Wall of Sound presents: “2018 YEAR IN REVIEW” – by Wall of Sound Writer Simon Valentine

It’s been a busy world of heavy music in 2018, but also busy for me. This year has seen me come aboard the WoS train as a contributor, immerse myself within the live music scene in Canberra, before pulling up stumps and heading back interstate to a familiar area within reach of both Sydney and Newcastle. In between, I’ve discovered new sounds, learned to hunt deer, steal and ride horses and…oh, sorry, I’ve also been one of many playing Red Dead Redemption 2 lately. Atta girl.

2018 had some new rock festivals hitting Australian cities, including Download and Good Things, finally delivering Australia a proper rock festival circuit not seen since the much-missed Soundwave festival. Sure, while Download only hosted one city this year, the fact that it expands to two cities in 2019 proves that if the support is there, a festival will grow well.

We’ve also lost some legends this year, both in and out of heavy music. Like most metal fans, however, I’ll remember 2018 as the year we lost Vinnie Paul Abbott, one half of the legendary brothers that gave us possibly the most influential band of modern metal today, Pantera. His drumming style, along with his audio engineering and production chops, delivered a sound that has been often emulated, but never bettered, throughout the late 90’s and beyond. His zest for life, along with his brother Dimebag’s party spirit, resulted in three volumes of antics on Pantera home videos, a style later adapted by the Johnny Knoxville and his band of Jackasses.

I’ve heard some great music this year, not only from existing favorites, but also some new acts, including one that may well be Australia’s biggest metal export right now, but has actually flown under my radar for the longest time.

Thanks to this awesome gig, I’ve found not only some great talent, but possibly my voice within the Australian music industry. So, a big thanks to Browny for giving me a go, and without further ado, here’s my Wall of Sound 2018 Year in Review.

Top 10 Albums of 2018

Except for probably the first five or so, these are not really in an order of preference, as there were so many great albums to choose from this year. This is just some of my highlights of what came out.

1. Parkway Drive – Reverence

Yep. Until this year I had never listened to Parkway Drive.

It’s not that I didn’t know who they were – I remember catching them at one of the last Big Day Out tours a few years back, made a mental note to grab an album at some point, and never did (like most times I’ve made a mental note.)

This year, however, the buzz around their forthcoming album was great enough that it caught my attention. So, off to JB I went, and 20 bucks later, popped a shiny new copy of Reverence into my car CD player.

And holy heck. Winston’s crushing intro to ‘Wishing Wells’ was possibly the heaviest thing I’d heard in the last few years at least. And what followed was 10 solid nuggets of Byron Bay-grown metal from a band I had previously dismissed as a bit too metalcore for my tastes but have evolved into a solid outfit.

Sadly, I missed their recent Aussie tour, having to move around the same time. Hopefully Parkway Drive find the time for a regional tour in 2019.

2. Andrew W.K – You’re Not Alone

Everyone’s favourite party guru returned this year with an album full of uplifting anthems and inspiring messages. You’re Not Alone might be a radical departure in vocal style from the guttural anthems that made ‘I Get Wet’ one of the more underrated classics of the early 2000’s, but the energy is still there. Each song sounds as epic as the last, from ‘Music Is Worth Living For’, ‘Ever Again’, and my favourite from the album, ‘Total Freedom’, Andrew WK had a message to get out, and hopefully the gap between this album and the next is a little shorter.

3. Machine Head – Catharsis

This got widely panned by both critics and parts of the band’s own fanbase for various reasons, ranging from Rob’s more progressive political attitude conveyed in his lyrics, a return to that unspoken-of era of rap-metal in ‘Triple Beam’, to just the view that Catharsis just sounds too much like the last few albums.

Me? I love it – it’s simply more of the Machine Head that I love. There’re some decent riffs on this record, and the message of (for me) the standout track, ‘Bastards’, was needed this year.

4. Lamb of God/Burn the Priest – Legion XX

I reviewed Lamb of God’s crack at a covers record earlier this year and found exactly what I’ve come to expect from these guys – a band that goes above and beyond to put out their best work. Each song was clearly debated among themselves, and work was put in to each arrangement to ensure that, while it stayed true to the original song, you had no doubt who you were listening to.

5. Hockey Dad – Blend Inn

During the year I spent some time getting into a bit of Aussie indie rock, with the likes of DZ Deathrays finding their way to Canberra to play a show. I picked up Hockey Dad’s new release, Blend Inn, completely on a whim one Friday night. By Sunday I’d listened to it about six times. Loose, grungy and the vocals aren’t quite as ‘Aussie ocker’ sounding as quite a few indie bands are getting in the bad habit of.

(Seriously, and I mean no offence, but this trend of indie/Triple J bands wailing like you’re from Frankston needs to stop in the new year. It just sounds like an ad for Bunnings.)

6. Pennywise – Never Gonna Die

Pennywise are back in fine form and delivered a solid offering of skate-punk earlier this year. I’ve always loved the skate/ska punk genre and might even revisit some Fat Wreck/Epitaph releases and share them with the WoS community in the new year.

Should be a blast when Pennywise make it down here in 2019 for the Download Festival.

7. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

I’ll admit, I was on the anti-Barnett bandwagon with everyone’s favourite Melbourne indie-rocker when she initially burst on to the scene (see my rant above about ‘Aussie-ocker’.) But with this year’s album Courtney’s unique style has grown on me a bit, and the clear Nirvana influence has contributed to an album that deserved its ARIA win this year.

Plus, mad respect to a guitarist who thrashes out on steel strings like that without a pick.

8. Luca Brasi – Stay

My first taste of these Tassie punks came a few years back in the form of this video. Since then, Luca Brasi have become one of the working dogs of the live music scene. With Stay the band continues to evolve, and hopefully 2019 will see them break out a bit more into the mainstream.

9. Pagan – Black Wash

Another new Aussie band I discovered during the year. Pagan offers up a different sound, and vocalist Nikki has a voice that could tear you to pieces. Having just wrapped a European tour, expect to hear a lot more from this band in 2018.

10. LoveBites – Battle Against Damnation (EP)

With the breakout of BABYMETAL in recent years, the spotlight is starting to grow on Japanese rock and metal acts. Of course, there are those of us (like myself) who have been onto the offerings of Japan music for a long time now. The Japanese have a wonderful habit of combining multiple styles and concepts to come up with something completely unexpected, from the glam and extravagance of Visual Kei, to doing the unexpected with the metal genre.

A good example of this right now is LoveBites, five women from Japan with immense talent, offering a sound influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden. With the release of their mini-album, Battle Against Damnation doing well, expect to hear more from this band in the coming year.

 

Top 5 Songs of 2018

Most of the songs this year have been stellar, and so many that it’s a bit hard to remember what came out this year. This list is probably more indicative of recent releases.

  1. Parkway Drive – ‘Wishing Wells’
  2. BABYMETAL – ‘Distortion’
  3. MXPX – ‘Rolling Strong’
  4. Millencolin – ‘SOS’
  5. Gerard Way – ‘Baby You’re a Haunted House’

 

Top 5 Music Videos YouTubers of 2018

I’ve been watching more music YouTube channels than actual music videos this year, as there’s some immensely talented musicians making a name for themselves online. So, just to be different, here’s my top 5 YouTube creators from the music genre.

1. Frog Leap Studios

If you’re not one of over two million subscribers to this awesome metal musician from Norway, you’ve been missing out on some great renditions of mainstream songs, including Toto’s Africa – covered by many, yes, but this one is probably the best version on the internet. Leo Moracchioli clearly has a lot of fun making not just the songs but also putting a ton of effort into his videos. Having begun touring with a live band this year, hopefully he makes his way down here in 2019.

 

2. Rob Scallion

This musician has carved out a spot on YouTube with various songs and hilarious videos (see ‘Metal in Very Inappropriate Places.’) Late this year he released a series of collaborations with fellow YouTube musician Sarah Longfield, which started off with some very cool Ukulele covers of Slayer.

Things escalated, however, reaching a climax with the very heavy Prison Break, which was coupled with a video reminiscent of Slayer’s recent Repentless.

 

3. Matthew K Heafy

Yes, that’s right, Trivum’s frontman Matt Heafy, an avid gamer, started a Twitch channel a few years ago, and has quickly found an audience. Sometimes from on the road, Matt started out streaming his gaming sessions, but quickly found out the platform also serves as a great outlet for a musician, hosting solo guitar performances and masterclasses, and lately he’s also been experimenting with different cover versions.

The guy has a wicked sense of humor with his choice of songs – I laughed my arse off one morning a few months back when I opened my phone to this quirky cover.

 

4. Ryan ‘Fluff’ Bruce

More for the tech heads and guitarists (like myself,) Fluff’s style is pretty laid back and funny, and offers a great source for gear reviews and advice/opinions on guitar and recording. A working guitarist for the band Rest, Repose, you’ll sometimes see vlogs from the road as well, rounding out a living that’s by far more interesting than his former career of working in the IT department of an airport.

 

5. Guitarist YouTubers

The argument that guitar music is dying becomes invalid when you look at the growing number of musicians finding an audience on YouTube. While I’ve already mentioned a few, there’s a growing community of talent that really warrants a mention.

Jared Dines probably pops up on your Facebook feed with his brand of metal humor, but he’s had a solid year musically, being part of the band Rest, Repose, along with recently joining Trivium on the road.

Rabea Massaad is another guitarist finding a following, collaborating with the likes of Leo Moracchioli, Rob Scallion and guitar craftsman Rob Chapman.

Mary Spender offers a more mellow style with her blend of vlogs, covers and originals, while Sarah Longfield not only has the voice that is made for metal, her guitar chops are pretty killer.

 

The Top 5 Gigs of 2018

1. BABYMETAL – December 8th @ Good Things Festival, Sydney

Among the lineup of Good Things Festival this month, none was more anticipated for me than BABYMETAL’s Australian debut. And they didn’t disappoint – their set was filled with the songs I was hanging to see live, and the festival audience lapped it up with an energetic reception. Let’s hope they come back soon.

good things festival lineup poster

2. Polaris – July 20th @The Basement, Canberra

Bringing the goods to Canberra back in July, Polaris, aided with special guests Justice for The Dammed, Diamond Construct, and Above, Below, put on one hell of a show. I’m sure things will only go up for the band in 2019, and I also look forward to seeing more of Justice in the new year. (Review Here)

polaris regional tour banner

 

3. Northlane – December 8th @ Good Things Festival, Sydney

The second highlight of this festival for me was the hometown show of Australian metal giants Northlane.  This band rained fire down on the Sydney crowd literally with a stunning pyro show, and as someone only just getting into Northlane I’m now clamouring to pick up their catalogue (on vinyl, of course.)

good things festival lineup poster

4. Cradle of Filth – May 9th @ The Basement, Canberra

I’ve been meaning to witness the Filth for a long time, having been a fan since the Nymphetamine and Thornography era. The band did not disappoint, with Dani Filth in fine form as one of the most unique voices in metal, while guitarist Richard Shaw made a fan out of me with some excellent shredding skills. While I may not be a deep black metal fan, I’ve always had an ear on what the genre offers, and look forward to my next live fix. (Review Here)

cradle o

5. Witchskull – July 6th @Transit Bar, Canberra

I heard a bit of buzz around the capital about these local doom metal legends, went and caught their album launch tour and was blown away. A very loud and heavy band, and well worth a look if they come near your neck of the woods.

Witchskull-Tour

Best Discovery of 2018

While I could say Parkway Drive, a few other things come to mind. During the year, I found myself getting into a few different genres thanks to my involvement in composing some music for games. One was the Chillstep genre, finding a swathe of compilations on YouTube that sound amazing.

The other genre that really got my attention however is Retrowave, this really cool electronic genre that combines the style of 80’s synth (think Schwarzenegger in the Commando era) with modern production sounds. The act in particular that’s got me hooked is a group called Dance With The Dead, whose style combines the big synths of the 80’s with killer metal riffs, creating an almost Rammstein-esqe sound but a little more synth-heavy.

They released a new album this year, which is great, however their previous album, The Shape is what’s got me hooked.

 

Who Is The Next Big Australian Band?

Having saw Justice for The Dammed in Canberra, and with their release of new music recently, I’m tipping these guys are lined up to make more of an impact in Australian metal in the coming year. Along with that, I’m tipping further growth in the Aussie scene overall. Some great bands are coming up and making a mark – make sure you get out in the new year and lend your support.

 

What Are You Looking Forward To The Most In 2019?

There’s already a stack of new stuff on the way in 2019 that I’m looking forward to. The punk in me is hanging for the new Millencolin album, and hopefully we might see something from the Less Than Jake camp as well. In the metal world, clearly Slipknot are about to have a big year, and now that I’m closer to Sydney again, I look forward to seeing some more shows and seeing some more local acts. And, of course, the Download Festival will be on my calendar. I’m also hoping to get a bit more into vinyl too, thanks to @KeepnTabs73  new feature, The Vinyl Odyssey.

On top of that, I plan on contributing more to WoS next year, with a few ideas that are bouncing around my head. Thanks for the support, and I’ll see you next year!

Written by Simon Valentine @SimonValentine1

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