Remembering The Forgotten-2018
I wrote these introductory comments for this same column two years ago. It still holds true today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. However (!) in a slight improvement, this year seemed to be less of a stampede to be first to publish ‘End of Year lists’. In 2017 I saw my first ‘End of Year’ list hit social media in September! I’d like to think that my comments here and on-line have encouraged some of my colleagues in Metal journalism to be a bit more responsible, but that would be egotistical and I’d be fooling myself!
I’ve often commented that most music industry folks rush to get their ‘year-end lists’ generated and on-line much to the detriment of the bands. In their zeal, many albums, especially from the first half of the year get missed because the albums are not ‘top of mind’ for writers in November. Conversely, some late year albums get missed as many people generate their albums prematurely, before the year is even over. Every year, quality albums are coming out until Dec 31 but these late releases always get the shaft by the ‘mainstream’ metal Media who claim to support Metal. Magazines and webzines cling to some arbitrary deadline and because those inconvenient releases do not fit into their neat little boxes (driven largely by commerce) those worthy albums get skipped.
To summarize; early year releases get forgotten, late year releases get skipped, and this year it was dozens and dozens of December releases included new albums by Venom and Metal Church that got overlooked by organizations that had already published their list. For shame!
I believe some sober reflection would help provide a broader representation of what also happened in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal in 2018. I’ve enjoyed a few quiet days looking back at various releases from 2018 and I’ve cobbled together a little list of albums, EP’s, reissues, covers albums, live albums and other general weirdness, that I felt deserved more attention than they got. Admittedly, many of these are not ‘brand new, full-length studio albums of all new material’, so they get left in the dust by most journalists.
My friend and colleague Adrian Begrand has so eloquently pointed out, ‘Metal fans love their lists!’ I’m no different so here is one of my lists. (listed alphabetically) I tried to work outside the Voivod, Sleep, High On Fire, Deafheaven, Yob, Ghost, group-think box. There is so much more Metal to discover than those mainstream bands that everyone gushes about in their End of Year lists… if you care to look and listen. A fun little exercise of no consequence other than maybe someone might check out one of these releases. Enjoy!
JP’s Top 30 or so list of releases that coulda, shoulda, woulda got more attention in 2018.
BIG CITY-Big City Life (ROAR)
Released: June 22nd
Not enough people know about this amazing melodic Metal band from Norway formed by current and/or ex-members of Metal bands like Satyricon, Blood Red Thorne and many more. Super smooth like Scorpions, loaded with great riffs and choruses. A very cool exploration by some extreme dudes.
BLACKTHORNE-Afterlife & MURDERER’S ROW-Murderer’s Row (HNE Records)
Released: Fall 2018
This pair of twin sister reissues from the evolutionary super-group finally means that fans of the bands can finally get their hands on these expensive rarities. All loaded with bonus tracks and liner notes for the true fan. Blackthorne eventually became Murderer’s Row!
BONFIRE-Legends (AFM Records)
Released: Dec 17th
My covers album of the year, this whopping, two disc, 2.5 hour collection digs deep into classic Metal and melodic Hard Rock territory with great versions of songs by Grave Digger, Rainbow, Hardline, House Of Lords and more! New vocalist Alex is a great match for this veteran band and with his range and power he does justice to the tougher songs to sing, like the Queensryche covers!
BRIDES OF LUCIFER-Brides Of Lucifer (Rhino)
Released: June 29th
Destined to be ignored or written off as a novelty, this band of operatic, a capella vocalists, consisting largely of a female choir do homage to killer metal tunes from Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, Dio, Slayer and Mighty Manowar! Truly unique and easy on the ears.
COLD SWEAT-Breaking Out (20thCentury Music)
Released: October 26th
Another major label entry into the melodic Metal sweepstakes, Cold Sweat features ex-Keel gunslinger, Marc Ferrari and other hair metal luminaries. Back in 1990 they had some buzz and good support but never made it. This reissue is a treat for the fans of the era.
It is a tragedy that this album may only be remembered for the band calling out music fans to get off their ass and buy albums and go to shows. There was a backlash from entitled fans who don’t like hearing the cold hard reality of the music business and expect to be spoon-fed everything for free. The album disappeared. It is a shame because Crematory’s 14th studio record is killer, some of the best work they have ever done.
DC4-Atomic Highway (Highvol Records)
Released: September 21st
This little known Armored Saint spin-off group is a family affair featuring the three Duncan brothers. With sporadic output they released their fourth indie album after a seven year hiatus but they are always a welcome listen. Features John Bush and Dizzy Reed as guests too and a killer cover of Baba o’Reilly.
DOKKEN-Return To The East-Live 2016 (Frontiers Records)
Released: April 20th
Dokken’s sixth live album sees them in familiar territory in Japan. This nice compact live album runs through the hits and adds three unreleased tracks. Some versions come with a bonus live DVD of the show with a full documentary.
DORO-Forever Warriors/Forever United (Nuclear Blast)
Released: August 17th
Very few bands in the history of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal have had the courage to release two, brand new full-length studio albums at the same time. One is a bit more heavy, one is a bit mellower and more anthemic, and both are as good as anything she has done. Albums #13 and #14 respectively from the Metal Queen.
Released: Sept 21st
After a 13-year gap we are blessed with the 3rd Dragonlord album. Testament’s Eric Peterson’s heaviest, blackened solo effort yet features the female vocals of Canadian song-bird Leah. A welcome return while we wait for the next Testament album in 2019.
DREAM CHILD-Until Death Do We Meet Again (Frontiers Records)
Released: September 14th
Not the French Progressive Power Metal band of the same name, this is yet another (the fourth!) Dio spin-off band including The Last In Line, Resurrection Kings and Dio’s Disciples. This all-star project has three ex-Dio dudes, Wright, Goldy, and Sarzo, joined by Findlay and killer Dio style singer Diego Valdez. This could have been the lost Dio album from the 80’s. Did I type the word Dio enough in this blurb?
EPICA- Vs. Attack On Titan Songs (Nuclear Blast)
Relased: July 20th
This is a bit of a weird one. This is an eight song covers EP of a band called Linked Horizons. Not only that, all the songs are theme songs are taken from an animated TV show in Japan called, you guessed it…Attack On Titan. Originally released in Japan only in December of 2017, this got some traction and hit the rest of the world this summer. So strange, out of the ordinary for them and so good!
FIFTH ANGEL-The Third Secret (Nuclear Blast)
Relased: October 26th
It only took 29 years but Seattle’s Fifth Angel are back! The buzz on this long-awaited and long-tumored reunion led to a signing to Nuclear Blast. The band is fully intact , well three of the dudes from the last album are still here, now as a trio. Strong songs, they haven’t missed a step, no visible rust.
IRON ANGEL-Hellbound (Mighty Music)
Released: April 4th
32 years in the making! This pioneering band from the early 80’s German thrash scene finally put out their third album. No serious fan believes they could recapture the magic of the legendary ‘Hellish Crossfire’ but they give it a good go. Good to see them back in action.
LIZZY BORDEN-My Midnight Things (Metal Blade)
Released: June 15th
Lizzy’s pre-release media said he wanted to do an album that showcased his voice and that he did. 11 years between albums sees him choosing a more melodic style. Not getting great reviews from those only seeking heaviness not melody. I’ll admit to being a bit underwhelmed at first but it is growing on me.
MYSTIC PROPHECY-Monuments Uncovered (Massacre Records)
Released: January 12th
One of the more unique covers albums I’ve heard. Due to the fairly heavy Power/Thrash styling’s of the band, you would not expect a covers albums of 70’s and 80’s pop artists. A fun way to celebrate 10 albums with totally bizarre cover art! I don’t think I have ever seen or ever will see again Elton John on a Metal album cover.
REBELLION-A Tragedy In Steel-Part II:Shakespeare’s King Lear (Massacre Records)
Released: January 26th
A poor man Grave Digger or a thinking man’s Grave Digger, you decide. Their second (!) concept album based on the writing of the immortal bard. Rough, ready and battle tested these guys are Germanic to the core. This should be required listening in High School English classes.
REECE-Resilient Heart (Mighty Music)
Released: November 9th
After 30 years and 20+ other albums under his belt, Reece is still unable to shake the ‘ex-singer of Accept’ tag. That is a shame because his 3rd solo album is chock full of melodic metal of the highest caliber.
REFUGE-Solitary Men (Frontiers)
Released: June 8th
Another annoying Rage side-project of Peavy of Rage, consisting of ex-Rage guys lead by the founding member of Rage doing songs that sound exactly like…Rage, with a band name, logo, and album title that reference old Rage. All of that is forgiven as it is another killer Rage album by another name, loaded with great songs.
SABER TIGER-Obscure Diversity (Sliptrick)
Released: October 10th
For the first time Saber Tiger, one of Japan longest running Metal bands, gets a European and North American Release. Album # 15 is the first introduction for many people to this superb Progressive Power Metal band. Better than the new Loudness as well.
SALTY DOG-Lost Treasure (Escape Music)
Released: March 23rd
28 years after the fact Escape reissued the lost Salty Dog album recorded back in the early 90’s. This bluesy Hard Rock band evolved into Hilljack and eventually American Dog who still are going strong today. A rare gem for fans.
SHELTON/CHASTAIN-The Edge Of Sanity ’88 Demo Session (Indie)
One of the more interesting collaborations of pure, old school American Metal dudes, made even more important and poignant due to the passing of Mark The Shark. This four song EP has surprising long, progressive songs.
STRATOVARIUS-Enigma:Intermission II (Ear Music)
Released: September 28th
A stop-gap compilation that hits all the bases. New, rare, unreleased, orchestral songs, Japanese bonus tracks, this thing is packed with material to carry the fans over until the next full-length album. The usual high quality, high value and good attention to detail from the Finns.
SUIDAKRA-Cimbric Yarns (AFM Records)
Released: November 16th
After slowly and methodically building an extremely impressive and deep 12 album catalogue over twenty years, the German throw us a massive curveball and put out an acoustic album. Acoustic albums are always a challenge, even for mellower bands (Scorpions etc) but for the Blackened Death Metal band, it was a brave and ambitious try.
TEXAS METAL OUTLAWS-Texas Metal Outlaws (Heaven & Hell)
Different than The Texas Hippie Coalition and different from the Texas Metal Alliance, the Texas Metal Outlaws is a one-man band/project of Robert Williams with about 20 big name Texas guest stars from bands like Manowar, Riot, Dangerous Toys, Helstar and many more. Well executed, fun-time, drinking songs and a candidate for album cover of the year.
THERION-Beloved Anti-Christ (Nuclear Blast)
Released: February 9th
Is there a limit to the vision and ambition of Christopher Johnsson? I doubt it because this three hour Rock Opera rivals anything put out by Tobias Sammet or Arjen Lucasson. Immense in scope and scale, this monster epic went unrecognized or criticized for being too long by the same people who sit and binge-watch an entire season of Game of Thrones on Netflix all weekend. A welcome return to the Metal after Therion’s last bizarre album in 2012 consisting of weird, French, pop cover tunes from the 60’s.
Released: June 8th
Despite a dull album cover, uninspired album title and a constantly revolving door of signers, TNT’s 13th album is wonderful. It was eight long years since the last record and the new singer, B.B. Balsara (a Spaniard!) fits like a glove. Catchy, multi-layered, Queen-like harmonized vocals and bursts of guitar shred make this a melodic, sing-along winner.
VELVET VIPER-Respice Finem (GMR)
Released: March 16th.
Didn’t see this one coming either. After a quarter of century of inactivity, Velvet Viper return. Jutta, one of Metal’s first and still chronically unrecognized female singers, is still at the helm. Despite being a very strong album of classic Metal they remain too obscure to be acknowledged by most Metal media. For a singer who is over 70 years old, her voice is incredible and indestructible.
VICTORIUS-Dinosaur Warfare-Legend Of The Power Saurus (Massacre)
Released: January 26th
My EP of year is from a band not afraid to have a little fun. Elite German Power Metal featuring killer speedy tracks like ‘Razorblades Raptor’ and ‘Lazer Tooth Tiger’. Yet another candidate for album cover art of the year.
VIRGIN STEELE- Ghost Harvest I & II & Gothic Voodoo Anthems (SPV)
Released: November 23rd
Beating out Therion for most new studio material in one year, Virgin Steele puts out not one, not two but three new albums this year for a total run time of three hours and 57 minutes! This is classic Virgin Steele with tons of cool rarities and alternate versions on Gothic voodoo Anthems. Over the top and prolific, they are the the only band to be able to compete with Manowar for bravado and manly epic-ness. All three albums are also available in a nice box-set called SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE complete with two bonus albums.
WARRELL DANE-Shadow Work (Century Media)
Released: October 26th
When Warrell died in late 2017 all the mainstream Metal media did these gushing tributes to him and tripped over themselves praising him. When his last solo album comes out in 2018, and it is time to do Year-End lists, no one bats an eye. It is nice to hear him one last time.