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Sonic Cathedral’s Best Releases of 2018

Sonic Cathedral’s Best Releases of 2018
Written by SC Staff 
This year we decided to mix things up. The SC staff voted on our favorite releases of 2018 via a Facebook poll.  We also decided to open things up by letting our readers vote in another poll.  The results are below.  After that, our writers share some of their thoughts about 2018 and the coming year.

SC’s Top 10 of 2018
1. (tie) Elyose – Reconnexion
1. (tie) Nita Strauss – Controlled Chaos
3. Follow the Cipher – Enter the Cipher
4. (tie) Amaranthe – Helix
4. (tie) Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail II
4. (tie) Lacuna Coil – The 119 Show: Live in London
4. (tie) Nightwish – Decades
4. (tie) Tyranny of Hours – Oceandead
9. (tie) Beyond the Black – Heart of the Hurricane
9. (tie) Dark Sarah – The Golden Moth
9. (tie) Enemy Inside – Phoenix
9. (tie) Fate Destroyed – “We Fall” (single)
9. (tie) Halestorm – Vicious
9. (tie) Hexed – Netherworld
9. (tie) Kalidia – The Frozen Throne
9. (tie) Little Dead Bertha – Age of Silence
9. (tie) Mayan – Dhyana
9. (tie) Northward – Northward
9. (tie) Therion – Beloved Antichrist
9. (tie) Walk in Darkness – Welcome to the New World
9. (tie) Whyzdom – As Time Turns to Dust
9. (tie) Within Temptation – “The Reckoning” (single)
SC Readers’ Top 10 of 2018
1. Hexed – Netherworld
2. Whyzdom – As Time Turns to Dust
3. Amaranthe – Helix
4. Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail II
5. Misthaven – Aces
6. (tie) Elyose – Reconnexion
6. (tie) Halestorm – Vicious
6. (tie) Mayan – Dhyana
6. (tie) Nightwish – Decades
10. (tie) Beyond the Black – Heart of the Hurricane
10. (tie) Black Mirrors – Look into the Black Mirror
10. (tie) Burning Witches – Hexenhammer
10. (tie) Follow the Cipher – Enter the Cipher
10. (tie) Kalidia – The Frozen Throne
10. (tie) Lucifer – Lucifer II
10. (tie) Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
10. (tie) Pictura Poesis – Nightmares
Thoughts About 2018 and Beyond . . .
Allyson Kenning:  In 2018, I had two musical experiences that had a huge impact on my listening habits.  The first one, which happened in the second half of the year, was a brutal mishap with iTunes.  It installed an update, and all my carefully catalogued albums and playlists all of a sudden and inexplicably disappeared from my iTunes playlist section.  I was pissed right off as these lists took hours of work to put together.  So, I decided to ditch iTunes and sign up – for the second time – with a premium Spotify account.
The second experience I had in 2018 involved being introduced by a Facebook friend of mine, Alma Vomastek of the Romanian band, The Hourglass, to a male-fronted German band called Lord of the Lost.  I have not been so obsessed with a band since I came across Nightwish in 2007.
So I found myself on Spotify, listening to Lord of the Lost, and then getting musical recommendations from the app based on my listening preferences.  Some of the bands had female singers.  One in particular, which I’ll mention in a bit, has really caught my attention and turned out to be in my Top 5 for 2018. 
But Facebook continued to be my main source of new finds this past year. Case in point, Follow the Cipher. Coming in at #1 on my list this year is this Swedish band’s debut, which dropped on May 11 via Nuclear Blast Records, entitled Enter the Cipher.  Dark, energetic, and foreboding, this was an impressive CD from a band I just randomly cottoned onto thanks to Facebook.  Catchy tunes, killer vocals, and powerful lyrics, Follow the Cipher is an up-and-coming band to be reckoned with.
Coming in at #2 is Portland, Oregon’s symphonic prog pride, Tyranny of Hours.  Darking is their follow up to their fantastic self-titled debut.  I had the privilege of reviewing this release for Sonic Cathedral; it’s massive, gorgeous, and lush and definitely a highlight of my year.
At #3 I have one of the bands I found through playing Lord of the Lost on Spotify: Rave the Reqviem from Sweden.  Styling themselves as industrial metal, this band has both a male and female singer, but it’s the lady’s voice that is utterly outstanding.  Signed to Out of Line Records, October saw the release of their third record, Fvneral [sic].  Yes, one of their things is using a V instead of a U, so no, that is not a typo or spelling error.  This album is replete with catchy tunes that I have played over and over again.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt, and they do cool music videos to boot.  My favourite song is “Are You Happy Now, Fidelio?”
Number 4 on my list hails from Germany, and it’s the newcomers Enemy Inside.  I am friends with the bass player on Facebook, as he used to be in the now defunct Beyond the Bridge, which I was a big fan of.  The new band’s debut record is called Phoenix, and it’s getting some great traction, which is nice to see.  There are a lot of great tunes on Phoenix, and it’s certainly worth spending some time with.
Finally, coming in at #5, another little-known band I have been following for a while, and another product of Sweden, Gothic metalers, Purple Nail.  Do yourself a favour and check these guys out!  Signed with WormHoleDeath and with a new vocalist at the helm, their new CD, Red Sky, was, I thought, another really underrated release from a band that I believe deserves a lot of cow bell.  They are dark, moody, and atmospheric, and I liked Red Sky a lot.
What is in store for 2019?  Who knows?  But, I am most looking forward to a few of my favourite bands’ releases.  One is Within Temptation’s newest, and I have my ticket to go see them when they come to Vancouver this March.  Another is one of my long-standing favourites, Dawn of Destiny, who I heard through Facebook have a new album coming out sometime in the new year.  I cannot wait for that to drop.  Delain will also be releasing something new soon, too, that I am highly anticipating, and finally, Spain’s Rainover has been hard at work in the studio this year, and we should be getting something new from them in 2019 as well. 
I wish all our readers a wonderful, music-filled 2019!
Doctor T:  This year has been one of looking at a broadened perspective in the music scene.  I still spend time learning about Femme Metal with some old and some new to focus on.  For instance, I ran into a 2013 release by a project called Corpus Antichristi entitled Retribution that really floored me.  But there were releases by old favorites like Therion and Whyzdom that were everything I expected.  And, I discovered some new talent like Synlakross and Little Dead Bertha that made the year all the more special.  But, beyond that, I spent a lot of time getting back into the Blues, a genre that I grew up listening to and found old material that I still love, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, for instance, as well as new sounds like Too Slim and the Tail Draggers from the Western US.  So, this year was probably less focused in the Gothic but still produced music to be appreciated for a long time.  Let’s hope 2019 is as productive.  Here’s a little list of new Femme Metal:
Whyzdom, As Time Turns to Dust
Therion, Beloved Antichrist
Hexed, Netherworld
Little Dead Bertha, Age of Silence
Imperial Age, The Legacy of Atlantis
Synlakross, Malice Murder
Elyose, Reconnexion
Sirenia, Arcane Astral Aeons
Elvellon, Until Dawn
John Thornburgh:  2019 was another great year for me musically.  I especially enjoyed the new releases from Amaranthe and Elyose, along with a pair from vocalist Nicoletta Rosellini (on albums from Walk in Darkness and Kalidia), and the debut releases from Nita Strauss and Enter the Cipher. 
I’ll start with Nita Strauss and Elyose since they topped the SC writers’ chart.  I became a fan of guitar virtuoso Nita Strauss when she was in The Iron Maidens.  She was then chosen by Alice Cooper for his band, and this year she released a solo instrumental album in between Alice tours.  It’s as impressive as I expected, and covers a wide range of feelings (with the song titles hinting at subject matter).  I also really enjoyed seeing her live again on her solo tour. 
Elyose is a French band that hooked me with their techno metal when I was living in France.  The new album is heavier, and even better in my opinion.  A must for Amaranthe fans, which is a good segue to Amaranthe’s new release.  It is easily one of their best.  I’ve been playing it a lot.
Another album that has been getting heavy play from me is the debut from Enter the Cipher.  I first noticed the video for their excellent cover of Sabaton’s “Carolus Rex” – one of their guitarists played on that Sabaton album, by the way – and then SC writer Allyson Kenning encouraged me to listen to the whole album.  It is fantastic.  Enter the Cipher is easily my favorite new band.
I also felt really lucky to get not one but two new releases from Italian singer Nicoletta Rosellini, whose vocals really stand out from the field.  She appears on new albums from the gothic band Walk in Darkness as well as the power metal band Kalidia.  Fans of Unleash the Archers should not miss her.  I also love how the Kalidia album has two songs inspired by Warcraft.
I also had another fun concert year: Nightwish put on a spectacular two-decade anniversary show; I was happy to see Delain again in the U.S.; Edge of Paradise played a big show in Anaheim opening for Hammerfall; I loved seeing Unleash the Archers for the first time; it was cool to see Mary Zimmer and Lindsey Schoolcraft again (with Helion Prime and Cradle of Filth); I caught a couple more shows from The Iron Maidens; and I already mentioned Nita Strauss.
Finally, I want to mention two more discoveries of 2018.  One is Swiss singer Melissa Bonny.  I first noticed her in the video for Warkings’ new song “Sparta.”  I then found her band Rage of Light (including their cool cover of Amon Amarth’s “Twilight of the Thunder God”) and her own solo project Ad Infinitum.  She combines dynamic growls and clean vocals and is a must for fans of Alissa White-Gluz.  My other discovery is a new LA band called Fate DeStroyed.  So far they have released two excellent singles/videos.  I hope an album comes soon.
For 2019, I’m looking forward to new releases from Edge of Paradise, Delain (EP plus DVD), Arch Enemy (covers), Within Temptation, Echoes of Eternity (after a long wait), Fenrir, and Rainover.  Happy new year!

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