Who's ready for a list? Well, I'm ready for a list... I hope you're ready too! Everyone loves lists, right?
Here's my Top 6-6-6 of 2018!
-6 Major Releases
-6 Pittsburgh Releases
-6 Best Songs
Top 6 Major Releases
6. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: Wasteland
Uncle Acid's 5th album is the perfect album to just put on as background music and go about your daily life to. I personally love acid rock/metal as mood music, and Wasteland is a perfect example of it. The improved production on this album (cleaner overall mix with less fuzz across the board) makes this one easier to listen to and digest. Need to chillax to trippy music? Put on this album! Listen on Spotify
5. Carpenter Brut: Leather Teeth
Carpenter Brut (real name Franck Hueso) released this gem as a total surprise without any prior promotion or announcements, but nothing is surprising about this album. Leather Teeth is classic Carpenter Brut: heavy synthwave with metal attitude at a very high level of quality. The best thing about this album, in my opinion, is limiting the number of tracks with vocals to two (out of a total of 8 tracks), as this makes the vocal tracks just a little bit more special. This is the perfect music for driving at 2:00 AM all by yourself. Listen on Spotify
4. The Night Flight Orchestra: Sometimes The World Ain't Enough
In case you haven't heard of this band, N.F.O. is the brainchild of Björn Strid (Soilwork), David Andersson (Soilwork), and Sharlee D'Angelo (Arch Enemy). However, they're not metal: they're AOR... and its top-notch. As the follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed Amber Galactic, we get another collection of colorfully orchestrated tracks with an aesthetic that falls right between Meat Loaf and the movie Heavy Metal, while projecting a sense of class and bold endeavor. Listen on Spotify
3. Avatar: Avatar Country
I've never been a big fan of Avatar, but their concept album Avatar Country took me on an adventure. Avatar applies their creativity and self-proclaimed awkwardness to a concept album about ruling the heavy metal land known as Avatar Country. The music offers everything from their established brand of melodeath, choral singalongs, and Queen-like vocal harmonies. The album is also the perfect length for easy listening, with the core of the album clocking at 36 minutes. The final two tracks are experimental instrumentals, cleverly placed at the end of the album so the listener doesn't feel obligated to sit through them and break the huge momentum that the album carries through the first 36 minutes. If you haven't given Avatar a chance before, I highly suggest you try this album on for size. Its heavy, fun, well-constructed, and masterfully executed. Listen on Spotify
2. Judas Priest: Firepower
Wow, who would have imagined this one. Judas Priest reached deep, embraced everything that has made them legendary, and poured it into a new album that is as much of a love letter to classic metal as it is a statement that The Priest will not be slowed down by age. While Firepower is nearly the perfect old-school metal album, the one thing that prevented this album from being a contender for #1 is its length. Firepower clocks in at nearly one hour, and thus I found myself choosing particular tracks to skip over. If the band trimmed down the album by a few tracks (I'd choose Children of the Sun and Lone Wolf), then Firepower could have been as great as the legendary Painkiller. However, lets not get too picky. The Priest released a zinger of an album, and we should all bow down to the Metal Gods once more. Listen on Spotify
1. Amorphis: Queen of Time
I believe that the metal community, across the board, generally has high expectations of Amorphis when they release a new album, but did they expect the Finnish metal standouts to release possibly their greatest album yet? Queen of Time is a balanced blend of invoking clean vocals, meaningful growls, and well-placed melodies across all instruments that makes this album a pleasure to listen on repeat. The flow of the album is equally impressive, starting out with the standard-bearing The Bee, leading the listener into moments of fantasy, darkness, and mystery, building up to a huge climax with Amongst Stars, and bringing the listener back down to Earth at the end. This was an easy #1 pick for me this year, and I'm not alone; Expect to see Queen of Time top lists elsewhere *cough cough* and has even topped the Metal Storm community rankings for 2018, which is not an easy feat. Check it out if you already haven't... I promise you that its worth your time. Listen on Spotify.
6 Pittsburgh Picks (in no particular order)
As a musician who actively performs in the Pittsburgh scene, I hesitate to rank my colleagues by number. So without further adieu, here are 6 Pittsburgh picks! All of these albums can be heard right here on The Metal Edge's 24/7 streaming station.
Veiled: Black Celestial Orbs
This one may not be for everyone, but if you like things really dark and atmospheric, then this album is for you. Veiled is for the black metal fan who prefers mood over matter. Personally, this album has its place in my playlist to help get through a long, dark night at my job, all by myself in an office on midnight shift. Time goes quickly when listening to Black Celestial Orbs, and that means the metal has done its job. Listen on Spotify.
Greywalker: Without Control
The Greywalker boys are all about riffs, riffs, and more riffs. With their second full-length album Without Control, the riffs actually feel more in-control, but in the good way that results in finely-sculpted tracks and top-notch melodies. This album is pure headbanging pleasure when you need your riff fix. Listen on Spotify.
Only Flesh: Cells Out
Okay, okay... I'm in this band and this is my shameless plug. But hey! Cells Out is somewhat of a hybrid album, where you'll find metal, punk, rock, industrial, and simply creepy stuff spread out across one hour of listening. Three classic tracks were given new life, and two others were remixed in an industrial style. There's a little something for people of all tastes on this zinger, but with sleaze and a little danger around every corner. Not on Spotify, but here it is on Apple Music.
Shy Kennedy's voice will put you into a glorious doom trance with Horehound's latest offering, Holocene. That's not to say there isn't more to the album... The riffs feel very cultivated and thought-out, and the production is earthly, full-bodied, and natural. If you need heavy mood music to slow things down, Holocene is the album for you. Listen on Spotify.
Arcane Haven: Arcane Haven
Although the band has firmly established itself as a force in Pittsburgh over the past 9 years, they have released only EPs and singles up until now. Arcane Haven is the act's first full-length, but screams of experience and careful attention to detail. Every note and lyric and on Arcane Haven sounds well thought-out, and results in a very heavy metal/hardcore release for those who love listening for the little details. Listen on Spotify.
Cloud: Deus Ex Machina
This is my chill pick of the year, for sure. Sit back, relax, take your shoes off, grab a beer, light one up... This is heavy music for excellent chilling. All instrumental, no fuss. Just heavy. Listen on Spotify.
Top 6 Songs
6. Andrew W.K.: Music Is Worth Living For
Massive, uplifting, and full of endless energy... that's what we've come to expect from Andrew W.K., and that's what we get from this heavy and inspiring track about the one thing we all love so much.
5. Greywalker: In the Face of the Abyss
Silly video aside (although it IS fantastic), this song's guitar writing absolutely shines of melodic brilliance. This has become one of my favorite tracks from a Pittsburgh metal band, ever. I genuinely mean that. For realzies.
4. Judas Priest: Firepower
The opening/title track from my #2 Album of the Year is a monster of way to kick off an album. Drawing energy from the Painkiller album, Firepower flexes its old-school metal muscle, establishes a menacing energy flow, and lets listeners know exactly what kind of album lies ahead.
3. The Night Flight Orchestra: Moments of Thunder
Moments of Thunder is simply a massive track. Huge melodic passages and singalong lines. It is a new spin on the ballads of the late 70s, and is simply glorious.
2. Amorphis: Amongst Stars
Amorphis brings in Anneke van Giersbergen on guest vocals to deliver incredible feeling to an already amazing song. The blending of her voice with growls during the chorus is stunning. Constructed as the climax to the album Queen of Time, I've found myself playing this one on repeat.
1. Necrophobic: Tsar Bomba
Whoa, what? I bet you didn't see this one coming! I didn't either. Tsar Bomba is an epic blackened death metal track that expertly uses vocal syllables in rhythms that drive the song forward at a steady upper-mid tempo. On top of that, the chorus invites listeners to scream out the song title with all of the might they have. That energy is what made me choose this song as my top song of 2018. Tsar Bomba is dark, menacing, dangerous, and a huge fist-pumper.
Lets have another great year, shall we? Onward to 2019!
Horns and cheers,