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

10. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions

"The overall sound is rougher and looser than recent albums – you can really hear the band’s punk and hardcore influences snarling away – but the songs themselves are endlessly, disarmingly engaging, with Neil Fallon’s criminally underrated wordsmithery ensuring that every song has a verbal hook to match the sublime thrust of the riffs and grooves. Trust us, you will be shouting “Weaponised funk!” and “Ghoul wrangler!” at each other before the year is out."

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9. A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant

"If you’re a fan of early A Perfect Circle, it’ll be difficult not to feel a little bit disappointed – especially when glimpses of intensity burst through, and especially after such a long wait. But if you can accept their current incarnation and submit to it, then there are subtleties to discover on this thought-provoking return."

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8. Beartooth – Disease

"This could be a divisive album – it occasionally feels unwilling to fully commit to heaviness or accessibility – but the smart money is on it being a very successful one. This is a convincing step towards the mainstream for one of our most promising young acts."

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7. Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

"It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of the tech-metal world. Where Owls Know My Name brilliantly blends thoroughbred, American brutality with European adventurousness, and the end result is an undeniable triumph."

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6. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

"It’s all loaded with such audacious, singular force of personality – especially Nergal’s no-holding-back vocal performance, but equally evident in Orion’s weightless bass wanderings and Inferno’s tour-de-force drum barrage. Behemoth’s bludgeoning chops, vicious tempos and esoteric atmospheres remain firm, but there is a dark streak of humour and a paradoxical joie de vivre running through I Loved You At Your Darkest. The title, a simplified, contemporary paraphrase of Christ’s words, signals the band’s impulse to shake up the formula, deviating from their tradition of snappy, definitive album titles, adding wilful ambiguity and a puckish desire to perplex. Behemoth continue nailing black and death metal simultaneously; it’s what they do. But on their 11th album, these long-serving master craftsmen have channelled the ethos of rock gods."

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5. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology

Slithering from beneath a potted plant up north, Lancashire duo Slugdge blew the tech-death scene away with this tongue-in-cheek, Lovecraftian nightmare full of biting social commentary. The musicianship was simply outstanding, making Esoteric Malacology a progressively punishing, baroquely melodic death metal record for the modern age. With Black Dahlia Murder drummer Alan Cassidy onboard for album five, we can’t wait to see what they do next.

4. Parkway Drive – Reverence

"If you are worried about a lack of metal in Reverence then songs like Absolute Power and Prey will allay those fears. The latter is full of the thick, juddering, Rage Against The Machine-style grooves that made Crushed on Ire so popular, and the former swaps the Iron Maiden gallop and leads of the last outing and replaces them with the stomp and swagger of Black Album Metallica. In fact, the tone and pace of much of this album is eerily reminiscent of the album that turned Metallica into the biggest metal band of them all. We’re not suggesting that Reverence will pop in quite such a way, but, with an album that will doubtless continue their relentless march towards metal’s upper echelons, expect Parkway Drive to reap the deserving rewards of their sonic gambling."

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3. Ghost – Prequelle

"Bombastic grandeur aside, Prequelle takes some surprising turns, including two proggy instrumentals. The none-more-retro Miasma subliminally recalls Majestic from last album Meliora and sounds like an extended action sequence, climaxing in an enthusiastic saxophone solo. Meanwhile, Helvetesfonster is like a reprise of Pro Memoria combined with the theme tune from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Though disarming on first listen, they cleverly connect Ghost songs past and present, and make the record feel like a grand musical. It’s easy to imagine how these interludes might work onstage – maybe even during set changes – for this most theatrical of bands. Now they’ve headlined Bloodstock, is Broadway next?"

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2. Judas Priest – Firepower

"We’re calling it now: this is the best album Judas Priest have made since Painkiller. Yes, it’s that good. If you love heavy metal as much as they do, you won’t want to miss this immaculate celebration of what is, let’s face it, the whole reason we’re all here in the first place."

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1. Architects – Holy Hell

"Holy Hell isn’t the best Architects album, but it doesn’t have to be. It deviates away from the previous two albums into something more fractured, missing the mark at times, but still able to deliver knockout blows when it counts. As Sam sings he’ll ‘always carry the cross’ on closer A Wasted Hymn, the emotional force of the previous 40 minutes strikes in the chest, flooding all senses, highlighting just how much of Tom is in this album and in Architects. It’s not perfect, but it’s a victory."

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