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


Roundup – September 2018

This month has seen a plethora of awesome album releases (see below) but September has also been an outstanding month for new singles. So much so I have decided to dedicate the second half of this roundup to September Singles. A bit of alliteration is nice innit. Hope you enjoy this roundup, see you next month! (Hopefully before that as I’ve got a lot of bloody good reviews in the pipeline…)


Metalmance Top 3 Releases from September

It’s been hard to choose just 3 releases to include, as this month also saw blistering releases from the likes of PIG DESTROYER, REVOCATION and ABORTED but I have finally settled on a Top 3 and I’m very happy with it. Seriously, every month I say this but what the hell is going to happen with my album of the year list in December?! 2018 has been a killer year for releases and we still have 3 months to go! Help!

1

ANAAL NATHRAKH – A New Kind of Horror. Release date: 28 September.

A New Kind of Horror

Based on the atrocities of the First World War, this was never going to be a cheery listen. If you follow my blog you will have already read my little review of the album preview show at the Black Heart (link below) but listening to it again properly is just another mindblowing experience. If you know me then you’ll know I think the band’s 2012 album Vanitas is perfection, so you will understand how good A New Kind of Horror is once I’ve told you I think this is the band’s best material since 2012. Songs like The Reek of Fear and Forward! boast the classic beefy riffs and intensity ANAAL NATHRAKH are so well known for. It’s reassuring to hear they haven’t watered down their sound now they’re further along in their career. In fact they sound ballsier and more terrifying than ever. This album is a must-listen.

Anaal Nathrakh + The Atrocity Exhibit Live Review

2

SKYHARBOR – Sunshine Dust. Release date: 7 September.

Sunshine Dust

I’m surprised to see Sunshine Dust hasn’t been making the waves I was expecting it to, because I think this album is absolutely stunning. A major factor of this album’s appeal is the warbles from new frontman Eric Emery. Before this album was re-recorded and released, we had already been treated to Out of Time and Chemical Hands (now Synthetic Hands) so this album has been an extremely long wait. It was all worth it though as Sunshine Dust boasts a wealth of beautifully progressive and emotive songs. Tracks like Ugly Heart, Dim and the title track all tug on the heart strings yet still pack a punch. Definitely a contender for album of the year, don’t be surprised if you see Sunshine Dust high up in my list at the end of 2018.

Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust Review

3

FROM INSIDE – When I’m Breathing Without You EP. Release date: 14 September.

From Inside

At the tail end of 2016 I reviewed FROM INSIDE’s first EP The New Era (link below) and I predicted big things for the band and named them as possible game-changers down the line. This statement still stands as this new EP is a major jump in both confidence and quality. Opener Helpless has an irresistible European tinge to proceedings (think ANNISOKAY and DEAD BY APRIL) and You & I reminds me of THE USED and ISSUES, so you can probably gauge the high calibre metal on offer here. Still an unsigned band, the Liverpudlians are doing just fine continuing as an independent band, playing oodles of shows and building their fanbase. If this EP is anything to go by, when FROM INSIDE do release a debut album it’s going to be absolute killer.

From Inside – The New Era Review


September Singles

Normally this section is dedicated to other albums I’ve been listening to in the past month, but September has seen an influx of stupidly good singles, ahead of album releases. So I thought I would use this opportunity to share my favourite ones of the month and shed light on the bands in the lead up to their records dropping.

ARSIS – Tricking the Gods

The best news this month was hearing technical melodic death metal legends ARSIS are finally releasing their sixth album Visitant on 2nd November. I grew up listening to albums Celebration of Guilt and We Are The Nightmare, so ARSIS have been pivotal in my extreme metal history. This single is by far the best thing they’ve ever done, so if the new album is anything like this then we are all in for a little treat. The band haven’t lost any of their intensity or brutality, if anything it sounds like they’ve become even more technical and ambitious. This accompanying video is very fitting and not for the faint hearted. All the lyrics of the forthcoming album are apparently about different horror movies so be prepared for a blistering and terrifying release.

LASTELLE – This Cage I Built Myself

Who the hell are LASTELLE? I just so happened to stumble upon them on a Youtube channel and I’ve been besotted with this song ever since. It appears the band are only just starting out but have already sold out a gig in their home city of Oxford. LASTELLE have the knack of writing spine-tingling melodies with their drummer stealing the show with his melodic vocals (ATREYU vibes are strong with this one) but they seem to have penned the perfect post-hardcore track for the contemporary scene. Be prepared to feel all the feels. And be prepared to hear a lot more of this talented band.

COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS – Canaille

Danish progressive metal band COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS have been on my radar for a little while, so when I saw they had now been signed to Long Branch Records I was very excited. After hearing new single Canaille my thought was confirmed that the band are only going to get bigger and receive more recognition. A little bit more melodic than their previous material, this single is an absolute belter. There are a lot of interesting elements to Canaille, including jazz and djent and emotive rock. I am curious to hear how forthcoming album Fervor (out 9th November) will sound as a whole. Refreshing, fun and talented, COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS are sure to warm the coldest of reptiles with their forward-thinking metal. Expect to hear more about these guys.

DECAY THE OCEAN – Oizys, Beneath Me

Fed up with being labelled as just another 4/4 metalcore band, Kings Lynn DECAY THE OCEAN have fought back at critics with this promising new single, Oizys, Beneath Me. Starting with a beefy riff, this new track has got more grit, guts and determination than any of the songs on their debut EP Mirror City. Clearly stepping in the right direction to prove their doubters wrong, it’s good to see this young band eager to mature their sound and constantly improve. The love of playing music is clearly there and will hopefully continue to ooze out in the material they release later down the line.

VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE – Nine Levels

Following on from 2016’s Odyssey: The Destroyer of Worlds, British progressive champions VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE dropped the news this week they will be releasing their next album, titled Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams later in the year. Along with the news of the forthcoming album, the band also released their first single off it, Nine Levels. I feel this song has a strong COHEED AND CAMBRIA vibe at the beginning before it erupts into the classic emotive metal the band is known for. Vocalist Ashe O’Hara is a little gem in the metal scene and absolutely shines on this single, and the soaring melodies heard in Nine Levels are truly something else. A band to watch for sure, this album is definitely geared up and set to stun.

ABORTED – Vespertine Decay

Another sexy gorefest of a video this month, Vespertine Decay by Belgian death metallers ABORTED is the blistering new single from new album Terrorvision. This song shows the metal legends going down a more blackened route. Arguably more ‘melodic’ than their other material, this suggests the band are pushing the boat out and pushing their own boundaries in turn. One of the heaviest singles of the year so far, it has the potential to rip your face off. The ferocious brutality and intensity is suffocating and makes for an incredibly compelling listen.

VOLA – Ghosts

VOLA were one of the first bands I featured in Metalmance, I labelled them as a ‘Band to watch’ and I reviewed their debut album InMazes and since then I’ve watched them explode. Now on the brink of releasing their second album Applause From A Distant Crowd 12th October, the band have released two singles from it so far. Ghosts is the second of the two singles and quite a stark contrast to Smartfriend, the first single to be released. Ghost is a beautiful, tranquil track which makes good use of electronics, but it’s one of those calming tracks which gets stuck in your head for days. A dangerous combination! Hopefully the album will boast more diverse tracks, as the singles so far have featured less of the djent which featured heavily in their debut album.

Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust

Label: eOne. Release date: 7 September 2018.

It feels like I’ve been waiting an incredibly long time for this album to drop. There is so much to be said about Sunshine Dust. It’s been a long time coming. After losing Dan Tompkins to TESSERACT again (which I was personally thrilled about as I always thought Tompkins thrived more in TESSERACT), SKYHARBOR had to find a new vocalist and solidify their line-up. They’ve struck gold with new frontman Eric Emery, who thankfully isn’t a Dan Tompkins copycat, but is a stellar singer in his own right.

But this is all old news! It’s been 3 years since the band released Out of Time and 2 years since they released Chemical Hands. Both incredible tracks and arguably the best material SKYHARBOR have ever done. Or so I thought anyway. When the band were picked up by record label eOne, they re-recorded all of the tracks they had written which involved a re-working of the previously released songs. Chemical Hands is now Synthetic Hands, but more about that track later.

Opening track Signal is a hauntingly calm intro and an opportunity for Emery to tease his prog-perfect vocals. We are soon brought to our senses with Dim, which is anything but. What I found frustrating about older SKYHARBOR is the songs never seemed focused enough. This isn’t the case with Sunshine Dust and with this track it is the perfect tune to reintroduce themselves to old fans and new. With a modest verse, but a storming chorus, Dim is going to grab your attention and the band will sure enough keep you interested until the end of this magnificent album.

When next track Out of Time was originally released I thought it was spectacular. Luckily most of the original magic remains with this re-recording. With its spacey beginning, rumbling bass and glorious riffs this song is a winner. The only noticeable change which is immediate is the vocals are higher in the mix in the chorus and sound a bit sharper, this is obviously only ever going to be an improvement! I adore the futuristic elements in this song and we all know that this chorus is going to get every fan belting it out at shows. I’m incredibly glad they’ve kept this song for the album.

The biggest shock of this album is the total re-working of Chemical Hands into Synthetic Hands. With an entirely new beginning, new title and new lyrics I was initially disappointed it wasn’t like the original, but after a few listens you’ll soon appreciate it in its new form. The melodies are mostly the same and the guitar wizardry of Keshav Dhar and Devesh Dayal is really emphasised here. I’m especially pleased they kept the last two minutes roughly the same, because the climax of the song is one of the highlights of the album. This is how melodic progressive metal should be done.

After such a strong track I am bewildered SKYHARBOR have another belter immediately after in the form of Blindside. One of my personal favourites of Sunshine Dust, its ambient beginning is utterly mesmerising, but the huge chorus storms in with oodles of feeling. I really enjoy the delicate riffs of this song, with some of the elements reminding me of shoegaze and postrock. This softer approach also introduces Disengage_Evacuate. With Emery’s hushed vocals you’re led to believe this will be a low-key song, but it’s got another crackin’ chorus. This is one of their more eclectic tracks, but it is one I don’t find myself returning to.

Ethos is another strong track. It’s got a NORTHLANE vibe and an excellent message. There is something triumphant about this song, it is probably the lyrics but the accompaniment somehow sounds optimistic too. This is a bit of a contrast with Ugly Heart, which is a bit of a heart-wrenching track but a beautiful song. The subtle riffs and atmospherics in Ugly Heart really help to make this track shine, along with Emery’s powerful vocal performance.

The Reckoning provides an electronic-fuelled interlude which I find to be a much needed ‘palette cleanser’ before the last chunk of the album. You’ll see what I mean when you’re confronted with Dissent, a DEFTONES/FINCH-esque stomper of a track. There is a brilliant nostalgic/grungy air to this track – progressive grunge? You’ll need to save energy for the rollercoaster that is Menance. It’s got a strong, melodic beginning and a charming chorus but the last half is a ferocious beast which catches you off guard. It merges flawlessly into Temptress which is another interlude, albeit a rather tense one.

This album has been a fantastic voyage through prog, ambient, rock, post-rock and metal, but nothing prepares you for the near-perfect finale – the title track. If one song on Sunshine Dust was going to give you goosebumps, it was going to be this one. It’s a beautifully laidback and melodic song, but the ending is a masterpiece. Dan Tompkins never quite reached climatic heights like this with this amount of power, and this is where Emery really proves himself. This impressive album needed something special to close it and SKYHARBOR pulled it out of the bag. The band will no doubt propel themselves back to the forefront of progressive metal with this effort. It will be very well deserved. Welcome back.

Weekly Roundup #3

3 is the magic number

Band to watch: LEPROUS. They’re about to embark on an extensive North American tour but it’s most likely you haven’t heard of these Norwegian fellows. Four albums into their career and they’re finally gaining momentum and praise around the world. Deliciously on the melodic end of the metal spectrum, LEPROUS’ beautiful melodies are made the more spine tingling thanks to the incredible vocal talent of Einar Solberg. You might have heard his voice recently as guest vocalist on IHSAHN’s track Celestial Violence on this year’s Arktis. In fact, LEPROUS used to be the backing band for IHSAHN. The haunting Nordic sound is ever present in LEPROUS’ songs, but their influences range from MASSIVE ATTACK to GOJIRA. The heavier side of metal unexpectedly is unleashed now and then in their compositions which further emotionally charges the music. Most recent album The Congregation boasts elements from a variety of genres, everything from prog to djent and jazz. There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack. You can catch them on tour in the UK with prog contemporaries TESSERACT and DEVIN TOWNSEND next March. Expect to hear more about these guys in the coming months!

https://www.facebook.com/leprousband/?fref=ts

Video to watch: SKYHARBOR. Last year SKYHARBOR released the track Out of Time which show cased new vocalist Eric Emery, proving he is more than capable of filling the shoes left behind by Daniel Tompkins (now back in TESSERACT). Now with new video Chemical Hands released last week, SKYHARBOR are prepared to take over the world with their new line-up and their own strain of progressive metal. The song itself is a stellar piece of melodic, proggy, technical goodness, fully demonstrating Eric’s vocal capabilities. The video accompaniment itself can only be described as a glorious sci-fi vision akin to films The Matrix and the Riddick trilogy. The stunning visuals compliment the heart wrenching melodies to create an all encompassing sensory experience. Director Michael Di Lonardo sets out a barren, futuristic landscape occupied by machines, with the band appearing like a transmission from outer space. SKYHARBOR, we read you loud and clear, we’ll see you in the UK next week!

Most anticipated release: WINTERFYLLETH. New album The Dark Hereafter will be released this Friday!

https://www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth/?fref=ts

Still in the stereo: WALLS OF JERICHO. When you think of female fronted bands you probably think of your pop punk types or your metal ARCH ENEMY like bands. But Candice Kucsulain, along with the rest of the band WALLS OF HERICHO, delivers such straight up, no nonsense hardcore punk, it’s mind boggling this hardcore troupe from Detroit do not receive more credit and recognition. Easily just as relevant and ferocious as contemporaries HATEBREED and SICK OF IT ALL, it is refreshing to hear a band so passionate and aggressive minus all the poser bullshit the scene can be now guilty of at times. So when WALLS OF JERICHO released No One Can Save You From Yourself back in March this year, it was gratefully received by fans as it had been roughly 8 years since last album The American Dream came out. It was well the worth the wait with the band sounding angrier than ever but also aiming to reunite people across not only their fan base, but across the scene, especially through tracks such as Relentless and The Anthem. It is a solid piece of honest work by a band who obviously still have a lot to say. They announced a UK/EU tour this week, so let’s hope they stick around for a little while longer at least.

https://www.facebook.com/WallsofJericho/?fref=ts

Band to rediscover: BYZANTINE. I must admit, I thought BYZANTINE were long gone, dead and buried in the metal graveyard, but lo and behold, they are now signed to Metal Blade Records with a self-titled album available in stores and a new record underway! 2005’s album …And They Shall Take Up Serpents rippled a few waves in the underground metal scene, then they seemed to vanish. To be fair, they can be pretty hard to Google, but now it shouldn’t be hard to find them and fall under their spell once again. Their progressive thrash metal, reminiscent of bands such as TESTAMENT, LAMB OF GOD and PANTERA, also incorporates instrumental sections, tribal drumming and killer solos bordering on progressive jazz. Now the band are back and stronger than ever, it is time to punish our ears once again!

https://www.facebook.com/Byzantinewv/?fref=ts

Band yet to listen to: PORT NOIR. I keep hearing about this band and their ability to mix up all sorts of genres to create their own brand of gorgeous metal. Next on my list to check out.