2018 was messy and ugly, and proved to be fertile ground for all kinds of messy and ugly musical ideas to grow in. There were a lot of great records released this year, and here are the ones I really vibed with and kept listening to with time. Also threw in some that let me down because this is the internet so you have to complain about at least a couple things.
Fight me, etc
Wake – Misery Rites: This album is everything I like about grind stuffed into a convenient sub-30 minute assault on your senses. Wake blasts, tears, and dooms a path of destruction through you and after it is over, you wipe the blood off and smash that play button again.
Starkweather/Concealment – split: I could have told you this would be on my year-end list months before it was even out. Starkweather delivers one 28 minute track of signature complex and terrifying intellectual metal. Their track alone is worth it. However, Concealment also come at you with an onslaught of angular metal tinged post-hardcore full of dissonance and atmosphere. Two great tracks by two very unique bands.
Lorn – Remnant: With the past few releases, Lorn has cemented his position as a master of darkly cinematic EDM. When Remnant has a drop, it hits with the kind of pressure that makes you check to see if your lungs have collapsed. Where it has ambience, it sounds like an exhalation from the mouth of hell. “But, I only like metal” you say? That’s because you’re stupid. Get into this.
Racetraitor – 2042: The best and most appropriate hardcore reunion of the Trump era is Racetraitor. I loved this band in the late 90’s and since then their message and politics have only become more relevant. On 2042, they take the anger that’s been simmering during their almost 20 year hiatus bring it to a furious boil.
Our Place of Worship is Silence – Inexorable Suffering: This is my favorite kind of death metal record; full of darkness and dense, dissonant riffs interrupted by short intervals of Morbid Angel style ignorant crush and chug. Inexorable Suffering melted my face off the moment it came out and I still can’t put it away.
Tim Hecker – Konoyo: Tim Hecker’s atmospheres have always been a dark and dreamy combination of manipulation and original analog sounds, and Konoyo is no different, except in that this time around Hecker has elevated the organic aspect of his music into the same space as the digital. Ancient flutes and strings swirl along with synths and samples, creating darkly melodic corridors of sound to wander down over and over.
Yob – Our Raw Heart: Do you enjoy yoga, weed, and gratitude, but want something to listen to that is not religious chanting? If so, Yob is for you – and it is also for me. In all seriousness, this record is both heavy and gorgeous to listen to, so get yourself into Savasana and just let it flow over you, mannnn.
Teenage Wrist – Chrome Neon Jesus: Teenage Wrist creates a synthesis of everything 90’s alternative had to offer and packages it up in the lexicon of a somehow more postmodern youthful disaffection. Vibes of bands like Hum, Failure, MBV, et al infuse the album and make it one of the better offerings in the current crop of bands driving this particular musical moment.
The Secret – Lux in Tenebris: This EP is lamentably short with just 3 tracks, but I have been waiting for The Secret to put something new out for what seems like forever, so I am nonetheless extremely stoked on it. This thing sounds like what would happen if every one of your blood cells was replaced with a tiny buzzing chainsaw and they tore your body apart from the inside. Nasty.
Graven – Heirs of Discord: Graven has some members of the gone-but-not-forgotten metalcore unit Swarm of the Lotus. SotL were ahead of their time when they were active, and Graven seems to be picking up right where that left off. This record is full of wild and dissonant riffs and lurches across the spectrum from hardcore through metal and into grind territory and then back again. Its like Converge had a child with Burnt By the Sun and it came out the womb super pissed.
Jesus Piece – Only Self: This is the Harm’s Way record I really wanted to hear in 2018. I lifted like a literal ton of weights to it since it has been out and now my arms are as big as their breakdowns.
Thou – Magus: 2018 was the year of Thou in a lot of ways. They put out 4 records in the space of a few months, and all of them were engaging and impressive. The most fully realized of the group for me was Magus, on which the band integrated its wide ranging musical and stylistic influences into their most coherent and thoughtful statement of purpose yet.
Oryx – Stolen Absolution: Stolen Absolution is the most recent addition to this list, and honestly I’m embarrassed it flew below my radar for as long as it did. Oryx has RIFFS ALL CAPS and every single one of them crushes so goddamn hard. This record is angry, blackened sludge executed exactly the way it should be.
Self Defense Family – Have You Considered Punk Music: This is a really interesting meditation on the creative impulse and process and the externalities of carrying that with you through a world that is frequently unable to accommodate it in a healthy way. That theme hits me right in the relevant interests, and also the music on this record frequently stands in juxtaposition to its somewhat brooding lyrical posture in that its kind of atypically light for SDF and sort of optimistic in a way. Because I enjoy a good contradiction as well as thought provoking content, this album has grown on me with each listen.
Portrayal of Guilt – Let Pain be Your Guide: The 90’s are back. The early 90’s, the late 90’s, the whole fucking thing – even Nirvana shirts and ugly, ill fitting jeans. This record, so far, represents my favorite manifestation of that nostalgia, in the form of a revival and re-engineering of the nascent screamo style post/hardcore of that era. This record updates that sound effectively while paying homage to its originators. Not an easy feat, and it slams.
Clover – Voyager: Another great release from one of my favorite upstate NY bands. Clover really expanded their palette on this record with great results
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms: this year was awesome for death metal generally speaking, and this record was one of several highlights
Coffin Torture – Dismal Planet: great gritty, depressing sludge doom from this 2 piece. Be prepared to get grimy
Touniquet – i hate the way this makes me feel: If you liked 18 Visions circa 1999 this is for you
Haan – By the Grace of Blood and Guts: NYC noise rock done right. A gut punch followed by an uppercut.
Yashira – Shrine: heavy, dark, sludge-infused hardcore
Portal – Ion: a vortex opens that leads directly into hell and a tornado of dead bodies sucks you into it
Infernal Coil – Within a World Forgotten: 2018 was a GREAT year for death metal, and this record was also a highlight
The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer: Its The Body; abrasive, depressing anti-music to push you over the edge and directly into the coffin
Sunflo’er – No Hell: skronky, angular, techy hardcore with intelligence from the Canadian Border
Cult Leader – A Patient Man: someone will think I’m out of my mind for this I’m sure, but this record was so hyped, and some of the songs are really OK. However, in the end there’s too much monotone Mark Kozelek shit in there and not enough GAZA to fulfill all my desires, which I’m sure they give a shit about
Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest: I’ve been a fan of Behemoth for a long while, and for me they peaked at Evangelion. I still jam the Satanist from time to time, but ILYAYD feels forgettable and I was hoping for more
Vein – Errorzone: Hot take – this is nu metal. First few listens I could get into it a little, but at this late juncture I find it nearly unlistenable. I’m old.
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage: Hot take – this is early 2000’s metalcore. No thanks, I already lived through that. Call me when Terrifyer 2 comes out.