2018 was a strong year for metal music, one of the strongest in recent memory. This list had been revised about four or five times simply due to the sheer volume of quality material that was released this year. There were pleasant surprises, comebacks and letdowns. In fact, there were quite a few albums I had penciled in at the beginning of 2018 that didn’t even make it to the honorable mentions (yes I’m looking at you Behemoth). Without further ado, here are the top ten metal albums of 2018.
10. Portal- Ion
Be warned, Portal is not a band that is for the faint of heart. They are a band that have always been at the forefront of dissonant and experimental technical death metal. The tracks on Ion are intense, atonal, chaotic and terrifying. Let’s make this clear: Ion is sonic noise terror. The dizzying guitar patterns resemble a blend of Gorguts’ Luc Lemay and Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth but within a black metal-esque production veil. Without a doubt this is one the most bizarre and dynamic pieces of work of the last decade, and only its sheer auditory horror prevents it from surging much higher on the list.
9. Ihsahn- Amr
This is yet another succinct release from the vocalist of legendary Emperor fame. Ihsahn’s Ámr is the latest of his ever-continuing foray into modern progressive black metal (if it can even be called black metal at this point). The tracks range from expressive eight-string guitar chugs to more atmospheric piano and synth with clean guitar chords. With this also comes Ihsahn’s ever more impressive vocal range. While his signature vocal laceration is on full display here, his cleans are incredibly smooth and much more polished and matured from even five years ago.
8. Sleep- The Sciences
Honestly, who saw THIS coming? It had been 15 years since the iconic stoner doom metal band released a record, and how clever it is to see it released on April 20. Matt Pike does a phenomenal job, with distorted, heavy and slow riffs dominating the songs. The drums are methodically slow, lethargic and pounding, and the muddy bass is hypnotic. It’s easy to lose yourself in these six songs with running times cracking the ten-minute mark, which is exactly what this type of music aims to achieve.
7. Hoth- Astral Necromancy
Yes, that’s the same Hoth as in the ice planet from Star Wars. Yes, their logo is in the shape of a TIE Fighter. And yes, they have Star Wars-themed lyrics (subtle and vague as they may be). While their previous release Oathbreaker took an exponential leap upward in terms of progressive elements, this album returns to a straightforward style akin to their debut whilst still maintaining that same maturity and progression. The atmosphere is chilling, with Dissection-esque tremolo guitar riffs within a lo-fi album production.
6. Deicide- Overtures of Blasphemy
Holy hell. It would’ve been easy to write off Glen Benton and company after a string of underwhelming releases in the late 2000s, but wow, this album smokes. It is a nonstop barrage of intense riffage hell-bent on tearing out your skull. The combination of chaotic blastbeats and a faster-than-light rhythm section make this album nothing short of a true force of nature. After 30 years it is refreshing to listen to the standard-bearers of American death metal with a sense of renewed vigor and ferocity. For the first time in a long time Deicide sounds truly primal.
5. Khemmis- Desolation
The third album from the doom metal newcomers is a foray into a more traditional heavy metal sound and it sounds absolutely fantastic. Each of these six songs have an epic feel, with crushing riffs, hooks and melodic guitar solos peppered all over the album. The vocal department is a highlight here, with an impressive range of soaring clean vocals, black metal snarls and death metal growls. While this doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Candlemass or Black Sabbath, it is a very good doom metal release from a band trying to push their boundaries.
4. Sulphur Aeon- The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
One of the primary reasons for the many revisions of this list was this album being dropped on the last week of 2018. The H.P. Lovecraft fanatics composed a hefty serving of abyssal death metal. The album production is fitting, with an enormity of noise that makes it seem as if you are being enveloped by the ocean itself. The instrumentation is solid across the board, with a thunderous percussion section and murky guitarwork that has just the right balance of technicality and intense riffage. This is not to mention the haunting addition of ceremonial, prayer-like clean singing on top of the booming growls.
3. Obscura- Diluvium
When Diluvium was first released early into 2018, my primary concern was how it was going to stack up to the other technical death metal releases that were going to be released later that year from Alkaloid, Revocation or Beyond Creation. After many listens, Dilivium was the album that I kept going back to. The compositions here are sure to inspire a legion of YouTube covers with their absurd technicality throughout the entire album. There are so many well-executed songs with massive progressive/jazz fusion influences, and they all contain countless intricate leads, drum fills and showboats galore.
2. Hate Eternal- Desolate Sands
Desolate Sands is almost the antithesis of their previous album Infernus. Whereas Infernus was punctuated by precise and lightning-fast riffage, Upon Desolate Sands returns to a slower, more sludgier Domination-era Morbid Angel death metal style evoking the Tampa Bay death metal scene of the 1990s. This is an impressive album with guitarist/vocalist/producer Erik Rutan’s bass-forward production resulting in a sound that is truly monstrous. These are among his most sinister and downright ugly riffs of his career, and they are almost drowned out by the unrelenting barrage of Hannes Grossman’s impossible drum patterns. This is the apex of death metal.
1. Amorphis- Queen of Time
It shouldn’t seem possible, but Amorphis released another perfect record after already releasing a perfect record, Under the Red Cloud, three years ago. Everything, from the instrumentation, to the grand pianos, saxophones, vocal choirs, is perfect. There is so much going on in this album, even for a progressive band, and every single song is brilliant. This is unprecedented for a band almost 30 years into their career. What a job.
Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy
Jaw-dropping progressive death metal.
Revocation – The Outer Ones
It’s criminal they didn’t make the final cut, but David Davidson shreds.
Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence
Brilliant return to form for a classic act.
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Brutality. Speed. Consistency. Fantastic.
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
Terrifying stuff from the industrial duo.