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Articles : Metal Obsession’s Top Albums of 2018

By on December 31, 2018

This year has seen some amazing highs and unfortunate low in the world of heavy metal. We saw the announcement of Slayer to embark on their final world tour after 37 years together, Machine Head‘s longtime members Phil Dimmel (guitarist) and Dave McClain (drummer) parted ways with the band, however, Robb Flynn confirmed this wouldn’t be the end entirely.

Judas Priest‘s Glenn Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and countless great musicians lost their lives, including; Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah. May they all rest in peace. But it’s not all bad, folks. Australia got to experience the debut of Download Festival in Melbourne in March with headliners Korn, Prophets of Rage, Mastodon, plus a stack of other amazing bands, including; Amon Amarth, Sabaton, Suicidal Tendencies, Northlane and Psycroptic. Things are shaping up to be massive for the next Download in Melbourne, as well as Sydney in March 2019.

In early December, the east coast of Australia got to experience Good Things Festival, a festival similar to the now-defunct Soundwave Festival with headliners The Offspring and Stone Sour performing, plus a slew of other amazing bands. Plus let’s not forget the ridiculous amount of amazing albums on offer this year! Let’s look at some of the top picks from Metal Obsession’s writers, shall we?

Chris Reid

2018 has been another great year for heavy music. My top 10 list is a bit of a mixed bag of styles, some old favourites and some new bands too, a mix of Australian and international acts.  Enjoy!

Haken – Vector – Inside Out

Vector pocks up nicely from where Affinity left off. Yet again Haken nail the balance between restrained song writing and the sort of out of this world musicianship synonymous with heavy progressive music. I’ve said it before and will say it again- The 6 piece from the UK are quickly establishing themselves as the pre-eminent Progressive band of this decade, arguably taking the baton from the likes of Dream Theater and Rush before them.

Horrendous – Idol – Seasons of Mist

Idol may just be best progressive death metal album I’ve heard in some time. I hear a bit of Atheist and Death influence in what they do, but at the same time these guys sound fresh and inspired. I enjoy the vocal delivery as it’s not the typical sound that I’ve come to hear on ‘every other release’ these days. The guitars are great too –  the riffs and lead work are tasty af. Just a great album.

Beyond Creation – Algorythm – Seasons of Mist

Algorhytm by Beyond Creation takes everything I like from the Tech Death, Progressive death, and Progressive metal genres throws it all in a blender and provides an incredibly well-delivered slab of Tech/Prog Metal. There is Top shelf playing on every instrument on this release, pushing boundaries in their own hyper virtuosic approach to musical arrangement. I find it very hard to fault this release.

Voivod – The Wake – Century Media Records

Voivod have delivered a phenomenal album in 2018. The Wake hits on all of the sweet spots in Voivod’s sound – music which is equal parts prog and thrash, yet has a punk edge and a scifi overtone. Over the years this band have been criminally underrated –  but by releasing an album that is this good, this late in their career Voivod will hopefully ensure that their music is rightly embraced by this generation of metal heads.

Psycroptic – As the kingdom drowns – Prosthetic Records

As The Kingdom Drowns is a fantastic release. Psycroptic have created arguably the most accessible tech death album that you will hear in 2018. Unlike some of the tech death that gets released I today’s day and age, this album doesn’t require you to be a musician to ‘get’ it. Whilst I’ll always hold 2003’s master work The Sceptre of the Ancients in a league above most, As The Kingdom Drowns is a really great album and arguably my favourite Psycroptic release since 2008’s Ob(Servant) .

Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms  – 20 Buck Spin

Canada’s Tomb Mold have laid down an absolutely savage release. For me, it’s a perfect blend of old school brutal death metal, with slight hints of tech/progressive elements to keep me entertained. I love the early 90’s style production on this release and the low gutturals – It gives the music an authentic soul which I find lacking in some of the death metal released in today’s day and age.

Amorphis – Queen of Time – Nuclear Blast

 Amorphis have released a great album in Queen of Time. Sure, the now classic ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ is often regarded to be the bands defining work, but I believe this album is a better reflection of who the band are in 2018.   Queen of Time is a great mix of all of the melodic, progressive & heavy elements that the band have developed over their career. This album is the sort of disk which could stay in your car stereo for an entire year. It’s not the best album of the year, but the big chorus hooks will keep you coming back again and again.

Gruesome- Twisted Prayers – Relapse Records

Gruesome are a Self-proclaimed ‘Death’ worship band and that’s fine by me. I find this album to be a really enjoyable listen – imitation is the highest form of flattery and Gruesome  do the legacy of Death and Chuck proud with their take on all things Death on the album Twisted Prayers. 

Depravity – Evil Upheaval – Transcending Obscurity

Ripping full length debut from Perth’s Depravity. Evil Upheaval is death metal as it was originally intended and captures the same blend of controlled chaos and malicious intent which was captured on Morbid Angel’s early work. Make no mistake, this album is just as technically proficient and polished as a major label death metal release, but contains a level of legitimate fury which is uncommon in today’s day and age. Whilst Depravity will clearly appeal do die hard death metal fans with a penchant for the old school, I have no doubts that this album will be well received by fans of newer death metal styles too.

Boss Keloid – Melted on The Inch  – Holy Roar Records

U.K’s Boss Keloid have created a damn addictive release with Melted on the Inch. Think smatterings of sludge, psychedelia & prog blended with modern songwriting of the likes of like System of a Down and Queens of the Stone Age. I even hear a bit of Tenacious D in the vocal delivery. Whatever the case, this album is a very easy and enjoyable listen.

Rod Whitfield

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not in absolute raptures about what a stunning year in new music it was. Usually at this time of year, in these retrospectives I am waxing lyrical about how much amazing new music came out, and lamenting the fact that I feel I need to squeeze 20 or more albums into a Top 10 of the year, regretting what I have to leave out. This year I struggled a little. I’m sure 2018 will be an anomaly however. 2019 is already shaping up to be better, and it hasn’t even started yet…

The Dali Thundering Concept – Savages – Arpathia Records

Weird, wild and wonderful, this French ensemble create music that is about as experimental as djenty progressive metal gets. A real headtrip, but a highly enjoyable one.

Tesseract – Sonder – Kscope

This band is running like a perfectly tuned V8 engine, a powerhouse that purrs sweetly and powerfully along the highway, but is also capable of making quick and nimble turns. Sonder is a precise, economic statement of the immense appeal of this band.

Haken – Vector – Inside Out Music

Modern prog masters, Vector is a masterpiece. Twists, turns, magnificent songwriting and musicianship of the highest possible calibre. Make sure you see this band live when they visit your neck of the woods in 2019.

Circles – The Last One – Wild Thing Records/Seasons of Mist

Replacing an iconic frontman is scary as hell for any band, but this Melbourne four-piece appear, at least from the outside looking in, taken it in their stride. The Last One is a fabulous comeback from possible adversity for this band, although I still their absolute best is yet to come.

Dead Letter Circus – Dead Letter Circus – Rise Records

Previously, DLC would be vying for number one status in a given release year. Their self-titled fourth record is not their best work, but it really only suffers in comparison to their illustrious back-catalogue, it’s still an excellent progressive/alternative rock release.

The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic – Pelagic/Wild Thing Records

In my review I wrote: ‘somehow manages to be grim, gloomy and conceptually dystopian and devastating, but inspiring and cathartic at the same time. It’s difficult to comprehend how they’ve pulled this off, but they have.’ And I stand by that. This is a mind-altering concept album.

Modern Day Babylon – Coma – Independent

This band just keeps on producing the blistering instrumental goods. Why they continue to be ‘unsigned’ is a mystery, unless it’s by choice.

The Eternal – Waiting for the Endless Dawn – Inverse Records

This is this massively underrated Melbourne band’s sixth album, and it is by far the darkest, doomiest, dredgiest thing they’ve done. They’ve gone all out on the grimness this time, but produced something rather beautiful at the same time.

Architects – Holy Hell – Epitaph

A 40 minute barrage of emotional intensity, this long-running and prolific UK progressive act have produced another cracker.

Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau – Aural Records

Doomy, progressive, symphonic goodness from this underrated Aussie gem.

Ben Hillier

As often as this gets stated, 2018 was a genuinely great year for metal releases. Underground extreme metal tends to be my main area, but there have been some excellent releases across all genres this year. Given the quality of this year’s releases, I wanted to open with some honourable mentions that were just edged-out by some great albums.

Honourable Mentions

At the Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself

A solid return to form that shows promising things to come from the revitalised creators of melodic death metal.

Void Rot – Consumed By Oblivion

An awesome three-track death/doom EP; can’t wait to hear the full-length debut!

Depravity – Evil Upheaval

Excellent debut from Perth death metallers that appeals to fans of old-school and new forms alike.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter

Rarely is ‘beautiful’ used to describe black metal, but it certainly applies to the spacey, atmospheric music delivered by Mesarthim (their ‘Cosmic Wall’ EP/song released in July was also great).

On to the full list!

10: Portal – Ion – Profound Lore Records

Portal are weird and esoteric, but I feel as though this year’s Ion was the first album of theirs that helped me to really ‘get’ Portal. Portal have certainly not compromised on their sound or experimental approach to atmospheric death metal, delivering another blistering album of insanity and madness. Ion does not so much reward repeated listens as demand them, but there’s a great album for those who can peer beyond the veneer of extremity into the compositions below.

9: Uada – Cult of a Dying Sun – Eisenwald Tonschmiede

For all the comparisons I see made between Uada and melodic black metal bands like Mgła, I feel as though Uada are gradually staking out their own niche in the genre. With an influence from trad and thrash thrown into the black metal mix, Uada’s Cult of A Dying Sun is a worthy follow up to their debut Devoid of Light, delivering some fantastic songs and melodies. It’s sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in the more melodic side of black metal and is a standout example of modern bands in this style.

8: Hoth – Astral Necromancy – Independent

While Hoth seem to have discarded some of their ‘Star Wars’ theming in recent years, their sound has continued to evolve. Those looking for a second Oathbreaker might find themselves initially disappointed, as Hoth have moved away from this style of melodic death metal with a blackened touch to go closer to black metal in the vein of Dissection. That said, the resulting album is excellent and atmospheric, showing that the band have developed their songwriting chops into a much more focused sound. If you can leave preconceptions of style at the door, this album has a lot to offer.

7: Golgothan Remains – Perverse Offerings to the Void – Independent

This was the surprise release of the year for me. Golgothan Remains are a new-ish death metal band from Sydney who play some filthy, murky, old school death metal. With just the right balance between crushing heaviness and catchy melodies, Perverse Offerings to the Void scratched the OSDM itch I had and stood up to repeated listens. There’s excellent songwriting on display here as well, with the band demonstrating that they know exactly when to develop or repeat or when to move on with the next barrage of musical material. If this is their debut, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

6: Psycroptic – As The Kingdom Drowns – Prosthetic Records/EVP Records

As I mentioned in my review of As the Kingdom Drowns a few months back, tech-death isn’t usually my thing. That said, Psycroptic have managed to catch my attention with a phenomenal album that comes as no surprise for fans of the Tassie metal icons. There’s a maturity to this album that comes through in the songwriting that manages to combine melodic female vocals, light symphonic elements and brutal death metal riffing without any of the elements feeling tokenistic or half-hearted. Special mention as well to the fantastic ‘gang vocals’ featured on tracks like Deadlands that really add the next level of aggression and ‘headbanging-ness’ to the album.

5: Judas Priest – Firepower – Columbia Records

I must admit, I expected this album to be mediocre-at-best, being somewhat sceptical about ‘classic bands’ that release new albums to compete with the stand-out albums in their decades-long discography. Judas Priest have proved me wrong with Firepower, standing as one of their best releases since 1990’s Painkillier (which might be their original ‘comeback album’). It’s extremely impressive that a band can put out an album of this quality 40+ years after they started, not to mention how impressive Rob Halford’s singing and vocal timbre is at 67! Firepower is an excellent example of traditional heavy metal that delivers an aggressive punch alongside solid riffing, catchy melodies, and the occasional ballad.

4: Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma – Osmose Productions

Funeral Doom isn’t usually my thing either, but there’s something about Mournful Congregation’s particular take on the genre that I’ve always found compelling. Equal parts crushing, depressive, grandiose and beautiful (yet never boring), The Incubus of Karma manages to weave sparkling clean guitar arpeggios and harmonised melodies in amongst guttural vocals and pounding riffs. It’s a bit like an iceberg – the melodic lead guitars catch your attention above the surface before you look below and discover the funeral doom goodness hanging in the depths below. With 80 minutes of gradually-unfolding doom, there’s more than enough here to captivate a listener.

3: Slægt – The Wheel – Van Records

While bands that mix black metal and traditional heavy metal have certainly been around for a while, I’ve noticed a recent increase of this style over the past two years (a good thing, in my opinion). Denmark’s Slægt seem to be in the midst of this trend, with last year’s Domus Mysterium and this year’s The Wheel both being excellent examples of the style. The Wheel feels like it’s left some of the more overt folk influences behind, mixing in straightfoward NWOBHM and classic black metal in the vein of Darkthrone and Mayhem. Their sound is a bit more focused, a bit more polished and overall very engaging, resulting in one of the stand-out albums of 2018.

2: Atra Vetosus – Apricity – Immortal Frost Productions

Hailing from the cold, frostbitten north (of Tasmania), Atra Vetosus deliver another well-written album of atmospheric black metal with a distinct viking metal influence (Bathory viking metal, not Amon Amarth “viking” metal). There’s some beautiful guitar work on this album, with sparkling classical guitar lines giving way to tremolo-picked riffs, blast beats and howls. It’s really quite relaxing in a way as the music washes over you, but it’s not too ‘samey’ or boring, with elements in the song changing and progressing at just the right moment. A worthy follow-up to 2013’s Voices From the Eternal Night, Apricity is worth a listen for anyone interested in more melodic and atmospheric expressions of black metal that don’t wander into the realm of shoegaze.

1: Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms – 20 Buck Spin

It’s hard to not be hyperbolic here. As far as I’m concerned, Tomb Mold are the best modern death metal band, no questions asked, no exceptions. From the 2016 demos, the last year’s debut full length Primordial Malignity (my AOTY then as well), tie-over demo Cryptic Transmissions through to 2018 with their second full-length Manor of Infinite Forms and ANOTHER tape this past month, Tomb Mold are constantly pumping out murky, cavernous death metal riffs without any decline in quality. When you add to that a lyrical theme taken from Bloodborne and the Souls series (some of my favourite games ever), you end up with something truly special. The addition of two new members this year has added an extra dimension to their sound that provides some depth to the standard death metal riffing and a bit of a hardcore edge to some of the recent material. Listen to them, they’re amazing, and check out the two-track Cerulean Salvation tape if you really enjoyed this.

Andrew McKaysmith

Heavy metal will NEVER die. With very few notable exceptions, mainstream media overlooks and ignores the genre yet musicians and fans of the musical left-hand path have hardly given less of a shit. 2018 saw the release of some tremendous albums that will be played well beyond the year of release. There’s a few old faces, some very new… and all are thoroughly deserving of every accolade sent their way. Go get ‘em!!!

Sinsaenum – Repulsion For Humanity

Back in the 90’s when Morbid Angel, Deicide, Sepultura, Entombed, Death, Pantera and Cannibal Corpse had only a dozen or so albums released between them, heavy metal was still considered dangerous and a corruption of religious values. Sinsaenum combine the very best of the listed bands from their heyday and present it in one impressive package on Repulsion For Humanity. To be perfect, all it needed was a dose of lightning fast licks courtesy of Ralph Santolla (RIP).

Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan

Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes is one congenial fellow possessing a quick, dry wit and a hilarious Twitter feed. He also possesses some seriously versatile vocal chords that cap a mighty album from the seasoned veterans in Bloodbath. Grinding death metal that has the devil himself headbanging.

Fifth Angel – The Third Secret

Who? I hadn’t heard of them either. This reformed collective, whose last album was released in 1989, produce a traditional heavy metal album for the ages in 2018. Ken Mary, Alice Cooper’s drummer during the 80’s, lays down the law and dares the twenty-somethings in deathcore and metalcore outfits to lay as fast and as tasty a groove as is on offer throughout The Third Secret. Magnificent.

Satan – Cruel Magic

If a post- ‘Black album’ Metallica had an ounce of swing, any groove, a genuine appreciation for heavy metal and the fanbase that gave them their platform, they might sound something like this.

Direblaze – Smelted Reformed and Doomed

You can count on at least one world class metal outfit rising to prominence each year out of Melbourne. In 2018 its Direblaze’s turn, a band that have taken Jeff Hanneman’s Slayer and seriously upped the ante.

Northward – Northward

Floor Jansen is a superstar whose warbling in Nightwish undermines that she is an excellent rock vocalist and frontwoman. Northward’s ten-year-old debut is released brand-new in 2018 and this partnership with Jørn Viggo Lofstad from Pagan’s Mind is closer to Weezer and the Foo Fighters incendiary debut’s than anything metal. If radio sounded like this, rock fans might start listening to radio again.

Terrorizer – Caustic Attack

Many metal fans quietly snigger at the greatest extreme metal drummer of all time. Why? He re-found Jesus. Balls to you if you criticise ex-Morbid Angel percussionist Peter Sandoval for his faith, the man is the definition of a legend and on Caustic Attack he has teamed with Monstrosity’s Lee Harrison to forge his best album since the epic, Formulas fatal to the Flesh (’98- Morbid Angel).

Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence

How does one measure talent? Let’s take Lee Harrison, Terrorizer’s guitarist who is also the long-time drummer and percussionist in Monstrosity. Harrison and comrades keep on tinkering away in the death metal workshop and on The Passage of Existence they bring a heavy dose of the spirit of ‘93 to 2018.

Sink The Ship – Persevere

New band’s suck, do they? Can’t stomach metalcore and deathcore is an appropriation of death metal? It sounds like Colton Ulery, the vocalist in Sink The Ship doesn’t give a shit and neither should you. This is brilliant material from a band that most will overlook.

Burn The Priest – Legion:XX

Covers albums can be desperate reaches by fading bands wanting to reconnect with an unhappy fanbase (Garage Inc. anyone?). The ridiculously named Lamb of God revive their original moniker for an album that might do the extraordinary and add to the legacy of the featured artists. The musicians in LoG deserve a lot of credit for bringing attention to The Melvins, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front and Cro Mags, amongst a selection of other choice artist cuts. Badass!

About

Anwar is the editor-in-chief of Metal Obsession.net. When Anwar isn't busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games. Follow Metal Obsession on Twitter and Facebook