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Diamond Oz: My Top Five Albums Of 2018; Best Live Bands And Looking To 2019

Photo of Behemoth

Band Photo: Behemoth (?)

Eagle eyed readers may have noticed that last year, Metal Underground didn't have our annual Best Of awards. While we unfortunately won't be having one this year either, we don't want to miss out on telling you about some of our favourites of 2018. So with this in mind, here's one Limey's opinions on who released the best albums this year, who rocked hardest live and what I'm most looking forward to in 2019. Why not start proceedings off with...

Best Live Band

I've been absolutely spoiled this year quite frankly. Beginning the year with an awesome co-headlining show from Rage and Firewind and almost capping it off with the Headbanger's Ball tour, which was comprised of Exodus, Sodom, Death Angel and Suicidal Angels, as well as attending the Bloodstock Open Air festival and 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, it's been a great year for gigs. I've seen some truly phenomenal sets this year, and choosing just one band was difficult, especially given that I've seen Voivod three times this year and they were outstanding every single time. Other special mentions go to Mantar, Judas Priest, Primordial and Skindred, the last of which I've often stated are the best live band I've ever seen. However this year my choice is...

Melechesh

It's been twenty two years since Jerusalem black metal veterans released their debut full length, "As Jerusalem Burns..." and they've continued to just get better and better. Melechesh are a band which can deliver on big festival stages and intimate club shows with a mix of darkness, enigma, great stage presence and most importantly, great music. Those who aren't necessarily fans of their studio work should really give them a go in a live setting because you're almost guaranteed to come away as fans. The seamless performances of such intricate music is stunning but most of all, Melechesh are incredibly fun live, without being corny. Frontman Ashmedi knows he doesn't have to give the "Are you ready to party!?" shtick, or pretend to have arrived straight from Hell, he just has to be Ashmedi... And Ashmedi is fucking badass!

Top Five Albums Of The Year

Honourable mentions:
It's been an absolutely stellar year for metal music as well as live shows. So much so that I could have easily made this a top ten instead of a top five. Life is short though and so should lists be, so before we get to the essentials, I have to point out a few albums that could easily have made a top ten list.

British heavy metal icons Saxon released their twenty second album, "Thunderbolt" in February and it must surely be said that while the band hasn't slacked off in recent years, this was one of their best for some time, with the Motorhead tribute "They Played Rock And Roll" being a particular highlight. Fans of stoner/doom metal got a few treats this year too as High On Fire released the superb "Electric Messiah," the title track itself also paying tribute to Motorhead frontman Lemmy, while Orange Goblin unleashed the stellar, "The Wolf Bites Back," perhaps their most diverse album to date.

Speaking of diverse, New York hardcore legends Madball put out their most varied album, "For The Cause" this year, which retained the energy they've always had, whilst delving into new areas, while fellow NYHC heroes Sick Of It All released yet another essential album in the genre, "Wake The Sleeping Dragon!" which takes shots at dirty politicians, racism and even famous architects, whilst keeping the message of unity and positive mental attitude alive. Just to wrap this up, it was sad to see that Chrome Division will no longer release new material, as their fifth album, "One Last Ride" was a fantastic trip back to old school, biker inspired heavy metal, like the soundtrack to a Norwegian easy rider, while countrymen Immortal pleasantly surprised many people by proving that they can still cut it without Abbath, with their first album in nine years.

Anyway, let's get to the cream of the crop shall we? Beginning with...

5. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest

Behemoth are like the Daniel Day Lewish of metal music. They're simply brilliant at what they do and when it comes to awards, they're guaranteed to be nominated. This year saw the release of their highly anticipated new album, "I Loved You At Your Darkest," a typically sinister album from the Polish blackened death metal stars which nonetheless stunned fans. Behemoth has always had blasphemy as a central theme but frontman Nergal approaches it with sincere critiques and artistic expressionism, keeping the band away from the ridicule that such groups as Deicide and even Slayer in recent years has faced. "I Loved You At Your Darkest" is a perfect summary of what makes Behemoth so popular: Blinding musicianship, a collective of artists crafting something heartfelt, but also creating some great songs, which are more catchy than any band of this genre has a right to be. Behemoth, you've done it again!

4. Voivod - The Wake

There's something to be said for concept albums. They may not be anything new, with prog rock bands of the seventies making their names out of them and the majority of Sepultura's output being comprised of concept records since "Dante XXI," but to this day, when a band puts their mind to it, they can create a masterpiece of story telling with music to match. So it was with "The Wake," Voivod's first album in five years, which tells the tale of a great catastrophe striking Earth and from there gets stranger and stranger. The Pink Floyd loving thrashers combine their influences with their signature sound and ultimately treat the listener to a psychedelic wonder which works excellently as a complete package, while the songs themselves work great in any place in the live set. Fans may not have liked such a long wait for the record, but their patience was rewarded with one of 2018's most gripping and trippy albums.

3. Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins

Have you noticed a theme yet? Much like Voivod and Behemoth, it had been a while since Irish black metal veterans Primordial had released a new album. Once again, the wait paid off when they released "Exile Amongst The Ruins," which surpassed the previous, "Where Greater Men Have Fallen" and rivals "Redemption At The Puritan's Hand" as their best album of the decade. Fans were initially taken aback with the gorgeous first single, "Stolen Years," though the song received near universal praise from listeners. This was followed with "To Hell Or The Hangman," a brilliantly worked telling of the John Lynch fitz Stephen legend and by the time the album was released, fans were delighted to find that the rest of the record lived up to the preceding singles. The new songs also go over tremendously live and come together to reinforce Primordial's place as one of the greatest bands in black metal history ( the comment section is below for the inevitable hate mail for saying that.)

2. Mantar - The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze

Remember when Mr. Burns can't choose between ketchup or catsup? That was me when trying to decide the best album of 2018. With their third album, "The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze," German duo Mantar has really broken into the consciousness of metal fans, especially in Europe, while British listeners have begun to take notice. This record is one of the most savage of 2018, assaulting the listener with every burst of sonic violence. Yet underneath this is a pop sensibility, surprisingly more akin to Depeche Mode than say Napalm Death. This is all the more surprising of a band whose sound can best be described as mix of punk, doom and black metal, but it all comes together to create a masterpiece of malevolence. "The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze" is, at least in my opinion, essential listening for anyone who wants something a bit different, but still wants their head caved in by skull crushing heaviness. Give it a few years and Mantar will be on the lips of headbangers the world over, though with this album, they should be already.

1. Judas Priest - Firepower

While the first heavy metal band Black Sabbath was soaking up the limelight with their farewell tour, the first band to actually accept the tag of heavy metal was preparing to unleash something much brighter than any spotlight. The iconic Judas Priest unloaded "Firepower" onto the world in March and it blew fans away, more than living up to the high standards the band has set for themselves. Simply put, there isn't one bad song on the record. The title track is a particular treat, summing up everything fans have come to expect from Priest over nearly fifty years; catchy, heavy, relentless and proud.

Judas Priest have always been the flag wavers for heavy metal, in good times and bad, which is no surprise when singer Rob Halford is known across the globe as the "Metal God" and in 2018, they still wave their colours high. The fantasy inspired lyrics on such songs as "Lightning Strike" and "Necromancer" seem somehow grounded when coming from Priest over some of the power metal bands that have been mocked for doing the same, a testament to the perfect storm the band has concocted over the years, while the guitar work from Glen Tipton and Richie Faulkner is simply astonishing. Some albums are described as a classic sound of that band upon release, for example, "It's classic Maiden," but "Firepower" IS a classic Priest album already, being their best album since "Painkiller" and perhaps even their best since "Screaming For Vengeance." All hail the metal gods!

2019

If you haven't stopped reading out of anger that your favourite album of the year wasn't mine, let us discuss the year ahead. Real world events are sure to suck just as hard as this year, but in the world of heavy metal, there's a lot to talk about. We'll be saying goodbye to Swiss heavy metal veterans Krokus, as well of course, to one of metal's most notorious and beloved names, Slayer. It's not all doom and gloom though as there's already plenty of albums to look forward to in the coming months. January will see the release of a new EP, "Micro" from one of the fastest rising bands in the world, Jinjer, as well as new full lengths from Flotsam and Jetsam and Carnal Forge, while February is already looking amazing with my personal pick for most anticipated album, "The Heretics" by Rotting Christ dropping on the fifteenth, with new full lengths from Overkill, Dream Theater and Candlemass all scheduled to follow only a week later. New Rammstein and Slipknot albums are also expected to finally be released, while many other artists have material in production such as Septicflesh, Devin Townsend and Fear Factory to name but a few.

Why not tell us your favourite album of the year, what gig you enjoyed the most and what you're most looking forward to in the comments below?

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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3 Comments on "Diamond Oz: My Top Five Albums Of 2018"

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Anonymous Reader
1. ScantmanSpecial writes:

1. Shylmagoghnar - Transience

2. Rivers Of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name

3. Slugdge - Esoteric Malacology

4. Omnium Gatherum - The Burning Cold

5. Obscura - Diluvium


Honourable mentions:
- Necrophobic - Mark Of The Necrogram
- Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods
- Panopticon - The Scars Of Man On The Once Nameless Wilderness
- Drudkh - Їм Часто Сниться Капіж (They Often See Dreams About The Spring)
- Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins

# Dec 13, 2018 @ 3:41 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
coldiem's avatar

Member

2. coldiem writes:

You forgot Revocation - The Outer Ones!

# Dec 14, 2018 @ 8:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. real writes:

behemoth are kiddy satan shhiitt.

at the gates rules!

# Dec 15, 2018 @ 5:18 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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