It is a lazy morning in Espoo, Finland as I write my 2018 review while sipping my hot chocolate and listening to Khors‘ “Winterfall”.
Incidentally, I rank their latest EP, Beyond the Bestial, as the best of 2018. I had been following this band closely for a little while then this EP just happened as a surprise and I simply fell in love with it. Their show at the Parlament Club in Pilsen, Czech Republic is also amongst the best I’ve attended in 2018. It is not precisely about the show itself though, even if seeing them closer than the watchtower-like balcony at the Ragnard Reborn in Kharkiv, Ukraine was a nice kick in my ass out of my comfort zone. They will start playing their new songs in 2019 and I am truly looking forwards to it. Also I do hope they will get the recognition they deserve in Western Europe and get to play in UK for instance!
My album of the year is Nytt Land‘s Odal. It was not something I would have liked 100% at first but eventually, I kept listening to it every so often and re-discovered some of its tracks in a different mood, thus showing the richness the band has to offer.
As honourable mentions stand two massive names of the Belarusian pagan scene who are Krumkač and Dzivia. Krumkač’s Honar i Kroŭ gained a fast and dazzling success from the very beginning of the one man project. It arrived as a pioneer in the scene with the Kryvian (the very early people who made what is Belarus now) themed concept and this typical blend of epic and inspiring atmosphere.
It also has this touch of Belarusian elegance of which Dzivia‘s Artur Matveenko is the master. Rujnuj was released after six years of intensive work and it shows. It is more intense than his previous Dream Reaper thanks to the cinematic effects he uses as if he was holding the listener’s attention at the end of a yo-yo. It also feels less lonely with the appearance of singers and generally more complex which sometimes make it hard to follow. Some contrasting primitive sounds made their discreet appearance as well and I suppose it is part of the evolution to the pagan orchestra he mentioned.
Finally, I mention the uncontested Burshtyn, just as unstoppable as their music, as the discovery of the 2018. They reached the rank of cornerstone of my car discography yet they remained pretty silent since their shows in Poland so I hope to hear more about them this year.
Here is, on the other hand, the list of musical disappointments of 2018. It is simply a lighter and more accurate version of “worst things that happened in 2018”. These are topics about which I kept myself silent to a certain extent to have enough hindsight to write about it here. Expect some unpopular opinions though.
Korpiklaani‘s Kulkija. I had just got used to the new direction they took with Manala then Noita but I could not follow them on this one. This sounds like a rough sudden aging, the Finnish folk metal mafia passing from well-established, pioneer even, folk metal to a simplistic and predictable folkloric rock. To be fair, it is the very first Korpiklaani album I dislike but I still do appreciate the band for who they are and the quality shows and albums they offered over the years.
Arkona – Khram. This one is a bit of my bad. There was also a drastic change there but in a way that their recognisable pagan and folk touch just got flooded by this new post black era. Khram also required quite a big effort to get through it, very consistent yet very demanding and this first disappointment blocked me. However I did end up by enjoying their single “In Pursuit of the White Shadow” and still do.
Nokturnal Mortum show at the Ragnard Reborn in Ukraine. Their latest Verity had really amazed me so I was really curious and eager to see them live. The band was excellent. However, I did not expect them to share the stage with a bunch random lads battling poor quality and unfinished drums out of rhythm to attempt to bring a shamanic touch, and there was also a lot of overacting, fakeness which was frankly not necessary to me.
In addition to that, I found it clashed with many things such as their legendary meticulousness when it comes to composing work which made it hard for me to understand this choice. Of course, not everything was bad about the show. The setlist very satisfying and it was a pleasure to see Surma and his dulcimer on stage. I hope I’ll make up for it with their upcoming concert at the Metal East Нове Коло this spring !
So as far as I’m concerned, this has been another great year musically. The New Year Eve did not change much the exhausted me drowning into the storm of travels, concerts, work and the hassle it brings. It only made me want more!