Soilwork – Verkligheten

Label: Nuclear Blast. Release date: 11 January 2019.

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I am delighted that one of my first reviews of 2019 is that of SOILWORK’s forthcoming album Verkligheten. This will be the band’s eleventh album and it feels like a long wait since their last release, 2015’s fantastic The Ride Majestic  (the longest gap between SOILWORK studio albums to date). One thing that SOILWORK fans and critics alike always comment on is how the Swedish melodic death metal group always evolve and release stellar albums even after two decades in the game. Even their rarities album Death Resonance had better material than some of their contemporaries (not naming names). But after such a long time between albums and with vocalist Björn Strid and guitarist David Andersson also playing in Swedish hard rock band THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, does SOILWORK stand the test of time in 2019?

We’re introduced to the album by its title track opener, a slow-burning yet mesmerising instrumental which gets Verklighteten going at an unexpectedly slow pace. Thankfully second track Arrival blows the cobwebs away with its blistering, blackened intro. SOILWORK are back in business! It’s clear The Ride Majestic was a springboard for this stellar song. The big chorus is backed up full textures of sound. It’s glorious how energetic and alive this song sounds.

Bleeder Despoiler is the ultimate groovefest, like Stabbing the Drama 2.0, but it is Full Moon Shoals which provides the first surprise of the album. It is a lot more on the metallic side of SOILWORK than expected, but also with a big, cheesy chorus making it one of the band’s most poppiest offerings. Strid somehow gets away with it because his vocals are always top-notch.

The intro of fifth track The Nurturing Glance is richly melodic and the old school verse continues the metallic tinge to proceedings. As expected, there is another storming chorus but it is the melodic riffs which steal the show here. Having said this, When the Universe Spoke steals all the attention away. This is a song which is equal parts melodic and ferocious. It’s a fresh and heavy SOILWORK which provides a dense centre to Verkligheten. It was a good choice having this track in the middle of the album to prevent it sounding samey.

Unfortunately Stålfågel doesn’t keep the energy up with its classic metal infused melody. The Wolves Are Back in Town brings things back to more of an old school SOILWORK sound, but it is Witan which provides one of the more interesting tracks of the second half of Verkligheten. Witan has a subtle symphonic element to it which takes it to the next level, but the groove is irresistible.

After the forgettable The Ageless Whisper, SOILWORK deliver a corker of a tune with Needles and Kin. The instrumentation ramps up with this song, with the new drummer Bastian Thusgaard really coming to the fore here. Add some guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen from AMORPHIS and you’ve got a winner.

Last album The Ride Majestic ended on a spectacular finale, so I was expecting Verkligheten to also have an exhilarating conclusion. However, we are instead presented with You Aquiver, which despite its catchy melodies and charming riffs, doesn’t feel like a fitting closer for such a celebrated band. It leaves me wishing the album finished with the previous song. 

Verkligheten is still a really enjoyable album, but it loses momentum halfway through. Despite this, and to answer my question posed at the start, SOILWORK continue to prove doubters wrong. Yes they sound a bit mellower on this album, but they do not sound stale and past their sell by date just yet. They’re still churning out enough interesting ideas to remain relevant and if they can stay a head up above their peers there’s no reason why we couldn’t enjoy SOILWORK for two more decades.

Master’s Call – Morbid Black Trinity EP

Release date: 25 January 2019. Self-release.

Nothing better than starting the year with some British black metal and 2019 is no different. Wolverhampton’s dark metal troupe MASTER’S CALL is kicking off the year in extraordinarily devastating fashion with their debut EP Morbid Black Trinity . The three intense tracks encompass the darkness of faith, body and spirit, but this dark side of faith hits closer to home for the band. Frontman Shayan was born in Iran, where metal and anti-religious lyrics are considered blasphemous and are banned. Despite the risk of jail and even execution, Shayan continued to write and perform black metal until he moved to the UK in 2011 to pursue his freedom as a metal musician. Judging by the quality of his work and his fellow bandmates’ writing on Morbid Black Trinity, MASTER’S CALL is truly a huge gain for the black metal scene.

The evil of the world is the main influence for opening track From Once Beneath the Cursed. Storming in with a metallic riff DARKTHRONE would weep at, MASTER’S CALL belch their horror upon the ears with their riffs of malice and grit. There is an air of CATHEDRAL to the vocals especially, but the relentless pace and outflow of delicious evil pools in your ravenous lugholes until you get your fill of darkness.

Second track The Spire Cranes represents the towering holy buildings that shadow the people oppressed by their faith. Like the subject matter, this track is of a colossal nature, and the only things being oppressed is the light and hope during this morbid anthem. It’s becoming increasingly evident that the band do not shy away from old-school black metal elements, but they deliver such elements with a modern attitude and a massive sound.

Third and final track My Eyes Are The Night is from the perspective of a hunter who preys on vulnerable victims and manipulates them to sacrifice themselves for the false hope of a greater existence. It’s clear where the inspiration for this track has manifested from, but is executed in such a way with blistering passages, that makes the powerful message resonate more. The stunning, blackened riffs carry the song and ensures the EP is brought to a mesmerising close. Brilliant stuff, expect to hear more of MASTER’S CALL in 2019!

Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 10 to 1

The final 10. The all important No. 1.

Here it is! My final instalment of Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018. Thanks for joining me on my Top Releases of the Year journey, it’s been fun! I won’t delay you any further, I’m sure you’re dying to know who has won my top spot! You may proceed. See you next year!

10

NIGHTMARERCacophony of Terror

One of the heaviest, darkest, most terrifying releases of the year, I’ve been besotted with Cacophony of Terror by NIGHTMARER since its release back in March. The dissonant tones and insanely heavy riffs are what keeps me coming back again and again. The seamless transition between opening track The Descent and Stahlwald has got to be one of my favourite album moments of 2018. These two tracks together are mindblowing and the ridiculous riff and crushing atmosphere in the latter will leave you chuckling at just how heavy NIGHTMARER are. Read more of my [dark] thoughts on Cacophony of Terror in the roundup below.

Roundup – May 2018

9

SKYHARBORSunshine Dust

It’s been a strong year for progressive metal releases and one big surprise this year has been SKYHARBOR’s new album, Sunshine Dust. Usually TESSERACT and MONUMENTS lead the way in the progressive metal/djent scene, but for me SKYHARBOR have risen high above the rest this year with their new release. New vocalist Eric Emery plays a big part in this with his terrific warbles, but the songs as a whole are more focussed and melodic compared to their previous releases. Standout tracks Out of Time, Synthetic Hands and the phenomenal title track will leave you dreaming for days. Fantastic stuff. Read my full review via the link below.  

Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust

8

ABORTEDTerrorVision

The Belgian death metal/grindcore Kings are back and with TerrorVision, their 10th studio album, they’ve unleashed their most blackened release yet. TerrorVision is everything I wanted the new BEHEMOTH to be. ABORTED have achieved an album so punishing, so unforgiving, so relentless it is a ferocious ride from start to finish. It’s amazing how something that sounds so polished can still sound extremely brutal and I think that proves the beastly talent of these Belgians. 

7

WITHIN DESTRUCTIOND E A T H W I S H

There’s a mad genius to D E A T H W I S H, the third album by Slovenian deathcore/slam band (there I’ve said it) WITHIN DESTRUCTION. This album is exceptionally brutal but it’s executed remarkably well making it an incredibly enjoyable listen. You know it must be a good record if Unique Leader Records picked the band up after the album was released in March. The title track is a slab of perfection, with brilliant guest vocals by VULVODYNIA’s Duncan Bentley. The pace, the riffage, the aural assault of the track is superb and sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Tracks like Extinction and Darkness Swallows Life demonstrate the awesome vocal talent of the band’s frontman Rok Rupnik, but I find penultimate track Death Awaits Us All is their most mature offering on D E A T H W I S H. The darkness of this song is suffocating and guarantees an enthralling listen. Do not ignore this album.

Roundup – April 2018

6

VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGEOdyssey: The Founder of Dreams

When I first listened to Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams and included it in my last roundup, I quite liked it but I didn’t realise how much I’d end up loving it and having it on repeat since. When this album clicked after a few listens, the sheer brilliance of the songwriting and lyrics was completely overwhelming. The delicate riffs and considered components of each song results in an absolute winner of an album. It’s rare to hear a record with not only heart-wrenching lyrics, but vocals too that make you believe every single the word. On this album, vocalist Ashe O’Hara ensures listeners feels the pain, the hope, the despair, the passion. It’s an unforgettable rollercoaster and singles Nine Levels and Vestibule of Hell are surprisingly heavy which fills out the album to be the perfect package. The real deal.

Roundup – November 2018

5

HARM’S WAYPosthuman

This is the CD I’ve played the most in my car this year; beefy, bold and hella heavy, no I’m not just describing HARM’S WAY frontman, I’m talking about how Posthuman is one of the most brutal records on the planet. Released way back in February, this album is guaranteed to make you pull the filthy riff face. For months nothing surpassed this record for me, and no matter how many times I listen to it, it never loses its punch. It’s not just any hardcore record though, no no, the industrial elements of tracks such as Last Man and the powerviolence thread that runs throughout makes Posthuman stupidly addictive to return to.

Roundup – April 2018

4

VOLAApplause of a Distant Crowd

I absolutely adore VOLA’s first album InMazes so I’m ashamed to admit my expectations weren’t too high for their second album as I thought it wouldn’t match its predecessor. How wrong I was. Applause of the Distant Crowd blows everything VOLA have previously done out the water. Thankfully the band have dropped most of the djent and have released one of the best progressive records of the year. With this album, the band have shown the world how good they are at creating stunning soundscapes. Applause of a Distant Crowd shimmers with dreamy notes and haunting vocals. There are still lots of heavy lil nuggets and surprises along the way. For me the best moment of the album is the KATATONIA-esque Still, which is an utterly mesmerising track. The songs Alien Shivers, Ghosts and Smartfriend are some of the best singles of the year, yet the album is still full of stunning moments. Believe the hype.

3

AVASTMother Culture

I know what you’re thinking. Who?? Who are AVAST? In October I reviewed the Norwegians’ debut album Mother Culture and I’ve been slightly obsessed ever since. 2018 has seen the rise of blackgaze bands and AVAST are still extremely new on the scene but my word, they’re one of the most intense and blissfully beautiful blackgaze bands around. On the more black metal end of blackgaze than shoegaze, the songs sound like WINTERFYLLETH if they gazed at their shoes a bit more. The mesmerising soundscapes AVAST also produce are captivatingly beautiful, if I listen to this album I have to make sure I’m not doing anything else. This album requires your full attention and concentration. I don’t want to say too much more about it as my full review below and the album as a whole speaks for itself. But promise me you’ll check it out, it’ll be one of the best things you do this year.

Avast – Mother Culture

2

EXOCRINEMolten Giant

After WITHIN DESTRUCTION’s D E A T H W I S H came out I wasn’t sure there was enough room in my life for another monster-themed album this year. I was wrong…again. French progressive death metal group EXOCRINE entered my life with their blistering new album Molten Giant and I haven’t looked back since. What I like about EXOCRINE is they leave all the bullshit out and get on with it. Molten Giant is a superb accomplishment and each song is of the highest calibre of prog death. It’s been fantastic to see the band really gaining momentum in the tech and prog death scene, and rightfully so. Tracks such as Scorched Human Society, Backdraft and Flamewalkers really showcase just how technically magnificent and brutal EXOCRINE are. Congratulations to EXOCRINE on releasing my favourite death metal album of 2018!

Exocrine – Molten Giant

1

MØLJord 

Here it is! My album of the year. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to most of you considering I’ve been singing the praises of MØL since they released their debut album Jord back in April (I may as well change my name to Mølmance while I’m here). Throughout these Top 40 Releases of 2018 posts I’ve mentioned how my wanting to return to albums has been a factor in where I’ve ranked releases. Jord is the opposite. Jord is one of those albums where you savour every listen and limit yourself to how often you experience it so you avoid becoming bored of the record or over listening to it. Below you can read my full review of the album as well as my interview with the band which they did before their very first UK show at The Black Heart, Camden.

At first I wondered if it was just me who felt an over-emotional response to Jord, but after seeing other people’s reactions during the year and seeing the band fill the room to the brim at Damnation Festival, it’s safe to say I’m not alone. There is something truly special and unique about MØL. From their powerful blackgaze tunes and their mesmerising sound, to their phenomenal live show (it’s becoming legendary) the band are storming on all fronts and remaining humble with it. They get the balance between black metal and shoegaze just right, resulting in stunningly deep textures and soundscapes. I could rave on all day about how much I admire this band but an analysis will never do their music justice. Jord isn’t just an album, it is an experience. Jord is my Top Release of 2018.

Møl – Jord

INTERVIEW: MØL


Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 20 to 11

The penultimate group of Metalmance’s Top 40 releases of 2018.

Welcome to the penultimate instalment of my Top 40 releases of the year. We’re halfway through now and nearing that all important No. 1 spot. Thank you for joining me to see who I’ve picked for No. 20 to No. 11. Hope to see you next time for the final instalment!

20

CANCER BATSThe Spark That Moves

After their uninspiring last album Searching For Zero I was just about ready to give up on my favourite punk rockers CANCER BATS. But then with no warning they dropped this terrific slab of fury. The Spark That Moves is easily their best release since 2008’s Hail Destroyer and with this new album they’ve reignited the passion of their older fans and gained new followers. The energy and fun in this album has been missing in their last few efforts and it’s so reassuring to hear the Canadians are back and better than ever. You can read below my thoughts on each of their albums and my live review of their show at Southend where I almost died (again).

METALMANCE RETROSPECTIVE: Cancer Bats

Cancer Bats/SickOnes/Walk In Coma

19

THE AGONY SCENETormentor

When I first started Metalmance, THE AGONY SCENE were one of my first ‘Bands to rediscover’ and I spoke about my love for their pivotal album from 2005, The Darkest Red. Little did I know these metalcore legends were reforming and recording their comeback album, Tormentor. Where other comeback albums released this year have fallen flat for me, Tormentor is an example of a metalcore comeback album which shows a band who have grown since their hiatus and are not afraid to add other influences to their cooking pot. Tormentor features a lot of blackened elements, tech riffs and black metal influences which results in the band sounding like THE AGONY SCENE 2.0. Let’s hope the band return again. You can read more of my thoughts on Tormentor by following the link below.

Roundup – July 2018

18

ATREYUIn Our Wake

I wasn’t expecting to like the new ATREYU album, let alone feature it in my Top 40…my Top 20! There have been a few classic metalcore bands being featured in my Top 40 this year and ATREYU unexpectedly shine brighter than the rest. The band haven’t sounded this good since 2007’s sails Paper Anchor and haven’t had this much grit since 2006’s A Death-Grip on Yesterday. The catchiness and modern elements in their tracks ensure ATREYU do not sound stale and  do not outstay their welcome. Standout tracks Paper Castle and Blind Deaf & Dumb will easily become their new anthems. Hopefully old fans feel the same as I do about In Our Wake, but if not then last track Super Hero is sure to stoke the nostalgia with guest vocalists M. Shadows from AVENGED SEVENFOLD and Matt Gillespie from UNDEROATH…

17

NIGHT CROWNEDHumanity Will Echo Out EP

It hasn’t been long since I reviewed this spectacular EP, it would have been rude not to include this blackened slab of ferociousness in my Top 40. Humanity Will Echo Out is the debut release by ‘supergroup’ NIGHT CROWNED. Truth is, the band sound like a monster and this three track record is their first brutal assault on the world. A superb EP, this is only the beginning of their pandemic. You can read my full review of Humanity Will Echo Out below.

Night Crowned – Humanity Will Echo Out EP

16

ANAAL NATHRAKHA New Kind of Horror

They’ve done it again, British black metal veterans have released yet another stellar album, A New Kind of Horror. Always ready to push the boundaries of the genre and not afraid to surpass their older material, the band are untouchable. Who could forget the genius Forward! or Obscene as Cancer? This album is full of great ideas and familiar ANAAL NATHRAKH motifs. This is bound to become another modern classic. You can read my review of their album preview show in the link below.

Anaal Nathrakh + The Atrocity Exhibit

Roundup – September 2018

15

CABALMark of Rot

Easily one of the darkest and heaviest releases of the year, Mark of Rot by Danish demons CABAL is a terrifying release of mammoth proportions. Featuring the likes of THY ART IS MURDER’s C.J McMahon and HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH’S Filip Danielsson you can gauge just how crushingly heavy this album is. What’s even more frightening is the fact Mark of Rot is the band’s debut album. What further torment will the Danes unleash later down the line? It is too horrifying to imagine. Read the full review below to learn more before the darkness consumes you.

Cabal – Mark Of Rot

14

LEECHEDYou Took The Sun When You Left

2018 really has seen the return of gritty, filthy, blackened hardcore and Manchester crew LEECHED expertly mix NAILS-style grind with their chaotic CURSED-esque hardcore to create their suffocatingly heavy sound. Their debut album You Took The Sun When You Left is a relentlessly crushing affair. Any hope and optimism you may still hold will be drained from your soul upon your first listen of this. Devastatingly heavy stuff. You can read more of my thoughts on You Took The Sun When You Left in the Roundup below. 

Roundup – August 2018

13

TURNSTILETime & Space

The first time I encountered TURNSTILE was when I saw them support THE STORY SO FAR along with DRUG CHURCH back in 2015. It’s safe to say it was an unforgettable experience and one which I was lucky to escape unscathed! They’ve since exploded in the heavy music world and released their latest full length Time & Space through Roadrunner Records! It’s not hard to see why they’ve been picked up by one of the biggest labels in the metal community, this album is chock-full of strong tunes and the band haven’t lost any of their punch. It’s almost as if the band are bringing back good old fashioned hardcore to the masses. Time & Space will no doubt become a modern classic.

Roundup – May 2018

12

LIGHT THE TORCH  – Revival

It’s always concerning when a band go through a name change. Super group LIGHT THE TORCH were formally known as DEVIL YOU KNOW and personally I think this new incarnation of the band runs rings round their original outfit. DEVIL YOU KNOW were heavy but something in the music didn’t quite gel. Fast forward to 2018 and Revival, the band’s first album as LIGHT THE TORCH is a glorious effort. This album can be likened to frontman Howard Jones’ glory days in As Daylight Dies-era KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. Hojo is back on form here and this album is a stunning piece of metal. You’d be silly to ignore Revival.

Roundup – June 2018

11

HEAD WITH WINGSFrom Worry To Shame

You might remember my reaction to From Worry To Shame, the debut album by progressive rockers HEAD WITH WINGS. My review was a bit of an emotional affair (you can read it in full by following the link below) due to the stunning melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics. The topics of the songs are not light and the duo (now a full band) delicately pay homage to the lyrical themes with beautiful songwriting and poetic tributes. This is an album where you can feel every word and every note. Spectacular stuff.

Head With Wings – From Worry To Shame

Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 30 to 21

The second instalment of Metalmance’s Top 40 Releases of the year.

Welcome to my second instalment of Metalmance’s Top 40 albums of the year! Hopefully you enjoyed Albums 40-31, you’re in for a treat with this list! Let’s get down to business then and proceed with the next 10 albums on my list…

30

THE FIVE HUNDREDBleed Red

These lovely lads from Nottingham (via Gibraltar) released this magnificent debut album back in August and it’s a melodic tech metal delight. Coming to the fore of the UK tech scene, the band also wear their metalcore influences on their sleeves with Bleed Red as there is a definite KILLSWITCH ENGAGE streak running throughout (especially on the self titled track and Smoke and Mirrors). This is an album which makes you eagerly anticipate the next release! Great stuff. Check out my full album review from August by following the link below.

The Five Hundred – Bleed Red

29

BROKEN GIRLS FROM ALLFUENT BACKGROUNDSFiction Will See Us Through

This little gem was released back in May and it’s an EP I’ve been returning to during the remainder of the year. I adore bands who throw in shoegaze and post-rock influences and this progressive rock act from Phoenix, AZ throw oodles of the stuff into the pot. There’s a delightful sense of nostalgia when listening to BROKEN GIRLS FROM AFFLUENT BACKGROUNDS. I won’t spoil them for you, they’re a band you’ll have to listen to yourself. Fingers crossed for a full length album soon!

Broken Girls From Affluent Backgrounds – Fiction Will See Us Through

28

SVALBARDIt’s Hard To Have Hope

Hardcore black metal band SVALBARD have caused some serious waves with the release of their latest album It’s Hard to Have Hope. Featuring serious themes such as the bleak job prospects for the youth of today, revenge porn and backlash against feminism, SVALBARD tackle these issues by writing equally urgent songs. You can hear the grit, desperation, anger and passion in frontwoman Serena Cherry’s vocals and it makes for a very intense listen. This album is proving to be somewhat of an underground hit, but don’t just take my word for it, have a listen and hear for yourself. Below are links to my full album review, my live review of their album release show and a Q&A with the band.

Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Q&A with Svalbard

Svalbard/Møl/Group of Man

27

UNPROCESSEDCovenant

Djent may be seen as a bit of a stale genre these days but German progressive metallers UNPROCESSED are pushing the boundaries of the style with their latest album Covenant and I’ve been smitten ever since. There are some serious grooves on this record and the riffs sound refreshing in an over-saturated scene. There is an extraordinary depth to their music and with each listen, new snippets are discovered. Read more of my views of Covenant in August’s roundup via the link below.

Roundup – July 2018

26

MANESSlow Motion Death Sequence

No album of the year list would be complete without at least one avant-garde album. That album for me is Slow Motion Death Sequence, by Norway’s art rock band MANES. It’s been said this is their most accessible record but I find it to be one of their more intense efforts. There is a menacing darkness and sense of unease which runs throughout the record and makes for an unnerving-but spectacular- listen. Haunting, electrifying and still unpredictable, MANES will never be boring.

Manes – Slow Motion Death Sequence

25

ARSISVisitant

If you read my November Roundup from last month you might remember me harking on about my love for tech death veterans ARSIS. New album Visitant takes a couple of spins to really sink in but after their classic albums A Celebration of Guilt and We Are The Nightmare, this album has a lot to live up to. Thankfully the band haven’t lost any of their momentum and this record is as fast and ferocious as ever. The tech death legends have returned and will show the young un’s exactly how it’s done!

Roundup – November 2018

24

DISTORTED HARMONYA Way Out

Israeli prog metallers DISTORTED HARMONY already had the hard task of writing an album to rival their last release Chain Reaction, without  adding two new members to the dynamic as well! A Way Out felt like a long time coming but it’s been worth the wait. The album would have ranked higher if the chemistry of the music was flawless, in my eyes Chain Reaction was perfection so perhaps I’m being too harsh. I adore the melodic intensity DISTORTED HARMONY achieve and their technical flourishes. This band are still too unknown, this needs to change next year.

Distorted Harmony – A Way Out

23

SICKONESFind Energy

When I witnessed this brilliant hardcore punk band live earlier in the year, I was completely blown away; their unforgettable performance, the messages in their music and their sense of fun were ridiculously addictive and incredibly unique. SICKONES are a truly special beast and this year saw the release of their new EP Find Energy, which is also sadly the last record they will release with frontman Ben Curd now he has left the band. Despite some serious song topics, SICKONES ooze such a sense of fun and optimism and I hope that remains. You can read more of my words about this magnificent band in the links below.

Roundup – June 2018

Cancer Bats/SickOnes/Walk In Coma

22

GOOD TIGERWe Will All Be Gone

Released way, way back at the beginning of February, alternative metal supergroup GOOD TIGER released the beautiful We Will All Be Gone and it’s just as exciting now listening to it as it was on first listen. The post-hardcore elements and the stunning vocals of Elliot Coleman make We Will All Be Gone a glorious piece of art. The irresistible melodies and sun-kissed vibes never fail to warm the soul.

Good Tiger – We Will All Be Gone

21

TEMPLES ON MARSSelf-titled

This album has been a grower on me this year. When I reviewed TEMPLES ON MARS’ self-titled album back in April I enjoyed it but could never have predicted how much I’d end up loving it. Their progressive rock is catchy, intelligent and mature and their songs are incredibly majestic. I enjoy the creativity of the album and the spacey vibes which result in a quite a few epic moments throughout the record. Radio friendly, riffy and catchy this is an album you’re safe to play to your normie friends and enjoy as well.

Temples On Mars – Self titled

Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 40 to 31

The first instalment of Metalmance’s Top 40 Releases of the 2018.

Welcome to my first instalment of my Top Releases of the 2018. I decided to not only have albums in the list, but EPs too, purely because of the wealth of fantastic ones released in the past 12 months. I will post 10 albums at a time, so without further ado enjoy my Top 40 to 31 albums of the year!

40

VEXESAncient Geometry

Released back in February, it feels like a long time since VEXES released their debut album Ancient Geometry yet it hasn’t lost any of its punch. The album has a shimmering nostalgic, progressive rock tinge, with a large helping of DEFTONES-esque melodies and ambiance. Featuring past members from a variety of established bands, VEXES bring all their skills and expertise together in this impressive record. Do not sleep on this album. My full review is linked below.

Vexes – Ancient Geometry

39

PSYCROPTICAs The Kingdom Drowns

Still a relatively new album as it was only released last month, As The Kingdom Drowns is the seventh album by Austrailian tech mertallers PSYCROPTIC and it’s making enormous waves in the tech death scene. It’s been a cracking year for tech death with the likes of BEYOND CREATION, INFERI and OSBCURA releasing albums, but for me, this effort by PSYCROPTIC surpasses those others as it’s the one I feel compelled to return to again. The instrumentation is absolutely stellar on this album, proving PSYCROPTIC are only getting better with each release. Cracking stuff.

38

WALK IN COMABlur The Line of Fiction and Hate

Here is the first of the EPs I have included in this year’s list. Southend’s WALK IN COMA are establishing themselves as one of Essex’s most promising metal acts with their EP, Blur The Line of Fiction and Hate. The band produce strong, in-your-face metal with good hooks and enough riffs to keep a PANTERA fan happy, but it is the second track Through Your Eyes which proves to be something very special indeed.

Walk In Coma – Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate 

37

ORPHANED LANDUnsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

Way back in January, Israeli progressive metallers ORPHANED LAND released the stunning Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, and we need this album more than ever. The band have always flawlessly tied oriental elements in with their metal foundations and it always creates a spectacular result. Much like most of their back catalogue, ORPHANED LAND stresses the importance of equality, acceptance and love. The topics and themes feel a lot more urgent on this release, copying the state of current affairs in the world today. If you want an album where you feel you can unite with humanity, this would be it.

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs 

36

TESSERACTSonder

When I reviewed Sonder, the fourth album by British prog metallers TESSERACT, back in April, I said it’s nowhere near the band’s best album but it could potentially worm its way into album of the year lists. Unfortunately the album didn’t stick with me throughout the remainder of the year, hence its low placing in my album list. Sonder has lots of good songs but it doesn’t maintain momentum or interest for me, compared to albums released by their contemporaries this year which have ranked higher. It’s still a strong album but I’m not convinced it will stand the test of time in the long run.

Tesseract – Sonder

35

WOLF KINGLoyal To The Soil

WOLF KING sound like what I always wanted TRAP THEM to become. They boast filthy, blackened hardcore along with strenuous screams that make their debut album Loyal to the Soil absolutely disgusting – in a good way! WOLF KING sound like the aural equivalent of a full day down the mines; dark, suffocating, dirty and forever plunging into the depths. An incredibly underrated debut release this year, I’m hoping Loyal to the Soil will eventually be celebrated as one of the finest slabs of blackened hardcore to date.

34

JESUS PIECEOnly Self

Speaking of filthy hardcore (oo-er!) Only Self is another breathtaking debut released this year…breathtaking in the winded kinda way. JESUS PIECE are rapidly emerging in the hardcore scene thanks to their CODE ORANGE-esque riffs and their 90s-inspired beats. This year has seen a lot of hype for JESUS PIECE’s contemporaries VEIN, but personally I think the former have the edge. The brutality, the ferocity and downright filth is both crushing and considerably impressive for a debut release. Expect big things. You can read more on what I have to say about Only Self in the link to the Roundup below.

Roundup – August 2018

33

MECHROMORPHSelf-titled EP

I couldn’t write my top 40 releases of the year list without including a quality band from my hometown. Slam metal band MECHROMORPH are the best metal band to burst out of Clacton since…well…ever. The band are proving their worth in the scene, having played shows all over the country and lighting a fire under other local bands. Their self-titled EP features old school sounds along with contemporary slam elements in the same vein as VULVODYNIA, INGESTED etc. Once the band have established their sound there is no reason they couldn’t also prove to be an unstoppable force.

Mechromorph – Self-titled EP

32

BLEEDING THROUGHLove Will Kill All

I always thought any new BLEEDING THROUGH album would be in my Top 10 albums of the year, so I’m surprised with myself for placing the band’s comeback album fairly low in the rankings. The metalcore darlings ended their career on a high with 2012’s The Great Fire and frontman Brandan Schieppati released a brilliant solo album as THE IRON SON in the meantime, but unfortunately Love Will Kill All didn’t quite live up to expectations compared to their peers ATREYU and THE AGONY SCENE who released better quality albums this year. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a solid album, and last track Life is positively stunning. Check out my BLEEDING THROUGH retrospective I wrote earlier in the year for my low-down on each of their albums.

METALMANCE RETROSPECTIVE: Bleeding Through

31

VALIS ABLAZEBoundless

This mesmerising debut album by Bristolians VALIS ABLAZE is the album I’ve moved around the most whilst compiling this Top 40 list. Boundless is an awesome progression from the band’s EP Insularity, but it’s an album I’ve struggled to return to throughout the year which is why I haven’t placed it higher. There are several particularly stunning tracks on here such as Lumen, Afterlight and Frequency which prove VALIS ABLAZE are one of the leading lights of British progressive metal. Choosing Paradox as their lead single might not have been the wisest choice as it doesn’t show the band at their most original, but bloody hell the potential is there for greater things.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless

Roundup – November 2018

The last Metalmance Roundup of the year.

This roundup is a tricky one because I don’t want to write too much before my album of the year list. I’ve kept it simple for this one, my usual top 3 albums of the month but I’ve also added an artist spotlight about one of my favourite bands who released their long-anticipated new album earlier in November. Check it out! There won’t be a roundup in December as you will be treated with my album of the year post. Stay tuned.


Metalmance Top 3 Releases of November

1

COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS – Fervor. Release date: 9 November 2018.

You might remember I featured these Danes in my September roundup when I chatted about their single Canaille. This track seemed a little more melodic than their last album Course of Events, but when you give Fervor a chance you discover the band haven’t lost any of their brutality, but instead sound a lot more mature and quite unique. The album boasts the band’s progressive songwriting abilities, but it is hard to ignore one of the major selling points of COLD NIGHTS FOR ALLIGATORS is their immensely talented vocalist Johan Pedersen who really does push himself with this record. Add this to the band’s forward-thinking metal and you’re onto a winner. I’ve been saying it all year, but there really must be something in the water in Denmark judging by the quality of metal bands emerging this year, now you can add COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS to the ever-growing list.

2

NIGHT CROWNED – Humanity Will Echo Out EP. Release date: 30 November 2018.

Featuring ex-members of bands such as DARK FUNERAL, THE CROWN, NIGHTRAGE and CIPHER SYSTEM, you can probably gauge the high calibre of blackened death metal newbies NIGHT CROWNED conjure. Debut EP Humanity Will Echo Out three tracks of blackened perfection. The ferocity and intensity of this incredibly short EP is astounding. It’s one of those darkly magical releases that leaves you absolutely gagging for more – three tracks is nowhere near enough. If you’re left winded after this short EP, just imagine what impact their debut full-length is going to have. Bloody hell. You can read my full review of Humanity Will Echo Out by clicking on the link below.

Night Crowned – Humanity Will Echo Out EP

3

VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE – Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams. Release date: 9 November 2018.

Back in 2016, progressive alternative outfit VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE released the stunning Odyssey: Destroyer of Worlds. This month the band from Northampton released the second instalment, Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams. One of the most striking elements about this album is the inclusion of more cinematic moments. The first album was quite dramatic but this album takes it to the next level and sounds positively stratospheric in places. An example being the album opener Via and its epic break in the middle. Songs like Life on Titan has a mild orchestral feel giving their music an extra kick when things lull into too much safety. What I like so much about Odyseey: The Founder of Dreams is it has a bit more oomph! compared to its predecessor. First single Nine Levels hinted that this would be so, and the album doesn’t disappoint.


Artist Spotlight

ARSIS

 This month also saw the release of the long awaited new album by American technical death metal crew ARSIS, titled Visitant, and for me personally this album has been an excruciatingly long wait. The band have always seemed a bit of an elusive entity to me. None of my friends had heard of them at school, let alone listened to them and liked them, but since the rise of online metal communities I’ve learned I’m not alone and the band’s fanbase is in fact, huge. It all started way back in 2005 when I heard their song Maddening Disdain on a record sampler released by their former label Earache Records. I hadn’t heard anything like the technical metal they wrote and it’s awesome to now see them recognised as one of the fathers of the genre. Back then you couldn’t really stream music so it took me years to listen to their debut album A Celebration of Guilt, which Maddening Disdain is featured on. It’s only until now I actually own the CD! If you know me or follow me on Instagram then you’ll know I always prefer buying physical copies of albums, but to the extreme I have to buy it in person and not online. So I always thought I’d never find A Celebration of Guilt in the flesh until by surprise I found the CD for sale at a stand at this year’s Damnation Festival. I already owned 2008 album We Are The Nightmare (I bought it on a whim in HMV when it came out as I was still pining for a copy of their debut) so now I feel like I can finally start to complete my ARSIS collection. It took a couple of spins for Vesitant to ‘click’ but I’m immensely pleased they’re back with a killer record. It’s reassuring to hear the band haven’t watered down their sound at all, and with contempories such as REVOCATION and GOROD also releasing brilliant albums this year, ARSIS have made 2018 the year of the return of technical death metal.

Damnation Festival 2018

3 November 2018. Leeds University Union.

The second I stepped out of Damnation Festival last year I already decided I would return again in 2018. The atmosphere and variety of bands for this awesome in-door festival is unparalleled and it does feel lovingly unique. Each new line-up announcement throughout the year whetted my appetite more until the day finally came where I would once again be at Damnation. As soon as doors opened, the positive energy of extreme metal’s finest punters poured into each of the venues and the merch area.

The bars were already heaving with battle-jacket-clad metal fans as I wandered down to the Tone MGMT Stage to witness LEECHED opening the festival. The band’s debut album You Took The Sun When You Left is a gritty and dark affair, so it was no surprise their set was equally as suffocating. Backlit and shrouded with smoke, the hardcore metallers from Manchester were an intense group with their gruff vocals, blackened riffs and power violence elements. It’s hard to keep your eyes off drummer Tom Hansell; one because of his impressive myriad of tattoos and two, because it becomes clear he’s the secret weapon for LEECHED with his ferocious drumming and hardcore vocals. An excellent start to the day.

It would have been rude not to catch progressive darlings CALIGULA’S HORSE on the Eyesore Merch Stage as they did come all the way from Australia, but also because they’re one of THE most exciting progressive metal bands on the planet right now (they’re better than LEPROUS, there I said it). Starting their set with Dream the Dead off last year’s In Contact, the Aussie troupe mesmerised and stunned the crowd with their majestic set. On record they can sound quite soft, but in a live setting they’re surprisingly heavy. It’s clear they made new fans this afternoon judging by some of the expressions of delight in the curious crowd.

I sneaked off before the end of CALIGULA’s HORSE’s set to make my way to the Cult Never Dies Stage to get a good spot to witness MØL strut their stuff. The venue was already packed full with people, endorsing a one in, one out policy when the set started. I was close enough to see frontman Kim Song Sternkopf scream in the faces of the people down the front, in his madman-godlike state throughout the set. The Danish blackgaze group have rapidly gained a fanbase this year after the successful release of their debut album Jord and judging by the volume of people in the room, it proves there is a real buzz about this band right now. Having seen them at their debut London show earlier in the year supporting SVALBARD, I knew what to expect but their intensity and sheer blackgaze perfection still astounded me. It’s just a shame the fire alarm interrupted the set…

Once all the fuss (and annoyance) of the fire alarm had died down I headed to the Jagermeister Stage to see NE OBLIVISCARIS absolutely tear up the room with their extreme progressive metal. Their tight sound cut through the room like a knife; they were absolute perfection. The guitars sung and clean vocalist and violinist Tim Charles could do no wrong. The professionalism of the band resonated round the room, proving they were masters at their craft. Clearly owning the biggest stage in the students’ union, I wouldn’t be surprised if the band headline a few years down the line.

Having said this, I’m surprised Birmingham’s ANAAL NATHRAKH are yet to headline a Damnation as their set is always a killer. Easily whipping up the most brutal crowd of the day, the black metal veterans prove their worth with their stellar set of songs old and new. Forward! off new album A New Kind of Horror sounds equally as punishing as older classics Forging Towards the Sunset and Depravity Favours the Bold. The fighting pit in the middle of the room showed the fans’ appreciation of the band’s unforgiving music. Throw in a pair of knickers on the stage and you got yourself a legendary Damnation performance.

If I wanted to find something a bit more soothing then I was never going to find it with CELESTE on the Tone MGMT Stage. The French experimental metallers hypnotised the crowd with their unique aesthetic. Lit only by a red light strapped to each member’s head, it created an eerie – heck- celestial atmosphere which superbly suited the dissonant tones of their music. A severely underrated band, I was especially pleased to see a large turnout for them.

It was truly special to see death metal legends ENTOMBED A.D. tear up the Jagermeister Stage. They sounded bigger and more badass as ever with frontman L-G Petrov pacing up and down the stage commanding the crowd with his epic growls. Death metal never sounded so good but I needed to hop along to the Tone MGMT Stage to get a decent spot to see BATUSHKA deliver their sermon. I wish I hadn’t bothered and gone to see MONUMENTS instead as the room was absolutely packed to the brim for BATUSHKA. The majority of people couldn’t see the stage, let alone move and the band came on late so a lot of the crowd were getting agitated and impatient while people pushed past to try and find a better viewing position. The set was a prime example of the wrong choice of stage for a band, but from what I could see (very little) the black metal band from Poland were visually stunning. I’ll try and see them another time when I’m also not being crushed slowly to death.

To recover, I went back to the Jagermeister stage to see the mighty IHSAHN play an utterly mesmerising set. A legend in the black metal scene and a respectable solo artist in his own right, IHSAHN proved his worth tonight playing the best selection of songs from his albums. Songs from new album Amr sounded fuller live than they do on record, but a personal highlight for me was hearing Celestial Violence from 2016’s Arktis resonate around the room. His black metal vocals have always been perfection but tonight his clean vocals also got the recognition they deserve. A stellar set of magical proportions, IHSAHN just keeps getting better when it wasn’t thought possible.

I regrettably missed THE OCEAN’s set but before I stumbled back to the hotel I couldn’t leave without seeing grindcore legends NAPALM DEATH smash some skulls and rip up the Jagermeister Stage. Excluding the fire alarm earlier, today has truly been a fantastic day of metal. The festival already promise their biggest band yet for next year and I can’t wait to see who will be announced first. Damnation is a festival I’d recommend to everyone. See you next year.

Night Crowned – Humanity Will Echo Out EP

Label: Black Lion Records. Release date: 30 November 2018.

When you think you’re safe from the darkest of extreme metal for another year, NIGHT CROWNED emerge and launch their debut EP, Humanity Will Echo Out, to drag you to the depths of Hell. This EP is only three tracks long but it is enough to pack a punch and leave you fearing the dark. NIGHT CROWNED are a blackened death metal band hailing from Sweden. This terrifying troupe of shadow consists of members from various bands of the underground, including DARK FUNERAL, THE CROWN, NIGHTRAGE and CIPHER SYSTEM, proving NIGHT CROWNED have grown from the darkest of roots.

The seeds of menace are sown with first track No Room For Hope. The song delivers what it says on the tin. The suffocating, blackened complexity of the music smothers the listener and diminishes all hope. The opener crashes in, taking no prisoners with its symphonic air and ferocious drumming. The devilishly swift pace whips you up and spits you out in a flurry of polished guitar solos, demonic screams and epic instrumentation.

Second track Nocturnal Pulse provides the main core of the EP; the blackened riffs gallop with full force obliterating foes in its wake. The brilliant production ensures a massive sound, enabling the atmosphere generated by the band is a spectacular one. The commanding vocals are relentless, adding oodles of malice to the madness.

EP finale All Life Ends provides a horrifying conclusion. With its eerie instrumentation at the beginning, the song erupts into pure black metal perfection. Channelling their inner EMPEROR and CRADLE OF FILTH, NIGHT CROWNED demand your stamina keeps up with their unforgiving pace. Regardless, you’re left winded from the blistering close.

The intensity of Humanity Will Echo Out is unbelievable. It’s hard to accept this is a debut EP, as it sounds like the epitome of their genre. If this is what NIGHT CROWNED achieve with their first release, then what the hell are they going to conjure up for their debut album? All I know is I want to be there to witness the Armageddon. Brilliant stuff.

Unwill – Can’t Kill Me

Release date: 16 November 2018. Self-release.

Considering New York rock n roll trio UNWILL have played Warped Tour, shared stages with the likes of VANNA, LETLIVE and HE IS LEGEND, they’ve yet to make any ripples here in the UK. I very much enjoyed their rock-tastic debut album Past Life released last year and I also admire their punky/gothy edge. However, they’re far from original but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their catchy and ballsy tunes. New album Can’t Kill Me is a bit edgier, a bit cockier and a hell of a lot groovier than its predecessor.

Opening with the confident Keep It Gold, UNWILL are flaunting their simple, yet sexy style with riffs-a-plenty and gang vocals-galore. Getaway boasts licks and riffs that MOTLEY CRUE would blush at, yet UNWILL still boast a kind of innocence about them that makes the trio more cheeky than debauched, which could work to their advantage.

Fault is a bit of a slow burner with its acoustic stance and slower pace. It shows an unexpected side to UNWILL and this unplugged song is oddly charming. We’re back in business with Say What? which is a flamboyant anthem and one of the heavier tracks on Can’t Kill Me, making it stand out. The dramatic ending is the highlight of the album and comes as a big surprise. I’ll say no more.

Album finale I’ll Be Damned begins like a 90s DEFTONES track and the grungy retro feel continues throughout. The rumbling bass and tempting vocals create an epic foundation of rock for their pop sensibilities. There’s something a bit BULLETS AND OCTANE and AVENGED SEVENFOLD-ish about UNWILL that would appeal to heavier fans of rock and the metal crowd in general. The crossover appeal cannot be ignored and is sure to play to their strengths.

UNWILL don’t threaten to push the boundaries of rock but they do threaten to push the boundaries of your record collection. In complicated times it’s good to have a fresh band playing unashamedly ballsy and catchy rock music, leaving you at risk of shaking your hips and banging your head along to the music. Don’t be afraid to indulge.