It’s that time of year again and I love a good list! Here’s the records, beers and breweries that summed up my 2018. I’ve also included a few picks for 2019, scroll to the bottom for those hot takes.
2018 was a weird one for me, I spent a lot of time working on my first film which was all about politics within extreme metal, and as a result spent a lot of time listening to super political anarcho punk, crust, grindcore and death metal. So when it came to new releases, a lot of what I wanted to listen to was a world away from that. 2018 seemed to be the year for catchy, metal bangers. Here’s what shaped my year:
10. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest (Nuclear Blast)
I’m the first to admit, I really didn’t get the hype around Behemoth’s last record, 2014’s ’The Satanist’. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid record but I didn’t really click with the press hype around it. This time around however, totally different story. ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ feels a little leftfield for Behemoth. There’s elements of melody that have crept in and gives the music an even more sinister feel to it and the use of children’s choirs really juxtaposes what you’d expect from Behemoth.
9. MØL – Jord (Holy Roar)
Until 2018, it’s fair to say that when you thought of black metal from Denmark, the buck stopped with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. Then MØL appeared with their impressive Holy Roar debut ‘Jord’, which is atmospheric, shoegazing black metal at its best. They take those gentle, ethereal and melodic elements of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine and blend them effortlessly with blast beats, intense riffing and harsh black metal vocals. This is one of the standout records of the black metal/shoegaze style and MØL are certainly up there with the likes of Deafheaven, Alcest and Bosse-De-Nage. They even released an instrumental version of the record too which is equally fantastic!
8. Necrophobic – Mark Of The Necrogram (Century Media)
For a while it felt like Necrophobic wouldn’t quite get things back together again. 2013’s ‘Womb Of Lilith’ was a great record, but as soon as it was released they were blighted with lineup changes and things went quiet for a while. Now with Anders Strokirk back on vocals, and a lineup made up of past members, Necrophobic are back to their blackened best – ‘Mark Of The Necrogram’ is up there with ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ and ‘Darkside’ as one of their best records. Swedish blackened death metal at its best!
7. Hank Von Hell – Egomania (Headbangr)
When Hank Von Hell left Turbonegro, it was a pretty sad time for death punks everywhere. Sure, Tony Sylvester, The Duke Of Nothing, has done an amazing job ever since but there was always this feeling of, “I wonder what Hank’s up to these days”. After a few other projects over the years, he’s finally back and hellbent for Scandinavian leather. It’s everything you could possibly want from a Hank Von Hell record; it’s catchy (‘Bum To Bum’), it’s gauche (‘Pretty Decent Exposure’) and it’s one hell of a ride (‘Wild Boy Blues’). More please!
6. Powerwolf – The Sacrament Of Sin (Napalm Records)
For me, Powerwolf represent all that is great about straight up heavy metal. They’re fun to listen to, they’re entertaining and they’re werewolves from deepest, darkest Romania, I love ‘em! ‘The Sacrament Of Sin’ is one of their strongest records to date and sets the bar for what a modern power metal band can achieve. Sure, they’re a bit gimmick-y but that’s the fun of it and the songs hold up. One of few bands I’ve seen this year that just put a massive smile on my face the entire way through their set, so much fun to watch!
5. Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse Records)
“If you pass me a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I’ll kick your hipster ass!”
Members of Infest, Spazz, Crom and Despise You (to name but a few) flip macro swill the finger over the course of 21 d-beat, crust and powerviolence rippers. Of course this is one of my favourite albums of 2018! I could harp on about this record at length but I’ve already done that once already, you can check that out here.
4. Dimmu Borgir – Eonian (Nuclear Blast)
Hard to believe it’s been 8 years since Dimmu put out ‘ABRAHADABRA’, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. ‘Eonian’ is probably the grandest record Dimmu have made to date. It sounds huge! The amount of orchestration and choral parts integrated into their sound is stunning and some of the more black metal aspects of the album hark back to ‘Death Cult Armageddon’. This album is home to some of Dimmu’s most adventurous material yet, with ‘Interdimensional Summit’ and ‘Ætheric’ being two of the standout tracks. Keen to see how this record would work live.
3. Judas Priest – Firepower (Epic)
Priest need no introduction, they’re the best heavy metal band of all time. Since their comeback in the early 2000’s they’ve been creating new material consistently and really seem keen not to rest on their past laurels. With ‘Firepower’, they’re firing on all cylinders, this is one hell of a heavy metal record and easily the best thing Priest have done since Rob Halford re-joined the band. It’s jam-packed with killer riffs, there really isn’t a dull moment and Halford’s voice sounds incredible. ‘Firepower’ is easily up there with ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ and ‘British Steel’.
2. Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (No Quarter)
Always been a big fan of industrial and heavy electronic music but hearing Carpenter Brut for the first time was a game changer and opened my eyes to the whole synthwave genre. The album is essentially the soundtrack to a fictional film, about a shy teenager who will do anything to win over the girl so becomes the singer of mid-80’s Judas Priest-esque glam-metallers Leather Patrol. Standout track of course has to be ‘Beware The Beast’, featuring Grave Pleasures/Hexvessel vocalist Mat McNerney. To be honest, if Mat fronted Carpenter Brut on a permanent basis that’d be incredible. Again, seeing this whole package replicated in a live setting with the visuals that tell this elaborate story of Leather Patrol was amazing and like no other gig I’ve ever been to. In short: synths, dystopian/slasher films and their scores, 80’s Satanic Panic and Rob Halford worship all rolled into one audio/visual feast
1. Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista Recordings)
Not really sure where to begin with this album. Ghost have been of my favourite bands for quite a few years now. I love the way the band and the songwriting evolves with each record, yet everything is still wrapped up in this occult mythos. ‘Prequelle’ takes things up to the next level, from the very first listen it was clear that this was an album chock full of hits, arena filling sing-alongs like ‘Rats’ and ‘Dance Macabre’ and let’s not forget THAT saxophone solo on ‘Miasma’ as well. Seeing the album come to life at London’s Royal Albert Hall was absolutely incredible as well, it was like a lavish occult rock opera. For me it was that show that really cemented this as my favourite album of 2018. A career defining record without a doubt.
Vein – Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities)
This was a total curveball of a record when I first heard it. Sounds like Slipknot meets Deadguy meets The Bezerker. I’ve still not recovered from that first listen.
Monster Magnet – Mindfucker (Napalm Records)
Sometimes all you want in life is an inter-dimensional riff extravaganza. In Monster Magnet we trust.
Venom – Storm The Gates (Spinefarm)
Trust Cronos to release a Venom album the week before Christmas! Nastiest sounding Venom album in a long time, ‘Dark Night (Of The Soul)’ is probably the best thing they’ve done in years!
Here’s a playlist with my favourite tracks from each release for your listening pleasure.
I managed to work my way through over 500 different beers in 2018, so there was a lot to choose from! This list is in no particular order, these are just 10 beers that I loved over the course of 2018.
Donzoko – Northern Helles (Unfilitered Helles Lager) 4.2%
I always love a good go to beer, something you can trust whenever you see it on tap. 2018 seemed to be the year of the lager and this crisp, smashable Helles has been my consistent go to beer since I first had it back in January 2018.
Wander Beyond – La Adelita (Mexican Cake Imperial Stout) 11%
Had this on cask at the start of the year and it was absolutely amazing! Surprisingly really quaffable given its strength and host of flavours. Oh and did I mention it was on CASK! Amazing stuff!
Founders – Canadian Breakfast Stout (2017) 11.7%
Given the hype around CBS, felt right to save this one for a special occasion. After handing in my Master’s degree dissertation this seemed like an appropriate beer to have. What a beer it was! Certainly lived up to the hype and was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Tempel Brygghus – Perdition (Sour Raspberry Stout) 8.3%
I found a bottle of this in the fridges of a CAMRA festival. The last place I’d expect to find a bottle from an esoteric Swedish brewery was at a CAMRA festival! The sourness from the Raspberries gave this a really refreshing sharp edge. More on Tempel later.
Tiny Rebel – Cheeky V (Vimto Sour) 4%
I bloody love Vimto, so when Tiny Rebel said they were doing a Vimmie sour, I just had to try it. Amazingly they managed to replicate the flavour as well, couldn’t believe it! Shlurple the purple.
Brew York / Magic Rock – Vulgar Display Of Sour (Sour IPA) 8%
I’m a sucker for a beer named after a Pantera song. This is the kind of sour that stings behind the eyes overtime you have a sip. To top it off, it was loaded with Simcoe, Centennial and Ekuanot cryo hops to give it a juicy hit as well. Super sharp.
Torrside – Mosaic (US Single Hopped Pale) 4.8%
Sometimes the simple things are what sticks with you. This was the best, chewiest, mosaic pale I’ve had in a very long time! Also helps that it was the first beer after mashing in on a brew day at Torrside, hard work never tasted so good!
Little Earth Project – Whiskey Barrel Rhubarb Saision (BA Saison) 6.7%
I love everything that Little Earth Project are about, especially their commitments to sustainability and using home grown and foraged ingredients. This was a belter, a cracking farmhouse saison aged in whisky barrels with rhubarb added to the barrel. Sharp and refreshing.
Buxton / To Øl – Viciously Viscous (Brandy BA Barleywine) 10.4%
A long boiled barley wine aged in Brandy barrels. BEAST MODE. Had this up at the Buxton Tap House on my last visit. It’d spent a few years in the bottle and that did it wonders. You could smell the brandy a mile off as soon as you opened it. Stunning beer.
Northern Monk / Cloudwater / Track / Marble / Blackjack / Runaway – Don’t Mess With Manchester (Pale Ale) 4.5%
If you’re going to open a bar in Manchester, might as well get all the best Manchester brewers round to knock up a classic. Brewed for Northern Monk’s Manchester bar opening this is a classic Manc pale with bucketloads of all my favourite hops. Belter!
Again, no particular order here, but these are 10 breweries who best summed up my 2018. The main takeaway from 2018 for me was that good people tend to be the ones that make good beer.
I’ve been in a lucky position where I’ve been able to champion Reece and his beers in my day job as a bar manager, as well as shouting about how good his beers are as a drinker. What started as an outlet for proper Germanic beers with a modern twist has evolved into some of the best modern beers in the UK. 2019 is going to be a big year for Donzoko.
Fresh from celebrating their first birthday, Wander Beyond have come a long way from the early, experimental days of Dan’s Brewery. For the last 12 months, Dan, Tina and Matt have been knocking out incredible and consistent beer packaged with top notch visuals. Also helps that they’re the nicest folks too. If you’ve somehow not had a Wander Beyond beer yet, you need to rectify that immediately.
2018 was the year I realised that breweries are all about the people. Sure, beer is ace and there’s plenty of breweries making great beer but the ones that you can really latch onto and get to know the folks behind it are the best. None are more ace than Kelly, Bob and Sam at Bristol’s Good Chemistry. They’re the nicest people to deal with from a business point of view, they’ve a lot of time for mad requests like doing elaborate interviews about collabing with Holy Roar and to top it off they knock out some tremendous modern beer. Their block coloured pump clips also give me life.
Uppsala in Sweden is well known for being home to the likes of Watain and In Solitude who carved their own paths in the metal world, and Tempel Brygghus are carving their own path in the brewing scene. These guys are up there with the likes of Wild Beer and TRVE as far as I’m concerned, making interesting, often esoteric, small batch beer. Hoping to try more of their beer in 2019. Uppsala metal of death!
Hands down my favourite US brewery. These guys from Houston, Texas go from strength to strength every year. Their stouts are like Texas crude, so thick and booze but so delicious. Thanks to my globe-trotting pal Texas Mike, I’m in the fortunate position of being able to get hold of the likes of Hammer Smashed Face, Firewalker, Milk The Venom and more without having to cross the pond. Hero!
What can I say about Buxton, as breweries go they are absolutely world class. There’s no one else I can think of that makes beer like they do. From the Buxton classics to the newer modern styles and of course their entire catalogue of beers with Omnipollo, they can do no wrong! To top it off their tap house is incredible and always worth the pilgrimage. I’ve never had a duff beer from them and long may that continue.
Across the way from the Swizzels sweet factory in New Mills you’ll find another trio of top folks, the UK lords of smoked beer, Torrside. I love a good smoked beer, nothing more satisfying than something that tastes like your drinking a beer through a straw made of smoked cheese. As if they weren’t doing enough to champion smoked beer by brewing some of the most interesting beers (or in their own words, unfashionable and unseasonal) in the North of England, they only went and held a fully fledged smoked beer fest at their brewery. They can also knock out a banging old school West Coast IPA when they want to as well.
I feel like over theist few years it’s been a bit difficult to get hold of Founders beers in the UK. Might just be me, but there was a while where they didn’t seem to be in bottle shops or on tap as often. Which was a shame as they were one of those OG American craft beers that turned me onto a lot of styles when I first really got into beer. Thankfully that dry spell seems to be over, and their higher ABV and barrel aged range has really dominated my beer shelf at home this year. I’m drinking their DKML as I type this in fact. Top notch stuff!
I’ve reached that point now where if I see a Het Uiltje beer on tap, I’ll have it regardless. If I see bottles available, I’m buying them. There’s just something about that elusive Dutch owl. Their Apfelstrudel Doppelbock was one of the most interesting beers I tried this year. Still no idea how you pronounce Het Uiltje mind.
Manchester has RateBeer big dogs like Cloudwater and craft OGs like Marble, but there’s also a wealth of smaller breweries knocking it out of the park, without the same level of hype or recognition. Top of the pile is Track. These guys are making some absolutely world class beer at the moment and just keep getting better and better with every release. I’d expect them to make all your favourite beers in 2019.
Mount Saint Bernard Abbey
I’d been looking forward to trying Tynt Meadow for quite a while and it didn’t disappoint. This is the first UK Trappist beer, brewed at Mount Sant Bernard Abbey. It tasted like a classic English strong ale, and certainly showed a lot of promise. If you’ve not managed to have a bottle yet, it’s well worth seeking out. I reckon as their practices and techniques improve and become more refined, this could be a renowned Trappist ale.
2019 HOT TAKES
Here’s a trio of tip offs for 2019.
BAND: Canyon Of The Crescent Moon
They’re still looking for a label but keep an eye out for Canyon Of The Crescent Moon, an Indiana Jones themed sludge band featuring members of Lumbar, Bible Black Tyrant, The Bearer, Ramprasad. Choose wisely!
BEER: The Return Of Black IPAs
I love a good Black IPA and I pine for the halcyon days of 2015 when they seemed to be all over the place. Noticed a few brewers going in for the Black IPA once again at the back end of this year, so I’m holding out for their imminent comeback in 2019.
BREWERY: Leviathan Brewing Co
As far as I’m aware, Leviathan are a nano brewer based out of Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham making small batch, heavy metal beers. I’ve not managed to try any of their beers as yet but I’ve been keeping an eye on them on social media and am keen to hunt some down. I like their branding a lot, and their beer flavours sound pretty exciting but my interest was well and truly piqued when I saw they’d done a beer named after Napalm Death’s ‘Multinational Corporations’’. Definitely one to watch in 2019. Give them a follow on Twitter @LeviathanBrewCo.