Best of 2018: Josh’s List

EOY 2018 Header 9C

I had a plan in January. The same plan I have every January: to only document the albums that strike a major chord in one way or another. Yet, here we sit in December and I’m debating on at least one or two of my locked list and mourning those who fell off. Don’t take ‘fell off’ as a knock either. It simply means there was no shortage of amazing albums this year and well, I just enjoy the torture of whittling away on my favorites (not).

I’ve spoken at length about how important music is for life in general and how important it is for me as someone that had a finger on the play button for nearly all 8,760 hours that made up this year. EOY lists, I love them – always have and always will. It’s a chance to purge all the best and move on to yet another cycle into the unknown. Fire walk with me through the albums that hit home the hardest…

Before we start, here’s a news flash: contrary to my wishes, I did not hear everything that was tagged as metal this year. Far from it. So, if you came for the end all be all of 2018’s best, you’d better look elsewhere. The list that follows is my own, made up of what really did it for me and what I continue to return to time and time and time again. My format is as follows: Top 20 full lengths then a handful of EP’s and same for individual tracks.

Before we move on I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our 9C readers, for sticking with us. We’ve added to our ranks and will continue to do so in 2019 but also will continue to bring our personal looks at the metal we love. To our killer staff: thank you! The time you devote to this site means more than you can possibly know and all the chats over the course of the year have been epic, each in their own way (bees anyone?). To all the PR folk on the other end of all those emails: thank you for your tireless work of bringing us the albums we cover and the news we thrive on.

With that said, and hopefully you’re still with me, let’s dive in…


Full Lengths

Chaos Echoes - Mouvement20. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement: On their second full length, Chaos Echœs created an album that is the epitome of its name: a mouvement in six parts. This hit my radar early in the year and not once have I half-assed it when approaching these 30+ minutes as this is not an album made for singles. This is like a journey through a troubled mind filled with progressive yet obtuse black metal that’s extremely heavy on the avantgarde jazz structuring. I needed an album that challenged me early in the year and this was the one that presented that coveted first. The reason it’s here is because I’m still unraveling its mysteries.

[listenfeature review]

Blight House - Summer Camp Sex Party Massacre19. Blight House – Summer Camp Sex Party Massacre: During our third quarter round up I said: “…it’s the way this album does tap dances on that part of your stomach that churns at the sight (or sound in this case) of something deeply unsettling” and I still feel the same way about this sickening mass of death metal. Whenever I’ve felt the need for something that tugs at the horrific side of extreme music, Summer Camp Sex Party has delivered every time.

[listenfeature review]

Netherlands - Black Gaia18. Netherlands – Black Gaia: This band consistently amazes me with their unique take on heavy rock filled with catchy as hell pop melodies. Black Gaia leans a little heavier on the freak out rock side of things than Audubon did but it’s this side of the band that’s always stood out the most for me. They bring the heavy but spice it up on “Deep Fuck 9” and “Arp Jam ’74” while worming directly into that part of your brain that never forgets a good melody. They should’ve placed higher, I’m kicking my own ass right now.

[listeninterview]

Sargeist - Unbound17. Sargeist – Unbound: Did Sargeist top their coup-de-grace, Let the Devil In, with Unbound? The scribes would say no but for me it’s a hard yes. Maybe it can be attributed to the huge shake up in membership or maybe Shautrag just said ‘fuck it, I’m going for broke.’ Either way, this is a massive black metal album that is everything I want to hear when I want to hear black metal. It feels old but sounds fresh as the morning dew and drips with venom from the scathing opener “Psychosis Incarnate” to the even more scathing closer “Grail of the Pilgrim.” Since its drop-it-like-it’s-hot-but-tell-no-one-in-advance release in October, this has been THE black metal album that beat out my local faves Valle Crucis and a vicious album from Spectral Wound. More please.

[listen]

Sulphur Aeon - The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos16. Sulphur Aeon – The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos: This one hasn’t been out long but I surely hope you’ve found time to run through this beast of an atmospheric death metal album. Seriously, Sulphur Aeon have outdone themselves here with the sheer weight of each track on the listener. It’s suffocating, intense, technical (NOT TECH), and is downright the best of their, now, three full lengths. It plays out like a seafaring tale where the struggle is constant and terror lurks around each wave which truly showcases how far the band have come in the songwriting department. Not that their last two were shabby, it’s just that this feels like a swan song from an already established death metal band. Again, probably should’ve placed higher but mileage held it back – talk to me in two months and we’ll see.

[listen]

Piah Mater - The Wandering Daughter15. Piah Mater – The Wandering Daughter: Piah Mater made quite the splash for me and fellow Nine Circle(er) Chris Voss when it landed in the inbox. I mean, take the sound of Opeth, Katatonia and Enslaved and put an individual spin on that? YES! And even that is selling it short but this is the age of short attention spans so take that as you will. There’s so many moments on The Wandering Daughter that move me and hit me square in the feels; the quieter passages of “Earthbound Ruins,” the forward thinking jams of “Sprung From Weakness,” and the black metal enshrouded “Solace In Oblivion” all make for a mesmerizing and damn addictive album. If this is any indication of things to come, Piah Mater will vault the stars.

[listenprofile / premiere]

Skeletonwitch_devouring_radiant_light_cover[1]14. Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light: The fact that Skeletonwitch put out the best album of their career is no small feat as I was one who counted Beyond the Permafrost as a thrashterpiece that would take some doing to top. Yet here we are with a new vocalist in Adam Clemans and a very blackened approach that never loses sight of the band’s roots but rather, moves it forward and crushes any thoughts that this would be less than stellar. This album earned its spot based on playcounts alone but more than that, it has earned every bit of good press it has received because it really is a crowning achievement for a band with so much more to give. Tell me you don’t get chills after the thrashy “When Paradise Fades” or the melodic “The Luminous Way” or even the vikingesque “The Vault” and I’ll tell you that you must be deaf or dead or just devoid of thought patterns.

[listen]

Lecherous Nocturne - Occultaclysmic13. Lecherous Nocturne – Occultaclysmic: I’ve been a Lecherous lifer and admittedly was disappointed in Behold Almighty Doctrine. So, imagine my surprise when hitting play on “By Conquest Or Consent,” the lead off track from Occultaclysmic, that quite frankly rips a hole in the top of hell. FINALLY, the band is back to pummeling listeners into submission but this time they do it convincingly so with some of their best songwriting of the past 20 years. It’s technical but not tech and brutal but not slamming pig squeals. Simply put: Lecherous got their damn groove back and this album has been shredding my eardrums since April. If I die with tinnitus from this, I’ll die happy.

[listen / feature review]

Allfather - And All WIll Be Desolation12: Allfather – And All Will Be Desolation: I’m going on record in saying that “Citadels” is one of the most devastating songs Allfather has ever written. But in reality, the whole of And All Will Be Desolation is like that; each song has its own level of heavy that the band have been working on ever since the beginning. This album is the culmination of blood, sweat and beards for several years now and, of course it’s been a hell of a ride getting here, but it’s even more of an accomplishment that this feels like the best representation of the hardcore, death metal, sludge and doom ever penned by these wonderful gents from the UK. “By Sword, By Famine, By Plague,” “Lampedusa,” and “Black Triangle” all simmer in the same bruising vein but, I digress by picking tracks. There’s not a bad or even so-so effort in the bunch here – they all kick ass and I’m beyond stoked for these guys every time I revisit this album, which is something I do all the time. You should too.

[listen / full review / interview]

Solium Fatalis - Genetically Engineered To Enslave11: Solium Fatalis: Genetically Engineered To Enslave: There’s something to be said about ridiculously good modern melodic death metal. And I could go on for paragraph after paragraph about my response to Genetically Engineered To Enslave. Crazy chops? Check. Neck snapping tempo? Check. Laser precise musicianship? Again, check. And on top of all that the production is some of the best I heard all year making tracks like the bottom heavy “Synthon” and the breakneck “Fiery the Angels Fall” stand out like a beacon on a fog filled night. As the same with all the albums that landed in this list of 20, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with these 10 tracks and am looking forward to the band’s next step.

[listen]

awooga - conduit10. Awooga – Conduit: Dismissing Awooga’s Conduit as a rehash of Alice In Chains meshed with any given master of 90s rock is a grave mistake. Sure, there are the same kind of mountainous riffs and a ridiculously talented frontman at work here but the comparisons stop there. This IS the rock album of 2018, hands down. “Tabula Rasa” revels in the slow groove knock out punch while easy highlight “Waterhole” sets in pace some of the best lock step riffs, melodicism and just damn catchy, fist raising hooks this side of Staley and Cantrell. The left turn into dreamy post-rock on closer “Otherside” was a shock my first time through but in the context of this densely layered outing, it fits like a glove. This is the kind of visceral rock we just don’t have enough of these days so pardon me while I take a quick break to spin it again. I owe fellow scribe Zyklonius at least a beer or twelve for this one.

[feature review / listen]

Hate Eternal - Upon Desolate Sands9. Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands: In my October review of this album I stated: “It’s not overly anything; technical but with a point, brutal but not without a reason to be, and energetic at ALL times” and after so many more spins this is exactly how I feel about it, still. Rutan and Co. hit gold every time they press the record button and Upon Desolate Sands proves it, again. I found their deeper exploration into melody (closing minute of “The Violent Fury”) a winner of a choice and one of the biggest reasons I keep coming back. I also said: “And even though I’m not sure they’ve topped Infernus here…” but now my eyes and ears are clear on this – they did, indeed, top it.

[full review / listen]

The Ocean - Phanerozoic I8. The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic: I had no idea who The Ocean were previous to joining this site but after Corey sang their praises so much I figured I’d better brush up. Over the years I’ve become very well acquainted with the kind of EPIC post-metal this band provides and even though Phanerozoic feels a bit short by The Ocean’s standards they more than make up for it in just how cinematic the album comes across. This thing is dense; there’s layers I’m still unpacking with each new listen but most of all this was/is the album that I can put on and veg out to, withdraw myself from the pains of a day or transport myself to a totally different plane of existence. When an album has that kind of power there’s no denying its importance and this one has it in spades. Plus, the ultra-mega-heavy-as-lead vinyl box with the fossil and slate is the best music related thing I’ve ever opened. And with that, Phanerozoic is the complete and total package that I strive to find — probably should placed higher *hits self in face.*

[listen]

YOB - Our Raw Heart7: Yob – Our Raw Heart: Yob. Just the mention of those three letters incites a response in anyone that considers themselves a fan of the completely immersive brand of doom metal this trio provides. And just the thought that we damn near lost Mike Scheidt and the future of this band, shakes me to my core. But, it gave us the most emotionally charged album of 2018 (discussions otherwise are closed). Listening to “Ablaze” is uplifting, the massive heaviness of “The Screen” and “In Reverie” is the kind that only Yob can provide, and “Beauty In Falling Leaves” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Clearing the Path‘s “Marrow” moved me but “Beauty..” moved me to tears the first time I heard it. Maybe timing had something to do with it (don’t ask) but it was exactly what I needed when I needed it and ever since, it’s been a source of comfort. Even though I list some tracks below (singles) I’m going on record now as saying this is the song of the year and no other did for me or to me what this one did. This is the power of Yob and why this album meant so much to me in 2018.

[full review / interview / listen]

Amorphis - Queen of Time6. Amorphis – Queen of Time: What Yob did for me emotionally, Amorphis did for me in the good feels department. Queen of Time ruled my summer and most folks that were around me the most learned the lyrics to this album from me going around singing it all the time. Yea, I know, the visuals of that are atrocious. But anyway, Amorphis have been at that point where there’s nothing left to prove and they’re just out to have the time of their lives doing what they love and we get to benefit from it all. The insatiable groove of “Daughter of Hate,” those velvety vocals in “The Golden Elk,” and the drama that unfolds in “Wrong Direction” are but a few examples of the power in Amorphis’ hands and why fans are so rabid when mention of a new album is whispered. Queen of Time was our album of the month pick but it was so many others as well so we can’t all be crazy. It’s been a joy to hear Amorphis grow into the band they are today and there’s no limit to where else they can go — I mean, this is one of those ‘perform a phonebook and make it sound interesting’ kind of bands. Plus, it was all about the BEE in our group chat since May…good times, good times.

[album of the month / listen]

Crypteria - Crypteria5. Crypteria – Crypteria: Kudos to my buddy, Mr. Crowley, for sending me a bandcamp link with a message that simply said ‘Floridian Death Metal.’ Knowing this would get my goat, I jumped in with both feet and haven’t stopped obsessing over this intense ode to the Morrisound glory days yet. It’s in the swampy Obituaryesque stomp of “Loss” that you get the idea but the whole album drips with the likes of Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Death and Deicide. But, the beauty of it lies in the fact that this is no retread of past glory. This is a band that burst onto the scene with a full length that demands its place among the best and proves it has the balls to be so bold. The fact that this album placed higher than Hate Eternal should clue you in, if you know me then you know this is a huge deal and honestly it came down to play counts. I just could not get enough of the technical wizardry and brutal approach of Crypteria and after speaking with them it was clear they spared no expense to be the best they could be and work exceptionally hard at excelling. If you’ve thus far missed out, now is your chance to rectify that.

[interview / listen]

Bummer - Holy Terror4. Bummer – Holy TerrorHoly Terror was another album of the month pick but this time it was mine. I’ve always felt like noise rock is the equivalent to an abrasive blues album in which the artist bares their flayed open soul for all to see and between the filthy feedback and seedy lyrics, you feel like you need a bath afterwards. That, to me, is the epitome of what good noise rock is and Bummer nailed it. I haven’t been this enthralled with noise since the last good Unsane album or Couch Slut’s My Life As A Woman. Highlight “Astro Bastard” props you up with dirty razor riffs then cuts you off at the knees with those well worn, pained vocals while “King Shit” screams Amrep intensity and then album closer “Arts and Crafts” throws thing off kilter just enough to fling the last bit of filth and dirt on you. As if that’s not enough, the album cover is simplistic yet effective and the song titles are hilarious: “HeXXX Games” and “Fred Savage 420” just to name a couple. This is noise rock at its rawest, most primal, and best. Period.

[album of the month / profile / listen]

tribulation down below3. Tribulation – Down Below: Nobody, and I mean nobody, does gothic rock leaning metal better than Tribulation does. The band’s trajectory has been nothing short of interesting; starting off as something close to swedeath and slowly morphing into a masterful powerhouse that put forth the stellar Children of the Night which made me wonder how Down Below would stack up and IF it would stack up. Those fears were silenced in the opening moments of “The Lament” when the full band kicks in with that barrage of high pitched rock and it was then along with “Nightbound” that I knew “Melancholia” wasn’t just a stroke of luck. “Cries From the Underworld” speaks to my love of 80s horror while “The World” speaks to my love of finding a wide open space and gassing it to redline. There’s just so much I love about Down Below, and Tribulation for that matter, that I hope they continue to chop away at this goldmine they’ve found. Even though I know there’s folks that will say ‘this is the same ol’ thing they’ve been doing’ that’s ok because for me, this same ol’ thing is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

[full review / listen]

Eagle Twin - The Thundering Heard2. Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard: It’s been a long time since Eagle Twin released an album but The Unkindness of Crows and The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale had enough mind-bending, jazzy, and sludgy doom that I was hooked. The Thundering Heard took all of what made those albums so good and molded it into something amazing. Doom metal has been lambasted for droning on and on, seemingly going nowhere, but the places this album goes are the stuff of legend. True, there’s only four tracks but somewhere amid the crushing weight of “Quanah Un Rama,” the wild west vistas of “Elk Wolfv Hymn,” and the undeniably catchy groove of “Heavy Hoof,” Eagle Twin gave me exactly what I had hoped for which is an album that not only DID IT for me but pushed doom metal to places it’s never been. Indeed, that’s a weighty statement but I stand behind it 100% and still get chills down the back of my spine every time the needle hits wax and those tribal drums play taps on my ears. This is the kind of doom that will make its mark on a whole new generation and I’ll be over here smiling the whole time.

[full review / listen]

Ritual Necromancy - Disenterred Horror

1. Ritual Necromancy – Disinterred Horror: May is the month that the cavernous death metal heavens opened and spit forth Disinterred Horror after almost seven years of silence. And oh what a relief it was. Wisely, the band chose to ditch the HM2 sound used on Oath of the Abyss and decided to lean heavily on dank and downright terrifying atmosphere. In no way am I bashing the HM2 but after spending the better part of the year with this thing, Ritual Necromancy were born for exactly the kind of beating they dole out here. “Command the Sigil” is a curb stomp you’ll actually want to endure, “Disincarnate Machination” features some of the best percussion I’ve ever heard on a death metal album, and the title track shows that this band can slow jam with the best of them – meaning DEPTH and loads of it. It also doesn’t hurt that they abused the shit out of pinch harmonics throughout, I’m such a sucker for that when it’s well used. I can’t say enough good things about this album and how much better this band sounds on their sophomore outing, but if you want the best example look no further than the sprawling epic of sickness, “Cymbellum Eosphorous” with its twisting riffs and pummeling brutality. It’ll pound you to dust but make you beg for more — what more can you ask for?!

[listen]


All these words in and you’re still with me. I promise the rest of this will be short and sweet but to the point.

EP’s

6. Wet Specimens – Demo 2018: Seven tracks in fifteen minutes of raw hardcore punk that brought back memories of stage diving and not giving a fuck about tomorrow. For me, those days are long gone but I get to relive them and relish in the memories every time I listen to this quick hitter.

[listen]

5. The Hopewell Furnace – 1877: This is brutal death metal that borders on deathcore and technical death metal but with one hell of a backstory and deliciously savage chops that just don’t quit, it pulled me in and nailed my teeth to the floor.

[listen]

4. Morgue Walker – Forage the Ash: Local boys, Morgue Walker, deliver the razor throated, deathgrind goods on their debut short player Forage the Ash and even though it sounds like it was probably recorded in a morgue, they show a ton of promise here. This is a band I’ll be watching intently.

[full review / listen]

3. Anomalie – Integra: Four tracks of atmospheric black metal (but not quite) that takes you in complete different directions each time the songs push forward. Engrossing vocal acrobatics and ever evolving black metal makes for an EP that I wish was a full length.

[feature review / listen]

2. Holy+Gold – Everything Needs Something… I Need Your Light: Post-hardcore, or something. This tag escapes me, all you really need to know is that Holy+Gold rocks harder than a really hard thing and with just two tracks here they put more energy and passion into it than most bands do over the course of a full length. Get to know them.

[listen]

1. Hexripper – Demo 2018: Out of the sad demise of THIS Device rose the most straight ahead heavy metal fun I had all year, and come to think of it in quite a long time, with Hexripper and their Demo. Just listen to “Soldiers of Satan” or “Night of the Witches Rune” and tell me it doesn’t transport you to a time when heavy metal was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. This is that ‘stand atop the mountain like a king’ album that we’ve been missing. GET SOME.

[listen]


Indulge me here with a handful of singles that I really loved and again, I’ll go shorter in the tooth. And sure, you can call it a cheap way to keep these bands in my EOY list if you want, I won’t disagree.

Singles

6. Axeslasher – “Night of the Shears”: Thrash and horror make great bedfellows but so do the stories Professor Pizza tells with each new release and this one is no exception. [listen]

5. Imperial Triumphant – “Chernobyl Blues”: Seedy and gritty was Vile Luxury but “Chernobyl Blues” stood out as an apocalyptic tome for the ages. [full review / album of the monthlisten]

4. Twilight Fauna – “Chasing Shadows”: More than any other song on Where Birds Sing My Name, I feel the closest to nature with this one. Many wooded walks were spent with this on loop and many more will come to pass. [listen]

3. Vitriol – “The Parting Of A Neck”: Just as pissed off and venomous as last year, 2018 saw the physical release of Pain Will Define Their Death through Everlasting Spew which includes this additional track. I still say Vitriol is the future of death metal. [listen]

2. Khemmis – “From Ruin”Desolation‘s closer and longest track, “From Ruin” is the best thing this band has ever written and since both of their last two albums made my EOY list, this is saying something. Glorious riffs with glorious vocals that tell a glorious tale. I love this band. [full review / listen]

1. Slaves BC – “Lo”: The opening minute of “Lo” off Lo, and I Am Burning is the single best minute in all of metal this year. There’ll be no discussion regarding this and if you can’t hear it, you need to go back and listen again and again until you do. Whole album rips with violent intent but this? GOLD! [full reviewlisten]


There you have it, my best of 2018. Thanks for sticking around and I really hope at least one of you finds a new treasure here or just realized you had forgotten one. This year was so good on the metal front that I’m not sure if 2019 will stack up but we can hope. Within a week or two I’ll begin my new plan for keeping score and as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, that plan will be dashed like all the others I’ve had.

Just a quick note: gatekeepers can suck it. If you find yourself acting like one of those and feel your opinion matters so much about something that all other views are dumb and stupid, jump off a cliff. Find your own way in metal, find what makes YOU happy and I promise you’ll be much better off.

In closing, I want to thank you (readers, staff, bands and PR folks) for a KILLER year filled with some of the best memories I’ve had in a very long time. I’ll raise a toast to you all.

– Josh


 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s