It’s that time of year again where I spend three days going over my favorite music from the last 365 days. Just like the many music blogs I follow, you probably won’t agree with this list and also just like those sites I’m not really qualified to recommend anything to anyone … Just like last year, I’m breaking this down into three posts: 6 favorite new releases of 2018, 6 favorite NOT new releases I rocked hard in 2018 and 6 songs I killed my eardrums with — both new and old — in 2018. Because there were a few close calls, I’ve chosen to provide 6 honorable mentions as well.
All three sets are in no particular order.
This is Part 1/3
TOP 6 NEW RELEASES OF 2018
Anal Trump – The First 100 Songs
Release Date: (November 6, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: That Makes Me Smart; To All The Broads I’ve Nailed Before; Prayers
I’ve said many times before that the older I get, the more extreme I need my music to be. I’ve also felt like punk rock was on the verge of being completely dead. Alas, there’s Anal Trump. While not punk rock, per se, Grindcore is a subgenre that spun off as a result of punk and hardcore. I’m not a big Grindcore fan (my taste rarely goes past Napalm Death) but what Anal Trump has done here using our freaky commander in chief as not only the subject matter but using his quotes — verbatim — as lyrics and song titles is brilliant. I mean, it’s also scary that an American president’s words can be flawlessly used as Grindcore content but what Rob Crow (famous mulit-instrumentalist known for his work in Pinback, Goblin Cock and more) and bandmate Travis Ryan of over-the-top death metal act Cattle Decaptiation have put together is a masterpiece. It’s a punk rock work of art that should be celebrated despite the very disheartening reality that is the songs’ subject matter.
This album (released by indie label Joyful Noise) is actually made up of eight EPs the band released themselves. Each of the album’s eight tracks is made up of the EPs, so the proper tracks are made up of anywhere from 10 and 30 tracks each — there really are 100 songs on this album. And, true to Grindcore protocol, the whole thing still clocks in at under 12 minutes.
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Release Date: (June 8, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: Gravedigger’s Chant; Don’t You Dare; Row Row
I first learned about Zeal & Ardor shortly before their first proper album Devil is Fine was released. That album, released as a solo act by Manuel Gagneux, hit me like no other band had in a very long time. It took the rough edges of black metal and combined it with the soulful, often painful sounds of negro spirituals. Gagneux is on record as saying the project is a result of his attempt to depict what spirituals would sound like if the slaves had embraced Satan instead of Christianity …
… and he hit the nail on the head. There’s no better way to describe it. Now, Gagneux is back with a full, touring band and a new record. Stranger Fruit picks up where Devil is Fine left off with the same spiritual wailings, monk-like chants, blues elements and the grinding guitar style ever-so prevalent in the black metal genre. I often find myself lifting HEAVY while listening to this record. The passion tears through your heart; the heaviness demands your attention; the mashup of musical styles leaves you begging for more. I hope to catch these guys in concert soon.
Ethan Luck – Let it Burn
Release Date: (October 30, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: Crash and Burn; Only Gonna Get So Far; Let it Burn
You know, you just can’t go out and play ska or reggae, man. You’ve gotta have that shit in your soul. In what was one of the highlights of my year, I stood outside in the VIP section of the Secret Stages Music Discovery Festival in Birmingham drinking a beer and talking about ska and reggae with the one-and-only John Davis, vocalist of the Lees of Memory (the band I was there to shoot) and formerly the late, great Superdrag. I played it cool but I was erupting with excitement over the fact that I was talking about my favorite kind of music with one of my favorite songwriters. The subject came up because they’d brought along a friend — Ethan Luck — to play one of many guitars during their set and Ethan was about to release his solo ska/reggae album Let it Burn. In fact, at that moment, I had a promo copy of it in my back pocket, delivered by Ethan, himself.
As the former guitarist for Christian ska sweethearts the OC Supertones, one could easily say Ethan knows his shit when it comes to ska and that truly comes out on this record. He takes ska down to its roots — none of that ultra-hype third-wave bullshit (that I still love). The songs are chill, yet danceable. All of the key elements are there from the horn sections to the guitars to the vocals (which Ethan’s are truly unique and a beautiful addition to the recording). You guys know I’m a ska snob and this is easily to best record the genre produced in 2018. Trad ska still exists, you just have to know where to find it, and Ethan Luck has mastered the art. John’s right — ska is in the soul — and Ethan’s is on fire.
Ghost – Prequelle
Release Date: (June 1, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: Rats; Faith; Miasma
Like I mentioned earlier, my musical tastes have gotten more extreme as I’ve gotten older. I think it has a lot to do with how easily bored I get with most forms of art — that and when it comes to metal, my attraction comes from a place of needing to be frightened. I want to be afraid of what I’m listening to. I want epinephrin to kick in when I hear it. That’s how I got into black metal, that’s how I got into death metal and that’s why I’m not afraid of the devil anymore.
And then there’s Ghost. A band that’s not really extreme. I mean, they’re evil, make no mistake, but they’re so accessible. They’re heavy, often fast and their lyrical content is pure S-A-T-A-N but they’re so melodic that most listeners will neither hear nor care about the fact that what they’re listening to is Luciferian — tongue-in-cheek though it may be. With each album’s release, I’m ready for the novelty to wear off yet it doesn’t. With Prequelle, fans of all aspects of Ghost’s appeal will be satisfied whether it be the banging finale to Rats, the heaviness of Faith, the 80s-influenced foot-stomper and hip-swinger Dance Macabre or the notable instrumental track Miasma.
Each Nameless Ghoul in the band is extremely talented in their own right and every character frontman Tobias Forge has played over the years is not only entertaining but perfectly fits into the saga that is Ghost. Forge’s current persona — Cardinal Copia — is a young man, a dancing machine and a charismatic leader that will take this legendary band into a beautiful future where they’ll leave their mark forever.
Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
Release Date: (July 20, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: Fen of Shadows; Temple of the Sun; Carnarium Eternal
When I first saw Skeletonwitch, they were opening for Ghost at the Bijou in Knoxville and I didn’t want to give them a fair shot. I mean, Skeletonwitch? “I bet these guys are SOOOOO extreme” I said with an eye roll so fierce it nearly cracked my skull. When we showed up at the theatre, however, I was greeted by 45 minutes or so of pure death-thrash with shredding guitars, thundering drums and a vocalist (Chance Garnette) like I had never heard before. That with their then-recently released single I Am Of Death (Hell Has Arrived), I was hooked. I was a huge fan of this wild-ass band.
Like so many people, I was distraught when Chance was forced to leave the band in 2015 and didn’t have much hope when their EP The Apothic Gloom was released in 2016 with Wolvhammer frontman Adam Clemans taking over vocal duties. I mean, it was good, but it wasn’t “The Witch.” That disappointment has since been reversed with the release of Devouring Radiant Light — an album that embraces a black metal influence that, while always present, often took a backseat. Adam is back and his vocals are incredible. The band is tighter than they’ve ever been, the recording is top-notch quality and the songs are varied enough that while they’ve only given us eight tracks, they’re each very unique. There’s even a portion of Temple of the Sun that beckons a singalong and powerful chanting that I will most definitely take part in the next time they come through this part of the world. I love this band so, so very much.
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage>/i>
Release Date: (September 7, 2018)
My Favorite Tracks: Army of Cops; Terminal Itch; Mt. Skull
Honestly, this spot was reserved for A Patient Man by Cult Leader but the more I listened to this record, the better and better it got. While I realize I said earlier that I wasn’t a big fan of grindcore as a genre, Pig Destroyer kind of eliminate the few things I dislike about the genre while simultaneously staying true to it. I mean, this album is often downright GROOVY. With only one song clocking it at longer than 3:30 (album finisher House of Snakes is 7:07) the guys blast through 12 songs in 30 minutes.
I’m always looking for good, heavy music to workout to and the closing lines of Army of Cops make the track perfect for any workout playlist — “Why would god create something so weak unless he wanted it to suffer?” Sounds like a challenge to stop your goddamn suffering if you ask me.
And it burns.
- Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Wasteland
- Aborted TerrorVision
- Iron Reagan / Gatecreeper split
- Devil Master Devil is Your Master
- Cult Leader A Patient Man
- High on Fire Electric Messiah