Who made the cut, and who took the Num­ber One spot?

We polled our en­tire team of crit­ics, and the re­sults are in: here are the 50 al­bums that de­fined your year

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - Words: rob barbour, dean broWn, Chris Chantler, aleC ChillingWorth, Joe daly, Con­nie gor­don, stephen hill, dom laW­son, dan­nii leivers, so­phie maughan, ed­Win mcFee, matt mills, luke mor­ton, tom o’boyle, adam rees, Jonathan selzer, James Weaver, Christina W

Step this way for our count­down of THE bEST 50

AL­bumS OF 2018 while CAR­PEN­TER BRUT, IM­MOR­TAL, WATAIN, ROLO TOMASSI, CONJURER, A PER­FECT CIR­CLE and more look back on the year that was.

50 SOL­STICE White Horse Hill


Re­ward­ing our pa­tience af­ter a 20-year gap be­tween al­bums, the UK’s most epic metal vet­er­ans swooped back to vic­tory with this windswept and thun­der­ous true doom mas­ter­piece, fer­vently steeped in ar­cane le­gend and rus­tic folk-hor­ror at­mos­pheres. The dis­tinc­tive, rugged du­elling har­monies and el­e­men­tal riffs of found­ing gui­tarist Rich Walker gal­loped and trudged like ar­mour-plated warhorses on a rain-lashed heath, while the acoustic songs seemed to reach eerily across mul­ti­ple cen­turies.

49 PALM READER Braille


On their third al­bum, Braille, Palm Reader stepped it up a notch. In­ter­spersed with the in­tri­ca­cies and ra­zor-sharp er­ratic na­ture of gut-punch­ers Swarm, In­ter­nal Win­ter and Like A Wave, tracks like Co­a­lesce and A Lover, A Shadow ex­per­i­mented with space and me­lan­cho­lia, push­ing their sound into a brand new di­men­sion. Braille was the mo­ment the band per­fected their brand of jagged hard­core and be­gan to grow into some­thing much big­ger.



Hav­ing tra­versed nu­mer­ous set­backs in an eight-year stu­dio ab­sence, the Nor­we­gian sym­phonic black metal over­lords threw sub­tlety to the wind for Eo­nian, cre­at­ing one of the most grandil­o­quent al­bums in metal his­tory. Through typ­i­cally ro­bust at­ten­tion to de­tail and opt­ing for the ridicu­lous over rev­o­lu­tion, the likes of Al­pha Aeon Omega and Coun­cil Of Wolves And Snakes con­jured a glo­ri­ous caul­dron of seething at­mos­phere, au­da­cious scope and right­eous metal­lic might.


White Noise And Black Metal


Af­ter a seven-year wait, the Swedish masters of bleak at­mo­spher­ics re­turned with their most hyp­not­i­cally dis­cor­dant al­bum so far. While main­tain­ing the groov­ing tem­pos of pre­vi­ous work, the ex­per­i­men­tal lean­ings of White Noise And Black Metal made this re­lease the band’s bold­est and most sat­is­fy­ingly unique work so far. Am­bi­tious and so­phis­ti­cated, Craft once again fur­ther de­vi­ated from the strict ‘kvlt’ regime that of­ten keeps black metal stuck in a rut.


The Mod­ern Art of Set­ting Ablaze


Satyri­con on a sludge ben­der. Black metal Motör­head. Crust-era Dark­throne go­ing goth rock: all ep­i­thets to de­scribe Ger­many’s Man­tar, and all selling them short. The Mod­ern Art Of Set­ting Ablaze was the duo’s catchi­est, most mus­cu­lar ef­fort to date, Age Of The Ab­surd and Anti Eter­nia slap­ping Hanno Klän­hardt’s juicy gui­tar leads over piles of pri­mal, trea­cle-thick filth. Only three al­bums and six years deep, Man­tar’s golden streak has been so­lid­i­fied.


The Spark That Moves


When Can­cer Bats pulled the dou­ble power-move of sur­prise re­leas­ing an al­bum and do­ing so in­de­pen­dently, fans were will­ing them to suc­ceed.

They were not dis­ap­pointed. With trib­ute act Bat Sab­bath hav­ing pro­vided an out­let for their stoner ten­den­cies, the Cana­di­ans blazed back onto the scene with a heav­ier and more straight-ahead take on punk-metal. Ig­nore the purists; the game here was evo­lu­tion over stag­na­tion, and The Spark That Moves de­liv­ered by the bar­rel.

44 TRIBULATION Down Be­low


Tribulation’s jour­ney from death metal to dead met­allers has been nigh-on cine­matic. Re­leased in Jan­uary, their fourth al­bum, Down Be­low, saw Stock­holm’s sor­did four-piece fly fur­ther away from their un­der­ground roots, tak­ing the blue­print of In Soli­tude and adding more blood-suck­ing, gravel-gar­gling grim­ness. It helped that Night­bound was the band’s strong­est-ever song

– a le­git­i­mate an­them – and the rock’n’roll vam­pirism of The Lament and Here Be Drag­ons fi­nally gave Tribulation the im­me­di­acy they craved.

43 VEIN Er­ror­zone


Ever won­dered what it would sound like if Code Orange cov­ered the first Slip­knot al­bum? Well, won­der no more! The Bos­ton hard­core crew’s de­but al­bum hit like a breeze­block to the face, throw­ing around chain­saw guitars and stab­bing in­stru­men­tals, smoth­ered in barbed wire vo­cals. Fu­elled by an un­con­trol­lable bounce, Er­ror­zone ex­plored what it meant to be heavy in short, vi­cious at­tacks that never failed to nail you right in the cere­brum.


Where Owls Know My Name


With their third al­bum, Penn­syl­va­nia’s Rivers Of Nihil en­tered the realm of prog metal mag­nif­i­cence usu­ally re­served for such beloveds as Be­tween The Buried And Me and Go­jira. Where Owls Know My Name was what would hap­pen if Pink Floyd made death metal, wow­ing through its mix of in­tense vi­tal­ity with jazz fu­sion and lu­di­crous song­writ­ing.

Also, let it be known that Hol­low was an ab­so­lute banger.

41 BEARTOOTh Dis­ease


On which met­al­core’s great young hopes showed us where they’re re­ally headed. Caleb Shomo has made no se­cret of his love of rock, and by collaborating with Foo Fight­ers’ pro­ducer Nick Rasku­linecz and song­writ­ers in­clud­ing Good Char­lotte’s Joel Mad­den, he found a way to truly hone Beartooth’s sound for a main­stream au­di­ence. This was un­de­ni­ably the same band who cap­tured peo­ple’s hearts with Dis­gust­ing, but with a slicker sound and huge songs to match.


Know­ing What You Know Now


The York­shire mob con­tin­ued to turn (and bang) heads with their much an­tic­i­pated fol­low-up to 2014’s The Weird And Won­der­ful Marmozets. Op­er­at­ing un­der a less-is­more mind­set – by their stan­dards, any­way – they deftly sidestepped the all-too-real dif­fi­cult se­cond al­bum syn­drome and de­liv­ered a record full of sharper hooks, spell­bind­ing fretwiz­ardry and fiendishly ad­dic­tive cho­ruses, while push­ing their gen­re­strad­dling sound in a bold new, main­stream-both­er­ing di­rec­tion.


The Sciences


Sleep made their long-awaited re­turn to (un)con­scious­ness in 2018, as The Sciences dropped in sur­pris­ing fash­ion, like an as­teroid-sized hot-rock from an in­ter­ga­lac­tic blunt. Their recog­nis­able sativa-stained riffs and mantric grooves sounded as po­tent as ever, and on Giza But­ler, the trio not only had the most on-brand songti­tle you heard all year, but the in­tox­i­cat­ing track it­self con­firmed Sleep as the only true nat­u­ral suc­ces­sors to the Sab­bathian dopethrone.



No other artist brought such a po­tent sense of oth­er­ness into 2018 as Ger­many’s Anna von Hausswolff. Dead Magic didn’t stop time in its tracks so much as switch it to a dif­fer­ent, ce­les­tial gear. Anna’s voice, a mix of ghost­li­ness and in­vo­ca­tory pres­ence, rode an un­der­tow of fu­ne­real or­gan and made ref­er­ence to Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Julee Cruise and Swans, but sounded as though some­thing rev­e­la­tory and in­ef­fa­ble was com­ing into be­ing.


& ThE DEADBEATS Waste­land


The fifth Un­cle Acid al­bum nailed 2018’s vibe with un­flinch­ing ac­cu­racy. A con­cept piece for the dark­est of days, it con­jured a dystopian night­mare where hu­mans are slaves to pro­pa­ganda-spew­ing screens, robbed of thought. The fer­vently melodic and densely psy­che­delic songs boasted un­for­get­table riffs and that wonky Un­cle Acid vibe glu­ing the whole trip to­gether. A stun­ning sound­track to a shit fu­ture.

36 ThOU Ma­gus


Af­ter ex­per­i­ment­ing with new sounds and tex­tures across a tril­ogy of EPs, Thou tied it all to­gether on Ma­gus, one of the year’s most sprawl­ing and in­ven­tive doom LPs. Pair­ing dy­namic acoustic sec­tions and a keenly grungy sense of melody with their planet-crush­ing heav­i­ness, songs like In The King­dom Of Mean­ing were among the most mem­o­rable, ef­fec­tive and heart­felt pieces Thou have un­leashed to date.

35 CAR­PEN­TER BRUT Leather Teeth


Mix­ing videogame ref­er­ences and dark dystopian vi­sions with a neon-noir aes­thetic and the in­sin­u­a­tion of dan­ger, syn­th­wave res­onated with met­al­heads de­spite hav­ing its roots in EDM. But with a cine­matic sheen, metal­lic un­der­tones, pul­veris­ing bass and a swirl of macabre killer beats, Franck Hueso – aka Car­pen­ter Brut – upped the ante on the über-80s hor­ror elec­tro-schlock of his de­but, mak­ing Leather Teeth the dance-metal al­bum of 2018.

34 IM­MOR­TAL North­ern Chaos Gods


If Im­mor­tal’s ninth al­bum was in­dica­tive of any­thing, it’s that nei­ther the in­evitable thrust of global warm­ing and cli­mate change nor the sub­trac­tion of for­mer vo­cal­ist/gui­tarist/pub­lic face, Ab­bath Doom Oc­culta, from the line-up was go­ing to im­pact the climes of the Norse le­gend’s en­tirely made-up hin­ter­land of Blashyrkh. As melod­i­cally vit­ri­olic and scathingly frosty as ever, North­ern Chaos Gods broke a near-decade of si­lence with a sharp­ened ici­cle of su­pe­rior black­ened metal fury.

33 MOURNFUL CON­GRE­GA­TION The In­cubus Of Karma


The In­cubus Of Karma was a mas­ter­class in fu­neral doom. Slow, pro­ces­sional drums and crush­ing, dron­ing death/doom riffs were laden with some of the most stun­ning leads and spi­ralling guitars so­los ever laid to tape. Not only that, Mournful Con­gre­ga­tion’s solem­nity and deep emo­tional res­o­nance un­folded in myr­iad ex­pres­sive ways across the dou­ble al­bum’s cap­ti­vat­ing run-time. The bleak­ness, deso­la­tion, soli­tude and suf­fer­ing was tan­gi­ble… and en­tirely re­lat­able.

32 SLUGDGE Es­o­teric Mala­col­ogy


Slith­er­ing from be­neath a pot­ted plant up north, Lan­cashire duo Slugdge blew the tech-death scene away with this tongue-in-cheek, Love­craftian night­mare full of bit­ing so­cial com­men­tary. The mu­si­cian­ship was sim­ply out­stand­ing, mak­ing Es­o­teric Mala­col­ogy a pro­gres­sively pun­ish­ing, baro­quely melodic death metal record for the mod­ern age. With Black Dahlia Mur­der drum­mer Alan Cas­sidy on­board for al­bum five, we can’t wait to see what they do next.

31 ANAAL NAThRAKh A New Kind Of Hor­ror


Sound­track­ing the re­pug­nance of mod­ern so­ci­ety by vis­it­ing the bleak slaugh­ter of World War I, the four-legged Brum­mie hate ma­chine re­fined their al­ready sav­age metal mael­strom into a more sin­is­ter, lethal and poignant en­tity. Drip­ping with per­verse elec­tron­ics and Dave Hunt’s bar­barous vo­cals while im­bued with their bom­bas­tic over­tones and de­ment­edly ir­re­press­ible riffs, A New Kind Of Hor­ror brought the dark­est re­cesses of hu­man na­ture kick­ing and scream­ing into view.

30 ORANGE GOBLIN The Wolf Bites Back


Well into their third decade, Orange Goblin still sound like mad-eyed, diehard met­al­heads on an un­stop­pable ram­page. The Wolf Bites Back lived up to its ti­tle; this was balls-out heavy fuck­ing metal that snapped and snarled with slaver­ing, lupine jaws. From Sons Of Salem’s Sab­bathian shit­storm to the snarling coun­try doom of The Stranger, ev­ery last song hit the tar­get like an ar­row hewn from purest Bri­tish steel. OFG, baby!

29 SKELETONWITCh De­vour­ing Ra­di­ant Light


On their fifth stu­dio out­ing, the Ohio met­allers un­veiled a breath­tak­ing new vi­sion that owed as much to melodic death metal as to the fist-pump­ing black­ened thrash for which they’d made their name. Their most ma­ture ef­fort yet, it also marked the de­but of ver­sa­tile new vo­cal­ist Adam Cle­mans. Stacked with pierc­ing dual fret­work, rag­ing cho­ruses and enough blast­beats to rat­tle the Earth’s core, De­vour­ing… thrilled crit­ics and earned a le­gion of ra­bid new fans for Amer­ica’s ex­treme metal leg­ends.

28 NINE INCh NAILS Bad Witch


Yet more proof that Nine Inch Nails are an im­pos­si­ble band to pin down. With an un­usu­ally brief run time, Bad Witch took Trent Reznor’s bleak ni­hilism and twisted it into sick­en­ingly dis­ori­en­tat­ing, elec­tronic sound­scapes and avant-garde, sax-heavy jazz freak-outs. Even this deep into a ca­reer with one of al­ter­na­tive mu­sic’s most in­spir­ing back cat­a­logues, Bad Witch was fur­ther ev­i­dence, not just of Trent Reznor’s ge­nius, but of how his re­la­tion­ship with At­ti­cus Ross has beau­ti­fully blos­somed.



By in­te­grat­ing an­chor­ing bass and ramp­ing up the groove el­e­ments of their ex­plo­sive grind­core,

Pig De­stroyer dis­played a greater sense of con­trolled chaos on Head Cage. JR Hayes, mean­while, once again proved him­self as one of the most ver­sa­tile vo­cal­ists/lyri­cists in ex­treme metal to­day, as his po­etry took a so­cio-po­lit­i­cal rather than psy­cho-sex­ual an­gle, while his ra­bid screams re­mained at the fore­front re­gard­less of the nasty, twist­ing tem­pos be­neath him.


I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer


Con­structed largely of sam­ples of their own work, The Body com­pletely razed their sound and re­built it from the ground up. I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer was si­mul­ta­ne­ously a har­row­ing and em­pow­er­ing in­dus­trial fever dream that em­braced the cold, stark sense of clo­sure in fi­nal­ity. Con­sis­tently sur­pris­ing, this al­bum man­aged to in­cor­po­rate harsh noise, doom and dance­hall sam­ples into one of 2018’s most in­tense lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

25 ALICE IN ChAINS Rainier Fog


Melodic fragility. Blud­geon­ing riffs. Raw in­tro­spec­tion. With Rainier Fog, Seat­tle’s elder states­men ex­plored the on­go­ing con­flict be­tween dark­ness and light to de­liver an al­bum that con­tained all the hall­marks of an in­stant clas­sic. Beau­ti­ful yet brood­ing, hon­est tales of strug­gle, loss and re­cov­ery were con­veyed through myr­iad mu­si­cal styles, from psy­che­delic




Re­leased like a shot of sul­phur and adren­a­line into the veins of 2018, Watain’s sixth al­bum re­lin­quished much of the slow-build and tex­tu­ral ex­panse of 2013’s The Wild Hunt, aim­ing di­rect for the jugu­lar in­stead. A feral, yet mar­tially dis­ci­plined state­ment of in­tent, Tri­dent Wolf Eclipse roiled and flared like the sur­face of the sun, but with a mastery of dy­nam­ics and seething vi­sion that recharged Watain’s sta­tus as black metal stan­dard-bear­ers.

18 SATAN Cruel Magic


It’s been joy­ous to ob­serve the un­ex­pected re­ju­ve­na­tion of these ace Ge­ordie NWOBHM sur­vivors. Thirty years ago it felt like Satan had been cru­elly passed over; in 2018, how­ever, the band’s re­united 1983 line-up are three LPs deep into a daz­zling come­back that still floored jaws on Cruel Magic. A mas­ter­class in no-com­pro­mise, blood-and-thun­der trad metal, Satan’s trade­mark thrust­ing mo­men­tum and di­a­mond-hook savvy re­mained, aug­mented by spa­cious melodic el­e­gance.

17 AR­ChI­TECTS Holy Hell


Tom Searle’s tragic pass­ing cast what many would as­sume to be an in­ter­minable shadow, but with Holy Hell, Ar­chi­tects used that dark­ness to craft a body of work that shone as a re­sult of its star­tling and in­tri­cate mu­si­cian­ship. Serv­ing up scathing vit­riol and an­themic heft, the pro­longed hype was to be be­lieved – and the band’s po­si­tion within the up­per ech­e­lons of mod­ern Bri­tish metal con­firmed.

16 YOB

Our Raw Heart


Lucky to sur­vive a lifethreat­en­ing ill­ness, Yob front­man Mike Scheidt poured ev­ery ounce of his emo­tion into the band’s eighth al­bum from his hos­pi­tal bed, forg­ing a record whose af­fec­tive in­ten­sity was writ large over ev­ery song. Mas­ter­fully bal­anc­ing doom-laden heav­i­ness with gor­geous light and in­tro­spec­tion, the marathon Ablaze, ti­tle track and Beauty In Fall­ing Leaves seemed to pass by in mo­ments, leav­ing a sense of cathar­tic calm in their wake.


Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It


There’s no de­bate about it, Time Will Die And Love

Will Bury It is the best Rolo Tomassi al­bum – a glo­ri­ous, shim­mer­ing dis­play of soar­ing vo­cals and ethe­real elec­tron­ics in­ter­twined with blis­ter­ing chaos and un­tamed ag­gres­sion. Em­brac­ing clean singing and am­bi­ent sound­scapes, it was an au­ral down­ward spi­ral into the pits of de­spair, lit­tered with flour­ishes of hope and pris­tine fan­tasy. A tri­umph for the Bri­tish un­der­ground.

14 CONjURER Mire


Break­ing down the bound­aries of gen­res to cre­ate a swirling sonic mael­strom, what Conjurer de­liv­ered with Mire was noth­ing short of out­stand­ing. Del­i­cate and omi­nous at­mo­spheric pas­sages al­lowed brief mo­ments of respite, be­fore col­lid­ing with thick, sludge-tinged riffs that packed the power of a nu­clear bomb. The level of qual­ity was ab­so­lutely stag­ger­ing and in a year where Bri­tish metal has ut­terly ex­celled, Conjurer are among the elite.

13 BLACK PEAKS All That Di­vides


It was ob­vi­ous from de­but Stat­ues that Black Peaks were ca­pa­ble of some­thing re­mark­able. That some­thing was All That Di­vides, which took ev­ery­thing the band did pre­vi­ously and achieved some­thing re­sem­bling its fi­nal form. Though their walls of mathy guitars and grooves were as mes­meris­ing as ever, Black Peaks’ not-so-se­cret weapon was Will Gard­ner. On All That Di­vides, he was three of the best vo­cal­ists in mod­ern Bri­tish rock. Phe­nom­e­nal.

12 MØL Jord


To­gether with Deafheaven, Møl en­sured 2018 was a great year for blackgaze. Jord was an as­ton­ish­ingly ac­com­plished open­ing state­ment, en­chant­ing and dev­as­tat­ing in equal mea­sure. While ser­rated guitars and frost­bit­ten vo­cals clawed and scratched on Lig­a­ment and Jord, the Danes proved their eye for tone and tex­ture with at­mo­spheric hues on Bruma and Storm. This was ex­actly how you nail a de­but al­bum.

11 TESSERACT Son­der


This was the al­bum Tesseract had al­ways threat­ened to make. Com­bin­ing the knotty tech­ni­cal­ity and meaty grooves of their ear­lier ma­te­rial, to­gether with the ethe­real dream­scapes and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of 2015’s

Po­laris, tracks like King and Juno showed both sides of their ever-de­vel­op­ing tech metal al­go­rithms. Son­der felt like the prog­sters’ most balanced al­bum yet and a step deeper into their cere­bral labyrinth.


Or­di­nary Cor­rupt Hu­man Love


In 2018, Deafheaven once again were the band that showed ev­ery­thing metal can be aside from heavy guitars, blast­beats and fe­ro­cious vo­cals: the sheer beauty and grace of it that’s way too of­ten over­looked. Or­di­nary Cor­rupt Hu­man Love took up where Sun­bather left off five years be­fore, as noth­ing short of a tour de force of haunt­ing melan­choly, en­chant­ing gui­tar leads and, yes, even crush­ing eu­pho­ria at times. The in­ten­sity of at­mos­pheres and moods the five-piece con­veyed here was sim­ply un­matched in the last year. These eclec­tic songs – soaked not only in post-rock and shoegaze but the likes of dream pop, emo and clas­sic rock – served as the ul­ti­mate proof of the Cal­i­for­ni­ans break­ing free from any stylis­tic con­straints. Deafheaven are not a (post-)black metal band, maybe they’re not even a blackgaze band any­more. But what­ever you want to call what they do, no­body does it bet­ter.

09 IhSAhN Àmr


Part of the joy of fol­low­ing Ihsahn’s post-Em­peror ca­reer has been in the me­thod­i­cal and episodic na­ture of his evo­lu­tion. From 2006’s maiden voy­age The Ad­ver­sary to the crazed ex­per­i­ments of 2013’s Das See­len­brechen, each al­bum has felt like a snap­shot of an artist in per­pet­ual mo­tion. In that re­spect alone, Àmr was more of the same. Where 2016’s ac­claimed Ark­tis was windswept and ex­pan­sive, Ihsahn’s sev­enth full-length was in­ti­mate, claus­tro­pho­bic and emo­tion­ally dis­com­bob­u­lated; the height­ened pres­ence of syn­the­sis­ers and eerie am­bi­ence draw­ing of­ten-opaque ideas into the sharpest of fo­cus. Big on melody – Sámr, in par­tic­u­lar, had a cho­rus of spec­tac­u­lar huge­ness – but gen­tly, per­sis­tently un­set­tling, these were songs that still felt con­nected to black metal on some spir­i­tual level, even though the Nor­we­gian’s mu­sic has long since evolved be­yond genre lim­i­ta­tions. Àmr was one of his most dis­tinc­tive state­ments yet.

08 PARK­WAY DRIVE Rev­er­ence


Park­way Drive’s sixth stu­dio out­ing was a mas­ter­work of mod­ern met­al­core. Re­al­is­ing their full po­ten­tial and reaf­firm­ing their com­mit­ment to the mosh-friendly ma­raud, they turned in an al­bum that car­ried the weight of their past with an­themic sen­si­bil­i­ties. The for­ward-think­ing ex­trem­ity of Rev­er­ence, per­formed in a swell of pyro-laden shows, cat­a­pulted the Aussies to dizzy­ing new heights, ce­ment­ing them as the genre’s lead­ing lights. The crush­ing pow­er­house of Ab­so­lute Power was wor­thy of any metal club night’s A-list but the som­bre, darker in­sights into Park­way Drive on Ceme­tery Bloom and the splic­ing of rock, folk and old-school metal tim­bre on some of their most sticky riffs to date re­vealed a band in a state of trans­for­ma­tion, thrust­ing them to­wards great­ness. The evo­lu­tion­ary po­ten­tial of these Aussies was al­ways ap­par­ent, but on Rev­er­ence it’s been brought to a head, open­ing up pits and a whole new le­gion of fans.

07 TURNSTILE Time & Space


Clock­ing in at just over 25 min­utes, the Mary­land na­tives’ rep­u­ta­tion-mak­ing se­cond full-length was a rous­ing short, sharp shock to the sys­tem. A bruis­ing state­ment of in­tent that bris­tled with am­bi­tion, Time & Space not only helped give the some­what stag­nant US punk scene the kiss of life, but it saw them live up to the con­sid­er­able hype, too. Mus­cu­lar and, at some points, as mean as the Hulk with the mother of all hang­overs, their de­but for Road­run­ner opened mosh­pits and eyes, laden with a raft of pleas­ingly prickly cho­ruses, riffs that could level a moun­tain and oo­dles of odd in­ter­ludes and goose­bump-in­duc­ing out­sider an­thems. Bol­stered by ap­pear­ances from Sheer Mag’s Tina Hal­la­day, dance pro­ducer Di­plo and Lau­ryn Hill back­ing singer Tanikka Char­raé, the likes of I Don’t Wanna Be Blind were ex­plo­sive ef­forts that af­firmed their sta­tus as one of the most ex­cit­ing acts on the planet.

06 A PER­FECT CIR­CLE Eat The Ele­phant


Af­ter 14 years with­out an al­bum, there was some se­ri­ous an­tic­i­pa­tion for new mu­sic from A Per­fect Cir­cle. If the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion was there, it was a hur­dle they leapt over with con­sum­mate ease. Eat The Ele­phant was ex­actly the kind of won­der­fully weath­ered and classy re­turn you’d hope for from a vet­eran band.

Over the al­bum’s run­ning time, front­man May­nard James Keenan re­flected on a se­ries of top­ics, from so­cial me­dia to po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions, his world-class vo­cal

tal­ents ar­tic­u­lat­ing his typ­i­cally unique world­view, while Billy How­erdel and the rest of APC cre­ated glo­ri­ous, vast land­scapes of sound that per­fectly com­ple­mented their enig­matic singer’s words. From the lurch­ing but som­bre

The Doomed, to the in­dus­tri­alised, me­chan­i­cal stomp of Hour­glass, to the oth­er­worldly, Bea­tles-es­que mys­tique of the al­ready clas­sic So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, this was an al­bum of rare and be­witch­ing qual­ity.


Book Of Bad De­ci­sions


Prov­ing yet again that the only cer­tain­ties in life are death, taxes and Clutch mak­ing awe­some al­bums, the Mary­land rock trail­blaz­ers mak­ing it all so easy might be bor­ing if it weren’t for their de­liv­er­ing such joy­ously thrilling re­sults. Charged with pug­na­cious riffs aplenty, Neil Fal­lon’s bug-eyed nar­ra­tives and songs that coolly glided into the fore­front of your mind and made them­selves com­fort­able, Book Of

Bad De­ci­sions was all things to all men, women and chil­dren ev­ery­where. Whether it was Gimme The Keys hot­foot­ing it out of the blocks, Emily Dick­in­son in­dulging in full-on blues pomp, or

Neil lay­ing down his im­pe­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal man­i­festo on How To Shake Hands, here were songs that had enough panache and skill to eas­ily go toe-to-toe their with the finest of Clutch’s ex­tra­or­di­nary 12-al­bum ca­reer. One of the most unique, con­sis­tent and down­right un­stop­pable forces in our world do­ing what comes nat­u­rally.

04 ZEAL & ARDOR Stranger Fruit


In 2017, Manuel Gag­neux, the one-man pow­er­house be­hind Zeal & Ardor, re­leased his de­but al­bum, Devil Is

Fine, and was met with an ar­mada of hype. Met­al­heads world­wide were floored by the project’s unique mix­ture of ex­treme metal and AfricanAmer­i­can spir­i­tu­als, while the al­bum it­self re­ceived con­tin­u­ing ac­claim and clocked in on many an end-of-year list. Devil Is Fine’s 25-minute run­ning time left fans des­per­ate for more, which they fi­nally got this sum­mer with the fol­low-up, Stranger Fruit. A true se­quel, it out­shone its pre­de­ces­sor by both ex­pand­ing upon and stream­lin­ing it;

Stranger Fruit cut the elec­tronic in­ter­ludes of Devil Is Fine so that it could fur­ther ex­plore Zeal & Ardor’s enig­matic di­chotomy of ex­otic melodies and bruis­ing metal. Avant-garde an­thems like Don’t You Dare, Row Row and Ser­vants were ex­tremely cap­ti­vat­ing, draw­ing in the lis­tener with ar­chaic hooks be­fore blast­ing them with dis­so­nant guitars and fu­ri­ous per­cus­sion.

03 jU­DAS PRIEST Fire­power


What does heavy metal sound like? It sounds like Ju­das Priest, circa 2018. As they ap­proach their 50th an­niver­sary, the leg­endary Brits could eas­ily be milk­ing the nos­tal­gia cir­cuit, but Fire­power con­firmed that they are very much still in the busi­ness of show­ing ev­ery­one else how this shit is done. Pro­duced by Tom Al­lom and

Andy Sneap, Priest’s 18th stu­dio al­bum sounded fan­tas­tic: the per­fect blend of con­tem­po­rary crunch and old-school clar­ity. More im­por­tantly, this was the strong­est col­lec­tion of songs the band had writ­ten in decades. Pre­view sin­gle Light­ning Strike made a lot of peo­ple very ex­cited, but it wasn’t even in the top five songs Fire­power had to of­fer. From gnarly, malev­o­lent an­thems like Evil Never Dies and Ne­cro­mancer through to the mid­paced pomp of Chil­dren Of The Sun and Sea Of Red’s epic melo­drama, Rob Hal­ford sang it all with steely au­thor­ity and these vet­er­ans sounded, once again, like true metal gods.

02 BE­hE­MOTh I Loved You At Your Dark­est


Adam ‘Ner­gal’ Darski ad­mit­ted that their res­ur­rec­tion al­bum The Satanist, Ham­mer’s

2014 al­bum of the year, was al­most im­pos­si­ble to fol­low up. It took him tak­ing a step back from ex­treme mu­sic to find the in­spi­ra­tion to re­turn; and what a re­turn

I Loved You At Your Dark­est proved to be. A bold step into pas­tures new, while still ef­fort­lessly chan­nelling their orig­i­nal, pitch-black well­spring of power, it’s a mod­ern ex­treme metal record in ev­ery sense, Ner­gal fast be­com­ing the God­head of the un­der­ground’s darkly mag­ickal depths. A pub­lic fig­ure in his na­tive Poland, he’s as adored there by some as much as he is re­viled by the church. Songs like the ac­ces­si­ble God=Dog, a straight-up two fin­gers to their out­moded op­pres­sion, and the likes of the gang shout that is Wolves Ov Siberia were off­set by the deeper, darker charms of the haunt­ing Bartz­abel and the cryp­ti­cally pun­ish­ing Havo­hej Pan­to­cra­tor. ILYAYD ef­fort­lessly wielded the rock­star swag­ger of their inim­itable front­man while fu­elling ex­treme metal’s black flame for years to come.

01 GhOST

Pre­quelle LOMA VISTA

2018 was a mon­ster year for metal and among its crop of su­perb new re­leases, none stood taller than Ghost’s fourth stu­dio al­bum, Pre­quelle. Re­leased in June, it de­liv­ered ev­ery­thing that fans love about the Sa­tanic Swedes: in­stantly hummable melodies, warm, pol­ished pro­duc­tion and the sort of tow­er­ing, an­themic cho­ruses that peo­ple love to shout at fes­ti­vals un­til their voices grow hoarse. Be­yond the spooky grooves and trade­mark themes, what ce­mented Pre­quelle’s clas­sic sta­tus was its fiery sense of am­bi­tion, play­ing out in stun­ning in­stru­men­tals, emo­tion­ally wrought bal­lads and the band’s most pointed lyri­cism yet. By July, Pre­quelle had topped the Metal Ham­mer Read­ers’ Poll as the best al­bum of 2018 and its mo­men­tum never let up. Crit­ics and fans across the globe united in their praise – Pre­quelle was a mas­ter­piece.

With their play­ful pas­tiche of OTT Sa­tanic im­agery, each al­bum has seen the band fronted by a ‘new’ ver­sion of popein­spired singer Papa Emer­i­tus – the al­ter-ego of band founder To­bias Forge. With Pre­quelle, they re­placed Papa with Car­di­nal Copia and set the songs and lyrics in the con­text of the Great Plague. In to­day’s tur­bu­lent land­scape, the apoc­a­lyp­tic themes struck a chord among lis­ten­ers. Con­se­quently, Pre­quelle was Ghost’s most per­sonal al­bum yet, for­go­ing much of the the­atri­cally evil pos­tur­ing of prior al­bums and in­stead hit­ting fans straight be­tween the eyes with real-life themes of death, suf­fer­ing and loss. Of course, Lu­cife­rian ref­er­ences abound, too.

Son­i­cally, Ghost reignited their love af­fair with late-70s and 80s rock, heard in full-tilt bangers like Rats and the ad­dic­tive, hip-swivel­ing rhythms of Witch Im­age and Dance Macabre. Blue Öys­ter Cult had long of­fered an ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence point for Ghost’s sound, but Pre­quelle re­vealed a far broader spec­trum of in­flu­ences, from the sturdy metal­lic hooks of Ju­das Priest to the campy bom­bast of King Di­a­mond, to the sug­ary stylings of Swedish pop. Fans lost their minds at the first taste of Mi­asma, the syn­thy space in­stru­men­tal at the al­bum’s half­way point. As the song thun­ders to its breath­tak­ing crescendo, the guitars rip into an un­mis­tak­able Michael Jack­son ref­er­ence be­fore a god­damned sax­o­phone drops in and cat­a­pults the outro into a whole new realm. Sand­wiched be­tween the bel­ters were gor­geous tracks like See The Light, a rap­tur­ous af­fair with lush har­monies dove­tail­ing into stun­ning, pi­ano-driven verses and a rous­ing, sin­ga­long cho­rus. For a band who’ve made their bones craft­ing stupidly ad­dic­tive hard rock an­thems, the al­bum’s closers proved won­der­fully fresh — a spec­tral in­stru­men­tal, Hel­vetes­fon­ster, pay­ing unashamed trib­ute to the Ea­gles’ Jour­ney Of The Sorcerer (per­haps best known as the Hitch­hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy theme), fol­lowed by Life Eter­nal, a grand show­case of pop-in­fused bal­ladry that stands shoul­der-to-shoul­der with the band’s finest mo­ments. Pre­quelle fast be­came Ghost’s high­est-chart­ing al­bum, peak­ing at No.3 on the Bill­board 200 and notch­ing the band’s high­est sales yet.

Pre­quelle didn’t re­de­fine heavy; it chal­lenged met­al­heads to look be­yond genre al­liances and to ex­pand their palate – a hall­mark of all great art. One of those rar­efied al­bums that grows stronger with each lis­ten, its scale and depth en­sure that it’ll en­joy swivel-eyed pop­u­lar­ity for many years to come. In­deed, long af­ter we’ve all re­turned to the dust from whence we came, Pre­quelle will con­tinue to pop up on playlists, ra­dios, car stereos and on what­ever de­vices hu­mans are us­ing to lis­ten to mu­sic 50 or 100 years from now. In other words, Life Eter­nal.

Beartooth: ban­danas are coooooooool

alice In chains: so good we can even for­give Jerry’s hat

“hey what’s goin’ on on this side?”

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