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


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.