Best of 2018: 40-31

40. WINDHAND, “Eternal Return” (Relapse): If Richmond, Va., doom band Windhand put out a record, chances are it’s going to end up on our year-end roundup. Their third full-length “Eternal Return” is another favorite around here, as their sooty, sultry ways spill onto this third platter that is tried-and-true Windhand but also has some added nuances that makes it a slightly different animal than their work that preceded it. Dorthia Cottrell remains one of the most powerful singers in all of metal, and the rest of the band pummels you with smoky goodness on “Halcyon,” “Grey Garden,” emotional, largely acoustic piece “Pilgrim’s Rest,” and death knell closer “Feather.” Windhand are as reliable as they come, and they’ve yet to disappoint us even the slightest bit. (Oct. 5)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.windhand.band/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

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

39. PIG DESTROYER, “Head Cage” (Relapse): OK, full admission right up front: When “Army of Cops” came out, I wasn’t super excited about the impending sixth Pig Destroyer record “Head Cage.” Funny thing happened once their album landed in my inbox in that it ripped my face the fuck off. Yeah, the band isn’t exactly ripping out the 90-seconds-and-done grind maulers of their past and have added more thrash, groove, and sludge to their sound, but they remain a vicious, animalistic machine. JR Hayes’ poetic rants are sharp toothed and fierce, while the rest of the band delivers unprotected chair shots to the head on cuts including “Dark Train,” “Circle River,” “Terminal Itch” (featuring former Agoraphobic Nosebleed howled Kat Katz), and “Mt. Skull” that, while a wailer, has some profoundly sad lyrics. Oh, and “Army of Cops” totally grew on me.  (Sept. 7)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

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

38. RUNEMAGICK, “Evoked From Abyssal Sleep” (Aftermath/Parasitic): There are records that come out each year that somehow fly completely under the radar, seemingly only fully appreciated by the cult that anticipates the band’s every move, which basically encapsulates Swedish death/doom maulers Runemagick’s killer 12th record “Evoked From Abyssal Sleep.” The band has been around and mangling brain wirings for nearly 30 years now, and their new eight track, 45-minute record is a massive triumph, one that hasn’t gotten nearly the recognition it so richly deserves. Well, we see you, Runemagick, and we’ve gotten hours and hours of enjoyment out of bloody tracks such as the title cut, “Runes of the Undead,” “Wisdom Keepers Resurrected,” and “Tomb to Womb.” This band has had a legendary run, and this new record is proof they’re not nearly done yet. (July 20)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.runemagick.se/

To buy the album, go here: https://runemagick.bandcamp.com/album/evoked-from-abysmal-sleep

Or here: http://parasiticrecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.aftermath-music.com

And here: https://www.facebook.com/Parasitic666Records/

37. SLAVES BC, “Lo, and I Am Burning” (Fear and the Void Recordings): A lot of the music you’ll read about on this list and on this site every day focuses on darkness. But few have the same stench of morbidity as Pittsburgh black metal crew Slaves BC and their excellent new record “Lo, and I Am Burning.” Questions of faith, the black plague that is society, and personal ills dominate this fiery document, their second overall. If you’re local to Pittsburgh and never saw Slaves BC, I’d guess you’ve never been to a show that wasn’t at PPG Pains Arena, so fix that shit and let this band melt your skull off. This album is dark, heavy, moving and destructive, the perfect element for when you want to put on a record and feel your entire soul disintegrate into dust. That’s Slaves BC in a charred nutshell. (March 16)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.fearandthevoid.com/shop

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

36. WITCH MOUNTAIN, self-titled (Svart): It’s probably not accurate to call Witch Mountain a comeback story, because they never really went away. When Uta Plotkin stepped down from her role as vocalist, the band forged on, hired supremely talented Kayla Dixon, and a couple years later delivered their smoking fifth record, a self-titled affair. Anyone who was worried the band couldn’t survive losing Plotkin surely had their fears washed away just moments into opener “Midnight,” where the band hammers home the fact that they’re practically indestructible and always getting better. That carries on into “Burn You Down” and mammoth closer “Nighthawk,” and sandwiched in there is a disarming take on 1968 Spirit classic “Mechanical World” that they give utterly dour treatment. Killer band that can’t be deterred by a little bit of chaos. (May 25)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/shop/

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

35. KHEMMIS, “Desolation” (20 Buck Spin): Before getting into traditional metal force Khemmis’ third album “Desolation,” I finally got to see the band live when they played the Friday night slot at Migration Fest. I watched from a balcony seat in awe. They’re the real fucking deal. But onto “Desolation,” another platter of doom-washed metal that’s delivered with power, majesty, and force. If this record had dropped 30 years ago, this platter would be legendary, and these songs would be part of metal’s canon. That’s how strong this band and this album are, and as they go on, they keep refining their machine and growing deadlier and stronger. “Bloodletting,” “Isolation,” and “The Sear” are particular high spots on a record filled with ambushing material, and it shouldn’t be long until this album is revered in metal lore by the generation of listeners to come. (June 22)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/desolation

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

34. HISSING, “Permanent Destitution” (Profound Lore): Hey, look, we all fuck up. We’re not perfect. There’s a ton of records that come out each year, and we’re bound to miss some, even if they’re released by the mighty Profound Lore. Seattle death unit Hissing put out their lacerating, aggravated debut full-length album “Permanent Destitution” on a day when a slew of other notable records came out, yet here it is, slipping onto our list after it crept into our ears the past few weeks. This is sinewy, creative, yet ultimately violent stuff, an album that seems to have slipped under other radars as well. Yet, this Seattle-based band likely gives zero fucks about that, as they set to demolish you on noise-infested cuts such as “Backwards Descent,” “Pablum Abundance,” and “Cascading Failures.” It’s a record that’ll grind your flesh into bloody hamburger and let you out to stink and rot in the blinding sun.  (Oct. 26)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com

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

33. SVALBARD, “It’s Hard to Have Hope” (Holy Roar/Translation Loss): I have it pretty easy and a white dude. Really nothing to worry about over here. That can be a recipe for complacency for some, but for me, I see what happens to other people, and it drives me mad. Like, how hard do we have to make life for women? That fight is painted in blood all over Svalbard’s great new record “It’s Hard to Have Hope,” a title that tells you everything you need to know about the plight. Mixing metal and melodic hardcore, this UK band explodes on their second record with songs that will further solidify the might of those who support them and hopefully aggravate the hell out of their detractors on cuts including “Unpaid Intern,” “Revenge Porn,” “For the Sake of the Breed” that lashes back at heartless animal breeders, and “Pro-Life,” where Serena Cherry wails over a rising crescendo, “Is it pro-life to have no rights?” Dagger to the chest. More people need to hear and absorb this. (May 25)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

Or here (UK): http://www.holyroarrecords.com/store

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

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

32. ICARUS WITCH, “Goodbye Cruel World” (Cleopatra): The second Pittsburgh band on this list already, classic metal veterans Icarus Witch roared back into the world with a banshee new singer in Andrew D’Cagna (Coldfells, Nechochwen, Ironflame). That resulted in energetic new life for the band on their killer fifth record “Goodbye Cruel World,” their first in six years and one that barnstorms out of the gate by the great title cut, one of their best songs ever. The intensity and majesty continue from there, bursting with power on “Misfortune Teller,” “Lightning Strikes,” “Anti-Venom,” and “Until the Bitter End,” the ripping closing track that reminds a bit of heyday Dokken. It’s great to hear a band like Icarus Witch staying strong, keeping the fires of true metal burning brightly, and putting out music that really matters in 2018, when we all could use an injection of hope. (Oct. 26)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://cleorecs.com/store/

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

31. ÆVANGELIST, “Matricide in the Temple of Omega” (I, Voidhanger): Few could argue if I called Ævangelist the most fucked-up band on earth, as their records are often ridiculously challenging and practically an alien pathogen to anyone unaware of what they’re walking into with their music. That continues on their amazing fifth full-length offering “Matricide in the Temple of Omega,” a warping collection that, despite all of what I said, might be their most approachable work. But “approachable” for an Ævangelist album means something else entirely, and it’ll still fry the wiring of anyone not prepared for their psychotic display of madness that they spill out into “Omen of the Barren Womb,” “The Sonance of Eternal Discord,” and monstrous 18:31-long closer “Ascending Into the Pantheon” that’s sets to capture you in their weird vortex and tear you apart limb from limb. Every Ævangelist record is like entering a new portal into another dimension, with you having no clue what beasts and terrors you will encounter. That’s what makes this band so savage. (Nov. 16)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/