Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Favourite 40 of 2018

I read once that on average, people stop looking for new bands to listen to in their mid 30s. I turned 40 late in 2018 and I'm definitely feeling the pull of complacency. Maybe it's just because I'm getting old but my patience level has plummeted. Time is precious and I no longer force myself to listen to something because I feel obligated to. If I wrinkle my nose enough in the first three songs, I'm out. Besides, the endless swarm of new albums and bands that only gets bigger with each passing year is too much to consume. I wasn't giving anything a fair shake. So in 2018 I shrugged my shoulders and said "fuck it." I spent as much time with whatever album as I wanted to. A solid month of almost nothing but the new Corrosion of Conformity? OK! A deep dive into Brant Bjork's solo career? Why would I ever stop?! Weeks of Tomb Mold worship? Oh, Canada! With such a pullback on new explorations, I'm surprised I even had 40 albums I felt deserved to be on my list. I did have some rather unfortunate cuts to make though. Who cares? Anyway, here are the 40 albums that made me happiest in 2018. That's all that matters.

Please note, Clutch's Book of Bad Decisions is my absolute favourite of 2018 but I CANNOT be objective with Clutch under any circumstances.

40. Lucifer - Lucifer II (Century Media) - For some reason I was reluctant to like this. Still busted up about The Oath being a one-and-done? Regardless, I thought this rocked enough to make sure I mentioned it. 

39. Deicide - Overtures of Blasphemy (Century Media) - I was into Deicide before I was into Cannibal Corpse, okay? They're my kind of death metal. Deal with it.

38. Scorched - Ecliptic Butchery (20 Buck Spin) - Again with the my kind of death metal. Brutal. Hard. Dark. Sci-fi themed just makes it that much cooler! 

37. Ulthar - Cosmovore (20 Buck Spin) - Whoa! Death metal again? Ya, man. It was a good year. Ulthar throw a little more technicality into the brutality but do so with just the right dosage. 

36. Bongripper - Terminal (Gilead Media) - Instrumental, leaden doom will bring me pleasure every day of the week. So long as it's done as expertly as these laid back dudes who know how to name a band.

35. Sundrifter - Visitations (Small Stone) - So smooth! This kind of desert rock influenced warmth will take me to my grave. I could listen to these fuzzy-eyed jams til the end of time.

34. Domkraft - Flood (Blues Funeral) - Give me psychedelic doom or give me death! So blissfully easy to completely lose yourself in their dense and textured sound.

33. A Storm of Light - Anthroscene (Translation Loss) - Always been a fan of Josh Graham's work with this band. Thoughtful and hypnotic darkness that repeatedly smacks you in the face.

32. Trappist - Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse) - Beer and grind combine to make an intoxicating brew of absolute good times. I got 99 problems but Trappist ain't one! 

31. Monster Magnet - Mindfucker (Napalm) - This is far from the best Monster Magnet album. More rock and less psych isn't usually what Monster Magnet fans ask for but I'm still psyched at how much it rocks! 

30. Extremity - Coffin Birth (20 Buck Spin) - Top shelf death metal and 20 Buck Spin go together like peanut butter and jelly. As in, consumed by me on a very regular basis. This one just plain old tears your throat out.

29. Mountain Tamer - GodFortune // Dark Matters (Magnetic Eye) - You could throw this in with the stoner rock crowd I suppose. It is the riffs that make this so addictive after all. But the real clincher is the "SATAN!!!" scream. I won't tell you when it hits. 

28. Alice in Chains - Ranier Fog (BMG) - Fine. They're a different band since Layne died. We get it. What did you expect? That doesn't mean they aren't still one of my favourite bands EVER and don't deserve it, goddammit! 

27. Dead Meadow - The Nothing They Need (Xemu) - I heard Dead Meadow playing in a record store back in 2001 and bought it immediately. They still connect with my soul.

26. Vile Creature - Cast of Static and Smoke (self) - This heavy-as-fuck Canadian duo made quite the splash in 2018. The nihilism and heft of this crushing slab of catharsis should make everyone want to join their angry queer doom cult.

25. Wiegedood - De Dodden Hebben Het Goed III (Century Media) - I wasn't as enamored with this one as I was with II but there's something bewitching about the tornado of fierce black metal they employ to put the ice in my veins. I can't shake the desire.

24. Khemmis - Desolation (20 Buck Spin) - I saw Khemmis play at Migration Fest and they needed a longer set. Such great songwriting. Power, melody, passion. Even better with beer.

23. Psychlona - Mojo Rising (Ripple) - Sometimes I just need an overdose of psych dancing in oblivion with a god-like profusion of fuzzed-out riffs. It gets my mojo rising. Man.

22. Castle - Deal Thy Fate (Ripple) - Speaking of riffs... This duo really cranks them out. Sorta lo-fi, sorta retro, lotsa headbanging fun. A doomy crunch nodding to classic rock. Catchy as all get out!

21. Sunnata - Outlands (self) - Oh my goodness have I enjoyed sinking into the ethereal place this album takes me. The psych factor here is sky high. Dangerously hypnotic and completely mesmerizing.

20. Conan - Existential Void Guardian (Napalm) - I'm always down for some caveman battle doom! And with that extra muscle the new drummer brings you know my steering wheel is getting a serious beating! 

19. Slaves BC - Lo, and I Am Burning (Fear & The Void) - I had the pleasure of meeting drummer-vocalist Josh Thieler and he's basically the polar opposite of the gnarly, dark, at times terrifying menace that comes blasting out of my speakers. Only ashes remain.

17 and 18. Black Space Riders - Amoretum Vol. 1 & 2 (Black Space/Cargo) - Not sure how to describe this. It makes me think of 80s/90s goth/emo/new wave but they carry a swagger and a hard edge that keeps it from feeling sappy. And we got two albums of it this year! Did I mention the tags of psychedelic, stoner, prog and space rock on their bandcamp?

16. Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross No Crown (Nuclear Blast) - Pepper's back!!! Not that I didn't like the other lineup (again) but I discovered the band during the previous Pepper years so this return to form hits all the right spots!

15. Tomb Mold - Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin) - Funny how I had to go all the way to Pittsburgh to see Tomb Mold when Toronto is two hours down the road. It was worth it to see all their filthy death metal in the flesh.

14. Gozu - Equilibrium (Metal Blade) - I bought one vinyl record in 2018. This one. How was I lucky enough to see them "at home"? No matter. There's stoner rock/metal and then there's Gozu. They are like a drug. A highly addictive, psychedelic, somewhat progressive, hard-hitting drug. With the year's best album cover. (Edit: I bought the Slaves BC vinyl too.)

13. Beaten to Death - Agronomicon (Mas-kina) - Keeping a new B2D album out of the top 10 was hard. But it came out on Christmas Eve. I basically had to postpone this list because it. They are their own brand of melodic grindcore. Crazy good craziness.

12. Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light (Prosthetic) - I never doubted Adam Clemans as the new singer in Skeletonwitch but now I have fully embraced him. This seems like a more mature album that still rips as hard as they always have.

11. Wolvhammer - The Monuments of Ash and Bone (Blood Music) - Speaking of Adam Clemans.... He kills it with Wolvhammer too. This album takes over my body until I am "The Failure King"! Burly black metal that still hammers the riffs into you forever. Incredible.

Because I thought I did a good job, and because I want to get this thing posted now that it's MARCH, the following blurbs are copied from an original post at Enough procrastinating!!!

10. Cancer Bats - The Spark That Moves (New Damage/Bat Skull) - I was more than pleasantly surprised when this dropped out of nowhere on April 20. (Coincidence?) The Spark That Moves feels like a comeback record to me. They’ve never not been great but this has an energy that supercharged my being in a way they haven’t since Hail Destroyer. It was a daily listen for months. The summer months were definitely the brightest days thanks to their high energy, meaningful, and fun fusion of hardcore, sludge and whatever else they can squeeze in. I saw some these songs live too and let me tell you, dude…

9. Soulfly - Ritual (Napalm) - I would usually leave Soulfly off a list like this altogether due to personal bias (the first tattoo I ever got was a Soulfly logo) but Ritual warrants the recognition due to the change in direction the band takes. Soulfly had been going in a more intense death-thrash direction on recent efforts but Ritual sounds more like Max Cavalera in the mid-to-late ’90s. Late Sepultura, early Soulfly. Not nu-metal though. Groovy? Sure. Tribal? Some. Intensity? You better believe it. It impressed many fans who had given up ages ago and even some that have hung in the whole time.

8. Windhand - Eternal Return (Relapse) - Virginia’s Windhand teased ever so tantalizingly with their half of a split with Satan’s Satyrs. That appetizer was the perfect setup for the satisfying main course. Eternal Return satiates all doom desires. The warm tones penetrate your body while the flowing riffs liquify your bones into a vaporous syrup. Dorthia Cottrell continues her reign among the most affecting doom vocalists of this, or any age in the genre’s evolution. Windhand’s earthly and bewitching doom is a blessing of mood music. The beauty of it is there’s a whole range of moods Eternal Return can amplify or soothe. A potent elixir for all your ills.

7. Secret Cutter - Quantum Eraser (self) - Have you ever seen an industrial metal stamp in action? Bending thick steel into whatever shape the creator desires. Intense irresistible downward force. Complete obliteration. That’s how Secret Cutter destroy you. They crush so hard you’re erased down to a quantum level. It’s a heavy as fuck exercise in sludge, doom, and grind. Spine-tingling vocals set hairs on end as their curiously bent chords mold your skull into new and interesting shapes. Nothing else out there this year hits like the planet smashing sledgehammering Secret Cutter dish out. This music will bruise you.

6. Astrakhan - Without New Growth Process is Bloodshed (self) - RIP Astrakhan. With this release it was made known that Astrakhan was to be no more. The SADness of February’s cold days took a new twist as Sans Astrakhan Disorder. The cure actually comes in the form of listening to the album. WNGPIB is masterful. There’s no term for their progressive, post-, hard-charging, doomy, sludge-into-stoner metal. That indescribability adds to its charm. Serpentine riffs and dynamic intensity take the listener through a lifetime of emotional shifts. Harmonies and vocals stretch your soul like puddy, solos send your mind exploding across galaxies, and the whole package… sadly wasn’t released on vinyl. I’m pretty excited for the guitarists’ new project Brugada though.

5. Fu Manchu - Clone of the Universe (New Damage/At the Dojo) - All that really needs to be said about Clone of the Universe is that there is an 18 minute song on it that features Alex Lifeson of Rush. He doesn’t play for the whole 18 minutes mind you but it’s still way cool. It’s also pretty cool that a band known for short-ish punchy tunes pulled off such a monster track and even embedded it with a new essential Fu Manchu moment. Light the throttle!!! Scott Hill and company do have surprises up their sleeve! Rest assured though the runtime friendly anthems of California-baked coolness that make up the rest of album leave their mark too. Fu Manchu doing Fu Manchu, with an adventurous twist.

4. Sleep - The Sciences (Third Man) - I’ve been a Sleep fan since I first discovered them in 2000. Jerusalem was unlike anything I had heard before. I finally got a chance to see them play back in August. They didn’t play all of Jerusalem/Dopesmoker but they did play some of it. They also played a bunch of songs from The Sciences, their first full-length since Dopesmoker was originally released in 2003. “Sonic Titan” is a holdover from those days given a boost from studio production. The songs range in length from the 3 minute intro/title track to the 14:23 of “Antarcticans Thawed” and every second is unmistakably Sleep. “Giza Butler” might be the second best song they’ve ever written. There’s a riff in there that is my spirit animal. Throw me off a bridge. I don’t care as long as that’s what I hear on the way down.

3. Brant Bjork - Mankind Woman (Heavy Psych Sounds) - This past year or so I have REALLY gotten into Brant Bjork. I loved Black Power Flower and Tao of the Devil but I never really dug into the past. I did this year. Partly due to Mankind Woman. I needed more. And more. As much as I could get. (HPS is actually reissuing most of his back catalogue so….) I can’t even get enough of this album though. Shades of funk and blues. Groove. Psych. Stoner vibes. An overwhelming sense of chill. These are some of my favourite things…about the album. And the lyrics. Songs about life. Diamond hard nuggets of wisdom. “Nation of Indica” is my favourite song of the year for just such reasons. Stay chill, my friends.

2. High on Fire - Electric Messiah (eOne) - My guess is that after dragging his strings around in Sleep and their new material he needed to balance that by making a new High on Fire album as intense as humanly possible. There is a fire burning under Electric Messiah that’s heating those riffs to a rapid boil. Add in the white hot electricity of this trio and you’ll be seeing God. Everything feels 110%. They’ve been at this a long while, and not without challenges, but they bludgeon with such conviction here you’d think their faces were young and fresh. So muscular, so intense, so brilliantly executed. I don’t care how people feel about High on Fire production (I hear nothing wrong here). It’s about the songs. I LOVE THESE SONGS.

1. Yob - Our Raw Heart (Relapse) - Yob’s Mike Scheidt fought a battle with death and won. Our Raw Heart is the result. No album this year made me FEEL as much as this one. As heavy as it is triumphant, it stirs the emotional pot for the duration. “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, the longest track on the album, challenges “Marrow” for most heart-wrenching Yob song ever. It feels like the band really came together on a higher level for this. I’m still baffled there was a time I didn’t even like Yob. Now I can’t imagine a world without their music. Such powerful doom is therapeutic, transporting the listener to a place both of and beyond suffering. To me at least, music like this is essential.

Thanks for hangin' in there.

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