Although 2018 was saturated with fake news, racist bullshit, political pundits and a palpable sense of division, if there is at least one good thing to come out of this year was the plethora of great heavy metal albums released. Whether comeback albums by artists who have been in the game for decades or newcomers to the heavy music scene, this year gave us the much-needed doses of metal to keep our sanity in an otherwise insane society. Whether you like industrial, doom, black metal, stoner metal death metal or straight up thrash, this year was a good one for heavy metal music. We now present the top 10 metal albums of 2018.
10. Skeletonwitch-Devouring Radiant Light
Despite numerous personnel changes in the lineup, Ohio-based death thrashers Skeletonwitch bring the brutality on this album, but also show depth and evolution as a unit and as musicians experiments with song structures that they never experimented before, the band continues to keep its roots of speed metal and death metal alive.
Over 20 years ago, when Soulfly was formed from the ashes of Brazilian thrashers Sepultura, the future was uncertain for guitarist and vocalist Max Cavalera. But now, more than two decades deep and 11 full-length albums in, Soulfly is a monster of its own accord in the world of heavy metal, and this album proves you can get more brutal with age. Never steering away from the thrashy, death metal inspired roots of Sepultura, Ritual also offers tribal rage and spiritual aggression. This album gives old-school fans of Cavalera’s bands a taste of what they love: speed, heaviness and a groove that Soulfly has been known for from the beginning. What makes this album special, is that Cavalera’s son Zyon, who was raised and trained as a metal drummer, and formed his own band, Lody Kong, appears as the drummer for this album, Highlights of Ritual include “Dead Behind the Eyes,” featuring guest vocals from Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), as well as “Under Rapture” featuring guest vocals from Ross Dolan (Immolation).
8. Anaal Nathrakh-A New Kind Of Horror
With A New Kind of Horror, British extreme metal group Anaal Nathrakh offer fans the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2016 record, The Whole of the Law. This album delivers the goods in terms of the unique approach the band has been known for, fusing symphonic black metal, death metal grindcore, and even elements of noise, industrial and experimental elements into a sound that no one has been able to replicate. This is evil, sardonic sounding and violent music, not for the faint of heart. From the first song to the last, listeners will be pummeled wall to wall with thunderous buzzing riffs, machine guns peed blast beats, and downright nightmarish, inhuman vocals that remind you why there is a category of music known as extreme metal. The percussion and additional layers of keyboard and additional instrumentals overlapping the brutality, a sense of balance and majesty is added to the album.
7. Yob-Our Raw Heart
Now known as one of the best purveyors of murky-yet-epic doom metal, Oregon based rockers Yob brilliantly craft music that is part stoner metal, prog rock, and doom all in one breath. If you took bands like Opeth, and Trouble, and threw in some High On Fire, Neurosis and DOWN, perhaps this might give listeners an idea of what Yob has to offer musically. On Our Raw Heart, the band’s evolution of sound is ostensible and clear. No track on the record is shorter than five minutes, but all have enough riffage and spaced out moments to rock out to, that it doesn’t matter. Yob’s music is cathartic and will induce sporadic spacing out and head banging throughout, and this record is no different. Though this is a doomy record, oddly enough the melodies seem uplifting and might make listeners smile as they band their heads to this album.
6. At The Gates-To Drink From the Night Itself
These critically acclaimed Swedish death metal masters are back, and in short, this album is a ripper. The instrumental, 90-second long opener, “Der Widerstand,” pulls listeners in, and prepares them for the sonic death metal assault that is to follow. At the Gates maintains its unique sounding death metal that is anguished and aggressive, but still lets listeners feel the melancholy and pain the music is supposed to convey. Although this band will be eternally known for the classic 90s death metal album, Slaughter of the Soul, this record proves that the band is still more than capable of producing new music that is just as b as is it haunting and brutal as it is melodic and beautifully arranged. Based on this album, whatever you do, don’t dismiss At The Gates as a nostalgic death metal act.
On this 14th studio album from Al Jourgensen’s industrial metal powerhouse band Ministry, it is obvious from the title, this record is a reaction to the debacle that has presented itself as the leader of the Free World, aka President Trump. Political for sure, but full of fury, angst, frustration and an assault against the cult of personality we are living in, AmeriKKKant is a soundtrack to current times, and some songs are heavier than others, with the single ‘Antifa,’ being one of the catchiest and heaviest offerings. This is a darker, musically experimental album, but it delivers on the caustic heaviness and pessimistic vibe. However, once digested several times, listeners began to realize it is a concept album not so much about Donald Trump, but more about how our so-called Democratic system is so screwed up, that an ignorant wealthy demagogue like Trump could be elected in the first place.
4. Dee Snider-For The Love Of Metal
Back in his heyday fronting Twisted Sister, Dee Snider was at the top of his game. Though he never rose to the status of Rob Zombie, Ozzy or Dio, the vocalist has always been active in some aspect of music or creative arts, being it film writing or plays. But, instead of forgetting and throwing away his past at the top of heavy metal’s best singers in the 1980s, the middle-aged singer has made a comeback, and though it could have gone bad, surprisingly, the album rocks. Thanks to a lot of help from contemporary metal musicians, mostly Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed, Dee Snider turned aging rock star into wise, badass. Part Judas Priest, part Fear Factory and Pantera, as odd as it sounds, this album sounds like a splicing of Twisted Sister and Hatebreed. Additional guest musicians on this album include members of Arch Enemy, Toxic Holocaust, Killswitch Engage and Anthrax. Snider’s passion and vocal complexity shine, and the songs are a bit cheesy, admittedly but also full of power and inspiration.
3. Uada-Cult of a Dying Sun
This Portland, Oregon based black metal band is still new on the scene, having only been in existence for less than five years. However, this album is raw, and fast, but precise and sharp, evoking the sounds of black metal forefathers like Emperor, with a flair that can only come from the Northwest USA. Well oiled like a machine, the sounds are remnant of brutal, dark and primeval riffs and sounds, fans of black metal and death metal will soak up and enjoy. Savage guitars and guttural but tortured vocals also provide a necro style of black metal in the vein of classic bands like Darkthrone but keeps things contemporary.
2. High On Fire-Electric Messiah
Guitarist Matt Pike’s might arguably be known best for his playing in the seminal doom metal band Sleep, but with High On Fire, he takes things to faster, and more brutal territories. Such is the case with High On Fire’s latest album, the eighth offering of its career, Electric Messiah. What makes a difference in 2018, is that not only is Pike sober, but he is also concurrently working on music with Sleep and High on Fire, keeping him busy and making him one of the hardest working guitarists in heavy metal today. Electric Messiah is a mish-mash of stoner metal, punk, thrash, and even avant-garde jazz, but through it all, you can hear clear and distinct influences from bands like Black Flag, Venom, and of course Motorhead.
1. Watain-Trident Wolf Eclipse
Perhaps one of the best, when it comes to modern black metal, Watain keeps the tradition of Dissection and Mayhem alive with a form of music that is evil and ritualistic admittedly, including elements of the black mass at the band’s live performances. The first two tracks, ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ and ‘Sacred Damnation’ prepare listeners for the musical attack that awaits with songs at the end of the album, like A Throne Below and Towards the Sanctuary providing ultimate headbanging euphoria. Watain’s latest record is an experience in full force, full of wrath and cosmic misanthopy, that literally explodes with darkness.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.