Best of 2018: 15-11

15. SLEEP, “The Sciences” (Third Man): It was a surprise and it wasn’t. Legendary weedians Sleep returned with their explosive new record “The Sciences” on, of course, 4/20. It was a nice surprise delivered in a cloud of smoke you always expect from this grisly trio—vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros (also of OM), guitarist Matt Pike (High on Fire), and drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis)—and just a single visit with this destroyer made it clear not only were Sleep back, they were as good as they’ve ever been. That sentiment remains months later, as this record has lost no steam and, if anything, has become more enjoyable with each thunderous listen. It was 2003 the last time we got a new record from this band, but it was like no time has passed at all when “The Sciences” landed.

Following an instrumental open, a big, bubbling bong hit rips you from your dreams and right into “Marijuanat’s Theme.” Burly riffs and Cisneros’ purposely monotone singing drive you into the song, giving you an instant and prolonged intergalactic high. Smoking soloing releases psychedelic fire, while the back end of the track pummels before ending abruptly. “Sonic Titan” is a 12:26 brawler that opens with a killer riff before pulling back the pace and delivering the pounding in a calculated manner. The track continues to build monoliths to the sky before tearing them down again, as the lead guitars scorch, and the beefy basslines buzz in your ears. “Giza Butler” is, obviously, complete homage to Black Sabbath, the original weedians, and is named after their legendary bassist Geezer Butler. The track is packed with Sabbath references, from signaling the Iommic Pentecost to heralding the Sabbath Day. There are goddamn “Dune” references, as well as the greatest lyric of this year: “The pterodactyl flies again.” Drop out of life and take another fucked up trip with Sleep. (April 20)

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

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

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

14. CHAPEL OF DISEASE, “…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye” (Van): German metallic machine Chapel of Disease is the type of thing you can’t tell people about. You have to make them listen. It’s impossible to put a label on the band because they explore all kinds of extreme sounds and blend them all together in their brutal, yet fascinating music. The band has been at it for a decade now, initially arriving with an assault of tried-and-true death metal (their name is a blend of two Morbid Angel songs, after all) on their debut “Summoning Black Gods” before branching out their sound on “The Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art,” as that was a jumping off point to where we are now with the spellbinding “…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye.”

“Void of Words” opens the record with a glorious riff before the band hits a full gallop, and fiery punishment is unleashed. Classic metal guitar licks charge, while the raw growls open wounds, great soloing smothers, and then atmospheric breezes cool off the scene. “Oblivious – Obnoxious – Defiant” has riffs reigning, beastly growls, and a simple chorus where Laurent wails, “We are oblivious! Obnoxious! Defiant!” The guitars keep rolling, showing a rock n roll-style edge, while the music later explores its surroundings, as ferocious growls topple, and the song steamrolls. “Null” runs 9:21, the second-longest song on the record, and it has a riveting start with a storming pace, grinding growls over the rousing verses, and a bloody sense of melody. Some bluesy guitar work swaggers into the picture before the violence rips back into the song. Closer “The Sound of Shallow Grey” is the longest track, running 9:49, and it wastes no time getting going, with vicious growls, a rupturing pace, and great leads, which should come as no surprise. Weird synth blends in and gives the song a cosmic edge, while the guitars keep stretching into new territory. Chapel of Disease truly made an impact, albeit late in the year, as this is one of the most intellectually challenging death metal records of 2018. (Nov. 23)

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

13. YOB, “Our Raw Heart” (Relapse): For all intents and purposes, YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt should be dead. After battling diverticulitis and then an infection, he was on death’s door, in pain so severe he had experiences that felt like he was leaving his body. Never mind if YOB would survive, people were worried that Scheidt wasn’t long for the world. But he made it. He fought and clawed, eventually began to write music, and then he and his YOB mates finally got back together, creating “Our Raw Heart,” one of the most triumphant of the band’s career and in metal as a whole. Like, ever. Anyone could excuse it if Scheidt disappeared into darkness and delivered a hellish new record (their eighth), but we should all know better. YOB is love after all, and this album is a celebration of life.

“Ablaze” is the 10:28 opener, and right away you can feel the emotion that permeates this entire record. Scheidt’s raspy singing comes in pretty shortly, feeling different and evolved, though some growls bleed in. Later, the pace ruptures and sludges, as Scheidt’s growls rumble, and even after a brief period of calm, the music explodes again, ending in a heartfelt pyre. “The Screen” couldn’t be more different, as it’s one of the gnarliest, grimiest songs in their catalog. “Beauty in Falling Leaves” is the longest track, weighing in at 16:49, and it’s the indisputable core of the record. It’s a wrenching doom ballad that ultimately has a positive, life-affirming theme, as the music slowly unfurls but builds into the crescendo of a chorus, where Scheidt belts, “Been this way throughout my life, your heart brings me home.” The entire record is a blazing victory for this band, a unit that now looks like it’ll thrive well into the future. (June 8)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://relapse.com/yob-our-raw-heart/

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

12. BURIAL INVOCATION, “Abiogenesis” (Dark Descent): It’s been 10 long years since Turkish death metal force Burial Invocation first formed, and eight years since their first EP and—trivia time!—first-ever Dark Descent offering “Rituals of the Grotesque” that got so many people excited over the future this band appeared to possess. But shit happens. The band split up for a while. Other projects took precedence. Life happened. But about halfway through 2018, and we finally laid our hands on their first full-length record “Abiogenesis,” a journey that’s absolutely worth the wait. This is a fucking perplexing, punishing, pulverizing trip that makes no bones about messing around with death metal’s DNA. They take you into outer space, through hell, into other dimensions.

“Revival” kicks off with melodic thunder, as the song trudges along, and the vocals unleash guttural toxins. The guitars cut over the top and bring a proggy sense, with the song then turning brutal and scraping while it’s blowing your mind. The title cut is a 12:10 mammoth that lurches and stomps, with techy guitar work bringing heat lightning. The song explores from there, with the vocals arriving in sinister growls, and the song heading toward the mud. Fiery guitars get the pace going again, and then shit goes off. “Vision of the Hereafter” is caked in filth as it starts, with growls accompanying the heavy sludging, and grisly playing creating disorienting disorder. The senses are diced, though we get a brief respite of calm, and then a burst brings a burly, mauling end. “Phantasmagoric Transcendence” is one of the best song titles of the year so far, and it brings slicing guitars and a pace that erupts and threatens to swallow humanity whole. The drums send shrapnel flying, splintering the world into hell, and then things manage to find a new level of craziness, as the band gets utterly savage. It took some time to get this bloody, tornadic record from Burial Invocation, and we’ll be enjoying its madness long into the future. (July 6)

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

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

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

11. TOMB MOLD, “Manor of Infinite Forms” (20 Buck Spin): I always get antsy when I put bands way up high on my list that are high on other lists, because I hate the hive mind and try not to participate. But Toronto death squadron Tomb Mold are on everyone’s radar for a damn good reason: “Manor of Infinite Forms” is a fucking awesome, gruesome display. And if you think this record kills, see them live. I have twice this year, and both performances pounded me into submission. One huge boost in the band’s power is the addition of two members who weren’t around for the “Primordial Malignity” days. Joining the original duo of drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff and guitarist Derrick Vela are guitarist Payson Power and bassist Steve Musgrave. It gives the group a mightier, heftier assault, one that’s dripped all over this record and practically makes it stick to the ground with all the blood and puss that have congealed in the unforgiving sunlight.

The title track starts off the record, with morbidity at every corner, and the growls smearing soot everywhere. The riffs are just killer, as Klebanoff’s drumming decimates the earth, and more cavernous growls and sinister punishment tops us off. “Blood Mirror” has tricky playing to start, leaving you dizzy, while gross growls and an infernal fury combine to make life miserable. “Final Struggle of Selves” trudges and blisters, with the band thrashing away, and the ugliness being served in different forms. The pace changes suddenly, with the death spell boiling and brewing toxins, while the engorged growls bludgeon and send shit toward the void. “Chamber of Sacred Ootheca” is disgusting from its title, and it doesn’t get any more appetizing from there, as the band lets filth well up and the guitars splatter plasma. Closer “Two Worlds Become One” starts acoustically, which isn’t expected, but then the scab is ripped away, and the growls start to chew muscle. The drums send chaos, and the band finds a slow-driving pace to spread their misery. Yeah, the hype is real, as Tomb Mold are one of the deadliest, goriest death metal bands going right now. Be warned. (June 8)

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

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

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

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