The 50 best albums of the year (so far)

We may only be six months into 2018, but already this year has set an unfeasibly high bar for rock music. From old-school hardcore and experimental metal, to a stunning comeback from the Smiths member who hasn't completely checked out of reality, incredible music has snuck out of each and every corner of the rock world over the past six months. Thoughts and prayers to the music still waiting to be released this year, as you're going to have some stiff competition when those end-of-year lists roll around.

But what were the best albums of the bunch? We decided to defer to the wisdom of the public and place the final decision on your hands. From a long-list of the 100 most highly-rated albums reviewed in the pages of Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog this year, we asked Louder readers to come on in and vote for their favourites. 

Here, in descending order, is what they chose...

50. Johnny Marr - Call The Comet

We said: "It’s an intense, powerful and sonically relevant hour, mind, and those old-school Smiths fans surviving the futuristic electro-rock freak-out of Hey Angel are rewarded with some classic Marr twangle on Bug, Day In Day Out and Hi Hello, which could have fallen straight off Meat Is Murder. A good chunk of this Comet is heaven-bound."

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49. Turnstile - Time & Space

We said: "This is Turnstile’s first release on Roadrunner and, as demonstrated by the two new singles with their meaty riffs, select 80s and 90s influences, and funky undertones, the slick major label production certainly does them justice. The 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 old-school hardcore punk spirit."

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48. Joe Satriani - What Happens Next

We said: "What Happens Next is another dazzling set of virtuosity, verve and light and shade, especially brilliant in the delicate Cherry Blossoms, the melodious Righteous and the driven Headrush. However, the ace he’s played this time is enlisting Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith as his backing band. It gives the record a cohesiveness and energy, the trio driving the song home every single time and sounding all the better for it."

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47. Kino - Radio Voltaire

We said: "Introduced by the sound of needle on vinyl and a crackly German radio announcer, it then employs shock and awe tactics, via explosive prog-metal riffage, techno grunt and weird kitsch keyboard diversions. References to ‘jihad’ in the same passage as a ‘demonic narcissist’ who will self-implode are spat into a swirling mix of keyboards and more offbeat metal thunderstorms. Mitchell then bemoans ‘moronic agelessness’ and adds ‘When it takes its toll it’s only rock’n’roll’. If he’s comparing self-destructive artists to jihadi suicide bombers, it’s an original and striking analogy. For the most part, though, Radio Voltaire is highly accessible, with regular twists along the way."

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46. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

We said: "This follow up to Barnett's 2015 debut sees her build on the promise she showed as one modern indie's most honest storytellers, as she struggles to get a grip on the world, or more pertinently, her place in it. The musicianship has tightened, with adventurous and gutsy guitars soundtracking her voyage of self-discovery."

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45. Orphaned Land - Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

We said: "Maintaining expected levels of diversity, their sixth release features a guest spot from former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett at one progressive extreme, and complementing the return of more growls from mainman Kobi Farhi, Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates and Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian at the other."

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44. Saxon - Thunderbolt

We said: "Saxon have developed a knack for majestic, slow-burning epics, so Nosferatu and Sons Of Odin are brooding highlights, but on riff-driven headbangers Sniper, Speed Merchants and Thunderbolt you start wondering when these pensioners will ever run out of energy. Saxon were already about 10 years older than most of their contemporaries when NWOBHM ignited, yet somehow they continue putting out righteous neck-wreckers like Thunderbolt every couple of years."

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43. Anna Von Hausswolff - Dead Magic

We said: "Dead Magic is a sinister, heavy and hypnotising journey through organ-driven psychedelic, postrock and dark ambient, traversed by sacral severity. From the 12- and 16-minute-long atmospheric epics The Truth, The Glow, The Fall and Ugly And Vengeful to the fierce and excessive The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra, Anna delivers her most daring yet focused performance while cutting down the tracklist to only five songs."

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42. Gleb Kolyadin - Gleb Kolyadin

We said: "Solo albums are seen as, understandably, side-projects. However, Kolyadin’s debut is a revelation. Any sensible prog fan will want more from iamthemorning, but this effort sets an exceptional standard. The album cover shows Kolyadin, blindfolded, surrounded by notation. It suggests that this music comes from deep within his soul. What treasure lies there."

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41. Ginger Wildheart - Ghost In The Tanglewood

We said: "With profits going to The Samaritans, Ghost In The Tanglewood should be applauded on principle. But this music needs no sympathy vote; these are joyous, beautiful, vulnerable songs that can soundtrack only good things. Paying It Forward, decorated with swells of slide guitar, is a rousing gee-up, and when Golden Tears’ lusty shanty demands that we ‘build your courage from the cauldron of these molten tears’, only the flint-hearted would sneer at the hard-won sentiment."

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40. Machine Head - Catharsis

We said: "Machine Head have walked their own path for so long that no one should be alarmed that their ninth album has a few surprises. In truth, a 74-minute album without curve balls would be exhausting. Fortunately, Catharsis still provides plenty of the expected skull-flattening heaviness... Frankly, no other modern metal band have the balls or the brains to pull off an album like this. Catharsis is a brave, life-affirming masterpiece."

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39. Between The Buried And Me - Automata I

We said: "Automata I offers a fascinating insight into to where Between The Buried And Me are heading as a unit. Have the wanderers finally settled, or are there more territories to discover? In typical BTBAM style, there’s actually an argument to be had for both outcomes here. Opener Condemned To The Gallows does start with the kind of robotically futuristic space prog that the band have dealt in over recent years, but they haven’t forgotten to throw in some pretty extreme blasting and Tommy Giles Rogers Jr’s full-throated growl to keep those who like their music heavy satisfied."

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38. Galahad - Seas Of Change

We said: "Seas… is sprawling and complex. Lasting for a few seconds short of 43 minutes, it’s a single conceptual track, broken down into three song suites. The laid-back, shorter tunes featured on 2017’s Quiet Storms weren’t to everybody’s taste, and it’s to Galahad’s immense credit that they’ve bounced back following what they’ve termed “a pretty difficult couple of years” – a period that saw the exit of co-founding guitarist Roy Keyworth – to present such an ambitious yet ultimately rewarding banquet of neo‑prog."

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37. Culture Abuse - Bay Dream

We said: "This rabble of Bay area dream-punks are making an art of dragging Gen X slacker vibes shuffling and yawning into the 21st century. Their upcoming Epitaph debut, Bay Dream, is rife with breezy hooks and fuzzed-out joy."

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36. Lunatic Soul - Under The Fragmented Sky

We said: "Despite the gloomy songtitles, the net result of Under The Fragmented Sky is anything but downbeat. By the time of the final track, Untamed, beams of light are beginning to break through the clouds. ‘So it’s done, you won the fight, war is over, you can stop,’ intones Duda gently. It’s a conversation with himself, an instruction that life goes on no matter what tragedies befall you. As redemptions go, Under The Fragmented Sky is a triumph."

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35. Corrosion Of Conformity – No Cross No Crown

We said: "Furious first single Cast The First Stone sets the pace for an album that’s utterly relentless in its intensity. There are the now-expected acoustic interludes so you can catch your breath here and there, but as face-melters like Wolf Named Crow and Forgive Me will attest to, this is Corrosion Of Conformity with their amps and their snarls turned up to 11. Thank Christ."

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Double Vision

34. Arena - Double Vision

We said: "The ninth album from Arena finds the quintet on bold form with a studio album that captures the energy of their live shows. Double Vision might be the heaviest album of their career – it certainly packs more weight than its two closest predecessors, 2015’s The Unquiet Sky and The Seventh Degree Of Separation from 2011. Instead, this feels closer to Contagion and Immortal? from the early 2000s."

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33. Perfect Beings - Vier

We said: "The difficult second album is a cliché, but you suspect this Californian quartet’s third outing made their two previous, widely appreciated long players seem like a stroll in the park in comparison to the departure of both their original drummer and bassist in early 2016. But the creative core of singer Ryan Hurtgen and producer/guitarist Johannes Luley have overcome that setback with a new line- up to make their most adventurous record to date."

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32. Andrew WK - You’re Not Alone

We said: "Thematically, if previous Andrew WK albums have felt like having entire kegs shotgunned in your face, this one is like being syphon-fed after-dinner brandies. Dotted with spoken-word speeches, sermons and psychological TED talks about how we must “party with our demons” and “keep clarity just out of reach”, it explores how ‘party’, as philosophy, lifestyle and self-help technique, will save humanity. Our round."

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Primordial Exile amongst the Ruins album cover

31. Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins

We said: "Comprised of eight tracks, there are two songs in particular – To Hell Or The Hangman and Stolen Years – that will definitely cause something of a stir in some circles. The former is a galloping, space rock-tinged stomper that calls to mind the Primordial frontman’s side-project Dread Sovereign, while the latter is an odd but infectious threnody that flirts slightly with post-rock and 80s power ballads and really gets under your skin with repeat plays... An ambitious and arresting opus, Exile Amongst The Ruins firmly states that Alan Averill and co still have plenty to say."

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Gazpacho Soyuz

30. Gazpacho - Soyuz

We said: "Recent Gazpacho albums have been far-reaching in their concepts, spanning aeons, encompassing mythology, the supernatural and religious ritual. Soyuz zooms in on the private experiences of individuals on borrowed time and packs a greater punch as a result. When their ambitious writing seeks to marry grand ideas to situations in microcosm, their music gains an additional emotional weight."

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29. The Fierce & The Dead - The Euphoric

We said: "Guitarist Matt Stevens’ instrumental, proggy, post-something rockers The Fierce And The Dead have been plying their studio trade for some eight years now. Their talent is combining the punk and the progressive (an area of much greater crossover than documentaries would have you believe), with a bold underline of the type of underground, critically kosher metal found amid the single- origin coffee beans in your hipster record shops. They are masters at headlocking this hipper, artsier end of heaviness and persuading it to do their bidding in service of a sort of unpretentious progged-up post-rock."

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28. Ihsahn - Amr

We said: "Ihsahn is one of the few artists fortunate enough to have had two successful periods in their career, and that is entirely down to his ceaselessly evolving vision and creativity – a phenomenon in a scene often laden with legions of imitators and very few innovators. Like its predecessor, Arktis., Àmr effortlessly strikes a balance between accessibility and extremity, melody and pitch-black fury, incorporating influences from genres far and wide and coalescing them into a new form singular only to their creator – the definitive hallmark of a legendary artist."

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27. Fucked And Bound - Suffrage

We said: "Less than a second into the opening demolition of Wild Thing, it’s obvious that Fucked And Bound have fully harnessed the destructive power of hardcore punk rock.... Precisely as belligerent, snotty and exhilarating as this kind of music is supposed to be, Suffrage may make you want to drive a fast car into a brick wall. But don’t."

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26. Reef - Revelation

We said: "Don’t be fooled by their new album’s AC/DC-alike title-track opener, or the other full-throttle rocker, Precious Metal, the band have mellowed as well as improved while they’ve been away. The earliest evidence of this is Sheryl Crow duetting with Stringer on second track My Sweet Love – an unexpected and lovely touch."

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