Best of 2018: Runners-up

UNIFORM, “The Long Walk” (Sacred Bones): New York-based noise/punk/hardcore thrashers Uniform put out perhaps the most tumultuous-sounding record in 2018 that revolves around finding a sense of one’s faith again. Vocalist Michael Berdan detailed his pulling away from his Catholic upbringing based on the things that have turned most people off from that faith but later finding his way back to church and prayer as a form of meditation and to find peace. What we’re left with is a chaotic record that may not calm listeners’ nerves or bring about serenity, but perhaps pouring yourself into the record and letting the punishment wash over you can be a form of cleansing. This record also finds the band expanding from a duo to a trio, with drummer Greg Fox of Liturgy and Zs joining Berdan and multi-instrumentalist Ben Greenburg, making for a beastlier lineup and sound. (Aug. 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/uniformnewyork/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/releases/products/sbr204-uniform-the-long-walk

For more on the label, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

VOIVOD, “The Wake” (Century Media): 35 years into their careers, Canadian sci-fi thrashers Voivod still are putting out compelling, interesting material, and “The Wake” is arguably their best record since they were fully revived under Jason Newsted’s watch. This, their 14th album, isn’t some regurgitation of the past either. The band whips out eight stellar tracks in 56 minutes, along the way showing creativity, fire, weirdness and the sharp-toothed tenacity that’s kept them one of metal’s finest bands for years now. Singer Snake sneers and croons like a man half his age over wiry drama, Chewy’s bizarre guitar work (he’s certainly admirably filled in for the fallen Piggy) charges up these tracks and gives them alien life, and the entire package is one that’ll keep you enthralled for many, many visits. (Sept. 21)

For more on the band, go here: http://voivod.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

JUDAS PRIEST, “Firepower” (Epic): Speaking of bands with a resume and reputation so solidified, they basically never have to do another thing, British metal legends Judas Priest refuse to lie down and tour on the hits. Instead, they released a devastating, thunderous 18th record “Firepower” that’s unquestionably their best material since “Painkiller.” For a band that’s moving toward 50 years together, they sound spry and energetic on these 14 tracks that might seem to be too many on the surface, but they really fly by. The title track, “Lightning Strike,” “Evil Never Dies,” “Never the Heroes,” “Children of the Sun,” and closer “Seas of Red” are packed with pure, classic Priest, and it’s a joy to behold. Sadly, right before the record was released, longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton announced he has Parkinson’s, so if this is his musical swan song, it’s one that’ll burn brightly forever. (March 9)

For more on the band, go here: http://judaspriest.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.shopjudaspriest.com/collections/firepower

For more on the label, go here: https://www.epicrecords.com/

EXTREMITY, “Coffin Birth” (20 Buck Spin): There are tons of different ways to play death metal, and like every other slivers of sub-genres, its sound has expanded greatly ever since its birth in the mucky swamps. As cool as it is to see the horizons expand, it’s also satisfying as hell to hear a band delve back into the blood and guts and ladle that shit all over the place. What better band than Extremity, whose “Coffin Birth” was a refreshing yet vile throwback to when things were gross and sticky, and bodies found themselves stuck to the floor on long-dried blood. Ew, gross. This band combining guitarist/vocalist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (Cretin), bassist/guitarist/vocalist Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Ulthar), and drummer Aesop Dekker (Khôrada, Vhöl) rip through eight tracks that dig right for your veins and seek to tear them out handfuls at a time. This band is deadly serious about their approach and their art, but I doubt they’ll mind if you have a smile on your face as they drag you through the guts and grime. (July 20)

To buy the album, go here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/coffin-birth

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

SOJOURNER, “The Shadowed Road” (Avantgarde Music/Folkvangr): Metal still has its corners of escapist enjoyment where the music gets inside of you, and blood surges through your body. Sojourner, whose members hail from New Zealand, Switzerland, and Italy, sound like one of those young bands Iron Maiden should pluck as an opener to expose to their audiences, because chances are people would eat this up. Pouring power metal, black metal, and folk into an infectious, energizing puzzle, “The Shadowed Road,” the band’s second and best LP, has been a lightning rod of energy all year long. This is fantastical, heart-rushing stuff, peaking on “Winter’s Slumber” that reminds of Amorphis; “Titan,” that is jam-packed with Maiden-style drama; and “Our Bones Among the Ruins” that delivers a brutal blast along with an adventurous burst. Great band; riveting album. (March 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/metalsojourner/

To buy the album, go here: https://avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-shadowed-road

Or here: http://www.folkvangrrecords.com/products/616667-sojourner-the-shadowed-road

For more on the label, go here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/

And here: http://www.folkvangrrecords.com/