Given the impossible task of boiling down the hundreds of albums I reviewed this year down to just 10, The tradition here is to make 3 lists to cover our 3 ratings scales and also break the year up into two halves. This particular list is for albums in the second half of 2018 that show some moxy when it comes to sounding different and pushing boundaries while still creating an engaging listening experience. Be sure to also check out the lists for Musicianship and Enjoyability this week. Find lists for the first half of the year HERE, and LISTEN about those favorites HERE. Also SUBSCRIBE to our podcast for audio via YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, or Buzzsprout.
Mixing progressive, jazz, and djenty metalcore sentiments, Swiss band Mycelia deliver their latest album via Eclipse Records. They maintain a pretty solid balance of utilizing djent tropes to create a catchy and familiar listening space while tossing in just enough experimentation to keep things fresh. Between the electronic flourishes and the vox, you never really know where songs are going to go. This unpredictability is a rare and admirable thing in the genre, and it lends itself to some really great standout moments. Stream HERE. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Good Tiger, Within The Ruins, Between The Buried And Me
Baltimore mathcore band Noisays bring some heavy Number 12 vibes with their debut self-titled album via Dark Trail Records. If you spent some of your formative years drooling over the likes of Nuclear. Sad. Nuclear. or Mongrel, have I got the album for you. Diverse, layered vocals, consantly shifting stylistic palette, and unpredictable songwriting are the name of the game when it comes to Noisays. From detached post-hardcore musings to violent screams and death growls, tracks like "Honey, Cops Killed the Dog" have it all. FULL REVIEW. FFO: The Number 12 Looks Like You, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Autocatalytica
Make way for a new instant classic with the violin-infused progressive death metal of Iomair via Infamous Butcher Records. I like Ne Obliviscaris and all, but those guys should really take note of what Iomair is bringing to the table: THIS is how you seemlessly incorporate violin into death metal. Laura C Bates (Völur) is an integral part of every composition, stepping up the already impressive musicianship to a higher tier. Speaking of which, I'd argue that this self-titled album features songwriting leaps and bounds more adept and consistent than Urn. From the Opeth-y guitar hooks and technical drumming to the folky strings and other additional instrumentation, to quote Radiohead, everything is in it's right place. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Ne Obliviscaris, Opeth, Ihsahn
Experimental hardcore/mathcore from New York's very talented and somewhat irreverent Sunflo'er via Noise Salvation Records. These guys represent a brilliant cross-section of math rock, post-hardcore, and hardcore with a vague aftertaste of The Bled in some of the vocals. Songs vary in aesthetic from Fugazi to early Converge, and the six and a half minute "Days Gone" even finds the band getting particularly dreary and atmospheric. This variety is backed firmly by competent performances from all band members; worthy of points in technicality just as much as innovation. FULL STREAM. FFO: Touche Amore, Bosse-De-Nage, Death Will Tremble
Missouri experimental sludge band The Lion's Daughter shake things up with a strange new album via Season Of Mist. I debated including this album, as the overall execution isn't quite where it needs to be. However, respect needs to be paid for the new and unique direction taken by the band. It seems that The Lion's Daughter have been taking notes from Emptiness. Mostly gone are the massive Lord Mantis-meets-Neurosis chord progressions, replaced with infectiously unsettling synth melodies. Think John Carpenter handling composing with Inter Arma vocals fed though heavily industrialized distortion. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Emptiness, Indian, Lord Mantis
Winnepeg hardcore/noise crew KEN Mode put their unrestrained id to audio and redefine what it means to be "hardcore" with a raucious new album via Season Of Mist. This latest release is as bitter and disdainful as they come. It's noisey, abrasive, and above all wants you to hurt. It's an uncomfortable experience, and perhaps that word is best used to describe the entire record. Sex Crimes: The Album, if you will. Perhaps this was not at all the intention of the artists and I'm simply airing some very Freudian dirty laundry, but as it stands, I can't think of a better way to describe my listening experience. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Daughters, War Brides, early Nirvana
UK avant-garde, progressive black metal band A Forest Of Stars time travel once more from the 1800's to take us on another incredible journey. Once again I feel transported to another time and place. Somber, folky strings and dramatic vocal deliveries paint a portrait of early London with the devil lurking around every corner. According to the band, it is a "struggle against insanity;" one perfectly portrayed in atmospheric, elogant builds that make the world-burning eruptions of black metal all the more potent and destructive. Tribal drums, flutes, piano, and intriguing synths add intense layers of texture and dynamics. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Ihsahn, Schammasch, Moonsorrow
Following up a detestably magnificent EP, New York contortionist black/death metal band Imperial Triumphant are back with a new full length, Vile Luxury, via Gilead Media and Throat Ruiner Records. Sonically, Imperial Triumphant have always been an abrasive, acquired taste; but for all of it's obscenity and noise, Inceste incorporated enough traditional songwriting elements to make it palatable. Vile Luxury scatters that to the wind. This album is largely pure, experimental chaos. I hesitate to even call it controlled chaos. It really does pull off the whole "mournful New York street sax player collapsing into hell" aesthetic. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Malthusian, Abyssal, Portal
PODCAST EPISODE. Always the cheeky, experimental rabble-rousers, Japanese avant-garde black metal band Sigh throw their fans yet another curveball with Heir To Despair via Candlelight Records. I absolutely loved Graveward, but not content to rest on its laurels, Heir To Despair provides a different direction entirely. Reportedly inspired by "old crazy progressive bands like Brainticket, Embryo, Agitation Free..., etc.," the album shifts attention to psychedelic song structures, vintage keyboards, and flute while also venturing into the stylistic influences of their Eastern region. It’s a grand collision of Japanese vocals and Al Namrood; laced with vocoder, sitar, and Topshur(?) mixed with more aggressive, thrashy material like "Homo Homini Lupus" and "In Memorieo Delusional." And just when you start to feel some familiar footing, Sigh pulls out the rug once more. FULL REVIEW. FFO:...?
PODCAST EPISODE. Avant-garde mindrape traversing post-hardcore, electronic, and industrial from Rhode Island's newly reunited Daughters. Tracks are at once deeply infectious and off-puttingly noisey. It's a work of intense imagery and Kubrickian levels of ambiguous, existential dread. Clamorous riffs, prophetic vocals, and droning electronics all add up to Daughters dropping one of the best albums of the year; perhaps even the best of their career. Be sure to check out episode 3 of our Trench Talk podcast to hear more. FULL REVIEW. FFO: These Arms Are Snakes, Ken Mode, Jesus Lizard