• Sebastian’s Favorites Of 2014

    January 8, 2015 in Top Lists by Sebastian Kluth

    Here’s a review of my thoughts on metal for the year 2014, including my favorite studio records, live albums, and compilations. I’ll also take a short look back at the best concerts and festivals I have assisted with over the past year. Finally, I will talk about my anticipations for 2015.
    2014 was a great year for metal music in my opinion. Without any further ado, here are my twelve favorite new studio records of the year 2014, as well as a few honorable mentions.

    Back To R'Lyeh 2014

    12. Back To R’Lyeh – The Awakening / Last Flight Of The Primordial

    The debut of this Spanish avant-garde progressive metal quintet requests some patience and isn’t the kind of music one could listen to each day. The record is based on Lovecraftian literature, the music has a technically challenging approach, and the album is atmospherically bleak. The rest is a fascinating potpourri of different genres that recalls completely disparate bands, from Voivod, Opeth, and Mastodon to System Of A Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Carlos Santana. This is my weirdest and probably most interesting discovery of the year. Back To R’Lyeh has tons of potential, and should get more attention in progressive metal circles for this experimental release. My three stars of the record are: “Basil Abscond”, “Ghosts & Vengeance”, and “Nuclear Warhead”.


    11. Over Kill – White Devil Armory

    The American thrash metal legend from the East Coast continues its stunning streak of high quality records. White Devil Army convinces with pitiless thrash metal wrecking balls, menacing groove metal vibes, mean punk anthems, and a superb hard rock cover of Nazareth’s “Miss Misery”, with guest vocals provided by Accept’s Matk Tornillo. My three favorite tracks of the album are: “The Fight Song”, “In The Name”, and “Armorist”.

    Einherjer 2014

    10. Einherjer – Av Oss, For Oss

    The Norwegian trio offers by far the best viking metal record of the year by delivering a short and consistent record that mixes black, doom, and folk metal in an atmospheric, emotional, and consistently interesting way. My three favorites on this record are: “Av Oss, For Oss”, “Nidstong”, and “Nord Og Ner”.

    In Flames - Siren Charms

    9. In Flames – Siren Charms

    The Swedish melodic death metal icon continues to frustrate its fans from the early days by coherently following the path of the previous five records. Younger audiences, however, can probably make more sense of the band’s fascination with alternative metal and indie rock. In Flames keeps experimenting with electronic soundscapes, emotional ballads, and concise songwriting, but maintains its talent for New Wave off British Heavy Metal-style twin guitar melodies, a passionate mixture of melodic and harsh vocals, and tons of catchy choruses filled with emotional lyrics about inner struggles. My three stars of this output are: “Rusted Nail”, “Monsters In The Ballroom”, and “Filtered Truth”.


    8. Epica – The Quantum Enigma

    The Dutch sextet delivers what I consider to be its best studio record to date with The Quantum Enigma. Cinematic orchestration and enchanting Asian folk sounds meet a brutal rhythm section, gripping riffs, and two completely different emotional vocalists who harmonize well despite their contrasts. This powerful mixture of symphonic, power, and death metal hasn’t one bad song over seventy epic minutes. My three picks from this release are: “The Essence Of Silence”, “Omen (The Ghoulish Malady)”, and “The Fifth Guardian”.


    7. Unisonic – Light Of Dawn

    The German all-star band delivers an honest and positive record that should conquer the hearts of heavy and power metal fans alike. The band fuses uplifting lyrics with depth, provides technically convincing instrumentals, and delivers unforgettably catchy choruses in a mixture of charming nostalgia and fresh new energy. The band has found its fountain of youth, and the different members have put out their very best release of the last fifteen years (including all their main bands and side projects). My three favorites of the record are: “Night Of The Long Knives”, “Blood”, and “Exceptional”.

    Deep Mountains 2014

    6. Deep Mountains – Lake Of Solace

    Last year, the collaborative project “East And West” – between Chengdu-based multi-instrumentalist Kasasis, the mastermind behind one-man project Darkness Over Depth, and his Chinese label colleague Zwrust, the mastermind behind the one-man project of the same name – managed to make it into my top list of the year. In 2014, the profound neofolk project Deep Mountains from Tai’an makes my list with a similar effort that unites hauntingly bleak black metal and appeasing nature-bound folk melodies. My three stars of this release are: “Ballad Of River Nai”, “Detachment”, and “Sin”.


    5. Kypck – Имена на стене

    This Finnish quintet has an authentic weakness for Russian history and language, and delivered a highly atmospheric, emotional, and philosophical doom metal pearl. My three picks of this album are: “Deti Birkenau”, “Prorok”, and “Voskresenie”.


    4. Serdce – Timelessness

    The quartet from the Belarus capital of Minsk delivers a creative, passionate, and technically appealing mixture of folk-inspired and jazz-driven progressive rock soundscapes, sophisticated and extensive instrumental passages, and extreme vocal outbursts. My three stars of this progressive extreme metal jewel from the underground are: “Last Faith”, “Loss Of Feelings Or Feeling Of Loss”, and “Samadhi”.

    Cea Serin

    3. Cea Serin – The Vibrant Sound Of Bliss And Decay

    This American band delivered a highly diversified progressive metal masterpiece which varies from calm and enchanting ballads to technically stunning, intellectually challenging, and atmospherically unpredictable epics. My three stars of this output are: “The Illumination Mask”, “The Victim Cult”, and “Ice”.


    2. Leviathan – Beholden To Nothing, Braver Since Then

    Leviathan is another veteran progressive metal band from the United States of America that delivers an impressive mixture of progressive rock and power metal. Their most recent output is even more impressive, as this creative conceptual record is gripping and never becomes redundant despite a running time of over seventy-six unforgettable minutes. My three favorites from this album are: “Beholden To Nothing, Braver Since Then”, “If The Devil Doesn’t Exist…”, and “Intrinsic Contentment”.


    1. Xandria – Sacrificium

    My favorite record of the year from German symphonic metal band Xandria, which sounds more ambitious, mature, and versatile than ever with new singer Dianne van Giersbergen. Highlight after highlight hits hard on the bombastic and surprising Sacrificium, which includes thirteen excellent songs. This masterpiece sounds epic, powerful, and progressive, and is easily my favorite genre album of the decade. My three stars of this fantastic record are: “Sacrificium”, “The Undiscovered Land”, and “Temple Of Hate”.

    Honorable mentions:

    13. Axel Rudi Pell – Into The Storm (Germany) // 14. Edguy – Space Police – Defenders Of The Crown (Germany) // 15. Subway To Sally – Mitgift: Mördergeschichten (Germany) // 16. Allen / Lande – The Great Divide (Norway, United States of America, Finland) // 17. Lord Symphony – The Lord’s Wisdom (Indonesia) // 18. Nanowar Of Steel – A Knight At The Opera (Italy) // 19. Exmortus – Slave To The Sword (United States of America) // 20. Alestorm – Sunset On The Golden Age (United Kingdom) // 21. Eintritt – Tempel Der Meere (Poland) // 22. Vital Science – Imagination On The Subject Of Infinity (Estonia, Latvia) // 23. Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call (China) // 24. Babymetal – Babymetal (Japan) // 25. HammerFall – r(E)volution (Sweden)

    Favorite concerts and festivals of the year:
    1. Black Sabbath, Reignwolf (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
    2. Blaze Bayley, Shock, Joe Thrasher & Rusted (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
    3. Sonata Arctica, Delain & Xandria (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
    4. Over Kill, Prong & A Darker Day (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Ottawa)
    5. Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Exmortus & Sawed-Off Shogun (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Ottawa)
    6. Dream Theater (Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
    7. Yes (National Arts Centre (Southam Hall), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
    8. B.A.R.F., Insurrection, My Shadow & …From the Deep (Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada)
    9. Death Angel, Tyr, & Signs Of Chaos (Mavericks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
    10. Ensiferum, Crematory, Delain, Lost Area, Sündenklang, Cain & Eisenherz @ Castle Rock XV (Mülheim an der Ruhr, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
    11. Grim Skunk & Greta Knights (Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada)
    12. Eisbrecher, Apoptygma Berzerk, Corde Oblique, Persephone @ Amphi Festival X (Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)

    Best compilation of the year:
    King Diamond – Dreams Of Horror

    Best live CD/DVD of the year:
    Anthrax – Chile On Hell

    My Most anticipated releases for 2015:

    Acrassicauda – Gilgamesh (Iraq) / Coppelius – Hertzmaschine (Germany) / Eisbrecher – Schock (Germany) / Ensiferum – One Man Army (Finland) / Haggard – Grimm (Germany) / In Legend – Stones At Goliath (Germany) / Jorn Lande & Trond Holter – Dracula – Swing Of Death (Norway) / Jupiter – The History Of Genesis (Japan) / Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus (Italy) / Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (United States of America) / Melechech – Enki (Israel) / Moonspell – Extinct (Portugal) / Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Finland) / Orden Ogan – Ravenhead (Germany) / Scorpions – Return To Forever (Germany) / Tanzwut – Freitag Der 13. (Germany) / Waltari – You Are (Finland) / and many more…

    For further reviews and lists of the year 2014, please visit my personal blog: http://kluseba.eklablog.com/

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  • Sebastian’s Favorites Of 2013

    January 16, 2014 in Top Lists by Sebastian Kluth

    Here comes my list of my favorite metal albums of the year 2013, plus a short list of highly anticipated records for 2014!

    12. Turisas – Turisas2013

    The Finnish power folk metal act delivers its most experimental and controversial record, and that’s what makes this album so entertaining, unique, and unpredictable.

    Saltatio Mortis IXI

    11. Saltatio Mortis – Das Schwarze Einmaleins

    The German medieval rock band delivers one of its best records ever, filled with a balanced mixture of joyful and vivid hymns, as well as some dark and intellectual lyrics.

    In Extremo - Kunstraub

    10. In Extremo – Kunstraub

    In Extremo is still the best German medieval rock band around, and delivers a record filled with tearjerking folk ballads, modern industrial bangers, and joyous anthems for the crowd.

    Ewigheim - Nachruf

    9. Ewigheim – Nachruf

    The German gothic metal band delivers a record filled with numerous catchy anthems thanks to simple but effective instrumentation, dark but passionate lyrics, and charismatic vocals.


    8. Ivory Twilight – Seven

    This symphonic power metal act from Bulgaria convinces with a diversified, experimental, and open-minded debut record featuring more fresh ideas than any other genre band in recent memory, as well as a stunning mixture of three very different vocalists.


    7. Activator – Defender Of Life

    The Russian heavy/power metal project released two records in one year, with the first one being by far the best and freshest metal opera release that easily beats out Avantasia, Ayreon, or Timo Tolkki’s Avalon this year.


    6. Tyr – Valkyrja

    The legends from the Faroe Islands are back with one of their finest efforts ever, featuring atmospheric ballads, authentic folk-driven tracks, progressive heavy metal epics, energizing Viking metal hymns, and even two fantastic cover songs.


    5. Voivod – Target Earth

    The French-Canadian progressive thrash metal band is back with a bang, and even though this record goes back to the band’s legendary outputs Killing TechnologyDimension Hatröss, and Nothingface, the new release sounds fresh, motivated, and open-minded.


    4. Atrocity – Okkult

    This German metal band has always been a hit or miss thing, and has covered pretty much everything from brutal death metal over gothic rock to ethereal folk rock, but their newest output is probably their best, as it features many atmospheric extreme metal, as well as some experimentation in a highly consistent and coherent album.

    Stratovarius Nemesis

    3. Stratovarius – Nemesis

    I have always been a fan of earlier Stratovarius records such as the atmospheric Twilight Time, the progressive masterpiece Dreamspace, and the open-minded power metal milestone Visions, but the last few years had been rather chaotic and disappointing apart from the more interesting Elysium. The highly diverse, emotionally passionate, and absolutely energizing hit record Nemesis is more than just a return to form, but a career milestone that is only beaten out for me by Dreamspace.


    2. Amorphis – Circle

    Amorphis is my favorite metal band ever, and their most recent effort is one of their best, featuring one of my favorite songs ever, “Hopeless Days”, as well as many other greats like “Narrow Path” or the courageous black metal-driven highlight “Nightbird’s Song”.

    Orphaned Land 2013

    1. Orphaned Land – All Is One

    Israel’s dynamic folk, progressive, and symphonic metal band Orphaned Land put out its very finest effort this year. My best album of the year combines epic symphonic metal with exotic middle eastern folk songs and open-minded lyrics with a relevant and true message. This here is by far the best text passage in any song of the year: “Evil falls on each of us, there’s nothing new; who cares if you’re a Muslim or a Jew; the awakened ones are nothing but a few; and the one to make the difference now is YOU.”

    Honorable mentions:

    13. Bader Nana – Anthology (Kuwait) // 14. Dagoba – Post Mortem Nihil Est (France) // 15. Ai Weiwei – The Divine Comedy (China) // 16. Tang Dynasty – Thorn (China) // 17. Black Sabbath – 13 (United Kingdom) // 18. Anvil – Hope In Hell (Canada) // 19. The Maintenance – Under Construction (Japan) // 20. Keldian – Outbound (Norway) // 21. Helloween – Straight Out Of Hell (Germany) // 22. The Vision Bleak – Witching Hour (Germany) // 23. Avantasia – The Mystery Of Time (Germany) // 24. Anarchadia – Let Us All Unite (Syria) // 25. Chthonic – Bu-Tik (Taiwan)

    Most anticipated releases for 2014:

    Black Infinity – The Illuminati Of Love And Death I & II (Vietnam) // Crematory – Antiserum (Germany) // Gamma Ray – Empire Of The Undead (Germany) // Sabaton – Heroes (Sweden) // Sonata Arctica – Pariah’s Child (Finland) // Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call (China) / Within Temptation – Hydra (Netherlands) // Xandria – Sacrificium (Germany)

    Possible new Anthrax record (United States of America) // possible new Apoptygma Berzerk record (Norway) // possible new Edguy record (Germany) // possible new Elvenking record (Italy) // possible new Eluveitie record (Switzerland) // possible new In Flames record (Sweden) // possible new Overkill record (United States of America) // possible new Screaming Savior record (China) // possible new Sexto Sonar record (Venezuela) // possible new Sigh record (Japan) // possible new Therion record (Sweden) // possible new Unisonic record (Germany) // possible new X Japan record (Japan) // and many more

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