Here we are with the last official post pertaining to 2018! Of course those words were carefully picked as you’re reading this on January 4th at the earliest, but that shouldn’t be a problem as everyone is undoubtedly still writing “2018” in whatever date forms they’re filling in. Here’s my ranking of the smaller releases we had this year; everything from Undergang’s split with Gorephilia to beloved basement demos.
While 2018 was certainly a great year for metal full-lengths, the smaller, more bite-sized releases came through as well. Personally, these are my favourite as they’re as pure as an artist can get due to a lack of outside influence, they’re usually digestible in terms of length and quality, and they often display the genre’s inherent comradery, with the various collaborative splits and whatnot on here.
Another reasoning for this list of smaller-scale releases lies behind the evolution of demos, or what the term has grown to mean. Due to the lack of access to studios, relative technology, and financial means, old-school demos from the ‘80s and ‘90s are often of lesser quality, and thus slip within the cracks of an artist’s other work, if they have any. Furthermore, the trend seemed to be to release short multi-track demos to various labels with the goal of getting record deal; in these cases the songs submitted would often make their way on full albums, thus eliminating the need for that earlier release (aside from a collector’s purposes, of course).
Since those times, recording technology has advanced much further in terms of quality and cost, and thus artists can record decent sounding demos with ease. These releases are then published all over the internet, spreading like wildfire, if they’re good. This potential popularity requires the artist to release entirely new music on whatever they’re planning to do in the future, so these demos become coveted releases in their own right, oftentimes to the point that calling them EPs wouldn’t be that much of a misnomer. Keep that in mind when browsing through the following ranking.
10. 毒蠱 – Demo II
Barely scraping in at number 10 is 毒蠱 (pronounced “Dugu”), who hail from China. Compromised of five members stretched across the country, these guys started with an obsession of old-school cult horror movies, and haven’t looked back since. The thematic presence is strong on a lot of these tracks, as they take names from lesser-known Chinese horror films and taboo local culture. Retro death/thrash may be old news here in the West, but it’s a growing fad in the East, as a few of the band’s contemporaries play in similar styles as well. Check this one out, its cute.
9. Cadaveric Fumes/Skelethal – Heirs of Hideous Secrecies
Cadaveric Fumes and Skelethal are responsible for the next portion. This is a four track release divided among two bands, so I guess its identification lies somewhere between a split and an EP. Split EP?
Heirs of Hideous Secrecies is an entirely French project, with both bands hailing from the country. Right off the bat, its really nice to see some decent heavy output from the region, as they’ve been historically lacking. Thankfully, Cadaveric Fumes and Skelethal are waving the flag with some juicy old-school death metal.
8. Draghkar – The Endless Howling Abyss
Draghkar is a project rooted within the overpopulated Californian underground. I don’t know if it’s the healthy spirit of competition or maybe the lack of oxygen that is fueling the kids in this scene, but they’re all unstoppable. Necrot, Phalanx, Ripped to Shreds, the list goes on; but the king of kings is undoubtedly Draghkar, thanks to this delightful EP.
The Endless Howling Abyss incorporates a sonic twist on standard death metal. I can’t really tell you exactly what that is, but the thematic aura on this one is certainly prevalent. There’s some Candlemass-esque moaning vocals to be found, and some strange riffs/time signatures. I’m looking forward to what these guys have in store in the future, as The Endless Howling Abyss was a very strong contribution to the year.
7. Crurifragium/Abysmal Lord – Crurifragium/Abysmal Lord
Our second split veers within a different direction. Crurifragium and Abysmal Lord’s bestial take on blackened death metal is one of gut-wrenching flair. You can’t really tell what these guys are saying, the production is sloppy, and the drummers give a new meaning to the word percussion. What’s not to like?
6. Sleep – Leagues Beneath
Sleep have dominated 2018. Well-known as one of the most prolific metal bands of the ‘90s, and the stoner metal band, they unfortunately broke up early in their career due to label restraints (although I don’t blame Earache for not wanting to release an hour-long song, but the joke’s on them now, I guess).
The band dropped a surprise full-length on 4/20, the group’s first official album release since 1991. It was certainly a success, and one of the better comeback albums out there, which rings true when you read everyone’s year-end lists. The marijuananauts also released a 16-minute non-album single for us to enjoy, and the quality is still there after all these years. “Leagues Beneath” is a necessary addition to your collection; don’t sleep on this one.
5. Undergang/Gorephilia – Undergang/Gorephilia
The Undergang/Gorephilia split was extremely successful for being your standard two-track collaboration. The songwriting on this release is incredibly strong, which is the main reason why it scored so high on the list. The two bands also embarked on a European tour as part of their collaboration, so this release is also associated with that for many people. I’ve got nothing more to say, other than that this was a solid split!
4. Tomb Mold – Cerulean Salvation
We’re starting to get into the big leagues here. Tomb Mold have been steadily growing alongside their various outputs over the past couple of years. However, their 2018 full-length Manor of Infinite Forms launched the quartet into successful bounds, which can be seen by how popular this album is; people are still talking about it!
Tomb Mold released a two-track EP to culminate 2018, and it does not disappoint. While the group doesn’t necessarily venture into uncharted territory, they delivered two more strong tracks to add to your playlists.
3. Snorlax – Splintering Demo
While terms relating to size wouldn’t be all that applicable here, these releases are certainly indicative of potential greatness.
Kicking off our top three is Snorlax, a one-man project out of Brisbane, Australia. Brendan Auld demonstrates his ability to create strong music once again with his personal project. Splintering Demo features an eclectic mix of black, death, and grind that will knock your socks off. If you dug this one, well there’s good news for you as there’s another Snorlax release on the way!
2. Coffin Rot/Molder – Coffin Rot/Molder
An exercise in old-school death metal fury has overtaken us in this runner-up spot. US-based gore enthusiasts Coffin Rot and Molder collaborated earlier this year to release the best split of 2018, in my opinion.
In similar fashion to the Cadaveric Fumes/Skelethal split discussed earlier, the release in question takes a longer runtime, with three tracks offered by each band. They’re all strong numbers, and the inclusion of two covers cements the comradery surrounding this release. Good stuff; pick up the vinyl from Rotted Life Records, it’s a nice little gem.
1. Bog Body – Through the Burial Bog
New York-based Bog Body swept everyone away with their fairly recent demo release. I was sent an email by the band requesting a review, and while I was working on a write-up KVLT Nation featured them and soon after Bog Body blew up. I think their tapes are still sold out; good for them.
Anyways, these guys deserve the number one spot. Their maniacal, brooding, knuckle-dragging blend of blackened death metal reigns supreme. I embedded the theme of a heartbeat within my review, as the group’s music thumps and trudges along in similar fashion, and I really think that was a great way to describe their music. You’ve got to listen to this demo from front to back, its that good. All hail Bog Body, and thanks for the delightful addition to 2018.