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Top 25 Metal Albums of 2018

Music journalist Chris Hawkins breaks down his favorites from 2018

  1. Judas PriestJudas PriestFirepower:  Like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest had also been putting out mediocre albums on average post-2000.  While those few albums were not bad, they lacked the fire of the band’s prime cuts released throughout their now five-decade-long career.   The aptly titled Firepower marked a solid return to form for the Metal God and his bandmates.  From the first few moments of the album through to the end, Priest hearkened back to the old days in the strength of their writing and looked ahead in terms of execution.  Like listening to Defenders of the Faith, Hell Bent for Leather, or Painkiller, one gets swept away in the Heavy Metal mayhem, succumbing to a sound forged in steel and perfected by these master craftsmen of the trade.  Now that Black Sabbath have abdicated, it seems that Judas Priest have inherited the throne as kings of the genre, and Firepower is the perfect soundtrack to their coronation.  Seeing them this year for the first time in (cough) twenty-seven years, the band played a set with renewed energy ferociously tackling old favorites as well as tracks from this album.  Whether recorded or live, Judas Priest are indeed the reigning Kings of Metal!

  2. YOBYOBOur Raw Heart: I’ve been on board as a YOB fan since covering Catharsis back in the day.  Mike Scheidt truly had a spiritual revelation before recording this as his health sadly degenerated.  As he recovered, he was more inspired than ever and it truly shows in this recording.  They are truly at the top of their game as they created an album full of atmosphere and naked emotion.

  3. Sanhedrin – A Funeral for the WorldSanhedrinA Funeral for the World: This album may have flown under the radar for most folks, but as soon as I heard it, I was hooked.  Featuring the current guitarist of NY based Black Anvil and the former singer of Amber Asylum, this is some truly epic Heavy Metal.  In this climate of traditional Metal returning, these guys truly stare into the ether and invoke the classic.  Imagine a female singer with an amazing range singing over a guitar player that is equal parts Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi. 

  4. Thou – MagusThouMagus: Bryan Funck and company seem to have a bottomless well from which they conjure their music.  This full-length was released along with three EPs and one split this year!  Fans of NOLA bands take note and redirect your attention to Baton Rouge for these guys have equally powerful riffs and slow, crawling, sludge that never gets old.  The melodies created alongside those monster guitar parts truly make this record shine.  It never gets old. 

  5. Funeral Mist – HekatombFuneral MistHekatomb: This is Black Metal for fans of Black Metal.  It doesn’t get more legit as this is a project of Arioch, known as Mortuus in his main band you may have heard of called Marduk.  In Funeral Mist, he shows off his chops performing all the instruments as well.  This is Black Metal outside the box for there are actually hooks in these songs.  Do not worry, though, for it remains true throughout.  Hearing this record invoked the same feeling as I had when first hearing Rebel Extravaganza from Satyricon.

  6. Lizzy Borden – My Midnight ThingsLizzy BordenMy Midnight Things: The LA-based Shock Metal extraordinaire returns with his first record in eleven years.  This is a collection of extremely well-written songs that tap his old school material yet still remain forward-looking.  It is truly impossible to listen to this and not have the melodies stuck in your head for days.  What he sacrificed in heaviness, he replaced with quality songwriting.

  7. Immortal – Northern Chaos GodsImmortalNorthern Chaos Gods: Demonaz and Horgh prove that they do not need Abbath for Immortal to work.  I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical going in, but as soon as I heard the first single, the title track, all reservations were tossed out the window.  This is the best material the band has released since the mighty At the Heart of Winter, arguably their best album.  The riffs are complex, frantic even, yet haunting melodies still manage to creep in the mix.  Immortal are back at the top of their game weaving timeless tales of Blashyrkh.

  8. ANAAL NATHRAKHAnaal NathrakhA New Kind of Horror: This band has always had a sound that could be likened to hearing a recording of the apocalypse.  I don’t mean the sound of a wasteland, but the sound of millions upon millions being set aflame as buildings collapse and cars flip.  This album is no different.  What has always been intriguing is the way they weave clean vocals above some of the most chaotic parts of the music.  Contrasts in any kind of art always elevate it to the next level, and these guys are the masters of adding memorable cleanly-sung vocals on top of music that is a hybrid of Black Metal and Grindcore.

  9. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human LoveDeafheavenOrdinary Corrupt Human Love: I can already hear the jeers coming from the trve kvlt basement-dwellers out there.  Deafheaven have maintained that they are not a Black Metal band since their inception.  Like previous releases, they do incorporate elements of the genre, but on this album, it is combined with washy-sounding melody.  The band has successfully learned to inject textures into their music, and there are clean vocals here and there as well.  There are few bands out there that can invoke emotion in this listener like these guys, and their lengthy songs always seem like they end too soon.

  10. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – WastelandUncle Acid and the DeadbeatsWasteland: This is a solid release from a band that is at the very forefront of true, classic Metal.  Everything from Uriah Heep to UFO to Blue Cheer can be heard yet they never sound derivative.  Listening to this album truly is like taking a trip.

  11. Primordial – Exile Among the RuinsPrimordialExile Among the Ruins: It is amazing to think that this is the thirty-first year Primordial has been in existence.  Being the first Black Metal-type band to emerge from Ireland, they are true visionaries.  Now, many years later, theirs is a sound that has been refined incorporating folk elements as well as clean vocals.  Perhaps unlike any other album on this list, Exile Among the Ruins has the ability to truly haunt the listener brave enough to delve into its mire.

  12. Khemmis – DesolationKhemmisDesolation: With just six years under their belt, these Denver natives are writing music years ahead of what would be expected.  Theirs is the rare ability to combine Doom with catchy hooks alongside mammoth riffs.  Each song is its own entity within, and they have learned how to ingratiate themselves with the listener’s subconscious.

  13. fifth angelFifth Angel The Third Secret: The story of Fifth Angel is a long one riddled with missed opportunities and unfortunate endings.  Thankfully, though, an appearance at a festival in 2009 convinced the guys to give it another shot.  The Third Secret is perhaps the one album on this list that could be classified as Classic Metal, and there is no better representative from 2018. 

  14. hangman's chairHangman’s ChairBanlieu Triste: This fifth full-length from these Paris natives shows them with a firm handle on creating huge soundscapes.  Theirs is the ability to truly tap into the cerebral in venting their unique creativity.  This is way beyond Doom and could be likened to breakout albums from many of the genre’s greats.

  15. Burial Invocation – AbiogenesisBurial InvocationAbiogenesis: Haling from Turkey, Burial Invocation use broad strokes in the painting of their version of Death Metal.  It is the genre’s future.  No other band this year has been able to create something so massively oppressive and tight.  Death Metal could not be in better hands.

  16. The Atlas Moth – Coma NoirThe Atlas MothComa Noir: This is one of the few albums that I wish I’d reviewed when surveying back through 2018.  The Atlas Moth create a sound that is expansive, highlighted by massive grooves and hooks.  If Metal had to go commercial, this would be the way I could get behind.

  17. Witchsorrow – HexenhammerWitchsorrowHexenhammer: This British three-piece released more purist Doom material prior to this year’s Hexenhammer.  What led to its success was the combination of Doom aesthetics with classic Metal samplings and clean singing sprinkled throughout the mix.  The bar has been raised and it is eagerly that we look forward to what they will do next.

  18. Drudkh – They Often See Dreams About the SpringDrudkhThey Often See Dreams About the Spring: These Ukrainian Black Metal veterans released a record earlier in the year that saw them returning to familiar territory.  Creating a less experimental, more palpable sound, they nailed success with this record, a dizzying, spellbinding release.

  19. Horrendous – IdolHorrendousIdol: Now in their ninth year, these Philly natives crafted an epic representation of Progressive Death Metal.  While myriad other bands spent the past year trying to top each other with technical wizardry, Horrendous doubled down and wrote an album of songs.  They invoked more Death than Gorguts

  20. Chapel of Disease – And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the EyeChapel of DiseaseAnd as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye: With a name formed as a hybrid of two Morbid Angel songs, this German Death Metal band planted a firm middle finger to the face of the swarm of tech bands out there.  They proved with this album that Death ‘N Roll is still able to be mined for original, rocking hooks and flat-out bludgeoning riffs.

  21. Uada – Cult of a Dying SunUadaCult of a Dying Sun: Uada is an American Black Metal band that is at the forefront of the genre.  Fortunately, I was able to see them live earlier this year, and they absolutely nailed their melodic take on extremity.  The riffs are mighty and are yet another example that Black Metal can be mastered by any realm of the globe.

  22. Sigh – Heir to DespairSighHeir to Despair: Twenty-eight years.  It is baffling to contemplate that this Japanese Avant-Garde/Black Metal group have been around that long.  Heir to Despair was yet another offering by the band to keep the fans on their toes.  This time, however, the songs are easily digestible, if not blatantly Metal.  Phil Anselmo even guested on the second track, “Homo Homini Lupus”.

  23. Vomitor – Pestilent DeathVomitor Pestilent Death: Posers, Nu Metal fans, and Emo kids should be forcibly tied up and made to listen to Pestilent Death.  Australia’s own Vomitor put the spikes, chains, leather, and fire back into Blackened Thrash/Death Metal.  Contained within are hymns to the horned god, ballads of pyromantic atrocities.  Good stuff.

  24. ASG – Survive SunriseASGSurvive Sunrise: There is something in the water down on the coast of North Carolina.  ASG, like their buddies in Weedeater and Sourvein, prove that crafting quality tunes is simply part of their heritage.  With Survive Sunrise, they channel everything from Stoner Rock to classic Metal and even parts that are reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction.  This was essential listening for summer expeditions.

  25. Wayfarer – World's BloodWayfarerWorld’s Blood: Wayfarer released one of the more interesting albums this year.  With World’s Blood, they used their brand of folk-tinged Black Metal to expressively expound upon their Western Rocky Mountain heritage.  Perhaps no one saw a combination of Black Metal and the West on the forefront, but they packaged it and sold it convincingly well, setting the bar high for the subsequent ventures.

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