Listen to this list while reading the top albums list!
2018 has officially been laid to rest, so that means I need to share with you my top albums of the past year. Don’t get too excited because I probably don’t like anything you like, but you still need to look just to confirm my musical taste is nothing like yours.
Now keep in mind I am a lover of heavy metal music, but in no way would I consider myself a music critic. With that being said, I certainly know what I like and I can certainly be critical of stuff that I do not like, but I’m probably not going to mark something down drastically because it doesn’t break new ground. If it sounds good and I keep replaying it, chances are it probably is included on my list. So here are the albums from this past year that entranced my ears with their siren songs. And yes – I probably missed or forgot several goodies but let’s not dwell on that for now…
28) Beyond The Black – Heart of the Hurricane – an album I was really looking forward to. Great female-fronted metal and I really hope the band can make it to this side of the Atlantic for a tour some day. I’m not sure I like this record as much as their previous two, but still very enjoyable and it features a few songs which will get imbedded in your brain for days.
27) Circle of Silence – The Crimson Throne – What a shock – power metal from Germany! From the land that has brought us Helloween, Accept, Powerwolf, Primal Fear and countless others, let us introduce you to Circle of Silence. I must let you know that I am friends with several of the band members after bunking with them on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in 2015. So I might be a tad bit biased, but I can tell you that this record is the best the band has ever recorded (this is album #3) and it is a solid slab of Teutonic metal. Plus the cover art kicks some major ass.
26) Twilight’s Embrace – Penance – yup – this a 4 song ep and not a full album. I still really dig it though and it’s my top album list so I get to say what ends up here. These Brits definitely like their fellow countrymen Paradise Lost and also enjoy the melancholy that many Scandinavian bands have shared with us over the years. I look forward to hearing where the band goes from here.
25) Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs – When the first single released from your album includes guest vocals by one of my favorite singers Hansi Kirsch from Blind Guardian, you are guaranteed to grab my full attention. And then the rest of the record is pretty damn awesome as well. Also got to see these guys live twice in the past 2 years as well (ProgPower in Atlanta in 2017 and on a great tour with Tyr, Aeternam and Ghost Ship Octavius in Kansas City back in May.). A band you should definitely be paying attention to.
24) Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost – Will this be the album that finally gets this band to tour North America? Probably not, but these dudes have to be at the top of any list that mentions German power metal. They have consistently released solid albums for over 20 years now and this is one of their best for sure.
23) Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold – The Finnish melodeath lords return with a powerful slab of Scandinavian goodness like we’ve come to expect. This album hasn’t grabbed me as much I had hoped, but opening track “Gods Go First” is one of the band’s best songs ever and is a monster live.
22) Light The Torch – Revival – The band had to change their name from Devil You Know but, Revival finds Howard Jones and crew firing on all cylinders here. One of the best records I’ve heard Howard sing on, and of course you know he fronted Killswitch Engage for many years. We are now blessed by having two excellent metalcore bands producing top notch material. Sounds like a win to me!
21) Hoth – Astral Necromancy – How about some black metal from the Pacific Northwest? These dudes from Washington have been making some interesting music for a few years now. This new album incorporates a decent amount of 80’s heavy metal into their blackened sound which amps up the catchiness and memorability. But don’t worry – it’s still black at its core, so it’s plenty cold and harsh.
20) Long Distance Calling – Boundless – Never thought I’d hear an instrumental album that really caught my fancy, but lo and behold, here we are with one that did just that. And if you like physical copies of albums, the cd version of this is a beautiful hardcover digipak with amazing photos of the outdoors. The band members like to hike and explore and shoot photos in their spare time. This album will definitely take you on a journey if you give it the chance.
19) Hespera – In Absence – Yup – another ep on my list – ha! So what’s the best way to make your material sound like the band that inspired you to write it? How about get the singer of said band to perform the vocals. That’s exactly what happened here with Hespera that wrote an excellent batch of melodeathtunes and they recruited Bjorn “Speed” Strid to sing these jams. Sure sounds like some awesometo me! Pick this gem up, my friends.
18) Judicator – The Last Emperor – This album is more of a return to form for Judicator after their previous release dealt with a real-life tragic family situation for singer John Yelland. Expect massive choruses and tons of layered vocal harmonies plus boatloads of power metal goodness. Power metal is definitely not dead in North America – amen!
17) Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light – I’ve been a fan of this band ever since their excellent debut album Winterborn back in 2013. Subsequent albums have shown glimpses into the potential of this unit, but Constellation is exactly what I want to hear from Wolfheart. Each song is the perfect mix of melody, coldness and aggression.
16) Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium – Another American band that really deserves to be heard. Their self-titled debut blew me away back in 2015 and now their long-awaited 2nd album is here for all to enjoy and revel in. You can hear elements of several of my favorite bands in their sound: Nevermore, Savatage and Everygrey are the first 3 that spring to mind. Great company in my opinion!
15) Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy– Lots of folks are riding the tech-death trail recently with several solid releases this past year. Many of my friends have sung the praises of Obscura, and I did enjoy their album but for me Alkaloid really hit the spot with Liquid Anatomy. It’s plenty deathy and techy, but then it also has a lot of proggyness like the band Yes. An interesting mix for sure and one I didn’t know I needed until I heard this album.
14) Manimal – Purgatorio – Swedish power metal – that’s 3 words I like right off the bat. And this album is really solid too, so we’re keeping things positive. This is a band that has had all the right ingredients from the start finally maturing and growing into their strengths. These guys write good crunchy riffs, lots of catchy vocal melodies, and a singer that can hit the stratosphere but has realized to limit doing so to key places within the context of each song. The results are very exciting to hear and I bet you can’t listen to the title track without getting the chorus permanently lodged in your brain.
13) Psycroptic – As The Kingdom Drowns – Here’s proof that my musical tastes are constantly changing. This band from Australia has always been on my radar but my taste for the more extreme bands is always a bit spotty. I actually own 3 previous releases from these guys but couldn’t tell you a single song title from any of them. So maybe I just suck. But I read a review on their latest release, checked it out and instantly went “Hell yes!!!” Talk about a total riff fest here! Opening track “We Were The Keepers” comes out all guns blazing and the rest of the album never lets up. And the band just announced a US headlining tour for April and May. Guess I will see how well these tunes translate in a live setting. I better schedule a chiropractic visit for the next day now.
12) Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin – If you like any power metal, then you have to be a fan of Powerwolf. These guys are currently one of the biggest bands in Europe and it’s no wonder why. They know how to write true heavy metal anthems and tie religious themes into their music with plenty of humor behind the subject matter. We may never see this band play live in the US but we can at least appreciate their music. This 2018 album features everything the band has been known for previously and turns it all up a notch or 2. Get ready to pray to your new power metal masters!
11) The Ocean Collective – Phanerozoic I Palaeozoic – An album that focuses on the creation of our planet from hundreds of millions of years ago and throws more science and nerdiness at us than the members of the chess club at college. These guys are pros at pacing an album too – just as you are reaching that saturation point of aggression and harshness after the first 4 tracks, they go and break out a total mood swing with guest vocals from Jonas Renkse of Katatonia. Absolutely brilliant and really helps to make the album feel complete and keeps you fully engaged.
10) Jungle Rot – S/T – Keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes this is the most important piece of advice in life. And Jungle Rot has this down pat. Not saying anything about the music they create being dumb – I’m just saying they stick with the formula that works best for them and made an album that really hits the spot if you need to headbang and blow off some steam. These guys love that old-school thrash sound and bring in just the right amount of death metal aggression. This self-titled disc might be their best effort yet.
9) Enemy Inside – Phoenix – Full disclosure – some of you might feel my metalhead membership card should be revoked by including this album so high on my list, but I do not care. Yes – this album is plenty poppy and definitely not the heaviest thing you will hear. However, if you want catchy songs with choruses that will stick in your mind from the first time you hit play, then you might agree with me on my inclusion of this record. The band hails from Germany and this is their debut record but it sounds like they have been playing and recording for years. Imagine Lacuna Coil combined with Disturbed on their first 2 or 3 albums and you’ll get an idea of the sounds you are in for. And it doesn’t hurt that the singer Nastassja Giulia quite friendly to your eyeballs. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have sung along to this album like a high school girl many times while in the shower. I’m not running for any political office so who cares, right?
8) Kalmah – Palo – For the longest time, I just could not get into this band because of the vocals. I like plenty of bands with harsh vocals but for some reason, something was keeping me from appreciating these swamp-dwelling Finns. Then they released the track “The Evil Kin” and I instantly wanted to hear more from these guys. Don’t ask me what changed because there is really no big difference from this latest effort other than it’s awesome and I have now seen the light apparently. Their sound is a combination of Amon Amarth meets Children of Bodom with some hints of Ensiferum and Amorphis minus any clean vocals. I love all 4 of those bands so it makes sense that I should finally warm up to Kalmah. I am now working on righting my wrongs by adding most of the band’s discography to my cd collection. I really wish I could have made it to this year’s 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise since these guys will be there. Hopefully they come back to the US for a full tour soon!
7) In Vain – Currents – One of Norway’s finest is back with a monster of an album, and good luck fighting again the currents this bad boy produces. This band combines the best of modern metal with melodeath and even some epic progressive metal into an irresistible metallic stew. Another band appearing this go-round on 70,000 Tons of Metal. If you like bands such as Trivium, Amorphis, Swallow the Sun and Opeth, do not miss this album.
6) Khemmis – Desolation – This Colorado based band won me over with their awesome release, Hunted, which made it to #2 on my list for 2016. These guys prove that they are not another flash in the pan with another rock-solid platter of metallic doom. Whatever these guys are selling, I’m gonna be in line to buy.
5) Hexed – Netherworld – This is some amazing progressive power metal from Sweden. For me, the guitar work reminds me of Evergrey and Pagan’s Mind and features soaring female vocals. This is a real treat for power metal fans and I encourage you to listen and get yourself hexed asap.
4) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds – Pt 1 – This is a solo record from the guitarist of Symphony X and it honestly sounds like what that band SHOULD sound like. This is heavy, memorable, well-written progressive power metal that will make you want to sing along, headbang and jam some serious air guitar to. The whole album plays like a soundtrack with orchestration throughout tying every song together. And singer Rick Castellano is a true revelation helping to bring all of these compositions to life.
3) Svavelvinter – Mörkrets Tid – Hands down the best melodeath album of the year! You want awesome heavy guitar riffs? Check. You want brutal death metal growls? Check. You want soaring melodic choruses that will repeat in your head long after you’ve turned off the music? Check. You want a seriously bad-ass album cover? Check. Sounds like we have a definite candidate for one of my top 3 albums of the year. All of the vocals and music was written by Christian Älverstam who over the years has been the singer for the bands Scar Symmetry and Solution .45. For my money, this tops anything he has been a part of previously. Top notch melodeath that I cannot recommend enough. Please support this band and check out their bandcamp page for securing a copy of this excellent release for your collection.
2) Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium – One of my all-time favorite albums from when I first got introduced to power metal is “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Iced Earth. I love how that albums sounds – the guitars, the vocals and that style of metal. So when an album gets released by 2 musicians that share this love for Iced Earth, chances are I’m going to really enjoy that album. Well – you would be correct. Singer John Yelland from Judicator and Jason Ashcraft have created a fantastic record with a similar direction to Iced Earth and their album Horror Show. That album was all about different infamous characters from the world of horror. Jason & John have followed this same theme with something near & dear to Jason’s heart: Sci-fi movies. We all know metal and sci-fi are a match made in heaven and this album is proof of this. Time to go play this again!
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow – Gothy dark metal with emotive clean singing – parts remind me of Sentenced or even Staind – but don’t worry – this is definitely metal.
Shylmagoghnar – Transience – Don’t bother asking me how to pronounce the name of this band but this is their 2nd album and both contain some pretty cool black metal. A bit long-winded but still enjoyable.
Hell City – Flesh & Bones – Killer modern metal band hailing from Belgium.
Psychostick – Do – The “greatest band ever” is back with more laughs and fun tunes.
Judas Priest – Firepower – Best Priest album in over a decade.
Null’O’Zero – Instructions To Dominate – Forgiving the horrible band name, this power metal band from Greece brings plenty of groove and power to their brand of metal.
Dee Snider – For the Love of Metal – Twisted Sister frontman shows he can still belt out some decent metal tunes.
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster – Their debut record was my top album for 2016 so you know I was looking forward to this release in a big way. It may not have lived up to my massive expectations but it is still a decent slab of sci-fi power metal and I’m warming up to this more with each spin. Check back with me in another 6 months;)
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill – Very heavy power metal in the vein of Nevermore. This is part 1 of a story based on a horror novel written by the band’s lead singer Lars Larsen. Part 2 is due out later in 2019. An interesting listen and lots to like if you are a fan of dark and heavy power metal.
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology – These guys don’t take themselves too seriously based on the awesome pun song titles but the music is all business and sounds like Mastodon or even Gojira with a lot more death and black metal elements thrown into the mix. Their previous albums are worth a listen too.
Torian – God of Storms – German power metal with massive choruses in the vein of Blind Guardian and Orden Ogan. In fact, this was produced by Orden Ogan frontman Seeb Levermann so the similarity in style is not unexpected.
Acrid – Wonderland – Just discovered this album from some year-end lists. Really good screamy melodeath from The Netherlands. They remind me a lot of Unearth. Sweet cover art too.
Sulphur Aeon – The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos – This album would actually be on my numbered list if it hadn’t been released 4 days before Christmas. This is the antithesis of the happy power metal that Germany is known for from bands like Helloween, Primal Fear and Freedom Call. This is pure smothering darkness in all its glory.