I love all the year ends. They always bring new leads for excellent stuff that I missed, and reminds me to give a few additional spins to records I may have neglected for a few months. I got hot takes on all kinds of shit, so let’s go:
Clutch–Book of Bad Decisions
Sucks to put this here, but any Clutch record that isn’t an instant top 10 has to be considered a disappointment. I’m with the people criticizing the production–there’s a song on here called “Weird Times” that sounds like the Black Keys, and the Black Keys have a song called “Strange Times,” and just the prospect of finishing this thought makes me uncomfortable so I’m moving right along.
And you know what was a “Bad Decision”…A crab cake song! Nailed it.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats–Wasteland
Tomb Mold–Manor of Infinite Forms
Scars on Broadway–Dictator
Revocation–The Outer Ones
10. At the Gates–To Drink From the Night Itself
The band doesn’t miss a beat with a new guitar player (somehow–how can there be only one Bjorler in At the Gates?) and picks up the energy from the return album. A savage live show at the Decibel Beer and Metal Festival didn’t hurt either.
They seem to keep pumping them out. A little concerned that nothing has topped Ecdysis for me, but that’s like saying I’m concerned that Covenant and Domination aren’t quite as good as Blessed are the Sick. These guys are reaching that pantheon, and they are still early in their career. An Enslaved-like trajectory towards a decade of brilliance (say, Isa through RIITIR?) is not out of the question.
8. High on Fire–Electric Messiah
Thunderous return to form. Fuck that Sleep record, fuckin HIGH ON FIRE!!! (not really, but kinda).
7. Skeletonwitch–Devouring Radiant Light
The initial reviews were confusing for this one because I just did not see a legit black metal turn for this band–maybe because my favorite record of their’s, Breathing the Fire, is basically a Kreator record. But damned if they didn’t go from Kreator to almost Memoria Vetusta-style Blut Aus Nord. Very impressive.
This sounds like Opeth if Opeth still sounded like Opeth. I see sludge and post monikers when looking at reviews of this. Don’t believe it. If you want to hear some mid-period Opeth type shit, look no further. Those sludge and hardcore tinges help keep Agrimonia just original enough. But again. Opeth.
5. Judas Priest–Firepower
WAITING FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE
Could have been the best record if not for the opener Bloodletting, which I still can’t figure out after dozens of spins. I have no idea what that song is supposed to be. But Isolation and Flesh to Nothing? Crystal clear on those–trademark Khemmis epics. Also, any takedowns regarding the alleged quality of the sparse harsh vocals should be dismissed immediately. Its just someone trying to find a reason to be contrarian. Khemmis rules, jump aboard.
3. Amorphis–Queen of Time
Maybe their two best records back to back roughly 30 years into their career. Stunning…but not number 1 because nothing here quite reached the heights of something like the The Four Wise Ones from Red Cloud. But still better than almost anything else out there, and The Golden Elk comes close.
2. Zeal and Ardor–Stranger Fruit
I thought Devil is Fine was an interesting curiosity and nothing more. If you had a similar impression of this band overall, divest your self of it immediately and check this out. If you like rock, you’ll like a lot of blues. And if you like the blues and black metal, this shit will blow you away.
1. The Atlas Moth–Coma Noir
The Atlas Moth has had many great qualities across their first few albums, but straight up metal was not amongst them. Not anymore–the title song rips your face off in the middle (and the beginning, and the end), and there is somehow no let down as the record continues. Each song has an aspect that grabs you and makes you excited for the next track as the current one before it is winding down. That is the core quality of a great record, not just a record with some great songs on it. Coma Noir works as a whole (even when you can’t tell what Stavros is shrieking about). I had no idea they were capable of this.
Just for fun, here are my best of lists for TV, live shows and movies from this year as well:
10. Altered Carbon
8. Sharp Objects
7. Killing Eve
6. The Americans
5. Haunting of Hill House
4. Big Mouth
3. Bojack Horseman
2. Better Call Saul
10. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live–April 4–Vic Theater
9. How Did this Get Made?–June 2 and 3–Athenaeum Theater
8. Judas Priest–April 6–The Venue
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs–May 29–Aragon
6. The Chasm–August 16–Reggies
5. Zeal and Ardor–September 29–Subterranean
4. Decibel Beer and Metal Festival–March 31 and April 1–Philadelphia
3. Primus and Mastodon–June 6–Northerly Island
2. Pearl Jam–August 18 and 20–Wrigley FIeld
1. Nine Inch Nails–October 27–Aragon
*Shit, I forgot Sorry to Bother You–Let’s say #5*
10. Bad Times at the El Royale
6. Black Panther
5. Death of Stalin
2. A Star is Born