The Best Heavy Metal Albums of the Year

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Heavy metal was widely condemned by critics who asserted it caused crime, violence and despondency – leading to accusations that bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin codified the genre with their signature distorted guitar sounds and dramatic, emotive vocals.

Concurrently, an alternative form of heavy metal called “glam metal” emerged in Los Angeles under the leadership of Eddie Van Halen’s astounding feats of musical prowess – popularly dubbed glam metal.


Korn’s self-titled debut album from Bakersfield, California-based metal band Korn helped establish nu-metal as an entire genre. Their dark lyrics of child abuse, molestation, sexism and drug addiction combined with downtuned guitar sludge and hip-hop influences propelled them into being one of the premier rock acts during the 90s and early 2000s; making their music both heavy yet danceable enough to reach out to young urban audiences who later went on to form bands like Limp Bizkit.

1970 marked an evolution of rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock, hard rock and progressive rock as its boundaries began to blur. Black Sabbath’s third album Masters of Reality demonstrated this trend through its musical prowess and intricate song structures; Wishbone Ash also created waves with their debut LP “Wishbone Ash,” offering up basic yet accessible boogie rock.

Black Sabbath continued their sound development with Paranoid in 1969, moving away from bluesy influences for more flashy riffs and song structure while still maintaining elements of hard rock and funk. Judas Priest released Metal Gods, their debut album which also marked a transition towards more danceable melodies and commercial viability.


Matt Heafy led this Arizona band as it defied expectations by producing powerful anthems that fused technicality and emotional content, such as “Like Light to the Flies”. Their sophomore album Paranoid revealed a band with integrity who were unafraid of expanding upon traditional definitions of heavy metal music.

Ascendancy’s third single from Shogun was more technically-minded than either its predecessors (‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’ or ‘A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation), yet still maintained the aggression and furious purpose that made their debut record so well received. Boasting an aggressive drumbeat accompanied by guitar licks and melodies from various guitar players – its lyrics addressed domestic violence through its impact on children who witness or experience it directly.

Trivium have created one of their standout tracks with this soaring chorus and epic guitar solo track from their 10th album In the Court of the Dragon. It captures their wide-ranging sound perfectly: ironclad guitar fireworks, pummeling rhythms and various musical styles combine in In the Court of the Dragon for an all-encompassing statement that both recalls their past but looks ahead into future; not to mention an extensive tour and headline slot at Download Festival to complete their statement!

Dillinger Escape Plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan creates music that is intense, crushingly metallic and jazz-time signature-invoking: music which will challenge and excite their audiences with their extreme depth and mental challenge. Their music combines precision musicianship, complex structuring and rigorous physical endurance into raw and unfiltered expression that stands apart in this genre. Their music invokes Mahavishnu Orchestra’s mind-wandering spirit while Lethargy and Cynic offer intricate heavy metal while Rush provides progressive hard rock.

In the 1980s, metal bands and their fans were widely seen as contributors to crimes of violence as well as despondency and suicide. But those defending metal noted its lyrics addressed various social ills while its music had always been more diverse and dynamic than many critics had allowed it.

Heavy metal first appeared in Steppenwolf’s 1968 song “Born to Be Wild.” By 1970, bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin had created sounds that were heavier than their blues-influenced predecessors; using downtuned guitar riffs, dark musical styles, and emotive imagery.

Motorhead later explored the line between heavy metal and thrash. Their lead singer Lemmy Kilmister used his raspy voice to portray violent debauchery; their songs often alluded to gambling or other dangerous activities; these themes caused widespread debate; Motorhead was accused of contributing to declining morale among British working classes.

Lamb Of God

Lamb of God are best known for their electrifying live shows. This American groove metal band combine their sinister name and brutal guitar/drum sounds for an incredible experience onstage. Touring extensively since their formation in 1994, this year they will join Trivium and In Flames on an extensive co-headline tour across North America.

This event won’t disappoint! Heavy metal fans or not, this show should not be missed by music enthusiasts of any sort.

The 1970s witnessed several bands that would revolutionize heavy metal for a new generation of listeners. British bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple are credited with popularizing heavy riffs, distorted “power chords”, mystifying lyrics, and vocal styles ranging from Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin wails to Ozzy Osbourne of Iron Maiden shouts that became signature features of heavy metal music.

Thrash metal, an aggressive subgenre of heavy metal music, was made popular by Slayer and Anthrax bands. It featured fast tempo drum beats, shredding guitar riffs, and lyrics inspired by hardcore punk music. Other notable bands of this period were Damageplan, Danzig and Sepultura.


Ghost’s costumes and stage show are pure Dennis Wheatley/Hammer Film Productions silliness, something that would have been accepted four or fifty years ago when Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple were more prevalent. But now in 2018 with bands like Korn, Lamb of God and Motorhead leading the charge this approach no longer fits with our modern society.

Musically, they are an occult rock band with an unholy church aesthetic to both their stage sets and music. Their sound encompasses blues, rock and psychedelic influences with guitar riffs that recall Black Sabbath or KISS while also showing their musical virtuosity.

Mysterious frontman Tobias Forge performs under a mask as Papa Emeritus I-IV, an anathema to Christianity that represents him like an antipope. His band of Nameless Ghouls follows in step with this character; Tobias keeps his identity hidden for three album cycles by altering their appearance for every new release.

Ghost have had an enormous influence in heavy metal music, and their live shows are an unforgettable theatrical spectacle. They’ve played festivals and tours with Metallica; Ghost concerts feature fire, smoke and confetti galore; Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale has even served wine and bread to fans at Ghost shows as one of its “Sisters of Sin.” However, despite Ghost’s often macabre imagery and spiritual themes on their albums – insisted By Forge that they simply were heavy metal band.

Venom Prison

VENOM PRISON are one of metal’s most exciting acts with their socially aware yet artfully destructive approach to extreme music. Their 2016 debut Animus and 2019 follow-up Samsara were met with universal critical acclaim while their electrifying live shows earned widespread fan appreciation. Boasting hardcore influences crafted by frontwoman Larissa Stupar’s perfectly pitched guttural delivery, VENOM PRISON have created their own distinct path through modern brutality.

As participants of the Black Lives Matter movement, the band were drawn to explore questions around racial injustice and its systemic abuses. Their single Judges Of The Underworld strikes out against this violent cycle of imprisonment that disproportionately targets people of colour and those born into poverty.

Venom Prison continues their exploration of religion’s violent legacy, rape culture and mental health on this album through mythological concepts like those found on previous releases – creating an album that is as aggressive and frenetic as usual while also showing greater maturity of intent than before.

Samsara are currently touring around the globe in support of Samsara and have recently released an exclusive vinyl variant on Revolver featuring an emerald green wax with black swirl, limited to 500 copies – you can order yours here.