I don’t want to get into a whole thing on year-end list culture. About how it’s either a group-think circle jerk or a navel-gazing troll job. About how it’s become more about personal taste than critical analysis. About how there’s too much to listen to and too many people just looking to validate their own opinion (and/or scream for the fucking sake of it). I don’t want to get into any of that, so this year I didn’t rank shit and it feels great.
It was a steamroller of a year in metal. There were countless albums I genuinely connected with this year; albums I gave fourth and fifth and sixth listens and others I completely wore out. That they’re not jammed into some tired hierarchy isn’t a reflection of a down year. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. So without further ado, I’m pleased (and relieved) to present This One Goes to Eleven’s First (and probably last) Annual Metal Dundies. Needless to say, this Chili’s ain’t ready for what’s about to hit it.
The Kenny G Award For Best Use of Saxophone on a Metal Record: Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Best Worst Guitar Tone: Uniform – The Long Walk
Inadvertently Biographical Song of the Year: Svalbard – “Unpaid Intern” (It’s Hard to Have Hope)
Dude Looks Like a Lady Award For Excellence in Androgyny and/or Drag: Tribulation – Down Below
Best New Nu Metal:
Vein Harms Way Jesus Piece Candy – Good to Feel
Unlikeliest Touchstone: Dire Straits – Chapel of Disease’s “Void of Words” (…And As We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye)
Angriest Sad Boys: Birds in Row – We Already Lost the World
Saddest Angry Boys: Portrayal of Guilt – Let Pain Be You Guide
Best Bait and Switch: Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
The “Is This New Mgła?” Award For Best Conversation Starter: UADA – Cult of a Dying Sun
Most NSFW Album Art: Of Feather and Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion
Barry White For Orcs: Summoning – With Doom We Come
Most Contagious Metal Allergen, Presented by Claritin D: Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
Best Ballad: Thou – Inconsolable (all of it)
The Song Remains (Almost Exactly) the Same: Windhand – Eternal Return
Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Scheidt – YOB (Our Raw Heart)
Marvin, You Know That New Cobalt You’ve Been Looking For? Well Listen To This!: Wayfarer – World’s Blood
AARP Metal Album of the Year: Judas Priest – Firepower
The Slipknot Award for Achievement in Masked Metal: Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
Hottest Pit Party: Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Most Doom: Fórn – Rites of Despair
Most Gloom: Cult Leader – A Patient Man
Most Angst: Ancst – Ghosts of the Timeless Void
First, Last, Best, and Only Hair Metal Song About Salt Lake City: Visigoth – “Salt City” (Conqueror’s Oath)
The Weyland-Yutani Award For Best Cosmic Metal: Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology
The Tony (Iommi) For Best Metal Theatre (OH THEATRE!): A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes
Best Venue: Denny’s
Maybe You Missed:
Slaves BC – Lo, and I Am Burning
Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
Vilkacis – Beyond the Mortal Gate
Outre-Tombe – Nécrovortex
Locktender – Friedrich
OK, OK, If I Have To Pick Just One:
2018 was an all-time year for death metal. Tomb Mold, Chapel of Disease, Rivers of Nihil, Hate Eternal, Of Feather and Bone, At the Gates, Genocide Pact, Mammoth Grinder, Portal, and Our Place of Worship is Silence all released ridiculous new records, and that’s not even scratching the surface of the tip of the iceberg. It was the sub-genre’s best year since the late 90s (and perhaps the early ones too), but when the walls came down and the dust settled, there was, for me, a clear best record of the clear best metal genre of the year:
Horrendous’ masterful fourth full-length, Idol (Season of Mist).
As has been proven time and time again across the spectrum of post-classical music, the most difficult thing for a band to do is to evolve in a way that feels organic—that tweaks the formula instead of rewrites it; that doesn’t force fans to say things like “well, I liked the first three records” from now unto eternity. But on Idol, the progressive (but not prog) Philly quartet manage to pull it off, unveiling a sound finally, entirely their own. There’s the classic Horrendous hooks, cut off at the root in some places and left to bloom in others. There’s soaring twin leads and diminished dissonance—d-beats and polyrhythms tangled into a single semi-headbangable whole. There’s not a single throwaway note or boiler-plate chug. Every molecule has been hand-picked and placed with care.
Then there’s the bass lines. The jazz-inflected, Entwistle-indebted liquid low-end pumped right through the heart of the mix. The fact we’re even talking about the bass on a death metal album is almost as crazy as saying it’s the most important part, but even Horrendous seem to know it’s the glue that holds this beautifully disfigured monument together. Hell, they start the fucking record with a bass solo. I know, I know, I’ve made the Metallica/Horrendous comparisons before, but somewhere Cliff Burton is smiling right now.
Of course, by LP 5, Metallica had cut their hair and were writing stadium PA anthems for d-bags who thought “We Will Rock You” was too gay, so maybe the comparison doesn’t fit anymore. Honestly it probably never did. Like I already said, if Idol proves anything, it’s that Horrendous are 100% themselves now, and that’s more than 99% of bands can ever hope for.