When I was asked to make a list of my top twenty albums from 2018, I was a bit worried that there wouldn’t be enough that I liked to fill out the list. Probably because this year seems like it has drug on forever, but after looking at what I’d been listening to, I realized “oh wow, I thought (insert album here) came out in 2017. Sweet!”
Yeah, this is how my brain works. Welcome. It’s about as out there as some of my music choices. While some of these are very much NOT “prog” (looking at three albums in particular), they are albums that have been played a lot. Either in the car, or on Spotify/Bandcamp. This list really isn’t in any particular order until about half way through, then it becomes much more solidified.
20. “Terra Solus” by Sergeant Thunderhoof (Stoner Metal)
I managed to get my paws on Sergeant Thunderhoof’s discography not long ago, and finally gave it all a listen after them being on my list for some time. Terra Solus is a great fourth album from these fuzz-heavy rockers. Not going to lie, the name caught me at first, and I am kicking myself for not listening to these guys when I first heard of them. Start from the beginning, and you can thank me later.
19. “Wasteland” by Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats (Psych Rock)
I already said a few words about this album in the review. To summarize, it’s a great album that tackles a version of the future that we could find ourselves in. Where mindless zombies roam the streets attached, literally, to their phones. Wait a second…
18. “For A Black Tomorrow” by Deathwhite (Doom/Goth Metal)
My best friend and I have this thing we’ll do sometimes where we will fall down the rabbit hole that is Bandcamp, in search of new music. She’ll find something and toss it my way if she thinks I’ll like it. Deathwhite fills the void that is currently left gaping open by Katatonia’s hiatus. “For a Black Tomorrow” is a powerful first full-length album for these guys.
17. “Hymn Of The Cosmic Man” by Fire Down Below (Stoner Metal)
Fire Down Below is another Bandcamp trip find. I fell in love with their first album “Viper Vixen Goddess Saint”, so when they released “Hymn Of The Cosmic Man”, I was all over it. Instead of the sands of the desert, the album takes one up into the cosmos for a stoner metal-filled journey. They only improved from their first album, and I cannot wait to see how these guys grow in future albums.
16. “Prequelle” by Ghost (Metal)
Yes, I am a Ghost fan. I like the campy “Scooby Doo” metal (as one of my friends calls it). Prequelle sees the installation of Cardinal Copia in Papa Emeritus’ place, and brings a slightly more 80s influence. The songs are still catchy, and over the top when it comes to videos, but “Prequelle” has a special place in my heart.
15. “Longing To Be The Mountain” by King Buffalo (Stoner Rock)
I. Love. King. Buffalo. Having seen them live, and getting that musical “high” from their music, “Longing To Be The Mountain” is a favourite. To hear their sound improve vastly from their first album “Orion” fills my heart with joy. These guys deserve more attention, so please, check out this album, and don’t pass on their EPs or first album either.
14. “Cosmic Blues” by Black Elephant (Psych Rock)
Heavy 70s metal meets 90s riffs… What isn’t to love? Another Bandcamp find from this year that has nestled itself into my ever-growing collection of psych and stoner rock. The album itself has a live sound to it, like it was taken straight from the soundboard and thrown onto an album. There’s something to love about that sort of sound, really.
13. “Howling Sycamore” by Howling Sycamore (Prog Metal)
This album dominated my spotify listening earlier this year when it was first released. Absolutely dominated. I couldn’t get enough of it, and even now it slips in at times to remind me “Hey, this is a great first album.” It’s pounding, there’s a saxophone, and there is so much potential in this band going forward.
12. “Gateways” by The Vintage Caravan (Psych Rock)
Another album I was able to review for this site, and will summarize right quick. A great blend of garage rock and blues, wrapped in a lovely stoner rock package, and a great cruising record for the open road.
11. “With The Beyond” by Deathbell (Stoner Rock)
Fuzzy, eerie, and heavy. Deathbell is everything I love about great psychedelic and stoner rock rolled into a band. Perhaps because I have been a huge Blood Ceremony fan for a few years now, and these guys are like them… But heavier. So much heavier. Walking that veil between the living and the dead in their music. With perhaps so dark magic being brewed in the forest.
10. “Wasteland” by Riverside (Prog Metal)
If ever I wanted an album to play the game Fallout to, this would be it. It is a comeback album, and while on shaky feet, it is a good comeback for the band. A dark album of a post-apocalyptic land, that takes a turn from their previous two albums. I didn’t find the time to really sit and listen to it until recently, but it is in my top three albums they have released so far. There’s a lot of raw emotion and internal demons being exorcised from the tragedies that have befallen them in recent years, which lends to the idea behind the album’s setting.
9. “Life In The Punch Line” by Fifth Species (Prog/Art Rock)
If there were ever a band that deserves more exposure, it would be the North Carolina outfit Fifth Species. I was introduced to these guys through a member of a band that will show up later on this list, and I am forever thankful for his little instagram videos of music suggestions. Fifth Species captures the spirit and sound of the Canterbury prog scene, while also being heavily influenced by bands like Phish.
8. “Together Through Time” by TWRP (Synthwave/Funk)
These four funky guys from the far reaches of space and time that live in Canada (pretty much their backstory since their real faces and names are unknown to all) released an all around amazing album with guest appearances by The Protomen (“Phantom Racer”), Planet Booty (“Tactile Sensation”), Dan Avidan of Ninja Sex Party (“Starlight Brigade”), and more. It’s an upbeat, feel good album teeming with vox box, synthesizers, amazing guitar, pounding drums, and the best damn bass ever. There. I said it on the internet. Sue me, I’m a changed person after seeing them perform parts of this album live.
7. “The Killing Place” by American Murder Song (are murder ballads considered a genre?)
While this album isn’t one of new songs by the duo Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, two of them are covers from other bands, this album takes the songs from their previous two albums “Murder Ballads of 1816: The Year Without A Summer” and “The Donner Party” and gives them a completely new spin. Making them new songs altogether. On here is also a renewed version of the song “In All My Dreams I Drown” from the movie The Devil’s Carnival (which Terrance helped create and played The Devil in). Some of the songs have a swamp rock feel, others an almost industrial edge, while also intertwining songs from teaser videos they had released in anticipation of the albums. If you are a fan of the darker side of history, American Murder Song is a fantastic group, and The Killing Place is a good start. I’m still hung up on the new version of “The Last Americans” and “In All My Dreams I Drown”. As well as their dark cover of “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” by The Killers.
6. “Of Blood And Wine” by The Necromancers (Stoner/Doom Metal)
Three words. Satanic. Stoner. Metal. My best friend discovered these guys while we were on a Bandcamp search binge, and let me tell you… I am forever thankful for a new Halloween go-to artist and album. Upon first listen, I was just floored by the great stoner rock sound, but upon listening more closely to the lyrics it became quite obvious the general theme behind their music. I’m not put off by it, of course, but I know some people can be. “Secular Lord” is my favourite hands down. Perhaps because it explores the legend behind Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad The Impaler, who has always fascinated me.
5. “Simulation Theory” by Muse (Rock)
This latter half of year for me has honestly been dominated by my love for synthwave and retrowave music, so when I heard the track “Thought Contagion” from Simulation Theory, I knew I was going to be in love with the latest release by Muse. A concept album inspired by the show Black Mirror (quoting Matt Bellamy from an interview I happened to watch), it is a new push at the boundaries of their music while also having a taste of what I loved from Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry. Honestly their best since The Resistance, for me. An album that can be danced to, as well as hold some meaningful lyrics. Perhaps my favourite track is “Propaganda”, which a very different sound for the band, yet fits well with the theme of the album lyrically.
4. “The Sacrament of Sin” by Powerwolf (Power Metal)
Another band who has released their best album to date. The Sacrament of Sin lends an even bigger sound to what Powerwolf already wields, and is made to be performed live. The production on this album is top notch, and the sound is even more powerful than their previous releases. While some songs are just catchy, like “Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, you have gems like “Stossgebet”, “Incense and Iron”, and “Venom Of Venus” that truly are the treasures of this album.
3. “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough” by The Night Flight Orchestra (80’s-inspired Rock)
I hate the fact I just now discovered this band. This album didn’t actually hit my radar until a few weeks ago, thanks to a friend of mine. It quickly skyrocketed to the top of the list for the sheer fact that it is exactly what I have been into lately. That glorious sound of the 80s in a well produced modern package. It’s something I can crank up and rock out to, whether in the car or just doing things around the house. “Turn To Miami” and the title track “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough” are definitely my favourites, but the entire album is absolutely fantastic.
2. “Used Future” by The Sword (Stoner Rock)
This album, as well as the previous mentioned on this list, were the two albums I was most looking forward to at the beginning of the year. Used Future takes the new sound that The Sword have been experimenting with to a whole new level. Finding their feet in it, and running with it in a loose concept of a future devoid of greenery. It’s darker than their previous release High Country, but no less amazing. There’s hints of that metal sound of their older albums, but wrapped nicely with that new synth-y sound they’ve adopted.
1. “Cool Patrol” by Ninja Sex Party (Comedy Rock)
I know, I know. “Why is there a comedy band on this list? Why is it number one?” Hear me out, please. This is by far their best comedy album to date (they also have two cover albums that feature Rush, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and more). Cool Patrol sees the comedy duo’s first original album with a live band (thanks to Canadian synth/funk band TWRP) behind every song, while previous original albums were mostly just keyboards and electronic instruments. The lyrics and musical composition are some of the best they have done thus far. The songs are just fun and are bound to make you at least chuckle. Even the little skits like the intro, outro, and “Ninja Brian Goes To Soccer Practice”. The one song that hit closest to me emotionally is “Danny Don’t You Know”, which is a song written to his younger self and is very personal and relatable in nature. Start there, then perhaps move on to others from the album like “Release the Kraken” and “Orgy For One”.