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FatherAlabaster

The Year In Anything Besides New Releases

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Year-end lists of new releases always get a lot of attention, and rightly so. But, truth be told, I usually spend most of my time on older music. Maybe that means revisiting old favorites; maybe it means discovering or gaining new appreciation for some hidden gem from years past; or maybe it's playing catch-up with the backlog of releases from the previous couple of years that I hadn't quite found the time for. Whatever the case may be, as December rolls quickly past, and roundups of 2018's best and brightest spew across the internet like water from an open hydrant, I'd like to take a minute to acknowledge the other albums that really shaped my year.

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Enslaved - E: it might seem like cheating to start this off with an album that came out late in 2017, but it took me until earlier this year to finally get around to it. Enslaved has been a favorite of mine for a long time, but I hadn't been connecting well with their newer material, and hearing that they'd lost their longtime keyboard/vocal/backing guitar/all around dude Herbrand Larsen dampened my expectations further. Boy was I wrong. "E" shows them at their best -- idiosyncratic, focused, and memorable, each track with its own character, with enough meandering to take me on a journey and enough energy to propel me through to the other side. 

Running Wild - Port Royal: speaking of energy, these silly miscreants had it in spades. I'd heard them in passing but never given them their due. Warm and raucous, with an abundance of hooks that strike a perfect balance between simplicity and inventiveness, "Port Royal" hits hard, ends too soon, and stays in my head for a long time afterwards. German power metal FTW.

Queensryche - The Warning: I've owned and enjoyed this album for nearly 25 years, but this year it took on new relevance. I'd always looked at it as more derivative and less mature than the following two albums, but somehow my perspective shifted. Excellent, often-imitated vocals and exuberant riffing, with a fun and cheesy sense of drama, all of which they'd capitalize on later; but only here and on the EP can you get a dose of the goods without all the polish and pop-rock trappings that would come to dominate and ultimately ruin their music.

I'll take this opportunity to mention a few other power and progressive metal albums that have also been in heavy rotation this year: Crimson Glory's self-titled debut and "Transcendence", Blind Guardian's "Imaginations From The Other Side", the first Demons And Wizards album, Lethal's "Programmed", Titan Force's self-titled, Apollo Ra's "Ra Pariah" demo, Pagan's Mind's "Infinity Divine", and Fates Warning's "No Exit" and "Parallels". It's really been a power metal year around here.

Saturnus - Martyre: something about the mood of this self-indulgently overdramatic album has been drawing me back over and over. The melodies hit a perfect sweet spot of doing exactly what they need to do with enough of a twist to keep them fresh. Somehow bouncy and gloomy at the same time, which feels relatable.

Evoken - Embrace The Emptiness: another band I listened to here and there, but really connected with this year. Funeral doom and death-doom have been ticking the boxes for me lately, and this album perfectly encapsulates what I'm getting out of it: crushing rage and despair with the occasional touch of melancholy to lighten the mood. Again, relatable...

Beyond Dawn - Electric Sulking Machine: I went through a phase of loving this album almost 20 years ago, but hadn't put it on since college, so I've been able to fall in love with it all over again. This album sees Beyond Dawn entirely eschewing their metal roots in favor of a sometimes uncomfortable hybrid of gloomy rock and electro-pop. This was a natural progression for them, and I'm glad they went this way (despite the debacle of "Frysh"), but the electronic bits don't totally work. They wind up killing momentum and distracting from the fact that the more rock-based songs on here are actually really fucking good. These guys have always had a unique melodic sense (and also, trombones) and it's on good display here. The vocals still recall Michael Gira in spots, but the gothic drama of previous albums has given way to brooding ennui. Great for a rainy day.

Virus - The Black Flux: more off-kilter music from Norwegian weirdos. This album in particular really nails what I love about Ved Buens Ende, without the sometimes incongruous black metal elements. The intuitive and bizarre combination of jangling off-meter guitars, declamatory baritone vocals, and constantly moving bass over propulsive drum grooves could only work in the hands of a group with real vision. I've never heard anything quite like this, but from the first listen, these songs were instantly at home in my brain. By coincidence, Einar Sjurso plays drums on both this and the Beyond Dawn album above.

Katatonia - The Fall Of Hearts: I've said a good bit about this album elsewhere. I was massively disappointed in it when it came out, and pretty quickly gave up hope of ever liking it. Funny how things turn out; when I finally revisited it last month, it quickly became a favorite, which made me feel like I must have had a different set of ears on. Or maybe they snuck back into the studio, recorded something killer, and then quietly replaced everyone's copies with the good stuff while our backs were turned. Klassic Katatonia kuts with a real sense of development from their last few albums. If they wind up staying on hiatus forever, I'll be sad, but this would be a hell of a swansong.

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All in all, 2018 has been a great year for older music. Anybody else have any new discoveries or forgotten favorites from years past that have become really important to you over the past year?

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I really like this idea for a thread.  In regards to music, 2018 has been a year in which I have greatly expanded my interests.  I began to listen to power electronics, various varieties of grindcore, and continued to delve deeper into the world of Black Metal.

For me, the most importance discovery of the year was of the band Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes, and since then they have become one of my favorite bands.  Through them, as well as their amazing split with Konflict (another band that has greatly broadened my musical horizons), I have discovered War Metal, as well as a host of great bands (Goatpenis, Kapala, Tetragrammacide, Nyogthaeblisz, etc.).  These bands have greatly influenced the music that I try to write, and have revitalized my interest in collecting and listening to metal (not that it had ever been lost).

May next year be even better!

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Good idea for a list. Lists are like beers - always appealing to me.  

Requiem's (Re)Discoveries of Pre-Released Classics in 2018

5. Pest - 'Daudafaed' (2004)

I bought this Pest e.p on a whim while buying a few other black metal releases, and I'm really glad I did. I can't say I'm the hugest fan of their other work (this is the Swedish Pest... there are a few Pests out there), but this e.p is damn magical. The atmosphere and melodies here are very moving and I'm glad I discovered them, 14 years after release. 

4. Black Sabbath - 'The Eternal Idol' (1987) 

I've been an Ozzy/Sabbath fan since 1991, but my love for the Tony Martin era is much more recent. I can't recall if it was this year or last year, or the year before that even, but either way I wanted to pay tribute to this fantastic and underrated era of Tony Iommi and Tony Martin. This album also has my beloved Bob Daisley on bass, which helps. Gothic, melodic with a nice dose of 80s cheese. 

3. Kiss - 'Lick it Up' (1983)

Ah, the joys of 80s Kiss. Again, I've been a rough fan of the band since the early 90s, but it was only this year or last that I fully fell in love with the greatest era of the band: 1982-1987. 'Lick it Up' is a cracking album of, let's face it, hair metal. Hats off to True Belief for introducing this to me. Hail Vinnie Vincent. 

2. Mutiilation - 'Destroy Your Life for Satan' (2001)

Another band that was sort of lurking in the background throughout the last 23 years of my interest in black metal, but it's never too late to buy up their discography, which I've almost now done. This e.p. is close to my favourite release of theirs, with the title track being a maniacal masterpiece that I consider one of the best in the genre. Relevant mid-life crisis message too. 

1. Saor - 'Guardians' (2016)

Slightly disingenuous as I loved this from the moment I got it last year, but it has recently clicked and jumped into a new realm of brilliance for me. This anthems to Scottish history and life are so heartfelt yet also of such genius composition and performance that it's hard to believe they're not the biggest name in blackish metal. Everyone here needs this album. Life changing and one of my favourite albums of all time. 

 

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Cool thread @FatherAlabaster

Ok, this year I went off on a discovery trip trying to fill gaps in my black, thrash and death metal collection with all three ventures returning some great experiences.  I will pick one from each genre.

Mütiilation "Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul" (1999)

"Vampires of Black Imperial Blood" was my gateway to this band, unlike Requiem I had not even got them to lurker status until earlier this year.  I find "Remains..." an incredibly authentic sounding black metal record.  Dank, grim and depressing yet delivered with such effortless majesty it just feels completely unforced.  At near 20 years old it holds up really well still which is not something that can be said for all BM from the late 90's.  Get some candles going and a few glasses of red and put this record on folks!

Vektor "Black Future" (2009)

Still hands down one of the most astonishing records I have ever heard.  "Forests of Legend" is permanently ingrained into my brain for all of time.  Not only is this adventurous but it is very, very capable also.  Technique, flair and structure are here in heaps and remain obvious throughout.  What also shows the standing of this record is that I have yet to even bother moving on to anything else in their discography as I am so enthused still with this release.

Mystifier "Göetia" (1993)

Occult laden, blackened death metal from Brazil kicked my scrawny ass for several weeks of rotation during my DM discoveries period earlier this year.  Full of pitch black atmosphere and an ever present (yet never dominant) doom influence throughout, this record absorbs you in its dark immersive presence.  

P.S. really cool thread.

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