While 2018 might not have made the best impression on many of us – thanks to all those headlines filled with doom, gloom and little in between – it's fair to say that the worlds of alternative music brought us plenty to feel cheerful about. With stone cold future classics crawling out from every corner of rock's wide spectrum, 2018 set a ridiculously high benchmark in terms of quality rock'n'roll.
But which albums stood out as the year's finest? We here at Louder had a good idea – and a long-list of over 100 albums – but decided to defer to the wisdom of the public and place the final decision on your hands. Our long-list was compiled from the end of year lists created by Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog Magazines, and we asked Louder readers to pick the best of the bunch.
We also included a field to add whatever else might have particularly impressed you this year – particular props go out to the fans of Riverside, Louden Swain and Tom Petty who mobilised with enough enthusiasm to ensure their favourites netted impressive positions in the final list.
So, here we have the 50 best albums of 2018, according to Louder readers – with a handy playlist for you to listen along to as you read.
50. Anna von Hausswolff - Dead Magic
We said: "Anna von Hausswolff is one of the most underrated young musicians around today. Like her father, the controversial sound artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, this Swedish organist and singer has little regard for rules and prefers to create experimental sounds that are immersive but accessible. Whereas 2015’s predecessor, The Miraculous, regaled in gothic splendour, Dead Magic skips along to a brighter, poppier beat, guided by the sonic limitations of her choice of organ: a mid-20th-century instrument housed in Denmark’s Marble Church. It might only contain five tracks, but Dead Magic is a remarkable journey through one woman’s subconscious."
49. Tesseract - Sonder
We said: "There’s no other way of putting this: the riffs on this thing are fucking enormous. Opener Luminary is a revelation; short, precise and weirdly accessible, it’s driven by the heaviest riff Tesseract have penned since their debut album and topped with the sharpest hook of their career to date. Second track King is a lengthier affair at seven minutes, but where the Tesseract of Polaris and Altered State would follow every tempting path down the ambient rabbit hole, Sonder revels in directness and in the kind of dynamics that tend to have universal impact."
48. Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
We said: "With its vast sonic template, sense of wistfulness, sorrow and lovelorn regret and lyrical references to ‘the language of flowers’, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love 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."
47. Parkway Drive - Reverence
We said: "While Reverence won’t raise as many eyebrows as its predecessor Ire did, the notoriously noisy Parkway Drive are clearly still keen to stretch the boundaries of their music. While opener Wishing Wells takes old-school melodic leads and melds them with Winston McCall’s newfound darker, cleaner and more grizzled vocal range in a song that would have fit perfectly on Ire, there are enough moments here where the band are evidently still keen to experiment. 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."
46. Conjurer - Mire
We said: "Even with the highest of expectations, Mire is a breathtaking debut album. Listening to the isolated snare intro that gives way to the blasting Retch is a giddy thrill, but the depth and restraint that Conjurer display on the Eastern-tinged, Cult Of Luna-esque Flesh Weaker Than Ash – an album highlight that crashes like a tsunami wave onto the listener then pulls back slowly, before crushing you once again – is the most telling evidence that this is a group of musicians that are wise well beyond their years. Trust us – this one's worth sitting up and taking notice of."
45. Coheed And Cambria - Vaxis – Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures
We said: "These days, Coheed are much better at expressing and pacing their best ideas. Songs such as Love Protocol (which confirms beyond doubt that Claudio Sanchez is a big fan of The Police) and the dreamy Night-Time Walkers are absurdly radio-friendly and polished to within an inch of their lives, but with plenty of textural flourishes and delicate embellishments adding bite to the overriding sweetness. Similarly, the closing Lucky Stars uses simplicity as a disguise, striking a balance between twinkly-eyed, folksy accessibility and the low-key eccentricity that has underpinned most of Coheed’s finest moments. The Unheavenly Creatures is undoubtedly one of Coheed And Cambria’s best records. It’s just that they could almost certainly make an even better one. The saga continues."
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44. Billy F Gibbons - The Big Bad Blues
We said: "As Gibbons recently told Classic Rock, a new ZZ Top album is in the works. But this solo record, with session musicians in place of Dusty and Frank, still sounded a hell of a lot like ZZ – the rich guitar tone and gritty voice unmistakable, the territory familiar. Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’, written by Gibbons’ wife Gilly Stillwater, is a greasy boogie shuffle. A heartbreaking version of Muddy Waters’ Standing Around Crying is where the Reverend really digs deep."
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43. Turnstile - Time & Space
We said: "This album picks up from where this DC/Baltimore-based quintet left off with 2015’s Nonstop Feeling but with more alt-rock and melodic layers injected into the oldschool hardcore punk spirit. Sludgy guitar-work and confident grooves are interrupted by trippy sections, Brendan Yates’ vocals slip between Snapcase, Shelter, and Jane’s Addiction depending on the mood, and the penultimate instrumental track is hypnotically futuristic and jazzy. It’s a bold and erratic statement, probably best served live."
42. Rolo Tomassi - Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
We said: "The greatest compliment you can give a band is the world’s continuing inability to define and pigeonhole them. Rolo Tomassi have been defying categorisation and expectations for the last 12 years, and Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It doesn’t disappoint in their continuing quest to confuse and amaze. Their greatest trick is in the moments when they bring the light and dark side together, as on A Flood Of Light, setting them against each other to create pure, blinding energy. It’s a kind of witchcraft, a wildly inventive journey into the unknown as one song flows into the next with no warning of what might be ahead. Yet again, Rolo Tomassi have proved themselves to be in a category of one."
41. Saxon - Thunderbolt
We said: "Saxon have long had their own sound, and this flows confidently throughout the album. However, there’s also an edge here born from a sense of purpose and desire within the band. You can sense the fires being stoked from the opening chords of this album right through to its chugging finale. On recent albums, the band have been searching keenly for the songs and the performances which would demonstrate that they are still capable of completely kicking away any signs of Saxon being weighed down by their history. On this album it has happened."