Cynics may continue to cry foul at imitators and sellouts in the rock scene, but I stand my ground that 2018 has been good to music fans. Too good, if I dare to be bold. As labels shower us with gifts of addictive blast beats and criminally catchy hooks, I hesitate at the difficult task of playing favourites.
Music lists are tougher still for an indecisive audiophile, who holds on dearly to ancient favourites while craving for new ones. But I’ll take any excuse to re-listen to some of the best records this year:
10. Avatar – Avatar Country
I will always regret missing Avatar live at Download Festival. With their seventh album Avatar Country, the band is set to steal the title of the greatest showmen on the metal stage. Emulating the early persona of the revered Alice Cooper, the born performers are just a hell lot of fun to watch.
Granted that they may play up on the dramatic, their dress-up games never come at the cost of musicality. Their latest record is full of groove-laden bangers, albeit softer than before. If there is a single track that sums up their serious musicianship alongside their love for fun, get in on The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country.
9. Exmortus – Sound of Steel
Waxing lyrical about Exmortus may very well become a biennial affair. That is certainly great news for those seeking some voluntary war scars in the rowdy mosh pit. Heavy thrash riffs meet brilliant neoclassical shredding in Sound of Steel, aptly named for its metal loyalties and epic themes of war.
From the warfare soundtrack Make Haste to the classical A Minor Instrumental, the showcase proves itself a worthy follow-up to the equally impressive Ride Forth.
8. Extinction A.D. – Decimation Treaty
A whiplash is well in order for fans of Extinction A.D., a band that is determined to make themselves heard. Pure adrenaline from start to finish, Decimation Treaty channels the aggression and volume of thrash giant Slayer in their brilliant trinity of intense vocals, drumming, and riffages.
The metal onslaught never slows down, lashing out with an unhealthy amount of rage and without relent – nothing short of a compliment to the uninitiated. There’s no turning down from 11, a fair warning to your eardrums.
7. Psychework – Karelian Hills
More music fans need Psychework in their lives; they just don’t know it yet. Despite two masterpieces under their belt, the power metal band has remained incredibly underrated, and this has got to change with Karelian Hills.
On their sophomore album, vocalist Antony Parviainen (formerly of Machine Men) brings heartfelt honesty to the emotional lyrics that rise above beautifully inspired melodies. Orchestral introductions always captivate me, which elevates Siege to the top track in my book.
6. Wardruna – Skald
No Vikings fan would walk away from the show without obsessively listening to Wardruna. Their use of Nordic instruments lend an ethereal beauty to their indescribably haunting albums Runaljod – Ragnarok and Runaljod – Yggdrasil. But Skald is perhaps Wardruna’s finest hour to date.
Einar Selvik’s solo material mesmerises, his resonant voice and Nordic strings evoking hypnotic charm. Immersive are the traditional folk influences, especially in the Skaldic renditions of familiar favourites Fehu and Helvegen, made even better.