This has been another amazing year for indie and heavy music, especially female-fronted heavy music. I think we’re in a golden age right now, it’s almost too much of a good thing! There are so many worthy albums that could have easily made this list. But I needed a way of paring it down, so this is not a “best of” list, because what’s ‘best’ anyway? Rather it’s a baker’s dozen of albums that came out in 2018 that I couldn’t get enough of.
Side note – this is also the first year I found more new music through Bandcamp than through Twitter and YouTube. Bandcamp is starting to become a great place to not only sell but to discover indie music. If you haven’t signed up for a Bandcamp fan account, I highly recommend it. The app is great, I stream and/or buy music with it daily. Here’s my collection.
Without further ado, in almost no particular order, here are my favorite albums of 2018. Some you may know, some you are about to discover!
ASG – Survive Sunrise
Who would have guessed ASG would still be around, quietly putting out loud albums after all this time? I found them on MySpace way back in the day, and they’re not only still around, but killing it with their most recent release, Survive Sunrise. Alll killer, no filler, heavy guitar rock with some great grooves and really excellent songwriting.
Standout tracks: Lightning Song, Heavy Scars
Freedom Hawk – Beast Remains
This groovy record from Virginia Beach’s Freedom Hawk will have your head bopping in about 5 seconds, try it and see for yourself. I had Beast Remains on repeat for weeks after it came out, it’s not only a fun foot-tapping listen, it’s oddly positive and life affirming. What other hard rock band writes such great songs about staring out at the ocean?
Standout tracks: Solid Gold, Darkness and Light, Coming After You
The Watchers – Black Abyss
The full length debut by Bay Area supergroup The Watchers fits right in with the best of classic heavy metal like Ozzy and Judas Priest. Throwback metal with a modern feel? Modern metal with a throwback feel? Either way, you have to get it in your ears. Black Abyss was mixed by legendary Max Norman, this is a must have for your metal collection.
Standout tracks: Buzzard, Seven Tenets
Nekromant – Nekromant Lives
Nekromant Lives sounds like it was an overlooked 70s early metal classic. Great heavy early metal vibe, not at all what you might expect from a Swedish power trio. Fans of Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden will dig this. A worthy top album of 2018.
Standout tracks: The Nekromant Lives, Eye in the Sky, Blood for Walpurgis
Fire Down Below – Hymn of the Cosmic Man
Last year, Fire Down Below’s debut Viper Vixen Goddess Saint was my far and away favorite album of the year. I was so excited for this one I couldn’t help but be let down a bit… at first. Then I gave it another listen or two. And a few more. Then I listened to it for about two weeks straight and couldn’t stop. Another record that leaves you wanting more when it’s done. These Belgian blokes are the best. Love em.
Standout tracks: Ignition/Space Cruiser, Saviour of Man
Judas Priest – Firepower
The Priest is back! Not only are they back, but this is Judas Priest’s best album since their 1990 classic Painkiller in my opinion. Firepower grows on you with each listen and I don’t think there’s a bad apple in the bunch. A definite gymtime and road trip favorite.
Standout tracks: Never the Heroes, Rising From Ruins
High Priestess – High Priestess
I love these ladies. I had the pleasure of meeting them at their San Francisco debut earlier this year when they were touring this album, and I was just taken aback at how gracious, nice, happy and humble they are for women who play such killer melodic heavy doom. Catch them on the way up while you can, I think they’re going places. They already have a signature fuzz pedal!
Standout tracks: Firefly, Despise
King Buffalo – Repeater, Longing to be the Mountain
Rochester, New York’s trippy psych trio King Buffalo had not one, but two excellent releases in 2018: the highly acclaimed full length Longing to be the Mountain as well as the earlier the EP that got me hooked, Repeater. Which I’ve had on repeat. Something about King Buffalo’s relentless drumbeat and mellow groove just gets under your skin and massages your soul. Must listen.
Standout tracks: Repeater, Morning Song, Eye of the Storm
Halestorm – Vicious
I’ve dug Halestorm since I saw the then-little-known band open for Adelitas Way about 10 years ago in a little club and my jaw was on the floor from the second I heard leggy Lzzy’s giant voice. Vicious is, in my opinion, their best album to date. They’ve just gotten better and bigger as time goes on. This is just modern hard rock of the highest quality, full of sex, fire, and brimstone.
Standout tracks: Do not Disturb, Conflicted, Vicious
Samavayo – Vatan
Another European power trio, this one from Berlin, Germany. This was a very recent lucky find, probably through Bucky Brown of Doom Charts. Never heard of this band before, but they’re amazing, tight, and let’s just say there will be moments when you forget you’re not listening to new Tool. It’s really excellent progressive heavy rock.
Standout Tracks: Prevarication Nation, Vatan
Plainride – Life on Ares
Balls-out, heavy, gritty, bluesy rock and roll from Cologne, Germany. Just high quality hard rock from a band that keeps getting better and tighter. For fans of CoC.
Standout tracks: El Coyote, Wormhole Society, Texas Labyrinth
King Weed – Eternal Hypnosis, Smoking Land Part II
France’s King Weed is one of my road trip go-tos. Heavy instrumental blues-based melodic fuzz rock. They have a steady output of singles, EPs and full length albums, and Eternal Hypnosis is one of their better longer recent releases that keeps finding its way into my ears. They also released a full length this year, Smoking Land Part II, a follow up to Smoking Land. Both are worth checking out, Eternal Hypnosis has the edge for me.
Standout tracks: Ghosts of Pompeii
Wasted Theory – Warlords of the New Electric
“American weed rock” from Delaware. This one is just plain fun. Heavy, ballsy, fuzzy rock and roll with no apologies and no regrets. Fans of Orange Goblin and CoC will dig this. It gives me a stupid grin every time I put it on.
Standout tracks: Rawhide Hellride, Drug Buzzard
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two of my top favorites of the year, both outstanding debut albums by up-and-coming female-fronted heavy bands. As it turns out, these are actually rereleases on a new label (Ripple Music), so I felt like they needed a separate shout out. I can’t even count how many times I played Holy Grove, sometimes just back to back. Once it got under my skin, it became part of my blood. Singer Andrea Vidal makes my hair stand on end. And Witchcryer’s Cry Witch is just a solid debut by a great new band, even getting the attention of Dave Mustaine, who played their song “Ricochet” on his radio show. This is one of my gymtime heavy rotation albums. They are absolute must listens.
Holy Grove – Holy Grove
Standout Tracks: Death of Magic, Nix, Hanged Man
Witchcryer – Cry Witch
Standout Tracks: Cry Witch, Ricochet, Ma Kali
What are your favorite albums of 2018? Comment below or let me know!