Greg Kennelty's Top 15 Albums Of 2018
Stagnation is easy to fall into as a music fan. You find the artists you like, you listen to them incessantly and over the years and you make less and less time to check out new stuff. Maybe it's laziness, maybe it's a lack of time, maybe it's a little of both with some other variables thrown in. This year I made it a point to listen to as many albums as I possibly could at least once, even if I really didn't like what I was hearing, just to expand my horizons. This meant going through Bandcamp's metal charts, listening to as many promos as I could, taking recommendations from fans and reading up on what my fellow metal sites had to say.
Through that venture, I found a lot of great, interesting new artists, and finally got around to some I've shamefully omitted over the years. This list is a reflection of my voracious musical appetite over 2018. I'm already excited over what I'll find next year. Enjoy!
15. Haunt – Burst Into Flame
Haunt isn't trying to reach back into the past and pull Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden into the now, so much as they are creating a new generation of the genre. Right out of the gate with an EP in 2017 and now their debut full-length record, Haunt's brand of raucous, driving, not-afraid-to-show-off heavy metal is exactly what a genre drowning in retro-throwback ripoffs devoid of personality really needs – genuine passion and damn fine songwriting.
14. Sleep – The Sciences
Sleep has perfected their brand of stoner metal, further solidifying their status as the forefathers of the stoner metal genre. The Sciences perfectly blends droning gargantuan riffs with spacious atmosphere, and the musical interplay between the band's three members is nothing short of magic. Plus, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Jason Roeder might be one of the best rhythm sections in all of stoner metal, maybe even metal overall.
13. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
Imperial Triumphant's first foray into jazzier territory yields unbelievable results. Vile Luxury is nearly an hour of metal chaos, classically-influenced compositions, jazz band instrumentation and pianos that blend together in a cauldron brimming with rot and self-indulgence. It’s astounding to hear a trio who are so collectively well-versed in their instruments and compositional skill.
12. Bummer – Holy Terror
It’s refreshing to hear a band make a record this honest and energetic. Bummer falls into the soon-to-be-classics category of noise rock bands absolutely crushing it right now, a category that houses the likes of past Bummer tour mates Whores and Wrong. All three have their own distinct way of going about bringing that natural heaviness, and for Bummer it’s sheer, unbridled volume and rage.
11. Khemmis – Desolation
Desolation is Khemmis' foray into a more stripped down heavy metal sound, meaning more speed with healthy doses of face-melting guitar solos. There's also a bit more crushing death metal on Desolation thanks to guitarist and vocalist Phil Pendegrast unleashing his best old-school Mikael Åkerfeldt impressions alongside OSDM-worthy riffs. Oh, and there's still more doom than you're going to know what to do.
10. Inexorum – Lore Of The Lakes
Inexorum's debut album Lore Of The Lakes is stylistically reminiscent of 1990s hypnotic black metal and harmonically in the vein of melodic death metal. It’s also a lyrical study of a person or people's persevering nature in the face of adversity, with both positive outcomes and mournful conclusions. The result of these homages and deep dives into personal histories is one worth listening to over and over again.
9. Windhand – Eternal Return
Four records and 10 years into their career, Windhand could not be anymore themselves than they are on Eternal Return. It's an album that you can listen to straight through, get to the fade out at the end, and loop right back into the beginning without wondering what else you should be listening to today. Simply put, Eternal Return is the hazy, doom-laden record by which all future Windhand albums will be judged.
8. Voivod – The Wake
The Wake is apex Voivod. It’s the right amount of experimental, the right amount of conceptual, and the right amount of heavy. The chemistry between all four members is nothing short of magic, which shines so effortlessly through every single second. The music is a twisting, turning labyrinth of foggy nightmares that appear in the shadows and dissipate into nothing just as quickly as they came.
7. Here Lies Man – You Will Know Nothing
Drop the needle on You Will Know Nothing and the fuzzy production screams retro, but the music is nothing like you’ve ever heard. The band claims they’re what would happen if Tony Iommi started an afrobeat band, but even that’s underselling their originality. Think more along the lines of Fela Kuti with a Blue Cheer record teaching Iommi a whole new style in the sweltering heat.
6. Vein – Errorzone
Vein‘s errorzone is a well-honed machine that sounds like it’s constantly on the verge of breaking down, but is really just trying its damndest to successfully approach and dismember you. Errorzone is stuffed with precise riffing, maddening dissonance, industrial samples, heavy effects, glitches, and plenty of thematic and compositional surprises that’ll blow you away every single time.
5. Into Eternity – The Sirens
It took ten years, a new vocalist and an album announcement that got retracted, but Into Eternity has finally released The Sirens. Into Eternity really stretched out their compositions on The Sirens, which worked in their favor given every single song has multiple earworm melodies. Vocalist Amanda Kiernan proves to be more than suitable for the band on her debut record, leaving fans already itching for a follow-up.
4. Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly – Friendship
Ex-Beardfish main man Rikard Sjöblom returns with his second Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly album, Friendship, and as usual, it's damn near perfect. Sjöblom takes a look at his life through eloquently-written lyrics and stories set to his particular brand of melancholic, almost cinematic progressive rock. Sjöblom is one of the few artists I'll pre-order his music before hearing a single note – dude doesn't make mistakes.
3. Yob – Our Raw Heart
Yob couldn't have picked a better name for their first album in four years than Our Raw Heart. The record was written after frontman and guitarist Mike Scheidt had a nearly-deadly health scare, and the beauty he finds in life practically explodes out of every second of Our Raw Heart. It's an album of intense beauty, ominously heavy riffs and impassioned vocal performances that'll move you.
2. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats – Wasteland
Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats set out to tell the tale of a dystopian city and its surrounding, hellish wasteland, and couldn't have done a better job. Uncle Acid weaves in crunchy retro-riffs, thick two-to-four-part vocal harmonies, blistering guitar solos, in-your-face keyboard work and menacing genre changes to get one thing across – no matter where you are, you're in hell here.
1. Tribulation – Down Below
Down Below conjures up images of dilapidated buildings, of fields abandon years ago and ruined by disuse, of crumbling statues under fiery red skies that watch a world nearly devoid of any civilization. There are demons now, and dragons, and a few humans scattered looking for safety that they will never find. Down Below could not have possibly accomplished more than it does no matter how hard Tribulation tried.
Bonus Honorable Mentions
This is the first time I've ever done an honorable mentions section. There are five additional artists I'd like to give a shout to out who really deserve both your time and money, and who I think are bound to do pretty noteworthy things in the future. Click on their names to take a listen!
- Ripped To Shreds – 埋葬
- Draghkar – The Endless Howling Abyss
- Nòtt – Nòtt
- Heads For The Dead – Serpent's Curse
- Eneferens – The Bleakness Of Our Constant
Keep up with all of our Best of 2018 Coverage here.