2018 - Top 50 Albums

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introclaus
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2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:25 pm

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019. I guess that means it's time to reminisce about 2018. What an incredible year for new music! I honestly can’t remember a year where each week brought out new quality releases like this within the metal related genres, and compiling this list was a lot of work, mostly figuring out which ones to cut out from the list. To have been a metal fan in 2018 was not a bad thing at all ;)

Interestingly enough, for me personally, the two best songs of the year are not even to be found on any of the 50 releases mentioned below – Sweden’s Port Noir released a single in mid-October titled “Old Fashioned” (https://youtu.be/tZ6BiRnTol8), that not only came out of nowhere (it’s been quiet around the band for a while now) but also was a true slam dunk in terms of quality, and the other song was the tune “Golden Prayers” (https://youtu.be/9urirKOhgi0) from Norway’s Leprous – not that that was any surprise to me at least, as I’ve been hailing both bands as the best new progressive metal acts for a good number of years now. However, it does signal a trend that I’m not too sure if I like or not; the idea of putting out stand-alone singles, instead of songs that are part of a full album. Same thing happened with another two amazing songs from 2018; Persefone’s “In Lak’ech” (https://youtu.be/i8lOyn49W-s) and Cynic’s “Humanoid” (https://youtu.be/Aj43zrrQd0o), both songs that would have been stand-out tracks on any album, but now ended up kind of “forgotten” because they were just one-offs. Anyway, we can discuss that for days if we’d like, but I just wanted to point out that it’s a trend I find concerning to say the least… I’m quite “old fashioned” myself (see what I did there?) and I prefer my full-length albums over the one-off-singles.

The year also had a lot of great non-metal releases - some of these were fairly rocking and progressive minded; Coheed & Cambria (“The Unheavenly Creatures”), Muse (“Simulation Theory”), Gazpacho (“Soyuz”) and Poets of the Fall (“Ultraviolet”). All albums that really stood out this year and got a lot of playtime from me. Newcomer of the year outside the metal circles would be Israeli / American “falafel djent” band Hago (“Hago”) - yes, I think they made up that style by themselves – musically this is more of a jazz/fusion album than anything resembling djent, but hey, it sounds amazing either way. Another splendid newcomer would be My Indigo (“My Indigo”) which is a solo pop project from Within Temptation vocalist Sharon Den Adel. In the hip hop or rap-scene the new Eminem (“Kamikaze”) totally whooped my butt, even with its messed-up leftist propaganda ;) Also the new Cypres Hill (“Elephants on Acid”) had a lot of great beats and a bit of world music going on. The classic rock scene had some nice surprises in Myles Kennedy’s solo album, the new one from The Temperance Movement (thanks for the heads-up Glenn!), and of course Greta van Fleet, which is a solid album in its own rights, but doesn’t fully live up to the hype machine. Keeping true to my Danish origin I also have to give a shout out to Lukas Graham, who with his third album (“3: The Purple Album”) delivered a wonderfully smooth pop / soul disc. The country music scene didn’t have any Zac Brown Band releases in 2018, so that one I will quickly skip over, lol :)

As I started out by saying, it quite difficult shortening this list to just 50 metal/hard rock albums that I liked, and to be fair, solid albums such as Judas Priest’s “Firepower”, Nils Patrik Johansson’s “Evil Deluxe”, Ghost Ship Octavius’s “Delirium”, Dynazty’s “Firesign”, Holter’s “Vlad the Impaler”, Khorada’s “Salt”, Hollow’s “Between Eternities of Darkness”, Metal Church’s “Damned If You Do”, Khemmis’s “Desolation”, Striker’s “Play to Win” or Powerwolf’s “The Sacrament of Sin”, while all great heavy metal discs, just didn’t make the cut . I guess they would have made my “Top 61” then …

There were a few disappointments from all parts of the metal scene this year; the less djenty / more atmospheric TesseracT for one was not what I had hoped for (heck, both former vocalists Elliot and Ashe made better albums this year with their “new” bands), neither did the W.E.T. nor the Nordic Union albums push the right buttons for me (which was a shame, since the melodic hard rock scene was kind of slow this year), the Riot V album sounded like songs written by any third-tier garage power metal band, and the super cheesy SubSignal was definitely not what I had expected from those guys – however, my biggest disappointment of the year had to be the fact that Between the Buried & Me decided to go along with their record labels idea of releasing a perfectly fine full length album as two EPs, just to make more money; that upset me so much I decided not to spend my $$$ on it, and that’s why a sure shoe-in for a top 10 spot is now nowhere to be found on my list.

This was a year with an abundance of great live releases – some of my favorites of the year were Green Carnation, Moonspell, Lord of the Lost, Volbeat, Ayreon, Overkill, Whitesnake, Neal Morse Band and Marillion. Interestingly enough, I myself didn’t go see many concerts in person this year – in fact, the only concerts I went to were Bon Jovi (don’t ask!), Seven Kingdoms/Borealis, Leprous/Haken/Bent Knee (and I skipped out before Haken came on). I guess I just got fed up on live shows after all these years of touring with bands, working at a live venue and traveling around the world for shows. Or perhaps I’m just old … who knows LOL!

2018 also saw a few re-releases/re-recordings of classic albums, with in particular WASP re-doing their entire “Crimson Idol” album was absolutely mind-blowing, and Deathrow’s thrash-prog masterpiece “Deception Ignored” received a well-deserved nice new remastering. Those all found their way onto my stereo this year, but when all is said and done, it comes down to the 50 new “metal” albums mentioned in the following list:

50. Refuge – Solitary Men
The German metal kings RAGE released 5 incredible albums from 1988 to 1993: “Perfect Man”, “Secrets in a Weird World”, “Reflections of a Shadow”, “Trapped” and “The Missing Link”. All five of these are among the absolute best albums, not only by the band now 25 albums in, but also by any German power/speed/thrash metal band ever. I would rank these (especially “Perfect Man” and “The Missing Link”) right up there with the best bands such as Helloween, Running Wild, Kreator, Destruction, Grave Digger etc. have ever released. To find that the line-up from these 5 albums, (Peavy, Manni and Efti), had reunited under the banner of Refuge (named by one of their classic songs) obviously was a big deal for me, and witnessing them live at ProgPower USA in 2016 was a very special moment for me. That the band would actually also record and release a full-length album is yet another pleasant surprise, and with great songwriting closely mimicking that of their classic sound, Refuge does a way better job at capturing former glory than most other old school metal acts trying to force a reunion through. Songs like opener “Summers Winter”, the stomping “From the Ashes” or the quirky “Living on the Edge of Time” are all witness to the fact that these 3 guys were something special when they were together. Unfortunately, the album ends on a low note with the absolutely dreadful “Waterfalls” (worst song of the year?), which drags the album down from a much higher ranking to a spot as #50 this year.
https://youtu.be/EqXXBqdeCFw

49. VOLA – Applause of a Distant Crowd
With their debut “Inmazes” VOLA made it to #43 on my 2015-list. Not bad for a debut from a band combining genres that shouldn’t really work together: indie prog (Mew, Dredg, Radiohead) and djent (Meshuggah, Periphery…). The band did it so well that I jokingly dubbed this new genre amalgam for “Mewshuggah”, and apparently it caught on (I’ve seen it mentioned a few other places since then) – the band got signed to a fairly big label in the metal genre, Mascot Records, who rereleased the debut, and now have put out the second, always important follow-up, album “Applause of a Distant Crowd”. So, did the band take the step forward that we all expected them to? Yes, I guess they did – the songwriting is top notch, the melodies are huge, the instrumentation is flawless and Asger Mygind is an absolute brilliant vocalist with a golden voice. However, they also took a step backwards with the loss of “overall heaviness” and more importantly with the loss of the shadow/light play of contrasting genres. It has become too safe, and a bit too focused on the Mew and not enough on the Meshuggah sounds this time around, to put it more directly. It’s too sweet and catering to the pop-audience and doesn’t carry enough of a punch to really match the enormous expectations I had. Perhaps this is more of a “Mew-sugar” album?!
https://youtu.be/qq3mB26eZQ4

48. Haken – Vector
This album is a huge surprise to me – I didn’t expect to ever really like a Haken album, but there’s a lot of great things happening here, lots of technical showing-off, strong melodies, great proggy tunes, and overall a well-produced album. Some songs, such as “The Good Doctor”, “Veil” and “Nil by Mouth” are even border lining to awesome! However, my big issue with this album, and all other Haken albums, are the vocals of Ross Jennings – he is just not a great singer, and his voice is too weak to really carry these demanding tunes, and that’s where this album falls flat. Luckily, the band/record label was smart enough to release the album as a limited edition with a bonus disc of the entire album in instrumental versions, and that’s the ones I’ve been listening to the most.
https://youtu.be/BD3v8w57_lU

47. Angelus Apatrida – Cabaret de la Guillotine
There wasn’t a lot of great thrash metal in 2018, especially with all the big names busy touring or working on new albums, so it’s no surprise that we have to turn to a young up-and-coming band for this year’s best thrash metal disc; Spain’s Angelus Apatrida. Now, the band has apparently released 5 other albums before this one, but I’ll be honest and admit that I never listened to a single note of any of them. However, “Cabaret de la Guillotine” neatly chopped off my head right above the shoulders with some true headbanging riffs not unlike those heard on classic Exodus, Testament, Metal Church, Death Angel albums, yet with a thick groovy backbone (Pantera, Sepultura) and an occasional nod to modern-metal melodies (Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold) – this is a band that manages to unite the old school with the new school and kick some mighty ass in the process!
https://youtu.be/FvLJ_i_So30

46. Seventh Wonder - Tiara
Before 2018 even started out, I was quite certain that the proclaimed return of progressive metallers Seventh Wonder would land them an easy top 10 (or even top 5) placement on my list. However, as evident by the low spot on my list, they barely stayed within top 50. So, is that a sign of an incredibly strong year, or a less than stellar release from the Swedes? Well, it’s probably a bit of both, and then some … Let’s be real, the expectations for this album, after 8 years of radio silence and vocalist Tommy Karevik building a name for himself as Kamelot-frontman, were unreasonably high, and no one (not even 7W) would be able to live up to that. It’s not that they didn’t try though, the album is full of amazing progressive metal songs, bigger than life choruses, amazing vocals from Tommy, super epic sounding keyboards from Kyrt, the always insanely classy guitar soloing from Johan (that guy is so damn underrated), and even new guy, drummer Stefan does an A-class job. But, but, but … where’s main song writer and bass player extraordinaire Andreas Blomqvist? Well, that my friend, as they say, is the problem! All 7W fans have become accustomed to Andreas’ bass being a “lead instrument”, not just a rhythm-part in the background, and to now have an album where the bass is (calm down, it’s not missing) of lower priority than normal, can only be seen as a disappointment. On top of that, throw in a production that has everything slammed right up in your face (except that bass guitar LOL), some pretty terrible lyrics (leave it to the Swedes to write concept albums where everything is basically spelled out in a super cheesy way), and you end up with a disc that while delivering great classic 7W tunes, just doesn’t make it anywhere near my top 10, and that’s a shame.
https://youtu.be/Raz0TKEox6A

45. Grayceon – IV
Post Metal is not a genre I typically delve into, mostly because none of the bigger and most well-known bands like Neurosis, Isis, Godflesh or Boris have ever appealed to me in any way. So, what made me pick up Grayceon’s fourth album and give it a shot? Well, I guess it was a review somewhere that “piqued my spider-senses”; probably the words “prog”, “cello” and “doom” were all part of the review and that triggered my interest. While there definitely are traces of Post Metal all over this album, reminiscent of both Neurosis, Giant Squid and Agalloch (apparently there’s some kind of a link between all three of those bands and Grayceon in cellist/vocalist/songwriter Jackie Perez Gratz …), what makes this really interesting to me is more the progressive parts, the use of cello as a lead instrument, Jackie’s unique vocal style, the jazz parts, the folk elements, and the ambient/doomy/dark atmosphere. This is almost like a mixture of In the Woods, Anekdoten, Opeth, Ved Buens Ende, Empyrium, King Crimson, Katatonia …
https://youtu.be/WHUSx4sEebE

44. Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy
With members from such bands as Obscura, Blotted Silence, Hate Eternal, Dawn of Obliteration, Necrophagist, Dark Fortress, Demilich, Abhorrent, Spawn of Possession, God Dethroned and Aborted, it’s quite easy to call Alkaloid for a tech-death metal supergroup/project, but in fact the band is much more than the sum of its parts – this is a band with some great songwriting, a very unique approach to the genre (I mean, come on, a blend of Death, Yes, Cynic, Rush, Nile, King Crimson, Morbid Angel, Genesis and Pestilence all in one?), and a couple (or 3) of true guitar-heroes that all shreds like there’s no tomorrow! What sets this apart from a lot of other tech-death or prog-death bands is the super heavy always-insistent groove that continues throughout the entire album and makes it a somewhat difficult listen for a ~70-minute album. I would have preferred a bit less groove and more of a “flowing” rhythmic back bone, but this is how the band wanted it, and more power to them for it.
https://youtu.be/3b8xRljC_q8

43. Kaisers Bart – Meister5tuck
A progressive metal band singing in German? I guess there’s a first for everything … Comprised of members (current and ex-) of bands such as Dreamscape, Ivanhoe and Subsignal, the Stuttgart based Kaisers Bart, delivers a very interesting album of melodic progressive metal (think Vanden Plas, Dreamscape, Seventh Wonder, …) with a touch of musical/theatre to it. Fronted by Mischa Mang (ex-Ivanhoe), the band has a vocalist that’s absolutely capable of singing this genre, but also has a bit of “this-will-take-some-time-getting-used-to” kind of voice, and I have a feeling that he might be the deciding factor (and not the German language lyrics) for several listeners. That said, I like it a lot, and considering that VfB Stuttgart is hovering around the lower spots in the Bundesliga, at least the citizens of Stuttgart can be proud of Kaisers Bart for delivering a quality album that, while perhaps not reaching the expectations set by its title, meisterstuck = masterpiece, still manages to be one of the best prog metal discs of the year.
https://youtu.be/u-OBcBzqlVo

42. Ghost - Prequelle
I’m one of those buying into the whole concept of Ghost – I think it’s a brilliant concept; a catholic priest/cardinal/pope in front of a bunch of masked “ghouls” – it’s hilarious and it is ohhh so “metal” that you can’t help loving it, whether you consider yourself a true metal-head or not. It speaks to the inner child in us; the one who likes to be intrigued, who likes to be spooked, and who likes to have fun! Add a band (or okay, one person), who knows how to write great songs, and it’s no wonder that this concept has become an arena act within a fairly short time. On “Prequelle” the music has gotten another notch into the commercial direction, and the blatant early 70’s Blue Oyster Cult rip-offs that dominated the first few albums have been replaced by a more original song writing, that in my opinion leans more on the Steinman/Meat Loaf pomp rock of the late 70’s / early 80’s blended with an early 80’s Ozzy Osbourne hard rock edge. It’s music that’s fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (as evidenced by the awesome video universe they’ve created).
https://youtu.be/7Gr63DiEUxw

41. Keor - Petrichor
Three weeks ago I had no clue that this “band” existed, and had it not been for the year-end-list of Mattias Noren I would have gone on it complete ignorance for the rest of my life. This disc, “Petrichor”, came from out of nowhere and it totally changed my listening experience in the past few weeks – this is a very laid-back prog rock/metal album, that falls somewhere between Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Devin Townsend, Kingcrow, Steven Wilson, and perhaps a bit of latter day Opeth. All music is written and performed (aside from a few guest performances) by one guy; French multi-instrumentalist Victor Miranda-Martin. It’s very impressive and it is an album I’m looking forward to spending much more time with – for now I’m placing it at #41, but with more spins it could easily move way higher up on the list.
https://youtu.be/oH7JQ4VMffs

40. T.H.E.M. – Manor of the Se7en Gables
Every year needs a King Diamond album – that’s just a matter of fact. Since it’s been quite a long time since the real Danish King made a new disc, we’ve been blessed by multiple Swedish and German true believers of his majesty over the years, (Portrait, Attic, In Solitude …), and obviously the international project (US/Germany) T.H.E.M. has with their now two albums made a pretty good impact for those of us who like some KD! Based on the great classic story of the House with 7 Gables, T.H.E.M. has created a nice conceptual horror metal disc that pulls on all the right strings, sounding like left-over tunes from the “Abigail” / “Them” / “Conspiracy” sessions. It’s not a perfect album, and it doesn’t quite match neither the quality of King’s classics, nor is it as great a tribute as last year’s Attic album, but it’s a solid disc and I’ve got plenty of great hours out of this.
https://youtu.be/n6CjVnw1fuI

39. Graveyard - Peace
I’m a sucker for retro-hard rock, and it’s safe to say that Sweden has delivered plenty of those kind of bands over the past 5-10 years. Graveyard is obviously one of the more successful ones, and “Peace” is their 5th album (first one after their short-lived break-up), so to find an album of really high quality here is not unexpected. What is different this time around though, is that the lead vocal spot isn’t just left with Joakim Nilsson (who for some reason always have reminded me of Glenn Danzig – not in the dark and husky type of singing, but more his intonation) but also shared with bassist Truls Mörck (who has a smoother, more Robert Plant meets Phil Lynott kind of voice). This album has a ton of attitude and swagger – it’s a fully-fledged retro psychedelic bluesy hard rock album that borrows from all the right buckets: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, The WHO, Cream and Uriah Heep.
https://youtu.be/G7sBMm5JJFc

38. Northern Crown – Northern Crown
US doom metallers Northern Crown’s second full length album was high on my list of releases to check out in 2018; their precious album (2016’s “The Others”) showed a lot of promise but wasn’t perfect. This time around it sounds like they got it right! Musically this is somewhere in between My Dying Bride, Tiamat, Black Sabbath, Paradise Lost, Rainbow, and especially one of my personal favorites, the cult act Year of the Goat. The singer sounds so much like Thomas Sabatthi of YotG, that it made me stop several times to make sure it was the right album I was listening to – most likely, considering how “underground” YotG are, the similarities are purely coincidental. Either way, I’m loving this and any band that has the balls to end their album with a wonderful cover version of “Your River” by MDB gets my money – no questions asked!
https://youtu.be/b7s8AkClTBw

37. Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust
International band Skyharbor is quite an interesting one – not quite djent, not quite prog metal, not quite core, not quite nu-metal, but a little bit of it all. Formed by a bunch of incredibly talented musicians, currently with a basis in India, the band has now released three albums; the first two with Daniel Tompkins from TesseracT on vocals, and now the band has released the 3rd album “Sunshine Dust” with Cleveland-based vocalist Eric Emery stepping in. Eric apparently is a grammy-nominated producer on his own, and while I don’t really know how much input he had on this albums sound, the disc sounds phenomenal. Everything is crystal clear as it should be for this style to actually work – it’s so energetic and with so much “oomph” that if the production wasn’t up to par it all would fall flat. Musically we’re somewhere between the aforementioned TesseracT soft-djent, a bit of BtBaM prog-core, some Periphery tech-crunch, and even some Linkin Park nu-metal stylings here and there. It’s a pretty interesting mixture and most of the time it works very well.
https://youtu.be/OoyC7j7M03U

36. Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
With Kamelot you know what you get – let’s be real about that. There are no surprises here, no twists & turns to make you think “wow, I didn’t see that one coming”, and there has honestly never been any need to wish for anything more than that. Kamelot is one of those few bands who can make the same album 10 times in a row (which they’ve almost done by now) and I, along with many other fans, will still be buying it. Sure, there are small changes here and there, but mostly it’s in who the guest vocalists will be this time around, and nothing that has to do with the songwriting or production. It’s slick, well-produced, well-written symphonic melodic power metal, with more emphasis on the melodic than the metal aspect nowadays. Tommy sings just as angelic as we expect him to, Thom’s guitar is as vibrant and perfect as always, the keyboard is as much to the forefront as on the last few albums, and the rhythm section is … well ... they are there, somewhere. It’s all in all a really nice album, but also very much as expected, and even a hardcore fan as me might be beginning to want just a little more of something “new”.
https://youtu.be/PNGkmH57GnU

35. Xenoverse – The Fall: Part I
A very ambitious concept album here by these Finnish dudes – it’s progressive rock, progressive metal, symphonic metal, power metal and everything in between, all held together by a cool storyline about some war prisoner thinking back on his childhood while trying to survive. Except for the drummer (who is also in Stratovarius) all of these guys are unknown to me, but that doesn’t prevent them from coming up with a very strong output. There’s a little bit of everything here, and it should appeal to those same people who fell in love with Ostura this year, as I feel these two releases are quite similar, perhaps with Xenoverse a bit more on the prog rock than the prog metal side. Great stuff!
https://youtu.be/Ho8Ic6_dsM8

34. The Poodles – Prisma
It’s funny how you can listen to a song a ton of times, loving every single thing about it, identifying it completely with a certain artist, and then one day realize that it wasn’t even written by those you thought it to be written by. That’s the effect a well-done cover song can have on you, and it’s exactly what happened to me with the song “It’s No Good” from the latest album by Swedish hard rockers The Poodles. This song, which was released towards the end of October 2017 was the first single from the new “Prisma” album by The Poodles, and it was a perfect continuation of where the band had gone over the past couple of albums, towards a more mature rock sound than their early days happy-party-hard-rock. However, two-and-a-half months later “Prisma” is released, and to my surprise is “It’s No Good” a cover (of a Depeche Mode song), AND the entire album consists of nothing but superbly executed covers of well-known and not-so-well-known songs from artists across the entire music spectrum. The thing that stands out here however, is not that these are cover tunes, but the fact that each and every one of them sounds like they could have been an The Poodles original! From their cover of The Osmond Brothers’ “Crazy Horses”, to the excellent “Go Your Own Way” (Fleetwood Mac), the coolest version of Flashdance hit “Maniac” and even an Adele cover “Set Fire to the Rain”, this truly could have been labeled as another The Poodles studio album, and had I not known 6 out of the 10 songs I would never have suspected it to be anything but originals. That said, one song that perhaps didn’t get the personalized Poodles treatment enough to make it any different would be Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, which sounds very close to the original; but then again, this song is such an iconic classic rock song, that I guess any cover would still sound like the one we have loved for 40+ years. As for The Poodles, they still remain one of my absolute favorite hard rock bands today – led by the charismatic Jakob Samuel, co-founding member Christian Lundqvist on drums, and over the last 5 albums the amazing Henrik Bergqvist on guitar – that guy has one of the coolest lead guitar sounds I’ve ever heard in hard rock; a sound that on many occasions have reminded me of Mike Scott (The Waterboys), who I consider an extremely underrated guitarist. On “Prisma” all of the musicians truly shine, and with Jakob Samuel really showcasing how versatile a singer he is, this album is a true winner in my book; cover songs or not.
https://youtu.be/C3qrWi-6VRQ

33. In the Woods … – Cease the Day
Opening and closing an album with the same quiet vocal melody can prove very effective, and that’s what In the Woods have chosen to do on “Cease the Day”. It sets the parameters for one of the most unique albums of the year, and an album that I did a complete 360-shift on within a car-drive on a dark November evening. The first few days after the album was released, I was disappointed with it, feeling that this in no way lived up to the impressive comeback album “Pure” from 2016, but somehow “Cease the Day” clicked with me that late evening out on the North Carolina highways. What we have here is a band that pulls from all corners of their impressive back catalogue (only consisting of 4 previous albums – but what masterpieces they all are); from the folk-infused psychedelic black metal beginnings of “HEart of the Ages”, from the avantgarde sound of “Omnio”, from the experiemental and progressive sounds of “Strange in Stereo” to the epic doom prog of “Pure”. “Cease the Day” takes from all of them and creates its own soundscape, and what’s more impressive is that In the Woods … in 2018 only consist of ONE (1) original member, drummer Anders Kobro, who’ve managed to assemble a new line-up around him (vocalist James Fogarty from the band Ewigkeit is amazing), that sounds just as great as the original band. With a sound as unique as this, it’s very difficult to say who would like the album, but I think that anyone who likes bands such as Enslaved, My Dying Bride, Arcturus, Katatonia, Agalloch, Green Carnation, Borknagar, Opeth or even Ulver would find something to appreciate here.
https://youtu.be/GI6IcuGxbiI

32. Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds, Pt. 1
It took me a while to warm up to this disc – actually, quite a while. I like Symphony X just as much as any other self-respecting symphonic / neo-classical / progressive / power metal fan does, and I’ll admit that the idea of guitarist Michael Romeo doing a solo album that stylewise wasn’t too different from the main-band but with a different vocalist in front, kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, for me there’s only one singer for Symphony X (no, not Rod Tyler!), and listening to SX without Russell Allen is just plain wrong! So, with that in mind I already decided I was going to dislike “War of the Worlds, Pt. 1” before it was even released. Luckily the nice comments by friends lulled me in (actually, their horrible peer pressure grabbed me by the balls and dragged me in) and I gave the disc a fair shot. And lo and behold – the album was actually good, even border lining great! Obviously, this sounds like SX and while vocalist Rick Castellano has less “manly power” to his voice than Russell, he does a tremendous job at delivering smooth vocal melodies on top of the thick blanket of symphonic / cinematic guitar-driven power metal that Mike has laid out for him. But as anyone can guess, the real star of this album is of course Mr. Romeo himself; Ten great songs that hints more at classic (“Divine Wings…” thru’ “The Odyssey”) period SX than anything Mike’s main band have done in the last 15 years. Plenty of symphonic over-the-top songwriting, neo-classical guitar shredding, powerful stomping melodies, and great sing-along-choruses, and to me that’s still the downfall of the album, because as an SX fan I’m wondering what (or who??) is holding Mike back from creating such an album together with Allen, Pinella, Rullo and Lepond.
https://youtu.be/ToaNrHtQ7sQ

31. Shining (NOR) - Animal
Norway’s Shining is a true enigma in the music scene – here’s a band that starts out as a free jazz outfit, decides to integrate first some progressive rock and secondly a flavor of black metal into their music, then go truly avant-garde by mixing all of it well together with a dash of industrial metal, and now less than 20 years after the early beginnings, is rooted somewhere between experimental rock and old school rock’n’roll. I’m perplexed by this, as I’m sure most of their “fans” are. Now, I put the word “fans” in quotation marks because I’m having a hard time seeing someone being a true fan of all their albums – they are just too different from each other. Personally, I only like one of their other discs, 2013’s “One One One”, which mixed their so-called black jazz with something more progressive (imagine King Crimson, Emperor, Voivod and a jazz band playing all together). However, 2018’s “Animal” is a splendid little disc, blending the sounds of bands such as VolBeat, Motorhead, Maroon 5, In Flames, Muse, Andrew W.K. and probably a bunch more which crosses into genres I have absolutely no clue about. I’m really not sure who the intended audience is for this, because it’s (as with all the other Shining (NOR) albums) all over the place, but I guess that’s what they are going for. Never content being labeled as one thing. This is not black jazz, that’s for sure … this is party rock for grown ups :)
https://youtu.be/gRW4MMyb21g

30. Ten – Illuminati
There’s a good chance that whenever British singer / songwriter Gary Hughes releases an album, it will find its way onto my best of the year list somehow, even if it comes really late in the year. With not a lot of time for fans to get acquainted with “Illuminati”, Gary and his band is facing tough competition this year, especially in a year with so many amazing releases. However, luckily for Gary, the pure melodic hard rock scene has been a bit “tame” for me this year (none of these did anything for me at all; W.E.T., Stryper, Nordic Union, Sunstorm, Holter or Treat). The Gioeli / Castronovo album got a good deal of playing time when it came out but lost its appeal after a while, and besides the grand return of classic acts like Michael Schenker and Graham Bonnet, the scene really didn’t have any stand out releases this year. So, with that said, Gary and TEN doesn’t have to do much more than what is expected from them to make the cut; and, as expected, it’s all here: strong melodies, good solid performances all around and of course Gary’s smooth voice on top. The album is not quite as dark as last years “Gothica” disc but is still of a less happy mood than some of the earlier Ten albums. Perhaps Gary just decided that it takes a more serious lyrical approach these days to get his music across?! Who knows … Either way, “Illuminati” is a wonderful album that any Ten fan will appreciate, and those who hate Ten will continue to do so!
https://youtu.be/yNfTMLt-eEs

29. Witherfall – A Prelude to Sorrow
My main complaint with Witherfall’s debut album from last year “Nocturnes and Requiems” was the short playing time. At least the band added an extra ten minutes to the new album, but it still doesn’t quite push it past the one-hour mark … oh well. This time around however, I have a couple of other points of complaint, preventing “A Prelude to Sorrow” from reaching the same status as the debut (the debut made it to #13 on my 2017-list). For one, the production here sucks! Let’s be brutally honest, for a band on such a big label as Century Media a production as mediocre (at best) as this here is nothing but a disgrace – the guitar sound muddy, the drums comes across like if someone was beating on tin cans, and the vocals lack “bite”. Yeah that’s disappointing! Also, I feel like some of the songs have a tendency to plod along a little bit too much in the same riff before moving on, and for a band as “unique” as Witherfall that’s actually a shame. Here’s a band that has found the perfect balance between acoustic guitar interludes and powerful heavy metal, and that dichotomy is what makes Witherfall such an interesting band in the power prog scene. Jake’s guitar playing, be it on the acoustic guitar or electrified, full-blown metal hero antics and all, is just phenomenal and is the number one reason to come back to Witherfall. Yes, Joseph Michael is a great vocalist in the best Midnight / Warrell Dane style, but it’s all about Jake Dreyer and his incredible guitar playing for me. The dude is Andy LaRoque / Michael Romeo / Yngwie Malmsteen all in one! Put this band in the studio with a “modern sounding” producer like Andy Sneap or Jamie King, as I think it would be really interesting to see what could come out of that.
https://youtu.be/pAMWcSY1jwI

28. Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
This is the album that I wish I would be able to place much higher – for so many reasons this album deserves to be in top 10, not just by me but on any top-2018 metal list, as this album has class written all over it. However, the second-rate production (this seem to be a trend for great power/prog albums this year) makes me annoyed every single time I listen to the album and it ends up spoiling what I personally find to be one of the most interesting discs of the year. It’s no secret that I’m biased beyond hell when it comes to this band, having been their manager from ’98 to ’17 (heck, that’s almost 20 years!), having run a company together with vocalist Lars F. Larsen for close to 20 years, not to mention that he was my best-man at my wedding … so yeah, I’m biased and I think this band is the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, the duck’s nuts, the cream of the crop, or whatever idiom you’d like to use for the very best the power-thrash metal genre has to offer. This band perfectly blends power metal (think Blind Guardian) with thrash metal (think Metallica) with progressive metal (think Nevermore) and ends up with something that sounds like no one else. Yes, they didn’t get there right away, but today I swear that there’s no band that sounds like Manticora and THAT is something they should be proud of! The constants in the band has always been Lars (vocals) and Kristian (guitar), and with a new line up behind them they sound even better than ever before. This album is chock-full of wonderful melodies, intricate rhythmic patterns, incredible guitar solos and Lars’ unique vocal styling – not to mention a brilliant concept story to boot. And I’m honestly loving every single second of it … that is, until I start paying attention to the soundscape, and then I just get so damn upset! It’s a damn shame that one of the best albums of the year should be ruined by a production like this, and I honestly don’t know what it is about it that bothers me so much (I’ve seen reviewers not mentioning anything about the production), except that it sounds “muddy” and seem to drown out all the finer details, and especially Lars’ vocals sounds like they were recorded from inside the building while he was standing outside yelling. All production issues aside, this album would have – could have – should have been in my top 10, but for now will end up closer to #30.
https://youtu.be/YhqZtxtqAoQ

27. Primordial – Exile Amongst the Ruins
I’ve never quite known what to think of Primordial … their music in the past has been a bit too “confused” for my taste. It’s almost been like they never known if they wanted to be a black metal band, a folk metal band or a doom metal band, and I think that has come across somewhat directionless, and thus not very appealing to me. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that in effect this is just “epic metal” with all it entails – big melodies, huge doomy landscapes, plenty of Irish folklore and an urgent black metal spirit. While I’ll never be the biggest Primordial fan, I found plenty to like in “Exile Amongst the Ruins”, and in particular the throwbacks to the epic atmosphere created on Bathory’s “Viking trilogy” (“Blood Fire Death”, “Hammerheart”, “Twilight of the Gods”) didn’t go by unnoticed. Songs like “Where Lie the Gods”, “Nail Their Tongues” and the grandiose “Last Call” are all examples of what Primordial do best.
https://youtu.be/b7-FYDMtqo8

26. Blackslash – Lightning Strikes Again
Once in a while I pick up an album to check out just based on the artwork – typically it’s something that looks really neat and artistic, but in the case of Blackslash it was actually both the horrible artwork (some “Eddie”-like monster getting struck by lightning) and the amateurishly looking band logo that caught my attention. Who said that bad covers won’t help you? My first thought was “is this band for real”? Well, 3 minutes later the album was purchased, and I now call myself a Blackslash-fan. This is fast-paced classic metal that should appeal to anyone who likes Iron Maiden, Riot, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest or similar bands from the new-wave like Widow, White Wizzard or The Dagger. There is absolutely nothing original about this, but it is delivered with an attitude and energy that seem to appeal to me. Perhaps this is a case of the lowest common denominator, just like a good ol’ fart joke will always crack me up (no pun intended), a well performed and well-meant old school heavy metal record will always make me smile and do something that mimics headbanging (at 47 true headbanging would end me up in the hospital, so …). If you too feel that way, then this album is for you!
https://youtu.be/oQWC8WXBY9s

<(PART 1)
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Claus Jensen

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:26 pm

<(PART 1)
(PART 2)>

25. Time, the Valuator – How Fleeting, How Fragile
Progressive metal core is a style that I really can’t get 100% into … the core elements tend to scare me away most of the time, but once in a while a band will come along and kick me right where it hurts, (Syqem, The Human Abstract, Erra) and manage to combine the best of prog metal, the best of djent and the least horrible (!) parts of metal core into something that really works well; Time, the Valuator is such a band! Leaning more on the progressive and melodic side of metal core, this German act sounds like a nice mixture of Monuments, TesseracT, Erra, Periphery and The Contortionist, and supported by one of the clearest and at the same time in-your-face productions you’ll get to hear this year, “How Fleeting, How Fragile” made quite an impact on my 2018 listening.
https://youtu.be/O99ZmbqufVw

24. King Goat – Debt of Aeons
Give me songs of misery and despair, give me melodies of loneliness and emptiness, and give me a warm blanket of sorrow, melancholy and plenty of heartbreak, please! I’m a doom metal fan and have been since the first time I heard Candlemass 30+ years ago. With “Debt of Aeons”, UK-based King Goat (wonderful band name by the way!) provides me everything I need in the doom department. It’s by no means a perfect album but in 2018 this one did the trick for me – it hit all the right spots in the doom department and even beat out its counterpart Primordial (there’s a lot of similarities between those two bands, right down to the vocal styles …). Slow, plodding, heavy? Yes please, that’s how I like my metal!
https://youtu.be/tVO2chSz3bs

23. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
Four years after “The Satanist” from out of nowhere made Behemoth into superstars. It only took this Polish black metal band 23 years and 10 albums to make it, so heck, there’s hope for a lot of other underground bands out there … What made “The Satanist” such a worldwide phenomenon in the metal world is a combination of multiple things: great song writing, a more polished (no pun intended) production than used to from this genre, the incredible history of the band (one of the original black metal bands, founder of Temple of the Fullmoon satanic circle, all the drama with vocalist Nergal and his blasphemy charges in Poland, Nergal’s well-documented battle with leukemia, much more), and of course the fact that the band relies on an imagery (lyrics, photos, videos, stageshow) quite different from what we’ve seen before – here’s a band that comes across as if they truly mean what they sing about, and that these dudes are the meanest devil worshippers out there. The success of “The Satanist” in many ways, however, makes it almost impossible for Behemoth to deliver a new album that in any way can live up to the expectations, and I only can think of two ways that the band could succeed: either strip down the music and go completely old school black metal, or continue to write in the same style as “The Satanist” but up the production, up the imagery and try to add more orchestrations. While the second approach seems the least “true” to the bands original and beliefs, it is the path they chose, and from a musical point of view I’m happy they did so. This is solid song writing, immense orchestrations and productions, and the “visual concept” here is scary as Hell. I know that this album primarily is going to appeal to the Hot Topic metal audience out there (evidenced by the fact that the band is being put in front of the Lamb of God / Slayer tours to pull in the youngsters), but at the same time there’s also something honest and old school about it when the band drops hints to classics of the genre (such as “Bartzabel” which comes across like an homage to Celtic Frost), and with other songs (“Angelvs XIII” is a good example) even manages to blend blast beats, acoustic guitar, rock’n’roll soloing and melodies galore into one. This is a band who clearly knows what they want to achieve and how to do so. It might be a very calculated formula, but it’s super effective and doesn’t take anything away from where the band originated – in fact, it makes it even more impressive that from raw beginnings this band 25+ years later stand strong as one of the most orchestral and epic sounding extreme metal bands out there.
https://youtu.be/Dhfy9TPga-c

22. Kingcrow – The Persistence
Undeniably the best sounding album of the year – sonically this is an 11 out of 10! Musically however, it feels a bit like the dwell has begun to run dry for Diego and co. Some of the songs are dangerously close to older song ideas, and others sounds like they were lifted off of newer albums by Leprous, Porcupine Tree or Pain of Salvation. Perhaps not as original as I would have hoped for, but man, this is still quality prog rock/metal that emotionally hits home every single time, and it’s so well done (and well produced) that I’m willing to see through the minor flaws this time around. Next time around I do however hope that Kingcrow can come up with something a bit more original.
https://youtu.be/_fRRpLPnHRQ

21. Poem – Unique
In 2015 the Greek band Poem released the amazing “Skein Syndrome”, which might just be one of the top 5 best prog metal albums in the last decade. Since then the band has been busy touring across Europe multiple times, vocalist George Prokopiou even found time to record an album with his other band Mother of Millions, AND they also managed to create enough quality songs to release yet another Poem album, 2018’s aptly titled “Unique”. Once again drawing heavily on the Tool influences, but this time also a little bit of Pain of Salvation, some Opeth and Katatonia coldness, and a touch of alternative metal (think System of a Down mixed with Alter Bridge perhaps …), “Unique” is a truly original sounding album, that while obviously pulling on inspiration from multiple sources ends up sounding like nobody else. This album lives on exciting rhythmic patterns, warm melodies, dark atmospheres, and George’s superb voice! While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Skein Syndrome” it’s still one of this year’s best prog metal discs, and one that every fan of the genre should check out.
https://youtu.be/1TvAx-H3q2w

20. Obscura – Diluvium
As I pointed out in my comments on Alkaloid’s newest album, I prefer less groove and more free-flowing rhythmic basis for my tech/prog death metal – and on that account Obscura delivers in spades. What we have here is a fast-paced, frantic, yet very calculated (almost formulaic) rhythmic backbone, for some incredible guitar runs, solos, and heck, even some fretless bass noodling, all over album number 5 from these German prog heads. Is this 100% original material? Probably not, as there’s obvious borrowed parts from bands such as Cynic or Necrophagist, yet it seems like Obscura has become one of those bands that truly captures the essence of this genre and being heralded as a leader and innovator. I think it comes down to the fact that Obscura uses the “wankery” (in lack of a better term) more as a theme than as a show-off moment – it’s an integrated part of their music and it’s all over the album. While I still feel that “Cosmogenesis” is their best album, likely because that’s when I jumped on board, “Dilivium” is a super strong album, and one of the prime moments of tech/prog this year. Going back to the aforementioned Alkaloid, it’s so interesting to think that these two bands are different sides of the same coin, with most of the members of Alkaloid being either present or past members of Obscura. It shows that the techy death metal bands don’t all have to follow one simple formula. And that fact is actually what makes this genre-offshoot so damn interesting, even here in 2018 almost 30 years since bands like Nocturnus, Pestilence, Death, Cynic, and Atheist started out with their brand of tech/prog death.
https://youtu.be/-jypdLnySvA

19. Ihsahn – Amr
Instead of going into a long-winded explanation of Ihsahn’s role in modern extreme metal, about how much I appreciate his work through Emperor, Zyklon-B, Thou Shalt Suffer, Peccatum and obviously his solo work, not to mention his influence and mentorship for Leprous, I think it would be better to let the music on “Amr” speak for itself. What we have here is a modern-sounding album of extreme metal, with an almost AOR approach to melodies, plenty of 80’s synths, and a very progressive rhythmic structure, topped by Ihsahn’s vocals that ranges from (predominantly) clean singing to guttural growls and (fewer than normal) hysterical black metal shrieks. Very impressive how it all comes together so effortlessly and that Ihsahn, or Vegard Sverre Tveitan as is his real name, himself manages to write something sounding so fresh and modern considering he has close to 27 years of “baggage” within the metal genre. “Amr” might be the most complete of all the Ihsahn solo albums, and for sure it’s the most easily accessible for those amongst us that were never able to relate to his more “black metal” styled beginnings.
https://youtu.be/7Ou6oGFBJsg

18. Satan – Cruel Magic
As far as life philosophies goes, “You can never have too much Satan in your life“ seem to be a good one if you ask me – well, at least if the Satan in question is the British band that brought us the classic “Court in the Act” in 1983, the completely underrated “Suspended Sentence” in 1987, the comeback albums “Life Sentence” (2013) and “Atom by Atom” (2015), not to mention their Blind Fury and Pariah albums (basically same band, operating under a different name). Come 2018 it’s safe to say that the band no longer is fresh off the comeback train, but instead have managed to re-establish themselves in the scene as one amazing thrash meets classic heavy metal band, that on “Cruel Magic” fires on all cylinders bringing a healthy dose of unadulterated heavy metal to the worshippers out there.
https://youtu.be/UuLTFfi-peM

17. Amorphis – Queen of Time
My relationship with Amorphis might be a bit different than most of the “prog/power metal” fans around here, as in for me the big albums aren’t “Under the Red Cloud”, “Skyforger” or “Silent Waters” which seem to be the go-to discs for this audience – however, for me it all started back in the day (1994 to be precise) with “Tales from the Thousand Lakes”. I was working at a record store back then, and we sold a LOT of that album, primarily to the doom and gothic metal audience (those into Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Type O Negative) but also to those leaning a bit more towards a “folksy” metal which at that time wasn’t really a big thing. When their next album “Elegy” came out it was a complete shock to a lot of fans, because this was pushing them more into the “melo-death” genre rather than doom, but also introducing clean singing. At that point in time I was hooked on all the bands that seemed to be from the same mold; Tiamat, Moonspell, Sentenced, Therion and even The Gathering – all bands that came from the doom/death genres and now were pushing towards something more melodic. This is where Amorphis to me stood at their very strongest, and I loved the heck out of it. With that said, for me it’s all about the albums from “Elegy” and up through “Far from the Sun”. After that the band took a turn towards a less doomy path and more of a progressive melo-death style, which I wasn’t as hooked on as most seem to be. To be completely honest, while I do own most of their albums from then on, I really didn’t think I would ever love an album of theirs again until 2018’s “Queen of Time”. Now this album, while still rooted in their current proggy melo-death sound, seem to focus so much on the big melodies, the proggy twist and turns, and the very dominant overall folk-input, that it actually took me by surprise to find Amorphis this “adventurous” 13 albums into their career – hats off to them! This is an album full of clever arrangements, big orchestral parts (sounds quite “Orphaned Land”-like here and there), and superb production, but it is the great interplay between Tomi’s growls and his clean vocals, the super huge choirs all over the album and the beautiful female vocals (by Anneke van Giersbergen – unfortunately only on one song) that makes “Queen of Time” one of this year’s biggest surprises.
https://youtu.be/Jg2VqUTNjsw

16. Lord of the Lost – Thornstar
I will admit that I didn’t know about this band until the release of their “Swan Songs II” album in 2017. However, that album (an acoustic re-recording of some of their greatest hits) made me dig deeper into the history of the band and realize that this band were already 6 studio full-lengths, multiple live albums and multiple EPs into their career. While I’m sure the German music council and the band appreciates this, my wallet and bank account doesn’t like finding bands that have so many releases out already … oh well … Musically we’re talking about gothic rock infused with industrial sounds, some glam metal and shock rock, a bit of dark “semi-progressive” romanticism and a kick-ass metal attitude – think Rammstein, Motley Crue, Type O Negative, Nine Inch Nails, W.A.S.P., Moonspell and Depressive Age all blended together. Yeah, on paper I’m not sure if I would be interested in listening to that either, but the end result is pretty frigging awesome, and their latest mammoth-concept of the double album “Thornstar” is nothing short of a herculean effort from a band that doesn’t do anything half-baked.
https://youtu.be/wwm2Cudz8BA

15. Southern Empire – Civilisation
2016’s debut album from Australia’s Southern Empire was a surprise from out of nowhere – a great progressive hard rock album that sounded like it came from the Magna Carta label of the early 90’s (think Magellan, Cairo, Ice Age, Enchant …) but blended with something almost reminiscent of 70’s classic US prog rock (think Kansas, Supertramp, The Eagles …). With their sophomore album “Civilisation”, Southern Empire has left the latter sound behind, and focused more on the first mentioned (Enchant, Cairo …) and with hints of other contemporary progressive hard rock bands such as Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard, Frost* and heck, even a bit of Dream Theater here and there. The album only has 4 songs but stands tall at almost 70 minutes of playing time – it’s a splendid disc, and one I’ve listened to many, many, many times throughout the year.
https://youtu.be/oXzIg-5jFEk

14. Graham Bonnet Band – Meanwhile, Back in the Garage
The old geezer still has it! Hasn’t lost a beat, that’s for sure … This is timeless hard rock, just the way it was done when it really mattered! Sure, it was a different world in the late 70’s and up through the 80’s, and Graham definitely realizes that himself, but he is a proud man – proud to have been part of music history, and proud to still be able to do what he does best, and this album oozes of that big time; from the album title, to the lyrics and moods of the individual songs and obviously through the music, which makes “Meanwhile…” the best Graham solo album since 1981’s “Line-Up”. The only thing I just don’t understand about this album is the cover version of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero” – why Graham felt the need to do this cover I can’t answer, but obviously it was important for him, so I’ll let that one slide (even if I always hated that song).
https://youtu.be/Dgi1iGZvdM4

13. Voices from the Fuselage – Odyssey II: The Founder of Dreams
Former TesseracT vocalist Ashe O’Hara has one of the most amazing voices in prog – it is one of those voices that wraps you in a warm blanket on a cold winter day or lifts you up high under the blue sky on a breezy summer day – just amazing! With his band Voices from the Fuselage, Ashe now has released the second full-length album, “Odyssey II”, which takes an even more melodic and less djenty approach than the debut. See, VftF is not a djent band, and while Ashe is obviously most famous for his role in TesseracT on their “Altered State” album, the music he makes with VftF is melodic and atmospheric prog metal with only occasional hints at the more modern stylings of djent or post rock, and on “Odyssey II” it sounds like a band that 100% have found their own identity and sound. This album is wonderful, and it includes one of the very best songs of the year in the amazing “Grave Digging”.
https://youtu.be/sUB6GsK-lNE

12. The Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
When your 7-year old son immediately says “Dad, this sounds like ABBA”, you know that whatever you’re listening to (1) has got to be some very well written songs and (2) are likely to originate from Sweden. In the case of The Night Flight Orchestra, both statements are correct. In fact, I’m hard pressed to come up with a more Swedish sounding band this year than TNFO, which is a hilarious statement considering that TNFO actually have based their entire career on sounding like the late 70s/early 80s US adult oriented rock scene. Okay, so, bear with me for a moment while I explain my thought process here; TNFO absolutely have stolen with arms and legs from classic American rock bands such as Foreigner, Toto, Supertramp, Journey, Richard Marx, Styx, Survivor, but they do it in a way that is so typical Swedish where the big melody and the happy feeling comes first, and they do it with a charm that’s undeniably “ABBA’esque”. While the ideas might be American, the end result is pure Swedish, and it’s rather amazing. I’ve said it before, I’m not the biggest Bjørn Strid fan, but on this album, he actually sounds really good and I can easily stomach his voice for the full album (even on repeat).
https://youtu.be/f7zcmpdg0so

11. Arena – Double Vision
So, what have we learned from British neo-prog band Arena? That an album is apparently supposed to have exactly 56 minutes of music on it! For some weird reason the last 3 albums (the ones featuring vocalist Paul Manzi) all lasts 56 minutes, and if you go back in time and review their older albums, you’ll find that they all clock in around that number (58, 55, 61, 55, 58, 52). All right, irrelevant information aside, this album should obviously have landed on spot #56 on my list if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so damn good that I had no choice to move it up close to top 10 (heck, for a long time it was close to a top 5 spot). I’ve been a fan of Arena since the release of the debut album “Songs from the Lion’s Cage” in the summer of 1995, and besides a somewhat ambivalent relationship with their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen spin-off “Pepper’s Ghost” (1995), I’ve been a huge fan of every single release they’ve done. Even when people were having a hard time getting used to Paul Manzi’s voice, I was singing his praises, because to me Arena encompasses everything I love about the Brit-prog hard rock style and have loved since I first heard Marillion 35 years ago. Here we have the huge guitar melodies that make it sound like you’re standing somewhere out on the moors of rural England, the bombastic compositions, the waving synth sounds, the great clear “storyteller” style vocals and the cinematic sounding production. With such incredible songs as “Paradise of Thieves”, “Zhivago Wolf” and the 22 minute “The Legend of Elijah Shade”, “Double Vision” sits comfortably amongst the rest of Arena’s back catalogue and might even be one of their three best albums ever (the other two being the debut as well as “The Visitor”).
https://youtu.be/wS6QxT_xJyQ

10. Tribulation – Down Below
It would be interesting if Jon Nodtveidt had been alive today to see where he would have taken the music of Dissection (if anywhere, considering he did claim after “Reinkaos”, in 2006, that he had reached the limitations of what he wanted to do with his music) – would he have continued even further down that strange semi-industrial path that the last album hinted at? Would he have taken the band back towards a more aggressive black/death metal path, perhaps how Watain has continued his legacy? Or would it be more of an “avantgarde” melodic style like what Tribulation here (and Danish band Slægt) have chosen to go in? The world will never know, but it’s great at least that we have such talented people out there as the guys in Tribulation to keep the sound originated by Nodtveidt alive. Tribulation have taken the melodic parts of the first two classic Dissection albums (“The Somberlain” and ‘Storm of the Lights Bane”) and infused them with a very avantgarde sound, somewhere between Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Tiamat, Iron Maiden, Therion and Kiss … well … I mean … somewhere along those lines at least … big melodies, pounding heavy metal and blistering black metal. And it’s what secures it a place in my top 10 of the year.
https://youtu.be/elD85SeiA2o

9. Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Quebec seem to be the hot-bed for all things technical and death metal in the past 15-20 years (Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis, Kataklysm, Gorguts, Augury, Martyr …), and of course this is where Beyond Creation hail from. With a sound that doesn’t leave any of the aforementioned behind, and vehemently borrows from each and every single one of them, as well as from every other “classic” band in the history of this genre (Death, Cynic, Atheist, Nocturnus, Pestilence, Decapitated, Obscura, The Faceless, Psycroptic, Necrophagist …), Beyond Creation has now released their 3rd full length, “Algorythm”. As you can imagine, the music of Beyond Creation is like a trip thru’ time for any fan of progressive and technical death metal – it’s all here, and so much more. From the grandiose outer worldly soundscapes to the intense blast beats, from the insane guitar solos to the brutal growling of the vocalist, from the uber-technical drum patterns to the small classical interludes and of course back to the ever-present all-dominating bass playing – “Algorythm” might actually be the very album that has managed to combine all of the aspects about this genre that I love into one coherent unit. There’re obviously the genre-police that claim you either play “progressive death” or you play “tech death”, and that there’s no such thing as a mix of those genres, but I don’t really care, because to me Beyond Creation is music that hits right home with me, and that’s all that matters.
https://youtu.be/5rxhGnTJZsc

8. Conception – Re:Conception / My Dark Symphony
I’ve been told that this doesn’t count since it’s an EP and a single, and not a full album, but I really don’t care. It’s the first sign of new music from Conception in more than 20 years, so for me it counts! There – deal with it! Following up on one of progressive metals most revered albums of all time, the very unique “Flow”, is not an easy task for sure; an album sounding like nothing else at the time it came out and still sounding completely as a beast of its own, the band didn’t take any shortcuts or half-assed solutions by putting out an album with a few good songs and a bunch of fillers, but instead decided to give us a total of 6 wonderfully crafted new tunes (and an intro), and leave it at that … nothing more, nothing less. No reason to put out a full-length album if you know you don’t have the quality material for it, and 33 minutes of new material now is better than waiting 21 years additionally for the band to have enough for a full-length, right? ;) I’ve seen people complain about the use of vocal effects on these new songs, and I’ve also seen some mention that this is a very laid-back style – but if y’all would take the time and go back to “Flow” and listen again, you’ll realize that it’s not so different. “Flow” was (as I started out saying) a very unique album, not only in progressive metal, but also in Conception’s discography of otherwise more “power metal” tinged prog metal, and what this new set of tunes shows us, is that the band intend to continue where they left off. Is that something, or what?
https://youtu.be/aWLZ9pStIeU

7. Ostura – The Room
This album came from out of nowhere … well, that’s not true, it came from Lebanon of all places!!! I’m trying to think of other bands from Lebanon, but I can’t think of any, so that should tell us all about how impressive it is that a band from that part of the world gets an album released, let alone an album which found its place onto many a top 10 list this year within the progressive metal scene. Even more impressive is it that the disc production-wise can compete with the big-name bands in the genre, and that the band has managed to enlist the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for participation in “The Room”. Color me impressed! Oh, and just to show how serious these guys are; the drums are performed by Thomas Lang (yes, he of Stork, Peter Gabriel, Paul Gilbert, Steve Hackett, etc. fame!), there are guest guitar performances by Marco Sfogli (Creation’s End, James LaBrie) and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon!!!), and a very impressive vocal performance by Michael Mills (Toehider, Ayreon). Speaking of vocal performances, the album evenly split out the vocals between 3 people, Michael being one of those, as there are two singers within the band, male vocalist Elia Monsef and female vocalist Youmna Jreissati. I cannot begin to even explain how well those 3 voices work together – it’s unreal, and in many ways, this feels like something you’d expect from Ayreon or Avantasia (not musically, but vocally), and it’s super impressive. And, let’s not forget the compositions which are huge, huge, huge!!! Keyboardist Danny Bou-Maroun has for sure created an incredible disc, which touches on everything that makes progressive metal so much fun. Here are hints of Epica, Ayreon, Symphony X, Within Temptation, Angra, Circus Maximus, Dream Theater and even Kamelot, and all of it flows together in order to become the best “old school” progressive/power metal disc of the year.
https://youtu.be/HP3958zgNFY

6. Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
In 2004 Israeli band Orphaned Land changed the course of music by releasing their third album, the incredible “Mabool - The Story of Three Sons of Seven”, which managed to crossover between not only various music genres, from extreme metal to progressive rock to middle eastern folk music, but also between people of diverse religions; Judaism, Islam, Christianity. For a lot of people that album ranks as the pinnacle of what this band has created – and will ever create … I’m one of those people! That said, I’m not so focused on that album alone that I can’t see the brilliance in their other albums, both those before and those after. I truly enjoy all 6 of their albums (or 8 if you count “Orphaned Land & Friends” and “Kn’nan” as regular OL albums), and especially this new album “Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs” is a wonderful disc. In fact, this is in my opinion the best album they’ve done since “Mabool”, and in many ways this is due to the fact that the band has never come across as diversified in their musical appearance as they do now. They clearly have found the right balance between their folklore/ethnic sensitivity and their heavy metal strength, and “Unsung…” plays equally into both. There are a lot of progressive parts (and the guest solo appearance by Steve Hackett – ex Genesis, doesn’t hurt at all), hints of power metal (including guest vocalist Hansi Kursch – Blind Guardian), some heavy-as-f*** extreme metal (vocalist Tomas Lindberg, At The Gates, guests as well), and some of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies Orphaned Land has ever come up with. As always, a very important aspect to OL is the lyrics – and on “Unsung…” we’re presented with yet another concept album about humanity and our failure to do what’s right to the world we live in. It’s deep, it’s quite pissed-off, and it really fits the mood of this particular album. Guitarists Chen and newcomer Idan are just absolutely perfect in all their guitar hero glory, to the point where I no longer miss Matti and Yossi. Kobi sings better than ever and the rhythm section of Uri (besides Kobi the only other founding member left) and Shmuely is the backbone for OL. “Unsung…” isn’t “Mabool”, but it doesn’t need to be – this is an incredibly strong album in its own right.
https://youtu.be/hurWzo01FpM

5. Antimatter – Black Market Enlightenment
This album wins the award for most melancholic album of the year hands down! Singer/songwriter Mick Moss has singlehandedly kept Antimatter going strong for 20 years and 7 albums now, the band that he started as a project together with ex-Anathema bassist/songwriter Duncan Patterson, and with each album become even better than before. “Black Market Enlightenment” is therefor not surprisingly the very best I’ve ever heard from Mick Moss. Full of dark emotion and a very serious conceptual subject matter (i.e. drug addiction), “BME” takes the listener on a journey to a very unsettling place, where gothic atmosphere, gloom and doom, haunting vocal melodies, and a sense of hopelessness all go hand in hand to create an album that easily matches the very best from such bands as Anathema, Marillion, Fields of the Nephilim, Pink Floyd and Katatonia. In the past few months since this album was released, I must have played it 50 times or more – it’s been one of the most amazing musical experiences of the year, listening to such songs as “Partners in Crime” (which is the closest Mick has ever come to writing a true “hit” in my book), “Existential” (world music?), “This is Not Utopia” (with a saxophone solo!), or the two incredible ballads “Wish I Was Here” and “What Do You Want Me to Do?”. The only thing that prevents this album from ending up at the very top of my list is the fact that I strongly believe that Mick still can do even better, that he must have it in himself to write a real hit song, and that the albums longest song “Between the Atoms” unfortunately also is the only song that I feel could do with some critical editing.
https://youtu.be/wrl8AfrgpW0

4. Be the Wolf – Empress
Do you have a “happy place”? Somewhere you like to go to when you feel an urge to take a mental break from the rest of the world around you? I’m a strong believer in all us having a need for such an “imaginary escape room”, and in 2018 that place for me has been this album. “Empress” is the third album by Italian hard rock band Be the Wolf, and like their previous two albums, which I also absolutely adore, I’m having a very hard time comparing the band to anyone else – in fact, I can guarantee you that if you have decided to check this album out based on what the record label is using in their promo material then you’re in for a rude awakening as this sounds NOTHING like what they for some reason think it sounds like: Scorpions, Judas Priest, Skid Row, WASP and Warlock … WHAT??? I wonder if they even listened to the album before they decided that those names were what they’d use to “sell” the album by. To my ears, this is 80’s hard rock with an alternative 90’s edge and perhaps a bit of modern-day pop-punk, if that even makes sense?! Imagine Lynch Mob mixed with Stone Temple Pilots, Twisted Sister, Monster Magnet, Iron Maiden, Panic at the Disco, Van Halen, Primus and Creed … and you’re still not there, lol – to be honest, I can’t really describe it (heck, I don’t even like half of those bands I just mentioned), it’s just music that makes me happy, it has great melodies, awesome vocals, kick-ass attitude, plenty of guitars and a rhythm section that makes my booty move side-to-side. What more could I want?
https://youtu.be/dLx140wCxtQ

3. Michael Schenker Fest – Resurrection
On paper this album could only end up one of two ways: complete failure or utter world domination – we’re talking about a bunch of the coolest voices in the heavy metal genre, the real “metal gods” (well, “hard rock gods” to be more specifically), getting together to celebrate their combined history working under whatever banner guitar-hero and ego-ginormous Michael Schenker has chosen to name his solo project over the last 40+ years (MSG - which over time has stood for Michael Schenker Group, McAuley Schenker Group, Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock) … I’m happy to say that in my book, this album ends up in the “world domination” category! Sure, this isn’t a measure-stick that anyone else can use for anything, and I’m certain that sales-wise my statement would be ridiculed by any record label executive, however quality wise this album hits all the right spot in the heart of a close-to-fifty-year-old-hard-rock-fan such as myself. I don’t want to get into any discussion about which of the singers have maintained his voice best, because that’s irrelevant here – the fact is that all of them deliver exactly what we expect from them and then some. And with Michael’s song writing and his guitar playing in great shape, “Resurrection” is a magnificent album.
https://youtu.be/9o34ooePv-E

2. Voivod -The Wake
29 years ago, the Canadian progressive psychedelic thrash metal band Voivod released what have since then been my undisputed favorite metal album of all time; the incredible “Nothingface”. An album that has been unmatched before and after in terms of mood, melodies and performance for me personally – this album is the closest to a “perfect experience” as ever possible in the heavier music genre. Following that release, the story of Voivod has been a turbulent one, both with regards to the line-up as well as the quality of their output. Now, 2018 the band have hit their stride again, as with “The Wake” they’ve managed to create their strongest output since “Nothingface” and an output that rivals my #1 of this year … quite an astonishing feat if you ask me. As always, there’s an underlying sci-fi concept to their lyrics, and it permeates through the entire musical experience that is Voivod – it’s like being on a spaceship and witnessing a post-apocalyptic world in complete chaos through this psychedelic kaleidoscopic view. It’s something unique and while there are bands out there that have tried to mimic this specific sound over the years, there is no denying that the true essence of Voivod is within Away’s drumming, Snake’s vocals, and the guitar sound that Piggy (RIP) created and which Chewy has since managed to emulate to perfection. Voivod is and will always be a band that holds a special place in my heart, and with “The Wake” the band has delivered something that closely matches their very best outputs even 30 years down the road.
https://youtu.be/hCuSHngMy-g

1. Good Tiger – We Will All Be Gone
Formed as somewhat of a who-is-who super-group from the djent/prog metal scene, Good Tiger debuted in 2015 with the very interesting “A Head Full of Moonlight” album. Featuring former TesseracT singer Elliot Coleman, ex-The Faceless/Monuments drummer Alex Rudinger, ex-The Safety Fire guitarists Joacquin Ardiles and Derya Nagle and ex-Architects bassist Morgan Sinclair, the band obviously have the pedigree to deliver something impressive, and to label “We Will All Be Gone” as exactly that would be a huge understatement. In fact, this album could rank right up there with the very best releases on the entire djent scene next to such genre-defining albums as TesseracT’s “One”, Periphery’s “Periphery II”, Animals as Leaders’ “The Joy of Motion”, Meshuggah’s “ObZen”, Sikth’s “Death of A Dead Day”, Monuments’ “Gnosis” or Textures “Silhouettes”. I’m already now seeing the genre-purists yelling at me, claiming that this album has nothing to do with djent, but bear with me for a minute here, while I try to make my point valid; None of those classic djent releases mentioned sound like the others, yet they’ve all got the djent stamp all over them, which (to me at least) in very broad terms stands for an extreme metal approach to progressive rock with metal-core, technical death metal, math rock or similar influences all sneaking in. Over its short existence, this genre truly has become watered down like no other, and the need for reinventing the genre has been on many a wish list for quite some time now – Good Tiger in my opinion does exactly that by straying away from the typical formula and instead adding a ton of melody, alternative rock song-writing and some neat smooth-jazz rhythmic patterns. Perhaps I should have called this pop-djent, as it has a super poppy approach to its songwriting which probably has more in common with bands such as Circa Survive, Mew, Mars Volta, or Coheed & Cambria than Meshuggah or Periphery, but coming from the same mold, it makes sense to see it as extension of djent, and perhaps a reinvention of a genre in dire need for a quick fix. I’m going to make a really bold statement here; along with Port Noir and Leprous, I personally see Good Tiger as potential leaders in the future of progressive metal.
https://youtu.be/oSleQSJyaWY
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Nos » Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:33 pm

introclaus wrote:42. Ghost - Prequelle
On “Prequelle” the music has gotten another notch into the commercial direction, and the blatant early 70’s Blue Oyster Cult rip-offs that dominated the first few albums have been replaced by a more original song writing, that in my opinion leans more on the Steinman/Meat Loaf pomp rock of the late 70’s / early 80’s blended with an early 80’s Ozzy Osbourne hard rock edge.


It made my list as well, but as a devoted Steinman fan, I don't hear much of it in Ghost. They don't have the Broadway/theater tinges to their melodies the way that Steinman had in his DNA. They share more with "Bad Attitude" era Meat Loaf, I would say. Still, it's great stuff.

39. Graveyard - Peace
I’m a sucker for retro-hard rock, and it’s safe to say that Sweden has delivered plenty of those kind of bands over the past 5-10 years. Graveyard is obviously one of the more successful ones


I would say the most successful. Are there any you think are better? If there's a better one out there, I need to hear them. The usual suspects (Rival Sons, etc) don't do it for me. A couple, like Blues Pills and Zodiac, each have one great record, but that's about it. I don't know if there are two better old-school classic rock records in the last twenty years than "Hisingen Blues" and "Lights Out".

What is different this time around though, is that the lead vocal spot isn’t just left with Joakim Nilsson (who for some reason always have reminded me of Glenn Danzig – not in the dark and husky type of singing, but more his intonation) but also shared with bassist Truls Mörck (who has a smoother, more Robert Plant meets Phil Lynott kind of voice).


That's the one thing I dislike about "Peace", and what I hated about the previous record. The bassist isn't half the singer Joakim is, and I keep finding myself wondering how much better they would be if they didn't trade vocals.

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:03 am

Nos wrote:
introclaus wrote:42. Ghost - Prequelle

It made my list as well, but as a devoted Steinman fan, I don't hear much of it in Ghost. They don't have the Broadway/theater tinges to their melodies the way that Steinman had in his DNA. They share more with "Bad Attitude" era Meat Loaf, I would say. Still, it's great stuff.


"Bad Attitude" falls into the early 80s category I mentioned :) Either way, yes, it's not quite as BIG sounding as Steinman had a tendency to go, but it definitely catches on that vibe in my opinion.

Nos wrote:
introclaus wrote:39. Graveyard - Peace

I would say the most successful.


I think Ghost would beg to differ :)

Nos wrote:Are there any you think are better? If there's a better one out there, I need to hear them. The usual suspects (Rival Sons, etc) don't do it for me. A couple, like Blues Pills and Zodiac, each have one great record, but that's about it. I don't know if there are two better old-school classic rock records in the last twenty years than "Hisingen Blues" and "Lights Out".


First of all I don't think Rival Sons (or Greta van Fleet) are retrad (retro-hard rock/metal) ... to me they are bands emulating the classic rock sound coming from a purely rock POV, not approaching it from a metal POV - there's a difference to me. Besides Ghost, I don't think the "metal based" retrad bands have the potential to cross over into the mainstream audience, whereas the "rock based" ones obviously have.

In the retro hard rock genre there are plenty of bands I find better than Graveyard - that doesn't mean you'll find them anywhere near as exciting - at this point it's all just a matter of personal taste: Hallas, Witchcraft, The Dagger, Horisont ...

Nos wrote:That's the one thing I dislike about "Peace", and what I hated about the previous record. The bassist isn't half the singer Joakim is, and I keep finding myself wondering how much better they would be if they didn't trade vocals.


Yeah I know you don't like that ... it doesn't really bother me that much, then again, I never was as big a Graveyard fan as you, so I'm probably more forgiving.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Nos » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:36 am

introclaus wrote:I think Ghost would beg to differ :)


Interesting. The thought hadn't even occurred to me that Ghost could be included in that discussion. I can hear it in the first album, but after that I don't think there's anything retro/vintage about their sound. These last two, especially, sound completely modern on the production side.

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Chris R » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:09 pm

Great list.A lot in common
A few quickies
1.Ghost
For those people who have the "there is no fun in metal"attitude,(which we know there are way too many),screw them.Its pure cheesy satanic bubblegum pop rock with an edge and a funny gimmick (seeing pics of a satanic pope playing sax onstage make me wish I could have found a way to see them live)

2.Seventh Wonder-i put this band in the "prog blue balls" category,I always expect something awesome and I'm always disappointed,they have never grabbed me like they have others here or on paper should be grabbing me as they have every element that appeals to me.This is no different

3.Night Flight Orchestra
Speaking of cheesy fun,this album might be the king of it.Its everything I loved about tbe late 70's/early 80s.This is near the top for me,and Pretty Thing Closing In is probably going to be one of my songs of tbe year,iif for anything because this song was used for music to shoot to at some of .my most important shoots to date and having a car full of models with a combined 15 million followers singing along to it (and it being used for the BlackTapeProject runway show)during Miami Swim Week this past July.This album was the soundtrack for one of the most fun weeks in tbe past 5 years.

Conception
Thank you,screw it,this goes in my top tier when I make my list ..

Antimatter
You were the one who turned me on to these guys,didnt get the disk till recent and haven't spent as much time with it as I should have ,but this goes in a new section of my list (albums that I got recently that would probably rank very high but didnt spend enough time with)
My gf currently has it on right now actually so maybe we take this down to the pool and annoy people at the resort with this,lol
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Digital Man » Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:56 pm

Wow, thanks for this monster list. There are many I haven't heard and from your descriptions sound like something I would like. Plan to spend lots of time checking these out.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby elendil » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:06 pm

Great list. Some things here I had not heard of or didn't know about and will explore further. Didn't know that In the Woods... had dropped a new album, for instance.

On Primordial... In my book they are one of the best metal bands of the past quarter-century. They released four superb albums in a row from _Spirit the Earth Aflame_ to _To the Nameless Dead_. But lately their creative spark seems to have dimmed. In my view, the Arkona album this year treads similar ground but more interestingly.

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby ToddS » Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:37 pm

Massive post Claus! Plenty of titles I haven not heard. I need to go through it all as I get time.

Ostura, and Orphaned Land top ten for me as well. I have no problem with the Conception EP being there. Was just a thing for some of us not including EPs. i don't include live releases either, but some do. To each their own. It's all good fun to read.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Norén » Sat Jan 05, 2019 4:58 pm

Nice list. Good Tiger reminded me a whole lot of a band I have listened to quite a lot, EIDOLA. Ever heard of them?
https://youtu.be/Mnd37EToqA4
https://youtu.be/kNXT72nA5Bs
CD ARTWORK -> www.progart.com

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Mardoch » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:12 pm

Interesting you rate Time, The Valuator and list amongst the other bands that does the style well Erra, but you didn't chart them. Did you listen to Neon? How'd you feel about it?

Also if Good Tiger would fire that vocal abomination they call a singer and get a real one I'd buy the shit out of their discs. But I personally feel like Coleman should never be allowed near a microphone ever again.

Lots of interesting stuff on your list, and a lot that crosses over to mine (which I should probably write up).

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:58 am

Chris R wrote:Great list.A lot in common

Thanks Chris.

Chris R wrote:1.Ghost
For those people who have the "there is no fun in metal"attitude,(which we know there are way too many),screw them.Its pure cheesy satanic bubblegum pop rock with an edge and a funny gimmick (seeing pics of a satanic pope playing sax onstage make me wish I could have found a way to see them live)

Yes, it's just a lot of fun, something we really need more of in metal.

Chris R wrote:2.Seventh Wonder-i put this band in the "prog blue balls" category,I always expect something awesome and I'm always disappointed,they have never grabbed me like they have others here or on paper should be grabbing me as they have every element that appeals to me.This is no different

Haha, that's one way to describe it. To me they have everything I love about prog metal, I just think they are focusing on the "safe" aspects too much this time around and not coming up with enough new, and as I said, the production really annoys me.

Chris R wrote:3.Night Flight Orchestra
Speaking of cheesy fun,this album might be the king of it.Its everything I loved about tbe late 70's/early 80s.This is near the top for me,and Pretty Thing Closing In is probably going to be one of my songs of tbe year,iif for anything because this song was used for music to shoot to at some of .my most important shoots to date and having a car full of models with a combined 15 million followers singing along to it (and it being used for the BlackTapeProject runway show)during Miami Swim Week this past July.This album was the soundtrack for one of the most fun weeks in tbe past 5 years.

Sounds like a great few weeks for sure!

Chris R wrote:Conception
Thank you,screw it,this goes in my top tier when I make my list ..

:)

Chris R wrote:Antimatter
You were the one who turned me on to these guys,didnt get the disk till recent and haven't spent as much time with it as I should have ,but this goes in a new section of my list (albums that I got recently that would probably rank very high but didnt spend enough time with)
My gf currently has it on right now actually so maybe we take this down to the pool and annoy people at the resort with this,lol

There's something so dark and sinister about this album, yet I kind of find it uplifting at the same time - I guess it's the message that even if you're going through something as horrible as what the people this album is about, there's always a light on the other side ...
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:59 am

Digital Man wrote:Wow, thanks for this monster list. There are many I haven't heard and from your descriptions sound like something I would like. Plan to spend lots of time checking these out.


Glad to hear that you found stuff on there that you might like. I'm looking forward to hearing which ones you checked out and how they fared for you.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:01 am

elendil wrote:Great list. Some things here I had not heard of or didn't know about and will explore further. Didn't know that In the Woods... had dropped a new album, for instance.


Thanks. Yes, that In the Woods... kind of went unnoticed by the broad public - I think the fact that they are doing everything by themselves these days might be hurting them a bit, whereas if they'd had a bigger label behind them there'd be more of a buzz going on.

elendil wrote:On Primordial... In my book they are one of the best metal bands of the past quarter-century. They released four superb albums in a row from _Spirit the Earth Aflame_ to _To the Nameless Dead_. But lately their creative spark seems to have dimmed. In my view, the Arkona album this year treads similar ground but more interestingly.


I never got into Arkona ... I'll have to check out the latest one.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:02 am

ToddS wrote:Massive post Claus! Plenty of titles I haven not heard. I need to go through it all as I get time.

Ostura, and Orphaned Land top ten for me as well. I have no problem with the Conception EP being there. Was just a thing for some of us not including EPs. i don't include live releases either, but some do. To each their own. It's all good fun to read.


Thanks Todd, let me know what you think of the "ones you haven't heard" when you find time to go through 'em.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:04 am

Norén wrote:Nice list. Good Tiger reminded me a whole lot of a band I have listened to quite a lot, EIDOLA. Ever heard of them?
https://youtu.be/Mnd37EToqA4
https://youtu.be/kNXT72nA5Bs


I think I checked out Eidola before, but I must have dismissed them then. I spent some time with their albums yesterday on Spotify and Youtube but it's too "hardcore/metalcore" influenced for my taste, sorry. I do hear some similarities in vocal melodies though.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:06 am

Mardoch wrote:Interesting you rate Time, The Valuator and list amongst the other bands that does the style well Erra, but you didn't chart them. Did you listen to Neon? How'd you feel about it?


Yes, I am quite familiar with Erra, and I like "Neon" for about 20 minutes at a time ... then it just becomes too much. It's super well done, but it's so intense and massive that it makes my ears hurt :)

Mardoch wrote:Also if Good Tiger would fire that vocal abomination they call a singer and get a real one I'd buy the shit out of their discs. But I personally feel like Coleman should never be allowed near a microphone ever again.


Bah :) He is gold!!! He is one of the reasons I love Good Tiger. Interesting how we all hear voices so differently.

Mardoch wrote:Lots of interesting stuff on your list, and a lot that crosses over to mine (which I should probably write up).


Yeah, I do think we have a lot of "crossover" between our tastes.
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Mardoch » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:20 pm

introclaus wrote:
Mardoch wrote:Also if Good Tiger would fire that vocal abomination they call a singer and get a real one I'd buy the shit out of their discs. But I personally feel like Coleman should never be allowed near a microphone ever again.


Bah :) He is gold!!! He is one of the reasons I love Good Tiger. Interesting how we all hear voices so differently.

Extremely interesting. Especially those places where there doesn't seem to be much objective difference, but the subjective experience is worlds apart. Like comparing Coleman to the singer for The Safety Fire, who I don't hate. I don't think that there's really a ton of separation between the two, but I don't hate one and uh...my feelings on the other are clear, lol.

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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby LarryD » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:56 pm

Excellent post Uncle Claus !!!!! Great read as usual ....... rather than go through the bands one by one, I'm just going to post some thoughts out on some of them and see what happens .......... In no order:


Orphaned Land ---

We've had quite a few discussions on this one ......and Todd and I have been going back and forth on it as well. During this time, I've been comparing this one to OrWarrior, which I thought was the last disc, and I completely forgot about All is One ...... yeah, thats me. But, that being said, I'm one of the few who loves OL, that didn't get it on a Top list. In my defense, I do believe that OrWarrior is my favorite OL disc, and I will go back to All is One and make sure I've got that part right .... then we can start a separate OL post and go from there .......


Ostura ---

It warms my heart to see this band on your list, and I know you've liked them from day one ......


Conception EP --

I have no problem putting an EP on a Top list, as I use live CDs on mine. I look at it this way - it's a release. Period. Yes, it's got the same songs as the studio versions, but it's a release - I may love the live disc release over another band's studio release ( ie, I love the Ayreon Universe disc more than the Seventh Wonder disc ).


Arena --

You and others have tried relentlessly to get me into Manzi. I'm in with this disc. He is perfect on this disc, and every song on this disc is killer to me. Poisoned was my song of the year until Romeo released Believe....... This was my #4 disc - you know how much I love it. The best with Manzi on it IMO.


Amorphis --

I thought Amorphis might score higher on your list ?


Kingcrow --

Putting this one #22 really baffled me, as I know you dig the band. Whether or not they release another quality disc, or this is not original, etc etc - means nothing to me when it comes to this band.....everything they do turns to gold, this disc is no different. If they put out another 3 discs of the quality of their last 3 discs, I will have no problem with it at all.


Kamelot --

I didn't even think Kamelot would make your list at all - much less at #36. Cool !!!!!!!!!


Seventh Wonder --

#46. Wow again. And I agree with everything you said about them. They are in that Kingcrow group where as long as it's quality, I'm in ..... they don't have to be different or more original. I will also agree with the production - but it didn't stop it from hitting my Top 20 ....... At the same time, it's nowhere near Mercy Falls in quality, and maybe a bit better than The Great Escape. But that's ok.


Haken --

#48. I applaud you for putting this band on your list when you hate the singer. Kudos to you for that.. I'm the opposite - I don't mind his vocals at all, but it's the music that seems to be getting colder and colder although I like the heavy direction of this one .... and make it longer dammit, you are Haken after all !!!!!!


Where is The Paradox Twin ?????????


Michael Romeo --

#32. It's my #1. What a big difference in numbers........ To me, this better than anything SX has released lately except Underworld ...... and there are songs on this disc, that could have been on Underworld. Rick Castellano is my new singer hero ........ and if he becomes the new SX singer, I'm all in ........ Romeo is at his best here - composition, performance, production. He shows why SX is what it is ....... Believe is my song of the year ...... Castellano can do it all ........


Great post .... I love reading your comments on these disc..........

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Mardoch
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby Mardoch » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:52 pm

Finally got around to checking some of these...I had somehow missed that Voices From the Fuselage released an album this year, and it sounds promising. Xenoverse I think was on the house music at the fest this year? Anyway, that's really good sounding too.

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introclaus
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Re: 2018 - Top 50 Albums

Postby introclaus » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:14 am

LarryD wrote:Excellent post Uncle Claus !!!!! Great read as usual .......


Thanks!


LarryD wrote:Orphaned Land ---
We've had quite a few discussions on this one ......and Todd and I have been going back and forth on it as well. During this time, I've been comparing this one to OrWarrior, which I thought was the last disc, and I completely forgot about All is One ...... yeah, thats me. But, that being said, I'm one of the few who loves OL, that didn't get it on a Top list. In my defense, I do believe that OrWarrior is my favorite OL disc, and I will go back to All is One and make sure I've got that part right .... then we can start a separate OL post and go from there .......


I think it all comes down to the fact that you love "progressive metal" the genre, not metal that is progressive :)

LarryD wrote:Ostura ---
It warms my heart to see this band on your list, and I know you've liked them from day one ......


Ever since the first "Holy Shit" text from Glenn for sure.


LarryD wrote:Conception EP --
I have no problem putting an EP on a Top list, as I use live CDs on mine. I look at it this way - it's a release. Period. Yes, it's got the same songs as the studio versions, but it's a release - I may love the live disc release over another band's studio release ( ie, I love the Ayreon Universe disc more than the Seventh Wonder disc ).


That reminds me, I'm eventually gonna get around to rank my favorite live releases of the year ;)

LarryD wrote:Arena --
You and others have tried relentlessly to get me into Manzi. I'm in with this disc. He is perfect on this disc, and every song on this disc is killer to me. Poisoned was my song of the year until Romeo released Believe....... This was my #4 disc - you know how much I love it. The best with Manzi on it IMO.


It is a phenomenal disc for sure.

LarryD wrote:Amorphis --
I thought Amorphis might score higher on your list ?


I thought so as well earlier in the year, but as time went by other releases pushed it down a bit. Still a great album.

LarryD wrote:Kingcrow --
Putting this one #22 really baffled me, as I know you dig the band. Whether or not they release another quality disc, or this is not original, etc etc - means nothing to me when it comes to this band.....everything they do turns to gold, this disc is no different. If they put out another 3 discs of the quality of their last 3 discs, I will have no problem with it at all.


It's nowhere as good as the last 3 discs. The previous three discs were AMAZING, this one is great and sounds sonically amazing, but songwriting has dropped.

LarryD wrote:Kamelot --
I didn't even think Kamelot would make your list at all - much less at #36. Cool !!!!!!!!!


Haha, I've listened to it a lot - still do ... it's easy listening music when I have to concentrate on reports or other serious stuff at work.

LarryD wrote:Seventh Wonder --
#46. Wow again. And I agree with everything you said about them. They are in that Kingcrow group where as long as it's quality, I'm in ..... they don't have to be different or more original. I will also agree with the production - but it didn't stop it from hitting my Top 20 ....... At the same time, it's nowhere near Mercy Falls in quality, and maybe a bit better than The Great Escape. But that's ok.


I think I probably have higher expectations to bands I've worked with in the past (like Kingcrow, Manticora, Seventh wonder, Poem, - who all made my list) as I know what they are capable of and I expect super high quality from them. It's like the teacher always grading his own kid stricter than the other kids in the class ...

LarryD wrote:Haken --
#48. I applaud you for putting this band on your list when you hate the singer. Kudos to you for that.. I'm the opposite - I don't mind his vocals at all, but it's the music that seems to be getting colder and colder although I like the heavy direction of this one .... and make it longer dammit, you are Haken after all !!!!!!


Hate is such a strong word ... dislike is better ... he holds them back in my opinion, that's the big thing.

LarryD wrote:Where is The Paradox Twin ?????????


That one bored me very quickly, and the singer just wasn't up to par... not a bad album, but nothing that I want to go back and spend more time with.

LarryD wrote:Michael Romeo --
#32. It's my #1. What a big difference in numbers........ To me, this better than anything SX has released lately except Underworld ...... and there are songs on this disc, that could have been on Underworld. Rick Castellano is my new singer hero ........ and if he becomes the new SX singer, I'm all in ........ Romeo is at his best here - composition, performance, production. He shows why SX is what it is ....... Believe is my song of the year ...... Castellano can do it all ........


"Underworld" wasn't a great disc if you ask me. The last great Symphony X disc was "V" (I disliked "The Odyssey", I liked half of "Paradise Lost" and even fewer off of "Underworld", and I honestly can't remember much of "Iconoclast").
Claus Jensen


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