The 30 best metal albums of 2018 as voted for by Metal Hammer readers

20. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods

"For every relentless assault like Blacker Of Worlds, you’re dealt the majestic, clean guitar passages within Gates To Blashyrkh and Mighty Ravendark, the latter closing the record in regal fashion. Northern Chaos Gods is more than just a callous display of premier black metal. It’s a frostbitten ‘fuck you’ to anyone who said that Immortal were finished."

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19. At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself

"In Death They Shall Burn is as perfect as extreme metal songwriting gets, and while this is a nod to their raw, pre-Slaughter… infancy, the band also delve further back in time, with metallic antiquity referenced by Dagger Of Black Haze and the galloping lead of In Nameless Sleep revelling in their Maiden-isms. Slaughter Of The Soul will always be an untouchable milestone but album number six is still a classy achievement."

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18. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

"With its vast sonic template, sense of wistfulness, sorrow and lovelorn regret and lyrical references to ‘the language of flowers’, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is neither as instant a thrill as New Bermuda, or as cohesive a listen as Sunbather. Due to this it might be a harder sell to many metal fans. Obviously militant diehards will simply scoff at it as catnip for hipsters, while the more open-minded will paint its detractors as closed-minded elitists. But maybe the eclecticism and excellence of this as a piece of music marks this as the moment we should all just start praising Deafheaven for the ambition and honesty of what they are, rather than bemoaning what they aren’t, and clearly have no interest in being."

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17. Tesseract – Sonder

"t’s certainly no kind of compromise for a famously cerebral band to demonstrate that they’re great at writing balls-out anthems, particularly when the likes of Juno and Smile still harbour great complexity and textural depth beneath those soaring melodies and skull-pulping poly-riffs. Dan Tompkins’ performance is his best yet, too; nimbly jumping from whisper to scream, he turns the fidgeting claustrophobia of Beneath My Skin into a thing of wince-inducing emotional power. Straight to the point but still ahead of the game, Tesseract are annoyingly clever bastards."

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16. Sleep – The Sciences

Sleep made their long-awaited return to (un)consciousness in 2018, as The Sciences dropped in surprising fashion, like an asteroid-sized hot-rock from an intergalactic blunt. Their recognisable sativa-stained riffs and mantric grooves sounded as potent as ever, and on Giza Butler, the trio not only had the most on-brand songtitle you heard all year, but the intoxicating track itself confirmed Sleep as the only true natural successors to the Sabbathian dopethrone.

15. Zeal & Ardor – Strange Fruit

"Working your way through the 16 tracks, you are confronted with a lot that is going on, as the album constantly walks a tightrope between brute force and sensitivity, from blastbeats to chorals to piano parts. But you never feel lost in this eclecticism, because the essence of what Manuel does is crystal clear. All the different feelings, sounds and styles add up to one big picture. They tell a coherent story – nothing about it is random. Most importantly, despite the experimental and conceptual underlying idea, the music is deeply authentic and moving, not to forget the socio-critical level of this project that deals subtly with the suppression and abuse of black people in America both in the era of slavery as well as the present day. And while Zeal & Ardor has always been a style unto itself, Stranger Fruit has just taken it to a whole new level."

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14. Dimmu Borgir – Eonian

"Where Abrahadabra occasionally felt over-egged, Eonian is a masterclass in fine details and finesse. The Empyrean Phoenix is symphonic metal given a hellish, fearless makeover, I Am Sovereign offers a maze of brutal and refined ideas that blossoms into a thrilling melodic crescendo and, best of the lot, Alpha Aeon Omega conjures the spirit of early 90s blackness, insane 130bpm blastbeats included, while still sounding fully in sync with extreme metal’s cutting edge. Yup, they’re back and still thinking big."

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13. Machine Head – Catharsis

"If 2011’s Unto The Locust was a grand work of structured songwriting and 2014’s Bloodstone & Diamonds was a safe continuation, Catharsis is Machine Head with the brakes off, freewheeling through past and present as they see fit. It’s blood, guts, sweat and spit all nailed plainly to the mast, and all fucks thrown to the wind. Robb’s said he’s got no plan for Machine Head’s future, and perhaps that’s why the record lacks some coherence, but their rebellious spirit nevertheless remains strong."

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12. Ice Nine Kills – The Silver Scream

"Weaving dual vocals attacks alongside thunderous breakdowns, orchestral theatrics and memorable soundbites, opener The American Nightmare and Enjoy Your Stay are instantly memorable. Elsewhere, it’s a struggle to not cringe inwardly listening to saccharine ballad A Grave Mistake with its whiningly emotive vocals, while lyrics like ‘You’ve just scratched the surface of the curse of Crystal Lake’ sadly reduce The Silver Scream’s attempted storytelling to a hotchpotch of clichés. Cult classic, not bestseller."

11. Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog

"Alice In Chains might have matured, but they sure haven’t softened. So Far Under – written by and featuring an absolutely filthy solo by William – taps into the gnarled defiance of 1990’s Facelift, with its sharp, serpentine riffs and vitriolic refrain. On the fragile, more melodic side, Fly and Maybe both feature sparkling, tightly woven fretwork and absurdly addictive choruses that beg to cranked on car stereos for sunset drives. Ambition abounds, not in volume or ferocity but in a sense of subtlety and restraint. From top to bottom, each track showcases masterful songwriting and inspired lyricism. Rainier Fog sees the band breathing new life into their signature sound, with a diverse and deeply emotional collection that history will surely view as a career-defining statement."

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