Album of the Year 2017 – Number 1

Welcome to day 30, the final day of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

I have done it! Another year goes by and another top 30 albums have been counted down, dissected and given yet more love and attention. But that’s exactly what these records fully deserve, because they are the best of the best during a fantastically strong year. It has also been a year in which I have strived to listen to as much music as possible, across as wide a spectrum of subgenres as possible. It has inevitably led to a broadening of horizons and a few surprises along the way. For a start, I never expected a non-rock/metal disc to feature in the list, let alone my top 10. But that’s exactly what has happened.

But more importantly, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has stuck with me throughout this series. Everyone who has read, liked or commented on my posts has given me the impetus to continue, despite finding it harder than ever to find he time to devote to such a time-consuming venture. It is worth it of course, but everyone’s support has been invaluable nonetheless.

As always, here’s the ubiquitous quick reminder to new readers that links can be found below for all of my previous posts in this year’s series, along with a couple of ‘honourable mentions’ posts and the entire series from 2012-2016. If you explore any of these, I hope you enjoy what you read.

And now, here goes…the gold medal winner and my favourite album of 2017 is…

Number 1

Threshold - Legends Of The Shires - Artwork

Threshold
Legends of The Shires
Nuclear Blast

“I don’t think there is ever a point with any album where I think ‘right I’m 100% ready to pen this review’ – that feeling never arrives. But having spent quite a lot of time with ‘Legends Of The Shires’, obsessively at times, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to pin my colours to the mast. And all I can really say at this point is ‘Oh. My. God’ This record is mind-blowingly good. It is sensational.

The first thing to report is that the core sound I referred to earlier is all still in place; ‘Legends Of The Shires’ couldn’t be anyone other than Threshold. If you’re looking for a radically different approach, you’ll be disappointed. The rest of us should simply rejoice. Big, chunky riffs, bigger melodies, technicality, swathes of keys, extended instrumental passages – they’re all here and it all sounds utterly glorious.

It’s always a bit of a risk to release a double album and, in the case of Threshold, it is a record featuring 14 individual tracks with a running time of well over 80 minutes…However, I can honestly say, hand-on-heart that ‘Legends Of The Shires’ flies by. At the outset, I immediately had my favourite songs but as time has gone by, I find myself liking something within each track. No, that’s not accurate – I adore just about every minute of this weighty tome.

There’s a beautiful ebb and flow to the record, encompassing all of the myriad strengths of the Threshold collective. From quiet, introspective and delicate, right through to heavy, powerful and commanding, the full gamut is explored. There are shorter pieces and, as is their way, a few longer compositions where the technical prowess and flamboyance of each member is given a chance to shine brightly. And believe me, every member of this band is dreadfully talented.

I’m not really sure how to sum up ‘Legends Of The Shires’ adequately, because in many ways I am lost for words. I was expecting a great album, because that’s what Threshold always seems to deliver. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a masterpiece. For that is exactly what ‘Legends Of The Shires’ is; it is magical, it is majestic and it is a perfect tour-de-force of melodic progressive metal. Outstanding.”

Read the full review here.

21150255_10154880091228715_2882833744628664424_n

It’s not often that the English win anything but this year, a band from my own fair Isle has finished top of the pile, releasing my personal favourite album of 2017. I was gushing in my praise for the epic and brave double album ‘Legends of the Shires’ from Threshold when I first reviewed it at the time of its release. And, in all honesty, nothing had changed.

I have had a very hard time choosing this year’s top 30 and an even harder job once I got into the top 10. However, despite toying with other candidates now and again, in my heart I knew that this was going to be the winner this year. It was my first and only perfect score of the year for a start, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

However, it can sometimes be the case that an album that presses all your buttons initially, can fail to maintain the interest in the longer-term. I did wonder whether this might be the case for ‘Legends of the Shires’ but as it turns out, the album has just got stronger and stronger.

Songs that I loved a few months ago, I still love. And the songs that I originally liked, I now love too, as they have worked their way expertly into my affections. To find a standard album that contains no songs that you dislike can be a rare thing, but to be confronted by a double album that can boast such a feat? That’s rarer still. And yet that’s exactly what ‘Legends of the Shires’ is. It is a collection of 14 songs, spread over at least 80 minutes and two discs, and like every single minute of it.

I was never one of the dissenters when it emerged that Damian Wilson was to be replaced by the returning vocalist Glynn Morgan. However, an eyebrow was raised at the unexpected news. The truth is though, that Morgan doesn’t put a foot wrong on this album; he delivers just as you’d want him to and he’s the perfect fit for the entirety of the material as far as I’m concerned.

Vocalist changes, concepts and double albums aside, the most important thing about ‘Legends of the Shires’ is that the compositions are some of the very best of the band’s career. Never ones to release anything short of excellent, it comes as the highest of praise to declare this to be Threshold’s finest work. It was always going to take a lot to displace either ‘Critical Mass’ or ‘Hypothetical’, but I think the quintet have managed it.

As I’m quoted as saying in my review, ‘Legends of the Shires’ contains everything I want from a Threshold disc and far more besides, including ‘big, chunky riffs, bigger melodies, technicality, swathes of keys, extended instrumental passages…’ If you thought on a first listen that the likes of ‘The Man Who Saw Through Time’ or ‘Lost In Translation’ were epic tracks, just wait for a few more spins, because they only get better as time goes on, especially the former with its complex and sprawling construction.

I still remember the moment when I knew that this disc had to be number 1. I was out with the dog and I had my big headphones on. As I neared the end of the walk, I was confronted with ‘The Shire (Part 2)’. I’d heard it many times in different settings, but as the track erupted out of its gentle and tentative beginnings and the guitar began to sing, my hair stood on end and tingles moved up and down my spine. I knew with absolute certainty that I was listening to something special, something that spoke to me with real force.

There may be albums released in 2017 that push the boundaries more, that break new ground, that are more complex, avant-garde or technical. There may be more streamlined or more immediate records too. But I know with certainty that ‘Legends of the Shires’ is the finest album of 2017 because it is so often my ‘go-to’ listen. Just like Evergrey last year and others in previous years, ‘Legends of the Shires’ is a distillation of exactly what I love about this kind of music and is exactly what I want to listen to right now. Not only is ‘Legends of the Shires’ the best progressive metal album of the year, it is the best album, full stop.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 2
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 3
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 4
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 5
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 6
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 7
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Threshold – Legends Of The Shires – Album Review

Threshold - Legends Of The Shires - Artwork

Artist: Threshold

Album Title: Legends of the Shires

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 8 September 2017

I still remember, vividly, the first time that I heard UK progressive metal band Threshold. It was the song ‘Falling Away’ from the album ‘Critical Mass’, released in 2002 and I was blown away. The energy, the emotion and the melodies all combined to stunning effect. I played the song about seven times in a row without a pause, before promptly placing an order for the album. It arrived a couple of days later and I hungrily devoured the record, delighted that the entire disc lived up to my lofty expectations at a time when I was getting heavily pulled under the spell of progressive music.

Naturally, as was my way, I delved headlong into the back catalogue, discovering many other gems along the way. Whilst ‘Falling Away’ remains my all-time favourite Threshold track, the likes of ‘Ravages of Time’ and ‘Safe To Fly’ push it very close.

In the intervening years, I have seen Threshold live several times including a great show at the criminally under-supported Fused Festival in 2011. I have also had the pleasure in reviewing most of their recent albums as well as chatting with keyboardist Richard West on more than one occasion. They are, without doubt one of the most important bands in my life, certainly where progressive music is concerned.

A small pocket of fans have bemoaned a lack of diversity within the Threshold sound, but I think this is grossly unfair. The old saying goes that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Threshold have grown, they have matured and their output has changed, albeit in more subtle ways than other acts. But at their core, they have remained true to the melodic progressive metal blueprint that has marked their output pretty much since day one. And in terms of quality, they are consistency personified. You just know that Threshold will not release a stinker. Of course, opinions will differ among the faithful as to which of their ten albums to date is the best, but there’s a tacit understanding that every album has a vein of quality running through it.

This is quite remarkable, given the line-up changes that have befallen the band over the years. Only guitarist Karl Groom remains from the original line-up as a founding member. That said, since the mid-noughties, perhaps a little earlier, the core has remained relatively static, with Groom joined by drummer Johanne James, bassist Steve Anderson and keyboardist Richard West. In the last few months, second guitarist Pete Morten stepped down to focus on his own material and the vocalist carousel has turned again, rather surprisingly.

In their near 30-year history, Threshold have had no less than four lead vocalists. Jon Jeary (who returns as a guest vocalist on ‘The Shire (Part 3)’) was succeeded by Damian Wilson who himself was replaced briefly by Glynn Morgan and then more permanently by Andrew ‘Mac’ McDermott. Mac, who later tragically passed away, left the band somewhat unexpectedly. In a blaze of glory, Wilson returned, but just a few months ago it was confirmed that he was to leave Threshold again. Many of us were shocked, particularly when it was announced that Glynn Morgan was to return to the mic. Was this to be a mistake? Or would it be a masterstroke?

As news of the band’s eleventh album began to surface, more questions began to emerge. Apparently, ‘Legends of The Shires’ was going to be a double album, the first of their career. Would this be a risky move? Would it prove to be too much for fans? ‘Legends of The Shires’ would also be a concept album. Another risky move? Were Threshold trying too much with this record to succeed?

All these thoughts and more were going through my mind as I pressed play for the first time. I was surprisingly nervous, even though I’d loved the first two singles from the album, the immensely powerful epic ‘Lost In Translation’ and the shorter, punchier ‘Small Dark Lines’ with its sprawling monster of a chorus.

I don’t think there is ever a point with any album where I think ‘right I’m 100% ready to pen this review’ – that feeling never arrives. But having spent quite a lot of time with ‘Legends Of The Shires’, obsessively at times, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to pin my colours to the mast. And all I can really say at this point is ‘Oh. My. God’ This record is mind-blowingly good. It is sensational.

21150255_10154880091228715_2882833744628664424_n

The first thing to report is that the core sound I referred to earlier is all still in place; ‘Legends Of The Shires’ couldn’t be anyone other than Threshold. If you’re looking for a radically different approach, you’ll be disappointed. The rest of us should simply rejoice. Big, chunky riffs, bigger melodies, technicality, swathes of keys, extended instrumental passages – they’re all here and it all sounds utterly glorious.

The next thing to tackle is the reintroduction of Glynn Morgan as lead vocalist. I don’t know if I’m likely to be in the minority here, but as much as I respect and admire Damian Wilson as a singer, I never got to the stage of loving his voice unconditionally. As a result, I’m not overly upset at his departure. After all, he’s still active as a solo artist and as the front man for Headspace, so we won’t be able to miss him too much. Additionally, as someone who came to the Threshold cause with Mac on vocals, I’m delighted to note that more than once, Morgan sounds scarily like the late singer. He has his own style for sure, but the similarities are there to be heard. But more than that, Morgan can definitely sing and I have no complaints about him whatsoever on ‘Legends Of The Shires’. His voice may lack a stratospheric ‘wow’ factor at times but his performance is nothing short of excellent throughout, thoroughly professional and with the range to do the songs full justice.

It’s always a bit of a risk to release a double album and, in the case of Threshold, it is a record featuring 14 individual tracks with a running time of well over 80 minutes. That’s a lot of music in anyone’s language and could be daunting to some. Indeed, I took a deep breath before plunging in. However, I can honestly say, hand-on-heart that ‘Legends Of The Shires’ flies by. At the outset, I immediately had my favourite songs but as time has gone by, I find myself liking something within each track. No, that’s not accurate – I adore just about every minute of this weighty tome.

There’s a beautiful ebb and flow to the record, encompassing all of the myriad strengths of the Threshold collective. From quiet, introspective and delicate, right through to heavy, powerful and commanding, the full gamut is explored. There are shorter pieces and, as is their way, a few longer compositions where the technical prowess and flamboyance of each member is given a chance to shine brightly. And believe me, every member of this band is dreadfully talented.

Contrary to popular belief, the loose concept is not influenced by ‘Lord of the Rings’. Mind you, one look at the sumptuous artwork alongside the album title and you can see where that idea came from. But rather, the album looks at how a nation interacts with others and how it grows and evolves over time. It’s a grand concept and one that befits the equally grand soundscapes that surrounds it.

‘Legends Of The Shires’ starts off, fittingly, with the gentle sounds of birds singing and a church bell ringing via ‘The Shire (Part 1)’. It is an acoustic guitar and vocal intro that introduces some beautiful melodies that crop up elsewhere, as well as instantly dismissing anyone’s potential misgivings about Morgan’s return. His delivery is passionate and resonates excellently.

The aforementioned ‘Small Dark Lines’ acts as the stark juxtaposition to the opener as it is one of the most up-tempo, powerhouse tracks on the entire record. The chorus is immense but the chugging riffs and strong rhythms from James and Anderson provide the groovy framework that’s almost as infectious as the chorus.

At nearly 12 minutes in length, ‘The Man Who Saw Through Time’ is the longest composition on the album but also one of the most satisfying and beguiling. A slow-burner, it soon opens like a delicate flower to expose its subtle charms. The keys and piano of West are superb, working in tandem with Morgan’s poignant delivery. The slow and emotional-sounding lead guitar work of Groom is superb, segueing into a properly ‘progressive’ section where a myriad of different synth sounds are aired, the tempos frequently change as does the intensity and a story is told via a combination of instrumentation and lyrics in expert fashion. But despite the diversity in evidence, the band use their mature and seasoned song writing skills to create a piece of music that sounds smooth and cohesive. Nothing feels out of place or unnecessary, however dramatic the individual performances are or how awe-inspiring the lead guitar-driven finale becomes.

I cannot possibly go through each and every track in detail, but it’s tough not to. ‘Trust The Process’ is a choppier, grittier track that is another progressive masterclass, full of twists and turns, whilst ‘On The Edge’ comes out of the blocks like something possessed before calming right down and delivering more of a big ballad-like chorus. Then there’s the complex and fascinating ‘Snowblind’ which takes its time to blossom but delivers a huge pay-off when it finally clicks, particularly the long-awaited chorus and more urgent sections in the latter stages.

In terms of personal favourites, I could mention pretty much half of the material frankly. ‘The Man Who Saw Through Time’ is clearly up there, as is ‘Small Dark Lines’. However, if pressed, I’d also mention ‘The Shire (Part 2)’ which builds on the melodies of the opening part and just when you think it’ll exclusively follow the acoustic-and-vocal blueprint of its predecessor, it explodes in spectacular fashion, causing me to stop whatever I’m doing and sing along, even if I’m in public.

Then there’s the aforementioned behemoth ‘Lost In Translation’ which was a killer song right from the off and has turned into a bona-fide anthem of truly epic proportions. Or how about ‘Stars And Satellites’ that unashamedly blends the hard rock/metal with overt pop and AOR sensibilities? Catchy as hell and beautiful, it really captured my attention, showcasing the delicate and powerful sides of this special band with consummate ease. I smiled when I first heard it and it still has the same effect a week or two later.

I could go on, so I will. ‘Subliminal Freeways’ features a beefy riff that I love, alongside an understated swagger from Morgan, before the mother of all power-ballad choruses rips through the speakers, bathed in soothing synths and a lush melody. And lastly, ‘State Of Independence’ has a solemn tone, paired with some strikingly real lyrics, a comment on the recent Brexit decision if I’m not mistaken.

I’m not really sure how to sum up ‘Legends Of The Shires’ adequately, because in many ways I am lost for words. I was expecting a great album, because that’s what Threshold always seems to deliver. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a masterpiece. For that is exactly what ‘Legends Of The Shires’ is; it is magical, it is majestic and it is a perfect tour-de-force of melodic progressive metal. Outstanding.

The Score of Much Metal: 10

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

BlogOfMuchMetal – metal news – 22 July 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest post in this series after a bit of a hiatus, where I bring you the latest confirmed news within the world of rock and heavy metal. This series does not require the use of a crystal ball, which can sometimes malfunction with embarrassing results. No, this is a series that works on facts, on the news that I know to be true and which I bring you because I found it exciting and I’m therefore sure that you will find it exciting too.

Today’s post focuses on some of the new songs that have been revealed ahead of the full album release later in the year.

And if you’ve missed any of my previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post.

legendsoftheshiresThreshold – Legends of the Shires
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

Well, if you’re going to release a new song and an accompanying video, it might as well be a ten-minute monster mightn’t it? Especially if you are prog as all hell eh? So that’s what Threshold have done. Not content to compose a double album for the very first time, the UK progressive metal band have also announced a change of singer, ditching Damian Wilson in favour of a return to Glynn Morgan. And now they have released the first track off ‘Legends of the Shires’, the monumental ‘Lost In Translation’. If, like me, you are a massive Threshold fan, it’s a great time to be alive.

I’ve only listened to this song about 17 times, so I’m in no way able to dissect it quite yet. For that, you’ll have to wait until my full review later in the year. However, for now, all I can say is ‘wow’. Morgan sounds really good on this track, giving the music a whole new dimension. The prog elements are really pronounced which I like, particularly in terms of the changes in tempo, tone and with the bold keyboard sounds in places. But that chorus. Those melodies. Boy, oh boy is this one hell of an anthem. Just take a listen and tell me that you disagree. On the strength of this track, I have such massively high hopes for the full album, it’s ridiculous.

19990364_1676025859077305_924654058634164650_nSubterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: ViciSolum Productions

In typical Man of Much Metal style, about five minutes after I publish a blog post, one of the bands featured releases the first track off their new album. The culprits this time are Subterranean Masquerade, with ‘Nomad’, taken from their upcoming release, ‘Vagabond’.

In keeping with their last record that I thoroughly enjoyed, it will take some time to get fully to grips with the music that this band creates. However, a couple of listens in and the signs are extremely positive. I hear echoes of Amorphis in parts of this track but despite this, the final result is definitely unique. Complex and ambitious yet catchy and unexpectedly immediate with a smooth and rich sheen, Subterranean Masquerade may just have hit upon a winning formula, one that may pull me deeper under their spell. I can’t wait to hear more and bring you my considered thoughts nearer to the release of ‘Vagabond’.

18892998_10154663048738806_2247176504358416942_nParadise Lost – Medusa
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

UK veterans Paradise Lost have to be one of my all-time favourite bands. Beginning my love affair nearly two decades ago with ‘Draconian Times’, I have never looked back…well, except for delving back into the Yorkshire gloomsters back catalogue of course. In so doing, I discovered the monumenatal ‘Shades of God’, a huge game-changer for me. I may not have liked the more ‘Goth’ or ‘pop-infused’ era, but of late, their albums have been tremendous, really harking back to their earlier halcyon days.

Cue ‘Medusa’, which is apparently inspired by another foray into the historic vaults. And, if this new track, ‘The Longest Winter’ is representative of the vibe and direction of the new record, we’re in for one heck of a heavy and doomy affair. Activate sarcasm mode: Oh no, how horrible.

19420708_1698781136823429_4102190633439104941_nArch Enemy – Will To Power
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Century Media Records

Long term followers of my blog will be sick of hearing my thoughts on Arch Emeny. Whilst their stock has risen over the past decade or so, my liking for the band has nose-dived and I make no bones about the fact that ‘xxx’ is their last chance as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure Michael Amott is quaking in his boots at the thought of losing a slightly overweight and balding Englishman from his ever-expanding fanbase but I’ll be genuinely disappointed if I have to call it a day with a band that was so important to me at the time they released the majestic ‘Stigmata’.

So now we have ‘The World Is Yours’, the first track to be aired from the new album ‘Will To Power’…and it feels like Arch Enemy might have returned from the brink. There are still things that I don’t like so much, but in general, this feels like a proper song, something more akin to the music that the band can write when they put their mind to it. It goes without saying that the drumming and the guitar work is utterly insane and of the very highest order – the inclusion of Jeff Loomis is a BIG deal as far as I’m concerned. But more importantly, there is more to this song than just instrumental noodling and histrionics just for the sake of it. On the strength of this song, I’m feeling more hopeful than I was fearing…

Previous updates:

28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Essential rock & metal releases still to come in 2017 – Part 1

It’s true what they say – the older you get, the faster time disappears. I mean, it doesn’t seem possible that we are already half-way through 2017 for a start. And yet here I am. With my round-up of the best releases so far in 2017 under my belt, it is time to turn my attention to the future and consider what else is due to cross our paths this year.

If the first half is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat, I can tell you. I don’t remember a year where I’ve given out so many high scores. Unlike last year though, I have yet to bestow a perfect 10 on anyone, although the new Voyager album, ‘Ghost Mile’, Persefone’s ‘Aathma’ and Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ all came deservedly close.

But enough about the past, here’s to the future…

19106010_10154760456619077_388154856530751419_nCradle of Filth
Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
Release date: 22 September 2017

I was going off the boil regarding Suffolk’s most famous extreme metal export. I was a member of the fan club many years ago in my late teens having worshiped the likes of ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ and ‘Cruelty And The Beast’. But after a string of less-than-stellar releases throughout the noughties, I began to re-evaluate. That was until a couple of years ago and the release of ‘Hammer Of The Witches’. Their best since their heyday, it brought me kicking and screaming back into the fold. I now cannot wait for the next chapter in the saga of Dani Filth and co.

This next chapter is entitled ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’ and is due for release on 22nd September via Nuclear Blast. Watch out for the first single release very soon too.

19146029_10154398261857105_6108765129743949462_nCaligula’s Horse
In Contact
Release date: 15 September 2017

There are a huge number of excellent bands coming from Australia these days but alongside Vanishing Point and Voyager, Caligula’s Horse are one of the very best. Their previous album, ‘Bloom’ was superb, one of the best releases of 2015. In fact, the more I listen to this record, the better it gets – I should have placed it even higher in my end of year list, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is undeniably prog but it is intelligent, modern and full of the kind of swagger and assuredness that only the very best bands display.

The new album is quoted as being “an immense conceptual work”. Enigmatically-entitled ‘In Contact’, it is due for release on 15th September via InsideOut Music, one of the best and most consistent labels out there today. Just listen to the teaser trailer below and tell me this doesn’t sound exciting…

18556032_10155643571650101_6880641999645372966_nLeprous
Malina
Release date: 25 August 2017

It is an undeniable fact that Norwegian band Leprous are now regarded as one of the very best bands in the prog metal genre. They have yet to release anything less than extraordinary in their 16 year-career to date. And they are still young and still learning. But crucially, they appear to remain extremely hungry and out to prove that they deserve to build upon the accolades that they have rightly received so far in their career.

They have released a new track, ‘From The Flame’, from their upcoming new album, entitled ‘Malina’ which is released on August 25th. It remains very recognisable as Leprous but also a little different at the same time. In interview, the band describes the record as a ‘natural-sounding organic album’, but still modern with great songs. If that’s the case, and based upon the first single, count me in.

19420708_1698781136823429_4102190633439104941_nArch Enemy
Will To Power
Release date: 8 September 2017

I’m no longer the biggest Arch Enemy fan, it has to be said. I loved ‘Stigmata’ and the follow-up ‘Burning Bridges’. But that was several years ago and since then, the Swedish extreme metal band with a penchant for over-the-top guitar histrionics have ditched original singer Johan Liiva, replacing him with first Angela Gossow and now Alissa White-Gluz. In fact, there will be a dwindling number of fans even aware that Liiva was ever involved now that the band have re-recorded those aforementioned albums. A bad move in my opinion, but what do I know?

Nevertheless, when a highly-respected fellow journo of long standing makes positive noises about the new material due to see the light of day in the near future, who am I to not take notice? Particularly when the positive noises refer to some brilliantly flamboyant guitar work, for which I am a sucker at the best of times. The door for Arch Enemy has not been slammed shut yet, but this is probably their last chance as far as I’m concerned.

‘Will To Power’ is due to be released on 8th September 2017 on Century Media Records.

Threshold
Legends Of The Shires
Release date: TBC

The Threshold camp has gone a little quiet since the rather shock news surfaced that the UK progressive metal band had parted ways for a second time with Damian Wilson. Aside from news that the band are looking for fans to take part in the shooting of a new video, we’ve not heard anything new about the new material. Until that point, we were fully expecting the new album, ‘Legends of the Shires’ to surface in the latter stages of 2017. I still think we will have the double record, it’s just a matter of exactly when.

It is also a matter of who will be the vocalist on the record, as I understand that the album had been recorded with Wilson behind the mic. I suspect it’ll be Morgan, but nothing as far as I’m aware has been confirmed. You wait, as soon as I publish this post, an announcement will be made. An announcement is also still to be made regarding the guitar position made vacant by the recently departed Pete Morten. Interesting times ahead for one of my favourite prog bands.

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