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

Svalbard/Møl/Group of Man

The Black Heart, Camden. 24 May 2018.

A sold out show at The Black Heart is always going to be a hot and sweaty affair. It’s also a special evening as it’s the album release show for SVALBARD, the first ever UK show for MØL and also an album release date for GROUP OF MAN. All of whom had their most recent records released by Holy Roar Records. A bit of a Holy Roar showcase if you will.

Heading upstairs just as opening act GROUP OF MAN are about to start and the room is almost full to capacity already. The UK post-hardcore troupe recently released EP What We Got In Common and the band were bouncing off it. Post-hardcore with a bit of groove, it took a while for the crowd to feel it but by the end of their set, they had the room nodding along and cheering. A good start.

Now for something a bit different. It’s no secret I’ve become a massive MØL fan, having reviewed their debut album Jord which was released in April and interviewing the lovely chaps just before this very show. MØL’s music needs an equally powerful and emotive live response so my expectations were very high and I was anticipating the atmosphere the Danish blackgaze group would evoke. Let’s just say I was not disappointed. As soon as MØL kicked in with Penumbra, the crowd was enraptured with the intense performance and huge sound the band produced. Frontman Kim Song Sternkopf is an absolute madman on stage, almost knocking people off their feet with a swing of his mic stand. His voice held out live too, in fact all the components of MØL sounded on par. Playing the songs Storm, Ligament and Vakuum, it all amazingly sounds like it does on record. When the band finished with the title track, Kim was in the crowd almost reducing the Black Heart to rubble. MØL are one of those bands you feel lucky to have seen in a small venue. Catch them before they get huge!

After the stunning performance by MØL, tonight’s headliners SVALBARD had a hard act to follow. By now the venue was heaving with hot and sweaty bodies but everyone was in high spirits. Serena Cherry and co took the stage and they were thrilled to see the turnout for their release show for It’s Hard To Have Hope. Considering the intense topics covered in the album, there was a strong sense of fun and positivity in the room, with the band members clearly having fun and sharing jokes with the crowd. Playing songs from the new album and One Day All This Will End, the band were amazed at the amount of people who already knew the words to new songs such as Unpaid Intern and Revenge Porn with the rest of the set being well received and increasingly chaotic. Serena took a moment in between songs to thank Holy Roar Records for their support and great work ethic. And seeing the quality of the roster tonight and the stellar performances from the bands, you have to agree Holy Roar are onto something special.

Link to my interview with SVALBARD can be found here: Q&A with Svalbard

Link to album review of It’s Hard To Have Hope is here: Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Link to my interview with MØL can be found here: INTERVIEW: MØL

Link to my album review of Jord is here: Møl – Jord

 

 

Q&A with Svalbard

Frontwoman Serena Cherry on their live shows, feminism and tough song topics.

SVALBARD have just released their latest album It’s Hard To Have Hope and their album release show at the Black Heart, Camden went down a storm. I asked frontwoman Serena Cherry about the new record, bands she recommends and fans’ reactions to their hard-hitting song topics…

Q. You’ve just finished a UK tour and released your new album It’s Hard To Have Hope. How were the new songs received live? 

Serena: I was genuinely astounded by the reactions to the new songs live, people already knew some of the words which was crazy! It’s really nerve-wracking, to be playing new material for the first time on a tour, so it’s a major relief to me that the crowd seemed to enjoy the new songs so much.

Q. The album seems to be getting some really good responses. With the hard hitting topics covered in the album, have you had any indication that fans have related to the themes? 

Serena: A few people have reached out to share their stories with me, with regards to their own experiences of unpaid internships or sexual assault at gigs. I think there is a huge power within the bravery of people sharing their personal experiences, even if the experiences are often traumatic. When you discover that other people have been through similar experiences you feel less isolated by what you have suffered.

Q. I have to unfortunately admit I relate to the song Unpaid Intern. The work climate for our generation is a joke at times. What spurred you to write the song? Have you yourselves had bad experiences with jobs?

Serena: Sorry to hear that! The majority of my working life has been a string of exploitation and bad experiences. Such is the joy of needing a zero hours contract to enable you to get time off to tour. When it comes to Unpaid Internships, I’ve never had one as it’s something I could never afford to do. Being from a working class background means I am never financially comfortable enough to work for free. That’s what the song is about: how unpaid internships basically restrict the poor from access to certain job roles. Speaking personally, as a writer, I have had several companies offer me unpaid internships and I have to turn them down because…you know, I have to pay rent and bills and stuff. I can’t just go a few months without income. So I know too well that feeling of a door of opportunity slamming shut in your face, not because you don’t have the appropriate skills, but simply you are poor.

Q. I saw your album release show at the Black Heart, Camden, and your comment about the hard work ethic and amazing support of your label Holy Roar really stuck in my memory. Just how important is it to have a good relationship with your label?

Serena: You have to have a label that understands and supports your vision, otherwise the whole creative process becomes stifled and restricted by what “the big bosses” want you to make. We are very fortunate to be with Holy Roar as they aren’t afraid to take risks, they appreciate musical diversity and they support us for who we are, rather than for what they think they can make from us. In some ways, I’d hate to be on a bigger label and have to churn out the same safe, toned-down product just so the guys at the top can afford one more ivory backscratcher.

Q. What struck me about your live show is the positivity and sense of fun as a band you project, especially considering the difficult topics you cover. Do you find being yourselves and being positive help to get your messages across to the audience?

Serena: That’s interesting! I never think of us as particularly positive, but I guess we do have fun when we play together and we would never make an attempt to hide that enjoyment. I just assume it doesn’t come across! In the live setting, as I am actually quite a shy person, I have to really make a conscious effort and force myself to talk to the crowd. I find it quite daunting, but at the same time I think we have written the music with a message, so we should discuss these things onstage too. It just takes a lot of effort for me to come out of my shell when I have to actually talk instead of scream!

Q. We’re seeing a shift of strong women fronting metal bands who are not afraid of confronting issues relating to the objectification and disrespect of women, with the likes of VENOM PRISON and SVALBARD with yourself. I was especially moved by your passionate performance of your song Revenge Porn when I saw you live.  Do you feel you are able to give a voice to women, not just in the metal community but in general?

Serena: I think it’s incredibly important for women to have a voice in metal, to be represented and respected as musicians, rather than dismissed or pushed out or othered. I am keen to address sexism within the music industry head on and to speak out about injustices, but I never want to assume I speak for others. I can only share my views and experiences and hope to generate a healthy discussion on how things can change for the better!

Q. Have you received any backlash to your feminist approach? 

Serena: Yeah. From being called a Feminazi, to being dismissed as having “no hard evidence” when talking about sexual assault, to a reviewer saying we couldn’t “identify as a feminist band because we are not an all-female band.” You don’t have to be female to be feminist! Every member of SVALBARD is for equal rights, it doesn’t matter what gender they identify with, they can still acknowledge oppressive patriarchal systems. To say you can only be a feminist if you are a female is such a reductive way of thinking.

Q. Lastly, with my blog I focus on new and up and coming bands. Are there any bands on your radar people should check out?

They’re not exactly new, but COR SCORPII and SHYLMAGOGHNAR have been captivating my ears recently. There’s a band who practice in the same studio as us called DOWNARD who are also very good.

 

 

Stay tuned for my gig review of SVALBARD/MØL/GROUP OF MAN. In the meantime you can read my review of SVALBARD’s It’s Hard To Have Hope by following the link below:

Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope Review

Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 25 May 2018.

The Bristolian quartet SVALBARD are proving to be a gem in the British metal scene. It’s Hard To Have Hope, the band’s second album is sure to propel the band further in high esteem. A band who do not shy away from tough topics, it would be easy to fall in the trap of focussing on the song titles and lyrical content, but the band’s music is just as hard-hitting. So much aggression AND passion has been poured into this album, I genuinely think it’s going to blow everyone away.

Starting with a topic most of our generation can unfortunately relate to, Unpaid Intern is as angry and aggressive you feel when you’re confronted with the pessimistic job prospects of today. What I find exciting about SVALBARD is their ability to avoid being pigeonholed. Hardcore is present, as well as post-rock riffs and black metal musings…and that’s just the beginning. I think this diversity hopefully predicts the longevity and accessibility of the band, as they will comfortably flow from one scene to another and it’s sometimes the crossover bands who achieve the most awesome things. Unpaid Intern is a perfect example of what SVALBARD are all about.

The dual vocals of guitarists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan have a nostalgic KYLESA feel about them. I’ve always thought Cherry sounds a cross between Laura Pleasants and WALL OF JERICHO’s Candace Kucsulain. One of the most unforgiving female vocalists around, Cherry often steals the show on this record with her screams and hushed vocals. The latter can be heard at the beginning and end of second track, Revenge Porn. If the subject matter wasn’t so serious I would dare to call this song beautiful. A disgusting yet current topic, this song is complimented by the equally damning approach the band take with their delivery. A black metal influence is strong here, with its soundscapes and hectic drumming. Comparisons to OATHBREAKER could easily be made here but you can understand why label mates MØL will be joining SVALBARD as support for a few of their forthcoming shows, as they both have that glorious post-black metal sound.

Feminazi?! continues the black metal feeling with the drums and riffs sounding like WINTERFYLLETH and ENSLAVED. It is quite spectacular and once the middle eight kicks in you will be well and truly under SVALBARD’s spell. After two strong opening songs, this track keeps up the pace and gives It’s Hard To Have Hope a further, darker edge. Things slow down a notch with the opening of Pro-Life?!; Cherry sounds like she is channelling her inner MYRKUR, but things accelerate again in the usual black/post metal manner. The laidback moments shine and emphasise the heavier parts.

Next track For The Sake Of The Breed is one of the album’s highlights for sure. It rages HARD. It charges, drops, crashes and has the most brilliant pacing, bringing back those KYLESA vibes again. Things take more of a post-hardcore turn with How Do We Stop It? There is something about this song that feels different to the others. There’s less urgency but the emotions feel deeper, giving the track a heightened aura of importance. Similar can be said for Try Not To Die Until You’re Dead; the pace and delivery is modest and eerily mesmerising, but bursts of determination crash through with triumphant riffs and passionate vocals. This could be a dark horse to be fan favourite.

The album finale Iorek is an entirely different beast. It is an instrumental wonder, taking influence from post-rock and even indie, it provides light to the dark intensity of the record. The bright riffs create shimmering soundscapes and shine hope on the darkness. It provides a stunning conclusion to an incredible album. The organic production of It’s Hard To Have Hope ensures the gritty tunes retain their rawness. Beautifully constructed and executed, SVALBARD have potentially made a modern classic. The British underground scene is bursting with potential and SVALBARD are worming their way to be the cream of the crop.