For our next year end list, we take a look at some of the best albums this year that unfortunately didn’t get the attention they so rightly deserved – these are the most underrated albums of 2018.
Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
5. Bleed From Within – Era
At this point, Bleed From Within should just find some way to slot the word “underrated” into their name. Few bands in their league have been more in tune with how to make a brand of classic, no-frills metal exciting, and Era is yet another example to add to their ever-growing canon that does it excellently, and whose relatively straight-laced nature has seen it unfortunately passed up on by so many. It mightn’t be reinventing the wheel, but Bleed From Within prove how deeply their knack for making enormous, searing riffs connect runs, and in a way that’s never alienating or dismissive of listeners who just want their metallic assaults to be a fairly simple affair. This is exactly that, arguably this year’s more effective straight-up metal album, and one that’s well worth investing in as soon as possible.
4. Gost – Possessor
Synthwave might have wavered a bit in the standings of underground sub-genres lately, but that hasn’t stopped artists like Perturbator and Carpenter Brut from having some decent success. With Gost, however, this is the sort of serrated, violent slasherwave that could resurrect so much more interest, especially in the metal scene where a lot of that original fascination lied. Indeed, Possessor feels like it belongs there perhaps more than any other release, grounded in blood-curdling horror and harsh, contorted noise in a way that steamrolls over any possible competition, and has gone largely unrecognised especially by the audience that would find so much favour with it. It’s a particularly niche listen, that’s undeniable, but Gost is the sort of artist that could become a relentless underground force with a bit more attention, something that Possessor is more than deserving of.
3. Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit
As mentioned in our Biggest Surprises list, Zeal & Ardor’s Stranger Fruit saw a complete overhaul in Manuel Gagneux’s vision for his fusion of black-metal and traditional black spiritualism, fleshing the whole thing out and allowing it to congeal into a far more satisfying whole compared to the unblended chunks of each on its predecessor Devil Is Fine. And for some reason, it simply hasn’t clicked among the dedicated circles willing to wait for this project to complete its metamorphosis in the way it ultimately has. Maybe it’s the low expectations set by that last album or the overall shadiness and tastelessness that comes from the project’s origins as a dare on 4chan, but Stranger Fruit ultimately moves away from all of that and into realms that marks Gagneux as a genuine visionary within underground music. It certainly feels like the intentions are real this time at the very least, and the sooner more people realise that, the better.
2. Press To MECO – Here’s To The Fatigue
As much as their name has been floating around alongside the more reputable end of Britrock for the past few years, Press To MECO have never really gotten the recognition they deserve, and while that sort of opening hook tends to lead to the revelation of how that’s all changed, Here’s To The Fatigue seems to have similarly gone by with little widespread trace. That certainly shouldn’t be the case as not only is this Press To MECO’s best and most complete body of work to date, but it’s possibly among the best examples of albums this year to balance intelligence with unfettered infectiousness that has no reason not to do enormous things. Really, the math-rock tag is more or less a formality; this is pop-rock at its most joyous, combining laser-crafted, tight-as-all-hell harmonies with dazzling instrumental proficiency in a way that’s made to seem like child’s play. There’s genuinely not a whole lot more to criticise about this one; if only more people would realise that and give Press To MECO the platform they deserve.
1. Pagan – Black Wash
Perhaps not underrated in most traditional sense of the word given the due praise they’ve received for some, but like both Rolo Tomassi and Blood Command before them, Pagan’s opportunity to be picked up as potential crossover masterminds doesn’t seem to have hit the ground running, at least not right away. And when you consider that very few new bands have hit the same heights as this one, it feels all the more unfortunate. That’s because, as Black Wash consistently shows, Pagan have the ideas and knack for some truly gripping rock music that the vast majority of bands can barely even touch on their debut, fusing post-hardcore with black-metal and drenching it all in such a distinctly pop sensibility that it’s virtually impossible not to fall in love with, not to mention packed with the sort of sass and firepower that most acts simply can’t get a hold of for love nor money. It’s the epitome of a debut that does everything it possibly could right, and when Pagan do make start making those waves – which, honestly, they will – that status as an underrated band will be a distant memory.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
5. Bebe Rexha – Expectations
Pop fans entered 2018 knowing Bebe Rexha’s name and voice, but not really who she was as an artist. Debut Expectations is a total left turn from the dance hits and rap songs she’s featured on and known for. Underneath the prominent guitar (both electric and acoustic) leads and sultry urban beats which show off her dynamic voice, this is a surprisingly open record, balancing tales of poor mental health with the relationship-centric lyrics everyone expects from an artist of her ilk. This is a sound that somehow manages to both fit in with and stand out from so much out there right now, and it’s a shame that it seems to have been overlooked this year.
4. Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today
They may have been one of the most influential alternative bands of the 2000s, but it feels like no one really gives Death Cab For Cutie the time of day anymore. Whatever the reason, it can’t be their quality. 2016’s Kintsugi showcased some of their best songs in years, and while this year’s Thank You For Today doesn’t quite reach those heights, it’s still a super solid and warming record from the stalwarts. Ben Gibbard’s voice is instantly calming in any situation, and on this collection of textured slow-builds that Death Cab have been honing for a while now, it’s near enough unbeatable if you’re after a chilled kind of vibe.
3. Trophy Eyes – The American Dream
If you often reside in certain pop punk circles, it has probably felt like you can’t get away from Trophy Eyes. Since the release of their career-defining record Chemical Miracle they’ve felt like ones to watch from the eyes of the press, but they’ve worked their way into many hearts with little support from wide-reaching platforms. The American Dream is the result of upped ambition and honed talent – just one listen to the stellar Friday Forever is evidence enough. This album belongs on this list because it shouldn’t just be confined to those smaller audiences with which they’ve made their name. This is a pop punk band that stands out with the potential to stand among the best who deserve to be playing venues the size of those Neck Deep play, and it’ll be a damn shame if they don’t get there.
2. Rae Morris – Someone Out There
Rae Morris has made one of the best transformations to fully-fledged pop artist this year, but it seems to have criminally flown under everyone’s radar. Her icy singer-songwriter guise of debut Unguarded has thawed with the introduction of electronics to her sound on Someone Out There, and it’s home to some of the best introspective pop of the year. The slow burn of Reborn, the twinkly-eyed warmth of Dancing With Character, the chirpy dance-pop of Atletico (The Only One) – everything you could want in a pop album is here. Morris could maybe do well to streamline her sound more on her next album, but what she’s doing at the moment needs paying attention to.
1. Nervus – Everything Dies
The most rewarding bands to follow are the ones who graft and slowly but surely and truly earn their way to sold out Brixton Academies and charting albums. Nervus are without a doubt a band whose journey is going to go to such great lengths, but while they’re on their way, they have definitely released the most underrated album of 2018. Everything Dies just shows that Nervus have everything the best Britrock bands have but times 100 – searing honesty rooted in complex issues it’s easy to at least empathise with, if not relate to, huge choruses that are made so much better with the knowledge it’s coming straight from the heart, and interesting guitar widdles and licks that separate them from any of their peers. Nervus have promised a huge 2019, and with material like this, you’d be stupid not to believe them.