The year 2018 was epic, not only in terms of the word-like genre! It saw the return of veterans, the resurgence of legends and an immense army of hungry newcomers. In order to keep track of this abundance of excellent albums, I will publish three thematic lists: Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Black Metal. Another list of demos & EPs will follow later. I would be delighted if one or the other reader discovers something here, that he missed throughout the year.
Here are my ten Heavy Metal highlights of 2018 in alphabetical order:
Battleroar – Codex Epicus
Anyone who has Mark Shelton (R.I.P.) not only as a guest musician but also as a guest singer on an album in 2018, definitly attracts my attention. And if that album on top is as powerful and epic as the Greeks’ newest release, a place in my annual highlights list is assured. Especially with such a fantastic singer.
Black Viper – Hellions of Fire
The Norwegians create their own version of traditional Speed Metal on this debut album. They skilfully combine the apparent contrast between speed and epicness, in a way that you won’t even notice. And if you do, then only in the most positive sense! But the biggest strength of the band is writing catchy songs with a high recognition factor.
Gatekeeper – East of Sun
The Canadians have made a name for themselves in the Epic Metal scene within a very short time with this debut album. Despite the extraordinary variations in tempo and heaviness, this is not particularly surprising, given that fans of the genre are quickly on your side if you pay hommage to genre classics and if you have a certain crankiness.
Ice Sword – Dragon Magic
Epic Pagan Power Metal from the USA, that deliberately sounds like deepest underground and boasts with insane songwriting. Sounds crazy? It is! Does it take getting used to? It does! And still it is one of the year’s highlights? Absolutely!
Judas Priest – Firepower
Probably the biggest surprise in 2018 comes from a band that is predestined for such an album. But did anyone really expect such a great album after PRIEST’s rather average last releases? Of course you could label “Firepower” as too rich in self-quotations, but is not exactly this kind of best-of album what the fans wanted to hear? This one definitely did!
Midnight Force – Dunsinane
This debut album from Scotland could easily be mistaken for a long-forgotten gem or well-kept secret from the very early days of Heavy Metal. Even though both the songs and the production seem to be from a long gone era, a more than fresh wind is blowing from the speakers. MY NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR!
Professor Black – Sunrise
Chris Black, one of the most enterprising musicians our scene has to offer, is finally turning back to his epic side with this album. The songs sound like a mixture of BATHORY, MOTÖRHEAD and slow RUNNING WILD, because despite all the epicness, a lot of solid Rock has been incorporated into the songwriting, too.
Solstice – White Horse Hill
2018 was literally epic. Of course, a big part of that is the fact that the slightly melancholic Englishmen from SOLSTICE finally released a full-fledged album after 20 years. And what a great album it is! Their epic Doom anthems matured over many years and come close to pathos. How important this band really was for the development of the Epic genre, can be heared in every single minute of this masterpiece.
Toledo Steel – No Quarter
If you like traditional Heavy Metal with an unpolished, rough touch, then you’re with the right band with these Englishmen. Fortunately, their role models are not the big players of the NWOBHM only, but can be primarely found in the movement’s second row. The album is one that will not change the pole positions of the genre, but it is definitly a lot of fun. And isn’t that the only thing that really matters?
Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath
This album combines the best of both worlds of Power Metal. The big pond that separates these genres, at least geographically, is easily evaporated by the band’s hot steel. Not surprisingly and highly deserving, this album appears in at least every other end of the year list that I read over the last weeks. HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR!