Metal Nation’s Top 50 Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2018

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Every year we seem to talk about how strong the onslaught of new headbanging releases has been. While 2018 has  had its share of amazing efforts overall, it has certainly turned out to be an exceptional year for fans of stoner, doom, and sludge styles of metal. Yet what stands out most is that the many variations of metal continue to expand and crossover, with classic bands returning stronger than ever, while many new bands continue to blaze new sonic paths for us to follow. All of this means more music every year to try and keep up with, a task that is admittedly impossible, though we try our collective best to hear as much as we can over the course of the year. Metal Nation’s goal each year in making our Top 50 list is to cover the breadth of what metal is, and not simply churn out a list of sub-genre limited buzz bands. It is a daunting task, and honestly one could create a separate Top 50 for death, thrash, doom, and so forth. That said, below are the albums we found to be representative of the Best of 2018 in metal. As with previous years, this list includes only new studio albums. No live releases or album re-issues (yes, we’ve seen a few pop up on other’s year-end lists), and no EPs. The latter are proving more difficult to exclude, as each year more bands are releasing EPs in an industry that does not promote full-length albums as it should.  Perhaps a Top 20 EP list is in order, but we digress. Here are our picks for the Top 50 of 2018, and as always we would love to hear your thoughts on your own best of 2018 picks in the comments below.

50. All That Remains – Victim of the New Disease (Fearless/Razor & Tie) 

How can this album not make the list? For so many reasons. The unfortunate loss of guitarist Oli Herbert before the album was released was a blow to the metal community. I was unsure how fair of a review I was able to do because of this, due to my ultimate respect for the insanely talented Herbert, and the desire to keep his legacy positive and alive. Thankfully, this album did not disappoint, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Victim of the New Disease has a bit of everything this band has offered over the years. They have journeyed back into their heavier roots, giving us some of the hard metal riffage and solo goodness they have been so great at in the past. Phil Labonte’s vocals on this album are insane as well. He has a different range than I have heard from him in the past, which really brought this album to life. If you jumped off the All That Remains train in the past, you might want to jump back on and give this album a listen. Neeka Rogers Rodriguez (NRR)

49. Soulfly – Ritual (Nuclear Blast)

Metal icons Soulfly are set to release their devastating new album Ritual, on October 19 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment.Max Cavalera will tell you that every Soulfly record is the best and most brutal album the band has ever released, and with Ritual you won’t get much argument from the Metal Nation staff. Somewhere along Cavalera’s recent trip down memory lane on the Return to Roots and Nailbomb tours, he has unearthed some of his most primal and inspired metal. Soulfly doesn’t reinvent the wheel here by any means, but they have managed to take of the power, rage, and energy of their sound and take it to a new level. This is the band’s most diverse album, and even when they float around inn their comfort zone, they still manage to be more infectious than usual. Rustyn Rose (RR)

48. Avatar – Avatar Country (eOne Music)

This Swedish powerhouse gave me one of my favorite albums, 2012’s Black Waltz and 2018 brought me straight into Avatar Country.  While not as impressive overall as our #1 album pick for 2016, Feathers and Flesh. Avatar Country  is strong enough to again crack our Top 50. The track “The King Wants You” and “A Statute of the King” both have a taste of that 80’s true metal vibe. Are they melodic death metal, progressive or experimental?  Avatar is such a mixture of genres and styles that it’s difficult to adequately put into words.  The vocal range of Johannes Eckerström is astounding and overall the members of this band are beyond a doubt, experts at their craft.  My advice is to see them live, it will be a totally memorable experience. Maven Rena (MR)

47. OH. – Metallia (Independent/Olitunes)

Being a fan of progressive music, it sometimes makes me hard-pressed to find something different, something I don’t feel I’ve heard before.  In walks Oh. and her latest release, Metallia, to shake it all up!  Explained to me as a ‘one-woman’ band, I honestly didn’t have my hopes too high.  Then I heard the music and had my socks blown off.  Metallia is a sonic offering oozing originality and masterful composing.  Olivia Hadjiioannou approaches her writing in an extremely deep and introspective level that it comes out like an expensive counselling appointment that has you feeling healed and rejuvenated.  If you like prog-metal and want a different taste on your palate, have a listen to this album and see how you feel afterwards. Dwayne Wright (DW)

46. Pig Destroyer – Head Cage  (Relapse Records)

Virginia’s Pig Destroyer caught my ear due to their sheer brutality and speed. I’ve listened to this album multiple times in a variety of settings and moods. They just flat out get after it from track #1. Six albums and 20 years into its storied career, Pig Destroyer has arguably created its most ambitious and cohesive affair with Head Cage. Grindcore isn’t quite my niche, but with more albums like this, that could change in the near future.  Brent Jurgersen (BJ)

With Head Cage, Pig Destroyer and vocalist J.R. Hayes paints a disturbing picture of a nation in abysmal crisis delivered in a frenetic cacophony of terror inducing chaos. Scott Hull serves up some weighty and often thrashy bedlam. Head Cage may be the band’s most accessible album to date, but it’s definitely one of Pig Destroyer’s heaviest and strangely concise works. -RR

45. Witherfall – A Prelude to Sorrow (Century Media)

This winter, Witherfall unveiled its highly anticipated sophomore album, A Prelude to Sorrow, the follow-up to the decidedly brilliant debut, Nocturnes and Requiems.  Band masterminds, vocalist Joseph Micheal (Sanctuary, ex-White Wizzard) and guitarist Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth, ex-Kobra and the Lotus) delivered up a darkly beautiful sonicscape that touches the senses  with an emotive dynamism too often lacking in progressive power metal these days. Thought provoking and captivating,  Witherfall managed to craft a record, that while not quite as powerful as its predecessor, certainly stands closely alongside it. The sheer musicianship is outstanding, and from that standpoint alone deserves repeated listening. -RR

44. Icarus Witch – Goodbye Cruel World (Cleopatra Records)

Fifteen years after their formation, and six years since their last album, American metal cult heroes, Icarus Witch returned with new music and a new vocalist. Bassist Jason “Sin” Myers and guitarist Quinn Lukas sound revitalized on their sixth album, Goodbye Cruel World. The down time has served the writing duo well, as has the addition of vocalist Andrew D’Cagna (Ironflame, Brimstone Coven). With Goodbye Cruel WorldIcarus Witch has reminded us of the magic of its early work yet has delivered something equally fresh and relevant. Andrew D’Cagna seems like the perfect fit and voice for the next phase of the band’s career. The album’s first half is full of addictive earworms, while the latter half finds the band delving into its darker self. It makes for an enticing sonic blend. Don’t sleep on this record. It’s a fantastic return for the long-underrated Icarus Witch. -RR

43. Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins – Pawn and Prophecy (Frontiers Music)

Symphony X anchor Mike Lepond is perhaps the busiest bassist in heavy metal. In 2018, he provided notable contributions with Ross the Boss and Them, after kicking off the year with his second Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins album. The new record, Pawn and Prophecy serves as a complimentary companion to the eponymous debut, but also progresses into new territory. Sonically, Lepond taps into his love of bands such as MotorheadJudas Priest and Exciter, as well as artists like Blackmore’s Rainbow and Van Halen. Lyrically, he wades into his love of literature, crafting songs around the tales of H.P. Lovecraft and Shakespeare, with historical nods to Nero and the Spanish Inquisition. Lepond strips away much of his progressive-metal celebrity to revel in the organic majesty of his classic metal roots. Pawn and Prophecy is exceptionally straight forward yet deceivingly complex. Vocalist Alan Tecchio is a beast, and not surprisingly, Lepond’s fret work elevates every track. Pawn and Prophecy may be more restrained than its predecessor, but it is equally stellar. -RR

42. Holy Grove – II (Ripple Music)

Holy Grove has a way of telling amazing stories musically. This album is five songs deep but feels much larger. There is a presence you feel while listening to Holy Grove that is difficult to explain. Singer Andrea Vidal‘s plaintive vocals combined with the moody instrumentation create a feeling of being alone, yet knowing you are not. With II, Holy Grove demonstrates its songwriting ambition and growth, pushing beyond it’s humble and bluesy beginnings into something more monolithic and imposing.  The record exudes greater confidence than its predecessor and resonates with a more instinctive attitude of dark grandeur. This is a must have for any doom metal enthusiast. It is a flawless and sublime album. NRR

41. Dee Snider – For the Love of Metal (Napalm Records)

Twisted mister, Dee Snider returned in 2018 with his heaviest and most dynamic solo record to date, For the Love of Metal. The album is produced by Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta and features contributions from Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), Mark Morton (Lamb Of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Joel Grind and Nick Bellmore (Toxic Holocaust) and Charlie Bellmore (Kingdom Of Sorrow). With For the Love of Metal, Snider returns to his roots while bringing forth a heaviness he has never truly tapped into even during his early years with Twisted Sister. Jasta alongside cohorts from his solo projects, Nick and Charles Bellmore, wrote a an album of weighty rockers designed to fit Snider’s unique style. The result is an absolute crusher of an album that proves Dee remains one of the most essential voices in heavy metal. -RR

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