Lotty’s Top 10 Albums of 2018
Hi Everyone – It’s Rick. Before I let you loose on Lotty’s top 10 of 2018 I just wanted to thank her. Not only has she has been an excellent addition to our team but this isn’t just a list, it’s an incredibly detailed mini review of each album and I know how busy she is. Thanks Lotty!
It is more than safe to say that this year has just been full of fantastic releases. Ones I had the pleasure to review and listen to months before release yet feeling the frustration of not being able to share it with my nearest and dearest until release date. Some that I came across for pleasure, whether that be on Spotify, in the shop or YouTube. It was very difficult to pick a top ten so here they are.
10. Powerwolf – “The Sacrament Of Sin”
I don’t think I have ever seen so many single releases for one album. To be fair, if I had a strong collection of songs on my album then I would be very keen to show them off too. It’s the very reason why POWERWOLF’s “The Sacrament Of Sin” is the perfect way to open up the top ten. When reviewing this album before it’s official release date, I was able to hear some brilliant belters that have now become anthems. We have the pumping ‘Incense & Iron’, the sexy ‘Demons Are A Girls Best Friend’ and even their first ballad ‘Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone’. POWERWOLF have a sterling reputation for delivering solid material and their latest collection of metal psalms is no exception. A must have for fans of the band and genre.
9. Kobra And The Lotus – “Prevail II”
Over the past few years, Canadian Hard Rockers KOBRA & THE LOTUS have gained a large following of fans. Judging from their ballsy sound and charismatic stage presence it’s easy to see why. “Prevail II” doesn’t beat around the bush when you press play, it gets straight down to business with the track ‘Losing My Humanity’. This belter along with other anthems such as ‘My Immortal’, ‘Modern Day Hero’ and ‘Velvet Roses’ make up a top-quality Hard Rock record. Their stunning cover of FLEETWOOD MAC’s ‘The Chain’ is the icing on the cake.
8. Handsome Jack – “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”
They aren’t quite as heavy as CLUTCH yet they are too raw to sound like BLACK STONE CHERRY. I suppose that is the beautiful power HANDSOME JACK possess, it’s hard to pinpoint who they sound like. During anxiety ridden and dark times, we need to feel great again and the album “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” does just that. The album contains songs that encourage rejoicing and empowerment. I had a great time listening to this record. Particularly the tracks ‘Hey Mama (Put Your Red Dress On)’ and ‘Baby Be Cool’. I just want to belt out the chorus of ‘Hey Mama (Put Your Dress On)’ at the top of my lungs. It’s a simple but powerful chorus that will have you singing loud before you know it. The soulful tones of ‘Baby Be Cool’ won’t just go down with Hard Rock fans, it will be a treat for music lovers in general.
7. Visions Of Atlantis – “The Deep And The Dark”
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS were one of the bands to help shape my music taste into what it is today. Their tales of sailing the seas containing strong vocals and fantastic symphonic melodies had me hooked. It had been a while since I heard anything from them and was very pleased to come across “The Deep And The Dark”. It provides a strong reminder of the sound that introduced me to them and their lyrical content linking to self-doubt is more than relatable today. This album is truly uplifting with some great content. From the impactful ‘The Grand Illusion’ to the soft ballad tones of ‘Prayer To The Lost’, this album is a mighty voyage with many twists and turns. A metaphor for life you might say.
6. Sirenia – “Arcane Astral Aeons”
SIRENIA are another band to help shape my music taste so their latest album came as a grand surprise. If you were to look up Symphonic Metal in the dictionary, a picture of this album could certainly be a definition. It starts off with the booming ‘In Styx Embrace’, along with the track ‘Into The Night’ it shows off the vocals of Emmanuelle Zoldan. Her versatile vocal range works wonders across the album from the opening track to the burning ashes of ‘Glowing Embers’. Other notable tracks include ‘Desire’, ‘Queen Of Lies’ and ‘The Twilight Hour’. For fans of the band and genre this is a must have for the collection.
5. Arion – “Life Is Not Beautiful”
This was a surprise this year. I had heard of ARION but never listened to them until now. The opening notes of ‘No One Stands In My Way’ had me intrigued immediately. The uplifting sounds of the track had me smiling within minutes and this applied for the rest of the album. In a world of uncertainty and doubt, we need empowerment in our lives. Appropriately starting with ‘No One Stands In My Way’, it leaves you feeling ready to overcome struggles. This feeling continues with songs such as ‘Unforgiveable’, ‘Punish You’ and ‘At The Break Of Dawn’ featuring AMARANTHE siren Elize Ryd. ‘Through Your Falling Tears’ is a beautiful ballad that calms the tones before getting heavy again. This album was a fantastic listen from start to finish.
4. Kissin’ Dynamite – “Ecstasy”
German Hard Rockers KISSIN’ DYNAMITE have been on my radar for a little while now. They have produced solid albums over the past few years and their 2018 release “Ecstasy” is no exception. The first notes of the opening tracks ‘I’ve Got The Fire’ and ‘You’re Not Alone’ instantly uplift the mood and give you hope. Each track shows a different side of the band, you have the revolutionary ‘Break The Silence’, the sexy ‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’ and the rapid beats of ‘Superhuman’. Even the ballads ‘Still Around’ and ‘Heart Of Stone’ show power and sass. “Ecstasy” is a more than appropriate title for this energy fuelled portfolio of tracks.
3. Kamelot – “The Shadow Theory”
For the past ten years, KAMELOT have been personal favourites of mine and their latest album “The Shadow Theory” reinforces my love for the American/Swedish Progressive Power Metal 5 piece. “The Shadow Theory” contains an array of music that will make your hair stand on end and blow you away. One of the things I admire about KAMELOT is their inclusion of upcoming musicians in their albums. This time round we had versatile vocals from ONCE HUMAN singer Lauren Hart in ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’ and ‘MindFall Remedy’. There were also the beautiful tones of BEYOND THE BLACK’s Jennifer Haben in the stunning ‘In Twilight Hours’. Other fantastic tracks included ‘Burns To Embrace’, ‘Amnesiac’ and ‘Stories Unheard’ particularly for their thought-provoking lyrical content and beautiful music.
2. Brothers Of Metal – “Prophecy Of Ragnarök”
The original release of this, from the Swedish warriors, was in 2017 and when I first heard the album, I had it on loop for days. I was excited when they announced the re-release of the album as I could include it in my top ten this year. “Prophecy Of Ragnarök” is a mighty quest of power and sheer determination. Songs like ‘Son Of Odin’, ‘The Mead Song’ and even the sweeping ballad ‘Yggdrasil’ makes you want to sing out loud and run into battle. The excellent song writing, heroic melodies and flawless vocal work between the three different singers will ensure great things for BROTHERS OF METAL. Once you experience the mighty sounds of the Swedish Warriors, there will be no going back. You’ll be shouting AXE TIME SWORD TIME before you know it!
1. Dark Sarah – “The Golden Moth”
Usually picking a number one record of the year is a tricky feat. It is a task that often takes days, weeks, even months to decide. From the moment I listened to DARK SARAH’s “The Golden Moth”, I knew this was my number one choice. There are many reasons why I came to this conclusion.
Firstly; the vocal power between Heidi Parviainen (Dark Sarah) and JP Leppäluoto (The Dragon). You don’t have to see the videos to hear the soul and passion in their voices, particularly for the story that is told within the record. You can really hear the emotion behind their voices for particular moments in the songs.
That leads me onto the second point why I admire this album. The storytelling. For those who don’t know, DARK SARAH have released concept albums and this is the third one. The third part of the story. “The Golden Moth” is a story of adventure, betrayal and strength. Knowing the story makes the album all that more powerful as you are completely involved and not just scratching the surface. Feelings and emotions are delved into.
Third point. The songs; there is a fantastic variety from the sweeping notes of ‘My Beautiful Enemy’ to the thunderous notes of ‘Gods Speak’. These are also emphasised by the number of guest musicians they used. Netta Skog’s skills on the accordion gave ‘I Once Had Wings’ a fun and bouncy flavour. The vocal powers of Marco Hietala and Zuberoa Aznárez in ‘Gods Speak’ provide that appropriately godly tone the track gives away.
I could explain more reasons why I love this record but there wouldn’t be enough space. The sheer vocal power, storytelling, cinematic musical arrangements and the potential cliff hanger at the end are the reasons why DARK SARAH’s “The Golden Moth” is my number one album of 2018.
So this is my top ten, do you agree with my choices?
I would also like to give an honourable mention to the following albums.
Firstly to the complex yet catchy “The Living Dead” from Heavy Metal veterans GRAVE DIGGER, the thought provoking lyrics and messages in ORPHANED LAND’s “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs”, the stunning live album “Symphonized” from the talented Anneke Van Giersbergen and finally STORMCAST’s triumphant return with “The Ghost Eater”.