2018 Crew Review: John Higham – Writer

Man, oh man, 2018 was another year of fantastic releases, gigs and fun musical times! As ever, choosing ‘the best’ or even a bunch of favourites was not going to be easy, but here goes…

Album of the year:

There were certain weeks in the year that I found it difficult to keep up with all of the albums landing on Bandcamp, Spotify and my doorstep, let alone giving them the time they deserved for me to appreciate fully. Going by my listen numbers on last.fm, unsurprisingly, the albums that I enjoyed the most are those with the highest scrobble figures:

There were many albums that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, every month saw the release of a new favourite, but those four were the standouts for me. Two of these are full-length debuts, but it didn’t occur to me until compiling this that all four are from UK-based bands, evidence of both the wonderful pool of up-and-coming talent and the existing strength of the current scene here.

Mire is an exceptional debut album that has set Conjurer up as one of the most exciting heavy bands around at the moment. Ferocious, catchy yet technical, and packed with big riffs, if you enjoy heavy music, Mire is bound to give you a fuzzy feeling. Hundred Year Old Man’s Breaching is a well-crafted and enthralling piece of post-metal that has me already eager to see what will these guys from Leeds will come up with next.

A garish album, Unloved is astounding and utterly ridiculous: high-tempo programmed drums, harsh vocals, and screeching, intricate guitar-work all make for the most intense and unforgettable listen of 2018. Mostly moving away from the intensity of their early work, Rolo Tomassi really stretched their wings on what is their best album to date, Time WIll Die and Love Will Bury It. Further introducing lush post-rock elements to their hardcore blend, Rolo Tomassi composed a clever, heartfelt and glorious fifth album.

Away from those four, and as far as specific genres go, I’d rank the albums listed below as the ones I relished listening to the most. Of all of the major releases, only Alice In Chains, Judas Priest, At The Gates and Soulfly struck a chord with me. Machine Head’s latest was awful, as was A Perfect Circle’s Eat The Elephant.

  • Punk: The Armed – Only Love
  • Hardcore: SectionedAnnihilated
  • Power-violence: Endless Swarm – Imprisoned In Skin
  • Heavy metal: Judas Priest – Firepower
  • Stoner: Sleep – The Sciences
  • Sludge: Thou – Magus (their fourth of five releases in 2018, all of which are superb)
  • Death metal: Tied between Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Realms / Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
  • Gastropod metal (there were other contenders, honest): Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology
  • Black metal: Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed III
  • Post-metal: Tied between The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic / LLNN – Deads
  • Grunge: Backwoods Payback – Future Slum
  • Prog metal: Boss KeloidMelted on the Inch
  • Jazz metal: Hardcore Anal Hydrogen – Hypercut
  • Post-rock: Pijn – Loss
  • Noise-rock: Wrong – Feel Great
  • Psych: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – King of Cowards

As an aside, it’s definitely worth noting that nearly everything that Holy Roar Records put out in 2018 was of a very high standard. Top albums from OHHMS, Burning Vow, Møl, Svalbard and Secret Cutter contributed, along with those already mentioned above, to a tremendous year for the independent label.

Looking to 2019 I really hope that the big bands due to release albums – Slipknot, Deftones, Rammstein, and Mastodon included – do a better job than those of 2018, and I’ve all but given up hope that the new Tool album will be in any way decent. As with this past year, I’m sure that many of the underground releases will more than make up for any shortfall in quality of the major releases.

Best gigs of 2018:

Ilenkus at ATG – Photo by John Higham

As with albums, this is a difficult one to call – in 2018 I saw a number of excellent live performances in Glasgow, averaging two gigs a month, and witnessed a lot of great shows at both ArcTanGent Festival and Damnation Festival. A real mixture of seeing bands for the umpteenth time or for the first time provided some great experiences and reaffirmed my love of live music.

The year started well with the always entertaining Droves supporting The Unyielding Love and Dawn Ray’d and continued strongly from there. Amenra’s powerful performance at St Luke’s church was breathtaking, Primitive Man were devastatingly heavy during a matinee show in a packed-out Nice n Sleazy, and Hundred Year Old Man blew everyone away in Ivory Blacks. More recently in Sleazys, Vile Creature’s droning sludge was crushing and enjoyable in equal measure, and Pigsx7 played a sweaty set of psychedelic rock with aplomb.

I already have a handful of gigs to look forward to in 2019 with SUMAC, The Armed, Vein, Daughters and Saint Vitus already lined up for the first few months. I’m also hoping to make it down to Leeds in March for this year’s Dreadfest featuring Wormrot, Rotten Sound, Svalbard, Droves and Endless Swarm. It’s bound to be a weekend jam-packed with blast beats and furious riffing.

Best songs not already listed in best albums:

  • Daughters – “Satan In The Wait”
  • OHHMS – “Subjects”
  • Yob – “The Screen”
  • Fucked and Bound – “Get Inside”
  • Pig Destroyer – “Army of Cops”
  • Svalbard – “How Do We Stop It?”
  • Slipknot – “All Out Life”
  • Will Haven – “Hewed With The Brand”
  • Netherlands – “Negative Likes”
  • Møl – “Bruma”

Best videos:

  • Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
  • Pig Destroyer – “Mt. Skull”
  • Aphex Twin – “T69 Collapse”
  • Can I include Bell Witch’s video for the 83-minute long “Mirror Reaper” even though I’ve still never made it all of the way to the end in one sitting?
  • Pretty much all of Max Volume Silence’s live videos and the many Audiotree and KEXP live session videos

Best music-related book:

Beastie Boys Book – an excellent account of their career from the two remaining members; from snotty-nosed NY hardcore kids to sparking moral outrage in the pages of UK tabloids to being one of the biggest rap acts on the planet. Ad-Rock and Mike D pay many a heartfelt tribute to the genius of Adam Yauch, and tell amusing and interesting anecdotes with the same uncurbed enthusiasm of their younger selves.

Worst music based things of 2018:

Losing both Caleb Scofield and Dan Wild-Beesley. By all accounts two of the nicest people in rock passed away in 2018, Caleb Scofield of Cave-In, Zozobra and Old Man Gloom, and Dan Wild-Beesley of Cleft. The way that each of their musical families rallied round, raised funds and generally promoted goodwill around these two tragic occurrences was truly amazing and a great testament to the two of them.

Thanks, etc:

I’ve not written as much I planned this year (life, work, etc) but I’ve really enjoyed contributing, sometimes late (sorry, editors!), to The Moshville Times and have just started venturing out into the big wide world of taking gig photos. Big thanks to all the bands that made this another great year for heavy music and to the rest of the crew at The Moshville Times, here’s to next year being another belter!

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