1. Almanac – Kingslayer
Almanac, the symphonic metal powerhouse featuring former Rage guitarist Victor Smolski, were back with sophomore release Kingslayer and it was instantly apparent that you would not hear a better power metal album this year!
Unsurprisingly, there was a concept to Kingslayer involving real life historical figures, kings and queens and other such shit and while we don’t look to do this concept a disservice, it’s the music that truly mattered here! It takes true talent to deliver a consistent symphonic power metal album, without dipping into trite tendencies or mawkish sentimentality, but Almanac managed it with ease…..and considering the talent at work here, that should come as no surprise.
Guitar-god Victor Smolski’s reputation speaks for itself and his ridiculously high standards were maintained throughout Kingslayer. Seemingly unleashed from previous tethers, his work here bordered on genius and these compositions astonished while still hitting you square in the gut with supreme metal heaviness. Each track was home to more melodies than you’d think you could handle, more moments of pure theatricality than thought possible (without once stepping over into full ‘cheese’ territory) and, most importantly, at least one massive, ground-shaking riff that’ll make you want to start a mosh with your nearest and dearest, with no sense of concern for their safety.
It’s not just Victor who shined of course. Much must be said about the outstanding vocals on Kingslayer and while enlisting three (count ’em, three!) vocalists in the shape of Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm, ex-Ivanhoe), David Readman (Pink Cream 69) and Jeannette Marchewka (Lingua Mortis Orchestra) may suggest overkill, the layering and meticulous juxtapositioning of all 3 voices worked seamlessly throughout, aiding the storytelling and providing a strong sense of grandeur befitting the sub-genre.
This shit slays and you don’t have to be a fan of Rage, Helloween or any other power metal band who’ve attempted, and occasionally, managed to deliver power metal perfection. You just need to love METAL of the purest kind and with Kingslayer, Almanac delivered one of the finest metal albums of the year; bombastic, effervescent and utterly, utterly brilliant!
Honourable mentions: Mindmaze – Resolve / Rage – Seasons Of The Black / Fireforce – Annihilate The Evil / Brothers Of Metal – Prophecy of Ragnarök / Manilla Road – To Kill A King (album number 20 from these kings of metal!) / Stormhammer – Welcome To The End / The Ferrymen – The Ferrymen / Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord