(For the second year in a row we asked Australian musician Brendan Sloan, the man behind Convulsing (whose new album Grievous has made a fair share of year-end lists itself), if he would allow us to share his YE list of music. As was true last year, this is the most musically diverse list we’ve published — the selections aren’t all metal, but they are all very interesting.)
I’ve been counting these down on Instagram, so some of the review text is pulled directly from there, but I’ve tried to modify it to fit this format.
Here’s my weird Advent Calendar of important 2018 releases.
25: Sumac & Keiji Haino – American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous To Look At Face On
I’m not even going to try to explain this. Keiji is by his nature unexplainable. This is a lengthy improvisation on the brink of falling apart, but somehow cohesive enough to be captivating.
24. Idles – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
MAN UP SIT DOWN CHIN UP PIPE DOWN SOCKS UP DON’T CRY DRINK UP JUST LIE
GROW SOME BALLS, HE SAID
GROW SOME BALLS
23. Cult Leader – A Patient Man
Many people have remarked that this was not the album they expected. I’m not sure it was the album I expected either, and that’s a really, really good thing.
Just as there were scarcely any other bands like GAZA, the members that were once known by that name have gradually transformed into an entity totally unlike any other.
Of particular interest to me are the frequently diffuse guitar sounds that somehow still carry immense weight. The closing track, for instance. A real stunner.
22. Blush Response – Hearts Grow Dull
All shoegaze gets compared to MBV/Loveless to the point where it’s boring to even cite it, but this is the only album I’ve been able to listen to immediately after Loveless and not feel like it was inferior.
Alister did it all on his own, just like I have done, and it’s just as emotionally resonant as anything I can claim to have made. On top of that, it could be the finest artwork of the year.
21. Lychgate – The Contagion In Nine Steps
Bet you didn’t know you wanted distorted pipe organs as a substitute for guitars, did you? Well, you do.
20. Golden Bats – Residual Dread
Put simply, if Slough Feg ate GODFLESH. Don’t let the drum machine fool you into any assumptions of amateur hour. This is wall-to-wall riffs, and it’s barely scratching the surface of what Geordie is capable of.
19. Bridge Burner – Null Apostle
Specifically the fucking bit right at the end of the title track. And boy oh boy does Ben cane the vocals on this one. Absolute madman. Might have to book some shows in NZ…
18. Street Sects – The Kicking Mule
No other band has scratched the itch left by Genghis Tron but this one. Consistently incredible and utterly unique.
17. Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
Short review. “Y E S”
16 and 15. Cloud Rat – Silk Panic and Clipped Beaks
Technically they’re compilations of tracks from splits and things, but some are “brand new”, and it’s two full-lengths’ worth of the most creative grindcore adjacent emoskramzviolence whatever you’ll ever hear.
Favourite chords since DisAxis.
14. No-Fi – emptiness/mongrel and noise floor
Renn is a fucking lord and an amazing artistic mind, sonically and visually. Get bit-crushed.
13. UBOA – The Sky May Be
Not descriptive enough? The Lingua Ignota album everyone went apeshit for last year (myself included) is like a nursery rhyme by comparison to some of the moments found here.
Listen to “Extus”. Heh. Xandra rules.
12. Lack The Low – One Eye Closed
Incredible, innovative, electro future noise progpop something-or-other. One of the most compelling performances I’ve seen this year, too.
11. Kamaal Williams – The Return
Make a tea. Sit. Listen. Yep.
10. Abyssal & Carcinoma – Apanthropinization (Split 12”)
This is going to go unsung and I have no fucking clue why. It’s fantastic and inspiring as always to hear Mr. GC do what only he can do, stirring the abyss of the self.
9: Hissing – Permanent Destitution
If you write this off as a Portal clone, you’re fucking up bad. There’s so many good bits, but you’ll know the one that is probably the most memorable riff of 2018 when you hear it. Huge album of fresh moods in a genre soaked through.
8. Lago – Sea Of Duress
The only thing out on Unique Leader I’ve given a fuck about in at least a decade. Barely belongs on the current UL roster. Sounds as the cover dictates: pulverising waves of Suffocation/early Gorguts with a hint of Nike Air, carrying a ghoulish baritone from Cole. Brilliant.
Overlook at your peril.
7. Wake – Misery Rites
Only three grind/pv category entries on my countdown this year, and this is why. Ate everyone else’s lunch and kept eating for the whole fucking year. Now that Vermin Womb are dead, WAKE are top dog. Unfuckwithable.
6. Sumac – Love In Shadow
Because fucking honestly. Go to Ecstasy Of Unbecoming, 12m10s. See?
5. Thou – Actually all of it, but especially Magus
Many other people will say Rhea Sylvia, but again, just jump in at any point during “Sovereign Self” and tell me I’m wrong.
4. Our Place Of Worship Is Silence – With Inexorable Suffering
I have a tendency to get carried away with increasingly melodic and obtuse chords, moods, textures, etc. Netto reminds me that sometimes a guitar is most useful as a hammer. To say that really undersells the attention to detail and compositional intent present here, but the results really are like being pelted with atlas stones. Immense, uncompromising album that I’ll be shocked to see E and T top, but I’m sure they already have.
3 and 2. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury and Sleep Decade – Collapse
Polar opposites: Calamitous versus consoling. Brash versus breath. Two incredible and intentful album at complete ends of the same spectrum. Sleep Decade have carefully, delicately arranged an experience of floating through the artwork in suspension. Immaculate and affecting. Imperial Triumphant on other hand… Alien sounds pulled from a dimensional rift and reassembled into a 54-minute hallucination Luc Lemay could only have dreamed about when he began his quest into the avant-garde. Both flawless and unforgettable works of art.
1. PLOUGHSHARE – In Offal, Salvation
Best thing to come out of Canberra that isn’t food from Au Lac or an Alchemist album. A horrifying realisation of the potential displayed on Literature…. Honestly struggling to describe this in greater terms than “horrifying”. Not a wasted moment, right down to the noise “interludes”. Interlude is not a word that can be used here. They’re no less engaging or unsettling. Layered, ferocious and sharpened to a flaying edge. Unstoppable, undeniable, indomitable. Get it and die.
Ω. Infernal Coil – Within A World Forgotten
Everything prior to PLOUGHSHARE was loosely ranked, but this is the pinnacle. Nothing else this year came close to its sheer impact. Blake ripped himself open to make this album; an act that strongly resonates with me. The terror of staring into the depths of self and revealing the truth. Listen past the “caverncore” or “war metal”. Listen past the aesthetic. You’ll find one of the most emotive, physically stirring and powerful works of art ever made by a human being. If there’s to be a winner this year, here you have it. People have said to me that I’m doing “emotional death metal” and carving a new path. Nah, this. This is it. Listen to “Reflection Of Waldeinsamkeit” and understand.
“I stand in the dark, in the splintered shards of stars, dreams of your spirit dancing in the waves, walking in trees, life’s infinite moments / Torn through my voiceless sorrow by your shrill absent sting, my eyes close to dream of the ashes I will become”.
100/10. No contest.