-play) sounds great to you, get ready to shit your pants harder than a baby that’s just powered through 32 ounces of strained carrots. Chapitre II is packed to the rafters with hellish riffs, busy bass-play and ripping leads, and Emma Grönqvist’s heavily reverbed vocals provide the perfect pinch of raw “Kate de Lombaert (Acid) meets Kim Bendix Petersen” epic-ness to drive the final nail home. Certainly a release that keeps the band on pace and even slightly ahead of an impressive pack of bright, up-coming Finnish trad bands such as Legionnaire, Iron Griffin and Tyfon’s Doom.
18 Strength, 18 Dexterity, 18 Charisma—these guys must have cheated on their rolls, right? Very much looking forward to an official full-length. [CAPTAIN]
MALADY – TOINEN TOISTA
released: February 14, 2018; Svart Records
Svart Records scores again. Malady is pure progressive rock-and-roll, rooted in the 70s and wearing that aesthetic like a tasseled rough out leather vest.
Lots of bands are doing that these days, though, aren’t they? We’ve kind of been buried in souvenirs from the 70s for a lot of years now, often in the form of sunshiney jams that practically come with a six-pack of Schlitz, or that darker, danker style that conjures visions of faceless hooded figures and a teen-aged sacrificial lamb atop an encircled altar.
Malady’s second LP, Toinen Toista, finds the oh-so-sweet spot between the two. It’s dark, for sure, but it’s also warm and inviting; it’s sitting round the lakeside campfire in the summertime dusk. And, like that sort of magical moment, the pieces that make this record, as fantastic as they are individually, are far less important than the whole they comprise. The guitar and vocals are both sweet and engaging, the organ and Mellotron lush and enveloping, and the bass and drums lay out a fluid foundation from which the concerted whole reaches, stretches, realizes a thoughtful exploration of togetherness. Lots of words have tried to conceptualize the sense of intimacy a well-crafted piece of music can induce, but nothing says it quite as well as the feeling you get from sitting with that music, and Toinen Toista exemplifies it. [LONE WATIE]
KAVYK – FUTILITY AND WORSHIP
released: January 10, 2018; Independent release
When I arrived early to see Tomb Mold play recently at Santos bar in the French Quarter, I was enticed by some seriously yummy yet unfamiliar riffs coming from the stage. Being the absolute dork that I am, I looked up the band that was playing on Metal-Archives to see where they were from. To my absolute shock, my heart became filled with swampy pride to see the band’s home city listed as none other than Hammond fucking Louisiana.
Now, the band has only released one two-song demo and a two-song EP—and the songwriting is still searching for a consistent identity—but these dudes can fucking play, and I say that as the resident dick when it comes to NOLA bands because I don’t like a lot of them. Bottom line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kavyk on a label like Dark Descent in a few years, and this is the most excited I’ve been about a Louisiana band since Haarp. Keep your eyes on these guys. [KONRAD KANTOR]
ABIGOR – HOLLENZWANG (CHRONICLES OF PERDITION)
released: January 3, 2018; Avantgarde Music
Abigor’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, but compared to many of their peers, they have stayed much closer to one of black metal’s original commandments: thou shalt not neglect the riff. Although Hollenzwang is no museum installation, it also is no direct continuation of the various permutations of modernism found on Leytmotif Luzifer or Fractal Possession. But for the production and a certain wooziness in the songwriting, Hollenzwang might have fit comfortably between Orkblut and Nachthymnen. In these economical 36 minutes, the razor-sharp riffs are pelted along by acrobatically brittle drums and a level of degenerate commitment in the vocals that reminds of Attila Csihar or Aldrahn of DHG.
Perhaps the neatest accomplishment of Hollenzwang is how it integrates its avant-gardisms so seamlessly into fairly orthodox sounds and arrangements. During the verse of “Sword of Silence,” for example, the drums and one guitar cruise along in a straightforward chug while another guitar spirals off squealing oddities on the side. Album closer “Ancient Fog of Evil,” meanwhile, previews its chanted outro while still blasting its bits to oblivion, and then turns to a squall of unruly yelling. In truth, the level of apparently unironic Satanic devotion on Hollenzwang inspires both significant eye-rolling and a certain appreciation that somewhere in Austria, two dudes are just cranking out this ridiculous devil music and talking all kinds of shit about it on the internet. It’s a jungle out there, friends. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
SVRM – Лихиї вітри стогнуть без упину
released: May 15, 2018; Independent release
There’s something about Ukrainian black metal that just begs for ears that can’t get enough melancholy in their black metal. While most of the metal world foolishly expects Drudkh to one day put out another Blood in Our Wells again, Svrm is a band that actually shows promise while still holding onto the identity that made Ukrainian black metal so recognizable in the first place.
Svrm builds walls of sound much like their predecessors, that is to say without keyboards. After releasing a handful of EPs and demos for both Svrm and Life Is Hell, sole member Sergey Tkachenko shows extreme instrumental proficiency on his first full-length album, and captures all of the emotion necessary to create soulful black metal that, despite its ferocity, still feels like a loving embrace. [KONRAD KANTOR]
NILS PATRIK JOHANSSON – EVIL DELUXE
released: May 25, 2018; Metalville
After a decade and a half fronting trad metal stalwarts Astral Doors, folk/power/prog masters Wuthering Heights, and power metallers Lion’s Share — and that’s not counting the three strong records he wrote and sang on before he split from Civil War — Nils Patrik Johansson releases this, his first solo album. And if you’ve been keeping up, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from this leather-throated king of melodic metal…
No matter what band he’s in, Nils’ voice remains incredibly distinct, all Dio grit and godly power, both snarling and soaring at once, and it’s his album, so of course that voice is the focal point. But Johansson has also always had a knack for high-quality power / trad songwriting, and Evil Deluxe benefits strongly from that skill set, from the jaunty folkiness of the title track through the moody “Estonia,” from the autobiographical “Kings And Queens” through the driving “Burning” to the galloping bounce of “Metalhead.” The first of those three features some clunky lyrics as Nils details his own story as fan and frontman, but what it lacks in subtle wordplay, it makes up for with a catchy melody and a singalong earnestness custom-built for crowd interaction. Do as the man says and raise your fist with a metal scream, indeed…
Overall, Evil Deluxe offers no surprises, but that’s a good thing: I expected a fun power-trad album, with a stellar vocal performance, and that’s exactly what I got. At the end of the day, Civil War remains my favorite of Nils’ various outlets — unfortunate, since he departed that band last year — but Evil Deluxe is nevertheless a very strong offering from one of the leading lights (and sounds) of modern power metal. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
NAHTRUNAR – MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM
released: February 9, 2018; Independent release
Three releases. All independent. Members unknown. You gotta love black metal, eh?
The initial impression of Mysterium Tremendum is that it’s a damn shame this band is still unsigned, but given how obscure the membership seems to be, one must conclude the band simply wants it that way. Damn shame, too, because the riffs here are not only impressive, but also quite memorable.
Hailing from Austria, Nahtrunar writes riffs somewhere between bands signed with World Terror Committee and Naturmacht, with Entartung being potentially the best comparison out there. The atmospheric elements, however, are further thickened by keyboard elements that enhance the music, but do not send it into realms that would be considered symphonic by any stretch of the imagination. Fans of second wave worship will place this album near the top of their favorite release pantheon for 2018, provided they discover it. [KONRAD KANTOR]
So there you have it, kids—the albums in these four articles aren’t all we missed (and I’m sure you have some recommendations, so again, let us know in the comments below), but they’re some of the best we left behind. It’s been a fine and fun first half of 2018—here’s to all the metal for the rest of the year…