The best of 2018 so far – Part 1

2018 has easily lived up to the hype and it has delivered some amazing music during the first six months of the year. I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the 62 reviews that I have completed to date and pick some of the highlights. Call it a mid-way ‘best of’ if you like. The only difference between this and my ‘end of year top 30’ is that this round-up is not in score order, and each post will feature multiple releases. After all, I doubt even my most loyal of readers could cope with two countdowns in a year!

The only caveat is that there are still some albums that I’ve not heard enough to review/feature in this list. So you’ll have to wait until Nov/Dec to read my definitive list.

But nevertheless, here we go. And to be fair to all concerned, I’ll deliver this in chronological order…

Bleeding Gods - Dodekathlon - Artwork

 

Bleeding Gods
‘Dodekathlon’
Nuclear Blast
Score: 9.25

‘Dodekathlon’ was pretty much the first review of the year, and I was very impressed. Bleeding Gods were a new name to me, but they made their mark and delivered a very strong album, full of power and intent to help warm up a miserable January weather-wise.

“The band themselves describe their music as ‘darkened death metal with black and thrash influences’. I’d go along with that, although another accurate descriptor could be ‘symphonic death/black metal…In essence, this is huge, majestic, opulent heavy music that delivers pounding rhythms, enormous riffs, aggressive gruff vocals, all supplemented by orchestration and symphonics that create a sense of drama, theatrics and above all, a hugely rich atmosphere…

…It might be an hour long, but believe me it is an hour well spent because Bleeding Gods have sent us a gift from the Gods. That is if your music of choice happens to be sophisticated and immaculately-presented cinematic and symphonic extreme metal.”

Check out the full review here.

pyramid v7

 

Orphaned Land
‘Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs’
Century Media
Score: 9.8

It is fair to say that ‘Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs’ was the first album that genuinely declared itself as a contender for ‘album of the year’. It is an incredibly strong collection of material and was the soundtrack to my bicycle commute, keeping my mind off the fact that it was such a dark and particularly cold January.

“Cutting to the chase, I have to say that the rumblings were indeed correct. As a huge fan of ‘Mabool – The Story of the Three Sons and Seven’, I am finally coming around to the idea that ‘Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs’ might well be their best yet…

…I defy anyone to remain untouched emotionally by this and the preceding twelve tracks. The power, the sincerity and the gravity of the subject matter makes it almost impossible. And when it is wrapped up within such beautiful and engaging music, it becomes yet more powerful; a force of nature. ‘Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs’ is an exquisite body of work, almost certainly their best yet, a tour-de-force of intelligence, beauty and sincerity. Everyone should hear this album, and I mean everyone.”

Check out the full review here.

In Vain - Currents - web

 

In Vain
‘Currents’
Indie Recordings
Score: 9.5

Somewhat fittingly, the snow was falling as I listened to this album for the first time. Dark, cold and foreboding weather seems fitting somehow for In Vain’s heavy and intense musical output that is also quite bleak in places. Mind you, it wouldn’t have mattered which season it was, because this record would have won me over regardless.

“Undoubtedly, the heart of In Vein is bedded in that dark abyss that sits somewhere between melodeath and melodic death/doom metal. But into the mix comes elements like black metal, 70s progressive rock and straight-up brutal death metal…

…If ‘Ænigma’ demonstrated that In Vain had the genuine potential to challenge at the highest level, then ‘Currents’ is the sound of that potential realised. This is a huge album, full of all the things that I love in my extreme metal, as well as other things I’d not really thought about, demonstrating a streak of originality to keep things fresh and exciting.”

Check out the full review here.

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