Every year it gets to December and I am asked to pick my top 10 albums of the year. Every year it seems to get harder! Such is the wealth of good music out there. Makes a mockery of that statement that “rock is dead”. Perhaps the Norwegian Blue in the famous Monty Python sketch had “ceased to be” but rock hasn’t! Much of it is to be found in pubs and clubs and venues of 2000 and under but there is a wonderful cornucopia (copyright Black Sabbath) of bands and artists making excellent music. Within my top 10 there is blues, AOR, prog and straight in your face heavy metal. All of these albums have left an imprint on my heart and mind and I have found myself going back to them throughout the year. Feel free to let me know if you find agreement (or the opposite) within the choices.
Heads down for a top 10!
TOM CORNELL’s Top Ten Albums of 2018
Once again Powerwolf record a bunch of great songs with huge choruses. They excel at power/symphonic metal as they actually can write catchy tunes whilst still being metal. There are 2 tracks that for me showed their softer moodier side brilliantly in “Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone” and “Stossgebet”. If you can’t have fun listening to this band (and this album) you are dead on the inside!
Rick here goes back to his blues roots and impresses greatly. There are moments of Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp at times as well. He even managed to upset some fans who veer to the Christian right who failed to see the point in songs like “Jesus Was An Atheist” and “God Don’t Care” where he satirises the overly pious outlooks of some.
According to vocalist John Mitchell, this is an album of “pop songs, but ones we have messed around with!” With plenty of nods to bands such as The Beatles, The Who, Genesis and strangely Enuff Z’Nuff, these progressive gentlemen (from bands such as *Frost, Marillion, Steven Wilson and It Bites) simply made 11 great songs in their own style.
For me the best AOR album I heard all year. An absolute hoot featuring some fabulous cheesy songs with them paying homage to their heroes and the 1980s! With top notch playing from the guys from death metal outfits Soilwork and Arch Enemy and with harmonies to delight, I fell in love with the album. I would also say it is party album of the year!
#06. Twelfth Night – Sequences
An old song recorded for the first time in the studio. An over 20 minute piece about the horror and futility of war in different formats, each worth listening to. It captures the heart and soul of the original live recordings, bringing it into the new century and commemorating those who died so horrifically in the “war to end all wars” (if only). They even included the voice of the late singer Geoff Mann in his role as sergeant major which nearly reduced me to tears. Beautiful work.
For me, the best album since “Angel Of Retribution”, the Priest simply show how metal is done. Great riffs, plenty of melody, thunderous drumming and a man that is remarkable on the vocals in Rob Halford. He may not sing so much in the higher registers, but the way he uses his voice is fantastic. He knows all about control. In “No Surrender” they have written their best pop metal anthem since “Breaking The Law”. No mean feat!
This remarkable blues singer released this her second album and blew me away. An amazing voice that rips yet can also sound sweet and sensitive when needed. An album which she said was lyrically was more personal, well it certainly sounds like she means every bloody word as she is singing them. Blues but with touches of T.Rex, Rolling Stones, Live and with a cover of a Bad Co song, this is blues at its finest.
According to singer Mariusz Duda “The new chapters starts this year”, and what a start! Coming back from the tragedy of losing original guitarist and friend Piotr Grudzinski from a sudden heart attack, they have payed tribute to him as well as mourned him whilst showing where they wish to go at the same time. With moments that recall artists such as Pink Floyd, Fish, Pearl Jam and an instrumental that Rush would be proud of, this is a magnificent return.
This wonderfully named (and difficult to remember named) band released an album of songs about the Victorian era which also are (or easily could be) about today and the world in which we live. With the mix of metal, punk and old time music hall they have created an album of sometimes disturbing but infectious songs. A punk history tutorial to drink to! They wish to start a revolution, I am in!
#01. Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
These guys have been called “the most important band in metal” by many people due to the way they are bringing people together in the Middle East. Both Muslims and Jews love this band and join forces to declare their love and humanity to each other all over the world including Israel. However they are not number 1 just because of that! No, they get the top spot for recording a spell binding album that flows from gentle acoustic pieces through jaunty middle eastern melodies to full on metal including death grunts! The album is a concept based on the works of Plato. You wouldn’t get that in any other forms of music other than rock metal and prog! They also have guests of the calibre of Steve Hackett, Hansi Kursch, and Thomas Lindberg (Genesis, Blind Guardian, At The Gates respectively) on it. They sound different to everybody out there and know how to create great music in a wide variety of styles. They also finish the album off with words from George Orwell’s 1984 asking us to fight fascism and hate and not allow others to trample over poorer or weaker folks. Magnificent and thoughtful. It also rocks like a bastard when needed!
Top 10 gigs of the year (in no particular order) …
Lifesigns: Backstage Of The Green Motel Kinross
Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson: Bannermans Edinburgh
Powerwolf: Huxleys Berlin
Franck Carducci: The Firebug Leicester
Sons Of Apollo: Civic Centre Motherwell
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing: Bannermans Edinburgh
Roger Waters: Hydro Glasgow
Riverside: Kesselhaus Berlin
Sari Schorr: Voodoo Rooms Edinburgh
Walter Trout: Oran Mor Glasgow
A mention of some new finds that excited me, some of them very young bands indeed and without doubt the future for the rock/metal/prog scenes, gain in no particular order…
Perpetua, Corrupt The System, Darkness Divine, Uncured, Conjurer, Turbyne, Pelugion, King Witch, The New Roses, Prognosis, Bad Touch and these are just a few that stood out in 2018 new to me!
A personal thanks from me to the editors at Decibel Geek, along with bands who allowed me to review them, promoters, label people, managers and venues who helped in allowing me to review so much this year. Without all of them, my life would be a lot poorer. I raise my horns to you all! Thanks to everyone that supports the site and for those who have waded through my sometimes overlong reviews!
So, that is the year that was. Let’s raise a glass to new discoveries and lots of terrific music in 2019.