2018 has felt a little like a game changer. Like something is building and amounting to something. There has been a lot of good music coming out and it feels like a lot better music to come as well. Bands are developing and thriving in a way that can get you excited for music and Metal once again. It's been quite hard to get this list down to 10 but here are my personal picks for the top albums of the year!
The Algorithm - Compiler Optimization Techniques
The Algorithm are an interesting band that combines Synth Wave esque atmospheres with the powerful punches of Metal. Many bands to do this will either do this sparingly or only be able to feel empty without vocals to back it up. The Algorithm manages to make this all merge so seamlessly throughout their music that one never has a chance to ask what's missing. Compiler Optimization Techniques could be their darkest album yet and more than before perfectly synchronises everything together into one flowing movement of music. Every track is memorable and impactful, whilst contributing to the whole piece. Strangely enough the single, 'Binary Space', may not be one of the albums best highlight despite being amazing. 'Cluster' and 'Sentinel Node' are worthy listens but giving the entire album a listen from start to finish is encouraged too. The Algorithm can only get better from this achievement.
Sigh - Heir to Despair
For some of the more interesting pieces of Metal out there, Sigh have always been a band to look out for. Their most recent album Heir to Despair continues this position. They may not be the most famous or mainstream of bands but they have their niche and they're really pushing it. Previously being amongst the first to explore Black Metal and saxophones, they now continue with an album that pushes Black Metal into traditional Japanese music and psychedelic, ambient and even Arabic atmospheres. Heir to Despair is incredibly unique and not for everyone but is certainly very catchy. 'Homo Homini Lupus' is amongst the more 'standard' tracks and a good introduction to the album but songs like 'Aletheia' or the Heresy trilogy (which is three songs that really should be together) shows the album at its most experimental and exploratory. The album is just so diverse; 'Hunter Not Horned' shows a more extreme energy missing from other more ambient tracks.
Aborted - TerrorVision
For something a lot more standardly brutal and extreme Aborted are continuing their progression to absolute carnage with a tongue in cheek ferocity. TerrorVision is a thoroughly energetic and powerful album bringing everything to be known from Aborted but in a more refined and extreme way. 'Squalor Opera', 'Visceral Despondency' and 'A Whore D'oeuvre Macabre' could quite easily become Extreme Metal anthems and certainly fit really well into Aborted's oeuvre. TerrorVision is, therefore, a thoroughly fun album from start to finish and a great addition into Brutal Death Metal.
Anaal Nathrakh - A New Kind of Horror
Anaal Nathrakh are one of these bands that can't seem to go wrong. A New Kind of Horror is another example of their brand of extreme music; Black Metal gone experimental. With plenty of variation throughout the entire album which keeps things vibrant and interesting. Taking the screams of Black Metal and twisting it into new atmospheres with gut wrenching melodies. 'Forward!' works as a good summary of the album but crowd pleasers and fans of Anaal Nathrakh, as well as Black Metal, will like tracks like 'New Bethlehem / Mass Death Futures', 'The Reek of Fear' or 'The Apocalypse is About You!' - but there are many more.
Nekrogoblikon - Welcome to Bonkers
Another band that have a distinct sound, that have already made a mark on the scene and run the danger of previous albums overshadowing them, are Nekrogoblikon. Their latest album Welcome to Bonkers is a great example of Extreme Metal fun. Groovy and never too serious but just enough gallops and riffs to keep anyone happy. It's memorable and enough to keep things going hard. This album was a bit strange for less clean vocals but more groovy riffs, which works in their favour but also against them: more brutal but less distinct – which is strange to hear from me. 'Dressed as Goblins', 'The Many Faces of Dr Hubert Malbec' and 'The Skin Thief' are just amongst the kinds of tracks that give good introductions to the album.
Stillbirth - Annihilation of Mankind
But if you're looking for something extreme, hard hitting and absolutely brutal, then Stillbirth are well worth a look and seem to be on the up and up. Annihilation of Mankind is a wonderful example of their work, it is exactly what I look for when looking for something heavy shit. Being able to take the sheer force of Metal to its height and to push through some melodies and guitar licks for good measure, is a rare find. Look out for tracks 'Plague of Warfare', 'Hypnotized by Lies', 'FirstStrike' and 'Torturized'.
North Hammer - Stormcaller
Whilst this has all been going on the face of Extreme Folk Metal has been growing ever better and more vibrant. North Hammer's most recent album is cracking with amazing melodies and accomplished sounds. Clearly an album to take note of within this world, it has a leading guitar element that keeps a versatility to their music. Each track offers new and memorable moments in a way that flows straight through the album. 'Avatar' hits the ground running and it doesn't stop. Also worthwhile tracks include 'Written in the Stars' and their namesake 'North Hammer' – a must for Melodic Metal lovers.
Omnium Gatherum - The Burning Cold
Another band for Extreme Metal and Melodic Metal, Omnium Gatherum surprisingly are writing music that sticks with you. Guitar riffs from the songs have a proven staying power as they play over and over again in your head. Each time it still manages to excite and be as powerful as it felt the first time. 'Rest in Your Heart', 'Planet Scale' and 'Gods Go First' are great examples of this. Powerful, atmospherically brilliant and Metal as fuck. It's a shame that they're not bigger than one might expect.
Blood Worship - Death's Omnipotence
However if you were looking for straight up Black Metal the new EP by Blood Worship manages a great amount of Melodic punishing riffs. To really get an example of their sheer range look to 'Shadows Etched in Stone', which manages to weave its dark web around its almost story-like structure. 'Death's Omnipotence' is a lot more straightforward and shows a base sound for the band. Exciting evil and accomplished this little EP does a lot more than one would come to expect from a lot of the Black Metal bands out there.
Allegiance - Beyond the Black Wave
Allegiance may be very literally pledging an allegiance to Black Metal and Emperor in a defining sound as a tribute to a band that helped to define modern Black Metal, but they manage to keep the sound distinctly powerful enough to exist in its own right. To say that they are Emperor imitators is true but the amount of care and excitement they bring to replicating the sound should not be overlooked. Each song easily would fit into an Emperor discography but without it just being exactly the same songs – almost as if Emperor were bringing out more material. In finding tracks like 'In Memory of My Essence' and 'The Phantom Coach' amongst many others, one can find Black Metal asserting itself and delighting in itself. It is exciting music that has managed to stay with me but only runs the risk of being swept up by their inspirers – the almighty Emperor.