2018’s Best Metal Songs… So Far
As the year rolls on, it's tough — almost impossible — to stay on top of everything that's coming out in the metal world. Dozens of new releases hit each week and sifting through them all to find the best songs is almost a full-time job in and of itself. No worries: we're doing the heavy (metal) lifting.
Here, you'll find a running tab of the best metal songs 2018 has to offer from legends like Judas Priest all the way to the darkest corners of the underground with varying degrees of extremity. No matter what your metallic preference, there's something here for you.
Check out all of the songs below and take them wherever you go by following our Spotify playlist of 2018's Best Metal Songs... So Far.
The Tomi Joutsen era of Amorphis’ career has been incredibly fruitful and on “The Bee,” the band appears to be taking their next evolutionary step. None of the sounds here are entirely new, but they’re presented in such a fresh fashion that Amorphis sound re-inspired after treading on a fairly similar path for their last handful of albums. This truly kaleidoscopic track plays to the band’s melodic strengths, using one central melody as the focal point from which everything else blossoms.
Even without founding guitarist Anders Björler, At the Gates are soldiering on and sounding as feral as their earlier days. “A Stare Bound in Stone” eschews infectious melodies that are typical of the band, letting the burly rhythm work do the lifting here. The melody is more underlying, making its way into dissonant sustained chords, evoking a nightmarish atmosphere.
‘Grimmest Hits’ is a self-evident title. Black Label Society conjure up some of the best work of their career on their new record, though almost all of the album’s tracks have a dark cloud looming above them, namely “All That Once Shined.” It’s doom ’n’ gloom right from the start and Zakk Wylde lurches with sorrow-filled leads and riffs highly indebted to Father Iommi and the rest of Black Sabbath.
“Condemned to the Gallows” dropped like a damn atom bomb this year, with BTBAM telling fans that their heaviest side was sharpened. The six-minute opener to Automata I is super dynamic, getting into Between the Buried and Me’s celebrated theatrical, progressive and soothing attributes. Just when you thought Paul Waggoner couldn’t keep writing beautiful legato solos, “Condemned” gave fans the eargasm they were searching for.
At the beginning of the year, prog lords Cynic announced their return via a single song and not much word as to what lies ahead, though fans presume a new album is on the horizon. “Humanoid” signals a new era of the band where Paul Masvidal is carrying on without skinsman Sean Reinert, the only drummer that has ever been in the band’s ranks. Put your apprehensions at ease because this is textbook modern day Cynic and a promising preview of what’s to come.
Cardinal Copia has debuted with a bang thanks to Ghost's "Rats" and its dazzling music video. Ghost are proving to be a band that can do no wrong, and "Rats" is another hit from the Swedish act.
No Judas Priest greatest hits compilation would be complete without the inclusion of “Lightning Strike” right alongside all-time classics in “The Hellion/Electric Eye” and “Freewheel Burning.” It demonstrates that age has done nothing to deter Priest from remaining true to their brand, crafting an album that surges with power and artfully highlights their skills as master songwriters with nuanced embellishments bringing out the best in Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Richie Faulkner, Ian Hill and Scott Travis.
Finland reigning melodic death metal lords of the swamp, Kalmah, are back with Palo. The group can always be counted on to deliver a highly infectious cut on each album and this time “Evil Kin” checks off that box. It’s a mid-tempo galloper that breaks free with striding melodies and despite the lyrics being conveyed through guttural growls, it’s still easy to sing along.
For over 20 years, Kamelot have proven that the U.S. can contend with Europe when it comes to power metal. On their 12th album, The Shadow Theory, the band’s technically-minded brand embraces a conceptual theme, and “RavenLight” manages to work in a simple choral hook that places songwriting above prowess in the end.
Close your eyes, hit play on “Shipswreck” and let the rowing rhythms of this Legend of the Seagullmen track take you further out to sea. This song perfectly encapsulates what this band is about with over the top nautical lyrical lore painting a picture of the seafaring wonder held within. “Shipswreck” combines intensity with humor: quirky synth lines give the song a cheeky feel.
Whether or not you recognize the title, we guarantee you’ve heard Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Now take that unsettling organ tone and apply it to extreme metal -- you’ve got “Republic” by Lychgate. The opening cut from The Contagion in Nine Steps sounds like modern chamber music mixed with some Opeth and Paradise Lost, so if you’re into eclectic death metal that’s slightly blackened, check this out.
Al Jorgensen does some of his best work when he lets the energy subside, layering loops and samples over each other at a crawling pace. “Twilight Zone” firmly plants Ministry’s sound in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s and, while the opening minutes may be trying to some listeners, it’s a song that reveals its brilliance as the track continues. Uncle Al even manages to rein in a harmonica lead on “Twilight Zone” as his slice and dice mastery behind the board knows no bounds.
Okay, technically this isn’t a “new” Napalm Death song as it was a leftover from the Apex Predator - Easy Meat sessions in 2014. “Oh So Pseudo” was unveiled this year as part of a new compilation record from Britain’s grind progenitors and, as is the standard, it totally rips. It’s less blast-reliant than most Napalm songs, utilizing battering rhythms and a nice pendular groove to serve as the foundation for Barney Greenway’s asylum-worthy barks.
Necrophobic have always flown a bit under the radar despite their continued level of excellence from album to album. The Mark of the Necrogram highlight is easily “Tsar Bomba,” which draws parallels to Dissection’s affinity for frozen melodies and ominous atmospheres. Gang chants dominate the chorus, an instantly memorable aspect of the song, while the more menacing aspects lie in the galloping rhythms and sinister melodies.
“War Zone” is arguably the most intense track Of Mice & Men have authored. Relentless in its aggression, this Defy track finds the band straying from breakdowns which have a habit of dominating their sound, ripping the throttle with a rhythmic attack that’s thrashier than their prior material. Vocally, Aaron Pauley remains a dual threat with throat-ripping screams and his soaring cleans, restraining from giving the song a sense of relief until the bridge hits.
For over seven minutes, Primordial manage to milk essentially one riff that makes up the Exile Amongst the Ruins track “To Hell or the Hangman” — and it’s awesome. This song is a melodic galloper that provides an epic, urgent feel and a sense of imminent danger which emanates from Alan Averill’s pained voice. Primordial have always approached their writing with a bit of a storyteller vibe and this single-riff tactic works staggeringly well.
Rivers of Nihil embody the term “progressive.” Not content with the typical harsh vs. clean trade offs both musically and vocally, the group expands their sound to include tender saxophone-driven moments on “Where Owls Know My Name” along some psych-tinged passages that texture otherwise bottom-heavy moments of their progressive death metal brand.
Sweden’s Tribulation are the buzz band of the underground and on their fourth album, ‘Down Below,’ they seem poised for a breakout. The album’s opening track, “The Lament,” is their best song to date, establishing the ghastly tone for the record with twisted, eerie melodies lying over rumbling bass lines and beneath the hook-laden gravedust rasp of frontman Johannes Andersson.
They’ve got the look, they’ve got the sound and they’ve got the songs. Visigoth are among the newer crop of bands paying homage to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and American speed metal icons of the ‘80s and “Warrior Queen” seethes with the same spirit. Bouncy riffs, tasteful leads, an old school production and plenty of gang chants define the ‘Conqueror’s Oath’ opener where Visigoth reel you in for the long haul.
Five years removed from the somewhat experimental The Wild Hunt, new age black metal tyrants Watain have reclaimed their more historic sound as evidenced by “Sacred Damnation.” It’s classic black metal through and through, fueled by blast beats and wicked guitar leads with a couple of dramatic, quick-strike pauses in effect to further pummel the listener.
War and the sense of battle and victory is a prevailing theme in heavy metal and White Wizzard use it to their advantage on the classic sounding “Storm the Shores.” You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a lost gem from the early ‘80s, especially with Wyatt “Screaming Demon” Anderson in the band again.