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

The Five Hundred – Bleed Red

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 17 August 2018.

If you’ve been following my blog since its beginning you may have seen I namedrop THE FIVE HUNDRED here and there as I have reviewed a lot of their contemporaries and it’s hard not to compare certain bands to this promising Nottingham mob. However, the band’s contribution to the British tech scene is only set to get bigger. If you read my Tech Fest review you will know THE FIVE HUNDRED absolutely smashed their set and the new music they are about to unleash unto the world is HUGE. Their previous EPs Winters and The Veil have a dark and brooding techy vibe to them but with their debut album Bleed Red the band are ready to take risks and it’s gonna pay off!

The album kicks off with the title track but on the first listen you’re flabbergasted at this progression in sound. Who is this band?! This track is a bit of a departure from the darkness of their older material. Bleed Red is larger than life and possesses a confident sound, its energy is infectious and boundless. The LAMB OF GOD-like gang vocals were an unexpected opener. Can we also talk about how much vocalist Johnathan Woods-Eley has improved? His melodic vocals always carried the EPs but with this first track he’s utterly surpassed all that he’s done before. THE FIVE HUNDRED project themselves as a truly unstoppable force.

Second track Smoke and Mirrors is possibly my favourite on the album, purely because of its incredible KILLSWITCH ENGAGE-esque vibes. The guitars and gigantic melody would not sound out of place on As Daylight Dies. It’s one thing wearing your metalcore influences on your sleeve but you also have to deliver. Luckily THE FIVE HUNDRED do, the song is absolute gold. The triumphant riffs, the sheer passion, the crushing breakdown… this is a winner. Trust me, this song is one you’re going to have stuck in your head for hours.

More delicious riffs greet us at the beginning of Buried. The verse reminds me of something MATCHBOOK ROMANCE would conjure, that kind of irresistible, melodic darkness. There’s a hint of TESSERACT here and there with the ambitious moments, and you know what, Woods-Eley pulls it off. Oblivion is another stomper, the screams and lyrics are IHSAHN worthy. THE FIVE HUNDRED have always managed to create a certain mood with their music, like there is an underlying darkness present. This has always given their music an edge. Although it’s not quite as evident in Bleed Red, a starker contrast is made between the bold moments and the brooding passages.

The Noose proves to be an absolute belter. Older fans may claim the band are selling out for a quick buck but no way. THE FIVE HUNDRED is now a more focused entity who has pulled its collective strengths into a blistering release. This track actually ends up being one of the grooviest and one of the heaviest on the album. The Noose has it all.

Reclusive and Seduced by Shadows make up riff city, both accompanied by more superb vocals and memorable choruses. But it is The Narcissist which is the standout track in the second half of the album. A sombre piano plays which is soon joined by atmospheric electronics and this gothic edge remaining throughout. I was trying to avoid liking this song to MOTIONLESS IN WHITE but The Narcissist definitely has that electronic sense of doom and mystique. The metallic guitars and big chorus also adds to the dramatic tone completing this mammoth of a track.

If you are wondering what the heaviest track on Bleed Red is, then look no further than I Am The Undead. As you can probably tell by the ghoulish song title, this song is demonically heavy. Those groovy riffs never let up, ensuring your head will bang for all eternity. The sheer brutality of this track sounds like the aural equivalent of being scalped. THE FIVE HUNDRED have always had their disgustingly heavy moments but this one obliterates them all. With all darkness there comes light and I Am The Undead is contrasted by Circles, the album’s finale. A melodic and brooding track, there are some unexpected doom riffs and mesmerising melodies. They started Bleed Red with a bang and decided to close the album with a stunningly epic track. THE FIVE HUNDRED may not be boasting the most original material but their talent and drive and progress between releases is something to be desired. A band who are constantly growing and constantly improving, THE FIVE HUNDRED remain one of Britain’s brightest metal hopes. I’m already looking forward to album number two.

 

Tech Fest 2018

Newark Showground. 5th-8th July 2018.

There was quite a merry buzz running throughout Tech Fest this year, what with England doing well in the World Cup and the constant predictions of who the *Secret Act* would be on the Sunday (it was SLEEP TOKEN). Personally it felt like it was gearing up to be the best year but unfortunately due to an emergency in our camp I had to miss the bands Sunday (so, sorry for no reviews of the bands that day!). Despite this and the hottest weather on Earth, the atmosphere this year was unparalleled and the quality of the bands just kept getting better and better. I know I’m not the only one already looking forward to next year! For now, here is my rundown of the bands I saw (in between eating delicious food and avoiding the sun). Photos are a combination of my own and Lee Harper/Go To The Gig.

Thursday

It was absolutely staggering to see the amount of people already settled in and checking out the bands when I got to the showground Thursday afternoon. Definitely the most people I’d seen on a Thursday at Tech Fest which was a very promising sight. After pitching the tent I went to catch Danish rockers SIAMESE. If you read my last Metalmance Monthly Roundup you will know how much I was looking forward to catching these guys but I was also nervous about how they would be received by the rest of the Tech Fest crowd. I needn’t have worried as they totally owned the room and got everyone nodding along while they played songs from last year’s Shameless. The majority were surprised to see a violinist in tow but this adds such an awesome dynamic to their sound, the band as a whole sound irresistible. Frontman Mirza Radonjica is a captivating frontman and closing the set with Soul and Chemicals and Ablaze they got the early evening of Tech Fest off to a kicking start.

20180705_204950.jpg

I was glad to see a big turnout for CRYSTAL LAKE on the Winspear Stage. All the way from Japan, these guys really got the party started with their mix of hardcore and progressive metal. Frontman Ryo charms the crowd and when they break out with a cover of LIMP BIZKIT’s Rollin’ then that’s when all the bodies erupted. The band all looked thrilled to be there and it was this energy and passion that the audience fed off. A stellar performance, it’s safe to say the band won over a new legion of fans tonight.

Headlining the night was a very special set from HEART OF A COWARD. The band have always been lodged firmly in the hearts of Tech Fest fans and this year felt like a celebration of the band’s new lineup and the promise of the future. Last year at Tech Fest Kaan Tasan (formly of NO CONSEQUENCE) made a guest appearance during VALIS ABLAZE’s set, but no one could have imagined this year he would be back fronting HEART OF A COWARD and headlining the opening night. Everyone knew he would be able to deliver but bloody hell he surpassed expectations. Clearly thrilled to be there in the moment, Tasan and co conquered the stage and conquered the hearts of the crowd. The professionalism and talent oozed from the band and the audience lapped it up. A set I am very proud to have witnessed. With a reception such as this, who knows what new heights HEART OF A COWARD could achieve in the future.

The after parties at Tech Fest are always a goldmine of bands and sets and this opening night was no different. Tonight saw Dutch tech metallers THE ROYAL make their second Tech Fest appearance. This was my third time seeing this brilliant group and it was hands down the best set I’ve seen them play to date. The energy these guys have is i20180706_004149.jpgnfectious and the way frontman Sem Pisarahu commands the crowd is always a sight to behold. THE ROYAL just keep getting better and better and the response from the crowd during songs from albums Dreamcatchers and Seven was very promising, proving the band are continuing to be on the up.

 

Friday

Today was the day I was looking forward to the most with favourites VOYAGER, VOLA and SIKTH playing later, and it proved to be my favourite of the whole weekend. I kicked off my day seeing FROM EDEN TO EXILE, having heard their latest release Modern Disdain I was looking forward to seeing how their metallic intensity translate live. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to witness these guys live as I was completely blown away by their brutality and composure. This is exactly how you should get your Friday afternoon off to a cracking start. Frontman Tom Franklin is proving to be an unstoppable force and the whole band are equally as ferocious. One of the unexpected highlights of the weekend.

Nothing quite prepared me for the FROM SORROW TO SERENITY extravaganza that was to follow over on the Winspear Stage. I hate to admit I’ve always seen their name dotted around and knew they had recently signed to Long Branch Records, but until this 20180706_145322.jpgmoment I hadn’t actually committed to listening to a full song. So it’s safe to say the set was always going to be a bit of a surprise but I was utterly enthralled by their explosive performance. I’m now beating myself up for sleeping on this band for too long. Just a few minutes in their presence you can understand why they’ve pulled crowds of people to their set early in the afternoon and why they have been signed to an excellent label. The energy on stage was overwhelming and I was left a little shell shocked after. Absolutely superb.

I was curious to see how the mad genius of THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT fared live, but a few technical issues hindered their sound a tad. Despite this, the French math-metallers still sounded unbelievable. Every member performed with a fierce passion making the set an intense affair. Having been promoted up the bill in the place of JINJER (who unfortunately couldn’t make it due to visa issues) THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT performed to a very generous crowd, proving they’ve got what it takes to play higher up the bill. Let’s hope we see these guys again very soon.

There was a real excitement in the air before VOLA began their set. The band from Denmark always win new fans wherever they go with their stupidly catchy and charming prog metal. There were still some technical issues on the Winspear Stage but 20180706_164627.jpgVOLA still sounded brilliant. Their secret weapon is their keys player Martin Werner, whose skill and performance excels the band’s dynamic. Singer and guitarist Asger Mygind proved to be one of the most charming frontmen of the weekend, with his signature voice and his composed stage presence. The band played songs from their debut album Inmazes and their older EPs, much to their hardcore fans’ delight. They even generously threw a new song into the set, which was a very curious song including spoken word elements and a poppier approach. It will be very interesting to see what the band have conjured for their next album. Of course, the majority of the crowd wanted to hear one particular song and VOLA obliged by playing it as their finale. Stray The Skies got one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the weekend and VOLA was a name on the tongues of all who saw them.

Releasing one of the best metal albums of the year so far, BLEED FROM WITHIN are back on fine form and were ready to prove to Tech Fest why they’re becoming one of BBleed From Withinritain’s metal heavyweights. A big crowd, big sound and a big stage presence, it’s clear the Glaswegians are comfortable with the heights they are reaching but they have remained humble and interact with the crowd with joy and professionalism. Songs from Era sound utterly flawless live and the exciting thing is, BLEED FROM WITHIN still have so much to give. Don’t be surprised if the next time we see them at Tech Fest they’re headlining.

Next up were Australian prog metallers VOYAGER deservedly headlining the Waghorn Guitars Stage. With an impressive back catalogue, the band had a wealth of disgustingly Voyagerbrilliant songs to choose from for their set, but they chose one of their best to open – What A Wonderful Day. And what a wonderful set the next hour would be. VOYAGER are one of those bands where every member brings their unique element to the live dynamic and the band are highly addictive to witness live; guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay bounce off each other, while bassist Alex Canion is such an entertaining sight to behold, drummer Ashley Doodkorte is a beard with a beast attached and singer Danny Estrin is truly captivating with his 80s pop voice and keytar skills. Songs from latest album Ghost Mile go down a storm, such as Ascension and Misery Is Only Company. But the highlight of the set was when Estrin played the opening note of DARUDE – Sandstorm that things got really riotous. It’s so much fun to see a band who are comfortable playing together and who exude such magnificent showmanship you dread when the set ends. Until next time.

All throughout the weekend, choruses of “IT’S COMING HOME!!” ring out and in the queue for SIKTH it becomes deafening while two lads with Gladiator style inflatable Sikthsticks bang them together to drum the rhythm. Everyone is in good spirits and there is a good energy which erupts during the headline set of tech veterans SIKTH. The room seemed to be at full capacity with sweaty and hot bodies flailing around to classics such as Bland Street Bloom and Summer Rain. The band knew which songs the crowd wanted and they delivered, playing plenty of songs from Death Of A Dead Day especially. It’s crazy to think over a decade ago SIKTH played their farewell show in London. Now in 2018 their audience is bigger than ever and the quality of their performance proves their talent of raising venues to the ground, yet they still have plenty in the bag. An absolutely chaotic set with euphoric vibes afterwards, this is how you headline Tech Fest.

After a day of chaotic sets and dancing I was after something a bit slower to end the day with. Luckily Norwich doom merchants NERVEWRECKER were playing the after party and if you’ve been following my blog you may remember my recent review of their latest EP Murmur and a review of their support slot with EMPLOYED TO SERVE and CONJURER (both of whom were playing the Sunday). This was NERVEWRECKER at their best, a hardcore attitude and energy with a massive sound, this is doom metal with a big “fuck you”. The crowd loved it and lapped up every resonating note, proving the band were the perfect choice for the after party. Despite their disgustingly slow riffs, NERVEWRECKER whipped up a frenzy and the support from their fans was golden. Same again next year please!

 

Saturday

Saturday afternoon was something of a little Long Branch Records show case, with VALIS ABLAZE and THE FIVE HUNDRED releasing their debut albums through the label (the latter is still yet to be released) and playing after one another today. Last year Bristolian progsters VALIS ABLAZE played the smaller stage, but this year they finally get the setting they deserve and stormed the Winspear stage. With a new bassist in tow, it was great to see the new lineup and to hear the new songs played live. The band released debut album Boundless back in April and the new tracks went down a storm. Most of the fans in the crowd have been with the band since the beginning so there’s always a buzz when the tech homeboys play. This year DREWSIF STALIN was absent for a guest spot, and if you’ve heard Frequency off the new album you will know what a little gem this song is and how it really does shine with two vocalists present. The band instead had called upon WHITE DOVE to do the guest vocals and she absolutely killed it. A superb substitute for a winner of a song. It’s only a matter of time before VALIS ABLAZE burst into the wider metal community.

Up next on the Waghorn Guitars stage were Nottingham metallers THE FIVE HUNDRED. I’ve been listening to this band since they released their Winters EP back in 2015 but this was my first time seeing them live. It’s safe to say they completely blew my hangover away. I don’t know what’s in the water in Nottingham but the new songs they teased sounded beastly and a blistering progression from last year’s EP The Veil. Performing like they were playing a stage twice the size, it’s great to see the band’s energy match their sound. With their debut album soon to be released this set has made me even more excited for the record. Long Branch have snapped up one of the most promising tech acts around, fingers crossed next year will see the band will launch to new heights.

I was super eager to catch DVSR during half time of the football. Last year we had HACKTIVIST, but this year we had DVSR providing the rap metal and playing an exclusive UK DVSRset and I am very proud to have witnessed such an incredible show. Pulling in the punters despite the game, people knew this was a special occasion and the band delivered. Groovy, confident and downright heavy, this band were the perfect edition for a Saturday afternoon.

I had no idea INGESTED would turn out to be my last band of the weekend, but I’m very glad the slamming death metal band wrapped up my weekend as things got a little bit insane. Last year the band absolutely decimated the smaller stage when they headlined the Sunday. It was about time the Manchester mob played the main stage and after the release of their incredible new album The Level Above Human earlier in the year, it was well deserved. Seeing the biggest wall of death of the weekend, I don’t know if it was the sun or the football or the alcohol, but the room was whipped up into a frenzy and remained so the entirety of the set. Commanding the crowd, vocalist Jason Evans is an absolute demon live, some other frontmen could learn from his example. His energy and passion is unparalleled, one of the reasons why they always slay live. A superb set and a superb end to my Tech Fest weekend. See you next year.