By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.
Among all of the things that 2016 brought to us, no matter how good, bad or ugly, collectively, it was a very strong year for new music, hence why I have had an incredibly difficult task assembling a list of just ten albums that have lived on repeat and high volume. My only regret is that there are still albums missed I have yet to listen to, by artists I am yet to discover that could’ve been exemplary. If I were to just leave this to albums I’ve heard this year, Lantlos’ Melting Sun or Black Breath’s Slaves Beyond Death probably would have romped away with this one, despite being out in 2014 and 2015 respectively. There are so many honourable mentions too that a cephalopod with hands need be employed to even fathom counting. But, lo and behold, here are the ten albums from one of humanity’s most troubling years, that I personally consider to be certifiable must-listen experiences:
10. The Maras – Wax Beach
Having never met The Maras personally, it would be safe to say that the brothers from Ontario are a little hyperactive. Not purely because they’ve released a demo, an album and a brand new EP in the space of a year, but the speed, urgency and average length of their songs might have something to do with it. Though Wax Beach could be seen as an expansion of their already superb demo, the re-recordings sound a lot denser and deranged, letting their garage punk snarls and smorgasbord of influences flourish, on what is on one hand a damning indictment on mental health services, but on the other a dizzying rush of genre-bending bliss.
9. Cruz – Culto Abismal
From beginning to end, 2016 has seen some magnificent death metal releases, but few have been quite as memorable as Barcelona quartet Cruz’s Culto Abismal. Injecting crust punk deep into the veins of death metal’s old blood, this untameable hellbeast of an album charges fast and ceases to relent once in motion. Deep growls in their native tongue punctuate the onslaught as a cavalcade of riffs over 40 minutes keeps the monster moving, the perfect balance of speed, technical ability and sickeningly heavy tone serving as Culto Abismal’s addictive centrepiece. Spain may not have the most renowned history in death metal, but on the basis of a debut this strong, Cruz sees reason for that to change very suddenly.
8. Maeth – Shrouded Mountain
With every stride that Maeth take musically, it surpasses and obliterates the last, ensuring their status as one of metal’s must-hear bands. Shrouded Mountain is their third gargantuan footprint and maintains their unique, boundary-warping compositions which straddles the planes of psychedelia and sludge like no other band before them. They also play a mean flute too, to boot. So however Maeth choose to construct their stunning, mostly instrumental journeys, whether taking you soaring through the vast reaches of space or crunching hard down into the Earth’s crust, you can bet that it will be with an energy, passion and talent that you can scarcely conceive, and Shrouded Mountain does not disappoint. Not by a long shot.
7. Bossk – Audio Noir
Always a looming presence on the UK’s stoner/doom scene, even during their split, Bossk’s first release outside of their seminal EP trilogy has catapulted their gorgeous ambient passages and pummeling riffs to unprecedented new heights. Though can be listened as an entire conceptual soundscape, the fragmentation certainly aids the quartet’s longest opus to date and makes every change of pace and tone a stellar moment. Even vocals, while used sparingly, are utilised at their most impactful, shifting what already sounds like ripping your throat out intensity, into ushering in a new Armageddon. Bossk undoubtedly stamped their authority through live performances over the decade their name has existed, but Audio Noir distills that very essence into an immensely satisfying anthology, proving that they are here to stay.
6. Vodun – Possession
Lifting its name from the homophone of voodoo, as well as incorporating aspects of its lifestyle and culture into this very music representing it, this trio from London perform an ungodly racket that’s equal parts punchy to pulse-raising. In arguably one of the most original takes on big, fuzz-saturated grooves in years, the literally spirit-fuelled Vodun drags stoner rock by its ankles and imbues it with a staggering amount of soul. Think Aretha Franklin fronting Kyuss and you’re damn near close. The presentation of the album in a semi-documentary form, with a ritualistic thread running throughout, is a neat touch and grants deeper immersion into Vodun’s already enchanting sledgehammer of force and one of the best hard rock debuts of the decade.
5. Losers – How To Ruin Other People’s Futures
With an album title that scathing, you wouldn’t be wrong thinking there is intense subject matter here. Suitably riled up trio Losers, well versed in their weaving of expansive, luscious atmospheres, frightening buzzsaw synths, distorted guitar attacks and truly thunderous percussion, unleash one of the most adrenaline-surging bouts of electro-rock charged catharsis you could ever hope to listen to. While How To Ruin Other People’s Futures features several bursts of pounding rhythms and explosive instrumentation, it allows enough breathing space for a whirlwind of ambience to take shape, for every conflagration and slow-burner, all with Paul Mullen’s dynamic vocal delivery giving a touch of humanity where chaos could spiral out of control at any given moment. A simply tremendous listen.
4. Youth Code – Commitment To Complications
Certainly one of the most talked about bands of the year and for excellent reason, the Los Angeles duo’s sophomore offering builds upon the vintage analogue synths and drum machines of industrial’s heyday and cleverly sprinkles the zest of their own hardcore upbringings into the formula. The results are nothing short of spectacular. The growth from their debut is undeniably evident, not just as tempos vary and tones are more exploratory, but their whole sound is gigantic on this album making every notion of rage and every raw nerve amplified tenfold. When beats vibrate your skull and melodies claw into your brain like Youth Code’s do, it instigates that addictive property that all EBM enthusiasts have been raving about all year.
3. Noisia – Outer Edges
After mentions for half a decade, then seemingly nonchalantly announced three months before its release, Dutch drum and bass production maestros Noisia have compiled their second studio album, far more abstract and experimental in approach than the trio’s previous Split The Atom. While you will find the same mind-altering, visceral bass lines associated with the Noisia name, it’s the deeper, darker and noticeably slower beats that become the show stealer here. Often quirky in nature and exquisitely composed to emphasise the very best of every minuscule detail, the heavy gestation period for every track, especially the beats-driven numbers, brings a world class finish to what could filter through as an oddity, but arrives as a masterpiece in sound design and further reason to immortalise Noisia as the one of the best the genre has ever seen.
2. The Qemists – Warrior Sound
In the six years since the Brighton drum and bass rock outfit’s last album, they’ve been honing their skills to create dancefloor anarchy on the live circuit, a tenure that has seen their reputation skyrocket as one of the UK’s best independent live acts. Now that energy has finally metamorphosed into The Qemists’ strongest, most consistent blockbuster yet. Fixing both live vocalists as permanent band members, has only benefited the original lightning strike of a production unit, and makes every word have purpose against the backdrop of all-out mayhem. Unforgettable, unbelievable and unflinching in the pursuit of perfect crossover bombshells, Warrior Sound is a sonic shockwave explicitly targeted to induce pleasure at an intoxicating level.
1. All Hail The Yeti – Screams From A Black Wilderness
Three years on from their scorching debut, the Los Angeles metalcore mob return with a follow-up that is perpetually more terrifying in every imaginable way. Spinning narratives so gripping and ghastly, the lines of fact and fiction dissipate into black mist as imposing, monstrous roars with some mightily impressive clean vocal support coalesce their strength as bloodthirsty wordsmiths. Though horror and the occult is the given flavour, Screams… exhibits a previously unseen versatility in All Hail The Yeti, in that their sound features much broader influences from rock and metal, that fires on all cylinders and mellows in acoustic gloom. A hard-hitting, yet gruesome landmark of metalcore, All Hail The Yeti have once again established that they are one of the most essential bands in modern metal.
If you liked the look of this list and want to hear more, then here is a handy Spotify playlist for you (except Maeth, whom you can find on their Bandcamp page):
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I don’t really remember to what sort of length I’ve discussed goth on this blog before. I know the extent of which I have discussed subculture, but not actually empathising or focusing on one particular culture. Anyway, I’m already heading for a tangent here, but if you have any cultural knowledge of the 1980’s, you’ll understand the significance of the goth movement from the latter half of the decade, seeping into the early 1990’s. It still exists in society very much today, but in more of a translucent, subdued kinda way I feel. Their echoes do resonate through some modern artists nowadays, but so few and far between occurrences, that to me the scene appears to lurk in a tomb of its own gloominess, so far underground you’d need to ask Shell to borrow a drill to start digging with. In my eyes though, goth rock encountered an identity crisis because media mouthpieces started flinging labels at bands like Type O Negative, whose noticeable gloomy aesthetic and occasional playing at the pace of barely breathing gained far more publicity, than their recognition of having more musically in common with Black Sabbath or The Beatles. Those seeds were very much sown and a new translation of the phrase was born. So we stand here with Universal Theory, a Spanish duo whose music flows with a similar lifeblood that once filled Type O Negative, but are very much their own artefact of intrigue. Between just two of them, to construct a record with an eruption and outpouring of atmosphere and sombre yet infatuating tones is outright astonishing. Guitars billow with distortion, heavy enough to cause bleeding from the ears, with a vintage monotone but strangely appealing male set of vocals and a luscious siren’s sigh of female vocals to accompany it. Together they are backed by an army of trance-inducing synthesisers, drums purpose built to direct chaos or compassion and a stunning hand-stitched orchestral tapestry that enhances their gothic overtones far beyond just an icy chill in the air. While tracks like Before Sunrise showcase their vicious streak, the second part of Romance demonstrates a deeper emotional personality in their music. Almost waltzing with a saddened violinist through a downpour to begin with, guitars carve their mark into the mix quickly but settle in as an additional atmospheric marker wonderfully, that extra texture serving the melancholy very well. There is an instance of a riff interjecting every so often that threatens to topple the beautiful score in progress, instead serving as an impactful footnote in the otherwise well-realised atmosphere. The last minute or so of the song culminates in the escalation of this emotion, into an intense but moving whirlwind of strings moistening your eyes while drums cause calamity at the final stretch, and vocals calmly bring the proceedings to a halt. This is just one highlight of a terrifically formulated project. The Most Attractive Force couldn’t be more correct of an album name if they’d had it tattooed on their retinas. It sounds like a prog rock burial if one came across, but is without a doubt, one of the most beautifully involving, emotively stirring albums to emerge from the nether this year. Goth called, they say they’re doing pretty well. That should be the universal theory.
Both The Most Attractive Force and their earlier Mystery Timeline can be bought from Metal Hell Records’ Bandcamp page, whereas Mystery Timeline can be bought in a physical or digital capacity from most respectable music retailers. They also have a website you should be looking at. Just saying.
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Horror films have had some peculiar titles over the years. Some get straight to the point, others leave a little more mystery behind the namesake. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for instance, leaves little to the imagination. The Ring on the opposite side of the spectrum, may feature a ring, but no other clues at face value. If you were to take Spanish five piece Mind Driller as a horror film, you may be mistaken that it would be exceedingly bloody and abhorrent, but right that it describes the characteristics of their sound perfectly. Scooping up the afterbirth of nu metal’s remains and harnessing its blackened, crunchy guitar tones into a stew of bright shining keyboards and striking female vocals, the scents arise of a formidable industrial band, fluent in both their native tongue and in English. Imagine a hybrid of Rammstein and Lacuna Coil, and you’re very close. The same aggressive, punchy guitar rains down anvils of crushing weight, with prominent synths cutting through harsh growls, and a gorgeous serenade that tames the stronger male presence. Dark Thoughts is the best balance of both worlds, the programming of the electronics acting as a lighter dynamic to the overbearingly heavy guitar, and the pre-chorus of that angelic voice piercing through the darkness descending, serves as the best entrance into the obscenely catchy melodies and dueling vocals of both sexes of the chorus. 2012’s Red Industrial is nowhere near horror film, but closer to a beautiful metallic drama in a pitch-black factory at night. Mind Driller don’t want to inflict too much damage, but they insist you never forget their name. Once exposed, always in your mind.
Red Industrial and this year’s release Zirkus are both available from their record label Mutant-e’s Bandcamp page for a manageable fee, or from most respectable music retailers.