Dec 042018


As part of our annual NCS LISTMANIA extravaganza we re-publish lists of the year’s best metal that appear on web sites that appeal to vastly larger numbers of readers than we do — not because we believe those readers or the writers have better taste in metal than our community does, but more from a morbid curiosity about what the great unpoisoned masses are being told is best for them. It’s like opening a window that affords an insight into the way the rest of the world outside our own disease-ridden nooks and crannies perceives the music that is our daily sustenance.

One of those sites is PopMatters. It has been in existence since 1999. In its own words the site “is an international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis” with a scope that “is broadly cast on all things pop culture”, including “music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet”. PopMatters claims that it is “the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world”.

As in past years, a few days ago PopMatters published a list of “The Best Metal of 2018” — this time under the by-lines of Dean Brown, Antonio Poscic, and Spyros Stasis. There are again 20 albums on the list.


I admit that when publishing these “big platform” metal lists I’m prone to becoming a bit snarky and/or looking down my steep nose at their picks. You won’t get any of that from me today.  This list seems honest rather than calculated to tick off audience check-boxes, it includes some deep dives, and although it might not match up with your own list or mine, I think it’s very solid. Of all the albums on it that I’ve heard (16 of them), I think they’re all deserving of praise and recognition. And because of that, I’m now tempted to give time to the other four.

Of course, you may disagree, and should feel free to sound off in our Comment section (we encourage you to sound off with your reactions even if they’re similar to my own).

I should mention that PopMatters has also published a separate list of “The Best Progressive Rock/Metal of 2018” (here), and there’s only one overlap with the list below, so you might want to check that out if you’re a fan of prog.

To read all the descriptions of each album on the “Best Metal” list below, along with streams of the music, go here. And I’m including an excerpt from one of those descriptions concerning the album in the No. 1 spot just after the list.


20. Vein – Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities)
19. Thou – Magus (Sacred Bones)
18. Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light (Prosthetic)
17. Slaves BC – Lo, and I Am Burning (The Fear and the Void Recordings)
16. Portal – Ion (Profound Lore)
15. Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista)
14. Tribulation – Down Below (Century Media)
13. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want (Ipecac)
12. Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (Gilead Media)
11. Horrendous – Idol (Season of Mist)
10. Pig Destroyer – Head Cage (Relapse)
9. Boss Keloid – Melted on the Inch (Holy Roar)
8. Agrimonia – Awaken (Southern Lord)
7. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement (Nuclear War Now!)
6. Sleep – The Sciences (Third Man)
5. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
4. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (Willowtip)
3. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin)
2. Sumac – Love in Shadow (Thrill Jockey)
1. YOB – Our Raw Heart (Relapse)

An excerpt from Dean Brown‘s comments about the site’s choice in the No. 1 position: “Our Raw Heart acts as a portal to another’s pain and upon experiencing this LP across numerous listening sessions, you get a deep understanding of how much music can mean to the creator in the face of adversity and also to the listener during their own darkest nights. That connection goes beyond any end of year list accolade; that connection is everlasting.”

  19 Responses to “LISTMANIA 2018: POPMATTERS’ LIST OF “THE BEST METAL OF 2018””

  1. I’m actually pretty surprised. I’d actually agree with a lot of these, and if I’m not mistaken, the same list last year included quite a few picks that weren’t even Metal, so this list is pretty impressive.

  2. “This list seems honest rather than calculated to tick off audience check-boxes”

    Interesting. I would have said just the opposite.

    I mean it’s not a terrible list, but it still seems very inline with lists by other similar “big platform” sites. Mostly safe, well known bands with just a couple of outside the box selections to liven it up a bit.

    I can understand when a list chooses a few of these bands, but the constant repetition of Skeletonwitch, Portal, Ghost, Tribulation, Sludge, etc. makes me wonder how much of this is actual, personal selection and how much is calculated towards their audience

    • Well, I guess we’re both playing a mind-reading game, neither of us having any inside knowledge about how this was done. Yes, there are some better-known names on the list that will probably be on most lists of broad-based sites like this one (in part because the albums are genuinely good), but I haven’t seen a lot of these names on lists from other big sites — including Slugdge (I’m curious why you put them in the same breath with Ghost and Tribulation).

      • Honestly, it’s because I’ve been seeing that Sludge album pop up a lot on peoples year end lists. I’m very surprised Decibel and Revolver missed it given the amount of buzz it’s getting. It’s at a point now, where I guarantee we’ll see their next album get elevated notoriety by the metal media in an effort to play catch up (see also…Mgla, Inquisition, Horrendous, Uada, etc.)

        There’s no doubt there’s a fair bit of stuff here that hasn’t shown up on other lists, but I’d say about 50% of it still falls in line with other big platform selections.

        Though, I’ll concede my own view on things is often very distorted through my own lens. I’m starting to realize just how often my mainstream tends to be someone elses underground (humble brag, I know 🙂 )

        • You’re so far from mainstream the Hubble telescope isn’t even picking up your radio waves. 🙂

          • I tend to agree with SB regarding the box ticking here…it’s just a different type of box, akin to a list I’d see from The Quietus (although more mainstream). I could have predicted 90% of what was on it before reading it, thus it feels extremely…edgy-safe? The NWN! inclusion feels almost placatory. Lots of great stuff there nevertheless. I also echo the sentiments on Slugdge – great band, strong album, but definitely have hit a weird apex virality this year. Totally agree that we are all engaging in mind-reading here.

  3. Despite my usual complaint about the absence of Gruesome’s Twisted Prayers, it’s a good list. I love that Portal’s Ion has been on most of the lists, so far.

  4. Its cool. Not that offensive. I do wonder when some of these bigger lists will ever include something like Death Karma or Cantique Lepreux. I think the most interesting aspect is that I keep a list of everything I listen to and if I like it I bold it. If I love it I bold it in red. At the end of the year I compile all the bolded and red bolded and start sorting it to the best of my time and ability.

    Year after year, being a guy who’s not so elite or true to always be looking for the most unknown thing,(although I certainly tread those paths as wel) I have to say… the overlap between my compiled list and these lists is nearly nonexistent.

    Im surprised by how much metal exists and how publications like these and AMG and IO and TovH consistently cover amazing stuff, yet none of these lists ever seems to reflect any of that amazing music. I guess places like Metal Sucks and Revolver and Decibel dont have staff that spends anytime being aware of these rather large online publications?

    I mean, I listened to 207 albums this year. And it was a light year. No bragging, just how I roll. I have a large need for ever evolving (and revolving) musical platters. So yeah… Its not like I just glanced upon a few metal albums. I truly entrench myself in this nonsense, so it really sticks out when these lists start to pop up.

    Anyway, good to see Slugdge so universally loved. I still stick by them and thought Esoteric Malacology was a great deal of fun.

    • Deleting all the ones that either ended up un-bolded or I just didn’t hear… then reordering to my taste.
      Except for Slugdge and Agrimonia none of these are on my year end list.

      8. YOB – Our Raw Heart (Relapse)
      7. Chaos Echœs – Mouvement (Nuclear War Now!)
      6. Portal – Ion (Profound Lore)
      5. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
      4. Horrendous – Idol (Season of Mist)
      3. Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin)
      2. Agrimonia – Awaken (Southern Lord)
      1. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (Willowtip)

  5. At least they got Slugdge on there, but 1-20 isn’t good.

  6. I like this list… Slugdge should be more places. I am floored that it isn’t, and if it is, I have just missed it. I also like the inclusion of that Slaves BC album, which floored me the first few times I heard it, and kind of forgot about it. This is the first list I have seen to include it. I see how a few of these are very “in vogue” choices, but, to be honest, I find it to be a varied, great list.

  7. Hey, I share a few in common with this one too! Lookit me learning to be all cool.

  8. “Our Raw Heart acts as a portal to another’s pain and upon experiencing this LP across numerous listening sessions, you get a deep understanding of how much music can mean to the creator in the face of adversity and also to the listener during their own darkest nights. That connection goes beyond any end of year list accolade; that connection is everlasting.” What a load of crap. Does it kickass? Not really.

    • Oh man, you hurt me with that one. Between differences in taste and maybe not knowing the kind of person Mike Scheidt is and what he’s been through, you can’t be completely blamed. But “a load of crap”? With respect, you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

      • My point is your claim that folks can know all sorts of things about the artist by listening to this record, as if it transports you somehow, isn’t actually true. Pretty sure Scheidt has always been committed deeply and surely there is some pain there but essentially, this is YOB, no real difference, not some cathartic journey into his pain. If you have found some new pathways into people’s subjective pain, you are a genius and a pioneer. Maybe my words were too strong but this isn’t even the best YOB. I will admit i am not the biggest Doom fan.

    • Well.. I’d like to make the argument that YOB is great in individual songs (the more melodic ones) but sucks at crafting truly un-melodic serious ones. Let’s take the last two albums, ‘Adrift in the Ocean’ and ‘Marrow’ are the only two songs that keep me coming back to them. On the latest though they had two – ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves’ and the title track. They should I believe, release shorter albums with the more melodic ones. And of course… I can be truly wrong and suck. Which I admit to quite a large extent.

  9. Hmm, half-decent list at best. I’m missing the contact high from Yob, though. It’s alright. Honestly, I liked the new album from Dawn of Winter much better in the doom category. Khemmis was exceptional. But in relation to doom, I’m still hanging on tightly to the 2017 releases of Procession and Sorcerer. Tomb Mold doesn’t turn me on, sorry. Pleased to see Imperial Triumphant triumph close to the top ten. Pig Destroyer… ugh! I guess I was too much of a fanboy of their actual grindcore beauty. “Prowler In The Yard” nostalgia, man. Lastly, Chaos Echoes are alright, but not the best gem of avant-garde releases.
    Islander, Andy, you all are slacking this year. Where’s the Gorguts proclamation?

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