The best of 2018 so far – Part 5

Welcome to day five, the final instalment of my mini-series – my half-year round-up of the best music released during the first six months of 2018. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Naturally, I’m sure that you don’t all agree with my choices and there are sure to be some glaring omissions for some of you. But that’s the beauty of music: we all have our opinions, with each as valid as each other’s.

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
The best of 2018 so far – Part 4

As it is the last chapter in this series, there are five releases to enjoy, rather than the usual three. So, with that in mind, here they are:

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Amorphis
‘Queen of Time’
Nuclear Blast
Score: 9.8

 

Here is a band that, like a fine wine, just keeps getting better with age. Every time you think that these Finns cannot get any better, they release another mind-blowing record. This time, it is the sublime ‘Queen of Time’, an album that continues their gradual evolution whilst sticking loyally to their core sound. But it is just huge in every way and utterly compelling.

“‘Queen of Time’ is, quite honestly, a joyous listening experience from start to finish, principally because everything that these Finns do is of the very highest quality. The melodies are strong, the folk elements are both authentic-sounding and interesting and there is a faint progressive element to the music in terms of the variety and subtle ideas at play…

… Virtually flawless, oozing with class, slathered in killer musicianship and bursting with unforgettable melodic elegance, ‘Queen of Time’ has to be the very best record of Amorphis’ career.”

Read the full review here.

lamuerta_fb

 

Subsignal
‘La Muerta’
Gentle Art of Music
Score: 9.75

 

Subsignal are one of those bands that always delivers on quality, but as a fan, you never quite know what you are going to get with each album. They are true to their core of melodic progressive rock/metal but within these confines, anything goes. And sometimes, they are happy to stray outside those confines a little. ‘La Muerta’ is easily the most commercial-sounding and ‘pop’-like of their career to date. But importantly, it is easily one of their best too.

“‘La Muerta’ is once again different from past Subsignal outings. It is at once very recognisable as Subsignal but also it embraces new influences, or at least there’s a more pronounced use of other influences. There is certainly some truth in the statement that ‘La Muerta’ is the most mainstream-sounding record that Subsignal have ever recorded, with plenty of pop-like choruses and AOR embellishments. However, it is also satisfyingly ambitious, with plenty of variety within the eleven tracks and, as it turns out, a pleasing amount of progressive intent.”

Read the full review here.

Press_Cover_SB

 

Spock’s Beard
‘Noise Floor’
InsideOut Music
Score: 9.25

 

Having had a rocky relationship with Spock’s Beard over the years, I finally clicked with the band via their last album, ‘The Oblivion Particle’. And happily, this relatively new-found love affair continues apace thanks to ‘Noise Floor’, another superb album chock full of quality melodically-charged classic progressive rock.

“what I really enjoy about ‘Noise Floor’ is the way that the music is immediately welcoming; there is a warmth to the compositions as well as a playful exuberance that means that you connect with the songs very quickly despite the high levels of technicality and complexity on offer throughout…

… If you’re after professionally-crafted, progressive rock that is warm, inviting and with plenty of melody and tight-as-a-drum musicianship, you cannot go wrong with Spock’s Beard. They are the band that keeps on delivering, with ‘Noise Floor’ being their latest gift to a grateful prog world.”

Read the full review here.

The Sea Within cover

 

The Sea Within
‘The Sea Within’
InsideOut Music
Score: 9.25

 

Not content with releasing one quality progressive rock album in June 2018, InsideOut gave us prog fans two. On the same day no less. The Sea Within is one of those myriad ‘super groups’ that are the life blood of the progressive genre. It is a line-up that gets the mouth watering and when you hear it, your ears are as happy as you’d hoped they’d be. Quite simply, this is top class music from a top class line-up.

“I think that, having spent plenty of time with this record, its magic lies in the way in which the music sounds varied and technical, whilst delivering a warmth and sense of melody that is impossible to ignore. It encompasses the old and the new almost effortlessly too, which is no mean feat… this album benefits from a myriad of different influences, from all-out jazz noodling, to pop, to harder, more aggressive rock/metal via the more classic progressive rock sounds and textures…

…Some of the compositions may stray into strange and unexpected realms but they are always underpinned by something memorable and, in many cases, catchy. And the more I listen, the more I hear and the more I connect with the music.”

Read the full review here.

13214566 - dramatic sky over old lonely tree

 

Kataklysm
‘Meditations’
Nuclear Blast
Score: 9.25

 

My final choice from the first half of 2018 comes in the form of Canadian death metal veterans, Kataklysm. There is something about this band that seems to hit a sweet spot with me. The combination of the guitar tones, the clever use of killer riffs and the juxtaposition between aggression and melody is inspired, as demonstrated on this brilliant album.

“Everything that you want to hear from a Kataklysm album is present on ‘Meditations’, and the band waste no time in delivering the goods…

…You can’t call it one-dimensional, simple, boring or any of these things, because nothing could be further from the truth. This is interesting, multi-dimensional, heavy, memorable and slick death metal with real bite and enough melody to give it a pleasing memorability….

… Kataklysm’s music transports me to a place where I cannot just sit passively and listen; they force me to invest something more of myself into the music and that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.”

Read the full review here.

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