What a fucking month! We got a slew of new singles and tons of great albums, including some from big names in metal. I covered what I could, and I think I covered most of the worthwhile releases, but I’m bound to have missed some. Nonetheless, enough of them really stuck out to make me struggle at least a little bit with this list.
Also, for the full reviews of these (which I did for all but two of them), click the album title in the heading!
Anyway, here’re my top ten metal albums of February!
10. Herman Frank – Fight the Fear
Now, I know I only gave this album a 6.5, but I had to include it for the guitar solos. There’s no shortage of facemelting fire on this list, but Herman Frank’s heavy metal meltdowns are simply exceptional. Seriously. If you’re in the mood for some straightforward, tried-and-true classic heavy metal, this record is definitely for you. The drums are hard, the vocals are hard, the bass is cranked up, and the riffs and solos are furious.
9. Avantasia – Moonglow
Tobias Sammet’s eighth installment of his rock opera/collaberation project is a definite hit. It isn’t his best, but it’s up there for sure. The whole lineup (or should I say “cast”) performs absolutely wonderfully to produce a massive and powerful delivery, including the fantastic guest vocalists, including Michael Kiske (Helloween), Candice Night, and Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids). The arrangements are full and lively and there aren’t many moments when it feels like there isn’t enough going on.
8. Vanir – Allfather
I don’t often listen to anything close to death metal unless it’s very melodic. Examples of these exceptions would be Exmortus and Brymir, where the power elements are strong enough that I don’t mind the more extreme sound. In Vanir’s case, not only does it fall under a similar category as those for me, but it has managed to raid its way into my heart. It’s harsh and rough, but it’s never too messy. It’s viking metal done extremely well.
7. Against Myself – Unity
Spanish outfit Against Myself’s new record is very impressive. The musicians are all top-tier and the prog underbelly of the album’s symphonic atmosphere makes for a refined and dynamic experience. Irene Villegas’ vocals create a beautiful focal point over the creative rhythm parts.
There’s a surprising amount of variety in Unity, especially when compared to other bands and albums in the same space. All in all, despite its clear musical influences such as Nightwish, Unity is entirely unique.
6. Sylvania – Testigos de las Estrellas
Sylvania’s Spanish roots are impossible to miss in Testigos de las Estrellas. The dual vocals (and many guest vocals) are extremely passionate and add an almost mariachi sound to its uplifting power metal. Despite its less-than-perfect mixing, this album is stellar and earns a clear place at number six.
5. Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part
Mortanius’ debut album is wonderful. Its lively symphonic foundation and exuberant tenor vocals make it a very interesting listen. To describe it in a few words, it’s symphonic power metal with a medium-heavy prog influence, as well vocal harmonies and harpsichord that give it a vampirey feel. Make sense? Probably not. Go check out the review and listen to it yourself. You’ll get it.
Let’s take a minute or two to prepare ourselves for what’s to come. Stretch your legs, give your eyes a little break, go get some junk food to stuff your face with (as if you haven’t been doing that already, unless that’s just me). There’ve been some great records on the list so far, but the next four are in a whole other league.
Ok, got your shit together? Great. We’re about to unleash the dragons and enter the glorious hellfury that awaits.
4. Rhapsody of Fire – The Eighth Mountain
After five years of letdown after unholy letdown, Rhapsody of Fire has produced a redeeming and glorious symphonic beauty in The Eighth Mountain. It’s back to its former epic, dragonslaying glory, and the band displays the skill of true warriors.
It seemed like all was lost for Rhapsody after Luca Turilli’s departure. He kept producing quality music, and they kept producing, well, hot, steaming, brimstoney shit. However, The Eighth Mountain has turned all of that around with this fantastic display of orchestra-backed metal. With a runtime of more than an hour and the entire band giving excellent performances, I was left more than satisfied and with my faith in Rhapsody restored.
3. Thornbridge – Theatrical Masterpiece
This might seem like a strange pick (especially when it beats Rhapsody of Fire for number three), but Theatrical Masterpiece is so awesomely epic that it has earned its place. Thornbridge has surfaced with a second album that takes everything great about their first record and tags it with a newer, more original feel. The choruses are still fairly Orden Ogany but the overall sound is heavier, more sincere, and more badass than their debut, making for a blast of an album.
2. Dream Theater – Distance over Time
Holy balls, is this ever an incredible record. Distance over Time is the best Dream Theater record since 2009 as well as one of the best overall. They’ve returned to their earlier sound, but it’s hardly derivative. There are a few more unique songs, notably the bluesy ‘Viper King’ (below), and the songwriting strikes a perfect balance between proggy timechanges and more conventional beats, with phenomenal instrumentation that lifts the album to great heights.
1. Beast in Black – From Hell With Love
Intense keyboard melodies? Check. Intricate quintuplet-based guitar solos? Check. Synthetic fanfares that’ll make you want to do a training montage? Check. Pack it up, every other band ever. From Hell With Love is the pinnacle of modern music. It’s all downhill from here. Go home. Show’s over. Nothing else will ever excite you as much as this album will.
Just kidding. Well, mostly. The Beast’s sophomore album stands far above anything that Anton Kabanen has produced thus far and easily catapults its fucking way into my top three albums of all time. It’s melodic to the max. It’s absolutely doused in cheese. It’s the pump up record to end all pump up records.
I could go on but, alas, I don’t want to take any more of your time when you could be listening to this (and all of the other albums).
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