2018 has been a very significant year in music for me; the most significant in fact. It’s the first year that I ever played full songs with a band. I’ve been to over twenty concerts this year (not counting the free local ones). And of course, I began writing for this here ‘zine known as Indy Metal Vault that you are currently reading. More importantly, doing so opened up my mind to all sorts of new bands and new genres that I wasn’t really into previously.
As far as new genres, doom metal has grown on me significantly. Seeing that I’m somewhat the heavy/thrash/glam guy, it shows the clear influence my peers have had on me, and I’m really happy to add that to my favorite genres list. Crossover thrash is something I’ve dug for a while, but also dug way deeper into this year. Irrelevant to metal, modern pop and alternative pop is also making its way onto my shelves, as well as synthwave.
A few things to know: I’ve included a link to a review I wrote in every description (save for one), as well as a Bandcamp embed for a place of purchase (which are also in most linked reviews). If it’s a more popular band with no Bandcamp page, a YouTube video is provided instead. One final note: if something I reviewed has a lower score than something that it tops on this list, keep one thing in mind – review scores are typically how good it is musically, where this is how much it resonates with me personally.
Before you get bored, allow me to stop wasting your time with this personal musical growth shit and get onto my top twenty albums of 2018!
20) The Destruct Principle – The Malignant Hymn
Most who know me are aware that black metal is far from my thing. This album, along with Exxxekutioner’s Death Sentence, are the closest I’ve gotten to that this year, so picture this: blackened industrial metal. The Malignant Hymn is another horror-tastic disc packed with Satanic themes and very hateful balls of evil. Harsh shrieks, blast beats, and tremolo picked guitars are combined with electronic beats, terrifying samples, and slower moaning vocals reminiscent of Marilyn Manson (just look at the band members). Those in search of something very different and quite dark shall look no further.
19) Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain
This was one of the first records that struck my fancy in the doom category for the year, ultimately kicking off that new fascination. Witch Mountain is a female-fronted doom disc with a an atmosphere so cold that it thickens their chugs to the max, all drawn out to five tracks covering a full-length run-time. Although a moody album and a bit of a grower, those who love this genre should love this.
18) Black Cyclone – Death Is King
This is some of the most straightforward thrash right out of Sweden to hit the scene this year. Death Is King is a cluster of speed-tastic overload and barbaric high pitched vocals all sewn together in a pretty sophisticated manner, despite being somewhat raw in production. Clearly the band were going for some retro-tinted throwbacks, as some of it resembles Overkill and other acts of the time. Worth a listen for all thrash goers.
17) Wraith – Heed The Warning
Oh boy, some crossover! Actually, Heed The Warning is a very short blast to the head despite being labeled a full-length. This is crossover taken to hotter extremes, with burning vocals that resemble Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust (and also produced by him). Fast, distorted-to-the-extreme riffs back this up at every angle, and it’s certainly one that gets a few plays before leaving the rotation pile.
16) Slasher Dave – Frights
Frights is the one synthwave record to make it to my list, and that’s due in part to the fact that it was the one that really made me like the genre. This is filled to the brim with horror themes, keeping it creepy and sounding like it was ripped right off of the soundtrack of an 80s horror movie. Screams and voices, as well as cries, monstrous effects, and all of that glory (gorey?) are sampled in; sometimes rhythmically. Occasionally an electric guitar taps into it to give it more of a metal feel. Truthfully, this is probably the most “metal” synthwave disc I’ve ever listened to.
15) Chemical Way – Chilling Spree
As much as I hype Chilling Spree up, it’s near the end of my list due to being unoriginal and almost too similar to Municipal Waste. Still, the attitude and crazy sense of aggression mixed with a fun sense of humor is a great way to hook my ears right in. Here you’ll find a platter of crossover thrash with riffs for days, high and concise vocals, and surprisingly decent production. For you big shoed and ripped jeans wearers who drink shitty beer, here’s your go-to.
14) Warfield – Wrecking Command
Where are my Teutonic thrash fans? Lovers of Kreator and Destruction, please stand up. Wrecking Command is a thick slab of German thrash meat that is cooked rare and and full of harsh shrieks covered in speed. There isn’t a lot of melody to be found here, but the rhythms are super tight, and it’s neat to see a newer band hone in on a very specific type of thrash that was popular in that region. Variance isn’t a huge part of this, but it certainly serves its purpose and does everything it wanted to do.
13) Tantara – Sum Of Forces
Jeez, does this guy ever stop talking about thrash metal? I’ve hit crossover, retro, and Teutonic, but here we have something that teeters on the technical side. Sum Of Forces is Tantara’s second effort, a slight step up from their already ripping debut from 2012. This is a shorter disc that elaborates on crazy, complex solos and neat rhythm patterns, all while chopping down the overall run-time. The vocal style used here is very mature and smooth, yet maintains its power. I ordered this right from the band, and they all signed my CD. Perhaps they’ll do that for you too?
12) Deicide – Overtures Of Blasphemy
Ah, the only death metal record to crack my list (spoiler alert). Death metal is one of those mid-genres where I’m not huge on it beyond the early Florida acts, but when a band pulls off something interesting, it absolutely shreds! Overtures Of Blasphemy was another one that I hyped up due to the fact that it’s better than anything they’ve released in decades. Here, Benton incorporates more melody and his slick vocal patterns pulled off better than ever. Not to mention the guitar playing is out of this world, and they managed to keep my attention the whole time. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, a Deicide album can be “catchy.”
11) Spirit Division – Forgotten Planet
Totally not putting this one on here only because my fellow Vault writer Chris Latta is the lead vocalist. Nah, I kid. Forgotten Planet was another big helper in my doom metal endeavors, as the band does a great job with varying the influences and incorporating faster sections that are heavier than steel beams. There are also hooks for days, as “Nothing To Be Missed” has been an ear-worm a lot lately. Painting an unsettling picture in my mind is key with the way they lay out their songs, and anyone doing that is impressive. Oh, and the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude” is beautiful.
10) Halestorm – Vicious
Seeing that the last Halestorm record somewhat disappointed me, this one was a breath of fresh air. Into The Wild Life wasn’t bad, but it didn’t reel me in very quickly. Vicious, however, turned the heavy back on and brought some of Lzzy Hale’s strongest vocals out as far as range as well as ferocity. Sexually charged lyrics and borderline speed metal moments brought these modern hard rockers into more metal territory again. Some take a more melodic direction such as “Killing Ourselves To Live” and “Skulls,” where others are fist pumping bangers like “Black Vultures” and “Uncomfortable.” Either way, if you were never into this band, I suggest checking this disc out.
9) Vanik – Dark Season
The spooky album of the year! Vanik are one of the many bands that Shadow Kingdom Records brought my way this year. Dark Season is a great blend of clean and mean guitars mixed with vocals that are quite rough around the edges. Picture Venom; bring the fun and bring the evil, because you get rippers like “Jack’s Lantern” and Halloween party jams such as “We Like To Be Frightened.” If it isn’t obvious, the lyrics are all driven by horror themes and Halloween schemes.
8) Haunt – Burst Into Flame
Another entree from the Shadow Kingdom smorgasbord is Burst Into Flame, a more traditional metal driven album. Haunt have a lot of strength in the solos department, and bring on hooks to the extreme. They’re quite straightforward with this, as evident in the title track, but “Frozen In Time” became an immediate ear-worm, quite possibly one of my favorite songs of this year. If you like the traditional style played quite concisely, then this is just the ticket.
7) Saxon – Thunderbolt
Clearly, traditional metal is the most prominent genre that struck my fancy for the year, and the legendary Saxon were no exception. Thunderbolt is everything you could want from them and more. It’s a fitting name, because the best way to describe the songs is thunderous, with some that tread on power metal territory. Biff Byford shows no signs of aging here, as his voice is still aggressive and roaring. Tracks like “Sons Of Odin” bring in newer elements, while ones like “They Played Rock N Roll” pay more homage to the classics.
Snakebite – Rise Of The Snake
Glam metal is very rare in this day and age, and while I don’t know if this record is fully glam, it’s the closest thing to it on the list. That said, the songwriting on Rise Of The Snake is beyond fantastic. Snakebite are a group of big haired dudes playing pop-infused rock and metal tracks with heavy speedballs like “Run Fast,” catchy anthem-like songs like “Fields Of Glory,” and straight up rockers like “One Touch,” Themes of love and life are the name of the game, as you should expect. If you’re a glam-head like myself, then give it a whirl.
5) Serpents Kiss – Dragon Lord
Getting two band names based around reptiles was merely a coincidence. Serpents Kiss are pretty legendary players, and Dragon Lord brings you a smoothie blended with heavy, speed, and power metal flavors. Long, epic songs make up the majority of this, covering majestic themes with fantastical building blocks, all laced with effects and keyboards to tie it all up. “Innocence” will give you accessibility, “Witches Embers” will give you more of a complex and haunting feeling, and everything else will fill the gap between.
4) Sundrifter – Visitations
Alas, the last album to bring my new found love for doom to completion. Although Visitations is more of a desert rock album than anything, doom traces are a big part of that. Psychedelic whiffs fill the airy riffs to give a spacey effect to the entire release from cover to cover. “Fire In The Sky” is a favorite of mine, and one of the longer drawn out ones. Others like “Death March” and “Targeted” are more straightforward. I really can’t pinpoint what it is about this record, but it’s absolutely fantastic.
3) Judas Priest – Firepower
It’s definitely a good year when your favorite band of all time puts out a killer record. Firepower is much like Saxon’s newest album, where it brings up the intensity levels and hits some really powerful moments. Halford can still bring the heat like never before. “Evil Never Dies” is nothing short of ferocious. “Necromancer” is a work of guitar art. “Rising From Ruins” is a beautifully crafted ballad. And of course, the big hits “Firepower” and “Lightning Strikes” are incredible too. I could go on and on about this but by now, most are familiar with their album that skyrocketed to number one on charts. For someone who loved their previous record, this one blew it out of the water.
Disclaimer: Linked review is written by Chris Latta. This is the only album on the list I didn’t write a review for.
2) Flight – A Leap Through Matter
This came out of nowhere. It’s almost like it took a leap through matter into my ears. Ha, ok, I’ll stop now. A Leap Through Matter is comprised of classic heavy metal, classic rock, and pop rock influences, brought into a more spacey atmosphere and incorporating keys and other instruments. Can’t deny the prog that leaks in as well. The in-depth writing combined with the cleanliness of everything and the catchiness is superb. “Ride On” is the definitive track, but really the entire thing is essential in my eyes. Some people had weird reactions to me over-hyping it, but I guess that’s just those that can’t handle others’ opinions. I even got the pleasure of interviewing this band. Killer record.
1) Ghost – Prequelle
Yeah yeah yeah get your nasty comments about Prequelle outta here! There was all sorts of controversy on this making “#1 metal album of the year” seeing that there’s all sorts of talk about “is this even metal?” Here’s this for an answer: I don’t give a damn. Label it how you want, but the songs are super tight, super hooky, and fun with a cartoonish horror feel. “Dance Macabre” may be my favorite song to come out this year, using hard rock riffs and pop tones effectively making something evil sound romantic. Backing vocals are utilized tremendously, as well as the smooth keyboard sections, and even a saxophone in “Miasma” are spectacular. “Witch Image” scratches every itch containing bouncy rhythms and a booming chorus, right up there in my favorites as well. You may not like pop rock. You may not like catchy metal. You may not like Ghost, but they’re great songwriters, and you’ll never change my mind. It was a very close match with Flight, as that album is more solid the whole way through, but the one song on this that I don’t like as much as the others (“Pro-Memoria”) is out-shadowed by how much more I love all the other songs.