The 50 best albums of 2018

Clutch Book Of Bad Decisions album cover

30. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions

We said: "One of 2018's real revelations was this heavy, hooky, heads-down road movie of a record – and the realisation that these Maryland rockers had just made the highest-profile album of their 27-year career without diluting their bristling ethos or attitude one jot. Once you picked up Book Of Bad Decisions, you couldn’t put it down. While the album offered one of modern rock’s most broad-minded lyric-sheets – from the black satire of How To Shake Hands to the bizarre Hot Bottom Feeder, which recited a recipe for crab cakes – the music was savage, pummelling and relentless. Led by Fallon’s fathoms-deep croon, and barely taking its foot off the gas for the 15-song, near-hour-long duration, this was a masterclass in thunderous, fuzz-laden, petrol-stinking grooves, seemingly engineered to keep you wired as you drove through the night from coast-to-coast in a stolen Chevy." 

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

29. Halestorm - Vicious

We said: "Overall, this is their most eclectic album yet and, despite a couple of lightweight generic tracks, their most end-to-end enjoyable too. Clearly enamoured of late-70s and 1980s rock tropes, they will never be rule-bending revolutionaries, but they know how to balance compact pop-metal dynamics with gritty, sexy, alluring garage-punk attitude."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

Black Peaks – All That Divides

28. Black Peaks - All That Divides

We said: "Navigating these songs is an exhilarating thrill, exploring a maze of splintered twists and dynamic shifts, trying to anticipate the quartet’s next move but ending up somewhere completely different. On highlights Aether and Home, the band have left space to let the melodies breathe and build to wild-eyed, and, in the case of the former, string-led climaxes. And to think they’ve gone and topped the whole thing off with closer Fate I & II, a track of such expertly crafted scope and dynamism it leaves your head spinning. After that, the only thing left to hear is the sound of everyone else choking on Black Peaks’ dust."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

Voivod – The Wake cover

27. Voivod - The Wake

We said: "The level of invention here is absurd; with Snake’s voice providing the narrative glue, Voivod sound drunk on ideas, these songs’ generous proportions allowing each bizarre detour to reach its most satisfying, (un)natural conclusion. There are plenty of Dimension Hatröss-era thrills for the faithful, of course; Orb Confusion is like all of the band’s revelatory, late-80s moments crammed into six breathless and joyously wonky minutes, while Always Moving is part pop-eyed thrash, part Syd Barrett reverie. But at its heart, amid the kaleidoscopic, skew-riff meltdown of Spherical Perspective, the collapsing grooves of Event Horizon and the bewildering, cinematic frenzy of closing colossus Sonic Mycelium, The Wake is like nothing else on Earth and Voivod are still in a class of one."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

26. Howlin Rain - The Alligator Bride

We said: "Few people explore America’s mystical underbelly with as much panache as Howlin Rain’s Ethan Miller. His band’s fifth album came on like 19th-century poet Walt Whitman jamming with prime Neil Young, the Oakland visionaries’ psychedelia-tinged backwoods rock’n’roll providing the frame for an array of weird and wonderful characters. The result was as colourful and unique as one of Miller’s vintage thrift-store suits."

Buy from Amazon

25. Myles Kennedy - Year Of The Tiger

We said: "Myles Kennedy’s first solo album has been a long time in the making. The Alter Bridge frontman spent seven years working on a solo project, before realising that the results weren’t right, scrapping the entire thing and starting afresh. It was a bold move, but with Year Of The Tiger he’s finally hit the mark he wanted. The album is billed as a stripped-back, blues-based piece of work, with Kennedy citing artists including Mississippi John Hurt, Chris Whitley, k.d. lang and Nick Drake and Led Zeppelin’s acoustic works as inspiration. But while Year Of The Tiger dispenses with the heaviness of Alter Bridge, it’s by no means a simple singer-songwriter affair."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

24. Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog

We said: "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."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

23. Oceans Of Slumber - The Banished Heart

We said: "Oceans Of Slumber have long been refining their formula, blending the dynamics of old school death metal with modern progressive rock. Vocalist Cammie Gilbert’s clear vocal gives a real freshness to their sound, even where the instrumentals are conforming to the expected mores of a genre. What’s interesting is that when the riffing returns to somewhat more classic rolling chugs later in the same track, the juxtaposition between the instrumentals and Gilbert’s voice is nothing short of electric. Indeed, this is a feature of many of the best tracks, such as Etiolation and the furious A Path To Broken Stars. The title track is where it all comes together: a nine-minute cut of metallic elements, a brooding and intimate piano section, and a bombastic prog finale that all gel together perfectly."

Buy from Amazon

22. The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

We said: "The Temperance Movement know the value of a good tune. Built-In Forgetter might have the worst title in recent memory, but it salvages itself from titular ignominy by erupting into a chorus of truly joyous proportions. Conversely, Another Spiral is a slow-burner that perfectly balances poise and emotional charge (the band definitely give good ballad – Children is the kind of weepie that Ryan Adams would give Gram Parsons’s right arm to write these days). A Deeper Cut sounds too urgent to be a period piece – timeless rather than time-stamped, distinctly 2018 as opposed to 1968. The Temperance Movement seem to be comfortable with their place in the scheme of things."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon

21. Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back

We said: "Like every Orange Goblin album, The Wolf Bites Back’s heart is in the past, though this time they’re moving beyond the usual Sabbath/Motörhead axis without completely throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The likes of air-punching rumble-in-a-biker-bar anthem Sons Of Salem and lovingly raucous Lemmy tribute Renegade are offset by flashes of brilliant strangeness: the spiralling instrumental, denim-clad psychedelia of In Bocca Al Lupo, the low-slung beginning and phased ending of Ghosts Of The Primitive, the desert-dry country-blues doom of The Stranger, in which a husky-voiced Ben Ward sounds virtually unrecognisable. It’s not reinventing the wheel so much as bashing into a slightly different, yet still fundamentally wheel-like shape."

Read our full review | Buy from Amazon