Best of 2018: 20-16

20. CLOSET WITCH, self-titled (Halo of Flies/Sass Bologna/Circus of the Macabre/Don’t Care/React With Protest): Iowa-based grind unit Closet Witch came raging out of the night with the excellent debut full-length effort. This is a molten dose of cathartic anger, fire-breathing emotion, and outright heaviness that hit all the right buttons. Themes of anger, despair, equality, healthcare trauma, gender, race, and other burning issues make up much of the thematic material, making these songs even more galvanizing and bloody important both personally and socially. Vocalist Mollie Piatetsky, guitarist Alex Crist, bassist Cory Peak, and drummer Royce Kurth destroy your body and soul on these 13 songs, splattering their own blood in the process.

“Blood Orange” opens in a total frenzy with wrenching shrieks from Piatetsky, as the cut mangles the senses, leading into “Moonstomp” and its relentless power. “It Doesn’t Feel Free” spits in the face of the idea that people aren’t judged by minority, gender, and societal status, as shocking blasts tear through guts, and Piatetsky’s yells are drowned in a noise bath. “Rule By Bacon” has Piatetsky wailing, “How can a gender make one lesser, and you’ve already got your cabinets filled with money,” as she blasts against pay inequality, as atmosphere mixes into the assault, and slow, pained howls pay the emotional toll. “Daylilies” is fast and blistering, as it feels like the floor is caving in as the band delivers the heavy goods and refuses to give you a chance to breathe; while “Personal Machu Pichu” is emotional and personal, with cries to allow for a life one longs for despite the troubles it may cause others, screaming, “Please don’t condemn me for existing how I need!” It’s an emotional, turbulent, and confident album, and Closet Witch delivered on of the most jarring debuts this year. (June 15)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo109-closet-witch-st-lp/

Or here: http://sassbologna.org/shop.htm

Or here: http://circusofthemacabre.blogspot.com/

Or here: https://dontcarerecords.bandcamp.com/

Or here: http://www.reactwithprotest.org/store.php

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

And here: http://sassbologna.org/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/Circus-Of-The-Macabre-Records-253232234713762/

And here: http://dontcarerecords.com/

And here: http://www.reactwithprotest.org/

19. ULTHAR, “Cosmovore” (20 Buck Spin): Arriving late in the year come Ulthar with their thunderous debut offering “Cosmovore,” jam packed with supernatural horrors and scathing death metal. The band’s hammering yet surreal brand of death metal mixes the best of brutality and chilling fantasy. Over the course of six tracks and about 40 minutes, Ulthar unleash a heavy, yet mesmerizing onslaught of sound that does an excellent job keeping your ears blistered for its entire run time but also lets your mind wander into planes beyond, where the bloodshed and terror are unlike anything you witness in ordinary life. Let that sink into your brain.

“Solitarian” is an instant explosion, with belchy growls barreling and the riffs slicing away; “Infinite Cold Distance” has chilly, spindling riffs, with the drums thundering away. The growls scrape, feeling like they’re aiming to shred vocal cords, while the guitars speed along and leave you dizzy; and “Asymmetric Warfare” heads into infernal mode right away, as scathing shrieks pound away, and the pace is hammering and relentless. That leads us to the 13:26 closer “Dunwich Whore” that’s strange and takes some time to set up an atmosphere, and once it does, the band hits a doomy boil of disorienting sludge. As it progresses, more black metal power is launched, as shrieks and growls work in tandem again, and the tempo grows volatile. Hoarse growls deliver fury, while the song speeds ahead dangerously, stampeding over everything in front of it. This is a firebreather of a record, yet another scorching debut record in a year full of them. (Nov. 9)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Ulthar-386850314846106/

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

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

18. BODY VOID, “I Live Inside a Burning House” (Crown and Throne Ltd./Dry Cough/Seeing Red): It’s the end of 2018, and one would think we’d have come much further than we have addressing hatred of others in metal and our society as a whole. But that’s not 100 percent where we’ve come yet, an issue that’s all over “I Live Inside a Burning House,” the monumental second record from sludgy doom machine Body Void, based in San Francisco. This five-track, 68-minute mauler and follow-up to 2016 debut “Ruins,” examines queer identity, issues with mental illness, and the chasm between material and immaterial worlds, giving you plenty of heady content in which to sink your teeth. Guitarist/vocalist Will Ryan came out as queer, non-binary a couple years ago, and the band became a heavy supporter and representative to the LQBTQI* community.

“Intro/A Burning House” gets us started with synth stabs, the doom waves unfurling, and an atmospheric touch that spills into 18:18-long “Haunted” that rings out and takes its time setting up a blistering setting. Ryan’s harsh shrieks, one of the strongest elements of the band’s sound, begins making its mark, as the track delivers slow anguish and morbidity. “Trauma Creature” is a 16:17 mammoth that is calculated and massive. Feedback and feral calls mix, while the doom quivers and makes the room shake. Ryan’s strangled cries lay waste, as the pace simmers and sends off steam before heading into a hardcore-style barrage. Closer “Given” is the longest cut, a 21:30 challenger that lightly chugs at first before noise and Ryan’s tumultuous shrieks enter the fray. The playing is ultra-slow, as it smears itself over everything, with the drums bashing and the song bathing in hell. This record is heavy, delivers an emotional toll, and hopefully will have you fighting alongside them in their corner. (May 11)

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://crownandthroneltd.bigcartel.com/

Or here (UK): http://www.drycoughrecords.com/

Or here (CD): https://seeingredrecords.bandcamp.com/album/body-void-i-live-inside-a-burning-house

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

And here: http://www.drycoughrecords.com/products

And here: http://seeingredrecords.com/

17. AILS, self-titled (The Flenser):  I won’t lie: I have badly missed Ludicra’s presence the past several years after the legendary Bay Area black metal band disbanded. Yet four years after Ludicra’s epic final record “The Tenant,” vocalist Laurie Shanaman and former guitarist/vocalist Christy Cather decided they wanted to play music together again, and from that decision, Ails was born. Rounded out by guitarist Sam Abend (Abrupt, Desolation), bassist Jason Miller (Aequorea, 2084, One in the Chamber), and drummer Colby Byrn (Phantom Limbs), the band recorded this magnificent six-track effort that certainly has the Ludicra spirit but definitely stands on its own as something fresh and new. Here we are months later, and the record still delivers in spades.

“The Echoes Waned” is the opener and has guitars firing up right off the bat, with melodic singing leading into the heart of the track. Wrenching cries emerge, paired with fury and melody, though that later gives way to calm and acoustic passages, providing some breeze. “Dead Metaphors” has guitars stretching their reach and clean calls before the riffs begin to twist into a stormfront. The growls scars while the music thrashes away, and that cuts to bone, where the vocals go from clean to pained cries. “Mare Weighs Down” chugs hard, with the leads drizzling and harsh growls exploding out of that. Then, the band finds another level of devastation, as the shrieks get even harsher, the riffs swelter and burst, and the whole pace is an eruption. Then there’s the 9:36-long closer “Bitter Past.” Wouldn’t you know it, they saved their best riffs for last as this thing rips from its stance and seeks to maim everything in its path. The vocals are even more intimidating and punishing here, with the ambiance of the song getting uglier and your senses completely dominated. The pattern changes a bit, as singing and growling stampede together, and the final moments give the band a last chance to blow off all their fiery emotion. All hail Ails. May they crush for a long time to come. (April 20)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Ails-1480944935537950/

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

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

16. TO END IT ALL, “Scourge of Woman” (Scry Recordings): As a white dude, I’m often kind of embarrassed as the outright lack of struggle I’ve encountered in my life. Compare that to what women face to this day—STILL!—in the form of harassment, violence, ridicule, inequality, and it’s enough to make my own head explode. To End It All is the union of Joy Von Spain and Maasaki Masao, who also work together in the band Eye of Nix, and on their debut “Scourge of Woman,” they put together nine terrifying tracks that sound like Von Spain’s spiritual bloodletting, as her words are delivered with a ferocity and power that’s impossible to avoid. This music is the voice of women abandoned, and she and Masao aren’t going to sit idly by and watch it happen. The intensity and anger that pours from this record is so forceful, you practically can feel it crack through your chest cavity, damaging your heart.

“Lure” opens the record, and it’s immediately a call to action, as Von Spin speaks over the din to “be ablaze, conflagrate, cauterize,” as she coldly calls out these words before riffs strike, and her voice turns to savage growls. “Beast Filth” has sounds buried in war, while death and destruction lurk, noises zap as if from another dimension, and the track takes on the tone of metallic machines at battle for survival, voiced through death growls, rhythmic screams, and absolute horror. “Instinctual Force” is a quicker track with sounds eroding and ringing out, stinging the flesh and leaving bruising. “Cages Bleed Shiver and Shake” is a vinyl-only track that unloads industrial heat, with inhuman machinations, and Von Spain screaming, “You’re just a waste of time!” “In Cases of Rape and Incest” cuts right to the heart, as noise quivers, and Von Spain’s deep singing goes right for the guts. “I sinned, I violated my own mother,” she calls, and she changes out mother for sister and daughter as she repeats the line, each time digging even deeper. Closer “Burning Rapists” literally sounds like a furnace devouring the vilest of humans among them. This band is not fucking around, and anyone who tries to cross them is going to be scorched to a crisp, just like they deserve. (Sept. 28)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.scryrecordings.com/posts/discography/scourge-of-woman/

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

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