A twisted elf on the shelf has been making voodoo dolls as Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan finds out if you’ve been naughty or nice as he brings you our top metal records of 2018.
It’s that time of year when we have to be careful not to be naughty for fear of being unable to participate in the consumerist miracle that is about to engulf us. That is especially true in our offices this time around, as we have had a special visitor.
That’s right, the twisted elf on the shelf has returned to watch over us. So far, he has drawn a giant pentagram on our office floor, used up all our corpse paint and made voodoo dolls of us. To appease him we bring you this festive edition, which counts down the slabs of vinyl that have bewitched us the most over the past year.
As an extra treat to complement the delights of Christmas TV and watching your government tear itself apart, we also compiled a playlist of choice cuts from our top ten. So with no further ado…
10 Zealot Cult – Spiritual Sickness (Blood Harvest)
Those who know us will appreciate that we are drawn to the old school like flies around a rotting pig’s head. Ireland’s Zealot Cult crafted a satisfyingly old school sounding death metal record on their debut album.
While wearing their debt to the Florida sound on their sleeves, songs such as the dramatic title track, the churning Sea of Suffering and intense Repent in Flames underlined their massive potential. At times the guitar work on this record is stunning and the superb soloing served to elevate the listener and provide temporary relief from the oppressive atmosphere the songs often constructed.
9 Haunt – Burst into Flame (Shadow Kingdom)
Led by Trevor William Church of Beastmaker fame, Haunt’s debut album was a love letter to classic heavy metal. Filled to the brim with soaring stratospheric riffs and joyous 80s inspired guitar shredding, the record unleashed tracks that were instantly memorable.
Staying within sonic territory occupied by mid-80s Judas Priest and even the gloriously over-driven guitar sound of White Lion and Dokken, it would have been easy for this record to sound derivative. Yet, the energy and song-writing craft displayed by the band instead turned it into one of the year’s genuine surprises.
8 Leather – II (Divebomb Records)
Recent Chastain releases saw veteran singer Leather Leone return to a raw, more aggressive, as she would put it, ‘nail spitting’ vocal style. This year’s solo album, II, carried on in this vein and delivered some of the strongest material of her career to date.
Backed by a stupendously tight band from Brazil, led by the dual attack of guitarists Vinnie Tex and Daemon Ross, this album is a joyous celebration of old school metal with a contemporary edge.
7 Dimmu Borgir – Eonian (Nuclear Blast)
With Eonian Dimmu Borgir continued to pursue their bold approach to modern symphonic black metal and had no time to re-tread old ground. Both lyrically and musically the band firmly transcended their black metal roots on this album to construct otherworldly meditations, rather than post-apocalyptic ones. The prevalent use of choral sections and diminutive keyboard melodies served to add to the cosmic grandeur of choice tracks such as Alpha Aeon Omega and Lightbringer.
6 Alunah – Amber & Gold (self-released)
Their first record with new vocalist Sian Greenaway, our EP of the year saw doom merchants Alunah adopting a slightly more accessible sound than that evident on previous records. While still imbuing their sound with a gothic, hypnotic quality, Greenaway’s resonant tones on the title track in particular were both bewitching and soulful.
Reflecting on the response to their new record and how their new vocalist has acclimatized to the band, drummer Jake Mason told us that: ‘The new songs seem to translate really well live, and we are continuing with that live feel in mind as we write for the new album. […] Sian definitely brings a new spin on things and has her own strong ideas. If you combine that with a willingness to explore different lyrical themes, and the chemistry/confidence between the band when we play live then I think it’s bound to translate into the music we write going forwards.
Looking forward to 2019 Mason revealed that: ‘We’re going to play a couple of select shows in the spring to try out some new material before we record album number five which we hope will be out late Autumn. Working on the new album over the next few months is going to be really exciting.’
On the evidence of their latest EP, Alunah will certainly be a band to watch in 2019.
5 Robespierre – Garden of Hell (Shadow Kingdom)
35 years since their original formation, the story of Robespierre’s debut album, which was finally released this year, capped a remarkable comeback tale. Sounding as if they had been preserved in carbonite since the early 80s, the Merseyside band provided some doom-laden highlights on their maiden record.
While essentially rooted in the NWOBHM’s emphasis on virtuosity and urgency, the record captivated during its slower moments, with Dagon Rises and Black Mirror featuring menacing riffs that Show No Mercy era Slayer would have been proud of.
4 Iron Lamb – Blue Haze (The Sign Records)
Iron Lamb’s Blue Haze provided the most riotous soundtrack to the apocalypse during 2018. Rip-roaring tracks like opener Apocalypse Express hurtled us towards doomsday with a beer in our hands and a smile on our faces. While the superb Into the Night dropped the pace to conjure a smoky neon atmosphere of danger, digging its claws into us with an instantly memorable rock guitar hook. Down and dirty riffing that evoked Motörhead at their sleazy best made this one of the most enjoyable long players of the year.
3 The Skull – The Endless Road Turns Dark (Tee Pee Records)
Humanity’s demise is approaching and The Skull reflected upon this fact with a thoughtful record that conveys a yearning for an afterlife.
Former Trouble frontman, Eric Wagner, underlined on The Endless Road Turns Dark why he is surely doom metal’s greatest vocalist. Although his voice is deeper and noticeably lower pitched than in his early days, this imbued the record with a weathered sense of resignation ideally suited to the subject matter.
With guitarist Rob Wrong seemingly able to mirror Wagner’s capacity to both plunder the depths of despair but also lift us from the misery and fill us with a renewed sense of hope, The Endless Road Turns Dark saw The Skull confirm their status as doom metal royalty.
2 Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn (Peaceville)
The Arrow of Satan is Drawn provided a resounding confirmation that this latest incarnation of the death metal super-group, Bloodbath, had re-emerged with renewed confidence and vigour.
From opening track Fleischmann onwards we heard a far more aggressive and dynamic Nick Holmes. The low menacing rasping style that characterized Grand Morbid Funeral was still evident on certain tracks but throughout this album Holmes exhibited a far greater range as a death metal vocalist.
Aside from the vocals, this album displayed a greater capacity for variation in overall style and song structure. From punk-infused death ‘n’ roll to blackened groove; Bloodbath proved that they could both reinvigorate their sound whilst maintaining their ability to produce exhilarating death metal anthems.
1 Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (No Quarter)
Synthwave with a metallic edge. An aesthetic that combined slasher movies and heavy metal horror. French maverick Carpenter Brut’s Leather Teeth proved irresistible for many headbangers during 2018.
From the industrial menace of the title track to the icy cruise of Cheerleader Effect this was an album that entranced from start to finish. Though the highlight for many metalheads would have to be the rickety ghost train ride that was Beware the Beast, which featured a chorus so infectious we felt that we needed to seek out our nearest clinic.
Having placated the twisted elf on the shelf for the moment, we shall journey from our offices to seek out gingerbread lattes with pentagram shaped sprinkles. After all, his good mood won’t last for long.
Support your scene because the elf knows where you live.