July 24, 2024
Best Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Studio Albums

The 20 Best Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Studio Albums of 2018

The year 2018 came to an end a couple of weeks ago and we look back on an abundance of excellent albums, many of which I would not have expected to become instant classics. But hey, happy that is the case. The list I have compiled is based on how often I have listend to the respective album since it came out, as well as the Wow!-effect it had on me. Of course, the list reflects solely my subjective view and taste. Hence, feel free to let me know which albums you would have included or excluded from this list. That said, here my Top 20 Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Albums 2018:

#20 Soulfly – Ritual

Released 19 October. The legendary Max Cavalera issued the 11th instalment of Soulfly and I enjoyed it as much and any other Soulfly album. I really liked Archangel (2015) and find Ritual to continue that course. Ritual might not be the best Soulfly album, but it surely provided––and still provides––great listening-fun. Songs like Under Rapture feat. Ross Dolan and Dead Behind The Eyes feat. Randy Blythe radiate among the most ferocious metal energy around. That alone makes this album one of my favourites for 2018. Anthrax Studio Albums Ranked «Worst To Best»

#19 Ministry – AmeriKKKant

Released 9 March. The first album in 5 years, and after mastermind Al Jourgensen had basically retired the Ministry-brand. To put it in the words of Loudwire, “a complete piece of art”.

#18 Machine Head – Catharsis

Released 26 January. The ninth album of Bay Area thrasher Machine HeadCatharsis, was received with mixed reviews. I thought it was an experiment gone right and still enjoy listening to it. It might not be the strongest album of the band, but I rank it 4th in the band’s «best to worst» albums and can recommend it to anyone who likes dark riffs, head-banging beats, dynamic arrangements, intense vocals, and dramatic stories.

#17 Rottengraffty – Play

Released 28 February. I discovered Rottengraffty while watching Japanese anime Dragon Ball Super, to which the band offered their fantastic song「70cm四方の窓辺」. While in Japan, I had the chance to listen to their new album and was impressed by the albums energy and creativity. Studio Albums Mixtape

#16 Metal Allegiance – Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty

Released 7 September. Metal Allegiance‘s second attempt can be considered a more consistent album than the supergroup’s debut work. To put it in the words of guitarist Alex Skolnick, “[the album] iss a little bit like a full-length film. You can watch a scene, and there are many great scenes, and they’re fantastic, but you’re not getting the whole experience by watching just one scene. You really need to absorb the whole film to appreciate it.” I did exactly that. I listened to the whole record in one sitting and loved it. Try it, too.

#15 Skull Fist – Way Of The Road

Released 26 October. It took Skull Fist 5 years to release their follow up to the phenomenal Chasing the Dream album, but it was worth the wait. Way Of The Road might not be as brachial and eccentric as it predecessor, but it works absolutely well for me. I file that characteristic as ‘grown up’. Also, I finally got to see Skull Fist play live and even met the band shortly. Cool dudes, fantastic live presence, and just awesome music. Definitely an album I’ve been waiting for and that did not disappoint one bit.

#14 The Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Released 16 November. I liked the band’s 2014-release Monuments to an Elegy, but when I read that this release would see Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha join mastermind Billy Corgan, I got ‘really’ excited, and I was not disappointed, despite a rather mellow feel with less brachial grunge elements. The album might be rather short with 8 songs and a barely 32-minute running length. Nevertheless, it goes down like crystalline water. AC/DC Studio Albums Ranked «Worst To Best»

#13 Crossfaith – EX_MACHINA

Released 1 August. I had seen Japanese metal band Crossfaith posters and adds on my visits in Japan, but never thought to take time for an in-depth listening session until this past year, and boy was I surprised. Frontman Ken and his boys pack extreme energy into their albums and live shows. Their most recent release EX_MACHINA is an excellent concept album that encapsulates an intriguing story about machines and angels with a spherical and metallic soundtrack that would make the Terminator blush.

#12 Amorphis – Queen Of Time

Release 18 May. As I wrote before, “This is an elegant cinematic heavy metal album that synthesises heavy instrumentation with grand orchestration and beautiful melodies with astute arrangements and dynamics. The colourful sonic look and feel provided by the various instruments and voices, as well as the great lyrics, make the album a treat to listen to from beginning to end.”

#11 The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough

Release 29 June. I would not have thought that the band would have been able to release a better album only 1 year after the phenomenal Amber Galactic (2017) album, but they did it. Building upon its predecessor’s mood and feel, Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough provides a nostalgic disco-rock album wrapped in modern sonic paper.

#10 Ghost – Prequelle

Release 1 June. Regardless of your opinion on Tobias Forge, the mastermind behind the band, the music of Ghost is of the highest quality. Prequelle is the logic sonic and artistic continuation of Ghost‘s work until now. Ghost still sounds like Ghost, but the songs seem more refined and thought through. Prequelle walks the listener through a mystic sonic world and is not afraid of providing instrumental songs. No wonder various magazines have this album as one of the best, if not the best, rock album of 2018.

#9 Angelus Apatrida – Cabaret De La Guillotine

Release 4 May. I knew about Angelus Apatrida, but had never really listened to an entire album. When the first videos were released online, like Sharpen the Guillotine or Downfall of the Nation, it caught my attention and I started looking into the band’s work more closely. Finally, when I was able to blast the Cabaret De La Guillotine vinyl through my PA, I was sold. The band’s strongest effort, and possibly the best thrash metal album that has ever come from a Spanish band, in my humble opinion.

#8 Gus G. – Fearless

Released 20 April. As I wrote before, “Fearless is a smartly eclectic and innovatively lucid album. It celebrates traditional hard rock with outstanding songwriting and musicianship, and a high-gloss production with all the necessary oomph. Recorded as a trio with producer Dennis Ward on vocals and bass and Will Hunt on drums, Fearless provides an excellent listening experience to anyone considering themselves connoisseurs of rock music –– I dare you.” Truly great effort by Gus G.

#7 Monster Truck – True Rockers

Released 7 September. Canada’s most furious rock export, Monster Truck, released their third long player, True Rockers. It is more melodic and pop-y than its 2015-predecessor Sittin’ Heavy, but complements the 2015-release with more polished and grown-up songs. It is almost as if Monster Truck grew up much more between Sittin’ Heavy (2015) and True Rockers (2018), than between Furiosity (2013) and Sittin’ Heavy (2015). This vinyl is still spinning over and over again in my living room.

#6 Rise Of The Northstar – The Legacy Of Shi

Released 19 October. I had no idea who Rise Of The Northstar were, and actually mistook the band for the soundtrack of the 1980s apocalyptic anime Fist Of The Northstar. Nevertheless, I’m glad the title fooled me and I actually picked this one up. The album tells the story of Shi, a samurai, through songs that combine heavy metal and hip hop with French accent and occasional French lyrics and narration. The Legacy Of Shi can be considered the second album release of the French band, after having self-released two EPs. In that regard, it is exceptional what Rise Of The Northstar have been able to create here. A huge Wow! and Sugoi! from my side.

#5 Amaranthe – HELIX

Released 19 October. I can’t deny it: I find Elize Ryd, singer and songwriter of Amaranthe, one of the most versatile and eclectic rock artists out there. And, whatever she puts considerable effort in, like HELIX, blows my mind. The energy, songwriting, and production packed in this album is outstanding. I have liked the predecessor Maximalism (2016), but found it did not hold up on the previous albums. HELIX, on the other hand, reconnects with the band’s previous mojo, but is able to provide new facets regarding feel of the songs, also to be attributed to Nils Molin, who contributes clean male vocals for the first time on an Amaranthe album.

#4 Kobra And The Lotus – Prevail II

Released 27 April. Prevail I (2017) was a masterpiece and, hence, hard to top. But Kobra And The Lotus, one of my favourite Canadian heavy metal exports, fronted by the highly talented Kobra Paige, was able to provide a worthy sequel. Prevail II is as strong as Prevail I. Every song has its legitimacy and leads perfectly into the next, although Velvet Roses and Let Me Love You might stand out for me. Also, offering an excellent cover of the Fleetwood Mac song The Chain added more sonic and feel colour to the Prevail duology.

#3 Striker – Play To Win

Released 24 October. I have been a fan of this Edmonton-based quintet since their 2016-release, Stand in the Fire, which was one of my favourite albums that year . Play To Win is, however, my favourite Striker album to date. I consider the album to be a nostalgic tribute to the heyday of heavy metal, the late 1980s and early 1990s. The look and feel is nostalgically modern––and awesome––and goes hand in hand with the sonic presentation. Play To Win follows a traditional––dare we say, legendary––rock album structure, like Skid Row‘s Slaves To The Grind or similar iconic works. Not going to elaborate in more detail here. Just believe me when I tell you, you’ll love this album, if you are as nostalgic as me when it comes to pure old-school heavy metal. All killers, no filler. Hell yeah!

#2 Judas Priest – Firepower

Released 9 March. I must admit, I was always a rather casual Judas Priest listener. I liked their music, had most of their 1980s album and listened to them on a constant basis, mostly to Ram It Down (1988) and Painkiller (1990). After listening to Redeemer of Souls (2014) when it just came out, I was positively surprised by what Rob Halford and the guys. was still able to create, but when I then heard the 2016-live album Battle Cry, I thought, the next album will be a masterpiece. Fast-forward two years and Firepower is unleashed onto the world. In my humble opinion, this is the strongest Judas Priest album since Painkiller, maybe even their best effort ever since––although it’s hard to compare albums that are many decades apart. Fact is, Judas Priest gave us a masterpiece with Firepower that will be enjoyed by many old fans and new fans. It was worth the wait.

#1 Tremonti – A Dying Machine

Released 8 June. A Dying Machine is Tremonti‘s fourth album and the album that had the strongest impact on me in 2018. The album can be considered the soundtrack to the novel written by frontman Mark Tremonti (of Alter Bridge) and John Shirley. The novel fills the story-gap from the album’s plot. The lyrics of the album explore relationships between humans and humanoids, solitude that comes with that, or how one can trust the other in a very enticing way. The entire story is presented on a beautifully dark musical carpet that smoothly rides emotional states from melancholic, to sad, to hopeful, and, finally, accomplished. The songwriting and concept of A Dying Machine is exceptional. The band leads the listener through the mentioned states while considering various dynamics. The album offers everything from heavy riffs and modern staccato riffs to angelic harmonies and melodies that relief the mood, without losing their main focus: A traditional heavy metal quartet telling a story through great handmade music that raises great emotions. For me, A Dying Machine is the best hard rock and heavy metal album of 2018, and I’d like to say thank you to Tremonti for that.



YouTuber + host of the #FHTZ online music show with co-producer @simonkurt + marketing & digital content producer + university lecturer

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