[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 3: Top Tracks

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 3/3

TOP 6 TRACKS, NEW AND OLD, OF 2018

Mutoid ManBridgeburner
Album: Bleeder — Released: 2015

Everyone has at least one band, one album, one song that has gotten them through a rough time in their life. I’m sure I’ve had several over the last 34 years but in recent memory, none is more important to my well being as Bridgeburner by Mutoid Man. This opening track to the band’s 2015 album Bleeder has everything you want in a good rock song: it’s easy to sing along to, the guitar parts are fast and furious, the bass tone is dirty as SHIT, the drums are pure madness, the outro is both fast AND heavy and the message the song conveys is one that a passionate guy such as myself can easily identify with.

Time to wash our hands of you; time for naivete is through // time to wash your hands of us; bring on the fuss!

It’s heavy like metal, it’s simple like punk and it’s emotional just like you and me.

Power TripExecutioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)
Album: Nightmare Logic — Released: 2017

I learned about Power Trip a year or two ago from my boss, of all people. It was around this time their album Nightmare Logic was released with its accompanying single Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe). 2017 must’ve been a good year for thrash because that was also the year Gods of Violence was released by Kreator and was one of the best new thrash releases I’d heard. Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) fits that mold as well.

The dual guitars of Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart chug-chug-chug along with a heaviness I haven’t heard since middle-aged Anthrax (their song London comes to mind) and mustached lead singer Riley Gale has a voice that’s as unique to the genre as his stage presence (Ice-T even dubbed him Lil Jumpy Mane referring to his high-energy performance). This is definitely a jam you want to crank if you about to go deadlift. Or hit a guy. Two things I’m always ready to do!

RunnyI Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump
Album: Back on Gack — Released: Unreleased

Okay, so this song isn’t truly an original. And it hasn’t been given a proper release. Doesn’t mean it’s not DOPE. While early punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and more recent punkers like Anti-Flag have given us angry punk rock with deep, meaningful lyrics, punk at its core is just fast, hard and simple (the Ramones proved this by having countless hits with merely five or fewer lines per song).

Enter Runny. With album titles like We’ve Come for Your Women (And Some of Your Men) and California Uber Phallus, Runny shows they’re well aware of punk rock’s often tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and with this track they show they know how effective a simple, angry punk song can be. Nearly a direct cover of I Don’t Wanna Listen to YES by The Mighty High, I Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump says everything we’re all thinking. Is it the most well-versed or formal song? No. Is it the most mature or appropriate song? Not even close. Is it a song you’ll want to loop over and over again whilst singing along louder each time?

Hell yes it is.

TurbowolfThe Free Life
Album: The Free Life — Released: 2018

Just like with a lot of other bands I’m unfamiliar with, I learned about Turbowolf when they were linked on MetalSucks. On the day their third major release The Free Life, I checked out their lead single by the same name and immediately fell in love. The intro has so many changes, yet so much energy. The song, itself, has moments that are danceable, yet somehow still hang-banging. And their vocalist Chris Georgiadis provides a stark contrast to their psychedelic/electronic/heavy metal sound.

I would imagine fans of the Darkness and Foxy Shazam would dig these guys. And that’s a good thing because I love both of those bands. Just add Turbowolf to my ever-growing list of bands with annoyingly quirky compound-word names.

Zeal and ArdorBlood in the River
Album: Devil is Fine — Released: 2016

Oh, my god I love this band. And this is easily my favorite song by them. With elements of black metal and negro spirituals, the overall listening experience is already jarring enough. But then …

THE RIVERBED WILL RUN RED WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS AND THE BLOOD OF THE HOLY

Chanted. Over. And over again.

I’ve found myself cranking this song in my car and belting out the simplistic, yet evil lyrics with hopes of opening up some kind of portal. Hoping I’d be shown some kind of sign that either my nihilistic attitude is correct or that god is actually real. Unfortunately, neither have happened but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

Frank Carter and the RattlesnakesDevil Inside Me
Album: Blossom — Released: 2015

With a few exceptions, England has always done rock and roll better than us here in the states. They maybe didn’t create metal, but they took it to a higher, heavier level. They maybe didn’t create punk but they made it snottier. They maybe didn’t create ska but they did it the best. And does anyone remember a band called the Beatles?

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes are a hardcore punk act from Hertfordshire, England, and their song Devil Inside Me encompasses everything I love about the genre: strong vocals, loud guitars playing simple riffs and the devil. Killer workout song, killer driving home on a Monday song — just a killer hardcore punk song all around.

Honorable Mentions:

[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 2: Old Releases

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 2/3

TOP 6 OLD RELEASES OF 2018

David BowieZiggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Release Date: (October 1, 1983)
My Favorite Tracks: Moonage Daydream; The Width of a Circle; Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide

I’ve been particularly fascinated with David Bowie for the last year or two. I’ve done a few deep dives into his early discography, watched interviews, read articles, etc. One particularly interesting story I dug up was when there was an initiative to capture this, the final concert ever performed by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Technical issues proved to be quite a headache during the shoot and post production had so many hold-ups it would be a full decade later before the film and accompanying soundtrack were released.

And though the Ziggy Stardust character had long-since given way to Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and the Let’s Dance-era Bowie … Mr. Stardust was revived for motion picture and home audio with this release and a magical moment in music history was thus shared with the world. One can’t get the full grasp of how rocking Bowie was until you hear live recordings such as this one. Tunes like All The Young Dudes and Changes are given an energy the studio recordings just couldn’t capture. My Death is as haunting as you could ever imagine and the closer Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide is the kind of song that could go on forever and you’d never mind it. Throw in a few classic “big” hits like Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and Suffragette City and you have a damn-near perfect setlist from a damn-near perfect artist and his band. Extra-extra points if you add Oh! You Pretty Things, Moonage Daydream, The Width of a Circle and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat — those are all on there, too.

The MisfitsStatic Age
Release Date: (July 15, 1997 — Recorded in 1978)
My Favorite Tracks: Hybrid Moments; Bullet; She

I think I said last year that this is going to make it on the list every year. And here it is again. My favorite album by my favorite band. There’s not a run you can’t run, a weight you can’t lift or a shitty day you can’t get through when you have the likes of Last Caress, Hybrid Moments, Teenagers from Mars or Bullet in your headphones. There’s not another punk band that did it like the Misfits and there won’t ever be another one like them.

Lo-fi, dirty, fast, mean and campy, this Misfits album is everything you want in horror-punk and is a perfect 101 for anyone wanting to get into the genre. Songs like Angelfuck, Last Caress and Bullet can satisfy someone looking for exploitative shock value but then you have songs like Hollywood Babylon and Return of the Fly that are big-time dancers. Are we evil? Are we having fun? Is this okay?

Yes. Yes it is. Yes to all of it.

The Lees of MemoryThe Blinding White of Nothing at All
Release Date: (November 24, 2017)
My Favorite Tracks: It’s Too Late to Change; There is Love Everywhere; All You Really Want is Love

The only thing that really tops this album is getting to see the guys play a lot of it live in Birmingham earlier this year. 2018 has been such a turbulent year for me and while bandmates Brandon Fisher and John Davis didn’t know it, they sang about everything I was feeling. And had been feeling. And would feel:

  • Please don’t bother breaking down, it’s so overrated, all you really want is love (All You Really Want is Love)
  • Don’t mistake your dreams for the real thing; don’t waste everything for a feeling (Hypothetical Shows)
  • But you played yourself with traps that you laid yourself; you should’ve made yourself invisible (It’s Too Late to Change)
  • Pictures of ordinary dreams; not one among them is all that they seem; once in a while let them be purified; pain in my side (Pictures of Ordinary Things)
  • I’ve got something wrong with me; something’s wrong – I once felt so strong; I wanna go home but I’m not sure where it is (Rain Rain)
  • I’m going out on a limb; what else can I do? If I ain’t got you, I’ve got nothing; I’m staying out of the way; without much to say; It’s nothing I feel like discussing (There is Love Everywhere)

Thank you so much, guys. Y’all kept me alive on more than one occasion this year and I love you for it.

The StoogesRaw Power
Release Date: (February 17, 1973)
My Favorite Tracks: Search and Destroy; Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell; Shake Appeal

Earlier in the year I went on an Iggy Pop binge at my local used record shop. I picked up 1969, Raw Power and Lust for Life and listened to them all over and over and over. Hell, they’re all three still in my car just in case of emergency. There’s no better way to describe the sound on this record than the album title, itself. It’s so pure, so punk, so fucking raw. Iggy is an icon in my eyes — one of the Holy Trinity that is Iggy, David Bowie and Lou Reed — and despite his questionable actions, substance abuse, etc. is still a role model in my eyes.

Each time I put on the microphone at the gym, I channel Iggy. I mean, I keep my shirt on and nobody gets smeared with peanut butter, but that charisma and that pure energy that throws caution to the wind — THAT’S what I’m going for. If I’m having a rough day — Search and Destroy. If I’m feeling angry — Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell. If I just need a boost — Shake Appeal. I love this album so much I’m going to get Raw Power tattooed on my right wrist when the time is right. Though I must admit that I made this much-smarter decision after deciding to NOT get a tattoo of a cheetah wearing prostitute lipstick (inspired by the opening line from Search and DestroyI’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm).

Electric WizardWizard Bloody Wizard
Release Date: (November 17, 2017)
My Favorite Tracks: See You In Hell; Necromania; Hear the Sirens Scream

I didn’t get to listen to this properly until 2018 so earlier in the year I was way excited to get to include it on my “new” list but … I was a little late to the party. I was already a fan of Electric Wizard and their brand of doom with a little drop of acid but nothing had really grabbed me the way the tracks on this album have. The strangest part of this six-track record for me is that a LOT of metal websites gave it either shitty or “par for the course” reviews. It’s easily one of my favorite records that I’ve rocked this year, though.

When album opener See You In Hell fades in, the listener is baited by a monotonous, two-note riff that would drive one to insanity if listened to long enough before the band comes in and turns the song into one of the heaviest sounds I’ve heard in a very long time. I mean — it’s HEAVY. So heavy, each time the bass rumbles across your speakers, the ground around you begins to dig itself up. Before song’s end, you’re actually in Hell and this album only continues. Is it as innovative as previous Electric Wizard releases? Maybe not, but that doesn’t change the fact that heavy album is heavy and I have a major hard-on for it.

Church of the Cosmic SkullIs Satan Real?
Release Date: (September 16, 2016)
My Favorite Tracks: Mountain Heart; Is Satan Real?; Evil in Your Eye

I accidentally found out about these guys while going down a wild-ass rabbit hole on YouTube early this year. The song I found was Evil in Your Eye — a 9-minute rocker whose intro prominently features an organ that’s just as hypnotic as it is unexpected. When the opening lyric comes in — I wanna take you … I wanna take you to the ocean — something in your soul will be overtaken. The cult-like vibe of Church of the Cosmic Skull is real and I’m following hard.

They’re not metal in the way common metal bands are, yet there are influences of doom, 70’s prog rock, arena anthems, psychedelia and choir-like backing vocals. The combination of these elements creates a truly unique listening experience. Hard-hitting and heavy highs meet droning and heartfelt lows on this record, leaving the listener engaged for the length of all seven songs. Related: There are seven members in this band. And you can hear all seven of them.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Zeal and Ardor Devil is Fine
  • Sharptooth Clever Girl
  • Church of Misery Thy Kingdom Scum
  • Mutoid Man War Moans
  • Kvelertak Kvelertak

[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 1: New Releases

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 TrumpThe 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 & ArdorStranger 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 LuckLet 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.

GhostPrequelle
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.

SkeletonwitchDevouring 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 DestroyerHead 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.

Honorable Mentions:

  • 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