An eclectic and intriguing year for heavy music has come to an end, and it’s time to look back at the songs that stood out in 2018.
We recently posted our picks for the Top 25 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of 2018, and now we’re singling out the individual songs that struck a chord with us over the past 12 months.
From mainstream rock and extreme metal to experimental noise and a new wave of hardcore, and beyond, 2018 marked a breakthrough year for many young acts while a few veteran bands released their finest works in years.
[See Also: Top 25 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2018]
It was tough narrowing down the list to 30 songs, as a number of solid tracks were painfully excluded, but with that said, here is the Heavy Consequence staff list of the Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Songs of 2018.
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence
30. Dead Now – “Powershapes”
Sounds Like: A futuristic musical journey powered by sludgy riffing in the style of Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore.
Key Lyric: “Dark dreams they take so long to shake, erase a picture and another stays/ I’ve searched for all the ways to say, think I found a way”
Why It Matters: Whether you call it stoner rock, sludge metal, or whatever else, Dead Now are definitely a band to keep an eye on. Former Torche member Andrew Elstner fronts a trio that worships classic ’70s metal like Sabbath and Deep Purple all through a sound that’s thoroughly modern, as evidenced on the ethereal yet heavy “Powershapes”. —Spencer Kaufman
29. Beartooth – “Disease”
Sounds Like: Modern hard rock that hits you in the gut.
Key Lyric: “Stuck at the surface/ Not making progress/ Falling apart/ Well I’m trying my hardest”
Why It Matters: “Disease” provides an anthem for those struggling in a time when mental health issues and addiction are at the forefront of our society. While radio ready, the song takes the listener into a dark place lyrically, as Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo is not afraid to share his personal pain. —Spencer Kaufman
28. Dimmu Borgir – “I Am Sovereign”
Sounds Like: An occult army marching to war while seeking a greater understanding of reality and eternity.
Key Lyric: “Knowing when to end a journey/ Is to recognize where it begins/ What we really seek is not here/ But on the other side of fear”
Why It Matters: Dimmu Borgir’s first album in eight years is a monument of symphonic black metal, and this song might be its most epic. Masterful melodies, a shifting song structure, and plenty of head-banging opportunities make “I Am Sovereign” beautifully brutal. —Scott Morrow
27. Tremonti – “Bringer of War”
A Dying Machine
Sounds Like: A tumultuous roller-coaster ride that leaves you gasping for air at the end — and wanting to go for a second ride.
Key Lyric: “Draw a line painted with blood in the sand/ The only war we could never lose is at hand”
Why It Matters: Tremonti’s latest disc, A Dying Machine, is a concept album that tells the tale of the turn of the next century where humans and fabricated creatures, “vessels,” are trying to co-exist. Opening track “Bringer of War” paints the picture of the war unfolding ahead, with pummeling drums and Mark Tremonti’s stronger-than-ever vocals. —Anne Erickson
26. At the Gates – “Daggers of Black Haze”
To Drink from the Night Itself
Sounds Like: The closing credits of a bad-ass new Dracula movie.
Key Lyric: “The anesthesia of repetition/ Let monotony and isolation reign/ Will our persistence fade like daggers?/ (Daggers) daggers of black haze”
Why It Matters: “Daggers of Black Haze” is a microcosm of To Drink from the Night Itself, which is the most melodic At the Gates record since Slaughter of the Soul. Its orchestral accents perfectly set up the hook-filled heaviness that follows. —Scott Morrow
25. Greta Van Fleet — “Age of Man”
Anthem of the Peaceful Army
Sounds Like: An epic journey of self-realization that offers hope in a time of darkness.
Key Lyric: “Beauty lives in every soul/ The more you love the more you know/ They pass the torch and it still burns/ Once children then, it’s now our turn”
Why It Matters: The easy thing to do is dismiss Greta Van Fleet as a Led Zeppelin sound-alike, but a deeper dive into the music shows intricacies and layers to their sound that extend well beyond the young members’ years. “Age of Man” is the strongest song on the band’s debut album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, opening the disc in grand fashion. —Spencer Kaufman
24. Parkway Drive – “The Void”
Sounds Like: A fist-pumping anthem that takes the listener into a world of pain.
Key Lyric: “Answer no master, never the slave/ Carry your dreams down into the grave/ Every heart, like every soul, equal to break”
Why It Matters: Parkway Drive have evolved from their early metalcore sound, offering up a a more radio-ready sound that still retains the power of their past works. “The Void” and the rest of the band’s Reverence album provide a statement that the Australian act is ready to take their music to new heights. —Spencer Kaufman
23. Ministry – “Victims of a Clown”
Sounds Like: A literal breathing exercise to fall back on as the US political landscape goes up in a blaze.
Key Lyric: “Wake up/ Take it in/ Exhale/ Repeat/ Fire up/ Freak out/ Let it go … Remember to exhale”
Why It Matters: Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen is mostly known for his outsized persona and production chops, but behind the carnival-barker/studio-rat image he’s always been just as dedicated to the art of crafting songs and guitar riffs. “Victims of a Clown” balances the slinky, dance-tinged metal of latter-day Ministry with the spartan proto-thrash of the band’s groundbreaking industrial output from the ‘80s. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
22. Sevendust – “Dirty”
All I See Is War
Sounds Like: Ruling the dance floor on a Saturday night at a club that bangs only hard rock and heavy metal. (Side note: Why can’t there be a place like that near me?)
Key Lyric: “What makes us human / Becomes a ghost / I can barely breathe in (all I see is war)”
Why It Matters: “All I see is war” is not only a lyric in Sevendust’s “Dirty”, it’s also the name of the band’s latest album. “Dirty” sets the listener up for this hard-hidding concoction from the Atlanta metallers, which is classic Sevendust — brutally intense instrumentals and Lajon “LJ” Witherspoon’s crystal-clear vocals. —Anne Erickson
21. Sleep – “Marijuanaut’s Theme”
Sounds Like: The ideal test case for anyone who has spent the better part of their lives doing nothing but listening to crackly Black Sabbath between vape hits.
Key Lyric: “Through the hashertoid fields/ A transmission yields/ Now riff beacon signal is received”
Why It Matters: From the opening sounds of a bong rip to the monstrous stomp of its closing moments, this is Sleep encapsulated. The six-plus minutes are the template for every stoner rocker or doom metal band to follow from here until eternity. The Iommi references and Matt Pike’s lawn-torching guitar solo are the icing on this weed brownie. —Robert Ham
20. Slipknot, “All Out Life”
Sounds Like: A jackhammer that pummels you in the chest.
Key Lyric: “Drop that shit and put it on a pedestal/ Children are afraid of the gods/ Raise your hands and show me what’s impossible/ That makes us even, never tell me the odds”
Why Song Matters: “All Out Life” is the first taste of Slipknot’s as-yet-untitled 2019 album, providing evidence that after 20 years, the masked marauders are not slowing down. The song serves as a rallying cry to not pit old verses new, and to instead embrace items of value over mediocrity, no matter when they first surfaced. —Spencer Kaufman
19. KEN Mode – “Not Soulmates”
Sounds Like: Agitation ricocheting inside your head like a swarm of frenzied hornets.
Key Lyric: “I’ll repeat myself like some redundant iconoclast/ Inconvenienced by your kindness”
Why It Matters: Few bands have been able to balance frustration and conscience on par with KEN Mode, who continue to illuminate why the path for any thinking person is so often fraught with anger. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
18. Halestorm – “Killing Ourselves to Live”
Sounds Like: The final bloody battle at the end of The Wild Bunch.
Key Lyric: “Here we are/ We’re going down with this ship/ And if this is our last trip/ At least we’ll go together”
Why It Matters: Defiance needs a soundtrack. Sports teams need that song that can pump them up before the final game of a playoff series where the odds are stacked against them. That’s where the anthemic centerpiece of Halestorm’s latest album comes in: The band treats this song like a last shot, as if Lzzy Hale and company are going out guns blazing. —Robert Ham
17. The Ocean – “Devonian: Nascent”
Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
Sounds Like: Geological time scaled down to fit into an 11-minute prog-metal opus.
Key Lyric: “The song that remains unsung/ A chain around my neck/ Thrusting on my back/ This violent storm ahead/ Of time never spent/ Nascent”
Why It Matters: The Ocean are no strangers to epic song structures, but they outdo themselves here by using patience to sublime effect as “Devonian: Nascent” builds to monumental peaks and valleys befitting of a band that named itself after something as incomprehensibly vast as the ocean. Throw in guest vocals from Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse and the result is a progressively-minded opus.–Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
16. Bring Me the Horizon – “Mantra”
Sounds Like: The present and future of rock music, equal parts heavy and catchy.
Key Lyric: “Could I have your attention, please/ It’s time to tap into your tragedy/ Think you could use a new abuser/ Close your eyes and listen carefully”
Why It Matters: Bring Me the Horizon sound nothing like their early deathcore selves, now embracing pop sensibilities and releasing infectious rock songs that you can dance to and bang your head to at the same time. “Mantra”, the first single from the band’s 2019 album, amo, exposes cults for their predatory practices, with frontman Oli Sykes serving as ringleader. —Spencer Kaufman