Welcome to the latest instalment of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. We’ve reached the top 10! Finally we’re at the business end of this epic undertaking and the final ten records are genuinely the very best that 2018 has had to offer, at least from my perspective.
Over the year, I have reviewed well over 100 releases in some detail. However, when you add together all of the material that I have listened to, that number could easily be doubled or even tripled. And even then, I’ve probably missed a few releases that would have been worthy of my attention. But rest assured that the next ten, including today’s pick are the crème de la crème.
As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-11.
But now, on with the show…
‘A Way Out’
Score of Much Metal: 9.75
Israeli modern prog band Distorted Harmony wowed me a few years ago with a sophomore effort that saw an almost complete reinvention from their classic Dream Theater-inspired debut offering. ‘Chain Reaction’ was a brilliant disc and when this third release popped unexpectedly through my letterbox, I was both delighted and intrigued.
My intrigue stemmed from the fact that Yoav Efron had previously told me in an interview that he was bored of progressive metal. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with their new album. Would it go off on a complete tangent, or follow the path of its predecessor. The answer is somewhere between the two, although the chosen path is much closer to the preceding material than I perhaps was expecting.
There is a noticeable increase in the electronic elements on ‘A Way Out’, but the end result remains firmly rooted in the modern progressive genre. It didn’t hit me immediately out of the blocks but I gave the record time to sink in. And when it did sink in, the realisation dawned on me that ‘A Way Out’ is an incredible album, full of raw power, subtle complexity and a modernity that makes it entirely relevant in 2018. The djent influences loom large, but not at the expense of all else, as demonstrated by the frequent changes in pace and intensity to allow the electronic elements time to shine.
But, for me, the best thing about Distorted Harmony is their ability to deliver some sumptuous melodies be they embedded deep within the core of a song or via a bold, all-encompassing chorus. And it is these choruses that have pushed ‘A Way Out’ into my final top ten, deservedly so.
To quote my review of 18 July 2018:
“…At it’s heart, ‘A Way Out’ is still a very modern-sounding record that borrows from the djent and tech metal stables whilst blending this heaviness with a subtle complexity borne out of a love of jazz, progressive rock. Indeed, there is a strong case to be put forward to suggest that this is the heaviest that Distorted Harmony have ever sounded. Nevertheless, the ability to create memorable compositions thanks to their innate and sophisticated understanding of rich melodies remains intact too.
The primary difference with ‘A Way Out’ however, is the immediately noticeable and demonstrable increase in the amount of electronic sounds that litter the vast majority of the compositions here. Not willing to die wondering, Efron and co. have dived in at the deep end and so some often quite sonically arresting electronic-based soundscapes weave themselves intricately within the songs, adding a further depth and originality to an already uniquely identifiable sound.
As with all good progressive-based music, the compositions take a little time to work their way into the affections. But, speaking as someone who has spent the last couple of weeks almost solidly listening to ‘A Way Out’, I can only conclude that once the songs take hold, they only get stronger as the insidious hooks and clever melodies dig in deep and refuse to let go.
The other important facet of ‘A Way Out’ is the production, which is absolutely superb. Music of this depth and complexity needs to be presented properly and here, everything is just right. You get the power and the clarity as well as the necessary space and separation to allow all of the elements within the music to shine through and make both an individual and a collective impact.
To be honest, whichever way you look at it or listen to it, ‘A Way Out’ is a near flawless collection of top drawer modern technical progressive metal that also has heart, subtlety and a magnetic beauty that keeps me coming back time and again.”
Read the full review here.
If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:
And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years: