Hello to you all! Readers old and readers new, welcome to that ridiculous annual tradition that I started a few years ago, namely my series counting down the top 30 albums released this year. If you’re new to this whole event, please feel free to check out my previous countdowns right here:
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know exactly what to expect: each day I give you my thoughts on a favourite album, quoting parts of my review whilst also adding brand new commentary, putting the choice into some kind of personal context. With every pick, I’ll try to offer a different embedded track to tempt those unsure of my choices one last time – I owe it to the bands to give it one last push after all!
I have thought about this and I strongly feel that the picks between 30-21 should be in no particular order – they are just records that require a mention given how good they are. However, to try and order this section of the countdown, as in years before, is a little arbitrary and unnecessary. All you need to know is that these records deserve a place in my top 30 at the end of this year.
And what a year it has been – loads of great music has been released by those both familiar to me and completely new. That’s the most exciting part – seeing new names appear on this list that I’d never have considered at the start of the year.
I really hope you enjoy this series again this year. I appreciate all the comments and interaction as always, so please let me know what you think of my choices. And now, without further ado, here comes the first record for 2018:
The Artisan Era
Score of Much Metal: 9.25
It is always great to begin these countdowns with a brand new name, and the fact that today’s pick is also an independent release is even better; after all, this is what I originally set this website up for – to support the bands that really need to be given a helping hand to succeed and reach the audience that their music deserves. That’s definitely the case with Aethereus and their cracking debut album, ‘Absentia’.
I have mentioned elsewhere that 2018 was the year that I gave my soul to the ‘prog/tech/death’ subgenre and this is one of the very real reasons why that’s the case. I have listened to this record quite a lot since submitting my review and it has lost none of its potency and extreme allure; it remains a tantalising listen, full of technicality, brutality and moments of more subtle melodic elegance.
I’m also a sucker for the moments of cinematic grandiosity that lurk within this album, helping to add yet another dimension to an already multi-faceted record. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a debut because the songwriting really demonstrates an impressive maturity, probably a by-product of the protagonists’ experience within the US death metal scene prior to pulling Aethereus together and generally pummelling us with the result.
To quote my review of 4th August 2018:
“…Aethereus do demonstrate that they have their own identity without admittedly pushing the boundaries too far in any direction. I like the hints of Cynic within their sound and I like the way that ‘Absentia’ isn’t besieged by extreme technicality at the expense of memorability, allowing atmosphere and melody to pervade at times.
Crucially though, Aethereus prove that when done well, the tech death genre is one to be reckoned with. Not only that but, as ‘Absentia’ ably demonstrates, it can offer a very entertaining listening experience.
Another positive from my perspective, is the willingness of Aethereus to allow melody into the songs. It interweaves the technicality and the overt brutality of blastbeats, sharp, unforgiving riffs and complex structures to create a sense of identity, a hook to keep me coming back for repeated listens. What’s more, it helps to create a sense of atmosphere that I really enjoy too. It’s heavy, powerful and uncompromising, but it is also delicate, sophisticated and subtly beautiful in places.
…suffice to say that ‘Absentia’ is a debut that should get the band noticed and provide them with the recognition that they deserve.”
Read the full review here.
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here: