HELLBOUND’S Top 10 of 2018

Hellbound's Best of 2018

Just in time for the new year we present you with our take on the ten best metal albums of 2018 according to Hellbound. Over the past several days we published the year-end lists of 16 different Hellbound contributors. When we tallied the votes and did the math we came up with this collective Top 10.

Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit

10. Stranger Fruit

  • Artist: Zeal & Ardor
  • Label: MKVA

I was a big fan of Zeal & Ardor’s first release – and Manuel Gagneux has put together a more polished release in Stranger Fruit. Mixing black metal with African-American roots music, Z&A is still one of the most interesting (musically and politically) combinations of genres in years.

— Adam Wills (read Adam’s full list)

Amorphis - Queen of Time

9. Queen of Time

  • Artist: Amorphis
  • Label: Nuclear Blast

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I could copy and paste my thoughts on Amorphis’ last album here. “While Under the Red Cloud might not be the most exciting album out this year, it’s the album that I’ve kept coming back to the most.” The same can be said again for Queen of Time. “Daughter of Hate”, “The Golden Elk” and “Wrong Direction” have the trademark Amorphis hooks that can stay in your head for days. An appearance by everyone’s favourite vocal guest (well, at least mine), Anneke van Giersbergen on “Amongst Stars” keeps me coming back to this album again and again.

— Adam Wills (read Adam’s full list)

Philip Anselmo & the Illegals - Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue

8. Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue

  • Artist: Philip Anselmo & the Illegals
  • Label: Season Of Mist

Now this one was a tough pill to swallow initially and I’ll explain why. Choosing Metal Illness as a Virtue is an abrasive, harsh and a bit of off putting at first play and left me thinking “what the Hell did I just listen to?” I literally sat in silence trying to figure out what this album was, I mean, I’m a HUGE Superjoint fan, and this seemed to be the furthest thing from. But here is the interesting thing: I continued to listen to the album and the more spins I gave it, I started to hear it, I mean really hear it. I found the grooves, the rhythms, the chunky parts in Metal that I look for. Then all of a sudden I realized how genius of an album this was; all it took was time to let it resonate, to absorb if you will. This was the most unique album I had the pleasure of listening to as well as seeing live many times in 2018. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if given a chance I can almost assure you that you will find many things you do enjoy about the album. It took me a while, but I’m glad I stuck with it, such a great album.

— Gene Gaona (read Gene’s full list)

Ghost - Prequelle

7. Prequelle

  • Artist: Ghost
  • Label: Loma Vista

First it was quaint whenever you hear a post-2010 metal band attempt to replicate the balance of aggression and melody that defined heavy metal in the 1980s, but the more you heard young bands come close but not quite get it, it became frustrating. Ghost gets it. Well, more specifically, Tobias Forge gets it. The mastermind behind the increasingly popular Swedish band not only has a clear vision of what he wants Ghost to be, but has a keen sense of what made metal so great in the 1970s and ‘80s: riffs, theatricality, blasphemy, fantasy, doom and gloom, and most importantly, that almighty hook. Fourth album Prequelle is loaded with all of the above criteria, but everything is in service of the hook, and what hooks: the Jake E. Lee riff in “Rats”, the flamboyant guitar work that dominates “Faith”, the late-‘70s Alice Cooper vibe that dominates “See the Light” and “Pro Memoria”. Hell, even the two prog-infused instrumentals are outrageously catchy (nothing in metal generated incredulity in 2018 like the sax solo in “Miasma”). Then there’s the astonishing pop metal exercise “Dance Macabre”, which implores even the saddest corpse-painted sad sack to dance the night away. The black metal kids probably won’t, but let them argue online about Myrkur, ignore their heroes’ racism, or whine about how Blake Judd still owes them money. The rest of us will be partying until the sun comes up.

— Adrien Begrand (read Adrien’s full list)

Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light

6. Devouring Radiant Light

  • Artist: Skeletonwitch
  • Label: Prosthetic

If you’re familiar with the work of Skeletonwitch past, opening an album with top notch thrash isn’t a rarity. The soft, tintinnabulating guitar intro of “Fen of Shadows” automatically set a stage for a different kind of Skeletonwitch, one that feeds their more distinct melodic black metal side – exposing a band that never ceases to amaze me.

— Sarah Riley (read Sarah’s full list)

Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross, No Crown

5. No Cross, No Crown

  • Artist: Corrosion of Conformity
  • Label: Nuclear Blast

Speaking of comebacks, COC delivered us (from evil) with their best record since Bill Clinton was Commander in Chief.

— Gruesome Greg (read Greg’s full list)

Judas Priest - Firepower

4. Firepower

  • Artist: Judas Priest
  • Label: Epic

Judas Priest has nothing to prove. They’re great, we love them, and their legacy is set in stone. But nearly 50 years into their existence, they keep facing challenges – self-imposed or otherwise – and succeeding mightily. Glenn Tipton’s Parkinson’s diagnosis was a major hurdle for the band to clear, but thanks to a tremendously positive attitude, an old friend as producer (Tom Allom), a lifelong fan co-producing (Andy Sneap), and a renewed sense of vigor, Firepower turned out to be Priest’s strongest album since the 1990 classic Painkiller. The expected metal anthems have the bite that Painkiller and Screaming For Vengeance boasted but there’s also plenty of room for the band to showcase their range. “Never the Heroes” and “Rising From Ruins” are a pair of quasi-ballads that hold up well against “Touch of Evil”, while “No Surrender” is the kind of three-minute blast of self-empowerment that the band has excelled at for decades. The great Rob Halford helms this record with the dominance you expect, but there’s an ageless quality to his performance on Firepower that feels extra special, as if he found another gear this late in his storied career. Heavy metal thrives when its avatars are still going strong, and it feels like there won’t be any quit in Judas Priest for the foreseeable future.

— Adrien Begrand (read Adrien’s full list)

Yob - Our Raw Heart

3. Our Raw Heart

  • Artist: Yob
  • Label: Relapse

Yob’s Mike Scheidt fought a battle with death and won. Our Raw Heart is the result. No album this year made me FEEL as much as this one. As heavy as it is triumphant, it stirs the emotional pot for the duration. “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, the longest track on the album, challenges “Marrow” for most heart-wrenching Yob song ever. It feels like the band really came together on a higher level for this. I’m still baffled there was a time I didn’t even like Yob. Now I can’t imagine a world without their music. Such powerful doom is therapeutic, transporting the listener to a place both of and beyond suffering. To me at least, music like this is essential.

— Matt Hinch (read Matt’s full list)

Voivod - The Wake

2. The Wake

  • Artist: Voivod
  • Label: Century Media

Voivod has never been an easy listen. From their very punk-fused thrash beginnings this band has challenged exactly what it means to be a metal band. Their sound has been ever-evolving, from the breakneck noisey metallipunk of their first few records moving outwards and onwards, the group has never made the same album twice.

The reunited Voivod came back all engines firing with their first post-Piggy production, 2013’s Target Earth, on Century Media Records. It proved Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain the logical successor to Piggy; the band have said many times in interviews that he’s the only guitarist that could ever fill D’Amour’s shoes.

As good as Target Earth was, it really was just a warm up for what the band has achieved with The Wake. Featuring new bassist Domenic ‘Rocky’ Laroche, this new record is Voivod at both their weirdest and most focused. Unlike previous releases, where the bass lines were mainly written by Piggy or Mongrain, Laroche was very involved with the writing process and he is a more fluid, musical bassist than original member Blacky ever was.

The Wake also sees Mongrain come into his own as a guitarist. His riffs are fantastic on this record and, while remaining as obtuse and experimental as anything else in the Voivod catalogue, definitely have a sound of their own. He’s not just aping Piggy’s style, he’s expanding the classic Voivod sound. Even the vocal performance that Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger gives is his best on one of their records since 1993’s The Outer Limits. The biggest surprise however happens on the album’s final track “Sonic Mycelium”, which features a string quartet accompanying the band, a first in their career.

Albums this good usually don’t happen 35 years into a career, but wow, The Wake is just incredible.

— Sean Palmerston (read Sean’s full list)

Sleep - The Sciences

1. The Sciences

  • Artist: Sleep
  • Label: Third Man

If it wasn’t for Sleep, most of the bands I listened to this year wouldn’t even be here. Although it’s no Dopesmoker or Holy MountainThe Sciences was a remarkably consistent comeback effort that crushes skulls in the live setting.

— Gruesome Greg (read Greg’s full list)