Peter’s Top 20 Albums of 2018
I’ve done year end music lists for as long as I can remember and then last year came and went. There were so many good releases but, for some reason, I couldn’t get off my lazy ass to compile anything. I buy a lot of music so sometimes it’s hard for me to remember everything I snagged as I don’t keep lists. Thankfully someone suggested I filter my discogs collection by year and that made it a lot easier. I should actually go back and DO a best of 2017 list now that I have that tool.
I buy a lot of music and I still like having something tangible. Music, to me, isn’t just something you download for free, listen to a few times, and forget. It’s more than pressing a digital button. It’s about emerging yourself into what an artist or band is trying to do and say and soaking it in. It’s about cranking things loud while looking at the art and liner notes. It’s about a home stereo, not earbuds. With that, I want to share my faves of 2018. Some of these albums could switch spots depending on what mood I’m in but I think it’s pretty close to how I’d rank them – especially my top eight. Here we go!
1. The Sword – Used Future (Razor & Tie)
I was so deep into a project from the end of April to the beginning of June in 2018 (that should hopefully surface by the end of the summer) and this album came out when I was just getting focused. It became my soundtrack to that project. After the first spin, while it’s not like their old stoner/doomy material, I fell in love with it. It’s too bad they’ve gone on hiatus, but I can see fans that really got into them in the beginning not follow them to this more rock-oriented sound.
2. ASG – Survive Sunrise (Relapse Records)
If it wasn’t for The Sword’s album taking over my stereo and being spun every day, this album surley would have been number one. While their last album Blood Drive was good, it was a departure from the album of theirs I love the most, Win Us Over. This album goes back to the feel of Win Us Over and feels like the true sequel. Not a bad tune on this one, people!
3. Sergeant Thunderhoof – Terra Solus (Hoof Records)
UK’s Sergeant Thunderhoof are going to be the next big export from that country. Their heavy stoner rock/doom/upbeat rock blend has been a hit with me since I discovered the band on a compilation CD. Make sure you support the band and check out this album that may be buried due to the band not being signed to any major label. I actually did a review of it on my site last year. Check it out here.
4. Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music)
Is there such a thing as a bad Clutch album? I guess, for me, the one I like the least is Strange Cousins from the West. Thankfully Earth Rocker made up for it and Psychic Warfare really was a front to backer. This one, though, smokes all three of them and that’s saying something. There’s just so much to like about this album and how it touches on many past albums while still bringing new ideas to the table.
5. Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia)
This is my favourite Judas Priest album since Painkiller. While the return of Rob Halford on Angel of Retribution in 2005 was much welcomed, the output on that album and the ones following it just never came together as a complete package (especially Nostradamus), althpugh Reedmer of Souls was a step in the right direction. This album fires on all levels and has the hooks and diversity in songs to make it killer. While some of the lyrics may seem cheesy at times, everything just works together. Make sure to give Priest another chance if you haven’t listened to them in years.
6. Mesarthim – Density Parameter (Avantgarde)
If you don’t know, Mesarthim are an Australian atmospheric black metal band and their album/EP made my top 20 list of 2016. They have continued to create some of the most awesome music I’ve heard and their song structures, use of keyboards, and vocal delivery continue to keep me wanting more. Just because you see “black metal” in the category, prog fans may really like this if they give it a chance and are open to the vocals. Support them on Bandcamp. They have long tunes on there that have yet to make it onto a physical release.
7. Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista)
I was an early adopter of Ghost, and I’ll wear that as a badge. As soon as I saw Rise Above Records signed them, I had the album on vinyl and CD. I actually have the picture disc and two copies of their first album (and a CD). All their releases have been stellar and I really dug their live album they released at the beginning of 2018. While I’m not placing live albums on this list, it is essential for last year.
All that said, this album is good but it disappointed me. It’s short, there are too many instrumental segments, and it’s just not as satisfying as their other albums. Ghost (or Tobias, I should say) is capable of creating front to back albums and this isn’t one of them. There are ups and downs but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. I think this dip for me will make the next album even more anticipated and there is time for this one to grow on me more.
8. Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy (Century Media)
You’d think this long in a death metal band’s career, they’d run out of ideas or slow down. Not Deicide. Once the Hoffman brothers were booted out, Glenn and Steve created The Stetch of Redemption, one of my favourite death metal albums of all time. While their output afterwards was good as well, nothing hit me as hard as that album until now. This is a front to back onslaught of old-school death metal but with hooks and twists. The first time I spun it, I listened to it probably five times in a row, front to back, before listening to anything else. It’s that good.
9. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
I had heard/read the name but I never checked out the band’s past albums. I think it was because I thought the logo looked as generic as they came and the name didn’t hook me. Thankfully this album and band kept getting praised before and after this album dropped and I decided to finally check it out. Suffice to say it impressed me enough to land this high on my end of the year list, but I also went back and bought their past albums. I still need to grab this and the others on vinyl, but the diverse death metal approach is fresh. There’s so much to take in here with the blending of so many metal genres and prog rock and they do it right. Add a saxophone in a song (perhaps ripped from Shining and Ihsahn?) and you have a metal fan’s dream. Listen to it.
10. Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality (Dark Descent Records)
I also checked out this band thanks to they hype I was reading. I have yet to go back and get past albums but for those people who love their death metal in the 90’s here’s a modern day take on it. The production, song writing, and skills are all here. A crushing album that fans of old and new school death metal can share together…with brews!
11. Khemmis – Desolation (20 Buck Spin)
20 Buck Spin have a breakout band on their hands with Khemmis. Thanks to a compilation CD, I heard a tune from their debut album and I was hooked. This, being their third album, is their most diverse yet but it also has more death metal aspects to it in terms of the vocal delivery. Fans of the doomy aspect of the band need not worry because it’s still represented. The band has delivered another strong album with their most diverse songs yet.
12. Horrendous – Idol (Season of Mist)
Here’s band who is taking the art of death metal to a new level. The progression these guys have made over their albums has been nothing short of spectacular and the band continues to expand what boundaries death metal have been confined in. There’s a lot of progression found on latter Death albums here but Horrendous is making it all their own. This should be on every metal head’s year end list. This is one release I should have spun even more than I should have an if I had, it may have been higher.
13. Gost – Posessor (Blood Music)
Thanks to label Blood Music, I’ve discovered a slew of dark synthwave acts. One of my favourites is Gost and this is his most metal/death metal album to date while still touching on other genres with his electronic flair. The amazing thing is Gost has now supposedly signed to a major label (or at least one larger than Blood Music). Hopefully things work out and this artist’s integrity and tribute to the occult isn’t compromised.
14. At the Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself (Century Media)
The second “comeback” album from one of Sweden’s most famous metal bands (or bands in general) doesn’t revert to Slaughter of the Soul no matter how much people want them to do so. I found this release to be forward in its progession and the band, while throwing back to almost some aspects of their early albums, still tries new ideas to bring fans old and new something that they can get behind. I didn’t get the “letdown” posts and reviews I read because I think this album is even stronger than At War With Reality, and that was a good album!
15. Revocation – The Outer Ones (Metal Blade)
I think I can say the same thing here that I said about Clutch – I don’t think Revocation has ever released a bad album. They have experimented with different genres of metal and even some clean vocals throughout their discography, but I found this album to be a great mix of some tech metal with classic death metal. It’s not as technical as another excellent album that just didn’t make the top 20 (Diluvium from Obscura) but it has that balance of speed, groove, death, and tech that really hit the spot. A very solid album.
16. Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn (Peaceville Records)
The second album with Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes on vocals is even catchier and brutal than Grand Morbid Funeral. At first, I wasn’t a fan of the production (especially the drums) but as I listened to it more and more, it really fits what the band has written. It’s old school death metal, of course, but it’s very catchy and this is one of those albums I spun about four or fives times in a row when I first got it. The vinyl edition’s warmth really helps the overall feel of the album. If I was ranking albums just on the cover art, this one would probably be in the top three of the year. How awesome is that art?
17. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest (Metal Blade)
I just couldn’t stop reading, “How are they going to top The Satanist?” from various places leading up to the drop of this album. While that release was really good, I didn’t think it was the be all/end all of their discography. While this isn’t The Satanist Part II, it is a springboard where Nergal and co. take some of the aspects of what made that album so good – the production, tone and lyrics – and played around more with song structures and dynamics within the songs and how the album is laid out. I’m still deciding which one of those two albums I like more. There’s so much awesome imagery and photography included, this is one release I feel sorry for people who only got it digitally.
18. Soulfly – Ritual (Nuclear Blast)
I’m as surprised as many of my friends who know me may be when they see a Soulfly release in a year end list. This is such a diverse album, bringing with it so many of the songwriting hooks and styles of metal that Max Cavelera used in great Sepultura songs and albums. I think his time with his brother in Cavelera Conspiracy has really rubbed off because this is the most satisfying Cavelera and Soulfly release since Sepultura’s Roots for me.
19. Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs (Merge Records)
It’s not metal all the time for me and this release from Wye Oak satisfied that “who is this band I’ve never heard of” quest I have every year. Mellow at times, catchy, dynamic, and thought provoking, this duo from the US who have been around since 2006 (!!!) have made me a fan and I’ll be hunting down past releases this year. If you’re in the mood to fire one up, spin this album.
20. Pig Destroyer – Headcage (Relapse Records)
If you want an onslaught of grind and death for thirty minutes, here you go. While I do like the past releases, I’ve found that as the “band” progressed as a band, especially here adding a bass player, I’ve enjoyed them even more. Warning: don’t listen to while driving because, odds are, you’ll run someone off the road.
Special props for the live albums released in 2018 by The Dandy Warhols, Alice Cooper, and Ghost.
Honourable mentions to great albums released by (in no specific order): Nonpoint, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Gruesome, Monstrosity, Unleashed, Aborted, Skinless, Alice in Chains, Yob, The Prodigy, Immortal, Abhorrence (great but it was a short EP), Dimmu Borgir, High On Fire, Sleep, Master Boot Record, The Sheepdogs, Jonathan Davis, Ministry, and Ihsahn.