2018 Best of Metal: #1 Huntsmen-American Scrap

Release date:  February 23, 2018

Personnel:  Chris Kang-vocals/guitar, Kirill Orlov-guitar, Marc Stanger-Najjar-bass, and Ray Knipe-drums/vocals

Origin:  Chicago, IL

Tum-Da-Dum!!  We made it!  Well, here it is.  The 2018 winner of the Golden Flip Flop goes to Huntsmen and their epic album, American Scrap.  I had never heard of these guys before this album dropped and was somewhat skeptical regarding the description of them being a mash up of Americana music traditions and doom metal.  But, these sort of mash-ups of completely different genres of music with metal has seen an uptick in recent years and many of them work surprisingly well.  This album is just amazing from start to finish.  It’s earthy.  It’s organic.  It’s a bleak, blue-collar approach to metal that just feels gritty and real in a way that most metal albums never approach.  I think that’s the thing that kept me coming back to this album over and over again over the past year.  It is just so different than most of the albums that came out this year.  The guitars are amazing and the vocal harmonies really provide a depth to the proceedings.  I feel like Huntsmen are kindred spirits with what Panopticon is trying to accomplish, but their approach is a little more accessible than the black metal approach.  Also, the subject matter of this album just feels so relevant and present for the year of 2018.  It’s not pretty.  It doesn’t end well.  We are all going to die, but goddamn, this is a hell of a way to go out.

Have a lovely holiday season, dear readers!  I’ll see you in 2019 with more journeys into the trenches of metal.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the list and have maybe found some new bands/albums to listen to in the coming days.

5 flip flops out of 5

The final list:

1.  Huntsmen-American Scrap
2.  Yob-Our Raw Heart
3.  The Ocean-Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic
4.  The Sword-Used Future
5.  Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light
6.  The Atlas Moth-Coma Noir
7.  Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name
8.  Sleep-The Sciences
9.  Tomb Mold-Manor of Infinite Forms
10.  Revocation-The Outer Ones
11.  All Them Witches-ATW
12.  Redemption-Long Night’s Journey Into Day
13.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-Wasteland
14.  Panopticon-Scars of Man Upon the Once Nameless Wilderness
15.  Arkona-Khram
16.  Agrimonia-Awaken
17.  Between the Buried and Me-Automata I & II
18.  Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions
19.  Harakiri For the Sky-Arson
20.  Behemoth-I Loved You At Your Darkest

2018 Best of Metal: #2 Yob-Our Raw Heart

Release date:  June 8, 2018

Personnel:  Mike Scheidt-vocals/guitar, Aaron Rieseberg-bass, and Travis Foster-drums

Origin:  Eugene, OR

Well, we are close to wrapping this damn thing up.  Down to the final two.  These last two records could easily be 1 and 1a because I’ve probably switched them back and forth between 1 and 2 countless times now.  These are the only two albums of 2018 that I truly feel deserve the coveted 5 flip flop rating.  Both are masterpieces.  The fact that I ended up picking Yob’s latest shouldn’t diminish how amazing this album is in the slightest.  This is the first album released by Yob following Mike Scheidt’s serious health scare and the resulting album is an emotional gut punch.  It’s full of that typical Yob dichotomy of harsh and beautiful.  This is a very special album.

5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

2.  Yob-Our Raw Heart
3.  The Ocean-Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic
4.  The Sword-Used Future
5.  Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light
6.  The Atlas Moth-Coma Noir
7.  Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name
8.  Sleep-The Sciences
9.  Tomb Mold-Manor of Infinite Forms
10.  Revocation-The Outer Ones
11.  All Them Witches-ATW
12.  Redemption-Long Night’s Journey Into Day
13.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-Wasteland
14.  Panopticon-Scars of Man Upon the Once Nameless Wilderness
15.  Arkona-Khram
16.  Agrimonia-Awaken
17.  Between the Buried and Me-Automata I & II
18.  Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions
19.  Harakiri For the Sky-Arson
20.  Behemoth-I Loved You At Your Darkest

2018 Best of Metal: #4 The Sword-Used Future

Release Date:  March 23, 2018

Personnel:  John D. Cronise-vocals/guitar, Kyle Shutt-guitar, Bryan Richie-bass/synths, and Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III-drums

Origin:  Austin, TX

The Sword is another band that seems to be in the midst of experimenting and trying to forge a new identity from the band they were at their beginning.  Starting with their prior album, High Country (and companion piece Low Country), The Sword is branching more and more into a southern rock band than the Black Sabbath influence band of their early years.  High Country was a bit of a curveball and, while their are some really strong moments on there, it didn’t quite result in a fully satisfying album.  It seems as though the new direction the band has taken is starting to further gel with Used Future.  Hell, the music just fits frontman J.D.’s twangy vocal style.  It took a few listens to fully embrace it, but in the end, this one has a ton of songs that have wormed their way into my subconscious.  This is going to be one of those albums that when I hear it a few years from now I’m going to think, “Yeah, that was 2018.”

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

4.  The Sword-Used Future
5.  Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light
6.  The Atlas Moth-Coma Noir
7.  Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name
8.  Sleep-The Sciences
9.  Tomb Mold-Manor of Infinite Forms
10.  Revocation-The Outer Ones
11.  All Them Witches-ATW
12.  Redemption-Long Night’s Journey Into Day
13.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-Wasteland
14.  Panopticon-The Scars of Man Upon the Once Nameless Wilderness
15.  Arkona-Khram
16.  Agrimonia-Awaken
17.  Between the Buried and Me-Automata I & II
18.  Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions
19.  Harakiri For the Sky-Arson
20.  Behemoth-I Loved You At Your Darkest

2018 Best of Metal: #5 Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light

Release Date:  July 20, 2018

Personnel:  Adam Clemans-vocals, Nate Garnette-guitar, Scott Hendrick-guitar, Evan Linger-bass, Jon Rice-drums

Origin:  Athens, OH

If there is a theme running through my year-end list, it may be the fact that a lot of the albums on here are ones that I really didn’t see coming.  Throughout the year, there are always albums coming down the pike by bands I love and my expectations for those albums are always generally high.  Then there are albums by bands who I know about, but for some reason have never fully warmed up to in the past.  Skeletonwitch is one of those bands.  I have seen them open up for other bands countless number of times over the years and I’ve thought that while they have always been capable and decent that they never really had that extra spark to fully grab my attention or want to delve into their catalog of albums all that deeply.  Devouring Radiant Light came out mid-year and I decided to give it a shot.  And holy shit!  This is a completely different Skeletonwitch than the one we have dealt with in the past.  This is an album full of depth and passion and just downright badassery.  I don’t know where it came from, but it feels like the band truly found their place.  Consider me a convert.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

5.  Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light
6.  The Atlas Moth-Coma Noir
7.  Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name
8.  Sleep-The Sciences
9.  Tomb Mold-Manor of Infinite Forms
10.  Revocation-The Outer Ones
11.  All Them Witches-ATW
12.  Redemption-Long Night’s Journey Into Day
13.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-Wasteland
14.  Panopticon-The Scars of Man Upon the Once Nameless Wilderness
15.  Arkona-Khram
16.  Agrimonia-Awaken
17.  Between the Buried and Me-Automata I & II
18.  Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions
19.  Harakiri For the Sky-Arson
20.  Behemoth-I Loved You At Your Darkest

2018 Best of Metal: #7 Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name

Release Date:  March 16, 2018

Personnel:  Jake Dieffenbach-vocals, Brody Uttley-guitar/keyboards, Jonathan Topore-guitar, Adam Biggs-bass/vocals, Jared Klein-drums

Origin:  Reading, PA

Damn.  This one came out and, I have to be honest, I didn’t really know what to think at first.  This was about as hard of a left turn a band has taken since Opeth went full on 70s prog a few years back.  Rivers of Nihil was one of these up-and-coming technical death metal bands.  They released two previous albums, both of which were phenomenal and entrenched these guys as one of the powers of this sub-genre.  For album number three, I guess they decided that they couldn’t write another album in the same exact vein as the previous two and just said, “Fuck it.  Let’s see if we can push this thing into a new direction.”  Ballsy, ballsy move.  These are the exciting records.  Fuck the formula and throw caution to the wind.  Sometimes these things work and sometimes they flame out spectacularly.  Rivers of Nihil was able to pull this gambit off and we are left with one ambitiously stellar album.  What they have done is keep the technical death metal foundation, but push it into a weird progressive metal dimension that has elements of psychedelic and atmospheric music.  It’s a jarring listen the first time through, especially if you’re familiar with their previous work.  Give this album enough time and it truly comes out how special of an album it is.  I can’t give these guys kudos enough for taking this big of a risk because death metal fans ain’t the biggest fans of change.  That saxophone alone is sure to scare many a cro-mag headbanger away.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

The list so far:

7.  Rivers of Nihil-Where Owls Know My Name
8.  Sleep-The Sciences
9.  Tomb Mold-Manor of Infinite Forms
10.  Revocation-The Outer Ones
11.  All Them Witches-ATW
12.  Redemption-Long Night’s Journey Into Day
13.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-Wasteland
14.  Panopticon-The Scars of Man Upon the Once Nameless Wilderness
15.  Arkona-Khram
16.  Agrimonia-Awaken
17.  Between the Buried and Me-Automata I & II
18.  Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions
19.  Harakiri For the Sky-Arson
20.  Behemoth-I Loved You At Your Darkest