My Top 10 of 2018.......

The Heart of the Prog/Power Movement

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LarryD
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My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby LarryD » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:57 pm

Here are my Top discs for 2018 ........



10) Evanescence / Synthesis Live -
***I never expected to see another Evanescence disc in my Top 10, much less love another EV disc like I did the first two…..but here we are, Evanescence is back and playing live with a symphony orchestra behind them. Amy Lee sounds as good as ever, although you can hear the bits of time that have creeped into her voice, but nothing to detract from the greatness of this disc. Her music has always been about the emotion, and by putting her in front of a symphony orchestra is enough to send shivers up your spine when she sings. This is a perfect medium for this band, I’m not sure why they didn’t do it sooner.


9) Ayreon Universe -
***What is there to say about this disc other than it’s about time. The gang’s all here except for Russ Allen, but his replacement is fantastic in his own right. This is pure bliss, especially for those like me who have been waiting for this moment since day one. Of course, the show itself (on dvd) is much more exciting than listening to this on disc, but it is better than lots of studio discs just in the sound dept alone, much less the content.


8) Mystery / Lies and Butterflies -
***This band can do no wrong with me. Their discs have always been on the lighter side, but this one is probably lighter than anything they have done. Still, the beauty that band injects into their music is unmatched in this genre. I am hoping that the next disc is a bit heavier, in the Delusion Rain style, which would put them a bit higher on the list. Speaking of which, they had a lot of ground to cover to match the might Delusion Rain, and they left a lot of that ground open unfortunately. But, Mystery continues to put out quality Neo-Prog / Prog Rock that is so melodic and beautiful, it’s hard to find fault with anything they do. In this case, the music is on the lighter side even by their standards, but I don’t see that as a fault, just a preference.


7) Redemption / Long Night’s Journey Into Day -
***With Redemption, you know you are going to get an emotion packed disc full of prog metal, riffs, and super personal lyrics compliments of Nick Van Dyk. I won’t speak for everyone, but I know that I like the fact that Nick writes his music based on human emotions or personal feelings / experience, and it’s that “human” thing that has always captured my interest in this band. When you add in Ray Alder, a host of incredible musicians (Nick included - I hate when people fail to mention this guy’s ability to play guitar) it’s all an added bonus in a super charged prog metal disc. But, when you add in Tom Englund in the vocal dept, you know you are going to get more emotion than you bargained for, and that definitely shows on this disc. It sounds like Nick has slowed things down musically a bit to showcase that emotion, and I’m all for that. Throw in a couple of ballads, the obligatory 10:00 song, ( I love the fact that Nick realizes that he is in a prog metal band, and doing this appeases so many of us prog nerds ) and you have an incredible Redemption disc. Probably my favorite since Snowfall.


6) The Paradox Twin / The Importance of Mr. Bedlam -
***This is quite simple. Glenn tells me, I found a disc for your Top 10 list, you’re going to love this. And here it is. I love it, and it’s on my Top 10 list. In fact, I should have just let Glenn write this for me as he picked out most of my list over the year anyway. This is one of those surprise discs that not only come out of nowhere, but you can’t really classify it. Is it Neo-Prog ? Prog Rock ? I’m not sure, somewhere in between ? It’s melodic to the max, a bit more modern as far as Neo-Prog goes, with a singer who sounds a bit like a very young Mac (Threshold) out in front of some awesome, atmospheric music with a sort of bluesy groove to it. I believe it’s the brainchild of one guy, who pretty much wrote and played everything, and had John Mitchell (Arena) on board to produce, mix and engineer same. In the end, it’s sonic bliss. To me, this is a fantastic release that appeared out of nowhere, and that’s the best kind.


5) Tomorrow’s Eve / Mirror of Creation - Part 3
***Martin LeMar and company are back at it after what, 8 years ? As Glenn said in his review of the disc, there aren’t many bands still playing this kind of prog metal so grab on while you can. I thought Tales from Serpentia was great - but this disc far exceeds that disc for me in every way. Martin is singing his best, and would have been my vote for vocal performance of the year, but my #1 disc took that away. This is an incredible display of melodic prog metal, with a very aggressive approach to the music. Martin’s performance, along with the dark / aggressive tone of the guitar really put this disc over the top for me, and although Martin didn’t take the vocal performance of the year, I’m giving them the comeback of the year award after being away for so long and coming back with a monster.


4) Arena / Double Vision -
***Never in my wildest dreams did I think that an Arena disc would ever make my Top 10 list again. Reason ? Paul Manzi. I had trouble coming to terms with the departure of Rob Sowden, and the 2 subsequent Arena discs with Paul failed to wow me, although I’ve started to come around to The Quiet Sky much more than before. But here, on Double Vision, I’m on board with Paul Manzi, and to me this is not only his best effort, but Arena’s best effort since Immortal. They seemed to have dug back into time and dug up their past a bit and injected it into their current music, which has floored me. No filler to be found here, with incredible songs like Poisoned, Scars, and the obligatory long prog epic The Legend of Elijah Shade, the band seemed to have realized that older is better. It sounds a bit on the modern side, but with that epic Arena from yesteryear that has been missing. Think about what Symphony X did with Underworld, in which they admittedly went back to their roots for us elders, and it worked gloriously. Same here with Arena. Not so much a comeback disc, but as a return to the glory days of Arena, this is why they are at the top of the Neo-Prog heap and have been for so many years.


3) Kingcrow / The Persistence -
***What a fight it’s been with this disc, the top 2 going round and round just about every day and switching decisions, and moving discs around, it’s like a full time job this year with the great releases before us. When this disc came out, I declared it my #1 disc of the year. It went back and forth throughout the year, and every time I played it, I once again declared it #1. I then realized that it was a mood thing - as this disc properly displayed my mood for this year ( which has not been a good one ) and I was basing it on that. Once I realized that, I could properly place it and hence, the #3 spot. This band never fails to move me emotionally, and this disc is no exception. How this band can put out 4 monsters in a raw like they have is a miracle, and I’m proud to have put them on every top list since, and without looking back, I’m sure one or two of them hit the #1 spot. The band continues to play the type of prog metal I crave, and I can use them as a measuring stick for where I am musically without a problem.


2) Ostura / The Room -
***Here we go again. Glenn tells me, I have your #1 disc (expletive) and then the next thing I know, I have my #1 disc of the year. I defied any disc to come along and oust it, and this is going back to last winter when it came out. Kingcrow came along and fought with it, Arena fought with it, and T-Eve fought with it throughout the months. I always kept coming back to it and declared it my #1 disc. What a magnificent piece of work from an unknown band, who came out firing with a concept disc with 3 singers (one being female), all of equal quality. Add in a monster guitarist, a superb production, and music that basically incorporates all that is Symphony X, Within Temptation and Epica. One of the three singers sounds incredibly like David Readman, and he also fought for my singer of the year award as well. NO one writes discs like this anymore, let alone a concept disc, and it’s a shame at that. I would imagine if Epica wrote this thing, and added in Mark’s growls, some would consider it a masterpiece, so when a band comes along virtually unknown, and writes a beast like this, I’m all over it. Each and every time I play this disc, I ask myself how could anything dethrone such a gem of a disc ? With it’s epic style, bombastic vocals, and excellent orchestrations, how could anything come along and move it aside ? The answer lies with the next choice.


1) Michael Romeo / War of the Worlds, Part 1 -
***I’m not sure where to begin with this disc. I feel as though I’m in the minority not only declaring it my #1 disc of the year, but also constantly declaring it’s greatness. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Romeo released a solo disc; I wondered how good could it be without the members of Symphony X playing on it ? How could he write something as good as SX ? Well, let’s face it - he is the main composer of the music, as well as the driving force behind the sound. I’ve scratched my head since this disc came out, and wondered how this could be so good, then I realized that it’s the singer, Rick Castellano. Singer of the year award, hands down. I can’t stop listening to the guy, and hearing him go from aggressive, to sappy ballad style, to soaring epic style, this guy can do it all and does it superbly. I’ll agree with anyone who says he would be a worthy replacement for Russ Allen in SX should it ever come to that. Romeo adds in more orchestration here than on most SX discs, and I deem a new genre called Cine-Prog - cinematic prog metal ( did someone use that already ? ) Those orchestral interludes floor me, and when the music kicks in, and Castellano takes over, I remind myself that this is how I want my prog metal to kick my ass royally, and this is the guy I want singing it to me. Romeo sounds at ease here, some of his best licks I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s no secret that he is the driving force behind SX and he shows that he can step outside of SX and still write killer songs. I wonder what people would have thought about this disc IF it was released as a SX disc, with the original players. This is not far from it, and songs like Oblivion sound like it comes right off of Underworld. Believe is that uplifting anthem that has you feeling good about life, and Constellations shows off Rick’s versatile voice to the max. It’s the song F*ucking Robots that not only shows what the disc is about, but also how cool a song can be with about 3 lines in it and some nifty sound effects. Not enough ? Check out John Macaluso on drums and a superb production to round out the bad ass-ness of this thing. When you have the original disc in your main player, a CD-R in your car, streaming on Alexa and on your laptop, you know you have your disc of the year.

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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Norén » Wed Dec 19, 2018 2:37 pm

Agree with you on the ARENA disc. And that's the only one of these that made my top ten.
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Nos » Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:16 pm

We don't have any in common (as you already know from my post), but I do like the Redemption album. I have to say, though, it hasn't aged especially well, in the sense that it didn't grow on me with time. Tom is good, and the songs are fine, but something about it doesn't grab me the way "The Art Of Loss" did. I'm not sure why.

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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby introclaus » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:20 pm

Great list Larry!

I still can’t get into that Mystery disc - I guess I’m just not secure enough in my own manhood to listen to something like that ;)

I don’t necessarily hear anything truly “prog” in the Romeo disc but I did chuckle at your cine-prog description... definitely very much a movie soundtrack in power/symphonic metal style.
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby LarryD » Thu Dec 20, 2018 7:51 am

I still can’t get into that Mystery disc - I guess I’m just not secure enough in my own manhood to listen to something like that ;)


***Did Glenn tell you to say that ? :wink:



I don’t necessarily hear anything truly “prog” in the Romeo disc but I did chuckle at your cine-prog description... definitely very much a movie soundtrack in power/symphonic metal style.


***Don't want to start a "what is prog" debate -- but you don't consider Symphony X Prog Metal ? Yes, symphonic / power metal - but not prog ?

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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby introclaus » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:07 am

LarryD wrote:
I still can’t get into that Mystery disc - I guess I’m just not secure enough in my own manhood to listen to something like that ;)


***Did Glenn tell you to say that ? :wink:


Bah, even if he did I wouldn't listen to what he says - he is in to way girlier music himself ;) J/K



LarryD wrote:
I don’t necessarily hear anything truly “prog” in the Romeo disc but I did chuckle at your cine-prog description... definitely very much a movie soundtrack in power/symphonic metal style.


***Don't want to start a "what is prog" debate -- but you don't consider Symphony X Prog Metal ? Yes, symphonic / power metal - but not prog ?


Well, not really ... I've always considered them an amalgam of various genres: power metal, symphonic metal, neoclassical metal, progressive metal, pomp rock - but probably leaning mostly towards the symphonic power metal spectrum. And I feel that this album is even less proggy and more symphonic/cinematic.
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Chris R » Thu Dec 20, 2018 12:35 pm

I have your back with the Mystery disk
As does my girl
Yes even the nights are better.

Kingcrow and Redemption are in my top tier(yes I'm doing tiers again).

Tried but lost interest in Arena

Shocked that Seventh Wonder and Haken dont make the cut.
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Hearing Aid Man » Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:36 pm

First, I like 50% of your top 10. I enjoy the #1, 2, 5, 7 & 10 cds on your list. I actually just bought the Synthesis studio cd a few months back. I didn't even know it existed. I'm not much for collecting live stuff tough.
Second, WTF is wrong with you ? This is directed toward Seventh Wonder, not Hekz. You need instant gratification and don't want to get used to it, and understand it, and grow with it? SW is so much cooler in this way than some of the other bands you do this for it's a shame. Hopefully, you'll eat crow on this release at a later date. Enjoyed reading all your comments for another year!

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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby LarryD » Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:28 am

Shocked that Seventh Wonder and Haken dont make the cut...



***I am too -- but SW made the #11 spot only because I love live discs, and Ayreon and Evanescence put out monster live discs this year...... if we weren't counting them, then SW would be #9......

Haken, as you read in my other post, is pulling away from me ....... they are getting too cold and technical for these ears ....... their Visions show at PP was where I was at with this band, and I don't think I've had more goosebumps at a show other than one of the acoustic shows.......

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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Sir Exar Kun » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:14 am

I'm with you for most of this list, albeit in very different order. (See my other post!)

The two that are not on my radar at all are Mystery (I have NEVER listened to them! Perhaps that needs to change?) and Paradox Twin (sampled a couple of songs, loved the tones they used and the mix but wasn't pulled in fully for some reason).

Haken not making the cut I get, and agree with. They're definitely not "losing" me, but simply didn't fully click for expectations on this latest album. Every album for them has been uniquely different, so I expect the next to be more engaging.

Seventh Wonder..... Really surprised this isn't scoring higher with a lot of folks. The ONLY key element I miss compared to their prior albums is the mix on the bass; this album sounds "normal" (not a BAD thing), but they used to use Andreas as more of a lead player rather than just rhythm. That complaint aside, all the important elements of SW are here in full force.

Tomorrow's Eve came close to my top 10, but couldn't quite edge out Arena and Hekz.

Overall..... Such a strong year. I don't remember a year since probably 2001 that had this many blockbuster releases. Great list, as always!
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby ToddS » Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:38 pm

I like everything in your top 10, sans Evenescence which I don’t have. Personally I wouldn’t count the live stuff anyway, but that’s just me.

I’m still working on my list, and have about 15 I want in my top 10. Haha
I’d say we have 4 maybe 5 top 10 in common though. \m/
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Guillaume » Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:58 pm

LarryD wrote:9) Ayreon Universe -
***What is there to say about this disc other than it’s about time. The gang’s all here except for Russ Allen, but his replacement is fantastic in his own right. This is pure bliss, especially for those like me who have been waiting for this moment since day one. Of course, the show itself (on dvd) is much more exciting than listening to this on disc, but it is better than lots of studio discs just in the sound dept alone, much less the content.

**** I enjoyed some of this, but could not get into it as a whole...


7) Redemption / Long Night’s Journey Into Day -
***With Redemption, you know you are going to get an emotion packed disc full of prog metal, riffs, and super personal lyrics compliments of Nick Van Dyk. I won’t speak for everyone, but I know that I like the fact that Nick writes his music based on human emotions or personal feelings / experience, and it’s that “human” thing that has always captured my interest in this band. When you add in Ray Alder, a host of incredible musicians (Nick included - I hate when people fail to mention this guy’s ability to play guitar) it’s all an added bonus in a super charged prog metal disc. But, when you add in Tom Englund in the vocal dept, you know you are going to get more emotion than you bargained for, and that definitely shows on this disc. It sounds like Nick has slowed things down musically a bit to showcase that emotion, and I’m all for that. Throw in a couple of ballads, the obligatory 10:00 song, ( I love the fact that Nick realizes that he is in a prog metal band, and doing this appeases so many of us prog nerds ) and you have an incredible Redemption disc. Probably my favorite since Snowfall.

****My fave from them and my #2 in prog metal for this year.



5) Tomorrow’s Eve / Mirror of Creation - Part 3
***Martin LeMar and company are back at it after what, 8 years ? As Glenn said in his review of the disc, there aren’t many bands still playing this kind of prog metal so grab on while you can. I thought Tales from Serpentia was great - but this disc far exceeds that disc for me in every way. Martin is singing his best, and would have been my vote for vocal performance of the year, but my #1 disc took that away. This is an incredible display of melodic prog metal, with a very aggressive approach to the music. Martin’s performance, along with the dark / aggressive tone of the guitar really put this disc over the top for me, and although Martin didn’t take the vocal performance of the year, I’m giving them the comeback of the year award after being away for so long and coming back with a monster.

****My fave from them and my #1 in prog metal for this year!!


2) Ostura / The Room -
***Here we go again. Glenn tells me, I have your #1 disc (expletive) and then the next thing I know, I have my #1 disc of the year. I defied any disc to come along and oust it, and this is going back to last winter when it came out. Kingcrow came along and fought with it, Arena fought with it, and T-Eve fought with it throughout the months. I always kept coming back to it and declared it my #1 disc. What a magnificent piece of work from an unknown band, who came out firing with a concept disc with 3 singers (one being female), all of equal quality. Add in a monster guitarist, a superb production, and music that basically incorporates all that is Symphony X, Within Temptation and Epica. One of the three singers sounds incredibly like David Readman, and he also fought for my singer of the year award as well. NO one writes discs like this anymore, let alone a concept disc, and it’s a shame at that. I would imagine if Epica wrote this thing, and added in Mark’s growls, some would consider it a masterpiece, so when a band comes along virtually unknown, and writes a beast like this, I’m all over it. Each and every time I play this disc, I ask myself how could anything dethrone such a gem of a disc ? With it’s epic style, bombastic vocals, and excellent orchestrations, how could anything come along and move it aside ? The answer lies with the next choice.

**** Could not get into this at all....


1) Michael Romeo / War of the Worlds, Part 1 -
***I’m not sure where to begin with this disc. I feel as though I’m in the minority not only declaring it my #1 disc of the year, but also constantly declaring it’s greatness. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Romeo released a solo disc; I wondered how good could it be without the members of Symphony X playing on it ? How could he write something as good as SX ? Well, let’s face it - he is the main composer of the music, as well as the driving force behind the sound. I’ve scratched my head since this disc came out, and wondered how this could be so good, then I realized that it’s the singer, Rick Castellano. Singer of the year award, hands down. I can’t stop listening to the guy, and hearing him go from aggressive, to sappy ballad style, to soaring epic style, this guy can do it all and does it superbly. I’ll agree with anyone who says he would be a worthy replacement for Russ Allen in SX should it ever come to that. Romeo adds in more orchestration here than on most SX discs, and I deem a new genre called Cine-Prog - cinematic prog metal ( did someone use that already ? ) Those orchestral interludes floor me, and when the music kicks in, and Castellano takes over, I remind myself that this is how I want my prog metal to kick my ass royally, and this is the guy I want singing it to me. Romeo sounds at ease here, some of his best licks I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s no secret that he is the driving force behind SX and he shows that he can step outside of SX and still write killer songs. I wonder what people would have thought about this disc IF it was released as a SX disc, with the original players. This is not far from it, and songs like Oblivion sound like it comes right off of Underworld. Believe is that uplifting anthem that has you feeling good about life, and Constellations shows off Rick’s versatile voice to the max. It’s the song F*ucking Robots that not only shows what the disc is about, but also how cool a song can be with about 3 lines in it and some nifty sound effects. Not enough ? Check out John Macaluso on drums and a superb production to round out the bad ass-ness of this thing. When you have the original disc in your main player, a CD-R in your car, streaming on Alexa and on your laptop, you know you have your disc of the year.

****I liked lots of it, but at times, too cinematic or too much orchestration. New singer rules, but melodic Russ would be even better on this most likely.


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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby Digital Man » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:40 am

Looks like we have 3 in common this year. Not too bad. I hadn't heard the Michael Romeo until right at the end of the year. I didn't expect to like it as much as I do. I was considering pushing it into the top 10, but in the end didn't. I need to give that Arena some attention here soon. Your list does seem a bit shorter due to the inclusion of a few live discs. Maybe you should expand it out to 10 studio discs plus any live discs that make the list.
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Re: My Top 10 of 2018.......

Postby MeTuLHeD » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:58 pm

Wow.

Five of your Top Ten are among my favorites of the year.

I always have such a hard time creating a Top Ten...or Twenty...or Thirty. For two reasons.

1. I'm all over the map. One day I'm in a crank it and and play Primal Fear on ten mood. The next I want to enjoy the wall-of-sound that is Ayreon. Then I'm digging some crushing Romeo riffs. Then I'm going old school melodic metal with Sunstorm. Then I'm just caught up in the lyrical melodies of Arena.

2. There is SO much good stuff that I'm afraid I'm going to overlook something. And NEVER was that more true than in 2018.


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