The end of the year is upon us and I must say there have been some brilliant releases this year. I have been particularly impressed with the amount of new bands that have released their new albums, this is also reassuring as it means the metal scene is still alive and well. From listening pleasures to albums I enjoyed reviewing, here are my top ten albums of the year.
10. Sabaton – The Great War
Kicking off my top ten albums is SABATON’s latest historical account of The Great War. It’s no secret that SABATON write songs based around historical battles and events whilst donning the camo trousers. The Great War looks at the different aspects from The First World War. The Swedish icons tend to produce sterling albums and The Great War is no exception. I’ll admit I didn’t take to this album right away but after listening to it a few more times, it grew on me. From the booming opener The Future Of Warfare to the touching In Flanders Field, the album takes you on a historical journey told through bombastic melodies. My personal favourites on the album are Seven Pillars Of Wisdom, 82nd All The Way, Devil Dogs, Red Baron and Great War. I look forward to experiencing these songs live next year.
9. Aephanemer – Prokopton
At the beginning of the year, I got an email from a guitarist to ask if I could help promote his band via a review and interview. After listening to their music, I was very keen to do so. Melodic Death Metallers AEPHANEMER are now signed to Napalm Records and they are gathering new fans by the second. I had the pleasure of reviewing their latest album Prokopton before they were signed and given the strong content from the record, I knew they would go far. The thing that sticks out to in this album is the strong mix of Melodic Black and Melodic Death metal, you can hear this within Marion Bascoul’s varied vocal style. The strongest examples of this can be heard in Snowblind and single Bloodline. Amongst the prevailing growls and brutal musicianship, there is a poignant message within the sound. Prokopton means making progress. It’s a Greek word describing someone who practices stoicism in their day to day lives. You can see this within their powerful lyrics. I highly recommend this band to fans of MOONSORROW and ENSIFERUM.
8. Eclipse – Paradigm
I was happy to see the return of Swedish Hard Rockers ECLIPSE this year via their latest release Paradigm. There were some strong single releases leading up to the album and from hearing those, I knew I needed to hear the rest of the album. I had the pleasure of reviewing it this year. In tough times, we need something to lift our spirits and Paradigm does exactly that. There is an eclectic selection of songs on this record; it wouldn’t surprise me if songs such as Viva La Victoria, The Masquerade and United were live show anthems already. It’s albums like this that prove rock is still alive and kicking.
7. Massive – Rebuild Destroy
A few years ago, I witnessed Australian Hard Rock quartet MASSIVE open up for THE TREATMENT at The Joiners, Southampton. I remember being taken with their high energy and passionate music. Fast forward to the present and I can say I watched them headline the same venue with that same energy and passion. Talking to lead vocalist Brad Marr earlier this year, he mentioned the influences for the writing Rebuild Destroy came from hard times they had as a band. They used all this frustration and energy to create this no nonsense, straight up Hard Rock album. There is a fantastic collection of songs on the album. You have the party sounds in Gettin Heavy. The punchiness of Bullet. The rebellious What You Gonna Do. The ballads Face In The Crowd and A Mile In My Shoes. This is a Hard Rock gem that should be treasured and given your undivided attention.
6. Coronatus – The Eminence Of Nature
I first came across CORONATUS when I was sixteen years old, particularly when I was starting to discover Symphonic Metal. I was attracted to the fact there were two different vocal styles taking the lead. Fast forward to today and they released The Eminence Of Nature. Once I pressed play on this album, I was taken instantly by the striking vocals and grand music arrangements.
There important message is told through a great selection of bombastic melodies that encompass both folk and symphonic metal elements. It’s no secret that we need to work together to make drastic changes to ensure the future of our planet changes for the better. You hear this instantly in the lyrical content in the opening track Planet B, it doesn’t take much explanation what the lyric “no planet B, no more earth, only one chance” is referring to.
Other favourites on the album include the fun folk sounds of Midsommar, the haunting sounds of Echo Of Souls and the gallant Set Sail To North. Highly recommended for fans of Symphonic and Folk Metal.
5. Bloodbound – Rise Of The Dragon Empire
Ever since I caught them on tour supporting SABATON a few years back, I have been hooked onto BLOODBOUND ever since. Their latest tale Rise Of The Dragon Empire only reinforces my love for the Swedish Dragon Slayers. The album contains gallant melodies that will make you want to bring out your inner warrior and join the band on their noble quest. For those who have been a fan of the band for a while may have noticed the development in their sound.
My personal favourites on the album are the title track, Blackwater Bay, Giants Of Heaven and Reign Of Fire. The title track shows us Patrik Selleby’s brilliant vocal range, Blackwater Bay is majestic, Giants Of Heaven is a standard BLOODBOUND track that contains the elements I love about the band and the uplifting sounds in Reign Of Fire gave me hope when times were tough.
Unleash your inner dragon slayer and join them on their quest, you know you want to.
4. Beast In Black – From Hell With Love
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual listener, the name BEAST IN BLACK has been hard to miss. I was initially attracted to their straight to the point and no-frills Heavy Metal sounds through the strong content they produced. After hearing their latest release From Hell With Love, I knew instantly it was going to be at least top five material.
Like their previous album, it is no frills and no fuss; just solid sounding Heavy Metal. The record contains a great array of songs that will get you pumping and ready to go. Great examples of this get up and go energy can be found in songs such as Repentless, Heart Of Steel and True Believer. I also like the eighties-esque sounds in Sweet True Lies and Die By The Blade. It’s nice to have a break from the heaviness with the track Oceandeep. This one shows us a different side to vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, especially when it comes to his vast vocal range.
Like your Heavy Metal straight to the point whilst needing a get up and go? Give From Hell With Love a whirl.
3. Control The Storm – Forevermore
CONTROL THE STORM have been favourites since I caught them at a local show a few years ago, I likened them to Britain’s answer to NIGHTWISH. After their hiatus and a few line up changes, their sound is stronger than ever before and I still say they are the British equivalent to NIGHTWISH. The concrete content in their anticipated second album Forevermore is solid evidence of this.
Even though I could hear influences from NIGHTWISH, I can hear instantly that they have their own sound. For the duration of this album, I am taken with the beautiful melodies that have that sense of empowerment. I know that some of the band members have been open about their struggles regarding ill mental health and there is strong lyrical content in the album describes perfectly what it’s like. Examples of this include “I’m trapped in my mind” from In The Night, “Feeling defeated, life will take it’s toll” from Follow Me and “Now I’m at war with my inner peace” from Chaotic Mind.
The song Chaotic Mind is a perfect embodiment of struggling with ill mental health and that we have to keep on fighting through it all. This particular song is another that helped me through some difficult times this year.
With all these reasons in mind, this was the ideal album to open my top three.
2. Skillet – Victorious
I had heard of SKILLET in passing, it was only this year I managed to sit and listen to them. This came on the off chance when listening to a radio show and the song Legendary came on. I was instantly taken with the power and passion in the song, so much so that I eagerly awaited to give the album a try.
From start to finish, I was taken with the pumping, strong and empowering content that this album gave. When you listen to this album, you realise the title of this album is more than appropriate. There is a great variety of tracks that suit every mood under the sun. I know this is a given cliché but it’s rings true within this case.
Highlights for me including the first pumping notes of Legendary, the sweeping title track, the bouncy rhythm in Rise Up, the poignant message about having someone there for you in Anchor and the straight to the point sounds of Never Going Back.
To music fans looking for something different, give this album a spin and feel Victorious.
NUMBER 1: Leah – Ancient Winter
It’s very different to the rest of my list but when I listened to the relaxing sounds of this record, I knew instantly that this would be my number one pick. For Ancient Winter, LEAH strips back her usual Symphonic Metal sounds for a more earthy ambience. It’s within this album you can hear why she is referred to as Metal Enya from her fans.
I was taken away to a far-off land instantly and it genuinely helped me forget my troubles for nearly hours. This album highly encourages the phrase “dance as if no-one is watching”, which is what I found myself doing when listening to this record.
Speaking of being taken to a far-off land, I thought of Dark Crystal and Lord Of The Rings when listening to the record. The earthy sounds are given to us through Leah’s haunting vocal work and some of the international names featured on the album. These include the stunning pipes from NIGHTWISH’s Troy Donockely, the quirky hurdy gurdy sounds from CELLAR DARLING’s Anna Murphy, and a few others. My personal favourites on this album are the hypnotic sounds in Redemption, the stunning rendition of traditional song Gaudete and the merry arrangements in Puer Natus.
In today’s fast paced world, it’s more important than ever to step back and slow down. Ancient Winter helped me to do this; it helped me to relax and take a breath. If slowing down is something you need to do, take yourself away with Ancient Winter.
I will reveal my honourable mentions soon, for now here is my end of year playlist below.
LOTTY’s BEST OF 2019 PLAYLIST
Alter Bridge – Dying Light
Aephanemer – Snowblind
Beast In Black – Repentless
Leah – Gaudete
Control The Storm – Chaotic Mind
Sabaton – Seven Pillars Of Wisdom
Skillet – Rise Up
Coronatus – Set Sail To North
Amon Amarth – Crack The Sky
Eclipse – Viva La Victoria
Brothers Of Metal – One
Stop, Stop! – The Last Call
Kissin’ Dynamite (feat. The Baseballs) – Cadillac Maniac
Those Damn Crows – Who Did It
Gloryhammer – Hootsforce
Bloodbound – Reign Of Fire
Massive – Gettin’ Heavy
Visions Of Atlantis – Nothing Lasts Forever
Edenbridge – On The Other Side
Blackbriar (feat. Ulli Perhonen) – Snow White and Rose Red