Top Eight Metal Albums of January (and One More You’ll Probably Like)

This month was pretty shitty in the power metal department. Only a couple albums really wowed me, and only a couple more stood out. However, the really good albums are really fucking good. 

In no particular order, here are my Top Eight (Heavy, Power, Folk) Metal Albums of January!

Ancient Bards – Origine – The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2

Symphonic metal heavyweights Ancient Bards have unleashed what I believe to be their best record to date. It’s epic. It’s fast. Sara Squadrani’s chops are as perfect as usual. The guitar and keyboard solos are just shining icing on the fantastical cake.

There’s not a thing I dislike about this album. There is so much dragon-slaying variety that it could keep you busy for days. From the heroic highs to the peaceful lows, Origine – The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2 (yeah, say that five times fast and bite your fucking tongue off) is everything you could want in a symphonic metal band, plus a whole lot more.

Ancient Bards – Impious Dystopia (Limb Music)

Delfinia – Deep Elevation

Delfinia’s debut album is a collaboration project headlined by vocalists Konstantin and Daria Naumenko, featuring an ass load of skilled metal musicians; Aerendir Johansson (Twilight Force), Krzysztof Gunsen Elzanowski (Pathfinder), Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween, Masterplan), and many more make appearances. Some of the best solos, however, come out of session guitarist Stas RED Semilietov (like the one in ‘The Brightest Days’).

The overall feel of the album is reflective and it remains consistent (despite the surplus of guest musicians) but each track has something unique to offer. This ambitious power metal project is a must-listen for sure.

Delfinia – Heaven feat. Aerendir from Twilight Force

Steel Engraved – Steel Engraved

German heavy metal group Steel Engraved’s self-titled album is by far their best. Their foreboding sound reflects their bleak content. No one part sticks out from the rest, but the band does great as a whole and delivers an organic heavy metal experience.

Steel Engraved – Rebellion (Rock of Angels Records)

Torben Enevoldsen – 5.1

This feature album is Enevoldsen’s fifth addition to his solo project. Enevoldsen himself lays down some absolutely beautiful melodies and disgusting solos. He certainly deserves some serous metal cred. This guy fucking rocks.

Unfortunately, while not bad per say, the rhythm section is pretty one-dimensional except for a few tracks. That being said, the album is still a pleasure to listen to and Enevoldsen’s fusion-styled playing is addictingly incredible.

(Check out the full review here!)

Torben Enevoldsen – Hangar 84 (Perris Records)

Frenzy – Blind Justice 

Singing comic book-themed songs with a classic metal spin, Frenzy is a lot of fun. Their debut album is full of fantastic old school solos and Anthony Stephen’s vocals are damn good.

Frenzy – Save Me (Underground Power Records)

Wolfhorde – Hounds of Perdition

Although I was disappointed that this album was so much worse than their debut (which is a borderline fucking masterpiece), Hounds of Perdition still holds up as a solid piece of music.

Moving almost entirely away from their folk roots, Wolfhorde has reinvented their sound into a brash combination of power, melodic death, and even symphonic metal. There synth tracks are many and the folk instruments barely surface, but each song is heavy and intense and carries the fierce essence of Wolfhorde through the snow.

(Check out the full review here!)

Syu – Vorvados

Vorvado is a perfect example of guitar feature album done right. The guest vocalists (and Syu himself) are immensely talented and the songs have so much more to offer than just wicked guitar solos.

Every musician on the record gives a stellar performance, but special attention must be paid to the drummer. He just doesn’t screw around and continues to kick the shit out of his kit until the album’s final breaths.

This is easily my favourite album of January. It’s so. Damn. Good.

(Check out the full review here!)

Syu – REASON (Warner Music Japan)

BONUS: Evergrey – The Atlantic

Evergrey’s eleventh album is about what you’d expect from them; a darker, more American-styled heavy metal sound. In all honesty, I’m not crazy about these guys, but they’re fairly popular so I felt they could be included on the list.

Evergrey – Weightless (AFM Records)

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Stay Metal \m/

Torben Enevoldsen – 5.1 Review

Release Date11 Jan 2019
Record LabelPerris

Having had a fairly successful solo career and a handful of side projects, Danish guitarist Torben Enevoldsen has released a fifth addition to his solo project: 5.1. 5.1 is all instrumental, like the rest of Enevoldsen’s solo releases, and often sounds like he just ripped off Jeff Beck’s arms and used those (which is especially apparent in the funky ‘Say What’).

Guitar feature albums are always a difficult endeavour. Oftentimes the record ends up being nothing but a big guitar solo, with endless shredding and a lack of melody or tasteful phrasing. It’s also tough to strike a balance between the lead guitar and rhythm section; the guitarist could be the most talented musician on the planet, but, if the rhythm section is weak, it could kill the entire setup.

Enevoldsen’s playing is exquisite. His melodies are smooth and lively and his phrases flow like water. His playing style is far closer to jazz fusion than metal. On the flip-side, his fast, chugging solos would give many metal guitarists a run for their money. The balance of the guitar playing couldn’t be better.

One issue I have with the album, however, is the rhythm section in the first and last thirds of the album. In the first four tracks, there isn’t much going on besides the straight beat. There is a clear pickup in ‘Inside Out’ (which is also the most metal-sounding track on the album) that carries on through the next four songs and into ‘Hangar 84’. ‘Hangar 84’ is undoubtedly the best song on the album. The proggy staccato intro is remarkable and the rest of the song is full of energy from the entire band. The rhythm section then simmers back down in the final four tracks.

That may seem like a nitpicky complaint for a feature album, but for a release from an artist of such caliber as Torben Enevoldsen, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a bit more colour in the background.

The only other aspect I don’t like about 5.1 is that half the songs conclude by fading out. That drives me insane. I think it’s just lazy songwriting, but maybe I’m missing something. Write a damn ending; it won’t kill you.

It’s safe to say that Torben Enevoldsen’s 5.1 is a phenomenal display of guitar shredding. Despite it’s flaws, the album is quite enjoyable and will likely have you coming back for another taste.

Torben Enevoldsen – Hangar 84 (Perris Records)

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Stay Metal \m/