Best of 2018: EPs and splits

THOU/RAGANA, “Let Our Names Be Forgotten” (An Out Recordings): There are plenty of awesome split releases that come out each year, with 2018 being no different, but few pair bands that are socially and philosophically aligned as Thou and Ragana. Yet, their sounds are pretty different from each other, which listeners can hear on this five-track release. Ragana attack with noisy vitriol, often bursting out of delicate sounds that disarm you before the bludgeoning. “The Void” especially stands out for its bluesy returns and utter savagery. Thou, for all the releases they’ve put out this year, saved two massive, tremendous songs for this split that stand up against anything else they put out in 2018. (Sept. 23)

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THOU, “Rhea Sylvia” (Deathwish Inc.): OK, yes, another Thou release, but holy shit, is this one a great one. The band took guitarist Matthew Thudium’s solo works and transformed them into a grunge fest that might make some pine for Alice in Chains’ between-records mostly acoustic EPs. Thudium gets more of a chance to sing on these tracks, though Bryan Funck’s acid howl is here as well. “Restless River” is the song with which they tore open their Migration Fest set, and their cover of Crowbar’s “The Lasting Dose” is the nasty icing on this burning cake. (July 27)

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REDBAIT, “Red Tape” (self-released): Redbait consider their music Midwestern proletariat crust, and goddamn if that’s not what we get on this smothering EP release that’s a defiant punch to the face. The songs are heavy as all hell, as this band unleashes their justified anger and frustration over four cuts (including a live take on “Dick Punch” that pulls no … um, punches). The title track is an assault on the mind and body as they fight back ferociously against the societal and political forces that seek to keep them and others down, while “I’ll Be Fine” and “Smoke in Your Eyes” blow past, but not before they’ve done ample damage. (April 19)

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JUTE GYTE/SPECTRAL LORE, “Helian” (I, Voidhanger): U.S.-based band Jute Gyte and Greek artist Spectral Lore took a particularly interesting approach to this split effort, each taking on “Helian,” the 1913 poem written by Austrian expressionist Georg Trakl, and that 93-line poem stood as one of the most painful pieces its creator ever brought into the world. Themes of death, societal collapse, and spirituality are in the mix for this release, and each band’s interpretation is quite different. Wildly prolific Jute Gyte’s is weird, hypnotic, droning, and mournful, while Spectral Lore’s track mixes classic metal, doom, and even a sense of nostalgia as their creation is unfurled. (Jan. 19)

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INTEGRITY/KRIEG, split (Relapse): Putting together two bands that have seen their share of shit and have helped carve out paths in their own styles of extreme music come together on this piledriving effort that’s as fun to hear as it is brutal to experience. Over these seven selections, Integrity offer up four new tracks, while Krieg deliver their first new song written since 2014’s “Transient,” an older track unearthed, and a live clip. It’s a pretty nice mix. It’s also essentially a home run that when you put together these two bands, you’re going to get something well worth your money.  (Aug. 3)

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THE SECRET, “Lux Tenebris” (Southern Lord): It has been nearly six years since we’d heard from Italian beasts the Secret, and during that stretch, the band members even went a few years without talking to each other. So, when they came storming back with the “Lux Tenebris” EP, a fire-breathing release that made it feel like this band never went away in the first place, everything seemed right. This effort keeps intact their blackened hardcore sound and injects it with more atmosphere, texture, and outright violence. That should keep longtime fans satisfied that the time away did nothing to dull their teeth. If anything, they’re bloodier and sharper than ever. (Aug. 31)

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