2018 started out great in January with a lot of strong releases, but was followed by a disappointing February. Things rebound again in March, a month packed with a plethora of quality albums, making it difficult to narrow it down to six. Once the list was pared to six, ranking them wasn’t much easier. It’s a good problem to have, and here’s what we came up with for March 2018’s best new metal albums.
1. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin)
Australian funeral doom crew Mournful Congregation return after seven years with their fifth album The Incubus of Karma. It picks up right where its predecessor The Book of Kings left off with a crawling pace and chock full of mercurial atmosphere. The album takes on a somber tone on the title track, which isn’t a doom song at all. It is paced by drums, acoustic guitars and a flowing harmonic melody.
This is in between two tracks that together top a half an hour of sullen, sad and downright depressing beauty. “Whispering Spiritscapes” is a powerful introduction to the band as they drag their casket eternally along this mortal coil. If you even had a thought about exploring funeral doom metal then this is a perfect time to start listening. Mournful Congregation have crafted an album that typifies what the subgenre is all about and will be a tough one to forget as 2018 moves along.
2. Judas Priest – Firepower (Epic)
Metal gods Judas Priest have been putting out albums since 1974, and their legacy is untouchable. Firepower is Judas Priest’s 18th studio album. Rob Halford’s voice continues to defy age, with low register menace and upper register screams sounding as potent as ever.
Add in the usual excellent lead breaks from old-timer Glenn Tipton and relative newcomer Richie Faulkner (a member since 2011), some heavy riffing, and the rock-solid rhythm section of Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis behind the kit, and we’ve got a band firing on all cylinders throughout Firepower. It’s remarkable, really. Judas Priest have still managed to deliver an electric, vital album that surpasses anything they’ve released in nearly 30 years. Firepower is the band’s best record since Painkiller.
3. Monotheist – Scourge (Prosthetic)
It has been eleven years since Florida prog-death band Monotheist last released a full-length LP. The band originally pushed a vision of Suffocation/Death-style music mixed with jazz and classical influences. It’s a grand vision, and one that for a variety of reasons the band was unable to execute on until eleven years later, with Scourge.
The wait was worth it, though, as the band have delivered a magnum opus. Scourge features seven songs that retain their technical death metal structure while perfectly fusing classical, jazz and world music elements. It all ties in and flows seamlessly in what is sure to be one of the great progressive death metal releases of the year.
4. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
Don’t be fooled by Rivers of Nihil’s frequently used tech-death genre tag, because while the quintet does play a particularly precise brand of death metal, these Keystone State metal-heads are plumbing the proggy depths on their third full-length record in Where Owls Know My Name, and subsequently joining the ever-growing 2018 roster of bands employing horns (sax in this case) on their albums.
Rivers of Nihil continue to play a robust and mechanical form of death metal while adding a greater sense of accessibility with said saxophone work, clean vocals, and a noticeable increase in hooky songwriting. Not everything works here—there’s an evenness present that keeps Where Owls Know My Namefrom elevating into the next stratosphere, one likely inherent to the mechanical assault—but the effort is palpable, the musicianship, helped by a mean production, shines throughout, and Jake Dieffenbach’s vocals are both comprehensible and ferocious. Everyone could use a little “Subtle Change.”
5. Black Moth – Anatomical Venus (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
Anatomical Venus is Black Moth’s third album, and while the first two were solid slabs of psychedelic garage rock, they up the ante – and the heavy – on this release. The album blasts forth from the speakers with an aggressive abandon that’s wonderful to hear. Drums smashing, crunchy guitars blowing our hair back, and Harriet Hyde letting loose with a wonderful set of pipes.The ten songs never really let up, with riff after riff piling up on us and Hyde’s larger-than-life vocals drawing us into each cut.
Anatomical Venus is a dense album packed with performances that makes us hit the repeat button. The riffs and leads are highlights, but they are overshadowed by Hyde’s performance, which is powerful, alluring and charismatic. All told, Black Moth have released their best album to date.
6 Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)(Season Of Mist)
For the first several years of their career, the mysterious Ukrainian black metal band Drudkh would release an album per year. They continue to be prolific, issuing three splits since their last studio album in 2015. Their latest full-length is Їм часто сниться капіж(They Often See Dreams About the Spring).
Their brand of black metal is infused with folk and progressive elements and plenty of atmosphere. Lengthy instrumental sections showcase melody and beauty, which is contrasted by brutal and aggressive parts with harsh vocals. Songs in the nine minute range allow for the songs to develop and breathe, moving forward without meandering. The arrangements are creative with a lot of depth, sometimes mesmerizing and other times raw and biting. It’s an epic and passionate album, and at just 43 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome.