1998 Music Year In Review

December 17th, 1998

I’ll post my best-of-1998 list. Oh, ok, it’s actually my “all-of-1998? list, since it’s more fun that way. I have these arranged somewhat in order, (with my favorites at the top), but it’s definitely not exact. I’d say everything could move at least five places in eitherd irection and still fit right.

Overall, it was a very interesting year. There was a huge amount of releases, and many from my favorite bands, but it seems like few of the ones that I was expecting to blow me away succeeded in that task. Instead, newer and unknown bands took some of the top spots.

So, with no further ado, here they are:

Covenant – Nexus Polaris:
They aren’t black metal, and that’s why it’s so good. This is what I’ve always wanted black metal to sound like. Great songs, great keys, great drums, and I even really like the vocals, Popeye and all.

Amon Amarth – Once Sent From the Golden Hall:
The anti-Blind Guardian. Yeah, of course they sound nothing like Blind Guardian, but this album proves that all you need is two guitars, bass, drums, vocals, and eight tracks to make an epic masterpiece. I was totally surprised at how much I liked this one.

Sentenced – Frozen:
Probably ended up with the best (expectation) x (actual quality) product of any album I got this year. With a string of excellent albums behind them, of course I expected another great one. I think I like it more than Down now. It might not be as heavy, but it’s got tons of punch. Ville quickly rocketed up as one of my favorite singers.

Night In Gales – Thunderbeast:
Night in Gales grows up. I enjoyed their first album, but they actually sound like professionals on this one. It’s got a great, powerful sound, and Bjorn’s highly varied vocals really stand out. And I love the crazy non-sensical lyrics too, they add some weird mystical tone to the album for me.

Cryhavoc – Sweetbriers:
If you mourn over the post-Amok softening of Sentenced, dry your tears and get this album. It’s totally shameless Sentenced-worship, somewhere around the Amok/Love and Death era. The cool thing is, since it’s such a pure ripoff, it’s just as excellent as the real thing.

Evereve – Stormbirds:
This one did some serious growing on me, over a period of at least 6 months. It just keeps getting better and better. It’s pretty original gothic/death/black metal, with all sorts of different songs. The singing is extremely varied, as are the lyrics which come in three different lanugages.

Iron Maiden – Virtual XI:
(ducking). I’m always completely baffled at how people like Hammerfall so much, and I guess this is where the tables are probably turned….you all think, “what kind of idiot is that guy?” Well, simply put, this album rules. My favorite Maiden album, along with The X Factor (ducking again). I still can’t figure out what people can’t stand about this album, if they like any other Maiden albums.

Rage – XIII:
Rage maintains their hold as my favorite band with this one. Another change, another great album. There’s an orchestra on every song, but they never hit you over the head with it. It just serves as a background and creates an extremely lush texture for the whole album. Peavy just rules.

Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes:
This one is a little hard for me to judge for some reason. Maybe it’s because I listened to a pre-release tape of it constantly for a month. Anyway, I think I really like it, it’s definitely better than the Dark Saga, but due to my early saturation, I don’t find myself listening to it all that much. Every time I do though, it kicks ass.

Einherjer – Odin Owns Ye All:
Hooray for Viking metal! The cool thing about this album is that that’s as much classification as you can give it. The style is very unique, it’s pretty much just “metal”, but it has some very creative song structures and crazy rhythms going constantly. Couple that with the melodies and the epic moods, and you’ve got a kickass album.

Grave Digger – Knights of the Cross:
I call these guys Blind Guardian Junior now. That might not be the best name, since it implies the BG is the master and they’re the student. What I really mean is that they do everything that BG does, but to a lesser extreme. Which can make it better, since it sticks more to pure, simple metal. I’m looking forward to the third album in this concept-album series.

Therion – Vovin:
I can find a lot more similarities between Lepaca Kliffoth and Theli than I can between Theli and this one. I don’t know what that means, I’m just letting people know. So it’s a lot different than Theli, but I think I like it about the same. It’s great chillin’ music (except for that Scheepers character).

Waylander – Reawakening Pride Once Lost:
This is some really cool Irish folk death/black metal. Sort of like Skyclad, except with black vocals, and a flute in place of the fiddle. It gets really fast and thrashy at times, while maintaining great melodies. This is one of those rare Century Media discs that’s only available as an import.

Helloween – Better Than Raw:
This one looks like a masterpiece on paper. Really damn heavy, fresh, and original, it should have it all. But somehow it hasn’t hit me quite as well as I thought it would. Maybe I’m looking for a little more melody. Like all Helloween albums, the songs vary a lot, so you get some really incredible ones, and then some throwaways.

Angra – Fireworks:
Well, it’s no Holy Land, but it’s still some really good power metal. Andre Matos is still a big wuss, but that’s ok. The guitars just control this album. They’re everywhere and they’re very nice.

Arch Enemy – Stigmata:
This is one of those rare ones my brother got before me. Of course, he neglected to tell me that it was any good. Maybe that was because of the vocalist, who a lot of people don’t like, but I don’t have much of a problem with. A good solid melodic-death metal album that didn’t get completely molded into the Studio Fredman form. Not as good as Armageddon though.

Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse:
Yep, here’s Opeth, all the way down here. Like JP, Morningrise is probably my favorite album ever, and, well, this one just hasn’t done it for me. The fact that it says Opeth on the cover probably makes it even worse for me. I know that’s stupid, but hey, that’s just how it is. It’s got some really excellent stuff, but it just hasn’t hit me as an album yet (and it’s getting a little late now).

Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle Earth:
Another heavy hitter finds the middle of the pack. If they would have gotten rid of all the odd-numbered tracks, and a few of the even ones as well, they’d have really had something. As some have said, the album is amazing if you devote your entire attention to it, but I just don’t have time for that anymore. Maybe I’ll like it more when I’m retired.

Savatage – The Wake of Magellan:
Yeah, I guess this came out this year? Nice and heavy, so that’s cool, but I don’t like all of the songs like I did on DWD. It starts and finsihes excellently, but the middle gets a little tiresome for me. Savatage was one of the best shows I saw this year though.

Children of Bodom – Something Wild:
This seems pretty good, but for some reason, I’ve hardly listened to it, and can’t really say too much about it.

Dan Swano – Moontower:
Dan Swano’s cool, but I don’t think I’m into his stuff quite as much as some other people. It’s definitely an interesting piece of work, and it keeps getting better.

Fear Factory – Obsolete:
Probably not as good as Demanufacture, but still a darn good album. Burton C. Bell just rules, and he actually sings HIGH on this album. The three “laid back” songs on this one are amazing, but I don’t know if I like them because they’re more laid back, or just because they’re better songs.

Samael – Exodus:
Pretty much continues in the vein of the excellent Passage, to tide us over ’til the next one. And at like 35 minutes, it’s pretty good for tiding over. They’re definitely a unique band right now.

Death – The Sound of Perseverance:
Cool disc. Death has always been at the edge of the cusp for me, and they kind of remain there with this album. Intellectually, they seem excellent, but they never quite “hit” me.

Silent Scream – Bow Down and Pray:
A German band produced by Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer. They’re pretty much AJFA-era Metallica, with a bit more power metal. Maybe I like this so much because I don’t own any Metallica.

Liquid Tension Experiment – Liquid Tension Experiment:
I’m pretty surprised how much I like this one. Maybe because it’s not wussy like I expected it to be. I mean, there’s some crappy parts, but overall, the cool parts win the battle. Screw vocals!

Anathema – Alternative 4:
I got this one on a whim after I heard JP and some other people were talking about it, and I felt like I needed something different. And it turned out to be pretty good. Not really metal, and no, it’s not alternative, but it’s got good melodies and a great atmosphere.

Dimmu Borgir – Godless Savage Garden:
I was a bit underwhelmed by this one. I got it soon after finally recognizing how cool ETD is, but this isn’t quite as cool. I only really like the second of the new songs. The Accept cover is cool, but the live tracks are nothing special, except for the talking between them. (“I pour this chalice of blood for you!”)

Kamelot – Siege Perilous:
I don’t like this as much as the first two Kamelot’s, but that could change, as Kamelot has always had a way of sneaking up on me. It’s a real top-heavy album, the first half is great, but the second half sorta drags.

Riot – Inishmore:
I was pretty surprised to see this one in a listening station, and it sounded good, so I got it. It’s not nearly as wussy as I expected, and it’s got all sorts of nice dual lead work.

Primal Fear – Primal Fear:
I love Gamma Ray, and don’t care much for Judas Priest. Thus, I really like the Gamma Ray ripoff songs on this album, and could do without the Priest ripoff tracks. It also hurts when I go back and listen to Insanity & Genius – Ralf’s vocals were so much darker and more angry than they are on this.

Agathodaimon – Blacken the Angel:
I got this pretty recently, so it hasn’t had much time to grow. It seems to be well-produced, non-annoying black metal. They’ve got a 15 minute song, so that might be worth something.

Evergrey – The Dark Discovery:
This one hasn’t quite convinced me yet. The music seems great, and what’s cool about it is that they somehow found a niche in the overcrowed power/prog metal world that hadn’t yet been filled. I think my main hangup is the hard-rockish vocalist.

Symphony X – Twilight In Olympus:
It’s no Divine Wings of Tragedy, that’s for sure.

Winterkill – Freedom:
A local band that plays an interesting mix of power, thrash, and regular heavy metal. I could do without the cheesy Braveheart intro and songs like “You Anger Me, Bitch”, but it’s got a couple gems hidden in it.

Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding:
Heheh, yep, here’s Bruce way down here. I’m not quite sure what my problem with this one is, I just know that I like AoB a LOT more. I just haven’t gotten into the feeling of it at all, and on top of that, Bruce’s repetitive yelling somehow really bothers me. Heaviness is nice, but it seems like the style needs more melody than it ha.s.

Old Man’s Child – Ill Natured Spiritual Invasion:
Nice sellout black metal to listen to quickly, but it doesn’t seem to have too much depth to it.

Nocturnal Rites – Tales of Mystery and Imagination:
Power metal version of Old Man’s Child.

Primordial – A Journey’s End:
My brother tricked me into getting this one after a glowing review in Metal Maniacs. I dunno, I can’t really find anything wrong with it, but it’s sorta boring. It has some limited Celtic influence to liven things up, and overall it reminds me somewhat of Ulver’s Bergtatt, which is a good thing, but this album just doesn’t work for me.

Mundanus Imperium – The Spectral Spheres Coronation:
Ok, so it’s Dimmu Borgir with clean vocals, huh? Well, no one saw fit to tell me that the vocals are super-cheesy sounding hard-rock vocals (at least to my ears). The music sounds pretty good (if not quite dark enough to be like Dimmu Borgir), so we’ll see if this one gets better.

Whew, that’s a lot. Comments, inquiries, and ass-kickings are always welcome.