Saturday, January 12, 2019


I'm doing pretty good, thanks for asking! Why? I didn't get my annual survey out until January 26 last year, and this one is out by the 12th!  Most people get their year end "best of" releases out of the way in November, and then wash their hands of it. I'd like to say that my list is delayed because I'm waiting for any last minute stragglers to wash up on the beach in late December, and a few did, but the real reason is that I don't start working on this thing until late in the year, and if you read the whole damn list, you will see how exhaustively comprehensive it is.

Now, you may get the impression, at first glance, that this is a top ten Bay Area METAL releases list, and it usually ends up leaning towards that,  just because I'm kind of a metalhead and those are the releases that are the most on my radar. But most punk bands don't really seem to make it to LP stage nowadays anyway, the typical life cycle of a Bay Area punk band being demo in the spring, a seven inch by the fall, and broken up by winter. So the best PUNK releases of 2018 will mostly be found in the other list, the top ten new band's demos, singles and EPs.

Most of what I said last year about my motivations remains relevant, so here it is again.

…and much more importantly, no one makes a list of the best Bay Area releases of the year, because there are no magazines or blogs, as far as I know, that focus solely on the SF Bay Area heavy music scene. The East Bay Express made a top 12 list, which contained zero punk or metal releases. As one of the sole print publications covering alternative culture around here, couldn't they do a little more? As in, anything?

Once again, I don't think East Bay Express wrote about a single local punk or metal band. I eagerly await correction! The KQED top ten list DID include Adrenochrome this year, however! Congrats.

There wasn't a lot of attention given to Bay Area releases OUTSIDE of the Bay Area either, with the exception of Deafheaven and Sleep, who were honored by Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. Those two, as well as Mortuous, appeared in Decibel magazine's top 40 metal releases of 2018 list. High On Fire was thrown a bone by Loudwire and the Onion's AV club. You get the idea.

Maybe it's a reflection of our times, but there has been quite a crop of death/doom/blackened metal bands really scraping the bottom for ugliest, foulest, most desperate sounds imaginable. If "screaming at the bottom of a well naked covered in blood while being devoured by rats" describes the mood of your band, then this was your year! I'm running out of words, even with the liberal use of a thesaurus, to describe the bestial foulness of all these releases in the capsule reviews! There are only so many descriptors at my disposal.

There also was a bumper crop of dark wave / death rock / post punk in the scene. It's been building for the past few years, with the Near Dark festival being introduced, and in 2018 I think it hit it's stride with some really strong releases and new bands. I'm no expert in this genre, by any means, but I really do like the stuff. Always liked Siouxsie and the Banshees, and I'm happy to see this scene within a scene growing. It actually seems to be the dominant form of punk in the Bay these days.

Shout out to James Rauh and Josh Carman for suggestions and inspiration when I was making the list! Check out James' incredible survey of Bay Area releases HERE.

OH yeah, and fuck all this top nine bullshit. The format of instagram is gonna dictate how many bands / things you liked last year? Fack ooff.

But now, to the list! 

In alphabetical order

Ails: The Unraveling
April, 20 The Flenser
For those of us who were big fans of Ludicra, possibly the best San Francisco metal band of the past 20 years, this was a long wait! Core band members finally returned with a new project and the elements that formed the classic "grey metal" sound are present in force.

Brainoil: Singularity To Extinction
October 18, Tankcrimes
Oakland's sludge godfathers go a little more death metal / crust on their long awaited third album.

Esses: Offering
July 11, Near Dark
By far the most composed, articulate and crisp of the latest wave of Oakland post punk. Downright collegiate compared to some! Lots of cool influences poking out through the darkness here.

High On Fire: Electric Messiah
October 5, eOne 
Does High On Fire even count as a Bay Area band anymore? None of them live here. Oh, well, they get honorary status, fuck it. This is their eighth album and it might be their third best! I love how fast it gets sometimes, epic, anthemic, the type of metal album we need right now, one of the few on this list that isn't extremely dark and depressing. Now the question remains, will High On Fire ever be able to tour on this material, or will Matt Pike have to stay home and keep getting toes cut off?

Mortuous, Through Wilderness
June 22, Carbonized
Extremely heavy death metal from Bay Area experts. Reeks of that lumbering morbidity perfected by Autopsy and other sludge tomb forefathers. Mortuous takes it there, and then keeps going, almost to a place of elegance.

Nopes: Stapler
July 27, Magnetic Eye
Wow! This is great. This just all all the good points of a great heavy weirdo noise rock album! They are not following any rules here, jumping from style to style like a speedfreak channel surfing. Elements of hardcore punk and snotty alternative rock set them far apart from the rabble.

Serpents Of Dawn: Into The Garden
August 31, Doom Stew
Honestly, this might be the release of 2018 that I was most stoked on. I listened to this over and over again. Gratuitous stony heavy rock, riffs for days, elegant harmonies in just the right (few) places, glass gargling vocals. This all sounds comfortingly familiar, and yet somehow fresh at the same time. Fuck yes! 

Ulthar: Cosmovore
November 9, 20 Buck Spin
Full of weird loping musical passages that come after you like a three legged wolf. You're like, ahhh, I can outrun a three legged wolf! But then you realize you can't. Because it's still fucking faster than you. And it's hungry. And as the first bite of the fangs sink into your calf, and you stumble upon the ice in the Lovecraftian twilight, you realize you were always meant to die this way, born to die this way. It was written in the cosmos.

Wild Hunt: Afterdream Of The Reveller
April 20, Vendetta
Blackened metal, elegant in it's chaos, like a ballet dancer swerving in a hurricane. If it's a hurricane though, it's is one with many eyes, like Argus. Between each malevolent burst there is some kind of interlude, not to put you at ease, but to set you on edge as you know that there is another blast coming.  Wild Hunt rebounded from tragedy in their lineup and made a career defining album. 

Yarrow: Rebirth
September 11, Transylvanian Tapes
It seems like the Bay Area doom scene is pretty much a race to the bottom, who can be the most miserable, disgusting, wretched, horrible, pulverized band of them all? If Yarrow isn't at the bottom of this heap, they're pretty darn close! Augmented with choice samples ala Eyehategod. Despite the horrifying nature of the band, Yarrow actually somehow comes across as the most FUN or the whole crop, they don't actually seem to take themselves quite as seriously as Abstracter or Body Void. Maybe that's what put them over the edge and got them onto the top ten. 

In alphabetical order

Adrenochrome: Buzz Or Howl Sessions
February 26, Near Dark
Well, there's a lot of new post punk / death rock out there right now, and it all kind of sounds the same to me, but I don't know what the common influence is, because I'm just not very educated on this style. That being said, I really do like this! The mood is great, and this is especially cool because it's more on the energetic end of things when it comes to dark, bleak-ass music. Hoping for an Adrenochrome album soon! 

Altars: s/t 7" 
August 24, Sentient Ruin
God what a ripper of a seven inch. Utterly unrelenting and pulverizing. Blasting death metal grind.

Deseos Primitivos: Existir
October 23, Self Released?
Chorused out anarchy liberation punk en español

Evulse: Call Of The Void
October 22, Transylvanian 
Extremely heavy DM with a fat low end. The dive bombing guitars add a fun old school element to the proceedings!

Glowing Brain: Demo
September 22, DOD Records
Downtuned, punchy noisy hardcore. This kicks ass! This might be my favorite new band of the year, and I finally got to see them play a show last week too.

Psychic Hit: Promo 2018
October 3, self released
Really cool old school rock metal with soulful vocals and tight songwriting. I see a bright future for them.

Riita: Absolut Santa Rosa
December 30, self released
Hardcore punk from Santa Rosa, Sweden

Shit Coffins: The Continuous Pleasure Of LivingJuly 8, self released
Competent hardcore played by scene veterans. Three quick-ass songs!

Terry Gross: Shameless Imposter
April 5, Valley King
One of my favorite new local bands, intense psychedelic noise rock

These Bastards: Old And Pissed
December 6, self released
Pissed indeed! Frantic hardcore with a sense of humor!

List of other Bay Area releases after the jump!

From this point on these are no longer just my favorite Bay Area punk and metal releases, they are EVERY punk and metal release that I could possibly find. And yes, I listened to at least one track of every release, and most of them in their entirety! You are about to explore the entire metropolitan area, from the heart of West Oakland, to the distant corners of Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and even Antioch. Yes, Antioch! Be forewarned! 

Almost Dead: Lay Me Down To Waste 
Thrash / Groove metal straight outta Martinez

Absolute Darkness: Disaster Awaits
Death/Thrash San Francisco

Howling Sycamore s/t 
Experiemental blast metal with sax and real singing… interesting

Ion: A Path Unknown
Very epic black metal-ish, extremely long songs with ambient keyboards in between the metal parts

Jenzeits: Volume 1 
Tangerine dream style synthscapes

Kill Ritual: All Men Shall Fail 
San Jose rocking' thrash metal with a mid range belter on the vocals

Machine Head: Catharsis
Nu metal, but with guitar solos. Way too many clean vocals.

No Right: Unjustified 
Metallic hardcore. Probably straightedge.

Primal Rite: Dirge Of Escapism
Chugging metal hardcore, vomiting an in echoey bathroom vocals

Terry Goss: Fear Is The Destroyer
Thrashy instrumental shred-a-thon, with a surprising funky prog interlude

These Bastards: Demo 2018
A fun little demo of some bass heavy, flailing hardcore (probably) played by old guys!

Adrenochrome: Buzz Or Howl Sessions
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Barren Altar: Maythuna EP
Pretty good, quality harmonies in the doom parts. More doom than black metal.

Blackwulf: Sinister Sides
Oakland stoner doom

Carlton Melton: Mind Minerals 
Chilled out, sometimes rocking, sometimes more ambient jams, of the noisy guitar variety.

GraveCoven: Coughing Blood 
Midpaced howling dirty black metal

Exodus: Municipal Waste Split 
CD Three Exodus songs on here

Moira Scar: Wound World 1 
Dark feminist freak doom?

Mournful Cries: Thy Horror Come 
Santa Rosa's take on Scandi retro doom

Mutilated Tongue: demo 
Intense hardcore. This demo is about three minutes long

Outlier: Live '17 
Screamo / post rock from San Jose

Pandiscordian Necrogenesis: Eigenwelt
The only thing that separates this one man black thrash recorded in a tenderloin toilet project, of which there are many, this guy actually performs the stuff live, as a one man band. And he records all the stuff while at work at Guitar Center or something.

Shannon And The Clams: Onion 
Well, this is a local band that I never really checked out because they weren't in my scene. But this is good stuff, the focus is obviously Shannon's singing, but credit must be given to the band and their arrangements, for capturing the truly 60's soul, surf and motown analog vibe.

Von Goat: Manifesto Darkside Odyssey 
What the fuck? I mean WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Atone: EP
Writing reviews of metal, how does one continue to come up with descriptions of the vocal caterwauling contained therein? What haven't I used yet? Glass gargling? Goat felating? OK, how about molten lead swallowing vocals this time. Over mid to slow paced sludge, with crunchy upfront guitars

Deathglam: Overrated Hype 
I don't know how to describe this, but I think I like it. Left field art school girl grind?

Realms Of Vision: Through All Unknown 
Polished melodic stoner metal

Reapers Row: Blade Of Justice single 
This is a pretty badass song of crossover hardcore from San Jose

Ripped To Shreds: 埋葬 
Meaty, good quality OSDM with interesting riffs

Vastum / Spectral Voice split 7" 
One new Vastum song!

Ails: The Unraveling 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Cold Claw: Punish The Blind 
Wolves at your throat hardcore influenced metal from San Jose

Doctor Deaf: The Lottery 7"
Flailing 90's grunge punk explosion

Sleep: The Sciences 
Predictable, but very solid and fun release from Sleep!

Slege: Slit The Throat Of Abraham 
Lo fi Santa Cruz Blackmetal

Stray Rebel Bullet: What Will You Become 
Melodic death metal with western imagery

Terry Gross: Shameless Impostor 10" 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Twilight: Trident Death Rattle 
The final recordings of Bay Area black metal supergroup

Violation Wound: With Man In Charge 
Nasty, metal influenced hardcore punk from Bay Area OGs.

Wild Hunt: Afterdream Of The Reveller 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Arm The Valkyrie: Sojourn 
Santa Rosa metal with black and new school death elements

Body Void: I Live Inside A Burning House 
This is starving, trapped at the bottom of a well, with no Lassie in sight to run for help doom! A bleak, hopeless, existential crawling rot.

Deseos Primitivos: Demo 
Bouncy anthemic punk en espanol

Dunnock: Little Stories Told By Ghosts 
Sounds like somebody's bedroom project

False Figure: s/t 
Definitely the most punk of the new wave of Oakland post punk. More good stuff here.

Forlorn / Vakaren split 
Howling naked starving in the snow blackmetal

Ghoul / Ill Bill split
Wow, I'm gonna have to check out Ill Bill, that's my type of rap. Ghould sounds like Ghoul, ya know?A fun novelty release from Tankcrimes

Grayceon: IV 
Epic, proggy sweeping vistas, electric cello and blastbeats, where else are you gonna find that! This is pretty awesome except when it occasionally gets sappy.

Gulch: Burning Desire To Draw Last Breath 7" 
Really mean hardcore, beefy production

Hatchets For Hands: Convulsions Of A Dying Empire 
Melodic death metal studio project

Light This City: Terminal Bloom 
Polished and modern neo hardcore thrash

Septicemic Plague: Creeping Flesh Horror 
Sounds like a home recording, probably with Garage Band drums. Decrepit grindcore with next level bestial vocals

Sleep: Leagues Beneath single 
A brand new Sleep song that's not on the new album

Trauma: As The World Dies 
Cliff Burton's old band before he was in Metallica. They're back. Old school metal

Vastum / Spectral Voice: split 
A new Vastum song!

Wooden Shjips: V 
Mellow West Coast psychedelic rock. Influence of Kraut

Abstracter: Cinerous Incarnate 
Blackened Doom. They went a little more black metal (faster) on this, their third album. Absolutely bleak, despairing atmospherics here, hopeless, crawling through a future war zone. One bullet left. Use it on one last enemy, or yourself?

Barren Altar: Entrenched In The Vaults Of The Earth 
Sounds like moonlight on new fallen snow. And that snow has just been smeared with blood and feces. Let's call this hmmmm…. expansive black metal? Not particularly fast, but not quite slow enough for the blackened doom tag.

Cell Rot: Violent Spirals 
Infuriated mean heavy hardcore. Sprinkled with, but not overridden with blastbeats and breakdowns for tasteful effect.

Deathgrave: So Real, It's Now 
Fun grind/death. Mostly I get a kick out of seeing this band live, and hanging with the people, but this album cover is really cool.

Flesh Consumed: Hymn For the Leeches 
Technical brutal death metal from Santa Cruz

Gloam / Obscure Evil split 
One new track from Santa Cruz's Gloam. eerie and mysterious just like the fog rolling in from Monterey Bay.

Glorium Draconis / Xenotaph / Palace Of Worms / Ehecatl split

Grosero: s/t 
Urgent hardcore punk from San Francisco

Heavy Stench: Death Or Danger demo 
Off kilter San Jose crust, teetering on the bring of chaos!

Morir: s/t demo tape 
Brutally dank sludge hardcore from Oakland

Mortuous: Through Wilderness 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Mountaineer: Passages 
It's supposed to be shoe gaze / post-rock or something, but to me it just sounds like slow screamo

Obastra: II 
Technical suburban death metal

Owl: Awaken Jupiterian Cassingle 
My only release in 2018 :(

Roman Lions: Absolutes 
San Jose screamo

Shannon Shaw: Shannon In Nashville 
60's style pop well produced

Spiritual Cramp: Police State EP 
Ah, here's something a bit different. New wave dub-ska from SF

Void Omnia / Isenordal: Split 
Three new Void Omnia songs!

Possessed: Abandoned single 
The unmistakable voice, but with an updated death/thrash sound

Tired Lord: Demo 
I don't know where this came from, but it's pretty good. Heavy SF black metal

Wrack: Hollow Sun EP 
Abrasive, technical heavy solo project. Drummer from The Mass.

Ancient Empire: Eternal Soldier 
More epic AF classic metal

Aseptic: Murderous Obesessions 
Dry OSDM duo from San Jose.

Deafheaven: Ordinary Corrupt Human Love 
OK, I don't know what this sounds like cause I'm just not going to listen to it

Dearth: Of Martyrdom And Polluted Faith 
A howl of foul black metal shrieks out of the tomb! Icy hands clutch your throat!

Dispirit: Enantiodromian Birth Demo 
A weirdo post punk intro, and then some very disjointed / discordant dual vocals when it gets fast. No big surprises here, but always small surprise, buried in the muck of Dispirit.

Dustern: Ouden  
Dreamy, ethereal "doom?" Doom-gaze? It's pretty nice and relaxing. It kind of turned into background music. But it was a relief from all the toilet goblin suicide sludge I've been listening to lately. 

Esses: Offering 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Extremity: Coffin Birth 

Khorada: Salt 
This is kind of hard to describe, so I'm gonna call it "too many cooks in the kitchen metal." Some of the recipes I like more than others. This is half Bay Area band, so I'm gonna let them squeak by and be on the list. Members of Agalloch and Giant Squid, the best parts of Salt are actually better than either of those bands.

Mordant Rapture: The Abnegation 
The soundtrack to playing fantasy RPGs in your parents basement and drinking lots of Mountain Dew

Nopes: Stapler 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Occlith: Obscure Heresies 
Half Sacramento, but I guess we'll accept it! Midtempo death doom.

Older Sun s/t 
Solid heavy rock 'n' roll with soul! And that soul comes in the form of their singer, the imposing Chris Wagner!

Shit Coffins: The Continuous Pleasure Of Living 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Survival: Murkin Hella Fools 
What the fuck?

World Peace: Fear Through And Through 
Brutal power violence hardcore from SF. Four songs in less than two minutes.

Altars: EP 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Crebain: Rehearsal 2012 
Demo Lo-fi (well, it's a demo, OK!) SF black metal

Eviscerate: The Feast Unholy 
Brutal death metal from Santa Cruz

Firearm: Dravecky EP 
That's really cool that someone made this kind of hardcore again. Fun, catchy but tough mid tempo stompers.

Khiis: Saboor 7"
Punchy Oakland hardcore sunk in Farsi

Mamaleek: Out Of Time 
Self described "black metal," very avant garde noisy weird stuff

Mournful Cries: Vices EP 
More fuzzed out stoner droner from Santa Roser

Mystic Priestess: No Tomorrow, Only Today 
Dark SF post punk

No Statik: Mysterious To Ourselves 
More competent, enraged hardcore from this local crew. the album ends with some extended noise weirdness, which might be my favorite part!

No Statik: What Did You Give Away When You Gave In? 7" 
Deconstructed hardcore with a side of noise. Companion to the LP

Serpents Of Dawn: Into The Garden 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Spira: Elixir 
Solo black metal project out of the Redwood Empire

Anisoptera: Spawn Of Odanta 
Techinal progressive (?) death metal

Atrament: Scum Sect 
Hardcore d-beat death metal punk. This is brutal, but fun! Like getting your ass kicked by a guy in a panda bear costume! Plus, if a record has Chad Gailey on drums, you know it's gonna slam!

Bosse-de-Nage: Further Still 
Avante grade black metal. At it's worst, it sounds a bit screamo, but this is forgiven by perplexing riffs and inventive drumming. The content and aesthetic seem to have more in common with 20th century post modernism and 19th century French libertine cafe poetry than the usual "icy winds of the north" black metal tropes. A very unique band.

Clueless: Demo 
Beatdown hardcore with the rare female vocals

Cultural Warfare: Warmageddon 
Silly thrash metal with some groove tendencies

Disciples Of Icarus: s/t 
Hey! These guys practice across the hall from us!

Dragonlord: Dominion 
Symphonic black/thrash from one of the Testament dudes

Glowing Brain: EP 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Marbled Eye: Leisure 
Tight as dead skin, stiff as a board, interlocking robotic post punk

Ragana / Thou Split 
Raspy voiced loud/quiet blackened doom band Ragana did a split with Louisiana's Thou

Sepsis: Twisted Remains EP 
Santa Cruz low-fi death doom /  death thrash

Swamp Witch: Dead Rituals 
Crushing raspy doom

Urban Sprawl: Demo 2018 
Tough US style hardcore

War Bison: Acre
Fast SF hardcore

Yarrow: Rebirth
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Brainoil: Singularity To Extinction 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018 

Castle: Deal Thy Fate 
Meat and potatoes thrashy rock metal

Charger: Demo
Mötormetal from Oakland scene veterans

Cult Graves: Demo '18 
Sounds like an avalanche of death rolling down on you

Deadpressure: s/t 
Savage South Bay power violence to numb all the extremities!

Doctor Deaf: Nicotine cassingle
Caterwauling rock grunge punk from SF

Evulse: Call Of The Void 
Extremely heavy DM with a fat low end. The dive bombing guitars add a fun old school element to the proceedings!

High On Fire: Electric Messiah 
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Mortuous / Scolex split 7" 
Two badass songs from some of the Bay's best death metal bands

Psychic Hit: Promo 2018 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Rage Of War: The War Begins 
Silly suburban thrash metal

Roht: Worship Rot 
Chainsaw grind death massacre

Super Unison: Stella 
Screamy post punk, more dynamic than their old stuff

Varnok: VRNK 
Silly old school thrash

Bastet: Dawn Of Darkness Demo 
Minimalistic dark punk. Slinking down the alleyway to cut your ass

Bonestripper: Whores Of The Ass Age 
The first wave of East Bay pussycrust whorecore. I feel like I should have worn an ear-condom while listening to this.

Cash Pony: Roughhousing 
Intricate, psychedelic instrumental rock

Deseos Primitivos: Existir 7" 
Chorused out anarchy liberation punk

Drain: Promo 2018 
Snotty beatdown crossover thrash hardcore

Ethnocide: Fleshly Tomb 
Primitive weird death thrash

Mefitis: Widdrim Hymn 
Symphonic black / death(?) metal. That means keyboards

Pandiscordian Necrogenesis: Outer Supernal 
The ultimate one man black metal team comes in with his best and weirdest release yet

Provoke: Get Out / Here First single 
Driving Oakland hardcore with a message

Skinlab: Dead Tomorrow (single) 
Bay Area groove metal

Smokers: Falling Backward 7"
Timeless sounding East Bay punk with a driving urgency

Ulthar: Cosmovore
See top ten Bay Area releases of 2018

Aseptic: Senses Decay EP 
Really tight, punchy OSDM, almost proto death. Fun! Still wish they had a bass player.

Atomik Kavemen: s/t
If you must...

Domino And The Derelicts: Laugh It Off 
It's impossible not to compare it to The Gits and Tilt, which is not a bad thing!

Hoy Como Ayer: Demo 
Energetic Oakland punk en espanol

Tenebrose: Morphogenesis 
Creepy ambient analog synth, sounds like a horror soundtrack

These Bastards: Old And Pissed 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

No Lights: Cassette EP 
Echoey upbeat SF punk

Ontogeny: Antisocial Media 
Complicated death metal. Shitty album cover

Riita: Absolute Santa Rosa EP 
See top ten Bay Area new bands of 2018

Squalus / Shadowlimb: Split 
Squalus sings some songs about sharks in a raspy voice

Tuning: Promo 2018 
Melodic hardcore from Concord

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for mentioning Mefitis. There's only one small section that uses synth. The rest of the "symphonic" sounding stuff is layered vocals that Vatha and I sang. Cheers.