This edition of short reviews take in some very interesting stuff, including one of my favourite releases of the year (which is it? Read on to find out!). It also features a split that, though I find it flawed musically, I can’t help but want to emphasise how much I love it for what it tries to do, and how important it will be to some people. There’s a real mix of the underground and bigger names, with three of the six releases being put out without label support.
So, this month, we have melodic punk; crusty powerviolence; not-actually-war-metal; noise rock; thrash/heavy metal; goth-laced metal that all-but resurrects the spirit of Sister; and blissful blackgaze. Enjoy!
So, we’re a bit over halfway through 2018, and there’s been some excellent records released. Most notably, 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for death metal – bands such as Tomb Mold, Our Place of Worship is Silence, Memoriam, Slugdge, and practically everyone on the Dark Descent Records roster are killing it with top-tier death metal. Things aren’t quite so grand when it comes to black metal, but the new Immortal is pretty note-worthy, and there’s been a few other strong releases in the underground – including the final release by Cosmic Church.
Here, I’ll pick out ten of my favourite records released so far this year, in alphabetical order. Hopefully you’ll find something new here to enjoy, or be reminded of something you were in to earlier in the year. Enjoy!
Your Fault doesn’t start in the strongest of ways. The opening track to the new album from Gravehuffer contains plenty of powerful riffs, ugly vocals, and furious drumming; but it never quite comes together, with its combination of crust, death metal, and raw punk energy missing the mark. Thankfully, this is an anomaly on an album that is otherwise full of vicious crusty metalpunk, switching between genres at ease, and with songwriting deft that is surprising for music that is so ugly and hard hitting. The first track aside, this is an invigorating listen, and a fine half hour of underground snarl and spit.
That Level Plane Records is no more is nothing short of a tragedy. Between 1997 and 2009, the label released some of the best underground punk, hardcore, screamo, metal, and everything in-between. Originally set up simply so Greg Drudy had an address to put on the back of the first Saetia 7″, the impact and influence the label would go on to have upon the underground scene was huge. Some of these records have been re-issued by other labels – with special praise being given to The Archivist label for getting so many on Bandcamp – but some might require searching on Discogs or eBay.
As such, limiting this list down to only five releases has been rather painful. There’s so many I wanted to include – so many records of superb quality, so many that meant so much to me, and still do – but there’s a reason this series is called Five of the Best, not Twenty of the Best. So, here we go. Feel free to tell me what I missed or what your favourite records from this excellent label are. Enjoy!
Violation Wound are more punk than you. The three-piece, led by Autopsy’s Chris Reifert, were born from a desire to create beer-soaked, utterly unfashionable underground punk rock; and they completely deliver. With Man in Charge sees the band continue their impressive rate of recordings (at least an album or split every year since 2014, thus far), and unleashes 20 songs of take-no-prisoners, crude as fuck punk rock that sounds like it could have been a long-lost 80’s recording (other than the fact that it actually has a decent production, that is). Clocking in at 34 minutes, this is over in a flash, leaving you bruised, bloody, and having had a hell of a time.
Tribute records are often unnecessary at best, and utterly demoralizing at worst. Sure, it can be great to hear bands you love covering a pivotal band; but it can also do little other than act as a reminder of how great the originals were. And whilst Black on Black certainly did that for Black Flag, it’s that rare thing: a tribute album that actually feels vital and relevant, with all the bands involved putting across their personality whilst paying respect to one of the most important punk bands ever. Some of the versions might even – whisper it! – be better than the originals.