Jon Rosenthal’s Top Albums of 2018
I never know what to write for these things.
“Here are my favorite albums from this year.”
Of course, in “press talk,” the term this year means from December of the previous year to November of the current year. Oh, and this is my list, so if an album you like isn’t there… it’s because I didn’t like it enough. Or I somehow didn’t hear it (which is probable — it is impossible to listen to absolutely everything in the age of Bandcamp). Presumably, however, it is in your list. Didn’t I say something to this tune last year, only nicer? We live in a society where the subjectivity of taste has to be explained multiple times per day. It’s a shame, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in 2018.
Of course, you can feel free to share your own choices in the comments below.
See you next year.
20. Sol Invictus – Necropolis (Prophecy Productions, England)
19. Isgalder – To the Hall of the Stars (Helthrasher Productions/Narbentage Produktionen, Germany)
18. Moenen of Xezbeth – Ancient Spells of Darkness… (Nuclear War Now! Productions, Belgium)
17. Runemagick – Evoked From Abysmal Sleep (Aftermath Music/Flowing Downward/Parasitic Music, Sweden)
16. Nahtrunar – Mysterium Tremendum (Symbolismus Werke, Austria)
15. Akitsa – Credo (Profound Lore Records/Hospital Productions, Canada)
14. Khôrada – Salt (Prophecy Productions, United States)
13. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (Nuclear Blast, Norway)
12. Dispirit – Enantiodromian Birth (Independent, United States)
11. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions, Australia)
Nortt – Endeligt
Even though Endeligt is a new face to Nortt, a condensing of his difficult music into something more compact, it still carries the same spirit. This is not a casual, easy listen, which could be said of Nortt’s entire body of work. It is depressing, and follows the aforementioned “Pure Depressive Black Funeral Doom Metal” classification. If anything, this is Nortt distilled, the art and intent all the more pure and dense. Though Endeligt may present itself as something beautiful and melodic, its crushing weight will leave you breathless.
Read more: Nortt’s Long-Awaited Return.
Paysage d’Hiver/Nordlicht – Schnee (III)/Füür Rouch Ruäss
I waited a long, long time for this split to be unleashed. For reference: Paysage d’Hiver’s half (“Schnee (III)”) first surfaced on his MySpace page in 2008, only to be shelved once more. Unlike the grey tones in which the fourth part of the Schnee (snow) series was painted, this third installment is in Wintherr‘s canonical monochrome. The pure sound of winter made music. Paired with fellow Kunsthall Productions administrator Nimosh’s Nordlicht, featuring the project’s first new music in over 15 years, is equally blustery and frigid. Much like its release partner, Nordlicht portrays its atmosphere beneath a layer of nightmare harshness, eventually becoming a blanket of snow which surrounds beautiful, stirring music. The wait for this undeniable piece of black metal art was well worth the ten winters spent without it.
Candelabrum – Portals
Ensconced with lucid keyboards, the hypnotic music of Candelabrum’s second proper full-length is reminiscent of the dark music of the mid-1990s — a time of mystical music, long before the revived fear of keyboards and symphonic grandeur. Nestling itself alongside the more atmospheric classics, Portals expresses itself through the duality of frigidity and comfort. Both harsh and warm, Portals‘s blustery magick is a sudden evolution, an underground artist randomly finding the beauty in their sound and fully concentrating on it. It is interesting to see Candelabrum change so abruptly, but… why do the same thing twice. Considering the singular nature of both Necrotelepathy and the The Gathering compendium, it seems only fair that Candelabrum find a new center. In an age of pure stagnation and musical conservatism in the underground, Portals contextualizes itself as a statement somehow grander than itself, concentrating on the beauty within their former horror
Abigor – Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition)
Honestly, all I want to say here is It’s fucking Abigor. You messed up if you missed this one. The long-standing duo of TT and PK have, yet again, breathed new life into their ever-changing sound. The modernist Abigor — that is to say, Abigor after their 2006 reunion — crafts over the top black metal madness in fractal patterns. Technical masters communicating their proficiency through the world of late ’90s black metal songcraft, Höllenzwang (Chronicles of Perdition)‘s duality of atmospheric grimness and performance mastery creates something distinctly Abigor. This is ruthless stuff, even more so thanks to the return of the legendary Silenius’s continually unhinged vocal performance. You want black metal? You came to the right place.
Current 93 – The Light is Leaving Us All
I am such a sucker for Current 93. David Tibet is a master orchestrator and scout for talent — the revolving door of musicians which comprise the Current 93 artistic ensemble always (always) performs stunningly.
Low – Double Negative
In case you missed my year-end list from 2016: Low is my favorite band in the universe. Each installment of their discography, from the most obscure B-side to their most accessible work, must be celebrated. Their musical finesse — somehow communicating profundity and catchiness through pure minimalism (they jokingly coined the term “slowcore” as a descriptor of their singular take on rock music) — goes unmatched in a sea of pretenders. Double Negative is a bit of an anomaly in their discography, or maybe an anachronism. The heavy use of electronics and sampling feels like more of a sequel to 2007’s Drums and Guns than the slower, more dynamic electric music of the preceding Ones and Sixes. Even so, there is a spiritual connection between all three points in their more recent discography, as there is an innate heaviness to Double Negative electronic sparseness. Having seen the majority of this album performed live, it is obvious that much of this album is composed of short song-sketches extrapolated out with treatment, which is a bit of a shortcoming, but Low still manages to outshine most music on the market.
Lugubrum – Wakar Cartel
The weirdos in Lugubrum have done it again. Deconstructing black metal into this weird, near jazzy (but not actual jazz — leave me alone, jazz students. I studied music, too) monstrosity of odd technicality and non-linear songwriting, the Lugubrum Trio are always hot on the tail of both catchiness and brutality. Also, check the Abbey Road reference in the cover art. Know your roots.
*A note: bassist Tibor “Noctiz” Gurka’s own Paragon Impure project was just barely nudged out of the running, but their new album SADE is definitely worth checking out.
Ifernach – Gaqtaqaiaq
It has been a good long while since a black metal band has impressed me like Quebec’s Ifernach. There is no reinvention of the wheel here, no “adventure” or experimenting, just pure, natural flow and stomping affect. Proper album opener “Extinction” acts as the perfect synecdoche for Gaqtaqaiaq as a whole: the perfect balance of Emperor’s self-titled EP’s pure, riff-centric glory and a cascading peak of melodic darkness. With this new album, Ifernach poses itself as a complete recentering, the essence of black metal dramaturgy incarnate.
Tor Lundvall – A Dark Place
The glorious, ambient pop music of sleep, duality, and a deep inner calmness. Tor Lundvall’s music is perfection.
Prag 83 – Fragments of Silence
Reading works like The Metamorphosis or The Trial feels intrusive, a glimpse into the mind of depression’s apogee. In fact, if Franz Kafka’s wishes were granted, his name would be lost to history. His posthumous success was an act of betrayal, his close friend Max Brod choosing to publish his acclaimed works of existential fiction rather than burn them, and yet, the world of fiction wouldn’t be the same without this deception.
There is a similar sort of dreadful enjoyment in listening to Prag 83, the works of one mysterious “Herr K.” Continuing his project’s tribute to Kafka, though less overt than his debut Metamorphosis, the stark, gothic singer/songwriter folk found on Fragments of Silence are a trial all their own. Though pastoral, if even neofolk-esque, there is a flickering, fluorescent quality to Prag 83’s sophomore effort, something dismal and urban, reflecting Herr K’s focal hero’s own loneliness in a bustling metropolis. Paying tribute more so than acting as communicant now, there is more of a personal touch to Fragments of Silence, and, as a result, Prag 83 is suddenly warmer and more delicate. In moving away from another’s vision, Herr K’s own aimless emptiness unveils itself in grey melancholy. It feels intrusive, like we shouldn’t hear it. Are we meant to?