Here at Last Rites, we listen to a metric shit-ton of heavy metal—it’s just what we do. But even then, every year, there’s so much great heavy metal that gets released that we simply don’t have time to cover it all. And then, every year around the halfway point, we’re inevitably looking back on the first six months and knowing that we missed out on a few things, so here’s the first part of our attempt to wrap up the records we left behind for the first half of 2018… Read on, and in the comments, hit us up with some of your favorites of the year so far, so we can see if we missed anything else… If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 here.
SIX BREW BANTHA – BLIGHT
released: Feb 9, 2018; To Live A Lie
Don’t let the silly name fool you: Canadian trio Six Brew Bantha isn’t some drunken party-core outfit singing crossover songs about beer and Star Wars. Now three albums in, SBB has forged a thoroughly destructive, highly adept blend of the technical and the blistering; this is grindcore presented primarily at ferocious speed and yet still filled with swagger, twisting and turning through an ever-changing array of intricate and relentless riffs and rhythms, topped off with heartfelt and interesting prose-like lyrics that quite explicitly detail a good portion of the ills of society. Blight is the third of those albums, the best produced of the three, and the most potent and well-crafted so far.
After a soft intro made up of folksy strummed banjo and anti-government sentiment, the title track proceeds to pummel, establishing the core tenets of Six Brew Bantha’s attack: Riffs, blastbeats, another riff that jumps right out of the previous riff, stop-start tempo changes, more riffs, some throat-punishing screams, a wide-swinging groove, a couple more riffs that twist around each other like copulating reptiles, drum fills that somehow stay in sync with the endless stream of ever-flowing riffs and screams…
Six Brew Bantha has a knack for composition, managing to write hooky riffs that weave together with the shifting rhythms in a way that’s less “riff salad” than “perfectly balanced meal presented in quick, simple bites.” The descending-to-ascending riff in “Wholesale Genocide”… The blistering “False Portrayal”… The almost-rock grooves amidst the discordant chaos of “They Talk, We Die,” and then the drifting, phase-shifted break before the whole thing drops into a thrashy swing. Riffs come; riffs go; ideas are touched upon and then discarded without a second thought, and almost all of them memorable, impressive — there are more strong riffs in one of these songs than on many a grind band’s contribution to some quickly forgotten split 7″.
With no real pauses between songs, Blight is seventeen minutes of tightly wound skin-flailing — one of the strongest batches of grindcore to float up from below this year. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
EAGLE TWIN – THE THUNDERING HEARD (Songs Of Hoof And Horn)
released: March 30, 2018; Southern Lord Recordings
Eagle Twin seems to have a knack for slipping beneath the radar of the average metal fan, yet they consistently release the sort of fun and excruciatingly heavy records that absolutely should appeal to anyone who appreciates the idea of Neurosis colliding with the Melvins colliding with Sonny Sharrock, and then having the entire crash narrated by a Mongolian throat-singer. So yes, lots and lots of weight, plenty of sludge around the corners, and more (strangely melodic) noise than any pair of hoofed beasts should ever be allowed to deliver without some sort of license from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hoofed beasts, you say? Why yes, it just so happens that Salt Lake City, Utah’s Eagle Twin is comprised of two majestic hoofed beasts—drummer Tyler Smith is a Roosevelt Elk weighing in around 1000lb, and guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley rounds things out as a Yukon Moose that tips the scales at a whopping 1800lb. An album like The Thundering Heard sounds like it, too: wild, earthy, HUGE and giving off a potent musk that screams DANGER: HORNED BEASTS RUTTING as the notes clump from the speakers.
Sometimes the landscape here is graceful and beautiful—the bulk of the “Elk Wolfv Hymn,” for example. Other times, it’s perilous and completely savage—essentially the remaining 35-minutes of the record. One thing for sure, the 7:50 mark into the opening “Quanah Un Rama” could very well end up being the heaviest moment of 2018. It probably won’t win the MVP, though, just by virtue of it not being death metal. But if there’s room enough in your life for something a little different that still has the power to crush every ounce of air from your miserable lungs, don’t let The Thundering Heard pass by unnoticed. [CAPTAIN]
MASTERS HAMMER – FASCINATOR
released: February 10, 2018; Jihosound Records
One of the world’s more fascinating bands, Master’s Hammer continue to release experimental black metal albums that boggle the mind and fascinate the brain. Their 2018 album, Fascinator, is yet another in a long line of infectious, riff-heavy, stupid-hat-wearing black metal albums released by these Czechs.
At age 51, Franta shows no signs of slowing down as the frontman of Master’s Hammer. His vocals are harsh, triumphant and energetic. Across the album, choir vocals mix with keyboards to back up the jagged assault of treble-heavy guitars and tightly-tuned drums. Guitar solos range from the ripping, shreddy type to the more ambient, moody, and Gilmour-esque. While Fascinator might not be Master’s Hammer’s best work, it’s better than what you’re going to get from most bands attempting the experimental genre, and it’s a damned shame we missed covering it in its entirety. Listen to this record. Be fascinated. Get weird and get triumphant.
As an addendum, most of the Last Rites crew was fortunate enough to see these guys perform at Maryland Deathfest, and as a crew, we would highly recommend taking the opportunity to see them in person, should it ever present itself. [MANNY-O-WAR]
ANGUISH – MAGNA EST VIS SIUGNAH
released: January 26, 2018; High Roller
This has been an interesting exercise, going back to one of my first botched assignments of the year. The gray skies and winter cold (or what passes for cold out here in California) perfectly complemented Anguish’s brand of doom, the slow melodic trudge creating a soothing wall of sound as I nestled into new employment. It never quite came together, though, and eventually got lost in a flood of new albums and increasing reality.
Despite all that, Magna Est Vis Slugnah never really left my consciousness. There was something about it that made an impression. Perhaps it was the vocals, which owe as much to Candlemass as they do…well pretty much any band of the funeral doom sect. Maybe its the variety added by even the slightest tempo changes from opener “Blessed is the Beast” to “Of the Once Ravenous” to “Elysian Fields of Fire”. Hell, it could just be that I’m looking forward to having the conversation one day where I tell someone that we’re listening to Anguish, and they reply “Yes, I can hear anguish, but what’s the name of the band?” It’ll be a real Abbott and Costello moment of levity that flies directly in the face of everything that the band stands for musically. Then again, if the ultimate goal is to soothe the soul by providing emotional catharsis, then they’re exactly the same.
(In full disclosure, I don’t listen to a ton of doom, so there may be dozens of band doing this same thing and/or better. But I know what I like, and I like this.) [DAVE PIRTLE]
BLACK WIZARD – LIVIN’ OBLIVION
released: February 23, 2018; Listenable Records
If you’re a fan of doom, especially of the stoner variety, you know the pain of sifting through the piles and piles of mediocre bands out there that seem to think heavy fuzzy guitars and echoing toms are all you need to make it doooom. There are plenty of really good doom bands, of course, scattered about the middling mounds and Vancouver BC’s Black Wizard is one example of what makes all that digging worth it.
They’ve been around a while now, releasing four albums between 2010 and this year’s Livin’ Oblivion. The earlier output is good stuff, if it hews a little too close to the standard stoner doom tropes to set itself apart. But that also shows a resoluteness in their allegiance to some of what makes this kind of music so durable: righteous riffs, warm and energetic vocal melodies, and an insatiable appetite for super sweet dual guitar leads and solos. What they add to Livin’ Oblivion is an undergirding of thrash elements that effectively slaps an STP sticker on your forehead, yanks you off the couch, and spins brodies with you in the cul-de-sac. To their credit, Black Wizard didn’t just toss some thrash beats and riffs into the pot so they could say they’re different now; they integrated those elements into a few rippin’ songs and folded those into a collection of tracks that also draw from the roots of doom, slow and hazy at times, dark and dirgey at others.
Terrific energy, tight musicianship, and an eclectic range of strong stoner doom songs make Livin’ Oblivion an unexpected surprise, even if it came a little late to us. [LONE WATIE]
STRIBORG – BLACKWAVE
released: May 21, 2018; self-released
So, friends… Striborg. Although I love Striborg to a nearly unhealthy degree, I have also never particularly tried to convince others to follow the Striborgian path. At the risk of sounding (more) dickish (than usual), the bafflingly hermetic, lo-fi, outsider black metal that Russell Menzies (that’s Sin Nanna, if ya sin-nasty) has been making for the past twenty years or so is simply one of those things that clicks, or it doesn’t. But if Striborg in 4-track black metal blizzard mode is already a tough sell, then how to make sense of last year’s Instrumental Trans-Communication and (particularly) this year’s Blackwave albums, where all vestiges of the typically amateurish black metal have been stripped away in favor of… amateurish mopey music of several different stripes?
Well, here’s the thing: it either clicks, or it doesn’t. Blackwave, in its extremely brief 34 minutes, flirts with ambient, goth, noise, darkwave, post-punk, and other sorts of cobwebby sounds without ever even sneezing towards black metal. It is a ramshackle album of awkward stylistic diversity and frankly cheap-sounding gear, but it is also, against nearly all odds, compellingly dark and sneakily catchy. The gentle but insistent synth melody and tone of “The Overwhelming Presence of Life” (how’s that for an unexpected song title from a supposedly Tasmanian forest-dwelling misanthrope?) is more a little reminiscent of Burzum’s “Tomhet,” while Sin Nann’s wife Phaedra’s vocals on “All Alone in a Room Full of Souls” have a snotty punk sneer that makes the song sound a bit like Bauhaus and Atari Teenage Riot attempting a sort of Chvrches-styled synth pop hit destined for bat-themed nightclubs. About two minutes into “Penance Stare,” we hear some of the spectral keyboard tones that have been a hallmark of the atmospheric pieces that have been such a critical piece of Striborg’s sound from the very beginning.
And that’s the real charm, here: Blackwave isn’t going to win any awards for originality because nearly all of its pieces are familiar from other places, but as with his black metal, Sin Nanna pursues every angle in this overstuffed and charmingly slapdash album with the utter certainty that he’s doing exactly what he wants to do. That kind of commitment is its own kind of magic, and it suffuses an album that, if you let it click, just won’t stop clicking. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
You’ve read Part 1 and Part 2, and still, there’s even more to come—what can we say? We’re givers! So tune in on Thursday to read about more awesome 2018 metal that slipped through the cracks…