Exclaim!'s Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums Best of 2018
Published Dec 07, 2018Today (December 7), we're unveiling our list of the best metal and hardcore albums of 2018, including heavy mainstays like Sleep, Cult Leader and Daughters, not to mention a slew of up and comers.
Exclaim! has spent the past week rolling out our genre-specific album lists for the Best of 2018; it started with our Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, then we revealed our Top 10 Folk and Country Albums. Stay tuned next week for more.
Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums of 2018:
Time & Space
Turnstile's Time & Space sees the animated and tempered world of hardcore through a sonic and aesthetic kaleidoscope. The album came out on a label that once put out releases for Madball and Life of Agony, and they could easily have marketed the band as the next Nickelback or Stone Sour. More often than not, though, the group is a mix of Snapcase grit and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' groove.
Comparisons aside, Baltimore's finest have perfected the formula for what a hardcore record can be: there's jangly piano throughout "High Pressure" and R&B flavour in "Moon"; Britpop tendencies guide "Generator"; there's even a collaboration with Diplo on the political-leaning "Right to Be." Turnstile have a penchant for vibrant experimentation, but their prototype of psychedelic DC-adjacent hardcore ensures that no matter how far they dive away from their punk rock ethos, they somehow find their way back to the mosh pit.
9. Imperial Triumphant
(Gilead Media/Throatruiner Records)
In their lustrous gold masks, Imperial Triumphant are the perfect band to flip the monochrome monotony of black metal on its corpse-painted head. Their inversion of the genre's tropes extends beyond aesthetics to concept — central to Vile Luxury is exposing what we called "the rotten core of the Big Apple," their hometown — and music itself; the trio take the already avant-garde stylings of French black metal masters like Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, as well as death metal counterparts Gorguts, and add a heavy jazz influence.
The unique sound does a better job than extreme metal alone ever could at capturing the bustling streets of New York, where you might walk past a world-class jazz club without even knowing it. And that's exactly what these guys are: world-class. Drummer Kenny Grohowski plays with John Zorn.
Growling guitarist (and only original member) Zachary Ilya Ezrin has been building to this for 13 years, and in Grohowski and co-vocalist/bassist Steve Blanco, he's finally found his allies in opulence — as foul as they know that may be.
When a relatively unknown band from Scotland makes one of the most talked about records of the year, it comes as a bit of a surprise, but Frontierer built a strong following with their blend of polyrhythmic drop-tuned Meshuggah riffs and chaotic mathcore in the vein of the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza on their debut album a few years ago. Now, with Unloved, they've caught the attention of the metal community at large.
The five-piece math metal newcomers masterfully execute unrelenting breakdowns and mind-boggling technicality, but their experimentation with industrial sounding electronics and unnerving glitches is what makes this such an interesting album. If you're a fan of brutal beatdown riffs and demented experimental metal with a hardcore touch, Unloved is a necessary listen.
7. Cult Leader
A Patient Man
A Patient Man, the highly anticipated full-length followup to Cult Leader's stellar 2015 debut album, Lightless Walk, is only their sophomore LP, but it finds the Salt Lake City, UT quartet fully coming into their own, blending chaotic hardcore and noisy grind with moody, haunting melodies. The contrast of sounds is both complementary yet jarring, all the while draped in Cult Leader's distinct atmosphere of vicious, tormented aggression and utter despondency.
Tracks like "I Am Healed," "Curse of Satisfaction" and "Craft of Mourning" are relentless, breakneck assaults of suffocating, dissonant riffs, pummelling blasts and odd-timed angular guitar work. Anthony Lucero's vocals are harsher and more corrosive than ever, exuding a fiery hostility that anchors the album.
While the band have flirted with slower brooding moments on previous releases, Cult Leader embrace doleful melodies with much more confidence on A Patient Man. "To: Achlys" and "A World of Joy," as well as the title track, feature lumbering dark tones, clean guitars and deep, goth rock-style vocals. These tracks are delicate and beautiful, but contain a bleak and intensely unsettling vibe.
Once again working with Converge's Kurt Ballou, A Patient Man showcases Cult Leader not only at their most technically proficient, but also at their bravest and most thoughtful in terms of songwriting and composition. The result is a record that's truly unique and exceeds all expectations.
6. Harm's Way
Swole, buff and heavier than a steel-plated kick to the temple, Harm's Way came into their own with Posthuman. By jacking up their hardcore sound with industrial elements from heavy music's cutting edge, these Chicago heavyweights struck the perfect balance between new and old. Think Code Orange's Forever, by way of early Slipknot.
Harm's Way prove that the term nu-metalcore is no joke. They double down on heaviness with standout tracks like "Call My Name," "Dissect Me" and "Human Carrying Capacity," and when you throw in a few choice breakdowns with vocalist James Pligge's punishing delivery, you've got one of 2018's most uncompromising releases. It's fresh, new, and surprisingly upbeat. Harm's Way chewed listeners up and spat them out on last album Rust; with Posthuman, they've shown that they can have fun doing it, too.