Matthew Bowling Best-of 2018Wednesday, 19th December 2018
Another set of seasons passed, another opportunity to reflect and struggle through the best and brightest. Another opportunity to forget about the mediocrity that fills the glut so that gems like these below may rise to the top and provide colour for our otherwise oft-gray day-to-day lives.
12. Evoken – Hypnagogia (Profound Lore)
Much like the twilight realm between the worlds of consciousness and void the title draws from, Hypnagogia is stark In its conjuring. An atmosphere that is almost warm belies the horrors that await within. Now a century removed from the war it embodies in story and spirit, the leaders (and people at large) would do well to remember that Hell is never glorious.
Track of choice: Too Feign Ebullience
11. Ihsahn – Àmr (Candlelight)
Ihsahn’s journey ever-onward continues. Even while drawing on his own history and the pervasive themes of the spirit of the age (circa 2018, analog synths), the stamp of what results is undeniably his own. Decades in the pursuit of the horizon and refinement of the known continues unabated. It is stellar.
Track of choice: Lend Me The Eyes of Millenia
10. Sinistro – Sangue Cássia (Season of Mist)
A doom album that lives and breathes, something far removed from perpetual dirges and mourning? Yes. Though this album does have ample moments in low gear and has unfortunately had way too many assumptions projected onto it in regard to Patrícia Andrade’s stellar vocals by the community, it nevertheless remains a staggering release. It haunts, for lack of a better term, remaining long after the silence that follows its conclusion.
Track of choice: Abismo
9. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (Gilead Media)
Look upon the gilded age we occupy and despair in its malevolent majesty. Likewise embrace the baroque, even overwrought corners of this album and become lost in decadence for decadence’s sake. Be overwhelmed because there is little choice involved. Similar goals, opposite execution to Panopticon’s The Scars of Man on The Once Nameless Wilderness.
Track of choice: The Filth
8. Primordial – Exile Amongst The Ruins (Metal Blade)
I came very late to the Primordial party, only becoming familiar in sound (and not just name) with their previous release. The historical underpinnings, the grand progressive structures (both similarly loved in Enslaved) keep me perpetually drawn to them now. This one proved no exception.
Track of choice: Nail Their Tongues
7. Void of Silence – The Sky Over (Avantgarde Music)
An album I had no idea would possess the kind of staying power that it has had over the course of this year. Unfamiliar with the band’s previous work, The Sky Over absorbed me from the getgo. A more romantic doom, in ways akin to countrymen The Foreshadowing, this album has been in constant rotation since its release. The long form, slow-burning pieces easy to become lost in over and over again.
Track of choice: Farthest Shores
6. Winterfylleth – The Hallowing of Heirdom (Candlelight Records)
The album the band has been threatening to make for years, a lush an absorbing folk-driven experience no longer limited to limited showings on compilations and splits. While the black-metal-goes-folk isn’t a new headline, its execution here is second to none, the already folklore and historically-encultured songs given elaborate and painstaking treatment. While that separation from Winterfylleth’s normal fare means it’s unlikely we’ll see live sets splitting the two forms, it’s fascinating to consider how this album may impact the band’s songwriting moving forward. It’d be a shame if it doesn’t, this is outstanding.
Track of choice: Latch To A Grave.
5. Panopticon – The Scars of Man On The Once Nameless Wilderness I & II (Bindrune Recordings)
Many how to moments with this one: how to craft a long, engaging listening experience (almost two hours); how to properly split said long album (ahem, see this year’s biggest disappointment); and how to take a familiar form (black metal) and truly marry it with the spirit of Walden. This sprawling release is a fascinating one for many regards, least of all how it reaches for goals very different from a release like Vile Luxury but achieves it from the same starting point. Majesty for majesty’s sake, an entirely different kind of decadence.
Track of choice: Blåtimen.
4. Panegyrist – Hierurgy (I, Voidhanger Records)
Discovered via a message board a couple days before I took off to sea on the fantastic learning experience Oliver Hazard Perry, the album served as the sound of transcendence on the shimmering waves of the late-spring Atlantic. High, histrionic voices (human and instrumental alike) all competing for the listener’s attention as these songs careen from point to point, soaring for heights black metal rarely dares to tread. It relentless in its pursuits of one deity or another and it’s really goddamn catchy while it does.
Track of choice: Ophidian Crucifix
3. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (Anti-)
I don’t think there’s much here to add beyond the write up I did for this release over the summer. It’s impressions, staying power, and stature is very real.
Track of choice: Night People
2. The Black Queen – Infinite Games (Self-Released)
Fever Daydream ran away with my 2016 and it was never close. Infinite Games came with expectations that would cripple most releases. Undaunted it both met and exceeded them. Unlike in 2016, however, this time the band had legitimate competition. Occupying the formless spaces between city lights long after dark, no magic was lost in the second effort by Greg Puciato’s post-Dillinger main squeeze. There is a broader palette at play here, coupled with the same fierce craftsmanship. It is love.
Track of choice: No Accusations
1. Eigenlicht – Self-Annihilating Consciousness (I, Voidhanger Records)
The embodiment and execution of everything I could ask for in a musical experience (be it black metal or otherwise). Sprawling, organic works that cleave earth and sky alike offering no quarter or respite. Some albums are best experienced. This is that album.
Track of choice: Hagia Sophia
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