Hello and welcome! We at Musicalypse have been doing our Awards on a pretty personal basis for many years. Since we’ve been active for 10 years, we thought we’d streamline our awards and give you a true collective vision of what we agreed was the best of the best this year. As such, we’re going to do a proper series of nominations and a vote among our staff this year, in order to choose our awards. Our first installation is obvious: the best song of the year! Here are our staff nominations:
Follow along on Spotify! We’ll add our nominations as each category is released:
1. “Merlin’s Will” by Ayreon ft. Floor Jansen
2. “Giants” by Blind Channel
3. “Crush” by Pendulum ft. Devin Townsend
As much as I have enjoyed some albums this year, it’s actually been really hard for me to pick individual songs that stood out. I don’t usually include live songs in my nominations; however, in the case of Ayreon Universe, since there were so many new vocalists performing songs that were originally sung by others, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a new enough ‘take’ on the song to include it. I could pick any song off this album really, but one that stood out from the moment Floor Jansen walked on that stage in Tilburg was “Merlin’s Will.” Leon Goewie (an unknown name to me) was the original vocalist on one album I’d never gotten around to listening to, but Floor Jansen just shattered me with her take on it and this new song became instantly memorable. You can feel her excitement to be a part of the show, but she is still in complete control of her voice and doesn’t waver in the slightest, and then puts on an 11/10 performance.
Meanwhile, I was very delighted by Blind Channel‘s newest album, but more than anything in the theatrical and cool-sounding “Giants”, which also has a nice message if you want to look at the lyrics.
Lastly is the remake of “Crush” by Pendulum, featuring Devin Townsend. It’s notoriously challenging to get Dev to collaborate with someone else’s vision, but it still always turns out awesome. So awesome so that it got a place on this list. Everything about that song just feels good, from the music to vocals to general feel. Love it.
Honorable mentions: “The Magic Spider” by Nekrogoblikon, “Amongst Stars” by Amorphis, “Burns to Embrace” by Kamelot, “Life is Not Beautiful” by Arion (or pretty much anything else off their new album), “Ruin” by Fear of Domination, “Paralyzed” by the Night Flight Orchestra, and anything else from Ayreon Universe besides…
Worst Song of 2018: “Loser” by Ayreon ft. Mike Mills – I thought Ayreon Universe was basically perfect, but in fact, it does have one notable flaw, and that was Mike Mills’ portrayal of Father in “Loser.” I know this is a very unpopular opinion as the quality of his vocals are outstanding, but I just feel as though he put more effort into his own live presence and theatricality than he did to understanding the character and playing him ‘correctly’, so to speak. As The Human Equation is my favorite album of all time, I can’t say that this portrayal really did anything for me (and it’s one of my favorite songs on the album no less), and I really did give it many chances to win me over. Sorry Mike Mills, I love you but you should focus more on the characters than showcasing how great a singer you are (we don’t need convincing – we already know).
1. “Red Giant” by Alice in Chains
2. “God Break Down the Door” by Nine Inch Nails
3. “Untamed” by Lunatic Soul
Giants seem to be doing well this year for sure… I have a soft spot for Alice in Chains‘ soft side, but on this year’s Rainier Fog the standout track is a heavy hitter. “Red Giant” combines catchiness and dissonance in the way only AiC can, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine this song on the classic Dirt album (1992).
Nine Inch Nails, on the other hand, put out something that’s a bit of a departure for Trent Reznor: a jazzy song with saxophone. If you replace the restless and futuristic beat with more relaxed drumming, you can picture yourself in a smoky club, and the vocal performance makes me think Reznor must’ve been visited by David Bowie’s ghost in the studio.
Finally, there’s “Untamed” by Lunatic Soul, which features great vocals by Mariusz Duda and is uplifting and hopeful without being cheesy – we need more songs like this in the world right now!
Honorable mentions: “Daughter of Hate” by Amorphis and “Can’t Be That Bad” by the Night Flight Orchestra.
1. “Servants” by Zeal & Ardor
2. “Sámr” by Ihsahn
3. “We Were the Keepers” by Psycroptic
Z&A‘s first album relied largely on its humorous premise and wild fluctuations in genre and style. Stranger Fruit has a much wider appeal and more defined sound. “Servants” has a strong main riff with oldschool black metal vocals to rally behind. Couple that with a gorgeous Afro-American spiritual chant and an almost indie rock feel. It’s damn near perfection.
Ihsahn has been on a roll with his last two albums, Arktis and Ámr. His signature progressive extreme metal takes a breather for this haunting ballad. Out of all the sublime tracks on the new album, including “Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia” and “Arcana Imperii”, this has me coming back the most.
Psycroptic is one of the most iconic technical death metal bands. Still, they managed to surprise with “We Were the Keepers.” It invokes a primal urge to scream along to the vocals, especially the chorus, while throwing some absolutely mindblowing riffs in your face. The clean backing vocals add an ethereal touch, resulting in an epic, proggy, but concise track.
Honorable mentions: “The Lament” by Tribulation, “Council of Wolves and Snakes” by Dimmu Borgir, “Bartzabel” by Behemoth, “Humanoid” by Cynic, “Madame Satan” by Warrel Dane, “Blood We Shed” by In Vain
Worst song of 2018: Primal Fear – “The Hounds of Justice” – Surely, a lot of way worse music came out this year than this. I could have gone out of my way to check out any metalcore or numetal band who’ve released something this year (oh, look, Slipknot) but that almost feels like bullying. On its own, “The Hounds of Justice” isn’t exactly bad, it has a nice energy and sound. The problem is I’ve already heard about a hundred Primal Fear songs like it. The band has spent their career jogging perfectly in place. They’ve been releasing essentially the same album almost every year. I try to always give them a chance to surprise me but perhaps next year I won’t bother.
1. “Amongst Stars” by Amorphis
2. “The Last Sacrifice” by Arion
3. “Karelian Hills” by Psychework
If I had to describe my soundtrack from early summer on, “Amongst Stars” by Amorphis would definitely top the playlist. The rest of the album isn’t half bad, but this one struck me and stuck with me – Anneke van Giersbergen’s voice is a perfect fit for this duet with Tomi Joutsen, making it instantly one of my favorite Amorphis tracks.
Arion’s “The Last Sacrifice” was a late contender, but what a worthy one at that – a damn wild ride from start to finish, and whatever expectations I had for the previously unreleased material on that album, they were surpassed by this gem alone. The solos, guitar melodies, key and guitar sound, pretty much everything reminded me of the stuff I loved in my teenage years, but made even better. I mean gawd, guys!
And what with the title track from Psychework’s sophomore album, I really would be lying if I had left that one out. Considering how many spins it’s took in my headphones after last spring, you’d think I’d be bored of it by now, but that’d require a few hundred spins more. If “The Last Sacrifice” is quite a ride, so is “Karelian Hills”, through all the seven-and-some minutes of speedy and slower, soaring and chilling of it.
Honorable mentions: “Obsession” by Fear of Domination, “Blood Ran Cold” by Kalmah, “Everlasting Fall” by Wolfheart, most tracks from Stam1na’s Taival, and “Tranquility” and “Final Hour” by Frosttide.
1. “Lightning Strike” by Judas Priest
2. “Headfuck Rollercoaster” by Parasite Inc.
3. “The Round” by Thy Row
When Judas Priest announced that they were releasing a new album, I didn’t have much hope for it; the last albums have been okay in my opinion, but I still prefer their older stuff much more. So when “Lightning Strike” was released as a first single for Firepower, I was instantly blown away. Judas Priest is one of my all-time favorites and as a fan, starting from “Lightning Strike” I had high hopes for the band’s new album. By speeding up the track, adding some revers and EQ the song really sounds like it belongs on Painkiller. It’s catchy, nostalgic, but yet feels like an up-to-date version of Judas Priest’s typical sound.
Parasite Inc.‘s “Headfuck Rollercoaster” is a song that I have been listening to for hours, without getting bored or even sick of it. The track has contagious mid-tempo riffs, which – unfortunately – make the song deadly catchy. Lastly, 2018 was a year filled with great songs, but sometimes the smaller bands also managed to surprise me and capture my attention.
Thy Row has released only two songs to date, but “The Round” really has a heavy and kickass intro riff and powerful vocals. I have listened to this song every single day since it’s been released and I can’t get enough of it! Every time it comes on, I turn the sound up. If the band keeps up with songs like this, they are definitely going to surprise us a lot in the coming years.