As a rule, Noisey doesn’t run individual staffers’ year-end best-of lists. The thinking there is that, since together, we all make Noisey, our collective lists (like this one, and this one, and this little guy) should be definitive. That reasoning is sound, and one of my favorite things about working here is seeing what kind of gleefully unhinged mishmash of genres and memes and blood feuds eventually makes up our final lists. However, as the site’s designated heavy metal outlier, I always end up feeling a bit shafted; I could easily come up with 100 albums on my own, and still feel like I’m leaving someone out. That’s the beauty of heavy metal, and of heavy, weird, experimental music in general: someone’s always up to something.
Ever since I decided to start doing this column, though, I’ve been lying in wait for my chance to strike. Since this is essentially a free space for me to spout off about whatever the metallic fuck, this week’s column is going to serve as my de facto Best of 2018 list.
It’s been an interesting year for the genre, but then again, isn’t it always? Some years, the big trend is sonic. In recent times, we had the retro thrash wave, the “cavernous/”murky” old school death spiral, the post-black metal explosion, the war metal mini-boom, the black/thrash retread, and the ongoing progressive-but-don’t-call-us-tech-death mutation. Right now, crust- and post-metal-informed black metal/hardcore seems to be having a moment, alongside thoughtful, dynamic doom and progressively regressive death metal (all of which please me greatly). Looking at best-of 2018 lists from an arbitrary cross-section of metal and metal-adjacent media—handily compiled by the good people at No Clean Singing—a few more common threads stick out.
Tomb Mold and Mammoth Grinder are so hot right now (and for good reason—their records fucking ruled). Judas Priest has still got it, and so do Sleep. Tribulation, Skeletonwitch, Pig Destroyer, Khemmis, and Zeal & Ardor seemed to be the great equalizers this year. All of Thou’s many 2018 releases went down a treat. A lot of folks seemed to really like Sludge and that weird Rebel Wizard album. Ghost is apparently still considered a “metal band” by people who should really know better. Horrendous are well on their way to being the next big metal breakout success story. Everyone loves YOB, and everyone except me is still obsessed with Portal. There is still entirely too much music.
While the various generations of the old guard—your Voivods, your At The Gateses, and now, your High on Fires—continue to corner the market on media attention and reap a vast percentage of metalheads’ overall affection, it’s also a better time to be young and in a metal band than any other time outside of perhaps the early 80s (assuming you had a tape deck and stamp hookup). As Facebook continues to poison its own well and Soundcloud remains a playground for teenage rappers with bad tattoos, infinitely more artist-friendly platforms like Bandcamp and Bigcartel have become almost universal for the majority of underground metal bands—a promising development for both the consumers and makers of music as the barriers to entry for its dissemination and production continue to crumble.
Looking back over my own coverage here, the defining feature of metal in 2018 was less musical than political, something that will come as no surprise to regular readers (or to the reactionary metal bloggers who spend a disquieting amount of time being salty about it). We’ve covered a lot of good metal, and the vast majority of it— from Svalbard to Zeal & Ardor to Ilsa to Gaylord—was made by people with something to fucking say about our blighted society and the vampiric economic system under which we labor. Shithead Nazi-bootlicking bands are having a tougher time finding platforms for their bigoted nonsense than ever, and the new wave of explicitly anti-fascist extreme metal continues to crest ( in you live near NYC, you’ll be able to see that come to life onstage later in January at a new festival called Black Flags Over Brooklyn that I’m putting together with a few friends). Things are getting better—but we need to stay vigilant, and keep pushing harder.
I already wrote about some of my favorite albums on the Noisey lists, and on the Pitchfork metal list, so we’re beyond spoiler alerts here. Like everyone else, I dug the Tribulation and Tomb Mold records. Some of the best things I listened to this year weren’t metal at all (shout out to Twin Temple, Emma Ruth Rundle, Austin Lucas, and Whitey Morgan). I hate writing blurbs, and don’t like the idea of ranking albums in general, so am going to go bare bones here. Without further ado, here are all my other favorite metal albums of 2018.
Araida - Omid
Ghastly - Death Velour
Spectral Wound - Infernal Decadence
Scorched - Ecliptic Butchery
Twilight Fauna - Where Birds Sing My Name
Black Tusk - TCBT
Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)
Fucked and Bound - Suffrage
Ruminant - Ruminant
Deadbird - III: The Forest Within the Tree
Body Void - I Live Inside A Burning House
Redbait - Red Tape
Glacial Tomb - Glacial Tomb
Forlorn Citadel - Songs of Mourning
Dryad - The Silurian Age
Inexorum - Lore of the Lakes
Blood Sacrifice - The Horned Goddess
Mystic Priestess - No Tomorrow, Only Today
Siege Column - Inferno Deathpassion
Untamed Land - Between the Winds
Dispirit - Enantiodromian Birth
Anicon - Entropy Mantra
Faustcoven - In the Shadow of Doom
Agrimonia - Awaken
Antlers - beneath.below.behold.
Rotting Sky - Sedation
Infernal Coil - Within a World Forgotten
Sainte Marie des Loups - Sainte Marie des Loups
Kim Kelly is on Twitter.