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John Schreiber’s Top 20 Metal Albums of 2018

by John Schreiber

Greetings metal heads and welcome to 2019. I hope you all had yourself a good year in 2018 and that you rang in the New Year appropriately to your liking. While we all sit and wait on what this new year has to bring for all of us, let’s take a moment to reflect on what I personally believe to be the best metal albums to come out of the year 2018. This is the fourth year I’ve done this article for 850me and honestly this year was the most trouble I’ve had narrowing it down to 20 albums – seeing as though just about every album I anticipated being released was met with high expectation and most succeeded triumphantly. This year we actually see quite a few bands from previous lists continue to be consistent in their glorious craft of metal alongside some black metal bands who continue to impress, some metalcore bands continuing to climb the ladder of dominance, two of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time showing that all these years later they still got it, a satanic rock band conquering the world, and much much more. Without further adieu let’s dive into my top 20 metal albums of 2018!

20. Chelsea Grin – ‘Eternal Nightmare’. This album was on my radar right from the moment it was announced as the band had a few changes; most notably becoming a 4 piece and the departure of their original vocalist Alex Koehler. His replacement caught my attention; Tom Barber; the now former vocalist of Lorna Shore (who’s most recent full length ‘Flesh Coffin’ was number 20 on our list last year). The results are not disappointing at all. Tom’s voice with Chelsea Grin fits perfectly with the direct and to the point approach the band took on this album. The songs are not going to change the face of deathcore, however, the execution behind the songs are what make them so memorable. Tracks like “Dead Rose” and “See You Soon” get stuck in your head pretty quick with their scream-a-long breakdown choruses. The production on this album was handled by Drew Fulk who has worked with a large number of the band’s peers including Cane Hill, As I Lay Dying, and Miss May I – and really helped bring this album to life. Heavy full guitar tones and heart pounding drum hits all tied under the soul churning vocals makes this album a worthy one indeed. FFO (for fans of ): Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, and Oceano. Favorite Song: “Hostage”.

19. Obscura – ‘Diluvium’. German death metal act Obscura have no problem impressing fans of extreme metal. Fellow metal reviewer Angry Metal Guy even described the band as the “Kings O’ Noodly Death Metal” in reference to the bands shredtastic approach to blending prog and technical death metal. Guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer once again handled the majority of the writing duties of the album delivering a massive sea of notes of melodic taste and brutal grove that has stood out in Obscura’s music from day one – but certainly feel more focused on this album than some of the band’s previous work. (I imagine it’s not an easy task writing music of this caliber). ‘Diluvium’ received some credibility in the US as it hit number 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart but also was followed by a successful headlining tour of North America. Metal nerds of all kind need this album in their life without question. FFO Beyond Creation, Gorod, and Cynic. Favorite Song: “Ethereal Skies”.

18. The Agony Scene – ‘Tormentor’. One gem of the 2000s metalcore scene is Tulsa’s The Agony Scene thanks largely to the bands first two records (self titled debut in 2003 and ‘The Darkest Red’ in 2005). The band went on to release their third album ‘Get Damned’ in 2007 then suddenly was seemingly never heard from again…. until now. This monster from Oklahoma returns from 11 years of silence to bring forth the heaviest and darkest effort of the bands catalog; ‘Tormenter’. Keeping with tradition of straying from repeating any past efforts the band went for a more direct approach of blackend/melodic death metal while playing a respectful ode to the bands glorious past. This particular style of writing favors vocalist Mike Williams tremendously as he’s since day one provided a haunting shriek that immediately stood out during the bands earlier days. Overall I feel like there is something for everybody here as far as extreme metal goes. Black metal and melodic death metal, seasoned with metalcore makes this new one from The Agony Scene an album not to be slept on by any. FFO: The Black Dahlia Murder, Lorna Shore, and Kataklysm. Favorite Song: “Like The Weeds In The Field”.

17. Alkaloid – ‘Liquid Anatomy’. Here is an example of a rare fantastic supergroup who in 2018 released their sophomore album ‘Liquid Anatomy’. Made of current and former members of Dark Fortress, Necrophagist, and more Alkaloid bring a whole new swing to the experimental death metal scene. The opening track ‘Kernel Panic” starts making you think you may have purchased a modern day Yes or Genesis album before slamming into the progressive death metal worship come to be expected from such members. The following track ‘As Decreed By Laws Unwritten’ takes bit of a left turn going for a more straight forward groove oriented feel slightly comparable to old-school Morbid Angel however don’t get to comfortable with that feel as this album has a large number of twists and turns which goes for the vocals as well. Sharp guttural screams generally make up the majority of this record but there is still a heavy use of solid clean vocals for the albums more melodic and catchy parts which there is a strikingly large amount of on this record. Maybe one of the more “left field” releases of the year but regardless I cant recommend it enough if your in the mood for something a little different. FFO: Black Crown Initiate, The Zenith Passage, and The Faceless. Favorite Song: ‘Azagthoth’

16. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – ‘Wasteland’. If your looking for something easier on the ears than simply look no further. Hailing from the land England comes the 70’s rock throwback of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Formed by Kevin Starrs in 2009 this band brings the fuzzy guitars, Sabbath groove, Beatles Revolver-era like vocals, and back to basics recording all together leaving you to believe this HAD to be something recorded well over 30’s years ago however it’s not. This is brand new stuff and rocks as hard as anything out there. ‘Wasteland’ is UC&TDB’s fifth album as the follow up to 2015’s “The Night Creeper” which seemed to bring the band their highest praise within the stoner rock/doom community. Kevin and the gang don’t do much to change up the formula they have been following on this record just more matured and perhaps bit more focus on groove with tracks like ‘No Return’ and there is a higher volume of upbeat dare I say pop rock influence on tracks like ‘I See Through You’. This is just a fun rocking album that deserves to be praised by many! FFO: LA Witch, Mothership, and Corrosion Of Conformity. Favorite track: ‘Blood Runner’.

15. Watain – ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. Since the genre of black metals inception it’s taken many twists and turns but at the end of the day who can argue with a good old-fashioned blood-soaked, hail Satan, church burning, pure black metal album? Well if that is what you’re looking for then look no further then the newest effort by Sweden’s Watain. This was the bands goal from day one of the writing process of this album as a sudden jolt of inspiration hit the band when they were forced to bury recently deceased friend and long time collaborator Selim Lemouchi (founding member of The Devil’s Blood) not to mention being influenced lyrically by the themes of empowerment and attainment of force which came to them via touring with Destroyer 666 after the band’s previous record ‘The Wild Hunt’ was released. Watain has been long considered to be one of the most shocking, evil, and controversial acts in all of extreme metal having been covered by just about every metal website and magazine for their ritualistic stage shows and even once by TMZ and having such a intense image generally needs to go with an equally intense sound and this particular album showcases that in full stride. If you like black metal you need to hear this album! FFO: Marduk, Mayhem, and Carpathian Forrest. Favorite Song: “Nuclear Alchemy”.

14. Saxon – ‘Thunderbolt’. Formed in 1977, and armed with original members Biff Byford (vocals) and Phil Quin (guitar) Saxon continue to ride high amongst the greats of Heavy Metal and their 2018 effort ‘Thunderbolt’ is just further proof of such a statement. This isn’t a band that is hanging to the glory days releasing an album here and there with hired guns; this is band that is still turning out material that holds strong as anything in their past catalog. The band seems to somehow have even gotten heavier over the years to which is kind of shocking considering Saxon was one of the founding bands of the new wave of British heavy metal but this album showcases that in stride as the song “Predator” features guest vocals from Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg providing actual screaming vocals to match Biff’s signature vocals and somehow it just works. At the of the day Saxon is one of the all-time greatest metal bands still active today having had a huge influence on some the biggest bands out there playing in the genre. The fact that in 2018 they are releasing material that’s this good is something metal fans of all should be rejoicing over. FFO: Iron Maiden, Triumph, Dio. Favorite Song: “They Played Rock n Roll”.

13. Dimmu Borgir – ‘Eonian’. Ok so let’s quickly get one thing straight; the IC Vortex erra of this band (referring to the years of 1999-2007 when bassist/clean vocalist IC Vortex was a member of DB) IS OVER. Dimmu Borgir from the very beginning have been a band that likes to change up their formula every now and again and that’s where we are with the band as of today. A new erra of Dimmu Borgir and honestly one I can get behind. Dimmu has always had a knack for atmospheric riffs however this seems to be more relevant than ever with songs like “Concil of Wolves and Snakes” and “I Am Sovereign”. Prior to this release the band released a live album entitled ‘Forces of the Northern Light’ where the band performed live with an orchestra and choir and that influence on the band seems to have carried greatly on to this album in a very positive manner. These elements bring a number of these songs to life including the album opener “The Unveiling” and the lead single from the album “Interdimensional Summit”. Once again Dimmu Borgir has pushed the limits of black metal to new heights and and continue to craft some of the finest metal today and this album is another one for their excellent collection. FFO: Cradle Of Filth, Emperor, and Satyricon. Favorite Song: “Lightbringer”.

12. Light The Torch – ‘Revival’. It’s no surprise this band continues to put out great albums when you have former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones as your frontman and Francisco Artusato (ex All Shall Perish) as your guitar player. Now three albums into their career with this group (the first two released under the name Devil You Know) it’s clear these two giants of modern-day metal have comfortably found a home. What I love the most about this album is that while it is undeniably very metal the focus of the song writing is on melody and catchiness which uses vocalist Howard Jones to his full abilities particularly with tracks like “Calm Before The Storm” and “God I Deserve” but the heaviness is still very much prevalent on this album as songs like “The Sound Of Violence” are damn near impossible not to head bang to. Really, this whole album is just a good listen from start to finish from members that have made their mark in modern-day greatness of metal. FFO: Trivium, All That Remains, and Atreyu. Favorite Song: “Virus”.

11. Aborted – ‘Terrorvision’. Having covered this band before on our top 20 list two years ago for their previous album ‘Retrogore’ I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Belgium’s Aborted is simply one of the top notch if not best band in all of extreme brutal death metal currently. The band has been around for over 20 years and has been through an incredibly impressive amount of lineup changes with the the only original member being vocalist Sven de Caluwe and the runner-up of longest active member of this band being drummer Ken Bedene who’s only been with the band since 2010 but if you go back to the band’s earliest of albums they’ve been consistently dominant in the genre and in 2018 with this lineup it’s simply no different. There isn’t much more to say on the matter other than if what you’re craving is metal played to the most brutal and heavy of fashion the newest from Belgium’s Aborted will be just what the doctor ordered. FFO: Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus, and Benighted. Favorite song: “Terrorvision”.

10. Unearth – ‘Extiction(s)’. It’s been over four years but the masters of Massachusetts metalcore have gracefully returned. Continuing their tradition of unapologetically wearing their influences of the likes of Pantera, Iron Maiden, & Earth Crisis on their sleeves Unearth once again unleash a full throttle assault of riffs that go from fast and aggressive enough to entertain the most intense of Slayer pits into anthemic and melodic structure to keep metal crowds of all kinds banging their fists in the air; oh and break downs? Yeah they still got them. Heavy enough to make you want to bash your head through a wall for that matter. One of my favorite qualities about Unearth is vocalist Trevor Phipps. He follows the pattern of a damn near perfect vocalist for this style of music as he’s aggressive enough to complement the band’s more in your face metal sounding material but still has the hardcore tones and spirit to satisfy that influence of the band. Overall this is a damn good album by a band that will go down as one of the all time metalcore greats. FFO: Darkest Hour, Shadows Fall, Chimaira. Favorite Song: “Survivalist”.

9. Rivers Of Nihil – ‘Where Owls Know My Name’. Every year on my top 20 I have an album that seems to grace everybody and their mothers top metal albums list. Well for this year this seems to be the one. These days they’ve kind of established themselves as the next big thing in the death metal world as they are careful about being non repetitive and also have an original take on keeping things brutal yet listenable, as well as progressive yet still making sense. The concept behind the album is a rather interesting one that describes a man made immortal to witness the death of the world. Oh and there is saxophone on this album! A death metal record with saxophone; who’s ever saw that coming. The album also debuted at number 61 on the Billboard Charts which for any form of underground metal is a huge accomplishment and the reasoning behind it is pretty simple, it’s a freaking great album! FFO: Gojira, Fallujah, and Alterbeast. Favorite Song: “A Home”

8. Ghost – ‘Prequelle‘. So I think it’s safe to say that this was probably the most anticipated album of the year in heavy metal whether you love or hate this band. I’m not going to get into the politics of it other than that yeah we know and we get it there is a new group of nameless ghouls backing the frontman of this band whose character generally changes every album and some of the ex members attempted to sue him during the making of this album. Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s move on. Labeled as “occult rock” Ghosts blend of Satanic-themed rock and metal has captivated the world with popular radio play and numerous awards including winning a Grammy on their previous album. This album the arena theatrics and rock star sound is even more noticeable than ever before specifically with the albums hit single “Rats” and even on the second lead single from the album “Dance Macabre” which has a strong disco/pop influence it. This album also has incredibly well crafted ballads including the closing track “Life Eternal” which may very well be one of the more gorgeous songs ever written in their catalog. Over all this album is just a bona fide hit from start to finish and has brought Ghost to becoming a hands down house hold name in the heavy metal and hard rock world. FFO: Candlemass, Mercyful Fate, and Deep Purple. Favorite Song: “Faith”.

7. Parkway Drive – ‘Reverence’. PWD has been climbing their way to the top of the metalcore food chain for many years however a slightly risky approach to their 2018 release may have finally helped them reach said goal. While many old school fans of the band were turned off by a majority of this album as they all continue to await the band to recreate another album like ‘Horizons’ (spoiler alert probably not happening) what we were given was the bands most original, honest, and mature effort to date. The PWD we have come to know over the years is still able to be heard clearly especially on the album’s opener “Wishing Wells” which heavy mosh filled riffing sets the tone for this album but it’s some of the different things the bands brought in that make this album stand out like the anthem head-banging sing-along of tracks like “Prey” and “The Void”. They even have track entitled “Shadow Boxing” which is a dark build up song even featuring straight clean vocals from frontman Winston McCall. So while some (or many) may disagree I personally love this new album from PWD and believe their continued success is well deserved. FFO: August Burns Red, Miss May I, and As I Lay Dying. Favorite song: “I Hope You Rot”.

6. At The Gates – ‘To Drink From The Night Itself’.Make no mistake, ATG is without question one of the most important bands and all of extreme metal! As one of the original bands of the Swedish melodeath scene which went on to be one of the main blueprints of American metalcore ATG is essentially responsible for 2 of underground metals most successful subgenres. With their 2018 release “TDFTNI” At The Gates entered the studio for the first time minus guitar player Anders Bjorler who was replaced by Jonas Stalhammar (who worked with ATG vocalist Tomas Limberg in the band The Lurking Fear) and the Swedish God’s of metal seemingly didn’t miss a beat. While their 2015 comeback record ‘At War With Reality’ was a great record this one simply tops it proving that while a million bands have followed in their footsteps since their early 90s beginning this is still their world and they can still rip out solid metal of this caliber. It’s dark, it’s catchy, it’s heavy as all hell and just overall kicks ass. These Swedes are true pioneers and this album holds true to anything they’ve ever released. FFO: Nightrage, The Crown, and The Absence. Favorite Song: “Palace Of Leapers”.

5. Behemoth – ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’. Personally, THIS was the most anticipated album for me this year. Behemoth have long been a favorite of mine for many years and I’ve honestly yet to be let down by really any of their records. Dubbed as one of the pioneering bands of blending death metal with black metal Behemoth truly pushed the limits and raise expectations after their previous release ‘The Satanist’ and the band delivered big time. The classic Behemoth sound is still very much here on certain songs like the opening track “Wolves ov Siberia” for example but there are quite a few songs on here that show Behemoth further experimenting on their sound particularly on the two tracks “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” and “Bartzabel” which showcase not only a less intense style of writing for the band but features Nergal (vocals/lead guitar) using clean vocals which if your familiar with Behemoth you’d know that is practically unheard of for them. It’s definitely the most experimental record in the catalog for this polish metal machine but at the end of the day it still sounds like Behemoth which is very much a wonderful thing! FFO: Belphagor, Wolves In The Throne Room, and Nile. Favorite Song: “Angelvs XIII”.

4. Letters From The Colony – ‘Vignette’. The Meshuggah-worship subgenre of Djent is a tricky one for me. Overall I like it and have even had bands associated with the genre crack my top 20 list in years past however the overcrowdedness of it has made originality quite hard to come by for a lot of bands and perhaps most importantly some bands tend to make things so incredibly difficult to play that it almost comes off as impossible to listen to. This is not the case however with this particular album. Believe it or not this is actually the debut album from this Swedish band and simply couldn’t be more impressive. This is not your standard metalcore based Djent or downgraded prog. This is its own beast altogether that just so happens to qualify in this particular genre however it’s executed tremendously. Combining the aggressive structure one would expect from Meshuggah plus the melody bands like Periphery have been known for along with extreme metal seasoning in both the song writing and the vocals made this without question one of the most impressive debut albums I’ve heard in a very long time. I was fortunate enough to come across it right when it came out and since then the band has gained some attention across the globe and hopefully that will continue as this is most certainly a new band to keep your eyes on it for fans of all metal. FFO: Tesseract, Textures, and Periphery. Favorite Song: “Cataclysm”.

3. Revocation – ‘The Outer Ones’. When I first heard this album I wasn’t the least bit shocked that Revocation made another great album. However the fact that it managed to top their previous release ‘Great is our sin’ (which was on our 2016 list) was a little surprising as I had considered that to be career defining for the them yet alas here they are two short years later putting out their finest effort to date. Revocation combines technical death metal with elements of prog and melodeath that has been an overall blue print for their success in being a modern day stand out group in the extreme metal world. This tactic is shown flawlessly on this album as songs like the album opener “Of Unwordly Origin” focus on a more brutal kick to the teeth approach before the album dives to the second track “That Which Consumes All Things” as a more progressive flow with spectacular groove to it. The album is just a terrific listen from start to finish showcasing the creative head-banging awesomeness that is the mighty Revocation. 7 full length albums into their career, no bad records, with this one’s topping them all thus making Revocation the most exciting band out there currently in underground metal! FFO: Arsis, Decapitated, and Decrepited Birth. Favorite Song: “Fathomless Catacombs”.

2. Judas Priest – ‘Firepower’. Metal God’s. They wrote the song and have such worn the title with pride. Even though Judas Priest was unfairly snubbed of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction recently it goes without saying that they are one of the most important active bands in rock history and their latest offering proves that there is no timeline set for these guys. Co-produced by metal producers Andy Sneap and Tom Allom ‘Firepower” is just the second full length record to feature Richie Faulkner (who replaced KK Downing) and proves to be some of the group strongest work to date as far as the Rob Halford version 2.0 erra of JP goes. The album has several face melting Priest classic-like tracks including the lead single “Lightning Strikes” and “Evil Never Dies” which are obviously freaking great but some of my favorite moments on the album are the songs that have a slower build to them and seemed to breathe a little more such as tracks like “Rising From The Ruins”. So while it’s been speculated on whether or not Judas Priest will make another record again considering longtime guitarist Glenn Tiptons health issues that prevented him from touring with the band; it should be known that this is not a last ditch effort at Judas Priest trying to recreate some Old Glory. This is without question one of the best voices in heavy metal with one of the most respected names in all of the genre playing to their absolute full potential. FFO: Helloween, Grim Reaper, and Iron Maiden. Favorite Song: “Never The Heroes”.

1. Anaal Nathrakh – ‘A New Kind Of Horror’. “This is not a happy album. It’s bitter, vengeful, sarcastic, sardonic, violent, terrified, and horrified….terrifying and horrifying in equal measure” says vocalist Dave Hunt when being asked about his bands 2018 offering ‘A New Kind Of Horror’ and honestly that just sums it pretty damn perfectly. Lyrically based on the first world war and the letters of DH Lawrence Anaal Nathrakh once again releases an album that is both parts heavier than a majority of music that’s out there that’s able to be made sense of but also brings a very dark and disturbing feeling to their music which it’s these factors of the band that have basically been their foundation since their first record back in 2001. So it really goes without saying that if you’re not a fan of extreme metal than this album definitely is not the one for you however if you do then I simply can’t recommend this enough. Everything from the albums intense opener in “Obscene as cancer” to the stop and go mosh worship of ‘Forward’ to the dark discomfort of the closer ‘Are We Fit For Glory Yet’ AN packs one hell of a punch with this record. Musically you get a chaotic blend of black metal, grindcore, and industrial metal and vocally Dave Hunt returns with his black metal screeches mixed with King Dimond worship singing. There really isn’t much more else to say about this album other than it’s a sonically brutal experience that if you’ve yet to hear yet your metal taste buds would be satisfied greatly by experiencing this incredible record! FFO: 1349, Napalm Death, and Emperor. Favorite Song “The Reek Of Fear”.metal

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This entry was posted on March 3, 2019 by in Posts.
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