2018 Mid-Year Report!

Well hello, middle of 2018. My, have you sucked. If the world is going to go up in flames – or at least devolve into a battle between the Fascist United States of America versus the Western Allies – you might as well endure it all by listening to some great music.

Thankfully, good new music, along with my very happy life with fiancée Stacey, has been a big reason I’ve been able to keep my head above that rising tide of politics-related misery. And reading. Lots and lots of reading on the commute to and from work.

Seriously, though, it’s been a wonderful first half of 2018 regarding new tunes. So much so that this is the first time in years that I’ve resurrected my previously annual mid-year report. Interestingly enough, what I’ve noticed the most is how the more I avoid the insularity of the metal scene, the more positive reaction to the music I have. Being so ensconced in the scene for so long, it made me resent so much of the music and the “culture”, and by working hard at keeping it all at an arm’s length, I’ve learned to experience a lot of new metal music from a fresh perspective. It dawned on me not too long ago that while it is futile to declare any year “a good year for metal music”, I can easily say that 2018 has been an incredible year for metal music than I like. That’s what matters most, and I can’t remember being this enthused about the new metal tunes that I like. Imagine that!

My tastes are eclectic as usual, and there’s plenty of variety in this list, but make no mistake, the Heavy Stuff is back with a vengeance in 2018. So in alphabetical order, here’s a list of my favourite records of the year so far.

Amorphis, Queen of Time (Nuclear Blast): The Finns haven’t put out a bad record in nearly 15 years now, and their incredible run continues with a lavish mix of sleek symphonic metal and folk music. A nerdy delight. Spotify

Camila Cabello, Camila (Sony): I am totally unfamiliar with Fifth Harmony, but Cabello’s solo debut wowed me with its consistency and personality, not to mention the incredible “Never Be the Same”. Spotify

CHVRCHES, Love is Dead (Glassnote): A lot of people soured on the trio’s shameless attempt at a more mainstream sound, I love it when artists swing for the fences. Spotify

GAS, Rausch (Kompakt): German ambient artist Wolfgang Voigt has created a hypnotic meditation on the world around him. It’s imposing and gloomy, but like world news in 2018, incredibly fascinating. Spotify

Ghost, Prequelle (Loma Vista): Probably my favourite new band this decade, Ghost returned with a near masterpiece, subverting metal, hard rock, and pop into an inventive homage to the great heavy music of the 1970s. Spotify

Gwenno, Le Kov (Heavenly): The dreamy second album by the extremely talented ex-Pipette is another kraut-pop beauty, this time sung entirely in Cornish. Spotify

Judas Priest, Firepower (Sony): Some of my ’80s heroes returned with their strongest album in a good 28 years, bolstered by the production of Andy Sneap and the eternally lovable presence of master Robert Halford. Bless you, boys. Spotify

Khemmis, Desolation (20 Buck Spin): Metal needs more fantasy and less activism. and the third album by the Denver band is a wonderful homage to classic swords-amd-sorcery heavy metal. Empowering, catchy, impeccable. Spotify

Kylie, Golden (BMG): This the boldest Kylie album in 17 years, taking mainstream country and bastardizing with a helpful (and deliciously subversive) dose of dancey pop. Spotify

Messa, Feast For Water (aural): One of the year’s biggest surprises, the Italian band finds a sublime balance between thunderous, doom-inspired heavy metal with an irresistible jazz element. Spotify

Sleep, The Sciences (Third Man): A surprise album by the doom greats, their first in 20 years? Sure, I’ll take it. A record that turns out to be not only their greatest, but an instant doom classic? Pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. Spotify

Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin): The latest by the Toronto band is the catchiest, grooviest death metal album I have heard in a long time. And I’m extremely picky when it comes to death metal. Spotify

Tribulation, Down Below (Century Media): The startling new album by the Swedish bands juxtaposes death metal with the gothic rock of Fields of the Nephilim and the progressive nature of Celtic Frost. Spotify

U.S. Girls, In a Poem Unlimited (Royal Mountain): The latest by Meghan Remy continues her ascendancy as one the finest songwriters and musical auteurs in the country. This was a lock for my 2018 Polaris ballot. Spotify

Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth (Young Turks): The highly anticipated second album from the most famous new jazz musician in the world is a staggering feat. Music and ideas for days and days, over three CDs and three hours. Spotify