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


40. Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain (Profound Lore)

I checked this album out because of vocalist Kayla Dixon’s presence in the band. This is Dixon’s debut with Witch Mountain, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The riffs are weighty, loose, and appropriately fuzzy. The percussion is expectantly raw, and the low end vibrates through your marrow. As with most albums in this genre, the length sits around 35 minutes, but it is only five tracks deep. One of those tracks is an exceptional cover of Spirit’s “Mechanical World.” It’s the original material however, that makes them a worthy year-end candidate. Tracks like “Burn You Down,” with its behemoth and eerie semblance, and the chunky riffs and doomish groove of “Midnight,” make this a mighty slab of ear candy.  And of course there’s brilliance of Dixon’s vocals. Her soulful delivery adds a wonderfully warm depth to another wise cold genre. She elevates every song with her vocal dynamism, which in turn raises the impact of every track on the record. She provides the sonic beauty for the proverbial sludgy beast. There’s just something about Portland’s gloomy weather that lends itself to fantastic stoner/doom bands. -RR

39. Obscura – Diluvium (Relapse)

Established as one of the bands on the forefront of technical death metal, there isn’t a lot to say about Obscura that hasn’t already been said countless times over. They are some of the most adept musicians in the world and they continue to astound with their performances on each passing record. With Diluvium, the band takes another step in its evolution. The technical abilities of the guys in Obscura, even with two new members, clearly haven’t gone anywhere. The riff work is fast, tight, and articulate. I really appreciate how they’d shift from the faster riffs to slower interludes, adding a variety of fresh tempos. As much as I love my death metal fast and brutal, those breaks really add depth and more texture to the record. Diluvium is pretty fantastic all around. Everything about it is master grade, from the instrumentation to the production, all top notch. I was hoping for a little more oomph than dazzle, but I’m not disappointed in the slightest. Dallas Luckey (DL) 

38. Graveshadow – Ambition’s Price (M-Theory Audio)

Taking nothing away from the band’s impressive debut album, Graveshadow‘s sophmore effort, Ambition’s Price is a stronger, more cohesive and evolved effort by far. Vocalist Heather Michele has confidently showcased her deft talents for soaring melodies and intriguing lyrical themes. Her voice is quite distinctive, and it adds depth and uniqueness to the band’s style. She is able to transition smoothly from beautiful clean peaks to deathly growls without disruption. Her knack for performing clearly enunciated harsh vocals is amazing. The growling elements add a perfect touch and are not overused. On many levels, it is her voice that sets Graveshadow apart from its power metal contemporaries. This is not simply a fantastic record, but legitimately one of the best of 2018. With Ambition’s PriceGraveshadow has taken what has become a somewhat complacent and stagnant style of metal and breathed fresh life into it, creating something vibrant and memorable. -RR

37. Pale Divine – Pale Divine  (Shadow Kingdom Records) 

I have rarely resonated so strongly with a band than before my encounter with Pale Divine. I listen to music with all of my heart and soul, it is just how my brain works. With Pale Divine, I almost matured new senses. There is not one thing wrong with this eponymous album, it is everything right. The musical architecture and balance is designed above reproach. Greg Diener‘s vocals are impeccable with insightful and philosophical lyrics. The album changes from song to song, but flows effortlessly. You get traces of Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, and The Sword, yet it is entirely its own. I continually find difficulty in explaining my emotions attached to this album, all I know, is the attraction and captivation it holds on me. If there is one thing I can suggest while listening to this album, it is to digest all of it. Every last bit, from the musical genius, to the vocal magic, to the drum perfection, to the ridiculous riff and solo bewitchment, to the awe-inspiring bass, to the lyrical philosophy and relatability.  -NRR

36. Vein – Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities)

With Errorzone , Boston-based quintet Vein has unleashed a not overly produced, no-holds-barred metal album that is a mix of nu-metal, hardcore and punk.  It has a vibe similar to the early days of bands like the Deftones and on the track “Untitled” you can hear a touch of Chino Moreno’s breathy vocal style.  Let’s just say the sound is a throwback to a more primal approach and leave it at that. –MR

Vein finally unleashes its first full-length album and adds a touch of nu-metal to its hardcore and punk foundation. Think Korn blended with early Converge. This should have come off as elitist insipidness, but somehow Vein manage to tweak it into something that works effectively for their sound. Errorzone resonates with a sonic agitation of 90s aggro discord. -RR

35. Manimal – Purgatorio (AFM Records)

It boggles my mind that Sweden’s Manimal is not more popular. The group’s latest installment, Purgatorio, picks up where its successor left off while also moving beyond it. Band founders, vocalist Samuel Nyman and guitarist Henrik Stenroos, continue to evolve Manimal’s sound without straying too far from its signature style. The rhythm section of bassist Kenny Boufadene and drummer André Holmqvist (Ice Age) return for their second album as well, each adding their own unique magic. Throughout the dynamic and devilish Purgatorio, Nyman takes us through the paces with his vocal pyrotechnics. He is arguably the centerpiece of Manimal‘s sound. Stenroos has served up another platter of memorable solos and hooky riffs, and the band has packed this album with plenty of catchy melodies that beg for repeated listening. -RR

34. Boss Keloid – Melted on the Inch (Garganjua)

I’d never even heard of the UK’s Boss Keloid until I stumbled upon their sophomore album Melted on the Inch somewhere around the middle of the summer. These guys play a prog-infused brand of stoner rock that just oozes soul, and there are so many memorable twists and turns on this album that I kept coming back to it over and over again. Melted on the Inch also contains my favorite vocal performance of the year thanks to Alex Hurst’s righteous bellow. I have no idea what any of the song titles mean, nor do I have even a fleeting guess as to what that is on the album’s cover, but I know a great rock record when I hear one and Melted on the Inch is a rare splendor. Christopher Cox (CC)

33. Jungle Rot – Jungle Rot (Victory Records)

Wisconsin’s death metal veterans returned in 2018 with their 10th full-length studio album, and it just might be the band’s best so far (certainly the best since 2011’s Kill on Command). Frontman Dave Matrise and company have always delivered a dynamic style of old school American death metal, while continuing to push their own boundaries. On this self-titled release, the guys have added more thrash metal elements, and Destruction’s Schmier even makes a cameo on the record. Everything Jungle Rot fans have come to expect can be found here including an endless assault of blast beats and relentless buzzsaw riffage overlaid by Dave’s caustic growls. This is all tied together with stellar production and technical precision. -RR

32. Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music)

You know how every parent has a favorite kid, even if they don’t admit it? Well, Clutch is everyone’s favorite child. It is familiar, comfortable, and always a joy to have around. Neil Fallon‘s voice and sense of humor never get old., and Book of Bad Decisions is another well-crafted album by one of the greatest rock bands of the last thirty years. Producer Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Chris Stapleton) has given Clutch a visceral, organic edge. Twelve albums deep and Clutch continue to stay strong and remain true to their fans and their signature sound. To continually put out great music year after year is a feat many bands struggle to accomplish effectively, and Clutch manages this with aplomb. It is worth the buy, it is worth the listen, it is worth the experience. -NRR

31. Burning Witches – Hexenhammer (Nuclear Blast)

I’m a sucker for traditional metal, big on memorable riffs, hooky choruses, and gritty vocal attacks. Bands like Judas Priest, Dio, and Accept, are where my metal heart thrives. While I somehow missed out on discovering these Swiss Femme Metales on their 2017 debut, their sophomore effort, Hexenhammer poleaxed me from the first riff. Burning Witches sound blends elements of traditional and power metal with some bits of thrash swirled in. The result is a style that sounds classic yet equally modern. Fronted by the aggressive and mammoth vocals of Seraina Telli, Burning Witches grabs you by the throat from the first notes of the opening single, “Executed”. Telli showcases a wailing yet gritty voice that sounds like an amalgamation of Rob Halford and Doro Pesch, while guitarist Romana Kalkuhl’s fingers are electrifying on the fretboard.  Hexenhammer resonates with a spectacular metal dynamism, and absolutely delivers the proverbial goods. -RR

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