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50 Best Metal Albums of 2018

Tuesday 22nd, January 2019 / 11:37
by Kim Arychuk, Nate Betts, Adam Clark, Dave Cotton, Abigail Coulson, Kelsey Dionne, Andy Gronberg, Coleman Ingram, John Murray, Daniel Robichaud, Justin Schulte, Aidan Waterson, Mike Zimmer

Graphic layout by Gérald Robichaud

It was a great and weird year for metal. I lost count of how many times I frustrated my fellow contributors by uttering the words, “Is it metal?” A few picks which I personally wouldn’t consider metal did end up making it on this list, thanks to some vocal factions who insisted on their pick’s “metalness”. Others were left off, as we decided they did not belong here, despite being appealing to the metal crowd and impressive in their own right (such as Manes and Clutch).

Contributors to the list are a grab-bag of radio personalities, riff junkies, fringe avant-gardists and metal purists — all united by the banging of our heads.

Despite our wide variety of musical tastes, there are some huge metal releases that not only failed to make our top 50, they didn’t even make any of our personal top 10s. Baffling. It’s just as remarkable as how an obscure underground pick blew so many of us away and ended up in our overall top 5.

Without further ado, we give you the 50 Best Metal Albums of 2018.

• Daniel Robichaud

50. Phantom WinterInto Dark Science
March 2, 2018
Golden Antenna Records
Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany

A raspy whisper prompts you to lean in and listen closer. A heavy crash jolts you as “The Initiation of Darkness” begins. The foreboding gong of a sooty bell intensifies the ceremony. A shroud is cast upon the mind. So begins this séance of gritty, hypnotic sludge-doom rhythms and dissonant, paranoia-inducing guitars. The crowning achievement here is “The Craft and the Power of Black Magic Wielding”, which is patient and gentle in its preparation, and bludgeoning in its dark and enveloping expansion. Andreas Schmittfull, the mind behind Phantom Winter, succeeds in creating a mournful world of shadow and ash where, if you squint just right, you can perceive the beautiful light of melody just beyond the tall, charred stone walls that surround you. In other words, Into Dark Science is oodles of fun for the whole family.

By Daniel Robichaud

49. Grave LinesFed Into the Nihilist Engine
May 4, 2018
New Heavy Sounds
London / Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Jake Harding’s vocals are the star of the show here. At the risk of selling him short through comparison, he falls somewhere between Devon Welsh (of Majical Cloudz, an odd reference point, I know) and Ian Astbury channelling Jim Morrison at his most poetically sombre and angry. Instead of a stock metal growl, his aggressive vocals evoke the rantings of a well-sauced madman who knows something you don’t. The gothic gravitas Harding brings to the album is beautifully supported and complemented by patient, stoned-out doom compositions that create dark, ringing expanses of space as much as they pound you into the sludgy ground. After the crushing “Silent Salt”, the floating bliss of “Loathe/Displace” is an unexpected moment that needs to be experienced (during a full album listen) to be believed.

By Daniel Robichaud

48. SighHeir to Despair
November 16, 2018
Candlelight Records / Spinefarm Records UK
Tokyo, Japan

Sigh are a Japanese experimental metal band who formed in 1989 in Tokyo. Heir to Despair is their eleventh album, and it is another mind-blowing adventure of schizophrenic voices whispering with murderous intent. This latest effort has a more progressive and folky approach compared to the symphonic black metal feel of 2015’s Graveward. Sigh are the Mr. Bungle of black metal – if you have an open mind, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you’re trve cvlt and bathe in the blood of pigeons, you may not enjoy it as much as I do.

By John Murray

47. ErosionMaximum Suffering
October 19, 2018
Hydra Head Records
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I can’t overstate how pleased I was to see the announcement of this album. One of my favourite bands to come out of Vancouver had been off the radar for many years by that point, and to have them come out of hiding with this scathing work of brutality was an absolute treat. There are a lot of bands that trade in this style of heavy d-beat, crust-infused metal, but Erosion have the riffs and ferocity to stand out from the herd. Maximum Suffering is the most fun you can have lamenting the imminent collapse of civilization, and screaming along might just make you feel a bit better about it.

By Coleman Ingram

46. AbrahamLook, Here Comes the Dark!
May 11, 2018
Pelagic Records
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

I let Abraham’s latest effort wash over me unfiltered and without much expectation, not having read any backstory or press, except that it was remarkable. I was left in awe of this grand, swirling monolith of sound. Similar to The Ocean’s thematic organizational approach, Look, Here Comes the Dark! is broken down into four consecutive periods chronicling the disappearance of all forms of life from Earth. Cult of Luna’s Magnus Lindberg produced the album and mixed each period as its own body of work, giving the overall album a real sense of variety and progression. The third (Mycocene) and fourth (Oryktocene) periods are particularly excellent, as this is about the time when you start to expect a conclusion, yet each new piece succeeds in painting the darkness with new colours, somehow pulling you deeper… and deeper… and deeper still…

By Daniel Robichaud

45. Anaal NathrakhA New Kind of Horror
September 28, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

Anaal Nathrakh ruined extreme metal for me. It told me death and black metal were quickly becoming repetitive and stagnant. Why listen to anything else when you can have the best of all extreme elements woven into one song? Then have an album filled with those songs. It’s like putting Dr. Pepper, root beer, cream soda, and blue in a Slurpee. I don’t know one person who doesn’t enjoy layering their Slurpee. Sure, after a while it just becomes a melted pile of brown… but it was the awesomeness at the beginning that mattered. Now ten albums deep, the band figured out the perfect ratio long ago. At this point, it’s just becoming that melted brown. But, somehow, Anaal Nathrakh are making the brown taste good. Maybe it’s the little King Diamond sugar candy on top? Too bad Akercocke couldn’t perfect this recipe years ago…

By Mike Zimmer

44. SectionedAnnihilated
April 26, 2018
Edinburgh, Scotland
independent

This aptly titled descent into madness is kickstarted by a cacophonic aural assault of distorted vocals/shrieks, electronic feedback, and wailing guitars before collapsing into brutal breakdowns and slower, drawn-out snarls layered over screeching noise. It’s a good indicator of the rest to come on this impressive debut, which is an awesome mix of djenty/mathcore guitars with tempos all over the place, but always in a controlled and concise way. It all ends with a gorgeous and chilling piano outro entitled “Through the Trees”, which serves as a sedative after a trip through an asylum, ending a killer album on a positive, uplifting note. The overall tone is uncompromisingly brutal, and the heavy breakdowns work well amidst the chaos. Sectioned are difficult to categorize… Think of Primitive Man/Gaza crossed with Dillinger Escape Plan/Converge and thrown into a rusty blender.

By Abigail Coulson

43. KrukhБезглуздість!
October 26, 2018
Fallen Empire Records
Portland, Oregon; St. Louis, Missouri; New Jersey, United States

Absurdity! (translation) is yet another project from prolific wunderkind Markov Saroka. Hot on the heels of last year’s self-titled release as Tchornobog, the native Ukrainian has taken a deep dive into esoteric black metal, completely in his mother tongue, and produced another totally unique take on a niche sound of extreme metal. Riffs abound through a cacophony of rain and wailing/shouted vocals. The pummelling closer “Голод” (translates to “Famine”) is worth the price of admission alone.

By Coleman Ingram

42. ConjurerMire
March 9, 2018
Holy Roar Records
Rugby, Warwickshire, United Kingdom

Combining sludge and post-metal with a hardcore flair, Conjurer cut back slightly on the atmospheric feel from their earlier EP I, and cranked the blast beat knob to 11. A common problem with records like this is that the songs often start to blend with one another. Songwriting becomes tired and repetitive. Conjurer have circumvented this by remaining exceptionally varied on every track, incorporating rapid tech-death to a slow, agonizing doom sound which sets the listener up for a brutal, relentless sonic assault, the next somehow heavier than before. Desperate grooves juxtaposed by somber ambient sections, mixed in with an overarching theme of old English folklore, this is definitely an album any fan of extreme metal would be hard-pressed to miss.

The Invisible Orange is bringing Conjurer to the Rickshaw Theatre on Tuesday, March 12, opening for Rivers of Nihil, accompanied by Entheos, Wolf King and The Hallowed Catharsis. TICKETS

By Aidan Waterson

41. Immortal Northern Chaos Gods
July 6, 2018
Nuclear Blast
Bergen, Hordaland, Norway

When this Norwegian black metal act disbanded in 2015, they left behind an incredible legacy. These pioneers of second-wave black metal return once again with a marriage of old and new – the harsh, brittle style of the legendary ‘90s material (without the sloppiness) fused with the 2000s era’s grandiosity (without the hyper-polished production). One might jump to label this record as derivative, but it is instead more of a reassurance that they still have what it takes. Despite the roster changes and internal drama, Immortal has produced one of their strongest attempts to date, further imbuing an old-school aesthetic into the band’s dark and chilling vision.

By Aidan Waterson

40. HuntsmenAmerican Scrap
February 23, 2018
Prosthetic Records
Chicago, Illinois, United States

American Scrap grabbed me from the first note, as my ears were prepared for a metal album, yet what I heard was much more than just that. Classic rock and metal fans alike will find much to love here: mid-‘70s Pink Floyd campfires; the duskier moments of early Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and unhurried stoner-psych riffs that drift into and back out of the sludge. It all makes for a supremely satisfying listen. While there is a palpable reminiscence of American golden days (such as the hot and hazy, bittersweet dream that is “Atlantic City”), American Scrap is a transmission from and for an unsettling present where the air is heavy with what lies ahead.

By Daniel Robichaud

39. Long Distance CallingBoundless
February 2, 2018
InsideOut Music
Münster/Dortmund, Germany

Long Distance Calling’s sixth album goes back to their instrumental roots, leaving their vocalist behind in 2016. A journey led by interludes of soft guitar, building to a rhythmic climax that rides for awhile before winding down to an end. It’s the type of music you’d want to take on a hike with you – one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you’re at the top of the mountain, marvelling in the beauty of your surroundings. A metaphor that translates well to a physical reality. Best enjoyed while on a highway drive or as background music, these 49 minutes are time well spent, no matter the setting.

By Kelsey Dionne

38. Yamantaka // Sonic TitanDirt
March 23, 2018
Paper Bag Records
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It’s an album about the discovery of a spaceship called the Anowara, which has the last piece of arable soil. Another chapter in Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s high-concept story world of Pureland. This single album’s narrative is so dense it could show up in paperback form at your local bookstore in the Sci-Fi section. With that, one would expect an epic, symphonically orchestrated soundtrack. But after a few line-up changes, main songwriter (and drummer) Alaska B, had other ideas. Dirt is a more stripped-down version of the weirdness that has become Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s sound. A catchy prog, punk, pop, metal, opera – including a few moments of the patented Slipknot record-scratch. Sorry, no screams or growls here (minus that one part), just two young ladies singing so prettily, with moments of grit. Easily the most accessible album Yamantaka // Sonic Titan has made so far.

By Mike Zimmer

37. Vantablack WarshipAbrasive Pulmonic Speak
January 26, 2018
independent
Montréal, Québec, Canada

This is one of the first releases I got in 2018 and remains one of my favourites for the year. Vantablack Warship is a blend of thrash and death metal, and the guitar structure reminds me somewhat of Celtic Frost but with a thicker sound and a lot of cool riffing. Although the entire album is awesome, the standout track is “Another Dead Rockstar” – it’s in your face with a great chugga-chugga guitar riff and screeching vocals. Montreal has a rich metal scene and I have to say that Vantablack Warship have become my favourite from that city. This band has been around since 2014 and this is their first full-length, which clocks in at a tight 25 minutes. I’m really hoping to hear more music and a longer album by these guys!

By Andy Gronberg

36. WrongFeel Great
April 13, 2018
Relapse Records
Miami, Florida, United States

At the risk of outing myself as a subjective hack, Feel Great by Miami band Wrong hauls so much ass. Guitarists Eric Hernandez and Ryan Haft spent years putting miles on the odometer with Miami-based post-hardcore/sludge legends Capsule. Objectively, musicians of this calibre would be viewed in your own community as prodigious. The instrumentation, songwriting, and execution on Feel Great is of an overwhelmingly high quality. The Hernandez/Haft songwriting duo dials back the chaotic approach of Capsule, substituting it for a streamlined, increasingly punishing feel. There are drill sergeant vocals and stop-start locked grooves aplenty which will surely resonate with any fan of Amphetamine Reptile Records style noise rock.

By Dave Cotton

35. DrudkhЇм часто сниться капіж
March 9, 2018
Season of Mist
Kharkiv, Ukraine

Roman Sayenko and his band keep on developing their style, which began its journey on their third record, Swan Road, their own take on bitter, cold black metal, inspired by the hardships and tragedies of Ukrainian history represented in poems by long-forgotten authors. They Often See Dreams About the Spring (translation) returns Drudkh to their raw, uncut origins. This album won’t win anyone over who doesn’t already understand what the big deal is about Drudkh, as it is very much their signature sound coloured with some garnishes. However, for those keen on learning the inspirations behind the lyrics, Drudkh will reveal something truly special.

By Aidan Waterson

34. Somali Yacht ClubThe Sea
February 22, 2018
Robustfellow Prods. / Kozmik Artifactz
Lviv, Ukraine

Don’t let the goofy band name sway your opinion of Ukrainian power trio Somali Yacht Club. I recommended their 2018 release The Sea more often than any other new record this year and the response I got back was unanimously in favour. Their sound is immediately familiar with flavours of psych rock, doom, shoegaze, and stoner rock, but it’s the band’s quality songwriting coalesces the parts into something uniquely stirring and tips the scales towards greatness. Somali Yacht Club’s following really seemed to grow exponentially in 2018, and with good reason – The Sea is a phenomenal psychedelic stoner rock recording.

By Dave Cotton

33. AvslutDeceptis
February 23, 2018
Osmose Productions
Stockholm, Sweden

Avslut are clearly seasoned musicians. They do not sound like a band that has only been together for two years – the musicianship is superb. Deceptis features nine tracks of sordid black metal. Mixed and mastered by Magnus Andersson, who has previously worked with Marduk, the album has strong production values yet manages to maintain an overall feeling of extreme rage and darkness. It doesn’t sound like it was recorded with one microphone inside Varg’s infernal weather machine. In my opinion, Deceptis is not only one of the best black metal albums of 2018, it’s one of the best metal albums of 2018. Period. Standout tracks for me are “Pestilens”, “Deceptis”, and “Terra Matter”. Fans of Watain, Emperor, and Nordjevel should give this a spin.

By John Murray

32. VVORSEAjatus Vapaudesta (EP)
December 5, 2018
Inverse Records
Jyväskylä, Finland

Coming at you from Finland, the album title by VVORSE translates to Thought of Freedom. This album was a late addition to my top ten heavy metal albums of 2018 and it shot way up my chart to number three! Musically, they play a mix of crust hardcore and metal, and it just goes along at a good speed pummelling your senses with a substantial emphasis on the word “heavy” in heavy metal. Yes, they do have hardcore punk roots, but this album squarely lands on the heavy metal side of the spectrum. A bit of backtracking and checking out their earlier albums confirms they are definitely getting heavier with each release. Crank this sucker loud and get lost in a world of heaviness and despair.

By Andy Gronberg

31. EvokenHypnagogia
November 9, 2018
Profound Lore Records
Lyndhurst, New Jersey, United States

I only recently discovered this gem from New Jersey and, no pose, have only listened as far back as their last album Atra Mors, so the legacy of Evoken is somewhat lost on me. Legacy aside, an understanding of this band as founding fathers of American funeral doom is not necessary to appreciate the utter gloom and subtle beauty of the latest masterpiece in their discography. Hypnagogia is an absolutely crushing album, sonically (obvi) and thematically, detailing the misery of a WWI soldier’s final hours; but what really sticks out for me is the melancholy woven in, through precious application of cello, synth, and of course, those mournful leads. It is an album that could burrow its way into your soul, if you let it.

By Coleman Ingram

30. HopesfallArbiter
July 13, 2018
Equal Vision/Graphic Nature
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Space-rock outfit Hopesfall had a memorable run amid the aughts’ post-hardcore goldrush. They left behind one universally loved album, The Satellite Years, among their extensive discography. First meeting in a bowling league, this weekly hangout resulted in subsequent basement jam sessions. At the very least, half of the songs on Arbiter, the band’s fourth and latest full-length, should be considered among the best in the Hopesfall canon. Opener “Faint Object Camera” erupts like celestial volcanic matter; equal parts crushing post-hardcore and classic melodicism. Singles “H.A. Wallace Space Academy” and “Tunguska”, along with the aforementioned album opener, not to mention album closer “Indignation and the Rise of the Arbiter”, are all examples of the best of the post-hardcore genre. Arbiter is a fully realized artistic triumph in every regard.

By Dave Cotton

29. Gama BombSpeed Between the Lines
October 12, 2018
AFM Records
Newry / Dublin, Ireland

You know what I like when it’s done right? Thrash metal! There are a lot of mediocre bands out there just going through the motions. Not the case with Gama Bomb. Speed Between the Lines is their sixth full-length release featuring 12 blistering tracks that will have you banging your head to the point you’ll need a neck brace! Lyrically, they like to sing about zombies, monsters, war, and inject it with a fair share of humour. Musically, Gama Bomb are very tight, with very good guitar work, and a vocalist who can sing and take it up a notch and shriek in falsetto. This Irish band has been around for 16 years and it’s good to hear new material by them.

By Andy Gronberg

28. the body I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.
May 11, 2018
Thrill Jockey Records
Portland, Oregon, United States

Extreme music’s version of Rush has come out with a more cinematic album this time around. If you hate the shrilling vocals that The Body have become known for, you now have an incestuous cast of guests that vary the menu: Chrissy Wolpert (Assembly of Light ), Ben Eberle (Sandworm), Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota), and Michael Berdan (Uniform). Together, they bring you on a visceral journey though desperation and loneliness, hence the title “I Have Fought Against It…”, which is a quote from Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter. Once you navigate through the sea of dissonance, constructed with samples from the band’s own back catalogue, hip hop, pop, and Jamaican artist Eek-a-Mouse, you are left with a reading from Czech author Bohumil Hrabal’s novel Too Loud a Solitude. It is a fitting end to an album from a band that is very hard to pin down.

By Mike Zimmer

27. Christ AirChrist Air (EP)
March 28, 2018
Independent
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Christ Air seemed to have just blasted onto the Vancouver scene out of nowhere. I was lucky enough to see them play at 333 in Vancouver in the spring of 2015 and was impressed from the get-go. This band has a rich history in the local Vancouver scene including members from bands like Fratricide, Hong Kong Blonde and Strapping Young Lad. The Christ Air EP incorporates the best elements of crossover – speed and aggression! This EP was released in April and I have been listening to it non-stop ever since. I honestly have not gotten sick of it, and in fact, I enjoy it more and more with each listen. If you have a chance, go see them live. You will not be disappointed!

By Andy Gronberg

26. WTCHDRFailed Ambition
February 2, 2018
independent
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Despite clocking in at a trim 23 minutes, Failed Ambition does not feel rushed or incomplete. Instead, WTCHDR’s latest drips of immediacy and, after a deceivingly subdued intro, proceeds to beat you into the muck with a back-and-forth of reckless, self-loathing fury and pounding hardcore rhythms. I’ve shared words on this pain-grenade of an album a few times already this year. Perhaps the time has come to let the band speak for itself: “After years and years of aggressively trying to improve yourself and change your outlook on life, you eventually give up and accept the failure for what it is: an inability to cope with your surroundings. Your ambitions die, you have failed, now you stumble through life awaiting the end. This is the soundtrack.”

By Daniel Robichaud

25. Cult LeaderA Patient Man
November 9, 2018
Deathwish Inc.
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

With A Patient Man, in a nutshell, Cult Leader create an extremely satisfying concoction of post-hardcore, sludge, and grind with a surprising couple of misery ballads sandwiched in the middle. Exploding straight into first track “I Am Healed”, it’s clear this is going to be a pretty damn blistering album. The aggression continues, with pummelling blast beats and discordant but controlled riffs as a strong backbone to anguished howls, until the fourth track, “To Achlys”. Just as in the eye of a tornado, the chaos comes to a standstill in a depressing, Nick Cave-esque ballad, a vibe which continues in “A World of Joy”. The peacefulness is broken after these two lengthy lullabies with what feels like even more brutality. Slower, blackened touches of post-hardcore conclude a pretty epic journey which I, personally, want to take – and have taken – over and over.

By Abigail Coulson

24. The Lion’s DaughterFuture Cult
July 20, 2018
Season of Mist
St. Louis, Missouri, United States

There’s a lot of “synthy” stuff going on these days, and lots of it really cool, but almost nobody is using it to such evil effect as The Lion’s Daughter have on Future Cult. It’s the first thing you hear when you push play and it plays a huge part in maintaining the vibe throughout, making the album sound like the score to a messed-up short film. Part John Carpenter soundtrack, part Genghis Tron-lite, it definitely has the creep factor dialled in, encouraging your brain to fill in the visual blanks with any retro slasher or occult imagery you like.

By Nate Betts

23. The Atlas MothComa Noir
February 9, 2018
Prosthetic Records
Chicago, Illinois, United States

The first release with new drummer Mike Miczek, Coma Noir is an energetic and adventurous experience that clearly portrays a growth from previous records. There seems to be more of a cohesion between band members that is reflected in the precision riffs and spot-on vocals that was missing in the past. One of my favourite songs off the album, “The Streets of Bombay”, successfully blends melodic anger with a dark, classic, post-metal feel. Catchy instrumentals and tension-building verses help make this a notable record from start to finish.

By Kim Arychuk

22. Bosse-de-Nage Further Still
September 14, 2018
The Flenser
San Francisco, California, United States

Bosse-de-Nage have conjured up a colossal musical fury with their fifth album Further Still. Subjectively, I’m too old and am wincing while typing these subgenres, but while their hometown peers and fellow purveyors of “post-black metal” or “blackgaze” Deafheaven have infused their newer music with post-rock along with thrash and art metal leanings, Bosse-de-Nage have remained relatively true to their sound. The band broke from tradition with this release by doing press; previously the band members remained anonymous and did no interviews. This transparency unveiled that vocalist Bryan Manning is actually an author, thus explaining the wordy, intellectual bent to the band’s lyrics. The opening salvo of “The Trench”, “Down Here”, and “Crux” could very well be the three best songs the band has ever penned, culminating in what is so far their finest album.

By Dave Cotton

21. Harm’s WayPosthuman
February 9, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago’s Harm’s Way have put out a crushing metalcore album with their latest effort, Posthuman, in the form of a hate-letter critiquing the human condition. This future-focused sentiment is heard and felt clearly throughout the album. Genre-pushing songs like “Temptation” and “Dissect Me” feature touches of melody mixed with electronic flourishes. The album slams the listener against walls of tight instrumentals and destructive drums, all wrapped in dynamic vocals. Posthuman is one of the best aggressive albums this year, and a well-executed glimpse into the kinds of sounds that may be featured more prominently in the future of this scene.

By Adam Clark

20. Uada Cult of a Dying Sun
May 25, 2018
Eisenwald
Portland, Oregon, United States

On their sophomore release, Cult of a Dying Sun, Uada extend the musical branches of a burnt, hellish tree, spreading ash, dust and decay with atmospheric beauty. Featuring seven tracks with none under the five-minute mark, Uada is like an open window in winter. I can almost see my breath listening to this, or maybe it’s the ceiling fan and single pane windows… Uada are best experienced live. Their set at Québec Deathfest was exceptional. Cult of a Dying Sun is one of the best metal albums of the year, and points to a bright future ahead for the Portland foursome.

By John Murray

19. Tomb MoldManor of Infinite Forms
June 8, 2018
20 Buck Spin
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto’s Tomb Mold burst onto to the death metal scene in 2017 with the album Primordial Malignancy. Their first album was an underground banger that ended up on many year-end lists and left death metal fans ready for more of their putrid and alien style. Their cavernous sound weaves with horrifying precision that showcases some of the best death metal songwriting in years. Just 15 months later, the duo, now a four-member group, have followed up their first effort with a brutal and festering journey through yet another nightmarish mindscape with Manor of Infinite Forms – another incredible, winding maze of an album and without doubt one of the best of the year.

By Adam Clark

18. WayfarerWorld’s Blood
May 25, 2018
Profound Lore Records
Denver, Colorado, United States

While the world of black metal was built on the bleak imagery of the frigid Scandinavian winter, Wayfarer take their strain and conjure something different, replacing the icy Norwegian aesthetic with the dust and desolation of the American Midwest. This theme is not in and of itself completely original, nor is it alone on this year’s list (see Panopticon’s The Scars of Man on The Once Nameless Wilderness), but what Wayfarer do so well on this release is add a layer of texture which brings the listener out of the North and onto the plains, flowing seamlessly between the chaos of a stampede and desperate, hungry nights alone in the wilderness.

By Nate Betts

17. PanopticonThe Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (Part 1)
April 6, 2018
Bindrune Recordings
Minnesota, United States

With Scars of Man…, Austin Lunn has taken an ambitious and bold step in following his unique muses. The blistering black metal epic that is Part I is probably the most intense and ferocious album he’s ever made. From the closing of the introductory “Watch the Lights Fade” into “En Hvit Ravns Dod”, there is hardly a moment to catch your breath before the stunningly gorgeous conclusion of “Snow Burdened Branches”. Some of the only respite on offer is from spoken word sections courtesy of author and environmentalist Sigurd F. Olson, anchoring the album solidly into its core theme of the spiritual necessity of wilderness. Yet for all the ferocity, the songs still carry with them an at times sorrowful and others majestic quality; immense and towering like the mountains that inspired them; serene and breathtaking like the forest where they were written and recorded.

By Coleman Ingram

16. Hamferð Támsins likam
January 12, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Támsins likam marks the final instalment of a trilogy that began in 2010 on Hamferð’s debut Vilst er síðsta fet and continued on 2013’s Evst. The trilogy, which tells the story of a family that suffers the death of a child and is then visited by ghosts, was released in reverse order, so this concluding album is technically the first chapter. It is a tragic story of loss and longing, dipped in dark mystery, set to meticulously crafted doom arrangements. If you don’t speak Faroese, worry not – vocalist Jón Aldará transmits all the feeling you’ll ever need with his subtly dramatic, dynamic delivery that soars through the skies and growls from the depths. The Faroe Islands – Come for the annual traditional whale slaughter where the sea runs red with blood… Stay for the Hamferð.

By Daniel Robichaud

15. Zatokrev / MinskBigod (split)
October 5, 2018
Czar of Crickets Productions
Basel, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland (Z) / Peoria & Chicago, Illinois, United States (M)

It’s not often that two bands collaborate on a release as cohesive and unified as Minsk and Zatokrev have on Bigod, a four-song offering that satisfies more than most full-lengths. The first track, “Invoke and Revive”, is classic Minsk: pummelling the listener straight out of the gates with the churning rhythmicity and ritualistic intensity they are known for. Real good stuff. Switzerland’s Zatokrev follows suit with the next two cuts, building delicate atmosphere before showing their heavier side, fitting in seamlessly with the vibe and pace set by their American brethren, who return to close out the short-player. It’s clear that all parties involved were drinking the same Kool-Aid on this one, and the result is phenomenal.

By Nate Betts

14. Sleep The Sciences
April 20, 2018
Third Man Records
Oakland, California, United States

If you’ve never heard of Sleep, or their famous song “Dragonaut”, you better turn in your joints to the marijuana police. A classic Sleep staple and safe for use with most medications, this meditative album starts off with some guitar feedback and a bong rip. You’re then thrown into the land of guitar solos, layered over rhythmic drums, and slow ripping bass. An ode to stoner rock, this album leans towards doomy riffs praising the likes of Tony Iommi and the marijuana gods of all kinds. Chugging through the album, you will not be disappointed in Sleep’s ability to be reliably and enjoyably predictable.

By Kelsey Dionne

13. DaughtersYou Won’t Get What You Want
October 26, 2018
Ipecac Recordings
Providence, Rhode Island, United States

“Uncomfortable Reality” is another title Daughters’ latest album could have been named, but they decided on a more fitting choice. You Won’t Get What You Want delivers on every aspect of what its title intends. From the blatant negative lyrical subjects to the hypnotizing sounds that bury you further into despair, this album does exactly what it was meant to do – make you feel TERRIBLE in the most honest and beautiful way. Daughters have matured their sound from the spastic, mathcore project they once were to this dark, mature band that really seems to have honed in on why they were meant to play music together in the first place. I could break down some of the tunes in my own words, but it’s best that you put the album on, turn the lights low, open up the lyric sheet, and indulge, embrace, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike any other album released in 2018.

By Justin Schulte

12. Author & PunisherBeastland
October 5, 2018
Relapse Records
San Diego, California, United States

Tristan Shone – the man behind the experimental, aggressive and industrial doom metal creations of Author & Punisher – is back with his newest release and he does not disappoint. With new prosthetics and machines to help distort and augment sounds, Beastland pushes the boundaries of unconventional metal. This album has a gloomier feel than his past releases, but it also feels more melodic, with a hypnotic effect that keeps you wanting to listen again and again. Shone’s vocals are haunting throughout and help break up the intensity of the droning and feedback-heavy instrumentals. The final and title track ends the listening experience with an intensity that leaves you reeling and wanting more. This could arguably be his best album yet.

By Kim Arychuk

11. Revocation The Outer Ones
September 28, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Extreme/thrash standouts Revocation take the technical guitar licks and the signature vocal tone of David Davidson in a much more death metal direction with their latest effort. Featuring lyrics inspired by H. P. Lovecraft stories, the band from Boston are at the top of their game, weaving dissonant melodies by taking the album in a noticeably darker direction. Expertly warping through a multitude of technical death metal sounds and progressive elements that maintain a death-inspired heaviness, The Outer Ones makes for Revocation’s most interesting album best album to date.

By Adam Clark

10. Night VersesFrom the Gallery of Sleep
June 29, 2018
Equal Vision Records
Los Angeles, California, United States

Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for instrumental bands, what impresses me most about Night Verses is their ability to create a fascinating album while leaving out the monotony of predictable crescendos many outfits so often choose. From the Gallery of Sleep is a well-thought-out jam, blending progressive metal, trip hop and hyper-technical guitars with a touch of ambiance. This album is layered and deep, starting out heavy to show the listener they can bang their head, but they quickly prove they can also shake that ass. The variety and quality alone make it worth the full listen. It’s a great choice both for foreground and background music, but you may get distracted if you opt for the latter as Night Verses’ latest is nothing if not engaging.

By Kelsey Dionne

9. SUMACLove in Shadow
September 21, 2018
Thrill Jockey Records
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada / Vashon, Washington, United States

Since Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom), Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), and Brian Cook (Russian Circles) formed SUMAC in 2014, they have been a staple on my playlists. Love in Shadow, their third full- length album is no exception. You can definitely sense a more improvisational feel thanks, in part, to their collaboration earlier this year with Japanese avant-garde musician, Keiji Haino. The album starts out with the familiar animalistic vocals and sludge metal riffs, and slowly transforms into droning melodies and jazz-influenced explorations of sound. The combination of post-metal noise and complex composition makes for an excellent listening experience.

By Kim Arychuk

8. High on FireElectric Messiah
October 5, 2018
eOne Records
Oakland, California, United States

High on Fire’s latest album Electric Messiah, the name in tribute to the late Lemmy of Motörhead, is a powerful album full of ferocious energy. It is a showcase of the trio’s late ‘70s metal-inspired sound that’s relentless, gritty, and best of all – loud. It is a style of bludgeoning chaos that metalheads have come to expect from Matt Pike and his team of metal legends. Through the band’s experienced vision, the album offers classic sounds (“The Pallid Mask”) and new experiments such as a “Sumerian rock opera” (“Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil”). Perhaps their defining record, Electric Messiah is an impressive step up for a band with a legacy of classic albums.

By Adam Clark

7. ASGSurvive Sunrise
June 15, 2018
Wilmington, North Carolina, United States
Relapse Records

Survive Sunrise comes after five long years of waiting since the equally awesome Blood Drive. I will never understand how this band is so sinfully underrated, having been going now for 17 years. They mix together melodic punk rock with stoner doom to perfection, which somehow results in upbeat rock’n’roll that isn’t too cheesy and actually has a pretty dark undertone. Beginning track “Survive Sunrise” kickstarts the journey with soaring vocals (that have that cheesy punk-rock “happy” feel but also enough of a raw edge to be much more than that) over galloping, stoner-tinged guitar riffs. The vocals are uplifting, but the lyrics quite depressing, making for an interesting interplay and giving everything a poignant feel. Punches of heaviness and psychedelia are strewn throughout, which keeps things refreshing and exciting.

By Abigail Coulson

6. SlugdgeEsoteric Malacology
March 2, 2018
Willowtip Records
Lancashire, England, United Kingdom

This album is massive. Slugdge originally started as a two-piece studio project in Lancashire, England in 2012. With the release of this year’s Esoteric Malacology, their fourth full-length, original members Kevin Pearson and Matt Moss have added members Matt Lowe and Alan Cassidy of Black Dahlia Murder on drums. This release has it all – great riffs, brutal and dynamic vocals, and incredible rhythms. This is without a doubt my favourite album this year. Rumours are they may actually tour for the first time in 2019. If you are unfamiliar with this band, take note. Listen and get ready to bow down to the mighty Mollusca! I can’t wait to see what happens next.

By John Murray

5. The Ocean CollectivePhanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
November 2, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Berlin, Germany

For good reason, this progressive metal marvel is my personal #1 pick of 2018. After a soft ingress of guitar and synths, you’re blasted with the beginnings of a journey of evolution and extinction. If you appreciate thought-provoking lyrics, the theme’s raw and bleak content will spiral you into the reality of today’s social and environmental climate. An absolute powerhouse of heaviness while striking the perfect balance between guitars, drums, bass and vocals, both clean and heavy. I implore you – listen to it with a good pair of headphones, or on quality speakers. The attention to detail cannot be missed. Every bit of this album was carefully thought out, offering a satisfying ride from start to finish.

By Kelsey Dionne

4. ThouMagus
August 31, 2018
Sacred Bones Records
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States

Viciously heavy sludge, massive riffs reinforced by tragic harmonized guitars, moving at the speed of tectonic plates under blackened, roaring vocals. Cathartic music at its prime. Hailing from a sleepy college town in Louisiana, Thou released three EPs, one split with Ragana, and the full-length Magus, which could be
considered the “core” Thou sound and their chief offering of the year, tying together the primarily different sounds toyed with on the EPs. Before one sinks their teeth into the behemoth project that is Magus, it is fully suggested to at least give a cursory look at their supporting releases of the year, as each appears to celebrate the innovation and collective sound Thou has established over the years.

By Aidan Waterson

3. ErdveVaitojimas
February 9, 2018
Season of Mist
Vilnius, Lithuania

Vaitojimas, the debut from an until-recently little-known Lithuanian foursome, Erdve, has crashed its way into my personal top ten. “Vaitojimas” translates roughly into English as “moaning” or “whining”, and from the initial agonized scream on the first and title track, this album takes you on a dark, sludgy, post-hardcore descent into ugliness. The furious vocals, exploding riffs, and droning bass keep the energy up throughout the entire 37 minutes, and the obvious undercurrent of anger and darkness does not let up. From start to finish, all six tracks are an assault on the senses and will leave you wanting more.

By Kim Arychuk

2. Rivers of NihilWhere Owls Know My Name
March 16, 2018
Metal Blade Records
Reading, Pennsylvania, United States

Maybe it’s the owls, but I thought myself in Twin Peaks upon hearing the album’s first notes; an illusion quickly shattered by “The Silent Life”, which includes the most metal use of the word “erroneously” ever recorded (I checked). The vocals throughout Rivers’ latest are mostly talk-growled and very intelligible. Actually, everything here is very clean and clear, surely as intended by Grammy-nominated producers Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland, who also produced the band’s Hierarchy (2010) and Monarchy (2015). Some prefer their nasty metal dirty, but this glossy mix works very well here, allowing every pummeling, chugging, noodling sound to shine in a razor-sharp, stainless glory. Where Owls Know My Name makes for an easily enjoyable and accessible stew of weird vibes, memorable songwriting, and serious headbangability.

The Invisible Orange is bringing Rivers of Nihil to the Rickshaw Theatre on Tuesday, March 12 with Entheos, Conjurer, Wolf King and The Hallowed Catharsis. TICKETS

By Daniel Robichaud

1. YOBOur Raw Heart
June 8, 2018
Relapse Records
Eugene, Oregon, United States

YOB continue to ascend to greatness with every new release. Born out of a near-death experience by frontman and guitarist Mike Scheidt, this emotional and transcendental masterpiece is a bit of a miracle in itself. Our Raw Heart is a perfect amalgamation of previous offerings, blending the psychedelia of Clearing the Path to Ascend with the brutal heaviness of Atma. It is still incredibly doomy and melancholic overall, but with a sense of building brightness throughout which makes for an inspirational listen. Opener “Ablaze” is the perfect track for the start of this epic voyage, nay, pilgrimage, and bursts forth with a crashing heaviness punctuated by Scheidt’s sincere and piercing vocals. It has a beautiful rhythm that starts the ebb and flow of the tide that carries you through the rest of the album. “The Screen” dives into the abyss with claustrophobic, foreboding chugging and threatening growls. The album continues on much in this same vein of mesmerisation and devastation, but rather than the negativity doom often portrays, a feeling of hope is consistently present. The aggression has a determination of fighting the darkness (rather than succumbing to it), and the overall message reminds us that despite all the terrible tragedy and struggles in life, there is still so much beauty to be grateful for. At the risk of sounding cheesy, Our Raw Heart leaves me feeling pretty raw-hearted and often teary-eyed by the end. YOB is, indeed, love.

By Abigail Coulson
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