Having considered it long and hard, I’ve decided that any form of introductory paragraph with any real substance would simply detract from the list below. As such, all I’ll say is that 2018, like every year, has given us some top quality metal releases. So have a look at my top picks for 2018, and hopefully you’ll find a new band to obsess over…
Alterbeast – Feast
We’ll start this list off with some high-octane modern melodic death metal in the shape of Alterbeast. I find it so very easy to enjoy this kind of well-delivered death metal that playing this album over and over again came as naturally as breathing. Solid, enjoyable, satisfying – Feast satiates nicely.
Yob – Our Raw Heart
What can you say about Our Raw Heart that hasn’t already been said many times in various different ways in a multitude of places? This stunning album drips with emotion and is one of Yob’s absolute best. Captivating and enthralling, this is doom metal with real heart and songs that will stay with you for a long time to come. Don’t miss this.
1914 – Blind Leading the Blind
After a plethora of strong releases, The Blind Leading the Blind is what 1914 have been building toward all this time, and it’s been worth the wait. This is blackened doom of the finest quality. Mixing grand aspirations with songwriting know-how, this album is a harrowing success that effectively portrays the horrors of war and the nightmare of mass conflict. 1914 have made a lasting statement with this album, one which it’s important you hear.
Psycroptic – As the Kingdom Drowns
Psycroptic have a long and competent history and have always offered up really solid releases. However, their last two albums have seen the band completely on fire. Although I wasn’t sure when I wrote my original review for As the Kingdom Drowns I’m now convinced that it’s the better of these two, if only by a small margin. As such, As the Kingdom Drowns rightfully takes its place at spot number 27 on this list.
Body Void – I Live Inside a Burning House
As soon as I first heard Body Void’s bleak, crushing doom, I knew I’d encountered a band that would leave scars. This album is an assault on the senses and the mind, driving home its assault with slow, relentless inevitability and a core of emotive pain that’s bristling and damaging. I Live Inside a Burning House is a harrowing piece of nightmare art, one which needs to be experienced.
Death Engine – Place Noire
Death Engine play a form of multifaceted hardcore that’s rich in depth and substance. The band are creative and have a real talent for producing music that’s highly engaging, and this album is their latest opus. Contrasting violence with soft reflection, and a whole range of things between this, Place Noire is a mix of styles and ideas all branded and delivered in the inimitable Death Engine way. Expressive, emotive, and individual.
Doomed – 6 Anti-Odes to Life
As far as I’m concerned the artist behind Doomed is one of the best purveyors of death/doom out there. This band’s songs are recognisably of the subgenre they originate from, but are frequently emotive and inventive in ways that other ostensibly similar bands are not. The one man band’s latest effort – 6 Anti-Odes to Life – continues his run of strong releases, and once again shows that just because you play a well-worn style doesn’t mean you can’t sound vibrant and fresh. Doomed rule.
Wayfarer – World’s Blood
Wayfarer have consistently proven themselves to be capable of producing exemplary black metal, and World’s Blood is their latest slab of dusty, atmospheric Americana-influenced work. Rougher and more earthy than they previously were, Wayfarer are still unmistakable with their focus on expressive music and blackened intensity and mood. Passionate and full of character, this album is exceptional.
Altar of Perversion – Intra Naos
Intra Naos may only have six tracks, but it has a whopping great duration of nearly two hours. This is underground occult black metal that’s raw, gnarled, and not afraid to get covered in sacrificial blood. True to the roots of the genre, while unafraid to be its own creation, this is a colossal, gargantuan album that succeeds due to the sheer quality of music on offer.
Agrimonia – Awaken
Progressive crust/metal band Agrimonia have always produced sterling work, and Awaken is one of their finest records to date. Theirs is a formula of rich, textured aggression, injected with energetic appeal and substantial riffs. Awaken hits like a truck, but still gives you a reason to keep visiting it long after it has finished crushing you to a bloody pulp. Harsh, but affecting.
Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
After a four-year gap Corpsessed have returned with another offering of what they do best – horrific atmospheric death metal. Impetus of Death cements their position in the realms of the underworld, with firm conviction and a talent for songwriting that has resulted in an immensely enjoyable record. Terrifying and otherworldly.
Wake – Misery Rites
Ferocious, intense, relentless, nasty. These and other similar words can easily be used to describe this furious deathgrind beast. Simply calling it deathgrind doesn’t really do Misery Rites justice though, as there are a lot of different extreme metal influences that can be heard across this ultra-brutal record, all of which coalesce into songs that absolutely destroy everything around them. Vicious and scathing, Wake’s third album firmly puts them in the grindcore premier league.
Vanhelgd – Deimos Sanktaurium
I’m a huge fan of Vanhelgd, so the inclusion of Deimos Sanktaurium on this list should come as no surprise. The band have earned their place, however, as this is a quality death metal album through and through. Dark and full of doom influences, the songs are very well-written and deeply satisfying. Macabre and melodic, while still boasting plenty of crushing heaviness, Vanhelgd always manage to deliver the goods.
Monolithe – Nebula Septem
Themed around the number seven, this is an album that’s about experimental songwriting as much as it is hypnotically dense doom metal delivery. For all its high-minded concept, however, it’s easy to overlook how crushing and visceral this album is. I find myself frequently drawn back to Nebula Septem, and I’d possibly go as far as to say it’s Monolithe’s best work so far.
Sulphur Aeon – The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
With a release date of December 21st, this is a late inclusion in this list, but how could I leave it out? The album is a monster in more ways than one. I highly suspect that in the future, once I’ve had more time to absorb its dark delights, I’ll regret not giving this album an even higher placing, but such are the perils of releasing an amazing album so close to the end of the year. Regardless, I couldn’t miss it off this list, so here it sits, ready for you to explore its dark death metal watery depths.
Bloodmoon – Supervoid Trinity
Available as one monolithic 46-minute song, or carved up into three lengthy tracks, however you choose to experience Supervoid Trinity, it’s well worth your time. Bloodmoon’s expansive and atmospheric sludge/doom is one that I’ve really enjoyed this year, and this album is an impressive accomplishment. Prepare to be sucked into the supervoid.
Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties
Morbid Majesties is this year’s foulest example of filthy death metal with a blackened underbelly. It’s old-school, resolutely aggressive, and filled with the type of well-rounded songwriting that most lesser bands would kill for. Sadistik Forest combine direct brutality with deeper substance very well, and have more than earned their place on this list.
Gutter Instinct – Heirs of Sisyphus
Gutter Instinct are a band who keep evolving ever darker and blacker, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed observing their progress over the years as they have done this. This latest slab of blackened death metal sees them incorporate more black metal elements than ever before, and the results are stunning. Ugly and underground this may be, but it has a grotesque beauty all of its own. I can’t wait to find out where this path leads Gutter Instinct, but that’s for the future to show us. For now, Heirs of Sisyphus is an album that you mustn’t miss out on.
Entropy Created Consciousness – Impressions of the Morning Star
This mysterious black metal entity has managed to craft one of the best underground black metal albums that I’ve heard in some time. This is a solo project that has already managed to master dynamics, atmosphere, mood, and structure, despite the fact that this is the band’s first and only release, as far as I can tell. Impressions of the Morning Star is the kind of album that legends are built on.
Un – Sentiment
Un play massive, hulking funeral doom, with an emphasis on apocalyptic atmosphere. This album is laden with subtlety and nuance, however, and has a progressive edge which elevates it above many of its erstwhile peers into more rarefied realms. Rich in melody and feeling, while still being more than capable of crushing entire continents with its imposing presence and sheer heaviness, Sentiment is a crushingly epic and affecting listen.
Hamferð – Támsins Likam
Hamferð have created something so unthinkingly emotive here that every time I listen to Támsins Likam it’s almost like I’m listening to it for the first time as I’m always struck anew by how instantly and effectively evocative it is. Wrapping up doom metal with raw feeling is no easy task, but Hamferð make it look like they’re not even trying. The music is hideously impressive, affecting, and moreish, and the singer’s voice simply captivating. What an album.
Messa – Feast for Water
Messa’s second album shrouds the listener in a thick atmosphere of sophisticated, alluring beauty and seductive darkness. Feast for Water is the type of album that captivates instantly, yet has fathomless depths to be explored that only truly start to reveal themselves over time. A triumph of depth and feeling dressed up in evocative doom metal.
Embra – Abjection
Another late entry to this list, but an extremely worthy one, is Embra with their apocalyptic debut album Abjection. Abjection is a behemoth of atmospheric black/death metal that’s harrowing and immersive. Unfolding with grim intensity and hideous beauty, this album seemed to come out of nowhere and blew me away so effectively that I simply couldn’t ignore its dark presence.
Soldat Hans – Es Taut
A highly ambitious album that’s equally remarkable in both its delivery and achievements, Soldat Hans’ Es Taut is experimental and bold. There may be only three tracks on this release, but each one of them has a strong personality and exquisite presence. Es Taut is a masterpiece or expressive, experimental doom.
Ohhms – Exist
Ohhms have a character and personality all of their own. Exist is an uncomfortable, unfriendly album, one that takes a hard subject matter and uses it to forge a collection of progressive doom songs that manage to balance emotive substance with colossal impact. The results are highly compelling and effective, and Ohhms continue to get better and better as time goes on. Exist is something special.
Lik – Carnage
I have a notable addiction to Swedish death metal, and Lik’s second album is a particularly savage interpretation of the style. One of the overwhelming strengths of Carnage is the band’s firm focus on songs, and a commitment to delivering these in a muscular, catchy way. All hail Lik!
Megaton Leviathan – Mage
Mage is an expansive, progressive, and emotively compelling album that’s actually quite hard to describe. I’ll simply regurgitate this word salad from my review – “Psychedelic explorations, drone-worship, emotive synths and orchestral flourishes, post-rock/metal structuring; these are just some aspects of the rich and multifaceted music that you’ll find on Mage.” I’m well aware that this is a lazy way to summarise such an exceptional album as this, but I implore you to just listen to it. Beautiful and unique.
Distances – Diableries
Here we have a band that produce highly emotive hardcore fused with rich violin, and when it’s done as well as it is on Diableries, it almost cannot be beaten. There’s a very good reason this captivating and moving record has made it to this position on this list, and it’s simply down to the fact that Diableries is such a ridiculously strong album.
The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
The Ocean are one of my favourite bands, and for good reason. This latest effort of theirs is simply fantastic, and if it wasn’t for the sheer brilliance of King Goat’s second album, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic would easily have claimed the number one spot this year. Can I please have a joint number one? No? Shame. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the latest album from this progressive metal beast – The Ocean are one of the best bands in the world, and Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic is ample evidence as to why.
King Goat – Debt of Aeons
So here it is, the top of the pile – the amazing second album from King Goat. As mentioned above, if any year was going to have a joint winner it would be 2018, but Debt of Aeons was destined to head up this list from the moment I first heard it. The Ocean almost came close to derailing this destiny, but ultimately King Goat prevailed. Why? Well, it’s hard to overstate just how good this record is. Full of stunning songs and brilliant vocals, Debt of Aeons is a bona fide modern classic, with the band’s doom metal sounding completely out of this world. Heavily emotive and filled with the kind of catchiness and hooks that many bands would kill for, King Goat really are UK metal royalty. Flawless.