2018 Mid-Year Extravaganza

2018 has been an ugly, mean, sweaty bitch of a year for just about everyone around the world, so thank Satan that we’ve at least had some fantastic metal to help ease the pain of these last six months. While a lot can change over the course of the next 6 months (and judging from some of the releases we have lined up for the fall, I fully expect some quantum shifts in my thoughts), here’s the best of the best, and some of the worst of the worst, of 2018.

Metal Album of the Mid-Year:

Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

While a lot can change over the course of 6 months, it is going to take an all-time great metal record to knock Where Owls Know My Name off this perch. This album is an absolute masterpiece, and probably the finest progressive Rivers of Nihiltechnical death metal album I’ve ever heard (granted, that’s a pretty specific genre mostly occupied by RON and The Faceless, but still). There is not a weak track on this album, with even the mostly spoken word opener and the instrumental intermission serving a vital purpose in the framework of the album. In my review earlier this year, the ONLY complaint I could scrounge up about this album was that I wished they utilized the saxophone a little bit more. That still stands, but it just goes to show how wonderful of a record this is.

Album of the Mid-Year: The other contenders

While the Number One spot seems all but sewn up, here are the other records that fill out my current Top 10 (plus one extra, because I just can’t stand to leave one of these off):

The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

The Crown – Cobra Speed Venom

Ghost – Prequelle

Judas Priest – FIREPOWER

Khemmis – Desolation

Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness

A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant

YOB – Our Raw Heart

Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit

Song of the Mid-Year: ¯\_()_/¯

A while back I was lamenting that there weren’t a lot of standout metal songs back in 2017, but had hopes that this year would be better. Well, right now that’s still up in the air. Whereas I knew right away in 2015 (Cattle Decapitation – “Manufactured Extinct”) and 2016 (Nails – “You Will Never Be One Of Us”) what my song of the year would be right after I heard the track, that didn’t happen last year, and it hasn’t happened this year, either. So instead of nominating a track that is unlikely to stay at the top of the list, here’s a bunch of the contenders, which are all great in their own way:

Alien Weaponry – “Kai Tangata”

At the Gates – “To Drink from the Night Itself”

The Atlas Moth – “Galactic Brain”

Between the Buried and Me – “Condemned to the Gallows”

Burn the Priest – “Kerosene”

Clutch – “Gimme the Keys”

The Crown – “In the Name of Death”

Deafheaven – “Canary Yellow” or “Honeycomb”

Ghost – “Rats” or “Dance Macabre”

Harakiri for the Sky – “Fire, Walk with Me”

Judas Priest – “Rising from Ruins”

Khemmis – “From Ruin” or “Isolation”

Long Distance Calling – “In the Clouds”

Pallbearer – “Dropout”

A Perfect Circle – “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”

Primordial – “To Hell or the Hangman”

Rivers of Nihil – “The Silent Life”

Skeletonwitch – “Fen of Shadows”

Slugdge – “War Squids”

TesseracT – “King”

Twitching Tongues – “AWOL (State of the Union)

VEXES – “Helion”

Wolf King – “Hail the Ash”

YOB – “Beauty in Falling Leaves”

Zeal and Ardor – “Row Row”

Video of the Mid-Year: Ghost – “Rats”

You don’t see a whole lot of attention payed to choreography in metal video these days outside of synchronized head banging, but “Rats” easily takes the cake for the best video of the year by showcasing the wonderful dance moves of Cardinal Copia, all over the eerie backdrop of a potentially plague-ridden gothic city. The video matches the aesthetic of the album and song perfectly, and Ghost knows how to have fun, even in the face of death.

Runner-Up Video of the Mid-Year:

Nekrogoblikon – “Dressed as Goblins”

Some other publication referred to this video as The Royal Tenenbaums, but with Goblins. That’s a pitch-perfect description of this mind-bending video from Nekrogoblikon, the preeminent goblincore band in metal today. Directed by Brendan Small of Metalocalypse fame (or Home Movies fame if you’re like me), the video tells a fantastic, winding tale all without the benefit of supporting lyrics (about 70% of the song is the line “Dressed as Goblins”, so there’s not a ton of exposition throughout). One of the more ambitious metal videos in recent memory, and also one of the most fun.

3rd Best Video of the Mid-Year:

Alien Weaponry – “Kai Tangata”

If there’s anything that New Zealanders know, it’s getting people fired the fuck up for…basically anything (if that’s news to you, check out any number of videos of athletes performing a traditional Haka before an event. It’s probably the greatest thing ever). Serving as part history lesson, part cautionary tale, and all rock anthem, this video had me primed and ready to go and take down those damn colonists before the first note hit. And these kids aren’t even 20 yet. Un-fucking-believable.

Still to come in 2018

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘Til The End (July 6)

Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (July 6)

Between The Buried And Me – Automata II (July 13)

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (July 13)

Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway – Dictator (July 20)

Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light (July 20)

Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (August 31)

Steve ‘n’ Seagulls – Grainsville (August 31)

Sumac – Love In Shadow (September 21)

The Black Queen – Infinite Games (September 28)

Worst Album of the Mid-Year:

Machine Head – Catharsis

What a shitty way to start the 2018 metal release calendar. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of 2014’s Bloodstone & Diamonds, but Machine Head has proven that they’re capable of putting out fun, accessible, and quality metal material in the past, so I was hoping for a bit of a return to form on Catharsis. What I got instead was far and away the worst album of their career (including their early nu-metal material) full of tracks that are at best forgettable, and at worst downright awful. I love the meaning behind “Bastards”, but it may be the single-worst metal track of this decade (non-Attila division).

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