Regrettably, 2018 was a year where I did not consume my usual amount of metal. Thus, I have been feverishly trying to catch up with what I am finding was a year of diverse and strong releases across all sub-genres of metal. Almost imperceptibly, I found that I listened to a lot of traditional metal revival bands, occult metal, and gothic metal this year. Thanks to Last.FM I would not have guessed this. During late nights of Elder Scrolls Online battles in Cyrodiil, it was Slayer, Morbid Angel, Samael, Anacrusis, and Gojira that ruled my speakers. Without question, it was an inspirational and welcome year for metal, where some of my favorite bands finally released definitive live albums and new material.
1. Judas Priest – Firepower
Formed in 1969, Judas Priest has been playing metal for 50 years. Let that sink in, and then you will begin to appreciate the fierce, energized pummeling that is FIRE POWER. Despite obstacles like band member departures and illness, the show must go on. Let’s hope with no end in sight. FIRE POWER is deservedly my top metal album of the year, and should be in the top 20 of many metal end-of-year lists.
2. Stryper – God Damn Evil
Somebody lit a fire under Stryper, and how does Michael Sweet continue to have the range he does? Never been a big Stryper fan, but I give credit that their last few albums have all been a step up and I found myself playing this one over and over.
3. Striker – Play To Win
Striker appears as one of three Canadian bands on my list this year (along with Skull Fist & Voivod). These guys just continue to impress and deserve wider recognition. Striker has just the right balance of modern moves and retro sounds to appeal to a wide range of fans.
4. Fifth Angel– The Third Secret
Fifth Angel was one of many great metal bands from Seattle in the mid to late 80s, but were overshadowed by Queensryche, Sanctuary, and others. THE THIRD SECRET is the first album in nearly 30 years for the band, and with most of the members from their last album on board, it is a worthy return for guys that deserved greater recognition. Here is hoping that this new album helps them get it.
5. Hardcore Superstar – You Can’t Kill My Rock ‘N Roll
Hardcore Superstar were the spearhead for the New Wave of Scandinavian Sleaze Metal, and still the best in my opinion. Their 11th album shows a wide range of variety and continued growth packed with their gift for crafting catchy riffs and choruses.
6. Ghost – Prequelle
7. Chris Caffery – The Jester’s Court
8. Ashes of Ares – Well Of Souls
9. Maverick – Cold Star Dancer
10. Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
11. Loudness – Rise To Glory
12. Lucifer – Lucifer II
13. Angra – Ømniz
14. Kissin’ Dynamite – Ecstasy
15. Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin
16. Voivod – The Wake
17. Stephen Pearcy – View To A Thrill
18. Skull Fist – Way Of The Road
19. Dee Snider – For The Love Of Metal
20. Therapy? – Cleave
Candlemass – House Of Doom
Coma Of Souls – Kreator
Best Live/DVD Releases
Fates Warning – Live Over Europe
King’s X, Buford, GA 2018
Best New Discovery
Ireland’s Maverick have nailed that hard, accessible sound that bands like Fullforce, Eden’s Curse and Sinbreed have all explored. The third album from the band is driving, pounding and damn catchy.
Metal Church’s Damned If You Do Album – I have always championed Metal Church, and probably one or two of their albums would make my desert island list. DAMNED IF YOU DO is not a bad album, but coming on the heels and excitement of Mike Howe’s return and the previous album XI, I expected more. This is just run of the mill, pedestrian, unimaginative music, with good vocals from Howe. MC always had some throwaway tunes on every album that you knew were filler, but I never expected 2/3s of an MC album to be that.
Rush Calls It Quits – Yeah, yeah I know you are going to say Rush is not metal and you are probably right. But there would be no progressive metal without them, and they certainly have some songs that are “metal”. They earned their retirement, but I will miss ‘em.
Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton Has Parkinson’s – This is a tough one for many metal fans, and if I was forced to name a favorite metal band, it would probably be Priest. If you ever want to hear Tipton’s guitar brilliance go listen to the solo for “Beyond The Realms of Death.” If you are not moved by that, then you have a heart of stone.
Slayer Calling It Quits – They will continue to tour into 2019, but really this line alone is all that needs to be said.
Hopes for 2019
A New Album From a Re-formed Vio-Lence – Bring it on, with Machine Head on hiatus, it will be interesting to see where Vio-lence goes with the reunion.
Let’s Not Lose Any More Iconic Metal People –Probably impossible, but every year beloved musicians are passing away. Maybe this year will be different.