Here it is, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the highest possible ranking this drummer guy can possibly can, The Top 20 Albums of 2018. I've already covered 120 albums up to this point and only 20 more to go with each album proving worthy of being named The Best of 2018. Of course, for one last time, Let's go over the rules before diving head first into 20 of the most positive examples of great music this year.
1.) These are albums that I have personally checked out this year that I have either bought, streamed or was sent to me via promo.
2.) The order of the Top 100 is just based on my own enjoyment. I do not feel any album here is worth overlooking, otherwise I wouldn't take the time out of my day to talk about it.
3.) When the full 100 list begins it will be 20 albums per list. Starting with 100-81 and going 20 by 20 till the Top 20. The honorable mentions will be in Alphabetical order as I'm already ranking 100 albums, 140 is pure insanity.
4.) My list is not your list. There is bound to be a a few albums that show up on this list that you either hate seeing listed or you will ask why I don't have it on mine. It comes to either I didn't hear it enough, I didn't enjoy it enough, it's not my bag...baby, or I simply haven't heard it. The following 140 albums is not the be all end all list of 2018 rock and metal albums, but it does give a great representation of what came out this year.
5.) The entire purpose of these lists are to have you discover some new music and prove that every year, great music comes out from brand new bands, bands just hitting their stride, classic bands, and anything in between. If any band is of interest to you, go check them out, play a song on YouTube, stream their stuff on Spotify, buy their albums if you dig them, go see them live if there is the opportunity; just go support music in any way you can. It's what a music lover's life is all about.
LET'S FINISH THIS!!!
20.) Yob- Our Raw Heart
FFO- Doom Metal, Post Metal, Sludge Metal
From being on the brink of your life can come of life's most glorious moments. That is what is shown here. When you may be faced with your own mortality and not knowing what is coming next, you no longer feel the need to hide anything and you can truly be yourself. That is what I hear with this album from Yob. After facing life threatening illness, Mike Scheidt wrote a good portion of this album in the hospital and was, thankfully, able to flesh out the rest of the ideas for the album after getting better. What is left is one of the most emotional pieces of music in this style you will ever hear. The title track hits me so very hard every single time. This is not your typical doomy, stonerish, post sludge metal. It is so much more from the heart and grabs your soul. This is required listening for those that dare to find something emotional in music in 2018.
19.) Cauldron- New Gods
FFO- Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, 80s Metal
This album is the perfect throwback to everything you love about 80s metal, be it the thrash side, the glam side, or the occult side. Cauldron continues to get better and better with every album and this album just slays with it's melodic metal riffs and perfect raw production. Get your leather vest back on, crack open a cold one with the boys, and throw this album on for guaranteed good times.
18.) Ihsahn- 'Amr
I feel like I say this every single time there is a new Ihsahn, but he finds a new way, every single time, to amaze me and repeat myself...this is the most innovative and commercial sounding Ihsahn album to date. Leading you on with the most Emperor sounding song he has written since the band was still actively writing to writing some of the most wicked, nearly pop rock sounding songs you'll hear this year. I wish I had a tenth of Ihsahn's creative prowess so I could just comprehend being this creative with your sound and literally standing by the ideal of creating the music you want to make. Mindblowing from start to finish and you just may agree.
17.) In The Woods...- Cease The Day
FFO- Progressive Metal, Black Metal
Possibly the last album I heard this year that I fully got to have a full grasp on before making this list and I was completely blown away. This is how you make dark progressive metal with tinges of black metal and a little bit of psychedelic. It helps that the band features members of one of my favorite bands ever, Green Incarnation and has hints of that sound, even with a newer lineup since it began. Had I been able to hear this album more, it would probably be a Top 10- or even Top 5 album of the year for me, but the fact I've had this album about 3 weeks or so and it's blown me away this much to make number 17 out of 140 really says a lot of what this band can do. Check them out and see if they are right for you as well.
16.) Long Distance Calling- Boundless
FFO- Progressive Post Metal
After writing one of my favorite albums ever, Trips, back in 2016. The band stripped away the vocals, catchy mainstream songs, and guest appearances to make a return to form. This is the first full on Instrumental LP in the band's catalog and it is easily the best instrumental metal album of the year. It combines all of the great soundscapes I love about the band, no matter how mellow, beautiful or heavy the album gets. LDC has been on my radar since 2009's Avoid The Light and it's great to see 9 years later that I am still just as big of a fan as I have ever been. A band that truly makes the music they want to make. Long Distance Calling is...Boundless.
15.) Wills Dissolve- The Heaven's Are Not On Fire...
FFO- Progressive Death Metal, Post Metal
I've been hyping up this band for a little bit now and I simply can't do it enough. This Texas band combines the elements of Swallow The Sun, Novembers Doom, Isis, and Opeth that I've always wanted to hear in a band. They can go from a hauntingly beautiful acoustic driven ballad and quickly change it into a brutalized death metal song and it's entirely seamless. This concept album hits all the right notes that makes the band's original sound stick out amongst so many progressive death metal bands and forms something that is truly memorable. Seriously, check this one out!
14.) The Antichrist Imperium- Vol II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan
FFO- Extreme Metal
It's futile for me to properly categorize this band. To put it one way, take members of Akercocke, The Berzerker, My Dying Bride, and Voices and have them create a Satanic album that lives up to the hype. It hits every style of music you want in heavy music: prog, thrash, black, death, grind, atmospheric, post, you name it, you'll hear it somewhere on this album. But rather than being a hodgepodge of sound; it completely makes sense and brings forth one of the most awe-inspiring albums of the year. Even if the subject matter isn't for you, I highly recommend checking this album out for the songwriting alone. You're jaw will drop to the ground.
13.) The Moor- Jupiter's Immigrants
FFO- Dark Progressive Metal
One of my favorite discoveries of the year. This band has such a great edge of mixing bands such as Nevermore, Opeth, Early-Mid Era In Flames that makes some of the most intriguing prog music you'll hear in 2018. It's also some of the catchiest you'll hear as well. Try listening to a song like Lead The Difference and tell me that doesn't get stuck in your head in the best way possible. I hope this band continues to flourish as this is how you make dark progressive music.
12.) Revocation- The Outer Ones
FFO- Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal, H.P. Lovecraft
One of the most straightforward albums in the band's career; Revocation doesn't do their genre bending songs like on Chaos Of Forms or exploring extreme diversity. They went ahead and wrote a very technical, but killer Death Metal album that hints at what they are best at and flourishes with their most brutal album to date. Inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft; the album explores so many classic horror tales and characters and they wrote the prefect soundtrack to pair with it all. Don't get me wrong, the album still has so many twists and turns that makes the band stand out, but focusing more on death metal this time around was the perfect choice and makes this one of the best death metal albums of the year.
11.) Bloodbath- The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
FFO- Old School Swedish Death Metal
Bloodbath has made another masterpiece of a death metal album. Old Nick has now made is presence even stronger since Grand Morbid Funeral and really brings the power to the band that matches up the intensity and brutality the band has always been known for. Everyone has their favorite era of Bloodbath, but if you ever doubted this era of Bloodbath, you are missing out on the best death metal album of 2018. remedy that now before the arrow of Satan stabs you in the heart.
10.) Oceans of Slumber- The Banished Heart
FFO- Progressive Metal, Doom Metal, Black Metal
The debut album from Oceans of Slumber literally took my breath away. I always wanted to hear a band like this and completely delivered. It was going to be pretty rough to stop that album. Despite some personal setbacks for the bands that could ruin anyone; the band was able to go even darker, even heavier, even doomier, and write one of the darkest albums of 2018 that is completely and utterly heart wrenching. You know things are dark when you gotta add Evergrey's Tom Englund to do guest vocals because the music just isn't dark enough without him. The music is complete and utter perfection, it's a bit slower overall than the debut album, but this album hits you so much harder. An absolute must listen.
9.) Redemption- Long Night's Journey Into Day
FFO- Dark Progressive Metal
How do you make one of my favorite bands of all time even better? You add one of my favorite singers of all time to the fold. Evergrey's Tom Englund makes his debut in Redemption with this ever growing dark album that perfectly matches his voice and makes the band even stronger (and I never thought that was possible). One complete shocker is that there is actually some Major Key action going on in this album that Tom Englund sings over and it actually sounds....HAPPY! (hell has literally frozen over!) But in all seriousness, this album is complete brilliance and I hope if you give it a spin, you'll agree.
8.) Omnium Gatherum- The Burning Cold
FFO- Melodic Death Metal
My final point, this year, on how Finnish metal is the best metal overall. With this release, Omnium Gatherum has become my favorite Finnish band. This album contains so much melodic brutality mixed with a beautiful sense of wonder, atmosphere and feel good music. This is the music you put on with you have inner battles that you must defeat. There is also a great sense of 80s metal that happens from time to time that just puts a gigantic smile on your face as you listen. I love this album and is the pure definition of how to make heavy music beautiful. If you are not aware of this band, please check them out immediately...or at least write them down and check them out after you read this list.
7.) Panopticon- The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
FFO- North American Folk Metal, Black Metal
Very proud to say that this Minnesota band has released the best double album of 2018. In instances in the past, the band has brilliantly mixed black metal, folk metal, Americana, and bluegrass in a way that just blew my mind when I first discovered the album, Kentucky. Now several albums later; this double album actually separates the two. The first disc is pure post atmospheric black metal with hints at everything else the band is known for and disc two is straight up folk, Americana and bluegrass. So no matter your mood, you'll find something to love here. The band is absolutely at the top of their game and I can't even fathom seeing them slowing down any time soon. Just listen, you'll understand why.
6.) Head With Wings- From Worry To Shame
FFO- Progressive Rock, Post Rock, Alternative Rock
What a brilliant album! A sad, depressing, heart crushing, yet strangely uplifting, album. Tackling a story and issues that must be heard to truly comprehend, this emotionally driven masterpiece flows through so many dynamics of all shapes and sizes. No matter how indie, heavy, or proggy this album gets, it feels so natural and meaningful. This is not an album that should be heard just off of singles. Listen to this from start to finish, read the lyrics, and invest your time into hearing this soon to be classic album. They are going to skyrocket from here. Just you watch.
5.) Ghostbound- All is Phantom
FFO- Post Metal, Progressive Metal, Heavy Metal
My favorite discovery of 2018. Be it an accurate description or not, I love describing the band as if Bruce Dickinson formed a band where he showed his love for Anathema, Pelican and Isis. It is a culture shock to the sense if you are not prepared for it, but if you let it sink in, it is an experience you will never forget and it will completely absorb you. This utter masterpiece of an album is an absolute game changer. If the right people hear this, it could change metal going forward. I simply can't get enough, I hope you'll agree.
4.) Distorted Harmony- A Way Out
FFO- Modern Progressive Metal
The best, straight up, progressive metal album of 2018. This is what every single prog band (new and old) should be striving to achieve in today's world. Even if you play a different style of prog, you need to match something on this album, otherwise there's no point. The choruses are beyond catchy, the riffs are the perfect blend of heavy and memorable, the songs are sheer brilliance. If you want your prog to be heavy, catchy, and to the truest meaning of the word, EPIC; you need Distorted Harmony in your life.
These last three albums I have had the hardest time deciding what would be number one. I can make an argument for all three and feel completely justified, but this was the final order I picked and they are seriously the best albums of the years to me.
3.) Zeal & Ardor- Stranger Fruit
FFO- African American Spirituals meets Black Metal, Experimental
Taking everything I loved about Devil is Fine, but making the production stellar, the instrumentation stronger, the songs more meaningful and the overall presentation of the band. This hits you on so many levels. It's more than just Spirituals and black metal now, it adds so much more atmosphere, experimentation and I date say poppy elements that makes this the most creatively satisfying album of 2018. Whether the intrigue in this band stays or not, I hope the band will continue to strive forward and expand upon their sound even further. Incredible doesn't even begin to describe this band, especially if you have an open mind.
2.) Rivers of Nihil- Where Owls Know My Name
FFO- Progressive Death Metal
Take everything I said about Distorted Harmony and put it into context of progressive death metal and the same rules apply. This is the new standard of progressive death metal. The creativity, the atmosphere, the instrumentation. They truly made one of the most innovative albums of the year in a way that was hinted at in the past, but now fully is achieved. The clean vocals (guest spots or normal) fit so perfectly), the keyboards, organs, synths, and saxophone that are layered throughout this makes the album flow in a way that would have been lost otherwise. This is an album to behold and need to be regarded as the gold standard of progressive death metal moving forward.
1.) Witherfall- A Prelude To Sorrow
FFO- Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Dark Metal
As I've said with the epics, in reality, there's no other choice for the number one position this year. This album is written about the loss of one of the greatest people I'll ever know, Adam Sagan. This is an album I was, with full transparency, and album I was afraid to listen to because of the subject matter. There is a lot of people that are behind me in my endeavors. So many people who love what I do and want to see me as the biggest voice in music promotion (radio shows, interviews, reviews, etc). But there is not a single person who graced this earth that wanted me to achieve that more than Adam. He thought what I did was not only cool, but one of the most honest ways of caring about music. We've had so many great conversations through text, over the phone and in person. One of the greatest moments of my life was hanging out with Adam and the bands Krisiun and Ex Deo (featuring pretty much all of Kataklysm) eating (what I realize now were after several) marijuana cookies, drinking beer, and air dumming/guitaring to Van Halen's I outside the now defunct Station 4 in St. Paul, MN in their tour bus. I loved Adam as my brother and seeing him battle to his final days was so inspiring yet so painful. One of my biggest regrets was not getting to fully interview Adam while he was here. We wanted to wait till he had a project he really wanted to push and that band was Witherfall. I have no idea what's on the other side. Is there an afterlife? Do we rot in the ground and become one with carbon once again? I'm not the guy to ask, I just go on living my way. But if there is anything out there beyond this life, I hope I am making him proud. As I write this, it passed the two year anniversary of his passing and it is not any easier knowing he's not here. That's what real life friendship is and I hope anyone reading this can have that if they don't already.
But let's get back to the music. The music is haunting, dark, heavy, and has some of the greatest vocals tracked to record this millennium. Amongst some killer 10+ minute epics, there are emotional ballads, and fire breather thrashers that take you on a whirlwind of emotions. Think Nevermore, Sanctuary, Iced Earth and Into Eternity and you'll be getting closer to what this band is all about. I can't promise you'll have the same emotional attachment to this album as I do, but I hope you can enjoy even a tenth of what I tried to portray here and see an album that is one of the greatest goodbyes to someone you could ever give.
That's it, we're done, we're finished, it's over! That is the top 100 albums of 2018 with 40 honorable mentions covering a good chuck of what was about there in 2018. From the darkest of dark, to the heaviest of heavy, to the proggiest of proggy, to the funnest of fun. I hope you have enjoyed this six-part list and found at least one new album that you can enjoy.
I will be doing a wrap up of my life in 2018 coming up sometime soon, but till then, I think I've earned a well deserved break so till next time this is That Drummer Guy saying, SEE YA!
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)