Genocide Pact – ‘Order of Torment’
Released: February 2nd, 2018
Label: Relapse Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
On their second full-length album, ‘Order of Torment,’ Washington D.C. death metal trio Genocide Pact have served up one hell of a treat. It’s essentially a straight-forward, meat and potatoes affair: no entrée bullshit, all musical-fat trimmed away, leaving only a main course of heavy, grimy and thoroughly headbang-worthy death metal. It’s dense, delicious, carnivorous carbs for our collective earholes, pretty much. Everything about this record is murky, lumbering and truly ugly in the best possible way. If contemporaries like Power Trip worship at the altar of 80s heyday thrash, then Genocide Pact are making a blood sacrifice to the gods of 90s death metal – think Bolt Thrower, Incantation, Obituary, and so forth.
On tracks like ‘Decimation Grid,’ Connor Donegan’s drumming sounds like a barrage of mortar fire, with absolutely pummelling double-kick attacks. ‘Ascendancy Absolved’ has these impeccable grooves from guitarist/vocalist Tim Mullaney that dive, wind and explode like a surgical missile strike, and vocally, this record also features some of his most truly bowel-shaking guttural moments. While not at all for the faint of heart, those who love to riff should seek out this record ASAP. Here, let me help you:
Harakiri For The Sky – ‘Arson’
Released: February 16th, 2018
Label: AOP Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Yes, I know Deafheaven put out a new record this year. Yes, I know that people on the Internet like to talk about that band as much as humanly possible. So, in the interest of being brief, I’ll just leave the link to our illustrious editor’s album review of ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love‘ here, and a link to the Atmospheric Black Metal Albums YouTube channel over here. Oh, you’re back? Great! Let’s continue.
‘Arson’ is the fourth album from the studio-project duo of instrumentalist M.S. and vocalist/lyricist J.J. At over an hour in length, it does have the misfortune of suffering from a one-note dimensionality and being a little bloated in places. However, it also has some truly barn-burning tracks, and for this reason alone, it is absolutely worth your time. Opener ‘Fire, Walk With Me’ is more than just a casual Twin Peaks reference. Sure, it has the bright, warm guitars and sorrowful melodies you might expect from such blackened bands, but the closing section also sports this triumphant rhythmic crescendo that makes you want to cheer out loud and pump your damn fist in the air. ‘Heroin Waltz’ is all blast-beats and fury with a melancholic twist, while standout ‘Tomb Omnia’ is a raging existentialist battle-cry. If you like your atmo-BM moody and dark with hints of the wistful, then this new Harakiri For The Sky album is absolutely for you.
Now, Now – ‘Saved’
Released: May 5th, 2018
Words: Owen Morawitz
While their previous record ‘Threads’ was a textbook exercise in catchy, guitar-driven indie pop, Now, Now’s third album finds the Minnesotan duo exploring a wider selection of lush and trippy soundscapes. With the departure of Jess Abbott (guitar/vocals), who left the group to focus on her solo material in Tancred (which is also sick; suss that out here), Cacie Dalager (vocals/guitar/keys) and Bradley Hale (drums/backing vocals) focus on raw, emotional beats and fully embrace a wider selection of dance, synth and electronic elements.
The acoustic plucking in ‘SGL’ is about as close to the familiar Now, Now sound as the record gets, while glorious tracks like ‘Can’t Help Myself,’ ‘Holy Water’ and the triumphant stalker-anthem ‘Window’ find the duo in control of immensely rich instrumental backdrops. Dalager’s vocals are particularly central to the pervasive mood of lust, devotion and religious iconography that soaks through this album, thoroughly captivating for saints and sinners alike. Six years coming and well-worth the wait, ‘Saved’ is a hot contender for the make-out record of 2018.
Shame – ‘Songs of Praise’
Released: January 12th, 2018
Label: Dead Oceans
Words: Owen Morawitz
Sometimes, it’s ok to feel like shit. And when that particular mood strikes, the debut album from UK post-punk outfit Shame might be just what you need. It may be titled ‘Songs of Praise,’ but after your first cursory listen, you’ll quickly realise that the title is firmly tongue in (arse)cheek. Instead, this record is chock-full of every other emotion diametrically opposed to praise: disgust, rage, anger, hopelessness, apathy, fear and loss. And it’s all wrapped up in a package that’s so overly smart, snarling, self-assured and infectious, that you won’t be able to put it down.
Frontman Charlie Steen is cool, mildly calm and in complete control on this record, as he leads the quintet through a selection of dark, morose yet strangely upbeat cuts; that ooze with wit and charm and a healthy dose of indignant “Get fucked, ya geezer” attitude. Whether it be a danceable lesson in neuroses (‘Concrete’), or the stream-of-consciousness tale of drug-induced psychosis (‘The Lick’), or a retort of the aesthetic pressures of modern society (‘Tasteless’), or the power dynamics of sexual depravity (‘Gold Hole’). While the whole album itself is full of catchy licks and quotable ear-worms, the positively anthemic chorus on ‘One Rizla’ takes withering self-deprecation to triumphant new heights: “Well I’m not much to look at/And I ain’t much to hear/But if you think I love you/You’ve got the wrong idea.” On ya lads!
VEXES – ‘Ancient Geometry’
Released: February 23rd, 2018
Words: Owen Morawitz
This album was a total no-brainer for me personally, considering the band features members from the criminally under-rated A Life Once Lost. (If this is your first time reading that combination of words, I pity you; but also, go here immediately). VEXES strike that fine line between ambiance and aggression, emotion and energy; or, for that catch-all journey comparison: add two parts ‘White Pony’-era Deftones, to one part latter Northlane, and you’ll find yourself holding a shiny new copy of ‘Ancient Geometry’.
As the band themselves admit: “VEXES love music too much to resort to wholesale theft.” And, for the most part, is an accurate assessment. Some tracks here do feel a little over-done, or easy to pigeonhole, but the standouts are more than worth revisiting. ‘Helion’ works in some great transitions and builds to an epic, heavy crescendo. The drone-ish ‘No Color’ sports a guest feature from Mikey Carvajal (Islander) and manages to make a nu-metal, P.O.D. rap verse seem perfectly natural in 2018. While album highlight ‘Lush’ rocks a stratospheric chorus with a sublime vocal melody that penetrated my brain and refused to leave. Also, the lead/rhythm/double kick pattern in the bridge is totally sick too.
Yeah, look. I know these next few releases aren’t ‘albums’ per se. But if Ye can drop some seven-track, glorified EP bullshit and get away with it, then fuck it, open slather I say. Now if you’ve enjoyed contributions to what I’m calling the Top Gym Albums of 2018, such as the recent Harm’s Way or Vein records, or that even that gnarly Sanction re-issue, then put on your trusty dad hat and get ready to pit to these bad boys.
MouthBreather – ‘Dollmeat’
Released: July 6th, 2018
Well, this might just be the Crowd Kill AOTY. Jesus Christ, this thing is H.E.A.V.Y. Like, seriously-fucking-stupid heavy, and thoroughly pissed-off. It’s like someone saw one of those edgy ‘KILL ALL NORMIES’ memes, thought “Ok, what would that actually sound like though?” and then took that mental project to its logical, murderous conclusion. ‘Dollmeat’ sounds like a John Woo-directed Mexican standoff between chaotic, discordant hardcore, knuckle-dragging ignorant beatdown, and the nihilistic fury of gutter grindcore. Oh, and spoiler: everyone dies in the end like the posers they are. Insane!
A Needle Under The Nail – ‘The Third Impact’
Released: June 13th, 2018
On the upswing of this late 90s/early 00s metalcore resurgence, we have Floridian outfit A Needle Under The Nail emerging from the pack. If you dig what Renounced are currently doing, or if you’ve ever been psyched on old Poison The Well, Martyr A.D. and Turmoil, then you’ll dig the hell out of this. With five tracks that cruise by in well under 20 minutes, ‘The Third Impact’ never wears out its welcome and features some of the best pneumatic breakdowns you’re likely to hear this year. (Maybe save for that new Jesus Piece record, though). Plus, a plethora of freaky panic dischords, bass slides and shrieking, pained vocals all litter this gnarly thing. Also, a special shout-out to the last 30 seconds of ‘Event Horizon’: it’s a total fucking jam and it’s also skinless Sam Neill approved too.
Violent Life Violent Death – ‘Come, Heavy Breath’
Released: June 29th, 2018
Featuring some truly massive drum production and a vocal performance that’s a dead-ringer doppelgänger for an early 2000s Dan Weyandt, ‘Come, Heavy Breath’ is the type of riffy, heavy metalcore you might find on a lost Ferret Records/Solid State sampler from 2006. It’s clear that the dudes in Violent Life Violent Death love a good bit of Zao, but also enjoy a smattering of old He Is Legend, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster as well as *insert some vaguely Chrisso heavy band here*. Also, considering the quintet hails from Charlotte, North Carolina, these connections all make perfect sense. If you’re into gratuitous double-kick bursts, crew vocal sections and tasty, southern rock-inflected guitar licks, then stream this monstrous shit ASAP.