Kyle McGinn Best-of 2018

Wednesday, 12th December 2018

Settling in here at Dead Rhetoric for five years now, there’s still a certain excitement each time the end of the year rolls around. Being in the position to hear a great number of releases from all types of bands in the genre, there’s so much to take in. The feeling of discovering new material is the drive that continues to allow all of us at DR to progress. So compiling a list of 12 albums is always a daunting one, though it’s one that comes with its fair share of fun as well.

Being of a small staff, personal taste is something that seems to expand every single year as we attempt to cover more and more. Hence looking through each year there’s always a bit of a variety in these lists, which is a testament to the type of metal scene of today. The type that can allow you to dive in full force to a certain genre, or pick and choose from a plethora of different flavors at will. And as always, thanks for checking out our site throughout the year, I know I can’t think of anything else more fun and entertaining than talking to some of the members of the scene (both big and small) and dissecting down hundreds of albums each year.

12. City of the Weak – Pulling Teeth (Self-Released)
I listened to City of the Weak’s alternative/hard rock with a side of punk and pop combo more than the majority of metal albums I received this year. Just the right mixture of catchy and upfront melodies with excellent vocals, not to mention the fun and unique lyrics make Pulling Teeth an album that has kept me entertained since its May release. Given the band’s energy, how has this escaped a larger audience?

11. A Light Divided – Choose Your Own Adventure (Self-Released)
A total surprise but a supremely enjoyable one that hit my email in late summer, A Light Divided may have softened up from their heavier approach but they can craft some excellent songs. Hooky and immediate but with a startling amount of lasting power – probably due to the genuine nature of the material. It’s easy to intend to listen to one song, and end up blasting through the entire album twice.

10. Leaves’ Eyes – Sign of the Dragonhead (AFM Records)
One of the first 2018 albums I was privy to turned out to also be one of its finest. The first release with vocalist Elina Siirala, Sign of the Dragonhead is without question one of the band’s strongest (if not the strongest) releases to date. A ton of diversity as you go from track to track, from epics to instrumentals, and not a weak note in sight. Raise your fists and jump onto that Viking ship!

9. Season of Ghosts – A Leap of Faith (Self-Released)
The sophomore effort from Season of Ghosts has been a long time in the making, but was completely worth it. A step up across the board, from Sophia Aslanidou’s vocals to the excellent bass work to the synth/riff combinations (not to mention the proportioning of space for each), A Leap of Faith maintains the uniqueness of the debut and adds so much more. It becomes an album worthy of a dance party without sacrificing any of its metallic heaviness.

8. Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (Century Media)
Melodic death metal just didn’t get any more exciting than The Burning Cold this year, which is a high compliment considering how much of it I still consumed in 2018. OG hits all of the sweet spots of the genre while barely breaking a sweat. From gorgeous, to die for melodies (“Rest in Your Heart”) to more frantic material (“Driven by Conflict”), the band can do it all, and with charisma and style to go around. Glad to see them finally getting more of the recognition they deserve.

7. Deathwhite – For a Black Tomorrow (Season of Mist)
Fun fact, I’ve been listening to For a Black Tomorrow for almost 2 years at this point due to the band signing to Season of Mist just prior to the album’s (independent) release date in early 2017. Yet I’m still raving about it, and listening to it regularly. Gloomy, rainy day material that never fails to strike an emotional nerve (particularly “Dreaming the Inverse” – wow), maybe someday we’ll be referencing Deathwhite alongside melancholy champs Katatonia, Anathema, and Paradise Lost.

6. Amaranthe – Helix (Spinefarm)
With the introduction of new clean singer Nils Molin (Dynazty), Amaranthe’s fifth album took a turn back into heaviness. Sonically falling in line with their earlier material, it’s far from a throwback though, with the band’s love of electronic beats and absurdly catchy vocal lines still sharing center stage with the riffing. Amaranthe continue to succeed because they write the music they want to make, and it’s just so damn fun that you can’t help but love every second of it.

5. Amorphis – Queen of Time (Nuclear Blast)
The ever-consistent bunch that comprise Amorphis have been somehow managing to rise above and make an album better than the one before it for over a decade now. Queen of Time is a near-magical experience that gets the blood pumping but never skips an opportunity to overflow with some beautiful scenery. One might even be prone to question how they will one-up this grin-inducing masterwork, but considering the track record they have, we’ll probably be even more delighted with what they cook up next.

4. Phantom Elite – Wasteland (Painted Bass Records)
Rare is a band can completely blow you away with their debut offering, Phantom Elite bring a fresh take to the symphonic metal genre. Brazening heavy at times, but also able to bring it in for some more gentle moments, their songwriting is simply much more complex (yet initially satisfying) and interesting than most of their competition (not to mention Marina La Torraca’s stunning vocals). And it’s only album #1! It’s easy to think of Phantom Elite as being future leaders within the scene.

3. Beyond the Black – Heart of the Hurricane (Napalm)
Speaking of symphonic metal, Beyond the Black simply brought everything to the table for Heart of the Hurricane. Easily their finest work so far, it’s obvious they wanted their Napalm debut to leave a definitive mark. Delightfully catchy, with songs that range from breathtaking ballads to heavy hitters and not a misstep to be found. Beyond the Black simply do it better than far more established bands in the genre, and Jennifer Haben’s rich vocal presence should be the piece that pushes them into even greater recognition.

2. The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough (Nuclear Blast)
I don’t think there was an album that exuded fun and pure joy like Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough. It’s not often that you can find an album where you can listen to it at least 50 times over and it still feels as fresh and entertaining as those first initial listens. The ‘70s/’80s rock vibes are so lovingly on display and it’s clear they’ve learned from masters. Still can’t beat the review’s description: this is truly musical bliss. Bring these guys over to the States ASAP.

1. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
If there was a ground-breaking album this year, this one was it. We’ve had more experimentation into the atmospheric side of death metal, but the sense of gloom, sorrow, and reflection here was not only palpable but genuinely moving. But while the songs displayed a sense of beauty, they were still able to give you that throttling death metal experience. The best of both worlds in that sense, there’s a reason why everyone has been raving about this one since March. It sets a new bar for death metal as a whole.

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