12. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
It seems that Rolo Tomassi are finally getting their dues. After the best part of a decade and four stunning albums, their fifth studio release, Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It, is an absolute masterpiece that has brought them a whole host of new fans. With this new found support base, they are finally breaking through to the next level of venues, and it’s wholly deserved. Segueing expertly between indie rock and black metal, both played adeptly, the album is a master class in eclecticism.
11. Conjurer – Mire
There have been a lot of excellent new bands formed in the last few years. There have been an equal amount of excellent debut albums. Mire by Conjurer will surely go down as one of the greatest of the decade. A gorgeous amalgamation of post metal and sludge leads to atmospheric vistas in the likes of Thankless, and all out head banging riffage in Hadal and Choke. It’s a lean piece of mature songwriting, with hellish harsh vocals that accentuate the grime of their bleak soundscape.
10. Palm Reader – Braille
Once again we find yet another stunning hardcore release for 2018. Palm Reader; much like Rolo Tomassi, have been criminally underrated for their career so far, but Braille appears to finally be changing the tide for them. A torrent of ear worming riffs and perfectly judged vocal lines played with groove and verve make this an essential listen for anyone that likes their music intelligent and angry. Finally, Palm Reader are getting what they deserve, and you owe it to yourself to listen to them.
9. Architects – Holy Hell
Grief can be a destructive force. Brighton quintet, Architects, list their brother and chief songwriter, Tom Searle tragically in 2016, so it is incredible this album has not only come out, but is as brilliant as it is. They have taken their examination of mortality and mourning and turned it into a cathartic experience, all crescendoing with the beautiful Doomsday and A Wasted Hymn. Thrash riffs combined with Architects’ trademark tech metal sound make this a blissful listen, and Sam Carter’s lyrics lay the band’s soul bare. It will make you clench your fists, and being a year to your eye.
8. KEN Mode – Loved
If Converge’s Jane Doe is the ultimate break-up album, then Loved by Canadian hardcore merchants, KEN Mode, does the same for depression and anxiety. Their blackened hardcore is delivered at a pummelling pace that never lets up. It’s a frantic and desperate album, drenched in genuine pain. The off kilter snare in The Illusion of Dignity, is mixed to the back of headphone speakers and every single time gives you the feeling that there is a threatening and enigmatic figure behind you ready to pounce. It’s a deeply unsettling, but ultimately addictive album filled with phenomenal songwriting and vehement riffing.
7. Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Zeal and Ardor mastermind, Manuel Gagneux, has been a busy man. Creating Zeal and releasing two albums within the space of three years shows that he is nothing if not prolific, but it’s assuredly not a case of quantity over quality. With second album, and nod to Billie Holiday, Stranger Fruit, the 19th century roots blues influence has been increased and weighs far heavier on the listener than the black metal. There are huge choral sing a longs throughout, and every song could stand out as a hit single. There’s headbanging galore on Fire of Motion and Don’t You Dare, and moments of softer subtlety on Gravedigger’s Chant and Row Row. Far exceeding its predecessor in terms of both songwriting and audio quality, it’s one of the most interesting and eclectic releases of 2018.
6. Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind of Horror
War, huh. What is it good for? Well, providing the inspiration for one of the most brutal albums released in recent memory. Anaal Nathrakh have once again proven themselves to be a vital part of the extreme metal scene with their latest conceptual album based on the events of the First World War. From the screeching opening on Obscene as Cancer to the dulcet depressive orchestral stabs of Are We Fit for Glory Yet? (The War to End Nothing), the album never lets up in pace. It’s surprisingly catchy too. Forward! has a serious shout to be the best song of the year, and is certainly the best extreme metal song to use Christmas as a lyric.
5. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
With their 2013 album, Sunbather, Deafheaven revolutionised the music world. Suddenly, blackgaze became the sub genre du jour, and a plethora of bands tried to ape the style. One of the bands not riding Sunbather’s coattails however is Deafheaven themselves. OCHL takes more cues from Queen than it does Bathory, with the guitar build in You Without End having shades of the crescendoing solo of Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s an album of intense emotional depth and never short of interesting ideas and twists. It keeps the listener guessing, and with every listen there are new pieces of the puzzle to discover.
4. Møl – Jord
There is one blackgaze album to rule them all this year. It also may be the best debut of the last decade. That album comes from Danish quintet, Møl. Swathes of brutality and glittering cleanliness juxtapose one another to make this a joyous album filled with perfect songs. For a very long time it was the album of the year. It’s an absolute must listen. Storm, Jord and Bruma all stand out in how outstanding they are, dynamically fluid and just bloody well created, all performed with a youthful vim that never wanes once. Vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf, is a force of nature, and gives a stunning performance, screaming like a banshee from the bowels of hell, layering a catchiness to the complexity of the band’s instrumentation.
3. Black Peaks – All That Divides
The British music scene is on fire at the moment. A veritable smorgasbord of unbelievably talented bands have cropped up, but none finer than Brighton’s Black Peaks. With their debut album, Statues, they combined ramshackle groove with post hardcore and took the isles by storm. With follow up, All That Divides, the band are more concise and far more ambitious. The orchestral additions on Aether and Fate I & II are gloriously Wagnerian, and create a bombast befitting of Peaks’ newfound grandiosity. There’s theatricality in every element of the band, none more so than in Will Gardener’s pitch perfect vocals performance. The man is the greatest vocalist since Mike Patton, and stands as a vocal successor to Maynard James Keenan. How can you not want a listen?
2. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Comebacks can be difficult. Oftentimes a band’s return is a cynical cash grab and an excuse for a best of tour. Other times it is as sublime as You Won’t Get What You Want. A lumbering, chilling, threatening piece of work that never abates in its horrifying feel. Where the band used to be ostensibly grindcore, they have changed up their extremity for artful noise rock, blending industrial sounds and discordant synthesisers into their sonic landscapes. There’s funk in the perverse and predatory, Less Sex, and all out aural assault in the likes of The Flammable Man. It’s a truly horrific piece, but one that is so alluring you will find yourself returning to it time after time. This is madness put to music. It’s sonic Stockholm Syndrome.
1. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
By a sixth album in a career, many bands can begin to run out of steam. Whether relationships within the unit become unbearably fractious, or creative juices become ever more diluted, results may vary. The same can not be said for Canadian hardcore outfit, Fucked Up.
In returning to their character of David, the band take us through a lifetime of an adventure. From the saxophone accompanied banality of office life on None of Your Business Man, to the intense, throbbing electronic gallop of Mechanical Bull and Accelerate, the album is story telling at its finest, comparable only to Pink Floyd’s masterpiece, The Wall. Thrashing heaviness juxtaposed with serenity and sing-a-longs on the likes of Tell Me What You See tell a beautiful complex journey. Life is not one paced and comes with unnerving curveballs. By the time finale, Joy Stops Time fills around, there’s a blissfully cathartic feeling washing over you. Not simply a romantic sentiment, the song is a bookend that is as emotionally relieving as the embrace of a dearly loved one.
Punk is not simply spray cans and safety pins. It’s a sublimely transformative and anarchic genre the exerts dexterity and some of the finest craft. The eclecticism on offer from Fucked Up is unbelievably well realised. There’s not a single moment that doesn’t make sense, and not a jot of wasted potential. This is the best hardcore album since Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come. It might just be the best album of the decade.