It was a fascinating year for metal and hard rock, with a number of underground and upstart acts releasing stellar albums in 2018, alongside strong discs from veteran bands like Judas Priest, A Perfect Circle, Clutch, Ministry and others.
Hardcore continued its renaissance, with young acts like Vein and Turnstile leading the charge. Meanwhile, extreme metal had another banner year, as bands like Behemoth, Tribulation, Portal, and others all churned out impressive albums. And doom metal ruled with exceptional efforts from YOB, Sleep, Khemmis, Windhand, and others.
And while next year will see the release of albums from big guns like Slipknot, Deftones, Rammstein, and possibly even Tool (fingers crossed), 2018 was a noteworthy year for heavy music, in that it was highlighted by a wide spectrum of subgenres, ranging from the avant-garde metal stylings of Zeal & Ardor to the radio-ready hard rock power of Halestorm.
With the launch of Consequence of Sound’s new destination Heavy Consequence earlier this year, it’s our pleasure to bring you our staff picks for the Top 25 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2018.
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence
25. Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Origin: Alexandria, Virginia
The Gist: After a six-year gap between albums, Pig Destroyer’s sixth disc, Head Cage, acts not just as a followup to their previous LP, Book Burner, but also to all the various experiments guitarist Scott Hull has undertaken between then and now, both in Pig Destroyer and his other grind band, Agoraphobic Nosebleed.
Why It Rules: Pig Destroyer continue their sonic expansion beyond the realms of grindcore, showing ample creativity and proficiency in more technical, progressive, groovy and punky realms. The players’ dabblings within other genres pay off here, giving a more well-rounded album than ever before with more song variance than they’ve had at any point prior in their career, all of which is delivered well. Vocalist J. R. Hayes continues to be the one of the best lyricists in grindcore, and the alchemical mixture of Blake Harrison’s noise and electronics with mastermind Scott Hull’s meaty guitar work continues to dazzle as a true force of extreme music. —Langdon Hickman
Essential Tracks: “Army of Cops”, “Concrete Beast”, “Torture Fields”
24. Portal – Ion
Origin: Brisbane, Australia
The Gist: Portal are one of Australia’s, and the world’s, most out-there death metal bands, and you can reach that conclusion from a Google Image search alone. They sound as ghoulish and inhuman as they look, taking equally from Morbid Angel and Ligeti. On their fifth album, ION, they strip away the bassy murk long integral to their sound and bring up the treble, giving them a black metal makeover while also adding clarity.
Why It Rules: Mystery’s been Portal’s appeal for most of their career, and making their attack more discernible doesn’t take away from that. It’s only made them more extreme. Now their terror is fully in front of you, with Horror Illogium’s guitar contorting into impossibly tortured shapes, skipping around in a bizarre cosmic game of hopscotch. Taken apart, it’s a mess of atonal noise; put together, it’s a pain and bliss hell-symphony for a hell-world. —Andy O’Connor
Essential Tracks: “Phreqs”, “Crone”, “ESP ION AGE”
23. Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
Origin: Frederick, Maryland
The Gist: Hard rockers Clutch have been going strong since the early ‘90s, and continue to deliver the goods on their 12th studio album. For Book of Bad Decisions, frontman Neil Fallon and company tapped producer Vance Powell, who has worked with Jack White and country star Chris Stapleton, giving the disc a sound and energy that matches the band’s live show.
Why It Rules: On Book of Bad Decisions, the Maryland rockers deliver a classic-sounding Clutch album that also feels fresh and awakened. Tracks maintain the sludgy melodies and groovy rhythms that longtime Clutch fans love but also branch out into new territory with everything from brass-heavy instrumentals on “In Walks Barbarella” to a touch of twang on “Vision Quest”. —Anne Erickson
Essential Tracks: “Gimme the Keys”, “In Walks Barbarella”, “Vision Quest”
22. Mammoth Grinder – Cosmic Crypt
Origin: Austin, Texas
The Gist: After nearly nonstop touring as the drummer for Dallas thrash insurgents Power Trip, Austin metalpunk maestro Chris Ulsh returns to his main project, Mammoth Grinder, his take on Swedish death metal via pummeling hardcore. This is also the first disc with their new lineup, with Ulsh switching over from guitar to bass and recruiting Iron Reagan’s Mark Bronzino on guitar and Ryan Parrish on drums.
Why It Rules: Anything with Ulsh’s touch is guaranteed to be a front-to-back banger. Even with five years between albums, a grueling schedule with Power Trip, and two-thirds of the band based out of Richmond, Virginia, Mammoth Grinder still sound like Mammoth Grinder. They can justify calling one of the songs “Superior Firepower,” as influenced by primitive Chicago death metal of Master as it is the Texas heat Ulsh emerged from. —Andy O’Connor
Essential Tracks: “Locust’s Nest”, “Cosmic Crypt”, “Servants of the Most High”
21. Ministry – AmeriKKKant
Origin: Chicago / Los Angeles
The Gist: The first release since the second time Ministry leader Al Jourgensen swore he was pulling the plug on the band, AmeriKKKant unfolds as a continuous sound collage assembled out of the nonstop bombardment that’s become a daily fact of life for anyone with access to media. Jourgensen was galvanized by the seismic shocks caused by the election of Donald Trump, whose voice is the first thing one hears on AmeriKKKant in the form of a warped soundbite.
Why It Rules: Why turn to this album when you can saturate your brain with the same unpleasant subjects virtually anywhere you turn? Because Jourgensen has a way of making them fun somehow. In anyone else’s hands, the miasma of chilling headlines the Ministry mastermind draws from would make for an oppressive, despair-inducing mood. Instead, you can glean some relief as Uncle Al leaps into the maelstrom like a park ranger sky-diving into a forest fire. Boy, do we ever need someone like him right now. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
Essential Tracks: “Twilight Zone”, “Victims of a Clown”, “Game Over”, “Antifa”
20. High on Fire – Electric Messiah
Origin: Oakland, California
The Gist: High On Fire fans know exactly what there’re going to get when they spin a new record, as the Oakland-based trio has delivered dependable stoner/sludge metal for 20 years. The band’s eighth studio album, Electric Messiah, and its title track pay tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, with frontman Matt Pike acknowledging that his gravel-throated voice has often been compared to the late Motörhead legend.
Why It Rules: Opening track “Spewn from the Earth” explodes with a mammoth riff and a vigorous pace, decorated with fiery guitar leads. Pike’s vocals are ferocious, while the production is gritty and loud. The title track is a high-energy affair that maintains its energetic pace throughout its four-plus minute duration. Album closer “Drowning Dog” possesses an ’80s metal style intro, á la Judas Priest, combined with a brief “Children of the Grave”-esque Sabbath vibe, resulting in the most diverse track on the entire album. —Kelley Simms
Essential Tracks: “Spewn From the Earth”, “Electric Messiah”, “God of the Godless”, “Drowning Dog”
19. Cult Leader – A Patient Man
Origin: Salt Lake City, Utah
The Gist: Cult Leader were trying to make a dynamic technical record, so of course they hopped in the studio with Kurt Ballou to ensure every note of the band’s chaotic blitz of hardcore and metalcore rang through. On the band’s second full length project, they seek to distinguish themselves by offering up more than just wild arpeggios and in your face aggression.
Why It Rules: A Patient Man reflects a band stepping into maturity. The Salt Lake City band retains claustrophobic torrents of noise like on title track “A Patient Man”, but richly balance these moments of calamity with measured melancholy. The misleadingly titled “A World of Joy” is a dark, introspective track paired with beautiful brooding guitar and a deadpan delivery from singer Anthony Lucero that can lull listeners into an unflinching trance. Drummer Casey Hansen absolutely demolishes his kit throughout this recording and stakes his claim as one of the most technically gifted drummers in the scene right now. —TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “A Patient Man”, “A World of Joy”, “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey”, “To Achlys”
18. Windhand – Eternal Return
Origin: Richmond, Virginia
The Gist: Windhand have spent the better part of their decade together adjusting and refining their doom metal sound in response to changes within the band’s lineup, including the departure of co-founding guitarist Asechiah Bogdan. With the membership of the group feeling more secure, the quartet finally feels settled and locked in, joined together in a collective drive to bring their chosen genre back to its psychedelic roots and themselves back to their grunge and alt-rock influences.
Why It Rules: The mood of Eternal Return was set by the birth of guitarist Garrett Morris’ first child and the death of a close friend to the band. The former is literally what sets off the album, with a recording of an in utero heartbeat that sets the tempo for the opening track. But the latter is what sets the album’s course as the band grinds through a cycle of songs that wrestles with the beauty and terror of knowing that every day on this planet brings us all closer to our last breaths. Singer Dorthia Cottrell doesn’t wail these ideas but approaches them steadily, with understanding and a slight resignation. She lets the rest of her bandmates provide the muscle. All she needs to do is hold the prow steady and true. The destination? Infinity. —Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “Halcyon”, “Feather,” “Red Cloud,” “First To Die”
17. Monotheist – Scourge
Origin: Orlando, Florida
The Gist: Lo, the promise of Monotheist’s demo album Unforsaken and follow-up EP Genesis of Perdition is finally fulfilled. All it took was finding the right cadre of musicians to join in the cause and to hand control of the mixing and mastering to more assured hands (in this case, 7 Horns 7 Eyes guitarist Aaron Smith). Here at last is the vision that leader Michael Moore has long had simmering in his head, crystallized and solidified and achieving something close to perfection.
Why It Rules: Scourge is the culmination of the many years Moore took to find the right lineup, the right presentation for his technical death metal. The stars have finally aligned on his band’s first proper full-length, namely through the contributions of vocalist J.J. Polachek and the more recent additions of guitarist Tyler McDaniel and bassist Jose Figueroa. Versatile artists all, they ably follow Moore down his circuitous pathways that run headlong into a storm of swirling, jagged sound. —Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “The Grey King”, “Mark of the Beast 2: Scion of Darkness”, “Scourge”
16. Halestorm – Vicious
The Gist: Coming off their previous two albums — 2015’s Into the Wild Life, which yielded four Top 10 mainstream rock hits, and 2012’s The Strange Case Of…, which earned the band a Grammy for “Love Bites (So Do I)” — Halestorm set the bar high for their next disc. The resulting effort, Vicious, is an uncompromising, hard-hitting album with lyrics that exude equal parts empowerment and sexuality
Why It Rules: Few voices in modern hard rock are as powerful as frontwoman Lzzy Hale’s, and her pipes certainly are on full display on Vicious. In fact, her epic screams in the first 20 seconds of the blistering leadoff track “Black Vultures” make it clear that Halestorm are bringing the heavy on this album. The album’s opus, “Killing Ourselves to Live”, has a monster chorus that conjures up such artists as Dio and Heart. Despite popular music trends, Halestorm continue to wave the flag for hard rock with pride and power. —Spencer Kaufman
Essential Tracks: “Black Vultures”, “Uncomfortable”, “Killing Ourselves To Live”, “The Silence”
15. Tribulation – Down Below
The Gist: By expanding their sound to include shades of psychedelia and its more modern offshoots, Tribulation have wisely chosen to evolve the boundaries of death metal. It’s a move that requires more active listening at times to catch the nuances or to better appreciate the fluid movement of each song. That’s far from a bad thing. You gain more fans by coaxing them forward rather than pummeling them from the jump.
Why It Rules: Many are the metal albums that promise to take you on a journey of some kind, while leaving you right where you started. Not so with the latest from Swedish quartet Tribulation. Down Below is a true odyssey that dares you to follow every steep climb and long trek through the flatlands. Your guides are four loose-limbed long haired gents in corpse paint with a facility to move between elaborate guitar solos and pensive piano melodies. Just slip this little treat under your tongue and enjoy the scenery. —Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “The Lament”, “Nightbound”
14. Amigo The Devil – Everything Is Fine
Origin: Spicewood, Texas
The Gist: Rock troubadour Danny Kiranos, known as Amigo The Devil, may not create music as heavy as the other acts on this list, but his folk-rock songs have resonated with the metal and hard rock community. Singing about topics like serial killers and depression, his lyrics are as heavy as they come, even if delivered with an acoustic guitar.
Why It Rules: Amigo The Devil writes songs that are both lyrically deep and infectious as hell. Everything Is Fine was produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, At the Drive-In), and has a big sound for an acoustic album. The song “Cocaine and Abel” is a haunting gem, and the track “Everyone Gets Left Behind”, featuring drumming from Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk, will get stuck in your head upon the very first listen. —Spencer Kaufman
Essential Tracks: “Cocaine and Abel”, “Everyone Gets Left Behind”, “Hell and You”
13. A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant
Origin: Los Angeles, California
The Gist: Fifteen years after their last LP of originals, A Perfect Circle made a striking return in 2018. In place of the alt-metal sound for which they’re known, Eat the Elephant is more reflective of guitarist and principal songwriter Billy Howerdel’s recent foray into film scoring.
Why It Rules: Much of the album was built around keyboards and piano, supplemental orchestration, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s dynamic range. Soaring post-metal riffs do make appearances, but the album is much heavier in mood and subject matter. It’s a beautiful and eclectic album that addresses sociopolitical issues with Keenan’s lyrical dexterity. —Scott Morrow
Essential Tracks: “The Doomed”, “TalkTalk”, “Hourglass”
12. Khemmis – Desolation
Origin: Denver, Colorado
The Gist: Three albums in, doom metal quartet Khemmis have their internal engine working at maximum efficiency and power, having spent the previous six years fine tuning and oiling their sound. The music on their latest full-length, Desolation, shows no sign of strain or effort, however. It’s a seamlessly constructed work that purrs and snarls, with the edges fleshed out by small interludes of respite and beauty.
Why It Rules: The focus of Desolation has set on the vocals of Phil Pendergast. Make no mistake, there are witheringly hot riffs, complex arrangements that turn and twist through a pocket history of heavy music, and some screeching contributions from the band’s other guitarist-singer, Ben Hutcherson. But it’s Prendergast that is pushed to the foreground of this band’s controlled burn. His lyrics — meditations on the flimsiness of existence surrounded by visions of sharpened talons and “the gilded door of the abattoir” — and ringing voice are the blue flame at the center. —Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “Isolation”, “Bloodletting”, “Flesh to Nothing”
11. Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Origin: Switzerland / New York City
The Gist: Zeal & Ardor made waves in the metal scene two years ago with their unusual blend of black metal and slave spirituals. The band’s debut release Devil Is Fine was a fascinating, but interlude-heavy album that found band leader Manuel Gagneaux still working out the kinks on this innovative sound. Stranger Fruit was a highly anticipated follow-up, with fans wondering if this novel hybrid was a gimmick, or a sound that can be expanded on.
Why It Rules: Stranger Fruit takes everything that is great about Devil Is Fine and improves on it. The 8-bit Final Fantasy-esque interludes have been kept to a minimum, clearing the room for shout-along hymnals and black metal screeches. Tracks like “Row Row” and “Don’t You Dare” have melodic qualities and anthemic structure, further distinguishing Zeal & Ardor as one of modern black metal most creative forerunners. –TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “Gravedigger’s Chant”, “Row Row”, “Don’t You Dare”
10. Ghost – Prequelle
The Gist: After three incarnations of Papa Emeritus, Cardinal Copia takes over the sacrilegious Swedish outfit, and he and his gang of Nameless Ghouls reveal the deep influence of progressive rock on their work. The result is Prequelle, containing multi-layered opuses that work some appropriately bleak stories about plagues and medieval torture in with tender romantic pleas. Is our beloved Cardinal singing to God, Satan or some dewy young lover? That we can’t often answer the question conclusively is half of the fun.
Why It Rules: This is exactly the album we want from Ghost: bombastic and heavy cut through with some sharp pop hooks and a touch of the sentimental. All of that is captured perfectly in the vocal of the group’s leader, with a new persona — a disturbing mask that looks like it’s melting — to better match the dramatic sweep of the music. He echoes the dark fears and the small footholds of hope that mark the slow trudge to oblivion in every pealing note of his sturdy, tuneful tenor. The metaphor of the Dark Ages that he returns to throughout is a blunt force object to drive this simple message home: We’re screwed so let’s hold on to each other on the way down. –Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “Rats”, “Dance Macabre”, “Faith”
09. Vein – Errorzone
The Gist: The first full-length from Boston five-piece Vein cements the hype about this underground band, quickly coming overground. Eleven frenzied, genre-defying songs make up an album that is marked by its astonishing drumming, almost jazz-like in its execution, playing around beats, dropping blast beats, technical flourishes and multiple time signatures — all beneath a crushing sonic assault blending metal, hardcore, groove metal and melodic death with gritty, screeching and warm vocals. The result is an aurally spellbinding collection of songs.
Why It Rules: Errorzone should be taken in its entirety as a beautiful, unrestrained metallic hardcore symphony. “Doomtech” is the album standout, and recalls early Fear Factory; but the gems that lie within are myriad. “Virus/Vibrance” kicks off the album with a punishing groove and quickly sets the tone for what it is to come. “Anesthesia” could be an old industrial song, with its fuzzed-out vocals and Emergency Alert alarm that bleeds into the furious aggression of “Demise Automation.” The cacophonous album closer, “Quitting Infinity,” ties everything together as it swings from hardcore to death to melodeath. If you put the album on repeat you will quickly lose sight of where it begins and where it ends, and that’s magical. –Mick Stingley
Essential Tracks: “Doomtech”, “Anesthesia”, “Quitting Infinity”
08. Voivod – The Wake
Origin: Jonquière, Quebec
The Gist: Canadian thrash/prog veterans Voivod have broken all kinds of musical boundaries since their 1982 formation. On its 14th studio album, The Wake, the band continues its post-apocalyptic, sci-fi creations across eight expansive conceptual tracks. Denis “Snake” Belanger’s vocals are just as wonderfully odd as ever, yet he’s progressed his voice exponentially over the years with a more melodic delivery.
Why It Rules: Opener “Obsolete Beings” immediately grabs the listener’s attention with the band’s classic, dissonant chord progressions, rapid fire snare drum rudiments and driving rhythm section. On the 12-plus-minute epic album closer “Sonic Mycelium,” the band reintroduces the orchestral elements and shows off its diverse layers by combining various parts throughout the album and inserting them seamlessly into one track. In fact, the whole album ebbs and flows and constantly shape-shifts with dynamic results. —Kelley Simms
Essential Tracks: “Always Moving”, “Sonic Mycelium”, “The End of Dormancy”
07. Turnstile – Time & Space
Origin: Baltimore, Maryland
The Gist: After signing to Roadrunner to release their second LP, hardcore quintet Turnstile took a sizeable step forward stylistically. Atop a foundation of 1990s NYC hardcore, Time & Space adds dive-bombing rock ‘n’ roll solos, R&B keys, vocal harmonies, and infectious melodies.
Why It Rules: Hand claps, rototoms, and other percussive add-ons bulk up the rhythm section — three members are drummers by trade — while the croons of bassist Franz Lyons, already a staple of the band’s sound, more often complement the piercing screams of vocalist Brendan Yates. That’s all before a handful of guests, including electronic mega-producer Diplo, further diversify an album that smokes through 13 tracks in 25 minutes. It’s catchy, it bangs, and most importantly, it’s downright fun. If this album doesn’t get you amped up, check your pulse. —Scott Morrow
Essential Tracks: “Generator”, “High Pressure”, “Moon”
06. Sleep – The Sciences
Origin: San Jose, California
The Gist: Doom metal royalty Sleep return for their first album in 15 years — a hiatus that contained sparse live performances and the odd single. Metal’s most famous herbivores surprise dropped this new album on 4/20 (ok, this part is unsurprising) via Third Man Records. The Sciences is their first disc since their sixty minute single track odyssey Dopesmoker was released in 1999 — an album now considered an undisputed classic.
Why It Rules: Sleep’s unmatched fuzz tone is as heavy and ruthless as ever on The Sciences — the most crisply produced disc the band have ever relased. This is a dirty, no-frills riff machine of an album with a few squealing vintage Matt Pike guitar solos like the robust “Marijuanaut’s Theme.” All of these tracks are an adventurous trip through drone, doom, and space rock seamlessly arranged by Pike and singer-bassist Al Cisneros. Pike and Cisneros, who have both explored different sounds outside of Sleep’s slow doom metal, bring a cleaner contemplative quality to The Sciences indicative of a couple self-aware jokesters maturing. –TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “The Sciences”, “Marijuanaut’s Theme”, “Sonic Titan”
05. Judas Priest – Firepower
Origin: United Kingdom
The Gist: Judas Priest are one of the founding fathers of heavy metal’s sound and image. The band’s late ’70s and early ’80s catalog is rightfully worshipped, as is 1990’s Painkiller. Rob Halford’s absence for most of the ’90s into the 21st century marked a rough patch for Priest, but they’ve come back strong this decade. Founding guitarist K.K. Downing departed the band in 2011, but Richie Faulkner proved to be a worthy successor, leading to the solid Redeemer of Souls in 2014. With the announcement in February of this year that guitarist Glenn Tipton had Parkinson’s disease, there was plenty of reason to doubt the aging titans of metal once again.
Why It Rules: In interviews before Firepower dropped, the band stated they were going for more creative songwriting while bringing back some of their heavier and speedier riffs. Judas Priest came through on that promise in droves. While Tipton is no longer touring full-time with Priest, he and Faulkner deliver mightily on Firepower, which has some of the heaviest Priest riffs since Painkiller and speediest since Stained Class. Every vocal performance on Firepower by Halford feels like a time warp, with the legendary vocalist sounding identical to his ’80s self. Tracks like “Evil Never Dies” and “Flamethrower” prove Judas Priest still have some aggressive riffs left to shove in your face. —TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “Evil Never Dies”, “Flamethrower”, “No Surrender”
04. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Origin: Providence, Rhode Island
The Gist: Eight years after their last release, post-hardcore experimentalists Daughters return with an LP that deconstructs their sound and reanimates it into a whole new sonic monster. Vocalist Alexis SF Marshall adds an element of Nick Cave to a delivery that already echoes Jesus Lizard’s David Yow.
Why It Rules: In the long layoff between albums, Daughters have reinvented themselves once again, as the track “City Song” immediately announces You Won’t Get What You Want as unafraid to tread new ground. Guitarist/keyboardist Nick Sadler has few contemporaries in style, with the truly unique sounds he gets out of instruments along with his frenetic fret work. “Satan in the Wait” offers more dissonance, a sludgy bass line, and a twist: a melodic passage that sounds like bells run through effects pedals, while “The Reason They Hate Me” is the most straight-ahead banger of the 10 songs. —Scott Morrow
Essential Tracks: “Satan in the Wait”, “The Flammable Man”, “Daughter”, “The Reason They Hate Me”
03. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Origin: San Francisco, California
The Gist: This modern metal act has likely netted one of the largest crossover audiences of the 2010s thanks to 2013’s shoegaze/black metal hit Sunbather. After a drastically darker and thrash metal influenced disc, New Bermuda, Deafheaven used sobriety and maturity as the conduit for their fourth album. The two lead singles “Honeycomb” and “Canary Yellow” came with a surprisingly sunny, almost saccharine tint that seemed to indicate the band was pushing their sound in a new direction.
Why It Rules: Ordinary Corrupt Human Love has a gentle quality about it that few metal acts would even risk, with much less actually pull it off. The album has a pleasant lushness that even Sunbather lacked, and it’s is paced in a way that actually allows you to enjoy it’s soothing ambient moments before it frantically pushes the pace again. Deafheaven are a chameleon of sound-continually challenging what a metal band can sound like and questioning what metal at it’s very core needs to be and what it needs to reject. —TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “Honeycomb”, “Canary Yellow”, “Night People”
02. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
The Gist: According to frontman Nergal, the title of the new album from Polish extreme metal lifers Behemoth is a Bible quote attributed to none other than Jesus Christ. And on their 11th studio album, the trio goes perfectly over the top, bringing in a children’s choir and a 17-piece orchestra to drive their blasphemous point home.
Why It Rules: Amid all the grandeur and the sheer force of the band’s collective incursion throughout, a remarkable tone of restraint has crept in Behemoth’s work. The demon invocation “Bartzabel” plays out like a particularly vicious power ballad, while tracks like “Rom 5:8” and “Coagvia” pitch and yaw between a blastbeat-heavy overload and more measured passages. I Loved You At Your Darkest is another strong addition to Behemoth’s remarkable run, which has now lasted more than a quarter century. It reveals some welcome growth within a subgenre of heavy music that has often been resistant to evolution. –Robert Ham
Essential Tracks: “Bartzabel”, “Coagvia”, “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica”, “Rom 5:8”
01. YOB – Our Raw Heart
The Gist: YOB is mostly the creative work of vocalist-guitarist Mike Scheidt, who had a frightening 2017 where he battled diverticulitis and nearly lost his life. Our Raw Heart is an exploration and reflection of that period of Scheidt’s life with most of this album being written from his hospital bed that year. YOB’s brand of psychedelic doom metal reached it’s highest critical praise with their last disc, Clearing the Path to Ascend, and it was unclear what direction the band would turn to next.
Why It Rules: Our Raw Heart is seeping with emotional weight, but YOB do not need wild performances or intense vocal strain to tug at your heart strings. This album is as calculated and plodding as YOB always have been, but possesses a serene almost uplifting quality that has never been present before. “Beauty in Falling Leaves” is one of the most moving tracks this year, regardless of genre — the intense ode to perseverance is perhaps YOB’s most stirring tracks. —TJ Kliebhan
Essential Tracks: “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, “The Screen”, “Original Face”