Written by: Ancient Hand
Ranging from the most extreme to the most ethereal, a wide range of genres are represented--and appreciated--here at the Sleeping Village. In that adventurous spirit, here are Ancient Hand's top 20 albums of 2018.
20. THOSE POOR BASTARDS - Inhuman Nature
Those Poor Bastards follow up their 2016 album, Sing it Ugly, with Inhuman Nature—an album that I was very excited about. Their previous album had some songs that I loved, but I found it to be one of the band’s weaker overall due to its overly grating production and repetitive sounds. My favorite album from the group is Satan is Watching, which features the band embracing more dark and sinister sounds. Luckily, just as much variation on that album was utilized by the band on this new release. This new album from the duo was announced with the single “Snake-Tongued Deceiver,” which features production that places the album in the time period that it aims to emulate. The rest of the album fell in line with this single; the production is fun and allows for bouncy rhythms, which are usually brought about through the incredibly fun synth work. The vocals have an interesting inflection that brings a melancholic mood to the bouncy music. Overall, I had a ton of fun with this album.
Favorite Tracks: Heap Bad Medicine, Snake Tongued Deceiver, Blow Wind
19. RIVERS OF NIHIL - Where Owls Know My Name
An interesting blend of jazz instrumentation and death metal. I don’t think either aspect of the album is the best in its respective genre, but I do think that the blend offers a ton of interesting material to enjoy. Catchy guitar riffs, fast-paced drumming, atmospheric instrumentation placed with the brutal vocals makes for one of the year’s most headbang-inducing albums!
Favorite Tracks: Terrestria III: Wither, The Silent Life, Where Owls Know My Name
18. ZEAL & ARDOR - Stranger Fruit
After my review of their debut album, Devil is Fine, Zeal & Ardor essentially did exactly what I wanted from them on their follow-up; the electronic elements took a backseat and left room for the chilling mix of blues and black metal. The haunting atmosphere of this album alone makes it one of the year’s most engaging releases, and pairing that atmosphere with the impressive instrumentation gives you one hell of a terrifying, catchy album.
Favorite Tracks: Intro, We Can’t Be Found, Stranger Fruit
17. UADA - Cult of a Dying Sun
Uada followed up my favorite album of 2016 with an incredibly punishing, yet slightly bloated, sophomore album. I really wanted to love this album, and I was happy when it lived up to my expectations. I still feel that the run time is a little too long for the lack of variation, but the material on the album is very much worthwhile, nonetheless.
Favorite Tracks: The Purging Fire, Cult of a Dying Sun, Mirrors
16. IDLES - Joy As An Act of Resistance
Positive and bouncy, this punk album is filled with fist-pumping anthems that will get stuck in your head for days.
Favorite Tracks: Television, Danny Nedelko, Colossus
15. ARCHITECTS - Holy Hell
Architects return from losing an integral member of their band to cancer with an incredibly moving metalcore record. The pained screams from frontman Sam Carter nearly make the entire release for me. The use of strings throughout the album elevate it to heights so epic that all you can feel is the emotion put into the music. While it may not be the most technically proficient album of the year, it is one of the heaviest when it comes to emotional weight.
Favorite Tracks: Royal Beggars, Holy Hell, The Seventh Circle
14. IMMORTAL - Northern Chaos Gods
Immortal returns with one of the best albums of their career. This release is filled with incredible riffs and drumming. The vocals are amazing, and the epic atmosphere puts the last 15 years of their discography to shame. Similar to Uada, I felt that this release was maybe one song too long, but otherwise, I just wish more albums could successfully achieve the atmosphere this album does.
Favorite Tracks: Mighty Ravendark, Northern Chaos Gods, Gates to Blashyrkh
13. BEARTOOTH - Disease
Beartooth started off strong. Their debut EP was some of the most scathing and brutal metalcore I had heard when it dropped. Their debut album introduced more melody, and their sophomore album made me doubt that they could ever recapture the same magic. I seriously lost a lot of hope after their 2014 album, Aggressive. That is, until I started hearing the singles from Disease. This album is an experiment in metalcore. Elements from punk, classic rock, and emo find their places in the tracklist. A varied listen, and with most of the experimentation playing off so successfully, this album is one of the year’s best—and potentially the band’s best release ever.
Favorite Tracks: Greatness or Death, Afterall, Clever
12. BROCKHAMPTON - iridescence
BROCKHAMPTON have all eyes on them. Their careers are at the point where they can either propel themselves even more into the realm of hip-hop’s bests, or they can lose it all. After last year’s releases and the controversy surrounding one of their members, a lot rode on this album. Luckily, their new album, iridescence, sees the bands at potentially their most cohesive. All the members seem to be on the page, and the frustration with their current states of life shine through in a multitude of sounds—from chaotic to beautiful. It is definitely a step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing what else they can achieve.
Favorite Tracks: San Marcos, J'ouvert, Tonya
11. NOW, NOW - Saved
Now, Now released one of my favorite albums of all time in 2012 with Threads. I have been waiting nearly 6 years for their follow-up, and during that wait, the group’s sound changed drastically. Now only a two-piece, Now, Now have created Saved, a synth-pop album that relies more on the vocal melodies of Cacie than the drumming of Bradley. Luckily, Cacie delivers. Cuts like AZ and MJ show her as a strong and capable frontwoman. Not every track lands the same way these do, but when the duo is able to achieve the sound they’re going for, it is clear this change in their sound works to take their musical prowess in a direction with tons of possibilities. Hopefully, we don’t have another six-year wait ahead of us.
Favorite Tracks: MJ, AZ, P0wder
10. MOUNT EERIE - Now Only
Mount Eerie followed up one of 2017’s best albums with an equally crushing and emotional musical journey. This time around, the songs make use of more typical music motifs, but the result is just as difficult to listen to. I sincerely hope things get better for Phil and his family.
Favorite Tracks: Earth, Crow, Pt. 2, Distortion
9. HORRENDOUS - Idol
Horrendous continue to put out impressive music. Idol is an incredibly interesting and engaging listen that grabs your attention and refuses to let go until it the entire album is done. The interesting and catchy riffs, the howling vocals, and the punishing drumming all culminate into an oddly melodic yet brutal album; oxymoronic as it may seem, this album deserves to be heard.
Favorite Tracks: Soothsayer, Divine Anhedonia, Obolus
8. PANOPTICON - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I & II
Panopticon tried something incredibly interesting on this release: separating the folk elements from the black metal elements into two separate albums, culminating into one epic release. I was worried about this release feeling way too long, but I was shocked to find a release of this length so engaging. The black metal album features some awesome riffs, but the folk album sees Panopticon in a new and fascinating light. The alternation between fast folk music and slower cuts keeps the second album at the forefront of your attention even after it ends.
Favorite Tracks: The Moss Beneath The Snow, (Cowering) At The Foot Of The Mountain, Blåtimen, Sheep in Wolves Clothing
7. MGMT - Little Dark Age
MGMT released my favorite (spoiler alert) pop album of the year. The incredibly proficient synth work that culminates in a strange, dark album with catchy vocal leads and great guitar works makes for a listen that is fun, haunting, and introspective. Cuts like the title track, “Tslmap,” and “She Works Out Too Much” are just some of the best the duo has to offer, and don’t forget the David Bowie worship on “When You’re Small.” If you haven’t heard this album, you need to.
Favorite Tracks: Little Dark Age, Tslamp, When You’re Small
6. PORTAL - Ion
Ion is crushing. Ion is punishing. Ion is a tumble into an oppressive abyss that doesn’t let up even beyond its runtime. The chilling vocals and distorted guitars are paired with cacophonous drums and dark atmospheric passages that dizzy you unlike anything you have heard this year. In a word, this album is revolutionary. I only wish all death metal could be this good.
Favorite Tracks: Esp Ion Age, Olde Guarde, Husk
5. KIDS SEE GHOSTS - Kids See Ghosts
Kanye West and Kid Cudi joined forces to create my favorite hip-hop album of the year. The sounds on this album range from vibrant and beautiful atmosphere to rock to punishing and aggressive rap. I love the wide array of sounds in such a short and concise album.
Favorite Tracks: Feel the Love, 4th Dimension, Cudi Montage
4. MESARTHIM - The Density Parameter
Mesarthim is one of my favorite current black metal projects. Their unique blend of synth and black metal into a dancy and trance-inducing project is nothing short of fascinating. Their new release saw the project embrace more of the dance rhythms that are present in their music. A bold decision that paid off; this album is a work of art.
Favorite Tracks: Recombination, Ω, Collapse
3. UNDEROATH - Erase Me
Underoath, my favorite band of all time, dropped their return album—their first in 8 years and their first with Aaron behind the kit in 10 years. While some cuts on the album don’t reach the same heights that they reached in the past, there are some incredible cuts on this album that showcase the ferocity and drive that the band showed off in their mid-2000s releases. Even the most melodic cuts are something to behold, with “I Gave Up” being an Underoath that we have never heard, and I am excited to hear more from. It is really when Underoath tries to walk the line between these two sounds, things slip up. Luckily, there are very few cuts on this album where it seems they’re trying to do that.
Favorite Tracks: No Frame, In Motion, I Gave Up
2. BLACK TONGUE - Nadir
Nadir is the most crushing release of 2018. From the pounding instrumentals that take influence from deathcore, doom metal, black metal, and harsh noise to the lyrics that drag you to the area between “life and death and time,” Black Tongue make you see your innermost demons on this release, and there is no solace to be found at the end of the album.
Favorite Tracks: The Eternal Return to Ruin, Parting Soliloquy, Crippled Before the Dwelling Place of God
1. SILENT PLANET - When the End Began
When the End Began is this year’s best album. The entire package is perfect. The lyrics are moving and show an incredible amount of awareness in our current, messed-up world, and the storyline that is used to explore the different apocalypses that we may face is fascinating. Silent Planet have outdone every release of theirs. They have crafted an album that I believe is truly perfect.
Favorite Tracks: All of them, but Lower Empire is my favorite song of the year
Thank you so much for reading my top 20 albums of 2018! For my top 6 releases (and a few more), you can head over to my Instagram, @TheAncientHand, to read my more in-depth reviews.
Like any other, our little Village has its little pranksters and jokesters, and theirs is a crude, unsophisticated humor. We don’t get much wit nor deadpan ‘round these parts, so when someone rolls into town possessing the unique ability to keep a straight face whilst performing something capriciously off-kilter, I tend to be suitably impressed.
This isn’t to say that LA’s heavy rockin’ Deathchant don’t take their art seriously. To the contrary, in fact. It’s quite obvious that TJ Lemieux and Company (John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho) are very accomplished musicians, and their debut LP is, frankly, quite the stunner. Rather, I’m suggesting that what makes Deathchant so unique is the ability to launch into experimental passages and then out again with nary a glance backward, maintaining the guise that they’ve been playing a standard heavy rock number the whole damn time. At first, the casual nature in which a track--such as opener Pessimist--slips from recognizable psychedelic fare into a passage inhabited by a post-singularity beehive before ending back at Lemiuex’s sultry, fuzz-laden voice is....unexpected, to say the least. Very quickly, however, this becomes a trademark motif. A similar compositional technique rears its head in album highlight Ritual, which turns a seemingly driving intro riff into an extended experiment in psychedelia, before devolving (or evolving?) into pure noise. It's a neat trick, and Deathchant's ability to maintain composure throughout sells the package.
Because these four switch things up so frequently and unexpectedly, it remains difficult to peg them--both in the case of the direction of individual tracks, as well as the general genre. It has the brooding weight of a new-age doom act, but there’s a propulsive heavy metal element, as well as a distinctly avant-garde jazz ambiance. For a prime example of the latter, look to the somber Eulogy. Closer Trigger is the most aggressive track, the most outwardly “metal,” but still, that’s excluding the extended intro and outro, which are entirely constructed from the reverb-drenched strains of an organic brand of industrial noise. Its weird stuff, and from a standpoint of both personal preference and critical awareness, Deathchant’s formula (if it can even be referred to as such) works very well. The unique song structures prevent a dull consistency that I unfortunately have come to expect from both heavy psych and noise. Beyond that, each track is goddamn interesting on its own merits. There isn’t a song here that doesn’t brings its own flavor to the Deathchant universe, and that is something to celebrate.
Despite the obvious jarring nature of the more noisy elements, a melodic and near-harmonious air hangs, hazily, over the whole affair. The vocals are delightfully laid-back, yet richly emotive when needed. Instrumentally, there are no weak links. Drums, as mentioned, possess a jazzy bent--but they also lay it down with a fierce intensity when the occasion arises. The guitar holds that lovely distortion in loving arms, and whether plodding or bursting into an impromptu canter, that sweet psychedelic tone is never abandoned. Despite remaining unpredictable, Deathchant knows how to comfort their listeners.
Critically speaking, the only real item of note is the length. At 29 minutes, this hardly qualifies as a full album in my (admittedly self-published) book. The fact that I want more is, if anything, a testament to the strength of what these rockers have conjured up. While this groggy wordsmith might not have the vocabulary to accurately describe what exactly Deathchant have created here, I will say this with certainty: whatever it is they do, they’ve done it with great skill and aplomb. Needless to say: highly recommended!
Deathchant arrives January 10th of next year, courtesy of King Volume Records. In the meantime, both singles--Hex and Pessimist--are available for streaming. Otherwise, we highly recommend you saunter, levitate, or otherwise ooze your way over to that pre-order. It’s really not the sort of decision you’ll end up regretting.
Lest the masses be confused: I am decidedly an album guy. A truly well-conceived arrangement of tracks, designed with the explicit purpose of flowing and interlocking with deliberate grace--for me, this is the holy grail of the music-listening experience. With that said, this month has been all about the singles, evidenced best by the number of goddamn times I’ve hit repeat on Red Beard Wall’s (certifiably) unstoppable latest.
For those of you not in the know, RBW plays a wickedly cacophonous brand of sludge--a brutal slugfest between the hooky pseudo-melodic stylings of Torche or Helmet, and the bayou groove of NOLA’s finest. Here, the formula hasn’t changed all that much, thank the lord. Given past experiences I went in expecting a lot, and this track absolutely brings it in the execution department, due in large to the multifaceted vocal delivery. Raspy roars one moment, chant-along-the riff cleans the next. It’s a delicious recipe, to be sure, accented by crunchy, head-bopping riffage and some absolutely crushing work in the percussion department. This is sludge rock at its finest--thick, unique, and relentlessly repeatable. It’s a rabble-rouser, a neck-snapper. As a single, The Warming does its job...inordinately well.
Red Beard Wall’s (excellent, I assure you) sophomore album, The Fight Needs Us All, releases Feb 22nd from Argonauta Records. Full review shall follow in good time. In the meantime, we Villagers, effectively woken from our slumber, highly recommend you find your way over to that preorder.
Red Beard Wall can be found
Desperate for some entertainment of the visual persuasion, we here at the Sleeping Village have constructed ourselves a venue, of sorts--a public playhouse designed to house the raunchiest productions around. Our first feature presentation comes courtesy of Doors & Fours, Ontario's grungiest (and in the running for most prolific) punk rock outfit. The track is entitled Feeling Dead, and the video is, appropriately, a lo-fi zombie flick featuring the inevitably infected band members being picked off one by one. It’s a grisly affair, and an absolute delight to watch. See for yourself:
The track itself, dare I say, is one of Doors & Fours strongest up until this point. While Generation Vex, their previous outing, had lots of verve and energy, a noticeably DIY production reined it in. Here, the sound is still infused with a vivaciously punky attitude, but the drums and vocals in particular sound quite excellent. An underlying full-steam-ahead momentum defines the track, spearheaded by crunching guitar buried deep in the mix. The aforementioned vocals are an aforementioned strong suit--they remain surprising melodic, given a boisterous full-front delivery.
All told, if they keep putting out tracks of this caliber, Doors & Fours are going somewhere mighty fast. Their new album, arrestingly entitled Black Majiks & Other Aphrodisiacs, arrives sometime next year. I, for one, am rubbing my gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation.
Doors & Fours can be found:
Whilst compiling, cross-referencing, and copy-editing the Great Year End List of ‘18, the walls of our slumbering Village were battered by the tides of death and doom. As a result, some calmer tides are in order, and those gentle swells are brought to us today in the form of a single from Austin’s own A Good Rogering. Described briefly (if...not inaccurately) as “non-metal,” Out Of Reach demonstrates a stark contrast to AGR’s typical brand of eclectically raucous heavy rock. 2017’s EP, the ridiculously enjoyable and irreverently entitled This Is Death Metal, sets a much more electric tone. This release, as with AGR’s prior work is groovy, bouncy, and wonderfully off-kilter. Wearing the aesthetics of feel-good heavy rock on their sleeves, this outfit was seemingly slotted into a singular Primus-meets-Manowar category of their own.
Out of Reach, then, is a stark change, yet not unwelcome. In the same way that both Alice In Chains and The Smashing Pumpkins are instantly recognizable by their uncanny ability to provide well-written tracks across the spectrum from crunchy to acoustic, AGR proves that they have an apparent bevy of tricks up their sleeves. Here, the Alice In Chains comparison feels particularly apt, as the vocal delivery adopts a certain laid-back Staley vibe. The track builds in intensity, but never breaks into blustery rock ‘n’ roll rodomontade. A true testament to AGR’s ability to write a compelling tune. The vocal melodies are plenty hooky, no hefty riffs necessary. Much like the grunge of my childhood, Out Of Reach scratches that introspective, melancholic itch quite handily. The acoustics are presented with a competent grace, the chorus is a real earworm, and the lyrics, while suitably dark, remain comforting. All is well.
AGR is due for an album this coming year, and if it manages to balance the quiet emotive numbers such as this with their more heavy-handed side, I will be suitably impressed. With that said, Out Of Reach hasn’t left rotation for weeks, and with songwriting this good, I can expect the best. Our recommendation? Check it out on spotify, post-haste.
A Good Rogering can be found:
Post-metal is an intrinsically fickle beast. While a more forgiving genre such as sludge or death can exist--and flourish--simply on the merits of its particularly bombastic nature, post-metal consistently toes a line between repression and expulsion. While this particularly sleepy-eyed Village isn’t that well versed in the post-metal ‘verse, I do know this: a band must walk that line with grace, displaying both self-reflective ambiance and explosive catharsis, the inevitable result of an emotional and sonic bottleneck. How, then, does the band in question handle to pressure? Dawn Fades are a mighty quintet based out of LA, and prior to their debut, the reputable immersive nature of their live performances served as a calling card. While this may be their first release, these fellas are markedly professional and mature in their craft. I’m happy to report that when Dawn Fades commits to emotive bombast, they blow the walls out.
While these moments of catharsis are few, they define the album’s ability to maintain interest and immersion. Buildup is everything, and Dawn Fades’ true strength is their ability to maintain interest through the more ambient, acoustic, and otherwise gentle passages, while simultaneously knowing how and when to strike without isolating or boring their audience. If that isn’t a success story, what is? Gentle and often near-elusive guitar sets the stage, and well-considered use of cleans and harshly blackened rasps provide a barometer for intensity. None of this feels contrived or--gasp--overly academic.
Take the periodic brief pauses in instrumentation on Ashes, a track that slowly grew to become a favorite. While another band might have used this as a chance to showcase an animistic screech, or another suitably violent vocal exorcism, Dawn Fades elects for a subtle silence. In interrupting the pattern, it helps the song as a whole catch an (occasional) jagged breath. As a result, attention is focused. Quite smart. Moments like this, which frequent the album, seem particularly well constructed for a live environment, where the audience can be pulled and manipulated through a tangible atmosphere.
From a critical perspective, the drums, which significantly define the motion of the album throughout, could use more heft--while light on their feet, they generally lack punch. That said, the crunchier tracks--such as lead single Freeze--feel particularly massive in comparison. More concretely, the utilization of lyric-less cleans in Shackle seem slightly out of place given the prior sophistication of atmospherics. Considering the overall achievement here, minor complaints. On a personal level, Dawn Fades was very much worth the expedition into unfamiliar genre waters. If you are a fan of post-metal--or perhaps similarly uninitiated--this debut will undoubtedly prove an intriguing and satisfyingly immersive experience.
Dawn Fades will be released February 8th from Metal Assault Records. In the meantime, we here at the Sleeping Village highly recommend you bend your ear in the direction of Lean and Freeze. Solid singles both, and a strong introduction to Dawn Fades’ uniquely precise line in the sand between introspection and violent spectacle.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry