I could have replaced every album on this list 3 times over and felt good about it. For real, I could hardly keep up with 2018. It’s been a thrilling and diverse year for heavy music, and I’m more excited than ever to share with you this list. Here are my favorite albums of 2018.
#20 Will O Wisp – Mot (Nadir Music)
I know this is a bit of a cop out, but it truly is hard to describe Will O Wisp’s Mot. It’s best you just give it a listen. Avant-garde death metal with tinges of black metal and spooky, almost-video game-esque symphonic elements is the best I got. Whatever it is, it sports a solid backbone of groovy riffs, and I dug the hell out of it.
#19 Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia Records)
I’m still trying to figure out how this album came out in 2018. Firepower could have easily been in direct succession to 1990’s Painkiller. The wide-stance riffs. Rob Halford’s wailing voice. Hot damn. Every time I listen to it, I’m tempted to burn my entire wardrobe and replace everything in black leather. All hail the kings of heavy metal.
#18 My Regime – Peek Through The Pines (Scarlet Records)
I listened to a handful of good thrash albums this year, but My Regime’s third effort takes the cake. As this was my introduction to the band, I should be checking out their first two albums, but I’m still too busy jamming this one. There are more heavy riffs than you can shake a stick at here, but what really won me over was the dynamic songwriting. This thrash is fresh.
#17 Cantique Lepreux – Paysages Polaires (Eisenwald Tonschmiede)
There’s practically nothing to dislike with the new Cantique Lepreux album, right down to the gorgeous cover art. This is the coldest black metal I heard in 2018, full of beautiful, frostbitten melodies and some of the most chilling howls you’ll hear from the genre all year. I’m stoked to have Paysages Polaires as we enter the winter months.
#16 YOB – Our Raw Heart (Relapse Records)
For those of you unaware, YOB frontman Mike Scheidt almost died last year. Shortly after, his band put out one of the most powerful albums of 2018. I have no shame in saying that Our Raw Heart causes all kinds of emotions to well up in me every time I listen to it. As soul-crushing as it is, there is a constant sense of positive serenity weaving through every song that will leave you breathless by the end.
#15 Sleep – The Sciences (Third Man Records)
Get in, we’re going to space.
#14 1914 – The Blind Leading The Blind (Redefining Darkness Records)
If any album were to challenge the emotional weight of YOB’s Our Raw Heart this year, it’s the new album from the World War I-themed/obsessed band 1914. The Blind Leading The Blind is a stellar achievement in atmosphere, using multiple samples of battlefield sounds, Transatlantic pep-talks, and old-timey war propaganda songs. Most importantly, the music itself is immensely visceral, and I may even give this album the “Most Ferocious Vocal Performance of 2018” award. Check it out, history bvffs.
#13 Chaos Invocation – Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond (W.T.C. Productions)
The fact that Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond wasn’t even my favorite W.T.C. Production release this year should terrify you. This album is absolutely phenomenal. Pay no mind to it’s ranking in my list. I admittedly didn’t listen to it until just recently, and it grows on me with every listen. As far as the ritualistic kvlt metal that W.T.C. is known for goes, Germany’s Chaos Invocation give one of the most thrilling and dynamic experiences to be found in the style.
#12 Vreid – Lifehunger (Season of Mist)
The surviving members of Windir have a band I never knew about?! What shame is this I feel? Well boys, I’m here now, and I can dig it. Lifehunger is what Tribulation would sound like if you threw them out in the snow for a few solid days. It’s catchy, melodic, spooky, and just downright fun. Sometimes I like my black metal to go down easy. Sue me.
#11 Vanik – Dark Season (Shadow Kingdom Records)
In a year full of real rockin’ heavy metal, nothing made me throw up the horns quite like Vanik. I’m not one to take Halloween too seriously, meaning I like to keep it fun and colorful. Dark Season captures that same feel. I don’t really know what else you could want.
#10 Sumac – Love in Shadow (Thrill Jockey)
Want an album that says “I prefer craft stouts but never turn down a PBR”? Boom. Love in Shadow. Sometimes you just gotta let people know that your music tastes are more refined than theirs. If you can’t behind 15+ minute songs of pure sludgy chaos, then what are you even doing here? I kid, I kid. Real talk, Sumac done outdid themselves on this one. I thoroughly adore this album.
#9 Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista Recordings)
You know what I love? Loving Ghost. Seeing a bunch of angry gatekeepers lose their shit over this band is the sweetest of vices. I’ll admit, I didn’t think I liked Prequelle at first. But after realizing that I had been listening to it nonstop for months, I had to fully embrace it. I think the new sound and vision that Tobias has crafted is brilliant, and I’m looking forward to more infuriating earworms in the future. Side note, I saw Ghost in Boston a few days ago, and they aren’t too shabby live.
#8 Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages (Century Media)
I can comfortably say that I am no longer just a “casual” Barren Earth fan. If you want the undeniable, scientific, 100% objective truth (aka my opinion), Barren Earth just wrote an Opeth album. A Complex of Cages is that good. You got top-tier riffs. You got progressive songwriting. You got gorgeous cleans. On top of all this, the band further solidifies their own unique atmosphere. I can think of nothing that is missing. Best melodeath of the year.
#7 Extremity – Coffin Birth (20 Buck Spin)
Murky, boggy death metal had a pretty solid year, with excellent releases from bands like Outer Heaven, Scorched, and Outre-Tomb. But I have to give this slot to Extremity. 2017’s Extremely Fucking Dead EP made me hangry for a full-length, and I’m pleased to announce I got my fill. Coffin Birth is dripping with hooky leads, excellent drumming, and an overall stench of rot that is groovy as hell.
#6 Arkona – Khram (Napalm Records)
Before January 19th, Arkona was that one band I saw live that one time that was kinda silly fun. Now, they’re the band that gave the world Khram. That’s an astonishing leap. I truly cannot say enough good things about this album. I’ve been listening to it for the entire year and it still floors me.
#5 Ascension – Under Ether (W.T.C. Productions)
It’s pretty hard to beat the Germans when it comes to black metal of this ilk, and Ascension just increased the country’s lead by several points with Under Ether. There is a certain simplicity to this album that makes it so easy to digest, but what you are digesting is not simplistic, if that makes any sense. Hard hitting riffs and vocal rhythms take several progressive twists and turns throughout the album, but it is all so expertly crafted that you never get lost along the way.
#4 Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (Gilead Media)
There are 19 albums on my list this year that knocked me on my ass and 1 album that fucking steamrolled my skull into the wet city pavement. Vile Luxury is that album. NYC’s Imperial Triumphant have crafted an absolute masterclass of avant-garde, and quite frankly I was not prepared for it. TWICE this album startled me so badly that I sat straight up in bed wide-eyed. Fuck this album. I love it.
#3 Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (MVKA Music)
I can’t imagine 2018 without Stranger Fruit. These songs have become synonymous with so many personal events in my life this past year, both trivial and significant. Even during those rare little ruts where I didn’t feel like listening to any music because it all seemed stale, Zeal & Ardor found its way through my speakers. It’s an album unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and that includes the band’s 2017 debut Devil is Fine.
#2 Drug Church – Cheer (Pure Noise Records)
It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission, so I’m sneaking a hardcore punk album into my list this year, and in the #2 slot at that! Drug Church are one of the best punk bands on the planet, and I could not in good conscious exclude from this list the new tales of delinquency found on Cheer. The Albany, NY quintet made some tweaks to their sound for this album, and the risk paid off phenomenally. Cheer still has that signature griminess that made their previous two albums so potent but sprinkles in some more melodic, beachy vibes here and there. The result is nothing short of A+ material that is easily my second favorite album of the year.
#1 High on Fire – Electric Messiah (eOne Music)
No one else even stood a chance. My favorite album of the year goes to High on Fire’s Electric Messiah. Seven albums in and the Oakland trio are still finding new ways to annihilate everything in their path. Pike and co. could have stayed with the same basic formula as their two previous albums and been more than fine, but instead, they decided to give fans something a little off the beaten, blood-soaked path. Electric Messiah is a full-throttle assault of thrashy, colorful world-building, and it is the band’s most ambitious album since Death Is This Communion. I’m a happy fanboy.