As we reached 2018's midpoint, we here at Revolver got pretty stoked to start compiling the best heavy music of the year thus far, and rightly so — it's been a damn fertile six months for standout tunes. From the return of bona fide NWOBHM gods, A-list hard-rock doomsayers, stoner-riff weed priests, Swedish death dealers and enigmatic occult rockers to the rise of an ambitious new class of death-metal upstarts, hardcore rule-breakers, noise-punk misanthropes, theatrical goth rockers and more — we've been treated to some of the most exciting records in recent years. If these offerings are any indication, 2018 is gonna be one for the books. Here are the 25 best albums so far.
Last year A Perfect Circle ended their 14-year silence when Maynard James Keenan, Billy Howerdel and Co. surprise-dropped "The Doomed" — their heaviest track to date. This year's full-length, Eat the Elephant, may not be similarly heavy throughout, but it doesn't lack in heft. To the contrary, the near-hour-long record is thick with atmosphere, and showcases Keenan pushing his vocals to new levels of intimacy and urgency. Ultimately, more than just music, Eat the Elephant is a message — and example — of doing, reconnecting and taking responsibility for yourself … all things that humankind circa 2018 needs. Sammi Chichester
How it took so long for Māori culture to get its own metal band we'll never know, but Alien Weaponry's tribal haka thrash more than makes up for the long delay, taking the tribal exuberance of early Sepultura and giving it a distinctly Kiwi spin. This teenage trio may be helping to save an endangered language — Te Reo, in which they sing many of their most battle-ready songs — but what's even better is that they're doing so by making brave, innovative metal that bodes of a bright future for heavy music. Brandon Geist
Phil Anselmo isn't one to shy away from uncomfortable topics and emotions. Case in point: Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue, the knotty, no-holds-barred sophomore effort by the ex-Pantera frontman and his band the Illegals. From the venomous anti-gun screed "Invalid Colubrine Frauds," to the fake news–focused banger "The Ignorant Point," to the no-fucks-given stomper "Little Fucking Heroes," no personal or sociopolitical target is out of bounds. Love him or hate him, but don't try and deny it: He and the Illegals are fighters, all right, and Mental Illness is one of the finest non-Pantera, non-Down efforts of his prolific career. Zoe Camp
To listen to Only Love, the third studio effort by Detroit punk collective the Armed, is to experience their entire stylistic spectrum all at once in a vacuum — traveling at the speed of light. A dizzying melange of hardcore, spaz-rock, experimental electronics and even harmonic synth-pop, the 11-track effort — the band's first with Converge drummer Ben Koller — overwhelms in the best possible way. On songs like "Role Models" and "Witness," the Armed stack their teeth-clenching meltdowns to the heavens, only to bring them crashing back down. Surrendering oneself to the din has never been so satisfying. Z.C.
Many fans thought all hope was lost for At the Gates when founding guitarist and main songwriter Anders Björler jumped ship last year. Instead, the veteran Swedish death dealers blew everyone away with their finest work since 1995's landmark Slaughter of the Soul. A rip-roaring banger throughout, To Drink From the Night Itself is a master class in melodic death metal. J. Bennett
On Too Far Gone, New Orleans troublemakers Cane Hill take a good, hard look at their long-seated depravity — a "live fast, die young" worldview shaped by bad acid, suicidal panic, wrathful libido and self-loathing — and reject it outright, swapping nihilistic turn-up anthems for relatable groove-metal screeds detailing frontman Elijah Witt's struggles with addiction ("10 Cents"), toxic relationships ("Why?") and Trump-era racism ("Hateful"). For an album that's all about the comedown, Too Far Gone is nothing short of a come-up moment for the Southern upstarts. Z.C.
Yeah, we know it's not an "album," but such distinctions are meaningless when you're dealing with a band as restless and ever-evolving and unclassifiable as Code Orange. Following up this year's excellent Adult Swim single "Only One Way," Code Orange's surprise-released EP packs more into two songs and one remix than many groups do across a whole full-length, from disorienting industrial freak-outs to malfunctioning-trash-compactor breakdowns to an easily-missed array of submerged hooks. Boasting a rockstar assist care of superfan Corey Taylor, this could have been Code Orange's big sell-out move; instead, it may be their most confrontational moment yet — and we love them for it. B.G.
Featuring members of Red Death, D.O.C. and more, Genocide Pact is D.C.'s best death-metal export in recent years, with Order of Torment frothing at the mouth like the rabid undead. With a bit of punk influence in the mix (these guys are D.C.-based, after all), Genocide Pact's death metal contains the right amount of groove, tempo changes and fist-clenching riffs to qualify their Relapse Records debut as one of the meanest offerings of the year. Fred Pessaro
For a band that changes vocalists on every album — wink, wink — Ghost's brand of highly melodic occult rock is consistently fantastic. On Prequelle, new frontman Cardinal Copia sings songs set during the Black Death that double as sociopolitical allegories for our own tumultuous times. Whether it's the contagious metallic bombast of "Rats," the liturgical power ballad "See the Light" or throbbing disco stomp of "Danse Macabre," Ghost deliver cabalistic tunes you'll sing along to. J.B.
After several albums Harm's Way have finally achieved the chunky, dense sound they have been striving for with Posthuman — an industrial-hardcore juggernaut of an album packed with Godfleshian precision, truly crushing guitar work and mosh parts that provoke a visceral reaction from the listener. The Chicago crew has never sounded better. John Hill
With guitarist K.K. Downing retired and his longtime shred partner Glenn Tipton soon to follow, it seemed unlikely that 2018 would be the year that Judas Priest released their best album in nearly 30 years. But that's exactly what happened with Firepower. Packed with the kind of heavy-duty riffs and infectious hooks the living metal legends had seemingly relinquished to the Eighties, this album is a fist-pumping return to form. J.B.
Following two albums of crushing, teeth-grinding doom, Khemmis made for the big tent with Desolation: a heady display of heavy-metal showmanship, and the Denver band's most accessible release yet. Much like their peers Pallbearer, the foursome are masters of long-form songcraft, approaching each cut here as its own standalone, Sabbathian epic. By record's end, you feel like you've taken a journey through a fantastic, far-off universe, or perhaps a doom nerd's paradise. Z.C.
The process of writing Texas noise-punks' debut full-length record, Human Condition, may have caused singer Joshua Bosarge lasting emotional trauma — but goddammit if it wasn't worth it. Throughout the album's 10 unrelenting tracks, Bosarge channels his mental turmoil, social anxiety and misanthropic streak into untethered tirades that he unleashes over his bandmates' hard-as-nails riffs and churning rhythms — all of which are streaked with post-punk angst and psych-noise freak-outs. A legitimately stunning debut. Brad Angle
Bad Witch, the third in Nine Inch Nails' short-form record trilogy, finds Trent Reznor completing his latest existential examination. From knives-out rippers ("Shit Mirror") to skittish Scott Walker–esque saxophone gloom ("God Break Down the Door") to creeping soundscapes ("I'm Not From This World") to beautiful bleakness ("Over and Out") — it's clear he's still the master at dancing on the razor's edge between the visceral, messy human experience and the cold, endlessly streaming data of the digital age. B.A.
Hardcore's next epoch isn't constrained to standards set by the genre's forebearers or previous gatekeepers — instead the new crews coming up are pulling from wherever, and whatever, the hell they want to. Bay Area crossover act Primal Rite's furious Dirge of Escapism draws from a combined measure of violent, Japanese influences a la Death Side, and the modern metallic hardcore of Integrity — with singer Lucy Xavier debuting one of the hardest, realest new voices in the scene. J.H.
Since their 2011 inception, California death-dealers Skeletal Remains have abided by one simple creative edict: the more riffs the better. Their third full-length, Devouring Mortality, faithfully abides, with axemen Adrian Obregon and Chris Monroy pitting their riffs against each other — and us — for the album's entirety. You know you're in for a wild ride when the opening track is a lesson in "Ripperology" — to that end, the band undeniably hold up their end of the bargain. Z.C.
Let's be blunt (and please pardon the pun): The Sciences, the first new Sleep full-length in over two decades, is not only a year-end contender, but one of the greatest stoner-metal albums released this decade. High-volume riffs and high-fantasy tales might be the trio's claim to fame, but here, their attention to detail proves the most potent creative strain of all, thanks to its seamless transitions, smooth pacing and heady audiophile-friendly production. Good things – and good riffs – truly come to those who wait. Z.C.
For their Sacred Bones debut, Criminal, industrial outfit the Soft Moon lean in on early Nine Inch Nails–isms to make Luis Vasquez's danceable post-punk borderline arena-ready. It's sexy, melodic, fun and most importantly heavily playable. Why these guys aren't booking massive rooms is completely beyond us — yet totally to our advantage. F.P.
Manor of Infinite Forms is filth of the highest order — with Toronto's Tomb Mold nodding to Incantation, Dead Congregation, classic death metal and so much more on their latest album for 20 Buck Spin. It's unrelenting, bursting with incredibly memorable riffs, and familiar without ever being derivative or unoriginal. In a year where death metal is shining brighter than ever, this is already one of the crown jewels. F.P.
Released in January, the fiery Swedes' fourth full-length was arguably the first great album of 2018. A near-perfect convergence of death metal and theatrical gothic rock, Down Below honed the dark elegance and triumphant melodies of Tribulation's 2015 breakout album The Children of the Night into a gorgeous underworld thrill-ride. J.B.
Turnstile are a hardcore band, but the boys play fast and loose with the genre on their excellent major-label debut Time & Space. Nodding to alternative rock as a whole — but beholden to no one style in particular — Turnstile have created a breakthrough effort that is not only fun and catchy, but also wholly their own and a likely future classic. F.P.
With only a couple of EPs to their name, no one truly knew what Vein were capable of when given a full record to do their thing. On errorzone, the Massachusetts-based quintet stepped up — injecting electronics and an unexpected dose of melody into their already riveting spazcore sound — and delivered one of the year's most fascinating listens. J.H.
At times it feels as though heavy-metal bands are afraid of embracing the eccentricities of the genre's fantastical past. Not Visigoth. The Salt Lake City group delights in unleashing unpretentiously fun riffs on their newest LP Conqueror's Oath, which is packed with the sweeping guitars, huge hooks and kick-ass drama that made so many of us worship the old metal gods in the first place. J.H.
Our Raw Heart isn't just a doom metal record of the highest order, it's a borderline religious statement. Yob transcend the trappings of doom (and nearly all other styles of heavy metal) to create a document that is so ethereal, jaw-dropping and otherworldly that we can't wait to join them on this pilgrimage again and again. F.P.
Zeal & Ardor turned a lot of heads when they released their acclaimed 2016 debut Devil Is Fine, on which main man Manuel Gagneux merged two seriously dissimilar musical styles: African American spirituals and black metal. But as the dust settled, questions lingered: Could he evolve this new form? Did he paint himself into a corner? Stranger Fruit squashes those concerns: Gagneux's genre-splicing has reached new levels of subtlety and artful weirdness, while his poignant social commentary has become even sharper. B.A.