I think of this time of year as essentially turning us all into lame ducks. So little could possibly get done that I might as well make yet another best of the year album list! To be clear, these are not necessarily the BEST metal albums of 2018 by some objective standard, but they are certainly my favorites.
These are the albums I played on repeat for a week or two while on the subway. They're the only thing I could think of when someone asked me what I wanted to listen to because they had just become that embedded in my mind. And they're the albums I'll think back on as defining 2018 in metal for me. There's also a Spotify playlist at the end if you want a little taste. Enjoy!
18. Primitive Weapons - Surrender Yourself
These local lads have gone and done it again - they've made me enjoy a hardcore album. Well, post-hardcore if we're being specific. This album is emotional, self-aware, and reflective in a way that reminds me of Converge's The Dusk In Us (which literally had me trying not to cry on the subway). But also defiant and heavy enough to force you work through it rather than wallow in it.
17. Khemmis - Desolation
It's hard to listen to Khemmis and not compare them to Pallbearer. But to me this album felt more mature and realized than their previous efforts - and it felt more uniquely Khemmis. I heard them play "Isolationâ while on the Decibel tour this year and I knew then it was a bit different than what they'd done before.
16. Black Wizard - Livin' Oblivion
I admit I will always have a soft spot for these boys after seeing them on the drama-filled Pentagram tour earlier this year. They were up first so there wasn't exactly a huge crowd, but they certainly rocked my socks off. This album sees them expand their thrashy stoner rock/metal combo in new directions that made for a more well-rounded listen.
15. Mantar - The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze
Mantar's last two albums, especially Ode to the Flame, really knocked me on my little butt. They've got blasting vocals, hypnotic and aggressive riffs, and they do it all with just two dudes! (Who are pretty hilarious on Instagram, btw.) This album follows in the footsteps of their previous releases, but for me, just lacked a little something - maybe it was less anthemic and more reflective? Whatever it was, I found myself just not coming back to it much after its release compared to their previous albums. But this is one I look forward to spending more time with in 2019.
14. Black Moth - Anatomical Venus
I had honestly never heard of Black Moth before this year, but this album really blew me away! The vocals, the riffs, and even the album cover totally had me singing along while cleaning my apartment.
13. Sleep - The Sciences
I'm a stoner metal fan so obviously I had to include this (first studio album in nearly 20 years, etc etc). That said, it didn't grab me as much as it did the other Sleep fans I saw talking about it. Don't get me wrong, I'll still go back and listen to the Marijuanaut's Theme and who could possibly tire of this many weed puns?? But I just didn't find myself revisiting it as much as I thought I would, but there's always 2019 for that.
12. Dimmu Borgir - Eonian
Yes this album (especially "Interdimensional Summit") is sometimes catchy almost to the point of silliness, but resist the urge to hold that against it. Having seen them play this song live (at Psycho Vegas this year), I can attest to the fact that you just simply cannot help but at least kind of enjoy itâeven past midnight on your last of three nights of partying and jet lag.
11. Ghost - Prequelle
When this album first came out, I had a lot of mixed feelings. And tbh I still do! But I've still revisited it so much (and seen them perform live earlier this month), that I've really come around to the majority of it. I loved "Rats" from the moment I heard it, am honestly still a little iffy about "Dance Macabre," and am just never a huge fan of filler instrumental songs like those on this album. But there are some hidden gems here, for sure. In particular, I've become a fan of "Witch Image," even though it's a relatively simple and predictable song, it's just executed perfectly with lyrics that I really enjoy.
10. Ilsa - Corpse Fortress
Mixing death, doom, crust, sludge, and all sorts of other stuff, Ilsa have managed to put a little something for everyone on this album that builds with dread, tension, and anger. Cathartic, to say the least.
9. Master's Hammer - Fascinator
I somehow managed to miss when these black metal pioneers released their latest album earlier in February. But I will always have a soft spot for these weirdos, and Fascinator does not disappoint! The riffs are righteous and the synths are heavy, innovating on their classic atmospheric but epic and occult sound.
8. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats - Wasteland
True fact about me: For like a full week after this album came out, I cued up specific songs from this album to play in my headphones when I walked into work. Sometimes you just need a fuzzy, badass riff to set you off on the right foot, ya know? Anyways, if you're an Uncle Acid fan, I doubt this album disappointed you, even if it didn't necessarily innovate too much. "Shockwave City" and "Stranger Tonight" are tied for my favorite songs.
7. Witch Mountain - Witch Mountain
I was actually shocked to see how few people put this one on their year end lists. I've loved Witch Mountain for a while now and, for me, this one was fantastic. The riffs are heavy and bluesy, Kayla Dixon's voice is amazing and powerful, and the lyrics really stuck out to me on this one in a few places. Even just on the first song - "the more I care for you, the faster you bleed" - I mean, come on!
6. Judas Priest - Firepower
Seemingly everyone was talking about this album this year and guess what? They're right! Although, again, there isn't a ton of innovation happening here, it is just Priest doing what they do best with some extra anger and resilience - exactly what I needed this year.
5. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest
I really didn't want to like this album. And parts of it are just so easy to roll your eyes at (God = Dog lmao wow). But, you know what, some parts of it are actually just fantastic and moody and mature in a way I didn't really think Behemoth could be.
4. Tribulation - Down Below
I admit I was not really a Tribulation fan before this album came out but now I certainly am! This album is spooky goth metal fun and I enjoyed just about every minute of it. I also was fortunate enough to see them live this year and they are exactly the wonderful ghoulies you think they are.
3. Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit
This was hands down the most diverse metal show I've been to in NYC (even beating their first show here I think!) and that alone is worth putting them on the list for. Any band that can create a space welcoming enough for so many people who normally are pushed to the sidelines of the metal world deserves some spotlight. And the fact that Zeal & Ardor is also, like, good and innovative is just as amazing. Their first album was clearly just a taste of what they're capable of and Stranger Fruit really pushed them to expand. I could (almost always) do with fewer instrumental fillers, and on this album especially they seemed sort of haphazardly thrown in. But the rest of the songs are so solid that I came back to this one frequently throughout the year.
2. Windhand - Eternal Return
Windhand has to be one of the most consistently solid metal bands out there today, and this album was no different. Although this one felt a little more contemplative and somber than their previous albums (shades of gray though, really) I still loved the bite that comes with "First to Die" and "Red Cloud." I'd also say that "Eyeshine" and "Grey Garden" got a lot of play from me this year.
1. Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light
This was almost certainly the metal album I listened to most this year - it's just that good! The riffs are tight, hypnotic, and layered in a way that allows you find something new to become obsessed with every listen. The atmosphere, new vocals, and lyrics combine to create a sense of suffocating darkness and desolation - but also a frenzied fight back, which is exactly what I needed in 2018. I thought I would get tired of it at some point and I just never did. Don't get me wrong, I loved their previous albums too. But on this one they seemed to nail just the right give-and-take that sucks you in and makes you a little sad when the album is over. Seriously, "Temple of the Sun" was on repeat on many a morning subway ride for me.