20 Underground Noise Rock Albums You Missed in 2018

Noise rock itself has become amorphous between the earliest stirrings of Half Japanese and The Velvet Underground to the clangor of Daughters and the spooky gloom of Ken Mode today. I am no expert nor am I the most ardent fan of the genre but there was no escaping its appeal after I’d first discovered Unsane and The Jesus Lizard in my mid-to-late 90’s high school years. Because the sub-genre itself distinguishes itself with retention of ‘rock’ song structures it becomes hard to see the fine line between other forms of indie, math rock, and alternative rock as the key proponent of modern noise rock involves toying with song structures as much as the old greats of the 80’s and 90’s did with time signatures and actual guitar noise/feedback. I’m looking out for you guys when trying to find albums with riffs and memorable songs here, but a few of these will just be weirdos for the sake of showing the out-of-the-box thinkers and hidden gems of noise rock today.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of noise rock in 2018 but rather to illustrate what noise rock is/was in 2018 and where I think it was most interesting yet overlooked. From my experience these albums were overlooked, underrepresented, and/or passed by quickly by media outlets. Thanks to streaming sites like Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud you’ve got instant access to hundreds of independent noise rock band discographies the world over and hey! I’ve done it for you all year, scouring those sites and a few databases that catalog most every release (Discogs/RYM). So, here are some bands that stood out to me as I dug through noise rock’s innards throughout 2018. There are a ton of great bands to pimp here that I’ve already reviewed or put in my Top 50 for this year so don’t think I forgot: Gerda, Exhalants, Throat, Heads., Coilguns, Daughters, Ken Mode, Big Ups, Uniform, Wrong, Marriage + Cancer, Deaf Wish, Body/Head, and tons of other top tier 2018 noise rock albums I missed.


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Artist Tongue Party
Title [Type/Year] Looking For a Painful Death [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

There are few noise rock records from this year that come close to capturing the gnarled, blood-spitting noise punk grind of the mid-to-late 90’s as Tongue Party have on their debut full length. These Minneapolis, Minnesota twentysomethings make it all sound easy as they bludgeon and groove their way through dirty riffs and mechanically separated rhythms but the draw for me was the combination of the slap of it all with the lyrics that directly question basic bullshit you see every day with idiots. There is this damned flippant ‘fuck you’ happening at the core of ‘Looking for a Painful Death’ that is exhilarating for folks like me who got a little bit older and gave up caring. On the same coin you could say the cynicism is childish but it matters less when they capture it so honestly.


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Artist Tuco
Title [Type/Year] Bottomless [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

It is nearly impossible to peruse the noise rock elite without allusions to two major sub-genre adherents: Sludge metal and post-hardcore. In the case of Nyon, Switzerland trio Tuco they lean towards sludge in terms of secondary influence and definitely fall on the Unsane spectrum in terms of groove and attack. Some affinity for hometown mathcore/sludge band Knut informs their approach but doesn’t necessarily devolve into their overly fiddly riffs. It is cliche to use the comparison in 2018 but you’ll definitely hear some bits of mid 90’s The Jesus Lizard due to the loud-quiet-loud ethos employed and less of the banging, rotten mud of bands like Tad or early Cherubs.


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Artist Årabrot
Title [Type/Year] Who Do You Love [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Ah, I can already feel the spit hitting my face as I have to admit these Norwegian noise rock folks aren’t necessarily underground after winning a Norwegian Grammy and hey this latest album is highly melodic art rock rather than your stereotypical noise rock… But Pelagic and FysiskFormat are not major labels and Årabrot are absolutely daring on this seventh (?) full-length since forming in 2001. The influence of post-punk is felt here and it is no doubt more The Birthday Party than it is Melvins this time around. For a modern noise rock record from an old band it definitely goes a little Bowie as it plays and I think that surreal sensibility helps the full listen stand out.


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Artist Night Vapors
Title [Type/Year] 1,000 Miles of Mud [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the source of all sorts of muck but it still comes as some small surprise that noise rock band Night Vapor so capably dig through the ugliest random number generator riffbox circa ’84 Greg Ginn in sourcing the movements for their second full-length ‘1,000 Miles of Mud’. Guitarist Aaron Myers-Brooks is a bonafide composer with a degree and everything yet all of the mad science conjured for this atonal spin-of-the-wheel amounts to the skronky sledging bass of Cows, the testicular sway of late 80’s Kildozer but there is a ranting ‘In My Head’ era Rollins feeling to it that always veers on the edge of losing it. I love the anxious forward crawl of the album as much as it ends up giving me a headache most of the time. The jagged, crooked-as-possible atonal guitar lines that form into songs more or less embody what ‘legitimate’ noise rock materialized into in the 80’s and early 90’s but also drives that approach far beyond the extremes of garage-jammed weirdness. Corpse Flower Records hasn’t disappointed yet and 2018 has been very sharp between this album and Heads.‘ ‘Collider’.


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Artist Tile
Title [Type/Year] Come On Home, Stranger [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Is there a better noise rock album than ‘Come On Home, Stranger’ in 2018? Yeah, I mean no I liked Wrong‘s record more and that Throat album is pretty hot too. Folks are so damned sure that Daughters is the best thing since that last Daughters record, I think they’re hipsters. I say this is more or less it and no small part of that is that Tile inject a healthy amount of 90’s sludge rock, just the tip of early Helmet groove, some moaning Sonic Youth-esque flailing, and a punk’s take on stuff like Floor. It is all over the place in the best kind of way. Everything I want in a modern noise rock record is here and the maturation of this band from ‘Welcome to Ditchyourfriendsville’ (2009) has made them one of my favorite noise-whatever bands. Nothing else on this list has the variety, the songwriting sense, nor the punk rock soul flinging around so freely.


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Artist At The Graves
Title [Type/Year] Lower [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Having followed Ben Price‘s work since ‘Solar’ (2012) released it is hard to be sure what direction he’ll take his At the Graves project in next. The style is assuredly post-something but varies between Neurosis influenced post-metal, a modern form of sludge/doom metal, and pure post-rock. ‘Lower’ is somewhere in between that post-metal and noise rock territory without any particularly harsh vocal treatments and although I put ‘Wrecked’ in the doom category last year, this year At the Graves are going in my noise rock related list. It might lean more towards atmospheric sludge rock but you’ll no doubt hear the noise rock influences on some of the guitar work.


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Artist Gentemayor
Title [Type/Year] A Tragic Inter-Species Love Tale [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This was a weird experience to have if only because the promo I’d been sent had 1-2 minute clips from each song rather than the full thing. I kept wondering if there was some issue as the album is 40+ minutes yet I the full tracklist was only 14 minutes. So, I didn’t review it and I waited until the full thing was on bandcamp. It is a shame because I would have given a fairly positive review. Hailing from Cádiz, Spain and intent on making experimental rock music Gentemayor spins the yarn of love with this tragic tale of incompatibility of a Retinta species cattle calf and a Payoya goat kid… Huh? It doesn’t matter the vocals are buried in effects and the kick of the drums, inventive guitar sounds, and synth work make for a unique and wild ride regardless of what they’re singing about.


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Artist The Great Sabatini
Title [Type/Year] Goodbye Audio [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Remember that one sludge metal band from like, 2014? They kinda did the noise rock thing underneath their modern sludge hammer dealie? The one with the evil looking Sesame Street thing on the front? Oh yeah, The Great Sabatini. They’re ok, I mean ‘Goodbye Audio’ is among the best noise rock related records of the year if you’re into ultra-pro production and big screaming sludge as much as fiddly noise rock and some hardcore punk parts. The split is about 60/40 in favor of sludge but it should still sit nicely next to that Treedeon record from the months previous and kinda compliments that Tile record I was raving about earlier. Tracks like “You’re Gonna Die (Unsatisfied)” definitely invoke the most snarling and scorned era of Helmet as much as they do the wobbling freakshow that was pre-‘Stoner Witch’ Melvins. The only part of the album I didn’t really “get” in terms of style was the floaty “Brute Cortege”. Might be light on the noise rock vibes for some but I think it’ll blow many minds.


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Artist Northwoods
Title [Type/Year] Wasteland [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the best noisecore albums I’ve heard all year not only comes from a self-professed post-hardcore band but also one that is completely obsessed with the mathcore spectrum of later Breach and earlier Converge. This damn album explodes out of the speakers and just shreds and bangs its ass off for 25 minutes that feels like 45. Ah, so why am I talking about an album like this on a noise rock list? They don’t go space-skronk or djentcore and instead take from noise rock. Think of more recent Converge, but cranked up to 90’s metalcore volume and throw in a lot of mid-to-slow paced parts that are no less relentless than their full-blast moments. It is difficult to explain why this sort of record belongs here but once you’ve listened to the full thing it’ll make plenty of sense. That blurred line between post-hardcore and noise rock influenced noisecore is rarely this easy to listen to. Noisecore? Sure, I’d understand the hesitation in checking it out but Northwoods make their music at a level that is well worth checking out either way.


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Artist Złota jesień
Title [Type/Year] W tobie nie jestem sobą [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Long and stringy atmospheric experimental rock songs with the anxious pre-psychedelic hits of precocious weirdness truly define the krauty, post-everything unfocus of this Polish arthouse noise rock band. I love how they go ‘too far’ with everything they attempt to the point that it feels beyond the restraints of krautrock and almost as if a French art-rock band had taken one too many bad trips on brown acid in the early 80’s. Nothing is normal or in its intended place and ‘W tobie nie jestem sobą’ feels like a messy room that my mind wants to clean up. It is frustrating but also captivating in terms of what they could possibly do next to make it all come together. I don’t think the atmospheric psychedelia of it all works on the tracks that venture beyond five minutes but for whatever reason I came back to this record more than a few times since release.


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Artist Ricarda Cometa
Title [Type/Year] Ricarda Cometa 2 [Full-length/2018]
Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Take a deep breath and prepare your mind for the unsettling reality of improvised South American noise rock fueled uh, improvisation. The second record from improvisational Argentina/Peru based instrumentalists Ricarda Cometa appears as an anxious and chiming shake of Latin rhythms and clangorous guitar snaking runs that only occasionally burden themselves with reason and relationship. What initially feels like two musicians inhabiting entirely different worlds at the same speed eventually warms into a handful of clever points of interest. The feat of improvisation is more interesting than the moment to moment material and the way the two play off of each other is ultimately interesting. The record found its way here because Jorge Espinal‘s guitar work is heavily informed by noise rock and post-punk among other things.


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Artist Zeni Geva & Steve Albini
Title [Type/Year] Maximum Implosion [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This compilation collects the fairly hard to track down set of releases involving musical collaboration between legendary Japanese noise rock band Zeni Geva and equally legendary musician/producer Steve Albini (Shellac, Big Black, etc.) during the 90’s. This includes the ‘Nai-Ha’ (1993) EP, the <Superunit> (1996) 12″ both published under the name Zeni Geva as well as the complete ‘All Right, You Little Bastards!’ (1996) full-length under the name Zeni Geva & Steve Albini. These releases are essential listening for 90’s noise rock fans. I have an obsession with Zeni Geva‘s ‘Total Castration’ perhaps only because I imported it years ago for a fairly high price and tend to covet stuff like that… Uh, but the important thing here is how well guitarist/vocalist KK Null and Albini work together, or at least slap their ideas together as Albini tends to go full blast with big grooves and Null always searches for the most difficult route to an uncomfortable place. This dynamic is most interesting on ‘All Right, You Little Bastards!’ which is a live album, largely because it doesn’t feel -too- separate from the studio recordings.


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Artist Asbest
Title [Type/Year] Driven [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Coming off of that noisome Zeni Geva record but also referencing the post-punk influence of Arabrot brings us to Swiss noise rock/post-punk band Asbest‘s debut full-length ‘Driven’. A screaming and wandering record with a jazzy psychedelic thumb print that expresses sourness and apathy as it alternates between raging noise rock stomps that often reach the 7-8 minute mark and shorter shoegaze/dream pop influenced tracks (think early Sonic Youth for these). Why the disenfranchised and furious moments? ‘Driven’ is an album fueled by guitarist/vocalist Robyn Trachsel‘s journey as a trans-woman and the lyrics based on her experiences are incredibly bare and raw. A good album with a big, resonant sound.


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Artist Cherubs
Title [Type/Year] Short of Popular [Remaster/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Here’s a weird one: A full remaster of a posthumous compilation of B-sides and rarities from an early 90’s noise rock band that folks really didn’t care about until two decades later. Cherubs were an Austin, Texas noise rock band that were stark, heavy and developed a more aggressive style across their first three years of activity. ‘Short of Popular’ captures the full scope of their career through raw outtakes that slow come into focus as it completes and in its original 1996 form it was extra damn rough. This remaster of the original still starts out as deeply scraping as a black metal demo from 1995 but once you get past that earliest material you’ll realize you missed out on a band that might’ve been mistaken for -16- or Unsane back in the day. It might not be their “A” game material, you should go to ‘Heroin Man’ (1994) for that, but it will be interesting to folks who hadn’t been able to track this stuff down since the band came back in 2014.


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Artist Gnod
Title [Type/Year] Chapel Perilous [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the better projects to marry noise rock guitar techniques within sort of post-industrial rock template and still make it sound organic and interesting throughout, Gnod are both prolific and high quality on the majority of their recordings. Coming off of a few more uh, political and almost Head of David-esque records ‘Chapel Perilous’ goes back to the more trippy, esoteric and riffing side of Gnod. The opening track is surely an indoctrination and will make a fan of most people upon first listen so it is unfortunate that they follow it up with about fifteen minutes of conceptual play and avant-dawdling until “Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down” picks back up on the right rack. At first I was frustrated by this loopy dip in the innards of the album but when I’d surrendered to its atmospheric intent I really enjoyed the whole of ‘Chapel Perilous’.


 

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Artist Punching Swans
Title [Type/Year] Faces [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

English noise rock band Punching Swans ride some hype from their previous release into ‘Faces’ an album that is technically conceptual in that it literally describes the faces of serial killers. The idea is pretty simple, what does a serial killer look like? Could you distinguish a monster from your boring neighbor. I mean, it is enough of a lede to get me listening to their early NoMeansNo-esque style of noise rock that has just a touch of At the Drive-In style post-hardcore when they get excited. The more I listened to this one the more I appreciated the guitar work, particularly “Strobe Face”, as the throb and jerk of their brand of noise rock really carries through a couple of full listens in a row. Definitely an album in the tradition of the best of early 90’s noise rock, with the loud-quiet-loud dynamic driving its impact.


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Artist Bummer
Title [Type/Year] Holy Terror [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Kansas City, Missouri noise rock/sludge hellions Bummer channel the sort of jam that you’d get when an old Amphetamine Reptile band went mainstream, but stayed ugly. If you liked the brutish slap of Tongue Party but want something as clever as Tile with some noise punk to keep things from going post-anywhere genre-wise ‘Holy Terror’ is the right stuff. There are big sludge rock and hardcorish songs here but they kinda end up sounding like Torche covering ‘South of Heaven’ rather than Tad or whatever.


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Artist uSSSy
Title [Type/Year] Voyage [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Folks who need an example of properly utilized (coherent, I guess) microtonal/quarter-tone guitar techniques should flok to Russian project uSSSy. The heart of the experience is actually a bit like Behold…The Arctopus meets Turbowolf but without a consistent vocal presence or uh, any real focus on stringing together obviously related musical segments. It is definitely the sort of progressive instrumental experience that only lends itself to 1-2 full listens personally, but I know many people are well inclined for this style of modern prog and the big plus is that the leading instruments typically focus on noise rock structures and Lightning Bolt style frantic hits.


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Artist Buñuel
Title [Type/Year] The Easy Way Out [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Spotify!

Consisting of various legends among experimental and noise rock circles (Afterhours, Il Teatro degli Orrori, and Oxbow) comes Buñuel. As polished and pro as all of their press info looks the album is a wild freakout from start to finish and you should expect nothing less from vocalist Eugene S. Robinson who is most recognizable from Oxbow. ‘The Easy Way Out’ has the feeling of an old Alternative Tentacles release but if Frank Black wrote an Oxbow record circa 1992. Robinson is the star of the show here, so your enjoyment might ride on whether or not you like his frantic expressive style.


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Artist Perverts Again
Title [Type/Year] Firday Night Light [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This one rides the line really close and honestly ‘Perverts Again’ is a punk rock album of a certain era. Think of Minutemen and Big Boys with some of L7 sagging out their gymnasium star/garage born grooves. It is a swinging and deliberately paced rock album that uses some elements of noise rock for its overall swaggering style. Might fit in better with the garage punk and noise punk area but perhaps nothing modern on either side. Could have put a number of more ‘obvious’ albums to fill in this last slot but these guys are just straight up more worth hearing.


If I missed your favorite noise rock album from 2018 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite noise rock album (past or present). If you’re in a noise rock band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page up and send me a copy, keep in mind I like the early 90’s stuff the best. No noise rock will be left unheard!

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