2018 Review: Releases That We Loved This Year

This year saw some mediocre & terrible records released – this one ain’t for them. Expanding on our previous end-of -year-list piece, here’s the ‘why’ behind our love for the releases that we all enjoyed in 2018. 

Candy – ‘Good To Feel’ (Triple B Records)

Simply put, ‘Good To Feel‘ fuckin’ rules! Candy, hailing from Richmond, Virginia, only released their demo in early 2017, which was followed up by the very good ‘Candy Says‘ EP of that same year. While members come from other known bands, their music fully stands out on its own. And it is some of, if not the best hardcore to come out in 2018. ‘Good To Feel‘ is what every hardcore album should be; energetic, concise, dense and downright fucking vicious. And when I say “concise”, I mean nine tracks spanning a whopping 17 or so minutes. This album has zero fat, basically. Candy’s debut is not unlike being attacked by a wild dog, in that it wants to tear your entire head apart, all before licking the wound as you come to make peace with it – closer ‘Bigger Than Yours‘ is that parting kiss. 17 minutes may not seem like a long time – and truly, it isn’t – but 17 minutes of boring hardcore feels like a fucking eternity. Thankfully, this is not that. Where this album really shines is that there is NEVER a dull moment. The sonic twists and turns are never out of place and never give you time to even consider boredom as an option. Even ‘Distorted Dreams‘ taking up three of that precious 17-minute runtime sounds like it could’ve been lifted off any golden era Integrity record. The energy and the surprises just do not let up here. Well, until they do when the album ends and you take another swig at it. ‘Good To Feel‘, an absolute ass beater.
-Christoper Wallace. 

Harm’s Way – ‘Posthuman’ (Metal Blade Records) 

On ‘Last Man,’ Harm’s Way include a vocal sample towards the track’s end that paints a vivid picture of the entire ‘Posthuman’ narrative. Featuring narration from The Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last” (1959), the following sample provides the core misanthropic thesis of this massive record:

The best-laid plans of mice and men … now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself…”.

In essence, that’s what ‘Posthuman’ is all about: human desire as digital rubble; a sonic requiem for the human species, delivered with hate, pure anger, raging vitriol and surgically-precise grooves. A grim yet incredible experience for the Anthropocene, in short. For their fans, both old and new, the hulking metallic hardcore sounds of ‘Posthuman’ will represent Harm’s Way at their destructive best; an easy contender for one of the best heavy music releases of 2018 too. Only cowards will say no.
-Owen Morawitz. 

Thornhill – ‘Butterfly’ EP (UNFD)

Armed with Northlane-esque riffs and Architects‘ ambience, along with some Karnivool and Polaris vibes, Melbourne’s Thornhill pulled out plenty of stops for their second EP. With ‘Butterfly‘, Thornhill nailed it. While this wasn’t their debut release as a band, ‘Butterfly’ felt like a monumental moment for the ever-growing Aussie act. There’s enough dynamic and passionate drive present to break up this EP’s slight sameness up and not render it an issue. It’s the start of an epoch for these five friends that’ll more than likely them rise through the ranks of Australian heavy music and find themselves on bigger and better tours, performing alongside bigger and better contemporaries too. Watch these guys spread their wings even wider from here onwards.
-Matty Sievers.

Underoath – ‘Erase Me’ (Fearless Records)

Is ‘Erase Me’ the best Underoath album? No, but ‘Erase Me‘ was a great comeback record that lays claim to their legacy; re-positioning the Florida group in an authentic and honest way. This isn’t the Underoath that many of us knew as teenagers, but you know what? That’s a good thing! For ‘Erase Me‘ was Underoath reinventing their entry. The riffs, hooks, dynamics and heaviness of past Underoath records do exist here; they just aren’t represented as the shallow throwbacks that close-minded fans wanted.

This wasn’t the sextet “selling out”, as it was clearly made for them more than anyone else – we were all just along for the ride. (Besides, if a band isn’t writing for themselves, what’s the fucking point?) This also wasn’t the group wallowing in their accomplished past either. Instead, ‘Erase Me’ was a genuine step forward for Underoath, both musically and personally; going beyond mere metalcore and post-hardcore. Since release, ‘Erase Me’ has divided their fanbase and sadly, it will become forgotten by many moving forward. Namely because of it’s change in sound, the mixed responses, and it being a “comeback”, transitional effort. Well, not if I can bloody help it! Look beyond the nostalgic reverie of Underoath, follow their lyrics and sonic trajectory from the previous two albums to here, and you’ll (hopefully) understand why these six men changed in the way that they did. For therein resides the power and intent of ‘Erase Me’, hence why it’s so striking. Also, if you felt weird about some of the swearing in these lyrics, you are the weakest link.
-Alex Sievers.

Greyhaven – ‘Empty Black’ (Equal Vision)

Produced and engineered by Will Putney, ‘Empty Black’ was a HUGE statement for Greyhaven. These ten powerful songs make for one of the most attention-grabbing heavy releases I’ve heard from a newcomer act in 2018. With dire themes ranging from Western imperialism, foriegn policy, gun violence, looming apocalypses, to real loss and trying to communicate with our passed-on loved ones, ‘Empty Black‘ is so much more than just the sum of its parts. Sonic influences and musical inspirations range from Deftones, Thrice, He Is Legend and Letlive., right over to bands like Stray From The Path, Every Time I DieNorma Jean, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Yet at any given point, Greyhaven truly provide their own spin on these matters, adding their own ornamentations and personal experiences to make it sound like them as opposed to a mere rip-off. So many more artists – both young and old – could learn how to achieve this by spending some quality time with ‘Empty Black‘. Greyhaven, your new favourite band. DO NOT sleep on this.

Silent Planet – ‘When The End Began’ (UNFD)

When The End Began’ might not quite top 2016’s incredible ‘Everything Was Sound‘, but that’s not what ‘When The End Began’ ever needed to do. It exists here in 2018 with some honest-to-god real shit to share with you all. And you’d be doing yourself a massive favour by giving your emotional and cognitive time to the deep music that the four men behind Silent Planet have excellently crafted here. Lyrically and musically, this LP is so goddamn profound and nuanced, heavy yet beautiful, whilst also being layered in meaning and also being quite confronting too. ‘When The End Began’ is not just one of the most important metalcore albums of the year; it’s by far one of the most important albums of 2018 in general! Once more, another musical & lyrical gem from one of the greatest metalcore bands currently going. In some ways, Silent Planet are almost too good for the genre. But please take their word for it, not just mine; “trade your certainty for awe”.
-Jonty Cornford. 

Can’t Swim – ‘This Too Won’t Pass’ (Pure Noise Records)

Lyrically and musically, the latest Can’t Swim album excels and shines above their past works by quite some degree. With ‘This Too Won’t Pass’, the band truly dipped their toes into new waters, striking firm and solid gold in the process. It’s rare that I come across an album that accomplishes everything that it set out to be, yet ‘This Too Won’t Pass’ did exactly that. They’ve mastered their style of emo/pop-punk songwriting and even created a little niche for themselves separate from the rest of the alternative scene right now. A well-crafted, rather honest, and special record like ‘This Too Won’t Pass’ should remind us all why we loved this kind of music in the first place.
-Hunter Hewgley.

Deafheaven – ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ (ANTI-)

Deafheaven are a band that don’t often receive harsh critiques – from writers or fans – and there’s a very good reason for that. Because they’re fucking great at what they do! The best thing about Deafheaven’s latest work, ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love‘, is that it pushes past the black-gaze realms of their last two records, and makes for the most interesting and varied Deafheaven release yet. From slide guitars and major key pianos, classic rock riffs and 70’s/80’s psychedelic textures, swelling solos and stripped-back production, choral sections and even a killer Chelsea Wolfe feature, ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ skirts classic rock, black metal, shoegaze, post-rock and darkened orchestral moments that bleed over into strange Americana. It’s a love-heavy, literary-influenced record that’s proof of Deafheaven’s stance as one of the most important bands in black metal today. Even when they forgo parts of the black metal genre.

High Tension – ‘Purge’ (Cooking Vinyl)

Purge‘ is just that: a brutal & emotional musical exorcism. Here, High Tension offered up a confronting listen, one that captures the authentic anger, deep shame and very real confusion of an individual grappling with their own national identity (in this case, Indonesian heritage) and the violent demons of their past and that of their native country. Yet it also hints that real hope and actual justice can rise from such awful ashes, as mammoth closer ‘Rise’ tells us. Musically, this is a heavier, more blackened change-up for the Melbourne outfit, placing High Tension at their most ferocious yet in terms of songwriting, instrumentation, and in Karina Utomo’s vocal performances too. Thematically, the record translates as a exploration of rage and rebirth, a brutal purging of demons that’s resulted in not just High Tension’s strongest effort, but one of the year’s standout records for Australian heavy music. This is extreme music with an education and a real message, so go learn and headbang.
-Alasdair Belling. 

Taken – ‘With Regard To’ EP (Other People Records)

Simultaneously sounding like their old-selves and every melodic hardcore group they inspired before their demise, ‘With Regard To‘ is like Taken never left. Written about frontman Ray Harkins‘ wife’s battle with cancer, this is an EP steeped in the threat of death, the horror of change, and uncertainty about personal loss. In doing so, the five wondrous melodic hardcore pieces housed here loosely mirror the five stages of grief. From the pain and defeat in opener ‘Regret‘; the inner reflection  and realisation that you’re not in control during ‘Reflect‘; fearing loneliness and forward-planning within ‘Realign‘; the hope yet lifestyle readjustments detailed in ‘Repose‘; to the equally melancholic yet uplifting sentiments shared on ‘Rejoice‘ where peace is made with the present. Working in it’s favour, ‘With Regard To’ isn’t some overblown full-length – it’s short, concise and direct. It’s left unaffected by overwhelming hype and it’s not a once-loved melodic hardcore band chasing new trends in a shallow manner. No, this great EP comes from a genuine place; a beautiful release freshly delivering compelling emotion, solid production, great instrumentals, touchingly personal sentiments and deeper heartfelt lyricism than ever before. ‘With Regard To’ is raw, it’s painful, it’s weighty, and most importantly, it’s Taken. It’s great to have these guys back, if only for a little while.

Joyce Manor – ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ (Epitaph/Cooking Vinyl) 

No matter who you are – whether you just want catchy alternative-emo songs to shout along to or if you’re someone who loves to be hurt – Joyce Manor will make you feel something with ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’. The fact they’re able to pack so much punch into these songs that clock in at almost no time is a feat in and of itself. Deep diving or just hard-pressed for time, this LP is worth every damn second you spend with it. I don’t know if the world is going to end tomorrow, if I’m going to get hit by a bus, or if Jesus himself will pop down for that supposed Second Coming. However, with certainty, I know that a new Joyce Manor album is always going to be at least as good, if not better than their last one. Which is the case here with ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ – a record I cannot fault. I think I’m still in love with you, Joyce Manor.
-Peyton Bernhardt. 

Homesick – ‘Terra Nullius’ (Resist Records)

Suicide and depression, abusive households, racism and white-washed history, crooked politicians and uncaring rich upper classes; these the people and topics that Homesick’s biting new LP happily took on in 2018. ‘Terra Nullius‘ is a melodic yet furious and pissed-off hardcore record, one in which the NSW act went out for blood regarding all things that disgust them about the modern world. And in doing so, they stood up for everything they believed in wth these 11 new songs. ‘Burning conviction’ and ‘confronting honesty’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, my friends. The future of Australian hardcore is bright indeed!

Twenty One Pilots – ‘Trench’ (Fueled By Ramen)

Trench‘ is a rejection of 2015’s ‘Blurryface‘. Created during their one-year off, these songs feel like a counteract to the vast radio play and commercial success of Twenty One Pilots‘ sophomore. Ergo, that’s actually created their most thrilling work yet! ‘Trench‘ is even more eclectic in musical direction, yet feels and sounds natural and cohesive; vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn sound freer, happily expressing new ideas. With reggae, 90’s hip-hop, emo-rap, alternative-rock moments, to even some Brit-pop and techno, Twenty One Pilots keep you right on your toes.

The album’s conceptual narrative follows protagonist ‘Clay’, his joining of a resistance group of Banditos from a valley called the “Trench”, as they rebel against the shady city DEMA and it’s ruling evil class. Which is fine, but what’s more interesting is how this narrative is used as a vehicle to tackle other topics. In that regard, there’s just so much to unpack! Weary mental health (‘Cut My Lip‘); battling writer’s block (‘Pet Cheetah‘); dealing with internal and external pressures (‘The Hype;); doubt in larger societal institutions (‘Leave The City‘); Tyler’s love for his wife (‘Smithereens‘); how death is portrayed as a stamp of excellence upon one’s art once they’re gone (‘Neon Gravestones‘); to honouring Tyler’s grandfather, Robert, who donned one-half of the cover of 2013’s ‘Vessel‘ and who sadly passed away prior to ‘Trench‘ releasing (‘Legend‘).

If all you know of Twenty One Pilots starts and ends with ‘Stressed Out‘ and ‘Heathens‘, then this record is for you. This is the duo turning over a new leaf in many respects, with ‘Trench‘ featuring some of their best songs. ‘Jumpsuit‘, with it’s thickened grunge-rock riffs, is an incredible opening piece about insecurities set over distorted chords and lurching beats. The minimalist ‘Levitate‘ has one of the tightest, springing drum grooves of their career and shows-off Tyler’s best rap flow to date. The 6/8, slow-burning ‘Neon Gravestones‘ is a haunting track musically with its light electro-percussion and one of the heaviest pieces emotionally speaking. Then there’s the 90’s boom-bap sounds and falsetto vocals of ‘Morph‘, which has some solid DJ Shadow inspirations, is classic tøp songwriting with some awesome bells and whistles. Whereas ‘The Hype‘ is a resounding alt-rock tune driven by some catchy ukulele and gang-vocals. And that’s just five killer tracks. Die-hard fan or avid hater, this album will captivate you. Welcome to the trench.

The Black Queen – ‘Infinite Games’ (Federal Prisoner)

Perhaps a more jarring record for many who were enamoured with 2016’s ‘Fever Daydream’, ‘Infinite Games’ – while still sublime – isn’t really an “album”. The dark-wave, ambient and elctronica of The Black Queen’s new LP instead makes a “soundtrack”. Akin to a score written for an unknown source material, some obscure inspiration or life experience that listeners won’t be savvy too. However, this deeper quality of mysticism surrounding ‘Infinite Games’ and Greg Puciato’s scarily personal yet cryptic lyricism means that much may never be understood. As the real intent of The Black Queen’s latest is to morph into the listeners own life, for them to impart their own meaning. While that will vary between people, the engrossing sounds of ‘Infinite Games’ are well-polished, well-written, dark, dynamic, and beautifully off-putting. Dive into a new kind of fever daydream.

Endless Heights – ‘Vicious Pleasure’ (Cooking Vinyl)

In our first Aussie Feature piece of 2018, vocalist Joel Martorana said that at one point in time, Endless Heights almost reached the end of their tether but that he’d feel cheated if at least one more record wasn’t created. That album would become this year’s most excellent second LP, ‘Vicious Pleasure‘. Through the Sydney outfit’s own sense of finality has bred their most defining release; one that’s since seen their largest and most positive reception, as well as taking them far overseas too. With ‘Vicious Pleasure’, they shed off youthful melodic hardcore, as comparisons were now drawn to Basement, Turnover, Title Fight, Citizen, Brand New and so forth. Yet the key difference is that Endless Heights don’t sound like some copy-cat alternative/emo act or a cheap shoegaze/post-hardcore band. No, here they sound energised, thoughtful, alive and decidedly like themselves. This is by far their darkest, deepest and densest release yet. And if this does become their last record, what an amazing end it would be! For this was Endless Heights at their best.

Svalbard – ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’ (Holy Roar)

Svalbard’s newest record is a proper diamond in the rough amongst shitty hardcore releases. More importantly, it feels overwhelmingly essential in the long run about how heavy music circles discuss difficult topics such as gender equality, sexual assault, rape, and the rights of women, among other serious matters. To have bands like War On Women and Svalbard as well as frontwomen like Serena Cherry being such fearless voices in standing up for females in an inarguably male-dominated heavy music world means the fucking world to me. I sincerely hope that this record reaches the people that it needs to – both those who agree with this U.K. band’s politics and those who do not. For the latter are the ones who need to hear this album the most. It is indeed hard to have hope sometimes, but records like this make that hope far less fleeting.

Cult Leader – ‘A Patient Man’ (Deathwish) 

With ‘A Patient Man’, Cult Leader are clearly experts at their craft; as comfortable whipping out short, chaotic bursts of visceral metallic hardcore as they are ruminating on emotional frailty through folk, post-rock and dark Americana. As a collective work, ‘A Patient Man‘, individual song execution holds up, but holistically speaking, some of these mood swings can be a tad abrupt. These very small issues aside, this savage LP is an extremely competent slice of dark, heavy music, in terms of both thematic resonance and raw, sonic power. As the old saying goes, ‘patience is a virtue’. In that respect, Cult Leader masterfully uses self-restraint to overcome the profound depths of suffering and desolation.

Night Verses – ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep’ (Equal Vision Records)

From The Gallery Of Sleep’ strikes a fantastic happy-medium. Sitting between the experimental moments of Lost In Kiev, the prog of Intervals, and the colourful post-rock of Tides Of Man – somewhere between waking consciousness and endless dreamscape – was were this new Night Verses thought experiment stirred. ‘From The Galley Of Sleep‘, the American band’s first release as a trio and as a solely instrumental act, is a technical marvel. It’s an atmospheric, sample-heavy, densely layered, dynamic and impressive musical affair which showcased genuine moments of moving beauty too. ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep‘ is Night Verses – guitarist Nick DePirro, bassist Reilly Herrera, and powerhouse drummer Aric Improta – really working out who they are now. It’s a bold statement of where they were and where they’re now going with their art. While certain parts do feel like reversions to their last two records, where you can pin-point exactly where the vocals would’ve once fitted, that’s a pretty minor criticism in the sheer face of what this monolithic record achieves. Sit back, shut your eyes, and listen closely to the reverberant energies cast out by ‘From The Gallery Of Sleep’.

I, Valiance – ‘I’ & ‘II’ EPs (self-released)

In Australian deathcore, and even that of the genre’s international reaches, I, Valiance stand alone; there’s no other band like them. With their releases, you must expect the unexpected. Tech-metal guitar sweeps, twisted vocal performances,, hectic riffs, huge breakdowns, and punishing deathcore? Sure. But bass-boosted trap parts, rapping, surprising guest features, weird modulated vocal effects, and re-worked sections of a song’s single release that’s different to the on-record version and has a different vocalist? Jesus Christ, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I, Valiance make you work for it; they’re an enigma, but that’s what makes each release from this talented Melbourne group so exciting. All this defines two of their three new EPs for 2018, the heavy yet varied pair of ‘I‘ and ‘II‘, with all three EPs making up their self-titled debut LP. Simply put, both of these EPs cannot be passed up by any deathcore aficionado nor by someone who is outright bored of the genre like myself. At this stage, I think I’ll probably shit my pants when ‘III‘ suddenly drops out of nowhere.

Lume – ‘Wrung Out’ (Equal Vision)

On the dynamic and bleak ‘Wrung Out’, underground Chicago-Detroit outfit Lume became one of the best-kept musical secrets of 2018. The group’s love for later-day Thrice, post-hiatus Quicksand, the grunge of Soundgarden, and the eerie compositional skills and other-worldly timbres of Radiohead are all crystal clear yet super effective. It’s a record full of sluggish funeral rhythms, dirge-like imagery for those now deceased, intimate vocal performances, a borderline stoner-rock approach to riffs, post-rock song-writing, wailing feedback, and sparse sections slow-burning along until they collide with chaotic instrumentals. It’s steady control and harsh chaos wrapped up nicely together. ‘Wrung Out‘ is an earth-shattering and haunting experience – educate yourself ASAP.

Daughters – ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ (Ipecac Records)

You Won’t Get What You Want’ is just fucking terrifying, honestly. It’s a true horror movie score embodied. It’s desperate and pleading atmosphere is damn-near-perfect, with every freaky piece of this record and its ten individual songs coming together in an immaculate way. Everything else Daughters has ever done is now disappointing in the face of this brilliant noise-rock, industrial-scented album. So much so that nothing of theirs after this may ever quite compare to this compelling LP’s brand of experimental eeriness.
-Bill Peel.

Thrice – ‘Palms’ (Epitaph/Cooking Vinyl)

Thrice are a highly important group in the history of alternative music. Fan or not, you’re only doing yourself a giant disservice by giving ‘Palms’ a miss or even a shallow single listen. Fundamentally sounding like the band you know, like the band you grew up with, yet never sounding the least bit interested in re-treading old paths, ‘Palms’ is an exceptional release from a band that’s in full control of their creative craft. It simultaneously sounds like them and also not like the band as well. You just truly do not get artists dropping music like this every day. Thrice truly are one in a million; forever here to stay. The twisting and turning of ‘Palms‘ is full evidence of this. If you think this is a boring release, then that says far more about you than it does the actual album.

Pagan – ‘Black Wash’ (EVP Recordings)

A demonic, harrowing blackened rock’n’roll sermon went into session this year with Pagan’sBlack Wash‘. Driven along by grim, cultish themes and dark, depressive personal anecdotes, Pagan’s first full-length tears you into tiny little pieces. It chews you up with Nikki Brumen’s raw, feral screams and Xavier Santilli’s killer guitar riffs – as well as some surprising melodic hooks – before spitting you out a bloody mess with damn fine songwriting that merges fiery rock, hip-shaking dance punk, and caustic black metal. ‘Black Wash‘ is one of the fiercest debuts from an Australian act in years. No matter where Pagan go from here, it’s bound to be a kickass ride.

Parkway Drive – ‘Reverence’ (Resist Records)

Reverence’ saw Parkway Drive not giving a single fuck what anyone else thought, with the Aussie heavy legends pushing the boat out for themselves instrumentally, vocally, and compositionally. Is the band’s sixth LP the 10/10 release that every publication under the sun labelled it as upon release? Not quite, but it’s a bold, different and exciting body of work from a well-loved band that suffered immense losses prior to its creation; thus pouring their personal tragedies together to create something heartfelt. When we caught the band on their November headline run, they pulled out all the production stops for this new material; bringing it to glorious life to inform everyone that these honest songs were crafted with the grand stage in mind. Because that’s where this album shines. A record like ‘Reverence’ coming out this deep into Parkway’s lifespan is not only commendable but also interesting from a musical and creative perspective. You could never say these guys rest on their laurels or become anything close to resembling complacency. Parkway Drive, still heavy and forever changing things up.

Vein – ‘errorzone’ (Closed Casket)

Vein are THE band right now when it comes to fresh hardcore music, all thanks to the damned impressive ‘errozone‘. Armed with incendiary hardcore/metalcore antics, skin-crawling tones, a growing experimental sound, and an intricate message of personal self-reworking, this wicked LP was inarguably the next big thing for heavy music in 2018. And I feel it will be for quite some time yet. From the obvious influences of Converge, Slipknot, and Deftones, to older and slightly more obscure inspirations like Spineshank and Turmoil, to embracing some of what their peers in Jesus Piece and Code Orange offer, Vein’s first full-length is the heavy music scene completely embodied. It’s a record built from the foundations of hardcore and nu-metal past, yet one that also comes from a brutal, cyber-metal future where hyper-aggression and genre-mixing land all at once. As the record’s grim eye-surgery cover artworks shows, perception can and often needs to be altered. In terms of instrumentals, expectations and musicality, Vein have now re-branded what they can be and how they’re viewed. Vein have the world as their oyster currently. So pay attention, and enter the error zone.

mewithoutYou – ‘[Untitled]’ (Run For Cover) 

[Untitled]’ builds magnificently upon the broader palette of sounds and stirring emotions that mewithoutYou brought together with ‘10 Stories’ and ‘Pale Horses’. Even with an accompanying EP released earlier this year, every song here feels like it holds significant weight to the band’s expansive catalogue, both musically and lyrically speaking. And when it’s all held together, it stands as a mysterious, emotive yet highly intriguing LP. Which is often where mewithoutYou are at their very best, as is the case with this stunning record. Truly, another intricate canvas.

Psycroptic – ‘As The Kingdom Drowns’ (EVP Recordings)

This year, these Tasmanian tech-shredders proved once again that Australian metal is distinct, genre-defying and world-class. ‘As The Kingdom Drowns’ is about as definitive as a Psycroptic album can possibly get: succinct, frantic, crushing and technically dazzling. The quartet sound content here, but in no way complacent; refined yet simultaneously ravenous. Those looking for a return to form that holds up against fan favourites like 2003’s ‘The Scepter of the Ancients’ and 2008’s ‘(Ob)Servant’, will most certainly be pleased, while the inclusion of tasty grooves and symphonic/choral sections translates to an overall epic, heavy-hitting aural experience. In short, it’s sick.

Aburden – ‘The Last Goodbye’ EP (Greyscale Records)

Aburden’s terrific second EP,’ The Last Goodbye‘, was an emotional and honest look at loss and the human psyche. ‘The Last Goodbye’ really is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster; it will leave some sort of mark upon most listeners. It’ll take you up to great euphoric heights and pull you right back down into some dire emotional lows, sometimes making you want to crawl into a corner and just sleep away the pain as best as you can. This was also Aburden growing up as musicians and as people but also facing some heavy personal demons and traumas in the process. Yet in doing so, setting the Melbourne quintet down a great road of further discovering their own sound and realising their larger ambitions. Onwards and upwards!

Foxing – ‘Nearer My God’ (Cooking Vinyl)

Foxing’s most experimental and ambitious work, ‘Nearer My God’ is a wondrous, eclectic, and strange record. Written about “the end” – it’s name derived from the piece that played while the Titanic sank and the tape Ted Turner wished CNN to air during the apocalypse – Foxing ironically found a new lease on life while at their darkest. New and existing fans will adore it with open-minds, yet the scope and variance may leave many confused. As it’s a challenging change from the band’s underground post-rock norm, but one that’s well-worth the time and investment. ‘Nearer My God‘ sounds like 12 different artists put forward 12 different pieces to make the LP – from indie and alt/emo, to atmospheric, ambient and some classical music samples, to IDM and electronica. Truly, the band threw everything at the wall here, and thankfully, so much of it sticks. While it doesn’t have the mass-market appeal that Foxing were perhaps aiming for, many of these tracks are pure gems in their own right. Dynamic and well-crafted, ‘Nearer My God‘ works because it comes from a talented band who is capable of so much; a band who is more than happy to adapt and grow.

Ice Nine Kills – ‘The Silver Scream’ (Fearless Records)

If your band is going to imbue your next release with a gimmick, then please use Ice Nine Kills‘ latest as the perfect example of how to lean all the way into that theme. With 13 songs inspired by 13 different cult and classic horror/slasher flicks, Spencer Charnas and co. provide countless lyrical references to their favourite movie-villains, as well as plenty of musical homages to the scores that soundtracked countless cinematic bloodshed. (As well as some killer fan easter eggs in ‘Rocking The Boat‘ by referencing their past albums with the help of an old member). The ShiningA Nightmare On Elm StreetJawsHalloweenIT, Saw – the list of films mentioned goes on! Not only that, but this record showed an openness to new vocals styles, a greater number of guest collaborations, and different instrumentation too. For instance, closer ‘IT Is The End‘ is a savage, blood-thirsty metalcore track laced with bright ska horns and a Pennywise impersonation for it’s intro. No, for real. You can’t make that shit up! ‘The Silver Scream‘ was the metalcore movie event of 2018, and a wickedly good album.

Unearth – ‘Extinction(s)’ (Metal Blade Records)

With ‘Extinction(s)’, Unearth created something that shines bright amongst their already solid and fabled discography. It’s riffy, it’s crushing, it’s heavy, it’s melodic, and it sets a near-perfect benchmark for what younger (and even older) metalcore bands should aspire to. This is a wicked journey of powerful grooves and earth-shattering breakdowns that moves at a breakneck pace towards a cello-driven ending that leaves you reflecting on the sheer power you’ve just witnessed. ‘Extinction(s)’ is one of the best versions of Unearth yet, hopefully one that the metalcore scene will treasure. So many bands owe much to what Unearth did back in the day, (Parkway Drive, anyone?) and blimey, these guys have still got it! This record is a hell of a listen; this is seriously how it’s done.

Slowly Slowly – ‘St Leonards’ (UNFD)

The true beauty of ‘St Leonards‘ is that it feels like your best friend, sounding like it was a house that was properly lived. This was where Slowly Slowly came into their own, as musicians with improved songwriting and production, and as people too – especially frontman Ben Stewart. Not just as a band leader, but as a lyricist and singer. This namely comes down to the staggering way in which Ben moulds the metaphorical to better frame the literal, as his emotional story-telling never pulls punches. When discussing himself (‘Smile Lines‘) or the people closest in his life – whether its his father’s childhood (‘The Butcher’s Window‘), his grandfather’s impact on their family (the acoustic title track), or his partner’s deceased little sister on the heart-breaking ‘Song For Shae‘, he gives you everything. Quite simply, there’s a great reason why this band has exploded lately and is selling out rooms all over Australia. 2018 was their year in so many ways, and 2019 is most likely going to be even bigger.

Hail The Sun – ‘Mental Knife’ (Equal Vision)

Mental Knife’ immediately feels the next logical step for Hail The Sun. The same frenetic energy and experimentation is there, but now the band has really refined their sound here. Rather than being spasmodic and technical simply for the sheer sake of it, every part has a specific purpose and it all flows together perfectly so. If you’ve listened to previous Hail The Sun records, then you’re in for much of the same with this LP. However, the real benefit being that the band has such a unique and exciting sound, that it still sounds fresh; it’s still engaging, it’s still fun. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
-Nicholas Simonsen. 

Limbs – ‘Father’s Son’ (UNFD)

Limbs dropped a blisteringly good debut LP in the shape of ‘Father’s Son‘ early on in 2018. This debut full-length, where the band actually pull in Underoath and Norma Jean sounds with proper Radiohead influences (no, seriously), is like a full-blown revelation. ‘Father’s Son’ is heavy, noisy, beautiful, eerie, cinematic and dense – no doubt a solid debut! Having to constantly remind oneself that this is also only the band’s debut can only be a good thing, as it’s only onwards and upwards from here for Limbs. Get on-board!

Lower Automation – ‘Shoebox Companion’ EP 

The prog-punk and post-hardcore noises of Lower Automation’s new EP took the best of Fall Of Troy, Dillinger Escape Plan, At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta to make for pure mathy and chaotic goodness! Lower Automation are underground prog-math stalwarts thanks to this EP. As it’s a gloriously disorientating listen that makes a tornado of chorus-pedals, odd-time signatures, and crazed structures feel so seamless. ‘Shoebox Companion’ was both the Chicago trio’s sonic dreams and nightmares brilliantly colliding, and I never wanted to look away from the spectacle. Here’s hoping that more people take notice of Lower Automation moving forward because god knows they deserve better attention.

 Keen eyes will notice the absence of certain releases here that we ranked very highly in 2018. They’ll very soon be given the full limelight in a personal shortlist piece from Alex himself. 

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