It’s that time of year again my friends when we at Metal Wani stop and take stock of the music bestowed upon us over the past year. And so this is our list of Top Ten Prog albums for 2018. As this is my personal list, others will surely find issue with it, but such is life. As I have done in the past, I am limiting my choices to albums that were covered by MW only, so that clearly excludes a few albums. Also live releases and non full length have been excluded as well.
Riverside: ‘Wasteland’ ~ The hardest choice for this list was deciding the order of the top two albums. However the emotional effectiveness of this album pushes it to the top. The first album released after the death of the band’s founding guitarist, it is one part a band dealing with its grief, and also tells the story of a family surviving in a post apocalyptic world. And is one of the best things Riverside has ever done.
The Ocean Collective: ‘Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic’ ~ On the more sludgy, extreme end of the prog metal world is this close runner up. A crushingly heavy, yet beautiful and powerful piece of metal, The Ocean has put out what will likely turn out to be the best album of their already very impressive career.
Howling Sycamore: ‘Howling Sycamore’ ~ The insane creation of Italian mad genius Davide Tiso, this self titled debut is a slab of avant garde/prog metal at its finest. Highly technical extreme prog metal, but with more traditional clean higher ranged vocals, it’s an unusual combination, but mixed with the manic approach and jazz fused sax work, this is one of the most unusual and best albums of the year.
Redemption: ‘Long Nights Journey Into Day’ ~ One of the longest running traditional prog metal bands, Redemption should be no stranger to fans of the genre. And one thing that really makes them stand out is the fact that they tend to be considerably heavier than a lot of their typical prog counterparts. The addition of new vocalist Tom Englund (Evergrey) lifts this up to the next level.
Haken: ‘Vector’ ~ Haken are one of the most talented and prolific young prog metal bands working today. This fiery and heavy album is a prime example of the next wave of prog metal. And it’s a concept album based around a mental institution, so that’s always a bonus.
Ihsahn: ‘Ámr’ ~ Ihsahn should need no introduction, both his solo output and his work with the legendary Emperor have long put him on the short list of most influential musicians in the progressive black metal world. This new album continues his experimentation and exploration of sounds, combining elements of electronic music, with his more typical prog, metal, and jazz. A tremendously engaging album and worthy of many listens.
Rivers of Nihil: ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ ~ This album has caused some serious buzz in the metal world this year, and it’s an album I’ve only recently had a chance to spend some time with. But it is a highly exciting and melodic example of tech/prog death metal that rises well above the more typical examples of the genre. And any band that exposes more people to how well a saxophone works in metal music will always gain my approval.
The Sea Within: ‘The Sea Within’ ~ This was for me the most unexpected album of the year, as until it was announced the formation of this super group wasn’t on anyone’s radar. With members from The Flower Kings, Pain of Salvation, and The Aristocrats, this highly original prog/jazz fusion album is an incredibly pleasant surprise. While light on any real metal, the creativity is abundant and it is one of the more original albums of the genre in recent years.
The Pineapple Thief: ‘Dissolution’ ~ The Pineapple Thief has grown in popularity and stature in recent years, and the current lineup has been very active over the past few years. The addition of drummer Gavin Harrison has only helped this. This is a fluid, often relaxing and nuanced album, with explosions of heaviness and groove. Band mastermind Bruce Soord has perfected his sound and style, and the result is some of the finest melodic prog around.
Between the Buried and Me: ‘Automata I&II’ ~ It could be argued that this album is really two EPs. But for practical purposes it is a single album, with a single story being told. In fact the track numbers of the second disk are 7-10. Why they didn’t simply put everything on one disk is anyone’s guess, but that’s not really relevant here. What is relevant is that this is some of the better material the band has produced in recent years. The immediate albums following their breakthrough album ‘Colors’ repeated the sound and formulae ad nauseam. Thankfully they have moved past that now and the result is more original and engaging metal album.
And that is our list for the top prog albums of the year. There’s only one more month to go for the year, so here’s hoping you make it through it, and we’ll see you on the other side.