Every year, Hellbound writers submit their top albums of the year. They all get compiled into Hellbound’s Top Metal Albums of the year (coming soon).
Top Albums of 2018
10. The Spark That Moves
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…
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. Eternal Return
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. Quantum Eraser
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. Without New Growth Process is Bloodshed
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. Clone of the Universe
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. The Sciences
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. Mankind Woman
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. Electric Messiah
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. Our Raw Heart
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.
Clutch is exempt because I can’t be objective with them.
Album Cover of the Year
Gozu – Equilibrium. Art by Christopher Smith of Grey Aria Design Studio in Pittsburgh, PA. I like the dark and mystic nature of it. It’s like a sentient nebula taking a familiar form. It speaks to a sense of identity, however multi-faceted, floating in an expanse so vast that nothing is significant at all. I like the colours too. And the sky-blue marble record inside.
Best Gig of 2018
It’s been a surprisingly heavy concert attendance year for me. At least the second half. I saw Slayer play for likely my last time. I saw ICP play in a sports bar over a sub shop. Clutch, Cancer Bats. Sleep for the first time! The Metal Alliance Tour in that same sports bar. But the best has to be Migration Fest in Pittsburgh. Three days of Gilead Media/20 Buck Spin and associated bands blasting in an old church! Thou! Krallice! Spirit Adrift! Couch Slut! Mournful Congregation! Tomb Mold! Bongripper! Khemmis! Immortal Bird! And my two favourites, Hell and Mizmor! It was still hot despite the A/C but the sound was great and the bands even better. The No Moshing policy was nice for my old body, plus I got to meet scores of internet friends and band members. Naturally I spent too much money on merch but it was worth every penny. Maybe not the Khemmis shirt I accidentally bought twice but… I hadn’t been to a multi-day festival since 1996 and I can’t wait to do it again in 2020. So long as they let me across the border!
Favourite Physical Item Purchased
With the release of a new Clutch album and subsequent tour I bought some cool Clutch swag. New shirts, key chain, GIANT patch, and a license plate cover. But the coolest thing I “bought” was my hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind wooden Goatwhore box. Technically I bought the Metal Alliance VIP package and the box and its contents was the Scaveng-whore Hunt prize. Even then I won it by default. I was the only person to buy the package! I treated my friend to it as well but he lost the trivia question so I won! Other than the neat, blood-splattered box there were stickers, a metal pin, a patch, coasters, and a credit card bottle opener. Oh, and a shirt! Definitely made a super fun night even more memorable.
Most Anticipated Album(s) of 2019
I admit, as usual, I’m not looking too far ahead on the release schedule but the John Garcia & The Band of Gold album sounds amazing and I’m really looking forward to the new Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard!
My 2018 in Metal
I turned 40 this year and honestly, I feel old. Maybe that explains why I’ve been reaching back and listening to a lot more stuff that I’ve known for many years, in many cases decades. I heard that you stop wanting to discover new bands and stuff around age 33. While I’m not there yet the overwhelming desire for more and more new bands has greatly abated. Much of what I enjoyed most this year was new albums from old bands which often spun me into a rabbit hole of back catalogs and diving into old times. I spent a lot of time with Brant Bjork, Monster Magnet, and Fu Manchu this year if you catch my drift.
I haven’t been writing as much this year either. Partially because I’ve been listening to less but I also felt like I needed to spend more time on other things. Like reading. And getting inside my own head more than I probably should. I hope to find a balance with all the things I enjoy and spread the good word on what tickles my ever-evolving fancy in 2019.
In the meantime, I’m having a blast revisiting all the great metal released in 2018 and keeping my beer belly in shape. I’ll work on that in 2019.
Looking Forward To in 2019
First of all I’m looking forward to finally seeing Crowbar play. With CoC and The Obsessed no less! There’s got to be a new Star Wars movie coming out, right? I look forward to solidifying the peace I’ve come to with my place in this world and soundtracking that with consistent musical enjoyment. No more “trying” to like things I know I won’t. Just listening to what makes me feel good and not worrying about some trendy new band passing me by. I’m waiting for the new Song of Ice and Fire novel but I’m not going to hold my breath on that. I’ll have to make do with the final season of Game of Thrones, I suppose. Hopefully I get out to more shows in 2019 too!
Metal Person of the Year
I always have a hard time with this category but the two people who made the biggest impact on my 2018 in Metal have to be Adam Bartlett of Gilead Media and Dave Adelson of 20 Buck Spin. They organized Migration Fest (as well as released some AWESOME music). It seems silly but that Fest meant a lot to me. It really made me think about some things other than music and I came away a better person. I wouldn’t have met a bunch of great people I know from Twitter and such in real life otherwise. That was pretty cool. It was such a well organized fest too. That increases the likelihood I’d go again despite the back pain. I came away from that weekend feeling like a different person and for that I’m truly grateful to Adam and Dave.