It is that time again. This list was started because well doom and sludge are not the same thing. Neither is doom and stoner rock. While stoner rock and sludge are not the same thing, the lines seem to be blurred a little closer and basically this is about how much pot you are smoking. If you are smoking pot hoping for the apocalypse then you are sludge, you also probably like crusty punk. If you are riding around the desert smoking pot while hoping to find more pot to smoke while listening to Thin Lizzy you are stoner rock. But we are lumping them together, just like last year. The score from my reviews to help determine the ranking , but also how many times Last FM told me I listened to each album.An album can have all the critical acclaim in the world but if it does not inspire multiple listens then how good can it actually be ?
This year it leans more heavily on the side of between new blood being spilled and more well established acts . Rather than posting media of a track from each band I am leaving a link to the review, which will contain Bandcamp or Full Album Streams. Ok, enough talking about it, the time has come to dig into the top 10 Stoner /sludge albums of 2018.
10- Secret Cutter - "Quantum Eraser"
Heavy... that is the mission statement here. This Trio is one of the band's whose name I am familiar with, but have never sat down to give a solid listen. Sludge seems to be the focus, though the spastic tormented vocals could come from a grind core band as they are not just the coarse bellow that booms from most sludge.I think they accomplished what they set out to do, If you are into sludge filled grind core with groove then this album is more for you. It grew on me the more I listened.
9- Wolftooth - s/t
Imagine if Ghost was not pussies but hammered you with dense aggressive chugs. This is a good example of what separates the band's on this list from doom, it's to upbeat and focused on the chug to be doom, though not fast enough to be power metal or thrash, however they are the right speed to rip a bong to. Going back to listen to this album as I made this list reminded me of how good it is.
8- Alkymist - "s/t"
The first song on the band's self titled debut reminds me of a cross between Godflesh and Neurosis.I do think the difference between doom and sludge lies in the sense of mourning , and this album carries a dirtier more apocalyptic chug to it, that is being displayed here. I'm just working off my first impression of the opener so maybe their entire families get killed before the second song and the album takes a more despondent turn. I can also hear some Crowbar influence in the grunt of the vocals.
7-Uncle Acid and the Dead Beats - "Wasteland"
When it comes to the retro style of stoner rock these guys feel like the Rob Zombie version of that as things have had a pulp horror feel to them. Their hippy side tends to win out, but this album finds the normally hard rock band leaning into a more Sabbath style of metal. The first two songs have a catchier swagger and chug to them. This is the strongest effort yet from the band.
6-Besvärjelsen : "Vallmo"
Blending a surreal darkness with doom tinged rock riffs these guys so deftly deal in. It's the more surreal swirl to their sound that helps elevate them from the rest of the retro occult rock. While they might not be as keen of songwriters as Devils Blood was they are going into a more drugged out direction. With some interesting melodic breaks these guys are like subtle weed as in they creep up on you and the songs often seep into your brain.
5-Sleep- "the Sciences"
The first album in two decades from Sleep. If you are new to stoner metal and just crawling out from under a mushroom, then you might know guitarist Matt Pike from this other band called High On Fire. Al Cisneros who handles the vocals has also played in OM and this time they have the drummer from Neurosis sitting behind the drums. The vocals come across a little different than I remember. They are lower and not as soaked in effects.It does a good job of picking up where they left off. With these guys older and wiser the results don't come short of them proving themselves capable of sitting along side the like of Kyuss in the smoky halls of stoner metal royalty.
4- Atlas Moth- "Coma Noir"
These guys have met at the cross roads of varied genres for sometimes. The consensus is these guys are sludge, though they have played black metal projects individually so that influence is there. They blend sung vocals with screamed vocals that are at a higher pitch bringing another comparison to black metal. There is a powerful metallic chug tothe grooves are to refined to be sludge. It almost borders on Myspace metal styled hardcore as the refinement of the riffs in some cases is a refined as say Atreyu. The way the guitars are layered sometimes it's hard to tell if they are using synths or heavily effected guitars.
3- Fister - "No Spirit Within"
This album has plenty pf the wretched vocal howls and crunching slabs of low tuned riffs as it also creates a mood that poses the question where does doom begin and sludge end. They often have a woeful feel until things begin to pick up pace. The guitars capture a sonic atmosphere that's dark and impresses me. They go from almost jamming to the guitars becoming a demolishing swathe of pounding distortion. They weave in interesting shifts in dynamics which doesn't go into all the normal places as the band keeps you guessing with their affinity for haunting melody.
2 Windhand- "Eternal Return"
While they are still fixated on Sabbath like overdrive, the vocals have more hooks and they are sharper. Her lazy alto floats over the thick riffs. This is a good example of how I don't need the wheel reinvented I just need bands to give it their own spin. They step away from the bong to indulge in smokey country with a blues underbelly. This might be their most balanced album yet and shows a ton of maturity in their refined songwriting.
1-Ilsa- "Corpse Fortress"
This band is refusing to hold back on on their debut for Relapse Records. The band's 5th full length finds them continuing to hammer skulls in with the sheer density of their blown out sludge. Dirty and squealing with feedback. The vocals are phrased in a way that that give the coarse scathing shouts almost more of sung feel. The lyrics cut through better with this delivery. They shift back into more of a low end pounding that owes more to doom when it comes to the ominous rumble as the momentum continues to build. The flatulent bass can be heard in the din at times, but it generally hits you as one frequency. This album earned multiple listens I think it is a huge step forward for the band