I haven’t written about music in ages and I think it’s about time even though I still feel like an absolute armature. Music has always been my first love and writing about it can sometimes be hard as I am pretty easy to please. I love sharing great music, and making this list was difficult. I would say my top 5 albums definitely remain my absolute favorites and the ranking does not really matter for the rest. In that spirit, here’s my favorite albums for 2018:
1. Angelus Apatrida – Cabaret de la Guillotine
The power intro to this album gave me goosebumps from the get go. Since this album came out earlier this year, it’s the one I keep finding myself going back to.
Angelus Apatrida is one of those hidden gems that have improved with every release as the years have gone by. Earworms galore with fantastic songwriting, layered with angry, melodic vocals, with solos that provide the perfect harmony between speed and feel, this album remains a firm favourite of mine for 2018.
Sharpen the Guillotine; The Hum
2. Ghost – Prequelle
I use to believe that Ghost was a gimmick band, until I got sucked into their cult of catchy tunes. Their music is so damn feel good and very difficult not to like. It’s even appropriate to play in the office and the sense of pleasure I get from normal people enjoying songs about satan is priceless.
Prequelle is the perfect candidate for album of the year to me. The flow of the album feels like a story. A story about getting sucked into a cult without knowing it. And then you go from humming tunes softly while cooking to singing them super loud in your car, shoulder pop included.
My favourite songs include Rats, Miasma and Faith.
3. Gama Bomb – Speed between the Lines
I fucking love Gama Bomb. I love their fun, their cheese and most of all the fact that they don’t take themselves seriously And yes their last 3 albums have been on heavy rotation because it’s that good. They play fast, they have impressive leads and the vocals persuade you to sing-a-long to every song. They’ve never disappointed me, and this time around it’s no different.
The album start with “Give me Leather” featuring some seriously high pitched vocals followed by a good thrashing of tracks you won’t skip pass but perhaps repeat and repeat and repeat again.
Gama Bomb guarantees a pleasurable listening experiences for those that have a sense of humor and simply just want to have fun while listening to great music.
4. The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
I love the variety progressive bands bring to the table. I appreciate the immense amount of effort that goes into composing music like this. The story lines of each note played, each movement well thought off, written and played with precision, and over a stretched period of time to guarantee listener contentment.
The harmonies of cold shivers is evident of my body reacting to the perfection of this album. Moody, unpredictable and utterly surprising in every twist and turn of each song. I like to think that it appeals to my intellectual side especially since I love listening to this type of thing while studying or simply just meditating or reading. It’s soul reaching music of another dimension.
The album in its entirety.
5. Terrorizer – Caustic Attack
I have waited for this album. For a long time. Since 2012’s Hordes of Zombies to be exact. Terrorizer does grindcore exactly the way I love it, no bullshit with many death metal thrills. I don’t mind the cross genre pollination of the songs, as I take joy in what the music makes me feel, whichever genre or experimental twist it may bring.
And this Terrorizer album makes me feel absolutely fucking exhilarated. It reminded me why I initially got into the extreme side of metal. The drumming is nothing short of absolutely skull breaking, as expected by invincible Pete Sandoval behind the kit. The vocals blend seemingly with the incessant blasts and the venomous attack of guitars.
Of course I’m not oblivious to the historical brilliance of “World Downfall” but to be honest, I don’t like keeping bands to the standards of their ground breaking albums. Slayer never made another “Reign in Blood” and neither did At the Gates make another “Slaughter of the Soul”. I’m an easy to please listener. Shoot me.
6. Legend of the Seagull Men – Legend of the Seagull Men
This super group containing one of my favourite drummers of all time, Danny Carey (Tool), and one of the guitarist from Mastodon is the definition of what an actual super group should be. I was late to the Mastodon appreciation club but became obsessed and Legend of the Seagull Men only fed that further.
The album is reminiscent of 70’s rock ‘n roll, with epic drumming of course and a feel good level that gives you goosebumps as you listen to the band’s story telling through each song. It’s a fusion of fun with exceptional yet simple musicianship at times.
The Fogger, Curse of the Red Tide
7. Exmortus – The Sound of Steel
This band is my absolute indulgence. Because I love quite a bit of classical music and by combining it with speed metal is a dream come true for my ears.
Of course the glaringly obvious shortcoming of the Exmortus package is the vocals (which improve with every album just btw) but a band with such technical skill don’t really need a fantastic vocalist too. It’s about the actually tunes coming alive with every note played with immense precision.
To the End of the Earth
Strength & Honor
8. Down Among the Dead Men – …And You Will Obey Me
Another easy listening album with a classical death metal spin and a punch of punk to it. In a metal world oversaturated with techdeath, it’s refreshing to hear a band that has an old school approach with d-beats and powerful catchy riffs.. The songs are are short but long enough to get you energized for another round in the pit or to keep you continuously headbanging throughout the entire album.
Axis of Insanity
The Age of Steel
9. Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence
There’s this thing that older death metal bands have that the newer generation hasn’t grasped just yet IMHO of course. It’s the ability to distinguish their sound from the rest. When this Monstrosity record came onto my playlist, I immediately recognize the style of guitar playing.
Of course naysayers will point to the fact that older bands may not have progressed from their initial offerings or haven’t been innovative in their production of later albums. As an easy to please listener, I feel that when bands stick to their solid roots, it avoids disappointment.
“The Passage of Existence” is a classic death metal album, a vital addition to the progressive overload and thrashing titles that rule my listening habits. I find myself with goosebumps when a lead is played and headbanging during choruses.
10. Kataklysm – Meditations
I will be honest here, I’ve never paid a lot of attention to Kataklysm before I saw the band live on stage. It was more a case of not knowing than ignorance of course.
What I’ve been missing out on is pure easy listening heavy metal. Definitely what I need between the plethora of thrash and punk in my daily playlists. How did I know I really actually like this latest release? I caught myself headbanging at my desk while grinding away at my office job.
11. Suicidal Tendencies – Still Cyco Punk After All These Years
The feelings I have for Gama Bomb is shared with Suicidal Tendencies. I’m a sucker for sing-a-longs. As much as I am an angry metalhead most of the time, crossover bands like ST makes me damn happy. And it’s fun! With so much seriousness ruling my day to day life, listening to bands like ST gives me a well-deserved break to laugh and bounce up and down with contentment. Even if it’s not at a concert but on my living room couches instead.
Of course the fact the Dave Lombard is playing punk on this album is a big sell for me, and combined with prominent bass grooves, a weakness of mine, the album is the perfect, lighthearted energizing mix I need.
It’s always something
12. Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind
I’ve been a fan of Nervosa since their early days and watching these ladies grow with every release has been an absolute honor. Of course considering my own past, playing for an all-female band, I empathize with the issues that come with territory. Nevertheless as a listener, I remain objective and pay specific attention to the emotions I feel when listening to any band, regardless of gender.
As Nervosa matured, the rate of their musicianship improved tenfold as much as the intensity of their anger. They have a reason to be angry and for those that don’t want to listen, you will definitely regret the fact that you have not given them a chance.
The band’s influences are clear with sounds of Cannibal Corpse and Slayer pushing through machine gun blasts and high pitched screams and growls. The lack of leads in the songs are not a bother at all as the music is straight to the point.
…And Justice for Whom?
Raise your Fist!
Selfish Battle (prove that Fernanda Lira has a voice that you cannot ignore!)
13. Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back
It’s one of those albums where you just want to sit back, with a beer in hand, close your eyes and move your body to the rhythm of the music.
The opening track “Sons of Salem” is a firm favourite and will get you in the mood party. Moving through the remainder of the album, the gritty vocals really hits hard and you will find it really hard not to bang your head, or just even tap your feet to the melodies and rhythms of this album.
Sons of Salem
Ghosts of the Primitive
14. High on Fire – Electric Messiah
To be honest, I only discovered this band when I saw them on the Hellfest 2019 line up. And with each time we venture to Europe to see a spew of bands, I make sure to listen to the bulk of the line up to ensure I don’t miss any greats.
And boy I am happy I went on that exercise to discover this crossover metal Motorhead inspired groove of a band.
The album is high energy for most parts but have well-deserved breaks in the form of hauntingly, stoned songs like
“Sanctioned Annihilation” and continues to rumble forth in wrath with “Freebooter”. The churning out of build ups and blasts kept me going and definitely left me with the need to explore more of this band’s discography.
Favourite Tracks (no surprise there!):
15. Dead Can Dance – Dionysus
As much as my tastes are rooted in the spheres of punk and metal, I do love a relaxed and meditative soundtrack to quiet the mind after a stressful day.
Dead can dance no doubt has the ability to put one into a trance, similar to the likes of practicing Bikram Yoga and focusing on your breath. This album is one to be enjoyed at full volume to feel it’s effect. The songs flow easily from one to the other and when it ends you find yourself insatiable.
The album in its entirety.
16. Hatchet – Dying to Exist
Absolutely in love the with harmonious riffing played with speed and accuracy on this album. In addition the solid drumming and perfectly balanced vocals make this album easy listening. It’s a fantastic representation of the great quality of new wave of thrash bands exploding on the scene in the last few years. For those that say that the genre is lacking variety only have to look closer at bands like Hatchet to be proved wrong.
Back into Dust
17. Metal Allegiance – Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of super collaborative projects. Roadrunner United back in the day was one of my favourite projects.
As the years went by and I became a tad bit obsessed with thrash metal, mainly for the fun yet angry speed elements, I was super amped when the Metal Allegiance project came about.
The first album was fantastic, the second album on par. You can clearly hear Alex Skolnick’s influence on the songwriting and guitar work which I absolutely don’ mind. Portnoy is killer on drums as per usual and each song is tailored to the guest vocalist’s strengths. With this formula, the album is an absolute pleasure to listen to.
King with a Paper Crown (feat. Johan Hegg)
Liars & Thieves (feat. Troy Sanders)
18. Akhenaten – Golden Serpent God
This album, this band took me by surprise. I’ve had quite the rediscovery of death metal the last year when Spotify finally launched in South Africa and Akhenaten came up as a recommendation after listening to Nile.
I see the band as sort an extension of Nile, a little bit more spruced up and with a different take on the topic at hand. With less death metal influence and more tribal sounds, the band sets itself apart. The album is filled with haunting melodies, a touch of black metal and intriguing sounds of from the underworld.
Dragon of the Primordial
Apophis: The Serpent of Rebirth+
19. Aborted – Terrorvision
Aborted remains one of my favourite death metal bands with their impeccable technical abilities and penchant to blow me out my loosely laced Dr Martens. Terrorvision grinds through your brain into your belly. None of the usual gimmicks and simply an enthralling account of their musicianship. It viciously tears through your ear drums,
A Whore D’oeuvre Macabre
20. Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
Sleaze filled, sexy rock ‘n roll to shake your hips and bang your head to. How the hell did I wait this long to get into Clutch?
I blame it on the overwhelming access to music we have nowadays. Neil Fallon’s vocals took me totally by surprise.
The album is mischievous with sounds from rock, punk, blues and metal. Easy and enjoyable listening with absolutely feel good music as the soundtrack is the order of the day with “Book of Bad Decisions”.
Feel Good Tracks:
How to Shake Hands
Spirit of ’76
Other Albums I loved:
Pennywise – Never Gonna Die
Not much is needed to satisfy my inner punk. Give me a solid d-beat, angry lyrics and I’m there. Pennywise has had the same formula since their heydays and this album is no different. And I am actually ok with it. Simplicity has its place in my music collection.
If there’s been more punk releases this year, I’ve managed to miss them so please comment any great ones you may have discovered.
Powerwolf – Sacrament of Sin
This album is definitely not a disappointment but does lack the punch that albums such as “Blessed and Possessed” have. Nevertheless Powerwolf still delivers a tight, easy listening and cheese filled album to satisfy my appetite for operatic sing-a-longs when it rears its heads.
Pripjat – Chain Reaction
I absolute love that Germans love thrash metal. The new wave of thrash bands out of this country are creating so much energy around the genre and setting the bar pretty high. Pripjat is one of them and witnessing them live in 2015 was an absolute treat.
“Chain reaction” is an album that is self-explanatory. Vocals start off strong, chaos ensues and relentlessly continues throughout the album with a short break in “28.04” which I absolutely do not mind as I am a sucker for acoustic breaks in metal albums.
Ultraviolence – Operation Misdirection
This band is great mix of the thrash greats like Megadeth and Exodus with their own blends of progressive innovation. Definitely deserves a few more listens from my side.