Politically, 2018 seemed to be even more tumultuous than the year before as White House shenanigans, Britain’s struggle with Brexit and Canberra’s now-usual PM reshuffle continued. Australia’s cricketers shamed themselves, Indonesia suffered through more tsunami tragedies and journalists around the world got murdered with impunity as the dark shadow of extremism rose in even the most democratic states.
The music world kept us grounded around here at LOUD, as it does, and once again this year delivered plenty of stories.
Slayer announced their retirement after a series of wide-ranging farewell touring, a sentiment soon shared by Ozzy Osbourne. Almost on cue, Kiss also declared they too would be breaking up after farewell shows at the end of next year, but they’ve said that so often we’ll all just have to wait and see. At the same time as delivering one of their best ever albums, Judas Priest revealed that Glenn Tipton was stepping down from live touring due to his Parkinson’s disease that restricts his playing, although he continues to make appearances with them for a song or two now and then. In news that probably surprised no one, though, Robb Flynn announced late in the year that Machine Head was no more after the release of an album so awful, the rest of the dudes in the band all quit.
Music deaths again rocked our world, the big two being “Fast” Eddie Clark who was reunited with the rest of the classic Motorhead line-up in January and, somewhat poignantly, Vinnie Paul who joined his late brother Dimebag Darrell when he died suddenly of a heart attack at home between tours. Our honour roll to the rest of 2018’s fallen heroes can be seen here.
At the local level, Australian artists pumped out some outstanding work this year, plenty of which can be found in our writers’ lists below.
2018 in Pictures
END OF THE YEAR LISTS
BRIAN GIFFIN – Editor:
Judas Priest: Firepower
None but the truly faithful would have believed that Judas Priest could still deliver the goods so well after so long. Firepower smashes it out of the park, a cracking album of nothing but scorching heavy metal that isn’t just one of the best metal albums of this year but one of Priest’s best ever.
Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
On Stranger Fruit, Zeal & Ardor’s Manuel Gagneaux guides and weaves his deeply disparate Muses to an astonishing conclusion. One moment a deeply spiritual Afro-American hymn, the next a shrieking Scandinavian extreme metal nightmare, this exploration of the journey of African America is one of the most remarkable musical odysseys of this – or any other – year.
Brisbane avant-garde extremists Portal struck again with Ion, another set of incomprehensible, mind-scrambling weirdness. Washing-machine guitars, typewriter-down-the-stairs drumming and howling, indistinct vocals all pulled together to create another obscure, miasmic masterpiece.
Psycroptic: As the Kingdom Drowns
With their seventh album, Psycroptic showed they were true masters of their field with possibly their most experimental approach thus far. Their technical riff-fests were joined by dark shadows of ambience and straight-up old school thrash plus further injections of groove – and a guitar solo – all combining into a true death metal monstrocity.
Behemoth: I Loved You at Your Darkest
Trying to top their masterpiece The Satanist wasn’t going to be easy, so Behemoth didn’t try. Instead, they tinkered with their sound, experimenting and expanding even more on their established epic death metal style for an album that was as much heavy and Satanic as it was accessible.
High Tension: Purge
Devastating, uncomfortable and intense, Purge is about as perfect a musical representation of its subject as there can be. Rage, anger, catharsis and hope combine in a darkly intense, musically ferocious album exploring man’s inhumanity to man as Purge moves through hardcore, black metal and pure rabid intensity.
Pagan: Black Wash
Possibly the multi-genre crossover assault of this or any recent year, Pagan’s Black Wash delivers wave after wave of extreme chaos. Hardcore punk beats mix with an ever-shifting array of riffs that run the gamut of punk, metal, hardcore and groove capped off with Nikki Brumen’s insane vocal acrobatics as she struggles for catharsis. Intense and incredible.
Lillye’s debut full length certainly did expand on their earlier EP, with an almost-too-clever combination of technical metal riffs and straight-ahead rock making for a different and vibrant release full of songs both dark and empowering. And then there’s THAT voice…
Red Bee: Silent Enemy
If Lillye came across like a rock band playing technical metal, then with Silent Enemy, Red Bee was a technical metal band playing rock. Taking in a whole new swag of inspiration since their long-ago debut Ictus, the trio adds a level of accessibility and melody to their muscular, djenty tech groove complexity.
When Soulfly are bad, they’re very very bad, but when they’re good, they’re awesome. Ritual is probably their high-water mark, where Max Cavalera’s pretensions perfectly align with his abilities, his penchant for world music-style eclecticism mashing with the urgent groove metal of his past better than what he’s achieved with this band so far.
Voivod: The Wake
Like Judas Priest, few would have expected a band as veteran as Voivod to make something as vital as The Wake, an album that resurrects their 80s heyday. With a concept as elaborate as their strange yet effective alchemy of heavy thrash and prog, The Wake marks the pinnacle of the Canadian pioneers’ current late career Renaissance
The Ugly Kings: Darkness is My Home
Riffmongering Melbournites The Ugly Kings showed a perfect balance between swamp-drenched blues rock, 70 doom worship, late 60s US west coast and the Delta Blues on Darkness is My Home. Good original songwriting with the ability to also be reverential interpreters made this album the best hidden gem of the year.
Anything with the name Ihsahn attached to it is always going to be quality. That said, with Amr he stepped up a level with a wildly experimental piece of music that defied any expectations. Like Behemoth, it’s a divisive album, a smorgasbord of diverse influences that takes Ihsahn’s music to another level of creativity.
Parkway Drive: Reverence
Sorrow and loss are always drivers of creativity. Parkway Drive turned personal despair into their best effort so far, a transitional piece that marks the final departure from their metalcore origins, the sign of a band heading towards an entirely new creative horizon. Reverence was Parkway Drive taking another step up toward the level of true superstars, dark, diverse, and crushing.
Rivers of Nihil: Where Owls Know My Name
Rivers of Nihil set the bar ridiculously high early in the year with their sprawling and intricate third album. Where Owls Know My Name ramped up their progressive pretensions with electronica, keyboards and brass without much changing their base style, weaving the new elements into the old to make something interesting and special.
BRENDAN DELAVERE – Staff Photographer/Reviewer:
Top 10 Albums
1. Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
2. Uada – Cult of a Dying Sun
3. Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit
4. Amy Shark – Love Monster
5. Parkway Drive – Reverence
6. Pagan – Black Wash
7. Cataya – Firn
8. Soulfly – Ritual
9. Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin
10. Ocean Alley – Chiaroscuro
Honourable mentions: these albums are amazing but I unfortunately didn’t give enough time to
Portal – Ion
Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness part 1 & 2
High Tension – Purge
Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog
Conan – Existential Void
Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
Hellions – Rue
Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt
Top 5 Songs
Harakiri For The Sky – Fire, Walk With Me
Lana Del Rey – Mariners Apartment Complex
Vera Blue – All The Pretty Girls
Zeal and Ardor – Gravediggers Chant
Parkway Drive – Shadow Boxing
Gigs of the year
Lana Del Rey – Qudos Arena Sydney
Batushka – Odeon Theatre, Hobart
Parkway Drive – Unify Gathering
The Barking Spiders/Cold Chisel – Enmore Theatre
Gogol Bordello – Metro Theatre
Dune Rats & Friends – Splendour In The Grass
Portal – Odeon Theatre, Hobart
Bell Witch – Manning Bar
Electric Wizard – Odeon Theatre, Hobart
Equal place : Baby Metal – Good Things Fest Sydney
Kallidad – Howlin Wolf Bar, Wollongong
1. Altered Carbon
2. Final Space
3. The Rain
1. Deadpool 2
3. Jurassic Park Fallen Kingdom
2018 was, in some ways a very hard year for me, a lot of stress stemming from work, home life and all other factors, trying to create a balance from the chaos.
I crossed a few things off my photography list this year; I shot festivals in five seperate states, many of which were firsts, Falls Fest in Byron to kick off the New Year, Dead Of Winter in Brisbane and three cold but incredible nights at Dark Mofo in Hobart.
I was also able to save up and upgrade my camera setup this year, I now rock a Canon 7D MKII with a new 24-70mm lens. As for 2019, I plan to return to Dark Mofo and hopefully several other festivals as well. In saying that, I intend to step back from shooting everything possible, instead taking the time to enjoy the show and rekindle that passion for shooting and writing I had prior to 2018. I could never give it all up.
DAN SOUTHALL – Reviewer:
I always skim through these end of year lists wondering how people can screw so much good music down into a Top However Many They Conclude Is Enough.,This year has been huge on the music front with great releases from all corners of the rock, hardcore and metal spectrums and next year lined up to bring even more great releases. Below are a few albums that I have kept coming back too, don’t think of it as a top 10 plus a couple, more like a few albums I think you should go back and listen too, whether for the first time or the hundredth. Enjoy.
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Still one of the hardest reviews I have ever sunk my teeth into. Just brilliant, all-over-the-place, mental grind!
Voivod – The Wake
With more listens under my earphones, this album continues to stun me with its mix of forthright prog and thrash as only the originators can do.
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
This album took a lot of listens to really get into, and I will leave that for other people to judge if that is good or bad. But after the pomposity and oft times over the top symphonics, this album is a going to add a little colour to your blackened heart.
Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
This is their heaviest and most accessible album in one. Still full of religion baiting extremity, whilst reaching towards a fresher sound and audience.
Corrosion Of Conformity – No Cross No Crown
I just simply couldn’t not put in the first COC album with Pepper Keenan at the microphone, bringing back the band’s heavy sludgy southern groove.
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs
A band among many that are still chipping away at their own individual sound that rediscovered what made them great 15 years ago. A combination of heavy and great story telling.
Ihsahn – Amr
This is purely must hear from the black metal maestro who refuses to give in to any one persons idea of what his music should encompass or sound like.
Parkway Drive – Reverence
This album came along at a very dark time personally. I have always found connection in music of all kinds, but after losing my father in early January, the anger and pain that oozes from this album in its confrontation of the death of a loved one really hit home at a time when I was struggling to find music that I could make a strong and meaningful connection to, now that I didn’t have my sounding board to bounce music off.
Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
This is Clutch in its many forms. Recording each song live added an element of fast n loose that only this band does as well as put on example here.
Madball – For the Cause
I have always been a sucker for great hardcore. And this album is great New York Hardcore, with added flashes to help keep a well worn formula interesting.
Sick Of It All – Wake the Sleeping Dragon!
Just go look at what I wrote about Madball. A little less experimentation here, and more straight ahead NYHC.
Pennywise – Never Gonna Die
This is another album where the band found their groove again and just stuck to what they do best. A great album of melodic hardcore.
SCOTT FINCH – Reviewer:
In no particular order
Valdur – Goat of Iniquity
A massive cauldron of sound spanning ancient black, death, and doom metal. with copious amounts of unsettling ambience thrown in for the hell of it. Obscure by choice but essential.
Sigh – Heir to Despair
Slow burning avant-garde insanity. Sigh are a hard band to get into, solely because there is no ‘easy’ place to start, and they are always adding new layers to their sound. This will please long-time fans and devotees.
Nightmare A.D. – Phantoms of our Ruin
Multiethnic Cambodian thrash metal band takes a gamble by greatly expanding their sonic palette, and it pays off.
Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
Another album featuring a slightly expanded sound. It’s rare for a long-established band that is not really known for sudden change to experiment, but their confidence made it work.
Primordial – Exile Amongst the Ruins
Somewhat of a ‘deconstructed’ approach for the Irish folk metallers. There’s enough of their signature sound here amongst cues taken from other metal styles to please newcomers and diehards alike.
Sleep – The Sciences
A highly anticipated release. How could they follow up a monolith like Dopesmoker, especially after such a long gap? They succeeded by not trying to replicate its structure, instead they returned to crafting ‘traditional’ (for Sleep) songs, incorporating some new material alongside some that had yet to be given the studio treatment.
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
A return to form after some chaotic times. Immortal are hungrier than they need to be at this stage of their career, but the album benefits immensely from it.
Judas Priest – Firepower
A tour de force, amazing as it came so late in the game. Recalls the classics of the 80s with a modern edge.
The Skull – Endless Roads Turn Dark
Trouble alumni find their feet on their sophomore album. There’s enough here to please fans of their former band, but enough amongst the doom and gloom to cement them as their own powerhouse entity.
Ichor – God of Thunder God of War
An immense offering from this reactivated Sydney black metal horde. An essential album for those into early 1990s black metal as much of the album sounds like it is from that era, without that contrived ‘tribute’ sound that many throwback acts often find. Ichor are the real deal, because they have lived those turbulent times.
PAUL SOUTHWELL – Reviewer:
TOP 20 ALBUMS
The Pineapple Thief – Dissolution
Joe Satriani – What Happens Next
Stryper – God Damn Evil
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators – Living the Dream
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Memories in Rock II (Live)
Lords of Black – Icons of the New Days
Foreigner – Foreigner with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra &
Saxon – Thunderbolt
Impelliteri – The Nature of the Beast
Ihsahn – Ámr
Therion – Beloved Antichrist
Michael Schenker Fest – Resurrection
Black Label Society – Grimmest Hits
CoreLeoni – The Greatest Hits Part 1
Northward – Northward
Vintage Caravan – Gateways
Tremonti – A Dying Machine
Red Dragon Cartel – Patina
Cellar Darling – This is the Sound
Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds Part One
Honourable Mentions: Steven Wilson – Home Invasion: Live In Concert at
the Royal Albert Hall, Kamelot – The Shadow Theory, Sarah Longfield –
Disparity, Issa – Run with the Pack, Thunder – Stage (Live), Alter Bridge –
Live at Royal Albert Hall featuring the Parallax Orchestra, Myles
Kennedy – Year of the Tiger, Gotthard – Defrosted, 2Destinia – Metal
Souls, Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes the World Ain’t
Enough, Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust
Best shows: Foreigner, Joe Satriani, Europe, Stryper, Mr. Big &
Extreme, Steven Wilson, Amon Amarth and Sabaton, Dweezil Zappa, Therion, Kamelot