Best of 2018: Dan tried to keep up on his metal. It went…not great.

EOY 2018 Header 9C

So, I was looking back at my year-end post from 2017 the other day, and I had to laugh. As you may recall, I opened said post with a little self-pat-on-the-back for finally making good on my pipe dream of taking in less music. (I listened to 165-170 albums over the course of the year, which is still a shit-ton, but it was down significantly from years’ past.)

Well, my count this year will make that one blush. As of this moment, my “2018” folder on Spotify – the place I archived playlists for all the albums I really sat down with and took time to enjoy – consists of just 91 playlists. And that’s from albums across all genres, not just metal.

Now, there are some caveats to this figure. For starters, there are, conservatively, probably 20-25 albums I got quite a bit of mileage out of through Bandcamp this year that weren’t available on Spotify and thus couldn’t go in my folder. So, tack those on to the total, too. But even then, we’re looking at, what…110? 115 albums? Furthermore, I did give plenty of more albums than that a shot. But if something didn’t really grab me or make me want to come back for additional listens, it didn’t go in the folder. (Looking at you, Watain. And you, Primordial.) I had nursing school to contend with, so unfortunately, meaningful listening time was at a premium. I couldn’t waste it.

This, of course, meant that the albums I did decide to spend time with, I got to know quite a bit better than I might otherwise have, which was actually pretty great! The number of emergency, “Oh, fuck, what was that one like again?” re-listens I had to have whilst compiling this list dropped by, like, 65% compared to last year, probably. Amazing what not over-saturating my earholes can do, isn’t it?

But it also meant that, from about, say, July or so, onward…the prospect of adding multiple new releases to my queue, week after week, started to feel like kind of a chore. Stuff just started to blur together, and I began filtering out my listening choices at a level I haven’t done since I started using Spotify almost 8 years ago. Did I absorb as much metal as I could have this year? No. But, did that bother me? Ultimately, also no.

To be clear, I don’t mean this as a slight against folks who put out albums this year. I’m sure they were great. It’s just to highlight how significantly my music consumption habits changed this year. For the first time in a while, I didn’t feel the need to stay up on everything, and I sure as hell didn’t care enough to have deep opinions on all of it.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I’ll tell you: this is going to be my last metal-related activity at Nine Circles for…an indefinite amount of time.

At this point, my approach to music – and, particularly, to metal music – just isn’t conducive to being an effective contributor at a site like this. I’ve found it harder and harder to get myself up for different assignments – even those I sign up for myself – and I can’t keep forcing myself to do so and risk half-assing any of them. At this point, as far as metal is concerned, I need to back off and just be a fan for a while.

Now, will I be resuming my duties as Head Retrocutor and continuing to bring synthwave goodness to the masses? To the extent that I’m able. And, is it possible that I’m just getting over 16 months of nursing school – a.k.a. 16 months of not-really-being-able-to-have-nice-things and only really having time to study? – and all I need is a bit of time off to recharge the batteries and rekindle the metal flame? It is. I don’t know if the departure from heaviness will be forever, but it is going to be at the very least for a while.

Anyway, all that said, here’s some words about fifteen metal albums I did really like this year. It’s unordered, and it’s also in haiku form, because I don’t wanna write more than that and, let’s face it, you don’t wanna read more than that. Leggo!

Tribulation – Down Below

tribulation down below

Goth metal heroes
More cobwebs and catchy death
Here be dragons, hail!

[read our review]

Judas Priest – Firepower

Judas Priest - Firepower

What’s there left to say?
Metal gods reign over all
Not a bad track here

[read our review]

Sleep – The Sciences

sleep-the-sciences-album-cover

Holy shit, they’re back
And holy shit, it’s awesome
Toke up and dive in.

Amorphis – Queen of Time

Amorphis - Queen of Time

Dear all metal bands
Let Anneke sing for you
Be like Amorphis

[listen to our audio review]

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods

Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods

All hail Demonaz!
Blashyrkh frosty as ever
Your move now, Abbath

[read our review]

Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy

alkaloid liquid anatomy album cover

Ex-Obscura dudes
There’s a cephalopod song
Solid and catchy

Speedclaw – Beast in the Mist

speedclaw-beast-in-the-mist

This shit’s hella fun
Take me to the ‘80s now
Pure Croatian speed

Judicator – The Last Emperor

Judicator - The Last Emperor

Got-damn, this thing slays
Blind Guardian’s rightful heirs
U.S. power kings

[read our review]

Obscura – Diluvium

Obscura - Diluvium

Kummerer returns!
Best since Cosmogenesis
Tech death master-class

Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin

powerwolf - sacrament of sin

Hold your lols now, please
Crazy catchy werewolf shit
Theatrical bliss

Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

Rivers of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name

Huge step forward here
Love the jazzy elements
Yes, I’m a homer

[read our review]

Horrendous – Idol

horrendous - idol

Ruthless, immersive
Gnarly death from Philly’s best
Sky is their limit

[read our Second Circle feature]

Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury

Imperial Triumphant - Vile Luxury

This some evil shit
New York is a scary place
You’ll remember that

[read our review]

Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope

svalbard it's hard to have hope

Bleak and sobering
Devastating hardcore tunes
Album for our times

[read our review]

Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms

tomb mold manor of infinite forms

No surprises here
Toronto death crew killed it
Filthy times abound

[read our feature]

That’ll do it for me. I may have an end-of-year Rainbows post coming sometime soon. Maybe. Until then, happy new year, and have fun listening to more metal than me!

– Dan

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