My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

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Sir Exar Kun
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My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby Sir Exar Kun » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:04 am

So here goes..... Usually I do the tiered system, but figured I'd go with actual rankings this year.... Subject to change at any given moment of course.

11) Hekz “Invicta” – Sure, the vocalist gets some grief but for this style of music he somehow makes it work. Back when I first heard Threshold I had the same thoughts about Damian Wilson, so with Hekz it just makes for a “unique” sound. “Invicta” is a little more straightforward, a little more reigned-in and controlled than its predecessor “Caerus”, and again….. That works just fine here. A little diversity goes a long way. I left the list at 11 as (for one) this and Arena both are right on the cusp, and I can’t really find it in me to knock either one out, and (for two) it’s just cooler to be able to say “my list goes to eleven”.

10) Arena “Double Vision” – This would score higher if the album had one more ~eight minute song on it. This album leaves you hanging just a little bit, even though it still clocks in at 56 minutes…. Stylistically, this is probably closest to “Immortal?” of the entire catalogue, which was my first exposure to the band, so hearing similarities to that album is a welcome return. I did enjoy the last release “Unquiet Sky” but overall this new one is a stronger, more traditional Arena disc, whereas “Sky” still felt like they were trying to find their identity a bit.

9) Animal Drive “Bite” – Along with Lords of Black, another album that satisfies my need to the classic 80’s era rock / metal. Vocals definitely are the standout here, with more of an almost 80’s hair metal aspect to some of the material.

8) Lords of Black “Icons of the New Day” – An album that fills my need for old school rock / metal. This one straddles the line nicely between the two, with the latter half of the album pulling in a bit of an Iron Maiden sound perhaps? The bonus disc is also a great addition, including covers of songs like Anthrax’s “Only” and Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon”. Ronnie Romero may be bordering on over-saturation, but so far I haven’t reached burnout yet.

7) Symphony X (errr….. Mike Romeo) “War of the Worlds Part I” – My initial feelings were that this sounded just WAY too much like SX, when I wanted to hear something…. Different….. But then I came to accept that I’d rather just hear SX releasing albums every other year anyway, so frankly…. This fits the bill perfectly. I like Russel Allen as much as the next guy, but the change in vocals really are a welcome aspect here. Angry Russ has become such a distraction that it’s nice to hear a more “clean” take on the SX material. Frankly, I’d love to see him tour this album a bit if at all possible and hear their take on SX stuff. Orchestrations here are probably Romeo’s best since the “V” album, too. Very much excited to hear he’s already working on a “Part II” for the album.

6) Kingcrow “The Persistence” – Has anyone put out a string of masterpieces like Kingcrow has over the last four discs? Honestly, it amazes me to hear each album continue to hit every single right note, every time out. “Folding Paper Dreams” is one of my favorite songs of the year. Much like Orphaned Land (below), it feels like the expectations for Kingcrow are so lofty that it becomes impossible to exceed them, so they end up falling into the middle of the pack of a very loaded top 10 list for the year. Any other year, this is a top 3 disc for sure.

5) Orphaned Land “Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs” – Arguably, their most complete album since “Mabool”. To my ears, I actually prefer this to “Mabool” as it is perhaps a touch lighter, and has a more diverse (if that is even possible) musical score. Orphaned Land have put out several strong albums in a row now, so it feels as though the bar is almost artificially high for expectations from them. As such, there is nothing I can find to detract from this disc, but can’t quite put a finger on why it doesn’t score higher……

4) Ostura “The Room” – Pretty much copy what Larry has already said about this one. Magnificent album from out of nowhere, with warm lush overtones across three excellent vocalists. I don’t find myself going back to this album like I do the others on the list, but it’s not for a lack of quality. The melodies here don’t pull me in quite the same way as the next three discs on the list, but I fully admit that is a product of my own personal tastes. If this were a more objective “BEST ALBUMS” list, rather than “MY FAVORITES” this would probably take the number one slot.

3) Seventh Wonder “Tiara” – Yeah, it’s been like eight years. Yeah, Kamelot has put out three very average discs in that time. Yeah, this discs is WAY overdue….. But when it finally arrived, it was everything I hoped it would be. Tommy sounds like freakin’ TOMMY again, the hooks immediately jumped out and pulled me in over and over, and the music is intricate as ever while maintaining the smoothly engaging melody that sets them apart from their brethren. Sure, I could complain that Andreas’ bass is not out in front like is used to be….. It could have been a double album for the length of time it put together….. Maybe they could have brought in a freakin’ orchestra….. But at the end of the day, this disc represents everything I love about Seventh Wonder, and is a very welcome return to the forefront after far too long an absence.

2) Amorphis “Queen of Time” – It is amazing to me that this far into their career, Amorphis puts out what might be the strongest album in their catalogue. It’s as if they combined all the very best aspects of each era of their career into a single masterpiece album. The heaviness, the melodies, the folk elements, and the orchestrations all combine perfectly to make a monstrously enjoyable disc. When looking at the 2018 releases, and seeing Seventh Wonder, Haken, and Redemption all with new albums, I never would have expected Amorphis to compete for the top spot, and yet…..

1) Redemption “Long Night’s Journey into Day” – Redemption is a near certainty to compete for the top of this list with every release, but honestly I’ve not had them hit me so strongly right out of the gate since the first time I heard “Fullness of Time”. I was skeptical of the addition of Tom Englund only from the standpoint that I love both entities so much, I didn’t know how merging the two powers would really gel; alas, I was 100% wrong to doubt this one at all. Tom’s emotive vocals are a perfect fit for the material on this album, with “And Yet…” being one of the most powerful, beautiful songs I have heard in years. I can listen to this disc over and over again, and not get tired of it. I actually will go so far as to say that not only is this my favorite album of 2018, it’s my favorite album in SEVERAL years.



Favorite Live Albums of the Year (VERY strong year for live albums! Note that I have Evanesence also but have not had a chance to watch it yet)

Ayreon "Ayreon Universe Live" - Seriously, how could this all-star production NOT blow the doors off? Set list is a bit odd, as it starts off a bit on the slow side, but MAN does it build to an astounding crescendo. I have tickets to see the "Electric Castle" show in September, and only hope it can approach this show in quality.

Devin Townsend "Ocean Machine Live" - Devin with a freakin' orchestra...... What more need be said? Only surprise was that the orchestra doesn't perform during the "Ocean Machine" set, instead leaving his band on a VERY large stage looking VERY minimalistic.

Fates Warning "Live over Europe" - If only this came with a DVD..... What a PHENOMINAL album for a live / best of Fates set. Absolutely KILLER set list.

Neal Morse "MorseFest 2017" - Neal is a staple on the live DVD list every single year. One of my favorite artists going right now, and his live shows are always a sight to behold. Better live material than in the studio.... This set features "Testimony Two" and "Similitude" in their entirety, and while not my favorite of the MorseFest shows, it's still a phenomenal show.

Haken "L-1VE" - It's Haken. Enough said. Only way this would not have made the list somehow was if they didn't include "Architect". Set list could be stronger overall, but it hits on the key songs I want to see, and for their first live DVD it fits the bill.



"Disappointments"

Therion "Beloved Antichrist" - Hearing that Therion was putting out a three disc rock opera had me extremely excited; it's been a LONG time since we've had any real new Therion music, so I expected something a lot stronger than what I got..... To be fair, this really should almost not be a "Therion" album at all, as it truly is much closer to a Broadway style musical with a rock base than a "rock opera".

Spock's Beard "Noise Floor" - The last album with Ted Leonard was overall very solid, but this one has generally left me cold. Spock's has been VERY inconsistent since Neal left, and I thought Ted would help stabilize that, but alas..... What is also interesting is that it appears most of the songwriting is not done by the band themselves.....

Kamelot "Shadow Theory" - Only disappointing in so much as that YET AGAIN it's a carbon copy of the last three albums. They are capable of much more than this. I do think this is my favorite of the Tommy era, but I expect more from a band as significant as Kamelot.

Haken "Vector" - Only makes this list in that I expect near perfection from these guys, and it comes up a little short. Any time Haken isn't on a top ten list, it's considered a "disappointment". Much like Arena, this feels like it needs another 1-2 songs, something like "1985" perhaps that combines the super catchy melody with a sweet instrumental extended passage..... "Vector" has both aspects at times, but they don't come together as seamlessly as they did on "Affinity".
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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby Nos » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:36 am

Sir Exar Kun wrote:Spock's Beard "Noise Floor" - The last album with Ted Leonard was overall very solid, but this one has generally left me cold. Spock's has been VERY inconsistent since Neal left, and I thought Ted would help stabilize that, but alas..... What is also interesting is that it appears most of the songwriting is not done by the band themselves.....


I'm with you on that one, mostly. It's not very memorable, or good, and it doesn't hold together very well as an album either. There are a couple good moments, but not much else. What I'd disagree with is that the good Ted album is "Brief Nocturnes", not the last one. I thought that one was a big letdown too.

The songwriting arrangement has been like that for a long time. Even going back to Nick's albums, they had outside help on a lot of the material. Quite a bit of it is good, too. They just (everyone, that is, not just the band) seem to be running low on ideas.

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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby Hearing Aid Man » Sun Dec 23, 2018 12:30 am

Always enjoy your list and comments. Looks like 5/11 the same for us. 6/12 for Larry and I. Awaiting lists from Todd S and Tom C which also seem to check out quite a bit of the same stuff.

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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby Guillaume » Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:14 pm

Sir Exar Kun wrote:
9) Animal Drive “Bite” – Along with Lords of Black, another album that satisfies my need to the classic 80’s era rock / metal. Vocals definitely are the standout here, with more of an almost 80’s hair metal aspect to some of the material.

****Nice to see this mentioned! Dino Jelusic is indeed a rising vocal star. The album is well produced and is real nice melodic hard rock/metal for the most part.


8) Lords of Black “Icons of the New Day” – An album that fills my need for old school rock / metal. This one straddles the line nicely between the two, with the latter half of the album pulling in a bit of an Iron Maiden sound perhaps? The bonus disc is also a great addition, including covers of songs like Anthrax’s “Only” and Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon”. Ronnie Romero may be bordering on over-saturation, but so far I haven’t reached burnout yet.

**** I don't know. People seem disappointed with this one, but it's still excellent stuff to these ears. Yes, Romero is everywhere, but it's not a problem with me so far too. Did you check out Destinia - Metal Souls? Even better as a whole than LoB for me I think!


7) Symphony X (errr….. Mike Romeo) “War of the Worlds Part I” – My initial feelings were that this sounded just WAY too much like SX, when I wanted to hear something…. Different….. But then I came to accept that I’d rather just hear SX releasing albums every other year anyway, so frankly…. This fits the bill perfectly. I like Russel Allen as much as the next guy, but the change in vocals really are a welcome aspect here. Angry Russ has become such a distraction that it’s nice to hear a more “clean” take on the SX material. Frankly, I’d love to see him tour this album a bit if at all possible and hear their take on SX stuff. Orchestrations here are probably Romeo’s best since the “V” album, too. Very much excited to hear he’s already working on a “Part II” for the album.

**** I'll say again that the singer is excellent, but Melodic Russ would kill on this too. Not Angry-Russ.



3) Seventh Wonder “Tiara” – Yeah, it’s been like eight years. Yeah, Kamelot has put out three very average discs in that time. Yeah, this discs is WAY overdue….. But when it finally arrived, it was everything I hoped it would be. Tommy sounds like freakin’ TOMMY again, the hooks immediately jumped out and pulled me in over and over, and the music is intricate as ever while maintaining the smoothly engaging melody that sets them apart from their brethren. Sure, I could complain that Andreas’ bass is not out in front like is used to be….. It could have been a double album for the length of time it put together….. Maybe they could have brought in a freakin’ orchestra….. But at the end of the day, this disc represents everything I love about Seventh Wonder, and is a very welcome return to the forefront after far too long an absence.

**** Really good and my #3 in prog metal.


1) Redemption “Long Night’s Journey into Day” – Redemption is a near certainty to compete for the top of this list with every release, but honestly I’ve not had them hit me so strongly right out of the gate since the first time I heard “Fullness of Time”. I was skeptical of the addition of Tom Englund only from the standpoint that I love both entities so much, I didn’t know how merging the two powers would really gel; alas, I was 100% wrong to doubt this one at all. Tom’s emotive vocals are a perfect fit for the material on this album, with “And Yet…” being one of the most powerful, beautiful songs I have heard in years. I can listen to this disc over and over again, and not get tired of it. I actually will go so far as to say that not only is this my favorite album of 2018, it’s my favorite album in SEVERAL years.

**** My fave from them and my #2 in prog metal. Was never the greatest fan of Ray, so having Tom is a plus for me. And he fits great.

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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby LarryD » Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:31 am

Excellent list !!!! Mine in reverse almost .....

11) Hekz “Invicta” – Sure, the vocalist gets some grief but for this style of music he somehow makes it work. Back when I first heard Threshold I had the same thoughts about Damian Wilson, so with Hekz it just makes for a “unique” sound. “Invicta” is a little more straightforward, a little more reigned-in and controlled than its predecessor “Caerus”, and again….. That works just fine here. A little diversity goes a long way. I left the list at 11 as (for one) this and Arena both are right on the cusp, and I can’t really find it in me to knock either one out, and (for two) it’s just cooler to be able to say “my list goes to eleven”.


***Agree with you - and this would be my #11 disc as well if I included SW and Subsignal on mine ...... they are maturing nicely.


10) Arena “Double Vision” – This would score higher if the album had one more ~eight minute song on it. This album leaves you hanging just a little bit, even though it still clocks in at 56 minutes…. Stylistically, this is probably closest to “Immortal?” of the entire catalogue, which was my first exposure to the band, so hearing similarities to that album is a welcome return. I did enjoy the last release “Unquiet Sky” but overall this new one is a stronger, more traditional Arena disc, whereas “Sky” still felt like they were trying to find their identity a bit.


***Agree again - but I wouldn't let the time make it any less incredible than it is. What they have here is create a disc with NO fillers on it whatsoever, and managed to pull me into the Manzi fold and get it on a Top 10 list in one fell swoop. Yes, one more long song would be Arena-like, but the songs they have here are moving, especially Poisoned.


9) Animal Drive “Bite” – Along with Lords of Black, another album that satisfies my need to the classic 80’s era rock / metal. Vocals definitely are the standout here, with more of an almost 80’s hair metal aspect to some of the material.


***No can do ......


8) Lords of Black “Icons of the New Day” – An album that fills my need for old school rock / metal. This one straddles the line nicely between the two, with the latter half of the album pulling in a bit of an Iron Maiden sound perhaps? The bonus disc is also a great addition, including covers of songs like Anthrax’s “Only” and Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon”. Ronnie Romero may be bordering on over-saturation, but so far I haven’t reached burnout yet.


***I neglected to put this on my disappointments of the year list ........ I haven't reached burn out on Ronnie either, but the music is uninspiring compared to the awesome II.


7) Symphony X (errr….. Mike Romeo) “War of the Worlds Part I” – My initial feelings were that this sounded just WAY too much like SX, when I wanted to hear something…. Different….. But then I came to accept that I’d rather just hear SX releasing albums every other year anyway, so frankly…. This fits the bill perfectly. I like Russel Allen as much as the next guy, but the change in vocals really are a welcome aspect here. Angry Russ has become such a distraction that it’s nice to hear a more “clean” take on the SX material. Frankly, I’d love to see him tour this album a bit if at all possible and hear their take on SX stuff. Orchestrations here are probably Romeo’s best since the “V” album, too. Very much excited to hear he’s already working on a “Part II” for the album.


***Glad to see lots of people putting this on a Top 10 list ..... agree with everything you are saying ..... Rick Castellano got my singer of the year award .... and I wish people would stop wishing Russ was singing on here ..... he isn't, it's not SX - even though it could be ....... I think more people would get it if they stopped wishing for Russ ...... on the next SX disc, you will get him, on the next Romeo disc, you will get the incredible Rick Castellano - and for Glenn to endorse this guy as a suitable replacement for Russ should it come ever come to that, that says a lot....... I concur completely. In the meantime, this disc is incredible as is. Any haters are F@#$^g Robots !!!!!! :wink:



6) Kingcrow “The Persistence” – Has anyone put out a string of masterpieces like Kingcrow has over the last four discs? Honestly, it amazes me to hear each album continue to hit every single right note, every time out. “Folding Paper Dreams” is one of my favorite songs of the year. Much like Orphaned Land (below), it feels like the expectations for Kingcrow are so lofty that it becomes impossible to exceed them, so they end up falling into the middle of the pack of a very loaded top 10 list for the year. Any other year, this is a top 3 disc for sure.



***Yes, yes, and yes !!!!!!!!




5) Orphaned Land “Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs” – Arguably, their most complete album since “Mabool”. To my ears, I actually prefer this to “Mabool” as it is perhaps a touch lighter, and has a more diverse (if that is even possible) musical score. Orphaned Land have put out several strong albums in a row now, so it feels as though the bar is almost artificially high for expectations from them. As such, there is nothing I can find to detract from this disc, but can’t quite put a finger on why it doesn’t score higher……



***At least it's on your list - it didn't make mine, and this is probably the biggest enigma of the year for me..... I've been back to it so many times over the months, but it appears I may have to dig it out of the boxes and see just what's happening here........


4) Ostura “The Room” – Pretty much copy what Larry has already said about this one. Magnificent album from out of nowhere, with warm lush overtones across three excellent vocalists. I don’t find myself going back to this album like I do the others on the list, but it’s not for a lack of quality. The melodies here don’t pull me in quite the same way as the next three discs on the list, but I fully admit that is a product of my own personal tastes. If this were a more objective “BEST ALBUMS” list, rather than “MY FAVORITES” this would probably take the number one slot.



***THis was my #1 until Romeo entered my world -


3) Seventh Wonder “Tiara” – Yeah, it’s been like eight years. Yeah, Kamelot has put out three very average discs in that time. Yeah, this discs is WAY overdue….. But when it finally arrived, it was everything I hoped it would be. Tommy sounds like freakin’ TOMMY again, the hooks immediately jumped out and pulled me in over and over, and the music is intricate as ever while maintaining the smoothly engaging melody that sets them apart from their brethren. Sure, I could complain that Andreas’ bass is not out in front like is used to be….. It could have been a double album for the length of time it put together….. Maybe they could have brought in a freakin’ orchestra….. But at the end of the day, this disc represents everything I love about Seventh Wonder, and is a very welcome return to the forefront after far too long an absence.


***#9 for me given all things ......but I need to re-visit some more to find out why ........



2) Amorphis “Queen of Time” – It is amazing to me that this far into their career, Amorphis puts out what might be the strongest album in their catalogue. It’s as if they combined all the very best aspects of each era of their career into a single masterpiece album. The heaviness, the melodies, the folk elements, and the orchestrations all combine perfectly to make a monstrously enjoyable disc. When looking at the 2018 releases, and seeing Seventh Wonder, Haken, and Redemption all with new albums, I never would have expected Amorphis to compete for the top spot, and yet…..



***Top 20 for me - I should have put this higher after I read all of your comments and everyone else's about it ...... maybe the growlies kept it back for me, but when I listen to it, I don't even care about that ........


1) Redemption “Long Night’s Journey into Day” – Redemption is a near certainty to compete for the top of this list with every release, but honestly I’ve not had them hit me so strongly right out of the gate since the first time I heard “Fullness of Time”. I was skeptical of the addition of Tom Englund only from the standpoint that I love both entities so much, I didn’t know how merging the two powers would really gel; alas, I was 100% wrong to doubt this one at all. Tom’s emotive vocals are a perfect fit for the material on this album, with “And Yet…” being one of the most powerful, beautiful songs I have heard in years. I can listen to this disc over and over again, and not get tired of it. I actually will go so far as to say that not only is this my favorite album of 2018, it’s my favorite album in SEVERAL years.


***Glad to read this ......it does deserve to be on everyone's list no mater where it is ........





"Disappointments"

Therion "Beloved Antichrist" - Hearing that Therion was putting out a three disc rock opera had me extremely excited; it's been a LONG time since we've had any real new Therion music, so I expected something a lot stronger than what I got..... To be fair, this really should almost not be a "Therion" album at all, as it truly is much closer to a Broadway style musical with a rock base than a "rock opera".

Spock's Beard "Noise Floor" - The last album with Ted Leonard was overall very solid, but this one has generally left me cold. Spock's has been VERY inconsistent since Neal left, and I thought Ted would help stabilize that, but alas..... What is also interesting is that it appears most of the songwriting is not done by the band themselves.....

Kamelot "Shadow Theory" - Only disappointing in so much as that YET AGAIN it's a carbon copy of the last three albums. They are capable of much more than this. I do think this is my favorite of the Tommy era, but I expect more from a band as significant as Kamelot.

Haken "Vector" - Only makes this list in that I expect near perfection from these guys, and it comes up a little short. Any time Haken isn't on a top ten list, it's considered a "disappointment". Much like Arena, this feels like it needs another 1-2 songs, something like "1985" perhaps that combines the super catchy melody with a sweet instrumental extended passage..... "Vector" has both aspects at times, but they don't come together as seamlessly as they did on "Affinity".
[/quote]


***All of the above except for S-Beard which I don't have........awesome post bro.

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Sir Exar Kun
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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby Sir Exar Kun » Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:10 am

8) Lords of Black “Icons of the New Day” – An album that fills my need for old school rock / metal. This one straddles the line nicely between the two, with the latter half of the album pulling in a bit of an Iron Maiden sound perhaps? The bonus disc is also a great addition, including covers of songs like Anthrax’s “Only” and Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon”. Ronnie Romero may be bordering on over-saturation, but so far I haven’t reached burnout yet.

**** I don't know. People seem disappointed with this one, but it's still excellent stuff to these ears. Yes, Romero is everywhere, but it's not a problem with me so far too. Did you check out Destinia - Metal Souls? Even better as a whole than LoB for me I think!


Yes, I did grab Destinia also, which I enjoyed but not as much as LoB. If I did a top 20 it would place in there for sure. I am excited to hear a new Ferrymen disc is in the works too, as Magnus Karlsson is one of my favorite songwriters.
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Re: My Top Eleven of 2018 (Yes, my list goes up to ELEVEN!)

Postby ToddS » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:27 pm

Very cool list! We share many in common. About the only one we disagree on is Haken. We have several of the same live releases listed too. \m/
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