Hello everyone, here we are again, with episode 2 of my annual top 30 countdown of the best albums released this year. And what a year it has been. I know that I say it every year, but 2018 has produced some truly excellent music across a range of guitar-based subgenres. As the Man of Much Metal, I find this situation to be most pleasing because I’d hate this countdown to be dominated by just one or two styles of metal, be it prog, death, black or thrash. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.
If you’re unfamiliar with my end-of-year series, you can see my countdowns from previous years at the bottom of this post – check them out!
During 2018, I have reviewed more albums than ever, totaling well over 100, having also listened to plenty more. As a one-man website, that’s probably my limit, but I’ll always endeavour to bring you as much as possible. It means that there have been a lot of records to choose from to include in this list and I hope there will be a few surprises to discover along the way.
Admittedly, 2018 has been a year when I have been swayed by the tech/prog/death genre, but that has not been to the detriment of other styles, and you’ll find as we go through this countdown series, that my choices take us in all directions. From extreme metal to lighter soundscapes, there should be something for just about everyone…except those who favour grindcore or any kind of ‘core’ for that matter. I’m a bit behind the curve this year with the former, whilst I’ve never been a fan of the latter.
But anyway, I could go on for hours. Instead, I’ll stop waffling and reveal my pick at number 29…
Score of Much Metal: 9.25
Having said that 2018 has been a great year, there is one subgenre that, in my opinion, has suffered over the past 12 months. And that’s what I term as the ‘classic progressive rock’ genre. Others may disagree, but I’ve not been blown away by much of this kind of music this year. So, it is with joy and relief that I have been able to rely on those perennial favourites, Spock’s Beard.
There have been a few other decent records released, but ‘Noise Floor’, the thirteenth full-length album from the veteran quintet stands head and shoulders above all others in this genre. It doesn’t do anything particularly new or original but that doesn’t matter to me in the slightest because the end result is just incredibly enjoyable. It takes a couple of spins to really make a full impact, as some of the melodies are quite subtle. Others hit me out of the gate immediately and, happily, they still give me the same satisfaction the best part of six months later.
It all means that I couldn’t omit this great record from my countdown and I’m really pleased that once again, Spock’s Beard break into my top 30.
To quote my review of 25th May 2018:
“…what I really enjoy about ‘Noise Floor’ is the way that the music is immediately welcoming; there is a warmth to the compositions as well as a playful exuberance that means that you connect with the songs very quickly despite the high levels of technicality and complexity on offer throughout. In terms of the technicality, this is channelled through the individual performances manifesting themselves in extended solos and instrumental passages rather than being demanding compositionally, although this is a factor at times.
As we’ve come to expect from Spock’s Beard over the years, ‘Noise Floor’ is a remarkably consistent body of work where all of the eight compositions bring something interesting and enjoyable to the table.
If you’re after professionally-crafted, progressive rock that is warm, inviting and with plenty of melody and tight-as-a-drum musicianship, you cannot go wrong with Spock’s Beard. They are the band that keeps on delivering, with ‘Noise Floor’ being their latest gift to a grateful prog world.”
Read the full review here.
If you missed number 30 in my 2018 list, click here:
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:
And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years: