James' Top 15 Albums of 2018
How is 2018 almost over? Time flies when you're having fun/appalled by the state of the world and see no hope for the future of humanity…I guess. There was lots of rad new metal releases this year, far too many for one singular human to keep tabs on. Hopefully this list shines a light on something you missed, or something you loved, hell it's all metal dude, who cares?!
This list is a brief rundown of some of my favorite releases from 2018, not necessarily the best of their class or genre, just the ones I cranked the loudest all year [mostly at the gym, when not playing my Suffocation Mix on repeat].
15. Azusa – Heavy Yoke
Azusa is a new proggy/math super group featuring members of Extol, Ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan, and folk pop singer Eleni Zafiriadou. Metal riffs at breakneck speeds, time changes galore, crazy harsh switched to fresh and so clean [clean] vocals, Azusa's debut album has it all. Let your hair down and prepare to have your mind blown.
14. Lucifer – Lucifer II
Lucifer's long awaited sophomore album is the best classic rock record the 1970's forgot to release. Johanna Sadonis' voice is front and center [which is fine, since she sounds like a million bucks] on this release as the doom tinged riffs of their self-titled debut have morphed into jam rawk territory. Clearly Nicke Andersson's [ex-Entombed, The Hellacopters] addition to the band heavily influenced the sound on Lucifer II, so uh, thanks Nicke!
13. Churchburn – None Shall Live…The Hymns of Misery
You guys remember Dave Suzuki? He was the lowkey MVP of the death metal underground in the early 2000's, hammering down the drums and guitar leads for Vital Remains? Well his new band Churchburn is on the complete opposite end of the metal spectrum, evil AF doom metal, but like all things Suzuki tackles, rules immensely. This is some some pummeling shit folks.
12. Judas Priest – Firepower
All the warring metal factions can agree that Judas Priest is just one of those bands to which we all respectfully bend the knee? Good. With that being said, who else was surprised by how solid Firepower turned out? Like damn fellas, if you thought Priest was just a legacy act after 38 years…you've got another thing coming! Or as Halford says on this new record: "Evil, never diiiiiiiies."
11. Wrong – Feel Great
Their moniker might be 'Wrong' but as Chris Tucker said in 1997's Money Talks, "This is right, it can't get no righter!" Wrong do heavy as shit, punked out, doom-y noise rock better than almost anyone else these days. Their new record, Feel Great, is a masterclass of metal precision and stoner jam vibes, all rolled into one. Your speakers might not survive this one.
10. Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Pig Destroyer aim high with their most nuanced and varied album to date. If you think that sounds weird you're not alone. Not everyone expected their favorite grind-fathers to ever experiment or dabble in other sonic textures. Lucky for us, Pig Destroyer know how to combine the worlds of thrash metal, noise rock and grindcore like nobody's business. I'd gladly trade tons of blast beats for a rocking tune like "Army of Cops" any day.
9. Horrendous – Idol
Horrendous' new record Idol is a progressive death metal tour deforce. The production feels like a mix of Spiritual Healing & Human era Death [which IMO is how all bands should sound, all the time…forever] and the songs are packed to the brim with shredding solos and plopping bass lines galore. No really, that bass sound thoooo. The way the bell/ride cymbal meshes with the guitar harmonies, just everything actually. Idol is a blueprint for exceptional death metal.
8. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
They say it's either go big or go home. Deafheaven did both. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love finds the band cranking out some of the most sprawling tunes of their career, but without overeaching into the "exploring new sounds" trap that tanks/dilutes so many other bands. They just refined the already varied styles in their sonic core [metal/shoegaze/alt-rock] to make the most Deafheaven-y album they could.
7. SUMAC – Love In Shadow
SUMAC makes kind of scary, head tripping music of epic proportions. No really, their songs are crazy long. If 15 minute songs aren't epic I don't know what is. Love In Shadow features pummeling math-y hardcore meet's haunting death rock. Imagine a prog band with the sickest rhytm section, the gnarliest growls and disturbingly heavy riffs, jamming in a haunted forest, that's Love In Shadow, and it's awesome.
6. Craft – White Noise And Black Metal
Craft are hardly the most prolific band, but when these black metal veterans reconvene every few years, they seem to drop nothing but bangers. They also have the best album titles, of any band, ever [Fuck the Universe, Total Soul Rape, etc]. White Noise and Black Metal might be the most G-rated as far as names go, but the content on this record is solid, black metal meets AC/DC groove for the ages.
5. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Did anyone expect Immortal to come back like this? Holy shit. Abbath leaves, drops a killer solo album…Immortal chug some Red Bull and clap back with their best album since G.W. Bush was in office [aka a long time!]. Anyone else imagine Demonaz training in the snow like Rocky IV preparing for this sonic blitzkrieg of an album? Horgh blast's for days, but it's Demonaz killer riffs and raspy as shit vocals that steal the show.
4. Cult Leader – A Patient Man
Cult Leader rules. Like really hard. A Patient Man completely severs the cord between past lives. Gaza was awesome, but Gaza couldn't make this record. Cult Leader nail the frenzied math grind breakdown quotient, but also bring some serious soul churning introspection. Also, vocalist Anthony Lucero has graduated from bassist who has to scream now, into one of the most captivating frontmen in the game. Highest of praises to Cult Leader.
3. Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
The kings of all kings are back. Hate Eternal, they never really left, they just gotta drop insane new slabs of death metal perfection to remind some of ya'll who's boss every three years or so. Erik Rutan, J.J. Hrubovcak and Mr. "5 Insane Death Metal Drummers" guru himself, Hannes Grossman, really outdid themselves with Upon Desolate Sands. Whirlwind performances, superb Rutan approved production…and songs, death metal songs! I think I say this every time Hate Eternal drop a new album, but this just might be one of the best records in their already stellar catalogue. Hail to the kings!
2. Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
Anaal Nathrakh has always been a demarcation line for my musical tastes. There's metal, extreme metal, then there's Anaal Nathrakh. The amount of gloriously abrasive noise this band has cranked out over the years is astonishing. Somehow, it's on album number 10 and almost 20 years into their existence that they've gotten weirder, and bigger, than ever before. Mick Kenney's insane one man band instrumentation coupled with Dave Hunt's extra-dimensional vocals always makes for a fun listen, but on A New Kind of Horror it works on a whole new level. "The Reek of Fear" has quickly become one of my favorite Anaal Nathrakh songs, ever. It's equal parts black metal meets grindcore, meets industrial, meets King Diamond sodomizing an amp.
1. KEN mode – Loved
This album is the sound of a mental breakdown. Everything about this record is off-putting. It's a whirlwind of discordant notes and anger oozing out of every song. Loved is basically the perfect album for 2018. As governments collapse into decay and the melting ice caps prepare to flood/starve/green house BBQ the planet, a bleak; hardcore infused noise rock beast of a record like this might be just what the doctor ordered. The vocals are tortured, the riffs and bass are foundation shaking, every snare hit sounds like a guillotine dropping, and there's several instances of free jazz saxophone freakouts that seem to mimic the dread filled, anxiety laced world we call home. There's a line at the end of "Learning To Be Too Cold" that Jesse Matthewson sceams: "Just because no one else is talking, doesn't mean you need to be." That's 2018 in a nutshell. Everything sucks so please, shut the hell up [Mr. President] so we can all suffer in peace. Kill Everyone Now mode initiated.