Alex’s Top Five Albums of 2018

The inexorable march of time has stamped all over and kicked up some damn fine music for the year that was 2018. No matter your preferred flavour of metal, the year was generous and gave out healthy dollops of angry ear candy, expertly crafted by their respective hands for your maximum enjoyment.

The year saw giants step down – Slayer called it a day after thrashing through the metal mesosphere for over 37 years; Others have risen to new heights – Behemoth produced another critically acclaimed album; and many souls who gave so much to the scene returned to the stars, such as Eddie Clarke of Motörhead, Vinnie Paul of Pantera, and Ralph Santolla of Deicide and Obituary.

If one characteristic defined the year, it would be determination – being firm in purpose and sticking to the whetstone that sharpens one’s craft, polishing what you already know.

And next, in no particular order, are the top five albums that chiseled and formed 2018:

Anaal Nathrakh – ‘A New Kind of Horror
Genre: Grindcore; black metal; death metal; industrial metal
Release date: 28 September
Label: Metal Blade

The soundtrack for Armageddon, the acidic concrete mixer from Birmingham, UK returns with an album that is as sarcastic, as unhappy, as the chaotic times we live in.  As vocalist Dave Hunt aptly describes the album: “it is terrifying and horrifying in equal measure”; he could not preach the truth any louder, and it deserves praise for being such an excellent, calculated frenzy combining the best elements of black, death and electronic metal. “Forward” and “Obscene as Cancer” will have you yelling along whilst enjoying the PTSD you never knew you had.

Judas Priest – ‘Firepower
Genre: Heavy metal
Release date: 9 March
Label: Epic Records

Many bands fade into obscurity, others turn to experimentation, and the rest stick to playing to their strengths; a rare few continue well past the legal retirement age in most countries. Judas Priest have accomplished the latter and have even gone a step further by producing an album that can compete on the same level as their golden-era material such as ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Defenders of the Faith’.

Summoning – ‘With Doom We Come
Genre: Atmospheric black metal
Release date: 5 January
Label: Napalm Records

There is only one way to enjoy this album: imagine yourself as one of the Nazgûl from Lord of the Rings galloping full-pace towards certain victory whilst strumming a claymore like it were a bass. Summoning does not feed into the caricature of a band that plays to a fantasy storyline, but has thrown out an album that blasts a brand of black metal that is refreshing and almost power metal-like in its attitude.

Powerwolf – ‘The Sacrament of Sin
Genre: Power Metal; Symphonic metal
Release date: 20 July
Label: Napalm Records

The German power metallers have proven they can do no wrong with their gothic-tinged brand of power metal that shows no signs of slowing down. With a bombastic soundscape that matches the band’s aesthetic, ‘The Sacrament of Sin’ tickles a familiar bone whilst remaining a relevant piece of sonic progression. “Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Where The Wild Wolves have Gone” show a mature variety of sound from the band that you can only imagine some fantastic story unfolding as you listen.

Mournful Congregation – ‘The Incubus of Karma
Genre: Funeral doom metal
Release date: 23 March
Label: Osmose Productions

Alongside legends such as Thergothon and Evoken, Australian band Mournful Congregation have made an indelible mark on the funeral doom metal sub-genre, and even smashed out a new, progressively crushing record that churns keyboards and guitars at a glacial pace, grinding out the slow death of the world. One does not simply enjoy one funeral doom track, one listens to the overpowering entirety of ‘The Incubus of Karma’.

Honourable mentions:
Sleep‘The Sciences’
1914‘The Blind Leading The Blind’
Ghost  – ‘Prequelle’
Behemoth‘I Love You at Your Darkest’
The Awakening ‘Chasm’

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