As 2018 winds down, it’s time for our final monthly list of the year. November saw some excellent releases that may be seen again soon, when our best of 2018 list comes out next month. Here are our choices for the best heavy metal albums released in November of 2018.
1. The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic (Metal Blade)
Phanerozoic I is a master class in vocal production, and marrying the voice to the feel and intention of the song, but that’s not to take anything away from the other five members of the band. From beginning to end we’re treated with fantastic songwriting that keeps pace with the musicality these guys bring. Unlike Pelagial, which was one extended suite, these songs stand on their own.
Progressive post metal doesn’t get any better than The Ocean, and they once again prove themselves to be the leaders of the genre with Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. Distilling the best elements of bands like Neurosis, Cult of Luna, and (this time, anyhow) Katatonia, and combining those elements in impeccably arranged and produced songs, gives us one of the strongest albums of the year.
2. Cancer – Shadow Gripped (Peaceville)
Few bands come to mind when you mention UK death metal. Sure you have Bolt Thrower and Carcass, however to the untrained ear Cancer will slip by people. Their trio of albums To The Gory End, Death Shall Riseand The Sins of Mankind are all classics but much less known than Necroticism or Realm of Chaos.
Cancer released one more album before breaking up in 1996 and then another album in 2005 before splitting again. Enter the last five years and what led to Shadow Gripped, which features a totally disgusting and revitalized John Walker, and the riffs feel right at home with the time period where Cancer released their most consistent material. Riffs run rampant through this album and subtlety is lost on songs like “Ball Cutter,” which comes as advertised. This is the album that both Memoriam albums were not; classic, no frills British death metal.
3. Psycroptic – As The Kingdom Drowns (Prosthetic)
For nearly two decades, Australian crushers Psycroptic have been bringing technicality and impressive musicianship to the table, and that continues with their seventh studio album As The Kingdom Drowns.
Things get off to a potent start with “We Were The Keepers,” which incorporates a symphonic feel and some melodic moments alongside devastating death metal. The Haley brothers are front and center throughout, with Joe’s seemingly endless supply of riffs and Dave’s punishing performance on drums. From uptempo galloping songs like “Frozen Gaze” and “Beyond The Black” to mid-paced groovers such as “Directive” and “Upon These Stones,” Psycroptic’s dazzling musicianship is on full display, while not forgetting melodies and groove. While the back half isn’t quite as strong as the first part of the album, As The Kingdom Drowns is a ferocious dose of death metal.
4. Azusa – Heavy Yoke (Solid State)
Azusa are a new band with a lineup that includes former Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson, ex-Extol members Christer Espevoll (guitar) and David Husvik (drums) along with vocalist Eleni Zafiriadou of the indie pop duo Sea + Air.
As you may expect from their pedigree, Azusa’s debut album Heavy Yoke is eclectic and experimental (they refer to it as “Avant-Thrash”). The songs constantly shift and evolve, moving from harsh metal to ethereal rock. Dense, chaotic sections are balanced by mellow, progressive parts. Zafiriadou gives a varied performance that ranges from angry harsh vocals to angelic clean singing. Tracks like “Fine Lines” with all melodic singing are fairly accessible, while the vocal balance shifts toward uncleans on songs such as “Eternal Echo.” It’s an impressive debut that takes elements from the members’ past projects and creates their own style.
5. Architects – Holy Hell (Epitaph)
Holy Hell is Architects‘ first album since the 2016 death of guitarist and main songwriter Tom Searle, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 28. His twin brother, drummer Dan Searle, says this album “is about pain, the way we process it, cope with it, and live with it.”
It’s an emotional and cathartic album, beginning with opener “Death Is Not Defeat.” Their brand of metalcore is dynamic, transitioning easily between crushing riffs and smooth melodies. Songs like the title track and “Damnation” have a lot of catchy moments along with intense, pit-worthy sections. Sam Carter gives a passionate and varied performance. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of sadness, anger and regret on display, but there’s some hope as well. As Dan Searle says, “There’s value in pain. It’s where we learn, it’s where we grow.”
6. In the Woods… – Cease the Day (Debemur Morti)
Norwegian veterans In the Woods… bring a progressive black metal presence to the table on their newest release, Cease the Day. It is the band’s fifth full length (the second since their 2014 reformation) and their maturity is shown strongly on this release. The songs are well developed and feature a great deal of dynamics. There is a mixture between clean and harsh vocals by James Fogarty (Ewigkeit) that fits in nicely with the rest of the music. The album features numerous memorable portions and manages to strike a balance between forcefulness and melody.
It is the more gentle, introspective moments that resonate the most, but In the Woods… are really firing on all cylinders here. They are able to deliver black metal elements, but also put in some more folkish moments for a varied platter of music. The mood is dense and full of passion and makes the songs resonate strongly. This album is a nice improvement over their previous one Pure and completes the band’s comeback nicely. Like At the Gates, In the Woods… have successfully come back with a couple of solid albums following a long period of time off.
Other 2018 Best Monthly Albums Lists
January 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
August 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
September 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums
October 2018 Best Heavy Metal Albums