The usual prologue would be that no one can say that have listened to almost everything that was released during 2018. Everyone who claims that, and posting the "best" and "top" lists is wrong so we will speak just for our favorite releases and the albums we enjoyed most in 2018. 2018 was more interesting than 2017 and we hope that 2019 will be better. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. We are posting later than most media and websites our list, because there were so many great albums released during December and we needed to have a proper listening and buy some of them.
1. JUDAS PRIEST "Firepower"
(Columbia - Sony Music)
What a comeback! Probably the best Priest album after "Painkiller" and an album that some people loved to hate. But don't bother, there are many other great albums out there to love and Rob Halford is cool enough not to worry about your hate. "Firepower" sums up nearly everything Priest means in terms of songwriting and Richie Faulkner has his share on the album. Songs like "Rising from Ruins" will be future classics, while "No Surrender" is an addictive heavy metal hit.
Legends: SAXON's "Thunderbolt" is great. It is a regular Saxon album, meaning an album that sounds like thunder. Biff and Co. cannot fail. U.D.O. returned with "Steelfactory" and overshadowed the last Accept album. His last tour playing Accept classics was refreshing and we loved that album. Plus, we always support ideas like the one behind the song "One Heart One Soul".
Check also: MAGNUM "Lost on the Road to Eternity", MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST "Resurrection", URIAH HEEP "Living the Dream".
2. SOLSTICE "White Horse Hill"
(Invictus - Dark Descent - Iron Bonehead)
Loud Epic Heavy Metal. Outsiders and unbound, Rich Walker and Co. follow their path against the odds. Too loud for soft ears, to epic to pass by.
Sword-swingin' heavy metal: GATEKEEPER's first full-length album "East of Sun" is finally here and the Canadian sword wielders have finally a strong line-up ready to lead the battle. Kenny Powell's OMEN are "Alive"! A new singer and two new songs in the vein of the glorious past. VISIGOTH's "Conqueror's Oath" was massive and they are a leading force of a new epic heavy metal movement.
Check also: BATTLEROAR "Codex Epicus", LETHEAN "The Waters of Death", SMOULDER "The Sword Woman".
3. SABOTER "Architects of Evil"
(No Remorse Records)
Sinister Ultra Metal! SABOTERʼs new album is an aural horror of merciless sinister Metal. The music of "Architects of Evil" is a blend of pure Heavy Metal with epic, power and tech thrash elements that will fit in the taste of a variety of Metal fans who worship bands from Manowar, Judas Priest, old-Iced Earth and beyond. Just check "The Temple of R'lyeh" and the epicness of "To Glory We March" and don't miss the chance to catch them live.
Check also: BLACK CYCLONE "Death is King", BLACK VIPER "Hellions of Death", CARRIAGE "Visions", IRONFLAME "Tales of Splendor and Sorrow", LUCIFER'S HAMMER "Time Is Death", SABATEUR "Vicious Circle", VERMITHRAX "Imperium Draconus".
4. SACRAL RAGE "Beyond Celestial Echoes"
(Cruz Del Sur)
Insane! Progressive and tech speed metal lunacy influenced by Annihilator, Mercyful Fate, Watchtower and sci-fi visions. Sacral Rage is probably the best band of its kind for 2018 and "Beyond Celestial Echoes" an ultra-metal brainstorm.
Check also: ARTILLERY "The Face of Fear", METAL CHURCH "Damned If You Do", SEPTAGON "Apocalyptic Rhymes", VOIVOD "The Wake".
5. DAWN OF WINTER "Pray for Doom"
(True) Doom Metal is weird. (True) Doom Metal is the soul of Metal. You can call many things "doom" and we put this label to many bands and albums, but truth to be told, (true) Doom Metal is the purest form of metal. But what is true Doom Metal? Let's just say that for 2018, Dawn of Winter's album is the essence of true Doom Metal. Now that you've read so many times true and doom, you probably know the meaning. (True) Doom Metal has to be regressive and "Pray for Doom" is the best Doom Metal album of 2018. We love Doom Metal and we listen to many bands inspired by the Riff Lord (Iommi) and the Doomfather (Edling) but only few of them are within the borders of despair. We pray for them.
Doom or be Doomed: EVANGELIST released "Deus Vult" in the last days of 2018, MIRROR OF DECEPTION with "The Estuary" mark the second great return after Dawn of Winter and LORD VIGO with "Six Must Die" is the third band from Germany that deserves to walk in the darkness and gets an extra credit for the concept inspired by John Carpenter's film, "The Fog".
Check also: ACOLYTES OF MOROS "The Wellspring", DAUTHA "Brethren of the Black Soil", IRON VOID "Excalibur", SOLEMN CEREMONY "Solemn Ceremony".
6. HEIR APPARENT "The View From Below"
(No Remorse Records)
Nearly 30 years after their second album, Heir Apparent return with another different record. The band has a general philosophy about mankind being the guardian of the planet, and the importance of rising above cultural delusions and inequality, and these are things that can be found in the lyrics of "The View From Below". We miss good lyrics in modern metal, and Heir Apparent's view on progressive metal, is inspired and intelligent. We need more bands like Heir Apparent.
Prog Visions, Power Vibes: CONCEPTION's "My Dark Symphony" is the natural evolution after "Flow" and we are waiting to see the next step since there seems to be a grey zone regarding the album's distribution and how Conception are promoted. Emotional and inspired, "My Dark Symphony" may heal the bloody wounds that never bleed. "Divine Intermission" is the debut full-length album of OPEN BURN, a new progressive power metal band from USA, featuring three members of the legendary US metal band Lethal and their classic era of the "Programmed" album. If you love this style, this album is highly recommended.
Check also: HAKEN "Vector", LEVIATHAN "Can't be Seen by Looking: Blurring the Lines, Clouding the Truth", RIVERSIDE "Wasteland", WITHERFALL "A Prelude to Sorrow"
7. MANACLE "No Fear to Persevere"
(No Remorse Records)
The astonishing debut album of Manacle from Canada is highly recommended for fans of Judas Priest, Savage Grace, Agent Steel and early-Omen. Professional production, to-the-point songwriting and passionate performance. A deadly debut album that you must listen (and worship) if you love real heavy metal.
Blades of Steel: British legends SATAN returned with "Cruel Magic" and deliver for third time after the reunion everything we love in classic heavy metal. Power, passion, the voice of Brian Ross and the most underrated metal guitar duo.
Check also: ARIA "Curse of the Seas", OLD WOLF "Faustian Mass".
8. KHEMMIS "Desolation"
(20 Buck Spin - Nuclear Blast)
In the second interview I've done with Khemmis for Iron Fist magazine, I mentioned to Ben Hutcherson (guitars/vocals) that Khemmis sound like ZZ Top meet Thin Lizzy and jamming on doom metal. He loved it! You can't describe easily "Desolation"; it is doomed heavy metal, doomed rock 'n' roll or just great solid heavy music. "Isolation" is the harmonized doom hit you have to love.
Into the Void: KING WITCH "Under the Mountain". Heavy Doom from UK with female vocals. It has to be great. And it is great.
Goddess on Heavy / Doom: CASTLE "Deal Thy Fate", HAUNTED "Dayburner", HOLY GROVE "II", LOWEN "A Crypt in the Stars", MANSION "First Death of the Lutheran", WINDHAND "Eternal Return", WITCH MOUNTAIN "Witch Mountain".
WOLFTOOTH from Richmond, Indiana, United States, obey The Riff, if you know what I mean. Their same-titled debut album is too groovy for the regressive doom metal fan, too epic for the stoner fan, too awesome for the rest. And speaking of awesomeness, the track "Sword of My Father" is one of the most addictive songs of 2018.
Check also: BLACK OATH "Behold the Abyss", FIRE DOWN BELOW "Hymn of the Cosmic Man", GOAT EXPLOSION "Rumors of Man", RIPIS "Shadow Dies in Morning Light".
9. PROFESSOR BLACK "Sunrise"
Chris Black is one of the most talented and productive artists out there. In 2018 he released three (!) albums, one EP and one split, everything different from each other! He is also behind bands like High Spirits, Aktor, Superchrist, he was the leading force behind Dawnbringer and also member of Pharaoh. "Sunrise" might considered as a tribute to the legacy of Quorthon and Bathory and that comes from a real fan, since Chris is also working on a book about Bathory. "Sunrise" is probably the best Bathory-inspired album since the first two albums of Ereb Altor.
The Kodex of the Olde: Most likely, IDLE HANDS will soon escape from underground and you will hear about them in any way. "Don't Waste Your Time" is the first official release of those lads, based in Portland, Oregon, United States. Youngsters but not unknown, since in this line-up you have ex-Spellcaster, Leathürbitch and Silver Talon members. Five songs in a unique style that combines bands like The Mission, Sisters of Mercy, In Solitude and Judas Priest, everything with a heavy metal production and approach. WYTCH HAZEL from UK deliver a unique blend of classic heavy metal and hard rock rooted in '70s and bands like Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy. "II: Sojourn" is the second full-length album and it is dominated by beautiful melodies, acoustic parts, great songwriting and heartful performance.
Check also: IN THE WOODS... "Cease the Day", NECROMANT "The Necromant Lives", PRIMORDIAL "Exile Amongst the Ruins", SUMMONING "With Doom We Come".
10. FIFTH ANGEL "The Third Secret"
Besides Heir Apparent, Fifth Angel is the next band from Seattle that returns after nearly thirty years. Kendall Bechtel handles guitars and lead vocals and Ken Mary is also back in the drum kit. Classic US heavy power metal with many memorable songs like "Stars Are Falling", "We Will Rise", "Queen of Thieves" and "This Is War". We need more comebacks like this one!
Angels (and Demons) in Leather: MIKE LEPOND'S SILENT ASSASSINS returned with "Pawn and Prophecy" and you have to love the second collaboration of Mike LePond and Alan Tecchio. STONEWALL from Italy released the second album "Never Fall" and if you didn’t know that these guys come from the land of Roberto Baggio, you could believe that this is a lost '80s Heavy / Power Metal album (with lot of melodic parts) from United States. Highly recommended for fans of bands like Fifth Angel, Stonewall's new album might sound closer to the '80s Fifth Angel sound than the great 2018 Fifth Angel album, "The Third Secret"... SNAKEBITE from Germany released "Rise of the Snake" and it's all about freedom and hard-rockin' attitude, all the way to the top. Or more precisely, to the underground smoke filled club, where a tune like "One Touch" would be a proper song for Tawny Kitaen to approach the stage.
Check also: WARREL DANE "Shadow Work", LEATHER "II", DEE SNIDER "For the Love of Metal"
Are you disappointed? It makes no sense to write random "bad" albums οf 2018, so let's remain to bands and artists we love and just say that we wanted something more or something different from DORO ("Forever Warriors, Forever United"), GRAVE DIGGER ("The Living Dead"), KAMELOT ("The Shadow Theory"), LIZZY BORDEN ("My Midnight Things"), RIOT V ("Armor of Light"), THERION ("Beloved Antichrist") and VENOM ("Storm the Gates").
LIZZY BORDEN does his (new) thing and there are some very interesting moments on the album but in the end of the day, it sounds more as a side-project of the artist and not an album of the band we knew. On the other hand, RIOT V keep the tradition but they copy themselves in a very awkward way that lacks of inspiration.
The Best, the Rest and More - 2018 Unmasked
A kind of review for 2018, including everything we listened to. Some of the albums that follow are really great and few of them can end in "Top-20" lists. Others, are just good or nearly good but have some elements that make them important for a specific audience. We haven't include albums we consider "bad" and of course, there are always albums that we "lost" of just didn't listen. No one can listen or catch everything. Also, we haven't include albums-releases that were avaialable only digitally (bandcamp etc) and you will find here only releases that were available on physical format. In any way, that can work as a "guide" for 2018 including many releases-albums and be sure that you will find some cool stuff below, so keep searching!
Melodic Lines: CREYE "Creye", NORDIC UNION "Second Coming", ODYSSEY DESPERADO "Don't Miss the Sunset", OUTLOUD "Virtual Hero Society", PERFECT PLAN "All Rise", STEVE PERRY "Traces", PRAYING MANTIS "Gravity", THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA "Sometimes the World Ain't Enough", WHITE WIDDOW "Victory".
The legacy of NWoBHM: BLITZKRIEG "Judge Not!", SPARTAN WARRIOR "Hell to Pay", TOKYO BLADE "Unbroken", TRAITORS GATE "Fallen", TRESPASS "Footprints in the Rock".
New bands, old-school metal attitude and underground warriors: BLACKSLASH "Lighning Strikes Again", BLOOD CURSE "Sorceress", CHEVALIER "Chapitre II", DEATH KEEPERS "Rock This World", DEFENDER "Rising High", EVIL-LYN "Disciple of Steel", GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST "Chapter II: Of Earth", HAUNT "Burst Into Flame", HITTEN "Twist of Fate", IRON HUNTER "Mankind Resistance", LEATHURBITCH "Leathürbitch", MIDNIGHT FORCE "Dunsinane", OUTLAW "Marauders", RAPTURE "Paroxysm of Hatred", ROSSLYN "Soul in Sanctuary", SACRED LEATHER "Ultimate Force", SEVEN SISTERS "The Cauldron and the Cross", SIGN OF THE JACKAL "Breaking the Spell", SILVER TALON "Becoming a Demon", SKULL FIST "Way of the Road", SPEEDCLAW "Beast in the Mist", SPIRAL WHEEL "Resurrection for Revenge", STRIKER "Play To Win", STYGIAN OATH "Stygian Oath", SUBSTRATUM "Permission to Rock", SYLENT STORM "Sylent Storm", THORIUM "Thorium", TOLEDO STEEL "Toledo Steel", WHITE WIZZARD "Infernal Overdrive".
Heavy, Epic, Power Metal Rites: ANCIENT EMPIRE "Eternal Soldier", ANGRA "Omni", ANVIL "Pounding the Pavement", ARRAYAN PATH "Archegonoi", BLACK MAJESTY "Children of the Abyss", BLAZE BAYLEY "The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III)", BRAINSTORM "Midnight Ghost", CANDLE "The Keeper's Curse", CIRITH UNGOL "Witch's Game", DIRE PERIL "The Extraterrestrial Compendium", HAMMER KING "Poseidon Will Carry Us Home", JUDICATOR "The Last Emperor", LOUDNESS "Rise to Glory", MANIMAL "Purgatorio", MANTICORA "To Kill to Live to Kill", MASQUERAGE "Hangman's Revelations", MOB RULES "Beast Reborn", NECRYTIS "Dread en Ruin", ORION'S REIGN "Scores of War", POWERWOLF "The Sacrament of Sin", PRIMAL FEAR "Apocalypse", REFUGE "Solitary Men", ROCKA ROLLAS "Celtic Kings", RUNELORD "A Message from the Past" and "The Battle for Greatness", SCORCHER "Systems of Time", SHADOWKEEP "Shadowkeep", SHADOWKILLER "Guardians of the Temple", SPELLWITCH "The Witching Hour", STORMWITCH "Bound to the Witch", TAD MOROSE "Chapter X", TEXAS METAL OUTLAWS "Texas Metal Outlaws", THEM "Manor of the Se7en Gables".
Instrumentalists, shredders and solo acts: ACE FREHLEY "Spaceman", GUS G. "Fearless", IMPELLITTERI "The Nature of the Beast", BOB KATSIONIS "Prognosis & Synopsis", MICHAEL ROMEO "War of the Worlds Pt. 1"
Special mention: JASON BECKER "Triumphant Hearts".
Cover album: ERIC & JEFF CLAYTON "Bowie Decade": Founding members of Saviour Machine, Eric and Jeff Clayton, present their year long tribute to David Bowie, celebrating his most influential decade of music (1970 - 1980). From January 2017 to December 2017, Eric Clayton (vocals), Jeff Clayton (guitars, programming), Nathan Van Hala (piano, keyboards, programming), Sam West (drums, percussion), Charles Cooper (bass guitar), Jeremy Clark (drums) and few special guest musicians including Devon Graves, recorded one cover of a classic Bowie song each month, and the result is "Bowie Decade: A Tribute By Eric & Jeff Clayton".
Best live album: FATES WARNING "Live Over Europe"
Screams from Hell: ABORTED "TerrorVision", DECEASED "Ghostly White", DEICIDE "Overtures of Blasphemy", HATE ETERNAL "Upn Desolate Sands", HORRENDOUS "Idol", IMMORTAL "Northern Chaos Gods", LUCIFER'S CHILD "The Order", MONSTROSITY "The Passage of Existence", PILLARS "Onward to Nothingness", REVOCATION "The Outer Ones", SULPHUR AEON "The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos", VARATHRON "Patriarchs of Evil".
Ghosts, demons and chains that bound the media:
GHOST's "Prequelle" is an album that dominated media. A diverse album including songs like "Rats" with the '80s Ozzy-Jake E Lee guitar vibe, the melodic AOR dancing "Dance Macabre", the prog rock "Pro Memoria" and everything in-between. It is pop(ular), mainstream, artistic and successful. Speaking of "successful", GRETA VAN FLEET's "Anthem of the Peaceful Army" was a major rock hit. Most likely, this Led Zeppelin-inspired rock and this band will be the next big thing in rock music, and it seems that "retro" can become mainstream and hyped. BEHEMOTH "I Loved You at Your Darkest" was also a successful release that got huge coverage from the press, while ALICE IN CHAINS's "Rainier Fog" was another return many people were looking for.
Check also: AMORPHIS "Queen of Time", AT THE GATES "To Drink from the Night Itself", BLACK LABEL SOCIETY "Grimmest Hits", BULLET "Dust to Gold", CHAPEL OF DISEASE "...and as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye", CLUTCH "Book of Bad Decisions", CORROSION OF CONFORMITY "No Cross No Crown", DISTURBED "Evolution", IHSAHN "Amr", MYLES KENNEDY "Year of the Tiger", MANTAR "The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze", MEMORIAM "The Silent Vigil", MONSTER MAGNET "Mindfucker", OBSCURA "Diluvium", THE OCEAN "Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic", ORPHANED LAND "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs", RIVERS OF NIHIL "Where Owls Know My Name", SOULFLY "Ritual", TREMONTI "A Dying Machine", TRIBULATION "Down Below", ZEAL & ARDOR "Stranger Fruit"
From the heart of the '70s: ASHBURY "Eye of the Stygian Witches", CHURCH OF THE COSMIC SKULL "Science Fiction", LUCIFER "II", GRAVEYARD "Peace", HIGH REEPER "High Reeper", SLAP GURU "Diagrams of Pagan Life", SPIRAL SKIES "Blues for a Dying Planet", SUN VOYAGER "Seismic Vibes", THE WIZARDS "Rise of the Serpent", VANISHING KIDS "Heavy Dreamer", VOID COMMANDER "Void Commander", VVLVA "Path of Virtue".
And the rest children of the Sabbathian planet: APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE "From Gold to Ash", AUTOMATON "Talos", BIRMAN WOOD "Wicked Worlds", THE BLACK SOUND "Doorways to the Wrist", BURN RITUAL "Blood of the Raven", THE HAZYTONES II "Monarchs of Oblivion", HIGH ON FIRE "Electric Messiah", HOT RAM "Where Light Goes to Die", IRON BUDDHA "Old Hex", IRON HEARSE "Lock Up the Living", MYSTIC SONS "Mystic Sons", ORANGE GOBLIN "The Wolf Bites Back", PALE DIVINE "Pale Divine", SATAN'S SATYRS "The Lucky Ones", THE SKULL "The Endless Road Turns Dark", SLEEP "The Sciences", UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS "Wasteland", YOB "Our Raw Heart".
What do we expect from 2019?
We already have listened to few of the upcoming releases, and we can tell that TRAVELER ("Traveler") and SANHEDRIN ("The Poisoner") are coming your way with great albums. It also seems that we will have an epic heavy metal revival in 2019 and during March, TWISTED TOWER DIRE return with "Wars In The Unknown" and there are also new bands like THRONE OF IRON that might surprise us with their first album. GATEKEEPER are also here, IRONSWORD and RAVENSIRE are in the studio, OMEN will record new songs to follow "Alive" EP and there are more tales of swords to come including more "mainstream" bands like GRAND MAGUS.
The bands we knew as "New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal" seem to add more melody in their music and that wave of early-Maiden and NWOBHM-inspired bands *maybe* will sound slightly different from now and on. With ENFORCER having the new album ready and expected shortly, a new era might rise for those bands and don't be surprised if you will listen to an additional influence from classic bands like EUROPE in this NWOTHM. Part of that wave will also be new bands like RIOT CITY from Canada, and Canadian metal will rise in the following months/years.
We are still waiting for an update from SAVIOUR MACHINE, CANDLEMASS will find their audience with "The Door to Doom", legendary BIFF BYFORD of SAXON will release his first solo album, TANITH (featuring Russ Tippins of SATAN) joined Metal Blade Records and KING DIAMOND confirmed that he will enter studio for the long-awaited comeback album, that will be part of a trilogy.
Have a great and healthy 2019, never surrender and praise Iommi.