Howdy Fans and Friends!
It is high time to concoct a follow-up to the immensely successful 2017 Top 10 list. Now, 2018 is over and we have this sinking feeling that RockmusicRaider should send something out before another 12 months or so of stellar music leaves our memory. Forever gone in the windy tunnels of time, lost in a music industry that became its own best enemy. But that will be for another editorial we are sure to write in 2019.
2018 was a difficult year. The RMR crew here was time-strapped, so – in all – we were unable to really cover everything we would have liked. Apart from our annoying habit to cover older records, of course. What blasphemy, I know! But hey, abject juiciness is not only found in new records, but also in the past. But here we will talk about last year and only that.
#10 Carpe Noctem – Vitrun
Volcanoes, hot springs, bubbling pools of mud. That is the kind of thing you would expect from Iceland. Not the brand of Extreme Metal that we found. The one expertly made to make you remember where you will go. If Valhalla is not in it for you, because you died without a sword in your hand, poor lost soul. These island boys from the icy North really drive a sturdy mix of Black and Extreme Metal that will resound much farther than the lonely place they dwell in. Seize the Night, as they say, metal traveler, and enjoy.
#9 Oubliette – The Passage
2018 was again a year for Extreme Metal. And this crew really only scratched the surface of this very particular deluge heading our way. One that in its hellish dissonance does not resonate with many. And surely not with those, who like warm and soothing melodies. Oubliette, joining us from the god-fearing bible belt, came as a total surprise. A pretty good surprise, though. This is a sturdy piece of razor-sharp metal that really got on our good, metallic side. The one that is able to survive this steely potpourri of harsh sounds this band throws at us.
#8 Heilung – Lifa
I’ll say it again. They pissed me off to no end with their hypocritical stance on world views and what – or what not – we should believe. But – damn – you just can’t deny them. This gang of music warriors boasts a stage presence like a hundred raging bulls in a bloody ritual. A cheekily savvy understanding as to how such a primeval sound ought to be constructed. That, the crystal clear vocals of Maria Franz, and artfully connected stomping and howling about the stage just landed on the good side of us. And it brought about a rare incident of a live album making it onto the blog. These guys are some sort of an elemental power. And I mean it.
#7 Passenger – Runaway
What a thief Mike Rosenberg proved to be. The nerve! To scrape off Forrest Gump’s shining light, for the sake of kicking off his album. But it turned out to be a jolly good metaphor to use, him running the same roads than Forrest did. The band’s road trip proved to be one of the better Passenger albums. The record itself may not be as juicy as Whispers or All the little Lights. But you will be up for a very mature and pleasurable chunk of country laden Folk and Folk Rock. This one ran for a long time on our mighty music machine, and that means something.
#6 Haken – Vector
Another theme, another powerful album. One borne out of an asylum. Not a new idea, sure – others covered that before them. But this time we get it on a bed of Progressive Metal, and this sounds pretty good. Albeit that Haken this time moved a tad closer to the mainstream idea of what prog ought to sound like. But make no mistake, these guys are good. A geeky mastery seldom seen to date.
#5 Vanha – Melancholia
For quite some time I wondered whatever happened to Vanha. The bleak sounding Swedes that just hit the right level of tears and desperation the last time around. Well, this time it was no different, unhappy timing and all that jazz combined. Just that the crew got halved, and we thus find ourselves with a one-man-show. Not that this had any great effect on the quality of this new sophomore album. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by this soppy piece of tear-drenched desperation. A great follow-on from their first effort.
#4 Amorphis – Queen of Time
Powerful, and a ton better than Under the Red Cloud. This hits you like a friggin’ rock hard tide when you listen to Amorphis‘ newest. That they really would be able to up the ante some after their already sturdy last record has been one of the surprises of 2018. But here they pulled out all the stops and had at it. Looks like Finland is a good place for all things metal. But we already knew that, did we not? Race on down that metallic road of yours, Amorphis. This crew grew into steady supporters and already awaits more.
#3 Halestorm – Vicious
Ah, jeez. Whenever Lzzy Hale throws another one on the market, it’s just gonna be powerful. Mostly, like. But this time, this grew very steamy. Okay, I was a tad worried at first. The somewhat swell moments of the last one left me curiously unsatisfied. But not even Mick Jagger could howl about getting none, this time. Satisfaction, I mean. Because Halestorm pulled the fucking stops out and let her rip. So, Lzzy went on a rampage, and out came this corny, horny, scratchy, and powerful album that I continue to listen to. I am conflicted. Damn.
#2 Ostura – The Room
It is a pity that the Lebanese band Ostura released their album early in 2018 only. Scardust from Israel occupied the 2017 top spot and I would have dearly liked to see them compete. Because The Room gets you some stellar, kinda cinematic Progressive Metal that we have seldom seen to date. They had help, of course. And Arjen Lucassen’s guiding hand can be felt everywhere. But apart from that, this is a very thorough and thoroughly enjoyable album. Not something we would have expected from the Near East. Once again.
#1 Stortregn – Emptiness Fills The Void
They like to operate at the fringes of the metal multiverse. A bunch of guys who take their metal dead serious, with a Blackened Death Metal style that continues to stand out from the crowd. I was already impressed by their former offering. But this new album with its artfully expressed and exquisite intensity really rakes in all the bonus points that can be had on this Top 10. So, if you want to lose yourself in the steely metal yonder, Stortregn will be one for you to retain. Go for it and consume without moderation.
And a memorable nod goes to:
Arkuum – Die Letzte Agonie
Extreme Metal often expresses agony and despair at ultimate, even catastrophic levels. Or takes us to realms we really don’t want to be bothered with. Those bands experiment with trve metal, artfully mixed with atmospherics, or whatever will let the last remnants of your soul wither away in fear. Arkuum hit this vein pretty well and got us a shock-frozen mix of metal shards and atmospheric themes that stuck to the deck crew’s frontal lobe. Death be thy companion, you may deny it or not.
Lenore S. Fingers – All Things Lost on Earth
Same as the spacey Darkher, this band really continues to intrigue me. Not that they throw something totally eclectic at you. But this mix of aerial bombardment and crunchy dark Gothic vibes often makes you go back for seconds. Dark, doom-ish, avant-garde, progressive sounds galore on a disk of some 48 minutes. And you are never sure where this band of the strange name will take you next. A somewhat pig-headed approach to Gothic and Progressive Metal that we have not seen before. Hence they appear on this list.
And the one we loved to hate – or vice versa:
Hanzel and Gretyl – Satanik Germanik
Do you remember this preposterous French song of the long-defunct dead-ugly Serge Gainsbourg and the once lovely Jane Birkin? Their nonsensical main line goes: “Je t’aime, moi non plus”, meaning ‘I love you, me neither’. This is kind of how I feel when powering up the US band Hanzel and Gretyl. Their off-shoot art of NDH, complete with massacred German in all its oldish splendor fascinates and – at the same time – annoys me. But it is an uneasy fascination. Mission fucking accomplished, they probably say. But hey, the allure precisely is that steely bath of hot and cold, these extremes of industrial metal that continue to pull at you like gravity into a black hole.
Okay, that’s it for 2018. We will probably continue to deliver some more records of last year in the lost-and-found department. But never fear, great things await in 2019 – for an upcoming new Top 10. And that shall be our focus, apart from the gazillion of old records we intend to cover. And many other things. Damn.