Metal Thoughts: 2018 Year in Review

2018 was an amazing year for new music across all genres, particularly in the hard rock/metal arenas.  I commented last year that 2017 was one of the best years I could remember as far as the quality of music released.  But when the end of the year rolled around, I had a clear cut Top 10 and I didn’t feel like I left anything on the table. 2018 was a different animal.

There were a TON of albums I listened to (and loved) this year that I didn’t have time to review.  Big name bands like Breaking Benjamin, Godsmack, Three Days Grace, Coheed and Cambria, Disturbed, Avatar, Halestorm, and Five Finger Death Punch all released great albums this year.  And while each of those mega albums had songs and moments that are certainly memorable, on the whole they didn’t define 2018 for me.  As good as they were, none of them will crack the list that is to follow.

And while each of those mega albums had songs and moments that are certainly memorable, on the whole they didn’t define 2018 for me.

There were also many HUGE releases fans have been waiting years for.  Judas Priest released Firepower, their first release in five years, and it was incredibly well-received.  Slash released Living the Dream, with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.  I think Myles Kennedy (who had a great year and released a great solo album of his own, Year of the Tiger) has the best voice in rock music.  And Slash is obviously a legend with an unmatched ear and endless talent.  There are a list of other albums I was obsessed with for a time in the last 12 months.  Greta Van Fleet had the most anticipated full length premiere of 2018 and it rocked.  Clutch put out one of the most musically skilled albums I have heard in years.  Atreyu, Memphis May Fire, and Red Sun Rising released albums that put them in a well-deserved spotlight.  But as great as these releases are, there were 10 that meant more to me in 2018.

Before I get into the albums that made the biggest impact on me, I want to take a minute to highlight a few EPs that helped shape 2018.  Often an overlooked art in the hard rock world, this year had some EPs that became a huge part of my soundtrack.

Metal Thoughts Top 5 EPs of 2018

5. PANICWOLF – Paralyze

4. Goalkeeper – Bad Times Don’t Last

3. grandson – a modern tragedy vol. 1

2. The Burden – The Presence of Past Tense

1. FEVER 333 – Made An America

I also wanted to take a minute to acknowledge a few singles that made an impact this year.  A few months ago I released a review about the gripping and powerful song “Ghost” by Badflower.  I just learned the band will finally follow up with a full length EP in 2019, but for its impact on me and so many others, it is the song of the year for 2018.  Asking Alexandria released an acoustic version of their single “Alone In A Room” which I want to shout out as the acoustic track of the Year.  Finally, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie put on a hell of a tour this summer, kicking it off with a cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”, and is my 2018 Cover of the Year!

The point of wrapping up 2018 is to get to the albums that shaped it.  Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Albums of 2018 from Metal Thoughts: 

10. Bad Wolves – Disobey
Standout tracks: “Zombie” | “Hear Me Now” (Feat. Diamante)

Bad Wolves’ debut album may be the breakthrough hit of the year.  The band is surprisingly heavy for how commercially successful their first two singles have been.  Their cover of “Zombie” was the first number one single metal has owned in the better part of a decade and is the highest grossing metal single of all time.  Sure, the game is different now than it was when Metallica or Black Sabbath were releasing music, but this is an accomplishment nonetheless.  And Tommy Vext may be the most entertaining dude on Twitter.  I had the opportunity to see these guys live on tour with Breaking Benjamin, FFDP, and Nothing More and they put on a hell of a show.  Bad Wolves was just too hot not to make it on the top list for 2018.

Check out Jay’s review on Disobey, here.

9. ICE NINE KILLS – The Silver Scream
Standout tracks: “Grave Mistake” | “American Nightmare”  | “IT is the End” (Feat. Less Than Jake and Fenix TX)

This may be the coolest concept album of all time, and I had a hell of a time reviewing it.  ICE NINE KILLS are huge fans of metal and horror movies, so they decided to combine their two biggest passions.  Each song on this album is a tribute to one of the greatest horror movie classics of all time.  It was a late release but has been the soundtrack to my back 9 of 2018 for sure.

Check out Jay’s review on The Silver Scream, here.

8. Ghost – Prequelle
Standout tracks: “Rats” | “Dance Macabre”

Few bands are as unique as Ghost.  2017 was a rough year for the band, overcoming lawsuits that uncovered the identities of the band and also seeing some unforeseen lineup changes.  For Prequelle, frontman Tobias Forge ditched the Papa Emeritus character(s) he has portrayed on the previous albums and introduced us to Cardinal Copia.  This album is packed full of musical firsts for the band.  It is a solid album, and “Dance Macabre” may be my favorite song of 2018.

Check out Jay’s review on Prequelle, here.

7. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
Standout tracks: “GOD = DOG” | “Bartzabel”

Behemoth is one of the heaviest bands in metal today. I Loved You at Your Darkest was certainly not their heaviest work, but it was their most solid effort to date.  Many longtime fans of the band are disappointed by the album due to some of the chances the band took on this album; but, the heavy element was definitely there and the look into another side of the band was refreshing.

Check out Jay’s review of I loved You at Your Darkest, here.

6. Of Mice & Men – Defy
Standout tracks: “Back to Me” | “Defy” | “Money” (Pink Floyd Cover)

This was the first album I listened to in 2018.  In fact, it was late December of last year when I got my advance copy.  On a January episode of Spinning Thoughts I dubbed Defy as the album to beat in 2018.  It was an album I had a great level of excitement for and it did not disappoint.  I keep a “running” Top 10 list so when December comes I have a starting point.  This album was number 1 for a lot of the year and went back and forth several times.  The early release made it an uphill battle for the early favorites, but the album held up throughout the year. 

Check out Jay’s review on Defy, here.

5. Royal Tusk – Tusk II
Standout track: “Aftermath”

Royal Tusk was my favorite discovery in 2018.  I love this album.  The Canadian rockers are incredibly talented and blend a great mix of punk, metalcore, and blues to this album.  The riffs are unreal and the vocal work on this album is insane.  For as good as 2018 was, this was one of the few albums that made me block out every other release for a solid week when I got a hold of it.  This is one of the most complete albums of the year, and if the Top 4 in front of it weren’t so damn solid I could see this being a top album any other year.  

Check out Jay review on Tusk II, here.

4. Machine Head – Catharsis
Standout track: “Catharsis” | “Beyond the Pale”

For a minute in late September I thought this was the last album we were going to hear from the band.  Robb Flynn made an announcement that several members were leaving and that they would be completing their farewell tour.  I was thankful a few days later to see him clarify that it was the farewell tour for those members, and NOT Machine Head.  I didn’t get an opportunity to see the band play Catharsis live and am glad I didn’t miss my last chance.  Flynn has one of the most unique and heavy vocals in metal and this album may be my favorite complete work of the band.  “Volatile” is right up there with my favorite tracks of the year.

Check out Jay’s review on Catharsis, here.

3. All That Remains – Victim of the New Disease
Standout track: “Fuck Love” | “Everything’s Wrong”

Victim of the New Disease will be an album that forever haunts me.  From the first time I heard “Fuck Love” on Liquid Metal I knew this release was going to be special.  Their 2017 release, Madness, was the number 10 record on Metal Thoughts’ Top 10 list last year but was much more commercial than what I was used to as a long-time fan of the band.  “Fuck Love” released as the first single, along with a promise from Phil Labonte that this would be the band’s heaviest release, which had me more than excited.  When I heard “Everything’s Wrong” a week or so later, my excitement grew – I knew I loved the direction of the album already.  Then, within weeks of the album’s release, I learned of the passing of founding member and metal guitar legend, Oli Herbert.  This album is special for so many reasons and will be one I cherish for years to come.

Check out Jay’s review on Victim of the New Disease, here.

2. Parkway Drive – Reverence
Standout tracks: “The Void” | “Wishing Wells” | “Prey”

I had dubbed this the album of the year in July.  There was a lot of year left to play out, and obviously with its placement as number two, something changed along the way.  Still, Parkway Drive redefined themselves with this album.  The Australian metal outfit is getting global attention that is well-deserved and overdue.  Reverence is a heavy, powerful album that established Parkway Drive as a force in metal for years to come.

Check out Jay’s review on Reverence, here.

1. Beartooth – Disease
Standout tracks: “Disease” | “You Never Know”

I love Beartooth.  A lot.  For almost two decades, if someone asked who my favorite band was, I have responded “Foo Fighters” without hesitation.  Beartooth challenged that mantle after releasing Aggressive in 2016.  I remember saying to myself that just because I love two albums from a band, doesn’t mean they are my favorite.  There simply isn’t enough to go by.  But in 2018, with Aggressive and Disgusting still very much a part of my normal playlists, Disease complicated that notion.  Disease may have cracked my 10 favorite albums of all-time in just a few months of exposure.  The album is heavy.  Caleb’s vocal performance is one for the ages, as his clean vocals and screams are both unmatched.  The album also has some incredibly deep themes and strong meaning.  I feel this album deeply.

Check out Jay’s review on Disease, here.

What are your thoughts on Jay’s Metal Thoughts 2018 Year in Review? Were there any releases we missed that you have on your AOTY list? Let Jay know on Twitter: @JBoneBass!

TAGS: PANICWOLF | Goalkeeper | grandson | The Burden | FEVER 333 | Bad Wolves | ICE NINE KILLS | Ghost | Behemoth | Of Mice & Men | Royal Tusk | Machine Head | All That Remains | Parkway Drive | Beartooth

Jay Matthey

Twitter: @JBoneBass

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