2018 – A Retrospective: My 20 Favourite Albums of the Year

ordinarycorrupt-820x820It’s finally that time of the year again when we take a look back at what we have listened to and what music had the greatest impact on us. While it’s always a difficult task to pick your favorites from a whole year’s supply of music, it was especially hard this year. 2018 was simply outstanding from a musical standpoint. The amount of amazing and fascinating records released this year was nothing short of incredible. Throughout the year I listened to no less than 500 albums, EPs and splits, of which I picked 20 favorites in a very long and painful process. Note that I did only take full length albums into account for this list. This is a somewhat ranked list, but every one of these albums is absolutely fantastic and definitely worth your time.

Check out my list, including albums by Silent Planet, Bloodbark, Deafheaven, Panegyrist, Anna von Hauswolff and many more, at Indy Metal Vault!

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Ten Years Later: Theocracy – Mirror of Souls

 

Theocracy - Mirror of Souls - Metal Soliloquy

Theocracy’s second album Mirror of Souls turned 10 years old yesterday. To celebrate the anniversary of this legendary record, I wrote a little article, available now at Indy Metal Vault.

Split Review: Amiensus / Oak Pantheon – Gathering II

Gathering II is the upcoming follow up to Gathering, the first split EP between the two US-black metal bands Amiensus and Oak Pantheon, released in 2013. Once again, the two bands collaborated to release a split EP containing one song by each band. Additionally, we also get a collaborative song on Gathering II.

I loved Gathering and was super happy when I heard the bands were working on a second split release. Being a fan of both bands, the expectations for Gathering II were quite high. And fortunately, I can say that it does not disappoint.

Oak Pantheon - Metal SoliloquyThe split is opened up by Oak Pantheon with the song “A Demonstration”, which lyrically explores real-world death cults. Musically, it is very focused on the folk side of things, with acoustic guitars opening up the track and leading through the whole piece. The extreme metal elements, harsh vocals and electric guitars, are more of an addition to the folk elements than the other way around. What I love about this track in particular is how far up in the mix the bass guitar (played by Amiensus’ bassist Todd Farnham) is. It adds a unique, jazzy twist to the music and serves as a very refreshing element that makes this song stand out from your typical folky black metal. This also is, on a side note, the first Oak Pantheon track featuring real drums (played by Amiensus’ drummer Chris Piette). A great opnener and probably one of my favourite Oak Pantheon tracks yet.

The second track, “Tanequil”, is a song collaboratively written and performed by Amiensus and Oak Pantheon and serves as a great transition from the folky, rather light Oak Pantheon track to the more atmospheric and heavier Amiensus track. There is one section of this song that stood out to me with its clean vocals that reminded me, of all things, of American metalcore band Demon Hunter. Something about the vocal harmonies and the melody is quite reminiscent of the way Demon Hunter write their melodies. Or maybe it’s just my brain playing tricks on me. Whatever, this is definitely a good song, but also the least memorable and interesting out of the three, in my opinion.

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The closing track, “Now Enter Dusk” by Amiensus, is by far my favourite piece on the record. Right from the start, the song builds a freaking beautiful soundscape with a melodic guitar riff that is complemented by an equally beautiful bass line, subtle synths and majestic drumming. When the vocals kick in, you are already completely captivated by the magnificent atmosphere of the song. Amiensus once again showcase what is possible with regard to building atmosphere with this piece. Harsh and clean vocals harmonise in a remarkable way, the instruments merge into enormous walls of sound, while simultaneously shining individually. As a whole, the song is a perfect combination of atmosphere, melody, and impressive musicianship.

Altogether, Gathering II is not only able to match the quality of its predecessor, but it even surpasses it and stands as a beautiful piece of atmospheric and majestic music. Do yourself a favor and check this out as soon as it is available.


Gathering II will be released November 5th and will soon be available at Bandcamp.

Follow Amiensus:  Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Follow Oak Pantheon: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Album Review: JON – Psalms of Annihilation

JON - Psalms of Annihilation - Metal Soliloquy

JON is the musical alter ego of Jonathan Hayes from Askim, Norway. He is a composer and musician who focuses on dark and romantic music that best fits into the dungeon synth genre, but also exceeds that category. Psalms of Annihilation is JON’s debut album.

Psalms of Annihilation is a dark and mysterious sounding album. The music is a mixture of dungeon synth, dark synth and a great amount of orchestral elements. Obviously inspired by horror film soundtracks, the compositions are streamlined and focused on creating an alluring, albeit spooky atmosphere that evokes images of abandoned castle ruins and dark occult rituals. While most of the songs are stylistically pretty typical dungeon synth tracks with orchestral elements, some of the songs, like “Zalanes – Trouble Bringer” are closer connected to the dark synthwave genre and have an overall heavier, more modern sound to them.


The album is well-rounded, catching the listeners attention from the get-go and keeping him engaged throught the whole playing time. To me, this album seems like the perfect background soundtrack for the reading of a gothic horror novel like Bram Stoker’s Dracula – spooky, romantic, dark and mysterious, otherworldly and all around fascinating.

If you are a fan of synth-driven music, horror films or anything dark and eerie, do yourself a favor and check this album out. Find a good horror novel, put your headphones on, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind spooky experience. Perfect for Halloween!


Psalms of Annihilation was released October 22nd and can be streamed and purchased digitally and in various limited physical editions at Bandcamp.

Album Review: Utstøtt – Járnviðr

Utstott - Jarnvidr - Review at Metal Soliloquy

Oregon-based one man project Utstøtt arrived to the black metal underground in 2013 with the release of his four-track EP Legender Odin. Playing a synth-laden breed of epic, melodic black metal, Utstøtt didn’t bring anything entirely new to the table with the EP, but Navnløs, the man behind the project, pulled off the Summoning and Windir inspired style of black metal quite perfectly and further proved his talents with his debut LP Hjørungavågr in 2015. Now, three years later, Utstøtt, now comprised of two members, Navnløs and Stormning, is back with a second full length album, named after the mythological iron-forest Járnviðr.

From the cover artwork alone you can tell that this album is a little different from his first two releases. Instead of majestic mountains and lakes, the painting “Winter” by Ivan Shishkin adorns the cover. We see a snow covered forest giving off a cold, darker vibe. And indeed the album sounds quite a bit colder and darker than Hjørungavågr.

Utstott - Metal SoliloquyThe album has a playing time of 66 minutes, spanning over six songs, one of which is a fantastic and rather creative cover of Burzum’s legendary song “Dunkelheit”. Each song on the album is its own beast with its own feel and story, but all of them work together towards an overarching cold and dark atmosphere, evoking images of ancient forests and snow covered landscapes.

The compositions on Járnviðr are as grand and epic as those on the band’s previous albums, but they are much more traditional and visceral at the same time. If Hjørungavågr was the musical equivalent to a battle between two armies, Járnviðr represents a one-on-one combat. The production is sharp and clear, adding to the harshness of the riffs and vocals. Stylistically sitting somewhere between atmospheric and melodic black metal with pagan/folk influences, the compositions on this album are written and build around melodic riffs, but focused on the atmosphere they evoke rather than the melodies themselves. It’s an approach more similar to bands like Burzum or Drudkh than, say, Vindland or Windir.


Not only are the riffs on this album freaking righteous, there are enough additional musical elements, like atmospheric synth-driven sections, amazing guitar solos and beautiful acoustic portions,  incorporated into the compositions to keep the album interesting and entertaining throughout its duration.

As a whole, Járnviðr is an amazing black metal album, that combines melody, riffs, atmosphere, beauty and harshness into an intriguing, captivating and epic package. One of my favorite black metal albums of the year so far.


Járnviðr was self-released October 15th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Follow Utstøtt on Facebook.

EP Review: Oh. – Metallia

cover.pngOh. is the musical alter ego of Greek composer, multi-instrumentalist and sound producer Olivia Hadjiioannou. She arrived to the international music world in 2013, releasing her debut EP Sleeping World, which received positive reactions worldwide. In 2015 she released her debut full-length album Synemotion. Now, three years later, Oh. returns to the scene with her second EP, Metallia.

When I received the review request for Metallia, I hadn’t heard anything about Oh. before. Let me put it like this – all the expectations I had about what this record might sound like were shattered when I listened to it for the first time. Oh.’s music truly is something special.

The terms “progressive”, “experimental” and “avantgarde” get thrown around a lot nowadays (not least by myself), but they are rarely really deserved. In this case however, there are hardly any other words one could use to describe the sonic mayhem presented on this EP. Metallia is one 26-minute long composition in six parts, rich in shredding guitars, time-bending tempo shifts, groovy bass lines, deranged, Middle-Eastern influenced rhythms, haunting expressive vocals and creative synth and percussion elements scattered all over the composition.

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At first listen, the EP is one thing more than anything else – overwhelming. The sheer amount of musical elements build into the composition are almost too much to take in, especially since the composition itself is unconventional to such an extent that one almost cannot make out any traditional musical structures. The tempo changes repeatedly, the individual instruments are layered in a way that makes you feel like missing out when you try to focus your attention on only one of them.


The hidden leitmotives and recurring patterns in the compostion reveal themselves only after multiple listens and make this EP a real grower that you will return to over and over again and still be surprised and impressed every time you hear it. 
With Metallia, Olivia Hadjiioannou has proven to be an incredibly gifted and creative composer and technically talented musician. If you are tired of progressive bands repeating the same old stuff over and over again, look no further – Oh. has you covered.


Metallia was released July 27th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Follow Oh.: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

Album Review: Chaos Over Cosmos – The Unknown Voyage

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The Unknown Voyage is the debut album of Polish-Spanish power metal band Chaos Over Cosmos. The band members define their music as a mix of heavy and progressive metal with ambient, cosmic elements and name bands such as Iron Maiden and Wintersun as their musical influences. Their lyrics are inspired by cosmic science-fiction and Friedrich Nietzsche (what a promising combination!).

While I don’t listen to a lot of power metal nowadays I still couldn’t resist checking this album out. One of the main reasons for that was the fact that Chaos Over Cosmos is what you could call an internet band. The two members Javier Calderón (vocals, lyrics) and Rafał Bowman (guitars, synth, programming) never met each other “in real life” and only interacted via the Internet to create this album together. What a great example of the opportunities the Internet gives artists to realize their vision.

The outcome of this international collaboration is definitely something the band can be proud of – The Unknown Voyage is a super fun album that contains a lot of great ideas and shows two artists living out their passion for music. The album has a playing time of almost 50 minutes, spanning over five tracks, three of which exceed the ten minute mark.

The album is introduced by “A Hidden Path”, a short ambient and synth driven prelude with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche’s classic Also sprach Zarathustra. I’m not a fan of the way the words are performed in this track, but that’s a minor complain because almost everything that follows after the intro track is pretty great. “Armour of the Stars (Xenogears)” is the first real song on the album and with a playing time of more than 14 minutes also the longest one. Fast-paced and melodious, it is a very solid song reminiscent of oldschool power and heavy metal, with some progressive and ambient elements. The riffs are fast and melodic, the vocals energetic and engaging. Lyrically, this track is inspired by the classic playstation RPG “Xenogears”.


The next track “They Will Fall” is a slower, doom metal influenced epic with a more serious message and a generally more solemn atmosphere than “Xenogears”. “The Compass” is the most “cosmic” sounding track, with a lot of ambience and synths added to the mix. Calderón’s vocal performance on this track is a little more restrained, which harmonizes perfectly with the soothing soundscape of the guitars and synths. Around the middle of the track we are presented an impressive instrumental section that showcases Bowman’s technical and compositional capabilities. The final track “They Sky Remembered My Name” is definitely my favorite one on the record, a very technical, heavy, yet peaceful sounding instrumental track that contains amazing melodies and grooves.


In conclusion, The Unknown Voyage is a very solid debut album that shows a band with a lot of potential and a musical vision. Combining old school heavy/power metal riffing and vocals with modern, progressive sections, ambient and synth elements, creative songwriting and catchy melodies, The Unknown Voyage is an album no fan of melodic heavy music should miss out on.


The Unknown Voyage was self-released September 7th and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Follow Chaos Over Cosmos on Facebook.