Since joining Lyrical Spell Magazine back in January of this year, I had the pleasure of reviewing many great works of Amorphis, Sharon den Adel's My Indigo, and Sirenia, and as well interviewing fantastic artists like Carmen and Liv Espenæs, Marcela Bovio, and Heidi Parviainen. While we're coming to on this 365 day cycle (hint hint), I want to share some of my favorite releases of 2018.
Disclaimer: The albums are in no particular order and certainly not the ‘best of’ list. It is based on how much I have listened to them and my enjoyment for them has never faded.
10. Mørke – Death Embraces You All
“Forever bound together in the ground, forever there will be a rose on our grave”
As a fan of the 90s gothic metal, bands like Tristania, The Sins of thy Beloved, and Theatre of Tragedy have got me interested in bands that utilize dark atmospheres with lyrics of romance, passion, and gothic fiction. But in today's standards, bands the categorize themselves as Gothic metal are more mainstream and heavier, and even lyrics don’t often match up to the music, but not in the case of Mørke. Formed by former drummer of The Sins of thy Beloved, Stig Johansson, and his wife Susanne Dahle in 2015, they tend to keep the old-school Gothic metal alive. In their latest album. Notable tracks like ‘Death Embraces You All’ captures the eerie atmosphere with beauty and the beast duo, ‘Lost in the Darkest Veil of Tragedies’ goes at a fast pace with gothic string arrangements, and ‘A Rose on Our Tomb’ with a funeral/doom ambience with a ghostly voice singing romantic lyrics. The album indeed brings listeners nostalgia to the glory days of what is Gothic metal. Full review here.
9. Midnattsol – The Aftermath
“One day we’ll all stand and front of her and get the judgement given by her scale"
‘The Aftermath’ marks the return of the Norwegian metallers, but with two new members; Stephan Adolph and Liv Kristine! ‘The Purple Sky’, ‘Herr Mannelig’, and ‘Forsaken’ was definitely an experience to listen with the Espenæs duo that fans have been wanting to hear on an album for a very long time, while continuing the heavy folk influences with melancholic compositions in ‘The Aftermath’ and ‘Evaluation of Time’ that describes Midnattsol. Who knows, maybe we'll hear an album with Viking influences now that Liv is in the band! Full review here, plus an interview the Espenæs sisters!
8. Meden Agan – Catharsis
“The power of knowledge can rule the world, a secret it must stay until mankind's dying day”
This album is definitely one of the strongest works for the hybrid genre ‘symphonic gothic metal’. The album is the first to feature new singer Dimitra Panatri, who really differentiates herself from the band’s previous singers by have a wider range between low and high notes which seemed beneficial to the expand the band’s sound. It’s a best recommendation to fans who like After Forever’s progressive attitudes and taking Gothic metal to heavier levels like ‘The Purge’ and ‘Weaver of Destiny’, and maybe even early Epica in terms of symphonic metal and choir like ‘Cleanse their Sins'. Full review here.
7. My Indigo – My Indigo
“You don’t have to love me, there’s one thing you should know; my love will not unravel, it's unconditional, my indigo”
This may come as a surprise for our readers, but yes, I really did enjoy Sharon's solo album. As a long time fan of Within Temptation, I was always captivated by Sharon's vocals and was curious what her voice can do outside of metal. When she collaborated with Armin van Buren for ‘In and Out of Love’, that’s where I wanted to hear her more of Sharon in that area. After the hiatus of Within Temptation, Sharon announced her project My Indigo, based on personal changes that happened the past 4 years, you can tell as she Express her emotional feel in songs like ‘My Indigo' and ‘Out of the Darkness', and as love in romantic songs ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘Star-Crossed Lovers', and created catchy bops like ‘Crash and Burn’ and ‘Indian Summer’ which definitely should be heard by radio stations overseas! Full review here.
6. Marcela Bovio - Through You Eyes
“No one is born a hero, you're gonna have to earn it, you’re gonna have to try”
Enjoying the classical avant-garde direction in her solo career, I was curious to what will Marcela do to set the bar on her next album. ‘Through Your Eyes’ goes for a more poppy direction, but still with melancholic sounds and instead of using a full quartet; it’s only a violin, cello, and piano. The lyrical contents a based on 11 different people with different with stories like ‘Scientist’ which was based on a fan's profession, ‘Roardin’, a boy in a girl’s story who needed encouragement in his quest, and the beautiful duet in ‘Here to Stay’ with the Bovio’s sister was the highlight for me. Overall, the album is a big beautiful storybook with various encouraging tales, definitely what I needed. Full review here, and interview with Marcela Bovio.
5. Temperance – Of Jupiter and Moons
(Modern Melodic Metal)
“So here we are, willing to change, ready to start again”
No doubt that Temperance IS a rising star in the world of modern metal, started out as a curious listener to the album ‘Of Jupiter and Moons’, to a new fan of the band after listening to the epic intro of ‘The Last Hope in the World of Hopes’. Heavy metal with strings arrangements in ‘Everything that I Am’, and catchy electronic elements and beautiful vocal melodies in ‘We Are Free’, and a song fans can connect to in ‘Broken Promises’. This album must not be ignored under the big releases in the metal genre. Review by Andrea here.
4. Dark Sarah – The Golden Moth
“Like a ghost, from its host, the golden moth flies from the innermost.Where has it gone? Towards the sun, dropped her wings one by one”
I'm big fan of concept albums, and very interested in the lore of the Dark Sarah, different universes and new characters in each album. With the return of Dragon who appeared in ‘Dance with the Dragon’ from ‘The Puzzle’, I was really interested how the story might change their dynamic ; will they find common ground or stay enemies? ‘Trespasser' was definitely a great introduction in the return of the duo with tension, the character development of Dragon in ‘I Once Had Wings’, the chemistry between the two in ‘My Beautiful Enemy’ and ‘Wish’, and the exciting epic yet intimidating confrontation in ‘The Gods Speak’ featuring Marco Hietala and Zuberoa Anzárez! Full review here, and interview with Heidi Parviainen.
“Set my heart in the Phoenix until the end of time, so forgive us for sinning. Make a start with the Helix”
To be honest, I’m not an avid fan of Amaranthe, I enjoyed their self-titled debut and ‘The Nexus’, but their next two releases didn’t really make it quite enjoyable as it should had. Sure, they have some great songs like ‘Drop Dead Cynical’ and ‘Boomerang', it’s just the albums were easily forgettable and was swept under by other great releases... ‘Helix’ put a stop to that and made me get into the band again, turned the metal factor back up! Their unique sound of melodic metal made some really great heavy hitters like ‘Dream’ and ‘GG6’, but also some very catchy tunes like ‘Momentum’ and ‘365’. Full review by Tamar here.
2. Leah – The Quest
“Somewhere far beyond this moment, I can taste reward that’s waiting for me. Wandering around, unknowing. Will I fail? Will I find you broken?”
Leah is one of my rising artists in my playlist, in each release she seems to be getting and better. With an amazing lineup of guests from well-known bands, the album really takes you on a fantastical journey with various instruments from Troy Donockley’s pipes and flute to Chen Balbus' saz and oud. If you never heard of Leah but a fan of metal, fantasy, and even RPG, this album should have no expecting to why it should be left out of your list! Songs like ‘The Quest', ‘Edge of Your Sword’, and ‘Heir’ are definitely ear candy to those who also loves videogame soundtracks like Skyrim and Legend of Zelda, and definitely should be recognized for a video game producer to include her music in the future, haha Full review here.
Before we get to my number 1, I do want to share a list of a few other releases of this year that I also did really enjoy. Honorable mentions:
Lux Terminus – The Courage to Be
Sirenia – Arcane Astral Aeons
Ghost – Prequelle
Amanda Sommerville – Tectonic
Threads of Fate – A Funeral for the Virtuous [EP]
Whyzdom – As Time Turns to Dust
1. Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Heavy Metal) (Album of the Year)
“The Queen of Time gives you the direction, predicts your path. The one that you must follow, the Queen of Time”
After listening to the album the first time, I immediately made Amorphis’ latest work into my top 10, I loved the direction the band took in ‘Under the Red Clouds’, and once they released the music video of ‘The Bee’, I was so ready for the album! I loved the mix of the sounds of oriental music shown in the ‘The Golden Elk’ and ‘Heart of the Giant’, and also keeping some of the older sounds like in ‘Wrong Direction’, which was a real throwback to the song ‘The Way’ to longtime Amorphis fan, and the amazing duet with Anneke van Giersbergen in ‘Amongst Stars’. A well-orchestrated and solid album the exceeded my expectations and will definitely blow everyone away in live shows. Full review here.
I'm looking to forward to listening to more exciting releases in 2019 and continuing writing for Lyrical Spell Magazine!