The last time our year-end LISTMANIA series included a “Best Metal” list by Pitchfork was in 2015. I can’t remember why I didn’t include their list in the following two years, but most likely because I just didn’t notice it. This year, my comrade DGR alerted me to the publication of their list of “The Best Metal Albums of 2018“, and so here we are.
Pitchfork obviously qualifies for the part of our series devoted to re-publishing lists by “big platform” cross-genre music sites. Founded in 1995 by recent high school graduate Ryan Schreiber in Minneapolis, it has been based in Chicago since 1999 and has been owned by the Conde Nast conglomerate since 2015. From its humble beginnings, it now boasts an audience of more than 7 million monthly unique visitors.
It’s fair to say that most of those visitors aren’t metalheads. The site’s reputation historically was closely associated with independent underground music, and in the last 10 years their Album of the Year award has gone to Kendrick Lamar three times, as well as other hip-hop artists. This year it went to Japanese-American artist Mitski. But, as you see, Pitchfork also publishes a list of the year’s best metal.
This year’s metal list includes 21 albums, arranged in alphabetical order rather than ranked numerically, preceded by album descriptions written by Jeremy D. Larson, Kim Kelly, Grayson Haver Currin, Sam Sodomsky, Stuart Berman, Andy O’Connor, and Matthew Schnipper.
Of those 21 albums, a grand total of two appeared on Pitchfork’s list of the 50 best albums of 2018 across all genres — Sleep’s new one at No. 43 and Deafheaven’s new one at No. 28. So I guess we might infer that if the separate list of 21 metal albums had been ranked, those two would be in the top two spots. But I don’t know for sure, since I don’t know how either the cross-genre list or the metal one was determined.
The metal list includes names that by now will be quite familiar to those of you who have been following our re-posting of lists from other big-platform sites. It also includes, for about the third time in these lists, an album by The Armed, which I’m on record as questioning whether it should be classified as a metal album (and I’m now starting to become insecure about that observation). And it also includes some surprises, for such a big site.
You’ll see an album by Norway’s Black Viper, which has completely eluded my own attention (you can check it out here), as well as records by The Body and Ghastly, and the albums by Ilsa and Sumac are relative rarities as well. Lots of places have listed Thou’s album Magus, but Pitchfork instead jumped out of left field for Thou’s split with Ragana.
But perhaps the biggest, and for me the happiest, surprise was the inclusion of Rebel Wizard’s Voluptuous Worship Of Rapture And Response. I’ve been a big fan of Rebel Wizard‘s creations for years, including this new album (which I reviewed here), and so it’s personally gratifying to know that this list will introduce it to some new listeners.
I’ll also add that I enjoyed the written descriptions accompanying these records (including the one about Rebel Wizard), which you can find HERE. And with that, I’ll leave you to consider this list, and to add your Comments about it.
The Armed – “Only Love“
Black Viper – “Hellions Of Fire“
The Body – “I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.“
Convulsing – “Grievous“
Deafheaven – “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love“
Dödsrit – “Spirit Crusher“
Ghastly – “Death Velour“
Horrendous – “Idol“
Ilsa – “Corpse Fortress“
Mammoth Grinder – “Cosmic Crypt“
Pig Destroyer – “Head Cage“
Portal – “Ion“
Rebel Wizard – “Voluptuous Worship Of Rapture And Response“
Skeletonwitch – “Devouring Radiant Light“
Sleep – “The Sciences“
Sumac – “Love In Shadow“
Thou/Ragana – “Let Our Names Be Forgotten“
Tomb Mold – “Manor Of Infinite Forms“
Vein – “Errorzone“
Voivod – “The Wake“
YOB – “Our Raw Heart“
It’s always interesting to me that there is something of a “mainstream underground” such that the lists you see at Conde Nast affiliates like Pitchfork or more “generalist” hipster blogs end up featuring different names than metal specialty blogs. And it’s not that the choices are necessarily bad or unworthy. It just seems like you have different communities in which different albums resonate. These albums tend to to more extensive PR apparatuses behind them. The Armed, for example, (probably largely a Kurt Ballou/Genghis Tron venture at this point released anonymously as a gimmick) seems to show up on a lot of these lists, but the metal blogs (which aren’t averse to the style) don’t really give it as much support. It’s a pretty good album that got a lot of PR from the backstory.
The point that different sites have different audiences, and perhaps different motivations, which lead to disparities among the lists seems to me a valid observation. I think it’s also true that most of the time the albums that appear on lists like this one do have more extensive PR apparatuses behind them (which I see first-hand, and which correlates with the support of bigger labels), but there are some exceptions here. I’m always curious (but not too curious, because I don’t really care that much) about the extent to which there’s editorial influence over the compilation of collective lists like this one (i.e., compiled to some extent based on recommendations by multiple writers) and what factors drive those decisions.
I find P4K’s metal writers to be extremely thoughtful. The site has been my first open tab every morning for almost twenty years. It is an excellent place to follow technology, tours, all kinds of music (also very thoughtful writers on electronic, R&B, reissues, and rap). They also produce decent festivals and documentaries.
I think they’ve changed dramatically over that period. They are now basically just the on-line version of Rolling Stone. At some point they decided they were too “rockist” (yeah, apparently that’s a thing) and they started deleting their old lists and redoing them, while increasing their pop content exponentially. They’ve had some interesting metal writers in the past.
Hey, you mis-spelled Kendrick Lamar as “Kenrick”. Just writing because I love the blog. I don’t mean to nit-pick. =)
Thanks for catching that — I fixed it.
There have always been rumblings about major magazines adding or subtracting “stars” based on artists cooperation with stories, advertisers, etc., and I recall reading some unflattering things about Pitchfork’s own editorial influence in the past. It just generally goes to the degree of trust I put in the recommendations. I also see reviews and lists that seem to reflect (or even obsess over) a writer’s political priorities and what they would like to be great as opposed to what *is* great, and that completely torpedoes credibility in my view.
Hammy (founder of the Peaceville label) mentions in his book that Kerrang promised him a better score for one of his releases if he would pay for a page wide advertisement. That was in back in the 90ies of course.
Pitchfork’s metal content is sparse at best but I’ve discovered some of the more “mainstream underground” bands through their site.