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Dave Nowels Top 10 of 2018

Added 30 December 2018, 6:27 PM

I personally think this was the best year for heavy music that I can remember. There was so much creativity and talent rising above the mediocrity and excelling this year. I have no doubt I left off some very well deserving bands off my list. I really wish I could have heard them all, but this meager list will have to suffice. Here's to 2019, as it certainly looks to carry on the momentum of 2018.

1. YOB
Our Raw Heart
Relapse Records
Band Formed in 1996

YOB is love, and “Our Raw Heart” is easily the most beautiful ‘heavy’ music I’ve ever heard. In a year full of superb releases, no album captured me like “Our Raw Heart”. I feel in love with it right away, and since its release in early 2018 it’s been my frontrunner for top pick (of metal and non metal alike) of the year. It never came even close to relinquishing. Scheidt, Rieseberg and Foster created their masterpiece with this album, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them top it in the future.


2. Khemmis
Nuclear Blast Records
Band Formed in 2012

The Denver band just keeps getting better and better. “Desolation” shows a band maturing and putting those road honed skills to fine use. Heavy and melodic, it’s a distinct sound. This was another early 2018 release, and pretty much immediately I knew it would be second only to YOB. I’ve listened to it consistently since its release.

3. Ancestors
Suspended In Reflections
Pelagic Records
Band Formed in 2006

Another band and album that pushes the boundaries of Metal’s confines. “Suspended In Reflections” is ambient, reflective and sonically beautiful. Multi-layered guitars, haunting vocals and hypnotizing keys.
It’s an album that begs to be listened to on headphones. A sonic masterpiece for sure.

4. Windhand
Eternal Return
Relapse Records
Band Formed in 2009

Another top ten release for Relapse Records. A pretty impressive feat for the Upper Darby, PA record company. “Eternal Return”, much like the KHEMMIS album, showed an amazing jump in maturation and honing of skills. Pretty much a barn burner all the way through, WINDHAND certainly took it to the next level.


5. Sleep/High On Fire
The Sciences/Electric Messiah
Third Man Records/Entertainment One Records
Band Formed in 1991/1998

Am I cheating by sneaking both in here at #5? Yeah, maybe. But as they say in baseball, ‘if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.  But in all seriousness, two albums in 2018 from the shirtless shredder Matt Pike cannot be ignored. Different but similar, familiar yet new. Both albums appealed to me quite a bit. If only Cisneros had released an OM album this year as well. I suppose there’s always 2019.

6. Raven Black
Wurm Group
Band Formed in 2013

My overall favorite musical discovery of 2018. Saw this band opening for DEVIL DRIVER and JINGER back in October. Their set was the highlight of the show, and the band and its songs have really sunk their teeth into me since then. “13” has been in a pretty constant rotation for me ever since. Not a band I would have thought I’d like this much, but there is just something uniquely magical about them. A very fan friendly band, these guys are destined for bigger things, and I can’t wait to see what their future holds.

7. Sierra
The Mirror
Retro Futurist Records
Band Formed in 2011

SIERRA is another band I discovered opening for someone else, and again a band that really blew me away. Hailing from Ontario, these guys bring a smidgen of RUSH, a hint of Prog Metal, a touch of Stoner Metal and lots of talent. Great hooks and riffs, fascinating lyrics and just a great overall feel. Another of my favorite discoveries of 2018. These guys took the time to make a damn near perfect album. You should take the time to listen.

8. Forming The Void
Kosmik Artifactz
Band Formed in 2013

There really were an amazing amount of quality albums released in 2018. FORMING THE VOID definitely had one of them. “RIFT” is crazy good start to finish. Prog, Stoner, Doom, whatever you want to call it, the band has firmly entrenched themselves as one of the most passionate purveyors of their craft. Constantly on the road, and constantly creating, the future is indeed an endless void of possibilities for the band.

9. Great Electric Quest
Chapter II – Of Earth
Totem Cat Records
Band Formed in 2010

A band that balances a creative freshness and originality, while maintaining a familiar comfort zone of metal from the days of yore. GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST hits you like a thunderclap, and keeps you wanting more and more. A must see live band, and some really great dudes. Easily a 2018 favorite for me.


10. Moths/Vanishing Kids
Moths/Heavy Dreamer
Independent/Svart Records
Band Formed in 2016/2000

Yeah, I’m cheating again. But there was no way in hell I was leaving either one of these bands off this list.  While very different, both bands share some similarities.  Both have female vocals, crushing heaviness in all the right places and a hint of Prog and Psychedelia that underlies it all.  Both bands also utilized fabulous production on their respective releases, and it paid off.

Honorable mentions:
JUDAS PRIEST - Firepower - Epic Records
ALUNAH - Amber & Gold - Svart Records
DESTROYER OF LIGHT – Hopeless – Heavy Friends Records
Edited 13 August 2020

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