2018 was a good year in music and the task to limit my favorites to 18 CD's only was a hard one. So sometimes I decided to pick one CD representing a style of music. At the same time I am aware that I have not heard all CD's I potentially like, For example by missing shows of Tokyo Blade, Revocation, Arena, Madder Mortem I also missed picking up their CD's, which probably would be rated high. Some other bands I like on CD, but might have liked even better if going to see them live. Examples here The Night Flight Orchestra and Zeal and Ardor.
Also remarkable that this year not one female fronted band made it to my list, but there are reasons for that. Bands like Oceans of Slumber and Sinistro released strong albums, but not as good as I hoped for after their previous albums. Azusa almost was in, but is too recent and I actually ordered the new Into Eternity, which was later cancelled by the company I ordered them with. Bands like Epica, Nightwish and the lot with annoying sopranos will never make my list as being not a genre that interests me.
The trend that I am getting heavier with age is valid for both musical taste and bodyweight. Finally I noticed many of my favorites are relatively short albums. I guess this is a good trend avoiding fillers.
So decisions are hard and the ranking reflects my mood of today. While saying that I can change positions between number 18-4 at any day, but my top three was rather clear. So here we go, enjoy and feel free to comment or criticize.
18: August Life - New Eternity
How nice is it when you discover a new Dutch band playing Heavy Metal in line with the greats from the late seventies to mid eighties. New band, not so new musicians this mix of great vocals and good songs made them my favorite national album of the year.
17: Beyond Creation - Algorythm
I prefer my technical death metal live on stage over listening to a CD. Still this band is the benchmark and both their remarkable show and strong new album deserve to be mentioned here. Three instrumentals to please the non grunt fans and so many notes I won't even start counting.
16: Satan's Empire - Rising
NWOBHM is still going strong and some bands that were never that famous over here turn out to be strong names to count with nowadays. So I could have named my friends of Trespass, Satan or Saxon here, but this was a new discovery to me. Seeing them live first at Mearfest convinced me to pick up the album upon release a few weeks later. Book-ended by fast short bangers we get mainly mid tempo heavy metal and even a Eruption like guitar solo kicking of Dragonslayer.
15: Seven Sisters - The Cauldron and the Cross
While the oldies are still going strong in the UK, there are many young bands coming to the fore as well. This year's favorite was Seven Sisters (just over Midnight Prophecy) The speed with which this album kicks of is amazing and the closing epic is the icing on the cake. Metal is here to stay.
14: Tribulation - Down Below
My first impressions were not all that positive as they are lighter than previous classic Children of the Night. Yet when listening more the penny dropped. Many bands went from extreme to more accessible. Tribulation take a different approach. While the vocals stay extreme, the music calmed down to dark hard rock. Some catchy songs make up for a great album indeed.
13: We Sell the Dead - Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell is Full
Talking about growers this poppy doom hard rock project slowly but surely kept on making it back into my CD player more and more. Just easy listening doom. I was in doubt if Khemnis is not a bit better on the heavy metal doom side, but today's decision fell in favor of WSTD. Nice artwork and clips as well in red, black and white.
12: Galahad - Seas of Change
Progrock is losing my attention a bit, but some of the older bands never disappoint. Galahad released in January this epic one song album on Brexit. I don't think that they expected the album to become only more relevant during the year. It is the music that counts and this 40 minute plus epic holds everything I like in prog with the return of Lee Abraham now on guitars as highlight.
11: Barren Earth - A Complex of Cages.
The Melodic Death Metal scene also had strong releases by In Vain and Omnium Gatherum. Yet Barren Earth combine this with a healthy dose of Prog and Doom. The clean voice of Jón Aldará (also strong with Hamfered) comes close to over dramatic, but this combination works so fine. Typical PPE band around dinner break, where half the audience should love this.
10: Future Corpse - Culture Ruins Everything Around Me
This Australian trio state they play Heavy Prog. Wonderful discomforting songs, where they blend hectic guitars, with shouted vocals and a punky attitude. They keep on reminding me of At the Drive In, but then better. Nothing to put on as background music, but very good for easing the mind in hysterical fashion.
9: Twisted Illusion - Excite the Light part 1
This English band doesn't stop throwing new releases at us. After the 2016 debut and the 2017 double album, this is the first of a trilogy. They call it prog, I call it great music. Many acoustic work entering into epic choruses with such strong vocals and guitar solo's. Will Shaw of Heir Apparent even sings along on the title track. I missed them live 3 times this year. New Year new chances for that, when the band is complete again that is.
8: Sacral Rage - Beyond Celestial Echoes
Back to the Eighties with Sacral Rage. Somewhere in between Agent Steel and Watchtower we get many screams and shrieking guitars. A Sci-fy theme is all around, with Cynic like made up words at time. This band fills a gap of a genre that was big at the turning of the eighties into the nineties. Highlight closing epic The Glass.
7: Redemption - Long Night Journey Into Day
With the musical surprise gone for a while on album number 7 and the loss of Ray Alder on vocals I was worried. And then Nick van Dijk shows he is still the driving force behind Redemption. Tom Englund singing better than expected and that typical Redemption Heavy Prog Metal sound is all over us. Pity of the U2 cover, further a winner of an album.
6: Fifth Angel - The Third Secret
In a year of comebacks this is among the better ones. How can you lose a vocalist, have a guitarist stepping in and actually sounding better? Fifth Angel is still about the melodies, but in a very Heavy Metal way. This album should attract many, but might stay under the radar outside underground circles. Well those who know them found another favorite to look our for touring Europe next year,
5: Ursa - Abyss Between the Stars
My favorite album last year was by Cormorant. Now three members from that band formed a doom metal band and guess what: it kicks ass again. Their dirty sounding doom is packed in slow songs on wizards dragons, fires and the lot. Vocals are cleanish, playing is flawless and music varied. Next autumn I hope to see them on one of the many doom festivals held that time of year.
4: Black Cyclone - Death is King
Listening to this album I always get this grin on my face. This is a celebration of eighties speed metal, led by one of the best voices in metal nowadays: Linus Johansson. When the opening line speaks of Unstoppable Force you know where to look for inspiration. The speed throughout the album is fast and therefore we get a short album. That is just enough as we get exhausted with so much speed upon us. Proud member of the Chaos Brigade.
3: Witherfall - A Prelude to Sorrow
Last year's debut album already made it to my number 6. This one is even better in my view. Witherfall fill the gap that has been left in between bands like Savatage and Nevermore. Good old Heavy Metal that is with great vocals and guitars. Pity their first European tour is acoustic next March supporting Sonata Arctica. Yet I shall be there as this is Heavy Metal as it is meant to be.
2: Howling Sycamore - Howling Sycamore
This band is the one blowing me away most at the beginning of the year. When you mix the guitars of Ephel Duath with the original voice of Watchtower you can count on the more adventurous side of Prog Metal. Eight songs passing a wide range of styles with haunting saxes mixing the extremer side of progmetal at times. And how great is it to hear the voice of Jason McMaster on a new album. The follow up is already in mixing phase. Now all we need is a tour.
1: Heir Apparent - The View From Below
While maybe ranking my favorites of the year was hard, the choice of album of the year was easy to me. Comeback of the year, of the century. So they did not release any albums for 29 years. And then they come back this glorious. Will Shaw settling himself among best current voices in metal and their mid tempo Heavy Metal packed in eight songs really shows me what is so beautiful in Heavy Metal. Melodic to proggy with space for a ballad and a fast banger, it is all there. No words to describe this, just a strong wish to finally see them live on stage. Dynamo Metal Fest would be good, but an indoor show even preferred. Welcome back my friends.