Once again it has been a year of ups and downs but one thing that has been a constant; a reliable stream of unbelievable music that has, at times, overwhelmed us. From standout returns to outstanding debuts and more, there have been truly incredible albums released in 2018. Now as the end of the year approaches, it’s inevitably time to reveal our ‘Record of the Year’ list.

When it comes to end of year lists, everyone is always going to have their opinions. While some have put together extensive lists, here at Already Heard have whittled down our favourite albums down to 10.

We feel the following 10 records define a magnificent year for everything that falls under the umbrella of rock, metal, and punk.

10. Architects – Holy Hell

As a community, the return of Architects following a two year period of devastation capable of tearing any band apart was something we waited for with bated breath. As soon as we heard that chorus during ‘Hereafter’, we knew the Brighton five-piece was here to stay, not even allowing death to stand in their way.

Their eighth album ‘Holy Hell’ was always going to have an additional emotional density as the record that followed the passing of Tom Searle. But accrediting it for that reason alone would be a gross understatement of its ambitious craft. Featuring longtime friend and Sylosis frontman Josh Middleton becoming a full-time Architect for ‘Holy Hell’, the band’s tightness as a unit reflects in their towering metalcore grooves and technical flourishes. Topped by Sam Carter’s strong-willed vocal performance and immersive keyboard and orchestral backing sections, the record is as carefully created as it is an outlet of raw energy.

‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ may be Architects’ magnum opus, but ‘Holy Hell’ is a record that lets them elevate as a band without compromising the sound that put them here in the first place, while being able to grieve the man that brought them here. “If hope is a prison, then maybe fate will set me free”, Sam sings on ‘Damation’. This album is surely living proof. (AD)

Photo Credit: Corinne Schiavone

9. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

After the runaway success and critical acclaim of ‘Sunbather’ and its criminally over-shadowed follow-up ‘New Bermuda’, Deafheaven have become the premier powerhouse of the “blackgaze” scene. Defined by their unconventional blend of genres, they’ve pushed the envelope of black metal’s bleak darkness, shoegaze’s emotional bliss and the intense ascents of post-rock.

‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ catches the band redefining their boundaries, sounding artistically invigorated as they appropriate massive guitar solos, post-punk vocals and ambitious crescendos to achieve an even more diverse sound. Additionally, ‘Canary Yellow’ deserves to go down as some of the best song-writing in metal this century. One of the few tracks that clock in over 10 minutes, it’s a huge journey through bruising blast-beats and screamed fury, before diving into a prog-y, powerful finale.

‘Honeycomb’ features one of the most epic solos of the year, a sudden but incredible bit of guitar work that throttles its energy even further. ‘Glint’ is a highlight reel of a track, a masterclass in black metal instrumentals that never fails to relent. ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’ is not the sound of Deafheaven proving themselves to anyone, but rather the sound of them embracing their influences and reminding us that they’re much more than a blip on the Metacritic radar. (SS)

Spanish Love Songs8. Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz

Considerably one of the best punk rock records of the year, Spanish Love Songs‘Schmaltz’ ticks all the right boxes when it comes to delivering heartfelt, fist-in-the-air moments covered in lyrical sincerity.

At its core is the personal narrative of frontman Dylan Slocum as he comes to terms with life in a struggling band, dealing with mental health issues, departed friends and a divorce. His thoroughly vulnerable, honest and raw lyrics counter the musical defiance on offer. From start to finish, ‘Schmaltz’ thrives in repeatedly providing anthemic moments such as ‘Buffalo Buffalo’, ‘The Boy Considers His Haircut’, ‘Sequels, Remakes, and Adaptations’, and ‘Joana, In Five Acts’.

As seen on their recent debut UK tour, Slocum’s lyrics and Spanish Love Songs‘ brand of cathartic punk has clearly resonated with listeners, finding a connection in his disenchanted words. Its context might not be the most uplifting yet ‘Schmaltz’ has proved its worth by being embraced by listeners on both sides of the Atlantic. (SR)

7. Drug Church – Cheer

Patrick Kindlon has a habit for turning genres on their head. His take on post-rock-tinged post-hardcore on this year’s Self Defense Family record is a testament to that, but it’s his efforts on Drug Church’s ‘Cheer’ that have caught the brunt of praise.

Weaving a disillusioned and hopeless protest narrative through ten tracks, ‘Cheer’ takes Drug Church in a new direction. Their usual brand of chaotic hardcore-punk instrumentation and train of thought lyricism has been taken over by something far more controlled. There are smatterings of the post-grunge on ‘Weed Pin’ and ‘Tillary’, and traces of pop on tracks like ‘Grubby’ and ‘Avoidarama’.

Stuffed to the brow with experimentation and snarky witticisms, ‘Cheer’ was a great success for the band this year, wowing old fans and drawing in the new. (BM)

Rolo Tomassi6. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It

Thirteen years and five albums in, Rolo Tomassi show no signs of slowing down. In fact, ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ is the sound of Eva Spence and the gang pushing the accelerator to the floor. Don’t let the ethereal atmosphere of opener ‘Aftermath’ fool you, this is them at their heaviest and most primal we’ve seen them yet.

But it’s much more than your run-of-the-mill hardcore album, it’s a carefully crafted project that cements them as some of the best songwriters in the game. See ‘Rituals’ and its efficient, scathing meld of diabolic riffs and grating blast beats to catch them at their most brutal, or wade through the synth-laden ambition on ‘A Flood of Light’ for some of the most transcendental metal released this year.

Every moment feels perfectly put together, conceptually tight and absolutely delicious to listen to. Every listen is rewarding, it’s rich with creativity and genuinely powerful music. From the huge guitars to the evocative lyricism, this really does feel like Rolo Tomassi’s best work to date. And brilliantly, it feels like they’ve still got plenty to say in the future. (SS)

Photo Credit: Jimm Fontaine

5. Turnstile – Time & Space

As their first release on a major label, there was a lot of pressure on Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile to produce. Thankfully they didn’t disappoint with ‘Time & Space’. With its blend of the ferocious fast-paced, throwback hardcore, Turnstile fans have come to love, mixed in with a more palatable variation of that sound.

The record barely clocks in at 25 minutes, yet urgency and energy are what Turnstile is all about and it appeals to the audience this record is designed for. Even if their sound is embedded in the world of moshpits, this record takes influences soul and blues and somehow makes them work to create some unexpected upbeat grooves throughout.

It may not consist of songs that are going to be breaking the charts, but Turnstile produced an album which, has not only put them on the map but has allowed hardcore as a genre to grow and given access to that type of music to a lot more people. (TB)

Photo Credit: Tatjana Rüegsegger

4. Idles – Joy As An Act Of Resistance

When you watch a great band go from playing in a basement to twenty people to causing carnage in front of a thousand punters in the space of a year and a half, it’s a special feeling. And in 2018, Bristol five-piece Idles made that leap after non-stop touring across the world, and an album with a message that resonated with those same thousands on ‘Joy As an Act of Resistance’.

On a surface level ‘JAAAOR’ is a positive record, but it would be too easy to write it off as just that. It’s a record that comes from a lifetime of sadness, repulsion towards your small town’s Young Team, the fear not living up to expectations of what it means to be a man, and the dismay of watching your home country vote to restrict business ties with Europe for the sake of national pride. And it’s a record that realises the only way to combat these threats is to band together to spread that positivity and self-love.

The most rewarding part is that ‘Joy As an Act of Resistance’ doesn’t even take itself that seriously as a political statement. There’s a buoyancy to most of these tracks that just sounds like the by-product of a group of friends having fun playing music together. It just happens that the fun they had in the studio spread across the nation and beyond, and now Idles have gone from playing to twenty people to becoming one of the most important bands in modern punk. That’s the real will of the people. (AD)

3. Conjurer – Mire

Words like “groundbreaking”, “modern classic” or “stunning” don’t get bandied about that often, especially when it comes to debut albums; but nine months on and the hyperbole that greeted Conjurer‘s ‘Mire’ has proved to be well founded. Their magnificent, three-years-in-the-making, seven-track masterclass in extreme metal stands up as one of the most monumental releases of 2018.

It is the sheer quality of the songwriting that makes ‘Mire’ such a fantastic monolithic feast. Whether it is the post-thrash sound of the doom-laden ‘Choke’, the stunning progressions of the enormous ‘Thankless’ or the sprawling drama of the triumphant ‘Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash’, it is brilliant track after brilliant track. Every song possesses a superb sense of timing and a seemingly innate knowledge of when to hold back or when to embark on furious hellfire. The ease with which they switch through the gears from eerily atmospheric, through slow-boiling, heavy pounding riffs, up to all-out attack shows a finesse few bands of their ilk possess.

Make no bones about it, Conjurer are a class act and ‘Mire’ is a staggering accomplishment; the only problem they have now is how to follow it. (EL)

Photo Credit: Ben Gibson

2. Black Peaks – All That Divides

When you listen to Black Peaks, or watch them live for that matter, you get the sense that they operate as the sum of all their parts. No egos dominate their group’s construct, no one craves attention more than others. And as a unit, they released one of the most immersive alt-metal records of the year with ‘All That Divides’.

Their unique craft of progressive metal that appeals as much to Mastodon and Tool fans, as it does to someone used to throwing down to While She Sleeps and letlive., is the constant push-and-pull factor of ‘All That Divides’ songwriting. Graceful passages of ascending lead guitar and cinematic grandeur can erupt into dizzying blasts of hardcore urgency, complete with blast beats and catastrophic fistfuls of distortion with no prior warning, and it never feels out of place.

In Will Gardner, Black Peaks have a frontman who encompasses the entire emotional spectrum of ‘All That Divides’ as it requires. Reserved and timid and points, roaring and confrontational at others, and always able to deliver rousing choruses with a real sense of triumph. It’s one of the many qualities that makes ‘All That Divides’ such an unpredictable force of alternative metal. (AD)

1. Palm Reader – Braille

Palm Reader have been consistently underrated, where, we believe, this record of mighty significance has cemented them as unarguable worthy toppers for our 2018 album list. Back in April, their third LP ‘Braille’ was released, where the work demonstrates the outfit’s progression whilst solidifying their potent influence in UK hardcore.

‘Braille’ begins with the juddering thrashings of ‘Swarm’ and ‘Internal War’, where from then on, the 10-tracker voyages into ever-so-delicate pieces whilst remaining in dominating territory. The LP works on both the foundations of traditional hardcore structure, yet displays an originality synonymous to Palm Reader. Thematically, ‘Braille’ has an impassioned message of hope, where affecting pieces ‘Dorothy’ and ‘Clockwork’ demonstrate Reader’s intensity away from guttural riffs.

This album is packed with ambition, where the Nottingham-based outfit have prevailed in creating a discography which has brought their full potential into fruition. Palm Reader’s status in hardcore has been effervescent, where now, they have graduated into frontrunners of the scene. Sealing off the year with playing the album in full at Boston Music Rooms, ‘Braille’ is a piece that is deserving of monumental applause. (FRJ)

Congratulations to Palm Reader for being voted Already Heard’s ‘Record of the Year’. On hearing the news, the band passed on the following message.

“The reaction to ‘Braille’ has been incredible and we can’t thank everyone enough for their ongoing support. Special thanks go to Lewis (and Olive) for helping us to bring the songs to life, Public City for pushing us and to Silent Cult for all of their support and getting the record out there. We are very proud of this record, so to watch it become an album that people are so passionate about continues to fill us with pride. There were plenty of other releases you could’ve chosen for the #1 spot (please be sure to check out the new albums from Bleed From Within, Rolo Tomassi, Black Peaks, Conjurer and Will Haven to mention a few!), so thank you!” 

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Words by Sêan Reid (SR), Andrew Davidson (AD), Ffion Riordan-Jones (FRJ), Edward Layland (EL), Sam Seaton (SS) and Ben Mills (BM).

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