The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018

“Chasing a dream as I go higher
Playing it mean, my heart’s on fire
Living my life, ain’t no pretender
Ready to fight with no surrender.” – No Surrender, by Judas Priest

Another year goes by and, as usual, we lost a lot of good people, including family and friends. In heavy music, 2018 was the year several amazing musicians passed away, such as Dave Holland (former drummer of Judas Priest), Ralph Santolla (former guitarist of Iced Earth, Deicide, Death and Obituary), Vinnie Paul (the talented drummer of Hellyeah, Pantera and Damageplan), Jill Janus (the stunning vocalist of Huntress), and “Fast” Eddie Clarke, one of the meanest guitarists in history and the last of Motörhead’s “Three Amigos”, signaling the definitive end of Motörhead’s classic lineup. Not only that, we also saw the one and only Glenn Tipton, the iconic lead guitarist for Heavy Metal giants Judas Priest and one of the most influential guitar players in the history of metal, opening up about his ongoing fight against Parkinson’s disease and, as a consequence, having to pull out of the 2018 tour due to his health issues. However, as the Metal Gods themselves sing in their new ass-kicking song No Surrender, we can’t surrender and should keep on fighting with our heads high, always listening to our good old Heavy Metal to inspire us to face our daily struggles.

Enough said already, how about we show the world that we metalheads are still here, always ready for a fight, and that metal music is alive and kicking with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2018, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums? From classic bands like Judas Priest, Behemoth and Immortal, to underground bands from all four corners of the earth like Ukraine’s 1914, Australia’s Rise of Avernus and Canada’s Altars of Grief, we can say that 2018 was a damn good year for our beloved Heavy Metal, pointing to a promising future for all its genres and subgenres and proving once again that metal unites us all it doesn’t matter where we live, our culture, language, race or religion. So, get ready to raise your horns and bang your heads nonstop to our selection of best metal albums of the year, and always remember… NO SURRENDER!

1. Judas Priest – Firepower (REVIEW)
The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.
Best song of the album: Firepower

2. Blaze Bayley – The Redemption of William Black (REVIEW)
What does the future hold for Mr. William Christopher Black? Enjoy the dramatic conclusion to Blaze’s stunning Infinite Entanglement Trilogy.
Best song of the album: The Dark Side of Black

3. Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest (REVIEW)
Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before.
Best song of the album: Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica

4. Dragonlord – Dominion (REVIEW)
Exploring themes of darkness, here comes Eric Peterson’s Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.
Best song of the album: Northlanders

5. Primal Fear – Apocalypse (REVIEW)
The Teutonic eagles of Power Metal return with another sensational opus showcasing the perfect amount of creativity and melody.
Best song of the album: The Ritual

6. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods (REVIEW)
The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.
Best song of the album: Mighty Ravendark

7. 1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind (REVIEW)
It’s time to head into the battlefields of the Great War together with these Ukrainian Blackened Death and Doom Metal infantrymen.
Best song of the album: Passchenhell

8. Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau (REVIEW)
Here come Australia’s own Rise of Avernus with their most symphonic, heaviest and darkest opus thus far.
Best song of the album: Eigenlicht

9. Altars of Grief – Iris (REVIEW)
A superb album of Canadian Blackened Doom narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.
Best song of the album: Broken Hymns

10. Marduk – Viktoria (REVIEW)
A furious and aggressive fusion of Marduk’s classic Black Metal with their more contemporary warlike sound.
Best song of the album: Viktoria

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Stormzone – Lucifer’s Factory (REVIEW)
12. Motorjesus – Race to Resurrection (REVIEW)
13. Borgne – [∞] (REVIEW)
14. SynlakrosS – Malice Murder (REVIEW)
15. Xenoblight – Procreation (REVIEW)
16. Kaoteon – Damnatio Memoriae (REVIEW)
17. Tamerlan Empire – Age of Ascendancy (REVIEW)
18. Coiled Around Thy Spine – Shades (REVIEW)
19. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura (REVIEW)
20. NovaReign – Legends (REVIEW)

In addition, how about another round of awesome albums released this year, this time presenting to you our Top 10 EP’s of 2018? Those shorter-than-a-regular-album but still heavier-than-hell releases are like going to a fancy restaurant, where you might not get a humongous amount of food, but what’s served on your plate is more than enough to please your palate (or your ears, in this case). And, of course, you leave the place eager for more of that tasty and exquisite metal music.

1. Violent Life Violent Death – Come, Heavy Breath (REVIEW)
2. Strangle Wire – The Dark Triad (REVIEW)
3. Godless – Swarm (REVIEW)
4. The Black Swamp – Witches (REVIEW)
5. Progenie Terrestre Pura – starCross (REVIEW)
6. Lebowskii – Liquidators (REVIEW)
7. Geisterwald – Geisterwald (REVIEW)
8. Soul Dissolution – Nowhere (REVIEW)
9. Dark Archive – Cultivate Our Blood in Aeon (REVIEW)
10. Forte Ruin – Rebuilding the Machinery (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2018? Once again don’t forget to check Antichrst Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of 2018 (Editorial Staff), tune in to Timão Metal every Tuesday on Rádio Coringão for a sensational fusion of metal and soccer, and to The Headbanging Moose Show every Thursday on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of the underground and independent metal scene!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2019!

And last but not least, if you want to support Glenn Tipton and everyone else on their personal battles against Parkinson’s, you can purchase the official Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation Charity T-shirt by clicking HERE or make a direct donation following the instructions found HERE. You can always help your family, friends and fellow metalheads, as simple as that, and who knows, maybe we can make this world a better place to live.

Album Review – Dragonlord / Dominion (2018)

Exploring themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, here comes Eric Peterson’s fantastic Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.

After long and excruciating 13 years, San Francisco, California-based Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal horde Dragonlord, the brainchild of Testament’s own Eric Peterson where he’s able to showcase his darkened side, is finally back with a brand new opus, titled Dominion. Serving as the long-awaited follow-up to their 2005 release Black Wings of Destiny, but taking the fantasy and storytelling to a whole new level, Dominion explores themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, and things that have come to pass. In addition to Eric Peterson on vocals, guitar and bass, Dominion features the musical talents of Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys and pianos, Alex Bent (Trivium) on drums, and notable fantasy metal singer Leah McHenry (Leah) on female vocals and choirs, who has performed and recorded with members of renowned acts like Blind Guardian, Nightwish and Delain, among others.

Featuring a stunning artwork painted by Berlin-based Israeli artist and designer Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom), Dominion is a dark fantasy fan’s musical dream, exploring everything from Nordic history to Lord of the Rings, with its eight songs creating a deep and heady musical journey rife with meaning and menace, from the blackest and loudest recesses of Eric Peterson’s mind. If you’re a fan of the superb work done by Mr. Peterson with Thrash Metal titans Testament, you might be surprised by how visceral, epic and imposing his guitar sounds with Dragonlord, not to mention his devilish gnarls, turning Dominion into a must-have for fans not only of the Symphonic Black Metal genre, but also for anyone else who admires high-quality and vibrant extreme music.

The always mesmerizing sounds of thunder and rain open the gates of the underworld in the intro titled Entrance, before Eric comes ripping with his ass-kicking guitar, all embraced by an epic atmosphere and suddenly exploding into the fantastic title-track Dominion, presenting insane keys and an imposing background choir, while Alex proves why he’s one of the most talented drummers of the current metal scene and Eric sounds bestial with his enraged roars. Put differently, this full-bodied and very detailed lesson in Symphonic Black Metal is what Dimmu Borgir should be doing, and their sonic onslaught of piercing and Stygian metal music goes on in Ominous Premonition, getting faster, more demonic and absolutely amazing, with the keys by Lyle being a thing of beauty while Eric not only growls like a demon, but his riffs and solos are also majestic as usual.

In Lamia it’s quite impressive how Eric’s riffs and Lyle’s keys and orchestrations blend so perfectly, with guest vocalist Leha providing a touch of delicacy and passion amidst all devastation blasted by the rest of the band; whereas epicness and lust beautifully flow from all instruments in the stunning Love of the Damned, a Symphonic Black Metal ballad where Eric’s vocals get more introspective and deep (and I would simply love to see them performing this song live). Then it’s time for a journey to the mighty North in Northlanders, with the bitterly cold riffs by Eric and the gripping keys by Lyle being enhanced by Alex’s precise and potent beats, while the ambience remains as epic as possible in a flawless hybrid between Black Metal and Symphonic Metal.

Dragonlord Dominion Ultimate Dragonlair Merch Bundle

Then featuring Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Wartune, Thraw) on bass, The Discord of Melkor is perhaps the most Black Metal of all tracks, a dark symphony of classic and vibrant metal music that sounds very dense thanks to the brutality blasted by Alex on drums, whereas Serpents of Fire, the last song in Dominion, is just as fantastic as the rest of this very detailed and thrilling album, with Eric growling and gnarling demonically while Alex and Lyle generate a massive wall of symphonic and violent sounds, resulting in over eight minutes of a captivating and bold sonority for our total delectation, not to mention how its climatic ending gets closer to the Thrash Metal by Testament, therefore adding an extra pinch of adrenaline to the overall result.

If you think that my words are not enough to describe the music in Dominion, I highly recommend you go watch “The Making of Dominion” video series on YouTube (split into parts one, two and three), and in order to get more details about Dragonlord simply go visit their official Facebook page. In addition, from all album versions and bundles available in the market, apart from the digital options you should definitely take a look at the physical combos available from the Spinefarm Records’ webstore, especially the beyond superb “Ultimate Dragonlair” merch bundle, featuring the LP gatefold version with a large-size 20-page lyric booklet, the CD digipack, a copy of the unparalleled “The Burner” comic book, and a stylish T-shirt. But be aware that, once you enter the dangerous dominion of Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal ruled by Eric Peterson and his Dragonlord, there’s no turning back.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Love of the Damned, Northlanders and The Discord of Melkor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Entrance 2:34
2. Dominion 5:36
3. Ominous Premonition 4:40
4. Lamia 4:15
5. Love of the Damned 5:21
6. Northlanders 6:45
7. The Discord of Melkor (feat. Tilen Hudrap) 7:09
8. Serpents of Fire 8:09

Band members
Eric Peterson – vocals, guitars, bass
Lyle Livingston – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Leah McHenry – female vocals, choirs
Tilen Hudrap – bass “on Discord of Melkor”

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir / Eonian (2018)

Uninspired, lame, generic, way too orchestral and utterly boring. What happened to our good old Dimmu Borgir?

I honestly don’t know how to start this review for Eonian, the brand new and extremely boring album by Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal icons Dimmu Borgir, the tenth in their career following their 2010 album Abrahadabra, which was also quite bad. Well, first and foremost, I don’t think the low quality of the album is due to the several lineup changes the band suffered through the years, with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shagrath and guitarist and bassist Silenoz being the only original members left, and with guitarist and bassist Galder being already a longstanding member. In my humble opinion, their biggest mistake in Eonian was trying to be way more symphonic than they should, resulting in a bland and confused version of the music by Nightwish or Epica with extremely uninspired harsh vocals and generic lyrics.

Featuring an interesting artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Deicide, Ghost, immolation, Paradise Lost), much better than some of their previous installments by the way, Eonian has everything we don’t want to listen to in a Dimmu Borgir album, from totally out-of-place orchestrations to a lame background choir. I don’t know how keyboardist Gerlioz and drummer Daray survived another round of pedestrian metal music with Dimmu Borgir after Abrahadabra, and I hope for the sake of their careers they do not accept to participate in another explosion of sheer mediocrity with Shagrath and his horde in the near future. Should the band call it quits after Eonian, or will they keep recording tedious album after tedious album while at the same time they cash in some decent money from their live concerts and merch? In the end, it seems that’s what several renowned bands only care about, right?

An orchestral and imposing start evolves to a heavier version of the Symphonic Metal played by Nightwish with Black Metal vocals in the opening track The Unveiling (and that will happen with pretty much every song of the album), not even close to their classic sonority, getting utterly tiresome after a while despite its not-so-bad lyrics (“Become through earned / And granted liberation / Rise above the secrecy / And silent deception / Clarity is determined / At the depths of murky waters / The potion of black earthed blood / Is the sludge draining the conscious”). Then yet again we have another tasteless tune that seems taken from the worst of all Epica albums, the first (and boring) single titled Interdimensional Summit, which might have worked for other Symphonic Metal bands, but definitely not for Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, as already mentioned the album’s background choir doesn’t bring any potency to the music, not to mention how low the guitars by both Galder and Silenoz sound compared to the orchestrations. In the good Ætheric, the drums by Daray finally appear amidst the excessive orchestral sounds, as well as the riffs by the guitar duo, in what’s probably the best song of the album (with even Shagrath sounding more devilish on vocals). Put differently, this might be far from being a masterpiece by Dimmu Borgir, but at least it’s Symphonic Black Metal.

In Council of Wolves and Snakes a cinematic, horror-like intro morphs into a macabre sonority, bringing a touch of Doom Metal to their dark symphony and with guests Mikkel Gaup and Martin Lopez adding a demented twist to it with their shaman vocals and voodoo beats. There’s nothing truly outstanding in this case, but it’s still a decent song, which is definitely not the case in The Empyrean Phoenix. I’m not sure what to say about this song, as it has an interesting and vibrant vibe while at the same time its instrumental pieces are again way too orchestral, lacking more aggressiveness in the end. After such unstable song we have Lightbringer, where the band shows a spark of their glorious years in a promising start that grows in intensity spearheaded by the beats by Daray, morphing into a hybrid between the band’s classic Symphonic Black Metal and the lighter Symphonic Metal that “poisons” the entire album, but fortunately in this case Shagrath and his horde sound a lot better and more cohesive.

In the horrendous I Am Sovereign, while the music itself tries to be symphonic, it feels more like a soundtrack to a very unexciting circus act, with all that’s already bad getting even worse due to its generic lyrics (“Perseverance doesn’t mean anything / Unless it’s for eternity / The real powers that will ever be / Is freedom and liberty”). Where are the guitars? What happened to Shagrath’s voice? These are just a couple of questions raised in what’s probably the worst song of all. And Archaic Correspondance doesn’t get much better than that, not knowing if it wants to be a heavy or orchestral (or even pop) song. At least Shagrath’s voice sounds slightly heavier and more demonic than in the previous tune, but the choir once again makes the whole song too soft and tiresome. In short, this is a total waste of almost five minutes of your life. Alpha Aeon Omega presents a relatively better balance between the band’s Black Metal and the infinite orchestrations in the background, with Daray’s drums sounding crisp and piercing; however, once again the guitars are almost nonexistent (which is a bummer for any fan of heavy music). And the instrumental piece Rite of Passage would have been great if the rest of the album wasn’t such a disappointment. Anyway, it’s as decent as it can be, ending the album in a somewhat whimsical way.

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Eonian, if not the biggest one of all for a huge part of fans of metal music, is that pretty much all songs drag for way too long. There are countless bands that can make a 15-minute song sound like if it had only a minute or two so compelling their music is, but in the case of Dimmu Borgir they managed to do the exact opposite in Eonian, with almost every song in the album being an endless torture even if they have less than five minutes in duration. Furthermore, after surviving listening to Eonian for a couple of times (trying to find something good in it), I was going to give it a 2.0, but after listening to the first single from the upcoming album by Eric Peterson’s furious and epic Symphonic Black Metal project Dragonlord, the sensational title-track Dominion, I was “forced” to lower Eonian’s rate to 1.5. I have no idea if you agree with me or not, perhaps I’m being too demanding, but if you truly think Eonian is a good Symphonic Black Metal album I highly recommend you go take a listen at Dragonlord. Then I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Eonian unfortunately sucks big time. Needless to say, I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will.

Best moments of the album: Ætheric and Lightbringer.

Worst moments of the album: The Unveiling, Interdimensional Summit, I Am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondance.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Unveiling 5:47
2. Interdimensional Summit 4:39
3. Ætheric 5:27
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes 5:19
5. The Empyrean Phoenix 4:44
6. Lightbringer 6:06
7. I Am Sovereign 6:48
8. Archaic Correspondance 4:55
9. Alpha Aeon Omega 5:18
10. Rite of Passage (Instrumental) 5:16

Band members
Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen) – vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements,
effects
Galder (Tom Rune Andersen) – lead guitar, bass
Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – rhythm guitar, bass
Gerlioz (Geir Bratland) – keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements
Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) – drums

Guest musicians
Mikkel Gaup – shaman vocals on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Martin Lopez – voodoo percussion on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Schola Cantorum – choir vocals
Francesco Ferrini – orchestra
Gaute Storås – choir and orchestral arrangements

Album Review –NordWitch / Mørk Profeti (2016)

Behold the rise of a brand new Blackened Death Metal horde hailing from Ukraine, taking the entire world by storm with their high-voltage fusion of epicness and blasphemy.

Rating4

nordwitch-coverWatching the rise of Ukrainian Metal is a thing of beauty. Despite not having any major names yet in the world of heavy music, Ukraine has been growing in importance for all types of metalheads, with names such as Apostate, Sad Alice Said, Majesty Of Revival, Morkesagn and Gasoline Guns, among many others, blasting their powerful music to the four corners of the earth. Having said that, we might be witnessing the birth of a Ukrainian act that has all it takes to take the entire world by storm with their high-voltage fusion of epicness and blasphemy. That band is Blackened Death Metal horde NordWitch, who have just released their extremely heavy debut album entitled Mørk Profeti (or “dark prophecy” from Norwegian).

Formed in February 2015 in the capital city of Kiev, NordWitch are highly inspired by interesting (and usually controversial) topics like Satanism, Occultism and Norse mythology, all embraced by their mighty riffs, their intricate and crisp drumming, and the deep guttural by their stunning frontwoman Masha. The only difference from the band’s inception until today is Ukrainian drummer Eugene Hrulev, who has recently replaced the amazing Hungarian stone crusher Donets Stepan, but apart from that the band has been a solid institution ready to conquer the world with their scathing fusion of Black and Death Metal and a strong passion for extreme music.

As a great example of how powerful and melodious the music by NordWitch is, let me start by saying that they managed to make the three-minute instrumental intro Mørk Profeti truly interesting and exciting even without the vocals by Masha, with Donets smashing his drums flawlessly while Max and Leo kick some serious ass with their guitar lines a la Arch Enemy. As a matter of fact, if you love Arch Enemy you’ll find a lot of them in each song by NordWitch, obviously considerably darker and more blasphemous. Then we have Dominion, a fuckin’ devastating, robust tune (it can’t get any better than this!) tailored for lovers of modern Blackened Death Metal, where Masha and Donets are true beasts on vocals and drums, respectively; followed by Walker From The Shade,  with Masha growling deeper and deeper while Max and Leo continue their guitar onslaught, supported by the metallic lines by bassist Max Senchilo. Furthermore, the “evil Arch Enemy” offer us more of their melodious riffs and solos, not to mention the epic and menacing vibe crafted by all instruments.

nordwitchIn the top-tier chant Lady Evil, the fast and cataclysmic beats by Donets, together with the song’s great riffage and another infernal performance by Masha on vocals, turn it into one the most flammable moments of the album. Moreover, Max delivers an awesome guitar solo at the end just to make the song even more thrilling than what it already is. The Call To An Ancient Evil brings forward a brutal beginning to another sensational creation by NordWitch, where Masha seems to declaim the words in a guttural way instead of screaming them, whereas the musicality sounds very technical and progressive at times mainly thanks to the high level of intricacy found in the song’s guitars and drums. And highly influenced by Scandinavian Extreme Metal, the most epic composition by NordWitch and also one of the best of the album, the rip-roaring To Nord Gods, contains all elements we love in this type of music, including a Viking Metal acoustic intro perfect for the theme proposed by the band, a beautiful pace led by the guitar lines and solos by Max and Leo, and Masha telling a compelling story through her powerful guttural vocals.

In the last two songs of Mørk Profeti, the band’s Blackened Death Metal arises like the burning fires of the underworld similar to what the iconic Behemoth usually do, starting with No Regret, with elements of Thrash and Death Metal added to its already explosive formula, always making sure there’s a huge amount of harmony and cohesiveness amidst the sonic chaos generated by the entire band. And lastly, more Nordic sounds penetrate our ears and minds in the furious chant Messiah Of Death, where Donets is impressive with his precision and rage on drums while Masha gnarls like a female demon, closing such potent opus magnificently.

In my humble opinion, we should all follow the ascension of NordWitch through their Facebook page and VKontakte, and of course blast our ears with their demonic music through their YouTube channel and ReverbNation, because this band is definitely going places and if you love metal like I do you’ll also be very curious to know how high they can go. Mørk Profeti, which can be purchased at the Satanath Records’ BandCamp or webstore, is not only the first stone in their rising castle of darkness, but an album that will put you to bang your head and raise your horns nonstop, which is pretty much everything we want in good heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Lady Evil and To Nord Gods.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Satanath Records/Darzamadicus Records

Track listing
1. Mørk Profeti (Intro) 2:53
2. Dominion 5:27
3. Walker From The Shade 4:33
4. Lady Evil 4:44
5. The Call To An Ancient Evil 5:22
6. To Nord Gods 4:53
7. No Regret 5:15
8. Messiah Of Death 5:08

Band members
Masha – vocals
Max – lead guitar
Leo – rhythm guitar
Max Senchilo – bass
Donets Stepan – drums