With so many great metal album releases in 2018 to choose from, it was no easy task to narrow them down to the 10 best. Last year seemed to offer something for every musical taste, with standout record drops representing every current sub-genre. For my list, I went in with the intention of exploring as outside-the-box as I could, while still honoring the albums which I believe to be some of 2018’s strongest that mostly fall under the vast umbrella of metal. This list will no doubt seem like an eclectic one for some, as it does cover a fairly wide range of styles from technical death metal, hardcore, progressive metal, black metal, and funeral doom (just to name a few). So, with that in mind, here are my picks for top 10 metal albums of 2018:
The album takes the listener on an atmospheric, psychological mindfuck of a journey from dark to even darker. The low, sludgy riffs crush with the weight of massive concrete slabs under the sorrowful weeping of crisp, lead guitar melodies. Drums and bass are deliberate and punishing, while keys provide an ominously haunting complexity. Vocals come in the form of deep, guttural growls that resound like an otherworldly being beckoning through an endless void. For those who care to indulge in such morose pleasures, ‘Hypnagogia’ is a beautifully depressive, brutal, and immersive rite of passage into the blackest abyss.
On this latest effort, the maturation of the band over the last several years is apparent as the minor-chord, melancholic masters have clearly brought a newly awakened sharpness and depth to their craft. Lyrically, the cynicism is front and center and, for the most part, aimed lethally at the misguided ways of present-day mankind. ‘Eat the Elephant’ exhibits many familiar APC elements while also incorporating a slew of modern stylistic influences that many fans may find surprising or even polarizing, particularly on the whimsically creative “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.”
The second LP from the Maryland hardcore punk act exhibits a youthful rebellion in an adrenaline-soaked, modern presentation. The songs are aggressive and catchy in a unique way that has a timeless familiarity, while at the same time sounding fresh and original. ‘Time & Space’ skillfully avoids falling into the cliché, testosterone-filled hardcore realm and instead opts primarily for a fast-tempo looseness to deliver its unpretentious mischief.
The legends of British heavy metal deliver one of their strongest releases in the past decade with ‘Firepower.’ While it may be true that no new paths are being forged with this record, it’s a familiar sound that a band 40+ years into their career have perfected in a way that can still compel millions of heads to bang in 2018 and beyond with its energetic intensity. From the menacing guitar riffs and solos, to the impressive vocal performance, this album is just pure heavy metal in every sense of the term.
The debut studio album from the Boston hardcore act delivers track after track of intensely violent rage by combining elements of nu-metal, metalcore, and noisecore. The breakdowns alone could incite a riot, particularly on the track “Doomtech.” Vocals are absolutely berserk and utterly pissed off in a way that, along with the slamming riffs, elevates the sound into another level of brawl-inducing potency.
Once again, the blackened death metal veterans deliver an otherworldly evil sounding record full of atmosphere and dynamics that complement the powerful riffing and venomously blasphemous vocal work. At times hypnotic, and other times chaotic and aggressive, it’s a well-rounded and sinister indulgence of dark creativity.
The Philadelphia death metal act deliver one of the most inventive extreme metal records of the year with ‘Idol.’ On this fourth studio album from the band, they’re able to successfully combine elements of prog, old school death metal, and psychedelic rock into a sound that is dynamically unique but often reminiscent of the late, great Chuck Schuldiner (Death). As musicians, ‘Horrendous’ takes an almost classical approach to their instrumentation that impressively showcases each player’s high level of skill.
The band’s 2018 release offers an expansive and emotive array of melancholic and aggressive soundscapes that take their cue from a myriad of stylistic elements to create subtly pleasing nuances as each song progresses – ranging from melodic black metal, post-rock, prog, and jazz. The musicianship and instrumentation here are beautifully conceived and executed, while lyrics read like pages ripped out of a private journal, giving significant weight and depth to the emotions portrayed within the songs.
There’s no frills or gimmicks, no wank-off guitar solos or whiney ballads from the Chicago metallic hardcore act on ‘Posthuman.’ It’s – Just. Plain. Heavy. The low-end, chugging riffs crush with powerful, thick distortion along with the aid of beefy basslines and thunderous drumming. Vocals are menacingly aggressive like a ravenous grizzly bear in a really bad mood. This album is like the sonic equivalent of a brutally violent ass-beating by a ten-ton sledgehammer (in a good way, of course).
Last but not least is my number one choice, and by default, my pick for metal album of the year. This 2018 release from the Pennsylvania technical death metal act is as heavy and aggressive as it is innovative and groundbreaking. Rivers of Nihil break free of essentially any and all perceived boundaries of the death metal genre to come up with an immensely diverse sound that has kicked the door wide open for new possibilities. Outstanding from start to finish, ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ does what any great album should do by shattering the mold and showcasing ultimate creativity through an equally impressive musical performance. Oh, and it also has saxophone – how can you go wrong?