Greetings from Doomsday: Malagueña

Good morning and welcome to the end.

You wake up to a trail of garlic cloves running down your staircase and no one will cop to putting it there. You’re filled with an ineffable sense of dread. You don’t know if the garlic was put in place to keep the vampires out or to ensure that you were kept in. Then you wake up and realize it was a dream and that monsters don’t exist in the form of bloodsucking ghouls.

The vampires in your life are emotional vampires, they’re the relatives who guilt you into donating to a charity that routinely misleads donors about how much of their charitable contributions actually go to those in need. These vampires are self-serving, passive-aggressive vampires, the kind of ghouls that Skype to say that you look like you need more color and that you should get some sun.

The vampires are everywhere these days, boys and girls. They’re the frothy-mouthed shit-heels who refuse to wear face masks and insist that COVID-19 is a “libtard hoax.” They do not fear the Morning Star like their ancestors and they aren’t modest enough to take the form of a bat. These revenants are shameless, myopic carnivores who feed on fear and demand special treatment.

You see them standing in line at the Post Office, openly ignoring signage that tells them to keep six feet between themselves and their fellow humans. They’re the old, hunched savages whose grills are slick with a film of sweat and stupidity and whose hands are perpetually restless. When they’re not hustling their balls they’re flailing ever closer to your comfort zone, hacking and coughing and assuring you that they’re not sick … but they’ve been sick their whole lives. Ignorance is a disease and it’s bred right into these blood simple morons.

The good news is, you’ve got the power of Horror on your side. Vampires cannot enter your home if they haven’t been invited. They can brag, bitch and bully their way into a big box store, but the manager won’t let them have more than their fair share of toilet paper. They can act as entitled as they want, but persistence repels them like a crucifix to the solar plexus.

“I’m sorry, sir, but these are the rules. There is a limit of one per customer.”

“I’ve been shopping at this shithole since you was swimming around in your daddy’s balls! I don’t need to take your shit!”

“Sir, there’s no need to be rude. I’m just following company policy.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

They slink away like the wounded hellhounds they are, barking obscenities at themselves as they waddle back to their shitty American-made automobiles and concentrate their fear-based hatred in other directions.

Vampires cannot enter if uninvited.

Outside they’re holding black delivery drivers hostage in gated communities for doing their jobs. The King Vampire is dreaming up conspiracy theories and encouraging the public to mainline household cleaners.

Inside you’re making music with friends from other countries. Outside the party line is blaming China. Inside you’re learning how to knit face masks for the homeless. Outside they’re beating black men about the skull and waving their batons at bystanders. Inside you’re taking an online course in misconduct law.

Even horror movies have happy endings sometimes.

Outside they’re going without masks and cutting each other off in traffic. In here we’re smoking on some Boost 20:1, riding high and drinking in the mellifluous licks of Jose Feliciano. Inside is good for now, inside here was always good. Hold your partner close because your dance card is clear and it’s time to boogie on the home front.

Greetings from Doomsday: “The Raving, Flailing Wingnut”

It’s a damp, dreary morning in the bloated intestine of post-Gatsby Long Island and I’m motoring down Wellwood Avenue, past boarded-up storefronts, bound for The Botanist, New York’s finest medical marijuana dispensary. CSNY’s “Teach Your Children” is spewing from my tired car radio and I’m smelling things I haven’t smelled in years.

The air is no longer choked. The stale fart stench of Swindlehurst factories has been replaced by a fresh scent, an earthy aroma that is inviting, until I ponder its meaning. If you’ve ever spent time in the wilderness you recognize the fragrance at once—the grass is screaming and the trees are being flayed for fretwork in one of Suffolk County’s many lumberyards. Essential businesses and all of that.

I only have one mask and four gloves to spare on this trip, so I’ll have to make it count. I take the Huntington off-ramp and gun it down Broadhollow Road into Sweet Hollow Country.

This is where the urban legends live, where a whorish teenage specter named Bloody Mary is said to appear when you shine your light on her grave. It’s where the gates once read, “Life, How Short.” It’s the home of Mount Misery and curious sightings of Men in Black.

Today, I will not be pulled over by some mythical ghost cop who’s missing the back of his skull. I will not see any teenage whores hanging from an overpass or meet an enigmatic gypsy dressed in crimson.

As “Teach Your Children” is replaced by Marilyn Manson’s “Deep Six,” I zip past what remains of the Walmart entrance, now a heavily barricaded, steel-enforced complex cloistered with cars and caravans of people in surgical masks and handkerchiefs. Some of them are zigzagging between mini-vans with shopping carts overflowing with paper towels and charcoal briquettes, their body language as screwed as their eyes.

I think of the lyrics still lingering from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s classic tune and I wonder what these people will tell their children when they recount this bugfuck period in our history. Will they mention the woman who sunk her teeth into an elderly man before kicking the dick out of him for 24 rolls of toilet paper? or the man who murdered a dude for the same?

Probably they’ll omit the fact that every American could have had a roll of shit paper just based on what Walmart sold to a select number of people in one 5-day period.

No doubt there are a lot of details we won’t bother to rehash, if for no other reason than they demonstrate something we aren’t ready to admit.

It’s a bizarre world, and we are bizarre people.

It’s been almost 50 days since Governor Cuomo signed the PAUSE Act in New York State and guys in big rigs still pull up to 7-Elevens without masks or gloves, smirking at their masked counterparts as they hustle their balls and sidle up to the counter to buy lottery tickets and cans of Skoal.

Some persist in believing that 5G is responsible for the novel coronavirus … despite living more than 200 miles from a 5G tower. Many insist that this is all a “libtard” hoax to control the masses while other people are robbed of closure when a loved one succumbs to the illness and they are forbidden from attending funeral services. The victims of this thing are dumped into the ground like snitches in ditches, denied a proper burial. And this isn’t even the weirdest shit we’ve seen.

A 32-year old mother of two drinks splooge smoothies containing her boyfriend’s jizz because she thinks it is fortifying her immune system against COVID-19. Aaaaand this just in: Coronavirus traces have been found in the spunk of survivors who were “severely infected.” This does not bode well for Baby Batter Betty of Aylesbury.

A strange bacterium is killing so many olive trees across Italy, Greece and Spain that Southern Europe might lose more than $20 billion.

Call me funny, but if I can’t get a decent pasta dish in the future because of an olive oil shortage, I may just end up like that lady in the Walmart parking lot, nipping at the ankles of some septuagenarian and beating the balls off a stranger for some Aglio e Olio.

The thought of it is enough to get my pressure up, which is hardly uncommon for an overweight 37-year old drunk with a serious pasta addiction. But you’re at risk too, buddy. That’s right!

No, the kids aren’t okay. Toddlers all across the country are covered in welts and hideous rashes from this thing and the millennials are not impervious. Otherwise healthy thirty-somethings are stroking out, surely from the stress of quarantine as much as the virus itself. Happy Hypoxics (dig that adorable nickname!) who should be gasping or “seizing” are strutting around like they just pounded a six pack of Monster Energy drinks.

If COVID Toe doesn’t get you then you may just drop like a sack of fruit while coping with price gouging. And who could blame you, really? It’s not just Generation Wuss that’s incapable of withstanding these batshit times.

Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy has croaked. The dude who got ate by a giant tiger and survived has succumbed to ‘Rona. Stick that in your skeptic’s spliff and smoke it! Even the Architect of Rock and Roll, Little Richard, has sung, “Goodnight, Irene.”

As the great wicks are snuffed out and the hand sanitizer dries up, we’re left to do all that we can. Hunker down. It’s easier said than done, to be sure. You’ve seen the memes. “Can you blink quieter, you fucking cunt?”

We’re all of us losing our shit. And where there is shit there needs to be shit paper.

It’s like a stranger had a key, came inside of my mind

And moved all my things around.”

Ah, Marilyn. How right you are. Invasive thoughts burrow into one’s skull like tapeworms into soft tissue. If mortality isn’t on your mind right now then you probably don’t have one.

Earlier in the week, I had to make a run to 7-Eleven for disposable masks and coffee. On my way I passed a middle-aged woman in a soiled sweatsuit. She was flailing along Montauk Highway, cursing at someone who wasn’t there.

But of course, I thought.

Now I am the one cursing at all the Sunday drivers flooding the roads on this overcast morning as I make my way to The Botanist with the last of some Rainforest Clarity in my system. If it weren’t for clarity we’d all be setting fires by now, but as a wise cynic once told me, “Why burn when the whole world’s in ashes?”

That was in a different time, a simpler one. It was somewhere after the Y2K panic and before the Iraq War. The sage who spewed it was a crackhead and a known felon, but he was also a gentleman. By that, I mean he shared his drugs and his aphorisms if you were willing to sit through them. And if he spit when he talked, he was courteous enough to keep a wide berth.

The same cannot be said of the denizens of 2020. The Year of the Rat has brought us the Toilet Bowl Challenge, public spit attacks and unbridled gluttony. A man drove to 11 different Wendy’s locations twice in one day when he heard about their free 4-piece chicken nuggets. This tri-state excursion netted him 88 free nugs.

This story was presented in the mindlessly good-humored fashion typical of mainstream news. How quirky and quaint, right? And maybe it sounds pretty silly on the surface…until you think on it for a minute.

The post I came across included a photo of Skweezy Jibbs—the man’s all-too-appropriate Twitter handle—as well as his Tweet which reads, “Times is [sic] tough so when I heard Wendy’s was [sic] givin’ out free 4 piece nuggs today I knew I had to hustle. I hit every damn Wendy’s twice within 17 miles across 2 states. It took 5 hours but now we eatin’ free 4 [sic] a week.”

One look at the gristled face of this gnarly liquid shit, and the man panties draped about his bristly throat, perfectly illustrates the primitive avarice that our gut bug of a president has inspired if not outright encouraged.

This is ‘Merica and it’s great! It belongs to me and I gets mines and if you take everything for yourself and leave nothing in the cookie jar for the next dumb sumbitch? Well, that’s called winning, Loser!

I seem to have digressed somewhere along the way, perhaps as a result of contemplating this man’s photo which will almost certainly be the one used for campaign purposes when he runs for office in the future. I mean, nothing says American Resourcefulness like a neckbeard wearing a pair of dirty drawers as a face mask.

It isn’t hard to imagine this mugshot of a default pic becoming the face of American Politics or, at the very least, the cover shot on a textbook. This face is Amerika.

It’s the same grill as that demented, flailing woman in the soiled sweatsuit. I ponder this as I scurry out of The Botanist with my indica vape cartridges and lock myself in the relative safety of my ’99 Nissan Altima. And as I load the chamber of my brand-new Ccell ® Palm with revolutionary ceramic heating elements and aluminum alloy housing (Made in China, it’s worth mentioning), I alight on the greatest horror that I’ve faced today.

We are all that slobbering, raving lunatic you see marching along the street, flailing and cursing to themselves.

How can we help it?

Our loved ones have mastered the Art of Irritation while strangers have abandoned fundamental social cues, and it’s the first time in most of our lives where we’ve had to decide whether that extra wipe is worth the cost of running out of hand soap.

What’s worse, we’ve all but lost the industry that we rely on to distract us as reality looses a wet one on our chests. There are only so many stories to binge and only so many times you can hear about 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way before your brain turns to parfait and your tongue flops out.

As streaming services have shit the bed and gullible fools have fallen off cliffs in celebration of illusory freedom, Israel has been carefully coming up with a COVID antibody that will undoubtedly result in another Thousand Year War with Palestine. A cabal of obscenely moneyed Plutocrats will surely buy the rights to their development like that filthy rich dick weevil who owned the lost Wu-Tang album.

As we wait, more black lives are taken by the sort of individuals who always turn national crises into a real world sequel to The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. In Georgia, a 25-year old man named Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot by a father and son who tag-teamed his ass with a handgun and a shotgun … for jogging.

Many see this all as our status quo. Another pair of jingoistic hilljacks running down an unarmed black kid. Business as usual.

I see it as the latest in a series of events which confirm what some of us have long suspected—the earth would be better off without humans.

As I drove home with some fresh Rainforest Clarity and that earthy aroma smacked me in the face once again, I remembered that the grass is screaming and I smiled.

“Maybe the earth is finally getting ready to spit us out.”

Esto perpetua.

Predictions for the week ahead: Walmart employees will get hip to the book section in their store and learn how to fire their own boss. More Amazon executives will resign. A rise in temperatures and a consequent rise in alcohol poisonings, hand sanitizer poisonings and poisonous insects will occur.

Allergy sufferers will go to their physicians’ offices with the sniffles and be told to jerk off in cups. One hundred Coronababies will be conceived while at least fifty existing children will be traded for two-ply.

Monday will see the President declaring a luxury tax on Charmin and a ban on press photographers. The CDC’s top ground personnel will be fired and replaced by former members of America First Action and HFZ Capital Group.

The Lincoln Project will finds its signage vandalized to read The Lincoln Log Losers Club in gold spray paint. Jimmy Fallon will receive Trump’s nomination for the next Mark Twain Award on the same day that he’s caught strangling his youngest daughter to death on the Tonight Show – Home Edition.

Business as usual.

Chad Ferrin, Genre Auteur Goes Deep in New Cult Horror Film

Chad Ferrin has made seven feature films over the last two decades, each of them a celebration of the Grotesque. All of these movies shared a certain DIY ingenuity along with an obvious obsession with the limits of sanity.

Despite their collective preoccupations, no two of Ferrin’s flicks were alike. The director brazenly leaped from the no-budget social satire of The Ghouls (2003) to the festive revenge film Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2007)

It was there, in a seemingly threadbare narrative with one primary location, Ferrin found his footing as a filmmaker. The tale of a disabled kid and his doting single mom provided the director the opportunity to explore difficult subject matter such as child abuse, Munchausen by proxy and more, all within the snug confines of the exploitation genre.

Not two years later, the promise on display in the bloody bunny pic would reach a new apex with Someone’s Knocking at the Door (2009). Produced, in part, by actor/star Noah Segan (Knives Out, Deadgirl), ‘Someone’s Knocking’ is a positively bugfuck psychological horror film about a group of med students who stumble upon a drug that resurrects two sexually voracious thrill-killers.

In the years since ‘Someone’s Knocking,’ Ferrin has seen several of his projects fall apart in various stages of pre-production. First there was the widely announced Dances with Werewolves which made it into the pages of Fangoria before financing fell apart.

The oddball horror western hybrid was ultimately retooled by other filmmakers and released to zero fan fare in 2017, by which time Ferrin had seen a number of other concepts collapse in his wake. After dealing with years of frustration and false deals from bogus money men, Ferrin decided to return to his roots.

In 2016, he took to the fetid streets of downtown Los Angeles to make what should have been the guerilla filmmaking triumph of the decade. Parasites was to be a gritty modernization of Colter’s Run with the action transplanted to the culverts, underpasses, back alleys and reservoirs of LA’s homeless population.

After facing down violent protest from real life street addicts and a flurry of problems typical of shoestring productions, Ferrin managed to successfully execute the film he set out to make. The result is a mean little picture with balls as big as the bone it’s got to pick with society.

Boasting a ferocious performance by chameleonic character actor Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco, The Funeral) as the central heavy, Parasites exemplified Ferrin’s talent for taking a familiar trope (the middle class take a detour and end up in a place they don’t belong) and amplifying it to 11.

What should have been a breakout hit for the genre auteur ended up going the way of countless other direct-to-DVD flicks when Ferrin discovered that his domestic production partners had gone behind his back, secretly releasing the pic on streaming platforms in the United States and quietly selling off International territories.

After he managed to wrest his film from the greasy hands of his rapacious partners, Ferrin found another distributor who had some ideas of their own. A full two years after principal photography was complete, Parasites bowed out on Amazon Prime under the uninspired title Attack in LA.

Situations like this one are hardly remarkable in the film industry where handshake deals are regularly reneged upon and distributors frequently betray a director’s vision by re-cutting a movie. What is remarkable is Ferrin’s perseverance. Lesser artists would have thrown in the towel, but Chad understood something that’s lost on others—keep yourself busy and, sooner or later, someone’s gonna be knocking on your door.

As a gun for hire, the man has been presented with many an opportunity to work from other people’s source material. In some cases, such as the Mexican investor who tapped him to shoot a B-movie south of the border before slashing his director’s fee in half without warning, things don’t pan out, for good or ill. In others, such as 2019’s Girls & Corpses-produced horror-comedy Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, things end up going another way.

Working from a script by Robert Rhine (son of famed All in the Family scribe Larry Rhine) and Daniel Benton, Ferrin used ‘Exorcism‘ as yet another golden opportunity to flex his stylistic muscles. As with Someone’s Knocking at the Door and Parasites before it, ‘Exorcism‘ illustrated the director’s knack for utilizing woefully underutilized actors and subverting genre expectations.

In 2020, he is poised to take this subversion one step further with The Deep Ones, the first of his films to be inspired by an existing intellectual property. The Deep Ones takes the tired framework of a couple on vacation among strangers with dark motives, and thrusts it into territory that has yet to be explored in cinema.

Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will be thrilled to learn that Ferrin has grafted the insidious influence of Rosemary’s Baby onto a plot revolving around the summoning of Cthulhu by a cult undergoing the Innsmouth transformation.

Many in the horror community have professed love for Lovecraft’s work and some, like Jordan Peele, have produced work that pays homage to said influence. What nobody has done is unleash the Cthulhu mythos on characters of their own creation.

Few would have the guts, but it would seem that Ferrin has intestines for days. Something smells fishy at the Solar Beach Colony when Petri and Alex arrive at the Air BnB of Russell Marsh, a charismatic naturopath with a powerful hunger for clams.

What follows is a terrifying 24 hours beside the dark depths of Cthulhu’s oceanic abyss. Filming for The Deep Ones begins this month in several seaside locations with Robert Miano returning to play the picture’s villain and Deadgirl‘s Jim Ojala on board as makeup effects coordinator.


Robert Rhine, Johann Urb and Kelly Maroney (Night of the Comet) will also star with Underworld‘s Kurt Carley appearing as none other than Dagon.

After a sneak peek at the shooting script, I can definitely tell that this will be Ferrin’s most ambitious project to date. As with everything else he’s directed, I have no doubt that he’ll knock it out of the park.

And I’m not the only one, actor Johann Urb (Resident Evil: Retribution) is also confident. “Super excited to be working with this team of talented people and to explore the depths of darkness,” he says.

The cast’s enthusiasm is understandable given the meatiness of each role. It’s one salty or sinister character cropping up after the other, many of them receiving the rare chance to deliver their lines in a particularly obscure tongue.

The plot itself and the turns it takes may seem hackneyed to those who grew up on Polanski and Larry Cohen flicks, but suffice it to say that this one is going to take some gnarly turns. The fundamental theme is freaky enough in and of itself.

As cast member Silvia Spross (Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Mysteria) says, “The horror of brainwash is that good people do horrible things, thinking they are doing something great!”

The Deep Ones was developed from an original screenplay by Ferrin himself. What this tells us is that Ferrin is back where he belongs, behind the keys and at the helm. Veteran actor and frequent Ferrin collaborator Robert Miano is inclined to agree. As he puts it, “Nothing can stop an idea that’s found its time.”

Keep your bloodshot eyes peeled for more on The Deep Ones as news oozes in.

Bob Freville

JT Leroy, More Like JT Literary Fraud!

By Ben Arzate

Just a few weeks ago, as of writing this article, the film JT Leroy was released. JT Leroy was allegedly a young transgender woman who came from an abusive household and formerly worked as a prostitute. Leroy released three semi-autobiographical books, but remained reclusive from the 90s, when she first began publishing, until 2001 when she began making public appearances.

The inconsistencies revealed in her interviews began casting doubt on her authenticity. In 2005, it was revealed that JT Leroy was an invention of the author Laura Albert and the person making public appearances was the actor Savannah Knoop. Despite the hoax that Albert and Knoop perpetuated, the books released were, in fact, labeled as fiction and many defended the stunt as performance art.

Probably the most infamous case of literary fraud in the United States was James Frey and his memoir, which turned out to be complete fiction, A Million Little Pieces, released in 2003. The book followed Frey’s supposed time in rehab after drug-related criminal charges.

A Million Little Pieces received mixed reviews, with the harshest review coming from author and critic John Dolan, known for his War Nerd column, who lambasted it as the worst book he ever read, calling it complete fiction. Despite this, it became a best seller and was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2005. Shortly thereafter, an exposé was published in The Smoking Gun, showing that nothing in the book was true.

One of the most ridiculous cases of literary fraud was the 2008 fake memoir, Love and Consequences by Margaret Seltzer, writing under the name Margaret B. Jones. She claimed to have been a half Native American girl who was an orphan and was involved with the Bloods gang in LA. In interviews, she even talked in Ebonics. Not long after it was released, the publisher had it recalled when Seltzer’s sister exposed it as a complete fraud. She was white, not mixed, and grew up with her biological parents in an upscale suburb.

With Leroy, one could see how people bought into the fraud. The books were fiction and couldn’t be fact checked, and the author kept out of the public eye for a while. Frey and Seltzer, however, were much more obvious cases of fraud.

The characters were overt stereotypes that didn’t ring true and many parts were flat ridiculous. Frey, a curly-haired frat boy, painted himself as a tough guy who did a ton of drugs including sniffing glue, despite coming from a rich family who could afford decent drugs. Jones/Seltzer was obviously a white girl putting on an act. Why did people believe such things?

It’s no secret that people enjoy stories of overcoming adversity, especially personal adversity. The vast majority of books, memoirs especially, are about just that. The rub is what kind of adversity. Frey’s story fit a sexy narrative that drugs will ruin your life and make you a hopeless addict, but you can climb out of it with the help of the benevolent rehabilitation industry.

Seltzer’s fraud was a bit more multi-layered. The obvious aspect is that there is a wide audience of white Americans who have an interest in things perceived as being “black,” but like them even more when they don’t have any actual black people. Not to mention many true narratives about gang life, especially in LA, tend to be very cynical and unsentimental. Seltzer injected her narrative with bathos and sentimentality, as did Frey, which opens it up to a much wider audience.

This may sound like a pretentious thing to say, but it seems that most readers do not want to be challenged. They want their worldview confirmed. I’d argue that nearly everyone is guilty of this at at least one point. It’s no wonder a huckster who has their finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist can put together a narrative that will confirm it to rake in money and fame. Much like many of the mostly now-forgotten authors who, in their time, wrote to please the people in power, even if they had to lie.

It’s a noble thing to have convictions, but it isn’t to follow them so blindly. We see this now with many people buying into fake news stories that confirm their bias or putting themselves into social media bubbles where they hear no opposing opinion. Liars and frauds who can string a sentence together will always have a lucrative market, so keep your critical eye open.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish my memoir about growing up as a lesbian in a family of undocumented immigrants.

The 20 Best Albums of 2018

Welcome to SMM’s first year-end “Best Albums” list! There’s been a lot of great music this year, and it’s been a tough pick. Keep in mind that on SMM, we’re focused on the weird and experimental side of things, and this “Best Albums” list is no exception. I hope you enjoy, and leave a comment if you think I’ve overlooked something!  

Justin A. Burnett

Daughters You Won’t Get What You Want

Without a doubt, the latest Daughters album storms the album of the year slot. Following nearly a decade of silence after the release of their self-titled effort, You Won’t Get What You Want came crashing down from a distant planet like a maddened beast, giving the lie to the old assumption that bands tend to mellow with age. This album is loud, unsettling, and a continual display of carefully considered sonic manipulation. Fans of Swans are destined to fall in love with this dark masterpiece, and it definitely deserves every bit of the laudation its received this year, plus some.

Piggy Black Cross Always Just Out of R.E.A.C.H.

Always Just Out of R.E.A.C.H was nearly as good as getting another Kayo Dot release this year, and long term readers will recognize this as nearly the highest praise I can bestow on an album. This brilliant meeting of the minds of Bridget Bellavia and Toby Driver is all a long term fan could hope for. Continuing with the neo goth synth-infused sonic palette of Plastic House on Base of Sky, Driver and co stretch into some sinister yet slightly more straightforward territory with Piggy Black Cross. It’s more than a worthy listen, and has boldly held its own throughout the year as one of 2018’s top releases. That it hasn’t received more recognition is a shame.

Deena Abdelwahed Khonnar

Even though I only reviewed this album a few days ago, I’ve put it on steady rotation since to allow for second thoughts before including it here. I can honestly say that it still has much to offer after repeated listens, and certainly stands head to head with the strongest releases of the year. Tunisian producer Deen Abdelwahed comes out swinging with Khonnar, a folk-infused slab of edgy experimental electronic dance music that accumulates in an overall atmosphere fit for a nightmare. This release is certain to turn some heads in the electronic music world, despite the brilliant outpouring of creative, cutting-edge material from the genre in recent years.

Puce Mary The Drought

This year’s release from Danish industrial artist Frederikke Hoffmeier under the Puce Mary moniker is truly something to behold. The Drought is a creeper liable to pass underappreciated over the first listen or two. It operates in a more minimal space than its cousins in the dark electronic and experimental world, making it more difficult to spot in a genre overrun with lavish and complex arrangements. However, when the subtlety and atmosphere of this monstrous leviathan of a release sink in around listen three, there’s no going back. Swimming (or drowning, rather) in the blackest of bass tones punctuated by understated spoken word refrains by Hoffmeier, this album promises to get under your skin in the best of ways. I would’ve liked to have seen more hubbub around The Drought this year, but I guess we don’t always get what we wish for.

Sleep The Sciences

I must admit that I haven’t paid as much attention to Sleep as I should’ve over the years. I was late to appreciate sludge/stoner metal during its rise to prominence in the metal scene, intent on focusing, instead, on developments on the tech-death and black metal fronts. The Sciences is certainly one of those sludge releases that gives me the painful realization that I’ve truly been missing out. The Sciences is everything you could hope for in this genre. The riffs positively drip with fuzz, the hooks are strong, and, even better, a careful attention to harmonic instrumentation saves this release from the frequent pitfall of oversimplification. This album is particularly interesting in that I didn’t expect it to make this list; that it’s from a genre I generally undervalue should testify enough to its greatness.

Amnesia Scanner Another Life

This one nearly slipped under my radar this year; I’m glad it didn’t, since passing over Another Life without comment would’ve been a serious mistake. This UK duo makes some seriously chopped and edgy electronic… uh… “dance” music, and I mean that hesitation in the best of ways. This was my first exposure to Amnesia Scanner, and it was easily the most perplexing and unexpected listen of the year. While the vocals–drastically manipulated to the point of suggesting a posthuman motif–can seem messy and utterly disorienting at times, the album doesn’t let the listener dismiss it so easily. A method arises from the madness as the album progresses, consisting of a series of challenges to the lister’s conception of, very broadly speaking, pop music. Another Life simply must be heard to be believed, although it certainly won’t be for everyone.

Julia Holter Aviary

Aviary is certainly Holter’s finest achievement since Loud City Song, and that’s saying a lot. The lush, otherworldly, atmospherics are back, this time relocated from the dim and foggy cityscape to an overgrown and deeply sinister Garden of Eden. The more stripped and simplified sound of Have You in My Wilderness is, thankfully, left behind in favor of combinations of chamber arrangements, electronic soundscapes, and, well, bird sounds. This is everything I could’ve hoped from a Holter release, and more. Aviary is easily one of my shining stars for 2018, just as Loud City Song was five years ago.

Imperial Triumphant Vile Luxury

Vile Luxury is much, much more than just a blackened death metal album. Like much of Kayo Dot’s earlier work, New York’s Imperial Triumphant are just as intensively focused on keeping things engaging as they are in pummeling listeners with a brutal onslaught of towering riffs. Pianos, horns, and an assortment of other miscellaneous instruments periodically crash into the mix of swirling guitars and gut-churning shrieks, resulting in a very tasteful diversity you won’t commonly find in the dissonant black metal bloodline going back to Deathspell Omega. Vile Luxury’s thick and cleverly-constructed atmosphere makes blackened death metal exciting and new all over again, and there’s really no higher honor a band can achieve in this genre.

Polyphia New Levels New Devils

Damn, this thing is good! New Levels New Devils is easily the coolest new album on this list. Finally moving past the weary djent format the band has deployed in the past (albeit from a vantage point generally ahead of the curve), Polyphia infuses their highly-complex instrumental metal with a rhythmic and groovy approach that feels uncannily close to hip hop. What a pleasant surprise! New Levels New Devils also leaves some of its sharper corners unsanded–while the production is top-notch, it’s not produced right out of the realm of manual instrumentation like most djent albums. Smart, strange, and downright fun, New Levels New Devils marks a much-needed turning point in the rapidly stagnating swamp of instrumental metal music.

Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs

Fans are calling this album Earl Sweatshirt’s Madvillainy, and I have to agree. Hailing from the legendary Odd Future collective (home of Tyler, The Creator), Earl Sweatshirt has generally been known for dropping quality releases in his extremely laid back, casual style. Although I’ve somewhat enjoyed his work in the past (particularly in the case of 2013’s Doris), nothing prepared me for an album that would make the top twenty weird albums of the year. Some Rap Songs is dark, harsh, and challenging, constituting a welcome new phase for Sweatshirt. This album has certainly accelerated him from the hip-hop peripherals to one of the forefront artists worth watching, for my money. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

A Forest of Stars Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes

Of all the metal albums I reviewed on this site earlier in the year, Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes is by far the most worthy of recognition. This folk-infused blast of highly eccentric and deliciously captivating metal is as strong as ever; fans of Current 93 would find much to love here, along with listeners who prefer a little tasteful melodrama in their forward-thinking black metal. If you only listen to one metal album from this list, make it Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes, especially since the music world of 2018 seems liable to overlook this gem. What a tragedy. This is easily one of the most rewarding listening experiences of the year.

Young Echo Young Echo

I almost missed this one this year; thank god that didn’t happen! This 11(!)-person hip-hop collective’s latest release is every bit as trippy, off-kilter, and stunning as Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs. While some critics complain that this 24-track behemoth feels underdeveloped in terms of individual songs, as an album, this slight fragmentation works to Young Echo’s advantage. A pastiche of stylistic emphases drift through this opaque world of shadows, seeking to accompany each member to his or her strength; the resulting fragmentary collage of voice and color still feels utterly cohesive and painstakingly-crafted. Don’t listen to the haters. Young Echo is amazing.

Hermit and the Recluse Orpheus vs. The Sirens

Mythologically-themed hip hop? Count me in! Orpheus vs. The Sirens is an intelligent, literate, and magnificently-performed rap album. Favoring the laid-back, casual vocal delivery (which seems to one underlying factor among the hip-hop albums on this list) Hermit and the Recluse are perfectly at home among the tasteful, more traditional beats featured on this release; the mythology theme never feels gimmicky, and the influences are never nostalgic. Orpheus vs. the Sirens, despite its older instrumental aspect and even older theme, never feels less than cutting edge. If you click away from this list to listen to one hip hop album, make it this one.

Nine Inch Nails Bad Witch

As much as I’ve enjoyed following Nine Inch Nails over the years, I didn’t expect to include anything from Reznor and company on a best of list. As a semi-casual fan, admitting that Nine Inch Nails has maintained a very slow but steady decline in relevance poses no problem; instead of continuing that trajectory, however, Trent turns things around with a delightfully forward-looking and, dare I say experimental, offering which seems to have revived the sleeping fanbase a bit. Trent’s bite is back, and in a better way than some trite “return to form” could’ve accomplished. This is unlike any Nine Inch Nails album you’ve ever heard, and it seems set in the best musical direction Trent could’ve possibly taken at this advanced stage in his career. Bad Witch gets an enthusiastic round of applause from me, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Death Grips Year of the Snitch

While I, like everyone else, was crazy about The Money Store, Death Grips’ follow ups consistently felt underwhelming to me. Year of the Snitch marks a triumphant return to relevance for Death Grips, moving past the strained, glitched-to-ten sonic assault to explore more melodic and diverse territory. This is the exciting Death Grips all over again, and I hope they’ll continue to push boundaries in this direction. While this came out relatively early in the year, it still gets a remarkable portion of playtime. This album manages, somehow, to be harrowing, beautiful, and extremely playful all at once.

Jack White Boarding House Reach

No inclusion on this list surprises me more than Jack White’s Boarding House Reach. I loathed the White Stripes back when it was imperative to own a copy of 2003’s Elephant, and Mr. White’s solo career left me even colder. Jack White’s entire approach seemed to insist on looking backwards, which clashed with my strongly-held belief that music, while embracing its roots, should always seek to transcend them with something new and innovative. And that, much to my surprise, is exactly what Jack White has finally done with Boarding House Reach. This album is experimental, bold, and truly forward-looking in its assemblage of dance, classic rock, soul, and who-knows-what-else. I hope this marks a turn in White’s career. He has finally proven himself an artist with the potential to offer something exciting and new.

Toby Driver They Are the Shield

I still feel profoundly disoriented about this release, but not in a bad way. Given Driver’s turn to a more bare and understated sound on 2017’s Madonnawhore, it should be no surprise to see him push a bit further in that direction with They Are the Shield, although, as usual, it’s more than different enough to ensure that no one can fault Driver for inhabiting the same space for too long. This album demands patience and attention even to a greater extent than its predecessor with its ethereal formations and its frequently strange invasions of heavy synth sounds reminiscent of the last two Kayo Dot albums. If you meet the album half way, however, you’ll find yourself on a strange and beautiful planet. Do yourself a favor and dive into the otherworldly pop dreariness that is They Are the Shield–it generously rewards an unhurried ear.

Current 93 The Light is Leaving Us All

In the early hours of this album’s release, I read that David Tibet’s new offering marked a departure from the more ethereal and haunting atmosphere of 2014’s I Am the Last of All the Field that Fell: A Channel, which made me somewhat worried. While it’s true that, instrumentally, The Light is Leaving Us All abandons the ultra-spare arrangements that have dominated Tibet’s output of late, Current 93 is just as weird, melodramatic, and haunting as ever. The production on this album is excellent, giving Tibet and company a new sheen that absolutely works in this otherworldly setting of bells, strings, and subtle percussive elements. Tibet magnificently over the top here, painting dreamscapes of a mystical apocalypse with his usual fervor. If you’re an acclimatized Current 93 fan, there’s nothing to fear here; dive on in.

Low Double Negative

If Tim Hecker’s release this year was somewhat underwhelming, Low more than makes up for the lack of noisy, dreamy electronics this listener has come to anticipate from Hecker with Double Negative. This beautifully simple and somehow continually disintegrating album continues in the vein that Low initiated way back in 1994, albeit fully updated with a millennial, glitchy aesthetic that seems like it shouldn’t work but does. Double Negative seems to operate in borderlands, such as those between sleep and wakefulness, noise and melody, fragility and harshness. While structurally weak at times, this album’s tastefully strange amalgam of pop and ambient is innovative enough to demand serious attention in 2018.

L’Enfant De La Foret Strangled

The latest, dropped-out-of-nowhere release from James Kent (AKA Perturbator) is really good—even better, I’d argue, than 2015’s Abraxas. Kent’s made quite a stir on Bandcamp with his terrifying soundscapes under the L’Enfant De La Foret name, and Strangled represents the creative pinnacle of what we’ve heard from this particularly gruesome corner of the music world. Layering haunting synths over variations ranging from dance beats to black metal inspired noise and dark ambience, Strangled is possibly the strongest shade of evil that 2018 produced, surpassing even this year’s Gnaw Their Tongues split with Crowhurst. This album stands proudly with the best of this year’s dark music; it’s definitely owed some recognition.

Honorable Mentions:

-Justin A. Burnett