Hey everyone! I’m Jon, a new contributor at Super Metal World. I run an infinitely small label Riffs or GTFO, and you can hear my interview with the SMW guys about all of that on Episode 10. Here is my official, certified, grade-A Top 10 Albums List of 2018. This list is in no particular order, so give all of these records a listen!
Realms of Vision – Through All Unknown
Frank Costa has done it again. If you haven’t heard his previous band, the seminal extreme metal group Animosity, go check them out now. OK, now give Realms of Vision a listen. What you’re hearing is some of the most inspired riffing in heavy music – only in two completely different styles. Although Realms is about as far as you can get from death metal, the riffs are still absolutely crushing. The grooves don’t just stomp, they swirl. Part rock, part metal, revering the past but always looking forward; Realms of Vision is the most original-sounding group I’ve heard in years.
Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath
When I first heard Visigoth’s 2015 debut “The Revenant King”, I was already enamored with fellow epic metallers Eternal Champion’s early output. EC’s subtle songcraft and world-building lyrics had me hooked. By comparison, Visigoth’s much more obvious approach sounded like a bunch of try-hards playing fantasy-metal-by-numbers. With “Conqueror’s Oath”, I still feel like my initial reaction to the group was largely correct. What HAS changed, however, is my appreciation for what they do. I found this to be the most fun record of the year, and one I still can’t get enough of. “Warrior queen – forged in steeeeeeel!”
Tribulation – Down Below
This is how I like my black metal, apparently. A little bit of goth, a little psych, a lot of rock, and… maybe not much black metal. Atlanta’s Cloak made my top 10 list in 2017 and Tribulation’s name kept popping up everywhere Cloak were mentioned. And I can see why. Both bands borrow from traditional heavy metal style matched with black metal vocals. Tribulation’s song structures can seem a bit bare-bones, but it works really well for them. And there is almost always a sonic surprise after extended sections. I found myself circling back to this album regularly.
Ghost – Prequelle
I am a dad. And as such I have a dad bod, I tell dad jokes, and I love my dad rock. Ghost hooked me with their earlier, doom-tinged works, but now it seems like they are moving their sound closer towards my soul. And my soul lives for AOR and 80’s soft rock movie soundtracks. If Ghost’s next album is a full on yacht rock concept and they cover Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” I think I’ll die from a full-on dad-eurism. With the way the band has been progressing album-to-album, that might not be too much of a stretch for them.
Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
Following the incredible 2017 EP “The Apothic Gloom”, “Devouring…” shows Skeletonwitch continuing their departure from blackened thrash (don’t @ me) and moving into darker, more unknown territory. The menacing vocals remain, but the instruments create more dynamic soundscapes for them to occupy. Crafting extreme heavy metal with the celestial, open quality of post rock, Skeletonwitch appear to be settling into their newfound sound with a natural ease.
Unearth – Extinctions
After 2014’s “Watchers of Rule” showed us Unearth at their fastest and most extreme, “Extinctions” finds the band in large part returning to some of their earliest metalcore roots. In fact, much of this record would sit comfortably next to the tracks in 2001’s “The Stings of Conscience”. Yes, that’s even earlier than the breakout “The Oncoming Storm” record, who’s styling the band spent most of their career refining. What this all means is that we’re in for some big grooves, a good amount of alternating chugs and dissonant intervals, and – oh yeah – it’s Unearth so there will be some fantastic breakdowns. It’s not all nostalgia though. The lyrics are a perfect mirror for the world of today, and a few tracks find Unearth doing things musically they’ve never done before. And for the first time on record vocalist Trevor Phipps adds some range to his bark, going a bit higher and lower in pitch on this outing.
Nekrogoblikon – Welcome to Bonkers
Okay this band is an anomaly for me. These guys are goblin-themed modern pop tech meme-metal for the kids. On paper, that just isn’t what I’m looking for in my metal these days. However, the first song I heard from this record, called The Magic Spider, has strong rock opera vibes. In fact, it sounds like it could be on a modern interpretation of Roger Glover’s “The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast”. Go back to that gem to hear a pre-Rainbow Ronnie James Dio on vocals. I have it on vinyl – no big deal. But back to Nekrogoblikon. I listened to The Magic Spider so many times that the rest of the record, when I decided to give it a shot, quickly grabbed me and won me over. These guys are impressive musicians and make entertaining videos as well.
The Agony Scene – Tormentor
The Agony Scene always felt more intense than most of their early 00’s metalcore counterparts, in large part thanks to vocalist Mike Williams’ downright threatening snarl. Now, with their first record in over a decade, the Agony Scene pick up right where they left off, in fact getting even heavier, faster, and even more intense. The band benefits from 2018 production, especially the drums. It is usually hard for bands’ later works to compete with material from the glory years. But – like the mighty Testament, who are currently enjoying a second golden age – The Agony Scene may be poised to gain a new following instead of just attempting to recapture their existing fanbase.
Skull Fist – Way of the Road
Skull Fist kept us waiting four years for this album. I had actually written them off as unlikely to return, so this record was a most welcome listen. In my mind I always compare Skull Fist to their contemporaries and fellow Canadians, the oft-celebrated Cauldron (who also released a fine record this year). Both bands are solidly in the NWOTHM scene but have an obvious Skid Row/glam metal influence that other bands of their ilk do not. Skull Fist is the faster of the two groups and therefore is, obviously, the better one. I kid, but somehow that sums up my feeling about the band. Skull Fist keep it campy and fun, but they never forget they are metal. “Way of the Road” is fist-pumping metal for longhairs. Heavy metal rules, that punk shit belongs on mars, man.
Gygax – 2nd Edition
Look, these guys are the second coming of Thin Lizzy… if Phil Lynott was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons. And that’s alright with me. No joke, these guys can write a top-notch song, and “2nd Edition” is full of them. There’s not much else to say, so if you’re looking for some classic-sounding riff rock that swings, topped with twin guitar harmonies and tasty leads… this is the boogie for you.
If you like what you hear, check out these other great 2018 releases:
Great Electric Quest – Chapter II: Of Earth (rock n’ roll/metal – catch them live whenever possible)
Light This City – Terminal Bloom (death metal / metalcore – comeback album)
Monument – Hellhound (NWOTHM / Iron Maiden worship)
The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough (AOR / soft rock by metal legends)
White Wizzard – Infernal Overdrive (NWOTHM pioneers’ final record)
High on Fire – Electric Messiah (FFO: Destroying worlds)