When the semi-annual “Best of [Insert Year]” lists appear around July and December, they almost always focus on albums. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s fun to compare lists and discover new music. But one thing that is consistently overlooked are the singles, the songs released that, even outside the context of the album, are memorable, catchy and stand out. So, let’s get right to Decibel’s best singles of 2018… thus far.
Tribulation – “The Lament” (Down Below)
Decibel faves Tribulation fully embraced the gothic side of their sound for Down Below, never more apparent than on lead single “The Lament.” Danceable keys and dark melodies filled out by death growls are incredibly catchy and “The Lament” is one of the best album openers in recent memory.
Khemmis – “Isolation” (Desolation)
It’s mind-boggling that Khemmis‘ first full-length, Absolution, came out in 2015. In the three years since that release, the Denver-based doom heroes have evolved into the genre’s leading light, cementing that position with Desolation. Both singles (“Bloodletting” being the second) released leading up to Desolation could have made this list, but the twin-guitar melodies and Phil Pendergast’s powerful vocal performance put “Isolation” as one of the best singles we’ve heard all year.
Judas Priest – “Lightning Strike” (Firepower)
The metal gods returned in triumphant fashion with Firepower, their eighteenth album. “Lightning Strike” delivered galloping NWOBHM riffs while Rob Halford gave one of his best vocal performances in years. If Firepower and “Lightning Strike” are any indicator, Judas Priest still have a lot of fuel left in the tank despite health complications and nearly half a century of hard (and hot) rocking.
At the Gates – “To Drink from the Night Itself” (To Drink from the Night Itself)
Melodic death metal progenitors At the Gates delivered on the hype with To Drink from the Night Itself, its title track setting the tone for the album long before it was released. The Swedes quelled fears that new guitarist Jonas Stålhammar would fail to uphold Anders Björler’s considerable legacy with sharp riffing and dark melodies led by Tomas Lindberg’s trademark scream. There’s no other band quite like At the Gates and “To Drink from the Night Itself” reminded us of that.
Uada – “Snakes and Vultures” (Cult of a Dying Sun)
Like Khemmis, Uada are a young band poised to take over their scene. The hooded, leather-clad melodic black metal outfit have a strong vision and command of said vision, differentiating themselves from the atmospheric sound popular among their Pacific Northwestern peers. It’s a testament to Uada’s songwriting ability that the lead single for Cult of a Dying Sun is nearly 10 minutes long.
The Atlas Moth – “Galactic Brain” (Coma Noir)
Embracing a sound rooted more in rock music than previous releases, The Atlas Moth found memorable hooks and choruses around every corner on Coma Noir. “Galactic Brain” is an example of the band blending elements of rock with the psychedelic sludge and screamed vocals they’d become known for.
Skeletonwitch – “Fen of Shadows” (Devouring Radiant Light)
Skeletonwitch are reinventing their sound 15 years into their career to deliver an album that will surely wind up high on year-end lists, and with good reason. The thrash/melodic metal outfit embraced the black metal side of their sound, and the results are glorious. While “Fen of Shadows” contained some of the genre-blending expected of Skeletonwitch, it also sounded like a mission statement. Skeletonwitch are back, and they’re better than ever.
Haunt – “Burst Into Flame” (Burst Into Flame)
Formed as a solo project by Trevor William Church (Beastmaker) before evolving into a full band for Burst Into Flame, heavy metal newcomers Haunt are one of the most exciting trad metal revivalist groups out there. Dual-guitar melodies, speedy riffs, a blazing solo and Church’s definitive vocals give Haunt a sound unique to them.