Rohit Chaoji’s Top 10 albums of 2018

Rohit Chaoji comes up with his favorite releases of 2018.

In this day and age of high speed internet, there exists an abundance of streamable music, such that it makes creating this list a much harder task than it would have been a few years ago – unless you were an avid record collector.

A personal top 10 albums list would have been dominated by extreme metal a few years ago, but I will try to keep this varied so that anyone reading this would get a chance to treat their ears to different sounds.

1. Kikagaku Moyo – Masana Temples (Guruguru Brain)

Genre: psychedelic rock

The Japanese psychedelic rock band, Kikagaku Moyo is relatively new, but has been releasing albums and EPs consistently since 2013. Their latest release has them carry forward their established sound of lush guitar leads with an accompaniment of electric sitar and fairly tight krautrock jams a la Can, as heard in the songs Fluffy Komisch and Majupose. Kikagaku Moyo is among the rare modern psychedelic rock bands that focus on songwriting before drowning them in effects.

2. Ostraca – Enemy (Skeletal Lightning)

Genre: screamo

Ostraca have not been around for long, but in their short lifespan, they have managed to grab the attention of fans of the genre, with impressive albums such as Deathless and 2017’s Last. On the lines of their previous album, Enemy blends aggressive screamo and emoviolence bursts with mellow and contemplative post-rock sections, allowing a lot of breathing room between the suffocating heaviness.

3. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms Cerulean Salvation EP (20 Buck Spin)

Genre: death metal

Old school death metal revival is saturated with unremarkable bands and pointless albums which only take the production and aesthetics of the past but provide nothing of substance or enjoyability. Although there has been a wave of change in those bands, with some of them experimenting with dissonance and ideas borrowed from prog, Manor of Infinite Forms sticks to older conventions but completely nails the execution of classic death metal. Chock-full of pummeling riffs, soaring guitar leads and brutal/dark passages, this album should really appeal to fans of bands like Brutality and Morpheus Descends.

4. Koenji Hyakkei – Dhorimviskha (Magaibutsu)

Genre: avant-prog/zeuhl

Koenjihyakkei are notorious for their intricately complex arrangements and bombastic performances – something that not many bands manage to pull off – and a surprisingly organic sound for something so dense and technical. Dhorimvishka is as surreal, absurd and obtuse as a zeuhl fan might expect. For someone not accustomed to this style of music, it can sound extremely outlandish and hard to digest but repeated listens are more likely to enhance the experience.

5. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (Osmose Productions)

Genre: doom metal

Of all the doom metal released this year, it was difficult to choose one for a list of 10 albums. The Incubus of Karma is Mournful Congregation’s fourth studio full-length, released 4 years after Concrescence of the Sophia. However, the band does not seem to have slacked since their 2014 EP and they retain their signature style of long, sparse doom metal with beautiful acoustic passages strewn around. For those familiar with the band’s discography, this is right up there with The Book of Kings in terms of quality.

6. Kraus – Path (Terrible Records)

Genre: shoegaze

This short 33-minute album of scorching and dreamy shoegaze is nothing groundbreaking, but is a good example of how a tried formula can be used as many times as you please, as long as you use it as a supplement to well-written songs. Nothing here seems like it overstays its welcome and before you know it, the wall of melodic noise has silenced.

7. Zealotry – At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds (Unspeakable Axe Records)

Genre: death metal

Amongst the tons of death metal releases this year, Zealotry’s newest offering is the most forward-thinking, while maintaining the charm of the genre. The twisted, technical whirlwind of riffs is still there, but with more an adventurous rhythm section and more interplay between the guitars. The drums add to the calculated chaos of At the Nexus of All Stillborn World without distracting from the overall musical expression. Zealotry is one of the best death metal bands in recent times and this is probably their best work so far.

8. Anna von Hausswolff – Dead Magic (City Slang)

Genre: darkwave/ethereal wave

Dead Magic begins with its strongest track, ‘The Truth, The Glow, The Fall’, which sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album. A slow, atmospheric build-up to a hauntingly beautiful 12 minute song transitions nicely into the next track. The remainder of the album is equally notable with a nice blend of tribal rhythms, European folk vocal techniques and a consistently mysterious and grave atmosphere.

9. KEN Mode – Loved (Season of Mist)

Genre: post-hardcore/noise rock/metal

KEN Mode’s brand of hardcore/metal crossover involves the most violent variety of 90s noise rock delivered with an almost death metal-sounding buzzsaw guitar tone. The guitars create a disturbing and dissonant effect but there is a strong sense of rhythm and groove that is very reminiscent of bands such as Unsane. One of the more memorable albums of this year.

10. The Oscillation – Wasted Space

Genre: krautrock/psychedelic rock/progressive electronic

The formula is simple – literally anyone can do it given the right equipment. A bunch of effects pedals can do wonderful things, but most instances are that of abuse. Wasted Space is the opposite of that. With a whole bunch of records under their belt and surely several hundred hours of jamming and playing around, The Oscillation know how to use all their gear to the fullest and Wasted Space is an album exhibiting that.

Other highly recommended listens from 2018:

  1. Tenue – Anábasis (crust punk/screamo)
  1. Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure (death metal)
  1. Respire – Dénoument
  1. Dödsrit – Spirit Crusher (black metal/crust punk)
  1. Minami Deutsch – With Dim Light (psychedelic rock)
  1. Birds in Row – We Already Lost the World (screamo/post-hardcore)
  1. Protoplasma – – (zeuhl/brutal prog)
  1. Craft – White Noise and Black Metal (black metal)
  1. Solar Temple – Fertile Descent (atmospheric black metal)
  1. Trna – Earthcult (post-black/shoegaze)

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