It’s that time of year again: list time! Crom has checked out more than 300 full-length studio albums this year, and here are the 50 best. Find out what records you should be playing while, in the background, hearing the lamentations of the women of your enemies that you have crushed and who are now being driven before you.
If Crom would be less of a shunning asshole, he would’ve liked to include a shout-out to the following bands, who also made very good albums that unfortunately didn’t make the cut this time around: ALGHAZANTH, AORLHAC, AURA NOIR, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, DRUDKH, ENEFERENS, GRÁ, GRAVEYARD, IHSAHN, JUDAS PRIEST, KRISIUN, LONG DISTANCE CALLING, MANTICORA, MARE, MEMORIAM, MOKOMA, PAARA, PESTILENCE, SINISTRO, SKELETAL REMAINS, SKOGEN, SORCIER DES GLACES, SOREPTION, SPOCK’S BEARD, SUSPERIA, SVARTIDAUÐI, UADA, VALKYRJA, VARATHRON, VOODUS and WHOREDOM RIFE.
50. GRUESOME – Twisted Prayers
Somewhere, Chuck is smiling.
49. CARPENTER BRUT – Leather Teeth
Neon lights, karate fights.
48. PRIMORDIAL – Exile Amongst the Ruins
The plagued yet passionate atmosphere is intact, and the songwriting ranges from pretty good to great. Another quality effort from Ireland’s finest.
47. ONE TAIL, ONE HEAD – Worlds Open, Worlds Collide
If Lemmy would’ve played black metal, I’m sure this is what it would’ve sounded like.
46. OBLITERATION – Cenotaph Obscure
Prioritizing atmosphere and griminess like bosses.
45. RUNEMAGICK – Evoked from Abysmal Sleep
A crushing comeback by one of the premier doom/death acts. It’s like CANDLEMASS making out with OBITUARY and CELTIC FROST, in a totally homoerotic way.
44. MONSTROSITY – The Passage of Existence
Riff-oriented death metal, delivered with a tightness normally attributed to a nun’s lady parts. The songwriting is memorable, just like the first time you entered a nun’s lady parts is etched into your memory forever. And ever. And ever.
43. STAM1NA – Taival
Devin’s poppy prog thrash Finnish cousins never disappoint.
42. PSYCROPTIC – As the Kingdom Drowns
When shred meets riff.
41. VISIGOTH – Conqueror’s Oath
In valiant heavy/power metal, there are three crucial requirements a band needs to fill. Let’s see VISIGOTH check of all the boxes: 1. A good vocalist? Check. Granted, Jake Rogers isn’t the second coming of Eric Adams, but his broad, bellowing voice fills the atmosphere with grit and conviction. 2. Great hooks and choruses? Check-ish. There are great moments but also more generic melodies and arrangements. These minor fallacies can be righted if you have… 3. Attitude? Yes. I mean check. Everything sounds honest and gripping, from the pounding drums to the barely-kept-in-check guitar shredding to Rogers’ charismatic vocals. All in all, VISIGOTH pass the Test of Heroes(TM) and are welcome to conquer my panties again.
40. ABIGOR – Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition)
This album is very intriguing in its raw mysteriousness, and I haven’t properly wrapped my head around it yet despite twenty-or-something spins. The probable culprit to my inability to digest it optimally is the lack of traditional song structures and repetition. More listens are warranted, and that won’t be anything other than a pleasure as the delivery and production are top-notch!
39. AXIS OF DESPAIR – Contempt for Man
When a kick in the teeth just ain’t enough.
38. HATE ETERNAL – Upon Desolate Sands
If dissonance was a warhammer, this is what it would sound like when it bashed your head in.
37. THE CROWN – Cobra Speed Venom
There is absolutely no finesse, and no intelligence, in this deathrash assault. Good thing those aren’t needed for it to work.
36. UNLEASHED – The Hunt for White Christ
Do you like UNLEASHED? You should. And if you do, you’ll like this.
35. ROADHOUSE DIET – Won’t Bend or Break
If you’re looking for some groovy, catchy and punchy classic/boogie/Southern/blues rock, shake your ass to this!
34. BEHEMOTH – I Loved You at Your Darkest
I applaud the softer and calmer elements (more melodies, Gothic mid-tempos, choirs), as they contrast the more brutal blasting, growling and riffing well. Still, “ILYAYD” doesn’t have the same urgency and gravitas that its predecessor possesses, and feels more like a transitional record than a career-defining one, which “The Satanist” certainly is. Still a good ride.
33. PRINS SVART – Prins Svart
70’s SABBATH and ZEPPELIN riffing meets 80’s melodic sensibilities a la AEROSMITH and EUROPE, with an impressive vocalist who can not only belt his heart out but also croon and soften up his output. Extra plus for the Swedish lyrics.
32. THE MONOLITH DEATHCULT – V2: Vergelding – Dawn of the Planet of the Ashes
Insane yet awesome, these Dutchmen always bring it.
31. EVOKEN – Hypnagogia
Epic doom/death with Gothic touches and the occasional burst of brutality. An immersive and beautiful take on the last sleep.
30. OBSCURA – Diluvium
Technical and progressive death metal is a vile instrument-wanking pit of sterile productions and non-existent songwriting. Luckily, once in a while an album like “Diluvium” comes along. Heavy and catchy riffing and imaginative yet effective arrangements build a great fundament above which the mindblowing guitar leads and exotic bass excursions soar, reaching into galaxies unknown.
29. IMMORTAL – Northern Chaos Gods
Abbath left. Demonaz rose from the ashes. IMMORTAL was born anew. And, as Demonaz and Horgh’s album sounds more IMMORTAL than Abbath’s solo effort, clearly the right side took over the name. Even though the lyrics are abysmal, “Northern Chaos Gods” is probably the best Immortal album since “At the Heart of Winter”, and has those frosty riffs and drum patterns that make you picture icicles on guitar picks and drum sticks. Horgh is as good as ever, and Demonaz’ vocals are maybe more generic than Abbath’s squeaky frog grunts, but they fit the music just as well, if not better. I was excited deluxe when the title track was revealed as a single, and though all songs don’t reach the same heights, there are other highlights like “Called to Ice” and “Where Mountains Rise”. Especially the latter displays their own unique blend of BATHORY, MANOWAR and Norwegian 2nd wave black metal in a great way, with a magnificent chorus to boot. All in all I’m very pleased with how their split turned out, as I like both Abbath’s solo effort and this “new” IMMORTAL.
28. USURPRESS – Interregnum
It’s not every day you hear a metal band with a unique sound, but USURPRESS really surprise me with their blend of classic Swedeath, prog, atmospherics, psychedelia, Goth rock and a bunch of other stuff. What’s even more impressive is that it all works together. Check out “Interrectum” or I’ll visit your backside with a dance pole and go all Demi Moore on your ass.
27. ALICE IN CHAINS – Rainier Fog
Yes, I wants to fog you. Very many.
26. GJALDUR – Unterm Totenbanner
With an atmosphere as thick as the beard of Crom, GJALDUR enter the black metal field with their debut and just fucking slay. Apparently, some Germans do know how to Satan.
25. DEMONICAL – Chaos Manifesto
God-fucking-damn, ain’t that a money shot of awesomeness to the face. Swedeath still going strong!
24. HOODED MENACE – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
Slimy death/doom with eerie melodies and harmonies reminiscent of early OPETH, KATATONIA and DISMEMBER. Even though most songs took a couple of minutes to convince me of their excellence, the effect turned out to be permanent.
23. FREAK KITCHEN – Confusion to the Enemy
Great stuff from the masters of sarcastic and fed-up-with-morons progressive metal/rock with über-catchy poppy hooks. Everyone should learn the Konnakol rhythm exercise in the middle of snappy instrumental “Auto”.
22. TERRORIZER – Caustic Attack
Hammer, meet face.
21. SUMMONING – With Doom We Come
“Old Mornings Dawn” was great, and this is more of the same. Everyone hails “Let Mortal Heroes Lick Your Dame” and “Oath Bound and Gagged” as some kind of pinnacles to their career, whereas I find those two boring and one-dimensional compared to their 90’s output. These two newest ones really resonate deeper with my chakras and bring me to joyous eruptions time and time again.
20. TRIBULATION – Down Below
This band really is one of a kind. Twisting and turning inside the metal and rock cosmos, TRIBULATION infuse their sound with DISSECTION harmonies, an infectuous rock n’ roll drive, Goth rock aesthetics and horror movie ambience. That main riff from “Nightbound” is an earworm of gigantic proportions.
19. RIVERS OF NIHIL – Where Owls Know My Name
Is “Where Owls Stroke My Cock” overly ambitious? Yes. Pretentious as fuck, just like most progressive metal albums? Oh yes. Does it challenge all existing and non-existing genre boundaries with its bold harmonies and instrumentation? Fuck yes. Are all these things negative, or positive? Depends on how well you execute, and, despite the horrid djenty guitar sound, RIVERS OF NIHIL get the job done impressively well. I can’t understand how they manage to keep things this coherent despite the humongous variation. Must be the birdies gently caressing their most secret places with soft, magical feathers.
18. VANHELGD – Deimos Sanktuarium
The crushing weight of despair and demise seldom sounds this sweet.
17. MOURNFUL CONGREGATION – The Incubus of Karma
When you’re in no hurry and just want to watch paint dry, MOURNFUL CONGREGATION will turn that very paint into tears of blood streaming down the face of God.
16. NOCTURNAL GRAVES – Titan
There is much to be said about grimy and raw death metal that sticks its middle fingers up yours and worships Satan, and most of it is glorious.
15. ARCHGOAT – The Luciferian Crown
When hailing Satan naked in a blood-covered grotto, surrounded by sodomized nuns, is the only option.
14. SOLSTICE – White Horse Hill
It is extremely rare these days to hear music as authoritative as SOLSTICE’s valiant and epic brand of doom/heavy metal. Heads are lifted, fists are clenched, hearts are soaring and suddenly the insurmountable task at hand seems a petty business. Rise and fight! For Crom!
13. LIK – Carnage
Well, well, well. Here we go again. Swedeath of the immensely unoriginal kind that wants to be both NIHILIST, DISMEMBER and GRAVE all at the same time. I am not a fan of this kind of band/genre necromancy, so why the hell would I even buy this record? Well, simply because LIK fucking rule. They play their death metal by the book, but do it so well that I don’t care about the lack of unique ideas. The riffs, hooks, arrangements and delivery are so strong that I was instantly convinced that I should get this. To be fair, I loved their debut from a couple of years back as well, so this wasn’t a huge surprise for me. Beautiful release as well, with a humongous poster. And ain’t LIK (Swedish for “corpse”) just the perfect death metal moniker?
12. WATAIN – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Too big to be trve, WATAIN spit in your face and pummel the infidels with rabid yet epic black metal of the finest kind. “The Wild Hunt” was a downer compared to “Lawless Darkness”, but this one rights the ship and incorporates the more chaotic and fervent sound of WATAIN’s earliest records with the magniloquence of later days, creating a masterpiece that challenges their finest hours.
11. OF FEATHER AND BONE – Bestial Hymns of Perversion
One of the best death metal albums the past few years. A malevolent, menacing, monstrous and meat-grinding onslaught of pummeling straight from the cavernous pits of hell.
10. MARDUK – Viktoria
Do. Not. Ever. Fucking. Underestimate. MARDUK. Primitive and violent, “Viktoria” doesn’t give a fuck, and completely annihilates any oncomers. Absolutely punishing and feral, this is another gem in their stellar discography. Also have to mention the beautiful and minimalistic cover art, precisely the right kind of visual representation of the music. As raw as a rusty nail in the eye of Jehovah, “Viktoria” is pure gold.
9. GHOST – Prequelle
Fuck the haters. GHOST has been one of the best bands in the world, regardless of genre, since their inception in 2010. Their/Forge’s ability to create super catchy hooks is uncanny, as are the impressive arranging skills. This new one highlights both of these traits in the best possible way, as most songs are pure hit material. The moronic fear among metalheads in general against catchy and immediate shit is pathetic, and if a saxophone solo (mah gad! it is glorious) twists your panties, then I’m really sorry for you. Hail Papa and his music creation skills ov doom!
8. NECROPHOBIC – Mark of the Necrogram
Apparently the return of vocalist Strokirk and guitarists Ramstedt and Bergebäck have sparked the Necrospark into full flame and set the death/black metal world ablaze again. This is easily NECROPHOBIC’s best album since “Darkside” some twenty-plus years ago, and if you do not listen – to hell with you! Tsaaaaaaar Bombaaaaa!!!
7. THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
Catchier than GHOST. Cheesier than Miami Vice. Better than most everything. Worship the HOOKS! Creating retro-sounding music is easy. You just copy some of the characteristics of yesteryear, be it the bass lines, chord progressions, synth sounds or snare reverbs and ta-dah! You’ve made something that already exists. Creating GOOD retro-sounding music, especially if you want to add your own flair to it, is fucking HARD. That’s why I’m so impressed by THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA’s fourth album, “Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough”. It has lots and lots of nostalgia, ranging from 1976 to 1984. Hard rock, disco, pop, AOR, new wave, symphonic rock, NWOBHM – it’s all here, and NFO pull off combining these together into a sound wholly their own. This is done with the power of passion, conviction, great singers (fantastic harmonized backing vocals!) and above all FANTASTIC fucking hooks, melodies, riffs and arrangements. The title track’s chorus, for example, is one of the biggest earworms of the decade. If you’re into the music popular and prominent during the aforementioned period in time, check this out!
6. BLOODBATH – The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn
Fuck. CRAFT-Jocke’s rocking and twisted black metal influences have turned the songwriting’s malignancy up a few notches, and this sound mixes extremely well with Nick’s demented rasps. Probably BLOODBATH’s finest moment since “Nightmares Made Flesh”, and that’s saying a lot.
5. CRAFT – White Noise and Black Metal
Harsh and passionate, as it should be. I’ve liked CRAFT before, but this shit took it to another level completely. Ferocious, raw and catchy with a powerful production, “White Noise and Black Metal” is a must buy for anyone into the finest of all arts, meaning black metal. Fucking fantastic.
4. TUSMØRKE – Fjernsyn i farver
Best prog rock album in a while! Norwegian TUSMØRKE show that with eccentric humour, sick grooves, über-catchy melodies and creative chaos it’s possible to create something that is both cosmic, earthy, mystical and danceable at the same time. Genre boundaries can fuck right off, same with people with no sense of humour. The vocalist has a highly unpolished yet deeply charismatic and expressive voice, which suits the music perfectly. “When in doubt, do what the fuck you want” seems to be their credo. Kudos!
3. PANPHAGE – Jord
There’s no way around it: the best black metal of today is made in Sweden. PANPHAGE’s swan song packs a pagan/folk-tinged punch of primitive power, which hits you in the heart like a thousand daggers. Off to the sunset you ride, thanks for everything.
2. FUNERAL MIST – Hekatomb
A true black metal masterpiece. They still come forth, once in a while. Abrasive, brutal, uncompromising, yet beautiful and passionate in all its unholy glory, “Hekatomb” plants another mailed fist in the dental region of Yahwe. Also, “Cockatrice” = song of the year. Hail Satan.
1. STILLA – Synviljor
Yessss. Just like DOMGÅRD a year before, Stilla have made a fantastic continuation of all things awesome about the 90’s black metal sound. Groovy riffs, ice-cold melodies, frantic arrangements, passionate delivery – “Synviljor” has it all. And the coolest fucking cover image in a while. What stands out the most about this album is the arcane atmosphere, which is greatly enhanced by the peculiar and archaic synths, as well as the mystery-inducing and hypnotic riffs with odd periods. As much as “Synviljor” reminds me of great albums from the 90’s like “Kronet til konge”, “Transilvanian Hunger”, “The Shadowthrone” or even “Høstmørke” and “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”, it is still very much an album with STILLA’s own sound. 2018 was a year with many great releases, and “Synviljor” is the cream of the crop. Hail Crom.