|MLG Top 30 of 2018|
Countdown of the best of 2018, roughly in order of preference.
This one was a revelation. A band of respected veterans proved to the world they are still capable of producing heavy metal of stunning quality.
Battlefields of Asura
Probably the biggest heavy metal band in Taiwan, they made mainstream news because of the frontman’s career in politics. But regardless of what you think about the politician, the music is undeniably good. This album offers a blend of symphonic death metal with a touch of Chinese melody, brought about by the characteristic sound of the erhu. I find it irresistible!
Living the Dream
Slash and Myles Kennedy have done it again. Among catchy melodies and hypnotic guitar solos this album delivers entertainment like any one from the good old days. Guns n’ Roses might be touring the world filling up stadiums, but it is their iconic guitarist who delivers new music able to stand against the legacy of the main band.
It’s not clear where the joke ends, but this is a great album also because of that. As the name of the band suggests, this is death metal for slugs: annihilation is brought about by salt and exaltation is to be a crop killer. But beyond that, the music is awesome and the musicianship is tight. As Frank Zappa used to ask: does humour belong in music? In this case the answer is a resounding (and gooey) YES!
For The Love Of Metal
This solo effort by Dee Snider is the heaviest album he ever recorded, including the entire discography by Twisted Sister. But heaviness is not everything of course, so it helps when the songs have plenty to offer in terms of sing-along moments and memorable melodies.
A metalcore album. To old geezers like me this means radio friendly soft metal at best, and at worst it conjures images of the end of heavy metal itself. Yet, this album has grown on me like no other metalcore album ever did, and the awesome performance at Metal Hammer Golden Gods for me made Parkway Drive one of the bands of the year.
Ghost seem unstoppable, and the reason is pretty simple: they combine a strong and elaborate image with music appealing to a wider audience than just metal. In the age of streaming they have found a formula to stand out from the crowd, and it works!
|23||Ivar Bjornson and Einar Selvik|
A Norwegian folk album is not really what I would have expected to feature on any best of list at the end of the year, let alone the one I would compile. There is some heavy metal connection in that Ivar Bjørnson normally plays guitar with Enslaved.
This release is first and foremost an emotional piece. When Warrel passed away in 2017 it was a shock, for myself and for the entire population of heavy metal fans. This is his last work, what remains of an amazing vocalist gone way too soon.
Gazing At Medusa
This album made the news mainly for the session musicians playing on it, and quite rightly so given two of them are Tim "Ripper" Owens and Chris Poland. It turns out however there is much more to it than just the sessions players, and the whole product is as good as it gets in the crowded space of power metal.
Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
Orphaned Land was a discovery for me this year. Somehow I managed to miss their entire career so far, and what a career it’s been! This album is a fantastic gateway into the artistic world of a very original band: prog metal with melodies and atmospheres from the middle east, and a (clear but not overwhelming) peace message thrown in the mix.
Our Raw Heart
There is not one note out of place on this album and it hits hard on the more contemplative side of the listener. There is not however sadness, it’s more like a feeling of awe in front of bigger and unfathomable things. A good hard look to life the universe and everything, and how really pointless the whole lot is!
The View from Below
News of a new album from a band who pioneered the age of progressive metal was incredibly exciting. Heir Apparent delivered a fresh new chapter in their artistic journey, taking over from where they left almost 30 years ago while not forgetting to look ahead into the future.
Northern Chaos Gods
After Abbath left the band many thought it was the end for Immortal, but they came back stronger than ever.
I discovered Madder Mortem via the podcast of Metal Hammer. I have seen them referred to as Norway’s best-kept secret, a definition that fits them perfectly in my case given this is their seventh album! Very difficult to categorise, their music has been a revelation and thoroughly deserves a wider audience.
A New Kind of Horror
Exactly 100 years after the end of the First World War it is fitting to have a concept album about the horror of fighting on the trenches. Anaal Nathrakh leave very little to the imagination, surrounding the listener with a whirlwind of machine gun fire, explosions and suffering. And make the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable!
|14||In the Woods...|
Cease the Day
he main characteristic of the music of In the Woods… is a relentless tendency to move forward. They mix originally several different strands of heavy metal to create their own sound, and the result never fails to impress.
A Complex of Cages
There is an obvious connection between Barren Earth and Amorphis in bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, but it would be wrong to dismiss Barren Earth as a side project. Having said that this album made this list precisely because it reminds me of early Amorphis in the first place, a different evolution from Elegy and Tuonela that is.
|12||At The Gates|
To Drink from the Night Itself
At the Gates have shown you could be among the pioneers of Melodic Death Metal and still have something meaningful to say 23 years after releasing what many considers to be the pinnacle of the genre.
In their latest offering Obscura expand from the technical ground of 2016’s Akróasis, adding more progressive elements and expansive moments. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable album and a fitting conclusion to their four-album concept.
Book of Bad Decisions
An album by Clutch is guaranteed to entertain. They have been around for almost 30 years now and every time they deliver, without fail. This one is also one of their most accomplished, to be named together with a few others as the best by the band.
This album has been ten years in the making but the wait was worth it. Presenting a hybrid between power metal and melodic death metal, The Sirens hooks the listener from the first note to the last. And when the album is over, you just want to play it all over again…
The Outer Ones
One of the best death metal bands at the moment, simple as that. Revocation haven’t released a weak albums in their entire discography, but this one might just be their best. Complex, memorable, singable at times, and generally thrilling.
A Prelude to Sorrow
The label “Classic Metal” these days is often associated with bands that try and re-live a past long gone, either because that was their heyday or purely for emulation. Witherfall are a splendid exception, in that their sound is easily associated with historic bands like Merciful Fate but just as easily recognisable as contemporary. Great riffs, great vocal melodies, and timeless music.
Isolation never sounded more appealing! At some point, I found myself singing out loud on the tube, in the morning rush hour. The (misunderstood) lines “How could I pray for salvation? / When I’m the only mortal left to breathe” a delightful irony of my condition [of alienated commuter].
On the face of it, Visigoth are one of those bands with a fascination for mid-80s Heavy Metal; but it would be very wrong to stop there and overlook their ability to craft one of the albums of the year. This is not imitation, it’s more like crafting a masterpiece within a specific genre.
This one took me by complete surprise back in January. It remains to this day firmly in my “recently played” list, confirming how much of a keeper it’s been. The voice of Jason McMaster is an acquired taste, and the guitar of Davide Tiso certainly sounds dissonant but once you get over the initial estrangement there is no denying the genius of the trio. The band is completed by Hannes Grossman on drums, if you recognise the skills of the musicians you are indeed allowed to scream in delight!. My only problem is that this album is too short, clocking in at 37 minutes and containing two short instrumentals as well.
|3||Rivers of Nihil|
Where Owls Know My Name
A lot happens on this album that takes the listener by surprise. The appearance of a saxophone when least expected being just one of those things. Ultimately I hear references to Fallujah as well as King Crimson and that’s why I like it so much. Album of the year maybe not, but it’s firmly on the podium for me.
The music of Alakloid is so intricate it’s hard to confine it in one genre only. It’s not death metal as such but it’s not quite progressive metal either. It’s a personal take on extreme music that sublimate genre and category. And the inter-stellar concept accompanying the music just makes the whole lot even more enjoyable.
My album of the year has it all: a compelling story, a well crafted musical journey culminating in a grand finale, tight musicianship and instantly recognisable artwork. Admittedly this is not the only album with those ingredients, but Voivod add to the mix something so personal it’s not possible to describe. Like calling the album “The wake” and the title track “the end of dormancy”…