Nov 162018


It has become an annual tradition at our putrid site to launch our year-end LISTMANIA orgy with the appearance of DECIBEL mag’s Top 40 list. It has become a tradition in part because, in my humble opinion, it’s still the best print publication out there for fans of extreme metal, and in part because they always manage to jump out of the starting blocks first in the race for publishing YE “best of” lists – and they’ve done it again this year. So here we go!

The DECIBEL list will officially appear in the magazine’s January 2019 edition, which hasn’t yet hit my own mailbox, but because it’s out in the world somewhere already, DECIBEL again decided (for the third year in a row) to scoop their own list rather than letting leeches like me leak it. They published the list on-line yesterday, and so I can now again re-publish their list without too much guilt.

Of course, there will be a lot more content in the January issue (which has Deafheaven on the cover), including commentary about each of these 40 albums and why they were selected. You can order a copy of that HERE.



Before turning to the DECIBEL Top 40 I’ll share again the thoughts that I share every year at this time about the phenomenon of year-end lists in metal. I see no reason to amend the words, especially since that would involve effort.

Such lists continue to serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because, duh, we don’t have enough to argue about already, even in the age of Trump.

And it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.


I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists from print publications and “big platform” sites, mainly because I can’t manage to make a list of my own. But here are a few random observations about this one, just to get the conversation started — but I do hope you’ll continue the discussion in the Comments to this post.

First, only one of these albums (from Cosmic Church) was self-released; all others were backed by labels, although a few of them are quite small and obscure. Make of that what you will. Among the 39 label releases, no one label was dominant, with Century Media, Relapse, Season of Mist, and 20 Buck Spin all having three releases on the list, and five more with two entries each.

Second, I can’t help but feel a surge of regional pride in seeing two bands from the Pacific Northwest — YOB and Uada — in the Top 3, with YOB nailing down album of the year (and it’s extra-nice to seeing that recognition going to one of the most decent human beings in metal, as well as one of the most talented — Mike Scheidt).

Third, as the person responsible for our weekly SHADES OF BLACK column, and therefore someone who spends a lot of each week listening to new black metal, I notice once again that there isn’t much obscure (or even not-so-obscure) black metal on the list, but of course I’m neither surprised nor complaining. I am happy enough to find Panopticon, Devouring Star, Funeral Mist, Varathron, Immortal, and the afore-mentioned Uada on the list, all of whom released very deserving albums this year.

Fourth, while there are of course a lot of releases on the list that have been widely noticed over the course of the year, many of them from the bigger names in the field, DECIBEL has again done a decent job of mixing up the genres without pandering to mass tastes in mediocrity, and have (as usual) thrown in some more obscure entries. And although their Top 10 of course wouldn’t match my own, it’s pretty solid — not one entry that would cause me to tear at my hair and yell “What are THEY doing there?!?”


And with that I’ll shut up and let you guys continue the conversation in the Comments. I’m quite sure you have opinions.

40 Panopticon, The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II, Bindrune
39 Hate Eternal, Upon Desolate Sands, Season of Mist
38 Cosmic Church, Tattymys, Self-released
37 KEN mode, Loved, Season of Mist
36 Monster Magnet, Mindfucker Napalm
35 Wake, Misery Rites, Translation Loss
34 Thou, Magus, Sacred Bones
33 Zeal and Ardor, Stranger Fruit, MVKA
32 Devouring Star, The Arteries of Heresy, Dark Descent
31 Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown, Nuclear Blast
30 Sepulcher, Panoptic Horror, Edged Circle Productions
29 Svalbard, It’s Hard To Have Hope, Translation Loss
28 Horrendous, Idol, Season of Mist
27 Abhorrence, Megalohydrothalassophobic, Svart
26 Visigoth, Conqueror’s Oath, Metal Blade
25 Mortuous, Through Wilderness, Tankcrimes
24 Portal, Ion, Profound Lore
23 Mournful Congregation, The Incubus of Karma, 20 Buck Spin
22 Sleep, The Sciences, Third Man
21 Funeral Mist, Hekatomb, Norma Evangelium Diaboli
20 Outer Heaven, Realms of Eternal Decay, Relapse
19 Varathron, Patriarchs of Evil, Agonia
18 The Atlas Moth, Coma Noir, Prosthetic
17 Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms, 20 Buck Spin
16 Satan, Cruel Magic, Metal Blade
15 Chapel of Disease, …And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye, Ván
14 Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Anti-
13 Voivod, The Wake, Century Media
12 Haunt, Burst Into Flames, Shadow Kingdom
11 At the Gates, To Drink from the Night Itself, Century Media
10 Pig Destroyer, Head Cage, Relapse
9 Khemmis, Desolation, 20 Buck Spin
8 Immortal, Northern Chaos Gods, Nuclear Blast
7 Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Wasteland, Rise Above
6 Skeletonwitch, Devouring Radiant Light, Prosthetic
5 Judas Priest, Firepower, Columbia
4 Evoken, Hypnagogia, Profound Lore
3 UADA, Cult of a Dying Sun, Eisenwald
2 Tribulation, Down Below, Century Media
1 YOB, Our Raw Heart, Relapse

  53 Responses to “LISTMANIA BEGINS: THE DECIBEL TOP 40 FOR 2018”

  1. This list is not terrible. Not correct either. But not terrible.

  2. A bit early isn’t it? Obliteration’s album isn’t out yet!! Uada don’t deserve the third position, no way. Their second album is booooring. Skeletonwitch has seen waaay better days. Theh At the Gates one is just ok. Deafheaven is a mess. Horrendous on the 28th? Dear lord, that is top five at least.

    • DECIBEL and other print mags are always early, in part because of the long lead time before putting the copy to bed and getting the run printed and in the mail. That’s also why they get promos of new releases earlier than on-line publications. But they probably also just see a marketing advantage in being first.

      This doesn’t mean DECIBEL’s writers haven’t already heard everything they might care about that’s scheduled for release in November and December. In fact, I’m positive they have (see above, concerning how early they get their promo copies).

    • I agree, I can’t help but roll my eyes when I see a AOTY year list in November. Like really? You couldn’t wait at least two more weeks?

      And yeah, there’s still new albums from Obliteration, Svartidauði and Sulphur Aeon yet to come out.

      • Well, you picked 3 damned good things still yet to come. Even though I bet at least some of the DECIBEL writers have heard those (we’ve got the advance promos too), I wonder whether it really suits their purposes to include EOTY picks that most other people haven’t heard. So maybe there’s a built-in bias against November and December releases? But of course I don’t know, just talking out of my ass as usual.

    • Agree with you on almost all points. That At The Gates release was a bit boring–there are way better pieces of melodic death this year. Also, Hate Eternal should be more like 9th, rather than 39th. I suppose Decible’s never heard of Monstrosity–their album fucking slays! Great riffs and solos all over that record. But, Islander nailed it: the best list is one crafted by the self.

  3. One thing I always feel it’s important to stress is that, as much as we might wish it otherwise, print magazines (not just Decibel) have to cater to their readership a LOT more than blogs like this. It’s just the way of things, hence why their list(s) ALWAYS skew mostly towards bands who’ve received a fair bit of coverage and who the can be reasonably confident most of their readership will be at least peripherally aware of (although they always throw in a couple of notably more “underground” names).

    I suppose all I’m really saying is that any commentary on the quality of the list really should take the CONTEXT of its creation into account, and judge it accordingly. As the boss man says, no list is ever going to be 100% right (or wrong), but it’s worth appreciating HOW and WHY they’re put together in the way they are.

    • That is a good point, and I wouldn’t blame Decibel for it. It’s not like the print business is the hot new industry in 2018. More power to them just for surviving. But it makes your head scratch that, by and large, the bands that end up near the top of the list are also on labels that advertise in every issue and they are also likely to make an appearance at one of their festivals or the 2020 Decibel tour (just wait for it). Now, is that because Decibel is so dependent on ad money that it keeps hyping the bands on the labels most likely to advertise, or is it that Decibel’s editors really like these bands, therefore put them on their festivals and therefore their labels have a natural interest in advertising to the same audience? Chicken, meet egg. Perhaps the harsh reality is somewhere in between. But again, hard to blame them for it, tough business.

    • They should consult you for many of their selections. Your multi-faceted metal orgy is one of the ones I anticipate most each year. It may be a bit premature to throw recommendations your way, since your list is yet to be published, but if you didn’t get the opportunity to check out “Feast” from Alterbeast, you should definitely do so. Phenomenal, fucking, album! Also, they killed it on the Dissection cover they did.

  4. Given the feel of this list it seems odd to have left out Amorphis.

    • I just did a search and found no DECIBEL review of the album on-line, and can’t remember whether there was a review in the print publication. They may not have loved it, though they did assist with some advance promotion of the album. If I can remember, I’ll check my catalogue of back issues and see if they reviewed it.

      • It got a 7/10 review in the june issue (priest cover) by shawn macomber:

        “..Won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has checked in on the band during the last couple of decades, but it may very well be the most fully realized, diversified and integrated incarnation to date.”

        So he somehow liked it but i guess for him it wasn’t enough of the groundbreaking stuff.

  5. My Decibel subscription ran out a few months ago. I obviously didn’t renew, and probably won’t, but this is a good list. I knew that YOB album would be number 1 the first time it was mentioned in the mag. I own it, but I just don’t feel the same, even though it is good. I will go back and listen. I don’t agree with a few on there, but I do agree with quite a bit of it. As usual, the list gives me some albums to check out, and I am glad it is getting to that time of year!

  6. Decibel usually does one of the better mainstream lists and this one is no exception. There’s actually about 5 or 6 on here I’d consider for my own list, and I was completely out of the loop on that Chapel of Disease album

    …that being said, as usual, there’s also lot of crap in their top ten. Uada, Skeletonwitch, and Tribulation especially, were all definitely coasting by on name recognition…because it sure as hell wasn’t the music

    • I don’t know, man. I don’t get the hype with Uada, but I do enjoy Tribulation’s latest, and the Skeletonwitch, but maybe I am biased on Skeletonwitch, since they’re from my hometown.

      • A lot of people like current Tribulation, but I feel like they’ve pretty much been shitting the bed since The Children of the Night…even Formulas of Death is kind of borderline in my opinion, but I’m not the audience they’re shooting for anymore with those albums.

        I like Skeletonwitch well enough, but they haven’t put out an album worthy of being on a year end list since maybe Forever Abomination and even then, top ten would’ve felt way too high. Devouring Radiant Light is a far weaker album.

    • You’re such a curmudgeon. 🙂

  7. I realize I’m usually pretty far out of the mainstream, but I’m a bit surprised that Faustcoven and Cultes des Ghoules didn’t make this list.

    My opinion, those two albums are head and shoulders above just about anything else released this year (though props for Tomb Mold).

  8. This sounds okay. But I do have quite the bit of respect for Decibel for what they do. That said. Haven’t been listening to a lot of 2018 albums like i should have. Just waiting for the rest of the NCS guest/reader’s lists to come up.

  9. I have about four or five of these on my own personal list. I have definitely blanked on UADA though outside of a few cursory listens, it’s been on my backburner list forever so not having thoughts on that one is a failing on my part. I have been enjoying the steady flood of music throughout the year though, much as it has overwhelmed my ability to write about it.

    Still though, good call on Svalbard making it in. Naming a disc ‘Its hard to have hope’ is like DGR checkpoint one, its like when Dormant Ordeal just called their album ‘We Had It Coming’.

  10. I feel as though I have to stand up and be counted when it comes to UADA! I place it in my top 10 this year so far….maybe I am the only one standing up in the room but I do have a habit of embarrassing myself in public 🙂

    • UADA did put out a good album this year. Personnaly I would’ve liked to see Raven Throne up there, along with Avslut.

  11. These lists are always down to personal taste and Decibel’s list doesn’t include much of mine! It’s missing Scorched, Carpe Noctem, Drawn & Quartered, Craft and Heads for the Dead to start with! 2018 has been a massive year for death-metal and there’s still more to come so I’ll wait til January 2019 before I choose a favourite..

    • I disagree about it coming down to personal taste for the lists by (relatively) bigger name places like Decibel. Lists like this are almost always a mixed bag of albums, which makes me think it’s more of a committee type thing.
      I think it would explain why so many hyped album make their list, especially towards the top, but also why something like Cosmic Church, which is more of an underground favorite, would pop up. They’ve clearly got one or two people working there who do know their shit, and probably a whole lot more who stick to bigger, more mainstream releases.

      …or I could be completely talking out of my ass. I honestly don’t know. It’s just a theory

      • I would guess that pretty much everyone who works there, including the non-writers, really knows their shit and follows the underground very closely. But if they only wrote about the Cosmic Churches of the metal world, there would be no Decibel, because that content just doesn’t scale. Fortunately there’s also Bardo Methodology and the Internet.

        • Disagree…It’s a not a question of “if they only wrote”, it’s more about the fact “That they barely write”.
          My experience is that most people working for media outlets tend to have their own personal interests and favorite genres, and unless that specifically involves digging into lesser known bands and underground releases, you’re more likely to be only be peripherally aware of what’s going on at best.While I think Decibel does better than most, the fact that their coverage of the underground is still pretty limited makes me think that it’s not of major interest to the vast majority of people working there

          • Not to sound like a Decibel apologist, but in all fairness I think they do okay in their coverage of the underground, between the one-pagers and the review section, not to mention their blog. In recent memory they’ve pushed bands like Necrot, Horrendous, Blood Incantation and many others long before most people had heard of them. They’re definitely stronger on DM than on BM and they’re biased toward the US, but since Albert Mudrian wrote the book on DM and they’re based here that could be expected. So, in terms of kvltness, I would rate them three skulls and crossbones out of five. Could be four if they covered more non-US ground.

            • Decibel works as a nice midpoint between something like Revolver and a forum like Nuclear War Now, and while they’re by no means embarrassing themselves, truthfully, they only scratch the upper tiers of whats going on in the underground.

              I mean, Necrot, Horrendous and Blood Incantation? People were buzzing about Necrot since at least when “The Abyss” came out and both Blood Incantation and Horrendous are/were signed to Dark Descent…hardly an obscure label in the metal world.

              It’s also about the level I’d expect from Decibel.

              Are they solid for a mainstream magazine…yeah, absolutely. I don’t feel like anyone should feel bad about picking up what they put out, especially given most metalheads don’t seem to dig much deeper than labels like Century Media or Nuclear Blast…but in all honesty, where their coverage starts to bottom out is only just beginning to overlap the point where I’d say the underground actually starts.

              So compared to other magazines, I’d probably give them a solid four…but on a kvlt rating I’d give them closer to a two and a half

        • I know a few of the DECIBEL writers, and I think the ones I know dig pretty deep in their personal listening — though I certainly can’t speak to all of them. But my understanding is that most (maybe all?) reviews are assigned, and I would guess (because I have no personal knowledge) that the assigned coverage reflects the reality that brklyner puts his finger on: A lot of the extreme music that many of us in the NCS neighborhood are into wouldn’t “scale”. We can argue about whether DECIBEL should devote more coverage to more obscure releases (I think they do a better job of that than any other print publication I know of), but they’ve got to be attentive to their audience in order to survive (and hopefully prosper) as a business in a constantly challenging environment.

          • Fair enough.

            Clearly I’ve only got my own conspiracy theories to work with, as it’s not like I personally know anyone working there, and my intention isn’t necessarily to drag the magazine. I totally understand that with print being like it is, in this day and age, they’ve got to appeal to as wide of an audience as they can within their market. Raw, under produced, black metal is hardly a mainstream money maker.

            It does beg the question though, what would the writers choose for themselves in a year end list, completely unrestricted by the needs of a business? Would it still look like the list above?

            • An interesting question. I have a vague idea (which I’d need to confirm with my sources) that all the writers do submit their own YE lists, but I have no idea how all that gets amalgamated into the TOP 40 that gets published.

            • Also, amusingly enough, I was actually on the other side of this conversation a few days ago with some friends. Basically defending Decibel as one of the better magazines out there, that does a pretty solid job actually covering some good stuff.

              Maybe I’m just too damn contrarian for my own good 🙂

            • Very good question. I wish they would publish a list of the 100 or so records that didn’t make the cut, in no particular order. That list would probably contain a lot of good music.

              And if Slugdge isn’t on that list I’m cancelling my subscription 🙂

    • “2018 has been a massive year for death-metal”
      I tend to agree! I didn’t yet to fully appreciate all the albums I bought in 2018. What with Burial Invocation, Cemetery Urn, Cist, Depravity, Gruesome, Hyperdontia, Monstrosity, Mutilated by Zombies, etc…… Some 2018 Black Metal albums are great also, namely Avslut’s Deceptis!

      • I am in the same boat. Too much to listen to still. The bands you mention had great releases last year indeed. Also, Tomb Mold, Serocs, Monstrosity, Binah, Aborted, Unbirth, Baest etc

  12. Pretty solid list all things considered. I think they deserve credit for introducing a lot of bands on indie labels to a somewhat wider audience, though I wouldn’t exactly call the Decibel readership mainstream. And not just with this list. Let’s consider and appreciate for a moment that not a single one of these records was released by a major label. Someone correct me if Century Media or Metal Blade got gobbled up by a major, but even then that would be impressive. People always like to define things in opposition to the mainstream, but come to think, when it comes to metal, almost everything is niche, with the exception of a handful of bands that even our non-metal friends have heard of. Which is kind of the beauty of our putrid rotten culture.

    • Depends on what you mean by major. Most metal labels are pretty small to begin with, so when I say mainstream metal label, I’m usually talking about in comparison to the small underground labels. So, to me, Metal Blade, Century Media (whose owned by Sony, I think), Nuclear Blast (who just got bought out by some big French music distro) and Season of Mist are all fairly mainstream labels…at least in a metal music sense

      • I don’t disagree with you. I meant major in the classical sense of the three (I think?) remaining giant record companies and to me mainstream means playing stadium tours and selling millions of records. By that standard, the mainstream listener is blissfully unaware of 99% of today’s metal, at least in the US, which is of course totally fine. I guess my point was, show the Decibel top 40 to the average person and they won’t know a single band in it nowadays.

  13. Wait a second – no Slugdge?? I would have thought they’re a shoo-in for the top 10. Down with mollusk haters!

  14. I like quite a few albums from the list, they are not in the same order as I would have put them though. That doesn’t matter.

    But from this list I do get to understand why Gorod remains a truly under-appreciated band in the scene in my opinion. How come they have not earned a place in the list with Aethra? That album is so good.

    • Maybe unrelated. But hey! If there is one album I really liked this year. It’s Black Howling – Return of Primordial Stillness on the Signal Rex roster i think . Nothing new. But the melodies . oh I love em.

  15. “Firepower” is the best Judas Priest album since Halford’s return, without a doubt. The songwriting and production are much stronger, tighter, and more cohesive than the previous three albums. Andy Sneap is definitely the best producer for old school metal acts like Priest and Accept.
    Awesome to see “Ion” on there (Portal!!!!!!!!), but what about Gruesome’s “Twisted Prayers”? Or Godless Angel’s “Six Years Of Sin”?


    I think every black metal fan is going to be blown away by this album.

    Also no Primordial or Setherial seems a bit ridiculous.

    Clouds are still amazing, sorry if you can’t appreciate great doom ; )

    • Thanks for the black metal suggestion–sounds pretty good. Yes, Clouds is a decent doom metal project. I would recommend checking out the new album from Dawn of Winter. Great shit. One of my favorite black metal albums this year is the one from Archemoron. 🙂

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