Matthew Bowling Best-of 2018

Wednesday, 19th December 2018

Aside from High On Fire in the top spot, these are not ordered in any particular manner.

High On Fire – Freebooter (from Electric Messiah)
Oh man, here it is: the spirit of Mötorhead manifest. The thing I didn’t know I needed most. There isn’t much to say other than this is awesome and is now foremost at the front of all of my running playlists from this point forward. Fuck yeah.

Bloodbath – Wayward Samaritan (from The Arrow of Satan is Drawn)
See above, only with blood.

Behemoth – Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica (from I Loved You At Your Darkest)
Of all the tracks on I Loved You At Your Darkest, this one carries over the most spirit from The Satanist. A powerhouse of a song live, it feels strange near the beginning of the album sequence. Nevertheless, while ILYAYD may not have made my top albums, it still left a major impact.

Soft Kill – Cry Now, Cry Later (from Savior)
The post-punk revivalism is something I am very fond of. Soft Kill caught my affection in 2014 and reinforced it this year swimming in a seemingly endless pool of grimy melancholy.

Deafheaven – Night People (from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love)
I wasn’t surprised when I learned Ordinary Corrupt Human Love would feature Chelsea Wolfe. I also wasn’t surprised when I learned this song would feature George Clarke doing clean vocals. What did surprise me was both how awesomely restrained they are and how goddamn menacing he is while singing.

Tribulation – The Lament (from Down Below)
Whew, when this hit in December of last year I was rabid over it. All of the magic of Children Of The Night with an entirely different kind of fervor. While Down Below I didn’t find quite as strong over all, it takes nothing away from how awesome of an introduction this song is.

Miracle – The Parsifal Gate (The Strife of Love in a Dream)
When the void consumes Depeche Mode circa 1993 and allows it to remerge into the world, this is the kind of thing that results. Fantastic vocals and a stark approach to a synth heavy style with zero kitsch and a lot of weight. Like others on this list, The Strife of Love In A Dream barely missed my top.

Ghost – Rats (from Prequelle)
The feeling now is still as the day this song dropped. Hot damn!

Nothing – Zero Day (from Dance on the Blacktop)
Muted vocals, a cathartic build up, an earworm without remorse. The dark side of shoegaze in 2018. What a time to be alive.

The Black Queen – No Accusations (from Infinite Games)
No sophomore slump here. The LA trio’s mixture of NIN, Depeche Mode, and the general spirit of night is even stronger this time around, particularly with Greg’s voice. It gets better every time.

Click for larger Behemoth image
Click for larger Wayfarer image
Best Cover Art: Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest and Wayfarer – World’s Blood (tie)
What to say about these? One is a modern painting and the other a century old photograph, each beautiful images in their own right and each are so tailored to the music behind them it’s impossible to imagine anything else. The vinyl for ILYAYD in particular, is stunning. If we highlighted packaging overall, it wouldn’t even be close.

Biggest Disappointment: Sumerian’s splitting of Between The Buried And Me’s Automata
There is an easy case to be made for splitting a large album (Panopticon, among many others). This was not that case. Instead, under the guise of playing to ‘shorter modern attention spans’ a normal length album by the band was taken and split into two EP-sized releases. While the album is another excellent entry by the band when listened to in a single sitting, the staggered release largely spoiled the experience for me.

Best Debut: Eigenlicht
No words. Just listen.

Best Concert: Behemoth – At The Gates – Wolves In The Throne Room |The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD
To be fair, I only caught two shows this year (BTBAM/Leprous in Boston being the other) and due to some severe sound issues at that one (BTBAM was jacked up way too loud for the venue) this show wins by default. Fortunately it wasn’t a mercy victory because all three bands fucking slayed. Wolves In The Throne Room made somewhat peculiar openers given their long-form material compared to the others but they made the best of their 30 minutes and had zero issues filling the room with sound or pulling an enormous response from the crowd.

Unsurprisingly the road legend nature of At The Gates was on full tilt throughout their set and its mix of material classic and new. Behemoth, however, unquestionably owned the night. Theatrics, costumes, a devotion to aesthetic only matched by the flawless execution of a wide swath (nearly 20 years across the setlist) of material. Old, new, didn’t matter. Satan as life unbridled. All delivered.

Most Anticipated Album Of 2019:
Based on this year and the last couple, I can’t really answer that. The album that takes me by biggest surprise is increasingly the one I stumble upon with zero foreknowledge. In that regard, I am extremely excited about what a new year will bring.

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