And we’re back! It’s always easy to say that every year is a great year for metal but I only always say it because it’s always true for those of us that put in the time to really find albums worth finding so that by the time we reach the end of the year we have plenty of pieces to talk about on our lists. This year, as you might imagine, is far from different. All of 2018 has been an absolutely ridiculous year for releases if you’re anything like me as we were lucky enough to get grand masterpieces that washed over seemingly all metalheads like YOB to groovy entries from the likes of Demonauta to the unfathomable heaviness from Shrine of the Serpent to the straight-up gorgeous debut like that of Dwarrowdelf. And those are just a few examples that you’re sure to see more of down below.
There was simply so much excellence to throw around this year that I had to increase my original number of 30 albums to 35 simply because I couldn’t leave even just five records as mere honorable mentions as they are much more than that in my heart. And keep that in mind: this is simply my opinion, but I’m sure that won’t stop some of you. Please keep in mind as well, I simply can’t hear everything. It’s regrettable through the sheer volume of albums and partly due to my own laziness that I’ve only caught bits and pieces of material from acts like Judas Priest, High on Fire, and Zeal and Ardor. It is what it is.
But, it’s the same deal as always with these lists. To listen to the album in question or a song from it click the album and band name and should you want to read my review of the album simply click the cover art. Enough of my words, though, and please see my Top 35 albums of 2018. Hopefully, it’ll sway you to hear some truly amazing records you’ve passed by or never even heard of before.
This was the first album that I heard that was to release in 2018, and it’s easily stayed as the pinnacle masterpiece for me ever since I first heard it over a year ago. Pristine experimental black metal that spans what feels like the entire board of black metal with immaculate execution and a hypnotizing saxophone to boot, there’s nothing that Arkheth didn’t pull of masterfully across the beautifully meandering melodies mixed with apex demonstration of dark psychedelia.
From a promising debut just a few years ago, 1914 has come a long way in such a short time to deliver one of the most impactful and gripping retellings of World War One in all of metal. In nothing short of truly perfect fashion, no less. Spanning death, doom, and even black metal at times, 1914 cast a wide net with this record to reel in the perfect catch. The horrors of war are just the icing on the cake for this album that’s the very pinnacle of a period piece.
Tolkien has been all but instrumental in creating some unique works in black metal, and here we have one of the best cases of such. Dwarrowdelf could’ve done anything with his debut from the Valar themselves to Númenor, but through grand instrumentation with a fierce understanding of how to make top-tier Tolkien black metal and beautiful embodiment of the boundless lore wreathed in epics and tragedy, there couldn’t have been a better choice.
It’s so easy to say a band or an album has turned a genre on its head, but it’s with Gaerea that we can say that without a second thought. Bringing in unique elements and intoxicating musicianship to make their second piece of material, “Unsettling Whispers” does nothing but astound time and again as Gaerea simply dominates with this behemoth as we’re constantly blown back by the sheer ferocity and intensity that’s always on full display.
The idea of a double album is one that many of us are familiar with thanks to The Beatles, but it’s rare that we get it and even rarer that we get such a powerful one-two punch the likes of which Black Space Riders delivered in 2018. Whereas the first entry felt like a chill, “let’s all love” album, it’s the second that is groovier, more intense, trippier, and far better than anything many of us could’ve hoped for in a world where many names of rock claim the genre is dead. Clearly, they haven’t heard Black Space Riders.
It’d be very easy for me to include “Our Raw Heart” on this list and so high up on it simply because of all the positivity and resounding success the album has become associated with, but that would do nothing but injustice for this record that’s a true masterpiece of its kind. YOB has long been a revered name, but it’s with the close brush with death, unyielding spirit, untouchable creativity, and pure emotion at the core, there’s nothing but beauty from “Our Raw Heart”.
If a band can manage the feat of going almost the entire length of a year and still be insanely relevant if not still the most powerful release of the year, then it’s destined for greatness. Visigoth made an impact with their debut but it’s with “Conqueror’s Oath” that we see these modern heavy metal champions come into their own with insatiable riffs, infallible Salt City representation, an epic backdrop for every song, and talent unbound in absolute spades.
It was in 2016 that the name of Allfather was sung with much praise and reverence, and I didn’t hear that excellence far after the hype had faded. I refused to be left like the dust with “And All Will Be Desolation”, and I was and am still proud to be one of the first people to call this record the masterstroke that it is. Bringing together influences from all over metal, Allfather has created one of the most devastating, satisfying, and organic releases that we got all year.
Finland has long been a grand bastion of all things metal without any sign of shattering, and it’s because of bands like Sadistik Forest that its death metal scene is one of the strongest scenes in the entire world. The monolithically heavy and equally face melting experience that this band brought to the table with “Morbid Majesties” is no less than astounding from top to bottom as it’s truly something that cannot be easily contained with riffs abound, always powerful vocals, and fierce passion only showing raw power.
Thirty years is a long damn time. Long enough to where if your band was still around it wouldn’t be against logic to think you’ve gained a cult following and become masters at your craft, no? That’s exactly what’s become of Sathanas who have done nothing but top years of blackened thrash with their own brand in the form of “Necrohymns” as one of the quintessential albums of the style that must be heard to be revered for years to come.
This was easily my most anticipated album of the year as Greenleaf did nothing but wow me with their last album, “Rise Above the Meadow”, and it’s with “Hear the Rivers” that this act has taken that up a notch. This is some of the best stoner rock has ever created by far and it shows from track after track being another winner after another from groovy anthems to gorgeous treks through mystical woodlands wreathed in riffs and mild psychedelia.
There are very few cases that I’ve come across with bands from Cyprus managing to make a great impact on the metal scene simply because many of us don’t see Cyprus as a haven for things like death metal, but it’s Vomitile that seeks to change that through blood and war with their latest of “Pure Eternal Hate”. There’s not a single thing merciful about this record as Vomitile has yet again created a marvelous display based on pure savagery and riffs that are all but intoxicating.
If you’re familiar with my past favorites, you’re familiar with Ende and there’s a reason for that as this French act quickly became one of my favorites of black metal, and each release, they continue to capture my love and “Goétie Funeste” is no different. With a slightly different sound, there’s no lack of ferocity or greatness that Ende has brought with their fourth album being yet another blistering assault that’s all organic, vicious and the very thing many black metal fans clamor for as Ende delivers the goods again
It’s thanks to acts like YOB and Neurosis that I’m always on the lookout for atmospheric sludge that really twists the style to become something else entirely, and that’s precisely what Lurk managed to do with this gorgeous piece. “Fringe” is an amazingly organic piece that takes so many twists and turns to where even months of experience in the record, there’s more goodness to find. And more than anything in this record, that’s a perfect gift above all else.
Few names have been as criminally underrated than that of Master as these guys have been kicking ever since the infantile days of death metal, but with many stunning releases behind them, they remain the underground kings of death metal. But it’s with “Vindictive Miscreant” that these guys have truly outdone themselves as they take all the qualities they’ve ever focused on and made an absolute masterwork out of them. Pun intended.
The realms of psychedelic and stoner rock often overlap to create some genuine treats of pure fuzz and hazy magic, but it’s here with Demonauta that we see it come to a very delicious peak. To simply sit back and allows “Temaukel” to take you into another dimension where there are riffs to absolutely days, top notch psychedelia that doesn’t quit for a second, and the sort of talent that simply makes you drool from that first riff to that final defiant note.
If the idea of a one-man black metal band has become quite wearisome nowadays for some of you, then it’s understandable that you want something fresh that approaches the style different, and Esoctrilihum is the perfect vessel for such a request. After already putting out one stellar record near the start of the year, it’s with “Inhüma” that this man has outdone his previous two albums to create something else entirely. An entity all its own of pure chaos and darkness, there’s nothing that’s not seductive about this record.
Swedish death metal has become synonymous with utter greatness in recent years, and it’s because of acts like Feral who manage to do the feat of doing virtually nothing to shake the core foundations of the genre, but make something fucking stunning out of that. With viscera flying everywhere, blood quenching the earth, and sheer brutality encroaching every single track of “Flesh for Funerals Eternal”, there’s none left standing after this brilliant massacre.
There are many times that a band will come around with a new concept to really bring their brand of death metal to a new height, and it’s with Chapel of Disease that we see that executed amazingly. Starting off as your typical death metal act, Chapel of Disease has truly evolved into something else as all six of these epics take us through a joyride that’s not limited to just death metal but so much other territories of music that come together so well that it’s surprising.
History can be quite a fickle thing, but it’s easily because of metal that many of us have gotten grand samples of history from new acts like 1914 to classics like Sabaton, but it’s with Towards Atlantis Lights’ debut album that we get it in funeral doom format on a much grander scale. There’s nothing plain or predictable about “Dust of Aeons” as this doom supergroup manages to take bits of ancient history to make grand works of doom the likes of which we can savor over and over.
A band that can do so much in just five tracks is just the sort of band that many of us simply flock towards. It’s thanks to acts like Tchornobog that we’re always on the lookout for bands that really toss out the idea of genre boundaries to create something unique, and A Flock Named Murder did just that with their debut. To say that “An Appointed Time” is an expansive record that feels as though it’s always reinventing itself with each track to become something bigger than a mere debut, and it couldn’t have been done better.
Many people see funeral doom, or just metal in general, as a style that focuses far more heavily on negative things in life, but it’s with their latest work that Un has set out to do just the opposite of that in the most glorious fashion. With the most unyielding heaviness since Bell Witch, Un makes a triumphant return to the fold with “Sentiment” being the exact thing that every fan of the genre looks in: raw power, emotion, talent unbound, and untouchable heaviness.
Yet again, it’s because of ancient history that we’ve gotten one of the grandest and one of the most underappreciated albums of the year in my opinion as Et Moriemur has created a multi-dimensional work of absolute beauty with this. Simply hitting the play button for “Epigrammata” will rocket you back in time to its Gregorian chants and ancient Greek vibes that permeate all ten track as Et Moriemur provides an insanely unique blend of black, death, and doom metal.
There are many people out there who feel as though black metal can be too flat and not have a whole lot of diversity in its sound to create something that’s equally awesome and scathing. Yet, Dødsferd accomplished just that and so much more with their latest album. It’s not classic black metal that we get here, but instead, it’s track after track that we see Dødsferd rise further above the mindless rabble that calls black metal home to become something else that should only be seen with awe and wonder.
It’s hard for me to get excited about a band from just one song simply because, as you can imagine, it’s just one song and not much for me to know whether or not the album is quality, but it’s with Heads for the Dead that I couldn’t help but feel immense anticipation for this debut, and luckily, “Serpent’s Curse” was just the punch to the gut I needed. With so much talent behind this act, it was clear that they would persevere but the reality of this record is so much greater and more intense than what any could’ve expected.
Instrumental psychedelic rock has been key in my music collection in recent years with The Re-Stoned being a nice constant that I always come back to with each release that they put out, but it’s with “Stories of the Astral Lizard” that they impressed me the most. Supreme psychedelia championed by grand songwriting, The Re-Stoned has reached a unique peak that cannot be understated as these tracks parade on with high-class psychedelia whose quality cannot be denied.
There are few acts as consistent or as self-reinventing as Panopticon these days as this act has become synonymous with modern black metal as each record is better than his last, and it’s here that the man has found a unique peak that’s far above all else. With the first part being top-tier black metal and the second being emotional Americana, “The Scars of Man” is a collective masterpiece whose beauty and greatness cannot be emphasized enough in this wide world.
Shamanistic death metal isn’t really something we see all that often simply because it’s such a niche style that there just aren’t that many acts out there that do it, but Khanus is one of the acts that are at the very forefront of the style. With their debut full-length album, this Finnish act has created an album that’s somehow equal parts atmospheric, groovy out the ass, sparing no expense with intensity, and something that just sucks you in further with each track offering something new and delicious.
The bands of Drug Honkey and Godflesh have long been acts that I’ve always enjoyed listening to, but I could never say that I found myself truly falling into their fiery chasms. It’s with P.H.O.B.O.S., though, that the style finally delivers me something that’s equal parts mind-bendingly haunting and challenging as it’s not something you can just casually listen to. “Phlogiston Catharsis” is a mentally taxing record in the best possible way, and immersing yourself in these dark flames provide the most macabre of rewards.
If you’re anything like me, then the concept of an album that consists of one stupid long track is all but a wet dream, and while 2018 only provided me a few, it’s Bloodmoon that delivered the most devastating and immersive one by far. “Supervoid Trinity” is a grueling and long experience that spans over 45 minutes to provide us an album that brings together doom metal with splashes of death and even tasteful psychedelia to provide a uniquely monolithic listen whose power cannot be denied for a moment.
Experimental black metal can be quite scary in concept due to the fact that the band in question could take the idea of black metal into almost any direction they please, and it’s with Veilburner that we get a very potent and bombastic result that has become one of the reasons why I can’t get enough of the style! There’s not one moment of dull nature to be found within this tumultuous record where everything’s always moving and the chaos always reigns supreme.
There aren’t many times that a duo can get me as excited as I was with Nattravnen as we’ve gotten the vocal heavyweight of Kam Lee supporting the death metal powerhouse of Jonny Pettersson with Nattravnen’s intense debut. There’s nothing packed into this record other than the attitude to bring a special avian-themed brand of death metal, riffs that don’t know the word quit, and a gripping sound that just about any fan of the genre can latch onto without even having to think about it.
This is an act that has long had my respect with their take on the special niche realm of cosmic black metal with a unique flavor of technicality to top it off really nice, but it’s with “starCross” that Progenie Terrestre Pura has truly outdone themselves in only five tracks. There’s not a moment here that doesn’t feel drenched in a certain Ridley Scott horror film, and I mean that in the best way as “starCross” is a vicious experience set in the darkest corners of space!
Just about any fan of doom metal can tell you that heaviness is one of the best things that a band of the style can pull off successfully as, if done right, it creates an experience that’s badass from top to bottom. Shrine of the Serpent has finally risen to a level to where they can claim they create such excellence, and “Entropic Disillusion” is easily their crowning achievement thus far with there being nothing that’s not beautifully macabre or gorgeously haunting with this record.
There were few bands that left me as stunned with a single track as Selvans did with “Pater Surgens” in 2016 and I couldn’t wait to see what these Italian dark artists would create next, and “Faunalia” is the perfect result to be met with. Once again, we get that special dark nature flavor mixed with impeccable black metal as Selvans delves back into the deep recesses of the forest to bring us back something that’s as mystical and wondrous as it is seductive and ominous in its rawest form.