2018 had a number of great albums, all of which I couldn’t list here, but after careful consideration, these are my top 20, none of which are listed lightly. See which ones you’d have picked out and maybe find some new music to check out. And please remember, if you do end up finding something new, please support the artist by picking up some of their music!
1. Amongst The Giants – Obscene
Part of the roster of the fairly new label, Rockfest Records, this hard rock/metal outfit released not just the best album of 2018, but the best in their genre over the past few years. I truly believe this album (which I reviewed late last year) remains especially underheard and underrated. This is the caliber material you come to expect from bands with more years under their belts, so when you bear in mind that this is a debut album, that just makes it all the more impressive. Mandatory listening here. FFO: Oh Sleeper, Inhale Exhale.
2. Fit For A King – Dark Skies
“Dark Skies” was the much anticipated follow up to “Deathgrip”, an album that was very well received nearly across the board by fans of metal everywhere and critics alike. Despite the high level of anticipation held by many, this one wasn’t met with the same enthusiastic reception (mostly due claims the band had mellowed some), I still considered it an especially strong release that displayed continued growth and yes, ventured a bit into some more melodic parts that were well-written and well-placed. And that edge and aggression that many are saying has faded? I strongly, but respectfully disagree.
3. Sevendust – All I See Is War
Hard rock veterans, Sevendust, are surely no strangers to lists like these, but what is especially impressive, is that the guys have been going strong for over 20 years and show no signs of slowing down nor losing their edge. If you’re familiar with Sevendust, then this album, as great as it is, isn’t really about breaking any boundaries, but is a continuation of the band perfecting the sound that is theirs; and on “All I See Is War”, the band has most certainly succeeded in giving their fans an album they’re certain to love.
4. The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight
The Interrupters are now 3 albums into their catalogue following the release of 2018’s successful release, “Fight the Good Fight”. The album was the follow up to the band’s 2016 release, “Say It Out Loud”, which was like a nice strong slap across the face to those questioning whether ska was still alive or not; of course, we know, Ska Lives. So when “Fight the Good Fight” released, it goes without saying that expectations for the album were through the roof and the band did not disappoint. For fans, the two year wait was well worth it as the Interrupters delivered and then some. Great album!
5. Sleeping Giant – I Am
It really sucks to find out a band you love is calling it quits, but at least it helps a little when they give you that one last parting gift; one last album. “I Am” is consistent with what you’d expect to hear from Sleeping Giant, but far better executed than “Finished People” was. This album was quite fitting for the band to release as their final album. It took a little from each of their other releases and combined it all into “I Am”, an album the band should be proud to go out on.
6. Zahna – Red For War
Zahna is the second band/artist appearing in this list that calls Rockfest Records home. In today’s music scene, there seems to be a real lack for female fronted hard rock bands that really bring it; thankfully, Zahna does. The music is well composed (featuring guitarist Joshua Bertrand of Random Hero) and the vocals are very well executed, blending beautiful melodies and searing screams at just the right moments. “Red For War” is an extremely impressive debut for Zahna and I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
7. Reel Big Fish – Life Sucks, Let’s Dance
Reel Big Fish are a busy bunch of guys as far as touring goes, but we haven’t heard anything new from them since “Candy Coated Fury” in 2012. “Life Sucks, Let’s Dance” broke that silence at the tail end of 2018 and is quite honestly one of the best albums of the band’s career. The release combines the best elements of the bands best moments over the years and is a clear cut indicator that this ska machine is in prime condition.
8. Tremonti – A Dying Machine
It really is quite mind boggling to think that the man behind Tremonti was once the guitarist for Creed. Sure, Creed had a few harder songs now and again, but back then, it would’ve been hard to conceive that Mark wrote material as heavy as we’ve heard on the Tremonti albums. While “A Dying Machine” has a few tracks that are mellower than the preceding albums, it’s still a pretty aggressive album overall and I don’t think his material will ever really lose that edge.
9. Sylar – Seasons
Sylar is a newer band to me. I only just found out about them and their music in the past year or so, maybe a little more. Compared to the album just before “Seasons”, this one is a little more on the tame side, but it’s still got a good punch to it. With rapcore bands in short supply these days (let alone good ones), these guys really fill that void well. FFO Linkin Park, P.O.D.
10. Convictions – Hope For the Broken
A sad truth these days is that many who have the platform to stand up and be bold for their faith in Christ, aren’t. Not the case with Convictions. Not only unashamed, but proud (in a good way) of their faith, the band returned this past year with “Hope For the Broken”, a blistering release that seemed to be their best received yet by fans and critics alike. I heard a fair amount of Underoath influence on a bit of the album, and had it on repeat pretty often (still do, actually). Hard rock/Hardcore/Metal fans, get your hands on this.
11. Of Mice & Men – Defy
The new album from Of Mice & Men is the first since the departure of the band’s vocalist, Austin Carlile, due to health issues. Filling his shoes is certainly no small task, but Aaron Pauley seems to be doing pretty well with the band. While to many, this album is a bit of a departure from the sound they’ve have grown to love, I don’t honestly see it as a bad thing; in fact, this album still packs quite a punch and is more than worth picking up.
12. Disturbed – Evolution
Disturbed is one band that hasn’t slowed down or let up whatsoever since their debut in the mid 90’s. Yes, a somewhat older band, but an older band with an intensity seen less and less as time goes on, as is clearly evidenced on the 2018 release, “Evolution”. The album does have a few tamer moments than I’m used to hearing from them, but they’re pulled off well and sound pretty good. I think there’s a little something here for just about everyone.
13. Jonathan Davis – Black Labyrinth
If the name doesn’t already seem familiar to you, Jonathan Davis is the vocalist for Nu Metal juggernaut, Korn. While this might cause you to think you know what to expect, you’d likely be wrong. Mostly. Jonathan Davis’ solo debut album, “Black Labyrinth” is a lot less aggressive, a lot less heavy, and has a fair amount of electronic sounds throughout. However, it still maintains a good amount of energy and is easy to get into on the first listen. It almost feels like this album got lost in the shuffle last year, which is a real shame, because it’s quite good. Something you’ll definitely want to give a listen to.
14. Grave Robber – Escaping the Grave
Grave Robber is, to me, essential listening. While there are many great Christian punk bands out there to check out, they’re easily in my top 3 and “Escaping the Grave” is just another example not only of why they’re there, but why they’re unlikely to move from that spot any time in the foreseeable future. The album contains everything we’ve come to know and love about Grave Robber; aggressive guitars with great sounding distortion, great riffs, song titles from horror flicks, and of course, lots of catchy choruses and “whoa”s. This one should be mandatory for punk fans, especially if you like bands like the Misfits.
15. Caveart – Welcome to the Gameroom
Caveart is a band in my neck of the woods and they just released their debut ep, “Welcome to the Gameroom”. Though it released in the latter portion of the year, it’s still found it’s way into my regular listening rotation and is especially enjoyable. Fairly reminiscent in many ways of As Cities Burn, though perhaps a little more…artsy(?) than aggressive (though the aggressive element is still certainly present). Well composed songs and I really enjoy the vocals as well. If you’re looking for something new to listen to, check these guys out.
16. Collington – In Between ep
Collington has been around for a few years now at least, though he just popped up on my radar this past year and I’m glad he did. From the first track I’d heard off this ep, I knew it was going to be something special, and it was pretty apparent, I wasn’t the only one. The first single, “Trouble” was well received, as was the ep upon release. I was reminded a bit of Ocean Is Theory, a band from Georgia that I used to love, although they were a little more aggressive. Good stuff.
17. Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots
It was heartbreaking and tragic to hear of the passing of former Stone Temple Pilots’ vocalist, Scott Weiland. While his shoes can never be filled, the band eventually decided to press on with vocalist Jeff Gutt, a former contestant on The X-Factor. The thing that amazed me about this album was Gutt’s striking vocal similarity to Weiland. It was truly something. The album was reminiscent to me of the STP album, “Purple” from years ago. If you were a fan of older STP, you’ll love this.
18. Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny and Oh So Bright
How odd is it that on my list, the Stone Temple Pilots and the Smashing Pumpkins are back to back? Interesting to see two bands from the same era on the same list, but even more interesting, is that much like STP, the Smashing Pumpkins too, have seemingly returned in smashing form (pun intended, so sue me) back to a sound echoing some of their earlier days, and as with STP, it’s worked exceedingly well here as well. Were you a fan of the Siamese Dream-Mellon Collie era? Then don’t miss this.
19. Twenty One Pilots – Trench
I really didn’t like Twenty One Pilots at first (yes, I’m aware it’s been years since they debuted), but they grew on me. It’s funny to me, that in a day and age where we see most bands adding more electronic sounds and such, that this album seemed to be doing the opposite. I noticed a number of tracks on here that seemed to have more actual instrumentation than electronics and it was done quite well. An enjoyable album from start to finish and sure to please fans of their usual style, but also those who would prefer to hear more obvious instrumentation being performed. Good stuff.
20. Hillsong Worship – There Is More
Hillsong Worship has been a steady part of my listening repertoire since shortly after I came to know the Lord almost 20 years ago. For the longest time, it seemed as though it was a foregone conclusion that if Hillsong was releasing a new album, I would like it. Unfortunately, that changed over time as their sound changed and became hit or miss. I decided to toss this one on this list because I found it pretty enjoyable. It’s a mix of the varying sounds and styles that have appeared on their albums over the years with the same impacting lyrics that glorify God. It would seem to me that even if you favor one era of Hillsong’s music over another, you’ll still like this.
So, that was my impression of 2018 in a nutshell, I enjoyed a great deal of what came out, and could have still added a number of albums if I wanted to, but I decided to keep it at a nice round 20 as I have for about as long as I’ve been writing these. Which albums did you like the most? What are you looking forward to in 2019? Whatever lies ahead, bring it on.