The Best Metal Albums of 2020

I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen to nearly enough new material this year. What a god awful twelve months, no festivals, multiple lockdowns and an economy brought down to its knees. It’s fair to say that there was more important things happening in the world than new records, with that said, here are our choices for the best metal albums of the year. Onward 2021!

Paradise Lost – Obsidian

I’ll keep my explanation brief with this one. All you need to know is that it’s one of the band’s best records in a very long time. Obsidian took everything from The Plague Within and Medusa, and injected some of their mid era gothic flair. A masterpiece of death/doom.

Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville

If someone was to tell me that this band would exceed their work on 2018’s Abyssal Gods, I would never have believed you, but the New York City trio did that and more. A mind-altering combination of atmospheric death metal combined with freeform jazz, Alphaville is as heavy as it is unique. One of my most spun albums of the year, one I will remember for a long time to come.

Fluids – Ignorance Exalted

Fluids, thy old-Carcass sound lives on through thee! To be more specific, much like with Pissgrave’s 2019 grind album Posthumous Humiliation, I am in love with the old school Earache Records grind sound. Fluids give their own spin on a long dormant genre, and manage to do it justice whilst adding their own creative spin.

Katatonia – City Burials

One of the only good thing to happen in my life post-lockdown, besides returning to University, was discovering Katatonia. I fell in love with The Fall of Hearts, Tonight’s Decision, and Viva Emptiness and other albums of their later work. City Burials carries on the trend of moody, atmospheric post-rock. It’s beautiful, and exactly what I wanted out of a new album from the band, following a four year hiatus.

My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion

Despite my love for death/doom bands, one in particular also from Halifax, my knowledge of My Dying Bride always felt limited. That changed with their last release, Feel the Misery. I was hooked from the first listen, despite some flaws I found in the production. The Ghost of Orion is a return to form, and a much meatier beast overall. Easily a contender with Obsidian for this year’s best doom album.

Solstafir – Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

I’ve been a fan of Solstafir since I first heard Masterpiece of Bitterness. The band changed direction around 15 years ago and have instead shifted towards post-metal, and like Katatonia, a change I think they made for the better. Endless Twilight doesn’t quite have the staying power of 2017’s Berdreyminn, nor the impact of 2014’s Òtta, but it’s another fine example of moody metal from Iceland’s coldest musicians.

Carcass – Despicable (EP)

Again, I’ll keep my notes here brief. What else can I say? I absolutely adore Carcass and have for almost a decade now. It’s been a long time since Surgical Steel, 2013, and whilst this is an incredible EP, my hunger isn’t quite satisfied. Still waiting on that full length follow-up!

Hail Spirit Noir – Eden In Reverse

All hail the 70s? I’m always supportive when a metal band tries something different. I was a big fan of Noir’s previous release, Mayhem in Blue from 2016, but this new album was a big departure from their experimental black metal roots. What remains is a trippy blend of black metal guitar techniques, synths and clean vocals, and it all works very well.

Proscription – Conduit

Like with other entries that I’ve already reviewed this year, I won’t waste much time repeating myself. Conduit is a savage mix of blackened death metal that strikes all the right chords for me. It’s my favourite genre of music, and this band have added to it very well.

Faidra – Six Voices Inside

What a debut! Formed in 2019, this band deliver their take on the black metal genre with a Burzum meets Batushka fusion. The result is very atmosphere, gorgeously produced and utterly unforgettable. Put it this way, this was one of the first albums I heard this year, and one of the first that I shortlisted in consideration. If you’re a fan of black metal, you’re on this site so you should be, spin it at your earliest convenience.

Midnight – Rebirth by Blasphemy

Long live blackened thrash! I’ve been a big fan of bands like Venom since I had my first taste of extreme metal many years ago. Midnight have helped to rekindle my love for proto-black and crossover thrash beautifully. Their single Fucking Speed and Darkness is one that I’ve listened to heavily this year through drinking sessions and parties with friends. It’s gloriously depraved.

Inquisition – Black Mass for a Mass Grave

Say what you will about Dagon and the rumours, I’ve met him after the fact and my mind is made up on that situation, Inquisition return after a four year gap with yet another long form black metal opus. It’s old school to the core, with a frozen edge throughout, and features everything you could ever want from the Columbian duo.

UADA – Djinn

I’ve reviewed this one anyway, so this will be swift. I’m a great lover of everything UADA, and with their third record, the band have finally broken out from the mold of Mgla to deliver something really special. The comparisons may have been warranted when Devoid of Light released, but they haven’t been accurate for a long time. Djinn is brighter and more optimistic, and for the better in my eyes.

Naxen – Towards The Tomb of Times

I think it’s best for an album like this to speak for itself. Words really can’t do it justice. Imagine that you’re immersed in a dark and wet cave with no warmth or light in sight. You keep walking through the dark for solace, but salvation doesn’t arrive. That’s what Naxen have done. It’s utterly miserable, but it’s essential listening as far as I’m concerned. Dark. Cold. Depressing. Everything you want.

Nebula Mori – A Ghost Amongst The Stars

Just with Faidra, another really strong debut album from a very promising band, this time from cosmic black metal duo Nebula Mori. It’s a very underappreciated subgenre of black metal, I can only think of few bands that do it as well, Screaming Savior and Hoth, but Mori are doing something very different. Goes without saying that it’s frostbitten and as bleak and black as the endless void of space. Again, nothing I can say should sway you, give it a listen. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Featured Image made by BigManOrnstein.

Obituary – Cause of Death 30th Anniversary Review/Retrospective

It’s hard to think that Obituary have been a death metal mainstay now for well over three decades. Formed in 1988, Obituary hit their stride straight out of the gate with the iconic Florida death metal record Slowly We Rot. Whilst the band’s first outing was a monumental tour de force, it was only one mere year later that the group would redefine the genre with their sophomore release, and subject of today’s retrospective, Cause of Death.

Scour forums online or ask someone in the street what their favourite Obituary album is and chances are high that they will respond with this record, and why? Because Cause of Death was and still is completely timeless and indestructible.

The first thing you may pick on when listening to this record for the first time is the cleaner production quality than some contemporary records released at the time such as: Death’s Spiritual Healing, Deicide S/T, Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life and Entombed’s Left Hand Path. Cause of Death features much more considered and layered instrumentation than some of the other albums mentioned above, with a slower but deeper feel and an earth shattering groove that is onerous to escape from.


On Obituary’s second record there is a cold aura that interlaces itself within the icy strings of a young Trevor Peres’ guitar assault as John Tardy’s iconic fierce bark permeates every second of this relentless record. It’s no secret that early on the band were inspired by the likes of Celtic Frost and Possessed (even covering the former on this very album) but their worship of these prior acts shed its skin quickly when delving deeper into exactly what makes their subsequent title stand out the way it does.

Take the second track on offer here for instance, Body Bag. We’re treated to a slow winding build up of thick chugging muted power chords before the double kicks and razor sharp shredding pierce their way through. Not to mention the screaming leads and stunning solo present that have almost a progressive and melodic quality that suit the music beautifully, riding off the rhythm rather than puncturing through purely for the point of being prolific.

It almost sounds like a criticism when I say that Cause of Death sounds delightfully lifeless in execution, but I assure you that could not be further from the truth. The sinister numbing feeling apparent on the release is like nothing you can find on those four albums mentioned above. Cannibal Corpse and Deicide may have been ruthless but there was life in those veins, a chaotic and almost fun/self-serving energy that ate off itself as it consumed all in its way. Obituary achieved that unsettling, morbid and completely deadpan seriousness in their writing here even with some of the grooviest flows ever heard in the genre, before or since.

Obituary circa. 1990

The Best Metal Albums of 2019

Rounding out the end of the 2010s in style, 2019 was a monumental year for metal music of all genres and persusations. As such, here at Pit of Plagues, we’ve found that limiting ourselves to ten mere records this year was just too difficult. Without further delay, here’s our extended list totally our picks for the top fifteen metal albums of the year, list is ranked in no particular order. 

Hath – Of Rot and Ruin

An open that will no doubt be heavily featured in many other end of year lists, Of Rot and Ruin is a landmark victory in death metal music and the album stands head and shoulders above a lot of its competition for countless reasons. Taking the lyrics of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls and running with it in the darkest and most sincere fashion possible, Hath combined their love of the series with their unrivalled technical ability and truly a second is not wasted here on a fantastic atmospheric record that will stand the test of time for years to come. 

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Gaahl’s Wyrd – Gastir – Ghosts Invited 

Gaahl is a man that certainly needs no introduction if you’re at all familiar with the black metal scene in recent years. Gaahl’s Wyrd sees the ex-Gorgoroth singer and former Trelldom spearhead use his unique vocal range and creativity to utilise a more matured and slower dark metal album than what he has been traditionally known for in the past. The result is a very cold, moody and artistic expression of possession that gets in your head and refuses to let go. Getting to see many of the songs present on the album, including standout for me, ‘Carving the Voices’ was one of the most intense live performances I have ever seen, and a true testament to the band’s commitment to their pioneering craft.  

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Darkthrone – Old Star

Good old Darkthrone. Heavy, old school and unrelenting in their approach against modern conventions. The duo’s latest effort is a slightly faster and punchier 80s inspired effort consisting of six songs and heavily inspired by the likes of Motorhead, Venom and the like. It may be short but Old Star is certainly sweet, tracks like ‘I Muffle Your Inner Choir’ and ‘The Key is Inside the Wall’ will make any self respecting metalhead want to shred away on their axe to the catchy riffs, and bang their heads until they develop brain damage. In short, It’s Darkthrone. You know exactly what to expect from these guys, they don’t disappoint. 

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Green Lung – Woodland Rites

One of the freshest things to happen to the metal genre in a very long time, Green Lung’s debut record Woodland Rites set the world alight with their ritualistic 70s acid rock/doom metal hybrid that’s as infectiously catchy and addictive as the substances available at Woodstock in 1969. Out of everything on this list, Woodland Rites is one of the most listened to albums here. I personally just couldn’t get enough out of tracks like ‘Let the Devil In’ or ‘Templar Dawn’. It’s clear that these guys are inspired by all manor of acid rock and stoner music and the Londoners take full advantage of modern production with that proto metal flair to create something very special here. 

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Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave

Insomnium have been one of my favourite bands of all time for well over five years now. Heart Like a Grave is another solid jewel in the crown of melodic death metal and continues that steady stream of atmospheric, folkish and melancholic melodic death metal that the Finnish rockers are well established for. Heart Like a Grave borrows and adapts from the band’s lengthy back catalogue in the best ways, it’s easy to hear something on this album and get that nostalgic feeling from The Day it All Came Down or One For Sorrow. That’s not to say that plenty of new and exciting things aren’t brought to the table here, because they are. Namely, the addition of Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) who brings an aura of bright and youthful energy to the guitar work which really works in the band’s favour, most notable on songs such as ‘Valediction’ as well as ‘And Bells They Toll’. Without question, Heart Like a Grave is not only one of Insomnium’s best albums, but also one of melodic death metal’s finest hours also. 

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Mgla – Age of Excuse

The ultimate criticism of humanity, a depraved and misanthropic account that humanity is a plague that needs to be rid from the earth. True nihilism, true darkness. Age of Excuse is a black hole, a vortex that sinks forever never letting the listener catch a breath or see sunlight again. Powerful atmosphere and technical pounding drums permiate every facet of this modern black metal masterpiece from start to finish. Mgla very much are leading the charge in showcasing the best of atmospheric black metal with their own identity and polish to boot and Age of Excuse may be their best album of their career yet. 

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1349 – The Infernal Pathway

1349 are a band that I feel have never really got their day in the sun alongside their genre contempories. All that has changed with the release of the bleak and blackened The Infernal Pathway with strips back black metal to its raw essentials, relying only on old school blackened shredding and thrash technique and catchiness to spread their message. This record doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does it take you back to the times of the first wave (Bathory especially) and remind us all why we fell in love with black metal in the first place. 

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Embrional – Evil Dead

Evil Dead wears its black and dried up heart on its sleeve and is unashamedly primal in execution. It’s a record that isn’t afraid to slow down and let a knuckle-dragging caveman riff or tremolo bridge ride on for a few minutes and let the listener soak in the heavy and overbearing punishing nature of the music before unleashing on songs such as ‘Day of Damnation’. In a year with so many phenomenal death metal records, Evil Dead is one that fans of the genre should not pass up on. 

evil dead

Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation

Pissgrave are a band that don’t give a fuck about anything! If that isn’t already self-evident by the album cover or the raw and eerie approach to their simplisitic song writing prowess then I’m not sure honestly how else to convince you. On Posthumous Humiliation, the band boil down death metal to the bone and deliver a wretched abortion of grinding guitars, putrid drums and demented vocals in such a fashion that only they themselves could pull off without it all going to shit. A lesser band with the same parameters would crumble under the circumstances but Pissgrave rise above their unique soundscape and put out one of 2019’s most punishing records without breaking a sweat. 

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Absentation – The Intellectual Darkness

One of the most surprising albums of the year for me, Syria’s very own Absentation floored me with their catchy, punchy songwriting and melodic guitar playing. What was especially impressive, I found, was that Absentation is the work of one man, and you would be damned if you knew that from your first few listens. Without a doubt, The Intellectual Darkness has been one of my most spun death metal albums of the year and it’s mostly because I just can’t get enough of the thrashy and in-your-face attitude or catchy death metal riffs that can be found on tracks like ‘Thoughtless Thoughts’ and ‘Endless Insanity’. The man behind the band has promised that 2020 will yield an even bigger and more technically impressive album in the near future so stay tuned to the page people, you never know, this might not be the last time we see Absentation on an end of year list. 

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Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

I’ve used the term old school a lot in this list so far and no more is it fitting than when describing Blood Incantation’s latest effort, History of the Human Race. Bands like Immolation come to mind in the latter portions of the record and it’s inspiring to see a death metal band in the late 2010s have the guts to throw a near-20 minute epic of a song as a finale to an album. There’s little more that I can add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief. Fearlessly blending psychotic death metal with trippy space-like atmospherics, Hidden History of the Human Race sounds and feels like an album that could have been released thirty years ago, giving it a a timeless feature in the halls of metal history. It’s something brave and exciting that definitely should not be glossed over. 

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Negator – Vnitas Pvritas Existentia

Without question Negator have pumped what is the standout black metal record of the year. Combining the likes of modern Dark Funeral with the straight up and uncomprimising approach of bands like early Behemoth, Negator’s newest album is as fast and as dark as the best that Norway has to offer whilst grinding away at fearsome speeds at times. It might not be the most wholely original effort on the list but Vnitas Pvritas Existentia takes the best of black metal’s recent years and polishes it to a mirror shine.

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Deadspace – The Grand Disillusionment 

Is it any surprise to anyone that this record would show up here? I’ll keep this review short as I’ve already written a lengthy review on this very site, link below. However, The Grand Disillusionment is a groundbreaking, bold and modern depressive black metal album that encapsulates the human condition, self-loathing and hatred for all of mankind in a way never done before. Its brazen and unforgiving approach is uncomprimising and the way the album never really slows down in its intensity makes it especially scarring. 

deads

Батюшка – Панихида (Batushka – Panihida) 

Forget the controversies, forget the in-fighting and the meme of a million bands all using the Batushka name and let’s focus on the original and the best for a moment. Derph’s true follow-up to 2015’s Litourgia hits every note that the debut did and more with an album that is darker, edgier and more chaotic in every way. Panihida stands head and shoulders above anything done by Bart’s poor imitation, (If you can call the trainwreck that is Hospodi an imitation and not a complete fucking failure to music) and shows all unequvically that the true king is here to reign forever more. Everything is more developed and more concentrated here than on the debut, such as the chanting and clean vocal passages and the thick blackened tremolo audio assaults. It’s more of something you love.

pani

Inferi – The End of an Era | Rebirth 

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint just what makes Inferi so special on a record such as The End of an Era but any speculation going into the album are quickly washed away by some of the most captivating and spellbounding technical guitar playing to ever grace modern melodic death metal, or modern metal generally speaking. A very tightly focused and incredibly sharply executed release, End of an Era encapsulates the many amazing developments in the way we perceive metal music and how the genre can transcend the boundaries of our known understanding and evolve into something greater of almost indescribable energy and passion. It’s a true marvel to relish in and yet another example of just how talented this band are and how earned their rise through the ranks in recent years has been. 

inferi

Honourable Mentions:

‘I, The Mask’ – In Flames
‘The Heretics’ – Rotting Christ
‘Vale’ – Burden of Sight
‘Entity’ – Nucleas
‘I: Voice’ – Warforged
‘Sulphur English’ – Inter Arma
‘Violently Expunged’ – Disgruntled Anthropophagi
‘Steeping Corporeal Mess’ – Fetid

 

Nokturnal Ritual – A Review Retrospective of Underground UK Black Metal

Surging through Sheffield’s industrial hellscape Nokturnal Ritual come out from the old Earth.

Formed in 2014, Nokturnal Ritual was spawned by Karhmul, most popularly known for his melancholic black metal solo project Abandoned By Light, and Kadavr, guitarist for blackened thrash quartet Arendia.

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From Left to Right: Kadavr and Karhmul ( circa 2015)

In a similar vein to how Kriegmaschine deviated from the somber depressive approach of Mgla, utilising the same two members to focus on writing crushing metal material, Nokturnal Ritual came about to pay tribute to, in their own words, the forefathers of the second wave of black metal. What happens when a depressive metal mastermind and a thrash guitarist truly join forces in the pursuit of face-melting blistering black metal? The result came in the form of the band’s debut album, Ushering a New Era of Agony.

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Nokturnal Ritual – Ushering a New Era of Agony (Released in 2014 independently)

Straight from the off set it is easy to hear the old school influence in everything from Karhmul’s vocal performance to the ice cold yet razer sharp guitar tone which slashes throughout the album’s 44 minute runtime.

A slower and more deliberate approach to song writing is in full force on the record and this can be heard especially on tracks such as ‘My Succubus’ where the pulse pounding and relentless riffage and drumming slows down to deliver a song with vibes of mid-era Marduk before the record returns to its aggressive blasting with the catchy and thrashy as Hell ‘Plaguewielder’ with a sound not too far away from the likes of Witchery or Darkthrone’s latter output, letting some of Kadavr’s fast fretting shine through.

The use of bass guitar on the record is prominent and features many sections of specifically crafted independent bass lines riding over guitar riffs and cascading with their own twisted melodies and these parts work well in the slower songs, as they get their time to bleed into the mix without drowning out the guitars or disrupting the flow and rhythm.

‘With Hate I Despise’ is what I believe to be the standout track from the entire record. Straight away we hear Karhmul’s powerful blackened growl tear its way through some headbanging old school black metal guitar riffs as the double kicks blast away in full force before the dark tremolo melodies take centre stage, even showcasing a haunting yet brief acoustic arpeggio section which feels just as welcome.

Production wise it definitely has the feel of the old school early second wave ‘Necro’ sound, following in the wake of the aforementioned Darkthrone and the likes of Xasthur, Burzum and Mutiilation, though this album pre-dates any of the Abandoned By Light full length records and released at a time when Karhmul’s main output was the DSBM demo tapes, so such production style is expected, and the pair make the best use out of the sound to create a unique and catchy album in a heavily oversaturated genre that shows simply why they should be revered as one of the United Kingdom’s most prolific black metal acts of recent years.

Entity of the Unholy
Nokturnal Ritual – Entity of the Unholy (2015) – (Released Independently)

Clocking in at just over half as long as their debut record, on Entity of the Unholy, Karhmul and Kadavr find their voice and refine their unique strengths alongside their ambition to innovate on the genre and the results are ultimately leaps and bounds ahead of what came before.

For a start, everything sounds much crisper and the two at this point had found what worked for them in a way where the synergy between the two musicians really showed in their musicianship. This can be heard in the title track that opens the album, as Kadavr’s flute melodies start and finish a song as well as coast blissfully accenting the faster guitar riffs and more aggressive drums on display.

Karhmul’s vocals on the album sound much more confident and he lets his full range show with full effect through the record’s short but sweet runtime of 26 minutes. His voice on this release is familiar to the likes of Pest (Gorgoroth) as his high screams and low growls and grunts (in a similar fashion to Atilla of Mayhem) intervene with the cold and unforgiving wall of sound presented by the rhythm guitars and ride over the lead and percussion masterfully.

The general speed of the album is a noticable upgrade from their debut also. The tempo of the guitars and the drum work blast a little faster than what was heard on Ushering a New Era of Agony, however it is safe to say that the flute and additional elements replaced the slower parts as heard on their debut which is a welcome change in my opinion.

Songs such as ‘Into the Void’ have a stunning array of dark melodies cast throughout as the two guitarists blend their signature styles seemlessly creating a very special blend of what could almost be classed as melodic death mixed with their old school black metal approach. A catchy chorus on this song accents and builds upon the groundwork laid by their first album too.

Any problems had with the production on the prior album have been completely rectified by this point. Everything stands out a little more than before and there is a full dynamic range used to great effect throughout in a way that allows the listener to appreciate the subtle nuaence more as a result.

Whereas the band’s first album felt like they had something to prove, releasing the record as a proof of execution and masterfully so, It’s safe to say that the two really came into their own with their second record, and whilst it may not be as long as what released before, Entity of the Unholy takes a lot more risks and reaps all the reward with a catchy, melodic but uncomprimisingly heavy second wave black metal album.

old
Nokturnal Ritual – Out From The Old Earth (2018) – (Released Independently)

So after two successful albums in a short time span and their popularity steadily increasing, it would have made sense for the pair to be immediately getting to work on their latest and greatest album yet right? Well, that’s not exactly what happened. For whatever reason behind the scenes, there was around a three year gap seperating the band’s work on Entity of the Unholy and their (at time of writing) most recent record Out From The Old Earth. Yet, all that time away from the project did little to dull the blade that is Nokturnal Ritual and the band returned for what is unequivocally their finest hour.

The years away from the band saw Karhmul find infamy with his Abandoned By Light project as a total of six studio albums were recorded and released in Ritual’s absence between the years of 2015 until April 2018. It is apparent to the listener that every element of Out From The Old Earth is a result, a culmination of everything Karhmul had learned playing and production wise, and as such joining forces once again with Kadavr, the two demonstrate the best of their ability from start to finish.

Out From The Old Earth pleasantly sees the return of the flute heard in their second album whilst also bringing back the slower sections from their debut as well. That is not to say that the band’s third full length outing lacks any new ideas of its own, Old Earth confidently showcases a stronger emphasis on dark atmospheres and folk inspiration than what was heard in previous works.

As stated previously, the boys are at the top of their game on this one. The production is exactly what anyone would want out of a black metal release; guitars have that satisfying crunch to the tone without being too noisy or distorted and still manage to keep enough mid and high end to rupture their way through the drumming. The percussion overall sees its most significant upgrade in the band’s arsenal as everything from the snare hits and ride crashes on the blast beats to the rapid machine gun fire of the double kicks is utilised in a compelling way.

Karhmul’s vocal performance here is arguably the best it has ever sounded throughout his lengthy back catalogue of releases and its no sin to say that he has developed one of the best voices in the entirety of UK black metal. The anguished screams of early Abandoned By Light are complemented excellently but latter-era Varg Vikernes sounding whispers and a much more fierce deeper growl than what was heard previously. This increased attention on his vocal work on a much more tight and cultivated collection of songs is a testament to the commitment of the two to push the boundries of not only themselves as musicians but the genre as a whole.

The atmospheric guitar sections that makes up many of the rhythm guitar riffs throughout the album, and are put to great use on certain songs like ‘Rising from the Deep’ and album closer ‘Born Enemy’ exhibit omens that would not be out of place in a the Swedish black metal scene, specifically the likes of Dark Funeral and even Dissection.

Out From The Old Earth is an album made with a lot of care and love for the genre that shows clear as night that the band’s ambition and scope only grew with their experience and their longing to leave their black mark on black metal. It features the best parts of all that came before it on previous releases and builds to improve upon them in every single facet, it is the culimation of years of experience and the duo’s need to return to prove why they made significant waves in the underground in the first place.

Image may contain: one or more people, night, sunglasses and close-up
Karhmul – Vocals, Guitar

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Kadavr – Guitar, Bass, Flute

As of writing, this is everything that the band have done together in their five years since formation. Time will tell if and when there is more to come and what direction the two black metallers decide to go in towards the future. If you are interested in what the best of UK black metal has to offer or want to know where to start with the underground scene, then you could do so much worse than to listen to Nokturnal Ritual. Long may they reign.

Nokturnal Ritual on Bandcamp: https://nokturnalritual.bandcamp.com/

Nokturnal Ritual on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nokturnalritual/

Nokturnal Ritual on Metal Archives: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Nokturnal_Ritual/3540382953

The Best Metal Albums of 2018

The previous year brought us some outstanding releases from bands old and new, especially in the field of extreme metal, which is largely what we will be focusing on tonight.

It’s taken a long time for me to compile my thoughts and reign in what I believe to be the best of the year, with that said and in no particular order; Pit of Plagues presents the best metal albums of 2018.

jord

Mol – Jord

In April, Mol finally released their debut album Jord, a crushing mix of black metal riffs and atmospheric beauty, in the vein of bands such as Deafheaven and Alcest. However, what sets them apart is the emotional range of vocalist Kim and his unique approach to extreme vocals. The swelling depth to the masterful guitar work which weaves so eloquently in with the powerful reverb-heavy double kicks and blast beats, all culminates into a truly moving and beautiful experience unlike any other. I also had the pleasure to meet the band after their set performance at Damnation Festival which is what truly sold me on their style. Do not miss out on this band, they are something special.

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Uada – Cult of a Dying Sun

Melodic black metal newcomers Uada return with an astounding second album, Cult of a Dying Sun. This release is something which genuinely caught me off-guard as before Cult, I never knew of the band and quickly fell in love. Dripping with punishing choking melodies, brutal rhythms and a horrific blackened demonic vocal performance. The album has elements of latter-era Paradise Lost with the slow-winding lead playing coupled with the edge of Dissection and technicality of Emperor. For fans of melodic metal, this is for you. For people who enjoy their metal black, this is for you. It is almost transcendental of genre due to the magnitude and scope of the release and should not be skipped over.

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Gra – Vasen

Over the last year or two Gra have genuinely become one of my favourite bands and their brand of cold old-school black metal is something that I cannot get enough of. Known as the vocalist of Dark Funeral, Heljarmadr’s guitar playing and outstanding voice lend itself beautifully to a vicious attack on the senses. It is a little more melodic, tamer and composed than Ending but the Norse blood runs cold in these veins. It will not re-invent the wheel but it just might set the world alight.

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At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself

The masters of Melodic Death Metal return. Gothenburg’s lasting legacy is safe in the hands of At The Gates and on album six they prove it with flying colours. Following up on 2014’s comeback album, At War With Reality, Drink has more of a sharp edge to it. The refined old-school riffs are reminiscent of The Red in the Sky is Ours especially but with the benefits of time and modern production. It’s fierce and does not sacrifice what made them the monumental name in death metal that they became. It’s everything you could ever want from them perfected to a tee.

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Obscura – Diluvium

The level of technicality and in-your-face guitar riffs make this album a stand out in and of itself. As far as technical death metal goes, of recent years many bands in that genre have began to sound so similar. Where the level of playing and showman performance outshines and washes out the potential for strong songwriting. Obscura have managed once again to write a catchy, heavy and impressive album that empowers the listener like few other albums I heard last year. Immense would be the best way to describe the layers and depth to what Obscura have dropped.

1914

1914 – Blind Leading The Blind

Horrifying. That’s the only way to accurately try to summarise my thoughts on 1914’s latest album. It’s a release that has genuinely haunted me since I first heard it months ago, and this is due largely in part to the brutal riffs, the hollow agonised screams and the expert use of sampling that features throughout. This album tells a grand story on both sides, the futility of The Great War as pictured for both the Axis and the Allies. I can’t say I enjoyed every moment of it, I think enjoyment is not the right word. It’s an experience, it’s visceral. As dark and savage in tone as subject matter, this is essential listening.

loves

Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

I still cannot put into words what this album means to me. From the album title itself, the fact I have their symbols inked on my arms, and the overall message is clear to me. As Nergal said once, they couldn’t top The Satanist, at least in terms of the title and its impact, so they went a different direction. Darkest is tamer in places and features acoustic guitar parts, clean singing in choruses and less sharpness when it comes to guitar tone and production. However, all of these artistic choices culminate together for a more refined, mature and artistic album as a result. It is catchy, It is memorable and it gets their new message across. The Satanist was the band proving they were back after Nergal was diagnosed with Leukemia, that they were defiantly taking a stand. Darkest is more comfortable, Behemoth are back on top and more free with nothing to prove anymore.

cold

Sargeist – Unbound

The best that Finland has to offer, a band which has never done any wrong. Sargeist have never strayed far from their roots of second-wave black metal but have become masters of the craft. At the end of the night, it’s all about the riffs, blastbeats and shrieking vocals. Unbound is the latest step closer towards perfecting their sound and coming into their own. They haven’t done anything to massively shake the foundations of the genre, but they will never have to. Hail Sargeist!

dir

Dir En Grey – The Insulated World

Perhaps Japan’s greatest and most diverse metal band, Dir En Grey’s latest offering following up 2014’s Arche, is a triumphant return to their older style met with the grandiose scale of their last two albums. This album pulls its influences from all over the place, It’s impossible to nail down and pin point exactly what and who they are. Same time, Dir En Grey’s versatile approach to music is as fascinating now, ten albums in, as it was when they first hit the scene and all that they achieved throughout. The production is so off-kilter in an interesting way, Kyo has never sounded better, the guitar work is so varied and emotes so powerfully. It’s an album you have to hear to believe and its up there with Withering To Death, Gauze and The Marrow of Bone as their best. I had the pleasure to finally see them live back in October and they truly are one of the best bands in the world. Long may their chaos reign.

plags

When Plagues Collide – Tutor of the Dying

Melodic, symphonic, brutal and overall heavy as fuck. When Plagues Collide’s debut album is absolutely outstanding. It’s dark and disgustingly gritty, paired with the violent vocal performances, pounding drums and savage guitar riffs. It’s modern, if this is the new age of Deathcore then I am fully supportive of a new rising blend of darkness.

abls

Abandoned By Light – Our Fortress is the Rain – The Angel Experiment Part II

An outstanding masterclass in melancholic black metal from one of England’s most prolific creators of the cold and the dark. Not too much I can say on this one here as to not repeat myself but full review available on the site here: https://pitofplagues.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/abandoned-by-light-our-fortress-is-the-rain-the-angel-experiment-part-ii-album-review/

Honourable Mentions:

Ghost – Prequelle
Megaherz – Komet
Abigor – Hollenzwang
Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
Korpiklaani – Kulkija
Aborted – Terrorvision
Groza – Unified in Void
Watain – Wolf Trident Eclipse
Cryogenic Defilement – Worldwide Extermination