Top 25 Albums of 2018 Part 1 [25-13]

25. Azusa – Heavy Yoke

Moving on from a project is hard to do. Liam Wilson, formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan has not let his prior work define him with Heavy Yoke. While the music is schizophrenic and frantic, it doesn’t bear much by way of resemblance to Dillinger. It’s not a pale imitation, but an inspired piece of work that ebbs and flows between subtlety and extremity, all through a beautifully delivered vocal performance.

24. Vein – Errorzone

Hardcore has had a real shot in the arm in recent years. In 2017, Code Orange took the world by storm with their industrialised hardcore brutality, and in their wake a slew of quality bands have been given deserved exposure. One of the finest examples is Vein, a band who sound like SikTh and Dillinger had a baby and let it hang out with the debut Slipknot album. Nu metal groove and bounce as well as crushing d-beat rhythms make this a truly excellent debut, and a band to watch out for. Virus://Vibrance alone is enough to break the neck of any listener.

23. Pijn – Loss

Lots of bands write about death. The entire thrash metal scene was predicated on fear of annihilation through nuclear warfare, and death and destruction is a common theme for heavy music. Never before has a band written so eloquently about the realities of mourning as Pijn have done with debut, Loss. A sprawling epic of an album filled with orchestral sounds and seldom used vocals that pack a punch when they do arrive. They capture a feeling so beautifully, it’s a truly upsetting and cathartic listen.

22. Portrayal of Guilt – Let Pain Be Your Guide

Blackened takes on music are everywhere in 2018. Blackgaze has become something of a choice genre since Deafheaven’s Sunbather in 2013, and as a result, plenty of bands have been mixing black metal into their shoegaze, hardcore or jazz. It’s rare that you get a band that can expertly do all three. From the wiry, scathing guitar work, to the d-beat feel of the rhythm section, the album is a distinct slab of blackened hardcore. All of this is underpinned by a jazz fusion style percussive performance, and a versatile showing from vocalist, Matt King.

21. Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch

What’s left to say about Nine Inch Nails? Trent Reznor’s brainchild has been a source of critical and commercial success for the best part of three decades, and effectively revolutionised heavy music. While many bands become shadows of their former selves, Reznor et al have shown that they intend to grow old gracefully with latest album, Bad Witch. There’s a feel not dissimilar to the mourning and acceptance of David Bowie’s Blackstar, particularly on the ambient jazz of lead single, God Break Down the Door. Nine Inch Nails yet again prove themselves to be vital, versatile and above all endlessly creative.

20. Ihsahn – Ámr

Euro pop synths aren’t what first spring to mind when thinking about black metal luminary, Ihsahn. However that’s exactly how his latest masterclass in adept song craft, Ámr, begins. The album is a delicate balance between dark and light. It treats us to the inner workings of the mind of one of black metal’s most respected figures and is as ambitious as any of his previous works. This album truly picks up from where Emperor left off, with its progressive and orchestral nature, mixed with gnarly black metal and balladry to boot.

19. The Black Queen – Infinite Games

A few years ago it would have been unimaginable that Greg Puciato would turn from a blood soaked maniac into a heartthrob pop icon. The Black Queen’s blending of the stylings of Massive Attack and Depeche Mode – to name a just few influences – is masterful, and so well produced that the clarity of each note is crystalline to the ear. The band have eschewed the mainstream sensibility found on their debut, Fever Daydream, to focus on mood and ambience rather than hooks. It’s done brilliantly and is a thoroughly engaging piece that should be enjoyed as a whole.

18. Ghost – Prequelle

The band that put the ABBA into Black Sabbath are back. Armed with a new album full of rangers to dance along to, they have fully embraced their pop side. The 80s nostalgia the album is steeped in is so expertly employed, the album sounds of a different era despite its contemporary release date. Dance Macabre, Rats and See the Light stand as highlights in a near perfect rock opera, and the saxophone solo on Miasma is perhaps the most joyous musical moment of the year.

17. Svalbard – It’s Hard to Have Hope

There are a lot of cliches in heavy music. Bands often touch on the same subjects time and again, so Svalbard’s sophomore record, It’s Hard to Have Hope, is a breath of fresh air in the diversity of its subject matter. Whether it’s the issue of molestation at festivals, the cruelty of animal breeding or unpaid internships benefitting those of great levels of wealth, the band turn these unspoken topics into powerhouse blackened hardcore. The album is steeped in the righteous anger that the subjects deserve, and has a level of grit and vigour to it that really brings everything to life.

16. Turnstile – Time and Space

Traditional hardcore might seem a bit hackneyed now. It’s a ridiculous thought, but a prevalent one. There are people out there who don’t like Bad Brains or Black Flag, and they are morons. This year’s greatest entry in a more trad style of hardcore, mixed with elements of groove and Muzak is Time & Space by Turnstile. An album that does not let up, keeping an energetic and frenetic pace throughout. Not a second is wasted here, and every one pummels the listener like being in the most frantic mosh pit imaginable, with Moon being the eye of the hardcore storm.

15. Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses

A dark, equine odyssey is may be an odd proposition to most. Listening to On Dark Horses however is an undeniably unique experience. One of beauty, subtlety and grace, all draped in Emma Ruth Rundle’s haunting vocals. The album expertly segues between the fragile and strong, moving stunningly between the oxymoronic styles and ending up being a world beating piece of work. Truly a masterpiece, and not far off flawless. The femininity of the record gives an airy sense to the breathy nature of Rundle’s vocals, an allows space for the instrumentation to expand and develop.

14. Boss Keloid – Melted on the Inch

Stoner rock can be a marmite genre. The slow, lumbering nature that defines it can be off putting to some, but Boss Keloid’s third album disproves any preexisting misconceptions. A vibrant piece of work filled with reverence for the genre’s forefathers, there is as much ode here to King Crimson as there is Kyuss. Every track on the album flies by in a jubilant rush, despite all being at least six minutes long. Truly a wonder, and a show of uniquely brilliant songwriting nous.

13. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest

Following a classic album is nigh on impossible. The Satanist was created under unique circumstances, so it is refreshing that Behemoth have not tried to ape their previous sound. Rather, they have expanded it into a more moody and bluesy direction. The result is a complex and beautifully made album filled with the anti-Christian ideation that one would expect from Poland’s most famous blasphemers, filled with moments of grandiosity in the likes of Bartzabel.

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