2018 got off to a really strong start in January, but that did not continue into February. The shortest month of the year had some gems, but also a lot of disappointments and mediocre releases. These are the albums we thought were the cream of the crop when it came to February 2018 releases.
1. Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath (Metal Blade)
This was a hard review to write, due to the fact that I was holding a sword over my head the entire time. Conqueror’s Oath is Visigoth’s followup to 2015’s highly successful The Revenant King, an album of heroic metal that drew heavily from bands like Grand Magus and Cirith Ungol. Not wanting to mess with a good thing, Visigoth repeat this formula here.
It’s hard to find much to dislike in this collection of well-written, infinitely enjoyable anthems, primarily dealing with warriors, traitors and conquerors. “Salt City” stands out as an odd duck, but is an homage to the band’s Utah base, so can be forgiven. The drums could also use a bit more punch, but other than that Conqueror’s Oath is a traditional metal tour de force.
2. Eigenlicht – Self-Annihilating Consciousness (I, Voidhanger/Gilead Media)
The fundamentals of existence and philosophical musings are the backbone of Eigenlicht’s journey to their debut album, Self-Annihilating Consciousness. With this being black metal, much of that essence is lost to howls of suffering. Most will focus on the music throughout the four double-digit tracks, anchored by a wistful flute on the short intro song.
From resounding organs to piercing synths, the keyboards are a major factor unburdened by the dense instrumentation. These songs have areas where it’s as if the band takes a deep breath, punctuated by understated tranquility that goes on just long enough for the anticipation into eventual tragedy to be at its peak.
3. Harakiri For The Sky – Arson (AOP)
Post-black Austrian duo Harakiri for the Sky are back with their fourth album, Arson. M.S. (all instruments) and J.J. (vocals) have released three highly-regarded slabs of emotional metal. Their lengthy, well-arranged songs with anguished, depressing lyrics are sprinkled with plenty of atmosphere and a healthy dose of melodic death metal.
Arson stays with this stylistic template as well. Excellent production highlights the top-notch, multilayered music, with J.J.’s tortured harsh vocals dragging us along for an exhausting ride. Of note, the drumming here is performed by Septicflesh’s Kerim Lechner.A bonus track, a cover of Graveyard Lovers’ “Manifesto,” with clean vocals from Silvi Bogojevic, is the closest we get to respite on what may prove to be one of February’s best releases.
4. Therion – Beloved Antichrist (Nuclear Blast)
To say Beloved Antichrist is an ambitious album is a drastic understatement. The latest release from the Swedish symphonic metal band Therionis a massive three album, 46 song, three hour rock opera based on Vladimir Soloviov’s “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist.”
There are 30 different characters, with numerous singers filling those roles. It’s anchored by Thomas Vikstrom, whose theater and opera background makes him perfect for a project of this magnitude. Lori Lewis also delivers an outstanding performance. There are some metal moments, but classical music and operatic vocals dominate the proceedings. The music and arrangements flow very well and the production is impeccable, but more hooks and memorable songs would have taken it to the next level. Even with some lulls and the interminable length, Phantom Antichrist is still an impressive opus.
5. Blackwülf – Sinister Sides (Ripple)
For their third full-length record, Cali-based heavy rockers Blackwülf are releasing Sinister Sides, an eight-track mash-up of classic rock, traditional steel and desert-cruising stoner rock. This ultimately leads to some pretty innocuous tunes, far from ‘sinister,’ but the results are professional and, more often than not, liable to much replay value.
A strong heavy rock album ultimately requires a strong vocal presence, and Alex Cunningham leads the charge with a clean and soulful performance, one that is further elevated by the exemplary lead guitar work and effective rhythm section. While the band’s cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” steals the show, a song like “Blind to Fate” is a solid example of Blackwülf doing what they do best.
6. Huntsmen – American Scrap (Prosthetic)
It’s difficult to pigeonhole the debut album from Chicago’s Huntsmen. Maybe take parts of High on Fire, Neil Young, Neurosis and Swans, blend them together, and see what comes out. The focus here is on drama and narrative pertaining to the paradox of American pride, and the band does an excellent job with both.
Clean acoustic tracks mix with harsh, almost industrial climaxes, all with a definite doom feel. Throbbing feedback interlaced with emotional clean vocals and the occasional harsh screams conveys a sense of the apocalyptic, which matches with the subject matter. Is it perfect? No, but give this album a shot and see if it resonates.