Another wild year is coming to an end so it’s about time all you grinders scrubbed down your manky gears and made them all pretty looking for Satan Claus. This list won’t be exhaustive in the slightest, as there are hundreds of grind and grind-adjacent records that I just didn’t have the time to check out — there were just as many that I gave a cursory fifteen seconds listen and decided ‘NOPE’. This ‘year in review ‘will be focused almost entirely on bands that I’ve thrown into the scabby battle pit of Grind My Gears over the last twelve months, with the snarky titles and blunt force imagery used rearing their charming, cultured head yet again. If you didn’t enjoy any of it so far, you can go right ahead and browse Pitchfork’s Top 50 instead, you fucking wet blanket.
Blast Of The Year
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you why Europe is the new home of the best grindcore around. You can thank a couple of bands for being the basis of this bold, bullish claim, namely Ernia (Spain), and Beaten To Death (Norway). The new Beaten To Death record isn’t actually out yet, so you’re really gonna have to take my word for it, but the wacky Norwegians have ousted themselves as the premier melodic grindcore act on Agronomicon. The almost impossible to categorise act push forward with some of the most devastating grindcore sounds and effortlessly squeeze melodic passages, uplifting major chords, and downright anthemic choruses into their brutal attack. On paper, this shouldn’t work, but somehow Beaten To Death manage to make grindcore into something the whole family can enjoy. Yes, even your aul da will be tapping his feet after a gluttonous Xmas dinner when you put this on for everyone at home. The record won’t make most end of year lists, but this is the best list on the planet, so that’s all that matters. Now, go back and listen to the rest of their records. You owe it to (me) yourself.
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Driving over the finish line of 2018 and forcing a photo-finish result, the Spanish deathgrind onslaught of Ernia’s self-titled LP also came out late in the year to relatively low furore, and that is the biggest crime of the year. Channelling the old school riffs of Florida death metal legends and cranking up the speed and intensity with perfectly condensed mayhem, Ernia’s big debut never relents and, even through the brief intro and spacious interludes, finds time to pull back a big weighty fist, ready to slap math and jazz-inspired licks all over your chops – but they never stop death grinding, no sirree. A completely different band and style to Beaten To Death, both Ernia and the Norwegians refuse to adhere to grind rules and regulations and as such, they have created two of the most thrilling releases I’ve had the chance to bless my ears with earlier than most.
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Prime Cuts – Math Shit
Although Ernia take the biscuit for me with their late flurry of devastating math metal noodling over endless blast beats, 2018 was a really fun year for anyone into grinding, numeracy core, i.e anyone that might have listened to War From A Harlots Mouth or Ion Dissonance i.e someone I want to hang out with. I had the pleasure of covering and debuting material from one of my new favourite projects toeing this line (and in general, let’s be honest), Fawn Limbs. The Transatlantic noisegrindmathcore project hits so many notes (figuratively) that I crave in extreme music and their two EP’s Towing Heads and Languor are both incredibly professional and crisp sounding – a massive accomplishment for a project that thrives in musical maelstrom and an even bigger accomplishment considering it began life this summer.
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Similarly, California’s Soaked In Disillusion dance over the jagged lines between math metal and grind, dipping regularly into hardcore and gonzo, Mr Bungle type circus jams too. Their journey-down-the-rabbit-hole 2018 release Counter almost passed me by like so many others on a certain YouTube grind channel, but I’m so glad I hit play instead of giving them one of the ‘NOPE’s. Offering something new with every listen, the band groove just as hard as they grind and this remains one of my favourite cuts of the year. Music for nu-metal kids AND dirty grinders.
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Prime Cuts – Sludge Shit
There must have been some particularly smoggy air around the planet this year (too soon for a wildfires joke?) because there were some seriously thick, sludgy grind bands forcing me to slow things down. A touch. Nashville’s Bled To Submission blew me away with their latest EP, Vermin. Evoking the smoke-filled practice rooms of an early Black Sabbath jam session, these deviants emptied their tar-filled lungs and broken, battered hearts on this experimental, churning blast of the two best genres to get stupidly high to. Opting to make sure every instrument and note is clear might seem backward for a band operating in these two areas, but the overall impact of this EP is a perfect example for good extreme production.
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Secret Cutter released an album this year. I repeat, Secret Cutter released an album this year. I repeat myself solely because honestly, it got lost in a sea of releases when it came out and it took me a while to come back around and enjoy it. Quantum Eraser squashes any notion of the band being one-note, seeing the Philadelphian’s shift effortlessly through time signatures, grooves, and devastating bursts of ear-piercing, room-filling noise. Maybe one of the slower records on this list, it still hits harder than just about everything else you heard in 2018. Fucking good shit, well deserving of multiple repeat visits.
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Prime Cuts – Violent Shit
Grind My Gears has slowly become a home for some of the most violent, abrasive music around and if I hadn’t started writing it, I may not have stumbled across my love for noise terror. It warms my cockles every time I listen to new music from these next two acts and this year I was spoiled by both. One man cybergrind project Fucked might have only released just over five minutes of music in 2018, but those five minutes are a welcome breath of blackened, mechanized filth. Bordering on complete distortion in many parts, the furious digital blast beats and completely overdriven guitars ensure that the Miss Piss EP merited mention in this, my love letter to the year’s extreme music. The all-out black metal barrage that rounds of the EP is one of my favourite minutes of music this year, even in a year so rife with fantastic short tracks.
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Another solo project (and a two-time GmG End of Year ‘awardee’) Throat Breach made sure that the end of the year remained noisy, abrasive, and “tar soaked”. There’s just that air of something tangibly disgusting about Hideous that made me run to my computer when I got the Bandcamp announcement of its arrival. Nightmarish vocals and stock drum machine sounds permeate through this hellish soundscape and you’ll never convince me that this isn’t one of the most playful examples of one-man grindcore going today. Fucked and Throat Breach need to keep making grind, even if just to make my daily visits of the ‘grind’ tag on Bandcamp all the sweeter when they drop new jams.
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Prime Cuts – Grind Shit
I love a subgenre. Mainly so I can pretend to be an obnoxious metal elitist on social media (Pretending? Who am I kidding?). Sometimes, you just need to tell someone the band you’re trying to force down their throat is grindcore, through and through. This year I had the pleasure of covering two true grindcore releases, one of which was this split from Chepang and TEST. The Nepal/NY “immigrindcore” band Chepang made a huge splash across all of the grind waters with DADHELO last year, and this year’s co-op effort with Brazil’s TEST was just as enjoyable, if not a little bit briefer. Both bands wear their heritage proudly and employ elements of their culture in their grindcore, but the ferocity and attack of their music never falter because of it. Quite the opposite. If you haven’t yet, drill a hole through your temple with this moreish, wholesome grindcore.
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From Nepal and Brazil back to old Blighty, The Atrocity Exhibit perfectly embody everything great about Great British grind. Full of scuzzy soundbites and even crustier riffs, Extinction Solution is easily one of the most truthfully brutal grind releases of the year and is full of d-beating, establishment eschewing rock’n’rust. Like being force-fed gravel with a side of broken pencils, if you can make your way through this record then you deserve a new patch on your piss-soaked denim jacket because you’re obviously a right hard cunt. Utterly filthy and not just featured here just because they use a bunch of clips from one of my favourite British movies ever (but it helped).
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Bonus Round – Scottish Shit
I’d be a fool of a man to pass up an opportunity to throw the scummy spotlight of grind onto my homeland (and the greatest country on the planet) Scotland. One of two Edinburgh based bands here, Endless Swarm‘s debut full-length is manic, maniacal, and should inspire you to mash your battered pizza into powder when you listen to it. Imprisoned In Skin comes after a long line of splits and EP releases and I don’t tread lightly with my words when I tell you it’s my favourite powerviolence record. Not just this year. It’s all hopped up on super-strength lager and skinny rollies and ultimately, kicks harder than yer maw after a skin full of Sainsbury’s gin. Alongside The Atrocity Exhibit, Endless Swarm are bona fide torchbearers for fast, fucked off music in 2018. Tour together lads, please.
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Now I’m not saying you’re gonna see these guys again soon somewhere on Heavy Blog (you are) but the first full-length Sectioned release needed some words from yours truly. Somehow, I haven’t committed bad puns and over-reaching analogies to text re: Annihilated yet, maybe because I haven’t stopped listening to it to be able to compose my thoughts. A full-scale attack of terrifying, outrageous beats and bops, every scorched word and moment of feedback-soaked battery is more furious than the next, building to the most serene conclusion of a most violent story. Music to listen to when you’re thinking about committing wanton destruction.
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No long outro from me this year. I know I missed a lot of grind you loved. I know I missed a lot of stuff I loved too. How long did you think I was going to make this article though? We both have shit to do. See you next year.