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Underworld Zine’s 10 Best Metal Albums of 2018

2018 was yet another year filled with political division. From the Cavanaugh hearing, to Trump shutting down the government, to Adam Darski taking a photo with prominent Nazi larper/black metal legend Rob Darken, the drama just seems to get worse every year.

Despite all the commotion, more than a few bands released jaw dropping albums in 2018. Some prolific and legendary acts “retired” with a bang by releasing surprisingly crushing final efforts and some newer acts shocked us with insane debuts. Compiling this list was brutally difficult given the sheer volume of sick new releases and settling on an order was nearly impossible. Seriously, I’m still debating on the order, but for now, here are the top 10 best albums of 2018

10. Ennui- End of the Circle

Georgian funeral doom outfit Ennui’s fourth full length album “End of the Circle” was an unexpected gem for me this year. This is a band that opened my mind to the funeral doom genre. Previously, I had been too musically ADHD to truly grasp the beauty of funeral doom, but Ennui’s infusion of blackened ambiance into their otherwise traditional doom sound was able to hold my attention. That says something for a band who opens with a 30 minute epic.

I knew when I didn’t want to skip the opening track after 15 minutes, instead finding myself entirely immersed in Ennui’s melancholy microcosm, that “End of the Circle” was among the 10 best metal albums of the year.

9. Yob- Our Raw Heart

Oregon trio, Yob, is a band everyone has been talking about lately. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt cheated death by overcoming a near fatal intestinal disease but, while inspiring, “Our Raw Heart” is an LP worth noticing tragedy or not.

Scheidt’s brush with death was the inspiration for the sound and lyrical themes on “Our Raw Heart” and it shows through every impassioned wail and gloomy break on the album. In just 7 tracks, this release takes the listener on a dark journey of epic proportion that’s honest, heartfelt and raw.

8. The Spirit- Sounds From the Vortex

This album floored me the first time I heard it. With a sound plucked directly from early 90s Stockholm, The Spirit is truly a force to be reckoned with in the realm of melodic black metal.

Once more, the band understands the importance of memorable song writing. While the melodies on “Sounds From the Vortex” are tight overall, they maintain an anthemic quality that resonates well in live performances. Picked up by Nuclear Blast upon the release of their debut, this German foursome is one to watch in the coming years.

7. Mare- Ebony Tower

Despite being active since 2003 according to Metal Archives, Mare released their debut album “Ebony Tower” in August of 2018. In an era when Poland, Sweden and Russia are dominating black metal, Mare seeks to put Norway back on the map in a big way.

Ebony Tower” maintains a perfect balance between avant garde and conventional elements in their sound, which creates a truly enjoyable and memorable experience for the listener. What I love about this release is its flow. With its  contrast between melodic interludes and violent breaks, “Ebony Tower” is both kvlt and easily palatable. With a debut like this, I can’t wait to see what’s to come from Mare.

6. Immortal- Northern Chaos Gods

I think the entire metal community was both shocked and worried when Demonaz and Horgh decided to release an Immortal album sans Abbath. Little did we know we were in for a pleasant surprise when the album killed it.

Northern Chaos Gods” is a welcoming homage to the band’s best era. The album is eerily reminiscent of “At the Heart of Winter” in the best possible way. Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m happy about the split because now we’re getting twice the good material from both Abbath as a solo act and Immortal. What can I say, I’m greedy.

5. Unanimated- Annihilated (EP)

I was honestly surprised by the lack of attention Unanimated’s comeback EP received this year. For their first release in over 9 years, these Swedish melodic black metal giants returned with a frostbitten bang.

Annihilation floored me, excited me and left me speechless. Listening to this EP gave me all those happy feelings that come from hearing perfectly executed metal. I couldn’t more stoked that these guys are back.

4. Monstrosity- The Passage of Existence

Like most people, my introduction to Monstrosity came from Mark English’s involvement with Deicide. I’m so glad I discovered Monstrosity and “The Passage of Existence” though because not only does album crush, Mark English has shreds for days.

Monstrosity is a palatable form of OSDM with thrashy interludes and killer solos. This album is truly memorable and easy to digest. Good death metal here.

3. Arkona- Khram

2018 saw another development in the world of metal; Arkona got dark as fuck. Seriously “Khram” surprised me with its range and versatility. The band is clearly taking risks with this album, writing longer songs and going in a heavier direction, and the risks are paying off big time.

Despite the band’s slight deviation in sound, Arkona has managed to stay true to their folky roots. What “Khram” showcases is the band’s ability to grow. This album hits in all the right places.

2. Judas Priest- Firepower

While compiling this list I felt it would be almost blasphemous to not include Judas Priest’s 18th full length release “Firepower” near the top. Judas Priest did what so many other classic metal bands fail to do every year; release an album that’s not only relevant in the modern day, but is an instant classic.

Many people are calling “Firepower” “Painkiller” part II and I have to agree with that assertion. When a classic band like Priest releases a new album, fans usually pray there are at least 1 or 2 good tracks on it, but every song on “Firepower” is an absolute banger.

1. Tomb Mold- Manor of Infinite Forms

As I said earlier, figuring out the order for this list was nearly impossible, but Canadian old school death metal outfit, Tomb Mold was an easy pick for the top spot. What makes “Manor of Infinite Forms” so absolutely crushing is its dedication to the true death metal style that defined the 90s.

This is a band that isn’t shying away from producing something absolutely disgusting, sickening and brutal to the core. All these elements make for a perfect death metal record and a top rank in Underworld’s best metal of the year list.

2018 gave us some great metal. Let’s hope 2019 delivers even better metal. Happy New Year! Hails!

Honorable Mentions:

Deicide- Overtures of Blasphemy

Bane- Esoteric Formulae

Nocturnal Graves- Titan

Satan- Cruel Magic

Uada- Cult of a Dying Sun

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