Last year it was caviar, Peter Dinklage, Ant-Man, and American League MVP Jose Altuve. This year it’s mini-Cokes (cutest among sodas), relatively short and possible GOAT quarterback Drew Brees, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and… American League MVP Mookie Betts.
Great things still come in small packages, and to celebrate this we once again run down our favorite “extended plays” and demo releases from 2018. (With demos widely available through Bandcamp, they essentially qualify as EPs anyway.) As always, bands use these releases for a variety of purposes, many of which go beyond merely putting out new music. You have the new bands trying to get their name out (typically-but-not-always the demos, and a really big chunk of this list), a legend introducing a new lineup (number 2), and the short-lived-but-hugely-influential band making a comeback (the list topper).
EPs are also often places where bands let loose some experimentation, but this year our list doesn’t have much of that. What it brings in huge volumes (besides huge volumes) is ugliness. There’s a whole dump of rot going on, which is probably why Captain was the original author of so many of the blurbs and reviews. We all enjoy the filth, but no one quite enjoys a good wallow like Old Man Wuensch.
So, get rotten and celebrate the brevity while diving into bands new and (very) old. [ZACH DUVALL]
10. MORTIFERUM – ALTAR OF DECAY
“Altar of Decay is the perfect buddy for any sort of meatheaded adventure that could (and should) include putridity from the likes of Phrenelith, Tomb Mold, Undergang, Fetid, Contaminated (AUS) et al, but these particular troglodytes throw in an extra pinch of very early Amorphis to beautify the edges. The result: a raw, rotting 23-minute demo that comes across like the auditory equivalent of a beater garbage truck filled to capacity with sloshing putrefaction slamming head-on with Privilege of Evil/The Karelian Isthmus. Hello and welcome to your loathsome, charming death, friends.” [CAPTAIN]
9. TRAVELER – DEMO 2018
Traveler covers all the bases as far as the so-called New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal is concerned. They sound classic and timeless yet fresh and new at the same time. Melodic riffing is delivered beneath what, at first listen, appears to be a lightly crippled production. Cranking the volume up reveals what is actually blistering guitars blazened with crisp tone snuggled in a slight air of melancholy in which vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud (Borrowed Time, Gatekeeper) really shines through. His pipes are at a career peak and, coupled with guitarist Matt Ries’s hooky leads and ear for songwriting, these two are a true force to be reckoned with. The apocalyptic sci-fi parable of “Starbreaker” (spoiler alert: not a Judas Priest cover, no hand claps to be found here) absolutely soars like a comet. The sorrowful-yet-speedy melodies on “Behind the Iron” create a juxtaposition between longing and overcoming along with some undeniably catchy twin guitar work. In addition to some of the most infectious guitar work yet on the part of Ries (even the solos are catchy and instantly memorable), J-P’s ability to convey some of the most honest and heart-felt emotions in his singing comes to full fruition on “Mindless Maze.” This song has been on constant rotation throughout the year and I’m still getting goosebumps on the final lines of the song, the sweet ultimate surrender before the final belting of “Set me free” is just chilling. Be on the lookout for new music from Traveler in the coming year because if these three songs are any indication, these guys are wielding something truly special. [RYAN TYSINGER]
8. IRON CEMETERY – IRON CEMETERY
“Thankfully, the music yanked from yon Iron Cemetery is not at all sneaky. This is no-bullshit death/thrash that, outside of a 30-second intro, spends all of its time beating your face in with blast-furnace blasphemy in a similar vein as Desaster, Nifelheim, Nocturnal Graves and Razor of Occam, with an emphasis on the latter’s choice of noodling melody. It ain’t rocket science, unless rocket science happens to involve ripping like broiling fiends and barking at ol’ Jesus to “Get off your fucking cross! And do something for a change!”” [CAPTAIN]
7. MANACLE – NO FEAR TO PERSEVERE
“That Helloween comparison is the most immediate, largely because vocalist Kevin Pereira has an uncanny knack for sounding like a less polished Michael Kiske, with a soaring clean head voice and a spot-on grasp of Kiske’s phrasing. Guitarist Inti Parades rips out some speedy riffs, although as a one-man show, his work obviously lacks the intricate weavings of the Weikath – Hansen / Grapow / Gerstner tandem, and all of these songs are far less polished than any of Helloween’s masterworks. Still, tracks like “Live Fast, Die Fast” and “Journey’s End” get the toes tapping and blood flowing, even with a slightly rough-around-the-edges attack and production.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
6. DIKASTERION – DEMO MMXVIII
Dikasterion: the name is derived from Dikastes, a judge presiding over a specific legal Court instilled with the authority to pass judgment on all matters warranting judicial investigation and intervention in ancient Greece. It’s unclear whether Dikasterion will develop into a band that can pass judgment upon all other black metal bands. Hell, they aren’t even from Greece let alone ancient Attic. Rather, they reside somewhere in Belgium and share a member (perhaps the only one) with Possession. What is known about Dikasterion is their ability to produce ripping demos. Tortured vocals layer themselves with echoing, hollow, reverb-laden screams above distorted bass lines, driving drum beats and wispy, riff-heavy guitars to create blackened metal of biblical proportions. Dikasterion combines all the castle-y, horror-infested black metal of Krolok with the ritualistic, deadly works of Cultes Des Ghoules. A promising introduction to what will hopefully be a long-running project focused on expanding this sound. [MANNY-O-WAR]
5. DEAD VOID – THE LOOMING SPECTRE
Heaviness is a lot of things to a lot of people. Maybe you think blast beats are the peak of heavy, or maybe the Swedeath HM-2 buzzsaw is what tickles your heaviness giblets. Perhaps the bleakness of funeral doom or the claustrophobia of dissonant death metal or the breakneck aggression of German thrash or the mechanistic clang of industrial or the pealing bell of epic doom or the chugburger with extra chug sauce of djent or the bass drop of a dubstep track or the saddest word of a sad folk singer or the sound of a city bus drenching a gaggle of pedestrians by barreling through a sodden pothole is the heaviest heavy ever to have heavied. The point is: heaviness is an inherently subjective construct. That is, inherently subjective EXCEPT in the case of Denmark’s Dead Void, whose debut demo The Looming Spectre is objectively the most disgustingly, obscenely, superlatively heavy thing around. These four stretched-out songs creep and gutter and clatter and heave and lurch across a scuzzy landscape of doomed-out death metal that sounds like Autopsy, Obituary, and Asphyx playing canasta while carping on Disembowelment for playing way too fast. All of this would be perfect enough as pure tone worship, but Dead Void’s got enough songwriting chops to open a Burt Bacharach-themed steakhouse (check out that sassy strut 1:30 into “Isolation’s Hold,” idiots!). Don’t fuck around: this is where all the heavy went this year. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
4. DESOLATION REALM – DESOLATION REALM
“Subtlety is for hosebags. Sometimes, at least. And particularly in those cases where a new band decides to re-grip the blade once swung by a primo band that never managed to gain a true foothold until a reissue gives a classic work (or works) the attention it so desperately deserves. Illustration de l’excellence: Norway’s Desolation Realm and their decision to snag a page from the Timeghoul playbook. This scrumptious little debut EP offers a brand of otherworldly technical death metal that avoids the “tech death” tag most generally associate with the style in favor of something that’s classic-sounding and just as twisty/turny/ripped-apart-by-space as anything you’d hear from Willowtip Records circa 2018.” [CAPTAIN]
3. CHEVALIER – CHAPITRE II
“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.” [CAPTAIN]
2. SODOM – PARTISAN
“Metal fans have been falling for the old “back to our roots” stunt for longer than any of us would like to admit, but if Partisan is any indication of what’s in store for Sodom’s future, fans can indeed expect a pleasant treat. Well, that is, if you happen to be the sort who considers being asphyxiated by a long, brutal nuclear winter a real “treat.” If you’ve gotten this far, signs point to yes.” [CAPTAIN]
1. ABHORRENCE – MEGALOHYDROTHALASSOPHOBIC
“The EP starts off, as is customary, with a brief and atmospheric intro. Following this, Megalohydrothalassophobic sounds precisely as one might hope a new Abhorrence recording would sound in 2018: sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes weird and always curiously fun, but with the added benefit of a big-boy modern production. Hell, that could be the only sticking point for some of the grumpier, more shambling barbarians left in the crowd—not enough mud left on the flaps. It’s still dirty, though, and it doesn’t take very long for “Anthem for the Anthropocene” to remind us why we’re here… The riffs.” [CAPTAIN]
Tomorrow, the real madness starts with our full staff top 25 albums.