It happens every year around this time. The “best of” lists start showing up all over the internet causing all sorts of debate as to what the best albums of the year are and so forth. Bands such as Judas Priest, Beartooth, Halestorm and Clutch will all receive well deserved accolades for their strong efforts this year. This particular list however is not meant to be that. This is a list of albums released in 2018 that were likely and perhaps criminally overlooked. We intend to showcase these hard working bands and the strong efforts that they produced because we believe that the strength of their music demands the worlds attention.
1) The Last Band – Hisingen
Hailing from Sweden, The Last Band brings a powerful gut punch full of raw energy and angst with their no holds barred approach to song writing. Each song is unique in sound and style ranging from punk to metal and even a little hip hop tastefully distributed throughout the album. There is even one song “Snabbare än satan” loosely translated to “Faster than Satan” written in their native tongue which is a standout track. Hisingen is the third album released from The Last Band following up 2016’s “The Fall” and 2015’s “Rats of Gothenberg”. Each offering proving to be stronger than it’s predecessor. Songs such as “Still not in it for the drugs” and “I got no friends” show the true strength of this band and it’s resolve to be a force in the music industry for years to come.
2) Disconnected – “WHITE COLOSSUS”
Coming in from Troyes France, Disconnected wastes little time letting the listener know what they are in for with their opening track “Living Incomplete”. The song opens with a blistering riff that sets the stage for an album that refuses to be ignored. This band seemingly has everything in place to be a lasting force in the world of music. Strong rhythm section, check. Killer guitars, check. Powerful charismatic front man, check. Put all of this together and you get some of the best music of 2018 period. White Colossus is simply that. A colossus album for which we listeners get to inhale through our ears with every bone crushing beat.
3) Discrepancies – “The Awakening”
The St. Louis, MO. based Discrepancies have put together a unique compilation of tracks that range from serious topics on songs such as “Art of War” and “I Prevail” to the fun and light hearted (yet catchy) “Rock the Show”. All of which are delivered with their own unique sound and quality. Vocalist ATG Metcalf provides a “Rap Rock” style that is blended perfectly with a band of truly accomplished musicians including Garrett Weakley – Bass, Addison Bracher – Guitar and Phatbeatz Steve – Drums. What can’t be overlooked is the lyrical content of the songs on this album. Most of which are deep and biting to some degree and will speak directly to many listeners.
4) Blind River – “Blind River”
Right out of the UK we find Blind River. Straight ahead rock and roll that aims to remind you of how much fun music can and should be. With a southern sound that would lead you to believe that they came straight out of the swamps of Florida and grew up on Louisiana gumbo chased by Georgia moonshine. It’s easy to hear the influences here, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchett, ZZ Top etc. you get the picture. This quintessential road rock album is filled with superior vocals and musicianship to match. This is simply one of the most infectious albums of 2018. From the opening track “Going Nowhere” to “Can’t Sleep Sober” and the bad ass riffs of “Resurrection Sister” the listener will be forced to nod their head and tap their foot right along to every energetic beat.
5) Hazen – “This House”
Gilbert, AZ plays home for this tour de force. Fronted by one of the most powerful voices to come along in quite some time. Kayla Hazen wows on this impressive EP filled with huge anthems and hard rockin’ riffs backed by the very impressive musicians and songwriters Dillon Mills- Guitar, James Miller-Stivers- Bass/Keyboard, Dwight Dixon- Drums. The opener “This world is mine” should be mentioned as a song of the year candidate. It’s a bone crusher with heavy as hell riffs and a catchy chorus. The EP never lets up from it’s huge sound with songs like “The Storm” and the full on rocker “My Fire” leading the way. While this band is sure to draw comparisons to Halestorm and In This Moment. It needs to be stated that Hazen is a unique band by their own right that stands among the afore mentioned bands as an equal.
6) Beyond Doubts Shadow – “The Murder Protocol”
From the mountains of Northern California in the small town of Dunsmuir we find Beyond Doubts Shadow. Quite probably the heaviest and most technical band to find it’s way onto our list this year. The boys from BDS have approached the music industry in a unique way. Rather than selling CD’s which are a dying format they have grasped onto the future and made the album available on a thumb drive which is packaged in an evidence bag to go along with the “Murder Protocol” theme with each bag being individually numbered. The best part however, is the music. Riffs so heavy that they make the earth tremble and vocals so diverse that you might be lead to believe that there are multiple vocalists in the band. The fact is that there is only one vocalist Tom Valenzuela. A wrecking ball with a microphone that can go from guttural to smooth in the blink of an eye all while being supported by a band that bows to no one in both technicality and songwriting skills. Josh Julien- Guitar, Travis Giulietti- Guitar, Trevor Coxey- Bass and Derek Birdsall- Drummer have teamed up to become what is as formidable a line up as one can ever find in metal. Songs such as “Blue Balls” and “Fathers Right Hand” are stand out tracks but truth be told there are no weak links in this metal compilation.
7) I Fight Bears – “I Fight Bears”
Bridgend, South Wales gives us I Fight Bears. As fierce and aggressive as the name suggests these boys from the UK have pounded out a metal album that is as good as they get. Chalked full of heavy anthems that continue to remind you of why you enjoy metal in the first place, the album punches you right in the face and dares you to come back for more. You know what you’re in for right from the opening riffs of the banger “Hammers” and the throttle never lets up until the final notes of the last track “System”. The band has a Bullet For My Valentine feel to them without truly trying to sound like BFMV. In addition to the album the band has also dropped a cover the song “Gold” by Spandau Ballet in the form of a single. Who knew that Spandau Ballet could ever sound so heavy?
8) Infrared – “Saviours”
Coming to you from Ottawa, Ontario Canada are the thrash metal masters Infrared. Originally formed in 1985 and disbanded in 1989 the boys decided 25 years off was enough and regrouped in 2014. After re-recording their first album “No Peace” with modern technology at there disposal. Infrared decided to record a new album with all new tunes for our listening pleasure. The result is the thrash metal offering “Saviours”. For those of us who love thrash metal Infrared truly are saviours. Song after song and riff after kick ass riff these guys pour out a fountain of face melting metal. In true thrash metal fashion most of the songs range between 5 and 6 plus minutes. You’ll get no complaints from this reviewer. Too often songs are cut short for radio leaving what is essentially just a skeleton of a song missing the balls which were intended to be there. Songs like “Genocide Convention” and “Project Karma” are thrash masterpieces. The standout track here is “All in Favour”. An anthem that will have the listener yelling”AYE!”.
9) Sault – “Seeds Of Power”
Sault is Sean Tibbetts (Kamelot) on bass, Ben Riggs (Arcanium) on vocals, Curtis Jay – on guitar and Casey Grillo (Kamelot) on drums. This quartet was formed to put together a powerful ensemble of heavy rock anthems that are meant to remind the listener that contrary to Gene Simmons assumptions, rock is not dead. A fact that is proven over and over again on this 10 song compilation of straight ahead rockers. Seeds of Power is one of those great albums that comes along every once in a while that you just want to put on and listen to on a long road trip. It never gets old. Rock the way it was intended to be made. Catchy at times and ferocious at others. With songs such as “Entropy” and it’s blues laden intro through the heavier sonic assault of “Guilt” the album continually delivers the goods. One of the many standout tracks here is the rockin’ “Last Man Standing”.
10) Cultural Warfare – “Warmageddon”
From the Bay Area we find Cultural Warfare in all their thrash metal glory. It only makes sense to find a cool thrash metal band in the Bay Area seeing that it is the birthplace of thrash metal. Armed with seasoned veterans of the genre the boys proceed to lay waste to the metal scene with their full length LP Warmageddon. Dual guitarists Billy Garoutte and Kevin Doughty work well together providing the riffs that Jacques Serrano soars over with his vocals. Pete Aguilar-Bass and Bones Padilla – Drums (Gotta love a drummer with a name like Bones) round out what is very powerful rhythym section. Songs like “G.O.D.” and “Shadow Priest” showcase the true prowess of this band. The standout track here is “Eyes of the land”.
11) Junkyard Drive – “Black Coffee”
From Roskilde, Denmark we find Junkyard Drive. A smooth blues based rock band featuring anthemic arena sounds and raspy vocals. What more could you ask for? The musical styles on this album are vast. Ranging anywhere from full on rockers such as “Sucker for Your Love” and “Wasted Nights” to slowed down contagious dirty blues tunes like “Through the Door”. In a lot of ways this band is a throwback to simpler times in rock and roll and that’s a good thing. The standout track here is “Sweet Little Dreamer”.
12) Radwaste – “War Within”
Switzerland’s own Radwaste prove that thrash metal is global. Though thrash metal may have originated in the US, it’s reach is definitely felt worldwide. Case in point, Radwaste. These young men have embraced all that is great in the genre and made it their own. War Within is a solid reminder that metal in and of itself is an awesome entity. From the beginning to the end of this album there is nothing short of audible pleasure piercing the ears. With 11 tracks to beat you into submission, songs like “The Purge” and “Black Cloud” pound you with brutal consistency. A solid effort from these Swiss metallers.
Rich “Big Sloppy” Markum