It is high time for a new update of the latest state of affairs and exciting findings on the RMR website. Many months have elapsed since Tome IV came aboard and the 2016 Top 10 saw the light of day. The mighty post count now is way beyond the three hundred mark and a new logo was unleashed. RMR has just a few days ago gone fully secure on this virus infested internet, too. That is something the IT security officer was nagging us about for some time – and rightly so.
Last year however the RockmusicRaider deck crew experienced a massive slowdown of output to the trusted readers. Well – for now – the reasons for this outrageous gaffe shall remain mysterious and foggy for ye fans of the blog. This – sadly – led to a number of stellar 2016 releases – fodder for this here Tome V – that somehow got under the wheels of time. Just to be discovered anew. So, the first few months of this year really were all about catching up with the past and keeping track of the new material coming aboard this mighty ship.
Let the games begin with those who did not make it onto the 2016 Top 10, but should have been on this list. And one of those is Moonsorrow starring Jumalten Aika. I admit: The RMR officescape always somehow scoffed at the Black Metal masters from Finland. But as of this album, you will find only converts. This is an epic and mysterious piece of work that takes Symphonic Black Metal pieces to a whole new level. If only we had latched on to that record before the top ten was written. But alas, it was not to be.
One of the 2016 records that should be on the list, too, sits slam in the Death Doom Metal realm. Yep, you heard that right. Vanha with Within the Mist of Sorrow dispenses not only two scoops that some presidents get, but three mighty portions of sadboy flavored arctic-grade iced teardrops. This was one of these where-have-you-been-all-my-live moments, when I started on the record. And they blow their Peaceville laden competition straight out of the water, mark my words. Let’s just hope that their mighty marketing machine works as well as their brethrens’ operations do. Vanha will be a good investment for you, avid doom fan or not.
Well, all things Doom Metal have done well last year and we found bands coming at us out of nowhere. True, Khemmis already issued a record in 2015. But here they landed a truly cool second shot with Hunted. Now the first one did not really hit very far yet, but this one for sure did. The album ended up at number one or – at least – very high up on the best of list of many zines and publications. And – again – they deserve to get this kind of attention. Compared to other records floating about the genre, they definitely end up very near to the top.
Another contender for top ten glories messed up the Gothic and Symphonic Metal world. Now, understand, Mercy Isle with Undying Fire did not necessarily break new ground in 2016. But they have a knack to get us a refreshing spin on a genre that we know is already fully stuffed. They went about this by enlisting mighty counsel and then just hammered away. The end result just puts enough of a fresh and refreshing spin on their tune to keep it interesting. And at an astonishingly good quality.
Now, there have been others back in ’16 of considerably fame, who won’t deserve top 10 honors. Yet still, the performance is laudable enough to get mentioned here on this list. We speak about the Thrash Metal specialists of Metallica and their newest Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. They need to be careful that this title does not become an omen of sorts. I was impressed by the freshness of the delivery, yet it is very apparent that they serve the same old fare all over again. An ardent Metallica fan lately howled at me that this is exactly what they (the fans) expect from this band. Right. And the band knows that too and it still fills them monstrous music halls. I know all that. But for how long – still?
And then you got these records like Haken‘s Affinity. The hypertension around this album was just amazing and for some reason the mighty RockmusicRaider metal warship missed that one in 2016. Technically outstanding, the record delivers all that a Progressive Metal fan’s heart desires. An oxymoron, if you ask me, because if the progressive genre becomes predictable, then we just joined a parallel universe. So, my merciless reviewer’s heart sees the musical prowess and excellent execution of the album, but it remains cold as ice in the end. This for reason of lack of an emotional flow that – finally – always carries the flag in a good record.
One of the first ‘holy shit’ moments of 2017 goes to Black Metal. The Ukrainian band Balfor issued a thundering new album called Black Serpent Rising. We already got a teaser earlier last year, but the end product really beat that one by far. Balfor did not reinvent the wheel, but their meaty delivery is of remarkably good quality. But then, what else would we expect from veterans like these, right? Balfor will remain a contender to get on the 2017 Top Ten list for sure. No promises, though.
Xandria finally delivered their long awaited new album Theater of Dimensions. We all asked ourselves if the band would be able to hold on to their female front for once. And indeed, Dianne Van Giersbergen is still going strong. But more importantly, the second question after a good album is always the quality and worthiness of the follow-on. Now here the outcome is not bad, even if some of that smacks a lot of Epica and Nightwish in one single sweep. But by and large, Xandria have increased their musical prowess. A lot – and I am already looking forward to their next.
Take two relatively unknown musicians, get them together and let them loose. So, kind of out of nowhere you will get Arduini/Balich and their project Dawn of Ages. Stoner infused Progressive Metal and Heavy Metal will be the result. It always amazes how much a change of décor can make a difference in quality. And I mean they kicked this machine up a few gears, big time. You should give this album a few minutes of your time. Even the covers they do are pretty well done. And that means something.
You know, some records earlier we talked about predictability in Progressive Metal. Haken and their brethren of established prog bands beckon you. Right? Well, you also find others. Just look at this bunch of youngsters from Italy. Frozen Sand released a pretty cool album Fractals: A Shadow out of Lights early in 2017. And it amazes not only by musical savvy, but also with an uncomplicated approach to structure their music. And a desire to experiment that I find pretty refreshing. A band to be watched. They will go far, if the mighty music industry does not suck them dry before that.
Should Winter Metal be on the list now that summer is approaching? Absolutely. Because Mister Saukkonen and his outfit Wolfheart have spoken. Tyhjyys delivers an ice-cold hammer blow to the fans of Viking Metal. And this is meatier and yet more refined fare than their famous competitors Amon Amarth managed to produce last year. They probably probed or pulled every lever in the genre that they could find. Sometimes sailing almost too close to other Melodic Death Metal players. But in the end the winner will write history. And here they succeeded sturdily. The album still turns often on the RMR sound system. And that means something.
Okay, that’s it with Tome V and the most important records. There are many more, notably the write up of the Rotting Christ series and coverage of a few other, older records. But for those we may do a special editorial once. In time, who knows.