The best of 2018 so far – Part 4

Hi and welcome to day four of my half-year round-up of the best music released during the first six months of 2018. I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series so far? And more importantly, if you’ve missed any of my reviews this year so far, I hope that this series helps to fill in the gaps or remind you of some of the hugely impressive quality we’ve been treated to thus far.

If you missed the previous parts of this mini-series, you can read them here:

The best of 2018 so far – Part 1
The best of 2018 so far – Part 2
The best of 2018 so far – Part 3

And with that out of the way, no mucking around, let’s get on with it. So, to continue the format, here are the next three albums that grabbed my attention on the eve of spring 2018:

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Barren Earth
‘A Complex of Cages’
Century Media Records
Score: 9.5

 

I love heavy, but I also love beauty. Therefore, when a band come along and manage to blend these two elements so effortlessly whilst also injecting more than just a touch of technicality, it is unsurprising that I will make a beeline to it. That’s the situation right here with Barren Earth, a band that have gradually and inexorably grown and morphed into much more than simply an extreme death/doom band with a melodic edge. ‘A Complex of Cages’ is easily the most mature and advanced record of the band’s career, a really super album all round.

“…it still came as a bit of a surprise to note just how much the extreme element of the band’s material has reduced. I would suggest that it is close to a 50/50 split in terms of extremity versus something altogether less harsh and abrasive…

…I find the music on ‘A Complex of Cages’ to be deep, rich and thoroughly engaging. There are very few moments that don’t offer something intriguing, challenging or just plain beautiful.

Read the full review here.

aesthesys cover

Aesthesys
‘Achromata’
Independent release
Score: 9.25

 

Drawn in to this previously unknown band purely on the strength of the sensational artwork, it wasn’t long before the music began to make a similar impact upon me. As long-term readers will know, it takes a lot for an instrumental album to fully grab my attention and keep it. Well, this is one such record, courtesy of Russian sextet Aesthesys.

“On the evidence of ‘Achromata’, Aesthesys are a complicated outfit that seeks to blend a myriad of styles together to create their own aural vision. Within the eight compositions, expect to hear progressive rock, post-rock, ambient, neo-prog and neo-classical, as well as a healthy dose of dramatic cinematic aesthetics…”

“…I simply wanted as long as possible to let it work its magic on me. And now that it has, I am thoroughly smitten and entranced by ‘Achromata’. To me, it is an expertly-crafted and clever record that keeps on giving. As such, it will take something very special for Aesthesys to be beaten in 2018 when it comes to intelligent instrumental music.”

Read the full review here.

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Ivar Bjornson & Einar Selvik
‘Hugsja’
Norse Music
Score: 9.5

 

This is one of those albums that proves that I have a wider taste of music than just hard rock or metal. In this case, I have fallen head over heels for a record that seeks to blend lovingly-crafted and overtly authentic Norse folk influences, including an exploration of Norse Mythology, with a restrained but confident style of progressive rock. But then, when the music is composed and performed by the likes of Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna’s Einar Selvik, was the quality ever really in doubt?

“…I have no hesitation in stating that ‘Hugsjá’ is a beautiful album, full of depth, emotion and authenticity. You can feel the conviction that both artists have towards the music on this record, meaning that you believe in the material and buy into it wholeheartedly. The combination of traditional and more modern instrumentation is well-balanced, complimenting each other perfectly.”

Read the full review here.

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