Hell yeah! It’s that excellent time of year once more: the time to take stock of the best metal albums of 2018. I do so enjoy a good list, and this promises to be a very, very good one. Of course, I would say that, but I invite you to check out the twenty albums below to see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy. Narrowing down a year’s worth of releases into a mere 20 was no easy task, but I hope you find something new here for you to enjoy…
Mountain of Smoke
Gods of Biomechanics
This Bladerunner-themed slab of belligerent atmospheric heaviness caught me by surprise with its grooving menace and intense delivery. The music is sludge metal that’s been enhanced with synths and has a charismatic and individual delivery. Comprising short-yet-effective songs and plenty of substance, this album is a strong way to start this list.
This is the debut album from UK riff-mongers Nomad, and it’s a monster. Although a few tweaks are needed to truly move up to the next level, this is still a record of riffs and grooves big enough to cause even the most jaded music fan to throw up their arms, bang their head, and stomp around the dance floor like a maniac. I honestly can’t wait to see what Nomad do next.
This album is aptly named, as it spends a shockingly nasty 43 minutes completely annihilating the listener with hardcore fury and dizzying brutality. Mixing jarring technicality and blistering chaos with mathcore rage and mechanized electronic mayhem, Annihilated is not for the weak of constitution. Savage and destructive, Sectioned’s debut album is a complex, layered, and intense blend of several shades of abrasive extremity all mixed into a lethal cocktail of jagged sounds.
I’ll be honest – I was initially drawn to this album by its striking cover art, but I definitely stayed for the quality of the music within. This is black metal that’s atmospheric and highly emotive. The songs have a delicacy about them, while also claiming a fiery ferocity as their own when they want to. It’s a disarmingly warm album, welcoming in its intimacy, while still embracing the core of cold blackened frost that’s at the heart of black metal. Dripping with emotion and mood, Täyttymys is a swansong to be proud of.
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving
If labyrinthine, semi-impenetrable instrumental mayhem is your thing, then look no further than this gem of a record. Imaginative and full of quality material, this is dense and unforgiving, yet still shimmers with radiance and epic atmosphere. With a range of textures and ideas impressively woven together, No Tether offers quite the journey.
Technical, proggy death metal with a nicely brutal side, Algorythm is a high-quality release from this Canadian group. This album contains solid, enjoyable material from the band, which I enjoy probably more than I would have expected in some ways. It’s hard to dislike this though, as it ticks so many of the right boxes for this sort of music. Yep, I like this one a lot.
Holy crap, how can anyone deny the sheer joyously depraved power of the imposing Wolfbastard? The name should say it all, along with the belligerent song titles. The corrupt and nasty offspring of punk and black metal, the latest Wolfbastard album is just under half an hour of delightful filth.
The Atlas Moth
The Atlas Moth embrace both heavy abruptness and sophisticated nuance, sometimes in the same moment. This is an album of both atmosphere and heaviness, of crisp riffs and piercing screams, of punchy drums and catchy hooks. The band’s combination of sludge, rock, metal, doom, hardcore, and psychedelic accessibility has resulted in an album of power and grace, one which effortlessly earns its place in this end of year list.
Transient & Bastard Noise
Sources of Human Satisfaction
An unholy alliance between grindcore and electronic/noise artists? Hell yeah! This is a short-but-scathing release that smashes two genres together in an attempt to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts, and in this it succeeds wildly. The brief tracks are packed with unfriendly content, barbed electronics, and acidic vocals. Transient’s material is strong enough to stand on its own, but with Bastard Noise’s contributions wrapped around it like razor wire, the end result is an album that demands your attention.
Abyss Between the Stars
How could I refuse a doom metal band containing three-quarters of the mighty Cormorant? Ursa show the same degree of songwriting care and immersive delivery that Cormorant do, only channeled through a different medium – doom metal. Abyss Between the Stars is forward-thinking and progressive while also somehow managing to be rooted in classic traditional doom metal. It’s epic stuff and transports the listener to a fantasy realm that’s vibrant and engaging. Top stuff from Ursa.
Love in Shadow
This is huge, sprawling doom/sludge that’s absolutely crushing in all of the best ways. Brought to us by current and ex-members of bands such as Isis and Baptists, Love in Shadow is a monolithic album that explores heaviness and the ways in which distortion and drums can be bent to create soundscapes both sparsely- and well-populated with details. Sometimes simple, sometimes complex, sometimes experimental, but always compelling, Sumac have impressed with this release.
This melodically-inclined black metal album came quietly out of the icy wilderness at the start of the year and very quickly became one I couldn’t stop thinking about and listening to. Fast, melodic, dark, and with plenty of ideas and good songwriting, Eviternity is an album I picked up on early on, and has really stuck with me. This is blackened extremity of the finest variety, and Eviternity is a thoroughly enjoyable work.
Where to even start with this one? Imagine a violent hardcore band drugged up with hallucinogenic electronics, and then run backward through a meat grinder. Only with real, authentic, actual rocking tunes hiding beneath the experimental chaos. Only Love is a trip in many senses of the word, and The Armed have produced their best album yet. This is one of the most interesting pieces of ferocity you’re likely to hear in some time; a masterpiece of contemporary noisemongering.
Cult of a Dying Sun
Now here’s an album that I can’t seem to stop listening to. Bold, melodic, and with a strong, slick delivery, this is black metal forged from confidence and apocalyptic riffs. This USBM group have produced an album here that may be on the longer side for this type of thing but doesn’t feel like it at all. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about Uada. Sure, it might not be perfect, but I can’t really find the energy to care. Cult of a Dying Sun will continue to get repeated spins in my neck of the woods for some time.
Utterly despicable and foul brutality and terror, thy name is Knelt Rote. This noise-enhanced blackened deathgrind release may not last long, (21 minutes), but it spends every last second torturing your mind with its ultra-harsh, brutal nastiness. This struck me hard and made a permanent mark. Beware.
If quirky, unusual, atypical progressive metal is your thing, then look no further than this sterling effort from current and ex-members of bands such as Alkaloid, Hate Eternal, and Obscura, (Hannes Grossmann), and Aborym and Ephel Duath, (Davide Tiso). These two supply some truly excellent music, on top of which the delightfully individual vocals of their singer – Jason McMaster – sit like jewels. A stunning record.
Who Do You Love
The latest album by these Norwegian art/noise rockers grabbed me shockingly hard and wouldn’t let go. This is a rich, varied, and diverse collection of tunes. They somehow manage to retain coherence and flow despite many of the songs being quite different from each other in both style and feel. Who Do You Love feels like an experience, one that’s special and extraordinary. It’s a journey into somewhere different, an encounter with something wondrous and unusual.
The Smoke of Atavistic Fires
Well, this one came out of nowhere and blew me away. Rich, layered, textured, and nuanced, this is a captivating black metal album. Mixing atmospheric and folk influences into something entirely compelling, The Smoke of Atavistic Fires is an album that works wonders on many levels, crafting affecting soundscapes with apparent ease. The combination of folk and black metal here sounds natural and unforced, and the resulting songs have a depth of composition that’s completely engrossing. This is a must.
These two colossal slabs of monolithic instrumental doom paint a vivid and ugly picture, one which you won’t be able to stop yourself from staring at until something shifts in your mind and all of a sudden you’re in the picture, surrounded by horror, tainted by exposure, weeping with fear and lethargy, all to the point where continued existence no longer seems feasible, or necessary, and you realize, quite forcefully, that life as you know it is completely, and utterly, Terminal.
And finally, we get to the coveted top spot. Ihsahn is quite rightfully labeled a legend, and Ámr is his latest masterpiece. You can pick pretty much any song on this album and come away with something better than almost every other ostensibly similar band is doing at the moment. Epic in scope, and frequently in feel, Ámr is a collection of songs that show what a versatile and constantly evolving artist Ihsahn truly is. It’s hard to pick a favorite off this opus, but if I were forced to, I’d either go for “Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia” or “Marble Soul”…or maybe “Wake”…or maybe…damn, Ámr is just soooo good. If you haven’t yet checked this out, then you should.