Well. This was an… odd year. At least for me, it was. But is there a decent way to describe this year in one word? Hmm… Let’s see, how about polarizing? Yeah, to call this year polarizing would be accurate.
I spent about half of it dead, and half of it learning how to live again. Most doctors would tell you that dropping 65lbs in one month isn’t healthy. That was my January. But hey, I maintained a steady diet of almost exclusively whiskey until May. Left Facebook early April and by the time June rolled around, removed one of the most toxic people I’ve ever met from my life.
Come July as the West Coast burned to the ground and horizon view was under two miles, everything did a 180 and it’s like I traded a massive waste of space, for the greatest person. Which to me is interesting because that’s when the quality releases starting really picking up (as they usually do). But upon reflection, as it’s been for me my whole life, the music is always there for you. Now I drink whiskey from my Hello Kitty mug and write this list like the incredibly buff metal meathead that I am.
I’m sure that was all very interesting to you. So, let’s talk releases: I usually do a top 15 for my year end. This year was a weird one though. I reached a point mulling over and over this list where the bottom five of a top 15 felt too interchangeable in terms of quality. So, it’s ten this year.
And here’s my usual disclaimer concerning lists I do for you kids that like to cry, “Why isn’t [insert band here] on the list?” Because it’s not. You want a personally superior list that has everyone you love on it that justifies your enjoyment of a record? Go make one yourself. DIY just like those artists you love so much do. Someone somewhere out there agrees with you. Maybe.
Finally, a big congratulations to the hardcore scene this year for putting out some top-notch releases. I know that death metal has made an incredible comeback but, goddamn, once it got to swinging its releases were crowd-killing just about everything in sight.
10. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
When it comes to modern death metal, it’d be hard to not bring up the likes of Tomb Mold in a conversation. Their filthy sound, their name, the artwork—everything about this band so drenched in disgust and darkness. Tomb Mold lean a little on doom metal to really bring out an ominous vibe within their sound, but the death metal remains at the foreground. Riff after riff after filthy riff, Manor of Infinite Forms is a death metal record that you need in your library. Even if you don’t like death metal.
9. American Nightmare – American Nightmare
By the time you read this blurb, the album will be half over. American Nightmare is almost like an antithesis of We’re Down ‘Til We’re Underground. It’s melodic and catchy, yeah, but its only interest is in brief romanticisms with what the band was. What they are now, what this is now, is an interesting mishmash of 80's 7 Seconds-esque burners with the melodic, stripped down flair of the Year One EPs/Demos. It’s memorable, brief, punk as hell, and probably could have been pressed on a 78.
8. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
Imperial Triumphant almost defies description, and actually, it’s probably better you just listen to them than read anything about this record. But if you’re gonna keep reading this blurb, well, listen to it a few more times after you’re done here. If there was a 1920s cult-esque black metal band that celebrated decadence and filth, Imperial Triumphant would be it. Vile Luxury is an apocalyptic, seething, experimental album steeped in brass and raw nerves.
7. The Sound That Ends Creation – Roses and Thorns and Dead Unicorns
Grind is my go-to genre. Hell, I have an entire column dedicated to it. When I heard that Chris Dearing’s The Sound That Ends Creation (thanks for the kind words on the t-shirt order, dude) was releasing Roses and Thorns and Dead Unicorns, I knew I had to a feature on it. Jazz grind, deathgrind, death metal, tech—this album was Christmas come early to me. Political, humorous, inventive, fast and addictive, Roses and Thorns and Dead Unicorns is a grind album gone wild.
6. Jesus Piece – Only Self
I am probably one of the pickiest bitches in the world about breakdowns and heavier hardcore. To a point, that breakdown hardcore or bands that utilize it too much like Code Orange are the fastest way to put my ass to sleep. Jesus Piece is murderously good at heavy as hell hardcore, with breakdowns that are like dynamite to brick and mortar. It’s hardcore for hardcore, for the hardest moshers on the planet. If you like your hardcore heavy, with a lot of fight, some industrial flair, and no compromises, then Only Self is an album you should already be into.
5. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
I had to chuckle to myself this year once I saw this get announced. I had finally tracked down a reasonably priced Daughters LP, and suddenly You Won’t Get What You Want gets announced. And I’d say I got exactly what I wanted. Daughters remains my favorite heavy album, but You Won’t Get What You Want is exactly what its follow-up should be. It’s The Jesus Lizard having a really bad day after listening to a little too much Have A Nice Life or The Body. Probably both. It’s adventurous, gloomy and humorous. Alexis S.F. Marshall’s lyrics are as biting and sarcastic as ever. Meanwhile, the combined efforts of guitarist Nick Sadler, bassist Samuel Walker, and drummer Jon Syverson craft some of the eeriest, most rambunctious songs you’re going to hear in a long time.
4. portrayal of guilt – Let Pain Be Your Guide
There was some hype surrounding portrayal of guilt, in case you missed out on that leading up to this release. A 2017 self-titled EP that saw three pressings totaling 1500 copies, a split with Street Sects, as well as a release with the mighty Gilead Media all in a year should tip you off that there’s something special about this band. And on this debut, these guys sound like they’ve been honing their craft for a long, long time. Let Pain Be Your Guide doesn’t so much as start as it erupts with “Daymare” and never truly fluctuates from there. Aggressive and melancholy, yes, but even when the band is letting this slowdown, they’re still slamming forth. A healthy dose of modern hardcore, metal, screamo (ala City of the Caterpillar or pageninetynine) are thrown on the chopping block and stitched back together with ferocity.
3. Outer Heaven – Realms of Eternal Decay
To me, death metal hasn’t had a finer moment this year than with Realms of Eternal Decay. This old-school slab has some of the slickest, sickest songs death metal has to offer. Opener “Vortex of Thought” sets everything up perfectly. A pummeling of riffs and then a plunge into the sewage drenched depths. Start to finish, every aspect of this record is damn near perfect and ripe with decay. I’ve been listening to this album almost daily since I got the promo and it’s not coming out of rotation anytime soon.
2. Sectioned – Annihilated
It’s late April at my garbage day job, my roommate comes into work, sets down his Sony speaker and puts on this album. And as the title track opens, it feels like humanity is rapidly dissolving before my eyes. My veins and teeth clench and it’s like extinction is just around the corner. To which I say, bring it on. The momentum and chaos Sectioned have channeled here is almost unprecedented. Annihilated is 42-minutes of rampant hardcore and never once does it feel rehashed, worn out or uninspired. Chaos is law, elimination is likely, and you’re probably going to lose some hearing if you crank this sucker up in your car as I did. But I keep coming back for another beating.
1. Vein – Errorzone
Since I first heard the Terror’s Realm EP back in 2015, I thought of Vein as the future of hardcore. Needless to say, with that sort of thinking, my expectations were soaring for the Boston five-piece. And goddamn did they transcend them. Yeah, you can call it the best album of 1999. You can bask in its nu-metal influences. It’s not like they’re denying it. But goddamn does this album tear it up. Hardcore at heart with plenty of metal, nu-metal and screamo experimentation. Errorzone is an amalgamation of destruction and devastation. Go to a live show and see for yourself.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (no order)
Convulsing – Grievous
Horrendous – Idol
Cult Leader – A Patient Man
Yob – Our Raw Heart
Wake – Misery Rites
Author & Punisher – Beastland
Infernal Coil – Within A World Forgotten
Ulthar – Cosmovore
Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
Endless Swarm – Imprisoned In Skin
The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Portal – Ion
Fister – No Spirit Within
Hissing – Permanent Destitution
Languish – Unworthy
Jesus Ain’t In Poland – No Man’s Land
Attan – End Of
LLNN – Deads
Gnaw Their Tongues – Genocidal Majesty
Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I & II)
KEN Mode – Loved
Hot Snakes – Jehrico Sirens
Stimulant/Water Torture – Split
Parius – The Eldritch Realm
Grave Upheavel – —
Thou – Magus
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Cripple Bastards – La Fine Cresce Da Dentro
Human Cull – Revenant
Bongripper – Terminal
Flešš – Frenzied Bloodlust Underneath A Black Moon
Occelensbrigg – The Quest of Star Mountain
夢遊病者 – 一期一会
Negativa – 03
GREAT NON-METAL/NON-HARDCORE ALBUMS
Tomberlin – At Weddings
Self Defense Family – Have You Considered Punk Music?
Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
American Pleasure Club – A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This
Cold Cave – You & Me & Infinity